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It was noisy in the stands, but not so noisy that Mickey couldn't hear Emil perfectly.

"I hear Sara is going to Russia on vacation after Worlds," Emil was saying. "You aren't going with?"

"No."

"Shame," Emil continued, cheerful as always. "Want to come skiing with me after Worlds? I know a great place that will still be open this late in the season."

Mickey turned to stare at him. Eventually, he found his words. "I don't do extreme sports," he said.

"Skiing isn't extreme sports." Emil shrugged. "Skiing is actually a little bland, if you ask me."

"It is extreme sports when you're a figure skater!"

"It's safer than skating. I haven't broken any limbs or otherwise injured myself skiing before," Emil pointed out. "Come on, it'll be fun. I'll teach you."

Mickey didn't answer and turned back to watch. It wasn't Sara's turn just yet, but it didn't matter. "I didn't even advance to the free skate," he muttered. "Last season I made it to the Grand Prix Final and placed seventeenth at Worlds, and this season I didn't even…" He gripped his knees tighter, not wanting to say the words my career is over.

"And I placed twenty-third," Emil said, "which is puts me at second from the bottom. But that's not stopping me from taking a well-deserved vacation."

"How is doing more sports a vacation?"

"Not eating chicken every single meal and also spending half my time in a jacuzzi makes it a vacation. The skiing is really only because I can't sit still. I'll be skydiving in Australia later this summer for a real thrill." Emil nudged him with his elbow. "Think about it, will you? It'll be fun. Come with me to France instead of sitting at home moping while Sara is in Russia."

~*~

The Paradiski area offers extensive, uncrowded skiing up to 3,250 with everything from tree-lined runs to glacier skiing above the clouds. Adventurous skiers can cover some serious ground (425 kilometres in total), but be sure to choose one of the higher villages in either resort for top-to-bottom skiing in spring.

"Sara!" Mickey yelled. "Can you come here for a second?"

"I'm busy!" Sara yelled back.

"I think Emil is taking me to a bad place!" Mickey yelled.

There was a brief second of silence, then Sara thundered down the stairs. "What?"

"Look at this." Mickey gestured at the monitor. "I googled that place he booked. Adventurous skiers! And glacier skiing! Glaciers aren't safe, are they? They have cracks in! I saw it in a documentary once. He said skiing wasn't an extreme sport!"

Sara was looking at him funny. "From that entire paragraph, that's your takeaway?"

Mickey blinked. "...yes?" He glanced at the monitor again. There was a photo of some nice mountains and some cabins and some lifts, and then this text. "Am I missing something? Is this place a death trap? Is he going to hope I accidentally die so he can finally date you?"

"He's not my type," Sara said, rolling her eyes. "He's yours, though, so just go. Have fun."

"What - no - what do you mean by that? Sara!" Mickey called after her, but Sara was already back upstairs. "WHAT DO YOU MEAN HE'S MY TYPE? MY TYPE OF WHAT?!"

"NOTHING! SHUT UP AND PACK YOUR SHIT!" Sara yelled back.

Two hours later, Mickey had packed everything he needed for a week in the mountains (sans skiing gear. Emil had assured him he could rent gear at the resort, and he was lending Mickey one of his own ski suits.), and was at the airport with Sara. Her flight to St. Petersburg was scheduled to leave twenty minutes before his own flight.

"What if I fall down a crack, Sara?"

"They wouldn't let people on the glacier if they'd just fall down cracks," Sara told him, not looking up from the magazine she was reading. "Stick to the marked trails and you'll be fine."

"I've never been skiing before."

"Is that supposed to be news to me?"

"But what if I fall and twist my ankle or break a leg -"

"So have Emil teach you how to do it," Sara cut him off. "Or a certified instructor. You'll be fine, Mickey. You're not going to end your career just because you go skiing for a week."

Mickey rubbed his face. "But what if. I'm already not doing well."

Sara rolled up her magazine and hit him on the head with it. "If you don't want to go, then don't go! Go back home and tell Emil you chickened out!"

"I'm not chickening out!"

"Good!"

He wasn't chickening out, not at all, he told himself, surreptitiously rubbing his head where Sara had hit him. It was just that this was the first time he'd been so far away from Sara and for so long, and skiing could be dangerous, no matter what everyone said. He didn't want his career to end.

Though...if it ended because of an injury, it was different from it ending because he couldn't keep up with the rest of the world, right?

"What if something happens to you in Russia and I'm not there?"

"I'm not a helpless baby, Michele Crispino! I am a grown woman! Do you not trust me to take care of myself?"

"Of course, it's just," Mickey muttered, "there are men in Russia."

"There are men everywhere! Why, were you hoping to come to Russia with me so you could ogle men, or what?"

"What? No! I -"

"I know what you meant and you need to let it go." Sara stood up. "I'm going to my gate now. Don't call me unless it's an emergency." She hugged him. "Unwind a little, big brother, and try to have some fun. Please?"

"Yeah, okay," Mickey said into her shoulder.

He watched her go, then picked up his carry on and walked in the other direction, towards his first flight of the day.

~*~

Emil was waiting outside the arrivals exit when Mickey arrived, leaning against a rental car that looked like it could take on rivers and wild roads. It was a comfortable eighteen degrees in Lyon, despite it only being April, and Mickey couldn't quite believe that skiing was still possible this late in the season.

"There you are!" Emil grinned, opening his arms wide. His sunglasses were perched on top of his head, reflecting the pink of the sunset. "Had a nice flight?"

"It was all right," Mickey said, dropping his bags to let Emil hug him. "I'm starving, though. Is it far?"

"About two and a half hours, maybe less if we bend the law a little." He picked up Mickey's bag and deposited it in the trunk. "We'll get take away, how does that sound?"

"Where's your stuff?" Mickey peeked inside the car.

"I got here yesterday. I've set up everything for us, stocked the fridge and all, all that's missing is you." He clapped Mickey on the shoulder. "Let's go."

Mickey clambered into the car and Emil drove them out of the airport and towards the nearest Burger King, directions courtesy of the GPS.

"I checked out the slopes this morning and they're great, you're in for a treat. Have you been skiing before? No, you haven't, you said so. There's a beginner class tomorrow if you want to join them, but if you'd prefer I can show you myself, I don't mind," Emil chattered. He took one hand off the steering wheel to tug at a lock of hair. "We'll have to get you fitted for skis first, of course, but that's quick work."

"Okay," Mickey said.

"You'll be a champion in no time. Two days and you'll have advanced to red, and if you're up for it we can move on to black. Those are the most exciting ones, but they're also the toughest ones, so not the sort of stuff any sane person would recommend a newbie for their first day."

Mickey wondered what Emil was being so nervous about. He didn't usually talk this much when they hung out, and he was doing that thing with his hair he sometimes did before competitions. "I don't think sane people should hurl themselves down mountainsides with planks of wood strapped to their feet to begin with," Mickey said.

That earned him a chuckle. "Probably not. Most skis aren't made of wood these days, it's all carbon-Kevlar or carbon fiber or plastic and stuff like that. Hey, what would you like to eat?" He pulled into the Burger King drive-through lane.

Mickey studied the drive-through menu. "Nobody can know we are at Burger King, just making that clear. My coach will chew me out for it later," he said. "I think I'd like the Malibu Supreme. Ask them to put extra bacon on it."

"Got it." Emil grinned at him. "Look at you, my man. All chill."

"I'm not chill."

