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Winter Song

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The first time Yuuri became aware that something in his world had shifted, he was walking through the Fukuoka airport with his sister and Minako, having just landed back home in Japan. A trio of teenagers recognized Yuuri and asked to take a picture with him. Their excitement over meeting an ordinary figure skater baffled Yuuri at first, but at the insistence of his sensei, he faked a smile, posed for a picture or two, and assumed it was just a random incident.

“Looks like Japan is proud of its silver medalist,” Minako said. “Have you ever been recognized like that before?”

“Not outside of a competition.” Yuuri readjusted his grip on his backpack and turned his attention to a nearby sign, which directed the way to baggage claim. “The locals in Hasetsu don’t count.”

“Um,” Mari said. She was lagging a few steps behind the others, distracted by whatever she was reading on her phone. “You might want to see this.”

She held up her phone to show her brother, and after reading the latest headline on her newsfeed app, Yuuri skidded to a halt right there in the middle of the crowded airport corridor and snatched the device out of her hand.

Looking back, he probably should have known the paparazzi picture of Victor kissing him goodbye in Barcelona might make waves in the press. It had happened to Victor and Yuuri before, after all, but no one had gotten a good picture of their kiss in China. Many still doubted the truth of what happened and claimed they had only hugged that day on the ice.

Victor Nikiforov was a well-known athlete, his striking good looks and habit of breaking world records contributing to his international fame, even when ice skating itself drew only a fraction of the public’s attention when compared to other sports. Like many celebrities, speculation about Victor’s love life sometimes found its way into gossip magazines, but this was different. There was nothing to speculate about. The pictures of Victor and Yuuri locking lips in Barcelona proved their relationship was real beyond a shadow of a doubt. And the confirmation of a same-sex romance between athletes (coach and student, no less, and one of them a living legend in the sport) wasn’t just a minor blurb buried on a few gossip sites. It was a major headline in the news.

While they waited for their luggage at baggage claim, Yuuri finally gave Mari back her phone and pulled his own out of his backpack. After sparing a weary glance at the thousands of new notifications on his Instagram app, he went straight for Victor’s contact information and dialed his phone number. Victor had landed in Saint Petersburg hours ago while Yuuri was still in the air. Surely he was aware of what was happening online.

“So,” Victor said in greeting, “on a scale of one to ten, how angry are you that I kissed you in front of the paparazzi?”

Yuuri stuffed a finger in his opposite ear so that he could hear his fiancé’s voice better and took a few steps away from his sister and Minako so that they wouldn’t eavesdrop on his phone conversation. “I’m still processing. I’ll let you know the score when I’m done.”

A light chuckle came over the line. “Deep breaths. I was overwhelmed myself when I first came into the public eye, but you get used to the celebrity thing.”

“I’m not a celebrity, Victor. That’s you.”

“I think you’re underestimating how interesting you are. The spotlight might have found you because of me, but I can promise you that’s not why it will stay there. The world loves a comeback story, and that’s exactly what you did at the Grand Prix Final. Add a bit of romance with a fellow athlete and a hotly-debated political topic like same-sex marriage, and you have the makings of a headline. Yuuri, I hate to tell you this, but you might have just become an overnight sensation. They wrote the nicest article about your Free Skate on BBC News.”

“Ten,” Yuuri said without hesitation.


“You asked me how angry I am. That’s your answer.”

Victor just laughed.

It really wasn’t funny.

The buzz over the paparazzi pictures died down after a week or so. No, Yuuri wasn’t a celebrity—not anywhere close to Victor’s level of fame—but he did find himself getting recognized more often. There was a considerable uptick in traffic at the onsen as well, which delighted his parents and stressed out his sister until she discovered they now had the budget to hire some additional help. And that wasn’t the only thing that changed with respect to the Katsuki family’s fortunes. More than once, Yuuri was offered a considerable amount of money for an exclusive interview about his life and career.

Victor was right about one thing. People were interested in learning who Katsuki Yuuri was.

Yuuri had earned a bit of prize money by placing second at the Grand Prix Final, as well as his rankings at the competitions in China and Russia. Not exactly enough to live on, but it was something. One or two sponsors had dropped him after the paparazzi pictures came out, but that didn’t matter in the long run because a dozen more were in talks to sign him on for next season. Then there was the athleticwear company who wanted Yuuri to endorse them, and the check he’d been paid for an interview with a reporter that Morooka Hisashi had put him in contact with.

For the first time in his life, Yuuri had a bit of money in his pockets and the prospect of more headed his way in the near future. He used some of it to pay off Victor’s ring as well as his own plane ticket to Russia. Then he gave his parents and sister some money. It felt good to contribute to Yu-topia in a way he’d never been able to before. They’d supported him for so many years, trying to keep both the family business and Yuuri’s skating career afloat at the same time, and it made him happy to give them something in return.

At home in Hasetsu, Yuuri stayed far away from internet news websites and poured himself into tasks instead. That way, he stayed distracted and didn’t feel Victor’s absence as keenly. Of course, he missed him—so much that it hurt to breathe whenever he thought about it—but keeping his mind and body active helped him make it through their two-week separation.

The first task was packing up everything in Victor’s room, which took several days, partially because of the ridiculous amount of stuff his fiancé owned but also because Makkachin kept getting in the way.

Victor’s dog was excited. Makkachin must have remembered what the moving boxes meant the first time he’d seen them, and Yuuri had the strangest feeling the dog knew exactly what they meant this time around—that he and Yuuri were going to travel to Saint Petersburg soon to live with Victor.

Every time Makkachin saw a freshly-taped moving box or one of his owner’s personal belongings disappear inside, he would run around the room in circles of excitement with his tongue hanging out. He was like a puppy again, bright-eyed and energetic. The only time he acted his age was when he saw another member of Yuuri’s family. Makkachin seemed to sense their growing sadness over Yuuri’s departure. It puzzled the dog, like he hadn’t yet realized that only he and Yuuri would be getting on the airplane bound for Russia, and everyone else would stay behind in Japan.

After three tedious days of packing, Victor’s bedroom was reduced to a mountain of moving boxes and tape. The time had come for Yuuri to pack up his own belongings that he would bring with him. After cramming all his clothing into his largest suitcase and some personal items into two medium-size boxes, he pronounced the job finished. It took him less than an hour, and if Yuuri didn’t know Victor was high maintenance before, he certainly knew it now.

All that was left to do was have everything shipped to Saint Petersburg. Good thing Victor was paying for his own shipping fees, or Yuuri would have to declare personal bankruptcy. No amount of sponsorships could finance that.

Time passed slowly but surely. Yuuri spent his mornings sleeping in, his afternoons working out or practicing at the Ice Castle, his evenings with his family, and his nights talking to Victor on the phone. There was a six-hour time zone difference between Saint Petersburg and Hasetsu, and when Victor was just getting home in the evening after a long day of practice, Yuuri was already entering night owl mode. It was a good thing he liked to stay up late because he sometimes talked to Victor until three or four in the morning.

Though they were thousands of miles apart, their relationship grew even stronger during their two-week separation. They weren’t distracted by each other physically, for one. They couldn’t kiss or touch, nor spend an evening beneath the sheets. Instead, they talked.

They discussed everything and nothing. Random stories that popped into their minds or a recap of the mundane tasks of the day. Sometimes the conversation got serious, like when Victor told Yuuri the real reason he’d cut his hair when he was a teenager and about all the pressure he’d felt during those formative years. Sometimes they were satisfied to just sit with their phones held to their ears while they watched a movie together online. It was nice to know the other person was there, even if they really weren’t.

Nishigori and Minako took Yuuri’s request to act as his coaches very seriously. They attended daily practices with him at the Ice Castle and had him working hard from the very first day. Though their feedback was sometimes amateur, they were studious about working him through any critique given by Victor or Yakov.

