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Sixty Impossible Things

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Sixty Impossible Things
(or Yuuri in Wonderland)
Part One

-

“Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

 

???: why the fuck are you ignoring viktor

Yuuri freezes, his fork midway to his mouth, to peer down at the text. He doesn’t recognize the number, not even the country code. And the only Viktor that he knows is Viktor Nikiforov, who barely knows that Yuuri is alive, much less him being someone that Yuuri regularly talks to and can thus ignore. Chalking the text up to a wrong number, Yuuri deletes the message, shoves the hovering bite of chicken into his mouth, and resumes studying his marketing book for his final.

His phone, however, buzzes again a few seconds later.

???: don’t ignore me asshole

???: i know you're getting these

???: viktor might be too big a coward to confront you directly but I'm not

Yuuri frowns again. He lays his fork on his plate, picks up his napkin, and wipes his fingers on it before lifting his phone to respond.

Yuuri: I’m sorry but I think you have the wrong number

The response to his response is immediate.

???: i don't unless you lied to sara too

Immediate and confusing and Yuuri can’t help the sigh. As if he needed more on his plate right now. His winter finals loom, postponed a few weeks to accommodate Nationals, which loom as well, the first time that Yuuri will skate publicly after his catastrophic crash and burn at the Sochi Grand Prix. And there’s Vicchan too and his grief and guilt over everything.

And now this, a relentlessly angry texter.

Sighing again, Yuuri foolishly chooses to engage.

Yuuri: Who is this? What are you talking about?

???: its yuri dumbass and you know exactly what i'm talking about

Yuuri blinks at that. For a split second he wonders if an angrier asshole version of himself from an alternate universe, someone who spelled their name wrong and snubbed his nose at basic rules of grammar, had somehow found a way to pester him while he tried to prevent, by studying, at least one aspect of his life from crumbling into utter ruin. Then the split second passes and Yuuri reins in the insanity long enough to venture a rational approach.

Yuuri: Yuri who?

Three seconds later his phone rings.

The ringing startles Yuuri so much that he drops his phone. Thankfully, it lands on the scratched dining room table that he and Phichit had found in a Goodwill three years ago and not in his food. Not that he would mind being unable to eat the steamed broccoli and baked chicken before him. Yuuri would love an excuse to eat something else, something tasty, something with flavor at least, but he’d had plenty of such excuses the last month and had packed on pounds as a result. If he gained any more weight, he wouldn’t be able to fit into his costumes and then he wouldn’t be able to skate in Nationals or the Four Continents or at Worlds and he’d have to retire, move back to Hasetsu, and work in his parents’ onsen as a sad, fat failure for the rest of his spinster life.

Yuuri closes his eyes. He’s not supposed to think this way. He’s supposed to focus on the positive and not the negative. So what’s the positive? Nothing, his traitorous brain whispers, but Yuuri ignores it in favor of Phichit, or at least the memory of him from when Yuuri had returned from Sochi.

01. Yuuri had made it to the Grand Prix final. Only five other male skaters in the world accomplished that.

02. Despite his stress eating in the weeks leading up to the competition, he’d done well in his short program, enough to place third.

03. He- He-

Yuuri swallows as his throat swells. He’d done well in his short program, enough to place third, but then he’d learned about Vicchan and had failed in his free skate, a demonstration to all and Viktor Nikiforov that he was a sad, crying failure who-

His phone chimes with a voicemail, breaking Yuuri from his disastrous train of thought. Opening his eyes, he stares down at his cell. Whatever the angry texter had left for him would likely not be good, but Yuuri hated himself just enough in that moment to masochistically want whatever the message would unleash upon him. Besides, if he didn’t listen, Angry Yuri from an Alternate Dimension would somehow know and pester him about it until the end of time.

So, lifting his phone with a shaking hand, Yuuri listens to the voicemail.

“Of course you didn’t answer the phone. You’re probably crying in the bathroom again. Aren’t you? Pathetic. You’re both pathetic. You-” There’s a pause, and Yuuri hears the sound of a long, slow inhale, as of a prayer for patience, for the will to resist murder, if only for the next couple of seconds. Then he hears, in a quieter but no less enraged voice, “If you don’t grow some fucking balls and call me back right the fuck now, I swear to whatever Japanese god you hold dear that I will find out what shitty city you train in, fly there, track you down, and kick your ass so fucking hard you’ll never be able to pick up a pair of skates again! Call me the fuck back, LOSER!”

The message ends. Yuuri lowers his phone, his hand still shaking. The other has joined it now, the situation just as mystifying and unsettling as it was before he heard the message, although now, at least, Yuuri knows who has been messaging and threatening him the past few minutes.

Yuri Plisetsky.

His bellowed signoff- LOSER- echoes in Yuuri’s head, overlaying the memory of Yuri shouting the same in Sochi nearly two weeks before. Then he had been intimidating Yuuri about retiring. Now…

Frowning again, Yuuri brings up the recent texts. Now he was badgering Yuuri about… ignoring Viktor?

