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Mr. Mystery, Are You Missing Me?

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If asked to share how it happened, Viktor Nikiforov would say that he was happily relaxing with his husband far away from the bar on his birthday, when Christophe Giacometti tripped over his living room table, flipped right onto his (and Yuuri’s) lap, and said, “I’m in love,” and then started low-key stalking some poor, innocent civilian with zero knowledge of skating and a misguided love of hockey. Viktor could forgive a lot of things, but not the hockey

“You were passed out drunk in your underwear hanging off my arm by 10 pm. You don’t get to talk about how it happened,” Yuuri reminds him in an example of drunken savagery. He tries to take the bottle of champagne from Viktor’s hand and whines when he realizes it is empty. In revenge, he pokes the top of his husband’s head, “Viktor!”

“What kind of heathen follows hockey and not ice skating?” Viktor whispers, pretending that he isn’t currently drunk and that his husband isn’t glaring at him for not sharing the alcohol, again. It’s a worthy sacrifice Viktor keeps making, taking all of the alcohol so Yuuri can keep to his strict regimen. That, and whispering also doesn’t come easy to Viktor when he’s that drunk. “You shouldn’t even be drinking, Yuuri! That’s breaking your diet, Yuuri! Yuuri!” He giggles, kissing his husband’s neck. “Yuuri.”

“For the love of God, he’s Canadian! Now stop yelling in my ear, Vitya!” Yuuri yells, slow and sleepy as he drops the bottle on the floor and then his head on Viktor’s shoulder.

“Who’s Canadian?” Chris asks, already trying to squeeze in between Yuuri and Viktor to nap.

“Your future husband,” Yuuri yawns, falling back and making space so he can pat Chris’ head.

Viktor shoves Chris away, trying to reach for his husband again, “Eww. Jean-Luc is Canadian, isn’t he?”

“Who’s Jean-Luc?” Yuuri asks his husband, confused. “I thought we were talking about Chris stalking Alex.”

“I’m not stalking him! I’m surprising him with my love!”

Viktor taps his chin as the three of them sit with their arms pressed flushed against each other, “I think in America they call surprising people with love harassment.”

“And what do they call showing up naked in someone’s house?” Chris asks, slightly offended by the implication.

“Coaching,” Viktor nods, like it’s a perfectly normal answer.

Yuuri frowns, suddenly reconsidering his life, until he says, “hey, wait a minute!”

In a corner of the room, Yuri Plisetsky shakes his head as he ignores them all to keep playing video games against Otabek, who talks to him through a headset in some other part of the world. Meanwhile, Makkachin sniffs Yuri’s back, deciding that’s a good a spot as any to circle and flop down for a nap.

That’s how it really begins. Or so Alex Mystery is told.

.

However, Yuuri Katsuki has a different story that involves waking up slightly hungover to Chris and Viktor feeding him oatmeal and coffee. One is allowable in his diet plan. The other tastes exactly like a bribe should—delicious and caffeinated. Yuuri arches an eyebrow, watching his husband staring at him with swift little fanning eyelashes. It’s not a look Viktor has given Yuuri since he tried to convince him to pole dance at their wedding to Hips Don’t Lie, which had received a resounding no. Yuuri has a feeling whatever is happening right now, it’s going to be a no again, but he can’t be sure. 

This is Viktor, after all, and even if he’s calmed down considerably through their years together, he’s still Viktor.

“What is it?” he says at last, nervous. Yuuri is very seldom nervous around Viktor anymore, not since his husband proposed to him at their last Grand Prix Final together, just before Viktor's retirement announcement. 

“How would you like to take a break from your diet?” Viktor asks, eyes shining.

Viktor Husband is a lot more permissive than Viktor Coach. Yuuri could probably haggle his way into something worthwhile, but he has to play his cards carefully.

“What’s the catch?” Yuuri narrows his eyes, studying Viktor. There’s always a catch. Viktor Coach is disciplined about Yuuri’s training, especially as they continue to train Yuuri for the Olympics. Yuuri wants gold. Viktor, naturally, also wants Yuuri to get gold, for both of them. That means keeping his body in a careful balance of muscle, flexibility, and artistry—which meant no bread (or sex) until after March. Viktor Husband is equally unreasonable about bread, but at least he’s willing to make exceptions for special celebrations (about sex, if it wasn't clear).

They’d already celebrated their new puppy adoption the night before, though. Viktor had promised Yuuri they’d go to the shelter to pick up their new pup over the weekend.  

“Nothing!”

Yuuri frowns, “Viktor. Is this about Baby?”

“No! You just have to go to brunch with Alex and say nice things about Chris.”