"No, probably not." Emil nudged the car forwards as the line in front of them moved, and then leaned out the window to order. Emil also ordered the Malibu Supreme with extra bacon for himself. He asked for two large orders of fries, two chocolate milkshakes and two Happy Meal toys to their burgers.

"Sir," said the tired, disembodied voice, "this is a Burger King. We don't have Happy Meals."

"But you do have toys for kids, right?"

Pause. "Do you want girl or boy toys?"

Emil turned to Mickey. "Do you want a girl or a boy toy?"

"Uh...girl toy? I can give it to Sara."

An odd look fluttered across Emil's face and was then gone. "It's for you to keep," he said. "Still want a girl toy?"

"Yeah, sure." Mickey shrugged.

"Two girl toys," Emil said, and asked for the sodas to be sugar free at the last minute.

"So you do have a conscience after all," Mickey commented.

"Job hazard, more like. You know how it is."

Mickey ended up holding all the bags of food in his lap. "Uh, you sure you don't want to pull over somewhere so we can eat?"

"I'm good. If you pull on that - yes that, thank you. Unwrap my burger and put it in my hand, I'll eat as I drive."

"That doesn't sound very safe." Mickey deposited the drinks and milkshakes on the little pull out flap Emil had indicated; it turned out to be a cup holder large enough for six cups. He then carefully unwrapped Emil's burger as requested and put it in his hand. "I want you to know that I am mildly terrified right now."

"Mmh," Emil said around a large bite. He swallowed. "Which toys did we get?"

Mickey found the toys in the bag with the fries. "Pink bears with rainbows on them," he said. "It's says care bear on the wrapping."

"Ohh awesome, I have them all but the pink one," Emil said, grinning happily. He tore into his burger again. It was disappearing alarmingly fast, so Mickey put the toys down and started in on his own.

They ate in silence. When Emil finished his meal, he sped up a little, going a little too fast on the motorway for Mickey's comfort. He decided not to comment.

Mickey unwrapped the toys and put them on the dash. He handed Emil a napkin. "You have sauce in your beard."

"Ugh, thanks," Emil said, sounding for all in the world like he wasn't bothered by this. He took the napkin anyway.

"Do you mind if I take a nap? I've been travelling all day." It was rapidly getting darker outside.

"Go on. Is it okay if I turn the radio on?"

Mickey shrugged. "Yeah." He reclined his seat a little and hunkered down, closing his eyes.

The radio came on and cycled through a few stations until Emil found one that played classic music. He turned the volume down a little.

"Didn't think you'd like this kind of music outside skating," Mickey said.

"It's all right."

~*~

Mickey jerked awake when Emil pulled up outside their hotel and turned the engine off. It was dark, but there were lights all around and in the mountains, and it looked impressive. It was also cold.

"I've got it," Emil said, having already retrieved Mickey's bag from the trunk before Mickey could collect himself enough to tumble out of the car.

He grabbed the bag of trash, and his carry on and followed Emil inside.

Their room turned out to be a small one-bedroom apartment with a tiny self catering kitchen and a view over the village. He deposited the trashbag in the kitchen before exploring further. There was a jacuzzi in the bathroom, as Emil had promised, and a cosy-looking living room with a wood burning stove. The bedroom was small, with two single beds wedged in between microscopic bedside tables and barely enough space to walk around them, but enough floor space for Emil's stuff to colonise. It was spread all over over his bed and half the floor below the window.

"It's great," Mickey said, surveying it all. "This is probably the nicest hotel I've ever stayed in." He dropped his carry on on the bed.

"Right? There's a pool downstairs, a restaurant, and a gym. Most restaurants in the area are still open, there's a great breakfast place a few minutes walk from here, I'll take you tomorrow." Emil let himself fall backwards onto his bed, not bothering to clear stuff off it first.

"Thanks for picking me up," Mickey said. "I could've taken the bus or something."

"Don't mention it. My pleasure. Oh, and the wifi code is on the fridge."

"Yeah, I should check in with Sara…" Mickey pulled his phone out of his pocket and went to find the wifi code. He came back a few minutes later and sat on his bed, checking his messages and, when they came up empty, his Instagram feed.

Emil was watching him. "How is she?"

There was a food photo on Sara's account tagged with a St. Petersburg location. "Fine, I think." The temptation to call and check was overwhelming, but Sara had explicitly said not to call, and considering the mood she'd been in, she probably wouldn't pick up if he called her anyway. It was late in St. Petersburg anyway, wasn't it? He'd call tomorrow. She'd talk to him tomorrow, he was sure of it.

"I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted," Emil said, interrupting Mickey's train of thought. "I'm going to bed. You can stay up if you'd like, but I'd like for us to be out of here by eight so we can get an early start. Is that cool?"

"Yeah, that's cool."

Mickey lay awake for a long time, listening to Emil's deep breathing.

~*~

There was nobody in the other bed when Mickey woke up. He wriggled out of bed and dug out a pair of jeans and a tshirt to put on.

Emil wasn't in the kitchen or the living room, but the door to the bathroom was open and the sound of running water carried through to where Mickey was hovering in the doorway to the bedroom. A few steps and he was hovering in the doorway to the bathroom instead.

"Morning sunshine," said Emil, who was evidently trimming his beard. He winked at him through the mirror. "Sleep well?"

Emil was also not wearing anything but a pair of boxers.

"I need coffee," Mickey answered.

"If you can be ready to go in fifteen minutes, we can get coffee and breakfast at that place I told you about."

Mickey stepped up to the mirror to inspect his face. He rubbed his cheek. His face was stubbly, and looked kind of awful; Mickey never looked sexy with day old stubble, just like a criminal. "I can be ready in five," he said. Fuck shaving. Coffee was more important.

"You're joking?"

"Nope."

True to his word, five minutes later Mickey had peed, brushed his teeth and put on outerwear. Ready to go. Emil had apparently realised that Mickey wasn't joking, and hurriedly got dressed himself to join him.

The breakfast restaurant Emil had recommended was very nice, and thankfully void of children.

"Did you want to sign up for a beginner's class, or?" Emil speared a tomato with his fork and put it in his mouth.

Mickey was on his second cup of coffee. "I don't know. What's the beginner's class like?"

"This time of year, likely full of seven to ten year olds. That's not a bad thing," he added, as Mickey gave him a foul eye. "But if you'd prefer, I'll be happy to teach you."

"Yeah. You do it." Mickey polished off the last of his toast. "Show me what you can do and try not to break my legs in the process."

"I would never." Emil put a hand to his heart. "I'm not that ruthless when it comes to eliminating my competition."

"And here I thought that was why you invited me along to do this death sport with you," Mickey deadpanned. He stabbed at his bacon. "You'll be able to ask Sara out then, when I'm dead."

Emil looked into his glass of juice. There was something pinched about his expression. "Let's make a deal, yeah?" He looked up. "Let's not talk about Sara at all this week, yeah?"

"What, why? I thought you liked her?" Mickey gave him a suspicious look.

"I do like her. I also like you." Emil shrugged. "But I didn't invite her."

"Why not?" Mickey's mood was souring more and more. He should be happy that Sara wasn't getting pestered by Emil anymore, but Sara wasn't here. "You ask her out often enough."

Emil was muttering something under his breath. "I haven't been asking her out, not like that. I like hanging out with her - with both of you," he eventually said. "I'm not interested in Sara, but I am kind of interested in you. Will that get you to shut up about me and Sara?"

The restaurant was uncomfortably silent. "Yeah, I guess." Mickey looked down. He cleared his plate. "Weren't we going to go get me skis?"

