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Pluto

 

The heaviness I hold in my heart belongs to gravity...

 

2011, Skate Canada

 

Yuuri Katsuki, nineteen with the world before him, knew something was off as he left the ice.  When he came down from his quad toe-triple loop combo, he heard a pop that struck his heart cold.  Battling through the rest of the skate on adrenaline and a stubborn will, he knew he had given up the podium.  He couldn’t remember his reaction although later he watched it on repeat as he reviewed the video that showed him falling out of the jump, his knee giving away in the bad landing.  His pained expression later became a cruel meme circulating on instagram, reminding him of his failure over and over. Suddenly gossip of Beyonce was conveyed with a close up of him cringing in pain, he even had a hashtag, #hurtslikekatsudamn.  Yuuri Katsuki, who merely strolled through social media, retreated further and avoided the internet with its legion of trolls.

 

Some words still leaked through.  He heard the pity in some comments.  “He had so much potential.” “After the beauty he displayed in the Junior Worlds, we had such high hopes.”  He heard the criticism. “He never was steady on his jumps.” “Japan needs to focus on more consistent skaters.”  And he heard his own thoughts. I was so close.  We would have met in the next competition.  Maybe...it wasn’t meant to be. A silly dream.  I’m...just Yuuri.

 

He curled up on himself and disappeared.

 




Yuuri sat in the surgeon’s office going over his records with his coach.  He had spent hours under the orthopedic surgeon’s knife to stabilize his knee.  His parents offered to fly in but he told them he could handle it. Really, he just didn’t want them to see him like that, to see the evidence of his failure.

 

“So what are you saying?” Yuuri pressed the surgeon, the words technical and over his head. He was an older man, used to talking at his patients instead of to them.  Worse still he spoke in rapid fire, medical jargon which barely translated into English for Yuuri who certainly could not find Japanese equivalents.

 

“Honestly, the impact of quads could cripple you even after extensive physical therapy.  Triples would be pushing it. I wouldn’t jump more than a double if I were you.” The surgeon had turned his back to Yuuri before even finishing his final statement and began tapping on his computer.

 

Yuuri’s hands shook as he read over the words in the folder.  He didn’t need to be told his knee shattered. The ligaments had pulled completely from one portion and the bursa had to be replaced.  However, the technical words floating in and out of focus made the outcome more real. Yuuri turned his eyes to the one person in the room he could look for help, “Coach?”

 

“I know a facility that specializes in athletic rehabilitation,” Celestino began slowly.  He had been smirking through most of the doctor’s tirade.

 

Lifting brown eyes, unshed tears settling in the corners.  “Is there any point?” he whispered.

 




Celestino continued to push Yuuri to go to the rehab center, enlisting Yuuri’s family and finally his ballet teacher Minako to press him into the decision.  The horror show that the doctor had given Yuuri wasn’t the most informed he had sat through with an athlete. He was a sport surgeon, but after they left the office the coach found the man specialized in basketball.

 

“Yuuri, you need rehab even if you don’t skate.  At least you’ll be able to...dance,” Minako pointed out during the call.

 

Yuuri laughed bitterly over the phone.  “Helluva way to return to dance.”

 

“I know,” she murmured, her voice much softer than he was used to.  He hated it. It carried pity, which he didn’t want. That murmur told him just how bad the injury was more than any surgeon.  “You could at least get on the ice.”

 

Yuuri hugged himself and shook his head.  “The ice no longer belongs to me.”

 




Yuuri stared at the letter his coach handed him.  It stood out, different from the usual fanmail he received.  Looking up, he asked the coach, “Do you think it’s really from him ?”

 

The large dark eyes widened, “Well, the postage is Russian.”  He watched as Yuuri turned it over again, as if looking for the catch to prove a hoax.  “I could make a call to his coach but he has been known to reach out to injured skaters in the past.”

 

Yuuri blinked at that.  Victor was known to be supportive of other athletes, a welcomed change in an isolating sport.  But for Victor to take notice of him…

 

He waited until his coach left him alone to face his mail.  Yuuri’s hand shook as he opened the letter. He half expected a typed form letter maybe dictated from some publicist polishing Victor’s image of benevolence but...that didn’t ring true.  Then the hand scripted letters within ripped that anxious thought to shreds. The writing was elegant, if forced with the occasional quirk of Cyrillic bleeding into English.

 


 

Dear Yuuri,

 

I know we haven’t met in person but I was looking forward to skating against you on the ice.  I’ve been watching you skate since you pulled your first silver at Junior Worlds four years ago.  When I read about your injury, I remembered when I went through the same battle. I wanted to encourage you to continue fighting.

 

I don’t normally give out my personal information in letters but as you are a fellow competitor, I feel compelled to continue this connection.  I would have preferred to have traded contacts in our next competition, meeting you in person, learning more about you. However, the fates seem to have other plans for now.

 

So please.  Text me when you are feeling discouraged, when the pain is overwhelming, when you are wondering if there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s easier to talk to someone who has been there. I really mean it.

 

Sincerely,

Victor

 


 

He...watched me?   Yuuri gasped at the realization, rereading the letter once again.   But I’m just Yuuri.  Why would he bother? It’s not as if I’m competition.  Not really. I just lucked into the Grand Prix series. Yuuri stared at the letter, handwritten in a flamboyant and flowing script, the number beneath the signature, however, was written in crisp, concise numbers making sure Yuuri could read them.  Yuuri knew his handwriting. He had collected too much Victor Nikiforov merchandise, some of which held his autograph, flowing words of encouragement, to not know his handwriting. He doesn’t really want to hear from me.  He was just being nice. Yuuri blinked rapidly as he fought the next onslaught of tears.   But why would he write me?

 

With shaky fingers, he entered the contact into his phone then pulled up the texting app.

 

YK/ Hello, this is Yuuri.  Is this really you?

 

VN/ [Photo of Victor at the rink in St. Petersburg.]

 

Yuuri knew Victor’s instagram backwards and forwards and that picture had never been posted.   Did he just send me a selfie?   The smile was genuine, heart-shaped, eyes sparkling and warm.  Yuuri’s heart skipped a beat. Are we really doing this?

 

VN/ Yuuuuuuuriiii!  You got my letter! How are you?

 

I guess that’s a yes.  He then studied the words and considered his response.   How am I?  Does he really want to know?  Most people don’t want to be bothered with how I really feel.  I...I don’t want to burden anyone. Especially not him.

 

VN/ Tell me, truly.  I know it’s hard. I even went on antidepressants when I was going through my recovery.  So please, I’m here for you Yuuri.

 

Yuuri stared at that admission.  He had heard that rumor, but that was all it was, a rumor.  It had never been confirmed.

 

Taking a deep sigh, he took a picture of his knee, the ugly stitches from surgery still outlining the injury, mocking him.  He sent the picture to Victor.

 

YK/ The pain isn’t the hard part.  I don’t know if I can take them. The antidepressants.  But it hasn’t been easy. Coach wants me to go to the athletic recovery center attached to campus.  They have a good reputation.

 

Yuuri took a deep breath, shaky and raw even though he wasn’t talking, he felt it in his throat, the words sitting there.  Inhaling sharply, he pushed the words out, his fingers tapping it out in a mix of anger and frustration.

 

YK/ My surgeon, he talked like I’d never skate again.

 

VN/ Some are asshats.  Most don’t really see the difference of our sport to others.  The pressure we apply to the knee is significant but it’s only a small part of what we do.  Go to another. And another...until you find one with the right attitude. That attitude carries through.  You need that for your recovery.



Yuuri stood before the William Clay Ford Center for Athletic Medicine.  He leaned heavily on the crutches, rocking back and forth. Celestino stood nearby making sure the stubborn student didn’t turn and leave.  He could tell the skater was tempted but Yuuri was also too stubborn to give up. And something in that exchange with Nikiforov seemed to put a bit of the fire back into him.

 

“Do you think they’ll tell me anything different than Dr. Lindstrom?”  Yuuri heard the bitterness in his own voice but he was still here. Weighing his options, getting a second opinion, still fighting in his own way.

 

His coach didn’t want to give false hope but he didn’t necessarily agree with the surgeon who first worked on Yuuri’s knee.  The JSF had arranged it and Yuuri trusted them, they wanted him back on the ice. Celestino would have started Yuuri here and then explored surgery.  “Let’s see what they have to say. Quality of life, Yuuri. Small goals.”

 

Yuuri grunted even as he swallowed the sob.  “Small goals,” he repeated gruffly. He thinned his lips and stared at the building, modern but beautiful in its own ways.  The lines of the architecture made Yuuri think about the photo spread of Victor’s apartment. He remembered thinking that it didn’t really reflect the impression he had gotten of the man.   Do you really live in that coldness?  Yuuri sought warmth in his living space to counter the cold where he worked.  Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he nodded sharply.

 

Yuuri crutched into the building, Celestino holding the door open and carrying a copy of Yuuri’s medical records.  He stood still before the next set of glass doors. “I was so close,” he whispered, blinking the tears away once more.

 

Celestino felt he had to say something so he pushed.  “Other skaters have come back from this, Yuuri. Look at Nancy Kerrigan, Kaetlyn Osmond, Penny Coomes, Stephane Lambiel, Victor Nikiforov.”

 

Victor.  He reached out to me.  He saw me.  Yuuri sighed and nodded.  He knew the names. He’d watched Victor’s recovery closely a mere five years prior.  But he was just Yuuri and it sometimes felt like the gods were fighting to keep his feet on the ground.  “Gravity has always been my downfall.”

 

Celestino turned to look at him, his mouth open to protest but saw a hint of a wry smile on Yuuri’s expression.  Perhaps there was hope for his skater.

 

In the consultation office, the physician studied his file, looking over the MRI.  He was quiet at first, looking through the various notes by Dr. Lindstrom as well as the original prognosis.  With a grunt, he closed the folder. “Lindstrom has no bedside manner,” he muttered before focusing his eyes on Yuuri.  “First of all, we want to assure you that we will do everything possible to help you recover from your injury and regain your place on the ice.”  The man watched as the skater’s eyes widened at the prospect of skating at the competitive level again. But he held up his hands to check the enthusiasm, “It won’t be easy.  It will take a lot of hard work, all on your end. There will likely be other surgeries and you may feel like giving up. I’m not going to lie. It will be painful. In fact, it’s going to hurt more than the injury did.  However, by that stubborn line in your jaw, I have no doubt that you can push through this.”

 

Yuuri released the breath he didn’t know he was holding, fighting for words as he stuttered out, “H-he said I’d never jump, that my life on the ice was over.”

 

The younger surgeon raised his eyebrows and tilted his head to the side.  “To be frank, he doesn’t know. Some doctors only see the worst case scenario and think that giving hope is somehow wrong.  However, we find the opposite to be true. We’ve brought athletes back time and time again.” He sat back, swiveling the chair around, considering the athlete in front of him.  “We won’t lie to you. You will be made aware of the risks. But that is just what it is. Risk. You will weigh your options and determine if it is worth it from there. It’s your choice...but we have to start down this road to reach the end.”

 

“I have options,” Yuuri murmured, still blinking away the tears.

 

The surgeon nodded.  “What do you want, Yuuri?”

 

Can I fight my way back?  Reclaim what I lost? Somehow surpass it and finally reach...him?   Yuuri drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly.  “I want to skate.”

 

“Then let’s begin.”

 




YK/ I went to the recovery center.  They have a lot of therapies. One option is the water therapy like Nancy Kerrigan used.

 

VN/ That’s excellent! And water therapy is low impact.  Strength with less wear and tear. Remember, it’s not just your knee.  Work on keeping yourself up.

 

Yuuri looked at the text.   This man really has been where I am.  He considered the words.  He knew he was in a pattern of anxiety.  He had been low, and was now riding a high from meeting the new surgeon.  But he ran the risk of diving down at the first stumbling block.

 

YK/ How do I do that?  It’s easy to lose hope.

 

VN/ I know...especially when you are lying in your apartment hurting and no one to keep you company during your pain.

 

YK/ I don’t know that I want company during my pain.

 

VN/ You mentioned Kerrigan.  You know she was one of the first to admit to going to a sports psychologist after the disaster at 93 Worlds.  Go watch her freeskate...I think they called them Long Programs then. It helped her. And I don’t hide that I go.  I just don’t put it out there that I struggle with depression.

 

VN/ They don’t tell you about the mental part.  Are you seeing someone for your mental health as well?

 

YK/ I have a psychiatrist I see through the DSC.

 

VN/ And when was the last time you’ve seen them?

 

Yuuri hugged himself.  It was like Victor knew him, knew his avoidance tendencies.  He wasn’t used to being upfront with anyone but his coach about his mental health issues.  His family denied there was anything wrong with him other than confidence. Minako had tried to get him into a therapist in Japan but they didn’t see the point.   Yuuri is a hard worker.  He can work past this and be stronger for it.  Their words echoed through his thoughts.

 

YK/ I haven’t in a while.

 

VN/ A little known secret...I still take antidepressants.  I still see my psychiatrist on a regular basis. I didn’t know I needed them until my injury.  I thought it was a sign of weakness.

 

Yuuri swallowed down the thickness in his throat.  He didn’t expect this to get so real. He never expected Victor to be so open with him.  They never even met. Why?

 

YK/ My family wouldn’t approve.

 

VN/ Honestly, mine wouldn’t either.  But they don’t really have a say.

 

YK/ They don’t know?

 

VN/ Little. Known. Secret.

 

Yuuri stared at those words.   Oh.

 

YK/ Wait.  What if they find out?  My family.

 

VN/ Then they find out.  It’s your body. They aren’t going through what you are struggling with.

 

YK/ I don’t want them to be embarrassed by me.  I already shamed them with that performance.

 

He watched the dots appear and disappear once more while Victor decided on his response.

 

VN/ There is no shame in getting the help you need.  And if your family doesn’t see that, then I’m sorry. You need to take care of yourself.  All of yourself. And as for that performance, I watched it and up until you took off on that jump, it was flawless, beautiful.  You underrotated and came down sideways. That happens. And I want to see you on the ice once more. I want to skate against you.

 

Yuuri blinked and the tears slipped out of the corner of his eyes.   He wants to skate against me?  His fingers hovered over the letters, overwhelmed and searching for his next question.

 

YK/ What do you do when you are afraid to hope?

 

There was hesitation as three little dots bounced across the screen.  Yuuri drew in a shaky breath and released it. It was a stupid question.  But then Victor answered, his words filling the screen with thought and consideration.

 

VN/ I choose to hope because without hope, all is lost.  But hope has a way of helping one overcome the greatest obstacles.

 

Yuuri hugged himself, thinking about the almost insurmountable obstacle that was his knee.  Tracing the lines lightly, wincing as a stitch shifted against a nerve, he lifted his phone and responded in truth.

 

YK/ I don’t know if I can.

 

Three dots danced back and forth and Yuuri now knew Victor was choosing his words carefully.   Can we be friends?  Truly? If anything good can come out of this, let us be friends.

 

VN/ Then I’ll hold onto hope for both of us.  It’s easier from the other side. Let me be your lifeline.

 

YK/ I miss the ice.

 

VN/ I know.

 




Yuuri scrolled through his contacts.

 

“Hello, Dr. Bishop?”

 

“Yuuri!” came the surprised answer.  “How many times have I told you...call me Cara.”

 

Yuuri felt a smile jerk in his lips.  “It just...feels impolite. Is it okay?”

 

“Of course.”  She shifted her voice, sensing that he need her to reach out.  “How may I help you?”

 

“I think...I might need some help dealing with this injury and the recovery process.  A friend suggested I call you. I can still come to you even if I can’t skate, can’t I?”

 

He heard her sigh and then her answer, “Of course you can come to me.  My services are offered through the Detroit Skate Club but it isn’t tied to the club.  Can you come in to see me tomorrow?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened at the quick appointment.  “I...I suppose. I have physical therapy in the afternoon.”

 

“How are your mornings?  I have a seven a.m. if you need an early start.”

 

Yuuri considered his class schedule then nodded before sighing and opening his mouth to reply.  “I’ll call Coach. But I’ll be there.”

 

Her voice was warm over the line, “I’m glad to hear it.  We’ll work together to get you through this.”

 

“Thank you,” he murmured then hung up.

 

YK/ Coach, I have a morning appointment with Dr. Bishop.  Can you help me get there?

 

CC/ I will drive you myself.

 

YK/ I don’t want to be any trouble.  It’s at 7.

 

CC/ No trouble at all.  You know I’m up by 5.

 

He stared at his phone for a moment before deciding to send one more text.

 

YK/ I made that appointment.

 

VN/ I’m glad.

 


 

NOTES:

This story started with a song , that turned into a playlist , that finally became something more.



Yuuri’s family’s view on mental illness ties to their culture.  Therefore, they deny its existence and encourage Yuuri to be strong.  They love him regardless of his shortcomings, they just don’t recognize the struggle as mental illness.  

 

At this point, we are B.P. (Before Phichit) but he will come along later on in the story.  Don’t worry. Yuuri’s life isn’t complete without his ball of sunshine. I haven’t decided if Phichit and Chris get together in this story yet but we will see what the characters decide.  That’s usually best.

 

Pluto doesn’t have a large presence on the Sleeping at Last blog .  However, I do love this song.  So here are the lyrics if you want to read through them.  It’s not the artist’s reflection on the lyrics so take the meaning with a grain of salt.

 

Here is where Yuuri is getting treated.  It is part of Wayne State University.  

 

Other research:

 

https://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/Figure_Skating_Injury_Prevention.aspx

 

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-olympics-2018-figureskating-britain/olympics-overcoming-a-shattered-knee-figure-skater-coomes-heading-to-pyeongchang-idUSKBN1C91RV

 

https://ptinnovations.com/news-resources/health-tips/nancy-kerrigan-fights-back-with-water-therapy/

 

http://www.iceskating.org.uk/index.cfm/news/coomes-and-buckland-are-back-with-a-bang-at-ijs-sheffield/

 

https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/2014/01/10/quadruple-jumps-lead-big-scores-and-big-falls-men-figure-skating/XG21vR66YQfjqGHrBtdFMJ/story.html

 

https://lermagazine.com/cover_story/over-the-edge-lower-extremity-injuries-in-figure-skaters

 

https://www.sportsmedtoday.com/figure-skating-va-46.htm

 

https://olympics.nbcsports.com/2014/09/15/kaetlyn-osmond-broken-leg-figure-skating/

 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4622334/

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/201512/psychological-rehab-after-sports-injury

 

http://www.educationjournal.org/download/511/3-1-92-727.pdf

 

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/health/what-physical-injury-taught-me-about-my-mental-health-ncna811166

 

https://health.usnews.com/health-news/health-wellness/articles/2014/07/21/how-to-overcome-depression-after-a-sports-injury

 

https://das.bluestaronline.com.au/api/prism/document?token=BL/0838

 

https://www.theguardian.com/football/2017/jun/18/qprs-chris-ramsey-reflects-mental-effects-long-term-injury

 

Chapter Text


 

Son

 

TW:  Self harm, suicidal ideation, homophobia, self-hatred.

 

So I will try, try, try to breathe ‘til it turns to muscle memory...

 

Five Years Prior (2006)

 

Victor sat between his parents facing the surgeon.  At seventeen, he was forced to have them there as they still had a say in his treatment.  If only this had happened a month later... of course, that would be Nationals .  Turning his head towards his coach, he mouthed “Save me!”

 

Yakov’s expression was severe before he refocused on the surgeon as the man explained the procedure, the limitations of movement, the recovery, the therapy needed.  It was just as well that Yakov was taking in every detail. Victor knew he couldn’t remember all of that jargon. He just wanted to skate. He let his thoughts drift, floating across the ice and reworking his program in his thoughts.   Maybe if I switched a toe loop…

 

“Vitya!”  The tone of disapproval cut through his analysis.  He looked up at his father and sighed. His tone always held disapproval.  Victor suspected he could win five gold medals and his father would still disapprove of him.

 

“Yes, Papa?”

 

“The surgeon asked if you approved of this plan.”

 

Plan?  What plan?  His eyes raked around the room until they rested on Yakov.  The old coach knew him, knew he had lost track of the conversation at some point and gave him a subtle nod.  “Oh, of course,” Victor replied, flashing a smile to cover his wandering thoughts. Yakov gave him a knowing look but didn’t comment.

 





So it began, months of struggle.  But his father fell away from his life.  His mother followed, as she always had. Until it was just Victor seeing to his own needs.

 

“It’s not like he cares,” he pouted to Yakov.  It wasn’t the first time they discussed this matter.  “So I don’t care either.”

 

“I’m sure he cares, Vitya,” Yakov stated patiently as his experienced hand ran up the injured knee with a frown.

 

Victor huffed.  “He only shows up when he’s obligated to do so.  He can’t look bad. One Nikiforov is enough to sully the name.”

 

“You do not sully the Nikiforov name.”

 

“Try telling him that!”

 

Letting Victor put his foot down, he asked, “Is this about him not showing up the day of your surgery?”

 

Victor was hurt that morning, but the pain was a dull ache.  Like one of a tooth that has needed to be pulled for years. This was just another entry in a long list of his parents’ obvious disinterest in him.  “He doesn’t watch me. No matter how well I perform, he doesn’t care.” Victor could hold a brave face before the world but Yakov’s office was a safe place where he could let his guard down.  The old man was gruff but he gave the best hugs. Sniffing back, he shoved the tears away. “It’s fine. Really. I don’t need him.”

 




Yakov sat with his wife, the young man’s words rolling around in his thoughts.  “What would make a man turn his back on his son?”

 

He didn’t realize he uttered those words aloud until Lilia responded quietly, “You should know how stubborn men can be, lyubov moya .  Who is this about?”

 

“Vitya,” he whispered with a sigh.  “I tried to reassure him but given the evidence…”

 

She looked up from her book and small cup of espresso with raised eyebrow.  “Andrei Nikiforov is a fool to let his son’s sexual preference dictate their relationship.”  Her distaste for Victor’s father had been apparent immediately, and she felt no need to hide it.

 

Yakov blinked in surprise.  “Do you think that’s it?”

 

The woman huffed knowingly.  “It’s always been it.  The day Victor took his first ballet lesson, Andrei hated it.  He was convinced it would ‘turn him gay’.”

 

Yakov chuckled softly.  “That boy’s been boy crazy since he was seven.  A pair of tights wouldn’t change that.”

 

“And it’s fine.  He loves who he loves…” she smiled softly into her cup, a side of his wife that Yakov rarely saw as she held herself firm often.  Thinking of Victor, her antithesis, “and he has such a warm heart. I would hate for that man to spoil that in him.” Lilia clucked her tongue at the thought of Victor’s father, muttering “old fool” under his breath.

 

“Me, too,” Yakov sighed.  He thought about Victor at sixteen, suffering his first heartbreak.  The boy didn’t call his father, he called Yakov. They sat in his office while Victor cried heavily, telling Yakov far more than the coach had ever wanted to know but the boy had no one.  And Yakov listened, even as he poured the boy’s first glass of vodka. And as Victor struggled to get past his heartache, Lilia stepped in and told him to skate from it. The program that the young man developed spoke more than the heart breaking from young love, it spoke of a boy who couldn’t speak to his father, who felt alone.  But then he answered that program with another shouting that he would not be ignored, he would demand to be seen. He was meant to stand out.

 




Yakov found Victor curled up in the corner of the locker room after having been alerted by one of other skaters.  Victor banged his head in a slow rhythm against the wall, not hard but steady. Yakov felt his old bones protest as he knelt down to see to the boy, pulling him forward to look at his head.  Pink showed through the silver hair now trimmed down and no longer covering the multitude of sins and Yakov sighed, pulling Victor to his feet and leading him to his office to tend to the wound.  Yakov knew more than he let on about Victor’s struggles.

 

“I think we need to visit the psychiatrist again.  The one that recommended you get Makkachin.”

 

Victor shrugged.  It was his lack of reaction that worried Yakov more than anything.  Picking up his phone, he made the call. He’d drive Victor himself and make sure he went to this first appointment for sure.

 




Dr. Abramovich watched as the boy stared out the window, disengaged from everything surrounding him.  He’d worked with the skater two years back. He’d recommended a service dog. He’d also recommended the boy continue to come to therapy.  Apparently he at least did one of those things.

 

It wasn’t his first time to see depression holding hands with homosexuality.  It wasn’t being gay that drove his patients into the dark but the lack of acceptance, the denial of self, the persecution...sometimes from their own hands.  However, that lack of acceptance extended well past the family; society and even the government could prove villainous and dangerous. The old doctor made sure he never included references to Victor’s, or any of his patients, sexuality in even his personal notes to protect them.  But he worried about what he could do to battle the world his patients lived in.

 

He reached over and kicked the metronome into movement.  The steady clicking sound drew the skater’s attention. With a sigh, he curled in on himself, studying his fingers and avoiding eye contact, the overstuffed chair swallowing him.

 

“Where do you want to begin?” Abramovich invited.

 

Victor shrugged.  “Might as well start all over.  I mean, Makkachin helps but…”

 

The doctor heard the voice drift off then fall silent again.  “You’re still checking out.” He filled in, pulling the young man’s attention back to the present.

 

Victor nodded, shifting his eyes in the direction of the psychiatrist.  “It’s not like I can tell anyone.”

 

“You can tell me, Victor.  This is a safe place.”

 

“How do I know?”

 

“Because…”  The old doctor closed his eyes and took a deep breath, thinking of all of the lies he’s told through the years, lies of a loving marriage, of a family.  They existed, he was married. She was his best friend, and he hers. He would deny her nothing. But they ceased sharing a bed the day their daughter was born, the day the ruse had been completed.  “Because...I know what it’s like to hide in a lie. I know the struggle you face every day.”

 

Victor held his eyes and then they widened with understanding.  The sob that released was raw, a bitter reaction begging for release.  “H-he hates me...because I’m not like him. I can be the best and he’d still hate me.”

 

They talked well past the allotted hour.  Finally, they reached the injury.

 

“What if...it’s all for nothing?  Fighting him, choosing to dance and skate only to lose it all?” Victor whispered.

 

“You are going through physical therapy and making a great deal of progress.  Your prognosis is good. What are you afraid of?”

 

Victor hugged himself, his eyes focusing on the metronome now still.  “I’m afraid of getting lost in myself. On ice...I can exorcise the demons within me.  Without it...what do I have? What am I without it?”

 

“What demons do you need to exorcise?” the old psychiatrist asked, his voice soft.

 

Victor lifted his blue eyes and met his.  “I’m a monster. It’s all a lie and when I look in the mirror, I see the monster beneath my skin.  I...I hate myself.”

 

“The monster is the lie ,” the psychiatrist stated quietly.  “It’s the lie that you have to tell, through no fault of your own.”

 

Victor stared in the corner, he could feel his mind drifting and fought to bring it back.  As if sensing the struggle, he heard the ticking resume. Grounding himself on the sound, he whispered, “Gravity doesn’t seem to have a hold on me.  I drift away without the steady rhythm of music, of skates on ice, of the tap of the cane on the floor driving me through my steps in ballet.”

 

“I think we all struggle to find the thing that grounds us to reality.  My ground is to help others like us hold onto life.”

 

“But what if...what if they don’t.  What if they...just drift away?”

 

Abramovich studied Victor with worried eyes.  “Are you worried you will be one of them?”

 

Victor nodded slowly.  “Sometimes...sometimes I hurt myself.  Just to know I’m real, I’m still here.”

 

“How do you do this?”

 

“Banging my head, digging my nails into the palm of my hand, pulling my hair, pinching my arms…”

 

“Let’s work on more positive ways to connect with this world,” the old psychiatrist suggested.

 

“It’s harder without my skates,” Victor confessed.

 

“But not impossible.”

 





Five years later (2011, watching Skate Canada from his apartment)

 

Victor watched the livestream as the skater came down.  He knew from the expression on his face, could feel the pain shoot through his own knee.  “Oh, Yuuuuriii,” he murmured even as Makkachin climbed into his lap. The poodle could tell he was upset and he smiled sadly as he snuggled into her curls.

 

His eyes rested on the cluttered corners of his room, the many things that he used to help him work through is own emotions.  He remembered crying out to Abramovich years ago. “I don’t feel!” The psychiatrist would sigh patiently and respond, “You feel too much.  They overwhelm you.”

 

So he learned to play piano.  He was far from perfect but he could read music and plunk his way through a rhythm in his thoughts, music becoming the background of his emotions, the metronome grounding him to the world with its steady rhythm.

 

He learned to paint, broad strokes of color to find the core of his emotion, abstract pieces much like his skates that dug into things that couldn’t be expressed with words.  He sketched so many of the lost souls he met along the way. Each of them reminding him where he’d be if he’d ignored the doctor’s persistent presence in his life. He sketched people’s emotions, studying how they approached life.  He sketched their pain, sometimes hidden under layers, sometimes laid bare for the world to see.

 

Reaching for the pencil stub and pad of paper, he sketched Yuuri, his pain, his grief...and in that sketch, he saw himself, that moment, the days before.

 

He reached for his phone and made the call.  “Dr. Abramovich? I think...I might need to move my appointment forward.”

 

“Are we having a bad day?” came the concerned voice.  They had a regular schedule but Victor knew to reach out when things went south.

 

“I just...I watched a friend fall.  Not really a friend...but a colleague...maybe we’ll one day be friends.  And I remembered that day...when it all fell apart.”

 




Five years ago (2006, before Cup of Russia)

 

“Vitya, don’t you dare embarrass your father.”

 

Blue eyes flashed angrily to the matching pair facing him.  “How can you take his side? What have I done wrong?”

 

“You know what you did!  And with a boy, no less!”

 

It had only been a kiss but it was caught by the press.  He’d been indiscreet. He’d embarrassed his family. Closing his eyes, he could feel a thrum in his soul, out-of-tune, discordant, and he knew something in his life was off-balance.  “I...I like boys!” he yelled. “That’s who I am, Mama! I’m gay!”

 

The sound of that hand making contact with his face was worse than the pain that accompanied it.  He looked at his mother and felt her betrayal. She’d always take his side.  Dashing away his tears, he turned and walked out of the house slamming the door behind him.

 

Alone in his apartment, he continued to shove away tears.  Looking in the mirror, he could see the monster his parents saw when they looked at him.  “Why was I born wrong, Makka?”

 

He didn’t remember picking up the scissors.  But once in his hands, he hacked away at the long strands.  Why won’t you accept me?  I’m your son! Your only son!  Why does it matter who I love?

 

Victor didn’t know how long he’d checked out but when he came back, he could feel Makkachin licking his hands and face, he could hear her worried barks and whines.  “I’m sorry, Makka,” he murmured. Reaching for the phone, he dialed the one constant in his life. “Yakov, I need help,” he whimpered.





Yakov arrived and assessed the situation, making a phone call to a friend who could fix Victor’s hair.  He swept up the strands quietly and let Victor focus on recovering, waiting for the boy to come back to him.

 

Victor lifted his chin and nodded with approval at the new haircut.  “It’s a new me,” he pronounced, forcing his smile. The stylist nodded accepting the smile as genuine.  Yakov knew otherwise. Paying the man for his services and his trouble, Yakov closed the door and faced Victor who now stood before the oversized mirror in his living room, tugging the unfamiliar short hair in place.

 

“Maybe you should stay with Lilia and me for a few days,” Yakov suggested.

 

Victor laughed bitterly.  “Lilia and I don’t get along well.”

 

“She cares about you,” Yakov argued.

 

Giving Yakov a knowing look, he stated quitely, “That’s not the same thing.  I’ll be fine. Really.”

 

Yakov reluctantly left.  Victor unfisted his hands and looked at the bleeding half moons carved into his palms by his nails.  Sighing, he went to find some medicine and tended to the injury.




Two weeks later, he stood before the press asking about his hair.  He laughed it off and said flippantly, “I make myself over every season.  You should know this.”

 

“Does this have anything to do with the photos released of you kissing another man?” one reporter asked.

 

Victor rolled his eyes and responded, “You should know better than to believe everything you read.  Photoshop.”

 

On the ice, he stood before Yakov.  “I can’t do this,” he hissed.

 

“Vitya…”

 

“I’m not me.  When I look in the mirror, I don’t see me!  I…”

 

“Vitya, you’ve been skating that story all season.  Two souls tearing at one man. Skate that story. I believe in you.”

 

Victor drew in his breath and released it slowly, before nodding sharply.  I’ll be fine.  It’s ice and the ice never fails me.

 

He settled into his starting position, his smile waivering, Victor drawing himself up and forcing the smile to stick.   I can do this.

 

The fall at the end of the program did not allow Victor to come back up.  He never felt pain like that, far beyond the grounding injuries he inflicted on himself.  It was as if gravity itself had struck back with a vengeance.

 

As he was being carried off the ice, Yakov came to his side, clearly yelling into the phone at his father.

 

“I’m telling you, it’s your son…”

 

But I’m not...I’m just the monster living inside his body...

 




NOTES:

 

While researching the lyrics to Son , I found this on the artist’s site.

 

This Victor’s depression exists without his father but his father’s rejection feeds into it.  He’s not suicidal but he does imagine himself disappearing, floating away, disappearing into his thoughts and seeking safe places inside.  However, those thoughts turn against him when he’s dealing with his family causing him to spiral.

 

When he looks in the mirror, he sees a monster looking from the shell of his body.  It’s not necessarily his sexuality being personified by the monster but the culmination of his self-loathing aggravated by his relationship with his parents.

 

Abramovich will eventually settle Victor into antidepressants to help him deal with his struggles.  I won’t go into the details as to which antidepressants he is on. However, the combination of the meds he takes along with Makka’s presence helps him to stay grounded.  We will learn of other grounds he uses during his journey.

 

Yakov and Lilia both care for him dearly but Victor’s mental health struggles cause him to take Lilia's words much more harshly than intended leading them to fight and often causing Lilia to cry into her pillow at night.  Victor knows this and knows it is best that he doesn’t spend too much time with her.  However, he is very aware that she cares for him...much more so than his own mother.


 

Some of the sites I consulted while preparing for this chapter are as follows:

 

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/max-dubowy/hating-yourself-because-y_b_9570498.html

(Don’t judge me…)

 

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/two-takes-depression/201202/depression-and-non-suicidal-self-injury

 

https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/gay

Chapter Text


 

Fear

 

This song doesn’t have lyrics so I chose a quote associated with the topic.  However, here’s the link to the artist’s blog on the music.

 

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat." – President Theodore Roosevelt

 

2011, Detroit

 

Yuuri sat in Dr. Bishop’s office, shifting nervously.  “My friend…he said he had to have anti-depressants when he went through recovery.”

 

She thinned her lips listening to her patient’s words.  Cara had never worried about her patient becoming dependent on medication, but this new interest did catch her attention.  “Each person is different,” she watched his face carefully for any betrayal, but found nothing other than open curiosity. “We’ll address that need as if and when it becomes apparent.  Let’s talk about where you are at now.”

 

Yuuri hugged himself as he took a self-assessment.  It wasn’t the first time he sat in her office but he always tried to get out of it before.  Now, he was there of his own free will. Internally he ran through a self-made list of checks, he felt a little cold, but nothing uncomfortable.  He was worried, he was afraid he had said the wrong thing, that he looked weak. But there was a small voice within him pointing out that he had brought himself here, and that was a powerful step.  “I...I’m scared. What if everything I’ve worked for...what if I can’t skate?”

 

“Is that what your doctors are telling you?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “The first surgeon as much as said that but...at the new place, they are more...positive?”

 

She leaned forward, knowing he would need another to affirm he was correct.  “Positive is good. So much of recovery is mental, keeping a good attitude, keeping your spirits up...working through negative self-talk.”  Her gaze was knowing. She knew him. They talked once a month. Coach’s orders. She wanted to see him more but Yuuri did the bare minimum.  Until now. His knew mantra ran if Victor did something to help himself, then Yuuri would do the same. Victor sees a psychiatrist. Somehow that made it okay.

 

Taking a deep breath and releasing it slowly, he settled his hands on his lap.  “I...I want to get better. I want...to skate. I need to...reach…” He faded off, not ready to confess that part aloud, Victor was still private, his need to reach Victor personal.  She let it go.

 

“Sometimes we look at life through goals, striving to reach the next milestone. Sometimes we watch in fear, reacting, waiting for the shoe to drop.”  She paused, giving him a moment to admit to himself that he lived in that state. “On a scale of one to ten, with one being waiting for the shoe to drop and ten being chasing after the next goal, where do you think you’re at right now?”

 

Yuuri considered her question thoughtfully, his arms crossing his chest to ward out a shiver.  He’d been feeling cold lately, he knew that chill was his anxiety. “I think...I’m at a three. I still see the dream and the goals but at the moment they feel out of reach.  My life feels out of my control.”

 

“Like you’ve been derailed.”

 

His eye sprung up to her face, she had captured his feelings precisely.  “Exactly.”

 

Cara smiled warmly at his expression, “This is expected, many athletes go through problems and feelings similar.  However, even in your recovery, you can set goals and milestones. This is something to discuss with your team. And I need to be a part of your team although you are seeing me separately.”  She paused again, scared she might push him away with her next words. “I need you in here weekly .  This isn’t a quick fix.  It’s progressive, like your physical therapy.  You’ll have good weeks and bad weeks. However, I’m here to keep you focused on the goal, to help you get the best results possible.”

 

Yuuri remained still while she spoke.  Listening to her suggestions and struggling to remind himself that she was giving good advice.  He mulled over everything, it was hard to accept, but so were back-edge mohawks. Yuuri nodded sharply as he came to terms with all of this.   This is what I want.  

 

“Now, you mentioned antidepressants.  How would you describe your moods, Yuuri?”

 

He returned to his self-assessment.  “I’m angry. And I fight bouts of feeling defeated.  My head...I keep hearing the things that tear me down.   It’s not going to work.  I’ve failed. My career is over.  What am I going to do if my career is over?  These things keep playing on repeat.  I don’t know...how to shut down the noise if I can’t skate or dance.”  He tightened his arms around him as he continued to talk, hugging himself, his fingers squeezing into his arms to ground himself.  “I know...it’s all wrong. But when you hear it over and over and over again…”

 

She waited a moment before murmuring, “...you start to believe it.”  

 

He nodded, his eyes dropping down to the floor in front of him.  It was nice, a warm wood. Oak , he thinks.  The rug that fills the center of the room connecting the seating group where she meets with her clients has a cream and ivory pattern in the background with a deep red border of poppies stretching towards the center.   My mother would like this, he thinks.  Then he winces.   My parents wouldn’t like that I’m here.  It’s a sign of weakness. They don’t want to think of me as mentally ill.  Am I mentally ill?

 

“Yuuri…”

 

He looked up and realized she’d been talking to him.  “I’m sorry, I think I...lost track. You said I start to believe it…”

 

“Yes.  I was telling you that our mind tricks us with negative self talk and this could also be tied to the existing anxiety.”

 

He perked up immediately at that word, “I don’t want...anxiety meds.”  Putting his hand on his head, supported by his other hand at his elbow, he was rocking back and forth.

 

Cara reached forward, placing a soft hand on his shoulder, stopping the motion.  “We will work together to keep that from becoming a dependency. However, we may have to consider a temporary dosage if it becomes unmanageable.  It is, of course, always your choice but I want you to know that it is an option.”

 

Yuuri took a deep breath and nodded.

 

“And Yuuri, taking anti-anxiety meds is not any worse than taking antidepressants.  They are just the opposite side of the same coin. There is no pressure here but I want you to be aware of your options.”

 

Yuuri stared at his fingers as they laced and unlaced in his lap pulling at the fingers squeezing together, considering her words.  “What if...is it possible I’ll need both?”

 

She took a deep breath and nodded.  “It is often said that anxiety and depression are bedfellows.  One brings out the other. This is why, if we go that route, I’ll be closely monitoring you, as will your coach, who we will tell as much as you are comfortable.  But Yuuri, it will help to keep him informed. The goal is to give you the stability you need to move forward but as you’ve pointed out in previous sessions, you know it messes with your body chemistry until we find the right combination.”

 

Yuuri wasn’t worried about his coach knowing.  He was private but he slid a lot of that to the side where his coach was concerned, knowing that he wanted to bring the best out of him.  “I...don’t want it to keep me from performing,” Yuuri protested quietly.

 

“At the moment…” she stretched out her arms to invite the elephant in the room.

 

“I’m not performing,” Yuuri finished.  “So...this is really the best time to do this.  Should I...I mean, there may be meds at the recovery center.”

 

Cara nodded, “Oh, I will work in conjunction with your specialists if we do this.”

 

Yuuri began shaking his head, tapping the arm of the chair.  His family wouldn’t approve. “I...I need to think about this.  My family…”

 

Cara sighed, she remembered this problem from their ongoing patient-client history.  It had been a roadblock often in their work. “Yuuri, I know you have great respect for your family.  And I understand that. However, this isn’t about them.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  Victor had said as much.  “Let me talk it over with my other doctors,” he finally conceded.  “I’m...not opposed. I just need to figure out what’s best for me.”

 

“We all want that, Yuuri.  Take the time you need...but still keep coming to see me.”

 

Yuuri slowly smiled, not a fully unabashed smile, but one that showed he was making progress.  “I suppose...I need to set up my next appointment, then.”

 

She brightened and nodded.  “Is seven good for you?”

 

Yuuri nodded as he pulled out his phone and looked at his calendar.  “My classes are mostly between ten and noon with one lab on Tuesday afternoons.  My afternoons are in therapy and my coach makes sure I’m eating and everything in the evening.  I think...seven is best.”

 

“Then how about we set up Mondays at seven and I have Fridays open in case something comes up and you need an extra session.  Just give me a call.”

 

He smiled and nodded.  “Thank you, Dr. Bish…” Taking a deep breath, he amended, “Cara.”

 

She grinned.  “Sometimes it’s good to defy parental expectations.  Be you, Yuuri.” Then she softened and added, “The you that you like best.”

 

“I’ll try.”

 





Yuuri sat with his advisor looking through his spring semester.  “Obviously I can’t take dance classes,” he pointed out.

 

“No, but you were looking at an arts major that allowed you some flexibility.  Have you considered taking those music classes you mentioned earlier?”

 

“I...I don’t know.  I mean, I’ve had piano lessons since I was three.  Somehow they were squeezed in between ballet lessons.  But...I’m not exactly good at it.”

 

The advisor smiled at the student, “Maybe it’s not about being good.  Maybe it’s about finding another way to express yourself. You’re an athlete, of course, but you are also an artist.”

 

“I guess...I didn’t think about where this degree would take me.  I just thought dance would help me with my programs.” He considered the possibility of more music classes.  “So...what do you think I could do with this?”

 

“Well, there are the creative options.  You could compose and choreograph with both backgrounds, coming up with the music to support your programs...and others in the future.  If you back it up with a few psychology courses and business courses, you could coach or work with alternative therapies.”

 

Studying his knees, Yuuri considered his advisor’s words.  “I suppose...I won’t be skating forever. However, I still think I want to be involved in the industry.”  Looking up, he met her eyes. “So music...you think I could compose?”

 

She smiled at his enthusiasm, albeit checked, “Let’s get you in some music theory and composition courses and see what you’ve got.”

 

Yuuri nodded as looked through his options.  He liked piano and had a keyboard in his apartment.  As he studied the schedule he pointed out one. “What’s this anatomy and physiology course?”

 

“Well, you could take them separately but if we are gearing you towards coaching or choreography, it’s good to know how the body works.  This is from an athletic perspective but you get your other science gen-ed out of the way.”

 

Yuuri nodded in agreement.  “I might see if I can help out at the rink with my coach as I gain more mobility.”

 

“Maybe work out an internship,” his advisor suggested.  “If we go through the right channels, we can turn that into some course credit as well.”

 

Yuuri took a deep breath and released it.  He felt more in control of his future than before.   Choreographer and coach.  Victor does his own choreography...and he has a hands-on approach towards the compositions he performs.

 

I’m still reaching for you.

 




VN/ How are you doing?

 

YK/ I visited with the psychiatrist.  She suggested

 

Yuuri hesitated to finish that sentence.  Hitting enter, he realized he left those last two words in place.   What’s he going to think?  It means I’m weak.

 

VN/ You can tell me, you know.  I won’t share it with anyone. I trusted you with my secrets.

 

VN/ But I will respect your choice if you choose not to tell me if you prefer.

 

Yuuri took a deep breath and shook his head.  Victor was right. He shared a lot. They still haven’t even met.  Taking a deep breath, he switched the phone to his apps. Taking a deep breath, he pressed the Facetime app.  It only took a moment for him to answer.

 

“Yuuri!  I thought about calling you so many times but didn’t want to invade your privacy.  Chris said you were very private.”

 

Yuuri blinked at the rush of English and then laughed softly, his chin dropping to the side as he closed his eyes, fighting the blush rising in his cheeks.  “I...I have a hard time getting to know people. But...I wouldn’t mind getting to know you.”

 

The smile dazzled even through a phone camera.  “We’ll be the best of friends, Yuuri!”

 

Yuuri hugged himself with his free arm.  “I’d...like that.”

 

“So...what did they say?  If you want to tell me. Because seriously, you don’t have to if you don’t want to.”

 

Victor talked really fast.  Yuuri’s eyes widened as he processed the words before nodding.  Closing his eyes, he pushed the words out. “She wants me to take...anti-anxiety meds.  She’s mentioned it before. It’s not...just the injury.” He peeked his eyes open to see Victor’s reaction.

 

The older skater tapped his lip thoughtfully with his index finger.  “I wonder if I would have done a few things differently if I received my diagnosis sooner.  I had depression...no, I have depression but it’s controlled by medication. It isn’t due to my injury.  The injury just made it more pronounced...or at least forced people to see it.”

 

“Victor…”

 

“No, seriously...most see the image, they don’t see me.  They don’t see...what lurks beneath my skin.”

 

Hearing those words, Yuuri understood why they connected.  He could feel how desperate Victor was to be appreciated, loved, for just being himself, the goofy poodle loving man who spoke English too quickly.  “I...feel invisible in every way.”

 

“I see you,” Victor whispered.

 

“It’s...hard to believe.  My head...it tells me things that contradict what I know.  I’m constantly having to sift through the lies and I don’t always know what I believe.”  He took a deep breath and let it out before adding, “Sometimes it’s easier to believe the lie.”

 

Victor’s eyes looked away from the phone for a moment, his voice sounded distant.  “I know.”

 

“I didn’t realize...I’ve been chasing after you since I was nine.”

 

“Really?  Wow!” The cheerful glee was back in the voice, and the Russian accent grew heavier.

 

He blushed but shrugged.  “I saw you skate and knew that’s what I wanted to do.  You were thirteen. My friend Yuuko figured out a way for us to watch you.  She was a fan first.” He stopped realizing he was laying everything out in the open.  “You probably get this all the time. I’m sorry.”

 

A sheepish grin appeared slowly, and Yuuri wondered if he didn’t see something in those blue eyes sparkle, “No...no really.  It’s fine. I...like hearing your story. I remember watching you the first time. You had the most beautiful step sequences, well beyond your age.”