Chris chimes in then, “Please, Yuuri? Just this once. I have never been in this situation before. Usually, I can just smack my ass and have anyone I please, but I have already tried the modified bend and snap and he is not budging, and my coach is threatening to stop coaching me if I don’t return right away, but only Viktor and you can understand the sacrifices made for love—”

Viktor gasps, “you tried the modified bend and snap and he still didn’t cave? – It definitely worked on Yuuri.”

Yuuri groans, hiding his face, “Is that why you kept dropping your towel at the rink that week? Because let me tell you now that it did not work.”

“Can you believe it?” Chris pouts, turning over his shoulder to take a look at his plump ass.

Yuuri rubs at his face, considering his options. He can either go out with Alex (who is incredibly nice and will likely let him eat bread) or stay here and listen to his husband talk about the ridiculous stunts Yuuri’s been trying to forget since he rushed Viktor to the altar to make him stop selling Yuuri on the idea. Not to mention that it’s been a week that Chris has overstayed his original return home and Yuuri is starting to feel sexually frustrated that any time he wants to see if he can convince Viktor Husband to talk Viktor Coach out of his ban on sex until after March, there’s Chris, pouting and in need of cuddles and support over this guy.

“Okay, fine, I’ll do it.”

(Or so Alex Mystery imagines the whole thing went, based on everything Yuuri Katsuki told him on his actual wedding day in Vegas as he simultaneously scratched behind Makkachin and Baby’s ears, and his cat Puck meowed angrily from a crate.)

.

The whole thing is just weird. Alex meets Chris at Viktor’s birthday party, proceeds to share a couple of jokes by the bar, maybe (he’s still questioning this much,) might have grazed shoulders as he moved passed him to take a few beers over to his crew. Sure, they had exchanged numbers, but don’t people typically exchange numbers at parties? – There’s no expectation of follow-through! But Alex was always the unlucky one, and now he was stuck with figure-skating star Christophe Giacometti constantly a corner away from an impromptu picnic at the park or in the neighborhood. 

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate the enthusiasm,” Alex explains, sighing as he leans his elbows on the table. For all that Yuuri is the sweetest boy in the world, there’s a dash of sass that comes striking like lightning every so often. This is one of those times. Probably because Yuuri is half-way to drunk. “It’s just a little too much.”

“What’s too much?” Yuuri asks, genuine and soft.

“All of it,” Alex replies, refilling his wine glass. “Like, this whole week, it’s all been too much.”

“You’re going to need to be more specific,” Yuuri gulps down some more wine before he pauses and shakes his head, like he’s suddenly remembered his husband is the most extra man on the planet (which Alex is starting to doubt given his recent experience with Christophe Giacometti). “I take it back. It’s definitely always all too much. And it’s not gonna stop until you marry him.”

“What?” Alex squawks. “I’m not–I can’t marry someone I just met!”

“That’s what I did,” Yuuri slurs, reaching for another roll. He waves his ring finger and the ring winks at Alex treacherously, like it’s just daring him to disagree with a diamond. Who could ever disagree with a diamond? “With Viktor, though, not Chris. You’d think marriage was like an ice bucket. He calmed down considerably after our wedding. Again, Viktor, not Chris.”

“I got that,” Alex chuckles. Teasing, he jokes, “So, what you’re saying is I need to throw an ice bucket on him?” 

“Yes,” Yuuri says, cheeks pink as he reaches for butter. “I mean, no. Maybe?”

“You’re drunk, Yuuri,” Alex laughs. “I think we should get you home now.”

“No, wait, I haven’t finished all the rolls yet. Viktor’s not letting me have bread right now.”

“He’s not letting you have bread? I thought you said you could eat anything within reason,” Alex gasps, feeling guilty that he might be over-feeding a competitive, Olympic-level skater. (This won’t be the first time he sneaks bread for Yuuri Katsuki.) He considers reaching over for the roll, but Yuuri simply glares at him, holding the piece of bread close to his lips.

“Yes, within reason, but Viktor is thoroughly unreasonable,” Yuuri says, grinning. “So, like I was saying, you want it to stop, you marry him.”

“But I don’t want to marry him,” Alex sighs. “At least not right now.”

Yuuri shrugs, drunk and sounding like a page from Alice in Wonderland as he points at Alex with a butter knife, “that’s your problem, then. Timelines are always unreasonable.”

And now, a break to imagine a conversation between Yuuri Katsuki and Christophe Giacometti:

“You told him what?” Chris squeaks, sounding completely undignified.