Yuuri blinks at the first message, too shocked to do more. He amends his prior insane thought. It wasn’t that a Yu(u)ri from an alternate dimension had found some way to contact him. It was that Yuuri had fallen into an alternate dimension, one where Yuri Plisetsky had his phone number and also expected him to be on speaking terms with the only Viktor that they likely both knew.

Viktor Nikiforov.

Yuuri’s still gawking at his phone when it rings again a minute later. Slowly, unable to resist, the power of something compelling him, probably insanity, maybe the same guilt-ridden masochism that prompted him to listen to Yuri’s message in the first place, Yuuri lifts the phone and accepts the call.

“...hello?”

“YOU!” Yuri bellows. “Do you know how much shit you’ve put me through the last two weeks? I bet you do, don’t you?” He proceeds without waiting for a response. “This is your payback for Sochi, isn’t it? Because that was wholly fucking deserved. You’re a grown man and you were crying. In a bathroom.”

Yuuri’s mouth goes flat. His hand tightens on his phone.

“I didn’t think you could get any more pathetic,” Yuri continues, oblivious to Yuuri’s silence, to the roiling mood behind it, “but now this- playing mind games with Viktor. What-”

Later, Yuuri will look back on this moment and berate himself. For all the mature vitriol that was spewing from Yuri’s mouth, he was still a kid. He wasn’t even old enough to qualify for Seniors. But now… now Yuuri recalls that prior exchange they had in Sochi, Yuri intruding on a private moment between Yuuri and his grief, Vicchan gone and everything he had worked for, everything he had worked so hard for, what he had sacrificed years away from his home and his family so that he could achieve, making it to the Grand Prix final, skating on the same ice as Viktor, perhaps even standing on the same podium as him, Yuuri recalls all of it, all the headlines from the Japanese press about his failure, the long flight back with Celestino, the listless last two weeks as he struggled to practice and grieve and study, the upcoming flight to Japan, Nationals, his redemption or his utter demise, Yuuri recalls all of it, and he snaps.

“My dog died. The night before. At Sochi. That’s why I was crying. I’d been away from him for so long. Five years, and he waited for me and I-” Yuuri stops, the words choking him, tears now pricking his eyes. He sucks in a shaky breath and continues, “That might seem pathetic to you. I might seem pathetic, I probably am, I don’t care because at least I don’t harass people I barely know. You listened in on a private conversation between me and my family, you kicked in the bathroom door… You’re the asshole, not me. Don’t call me again.”

Yuuri hangs up, his hands still shaking. He’s breathing fast, tears streaming down his face. He wipes them off though there’s no one else in the apartment to witness his breakdown, Phichit at practice with Celestino. Only the table and his textbook and the remains of his shitty lunch bear witness to his latest collapse. Yuuri drops his phone on the table and stares at the lot, at the pathetic state of his life, at the highlight of his day: bland chicken and limp broccoli. Then he’s pushing back from the table and standing from his chair and walking to the living room to grab his wallet and his keys and then he’s crossing to the front door to grab his jacket and scarf, to shove his feet into his shoes and escape- Yuri and his phone, the table and his lunch, his textbook and his finals, the apartment and his failure and his bland, tragic wreck of a life.

*

He returns early in the night, having plowed through burgers for lunch and then tacos for dinner and then ice cream for dessert. The food, though, does little to improve his mood, sitting heavy in his stomach, a constant reminder of his latest failure. Yuuri slinks into the apartment. Phichit sits on their couch, both laptop and phone before him as he streams some strange Korean game show and messages, simultaneously, Leo and Guang Hong. They lock eyes. Yuuri lasts only a few seconds before the sympathy he sees overwhelms and he turns for his room. Yuuri should request a roommate change with Celestino, give Phichit a chance to live with a normal person for once and not the awkward, brittle disaster that was Yuuri.

In his room, he flops face down on his bed and lays motionless until guilt drags him to his desk to study his finance notes, his marketing textbook still in the dining room and thus irretrievable, yet the words swim before Yuuri’s eyes, elusive and incomprehensible. He eyes his laptop then his 3DS and then his phone, but nothing sparks the faintest speck of interest so Yuuri gives in and goes back to bed.

Sleep, however, doesn’t come. Yuuri tosses and turns, his mind churning, turning and returning to the sore spots of his life- Vicchan and Victor, Yuri and Sochi- prodding the bruises despite the pain. The hours trawl by.

Yuuri thinks he falls asleep somewhere around four.

When his alarm blares two hours later, intending to wake him after a restful night of sleep for the long flight to Japan with Celestino, Yuuri rises like a zombie from the movies that Mari loves so much and shuffles out to the kitchen. Phichit, blessed human being that he is, already has coffee brewing, sympathetic both to Yuuri’s distaste of mornings as well as to epically long airplane flights. When Yuuri arrives, he’s leaning against the refrigerator and staring intently at his phone in his hands. If Yuuri were more conscious and thus cognizant, he’d probably notice the faint frown on Phichit’s face, how he stared at his phone like it had transported him to an alternate dimension. However, Yuuri just shambles past without a word, heading straight for the coffee and the poodle mug that Phichit had placed on the counter especially for him.

