The Worlds are a shitshow from the moment they touch down in Helsinki. By the time they’ve got to the hotel, there have been three floods of tears (none of them involving Yuri), six screaming matches (three of them involving Yuri) and twelve threats of slow and painful death (all of them from Yuri—he’s disappointed in his team mates). Yakov’s snarling, Mila’s at her most obnoxious, Georgi’s emoting, Katsuki’s fled the rest of them and is probably lying down in a room somewhere with a paper bag over his head for all the fuck Yuri knows, and Victor’s gone over the far edge of manic (which is in theory better than the old Victor who took pre-competition lonely aloofness to an art form, but really fucking annoying when it’s happening less than two feet from your head). Lilia sees them as far as the hotel and then absents herself pointedly in search of tea and civilised surroundings.
Otabek shows up just as Victor decides to counsel Georgi with dating advice. Why the fuck Victor thinks he is any position to issue advice after the clusterfuck of the last eighteen months escapes Yuri, but it goes about as well as would be expected, which is to say the fourth flood of tears is imminent—hard fucking luck that they all ran out of tissues mid-flight.
“Otabek!” Mila squeals and Yuri jumps about six inches.
And there he is, standing just inside the door with a line between his eyes, looking straight at Yuri.
“Otabek!” Victor carols, throwing out his arms and starting to swoop in.
Well, Victor can just fuck off, because Otabek is his friend and Yuri is not sharing. He leaps ahead of Victor, grabs Otabek’s sleeve and tows him right out of the hotel. They’re halfway down the road before Yuri stops for breath.
“Hi,” says Otabek, looking like Otabek always does.
“Hi,” Yuri mutters, suddenly abashed, His conversations with Otabek for the last few months have all been online. They’re been in contact at least once a day, through Instagram, messages, a few Skype calls, but this is the first time he’s actually seen Otabek since the Grand Prix Final and he’s kind of taken aback by the very thereness of him.
“Come with me?” Otabek asks and okay, yeah, Yuri can do this. He can scramble onto the back of Otabek’s bike and hold on tight, and it’s better now, because he’s spent hours messaging back and forth about engine specs and winter driving conditions, so he understands why Otabek is driving differently here than he did in Barcelona.
And the further they get from the hotel, the more he relaxes, because this is Otabek, who manages to make quiet meaningful rather than boring, who sends Yuri playlists of music which he doesn’t think he’ll like until the beat gets into his blood, and who tweets once a month, if that, but always with something perfectly crafted, and who not only found the best music for Yuri to skate to but gave him the routine to go with it, handing over his own fucking exhibition piece with nothing more than a duck of his head and a quiet, pleased smile. This is Otabek, whose shoulders are broad and whose hands are steady as he directs them along long roads out of the bustle of the city centre.
He’s expecting Otabek to take them to some cafe where they can talk away from the irritations of other skaters. Instead, they end up at the zoo.
It’s on an island, and when they stop, Otabek turns to him and says, a little apologetically, “The ferry doesn’t run in winter, so we had to use the causeway.”
Yuri had been about to inform him that zoos are for little kids, but the words die in his throat. Instead, he scuffs his foot against the slushy snow at the edge of the car park and mutters, “I don’t mind.”
“They have a tiger,” Otabek tells him, as if he’s heard what Yuri’s not saying.
Yuri looks up, intrigued. “Really?”
In fact, this zoo has more than one tiger. Yuri plasters himself to the glass where the female tiger is sleeping and coos at her happily, before dragging Otabek round the side to watch the three babies play in the snow, like the biggest, meanest, most adorable kittens in the entire world. And then there’s the snow leopard cubs and the lions and the lynx who stares at Yuri with a sneer he immediately tries to copy, and the whole thing is basically the most awesome zoo in the history of forever. Yuri takes many, many pictures, babbles at Otabek about the extreme awesomeness of every animal, and even manages to harangue Otabek into a joint selfie in front of the peacock ( yuri-plisetsky: Photobombed by @v-nikiforov , again @otabek-altin ). It’s the best afternoon and Otabek is the best best friend ever.
