Victor spun in slow circles on the ice, steel of his skates tearing lines through it. He should be focusing, but Victor found his mind constantly wandering to the weekend before. To the party. To Yuuri and his wide, dark eyes that haunted Victor’s sleep ever since that night.
Victor had been more than foolish; he’d apparently stepped right through the veil of insanity to say such a thing to Yuuri then. What had he been thinking? Victor had just been struck, so lost in the memory of when they had met first that he had lost all sense. Friedrich said himself that Yuuri’s beauty inspired transgression, but Victor was sure confessions of affection to his betrothed were outside the Tsarevich’s allowance.
After that night, Victor half-expected his door to be beaten down by the police. For him to be dragged through town, name with him, as Yuuri was bound to tell his betrothed of Victor’s audacity. But nothing had come, Friedrich bidding Victor fond goodbye from the party when Victor excused himself early after spending the rest of the evening watching Yuuri’s back retreat from him.
It seemed Yuuri was of a mind to simply dismiss Victor altogether as punishment and Victor was not entirely sure if that was better. He had tried to rid himself of the ache in his heart that burst on seeing Yuuri, the ghost of an emotion that skimmed the faded edges of grief for something Victor was never entitled to have to begin with. Not even the ice was any comfort.
‘Victor!’ Chris cried, sounding panicked and his voice echoing off the high ceiling of the rink. Victor turned to a stop, regarding his friend and pianist from the ice show with confusion. ‘Get off the ice, right now!’
‘What is it? What’s the matter?’ Victor asked, skating up to the small gate off the ice. Chris looked wild behind his round spectacles, mouth hopping between a dazed grin and grimace, running a hand through his sandy hair.
‘The Tsarevich’s consort is here to see you,’ Chris said, sounding half-mad with it. Victor froze in where he was brushing ice from his steel, a swallowing swoop in his stomach. When Victor asked Chris to explain, Chris only shrugged; ‘He wouldn’t say why he’s here. Only that he wished to speak with you.’
‘Did he bring a guard?’ Victor asked, wondering if perhaps having Yuuri ignore him and not ending up in prison was really so unfortunate a situation, heartbreak or not. Chris frowned.
‘No, he’s escorted himself. Why? Does he need a guard?’ Chris asked, but Victor was already off the ice, walking as straight he could in his skates towards the foyer.
Yuuri was there, dressed in the Vienna fashion this time. He was in a long coat of dark wool, large hood like a bell from where it was raised over Yuuri’s head. Had he not announced himself, Victor was sure Yuuri could’ve passed through the rink entirely unseen, with only the fine fabric of his coat giving away his status.
Yuuri turned, hands in front of him in perfect posture. The gloves he wore were fine leather, showing off his slim fingers and Victor found himself staring before he could stop himself, reminded of the large ones he’d gifted almost ten years ago. Suddenly feeling under-dressed in his loose shirt and plain trousers, Victor bent low in a bow.
‘Your grace,’ Victor said, wondering if he should wait until he was addressed before straightening up.
When Yuuri said nothing, Victor took a chance and looked up. Yuuri was regarding Victor from beneath his hood, a pair of modern spectacles sat on his nose. They were fetching, a blue veneer across their fine frames. Victor licked his lips, daring to speak.
‘Please forgive me for speaking out of turn,’ Victor said, watching Yuuri’s face indulgently. ‘I don’t know why you’re here, but I must tell you I am pleased to see you again.’
Yuuri visibly tensed at that, his hands balling into delicate fists. He regarded Victor carefully, like Yuuri were poised to take flight any moment. Victor felt like there was suddenly a string pulled taut between them, like a vector. Victor mentally berated himself for managing to offend so quickly. That had to be a new record.
‘I got your letter,’ Yuuri said brusquely, standing tall like he were to shake the tension off his shoulders. Victor was caught off guard by the lack of manners, but something like relief pooled. ‘You needn’t have apologised.’
Victor blinked, surprised. He had sent the letter the morning after the party, convinced to try and make up for what he had said. Victor had kept it deliberately oblique, so as not to incriminate himself or worse, insinuate towards Yuuri. Victor never expected a reply, he had just felt that he could not rest easy unless Yuuri knew that he was sorry. And now that letter had brought Yuuri all the way down from the visitor’s palace to Victor’s humble rink.
‘Forgive me, but that was not impression I got,’ Victor said, feeling daring though he knew it was improper. Yuuri frowned, mouth opening to retort. ‘After my indiscretion on the balcony, you gave me no chance to apologise and avoided me the whole evening like I were the plague.’
‘I was not in the mood to be teased,’ Yuuri said coldly and Victor looked away, ashamed. ‘I think that can be allowed given the extent you went to in trying to mock me.’
‘That was not my intention,’ Victor said firmly.
‘Pray tell me then, what was your intention?’ Yuuri asked, eyes fixed on Victor from behind his spectacles. ‘What else did you expect of such a joke?’
