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Winter Song

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The changing numbers on the elevator panel marked Yuuri’s ascent to the floor of their hotel room. He readjusted the strap of his bag on his shoulder and stared straight ahead. His body felt tired but energized at the same time, as it always did after a good practice. Though his muscles were in need of a few solid hours of rest, his mind was alert despite the earliness of the hour.

He felt good. Calm. Focused.

It wasn’t dawn yet, but it was close. The Barcelona sky had only just begun to lighten with the approach of morning, but the sun had not made an appearance. The air outside was cold and hushed, like the city was holding its breath before the birth of the new day.

He’d been gone all night, in part because it had taken forever to find a place to practice. They hadn’t been able to get into the arena, but Minako had made use of some connections forged during her dancing days. After a good deal of name dropping, they’d eventually found a local figure skating enthusiast. Not only was the man a fan of Yuuri, but he also happened to work at a local rink. Once Minako offered him a special guest pass to the Final, along with a personal Meet and Greet with Victor Nikiforov (which was going to be loads of fun to explain), they had a rink all to themselves for the night.

It had been a fruitful practice. The alterations he’d made to his jump composition felt natural, like they should have been that way all along. While the quad flip at the end was still difficult enough that Yuuri’s legs went wobbly with exhaustion afterward, it was as if everything that preceded that jump served to properly warm up his body and mind to nail the landing.

Even though he’d flubbed a few jumps in practice, he felt unusually calm about the whole thing. It was only Friday morning, and he still had a full day to rest before his performance on Saturday night. There was plenty of time to get nervous between now and then, but at least for the present, his anxiety did not seem particularly interested in tormenting him.

At least . . . not about his upcoming performance.

He still had to face Victor, and that made him plenty anxious.

Minako had told him about Victor’s text message, so Yuuri knew he’d be in the room. Probably sleeping. Maybe he could just sneak into bed, cuddle up next to him, and fall asleep as well? That way, they could wake up hugging each other and let that set the tone for the day. More than anything, Yuuri did not want their fight to continue another second. Whatever it took to make things better, he was willing to do it.

In between last night’s marathon of phone calls, Minako had talked to him about a failed relationship from her past. Specifically, how lack of communication and emotional distance had ruined something that could have been good. This was Yuuri’s first relationship, and if he wanted to preserve it, he was going to have to learn not to think of himself as a one-man show anymore. He was part of a team now, and Victor was his partner. Not only that, but he was a damn good partner to have. Supportive and dedicated. Optimistic and kind.

“No relationship is perfect,” Minako had told him. “You’re both going to mess up at times, but you have to decide to work at it instead of giving up. Don’t shut Victor out, Yuuri. He’s one of the good ones, and you don’t want to know what it feels like to wake up and realize that’s gone.”

Yuuri had gotten very quiet after that. He knew what he needed to do . . . but that didn’t mean he had any idea where to start.

When the elevator doors opened, he stepped out into the hallway with his cardkey clenched tight in his hand. Though he was a little nervous about what awaited him on the other side of the door, he was calm as he unlocked it. If there was to be a confrontation, it wouldn’t happen yet. He expected to find Victor asleep, but when Yuuri pushed the door open and squinted into the darkness, he instead saw that their twin beds were empty. They hadn’t even been slept in.

Victor’s coat was there, cast onto the foot of the bed closest to the door, and Yuuri’s birthday book lay beside it. It was opened to a two-page spread of pictures that documented their hard months of practice last summer. The season they’d fallen in love.

The hotel room was dark save for the muted glow coming through the enormous window on the far wall. The endless sky was beginning to brighten and change colors. Yuuri blinked and looked up, his attention drawn by a silhouette.

Victor was perched there on the sill of the window, sideways with his legs extended in front of him. His left shoulder, knee, and head rested against the glass, and though he was still dressed in the clothes he’d hastily put on after their argument, his feet were bare. With half-lidded eyes, he gazed at the city lights, which sparkled all around him like diamonds.

The sky in the distance was dusty purple, painting Victor in soft, somber tones. He looked very young . . . and so beautiful that for the span of several heartbeats, Yuuri found himself unable to do anything but stare.

“Hi.” Yuuri’s bag slipped off his shoulder, and he lowered it to the ground. The door closed behind him.

It took him a second, but Victor eventually turned his head to acknowledge the greeting.

He wasn’t smiling.

It wasn’t exactly an open invitation to strike up a conversation, but Yuuri didn’t care. His heart couldn’t take this anymore, so he walked right up to the window, put a hand on Victor’s shoulder, and said, “I’m sorry.”

There was no response. Tenderly, Yuuri brought his fingers to tuck a few strands of silver hair behind Victor’s ear before he moved to stroke the warm skin of his face. But all that did was inspire Victor to look away again.

Oh, God. He was still angry with him.

A feeling of dread settled heavy in Yuuri’s gut. While he knew not everything had been magically fixed after their exchange of apologies last night, he hadn’t realized it was this bad. Had something else happened to upset him?

“We have practice in two hours,” Victor said, his voice dangerously smooth. “I assume you’re not going?”

“I . . . don’t really need to, no.”

“I see. So you’re just giving up, then? Is that what we came all this way to do?”

Victor’s tone was obviously meant to rub him the wrong way, but Yuuri resisted the temptation to get defensive. He was determined not to let this turn into a fight. “It’s not like that. Minako-sensei found me a rink last night, and I practiced for a few hours. So don’t worry. I feel good about tomorrow night’s performance. And besides . . . how many times have you told me not all practice happens on the ice?”

His fingers still stroked Victor’s hair and skin, following the fall of silken strands around the curve of his ear and down to his neck. Yuuri hoped to comfort him the way he hadn’t been allowed to last night. “I’m sorry,” he said again, quieter this time. Almost a whisper.

Victor closed his eyes. His jaw tightened, teeth clenching.

And then something seemed to break inside him. He exhaled in a rush and turned on the window sill so that he was facing the room. By the time his feet came to rest on the ground beside Yuuri’s, they had melted into each other.

What a relief it was to hold him . . . and be held in return. “Vicchan,” Yuuri whispered. Eyelids shut, trembling.

They hugged like months had passed since their last meeting. Victor’s arms were wrapped around Yuuri’s middle, face pressed to his chest, a little hitch in every breath. Yuuri cradled Victor’s head against his body, fingers combing through fine silver hair again and again, working out the tangles, smoothing them into place.

Victor’s hair smelled like the ocean with the slightest hint of cigarette smoke. (Where had he been last night?) But beneath that was a scent that was unmistakably him. Warm and vibrant. The same scent that clung to his clothes and pillow. It made Yuuri’s head buzz and left him feeling a little drunk. His body ached with the sudden need to have Victor’s scent all over him.

