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30 July 2017 @ 07:23 pm
[Yuri!!! On Ice] Viktor/Yuuri: another step, closer  
TITLE: another step, closer
FANDOM: Yuri!!! On Ice
CHARACTERS: Viktor/Yuuri, Makkachin, appearances from other familiar faces
RATING: PG-13
SUMMARY: Therapy Fluffies AU. In which Yuuri is recovering from a devastating loss, and Viktor with his therapy dog, Makkachin help pick up the pieces. (9,600+ words)
WARNING/S: An almost alarming lack of competitive skating, run-ons, switching perspectives, dealings with depression, and Yuri’s potty mouth.
NOTES: This was written for the Viktuuri Reverse Bang, inspired by the art and prompts of @calico-cats. You can also find it on AO3.


{ another step, closer }


i. yesterday


Phichit promises him that they don’t have to stay long. That’s the only reason why Yuuri agrees, albeit reluctantly, to attend the meet. The only reason why he veers off schedule, shifts his course, and decides to stay at school longer than he needs to.

Normally, he avoids the crowds, quickly packs his things. Travels the shortest route from the university campus to his apartment. Lingers across the street to a quaint little flower shop called Hope Springs, and turns away as he catches the florist’s attention, her arm stalled in midair, her wave and greeting left unanswered. Normally, he watches the rest of the afternoon fade away from the safe confines of his room, through his window, panel latched, translucent curtains drawn, lights dimmed.

Not today.

Instead, along with droves of other students, he and Phichit pile into a conference hall in the east wing, desks noticeably stacked to one side. Already, he feels that there are too many eyes on him, too many voices, the intermittent buzzing too loud. He would prefer to turn back, leave the way he came, go unnoticed, because it is dizzying and the level of activity is all too much, too soon – if not for the various wagging tails, and the warm scent of freshly trimmed grass and bubbling oatmeal. It’s a distinct, comforting smell he is familiar with. A trigger. One that stops him in his tracks, fingers tightly digging into his binder.

Phichit pauses as well, hand on Yuuri’s shoulder, reassuring nod leading him over to a group of seniors wearing the assigned volunteer badges for the day. (He’s seen some of them sitting in the same lectures before.) The one who receives them offers him a clipboard, instructs them to fill it out.

Once they’re done registering their ID numbers and depositing their belongings to the other side of the room, Phichit asks him where he would like to sit. Points out the vacant floor pillows scattered around each dog and its owner, as if they are about to impart other-worldly knowledge to their devoted followers. A deity and its corresponding guardian spirit. Yuuri scans the spaces, keeps his head down, mutters that they can claim the nearest ones. Takes his best friend’s hand in his and gently tugs on him to follow.

It is when they are settled, legs crossed beneath them, that Yuuri notices the pair in the middle of the next circle. What catches his eyes first is the doe-like gaze trained on him, an openly curious look, focused. Unblinking. It’s eerie, in a way, as if they might know each other. But they don’t. Yuuri shakes his head, shakes the feeling off. Next, he studies the curled, silver-beige fur, thick undocked tail bobbing evenly from side to side, beckoning him closer.

Yuuri only stares back, mouth a firm straight line.

Standard poodles aren’t all that uncommon. In fact, he’s met quite a few over the past couple of months. Seen them out for strolls in the park, walking down sidewalks, nestled in their owner’s arms. Seen them everywhere, actually, and wondered if he has perhaps suddenly gained the superhuman ability to notice them in the general vicinity, whether or not they’re in his peripheral vision.

Or, alternatively, wondered if someone or something intangible is simply playing a cruel joke on him. Calling his attention to them, keeping them on his radar. Either way, he isn’t amused, isn’t going to play.

Phichit turns to him, asks him what’s wrong, and Yuuri tells him it’s nothing. Not to worry. Everything is fine. He grips his knee, clenching his fist before unclenching it again. Quietly, resolutely orders himself to breathe. He shuts his eyes for a second, maybe two. Looks up as the handler in front of them announces that all the seats in their group have been filled, and they can now get started.

“Why don’t we introduce ourselves first? We’ll go around the circle,” the handler gestures, quirking his head. He eases back to pat his beagle on the head, to massage it behind its floppy ears.

The dog responds at once, playfully nudging the man with its paw, before standing and making its way to each student. Pausing to greet them personally by inching its head forward, inviting them to reach out and touch.

A genuine smile pulls at the corners of Yuuri’s lips as he obliges. He ruffles its fur, drags his hand across its back. Feels for that particular curve near its tail, presses his thumb down, and earns himself a lick on the cheek, the beagle wiggling its hips in appreciation. Asking for another rub please, before switching to the next person.

There are lulls while they take turns interacting with their dog. Moments when Yuuri looks away, to his right, and sees the poodle, again, staring straight at him. It’s probably just his imagination though, probably just a trick of the light. Because the dog should be busy hosting its own circle, acting in tandem with its charismatic owner: a man with striking blue-green eyes, the color of a midday sea, and sleek gray hair, naturally, effortlessly tousled.

Yuuri can tell instantly that he’s the kind of guy who women and men alike fawn over. The kind of guy who draws attention to himself, even without meaning to. Because, if asked for just the one word, Yuuri would call him magnetic. The way standard poodles are. The way they are to him. It makes his eyes hurt.

He reaches up to fix his glasses, wipes the condensation off.

Later, their handler explains that there will be one-hour sessions every week for the semester and anyone is welcome to attend. They can check for updates on Twitter. Schedule through the online forms provided, so that the volunteers can estimate how many to expect. He, likewise, promises that there may be special events, for when they’ve got exams.

Yuuri already has his satchel in hand when Phichit catches up to him, checking to see if he had fun, would he be interested in doing it again. If he still thinks it’s too much. He shakes his head, tentatively, as his friend untangles the bit of hair twirled around his frame’s joint. Leans into the touch as Phichit taps him gently on the cheek.

“See? That wasn’t so hard now, was it?”

Yuuri is about to respond, when he notices that the group next to them has begun packing up. This time, not only is the stubborn poodle looking his way but its owner is as well. Maybe they’re telepathically linked. Their eyes shine way too bright, synchronized and imposingly familiar, that he takes a step back. Yuuri realizes what he’s doing. Holds his ground, his frown deepening.