The triplets dutifully recorded videos of Yuuri’s practices, trimmed them down to just the highlights, and then emailed the file to his coach. Or rather, coaches. Yuuri had somehow found himself with two.

Yakov’s feedback on Yuuri’s quadruple flip proved to be invaluable. Once he became more mindful of his posture on the takeoff, his rate of nailing the landing improved considerably. While he still had much work to do before he felt fully comfortable with the jump, Yuuri had already seen the value in Yakov’s guidance and wondered what else he could learn from him.

Yakov’s attitude toward Yuuri changed once he realized that he actually listened to him. Perhaps he was so used to yelling at his other students that Yakov had forgotten what it was like to teach someone who took his feedback seriously the first time it was given. Or maybe he was more relaxed now that Victor was back on the ice where he belonged, thanks in part to Yuuri’s encouragement. Either way, Yakov was warming up to him in a way he didn’t expect, and Yuuri didn’t feel so intimidated now when he talked to the older man. Yakov Feltsman was a softie beneath all that verbal aggression, and he cared deeply about those he coached.

Victor typically watched Yuuri’s practice videos while they were on the phone together at night or early in the morning before his own practice began. He would give Yuuri notes and things to focus on for the day. It wasn’t an ideal arrangement long term, but for the two weeks before Nationals, it worked just fine. Yuuri felt good about where his programs were at but knew that he still had some serious work to do if he had any hope of standing on that podium at the World Championship with Victor and Yurio.

He wanted that more than anything—for the three of them to compete and win medals together. Yuuri would be lying if he said he didn’t daydream about standing at the top of the podium, with Victor Nikiforov and Yuri Plisetsky looking up from second and third place at the new world champion.

Perhaps it was a farfetched dream, but what did he have to lose by aiming high? Victor believed in him—and for the first time in his life, Yuuri thought he might believe in himself as well. Yurio had taught him that even a fifteen-year-old could stand at the top of the world if he fought hard enough to make his dreams a reality.

Late one night, Yuuri asked Victor, “Why won’t you tell me anything about what you’re planning for the Russian Championship?”

Even though they were now competitors in the same division, Yuuri couldn’t help but be excited about Victor’s return to the ice. His favorite skater in the world would soon make his comeback, and like the rest of Victor’s fans, Yuuri was dying for a sneak-peak. A hint about the music. A picture of his costumes. Something.

“Because I want it to be a surprise,” Victor said. It wasn’t the first time he’d sidestepped questions on the subject.

“I’m your fiancé. I sleep with you, and I don’t even get a hint?”

Victor laughed. “All right, I’ll let you ask three questions, but I reserve the right to be vague with my responses.”

“Did you have the music commissioned?” Yuuri had been curious about that since Victor had announced his intention to return so quickly at Nationals. He very rarely used music he hadn’t commissioned, but had there been time for that?

“My Short Program music, yes,” Victor said. “I had it commissioned a few years ago but never used it. It’s one of my favorites, though. It came out exactly the way I wanted.”

“Why haven’t you used it before now?”

“You’ll understand when you hear it. It’s different than what I would normally choose for a competition. Very simple and stripped down. I didn’t think it was grandiose enough to satisfy the audience—at least, not with what they’d come to expect from me.”

“Did you change your mind about what they might think?”

“Not really, no,” Victor said. “I’ve just decided that I’m not skating for my audience anymore. I’m doing this for myself, and this is the music I want to skate to. It’s something fresh and new, and I like it.”

A smile softened the set of Yuuri’s mouth. He loved hearing Victor talk like that. He seemed so much happier now than he was when Yuuri first met him. “That sounds perfect. What about your Free Skate music? Did you commission that?”

Yuuri. . .” Victor said, feigning crossness. “You’ve already asked three questions. Now you’re just getting greedy.”

“Please? I’m so curious. You know I’ve always looked up to you.”

Victor chuckled. He sounded flattered, just like he always did when Yuuri let him have a glimpse of his inner fanboy. “Well . . . you’ll probably recognize the music for my Free Skate when you hear it. It’s a remake of an old classic, and if you listen to the lyrics, you might hear a message aimed at a certain someone. Someone I love very much.”

Yuuri could feel his cheeks getting warm. “Makkachin?”

More laughter. “No, Yuuri. My Free Skate is dedicated to my beautiful fiancé, who reminded me why I love skating and encouraged me to get back on the ice. But my Short Program. . .” Victor’s smile could be heard in his voice. “That’s all for me.”

Soon the time came to leave Hasetsu behind and depart for the Japan Figure Skating Championship in Sapporo.

A few nights from now, after his final performance, Yuuri would fly straight to Russia without returning home first. That meant saying goodbye to his family now since their duties at the onsen over the holiday weekend prevented them from going to see his performance. Mari was trying to talk their parents into taking some time off to see Yuuri at the Four Continents, but he had to qualify for the competition first. Because of that uncertainty, he had no idea when he was going to see his family again, and the idea made him unexpectedly emotional.

Yuuri hadn’t hugged his parents or sister when he’d returned home after spending five long years away, which wasn’t unusual for them. They’d never had that kind of relationship, preferring to express their love in other ways—through their actions, like a steaming bowl of katsudon after a stressful day or unwavering support of Yuuri’s skating or travels abroad. All of those things said “I love you” even when the words remained unspoken.

Yuuri didn’t hug his family this time either, but what he did do was bow low and thank them for all they had done and given to him throughout the years. Their kindness and patience with him was something he’d never be able to repay. Their love had surrounded him his entire life, even when he wasn’t aware of it, and he wouldn’t be leaving for this new adventure at all if not for their support.

“Skate well,” Toshiya said. “Be happy.”

“And send Vicchan our good wishes,” Hiroko said, tucking a sack of treats into Yuuri’s backpack before giving him a pat on the cheek. “You tell him he always has family here. He is our son now, just as you are.”

“And tell that idiot if he keeps you away for another five years, he’s going to have me to deal with,” Mari added. She stood behind her parents, fingers stroking Makkachin’s head where it rested against her thigh. Her face was splotchy with emotion. “I’m going to miss you, kid.”

“It won’t be five years.” Yuuri looked at them each in turn, hoping his smile would convey all he felt in his heart. “We’ll come visit soon. I promise.”

“Promise again,” Mari whispered.

Sapporo was located in the northern island of Hokkaido and was a place that received a considerable amount of snowfall each year.

It drifted down from the sky at a steady pace that Christmas Eve, which was the day before Yuuri was set to compete. After his morning practice at the arena, he spent the remainder of his day off in his toasty hotel room with Makkachin, bundled up with a blanket in a cozy chair by the window, where he sipped tea and watched the clouds sprinkle the city with powdery, white snow.

Because he’d had to find a pet-friendly hotel, he wasn’t staying at the same place as many of his fellow competitors. That meant the press was not hounding him every time he showed his face in the lobby downstairs, asking him questions about his relationship with Victor or his thoughts about competing against his own coach. No one had figured out yet where Yuuri was staying, and it was pure bliss.

Last year at this same competition, Yuuri had performed even worse than he did at the Sochi Grand Prix Final, but he didn’t feel particularly nervous about this weekend. At least, not for himself. Instead, he found himself thinking about how Victor was doing in Russia.

Yuuri might have Christmas Eve off, but Victor and Yurio didn’t. They were both scheduled to perform their Short Programs in Yekaterinburg, Russia, and it was all Yuuri could think about. He might not be nervous for himself, but Victor’s comeback meant a great deal to him and not just because he was a fan.

There were many naysayers around the world doubting that the living legend would be able to return as strong as he was when he left, and Yuuri wanted Victor to prove them all wrong. But more than that, he wanted Victor to feel good about the choices he’d made this year. He wanted the time spent in Japan to have benefited Victor just as much as it did Yuuri. Today was a pivotal moment in Victor’s career—one that could alter his legacy—and Yuuri wished he could be there in person to support his fiancé.

