A/N: A slightly belated Christmas present for the awesome Fey. Loosely inspired by 'Driftwood' by Travis. Standard Disclaimers Apply. Never sure about the fine line between T and M ratings, so I'm rating it M to be on the safe side.
Warnings: Slash - don't like it, go read something else. You're on ff net, there's PLENTY of other stuff out there.
Family dinners felt like drowning. The way everyone avoided the subject like it was taboo – the fact that there was no longer a ring on Bill's finger. They claimed that it was 'nobody's fault' when they had no choice but to talk about it, which really meant it was everybody's fault, but no one could bear to place the blame when all was said and done. Bill knew what 'nobody's fault' meant. It meant 'you should have tried harder'. He thought it was quite a bit more like 'should have noticed sooner' that all he and Fleur had was passion, and once that had run its course, there wasn't much of anything left to hold their marriage together.
There hadn't been fighting, really. There hadn't been much of anything. There was more than enough lust and urgency and fear to get them through the war, but he'd lost so much of that when it ended. They'd lost Fred. It was a devastating blow. Bill could keep it together in front of family – they needed him to be 'together', but at the end of the day, when he went home, Fleur expected the same. It was too heavy a burden. He realized too late that everyone saw him the exact same way, the way he'd intended them to see him – all of his strengths, none of his weaknesses. He wasn't allowed to break down. He wasn't allowed to cry over his dead brother. That was for other people to do, on his shoulder. There was only one person in the world who saw him for what he was, and Charlie was miles away, on a dragon reserve in Romania. He'd stayed a while, but he was quick to go, too. He said 'when all is said and done, life has to go on. Mine can't, so long as I stay.' Bill knew he was exactly right, and even if he needed a shoulder to lean on himself, never asked him, not once, not even with a passing glance, or a minute hesitation, to stay and be that for him. He couldn't bring himself to do it. He had always borne his burdens alone, but this one felt like it was too much for him. He didn't know if that was Fred's death, or if it had more to do with knowing, that in that rare event he needed someone to lean on, someone who really understood him, no one was there.
His wife should be that person for him, the one person in the world who he could trust completely, who he didn't have to be anyone in particular for, but, as lovely a woman as she was, Fleur wasn't that, not for Bill. Once he realized it, it became impossible to ignore. She knew it, too. She told him when all was said and done, 'there iz anozer Bill Weasley, one you will not let me meet. Wizout him, just us, zis is not enough for a marriage.'
All he'd been able to tell her in reply was, 'you're right.' There was nothing else to say, because she needed him to be strong, and he didn't feel strong.
So, when they all said 'it's nobody's fault', when they all meant 'you should have tried harder', there was a degree of truth to it, but there were several layers of lies beneath that thin veil of truth, too. He'd constructed a fake person around himself. Now he wanted to break through, but didn't know how.
He just needed some room to breathe, and Shell Cottage wasn't the place for it. For a man alone, it felt like a tomb the likes of which the Egyptian Pharoahs couldn't have ever hoped to achieve. Miles from everything, with only the empty rooms and the breaking sea for company, Bill spent many nights just staring out at the endless waves, imagining himself drifting. It wasn't difficult. He certainly felt, a good deal of the time, as if he'd been cast out to sea. He needed some time away.
He thought he would put in for a holiday, if could think of somewhere to go.
He spent a lot of time thinking of the first time he laid eyes upon Fleur as well, at the Triwizard Tournament in Ron's fourth year. He always associated the event with his youngest brother, as he attended as 'family' to Ron's best mate. He remembered, in retrospect, that he'd not thought much of her, at the time. It was the foreign wizard that caught his attention, not the witch. He felt a bit guilty about paying much mind to either, as he was rather firmly rooting for Harry, but there really was no arguing that there had been a fanboy in him screaming 'omigosh! That's Viktor Krum! He's so hot.'