"That was the next step, yes." Emil still sounded annoyed, but he finished his juice and stood up. "Come on, then."

They walked to the ski rental in silence and got Mickey fitted in silence and made their way to the pistes in silence.

That was too much silence for comfort, Mickey decided, especially with Emil. He usually made small talk.

And Sara was usually with them, making the small talk flow smoothly. Mickey bit the inside of his cheek to keep himself from mentioning her. It was stupid how much he missed her, but she made everything so easy. He didn't know how to be friends with Emil without her around to butter all the gears.

"This looks like a nice place," Emil said, pausing a few steps ahead of him. He glanced around, taking stock of their surroundings: they were at the bottom of the nearest green piste, which was dotted with small children at one end. "We'll practise here."

"Here?" Mickey startled. "Not over here?" He indicated the kids and the little lift.

"We'll go there once you've got the basics down." Emil gave him a smile and then a wink.

For some reason, that wink was more reassuring than anything Emil could've possibly said.

"Okay. What do I do?"

Emil walked him through all the key movements, demonstrating how to bend the knees just so, how to brake, how to keep the balance - and had Mickey practise a little ways up.

The first time Mickey went down the actual slope from up top, he screwed up the whole turn-to-a-halt thing, and ended up flailing directly into a pile of snow that he shouldn't have been aiming for in the first place.

"Oh my god," Mickey said, when Emil pulled up next to him, laughing happily. "This is worse than the first time I put a pair of skates on. This is terrible." He rubbed snow off his face and lumbered away from the pile, feeling thoroughly undignified.

"That was amazing and I am putting it on Snapchat as soon as we get wifi again," Emil said, clapping him on the shoulder. "Come on, let's try again."

Mickey shook his head, but followed Emil to the lift all the same.

He crashed into the snowbank two more times before he got the hang of it, and each time Emil was close behind, his laughter ringing out over the snow.

It wasn't until just before lunch time that Emil thought Mickey could be let loose on the easiest piste on the mountain. Not the one they'd been practising on, but another one a short distance over.

"You're doing great," Emil told him as they trundled towards the lift. "Don't be scared, you'll be fine."

Mickey got on the lift. "I'm not scared, not really," he said. "Kids are doing it, right?"

"Yeah, no I meant, it's okay to be scared, but you don't have to. You've got it. You'll go a bit faster than before because this one's a bit steeper, but it's really easy." Emil gestured. He tugged at his beanie. "So, fast but easy, and when we've done this one a couple of times we'll move on to the next level up. How do you feel about pancakes for lunch, by the way? There's a cabin halfway up that does amazing pancakes."

"Pancakes are fine." Mickey frowned. "You are talking very fast, you know."

"Yeah, ah. I'm a bit nervous, I guess." Emil shrugged, then motioned for Mickey to get off; the lift was nearing its destination.

Once off the lift, Mickey stopped Emil before he could go ahead. "What do you mean, nervous? Haven't you been skiing for years? Should I be nervous?"

Emil fiddled with his sunglasses for a while before turning to look at Mickey. "I'm not nervous about skiing," he said, voice soft. "I'm a little nervous that you won't like it."

"Well, that's stupid," Mickey declared. "I'm here, aren't I?"

"Yeah. You are." Emil put a hand on his back, nudging him forwards.

~*~

It was still somewhat early in the afternoon when they dropped skiing for the day - Mickey had managed a couple of successful runs on two of the blue pistes, Emil had uploaded videos to Snapchat at lunch, and Mickey had posted a selfie of the two of them to Instagram, mountainview in the background.

For all that skiing was a death sport, Mickey was pretty pleased with himself and his accomplishments.

"Do you mind if I do homework?" Emil asked, moving into a standing quad stretch. "I have a lot to catch up on."

Mickey was lying on the floor in a spinal twist. "Nope. I have coursework too. And a project I need to hand in in two weeks." He let out a breath, then twisted the other direction. "What are you studying again?"

Emil held the pose for another twenty seconds, then switched to the other leg. "I'm studying for my Maturita Exam. High school," he clarified. "I'm graduating this year."

"Good luck with it." Mickey sat up. "I forgot you were still in high school."

"It's because I'm extremely mature," Emil told him, grinning. "It's the beard, isn't it?" He stroked his chin. "Best decision ever. I don't get carded anymore when I go places."

"Nice." Mickey got up, rolling his shoulders. He still got carded everywhere, which was super unfair. "Want the shower first?"

Emil gestured for him to go on. Mickey ducked into the bedroom to fetch his toiletries and a change of clothes.

"Are we going out for dinner or staying in? Do they deliver to this place?" he called out.

"No delivery, and all we have in the kitchen is eggs and toast."

Mickey considered this, then picked his nicest pair of jeans and pullover to wear. He'd packed more comfortable clothing as well, but it didn't seem quite right to just put on joggers and a t-shirt...his mother had raised him right, after all.

He was quick in the shower, something he'd learned from a lifetime of living in a house with four women in it. His stubble was worse now than it'd been in the morning - to shave, or not to shave? He was on something resembling a vacation so he strictly didn't need to, but...screw it, he wanted to look nice, not like an unemployed slob. Or a juvenile delinquent.

Or like somebody whose career was on a downwards track.

Now was not the time for that sort of thinking, he told himself, lathering up shaving foam. He had reading to do and a project to finish and lectures to watch, and a friend to hang out with. He could mope later.

Mickey shaved carefully, then moisturised with the lotion his aunt had given him for his sensitive baby cheeks (her words, not his, but the damn thing worked, so whatever), and then spent two minutes staring at his bottle of cologne.

It was just Emil out there, right? He didn't need to impress anyone.

"Fuck it," Mickey muttered, applying the cologne at last. He'd shaved. Might as well go all out.

He adjusted his pullover, fixed his hair, and then walked out. "All yours."

Emil came out of the bedroom. "Thanks - oh, you shaved." Was that a note of disappointment in his voice?

"Yes?" Mickey frowned and tried to resist the temptation to touch his cheeks. He failed. "What of it?"

"I liked the stubble." Emil shrugged, sailing past. "It was sexy."

"Wha- no it wasn't!" Mickey sputtered.

"I thought so." Emil winked, then shut the door to the bathroom.

Mickey stared at the door. "You're wrong!" He shouted.

"Whatever you say!" Emil shouted back, voice somewhat muffled. "My opinion remains the same!"

The shower came on. Mickey fetched his laptop and earphones from his carry on and sat down to watch his lectures.

When Emil came out of the shower, Mickey pointedly ignored him. (He did notice that Emil had also put on a nice shirt.) A little later, Emil settled on the sofa with what looked like math homework. They worked in silence the rest of the day, taking only a break for dinner.

~*~

Mickey was the first to wake up the next morning. His watch told him it was too early to be awake. His bladder told him it was time to get up. Emil's soft snores in the other bed told him he wouldn't be awake for a long while.

Groaning, Mickey crawled out of bed and into a pair of joggers, then made his way to the bathroom.

And then the kitchen. He found coffee and toast in one of the cupboards, and eggs, milk, jam, butter and juice in the fridge. There was a bowl of fruit sitting on the counter, and when Mickey checked it he found it to be real fruit, not plastic decorations.

He got the coffee maker going in no time. When there was enough coffee in the pot for a cup, he poured himself one, then set about to make breakfast.

"Am I dreaming?" A sleepy voice said behind Mickey a little while later, followed by a yawn.