Yuuri rubbed his mouth against Victor’s hair and left a kiss there, but that only took the edge off his need. Drawing back, Yuuri put his hands on Victor’s face, guided it upward, and kissed him full on the mouth.

Victor didn’t resist . . . but he also didn’t kiss him back. The set of his lips was soft but chaste, even when Yuuri stepped closer and pressed in between Victor’s thighs. Arctic blue eyes opened between kisses, and Yuuri knew then that even though Victor wasn’t pushing him away, he was still holding on to some hurt. There was not an inch of space to be found between their physical bodies, yet a great chasm existed between their minds.

After another kiss barely got any reaction at all, Yuuri withdrew slightly, and his thumbs came to stroke Victor’s cheekbones. “Please don’t be angry with me. I don’t want to fight anymore. I just want to make things right.”

He could feel the tension in Victor’s face—the way his muscles tightened between the spread of gentle fingers. However, his voice was calm when he spoke. “I’m not angry with you, Yuuri. I’m sad. You’ve had eight months to work through the emotions of this, and I’ve had less than twelve hours. Can I just be sad for a while?”

“I didn’t. . .” Yuuri trailed off and closed in on himself. He really had messed up by not sharing his plans with Victor earlier but didn’t know what to say or do to fix it. He couldn’t exactly reverse time. “It’s just hard seeing you like this.”

Victor’s gaze sharpened to a point. “Well, then don’t look.”

The words sent a chill through Yuuri.

But that only made him more determined to melt the ice between them. He moved in again, hands still on Victor’s face, and brought their foreheads together. It took a little coaxing and a great deal of courage and patience, but bit by bit, the tension in Victor’s body began to release. It diminished until nothing remained except weariness. Victor gave up and stopped resisting, and everything about his body language signaled that he didn’t want to fight anymore either.

Encouraged by this, Yuuri moved in again to kiss him—the press of his mouth, gentle and loving—and this time, Victor responded.

It was uncoordinated at first, like they were learning how to kiss each other all over again. But as they remembered how much better this felt than being separated, things began to heat up. Their lips opened up against each other’s, and then came the soft push of Victor’s tongue in his mouth. Hot and delicious. Just a tease of it at first. Then the slow slide that made Yuuri feel weak in the knees.

He let out a moan, and his hips again angled forward into Victor’s body. He needed this badly. Needed the distance between them gone. He was emotionally exhausted and wanted all that rawness inside soothed with sweetness.

Yuuri had never meant to hurt Victor. He loved him so much.

They started to kiss in earnest, each flick of tongue dipping a little deeper, lingering a bit longer. One of Victor’s arms hugged him around his waist, while his other hand slipped inside Yuuri’s sweatshirt and found the patch of velvety skin on the small of his back.

Yuuri shivered even though his body had been set on fire from the heat of those kisses. But as good as it felt, it still wasn’t enough. He wanted Victor to claim him. Wanted him to stand up, push Yuuri back on the bed, and get on top of him. But that wasn’t what happened.

Instead Victor pulled back from their kisses and looked up at him with those frozen blue eyes. His gaze wasn’t unkind by any means, but it lacked familiarity. Even now, with Yuuri’s lips wet and pulsing from Victor’s kisses, there was a distinct emotional distance between them. It frightened Yuuri—that something so precious to him could have vanished like that. Victor had always been so open with him. He’d always been right there. Available. And now he wasn’t.

“You must be tired,” Victor said. “If you’re not going to the arena to practice, you should probably get some rest.”

It felt like a dismissal. An excuse to end this and go to bed, where they didn’t have to have a real conversation. But there was no way Yuuri was going to be able to sleep, knowing things weren’t resolved. He wasn’t ready to let go yet. His thumb moved across Victor’s chin, then got more daring on the way back and dragged across his wet lower lip. “I need to shower first. You could join me if you want. I’d like that.”

“Mmm.” A noncommittal response.

There was only so far Yuuri could push when he didn’t feel wanted. The level of his chin dropped, and his hands fell away from Victor’s face and came to rest on his shoulders instead. “Do you still need space? I can back off if you want to be alone.”

Victor drew in a slow breath, and for a few moments, it seemed like he was going to answer that question with a definitive Yes. “No,” he said eventually. He shook his head once. “No, I miss you.”

Hope stirred in Yuuri’s heart.

A hesitant smile pulled at his lips, and it widened when Victor stood and went in for a hug. Yuuri didn’t hesitate for a second. His arms went around him at once. Finally, he thought. A chance to rebuild their connection and hopefully make it stronger than before. Yuuri knew he needed to work on being more open, but he couldn’t do that if the door was shut in his face. “I miss you, too,” he whispered.

Victor’s palm put pressure on the small of Yuuri’s back, holding his body there against his so effortlessly. “I’m here. And I’m sorry. I know I’m not handling this very well. This is very . . . frustrating to me. But I promise I’m not going anywhere. Just give me some time to work through it, okay?”

It was Victor who initiated what happened next. He pulled back a little, one hand coming to guide Yuuri’s face up, and then Victor moved in to kiss him. It was very warm and sweet. The kind of kiss that carried a message. Butterfly wings stirred and beat inside of Yuuri, and he leaned in, yearning to deepen the connection.

The hunger awoke something in him. With the decision to allow Victor inside, Yuuri had torn down the wall of defense he’d always kept between them. That emotional barrier was gone now, leaving him exposed and vulnerable, but he’d expected that much and prepared for it. But what he hadn’t anticipated was how much more vivid everything would become when he stopped hiding from it. The closeness. The warmth. The taste. Victor’s kiss wasn’t particularly passionate—more quiet and affectionate—yet Yuuri felt profoundly shaken by it. Everything was intensified.

Though his eyes were closed, he was aware that the room had gotten brighter. Outside, the sun had finally risen, and daylight had fallen upon them. He opened his eyes and almost gasped when he realized how real Victor was.

It was like Yuuri had been mentally averting his gaze this entire time because he was too afraid of being seen in turn. He did it when they talked. When they kissed. When they had sex. Though he’d learned to be at ease with the physical aspects of those encounters, he’d never mentally engaged before. It was like realizing he hadn’t been paying attention or allowing those moments to truly touch his mind. Only now, he was finally seeing what was right in front of him, and his senses were hyper-stimulated by that new awareness.

Victor Nikiforov was kissing him.