Viktor had seemed rather uncomfortable in his own skin while on the ground. His shoulders hunched, and he often cast his eyes downward. Bill remembered now, being utterly enchanted by him. He'd never stopped being quite a fan, but he wondered how he managed to forget that crush. At the tournament, he'd already considered himself 'far too old' for childish dreaming about boys (or, that is to say, he liked to think he'd grown up on the inside as much as the out), but Viktor had proven quite the exception. When he started dating Fleur, he somehow managed to conveniently forget those feelings. Alone now, his mind ran over them often. Fantasies many years off about pressing him against a wall and making him beg, of waking up, quite simply, to find the Bulgarian beefcake curled up in bed beside him. So many of the fantasies were small affairs, hardly significant but for his obsession with them. He let that obsession consume him a bit more than he ought to, because when he wasn't humoring the old infatuation, he had no choice but to think about Fred, and about the empty place at the dinner table where he was supposed to be, and about Fleur whose beauty and charming habit of saying exactly what was on her mind the moment it popped into her head, wasn't enough to make him truly love her, in the end, and about a baby – yet to be born – who's life he would probably be scarcely involved in at all.
He awoke with a start one night, remembering his wedding reception. Fleur was dancing with her father, and Bill had retreated for a few minutes of reprieve to the punch bowl. Viktor had been standing there. He'd congratulated him cordially, but without excess good cheer, and said, "You are the eldest, yes? It must be difficult, having so many looking to you for an example. I only haff the one, a sister. It is difficult enough to try and live up to her high expectations of me. I can not imagine trying to be the elder brother of so many."
Bill had just smiled at the time and said, "Well, you get used to it."
He had been too enamored with being a newlywed at the time to realize how easily Viktor had read him.
Even though he'd spent a good deal of time thinking about Viktor these past months since the war, he couldn't help but feel rather shocked when the owl arrived with a letter from the Bulgarian. He offered what seemed like sincere condolences about Fred, supplying an entertaining memory of their brief acquaintance that made Bill laugh. Slipping a puking pastille into Draco Malfoy's treacle tart was a very Fred sort of thing to do. Oh, normally Bill would have frowned on such a blatantly cruel joke, but as Viktor explained it had followed a rousing chorus of 'Potter's a Rotter', he rather thought Malfoy got what was coming to him.
Viktor went on to explain that he had seen Charlie recently after they'd discover a nest of dragon eggs in a death eater lair they'd discovered. He'd added. 'I've no idea how they intended to control them once they hatched, but am fairly certain it would have been bad for everyone.' The Romanian dragon reserve was closest, so Charlie and some of his friends had come to fetch the eggs, and while he was there, they got to talking. 'Fleur did not tell me,' Viktor wrote, 'perhaps she did not want me to feel I had to take sides.'
Bill paused in his reading. Why couldn't he have just loved her properly? She was everything he could have asked for, really. But, he couldn't open up to her. There was something lacking there. He presumed it must be something lacking in him, because Godric knew half the wizarding world already knew all there was to know about her. Fleur had no issues with trust and commitment. Bill was the one who felt flawed. 'Moreso now than when we met, I suppose.' He thoughtlessly lifted his hand to run his fingers along his scarred face. He didn't think about his 'condition' much. It wasn't much of a condition, really. He just got a bit testy around the full moon, and enjoyed a good steak more than most. But there were times when he remembered he wasn't the man he used to be since Greyback had nearly clawed off his face, and he wondered how much those around him paid the differences heed.
He blinked away his self-loathing and continued reading. It was quite a long letter, which he had never expected out of such a quiet man, but after so long, he supposed Viktor had built up several things to say. So much had happened.
'I was wondering how you like your job with the bank. I remember you once worked as a curse breaker. It is difficult for me to imagine settling into a desk job now, but I know I will not be able to play Quidditch forever. It would be nice though, if I could. But father complains at me, that I should get 'respectable' work. He says we have all survived the war, and I would be an idiot to return to playing Quidditch, only to be killed by a bludger, or worse yet, the ground." Bill thought Viktor seemed exasperated at that, as though keeping his feet firmly on the ground would be quite the horrible fate indeed. He smirked to himself. He really was awfully cute. 'But that leads me to my other reason for writing,' Viktor continued. 'I have gone against his wishes and rejoined the National Team. There is a new coach, and most of the team is new as well. It will be difficult to get back up to the level for the World Cup, with so many new players, but I think it will be a better team this way. I want to be part of a team I can be proud of, not a team who uses dirty tricks when things get difficult to win.' Viktor was horribly ashamed of his team's behavior at the Cup so many years ago. He was proud to be part of the team then as well, but a bit ashamed of his teammates behavior at times. 'We will be playing our first game next Friday. I have set aside a ticket for you, if you might like to come. I have a residence near Sofia. You would be welcome to stay the night there, or the whole weekend, if you wanted to. I have not spoken with you in a very long time. It would be nice to have a visitor."