"Good morning, sunshine," Mickey said. "I'm making eggy bread. Want some? There's coffee in the pot."

When there was no answer forthcoming, Mickey turned to look. Emil was staring at him.

"Yep, definitely still dreaming." Emil wandered over to the dining table and sat down, chin in his hands, to continue watching Mickey work in the kitchen.

"I'm pretty sure you're awake." Mickey poured him a cup of coffee and handed it over.

"Okay, no. You know what. It's too early for all this." He gestured at Mickey with the mug, then yawned again. And took a sip of the coffee. "Put a shirt on, dude. Please."

Mickey glanced at himself, then at Emil. "Why?"

Emil paused, the mug halfway to his mouth. "Why?" he asked. "Why." He put the mug down and leaned back in his chair, looking heavenward like he was performing some kind of dramatic routine on the ice. "Lend me strength," he whispered.

"Did you want eggy bread or not?" Mickey asked, returning to the stove to flip the toast before it burned.

"Yes, thank you." Emil's chair creaked. "I can't possibly convince you to put me out of my misery and, I don't know, cover those abs up, or something?"

Mickey's face heated. He grabbed the apron hanging off the dish towel pegs and put it on.

"Not helping!" Emil, unhelpfully, informed him. "So not helping."

"Look the other way then!" Mickey snapped. "If you're that bothered!"

Silence, then a shuffle. The TV came on. Mickey snuck a look over his shoulder and saw that Emil had turned sideways in his chair, mug in one hand and remote in the other. His cheeks were curiously pink.

Mickey snapped his attention back to the frying pan. He cracked more eggs into the bowl and readied another stack of toast. While the next batch of toast was frying, he cut up some bananas and apples into handy little slices.

"Rough weather warning for tomorrow," Emil said after a little while. "Most likely just some snowfall. This time of year that's usually what that means."

"Mmh." Mickey had no idea what that meant - Emil didn't sound concerned, so it probably wouldn't get in the way of skiing. He divvied up the finished eggy breads and fruit, and grabbed the jam from the fridge, then took the apron off.

He glanced at Emil, who was still pointedly looking at the TV, and shot into the bedroom lightning quick to find something to put on. The t-shirt he'd worn the day before was on the floor, so on it went, and he ran his fingers through his hair to try to smooth it down a little, to no avail.

Mickey gave up on trying to look presentable and returned to the kitchen to serve the food before it got cold. He cleared his throat. "Food's ready. Uhm."

"Thank you." Emil finally looked at him again. He accepted his plate and set it down. "Sorry about before." He gave Mickey a wry smile. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable."

"It's fine." Mickey shrugged, but he avoided eye contact all the same. He was busy cutting into his pile of eggy bread, he told himself. It was fine.

~*~

They spent all morning on blue pistes. Skiing wasn't bad, Mickey was coming to find, and there was something to be said for the exhilaration that came with almost flying down a mountainside.

"Isn't it boring for you, doing these with me?" Mickey gestured at the landscape, then bit into his grilled sandwich. "You could be up there, doing the crazy stuff."

"I could," Emil agreed, picking at piece of lettuce sticking out of his own sandwich. "But what's the point of going skiing with your friend if you're not actually skiing with your friend, you know?"

"I guess." Mickey took another bite, chewing thoughtfully. He swallowed, then: "Don't you usually go on these trips with your friends? I mean, more friends. From home. There's always lots of people in the photos you post."

Emil nodded. "They're being responsible people and not skipping school." He finished his sandwich. "Anyway, you came."

"And if I hadn't come?"

"I'd probably be in school right now, wishing I were here instead." Emil shrugged. "And wishing you'd said yes to come."

Mickey decided a change of topic was in order. "Can we do a red one next? I want to try."

"Totally." Emil whooped, grinning happily and sending warmth down to Mickey's toes with the brilliance of it.

They alternated between red and blue that afternoon, only turning back to the flat when the clouds got too ominous and heavy.

~*~

"I'm filling the jacuzzi," Emil declared as soon as they entered the flat. "I'm in the mood for some sweet relaxation. You in?"

"Yes." Mickey had already stripped down to inner layers and was bending into a stretch. "I'm more sore today than I was yesterday. I didn't know I had these muscles."

"It's a nice change, isn't it?" Emil called out from within the bathroom. "No bruises from falling on your face on the ice for once."

"Oh. Yeah." That's what was different. Sore muscles in new places was one thing, but the lack of bruises was something else entirely.

Mickey switched to focusing on stretching his gluteal muscles. Emil joined him on the floor, leaving the jacuzzi to fill itself.

"What if I never get my career back on track?"

"Become an architect."

"Funny."

"Skating isn't forever." Emil twisted on the floor. "We know that. It's what we signed up for."

"That's easy for you to say, when you still have several good seasons to go. People have retired at my age." Mickey huffed, grimacing as he tried to hold his position. "I wasn't going to be one of them."

"Then don't be," Emil said, simply.

Mickey gave up and sprawled on the floor. He could stay there indefinitely.

"Don't fall asleep." Emil continued stretching, then got up and checked on the jacuzzi. He announced it to be halfway there.

"I'm not asleep," Mickey said, when he noticed that Emil was watching him. Emil had fetched the juice carton from the fridge and was drinking straight from it.

"You've not really been you this spring," Emil said. "What gives?"

Mickey shrugged. His shoulder bumped against a table leg. "You said I couldn't talk about Sara this week."

Sigh. "What is it about Sara, then?"

"She's just been weird. We used to talk about everything, but she's been keeping secrets from me." Mickey shrugged again. "I wouldn't be mad if she was dating, you know."

Emil snorted.

"Well, I wouldn't be too mad," Mickey amended. "She's right, about a lot of things. And I'm trying. But everything is changing, and I've had the worst season since my junior debut, and I just...don't know."

"I know one thing," Emil offered, "which is that nothing will ever get better if you just lie there. The jacuzzi is almost ready. Take your clothes off and get in." He returned the juice carton to the fridge, then disappeared into the bathroom.

Mickey heard him turn the tap off. He remained on the floor for a little longer, then sighed and heaved himself up.

Emil was already in the tub, head thrown back and eyes closed. The water was bubbling merrily away, sounding like a pot of boiling soup. Mickey undressed quickly and slid into the water, sinking against the side of the tub and sighing out loud.

"Is this how soup feels?" he asked.

"Probably," Emil chuckled. He didn't otherwise move. "The jet controls are over there somewhere."

Mickey found the buttons easily. He cycled through four different modes, eventually settling on the most powerful one. "This is like getting a massage," he commented, leaning back.

"Mmmh."

"We should get one of these installed in my home rink. Just go straight in after practice." Mickey let out a small groan. All his sore muscles were being kneaded by water, and the heat was soaking into his bones.

"Totally," Emil agreed.

Mickey let himself relax completely, leaning his head on the edge and closing his eyes. He wasn't going to fall asleep like this, though it was a close thing.

He didn't know how much time had passed, but eventually he hit the buttons again for a gentler water pressure. The noise level from the jacuzzi dwindled a little, and Mickey felt almost like he was floating.

"Hey." Splash. "Can I kiss you?"

Mickey's eyes flew open. Emil had moved closer. Small droplets of water were clinging to his beard and there was a thin line between his eyebrows.

There was something wrong with Mickey's mouth; it wasn't forming an answer or any other sense making words at all, such as what or why or okay. Or yes. It didn't matter, whatever Emil was reading in Mickey's face he clearly took as encouragement, beautiful smile lighting up on his face as he moved in and kissed Mickey.