He had Yuuri held against his hard, lean body, and every inch of him was a new discovery. The pout of his lower lip that was so good to suck. The press and retreat of his stomach when he breathed. The dig of his shirt buttons into Yuuri’s chest. This might be his idol, but Victor Nikiforov was made of flesh and blood. He was a real person, and Yuuri felt like he was seeing and tasting him for the very first time.

Victor pulled back from the kiss and opened his eyes, which were a shock of color against his pale complexion. Aqua blue with flecks of green, amber, and sky. The color of ancient ice. The morning light suited him and warmed the frost of his features with soft pink hues. Had he always had a dimple beneath the right corner of his mouth? Had his eyelashes always been that long and thick? Yuuri brushed Victor’s hair out of his eyes and drank in the sight of him like he was studying a living statue.

The increased attention did not escape Victor’s notice. He frowned and said, “What’s the matter?”

“Nothing. Just thinking about how beautiful you are.”

The old Yuuri would have never admitted something like that out loud, but he’d already decided to be more vocal with his private thoughts. He needed to tell Victor these things so that there was never a question about how Yuuri felt about him. He had kept far too much to himself.

Surprised registered in Victor’s expression. Flattered and caught off guard by the compliment, he flushed a little and smiled—and became impossibly more beautiful in the process. His hands came to rest on either side of Yuuri’s waist as he said, “Is that invitation to join you in the shower still open?”

Desire pulsed deep inside—right where Victor was touching him.

Yuuri nodded. Yes, the idea of being naked with Victor in a tight space was very appealing. He wanted sex. Wanted it so badly, he had to remind himself to keep breathing.

“I’ll get the water going so it has time to heat up,” Victor said. “Take your time.” He kissed Yuuri’s forehead, squeezed his waist with both hands, and then left him standing there alone.

Still overwhelmed and enraptured by the realness of what had just happened, Yuuri stared at the window in front of him for several seconds before he remembered himself and snapped out of it. He turned in time to see Victor pulling off his shirt and letting it fall to the floor on the way to the bathroom. It wasn’t like him not to care about his personal items like that. Though their argument was over, Victor still wasn’t acting like himself. He was as sweet as he ever was, but he looked defeated. Like he’d had the wind knocked out of him.

Yuuri walked over, picked up Victor’s shirt, and brought it to his nose. Like his hair, it smelled like the sea. He must have spent some time outside last night. Yuuri folded it neatly and placed it on top of Victor’s things, then stripped his own sweatshirt off. Looking down at himself, Yuuri sighed when he saw the obvious tent in his pants. Surely Victor had felt his arousal. There was no way he could have missed it.

Was he in the mood for sex, too?

Yuuri pushed his sweatpants down and stepped out of them, then kicked off his underwear as well. With his back to the bathroom, facing away where Victor couldn’t see him, Yuuri couldn’t help but touch himself. It didn’t help. The hand on his cock might as well have been made of air for all the satisfaction it brought him.

He wanted Victor’s hand there. The burn of his mouth on the head. The clench of his body around its length.

The lust was intense enough to render Yuuri a bit stupid, like half his brain cells had perished when all the blood went rushing to his cock. Barely aware of what he was doing, he went straight to the nightstand drawer and retrieved the lubricant. It was very possible he was going to be turned away, and that was fine. He would figure out a way to work out his frustration on his own.

But if Victor was interested in a little makeup sex? Yuuri was going to be all over him.

He slicked himself up inside good, then dropped the lube on the bed and walked toward the bathroom, his cock alert and bobbing with every step. Victor had turned on the shower and was unzipping his pants while he waited for it to heat up. Yuuri had trouble breathing as he watched Victor’s pants droop and catch on his narrow hips.

He had a gorgeous body, and Yuuri’s new hyper-awareness helped him savor the details. The muscles of his back and the trim waistline. The broad, masculine shoulders that extended so far past Yuuri’s own. The strong arms that could lift him into the air with ease while he balanced himself on nothing but a pair of ice skate blades.

Setting his glasses aside on the counter, Yuuri came up behind Victor and kissed the light sprinkling of freckles he’d never noticed on the crown of his shoulder. Victor turned to acknowledge him only briefly, then pushed his pants and underwear down and stepped into the shower. Yuuri followed him in, still staring at his lover’s naked body like he’d never seen it before.

The curtain fell into place behind him, enclosing them both inside. Steam began to fill the space between them, but even then, the details were incredibly sharp. Not even the absence of his glasses took away from that.

Victor put his face right into the water and combed his wet hair back with his fingers. The sight of water running all over him had Yuuri moving closer. His arousal nudged Victor from behind. He had to know what Yuuri wanted. There was nothing to do now except wait to see if he wanted it, too.

Victor stepped back from the water and reached for the shampoo. “Get your hair wet, and I’ll wash it for you.”

He always had liked playing with Yuuri’s hair—brushing it, running his fingers through it when they cuddled, whatever he could get away with. Yuuri did as he asked and stepped under the warm stream, wetting his hair thoroughly before turning back around. As he wiped water from his eyes and face, Victor moved closer and brought his hands to Yuuri’s hair to begin working in the shampoo.

It was an unexpectedly tender moment. A simple, everyday routine turned into a chance to connect and take care of each other. As Victor’s fingers moved in his hair, Yuuri blinked up at him, feeling far more sexually innocent than he actually was. He was aware now that Victor was aroused as well. Their cocks bumped and rubbed together between them, a flirtatious little dance.

And for some reason, it made Yuuri feel like they’d never touched each other before. Perhaps it was because of his new awareness in Victor’s presence, but everything was incredibly vivid and new.

When Victor was satisfied with the cleanliness of Yuuri’s hair, he guided him back under the water to rinse out the shampoo. It was Victor’s preferred brand, and Yuuri couldn’t remember the last time he smelled so strongly of anything before. But he liked it. Liked having Victor’s scent on him and knowing he’d carry it around for a while.

“Can I wash your hair, too?” Yuuri said.

A slight smile surfaced in Victor’s eyes. “I’d like that, though I haven’t finished with yours yet.” He picked up another bottle that looked similar to the shampoo.

Yuuri made a face. “What is that stuff?”

“You don’t use conditioner?”

“No . . . ? I thought it was for girls.”

“Oh, Yuuri.” Victor poured some of the cream into his palm and brought it to the ends of Yuuri’s hair. After he worked it in, he had to stop Yuuri from immediately trying to wash it out. “Not yet. Wait three minutes, and then you can rinse.”

“What does it need three minutes to do? This is weird. I’m uncomfortable.”