Yuuri hiccups, sliding his nose up and down Viktor’s neck and jaw, all the way up to the back of his ear where he can smell his husband’s expensive shampoo. It’s a very nice smelling shampoo, which Yuuri is sure Viktor buys off a specialty store that sells it to him for three times the cost of Yuuri’s annual supply of shampoo and shower gel. Whatever. Yuuri has other things to worry about. For one, Viktor still doesn’t look very happy with him (like he knows Yuuri ate a bread basket), but has decided to keep Yuuri firmly planted on his lap, which is perfectly okay with Yuuri, who had been risking an injury by over-stretching in the middle of their living room when he returned from brunch.

(For two, Yuuri is feeling sleepy. It’s been a long day full of alcohol and bread. For three, he’s going to feel very guilty and nervous tomorrow.)

Yuuri,” Viktor says in that deep baritone warning tone that makes him squirm a little.

“I told him it wasn’t going to stop until you married him,” Yuuri repeats, like it is a perfectly natural explanation. “Vitya, help me do the thing.”

“I already said no, Yuuri,” he says softly, so lovingly it melts Yuuri and Chris and everyone within a mile of that apartment. “You can stretch in the morning and then we can skate. After you drink a lot of water and run. A lot.”

That’s probably how it really happens. Alex is sure of it.

.

Yuuri Katsuki swears off alcohol for life after that.

(Spoiler alert: It won’t actually be for life, and Alex feels partially responsible.)

“You know what’s really sad?” he tells Alex as he puts on his skates and reminisces about their brunch just a few days before. Alex has been invited to a very special practice session with Chris, Yuuri, and Viktor because Chris needs to film himself for his coach (something about a major European Championship coming up). He feels extremely out of place, knowing very little about skating at all, but right now it’s warm-up time, which means he can skate a couple of laps around the ice with them. All of that hockey in college is finally going to pay off (beyond an incredible set of broad shoulders and good hair styling techniques), or at least help him not to embarrass himself in front of three Olympians. “I only had one Bloody Mary to kill the hangover and two mimosas during our brunch.”

Alex pats his shoulder, “I think you were still a little drunk from the night before, considering how fast you latched onto that bread basket. What were you celebrating anyway?”

“Oh! Makkachin is getting a sibling…” Yuuri says, smile brilliant like the sun as he takes off to join his husband at the rink.

And Alex sits for a while to consider how this happened to him in the first place and whether people congratulate other people on the acquisition of a new puppy. After a couple of laps around the rink, and a lively conversation with Chris, he decides cat and dog people must not be so different after all. (Although they agree that they should get the Katsuki-Nikiforov family a card to congratulate them on their new family addition – and Alex should’ve known that signing that card as Chris and Alex was the beginning of the end of his bachelor days.)

.

When Alex says it’s all too much, he probably means that it’s all… a little odd? Two days after the party at Viktor Nikiforov’s penthouse, he stops by his favorite coffee shop on his way to work and conveniently “runs into” Christophe Giacometti, who technically doesn’t even live in America and couldn’t be “in the neighborhood,” especially because Viktor rents a penthouse on the other side of the city. But Alex never shared any personal information beyond his phone number, so how is he to suspect anything?

“You said your last name was Mystery?” Chris asks, sipping on some spiked coffee as he leans closer. Alex has never been too familiar with purring, except for his cat, but hearing the sound ooze from the lips of a human is both a strangely amusing and titillating experience. Later, he’ll realize it’s something that only works for Christophe. “It sounds like a sexy spy name.”

“Been getting that since high school. Mystery, Alex. Alex Mystery,” he shrugs with a grin, chugging his drink as he looks down at his watch. He’d never intended to go in late to work. “Sorry,” he explains, standing, “I’m going to be late to work if I don’t leave. Uh, it was good seeing you, though.”

“It was. You should text me sometime. I’ll be in town for a little while. Maybe we can get together for dinner, chat a bit longer...”

Alex jumps when he feels something rub against his ankle.

“Maybe get some drinks.”

“Uh, sure!” he squeaks, scrambling to leave the table. He almost drops his phone as he attempts to run. “I’ll call you!”

He has no intention of actually calling.

.

The party had been Brad’s idea.

Alex should know better than to listen to Brad, who never quite outgrew his inner college fraternity boy—an experience Alex can’t begin to unpack beyond popular movies. But Alex was always highly nostalgic. Alex and Brad had grown up together, until college had taken them down two very different roads, with Brad going to America to play hockey and Alex staying in Canada. He’s still not sure exactly how Brad got his hands on an invite to a super-secret New York penthouse party for Viktor Nikiforov, the hero of Russia, but he hadn’t bothered to ask when he’d been offered a free bar and a night on the town with his old crew (probably because Alex didn’t even really know anything about Viktor Nikiforov).

