16 is a horrible year for Yuri Plisetsky. First, his body shoots out in weird ways, throwing off his balance, forcing him to relearn all of his jumps and body positions. His once beautiful complexion flares to life like an oily bog of fury and hatred. He nearly shuts down his Instagram because looking at himself makes him almost as sick as watching Viktor and Katsudon make kissy faces at each other as they steal all the gold medals and make a game of breaking each other's records. All the glory of Yuri's 15th year is gone, along with his short program record (broken by Viktor and then Katsudon and then Viktor again) and his perfect body proportions.
"Are you going to eat that or not?"
The only saving grace is Otabek, who listens to Yuri's complaining and gives him functional training advice to help him build up enough muscle to get his gangly-ass frame across the ice and into the air. Otabek doesn't tell him stupid "when Viktor was your age" stories; he sends him YouTube training videos and lets him crash in Almaty when the sight of Viktor's stupid, sentimental face gets to be too much.
"Gimme a few. Not everybody shoves things in their face as fast as you do." People say he's nicer to Otabek than to everyone else, that Otabek only gets one third the obscenities and insults, but that's mostly because Otabek never reacts to the anger, just waits it out and stares at Yuri until the question or rant or compliment is restated in a manner he finds acceptable.
Otabek remains quiet.
"Yeah, I'm still eating," Yuri says. He shoves a piece of steak in his mouth as evidence.
Otabek smiles a little, just the side of his mouth flickering up. "Your birthday is next month. What do you want?"
There are a lot of things Yuri wants, but he can't get them until the new season starts up, and they aren't things that Otabek can give him. "Come visit me in Moscow," he says instead. "Grandpa thinks you're dead because he hasn't seen you in over a year." And Yuri wants to ride around Moscow on a rented motorcycle and show Otabek all of the secret and wonderful places he discovered as a child...if they're still there.
"He can see me skate on TV." Otabek steals one of the pre-cut cubes of steak on Yuri's plate, his hand too fast for Yuri's fork to stab.
"It's not the same, asshole. All you do is skate around and look like an emotionless jerk. You're a thousand times more awesome in person than on TV." Yuri blushes because his mouth has a habit of blurting things out without checking in with his brain whenever Otabek is around, probably because he's so comfortable around his friend. "Just come visit us."
Otabek steals another cube of steak. "Okay."
It's impossible for Yuri to keep in his smile.
17 is much better than 16 or, if Yuri is honest, any of the previous years of his life. He attributes most of his good luck to Otabek and his amazing birthday presents. Not only does Otabek visit Moscow despite the World Championships being two weeks away, but he reserves three rooms at the Four Seasons for himself, Yuri, and Grandpa. Otabek gets spa treatments for everyone and pays for fancy meals in their suites so they don't have to get out of their pajamas for three days. In all his life, Yuri has never been so happy as the moment he saw Grandpa's face after his massage. Otabek thinks ahead and takes a picture, and Grandpa's joyous smile is now the background on Yuri's phone. He backs the picture up on his laptop as well as Otabek's, just to makes sure he never loses it.
Yuri admits (only to himself and sometimes to the cat when he really needs to talk out loud to somebody and can't talk to Otabek because the subject matter is, in fact, Otabek) that he's a bit disappointed that Otabek didn't just get them a room to share, but he gets that Otabek likes his privacy (which he doesn't get because Yuri falls asleep in Otabek's room every night and they wind up sharing anyway). Still, Otabek is Yuri's best friend in the world, and it's normal for friends to share a room, especially when that room is crazy expensive and either Otabek is making a lot in endorsements or is the biggest penny pincher on the planet. Possibly both.
After the glory of his birthday and a disgusting defeat at Worlds that neither he nor Otabek wants to talk about, the next time they see each other isn't until the new season starts up, but that's fine (except Otabek is busy training on his birthday and doesn't even get Yuri's congratulatory text until after Yuri's gone to bed). Yuri works his ass off perfecting his new routines: free program choreographed by Viktor and short program choreographed by Yuri because he's tired of people giving him choreography for a body he no longer has.
Viktor keeps dropping hints that he's really going to retire this year, but nobody believes him until he misses a landing and crashes down to the ice. The snap echoes in the practice rink and there's a moment of quiet until Katsudon starts screaming for someone to call an ambulance.