The smile had moved from Victor’s eyes down to his lips . . . and that had Yuuri smiling as well, even though he had disgusting, slimy conditioner dripping from the ends of his hair. He would endure a lot worse than this to cheer him up. “See? You can’t be angry with someone who’s this clueless about life.” Yuuri smiled sheepishly. “Hand me the shampoo?”

The exchange might have been one of the more pointless conversations they’d ever had, but it had done an excellent job of melting the remaining ice between them. There was still a hint of sadness in Victor’s expression, but he was also fighting a smile as Yuuri washed his hair.

They stood much closer to each other than what was necessary to get the job done, and their stomachs (and other things) touched while he worked. Yuuri wanted badly to be kissed and looked up in expectation more than once, but Victor only gazed down at him with that slight smile playing at his lips. His hands never strayed from where they rested on Yuuri’s waist.

After several very enjoyable minutes of closeness, Victor said, “It’s probably a good idea to rinse your hair soon.”

“Oh. I forgot.” Yuuri had gotten a little carried away with what he was doing. Washing someone else’s hair was kind of sexy. He ducked under the water quickly and rinsed the conditioner out. And afterward, he was a little baffled by how different his hair felt. Strangely slippery. Why was this a desirable effect? He felt like he needed to wash it again.

Victor rinsed his own hair out while Yuuri stepped back to watch. He couldn’t help it. Victor’s body was slightly angled to one side, and Yuuri could see the tip of his cock peeking out.

It was gorgeous, of course. Beautifully shaped with just the slightest upward curve when he was hard. Yuuri had touched him there many times and even licked its length all over . . . but had he ever allowed himself to simply appreciate how perfect it was? He’d always been too shy to focus on the details.

The tip of Victor’s cock was dusty pink, and the skin of the shaft was only slightly darker than his alabaster stomach and thighs. It was longer than Yuuri’s—long enough to make his spine tingle when Victor was inside him. The stretch was perfect, too, and that upward curve was sinful, the way it rubbed him in all the right places.

Unlike Yuuri, Victor was circumcised, which wasn’t as common of a practice in Russia as it was in other countries. It made him wonder why Victor’s parents had made that choice for him, but he’d never had the courage to ask. Yuuri liked the way it looked, though. The head was always proudly displayed, whereas Yuuri’s stayed tucked away until Victor got him worked up. He liked being able to explore the differences in their bodies.

When Victor turned away from the water to reach for the conditioner, Yuuri noticed something new. At some point, Victor had shaved off almost all his pubic hair. He was smooth there except for a tiny patch of neatly-trimmed silver at the base of his cock. Yuuri’s own arousal pulsed at the sight of it.

Victor must have noticed the direction of his gaze because he said, “What do you think I was doing in the shower so long last night?”

“I like it.” Yuuri’s cheeks felt very hot, and there was no small amount of lust darkening his eyes. He was jealous of the hands in Victor’s hair. Of the water that got to run down the full length of him.

When Victor was done with the conditioner, he reached for the liquid body soap he’d brought along on the trip. He poured the pink liquid directly into his hand, and the smell of frozen rose petals soon filled the small space. Victor rubbed his hands together to distribute the soap evenly and then brought them to Yuuri’s shoulders.

Yuuri stared up at Victor while he soaped up his body. He took his time, making sure not to miss an inch—from the vulnerable dip at the base of his throat down to the points of his nipples and then to the softness of his belly. He didn’t go any further, but the suds kept journeying south from there. Down his abdomen and thighs.

More than a little turned on, Yuuri reached for the soap and poured some in his hand as well. They lathered each other up in companionable silence—Yuuri’s thumbs lingering far longer than necessary at Victor’s light pink nipples, Victor reaching around to clean Yuuri’s back. Their bellies were soon pressed together, both their cocks pinned between them, while soap suds slid lazy trails down their bodies.

“Kiss me?” Yuuri said, breathless with want.

He was surprised it wasn’t already happening, to be honest. Victor didn’t normally hold back like this. Not since that night in Yuuri’s bedroom when they’d been physically intimate for the first time.

Victor wore a slightly pained expression. “I shouldn’t be touching you when I’m upset . . . though that’s not easy when you look at me like that.”

Was that why he was hesitating? Because they’d fought?

He was being so sweet and attentive that Yuuri hadn’t even realized he was still upset. But now that he looked closer, he could see it just beneath the surface of Victor’s calm. The tension and hurt. He wasn’t doing well and was trying his best to keep it pushed down so that it wouldn’t affect Yuuri.

“You would never hurt me,” Yuuri said. “But I hurt you, didn’t I?”

Victor didn’t respond. He tried to turn his face away but was stopped when Yuuri put a hand to his cheek.

“I’m sorry, Vicchan,” he said. “I love you.”

The words had an immediate effect on Victor. He blinked and finally met Yuuri’s gaze.

He’d never told Victor that he loved him before. Not in English, at least.

Victor had said once that he knew Yuuri loved him, and though he hadn’t denied it, it wasn’t the same as voicing the sentiment out loud. He’d told Victor that he loved him in Japanese before. Perhaps he’d understood . . . but then again, maybe he hadn’t. Yuuri wasn’t sure why he hadn’t been able to say it out loud before now, but he knew Victor needed to hear it.

“You don’t have to keep apologizing, Yuuri,” Victor said. “Once was enough. But you could say that other thing again if you wanted to.”

A hopeful smile warmed Yuuri’s face and heart. “I love you.”

It made Victor emotional enough that he hung his head.

Yuuri pressed a kiss to the corner of his fiancé’s mouth. As much as he wanted to be intimate with him, he had no intention of pressuring Victor for sex if he truly wasn’t in the right mindset. Yuuri was prepared to back off, but to his surprise, Victor turned his face and caught his lips in a kiss.

Lightning ricocheted all through Yuuri’s body and mind. Pure emotion came pouring out of them both and fueled their movements. Fingers tangled in hair. Mouths worked hungrily together. It took less than five seconds for all the mounting sexual tension to flare up and explode into white hot flames inside of them.

“Victor,” Yuuri whispered between kisses. “I want you.” No reason to shy away from it now.

“God, you’re hard.” Victor’s hand moved between them to grip both their cocks together in his fist. The soap made the slide a little too easy. “I could bring us off like this.”

Yuuri bit down on his lower lip. Oh, it felt good to finally have Victor touching him there. He knew just how Yuuri liked it, too—always putting the most pressure and squeeze on the last inch or two near the head. And to have Victor’s cock there against his? Yuuri made the mistake of looking down at what Victor was doing and saw the tips of both cocks, disappearing and reappearing beneath the slide of Victor’s hand. Yuuri whimpered and said, “Please. I want you inside me. I need it.”