Phichit waits until he pours a cup, until he doctors it with two sugars, until he takes a sip or three, before he speaks.

“Uh… Yuuri?”

“Mmm?”

“Why is Yuri Plisetsky throwing down over you on Twitter?”

It takes a few seconds for the phrase to process, Phichit much more adept at American slang than Yuuri. When it does, it hits his bloodstream like a jolt of caffeine, starting him awake and making him whirl back around to face Phichit.

“What?”

Phichit crosses the kitchen to pass his phone to Yuuri. Yuuri squints at it, sans glasses, and finds exactly what Phichit claimed: Yuri Plisetsky, the next great hope of Russian figure skating, a boy that Yuuri had never even spoken to a month ago, throwing down with anonymous Twitter users.

Over him.

The defenses weren’t explicitly defenses. Yuri never outright praised Yuuri or his skating. But every comment that earned one of his soul-crushing missives was a nasty slam against Yuuri and his Grand Prix performance.

Yuuri blinks at the screen.

Yuri Plisetsky was defending him. On Twitter.

What?

“What?”

“I know,” Phichit says as he reclaims his phone. “I didn’t think you two even knew each other.”

The memory of how exactly he and Yuri met surfaces, prompting Yuuri to sigh. He takes another drink of his coffee, somehow miraculously surviving his shocked spin.

“Did you two meet at the Grand Prix?” Phichit asks as he pokes at something on his screen. “Or is he just a fan of yours?”

“The only thing Yuri Plisetsky is a fan of is being an asshole.”

Phichit slowly lifts his head. His brows follow suit, and with each millimeter, Yuuri feels another lick of shame in his gut.

“I’m sorry,” he says once Phichit’s brows reach his hairline. “I just- He said things. In Sochi. After…” He shrugs rather than to articulate the particular after in question.

Oh,” Phichit says after a beat. “He’s apologizing.”

Yuuri’s thankful he doesn’t have a mouthful of coffee at that moment because he’s sure he would have spit it out all over Phichit and his phone. “What?” he says once he’s done sputtering. “To who?”

“To you. He really is like an angry kitten,” Phichit adds as he glances once more at his phone. “Hissing at anyone who’s mean to you. It’s so cute, but so so vicious.”

Yuuri gawks at Phichit a few seconds before he lifts a hand and pinches the bridge of his nose. “I do not have time for this.”

Phichit lifts his free hand and lays it on Yuuri’s shoulder. “Yuuri. Babes. You’re about to be stuck on a plane for 14 hours. You have nothing but time for this.”

“No. I need to focus on Nationals.”

Phichit shakes his head. “No. That’s the last thing you need to do.”

Yuuri looks away. He barely resists the urge to sigh again. “Phichit…”

“No.” Phichit ducks down, contorting until he can catch Yuuri’s eyes. “Focusing for you is never just focusing. It’s over-focusing. It’s obsessing.”

Yuuri, maturely, looks off in the other direction.

At this, Phichit sighs. From the corners of his eyes, Yuuri watches as he straightens. He doesn’t try to maneuver himself in front of Yuuri again, but he does squeeze Yuuri’s shoulder, the gesture like Phichit, warm and friendly. “Yuuri, I know you can’t help it. I know you can’t not think about stuff sometimes, but I also know that you’re supposed to try not to let those bad thoughts take you over.” He lowers his hand but raises the other still clutching his phone, which he waves in front of Yuuri. “Let the angry kitten be your distraction.”

“But-”

“But what? You know your programs. And you know there’s not a male skater in Japan even close to your level right now. The only one you have to beat at Nationals is you. So if you’ve got to obsess over a Yuuri, make it the other one.”

“I… don’t think that’s a good idea. And not for the reason you’re thinking,” Yuuri adds as his gaze flits toward Phichit. “I… He’s been messaging me the last few days, and he called me and I called him back and…”

Phichit finally stops wiggling his phone. “And…?”

At the prompting, Yuuri resolutely fixes his eyes on his coffee. “And I kind of yelled at him. And called him an asshole. To his face. Or not his face. His ear. Which I guess is still him, so- so I don’t think it’s good. To talk to him again… ever.”

Silence greets his pronouncement. Yuuri chances a glance at Phichit and finds him staring once more, again with brows raised, but not in shock this time. No.

This time in complete and utter delight.

“Oh, Yuuri. Such drama. Much interest.” Grinning brightly, Phichit returns his hand to Yuuri’s shoulder and gives him a little shake. “You must tell me everything.”

*

Yuuri does. Over breakfast, he regales Phichit with his confrontation with Yuri at Sochi and then with yesterday’s drama, from the first inexplicable texts to Yuri’s phone message and then to their final disastrous conversation, asshole accusations included.

Once finished, Phichit leans back in his chair and shrugs. “Seems to me like he deserved it. And to him too,” he says, pointing at his phone, “if this morning’s findings are anything to go by.”