 

He watched me.   Yuuri’s expression went from elation to deprecation as anxiety tapped on his shoulder.  “But my jumps...gravity hates me!”

 

Victor chuckled and shrugged.  “Maybe you just have to figure out a way to trick gravity.  Teach it the lie...let yourself fly.” Victor winced as he realized he had just accidentally rhymed.

 

Yuuri chuckled at the face.  That recalled a program, Victor in green around sixteen as he performed.  “And maybe a little bit of pixie dust?”

 

Victor laughed outright.  “Caught! No one is going to let me forget that Peter Pan performance!  Yes, pixie dust helps.  I have some in a bag. I can send it to you.”  Victor’s wink that followed caused Yuuri to blush, feeling an itch under his skin he never noticed before.

 

“Anything to get me through this…” he murmured, completely bespelled by the silver-haired skater.

 

Victor grinned.  “Your wish is my command!”

 

Yuuri giggled.  “Wrong story.”

 

“We can combine them into one story.  Or create our own. What are you thinking about for next season?”  It was clear Victor was caught up in the whimsy of his thoughts, in the momentary comradery.

 

Yuuri shrugged, now hugging himself with both arms, his phone balanced on his knees.  “I don’t...what if I can’t?” He went from smiles to tears in a minute causing him to draw in a ragged breath, shoving them away hastily.  “I’m sorry.”

 

Voice softening, he murmured, “Don’t be...you’re allowed to feel how you feel.  I believe in you, Yuuri. You can do this. If we were closer, I’d come with you and cheer you through your therapy.  As it is, we’ll have to do this. I will always be here...to encourage you and help you along the way.”

 

Yuuri laughed, sounding rough from his tears as he sniffed.  “You may regret that offer.”

 

“Never...Yuuri, I don’t let many in this deep.”

 

Yuuri still felt the dampness in the corners of his eyes but rested his eyes on the other skater thoughtfully.  “But...why me?”

 

“I don’t know other than the fact I wanted to reach out to you sooner.  I felt a connection with you when I watched you skate.” Yuuri watched as the man on his phone, looked up over the rim, lost in a memory for a moment.  “You have such musicality in your movements. I don’t even have to hear it to know the song in your soul. And that...that called out to me.”

 

“I’m not very good at relationships.  My friends say I don’t call them often enough.”

 

“That’s their mistake.  I won’t wait for you to call now that you’ve opened the door,” he teased.

 

Yuuri laughed softly.  “Thank you.”

 

Victor smiled in confusion, Yuuri had to admit it was adorable.  “For what?”

 

“For being my friend.”  Yuuri paused for a moment.  “I didn’t realize how much I needed it.”

 

“Of course, Yuuri.  It’s my pleasure.” Victor’s smile beamed from the phone.  Yuuri had watched this man smile on camera so often he could name them, but this one was different.  It was real.

 

Chapter Text


 

One

 

now I have learned my lesson, the price of this so-called perfection is everything

 

2011, Grand Prix Final, Quebec City, Quebec

 

Terry Gannon of NBC Sports led into his discussion as the Russian set skate onto the ice.  “Victor Nikiforov is one of the picks to make podium here at the final.”

 

“His climb has been up and down since transitioning to the seniors.  However, Russia has a lot of hope and have even offered him the title of Ice Prince,” Andrea Joice responded.

 

“And that spectacular fall from skater Katsuki Yuuri brought back memories of when Nikiforov experienced the same struggle five years ago.  It makes you wonder about what other parallels exist between the two skaters. Morooka?”

 

The Japanese commentator responded with his favorite topic.  “Katsuki-san has made it no secret that he draws inspiration from the Russian figure skater.  The interviews earlier created a stir when Nikiforov-san announced that he was skating for the Japanese skater, someone he’d apparently looked forward to competing against.”

 

“Japan’s Ace is one of the up and coming skaters to watch, that’s for certain,” Morooka continued.  “He is best known for his step sequences and has great spin sequences as well. Russia’s Ice Prince, however, is making himself known as he moves up the ranks with his quads.”

 

“There are rumors he’s ratifying a quad flip,” Terry responded.

 

“That would be something to see,” Andrea echoed.

 



The Russian skater could hear the commentary and knew more would be added when aired.  It had been an impulsive decision to declare his dedication to Yuuri. But something about the Japanese skater held his attention.  The press brushed it off as a reminder of his own spectacular fall years ago. However, he thought there was more to it. Maybe he could get drinks with Chris and talk it out.

 

“Vitya, you’re not focused.”  Yakov pulled his hand and placed it on the tissue box that had become his touch point in competition pulling his focus to the ice when it drifted.

 

“Sorry, Yakov.  It’s not... that .  I’m just worried about a friend.”

 

The coach rested knowing eyes on Victor.  “That boy will be fine. Just like you, he will recover.  Now, you have a job to do and I suspect Katsuki would agree.”

 

Victor nodded in agreement.  Yuuri would agree. They had talked, he could hear the lilt of his voice in his thoughts.  Victor focused inwardly. What was he feeling? It was different than what he had with Chris.  That was clearly friendship. It wasn’t the same as the sexual frisson he felt towards his previous partners.  Something was different.

 

A firm hand pressed his hand onto the tissue box and Victor realized he’d drifted again.  “Sorry,” he murmured again.

 

“Tell your story on the ice.  Make Russia proud. Make Lilia and I proud.”

 

Victor nodded.  His coach no longer mentioned his parents.  That was an impossible goal. But Russia. Yakov and Lilia.  And maybe...Yuuri. Would Yuuri be proud of him? Or would he hate that Victor drew attention his direction?   I hope I haven’t messed up.  But right before he relinquished his phone to his coach, he caught a text and his heart warmed.

 

YK/ I see you.

 

Victor skated into position on the ice in Quebec.   You were supposed to be here, Yuuri.  So if you can’t, I’ll skate this one for you.  Winking towards the audience, he blew a kiss and waved before lifting his arm into position.  The crowd’s cheers quieted as the announcer introduced his short program.

 

“Please welcome to the arena Victor Nikiforov skating to Ghosts .”

 

Dressed in black with a sheer white tunic that glittered with his movements, Victor closed his eyes a moment picturing Yuuri, his arms wrapped around his small form, sincere brown eyes resting on him.  With the first notes, he kicked off into movement. As he moved in a circle, his arms completing that movement leaning forward, he held his secrets close to his heart...shielded by fear, keeping him from a full life.  

 

Yuuri, I’ve let you into the hidden parts of my heart.  You know my secrets.

 

In his spin, he lifted his arms, one fully outstretched, the other halfway, the flame, the moth.

 

Do you know you are the flame and I am the moth?  Do you see it in reverse?

 

He took off into his step sequence, running the race, chasing after gold, chasing after the win, but he already knew it would leave him empty.  He felt his chest hollow out as he let go of his parents. But talking to Yuuri, something...something…

 

He jumped with the gathering doves, applause filling the background.  He gathered momentum and jumped once more with the decision to live or die.

 

I choose to live.  Every day. I want it to be full, and if I can’t have my own family, I’ll make my family.  Yakov, Lilia, Chris...Yuuri. Would you want to be part of my family, Yuuri? You agreed to friends.

 

He entered another spin with the gathering doves this time, the sequence transitions representing the changes in his life.  Settling into his final pose, he asks himself, can true love truly pull away the ghosts?

 

He felt the applause pull him from his thoughts and he found his smile as he skated in a circle, scooping up the nearest poodle plushie. And waving at the audience.  Most would be donated but this one he’d send to Yuuri, a touchpoint during his struggle.

 

He waited for his scores only to learn he sat securely in first.  Chris was next and he slipped from Kiss and Cry to cheer on his friend.  He smirked at the provocative number his friend selected.  I wish...I could be so openly gay.  I mean, I am...but then again, I’m not.  I’m still so very cautious. Many still wonder.  

 

He finished the evening in second, Chris at a close third.  Once free of the press, they shook free of their coaches as well to have some down time together.

 



The pair of friends sat across from one another, a plate of appetizers between them, white wine in their glasses.  “So tell me about this dedication,” Chris prompted.

 

“I...don’t know?”

 

“You like this boy,” Chris pressed.

 

Victor frowned.   Do I?  “It’s...different.  I want the friendship...but I want...something more?”

 

The Swiss skater steepled his fingers as he studied Victor.  “He’s only nineteen and fairly naive at that. Sweet.”

 

“I know.  Like I said, we’re friends.  Friendship is good.”

 

Chris grinned, the cat who caught the canary.  “Friendship is very good.”

 

“So...you know him.”

 

Chris nodded.  “About as well as anyone.  He’s...shy, reserved. Beautiful but you can tell he doesn’t know it.  I wouldn’t mind getting him naked...but I don’t think that would be an easy task.”

 

“So he’s gay?”

 

Chris thought about it then shrugged, taking a sip from his wine.  “I can’t really say for sure. I haven’t seen or heard of him with either a guy or girl.  He has a friend in Japan.”

 

“Yuuko,” Victor supplied.

 

Chris grinned.  “It seems you’ve gotten further than most.  In competitions, he’s really focused and most leave him alone.  And well, you can tell his coach drags him to the banquet.”

 

Victor snorted.  “My coach drags me to the banquet.  They aren’t known for the best food and drink.  Plus you have the stuffy socializing.”

 

“I wonder what we could do to change that,” Chris smirked.

 

Victor groaned.  “Do not get us thrown out like last year.”

 

Chris snorted just before he scooped up the fried zucchini.  “My coach would not be happy if he saw what we were eating.”

 

The change in topic did not go unnoticed.  Victor sighed warily but knew better than to push.  Chris would just get more secretive. “Same. Yakov would put me on grilled chicken and dry salad.”

 

Snagging another zucchini fry, Chris added, “I’m still growing.”

 

“Uh huh...Yakov wouldn’t accept that.”

 

“No, really.  I measured another inch taller when they fitted me for my costume.”

 

Victor raised an eyebrow.  Chris was already the tallest of them.  “So how do plan to use that to your advantage?”

 

His grin was lascivious, letting Victor know that he didn’t want to know.  His answer, however, didn’t match that expression. “Just creating the greatest presence on the ice.”

 

Victor leveled a stare at his friend.  “There was a time when I thought you were this sweet Swiss boy fresh off the meadows.”

 

Chris chuckled.  “I was never that sweet Swiss boy.  It was a good act, though, and got me into a couple of rooms perhaps a little sooner than I should have been.”

 

“I’m...not comfortable with this conversation.”

 

Chris shrugged, drifting into a reminiscence.  “I was sixteen...maybe seventeen.” He thought about it for a moment before deciding, “Definitely sixteen but only a couple of months from seventeen.”

 

“Please tell me the other...guy?”  He watched as Chris nodded, a smirk on his lips.  “That the other guy was at least young as well.”

 

“Another junior.  A year and maybe a tad more older.”

 

“Well, at least I don’t leave here pissed off with humanity for taking advantage of a child.”

 

Chris chuckled.  “I wasn’t the one being taken advantage of.”  Taking another bite, he cocked an eyebrow and admitted, “I was his first gay experience.”

 

“So he said,” Victor responded cynically.  He’d fallen for that line before.

 

Chris shrugged it off.  “How about you? It’s not like you’re all innocent.”

 

Victor sighed as he considered the line of lovers he had gone through.  “Not anymore.” Taking a drink, Chris waited hoping Victor would continue but he didn’t.

 



YK/ Victor, why did you say your skate was for me?

 

Victor groaned.   Don’t be mad.  Don’t be mad. Don’t be mad.

 

VN/ I hoped that wouldn’t make you mad.

 

He watched the hesitance, the dots dancing in idle torment while Victor waited for Yuuri’s reply.

 

YK/ I’m not mad.

 

Victor released his breath not realizing he’d been holding it for so long.   He’s not mad.

 

VN/ You’ve been in my thoughts a lot lately.  It seemed appropriate.

 

YK/ There’s a lot of speculation on social media.

 

VN/ We’re friends.  What’s there to speculate?

 

YK/ I guess.

 

VN/ You guess we’re friends?

 

YK/ nonononono!

 

YK/ about the speculation thing

 

Victor smiled at the panicked response.  Yuuri’s just as worried about what I think.  That’s a good thing.

 

VN/ ;)

 

VN/ How are you doing?

 

YK/ They are preparing me for a series of microsurgeries.  Rebuilding my knee.

 

YK/ They are real positive and they’ve been upfront so far.

 

VN/ Just remember...it took me several months to get back to the ice.  Don’t rush it and risk a setback.

 

YK/ I won’t.

 

VN/ Chris mentioned you earlier.

 

YK/ Oh god...how inappropriate?

 

Victor snorted.  Yuuri apparently did know his friend.

 

VN/ Something about seeing you naked.

 

YK/ Never happened.  Won’t happen. Not going to happen.

 

VN/ He seemed convinced you were gay.

 

Victor watched the dots dance once more.   Shouldn’t that be a quick reply?

 

YK/ I don’t know?

 

Victor wrinkled his nose at that.   How do you not know?  I’ve known since...well, forever.

 

YK/ I liked my friend Yuuko when I was a kid but then...I was a kid.  She looked out for me.

 

VN/ She’s older.

 

YK/ Yes.  Only a little.  A year.

 

VN/ And after?

 

More dancing dots.

 

YK/ I skated.  I haven’t really thought about it.

 

That’s interesting.

 

VN/ So...no lovers.

 

There was hesitance in his answers and Victor hated to think Yuuri would feel uncomfortable.

 

YK/ I skate.  I dance. I study.  I barely have time to call home.  So...no. Even in high school, I didn’t have time.

 

Victor stared at his phone not sure what to say and he must have taken too long because Yuuri followed up.

 

YK/ Is that weird?

 

Victor quickly tapped out a response.

 

VN/ No, just unexpected.  

 

VN/ I haven’t really met anyone that might fall on the Ace spectrum.

 

A pause before the dots came back up.

 

YK/ I don’t know.  Maybe?

 

VN/ It’s okay to take your time and figure out what you like

 

VN/ and what you need…

 

YK/ But I’m not weird?

 

VN/ No, not weird.  Not at all.

 

VN/ Charming.

 

YK/ Okay, I’m now rolling my eyes at you.

 

VN/ (Dramatic) My Yuuri thinks I’m weird!

 

YK/ XD Maybe a little.

 

YK/ That’s okay, though.  Apparently I’m a little weird, too.

 


 

Victor stood on the top of the podium, his eyes resting on the camera, kissing the medal and winking to one person across the airwaves.  He didn’t ratify the flip. He hoped to save that for Yuuri, when he could face off with the Japanese skater in person. Maybe he’s ace, maybe he’s demi.  He doesn’t seem opposed to the thought of being gay, or possibly bi.  Yuuri...you’re such a mystery.  Victor wanted to know and he wasn’t quite sure why it was so important to him.  He had told himself as he fell asleep after their conversation that he just wanted to respect Yuuri’s boundaries.  However, if he were honest with himself, he’d know there was something a little more than friendship in his interest.



NOTES:

 

Lyrics and more for One .

 

Lyrics for Ghosts, an earlier Sleepless at Last song, found here .

 

Why Sleepless at Last?  Because in the last few weeks, few months really, when I was most anxious, I sought refuge in music.  And for the most part, that music has been Sleepless at Last. I hope you enjoy the selections. They mostly come from the Atlas projects but some of the others will slip in throughout this story.

 

So what was happening in 2011 during the GPF?   Here ’s a little flash into the real world.  Nothing serious.  Just a peek.

Chapter Text


 

MIND

 

It overwhelms the nervous system

This fearful constant state of comparison

In our grey matter, all grey matters

An embarrassment of riches in our heads

We gravitate to black or white instead

 

2011, Detroit

 

Yuuri stared at the ceiling trying to will himself to calm down but the fears in his mind became deafening.  He hated MRI’s but it had to be done to check the progress. He preferred to be watching Victor skate. He preferred to be back home, sitting in the onsen or playing with Vicchan.  This was the only way back to the ice.

 

Ice .

 

He closed his eyes, letting his mind focus on that one word, frozen in his thoughts, he drifted.  Ice leads to Victor, Victor his friend, Victor, his text earlier sent to encourage him.

 

VN/ MRIs freak me out, the closed space.

 

YK/ It’s really making me consider those anxiety meds Dr. Bishop offered.

 

VN/ Which scare you more?

 

Yuuri had to think about it but he knew the answer after a moment.

 

YK/ Meds.  MRIs are short term.

 

VN/ Meds can be.  Not mine.

 

VN/ Does it bother you that I take AD?

 

YK/ No, why would it bother me?

 

VN/ It’s just...you think that it will take something away from you, or make you seem weaker.

 

Yuuri frowned as he considered his responses, analyzing every one of them.   Did I make Victor feel guilty for taking his meds?

 

YK/ I didn’t mean...each person is different.

 

YK/ I’m scared of how they will make me feel.

 

VN/ I was scared, too...but the crushing depression was more scary.

 

YK/ I know anxiety.  Better the enemy you know than the one you don’t know.

 

VN/ Maybe.  I knew depression.  We’d become quite comfortable with one another.  But now...I won’t go back.

 

YK/ Does it bother you that I don’t want to do meds?

 

VN/ A little...but only because a part of me wonders if I’m weaker.

 

YK/ I didn’t mean it like that.  I just meant…

 

Yuuri took a deep breath and released it.  He liked Victor. Victor was high maintenance.  Still, he hated that he made his idol feel less.

 

YK/ I have trouble letting go of the perceptions of my family.  We’re weirdly close for no more often than I call home. Sometimes mom will call with this odd 6th sense thing and it’s like she knows something is wrong.  As a kid, my sister could always find me when I was lost. My dad gave me a place to retreat to and would hide me if I wasn’t ready to deal with mom or sis.  I don’t want to be less in their eyes.

 

YK/ And I already feel like I’m less.

 

Victor didn’t respond for a short period and Yuuri now knew he was digesting his words and considering his response with care.  He appreciated that. Sometimes Yuuri’s rush into the answers caused him to have to backpedal.

 

VN/ I have trouble letting go of my family perceptions for the opposite reason.  They want nothing to do with me. No matter how many gold medals I win, I will never be good enough, I will never be able to erase the perception of shame my father has put on me.

 

VN/ I go to therapy because my parents disowned me for being gay.  I have a therapist that hides behind his beard, his wife, so he won’t be seen as gay.  Although I hint at it with my life, I don’t confirm it. I can’t. Not while I skate for Russia.

 

Yuuri hadn’t expected such a deep admission.  This felt even more of a confession than the antidepressants and he knew Victor must trust him greatly to hand over such a large secret.  He closed his eyes and considered his response.

 

YK/ I can’t imagine not being accepted for being gay by my family.

 

VN/ But you aren’t accepted for being mentally ill, for having anxiety.  Neither one are things in our control.

 

YK/ There’s not a pill you can take for being gay.

 

VN/ There’s...not.  There is reconditioning.  Yakov intervened when that came up.  He said it would affect my training.

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened that any parent would consider such torture for their child.

 

YK/ But you aren’t broken, why would you need reconditioning?

 

VN/ To fit in a mold of expectation...I learned to act instead.  I know just how far to push that boundary. Sometimes, though, I don’t feel real.

 

YK/ I can’t imagine.

 

Victor was quiet for a long while and Yuuri thought maybe he’d gone to sleep when his phone pinged again.

 

VN/ I shouldn’t have pushed about the meds.  You’re not broken, either. It was more that I felt less for taking them.  That’s not on you. It’s your body.

 

YK/ I never meant to make you feel less.

 

VN/ We filter our thoughts through our own mental illnesses.  You and I, we’re quite a pair.

 

YK/ I’m glad we started talking, though.  For the longest time, I thought I was alone with these mental struggles.

 

VN/ Not so alone.  Most of us learned how to hide them.  You’d be surprised what meds different athletes are taking.  Legal and otherwise.

 

Yuuri shivered at the thought.

 

YK/ I don’t even want the legal stuff.  I can’t imagine putting the illegal stuff in my body.

 

VN/ I’m glad.

 

Yuuri studied those words.   Was Victor saying he’d taken illegal substances?  He remembered reading about Russian doping in athletes.   Were they pushing things onto Victor?   A protective part of him wanted to pull Victor out of there, to protect him from their drugs, from their homophobia.  Did Victor’s coach know he was gay?  Accept him?  Reading through again, he decided that Yakov knew and was an ally.

 

“Victoru….”

 

The ticking of the machine brought his thoughts back.  “Just a little bit longer,” he heard a disembodied voice promise.  Then he was coming out of the machine, his eyes blinking at the brightness of the room.  He’d get his reading during his next visit. For now, he restored himself to order and allowed the rink employee to shuttle him back to his apartment.  

 

Holding the phone in his hand, he wanted to call Victor.  Doing a quick calculation, he knew it was close to one in the morning.  “He’ll be sleeping,” Yuuri murmured. He needed a touchpoint somewhere. Holding the stuffed poodle Victor had sent to him wasn’t enough.  Hovering his finger over his contacts, he knew it was close to seven in the morning back home. He pressed the contact listening to the ringing.

 

“Moshi Moshi,” came the familiar voice.  Yuuri smiled at the warmth of his mother, the barking of Vicchan in the background.

 

“Hi, mom.”

 

“Yuuri!  It’s so good to hear from you.  How are you?”

 

He sighed and thought about the answer.   He’d been giving assurances that he was fine but at the moment, he didn’t feel fine.  “I’m tired, Mom. It’s slow, hard work to come back from an injury. And...I don’t see anyone.  My rinkmates are practicing with my coach. In class, I’m busy focusing on my studies. I’m...not doing well.”  He didn’t expect the sob rise up and all he wanted was her arms around him at that moment.

 

“Oh, Yuuri.  Maybe you should come home.”

 

Yuuri laughed hating the bitter edge to his voice.  “That would just set me back further. I just...needed to hear a familiar voice.  Someone I knew who cared what happened to me.”

 

“We all care what happens to you,” she assured him.  “This summer, when your therapy is over, you come home.  Even if it’s just for a couple of weeks. You come home and let me take care of you.”

 

“I’d...like that,” he whispered.

 

“Now, tell me your good news.  I know something good has happened in your life.  There’s always something good.”

 

Yuuri chuckled, relieved at how his mother turned things around.  “I made an unexpected friend in all of this.”

 

“Oh?  Why isn’t he there taking care of you?”

 

Yuuri felt his face relax into a smile.  “It’s not that easy. He’s in Russia. Do you remember the skater that I followed while in Japan?  Victor Nikiforov?”

 

“Oh, the one with the silver hair.  So pretty.”

 

“Yeah, he contacted me, sent me a letter, encouraged me to text him.  Then we started talking, and well, he’s actually really kind. Not anything like what I thought.”

 

“Of course he’d be kind.  You wouldn’t admire a bad person.”

 

“No, I guess not.  Mom?”

 

“Yes, dear?”

 

“Maybe...if I come there this summer, I can invite him as well.  I think he needs to take some time to take care of himself as well.”

 

“Of course you can bring your friend.  Oh, I can use that as a reason to get your father and sister to clear that old banquet room.  I’ve been wanting to turn it into another room for guests.”

 

Yuuri laughed softly.  His mother would use the promise of a guest as a way to get extra work out of the others.  “I can help if you don’t get to it. It shouldn’t take long,” he murmured. “I miss you all.”

 

“We miss you, too, Yuuri.”  He could hear the tears in her voice and he hated that but he felt them in his own as well.  “Are you going to be okay?”

 

“Yes.  I’m getting the help I need.  I just had to hear your voice.”

 

“We love you, Yuuri.”

 

“I love you, too.”

 

Then the call was over.  Picking up his phone, he sent a text hoping it wouldn’t disturb Victor’s rest.

 

YK/ I think I need to try the meds.  I can’t do this on my own.

 

He started when a text pinged back within seconds.

 

VN/ I wasn’t trying to pressure you.

 

Yuuri sighed.

 

YK/ I didn’t mean to wake you up.

 

VN/ I couldn’t sleep.  Can I call you?

 

YK/ Of course.

 

The call rang through shortly and then Yuuri heard Victor’s voice, raw with tears.  He was truly upset. “I was having a bad day. I wasn’t trying to push you.”

 

“What happened?”

 

“It’s stupid but then you misunderstood me and I knew I messed up and didn’t know how to fix it.”

 

Yuuri processed Victor’s words bit by bit before he answered softly, “Wow, you sound like me when my anxiety is going crazy.  Okay. First of all, all that other stuff is fine. We’re fine. I’m not easily pressured. What happened?”

 

“A person, one of my rinkmates, they were busted for drug use and I started freaking out because I’m on antidepressants and what if that’s not allowed and I am not allowed to skate and I came undone in Yakov’s office and he sent me home early.”  Yuuri listened to the words but he also could hear the erratic breathing around the words.

 

Yuuri took a deep breath before answering, “What did Yakov say before he sent you home?”

 

“That it was fine but I couldn’t calm down and he said I wasn’t in any shape to skate.”  The bark in the back of Victor’s throat told Yuuri he was fighting his sobs.

 

“Coach would do the same with me as well,” Yuuri assured him then gently went into his concern.  “Victor, have you ever had an anxiety attack?”

 

“I don’t know.  Maybe?”

 

“Okay, Cara says that anxiety and depression are bedfellows meaning they are often found together.  The depression may be stronger for you and anxiety stronger for me but they really are two sides of the same coin.”

 

“I need different meds?”

 

“Maybe not...but you might want to go see your therapist.”

 

Victor tried to catch his breath but the sobs and the panic were still heavy in his voice.  “What do I...what do…”

 

“Victor, breathe with me.  Slowly. In.” He paused to breathe in where Victor could hear him.  “Out.” He continued in that pattern until Victor calmed down. Finally, Victor was quiet and Yuuri murmured softly, “Oh, Victor.  I almost didn’t contact you because I was afraid I’d wake you up.”

 

“I couldn’t sleep.  Too much on my mind.”

 

“Let’s talk about those things.”

 

An hour later and Victor’s voice slowly faded into sleep, a whispered “thank you” murmured as he slipped into slumber.

 

Yuuri disconnected the call thankful that it wasn’t Victor taking the drugs, that his statement was feeding off of the incident with his friend.  However, he knew more than ever that he wanted the help the medication would afford him. One more call.

 

“Hello, Dr. Cara?”

 

He heard her warm chuckle on the other end.  “You’re lucky I am working late, Yuuri.”

 

“I know.  I was prepared to leave a voicemail.  About those meds...I think you’re right.  I need to consider them.”

 

“What changed your mind?”

 

“A friend...I realized that his need for medication didn’t change what I thought about him.  I don’t see him as weaker. He’s just doing what he has to do. And well, I’m just making it harder on myself.”

 

“Bravo, Yuuri,” she responded warmly.  “I’ve got some forms for you to sign so I can get a record of what you’re taking through the recovery center.  I don’t want any interactions. Then we’ll begin our first trial.”

 

“This isn’t going to be easy.”

 

“Nope, but you’ve never backed down from a challenge.”

 

Yuuri sighed but knew she was right.  “No, I don’t. Let’s get started.”

 


 

NOTES:

 

Lyrics for Mind.

Chapter Text


 

Light

 

though your heart is far too young to realize

the unimaginable light you hold inside…

 

December 25-8, 2011, Russian Figure Skating Championship, Saransk, Mordovia

 

Victor held onto his tissue box wrapped in a Makkachin plushie, his gaze forward.  His birthday was always spent on the ice, always in competition. He didn’t know what a birthday without the ice would even entail.  Short Program on his birthday, Free Skate on Georgi’s.

 

He glanced over at his rink mate and thought about the drug allegations.  The two of them came out clean. Really, all of those under Yakov were clean save one.  He didn’t understand athletes destroying their bodies on drugs. Performance enhancers. Some were government provided but Yakov wouldn’t have any of it.  Others, not sanctioned, the effects even worse. Those were the skaters that lost their place. That was the story, anyway. It was odd that only those who didn’t meet a particular image were caught, as if the drugs were fabricated for a convenient excuse.

 

No one talked about it.  Especially not at the rink where they could be overheard.  The athletes were strangely quiet. Victor kept himself solemn.  He knew the expectations. He knew how to perform, how to act.

 

His phone pinged and he looked down with a smile.

 

CG/ I see you’ve got your best behavior on.

 

VN/ You know how it is.

 

CG/ I do.  YK wanted to know if you’re okay.  Should I answer?

 

VN/ You have your theories.

 

CG/ I do.  I’ll fill him in.

 

His press smile was cold but that’s how he felt at times like this, prevented from being himself.  Yakov had warned him to be careful. Keep his behavior tight. He knew. When they carried off the ice dancer Lyosha, he knew.

 

His eyes slid across the ice even as he kept telling himself, I just have to play a part.  A grand play. That’s all this is.

 

His phone pinged, his demeanor softened.   Yuuri…

 

YK/ Can you call me when you’re back in your room?

 

VN/ Yes.

 

YK/ Good.  I have your birthday present.

 

Victor smiled, the warmth going across his face.  Of course, Yuuri could thaw his soul. Sweet Yuuri.  Chris had been correct in his assessment. The younger skater personified sweetness.  And Victor felt the tug of gravity the more they learned about one another.

 

He’s young, we’ve got time.  And once I cross that line, Russia will be finished with me.

 

He knew what he was thinking was long term.  And he’d yet to meet the boy face to face. Shaking his head, he glanced down fondly thinking about Yuuri’s texts.   What do you have in mind?

 

Victor skated Ghost , his performance sweeping the competition even in Victor’s mental state.  He took care of his press obligations with practiced precision. Slipping away from the crowd, he promised to rest.  You don’t have to worry, Yakov.  I’m not going to misstep. Not this close to the Worlds.

 




In the privacy of his room, he settled into bed showered and dressed in his pajamas.  The clock was approaching eleven. It would be close to five the next evening before he skated once again.  Reaching for his phone, he sent a text to tell Yuuri he could talk now. The Facetime call went through and he spotted Yuuri in his apartment, a space he was becoming familiar with as Yuuri carried the phone around during their talks.

 

“How are you?” Yuuri asked right off.

 

Victor sighed knowing it would do no good to lie to Yuuri.  What was the point? Yuuri could see right through him. “I’m tired of playing pretend.”

 

“Chris told me.  When you texted that you couldn’t talk, I hope it was okay that I reached out to him.”

 

“Yes, always okay.  I’m watched too closely out there.”

 

“I understand.”

 

Victor smiled, his thoughts going to the words Chris said that night to describe him.  He doesn’t know how beautiful he is.  The man on the other end was dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, his leg stretched out on the couch.  His hair was longer, Victor figured he had a hard time getting out for a maintenance cut with his schedule.  A bit of beard growth revealed the planes of Yuuri’s face in a new perspective. Victor had thoughts about that beard.  He blinked, shoving them aside.

 

“You said something about a birthday present.”   Did my voice just crack?

 

“I know, I’m just working up my courage,” he confessed, in his nerves not noticing Victor’s struggle.

 

Victor settled into a smile, easy with Yuuri.  “Take your time. I’m not going anywhere.”

 

He took a deep breath and began.  “Did I tell you my major is multidisciplinary in the arts?”

 

Victor shook his head.

 

“Well, I...play the piano and dance and sing.  I’m taking courses in composition and music theory next term.  I can’t exactly dance. Not like this.” He motioned to his knee before continuing.  “I’m nervous and so I pulled out my keyboard to warm up. And well, this song. It made me think of you.”  Nervous fingers danced across the keys, random but not. Victor could hear the musicality in the notes and it almost seemed intentional, familiar, like a song on the tip of the tongue.

 

“I would love to hear your song.”

 

“It’s...silly...it’s nothing.”  Yuuri pushed his hair back and shook his hands out once more.  He doesn’t see his worth, his value.

 

“No one has ever offered to play for me,” Victor encouraged, his voice soft, his exhaustion giving it a sultry sound.  He smiled wearily. He waited, watching Yuuri take a deep breath and let it out. He knew the other man was struggling, fighting the effects as he adjusted to his meds, nausea and headaches at the forefront of his symptoms.  That he would fight through that and learn a song, Victor felt soft inside. He offered the other man a fond smile.

 

Yuuri took a deep breath as his fingers found their home in the notes, his voice lifting its lilt to sing, “ All this to say …”  Victor remained transfixed as the song wrapped him up in its words and he hoped Yuuri would record this for him, allow him to save it and savor it.  

 

“Yuuuuuriii,” he breathed as the other man finished and was treated to the blush rising up in the other man’s cheeks.   Do you even know what you tell me with your expressions?

 

“I didn’t know what to give you,” he whispered and Victor watched him reach for the poodle plushie and hug it close to his chest, the keyboard now off to the side.  He drew his shoulders up and dropped his eyes bashfully. And Victor thought, not for the first time, how charming Yuuri was in these moments. He knew he made a vow in his heart at that moment.

 

Everything I have...everything I know is yours.  You make me want to be better.

 

“I’ve never had anything more perfect, Yuuri,” he murmured.

 

“I just...I didn’t want your birthday to be forgotten or ignored.  You deserve better,” Yuuri whispered, a roughness coming through the words and Victor knew he was fighting back his emotions.

 

“I wish...I had a recording so I could hold onto it.”   Do you know how much I want you at this moment?

 

Yuuri hummed as he considered the request.  “I-I might be able to do that. Not right away but once I get into the music department.”

 

Victor couldn’t help the smile that settled onto his lips.  “Thank you, my Yuuri,” he murmured. “I’ll wait as long as it takes.”

 

Yuuri held his eyes a moment longer before whispering, “I should let you sleep.”

 

Victor pouted, not wanting to let him go, wanting to wrap him up in his arms and hold onto him.  “Stay…”

 

“You have to skate tomorrow.  Sleep,” insisted the Japanese skater.

 

Victor huffed but nodded.  “I know. I just...hate being alone.”

 

Yuuri’s expression softened.  He was nodding before his words surfaced.  “Fine, I’ll keep you company until you fall asleep.”

 

“Thank you.  You don’t know how much that means to me.”

 

But Yuuri’s eyes answered softly, I do.   He then hummed softly and as Victor’s eyes closed, he imagined Yuuri’s fingers carding through his hair.  Family.






Victor would skate last and he cheered his rinkmate on.  He looked up as Lilia approached. She tugged and adjusted his appearance and he knew something was worrying her.  “I’m keeping lowkey,” he whispered.

 

She sighed, weariness slipping into her countenance.  “You shouldn’t have to, Vitya. We’re worried about you.”  She rubbed her thumb over a scar, evidence of past self-harm, he thought he’d hidden.  She always seemed to know.

 

“I know...but I’m fine.  I talk to Abramovich, I have friends I can trust.  I’m okay. For once, I’m okay.”

 

She offered him a pained smile, her hand going up to smooth his hair.  “It’s an unfair world.”

 

“I only have to keep it up until I retire.  I can do this,” he insisted...because to suggest otherwise would break him.

 

“Vitya…”

 

“Really, I can.”

 




It was time for him to skate, he settled into position.  The solid notes of Earth began.   How long did I live without a lifeline, now I hold onto you, Yuuri.  Do you even know that you are keeping me afloat, tethered to something better than this world I live in?  Last night, you saved me. The sadness going deeper than anyone would know. I hate this, I hate lying, I hate not being true to myself.  A little longer. A little longer. Don’t be afraid, my Yuuri. I can hold on. For once, I have a reason beyond myself to hold on. You’ve become my anchor, the weight that holds me to this earth.  It wasn’t courage before, it was survival. Holding on now...holding on until I’m safe, you give me reason to hold tight.

 

Victor heard the resounding applause.  He smiled, a calculated expression for the purpose of the RSF.  He skated to his coach and Yakov guided him into the Kiss and Cry.  He held himself erect, no one knew how much the older man supported him.  He was breaking. He just needed a moment.

 

He looked down as his phone buzzed.

 

YK/ I see you.  Hold on a little while longer.

 

He gasped, his eyes seeking out a camera, blinking away the tears.  He was certain people were creating theories about that text but nothing was incriminating.  He was safe. Yet, it was just what he needed. Just like before.

 

He mouthed the words towards the camera.   Thank you.

 

A moment later, he glanced down to see two letters answer.

 

YK/ yw

 

My Yuuri…

 




He wore gold as he left the podium and two days later, his thoughts were on two names.  Yuuri and Makkachin. He couldn’t go to Yuuri. He had a job to do and Europeans to prepare for, Worlds to prepare for.  Yuuri would understand. Yuuri didn’t expect him. Makka, though, looked for him. His sitter texted pictures of the poodle watching out the window, waiting.

 

Finally home, he embraced the poodle thanking the neighbor that sat with her.  He had two days of rest and he planned to spend them both with his Makkachin. Before he unpacked, before he rested, he put her leash on and took her for a much needed walk.  She always gained when Victor was away, too much time inside, not enough exercise. But he wanted to keep her at his side for as long as humanely possible.

 

Returning, he cooked for her, preparing a stew for the two of them.  He showered as the flavors melded and separated laundry. Once the meal finished, he gave Makka her bowl near the table to keep her close to him and he ate at the table, a single glass of wine.

 

“One day, Makka, we’ll have Yuuri here and there will be two glasses of wine.  You will love him. He’s unbelievably kind.” Makka listened, tilting her ear as her person rambled on.  Victor laughed softly at himself. “I haven’t even met him. Not in person. But I just...know.”

 


 

NOTES:

 

Lyrics to Light .



Chapter Text


 

Taste

 

I am alive, I am awake. I am aware of what light tastes like.

 

Yuuri crutched down the hall towards his coach’s office.  Peeking inside, he saw the man on his phone but a large hand waved him inside.  He dropped into the chair indicated and waited. Finally, the coach disconnected.  “How are you doing, Yuuri?”

 

“My recovery is on schedule and I’m receiving all positives.  The water therapy seems to be working wonders.”

 

The dark hair bobbed as he nodded, “I knew that place was better for you than that old luddite.  I’m glad to hear it.” The dark eyes narrowed as Celestino considered Yuuri’s appearance. “So what can I do for you?”

 

Yuuri chewed his bottom lip before cutting himself short, forcing hands to still from their nervous movements.  “Well, I’ve been thinking about where I want to be...when I retire.”

 

Leaning forward, intense dark gray eyes meeting Yuuri’s, his coach was quick to reassure him, “Now, you won’t be retiring anytime soon, Yuuri.  Don’t worry about that.”

 

Yuuri sat forward a little, holding up a hand, “I know...it’s just...this was an eye opener.  I talked with my advisor.”

 

“Okay,” Celestino sat back in his chair listening.  “What did you find out?”

 

Yuuri followed suit, becoming more relaxed, but also more confident.  “Well, with my major...I think I want to learn how to do choreography, creating my own compositions.”  It’s what Victor does in a way.  

 

Celestino paused, taking in his student’s words.  “Interesting.”

 

Yuuri swallowed, his coach had always been a master at playing his cards close to his chest and that interesting felt a combination of open and closed.  “And well, I may one day coach. My advisor suggested that I might do an internship.”

 

Celestino pushed his hand through his hair as he surveyed his student.  “I could work with you,” he decided. “But it won’t be easy.” He regarded Yuuri’s leg thoughtfully, then smiled...or smirked.  “The novices...you can call corrections on them. And learn some of the paperwork.”

 

“I do most of mine,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

Celestino chuckled at the thought of filling out the endless paperwork that came with Yuuri’s skating career.  “Which is good...because I don’t speak Japanese. I’m sure the JSF appreciates that it isn’t in my scrawl either.  But these kids...most of them have their papers in English and this old coach is responsible for making sure they are in order.”

 

“I’m willing to learn...and help,” Yuuri assured him.

 

“Excellent.”  Celestino took a long breath in, he new his student was talented...beyond talented, but putting together programs required confidence.  He remembered every argument on ice, every temper tantrum as a jump was substituted...every skater new best, every skater wanted to interpret...Yuuri was one of the worst offenders.  But that could work in the boy’s favor. “Now...about this choreography and composition business.”

 

Yuuri squeezed his shoulders together.  “Yes, Coach?” he squeeked.

 

“You’re taking some music courses this term...perhaps you can put together a rough idea of what you are thinking.  You won’t be off your feet forever and finding your music will give us a head start.”

 

Yuuri’s face beamed, “I can do that!”

 

The coach smiled warmly, seeing the change in his favorite.  “That’s a step in a positive direction. Let’s head down to the rink and talk to the novices.”

 

Soon, Yuuri was talking with the students assigned to this rink, listening to their training concerns.  The small group was mostly polite, a little intimidated as they hadn’t interacted with any of the Senior skaters before.  However, one girl had been watching him more intensely. There was a fierceness in her that Yuuri was a little scared of...granted she was probably around fourteen and weighed as much as his skate bag, but he still sucked in a breath when she asked, “How do you score so well on your PCS?”

 

Yuuri laughed warmly, relieved to find her aggression was all for the ice.  “I started out in ballet and it’s key to being able to express myself so well.”

 

There was a buzz among the students then a warm laugh that drew their attention to the older woman a few rows up.  “Maybe you’ll take your lessons more seriously,” she stated with a raised eyebrow.

 

“Yes, Madame Anne,” they echoed, ducking down.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I spend almost as much time in dance as I do on the ice.  More in the beginning while I get my choreography down. A little less as we draw close to competition.  I also worked on learning my figures.”

 

“Seriously?” one of the students whined.  “School figures?”

 

Jeez, like I’m asking them to read a rotary clock or something…  Yuuri grinned as he nodded.  “Edge work is important. Think about it the next time you waxel.”  He watched a couple of the kids blush and nod knowingly. Then he continued, “Believe it or not, I love doing them.  They calm me when I’m anxious.”

 

“You get anxious, too, Yuuri?”  That came from one of the smaller skaters.  Yuuri had seen them shrinking back more than once from the spotlight.

 

“I get very anxious.  I’m now working on the right medicine to help me clear the fog in my head.  But I don’t let my anxiety stop me.”

 

They hugged themselves and nodded, and Yuuri watched their back straighten at his words.  Turning to the others, Yuuri continued. “I won’t be cleared for the ice for some time but I did help with lessons while in Japan.  I am looking forward to working with you all along with your regular coaches.”

 

As he returned to Celestino’s side, he could see a spark of pride in the Italian coach’s eyes.  Although Yuuri normally derived his motivation from within, at the moment that approval meant a lot.  They headed down the hall to the mailroom. “You really think I can help them?”

 

“More importantly, they think you can help them.  That’s the most significant factor to coaching...getting your students to believe in you.  Until then, you both fight one another for control.”

 

“I guess I never realized it was a two way street.  I always thought it was about the skater. Standing alone out on the ice.  I guess...that was kind of selfish.”

 

Celestino shrugged.  “It’s fine...it’s my job to make it look easy.  I’m the Dumbo feather, you believe in me when you can’t believe in yourself.  Come with me. Let’s see what the postal service has delivered today.”

 

The floor was littered with subscription cards from skating magazine and ads from various suppliers of product.  “So this is the junk that doesn’t make it into our mailbox?” Yuuri asked.

 

The coach chuckled.  “Yep...fan mail gets sorted and anything suspicious is set aside to be x-rayed.  Otherwise, it goes straight into your boxes.” He stopped in front of his own and Yuuri was surprised by the amount of fan mail the old coach still received along with all of the official business.  “Once you’re walking on your own, you’ll stop here on the way in and bring up my mail. We’ll sort through it and I’ll show you how to prioritize matters. Organizing the paperwork will make your life less of a headache when you start doing my job.”

 

Yuuri nodded, warmed that his mentor was already talking about his future as a coach.  Then he peeked into his own mailbox. “I guess...I haven’t really checked my mail in a while.”

 

Celestino’s groaned, “No, you haven’t.  You have a crate over there in the corner started.”

 

Yuuri started for a moment, “I do?”

 

“Your fans want to support your recovery.”  The coach had a few pieces of mail in his hands, looking them over.  He pointed to the crate, “It might do you some good to see what they have to say.”

 

Yuuri thumbed through colorful envelopes and packages, some with bold messages of get well soon and can’t wait to see you skate again written directly on the packages.  “I...didn’t know, didn’t realize…”

 

The coach came up behind him, looking at the small mountain of support.  “Because you always look at your mailbox with dread and leave someone else to deal with it.  Do you think Victor leaves his fan mail to others?”

 

“I...umm...no, he doesn’t.”  Yuuri felt a tinge of guilt. He had talked to Victor enough to know he took fan mail personally.  He may not answer each one of them but he had evenings he spent reading through his letters, taking time to send a word of encouragement to the ones that affected him the most.  Yuuri always looked at the stack of mail as expectations piling on his shoulders.

 





That evening, Yuuri sat on his sofa with his leg propped up, the mailcrate next to him which had been carried up by the rink employee that drove him home.  He reached for a small package and carefully tore it open. He smiled at the childlike script, and the tiny ice skate on a cord.  I miss seeing you skate, Yuuri.  Please get well and soon. My mom helped me write this.  He smiled as he slipped the cord over his neck tightening the knots.  His phone buzzed and he pulled it in front of him. A broad smile broke over his face as he saw the name.   Victor .

 

“Hello,” he greeted.  He was glad to see the older skater looking better, his smile genuine.

 

“How are you, my Yuuri?”

 

Yuuri tried not to analyze the way Victor had started calling him my Yuuri .  Maybe it was a cultural thing.  “I apparently have a backlog of fan mail.”

 

Victor smiled into the phone, “Oh, anything interesting?”

 

Yuuri held up the trinket, watching Victor’s heart shaped smile form.  “This necklace for one...sent by a kid. Letter was in blue crayon but I can tell their mom helped them write it.”

 

“The kid letters are the best!  Watch out for those opportunities to encourage new skaters!”

 

Yuuri chuckled.  “I will...and speaking of which, Coach is giving me the internship I asked for.  I’m going to be working with the novice skaters and helping him process paperwork.  So...both sides of the job.”

 

Victor chuckled and shifted on his side of the line, pulling his legs up under him.  “The paperwork sucks...but I just put music on and plug through. I have to review every contract I’m involved with myself.  My...um...father...he used to do it but since we don’t really talk…” Victor sighed and Yuuri could see he was fighting to hold onto his cheer.

 

Yuuri brought them back to the drudgery of paperwork to distract his friend, “So he’s also given me the assignment...or at least approved of me undertaking the task of trying to develop the composition for one of my programs next year.”

 

Victor’s eyes lit back up, “After hearing you play for my birthday, I think anything you create would be amazing.”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “You heard me sing something someone else created.  Not the same thing.”

 

Victor eyes shifted off the screen, “Well...I’m happy to listen to anything you create.”

 

Yuuri hummed, “Let me get into the courses first.  I may find out I’m in over my head.”

 

Victor shrugged.  “I am going to continue to believe in you.”

 

Yuuri blushed but smiled as he pulled another package up.  Opening it, he pulled out...something questionable. “This one shouldn’t have made it through screening.”