No words could describe this, if Mickey were capable of stringing them together at all - and he very much wasn't. If he'd imagined this before, he hadn't imagined it like this: in a tub full of water two kilometres up a mountain, but here he was and Emil's lips were insistent against his.

Mickey sat up straighter, leaning into the kiss, their knees knocking together. Emil's neck seemed like the perfect place to put his hand, so he did. He was making noises, low throaty noises, that Mickey didn't know how to respond to. He reached blindly for the jet controls and once he found them he turned the jets off.

"What'd you do that for?" Emil asked then kissed him again. And again. His wet fingers were trailing over the back of Mickey's neck and into his hair.

"Couldn't focus," Mickey eventually answered. He didn't want to stop kissing Emil, ever, which was an exhilarating feeling to experience, but it was also terrifying, like something dangerous could happen if he continued - not unlike skiing, actually, or a death drop.

He'd done a death drop exactly once and was probably lucky to still be alive. Somehow, he didn't think he would actually die if he kissed Emil some more, but his gut hadn't gotten the memo and was screaming at him.

"Hey," Emil said into Mickey's mouth, his lips impossibly soft. His voice was rough, tense. His fingers tight in Mickey's hair. "The water is getting cold. Let's get out of here."

"Yeah, yeah okay." Mickey let Emil kiss him one more time and then Emil was pulling back and leaning over the edge of the tub for a towel.

"Dinner," Emil said. "We have a reservation." He threw Mickey a towel, and by the grace of god or his right hand, he didn't drop it into the water.

"Right." Mickey pressed his face into the towel.

Was this really happening?

He drew in a deep breath to steady himself, then followed Emil out of the tub. They dried off quickly and got dressed again even faster, and Mickey tried not to think about how much he wanted to kiss Emil again, or the fact that Emil was definitely sneaking looks at him.

call asap EMERGENCY, Mickey texted Sara, then slid his phone into his pocket.

~*~

It was snowing outside. Emil hadn't kissed Mickey again since they got out of the jacuzzi. Sara also hadn't texted back or called yet, and Mickey couldn't figure out which of the two was worse.

His appetite was all but destroyed. He had half a pizza on his plate still. It was excellent pizza - nothing like proper Italian pizza, of course, and he'd already gone through the motions of mock complaining about it to Emil, but it didn't feel...normal. Nothing about this dinner felt normal. Not the way they suddenly didn't know how to talk to one another, or the nervous glances Emil kept sending Mickey, or the way Mickey's fingers trembled ever so slightly every time he picked up his glass.

"Hey," Emil said. He sounded apprehensive, and Mickey noticed he'd also not made much headway with his own pizza.

"Hey yourself."

Emil smiled and opened his mouth to say something, when Mickey's pocket blared loudly.

"Uh, sorry -" Mickey fumbled with his phone, then stared at the screen. "It's Sara," he said, numbly, as if he'd expected something else. As if he hadn't been waiting for her to call him for almost an hour already.

He suddenly, viscerally, did not want to talk to Sara at all.

"You're not answering?"

Mickey put the phone back. It tore at him, but he couldn't talk to her now. He especially couldn't talk to her when Emil was looking at him like that. "No." It was still ringing in his pocket. "What were you saying?"

"I - uh…" Emil shrugged. "Let's get back?"

"Yeah, okay."

The ringing stopped, but Mickey's pocket buzzed with incoming text messages instead.

They got their leftovers boxed up and made their way back to the hotel. The weather was steadily getting worse, and Emil looked even more worried than before.

Mickey wondered how he'd react if he asked to hold hands. He didn't; Emil's hands were deep in his jacket pockets looking very unholdable, and Mickey's phone kept buzzing.

It rang again in the lobby. It was going to continue to ring and blow up with text messages if Mickey didn't take Sara's calls, he realised. "I'm going to answer this," he told Emil, handing him the bag with the leftovers. "Go on up? I'll just...talk to Sara first."

Emil paused, giving Mickey a searching look, then shrugged and nodded. "Yeah, okay."

Just as soon as Mickey answered the call, Sara was screeching into his ear. Did you break something? Mickey! What happened? Are you in the hospital? Why didn't you answer?

"Hello," Mickey said, watching as Emil headed towards the elevator. "I didn't break anything." He went to sit in one of the comfy chairs in the lounge.

You said it was an emergency! What was I supposed to think?

"It is an emergency." Mickey sighed. "Something happened. I…" He sighed again.

Sara was quiet on the other end. What happened? she eventually asked. Are you okay? You don't sound okay.

"I don't know." Mickey still didn't want to talk to her. What was there to say? What could she do? He considered lying to her, making something stupid up, so she'd hang up and he didn't have to talk about it.

Is it Emil? Is he okay?

"I think so. I don't know." Mickey rubbed his face. "I don't know what to say."

Is he in hospital? There was a sound on the other end like shushing.

"No, nothing like that." Mickey quieted, staring out the window. The weather was really getting bad. Hadn't Emil said something about a rough weather warning? "You know how it's really hard for me to admit things, sometimes?"

More like all the time. Pause. Yeah, I know.

He should just tell her. He needed to know it was okay. She was the only one who could make it okay.

Mickey drew in a steely breath. "Emil kissed me," he then said. "And I…"

Sara was completely quiet on the line.

"I kissed him back," Mickey continued. "I wanted to. You know? I wanted to."

I know, Sara said, and her voice was unusually soft. Is that why you wanted to talk?

"Yeah. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to bother you, I just…" Mickey sighed. "I miss you. I miss talking to you. I didn't know what else to do."

I miss you too. Pause, more shushing. How long have you been in love with him?

The question caught Mickey off guard and he froze, heart thumping in his chest. Breathing turned into an impossible task.

Mickey? Breathe.

"I don't know," he eventually said, raw and breathless. "I don't...I don't think I knew."

No, I don't think you did either. So...what are you going to do?"

"Why didn't you tell me?" Mickey pinched his arm, trying to keep the painful thumping under control. Trying to remember how to breathe. "I didn't…"

Because it's important. I wanted you to figure it out for yourself. Sara's voice was so impossibly soft and familiar and far away. I'm sorry.

Mickey could really use a hug now. He said as much to Sara, not caring if he was being clingy and annoying. It was an emergency.

I'll give you the biggest hug when you come home, she said. I have to go now. We'll talk later? Will you be okay?

"Am I allowed to call you again?"

Yeah, you're allowed. But I really have to go now. Love you, big brother.

"Love you too, little sister."

Sara hung up and Mickey realised that his eyes were wet. He allowed himself a few moments to compose himself, then went upstairs.

Emil was on the sofa with a textbook in Czech and a highlighter. He startled when Mickey came in. "Bad news from home?" he asked. "Is Sara okay?"

"She's fine. No bad news. It's nothing like that." Mickey fetched his own textbooks. "I don't want to talk about it."

"Okay." Emil's eyes followed him until he settled on the sofa next to him. "I have bad news, though. No skiing tomorrow - the weather's too bad. All the pistes will be closed until it blows over."

"Oh."

"Yeah."

Mickey opened his textbook, and Emil went back to his own reading. The same uncomfortable silence that'd hung over them in the restaurant settled over them here.

It was impossible to focus on an urban planning textbook when Emil was right there, within easy reach and kissable. Kissing would be preferable to this uneasy quietness.

Being back in the jacuzzi knocking knees with Emil was preferable to everything.