“Not here. Yuuri, soap makes for poor lubricant, and I’m not going to hurt you. Do you want me to use my mouth?”

So frustrated that he’d gone beyond the ability to form words, Yuuri guided Victor’s hand behind him and between the trembling cheeks of his ass. He helped Victor ease a few fingers in and went very still as they penetrated him. Yuuri leaned heavily against Victor, his vision going hazy at the feel of it.

Victor let out a quiet gasp when his fingers sunk into the tight wetness. He hadn’t expected to find Yuuri already slicked up for him. “Fuck. . .”

And just like that, he was picking Yuuri up. His feet left the floor of the shower, and almost by instinct, his thighs parted and went around Victor’s middle. Yuuri felt the cool wall of the shower behind his back. Victor had pressed Yuuri’s body there to help him balance. Strong hands gripped the bottoms of Yuuri’s thighs to support the rest of his weight, and Yuuri did what he could to help. Arms around Victor’s neck. Legs tight around his hips.

Victor mouthed at Yuuri’s neck, his hunger apparent in the marks he left behind. He left what must have been a shameless hickey at the base of his throat where Yuuri’s pulse was beating and started in on another at the join of his neck to his shoulder. When Yuuri felt the nudge and press of a cock at his entrance, his panting began to race out of control.

“Yuuri?” Victor said, his voice strangled.

He was asking for consent, though for the life of him, Yuuri couldn’t figure out why Victor felt he hadn’t received it already.

“Fuck me,” Yuuri said, greedy for it.

Victor didn’t hesitate. He pressed in and was swallowed right up. It happened so fast that Yuuri went rigid with surprise. His mouth formed a perfect O, and his toes curled. While the stretch happened quickly, it didn’t hurt. The burn felt good. Necessary. His lips relaxed into a breathless smile of relief.

Yuuri liked sex.

He liked it very much.

After that initial moment of penetration, Victor paused just long enough to steady his own legs beneath him before he started to fuck Yuuri open against the wall. Victor wasn’t fully inside him yet. Just the head so far, and the movements made the most obscenely sticky sounds. The head of Victor’s cock was the thickest part, and the tight ring of muscles at Yuuri’s entrance was the most sensitive.

It was the sweetest torment, that shallow fuck. Yuuri was quickly overstimulated and loved every second of it.

Victor pulled all the way out, the tip of his nose coming to rub sweetly against Yuuri’s, before he pushed his cock in again as brusquely as before. Just to make Yuuri feel that delicious moment of penetration all over again. Victor worked his cock in a little deeper every few thrusts, and once he was fully seated, he started a slow grind against him.

Yuuri leaned his head back against the shower wall and moaned.

“Do you like that, my love?” Victor asked. “Is this what you wanted?”

“Hnnggg. . .” As if the sex wasn’t already enough to render Yuuri incoherent. Now Victor had to go and call him that.

Yuuri’s senses were on overload. Like before, he was so much more aware of everything that was happening. The push and pull of a cock inside him, rubbing every nerve-ending, stretching him apart and sliding so deep, he could feel it in his mind. But it wasn’t just the sex he was attuned to. He was hyperaware of Victor’s reaction to it as well. Of the little gasps between every stroke. The way his hands worked desperately at Yuuri’s body. The way Victor made love to him with his eyes and lips and hands and cock like his entire focus was on Yuuri’s pleasure instead of his own.

How was it possible sex could be this much more intense, just from opening his mind up to it?

“Look at me while I fuck you,” Victor said. “I want to watch you come. I promised you last time, didn’t I? That I would make you come like this.”

Victor had promised. Yuuri had wanted so badly to come with a cock inside of him, but that hadn’t happened. Victor had said he would make it up to him.

Already Yuuri was close to coming. The underside of his cock was rubbing against a hard, soapy stomach, and the tip of it was purple with the need to come. His balls were held tight against his body, already straining.

“Look at me,” Victor said again, sweeter this time. “I want to see you.”

Yuuri mentally resisted the request for the second time. It wasn’t an easy thing to do—to look another person in the eyes during such an intimate moment. He knew if he did, Victor was going to see everything, right down to the heart of him.

But Yuuri had already promised himself he would be more open, and even though every brain cell in his head fought against him hard, he did as Victor asked and locked eyes with him.

Nothing happened at first except Victor smiling so sweetly that Yuuri couldn’t help but smile back. But then it started—the slow descent into those beautiful blue eyes—and Yuuri was soon lost to it. He trembled inside, all too aware that it wasn’t just his physical body being penetrated anymore. He’d granted Victor entryway into his mind, which was simultaneously Yuuri’s safe-place and his torment.

Almost immediately, the sex felt different. Victor’s eyes turned Yuuri to hot liquid inside, and the push of his cock felt impossibly more intimate. It was like losing his virginity all over again. Victor was inside him—mind, body, heart—touching places no one else was allowed.

And . . . it actually wasn’t as frightening as Yuuri feared it would be. Like the act of sex itself, he just needed to get used to it. The first time was the hardest, but then he realized his mind had made a bigger deal of it than was necessary. He hugged Victor closer and kissed him, far more at ease with this, even after that deep connection remained when he closed his eyes.

The connection ran both ways, however, and while Yuuri had seen how much Victor really loved him, he also saw how sad he still was. It made Yuuri’s heart ache terribly. He caressed Victor’s face while they kissed, suddenly feeling overwhelmed with love and every other emotion under the sun. He didn’t know what to do with it all except pass some of it on. “I love you,” Yuuri whispered between kisses.

Victor gave it to him deliciously slow, hips rocking in circles, drawing nearly the entire way out before dipping back into him again. Yuuri felt intoxicated from it. He’d never been this worked up before, and the build wasn’t just in his physical body. His mind needed the emotional release as well.

“Vicchan . . . make me come.”

A sly smile spread across Victor’s mouth, and then his fingers tightened on Yuuri’s thighs. The strokes started hitting harder. “Touch yourself for me.”

“I don’t need to. I’m close.”

“I am, too. But don’t worry, baby. I won’t let go until you do. Do you want me to come inside you?”

Yes.”

“Look down at what I’m doing to your body.”

Yuuri did as Victor asked and looked. The underside of his cock was sliding up and down Victor’s soapy stomach. Add that to the gorgeously curved cock hitting all the good places inside, and that was all the stimulation Yuuri needed to get off. But then he saw Victor’s shaft and the way it disappeared into him over and over. . . and then there was the beautiful dip of his abdomen that moved with every breath and the wet lips at his ear, whispering his name . . . and oh, God. He was going to come.