The guy who makes his eyes hurt blinks at him, unfazed, and then waves him over, holding up his mobile phone – “Did you want a photo?” – but Yuuri ignores him. It’s an instinctive, practiced response. He turns to the exit. Pulls the strap of his bag more securely against his shoulder. Shrugs as Phichit asks him what that was about, does he know the guy.

“Yuuri, wait up!”

He replies that he still has work to do at home, still needs to check his thesis proposals for class. He probably also needs to restock the fridge. And return a call from his mom. (Admittedly, he doesn’t always, not anymore, chooses his battles. But it’s a good excuse.) He’s at the entrance of the hall when he hears it, sees another volunteer shuffle towards the guy, telling him to hurry up. They’re going to have a meeting before officially ending the day.

“You want to get dinner with us, Viktor?”

And the name lingers as Yuuri leaves through the main gates of the university. Lingers as he crosses the streets, waits for the lights to turn green. Lingers as he passes the flower shop. As he trudges up the stairs in his building. As he unlocks his door and snags the list on his countertop, noting that he has indeed run out of milk, among other essentials. Lingers as he splashes water on his face, needing to cool it down. He repeats it in his head a hundred times, before he stops. Before he furrows his brows. Wonders why. Drops it.

He says it one last time, as he pulls the covers more snugly around his body, wrapping himself in a makeshift cocoon. Safe from everything else but his dreams. Says it beneath his breath. Doesn’t know that he does.

Viktor.


ii. today


He’s free the following week as he passes through the east wing, but Yuuri doesn’t step inside right away. He pulls his phone out of his pocket first, sends Phichit a message. And sighs when his friend informs him that he won’t be able to drop by, he needs to fill in for a co-worker at his part-time job.

It’s harder to enter when he doesn’t really know anyone else there, so he figures he’ll just come back another time when he and Phichit are both available. He grips the strap of his satchel as he turns away. But is taken aback when he feels a hand on his shoulder, pressing into his collar, slim fingers weaving through the ends of his hair.

“Yuuri, right? You were here last week.”

He stares back at the guy with wispy silver-gray hair and the sea in his eyes, at the guy he’d rather not look at. Stares back at Viktor and nearly bites his tongue, the name caught between his lips. His own personal terrorist is already trying to offer him a clipboard and pen, urging him to fill out the columns. It takes Yuuri another second to respond, to keep moving. To catch his own timing, a beat too late. He nods, warily, trying to find the words.

“Yeah, I was here with my friend. And you’re… Viktor?”

As he says the guy’s name, Yuuri can’t help looking down and away. But he catches the twinkle in Viktor’s eyes, watches them glow, a sunrise on the horizon, foam on the rocks. The way his smile widens, that split second before Viktor reaches out for him – and Yuuri is forced to step back, get as far from the guy as he can.

“I’m glad you remember me!”

Viktor’s hand doesn’t connect, doesn’t get to him. Misses him by a thread. But he quickly shrugs that off as if it never happened, not one to be deterred. Takes a matching step forward, invading more of Yuuri’s personal space. And it is curious and dizzying all at once, he isn’t completely certain that he actually minds. There’s just something about the guy, something about Viktor, something genuine, something warm, something all-consuming. Something frightening, still.

When that thought passes his mind, the reaction is almost instantaneous. As if the universe was waiting for him to put up his arms, put up his defenses. This is what it sends him: the poodle from before charges at Yuuri. He sees it before it comes running, catches the moment it decides to pounce. Braces for impact, anticipating a silver-beige blur that will cloud his vision. Steadies himself in case he gets knocked off his feet.

But, just as suddenly, the momentum shifts. The dog switches its pace, ambles over, stops short in front of him. Sits obediently at his feet. It looks up at him then, expectantly, asking Yuuri for permission. And Yuuri can’t help himself, can’t help being pulled along by its energy, by its sincere desire to please. Surrenders himself just a bit.

He drops his knees, eases forward. Extends his arm. The poodle’s fluffy paw is there to meet his palm in the middle. It gently taps him as if to say he did a good job, cheeky thing. But Yuuri surprises himself, decides to play along. Hopes that the charade will become truth. Hopes he did do a good job.

He curls his fingers in, holding the paw firmly. Moves his hand up and down. Twice to be certain.

“Oh! Makkachin really likes you,” he hears Viktor say, feels him peering over them, a proud parent.

It’s difficult to look at Viktor, to look directly at him, so Yuuri keeps his eyes on Makkachin instead. Replies to him instead. Smiles and closes the distance between them, touches their noses together, an Eskimo kiss. It’s cool and damp and a teensy bit sticky. He forgets himself and nearly does it again.

“Yes, yes. I remember you, too.”

Makkachin doesn’t need to be told twice. Accepts Yuuri’s invitation, nudging his glasses upward, away from his face. The dog props itself on his lap, goes the rest of the way, balances itself by placing its paws on his shoulders. He tucks his arms in, laughs outright, in spite of himself. Almost chokes. Makkachin doesn’t mind, keeps going, sniffs his cheek, behind his ear. Tickles his skin, the sensation hitting him in waves. Then the dog nuzzles at the crook of his neck.

And Yuuri should’ve known he was a goner in that instant. Should’ve known there was no escape.

*

He tells himself it’s for Makkachin. This is how Yuuri ends up browsing at a bookstore with Viktor a few inches away, their shoulders bumping once between the Mystery and Horror sections. This is how Viktor’s number finds its way into his phone, a photo of Makkachin springing on to the screen whenever he calls.

No one’s asked, not even Viktor, but Yuuri repeats the reason in his head at every vacant moment. Asks himself what else it could possibly be for.

Because he still can’t meet Viktor’s eyes, can’t stare at him for too long before looking away and wanting to run. And, fortunately, if Viktor notices, he doesn’t say a word about it. Only asks Yuuri about his day, about his classes, if Yuuri will be able to drop by to hang out with Makkachin again soon.

Eventually, they talk about meeting outside of the university. Somewhere close enough to the campus, so that Yuuri doesn’t have to rush back to his building. They talk about taking Makkachin for a stroll at the park, talk about getting ice cream together sometime, all three of them. Talk about music and literature, and would Yuuri be free to show Viktor all his favorite spots in town.

