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"I don't want to go." Yuuri whispered the night before, tangled up in sweaty limbs and messy sheets.

"I don't want you to go." Viktor mirrored, rolling onto his side and pulling Yuuri into his arms. "I never want to let you go." Damned Nationals taking place in their respective home countries on the same weekend, Viktor caught himself cursing the sport under his breath. He’d made his best effort not to cry. Truly. But the tears fell anyway. 

“I’ll be back before Makka realizes I’m gone,” Yuuri had said to him, cupping both of his cheeks in gloved hands. “And you only have five nights without me.”

“Five nights is a long time.” Viktor sniffled against Yuuri’s hand, his chest already aching at the thought of it. "Are you sure you have to go off and be Japan's Ace?"

"Unfortunately, yes." Yuuri laughed, a soft thing in his throat. "But I'll be representing the most accomplished skater and coach this sport has ever known."

Viktor had never hated something as much as he hated watching Yuuri walk away. He watched until he could no longer see his Yuuri, disappearing into the crowd of travelers headed for security. The world moved around him for a moment, a turning engine that Viktor was only observing. 

Was he really surprised at how different it felt to be without Yuuri? How could he be, when every night he managed to wind himself around Yuuri's body like it might evaporate if he didn't hold on. There was comfort in the warmth of Yuuri’s skin. He was a physical form, tying Viktor to the earth below. He’d scrambled for an anchor in the lonely, quiet years at the top of the world— and he always appreciated Christophe’s company in the small hours at competitions and in the off-season. 

But Christophe agreed to monogamy after his choreographer became more than his choreographer. And Viktor was alone again. Until Yuuri appeared.

Yuuri came like a bright, fizzling spot of starlight against endless, moonless night. An approaching comet, slamming into Viktor’s orbit and changing his path through the expanse forever. He was stubborn, god , was he stubborn. An immovable object to Viktor’s unstoppable force. He’d met his match, and Viktor refused to let him go.

VITYA .” Yakov’s voice barked through the haze, snapping Viktor back into place. On the ice, in his skates, leaning over the barrier with a half-finished water bottle in his hand. “You won’t beat Yura moping around uselessly.”

Viktor pushed a long, forceful breath through his nose and pushed off, moving through the rest of the figures he’d forgotten to complete. His punishment for arriving late. 

His thighs ached in that familiar way by the end, a welcome change from the cold seeping into his toes. Even Makka’s winter coat hadn’t been enough to warm Yuuri’s side of the bed. He’d sent Yuuri a photo of her that morning, her nose buried in his pillow. 


Yuuri 💙:  awww! I miss her. 

Yuuri 💙:  and you.

Yuuri 💙:  aren’t you supposed to be at practice?


It hurt more than Viktor thought it would to be apart. The days that they were separated by Makkachin's manjū accident had been intolerable, and this was worse. Yuuri sent him pictures of the rink, they checked in during breaks when they could… but there was only so much they could do with a six hour time difference.

Viktor’s texts were equal parts worrying about Yuuri pushing himself too far and sad, puppy-dog pleading eyes emojis. It hurt Viktor, deeper in his chest than anything had touched before, for Yuuri to be on the other side of a continent without either his coach or his fiance there beside him.

Yuuri was the perfect image of resilience, picking himself up off the ice if he misstepped, recovering from a flubbed quad salchow quickly. He laughed at himself and skated toward the camera, making a goofy face that made Viktor smile, wishing he could kiss those frosty cheeks.

“I thought I taught him better than that.” Yuri remarked dryly from over Viktor’s shoulder, sipping his water without an ounce of interest. “Did you help him refine it at all ?” His voice cut deeper than it had before.

“I did, Yura,” Viktor bit back, shoving his phone into his pocket and wincing internally. Was his pride really so easily bruised that a comment from Yuri of all people would hurt so much? “I did my best. He caught his edge, everyone stumbles.”

“Pfft.” Yuri huffed and pushed off from the edge. “Whatever. I can’t believe he almost beat me.”

“I-” Viktor’s temper flared, but he didn’t give into the flame. Viktor knew better than to feed Yuri’s bluff by now. Through gritted teeth, a false smile that felt intensely unfamiliar now, Viktor managed: “Then don’t you dare get sloppy, kitten.” 


    me: Be sure to watch your exit on the sal, love.

    me: Yura is getting nervous for Worlds. I can tell. ;)


Yuuri’s smile soothed the twisting ache in his chest. Everything Yuuri did made it easier. Their schedules at least coincided enough for a handful of video calls during the day. 