~*~

The rough weather had turned into a blizzard overnight. It was dark in the bedroom, but not so dark that Mickey couldn't see that Emil was watching him.

"Weather," Emil said.

"Yeah," Mickey said.

If he reached out, he could bridge the small gap between their beds and touch Emil.

"Is there a skating rink nearby?"

"Yeah. It's been shut down for the season, though." Emil's mouth quirked, as if he knew exactly what Mickey was thinking. Mickey had seen it before a thousand and seven times but it could just as well have been the first time - that tiny little lopsided smile fanned the slow fire burning in his gut that Mickey hadn't realised was lit.

"I'll go to the gym, then." Mickey reached across, touching a knuckle to Emil's hand. "Do you want to come with me?"

"Yes." Emil was still smiling.

Mickey had to look away.

~*~

They'd gotten up late, so it was almost noon when they returned from the gym. The weather was letting up a little, but there was still no chance for skiing.

Emil went straight for the fridge and the leftover pizza. Mickey followed. They ate in silence, leaning against the counters.

There was entirely too much silence. There'd been too much silence on this vacation so far.

"Tell me something," Mickey said.

"What do you want me to tell you?" Emil stuffed half a slice of pizza in his mouth at once.

"Anything." Mickey picked a piece of onion off his slice and put it in his mouth. "I'm tired of the silence."

Emil chewed. "Are you saying that because you're Italian and your house is never quiet, or because everything has been shitty awkward since yesterday?"

Mickey opened his mouth to protest, but found he couldn't - the stereotype in his case was true. "Both," he settled on.

"You know, just because I started this, it doesn't mean that I know how to end it, or, or continue it," Emil said. "Continue sounds better than end, I think. Anyway, I started it and now I'm stuck. It's your turn now. What do you want to do about this?"

"I want to kiss you."

The words rang out in the air as clear as rain. Everything about Emil seemed to still in slow motion as the words registered.

Mickey finished his last slice of pizza, watching Emil, who'd been rendered entirely speechless. Mickey didn't blame him; he'd not meant to come out and just say it like that. But he'd admitted it to Sara, the least he could do was admit it to Emil, and now he'd said the words.

"Now?"

All of Mickey's courage left him. "Actually, I'm going to take a shower now, but, uhm. Later?"

Emil blinked. "Do you want me to schedule an appointment?"

"What?"

"For the kissing," Emil clarified.

"Shut up." Mickey was sure his cheeks were flaming. His face certainly felt hot enough. "I'm going now."

Before Emil could say anything, Mickey ducked into the bedroom and grabbed a change of clothes - whatever was within reach - and did his level best to not look at Emil when he crossed the living room.

"Two PM!" Emil called out. "Reserve half an hour for me!"

"Shut up!" Mickey yelled back. He closed the door a little harder than was appropriate.

He took the time to shave after showering. He hadn't shaved in two days, and even though Emil had said he liked the stubble, Mickey was more comfortable without it.

Emil was sprawled on the sofa, doing something on his phone, when Mickey opened the door. He looked up, a large smile spreading on his face.

"All yours," Mickey said.

"Excellent!" Emil was already halfway across the living room.

Mickey hadn't moved from the doorway. Feeling bold, he stopped Emil from entering. "It'll cost you," he said. It was possible his ears were burning. "Price of admission is a kiss."

"Oh?" Emil's eyes twinkled. "What kind of kiss? How long? How deep?"

Instead of answering that, Mickey pulled Emil in for a kiss. It was brief - a little too brief - but sweet, and elicited a surprised noise from Emil. "This is fine," Mickey said, releasing him.

He left Emil floundering and fetched his books and laptop to get some studying done. Mickey also set up a quiet reminder for 2PM. It was silly, he thought, but he could still feel Emil's lips against his. He wanted that again, but his coursework desperately needed doing, and he wasn't sure if he could focus on anything once Emil came out of the shower.

"Get a grip," he muttered to himself.

~*~

Mickey hadn't needed to set up a reminder. Emil had stolen a kiss when he'd come out of the shower and then opened his own textbooks, so Mickey had been unable to keep himself from glancing at Emil every other minute after that. He didn't get much work done.

He cancelled the reminder before it rang, closed the laptop and stood up. He took a few seconds to stretch, then went over to where Emil was lounging on the sofa, Czech textbook in his lap and a binder of notes on the floor.

"It's two PM," Mickey said, pushing down any residual anxiety he might still be feeling. "Your half hour starts now."

Emil flashed him a grin, closed the textbook and dropped it on the floor. "Come here, then."

Mickey clambered on top of him. "This okay?" He felt awkward, but Emil had put his hands on Mickey's hips and was rubbing circles with his thumbs against his hip bones.

"This is more than okay," Emil assured him. "Give me a smile. You look too serious up there."

"I am serious."

"Kiss me, then." Emil stilled his hands.

Mickey leaned down.

This time was different - there was no water, for starters, but they were also much closer. Mickey could feel Emil's body beneath him, his chest rising and falling with every breath, and the deep rumble when he said something, or made one of the many noises that Mickey was starting to appreciate.

Emil also didn't hesitate for long before his hands moved up under Mickey's shirt - which had Mickey squeaking in surprise for a moment before he settled into it - and he found that touching Emil in the same way resulted in more sounds from Emil. And it was nice, lazy, and Mickey could probably have done it for hours.

"Hey," Emil said after a while, putting a firm hand on Mickey's chest, holding him off. His lips were red and somewhat puffy.

How long had they been kissing? Was it possible they'd been making out for hours already?

"I've, ah, got condoms and a copy of my latest STD test results in my bag," Emil continued. "If you want to take this further? Uhm." He was doing that thing with his face which meant he was nervous - the only reason he wasn't pulling on his hair was probably because his hands were still on Mickey.

Mickey stared. "I hadn't really thought about it," he eventually answered, truthfully. Then the rest of his brain brought up with him. "Wait, you brought condoms?"

"I always bring condoms when I'm seeing you," Emil admitted. "Out of optimism! I mean, I don't assume, I just hope…" He tried to shrug it off. "It's just in case."

"Just in case?"

"I have wanted you for a very long time," Emil said, red spots appearing on his cheeks. "I've been hoping you'd stop using Sara as a shield and realise I've been trying to ask you out, all this time."

Mickey didn't know what to say to that. Eventually he settled on what seemed the safest topic: "You weren't lying when you said you really weren't interested in Sara?"

"No, I wasn't lying. She's a great friend, but…" Emil lifted one shoulder in a half-awkward shrug. "She's not you."

"I'm sorry," Mickey then said, trying to process this. "I thought…I thought you just really wanted to make friends with us."

"Yeah, that too." Emil let out a breath. "So...what do you think? Do you want to get naked with me?"

"Oh. Uhm." Mickey frowned, considering Emil, the flush on his cheeks and the nervousness reflected in his eyes. "Yeah okay, if you want to," he said.

Emil made a funny sound that was a bit like a pained groan and a chuckle, covering his face. "Oh, Mickey. That didn't sound very confidence-inspiring." He lowered his hands and gave Mickey a look that was part amusement, part exasperation. "Listen. I'm all about enthusiastic consent, and that wasn't it."

"You sound like a sex positivity brochure," Mickey grumbled. "Like the one Phichit Chulanont was handing out a few years ago."

"It was a good brochure," Emil agreed. "But for real though. I'd love to put my mouth on you. I would love to do a lot of things with you, actually - it doesn't have to be right now, if that's the issue, I'm just saying." He put his hand around Mickey's neck, his thumb doing that circle thing again. "What do you think?"

