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“Who is that?”

Viktor asks the question before he can think about it, cutting off Sara’s ongoing spiel about terrible phone receptions and how there’s something about the walls that just doesn’t allow any kind of signal to go through. Sara startles, blinking in confusion as she hurries over to where he’s standing. He should probably feel bad for interrupting and obviously not listening to his host, but the painting that Makka stops and stares at is the most interesting thing Viktor’s seen in a very, very long time.

The painting, an unfinished portrait of a dark-haired young man—an omega, if the dark ribbon tied around his neck is any indication—hangs alone in an alcove on the way to the baths, almost hidden away from view. It’s severely damaged. The canvas is stained from years of improper storage and there’s paint flaking off in a few places, but somehow, there’s still something about it that takes Viktor’s breath away.

“Oh!” Sara quips, stopping beside him with a clack of her heels and peering up at the painting with a hum. “That’s the original owners’ son, Yuuri.” She says the name softly, and Viktor can’t help but echo it. “He’s beautiful, isn’t he?”

“I suppose he is,” Viktor agrees, even though he thinks that the word beautiful can’t even begin to describe the young man—Yuuri—in the portrait. It’s like the word is too little and too cliche, and that they have to find a brand new word instead.

Sara giggles. “I’ve always loved this painting because of the story behind it. Yuuri had droves of suitors back then, but he never married anyone. Instead,” Sara continues with a wistful sigh, “He spent the rest of his days here in Bath with his dog.”

“Sounds like he knew exactly what he was doing.”

“That,” Sara continues with a laugh, “And because even though it’s unfinished, you can just feel the love that went into it. Like whoever painted it must’ve loved him very much. It makes me feel a little bit like a voyeur when I look at it for too long.”

“Like you’re seeing something you’re not supposed to,” Viktor says quietly, looking up at Yuuri’s face, caught forever in a soft smile, wide brown eyes warm and inviting—a private smile that’s meant for one lucky person, now preserved in oil on canvas for everyone else to see.

“Exactly!” Sara exclaims, smile never wavering. “Anyway, I guess that’s the tour! You're pretty much free to roam around the grounds, but we’re having some renovations done in a few areas so just watch out for that. And of course, you’re free to use the baths all you want.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Viktor says with a gentle squeeze to Sara’s shoulder. “Thanks again for letting me stay here.”

“It’s no big deal! I’m just a bit surprised that you’d pick to vacation in Bath of all places.”

Viktor shrugs, swallows down the grimace and hopelessness he feels, and says, “I wanted to go somewhere quiet.”

 

.

 

And quiet is definitely what he gets.

Lots and lots of quiet.

Nothing but quiet, as a matter of fact.

Not even a week into his trip to Bath, Viktor is pretty much ready to go back to St. Petersburg. Or maybe even call Yakov and listen to his hour-long diatribes. He’s not even sure why he’s here anymore. He wanted a break, an escape from the runway, from the monotone of his everyday life, but he’s starting to realize that he’s only replaced one purgatory for another.

At least his apartment had Wi-Fi and, Viktor thinks mournfully, the rest of his books. He’d only packed a few books for the trip; all of them Regency titles in a misguided attempt to make the sleepy town of Bath more interesting, which of course only made it very, very obvious that it’s not.

Jane Austen and Georgette Heyer both lied to him.

“I take back what I said about you knowing what you were doing, Yuuri,” Viktor tells the painting one day as he makes his way down to the baths for the umpteenth time. There’s really nothing else to do aside from sightseeing and taking advantage of the Roman-styled baths, and Viktor would like to avoid going out if he can help it. “I don’t know how you managed to spend your days here without going crazy. God, what did you even do back then to pass the time?”

As if to answer his question, Makka suddenly perks up and runs off, leaving Viktor to run after her in a panic.

“Makka!” Viktor calls, jogging towards Makka who’s started to bark loudly at something in one of the pools. “What’s gotten into you?” He asks, kneeling down on one knee to run comforting hands over Makka’s shaking flanks. He shifts closer to the edge of the pool, peering into the water with narrowed eyes. When he finds nothing, Viktor moves to stand up, only to slip—

 

—and fall.