The Russian Championship was not being broadcast on any channel that the hotel would receive, but later that afternoon, Nishigori came to Yuuri’s room and hooked up his laptop to the television so that they could watch a live-feed on the internet. Yuuri had his own laptop ready. (And his phone. And Nishigori’s phone.) Just in case something failed. Not that he was anxious about missing Victor’s performance or anything.

Seconds before the Senior Men’s Division was to start, Minako arrived at Yuuri’s hotel room with two glasses and several bottles of sake. “Has it started yet? They took forever at the bar.”

“We haven’t even eaten dinner, and you’re already drinking?” Nishigori said.

“This surprises you?” Minako settled down beside Makkachin in front of the television. “I brought two glasses. One for my fellow coach, but none for Yuuri. No alcohol before a competition.”

“Shhh,” Yuuri said from where he sat on the edge of the bed. He could care less about drinking right now. “They’re about to announce Yurio.”

The three of them quieted as the competition began. Their live-feed featured a Russian commentator, and though there were no subtitles available, they didn’t need them to understand the crowd’s excitement as Yurio took to the ice for his Short Program. Yuuri chewed his thumbnail during the entire performance. While the fifteen-year-old did not skate as flawlessly as he did in Barcelona, it was still a jaw-dropping sight every time he lifted his arms into the air during a jump.

“I hope that boy still maintains that perfect balance after his body starts changing,” Minako muttered, already pouring her second glass of sake. “It would be a shame if he peaked at fifteen and started to struggle when he gets lankier. It’s happened before.”

“Yurio’s a fighter,” Yuuri said. “He’ll work hard to adapt.”

When the scores came in, Yurio looked pissed off even though he’d done quite well. Though it wasn’t another world record, a score of 108.95 was enough to keep twenty-seven-year old Georgi Popovich from claiming first place when he skated ten minutes later.

“That has to hurt,” Nishigori said after Georgi’s performance. “To have a kid outscore you when you have that many years of experience. That guy’s probably been skating longer than Yurio’s been alive. I wonder if he’s going to keep Victor out of first place, too.”

Every time someone said Victor’s name, Makkachin’s tail started wagging, and he looked between all three human faces in the room for more information about his beloved owner, whom he hadn’t seen for close to three weeks now. Not since Victor left for Barcelona. When the commentator said Victor’s name twice and the camera flashed to where he was warming up alongside Yakov, Minako drew Makkachin’s attention to the television and said, “Look who it is!” He promptly jumped to his feet and started barking like mad.

Yuuri barely noticed. His eyes were on the television screen, and his heart was starting to pound. Was Victor as nervous as he was?

The two competitors who were scheduled to skate between Georgi and Victor delayed Yuuri from finding out the answer. The wait was agonizing—almost as bad as the last two weeks spent apart from his fiancé. Yuuri kept silent, only half-listening to the conversation between Minako and Nishigori, and counted the seconds until Russia’s national hero would make his comeback.

At long last, it was time. On the television, Russia lost its collective mind when Victor Nikiforov took the ice. The cheering almost overloaded the speakers, and the commentator had to yell to be heard. Even though Yuuri’s insides were all knotted with nervousness, he suddenly found himself smiling.

He hadn’t felt like this in years—not since before he started becoming frustrated with his own inability to catch up with his idol. He remembered seeing Victor skate to Stammi Vicino for the first time and then having to leave his Detroit apartment afterward and walk it off. He’d gone around the block several times, just trying to absorb what he’d seen. Yuuri remembered yelling “How does he do that?” at a passing car before deciding he would just have to dissect and mimic the choreography to figure out the answer for himself.

Victor Nikiforov was about to perform a new routine for the first time in more than a year, and it didn’t matter that Yuuri was engaged to the man. He was still Victor’s number one fan.

With a charismatic smile and wave, Victor took his place in the center of the ice, closed his eyes, and waited with his fingertips grazing his chest for the music to start. The camera focused in on him and allowed those watching the live-feed to get a good look at his outfit.

Victor had chosen dark pants that stood out against the white ice all around him, which would draw attention to his footwork. However, the top was made of delicate layers of sheer fabric, a gradient of turquoise that lightened almost to pale grey by the time it reached his shoulders. The turquoise matched his eyes and flattered his complexion. The top was embroidered with sequined white flower blossoms and branches that wrapped around his body and down onto his thighs. It reminded Yuuri of a Van Gogh painting of almond blossoms he’d learned about in school.

Victor looked like springtime breaking through after a long winter. There was a length of sheer fabric at the base of his neck, not enough to get in his way when he skated or get tangled up with his legs, but when he moved, the silvery length blew out behind him and glittered in the light.

It looks like his old hair before he cut it off, Yuuri realized—right before his inner fanboy started freaking out.

Victor smiled as the music started.

Everyone smiled. It wasn’t something that could be helped.

The music was beautiful, surprisingly tender and stripped down to almost nothing, just like Victor had described. There were only a few instruments—a soft piano and guitar duet repeating a hypnotic pattern, and a male singing a soaring falsetto melody on top. It was the sound of joy and sadness all mixed into one. The sound of laughter and holding one’s breath. It sounded like Victor—but the Victor that Yuuri had come to know and love through their shared time together rather than the disingenuous showman he exhibited to the world.

This was Victor the human being, and he was lovely.

Though his style was just as refined and perfect as it ever was, there was something different about it. He looked happy. There was a freedom to the movements that Yuuri hadn’t even realized was missing before. Victor laid his soul bare in his performance, and the beauty of it almost distracted the viewer away from realizing how unbelievably difficult the choreography was, full of wicked twists and turns and almost impossible entrances into equally impossible jumps.

Yuuri’s mouth fell open as he watched and stayed that way until the end. But when Victor landed a shaky quadruple flip in the last few seconds of his performance, Yuuri almost laughed out loud. How many times had people said Yuuri had done something Victor Nikiforov couldn’t by performing that difficult of a jump at the end of his program? Well, Victor had just offered a response to that and had almost nailed it.

When the performance ended, Yuuri jumped to his feet on the bed at the same time as Victor’s audience. “Oh, my God,” he said, feeling absolutely devastated and inspired all at the same time. It was how Victor always made him feel when he skated, like he could never hope to catch up but still couldn’t wait to try.

“You know, Victor’s not half bad for a pre-geriatric,” Nishigori said, eyeing Yuuri with a smirk.

“Passable, I guess,” Minako agreed. “Though Japan’s Ace doesn’t seem all that impressed. Right, Yuuri?”

They were both teasing him. Their smiles revealed they knew exactly how well Victor had done, and they were just as happy about it as Yuuri was.

“Did you see that?” Yuuri was so excited that he was practically jumping up and down on the bed. “Oh, my God.”

Victor’s score came in at 115.43, which put Russia’s National Treasure soundly in first place. And while it hadn’t beat his personal best or reclaimed the world record set by Yuri Plisetsky in Barcelona, what was particularly frightening about this score was that this was technically the start of Victor’s season after an eight-month hiatus.

Victor Nikiforov was back and was only just getting warmed up.

Later, when Yuuri was alone in his room, he logged into his Instagram account for the first time in two weeks and posted a screencap of Victor’s performance. Yuuri captioned it with a single word and logged off with a smile.

The post read: Legend.

The next morning, Yuuri was still smiling when he woke up to the sound of a Skype call coming in on his laptop. He rolled onto his side, pulled his laptop over to him from where he’d left it on the nightstand, and smiled even bigger when he accepted the call. “Happy birthday,” he said as his fiancé’s face appeared on the screen.