 

Victor’s eyes widened and he struggled to keep his giggle inside, “You just turned nineteen...they may not screen them as closely.”

 

He looked at the sex toy with a frown.  “What would I even do with this?”

 

It was Victor’s turn to blush.  Yuuri watched as the older man blinked a few times, then began to mumble an answer, “Well, you insert it...it should, umm, have directions.”

 

Yuuri leveled a stare at Victor quieting him.  “So you’re saying I put it up my ass?”

 

“Oh, god, Yuuri...you had to go there!”  Victor fell to the side of the bed, covered his face up with a pillow while Yuuri snorted in laughter.

 

“Oh, it does have instructions.”  He studied them while Victor worked up the courage to peek out.  He waited until he settled the pillow down before he impishly asked, “Where would I get lube?”

 

“Yuuuuriiiii,” he whined.

 

Yuuri was having nothing of innocent Victor now that he knew the Russian better.  “You did admit to me that you were gay.  Surely you know these things.”

 

“I...umm...maybe?”  Blue eyes darted all around the room, never once settling on the phone’s screen.

 

“Online?”

 

Victor nodded.  “Through Chris, so...ummm...no paper trail.  He usually passes them to me when we meet during events.”

 

Yuuri perked up at that, intrigued.  “So...contraband.”

 

“You are an evil, evil man,” Victor groaned and Yuuri was certain that red stain on his cheeks was permanent.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “Sometimes.” He laid the toy aside and reached for another.

 

“Maybe I should call you back later,” Victor suggested.

 

“Oh, no…”  Yuuri settled himself, not wanting to end the conversation, “this is now a group activity.  What weird stuff do you get from your fans?”

 

Victor clutched his pillow as he considered what to tell him.  “I’ve received panties before.”

 

Yuuri frowned at that.  “To wear?”

 

Victor snorted, “No!  But they apparently wore them.”

 

Yuuri practically gagged at the thought, “That’s just...ew.”

 

Victor laughed.  “Agreed. I’ve also received things...like that.  But it rarely makes it through the filters. Remember, officially I’m not gay.”  He ended with a wink that just about killed Yuuri.

 

“Of course.  Why would you want them if you weren’t gay?” Yuuri quirked an eyebrow.

 

“Fair...but well, Russia wouldn’t see it that way.  And I can shrug it off as weird fans.” Victor hugged the pillow in his lap.

 

“It is weird of fans to send something so intimate.  I mean, this person doesn’t know if I’m gay or not.  I just skate. I don’t talk about my personal life.”

 

Victor put the pillow down and Yuuri could see he was working up the nerve to ask him something.  He waited reaching for a card this time, smiling at the words of encouragement. “Maybe I should do a video or something to thank them for these letters.  Not the sex toy...but the nice things.”

 

“That’s not a bad idea.  A vlog where you open some of the gifts.”

 

Yuuri raised an eyebrow as he nodded towards the sex toy.  “And open that on screen?”

 

Victor rolled his eyes, “You wouldn’t do it live ...that way you could edit out the weird stuff.”

 

Yuuri considered the idea, “It’s a thought.  I’m not good at social media...I wonder if someone could help me with that.”

 

“Ask around the rink or in your classes.”

 

“I will...now, what is it you wanted to ask me?” he slipped in that prompt easily to invite Victor’s question.

 

Victor’s cheeks pinked a little, and he chewed his lip for a moment.  “I just...are you sure you’re not gay?”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “Honestly, I don’t know that I’ve ever considered the gender when I thought about who I might be attracted to...just that we could talk easily and openly.  It’s...hard for me to open up. I’m working on it, though.”

 

VIctor smiled as he met Yuuri’s eyes.  “You’re doing wonderfully.”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  “You’re the exception to the rule.  You make it...easy for me to trust you.”

 

Victor shrugged, “I just...knew my secrets were safe with you.”

 

Yuuri smiled at the man on the screen.  “I agree...and, as far as my...sexuality?  I’m not sure...but I studied the definitions of your suggestions.  And I may be ace. I mean, I’ve never been sexually attracted to anyone before.  I think...I’d need to connect to someone mentally and emotionally before I could consider the physical.”

 

Victor seemed to brighten, “So definitely demi...and maybe pan.”

 

Yuuri nodded as he considered those definitions.  “I think...that’s a good place to put me...somewhere in the middle.”  Yuuri reached for another envelope and opened it up, a child’s drawing coming out to pull a smile from his lips.  Turning it to Victor, the drawing of a figure skater in magic marker boldly positioned in a Biellmann. “I think that’s supposed to be me.”  He held it up and watched Victor grin.

 

“It’s a good likeness.  You should snap a selfie and post it on twitter or instagram...maybe both.”

 

Yuuri laughed, “And send the whole fandom into  shock? Also, I’ve never posted on instagram.”

 

“My publicist says to focus in those two.  He’s leery of Facebook. And you can do a youtube account if you want to vlog.”

 

Yuuri knew that Victor was trying to keep him up, and help him open up to people more.  But facebook, instagram, they weren’t the mediums he wanted to use. He wanted to talk to people through the ice.  “I want...to skate. But I can’t even dance at the moment. So maybe a creative outlet isn’t a bad plan. And...I do need to say thank you for all of these letters.”




After the call disconnected, Yuuri posted a selfie with the child’s drawing and a short note thanking everyone for the wonderful letters and gifts.  He didn’t notice all of the excited followers included one phichit+chu. He did notice one v-nikiforov and felt himself smile as he moved back towards his bedroom.  What his fans noticed, though, was that katsuki-y had a warm smile and seemed to be recovering and in good spirits. A picture is worth a thousand words.

 


NOTES:

 

I hope you all realize the lyrics at the beginning of my stories come from the songs linked.    Here is the blog post on Taste by the artist.  Yuuri is having a slow awakening of his sexuality and gaining an awareness like each sense becoming aware one by one.  He’s not as unaware as he plays at with Victor but he’s amused at how the older man squirms due to his questions and his own assumptions.  He is very aware of Victor’s personality, what he enjoys even if he squirms and how far he can push into that boundary. He is aware of what light tastes like.  Victor (Ch. 6).

 

He’s never really sought labels to define himself before but for some reason with Victor, he needs those definitions because they give Yuuri a framework to work through an understanding of his awakening awareness.  And Yuuri realizes real quick that he couldn’t just casually go to bed with someone. His privacy is too important to him...and that’s what sex represents to him...letting someone share his privacy. It’s one of many intimacies he blocks off from the world.

 

Now, about the toy...I purposefully left it vague.  I’m sure we all have vivid imaginations and can think of various things it could be so I’m leaving it to your experience to decide what it was.  Yuuri is honestly amused because it’s the first thing that’s made it through to him. Perhaps due to him being older or maybe it was due to Yuuri receiving an influx of mail due to his injury.

Chapter Text


 

Four

 

maybe i’m hiding behind metaphor

maybe my heart needs to break to be sure

one day i’ll wear it all on my sleeve

the insignificant with the sacred unique

 



Victor paced back and forth waiting for his coach to come into the office.  He needed to unload...safely...behind closed doors. The tension had been mounting in his frame and he felt himself nearly buckling under the strain.  Finally, Yakov shook off the last official and met Victor in his office, closing the door and locking it.

 

“What’s wrong, Vitya?” he asked with a gruff gentleness unique to the man.  He took out two shot glasses and poured a vodka for each.

 

Victor took the offered glass and held it between his fingers twirling it at first and finding his words.  Now that he was here, he didn’t know what to say. “Lyosha…” he began and then the words were stuck in his throat.

 

Yakov thinned his lips.  “He...was indiscrete. There was nothing I could do.  I could...intervene between you and your father. He didn’t want Russia to know.  But with the FFKK…”

 

“When I was caught…” Victor began.

 

Yakov cut him off with a shake of his head.  “You were young and the boy stated that he made the move on you, that you were caught by surprise.”

 

The skater huffed.  He hated that the other had taken the fall for him.  “That was a lie...you and I both know it.”

 

The coach waited, letting his favorite calm.  “And since then, you’ve learned to be more careful.  Lyosha was not. He’d been caught countless times.”

 

“I shouldn’t...have to,” Victor breathed.  “He shouldn’t either. No one should.” He twirled the glass one more time before throwing back the shot.

 

Yakov held his eyes before refilling the glass.  “I agree. Lilia agrees. But here we are.”

 

“In Russia…”  He sighed. Throwing back the second drink almost as a defiant toast, he slammed the glass on the old desk.

 

“Is this really what’s bothering you?”  Yakov had been watching Victor since the beginning of their conversation.  Something was off in the young man. “I thought we made peace with this matter...for now, you will act as the public expects.”

 

Victor shrugged, his finger tracing around the rim of the glass trying to hold his focus.  “I...have been talking to someone. I don’t know where it will go...but it’s not...just a fling.”

 

Yakov felt the muscles in his neck tighten.  There was only one thing he couldn’t protect Victor from, and it was himself.  “Do they understand your situation? The seriousness of the consequences if you both get caught?”

 

Victor shrugged.  “He’s private, discrete .  I think...it will be fine?  And anyway...we haven’t, we’ve just started talking.  I’m just...frustrated that this has to be a thing. Lyosha...he was my friend.  He bounced from person to person but that wasn’t my business. It wasn’t the government’s either.”

 

“You know you aren’t the only remaining gay skater in the club.  I can’t name names but you know who they are...you have your own way of communicating.”

 

Victor knew.  Of the rink those closest to him were Ivan and Dmitry.  Katya was bi but she currently was dating and in a serious relationship with Pyotr.  Georgi was straight although with a dramatic flair that made people wonder. Ironic, really.  He didn’t trust Anya. She would throw someone under the bus if it served her purposes. The ones under other coaches he didn’t really associate with as much.

 

“I think...I’ve been isolating myself too much,” Victor confessed after a moment.

 

The old muscles relaxed as coach heard his student admit a problem he’d been having for so long.  “I noticed...you skate and go home. I’ve watched you turn down invitations time and again and I’ve been worried about you.”

 

“Maybe...that’s my real concern.  I’ve been talking with Yuuri...I feel connected with him.”  Victor looked at the empty glass in his hand, thumbing it. “But I need to be healthy mentally.”

 

“Have you been to see the good doctor?”  Yakov kept his voice light, not wanting to pressure Victor who could push back quickly.

 

Da .  Abramovich has been working with me and we’ve adjusted my meds.  You should be getting the paperwork soon to submit for Europeans but he wanted to wait until the meds settled out.”

 

The coach nodded making note on his calendar to follow up.  “I want you to go do something with a friend or two, not skating related.  Relax. But stay out of trouble.”

 

“Yes, Coach,” Victor chuckled a little.   Stay out of trouble.  One time with Chris and I never hear the end of it.  Although, where did I steal that marble bust? .  Maybe he just needed a push.  As he left the office, he leaned against the wall, pulling his phone out.  He looked through his contacts. Who to contact?  He settled on Dmitry.  The cheerful team mom of the bunch.

 

VN/ So what’s everyone doing tonight?

 

DV/ Going over to Pyotr and Katya’s.  I know we can make room for one more.

 

He frowned unsure he wanted a group event.

 

VN/ Who all will be there?

 

DV/ Don’t worry.  Anya won’t be there.  It’s just the four of us.  We’d love to sit and catch up.  You’ve been busy.

 

VN/ Sorry.

 

Taking a deep breath he decided to commit.  Without Anya there he could relax. He was certain Georgi knew, or at least suspected, but didn’t concern himself.  His girlfriend however...

 

VN/ I’ll come.  Tell Katya I’ll pick up some wine.

 

DV/ Will do.  See you soon.




Victor knocked on the door to the simple and warm apartment of one of his oldest friend.  Katya Babicheva. As the door open, he was dragged into a whirlwind of activity and Victor’s eyebrows raised when he spotted her redheaded little sister.  At twelve, Mila talked constantly about any and everything. One had to be careful what they said. He watched Katya mouth sorry above her head.

 

“Hi, Vitya, we haven’t talked in so long.  What have you been doing? Have you been working on next year’s programs?  Will you choreograph something for me? I heard you knew Yuuri Katsuki.”

 

And that was where she paused, leaving Victor frozen for a moment, his eyes going from her to the adults in the room, their shoulders shrugging.  “Where did you hear that?”

 

“You sent him a package and it went through the mailroom.”  She said with the exasperated simplicity of a tween-aged snoop.  “And he’s so pretty. He’d be perfect for you!”

 

“Mila!” Katya admonished.

 

Victor didn’t realize at first he was in trouble until Dmitry and Ivan pulled him into the other room.  Their voices came to him through a thick tunnel. Why can’t I hear them?  Then it hit him.  He was having a panic attack.  Like the other night, only this time it was worse.  What was it Yuuri did with him? Made him breathe with him.

 

The other two weren’t sure what to do and were talking back and forth, or shouting.  Victor couldn’t really be sure. He needed help. Pulling out his phone, he sent a text.

 

VN/ Help

 

YK/ What’s wrong?

 

VN/ Panic

 

The phone rang immediately and he was facetiming Yuuri.  “Breathe with me, Victor.”

 

Victor nodded and focused on Yuuri guiding him through the breathing exercise.  As he finally settled, he turned the phone and introduced him. “Thanks, Yuuri. These are my friends and rinkmates Ivan and Dmitry.”

 

“So it’s true,” Ivan stated.

 

Victor nodded.  “After Lyosha…”

 

“I know,” his friend sighed.  “We’re all being careful.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Yuuri replied through the phone.  “I won’t out you. Any of you.”

 

“I think what he’s worried about is Mila outing him,” Dmitry groaned.

 

On the screen the Japanese man’s brow furrowed in confusion, “Mila?”

 

“We’re at my friends Katya and Pyotr’s house,” Victor explained.  “Mila is Katya’s little sister.”

 

Speak of the devil, and she will appear.  “Who are you talking to?” The redhead bobbed into the room and peeked over the screen.

 

“My friend Yuuri,” Victor sighed resignedly.

 

What he didn’t expect was the squeal.  He had to quickly pull the phone back to protect Yuuri’s ears.

 

“What was that?” Yuuri asked with a frown.

 

“That was a Mila,” Ivan laughed.

 

She peeked back over the phone screen and stammered out, “H-hi...are you going to skate again?”

 

The three men gasped and Yuuri frowned.  “I hope so...that’s what my doctors are saying.”

 

Unabashed, and equally unaware, she continued on like a hurricane.  “Good. I like to watch you skate. Sometimes I practice your programs.”

 

“Really?” Yuuri asked, his eyes wide with surprise.

 

She nodded.  “You were my favorite in the juniors.  Maybe I can have Victor video me and send it to you.”

 

Yuuri relaxed into a smile.  “I’d like that. Thank you.” Refocusing on Victor, he asked, “Are you okay now?”

 

“I am.  Thank you.”

 

“Okay, I’ve got to head out to physical therapy.  I’ll check on you later, though. And make sure you talk to your doctor about those panic attacks.”

 

Victor took a deep breath, he felt steadier, if only a little empty.  “We made adjustments...but...I think this is more than medication.”

 

“Cara said it’s not just meds.  You have to have the therapy, too.”

 

Victor nodded.  “I know. I’ll talk with him some more.  Okay...Katya is waving us into dinner. Call or text me later.”

 

Mila bounced after Victor into the dining room.  “So is he your boyfriend?”

 

“Mila!” Katya admonished once again.  “We do not talk about those things.”

 

“I know, Katya...this is Russia and boys aren’t allowed to have boyfriends,” she answered with an eye roll.  “But we’re just with family. It’s not like I’d say anything in public.”

 

“Yuuri...is not my boyfriend,” Victor answered quietly.  Five pairs of eyes turned towards him in interest. “We just started talking because his injury reminded me...of when I went through the same thing.  I just...wanted to encourage him.”

 

“So...you’re just being nice,” Mila decided.

 

“Yes.  We’re friends.  I haven’t even met him in person yet,” Victor answered.

 

That seemed to settle it.  The dinner conversation floated around rink gossip but it wasn’t until Katya left to take Mila home that Victor brought up what was bothering him.

 

“Lyosha…”

 

Ivan grunted, taking a deep drink from the glass of wine in his hand.  “We told him to be careful...it fucking sucks.” Looking down at the glass, he handed it to Pyotr.  “Do you have some of the real stuff?”

 

Pyotr laughed and returned with four new glasses and a bottle of vodka.  They sat around the table and continued to talk.

 

“That’s why we have two bedrooms in our apartment and we keep our things carefully separated,” Dmitry stated.  “You have to look straight.”

 

“Too many men in and out of his one bedroom apartment.  It was a revolving door,” Ivan declared.

 

Pyotr rolled his eyes.  “We all know Lyosha was a bit of a slut.  Do we really know that was the reason they took him out?”

 

Victor nodded.  “Yakov all but confirmed it today.”

 

The other three groaned.  After several tics of the clock passed, Dmitry said quietly, “My meds are registered both in Russia and directly with the ISU.  Nothing questionable.”

 

“Do you not think Lyosha did the same?” Ivan asked, his fist hitting the surface of the table.

 

“Careful!  I don’t want Katya pissed off at me!” Pyotr protested.

 

“Good point.  She could kick all of our asses,” Ivan agreed.

 

They all hummed in agreement.  The uncanny strength of the Babicheva family was well known among the skaters.  “So...about Yuuri,” Pyotr reentered the conversation.

 

Victor groaned.   Is this what friendship was like?  Always in each other’s business? “What do you want to know?”

 

Pyotr smiled, evidently Victor’s reticence to answer was an answer.  “Is he the one that’s got you all giddy of late?”

 

Victor’s eyes widened and the blush on his cheeks was unmistakable.  “I...ummm…”

 

Ivan grinned and Dmitry imitated his best BBC accent, “It’s about bloody time!”

 

“We really did just start talking.”  Victor winced at the whine in his voice, not sure if he didn’t like their teasing, or if he wanted more from Yuuri.

 

“But you like him,” Pyotr pressed.  When Victor didn’t automatically confirm, he pointed out, “Either you talk to me or Katya.”

 

Victor huffed.  “I like him. But...I’m not sure if he likes me.”

 

“Fuckin’ bullshit!” Ivan argued.  “He knew exactly what you needed when you were having trouble earlier.  What was that?”

 

“I’ve...been having panic attacks since Lyosha was pulled from the team,” Victor stated quietly.

 

They all sighed heavily.  Pouring another finger of vodka into the snifters, Pyotr lifted the glasses and murmured, “To Lyosha.”  They all answered in kind before throwing back the liquid. No one acknowledged the bitterness of the drink or the burn down their throats.

 

“How often do you talk?” Dmitry asked quietly.

 

“We don’t always talk but we text daily,” Victor answered quietly.  “Guys...I don’t know how to do this.”

 

“What do you mean?” Dmitry asked gently.

 

“He’s...ugh...I don’t want to out him…”

 

“We’re friends...nothing will leak beyond this table,” Pyotr promised.  Victor raised an eyebrow in challenge, and the man grinned. “Well, beyond Katya.  But you know she can keep a secret. They couldn’t pull it from her to save her life.  Or mine.” He thought about it and shrugged. “She’d forfeit mine before hers.”

 

“Cold,” Ivan stated but they all knew he didn’t mean it.

 

“Well, I think he’s...ace...maybe demisexual.  We’ve been talking about it and...I want to respect that.”

 

“Can you be in a relationship without the promise of sex?” Dmitry asked getting to the heart of the matter.

 

“I think so...I mean, I’m the polar opposite of Lyosha.  My partners...have been limited. And honestly, I have been holding out lately for something...more.”

 

Ivan reached over and squeezed Victor’s hand.  “Well worth it. I say take your time. You said you haven’t even met, so just get to know him.”

 

“I agree,” Pyotr added.  “But be yourself. Honesty is the only foundation for a relationship.”

 

“And Vitya, in the end it has to be an equal give and take.  There has to be a middle ground. If he can’t meet you halfway, you can’t just sacrifice yourself for the relationship.”  Dmitry finished his warning with a reassuring smile. “It will be fine. Just don’t lose yourself.”

 

“I’m trying not to...and I see Abramovich weekly.”

 

“I heard you say that earlier,” Ivan stated.  “I was wondering what that was about.”

 

He shrugged.  “My moods have been up and down more.  I asked to increase our visits. And...you know we can talk openly with him.”

 

Da ,” Ivan and Dmitry echoed.

 

The lock rattled and Katya came back in.  “Still here? Boys, we have practice tomorrow bright and early.  Off with you! To bed!”

 

They laughed, each of them rising to give her a hug and a kiss on the cheek.  On the way down to their cars, Ivan said quietly, “If you ever need to talk, stop by.  Our door is open to you, Vitya.”

 

He smiled.   Why have I denied myself this?   “Thank you.”

 




VN/ It was a good visit.

 

YK/ Good.  Talk to your doc!

 

VN/ I promise I will tell him.  How was your day?

 

YK/ I ache from PT so...good!

 

YK/ And classes started up.  My piano skill passed evaluation.

 

VN/ I’m not surprised.

 

YK/ I am.  I wouldn’t have passed in Japan.  The competition is fierce.  I had to decide where I would dedicate my time by nine...I went dance and skating.

 

VN/ Good choice.

 

YK/ Biased!

 

VN/ Yes!

 

YK/ It’s late there but I’m glad you checked in.  I was worried.

 

VN/ I didn’t mean to worry you.  I didn’t know how to communicate what I needed.

 

YK/ I’m always here for you.

 

Victor stared at those words.  I want to believe they mean more than they do.



NOTES:

 

More on Four.

 

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 9:  Heart

 

go ahead and laugh,

even if it hurts,

go ahead and pull the pin.

what if we could risk

everything we have,

and just let our walls cave in?



Yuuri stretched out his form before turning in his bed to look at the ugly scar on his knee.  He examined it every morning to check how it was healing, adding a salve to reduce scarring. He never thought of himself as a vain man but really, what figure skater wasn’t?  Throwing himself back, he realized, “Oh god, I am gay!”  There was a giggle in his voice as he blinked at the ceiling, considering the stereotype of being a little extra, a little vain.  Victor would be pleased.

 

He laughed to himself, almost hysterically before calming down.  He had classes and it took him longer to get there. He couldn’t indulge in too much wasted time.  Finally, Pop-Tart hanging from his mouth, he slung his bag over his shoulder and headed out his apartment.  He had a rhythm with the crutches. A rhythm that in the morning involved his cheap pastry. He was a dancer, after all, and could work with props no matter how ridiculous.  He finished up his paltry breakfast as the elevator reached the bottom floor. Falling into the flow of the foot traffic, he headed to campus.

 

In his first class, a music theory course, he found a chair close to the door, which would allow him to leave with little disruption if needed.  Laying his crutches on the floor next to him, he glanced down the row of seats. It was the setup that involved a series of long tables and chairs that turned on a post.  They were at least comfortable. Pulling out a notebook, he readied himself for class. He’d skimmed his notes on the pre-reading before class and felt... prepared?   Those were usually good days for class.  Other times he was flying by the seat of his pants hoping to glean off the lecture and his notes all that was needed.  However, without training to fill his hours, he found himself with time to spare and the result was a more organized start of the term.

 

He looked up as a couple of classmates edged past him to take the next two chairs.  They were heavy in conversation and he took the opportunity to focus on his notebook when the closer of the two turned and asked, “Are you that figure skater?”

 

Fighting to repress a groan he tried to return the smile.  He never knew how to handle these situations. “Ummm...I am a figure skater?”  Glancing down at his crutches he wondered if he should have said was instead.

 

The girl beamed and extended a hand, “I thought so.  I’m Ketty and this is my roommate Natalia. We’re music majors but major skating fans.”

 

“Oh, hi...Yuuri,” he introduced himself, awkwardly taking the offered hand and the smiles.  “I’m a multidisciplinary arts major.”

 

The other roommate, Natalia, leaned forward and asked, “How does that work?”

 

Yuuri blushed and then shrugged.  “I mean, I study dance but I want to also study music...so I’m here.  I want to create my own programs.”

 

“Oh, what do you play?” Natalia pressed, her eyes dancing.

 

Play...what does she...oh, an instrument.   “I play piano...almost as long as I’ve danced but I focused on dance and skating so...sort of?”

 

She smiled warmly.  “Ketty plays piano, too.  I’m a violinist. I’m in orchestra on scholarship.”

 

“Oh...I’m not that good.  I stopped playing seriously at around twelve,” Yuuri dodged.

 

Ketty chuckled at his words.  “I’ve also heard you say you’re not an amazing figure skater in interviews.  So I’d like to decide for myself. Why don’t you meet me after class in the practice hall.  We can see what you’ve got.”

 

Yuuri froze, panic edging him.  “Wh-why?”

 

Ketty shrugged.  “Morbid curiosity?”

 

Something in that demeanour of hers calmed him.   Okay ...he could accept that.  He could even appreciate that.  Sighing, he nodded in agreement.  He had an hour to kill after all.

 




Yuuri tugged at his sleeves nervously as he sat at the piano.  He had the music he used for one of his auditions in front of him.   Once Upon a December .  It was less stuffy than Chopin.  He took a deep breath and began to work through the music, barely looking at the notes.  He knew them by heart. Victor had skated to it, after all. As he wrapped up, he pulled his fingers back and looked up at the two women.

 

Natalia stared at him wide-eyed, Ketty’s eyes were more thoughtful as she considered the man before him.  “ This is what you call…‘not very good’.”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “It wouldn’t get me far back home.  There were errors.”

 

Ketty snorted, “Which you covered with expert ease.  How often do you play?”

 

Yuuri considered for a moment.  “Not regularly but learning a piece I plan to skate to helps me to figure out the idea of the music.  I get to know the piece and that helps me interpret it on the ice.”

 

Ketty hummed, nodding.  “That would explain the musicality in your movements.  So...you play it on piano, you dance to it, and you skate to it.  Curious.”

 

Yuuri thought her interest in his approach to a program was more curious, but he smiled all the same.  “I guess...different people have their own process.”

 

“But this process could explain why I was always drawn to your skating.”  Then she grinned, almost calculating. “You must let me help compose a piece for you to skate to!”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help the cringe, he was suddenly scrambling from the bench.  Rubbing the back of his neck, he mentioned, “Ummm...well...I was planning to try and compose something for this upcoming season.  You know, once I got off of my crutches.”

 

She squealed in excitement and Natalia shushed her.  “I can tell we are going to be the best of friends, Yuuri!  Let’s sketch out some ideas.”

 

“If you need a violinist, I can help,” Natalia offered, shyly.

 

“Well, I have a developing idea...one where I thought for the longest time I was skating alone but...after this accident,” he pulled the crutches under his arms, “I realized how much support I’ve had along the way as well as more people supporting me to get me back on my feet.”

 

Ketty drummed her fingers on the keys.  “I like this…” she began playing some opening keys and Yuuri frowned.

 

He turned back to the piano, balancing on his good leg and playing along beside her, “More like this…”

 

They went back and forth until their time was up and Yuuri had to head off to class...which coincidentally, was the same class as the other two.  They excitedly went with him.

 




YK/ I made some new friends in class today.  They are going to help me with my composition.

 

VN/ That sounds exciting.  And I’m glad to hear you are making some connections.

 

YK/ It’s hard when everyone up until now have been skating related...or dance.  So with both of those cut out of my life, I’ve felt isolated.

 

VN/ I’ve picked up on that and I hate it for you.  Hopefully helping out at the rink will help you reconnect with existing friends.

 

YK/ It does.  My family is always telling me to expand my social circles.  It’s not easy for me.

 

VN/ I get that.  We both keep people away in our own way.

 

Yuuri thought about those words and realized how true they were.  Victor had specific people he let get close to him but he had to be able to trust them implicitly.  And for some crazy reason, Yuuri was one of them.

 

He looked around the room of his apartment and realized how lonely his life was, missing family, missing...his dog.  He pulled out his phone and pulled up the last picture of Vicchan. This is stupid.  I wish there was a way to have my dog here.

 

He laid back and thought about the logistics.

 

YK/ How do you take care of Makkachin when you’re away.

 

VN/ If she can’t travel with me, I have a neighbor take care of her.

 

YK/ I wish there was a way I could have my dog here.

 

VN/ Is it against the rules?

 

Yuuri considered that.   Is it?  Pulling out his lease, he looked for specific language.  

 

YK/ It says I just have to have a deposit.

 

VN/ Have you considered having your family send him?  The easiest way is to get a pet passport. That’s what I have on Makkachin.  She has to keep it certified at the vet but that’s not too hard.

 

Yuuri thought about it a little more.  But those thoughts led to concerns about expense.   I’m already costing too much with my injury.  I can’t ask for more.

 

YK/ I think it may still be beyond my means.

 

VN/ I’m sorry to hear that.  Makkachin is necessary for my mental health but I know how healthy it is to have an animal when living on your own.

 

YK/ I just miss him.

 

VN/ I understand.  I’d miss Makka if separated from her.

 

Yuuri curled up in bed, thoughts whirling around about the changes in his life...and how he missed Vicchan.  He was homesick but if he were honest, he was homesick for his dog.

 

Although he’d taken to asking himself what would Victor do he knew, in this case, he’d act extravagantly.   I don’t have the means for extravagance .  He blinked his eyes, letting the tear slip out.  Sometimes he felt his lack in more ways than one.  Sometimes, he just needed and it felt unmet.






He woke up to his phone buzzing, wrinkling his nose as he checked the time.  He must have fallen asleep. Accepting the call, he reached for his glasses realizing it was a facetime call.  From home.

 

“Hi, Yuuri,” his mother called out to him.  “I heard from your friend you were homesick and that you’d like to see someone in particular.”

 

And then she lifted up Vicchan who barked and licked the phone and barked again.  Yuuri couldn’t help his smile and his laugh. Summer break couldn’t come too soon.  “Thanks, Mom.”

 

“You should thank your friend, Yuuri.  He found our number and it took a little bit to figure out what he was saying.  But Mari figured it out. He seems nice. Is this the friend you want to bring home this summer?”

 

He hugged himself.  “Maybe...I haven’t asked him yet.  It’s...been a rough couple of months but he has helped me through it.”

 

“He seems very warm.  You should date that boy,” his mother teased.

 

“Mom!” his face went red and she just laughed.  “I don’t...know how I feel about any of that. We’re just friends.”

 

“It’s okay.  You can bring your just friend home to meet your family.”  She winked into the camera, having fun teasing her son.  “We just want you to know it was okay if he was...more than a friend.”

 

He smiled at that.  “Thanks, Mom. I’m lucky to have you all.”

 

“Pshaw,” she answered.  “We’re lucky to have you, Yuuri.  You bring the world to us...and you mean the world to us.”

 

Yuuri hugged himself as he thought about those words.  “I never...thought about it that way. I always...worried I was a burden to you.”

 

His mother’s kind face softened, “Of course not!  Why would you think such a thing?”

 

Yuuri thought of his transition into seniors, and the disaster that it had been so far.  “Because...it’s not like I’ve been very successful since I left.”

 

“Of course not!  You’ve just left.  It takes awhile to find your feet after you leave the nest.  Give it time...and don’t stress over such things. You are not a burden.  We’re proud of you, Yuuri. All of us.”

 

Yuuri huffed, feeling the tears building behind his lids.  “It’s just that...I messed up. And now there is all of this medical expense.”

 

Hiroko watched her son struggle with his sorrow, she was at a loss how to help him.  “It’s fine, Yuuri. Between your insurance and the JSF, we haven’t had to come up with much.  We just want you well and able to enjoy the things you love most.”

 

“Thanks, Mom.”

 

After the call disconnected, he stared into the evening shadows of his room.  Pulling his phone to him again, he texted a Russian across the ocean.

 

YK/ You called my mom.

 

VN/ I did.

 

YK/ She showed me Vicchan.

 

VN/ I thought you needed something immediate.  I thought about arranging for him to be flown over to you.

 

YK/ I hope you realized that’s too much.

 

VN/ Maybe for only two months of friendship.

 

Yuuri snorted at his response.  They may have to talk about limits but for now, he appreciated the effort Victor went through to reach for something Yuuri would have denied himself.

 

YK/ Thank you.

 

VN/ No problem.

 

YK/ My mom wants to know when you’re going to come meet the family in person.  

 

Yuuri paused, stared at the message and backspaced to delete it.   Not yet.  We haven’t even met in person.  He blinked at that thought, wondering how he could make that happen.

 

YK/ I think my mom appreciated the effort just as much.

 

VN/ I impressed your mom!

 

Yuuri smiled at those words and remembering what he told his mother.   We’re just friends.

 

YK/ Goofball!

 

VN/ :p

 

We’re just friends.

 


 

 

NOTES:

 

You tell yourself that, Yuuri.


Now, for the artist’s blog post on Heart .

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 10:   Arctic

 

“If you are skating on thin ice, you might as well dance.”  -Anita Shreve

 

Victor stared out across the ice, its smooth surface yet untouched by skater, waiting, yearning for the cut of the blade.  He closed his eyes. This was his favorite time of day, especially on practice day. He loved to be the first, to make that first mark on the ice, listening at the edges ground into the ice, carving it with his signature.  Removing his guards, he handed them over to his coach. Later he’d be surrounded with press, officials, fans...it was the start of the E.C. and he knew he needed to grab hold of this moment, this privacy, while he could.

 

Yakov understood the need, he made sure Victor had this moment.  It might not be on competition ice, it may not be where they practice, but he gave Victor this one moment alone before the chaos began.

 

Victor made the first cut, then the next, one skate crossing over the other.  It wasn’t about his programs. It was about making peace with the ice, becoming one with the frozen surface, finding the spirit and gaining its favor.  Some worshipped a god they couldn’t see. Others sought out idols and charms. For Victor, there was just the ice. Here, the only judgement he faced was a reflection of his own spirit.  If he took it out on the ice, it fought back. But if he celebrated the surface, it embraced him.

 

Sinking into the meditation of carving figures into the surface, he left a message for the next to seek their solace on this surface.   I was here...and we became one for a moment.




Too soon Victor found himself surrounded by reporters asking him too many questions, digging into spaces where they don’t belong.  He felt their words like an irritant on his skin and he tugged at his sleeve, drew his expression in order and offered a beautiful smile.  “I’m looking forward to skating against my wonderful competitors today and seeing which of us will climb to the top of the podium.”

 

“Victor Nikiforov…”  Over and over they called out his name, seeking his words, seeking small cracks in his armor, digging a little deeper.

 

“Victor Nikiforov, what can you tell us about your relationship with Skater Yuuri Katsuki?”

 

Victor blinked, feeling the crack but holding his expression.  “Finding a kinship in similar circumstances, we’ve become friends.  Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to respect his privacy.” And with that, he cut off the inquiries further.  He answered questions about his skating, about his programs, spoke kindly about his competitors, and skillfully sidestepped any questions about his personal life.  And then...he escaped.



“Nice little dance you performed out there.”

 

Victor looked up at the familiar voice and met hazel eyes.  The twenty-one year old skater who had quickly become one of his best friends now took a seat across from him in the little cafe.  “Hey, Chris, were they as brutal towards you?”

 

“No, but I’m less of an enigma.”  He waived the waiter over and ordered a coffee before turning back to his friend.  “It probably doesn’t help that Yuuri is even more of a mystery.”

 

Victor smiled, liking the way Chris described Yuuri.  “We avoid inquiries equally and oppositely...but I want to respect his privacy.”

 

“We, none of us, truly have privacy.”  Chris sipped from the cup he sat down with.  “If Yuuri thinks he has it, then he’s mistaken.”

 

Victor sighed, he knew it, knew the dance, knew the scramble they all had to make concerning press.  His coaching involved more than the ice but how to present himself publicly. And he was good at it, wearing the role, the image required of him.  Sometimes, though, he longed to drop the makeup, the costumes, the masks...and be real.

 

“How is he, by the way?” Chris asked, noticing Victor had been quiet too long.

 

Victor blinked, “Don’t you talk to him?”

 

Chris hemmed a little, “Not...like you do.  As you say...he’s private. He’s not very forthcoming.”

 

Victor sighed.  He knew. He didn’t know why he was afforded the exception.  “He’s...getting better. He thinks he’ll be off the crutches by mid-February.  He hopes to go with his coach during Worlds...part of his internship.”

 

“We should kidnap him if he does,” Chris responded with a grin.

 

Victor considered his friend’s words and nodded.  “Something lowkey, I don’t want Yuuri to be uncomfortable.  And he’s only nineteen.”

 

“And on medication.”

 

“Fair point.”  Victor tipped his cup to his friend.  “So no alcohol. It would be rude to make him babysit our asses.”

 

Chris lightly tapped Victor’s foot under the table playfully.  “Especially since you can’t keep your clothes on once you get too many drinks down you.”

 

Victor kicked back a little harder in mock outrage.  “One time!”

 

“That I know of...but you are definitely a stripping-drunk,” Chris pointed out.

 

He was.  He knew this.  Which was why he gave himself a drink limit.  Except when his depression had him in bad shape.  He shoved that thought aside. Besides, he knew how to precisely apply his makeup to cover up the ugliness inside.

 

Chris seemed to pick up on the direction of his thoughts, poking him with a gentle, “Hey.”

 

“Sorry,” he whispered.

 

Chris sighed, just once he wanted his friend to not feel the need to apologize for being who he was.  “Don’t be...let’s get out of here. I know just the place.”

 




Most people underestimated Chris.  Perhaps he liked it that way. However, the curly headed Swiss knew how to take care of his friends.  The fact that he was able to ferret out most of their secrets helped. He made a call and soon he had them both in an exclusive showroom, appointment only.

 

“What is it your heart desires?” the host inquired.

 

“Shoes,” Chris stated.  “Of all types,” raising an eyebrow to make sure he was understood.

 

The host smiled and nodded sharply.  Soon their feet were measured and various shoes were brought out.  This was the thing they shared, the secret they both indulged in. As Victor stood before the mirror, admiring the way the heel bunched up the muscles in the back of his leg, elongating the front, Chris indulged in a pair of shoes that would have pleased a French Lord in the 16th century.

 

“What kind of shoes do you think Yuuri wears?” Victor asked offhand.

 

Chris snorted, “Trainers...probably Mizuno since they are his sponsor.”

 

Victor considered his friend, practical to a fault.   But...what if he allowed himself the indulgence?   Taking his phone out on impulse, he tossed it to Chris.  “Take my picture.”

 

“Are you sure?” Chris asked.  This was a well-guarded secret.

 

Victor shook his head before saying hastily, “Just my feet, or at least, nothing above the knee.”

 

Chris could respect that, carefully positioning the photo, he snapped the shot and handed the phone back to Victor.

 

Taking a deep breath, he sent the photo to Yuuri.  Chris raised an amused eyebrow. “A dick pic from Victor Nikiforov would be of shoes,” he stated dryly, switching out to another pair of shoes, this pair of fine Italian leather.

 

YK/ It catches the curve of your leg like ballet shoes do for mine.

 

Victor’s eyes widened as he looked from his text to Chris to his text again before scrambling to type in his message.

 

VN/ Do you dance en pointe?

 

YK/ Yes...I had Minako work with me on it.  You can’t teach it if you haven’t done it.

 

Victor felt a little deflated as he read those words, sighing at the loss of what he thought would be a kindred spirit.

 

YK/ At least that’s what I told her.  I like the way they sculpt my legs. I guess I’m a little vain.

 

Then Yuuri gifted Victor with a picture of his own.

 

YK/ It’s from...before.  My friend Jules took it.

 

Victor’s eyes ran along the fine curve of Yuuri’s calf.  “Fuck...I’m gay and in love.” He handed the phone over to Chris who raised an eyebrow.

 

“Yuuri?”  The hazel eyes held surprise and admiration.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Holy shit!  You two are made for each other!”

 

VN/ I’d like to see you dance when you’re healed up.

 

YK/ I’ll be able to dance before I can really skate.  Well, before I can jump.

 

VN/ Will your friend video you?

 

YK/ Absolutely.

 

VN/ I look forward to it.  

 

VN/ How are you?

 

YK/ I’m better.  Cara adjusted my meds and I talked to her about how I’ve been feeling down and isolated.

 

VN/ Abramovich added something to mine after I told him about the panic attacks.

 

There was a pause then Yuuri sent another message.

 

YK/ I’m glad you received help and Chris says you’re neglecting him.  Did you get a picture of him in heels?

 

Victor laughed and looked up at Chris.  “He says it’s only fair for him to see a picture of your shoes.”

 

Chris glanced down at the pair he had on at the moment with a scowl.  “Not these. Maybe the red heels...the ones with the lock on the ankle.”

 

Victor raised an eyebrow but pulled the shoes out of the box he requested.  Soon Chris stood before the mirror posing, his ass out, blowing a kiss in the gayest of pictures and Victor snapped it, handing Chris back his phone for approval.

 

“That should do.”  He sent the picture, glancing up to Victor with a wink.  “What I do for our friendship.”

 

Victor snorted.  “Of course...for our friendship .  It has nothing to do with your exhibitionist heart.”

 

Chris snorted, handing Victor the phone.  “He responded.”

 

YK/ Those would look better with black fishnets over silk stockings.

 

Victor fell back onto the round sofa.  He just lost himself in those words.

 

Chris looked over at his friend, “I think Yuuri has more in the closet than we originally thought.”

 

“Maybe?”

 

“How do you feel about that?” Chris pushed gently.  He knew his friend, knew what he sometimes encountered in the mirror, had witnessed him break down before the mirror.

 

Victor stared up at the crystal chandelier.  “I...think I’m in love.”

 

Grinning, Chris shook his head, gathering the shoes up and setting them in order.  They slipped out of the establishment, the fee paid with a tip to protect their identities.  Some paid for sex in this world, some sexed up their feet in private. Chris knew his friend’s limits but this helped his friend relieve some of the stress in his body.

 




Victor stood at the top of the podium.  He could hear the talk of the announcers and would hear more when he looked at the video later.  Pasting on his smile, he waved at his fans, focusing on their love and not the criticism he received from above.  There was definite jealousy coming from the retired skaters that MC’ed these events and Victor could feel their vitriol.  Words like overscored and judges’ favorite echoed in his ears.  He worked hard to stand on this podium but there was always someone ready to pull him off.  

 

Chris leaned in from the silver position and murmured, “Don’t listen to them.  If they could still skate, they’d be out here doing it.”

 

Victor tightened his smile.  He’d have to speak to the press and he knew he’d receive questions about the announcers’ criticism.  He blinked away the sting at the back of his eyes.

 

Finally, back in his coach’s protective hold, he listened as Yakov gave him a true critique even as he handed over Victor’s phone.  Looking down, he spotted the unmistakable words of Yuuri on the screen.

 

YK/ I see you.

 

YK/ They sure did pick the assholes to announce this one.

 

YK/ Don’t let them steal your smile.

 

VN/ Thank you.  Between you and Chris, this gets a little easier.

 

YK/ We’ve all been there.  Just a little bit longer then you can take off the makeup.

 

Victor stared at the words realizing Yuuri saw more of him than most.  He closed his eyes, holding back his tears. Just a little while longer.

 




The press conference past, he laid on the mattress waiting for Chris to return.  His phone buzzed and he looked with surprise at the words.

 

YK/ Are you okay?

 

Victor sighed, wiping away the tears.  Makeup was gone, he laid in bed wrapped in a fuzzy blanket and holding onto his Makkachin tissue box.

 

VN/ no

 

The phone rang and he knew it was Yuuri, answering the call with shaky fingers, his eyes blurred.

 

Victor sniffed, staring at the blurred image.  “You would do Facetime. I’m a mess.”

 

Yuuri smiled, Victor was perfect no matter what.  “It’s okay...I just...had a feeling.”

 

“Some days are harder.”

 

“Are you alone?”

 

Victor shifted on the bed, “Yes...Chris went to get us something to eat.  I didn’t want hotel food.”

 

“What’s he getting?”

 

“He said something off of our diet,” Victor murmured.

 

Yuuri grinned.  “That’s the best kind of food.  Now, if you were here, I’d either get you pizza...oooor, I would attempt to make you katsudon.”

 

Victor smiled at that, finding it easier to center on the casual words that pulled the focus off of his pain.  He suspected Yuuri knew this. “What is that?”

 

On the small screen Yuuri’s smiled beamed and his eyes rolled back thinking of the meal.  “It’s my favorite food...but so high in calories that I only allow myself to have it if I win.”

 

Victor sat up, depression abating as his interest rose.  “Tell me about it.”

 

“Okay, in English you’d call it a pork cutlet bowl.  The pork is seasoned with salt and pepper before lightly dusted in flour.  Then you dip it in egg and panko and fry it.”

 

“Sounds decadent.”

 

“Mmmmhmmm, that’s a good word for it.  Then we combine dashi with mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.  We add onions and let it simmer. Next we add the pork cutlet sliced into strips back into the pan with the other ingredients.  While that is simmering, we beat an egg and pour it over the top. Turning down the heat, we let it cook covered on low until the egg and pork soaks up the liquid ingredients.  This is then served over rice. I always sprinkle some green onions over the top.”

 

Victor was smiling as wide as Yuuri by the time the younger man had finished.  “I think...you’ll have to make this for me sometime.”

 

Yuuri blushed and shrugged.  “I’d love to,” he replied softly.

 

“I look forward to it.”





NOTES:

 

Here is the recipe I used for Yuuri’s katsudon instructions.  Victor shared with Yuuri earlier a way he finds comfort through shoes and Yuuri found a way to connect back.  In sharing the katsudon, Yuuri is in a way doing the same.


 

Chapter Text


 


Ch. 11:   Body

 

a feather is a ton of bricks,

or maybe i’m too sensitive…

 

Yuuri scratched at his arm as he listened to the doctor go over the next procedure.  He was glad his coach had come with him, at least someone’s paying attention .  He could feel the world narrowing on him as he tried to focus on the words, but he found himself scratching at the edge of his hairline, biting his lip.  His anxiety had his skin crawling and the endless ticks and itches were driving him crazy and destroying any attention he might have paid the doctor. He could feel Celestino’s sharp eyes taking in all of his anxiety ticks at a glance.

 

“Is this the last...surgery?” Yuuri finally pushed through.

 

The doctor appeared startled at Yuuri’s tone, but still answered in a measured tone, careful not to create a promise.  “If all goes as planned, yes. But you understand I can’t give you a guarantee.”

 

Yuuri huffed, “I just want to skate.”

 

The doctor put down the paperwork he had been reviewing, making sure he had Yuuri’s full attention as he spoke, “Your physical therapy is going well and I’m seeing the improved range of movement.  We will go through this surgery and once it heals, we should be able to let go of the crutches. This is minor compared to the others.”

 

“But necessary,” Yuuri asked, half question.

 

The doctor nodded, “In my opinion, it will speed your recovery and allow you to resume training sooner.”

 

Yuuri turned to his coach and asked, “What do you think?”

