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Phichit spends the summer he turns seventeen committing the heat and the sun and the humidity to memory. He imagines feeling as cold as he does in the blasting air conditioner of the mall all the time, and then he says, “hey, guys, let’s go to the beach?” and they all groan.

“Hey, there isn’t a beach where Blades is going,” Nam says. “He’s gotta get some sun while he can!”

He decides she’s his favorite cousin. “Wow, what surprising sensitivity,” he says, as everyone starts rolling their eyes and throwing away their plastic mall food containers and taking off their sweaters in anticipation of the muggy stranglehold of the outdoors.

“Surprising? You little punk,” Nam says, slinging her arm around Phichit’s neck and poking him in the stomach, and nevermind.

“You’re the worst, actually,” he says, as Nam shoots the others a significant look before wheeling him away from the food court.

“Yeah, yeah,” Nam says, snatching his half-full cup of iced coffee off the linoleum table and handing it to him.

“Okay, you’re great,” he says, and then they all go the beach and throw sand at each other so Phichit’s hair itches for, like, a whole week.

 

Phichit guesses he does owe Celestino a favor. He’d gotten his number from Thita, who was from Nothaburi and ran a really great figure skating memes twitter account and ended up taking silver in ladies’ singles, at last season’s Nationals, where Phichit had taken gold. A few months later Phichit had called Celestino up cold in a fit of restless realization that he was set to stagnate, which looking back probably came across as super bold, but it hadn’t seemed to bother Celestino.

So when Celestino calls him up one day and says, “So, is there any chance you’d be interested in rooming with a fellow figure skater?” Phichit says “yeah, yeah, sure!” right away.

Celestino’s quiet for a minute, and Phichit wonders if maybe he agreed too quick, but he knows it already must be obvious to Celestino that he’s a little on the desperate side, so it must be something else.

“One of my other skaters, he was having some roommate problems,” Celestino says. “It’s not his fault, he’s a nice kid, he really is, but he’s had bad luck with roommates. The last one was one of those football players.”

He says “football player” like it’s supposed to mean something to Phichit. Phichit dated a football player, he was nice.

“American football,” Celestino clarifies.

“Oh-h,” Phichit says, as he completely revises his mental image. He’s watched enough American high school movies to get it now. “No, yeah, I’d be happy to!”

“He has a car, too. Could get you to and from the rink,” Celestino says.

It’s already hard enough to understand Celestino sometimes between the unfamiliar sound of spoken English and the Italian accent and Phichit’s frankly garbage mobile reception, but Phichit’s standing on the corner outside the 7-11, and then someone pulls in on a motorbike, and Phichit definitely doesn't catch what Celestino says after that.

It sounds, though, something like, “You’ll be good for him, anyway, I think.”

 

His mom throws a big going-away party for all the family the week before he’s due to leave. It’s sort of just an excuse to have a party, and doesn’t really feel much different than any other weekend, when it comes down to it: Phichit’s family is sprawling and constantly on top of each other, everyone all up in everyone else’s business. His cousins make such a big group of friends that the classmates and rinkmates that get mixed up in them invariably get lost in the shuffle and become Chulanont cousins in spirit.

The only difference between his going away party and every other weekend, Phichit thinks, is that this weekend he gets to chose the menu (fried pork and basil, which his mom never makes ordinarily because his father hates pork, Phichit is living in luxury ). After dinner, Phichit begs his mom until she releases him from the attentions of his aunts, who all want to know every single detail of Phichit’s plans for next year and want to remind him to eat good and study hard and keep his room clean, I’ve heard how college students get in their dorms.

“Mom, please, I’ll clean the dishes for a week,” Phichit hisses in his mom’s ear, trying to avoid drawing his aunts’ suspicion by making it look like a hug from a son who will miss his mother very much.

“Sure you will,” his mom says, fondly fake-stern. “You’re going to tell me you have to pack, and say goodbye to all your friends, and the week will roll around and you’ll have done the dishes maybe once.”

“You got me there,” Phichit says.

She pats him on the back, says, “Go get your cousins and go somewhere fun. Do you need spending money?”

Mission accomplished! Phichit smacks a kiss on her cheek. “Thanks, Mom! I’m good!” he calls as he makes his escape.

The cousins all shout when he tells them that they’re good to go, clamber up and start putting their shoes on and going to the kitchen for one last serving of mango sticky rice and asking if their hair looks good. Tukta yells above the noise, “Blades! Come here and let me do your eyeliner!”

Phichit does as she says, because if he doesn’t it will mean certain death but also because Tukta always makes him look super hot.

They end up at a nightclub and they dance themselves sore and sing themselves hoarse and Phichit wakes up the next morning with a hangover and about a million drunktexts from Nam crying about how some girl danced with her and then disappeared without giving Nam her number.

All in all, it was perfect. He tries to focus on that instead of how much he’s going to miss it, because he is, by nature, a cheerful person. His nickname had been Sun when he was little, before he started skating in earnest.

He drinks about three glasses of water and goes back to sleep, and when he wakes up and looks at all the pictures his cousins have been posting on instagram his resolve breaks down and he has a good cry. He gets up after and washes his face and brushes his teeth and feels semi-human again, staring out of his bathroom window, which sun comes through in patches, blocked by the palm tree that’s being steadily growing up towards the second story since Phichit was little. He takes a picture of it, but it doesn’t look the same on the screen of his phone as it does right now, hungover with his feet sticking, sweaty, to the bathroom tiles.

 

Phichit isn’t sure who he expected. Despite what Celestino had said about the roommate problems not really being his skater’s fault, Phichit had thought that maybe that wasn’t entirely true. He’d pictured someone dismissive, or condescending, maybe. Overly-competitive or cocky or subtly mean. He knew the type: even if most of the skaters he met at his rink and at National competitions were super friendly, he’d met a few that were a little hard to stomach. Some of the international skaters looked a lot hard to stomach, or at least far from the sort of people who were easy to live with. Nikiforov, for instance. In Phichit’s opinion, he seemed like a bit of an airhead, if friendly. Not that he'd ever met Nikiforov.

He definitely had not expected Yuuri Katsuki. Celestino says Yuuri will be coming along to pick him up at the airport, and even though Phichit hasn't been able to find Yuuri on any social media, he knows him when he sees him. Yuuri Katsuki looks small next to Celestino and the bustle of the baggage claim. Perfect posture under a baggy blue hoodie and track pants with ragged hems, wide eyes behind the thick lens of his glasses. The lens are smudged, like Yuuri doesn’t clean them often, and his hair sticks up a little in the back.

His eyes get even wider when he sees Phichit, which Phichit wouldn’t have thought possible.