Mickey considered this. "I'd like to try," he said. "I've never done it before, you know."

"What, never?"

"Never." Mickey shrugged. "What? I've told you this already. It's not news."

"That was two years ago - you're saying you still haven't had sex?"

"You don't have to say it like that!" Mickey crossed his arms, pulling away. "It's not weird or anything."

Emil's face dropped. "Shit, sorry, I didn't mean it like that. I just thought you'd have...I don't know why I thought that. Why haven't you?"

Mickey shrugged. "I just never thought about it. Why would I want to, anyway?"

"I don't know the answer to that," Emil admitted. "Well, I guess I don't have to ask if you've been tested, then. My results are all negative, by the way, I'll show you…"

"Okay." Mickey relaxed a little, letting his hands drop. He pulled Emil's shirt down to cover the bit of skin that'd been exposed. "I like kissing you. Can we go back to doing that some more?"

"Yeah. Yes. Of course. Anytime." Emil nudged him. "Can I have a smile first? Even a tiny one?"

Emil was smiling, a blindingly beautiful, happy smile, and it was contagious as all hell; he was one of the few people who could get Mickey to smile just by existing. He gave in to it, answering Emil's smile with one of his own. "Like this?"

"Like that." Emil pulled him down, and soon his delighted smile was drowning in kisses.

~*~

The rest of the day passed with lazy make outs, occasional studying, watching the blizzard outside turn into a light snowfall, more make outs, a break for dinner, failed attempts at studying, and some more makeouts.

Mickey dug up a chapstick from the depths of his toiletries bag, marvelling at the fact kissing was really detrimental to lips. In general. Nobody had told him that was a thing.

"I'm pushing our beds together!" yelled Emil from inside the bedroom.

"Okay!" Mickey yelled back. He finished brushing his teeth, then applied the chapstick.

Emil had already undressed for bed. Mickey stood in the doorway for a bit, watching him, as he picked up the worst mess from the floor and threw it into his bag.

"To state the obvious, the bathroom is free."

"Oh, cool." Emil flashed him a grin and went.

Mickey undressed and found a t-shirt in his bag to sleep in. He'd not actually slept in anything but his boxers up until this point, but now that he was going to be essentially sharing a bed with Emil...he wanted the shirt, even as he admonished himself for being so self-conscious.

He crawled into bed and settled in to wait for Emil, loading up Instagram meanwhile. Sara seemed to be eating her way through St. Petersburg if the food photos were anything to go by.

Mickey selected a photo he'd taken of Emil (and their food, though Emil was really the focus) earlier that day and uploaded it to Instagram. He didn't caption it.

They'd played footsie in the restaurant. Emil in the photo was was striking a playful pose, looking like he was having the time of his life.

The lights went off in the living room and then Emil was in the bedroom, closing the door behind him. "Hello, handsome," he said, wasting no time in joining Mickey in bed. "Is there gossip to be had?"

"Not really." Mickey closed the app and put his phone away. He rolled onto his side. "Will the pistes be open tomorrow?"

"Mmh." Emil was also on his side. "I just checked."

Tempting as it was to just stay in the flat with Emil all day, they had come here to fling themselves off mountain tops with planks of wood strapped to their feet.

Mickey leaned across to kiss him. "Goodnight."

"Goodnight."

Emil turned the lights off and Mickey settled back on his own pillow. It took him a long time to fall asleep.

~*~

In the morning, Mickey awoke to discover that Emil had migrated closer during the night, though his back was turned. Mickey didn't have to move far to reach the back of Emil's neck, so he did, planting a kiss there.

Emil stirred, so Mickey kissed him again.

"That's a lovely way to wake up," Emil mumbled, shifting closer and in effect lining himself up with Mickey.

Mickey could pinpoint the exact moment Emil woke up completely; his shoulders stiffened ever so slightly.

"Is that your dick?" Emil asked, turning halfway around. He still sounded sleepy, but now his voice had a rough element to it now.

"No, I'm just happy to see you," Mickey deadpanned.

Emil's eyes widened and his mouth opened and closed as he fought some kind of inner battle Mickey wasn't privy to.

"I have to pee," Mickey clarified. He kissed Emil's shoulder. "Which I am going to go do now. I'll be back."

When Mickey came back, Emil was sprawled on his back with his face with in his hands, looking like he was having an existential crisis of some sort. Mickey crawled back into bed with him.

"What're you doing?"

"Trying to commit to memory the feeling of your dick touching me, to be honest."

"Oh." Mickey pried Emil's fingers away so he could see his face. "That's a thing that can happen again. Right now, if you'd like."

"Is that your way of saying 'why, Emil, I would so enjoy it if you railed me really hard right now'?"

"Something like that." Mickey smiled. He couldn't help it; Emil's flustered noises were just the right blend of funny and sweet. "You're cute, you know that?"

"That's not a very sexy thing to say to a man," Emil told him, but the smile on his face belied his words. "You are a ridiculous person, do you know that?"

"I've been told on occasion. Must be, to like you as much as I do." Mickey grinned. He got up on one elbow. "So, about this railing business. I'm very interested in seeing how that goes. Do you have other plans this morning or is now good?"

"Now is definitely goo - oh, you're a dick. You're joking!"

"Not about this." Mickey pushed the covers down and put his hand low on Emil's stomach. He leaned in for a brief kiss. "Is it okay if I touch you?"

"Dude, yes," Emil breathed. "Please touch."

Mickey pulled the waistband on Emil's boxers down, but Emil took over and pulled them off entirely. "Lie back down," Mickey said, then rewarded him with a kiss when Emil obediently resumed his previous position.

Emil was fully hard. "I refuse to be embarrassed about this," he said. "Like, I think I've actually been hard since I saw you walk out of the airport Sunday evening."

"Yeah?" Mickey couldn't help grinning. Emil was flushed again, and he had one hand clawing at the sheets. When Mickey wrapped his hand around Emil's cock, that hand tightened in the sheets and Emil made the most undignified noise Micky had yet heard. "Talk to me."

"Ahhh," Emil said, his other hand latching on to Mickey's hair.

"This good?" Mickey gave him a few experimental strokes, slow and gentle. There was no reply. "I'll take that as a yes." He leaned down to cover Emil's mouth with his, absorbing his soft gasps and moans.

Emil started giving instructions between kisses - firmer, slower, thumb, faster, slower - until he gave up on basic functioning and buried his face against Mickey's neck, breathing hard and spilling over Mickey's hand with a sharp inhale.

Mickey gave him a long, deep kiss, that Emil barely answered, then pulled the t-shirt off his back to clean up. "That was fun," he said. He didn't try to suppress the smug grin on his face.

"Huh." Emil's eyes were closed. "Lemme get my breath back."

"And then what?" Mickey threw the dirty t-shirt on the floor, then dropped down next to Emil and wiggled closer. Emil's ear was right there, so he kissed it.

"Then it's your turn." Emil turned his head so he could reach Mickey's lips.

"Mmh. Are you feeling good?"

"Oh yeah. I may never recover."

"Next time I want do it with my mouth."

Emil groaned. "You are killing me," he said. Before Mickey knew it, Emil had moved to pin his hands to the mattress, kissing him fiercely. "Your turn."

~*~

The last two days passed in a blur of skiing, kissing, sex, more kissing, skiing, occasional food breaks, and very little studying. Saturday morning saw them trying to locate all their belongings and then attempting to fit them back in their bags, which seemed to have shrunk dramatically at some point in the last few days.