It was darker where Victor was. Bright sunlight was already streaming into Yuuri’s hotel room and sparkling on the surface of yesterday’s snowfall, but the sun had not yet risen in Yekaterinburg, Russia. Victor was two time zones closer to Japan than he was in Saint Petersburg, but there was still a four-hour time difference between their locations. Victor had to wake up extra early to make time for this call before both he and Yuuri had to prepare for their competitions that day.

“Merry Christmas!” Victor sang in reply. “Even though you celebrate it on the wrong day.” Like Yuuri, Victor was still in bed, bare-chested with a blanket over his shoulders. He’d run his fingers through his silver hair but hadn’t yet brushed it. Though they’d stayed up late last night discussing Victor’s Short Program, he looked well-rested and happy. “You haven’t opened your present yet, right?”

Yuuri glanced at the table on the other side of his room, which held a small mailing box that had been given to him the day before. It was from Victor and delivered by Nishigori, who had insisted on downloading some kind of app on Yuuri’s phone and entering in a code before handing the package over to him. Though Yuuri had opened the app several times, he still couldn’t figure out what it was for. All it said was his device was paired to his phone successfully and to enjoy himself—which was a bit ominous, to tell the truth. But since it was something Victor asked for, Yuuri left the app on his phone and didn’t look it up on the internet. Victor had asked him not to so that the surprise wouldn’t be ruined.

“You didn’t have to get me a Christmas present,” Yuuri said. “Today is your day.”

“Oh, trust me,” Victor said with a laugh. “That present is just as much for me as it is for you. Call me later tonight before you go to bed, and we’ll open it together.”

“Did you get your birthday present?”

“Yes! Can I open it now?”

Yuuri reached for his glasses and slid them onto his face while he sat up in bed. He wanted to see Victor’s reaction. “Yes, but remember that this is only part of your gift. I’m bringing the rest of it with me when I come to Saint Petersburg. But that big box I sent to your hotel room has presents from everyone in Hasetsu. The triplets sent you something, and so did the Nishigoris and Minako-sensei. Then there’s a present from my parents, and something from Mari, too. The big gift wrapped in silver is from me.”

The next ten minutes were spent watching Victor tear into his many birthday presents with all the glee of a young child. He was not the type to be careful with wrapping paper and ripped it to shreds, cast it behind him, and placed the bows on his head and shoulders. His smile was utterly contagious, and Yuuri found himself laughing as he watched.

Victor delighted in the handmade book of drawings of Hasetsu sent by the triplets, which they’d bound themselves with a length of yarn, as well as the selection of Japanese candy they’d saved up their allowance to purchase for him. The Nishigoris sent Victor a framed poster from the Onsen on Ice Exhibition, which featured Victor, Yuuri, and Yurio on the front. Minako sent programs from a few of Yuuri’s childhood dance recitals, which contained pictures of him as a young boy. Victor gushed over every single one of them until Yuuri begged him to stop.

Yuuri’s parents sent a six-month supply of Victor’s favorite tea, which was a mixture Hiroko made special for him every day during his stay in Hasetsu, and a beautiful Japanese tea set to drink it with. She also wrote him a letter that had Victor’s eyes shining with tears as he read it. Yuuri knew what it said because he’d helped his mother with the English translation, even though she insisted on handwriting every letter herself.

“She says the tea set has been in the family for years,” Victor said. “And that’s why she’s giving it to me—because I’m family now, too. Yuuri, I’m going to cry.”

Mari sent a handwritten letter as well, but she had refused Yuuri’s offer to help her with the translation. Instead, she’d written the whole thing in her own language except for four English words carefully printed at the top: Figure it out, Champ.  Her present to Victor was a Japanese For Dummies textbook, which had him laughing so hard that he was close to tears again. “Oh, Mari-Neechan . . . I miss you.”

Yuuri’s eyes widened. “Don’t let Mari hear you call her that.” While he liked hearing his fiancé refer to Mari as his sister, especially with such an affectionate honorific attached, that was something she would not take kindly to. While she and Victor had a good relationship, that was crossing a line.

“No, it’s fine,” Victor said. “She asked me to start calling her that when we were in Barcelona.”

Yuuri blinked three times before responding. “She did? Wow. She must really like you. In fact, she might like you more than she likes me.”

“Is this last gift from you?” Victor held up a large, flat present wrapped in muted silver paper and a glittery bow. While the present itself was from Yuuri, Yuuko had taken pity on him and volunteered to wrap it. He was grateful because there was no way he could have made it look that nice on his own.

“That’s the one,” Yuuri confirmed. “But it’s, um . . . it’s not much. Nowhere near as thoughtful or expensive as the birthday book you gave me. I don’t even want to know how much you spent on that.”

“Is this a book, too?” Victor guessed as he ran his palm over the flat surface.

“Kind of. I didn’t want to give you something that you could just get on your own at a store, so I got you something more personal. I hope you like it.”

Unlike the other gifts, Victor opened this one with reverence. He smiled at the little frills in the wrapping and carefully peeled the tape away from the paper. By the time he revealed what was inside, Yuuri’s face was bright red with embarrassment.

Yuuri.” Victor’s face was transformed. He’d sat up straighter in bed and was now thumbing through the book of photos that Yuuri had made for him. “Are these all pictures of my Makkachin?”

Victor had once told Yuuri one of the reasons he’d wanted to take time off this year was because he felt like Makkachin was nearing the end of his life. Victor wanted to spend quality time with his beloved pet and give him all the love and attention he deserved. Victor loved that dog, who had been his only companion for many lonely years. He had thousands of pictures of Makkachin on his phone . . . but not these. In a digital age, there was something special about having tangible pictures of a loved one that you could hold in your hand.

“Where did you find these?” Victor said, his voice getting louder as his excitement grew. “I’ve never seen them before.”

“Yakov and Yurio helped me with some of the pictures,” Yuuri said. “And then I had a bunch we took in Hasetsu, like that day on the beach last summer. Nishigori does some photography on the side, so he helped me put together the black and white ones that look more professional.”

“Oh, my gosh,” Victor said. “Who put Makkachin in a suit? Oh, and there’s another one with him in a kimono. Look at how handsome my puppy is! Yuuri, I’m going to show this to every single person I meet today.”

A smile pulled at the corner of Yuuri’s mouth. It had been a nightmare to track down outfits that would fit Makkachin and then convince the dog to sit still long enough while Nishigori got some good shots of him. Seeing Victor’s face made it all worth it. “Do you like it?”

“It’s perfect. I’m going to keep this forever. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Happy birthday, Vitya.”

Victor glanced up at the webcam with a grin, his blue eyes sparkling in the computer light. “You know, that’s the second time you’ve called me that. I thought I was your Vicchan?”

“You are,” Yuuri said. “But in Russia, you’re my Vitya. Or would you rather I call you Vitenka?”

It was Victor’s turn to blush. “Yuuri.”

“Did you see the envelope in the back of the book?” Yuuri said. “This still isn’t your entire gift from me, but there’s something else for you to have today.”

Victor flipped to the back cover and pulled out a long envelope, which contained details about the spa treatment Yuuri had purchased for him. Victor had always liked being pampered, but he also had a thing for being touched. A need, really. A week ago, right before Yuuri had put Victor’s present in the mail, Victor had confessed that whenever he went for long periods of time without being touched by another person, even just a hug from a friend, he would get tension headaches. He’d been getting headaches daily since returning to Saint Petersburg alone without Yuuri or Makkachin there to keep him company. Yuuri hoped a relaxing massage and some ridiculously overpriced pampering might help alleviate some of the tension in Victor’s body.

“What’s this?” Victor said as he inspected the envelope.

“Just a pamphlet of information,” Yuuri said. “The real present happens later. You told me you were getting those headaches, so I arranged for you to have a massage today. A full spa treatment, actually. I thought it might help you relax before your performance. And don’t worry. I already worked the schedule out with Yakov. He’s got everything figured out for you.”