 

Celestino pursed his lips.  He knew not to offer too much as he wanted this to be his skater’s decision.  “I’ve seen skaters take this last turn and skaters skip it. Those who take it in general find themselves back on the ice sooner sometimes...but not by much.  And other times, they lose even more ground.”

 

Yuuri turned over the thought in his head.  Turning back to the doctor he asked, “Are we talking a couple of weeks sooner or a couple of days?”

 

“Weeks.”  The doctor held up a hand to Yuuri’s enthusiasm, adding, “Usually two to three weeks at most.”

 

Yuuri nodded, looking down at his leg.  He turned back to the surgeon. “Set it up,” he agreed with determination in his voice.

 

Yuuri spent the next half hour filling out the pre-surgery paperwork.  It was set for the next day. He’d spend the evening calling family and explaining this next procedure, this next step closer to the ice.

 

Celestino listened quietly as Yuuri made his arrangements and walked through the mountain of forms.  Finally when they had a moment alone he began to talk in a soft voice. “I’m not sure I agree with you choosing this surgery.”

 

Yuuri turned his head sharply, “It gets me on the ice sooner.”

 

The coach held up his hands, hoping to calm the younger man down.  “Sooner isn’t always better. And...I don’t know that you truly heard the surgeon.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes shot down again, I hadn’t checked out...I just wasn’t as focused as I could have been...it’s not the same thing.   Yuuri’s hand was up at his lip vibrating back and forth.  “I...heard enough.”

 

“Yuuri…”  The coach’s voice was soft, but full of warning.

 

Yuuri’s voice shot out, “I have to get back on the ice.”

 

Celestino sighed, backing off the conversation.  Yuuri could see his eyes going up, a sign that he was praying for patience.  “I want you to take this evening and talk to who you need to talk to but really think about this.  You have my number. Call me as much as you need. I just...don’t want to see you go under the knife unnecessarily...and not properly informed.”

 




In the privacy of his apartment, he pulled out the information sheet.  He read through the words and watched them swim before his eyes. Finally, he took a picture of the paperwork and sent the photo to Minako.

 

Soon he was on the phone with her.  “What does your coach say?”

 

Yuuri huffed into the phone, I’ve had his advice, I called for yours.   “He’s worried it’s unnecessary.”

 

Down the line Minako’s voice was clear and logical.  “And the doctor is pushing this?”

 

Yuuri sighed and nodded before answering, “Yes.”

 

She paused, he could hear her tapping her nails along the wood of her bar, a sure sign she was thinking.  “I think you need to research this first, Yuuri,” she answered.

 

He closed his eyes.  “I can’t...make sense of it.”

 

The tapping stopped, “What do you mean?”

 

Yuuri swallowed, “My anxiety is too high.  The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow.”

 

She hummed a moment before stating, “Put it off.   Two days .  Give yourself the time you need to sort it out in your head.”

 

Yuuri whined a little but caught her slow warning hum and knew she was right.  He called his coach next. “Minako said to put it off two days so I can think it through.”

 

He heard Celestino exhale in relief, “I think that is a wise course.  I want to send you a link to read through. It’s a study I found on the topic.”

 

“Okay...but don’t send...too much.  I’m not processing well.”

 

“I understand.”  Yuuri could hear the tone in his coach’s voice, he had suspected as much.

 

Soon, Yuuri was looking at the link provided by his coach.  Finally, he reached out to someone that he knew went through this.

 

YK/ I need help

 

VN/ What’s up?

 

YK/ My doctor is suggesting this surgery but my coach has a bad feeling about it.  I can’t sort it out in my head.

 

Yuuri sent the information sheet to Victor followed by the link his coach sent.  He then waited, reaching for the stuffed poodle and hugging it close to his body.

 

VN/ I did physiotherapy rather than this surgery.  I mean, a lot may have changed in four years but it seemed like every surgery had an emotional toll on me as well as the physical.  Even if it took longer, I felt like it was worth it for my mental well-being.

 

Yuuri closed his eyes, feeling the sting of frustration.

 

YK/ But I find my center on the ice.

 

Victor’s reply came on the heels of his own text, which could only mean the Russian was reading his thoughts again.

 

VN/ I know you’re feeling the itch, the need to get back on the ice.  But I’m telling you, take your time. Do it right. You’ll have to live with the decision years after you retire.

 

Yuuri sighed, realizing he was right.  It was basically what his coach was telling him but he needed to hear it from Victor.  Picking up his phone, he called to cancel the surgery, putting in for a physical therapy consult.

 




Yuuri sat with the therapist working through his range of motion and discussing how to move towards the needs for the ice.  “You dance, don’t you?”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “I mean, before this happened.”

 

“I thought so.  I know figure skating is higher impact than dancing but we can ease you back through dance.”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled out of him.  “Two days ago, I was talking surgery.”

 

The therapist raised his eyebrows, “With a surgeon...and that’s fine, a way back.  But I like to look at surgery as the last course of action rather than the first. And you are doing well with PT.  So let’s continue.”

 

Yuuri held onto the parallel bars, walking down the path.  The therapist studied his movements and his expressions. “You’ve been walking without your crutches.”

 

Yuuri ducked his head down.   Caught!  “Only at home...and only a small amount.  Two or three steps.”

 

The therapist didn’t dwell on it but knelt down, straightening Yuuri up.  “You’re leaning a little here. I want to correct this movement. Your leg is slanting outward and I’m worried it will cause undue stress on the knee during dance or landings.”

 

“About the crutches…”

 

The therapist pulled out his notes.  “Since you didn’t go with the surgery, we can get you off of them sooner.  You will need to resume an icing and anti-inflammatory therapy should you feel soreness.  And not overdo it.”

 

Yuuri blinked, taking in all the therapist was saying, “Are you saying…”

 

The therapist looked up and smiled indulgently, “You can go without the crutches for limited periods of time.  However, crossing campus, you need them while you rebuild your strength.”

 

Yuuri felt elated.  One more freedom, one step closer to recovery...and no surgery.  “Thank you!”

 

The therapist chuckled.  “I’m just going by the guidelines put forth by your team...and my professional opinion.”

 

Yuuri paused for a moment, “The team...what would they have recommended?  About the surgery?”

 

He frowned and shrugged.  “I can only tell you that I would have recommended you not take it.”

 

The brown eyes fell to his leg again, considering what could have been a mistake had he acted too soon.  “I think...next time I should talk to the team.”

 

Rising the therapist encouraged Yuuri to walk a few more step, checking the way his foot landed on the mat, “It’s always a good plan.  Surgeons mean well but they sometimes only see one side of the problem. I’ve worked with you one-on-one three days a week.”

 




Yuuri had his phone on Facetime as he talked to Victor.  “Notice anything different?”

 

Blue eyes sparkled as they moved around the frame, “The movement is smoother.”

 

Yuuri rolled his brown eyes in exasperation, “That’s because... Idon’thavemycrutches !”

 

Victor chuckled at his excitement.  “So...you are seeing positive moves.”

 

“I think that was where my frustration lay.”  Yuuri had thought about himself and his haste over the past few days.  “I wanted to move forward and I felt stuck.”

 

“I’m glad you found your way to the other side.”  Victor’s heart shaped smile shown on the phone. “I remember being at that place, feeling...almost hopeless.  You do feel stuck.”

 

Yuuri considered the freedom he had just received, “I still have to have them when I go across campus but I can cross a room.”

 

Victor chuckled, “Soon you’ll be rid of them completely.”

 

“Thank you,” he whispered.

 

“For what?” Victor asked, his face wrinkling in confusion.

 

“I...didn’t know what to do and no one else could reach me.  I know...they said a lot of the same things but only your words got through to me.”  He studied the face on the other end of the line. “I think...I would have regretted the surgery.”

 

Victor blushed slightly at the praise, the pink dusting his porcelain skin.  “I...only told you what I would do. But given the number of people hesitant on the process…”

 

“My therapist said to take it to my team next time...that they would all weigh in on the matter and give me more options.  For now, I’m just glad to regain control of my body.”

 

“Soon, you’ll be dancing…”

 




NOTES:

 

Blog notes on Sleeping at Last’s Body .

 

Physical therapy notes .

 

Protect your knees, please.

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 12:   Hearing

 

“love is an echo.”

 

              Warning:  This chapter features lots of food...because this is what happens when you write hungry.

 

Victor moved about the room setting everything in order for his guests.  What was I thinking?  Yuuri and I could be just skyping through this without the added distraction of guests.  Of course, his guests already know about Yuuri.  After multiple dinners at Katya and Pyotr’s or at Dmitry and Ivan’s, it was his turn.  A small adult party. And of course, he had to invite Georgi...who would probably bring Anya.   Were they together?  Were they apart? Who could tell anymore.  If not, no worries...if they were, Anya will throw a fit within the first hour and they’ll be gone.  He thought about inviting Mila and Yura but he didn’t want to monitor alcohol.

 

Alcohol.  I shouldn’t drink.  My new meds definitely say no alcohol.

 

He double-checked to see if he had non-alcoholic options available.   What would Yuuri drink?   He shook off that thought.  Yuuri would unfortunately have to fend for himself, across the ocean on Skype.

 

The timer went off and he started pulling out the piroshkis .  He stirred the sbiten , the mulled honey drink something he could have without worrying about interactions with his meds.  He began pulling out the other snacks. Caviar and smoked salmon on tiny blinis .  Black bread and butter.  A honey and poppy seed roll .  Cucumber and radish salad .   Syrniki .  Potato salad .  From the grill pan, he turned the kabobs, shashlik .  Two other crocks held two different soups, borsch and rassolnik .  It looked like he spent all day in the kitchen.  

 

His friends knew him and would know he stopped and ordered most of it to go from a nearby restaurant.

 

His computer sat open on the table, turned towards where the gathering would begin.  Across the room, mounted on the wall sat his oversized TV. He breathed in a deep breath and let it out slowly before making the connection.  He heard the ring tone and then Yuuri’s face filled the screen.

 

“Hey,” Victor greeted.

 

Yuuri’s eyes took in the scene before him.  “Wow, you really put out a spread. Wish I was there.”

 

“Me, too,” Victor agreed glad that he was out of the line of sight as he felt his cheeks heating up.  “The others should be arriving soon.”

 

“What do you have laid out?”

 

Victor began taking the computer around to introduce Yuuri to the foods and he could hear the moans that would be obscene if they weren’t about food.  As he set the computer down, he asked, “What are you serving for your small crew?”

 

“Well, we only have the European skaters and a few juniors here.  The rest are there. If I didn’t have two major exams, I’d be there helping.  Oh, did I tell you? I’m going to Worlds! As Celestino’s assistant, but...I get to be there.”  Yuuri trailed off, a tell-tale blush creeping up on his face.

 

“We should have a sleepover!” Victor burst out.

 

Yuuri chuckled at the older man’s boyish exuberance.  “We’ll see,” he answered softly. He was quiet a moment then he blinked back to the present.  “Oh, you asked what I prepared. First, I have gyoza , a Japanese dumpling...well, pretty much everything is Japanese...except for the pizza rolls which is just American junk food in case someone isn’t adventurous enough for my cooking.”

 

“You cooked?”  Victor suddenly felt like a bit of a scam artist with his entire purchased spread.

 

Yuuri chuckled.  “I did tell you I grew up in my parents’ business, didn’t I?  That included a restaurant.” He turned the phone again and showed the next dish.  “This is spicy edamame .   Yakitori , these are chicken and scallion skewers.   Harumaki , which is Japanese style spring rolls.   Teba Shio , or chicken wings.  Those are really popular.  Jules, not a skater but another dancer in my major, is bringing some American options.  I know she said something about stuffed mushrooms, salsa and chips, and I’m not sure what else.  She’s picking up some of my new friends, Ketty and Natalia, from the music side of my major. So we’ll be an interesting mix.”

 

After that, doorbells began ringing.  Victor switched to his phone to introduce Yuuri to his guests and Yuuri did the same with his guests.  One junior was freaking out. Victor could hear her in the background. “You are really Skyping Victor Nikiforov’s party?  THE Victor Nikiforov?”

 

Yuuri turned the phone and introduced her.  “Gretta, this is Victor. She’s a Swiss junior training at our rink this year.  I believe she knows Chris.”

 

Victor smiled warmly in greeting Yuuri’s junior.  “Oh, Chris and I are great friends! It’s nice to meet you.  You look to be about Mila’s age.”

 

“Ummm, yeah.  She’s much better than me, though.”

 

He watched her grow bashful and start to hand off the phone.  He couldn’t let her go without some encouragement. “The key to that is to be bold and fearless.  You can’t be afraid to fail.”

 

She paused and stared at Victor, surprised that he’d take the time to say something nice to her.  “Oh, wow. Thank you. I’ll keep that in mind.”

 

The phone is then thrust back into Yuuri’s hands as the Japanese skater chuckled softly.  “I don’t think she was ready for that meeting.”

 

“I sometimes overwhelm my fans.”

 

“I guess I can understand that,” Yuuri admitted, blush climbing up his neck.

 

Victor smiled, becoming lost in those brown eyes when he suddenly realized his group of friends were all staring at him.  “It seems I’m neglecting my guests. I’m going to switch you back to the laptop.”

 

“Oh, me, too.  We can text, though...maybe?”

 

“That sounds great!”  As he disconnected, he turned to his friends and reminded them, “There are juniors at Yuuri’s party...so best behavior.”

 

There was laughter and Ivan called out, “We’ll make sure you keep your clothes on.”

 

Victor felt the temperature rise and squeaked in protest, “I’m not drinking!”

 

A few minutes later, the connection re-established combining the two parties.  Yuuri once more filled the screen and murmured, “There you are.”

 

Victor reddened, once more becoming flustered.  Clearing his throat to cover his pause, he returned, “I lectured them about behavior.”

 

Yuuri snorted at that.  “This could be interesting.”

 

The two parties then became increasingly louder as they cheered on their favorites or calls against the scoring.  The two hosts talked back and forth via text.

 

YK/  They say Patrick Chan is the one to watch.

 

VN/  Your Daisuke Takahashi is usually solid competition in this.

 

YK/  Who are the Russians pulling for?

 

VN/  Denis Ten or Misha Ge.  Only because the current favorite is recovering from an injury.

 

YK/ Who?

 

Classic Yuuri.   Victor facepalmed at that and then chuckled pulling his phone down to answer.

 

VN/ YOU, of course.

 

There was a pause and he could picture the Japanese man flustered.

 

YK/ Oh.  Well, you might think that.  I doubt I’m on anyone else’s radar.

 

Victor sighed, watching his Yuuri underestimate himself once more.  He hated that. When are you going to get out of warm up mode and see how incredible you are?

 

VN/ Not just my radar.

 

They continued to chat back and forth while tending to their guests.  Victor rolled his eyes dramatically after Georgi led “his Anya” out the door, complaining of a headache.  He was glad for it, to be honest. Anya set his nerves on edge and he was glad to see her gone.

 

Ivan dropped his head back against the couch.  “Thank god she’s gone!” Apparently Victor wasn’t the only one relieved.  He grinned as he watched Dmitry move to Ivan’s side, his expression strained as well.

 

“Be nice,” Dmitry warned.

 

Ivan huffed but then refocused on Victor.  “You’ve been in a fine humor. Might I hazard a guess that it has something to do with the one you’ve been texting all evening?”

 

“Yuuri...and...maybe,” Victor answered with a blush.  “He’s almost delightfully lacking in self-awareness.”

 

“Let me guess,” Pyotr cut in.  “He doesn’t know how beautiful he is.”

 

Victor chuckled.  “Or how talented, or funny, or…”  They all began to groan giving him slaps on the back.  Victor shrugged. “I’m obvious, aren’t I?”

 

“Only among friends,” Dmitry reassured him.  Their smiles left for a moment as they all remembered Lyosha.  Shaking it off, they refocused on the screen.

 

VN/ Anya left with Georgi.

 

YK/ Good..she makes you nervous.

 

VN/ I just don’t trust her.  She’s made remarks that suggest she might not care for gays.

 

YK/ How are you?

 

Victor assessed himself, thinking about where he was emotionally.  He had felt a little stressed when Anya walked in, but calmed down as the evening wore on.  He was aware that she was present the entire time, and watched his actions and words. That took a tole.  He felt uneasy in his own home but with his friends present he could feel his body slowly calming.

 

VN/ I’m not sure...I think I’m okay.  The rest are still here and the banter back and forth is helping .

 

“Vitya, did you see that?” Pyotr called his attention to the screen.

 

Victor had been watching and as he leaned forward to take it in, he asked, “Did he make it?”

 

The announcer confirmed that, although the quad flip had been attempted, they didn’t complete it.   If I’m going to ratify it, I’ll have to do it at the next competition.  At least Yuuri will be there.

 

YK/  Fuck!  One of the kids just threw up.

 

VN/ Alcohol?

 

YK/ None available.  I’m underaged in the States.  I’m thinking too much junk. Jules is taking them home but I get the gross job.

 

VN/  Drawback to hosting.

 

YK/  And we have no alcohol!

 

Victor could imagine the whine in that voice and smiled.  It was some time before he heard from Yuuri again. The connection between their two parties had broken during the chaos on the American end.  Victor didn’t know whether to attempt a reconnect or wait for Yuuri. He chose the latter.

 

The party started to break up as the last skater finished.  Victor saw his friends to the door.

 

“You should let me help you clean up,” Katya offered.

 

Victor shook his head, kissing her forehead.  “You never let me help...not really. It’s not that bad.”

 

“Are you...okay?”  She looked at his face, that motherly, knowing look she always had for him.  “Your mood...it seemed to change when you lost connection with your friend.”

 

“I’ll be fine.  Just distance.” Victor smiled, a forced turn of his lips as he led her to the door.  “Please don’t worry.”

 

She frowned, not liking the idea of leaving him alone.  “Maybe Pyotr could stay.”

 

“Pyotr needs to see you safely home or I’d worry.”

 

She sighed but finally resigned herself to leaving.  “Good night, then.”

 

“Good night, Katya.  And thank you.”

 

She smiled, a sad offering.  Victor knew she could read him a little too well.  But then she reluctantly left. As he secured the door, he turned back to his phone.  Still no word from Yuuri. He began gathering the dishes, scraping food into the garbage, rinsing the dishes, loading the dishwasher.  Each gathering of dishes, he stopped to check his phone.

 

It wasn’t until he laid down that he heard from Yuuri once more.  The ringtone startled him.

 

“Sorry,” Yuuri murmured.

 

“Is everything okay?” Victor asked.  Victor studied Yuuri in the Skype call, the visual told him more than Yuuri’s words.  

 

Yuuri shook his head, his expression tight.  “After we took Alec home...along with the other juniors, I received a call from Coach.  That fall Adrian took...it’s much worse than reported. Celestino is at the hospital with him right now.”

 

“Yuuri…”

 

The face on the small screen began to crumple, “Vitya, h-he had a similar injury as mine.  It’s his knee.”

 

Victor knew Yuuri’s fear wasn’t just for his friend and training mate, but for himself as well.  “How long has he been back?”

 

“Six months...maybe?”

 

“Has he had any trouble?”

 

“No, not really...not that I know of.  But...he could have hidden it. I might have been in his shoes.”  Yuuri fell quiet, staring off screen.

 

Victor knew Yuuri was spiralling quickly into panic and internalizing the pain his friend was feeling.  “Yuuri look at me.” He waited until the brown eyes were back on the screen. “Keep seeing your physiotherapist after you go back.  It’s the little things...and they are trained to look for it. And make sure you keep your coach in the loop.”

 

“It’s...part of our contract.  I know I hide things.”

 

Victor sucked in a breath, “Oh...wow.”

 

“I guess...I have some self destructive tendencies.”  The brown eyes fell from the screen again, looking a little guilty.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

Yuuri looked to the ceiling, drawing in a deep breath and seeking some sort of courage.  “I...have a number of things that come out in anxiety. I...scratch at my arms, chew my nails into the quick, pick at an imperfection, tug at my hair, skate...skate at all hours losing track of time...I fell asleep at the rink once...Coach took my keys and banned me from after hours skating.”

 

“Yuuuuriii…”

 

“I know!  I’m a fucking mess!”

 

Victor was startled into silence.  Yuuri seldom yelled and he hadn’t yelled at Victor.  The Russian waited until he knew Yuuri was listening once more.  “You said...you hide things.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “My coach attended my meetings with the surgeon to make sure I listen to him...the risks especially.  He made sure I didn’t make a rushed decision.” He gave Victor a pained smile and added, “I guess both of you did that.”

 

“What other things?”

 

“I...overeat sometimes...not like binge eating.  And I never purge. But sometimes...I’ll exercise too much afterwards...until I throw it up.”

 

“Oh, Yuuri…”  Victor closed his eyes and drew in his breaths, shallow, working out his calm.  Finally, he opened them, focusing on Yuuri and taking in the downcast eyes. “I think...there are too many of us skaters that hurt ourselves.”

 

Yuuri listened to his words and let them sink in before asking, “Y-you hurt yourself?”

 

Victor nodded.  “More than once.  I...once banged my head against the wall until I bled.  I’ve...many times…” He paused, knowing he’d never admitted this outside of those closest to him.  “I...cut myself.”

 

Yuuri was silent, but many emotions fluttered across his face.  Concern. Worry. Understanding. But not fear. Not judgment. Not...rejection.  “I guess...we both have things to work out.”

 

“I’m better now...that’s one of the reasons I continue to see the psychiatrist.  But sometimes...there are days where it’s worse.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “I’m...sorry. I shouldn’t have added my baggage on top of your struggles.”

 

“No, Yuuri...you’re wrong.  I think...it’s good that we can trust one another.  Maybe we can help keep each other accountable.”

 

Yuuri nodded slowly.  “I can’t...always help myself.  Coach...when he sees me scratching or picking...he stops me.  Nothing to really call attention to it.”

 

“The, ah, the cutting...it’s sometimes...out of my control.”

 

“So what do we do?”

 

Victor was quiet as he considered his friend, himself.  “Do you remember how you pushed me to talk to Abramovich?  When I was having the panic attacks? I think...it’s something like that.  We make the other get help.”

 

Yuuri hummed at that thought.   “I think...I’d be more likely to talk to you before anyone.”  And then after a moment, he added, “Okay.”

 

Victor smiled at the face in the phone.  “I’ll talk to you as well.”

 

“Thank you.”

 


 

NOTES:

 

I referenced the 2012 Four Continents for their little party.  Yuuri was the fourth oldest skater at the time of YOI and therefore, finding skaters his age was quite challenging.

 

Sleeping at Last wrote Hearing as an instrumental and has written a commentary on how it was made .

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 13:   Seeing

 

World Figure Skating Championships, Nice, France

 

Yuuri stood in the lobby next to his coach.  Nerves rattled him as a couple of reporters made note of his appearance.  He glanced up as his coach said his name.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Yuuri nodded his head but the chewing of his lip belied the truth.  Talking to Victor almost daily and texting throughout the day should have eased his anxiety but he could feel it making him nauseous.  Shaking out his anxiety, he turned as a boisterous group entered and he blushed as several members of the Russian team called out his name.  However, it was the shy private smile from Victor that held his gaze as the silverette indicated with his phone he’d text and then nodded towards the reporters gathered in the lobby.  Yuuri was thankful. He wasn’t ready to deal with their judgments.

 

Vitya/ Come to 545!

 

Yuuri/ okay

 

Vitya/ Chris and I are expecting you to stay.

 

Yuuri hesitantly glanced up at his coach, flashing the message towards him.  Celestino nodded, having his own skaters to herd to their rooms. “Now I know you have other arrangements but here is my room key if something doesn’t work out,” his coach stated quietly.  “I’ll text you once I’ve checked in and have the practice times.”

 

“Okay.  I want to help as much as possible.”

 

“I’m glad.  My biggest concern is Anna.  This is her first international event.”

 

“She talks to me.  She’s nervous but excited.  I’ll let her know to text me if she starts getting caught up in her head.”

 

The coach smiled, knowing Yuuri understood him.  He’d taken the nervous French skater on that year after her previous coach had shut her down.  Her parents wanted a coach that wouldn’t treat her struggles with depression and anxiety as trivial.  It was seeing how Celestino handled Yuuri that brought her to him. And Anna had slowly opened up.

 

As predicted, the younger girl came up to Yuuri after he shot her a text.  “You’re not staying on our floor?” she asked nervously.

 

“I’m just a text away.  It will be fine.”

 

“And you’ll go through my choreography with me one more time?”

 

They had worked several hours together on the dance floor helping to perfect her movements.  He knew she was ready if she kept her nerves under control. He also knew more than anyone that was easier said than done.

 

“I will but you’re ready.  Right, coach?”

 

The Italian coach grinned.  “That’s why we’re here.”

 

She finally released her nervous hold on Yuuri and nodded as the last group of Russians loaded into the elevator.  Yuuri took a deep breath and blew it out as he dealt with his own nerves. He was glad he still had a place to go. The next elevator opened up and he entered it taking a deep breath.   Here goes nothing.  He pushed the button for the 5th floor and waited for others to climb in before hitting the 4th floor button.  His coach got off with the other skaters, his rink mates. Then it was just Yuuri. The elevator came to a stop and he stepped out on the 5th floor.

 

Glancing at the room numbers, he gained his bearings and headed towards...his room?  Victor’s room? He swallowed, his eyes glancing up to the ceiling as he drew in a nervous breath.   What if he doesn’t like me?  He might be just being nice.  He didn’t know why the Russian champion claimed him as a friend in that moment...all of those months of texting and talking back and forth slipping from his mind.

 




Victor surveyed the room he would definitely share with Chris and hopefully with Yuuri.  As far as hotels went, it was nice but basic. Two queen sized beds, a table with four chairs, oversized TV, a wardrobe, dresser, nightstand between the beds, and a little floor space for stretching.  He wanted something nicer for his Yuuri. Glancing at the second bed, he sighed. He wanted privacy but he also knew it was too soon. We’re just friends , he reminded himself.

 

Then he heard a hesitant knock on the door.  Yuuri! Victor rushed to the door, his foot tangling in the strap of his backpack causing him to hop off balance.  “Fuck! Shit! Damn!” Glancing to the door, he called out, “One moment.”

 

“Victor? Are you alright?” Yuuri called through the door.

 

“Yeah...yes.”  Victor huffed as he disentangled himself from the strap and scooted it out of the way.  Can’t have Yuuri risk further injury. He shook out the slight twinge the incident left in his ankle and flexed it in a circular motion before nodding.   Good.  I’m fine.  Then he continued crossing the room  He finally reached the door and opened it, revealing large brown eyes behind blue rimmed glasses.  He knew this face more than his own these days. “Yuuri…”

 

The Japanese skater’s chin dropped shyly, an adorable blush on his cheeks.  “Hi,” he murmured.

 

Victor was staring until Yuuri shifted awkwardly.  “Oh! Come in.” He stepped back and Yuuri followed, his rolling suitcase behind him.  Peaking in the hall afterwards, he asked, “Is the rest with your coach?”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  “Ummm, no? This is it.”

 

Victor blinked, recovering to say, “Chris will be relieved.  He was trying to figure out how we’d divide the wardrobe.”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I don’t have my costumes and only need to hang up my suit.”

 

They began unpacking, Yuuri claiming one slot in the wardrobe, his dress shoes just below it on the floor, and a single drawer, his things folded efficiently.  Victor peeked in at the neat stack of T-shirts and skate pants. Even his briefs were folded into neat little squares. Next to them, Yuuri had a pair of dance shoes, disappointingly not pointe shoes.  He placed his personal items in the other half of the drawer, and slid the suitcase out of the way just in time for a knock and Chris opening the door.

 

Bonjour, mes amies !” he greeted.  

 

“Chris!” Victor greeted, Yuuri offering a small, shy wave.

 

“Are you staying with us?” the Swiss skater asked, his eyes roving around the room.  There wasn’t much of a presence from the Japanese skater.

 

“Yes...if that’s okay.  I do have a bed in coach’s room if you need me to go.”  Yuuri dropped his eyes shyly.

 

Chris wrapped an arm around his shoulders.  “Of course it’s okay! Vitya would be inconsolable without you here.”  He chuckled warmly as he watched his best friend’s face flood with red.  “So what’s the plan?”

 

Yuuri sat on the far bed and scooted back to the headboard.  “I’m waiting for Coach to text me our schedule and I have one skater I’m overseeing.  She’s really anxious and has sort of latched onto me.”

 

Victor sat on the opposite side of the bed, plugging his phone up to charge as he listened to Yuuri talk about his work.  “I have a younger skater I’m keeping an eye on as well. Alexie. However, I’m free for the most part except for skating obligations.”

 

“I need to find a place to run her through her choreography.  She’s like me. She’ll want to dance it out several times before going to the ice.  Nervous energy.”

 

Chris stretched as he considered his own schedule.  “Let’s explore the hotel, then. I’m sure there are some unused banquet rooms we can utilize and I know there is a gym.”

 

“And a pool,” Victor added.

 

“It’s March!” Yuuri stated, his eyebrows high.

 

“Almost April...and we’re much further south than in Russia.”

 

Chris chuckled.  “We’re used to swimming in cold water, Yuuri, but we understand if you want to bail out.”

 

“I...um...I didn’t bring a suit,” Yuuri stated as he nervously fidgeted with his zipper.

 

Victor narrowed his eyes.  “Yuuri, do you not...swim?”

 

Brown eyes shot up and he flushed.  “I mean...I can. A little. We have water therapy as part of my injury recovery plan.  But...not over my head.”

 

“Are you scared of the water, mon ami?” Chris asked gently, careful to make sure his voice was even and unjudging.

 

Yuuri huffed.  “Well, I just prefer water hard like ice.  I did grow up in an onsen.” At their questioning stares, he added, “A hot springs resort.”  Focusing on his legs, he stretched the toes and shrugged. “I am scared of drowning,” he admitted.  “I was swept off of my feet when I was little when playing on the beach and took in more than a little water.  I guess it makes me a little...wary.”

 

“So, you probably don’t want to go to the beach,” Victor surmised, more than a little disappointment in his voice.

 

Yuuri laughed softly and shrugged.  “I mean, if there is time we can. I love running in the sand.  I just don’t go very deep in the water.”

 

Victor brightened.  “Okay, so definitely the beach and maybe some light shopping on the way back.”

 

“I would be most disappointed if we didn’t dine in a few nice restaurants,” Chris murmured, leaning back in his own bed, his hands behind his head, eyes fluttering closed.

 

Victor noticed the worry in Yuuri’s face and knew he was low on funds at the moment interjected to say, “I’m sure we can find some lovely economical options and I’m not opposed to some street vendors.”  Yuuri visibly relaxed. “For now, naps and showers...then we can explore.”

 

“You first, Vitya,” Chris waved, already half way into his nap.

 

Yuuri’s eyes were downcast as he tugged at his shirt.  Victor leaned in and asked, “Would you like to go first?”

 

“Do you mind?” the younger man asked, his brown eyes sweeping up to meet Victor’s blue.  The older man’s breath caught as he nodded, hoping Yuuri didn’t see his nerves. “The flight was so long and I reek of airplane.”  With Victor’s encouragement, Yuuri now pulled out what he needed efficiently from the drawer and disappeared into the bathroom.

 

As the water began to spray, Chris murmured quietly, “He’s adorable, Vitya.  Does he realize where you stand?”

 

Victor laid back and gave a shuddering sigh.  “No...so far everything is framed as ‘just friends’ but…”

 

“You want more,” Chris finished for him when Victor didn’t continue.

 

Victor nodded, his eyes on the bathroom wall, listening to Yuuri humming through the wall with a smile.  “Yes...now more than ever.”

 

“He’s still quite young.  Are you sure he’s ready for that?”

 

Victor shook his head.  He wasn’t. Not just in his youth but in his repressed sexuality.  He’d love to see that burgeoning awareness. Reserved Yuuri was beautiful but he’d love to see an Eros Yuuri, awakened into his own sexual identity.  Then again, what would that look like? He’d seen Yuuri tease him that day when he opened his fanmail. And there had been several moments of intimacy along the way.  Sharing this bed was intimate in one respect. How would Yuuri view it?

 

A wall away, Yuuri stood under the stream of water shaking off his trepidation, humming nervously.  We’re just friends , he reminded himself.  But Victor was a very seductive person, flirting with those around him.  Yuuri’s greatest fear was losing himself into this relationship and coming out of it bruised.   We’re just friends.

 

Drying off, he reached for a fresh t-shirt emblazoned with the Wayne State logo and a pair of sweatpants.  He knew he’d have to change if they went out but for a nap, a much needed nap, he wanted to be comfortable.  He finally reentered the room, keeping quiet as he listened to Chris’ soft snores with a smirk. Victor looked up from his phone and smiled, quietly slipping from the bed for his own shower as Yuuri sat on his side.

 

An hour later, Chris woke up in the room darkened by pulled drapes and could see the two forms sleeping next to one another, Victor curled around Yuuri, a protective arm wrapped around him.  Smirking, he pulled out his change of clothes and took his shower. Returning to the room, he quietly unpacked, hanging his costumes, suits, jeans, and dressier shirts. Two pairs of shoes were added to the mix underneath.

 

Victor’s eyes fluttered open first, jerking his arm back in embarrassment.  However, as he moved away, he heard a protest from beneath the blanket from his Yuuri.  “Too early.”

 

Chris chuckled from across the room.  “Mon ami, it’s almost six. We should be thinking about dinner soon.”

 

Yuuri’s sigh was long suffering as he unceremoniously kicked the blankets down the bed.  Victor chuckled as Yuuri, his hair sticking up every direction, actually pouted. “I think our Yuuri is a bit jetlagged.”

 

“I did fly the greatest distance,” Yuuri huffed, even as he tugged his hair into submission.

 

Chris and Victor both grinned at Yuuri indulgently.  “Why don’t we check in with our coaches and then meet in the hotel restaurant for dinner?” Victor suggested.

 

They both nodded, Yuuri promising to text if he got delayed.  That settled in as the general rule.

 




Yuuri stepped out of the elevator on the 4th floor and he was greeted by several of his rink mates.  “Yuuri, are you not staying with coach?” Felix asked.

 

Yuuri smiled fondly towards the skater from Spain.  Their rink pulled a number of international skaters and Yuuri found himself surrounded by a number of his contemporaries.  “I was asked to room with some friends. But I’m here if you need me. Just text.”

 

“He’s hanging out with Victor,” one of the other skaters announced with an eyeroll.  The American. Adriana. Not Yuuri’s favorite. She could be sticky sweet and then turn around and become nasty in a moment.  His coach told him he caught it worse because she liked him. Yuuri could do without that kind of like.

 

“I am,” he confirmed.  “Chris and Victor asked to spend time with me since we were at the same location for a change.  Now, what’s the plan?”

 

“We’re free until morning.  10 a.m. practice with Coach.”

 

Yuuri had that on his phone but he met Anna’s eyes and she hugged herself.  “I’m exploring the hotel after dinner to see if there is a place where we can run through choreography if needed,” he assured the girl.

 

“Will you text us, Yuuri?”

 

Yuuri fought the urge to roll his own eyes at Adriana’s sticky sweet tone.  “Of course,” he answered. He had a feeling of dread that she’d suddenly need his help more than he wanted to provide.  He thought about how Coach handled those moments of neediness and realized with Coach it was different. Maybe I’ll ask Victor .

 

Downstairs, he found his roommates already situated into a quiet corner.  “No press?”

 

“I’m sure someone is lurking,” Victor responded wryly.  He then narrowed his eyes, studying Yuuri's demeanor. “What’s wrong?”

 

Yuuri shook his head as he pulled out his seat.  “One of the girls is becoming demanding.”

 

“Oh?” Victor asked, glancing to Chris.

 

Mon ami, does this girl have a crush on you?”

 

“Maybe?” Yuuri squeaked.

 

“You should be honest with her,” Chris murmured, his honey sweet voice soothing as he addressed the situation.

 

Yuuri took a drink from his water glass before muttering, “She’s the type to turn nasty.”

 

Both men huffed, understanding.  Nothing worse than a straight woman with no gaydar.  “So if you tell her you’re gay…” Chris began.

 

“She’ll start something up about it.”

 

“Maybe just tell her you’re not interested,” the Swiss skater simplified.

 

“Or Ace,” Victor suggested.

 

Yuuri studied his hands before nodding.  “I could do that...tell her I’m Ace, that is.  It’s not like I want to date anyone.”

 

Chris’ eyes darted to his friend, but his only sign was a thinning of his lips.  “Well, there you have it. A solution.” And if Yuuri noticed the strain in Victor’s voice, he didn’t give any indication.

 




After dinner, they explored the hotel, Victor inquiring for a space via the concierge.  The room was rarely used, the hotel employee explained as he opened the door. The smaller ballroom had the marble floors but lacked the elegance of the one they had found earlier.  However, for a temporary dance studio, it would be perfect. Yuuri thanked him and texted his team that he had a place.

 

Twirling in the space he had a second thought.  “Do you think we could…”

 

The others knew where he was going with this.  Victor suggested, “Why don’t we return to our rooms and change.  We can at least stretch out from the flight.”

 

Thirty minutes later, they had their mats rolled out as they worked through their stretches.  Victor in particular admired Yuuri’s flexibility. “How much longer?”

 

“I’m allowed to dance...and that’s a relief.  Once I was cleared for the floor, Coach put me in charge of dance and choreography while we travel and to assist the current dance coach.  I used to help Minako when she was putting recitals together back in my hometown.”

 

“Have you been working on your own choreography?” Chris asked silkily.

 

Yuuri had a small blush rising into his cheeks.  “Maybe...a little?”

 

“Could you show us?” Victor asked, excitement creeping into his voice.

 

Yuuri laughed softly and nodded.  Once the mats were cleared, Yuuri moved into the center of the floor.  He hummed as the routine took form and Victor could imagine it on ice. Yuuri’s natural grace was breathtaking and it was clear the dancer could lose himself into the story he was creating on the floor.  Victor loved that focus but knew he struggled to hold it when on the ice. They had talked about it extensively. Victor offered what he thought was the perfect solution. “Just focus on me.” Yuuri had laughed and admitted that might make him more nervous.  However, as their eyes met when Yuuri closed up his routine, Victor wasn’t so sure. He could feel his own blush in his cheeks at the soft smile on Yuuri’s lips.

 

“It’s not finished but that’s what I have so far.”

 

“It’s beautiful,” Victor murmured.

 

Chris smiled, his eyes going from his friend to Yuuri.   This was going to be a lovely show as it unfolds .  He hung back as they headed back upstairs watching Victor’s hand rest on the small of Yuuri’s back, the Russian excitedly talking about what he saw in Yuuri’s choreography, Yuuri’s hands drawn together before his chest as he listened intently to the other man.  Chris had been forgotten and that...was okay.

 

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 14:   Jupiter

 

Make my messes matter.

Make this chaos count.

Let every fracture in me

Shatter out loud.

 

Victor slept well that night and as he woke up, he realized why.  Yuuri was a snuggler and he had the Japanese skater spooned into his arms.  Which would be great except at the moment, Victor had an awkward little problem.  Scooting back, he glanced down at his lap before raising up on his elbow. Chris was long gone, having met with his coach early for practice.

 

Yuuri must have sensed his stress, because he rolled on his back, his eyes fluttering open.  “What’s wrong?” he whispered.

 

Victor was mortified and laid back, staring at the ceiling, his hands in his hair.  “I’m...very gay,” he answered. He felt his body heating up in embarrassment.

 

“I know.”  Yuuri scrunched his nose, raising up on his elbow with a look of confusion on his face.  

 

Okay, that is cute.  Victor smiled, self-deprecating as he rolled his eyes.  “Well, you sort of...squirm in your sleep.”

 

Yuuri stared at him uncomprehending at first.  Then his eyes widened in realization, moving quickly to lie on his back, his own blush rising up on his cheeks.  “Oh... oh ...okay...you should take care of that.”

 

Victor frowned.   Well, fuck.  He awkwardly got out of bed.  He awkwardly pulled out his training clothes.  And then he proceeded to take the most awkward shower in his life.  It was probably the most clinical approach he had ever taken to the situation, efficient, and then done.  He didn’t know what he would say to Yuuri. Shit!  I ruined it!  He could feel himself work up into a panic but shoved it back down.   I’m a man.  Yuuri knows I’m gay.  I can deal with this.  As he wrapped himself in his towel and stepped out of the shower, his thoughts on the man in the other room.  I’m a very gay man.

 

When he reentered the room, he glanced around.  Yuuri was nowhere to be seen. Fuck!  I scared him away.  He began shoving things into his practice bag and finally reached for his phone.  He spotted a text from Yuuri.

 

Yuuri/ Sorry!  My coach wanted me to come down and discuss the plan for the day before we left.

 

Victor stared at the message looking for some hidden meaning.  It could be the truth. Or..it could be a lie because Yuuri wanted to get away from him.   Well, fuck!

 




Victor didn’t see Yuuri again until evening and Yuuri’s texts were brusk and short.  Victor was anxious and worried. I don’t want to lose you.  Even if we can only be friends, I don’t want to lose you.  He was glad he wasn’t alone.  He might have sought old habits to relieve the stress.  However, Chris was keeping a close eye on him back in the room and he’d been with his team and coach for most of the day.  

 

“What’s wrong?” the Swiss skater finally asked.

 

“I-I’d rather not say,” Victor answered, his cheeks red.

 

Chris narrowed his eyes.  He knew Victor. Too well.  “Did something happen with you and Yuuri?”

 

“Not...on purpose.”  Then with a huff, he told Chris, “Yuuri squirms in his sleep.”

 

Chris’ eyes widened even as a smirk settled onto his lips.  “Well, that’s awkward. Can’t say I’m surprised, though. He looks like a cuddler in his sleep.”

 

“Yeeeess!” Victor admitted.  “And...it was probably the best sleep I’ve had in a long time.  But...I’ve been on pins and needles since I woke up this morning.  I came out of my shower...the most awkward shower ever...to find him gone and he hasn’t been very talkative in his texts.”

 

“Well, he’s working,” Chris pointed out.  “He has several skaters to worry about, not just himself.”

 

“But what if I messed up,” Victor whined.

 

Chris shrugged, a slow grin on his lips.  “You didn’t mess up...it’s just biology. I’m sure Yuuri realizes that as well.”

 

A hesitant knock brought their conversation to a halt and the Swiss skater got up to open the door, admitting Yuuri inside.  Brown eyes went from one to the other but taking one look at Victor, he asked, “Are you okay?”

 

Victor turned away, embarrassed.  Chris shook his head and announced, “I’m going to take a walk.  Text me when you want to go to dinner.”

 

Yuuri took the cue and smiled hesitantly as the other skater left the room.  This was apparently a conversation for the two of them. Stepping over to Victor, he sat down casually, criss-crossing his legs on the mattress.  Victor’s back was to him. “Talk to me,” he invited quietly. “We’ve always been able to talk.”

 

“You haven’t been talking all day,” Victor pouted.

 

Yuuri shrugged, setting his phone down in his lap, his elbows on his knees.  Twiddling his thumbs he answered, “Coach has kept me busy. I mean, I’m traveling on coaching fees.  So I have to earn my keep.”

 

Victor didn’t think about that but it made sense.  He took a deep breath and spit out about his freakout.  Might as well go out in a blaze of glory.  “I just...I didn’t expect to..react like that.  And then...it was all awkward. When I came out, you were gone.  I thought...you were mad at me...or annoyed...or...I don’t know what you thought.”

 

Yuuri blinked at the confession, but then he laughed.  A soft laugh, not one that seemed to be making fun of Victor.  Victor turned cautiously and caught Yuuri’s eyes. The Japanese skater was lying back at this point, his hands behind his head, and oh, god, was he beautiful.  Yuuri simply shrugged as the older man’s eyes rested on him. “I mean...we’re guys. We all get morning wood from time to time. It’s not like it’s unusual.”

 

Victor shrugged, his chin dropping in continued embarrassment.

 

Yuuri thinned his lips as he studied his friend.  “If my being in your space makes you uncomfortable, Coach has an extra bed.  I don’t want to throw you off for your skate or anything.”

 

Victor’s blue eyes shot up wide.  “No! I mean...I don’t want to freak you out.”  He then chewed his lip. “You...get them too?”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “Well, of course.  Just because sex isn’t really that big a deal to me doesn’t mean I don’t have normal biology.”

 

“Oh,” Victor responded now feeling silly.  However, Yuuri’s casual response to the matter let him know it was a safe topic, that the Japanese man wouldn’t be weirded out.  “I just thought...you didn’t have any impulses.”

 

Yuuri frowned as he considered how to answer his friend.  “No...I just don’t have the desire to explore them. Maybe in time.  I just...don’t know.” He shrugged, a soft smile on his lips.

 

The words were on Victor’s tongue, a confession.   I just like you.  But he didn’t say them.  Instead he laid back, leaving space for Yuuri.  A bible could be between them at this point. “I’m sorry I freaked out.”

 

Yuuri shrugged, turning on his side to face Victor.  “I guess I should have warned you I was a snuggler. I used to have bad dreams as a kid and would crawl into bed with my sister.  She said I’d snuggle her off the bed. I think it was because I put out a lot of body heat.”

 

Victor grinned in agreement.  “You are very warm but I tend to be cold.  So I guess that was kind of nice. I get...touch-starved.  So maybe I craved contact just as much as you.”

 

“Maybe.  It’s okay...I don’t mind.  I want to respect your space in public, though...I don’t want there to be rumors that will get you in trouble.”

 

Victor felt himself relax into a smile.  It was nice to be put first in a relationship, to be protected.  “There will be rumors. There are rumors about me and Chris.”

 

“I know but...you’re not Chris’ type.”

 

Victor smiled at that.  It was true. Chris didn’t mind Victor’s extraness.  He didn’t mind having to take care of him. However, Chris liked men that sort of took charge.  Victor liked to feel taken care of. He was independent but there was a calm assurance knowing someone else would watch out for him.  Like Yuuri.

 




They ended up not joining Chris, the other skater texting that he found an old friend and would see them later that night.  The two friends ordered in and had an early night, Victor curled up around Yuuri while the younger man scrolled through his phone.  Easy snores slipped from Victor’s lips as Chris quietly came into the room, raising an eyebrow towards Yuuri.

 

“You two okay?” he whispered.

 

Yuuri nodded.  Pointing at his phone, he tapped out a more detailed response.

 

Yuuri/ He was worried I’d be mad.

 

Chris/ He’s not used to having someone as close as you.

 

Yuuri smiled, flicking his eyes up to Chris.  The older man could see the fondness within them and smiled.  It appeared that Yuuri was just as into Victor. He didn’t know what that meant about their relationship but he knew they would figure out what worked for them.







The day of the short program, Yuuri felt an itch under his skin.  He wanted to be on the ice performing but at the moment, he was tending to a nervous skater.  “Felix, here’s a quiet corner.” The other skater worked on his own method for getting into the right headspace, thankful for Yuuri’s help.  “I’ll come get you when it’s close to your warm up group.”