Yuuri looks at the phone, recalling the Twitter beatdowns dealt by Yuri.

“Which is kind of amazing,” Phichit continues. “I don’t think he’s ever apologized to anyone for anything he’s ever said. Certainly not to Guang Hong, who comes as close as he can to actually disliking someone with Yuri Plisetsky.” Phichit pauses then to smile at Yuuri. He lays one hand dramatically over his heart. “Aww, Other Yuri is a fan of yours.”

“Why would anybody be a fan of me?”

Phichit gives him a look. “I’m going to ignore that blasphemy that just came out of your mouth to focus on the real issue: why Other Yuri is saying that you’re ignoring Viktor.”

Yuuri shrugs. “I don’t know. Boredom. He doesn’t seem to be worried about his Nationals if he’s been doing all this rather than practicing.”

Phichit contemplates the notion a moment before dismissing it with a shake of his head. “No. I don’t think so. This is too… weird. I mean, if he wanted to talk more smack to you, he’d say that Viktor hates you or something, not that you’re ignoring him.” Phichit purses his lips, his eyes locked intently on his phone. “No. Something else… Did something else happen at Sochi?”

“What do you mean?”

Phichit looks back up at him. “With Viktor. Did something else happen to prompt this?”

Yuuri tries very hard not to squirm. “No…”

Phichit says nothing. He merely crosses his arms across his chest and waits.

Yuuri congratulates himself for resisting nearly a full minute. But resistance, he knows, is futile when Phichit Chulanont smells drama, even of the faintest variety.

“It’s nothing big,” Yuuri begins, his fingers fiddling with the edge of his napkin. “I just- After the free skate, as I was leaving, I ran into him. Well, not just me. I was with Celestino. And Morooka was there. And he- Viktor- was talking to Yuri and Coach Yakov. But he saw me- Viktor, I mean- not Coach Yakov- Viktor saw me and he asked… He asked if I wanted to- to take a photo. You know, to commemorate… stuff.”

“And?”

Yuuri closes his eyes and slumps down in his chair. “And I walked away.”

“Yuuri…”

Yuuri winces at the chastisement. “I was upset. I didn’t mean- But that can’t be it,” he says as he straightens and opens his eyes. “That’s not a mind game. I just didn’t want a photo. Who would be upset over that for nearly two weeks?”

Phichit shrugs. “Viktor Nikiforov?”

To that, Yuuri shakes his head. “No. Yuri’s probably lying. He’s the one playing mind games, not me. He’s just trying to get me to retire.”

“Then why would he be defending you on Twitter?”

Yuuri drops his head onto the table with a groan. “I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t deal with this right now.”

“I disagree,” Phichit says as he pats Yuuri on the head. “I think two extra Europeans are exactly what you need to deal with right now. Besides packing. Because Ciao Ciao will be here in 30 minutes to pick you up.”

Lurching from the table, Yuuri races to his room to finish packing.

*

Despite his attempts not to, Yuuri finds his mind circling back again and again to Yuri Plisetsky and his absolutely illogical behavior. The one-man mind game had shifted from Twitter to Instagram while Yuuri traveled to and checked into the airport with Celestino. In their terminal, Yuuri eyes the latest salvos before rational thought abandons him completely and he re-opens the lines of communication.

Yuuri: What are you doing?

Somehow, despite all evidence to the contrary, he doesn’t expect a response, the time still early enough in the evening in St. Petersburg for Yuri to be practicing. However, his phone buzzes less than two minutes later with a reply.

Other Yuri: resisting the urge to murder viktor

Other Yuri: put him out of his misery and call him already

Yuuri bypasses the order to call, as well as the opening to ask Yuri why exactly he claimed that Yuuri was playing mind games with Viktor Nikiforov, for the safer and more pressing concern.

Yuuri: I mean why are you defending me on Twitter? I thought you hated me

Other Yuri: that's only because i thought you were crying over losing and that would have been pathetic

Hand tightening on his phone, Yuuri draws in a slow breath. He had cried over losing before and had been doing so, in part, in Sochi too. But before he can decide how best to respond to Yuri, he gets another text, this time with a picture of a gorgeous cat attached.

Other Yuri: this is potya, i've had her 3 years

Other Yuri: i would murder everyone if she died

Normally, the vow to murder would draw forth a raised eyebrow from Yuuri, but all he can do is stare at the picture of Potya, frozen by the idea that Yuri had been, as Phichit claimed, trying to apologize to him for the nasty things he said in Sochi, just in the only way he knew how.

Absolute murderous rage.

The seeming proof of Yuuri having fallen into an alternate dimension is so puzzling and so, so real that his hands move of their own volition to respond.

Yuuri: She’s gorgeous

Other Yuri: of course she is, all cats are

Other Yuri: what was your dog's name

Yuuri freezes again, the question, and the apparent genuine interest from Yuri, unexpected. The sane response would be for Yuuri to tell the truth. He doubts that Yuri understands how Japanese nicknames work, or, if he does, that Yuri likes Viktor enough to tell him about Vicchan and the reason behind his name. The slightly less sane response would be for Yuuri to lie, for him to make up a name, like Fluffy or perhaps Dog. Something. Anything other than the truth.