He remembers pretty much everything from that night, except what he could’ve done to attract the attention of Christophe Giacometti.

In exact order of events, Alex had:

  1. Offered to get his friends some beers from the bar.
  2. Walked right past an almost naked Viktor Nikiforov sleeping peacefully against his husband on their giant gray sofa.
  3. Accidentally brushed arms with Christophe Giacometti, effectively interrupting him from conversation with some other guy that might currently be the victim to Chris’ eros, if not for Alex’s bout of unfortunate luck.
  4. Reached the bar and asked for four beers.
  5. Received said beers and moved past the same exact path again to reach his friends.

And yet, at some point during the night, he’d ended up exchanging numbers with Christophe Giacometti. Alex would like to say that he remembers that, but he doesn’t. By that point, he’d started to hallucinate that Jean-Jacques LeRoy was singing karaoke on top of a table while his girlfriend tried to lead everyone into a line dance to Theme of King J.J., or whatever was the name of the song his sister Dannie was obsessed with back in Canada. The line dance was actually relatively easy, but one of Alex’s friends had still lost a shoe while trying to imitate the circle of high-kicks.

.

“Did that actually happen?” he asks Chris when he’s surprised the day before New Year’s Eve while walking his neighbor’s dog in the dog park. Alex has a lot of questions. Half the time he wonders if he was drunk. Chris tries to stuff another strawberry into his mouth, and Alex is starting to like Chris, even if he’s a little much.  

“We don’t talk about what happens at Viktor’s parties,” Chris shushes him gently, still giving him bedroom eyes. Alex is starting to really like Chris’ bedroom eyes. He’d like them more if they weren’t currently sitting on a blanket in the far corner of the dog park, with a small chihuahua sniffing near the edge of the blanket for a good pee spot.

“Is that, like, a hard rule or…?” he says, chewing on a strawberry.

“Didn’t you sign the non-disclosure agreement when you first arrived?” Chris furrows his brows, tilting his head curiously.

So, Alex comes clean.

“Well, we were party crashers so we snuck around the invite table? I didn’t realize there were NDAs being passed around…”

Chris’ eyes widen, “Well, let’s not tell Yuuri that. Or Viktor. But especially not Yuuri; he’s an anxious one.”

.

Alex assumes it’s all over when Chris returns home to focus on actually important things – like his skating and his programs and his competition.

There’s a strange sense of relief that washes over him for about a week, before he starts getting daily selfies. At first, the text messages feel benign enough (“Selfie with bae #meow”), but slowly they start heating up (like, “I found a hot tub ;)”), and then it all goes downhill from there.

He’s texting his mother while in a cab to let her know his sister arrived fine when a ping comes through and his sister starts choking on her own spit: “Holy shit, Alex, was that a dick?” she says so loud that the taxi driver breaks so hard they both tumble forward and the phone slides off his hand under the driver’s seat. Cue approximately 10 minutes of awkward as they try to fish it back out and he apologizes profusely to the cab driver, who keeps telling him, “no speak good English,” like he hadn’t been listening to NPR on the radio and tried to discuss the state of the U.S. stock market with them just before.

“Whose dick is that?” Allison asks, laughing loudly. “Oh my god, wait ‘til I tell Dannie!”

The car breaks again, and Alex glares at her: “Can you stop saying the word dick?” he whispers, trying to be discrete as he stuffs his phone deep into his pocket. He has a pretty good idea about whose dick it is, but he’s not sure he wants to confirm it, right now, with his sister in a taxi.

“Are you texting Dannie?” he flushes red. Dannielle, their older sister, is never going to let him live it down, what with him being the baby of the family (and her obsession with figure skating). “Don’t text Dannie! She’s going to tell Mom!”

“She is not! It’s just exciting! I don’t think you’ve dated anyone since you finished college, little brother…”

Alex groans, “And you don’t think this is why?”

“Excuse you. I’m being supportive,” Allison sticks out her tongue, still laughing. “You should send back an eggplant emoji.”

“I’m not going to send back an eggplant emoji!” his voice squeaks. “What does the eggplant emoji even mean?”

Allison snorts, “I think you know exactly what it means.”

Blueballs? He thinks, because that would expertly describe his feelings for the last couple of weeks. He nibbles on his bottom lip as he peeks at his phone inside his pocket. Nope, nope, we’re not even going there, Alex! – except he does go there, later, alone. That’s how Alex decides that it’s definitely not over. Not by far.

And he’s not even sure he wants it to be over.

