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In retrospect, Yuuri should have realized his mistake.

It’s a linguistic error, a misunderstanding of intention due to stress, exhaustion, and his own insecurities.

The alternative is impossible, because when Alfred the undergrad asks, the only things in the work tent are: twenty kilos of iron-rich rocks, a couple of hammers, and Viktor fucking Nikiforov.

Gorgeous, sweet, postdoctoral Viktor Nikiforov. (Why are people allowed to be genius and beautiful?) 

No, the alternative is utterly, tragically impossible.

Alfred shifts awkwardly. Looks at Viktor and Yuuri, and asks, “So, uh. Are you guys dating?”

Yuuri looks at Viktor incredulously.

Viktor stares back at him, so attractively disheveled in sweatpants and an alumni hoodie. Blushing. (This is really the moment Yuuri should have realized.) Then Yuuri frowns at Alfred, gesturing blatantly to the twenty kilos of rocks between him and Viktor. Wishes he could pull out his entire history of academia, and the description of their field course because Alfred, you are literally here, in Australia, thousands of miles from home, for the sole purpose of collecting samples to radiometrically date.

“Of course,” Yuuri says patiently.

Viktor makes a noise.

Alfred nods, smiling. “I figured. Anyway, have a goodnight, Dr. K! Viktor.”

He slips out of the tent, and Yuuri watches him shuffle over to his peers, who are all staring at him in awe.

“I told you guys,” he says, welcomed into their excited circle.

Their laughter rises, drifting like smoke into the Australian night. Yuuri sighs, half-exasperated, half-fond, and pulls the tent flap closed. The rainproof tarp has been pulled away for the evening, moonlight spilling into the space. Viktor is staring at him, cheeks rose-tinted, hair glinting celestial.

“Can you believe that?” Yuuri chuckles. “We’ve been doing this for years.”

“Years,” Viktor echoes. The Russian man drops his hammer, narrowly missing his own toes.

“Viktor!” Yuuri rushes over.

They duck down at the same time, heads bumping with a dull noise. Yuuri flinches upright.

“Ow,” Viktor mutters. “Ow, fuck. Sorry, Yuuri.”

“No, no,” Yuuri mumbles. “It’s my fault. Are you alright?”

Yuuri cranes his head, studying the strange radiance in Viktor’s eyes.

Viktor has irises that shift in colour almost imperceptibly depending on the light. Yuuri would know—he’s spent the last ten years admiring them. Tonight, they’re a soft, springwater blue. Something foreign glints beneath long lashes. Bashfulness, Yuuri realizes. 

“I’m fine,” Viktor says. “I just... I didn’t know…”

Viktor’s fringe falls into his eyes, and Yuuri can’t help himself. He brushes it back with gentle fingers, trailing behind Viktor’s ear. His blue eyes flutter shut.

“Didn’t know what?” Viktor swallows.

Yuuri watches the slow bob of his throat, and when he lifts his gaze again, their eyes meet.

There is something trembling in the stillness of them; as if they are two tectonic plates, seemingly still, but shuddering with quiet power, brushing soft against each other.

“I’m not the most perceptive man,” Viktor whispers, “But you know how much I admire and care about you, right?”

Viktor is the most perceptive man that Yuuri knows. It’s Viktor who recognizes his bad days, who makes empathy into an art form, without Yuuri even needing to speak.

“Of course I do,” Yuuri frowns. “Vitya, what’s wrong?”

Worry flickers in Viktor’s eyes. He shakes his head, and leans forward, hiding the expression. Yuuri hates it when he does this, tucks his concerns behind a hug or a kiss, burying them into Yuuri’s skin before Yuuri can scream just talk to me!

Soft lips press to Yuuri’s brow. Yuuri cannot see his face.

“Nothing,” Viktor says. “I’m going to call it a night. Are you going to bed?”

“Soon,” he says. “I’ll see you tomorrow?”

“Bright and early,” Viktor smiles softly, slipping out of the tent. “Goodnight, Yuuri.”

Yuuri exhales, slumping against the workbench.

 

 

Dr. Viktor Nikiforov is the world’s worst boyfriend.

Primarily because he didn’t realize he was a boyfriend. More alarmingly, didn’t realize that he was Yuuri’s boyfriend.

For years, apparently. Years.

Viktor wishes the ground would open up and swallow him. Yuuri has never given them a label before, but looking back on it, it’s so obvious. Yuuri laughs at his shitty jokes. He brings him lunch, and holds him when he’s stressed. Pries Viktor apart like a reverse oyster, Yuuri the pearl, tucking himself into Viktor’s arms when he needs something steady to clutch.

And they’ve made out before, years ago. Although they were both pretty drunk, and have never addressed it. But Viktor’s tongue has been inside Yuuri’s mouth. They’ve slept at each others apartments (albeit, separately), they’ve met each others families. What the hell would Hiroko think of Viktor now?

Viktor can’t bear to tell him. Yuuri, who is so good, kind, and gentle.

Sorry, sweetheart, Viktor imagines himself saying. Even though we do all the things that couples do, I didn’t realize we were in a committed relationship. My bad.

“Fuck,” Viktor mutters. “Fucking hell.”

 

 

The next morning, Viktor slumps out of his tent, traversing the few steps over to their makeshift eating area, and onto the bench next to Yuuri. Not unlike most mornings, Viktor rests his face against Yuuri’s shoulder, arms winding around his waist.

(Viktor should have known, honestly, platonic friends do not greet each other like this.)

“Morning,” Yuuri says, sipping his coffee, utterly unfazed.

The student that he’s having a conversation with is equally unbothered, and merely gives Viktor a quick greeting before returning to the conversation about stratigraphic correlation. Viktor is mostly quiet, content to ride the slow rise and fall of Yuuri’s chest. That is until the student, Janet, Viktor believes her name is, clears her throat.

“So, you don’t have to answer this… but… everyone is talking about how you guys are secretly married.”

Yuuri chokes on his drink, clutching tight to his mug.

“Not married,” Yuuri exclaims. “No, no, no. Viktor and I aren’t married.”

Viktor rubs at his boyfriend’s back. “Trust me, if Yuuri and I were married, everyone would know. Do I seem like the subtle type?”

Yuuri coughs some more.

“That’s what I said,” Janet insists. “Helen and Nicholas were arguing with me about it last night, and I was like, no, they don’t even wear rings, I told them that! You’d totally be the type to wear rings.”

“Rings,” Yuuri echoes. He takes another deep dreg from his coffee.

“More coffee, sweetheart?” Viktor asks, gesturing at the empty mug. Janet swoons. Yuuri simply nods, brows furrowed.

