Victor’s conversational Japanese is far, far better than Yuuri’s Russian will ever be.
Yuuri can say ‘hello’ and ‘good luck’ and ‘how do I get to the airport from here’ and ‘do you have any advice on my combination jumps?’ in adequate Russian, though Yakov always lowers his brows and answers in gruff accented English. Victor can say all of those things in Japanese, but also things like, ‘I love the sound of the seagulls on the shore,’ and ‘Mama, tell Yuuri and Makkachin to stop ganging up on me,’ and ‘Axel! Lutz! Loop! Make sure you film this for the skating nerds, okay?’ Victor can manage a conversation with just about anyone, up to and including bearded grandpas who have never left Hasetsu and only speak in a Kyushu accent so thick that even normal tourists from the city have to ask them to repeat themselves. He fills in the gaps with hand gestures, asks for new words with total unselfconsciousness, and soaks up Yuuri’s language like a sponge.
On the other hand, Yuuri can reliably read street signs in St Petersburg, so he’s doing a lot better than Victor there. Victor’s way is to just do things and work it out as he goes along. He doesn’t do nearly as well at anything he has to study. Yuuri only got his head around English by studying and studying, and putting in hours of practice with a Russian primer comes easily to him. Victor gets bored after ten minutes of Japanese reading lessons.
“Show me your name, Yuuri,” he says at last. “I don’t need anything else.”
Yuuri writes it for him on the back of an old receipt from the onsen restaurant, and then, when Victor insists, talks him through each character. Victor exclaims over every one (cute! perfect! that’s exactly you, Yuuri!) until Yuuri laughs.
If, Yuuri thinks, he had stopped Victor stealing that receipt with a wink and slipping it ostentatiously into his wallet, he could have avoided a whole lot of embarrassment later. But at the time it only made him blush and laugh and avoid Victor’s eyes. At the time he still didn’t understand just how serious Victor was about him. It’s not until the time they’ve upended both their lives, moved Yuuri halfway across the world for the second time in a year, kissed and cried both in public and in private, and whispered promises to each other over the rings Yuuri bought them, that Yuuri is prepared to face up to the fact that Victor is truly as serious as a heart attack about him.
Of course by then he’s forgotten all about the receipt.
Really Yuuri should have been suspicious when Victor wouldn’t show him his costume for his comeback free skate, especially after the string of transparent excuses. “It’s not finished,” says Victor, and then, “It’s gone back to the costumier for tailoring, because your mama’s cooking made me gain weight, Yuuri!,” and finally the totally unconvincing, “no, it’s bad luck.”
“Isn’t that for weddings?” says Yuuri, and then, “Victor. Are you skating in a wedding costume?”
“No!” says Victor.
“You can’t wear a veil to hide your bald spot, old man,” says Yuuri.
“You’re so cruel,” says Victor. “Of course I’m not skating in a wedding outfit. That’s for our wedding skate.”
“Wedding skate?” says Yuuri, and eyes Victor suspiciously. Unfortunately it is completely impossible to tell the difference between Victor’s joking grin and his I-am-deadly-serious grin. “Victor, are we doing a wedding skate?”
“When you win gold,” says Victor airily. “Which you won’t if you don’t practice that flip, by the way, because you’re competing with a genius from now on. Go on! Listen to your coach!”
“You’re not so much of a genius that you don’t also need to practice, Vitya!” yells Yakov from across the rink. Yakov, Yuuri’s discovered, has incredible hearing. “Get over here! Flirt in the off-season!”
Victor smirks and tosses his head and touches Yuuri’s hand tenderly and skates away to see what Yakov wants, already radiating who me? from every line of his body. Yuuri covers his giggle with his hand and goes to practice the quad flip.
He realises later that Victor successfully dodged telling Yuuri anything at all about his free skate costume. Yuuri’s seen bits of the program, and Victor’s played him the music, but he’s being secretive about how the whole thing fits together. Yuuri decides to let him get on with it. He knows how much Victor loves creating surprises. It makes something inside him melt when he thinks that Victor’s getting up early and practicing for hours before Yuuri gets to the rink just to make a surprise for him.
They’re a - a thing, now. A something. Yuuri doesn’t want to put words on it in case he ruins it. ‘Boyfriend,’ which is what the sports press is going with, doesn’t seem big enough anyway. Boyfriend is what Georgi is doing with his beautiful snowboarder Katya, and it’s about going to restaurants together and him bringing her flowers - not that Yuuri and Victor aren’t doing that, they went out for Italian last week, but it’s different. They’re just them. Victor is Victor and Yuuri is Yuuri, and together they’re together, and that’s all that matters. Victor kisses Yuuri’s ring and makes jokes about getting married, and Yuuri skates for him.
He’s the happiest he’s ever been in his life.
And on top of that they share a bed, and they share… other things. Things Yuuri finds hard to talk about unless he’s actually in bed, with Victor, and then the filth that he can whisper and mean shocks them both. His understanding of Eros is certainly improving.
“Don’t forget to make notes, Yuuri,” says Victor afterwards, once, while Yuuri is still panting. “You’re going to need all of this to beat me at Worlds.”
Yuuri very calmly picks up a pillow and puts it over Victor’s face and keeps it there while Victor kicks and laughs and protests that he’s being murdered, murdered! underneath him. He thinks that’s more than fair.
In the end Yuuri doesn’t get to see Victor’s free skate program until the Russian Nationals, and even then, thanks to the terrible timing of their respective national competitions, he’s watching it on a livestream from Tokyo instead of in real life. And he almost misses what Victor’s done, too caught up in the beautiful, beautiful skating to really look at the costume. No one, no one, skates like Victor Nikiforov. He’s beautiful; he’s more than just beautiful; he’s mesmerizing. And in the secret depths of his soul, Yuuri thinks that even the old Victor Nikiforov couldn’t skate like the man he’s watching on his phone’s too-small screen. He lets himself imagine that it’s because of him, and his heart is full.
Part of him is also wondering how on earth Victor expects him to beat a program like this at Worlds. He hasn’t held back at all. He’s been telling Yuuri this whole time that he’s going to win gold, while preparing a program like this for him to compete against? Once Yuuri would have assumed Victor had been lying every time he encouraged Yuuri to aim for the top of the podium. Now he knows better than that. He puts his hands over his face. Victor has so, so much faith in him.
And then through a crack between his fingers he sees the camera for the stream pan down Victor’s body as he holds his final pose.
“Victor has been inspired by his experiences in Japan, where he coached the supposedly washed-up Yuuri Katsuki to his astonishing silver medal in the Grand Prix,” says the English-speaking commentator in Yuuri’s headphones. “It’s clear that Japanese culture means a lot to him! We do not have a translation yet for the Japanese characters he has chosen to, er, include in his costume, but this acknowledgement shows the graciousness we have come to expect from Nikiforov -”
“Victor!” Yuuri squeaks.
The little Victor on the screen is smiling as he waves, in a way that probably looks enigmatic to anyone who doesn’t know him. It’s like he knows Yuuri is watching. The cameraman zooms in on the characters the commentator is talking about, and Yuuri wants to die.
That’s Yuuri’s name, ‘included’ in Victor’s costume. Included, in that there’s a sparkling mesh window over Victor’s hip, and Yuuri’s name is quite clearly tattooed there.
Yuuri suddenly remembers Victor taking that receipt.
At exactly that moment he gets a text from Minako which is nothing but a keysmash.
Victor wins his Nationals, beating Yurio by a hair. Yuuri turns off his phone screen, lies down flat on his back, and tries not to die of blushing.
His phone beeps with another text. Yuuri scrambles to pick it up. It’s from Yurio.