Yuuri figures it’s because Viktor just moved in a few months ago. Figures it’s because he doesn’t have too many friends yet, despite the number of people who have come up to them on the street, come up to Viktor to say hello. And it’s all right, really, because then Yuuri is able to see Makkachin more often, and he might as well take advantage of it for now.

So, he replies to every message. Takes nearly every call. Informs Viktor that he’s majoring in Architecture and he’s been swamped with projects, planning his thesis. Yet he stops at any building, at any structure that catches his eye. Shows Viktor the camera he brings with him everywhere, their fingers brushing above the display screen. Shows Viktor the photos in his phone, shows him the one folder dedicated to bridges. Prattles on about aesthetics and symmetry, and knows Viktor probably only absorbs half of what he says. But that’s okay, too.

Yuuri tells himself it’s for Makkachin, when Viktor asks him out for coffee after their visit to the bookstore, promising the best blend at his favorite café – which is also, coincidentally, nearby. He tells himself it’s for Makkachin as he follows Viktor inside the shop, noting the rustic exterior and wooden paneling, the hanging plants, the aria playing in the background.

He tells himself and then forgets, momentarily, as a menu is slammed down on the table in front of them. Viktor sees it coming, crosses his legs and angles his head, unperturbed.

“You should try the apple crumble. It’s the special of the day.”

Yuuri looks up at their server, a high school kid with pale blonde hair pulled away from his face in a short ponytail, his eyes the same blue-green shade as Viktor’s. He frowns down at them, fixes his gaze on Yuuri. Glowers openly. Yuuri wouldn’t be surprised if the kid decided to spit on him. He hopes the kid doesn’t.

“Ah, Yuri, that’s not very nice,” Viktor hums, picking up the menu. He thumbs through it and asks for a slice of cheesecake.

Yuuri blinks.

“Yuri?” He repeats, looking from Viktor to the kid and back again.

The kid snarls at first, but does as he’s told. Tells them he’ll be right back and stomps off towards the counter, where an old, grizzled man is polishing some glasses, watching them from the corner of his eye. They’re supposed to be inside a café, but it feels like it could also be a seedy bar where illegal transactions take place. Yuuri shivers.

“Don’t mind him, he’s harmless,” Viktor laughs, sliding his fingers across Yuuri’s wrist. And Yuuri wonders if he’s feeling for a pulse. “He’s just not so great around new people.”

“You seem to know him well,” Yuuri replies, thinking about it before pulling his hand away. Laying it on his lap.

Viktor’s bangs sweep low, shading his left eye. He taps a finger to his lips, chuckles, “Well, of course, I do! We’re cousins and I’ve been around him since he was a baby.”

Yuuri wants to ask him other things, like where did they grow up, and does Viktor have siblings. And do they all look like princes and fairies and ethereal beings. Instead, he takes the menu and scans it, flipping through the pages. Until he feels something furry slink against his leg.

He looks down and sees a ragdoll, its dark face and whiskers nudging at his ankle, tail twisting around his other foot. Before Yuuri can ask, the kid comes striding back to them, carrying a plate for Viktor. He sees the cat and bends down to reach for it, bundling it up in his arms.

“Nikita, how many times do I have to tell you to stay away from the customers?” The kid throws Yuuri a look, clearly wondering if he should apologize, as he would rather not have to.

Yuuri arches a brow. Shakes his head.

“It’s all right,” he says, selecting his words carefully, “I like cats.” And his intentions are clear: I like cats, but I don’t like you. I don’t like you either.

Viktor hears it, the challenge in his tone. Laughs between mouthfuls of graham crust. Sets his fork down to hide his mouth. Yuuri ignores him, keeps his eyes on the kid. On this other, obstinate Yuri. Steels his expression, feels a tick in his jaw, as the kid blinks back.

After a moment, the kid turns away, back straight. Scratches behind his cat’s ears, thoughtfully. Yuuri tries not to get distracted by the purring.

“So, you do have some fight in you, after all.”

*

On a slow weekend, Phichit invites Yuuri for a sleepover. They sit shoulder to shoulder on the spare futon, even if Phichit’s bed is right next to them. And the minute Yuuri is settled, Phichit hands him a hamster, the chocolate brown one, and tells him to pose for a selfie. His enthusiasm is contagious, so Yuuri puts up little resistance, gamely flashing a victory sign, allowing the hamster to perch on his left shoulder.

“There’s something different about you,” Phichit muses as they huddle together beneath the duvet, all three of his hamsters scurrying around in front of them. Yuuri wonders if they’re putting on some sort of play. Maybe to cheer him up. He pokes the gray one lightly in the butt and it wiggles, turns around, and chews on his finger. (“Better not humor him too much, Yuuri. He might bite down for real,” Phichit warns.)

“Different?” Yuuri echoes, resting his chin against the pillow.

“Yeah, but I’m not sure what it is,” Phichit replies, studying him quietly. If it were anyone else, he would probably start to feel uncomfortable. Feel as if he were being examined beneath an intrusive microscope. But Yuuri is accustomed to his friend’s kind gaze, to the way he boyishly bumps their foreheads together and surprises Yuuri with hugs.

Yuuri steadies his breathing, rolling over on his back. Reaches out for the ceiling.

“Do you want to talk about Vicchan now?” Phichit asks hesitantly after a pause. Yuuri keeps his eyes forward, doesn’t frown, doesn’t smile either. He continues to focus on inhaling and exhaling, is afraid that if he lets go he’ll forget how to.

Secretly, he imagines Vicchan, too: the silver-beige fur, the floppy ears, the way he’d look at Yuuri as if Yuuri were his whole world. He shuts eyes, feels them gathering tears. Would rather not have to wipe them away, even if Phichit won’t ask or judge him for it.

“Your phone’s buzzing,” Phichit tells him, and Yuuri is thankful for the distraction.

He unlocks the screen and sees a message from Viktor. Opens it and scrolls down to be greeted by a photo of Makkachin sunbathing in Viktor’s garden. There’s another one after it where Viktor is tipping his new sunglasses outward, making eyes at the camera. Phichit points out that he’s smiling.

“I remember him from that time,” Phichit peers over his shoulder, his hand covering Yuuri’s so that he can angle the screen his way, to get a better look. “So, you knew him, after all.”