“There were photographers waiting for me at the rink.” Yuuri told him, sheepishly. It was a crime against Viktor specifically that he wasn’t able to kiss Yuuri’s rosy, embarrassed cheeks. “I think someone told them when I’d be getting there.”

“Who’s to say it wasn’t me?” Viktor teased, leaning back against the headboard and wishing more than anything that he could dive into Yuuri’s arms. “Slipping stories to the press like… what’s his name? American.”

“I’m the last person you should ask about tabloid gossip mongers.” Yuuri's laughter was a balm to soothe the raw parts of Viktor. He looked exhausted, and Viktor didn't blame him. He was only one day out from a fourteen hour flight and six hours of jet lag. Even so, he was smiling. And god, did that smile work miracles.

“I’ll be sure to ask Christophe then.” Viktor replied, leaning into his hand and admiring Yuuri in the warm lamplight of his hotel room. “Is Tokyo treating you well?”

“Tokyo is okay, but it’s not as fun on my own. I never thought I’d miss how cold St. Petersburg is.” Yuuri answered, laughing at himself. “Maybe it’s not so bad with you keeping me warm.” He burrowed deeper into the pile of blankets around him, the way he did in their bed at home. Viktor had gladly bought a second comforter when he realized how greedy Yuuri was for bedding.

“You’re so cute, like a little pirozhok.” Viktor teased, imagining his sweet Yuuri all cuddled up beside him instead of countless miles away. “Yura misses you. I do genuinely think he’s worried you’ll wipe the ice with him at Worlds.”

Yuuri flushed an impossibly deep shade of red— Viktor’s favorite. 

“You think I could beat you ?” Yuuri asked, and Viktor recognized the doubt shading his features. “Really?”

“I do. In fact, I know you can.” Viktor nodded, his heart high in his throat. Not with nerves or pain, but the overfull sensation of too much love to give without the place to pour it.

Viktor's programs had been choreographed quickly, a tangled weave of old routines patchworked together. He'd be putting together much more streamlined, carefully considered routines for his grand return to Worlds, but Nationals was a stage he could easily reclaim.

Pride, he'd chosen as his theme for this mid-season return.

The interviews that the RSF coordinated had attempted to paint him as a prodigal son, returning to the safety of home and motherland with his tail tucked, a framing he was quick to dispute.

No, he was returning to claim what was rightfully his; Viktor Nikiforov was the Pride of Russia, their glittering god. His Japanese student was proof of Viktor's skill, both as skater and coach.

His short program took inspiration from the first iterations of Eros— instead of Yuuri's interpretation, Viktor was the playboy, sure and suave and demanding every eye in the stadium. But the role that had been ascribed to him was beginning to fit poorer and poorer.

So few people knew how shaky the ground that Viktor tread was.

In the dark of his hotel room, the bed was far too big for Viktor’s lonely body— but watching the Japanese livestream that Mari had sent him helped smooth the frayed edges of his mind. Yuuri had drawn fourth and the third skater’s routine wasn’t horrible. Viktor was able to pluck some translations from the commentators and Japanese subtitles, but the skater spoke for himself well enough. Yuuri’s competition was tough, but nothing he hadn’t faced in Barcelona.

The camera cut to Yuuri, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Minako, his jaw set in a way that dripped the kind of confidence that Viktor always knew he was capable of. He’d seen it in Eros, the suave sensuality that drove Viktor to take himself in hand more than once. He shed his jacket, revealing that same secondhand costume, red and black and glittering silver.

Viktor felt like he was watching an angel take the ice- no, something stronger, darker. An incubus. Yuuri’s seduction worked even through the lens of a camera as he waved to a roaring crowd, the movement spraying prismatic light across the stadium. 

There was no competition. Yuuri blew every competitor out of the water. His sweet protege, little Minami was trailing behind him respectably, and Viktor was much happier to see his Yuuri encouraging a competitor. Much better than what had happened earlier that season.


me : he adores you, lyubov moya. 

Yuuri 💙: we talked about you :) 


That ached too.

Yuuri is watching , Viktor reminded himself as he pushed off later that day, launching into his delirious answer to Yuuri's call. Made in red and black, Viktor answered in blue and green, the silhouette of a suit clinging to his shoulders, his waist, his thighs. 