‘It was not a joke,’ Victor said, rising up to meet Yuuri eye to eye. Taking advantage of his height over Yuuri’s small build.
For a moment, Victor thought Yuuri might retreat from where he was standing, back down into demurity. But Yuuri only narrowed his eyes, pulling his gloves off in a manner of argument and looking resolute. Victor took advantage, as he clearly had Yuuri’s interest.
‘Not entirely, anyway. I only meant to tell you that I have thought of our meeting in Saint Petersburg often, perhaps even to the point of lovesickness as a young man. I did not mean to imply anything adverse. I just wished to humour you if I could, you were so despondent.’
‘Then you admit it was a tease,’ Yuuri said coolly and Victor flushed, rubbing the back of his neck.
‘Of a sorts,’ Victor sighed, ashamed. He looked up to Yuuri, taking in the way Yuuri gripped his fine gloves so tight, Yuuri’s knuckles were pale. Victor must’ve caused great offence. ‘But I promise you, it was a jest at my own expense and not an attempt to discomfort you.’
‘So you are not in love with me?’ Yuuri asked, tone almost sarcastic if his manners would allow it. It gave Victor the impression he might be close to being forgiven.
‘No more than the rest of Russia, I’m sure,’ Victor said, heart leaping when Yuuri’s cheeks coloured. Victor tried to appear cool in response, but he’d never been able to manage such a thing when his heart was so treacherously light in his chest.
‘I’m glad to hear it,’ Yuuri said, bowing low like he had that evening at the ball. ‘Thank you for your apology, Mister Nikiforov. I’ll let you return to your practice.’
Yuuri went to leave and Victor panicked suddenly, not wanting Yuuri to go without the promise of seeing him again. He could not bear to lose him twice.
‘Allow me to make up for the transgression,’ Victor pleaded, desperation so clear in his voice it must’ve been what caused Yuuri to stop so suddenly.
Yuuri turned, looking at Victor with undisguised suspicion. When he spoke, his voice was carefully level; ‘How would you have me do that?’
‘Did you ever learn how to skate?’ Victor asked, pleased when Yuuri shook his head. Victor opened an arm behind himself, towards the rink entrance. ‘Then grant me the opportunity to teach you. If only once.’
Yuuri was remarkably well mannered, hiding his surprise well. But his cheeks coloured, eyes wide on Victor’s face that most endearingly gave him away.
‘You would teach me?’ Yuuri asked, eyes flirting down to take in the steel of Victor’s skates. ‘You would really do that?’
‘I don’t want you to feel obligated,’ Yuuri said, looking wary again. ‘I meant what I said that you are forgiven. You owe the crown nothing.’
‘I do not care so much for the Japanese court and even less for the Russian one, Your Grace,’ Victor said sincerely. ‘
I would not offer unless it was my own desire to do so.’
Victor walked up towards Yuuri, closing the space between them. Victor couldn’t help himself. There was a gravity around Yuuri that pulled at Victor, something more than just beauty lurking in his eyes. A spark of interest that had been there since childhood, Victor thought.
When Yuuri had still said nothing, Victor then offered a hand out for Yuuri to shake. A gentlemen’s agreement, if Yuuri would accept. Yuuri hesitated for a moment, eyes fixed on Victor’s outstretched hand. Then, slowly, Yuuri reached out and took it. His hand was warm and it had Victor’s skin tingling.
Yuuri looked away from Victor’s face, voice low and endearing in Victor’s ear; ‘I must tell you something, Mister Nikiforov.’
‘You have my full attention,’ Victor said honestly, instantly regretful when Yuuri pulled his hand away.
‘I’ve followed your career for years,’ Yuuri said quietly, eyes still downcast. ‘You were so impressive and I was- I am, so in awe of your talent. I saw your show Aria in Geneva, almost two years ago to the day now.’
‘You were in Geneva?’ Victor asked, surprised. Yuuri looked up, spectacles catching the light like coins. ‘I never saw you. You should’ve sent me a letter, I would’ve made sure we met.’
‘I was afraid you would not remember me,’ Yuuri said, twisting his gloves. ‘I did not want to impose myself upon you or have you feel any kind of obligation, just because of my association.’
‘Yuuri,’ Victor said gently, reaching out to touch Yuuri’s elbow. Yuuri started, blushing brightly from Victor’s use of his name no doubt. Victor had never been one for manners. ‘I would have been so happy to see you then. I’m only sorry that we’ve lost time together.’
Yuuri licked his lips and Victor’s heart stumbled over itself to try and commit the action to memory.
‘Please,’ Victor said earnestly, barely containing himself from reaching out again. ‘Let me not just make up for my words, but also up for the time we’ve lost these years.’
Yuuri’s eyes roamed over Victor’s face- perhaps wary of further teasing. But Victor had never meant anything as truly as he meant this offer.
Yuuri smiled, a shy thing that settled something warm in Victor’s stomach.