“I didn’t then,” Yuuri responds absently, typing his message to send back. He asks about the next Therapy Fluffies event, will Viktor be there, and does Viktor want a pack of the rice crackers Yuuri’s mom sent from home.

“But you do now,” Phichit says and, when Yuuri looks at him, meets his eyes, his friend winks.

“I guess I do,” Yuuri mouths, burrowing his face into the sheets; he isn’t sure if Phichit can hear him. But it doesn’t matter, because Phichit is already yawning, stretching out, calling it a night. And Yuuri has to remember to hoist him back up to his own bed later. There just isn’t enough space for the both of them, plus three hamsters. Has to pad over and switch the lights off, too. Like he always does.

He checks his phone before removing his glasses. The screen flashes with another message, telling him to sleep well and have the best dreams. P.S., Viktor adds, yes, he does want the rice crackers. Are they the spicy kind?

*

Nikita is a lot friendlier than her owner. And, possibly, much easier to read. This works just fine for Yuuri, who would prefer to interact with animals anyway.

In his little corner booth, away from the other Yuri’s death glare and Viktor’s increasingly wandering hands (who have excused themselves to visit the washroom), he slides his fingers across the ragdoll’s back, feeling for every bump in her spine. Then he applies pressure to the area between her ears. Scratches behind her whiskers.

He’s never owned a cat, but Yuuri figures all he has to do is read the signs. And Nikita will tell him exactly what she wants him to do. In that sense, cats aren’t too different from dogs. This is, likewise, how he knows that Makkachin has been itching to paw at his lap, yearning for a belly rub.

The poodle quirks its head at him, making a long, drawn-out sound that Yuuri recognizes as a whine. It isn’t a loud one the way Vicchan used to beg for treats at the dinner table, but the sound is still unmistakable. He gestures for Makkachin to come closer, it’s all right. With him, at least.

Yuuri nearly misses the moment Nikita tries to block Makkachin’s body with her own. If that isn’t enough, she stares him down as if he’s committed a felony and begins hissing, marking her territory. It reminds him of something, but Yuuri doesn’t have time to figure out what exactly. The other Yuri looks up at the sound and makes his way to them.

“She doesn’t like you,” the kid guesses wrongly. But Yuuri doesn’t correct him. Welcomes the warmth of Makkachin’s body next to his, replacing Nikita’s as she is sullenly carried off towards the counter.

It is at that moment the café door swings open and another kid in an identical school uniform walks in. He and Yuri nod at each other, and Yuri tells him to have a seat by the window. Yuuri has never seen the other Yuri with friends before, and he is surprised enough by the muted exchange, that he doesn’t notice Viktor return to their table.

Viktor uses the excuse to slide in next to him, as opposed to taking his original seat across Yuuri. He smiles and reaches around Yuuri, a hand landing on Yuuri’s waist.

Yuuri has learned that it’s easier to shrug him off than try to stop him altogether. If Viktor doesn’t receive enough attention, he eventually decides to stop on his own, pouting at Yuuri at first and then forgetting all about it.

So, Yuuri fixes his eyes on the children and lets Viktor do what he wants. A tiny accusing voice in Yuuri’s head tells him that that’s not all there is to it, that he actually enjoys the way Viktor doesn’t care about his personal space and comes at him with everything he’s got. But he silences it, pushes it to the very back of his mind. Maybe he’ll reexamine it later when he’s alone, but for now there are other things. Other curious things.

Like how the other Yuri has seemingly forgotten all about them in favor of his unassuming friend, he of the dark, bottomless eyes and slick undercut and sharp jawline; a contrast to Yuri’s delicate appeal.

“Thank god, it’s just you today, Beka,” Yuri sighs, lining a coaster down on the table, following it with a glass of iced tea. “I can’t deal with him today.”

“I’m afraid you’ve spoken too soon,” his friend replies. And, again, the front door swings open.

“What up, Yuri-chan!” A third kid greets, saunters towards them. He pulls a free seat up to the table by the window, while Yuri scoffs and immediately points out that he wasn’t invited to join them.

“Otabek doesn’t mind,” the kid replies, placing his arm across the other boy’s shoulders for emphasis. Yuri rolls his eyes.

“He’s too polite to tell you to eat shit, and you know it.”

“Never mind that,” third kid waves him off, pats the tabletop twice, “get me a cup of coffee, would you.”

Yuri bristles, balls his hands into fists, looks about ready to throttle the guy. But Viktor decides to intervene. Makes a show of cupping his hand over one side of his mouth, pretending that the others won’t hear if he whispers loudly.

“He’s a customer, you know.”

And Yuri does, begrudgingly. He cusses low in his throat, looks away as the third kid balances on the back legs of his seat. Watching Yuri as he leaves to fetch that coffee.

Yuuri wants to tell the kid that he’s not out of the woods yet. Wants to remind him that it’s never wise to piss off your server, let alone someone as short-tempered as Yuri. But he continues to watch, massaging the back of Makkachin’s head, the poodle comfortably lounging at his side.

The kid meets his gaze, vibrant blue eyes catching the light.

“Oh, you’re new,” he says, standing, straightening himself. Halfway between their tables, he looks over his shoulder and tells the unassuming friend to follow, to introduce himself as well.

“I’m JJ and this is Otabek. We’re from Yuri’s class,” he extends an arm. Otabek bows slightly a few inches away, doesn’t smile. But he doesn’t look anywhere near as menacing as the other Yuri usually does either.

Yuuri offers his hand. Tells them he’s a student from the university nearby.

“You’re a friend of Viktor’s?” JJ asks, crouching down to scratch beneath Makkachin’s jaw.

Yuuri nods, slowly, contemplatively. Feels Viktor’s eyes on him from behind. Feels a throb forming at his temple.

“I’m more Makkachin’s friend though, I think,” he adds.

There’s a short, tense pause before Viktor makes a sound. It’s a soft drawn-out hum, almost like a whine, before he slides his fingers from Yuuri’s waist to his shoulders. Breath warm against the base of Yuuri’s neck.

Yuuri shivers. Doesn’t want to turn around, doesn’t want to see the expression on his face.

“That’s the first time you’ve ever acknowledged us as friends, Yuuri,” Viktor muses. Makkachin twists around, props his forelegs on the seat, tail wagging, as if he might actually understand them. At the same time, Yuuri hears purring and sees an escaped Nikita approaching them, a warning glint in her eyes.