Victor was speechless. His lips had parted, and he blinked up at the webcam wearing a look of astonishment.

“Is that okay?” Yuuri asked, suddenly unsure. Maybe it had been too bold to assume Victor would be okay with something unexpected being scheduled for the same day as his Free Skate.

“No one’s ever put this much thought into a gift for me before,” Victor said quietly. “This is really all for me?”

There was something sad about the way he said it. Something that made Yuuri’s heart hurt. Hadn’t he ever had someone spoil him on his birthday before? “Of course, it is. I just wish I could give more—or be there in person to wish you a happy birthday face to face. But I’ll be there in a few days, and we can celebrate then.”

“How did you know I needed some pampering today?” Victor said.

“I just knew.”

“I miss being touched by you, Yuuri. I miss having you next to me in bed at night.”

“I know. I miss you, too. But hopefully this will help you feel better until I can be there with you.”

“Do you have any idea how much I love you?” There were fresh tears in Victor’s eyes as he said it. He held that envelope in his hands like it meant far more to him than just a bit of pampering. If he had bought it himself, it wouldn’t have meant nearly as much as having Yuuri take care of him. “I don’t know what I did to deserve someone like you, but I’m so thankful to have you in my life.”

Yuuri smiled. His fingers stretched to stroke Victor’s cheek on the screen of his laptop. “I know exactly how you feel.”

Yuuri’s Short Program went well that day.

“Skate like sexy bowl of pork product, da?” Nishigori told him in the world’s worst impression of a Russian accent. This was apparently his perception of the kind of pep talk Victor might give Yuuri before he took the ice.

“Close enough,” Yuuri said with a nod, then skated off to his starting position.

It was a strange feeling to be preoccupied with something other than himself on the day of a competition. He was admittedly a little nervous, particularly when he sensed the cameras on him and heard the mounting excitement of thousands of people in the audience. Victor might not be there in person, but Yuuri still felt his coach’s eyes on him and knew he was watching all the way from Russia through one of those camera lenses.

Armed with that mental image, Yuuri flashed his engagement ring at the audience, stared right into a camera, and silently demanded his fiancé look at no one else.

It wasn’t a perfect performance. His spins were not as tight or energetic as he would have liked, but his quadruple flip at the end made up for it. After he nailed the landing, threw off his imaginary lover, and embraced a new one, the roar of the audience told him in no uncertain terms that he’d made them proud. The performance earned him a score of 112.86, which beat Yurio’s score but not Victor’s. It put Yuuri in first place in Japan by a large margin.

Newscaster Morooka found Yuuri after his performance and asked how he’d felt out on the ice without Victor there to support him. Yuuri responded by gushing for several minutes about how thrilled he was that his coach had competed in Russia and how much inspiration he’d found after watching Victor’s Short Program the night before. It wasn’t like Yuuri to speak so freely with the press, even someone as familiar to him as Morooka, but this was a subject he was passionate about.

“Your scores weren’t that far apart,” Morooka observed. “Do you think you can beat your own coach at the World Championship?”

Yuuri had been asked this question several times before. It always put him in an awkward position, like the world wanted to pit them against each other. “It would be an honor to stand on the same podium with him,” Yuuri said. Looking straight into the camera, he added, “Victor, if you’re watching out there, happy birthday from Japan. I’ll be cheering you on tonight.”

Several hours later—after escaping the horde of reporters and figure skating otaku, who were suddenly much more interested in Yuuri after those now infamous paparazzi pictures—the time came to tune into the live-feed of Victor and Yurio’s Free Skate in Russia. Minako and Nishigori again joined Yuuri in his hotel room, this time with a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was a Christmas tradition in Japan.

Yurio pulled out a solid performance but again fell short of beating his personal best. He looked frustrated at the Kiss and Cry as he hugged a stuffed cat and sank down into his chair, and Yuuri’s heart went out to him. He knew exactly how Yurio felt. They were both going to have to push even harder than before if they wanted to keep up with Victor.

Since he’d finished the Short Program in first placed, Victor took the ice last for his Free Skate. Thousands of miles away in a hotel room, Yuuri pulled Makkachin close and stared at the television screen. Though Nishigori and Minako had done plenty of chatting throughout the other competitors’ performances, Yuuri hadn’t joined in very often. He felt humbled by the knowledge that Victor had dedicated his Free Skate to him, something he didn’t mention to anyone else.

Would other people guess that the performance held a message for Yuuri? He pressed his lips together, hugged Makkachin to his side, and waited to find out.

This time, when Victor took the ice, the entire arena began to chant his name over and over. Yuuri remembered hearing something similar when he was at the Rostelecom Cup in Moscow, only he’d felt like he had to make his claim over Victor known. This time he felt proud to share him.

Victor looked quite different than he did yesterday. Perhaps he was relaxed after his massage, but he looked happy and comfortable in his own skin as he skated to the center of the ice. If his Short Program was a celebration of Victor’s more whimsical, beautiful side—a memory of the joyful child he still held inside of himself—then today’s Free Skate was about the sophistication and refinement of the man he’d become. His outfit was a play on a suit, though altered to be comfortable to skate in. He wore fitted black pants that showed off his long legs, a well-tailored vest with a striped pattern in alternating shades of muted gold and gray, and a dusty peach-colored tie. Beneath the vest, the sleeves of the light cream dress shirt were rolled up to the elbows.

“Did he get dressed up to celebrate his own birthday?” Nishigori said.

“Add a jacket to that suit, and he’d look like a groom at a wedding,” Minako observed.

Yuuri stared at Victor on the television screen for a moment and then flushed bright red. Minako was right. There was something about the suit Victor had chosen that made him look like he’d just slipped his jacket off and rolled up his sleeves for a last dance at his own wedding reception. On his right hand, Victor’s engagement ring glittered golden in the light, a bold declaration for everyone to see. His eyes were relaxed when they settled on a camera, the smile on his lips soft, like it was meant for one person only instead of the thousands of people around him.

As the opening chords played, Yuuri found himself holding his breath and fighting tears at the same time. He recognized the song immediately, even though it was a rendition he’d never heard before, but it wasn’t until he heard the familiar melody that Yuuri’s whole world fell away except for Victor. The lyrics in particular pulled him right through that television screen, carried him thousands of miles to the west, and landed him right there on the ice with Victor.

Wise men say only fools rush in,
But I can’t help falling in love with you.

As Yuuri watched the most earnest and heartfelt performance of Victor Nikoforov’s esteemed career, he didn’t feel like a fanboy anymore. That was his best friend out there—the person who knew and accepted him for who he was, self-esteem issues, anxiety attacks, and all—and he was dancing to a love song just for Yuuri. Tears overflowed from his eyes and dripped from his chin, but Yuuri didn’t wipe them away. He didn’t even notice them. He just sat there, absolutely entranced, and smiled as he watched.

There was something quiet and humble about the music, and Victor’s head was bowed in reverence. He had never proposed to Yuuri in words. Their engagement was formed out of a mutual understanding that they couldn’t bear to be apart. But watching Victor’s movements during that performance, the way he dipped down to one knee as he flew gracefully across the ice, it felt like he was actually saying the words this time. They had always communicated best through their skating, and Yuuri could hear Victor’s question to him loud and clear. Victor was telling Yuuri who he had given his heart to. He was asking Yuuri to marry him.

And Yuuri wasn’t the only person to figure this message out. Nishigori and Minako had apparently made the connection as well because they were both weeping openly.

He’s skating for our Yuuri,” Nishigori blubbered, tears streaming down his scrunched-up face.

I know,” Minako bawled in reply, then blew her nose on a KFC napkin.

Yuuri was oblivious. As the performance neared its conclusion, he put a hand over his heart and silently answered the question the love of his life had just asked him. Yes. Of course, I will.

“Hi,” Victor said when he called a few hours later.