Yuuri does neither of these things.

Instead, Yuuri panics.

Yuuri: Got tp go mu flights boarding

He exits out of his messages, turns off his phone, shoves it deep into the dark underbelly of his bag, leans back against his seat, then slumps down in his seat, crosses his arms over his chest, stares out into nothing, rues ever reopening the lines of communication with Yuri Plisetsky, and panics until the airline calls his and Celestino’s row for boarding.

*

And oh how they’re reopened. When Yuuri chances to peek at his phone during their layover in Chicago, there’s a barrage of texts and pictures waiting for him.

Other Yuri: nationals?

Other Yuri: you know viktor’s been whining about not being able to watch you skate in person

Other Yuri: he’s awful, seriously, look

Pulse pounding, Yuuri clicks on the picture. Awful is not the word that comes to mind when he sees what Yuri has sent him. Sublime does, as does breathtaking. Yuuri certainly goes breathless at the sight of Viktor draped dramatically over the rink wall at Yubileyny, his legs long and his back curved in a graceful arch. Yuuri lusts for another half a minute before Yuri’s prior message processes: Viktor Nikiforov wants to watch him skate in person. Blinking twice, Yuuri scrolls through the rest of the texts.

Other Yuri: seriously what the hell do you see in him

Other Yuri: i know he can skate but he does it on gold blades

Other Yuri: GOLD

Other Yuri: and he thinks they're COOL

Other Yuri: he listens to britney spears

Other Yuri: he’s friends with giacometti

Other Yuri: he’s ridiculous

Other Yuri: you can't actually want him to be your coach

Yuri goes absolutely still at the last text. He reads again and again, but the words don’t change and the mystery doesn’t clear. The claim remains the same: Yuuri wants Viktor to be his coach. Yuuri swallows then and takes a peek at Celestino, sitting a seat away in the terminal. Yuuri owed everything to Celestino, his past two wins at Nationals, his silver at the last FC, qualifying for the Grand Prix… Yuuri would never have been able to accomplish any of that on his own.

And now Other Yuri says this.

Jaw tightening, Yuuri prepares to stand. “Coach?”

“Yes?”

“How long until the flight leaves?”

From the corners of his eyes, Yuuri sees Celestino check his watch. “About forty minutes. Why do you ask?”

Yuuri moves his bag onto the seat between him and Celestino and then stands. “I need to make a phone call.”

*

Yuuri doesn’t go far, forty minutes not a lot of time, not with boarding starting in half that time. He moves to a secluded end of the terminal, in sight of Celestino but not within hearing distance.

There’s no one close enough to hear him yell at at fifteen year old kid.

“Why are you doing this?” he asks when Yuri, predictably, answers his call. Didn’t Yakov ever make him practice?

“Because I have no interest in going to jail. And I will murder him if-”

“No,” Yuuri says as he starts to breathe fast. “This. This whole thing. Saying I’m ignoring Viktor. That he- That I want him to be my coach. Are you- Why? Why are you doing this?”

Yuri says nothing, for once, but rather than placate Yuuri, the silence enrages him.

“I can understand the lie about him wanting to watch me skate-”

“It’s not a lie,” Yuri snaps.

“Making me think that…” Yuuri continues, ignoring the denial. “That would hurt. Maybe you think I’ll call him and embarrass myself somehow.”

“No, I want you to call him so he stops embarrassing himself.”

“Stop. Just stop, okay? You’ve had your fun. I don’t- I never said I want Viktor to be my coach.”

Yuri’s silent again, but only for a few moments. “What the fuck? Yes, you did. I was standing right in front of you when you said it.”

Yuuri’s free hand clenches into a fist. “I never said that. Ever. And I’ve barely spoken to Viktor Nikiforov. And certainly never about coaching.”

“Are you serious?! You two were all over each other at the banquet.”

The comment, so unexpected, makes Yuuri frown. “What banquet?”

“The Sochi banquet, dumbass. Did you hit your head on the ice or something? It was two weeks ago. Not even that. You can’t have forgotten it already.”

Now Yuuri’s the one who snaps. “I know when it was. I was there-”

Thank you-”

“-but I never spoke to Viktor. I didn’t speak to anyone, except my coach. If anyone asked Viktor to be their coach, it wasn’t me. Maybe you’d know the difference between your fellow skaters if you actually bothered to be nice to any of them ever in your life.”

Were it not for the fact that Yuuri could hear Yuri breathing on the other end of the line, he would think that Yuri had hung up, his silence in the wake of Yuuri’s lambast so absolute. But no, Yuuri hears the quick scrape of breath crackling in his ear.

The impasse lasts another ten seconds before Yuri says, his voice deadly quiet, “Are you fucking with me?”