 

 

II

 

Barely a week has passed since his abrupt exodus from his Mayfair home to quiet, old Bath and Yuuri already feels rejuvenated; the healing waters have washed off not only the grime of London away from his skin, but it has also managed to rid Yuuri of the worries and expectations that have piled upon his shoulders much like a heavy and unwanted cloak. Gone are the prying questions and the pitying looks from his omega peers and the high-society mamas that litter the beau monde, as are the unwanted suitors who only see him as a pretty broodmare.

Out here, no one expects him to be the perfect, subservient omega whose only purpose in life is to find a suitable alpha and bear them as many children as possible, and Yuuri has never felt freer.

“Mayhap we ought to just stay here forever, Vicchan,” Yuuri muses aloud in the hush of the library, his thoughts turning somber from the late hour. It is not the first, nor would it be the last time that Yuuri entertains the possibility of living his days out here in Bath, tending to the resort house and never marrying. He is already nearing his twenty-fourth year and he has yet to be wed; five years attending the London season with not a single match to show for it.

From where he has been sleeping on Yuuri’s lap, Vicchan stirs, nosing at his thigh with a soft whine, and it almost feels an inevitability that Yuuri abandon his musings and run gentle hands over Vicchan’s coat. “Shall we head off to bed?” He asks with a soft laugh as Vicchan yawns, blinking bleary eyes up at him. “I shall take that as a yes.”  

At his words, Vicchan shuffles out of his lap and onto the hardwood floors, allowing Yuuri to stretch his legs and don a robe over his chemise. Giving himself one last perfunctory look to make sure that he would not be scandalizing anyone should they happen upon him in the corridors, Yuuri finally reaches for the candelabra and whistles for Vicchan as they make their way out of the library.

The late hour has rendered the resort house silent, and only Yuuri’s footsteps and Vicchan’s soft breaths echo in the night, and Yuuri basks in the hush until a loud noise has them stopping by the staircase leading up to their private rooms. Yuuri frowns, peering out into the gloom, trying to discern where the noise came from.

With luck, the noise shatters through the silence again, and at the familiar sound of splashing water, Yuuri’s lips immediately twist into a scowl and he finds himself quickly making a detour down to the baths, Vicchan panting along behind him. Annoyance churns sourly in his stomach as the noises continue, for no matter how many times they warn their guests against having assignations in the baths, some enterprising rake and his giggling beau always go and try their luck, and Yuuri shan’t abide by such disrespect.

His family owns and runs a perfectly respectable resort house, not a bloody brothel!

Yuuri hurries down towards the entrance to the baths, candelabra held aloft as he tries to gather all the righteous indignation he can muster. There’s a reprobation already burning on his tongue that quickly dies a horrible death when he turns the final corner and sees not a couple caught in an amorous embrace, but the most beautiful man Yuuri has ever beheld with his eyes, emerging from the waters.

If Yuuri was prone to flowery language, then he would say that the sight that greets him at the baths is akin to the goddess Venus arising from the sea foam, for the man looked divine and not of this world, with pale hair and alabaster skin that glowed under the candlelight. And had Yuuri been more like his peers, then he certainly would have thought the entire thing a miracle of sorts—that the man is some wayward angel sent to him from the heavens above. However, Yuuri has never and will never be prone to such foolishness, and so he merely gathers the folds of his robe and holds the candelabra higher, stepping towards the man with a frown on his lips.

“Who are you?” Yuuri demands, voice with nary a single tremble as he watches the man splutter and cough, wiping the water away from his face.

Moving ever closer, Yuuri finds himself hastily amending his earlier conclusion about the man’s divinity, for surely anyone who looked as beautiful, nay, as sublime as the man, cannot be made of the same flesh and bone and blood that he is made of. Yuuri’s opinion regarding the matter only strengthens when the man opens his bright blue eyes; eyes that quickly widen in astonishment at the sight of him, and the man’s mouth falls open in surprise, before uttering a word that almost has Yuuri dropping the candelabra in his grasp.

“Yuuri?”

 

 

III

 

This is a dream.

