Yuuri had to admit that when he left to come to Russia, he thought he was giving up the chance to have his last year of high school be something huge. As it turned out, he wasn’t. There was so much happening that he couldn’t really keep track. For one thing, there was finishing high school and making decisions about university. He was going, and with Yakov and Viktor’s encouragement, he’d decided to get a Russian degree. Getting his Russian up to snuff seemed like it would be easier than trying to prepare for the Japanese entrance exam. Mari had retaken it, and she said it was a real pain. She’d done well, at least, and she’d be going to school in Fukuoka.
“What happened to you going to America for school?” Yuuri asked when she told him.
“That was always a choice, not a plan. This’ll be cheaper, and I can be around more to help with the triplets when they get here. Try to keep your crazy friends from putting them on the ice too early. Besides, it’ll be easier to help with the wedding – not to mention I can actually be there without missing too much class.”
That was another thing – Yuuri was spending his last year of high school planning his wedding. It wasn’t that uncommon, but thanks to his fiancé being a figure skating superstar, his wedding was going to be more complicated than most. Also, it was split across two countries.
And, of course, there was still the skating season coming up. No Olympics this year, but now Yuuri was Japan’s Ace. He wasn’t the only Japanese skater skating, but he was their best, and the one they were relying on to continue Japan’s legacy. That was a lot of pressure, which was something Yuuri had never handled very well.
First, though, more pleasant thoughts. It was vacation time, and he and Viktor were heading for Peru for a week. Despite the lack of ninjas, Viktor was literally bouncing in his seat as he made plans for all the things he wanted to see. “The Nazca lines are really cool! They’re giant drawings made in the rocks. Look at the pictures!” Viktor held out his phone, and Yuuri looked through the pictures. They did look pretty cool. “You might like the Ballestas Islands, lots of animals to see. Caral is supposed to be the oldest culture in South America, and they have pyramids! Cusco and Machu Picchu… and of course we have to set some time aside for shopping…”
Yuuri laughed quietly. Seeing Viktor this excited was always fun. “You are remembering sleep in all this, right?”
“Of course I am! Look, there’s a spa therapy thing in the Blue Lagoon, that sounds fun! Nice and restful. Ooh, the zoo has a lot of big cats. Good place to get pictures and souvenirs for Yuri!” Viktor winked at him. “Besides, we’ll get plenty of rest once we get to Thailand. Sun and sand and surf and sleep and Phichit. Is anyone else coming, do you know?”
“I know Phichit’s invited Seung Gil, but I don’t know if Seung Gil’s coming or not. I don’t think anyone else is.”
Their flight arrived in Lima in the morning, and after checking into their hotel, they spent the rest of the day shopping and checking out museums around the city. Yuuri’s favorites were the chocolate museum and the electricity museum, while Viktor loved the Inquisition museum. They called it an early night, partly because of the long flight, but also because they had a very early morning the next day.
The first part of the day was going to the Ballestas Islands to see the wildlife. “I’ll have to be sure to tell Chris I took pictures of boobies,” Viktor joked.
“Get a warning to Masumi to take a picture of Chris when he reads the text. I’d love to see his face.”
“Look! Penguins!” Yuuri shook his head and sent a text to Masumi himself. Viktor would never remember. It was questionable whether Viktor would remember to text Chris the joke about boobies in the first place.
After the islands, it was off to an airplane to go see the Nazca lines. When the first ones came into view, Yuuri thought he might have to hold Viktor back from trying to jump off the plane. He certainly couldn’t blame Viktor for the excitement – seeing the pictures hadn’t really prepared him for seeing the real thing.
They slept in the next day, and then headed for the Blue Lagoon spa. When they got back from that, they were both rested and full of energy, so they went to the zoo to see the cats. They took as many pictures as they could for Yuri, sending them with a “Wish you were here!” notice. Once again, they called it an early night, as they were getting on a flight to Cusco early the next morning.
Viktor completely lost his shit as they ran around Cusco. Yuuri didn’t care as much about the Incan or Spanish history, but watching Viktor was enough fun to make the trip completely worth it. Viktor kept his word and made sure they saw llamas, much to Yuuri’s amusement.
The last stop in Peru was Machu Picchu, where they woke up early one more time to watch the sun rise over the ruins. It was absolutely breathtaking, and well worth the early morning, even to Yuuri. The ruins themselves were much more interesting to Viktor than to Yuuri, but that was all right with him. They flew out that evening to go to Thailand, where Yuuri was very much looking forward to stretching out on the sand and not moving for a day or two.