“Dr. Katsuki,” Viktor can hear Janet say, “You guys are couple goals.”

Viktor walks over to the coffee pot they’ve managed to install in their commons tent. Maybe he’s acting too boyfriendish all of a sudden. Reasonably so, given the fact that he just realized he was a boyfriend, but Yuuri can’t know that.

 

 

“Janet, Dr. Nikiforov and I aren’t a couple.”

“Did you guys break up?”

“We were never together!”

“But you’re into him, right?”

“I really don’t know why I’m having this conversation with a student…”

“Dr. K, sir. I view you with the utmost respect, but seriously? Viktor is in love with you.”

“He’s not,” Yuuri says vehemently. It’s barely a whisper. “He’s just—”

 

 

“There wasn’t enough creamer for two,” Viktor sets the mug down on the table. "Do you mind sharing?"

Yuuri flinches out of the conversation he’s having with Janet.

“Not at all,” Yuuri stares down at the table.

Janet glances between them. “I’m gonna… go.”

When she darts away, Viktor sits back down next to Yuuri.

“What’s up with her?”

“Oh, nothing. I was just debunking some geology myths for her.”

“What kind of myths?” Viktor asks. Yuuri bumps their shoulders, stealing a sip of coffee.

“Impossibly ridiculous ones.”

“Pre-Wegener theories?” Viktor grabs the mug, pressing his lips to the place where Yuuri’s had been. “Or maybe, flat earth levels of ridiculous?”

Yuuri offers him a small smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

“Even more ridiculous than that.”

 

 

“Darling!” Viktor keeps yelling.

Yuuri furrows his brows, trying to concentrate on the conversation he’s having with his students.

“Sweetheart!”

“Uh,” Yuuri shakes his head. “So, the iron rich layers are generally divided by thin layers of chert—”

“Babe!”

“—and shale.”

“Dr. K,” Alicia says. “I think Viktor’s calling you.”

“I don’t think so,” Yuuri says.

Viktor is just being Viktor. Screaming out random pet names, is… odd, but definitely not the weirdest thing Yuuri has seen the Russian man do.

“Kotyonok!” Viktor switches to his mother tongue now. “Solnyshko!”

Yuuri disregards the shouting, returning to the very important rock structure in front of them. The five students gathered keep looking at each other awkwardly.

“Ignore him,” Yuuri says. “You guys know how weird Viktor can be.”

“One time during lecture,” says Rui. “Dr. Nikiforov dressed up as a plesiosaur to talk about Triassic sea life.”

“I think his enthusiasm is one of his best qualities,” Yuuri argues.

Yuuri has seen Viktor in the plesiosaur costume. He has experienced getting punched in the face with adoration for the man as he'd stormed through Yuuri's office, clad in fabric fins, a tail, and an elongated plesiosaur neck attached to his head, searching for any extra laser pointer.

“Dr. K,” Alicia says. “I really think Viktor’s talking to you.”

“If he’s talking to me,” Yuuri says. “He would just call me by my name.”

“Yuuri!”

Yuuri jumps. The voice comes from directly beside him, punctuated by a strong arm slinging around his shoulder, and Viktor's familiar scent.

“My love, why have you been ignoring me?”

“Viktor!” Yuuri looks up at him. “Sorry, I… didn’t realize you were talking to me…”

Viktor cocks his head to the side. “You think I’d call anyone else here ‘darling’?”

Yuuri considers this. “I guess you have a point.”

 

 

“Viktor,” Janet sighs. “I swear I’m not usually clumsy.”

Viktor snorts, wrapping a bandage over the small cut on Janet’s leg. The college junior is laying out across the bench, hands over her eyes.

“What did you do?” Viktor asks.

“You’re going to laugh at me,” Janet argues.

“What, did you trip over your own feet?” Viktor prompts.

Janet shakes her head gravely.

“Dr. Katsuki wiped sweat off his face with the hem of his shirt,” Janet explains. “I got distracted, and slipped down the outcrop.”

Viktor stares at the young student.

Yuuri Katsuki is a safety hazard. Viktor is only glad that she hadn’t been carrying a hammer, or a swiss knife when it had happened.

He nods solemnly. “I completely understand.”

 

 

“Jack, can you switch places with Rui? He’s shorter than you, and you’re blocking him… also, Mariah, you’ve got dust all over your face… and…”

Yuuri watches in amusement as Viktor bosses the kids around, trying to shuffle them into a satisfactory pose.

“I think they look fine,” Yuuri says, clutching a selfie stick, his phone attached to the end.

“Darling,” Viktor sighs at Yuuri. “Look at Alfred. Alfred, stop dabbing. This is going up on my Instagram.”

Yuuri giggles, as Alfred reluctantly relaxes into a natural stance. Viktor clasps his hand together in excitement, eyes sparkling.

“I think we’re ready,” Viktor exclaims. “Good to go, Yuuri?”

Yuuri smiles at his best friend. “Yes.”

Yuuri’s phone screen switches to front camera, revealing their group, standing in front of the banded iron rock formations. Viktor scoots in next to Yuuri, one arm resting casually around his waist.

“You guys ready?”

“Yes.”

“Hurry up!”

Yuuri rolls his eyes, smiling brightly, and taking the photo. 

“Did it work?” Yuuri pulls the camera closer to all of them.

Alfred laughs. “Can Dr. Katsuki get any redder?.”

Yuuri groans. Viktor bursts out into laughter.

 

 

[image description: viktor and yuuri in the foreground, faces pressed together. viktor is laughing, temple pressed to the top of yuuri’s head. yuuri is blushing bright red, leaning into viktor. behind them, the students are mostly amused. one tall man is dabbing in the left corner of the image.]

Liked by justalfred and 987 others

v-nikiforov Me, Yuuri and the brilliant young people of Earth History Field Course 352!!!!!!! Love these guys!!! Geology rocks!!! #TourismAustralia #WSU #geologydads #couplegoals #sciencedads #sorrytonystarkandbrucebanner #moveimgay

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They’ve been in Australia for three weeks now, camped out a half hour drive from the Western coast. Their field base is isolated, but there’s at least thirty of them in the field course. Surely, Viktor has not grown so starved for human proximity that he has resorted to playing around with Yuuri’s heart.

Yuuri knows that his best friend isn’t that type of person. But the other option is that Viktor is genuinely interested in him all of a sudden, and Yuuri does not want to even consider that possibility in the morning light, where everything is soft and too honest.

Instead, he subjects it to a pit inside his brain, fills the the grave with dirt, and tries not to think about it.

 

 

Three weeks into Australia, and Viktor finally sees rain.

