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Winter Song

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Yuuri awoke to the buzz of a text message.

It wasn’t for him. Victor shifted in the bed beside him and reached to grab his phone from the night stand, where it had been plugged in and charging all night. Soon, he settled back down against the pillow and hugged Yuuri a little closer with the gentle pressure of one hand while he unlocked his phone with the other.

They were snuggled up together in the narrow hotel bed with Victor on his back and Yuuri partially on top of him. His left hip rested on the mattress, and their legs were intertwined. He could hear Victor’s heartbeat beneath his ear, steady as a metronome.

Outside their little cocoon of warmth, the room was chilly and hushed in a way that only a winter morning could be. The window on the far side of the room was iced over and glowing with sunshine.

“Did I wake you?” Victor said, his tone distracted as he typed out a text message in Russian. After he hit Send, he went in search of another app.

Yuuri dragged his mouth against Victor’s t-shirt before lifting his head to blink at the window. The brightness told him the sun had been up for a while. “What time is it?”

“Late.” Victor was scrolling through his Instagram feed now. “But you deserved to sleep in. We should be at the airport in about three hours.”

Yuuri dropped his head back down and was rewarded with the feel of Victor’s arm tightening around his waist. God, he was comfortable. Three hours wasn’t nearly enough time to savor the feeling of waking up with Victor. Yuuri could barely wrap his mind around the fact that he wasn’t dreaming.

Shyly, he glanced up at Victor’s face and was able to study him without drawing attention to himself. The arctic blue eyes and straight, slender nose. The brow he unconsciously held tense when he was thinking. The gentle fall of his hair onto his cheek.

He looked softer in the morning light. Hazy and radiant.

And Yuuri let himself imagine it.

Rolling onto his back. The phone dropping to the carpet, forgotten. Victor getting up on his hands and knees, wearing that sweet, dorky grin as he crawled on top of him. Feeling hands on his body that were not his own.

Yuuri had to mindfully slow down his breathing.

He was getting ahead of himself again. His behavior last night was more than a little embarrassing, but he was also pleased with where it had taken them. They’d broken through some important barriers. The problem facing him now was that he didn’t know what he was supposed to do on the other side. It was all he could do not to tip-toe back in the opposite direction.

However, the uncertainty was short-lived. Everything that was happening with Victor at that moment felt incredibly natural. It was as if nothing that significant had changed between them. Just a shift in awareness. Victor wasn’t acting any differently than he normally did, even though just a few hours ago, his student had straddled him and unleashed months of sexual tension on his neck tie.

It made Yuuri’s embarrassment feel like not such a big deal. Like he was overthinking something that was really quite simple.

Victor chuckled at his phone and said, “Look at this. Greetings from home.”

Yuuri squinted at the blurry picture on the phone before he had to reach out, take Victor’s wrist, and physically bring it closer to his face. Nearsightedness was such a pain. Makkachin smiled at him from the screen of the phone. His poodle curls were extra fluffy and decorated with a variety of multicolored bows, and the triplets were posed in the picture with him, looking far too pleased with their handiwork.

Yuuri found himself smiling as well. Not only because he loved that dog . . . but also because Victor had just called Hasetsu home.

“Have they posted the videos from last night?” Yuuri propped himself up on one elbow and reached for his glasses. “I promised Phichit-kun I’d watch his performance.”

Once the right video was located, they sat up against the headboard of the bed and cuddled close together to watch. Victor had Yuuri encircled within his arms with the phone held in front of them.

“We’re watching yours next,” Victor said. “I want to review some things with you.”

They often did this kind of analysis. (Though never in bed together. That was a first.) Victor made Yuuri watch many skating performances—most often his own so that Yuuri gained an awareness of what he was feeling on the ice versus how it looked to the audience. It wasn’t unusual for Victor to have a camera aimed at him in practice.

They did this as well—studying other performers. It was important to understand the competition, even if the skater in question was one of Yuuri’s closest friends.

