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Everything was the same, and at the same time everything was different. The changes were so subtle that at first neither one noticed, but within only a couple days they recognized that an intimacy had grown between them. Gazes lasted an extra few seconds, touches lingered longer than they had before. A wall that they hadn’t even realized was there had crumbled.

They were far from lovers, but they shared a connection that went beyond mere friendship.

Victor was practicing on the ice while Yuri took a break when Takeshi Nishigori strolled in and sat next to him on the bench.

“You did a good thing Yuri,” Nishigori said.

“Nishigori?” Yuri asked, unsure what the older man was referring to.

“Yuko told me about what happened last week,” the older man explained.

Yuri stiffened slightly.

“Don’t worry Yuri. If he wanted people to know it would have been out a long time ago. We’re not going to question why, just honor that he has his own reasons for keeping it quiet.”

Yuri relaxed.

“It takes a lot of strength to not give in,” Nishigori said. “I’ve been with Yuko for eight years now, I’m used to the hormones and the need. They say that as you become accustomed to the pheromones it has less effect, but if I had to turn her down, I know I couldn’t stay close. I’d have to get far enough away to not smell her. When she said you stayed, and even went into the room. Fuck Yuri, I know I couldn’t have done that.”

Yuri curled over in embarrassment. “Maybe it was because it was my first time being around an omega in heat, or the suppressants.”

Yuri felt the stare and turned to see Nishigori gaping at him. “That… was your first time?”

“Yeah?”

“Are you even human Yuri? The first time I saw Yuko I was on suppressants, stronger than yours if I recall the bottle that fell out of your bag a few months ago, and I barely had the strength to run. The first time is the worst.

“Maybe I’m just that weak an alpha…” Yuri said softly as Victor landed a quad lutz.

Nishigori growled low in his throat. “A weak alpha would have given in. A weak alpha would have been so overwhelmed that they would have been in a heat haze before their clothes hit the floor. Remember, Yuko was there, she told me how powerful his pheromones were. What you did was the opposite of weak Yuri.”

Yuri looked up and smiled softly.

“Yuuuuri!” Victor called. “Are you done resting yet? It’s getting close to the end of our time and I want to work on your quad salchow. It’s still not clean and the block championships are only a month away.”

“Duty calls,” Yuri said with a smile as he stood and walked to the ice.

Nishigori laughed and strolled out to return to his place at the front counter.


 

Yuri slipped into the onsen and moved to a quiet corner to grumble alone. He was in a foul mood and knew that even with the suppressants his irritation would be coming off him in waves. He slid down up to his shoulders in the water and tried to put the events of the day out of his mind.

Unfortunately the solitude only gave him time to dwell and he soon found his anger increasing.

“Yuri?”

Yuri cracked one eye open to see Victor standing nearby, a worried look on his face. He tried to smile, to reassure the Russian, but the older man wasn’t buying it.

Victor scowled, picked a spot across the narrow branch of water and sat down, never taking his eyes off Yuri. “You were fine before you left for your sponsor meeting this morning. What happened?”

“Nothing.”

Victor’s eyes narrowed. “Yuuuri.”

Yuri averted his gaze. “I’d rather not talk about it.”

They sat in silence for several minutes, and Yuri could feel the eyes of the platinum-haired man boring into him.

Victor sighed and stood. He took a few steps toward the showers, then turned back.

Yuri startled when the Russian sat next to him and draped his arms over the shoulders of the smaller man.

“Victor!” Yuri protested. He wanted the contact, but not in public, and not when he was angry.

Victor was stronger and managed to keep Yuri from squirming away. He used his free hand to grab Yuri’s chin and turn it toward him. “Close your eyes Yuri.”

Yuri’s breath caught in his throat. Is he seriously trying to kiss me right now?

Victor’s eyes narrowed as Yuri hesitated. “Close your eyes,” he repeated, voice dropping in pitch.

Confusion mixed with Yuri’s anger, but he was too flustered to argue. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes, expecting to feel the lips of the Russian against his own.

Victor pulled Yuri close, and used gentle pressure from his hand to angle Yuri’s head.

Skin against skin as Victor closed the gap and their chests pressed together. Yuri could smell his scent. He breathed it in, his nose scratching along Victor’s stubble.

The anticipation is killing me.

Victor turned, and Yuri felt his nose pressed into Victor’s neck.

“Just breathe Yuri.”

Yuri froze for a second before his brain processed the order. He took a deep breath, the scent of oranges and snow filling him. He immediately felt calmer.

Yuri shuddered as some of the anger released in a rush.

“That’s right Yuri,” Victor said softly. “Just keep breathing.”

Yuri squeezed his eyes and buried his nose against Victor. Suddenly he couldn’t get enough. The anger, the frustration of the day felt wrong. Victor was right; that soothing scent the only thing that mattered.

Yuri turned and wrapped his arms around the taller man, holding him close, not wanting to lose the anchor in the maelstrom of his emotions. He shook, his body confused as the tension of seconds earlier vanished.