“Ciao, ciao, Phichit!” Celestino says, and then, “Phichit Chulanont, Yuuri Katsuki; Yuuri Katsuki, Phichit Chulanont!” Celestino sweeps one hand at the space between Yuuri and Phichit and pumps Phichit’s hand up and down enthusiastically with the other.

“Nice to meet you!” Phichit says, waves at Yuuri. Yuuri twists his hands on his pockets, nods quick and tense in the shoulders at Phichit. If Phichit didn’t catch the dart of Yuuri’s eyes and the small smile in the corner of Yuuri’s mouth, Phichit would think Yuuri hated him.

He falls into step besides Yuuri as Celestino leads them out to the parking lot. Celestino asks Phichit about his flight, and getting through Customs, and Phichit tries to follow along (the Italian accent is a little less difficult to parse in person) and string answers together (he's sure his accent is awful) while taking in everything around him. All dull concrete compared to Suvarnabhumi, he thinks, but maybe it’s not the concrete that’s dull: parking lots are concrete the world over. It’s still warm, the mid-August air muggy and the sky overcast like a summer storm is preparing to sweep over.

Maybe it’s just that it’s not home, Phichit thinks. “So does he always say ‘ciao, ciao,’ as soon as he sees you or picks up the phone?” he hisses at Yuuri, cheerful but conspiratorial.

Yuuri smiles at the ground, lets out a short sharp “ha!” of a laugh. “I never noticed,” he says, and his voice is soft and thin, like he’s not used to talking loud. His English is comfortable, still accented but easy to understand. “But he actually does?”

The silence between them is more sits easier now. The parking lot has the air of a place that’s always busy and rather worn out by it. Phichit feels worn out too, scanning for Celestino’s car even though he has no idea what it looks like.

“There it is,” Celestino says. The taillights flash as he unlocks it, and the trunk pops open.

“Here, put your suitcase back there, let me clear out the backseat quick,” Celestino says.

Yuuri hovers between the passenger side door and the backseat door.

“I’ll sit in the back,” Phichit says, and Yuuri slides into the passenger side seat with relief in his shoulders. There’s a pair of hockey skates underfoot and a stack of folders with papers peeking out, the edges smushed square to the shape of the cardboard like they've been kicking around the back of Celestino’s car for a while.

It takes a little more than half of Madonna’s Like a Virgin, which Celestino apparently owns in actual CD form, to reach campus. They're all quiet. From the backseat, Phichit can see Yuuri staring out the window at the brush and dry dirt and plastic piled up on the side of the highway. There’s not much to see, but some of the houses alongside the highway are painted bright colors, the paint all chipped, and it makes Phichit feel a little less homesick.

 

Yuuri looks like he's already mostly settled in the dorm room: bedspread on the bed, laptop on his desk, stack of textbooks next to the laptop, pictures on the dresser of a small gold dog and people who are probably parents and an older sister.

Also lots of posters of Viktor Nikiforov.

“Nikiforov, huh?” Phichit says. “I'm more of a Giacometti guy, myself. But Nikiforov’s pretty hot, too.”

Yuuri gets a little red around the ears. Phichit quickly decides to drop the joke he'd been shaping up, something about how he hopes they get as close as their favorites are. He feels like Yuuri wouldn't take it the way his friends back home would.

“It's not like that!” Yuuri says. “Well, not just like that. I just. Really admire his skating, and if it wasn't for him, I don't think...” he trails off, clams up.

Phichit hikes his suitcase up on his bed, unzips it and pulls out his DVD of The King and the Skater, carefully wrapped up in a t-shirt. “This movie,” he says, tossing the t-shirt on the bare mattress. “If it wasn't for this movie, I wouldn't be here right now.”

Yuuri sits on the edge of his bed, looks at Phichit like he's about 75 percent less of a stranger now. “I haven't seen that movie in a while, but I used to have it on VCR when I was little. My older sister gave it to me. I guess we must've gotten rid of it when the VCR broke and we switched to DVD.”

“Yuuri,” Phichit says. “My one flaw, as a roommate, will be that I watch this movie at least once weekly. If not twice.”

Yuuri presses the palms of his hands against the bed, rocking himself slightly back and forth. He looks at the floor when he talks, but he doesn't sound worried, exactly. “That doesn't bother me at all.”

“Hey, maybe you could watch with me sometime!” Phichit says.

Yuuri presses a hand to his chest so quick it's like it takes him a minute to realize his hand had moved, glancing at the place on the bed where it had been. It like he's saying, me?, so Phichit nods, even if Yuuri’s eyes are still fixed to the ugly purple carpeting. Yuuri sets his hand back down onto the mattress, says, “that would be great.”

“Cool!” Phichit says, carefully sliding the DVD case back into his suitcase. “Hey, Yuuri.”

“Yes?” Yuuri says. He looks up at Phichit, and Phichit would say he looks wide-eyed but Phichit thinks maybe his eye are just wide like that all the time. It's super cute.

“If I do anything to bother you as a roommate, tell me, yeah? I had to share a room with my two brothers for like, forever. We always figured things out, if things happened.”

“I...I will,” Yuuri says. “Thanks, Phichit.”

 

Phichit finds out that night that Yuuri has the kind of anxious restless insomnia that makes him toss and turn in bed for hours. The only reason Phichit knows this is because he hasn't been able to fall asleep, either. He would pick up his phone and text someone back home, where it's early morning and everyone is starting their day, but it seems rude, somehow, to acknowledge that he is awake without acknowledging that Yuuri is also awake.

Celestino had offered to give Phichit a few days to settle in. Phichit hadn’t taken him up on that. Skating was familiar, at least, the feeling of the ice under the blades of his skates.

“Sounds great,” Celestino had said.

Phichit kind of regrets his decisions the next morning. Which decisions? All of them. He drags himself to the bathroom while Yuuri's still sprawled under his comforter with his face jammed into the pillow.

The bathroom’s a windowless boxy sort of deal and the lighting couldn't flatter a supermodel, and while he generally thinks of himself as having supermodel-esque qualities, right now he has his doubts. Phichit prods his poor cheekbones: he thought they were nicer than this.

He takes a selfie in the mirror. It comes out sallow and awful, but he sends it to his friends and his cousins and his mom anyways. It's early morning here, and so they must be washing dishes, or getting dressed up to go out, or finishing homework. He leans the side of his face against the bathroom wall, the paint glossy-finished and cold against his cheek, and reminds himself that once he gets on the ice, it'll all be worth it.

 

He's right.

 

Phichit gets back from practice fizzy with giddiness but also fuzzy with exhaustion. Yuuri immediately locks himself in the bathroom, and Phichit’s only been sunk deep in his bed for a couple minutes before he hears the hiccuping sound of someone crying hard.