Victor seemed to sense it and changed his pace. He pounded into Yuuri hard enough to make wet slapping sounds, and by the time a dozen or so of those relentless strokes worked in and out of him, Yuuri was straining against him. Mouth open. Back arching away from the shower wall. Hot spurts of semen struck high on his stomach and dripped slowly down again.

The orgasm was different than any he’d had before. It was the presence of Victor’s cock inside him that did it, and it felt like nothing else. Yuuri bore down on it, pulsing around its thickness and length, and he kept coming and coming and. . .

It was so intense that at first, he didn’t realize that Victor had also locked up. It wasn’t until Yuuri began to descend into the afterglow that he realized Victor was gripping him tight and smothering his cries into his shoulder. Yuuri felt warm inside. He smiled, knowing Victor had come in him and left his wetness there. The gravity of Yuuri’s orgasm—clenching around Victor’s cock like that, milking and squeezing it—must have pulled his lover right along with him.

“My baby,” Victor whispered, lips warm at his ear.

Yuuri shivered and hugged him. They’d never been this in sync before, and it was deeply satisfying.

They stayed there like that, with Victor’s softening cock still moving back and forth inside him until it finally slipped out. A hot spill of semen followed, and Yuuri almost wished it hadn’t. Sex without condoms did have a certain appeal. He liked knowing Victor had found so much pleasure in his body that he’d left the evidence of his satisfaction behind. No wonder Victor had wanted Yuuri to come inside him their first time without condoms. It was a very intimate thing to do and have done in return.

“Good?” Victor asked him.

“Perfect.” Yuuri grinned and cupped Victor’s face between both hands. “You still have conditioner in your hair, by the way. You should probably think about rinsing that out.”

“In a minute,” Victor said, going in for another kiss. “I’m busy.”


Some time later, after they were done with their shower, Victor went alone into the bedroom.

Yuuri was still finishing up, rinsing out his toothbrush with a towel wrapped around his waist. Victor didn’t bother searching for anything to wear to bed. Dead tired, he pulled back the covers and crawled into bed naked.

His freshly-washed hair fell into his eyes as he gazed at the window. He was quiet and trying desperately to fight the sadness rising up inside him. The makeup sex had helped quite a bit to elevate his mood, as had Yuuri’s sweetness and willingness to admit he’d made a mistake. Victor wasn’t angry with him anymore. A promise to do better in the future was all he could ask for.

But while things might be mended in their personal relationship, Victor was still incredibly unhappy about what was going to happen tomorrow night, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. Yuuri had apologized for keeping an important decision about his career to himself, but that didn’t mean he had changed his mind about going through with his retirement. It left Victor feeling more than a little frustrated. But he also knew he was overly tired after an emotional and sleepless night, and that weariness was making him particularly vulnerable to the sadness. He needed to rest, and maybe tomorrow things would look brighter.

Yuuri shut off the bathroom light and came into the bedroom, which was bright with cheerful morning sunshine. He went over to let down the window shade so they could get some sleep. When the room was dark and comfortable, Yuuri turned and said, “Are you naked under there? I could be naked, too.”

Victor tried and failed to muster the energy to respond. Yuuri normally preferred to sleep in clothes, but he hadn’t put anything on yet. His cock was still thick from his earlier arousal, though soft and spent between his legs. His towel-dried hair fell into his eyes in a very attractive way.

Instead of getting into his own bed, Yuuri smiled softly in response to Victor’s silence and walked back around to the other side. Still naked, with skin that smelled like rose petals kissed with fresh ice, Yuuri slid under the covers and spooned Victor from behind. Though he welcomed the smooth heat of his lover’s body, there was still a part of his heart that was disappointed enough to resist him.

Yuuri rubbed his mouth against the fine hairs on the back of Victor’s neck before leaving a kiss there. “I did a lot of thinking last night.” His hand snuck beneath the covers to find the bare skin of Victor’s waist. “About our future. About everything we could do together.”

Soothed by the feel of lips on his skin, Victor laced his fingers between Yuuri’s but didn’t say anything. Victor didn’t want to think about the future right now—not when the idea of Yuuri’s retirement still made his throat ache.

“It cheered me up last night and helped get me through practice until I could see you again,” Yuuri said. “Do you want to hear? It might help cheer you up, too.”

That sounded nice. Victor squeezed Yuuri’s fingers as an affirmation.

“I thought about us living together in Russia,” Yuuri said. “At your apartment in Saint Petersburg. If you wanted me there, I mean.”

Victor’s eyes closed, and his teeth came together behind the tense set of his lips. Once he had a better handle on his temper, he said in a flat tone, “If?”

He didn’t want this to turn into another fight, but Yuuri needed to understand and accept what that ring on his finger meant. How could he think Victor wouldn’t want him there?

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said. “I just didn’t want to invite myself, I guess. Yes, we’re engaged, but it’s still your apartment. You might want to live separately before we get married. Vicchan, I know I need to work on communicating better with you, and that’s what I’m trying to do right now by telling you what I want for our future. But I need you to tell me things, too. You always put my needs ahead of yours. I don’t think you realize how much you don’t say.”

Victor opened his eyes again. Though his mind resisted the criticism at first, he had to admit Yuuri had a point. Victor had barely shared anything that he was struggling with for the past few weeks—and yes, it was because he’d put Yuuri’s needs first. Maybe they both needed to work on being more honest. No time like the present to start.

“I don’t want to live separately,” Victor said. “If we go to Russia, we can move into my apartment, but if we stay in Japan, I think we should get our own place. Not that I don’t love your family but. . .”

“We definitely need our own apartment,” Yuuri said. “Not a hotel room or a cramped bed upstairs at my parents’ house. We could have a place that would be ours together. That’s what I was imagining last night. Us waking up in the same bed every morning. Our bed. Doesn’t that sound nice?”

Yuuri might be onto something here. Imagining a happy future together was a much-needed distraction. “It does,” Victor said. “Though let’s be honest. We both know you never wake up in the morning. You wouldn’t get out of bed until at least noon.”

He could feel Yuuri’s smile spread across his back. It must have pleased him that Victor was willing to play along. “You could always wake me up.” Yuuri snuggled closer, fingertips coming to tease Victor’s stomach. “With your mouth.”

Victor captured the wandering hand within his own. “You still wouldn’t get out of bed, but at least then, it would be my fault for keeping you there.” His lips curled into a smile. “With my mouth.”

“We could make breakfast afterwards. Except we’d probably end up arguing like we always do about whether it’s actually considered breakfast or lunch. And I would say it’s breakfast because it’s our first meal of the day, but you’d say it’s lunch because we stayed in bed too late.”