“No. I should be asking you that. In fact, I am. What the hell-”

Yuri hangs up before he can say more. Resisting the urge to chuck his phone across the terminal, Yuuri instead closes his eyes and tries to slow his breathing, to restore calm. Despite what Phichit said, he needs to focus on Nationals, not on Other Yuri and his asshole mind games. However, not even thirty seconds after hanging up, Yuuri’s phone buzzes with a message. He, desperately, hopes it’s Phichit, or perhaps Mari or Minako-sensei wishing him a safe flight, but a peek down at his phone confirms that the text is from Yuri.

A longer look has Yuuri straightening in his seat.

Other Yuri: so you're saying this isn't you

There’s a photo attached. The last shreds of Yuuri’s better judgment impels him to ignore it, to block Yuri and return to his seat beside Celestino and focus on righting the listing mess of his life, but better judgment fled Yuuri long ago, perhaps when he cracked beneath the pressure two weeks before the Grand Prix and ate all the food he could find in his kitchen, or perhaps when he yelled not once, but twice, at a crazy kid he was better off ignoring. Whatever the cause, rather than do any of the things he should do, Yuuri clicks on the photo and seals his doom.

It’s of Yuuri. And Viktor. Yuuri and Viktor. And they’re dancing. Photo Yuuri is dipping Viktor, no, bracing him as Viktor kicks his leg into the air. And they’re smiling. Photo Yuuri is smiling at Viktor. And Viktor is smiling back. They’re both smiling. At each other.

Other Yuri: or this?

The next photo is of Yuuri too. But not with Viktor. With Yuri. Yuuri and Yuri, breakdancing in a banquet hall. Photo Yuuri’s in a one-armed handstand while Yuri leaps angrily behind him.

Other Yuri: or this???

Yuuri clicks on the third photo with a shaking hand.

When it resolves, he shrieks and drops his phone.

A stripper pole.

Him. On a stripper pole.

Him. On a stripper pole. Without pants.

He’d taken his pants off and danced on a stripper pole at the Grand Prix banquet. In front of Yuri. In front of Viktor. In front of everyone. The ISU. Sponsors. Coaches. Celestino.

Oh god. Oh god.

“Oh god, oh god, oh god.”

The world narrows, fades, and begins to fuzz. His chest grows tight and breaths short. Yuuri closes his eyes. His hands shake, everything shakes. Distantly, he hears a phone ring, he hears footsteps, he hears someone speak, say something, his name, he hears someone say his name-

“Yuuri? Yuuri. Breathe. Breathe with me. In two three, out two three…”

He hears breathing, not his, because Yuuri can’t breathe, he can’t do anything but think about the picture of himself on a stripper pole, drunk and naked, as pathetic as Yuri Plisetsky claimed.

“Come on, Yuuri. Focus on me. Focus on breathing. In two three, out two three…”

He hears breathing again, from Celestino, his coach before him, Celestino who likely knew, who maybe even saw, Yuuri make a fool of himself after failing, after placing dead last. He may have even tried to stop Yuuri. Drunk Yuuri never listened to anything sane and reasonable. Just crazy ideas like getting naked in front of the entire skating world and pole dancing.

“Yuuri. Breathe. In two three, out two three…”

He doesn’t want to breathe, he doesn’t want to do anything but let the ground open up and swallow him whole, but he tries, for Celestino. It’s the least he can do, for everything Celestino has done for him, for all that Yuuri has put him through, for Yuuri, apparently, betraying him by asking Viktor Nikiforov to be his coach. Swallowing hard, Yuuri sucks in a thin stream of air, one and then another.

“Good. That’s good, Yuuri.”

It wasn’t. It wasn’t good. It was so far from good. And Yuuri had already gotten there- so far from good- with Vicchan and Sochi. And now this. Naked pole dancing and Viktor Nikiforov. The Grand Prix and Japanese Nationals. And everyone- everyone would be watching. Mari and Yuuko. His parents. Minako-sensei. All of Japan. All of them would be watching to see if he failed again. Oh god. Would Viktor watch? Viktor watching and seeing, seeing just how pathetic Yuuri really was. Once was enough, but twice? He can’t-

“Yuuri, concentrate on breathing. On here, not the thought. You can do it. Breathe with me. In two three four, out two three four…”

He tries again. He can’t fail Celestino again.

“Good. Now tell me what you see. Two things. Two things, Yuuri.”

Two things. Two Yuris. There couldn’t be two Yuris. Maybe he should just retire, like Yuri-

“Two things. You can do it, Yuuri.”

He can do it. Can he do it? Hadn’t he already done enough? Or maybe he hadn’t done enough? Heart still racing, Yuuri cracks open his eyes. He sees his hands clenched on his knees, knees that shake, legs that bounce, and then Celestino steady on the floor before him. Behind him, a few people gawk in the distance, but no one has yet to approach. Swallowing hard, Yuuri looks away from them and then croaks out, “You. Carpet. G-Grey.”