.

Okay, so, a small break to recognize Yuuri Katsuki as a literal gift from heaven. As far as Alex is concerned, Yuuri is a gem. When Alex had told him he wanted to learn a little bit more about figure skating, Yuuri had taken it on himself to kindly educate Alex by setting up a friendly hangout session for them to watch the European Championships together at Alex’s place (and maybe call his sister Dannie so she could have a moment fawning over Yuuri), which had slowly been transformed into a party with Alex’s hockey friends and visiting sister—mainly because the former loved Yuuri like the adopted former hockey team pet they’d always wanted and never had. When the doorbell rings and Yuuri finally arrives, he holds up a box of microwaveable popcorn and grins: “I’ve got the goods!” he says, sliding past Alex and blinking in surprise when he finds there’s… seven more people crammed in Alex’s small living room. “Oh wow, when you said a couple of friends I thought, well, a couple.”

“Yuuri!” everyone welcomes him with a boom, lifting their beers.

“Ah, yeah. Everyone wanted to hang out. Sorry. They’re not used to hanging out with professional athletes. You didn’t bring Viktor?” Alex asks, pointing him in the direction of the kitchen. “We have pizza and beer and chicken wings and… some chocolate-covered quinoa things my sister made. I wasn’t sure what people eat when they watch figure-skating?”

Yuuri looks at the food with hungry eyes, but shakes his head, taking a deep breath before sashaying gracefully into the kitchen like the figure skating royalty he is… It helps Alex understand why Viktor is so caught up on his husband all the time.

“Hockey players and Viktor don’t tend to get along,” he shrugs off his coat, hanging it up. When his phone rings, he shows Alex the name on the screen. Viktor. “Besides, he’d be insufferable. He’s already been insufferable the whole ride over. Okay, well, I’m going to make my diet-approved snack and we can start!”

Really, none of them are ready for a figure skating watch party with Yuuri Katsuki: “I’ve got the low-sodium, lightly buttered popcorn!” Yuuri beams, long oversized shirt eating half his body, except for his Lululemon yoga tights as he jumps over the back of the sofa and plants himself right between Alex and Allison in front of the television. Alex’s friends lift their beers in a cheer before turning their attention back to the television. They hadn’t been sure what to wear to a figure skating viewing, so they’d decided to wear their favorite team jerseys. Tucked between a group of hockey stans, Yuuri looks soft and graceful, with his perfect posture and crossed legs.

Alex is amazed. The popcorn doesn’t even fly from the bowl, like it’s just too honored to be in the presence of such beauty and grace.

“So, I texted Chris to let him know we’re cheering him on!”

“Oh, is that the boy that sent you the dick pic?” Allison leers, practically resting her chin on Yuuri’s shoulder.

Yuuri turns red like a tomato, eyes wide behind his glasses: “He sent you a dick pic? Oh, excuse me. It’s my husband. Again.”

(Alex tries to pretend he can’t hear Viktor Nikiforov crying on the other side of the phone, like, “But Yuuri, my love, lapochka, mon petit chou…”

“I’m on a diet, Viktor. I thought we agreed no food-related pet names,” Yuuri groans, rubbing his forehead. Alex’s not sure how bad Yuuri’s diet is, but figures it must be bad if the mention of cabbage has him feeling defeated.  

“But, Yuuri, we always watch competitions together!”

“Viktor, I thought we talked about me making friends. I need friends. You need friends. We need friends separate from each other so we have things to talk about on date night now that you have this weird rule about no sex until after World's,” he whispers, hand cupped around the receiver of his phone as he walks back into the kitchen.)

.

The next time they’re all together, it’s after the Olympics, and they’re all outside in Alex’s backyard. It’s a sunny day, even if a bit nippy, with a few of Alex’s city friends crowding in circles gossiping about the two Olympic medalists at the party—including one that seems to want into Alex’s pants bad enough to go around introducing himself to all his friends. Christophe is incredibly charming and Alex’s buddies seem to like him, as in they laugh at some of his suggestive jokes and congratulate him on his medal (which means Alex’s secret Olympics party is now not a secret anymore). Eventually, though, Christophe returns to his spot by the grill with Viktor.

That leaves Alex alone for a moment. He’s actually still not sure how Viktor and Chris ended up at his party, considering Alex had only invited Yuuri for a BBQ with the boys (who have adopted Yuuri, because who doesn’t need a literal angel in their lives?)—and then figured he might as well splurge a little to welcome his new friend back to town and congratulate him on his shiny Olympic gold medal (by sneakily feeding him greasy foods and bread because Yuuri is still on a diet until after World’s in March). Viktor has been watching the food like a hawk, though. Alex has to hand it to him: He’s dedicated, bringing his own Tupperware filled with vegetables for his husband.