He isn’t going to embarrass Yuuri by asking what’s wrong; he’ll leave him to it. But he hauls himself up out of bed and gets Yuuri’s half-full water bottle from Yuuri’s dresser, where Yuuri had put it down when they’d gotten back, and roots around in his backpack for the box of protein bars Celestino had gotten for him. He leaves the water bottle and one of the protein bars right outside the door, and takes one of the bars for himself. He shoves the box under the bed, and he can hear the sound of the cardboard top popping open and the bars spilling on the floor.  

“Same,” he mumbles, and flops back on top of his comforter.

“Hey,” Yuuri says that night as they both lie awake, sleep schedules totally fucked because of the afternoon nap and, in Phichit’s case, the jet-lag. “Thanks. Uh, for the water.”

“No problem,” Phichit says.

“And the protein bar.”

“I can’t believe Celestino saved our lives like that,” Phichit says.

Yuuri laughs. His laugh is louder in the dark, bolder.

“Want to go to the Wal-Mart with me and stock up on food, maybe this weekend?” Yuuri says.

“Wal-Mart,” Phichit says. “My first ever Wal-Mart.”

“It’s not as scary as it seems at first,” Yuuri says.

“So you’re saying it’s scary at first?” Phichit says. “Yuuri!”

“The first time I went there, I got lost,” Yuuri says. “Where I'm from, Hatsetsu, it's just small, you know? I wasn't used to it.”

“Well,” Phichit says. “My family lives close to Bankok, but I don’t think I could really call myself a city guy, either.”

“A Wal-Mart is like a city,” Yuuri says.

Phichit laughs. “Sounds fun,” he says.

 

The Wal-Mart is just like the Big C in Bankok, which Phichit has gone to a couple times for the novelty of it while roaming around the city with friends.

Except for.

“It’s open all night? ” Phichit says. “So we could just live here?”

“I wouldn’t,” Yuuri says. His hands are shoved in his pockets again, his shoulders hunched so his ears almost disappear into the hood of his sweatshirt. Phichit hadn’t noticed how relaxed Yuuri looks on ice and in the dance studio until he sees him so tense again. “Sorry,” Yuuri mumbles. “I just. Get anxious about things easily.”

Phichit doesn’t say, I know, because that would be embarrassing for Yuuri. Being anxious doesn’t sound like the type of thing people like to be obvious about. They’d rather see themselves as calm and collected. “I don’t mind,” Phichit says. He wishes he could squeeze Yuuri’s hand, or throw his arms around Yuuri and hug him, the way he would do with any of his friends back home. “I don’t ,” he says, again, when Yuuri just tucks his chin closer to his chest. “Now you have to stop me from buying millions of American chips and desserts and things. You’re the only one who can, please, for Celestino, for the workouts I would have to do, stop me!” Phichit says, and Yuuri cracks a smile down towards his tennis shoes and the Wal-mart linoleum that reflects the high UV lights in blocky pale squares.

“Okay,” he says, and Phichit hooks an arm through Yuuri’s, the crooks of their elbows linked, and drags him towards the cereal aisle.

 

Yuuri talks the easiest at night. They lie awake, and Yuuri tells Phichit about his mom and his dad and his sister and his dog, about the town he grew up in and the inn his parents run and the hot springs and his home rink.

He listens, too, while Phichit tells Yuuri about all his cousins and aunts and uncles, about his mom and his dad and his sisters and his brothers, about his rink and the city and the beaches and the mall, roaming the mental map he goes over sometimes of all the places that are as firmly his as his own arms and legs.

He misses it, especially when fall rolls in fully, all overcast and drizzly-cold and damp. He gets back from class and climbs in bed next to Yuuri, who likes to sit and write papers or do homework assignments in his bed with his laptop propped up against his thighs and a blanket over him, shoves his cold hands under Yuuri’s pillow. Yuuri will squeak and protest and his cheeks will get red, but he never pushes Phichit away.

Phichit will cling to Yuuri like an leech, listening to the click-click of Yuuri typing, until the chill gets out from under his skin.

“You always feel very warm,” Phichit says.

“So do you,” Yuuri says, without bothering to look away from his computer screen.

“Doesn’t feel like it, Yuuri!” Phichit says. It’s a good excuse to cuddle though. Phichit misses cuddling: he’s used to squishing on a couch with cousins to watch movies and playing with his friends’ hair and climbing on people’s backs and making them carry him places.

“Celestino!” Phichit calls when he exits the rink to find a layer of snow on the ground high enough to cover his ankles. “Celestino, help me!”

His high-tops will be no match against this snow, as he’s discovered the hard way, and he hasn’t bought a pair of winter boots yet, mostly sharing a pair with Yuuri since they have classes as different times. He steps back into the warmth of the hallway, safe behind the glass door that looks like it should be pushed but really needs pulled. The snow looks like dust in the yellow streetlight beams. It is kind of pretty, Phichit thinks grudgingly, and then it’s driven sideways by a sharp wind and Phichit is overcome with a shiver at the visceral memory formed by many brutal walks to class, of the way that kind of wind feels.

“When in the Midwest, do as the Midwesterners do,” Celestino says, digging his keys out of his pockets.

“What’s that supposed to mean, Celestino?” Phichit says.

“Buy a pair of boots, Chulanont,” says David, who is from Ohio and is the type of stolid straight guy who insists that his costumes have less crystals and showed up to practice one day sporting a bruised cheekbone because of an ill-conceived drunken conversation that morphed into an ill-conceived drunken fight about the merits of the Ohio State Buckeyes. Apparently Michigan and Ohio State have a kind of Muangthong United and Buriram United type of thing going on. Phichit hadn’t gotten that one, either, no matter how many times that one football (soccer, here) player he dated had tried to explain it to him. The whole thing sounds incredibly stupid, but Phichit’s always been a make-friends-with-the-competition type of guy.

“I’m sorry, Phichit,” Yuuri says, as Celestino heads out into the cold and David follows with show-offy nonchalance.

“Ah, it’s fine,” Phichit says, pulling his gloves out of his pocket.

“No, really,” Yuuri says.

Stepping out into the cold still feels like hitting a brick wall. Phichit grimaces, and snow spills into his socks.

“Here,” Yuuri says, and scoops him up.

“Whoa!” Phichit says. He only flails for a second before getting a firm grip on Yuuri’s arms. He’s used to being unexpectedly swept up, as someone with a lot of older cousins. He’s actually kind of an expert.

Yuuri is strong and warm even through several layers of down, although the nylon outside of his coat is cold against the side of Phichit’s face.

“Hey, thanks!” Phichit says. The hems of his pants have ridden up and he can feel the cold against his ankles, but his feet remain wonderfully dry.