"I guess I really am too old for this," Viktor laughs through his teeth as they take him away.
Katsudon just holds Viktor's hand and grimaces.
Yuri can't decide if Viktor is actually going to retire or if he's going to recover, rehab, and come back again like the skate addict he is. There's no telling what that idiot will do, particularly with Katsudon in the equation. Viktor would probably skate with a broken leg if Katsudon even so much as hinted that he wanted to skate with Viktor again.
"Everyone get back to practice," Yakov yells. Yuri works on a new quad combination and ignores everyone else.
After practice, Yuri Skypes Otabek and delivers the news. If Otabek is surprised, he doesn't show it. "Make sure you focus so the same doesn't happen to you," he says.
Yuri fights hard to keep from smiling because he realizes he's been getting all goofy in the face when he talks to Otabek recently, and it's embarrassing and needs to stop. He may not be as volatile as he was a year ago, but he's not a pushover.
The Grand Prix final is awkward. Viktor is officially retired, and Katsudon finally gets his gold. He runs up to Viktor after the medal ceremony and raises the gold up for Viktor to kiss. Viktor pulls Katsudon up for a big smooch instead, but Katsudon manages to get the gold between them for the photo op of the year. Once again, pervert Viktor and the pig steal the spotlight and Yuri just clutches his silver medal in his fist while Otabek stands quietly beside him, no apparent interest in the bronze around his neck.
"I'm tired of this shit," Yuri says, his eyes enviously on the gold.
"Then get better," Otabek says. There's a stone cold quality to the challenge that races through Yuri's veins and makes his stomach feel a bit fizzy.
The fizz turns out to be nausea, and he vomits all over the podium and all over Otabek. The cameras capture Otabek's surprise perfectly, and Yuri is so mortified that he ignores Otabek for two weeks after the Grand Prix. Only a text saying, "You're the one who puked on me. Why are you being an asshole and ignoring me?" gets Yuri out of his cave of shame and onto Skype.
"Sorry," is the first thing he says when the call goes through.
"No more spicy food the night before competitions." Otabek is smiling wider than usual, and the small, quiet part of Yuri's brain that is reserved for cataloging facts about Otabek categorizes the sight as Fucking Gorgeous.
"You picked out the restaurant! Don't take me to a barf house next time!" Now Yuri is smiling, too, and is happy to know his friendship won't be lost over a little bit of globally televised puke.
"I was thinking.." Otabek says but trails off. He only does that when he thinks Yuri's not going to like what he's thinking.
"Just spit it out."
"Your short program is boring. The music is bad and the technical score is beneath you. You'll never win Worlds with it."
That is not what Yuri is expecting to hear. He is expecting to hear a deadpan joke or plans to come visit between competitions because they both have an empty week coming up and, more than anything, Yuri wants to get away from the losers at his rink and chill with the one sane person on Earth before the European Championships.
Yuri opens his mouth to tell Otabek he's full of shit but, because it's Otabek and he never says anything without thinking about it first, particularly when it's a criticism of Yuri's skating, he closes his mouth and mulls it over. If he's honest, the music doesn't really make him feel anything, and maybe he could put in a few more jumps and add some complexity to his step sequences. Ah shit, Otabek is right.
Otabek clears his throat. "I remixed your music to better suit your style. I'll put it on Dropbox. You can listen to it on your way to Almaty next week and we'll fill in the technical gaps when you get here."
Yuri doesn't know what to do so, as Otabek taught him, he just says, "Okay. Thanks." There's a brief silence then, and he feels the need to fill it. "You picking me up from the airport on your bike?"
"You bringing two giant suitcases again?"
Yuri grinds his teeth. "Fine. I'll take a taxi."
Yuri loves the remix Otabek makes him and, even more, he loves the feeling he gets when he skates to it. The boring classical piece now blends into synthesizer at intervals, its momentum giving Yuri the extra energy he needs to throw his frame into the air for a quad-triple-triple combo. He feels invincible when he skates his short program-- their short program.
Otabek is also working on refining his programs for Worlds, though he won't let Yuri see his free skate. "I don't want anyone to see it until it's done," Otabek says.