(“We did get katsudon to celebrate,” Yuuri shares with him quietly when they go get ice.

And Alex remembers their previous conversations on the different types of katsudon in Yuuri’s life and – “Like the food or…?” he looks uncomfortable as he sticks a finger into a hole made with his index finger and thumb.

“Both,” Yuuri says, a little smile tugging at his lips.)

So, as Yuuri helps him dump more ice into a cooler, he tells Alex about the time Viktor flashed him in an onsen.

Alex assumes that the story is going to be a lot more interesting than it actually is, but he makes sure to keep that to himself.

Meanwhile, Chris and Viktor are now attempting to grill.

By attempting, Alex means that they’re currently sipping fancy wine (when everyone else, including Yuuri, is having beer,) and shooing Makkachin and Baby away from the hot grill, and calling Yuuri every so often to check on the actual food. Somehow, Alex isn’t surprised neither of them have ever grilled alone. He’s not sure he would trust them with fire.  

“So, you ran into the onsen and he was there naked?” Alex deadpans, sipping on his beer. His eyes keep wandering back to Viktor wearing khakis and a tight, expensive Polo shirt over his broad chest and then back to Yuuri, who looks soft and down-to-earth in a white t-shirt and jeans. They’re so different, he thinks.   

Yuuri nods, looking conflicted. He tends to look like that a lot when he tells stories about Viktor pre-engagement and pre-wedding, like Alex is going to judge Yuuri vocally. Alex is a nice person. He has the decency to judge Yuuri and Viktor silently, in his head. This is one of those moments, mainly because it makes sense that Viktor would have been naked in an onsen.

“Well, he was bathing, wasn’t he? What did you expect?”

“That he wouldn’t stand and show me his dick the first time he saw me?” Yuuri retorts. “He had a little towel in his hand, but he didn’t even try to use it properly.”

Alex bites his tongue. Yuuri Katsuki is a real gem.

He’s the one that’s been dealing with an onslaught of sexy pictures for a good couple of months now—none of which he has answered (and doesn’t that make it more awkward that Chris is in his backyard now, where Alex can’t ignore him). It’s not that Alex doesn’t like Chris. He likes him fine. He likes him a lot, enough that he’s started following figure skating and inviting his buddies to watch. But it’s not exactly a relationship that would work out for either of them. Chris is an Olympic silver-medalist for a sport that has a season that lasts pretty much the entire year, and demands that he live in an entirely different county from Alex. And Alex has a life in New York. He can’t just leave everything behind for Chris.

Alex chooses his words carefully, evening his tone as he says, “You did kind of barge in on him bathing. If someone told me someone was bathing, I probably wouldn’t be running into the bathroom.”

“…and I don’t have an excuse for that,” Yuuri sighs, walking over to check on the burgers again. Viktor latches on like an octopus immediately.

“Yuuri, careful, it’s too hot,” Viktor pouts, trying to pull him away. “Makka, no, down… Baby, be a good baby and no whining..."

Chris brightens the moment he spots Alex walking behind Yuuri. Alex ducks his head shyly, unsure what to do.

“Uh, since you’ve got things covered here,” he tells Yuuri, “I’m going to get started on some salads.”

“Oh, let me help!” Chris swallows his last sip of wine hard before setting the glass down and beginning to push Alex towards the double-doors. “Oh, mon cher, I am a great cook,” he winks, “I guarantee you’ve never experienced what I’ve got in store.”

(He’s not wrong: Alex has never quite experienced a blowjob like that, much less in a kitchen, but he can’t exactly call that cooking.)

When they finally make it back to the BBQ, Alex realizes he left the half-made salad on the kitchen counter. And, for some weird reason, Yuuri is sitting on Viktor’s lap eating a hotdog seductively – with bread. It seems Viktor is too busy monitoring the hotdog eating (and dabbing at his husband’s lips with a napkin) to bother telling his husband to stick to his diet. The little Tupperware with raw broccoli and cauliflower is forgotten in front of them. When he locks eyes with Yuuri, his friend just winks at him, like he knows exactly what happened in the kitchen, or realizes his husband is drooling.  

“I thought he couldn’t have bread,” Alex whispers to Chris, who looks smug as he plays with Alex’s collar.

“Yuuri has a lot more influence over Viktor than he likes to let people believe,” he winks, slowly letting a hand fall to rest on the curve of Alex’s lower back, and he can feel his entire body shiver.