“No problem,” Yuuri mumbles. Phichit has an up-close-and-personal view of snowflakes catching on Yuuri’s eyelashes behind his glasses. It’s excellent.

“Hurry up, you two!” Celestino calls, the golden glow of his car lights appearing as he opens the driver’s side door: a beacon reminding them that they will get to sit in a small metal box being rapidly filled with extremely hot dry air for the next fifteen minutes at least.

“Cute,” David says from the passenger side, as Yuuri slides Phichit into the backseat and then slides in next to him. Yuuri blushes in response, and Phichit wraps his arms around Yuuri and holds on to him for the rest of the ride to Applebee’s.

Applebee’s, or Ruby Tuesdays, or T.G.I. Friday’s, or Chili’s, or on one unfortunate (fortunate?) occasion Dennys, is a weekly ritual composed of Celestino, chain restaurants, and whoever was hanging around the rink. Yuuri and Phichit are always hanging around the rink. “Friday night family night dinners,” Phichit calls them.

“Friday night days Celestino doesn't have to cook,” Yuuri had replied, because he was sharp like that sometimes.

Applebee's is a cradle of warmth and the most bland and inoffensive songs on the American top forty charts. Yuuri and Phichit sit sandwiched in a booth, and during the first month Yuuri had carefully made sure there was space between him and Phichit, and now they're squeezed together.

Phichit keeps pointing out increasingly disgusting drinks that Celestino should buy for him, and David keeps saying “plausible deniability, dude?” whatever that means, and while Celestino is waiting for their checks Phichit makes Yuuri go to the bathroom with him (David waits at the booth because apparently “only girls go to the bathroom in groups,”) and takes about a million selfies of the two of them.

“What if someone comes in, Phichit?” Yuuri says.

“Dude,” Phichit says, “do guys not take selfies in the Applebee’s bathroom?” and then he launches into his best David imitation that has Yuuri bent double laughing.

“Wait,” Yuuri says. Phichit freezes. Yuuri stifles a laugh behind his hand, spreads his arms out wide and puffs himself up.

“Oh my go-od,” Phichit says.

“Yuuri!” Yuuri says, all boomy and deep. “Ciao, ciao! Now hurry up and stretch, and I hope you’ve practiced that sit-spin!”

“Oh my god, it's perfect, Yuuri, you’ve captured his, his,” and Phichit doesn't know the word in English, but he thinks that Yuuri gets it anyways, covering his grin with his hands but the scrunch of his eyes pleased and conspiratorial.

He texts one of the Applebee’s Bathroom Selfies to Nam that night when they get back to the dorm, who tells him to stop flaunting your boyfriend at this poor single lady!!!

STOP NO IT’S NOT LIKE THAT NAM!!!

he texts back, because it's definitely not.

 

Yuuri is the best skater at the rink. Phichit’s not even biased because it’s Yuuri. Phichit gets stuck watching him sometimes, tracking Yuuri’s way around the rink, when he'd really just intended to get a gulp of water. Phichit has witnessed this happen to literally everyone else at the rink, too: when Yuuri skates, there's something compelling and eyecatching and magnetic about him.

He’s leaning against the boards, in the corner by the bleachers where it's sort of shadowy because he knows that Yuuri gets nervous when people watch him practice. Phichit’s not necessarily people on that way to Yuuri, anymore, but Katy and Meg, who are leaning on the boards on either side of Phichit, definitely are.

Katy is from Belleville, or at least in that general area. “Realistically,” she says, “it’s the middle of nowhere,” the kind of place where a grocery store (Meijers) is half an hour away, and it’s almost forty-five minutes to the nearest mall. This sounds hellish to Phichit, but she talks about it like she misses it: her parents have land, and her sister has a pigs and her brother has chickens and she has a goat . Phichit’s feelings about goats range from “ambient” to “vaguely negative” because their eyes are kind of scary, but Katy talks about the goat with great enthusiasm, and Phichit likes to hear people talk about things they have great enthusiasm for.

Katy’s older than he is, and she’s been in senior’s for a few years where Phichit’s just about to make his debut, but she’s laid-back, and they share that middle-child vibe easily between them.

Meg, on the other hand, is a total only child. It doesn’t bother Phichit or Katy much, but Phichit has a feeling that Yuuri isn’t fond of her, although he is of course unfailingly and unflinchingly polite to her, as he is to everyone. Phichit’s realized, though, coincidentally, that Yuuri can throw some very sharp and very subtle jibes if so inspired. Meg’s from Indiana, and when she’d first met Phichit she’d recommended Duolingo, saying it had “really helped me learn French!”

He knows she hadn’t meant anything by it, that she was just friendly. She is friendly, after all: she buys Phichit and Yuuri smoothies sometimes, and she even lets them use her Netflix password.

She’s definitely...pushy, though. And pushier with Yuuri. Phichit gets it.

 

Sometimes Meg tries to give Yuuri advice when they’re all practicing during freestyle sessions.

“I try to like, lowkey suggest that she not,” Phichit tells Katy, “but the hints stay untaken.” It makes Yuuri press his lips together and pull his shoulders back tight and blow annoyed little breaths out of his nose. He takes criticism and correction from Celestino with serious nods, but with Meg? Yuuri has a lot of anxiety, and quite a lot of pride, too. It doesn't combine well with unsolicited advice.

Yuuri’s working on his triple axels, today, which he’d had, easy and natural, until competition season had approached. Now, they’re a little shaky, and Yuuri’s eyebrows are always furrowed as he launches into them.

“That was a little underrotated, Yuuri,” Meg calls, and Phichit can see Yuuri clench his jaw from almost halfway across the rink.

“Oh, shit,” Katy says.

Yuuri enters the jump facing backwards, and,

Holy shit,” Katy says.
Yuuri stumbles out of the quad Sal—a quad Sal, Yuuri’s never done a quad Sal before, Phichit hears a shocked little sound coming out of his own mouth, and if anything Yuuri overrotates it, landing flat but scrambling to his feet quick, and Katy is whooping.

Yuuri skates away with his face flushing red, his chin tilted towards the sky, his jaw set.

Katy’s grinning, shaking her head. “Damn,” she says. “That boy’s got it.”

Phichit has to agree.

Meg looks guilty for a second, ducking her head nervously before skating off. They all scatter, then, because they’re paying good money for the ice time, but Phichit keeps sneaking glances at Yuuri out of the corner of his eye. He gets stiff as the bruise starts to solidify, but he’s still graceful and lovely and triumphant, and triumphant is a look Phichit rarely sees on him.

It suits him, Phichit thinks. He hopes Meg’s gotten the hint.

“Yuuri!” Phichit says when the two of them pile into the car to drive back to campus. “A quad Sal?”

