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Lilia raises her nose a little at the cheesy “Victor and Friends” sign hanging over the ice rink but at least it’s apt. (Later she’ll openly groan at hearing Yuri’s suggestions. “Yuri on Darkness.” Honestly, that child.)

Due to Yuri’s spontaneous and ill advised jaunt to Japan last time, he’s forced to take a chaperone this time, something he would have complained about incessantly if it had been anyone else. As it is, he muttered darkly for a full twenty three minutes when Lilia had informed him, and it hadn’t been until she had deposited his cat into his lap that he had returned to his normal levels of teenage moodiness.

“It’s kind of shit compared to ours,” Yuri warns her as they climb up the steps.

“Unacceptably rude,” Lilia tells him. “You will apologize to the owner for such language. It looks to be in working order. That is all we require.”

Yuri protests, insisting that he knows the people here and they don’t care, all the more when a young woman behind the front desk introduces herself as Yuuko and cheekily asks for that apology. Lilia lets Yuri introduce her and inclines her head when Yuuko bows.

It’s good to see people ignore Yuri’s caustic behaviour and recognize the boy behind it; but he’s growing up too quickly and those vitriolic outbursts won’t be tolerated for long.

Yuri knows the rink already and he takes her on a brief tour, which she allows, because he clearly loves it here even if he’s more prone to criticize. Lilia pretends like she had no influence on that.

Vitya catches sight of them as soon as they enter the rink. Yuri shouts in false annoyance as Vitya pulls him into a hug.

She can’t say that she noticed Vitya’s malaise but now that he’s genuinely happy it’s easy to see in retrospect how low he had fallen. Lilia glances at Yuri but makes sure he doesn’t catch her at it. She cannot promise to do better when this might be their last event working together.

It isn’t until they’re having dinner at the Katsuki’s onsen that Lilia meets the other danseur.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” Minako says. She bows, and Lilia takes a full moment to admire her posture. It’s breathtakingly perfect.

“Likewise,” Lilia says. Minako straightens up and looks a little surprised. “When I heard that the 1998 Benois de la Danse recipient resided in Hasetsu I knew I had to accompany Yuri.”

“You flatter me. Excuse me, though, I am not nearly drunk enough for this conversation,” Minako says and Lilia blinks as she pulls a small bottle out of her purse and chugs it. “Okay, there we go.”

Lilia looks at her. Then looks back at her bag. “Have you another?”

“Not here. This came from my supplies,” Minako says. “Hiroko has a decent selection. I’ll translate it for you.”

“Please,” Lilia says.

Minako returns with a bottle and glasses.

“Sorry, I’m just, in shock. I didn’t even think to dream that you knew of me,” Minako says. She’s very at ease as she sits beside her though and laughs a little at herself. “My younger self would have been over the moon.”

“And your current self isn’t?” Lilia asks. It’s a strange phrasing and she has to turn it over in her head a few times to be sure she’s understood it correctly.

“Ah, well, you know,” Minako says but Lilia does not know and she says so. “I’m not that person anymore. Some days I don’t even feel like I ever was that girl. Who was she, that won anything; but I think everyone feels like that after they retire from the professional world.”

Lilia sips at the sake, which is more flavorful than she had initially thought. It sits warm and well in her stomach.

“I don’t think I share the sentiment,” Lilia says.

“You keep busy,” Minako says thoughtfully. She looks over at Yuri who is showing something to Yuuri Katsuki on his phone. “I don’t. I guess that gives me more time to wallow and reminisce.”

“But you still dance, correct?”

“Of course. But not like before,” Minako says. She takes another drink and fills her glass up again. “I have my own studio and I teach beginner’s classes. Yuuri is the only student I have that’s worth anything on an international stage and the days where I taught him are long over.”

Minako’s look goes from Yuuri Katsuki to Lilia. She thinks for a moment that she might have stolen him but that’s nonsense and they both know that. He trains in Russia now where Lilia works and Minako lives in Japan. It’s reality.

“You taught him well,” Lilia says.

“He’s a good student,” Minako says, proud.

“A fantastic teacher,” Lilia says.

“You don’t know that.” Minako laughs. “Victor says I’m a tyrant.”

“He says that about most anyone who tries to make him do something he doesn’t want to,” Lilia says with a chuckle. She wishes for a chair or a bed. But she wants to keep chatting like this. It’s comfortable, even as the skaters around them are loud and rambunctious. Yuri’s voice is distinctive but it’s easier to let his friends deal with him so she can enjoy some conversation.