When Phichit’s performance ended to thunderous applause, Victor asked, “How did that make you feel?”

“Wow,” Yuuri breathed, a word he’d said more than once while the video was still playing. “He’s been working hard.”

“Clearly. Quite a different skater than last year. But then so are you.”

Yuuri bit his lower lip as he pondered what he’d just watched. He’d never felt jealous of Phichit—or even that intimidated. He wanted the best for his friend and hadn’t minded forfeiting gold to him. (Just this once, at least. That wasn’t going to happen again.) But after watching that video, his mind felt unusually clear. For once, insecurity was not clouding his thoughts.

“I can beat him,” Yuuri realized.

Victor grinned. “Exactly what I was thinking. Yes, you can. And more importantly, you will. Now then.” He scrolled down until he found Yuuri’s video and opened it up. “The main course.”

Victor made him watch it three times, and apparently he didn’t go any easier on his boyfriends than he did an ordinary student. He pointed out every flaw and made a plan for addressing them in practice when they got back to Japan. There were still a few weeks before they had to be in Russia, and Yuuri had a feeling they were going to be intense. His feet ached just thinking about it.

But he was excited. Terrified, ready to erupt into flames, but happy. If he could perform that badly and still earn a silver medal, what would happen if he found his footing?

“There.” Victor pointed at the screen. “What were you thinking at that moment? With that little smirk on your face. . . .”

Victor no baka.

Yuuri blanched at the memory. He couldn’t exactly say he’d spent the first half of his performance internally grumbling about Victor’s inexperience as a coach. “Um.”

“And that!” Victor lamented. “You always look so unhappy during this part. What I wouldn’t give for a transcript of what goes on inside your head.”

The feedback on the performance wasn’t all bad.

Three times in a row, Victor got quiet in the middle as he watched Yuuri lift his hands and soar across the ice like he was the wind embodied in a person. “Beautiful,” he murmured, so spellbound that Yuuri wondered if Victor remembered he wasn’t alone in the room.

More than once, the video flashed to Victor’s face as he watched from the sidelines of the rink, revealing how shocked he’d been, particularly after the unplanned quad flip at the end. Seeing that pleased Yuuri far more than anything he saw himself do on the ice. It was like he’d sent a secret message that had been understood. Yuuri had learned to communicate with Victor just through his skating.

The video ended with him skating off the ice, smiling and opening his arms in Victor’s direction. Yuuri knew what happened next, of course. However, it suddenly dawned on him that he wasn’t the only one, especially when he read the first comment under the video.

It said: Why cut off the video before the kiss??? smh #VICTUURI #LGBTQA #PRIDE

“Oh.” Yuuri sat up ramrod straight and turned around in bed so that he was facing Victor. “Oh, no.”

He was aware that there had been an entire arena of witnesses around them but hadn’t yet considered the cameras. Their kiss had been broadcasted worldwide.

And good grief. Did he and Victor seriously have their own hashtag?

“What’s wrong?” Victor said, lowering his phone.

“My family . . . they were watching last night. Everyone was. They saw you and I . . . .” Yuuri was unwilling to say the word out loud, so he just demonstrated by smashing his hands together in what was meant to represent their first kiss. “On television. My sister is going to kill me. Wait. No. Actually, she’s going to kill you.”

Victor ran his hands back through his hair as he laughed. “Why?”

“Because I’m not supposed to have a boyfriend before she does!”

Victor’s grin softened into something sweeter. His eyes twinkled with pure affection. “Boyfriend, huh?”

Yuuri’s insides liquefied. It was all he could do not to dive under the bed and hide. But the relationship label was out there now, and he wasn’t going to take it back. Besides, Victor couldn’t actually be serious. What did he think they were? Roommates? Study buddies? No, he had to be teasing.

“What am I going to say to my mother?”