Before she can get any closer, JJ scoops her up in his arms. She barely has time to struggle.

“Hello, lady! You’re looking radiant today, as usual,” JJ grins, burying his face in her fur.

Nikita hisses at him, paws at his cheeks.

“You’re scaring her,” Otabek says, finally, looming above them. The movement causes JJ to lean back and Nikita to jump forward. She springs away and hides behind Otabek’s leg, circling it before nuzzling his ankle. He waits a few seconds before reaching down to pet her.

JJ pouts – it sort of reminds Yuuri of Viktor – but shrugs it off just as quick, pulling his phone out of his pocket.

“I’m a dog person myself,” he tells Yuuri, pulling up a folder full of photos. It’s the same golden retriever in every single one, at various stages of its life, from puppy to adult. Hundreds of pictures of it chasing a red rubber ball, rolling around in the grass, digging into its bowl, splashing water at the camera. JJ smiles broadly, “This is my pride and joy, Lancelot. Isn’t he magnificent?”

Yuuri catches himself as he’s about to pull out his own phone. Catches himself and leans back against the seat. His glasses don’t fog up, but he keeps his eyes on the ceiling. Keeps his eyes on the light. Breathes in deeply. He feels Viktor interlace their fingers. Feels himself squeeze back. Just this once, he promises. Yuuri breathes out.

Just this once.

*

“Are you excited?” Viktor asks him, hand poised against the glass door. Yuuri can already hear them barking, yipping collectively on the other side. He resists the urge to push Viktor out of the way, so that he can get through first. Resists the urge to frown, to tell him to hurry up already.

“I bet Makkachin’s going to be jealous,” Viktor laughs, reading his mind, pulling him along. Linking their arms before Yuuri can shrug him off, so he ultimately decides not to. It’s just too much trouble.

A beautiful man with impossibly long lashes welcomes them at the front desk. He greets Viktor with a kiss on the cheek, and Viktor returns it.

“You must be Yuuri,” the man smiles, studying him. Yuuri isn’t sure if he’s looking for something, something specific, and whether or not he’s found it, but he nods in approval shortly after. Nods and trails his fingers across Yuuri’s lips. And Yuuri has probably gotten used to it, gotten used to Viktor and Makkachin and their forwardness, that he doesn’t step away.

“I’m Christophe, but you can call me Chris,” the man continues, meeting them on the other side of the counter, “It’s a pleasure to finally meet you.” He makes a move to lean in, possibly to kiss Yuuri on the cheek as well, but Chris doesn’t get far enough. Viktor coughs between them to catch his attention.

“Too much?” Chris blinks.

“A smidge,” Viktor smiles, holding Yuuri at his side. And Yuuri wants to say it’s all right, really, he doesn’t mind. But he keeps his mouth shut. Allows Viktor to play at being the knight in shining armor instead, because it’s kind of cute. Feels a strange bubble well up inside of him, before he pushes it back down, his cheeks reddening.

Chris leads them through the shelter, promises Yuuri that he’ll like it out back. Holds the doors for them and reminds them to wash up first, pointing to the cleaning station. Some of the dogs are scheduled for vaccination tomorrow, he explains, and Chris doesn’t want to risk getting them sick.

After Yuuri’s done soaping his hands thoroughly, Viktor tells him he can go ahead. Yuuri doesn’t have to be told twice. He makes a beeline for the nearest pen, crouches down to greet the residents. He imagines they’re asking him who he is, if he’s going to stay long, is he a new friend. And he just wants to scoop them all up in his arms, let them lick his face.

“You’ve found a cute one,” Chris tells Viktor, teasingly, as the latter pulls his phone out to snap photos. As much as he prefers having Yuuri’s attention on him, Yuuri being so obviously aware of his presence, this isn’t too bad either. He’ll have every side, every angle of Yuuri. If Yuuri will let him.

“And where’s yours?” Viktor replies, easily. He estimates that he’s taken at least fifty shots by the time he decides to turn to face his friend. “Didn’t you mention that you have a new volunteer helping out?”

“Oh, Seung-gil?” Chris grins, his eyes sparkling, “He’s out getting us lunch. You’re all right with Chinese, yes?”

“You’re in a good mood,” Viktor observes. They move over to sit on a bench by the side entrance, while Yuuri visits the next pen, looking to Chris for permission before carefully picking up one of the puppies. It wriggles in Yuuri’s arms and then settles, rubbing its face against his chest. “I mean, I know you’re happy to see us, Chris, but that’s not all it is.”

“Well, I’ve discovered something new about Seung-gil,” Chris hums, sliding a hand through his hair, “For the most part, he’s quiet. Much like your Yuuri. But I found out that he has a dog – and I suppose that’s part of the reason why he decided to apply here.”

“Let me guess,” Viktor nods, “He becomes a lot like Yuuri, too, when it comes to his dog.”

“Right!” Chris chuckles, nudging Viktor’s shoulder, “And it’s the most adorable thing. He has folders full of photos on his phone. One for when his dog is sleeping and one for when his dog is awake. And I’m sure there are other categories, but I’ll ask him about them bit by bit.”

“Isn’t it fun, Viktor,” Chris closes his eyes, looks genuinely at peace, “to peel each layer back slowly and discover something new every day?”

And it’s a rhetorical question, Viktor can tell. So, he leans back and just smiles, catching Yuuri’s gaze in the afterglow.

Yuuri doesn’t realize but they do that a lot, look at each other and pause as if they are the only two people in the world. As if they must acknowledge each other before continuing. He doesn’t realize and Viktor won’t tell him. Because there are other things Viktor is curious about, other things he isn’t sure if he should ask. If he can risk asking.

Like why there’s a folder labeled ‘Vicchan’ on his phone and why Yuuri never opens it. Only stares at it with this heavy look in his eyes, one full of longing and sadness and regret.

Viktor can make his guesses. Can wind their fingers together all he wants and knock repeatedly on the wall Yuuri has around him. But it won’t do much good, unless Yuuri decides to open himself up. Unless Yuuri decides to look Viktor in the eye and acknowledge that what they have is something beyond meeting for Makkachin, though Viktor enjoys those moments as well.