Yuuri had been on his way back to the bedroom after brushing his teeth, but his footsteps faltered for a brief moment. Just the sound of Victor’s voice on the phone made him blush. “Hi,” Yuuri said, his tone a bit shy. “Or I guess I should say congratulations.”

Victor had won the Russian Championship. While that victory didn’t surprise Yuuri, it wasn’t until he rewatched Victor’s Free Skate several times online that he realized the historical importance of that performance. While he’d been busy crying over the emotional impact of Victor’s personal message to him, Yuuri hadn’t been counting how many quads his fiancé had executed. He’d seen Victor underrotate and stumble on one of them, but it didn’t register with Yuuri exactly what he’d seen until later.

“You did a quadruple loop,” Yuuri said.

“Well,” Victor said. “I almost did. I didn’t get enough rotations in. I was getting tired there at the end, but I feel good about the rest. What did you think?”

What did he . . . think?

Yuuri had no idea how to put his feelings into words. The quad loop was a jump Victor had only ever attempted before in Exhibitions when he wasn’t being scored. Yuuri had seen Victor land them before but not in the middle of a technically demanding Free Skate, and certainly not when there were already four other quads in his program.

“You did five quads,” Yuuri said.


In the same program.

A Toe Loop, Salchow, Lutz, Flip and Loop. All that was missing was the mythical Axel, which was actually four and a half revolutions and a thing that only existed in dreams. It didn’t matter that Victor had underrotated one of his jumps. He still had the rest of the season ahead of him to work on perfecting it.

“I almost did five quads,” Victor said, correcting him again. “Not quite.”

“No,” Yuuri said as he sat on the bed with a leg folded beneath him. He eyed the open dog crate under the hotel room window, where Makkachin was curled up asleep with a warm blanket. “Don’t discount what you did. Victor, that performance was amazing. Your whole Free Skate . . . and your Short Program . . . I don’t even know what to say. I don’t know how you do it, but you always manage to surprise me.”

“Likewise,” Victor said. “Did you happen to hear a special message aimed at my fiancé in the lyrics of the song?”

Yuuri’s blush deepened. “Oh, I heard it all right. I think everyone did.”

Victor laughed. “Good. I wanted them to.”

There was something about the way Victor was talking tonight—something in the texture of his voice and quiet laugh—that made Yuuri feel it all over. Perhaps it was his imagination, but it felt like Victor was flirting with him through every syllable.

“I miss you, baby,” Victor said.

And Yuuri had to close his eyes and take a second to regroup.

Was he really so sex-starved after two weeks that just the sound of Victor’s voice was enough to turn him on? He was 99.9% sure Victor was talking that way on purpose, but that didn’t make Yuuri feel any less embarrassed by how quickly his body responded to it. “I miss you, too.” Yuuri gripped the sheets of the bed and wished he was touching a warm body instead. There was a hollow ache of want in his chest. “I wish you were here in bed with me.”

“I like the sound of that. What would you do to me?”

Yuuri gulped. This wouldn’t be the first time Victor had tried to turn their phone conversations to the subject of sex. In Hasetsu, the paper-thin walls at Yuuri’s house ensured he avoided such talk like the plague. But he wasn’t in Hasetsu right now, and his family couldn’t overhear this conversation. Neither would Nishigori or Minako, whose rooms were on another floor at the hotel.

“I. . .” That was all Yuuri got out before he shut his mouth again and panicked.

How was it possible to feel this inexperienced when he and Victor had gone at it so many times in Barcelona?

“Yuuri. . .” Victor said, his voice low and teasing. “Why don’t you go get the Christmas present I sent you? Bring the whole box to the bed with you.”

Since that morning, Yuuri already had the nagging suspicion that his fiancé had sent him something naughty in the mail, but now he was convinced. He groaned and covered his eyes with a hand. “You sent me sex toys, didn’t you?”

“Merry Christmas,” Victor said. “Or should I say, happy birthday to me?”

Yuuri was no stranger to blushing. Even during the early days of his friendship with Victor, he’d spent a good deal of his time blistered with a sunburn of embarrassment, and it had only gotten worse when their relationship first turned sexual. But the contents of the box in front of him, which he opened one-handed with his cell phone held to his ear with the help of his shoulder and his other hand still clamped over his eyes, topped it all.

“Oh,” Yuuri said when he peeked through his fingers at his present. “Oh, you are in trouble.”

This was it. The pinnacle of embarrassment in the form of a box full of multi-colored, dick-shaped plastic. He’d reached the summit. There was nowhere else to go but down, probably straight to hell because today was Christmas, which many viewed as a religious holiday. And what was Yuuri doing on baby Jesus’s birthday? Staring at a big box full of multi-colored, dick-shaped plastic. That’s what.

There, nestled in a bed of pink tissue paper, was a collection of sex toys. Several sizes of dildos, vibrators, and plugs, as well as some accoutrements like a bottle of lubricant, toy cleaner, and a length of black silk that was either meant to be a blindfold or something to tie a lover’s hands up with.

“Victor,” Yuuri said, striving to remain calm.

“Yuuri,” Victor purred back. “You should use the purple one first. And don’t worry. I took everything out of the packaging for you and washed the toys myself. I even kissed the tips, so be sure not to wash anything again until after the first use.”

Victor,” Yuuri gasped, no longer anywhere near calm. “I can’t . . . how could I . . .”

“It’s still my birthday, you know. As much as I’d love to hear you sing to me, listening to you come over the phone would be so much better.”

Yuuri couldn’t speak for a full ten seconds. “You’re serious.”

“It’s been a long two weeks. I’m a little pent up, I’m afraid.”

“I am, too—but there’s nothing I can do about it. A toy isn’t going to make me feel as good as . . . as . . .”

“Well, you do have hands, baby. And speaking from experience, I can tell you that they’re very talented hands. In fact, I’m a little jealous they’re with you, and I’m left with nothing but my own.” Victor let out a little gasp that was somewhere in the middle of frustration and pleasure.

Yuuri stilled. Was Victor touching himself?

The idea of phone sex was not something he had ever seriously entertained. Whenever Victor brought it up in the past, Yuuri had always laughed it off as a joke and changed the subject. But again, just the sound of Victor’s voice was doing things to him tonight. He could feel it in his mind, evoking images in his imagination that had him running a hand slowly down his own thigh and wishing it was Victor touching him instead.

“It’s not the same when you’re not here,” Yuuri said.

“Turn out the lights. If it’s dark, we can pretend we’re in the same room together.”

Yuuri did as he was told and leaned over to click off the lamp beside the bed, which cast the room into darkness save for the city lights twinkling through the window.

“Did you turn them off?”


“Good. Do you see the headphones in the box? Plug them into your phone and put them in your ears.”

Yuuri frowned. “Why?”

“To free up your hands, of course. And so you can hear me all around you.”

Oh. After digging around briefly in the box, Yuuri found a pair of brand new earbuds. He unraveled the cord, put the buds in his ears, then plugged the end of the cable into his phone. Near his mouth was a microphone that could be used during phone calls. “Can you hear me?”

“Much better. You sound like you’re in the same room as me now.”

Victor’s voice was louder through the headphones—all deep and rumbly with that gorgeous accent shaping every word—and Yuuri’s eyes drifted shut for just a second as he fell under its spell. It really did sound like Victor was right there.

“What are you wearing?” Victor said.

Yuuri couldn’t help but laugh. Nervousness twisted in his stomach, but it wasn’t a bad sensation. It was the same way he felt after his first kiss, when all he could think about was how much he wanted a second one. “A t-shirt and pajama pants with pictures of puppies on them. I can’t do this, Victor. I’m not any good at talking sexy.”

“Well, that’s not true. Just the sound of your voice already has me hard. Do you want to know what I’m wearing?”

Yuuri’s breath shivered out. He didn’t answer the question, nor did he have to. Victor kept talking to him.