“Oh, Yuuri.” Victor was laughing again. “I got that particular lecture from her weeks ago. I don’t think she’s going to be surprised.”

It took a few minutes, but eventually Victor was able to calm Yuuri down. It didn’t particularly bother him that people knew he was with Victor. (The more selfish part of his mind actually enjoyed that quite a bit.) But what he didn’t like was the feeling that others might generalize or label a relationship they didn’t understand.

Victor wasn’t just his boyfriend. Their relationship wasn’t only comprised of that kiss. Yuuri didn’t even possess the right vocabulary to describe what they were to each other. How could he expect others to understand?

More than anything, he didn’t want the intrusion into their private space.

“People will talk,” Victor said. “And then they’ll get over it. You have an incredible amount of support in this world, Yuuri. Believe in your friends and family. You have no lack of love around you.” As his smile widened, he winked. “Trust me on that.”

The words made Yuuri flush with pleasure. Victor was clearly including himself in the group that loved him. Yuuri knew that already. Victor had never said those three words all in a row—I love you—but he told Yuuri as much with his everyday actions. The sentiment was ingrained in how he spoke and looked at him. All the same, it made Yuuri feel incredibly happy to hear it alluded to out loud.

“I’m going to go take a shower and pack,” Victor said.

Yuuri fidgeted as he nodded. He had many things to do as well before they departed from China, but he didn’t like that Victor was leaving him, even if it was just for a short time.

“One more thing before I go,” Victor said. “Two, actually. First, I haven’t given you a proper good morning yet.”

He crawled forward on the bed until his lips were level with Yuuri’s. There was a momentary pause—enough time for a smile and the reassurance that Yuuri had no protests—and then Victor kissed him. One of his hands went to Yuuri’s face while he supported himself on the bed with the other.

If Yuuri had thought it was warm beneath the covers with Victor, it was nothing compared to the heat of his mouth. The feeling spread down to his belly and beyond.

Unlike the kisses Yuuri had given him last night on the couch, Victor had initiated this one. He took charge, and it felt good. Leisurely but confident. It started off slow, with his thumb stroking Yuuri’s cheekbone ever so gently. Then Victor allowed his hunger to show. He opened his mouth and let Yuuri feel his tongue, silently encouraging him to do the same.

Yuuri let out a little gasp against Victor’s lips as arousal stirred deep in his abdomen. Like warm honey spilling out.

It lasted only a minute or so before Victor began to withdraw. Before he did, he kissed Yuuri’s lower lip and did the same to his upper. Then he drew back with a smile and said, “Hmm. . .” as if he couldn’t decide which he liked better.

Half-drunk with sensation, Yuuri watched as Victor got up from the bed. He was dressed in a long-sleeved t-shirt and pajama pants. Yuuri didn’t think he’d ever seen him wear so much to bed—even the robes at the onsen didn’t cover that much skin—and he could only assume Victor had chosen that particular outfit to make Yuuri feel more comfortable. It was an unnecessary gesture but still pleased him greatly.

Yuuri felt safe. Respected. It was yet another example of Victor saying I love you with his actions. If anything, it made Yuuri even more comfortable with the idea of Victor taking off his clothes. There was nothing to fear or be intimidated by.

“Second . . .” Victor picked up the silver medal from where it had spent the night on the table. Leaning down, he placed the medal in the direct center of Yuuri’s chest and put his hand over it. “I wanted to tell you that I’m very proud of you. Your hard work paid off, and the whole skating world is talking about it. I can’t wait to see what you do next, Yuuri.”

Victor gave him a final lingering kiss before he left for his own room.

Yuuri barely registered it. He was trembling inside from the unexpected praise.

Once he was alone, Yuuri threw himself back onto the bed and looked at his silver Grand Prix medal. He traced the engraved lettering with one finger, a smile tugging at one side of his mouth.

“Just wait,” he whispered.

Because he was nowhere close to being done.


To be continued