He could barely think to breathe as he flew through the routine, surrounded by flashing light and color, by heat and drive and burning, aching pride.

And it was over.

The final notes rang over the ice, muted in comparison to the roar of the spectators. Viktor clung to the words Yuuri had spoken to him after his first costumed practice: ' You're lucky there are people watching.'  

A thrill ran down his spine as he tuned out the verbal barrage of Yakov's commentary, the memory of Yuuri's lips, his hands blurring everything but the screen just below the camera in front of him. He blew a kiss into the cold black lens of it, the rush of it all numbed the ache that would settle in later. He hoped Yuuri was watching. Even if it was the middle of the night. He ached for it.

He watched the screen blink his score into place.

Just tenths of a point below Yura's. 

Yuri's sneer was expected, as was his poor sportsmanship. Yuri was made for a compelling narrative, he thrived in it. Viktor should have expected the ambush waiting for him in the locker room. 

"I swear to Christ, you two are so alike it makes me want to puke." Yuri snapped, throwing a towel marked proudly with the RSF logo into Viktor's face. "I told Katsudon I'd never forgive him if he retired. And I'll never forgive you if I beat you because you're too busy fucking moping that he's not around."

Viktor was frozen in place, his heart rattling in his chest with his hands balled up in his red and white jacket. More than the bite of Yuri’s words was the weight of the moment on his mind. Yura needed to push him. His junior had to push him into action. 

“I don't care if he isn't here. Skate fair against me or I'll snap the blades off your skates.” Yuri shoved past him and he was gone, leaving the ghost of his threat behind in the empty locker room.

“You know he loves you, Vitya.” Yuuri had said, kindly, softly. Viktor was almost too embarrassed to say it when Yuuri called. “He wants to skate on the same ice as you. On equal footing.”

Viktor’s cheeks warmed, hearing Yuuri say something so... Yuuri about someone else.

“You could tell just from my potentially biased retelling?” Viktor asked, a teasing lilt worming its way back into his voice.

“I’m not joking, love.” Yuuri rolled his eyes at him. Viktor knew he would have gotten a pillow to the face, were they not thousands of kilometers apart. It was painful, how suddenly he remembered the distance. The chasm between himself and Yuuri’s body seemed so wide it felt like it would never close. Even his own arms wrapping around himself wasn’t enough warmth to soothe it. He was lost again, a child chasing warmth anywhere he could find it. Yakov, Makkachin, later came Christophe… a handful of men in bars littered across Europe.

He heard a pathetic whining sound, the pain of a jaw clenched too tightly.

“Vitya.” Yuuri’s voice pulled him back to the surface, the world around him coming back into focus around him. “Love, you’re—”


Viktor could taste the salt in the corner of his mouth now, he could feel the warmth slicing down his cheeks. 

“I… Yuuri.” Viktor’s voice was choked, tight in his throat. “Why is this so hard?”

It crashed into him all at once. Viktor hadn’t felt so alone in years— and it had only been three days. Three days full of his life’s passion, watching his fiance succeed by every metric, but he still trembled in bed, alone and afraid.

Yuuri’s eyes flicked across Viktor’s features. The soft warmth of them felt more forgiving than Viktor’s own mind did. 

“You’re afraid.” Yuuri’s voice cut through the echoing silence in Viktor’s head. “That I won’t come home.” Viktor opened his mouth to dispute it, but he couldn’t find an argument. He knew Yuuri was right. “Even though you know that I will, it’s still terrifying.”

Viktor nodded, the rush of more tears falling down his cheeks. 

“You fought on your own for so long.” Yuuri said, simply, and the simplicity hit Viktor in the chest. “And the fear of being alone again is louder than the assurance that I’ll stay.”

This couldn’t be the same Yuuri who had, just weeks ago, been so sure he was holding Viktor back that he would quit the sport altogether. 

“You’re… right.” Viktor managed.

“I know how it feels.” Yuuri leaned forward, bringing himself as close as he could to the camera. “The double mind, knowing that I’m coming back but being scared anyway. It’s what my anxiety feels like.” 

Viktor pulled a pillow to his chest, hugging it close. The pressure almost replicated Yuuri’s weight against him. It was still a poor replacement, still a pitiable imitation. But the words felt like they were chipping away at something. 

“You know the truth, but you’re scared anyway. Despite knowing better. And that’s not your fault."