It’s sunset, the sky thick with grey clouds, leaking perfect, golden light. He and Yuuri are sitting within the latter’s tent, watching out the open tent flap as the kids race into the downpour, faces upturnt and arms spread, clutching beer bottles in wet fists. The beer cooler, empty now, sits wide open by the fire pit and accumulating rain.

“Smells nice,” Yuuri hums, sitting cross-legged next to him. He’s on his third beer, dangling precariously between thumb and forefinger. “Petrichor.”

“What’s that?”

Yuuri has his glasses tucked away somewhere, his face raised towards the fine mist permeating from the ground.

“The smell after rain,” Yuuri says. “Coming from ‘petra’, meaning stone, and ‘ichor’, the blood of the Olympian gods.”

Music comes blaring to life, causing Viktor to jump. One of his students has swindled away the aux cord, sitting in the passenger seat of the pick-up truck, legs dangling out the open door. The car shudders with the volume, competing only with the brash, untethered singing from the kids dancing in the rain.

“Viktor!” Alfred, at the aux, calls, “Get out here!”

“Oh no,” Viktor yells back. “I’m perfectly fine here.”

“Dr. Katsuki!” Another student shouts. “Help us out! It’ll be good for his heat stress!”

Yuuri chuckles. Viktor pouts.

“I am fine,” Viktor says. “I don’t know why you guys keep going on about me getting heat stress.”

“It’s because of last week, sir!” Alfred replies. “Your rash.”

“My rash,” Viktor grumbles, not quite sober. “Yuuri, love, our kids are making fun of my heat rash.”

“Well, you shouldn’t have spent so much time in the sun.”

“Yuuuuri!”

Yuuri rolls his eyes, feigned indifference cracked apart by an amused smile. Viktor releases a dramatic whine, pitching forward to rest his head against Yuuri’s thigh. The song changes, the Fugees coming on, and Viktor lets out a hum of approval.

“Is this really the academic space we’re curating for young scientists?”

Yuuri gestures to the two students making out, five feet away from them, moving to the beat of the music. Another student, Alfred, is swaying on the back of the pick-up truck.

“Ah,” Viktor smiles hesitantly. “At least they’re recycling their beer bottles?”

“I hope nobody posts this on Instagram,” Yuuri groans. “Imagine the caption: Wayne State geologists host wild bush party in Australian outback for future scientists.”

“At least the Earth Sciences department would see heightened interest!”

Yuuri throws back the last of his drink. A chorus of cheers pulls Viktor’s gaze away from Yuuri’s mouth, and to the students, who are passing around bottle of Appleton. Janet, ever the good student, raises the bottle in Yuuri and Viktor’s direction imploringly.

“No thanks,” Viktor laughs.

“Only if I’m trying to die,” Yuuri adds.

“Suit yourselves,” Janet shrugs. The kids seem to forget their professors once the rum goes around.

“Where did they even get that?” Yuuri says.

“Come on, Yuuri,” Viktor snorts. “Do you not remember the days of our youth?”

“Youth,” Yuuri grumbles.

When Viktor had first met Yuuri, they’d been two years into completing their PhDs in Detroit. Yuuri, with his research in Ediacaran life, had been closely linked to Viktor’s studies of the oxygenation of the atmosphere.

In his mind, Viktor's first interaction with Yuuri exists in perfect light; perfect colour, perfect black, and amber, and orange. Viktor had barely recognized him. What he’d previously known about Katsuki Yuuri: he was a quiet, Japanese man who came late to seminars, never combed his hair, and never looked Viktor in the eye.

And then there was Katsuki Yuuri: staring out a window, looking handsome and unearthly in a grey three-piece suit. He had been a pensive, powerful foreground to the Rocky Mountains in the distance, looking for all the world like he’d cracked Pangaea apart himself.

“I'm Yuuri Katsuki,” Yuuri had said to him, breath dizzily sweet with champagne. Those first words, spoken while standing in the light of a sunset not unlike the one they were laying in now.

“Remember that one time we went to Mistaken Point,” Yuuri says to him now. “You got so drunk that you vomited in the tent we shared?”

“Damn you, Katsuki,” Viktor grumbles, turning over and blowing a raspberry into Yuuri’s open palm.

“Ack! Viktor!”

Viktor sits up, throwing his arms around Yuuri’s neck, nuzzling his head into the Japanese man’s chest.

“Why am I being embarrassing in all the memories you have of me?” Viktor’s fingers shift to Yuuri’s sides, eliciting sharp bouts of laughter.

Baka! It’s because you’re always doing embarrassing shit.”

Embarrassing shit? 

"I am the pinnacle of poise and grace!" Yuuri tugs at Viktor’s hair, squirming against him.

“That tickles. Quit it!”

“Make me.”

Yuuri tosses their clasped bodies onto the tent floor, before pinning Viktor’s hands above his head. Viktor blinks, his vision filled with Yuuri, looming over him, seated on his torso, all messy hair and crooked glasses. Yuuri tilts his head, eyes glinting with amusement. It makes Viktor want to moan.

“Remember that one time you stuck your tongue into a fish’s mouth?”

Viktor makes an indignant noise. “That was tradition.”

“You kiss the cod,” Yuuri snorts. “You don’t lick the inside of the cod’s mouth, Vitya.”

“Why don’t I just kiss you instead?” Viktor suggests.

Yuuri freezes. Something clouds his eyes, honeyed irises turning to golden rain, and then finally, to solid amber.

Viktor cannot decipher this emotion, but it makes him ache everywhere. Makes him want to simultaneously taste the inside of Yuuri Katsuki’s mouth, while smoothing out the new lines, the downturned mouth, that have appeared on his face with this expression. Viktor reaches out with trembling fingers, running them gently down Yuuri’s jaw. Yuuri leans down, agonizingly slow, until their noses are touching.

“Viktor,” Yuuri says. It comes out hissing. Molten rock meeting ocean.

Viktor’s eyes close. The heat is just too much, the weight of Yuuri on his chest, the lips barely brushing against his cheekbones, before stopping at his ear.

Yuuri whispers, “Don't tease me like that.”

And then he pulls away.

What.

Viktor feels like he’s been plunged into ice water. He blinks up at Yuuri, who is crawling off Viktor's chest, and stumbling out into the downpour.

What… just happened…

“Yuuri?” Viktor says, even though the his boyfriend can’t hear him.

Yuuri is a man on a mission, already amongst the crowd of students, speaking to Alfred with grand hand gesticulations. Viktor hears Alfred laugh, before the song changes, and everyone lets out an elated cheer. Someone offers Yuuri the bottle of Appleton, and he knocks back a whole mouthful. Viktor clenches his teeth nervously.