Bill felt his heart beat a little more soundly in his chest. Spending a weekend with the Bulgarian Seeker sounded brilliant. It also sounded like a wet dream. He had a sudden flash of fantasies that started somewhere with the man coming out of the shower in a towel that barely covered the essentials, and ended with waking up next to him in the morning, naked, of course. Bill coughed, trying to clear his mind. Viktor obviously just felt bad for him and wanted to cheer him up. He was rather sweet like that. Still, Bill was more than eager to see him again. He couldn't bring himself to let his common sense make him decline. A bit of time away was exactly what he needed, and seeing Viktor again after so long was more than a little appealing.
He would have to concede that Viktor Krum had always been more Fleur's friend than his, but on those chances when the girls ran off to do girlish things, and they sat about to talk, and, well, not do girlish things, as it were, he had earnestly enjoyed their time together. He'd enjoyed it a bit too much, really. It was only sitting about over tea and biscuits and having a chat, or a few brief firecalls on Order-related business, but somehow, when Viktor had gone, he always felt distinctly – and quite ridiculously – as if he'd just cheated on his wife. He would be riddled with guilt, over a conversation.
That's when it hit Bill, rather like a bludger to the chest, that his little crush might not be quite so little. Had he fancied him all along? Is that why he couldn't quite commit to Fleur as he ought have? And, if he did have such a fancy for Viktor, then what of it? He realized he had to see him, to be certain of the bollocks running through his head.
He wrote back that it sounded brilliant, he'd not seen a live Quidditch game in ages, and that he had just been considering how to use up some of the holiday time he'd had stockpiled from working at the bank. A three day weekend sounded like just the trick.
Late that evening, the Bulgarian firecalled.
"Bill, please," Bill replied. Somehow they always started their conversations this way. Bill did rather fancy the way he said 'Villiam' in that gorgeous accent, but Bill was better, far friendlier, made him feel like they were closer than maybe they were. Even the goblins called him Bill, anyway.
"Bill," Viktor ammended, "I vas just reading your note. I thought it vas best I call to find out when to expect you. Vill you come by portkey? Or by train? I vill meet you, but, if it is after two in the afternoon, I haff to be at the stadium."
"I can be there before then. You tell me what's best. You're the one putting yourself out," Bill said. Merlin, he'd forgotten how much he loved that voice. It rippled down his spine.
"If you come late in the morning, ve can stop to eat on the vay back to my flat," Viktor suggested, "before I haff to go to vork."
"That sounds good, hang on for a moment, and I'll check the portkey schedule? I've got it about here somewhere." Bill walked away from the fire to dig around a bit, and located the train and portkey schedules. If he took the train, he might take an extra day or so for traveling time, so a portkey was probably better. "There's a porkey out of Dover at 10:14 Friday morning, with a five minute holdover for three more trips after that, if there's a crowd. It says it lands in, let's see...the Iskar side of Vitosha Mountain? Does that make sense?"
"Ah, yes, I haff used this portkey many times. I know the place. It is very nice this time of year. Many yellow flowers. I vill vait for you there then, Friday morning."
Bill's stomach flip flopped. "Friday morning," he repeated affirmatively, and with a few more pleasantries and arrangements, mostly, it seemed, to do with what sort of food Bill liked to eat, the call ended.
Bill sat back on the hearth rug and took a deep breath. 'I'm losing it, right? Chasing after an old crush like this?' "But, on the other hand, it's not precisely chasing, since he wrote me first," he continued his thought process aloud. No one was about to hear him talking to himself anyway. It was nice, he found – the sound of his own voice broke through the ever-present silence of his seaside cottage.
He flopped backward on the floor, thinking about it. A live quidditch game, followed by two days of Viktor Krum. It felt like a dream. It couldn't come soon enough.
...which reminded him, he'd better put in for the time off right away, best not wait until morning. It was a bit last minute of him. He would have to promise a double shift or two to stay in their good graces.