That’s it.

That has to be it.

This is all an elaborate dream that he’s having because of all the damn Regency novels he’s been reading.

Viktor’s just dreaming, and any second now, he’s gonna wake up in his bedroom with Makka fast asleep on his feet and cutting off circulation. Because there’s no possible way that he’s actually traveled back in time to Regency England—

“Vicchan, no!”

A sharp bite to the thumb quickly drags Viktor back to the present, or well, the past, and Viktor looks down to see Vicchan panting happily up at him, as if he hadn’t just bitten Viktor on the thumb. “Naughty,” he murmurs and is rewarded with a lick.  

“We leave for London the day after tomorrow,” Yuuri greets, stopping in front of him with a faint rustle of silk.

“I still haven’t actually agreed to go to London with you,” Viktor points out, scratching behind Vicchan’s ear as he stares openly at Yuuri, because it’s been three days and he still can’t believe that he’s actually talking to someone he’s only seen on a portrait. “I can’t leave this place, I need to go back to my own time, and you swore on your dog that you’d help me.”

“I did,” Yuuri agrees, “And I intend to keep my word, Viktor, but we’ve searched the entire resort house and you’ve fallen into the baths countless times already and found nothing.” Viktor grimaces at the reminder; he still feels waterlogged from how many times he’d jumped into the pools. “Whereas if we go to London, we can talk to one of my companions who might know someone familiar with…” Yuuri trails off, uncertain, before settling on, “the supernatural.”

“So what, do I just act as your gentleman friend while we’re there?” Viktor asks, to which Yuuri just shakes his head and lets out a disbelieving laugh. “What, you don’t think I’m pretty enough?” He’s mostly joking, because while Viktor’s secure in his own attractiveness, there’s a part of him that still wants to know what Yuuri, who is even more breathtaking in real life, thinks.

“I said nothing of the sort!” Yuuri splutters, blushing up to his ears and down to the low neckline of his dress. “However,” he continues when Viktor grins smugly. “As you have proven many times in the past few days, you have not the slightest clue how to comport yourself in a manner befitting a gentleman. You probably can’t even dance.”

Viktor scoffs at that, raising a challenging eyebrow, because “I know how to dance.” He’d grown up with Lilia after all and had spent a good chunk of his childhood at her dance studio, but Yuuri just raises an eyebrow back in response and holds out his hands expectantly. “What, right now?” Viktor asks, even as he stands and moves into position for a waltz; one hand coming up to hold Yuuri’s hand while the other rests on the small of Yuuri’s back, pulling him close as they begin to spin across the parlor.

“How was that?” He asks afterwards, breathless from more than just the waltz as he gazes into Yuuri’s eyes. He feels punch-drunk, and even though he knows that he shouldn’t, Viktor leans close to catch the faintest hint of Yuuri’s scent. He’s rewarded with Yuuri gasping and craning his neck, mouth parted and eyes heavy-lidded, and it would be so, so easy to steal a kiss from those pink lips—

“Mr. Katsuki—oh! Oh my, I’m so, so sorry—”

And just like that, the moment ends.

 

 

IV

 

“I thought the day shall never arrive when I would see your countenance marked with such ardent longing.”

Viscount Giacometti’s dulcet tones herald his arrival even before the familiar fragrance of roses tickles Yuuri’s nose, and Yuuri barely has time to parse the meaning of his friend’s words before Chris is joining him on the chaise lounge. “I have not the slightest inkling as to what you speak of,” Yuuri says primly, averting his gaze from where it has been following Viktor as if magnetized, and turning his eyes to Chris, who looks increasingly amused. “You received my note?”

“I’ve already sent out word,” Chris replies with a nod, before looking out into the ballroom towards where Viktor was currently being pulled into a conversation by a gaggle of tittering omegas. “Although I must admit that I am quite curious why you would wish to send him away, when you look upon him so covetously that there is to be no question as to whom he belongs to.”

Yuuri flushes, cheeks burning at Chris’s insinuation. “He isn’t mine,” he says succinctly, the denial acrid on his tongue even though he knows it to be the truth. He has no claim over Viktor; their tenuous connection exists only because of happenstance, and Yuuri refuses to fool himself into thinking that Viktor would take notice of him if not for their situation.