The rain hasn’t let up, soaking through Yuuri’s clothes, clinging to his skin. He looks like a mirage, hips carving figure eights out of the air, chest heaving. He dances a few feet away from the crowd, lost in his own little world. Seemingly unaware of anyone else, the man’s hands drag across his own body, eyes heavy-lidded and head thrown back, teeth tugging at his lower lip. Viktor feels like he should look away, his gaze for Yuuri is too hot, too burning for the public. Fingers through his hair, down his chest and against the dips of his waist, skimming the waistband of his pants. 

For fuck’s sake.

Yuuri is looking back at him, eyes narrow. Viktor swallows, before waving nervously.

Yuuri raises an eyebrow before turning around, away. Dismissive. Shock and irritation hit Viktor a hard blow, leaving him with his mouth gaping like a fish.

“The fuck,” he mutters.

It takes a minute to get his limbs to work, probably drunker than he had thought. He walks carefully across the camp, music so loud it feels like the Earth is shuddering.

“Yuuri,” he yells. Yuuri ignores him.

Viktor reaches out, touching his arm.

“Are you mad at me?”

“No,” Yuuri shakes him off.

“Yes, you are.”

“Nope,” Yuuri insists.

“I don’t understand what I did,” Viktor says softly.

Yuuri stops trying to push him away. 

“I just care about you a lot. I care for you more than you care for me. And that’s okay, that’s nobody's fault.”

Viktor’s breath stutters. 

“No, Yuuri,” Viktor pulls the smaller man close, both hands on his face. “It was never my intention to make you feel… I just didn’t…”

I didn’t know we were dating until, like, a week ago.

Viktor can’t bring himself to say it. Not with Yuuri looking up at him with those big eyes. Viktor has loved those eyes for so long. 

“I’ll prove you wrong,” Viktor vows.

Yuuri looks at him like he doesn’t quite believe it, and Viktor can’t blame him for that. His boyfriend has gone uncomfortably quiet, face pale, eyes turning wet.

“Oh, Yuuri,” Viktor panics.

Great. Now, he’s made his boyfriend cry. Yuuri slaps Viktor’s hands away.

First, there’s the sting of rejection. But then, Viktor watches, in grave understanding, as Yuuri darts to the edge of their campsite, drops down to all fours, and heaves the contents of his stomach onto the ground.

 

 

“Head hurts,” Yuuri moans, sobbing into the cup of water Viktor has given him.

“I know, sweetheart,” Viktor rubs his back. “Drink, please.”

The colours are too bright, the taste in his mouth too sour. Then Viktor is carrying him, up and up and up, out of the rain, and somewhere warmer, but Yuuri is soaked to the bone.

“Can you change on your own?”

“I think so,” Yuuri says.

Viktor turns around, and Yuuri finds a folded stack of clothes in front of him. Sweatpants, a hoodie. He pulls them on mechanically.

“I think your pants are backwards,” Viktor comments, when he finally turns around.

“Don’t care,” Yuuri sighs.

Viktor lowers him onto his futon, pressing a kiss to his forehead. He starts to move away.

Come back, Yuuri thinks. And as if Viktor hears him, he does. Yuuri gives himself up to the sensation of a hand stroking back his hair, to Viktor’s quiet, mindless coos.

“Love you,” Yuuri whispers, because it's already so obvious, and he's an idiot. The dumbest idiot.  

"You're not," Viktor says. Yuuri looks at him in confusion. And then Viktor adds, "I love you too." 

Yuuri blinks slowly. “If I asked you to kiss me, would you?” 

“Yes,” Viktor chuckles. Yuuri can't believe his luck. Viktor is the best.

"Not really, love," Viktor says. “I'll give you a kiss, if you want. And then sleep, alright?”

“Okay," Yuuri hums. "Yes, please." 

Viktor brings his face down to Yuuri’s, and kisses him. It’s the softest press of lips, sweet and unworried, and just once. Like they’re used to it, like they do it every day, and have every single day after, even though they don’t. Yuuri wants to hold his hand, and curl up on the couch, and to cook together. Yuuri wants Sunday mornings, and holidays, and afternoons.

How does one even articulate such a thing? How could he even dare to?

“Sleep,” Viktor says.

 

 

“What happened?” Yuuri asks, the next morning.

“What’s the last thing you remember?” Viktor asks.

“We were talking about Newfoundland,” Yuuri rubs at his eyes. “Why does my mouth taste like shit?”

Viktor smiles at him, slightly pitiful.

“The kids brought out the Appleton.”

“Oh, you’re kidding.”

“Unfortunately not, darling.”

Yuuri frowns at Viktor. The Russian man has brought him breakfast in bed. He’d spent the morning all but fluttering around Yuuri, calling him pet names, and fluffing his pillow.

“What is it?” Viktor wonders.

“Nothing,” Yuuri shakes his head.

 

 

A week later, they end up on the beach.

Viktor has never feared and respected the sun so much until now, back peeling with sunburns, his skin constantly damp with sweat. Yet the one advantage is all the times Yuuri decides to wear tank tops, damp and dripping while collecting samples, arms gleaming while he hammers the fuck out of rocks.

Viktor sends his silent thanks to the gods of geology and shortwave radiation.

Yuuri is wearing a tank top again this morning, wading ankle deep into the surf to look at the stromatolites. The whole beach is lined with the dark mounds of not-rocks, a stark contrast to the white sand. The kids are all soaking their feet, sunburnt and splashing along the shore. Viktor is sitting in the sand, watching the arch of Yuuri’s back, those hips that curve sensually, soft compared to the sharp line of the water and horizon. Yuuri licks the salt from his lips, eyes bright as he interacts with a student.

There is a newfound freedom in this. Viktor, for all the years of hidden glances and almost-stares, is suddenly allowed to admire. He lets Yuuri catch him looking, feels the thrill of it, letting the love ooze between them, plain as day.

“—atmosphere and the Huronian glaciation?”

Heads turn, peeling noses and bright eyes, swivelling around to look at him.

Viktor blinks, realizing that Yuuri has been talking to him.

“What was the question?”

The kids laugh. Yuuri gnaws at his lip, trying to bite down on his smile.

“Could you explain to everyone the relationship between the oxygenation of the atmosphere and the Huronian glaciation?”

“Oh,” Viktor nods, pushing himself off the sand. He stretches. Yuuri’s eyes trace the motion. “Yes. I can definitely do that.”

“I know,” Yuuri muses. “The stage is yours, then.”

“Alright,” Viktor grins. “So, the photosynthesizing cyanobacteria destroyed the methane greenhouse. Since methane was the predominant atmospheric gas, when it declined, it got cold…”

 

 

Yuuri has to control his face whenever Viktor starts going off about geology. So many times he’s caught himself sighing dreamily, admiring his dearest friend and research partner with starry eyes. It’s probably the same expression that he’s seeing on their students now. Enraptured, wholly occupied by Viktor’s passionate voice, and sweeping hand gestures.