Alex clears his throat, a dusting of pink settling over his nose. He’s already kind of failed at keeping his composure around Christophe at this BBQ, but, in his defense, it has been months of visual teasing—and a really emotional outburst in his living room when he watched the object of his (denied) affections get a medal at the Olympics. So, maybe Alex is becoming a bit of a figure skating groupie. What good is it to have the attention of an Olympian without enjoying it?

“I just remembered I forgot the salad—to, uh, clean my cat’s litterbox.”

Chris arches an eyebrow, “And where is the litterbox?”

“Uh, the second floor?”

“Lead the way,” Chris purrs.

Alex imagines that the conversation Chris had with Viktor probably went a little something like this:

“Well, I don’t usually not kiss and tell, but this is a special case. I can say that I had a great time at the BBQ. And then I met the cat,” Chris nods, showing them pictures he took of said (adorable) cat. “Isn’t Puck adorable?”

Yuuri crawls from his position on the ground playing with their poodle and corgi puppy to take a peek: “Aww, cute. I haven’t met Puck yet. I think Alex said one of his friends is really allergic to cats, so he has to clean and keep Puck confined to the second floor when he has people over.” Baby and Makkachin take advantage of his misdirected attention to bowl him over right into Viktor’s knees.

Viktor laughs, scratching behind his dogs’ ears.

“I’m happy for you, Chris,” he says, grinning. “It’s about time something worked. I didn’t think it would be a cucumber, though.”

“I was also surprised,” Chris taps at his chin, leaning back to bask in the warmth of the alcohol starting to hit, “that it took this long. And that it took a weird dance with a cucumber and an eggplant that did it. Maybe he has a thing for eggplants? He kept asking me if I knew what the eggplant emoji meant.”

Yuuri frowns, mouthing something to himself.

“Doesn’t everyone know what the eggplant emoji means?” Viktor laughs.

Yuuri looks at him innocently with big, deep brown eyes, as he says, “That he’s a vegetarian?”

Viktor blinks, “Uh.”

Chris snorts, patting Viktor’s shoulder as he tells Yuuri, “Yes, darling. That’s exactly what the eggplant emoji means. It is the symbol of all vegetarians around the world.”

“Oh, interesting. I didn’t know Alex was a vegetarian. Or maybe he’s trying to be? – He’s very bad at it, if so,” Yuuri shrugs, jumping to his feet. He presses a kiss on Viktor’s forehead, pushing his hair back lovingly. “I’m going to walk the dogs! See you both in half an hour, okay?”

Viktor watches his lovely, darling, perfect husband walk out of the apartment with their two dogs. Baby tries hard to walk as fast as Makkachin, despite his stubby, short legs and tiny, chubby puppy body. It’s all too cute for Viktor to handle. He bites his knuckles, sobbing as he says, “he’s too innocent for this world. How did I manage to marry a literal angel, Chris? He doesn’t know what the eggplant emoji means.”

Or so Alex imagines the whole thing went, because someone else has to not know what the eggplant emoji means.

.

Alex assumes that with sex out of the way, Chris will get bored of him. But, that’s not what happens: “Did you just announce your retirement on international television?” Alex gasps into his phone as he tries to finish stirring his pasta sauce. He turns off the kitchen to pace the room. With Yuuri and Viktor also at World’s, he’s taken on dog-sitting duty. Puck is sleeping on top of Makkachin, ignoring as Baby tries to climb over his dog sibling to reach at Alex’s cat. “Did you just announce your retirement and propose marriage on international television?” he amends, because that’s what Alex just saw on television.

It’s all moving so fast. And yet, his heart is hammering in a nice way, the kind of way that makes him feel like he's going to throw-up rainbows. He hasn't felt that way in ever, actually.

“No, that’s not a yes. You can’t just walk away from a competitive career in ice dancing for me!” he panics. “Wait, ice dancing and figure skating are not the same thing? No, do not bring Yuuri into this. He has tried his best to teach me about figure skating. I’m just the idiot that didn’t know they were different. Yes, we will definitely discuss this when you come stay with me next week. Oh, and I’ll be making pasta with parmesan eggplant. Well, then be extra strict with your diet. No. I am not changing the menu: Why is this important if you’re retiring? Do you know how many times I’ve been making pasta just to get the sauce right for you? NO! I don’t want you to retire…”

Puck meows, trying to take a swap at Baby.

“I do like you, but we can’t get married when I haven’t even met your cat yet!”

And so, it really starts.