Bill pulled three sixteen hour days in a row and consumed far more pepper-up potion than could be considered strictly healthy. It was only as he was leaving work a mere hour early of his normal shift (for which he'd gone into work an hour early), that the head goblin gave him a shrewd look and said, "You know, Weasley, I'd have given you the holiday without the extra shifts. You work hard for a wizard." And Bill had more than enough holiday time coming to him. He'd had very little reason to take it. When he worked in Egypt, it hadn't felt like enough sometimes – he used every last bit of it to go home and visit with family. Now, he saw the lot of them at least twice a month, usually far more often than that. He supposed, when the baby was born, he would swallow up all of his time taking trips to see his child, but for now he had little practical use for it.
He offered a tired smile in good humor, "Next time, sir, I'd much appreciate you telling me that before I do the extra time," he replied pleasantly enough. The joke was on him, it seemed.
He grabbed a bite at a local cafe, and went home. The moment his shoes and tie were off, he collapsed upon the couch and slept through the night more soundly than he felt he'd slept for the better half of his life.
He very nearly slept through his portkey as well. He stumbled blindly awake at 9:30, fumbled about wildly for a quick freshen-up and clean clothes. Thank Godric he'd packed for the trip earlier in the week – he knew how he felt after pulling a double shift, and there was no way he could pack after three in a row – grabbed his broom, and flew off to Dover at the speed of light. He'd have liked to take a good shower, look his best when he first saw Viktor again after so long, but he didn't dare waste the time.
He only scarcely made it for the portkey, and when he landed, he embarrassed himself by tumbling a bit gracelessly down a gentle slope of the mountain,as he was still only about half awake. When he looked up, it was like one of those silly stories his mum read in Witch Weekly. Surrounded by golden flowers and haloed in sunlight, the man standing with a bit of a bemused smirk twisting his features upward, wrinkling the corners of his eyes ever so slightly, was the man who made his loins quiver and ache.
They really were ridiculous stories, but he supposed they had a smidgin of truth to them, if that precise moment was any sign. Just that much, just a look, and it hit him like a sack of bricks how horribly he'd missed the Bulgarian. His heart thundered in his chest as Viktor approached. He could scarcely hear anything over it.
Viktor held his hand out to Bill, who used it to pull himself to his feet, while an idiot fangirl was running circles in his brain, screaming, "EEEEEEEE! Omigosh. Omigosh, Omigoooosh! It's Viktor Krum! EEEEEEE!' 'I'm losing my bloody mind,' Bill thought, rather awake now. Viktor's touch made his skin tingle even after he let go.
Much to his surprise, the Bulgarian pulled him into a big, manly sort of hug, which he was relieved ended quickly, as he would have some explaining to do if it didn't. "It is good to see you," Viktor said with a big, goofy sort of smile. "It has been vay too long."
"Yeah," Bill smiled back. "It has. Absolutely." 'I called this a crush, did I?' He knew better now that he was a fair bit older. Crushes weren't so crippling. He was mad for Viktor. Maybe he always had been, and had been to stubborn and too stupid to see it. A somewhat darker thought entered his head then – what if Viktor had been the object wedged between him and Fleur all along? What if the reason he couldn't quite love Fleur like any man in his right mind would, was because his mind had not a thing to do with it – his heart had already decided. That felt far too true for him to be comfortable with.
"You are tired," Viktor observed.
"I'm sorry," Bill said. "I only just woke up a bit ago, to be honest. I've not even had my coffee yet." He adjusted his pack over his shoulder. "It was a busy week at work."
"Vell, the game does not start until six tonight. I haff to be at the stadium at two, but there is no reason for you to haff to sit around and vatch me varm up and sign things. You can rest at the flat until right before, if you vish."
Watch Viktor warm up... "No, no it's fine. I actually slept quite a good bit, but coffee and a shower would be great."
A distant expression seemed to pass through Viktor's eyes. Bill wondered if he'd said something wrong.
"Ah. Yes, of course!" Viktor answered abruptly, after a brief daydream about Bill stepping out of the shower, shrouded in steam, sopping wet, and covered in naught but a scanty towel that only barely covered the particulars.
Bill was actually here! He was managing to keep his cool on the outside, but on the inside, his spine was tingling and his knees were weak, and there was an idiot fanboy running about in his head screaming "EEEEEEE!" He was so madly in love with Bill. Fleur had snatched him up first, and he'd never dared tell anyone how he adored his dear friend's husband. But, Fleur had left him. Viktor had been torn when he found out. He didn't know if he should pursue Bill right off, make his interests known before anyone else snatched him up, or wait until he'd had a bit of time to recover. Even now that he had Bill here, he didn't know how to proceed. It had been several months since the divorce, but he also felt, if he waited until Fleur's baby was born...what if the joy of what they'd created together made them reconcile? He knew he shouldn't think such things, but he did, because this was his only chance. If he had any hope at all of holding a place in the British man's heart, he was certain, beyond all doubt, that he absolutely had to weasel his way into it before that day came.