Viktor has the mindblowing ability to speak himself into a god.

Out here on the shore with the tide rushing in, the wind, the sea, Viktor speaks like he commands the waves, has a way of making everyone feel the Earth’s plates moving beneath their feet.

A splash against Yuuri’s leg. Viktor’s walking over to him, kicking water in his direction. His eyes are fond. 

Yuuri knows there’s something different about them. Their dynamic has changed, taken up a new form. It's in the way Viktor looks at him. Softer now, than before they’d arrived here. 

“Hey,” Vitya says. “You wanna come back here tonight? After dinner?”

“To do what?”

Viktor pauses, gnawing on his lip with an expression that almost seems shy. 

“We can just hang out, maybe? If you want?”

“Sure,” Yuuri agrees, too quickly. He’s weak. So very weak.

“Amazing,” Viktor grins. He flings another slap of water in his direction.

“Vitya,” Yuuri tries to keep the smile off his face. “Are you sure you want to do that?”  

“Do what?" Viktor asks, and Yuuri receives a full splash to the face. 

"Oh, you're going to get it now." 

Viktor's eyes brighten with excitement, already pivoting to dash in the opposite direction. Then Yuuri lunges, throwing both arms around the taller man’s waist, dunking them both underwater.

 

 

“I wish I could bring this back to my office,” Viktor laughs, face lit up red in the sunset.

“Mm,” Yuuri agrees. “Me too.”

It's something about the sun, the air, the landscape. It's in Viktor's gaze. Here, Yuuri is almost certain that Viktor wants him back.

This too, Yuuri wants to bring back with them to Detroit.

“I want this forever,” Yuuri says.

By this, he means: Will we leave this behind in Australia?

He means: I want you in every country, in every language.

Their fingers are entwined, palms clasped in the space between their bodies, sprawled out in the cooling sand.

“We should retire here,” Viktor suggests. “Build a nice cottage on the beach. Makkachin loves the ocean.”

Yuuri hums. Viktor shifts onto his side, facing him.

“I like the way this places makes you,” Viktor says. “You seem happier.”

Yuuri takes a deep breath. Exhales with closed eyes.

“It’s not this place,” Yuuri says. “It’s because of you. Come on, Vitya. You know that.”

“Yuuri,” Viktor says.

His voice is closer. When Yuuri blinks, he’s right there. Braced on both elbows, and hovering over Yuuri like a cloud. The first star of the evening rests on his right shoulder. 

Yuuri’s breath shakes.

“Yuuri?” Viktor speaks against his mouth. “Can I kiss you?”

And this must be how plate tectonics work, Yuuri thinks.

Pieces of a stubborn whole, shuddering against each other, daring the other to yield. Sink and crumble, and submerge into something softer.

“I don’t know,” Yuuri teases, his joy bright as a blue sky. “Can you?”

Viktor tilts his head to the side, eyes darkening.

“May I?”

(The thing with yielding is that you don’t need to worry about being strong anymore.)

Once, Yuuri thinks he was a mountain, or an ocean floor. Now, he’s molten, has turned himself into a verb beneath Viktor, and relinquished all his titles.

“You may.”

Yuuri is moaning, shivering. Is the wet parting of lips against Viktor’s. Viktor sighs, and Yuuri swallows it, arms wrapping around his neck. They are both smiling into each other’s mouths. Thoughts reduced to yes, yes and finally.

With newfound permission, Yuuri’s fingers go to the hair at Viktor’s neck. Down, down, and further to clasp strong shoulders, tracing the path of a perfect spine. Viktor kisses him through all his quiet epiphanies, sweet and reverent until Yuuri’s fingers wrap around the neckline of his shirt, guiding him into the space between Yuuri’s thighs.

“Yuuri,” Viktor murmurs. 

Viktor fucks his tongue into Yuuri’s mouth, punctuated by the slow, deep rocking of his hips.

“Jesus,” Yuuri’s voice cracks.

“Wrong guy,” Viktor laughs. Yuuri nips at his mouth.

“You’re insufferable,” he grumbles.

Viktor laughs, reaching around Yuuri’s waist, slipping his hand to the small of his back, and lifting up, aligning their lower bodies completely. The small shift brings together hard lines of their cocks, straining through the fabric of their pants. Yuuri gasps, and Viktor goes for his throat, sucking a lilac bruise into pale skin.

Yuuri’s eyes raise to the darkening sky, mouth falling open as Viktor makes good work against his skin. Yuuri brings his legs up to hook around Vitya’s hips, one of his lover’s hands reaching back to clutch his thigh tighter.

“Vitya,” Yuuri groans. “Honestly, if you keep doing that, I’ll…”

“Hmm?” Viktor grinds his hips into Yuuri’s. Yuuri’s breath stutters. “You’ll what?”

“I’ll come in my pants, like a teenager,” Yuuri gasps. “Ah.”

“Nothing wrong with a little teenaged frivolty,” Viktor brushes their lips together. “You want to stop?”

“No,” Yuuri holds him fast. Viktor giggles. “Keep going.”

The space between Yuuri’s legs is a hot ache, a held breath. Viktor fucks against him with slow drags of his hips. Burning, luxurious friction, stoked between the rub of fabric and flesh. Yuuri clings to Viktor’s waist, guiding the motions home.

“Perfect,” Yuuri breathes. “You’re perfect.”

“Yuuri,” Viktor gasps. “Can I—”

Yuuri presses his lips to Viktor’s ear, revelling in the shudder that runs down his lover’s back. “Show me.”

The rhythm of Viktor’s hips stutter, and he comes with a small whine, both hands on Yuuri’s waist. Viktor’s full weight bears down on him, and Yuuri clutches him tightly, stroking his hair through breathless tremors.

A moment. Yuuri listens to Vitya’s breaths, and the waves, the warmth that is everywhere.

“Did you…?” Viktor kisses his chin, and Yuuri smiles warmly.

“Don’t worry about me.”

“I’m not worrying,” Viktor protests, slipping lower down his body, until he’s resting with his head between Yuuri’s thighs. “This has been one of my biggest fantasies. Can I, please?”

Damn Viktor, and his ability to speak regular people into gods; elevating with soft hands and kind eyes.

Yuuri feels younger than he truly is, more brave and daring, like he could realign the continents if he tried. If Yuuri can get Viktor Nikiforov begging between his legs, then he can definitely reunite Pangaea.

He giggles at the thought, and Viktor pauses in unzipping Yuuri’s pants.

“What’s so funny?”