An alpha like Viktor would never spare someone like Yuuri even a second glance.

“But you want him to be.” Chris says the words gently and yet they cut Yuuri to the very quick, making him ache with a yearning he has been trying to extinguish. “My dear Yuuri, you are playing a very dangerous game with your heart.”

Before Yuuri can lie and say anything to disabuse Chris of the notion, a large hand suddenly wraps itself around his shoulder, as Viktor appears and looms over them, wearing a smile that matches not the coldness in his eyes.

“Excuse me,” Viktor tells a bemused Chris, “But I’ll have to steal Yuuri now.” He doesn’t give Chris time to answer before pulling Yuuri up and hurrying him out towards the empty corridor, uncaring of the appalled looks that follow them.

Once the shock has worn off, Yuuri hastily pulls away to say, “That was extremely impolite.”

Viktor ignores him in favor of talking to a passing servant. “Go call Nishigori and tell him to have the carriage prepared.”

“Viktor, what—“ Yuuri starts, watching in horror as the servant runs off to no doubt follow Viktor’s orders. “We can’t just leave!” It would cause a scandal Yuuri has not the patience for, and he lets out an aggrieved sigh before turning on his heels to go back to the ballroom only to be stopped by a hand around his wrist.

When Yuuri turns to look at Viktor again, an apologetic mien has replaced the stoic countenance he has been wearing, and Yuuri finds himself softening, shoulders falling from where they’d risen up in agitation. “Okay,” Viktor begins, tone carrying none of the ice from earlier. “I’m sorry, but you looked upset,” he says, and hastily continues with his speech when Yuuri opens his mouth to deny it. “You did! You still do.” Dismay colors Viktor’s tone, as if he cannot bear seeing Yuuri disquieted, and fool that he is, Yuuri feels desire burn in his breast. “And I’m not good at dealing with upset people, like what am I supposed to do? Do I try and make you laugh?” Viktor asks. “Do I just kiss you?”

A shaky breath stutters out of Yuuri’s lips.

“Yes,” Yuuri chokes out, an entreaty, a plea. “Please.”

 

 

V

 

Days pass, turning into weeks, and stretching into a month, and if not for the thought of Makka waiting for him, Viktor would say fuck it, and just stay. He’s never felt more alive than he does right now—with Yuuri and his family, who’d taken him in without question. Viktor feels happy. He feels loved and cared for, and with each passing day, he catches himself hoping that Yuuri’s friend won’t be able to help.

“Do you really know how to paint?” Yuuri asks, raising an eyebrow at Viktor from where he’s perched on the fainting couch. He sounds completely doubtful and if it had been anyone else who said it, Viktor would feel offended. But it’s Yuuri, and god knows Viktor would forgive him for just about anything.

“Yes.” Viktor nods, taking another peek at Yuuri over the canvas and mixing a bit more red on his palette. “I went to school for it.”

Yuuri hums. “So you’re an artist then?”

“Of a sort.” Because Viktor’s not entirely sure how to describe what it is he does. He doesn’t think modeling was even a thing back in this era, and telling Yuuri that he wears clothes and looks pretty sounds incredibly dumb, so Viktor just settles for a noncommittal shrug.

“What does that even mean?” Yuuri asks with a laugh, followed by the rustling of silk and Viktor sighs because Yuuri’s moved from his pose. Again. “What exactly is it that you do? Are you a barrister?”

“I have no idea what that is,” he admits and is rewarded with a bright laugh that warms him from the roots of his hair to the tips of his toes. It’s dangerous, this feeling, especially when he knows that they have a time limit, but Viktor can’t help but fall deeper for Yuuri’s smiles and the twinkle in his eyes, can’t help but offer his heart to Yuuri in a silver platter. It’s not like he’ll have a need for it back in his time. “But you need to stop moving so much if you want me to finish painting you,” Viktor says when he turns to look at Yuuri and finds him with Vicchan on his lap.