He was so distracted that he'd walked right past the entrance to the cafe he'd decided on and had to backtrack several feet, blushing all the while, to the entrance.
Bill followed him, a bemused smirk on his face. "Nervous about the game, eh?" Viktor seemed miles away, a bit more high strung than he remembered, too. It was easy to chalk it up to anxiety.
"No, not, I, what I meant to say is...perhaps a bit," Viktor stumbled. It was definitely too early to shyly admit that Bill made him nervous, and excited. He was eager for the game, and he supposed a bit anxious, but it was nothing compared to how he felt just being beside Bill. Merlin's Beard! Bill was going to be watching him play today! Now he was nervous! He absolutely had to play the best quidditch of his life! No matter what!
He stumbled through a request for his favored table, in the corner by the window, and they struggled through clumsy conversation and an awkward breakfast, because neither of them wanted to admit that what they were really doing had nothing to do with quidditch or holidays.
That Wronski Feint was going to be the death of him. Not Viktor, no, but Bill. He knew quidditch well. He had to, really. He liked the sport, but his brothers loved it. Ginny, too. It's about all they talked about half the time. So, Bill knew very well what a Wronski Feint was. He'd seen Viktor do it before, in fact, at the Quidditch World Cup in '94, but as he saw his broom plummeting toward the ground, Bill forgot how to breathe until, at the last possible moment, Viktor charged back upwards to catch the snitch and end the game. The crowd roared. Bill remembered how to exhale. He let out a deep breath, put his hand to his chest as if doing so could still his thundering heart, and that's when he noticed Viktor's gaze sweep over the box, he knew, instinctively, he was looking for that telltale tangle of red hair.
Viktor spotted him, smiled, and swooped off. He had a job to do. The crowd roared at his post-game grandstanding. Bill's heart continued to pound. It wasn't the game – as brilliant as it was – it was the smaller thing, the fact that Viktor had, if only for an instant, looked for him in the crowd, that made Bill finally give up denying the truth – that he was wild for Viktor, that he probably always had been, that he was seriously considering giving Viktor a bit too much to drink, and seeing where the night took them...
...but that would be wrong and immoral, wouldn't it? No, no booze, he decided – well, maybe a bit, just enough to set a good mood – certainly not enough that Viktor could use it as an excuse in the morning, if something were to happen. He stopped to pick up a bottle of wine on the way back to the flat to wait for Viktor, who explained he sometimes got in very late, and that Bill was of course welcome to wait, but that the nights were still cold, and he would be better served to head back to Viktor's flat before he caught a cold.
As much as a peek at the locker room sounded tempting, Bill well knew they were a pleasure in fantasy only, and a horror of godawful smells crashing against one another in reality. So, he settled down, finding a good bucket to fill with ice to chill a bottle of wine far too classy for him. He hoped Viktor liked it – the bloody thing had cost him three days' pay, but realizing one is in love really does call for something a bit more special than the cheapest vintage that money can buy. On the other hand, he wondered if maybe 3 days' pay was overdoing it a bit.
'Nevermind. It doesn't even matter.' He just hoped Viktor wouldn't be too tired to enjoy it when he got here. It was quite late, probably too late for a proper dinner, but Bill rolled up his sleeves and quite busily made an old family favorite that they could munch on – meat pies. He'd offer to restock Viktor's cupboards tomorrow, though, Viktor's flat was more of a sprawling loft. He'd never thought much about whether or not Viktor had money, but Bill knew he couldn't afford a place like this on what the bank was paying him, and he thought he did well for himself – not wealthy, but comfortable. To be honest, with only one mouth to feed, his savings had been going up considerably these past months. It wouldn't continue to do so if he kept buying expensive bottles of wine, but money was for spending, anyway.
He was just casting a warming charm on them when Viktor entered. The Bulgarian blinked a little wearily. "Vhat are you making?" He asked. "It is very late to be cooking."