“I just find you incredibly sexy,” Yuuri rolls his eyes.

“Hmm,” Viktor muses, pulling out Yuuri’s cock, swollen and glistening.

“I like the sound of that.”

Then he takes Yuuri into his mouth.

Guh.

His thoughts turn to mush. Everything revolves around the tight, wetness of Viktor’s mouth, the strokes of his tongue. Fingers, brushing calm lines down Yuuri’s hips. Viktor’s hair looks almost strawberry blonde in the dying light. 

“Viktor,” Yuuri warns, when the wave peaks inside his lower belly. He pulls at his lover’s hands. Viktor only clutches him tighter, and Yuuri cries out.

When every bit of him is swallowed, and lips are licked, Viktor kisses his way back up Yuuri’s body.

Yuuri manages, “You…”

“Me,” Viktor grins proudly.

Yuuri reaches out with a lazy hand, brushing away the strands of hair over Viktor's eyes. Viktor ducks his head against Yuuri’s chest, and lets out a small shriek.

“Viktor?”

“Sorry,” Viktor laughs. He kisses Yuuri’s collarbone. “I’m just really happy right now.”

"I'm glad," Yuuri says, combing through Viktor's messy hair.  

“Nobody else is here,” Viktor states.

"Is that so?" 

Viktor peeks up at him with waggling eyebrows. “It’s the opportune moment for skinny dipping.”

“You just want to see me naked,” Yuuri smiles.

Viktor shrugs, pulling off his pants. "You've caught me." 

 

 

“So,” Helen says. “We didn’t see you guys last evening.”

Viktor raises an eyebrow, sipping his coffee.

“And Dr. Katsuki looks really happy,” Mariah adds.

“Also, you’ve got a huge hickey,” Alfred points to Viktor’s neck.

A little gift that Yuuri had given to him during their evening swim. Yuuri, sitting beside him, swears beneath his breath. Viktor presses his lips together to hide his smile.

“This is highly inappropriate,” Yuuri sniffs.

“I have no idea why you kids are interrogating us,” Viktor muses. “Shouldn’t there be a level of professionalism? You know, personal boundaries?”

“If you want to talk about professionalism,” Helen says. “Why don’t you and Dr. Katsuki stop eye-fucking in front of us? It’s weird, and makes everyone uncomfortable.”

Yuuri sputters. Viktor throws his hands up.

“Babe, they’ve got a point.”

“Vitya!”

 

 

Scheduled into their last day of their trip, they all get invited on a tour of one of the universities in Australia, leading in science technology and geological studies.

“Why do you look so grumpy?” Yuuri asks, poking Viktor’s downturned mouth.

Viktor is staring out the bus window, the city around them louder and busier than any of them had seen in weeks. The students, at least, look happy to see the part of Australia that is not just rocks and water. Seated next to him, Yuuri watches the display in mild amusement.

“Inviting one of America’s leading geoscientists for a facility tour?” Viktor grumbles. “Wooing him with fancy buses, and free lunches, and super special geomechanical imaging lab equipment? Sounds like an attempt at recruitment.”

Yuuri rolls his eyes. “If you despise them so much, just say no.”

Viktor glances down at him curiously. “Yuuri, I was talking about you.”

“Oh,” Yuuri realizes. “Oh. I’m not a leading American geoscientist.”

Viktor sighs, leaning down to kiss him sweetly. His tongue plays at the seam of Yuuri’s lips, begging for entry, and just as Yuuri parts his mouth, someone yells.

“CAN YOU GUYS NOT!?” Alfred.

Mariah groans. “And I’m stuck sitting next to you both on the plane tonight.”

 

 

The head of the Geosciences department gives them an empty tutorial room to leave all their luggage in. Her name is Jaden, and she shakes Viktor’s hand very warmly when she sees him. Viktor greets her with his usual professional smile, and an apparent obliviousness. Yuuri has to hold back a giggle.

“Yuuri Katsuki,” Yuuri introduces himself, when she shakes his hand. “Thank you so much for this opportunity.”

“It’s our pleasure,” Jaden smiles, eyes flitting between him and Viktor. Yuuri looks on sympathetically.

“I understand that you all need to be at the airport for six pm, so we’ll make sure to show you guys all the cool geology stuff before you go.”

“Wonderful,” Yuuri says.

“Perhaps we should split the group?” Jaden suggests. “That way any questions can be answered more efficiently.”

“Of course!”

“Dr, Katsuki, one of our lead teaching professors, Phichit Chulanont, will be leading your group,” Jaden says. “And you can come with me, Dr. Nikiforov. With your half of the students.”

Viktor pouts in Yuuri’s direction. Yuuri has to resist rolling his eyes.

 

 

Dr. Chulanont is a young, enthusiastic professor. He insists they all call him by his first name, Phichit, and follow him on his various social media handles.

“Listen, if you guys ever come back to Australia, you gotta check out the Ediacara Hills,” Phichit says, leading them towards the planetarium.

“Oh, the kids haven’t been,” Yuuri says. “But I spent a couple of months in the south. I did my thesis on Ediacaran biota.”

“I know,” Phichit smiles cheekily. “I’ve read your work.”

“Ahreally?”

“Yes!” Phichit flashes him a peace sign. “I got my Masters in paleoclimatology, and your thesis work was one of the sources that I referred to!”

“Wow,” Yuuri stammers.

Alfred elbows Yuuri in the side. “Pull yourself together, Professor,” Alfred hisses.

“He has no idea what a big deal he is,” Rui whispers to Alfred.

Yuuri shushes both of them.

 

 

“Do you and Dr. Nikiforov teach fall and winter term courses as well?” Phichit asks, as they return to the lecture hall where lunch is being held.

“We teach a full year course about the geology of the Earth, from the Hadean to Cenozoic,” Yuuri explains. “Viktor also teaches geochemistry.”

“I’ve seen Nikiforov’s work, too,” Phichit muses. “His studies on the Huronian glaciation are incredible. He turns his reports into epic poetry.”

“You should’ve seen his PhD oral defense,” Yuuri sighs dreamily. “I honestly thought I died and came back.”

Phichit raises an eyebrow, face stretched in a wide grin. Yuuri’s students start giggling.

“You guys seem close,” Phichit muses.

“Mmhmm,” Yuuri tries nonchalantly.

“Don’t worry,” Phichit pats his arm. “I’ve seen Dr. Nikiforov’s Instagram.”

Yuuri has no idea what Phichit is talking about.

 

 

dr forehead <3 yuuuuuuuri i miss u

dr forehead <3 jaden keeps talking about geophysics yuuri i haven’t studied this since undergrad what the helllll

dr forehead <3 SHE’S TALKING ABOUT FLUID DYNAMICS I DON’T REMEMBER ANY OF THIS

dr forehead <3 we’re heading to that one lecture hall for lunch now!!! see u soon, my love!!!