Nevertheless, he can keep waiting for the glass inside Yuuri to either tip over or shatter, and hope that by then it isn’t too late. Hope that they can still put the pieces back together. Or make something stronger. He’ll simply have to trust in Yuuri, Viktor knows.

He’ll just have to take the chance.


iii. tomorrow


There are plenty of things Viktor wants to do with Yuuri. He’s known since the first time, since he first saw Yuuri at the Therapy Fluffies meet. Has known since he called out to Yuuri the time after that, when Yuuri was on his own and couldn’t even meet Viktor’s eyes. He’s known from the moment Makkachin couldn’t sit still, drawn to Yuuri like a moth to a flame. Because Viktor couldn’t sit still either. Couldn’t imagine not reaching out to Yuuri with every fiber of his being, grabbing for Yuuri and not letting go. At least in his mind.

Sometimes, it scares Viktor. Actually scares him. So, he’s glad he had some semblance of control then. Had managed, with a bit of difficulty, to put his best foot forward and take it slow. But that doesn’t change the fact that there are plenty of things Viktor wants to do.

Plenty of things. Like trail his fingers up Yuuri’s cheek, remove Yuuri’s glasses, and bend Yuuri backwards. Dipping him gently before claiming Yuuri’s lips. Like find that precise area behind Yuuri’s ear and lick from the lobe to it, watching Yuuri’s face burn a bright red beneath him. Like pull Yuuri’s shirt up ever so slightly, so that he could explore the smooth skin underneath. Like hold Yuuri to him, hip against his side, grinding into Yuuri slowly, deliberately, as they fall down over the edge of Viktor’s bed. And, still, that isn’t enough. That isn’t nearly all of it. For there are, truly, plenty of things.

But Viktor will settle for taking Yuuri out on a picnic, Yuuri’s smile almost reaching his tired eyes.

Makkachin moves between them, brushing his head against their fingers alternately to signal that he’s there. And Viktor ruffles his fur to tell him he’s doing a good job.

After Yuuri sets the basket down on the grass, he reaches for the blanket tucked inside his satchel, spreading it out. Patting it to signal that Viktor can take his seat.

Makkachin automatically sits across them, curling up at Yuuri’s feet. And Viktor has to wonder, for the umpteenth time, whose dog Makkachin is again. Because he’s taken to people before – that’s just how Makkachin is – but he’s never grown attached to anyone the way he has to Yuuri. Viktor isn’t sure which of them he’s more jealous of.

“Viktor?”

He looks up when he hears Yuuri call his name, enjoys the way it slides off of his tongue. Almost like a prayer. Wants to ask Yuuri to say it again and again, and again. Smiles and tips Yuuri’s chin. Waits for Yuuri to pull back. And is pleasantly surprised when he doesn’t, Yuuri’s eyes glossing over, transfixed, his mouth hanging open slightly.

“What is it?” Viktor replies, deciding to move forward. Entranced by the sight of Yuuri watching him, paying close attention to him and consciously keeping still. Maybe he’s too tired to do anything else. But that’s okay, Viktor will take it. Will take anything, really.

“I just asked,” Yuuri swallows, finally looking away but still leaning into his touch, “if you want coffee or tea.”

I want you, Viktor tells him, silently. Caressing Yuuri with his eyes. He blows across Yuuri’s forehead, reaching up to press into his wrinkled brows. To smoothen them. To will those wrinkles away if he can.

“Viktor?”

“Tea,” he says, ultimately, dropping his hand, letting it fall to his lap. There’s an odd look on Yuuri’s face, almost as if he’s disappointed.

“Okay,” Yuuri mutters, unwrapping a thermos, twisting the cover. Pouring its contents into a cup for him.

And Viktor can’t help himself – “Is it really?” – but Yuuri doesn’t seem to hear him.

*

It isn’t like him, Viktor admits, but he loses his patience first. Doesn’t expect it at all, considering his track record. But there isn’t much to be done then, except to see it through.

So, he calms his nerves, strokes the back of Makkachin’s head as the poodle dozes off on his chest, and takes a deep, steadying breath, before he scrolls through his contacts list and taps Yuuri’s name.

On the third ring, Yuuri picks up, half asleep, his voice soft and raspy. And Viktor has to drag a hand against his eyes, keep from whistling low, bite down on his lower lip before responding.

“We should get dinner,” he says steadily, without preamble, “Are you free tomorrow?”

Viktor hears shuffling on the other end and imagines it’s because Yuuri has reached for his glasses, slid them on, prepared himself thoroughly, before replying, “Okay.” And Viktor wishes he could actually see Yuuri’s face. Wishes he could prompt Yuuri to say more than a single word, but he gets it. He does.

“Okay,” Viktor repeats, smiling, allowing himself to be engulfed by the silence. And hopes Yuuri can hear it, too. Can hear how pleased he is, how happy Yuuri makes him.

That’s how Viktor falls asleep, with a phone pressed against his ear and the line quiet but not dead. The call doesn’t end until morning, not until Yuuri is certain it’s all right to turn his screen off. Not until he’s had his fill of listening to Viktor breathe, inhale and exhale evenly. Not until he’s had his fill of being in the moment, right by Viktor’s side.

Yuuri places his phone down on the bedside table before stretching his arms, yawning. Then he pulls the covers around his body, burrows into the sheets.

They’ve never had dinner before. That’s new. But Yuuri’s come to expect that sort of thing where Viktor is concerned. Has come to expect the hurricane Viktor summons with him, introducing Yuuri to new people, to new places, to new experiences, new sensations. Even if Yuuri isn’t ready. That’s just how Viktor is, getting Yuuri caught up in his rhythm.

He doesn’t want to think about the day Viktor will be gone from his life. Doesn’t want to think about the day Viktor will eventually move on to his next project. But the minute the thought enters his mind, Yuuri is unable to lose it.

He folds a pillow over his head, uses it to cover his ears. As if it might keep him from hearing. But the sound is already there, pervading his dreams, already coming from inside. And it takes another few hours until he loses himself, loses consciousness, a scattered mess. Anticipating a goodbye.

*

Yuuri can tell, from the way Viktor is studying him, that he knows something is wrong. Or not quite right. Between digging into their stroganoff and the server asking them if they were ready to order dessert, the conversation had died down until Viktor suddenly placed his arms on the table. He leans his chin against the back of his palm, frowning at Yuuri over the edge of his wineglass. And Yuuri isn’t sure if he can even ask to be excused, at this rate. But that’s not the worst part.