"Oh, I'm still all wound up from the game," Bill threw out as a convenient excuse. "It may be your everyday life, but live quidditch isn't something I get to enjoy all that often. I figured making something to eat might burn off some excess energy."
Viktor stared at the redhead. He could think of another way to burn off some of Bill's energy, but not tonight. It had been a long game, and besides that, he was really a bit shy. He would have taken a quick shower and crashed into bed, if not for the company, but, the meat pies really did smell delicious. He decided not to mention he'd grabbed a quick bite to eat on the way home. "I vould like to shower first," he said, setting his quidditch gear beside the door and casting a freshening smell on it. Couldn't have all that man sweat overpowering the scent of Bill's home cooking.
"Oh. Of course!" Bill exclaimed a bit too energetically. "I've charmed the table well enough. They'll keep for quite a while."
"I vill not be long," Viktor said.
"Take your time," Bill answered. The longer Viktor was in the shower, the more time Bill would have to calm his nerves. He had such mixed feelings about, well, about his feelings. He felt relieved – everything made more sense now. He was a git for not realizing sooner that he'd been in love with the Bulgarian for years. But he was also hesitant. What if he was reading the signs wrong? What if Viktor just wanted to be 'friends'. What if he wasn't 'that sort'. Bill hadn't realized he was 'that sort', but he had never been finicky about a small thing like gender. It just seemed silly. How could he rule out an entire gender? It seemed silly to presume his heart cared much about those little details, like what parts happened to be attached to the person he really connected with. He turned out to be exactly right. And, as it turned out, his body followed his heart's lead. He just needed to convince his mouth to catch up and be done with it.
As he watched Viktor slip toward the bathroom door, watching his retreating shoulders, he was brought back to the lonely nights back at Shell Cottage. It was immediate and poignant – that horrible sense of being removed from his own life, drifting, losing his will to make any of the choices that mattered, losing his ability to distinguish even when a choice needed to be made. It was a horrible, bottomless feeling. One day had all but vanished it from his soul, but when this weekend was over, he knew the interminable void in his chest would return, if he didn't do something drastic. So it was that his Gryffindor pluck gathered itself up and made its presence known with the next words that passed his lips.
"I wouldn't mind joining you," he said. He regretted it the instant he said it. Did he actually just say that of all things? A bit of flirtation would have been well timed, but he'd gone right for the jugular. Oh, it was true enough – he'd love to join Viktor in the shower – but he couldn't believe he'd been crass enough to say it on his first night here. He was normally so much more suave than that!
Viktor had spun about, eyes wide and cheeks flushed. He looked adorable, which only reinforced Bill's adoration. "V-Vhat?" Viktor stumbled over the lonely syllable.
Bill could take it back. He knew he could back out somehow. Viktor was giving him that opportunity, but if he did, then he'd have to work up the nerve to hit on Viktor all over again, and he only had a limited amount of time with which to do so. He licked his lips unconsciously and decided to make a light-hearted joke of it. "I'm a fair back washer," he added, his stomach tied in knots.
"Villiam. You..." Viktor paused awkwardly between words. He knew exactly where a shared shower would lead, and Bill was no fool. He must know what he was suggesting. He wasn't sure how to end that sentence. He wanted it, but he felt very nervous. It was far too soon, wasn't it? "...vill need another towel, if you mean that. The closet is vell hidden, here. It has a latch." He opened the hidden door and pulled out a towel for himself, and closed it, trying to remind himself he needed to breathe. Was Bill teasing him? He wouldn't do such a mean thing if he knew how much Viktor fancied him, but he might make a remark if he was that clueless about why he'd gone out of his way to invite Bill for the visit.
He turned on the water and realized his hands were shaking as he tried to check the temperature. After only a few moments, he heard the bathroom door open behind him. Bill was standing there, holding a towel, looking more than a little nervous.
Viktor finally remembered how to breathe. "I think I haff to admit, it...vas not entirely selfless, inviting you to visit," he said, quite red in the face. He felt like even his ears were blushing.
"Then I should admit that I was being entirely selfish when I accepted," Bill answered, feeling relieved. Oh thank Godric – Viktor wanted him. He thought, surely, he'd make a fool of himself, but it seemed he'd been reading the right signs. He couldn't remember being this nervous about anything since he kissed Susie Wilder for the first time under the bleachers at Hogwarts. No, he hadn't been nearly this nervous then, even if it was his first kiss. "I've had a lot of time to think lately," he admitted.