"It's stupid to do a whole new routine this late in the season," Yuri says, even though he thinks that, if anyone can pull it off, it's Otabek.
Otabek shrugs. "Anything other than gold is unacceptable. It's time."
The steely resolve in Otabek's voice and the cedar musk of his cologne are a little too much for Yuri and he takes a step back before he takes a step forward and does something stupid. He's so off kilter he doesn't even try to trash talk about how Otabek will have to live with silver. Yuri finds, to his amazement, that he actually believes Otabek will be world champion this year; his mind won't accept any other possibilities.
"I look forward to watching you," Yuri says, and they pack up their things and hop onto Otabek's motorcycle to find some lunch.
Otabek and Yuri agree to postpone Yuri's 18th birthday celebration until after the World Championships. They both need the time to get their routines in order, and Yuri could use the extra time to figure out how he's going to tell Otabek that he wants to suck Otabek's tongue down his throat.
"Hey, so, we should date," Yuri tries, using his cat in place of Otabek. "Fuck, that's lame."
Maybe something a bit more subtle and heartfelt. "We've been friends for a while, right? Well, maybe we sleep with each other now?" The cat meows loudly and Yuri's shoulders drop. "Yeah, lame."
There is always desperate honesty. "I'm 18 years old and still a virgin because you're too fucking hot for me to settle for anything less. Take some goddamn responsibility."
Yes, that will do just fine.
Yuri wins gold at the European Championships. Otabek takes silver at Four Continents because he's still keeping his supposedly amazing routine a secret. Yuri taunts him by taking pictures of his gold medal in various locations: the park, the cafe, Yuri's bed (the last is an impulsive decision he regrets when he's no longer physically exhausted and bloated on piroshki).
Two weeks before the World Championships, Phichit sends Yuri a package. He sends it to the rink because Yuri's only ever given his home address to Otabek and Katsudon. The parcel isn't very big, just a padded envelope with something inside to keep it from bending.
"WTF is this?" he texts before opening it, sure it's a glitter bomb.
"You'll LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE it! I got it from a friend. Limited edition!"
Yuri thinks it's definitely a glitter bomb, but he opens it anyway.
"Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeellllllllllllllllll?" Phichit texts.
Yuri doesn't know how to respond. First, he didn't know Otabek's sponsors put out calendars. Second, he never figured Otabek was the kind of guy who would pose mostly nude for a sponsor's calendar. Third, this is the second best gift he's ever received, and he can't tell Phichit that because nobody knows about that quiet corner of his mind filled with everything Otabek's ever said and done, and he would rather die than admit to the box of magazine clippings and memorabilia he's snagged during his trips to Almaty.
"Weird. Didn't know he did this kind of stuff. Thanks for the blackmail material." There, that's bland enough but still polite.
Phichit texts back some hearts and smiles, and their conversation is done.
Once he's home, Yuri takes a picture of every month's pinup and saves it in new folder titled "random shit" within a folder titled "misc" within a folder titled "not cats" within a larger "pictures" folder to make sure nobody will come across them if they are screwing around with his phone.
At the World Championships, Yuri can't afford to be distracted, but his eyes automatically search out and follow Otabek. There's something radiating from him, almost a Viktor-level confidence but more subtle, darker. Viktor always seemed like a benevolent god, knowing he would win and thanking the sad mortals for trying. As Otabek walks to the ice for warm up, he is no less a god, but he is one of destruction. It is clear he has come to crush anyone in his way, even, Yuri realizes when their eyes meet, his best friend.
For the first time in his life, Yuri understands what it must feel like to be the hormonal sack of shit that is Christophe Giacometti.
Yuri skates his short program flawlessly and barely edges out Viktor's record. He's a little sad that the geezer won't be coming back to try and reclaim it, but he's more invested in the congratulatory thumbs up Otabek gives him from the borders of the kiss and cry. He knows his face is lit up and hopes everyone thinks that's the elation of reclaiming his world record and not because this program, this thing he and Otabek made together, is the best in the world.
The announcer calls Otabek's name and Yuri pushes through reporters to get rinkside. He doesn't shout his well wishes to Otabek because he knows Otabek is already gone, locked away inside of himself.
At least that's what he thinks until Otabek looks up, stares right at him, and gives that small little smile that Yuri has only ever seen when they're alone.