 

The Japanese skater watched the first group on the ice, a frown on his face.  He’d have been in that final group if he hadn’t been injured and now he felt stuck in warm up mode.  He was surprised when a hand rested on his shoulder and he looked up to see his coach. “How are you doing?”

 

“I wish...I was skating,” Yuuri admitted.  “How did you do it?”

 

“The first few years, it was hard.  But after being a part of my students’ triumph, I’m at peace with standing on the sidelines.”

 

“Which is harder?”

 

“Watching my student falter because there is nothing I can do to fix it,” he answered readily.  “I’m just as invested in their success as they are. So when they fall, I feel it. But when they succeed, there is a rush with that as well.”

 

Yuuri let his eyes rest on the current skater.  They were in the first group for a reason. Most wouldn’t advance to the next round if any.  They fell but skaters were used to falling. They came right back up. Yuuri didn’t realize he’d been holding his breath.  Because he knew...sometimes you don’t come up.

 

Then it was time to get Felix prepped.  He found the skater, and murmured, “Time to get ready.”

 

Felix nodded, pulling out of his meditation and heading to change.  Yuuri was surprised at his own knots for the skater. He glanced over at his coach and could see that knowing look.  They didn’t have anybody in the last group. Yuuri planned to go out and watch Chris and Victor.

 

Felix finished with a personal best, his smile contagious.  Sure, they competed against each other. But they were also competing against themselves, seeking to improve their own best score.

 

Yuuri started to move into the stands when the final group came off the ice.  Victor called out to him. “Yuuri, are you not going to watch me?”

 

Yuuri laughed, a blush on his cheeks.  “I was just moving up so I could watch you from the stands.”

 

“No...come by the boards.  I want you close,” Victor pouted, the skater now next to him, his hand on Yuuri’s arm.

 

Yuuri didn’t know what to say to that but nodded.  “Of course,” he answered, smiling as Victor gave his arm a squeeze before turning to face the Russian being yelled at him.

 

Yuuri stood at the boards as he watched Chris, laughing at the humorous routine that made fun of Chris’ overt sexuality.  It was tongue-in-cheek. But Yuuri knew his free skate celebrated it. The audience didn’t always catch the nuanced language a skater spoke on ice.  But another figure skater knew that language.

 

So when Victor took the ice, Yuuri was surprised when Victor skated by him, a wink at the ready before reporting to his coach.  Yuuri didn’t know why he blushed. He really should be immune to Victor’s flirting by this point. But it always set the butterflies off in his stomach.

 

Yuuri’s breath caught as he watched Victor skate, the other man never failing to surprise him.  This time, he switched two of his jump sequences to increase difficulty. However, Yuuri was most captivated by the step sequence...because it was Yuuri’s, the one he had worked so hard on for his own program, the one that he crashed and burned on earlier that year.  There were minor adjustments but Yuuri knew those movements. With wide eyes, he shook his head. I’m reading too much into this.

 

As Victor came off the ice, Yuuri was startled when he was dragged into the Kiss and Cry with Victor.  An arm casually around Yuuri’s shoulder, Yakov yelling in Russian. It could be about Victor’s skating.  It could be about dragging Yuuri into the spotlight. However, that skate broke Victor’s record and the lit up scoreboard showed a WR after his score.

 

Yuuri was swept into a hug and he laughed, not able to help himself in Victor’s excitement.  And then they were separated.  There were press obligations.  Yuuri was heading back over to his coach when a reporter stopped him.

 

“You’ve been seen a lot with Victor Nikiforov at this competition.  Some would suggest that the two of you are unusually close.”

 

Yuuri had expected this question at some point.  He plastered a strained smile and answered, “We’re friends.”

 

“More than friends?”

 

“Friends,” Yuuri stated firmly, walking off.

 

Inside the press conference, Victor received similar questions, laughing it off.  “Yuuri is my friend. I reached out to him after his injury and we became close after that.”

 

Yuuri smiled thoughtfully in agreement.   We’re just friends.   He didn't quite understand the sharpness he felt in his chest at the thought.

 


 

NOTES:

 

In the song notes , the artist said that he wrote Jupiter “to have it constantly progressing into new territory.”  This is Victor and Yuuri’s relationship, as they continue to flesh out new spaces. And it’s scary.  Things could fall apart and they are left alone. (They won’t -- but the fear is real.)

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 15:   Noble Aim

 

Chances are we are the same;

Against the odds, against the aim.




Victor smiled as his eyes rested on the song lyrics Yuuri had sent to him.  He wanted to surprise Yuuri. However, his Russian teammates already knew. It was now or never.

 

They had left early, Yuuri with his rinkmates; Victor with his team; Chris with his coach.  A restlessness settled in Victor’s bones. He wanted...Yuuri.

 

He remembered waking up that morning, desire churning in his gut.  Yuuri said nothing as he slipped from beneath the covers but Victor could see the blush on his cheeks.  He couldn’t help wonder if he had affected Yuuri as much as the younger man affected him.

 

Victor had remained in bed as long as he could that morning, relishing in the warmth of the body in his arms, Yuuri tucked under his chin, his hand knotted into Victor’s shirt, the other resting on Victor’s waist.  It was intimate. However, he felt cold once Yuuri left him, pushing up out of the blankets, busying himself with getting ready for the day.

 

They didn’t speak much, each averting their eyes in embarrassment.  Chris hummed with amusement. He knew as well. However, they were all working on head space that morning.  Chris left first. Then Yuuri and Victor followed. Together. Entering the elevator to ride down to the first floor, he watched as Yuuri pressed the button for the 4th floor.

 

Yuuri offered a shy smile before exiting, leaving Victor alone.  On the ground floor, Victor was greeted by his teammates, boisterous and in rare form.  He needed to be among those who understood. Dmitry and Ivan seemed to realize it, each wrapping an arm around him and pulling him to the side.

 

“Are you okay?”

 

Victor nodded, his eyes shooting to the elevator, watching to make sure it wasn’t Yuuri stepping off on their floor.  “I didn’t expect...him to affect me this much.”

 

Ivan chuckled softly.  “Then you were the only one.  Regardless, he’s going to want to see you do well.  So get your focus back in order.”

 

They arrived at the rink, pouring out of the transport, everyone moving to their designated spaces.  Victor had to provide soundbites before he prepared to skate. Once inside, his eyes searched for Yuuri.

 

Assistant Coach Yuuri was settling one of his skaters and listening to Coach Celestino as the older man directed his crew.  Victor had to admit he was impressed with Yuuri’s work ethic. The Japanese man rarely complained when one of his skaters called him, texted him, or he had to run one through their choreography when they were in a panic.  Well, except for that Adriana chick. Then Yuuri would groan or roll his eyes. At the venue, however, Yuuri was all professionalism. And it was clear his other rinkmates respected him.

 

Victor hated the waiting although he enjoyed watching the other skaters, seeing their reaction when they nailed a program element they’d been struggling with.  Chris sat nearby pointing out Felix to him. “Yuuri said he was fighting that landing for his triple loop.”

 

“How old is he?”

 

“Sixteen.  Fresh out of Juniors.”

 

“No wonder Yuuri says he feels like an old man.  I think Felix is the one that got sick at his viewing party for the Four Continents.”

 

When Yuuri finally sat down, two girls sat on either side of him, one leaning forward, watching the skater while talking with Yuuri.  Victor could tell that they were very engaged in conversation and Yuuri’s hands would start moving as he explained something taking place on the ice.  On the other side of Yuuri, that girl kept leaning into Yuuri’s space, causing the Japanese man to scoot over.  Finally, the first, (Victor had figured out that was Anna,) leaned forward and said, “Would you just back off, Adriana?”  Yuuri, embarrassed, wiggled out from between them and walked away.

 

“Awk-ward,” Chris commented.

 

Yuuri spotted them, and climbed up to where they were sitting.  “I think she grabbed my ass,” he muttered under his breath.

 

“If you weren’t sure, she didn’t do it right,” Chris pointed out silkily.

 

Yuuri’s face was red and he shook his head with a huff.  “Do your juniors act like that?”

 

Victor and Chris both shrugged.  “Most aren’t that forward but I’ve had a few fans and even a sponsor grab me,” Victor admitted.  “Although I know that Chris grabbed my ass more than once.”

 

“Aaah, harassment by sponsors.”  Chris grinned. “Good times!”

 

Both Victor and Yuuri looked at him in horror.  The Swiss skater shrugged.

 


 

 

Victor watched the screen.  He knew the skater, had watched him nearly land the 4F during the previous competition.  He couldn’t help but wonder if he would put it in this time. Or worse. Would he succeed?

 

Again the skater set up and launched into the jump.  One, two, three...and a half. With a breath of relief, Victor continued his stretch.  He had to ratify the flip this time and make it his. As the skater walked by, the stare he gave Victor was full of challenge.  Victor shrugged it off. It wasn’t any secret that Victor was aiming for the flip. He could have made it at the GPF but he pulled it, wanting Yuuri to be there.  Now the Japanese skater was present, Victor had every intention of putting it in.

 

He smiled as Yuuri met him at the boards like the previous skate.  He didn’t even have to ask.  Yuuri’s brown eyes rested on him but still Victor invited Yuuri to “watch me” with a wink.

 

Yuuri laughed, blushing as he nodded.  “Of course.” They held each other’s eyes for a moment before Victor broke away.  He could already hear Yakov fuming.

 

“Are you putting it in?”

 

Victor nodded.  “It’s time.”

 

“It was time at the Final,” the older man argued.

 

Maybe it was...but he wasn’t ready.  Now he was. Glancing over at Yuuri, he heard his coach groan.

 

“Get your mind off of that boy and onto the ice,” he muttered under his breath.

 

Victor’s laughing eyes shot back to his coach as he backed away.  “They are one and the same,” he sang out, before making a circle, waving at the audience and taking his position and waiting for Earth to begin its opening notes.  He had gone with the instrumental but he could hear the lyrics in his thoughts.

 

I dig 'til my shovel tells a secret,

Swear to the earth that I will keep it,

Brush off the dirt

And let my change of heart occur.

 

Victor eased into motion with those first opening movements, a promise, a rise of his hand to his heart.

...Meanwhile, my family's taking shelter...

 

Family...what does that even mean?  Disowned, ignored, hoping I don’t create some embarrassment, some scandal.  One day, I won’t care. One day I’ll have my own family. One day...with you, Yuuri.

 

The echo, as wide as the equator,

Travels through a world of built up anger-

Too late to pull itself together now

 

Victor set up and executed a quad salchow with ease.  

 

Fault lines tremble underneath our glass house

But I put it out of my mind

 

Do you even know that I’ve built this trepidatious structure of a relationship...I worry that it will fall with the slightest breeze.  But even when I mess up, I know you will meet me halfway.

 

There was an earthquake

There was an avalanche of change

 

He knew it was time as he moved into a three turn.  Taking off on the back outside edge, he felt the rotations pull at his body...one, two, three, four...he couldn’t help the smile as he heard the audience gasp, heard the satisfying landing.  His eyes sought out Yuuri’s although there was no way to catch them, not at this speed. He knew, though, that Yuuri was watching, knew that Yuuri caught his triumph. The quad flip was his.

 

"'Til the sirens sound, I'm safe."

 

You are my safe place, Yuuri.  Do you know that? I stand like perfection but beneath my skin lies all of my cracks.  I tuck them away and ignore it, holding my head up...but without you, Yuuri, I wonder if I would have broken, folded under my loneliness.  But you believe in me...and in you I am safe.

 

Victor finished with his hand close to his heart, his head held high, the applause from the crowd washing over him.  But the only one he sought to please, he now saw standing near the exit. As he did a quick turn around the ice, he scooped up a stuffed poodle and met Yuuri at the exit, handing him the poodle as he asked excitedly, “Did you see that?  Can you believe it?”

 

Yuuri laughed as he hugged Victor in return.  “You should have heard it from my end, the announcer laughing as it was proclaimed a ratified jump.”

 

“I can’t believe...wow…”  and then his coach was dragging him over to receive his scores.  He held onto Yuuri’s hand and the other man had no choice but to join him.  And then a roar went up as Victor’s eyes widened.

 

“And a second world record!  Making it three with his combined scores!  The winner of this year’s World Figure Skating Championship is Victor Nikiforov!”

 

He was bouncing up and down on the high but he also knew press would take forever.  Yuuri leaned in and spoke in a low voice.  “I’ll wait in our room.”

 

Victor nodded.  He had obligations.  Still...he had the promise of Yuuri’s company and he loved the sound of those words.   Our room.

 

But before Yuuri disappeared, he squeezed Victor’s hand and added, “Congratulations!  I’m glad I was here to see it.”

 

“I’m glad you were, as well,” he answered, holding those brown eyes for a moment.   You had to be here.  I was waiting for you .

 




Yuuri was sitting in the middle of the bed they were sharing, his feet drawn into a pretzel as he scrolled his phone, a loose t-shirt hanging off of one shoulder as Victor walked into the door.  Sitting to one side were a few menus. Yuuri looked up and smiled. “Coach says I have the night off. Do you want to go out or eat in?”

 

Victor considered the pros and cons.  Good food or time alone with Yuuri.  He knew he’d have to deal with fans if he went out.  “I think...I’d rather stay in.  Have you seen Chris?”

 

“He’s out with another guy...I think he works with ISU somehow?  So I’m not sure if we’ll see him.”

 

They ended up ordering in and talking about their dogs for the evening, sharing pictures until Victor’s exhaustion caught up with him.  Yuuri pulled the blanket over the sleeping Russian, a fond smile on his lips as he smoothed Victor’s hair away. You work so hard.

 

Staying awake awhile longer, Yuuri finally plugged up his phone and turned to snuggle into Victor’s arms.  The older man seemed to relax further with Yuuri in his arms.  I don’t know what we are...but for now, I’m calling us friends.

 




The banquet was boisterous and Yuuri felt a little out of place.  “Coach, why am I here?”

 

“Because, believe it or not, you have a few sponsors here.  They are seeking reassurance you are returning next season.”

 

Yuuri took a deep breath and let it out.  I am returning.  I need to return.  I need to skate against him, to be worthy of him.   He nodded in acknowledgement.  After last night, he felt that drive even more keenly.

 

As he mingled through the throng, he fought against the anxious nausea pooling in his stomach.  He could see glimpses of Victor. He had spoken of his own dread. He wanted to escape and do something just with Yuuri but when Yuuri told him he had to attend as well, he resigned himself to his fate.  Yuuri shook his head. It’s not like the World Champion who now held three brand new world records and had just ratified the quad flip could exactly skip the banquet. Maybe it’s good I’m here...to make sure you are okay.

 

A champagne glass appeared in his hand and Yuuri looked at it with a wrinkled nose.  I shouldn’t.  However, the sponsor was talking so fast and pressing his ideas for the coming season and Yuuri found himself drinking the liquid as he listened, nodding along before finally asking them to send the request to his coach so they can go over them together.  This continued to be the routine until he’d finished his fourth glass of champagne and didn’t feel so well.

 

As he wobbled, he felt a firm hand on his elbow lifting the fifth glass out of his hand.  Yuuri turned into that familiar touch and rested his head on that shoulder. “Victoru,” he slurred.

 

“Oh, Yuuri...you weren’t supposed to drink,” he chastised gently.

 

“They kept putting them in my hand,” Yuuri argued in confusion.  It made perfect sense.  But then Victor was guiding him out of the room and towards the elevator.  He then saw Chris enter as the elevator closed. They were talking back and forth but Yuuri could no longer track the conversation.

 





“I’m going to settle him in our room.  Go and get his coach,” Victor directed.  He guided Yuuri into the room, worried about the alcohol reacting with Yuuri’s meds.  As he settled Yuuri onto the bed, he went to the drawer where Yuuri’s belongings were situated.  Pulling out the medicine bag, he studied the labels. Sure enough, one of them held a red label that said to avoid alcohol.  He glanced over at Yuuri worriedly, standing up to get a glass of water and taking it to Yuuri.

 

Yuuri made a face as Victor held it to his lips.  “Don’t wanna…”

 

“Maybe not but you drank several glasses of champagne before I realized it...we need to flush your system.”  Victor pressed the glass firmly to his lips.

 

Yuuri huffed petulantly and was drinking the water as the door opened and his coach entered.  Celestino sighed as he checked on Yuuri, listening to Victor’s explanations.  “We tried to keep an eye on him but…”

 

Celestino shook his head.  “Yuuri was my responsibility, not yours.”  He then huffed as he ran his hand through the Japanese skater’s hair.  “It was a throng out there and Yuuri would be too polite to say no to a sponsor.  We need to come up with a better plan.”

 

Victor agreed.  “I carry the same glass around and pretend to sip.”

 

“I think...I’m going to be sick,” Yuuri announced pushing himself up out of the bed.

 

As Victor helped Yuuri to the bathroom, his coach mused, “That could be a good thing.”

 

Then there was a knock on the door.  Chris opened it to one of the skaters from Detroit.  “We were told Coach was here. Felix needs him.”

 

The Italian coach rolled his eyes.  “Can you two keep an eye on Yuuri?  It appears I have more babysitting to attend to.”

 

“Make sure we have your number,” Victor called out from the bathroom.

 

He quickly exchanged it with Chris who forwarded it to Victor as the coach was leaving the room.  Victor was wetting a washcloth, Yuuri taking it to wipe his face.  Victor pressed another against the back of his neck, as Yuuri sank down, resting his head in Victor’s lap.

 

“You take care of me…” he murmured sleepily.

 

“Always,” Victor answered, his blue eyes going up to meet Chris’ as the other man leaned against the door.

 




Yuuri didn’t know when he got to bed but he woke up with hazy regrets.  “I don’t know…”

 

Victor sighed patiently and murmured, “It helps to have a plan but you said yourself that you hadn’t planned on going to the banquet.”

 

“No, I hadn’t.  I mean...I didn’t skate.”  The entire evening muddled into his head as he tried to work out what to do.  He knew he had messed up and knew Victor had taken care of him.

 

“It’s fine, Yuuri...you’re fine...this time.”  

 

The warning tone pulled Yuuri’s attention and he started tugging at his sleeve.  Hugging himself, he considered what he should do.  “How do you handle it?”

 

“I keep the same glass of champagne in my hand and pretend to drink it.  I rarely take more than a sip and sometimes I can get the wait staff to change it out for water or apple juice.”

 

“Apple juice?”

 

“Gives it color...and it comes in a sparkling variety.”

 

“Oh...I didn’t think about that.”  He dropped his eyes to his knees that were now at his chest.  “I hope...do you think my sponsors saw me messed up?”

 

“No,” Victor stated firmly.  “Chris and I got you out of there as soon as we realized you weren’t in good shape.  Then we got your coach so he was aware. But we took care of you.”

 

Yuuri nodded.  “Thank you...I’m sorry.  You shouldn't have had to take care of me.  It was your night.”

 

Victor smiled reassuringly.  “You would have done the same for me.  Now...let’s get packed. I think we both have a ten a.m. check out.”

 

Yuuri nodded, feeling the rush set in as he showered, packed, and they soon were headed down for breakfast.  “Chris left pretty early.”

 

“He had to check out by eight...early flight.”

 

“I should apologize to him,” Yuuri huffed, his eyes glancing around the room before he shook his head.  “I don’t think I can eat anything.”

 

“You need something.  You have a long flight ahead of you.”

 

Yuuri signed, his eyes running over the menu before pushing it aside.  “I’d prefer just a cup of tea.  Matcha tea, if they have it.”

 

Victor looked through the menu before suggesting, “They have a Matcha Parfait .  It’s going to have a little more depth and it might stay with you through the flight.”

 

Yuuri groaned but knew Victor was going to insist he ate something.  So he agreed to try it. Victor ordered himself a berry quinoa parfait .  They ended up sharing, each trying the others and Yuuri found the yogurt soothed his upset stomach.  Maybe he could face the flight a little easier.

 

Their phones both dinged at the same time and Yuuri chuckled.  “I think our coaches met at check out.” Looking up, he added, “Thank you for taking care of me last night.  And...for giving me strategies for dealing with the situation in the future.”

 

“I will always look out for you...and I know you’ll do the same for me.  Promise me you’ll text when you make it home.”

 

“I will...you do the same.”

 




Yuuri landed, feeling a bit rumpled in spirit but as he turned on his phone, he couldn’t help but smile.

 

Victor/ Made it back home and stopped to pick Makka up.

 

[Picture of Makka, paw raised up in a hello]

 

Victor/ Makka was disappointed she didn’t get to meet you.  Maybe next time.

 

Yuuri/ I’d like that.  I’m home, by the way.  I forgot to ask.  What are you doing this summer?

 

Victor/ I have a few modeling contracts to fulfill but I have a little flexibility.  What do you have in mind?

 

Yuuri/ I decided to go home for a few weeks.  I want to see my family and Vicchan. If you can fit it in your schedule, maybe you can come stay at our onsen resort.  There is ice at our disposal and then we can soak away our aches and pains.

 

Victor/ You’ve been cleared to skate?

 

Yuuri/ Not just yet but they think before the month is out.  I want to get started on next year’s program.

 

Victor/ We can do that together!  Send me the dates and I’ll see what I can work out.

 

Yuuri found it in his Google calendar and forwarded his itinerary.  He had obligations with his sponsors as well.  Maybe he could pull some of the financial strain off of his parents.  He had an ice show tour and some modeling obligations with the sponsors endorsing him. He was sure Victor had a similarly demanding schedule.

 

Victor/ I’ll let you know after I talk to my sponsors.  It should be workable.

 

Yuuri/ I look forward to it.

 

Victor/ Can I bring Makka?

 

Yuuri/ Of course...I know my parents won’t mind.

 

Victor/ She’s so eager to meet you.

 

Yuuri fluttered his fingers over the screen and smiled.

 

Yuuri/ I can’t wait to meet her, too.

 


 

NOTES:

 

Earth with words.

 

Lyrics to Earth .

 

Noble Aim lyrics.

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 16: Good Night

 

Scars remind us where we’ve been.  They don’t dictate where we are going.

~ Joe Mantegna



Yuuri breathed in the relief of ice under his feet.  He had to start slow and build back up but his coach and therapist worked together to create a plan...one that would keep him moving forward without risking further injury.

 

“I know you plan to perform in ice shows but you are restricted to doubles,” Celestino warned as he took a turn.

 

Yuuri skated up to his coach and confirmed, “I know...I’ve explained that to the producers.  I just want to pull some of the financial stress off of my parents. And I will be spending a good third of my summer in Hasetsu.”

 

“I’m glad.  It’s good for you to go home.  I know your schedule is demanding but those who support you need to see you...and you need to see your family and let them love you.”

 

Yuuri drew a shaky breath.  He’d been better. Less isolation, opening himself up more, building relationships with his rinkmates.  The winter spent as an assistant coach had been a good experience, stretching him in ways he didn’t expect.  Still, he knew it would be easy for him to retreat inside himself.

 

His coach must have suspected the run of his thoughts as he added nonchalantly, “When you return, I want you to consider taking on a roommate.”

 

“A roommate, Coach?”  Yuuri narrowed his eyes looking up at Celestino curiously.

 

“I have a Thai skater that wants to come on board and he’s requested you as a roommate.”

 

“Me?” Yuuri squeaked in disbelief.

 

The coach smiled in amusement.  “Phichit Chulanont. He will be debuting in seniors.  I hope to get him situated over the summer.”

 

Yuuri nodded in between drinks of water.  “Oh. How old is he?”

 

“Sixteen...but he graduated high school early and has been accepted into the computer science program at the university.  His mother would feel better, though, if he had a mentor...and he chose you.”

 

“Okay...I can do that.  I-I’ll make sure the other room is cleaned up.  I don’t think I’ve gone in there since that one kid left last fall.”  The fact that Yuuri’s anxiety hit hard causing him to pace all around the apartment at weird hours might have played something into the matter.  At least he was gone before Yuuri’s injury. “You might want to warn him that I can be a little difficult.”

 

“I did...he still insists he wants to be your roommate.  Are you okay with a kid?”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I mean, I guess I’m not much older than that myself.  And I’ve been working with several other kids over this past semester.”

 

“That was my thought as well.  You did so well with Felix and Anna, I thought maybe you’d be okay with this.”

 

Yuuri offered a small smile.  Maybe the demands of responsibility would keep him from shutting himself away.  “I’m okay. Sure...I’ll make sure the apartment is ready before I leave.”

 

“The kid...he wants to talk to you and get to know you.  Do you mind if I forward your contact info?”

 

Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck and then shrugged.  They’d be roommates before long. May as well get to know one another.

 




Phichit/ Hi!  I’m so excited we’re going to be roommates.  Don’t worry. I know how to take care of myself.  I’m very clean and I can cook.

 

Phichit/ Do you like Thai food?

 

Phichit/ Do you like hamsters?  Can we have pets?

 

Phichit/ I just realized I may be overwhelming you with all of my text messages.  I’ve been reading about anxiety. Just tell me if I’m annoying.

 

Yuuri smiled as he read the line of texts while he took a break at the edge of the ice.  He’d already located the kid on social media. He had a lively Twitter feed and his Instagram was full of pictures of him and his family.

 

Yuuri/ Hi.  No, it’s fine.  I’ve been on the ice.

 

Phichit/ You’re back on the ice?!!!  That’s such great news.

 

Yuuri/ Slowly.  I’m restricted to doubles and I have a plan my coach has worked out with my PT.

 

Phichit/ I can’t wait for us to skate together.

 

Yuuri scanned up to the questions above before answering.

 

Yuuri/ I do like Thai food and hope you like Japanese.  We are allowed pets although my dog is in Japan. I wish I could have him here.

 

Phichit/ Why can’t you?

 

Yuuri/ I guess expense more than anything.  And I don’t like the idea of leaving him at a pet hotel.

 

Phichit/ Well, I could watch him if we aren’t traveling at the same time and I’m sure we could get friends to watch them.  Friends would be better.

 

Yuuri liked that idea but he still couldn’t get his head around the expense.   Maybe .

 

Yuuri/ We’ll see.

 




The Japanese skater stood under the shower as the heat soaked into his muscles.  He didn’t do any jumps. Just feeling the ice under his feet was wonderful and he focused on figures.  Still, he’d skated. And now he felt the aches in his muscles. Good aches. He wouldn’t trade those aches for the world.  As he soaped his body, he traced the scars on his knee.  This will not define me...but I think I needed to take a step back.

 

He was toweling his hair when he heard his phone ring.  Sighing, he was still thinking of the boy that would be his roommate, when his eyes brightened at the sight of Victor’s name.  He answered before he noted it was a facetime call.

 

“Yuuri, did I catch you in the shower?” Victor’s teasing voice rang out as he filled the screen.

 

The Japanese man glanced down and shrugged.  He had a robe hanging loosely off of his shoulders and wore his boxers but hadn’t progressed to his pajamas.  “I took an extra long shower after SKATING!” The last word came out with excited exuberance and he heard Victor chuckle in answer.

 

“That’s the best feeling after being kept from the ice for so long.”

 

Situating himself on his bed he noted the time and date.  “Weren’t we supposed to do this tomorrow?”

 

“I missed my Yuuri!” he lamented.

 

Yuuri laughed softly as he stretched back against his pillow.  “I miss you, too,” he murmured. A boof joined in and then he spotted Makkachin.  “Oh, hi, Makka...I can’t wait to meet you.”

 

“And I can’t wait to meet Vicchan,” Victor added, a warm smile on his lips.  “So...what’s been happening since we parted?”

 

Yuuri shrugged and began telling him about the classes he’s signed up for in the fall.  “I’m really excited about this one class...Music and Dance Relationships. I’m also taking Choreography I along with Modern Dance II, and Music Composition II.  I only have one core class...English Composition II...and it’s online. So I think I’ll have the needed flexibility for the coming term.”

 

“Wow!  That sounds like a full load.”

 

Yuuri shrugged once more and smiled.  “I don’t mind working hard. And I’m excited about how I can use these courses with my programs.”

 

“I know you know how to work hard,” Victor responded warmly.  “I’m packing to go to France. I have a few contracts to fulfill, so I’ll be in photoshoots...but that frees me up to see you this summer.”

 

“I’m excited.  My parents will try to embarrass me, I’m sure.”

 

“That’s the right of parents,” Victor chuckled but then grew quiet.  Yuuri didn’t miss the wistfulness in Victor’s next question. “Do you think they’ll like me?”

 

“I’m sure of it.”  Yuuri hugged himself.  “Oh! I’m getting a roommate.  Do you know Phichit Chulanont?”

 

Victor hummed thoughtfully and Yuuri could hear his fingers flying over the keys.  “Oh, the Thai skater. He’s moving up into seniors. So will you be mentoring him?”

 

“That’s what Coach has in mind...I’m worried I’ll freak him out.”

 

Victor frowned, his eyebrows narrowing as he asked, “Why do you think that?”

 

“I ran off my previous roommate because of a meltdown...or three.”

 

Victor nodded thoughtfully.  “I didn’t appreciate what you and others went through with your anxiety until I started struggling with it myself.  But you don’t know what issues they were dealing with. Maybe there were extenuating circumstances with your old roommate.”

 

“Maybe.  We didn’t really get to know each other.  But...Phichit’s been forewarned. And it sounds like he’s been reading up on it.  So...I guess that puts him ahead of the previous roommate.”

 

“And you’re seeing a therapist regularly...with anxiety meds.”

 

“Which I took with alcohol…” Yuuri pointed out with a grimace.  He could hear the voice in his head on repeat. stupidstupidstupid

 

“Yuuri,” Victor murmured, his voice gentle.  “We all fuck up from time to time...you’re fine.”

 

Yuuri drew in a shaky breath and he could feel himself crashing after his small high.  “I-I know. I just...I...I…” He closed his eyes and worked on his breathing. “Victor…”

 

“I’ve got you, Yuuri.  Just keep breathing for me.”  Victor remembered how Yuuri helped him during his own anxiety attack.  Guiding Yuuri gently and firmly with his words, he reminded Yuuri to breathe and helped him find his timing.

 

As Yuuri finally drew in a cleansing breath, he whispered, “I don’t know what happened.”

 

“It doesn’t matter,” Victor murmured, not wanting to bring up that night.  “Just know I’ll take care of you when you need it.”

 

Yuuri nodded, closing his eyes and feeling the exhaustion seep into his muscles.  Victor waited. Finally those eyes opened up and sought his. “I’m sorry. I just...don’t want to mess up.”

 

“I know, solnyshko .  But not all mistakes are bad...some lead to brilliant recoveries...and happy accidents.”

 

Yuuri laughed softly.  “You’re bad at this.”

 

Victor grinned sheepishly.  “I am even worse when tears are involved.”

 

“We’re in trouble, then...I cry so easily.”

 

“Don’t worry...I’ll do my best.  Just expect me to be bad at it.” Victor finished his declaration with a wink and Yuuri dramatically put his hand over his heart.

 

“You can’t just throw those winks around casually!” he teased.

 

Victor grinned, knowing for sure Yuuri was on better footing.  “So...about your new roommate.”

 

“Phichit.  Apparently he asked to room with me.”

 

“Sounds like he might be a fan.  Are you ready for that?”

 

“He’s already started texting me.  He seems nice. Eager...but nice.”

 

“I hope the two of you get along well.  I think having someone there might be good for you.”

 

“I enjoyed staying with you and Chris at Worlds.  We should do that again sometime.”

 

“Anytime,” Victor amended.  “I...need a roommate.”

 

Yuuri narrowed his eyes as he studied the older man.  “What do you mean?”

 

“I sometimes hurt myself when my emotions roller coaster through competition.”

 

Yuuri blinked before nodding with understanding.  “I...I don’t mind staying with you.”

 

“Good...maybe you can save me from rooming with Georgi.”

 

“Of course.”  The conversation fell quiet and Yuuri didn’t want to leave it on an awkward note.  With a worried sigh, he asked, “What do I need to look for?”

 

“You pick up on my anxiety...that’s usually a clear sign.  Or my mood crashes.”

 

“What do I do?”

 

“Make sure I don’t have access to a razor blade.  It doesn’t guarantee I won’t hurt myself but I’m less likely to do so when I have company.”  Victor was quiet for a moment before asking, “Am I freaking you out?”

 

“N-no?  I mean...you’ve dealt with my anxiety and drunk Yuuri...I just don’t want to make it worse.”

 

“Just be there for me, Yuuri...and hopefully I won’t be an ass.”

 

“An ass?”

 

“Sometimes I do and say things to push people away.”

 

“I see...I’ve been told my anxiety can bring out the asshole in me as well.”

 

Victor laughed softly.  “Aren’t we a pair.”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile, settling back into bed.  “Indeed.” Silence drifted between them and finally, Yuuri’s breath started to even out.  Victor whispered a quiet good night hearing a muffled reply before disconnecting the call.  Yuuri rolled onto his side, hugging the phone to his chest. His last coherent thought asked, are we a pair?




NOTES:

 

Kepler - Good Night notes .

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 17:   Three

 

TW:  Self-harm tendencies and depression.  



it’s so exhausting on this silver screen

where i play the role of anyone but me.

 

Victor stared at the image in the mirror, makeup hiding his flaws, his hair falling perfectly over one of his eyes.  He hated the emptiness that filled him, this hunger gnawing inside of him. The artist knew her job, knew how to hide him just enough.

 

He practiced his smile, turning his head just right to show his best angle.   How would Yuuri respond to this image of me?  I have been my most authentic with you and still...there are things that remain hidden, makeup that covers the deepest of scars.

 

I’m afraid...I have no one.  The loneliness seeps under my skin and I...have...no one.  

 

Drawing a shaky breath, he stood up and walked towards the break in the tent.  The photoshoot set Notre Dame in the background.  Rose petals were caught in the wind, spreading their wings until they found a place to alight onto the ground.  Yuuri was his rose petals, that spark of color in his drab existence.

 

The photographer called to him and he was put into place, the beautiful woman set into the frame with him completed the lie.  He heard the photographer call to him.

 

“You are smitten and in love...show her...worship her…”

 

I can’t love her.  She’s not...Yuuri. She’s not even in the same universe.  Closing his eyes, he reimagined the scene with his Yuuri.  

 

“That’s it.  Now open your eyes.”  

 

They would create the other side of the story in front of some other location, a romance between two lovers lost in one another.  The story was drab, like the background. Tried and failed. How many times did Victor seek a happy ending only to find himself caught up in a lie?  The story...a lie.

 

Victor was tired of the lie.   My story is so much more than this...but I’m afraid to tell it, afraid to share my truth, my reality.  I need my anchor, my Yuuri, by my side.

 

Back in front of the mirror, he began removing the makeup.  Voices in French behind him talked with a freedom he’d never been able to explore, the makeup artist and the costumer both planning a date.  Enjoy your love, ladies...don’t take your freedom for granted.

 

One day...we will find our moment of freedom, my Yuuri.  Maybe...maybe...



unabridged and overwhelmed,

a mess of a story i’m ashamed to tell,

but i’m slowly learning how to break this spell.

and i finally see myself.

 

Victor curled onto his side in his hotel room.  Multiple shoots over the week had worn him down.  He became lost in role after role, forgetting what was real.  The blade laid on its side on the nightstand. He’d picked it up and put it down so many times.  He felt...the lack of authenticity. He felt false. He felt the separation between what was expected and what was real.

 

Running his fingers along the smooth metal, refusing to pick it up, yearning for realness..he thought of Yuuri.

 

I need to get out of this funk.  Picking up his phone, he mentally calculated the time.  It’s so late in Detroit.  But in reality, he needed a touchstone.  Sending the call through, he hoped Yuuri would forgive him.

 

Yuuri didn’t answer immediately but when he did, the response was a muffled and half asleep, “Moshi moshi.”

 

“Hello, my Yuuri,” Victor murmured.  “I’m sorry. I woke you up.”  Of course I woke you up.  I’m a selfish mess.

 

“It’s okay,” Yuuri responded, his voice soft as he worked at waking up.  “Are you...okay?”

 

Am I?  Definitely not.  “I needed to hear your voice.  These places pull me apart. I feel lost in myself.”

 

“Victor…”

 

“Will you call me Vitya...please?”

 

He felt a sigh like an indulgent smile as Yuuri answered, “Of course...Vitya.”

 

“Thank you...it means more…like we’re closer.”

 

“I heard Chris call you that but it felt like I needed to wait to be invited.”

 

“It would have been okay...if it were you.”  He drew a shaky breath trying to regain some semblance of control.

 

Yuuri cut through that control with one question.  “Where are you, Vitya?”

 

He sniffed.  He knew what Yuuri meant.  Working on his breathing, he also worked out his answer.  “I think...disconnected from myself.”

 

“How can I help pull you back?”  The voice, soft and warm, held onto Victor like a comforting embrace.

 

What do I need?  “Keep talking to me.  Help me to find myself again.  You make me real.”

 

“I don’t...you are real on your own,” Yuuri reassured him.  “But I do see you.”

 

“I think...that’s what draws me most to you.  You see my truth. I’m...scared of that truth.”

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully as he considered where to go with that.  “I think...we are all scared of our truths from time to time. I’m afraid of my anxiety, how it breaks me down, how it...presents me to the world.”

 

“I’m afraid...of being me, of someone figuring out I’m not what I present.  But...I also need to be real.” His breath hitched as he worked on holding back his defeat in a sob.  “I...wanted to cut myself tonight. To feel real once more. Pain...is real.”

 

“But...you called me,” that voice washed over him, gentle and sure.  “I’m not going to hurt you...not on purpose.”

 

“I...needed a safe place.  I knew...I was safe with you.”

 

“Always...I will always protect you.”

 

Victor closed his eyes and heard the echo of Yuuri’s words caught in an interview.   We’re just friends.  “I’m...gay.”

 

“You are...and it’s safe to be gay with me.”

 

“Thank you.”




i only want what’s real-

i set aside the highlight reel,

and leave my greatest failures on display




Victor walked along the Seine, lost in thought.

 

How can you love me when I struggle to love myself?  Except...I can tell that you care. In your words, in the way you give of your time, in your open acceptance of me.  Of...me. Not the idea of me. Not the image of me. Not the many faces I present.

 

I can be authentic with you.

 

I...need to learn how to be authentic with myself.

 

Can you show me how to love myself?

 

He heard his phone ring, pulling him from his thoughts.  Smiling, he saw Chris’ name on the screen. “Hi, Chris.”

 

“I received a text from Yuuri that you’re having a hard time.  I thought maybe you might want to meet for lunch.”

 

“You’re in Paris?”

 

“I just landed.”

 

Victor blinked at the realization.   Yuuri did this for me.  Chris...did this for me.

 

Maybe...I can one day love myself.  But for now...I know that there is someone...more than one someone...that loves me in this world.

 

“Yes...I need some time with my best friend.”

 

A warm chuckle answered him.  “Good. Why don’t we meet at our favorite cafe?  The one with the tables on the sidewalk. We can people watch, speak French, and enjoy one another’s company.”

 

“I think that is just what I need.  Thank you.”

 

“Thank Yuuri...he couldn’t come himself.  Final exams.  So he reached out to me.  He said...you needed a safe place.”

 

Victor reflected on the razor, thought of many past cuts, many other ways he hurt himself.  He threw that razor away.  “I...didn’t use it.  I called Yuuri instead.”

 

“Good...now let’s meet and talk and help you to get past this.”

 

for the first time i see an image of

my brokenness utterly worthy of love.



Chris studied Victor as he drifted out of the conversation.  It had been awhile since he’d seen his friend this bad. But he didn’t cut himself.  As far as the Swiss man could tell, Victor hadn’t harmed himself at all. Instead, he called Yuuri.

 

“Vitya...let’s go for a walk.”

 

Victor offered a lopsided...grimace.  It wasn’t a smile. Not even a pretence of a smile.  “What’s the point?”

 

“Endorphins,” Chris answered even as he urged Victor to his feet.  “And it will relax you.” They had walked two blocks, when Chris pulled Victor into a shop, Pierre Talamon, located in the Maraise district.  And Chris offered the perfect excuse for Victor to be browsing in the gay district. There would be unconfirmed rumors but his friend offered the best cover.

 

It wasn’t until the third outfit that Victor was smiling, studying his form in the mirror.  The loose lines of paint that decorated the dark background of the shirt along with the designer fit of the jeans complemented his silver hair and blue eyes.   Would Yuuri like me in this?  He jumped at the snap of a picture and he glared at his best friend in the mirror...his best friend dressed in a bold floral and white linen pants.

 

A chime on Chris’ phone caught Victor’s attention however, and he leaned in to look at the screen Chris was now showing him.

 

Yuuri/ Victor should get that.

 

“Have you been sending pictures of what I’ve been trying on?”

 

“I hated to leave Yuuri out.  I mean...he was the one that arranged this.”

 

Victor rolled his eyes but yes, he would get this outfit.  “I wonder if Yuuri has ever been to the gay district in Paris.”

 

“Yes,” Chris answered.

 

Victor raised his eyebrows curiously.  “How do you know that?”

 

“Because...oddly, that’s where we met the first time.  Yuuri was looking for a gift for his roommate and we were both here for the Trophée Éric Bompard.  He was shy at first but then he opened up and started talking. That’s when I figured out how big of a fan he was...for you.  Only you. He could talk for hours about how you inspired him.”

 

Staring at his reflection in the mirror, Victor asked quietly, “Do I have a chance with him?”

 

“If anyone does...it would be you,” Chris confirmed quietly.

 


 

 

NOTE:

 

Notes on Three ...and the podcast is very eye-opening.  In fact, I wrote this chapter while listening to the words.  This chapter is short but full of emotion. Next chapter, Yuuri arrives in Hasetsu.

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 18:   Pacific

 

something about the spring coming into view, makes me dream of the ocean

~Sleeping at Last



Yuuri confirmed his flight and then closed his laptop.  He had an email sitting in his box with Victor’s itinerary including his flight to Fukuoka.  Yuuri would be arriving a few days before the Russian, giving him time to prepare his family...and himself.  Chewing his lip, he began to worry about what Victor expected. I don’t have much.  My family...they have to work hard for me to skate.  What if he thinks I have...more?

 

He swallowed and reminded himself that Victor had never been caught up in Yuuri’s lack and knew he had to work hard for sponsorships in order to keep skating.  And Victor reworked his schedule so that Yuuri would not have to miss any of his summer obligations.  It will be okay.

 

As if on cue, a text came through on his phone pulling a smile from the Japanese skater.

 

Vitya/ Makka and I can’t wait to see you.

 

[Picture of Makka waving at Yuuri with Victor’s help and Victor looking over her shoulder]

 

Yuuri hugged himself as he smiled softly not quite comprehending the soft feeling within.  He quickly texted his reply.

 

Yuuri/ Vicchan and I are looking forward to it as well.

 

Vitya/ I get to meet Vicchan!

 

Yuuri giggled as the excitement filled him.

 

Yuuri/  I get to SEE Vicchan!  It’s been so long!

 

Vitya/ A year IS too long.

 

Yuuri/ Not quite a year.

 

Yuuri/ But it feels like a year...and more.






Yuuri skated up to the boards to speak with Celestino.  “What do you think?”

 

His coach hummed as he considered his skater before he answered.  “You have worked out quite a bit but I’m not liking the looks of those jumps.  I’m going to keep you restricted from anything above a double until you return.  And don’t skate alone.”

 

“Vit...Victor is going to be with me while I’m home.  He’s been through this already. And he’s already been looking over the copy of my PT’s orders.  He said he would clarify anything he didn’t understand with his trainer.”

 

Celestino thinned his lips and nodded.  “And your shows?”

 

“Minako will be with me to monitor my progress.  It is almost as if someone called her.” Yuuri gave his coach a pointed look and then rolled his eyes when the older man looked away.

 

“Good.  It sounds like you have everything worked out.  Email me any video I need to look at. Otherwise, I’ll see you in a few weeks.”

 

Yuuri nodded in agreement.  “Hopefully Victor and I will have our choreography worked out by then.”

 

Yuuri moved towards the exit and watched as his coach became immersed in a conversation with one of his rinkmates.  He would return to a new rinkmate and roommate. Young but Yuuri knew that wouldn’t be an issue. He didn’t really party much.  He skated and danced and studied. His spare time was taken up with training and therapy...and talking to Victor.






Yuuri stepped off the train and sighed at the sight of his form being plastered all over the station, a sign declaring Hasetsu as “The Hometown of Japan’s Ace Yuuri Katsuki”.  The Japanese skater shook his head in denial.  It’s not like I’m all that.  I barely got to skate this year.  He was still reeling at the posters when he heard his name sung out by a familiar voice.

 

Turning, he smiled in greeting.  “Minako-sensei.”

 

“Yuuri, Yuuri, Yuuri...what is this I’m hearing about you not only having a guest but that guest is none other than Victor Nikiforov?”

 

Feeling very much the boy that left Hasetsu a year ago, he shrugged with a bit of pink on his cheeks.  “He needed a place to escape the crowds. I thought...maybe here?”

 

She snorted and shrugged.  “Except for Yuuko. She’s going to be drooling all over him.”

 

Rubbing the back of his neck, he asked, “Won’t she be chasing the girls?  They have to be all over the place at three.”

 

Minako laughed as she reached for his suitcase and invited him to follow.  “And she’s married,” Minako added as if that mattered. “But that doesn’t mean she won’t be fluttering all over the place.”

 




Yuuri found himself wrapped up in his mother’s arms even as he awkwardly returned the hug.  Since when did his mother hug? Then his father patted him on the back before giving his shoulder a squeeze.  Down at his feet, he heard the excited yips of his dog and once his parents had let him go, he knelt down to offer his fingers, the poodle moving into his touch with excitedly, bouncing up to lick his cheek.  He laughed and tangled his fingers into Vicchan’s curls. Finally, he looked up at his sister who studied him thoughtfully.

 

Raising an eyebrow, she asked, “You going to help me clear that room for your friend ?”

 

Yuuri grinned.  At least his sister wasn’t acting all weird on him.  Standing up, he walked up to her easily. “Of course.  He won’t be here for another couple of days.”

 

As they walked up the stairs, she asked, “Are you going to take down all of those posters so he doesn’t freak out?”

 

Yuuri laughed self-deprecating.  “I would but he already knows. He’d probably be disappointed to find them gone.”

 

She snorted.  “That’s cool.”  Sliding open the door to the banquet room, they both groaned.  “Mom really needs to declutter.”

 

Yuuri took in the space and fought the feeling of being overwhelmed when he paused on one of his costumes.  “Oh, god...she saved all of those?”

 

“I’m surprised it hasn’t been put on display in the dining room...in a shadow box complete with a copy of the music and pictures from your performance.”

 

“Oh god...really?”  He turned back to his sister and watched her thin her lips, nodding sharply.

 

“She’s really missed you, Yuuri, although she won’t say as much.  It was how she dealt,” Mari stated quietly.

 

“I’m sorry...I don’t...I couldn’t continue training here.”