Viktor nodded. He understood how Bill might be feeling pensive in the months since the divorce.
"And what I came up with is..." 'Here it goes...' "...I don't think I was ever really as in love with Fleur as I thought I was. Half-veelan and all, I guess, but I don't want to use that as an excuse. I'm just a bit thick. I didn't realize my..." 'Merlin, this sounds girly...' "...that is to say, someone else had already laid claim to my heart, and somehow I didn't notice for a long time." He dared to lean over the burly Bulgarian quidditch star and, pulse pounding, press their lips together at long last.
The kiss shattered him. It broke his will as distinctly as veritaserum would. And, when Viktor opened his mouth to it, Bill found himself glad of the nearby sink, because his knees went weak. "Maybe a bath, instead of a shower?" he suggested breathlessly between their greedy tangle of lips."
"A shower," Viktor answered with a bit of mischief in his smile. "Vonce I sit down, I do not think I vill be able to stand again until tomorrow." He kissed the curve of Bill's jaw, the freckles on his throat. Bill melted as those strong arms wrapped around his lower back. 'Ah,' he realised. 'This feeling, it must be why girls do all that silly swooning...' He'd never been on this end of a swoon before, but he admitted, if hesitantly, he was ridiculously and girlishly in love with this man. He was sure he'd do damn near anything to have him and keep him. He'd been happy with Fleur, for a while. He married her because it was sensible, because everyone needed something to be happy about, and because he had an deep-seated desire to protect her. And, of course, she was beautiful, and charming. He'd put those things together and thought they were love. But love was so much more basic than that. Love was an overwhelming excess of contradictory emotions that thrashed against one another until your mind shut down, your knees went weak, and you started thinking stupid, gushy, girlish things and forgot, in all practical affairs, that you were supposed to be too manly to drape your arms over another man's shoulders, curl your fingers into his hair, and sigh – rather contently – against his lips. Love, Bill realized, was the moment he finally let go of his careful control over every aspect of his person and his life, and let someone else have a bit of it. If Viktor asked him for all of it, he didn't know that he wouldn't concede without a fight, especially if he asked right now, when years worth of tangled emotions came undone, and a knot of tension he didn't even realize he had at the base of his neck suddenly evaporated, and he felt as if he'd come home after having been lost at sea for many, many years.
It was another half an hour before they got into the shower, and an hour and a half before they got out of it again.
Bill was convinced it was just a brilliant dream until he rolled over in the morning, away from the bright and shiny sun, and right into Viktor's bare chest. He awoke with a start.
Viktor opened his eyes blearily and awarded him with a smile that told Bill – leaving no room at all for doubt– that he was naked for a reason. "Ve never ate the meat pies," Viktor said at last.
"They might still be good," Bill answered around a yawn. He didn't want to get up to get them though. He was too comfortable.
"Perhaps ve vill haff them for lunch," Viktor replied.
Bill glanced at the grandfather clock. It was just before nine in the morning. He grinned right back. His scarred face felt stretched at the unfamiliar feeling that he had only become reacquainted with last night. "What do you suppose we should do between now and then," he quipped.
"Vell, I think you said something about 'returning the favor' last night, yes?" Viktor answered. "Ve vould not want you to forget that promise."
Bill rolled on top of the Bulgarian, kissed him soundly, "Don't worry," he answered. "I always keep my promises."
Viktor looked rather seriously up at him. "Then, perhaps I should get you to promise to transfer to Gringotts in Sofia," he mused. He didn't actually mean it, or more precisely, he didn't expect Bill would be nearly ready to commit to such a thing.
"I promise," Bill said without hesitating, "But, you have to promise to teach me the language. I can't even read the bloody letters."
"You vill learn," Viktor said. "I haff been informed you are very smart."
"Stupid, too, but in different ways," he answered.
"But, Bill, you are certain? You do not think it is too soon to make such commitments?"
"What 'soon'? We've been drifting long enough, yeah?"
"Drifting?" Viktor asked.
Bill kissed him. "It's nothing," he whispered. "It just means you're my anchor, so you should keep me close."
"This is a promise I vill not have trouble keeping," Viktor agreed.
The 'I love you madly' was implied, and Bill drank the unspoken words greedily as he pressed down against Viktor, and spent the rest of the morning making good on his own, more immediate, promise.