“Victor,” Yuri hiccupped.

“Shh Yuri. Just breathe. We’ll talk in a minute.”

Yuri knew the scent of an omega was supposed to have this influence, but he’d never imagined it would be so strong. He nosed at the spot, begging Victor’s body to release more of the soothing aroma.

Victor rubbed circles on Yuri’s back as he held the smaller man close. Eventually Yuri stopped shaking. He took deep breaths against Victor’s skin. It was then that the Russian finally released him.

“Feel better?” Victor asked as he moved to be able to look at Yuri.

Yuri wanted to follow, to stay in the embrace. Instead he blushed and nodded. “Thank you.”

Victor smiled. “I thought it was worth a try.”

“It worked. But how did you know?”

“You told me… remember?”

Yuri thought about it, and recalled saying something about Victor’s scent after his heat. He nodded.

“Want to tell me what happened now?” Victor asked, placing his hand over Yuri’s for a brief moment.

Yuri took a deep breath, feeling the steam of the onsen in his lungs. “The sponsor meeting itself was fine. We reviewed expectations for the season, and renewed the contract through next summer. I’ll likely have some endorsements in January, and maybe an exhibition in the spring.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” Victor prodded.

Yuri nodded. “It is, but…” Yuri shuddered and pulled his knees close. “There were a few people waiting to go into their own meeting once I was done. I think one was a skier, but I’m not positive. I could hear them talking as I waited for the secretary to finish a call so we could schedule future meetings.

“They said something about a rumor that the sponsor had planned to drop me after last season. It wasn’t all that surprising. I honestly expected it after my poor performance.

“It didn’t even bother me too much when one suggested that I was renewed because you’re my coach. In fact I kinda like hearing that they think you can turn my career around.

“But…”

Yuri grumbled and hugged his knees. Now that he was calmer he realized how foolish his anger had been.

“Yuri?” Victor’s voice pulled him from his thoughts.

“I don’t know who said what. I don’t know if they meant for me to hear it or not. They were pretty quiet, but you know how noise carries in an empty room.

“They… they suggested that the only reason you’re here… is for sex. One even asked if I was really planning to skate this season at all, or if you coaching me was a convenient excuse to explain your presence.”

Yuri heard Victor exhale, and he expected the Russian to be as outraged, but instead he felt fingers at the small of his back.

“Yuri, you have to know those rumors have been swirling for months. Probably even before Yurio arrived.”

Yuri grumbled. “Yes, but I would have thought they’d have died down by now. Was the exhibition just a joke to them? You’re giving me so much, you put your own career on hold for me. I… I’m working so hard to make this a good season. I want to be worthy of your time.”

Tension in the fingers. “Yuri, of course you’re worthy of my time. I wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

“You wouldn’t be happier on the ice?”

The fingers on his back stilled a moment before rubbing small circles again. “I’m on the ice every day, helping you become the skater I know you can be.”

“You know what I mean.”

“Yuri, I’m exactly where I want to be right now. Trust me on that.”

Yuri nodded, but questions still swirled in his mind.

“There was more…”

“Oh?”

“I normally don’t care about the rumors that I’m an omega. But… I’ve been more on edge lately. They… they said I must be a nice omega catch for an alpha like you. Then they wondered if I had been the pursuer instead, trying to lure the most-eligible alpha with my omega wiles.

“They reduced both of us to outdated ideas about gender roles. You the powerful alpha who claims the prize omega. Me the seductive flower that seeks to rise through sex.”

Victor’s fingers curled into a fist against Yuri’s back before relaxing again.

“It angers me so much Victor, that the stereotypes are still thrown around like that, even as walls crumble in so many other areas of society. I might not advertise that I’m an alpha, but I don’t hate it. The only reason I don’t discuss it is because of the stereotypes. I’m me, that’s all that should matter. I should be judged on what I do, not expectations of my secondary gender.”

“Look at me Yuri.”

Yuri raised his head and his eyes met Victor’s. “I’m here because you entranced me. The way you dance, the way you move across the ice. It’s beautiful. I had no clue you were an alpha until circumstances forced you to reveal it, but I didn’t care either. Your secondary was never a concern. I’m here for you.”

Yuri gave a faint smile, but his feelings weren’t quite in it.

Victor pulled Yuri close again, and as he inhaled the fainter scent that surrounded the larger man he realized how much tension had seeped back in during the discussion.

“People are going to talk Yuri. There’s nothing we can do about that. What we can control is how we react. I agree that it hurts when I read an article or forum post diminishing you as my student. I see your talent every day and I know you’re going to stun the world. But half of those that are watching say similar to what you heard, and others think I’m some kind of miracle worker and are totally disregarding your existing career.”

Yuri looked up and stared.

Victor’s eyes met his and the Russian smiled. “You and I know the truth. Whatever anybody else says, we’re the ones living this every day. That’s all that matters. Ok?”

Yuri smiled, real for the first time in hours. “Yeah.”