Mickey spent a good half hour trying to find his urban planning textbook, and then discovered it underneath the sofa.

"Do you want the last drop of juice?" Emil was giving the fridge's contents a concerned look.

"Throw it away."

Emil took the juice carton out and shook it, then evidently decided to empty it into his mouth instead of into the sink.

They managed to eventually pack everything up, return the rented gear and their room keys, and have brunch. They also managed to argue about who got to drive the rental car back to Lyon (Emil), and then go on that drive without hiccups.

"Did you have a layover in Paris?" Mickey asked, piling their bags onto a luggage trolley.

"No, my return flight is direct." Emil inspected the car (not a scratch), then looked under the seats and inside all compartments to check that they'd left nothing. He picked up the care bear figures and gave one to Mickey, who put it in his jacket pocket.

"Lucky. I've got a layover in Munich again."

Emil crawled out of the car and declared it to be in order, so they went to return the car keys.

They'd travelled together before several times, most recently when they went to the Grand Prix Final to support Sara, but this felt different. Returning rental cars after vacationing together was something couples did, Mickey thought, leaning against the counter watching Emil go over the paperwork with the clerk.

"Hey," Mickey said, when Emil had finished up. There was no one around.

"Hm?"

Mickey tugged gently on Emil's beard to bring him in for a kiss.

"That was all you wanted?"

"Yes." Mickey pushed the trolley ahead. "Let's go check in."

Emil's flight left a whole hour and thirty minutes after Mickey's, so he came to sit with him near his gate. They spent the time waiting sharing a bag of sour apple gummies, chatting about possible themes for the next skating season, and holding hands; Mickey had mustered the courage to just take Emil's hand, and when Emil hadn't objected - the opposite, in fact - Mickey had held onto it.

"When are you going to Australia?"

"July, after my birthday. Graduation present," Emil answered. "You can come, if you want. The skydiving is optional."

Mickey shook his head. "I probably can't. I don't think I'd have the nerves necessary to watch you jump out of a plane, anyway."

"So you mean you don't want me to link you to the recording when we're done?" Emil grinned.

"Maybe. Send me the link but don't expect me to watch it."

"We're going surfing too. I've never tried that before, so I'm really excited about it. I wonder if it's like snowboarding. You'd probably be good at it. Next time we should do snowboarding as well, it's really fun." Emil was starting to blabber, which meant he was nervous about something.

The clock on the board gave them only a few minutes before boarding. "Aren't there sharks in Australia?" Mickey asked, squeezing Emil's hand.

"Oh, sure. It'd be cool if we saw one." Emil squeezed Mickey's hand back. "I'll send you lots of photos."

Mickey nodded.

"When will you be home?"

"Late. I'll be all the way home around midnight but I'm only landing at eleven. I've got two hours in Munich before my next flight…"

"Text me when you get home?"

"Yeah." Mickey regarded their hands. Their fingers were laced together. "What are you doing tomorrow?"

"Probably nothing, unless we've got family over."

Mickey's gate opened for boarding. "Skype?"

"As usual," Emil replied.

A beat passed. "Yeah," Mickey said, and stood up, Emil following. "Like usual." He let go of Emil's hand to pick up his carry on bag.

Everyone else was lining up in front of the gate, but Mickey didn't know how to leave. There was something in his chest that was throbbing.

"Hey," Emil said, moving in for a hug. He squeezed tight. "I'll see you soon?"

"Yeah," Mickey answered, surprised to discover that there was something wrong with his voice. He held on to Emil, turning his face into Emil's neck. They'd showered together that morning, so Emil smelled like Mickey's shampoo.

"Can I kiss you?" Emil whispered. "Before you go?"

Mickey hesitated. "Yes," he eventually said, deciding it was okay; there was probably nobody paying attention to them. He could still keep this for himself.

"Okay." Emil pulled back far enough to lift Mickey's chin up for a kiss. He kept it brief. "You should probably go now," he said, gesturing at the gate. The line had shortened considerably.

"Yeah." Mickey pulled him in for another kiss. "For a safe flight."

~*~

Mickey was exhausted by the time he walked out of arrivals, even if travelling by plane was mostly a whole lot of sitting down. It'd been mercifully quiet, and he'd gotten some work done on his project, what with not constantly getting distracted by Emil anymore, so he was confident he'd be able to hand it in on time.

But he was tired.

"Mickey!"

Suddenly Mickey found himself with his arms full of his sister. Acting per reflex, he hugged her close. "Sara! What are you doing here?"

"I'm picking you up. I missed you! Let me take that." She took the carry on bag and steered them towards the exit and the buses. Mickey was so surprised he didn't even protest about her carrying his bag. "You didn't call me even once, after all. Did you have a good time?"

"I...yeah." Mickey put his arm around her shoulders as they walked, and Sara put her arm around his waist like she always did. He'd missed her, even if he'd managed to forget that he missed her. "Did you have a good time in Russia?"

"Yes! I saw all the sights, and we had so much amazing food. It was really chill." Sara sighed happily. "I have things to tell you too, but not yet."

"Huh? What things?"

"Secrets," she said, leaning into him. "Important things."

Mickey had so many questions. "Okay," he said, instead of voicing any of those questions. He'd promised Sara to do better. "I'll...listen when you're ready?" he said, hoping it was the right thing to say.

"Really?" Sara looked up. The wondrous smile on her face told Mickey that had been the right thing to say.

"Yeah." Mickey kissed the top of her head. He could do this.

They didn't have to wait long for the bus. Comfortably seated in the back, with Sara in the window seat - old habits die hard - Mickey pulled out his cell phone and turned flight mode off. There were no new texts; the most recent one from Emil was a week old and read I'm parked outside arrivals.

Are you awake? Mickey texted.

The reply was immediate. Yeah. Are you home?

On the bus with Sara.

"Is that Emil?" Sara asked.

"Yeah." Mickey didn't look at her. Another text came in from Emil, and Mickey found himself unable to keep the smile off his face.

"And?" She nudged him.

"Nothing." Mickey shrugged. "I don't know what to say." He sent a reply to Emil.

"Are you still upset?"

"No. Not like that. Not anymore."

"Is he good to you?" Sara asked next.

Mickey's face heated as his mind replayed all the ways in which Emil had been good to him these past few days. "Yeah," he said eventually. "He's good to me."

"Good!" Sara's tone was fierce. "You tell me if he isn't and I'll set him straight!"

"Wha- I'm supposed to be the one watching out for you, not the other way around!"

"I don't care, I'll look out for you if I damn well want to!"

Mickey decided the best course of action was to not fight her on this. He was too tired. That was his excuse. "Okay, okay."

Sara leaned back in her seat again, satisfied with this outcome.

Another text came in from Emil. They exchanged messages back and forth the rest of the ride, Sara letting him be all the while. As the bus neared their stop and Mickey saw their house down the road, the low ache in his chest since Lyon resolved into a blooming pain.

Mickey had never missed anyone like this before, and it was almost paralysing. Sara had to shove him out of the seat so that he would actually move and get off the bus.

The lights were on in the kitchen and there was a plate of food sitting on the counter with a welcome home message from his grandmother stuck to it. Mickey was home. He let his carry on slide to the floor, grabbed the plate and a fork, and sat down. Sara had already gone upstairs.

A message came in from Emil. I know, it totally doesn't make any sense, it said, continuing the conversation they'd had on the bus. Mickey stared at it.

Come to Naples, he wrote.