But it’s hard to suppress the way her body begins to sag ever so minutely. It had been a long flight. Minako notices and stands up to stretch her back out.

“Come to my studio tomorrow,” Minako says. “I’m going to get one of these handsome boys to escort me home. I’m very drunk you see and it’s very late.”

Lilia chuckles as Minako begins to shout for one of the boys. She finds Yuri leaning up against Yuuri Katsuki, drooling on his shoulder, and Vitya taking a video. He promises to send it to her and she lets him finish recording before waking Yuri up.

It’ll be good blackmail material the next time he decides to have a fit. She’ll need help actually putting it online anywhere and that’s far too much of a hassle but she can sell the threat well enough.

#

Lilia is unimpressed with Yuri’s shouting at eight the next morning. Something about disgusting bowls of food, she’s not sure, but then he continues when they arrive at Minako’s studio for their lesson. She snaps at him to concentrate and bans him from studio until he can pull himself together. If he won't’ focus then she can’t work with him.

He takes off, hopefully to take a nap or get on the ice, because she doesn’t need to deal with this ridiculousness on top of jetlag. Lilia knocks at the door.

“Where’s Yurio?” Minako asks. Her hair is sticking to her head and she’s covered in sweat; Lilia remembers that Minako keeps up her own regime and wonders what it looks like. “I swear I heard him.”

“The whole town can hear him,” Lilia says and it takes a great deal of effort to not roll her eyes. Yuri is so fortunate to have her as an instructor.

Minako laughs and steps aside to let her in.

“It’s rough being a sixteen year old figure skating champion,” Minako says. “Having to spend all your time around other elite skaters and working with them is such a trial.”

Lilia snorts.

“He’s having the time of his life,” she says. “Don’t let him fool you.”

“He’s not. But he could tone it down a little,” Minako says.

“Never,” Lilia says, a little fond. Yuri is an absolutely ridiculous child but for now, her teenage champion is acting his age, and it’s good to see him find peers closer to his age. His favorite skater is seven years older than him but luckily Yuuri Katsuki has his hands full with Vitya.

Minako shows her around the studio, and it’s reminiscent of the skating rink; well worn but maintained and most importantly, cared for. Lilia sets her bag down by the audio equipment and takes her heels off.

“How about you? Enjoying Hasetsu?” Minako asks.

Lilia takes her time to answer as she prepares herself. So far it seems like a perfectly pleasant place to visit. But she’s not sure how people can manage living here. There’s so little to do. It’s only hectic because of the ice show. All of the activity is centered around it.

“It’s enjoyable as a vacation so far. My opinion is limited to that,” LIlia decides on.

Minako gives a half laugh, trying to suppress a snort. She’s not entirely successful but Lilia appreciates the effort.

“I’m just about done. Lost track of time. Then you’ll have use of the room,” Minako says.

Lilia enjoys the long lines of Minako's body as she cools down. There’s a tempting flash of an idea to go over and innocently offer to help her stretch. It’s one thing to imagine their bodies pressed hard and flush against one another; but Lilia wants to dance right now.

“Do you mind if I stick around?” Minako asks.

“Not at all,” Lilia says. She should have asked her first, dammit. “I have my discs in my bag.”

“I’ll get them for you,” Minako says. Lilia begins to warm up. “Any preference?”

“The top CD first please,” Lilia says. The WTTM acronym might be enough that Minako realizes what it is but Lilia doesn’t mind. She’s not trying to surprise today, she’s going to impress.

She finishes warming up as quickly as is safely possible and nods to Minako to start the track.

It’s Yuri’s song. She can never shake the feeling and she understands why. It’s easy to dance to after hearing it for month after month though. And sometimes, she remembers well what it was like to be a teenager trapped in an adults world; it’s enough to make one yell and break everything in their path.

In a way she understand what Yuri is trying to express and why he adores this type of song so much. He’s not always difficult to understand, her Yuri.

The days where she could contort herself into knots are done. She finishes, not by stretching herself across the ice or falling to the ground in a mock death, but with her head held high and her feet planted firm against the ground. For this moment, this is her song, and no madness in the world can bring her down.

Minako claps a few times, eyes dark with a heat Lilia hasn’t encountered in years. She lets her body tremble a little not with exhaustion but from anticipation.

“Amazing,” Minako murmurs, and she is sitting very still. Lilia wonders what would be enough to make her stand up and take what she so clearly desires. “I didn’t doubt you but I didn’t know what to expect.”

“Ah, good, I exceeded your expectations,” Lilia says, pleased. She wipes at her forehead and scowls a little at how much she’s sweating. It was only one dance.