Yuri wants to scratch out the eyes of the world.
The music begins, and Otabek starts his usual short program. It's good, he skates it perfectly, but it's not enough to beat Yuri's score, which Otabek probably knew going in.
Yuri holds up his fist for Otabek to bump as he exits the rink, which he does. He also smacks Yuri's hip, the motion hidden from cameras as he passes. Yuri startles and his gasp echoes a bit. There's no confusing the red on his face this time, and he hides away until it's time to call it a day.
They don't talk to each other that night, both too focused to do anything other than eat dinner and go to bed.
The free skate goes well, but Yuri touches down once, robbing him of a perfect performance but giving him enough to remain on the podium. After Katsudon and Phichit take a fall, JJ turns a quad into a triple. The only thing standing between Yuri and a World Championship title is Otabek, who needs a perfect score with a routine he's never performed in competition to win.
Otabek takes the ice and, once again, his eyes focus on Yuri. He doesn't smile, just stares until his music starts. The music is dynamic, a war song. The drum beat slides into Yuri's chest, and he does little hops every time Otabek sets up for a jump. It feels like there's barely a moment where Otabek is on the ice; most of the time he's in the air, moving from jump to jump, spinning across the ice with such force Yuri's certain there will be cracks by the end of the performance.
Otabek ends the routine as he began, eyes focused on Yuri. The crowds are roaring, but he doesn't seem to hear them. He's smiling that little quarter of a smile, and Yuri knows that Otabek knows the gold is his. He deserves it, Yuri thinks. He deserves everything.
God, he's so fucking beautiful.
Otabek is barely to the kiss and cry when they announce his score. Katsudon's world record is gone, and Yuri is digging his hands into the railing to keep himself from jumping onto Otabek like an idiot. Like Viktor.
"I was surprised," Katsudon says. Yuri doesn't care what Katsudon thinks; he cares only that Katsudon is trying to distract him from how fucking gorgeous Otabek looks when he's wearing glory. "Viktor wanted to know if--" Katsudon trails off. "I'll text you later." He leaves, and Yuri feels a fraction guilty but mostly relieved. He'll send a text later and maybe they can all get together in Japan some time now that Katsudon and Viktor are both retiring and starting up as teachers in that not-so-crappy fake ninja town.
Yuri holds out until the medal ceremony. He clutches his silver and watches the gold get placed around Otabek's neck. Katsudon is smiling up from bronze position. Once all required ceremony is done, Yuri jumps onto Otabek's back and buries his face in Otabek's neck. He's smiling like an idiot, and Otabek is laughing.
"You did it," he whispers into Otabek's ear.
Otabek snorts, indignant. "Of course I did." His fingers squeeze Yuri's arms momentarily, and they both start laughing. It's the happiest day of Yuri's life.
Yuri doesn't know what to make of the press the next day (A New Generation of Love on the Ice!?!), nor does he know what to make of the fact that he wakes up in his own hotel room with his pajamas on and no signs of having slept with Otabek.
His World Championship dreams are slightly crushed.
He checks his phone and sees a few congratulatory texts and one text from Otabek that says, "When you're awake, text me and we'll go for a ride." There's a picture of a motorcycle.
"I'm up," Yuri texts back. "Showering & breakfast."
Otabek's reply is immediate. "Lobby 10:00."
There are probably people Yuri should greet, and he should probably say goodbye to Viktor and Katsudon since they'll be leaving later today, but none of that seems particularly important when Otabek is waiting for him. Besides, if the idiots saw his huge, stupid face looking all goofy while he draped himself all over Otabek on the podium (or in any of the pictures currently spamming Instagram), they probably knew they weren't his top priority. Not now, and not ever.
Yuri showers and eats quickly, and he's in the lobby at 9:45. Otabek is already there, two helmets in hand. "I told Katsuki to ship your bags home for you," Otabek says. "I owe you a ride for your birthday." He hands Yuri a map. "Our route."
Yuri examines the map of Europe, a big black circuit drawn through it in black marker. "What about my clothes?"
Otabek shrugs. "I'll buy you some more when you need them. You pack too much."
"I need my clothes," Yuri hisses.
Otabek's hand slides onto Yuri's hip. "You just need me."