Dinner is uncomfortable as Yuuri chews his eggplant over and over. It’s starting to look a little mechanical as he seems to switch from one cheek to the other, like he will eventually crack the code on how not to choke on the mess of vegetable and cheese on his plate. Chris doesn’t even touch his in favor of drinking more wine. Viktor seems intent on saving his precious husband from an overcooked vegetable, stealing little bites of eggplant from Yuuri’s plate.

“You guys don’t have to eat it, if it’s bad,” Alex sighs, embarrassed as Puck meows at Chris for food.

Yuuri looks panicked as he shakes his head, “No, no, no. It’s not bad. I didn’t say that? Did you?”

Viktor mirrors his husband, “It’s great! See how I keep stealing seconds from Yuuri’s plate?”

“I’m not retiring because of you,” Chris interrupts them all.

Alex nods, “Yes, of course. You said that when you first got here.”

“I’m retiring because of me, and because of what I want out of my life, which just so happens to include you,” he clarifies for the second time. Alex isn’t sure he’s prepared to have this conversation in front of Yuuri and Viktor. He’s also not ready to have it alone, though. Viktor and Yuuri watch them like a tennis match. “I want what they have. I want life and love, too!”

“And you don’t think we could have that with you still skating? Yuuri is still skating!”

“He didn’t call it ice dancing,” Viktor gasps, whispering rapidly to his husband. Yuuri looks equally surprised. “I’m so proud. You did so good, my Yuuri! You trained a hockey player to appreciate the fine art and athleticism of figure skating.”

“I don’t know, can we?” Chris huffs, picking up Puck from the ground.

Yuuri slides his chair back, “I’m going to make popcorn. With half a butter stick. Because I deserve it: I have been winning gold consistently this season and butter matches my medals. Don’t stop me.”

Alex nods, “I think we can! We can just get on a schedule. I can help take care of your cat when you’re busy. Hell, we’ve made it work these last three months, haven’t we? Even if my sister now makes fun of me because of those dick pics you sent!”

“Then prove it!” Chris challenges him. “And it’s been four months, darling!”

“Fine, I will!” Alex stands.

“Fine, then let’s go!” Chris pushes his chair back, standing and heading for the door.

Alex follows, completely ignoring that Viktor is still at the table, looking completely flabbergasted. 

There was probably a lot more that happened, but Alex had been running on serious adrenaline by that point and everything else seemed to blur into that one micro-fight.

“Wait,” he runs after them, “Where are you going? Yuuri, come help!”

“To Vegas,” Chris tells Viktor, shoving a thin jacket against Viktor’s arms. “You’re driving us all to the airport. We need to stop by a pet store to get a crate for the cat.”

“Yuuri and I can’t go to Vegas! We have dogs!” he squawks, arms moving frantically.  

Yuuri walks back out, holding a packet of cooked popcorn: “What did I miss? Do I need to call the dog sitter?”

.

“And that’s how I didn’t retire that year and married the love of my life in Vegas, and then danced on a pole with Yuuri Katsuki for the second time in my life,” Chris explains on their first anniversary to a group of very confused former hockey players preparing for a friendly match on the ice. “Then Yuuri retired, and I won gold the following season and it was really the best year of my life. And even though people said we wouldn’t make it, here we are three years later with four cats, proving them wrong!”

“I thought you only had three cats,” Phichit interrupts, still knitting hats for his hamster.

“We recently adopted a kitten,” Alex explains, offering him a water bottle. 

Yuri and Otabek ignore them all, skating circles on the ice, like they’re not holding up a friendly hockey match.

Yuuri, the pet of the group, chooses that moment to walk out from the locker room decked out in full uniform: “I’m ready! Viktor helped me so now I have my padding and my helmet and I have a stick. Show me to the ice so I can hit that puck!”

Alex laughs, snorting as he walks over to Yuuri to explain the rules, again.

Viktor looks murderous as he stands behind Yuuri, arms crossed over his chest. Everyone knows the unspoken rule: No one is to even graze against Yuuri as he skates and tries his hand at hockey, which means whoever gets him on their team will effectively have the upper hand.  

“Be careful out there,” Chris says, wrapping his arms around Alex’s waist to pull him close. “Wouldn’t want anything to happen to our plans later tonight.”

Alex winks, “Don’t you worry. We’ll be enjoying a very special eggplant recipe I found on the Internet tonight.”

“Oh,” Chris blushes. And Viktor’s not sure he’s ever seen Chris blush in his life.

Next to him, Yuuri tugs at his shirt, pulling him down to whisper, “Is Alex still trying to become a vegetarian? Because he’s really bad at it, Viktor.”

And all Viktor can do is wrap an arm around his husband and bite his knuckles before saying: “I’ll explain eggplants to you later, Yuuri. Don’t worry.”

The End