“And I would win the argument because I’d be right.”

“No, I would win because I’d start kissing you every time you tried to make a point.”

Victor’s smile stretched wider. “You’d stand a better chance of winning if you wore a little apron for me. With nothing underneath.”

“But then we’d never get around to eating our breakfast.”

“I think you mean lunch.”

“Because we’d end up having sex on the kitchen counter.”

“Mmm. Or against the wall. I liked taking you that way in the shower. . .” Victor squeezed Yuuri’s hand. “Tell me more. This is helping.”

“Well . . . if we live in Russia, we could get dressed for the day and go for a run together. Or you could take me around the city and show me all the places you’ve told me stories about. Makkachin will be there with us, and he’ll be so excited to see and smell everything he’s missed.”

“There’s a river that runs through the city.” Victor’s voice was wistful as he spoke of it. “Makkachin loves barking at all the boats to get people to wave at him. There’s so much I could show you. Museums. Cathedrals. Palaces.”

“I’d like to see the rink where you skate.”

A whisper of tension returned to Victor’s body. That was a dangerous topic. He didn’t want to think about skating right now, not unless Yuuri was planning to tell him he’d changed his mind about retiring.

“I get excited just thinking about it,” Yuuri continued. “Vicchan . . . I know you have to make your own decision about whether or not you go back. I’ll be there to support you either way, but I do hope you skate again. I would love to see it. I want you to show me everything you talked about in the letter you gave me for my birthday. Thank you so much for writing that. I don’t even know what to say or how to explain what it meant to me. But thank you. I’ll keep it forever.”

“All I did was write the truth. I hope you skate again, too, Yuuri. It makes me sad to think about tomorrow night being the last time.”

Yuuri hugged Victor from behind, trying his best to comfort him. There was a long pause where neither of them said anything.

After peppering a good many kisses onto the back of Victor’s neck and shoulder, Yuuri said, “On the way home after our day in Saint Petersburg, we could hold hands and maybe stop to buy some supplies for dinner at the market.”

Victor squeezed his eyes shut. Why did this have to be so difficult? “What would we make?”

“Something different every night. We could take turns coming up with recipes. And while we’re cooking, you’d start arguing with me because I’d be calling it ‘dinner’ the entire time. And even though you’d also call it dinner because of what time we’d be sitting down to eat, you’d ask me why I didn’t insist on calling it lunch because it would only be our second meal of the day. Which, according to you, would invalidate my earlier argument that our lunch should actually be considered breakfast because I’d basically be breaking my own rules.”

“At least you’re willing to admit the flaws in your logic,” Victor muttered.

“I’d try to distract you from the world’s most pointless argument by feeding you bites of food to keep your mouth busy.”

“Well, that’s not very creative of you. I can think of far better ways you could keep my mouth busy.”

Yuuri laughed. “And after dinner, we could take our time cleaning everything up and making our apartment nice again. Then we could put on some music and dance. I’m pretty good at dancing, you know.”

“Oh, trust me. I know.”

“Minako-sensei trained me in a little bit of everything. Ballet. Ballroom. I can even swing dance. We could put on a playlist filled with all kinds of different music and have so much fun together. Maybe end the night with a slow dance.”

Victor exhaled slowly. Out of everything Yuuri had talked about so far, the image of dancing with him had the most impact on Victor. He rolled onto his back so that he could look Yuuri in the eyes. Victor stroked his cheek with the back of his fingers and whispered, “I’d like that.”

Yuuri smiled, turned his face into Victor’s hand to kiss it, and then snuggled closer. Victor’s arms folded around him. “And after we dance for hours,” Yuuri said, “we’d probably need to wash up before we go to bed. We could take a shower together.”

“Or a bubble bath. I have a big clawfoot tub at my apartment. Plenty of room for two. I could sit at one end and you at the other, and we could drink champagne and flirt until your cheeks burn.”

“I probably won’t be able to stay at the other end of the tub. I’d want to be in your lap.”

“Mmm, I’d have no objection to that. Though we’d get the bathroom floor all wet, wouldn’t we? Whatever would we do after that?”

Color had risen to stain Yuuri’s cheeks, but he didn’t shy away from the question. “We could dry off and go into the bedroom . . . and then I could do another kind of dance in your lap.”

It was so rare to hear him talk like that. While Yuuri’s sexuality was quite powerful, he was still a very private person. It didn’t escape Victor’s notice that opening up in such a way meant Yuuri was sharing a part of himself that was incredibly personal. It also meant he was trying to let Victor in, and that meant the world to him.

A soft smile played at Yuuri’s lips as he said, “And then after we make love, we’ll fall asleep in each other’s arms. Just like we are now. And when we wake up, we’ll start all over again the next day. We’ll make meals together and sleep together and get in stupid arguments because that’s what married people do. And we’ll go ice skating in the winter and to the beach in the summer, and we’ll have an entire family of poodles with us at all times. And we’ll be married and happy, and you won’t be sad anymore because we’ll be together.”

Victor lifted his hand up, and Yuuri slid his fingers in between. “That’s a nice dream,” Victor whispered. His eyes were wet.

“It doesn’t have to be a dream.” Yuuri’s smile was beautiful enough to paint, but it began to fade the longer he looked at Victor. “You’re still so sad. What can I do to make this easier? I never meant to make you unhappy.”

“I just wish I understood. I wish you would trust me enough to tell me why.”

Silence.

Yuuri’s gaze had moved from Victor’s face to their joined hands. “I know I owe you an explanation. It’s just hard for me.”

“Why? It’s only me here.”

“Because you’re asking me to drudge up things that I pushed down for a good reason, and I don’t know how to explain a lot of it. That means we’re probably going to get into another fight because you won’t understand. You’re going to get angry with me again.”

“No, I won’t,” Victor said, his voice gentle. “I’m sorry I lost my temper with you last night, and I promise that won’t happen again. Baby, please just talk to me. Tell me about the day you decided to retire. It happened last spring, didn’t it? Why then?”

“Because I had won the Onsen on Ice faceoff. You were just confirmed as my coach, and I was happy about it. That’s when I decided.”

Victor tried to keep his expression neutral. What Yuuri was saying didn’t make any sense. Why would he decide to step down after something good happened to him?

“I guess I saw it as ending my career on a high note,” Yuuri said. “It was a goal. I wanted to give this last season my all so I could feel better about where I left things when I stepped down. Before you showed up . . . it wasn’t like that. I wasn’t in a good place mentally. I struggled for months to find a reason to keep going.”

“Did it start at the Sochi Grand Prix Final?”