Yuri's mouth goes dry. He nods mutely.
Their first kiss is tame, just Otabek's lips brushing across Yuri's lightly while they stand, making a scene in the lobby. Still, Yuri's nerves are on fire and he lets out an embarrassing moan that some asshole captures on camera.
No, wait. Yuri's prepared for this. He's practiced for this almost as much as he's practiced his short program. "I'm 18 years old and still a virgin because you're too fucking hot for me to settle for anything less. Take some goddamn responsibility."
Otabek laughs and kisses him again. The fingers on Yuri's hip slide back a bit. "Of course."
They stop in Barcelona, and Yuri insists that they retrace their first meeting because he's a sentimental idiot and Otabek doesn't mind, so it's fine. They haven't done anything more than kiss and sleep in the same bed, and Yuri realizes that Otabek is both taking it slow and somehow mentally locked in a pattern of "don't touch him; it's illegal." The few conversations they've had in the dark of their hotel rooms have been enough to let Yuri know that Otabek has been extraordinarily noble for the last two years, restraining himself. The real Otabek, Yuri realizes, is a beast and possessive as fuck.
When a girl gives Otabek the eye while they're walking across the hotel lobby to check in, Yuri realizes he's also possessive as fuck. Otabek holds him back with a firm hand to his wrist and whispers, "Tonight," in Yuri's ear. Yuri knows, instinctively, that Otabek means tonight is the night he's going to take care of Yuri's virginity issue.
Somebody manages a shot of Yuri's beet red face. In the photo, his eyes are hooded and he's biting his lip while Otabek, lips to Yuri's neck, is smiling that devil grin. Yuri says fuck it all to embarrassment and reblogs the photo that afternoon with the caption "bitches wish they were me." He gets an exasperated email from Yakov, which he ignores, and a map to an engagement ring store from Viktor pretending to be Katsudon, which he shows Otabek. They decide to stop by tomorrow, just so they can mess with everyone by taking pictures in front of it.
They decide to stay a few extra days in Barcelona because, after their first night together, Yuri can't move. His ass is sore, his shoulders are covered in bite marks, and his hips are aching and a little bit bruised. To be fair, Otabek has just as many bruises and bite marks plus a good helping of scratches trailing along his back, but if he's completely wrung out, there's no way to tell. He fetches snacks and massages Yuri's limbs, and every time Yuri thinks he might be okay to head out on the town, the side of Otabek's mouth quirks up and they discover new and awesome ways for Yuri to ache again. It's absolute bliss.
After a day in the room, things start to smell gross and the sheets are getting crusty, so they go to the jewelry shop and let the maids air things out a bit.
"I'm going to the bathroom," Otabek says after they've been browsing the store for a while.
Yuri makes quick eye contact with the sales lady, hands her his card, and says, "The two in the back. Quick." She doesn't seem to find anything strange about his request, and there are two rings in Yuri's pocket before Otabek gets back. Yuri doesn't plan to use them right away, but he knows these are the right ones, and he refuses to leave without them.
Otabek returns from the bathroom, and Yuri decides he also better go since their next stop is their cafe, and the bathroom there is tiny and probably caked in bacteria. The bathroom at the jewelry shop has real cotton towels and tiny bottles of lotion. Yuri swipes three bottles of the lotion: two to use on the road and one for his Otabek box.
They spend the rest of the day taking pictures of each other in places that are amazing only because they are part of the early story of their friendship: cafes, rooftops, a parking lot that used to be a dingy and somewhat dangerous-looking park. Sometimes Otabek pulls Yuri in for a kiss, and sometimes Yuri dives in to give Otabek a peck on the cheek. Mostly, they walk side by side and feel like the luckiest men on Earth.
That night, Otabek is gentle and Yuri makes the most embarrassing noises he's ever made in his life. Otabek gets more scratches up his back and calls Yuri his "little kitten." Yuri makes a fuss but knows he's stuck with the nickname because trying to change Otabek's mind once he's made it up is harder than the time they had to physically remove Viktor from a medical exam room so Katsudon could get his wisdom teeth out.
"Is that all you've got?" Yuri whispers once he's recovered from Otabek's slow torture.