“It was stupid,” Yuuri says, shortly, fixing his eyes on the road.

“It was cool .” Phichit says.

Yuuri shrugs, unconvinced. “If you're going to show off, you should at least be good.” He turns on the radio, then, and fiddles with the station and the volume.

He’s clearly signaling that the conversation is over, but Phichit has a nose for stories and a determination to figure things out.

“Have you and Meg had an argument before?” Phichit asks Yuuri when they get back to the dorm. Yuuri is sitting cross-legged on his bed trying to mix up a protein shake.

He blinks at Phichit, and then says, “No, of course not,” like he didn't just give her the Yuuri Katsuki equivalent of the middle finger.

Phichit’s learned with Yuuri that if he just sits back and stays quiet, Yuuri might talk, and so he waits.

“She just reminds me of someone else, I guess,” Yuuri says, eyes down like he’s looking at the clumps of protein powder floating around in his thermos. “I don't like it when people are all. Pushy like that, I guess. We just don't get along.” He’s quiet, then and Phichit waits some more, but Yuuri just shrugs. “Do you want some, Phichit?” He says.

“Yeah,” Phichit says. “That would be great.” They leave it at that.

 

Phichit’s Bio 1010 lab group consists of himself, a blond girl with a pierced nose who is going into nursing, a person with a pierced everything who is going into biomedical engineering, and a bro type of guy who’s undeclared and here on a hockey scholarship.

They’re sitting around talking while they’re waiting for their gel electrophoresis to finish running.

“You’re a figure skater?” The bro, whose name is Jared, says.

“Yeah,” Phichit says.

“Wait. You aren’t Japanese?” Jared says.

“Uh. No?” Phichit says.

“Oh. Sorry. I just wasn’t sure. Do you, uh. Know any Japanese guys who figure skate?”
Phichit looks imploringly at the person with the pierced everything, whose name is, coincidentally, Piece. They are investigating the gel box and the voltage source thing and apparently have not noticed Phichit’s plight. “My roommate? Yuuri Katsuki? Maybe?”

“Bro,” Jared says. “That guy.”

“He’s great,” Phichit says, defensively. “He’s my best friend.”

“Dude,” Jared says, lighting up, eyes wide. Phichit’s so confused. “Really? Okay, this is going to sound crazy, but could you like, pass my number along to him?”

Pierce is still “investigating” the voltage box. They have definitely noticed Phichit’s plight. The blond girl, whose name is Ally, is texting furiously. Phichit can't say he blames them, because he would be doing the same thing in their situation. There is a reason why his older cousins used to call him Ears. But also: he can't believe they've abandoned him like this, after so many weeks of looking in microscopes.

“Uh,” Phichit says.

“Okay, so we made out at a party, and he was dancing, and like, Jesus,” Jared says. Phichit thinks maybe he knows why Yuuri has politely bowed out every time Phichit’s tried to make him go to a party. Jared's nice but really not Yuuri's type (and Phichit knows Yuuri's type). Yuuri had commented that he went off the rails when he drank. Phichit's pretty sure that by "dancing" Jared doesn't mean "ballet." 

“I. He doesn’t have a phone?” Phichit squeaks. 

Jared looks down at his lab manuel.

“Okay,” Phichit says. “I mean, like, he does, but like. He never. He’s really busy, you know?”

“Yeah,” Jared sighs. “I know. I just thought maybe, you know.”

“I get it,” Phichit says. “He is pretty great.”

“Yeah,” Jared sighs again.

 

Christmas isn’t particularly difficult. Phichit’s family never did anything for Christmas, really. He still texts them lots of pictures of himself (and Yuuri) wearing santa hats. Celestino invites them over to his place, because he and his partner have Christmas dinner for wayward lonely skaters every year, and overall Phichit feels well-rested from lack of assignments, and fueled by the constant blare of Mariah Carey at the rink.

They hitch a ride with Solar, who is yet another wayward lonely skater but who is a wayward lonely skater with a car.

A very nice one, too: her parents both work in Silicon Valley and so they are presumably getting money! He keeps trying to get Solar to get her parents to personally thank Steve Jobs’ ghost for the new iPhone camera, but so far she says she hasn’t had any luck with that.

It’s weird that she’s not going home for Christmas, since it’s not like her family can’t afford tickets, just like how it’s weird that she ended up at Wayne State in the first place (“my mom went here, and she hated it, and both my parents wanted me to go to an Ivy and quit skating, so I came here,” was how she explained it), but Phichit just accepts it. Americans are weird. People are weird everywhere, but this is a specifically American weirdness, he thinks.

Solar is fun to be around though, and sings along to Christmas songs with him, Yuuri bopping back and forth silently in the backseat.

Phichit has never met Celestino’s partner. He has seen some pictures, of course, but they hadn’t prepared him for the man, in the flesh.

“You didn’t tell me he was tall,” Phichit hisses at Yuuri as they toe off their slush-soled boots, after Paul whisks their coats away and Celestino retreats, presumably to the kitchen and they’re alone with the tinsel and the wreaths in Celestino’s front hallway.

“I mean,” Yuuri says, lining his boots up carefully.

“He’s like the only person in the world taller than Celestino,” Phichit says, and Yuuri takes his elbow and steers him in the living room.

By the end of the night, Celestino is slightly wine-drunk and telling stories about his figure skating days, which are like rare and priceless gems of embarrassment. It almost erases the pain of being banished to a folding table with the other college skaters: himself and Yuuri and Solar and Brittany, who’s from Tennessee and couldn’t pay for a ticket home, and Jagoda, who is from Poland. She insists that everyone call her Jaga. It’s silly, maybe, but it reminds him of something someone from home would do, and it makes him like her immediately.

“So why are you training here?” Phichit says. They haven’t really talked much, mostly just because their training schedules don’t overlap. “You could’ve gone to Russia. They win so much, you know?”

Jaga shrugs. “Yeah, but then I’d be up against Babicheva, and not only would I be no match against her, I would also probably stare at her and accidently tell her that I wouldn’t mind if she kissed me, like, on the mouth.”

Phichit gets a selfie with her and texts it to Nam with the caption, hey ive met my new favorite lesbian!!

Brittany sits back down, plate heaping, again, because Celestino’s gone all out with the food, just as Phichit is clearing the caption with Jaga (she approves).

“Wait, you’re gay?” she says. “I’m bi!”

“Really?” Jaga says.

HEY ive found a new fave cousin! Nam texts back, along with a picture of her slinging an arm around Tukta’s neck. Tukta is a blur, presumably because she is scolding Nam for startling her. she is cute though whats her naaaame????

Brittany and Jaga are swapping significant shy looks over Celestino’s pasta. Uhh sorry im pretty sure you missed your shot Phichit replies.

