Everything starts with a single Instagram post.
A couple lounging together on a hotel bed, their faces out of frame. Two pairs of sweatpants-clad legs tangled together - feet bruised and battered, the focal point of the image.
v-nikiforov: When you and bae have matching feet 💖💖💖 #movienight #cuddles #figureskaters #FukuokaGPF
The internet explodes.
At 25, Viktor Nikiforov is already a notorious commitment-phobe.
Though his list of casual hookups and one-night stands is a mile long, the man has yet to have a serious romantic relationship.
(One that has been made known to the public, at least. There is, of course, no shortage of “anonymous sources” claiming to have visited him at his house in the countryside where he supposedly lives during the off-season with his secret wife and three kids.)
Not even two hours after the picture is first posted, his fans have already compiled a list of who this mysterious significant other could be, using the only thing they know (probably) for sure about them - that they’re a figure skater.
Christophe Giacometti, for some odd reason, is pretty high up on the list, despite the fact that he’s been in a committed relationship for the past two years now. Cao Bin is another notable name, along with TWO of Viktor’s own rinkmates, Georgi Popovich (something which he’s sure is going earn the two of them a good amount of light-hearted teasing from their rinkmates), and a girl named Evgenia that Viktor has known since they were 5, and whom he regards as nothing more than a good friend.
And somewhere near the middle of the list is Viktor’s longtime bitter rival, Katsuki Yuuri.
It’s something of a mystery that he had even made it onto the list, given that the vast majority of the world seems to be of the opinion that the two hate each other. But fans as a whole tend to have a strange fascination with enemies to lovers stories, and it doesn’t hurt that Yuuri is good-looking, talented, and just about the sweetest person ever (to anyone other than Viktor, that is)
By the time the next picture is posted, just over a month later, people have mostly given up hope on another.
A dining table laden with delicious, home-cooked food. A slender young man sits in a chair across the table from the camera person. The top half of his face is cut off, showing only an indulgent smile as he spoils the excitable brown poodle begging for scraps next to him.
v-nikiforov: When bae flies halfway across the world to surprise you with a home-cooked meal after you get back from Russian Nationals 😍 #luckiest manalive #loveofmylife #bestsurpriseever
This time, it doesn’t even take an hour for the fans to update their List. All the female skaters are removed, while a few more male skaters are added on.
The man has a soft jawline and slender shoulders.
A few suggest that it may be Lee Seung Gil, while others shout that “he’s just 19!,” and how “that’s basically pedophilia!”
Katsuki Yuuri inches his way slowly up the list, while others demand that Christophe be taken off, given the man in the second picture is clean-shaven, and everyone knows Christophe wouldn’t be caught dead in public without some stubble.
There aren’t many more pictures of The Boyfriend after that.
Instead, there’s an endless flow of melodramatic selfies and black and white landscapes with captions that don’t make sense, of Viktor constantly complaining about not being able to see bae more often.
He does occasionally drop little tidbits - The Boyfriend has a dog as well, he does ballet, they’ve known each other for several years.
But he’s careful not to say anything too revealing about his significant other, playfully dodging the question whenever he’s asked about it in interviews and choosing his words carefully on his social media posts.
It’s a maddeningly long five months before Viktor finally makes the fatal mistake.
An excited brown poodle standing near a door, leash in his own mouth. His tail is a wagging blur, restless excitement seeming to roll off his image in waves.
v-nikiforov: Going to pick up bae from the airport. I think Makkachin’s somehow figured out where we’re going. He’s been waiting impatiently at the front door for the past hour. #offseasonisbestseason #beentoolong #reunion
Viktor turns off his phone after that, and so it isn’t until he arrives at the airport, only to be welcomed by a horde of screaming fans and reporters that he finally realizes the mistake he’s made.
All the blood drains from his face, and he quickly whips out his phone to send his boyfriend a warning message before he’s suddenly swamped.
His plane should have already landed by now, and Viktor prays that he’d sent the warning in time. He knows how much his lover values his privacy, and neither of them are very eager to have their relationship become public knowledge quite yet.
Viktor spends the next ten minutes trying to make his way through the overenthusiastic crowd while still trying to be as nice to his fans as possible.
Makkachin is having the time of his life, shamelessly begging ear scratches and cooing from the crowd of fangirls. He looks quite content to stay there for as long as possible.
That is, right up until he quite suddenly perks up, and barges right through the crowd, leaving behind a bunch of confused fans and a worried Viktor, trying to chase after him.
He doesn’t get very far though, before tackling someone with wet doggy kisses.
The man seems to expect the enthusiastic welcome, because he barely staggers as he catches the giant brown poodle in his arms, laughing and carrying him towards Viktor and his group of speechless fans.
He’s wearing a pair of sinfully tight skinny jeans, and a dark blue hoodie with the hood up. They can’t see his face properly yet, with Makkachin blocking their view as he continues to squirm in the mans’ embrace, tail thumping excitedly against his leg as he walks.
Before any of the fans can take a step, Viktor hurries to his lover’s side and immediately wraps an arm around his shoulders, using his body to hide the man’s identity.
“What are you doing here?” he asks urgently as the crowd surges forward to envelop them. “You could have snuck out another way and gone straight to the car!”
The man laughs, and turns to place a quick peck on Viktor’s cheek.
“It’s fine,” he says. “We’ve kept quiet long enough. I don’t mind letting everyone know about us.”
So saying, he lowers Makkachin gently to the ground, and the cameras finally get their first glimpse at the face of the man who had managed to steal the heart of the World’s Number 1 Bachelor.