Victor had three boyfriends during his teens. They were all summer romances, eyes made across the gym or the rink or the result of notes passed silently back and forth during English class every other morning of the week. And they were all short-lived, though not lacking any of the shy excitement that comes with first kisses and tight-grasped hands.
Victor fancied himself in love with the third one: tall with dark hair and light eyes, a strong nose and an easy laugh. They were both seventeen. But of course Victor had had another great love as well, and that one always came first. It was his dream, Victor had explained patiently when he’d called to apologize for being late to dinner again. He nearly had his new combination down consistently enough to land it almost every time, and he couldn’t have left when he was so close and so focused. Yakov wanted another hour of practice. No, don’t bother coming to watch–I’ll be distracted. I have to focus. I want to give this everything that I have.
It hadn’t been a surprise, really, when the boy had walked away.
That was fine, because Victor still had figure skating. Boyfriends weren’t necessary. They’d leave him, it seemed, but he’d always have the sound of his blades on ice and the thrill of the air, of music in his body and the roars of a crowd in his ear. That would be forever, surely, because Victor loved it so much. It wasn’t like those things were people, glass-hearted and fickle and cruel. These at least would always stay–
But it was the love that left instead.
Fine, Victor had decided. Fine.
He still had what he wanted, in the end. He still had the bright flash of lights and the cold ice that left bruises bright and hot whenever he fell. Victor still had long days and missed dinners, but missed by no one but himself, and really, he was missing nothing.
Victor found love again at twenty-seven.
He found it in another man’s body. It was spontaneity first, the strength in challenge and calling Victor in: to him, not away from something else. Then it was in motion, in the music the other man made with his fingertips and quiet curves and bends, the way he sang a story without uttering a single word. Finally Victor fell in love with Yuuri: with every misstep, with every moment he rose higher, with his silent strength behind too-red cheeks and stammered demands.
I loved you first, Victor tells Yuuri in awe, thinking that perhaps Yuuri is the truth of love in life at all.
Yuuri says, I loved you always.