“What did you do?” Yuuri hisses at Phichit over the massive pile of various roasted meats sitting on a platter on Celestino’s counter. “They’re both on the couch under the same blanket and it’s making me feel like I’m intruding on something?”

“Sometimes,” Phichit says, piling his plate with bread, “they just need a little nudge, you know?”

 

Summer is difficult.

He's gotten into the swing of classes, the days get longer and sunnier, English coming easier and easier. He and one of the guys in his Intro to Sociology class have a Look they give each other that means “let's go and make out on a secluded corner of campus after this.” It's pretty great, it’s definitely okay, and then everyone in his classes starts talking about what they’re going to do after finals, when they get back home: they’re going to see their dogs and their cats and their snakes, and their mothers or fathers are going to make them food, and they will see long distance boyfriends and girlfriends. Phichit is not going to get to do any of this, and it stings a little more every time, like picking the scab off a cut until the cut gets bigger than it originally was.

The rink feels more comforting than ever, because most of the skaters will be staying and training through the summer, and so no one talks about home.

They talk about the season, instead, and their programs, and Phichit feels a warm and expansive kinship with all of them. When Celestino tells him that he’ll start working on his triple axel over the summer, Phichit thinks that he would sleep in the steel guts underneath the bleachers for this, even as homesickness seems to bake into him in the increasing heat of the summer.

The dorms are quiet and still after finals. He’s glad that Yuuri is with him.

“This is the first time I’ve had a roommate who stayed for the summer,” Yuuri says.

“You’re glad I stayed for the summer,” Phichit says, climbing onto Yuuri’s bed.

Yuuri ducks his head, his eyes getting smiley behind his glasses. “I am,” he says.

It’s not like they spend much time in the dorm, anyways: Celestino ups their rink time to twice a day, now, and so they leave early in the morning for the rink and then when they're done there's no point in driving the half-hour back to campus just to turn around and leave again, so they sit in the rec room with whoever else is around and eat food which comes in bulk quantities from the Costco that is right across the street: massive plastic containers with handles on the lids full of pretzels, huge jars of peanut butter, which Phichit loves and Yuuri hates, and huge pouches of granola, and boxes of fifty-four individually wrapped rice krispy bars, and occasionally hot pockets, which they squabble about heating up in the old microwave in the corner tucked by the even older refrigerator until one of the coaches or, worse, one of the skating parents who hang around the rink with their middle schooler scolds them.

Still. Phichit can’t imagine being alone here all summer, or with some anonymous American roommate who can’t grasp that Costco, despite being pretty cool, is also fundamentally weird as fuck.

Katy, for instance, while she’s also pretty cool, does not grasp this. He forgives her for this. He’s sure there are things that he grew up with and never thought about, although he can’t think of what: everything, maybe.

Sometimes, after long practices, after competitions when they are sharing unfamiliar hotel rooms and backrubs (Yuuri’s muscles all tense and knotted in the shoulders), Yuuri says, “I realize now how lucky I was to go and soak in the hot springs after practice, at home.”

“Fancy!” Phichit says, which makes Yuuri laugh.

“I guess,” he says.

“It’s definitely fancy,” Phichit says.

“Maybe you could,” and then Yuuri shoves his face into his hands and goes mumbly, “someday, you could come visit.”

“Yuuri!” Phichit says, snaking his arms around Yuuri’s neck and squeezing softly, because something about Yuuri inspires gentleness. “I would love to!”

Yuuri sits crosslegged and straight backed in the rumpled hotel comforter and massages Phichit’s shoulders and listens while Phichit talks about his family and his friends, his high school and the streets around his home that he knew like the back of his hand, about all the best spots to get cheap coffee and the quietest beaches and how to tell when a mango is perfectly ripe. A whole life, knocking around in his head and unforgettable, like the movies he watched as a kid, and then the next day he goes out on the ice and feels all the cliches about flying unfurl deep in his chest. He calls home and his dad teases him about starting to sound like an American when he speaks English, and there are things he knows in English that he can’t think of the Thai word for.

His mom sends him packages of candy and drawings from the little cousins and clothes she found that she thinks he would like and sometimes letters from his grandma, who’s old-fashioned and spends most of their phone conversations asking Phichit to repeat himself. Over the summer she starts sending things for Yuuri in the box, too. Yuuri has appeared in a lot of their skype conversations, and his longlashed eyes and perpetually startled look inspires parently types of people to try and adopt him; namely, Phichit’s mom, and whichever aunt or uncle happens to be over during the skype calls.

Whenever Phichit gets one of the packages, he dumps the box out on his bed and sorts through it.

“Yuuri! These are for you!” he says, tossing a pack of coconut candies towards Yuuri, who is sitting at his desk watching Viktor Nikiforov’s National’s free skate with his mouth hanging open (Nikiforov’s gone super masc this season, Yuuri seems to appreciate it).

Yuuri yelps and fumbles towards the package and manages to catch it before it hits the ground. “Ah,” he sighs, slamming a hand against his chest in exaggerated relief, setting the package carefully on the corner of his desk. “Tell your mother I say thank you,” he says in stilted and heavily accented and very formal Thai. It’s awful. Phichit feels himself tear up almost instantaneously.

“Yuuri,” he says, nearly pulling Yuuri out of his chair as he wraps his arms around Yuuri’s shoulders and shakes him back and forth, Yuuri’s headphones getting knocked off. “Yuuri, Yuuri!”

“I wanted to surprise you,” Yuuri says, cheeks getting all pink.

“You make me feel bad because I still only know Japanese swear words,” Phichit says. He and Yuuri had taught each other how to curse in their respective languages not even two weeks into their roommate-ship.

“I couldn’t exactly use the words you’ve taught me with your mother, could I,” Yuuri says, clasping a hand on Phichit’s forearms where they are locked across his chest.

“Nicest, handsomest, best,” Phichit says.

“You don’t have to lie and flatter me, if you want some of my candy, you can just ask,” Yuuri says.

This fool. “You absolutely kill me dead, Yuuri,” Phichit says.

“Okay,” Yuuri says. Nikiforov is stumbling off the ice on Yuuri’s laptop screen, face glowing with a grin and with sweat, hair in his eyes. Yuuri fumbles gently with the plastic on the package. “I’m afraid I’m going to pull too hard and make the whole thing explode all over the place,” he mumbles.

“Too muscular,” Phichit says, still resting his arms over Yuuri’s shoulders. “Also, I’m teaching you how to speak Thai, like, for real. Hey, maybe you’ll start talking all snooty! That’s how they say we do around Bankok!”

Phichit can see Yuuri’s cheek curve into a smile. “Really?”

“Really,” Phichit says.