The only thing that puts a shadow on it is the inevitable appearance of the real Victor and his keeper.
“It wasn’t a fucking invitation,” Yuri mutters at them.
Victor descends on them. “But Yurio, we were worried for you. No one knew where you’d gone!”
Katsuki clears his throat and adds apologetically, “Yakov did say you had to start taking a responsible adult with you when you ran off.”
“And you brought him? ” Yuri demands as Victor spies the monkeys and goes wide-eyed, probably in delight at finally discovering his intellectual equals.
Otabek says, low and a little unhappy, “I’m an adult.”
Victor gives him the kind of smile which always makes Yuri want to smack him, and says, “Well, yes, but you’re also the one who keeps kidnapping him.”
“Oh,” says Otabek and the line between his brows deepens.
Yuri glares at the idiots, because they are not allowed to come and ruin his afternoon and make Otabek sad, because no one gets to do that, not on his watch.
“Sorry,” Katsuki says, looking anxious. “Um, we’ll just be in the cafe. Don’t leave without us.”
“Yuuuuuuuuri! Look at the little goats!”
“Or maybe not,” Katsuki says and he’s clearly about three breaths away from wringing his hands. “Um.”
Yuri relents. “We’ll find you. Once you’re done with the stupid goats, go and look at the tigers, piggy. They’re awesome and you can feed Victor to them and no one will ever know!”
“I think Yakov might be a little upset with me,” Katsuki says, very seriously.
“Yuuri,” Victor says, wrapping himself around Katsuki’s neck. On second thoughts, he is clearly not a monkey. He’s a fucking sloth. “You would save me from being eaten from tigers, wouldn’t you?”
“Well, yes,” Katsuki says earnestly, because he clearly has no willpower whatsoever.
“Aaargh!” Yuri says.
Otabek clears his throat and suggests, not looking at any of them, “Wild boar?”
So they leave Victor to commune with the mountain goats and go to see the wild boar. They remind Yuri of Yakov, all bristly and bad-tempered.
“Perhaps they wouldn’t look so cross if you didn’t keep calling them ‘sausages,’” Otabek says. He’s smiling at Yuri, though, that quiet little smile which lets Yuri know he has a friend.
Yuri has a friend.
Shrugging into his scarf to hide the way that thought always makes him grin, he says, “It’s not like they speak Russian.”
“How do you know that?” Otabek asks, and lets Yuri expostulate at him for the next ten minutes.
A few hours and many photos later, they make it back to their hotel, where Otabek apologises to Yakov even as Yuri tries to shout over the top of him. By the time they get back, Georgi and Mila have both calmed down, and Mila has also liked a few of his photos. They all end up in the hotel bar with Phichit and some squeaky little Japanese skater who seems to worship the ground Katsuki walks on (it takes all sorts to make up a world, people keep telling Yuri, but why does he have to keep meeting the really weird sorts?).
It’s all a pretty good start to the competition until the next day, when fucking JJ decides to take the piss out of them. He starts off with comments about being stuck babysitting, but Victor is busy alternating between dancing up and down the hallway and hugging the nerves out of his fiance. So JJ switches his attention to Yuri, who honestly tries to ignore him, but JJ is such a shithead, and Yuri’s going to skate across his fucking jugular if he doesn’t shut the fuck up.
“So, Otabek,” JJ goes, because he can’t leave anyone alone if he knows they’re better than him, which basically means everyone else in the final group, “it was good of you to take little Yuri to the zoo for the day. Did you have to buy him ice cream too?”
Otabek gives him a blank, flat look and says, “Ice cream is not on our diet plan. We’ll have some later.”
“Later?” JJ asks.
Otabek shrugs slightly. “After we beat you.”
It’s subtle enough that it could just be a translation issue, but Yuri knows better by now, especially when Otabek then tilts his head and says, “Yakov’s here. Davai , Yuri.”
Lilia tells him later that he deserved to have marks deducted for the manic grin fixed on his face all the way through his short program. Yuri doesn’t care, because he’s just discovered that Otabek Altin knows how to fucking trash talk .
And that’s almost as cool as the baby snow leopards.