In the morning, Viktor woke up to practice videos from Yuuri, with a handful of reminders of their talk. It was much more comforting, Viktor realized, that Yuuri knew what he needed to hear. Yuuri knew. The fear lurking in his head was tangled with lies, his mind telling him stories of the worst possible outcomes. 

Yuuri wasn’t gone. He was right there, skating beautifully, showing his love the best way he knew how. And Viktor had to give Yuri the chance to skate against him at his best.

When the time came, he threw every shred of himself into his free skate, every bunched muscle and inhale tuned to the melody ringing through the arena. He spun through the air with arms raised for extra difficulty rewards, wringing his body for every drop of power it had.

‘Yuuri is watching’ were the only words Viktor knew. All he could see was an empty rink, with Yuuri sitting on the barrier, recording him. They would pull the routine apart and dissect it, fine tune it and try again. 

Their new lives as competitors quickly became Viktor’s favorite. Crafting harder and harder programs to face each other with, isolating their respective strengths and pushing forward into new ones. Viktor’s quadruple flip drew a roar from the crowd and he struck his final stance. 

He could barely hear the announcement over the thunder of his pulse. 

It was a new record, the one that Yuuri had broken in Barcelona.

Viktor was still heaving for breath when Yuri began his skate. He could see all the ways his growing body was beginning to struggle with the program. It was difficult to believe, just how much of a difference one month would make in Yura’s form.

It would be close, and Viktor could see the shimmer of gold in the corners of his vision. He’d skated well, given what could honestly be said was a record-breaking performance… the gap between their skill was small, but Viktor’s confidence on the ice would certainly win out against Yuri’s currently tenuous control of his own body. 

The thrill still didn’t dissipate, though. The difference in their scores was so small, and anything could happen, but—

His name read out above Yura’s.

The ceremony came and went, and Viktor defied Yakov’s demand that he not video call Yuuri on the podium. Yuuri was a good sport, when Viktor turned his phone around to show the cameras. Viktor wouldn’t hear the end of it from Christophe afterward, and Yuuri was more than a little embarrassed, especially that Yuuri had insisted on staying up and was half-asleep when his fiance showed him off to international broadcast cameras.

“I’ll beat your ass at Worlds.” Yuri promised, his silver medal shoved into his jacket pocket.

It was Viktor’s turn to stay up too late. Yuuri’s free skate took place the following morning, and Viktor was glad to have a reason to avoid the post-competition festivities. He stayed on call with Yuuri for as long as he could, watching the events both on the livestream and through Yuuri’s front-facing camera as he warmed up, stretched, and talked himself through his routine in a quiet hallway. 

“Take my record back from me, Yuuri.” Viktor whispered in Russian, a good luck spell to carry Yuuri through his program.

“I love you.” Yuuri breathed, ending the call for the moment. His stomach leapt into his throat and he watched, from thousands of kilometers away, as Yuuri stole his heart for the thousandth time.

Tears were pearling in his eyelashes as Yuuri took his final pose, one hand extended to the camera. It struck him just as strongly as it had in Barcelona. Yuuri’s love was made physical, made into art that the world was watching. He watched Minako pull him into the kiss and cry, and every thread of Viktor wished he could hold his love close, to whisper in his ear just how proud he was to be his. 

He could barely hear over the thunder of Yuri’s fists on his door, demanding he be let in. Viktor didn’t look up from his laptop but carried it with him to the door, barely able to think through the heady weight of his pride for Yuuri. 

“Did you see it?!” Yuri’s voice was that of a giddy schoolboy, showing off a flawless report. “He fucking broke your record! Again!”

Viktor couldn’t look away. Yuuri was crying, hands cupped over his mouth in disbelief. There was a replay of his combination jump, showcasing the elegance of his form as he threw himself through the air.

“He did, he beat me again. ” Viktor laughed, so full of joy he could hardly contain it. His phone was ringing, and Yuuri’s breathless voice was on the other end. “You did it, love,” he said when he accepted the call, watching him hold his phone to his ear on the livestream. “You’ve won, you’ve taken my record again.”

“I love you,” Yuuri said breathlessly, the tears as audible as they were visible to the cameras. “I love you, Vitya.”

“I love you, Yuuri,” Viktor couldn’t say anything other than those words. How could he? “Now come home to me, I’m going to hold you for at least five days.”

“Meet me at the airport, Vitya.” Yuuri smiled, tears sparkling in his endless brown eyes. “Bring me home.”