 

“We know.  It’s fine. But...it would help if you...maybe...called home a bit more.”  The chastisement was gentle, matter-of-fact. Yuuri could count on his sister to not mince words.

 

Looking at the boxes, he asked, “So...where are we putting these things?”

 

“I was thinking the attic.  I cleared some space the other day.  I thought you could hand them up to me and we’d get them out of the way.”

 

Soon, they had a system in place.  Yuuri was tired as he handed another box to his sister but he knew she, too, was tired.  If she could keep going, so would he. Downstairs, he heard the hum of his family and customers talking.  As more floor cleared, Yuuri was at a lost about how to turn that into a room for Victor. However, his mother came up as they finished and she already had ideas.

 

“We’ll lay out a pair of futons here…” she indicated the corner with a sweep of her hands.

 

“A pair?” Yuuri asked, alarm filling his voice.  What were they thinking? He swallowed, his eyes glued on the location she indicated.

 

She laughed, her expression knowing but Yuuri missed it.  “Of course. You said he was bringing his dog. I thought it would be good to have a bed for her as well.”

 

“O-oh,” Yuuri agreed, his eyes flying around the room, a blush on his cheeks.  The fact that they had spent almost a week wrapped up in one another...they were just friends.  And Victor was very hands on with his friends. Except...Yuuri missed those arms around him when he slept at night.

 

His mother smirked, almost as if she could read his thoughts, before catching Mari’s eyes, the older Katsuki sibling rolling her eyes.  “Then we can set up a low table over here with cushions. If it were winter, I’d pull out the kotatsu.” She sighed like it was a lost opportunity before humming as she made plans.

 

Yuuri was amazed at how easily his mother transformed the barren room to a welcoming sleep space, adding personal touches like hand embroidered curtains and coverings for the bed.  The cabinets were aired out to make room for Victor’s clothes and Yuuri was surprised to find a few things added in the Russian’s size, cotton yukatas in deep blues and reds, patterns friendly and happy.  When did they learn of his size? How did his mother think of these details? Why did she go to all of this trouble for his friend?

 




Yuuri woke from a nap, his mother insisting he rest until dinner, and smiled at the ball of warmth next to him.  His hand went down to smooth Vicchan’s fur, the small head lifting, an eager tongue coming out to greet him, all forgiveness and love.  Yuuri felt guilty but he knew the poodle didn’t hold any grudges. He lived his life full of love.  I wish I was more like you, Vicchan.

 

His phone alarm chirped and he knew it was time to get ready to join his family for dinner.  He could hear the murmur of voices as he went to clean up, Vicchan staying close on his heels.  He reached down and petted him once more before he eased himself downstairs. He could hear happy voices in the family rooms.  Opening, he shook his head, a fond smile on his lips, at the cheers that greeted him. Of course his mother would organize a small party.  Soon he was enveloped in hugs from friends and family, some of which he couldn’t distinguish which group they belonged.

 

“Now...I know you said you wanted to wait and eat katsudon until your guest arrived,” his mother began, and the smells wafting from the kitchen finished her sentence.

 

“Mo-oom,” he chastised warmly.  “You’re going to make me fat.”

 

“Nonsense.  You’ll skate it off in no time.”  She leaned in and kissed his cheek.  “I promise I won’t make it too often.  I just had to make your favorite dish. It’s your first night home.”  Yuuri knew food was his mother’s love language. Of course there was no other option.

 

“Thank you,” he murmured, accepting her love.  He made his way to the table next to his father who was already pouring the sake .  As he took his first sip, he almost spit the contents across the table as his father dove into the subject Yuuri had been avoiding.  “So tell me about this boy you’ve been seeing. Does he like soccer?”

 

He flailed as he worked to correct the mistake.  “Umm, dad...he’s just a friend. And...I actually don’t know that.”

 

“Of course, of course,” his father placated but his eyes remained unbelieving.

 

Mari sat next to Minako and laughingly added, “My little brother goes away for to the states and brings back his idol.”

 

“We’re just friends,” Yuuri countered.

 

“We know,” both Minako and Mari answered but they both gave him knowing expressions that made Yuuri think that maybe they didn’t know.

 

He found his relief when the triplets started crawling into their “uncle” Yuuri’s lap.  For a moment, he focused on the three girls and their chatter. And then his mother placed the bowl of katsudon before him and he realized.  This was the smell of home. Looking up, he smiled.  “Thanks, mom. I’ve missed this.” He then waved around the room and added, “All of this.”

 

As the evening progressed, everyone seemed to ask him about his “boyfriend” and Yuuri began to worry about bringing Victor home.  He’s going to be scared away before...before what?  

 

Yuuko sat next to him and sighed.  “It’s just so romantic the way he reached out to you.”

 

Yuuri sighed, his eyes focusing on his drink as he answered.  “Romantic? He was just being a friend. But I don’t know where I’d be mentally if he hadn’t.”

 

“So he saved you.”  She sighed once more.  “It’s okay, you know. I mean, I did introduce you to his skating, to him in a way.  It’s okay, though, that you ended up with him.”

 

Yuuri huffed.  “You’re married!  And besides, I’m not dating Victor Nikiforov!  Why would he...I mean...I’m just Yuuri.”

 

She leveled a gaze at him that bored into his soul.  “You were never just Yuuri.”

 

As if in answer to her flat statement, Takeshi came up behind him and put him in a headlock, grinding his knuckles into his head.  “I can’t believe you pulled it off and got your man!”

 

“I haven’t…”  He threw his hands up.  “Oh, I give up!” Still, he leaned into Takeshi’s affection, Yuuko now leaning on him.  He did miss this.

 





The party finally cleared and against his mother’s protests, he helped her clean up.  She hummed a song cheerfully and it took a moment for Yuuri to realize it was his skate program’s song.  That she’d write that song across her heart reached something deep inside him. He dried off the next bowl and put it away before murmuring, “I’m sorry...I didn’t call as often as I should.”

 

She clicked her tongue, dismissing his words.  “You are a busy boy. I know this. You called when you could.”

 

“Maybe...I should do better at making time.  Set a date and time to call home.”

 

“That would be nice,” she murmured, her voice wistful.  “But...what if you get busy? I don’t want broken promises between us.  It’s better like this.”

 

Yuuri didn’t agree.  He had studied the beautiful layouts she’d created and put on display, his costumes with such attention to detail.  His dreams. Their support. “Maybe it would have been better...you know, if I had settled down and focused on helping out at home.”

 

She reached up and smoothed his hair behind his ear, Yuuri unconsciously turning his cheek into her touch.  “You were always my dreamer, chasing after dandelion dreams, dancing along the beach...and I wouldn’t have you any other way.”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but melt into her words.  “Mo-ooom.”

 

Then she nodded with resolve.  “And that includes this boy you’re bringing home.  We want your friend to feel welcome.”  

 

Yuuri didn’t know that he liked the emphasis she put on friend as if to imply otherwise.  “Victor...he’s…”

 

“I know...it’s okay.  We will love him regardless.  Because he took the time to see you, to love you.  We want you to be happy.” She stroked his cheek, her smile warm as she studied her son.

 

“I...am.”  Yuuri felt like he was just realizing it but he was happy...and it was because of what Victor had become in his life.  He valued that friendship. So why did everyone else seem to think it was more?

 




Yuuri walked along the beach, Vicchan on his heels.  The sound of the waves hitting the sand, the seagulls screaming in the air, the cool breeze blowing through the grass, Vicchan barking at a leaf floating through the air...this made him think of home.  Sitting down, he smiled at the bundle crawling into his lap. “I missed you, Vicchan. You don’t know how much I missed you.” Hugging the poodle to his heart, he added, “I wish I could take you back with me.”

 

Yuuri knew he had to make sacrifices for his dreams and he could make peace with most of them.  However, leaving Vicchan behind gnawed at him. He held onto his puppy and took a selfie of the two of them, the wind pulling at their hair.  He hesitated a moment studying the bittersweet expression on his face before sending it to Victor.

 

 




NOTES:

Sleeping at Last blog notes on Pacific and it’s origins.



Chapter Text


 

Ch. 19:   Mercury

 

Yet I know, if I stepped aside,

Released the controls, you would open my eyes.

That somehow, all of this mess

Is just an attempt to know the worth of my life…

 




Victor breathed in the clean air as he stepped out of the train station, his suitcase in tow, Makkachin on lead.  He’d stored her crate at the airport for the return trip. “Are you ready to meet Yuuri?” Victor asked excitedly.

 

Makkachin’s boof was answered with a high pitched yelp.  Victor turned to see Yuuri waving at him.  He held still for only a moment, taking in Yuuri’s expression, the pleasure in the younger man’s face upon seeing him before he found his feet and ran at full speed, crashing into Yuuri, holding him upright by sheer force of will as his arms wrapped around him.  At their feet, two dogs were sniffing one another in greeting but Victor needed this, the feel of Yuuri in his arms.

 

“You’re here,” Yuuri whispered, his fingers sliding up his arm in wonder, his thumb brushing over his cheek.  Victor relished each of these touches, shy, tentative, and very Yuuri.

 

“I’m here,” he answered softly.  He wanted to kiss those lips but Yuuri ducked away, shyness overwhelming him.  At least, he offered his hand. Fingers entwined, they walked.

 

“Mari was going to drive us but mom needed something from the store for the lunch rush,” Yuuri offered as they stepped onto the sidewalk.  “It’s a small town, though.”

 

“I don’t mind walking, Yuuri.”  Both of them held onto the handle of Victor’s suitcase, fingers toying with each other, rolling it down the street, a dog on lead on either side of them.  Victor noticed they garnered stairs and worried a moment about the press then let it go. Yuuri’s shy blush was all that he could think about at the moment.

 

Licking his lips, Yuuri pointed out various sights.  For a moment, Victor could only think of those delightfully chapped lips but then he was drawn into Yuuri’s narrative...hiding from bullies in the Ninja castle, the skating rink Ice Castle where Yuuri had first found his feet on the ice, the dance studio where Minako trained him and where he’d danced as the Nutcracker one year with Yuuko as Clara, the street vendors and markets, and finally the town fell away and Victor saw the beach, the fishing docks, the lighthouse, and then they went around the bend and into a more wooded area that led to Yuutopia.

 

“It’s small...but my parents, they work hard to keep it going and to let me continue skating,” Yuuri offered.

 

Victor stopped before the entrance to the grounds, wrapping his arms around Yuuri from behind.  “It’s perfect.”

 

Yuuri smiled, that blush creeping up once more. He led Victor through the gate and into the family entrance that was oddly scarce of family.  He shrugged it off and led Victor to the stairs. “We made you a room. Next to mine. It used to be an old banquet room. Before they expanded the business and made an inn on the other side of the onsen.  There’s also a restaurant. My mother does much of the cooking.” He slid open the door and Victor stepped in, charmed at the traditional layout of the room. “I hope you don’t mind futons. If so...you can have my bed.”  Yuuri waved towards the door at the end of the hall. “It’s just...next door.”

 

“There...are two futons,” Victor noted.

 

Yuuri blushed, his hand going to the back of his neck.  “Mom...wanted to make sure Makkachin felt welcome.”

 

Victor was pleased before but the thoughtfulness for his dog brought a delighted smile to his lips.  “I can’t wait to meet your family. They are so considerate.”

 

Yuuri grinned, happy that Victor felt welcome.  He guided Victor further into the space and the two dogs began to circle on one of the futons before curling up together.  “Let’s get you settled. If you want to clean up, the bathroom is across the hall. And then I’ll take you down to meet them.  I know mom was planning on a family lunch after the rush.”

 




Yuuri helped Victor unpack and put away his things while Victor explored his space.  He gave a cry of delight on discovering the yukatas hanging in the wardrobe. “Can I wear one now?”

 

Yuuri laughed but nodded, his eyes widening as Victor began to undress in front of him.  “Help me. I want to make sure I wear this right so I make a good impression on your family,” Victor insisted even as he eagerly dressed.  Yuuri’s hand reached around from behind settling the obi in place. Victor observed his form in the mirror, taking note of Yuuri’s shy movements.  He felt the intimacy of Yuuri’s touch and focused on not reacting and scaring Yuuri away. Once he was dressed, Victor smiled at his reflection .  “Now you.”

 

“Oh...ummm…”

 

“You’re not going to make me be the only one dressed this way,” Victor whined.

 

Yuuri’s eyes went to the ceiling and then he sighed.  “Of course not. Finish getting settled and I’ll be back soon.”

 

Victor studied the blue cotton fabric with the white fans and Japanese script covering the surface.  He didn’t know which alphabet he was observing having learned from Yuuri that the Japanese had three different versions.  It was beautiful. He loved the thought that went into the choice.

 

Yuuri entered the room, clearing his throat and Victor turned, smiling.  How Yuuri could look so extraordinary in such a plain garment was beyond Victor.  The blue stripe held to his form with a white obi. Of course, it could be the messiness of Yuuri’s hair.   Do you even know how sexy you are at this moment?  Victor smiled, even while Yuuri shyly looked away.

 

“Shall we go?  Downstairs, I mean?  My parents and sister.  They are waiting.”

 

“Oh...okay.  Let’s go.”

 




As they entered, the family dressed in the uniform of the business, their yukatas in a faded red, name tapes sewn to the breast.  They stood, greeting Victor as he entered, and Victor was surprised by the fuss they made given they had already put in several hours of work.

 

“Yuuri!” the older woman cried out.  “I haven’t seen you in traditional clothes in some time.”  She then teased him. “My, you do look handsome.”

 

“Mo-ooom!” Yuuri protested, hiding his face in his hands while color flooded his skin.  Recovering a little after a moment, he added, “Victor insisted. Mom, dad, Mari-nee, this is Victor.  Victor, my mom Hiroko, my dad Toshiya, and my big sister, Mari.” They soon enveloped Victor with their greetings, guiding him to the table, guiding him on how to sit and making sure he had a proper bowl of food in front of him.

 

“So this is katsudon ...Yuuri’s favorite dish,” his mother introduced.

 

“It’s a pork cutlet bowl and very high in calories,” Yuuri added with a groan even as he thought about how many hours he’d have to work out to work it off of him.

 

“I promise not to make it again...well, maybe the day you leave.  It will be so long before you can have it again,” his mother fussed.  Yuuri shook his head indulgently before turning to study Victor.

 

Victor watched as Yuuri gathered a perfect bite and then settled it between his lips.  It was clear from the euphoric expression on Yuuri’s face that this was something he greatly loved.  Turning to his own bowl, he began to gather the various components before opening his mouth to the tantalizing flavors.  Victor knew in an instant why it was Yuuri’s favorite. The sweetness and savory balance, the flavors melding into one. Victor could only say one thing.  “Vkusno!”

 

Hiroko leaned over to her son and whispered, “I think he likes it.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes met his and Victor felt himself melting under those soft brown eyes.

 

The meal, however, was heavy and as the family lingered, talking and teasing, Victor’s trip caught up to him.  He didn’t know when he fell asleep or how his head ended up in Yuuri’s lap, a gentle hand running through his hair.  And he completely missed the looks exchanged between Yuuri’s parents and sister. As they disappeared one by one to return to their chores, Yuuri remained, a reassuring hand on Victor, the other scrolling through his phone.  

 

Finally, Victor woke up disoriented, looking around...but Yuuri was there, his expression was soft and soon Victor, ran his hand over his face as if it could wipe away the sleep.  “Sorry.”

 

“It’s fine.  You’ve been traveling.”  Yuuri’s expression was fond even as he leaned back on his hands, freeing Victor from his touch.

 

Standing up, he shook out his limbs.  “I think I need to move around some.”

 

“Why don’t we change to some running gear and take a walk.  I’m sure Makkachin can use the exercise as well,” Yuuri suggested.

 

They found the dogs curled up together on one of the futons in Victor’s room.  The older man began undressing when he heard a small squeal from Yuuri before he ducked out of the room.   Oh, my Yuuri.  Do you not understand that it is because we are so comfortable together that I can be this way?

 

Maybe he did understand.  Yuuri stood in front of his own closet carefully hanging the yukata and taking out a t-shirt and running pants.  He liked the way blue looked on him and soon pulled on the shirt, taking a jacket because it was still cool in late spring, before returning to Victor’s room, tapping on the door.

 

“Come in, my Yuuri,” Victor called out and Yuuri tentatively opened the door uncertain about the state of dress he’d find the older man in.  Victor was dressed in gray sweats and a black t-shirt, runners laid out to be pulled on as they leave. Makkachin and Vicchan were watching their owners warily.  “They don’t seem as eager,” Victor commented.

 

Yuuri chuckled, going over to pet them, receiving answering licks.  “They’ll feel better once we get them moving. A light jog to the beach and then we can let them loose.”

 

Victor liked that idea and nodded in agreement.   It was his first day and he already felt at home.

 




They settled into an easy jog with the dogs running at their side.  Victor let Yuuri have the lead but was within half a step of him. As they arrived at the beach, Victor collapsed in the sand, Yuuri laughing as he released the dogs, watching them run up to the waves, frollicking and enjoying the foam.  Sitting next to Victor, he didn’t flinch at Victor’s hand running over the small of his back.

 

“Some days I hate leaving,” Yuuri confessed, his eyes on the horizon.  Turning to Victor he shrugged. “I mean, I have to. My life isn’t here...but sometimes, I really miss them.”

 

“Your family seems warm and accepting.  I envy that.”

 

“I wish...yours were.”  Yuuri turned towards the sound of dogs barking happily, watching them track something, probably a little crab, along the sand.  He didn’t know what to say. Victor’s life appeared to be golden but Yuuri now knew otherwise. Yuuri could be open about his sexuality...if he understood where he lay in which spectrum.  Victor, he knew...was one hundred percent sure where his interest lay...and he couldn’t do anything about it. “I just...want you to have a safe place.”

 

“So far this feels safe.”  Victor slid his hand over Yuuri’s, sliding his fingers between the smaller ones.  “With you, I feel safe.”

 

Yuuri smiled softly, enjoying Victor’s touch.  Something inside felt almost tangible. He turned to say something when all of the sudden it was raining water and sand and Yuuri and Victor shouted in alarm.

 

“Makka!  Noooo!” Victor laughed before finding his feet and chasing after her.  Yuuri wasn’t far behind. They were laughing, splashing the cold spring water on one another and kicking sand.  Victor loved Yuuri’s laugh, the way its warmth curled around him. He could almost ignore the shivers settling into his skin.  But Yuuri’s lips were trembling and turning blue. “We need to head back,” he pronounced. Yuuri nodded, calling the dogs to them.  His hands were shaking, though, when he tried to hook the leads. Victor took them in hand and soon had both dogs ready to walk.

 




At the inn, Yuuri let Victor take the upper shower next to their room and he ducked into the lower, washing off and then dragging Vicchan in for a doggie wash.  Victor was following suit upstairs, wiping down the shower once finished. Yuuri found him with a hair dryer, Makka sitting patiently while Victor tended her curls.  Yuuri watched with amusement.

 

“You don’t blow dry Vicchan?” Victor asked, scandalized.

 

Yuuri snorted.  “He hides from the vacuum cleaner.  I doubt I could go near him with a hair dryer.”

 

“I have a roomba.  Makkachin chases it around the room.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes sparkled with amusement.  “Please tell me you’ve videoed that.”

 

“Maybe?” Victor teased.  “I’ll find it later.” Victor grabbed Yuuri’s hand and dragged him into the bedroom.

 

Stretched across the futon, Victor curled around Yuuri breathing his shampoo...or is it his mother’s shampoo...and scrolling through his phone to find the video in question.  As he located it, he unconsciously rested a hand over Yuuri’s tummy and was pleasantly surprised to feel that body relax against him. However, the payback was in Yuuri’s giggles as he watched the video, demanding to see it again.

 

“Next time, you’re packing the roomba.  I want to see Vicchan’s reaction,” Yuuri demanded and Victor felt elated that there was a next time.

 

“Maybe you could bring Vicchan to Russia,” Victor suggested softly, his lips close to Yuuri’s ear.  God, I’m gay and I want this so much.

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “I don’t know how to make that happen.  I mean...I’d love to have him with me but it seems like...so much.”

 

“I know how to make it happen.”

 

“I don’t have your kind of income,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

“I could…”

 

“No.”  Yuuri cut him off firmly.  Turning in his arms to look up at the ceiling, Yuuri added, “If I can’t get him there, how will I get him back?  How will I make sure he’s taken care of while I’m gone? It seems selfish. I want to know he’s okay...and he’s okay with my parents.”

 

Victor smiled softly, nuzzling into Yuuri’s hair.  “I understand.”

 

Yuuri drew in a ragged breath, his hand sliding over Victor’s before closing his eyes.  “We live in different worlds.”

 

“Perhaps,” Victor murmured.  “I like yours better.”

 

Yuuri turned in his arms once more, this time burying his face into Victor’s chest.  “I want you to feel safe.”

 

“I do...when I’m with you.”  They became still, the warmth of the shower having relaxed their muscles and soon sleep found them.  Yuuri before Victor who contemplated everything he was feeling at that moment before sleep overcame him.  They were soon joined by two dogs, content to curl around the two men. The ceiling fan whirred in the late evening stillness.  Downstairs, Yuuri’s family continued their day, talking back and forth...and if they mentioned Yuuri’s boyfriend, the two were oblivious to their thoughts.

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 20:  Mind

 

in our grey matter, all grey matters.

an embarrassment of riches in our heads,

we gravitate to black or white instead.



Yuuri rose sleepily from Victor’s arms, the other finally succumbing to his jetlag.  Yuuri smiled as his eyes rested on Victor’s sleeping form. Then he heard the scratching at the door and realized what woke him up.  Two poodles danced impatiently with the need to go out.

 

“Give me a moment, guys,” Yuuri murmured even as he set his clothes to rights.

 

Downstairs, reaching for the two leashes, he overheard his family talking in the evening din.  Customers were in their rooms or sent home and he could hear his mother in the family room talking with Mari and his father.

 

“He’s very sweet.  I think he and Yuuri make an adorable couple.”

 

Yuuri rolled his eyes.  Why does everyone seem bent on matching them together?

 

“Yuuri insists they are just friends,” his father pointed out.  Yay, dad!

 

Mari snorted at that.  “Sure. Friends. They were holding hands as they left and as they returned.  They are not just friends.”

 

Yuuri thought about those words as he eased out the door, leading Makkachin to the small patch of ground set aside for the dogs.  One can hold hands with their friends, can’t they?

 

Or sleep with them.

 

Curled into their bodies, fingers lazily touching one another.

 

Yuuri’s eyes moved up to the window that led to Victor’s room.  What am I to you?

 

Turning back to the dogs, he gave their leashes a tug and started walking.  He could feel his thoughts start to tangle together and knew he couldn’t sleep with their torment.

 

What do I want out of this?  What do you want?

 

We haven’t really talked about anything beyond friendship.

 

He let his thoughts drift as the dogs sniffed the wooded path Yuuri chose.  It would circle around eventually and hopefully by that point his thoughts would settle.  His eyes lifted up to the moon low in the horizon, trees interrupting it’s ascent.

 

But...you touch me and it feels intimate.

 

You kiss me...on the forehead, in my hair.

 

Are you trying to tell me where your words fail you?

 

He glanced over towards Vicchan as he felt the lead pull and moved over to the poodle’s demand.  The small poodle seemed satisfied finally and squatted before Yuuri continued to lead them down the path.

 

I tell you repeatedly that it’s safe to be gay with me.  Do you not hear me? Do you not trust me?

 

Yuuri shook off his doubt as he pushed past the rise and looked down into the valley before him.  The path forked and he knew the dogs wanted to continue to the beach. But Yuuri felt his thoughts dragging him back to the house, to him.  With a tug, he led them on around the upper trail, pausing for Makkachin to pee before continuing.

 

I know you do.  Maybe...it’s just too much.  I understand too much. I know what it’s like to have my emotions overwhelm me.

 

Frowning, he felt a sliver of doubt crop up.

 

But what if...this is how you do friendship?

 

Again Yuuri found himself shaking his head.  He’d been around Victor and Chris too much and watched them interact, Chris, who was Victor’s oldest friend.

 

But this isn’t how you are towards Chris.

 

You may hug Chris, put your arm around him, lean on him, show genuine affection.

 

But you don’t sleep with Chris.

 

You don’t...brush kisses onto his forehead.

 

Whatever this is...it’s more than friendship.  Maybe not quite to...boyfriends.

 

Maybe you’ve denied that idea so long, you’re just as confused as I am.

 

Maybe you’re protecting yourself.

 

I want you to be safe.  I can wait. I can let you lead in this.

 

Whatever it is.

 

He hummed to himself as he concluded his trail of thoughts.

 

But...I don’t think I can let you go.

 

Yuuri blinked as he realized his steps had brought him back.  Stepping into the genkan , he apologized as he startled his mother, releasing the dogs and watching them move on into the space to look for others who are up after greeting his mother.

 

“It’s okay,” she reassured him with a soft smile.  “I didn’t know you had gone out. I thought you were still upstairs with your friend.”

 

“He’s sleeping and the dogs needed to go out,” Yuuri supplied with a shrug and a soft smile, his eyes trailing up the stairs.

 

“I put some supper away should either of you get hungry,” she offered.  Of course she did.

 

Yuuri appreciated her thoughtfulness as he murmured, “Thanks, Mom.”  

 

She hummed cheerily as she wished him goodnight.  Yuuri watched her disappear down the hallway to her room.

 

Heading upstairs, he noticed the glow coming from the slightly opened door.  Peeking inside, he spotted Makkachin and Vicchan already making their bed in the next futon over.  Victor looked up from his phone and smiled, pulling the covers back to invite him in.

 

I’m letting you take the lead.

 

Yuuri slipped in under the cover next to him, his back settling against Victor’s chest.  He shivered even as Victor’s hands slid down his body in a warming motion. I can rest for now.  You...keep me safe as well.

 




Yuuri woke up to Victor cheerfully whistling and groaned.  That’s right.  You’re a morning person.  Kill me now.

 

However, death offered no relief forcing Yuuri out of bed.  It’s not like I don’t have my own room.  Except now he was in Victor’s sights and Victor was talking excitedly about seeing where Yuuri skated.  Well, I did promise Celestino I’d be working on my choreography.

 

Downstairs, they were given a generous breakfast, his mother fussing that they had missed dinner.  Victor apologized. “I must have been more tired than I realized.”

 

“It’s fine,” she assured him.  “I just want to make sure you have plenty of energy for your day.  You skate?”

 

Victor nodded.  “We’re discussing choreography for our next programs.”

 

“Good.  I’ll pack you both a lunch.”

 

Victor was studying said lunches as they walked out the door.  “They’re so cute!”

 

Yuuri chuckled, slinging his pack over his shoulder.  Of course, they are cute.  Mom is trying to matchmake us and woo you into the family.  That thought remained private but Yuuri hummed as Victor caught his hand and they walked towards the rink.

 

Victor studied the structure as they stopped in front.  Yuuri sighed, more of his humble beginnings. “It’s small,” Yuuri began.

 

Victor closed his eyes as he added his own thoughts, a warm, optimistic smile in place.  “It’s private.”

 

“My childhood friends...they’re married with small kids...they run it now.  We...became friends here.”

 

“I can’t wait to meet them.”

 

“I’m sure the feelings are mutual,” Yuuri said, not quite disguising the dread in his voice.  “Shall we go?”

 

Victor answered by taking Yuuri’s hand once more and giving it a squeeze.  Yuuri studied the connection a moment before leading him up the stairs.

 

Inside, he spotted Yuuko behind the counter putting away skates, her back towards them.  “We’re closed,” she called absently.

 

“Even to an old friend?” Yuuri teased.

 

She turned, her eyes widening before she rounded the counter and ran to greet him.  “I can’t believe you’re going to be practicing here. It’s been such a long time.”

 

“Only a year, Yuuko.  It’s not like I’ve been away for five,” he murmured, before stepping back to urge his guest forward.  “Victor, this is my childhood best friend Yuuko.”

 

She covered her nose with both hands as she tried to hold back her squeals.  Yuuri watched with amusement but then his eyes widened when Victor greeted her with equal enthusiasm.

 

“You are the one that showed Yuuri my video!”

 

“You’re Victor Nikiforov!”

 

“You’ve skated with Yuuri since he was little!”

 

“You are one of the most talented skaters I’ve ever seen.”

 

Victor looked towards Yuuri, a sweet smile on his lips.  “We’ll see. I suspect there is a lot of hidden potential in this one.”

 

Yuuko fainted.

 




Takeshi climbed off of the zamboni to greet Victor next.  “I’m assuming you both will be skating regularly while here,” he suggested, his voice becoming business-like.

 

“If we may...Yuuri and I are working out our choreography together.  I’ve received a text from my coach who received a text from Yuuri’s coach that he’s to avoid all jumps above doubles.”

 

Takeshi laughed.  “Heh! Hear that, Yuuri?  You’ve been restricted!”

 

Yuuri groaned.  Of course Celestino relayed the message.  “He wants me to be accompanied for all of my practices as well,” Yuuri...pouted.

 

“It’s almost like he knows you,” his old friend teased.

 

“Don’t worry, Yuuri.  I’ll keep a close eye on you,” Victor promised, his smile seeming to offer more.

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened and he felt his cheeks redden at the implication.

 

Takeshi snorted.  “I’ll bet.”

 

Yuuri shot him a glare and his friend ducked out of the room.  Turning back to Victor, he asked, “Shall we warm up?”

 

After they stretched, Yuuri laced on his skates and left Victor in his wake, needing to feel the grounding cold of the ice and the exhilaration of the air moving past his body.  Victor joined him as he made his second round, chasing after him and laughing. They soon fell into a rhythm, and Yuuri loved the carefree look Victor offered at that moment.  I wish you could always be this free.  He skated up and connected their hands, pulling him along.  Victor laughed once more, giving into Yuuri’s pull, Yuuri’s gravity.  He didn’t stand a chance on a day like this. He belonged completely to this man.




Notes:

 

Mind notes by Sleeping at Last.

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 21:  Instead of Myself

 

Trust yourself. Create the kind of self that you will be happy to live with all your life. Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.

—Golda Meir

 

Victor took in the natural grace of Yuuri’s body.  He had a song in mind as he watched Yuuri’s movements.  The younger man moved lithe and swift over the ice, almost silent save for the carve of edges.  The motions called out to Victor, often finding himself chasing after the younger man, his dance beguiling and enchanting. Others didn’t see him, looked over the natural, unaltered beauty, the subtle strength behind the soft facade.  They often disregarded him but Victor knew there was something amazing about this man’s gravity.

 

Victor could see the choreography forming in his mind, the pull of another invisible force, Yuuri responding to it.  It was a child dancing with their adult self, not forgetting to laugh, reminding the other how to embrace that life. Victor’s breath caught as Yuuri turned to face him, teasing eyes calling out to him.  On ice, Yuuri was in his element and he was aware of it. It didn’t matter if Victor had known the ice longer. Yuuri knew it better, knew it more intimately.

 

And Victor, for once, was jealous of the ice.

 

They didn’t talk choreography that first day, it was still too new in Victor’s mind to put articulated anyway.  Rather, they focused on skills, fundamentals, and simply reminding Yuuri about enjoying the ice. Yuuko came out and talked to Victor as he drank from a bottle of water at the boards.  Victor treasured each Yuuri story she offered and, although he knew she was a fan, he could tell she was an even bigger Yuuri fan and, most importantly, a supportive friend.

 

After their skate, Victor came out of the showers first, stepping out to come face-to face with Takeshi.  The younger man was stoutly built and Victor could tell he was being sized up.

 

“He doesn’t know.”

 

Oh, it was this kind of talk, honestly I thought Mari’s shovel talk was scary .  Glancing back towards the door, he could still hear the shower, Yuuri using the heat to beat out the kinks in his shoulder.  “I’m...aware,” he began slowly.

 

Takeshi’s demeanor remained unchanged.  “We don’t want to see him hurt. He’s a good kid.”

 

“He is...a good man,” Victor amended.  “I don’t know what to tell you.”

 

Black eyes narrowed on him and Victor felt he was in the crosshairs.  “My wife is a fan...I’m aware of your reputation.”

 

Victor sighed.  “Most of which is fabricated.”  He glanced back towards the locker rooms, the sound of the shower turned off.  “You do know...I’m not exactly...out.”

 

Takeshi waved off that information as incidental.  “And Yuuri already made us aware that we need to keep all of that secret...but you’re not fooling anyone.”

 

Victor blinked, a deer-in-headlights look covering his face.  “I’m not?”

 

“It is clear that you want him.”  Studying the entrance to the shower, he seemed comfortable enough to continue.  “Clear to everyone but him. He’s...innocent.”

 

Victor held back the smirk on his lips as he remembered how Yuuri unwrapped the toy and screwed with his head.  He’s not as innocent as others seemed to think. He just uses that image to his advantage. Like Victor used his notoriety.  “He is old enough to make his own decisions...and at the moment, we’re just friends.”

 

“Yeah, we heard.” Takeshi’s stance relaxed, a little.  “Just making sure you know where we stand.”

 

Victor nodded, and then he slid his smile into place as Yuuri emerged.  “Better?”

 

“Sorry I took so long.  Doing physical therapy on my own doesn’t feel as effective.”

 

Takeshi’s eyes widened before arguing, “I was right here.  All you had to do was say something.”

 

Yuuri looked sheepish.  “I know. I thought...you know how I am.”

 

Takeshi groaned in agreement.  “Mr. Independent. I get it. But don’t be that way.  I can help you work through your therapy. It’s what I’m studying in college.”

 

“It’s fine,” Victor stepped forward.  “I’ve talked to the physiotherapist at my rink and went through the prescribed therapies with him.”

 

“I’m still trained, whereas you’re not,” Takeshi argued, pulling rank.

 

Victor bristled at the challenge.  “I’ve been through almost the exact same injury.  I know how far the body can be pushed.”

 

Yuuri looked from one to the other, not sure what was happening and finally held his hands up.  “Stop!”

 

They both turned to face him, Takeshi with his hands on his hips, Victor raising an eyebrow.

 

“You’re right.  Both of you.” Yuuri shook his hands out as if clearing the air around him.  “I just...I...I don’t...ask for help.” He looked at them beseechingly.

 

They exchanged glances.  Yuuri spoke the truth. He didn’t ask for help.  Finally, Victor smiled disarmingly as he reached out to shake Takeshi’s hand.  “We should work together and make sure Yuuri stays on track with his therapy. I think it’s clear that we both want to see him competing once more.”

 

Takeshi smiled, taking the thin fingers in his giant, warm hand.  “I think that is something we can both agree on. Yuuri, what do you say?  Will you let us both work with you?”

 

“I...I guess?”  Yuuri felt a little outnumbered but at least they were on his side.

 

Takeshi chuckled, clapping him on his back.  “Let’s see what you are doing.”

 




Victor smiled as he watched Yuuri stretch out in the dance studio, black dance pants and t-shirt along with his ballet shoes.  Victor wore his signature practice gear of gray sweats and a black t-shirt. Leaning forward, he mirrored Yuuri’s stretches.

 

Victor was connecting his phone to the speakers as Minako walked into the studio.  “I want you to hear this song.” He then began the instrumental version of Sun .  He watched Yuuri close his eyes, the pupils dancing under the lid as he concentrated.  Then his eyes widened as Yuuri naturally began to flow into the music, or maybe the music flowed through him.  Victor breathed out his measured gasp as he watched Yuuri twirl across the floor as if he were already working out a spin sequence. 

 

“He becomes the music,” Minako whispered from beyond his shoulder.  Victor could only nod in his amazement. “Is this the program you’re working on together?”

 

“One of them,” Victor murmured, his eyes still glued on Yuuri as he takes a leap, the triumphant notes pulling him forward and then an almost reining in as he seeks the urgency of the music but feels the restriction before being unleashed once more.  It was recovery, it was triumphing over the challenges of the past year, it was moving forward...it was Yuuri where he was meant to be...shining under the sun.

 

Minako’s eyes danced as she took in the music and what Yuuri could do with it.  “What do you have in mind?”

 

“It’s changing as we speak, Yuuri is driving this choreography.  I may help him frame it, provide the structure and the elements...but this will be Yuuri’s performance.”

 

“It’s going to be beautiful.”

 

Da...ochen’ krasivo ,” Victor breathed, very beautiful , his heart on display.

 

Minako smiled, looking from one to the other.  She was aware of what Victor would have to hide but here she could see him unguarded.  And looking to her student, she knew how fiercely the Japanese boy would protect him from the world.







It had been a long day culminating in a relaxing and therapeutic period in the onsen.  Victor could still see the blush on Yuuri’s cheeks as he slipped into the hot spring next to him.  They had lapsed into conversation, discussing their plans for choreography, Victor gesturing wildly with his hands as he painted a picture.  Yuuri smiled fondly as he pictured the beautiful programs they were creating.

 

He turned to Victor, suddenly aware that the most surprising figure skater in the world hadn’t mentioned his programs.  “And what about you?”

 

Victor smiled, shrugging.  “I want to skate to something that speaks of hope for my future, maybe...a promise of love.”

 

He watched Yuuri look away, a blush and a soft smile on his lips.  How aware are you of this thing between us?

 

Venus is by the same artist,” Yuuri suggested, his voice soft and shy.

 

Victor chuckled warmly.  “Do you want me to skate to Venus ?”  His voice had taken on a sultry edge that had Yuuri skittering away slightly, his nerves showing.

 

“I-I want to see you skate to something...beautiful,” he murmured, once more avoiding Victor’s gaze.

 

“Sometimes...I’m just trying to breathe,” Victor whispered, turning to stare off into the distance, his eyes lifting to the stars.  “Do you think...if we lived out there...among the stars, it would matter...who we loved?”

 

Yuuri blinked upwards, his thoughts following the steam.  “I think...if the human race were advanced enough to move across space, that they would perhaps be more open minded.  They would have to see so many different peoples...they’d have to be. But right now, we’ve barely left our own backyard, cosmically speaking.”

 

“Maybe...I’ll dance with stars then.  Venus...and perhaps Mars ,” Victor lilted with excitement, punctuating with a wink.

 

Yuuri blushed and turned away even as Victor laced their fingers together and gave his hand a squeeze.  They stayed for a few more minutes before slipping out of the water, steadying one another on the exit, Yuuri quickly averting his eyes but Victor smiling appreciatively.  

 

“What about your second piece?  Did you finish your composition?” Victor asked finally as they dressed to head upstairs.

 

Yuuri looked over at him then glanced away shyly.  “No...it feels...incomplete. I’ve got some ideas for songs I’d like to skate to...but that one…”  His words faded off, embarrassed. It was his first composition and he wanted to get it right. Victor knew this.  They’d talked several times about it.

 

“What do your friends say?”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “Ketty says it’s pretty but...and then Natie tries to reassure me but you know, she can’t.  It’s just...not finished.”

 

“Then wait...we’ll find something to go with Sun ,” Victor reassured him.  

 

They climbed the stairs and Yuuri disappeared into his room for his pajamas.  Victor did the same and then opened his door to invite Yuuri in once dressed. Makkachin and Vicchan took advantage of the open door and found their way into the other futon.  Victor smiled and shook his head. “I’m glad to see you both such good friends.”

 

Victor climbed into his own bed, the lamp between them glowing softly while he waited for Yuuri.  He was about to get up and knock on the younger man’s door when he heard it open and then Yuuri’s feet padding his direction.  Victor smiled warmly as the Japanese man entered, pulling his blankets back. Yuuri blushed but settled in beside him, plugging up his phone and tucking his glasses next to the lamp before shutting it off.

 

Lying beside one another, Yuuri stared up into the darkness and Victor could see his racing thoughts before he picked up on the conversation they had left at the bottom of the stairs.  “I based it on my story...my career...and well, I’m still sort of writing it. My story isn’t finished so how can the music be finished?”

 

“So it will grow and fill out as your career fills out,” Victor suggested, unconscious of his hand tracing down Yuuri’s arm until he feels Yuuri shiver.

 

“I think...yes?”  Yuuri turned into his arms, tucking his head under Victor’s chin and the older man waits for Yuuri to continue.  “I...will know when I know it’s ready.”

 

“Then we will work on something else for your free skate.  Don’t worry.”

 

He could hear the pout before Yuuri even spoke.  “I wanted something to come from being out for so long.”

 

Victor ran his hand down Yuuri’s back soothingly.  “It will, solnyshko .  You are amazing and the world will see it.”

 

Yuuri huffed at that and murmured sleepily, “I don’t care about the world, I just want…”  That word was left hanging in the air even as Victor squeezed his eyes shut, willing them from Yuuri’s lips.  But then the Japanese boy’s breathing evened out and Victor knew he was asleep.  

 

Brushing a kiss into his hair, he murmured, “In time, lyubov moya , in time.”




N OTES

 

MUSIC:

Instead of Myself ...I don’t have commentary for this but I liked the idea it put in my mind of Victor stepping back and putting himself aside, focusing on Yuuri.  Victor will always elevate Yuuri, seeing him when others overlooked him...just as Yuuri truly sees Victor.

 

Many Beautiful Things .  I am loving this soundtrack and you will see a few of the songs from this one show up in this story.  Has anyone seen the movie? I think I want to check this out.

 

Five Feet Apart .  This album was constantly suggested while I was exploring Yuuri’s songs and it is very tempting to break away from Sleeping At Last for a moment to consider these songs.  I want to use them somewhere. It’s compelling and I think still grabs hold of the theme...they are so close...but there is still a space between them created by the secrets Victor must keep.


 

SOME ARTICLES I LOOKED AT WHILE CONSIDERING YUURI’S THERAPY:

 

Protect Your Knees Please!

 

Artistry on Ice:  The physical and athletic demands of figure skating and the vital role physiotherapists play.

 

Nancy Kerrigan Fights Back with Water Therapy

 

A Figure Skater’s Guide to Training

 

What You Need to Know about Figure Skating Injuries

Chapter Text


 

Ch. 22:  Cassini

 

Yuuri stretched and curled up around Vicchan, wiggling his fingers teasingly towards the poodle before tangling it into his curls.  He could feel his time growing short. Across the room seated on a cushion by the low table sat Victor, his laptop open but forgotten as he played tug of war with Makkachin.  Yuuri watched the interplay and he could feel a bit of jealousy. Victor rarely had to do without his dog. You don’t either.  All you have to do is say the word.   Yuuri shoved away that thought.

 

“Vitya?”  He watched as the other man blushed, turning his attention towards Yuuri.  It was adorable and Yuuri wondered, not for the first time, how they could hide this.  The older man gave it all away at a glance. Although no words were shared, Yuuri knew.  Closing his eyes and refocusing his thoughts, he asked, “How do you balance being a pet parent with your travel demands?”

 

Victor slid his hand through his hair as he considered that question.  “I do miss her when I travel and she can’t come with me. I have a neighbor that takes care of her and she’s in good hands.  It pays to find a friend who doesn’t skate and can look after your baby, although sometimes my rinkmates will look after her.”

 

“But it’s expensive to travel with her and you manage to get around quarantine somehow.”

 

“Not always and that’s why I do my homework.  It’s an extra expense sometimes but I keep up her pet visa and she is registered and trained as a support animal, a psychological service animal, not an emotional support animal.  There’s a difference. As a service animal, I experience fewer roadblocks.  I can take her more places.”

 

Yuuri sat up, pulling his feet in, his knees out as he rocked back and forth.  Hugging himself, he shook his head. “Vicchan is so small. I don’t think he’d qualify.  Besides, he’s getting older.” The poodle, a little bigger than a miniature at 18 inches, rolled onto his back.  Yuuri smiled as he began rubbing that belly, the poodle’s tongue lolling as happy pants greeted his owner.

 

“Vicchan already does some things,” Victor pointed out.  “For instance, one thing that Makka does that I notice Vicchan does is to interrupt and redirect behaviors.  We both at times get caught up in a feedback loop and need to be pulled out of it.”

 

Yuuri blinked at that thought, “He puts his head under my head to pet him.  That’s not…”

 

“It is.  Makka also pushes into my space when I’m in a depression spiral.  They call it tactile support. I live alone so she can also get my phone if I need help, go get help from a neighbor...several of my neighbors understand my struggle enough to get me some help, even the little girl across the hall...and get me out of a situation in public if I’m overwhelmed.  She usually barks and acts like she needs to go pee.”

 

“That’s...pretty amazing.”

 

“That’s training.  Poodles are very intelligent and can pick up the cues.  They are also very attached to their owner. Makka also becomes depressed if I’m gone for awhile.  The ones that care for her make sure we connect somehow, maybe a phone call or dragging out an article of clothing with my scent while I’m away.”

 

“I...didn’t think about that.”  Yuuri studied his dog as he thought about how his mother told him that Vicchan kept sniffing around the house in his absence.  Sometimes they could open the door to Yuuri’s bedroom to settle the dog. Other times, he’d need to go out and follow some familiar trails.  “Vicchan missed me.”

 

Victor’s smile was sad as he sighed, shrugging in response to the man across the room.  “An emotional support animal is easier to certify but you are more limited. Restaurants and such would refuse him.  However, most airlines and hotels have been accommodating when forewarned. Like I said, you need to do your research.  And get a letter from your psychiatrist.” He reached into his carryon and pulled out some papers. “I keep mine with Makka’s pet passport.”  He handed it over to Yuuri and let him study the documents. “So...do you think you’d like to take Vicchan with you back to Detroit?”

 

Yuuri huffed, laughing bitterly.  “I’d love to but this seems like...a lot.”

 

Victor shrugged.  “I mean...if you want your dog with you…”

 

Yuuri shook his head.  He could imagine the expense.  “I can’t afford this,” he denied, handing back the documents.  He didn’t see Victor studying him as he turned his back on the older man.  He thought he was being discreet as he wiped away a tear, muffling a sniff in a shaky intake of breath.  Vicchan nuzzled under his chin and tried to lick at the tears. Yuuri huffed.  I want you.  I just can’t have you.  Like Victor. I don’t get to have what I want.

 

Victor let the topic drop, giving Yuuri time to adjust his mindset.  He’d already learned that sometimes, many times really, he needed to let Yuuri stew on something before he could work through it.  Makka watched the younger man with concern, though, and went over to join Vicchan nuzzling the Japanese skater, licking at his neck and finding a ticklish spot.  Yuuri started giggling as he pushed them away, both of them backing up, wagging their tails, and then bouncing forward, leaning forward on their forelegs. Vicchan let out a high pitched yelp.

 

Yuuri reached out and rubbed his curls.  “I’m okay.”

 

Victor made note of the behavior, further proof that Yuuri would do better with his four legged friend in Detroit.

 

Victor didn’t bring up the topic of Vicchan’s travel again that day and Yuuri was relieved.  They were now on ice, Yuuri working on the choreography they had been developing. Victor’s calls as he skated widely around Yuuri, watching his movements, pushed Yuuri to reach further within him.  Sun continued to burn in him as he continued the story of his recovery, finding those in his life, new and old, who pushed him, who supported him, who chased after him.