There was another long stretch of silence.

Yuuri wouldn’t look at him anymore. It took him a long time to come up with an answer—until finally, in a small voice choked with emotion, he said, “No?”

And that one word was almost enough to make Victor tell Yuuri that he didn’t have to say anymore—because he was about to cry, which meant whatever reason he was going to give for his retirement was a very painful one. Victor couldn’t handle it when Yuuri cried. He had no idea what to do to fix it.

“I was already struggling,” Yuuri said. “But when I failed at Sochi . . .” The emotion hit him hard at this point. He pulled his hand free from Victor’s so that he could cover his face with it. “It did something to me.”

Victor stared at him, lips parted in dismay. How had he never realized how deeply this was still affecting Yuuri?

Once he got started, the words kept spilling out of Yuuri, right along with the tears. “Everything fell apart. I had worked so hard. You have no idea how hard I’ve been pushing all these years. Trying to catch up. Trying to be good enough. And it’s never been enough. I embarrassed myself, and everyone saw it. You saw it. And my dog was dead, and I couldn’t get to him in time to say goodbye. And I had neglected him for five years by not going home. Five years that I could have gone to see him, but he just waited and waited and I never came so he just gave up and left me. And then something inside me just broke, and I gave up, too.”

Yuuri started crying harder than ever . . . . and Victor was absolutely frozen.

But then Yuuri did something he’d never done before and leaned in to receive comfort. Relieved to have a directive, Victor gathered him up into his arms at once. While he knew Yuuri needed to get this poison out of his heart and have someone listen to him, that didn’t mean it was an easy thing to witness. Victor felt every word on a personal level, like it was happening to him at the same time that Yuuri was telling the story.

“Isn’t that the stupidest thing you’ve ever heard?” Yuuri laughed and wiped his face. “I’m retiring because my dog died. None of this is rational. It just hurts. That’s why I can’t talk about it. It doesn’t make any sense.”

“Yuuri,” Victor said. “It’s making sense.”

Yuuri sighed and relaxed as gentle fingers ran through his hair. Pressing his damp cheek against Victor’s chest, he closed his eyes. “I kept trying to pick myself up, you know? I stuffed everything down so I could keep going, but it just kept getting worse and worse. First the Short Program, and then I failed at my Free Skate. And then Nationals was the biggest nightmare of all. I was just numb by then. I went back to finish school, but I couldn’t talk to anyone. I just hid in my room and stuffed my face with junk food and tried to stop thinking.”

Here Yuuri paused and smiled, even though he was still crying. “I started mimicking your Free Skate around that time. I used to copy you when I was a kid—with Yuuko at the Ice Castle. You were the one who made me love skating in the first place, so that’s why I did it. I thought you could help me find that again.”

“You were still fighting,” Victor said.

“I was trying. When you came to Japan, you gave me the boost I needed to give this last season everything I had instead of letting what happened last year beat me. That’s what I was trying to tell you last night before we fought. Thank you. You helped me end my career at my peak instead of at my lowest. Except now I feel like I’ve let you down, and I hate that.”

Victor was struggling not to cry now as well—not because Yuuri was crying but because it all felt so final. “It’s not like that. I just didn’t understand, and now I do. Thank you for explaining it.”

“I don’t believe you.” Yuuri pulled back from the embrace and looked up at him. “You’re more upset now than you were before.”

“Well, it feels more absolute now that I know the reason. And I’m sad, Yuuri. Because you’re my baby, and you’re sad.”

“But that’s just it. I’m not sad. I’ve never been so happy. Having you as my coach this season, falling in love with you, getting to the top six at the Grand Prix Finals again and not embarrassing myself. I never expected any of that. I’m good, Victor. I’m not unhappy at all.”

“You know, in some ways,” Victor said, “I feel like I’m listening to myself talk. I almost retired after last season, too. I’ve never told anyone this before, but I was depressed. And I don’t mean that I was sad. I mean I was in an actual depression, and it’s something I didn’t even realize was happening until I looked back on that time of my life. Like you, I had lost the will to fight. And if you want to talk about reasons that don’t make any rational sense, take a look at mine. I was on top of the world professionally, but I didn’t understand why. I kept sinking lower and lower, and everyone just kept on applauding. I was so unhappy when we met, Yuuri.”

“I never would have guessed,” Yuuri said. “At least, not before I got to know you. You’re good at smiling when your heart’s not really in it.”

Victor smiled, if only to be ironic. “Watching you pull yourself up and find strength in those around you was so inspiring to me. That’s what I tried to tell you in that letter and why I’m explaining all of this now. We lifted each other up from a very dark place. I’m so proud of you for not quitting last year, Yuuri, but how much further could you go? What else could we do if we keep fighting together? A dream we build together is so much bigger than what we can imagine on our own. If you step down now, I truly think you’re going to regret it.”

Yuuri got quiet again. It was the kind of silence that felt uncertain, like he wasn’t fully understanding what Victor was trying to tell him. “I won’t regret it because I’m going to win tomorrow. That’s what I set out to do.”

Mari had been right when she’d described her brother as nearsighted. It didn’t have anything to do with his glasses prescription. He couldn’t seem to imagine his own career past the Grand Prix Final.

“And if you don’t win tomorrow?” Victor said. “What happens then?”

“That’s not an option.”

“Yuuri, look at me. You and I both know you’re fully capable of winning that gold medal, but what if you don’t? You’re setting yourself up for another crash, just like last year.”

Yuuri held Victor’s gaze for a few seconds longer but ultimately had to look away. “I promised you last night I would think about it.”

“But you’re not thinking about it, are you? You’ve made up your mind.” With a frustrated sigh, Victor rolled onto his back—because he couldn’t look at Yuuri anymore either. He wasn’t getting anywhere. This was pointless, like trying to speak into a void.

“Vicchan?” Yuuri had propped himself up on his elbow and was frowning down at him.

“I’m tired, Yuuri. Can we please just go to sleep?”

Were he not bleary-eyed with exhaustion himself, Yuuri might have put up more of a fuss. Instead, he gave in and cuddled up next to Victor with his head resting on his chest. “Think about us dancing together in our apartment. It will help.”

As Victor’s arms went around his love, he closed his eyes and let himself imagine they were dancing. Somewhere in the future. He didn’t know what city they would be in, nor what they would be doing with their lives when they got there. But they looked happy in Victor’s dream—smiling and laughing between dips and spins—and that was enough to make him feel happier, too. If only while the dream lasted.

With a little smile on his lips, Victor fell asleep with his face and fingers buried in Yuuri’s hair.


To be continued.