“It’s not your style, but I like the way you move to it,” Minako says. She’s deep in thought and Lilia finds herself eagerly awaiting to hear what her opinions are. “It’s energetic and I thought it would be sharp, but you make it almost liquid instead. And there’s an element of chaos to it. Some parts don’t seem like they should go together and I thought it was because you were translating it from the ice to the floor but I don’t think that’s it.”

“It’s not,” Lilia says. She tucks a nonexistent piece of hair behind her ear. “It’s my own version. Sometimes I get tired of dancing to my student’s interpretations. So I make my own. Even if it isn’t my choice of music, especially in this case.”

“I wish I could see you perform that version,” Minako says.

“You did see,” Lilia says. “More than anyone else.”

“I guess I’m greedy,” Minako says with a laugh. “I get a private performance and I still want more.”

“I could say the same for myself. But I wouldn’t say it like that,” Lilia says.

“No, you wouldn’t,” Minako agrees. She doesn’t seem offended or hurt. “Then tomorrow, at this time, shall we dance together again?”

“Of course,” Lilia says. “I still wish to continue.”

“Feel free to. In fact, come whenever you like, my studio will always be open to you. Even at midnight, but I might glare at you a lot, and hate you for a little bit,” Minako says. She’s mostly joking.

“You are too generous.”

“Yeah, I am,” Minako says. “Enjoy yourself.”

Lilia finds herself giving an absolutely ridiculous little wave to Minako’s retreating back and she pulls her hand back, glaring at it. She’s not going to win by acting like a lovestruck schoolgirl. Lilia goes to text Yuri; he should be over his mood and they’ve got work to do.

#

Welcome to the Madness looks much better now that it’s been professionally polished up rather than planned out the night before. Still, Lilia understands why Yuri has a fondness for that initial rough performance; it had been more passion and folly than the brutal elegance that had won him his coveted gold medal.

He’s much more at ease on the ice like this and Lilia can’t help but wonder at how much time she has left with him. It’s had been easy to promise herself not to get attached when Yakov had called asking for help. She should have known better.

But she is proud of Yuri. He does not accept her affections but he soaks up her pride.

“Congrats to a job well done,” Minako says as she plunks down beside her. It didn’t take her long to find Lilia, sitting on a foldable chair close enough that she’s still a part of the bonfire but far away enough that she can let the younger ones enjoy their fun. She looks over the skaters who are happily cavorting around.

Yuri was screaming at the fire earlier, like the ridiculous child he is, until someone pointed out that if he fell in he wouldn’t be able to skate. She thinks it’s the only thing that anyone could have said to get him to stop.

“They did well,” Lilia says. Her cup is empty but she’s not inclined to get up to refill it. Now that Yuri has calmed down and there’s no threat of him falling into the fire, she can drink at ease.

“Here,” Minako says, handing her bottle over, presumably so that Lilia can refill her cup.

Lilia holds the bottle for a moment then drinks; she’s an old lady and she should not get excited about indirect kisses. She doesn’t pass it back to Minako and she huffs a little but doesn’t complain.

“I’d like to come see you again,” Lilia says.

“Me?” Minako blinks. She points to herself for further emphasize, expression a little shocked but mostly confused.

“Hasetsu seems like an ideal vacation location,” Lilia says. But that sounds like she’s trying to deflect and Lilia doesn’t like the implication of cowardice. She looks at Minako. “The company is the most delightful part though. And I’d like to see you dance again.”

“Just dance?” Minako asks with a lopsided grin.

“What else is there?” Lilia asks, mostly teasing but there’s something serious there too. Minako can understand this.

“I think I’ll be visiting Russia first. My favorite student has moved there, you see, and I feel a powerful urge to visit,” Minako says.

“If you do, you’re welcome to stay with me,” Lilia says. “I have space.”

There’s a kiss waiting in Minako’s eyes if Lilia chooses to reach out and accept it. But it’s sweeter to run her fingers over Minako’s hand and feel her resist the urge to reach out and take ripple through her. And Lilia likes the idea of unraveling Minako in the comfort of her own home.

“I can’t deny an invitation like that. And maybe I can go to Rostelecom Cup too then,” Minako says, her eyes bright.

Lilia lets herself laugh and lean up against Minako.

Yuri is going to pass out soon because someone has been feeding him sake and normally Lilia would be inclined to stop it. But she thinks of how Yuri pretends to spew when he sees Vitya and Yuuri Katsuki together. It would better for him to pass out and let the adults enjoy themselves.

And he should learn to hold his liquor.