 

Yuuri loves that push.  He needs that push. He needs to strive.  Chasing after Victor gave him someone to reach for...and even with him close, he knows in his heart of hearts he hadn’t earned this.  Maybe others wouldn’t agree, but Yuuri put the line in the sand years ago. Maybe Victor gives him his regard freely, but Yuuri still needed to feel worthy of it.

 

As he closed out the program, he watched Victor turn thoughtfully around him, the radius to the axis Yuuri created.  It felt backwards. Yuuri should not be the center of anyone’s universe. No one should be caught in his gravity. But here he was, turning, tracking Victor as he orbited around Yuuri’s figure.  He knew Victor had performed to Earth in the previous season. Yuuri should be the moon , Victor the center of his universe.  Do you even know that?  How I’ve always gravitated towards you, chasing after you, seeking you out?  You couldn’t know that.

 

He listened to Victor’s critique, smiling as the older man used his hands to completely express the idea of his words.  The piece needed work. A lot of work. But he knew it had a foundation. He knew Victor approved of the choreography as a whole.

 

As Yuuri moved to the side, he watched Victor prepare for his short program, Venus .  Yuuri listened to the music, the lyrics, his eyes resting on Victor as he hears a quiet declaration, realizing that Victor saw his words as such.

 

Suddenly I see you

 

I see you.  All of you, not just what you allow the world to see.  I know the imperfections of your soul. I see you. And I...I love every part of you.  Yuuri gasped as that realization washed over him.  I love every broken part of you.  I want to protect you from this glass world, keep you from breaking apart on its sharp edges.  And the more I learn, the more I want to hold onto you.

 

I want to hold on to you.

 

My Vitya…

 

Yuuri smiled as his program closed.  It was beautiful in all of its roughness.  Yuuri watched him as he focused on individual components.  Victor, the artist, the perfectionist. He continued seeking the core idea behind the story he wished to convey.  Yuuri turned slowly around the perimeter as he considered the idea he was laying out with Venus .  He knew that story.  It was there story. The beginning.  They were still in that part. What would he tell in Mars ?

 

Yuuri switched to the song in question and as the lyrics washed over him, he shivered.  Let this not be a premonition.  Let us not have to fight for one another.   But Yuuri knew.  Their path would not be easy.  However, watching Victor work through his step sequence with thoughtful concentration, his brow wrinkled, a frown upon his lips.  You’re worth it.  

 





“So... Moon ,” Victor repeated after Yuuri’s suggestion.  They were walking along the beach, a detour from their walk home, hands slipping easily into hands.  “I like it. It also reflects the other as Mars and Venus .  Have you been working out the choreography?”

 

“In my head,” Yuuri responded.  “I want to study the composer’s ideas, but really I want it to reflect my own, to reflect me.”

 

“Art should always reflect the one experiencing it.  We may have our ideas as we create it, we even share those ideas.  However, the beholder will filter it through their own experiences.  We hope they find a part of themselves in what we create. You and I, we create our stories.  Abstract creations of ideas. The audience captures a fragment of that idea and make it their own.”

 

“I get that...but for me, I have to become the story.”

 

“Method actor,” Victor teased, with a wink.

 

Yuuri huffed, giving him a gentle shoulder bump.  Victor stumbled, letting go of Yuuri in the process.  Then he started to chase after the Japanese man who ran ahead, laughing.  Victor watched Yuuri dance and tease him as he dodged the older man in their impromptu game of tag.  Then Victor reached him, grabbing hold of his hands, swinging Yuuri around, each caught in the other’s gravity, neither willing to let go.

 

Moon would be perfect,” Victor pronounced.

 

As they slowed, they drew closer to one another, eyes held as they danced to some unspoken tune.   It feels like a quiet acceptance of one another in each other’s spaces. Yuuri knows how he feels and is fairly certain Victor is aware of his own feelings.  Neither voice it. It feels too soon, too precious, too fragile. They don’t want to risk the world spoiling it. However, Yuuri can’t deny the fluttering in his stomach when he thinks of Victor.

 

They continued their walk, fingers laced together, Yuuri hugging into Victor’s arm, his cheek against that strong shoulder.  Yuuri knew the truth of what he carried. He knew the grief that weighed down those shoulders, a family who rejected him, a country that forces him into a mold he could never hope to fulfill. 

But for now, they were safe.  In this pocket of the world, in this town that protected Yuuri, they would protect Victor.  Indeed, they already loved him, coming up to speak to him warmly as they now wound through the streets of town.  Neither were in a hurry to get home. Both wanted this time, their stolen moment...even if they didn’t name it.

 

Victor finally turned their steps towards home.  It was time and they had responsibilities. Dogs, family, chores.  Victor now belonged to his family as much as he did. Mari teased him, his mother clucked at him disapprovingly, his father drank with him, and Minako tormented him.  Everyone knew but they let them work it out.

 

This thing between them.

 

Yuuri and Victor dancing in one another’s gravity.

 



 

NOTES:

 

Poodle Guide

 

Service Dogs and Depression

 

Service dogs and anxiety

 

Psychiatric Service Dogs

 

Emotional Support Animals

 

International rules do vary from place to place and I allow them to avoid quarantine in my stories.  However, I’m aware that it isn’t near as easy as Victor makes it sound.  I’ve had readers share stories with me. However, we’ll allow this flexibility for our characters.  I’ve added a couple links below for greater understanding for those who are curious. 

 

International travel with service animals

 

Traveling Internationally with a Service Dog

Chapter Text


 

 

Ch. 23:  Super Blue Blood Moon

 

“The small details of life often hide a great significance.”

― Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace

 

Victor could feel time winding down.  He ran his fingers down the sleeping form next to him, thoughtfully.  As touch starved as he is, he knew he’d miss this closeness, dreading the return home.  I wish I could keep you with me.

 

In a different world, he’d have Yuuri at his side and they’d work together to create beautiful programs.  Victor could spend a lifetime creating programs for Yuuri, watching that musicality show in the younger man’s performance.  He could spend a lifetime loving Yuuri.

 

He remembered their dance on the sand, the longing in their movements.  It had begun with that twirling exuberance, turning faster and faster, feeling the pull of gravity on their bodies.  But their own pull to one another seemed to win out as their feet slowed, settling into each other’s spaces. Victor wanted to hold Yuuri in his arms forever.

 

He thought of Yuuri’s loneliness, his fingers trailing up the younger man’s arm.  The past half year, they had grown closer, but Victor knew that Yuuri held too much solitude.  He reflected on that earlier conversation with Yuuri. His words, his interest indicated that he wanted Vicchan by his side.  Yuuri only saw obstacles, however. Thinking of Yuuri alone in Detroit...even with a roommate, it wouldn’t be the same. Yuuri needed Vicchan like Victor needed Makkachin.  Indeed, Yuuri was curled around the smaller dog in his sleep.

 

Makkachin keeps me grounded, keeps me from floating away and disappearing.  There have been so many times I wanted to just fade away. However, I knew Makkachin needed me, depended on me.  It’s work to take care of her and see to her needs but she gives as much as she takes. Besides, it’s heartwork. I never mind taking care of her.

 

Yuuri shifted, turning onto his back, one arm still carefully wrapped around the pup, fingers unconsciously tangling into those curls.  However, Yuuri’s face turned towards him, settling onto Victor’s arms, gravitating towards him. The older man tugged the thin blanket over them both, tucking it around Yuuri.

 

I love you.  I don’t know if you know that.  I can’t say the words yet. It feels too soon.  We’re learning each other, getting to know one another, settling into one another but we’ll have to leave soon.  If I say the words, it will anchor us too tightly together.

 

It will already be hard to leave you.

 

But I know I want you to be my family.

 

My Yuuri…

 




The dance studio separated them from the quiet streets outside.  Large windows rose above the wall partitioning the studio from the entrance, shining light across the polished wood floors.  Yuuri stood next to Minako, his tights creating a distraction that Victor felt under his skin. Minako seemed to pick up on it even if Yuuri did not, smirking at the older student.

 

Victor would be hard pressed to decide who was more fierce, more exacting...Lilia or Minako.  Both had their own style, but he knew he was being pushed and challenged every day he spent in this studio.  Typically he worked out the details of his choreography on the ice, fine tuning it with Lilia. However, Yuuri had a process that involved going back and forth between ice and studio.  So every day they found themselves under Minako’s critical eye.

 

As Minako finished her latest critique, the older skater turned to Yuuri and asked, “So what do you think?”   Victor could tell Yuuri had some ideas but the younger skater was hesitant to share them. However, Victor wanted to hear them.  This skate, after all, was about the two of them. Surely Yuuri had figured that out.


Except he didn’t know.  He suspected. He thought.  He dreamed. He wanted. But Yuuri never confirmed.  But there were looks. So many looks, eyes resting on him thoughtfully, a considering gaze watching him from across a room, brown eyes always drawn his direction.


Except Yuuri touched him in ways he didn’t touch anyone else.  There was intimacy in those small motions, a brush of the hand, a tenderness in the way Yuuri guided him into a room.  And Yuuri curled into his spaces. They had a closeness, Yuuri holding onto him in his sleep as if to reassure himself that Victor was still there.  He loved the way Yuuri’s hand would fist into the older man’s shirt, tucking under his chin, letting Victor keep him safe from the world.

 

Would you keep me safe?  I know you have your fears but in many ways, my world is scarier.

 

Yuuri knew this.

 

We’re just friends.

 

Odd how those words that many feared from the one they loved seemed to mean “I love you, I’ll protect you” when Yuuri speaks them, when he tells the world who questions their relationship.  Victor shied away from so many because they wouldn't say those words.  They would be angry if he said those words.   They would see it as rejection.  But for Yuuri and himself, it seemed to hold secrets shared only between themselves.

 

He smiled as Yuuri nervously worked up the courage for his answer.  Yuuri never felt confident until he did.  It was a slow rise or a sudden burst.  He loved that about Yuuri...as if there were anything about Yuuri he didn’t love.  

 

“I think I understand the idea you are conveying,” Yuuri began, pausing to chew his lip.  Then Victor watched, mesmerized as Yuuri reworked the sequence. A quick change of order, an adjustment of the attitude, a change in arm placement to provide a more solid frame and suddenly Victor felt the strength of the program increase.  The older skater followed Yuuri’s demonstration, listening as Yuuri had him raise his arm higher, extend his leg further. Each correction held more confidence, something Victor greatly appreciated.

 

He hungered for that bold Yuuri.

 

As they walked home, Yuuri skipped along, excited about their work.  “I can’t wait to see the finished version.”

 

“It’s as much a part of you as it is me,” Victor pointed out.  They had collaborated on several of the components. Yet Victor hoped Yuuri saw them in the story.  Figure skaters and dancers so often communicated with their bodies as much as their words, perhaps better.

 

“Do you normally work with others in developing your programs?”

 

Victor paused, considering Yuuri’s question.  “Yes and no. I mean, I have Yakov and Lilia involved but usually it’s my own work.  How about you?”

 

Yuuri looked off in the distance, his eyes following the path of a gull making its way across the horizon.  “This is probably the most I’ve been involved in developing my program. I usually create a story to go with it after the fact and that leads to adjustments but…”  He shrugged. “I’m not very confident.”

 

“But you’re working on that,” Victor added, his arm slipping around Yuuri’s shoulders, his hand giving his arm a squeeze.

 

The Japanese boy gave a bashful glance towards the ground, a blush on his cheeks.  “I suppose.  I want...it’s what I need.”  Looking up, he held Victor’s eyes in earnest.  “I can’t move into the second part of my career, to coach, to choreograph, to...lead...if I don’t do this.  I need to be able to stand behind my work.”

 

“Exactly.  And that’s what this is.  It’s a creative work but still it’s our work.  You will improve the more you practice and I don’t mind helping.”

 

“But you want me to push myself.”

 

“Always.”

 

Yuuri nodded, drawing in a breath.  Victor could see the power, the talent hidden within him.  He wanted to tap into that talent and pull it forth. He wanted to see what Yuuri could create on his own.

 

That will come.

 

In time.

 





Yuuri glanced down at his phone then laid it down, his eyes flicking towards it before he turned it over.  The younger man had been fidgety all evening as if it had just dawned on him time was growing short. He was reluctant to leave Victor’s side.  He was reluctant to do something without Vicchan.

 

Victor watched all of this thoughtfully.  He could see the sadness starting to settle in Yuuri’s expression, the dread of leaving, of loneliness.  “Yuuri…” he began, to pull Yuuri from the thoughts.

 

The other man offered him a shaky smile.  “I’m okay.  Sorry.  A lot on my mind.”

 

“Do you want to talk about it?”

 

He opened his mouth, then closed it.  He walked over to the window and looked out.  “It seems...dumb.  I mean...I have a great family and a dog...and…”  He trailed off but Victor supplied the me in his thoughts.  “It’s just that it hit me that soon it will all be so far away.”

 

“Maybe if you took Vicchan.”

 

Yuuri laughed bitterly.  “That’s...impossible.”

 

Victor sighed.  He didn’t want to fight with Yuuri but he also knew he needed this.  But Yuuri was stubborn, even he admitted it. Nodding, he slipped out of the room.

 

 He found Mari folding towels and sheets and picked up the next item out of the basket to help him.  He was on his third towel when Mari asked, “So what’s up?”

 

“I...want to help Yuuri but he won’t let me.”

 

Mari snorted.  “Yeah?  You and me both.  You do know he’s stubborn.  And he doesn’t always see the world like the rest of us.”

 

Victor nodded.  “He’s anxious. That’s why this is important.”

 

Mari frowned, studying him as she picked up another towel.  “What are you trying to accomplish?”

 

“Convince him to take Vicchan.  He thinks it’s impossible.”

 

She hummed thoughtfully.  “It would be good for both of them.  Vicchan mopes, looking for him.  That dog is happiest with Yuuri but my little brother will come up with a million excuses on why he can’t do this.”  She crossed her arms, tapping her finger thoughtfully where her hand wrapped around the upper arm.  “Sometimes you have to just show him.”

 

“He said I can’t.”

 

She smirked.  “You can’t but…Mooooom,” she finished, calling out to the family matriarch.

 

Hiroko bustled around the corner and looked from one another, her eyes narrowing with suspicion.  “What are the two of you up to?”

 

Victor and Mari exchanged looks, the latter giving Victor meaningful looks and hand signals to go through and Victor looking wide-eyed like the deer in the headlights.  Finally, he turned to Hiroko and started talking.  “Ummm, I want to make sure Vicchan goes home with Yuuri,” he rushed, his voice squeaking in the process.   Did my voice just make that sound?

 

“Yuuri said it’s not possible,” Hiroko began.

 

Victor shook his head.  “It’s not against his lease.  He’s worried about the expense but…”

 

She huffed at that.  “You’d think we were poor the way he worries about that.  What do we need to do?”

 

Victor began outlining the process for them, Mari and Hiroko both clarifying what they didn’t understand.  Finally, Hiroko asked, “Can we call you if we need help?”

 

“Of course!” Victor answered, a smile on his lips.

 

“We’ll try and coordinate with his coach to make sure Vicchan is picked up.”  She walked off, drying her hands out of habit, muttering, “That boy…”

 

Victor looked over at Mari who snorted at his expression.  “It’ll be fine.”

 

“Is he going to be pissed?”

 

“Possibly...but that’s just the stubborn part of him.  Secretly, he’ll be excited.  We just didn’t know how to go about any of that.”

 

“I just know...Vicchan calms him.”

 

“That’s why mom agreed to the dog to begin with.  This is a business. Vicchan was always supposed to be Yuuri’s responsibility.”  She picked up the last towel at the same time as Victor then gave it a jerk, pulling it free of Victor’s hands with a snap.  “We’ve been worried about the dog but Yuuri wouldn’t hear us. It’s a good plan.”

 

“Thanks.  I just…”  He trailed off, not ready to confess those words.

 

Mari rolled her eyes.  “Go.  My brother’s probably going nuts without you.”

 




Victor found Yuuri nervously messing with his phone, sitting outside in the yard watching the two dogs.  He looked up as Victor entered the space. “I couldn’t find you.”

 

“Oh, I was just helping Mari fold.”

 

Yuuri glanced down, his cheeks pink.  “Sorry.  I guess...they think of you as family.”

 

Victor chuckled warmly.  “Well, don’t be sorry about that.  I mean...it’s nice.  To be a part of a family.”

 

Yuuri leaned against him.  “It is nice.  I missed it more than I realized.”

 

“Me, too.”

 


 

NOTES:

 

Podcast on Super Blue Blood Moon

Chapter Text


Ch. 24:  Farout

 

Yuuri stood on the station platform next to Victor.  They were holding hands, knowing soon that wouldn’t be allowed.  They were leaving their bubble, protected by a community committed to their town hero.  Although Yuuri didn’t understand all of that fuss, he was glad for it. Minako didn’t stand far away but gave them their space as she read through the latest gossip rag.

 

Leaving that morning was difficult.  His mother tried to keep a brave face as she fussed over both of them, making sure they had a good breakfast.  “You never get a decent meal on those aeroplanes.” Yuuri didn’t point out that he’d be on his flight quite literally an hour.  His father was just as bad, straightening Yuuri’s tie and telling him, “You do us proud.” Yuuri didn’t say anything about how he and Victor fought over that tie that morning, Victor threatening to burn it but Yuuri was faster and a bit more agile as he stole it back from him, laughing.  And he didn’t fight with him about being “just Yuuri”. Not this time. Vicchan seemed to need to stay close, and Yuuri found himself kneeling down more than once to love on the poodle, hugging him and petting him and promising he’ll be back soon. Soon was such a safe word with no direct meaning.  He hated that word and all of the distance it would put between the two of them. Just outside the family entrance, he caught his sister smoking. She put it out, coming up to study him as Victor loaded their things in the car. “Hey, squirt, it’s going to be okay.”

 

Makkachin jumped up and stretched out across the third seat.  Vicchan was bouncing up trying to join them. Victor lifted him down as the poodle succeeded, settling the poodle onto the ground and whispering secrets to him with his soothing voice.  The poodle whimpered, looking over at Yuuri and not quite understanding. With a treat, he handed Vicchan over to Mari, Yuuri watching the scene turning away, a sob buried in his throat as he tried to breathe through it. Victor and Mari exchanged glances before the sister nodded, carrying Vicchan back inside.  She then went around to the driver’s side and climbed in. Yuuri rode to the train station from the passenger seat, watching everyone and everything slide by the window. Victor remained quiet in the seat behind him until they arrived, thanking Mari as they unloaded. Makka sniffed around, looking for her friend, whining when she couldn’t find him.  Victor knelt down, his fingers sliding into the curls with familiar ease. “I know.” Yuuri hugged his sister, holding on much longer than the older sibling was comfortable, but she allowed it knowing it would be some time before they shared a hug once more. They turned finally and greeted Minako who waited for them, who would be joining Yuuri in Tokyo and making sure the Japanese skater didn’t do something stupid...like triples or quads.

 

The two skaters had stolen every spare moment they could from the summer, taking their vacation from the real world and all of its judgments.  Now they were riding the train together to Fukuoka and then the airport. Their flights were an hour apart, Victor heading back to Russia, Yuuri to Tokyo for press obligations and a photoshoot with one of his sponsors fitted around an ice show.

 

Yuuri missed Victor already, feeling the distance as their fingers stayed close, wanting to grab hold of one another but knowing this world was much less forgiving.  Victor offered him a sad smile reflecting those same emotions. Neither were ready to give this up. Neither were ready for the demands of life. But they also wanted to skate, to compete...and this was the price.  And neither would ask the other to give it up.

 

To fall in love in but a moment, to part in the next…

 

Yuuri could hear the song forming in his heart, could imagine Victor skating its notes on the ice.  But then he shook his head of such thoughts. I’ve been falling in love with you since I was twelve.  We can survive this.

 

The dog carrier frustrated Victor in its assembly until Yuuri had him focus on the lead.  “I’ll take care of this,” he murmured quietly, seeing Victor’s hands shake, taking the opportunity of passing the lead to brush their hands together.  Yuuri held his eyes, the moment extending, before focusing on the task at hand. Tightening the connections holding the sides together, he watched Victor out of the corner of his eye, long fingers smoothing through the poodle’s fur.

 

“Just a short while longer, solnyshko ,” he murmured, holding a steady hand on her shoulders as he guided her in.  The medications that helped her to sleep through the journey were starting to take effect.  “Rest now, lyubov .”  He lifted his blue eyes to meet brown as Yuuri secured the door.  Yuuri’s fingers slid between the grate and received licks before the dog settled.

 

“She...travels well?”

 

“The meds help.”

 

Yuuri tucked away that bit of information.  Makkachin was then turned over to the airport authorities to be loaded up properly.  Victor watched her being rolled away, his eyes following her until she disappeared from view.  “This is the hardest part, the separation.”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but think Victor spoke of more than Makkachin.  Yuuri slid a hand over his shoulder, giving it a squeeze. Victor rose to his feet in that touch, offering a sad smile.  They walked down to where Victor would depart. Yuuri waited by his side, the flight announcements and delays, boarding calls echoing in the background.

 

“Will you keep busy in Tokyo?” Victor asked softly, needing to hear his voice.

 

“I have several things to finish up...and there is the ice show.”

 

“Keep to doubles,” Victor teased gently.

 

Yuuri’s smile stretched weakly.  “Minako will strangle me if I don’t...and then promptly tell Coach.”

 

“That she would.  I’d be more afraid of Minako’s wrath.”

 

“With Coach, it’s disappointment.”  Yuuri picked at his sleeve. “I hate those looks of disappointment.  They eat at me.”

 

“I can see that.  Yakov yells but Lilia, she grows quiet.  The quieter she becomes, the worse the infraction.  I prefer her quick correction to her silence.”

 

“I can see that.  Victor…”

 

“Please, Yuuri,” he whispered.

 

“Vitya,” he offered softly, reaching out to quickly squeeze his hand.  They stood, the voices in the background announcing it was time to board.

 

“Fuck, why do I travel First Class?”

 

Yuuri smoothed out his coat, brushing off his shoulders before lifting his eyes to meet those clear blue ones.  Their foreheads touched, and Yuuri’s hand went to his cheek. “This is harder than I expected.”

 

“I know,” Victor whispered, turning but then resisting the urge to kiss Yuuri’s palm.  Their eyes held onto one another, speaking truths their lips dared not. “I must go.”

 

Yuuri nodded, swallowing, slowly letting go, backing up, his hand falling away.  “Call me.”

 

“I will.”

 

“Promise,” an edge of desperation filtered into that whispered demand.

 

“I promise,” Victor answered in earnest.  “I will always reach out to you. You should know that by now.”

 

Yuuri swallowed, nodding, his hands shaky as he hid them in his jacket.  “I know.”

 

Last call, and Victor reluctantly parted, approaching the attendant with his ticket.  Yuuri watched until he disappeared.

 

Across the airport, Minako waited, worried.  This was a delicate dance her young student was involved in and if he revealed too much at the wrong time, both could get hurt.  The world was harsh. She knew more than anyone. Yuuri, like her, could hide away in Hasetsu...but Victor...what would happen to him?

 





Yuuri landed in Tokyo and finally turned his phone on, receiving a barrage of notifications.  He felt his stomach knot up as he began scanning through the alerts. “Minako?”

 

She looked over his shoulder and saw the picture.  It was beautiful how it captured that moment, heart wrenching but beautiful.  And the photographer meant no harm, posting a stolen moment sending the fans into torment.  But the ballet teacher knew...the spell had been broken.

 

“You have to be proactive about this.  Start thinking about your statement. You will likely meet the press very shortly.”  She guided him through the crowd, firmly but allowing him to think.

 

We’re just friends…

 

No, that’s too weak.  I need something more...definitive.

 

Victor and I…

 

As he met the press beyond the tarmac, he shyly smiled, offering a small wave.  “Hello,” he murmured.

 

“Katsuki-senshu, what do you have to say with regard to the fan released photo of you and Victor at the airport?”

 

Yuuri tilted his head to one side and smiled, offering a shrug.  “Victor and I had become friends during my recovery. This is not uncommon knowledge.  I offered him the opportunity to join me on holiday with my parents as he expressed a need to get away.”

 

“The photo appeared to imply…”

 

“That we are close friends, reluctant to part.  We’ve shared quite a bit of time together, working on our choreography, providing criticism as we prepared for the upcoming season.  We are close friends and I look forward to competing to him in the coming season. Now if you will excuse me, I have a scheduled interview with Morooka-san.”  He moved through the crowd, his teacher in tow.

 

Finally outside in the fresh air, they waved down a car and Yuuri was followed by her into the back seat.  Minako gave the direction after their baggage was loaded. Turning towards her student, she studied him thoughtfully.  “Morooka will listen to your wishes and keep the interview focused on skating.”

 

Yuuri shook his head, looking out the window.  “It wouldn’t be wise. I need...to appear open and to pull suspicion off of him.”

 

“Are you prepared for that?” she asked quietly.

 

He sighed, turning back to his teacher.  “I have to be.”

 

“You’re so young,” she argued.

 

Yuuri laughed bitterly.  “I can hide behind that for only so long.  It’s time...for me to grow up.” Pulling out his phone, he studied the photo.  “It is a good picture of us, don’t you think?”

 

Minako nodded but she worried about the two of them, how this could easily be turned into a scandal on the European front.  She did not wish for her student to be trampled under the ensuing storm.




Yuuri sat across from from Morooka, the questions they agreed upon still running through his thoughts.  The reporter offered to remove any questions that did not tie directly to the coming season but Yuuri refused, stating that it is all tied to the coming season.

 

“So tell us, how is it that you are now such close friends with your idol?”

 

“You know, Morooka-san, Victor has been on my radar for a very long time.  I just didn’t realize that I was in his. But then he reached out to me, I was about to give up after my injury and he reached out to me.  I don’t know that I’d be coming back this season if it weren’t for his efforts. And somehow, through continuing encouragements, we became close friends.  So at the end of Worlds, I saw how the demands of attention and fame pulled at him. He was tired and I knew that exhaustion. I’ve felt that exhaustion to a smaller degree.  We both needed to recharge. So I invited him to join me in Hasetsu. My family wanted to thank him for his support towards me.”

 

“You and Victor-senshu collaborated.  How did this occur?”

 

Yuuri laughed warmly, his expression appearing unguarded.  “Well, you can’t keep a skater away from the ice. So we used that time to push each other to be better.  We skated together, worked out together, danced through and perfected our choreography together while getting to know one another.”

 

“There are many suggestions with regard to your relationship with Victor.  How would you describe it?”

 

“Close friends, colleagues, brothers.  I suppose, if you looked at the international competition in men’s figure skating, you’d see similar relationships throughout our ranks.  Emil and Michele, Victor and Chris, and even in women’s, Sara and Mila. We speak a language that is only truly understood by others in our craft.  So bonds are bound to occur.”

 

“Will Victor have a strong influence on your programs this year?”

 

 Yuuri laughed at this.  “Yes. When has he not? He’s always been a place where I’ve strove to reach.  The distance may have closed somewhat, physically at least as we became friends, but Victor is still the point where I reach towards, the drive behind my skating.  I just now have the opportunity to know him as a person as well as a competitor and an idol.” And the person is so much more.

 

“So, do you have a theme for the upcoming season?”

 

Yuuri thought about it and then smiled as he could state it in one word.  “Gravity.”  I will be forever drawn to you.  I hope my words save you. I never want to be part of your fear, part of your pain.




NOTES:

 

Sleeping at Last notes on Farout

Chapter Text

Ch. 25: Geminid Meteor Shower

 

Victor stretched out as he reached into the overhead compartment for his carryon.  The layover in China wasn’t long but he could walk around a bit and stretch his legs.  He turned his phone off airplane mode and waited for it to catch up to the world beyond as he made his way off of the confines of the plane.

 

The Russian skater was used to receiving the large number of notifications and as he sat in the first class lounge, he finally gave it his attention.  The first thing that greeted him was a photo circulating of him and Yuuri. He studied the image. It was a good photo taken of a candid moment before they rejoined the real world.  He thinned his lips even as he saved the photo. I should have known the real world has a way of intruding.

 

He began scrolling through text messages, his expression thoughtful and on that picture.  

 

Yakov/ I’m assuming you saw the photo.  Start working on a press statement.

 

Chris/ That photo held a number of hidden meanings.  Beautiful. Talk to me soon. And good luck with the press.

 

Yuuri/ Hi.  I’ve already addressed it but you will of course need to follow up.

 

And his Yuuri had even forwarded him to the links to his interview with their English translation.  Plugging in his earphones, he listened to the press, and then listened again, feeling himself relax and even smile with regard to Yuuri’s words, to the refuge Yuuri offered him.  Brothers.  Of course.   And Yuuri had expanded on those relationships, providing a number of connections to build on.  He could be hurt, the response could alienate him but he recalled Yuuri’s words it is safe to be gay with me .  Yuuri protected him to the extent of his yet unknown power. 

 

Do you know how strong you are?  How you shelter me?

 

Victor pulled up a document and began working out a press statement to go along with Yuuri’s interview.

 

I’m flattered by the picture captured by a fan.  Yuuri and I have become close friends over the past few months and, missing family, it was good to find a brother, indeed an entire family to welcome me in Japan.  I look forward to meeting him again on ice and to continuing our friendship with great affection.

 

He started to delete those last three words and then with a moment of fuckit , he sent it to Yakov for release.  The coach did not reply with a criticism, so he chose to ignore the fear tucked into the back of his head.  

 

It’s ridiculous that I need to hide this.  I love Yuuri. Of that I am sure of more than ever.  And although the words are left unsaid, I can see Yuuri feels strongly towards me.  Brothers.   He snorted then shook his head when others turned his direction.  Trust me, my dear, I feel things that would be highly frowned upon between brothers.

 

He heard the call demanding his return to his flight.  Before he boarded, he sent a message to Yuuri.

 

Victor/ You are amazing.  You know that, don’t you?

 

Yuuri/ I seem to be better at finding my courage when others are involved.

 

Victor/ You only SEE it when others are involved.  It has always been present. I’m leaving China. Talk to you when I arrive in Russia.

 

Yuuri/ I’m being prepared for a photoshoot.  Too much makeup.

 

{photo of Yuuri in makeup, the gold powder giving him a dewy appearance}

 

Beautiful .

 

Victor/ I can’t wait to see the ads.

 

Yuuri/ ;)

 




Victor arrived in St. Petersburg, worn and in much need of sleep.  He was thankful for his friends coming to take him home. With Makkachin and his baggage retrieved, Dmitry and Ivan tucked both dog and master into the back seat.

 

“I take it the visit went well,” Dmitry called back as they pulled into traffic.

 

Victor snorted.  “That picture. I’m keeping it but I definitely had to give it a reinterpretation.”

 

“Yuuri did a good job at that himself,” Ivan pointed out from the driver’s seat.  “Masterful.”

 

Victor could only agree.  Brothers .  The implied familial relationship warmed the older skater as he considered his Yuuri.  “Do you think he really sees us as brothers?” he asked after a moment.

 

Both Ivan and Dmitry laughed in response.  “The only people that will believe that are the ones that deny our existence,” Dmitry pointed out.  “That boy is smitten over you.”

 

Victor smiled, leaning back.  “And I, him.” Smoothing his hand over his dog’s fur, he already felt the pangs of separation.  

 

Back at his apartment, he saw that Katya had already shopped for him, leaving a crock pot full of stew and a note saying “Welcome back”.  He set Makka’s dish down and filled it properly, following up with water. He missed his apartment, his home. But really, he missed Yuuri, longing to see him in these spaces.

 

Could we even pull that off?   Sure, Dmitry and Ivan managed to keep people from assumptions.  They were best friends as kids. But could he and Yuuri? He doubted it.  The more time they spent together, the more open they became to one another.

 

He pulled out his phone and saw a reply to his text.

 

Yuuri/ Check your email.

 

Picking up his laptop, he went to the sofa and began waking up the electronics.  Soon he was connected and he opened up the message from Yuuri. Attached, he found the secret shots of Yuuri from the photoshoot, the Japanese skater demanding his promise to keep them secret.  Victor smiled as he studied the images of Yuuri flowing across the ice, recognizing some of the choreography they developed now frozen in time. Yuuri’s expression was serene and Victor could feel the peace offered to him in that moment.

 

He texted back as he turned on the shower, ready to wash off the smells of travel and tumble into bed.

 

Victor/ Beautiful!

 

Yuuri/ Thank you.  Now, sleep! You’ve got to be exhausted.

 

He was.  Setting his phone onto the counter, he stepped into the shower and felt the jets work their magic on his body.  He missed the quiet soaking in the onsen even as he surrendered to the heat and steam of his shower. He missed Yuuri shyly sitting by his side, thigh to thigh, an unspoken awareness filling the spaces between them.

 

Drying off, he picked up his phone and headed to bed.

 

Victor/ Goodnight!

 

Yuuri/ Sleep well.

 


Victor was almost asleep when his phone rang.  Looking at the identification, he groaned. Of course it was Chris.  He answered, “What do you want?”

 

Mon ami ,” Chris clucked disapprovingly.  “I merely wanted to check on my friend.”

 

Victor sighed.  He knew. Chris knew him better than anyone else, better than Yuuri even.  He knew Victor was in for a fall, soon. For now, he answered, “The monsters are still at bay.”

 

“I’m glad to hear that.  Tell me, did you both talk?”

 

Victor gave a half-hearted snort.  “A lot. We talked. We found comfortable silence.  I got to know his parents and sister. It was...amazing.  Chris...I love him.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Do you think he loves me?”

 

Chris’ answer came warm over the phone.  “Very much so.”

 

“I saved that picture.”

 

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Yuuri did the same.”

 

Victor could feel himself fading.  Finally, he murmured, “I need to sleep now.”

 

Bonne nuit ,” came the response and they disconnected.

 

As Victor fell asleep, he thought about Yuuri and his time in Japan.  It was nice for awhile not to have to worry about being himself. He knew by tomorrow, he’d have to slide the mask into place.  The world would demand that he hide the monster within. At least Yuuri seemed to accept it.

 

You haven’t truly seen the monster, though, have you?

 

He shuddered in his sleep, turning over, murmuring, “My Yuuri…”  A poodle, ever alert, climbed into bed next to him, licking his hand and nuzzling under his arm until he settled.  “I love you, Yuuri,” he mumbled as he shifted in his sleep, making room for Makka.

 


NOTES:


Podcast on Geminid Meteor Shower

Chapter Text


Ch. 26:  Joy

 

...the calm water in the middle of an anxious sea...

 

Yuuri stood exhausted next to the curb, his phone in hand as he texted back and forth with Victor.  He was waiting for his coach to pick him up. Normal life...returned.

 

He chuckled at that thought.  His life had never been normal.  But at least...for the moment...he could find calm.  He pulled up his calendar to see what he had scheduled for the week.  Tomorrow was a rest day but included a check-in with Dr. Bishop. Cara , he reminded himself.  The next day, he would go to be reevaluated.  Then hopefully he will be able to move up in his jumps.  He’d been doing the exercises his physical therapist assigned to him, an app on his phone keeping him on track.  Maybe. Hopefully.

 

He tucked his phone away as his coach drove up.  His eyes widened at the younger man in the seat next to his coach.  My new roommate .  He’d texted back and forth answering the boy’s questions but he didn’t expect to meet him yet.  He should have. He just...didn’t.

 

As the mini-van pulled up to the curb, Yuuri slid open the door before anyone could jump out and pushed his suitcase across, jumping in after.  “Hey coach,” he greeted.

 

“Yuuri!  It’s good to see you again.  I received good reports from Minako in your absence and am excited about your new programs.”

 

“Yeah, I didn’t finish the composition I was working on...well, it didn’t feel finished.  So we...Victor and I...we decided it was better to wait on it than to rush it. So after Sun , I thought Moon would be a good counterpart.”

 

The other passenger watched the interchange with sparkling eyes and finally, Yuuri turned to address him.  “Hi. You must be Phichit.”

 

“Yes!  How are you, Yuuri?”

 

Yuuri shrugged, a smile on his lips.  “Tired but otherwise good. It’s a good day.”

 

“I’ve already moved into my room but I need a few things.  Coach suggested I wait on you and we’d go and shop together.”

 

“Sure.  I need to get snacks…”  Catching his coach’s raised eyebrow, he amended, “Groceries...for good healthy balanced meals.”

 

Phichit giggled.  “Of course. Is there an Asian market around here?”

 

Several ...but I’ve got my favorites.  We’ll see what they have in the way of your favorites.  I’m sure we can find what you’re looking for.”

 

“Thanks!”



the clumsy start of adolescence,

the glue that mends our broken remnants




Yuuri’s eyes widened as he entered the apartment he now shared with the Thai boy.  Yuuri hadn’t really put anything up in the shared spaces. He had a blanket and a pillow he used when there was a chill or his anxiety was up.  Otherwise, it was the furnished items from the complex. Phichit had added in pictures - lots of pictures, a small shrine, more pillows, floor cushions, more throw blankets, a rug, and plants.  It was vivid. Color. But tasteful. Yuuri could appreciate it.

 

“I never thought about putting up a shrine.”

 

“Are you Buddhist?”

 

“Shinto with Buddhist leanings...my parents came from different backgrounds and I received both philosophies with no push to be one or the other.”

 

“My mother thought I needed something to remind me of where I came from.”

 

Yuuri traced a palm frond with his hand thoughtfully.  “Did they settle you in?”

 

“Yeah.  My entire family had to move me in.  I hope you don’t mind that they did…”  He motioned around the room before adding, “All this.”

 

The older skater shook his head.  “No...I just never bothered. I was a bit of a mess at first.  My anxiety was out the roof. And then I ran off my first roommate.  I just...shut off his room and worked on finding my feet.”

 

“Was it hard?”

 

“I...was getting there, leveling out, becoming comfortable.  I had a few friends. And then my knee happened.” Yuuri sighed, looking off in the distance.  “I was bitter. And then Victor reached out to me.”

 

“I read about that.  So you two are friends now?”

 

Yuuri blushed and nodded.  “Yeah, it seems so.”

 

Phichit hugged himself.  “That’s got to be cool...to meet someone you’ve looked up to for so long.  Is it weird?”

 

Yuuri chuckled nervously.  “Maybe at first...I wasn’t sure how it would go.  It felt...underserved. Then we just clicked.”

 

“I hope we click,” Phichit confessed.  He turned around and waved to the room.  “I worried about them doing all of this. Like maybe you didn’t like too much stimulation.  I read something about that with anxiety. But how do you stop your parents from taking over?”

 

Yuuri laughed.  “I’ll tell you when I figure that out.”  He walked over and studied some pictures of a younger Phichit.  “Besides, this is nice. Maybe I should put some things up.”

 

“You could add a poster of Victor, some pictures of you…”

 

Yuuri hummed, and slipped out the room.  Setting his suitcase in the corner. He heard Phichit leaning against his door facing.  “You can come in if you want.” He reached into his carryon and pulled out his laptop case.  Sliding out a folded shiney piece of paper, he began opening it up. “Victor sent this to me.  I’d like to frame it but it might be a thought.” The poster showed Victor in his latest ad, Armani Code, wearing a black suit, his smoldering gaze looking back at the viewer.  In the corner, he signed Love, V .

 

“Wow...hot!” Phichit expounded.  “So are you friends, or are you friends ?”

 

Yuuri smiled, a soft secret on his lips.  “Just friends. He’s Russian.”

 

“Yeah, but…”  Then the Thai teen stopped, putting things together.  “Oh...I see.”

 

Yuuri raised an eyebrow in his direction.  “Just friends,” he repeated.

 

Phichit nodded eagerly.  Turning back towards the photo, he suggested, “You might keep this private and pick something else.”  Turning around, he spotted one of the later skate posters. “This is from last season, wasn’t it? I loved that costume.”

 

Yuuri stepped forward, running his fingers along Victor’s form, his expression fond.  “This one will do.” He carefully unpinned it from the wall and followed Phichit into the shared spaces.  The oversized poster found a home in a prominent location between the two windows. “I don’t have any photos of me.  I mean, on my phone I have some, but nothing printed out.”

 

“We can pick something out together.  And maybe take a few selfies.”

 

Yuuri smirked.  “Selfies?”

 

Phichit nodded eagerly.  “We have to document this day, the first day in our apartment.”

 

Yuuri tilted his head to one side then nodded.  “Okay.”




it’s the faint outline of the divine

in the hiding place of my periphery.




Yuuri skated in the semidarkness of early morning at the rink.  His coach watched but didn’t break the skater’s concentration, letting him have the dim light while he traced out patterns in the ice.  Yuuri worked through some early anxieties before moving to the center of the ice and nodding to his coach. He started with Moon .

 

Yuuri began to weave a story of a child reaching towards a full moon, chasing after it, seeking the rabbit in its craters...but then the boy grows up and he no longer sees the rabbit, but the man.  He chases the man, then turning, he enticed the man to follow him. But he always returns to the moon and his mystery.

 

As he finished, he held his position for five full seconds before skating over to his coach.  “Thoughts?” he invited.

 

“I like it.  Good story, solid choreography.  We’ll work on the details, of course, but you did good work.”

 

“I have the companion piece ready as well.”

 

“Don’t overdo it.  We’ll look at it this afternoon.  But this has promise.”




the countless stars we’re sleeping under,

it’s the brightest sparks that we remember.




“Hello, my Yuuri…”  Victor’s murmured greeting vibrated through the screen.  Yuuri blushed, pulling his leg up to his chest. “Is that my shirt you are wearing?”

 

The Japanese skater hugged himself, obscuring the button up hanging loose over his t-shirt.  “Maybe? It was mixed into my things. First thing I grabbed.” It was a lie and Yuuri a poor liar.  He could feel those blue eyes appraising him.

 

“It looks good on you.  Did you get the ad I sent?”

 

Yuuri lifted the laptop and turned it so Victor could see it on his wall.  “I did. Thank you for sharing.”

 

“Well, you showed me yours…”  Victor accompanied those words with a wink and laughed warmly when he spotted Yuuri’s blush.

 

Yuuri reached for a pillow to hug while they talked.  “So, Phichit seems to be settling in okay.”

 

“Do you think he’s going to work out?”

 

“Ask me after I have a month of major anxiety.  Hopefully he won’t be emotionally scarred.”

 

“Yuuuriiii,” Victor chastised gently.  “You do not emotionally scar people with your anxiety.”

 

Yuuri shrugged.  “Maybe not...but that doesn’t mean I’m easy to live with.”

 

“I’m not either but Makka seems willing to stay.”

 

Yuuri smiled.  “Let me see her.”

 

Victor chuckled and called Makka to his side.  “Hey, Makka, do you see Yuuri?” The poodle sniffed the screen and then boofed.

 

“Hey, girl...I miss you, too.”  Yuuri’s expression was soft.

 

“So, what did your coach say about our work together?”

 

“He said it was a good start.  I can’t wait for competition season to start.”

 

“Me, too.  Will you room with me?”

 

Yuuri half shrugged, blushing as his eyes sparkled.  “We’ll see. I don’t know what competitions we have in common.”

 

“I claim you for any that we share!”

 

Yuuri laughed, a soft warm thing that seemed to reach across the distance.  “Okay, I’m yours.”

 

Then Victor frowned, as if something just occurred to him.  “What about Phichit?”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“I mean, if Phichit is there as well, wouldn’t you room with him?”

 

Yuuri blinked, surprised by those words and not liking the feeling in his chest.  “I-I don’t know.” He thought about what expectations he would hold. “I mean...I’m his mentor.  I have to look out for him.”

 

Victor realized the stress he put on Yuuri and waved it off.  “Don’t worry. We’ll figure it out. I mean, we already have Chris.”

 

Yuuri offered a shaky laugh.  “But Phichit’s sixteen.”

 

“Yeah?  Do you think we’ll be too much for him?”

 

Yuuri huffed.  “I...just don’t want to be a bad influence.  His parents have trusted him into my care.”

 

“So responsible, my Yuuri,” Victor teased.  Then he sighed, a soft smile on his lips. “Don’t worry.  We’ll help you look out for him.”

 

They continued to talk until Yuuri’s eyes grew heavy, Victor forcing him to go to bed.  “Sleep...I’m not going anywhere.”

 

when our eyes are closed, we still see embers,

a glimpse of light in a mine of gold

 




NOTES:

 

Blog post on Joy .

 

I chose joy because most of us view Phichit as that adorable bundle of happiness.  Then I looked at the lyrics and wanted to celebrate them in this chapter. Yuuri needs Phichit in his life as much as he needs Victor.  In this version, their arrival order is switched but that doesn’t mean one is less needed. Phichit is Yuuri’s balance, someone that grounds and pushes Yuuri.  He also keeps Yuuri from taking himself too seriously.

Chapter Text


Ch. 27: Neptune

 

Pitch black, pale blue,

It was a stained glass

Variation of the truth

And I felt empty handed.

 

Victor puzzled his forehead as he listened through Venus once more, the choreography dancing in his thoughts.  As he reached that one section, he pictured Yuuri working through the step sequence the Japanese man had suggested for that section.  The turn of the hip just so, his chin cocked just right. It had felt flirty when he performed it. It felt flirty now. He considered the other man as he thought about their upcoming season.  I want to dance for you this season.  Maybe we can’t say the words, but let my skating speak for me.

 

Once the lists came out, he felt disappointed that his wait to see Yuuri would be at the Final.  Yuuri had to make the final. He had to make the final.  They would start their run with Victor slotted for Skate America and Yuuri at Skate Canada.  That put Yuuri heading to Toronto as Victor was leaving Boston. Then Victor would go to France while Yuuri went to Japan.  At least he will be close to home for that one.  Maybe some of his family will be able to come.

 

Still, his heart panged.  He already messed his Yuuri and the distance seemed greater than ever.  He pulled out his phone and studied the image in the airport. It still made his heart beat rapidly and at one time, he might have thought that was panic but he knew.  He knew Yuuri held his heart. He knew his heart was safe in the other’s hands. Placing his hand over his chest, he squeezed it into a fist. It was a Yuuri mannerism, something he would do in his sleep while they are tangled together.

 

Victor huffed a smile at himself.  I love him!



You let me set sail

With cheap wood.

So I patched up

Every leak that I could,

'Til the blame grew too heavy.



The Russian turned the letter over in his hand, dread building in his gut.  His parents never reached out unless it was important. He didn’t want to be alone as he opened it.  Leading Makka back into the building, taking the elevator to his room with barely a wave to those he met along the way, Victor came into the sanctuary of his apartment.  He once told him that he loved the modern feel of it, how it felt as uncluttered as his life.

 

The truth was, he missed relationships.  He missed having pictures of family on his mantel.  He picked up his laptop and hoped Yuuri was home. Seated cross-legged on the sofa, he sent the Skype call through.  Yuuri answered it fairly quickly, and despite the lag, Victor could make out his face. The room was shadowed behind him.

 

“Did I wake you?”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “No...I was doing some homework.  Second week of classes and I’m trying to get a head start.”