The worst part is that Viktor hasn’t said a word since sampling the borscht. And Yuuri knows this isn’t because of how the food tastes.

“Yuuri,” Viktor says so quietly, Yuuri almost doubts that he heard it, “I can’t read minds. I won’t know unless you tell me.”

But, even if he wanted to, Yuuri doesn’t know what to say or where to start. Should he admit his insecurities? How painful it is to know that Viktor will be gone one day and Yuuri will wish that he’d never met him or Makkachin at all? Should he shake his head and say he doesn’t really mean that? Try to explain that it’s not so much about Viktor leaving, but about how uneasy Yuuri feels? Try to put into words how terrifying it is that he’s grown to care for Viktor and Makkachin so much in the span of a few months? Try to explain that he just can’t keep up?

Yuuri looks to his lap, curls his fingers in, grips the fabric of his pants. He doesn’t know how long it goes on for, how long he keeps his head down. Which is why it startles him when he hears Viktor try again, almost pleading with him.

“At least tell me about Vicchan.”

Yuuri blinks and meets Viktor’s gaze, is held by it, unable to look away.

“What?”

“Vicchan,” Viktor says again, louder, clearer, resolutely, “I want to know about Vicchan.”

He follows Yuuri with his eyes, urging him to say something. Anything. Please. And Yuuri can feel the pressure. Can feel it chipping away at his defenses, eroding it as the sea does the shore. Can feel that the universe has finally come knocking, has finally come to collect.

His mind racing, heart threatening to spill out of his chest, Yuuri does the only thing he can do, the only thing that makes sense. Knows he’ll probably regret it, but it’s too late to stop. Too late to tell Viktor he’s sorry. Too late think. He pushes his seat back and runs.

*

At first, Viktor tries calling every night. This begins on the day Yuuri rushes back to his apartment, slamming the door behind him. Cold sweat dripping down his neck, lungs gasping for air. Viktor doesn’t send any messages, not even photos of Makkachin to garner his attention. Only calls just as Yuuri is about to fall asleep, eyes heavy and wet, but too tired to stay open.

At first, Viktor tries calling. Every night, without fail. But, eventually, just as Yuuri predicted, he stops. And Yuuri has to convince himself it is all for the best. Tries not to examine it. Not yet. Else he might yearn and wish and hope, and he’ll be pulled back in all over again. Surrendering to someone he knows he can’t have.

Every so often, he receives a text message from Phichit, who doesn’t know what happened exactly but knows enough to check in. To at least make sure Yuuri is attending his lectures like he’s supposed to. Other times, he receives messages with attachments from Chris, who presumably does know what happened but doesn’t ask. Only sends him photos of his cat, Stella, who Yuuri hadn’t been able to meet. So, naturally, Chris wonders when Yuuri will drop by the shelter again. But he doesn’t say Yuuri should without Viktor, and Yuuri leaves those messages unanswered as well.

On the twelfth day, after their failed dinner, someone pounds on Yuuri’s door. The sound throws him out of bed, but Yuuri is stubborn. So, he gets back in once he’s certain that his bedroom is locked, and tries to ignore it. At some point, the terrorist discovers he actually has a doorbell, and then alternates between buzzing repeatedly and pounding some more.

Eventually, Yuuri gets pissed enough to open up. His head is throbbing and he’s run out of aspirin. So, he stomps over, throws the door open without checking through the peephole, and glares at the other Yuri, who scowls back at him just as fiercely. They huff at each other, before Yuuri takes a step back. He notices a few strands of hair falling across the other Yuri’s cheek, spilling out of his ponytail.

“Took you long enough, pig,” the kid snarls, but stays where he is. His small frame, if at all possible, filling the doorway. His presence larger than life, demanding to be felt.

Yuuri doesn’t want to invite him in, and the other Yuri doesn’t ask to be. They stare at each other for what feels like hours, but are probably mere minutes, until Yuri sighs. One of mock disappointment, the sound trailing on like a song.

“Ahh, I should’ve known that you wouldn’t last,” he sneers, turning away, crossing his arms, “You and Viktor didn’t match at all.”

Yuuri waits a second before replying, before his lips curl upward, before he gifts the other Yuri with a smirk of his own, “It’s not like I need you to tell me that. I knew from the start.” But they can both hear that it’s filled with self-pity, and he can’t sustain his bluster as well as the other Yuri does.

“You’re disgusting,” the kid says after a beat, just about to walk away.

“And you’re just jealous,” Yuuri retorts, “So, maybe you’re the disgusting one.”

“You don’t get it, pig,” Yuri whips his head around, “You already had him and you still threw him away.” And with his face flushed and eyes burning, as if he were feverish, he almost looks beautiful.

“You had him and you’re obviously still pining, but you’re not even trying to get him back,” Yuri adds, and this time he’s inclined to agree, “That makes you the shittiest.”

Without meaning to, Yuuri remembers the last time he saw Viktor. Remembers how happy Viktor had been as they took their seats at the restaurant, how happy Viktor had been as their eyes met across the table.

Yuuri had thought to himself how lucky he was, even if it wasn’t a date, even if it wasn’t serious and Viktor was just being kind. He’d thought to himself that he would have to, at least, tell Viktor someday that he was happy just being by Viktor’s side. That he was happy, too. Immeasurably so. Happier than he’d ever been. Filled to the brim with something he couldn’t explain, that it made him want to tell Viktor everything. Anything and everything.

And the thought had frightened Yuuri all the same. Because if he could be that happy, then he was sure that that happiness could be taken away just as easily. He’d already lost Vicchan so suddenly. And he still couldn’t process that loss. Couldn’t understand, couldn’t know for certain that he’d done everything he could.

Because a part of him is also sure that he didn’t do enough. That he could have spent more time with Vicchan. Could have been there. That he could have done so much more.

He wants to explain, but the other Yuri is already gone. And, either way, Yuuri knows that there’s someone else he would rather be talking to. He leans against the doorframe and wishes he could redo their evening. Wishes he could let the words gush out. Wishes he could be looking into Viktor’s eyes.

And knows that the next time, if given the chance, he won’t look away.