Seung Gil was there when they arrived, along with his parents. It was good to see Phichit. The first thing Phichit did was show them the media coverage of their trip to Peru – mostly little fluff mentions of First Viktuuri Vacation, but there were a couple more annoying articles. “Early Honeymoon” and “Viktuuri Secretly Already Married?” had both Viktor and Yuuri rolling their eyes, but it wasn’t a big deal. “The Hamsters are starting to get a little bored. It’s been months since you two caused a scandal!”
“Personally, I’d like to keep it that way,” Yuuri said. “We’re not doing another prank this year.”
Hasetsu for some skating season talk and Yuuri&Mari bonding time.
Timeline: mid-April 2010
Viktor had been completely right. Sitting on the beach in Thailand was exactly the rest Yuuri needed, even with Phichit pulling him out to the ocean or into a game of beach volleyball - Yuuri and Phichit against Viktor and Seung Gil. By the time they left for Hasetsu, Yuuri was rested and ready to get back on the ice.
He was surprised to see Yuuko on the ice, skating side by side with Takeshi. “Is that a good idea, given…?”
Yuuko grinned. “Yes and no. The skating itself isn’t a problem, but the risk of falling is. That’s why Takeshi’s right here, to catch me. I want to stay in shape and I know soon I’ll have to give up even this much of the ice, but for now… it’s not the best idea ever, but I’m being safe about it.” She made her way out of the rink. “It’s all yours and Viktor’s. Have fun!”
“Thanks." Yuuri felt a little bad - after all, Yuuko was now part owner of the place, and here he was kicking her off. "You don’t have to…”
“Yes, I do. My time was just about up anyway. Besides, you two don’t need witnesses if you’re planning on messing around with ideas for next season. We’ll be up front if you need anything.” Yuuko waved and left, Takeshi right behind her.
“Are we planning on messing around with ideas for next season?” Yuuri stepped out onto the ice.
Viktor shrugged. “Do you have any ideas? I’m still trying to work out what I want to do.”
“What, no inspiration from Peru after all?” Yuuri had been half afraid Viktor would want to do some sort of bizarre llama program. He was not going to say that aloud and plant the idea in Viktor's head, though. He did not want to face Yakov's wrath when Viktor presented the idea.
“I have plenty of inspiration from Peru! It was amazing!” Viktor winked at Yuuri. “It’s also what everyone’s expecting me to do this year, so I’m not going to. Are you?”
“Maybe. I haven’t decided what I’m doing with my free program yet.”
“Oh?” Viktor raised an eyebrow. “You have decided what you’re doing for your short program?”
He hadn't run it by Yakov yet, but he was pretty sure Yakov would roll his eyes and allow it. “Remember last year, how Minako thought I should skate to wedding music? Apparently she took me seriously when I said I should do it this year instead, because she says she has music chosen and a routine choreographed for me already. The Bridal Chorus from Lohengrin.”
“Perfect! And the free program, you don’t know yet?”
“Right. I don’t know whether I should do another wedding song, more music from Lohengrin, or something completely different.”
No hesitation. Viktor had an answer for him. “Swan Lake.”
“Huh?” At least it wasn't llamas? He didn't see the relevance, there was no wedding in Swan Lake...
“Lohengrin is the Swan Knight, and Swan Lake tells the story of the Swan Queen, right? So you have a theme!”
Oh. Okay. “I did fairy tales two years ago, you know.”
“I know! But this is different. This is all about the power of love! And swans. Very important, the swans.”
Yuuri tried not to giggle. “If you’re about to suggest I wear a take on Bjork’s swan dress for my costume, don’t. I already have one costume that belongs to a shameful past that I want to burn.”
Viktor crossed his arms and pouted. “I wasn’t going to suggest that. You could pull off a take on Odette’s outfit, or something like that. For Lohengrin you should be a Knight of the Holy Grail.”
“That’ll be fun to design. Enough about me, what about you?”
“I don’t know yet. I’ll have something soon, I’m sure." Viktor skated off, but turned back almost immediately. "If I don’t come up with something else, maybe since it’s not an Olympic year, Yakov will let me do cats?”
Yuuri shook his head. “You’re impossible. Besides, you promised Yuri you’d let him do that one!”
“I did! That’s right. Don’t worry, I’ll figure something out soon." Viktor started off again, and Yuuri followed him, skating laps of the rink. "Are you going to try to learn another quad, or stick with the toe loop for this season?”
Good question. Yuuri hadn't really thought too much about it. On the one hand, learning another quad meant he could raise his base values, but on the other, he barely had the toe loop down. “I don’t know. It’s something I was going to talk to Yakov about. I’d like to learn the salchow and you and Misha are both good teachers, but there are a lot of skaters out there with just the one quad, so it’s not like I’m at a huge disadvantage.”