Blatantly ignoring Viktor’s warnings, Yuuri lets out another hum and starts petting Vicchan. “Why are you even painting me in the first place?” He asks, peering at Viktor from underneath his lashes. “It’s not as if anyone would want me on their mantle.”

“I would,” he says, abandoning his palette and brush to make his way to Yuuri. Once he’s close enough, he goes down on his knees and inches closer, hands bracketing Yuuri’s legs and grinning widely when Yuuri erupts into a blush. “I’d cover an entire room with paintings of you and stare at you all day long.”

Yuuri scoffs, pushing him away with a foot to his chest. “You are unfairly charming.”

“And you’re unfairly beautiful,” Viktor quips, bringing Yuuri’s foot to his lips and pressing a soft, lingering kiss to Yuuri’s ankle.

 

 

VI

 

Yuuri will never admit to it, but when the missive from Chris arrives in the middle of supper, containing a name and address, he almost rips it apart and throws it into the flames so that its contents may never see the light of day ever again. The temptation pulls at him even as he hands the note to Viktor, who unfolds it with shaking hands and looks at its contents with disbelieving eyes.

“I—I know this man,” Viktor finally says after a long stretch of silence, and for a moment, Yuuri hears not the words but a death knell heralding the end. “Georgi Popovich. He was—“ Viktor pauses, gulping audibly in the hush of the drawing-room. “He disappeared a while back.”

Affecting a smile that claws mercilessly at his heart, Yuuri says, “We can make for Bath at first light, if you wish.” Mayhap the sooner they say their goodbyes, the less it will hurt and Yuuri can one day find peace.

“I’ll have to say my goodbyes to your family then,” Viktor says, reaching out to give Yuuri’s hand a squeeze that he does not return.

Over the course of Viktor’s stay, he has endeared himself greatly not only to Yuuri but also to his family, and Yuuri knows that his Mama had hoped that they would one day marry. To see those hopes shatter, as Viktor apprises them of his imminent departure, is perhaps one of the most agonizing things he will ever witness, and Yuuri barely makes it to his bedroom before dissolving into tears. His heart aches, as if he’d taken a knife to his chest and carved it out, and Yuuri has only himself to blame for giving it to someone who would one day leave.

“He’s leaving?” Mari demands come morning, accosting him in the carriage house still dressed in her nightclothes, hair in disarray.

Lifting Vicchan’s basket up onto the carriage, Yuuri says, “He was always going to leave.” His voice doesn’t break, of which he is thankful for, and he turns to face Mari, his face a carefully blank mask.

“Then make him stay!” Mari yells. “Ask him! The man will do anything for you, Yuuri. You just need to ask,” she says, as if Yuuri has not considered begging on his knees for Viktor to stay and love him, as if he has not spent the entire night crying and that beneath the powder caked on his face, his eyes are swollen and red from tears.

“What have I to offer him?”

Mari throws her hands up in exasperation and continues her diatribe. “A family, a home! Your love!” But Yuuri can only shake his head, fighting away the tears that threaten to fall from his eyes. He hears Mari scoff in disgust and turns his face away. “Don’t throw away your chance at love, little brother,” she says, one final rejoinder before turning to leave, her words echoing loudly in his ears.

 

.

 

The words follow him on the long road to Bath, haunting him as Viktor leaves to meet with Popovich to make arrangements for his return, and pushing Yuuri to do one last foolish thing.

“Yuuri?” Viktor asks, blinking the sleep away from his eyes as he peers at Yuuri from behind his door. “What’s wrong?”

In lieu of an answer, Yuuri takes a deep, bolstering breath and wraps his sleeping gown more securely around himself. “May I come in?” he asks, fully expecting to be turned away, especially after how he had been acting ever since last night—distant and cold, slowly but surely pulling away into himself in a futile attempt to salvage a piece of his heart.

“Of course,” Viktor answers easily, stepping back to allow Yuuri inside and closing the door behind him. “Yuuri,” he begins, confusion writ clearly on his handsome face before it morphs into alarm when Yuuri shrugs the sleeping gown off, the garment falling to the ground with a whisper of satin, leaving Yuuri bare but for his thin chemise. When Yuuri moves to tug at its ties, Viktor stops him with a shake of his head, hands cradling Yuuri’s before he brings them to his lips. “My darling, there’s no need for this,” Viktor murmurs, earnest as he gazes into Yuuri’s eyes.