 

When Yuuri and Phichit walk into the lecture hall, Viktor and the rest of the group is already there. Viktor appears deep in discussion with another faculty member.

“I’ll let you guys reconvene,” Phichit winks at Yuuri, before gesturing to the buffet table. “Make sure you try the Lamington.”

“Thanks, Phichit.”

“You better add me on Facebook, Dr. Katsuki!” Phichit exclaims, before slipping away.

Yuuri smiles to himself, before making his way over to the broad back, and silver hair he knows so well.

 

 

“Are you married, Dr. Nikiforov?” One man is saying.

He’s a familiar face, Yuuri thinks. Thick brows, and intense green eyes. Perhaps he’s been around Wayne State before.

“Ah.” Yuuri can’t see Viktor’s face, but he bets that he’s blushing. “No.”

“Single, then?” Jaden asks.

“I have a boyfriend,” Viktor tells her.

Yuuri’s heart races at the sound of that.

“We’ve been together several years now.”

Yuuri's heart drops into his stomach. 

“Oh,” exclaims the man with the familiar face. “Is that the man that you were with during the global water resources gala in Colorado?”

“That’s him!” Viktor laughs. “Christ, Celestino, I can’t believe you remember that.”

“I’ll never forget dancing like that,” Celestino turns to their companions. “There wasn’t even a dance floor. Those two were just waltzing in the lobby.”

Yuuri presses his lips together in a firm line.

Somewhere, there’s a fault line cracking apart. Coastlines separating. 

“I’m actually planning on proposing when I get back,” Viktor says, and his small audience breaks out into congratulations.

Oh. Yuuri thinks. Oh, oh god, that hurts.

Yuuri had never interacted with Viktor at that gala. It was so many years ago, but no, Yuuri would have remembered that. He hadn’t even known Viktor had been there. The first time they’d ever spoken wasn’t until weeks after the gala, in a seminar back in Detroit.

Dancing, waltzing.

Yuuri tries to recall the images, screams at himself to remember. Perhaps wring out a sunset, soft music. Maybe the two of them spinning in the centre of the lobby. Viktor’s eyes, his smile. 

Nothing. 

(Yuuri would not forget a memory like that if he tried.)

 

 

What is Yuuri, then? A past tense? A memory?

Geologic periods are determined by the composition in rock layers. We are what we bury.

(Yuuri would be love, and love, and love, and love.)

 

 

dr forehead <3 yuuuUuuurrrii come find me

dr forehead <3 hey did you already eat?

dr forehead <3 darling, where r u?

dr forehead <3 yuuri, we’re leaving soon. call me pls?

dr forehead <3 where are you? i’m worried

You have four missed calls from dr forehead <3.

 

 

“Dr. Katsuki!” Helen shouts. “Hey! Guys, Yuuri’s here!”

Yuuri steels himself, ache thoroughly buried, and steps onto the bus. Straight into Viktor's arms.

“My god, Yuuri,” Viktor sighs in relief, holding him close. “Where the hell were you?”

“Sorry, I was walking around,” Yuuri says. “I lost track of time.”

“I called you,” Viktor says.

“No service,” Yuuri tries to push past him.

Viktorstubborn Viktorreaches out, takes his chin gently, forcing their eyes to meet. Yuuri blinks into the blue of them; storm dark and churning, violent waves.

“Yuuri,” Viktor says. “Did something happen?”

“No,” Yuuri shakes his head. “I’m tired, though. Let’s go home.”

Viktor kisses him on the head, mouth still frowning.

“Alright,” he says softly. “Home.”

 

 

The first week back in Detroit is quiet. May rains hard on them all, and Yuuri hides away in his office, occupying himself with some of the notes he’d taken during the Australia trip.

Tries to not think about Viktor, who seems to have taken the memo that Yuuri wants some time alone, and keeps to his own office, just down the hall. He’s tries to copy the notes onto his laptop, only to find that his screensaver is the photo that he’d taken with Viktor, and the kids.

Yuuri exhales sharply, turning around in his chair to stare out the window.

He wonders about Viktor’s lover. If Viktor has proposed yet, if Viktor himself wears a ring.

Does Viktor’s partner know about Yuuri? Yuuri, who has been kissed, and held by this man’s boyfriend. Yuuri, who has had sex with someone’s boyfriend.

Fuck.

He’d always wondered what had changed between Viktor and him. The sun, wind, and sea, Yuuri thought, had just made them both more honest. But distance, as it turns out, was actually the variable. And it hadn’t made them better people in the slightest.

What was the point of it all? Why would he do this to Yuuri?

Viktor, who Yuuri never perceived to be anything but a good man. A kind, gentle person who loved him, or might have. 

 

 

Yuuri is going crazy, probably. Everything in his office reminds him of Viktor.

There are pens that are his, and a sweater that is two sizes too big, and packs of candy that Yuuri despises, but Viktor loves. He starts tossing things into a box, adding a container of Warheads into the growing pile.

“Yuuri,” Viktor says.

Yuuri’s body has never learned how to hate Viktor. He turns to the sound of the voice immediately, feet already moving towards him, before Yuuri’s brain catches up with his legs. Viktor is staring over his shoulder, brows knit together.

“What are you doing?” Viktor asks. His voice is low, emotionless. There’s something churning beneath it, but Yuuri does not feel like empathizing much today.

“Nothing. Cleaning.” He studies his shoes, the fraying laces.

Viktor touches his jaw.

“Hey,” Viktor says. “Are we okay?”

“We,” Yuuri snaps. “‘We’ as in what?”

“As in our relationship,” Viktor whispers. “Please talk to me, Yuuri.”

“I think our relationship is doing just fine,” Yuuri says. Smiles placidly, finally meeting Viktor’s burning gaze.

Viktor’s mouth tightens in frustration. “What would you have me do to fix this?” he says. “I’m trying, I swear, but I don’t know how to do this.”

Viktor lowers his face to Yuuri’s, eyes imploring.

Yuuriweak, so weak—lifts his chin, and Viktor brushes their mouths together.

Back and forth, letting the heat gather. Once, twice. It’s both an answered prayer, and a eulogy when Viktor seals their lips. Trembling hands on Yuuri’s neck. It’s too gentle, too kind for the likes of either of them.

Viktor pulls away suddenly. Yuuri moans in anguish.

“Yuuri?” Viktor asks, blinking down at him in confusion.

Viktor reaches down, eyes bright with fear, and strokes his cheek. Pulls it away to inspect the wetness of a single tear, shining against his thumb.