*

Yuuri tells himself that he’ll hold off on contacting Viktor until he’s had time to think things through. Time to reflect. Time to let himself breathe. But it doesn’t take longer than a day after the other Yuri’s visit. Doesn’t take longer than a day until Yuuri opens the door to Hope Springs and catches the florist’s eye.

She tells him it’s been a while, asks him how he’s been, as if she hasn’t seen him nearly every afternoon since the previous spring. As if he hasn’t been avoiding her. And Yuuri thanks her for that, in his own way. Tells her that he wants a special arrangement made, tells her it’s for someone important. More than that person can ever know. And he’s going to trust her with it, to which the florist smiles, gently, promising she’ll give him her best.

The truth is Yuuri just wants to see Viktor, as soon as possible, even if he won’t speak to Yuuri again. Even if Viktor will look at him coldly and walk away without saying anything. Even if it truly is the last time he’ll ever get to see Viktor at all. He’ll at least get to look Viktor in the eye and say he’s sorry this time.

Yuuri steels himself and tries to relax, leaning back against the park bench. He counts to one hundred in his head, expects that he’ll have to try again tomorrow. Because it took Viktor at least a week to stop. So, it should take him just as long to get Viktor to pick up. Yuuri expects as much and tells himself he’s up for the challenge.

He doesn’t expect the paw on his thigh. Doesn’t expect Makkachin to rush up to him, tail wagging, heart in his eyes. As if to communicate that it’s been too long, how has Yuuri been, why did he have to go away.

Yuuri sees himself reflected in those eyes and, before he knows it, before he has time to blink, starts to cry. He just can’t help himself. Can’t help himself as Viktor rests a soothing hand on his shoulder, fingers winding through the ends of Yuuri’s hair. Can’t help himself as Viktor pulls him up to his feet and holds him tight, breath warm against Yuuri’s ear. Can’t help himself as he grabs at Viktor’s shirt, telling Viktor that he was wrong. Telling Viktor he should have been braver, should have been able to tell him everything.

“Viktor,” Yuuri sobs into his shoulder, “I’m sorry, Viktor.” And he says it again and again, until Viktor asks him to stop. Please stop.

“It’s okay, Yuuri. You’re here now.”

*

They are greeted by a small shrine in the living room of the Katsuki residence. Yuuri feels Viktor’s fingers slide against his, and he answers with a reassuring squeeze before striding towards it. Once there, he drops his knees, crouches forward, folding his legs beneath him.

He looks up at the framed photo marking the shrine, a photo of him and Vicchan and the first time they ran out to play in the snow. Smiles and feels his eyes water at the same time. Embraces the sting. It doesn’t take long before he feels Viktor’s presence behind him, peering around him. And Yuuri tells him it’s all right, moves aside. Invites Viktor to settle next to him.

“I’m sorry, I kept you waiting, Vicchan,” he whispers, placing a sticky bun next to their photo, “but I’m going to be okay, I promise.”

And it’s a promise he intends to keep.


iv. someday soon


Makkachin notices the new guy before anyone else does. He has thick white and gray fur, the fluffiest tail, and looks like he might be a wolf. But Makkachin supposes that last part can’t be true. Wolves are legendary god-like creatures, after all, and no one he knows has ever seen one for real.

“Which one is yours?” he asks, ambling over, eyes scanning the crowd. And the new guy sniffs him back, ears alert, tail wagging.

“Which one?”

“Your human,” Makkachin clarifies, sitting next to him. “Which human is yours?”

New guy is about to answer when Lancelot trots up them, puffing his pale chest out one moment and rolling on the grass the next. Most of them think it’s a habit and that it’s something all retrievers do. But Makkachin knows better. Knows that Lancelot mostly does it to impress Nikita, who only ever turns her nose up at him and huffs away.

Makkachin doesn’t really think she’s any better. But she’s a smart one, circling the humans, purring at their feet. And it isn’t long before someone – the quiet human who visits the café often – bends down to offer her food. The truth is, Makkachin would probably try it, too, but his human, Viktor, has told him many times not to. And he has to repeat the command in his head over and over again, so he remembers that he’s supposed to be a good boy.

Either way, his new human, Yuuri will come looking for him later. Will secretly sneak Makkachin a piece of meat off his plate. So, it’s not a terrible deal. He’s just glad he found Yuuri when he did. Probably deserves a reward from Viktor, but he hasn’t tried to collect yet. He’s saving for something special.

“There are so many of them today,” Stella muses, slinking behind him, snowy fur brushing against his back. Makkachin nods at her in greeting and gestures to the space on his left.

She plops down next to him and eyes the new guy with interest.

“Am I interrupting?”

“Not at all,” Makkachin hums, tongue hanging out.

The hamsters, safely tucked in their pen, run circles around each other. Every so often, Makkachin can make out what they’re saying, but for the most part their voices are too soft and squeaky and will give him a headache. So, he doesn’t bother. They usually talk about wheels anyway.

He looks up as Viktor calls for silence. Looks past the crowd as Viktor mentions something about forever, and Makkachin figures his human is talking about an endless supply of sticky buns. Because what else could it possibly be. His companion agrees, wholeheartedly.

“Are you leaving now?” Makkachin asks, running after the dog that looks just like him but smaller, “The party’s just started, you know.”

“I think I need a rest,” Vicchan sighs dreamily, floating above him, “But don’t worry, I’ll come back to check in on you from time to time. So, you better take care of my human.”

“Our human, you mean.”

Makkachin remembers the day he saw Vicchan for the first time. Remembers vividly that he couldn’t help watching as the poodle flipped in the air and perched atop Yuuri’s shoulder, beckoning him closer. Just one more step. It was futile to resist, so Makkachin had gone with his instincts.

He had strolled right up to Yuuri and introduced himself. And, from that moment on, had claimed the human as his own.

“Right, our human,” Vicchan amends, translucent form rising higher and higher, disappearing against the light.

“Who are you talking to?” Nikita asks Makkachin, eyes narrowed in suspicion. He turns around and shakes his head. It’s a secret.

Just then, he spots Yuuri in the crowd, searching for something. Realizes a second later that Yuuri is probably searching for him. Pants heavily as he imagines what sort of snack Yuuri is going to give him. Charges at Yuuri, a silver-beige blur flooding his human with kisses.


~OWARI