Yuri Plisetsky was furious with his body. The betrayal started with his toes bumping up against the insides of his skates, increased with a growth spurt that literally happened overnight, and was only compounded when he woke up with a mess in his bed, which, of course, had to happen for the first time in Hasetsu.
He managed to get the sheets to the laundry, but getting new ones off-schedule required an embarrassing moment with Mari, who just looked at him for a long moment, then handed him a stack of linens with a small, tolerant smile.
He knew what it was, the changes in his body weren’t unexpected, just unwelcome. He’d studied the process of puberty with the sick fascination of someone diagnosed with a terminal disease, trying to be prepared, but mostly freaked out by the inevitability of doom.
He’d seen too many skaters flame out during their growth spurts. But worse, as long as he had a child’s body, people might make jokes about girlfriends or whatever, but they didn’t make too much of the fact that he didn’t have one. Or want one.
He’d seen the older boys joking about penis size in the locker room, but his own changes in that department were not welcome.
“Oh, you’ll change your mind,” Mila had said, during one particularly ill-advised tantrum about how his line was no longer smooth. “They can be a lot of fun. When you’re old enough, maybe I’ll help you out.”
“Gross, no, and literally never,” he spat at her. “I don’t want that. I’ll never want that. What’s wrong with you?”
He ranted about it later to Otabek on a video call. “Why is everyone so obsessed?”
Otabek shrugged. “I tried it. I don’t see the big deal one way or another. You don’t want to have sex? Don’t have sex. Makes life simpler, that’s for damn sure.”
For his own body to betray him like that?
He’d made the mistake of venting his frustration around Victor, who just laughed, and said, “Why did you want to skate Eros so badly then, if you hate the idea of your body changing and becoming more sexual?”
“Anger is a passion,” Yuri said. “Agape is not.”
“Agape can be all-encompassing, no? Pure, but you feel it with your whole being. It’s like the antithesis of sexual love, while still being love. You skate that perfectly. I knew you would.”
Yuri glared at him. “Could you stop being smug for one second of your life? What am I saying. Of course you can’t. Jesus.”
The bastard had just laughed at him.
He was sure he could feel his shoulders widening. They ached, for one thing, and he fell walking onto the ice because his center of gravity was higher, not just because he’d grown, again. The actual distribution was different.
“Look,” Minako said at a practice at the Ice Castle. “You’re adapting. You’re taller. Your shoulders are putting on muscle, and that’s good, you’ll be able to hold yourself tight better in the air.”
“But I won’t spin as fast if my shoulders are wider!” he said.
“Your arms are getting longer too,” she said. “It will help. You’re going to catch up to Yuuri’s height soon. You might even catch Victor.”
Yuri blinked. Then he went back off the ice, slapped his guards on, and called Otabek. “How tall are you?” he said, before Otabek could say a word.
“168 centimeters,” Otabek said. “Why?”
“I’m taller than you,” Yuri said, his voice filled with ire.
Otabek laughed. “You make that sound like a bad thing. I always wish I was a little taller.”
“You’re the perfect height for figure skating,” Yuri said. “That’s nonsense.”
“They like long lines. I’m compact. But I’m okay with it. I’m strong. It makes it easier to jump.”
Yuri’s breath hitched. “I can barely walk on the ice today. My shoulders grew.”
“Maybe I’ll teach you how to drive a motorcycle the next time I see you,” Otabek said, soothing.
“That won’t be ’til Worlds,” Yuri said. “Unless Yakov lets me tag along to Four Continents with Katsudon.”
Otabek gave a noncommittal grunt. “It could happen. I might come to the European Championships.”
“Can you even afford that?” Yuri started to say, and then he brightened. “No, you’ll see me before that. Yuuri-san said he wanted to invite you to the wedding.”
“Where?” Otabek asked. “When?”
“I don’t think they know, before Europeans, and probably Denmark? But they said they’d invite you to bribe me to go.”
Otabek hesitated and then said, “I’m not sure…”
“Oh, they’ll pay for it. Hell, I’d pay for it, I got some money from a sponsorship thing. We had camera crews here filming for two solid days. The US ones were interesting, but the Japanese ones were… I don’t think I’ve seen so much cat merchandise in my life. The food was great though.” Yuri looked back at the screen. “What?”
“You’d pay for me to come visit you?” Otabek said. “To go to a wedding?”
“Don’t get excited, you’re just one of the only people I can stand, and it will be unbearable without you. They’re going to be kissing so much. And people will applaud them for it.” Yuri shuddered.
Otabek laughed. “Yeah, okay. If I can get ice time.”
“Get this. They want to get married at a goddamn ice rink.”
Otabek considered that. “Well, makes sense.”
“What, are we all going to be on skates? He’ll want Okaasan there, and she’s tiny and round and I don’t think she’s ever put on a pair of skates.”
“Who’s Okaasan?” Otabek asked.
“Yuuri’s mother. I’m not sure anyone under the age of 30 has ever stayed at the onsen without being adopted by the Katsukis. She looks just like Yuuri, only she’s shorter and rounder and has longer hair. She makes the best food.”
“Look at you, forming human attachments,” Otabek said. “I feel like I’ve been a good influence.”
“Shut up,” Yuri said, but he was smiling.
The downside was that he had to buy a bunch of new clothes because his pants were turning into capris and his arms were sticking so far out of his sleeves that even Yuuri noticed.
The upside was that he bought a ton of new clothes, oversized enough that he could pretend he was still small, and the cat prints available in Japan were fantastic. He was starting to worry about his luggage when he was reminding of the private jet. So he bought more luggage on the corporate card he’d been given, and ignored Yuuri’s pointed comments about Russians and their excessive baggage.
He studied himself in the mirror of a changing room. If he stood just so, he still looked like a kid. Then he noticed a pimple and stalked to the nearest facialist, who set him up with a half dozen products. When he made it clear that he wasn’t averse to using makeup to cover up, another dozen products ended up in his bag.
Everything he bought that he liked, he bought in the next size, as well, including the shoes.
Everything hurt. Growing pains.
The ice was the worst. He stalked into Minako’s ballet studio. She took one look at him, and he burst into frustrated, angry tears. “It’s not working.”
Minako put an arm around his shoulders, and said, “Come to the barre. Let’s start with the basics. First position.”
His reflexes took over. She ran him through the positions, the tendu, the elevé, the arabesque.
“Plié et elevé, tendu, et répété. It’s all there,” she said. “Your brain just hasn’t caught up to the change in your center of gravity.”
“It can’t, it keeps changing,” he said. “I’m supposed to compete in four weeks. And I can’t even walk onto the ice without falling. I feel like a massive bruise.”
“Back to the basics,” she said. “Don’t lose your muscle mass. Keep doing the things the children do to learn from scratch. Don’t hurt yourself. Let your brain catch up. If walking is hard, hold the wall. It’s going to happen like flipping a switch. Your brain will adjust to where you are. You just need to teach it, and not fight it. You know how to ride a bike?”
“It’s exactly the same thing. It’s hard and it’s hard and it’s hard and then your brain gets it, and it clicks, and it’s easy, and from there you can refine quickly. Pirouette.”
He stumbled. Everything about it felt wrong.
“Pirouette, slowly, spot yourself,” she said. “Do it on purpose, not by reflex.”
He did it again, slower.
“Slower still,” she said. “Pirouette.”
He turned, form perfect.
“Now faster. Pirouette.”
“Jeté,” she said. “Carefully. Not high.”
He gave a small jump.
“Jeté et répété et répété,” Minako said, clapping her hands to mark the pace.
He leapt, each one a little larger.
“Good. If you can dance, you can skate. Just give it time.”