“I just thought of this...:” Yuuri says, voice turning rueful. “I hope I don’t make you wind up with a Kyushu accent.”

This absolute fool. “I hope you do,” Phichit says, squeezing Yuuri even tighter.

 

Celestino keeps them busy, but the summer nights are too empty, sometimes. He roams with Yuuri around campus, talks him into getting coffee too late and watching movies for too long. Jaga and Brittany and Solar and Katy and Meg (since she and Yuuri have reached a shaky peace and get along well enough in a group) and various other rinkmates tag along sometimes, and Phichit likes to be surrounded by people all happy and chattery and careless.

He misses his friends at home, still, the ones who can tease him about things he did when he was ten and who can obliquely reference one of half-a-million in-jokes with ease.

“I miss making out with people,” Phichit says, lounging around the dorm with Yuuri and Katy and Yuuri’s laptop, which is whirring in protest as it attempts to play Katy's Lord of the Rings DVD.

Yuuri gets red, and Katy laughs.

“I love your honesty,” Katy says.

“Well? Don’t you?” Phichit demands.

Katy shrugs. “Not really.”

Phichit slumps back against the side of Yuuri’s mattress and stretches his legs over the floor. “I kind of forget that some people like. Don’t, you know? Do you not really care about it or are you just too busy?”

“I mean, both, I guess. Mostly I don’t care,” Katy says. “I kind of don’t get it. But like, I get how other people might be into it. Hey, come with me to my sister’s 4H thing next week! I’ll hook you up with one of my friends. He’s super buff. You know how sometimes people can’t get their horse in the trailer when they try to leave the fairgrounds?”

Phichit doesn’t.

“If someone’s really having a hard time and they want help, he and my brother, they load ‘em like they do at the track.”

“The track?” Yuuri says.

“The racetrack,” Katy says. “They each take one of the back legs and just,” she mimes a lifting motion with both arms. “Up and in!”

Yuuri covers his mouth with both hands.

“They lift the horse?” Phichit says. “Oh my god. I would die. I would die before I would get that close to a horse. Yuuri, wouldn’t you die?”

“I would...the horse doesn’t kick?” Yuuri says.

“Oh, see, you have to get real close,” Katy says. “The closer you are, the less damage the kick does, you know?”

“Katy, I don’t know!” Phichit says.

“It’s when they have some space to wind up,” Katy says. “That’s when they really get you good.”

“Oh my god,” Phichit says. “No offense, but I’m not making out with anyone whose hands have touched a horse in, like, the past year.”

Katy laughs.

“Yuuri, if you want him, you can have him,” Phichit says, prodding his foot against Yuuri’s calf. “I say don’t do it.”

“I'll take your wise advice, then,” Yuuri says. “Ah! Here's the movie.”

“Spared from our harassment this time,” Phichit says.

“Oh, shhh!” Yuuri says, not without affection.

They all climb into Yuuri's bed, all their bony edges squished together. "Smile!" Phichit says. "I'm taking a picture of us!" Katy and Yuuri do. 

 

Yuuri had swept sectionals, both the Midwestern and the Upper Great Lakes, and so he’s qualified for US Collegiate Champs. Phichit hadn’t gotten his Non-Citizen Application to complete in Champs in on time, so he’ll have to wait until next year for his shot at qualifying.

The dorm’s quiet while Yuuri’s in Kansas. He texts Yuuri: i miss you, my sweet little stove boy

Yuuri texts back quick (he’s probably lying in the hotel bed, bored, his phone still plugged into the charger, and Celestino, who Yuuri is sharing a room with because both of them are cheap, is probably tuned into the eighties station on those crappy hotel radio/alarm clocks and humming along): Phichit, what does that MEAN?

It means youre warm and im cold yuuri! Phichit texts back.

It’s the middle of August :P Yuuri replies.

airconditioning everywhere they just wont let me be cozy!! Phichit texts.

I left my north face there, you can steal it if you want Yuuri responds. Angel boy.

Phichit watches the livestream on his craptop with a bag of Sunchips, which are ruining his diet just as much as potato chips would while also being at least sixty percent less tasty.

Phichit starts winching on Yuuri’s behalf about a quarter of the way through: he starts off lyrical and rhythmic and lovely, and then after he flubs his first jump it all falls apart a bit. Or a lot.

Phichit watches Yuuri clutch his hands, glitchy with the lag, in the kiss-and-cry after, Celestino patting Yuuri’s back and saying something to him that Yuuri clearly isn’t hearing.

Phichit feels a spike of anxiety through his own stomach, or maybe it’s just a Sunchip. For a second he can feel the emptiness of the apartment around him become tangible, settling around him with a shiver like stepping into a cold shower. He shoves it away before it settles into that homesick ache that had dogged him all through the winter. The thought, if Yuuri can’t do it, how can you? slides through his head.

Yuuri’s shaking his head onscreen as his scores come in in the seventies. Phichit can see that his eyes are glassy even through this livestream’s video resolution is probably, like, 0.5p.

Listen, he tells himself firmly. Don’t sell either of you short like that. Yuuri can, and you can to. The voice sounds suspiciously like his mom.

Another wave of homesickness, ice in his stomach. He shuts his laptop screen and gets up from his desk chair with a sigh and a stretch. It’s afternoon here, the yellow lines of the apartment parking lot sun-faded outside the window, the constantly mowed grass so short it’s turned brown. It’s the middle of the night back home, hot there, yes, but humid, too. He thinks of late nights out with his cousins and his friends, everyone sweaty and glowing and grinning, and he leans his head against the cool of the windowpane and looks out at the cars, glitter-blurry in the still-bright afternoon light, and sighs.

 

Yuuri gets back with dark circles under his eyes and his shoulders resolutely shoved back, like if he relaxes in the slightest he’ll crumple into his own chest.

Phichit doesn’t crawl into Yuuri’s bed, but he wants to, he wants to hold Yuuri through the hurt, like he would his friends back home. He hates seeing his friends upset, and it’s worse because Yuuri’s thoughts are so loud Phichit can almost hear them: I’m a failure, I can’t do anything right, I can’t do this, I can’t.

Finally Phichit whispers across the dark of the room, “Yuuri?”

Yuuri makes a cracked little humming sound, like he’d been thinking about crying.

“You cold?” Phichit asks. The buzz of the airconditioner working overtime is the loudest sound in the room: Yuuri likes to sleep covered in layers of blankets, and Phichit doesn’t care much either way.

There’s quiet from Yuuri’s bed. They’ve been lying awake long enough that Phichit’s eyes have gotten pretty used to the dark: he can see the shape of Yuuri under his comforter, can see the dark of his hair against his white pillowcase.

“Kind of,” Yuuri finally says, hoarse.