“When I got back to my room, I took off all my clothes and got in the shower. The hot water felt so good running down my body. But afterward, I couldn’t find a thing to wear, so I just didn’t bother.”

Yuuri’s cock twitched. Without thinking, he palmed himself through his pants and gave it a squeeze. He lowered himself down onto the pillow and closed his eyes.

“There was no point to putting on clothes. The shower was so steamy that my body was overheated anyway. Then I started thinking about you, Yuuri—about your sweet little oven of a mouth sucking me off—and that got me even hotter. So I had to go get some ice cubes to cool me back down before I called you.”

The sound of sucking came over the headphones. The click of an ice cube between teeth. Yuuri squeezed himself again, his thumb stroking up his length as it began to harden. He had no clue why the idea of ice cubes was suddenly so damn sexy, but Yuuri could almost feel Victor’s ice-chilled breath trickling over his skin.

“Mmm,” Victor said, his mouth full. There was a sucking sound again as he pulled the ice cube from his mouth. “That tastes good . . . but I’m still so hot, Yuuri. Maybe if I run this ice cube down my stomach. . .”

Yuuri blew out a breath. There was a part of him that still felt like he couldn’t do this. He was just not the kind of person who could go there until he was so deep in the moment, his physical needs overcame his mental timidity. But Victor’s words had already gotten him so hard, Yuuri was almost to that place.

He was alone in this hotel room. No one would know if he touched himself a little. . .

He slipped his hand down past the waistband of his pajama pants and sighed at the feel of fingers on his cock. He imagined Victor lying in bed, the window shades drawn, horizontal lines of shadow cutting across his naked body as he dragged a wet piece of ice down the center line of his stomach. Melted water droplets slipped down well-developed muscles into the valleys between.

Victor let out a quiet moan as he sucked the water off his fingers. “Mmm, now I’m all wet, and I’ve got goosebumps all over. That ice got me so sensitive . . . especially my nipples.”

Yuuri couldn’t help it. His hand moved up his shirt, dragging the material upward until his fingertips grazed his own nipple. The pink nub began to tighten and rise to a point.

“Are you touching yourself, baby?”

Yuuri licked his lips. “Yes.”

“Can I see? Take your pants off.”

Victor couldn’t actually see him. Yuuri was only talking to him on the phone with no video feed, but it was surprisingly easy to imagine the heat of his eyes on him anyway. Yuuri made a show of it, letting his sexuality come flooding out as he lifted his hips into the air and pushed his pants and boxer briefs down to his knees. He kicked them off and lowered his ass back down to the cool sheets. The air was pleasantly cold on the bare skin of his legs. He was still wearing a t-shirt, which was bunched halfway up his chest, but nothing else.

“Are you hard, Yuuri?”


Yuuri twisted his nipple until he felt it in his toes. The cotton of his t-shirt rubbed against the other. “Yes.”

“Mmm, I can hear it in your voice. Why don’t you look in that box I sent you? I bet there’s something slippery in there that would feel so good if you rub it in the right place.”

Yuuri could not believe he was actually doing this—but he did it anyway. Blindly, he reached inside the box, which was still beside him on the bed. The unmistakable size and shape of everything he felt inside made his pulse quicken, but after a bit more searching, he found the bottle of lube.

“I don’t have any lube here,” Victor said. “I forgot to bring some with me. But I do still have some ice cubes. Oh. Oh, that feels good. . .”

Yuuri’s eyes flew open.


He popped open the cap and silently thanked Victor for having the foresight to take care of the safety seal because he did not have the mental fortitude to deal with that kind of frustration right now. As he squeezed out a little lube onto his fingers, it did not escape his attention that Victor had planned this. Every moment. A handsfree phone call. Pre-washed sex toys, all the packaging removed so that the mood wouldn’t be broken.

Exactly what else had he planned?

He slicked up his cock to the sound of his lover pleasuring himself, and God, he wished it was Victor’s hand there instead of his own. Yuuri gave himself several full-length strokes before concentrating his efforts closer to the head. The lube felt incredible. It let him slide in his own hand without too much friction getting him worked up too soon.

He let out another soft moan, his self-consciousness draining away a little more with each passing second. This was a mostly one-sided conversation, after all. The least he could do was let Victor know he was getting off on it.

“Yuuri,” Victor said—and it was so obvious that he was still playing with the ice. “Do you remember how much you liked it when I put my fingers in you while you fucked me?”

Yuuri caught his lower lip between his teeth. He let his cock rest upward on his stomach while his slicked-up fingers went between his legs to tease his entrance.

“I’ve never seen anything sexier than you coming with me inside you,” Victor said. “Do you remember, Yuuri? The way you clenched and pulsed all around me?”

Yuuri pushed two fingers inside of himself up to his first knuckle. It burned a little because of the lack of preparation, but he didn’t care. The friction was a relief.

“God, the things that came out of your mouth. It made me feel so good, baby, knowing you wanted to be filled up with me.”

“Yeah?” Yuuri said, gasping for breath now. “You liked that?” How was it possible to be this turned on when he was all by himself with his own fingers? He’d never felt like this when he’d masturbated alone.

“Do you remember when I made you come in the shower without even touching your cock? You get turned on when I fuck you, don’t you?”


“I love it, too. You’re so good to me, baby, letting me have it both ways when we’re in bed. Will you look in the box again for me? I bought you something special. I promise it’s going to make you feel so good.”

Oh, what the hell? Yuuri sat up in the bed and pulled the box closer. He shivered a little as he swept the pink tissue paper to the side to reveal the many sex toys hidden beneath. His legs were covered in goosebumps from the chill in the room, and his nipples were harder than ever as they rubbed against his t-shirt.

“The purple one, Yuuri. That’s the one you want.”

“What do you want me to do?” Yuuri asked as he pulled the toy free from the tissue paper and held it up to inspect in the faint city light shining into the room from the window. His voice was surprisingly calm for someone who had no idea what he was doing.

The purple toy was about the same length as Yuuri’s hand and had a bit of a curve to it. It seemed to be a cross between a dildo and a plug, and it was made of a soft material. There was a knot at the end and a flared base to make sure it didn’t go too far inside.

Victor let out a breathy laugh, the sound of it all full of smoke and sex. “Do you really need me to tell you?”

“No,” Yuuri said, looking up into the darkness, imagining Victor right in front of him. “I just want to hear you say it.”

Another laugh, this one sultry enough to draw a bead of wetness to the tip of Yuuri’s cock. “Well, this is a very special toy, Yuuri. Do you want to find out why?”

“Tell me.” Closing his eyes, Yuuri brought the toy to his mouth for a taste. Victor had said he’d kissed the tip, after all. This was the closest he’d been to Victor’s mouth in weeks. After giving the tip another kiss, he licked its length, then put it in his mouth to give the knot at the end a suck. A frustrated moan soon rose up from his belly.

There was a moment of silence on the other end of the phone. “. . . What are you doing, baby?”

“Sucking on it. Wishing I had you in my mouth instead.”

A smile curled Yuuri’s lips upward when he heard Victor’s breath hiss out. It was the same feeling he got when Victor’s jaw dropped open in the middle of his Eros routine. He liked turning Victor on. It made him feel powerful. He licked the length of the plug again and said, “I thought you were going to tell me what makes this toy special?”

“Well.” Victor swallowed, clearly having to take a moment to reorder his thoughts. “It’s probably better to show you. Can you get it wet for me? Use your tongue.”

Yuuri swirled his tongue over the tip and then put it in his mouth again. He let out another moan, wanting to kindle Victor’s pleasure with the sound of it. “Like that?”

“That’s good. But you’re so tight, honey, and I don’t want to hurt you. Can you put some lube on it, too?”