“But I want to,” Yuuri sobs out, pressing feverish kisses to Viktor’s hands. “There’s no one else I would choose—no one else I will ever love as much as I love you.” The confession leaves him in a rush, the words clamoring for freedom from his lips. “And I want to give myself to you.”

 

 

VII

 

Morning arrives, cruel and unforgiving, and it takes every bit of strength that Viktor has to pull away from Yuuri’s sweet kisses and warm embrace. He’s always known that it would be hard to leave, even before he’d started his relationship with Yuuri. Because if Viktor’s being completely honest, there’s nothing waiting for him back in his time aside from Makka, and he wonders now why he’s been so desperate to go back to his days full of nothingness.

“Come with me,” Viktor blurts out, holding his hand out to Yuuri, even though he knows that the portal can only take one person. It was one of the things Georgi had been clear about, along with the warning that it was gonna be a one-way-ticket back to his time. No take-backs.

Yuuri visibly hesitates, eyes flitting from Viktor’s outstretched hand to the faintly glowing pool.

“Or I’ll just stay,” he says, making to move away from the edge, only to have Yuuri stop him with a hand to his chest.

“What about Makka?” Yuuri asks, tears glistening in his eyes. “Isn’t she waiting for you?”

Makka will understand, Viktor thinks desperately. “Yuuri, please—“ he starts to say, only to be cut off by Yuuri’s lips, capturing his in a kiss.

“I love you,” Yuuri whispers into the air between them, healing Viktor’s heart and breaking it anew as he pulls away. “I will never stop loving you,” he promises, the tears finally falling from his eyes. “But you have to go.”

It’s the only warning Viktor gets before Yuuri is pushing at his chest, making him slip—

 

—and fall.

 

 

VIII

 

Entertainment >> Celebrity News

Viktor Nikiforov: Finally Found!

SOMERSET – Russian model Viktor Nikiforov, 27, who has been declared missing last May of this year was finally found earlier today. Nikiforov, known as the face of luxury brand Stammi Vicino, was vacationing at Bath, Somerset after a successful season when he suddenly disappeared, leaving all of his belongings, as well as his poodle, behind. Yakov Feltsman, Nikiforov’s manager, has yet to release a statement. Read More.

 

 

IX

 

The painting sits untouched for weeks after his return to St. Petersburg.

Viktor can’t bear to even look at it without feeling like his chest is going to cave in on itself, crushing the remnants of his already broken heart, so it sits in the far corner of his living room under an old bed sheet. Out of sight, out of mind. In theory, at least, because if Viktor’s going to be completely honest, a measly piece of cloth will never be enough to smother the memories that still haunt him.

So the painting sits alone, gathering dust, until Yuri comes over and discovers it.

Viktor’s not entirely sure why Yuri’s here or why he’s decided to visit Viktor of all times. Yakov must have sent him, because Viktor knows for a fact that Yuri would never visit him of his own volition. They’ve never been on good terms, or at least, Yuri’s always had some sort of grudge against him that Viktor’s never understood.

“What’s this?”

Letting out a long suffering sigh, Viktor looks up from where he’s been tapping out an annoyed text to Yakov, and sees Yuri peering down at something. Something that’s covered with a bed sheet, and it takes Viktor an embarrassingly long time to realize what it is. It’s enough time for Yuri to grow impatient and uncover it, pulling the sheet away to reveal—Yuuri, darling, beautiful Yuuri.

“That’s,” Viktor begins only to pause, swallowing down the sob crawling out of his lips. He tears his eyes away from Yuuri’s eyes—they’re the wrong shade of brown, Viktor can’t help but think—and continues, as if his heart isn’t squeezing painfully inside his chest at the sight. “A painting.”

It’s more than that, of course, because right there is Viktor’s life and love, everything that’s good in the world, but Yuri doesn’t need to know that.