Celestino looses a long breath. “That’s great, Yuuri. Breathe in again, nice and slow. Slow now. In two three four, out two three four. Just focus on your breathing. You can do it.”

*

He does. Yuuri focuses on his breathing and calms enough to board the plane to Tokyo. Guilt prompts him, guilt at wasting the money for another plane ticket later that day or tomorrow, guilt at wasting Celestino’s time, his parents’ time and all the money that they sacrificed for Yuuri to pursue his dream. Exhausted, Yuuri shuffles onto the plane. Some people watch him, maybe worried that he’ll snap again. Yuuri ignores them as best he can, walking behind Celestino to his seat.

As they sit, as the rest of the passengers file in, as the plane begins to taxi down the runway, as it takes off and rises into the sky, Yuuri waits for Celestino to ask him what happened, who he had been talking to and what had caused the panic attack, but Celestino just sits beside him, a quiet, steady presence that helps eventually to steady Yuuri.

When the flight reaches cruising altitude, he feels composed enough to speak. “I’m sorry.”

Celestino shakes his head. “Sorry is not necessary. What is it that Phichit says?”

Yuuri sighs but recites the line, “‘Say thank you, not I’m sorry.’”

Celestino looks at him, a warm gleam in his eyes. “So?”

Yuuri averts his gaze. He stares down at his hands, his throat swelling with emotion, before he says softly, “Thank you. For helping back there.”

“You are welcome.” Yuuri hears a bit of rustling then Celestino taps him on the arm. “Here.”

Yuuri glances over and finds Celestino holding his phone. Panic jolts him like a lightning bolt at the memory of what exactly had been on his screen when Celestino had come over: Yuuri and the stripper pole with no pants in sight. But then Celestino likely didn’t need the phone to know what Yuuri had done. He’d probably seen it in person, watched as his drunk, naked, failure of a student made a fool of himself in front of the skating world.

“I am sorry to have left you there alone. At the banquet,” Celestino clarifies when Yuuri looks at him with wide eyes. “I know you did not want to go yet I insisted, and for me to have left you…” Celestino sighs as he shakes his head. “I did not think I would be gone for so long, but Paloma… she needed to talk.”

Yuuri nods. He knows the basics, Celestino explaining the higher volume of calls he was getting from his sister, who was in the middle of a nasty divorce.

“I did not know if you remembered much,” Celestino resumes after a half minute of silence. “I thought, if you did, you would talk about it when you were ready. If not with me, then with Phichit. If you didn’t remember… I thought perhaps that was for the best. Although,” Celestino adds as he peers at Yuuri’s phone, “I must admit I was foolish not to think another skater would contact you about what happened. For that, I am sorry.”

Stomach churning, Yuuri shakes his head. “You don’t- It was my fault. For drinking so much.”

Celestino waves a hand, cutting off the rest of the apology. “And it is mine for forcing you to attend. I had hoped…” Celestino goes quiet. He lowers his hand, but his eyes remain on Yuuri, so full of care and concern that Yuuri has to look away. A few seconds of silence pass and then Celestino speaks again. “In case you are worried, I have spoken with the ISU and the JSF, and you do not need to worry about any consequences from the banquet. While they both frown on some of the more… risque actions that occurred, you and the others did nothing illegal. In fact,” Celestino continues with a smile, “you helped embolden camaraderie. Yakov Feltsman told me afterward that his Yuri usually stands in the corner and sulks at these banquets, yet with you, he danced.” Celestino pauses. He cocks his head to the side as he regards Yuuri. “So maybe I was not wrong to hope.”

Yuuri nods, more in acknowledgement of Celestino speaking than in agreement with what he’s said, with what he’s always said since the first day Yuuri moved to Detroit. Like Minako before him, Celestino’s encouraged Yuuri off the ice as much as he’s coached him on it, urging him to socialize more, to, as he often said, burst forth from his cocoon and show the world the beautiful butterfly within. He succeeded more in his encouragements when Phichit joined them in Detroit, the two co-conspirators in the Get Yuuri Friends Club.

And how does Yuuri repay him?

By asking another man to be his coach.

Yuuri slumps down in his seat and stares out the window. Eventually, he hears Celestino sigh and return to his newspaper, leaving Yuuri to his thoughts.

*

And oh, how he thinks. Fourteen hours on a plane, no escape, and few distractions. Yuuri sleeps fitfully for some of the time, worn down by the sheer emotional turmoil of the time before, during, and now after the Grand Prix. When awake, he tries to study, but the words on his tablet fail to process, drifting like clouds through Yuuri’s brain, vague and insubstantial. And he doesn’t even drag his 3DS from his bag, no room in his mind for anything else aside from his present impossible circumstances, which include, but are not limited to, the following:

01- His entire skating career up until Sochi

02- Sochi

03- Vicchan

04- Viktor

05- Viktor smiling at him

06- Viktor dancing with him

07- Viktor apparently miserable because Yuuri hadn’t called him

08- But how could Yuuri call him?