Wiping his mouth with the back of his hand, Yuuri did as Victor asked. He took the lubricant and smeared a generous helping on the toy. The material was pliable but certainly hard enough to push inside. He wondered what it would feel like in his ass.

Yuuri was still up on his knees in the bed, sitting by the open box, and suddenly feeling a bit uncertain. He’d never played with a sex toy before. While he didn’t exactly need an instruction manual to know where this thing was supposed to go, he wasn’t sure what to do next. Should he lie down before putting it in? Was he supposed to fuck himself with it or leave it inside while he jacked himself off? “Victor. . .”

“I know it’s new, sweetheart, but just let me guide you. Where are you on the bed right now?”

“On my knees, sitting in the center.”

“That’s perfect. Can you try a few fingers first? It will help if you’re slick there, too.”

Yuuri brought the excess lubricant on his fingers behind his body and slipped a finger inside of himself. The slide was easier this time. First one finger working in and out before he added another.

“Are you tense at all?”


“Try the tip, then, and see how you like it.”

Yuuri took the toy in hand and brought it behind him. It felt a little foreign when he slipped it between his cheeks, but the pressure against his entrance felt deliciously familiar. “Ah,” he said, his tone still quiet but suddenly urgent. Readjusting his grip, he pushed a bit harder and the knotted tip of the toy slipped inside. His lips spread apart into a breathless smile. It certainly wasn’t Victor’s cock, but that knot on the end was going to feel good rubbing inside. He moved forward on the bed, now supporting his weight on his knees with one hand placed flat in front of him.

“Can you work it deeper, baby? Nice and slow.”

Whatever brand of lubricant Victor had purchased worked well with the toy. It was an effortless slide in and out, and it wasn’t long before Yuuri was really getting into it. He fucked himself with the toy, but couldn’t get it more than a few inches deep. Its wide base meant he was going to have to ease himself into it. “It’s bigger than I thought,” Yuuri said, still gasping.

“You like that, don’t you? Feeling full inside.”

He really did. It had been a long two weeks without sex.

“Can you put it all the way in? You still haven’t found out what makes this toy special yet.”

Yuuri laughed nervously. “Please tell me it can magically transform into you.” He pushed it deeper, biting down on his lip again as he was stretched apart. What it lacked in length, it certainly made up for in girth. His ass swallowed it up all the way to the flared base, at which point Yuuri let go of the toy.

“Oh, don’t worry,” Victor said, sounding amused. “You’re about to feel me there with you. Nishigori downloaded that app on your phone, right? Let’s see if this works.”

Yuuri opened his eyes. “What?”

It started deep within him, a quiet rumble low in his belly that sent a shock of pleasure straight to his cock. Then came a stronger pulse that drove the breath right out of Yuuri’s lungs and made him lean forward on his knees, both palms now flat to the mattress.

Unggg. . .” The sound rose up out of him without warning. He had no control over it. The toy was vibrating inside of him, wickedly slow pulses that played tricks on his body, giving him a moment of calm before it stole it right back. “Victor. Are you . . . are you controlling it?”

“You know, you can buy the most interesting things on the internet,” Victor said. “Turns out there are a lot of people in long distance relationships across the world.”

The vibrations intensified, and Yuuri was suddenly having trouble staying still. Somewhere in Russia, Victor was playing with an app on his phone, which was sending a message to the app on Yuuri’s phone, which was synced to the toy. Sitting up on his knees, he pulled helplessly at his t-shirt, dragging it down between his legs like some kind of shy schoolgirl. His knees slid apart on the mattress, his lower back bowed inward in the middle, and his mouth stretched wide.


“God, I wish I could see you right now. Now, Yuuri—listen to me, sweetheart. This is very important. Are you listening?”

Yuuri made a helpless sound. He couldn’t think about words right now. Not with the toy resetting the tempo of his heartbeat, forcing it to come into alignment with the one Victor chose for him.

“Settle down, baby.” The intensity of the vibrations lessened, giving Yuuri a chance to catch his breath.  “You’re doing so well. But I want you to do something for me. Close your eyes, and imagine I’m there with you on the bed.”

Yuuri’s mind was again falling prey to the sound of that voice. He closed his eyes and imagined Victor was in the room with him. When he ran his hands up his own stomach and chest, it was easy to believe it was Victor touching him. When he pinched his nipples through his t-shirt, he whispered Victor’s name like he was the person responsible for the delicious shiver that followed. Yuuri licked his thumb, dropped one hand to his cock, and spread the wetness at the tip all around the head.

“Can you feel me there with you? Can you feel my eyes on you?”

“Mmm . . . your hands.”

A low chuckle. “That’s good, baby. I love your sexy little body so much—the way you move your hips when you’re turned on. Where am I touching you?”

Yuuri could not believe Victor had talked him into this. “Down there.”

The vibrations inside of him changed their rhythm again—slower pulses, but stronger, deeper ones. Yuuri had to place one hand on the bed again to support himself. Every breath from his mouth was a gasp or pout now. His whole body was flushed, and he could feel heat rising from his skin.

“Do you want to fuck me, Yuuri?”

Yuuri’s cock ached so badly, he couldn’t remember if Victor was there or not. Yuuri didn’t even know where he was right now. “Yes.”

“I want you inside me bad, but I need you to do something for me first. Can you reach for a pillow for me, baby? Though maybe not one you plan to sleep on tonight. . .”


“Trust me. Get it and place it on the bed in front of you.”

Without looking, Yuuri reached behind himself and grabbed one of the two pillows at the head of the bed. He set it down on the mattress in front of him and said, “Okay.”

“Between your legs, Yuuri.”

He moved a little slower this time—because he had figured out where Victor was going with this. The voice on the phone had dropped to an even deeper rumble. Yuuri could feel it shake him inside just as much as the vibrator deep in his core. He straddled the pillow, his hands working at the softness.

“All week, I’ve been thinking about that last night we spent in Barcelona. Do you remember, Yuuri? When you held me down beneath you while you fucked me hard? God, I loved every second of it.”

Even before he was told, Yuuri knew what he was supposed to be doing with the pillow, but it was too soft. He folded it in half and tried again, finding it much firmer this time when he pushed himself against it. His palms squeezed the pillow like he was cupping Victor’s ass, spreading the cheeks, moving closer to get at just the right angle to thrust. . .

“You’ve got me so wet, Yuuri. Will you fuck me hard? I’ve been waiting so long.”

The human imagination was a powerful thing.

For those next few minutes, Yuuri could have sworn he was not alone in that bed. He felt Victor all around him. His breath on his neck. His lips a mere inch from his skin. He felt Victor buried to the hilt in his ass and giving it to him from behind. But Victor was also beneath him on the bed, begging Yuuri to fuck him harder.

Victor was in his head. His voice had somehow slipped inside Yuuri’s body and hypnotized him. And when Yuuri came inside of his lover, he felt Victor come inside of him at the same time. He was there, holding Yuuri and coaxing him through his climax with the sweetest words of encouragement and love.

Afterward, Yuuri was quiet.

He blinked up at the ceiling at a steady pace and ran his fingertips up and down his stomach while his heartrate slowed. The box of toys was now set aside, but Victor was still there with him in the bed, cuddling with him in the afterglow. His beautiful voice was gentle, the sound of it tugging Yuuri’s mind toward the pleasant haze of sleep.

“I should let you get some sleep, baby,” Victor said. “You have another performance tomorrow. Just two more days. Two days . . . and my Yuuri will be with me where he belongs.”

Weren’t they already together? As Yuuri’s eyelashes fluttered shut, he snuggled deeper into the covers. “Don’t go,” he said, the words so soft that he wondered if he’d dreamed them. “Stay with me while I fall asleep.”

Whether he heard Yuuri’s request or not, Victor didn’t leave him to fall asleep alone. Yuuri drifted away into his dreams, accompanied by the beautiful sound of his fiancé softly humming Christmas carols to him.

To be continued