Yuri scoffs, balling up the sheet and crouching down to look at the portrait more closely. Viktor wonders what Yuri sees, wonders if he sees what Viktor sees. “I know that, old man,” Yuri grumbles as he stands back up, hands on his hips. “Did you paint it?”

It’s a tricky question, one that Viktor has yet to figure out the correct answer to.

“Sort of.” Because Viktor supposes that he did, once upon a time, but then, the only reason why he painted it in the first place is because he’s already seen it.

Throwing the balled-up sheet on the couch, Yuri asks, demands, “The hell does that mean?”

Viktor puts his phone down and looks back at Yuri, making sure to keep his eyes away from the painting, from the face that Viktor has been trying and failing to forget. “I painted it a long time ago,” he says, a truth and a lie.

“Why’s it unfinished? Did your model get tired of you or something?”

“No.” Smiling a smile that looks more like a pained grimace, Viktor chokes out, “I ran out of time.”

Yuri goes quiet then, and Viktor thinks that’s the end of that. His heart’s already broken, he doesn’t need some bratty upstart stomping all over it. Rising from his seat, Viktor reaches for the crumpled bed sheet and walks towards the painting, but before he can cover it yet again—out of sight, out of mindYuri is stopping him with a hand on his arm.

“Well, why don’t you continue it now?” Yuri asks, raising an eyebrow up at him. “It’s not like you’re doing much of anything right now aside from being a waste of oxygen.”

Viktor smiles, knife-sharp.

“Get out.”

 

.

 

Viktor doesn’t continue the painting.

He starts over from scratch.

The painting’s too old and too damaged for any kind of manipulation, so Viktor ventures out of his apartment for the first time in what feels like forever to raid the nearest art supply store. He orders paints and brushes, spends a whole week just smoothing out the canvas and mixing paint, trying to get the colors right; agonizing over the exact shade of brown for Yuuri’s eyes, for the faint dusting of pink on his cheeks, the bitten red of his lips.

Yuuri deserves this much.

And then it’s another week of sketching Yuuri’s face from memory alone; from the soft curve of his cheek, to the tip of his retrousse nose, and the fullness of his lips. It takes several tries to get it right, several sleepless nights drawing Yuuri’s dark hair to fall just right before Viktor even considers starting on the rest of it. He pays attention to the most minute details as the memories flood back in, and after another week of work, the sketch is done and Viktor feels lighter somehow.

There’s no saving his heart. It will never be whole again, Viktor knows, but he thinks he can salvage some of its pieces, become someone worthy of Yuuri’s love.

When he’d started this project, he’d thought that putting paint to canvas would be the hardest part. He’s never been more wrong. Because it’s as if a switch has been flicked, opening the floodgates. Viktor works tirelessly like a man possessed, bringing Yuuri to life in the only way he knows how. He pours all his love into every stroke of his brush, and it’s barely three days before he stands breathless in the middle of his living room with a finished painting.

Yuuri smiles at him from the canvas, full of life and full of love.

The brush falls from his suddenly nerveless hand, clattering loudly on the floor, and Viktor follows it soon after, collapsing onto a heap as he cries and cries and cries.

 

 

X

 

“Large dark mocha for Viktor?”

The barista calls and Viktor quickly makes his way to the counter, dodging several people on his way to claim his coffee. Once it’s safely ensconced in his hands and after he’s taken a few desperate gulps of caffeine in, Viktor walks out of the busy café and out onto the busier streets of St. Petersburg, where Makka is playing with another dog.

Smiling into his coffee, Viktor jogs to the park bench where he left Makka before coming to an abrupt halt when he gets a better look at the dog, the miniature poodle, playing with Makka. Viktor blinks, once, twice, moving closer, because if he isn’t mistaken, the dog looks eerily like—

“Vic—“

“Vicchan!” A voice that has been haunting Viktor’s dreams calls out, and he can almost feel his heart stutter to a stop inside his chest as the miniature poodle, Vicchan, it’s Vicchan, perks up and bounds off towards someone behind him. “Let’s go!”

 

 

XI

 

“Yuuri?”