“Please don’t,” is all Yuuri can say.

Viktor looks thoroughly messed up. “Tell me what to do.”

He is still so good to me.

Yuuri asks, and the syllables come out cracked. “Why?”

Viktor frowns, “Because I love you.”

Something cracks open: the floor, the earth, the sky. Yuuri falls through. Somewhere, the ablation zone of a glacier crumbles, a volcano exhales lava, and none of it can compare. A sob erupts from Yuuri’s mouth.

“No, you don’t,” Yuuri snaps. “You can’t justyou can't just say that." 

Viktor keeps getting blurrier. His figure keeps moving in and out of focus, and Yuuri stumbles back for some stable. His desk, firm and cool beneath his hand. Viktor follows after him, eyes turned a sharp agony.

“I do love you,” Viktor argues. “I’ve spent these past weeks trying to convince you of that. I know we've made mistakes

Yuuri flinches. Thinks of the night on the beach. “Mistakes

but I don’t know what else to do, Yuuri. I don’t have a fucking clue how to convince you that I love you.”

“Maybe respect me more?” Yuuri cries. “And don’t have sex with me when you have someone waiting for you at home?”

There. There, I've said it. 

Viktor freezes, and Yuuri lets himself whimper into the space between them, quiet gasps puncturing their silence. Viktor watches him with an incredulous expression.

“What did you say?”

“Please don’t ask me to repeat myself,” Yuuri croaks.

Viktor shakes his head, takes a deep breath. “Did you just say that I have someone waiting for me at home?”

“I heard you,” Yuuri starts, and the truth comes spilling out. “Talking to Celestino in Australia. You told him you were going to propose to your boyfriend when you got home.”

Viktor’s mouth is hanging open.

“He said you’d met at the Colorado gala, years ago. Years, Viktor, and you

“Yuuri, wait!” Viktor exclaims. “I think… I think we’re having a miscommunication.”

Yuuri stares at him.

Viktor continues, “When I was telling Celestino about proposing to someone, I was talking about you.”

Yuuri mouth opens, closes. He shakes his head.

“You said your boyfriend,” he protests.

Viktor makes a disturbed noise, “You’re my boyfriend!”

 

 

“What?”

“What do you mean what?”

“I didn’t know we were dating!?” Yuuri squeaks. “Is this because of what happened on the beach?”

“What?”

“I know we… we you know, but you never said anything! I didn’t know if we were dating.”

“Yuuri,” Viktor grinds out. “Our first week in Australia, you said we were dating.”

Yuuri looks genuinely confused. Viktor’s brain is reeling.

“I didn’t.”

“You did. Alfred asked you if we were dating, and you said yes. You said we’d been dating for years. You can ask Alfred!”

“He was asking if we were dating the rocks! We even joked about it after he left!”

Viktor hangs his head, eyes fluttering shut. He can’t help the laugh that bubbles past his lips.

“Why are you laughing!?”

“He wasn’t talking about the rocks, Yuuri. I swear. He was asking if we were in a committed relationship.”

Viktor watches the color drain from Yuuri’s face. The slow, crushing realization.

Yuuri goes slightly limp, Viktor catching his arm before he can fall backwards.

“Darling,” Viktor guides him to sit on top of his desk. “Look at me, Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s eyes meet his, the same warm brown, now flooding with tears.

“Ah,” Viktor panics. “What’s wrong now?”

“I think I’m hysterical,” Yuuri runs his hands down his face, hiding behind his fingers. “Oh god. Of course he wasn’t talking about the rocks. I’m such an idiot. This is all my fault.”

“Yuuri,” Viktor finds himself smiling, giggling breathlessly. 

Yuuri cries even harder, and then starts hiccuping with laughter. It’s a strange combination, but still manages to look endearing on him.

“Oh my fucking god,” Yuuri sobs. “I’m so sorry, Vitya.”

“Everything’s okay now, darling.”

“Vitya,” Yuuri says furiously, noise muffled against his fingers.

“Hmm?”

“Hurllhmmd.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Hold me, please.”

“Oh! Yes, of course.” Viktor throws his arms around the smaller man, shifting to rest between his thighs.

He peppers kisses all over his Yuuri’s hair. His ridiculous Yuuri.

“I was so scared when you told us that we were dating,” Viktor admits. “I thought maybe that we’d been dating for so long, and I just never realized.”

“You didn’t tell me?”

“It was embarrassing,” Viktor whines. “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

“My feelings were thoroughly destroyed when I thought you were cheating on your future husband with me.”

“Sorry, baby.”

“Mmph,” Yuuri noses at the skin over Viktor’s pulse point. “You’re forgiven.”

“That’s why you were acting so strange in the beginning,” Viktor realizes. “Whenever I called you a love name, you’d look at me funny.”

“I didn’t understand why, at first,” Yuuri says. “I thought you were toying with me. Maybe you were bored, and knew how I felt about you. And then I realized that you… actually wanted me back.”

“Of course I wanted you back,” Viktor scoffs.

"Do you still?" 

"Yes, Yuuri," Viktor meets his eyes, pleading. 

Yuuri swallows thickly, forcing the words out of his throat. “I’ve loved you for so long. This was the first time you showed interest in me. I didn’t know what to think.”

“What?” Viktor cranes his neck back to look at the Japanese man. “Yuuri, I fell in love with you the first time we spoke. I’ve always wanted you.”

Yuuri leans in, reaching for Viktor with eyes and lips and hands. 

And Viktor meets him halfway, the two of them coming together in a soft press of mouths.

There’s a shake in his hands as he reaches up, fingers against Yuuri’s face like he’s pressing into wet cement, trying to etch himself into permanency. He lets his mouth open beneath Yuuri’s, lets him study, deconstruct. Yuuri’s fingers trace his face in equal reverence.

They kiss like they have all the time in the world.

But then Yuuri pulls back.

Viktor grumbles, chases after his lover's lips. 

"Wait...Vitya, hold on."

Yuuri touches his fingers softly to Viktor's mouth. 

"What's wrong, love?" 

“What happened in Colorado?”

 

 

“I know you,” Viktor says. “You’re doing your PhD at Wayne State, right?”

“I am,” Yuuri replies. “And you’re Viktor Nikiforov.”

“You know who I am?”

“Everyone knows who you are.”

“It’s a shame then, that I do not know you.”

Yuuri smiles, drunk on champagne.

When he speaks, it’s a silent explosion. The birth of the solar system, a beginning. A single name, realigning the cosmos to make space for new, precious memories.

And this first one, lost to both of them now, once by forgetfulness, and again by time: a soft, timid beginning.

“I’m Yuuri Katsuki.”