09- Yuuri must have Viktor’s phone number

Spurred by the thought, he grabs his traitorous phone from his bag and checks his contacts, and there it is, right at the very bottom of the list, one simple, beautiful, terrifying, impossible word of merely six letters.

Viktor.

This propels him toward:

10- This is a joke, it has to be, it has to be

11- Except

12- Who would be mean enough to trick him in this way, to put a fake number in his phone for Viktor Nikiforov?

13- Yuri Plisetsky

14- Who followed him into a bathroom, kicked the closed stall door, berated Yuuri for his failure, and tried to intimidate him into retiring

15- Yet

16- Who also claimed Viktor was pining because Yuuri hadn’t called him and was now trying to intimidate Yuuri into calling him

17- Retiring?

18- Calling?

19- Would retiring lead to calling?

20- Or would calling lead to retirement?

21- But

22- Apparently Yuuri wants Viktor to be his coach

Here, in the confines of the plane, in the privacy of his mind, Yuuri allows himself to ruminate over the possibility. It terrifies him. Puzzles him. Intrigues him. Embarrasses him. Thrills him. Viktor as his coach. Viktor coaching him.

23- Except

24- Viktor has never coached before

25- Yet

26- Viktor is the most successful figure skater of all time

27- Yuuri is not because Yuuri failed

28- Yet

29- Viktor wants Yuuri to call him

30- Viktor wants Yuuri

This thought also terrifies and puzzles and intrigues and embarrasses and thrills. He’s just Yuuri. Just Yuuri and Viktor Nikiforov, a living legend among the common folk of humanity.

31- Except

32- Viktor likes Britney Spears

33- And apparently wants to see Yuuri skate in person

34- Which would mean he would see Yuuri in person

35- Which means he wants to see Yuuri

36- Which means he wants Yuuri

The thought bounds and rebounds in Yuuri’s mind. He wants Yuuri. Viktor Nikiforov wants him. Him. Yuuri. Or Drunk Yuuri, his traitorous brain whispers. Drunk Yuuri was the one who danced with Viktor, who stripped naked before him and pole danced. Sober Yuuri only received a polite invitation for a commemorative photo and other meaningless chitchat exchanged between fellow competitors in the shared time in and around competitions. Sober Yuuri is not Drunk Yuuri. Drunk Yuuri must have wobbled right up to Viktor and demanded a dance. Sober Yuuri turned from Viktor and walked away. Viktor wants Drunk Yuuri, but Yuuri is Sober Yuuri. That’s it. That’s all.

He’s just Yuuri.

He should forget everything, delete Viktor’s number, delete Yuuri’s messages, and try to move on with his life, to not abysmally fail at Nationals or Four Continents, and perhaps try to succeed again at World’s.

37- Except

38- Would he ever know peace if he didn’t call Viktor?

39- Yuri Plisetsky rivalled even Phichit with his speedy and dextrous use of his phone and social media. He would likely hound Yuuri to the ends of the earth if Yuuri didn’t end the torment of watching Viktor pine and call Viktor

40- Yuuri could change his phone number

41- But then he would have to explain to Phichit why exactly he would be changing his number, how it was because he was chickening out of calling Viktor, his idol, the man who must have, of his own free will, put his number into Yuuri’s phone with the expectation and desire for Yuuri to call him, and then Phichit would sit Yuuri down and literally sit on him until he called

42- So Yuuri should call

43- Should he?

44- No

45- Nationals. He needs to focus on Nationals

46- Because of Sochi

47- Because of Vicchan

48- Because of five years in Detroit and all the time, effort, and money poured by Celestino, by Minako, by his parents, by all of Japan into him and his dream

49- The dream that he’s had since he was twelve years old and he first saw Viktor skate, gliding graceful and gorgeous across the ice, a silver angel in leather and lace

50- Eleven years of blood, sweat, scrapes, bruises, tears, blisters, sprains, heartbreak, longing, homesickness, and drive, eleven years to make it to the same ice as Viktor Nikiforov, only to fail, to cave to the pressure, to collapse beneath his grief, to embarrass himself and his family and his coach and his country, to make eleven years all for nought

51- Except

52- Viktor danced with Yuuri

53- Viktor smiled at Yuuri

53- Viktor wants Yuuri to call him

54- Viktor wants to see Yuuri skate in person

55- Viktor wants to see Yuuri in person

56- Viktor wants Yuuri

And Yuuri wants Viktor. He always has. He wanted to skate because of him. He wanted to skate just like him. He wants to skate with him now. He wants to be seen by him, to be acknowledged, to be known by him. If Yuuri was, if he was seen, if he was acknowledged, then eleven years, five years, all of it, all would be worth it, the time, the effort, the money, the loss of Vicchan, of his home, all of it, all would be worth it.

57- So Yuuri should call him

58- Or not call

59- Yuuri should text because texting is easier, less immediate, less personal, less real, less ripe for potential embarrassment

60- He should text Viktor Nikiforov

*

He doesn’t.

Because Viktor Nikiforov, living legend of men’s figure skating and Yuuri’s childhood and also current idol, texts him first.

*