A light flickers in Otabek's eyes and he laughs an entirely new laugh, a rumbled snicker that steals Yuri's breath with anticipation. "Does my kitten want to play?" he whispers. Just the tone and the delicate heat on Yuri's ear has him arching up.
"Fuck, yes," Yuri hisses.
Otabek looks around the room before digging into his small bag and getting out his gold medal. He takes up Yuri's hands and raises them overhead before looping the medal around them lightly. "Keep them there," he whispers, voice still soft and strong all at once. Otabek takes a picture of the medal resting atop Yuri's bound hands and shows it to him. "It really does look better on you," he says.
Yuri nods and cants his hips up.
That night, two people complain about the noise, and they have to promise the hotel they'll keep it down for the final night of their stay. Yuri steals the picture Otabek took and posts it to is Instagram without a caption because last night was amazingly special and he wants to share it with everyone. Yuri is still trying to figure out all of the facets to Otabek. He doesn't know that he'll ever know all of them, but he sure as shit is going to try.
Otabek decides to drive the motorcycle back to Moscow because he's grown attached to it. They stop at various crappy looking hotels along the way and keep shipping their dirty laundry home because Yuri refuses to wear the same clothes two days in a row and Otabek refuses to bring along more than will fit in his tiny saddlebags.
Finally, in a motel just on the outskirts of the city, Yuri reaches into his new leather jacket (Otabek insisted on buying it for him because the interior was lined with fake leopard fur) and pulls out the rings he bought in Barcelona. Yuri slips the ring onto Otabek's finger when he's asleep before putting on his own ring and curling up against Otabek's side. Going through some big, pathetic love speech would be annoying, so he's just going to put the damn things on and they can go from there.
The next morning, Otabek shows his appreciation by getting them permanently banned from the motel for noise violations. Luckily, they gave fake names so the motel won't be able to report the incident to the tabloids. Yuri doesn't really care, but he doesn't want the Hero of Kazakhstan's good name to be tarnished.
"What the fuck do we do now?" Yuri asks when they're back at home in Moscow, the motorcycle's engine already cold.
"You need to practice, and I need to get back home," Otabek says. He looks away. "We'll figure out the rest as we go."
That is the most shittastic plan Yuri has ever heard, but he can't come up with anything better, so he just snorts in derision, curls into a ball, and sulks. "When're you heading back? And how're you supposed to take a motorcycle on a plane?"
Otabek sits down on the bed and drags Yuri into his lap. "The cycle stays here. Renting is too expensive." He places a soft kiss on Yuri's neck. "I'll leave day after tomorrow." He reaches down and strokes his finger over Yuri's ring. "I'll send you some music samples next week. I think I have a few that you'll really like."
For the first time in his life, Yuri isn't looking forward to the new season.
Despite Yuri's misgivings, they manage to stay sane through one season and then the next. They survive Otabek returning to Canada to train, and they make it through Yuri completely losing his shit because someone at Otabek's rink has a crush and is very vocal about it. They burn through long, lonely hours away, and they savor the stolen minutes they can dial in and see one another smile.
When Grandpa collapses at work, Otabek drops everything and flies to Moscow. Yuri is a mess, but he holds it together and, with Otabek's help, they relocate Grandpa to St. Petersburg. A few months later, Otabek relocates, too.
"I can still work," Grandpa argues every day, but neither Yuri nor Otabek will hear of it.
"You've earned the right to be pampered," Otabek says. "Let us honor you."
It's much better than the, "Sit the fuck down and stop whining," that Yuri was going to say.
Gold medals follow, and silver, and bronze. Otabek retires and buys them a proper house with a whirlpool tub and enough space for their four cats and Grandpa. The fattest cat is an orange tabby named Katsudon.
Grandpa passes away quietly in his sleep on a summer afternoon. Yuri retires that same year after winning another world championship title. He feels old and tired, and Viktor keeps bugging him to open up a satellite school so he and Katsudon can expand their disgusting skating empire.
"You'll get bored if you don't," Otabek says. He's right, but Yuri waits a week, on principle, before he agrees.
On their ten year anniversary, they get a sitter for the cats and take the old bike in the garage on a trip to Barcelona. After a decade of threatening, the Mercer Hotel finally kicks them out for noise violation. They celebrate their achievement in their favorite cafe before wandering the city in search of the landmarks of their love.