Phichit slips out of bed, the mattress springs creaking loud. “Move over, then,” Phichit says.

The space between Yuuri and Yuuri’s sheets and Yuuri’s blankets is a warm little cocoon. They share it now, close and quiet. Phichit can feel the knob of Yuuri’s ankle digging into his leg, right above his own ankle, the way the place where Phichit’s calf is sweating against his pajama pants where it’s slid between Yuuri’s calves. He presses his face into the curve of Yuuri’s neck, between Yuuri’s bony collarbone and the knobby top of his shoulders.

It all blurs, who is comforting who, as Yuuri pulls him close.

Yuuri usually wrapped up in his own head, but he’s always generous when Phichit’s least expecting it.

When he wakes up, Yuuri’s turned away from his, face pressed uncomfortable (Phichit presumes) into the wall. Their legs are still tangled together, though, and Phichit’s chin is propped against the juts of Yuuri’s spine. Phichit almost wakes Yuuri up with a kiss pressed to the nape of his neck, when he realizes.

What the fuck, Chulanont , he tells himself.

 

He thinks about texting Nam about it, but she’s no help. She’ll just tell him to kiss Yuuri anyways, even though Yuuri is his roommate and his rinkmate and his closest friend here, and maybe his closest friend, period, because she is all about the Power of Love and Kissing. A useless lesbian.

He decides on texting Tukta, instead, who Knows About Boys.

He opens by taking a picture of Yuuri, who is sitting on his bed and stress-eating pretzels and Nutella while trying to write his Sports Psych final paper (“I knew I shouldn’t have taken a class this summer, I knew I shouldn’t have taken a class this summer,” as Yuuri chants every morning he runs in from practice and grabs a protein shake before running right out the door again for class).

TUKTA! My favorite best cousin! Help! I want to kiss this boy!! Phichit texts.

DONT kiss that boy Tukta replies.

He knew she would say that. He sends back a million crying face emojis.

Okay, listen: I know that, BUT ALSO!

I want to!

I don't know if I want to date him though?? Ahhh Tukta help!!!!! What's the difference between wanting to kiss someone and wanting to date them??

Don't I wish I knew?! Tukta replies. Give it a couple months though!! You're gonna be around this guy for what, two or three more years?? Chill out little cousin!!!

I hate it when you’re right he texts back.

 

It’s partly the classic kind of everyone-has-a-crush-on-the-best-skater-at-the-rink, Phichit knows, and it’s partly that Phichit’s boy crazy, which is something he has been mercilessly teased about since middle school, but it’s also partly that it’s Yuuri.

Yuuri is afloat inside of his own head a lot, but when he emerges he's startlingly observant and generous. Phichit knows how to tell from just the sound of Yuuri’s breathing whether he is asleep or lying awake. Phichit has helped Yuuri scrub the stain out of their dorm room carpet when one of the blisters on Yuuri’s feet broke open and he bled through his sock and in drops onto the floor. Yuuri moves carefully through the world but he’s always effortlessly graceful: he has the sort of face that looks different from day to day, new angles and new lighting and new haircuts revealing someone Phichit recognizes more by that grace than by any other quality.

Phichit wonders if maybe he will finally get Yuuri to go to a party with him when everyone comes back in the fall. He wonders if maybe seeing Yuuri the way he sees other guys at parties, just slouchy and vaguely buzzed and ordinary, will make him snap out of his stupid crush, or maybe the week-and-a-half he’s going to spend at home before the fall semester starts will.

Yuuri takes him to the airport, and Phichit squeezes him tight around the ribs while Yuuri frets over Phichit’s suitcase getting checked okay.

“I’ll be fine! I’ll facetime you when I get there!”

“I’ll miss you,” Yuuri mumbles into Phichit’s shoulder, and Phichit wishes he could squeeze him tighter but he doesn’t want to break him.

“I’ll miss you, too,” Phichit says.

Phichit gets his mom’s text as soon as he turns his plane off airplane mode at the end of his flight. Hi sunshine! I hope your flight was nice and you have a crowd to pick you up, they missed you a lot! See you at the gate!

He hears them before he sees them: Nam and Tukta are bickering, because of course they are.

“Mom!” Phichit calls, and leaves his suitcase behind and runs to her.

She hugs just as strong and soft as she always did, and he feels his eyes start prickling with tears into her blouse.

She rocks him back and forth, and then pulls back and swipes his cheeks dry. “Go hug your cousins, yeah?”

“Yeah,” Phichit says, reaching out for Nam blurrily.

 

“And that’s the Chulanont digs!” Phichit says, making his way back to his bedroom, tour of the house and the gardens completed.

“It looks so nice and warm there,” Yuuri says.

“It’s only August! It’s warm there too.” Phichit says.

“We had a cold...a cold snap?"

"You sound like Katy," Phichit cackles.

"It’s going to be back to eighty fahrenheit next week, though,” Yuuri says.

Phichit wrinkles his nose and Yuuri laughs at him. They talk for a while about everything and nothing, until Yuuri has to leave for the rink and Phichit starts yawning.

Phichit plugs his phone into his charger and turns off the lights and flops onto his bed. It’s raining now, the air outside heavy with humidity. Phichit cracks his window open so that the sound of the rain fills his room like talk at a party.

If he closes his eyes and starts to drift off, he still knows by the weather that he’s not in Detroit, but his body fills in the blanks where the sounds of Yuuri shifting and getting comfortable in his bed across the room are empty. Phichit misses him, that missing an ache that’s as foreign here as it was integral in Detroit. He thinks maybe he will never go back to how it was before, that he will never be able to be anywhere without missing someone anymore.

He thinks that will be okay. It just means there’s someone who loves him anywhere he goes.

When Phichit gets back to Detroit, he's swept into the noise of the semester. He misses heat and he misses the big blocks of summertime nothing, but the thoughts of leaning over and kissing Yuuri when they sit together on Yuuri's bed talking are smaller and easy to ignore when Phichit and the guy from his Sociology class pick up where they left off.

He skates his triple axel clean for a whole week, and Celestino says, “it’s time to start choreographing your programs for next season.”

Yuuri takes him to Steak ‘N Shake in celebration, and they split a milkshake, and Phichit takes a video of Yuuri trying to drink it with caramel clogging up his straw.

YOU’RE SO MEAN LET HIM LIVE! GO GET HIM A NEW STRAW! Nam texts him after she sees the video on snapchat.

you guys always take his side now! Phichit replies.

Yuuri drives them back to campus, and Phichit looks out the window and watches the buildings go by, the empty spaces that looks like construction sites without the construction.

“I’m going to compete against you someday,” Phichit says.

Yuuri takes his eyes off the road for just a split second, and he’s grinning. “I can’t wait until you do."