 

“Maybe I should call later.”

 

Yuuri studied him for a moment, the rushed words, the vulnerability in his expression.  “No, you talk to me now. You’re more important...and I’m working ahead. So it's no big deal.”

 

He swallowed, pulling out the letter.  “My parents wrote me.” His hands shook as he waved the letter in front of Yuuri.  “I-I didn’t want to be alone when I opened it.”

 

“Of course.  I’m here for you, Vitya,” he answered softly, a comforting warmth in his voice.

 

“Thank you.”  He stared at the letter for a long time and Yuuri watched from where he sat in Detroit.  Finally, he began tearing open the letter, his hands shaking. He scanned the contents and lowered it, blinking tears.  “My father...he’s sick. They aren’t sure if he’ll fully recover or if it’s a ticking clock.”

 

“Is he seeking to reconcile?” Yuuri asked gently.

 

Victor laughed bitterly.  “No...he thinks this will motivate me to put aside my foolishness.”

 

They remained quiet for a moment before Yuuri murmured, “Oh.”  Neither knew what to say for the longest. Finally Yuuri asked, “How do you feel?”

 

That bitter laugh sounded through tears.  “Like shit. He could be dying and he’s more concerned about who I love than our relationship.  What the actual fuck kind of person does that?”

 

“I-I don’t know,” Yuuri stammered.  “I-I can’t imagine.”

 

He shrugged, sniffing back and forcing his smile.  “At least I know what real parents are like. Meeting your family and spending time with you this summer tells me what I want more than anything.  And it’s not this empty relationship.” He waved the letter as he finished off the last line. “He’s an ass.”

 

“He is,” Yuuri agreed.  “I wish...I could fix this.”

 

Victor huffed, a bitter smile on his lips.  “You and me both...but perhaps it’s good I severed ties with him.  With both of them.”

 

Yuuri hummed, not disagreeing.  

 

He wiped away his tears hastily.  “I need to let you get back to work.”

 

“Vitya…”  Yuuri looked back at him with worry in his eyes.

 

Victor shook his head.  “No, I’ll be fine. Really.  It’s just...he only hurt me a little.”

 

A sigh came through the connection.  “Are you seeing Abramovich soon?”

 

He blinked at Yuuri.  “Do you think I need to?”

 

“I don’t think this is fully resolved.  So...yeah, kinda.” Yuuri’s lips were thinned, his eyes expectant.

 

Victor nodded.  “I’ll see if he can fit me in tomorrow.  Thank you, Yuuri.”

 

“Of course,” he murmured.



Stitch by stitch I tear apart.

If brokenness is a form of art,

I must be a poster child prodigy.

Thread by thread I come apart.

If brokenness is a work of art,

Surely this must be my masterpiece.



“How have you been doing of late, Victor?” the old doctor asked.

 

The skater shrugged, his eyes on the fogged window, the last whispers of summer teasing them with a bloom of warmth.  “Better? I mean, I still panic but I seem...to be able to talk myself through from the other side. I don’t think it’s anxiety.  My Yuuri says anxiety keeps fixating and lying about things. But definitely stress.”

 

Abramovich no longer taped his sessions with Victor.  Once they both established they were coming from the same page, he pointedly turned off the recording device and relied on good old fashioned paper and pencil, something he can simply forget to write down certain things.  “We face very real threats here in this country.  Your Yuuri maybe safe in the U.S. but in Japan, there are some definite homophobic concerns as well.  These are reasons to be anxious.”

 

Victor faced him and shrugged.  “He says we’re just friends. He calls us brother.  And for some reason, it is our language for love. He says it’s safe to be gay with him.  We haven’t said the words I love you to one another but then again, we’ve said them in so many ways.  So really, of late...my main stress is separation.”

 

“How are you handling that?”

 

“I call him.  Send him silly gifts in the mail.  Walk Makka and think about one day.  One day we can be together.”

 

“Sometimes the hardest part across the distance is maintaining that closeness.”

 

“But we started across a distance, Doc,” he pointed out with a smirk.  He let his eyes drift up to the ceiling as he considered his next words.  “I think what helps me to stay sane more than anything is rejoining my friends, building those networks.  I had distanced myself from people right here due to my depression and fear. But they accepted me and embraced me and protect me...and I, them.”

 

“We have to look out for one another.  Do you have some safe straight friends?”

 

“Yes, of course.  Some of my friends are straight or bi in hetero relationships.  My coach knows and helps me to cover for any slip ups. It’s a dance.  I know this. I’ve been doing it for longer than I remember.”

 

“It sounds like things are going great.  So I have to ask...what’s brought you here?”

 

Victor reached into the breast pocket of his suit and pulled out a letter with a shaky hand.  “I...received this from my mother this morning. You know...we don’t talk. But I guess my father is really sick.”

 

The old doctor leaned forward, taking the folded piece of paper.  “Are they seeking a reconciliation?”

 

Victor swallowed, shaking his head.  “Not...really? My father...he wants to know if I’m ready to put aside my foolishness , as he calls it.  H-he says that he needs to make a decision about the will.”

 

Abramovich read through the leader then folded it carefully, handing it back to Victor.  The great thing about coming to his therapist about this is that Victor knew there would be no judgment.  “What do you want to do?”

 

He laughed, almost hysterically.  “I-I don’t know. If I say no, if I fight with him...if I defend myself...it’s just the same story.  If I lie...make peace between us...but should I do that? Just because he might die? What if he’s manipulating me?”

 

“And...what of Yuuri?”

 

Victor sniffed, sucking back a sob painfully.  He took the offered tissue by Abramovich with a muffled thank you .  Then looking up to meet the doctor’s determined gaze, he stated, “I won’t give him up.  I’ve never known anyone I’ve wanted to hold onto like this.”

 

“I cannot tell you what to do with this matter.  There isn’t a perfect solution. However, it sounds like you already know what to do.”

 

Victor nodded.  He would hide from the world to continue to skate as long as he could but when he could no longer hide, he’d leave.  He’d have a life with Yuuri. And he knew he’d be welcome, either in America or in Japan with Yuuri’s family.  



I'm only honest when it rains.

If I time it right, the thunder breaks

When I open my mouth.

I want to tell you but I don't know how.



Victor put the letter away into a box with other things dealing with his parents.  Locking the case, he slid it under his bed. The things he relished were his Yuuri, his dog, his friends, his skating.  His parents long since fell off of that list. Were they ever really on it?

 

He called Chris.  “I’m not going to go see them.”

 

“Are you sure?  I hate to see you with regrets,” the Swiss man warned.

 

Victor studied the ceiling, a small bug creeping along a crack in the spackle.  I need to get someone in to repair the cracks, he thought distractedly.  “It would be the same thing.  I’d be a fool to think otherwise.  It’s not even thinly veiled in the letter.  I think...I just need to accept they will never be a part of my life...and they need to accept that I'm not a part of theirs.”

 

“Have you talked to Yuuri about it?”

 

He had.  He talked to Yuuri first.  Yuuri supported him knowing how much his parents hurt him. “Yes...we talked while I opened it.  I knew...it wasn’t a good idea to do it alone.”

 

“I agree.  Well, you know Grandmere will always welcome you here.”

 

“And I have Yuuri’s family, too,” he added.

 

“See...not so alone anymore.”

 

One letter brought so many people into his lonely life...and another...he nodded, he wasn’t going to think about it.  “Thank you, Chris...thanks for being there when I wasn’t ready to let anyone else in.”

 

“Of course, darling.  Anytime.”



I'm only honest when it rains,

An open book with a torn out page,

And my ink's run out.

I want to love you but I don't know how.





His phone rang as he came off the ice and he answered to a sudden squeal.  He laughed. “Slow down, my Yuuri.”

 

“I can’t believe you did this.  And don’t tell me you didn’t have something to do with this.”  Yuuri then switched it to a facetime call and Victor smiled as he watched the little poodle bouncing up in his lap to give puppy licks.

 

“I maybe put a bug in your parents’ ear,” he admitted.  And followed up to make sure they were able to accomplish it, his offer still open to take care of the expenses. 

 

“I-I wouldn’t have...I can’t believe...I told you it was impossible.”

 

Victor shrugged.  “The more I know you, my Yuuri, the more that word doesn’t make sense.  With you...I will figure out how to make everything possible.”

 

Those brown eyes sparkled back at him.  “Thank you.”

 

“Of course...and if you need any help, you know you can call me.”

 

“Always.”  A soft blush teased Yuuri’s cheeks and soon he was giggling as the poodle snuffled into his neck.  “I’ve got to go. I need to get his things...but this means so much to me.”

 

“I know.  Settle him in.”

 

Something warm filled him, replacing the chill of that letter.  I love you...and they can’t take that away from me.




NOTE:


Wow, Neptune captures Victor’s relationship with his father so well.  Victor, who feels guilty, who wants to love his father. And maybe Andrei feels the same but he is blinded by his prejudice and homophobia, needing to try and make Victor fit into his definition of normal.  It boils down to father and son who remain unreconciled.

 

I pulled the lyrics from here .  Song notes are here , inspired by the film Gravity for one.

 

As we stepped into the last scene, you feel the tone switch, the mood switch.  I started to put it in the next chapter but I wanted Victor to have this positive note to leave on.

 

Chapter Text


Ch. 28:   Turning Page

 

Though we’re tethered to the story we must tell

When I saw you, well I knew we’d tell it well

 

Yuuri looked through the box his parents sent with Vicchan’s favorite toys and other familiar things.  Chew toys, a scrap of rope, the blanket he would drag around that at one time probably smelled like Yuuri.  He added a few more items to his list.

 

His friends banded together and presented him with a PetPaloosa gift certificate.  Yuuri wasn’t sure that Victor wasn’t a part of that but he was coming to accept grand gestures from the Russian skater.  He also suspected his eager roommate organizing the others together for their contributions.

 

With a list in hand, he called to his roommate.  “Want to go with me to the pet Walmart?”

 

“Do they have hamster things?”

 

Yuuri snorted.  “I’m sure they do.  I want Vicchan to pick out his new bed and figure out his food...I hate switching brands.  What if he doesn’t like it? What if it makes him sick? Oh, god...being with me hurts Vicchan!”  He took a panicked breath.  

 

Phichit blinked at Yuuri’s dramatic flip in mood.  “Oh, wow...Okay, Yuuri...you need to back up. Do you see this rolly polly poodle?”

 

Yuuri nodded.

 

“He has been the picture of happiness since he’s arrived.  Sure there will be adjustments but dogs are more resilient than we sometimes give them credit for.”  He watched Yuuri take a deep breath and nod.  Crisis averted .  “Now...about pet Walmart.  Let’s go.”






Two hours later, Yuuri was browsing through the dog food selection.  Vicchan sat on his oversized bed in the buggy, panting happily. Phichit came around the corner and asked, “Does he need a blanket?”

 

Yuuri chuckled.  “No, he’ll just steel mine.”

 

As if he understood, Vicchan barked, rolling over and wagging his tail.  “He’s so wiggly,” Phichit giggled. Soon they were checking out with two carts full of pet supplies.  Yuuri had the things to settle his dog in at his apartment and Phichit had the beginnings of a hamster habitat.

 

“Do you think Alfred will be happy?” The boy fussed with his choices and Yuuri watched over him with a smile.

 

“I think all of your hamsters will be happy.  Isn’t Alfred number five?”

 

“Four but a fifth hamster is under consideration.”

 

Yuuri chuckled and paid for his purchases.  Pushing the cart out to the car, he loaded it up and waited for his roommate.  “We’ll take a nice long walk when we get home.”

 




Another video of Vicchan on Instagram, rolling over, his whole body wriggling while Yuuri rubbed his tummy.  Victor liked it almost as soon as it went up followed by a number of other likes. Yuuri didn’t think too hard on those, just the one.  Thank you , he whispered in his heart.  He hadn’t felt this happy, this content since he’d arrived in Detroit and it was all due to Victor and his interference.

 

He smiled as he leaned against the wall in the living room, still seated on the floor, the poodle crawling up in his lap, making a circle, before settling down...except for his tail.  That tail kept twitching in excitement and Yuuri couldn’t help the happy chuckle that bubbled out of him.

 

His phone vibrated and he smiled as a picture came through text of Victor and Makka.  He sent one of his own.

 

Vitya/ That’s a great smile.

 

Yuuri/ Thanks.  You gave it to me.  I didn’t know Vicchan being here would make such a big difference.

 

Vitya/ We need someone close to us that loves us unconditionally.

 

Yuuri closed his eyes.  Is that what this is?  What we have between us?  Unconditional love? Is there even a word for that?

 

As he sat there, he recalled his philosophy class and it came to him while Vicchan licked all over his hand before nuzzling under the palm asking for pets.  Yuuri scratched between his ears before smoothing his hand over the little poodles curls.

 

Yuuri/ Agape

 

He pushed up off the floor, carrying Vicchan back to his room.  He felt something loose inside his chest and he needed the darkness, the privacy of his own space.  Closing the door, he crawled into his bed and curled up. Vicchan seemed to understand and lay nearby watching over him.  He felt so overwhelmed by his emotions. It was so much.

 

I love you.

 

I want to be able to tell you that but I’m afraid.

 

What if someone else hears us?

 

What if they read those words and hurt you with them.

 

But...I love you…

 

His phone rang and he realized he was quiet too long.  He sniffed. When did the tears start? “Hello?”

 

“I was worried about you.”

 

Yuuri sniffed back once more, wiping his eyes.  “Sorry. I just…” His words faded, unable to put together what he needed to say.

 

Victor hummed softly on the other end.  “It’s okay. I’m glad you have someone to sit with you when you’re like this.”

 

“I was fine...and then I wasn’t.”

 

“That’s okay.  You don’t have to be fine all the time.  Let me sit with you and keep you company.”

 

They lapsed into silence but Yuuri could imagine his head in Victor’s lap, Victor’s hand in his hair.  Another sniff and he asked, “I need to hear your voice.”

 

Victor hesitated and then, instead of speaking, he sang quietly into the phone.  Yuuri closed his eyes imagining Victor right there. You’re my anchor, you keep me grounded...you know when I come apart.  I don’t know what to do with that. But that’s okay. You don’t seem to be in a rush.

 




It was chaos getting ready in the morning.  He’d stayed up too late talking to Victor and working on a paper, falling asleep without setting his alarm.  He’d not gathered his gear for the day. In the midst of putting everything together, he knocked off the tray that held all of his meds, several of the covers popping open.  Vicchan was bouncing all around and Yuuri cursed under his breath as he gathered the meds up quickly before the dog got to them. He hated that some of his meds looked alike except for the identifying codes.  He reorganized them, closing the lids. Time to head to class. Waving to Phichit, he promised to see him at practice.

 


****troubling scenes start here****


Yuuri skated, losing himself in his program for Moon .  He wanted to personify his love in both of his programs, skating a language they were both fluent in speaking.  He could see Phichit and a few others videoing his performance. It was still rough, unpolished so early in the season.

 

I feel like I’m being pulled to you by the invisible threads of gravity, like we are locked together in a dance throughout the universe, throughout eternity.  When I jump, you hold the invisible string that holds me to you. When I spin, I feel you draw closer to me, watching me, making sure I’m okay. I want to be that for you.  I want to make you feel protected. Safe. Is that how I show my love? Is that...enough? Am I...enough?

 

Yuuri could feel himself coming to a standstill, the question in his thoughts.  He felt Celestino’s eyes on him, could imagine them narrowing. He knew Phichit was finishing off his video, looking towards coach for guidance.  And then Phichit was waved onto the ice. Had Coach been talking to him? He felt locked in a tunnel.

 

Then Phichit was in front of him, wide gray eyes studying him.  “Yuuri?” He stared, heard his name repeated over and over. “I’m going to take your hand.”  Yuuri’s eyes shifted down, watching those small hands curl around his, the gentle tug as he was pulled across the ice and towards the entrance.  It all felt like slow motion. Celestino was there. He could hear him talking but none of it was registering. And then he was in the rink doctor’s hand and he was calling Cara.

 




Dr. Bishop looked over his vitals and studied his response.  She didn’t like what she was seeing. Yuuri blinked at her but everything felt so slow.  “Yuuri, did you take your doses on time this week? Blink once for yes, twice for no.”


One blink.

 

Two.

 

“Did you take more than prescribed?”  She waited. “Yuuri, this is important.  I need to know if you’ve had too much.”

 

One blink.

 

The ride to the hospital was rushed and then Yuuri was given a cup with a black solution.  It tasted as good as it looked. He drank it all but he was moving so slow.

 

He stared up at the ceiling, heard the word overdose .  He found him settled into a room.  He was in the psychiatric ward. He was looking at a week.  No cell phones allowed, just a bloody payphone. It’s not like he had any numbers memorized.

 

What must my parents be thinking?

 

What about Vitya?

 

Yuuri stared listlessly at the wall.  In a few hours, he'd have to get up and talk to a psychiatrist.  He hoped it would be Dr. Bishop.  He knew she had rounds at the hospital.


 

Yuuri Katsuki Hospitalized for Possible Overdose.

 

His coach claims accidental overdose, a confusion with his medications.  He’s currently under evaluation by professionals ...  

 




Phichit sat in the waiting room waiting for his coach to come out with his roommate.  It was already over social media. Yuuri came through the door, reaching for his phone.  The skater skipped past the notifications and went straight to a call.

 

“Yuuri?”

 

“Vitya, I’m sorry.  I couldn’t call. I’m okay…”




With a whisper we will tame the vicious seas

Like a feather bringing kingdoms to their knees







NOTE:

 

Notes and lyrics for Turning Page .

 

Can you overdose on antidepressants

Chapter Text


Ch. 29:  Six

 

fear won’t go away

but i can keep it at bay

 

Victor was already frantic at the lack of communication when he saw the headlines.  He immediately called his coach. “Can you find out what happened?”

 

Yakov took pity on his student and made the call to Celestino.  He then called Victor into his office to talk to him. “It appears that there was a mixup in his medication and he received too much of one of his prescriptions.  Not fatal but they have to hospitalize him and make sure he’s not a danger to himself.”

 

“He’s not,” Victor argued, knowing Yuuri took his struggles face on and never talked about suicide.

 

Yakov held his hand up to halt his thoughts.  “It’s standard procedure but Yuuri’s doctor is going to take advantage of this timeout to make some medication adjustments.”

 

Victor considered those words and nodded in agreement.  “He’s been overwhelmed quite a bit lately. Having his dog has helped like Makka helps me but I think the pressure of going back into the game is building up in him.”

 

The old coach grunted with understanding.  “That makes sense. You went through something similar after your injury.  So while he’s there, he can’t really call you. His coach said it will be around a week.”

 

Victor sighed but appreciated the information.  “Thanks, Coach.”

 

“Of course.  I understand that you see this boy more like...family?”  Yakov knew not to go into more detail. Even in the privacy of his office, someone could overhear.

 

Victor blushed and nodded, noticing the careful wording.  “He’s very important to me.”

 





Victor heard his phone, a ringtone specific to Yuuri and created from Venus .  He answered it swiftly.  “Yuuri?”

 

“Vitya, I’m sorry.  I couldn’t call. I’m okay…”

 

Victor breathed a sigh as if he’d been holding his breath for a week.  “Yuuri...I’m so glad you’re okay. I had Yakov call your coach, I hope that’s okay.”

 

Yuuri continued to fret but seemed to not notice his worry about overstepping.  Or maybe he just waved it off and Victor just couldn’t see him. “I kept thinking about how I scared everyone.   Coach says my mother is coming here and it’s too late to stop her.” He groaned. “My mother has never come here, never even left Japan.  She has a passport. In case of emergency. This isn’t an emergency. I’m fine. And she’s not going to be there and they’ll lose business…”

 

Victor interrupted gently.  “Let her...she just needs to be sure you’re alright.”  Victor knew he envied her ability to go to him, wanting to do the same.  Yakov had confiscated his passport to keep him from doing anything foolish .  “Now breathe.  Tell me what’s happened in the last week.”

 

Victor could hear him taking measured breaths before he continued.  “Dr. Bishop changed my mix of meds and now all of my pills look distinctly different.  So far I feel better, too. My head seems to be crowding in less.”

 

“My doctor adjusts my meds periodically, as well.  It’s good. As we change, we respond differently to them.”

 

“I never really thought about it but I guess all of this is new.  I’ve been pulled off flexeril, too. Which is fine. I’d rather not grow dependent on painkillers.”

 

“They are less effective when you do.  Are you home yet?”

 

“In the car headed that way.  Phichit keeps giving me looks.”

 

“Call me later when you get settled.  I know you want to see Vicchan.”

 

“Yes!  And thank you.  I know I’ve been a mess these last few weeks.”

 

“I’m always here for you, Yuuri.”







Victor skated his worries, his heart shaken at almost losing the one he loved.  Part of him blamed himself.  If I hadn’t kept him up all night, if I hadn’t talked him into anti-anxiety meds, if I hadn’t pushed for Vicchan to be sent…

 

He knew the lie in those thoughts but he worried and the one he talked those worries over with was out of reach at the moment.  They barely talked, Yuuri’s mother filling his spaces and his time. And Victor was fine with it. He was glad Yuuri had good family.

 

At least he’s home.

 

His coach called him off the ice.  “Abramovich has an opening. You should go.”

 

“Yes, Coach.”  Victor stepped off the ice and snapped on his hard guards.  His coach had talked him out of taking the next plane after learning what had happened and later after Yuuri left the hospital.  And Yuuri echoed that sentiment on the phone.

 

With a long-suffering sigh, he said, “I already have my mother coming here...and probably Minako.  Mom doesn’t travel by herself. I’m going to be fine. It was an accidental overdose.  I’m not in crisis.  I’m just...stupid.”

 

“You are not stupid,” Victor argued.

 

“Well, it wasn’t my finest moment.  Please...just skate for me. And don’t worry.  Okay?”

 

Victor finally agreed with a reluctant “okay”.  But his coach felt like he needed to talk it out and now he stood outside Dr. Abramovich’s door.  With a sharp knock, he was admitted.

 

“Good afternoon, Victor.  Come and take a seat.”

 

The Russian skater turned and secured the door before he found a seat on the leather club chair facing the aged doctor.  “How are you?’

 

The doctor huffed.  “I’m supposed to ask you that...but I do well enough.  How about you?”

 

“I’ve been worried about my friend.  And...I sort of feel responsible for his situation.  I mean...I put everything in motion, the prescriptions, the dog, the late night call…”

 

“We cannot take responsibility for all of the ills of the world,” the old doctor responded.  He sighed deeply as he studied Victor a moment. “What does your friend say?”

 

Victor shrugged.  “He hasn’t really put it together.  He says he was stupid and it was just a stupid mistake.  But he’s not stupid, he’s brilliant, and lovely, and all that is good in the world.”  Victor blinked and drew in a shaky breath. “I love him. I almost lost him and never told him that I love him.”

 

Dr. Abramovich pursed his lips.  “You’ve had to face the possibility of loss quite a bit of late.”

 

Victor’s eyes sharpened.  “Don’t lump my Yuuri in with him .  My Yuuri looks out for me.”

 

“And you him?”

 

Victor shrugged.  “I was trying but then...he had an accidental overdose.”

 

“And how is that your fault?”

 

“I arranged for his dog to be sent to him.”

 

“How did that make him feel?”

 

Victor smiled involuntarily.  “He’s been happier than I’ve seen him in months...except when we stayed in Hasetsu.  That’s where he’s from. But...but the dog caused Yuuri to knock over his meds which caused the mixup.”

 

“Is your Yuuri normally so clumsy?”

 

A smile tugged at his lips momentarily.  “Yuuri is typically the picture of grace.  He’s trained in ballet since he was quite small.  But...we were up late talking. I kept him up way too late.”

 

“Was there something bothering you?”

 

“Well, no...he was feeling anxious.  I was keeping him company.”


“It sounds like you were taking care of him.”


Victor shrugged.  “Maybe?”

 

“Sometimes things happen through nobody’s fault.  Including this. Now your Yuuri...he is okay?”

 

“Yes, I finally talked to him and he told me what happened.”

 

Two of my meds look very similar to one another and in my haste, I didn’t distinguish them as I should have.  I should have taken my meds straight from the bottles and sorted out the mess later with a clearer head. I knew immediately what was going on when I started to shut down.  I felt like such an idiot but I couldn’t even clearly communicate what happened until I was at the hospital. And that black charcoal stuff...nasty. I never want to do that again.

 

Victor didn’t either, realizing how close he was to losing the man he loved.  “Do you think I’m overreacting?”

 

“I think your response is quite normal, although some of your assumptions are false and guided by your emotions.  When we panic, our logic brain gets overridden by our emotion brain. It sounds like your Yuuri is in very good hands.  So let’s get you there as well.”

 




Victor was sitting in his living room staring straight ahead, his hands sliding into Makka’s fur when a set of various knocks came at his door letting Victor know that more than one person was out in the hall.  He opened it and couldn’t help but smile as his friends pushed in. Surrounded by Ivan, Dmitry, Katya, and Pyotr, he closed the door and they scattered around the living room.

 

None of them were shy about digging into Victor’s business.  “So, is he okay?” Katya asked.

 

Victor nodded.  “He actually seems more put together at this point than me.  Of course, his mother is there and that has its own problems...but it’s nice that she’s there.”

 

“So, have you told him?  You know...where you stand?” Dmitry asked.

 

Victor shook his head.  “I’m not going to confess my love for him over the phone and right after he is released from the hospital.  No...I’m going to wait. There will be a right moment.”

 

“Unless Yuuri beats you to it,” Ivan pointed out.  “He did text us and ask us to check on you.”

 

“He did?”

 

The others nodded and Victor shook his head, a smile on his lips.  It certainly felt like love. “Thank you for coming over. I guess...we might as well make dinner.”  Soon the kitchen was full of the rattle of pans and Katya directing the chaos. Victor stole a moment to text Yuuri.

 

Vitya/ (picture of chaos in the kitchen)

 

Vitya/ I hear this is your doing.

 

Yuuri/ I have my mother...figured you needed your family.

 

Yuuri/ I hate that I worried you.

 

Vitya/ It’s because I love you.   He stared at those words before backspacing over them.

 

Vitya/ Like you said...we’re family.

 

Yuuri/ (picture of Yuuri holding Vicchan, his mother looking over his shoulder to wave hi)

 

Yuuri/ Mom says hi and that she’s glad you have people with you.  She says she knows how upset you must be.

 

Vitya/ I’m much better now.  Thank you.

 

no, i choose to believe

that i was made to become

a sanctuary.

 


 

NOTES:

 

All things on Six .  I chose six for this chapter because Victor is torn by his fear and his need to protect Yuuri.  He wants to be as much Yuuri’s sanctuary as Yuuri wants to be his. And yes, he wants to say the L word.  He has come so close so many times.

 

And here is more on the Enneagram type six .

Chapter Text


Ch. 30:  Lullaby

 

Goodnight, goodnight

It's time now to sleep

The moon's watching over

You and your dreams

 

Yuuri hugged himself nervously then shook out his hands.  He was waiting to receive his mother at the airport. Celestino wasn’t far away on his phone and taking care of coaching business as best he could.  Yuuri hated that he was inconveniencing everyone but with the way he was shaking, he didn’t feel comfortable driving just yet.

 

As expected, his mother didn’t travel alone, Minako right by her side.  He rolled his eyes just before walking forward to greet them. “Okaasan!  Minako-sensei! How was your trip?”

 

“We’re fine, Yuu-chan,” his mother greeted, her hands going over his face and arms to make sure he was okay.  Finally satisfied, she nodded sharply. “Let’s go to your apartment.”

 

Yuuri guided his mother to Celestino’s car and put her in the front seat, climbing in the back next to Minako.  “Well, how are you doing, kiddo?”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile at the easy manner of his teacher.  “I’ve been better, but you know, a week’s vacation does a world of good.”

 

She snorted.  “A week’s vacation.”

 

Yuuri shrugged and then wrinkled his nose as he asked, “How bad is it?  I’ve been avoiding social media.”

 

“There were some questions but we asked them to respect your privacy.  Some did, some didn’t. I think most believe the truth, that it was an accident.”

 

“Don’t worry, Yuu-chan,” his mother called back.  “We’ll get you all organized so it won’t happen again.”

 

“You don’t have to do that, Okaasan.  I’m not Obasan.” Yuuri remembered his mother and sister going in and sorting out his grandmother’s meds when she started to get confused in her old age.  He knew what he needed to take. It wasn’t confusion.

 

“Psht,” his mother huffed.  “You don’t have to be an old lady to make those kinds of mistakes.  Don’t worry, we’re going to get you all organized.”

 

Yuuri turned wide eyes towards an amused Minako and mouthed the word “help”.  Minako simply smirked.




Arriving at the apartment, Yuuri’s coach helped him carry the ladies’ luggage up the stairs.  Phichit had the door open and an excited Vicchan was greeting them both like long lost friends.

 

“Oh, you silly dog.  I just saw you a few months ago,” Hiroko fussed, as she greeted the poodle with pets.  Standing up, she greeted Yuuri’s roommate. “You must be Phichit. I’m Hiroko, Yuuri’s mother and this is Minako, my closest friend and Yuuri’s ballet teacher.  I hope these recent events haven’t scared you away.”

 

“I mean, I was scared while we were waiting in the hospital to find out what was going to happen but we’re friends.  So that means we stick together through thick and thin.”

 

She smiled warmly at that.  “I’m glad to hear that. Now, where are we staying?”

 

“I made my room ready for the two of you,” Yuuri offered coming inside with her luggage.  “We laid out a futon and then there is a bed.”

 

“Where will you sleep?” his mother asked with a frown.

 

Yuuri rubbed the back of his neck and motioned into the living room.  “I thought the sofa?”

 

They started to protest but then Yuuri wheeled the suitcase down the hall to his room.  Phichit grabbed the other and thanked their coach for the others before following Yuuri.  They could hear the women in the background also thanking Celestino. Putting the suitcases by the wall, Yuuri went to retrieve his clothes for the duration of the stay.  Mainly workout clothes, a few things for class. He carried the basket into the living room and put it in the corner.

 

He nodded and bowed to his coach once more as the man was preparing to leave.  “Thank you, Coach.”

 

“Of course.  I’ve been talking to Phichit and if you need a few more days…”

 

“No, I need to get back on the ice.  My next competition is coming up. I’ll be there.”

 

“Very well.  I’ll see you tomorrow.”

 

Goodnight, goodnight

My sweet little one

Tomorrow your eyes

They'll light up the sun



If Yuuri thought his mother would rest the first day, he was mistaken.  She soon had the cabinets emptied and was in the process of reorganizing the entire kitchen.  “Should we help?” Phichit asked in a whisper, leaning close to his roommate.

 

Yuuri shook his head, regarding his mother with care.  “I don’t think it’s safe. Let’s let her do what she will.”

 

Minako had them both on the floor stretching even as she asked Yuuri where to get a drink.

 

“If you want the cheap college grade stuff, there is a bar just off campus.  Or there are some nicer clubs in town. I can’t drink because of my meds and I’m underage but I’m sure Coach wouldn’t mind taking you out.”

 

She sent her sharp eyes his direction.  “I don’t need you matchmaking in my business.”

 

“Of course not,” Yuuri replied, a cheeky smile on his lips.

 

But goodnight, goodnight

Sweet dreams for now

Drift off to sleep

On your pillow of clouds

 

That evening, Yuuri breathed in the scent of his mother’s cooking.  He’d talked her out of katsudon. “I can’t afford the calories, Okaasan.  I’ve had too many idle days.”

 

“Did they not let you do anything in this hospital?” Minako asked, her brow furrowed in concern.

 

Yuuri sighed, but talking about it would put his mother at ease.  “I did find a place to stretch and dance, and even managed to work out under supervision.  It was awkward but I did it anyway. I hated everyone suspecting my movements.”

 

“Of course you did,” his mother cooed, her hand on his cheek.  He blushed but the child in him instinctively turned into her touch.  This isn’t so bad.

 

“So what now?” Minako asked, as she settled down with her bowl.

 

“I skate,” he answered, a determined set to his mouth.  “I refuse to lose ground. It was a setback at most.”

 

“And your young man?” Hiroko asked.

 

Yuuri glanced sharply at Phichit.  “He’s not my young man, Okaasan. He’s a friend.  Just a friend.”

 

“This is why you have a sexy picture of him hanging on the wall in your room?” Minako asked, studying her nails.

 

Phichit snorted.  Yuuri turned red. “Oh my god!”  I take it back!  This is bad. This is so bad!  “I’m a fan!  I have all kinds of things!”

 

“I’ve seen some of those things, Yuu-chan,” his mother stated flatly.  “That pillowcase was rather shocking.”

 

Kill me now.   “Umm...it was a gift.  A prank gift from Yuuko,” he stuttered to cover, although his face was still quite red.  Focusing on his bowl, he tried to shut them out.

 

 Hiroko shrugged as if it was inconsequential.  “That’s when we knew you were...gay.”

 

Yuuri sat his chopsticks down, burying his face into his arms.  “It’s not exactly that.”

 

“You like a boy.”

 

“Well, yeah.”

 

“Isn’t that what being gay means?”

 

“It’s just that...I like one boy.  Just the one. I’ve not liked anyone else, Okaasan.”

 

“Okay?  I like your father and just your father.  This is how life long relationships build, Yuuri.”

 

The skater looked over at Phichit to beg for help but the Thai skater was buried into a video game.  He also knew his roommate heard every word. “I can’t...Victor’s from Russia.”

 

She clicked her tongue, waving away that concern as if it were nothing.  “That’s just geography.”

 

“It’s not just geography, Okaasan.  It’s politics. And homophobia. They can take everything away from him.  So...with us...it has to be just friends.”

 

She studied her son sadly, her hand going to run down his back in a comforting motion.  “You say this...and say this if you must. But your heart knows otherwise. It will be fine.  He understands.” She then went to clean up.

 

“I can do that, Okaasan.  You must be tired. Go, shower, rest.  Phichit and I will clean up.”

 

With a sigh, she dried off her hands, leaning in to kiss his cheek.  Patting that cheek, she assured him, “I won’t tell anyone. I just want you to know that home is a safe place.”  She then bade both boys goodnight, waving Minako to follow her.

 

Phichit put his game on pause and got up to join him.  “So...before you start panicking, it’s not like I didn’t already know.”

 

“I didn’t exactly confirm it,” Yuuri argued, his hands running up and down his arms, nails digging in and leaving marks.

 

Phichit pulled his arms away, smoothing down their lenghs and squeezed his hands.  “I am pretty sharp, especially when it comes to reading people. I would have figured it out.  But I also know that we can’t talk about this in public.”

 

Yuuri laughed, the edge of hysteria in his voice.  “I haven’t even told him.”

 

Phichit shrugged.  “He’s probably figured it out.  The rest is just formality. Now why don’t you wash and I dry.”

 





Yuuri/ I’m dying here.

 

Vitya/ But you have your mom.  That’s got to be great.

 

Yuuri/ Yeah, it kinda is.  She made shogayaki .

 

Vitya/ Not katsudon?

 

Yuuri/ I mean, she wanted to...but I’ve been locked away from the ice.

 

Vitya/ That has to be its own kind of Hell.

 

Yuuri/ It has!

 




Yuuri couldn’t help but smirk as Minako went out with Celestino.  His mother shook a towel at him. “Let her have this.”

 

“I want her to have this,” Yuuri corrected her.  “I want her to be happy.”

 

“So do I...it’s been alone too long.”  His mother sighed, taking the dusting cloth back to task as she began dusting the shelves.  “You boys need to tend to matters of the home.”

 

Yuuri sighed, following behind her.  “We do clean but maybe not as thoroughly as a mom.”

 

She snorted at that, tossing him another dusting cloth.  “A clean home removes one more stress in your life. And I know you know how to do this quickly and thoroughly.”

 

“In my defense, I was in a hospital and Phichit is sixteen.”

 

She considered that before nodding in acceptance of his excuse.  He could hear the echo of this time in her thoughts.  “Was it terrible? That place?”

 

He shrugged.  “I thought it might be but really, it was just confining.  We had routine, and they made us do a weird craft. I made a bracelet.  Braided leather. I don’t really know what to do with it. It’s not like I want to hold onto a memory of the place.”  He stopped, noticing his mother had grown still. “Sorry...I don’t want to talk about the therapy. It is personal.”

 

“That’s fine, Yuu-chan.  You can share what you feel most comfortable sharing.  You hear such awful things about those places. They didn’t...electrocute you, did they?”

 

Yuuri’s eyes widened at those words, realizing the kinds of fears his mother was harboring.  “Oh, Okaasan, it wasn’t like that. Those kinds of places are for people who have suffered great trauma.  No...I...no. It was talking, mostly. And they checked my vitals. Monitored my food. Watched me to make sure I wasn’t covering any self-destructive behaviors.  I’m not. Beyond, you know, the things the anxiety makes me do like chewing my nails and scratching my arms.”

 

“And biting your lip,” his mother added quietly as he fell silent.  “We’ll get you some lip balm before we go to make sure you have what you need.”

 

“Mom, I can do that.  I really can take care of myself.”

 

“Well, let me see what they have you taking.”

 

Yuuri sighed, going to get the box that held his meds.  He knew she wanted a thorough explanation and went through each one telling her what they did, the side effects, contraindications. 

 

“Why did you put it in one of those pill boxes?” she asked, seeing that he had it sorted out and organized.

 

He shrugged.  “I started using it when I went away for competition.  Coach has a copy of all of my prescriptions and my doctors’ numbers in case there was a problem but this box...it’s a lot.”

 

“Most of these are vitamins.  But then the ones that aren’t…”

 

“They are strong.  I can’t drink alcohol with it.  One day, maybe, I won’t need them.  But for now, it keeps me sane.”

 

She took his hands in hers, squeezing them.  “You do what you have to do. This family takes care of one another.  And that includes your Victor. He’s part of this family now.”

 

Yuuri smiled, a blush on his cheeks.  “He’ll be glad to hear that. I don’t think his own have been so kind.”

 

She thinned her lips and nodded.  “I gathered that as well. It’s not a problem to find a little extra love.”

 




Yuuri/ Mom wanted you to know that you're a part of our family now.

 

Vitya/ Your family is precious and I’d love to be counted among them.

 

Yuuri/ I just know since that letter, you’ve struggled.

 

Vitya/ You have lessened the struggle greatly.

 




Yuuri hugged his mother in the car and she hugged him at the airport.  Celestino, who once again drove them, seemed reluctant to part from Minako.  But then they had to go, disappearing through security. Yuuri felt Celestino’s hand on his back between his shoulder blades.  “I wish I could have trained you back in Japan.”

 

“I feel the same but that’s not possible.  You have more students than just me and...I think it’s good to be away.  My mother wouldn’t let me grow up.”

 

“I suppose she wouldn’t.  But it’s nice while they are here.”

 

“It is...and I hate to see them go.  But...I guess this is part of what they call adulting.”  Yuuri offered him a weak smile.

 

Goodnight, goodnight

My sweet little friend

Tomorrow's adventures

They will soon begin

 

Yuuri/ It’s quiet without them here.

 

Vitya/ It’s quiet without you.  Call me. Let me hear your voice.

 

Yuuri sent the Facetime call through and smiled warmly when Victor’s face filled the screen.  “It’s been a lifetime since we’ve talked.”

 

“It has.”

 

Tomorrow's adventures

Will soon begin

Chapter Text


Ch. 31:  Silhouettes

 

You wrote your name in invisible ink,

For you were so afraid of what they might think.

But the scars they left, they were loud and clear,

Weren't they? weren't they?

 

Victor didn’t expect the tears when he received the call, he didn’t expect the hollow pain in his chest.  He sat in the middle of his bed, numb, unsure what he was supposed to do at this point. He ended up burying himself back into his sheets.

 

Hours later, he woke up, his head aching from all of the tears and throbbing like something was banging on it.  Then he heard a sharp bark from Makkachin and realized that was the door. He rolled out of bed and staggered to the door.  

 

As he opened it, he saw his coach.  “Vitya, what’s the meaning of this? You didn’t even come in today.”

 

Victor shook his head, waving him into the room.  Once inside, the coach finally took a good look at Victor, the puffy, red eyes speaking for themselves.  “What’s wrong, boy?”

 

He shrugged, sitting down on the sofa.  The old coach took the chair across from him and waited.  “I just learned...my dear old father has passed away.” He laughed bitterly.  “You’d think I’d be glad, or maybe feel nothing. I...didn’t expect to be so upset.”

 

Yakov’s face softened as he sighed deeply.  “We never do but this...this leaves the feeling of unfinished business.  Let me fix you a drink.” He stood up and went towards the kitchen.

 

VIctor shook his head.  “I-I can’t, Coach.”

 

The old man stilled, huffing out, “That’s right.  I forgot. Well, I don’t think it’s good for you to be alone.”

 

“I don’t know how to do this.”

 

Yakov shook his head.  It was a bad business with Victor’s parents.  Always had been. The old coach could tell. Victor would never be good enough.  Even if he was a five-time World Champion, he wouldn’t be a good enough. “I wish I could help you in this.  There will be lawyers and decisions. The will will be read.”

 

“I’m not in the will.  He told me that.”

 

“It will be read just the same and you’ll be given a chance to contest it.”  He sighed. “Lilia would be better at this. She buried her parents recently enough.  Mine passed on ages ago.”

 

Victor nodded and soon Yakov was putting a leash on Makkachin, making sure Victor had a coat.  The bag they carried was just for the night and Lilia was already expecting them.

 




Madame Lilia stood at the door waiting for Victor to arrive and as he came inside, she fussed over him.  “Come in. Let us take care of you.”

 

“I think I’m supposed to be doing things.  To help my mother. I just...I can’t process what I need to do, Lilia.”

 

She shushed him with a wave of her hand.  “Don’t you worry. I’ll find out and we’ll go from there.  You come, sit down. I’ll make you some tea.”

 

“I-I can drink tea.”

 

She shot a glare at her husband.  “That old man tried to give you alcohol, didn’t he?”

 

“He forgot...it’s okay.”  Victor appreciated the gesture for what it was.

 

She huffed.  “He’d have you in the hospital.  Don’t worry. I’ll take care of you.”  She called out, “Olga?” Her housekeeper came around the corner, familiar with all of the skaters that come in and out at this house.  “Will you make the guest room up? Victor is going to stay a day or two until he’s better.”

 

“Of course, Madame.”  She nodded and headed up the stairs.

 

“I don’t want to be any trouble,” Victor argued weakly.

 

Lilia smoothed her hand through his hair.  “I remember when you cut your hair.”

 

He nodded, remembering the emotion that went through him at that moment.  “You helped me find someone to fix it.”

 

“See, there...no trouble at all.  Come now.” She hugged him to her shoulder and continued to soothe him.

 




Lilia fed him as she called his family and found out the details of the funeral.  “They are waiting on some uncle to arrive. It’ll be close to five days to put the body in the ground.  Ridiculous.”

 

“It’s above ground.  A mausoleum,” Victor provided, the facts feeling empty as he grew more disconnected.

 

She stared at him for a moment before shivering.  “I suppose it’s a handy decision in the dead of winter.”

 

Victor shrugged.  “I never really thought about it before.  I’ve never been to a funeral.”

 

“Never?” she asked, taken aback as she considered those words.  His first funeral his own father.

 

Victor shrugged and shook his head.  

 

She clicked her tongue before continuing.  “Well, the body is probably already washed and prepared by the family.  It is typically laid out and visited for three days. But five…”

 

“So...I need to go visit?”  Victor cringed at the thought.

 

She sighed, reaching out a hand to take his in reassurance.  “You don’t need to go alone. Yakov and I are happy to go with you.  Or if you prefer the boys to go with you…”

 

Victor shrugged.  “I don’t suppose it matters.”

 

She frowned with worry, the listless response of this boy she practically raised was not healthy.  “During the funeral, you’ll view the body once more. And you’ll need an even number of flowers.”

 

“Because it’s sad.”  Victor stared outside the window, his fingers on the glass as he sat on the window seat.  An odd number would be insulting.

 

She nodded, taking a sip of her tea.  

 

He groaned, leaning back against the window, unconsciously picking at the bench cushion.  “It’s hypocritical. I mean...I hate him.”

 

“Of course,” Lilia responded.  “We do these things because we must.”

 

“He wouldn’t even see me unless I was...I was...what he considered normal.  Like I would choose to be like this!”

 

Lilia raised an eyebrow thoughtfully.  “I thought you chose to reach out to a certain boy and perhaps some form of romance is coming out of it?”

 

Victor blinked up at her in surprise.  “I...I…”

 

“Maybe you should contact said boy and let him know what’s going on,” she urged gently.

 

Victor nodded, turning from the bench and heading over to his things.  He found his phone connected to the charger in the corner and silenced.  There were a number of text messages. Some were offering condolences. Some were asking if he was okay.  But his eyes rested on the line of Yuuri messages.

 

Yuuri/ Good morning.  You must be busy. I usually wake up with my memory full of your messages.

 

Yuuri/ Is everything okay?  Did I upset you? I love your messages.

 

Yuuri/ Vitya?

 

Yuuri/ I’m starting to worry.

 

Yuuri/ I contacted Chris.  He told me what happened. I’m so sorry.

 

Yuuri/ Are you okay?

 

Victor blinked as he realized he neglected his most important person all day.  He continued to blink away his tears a little longer.

 

Victor/ Sorry.  I’m a mess today.

 

Yuuri/ That’s okay.  I’m usually a mess.

 

Victor/ I guess it’s my turn.

 

Yuuri/ Do you want to talk?

 

Victor looked over in Lilia’s direction.  “Do you mind if I go and make a call?”

 

“Of course not,” she answered waving him away.

 

Victor made his way up to the guest room, carrying the rest of his gear as he went.  Stretching out in the bed, he sent the call through.

 

Yuuri answered right away.  “How are you?”

 

Victor shrugged.  “It’s hit me harder than I thought it would.  I don’t know how to deal with this.”

 

“My grandmother died when I was fourteen.  The house she shared with my grandfather is mine should I return home.”  Yuuri winced. “I guess...I’m not very good at this either.”

 

“I guess that’s a good thing.  It must mean we haven’t dealt with it all that much.”

 

“I tried calling earlier.”

 

“I turned off my ringer.  I’m at Yakov and Lilia’s house and Lilia has been helping me sort things out.  I still feel lost.”

 

“I suppose I would do the same.  My first instinct is to hide from the world.”

 

Victor smiled at that, probably his first real smile of the day.  He relaxed into the mattress. “Tell me about your day.”

 

“It’s just a normal day.  School. Dance. Skating.”

 

“I want every normal, mundane detail.”

 

So Yuuri shared with him the quiet details of his day and Victor felt something lighten inside of him.  You are my future.  He is my past. And my future is much brighter.






NOTES:

 

Sleeping at last blog notes on Silhouettes.

 

I really don’t know about Russian funeral traditions.  So...I winged it and read through this .