“True! Even if you were, you’re making up for it easily enough with your performance scores. Okay. Let’s get some practice in.”
Mari’s school had started, so she wasn’t around much. Yuuri sat with her working on his schoolwork while she studied. Mari shoved a textbook aside as she finished reading. “I really didn’t miss this part of school much.”
“You missed parts of school? Like what?” Yuuri didn’t miss anything about having to actually go to school.
A short pause, and then Mari shook her head. “Seeing my friends, mostly. I didn’t mind doing the work at school. Homework, I hate. It’s more time with books instead of actually making myself useful around here or hanging out with friends. You really don’t miss anything from school?”
Yuuri shook his head. “You never really understood what it was like for me, with the constant teasing and no support in my own grade. You had friends everywhere. I had Yuuko and Takeshi, but they were two grades above me and we barely saw each other at school. I’ve still got the learning, both the fun stuff and the boring stuff, and it’s almost all homework for me.”
“I wish I could’ve been there for you more. Tried a little harder to understand, maybe. I dunno.”
“Don’t beat yourself up over it, Mari. I got out, and now I have friends, and I’m good." Mari nodded and reached for another book. "It’s gonna be weird, going to university, having an actual schedule again instead of studying when I feel like it or when Yakov’s going off on one of the others.”
“You mean Viktor.”
“I mean one of the others." Mari just stared at him. "Okay, usually Viktor, but sometimes Mila’s caught some sort of energy bug and gets all bouncy, or Yuri gets sulky and starts talking back, or Georgi’s daydreaming about Anya, or Misha’s getting lazy…”
“What about you?”
“I don’t leave when it’s me he’s yelling at. Unless he’s yelling at me to get the hell out of there before I hurt myself from skating too much.” Which... Yakov had to do more often than Yuuri cared to admit.
Mari rolled her eyes. “I meant, what do you get yelled at for when Yakov goes off on you?”
“Oh. Usually it’s I’m being too stubborn and refusing to stop working on something when I’m long past the point where I’m getting anything accomplished." Yuuri blushed a little. "Sometimes it’s me and Viktor screwing around instead of taking practice seriously.”
“Yuuri!” Mari covered her mouth with her hands. “You goof off with your boyfriend when you’re supposed to be working?”
“Yes. Not, like, making out or anything! Just skating together, or talking, or throwing ice chips at each other. Things like that.”
Mari giggled. “Wow. Viktor’s really been good for you. I’m trying to imagine you throwing ice chips at Yuuko under Coach Nishigori, and it’s not working.”
It's the famous Lohengrin performance!!!!
Back home, one last Summer Vacation Plan happens.
Timeline: end of April 2010
Neither Misha nor Georgi was there when Viktor and Yuuri got back to the rink. Yakov was happy to see them back, and even happier when Yuuri showed him the short program Minako had choreographed for him and the ideas he was working on for the free skate. “Let me guess, Viktor, you have nothing.”
“Not for this year! I’ve got some good ideas for next year, though! Llamas are fun.”
Yakov shook his head. “Figures. Lilia and I are leaving tomorrow, taking Yuri to Moscow for a few days. When we get back, I want to hear ideas for this year, Vitya. Don’t give me that face, I know you’ll have something by then.”
“Why now? Is Irina visiting again?”
“No, this far along she doesn’t want to travel unless it’s necessary, so she’s staying in New York until after her baby’s born. She’s trying to convince Kolya to come out and meet his new granddaughter in late June or July, but she’s not having much luck.”
“But if someone took Yuri over, she’d be happy to see him and introduce him to his sister?”
“Yes. If Kolya goes, Yuri would go with him. If not, Skate Canada’s in Kingston, that’s not that far, if you or Yuuri or Georgi get assigned there it would be a good time to take him over.”
“Misha will want to get home to his own wife and child, I would think.”
“Anyway, Kolya’s hurt his back and is off work for the next few days, and with Irishka gone and Yurotchka down here, he’s alone up there. It’s distracting Yuri from his skating.”
“Oh no! That must be very serious.”
“It is. Now that you two are back, I’m not abandoning Mila, so we’ll be leaving first thing in the morning.”
A couple days after the others left, Yuuri snuggled up to Viktor. “Do we have plans tomorrow night?”
“Not that I know of, why?”
“Well, we have the house to ourselves, no Yuri to worry about, we’re all taking the next day off to rest anyway…”
“What plans are you wanting to make, then?”
“I’ll be eighteen soon, and I’m too anxious about being like my dad to drink in public until I know what happens. I trust you to keep me from doing anything too stupid, and to at least not put the embarrassing pictures on the internet for everyone to see.”
“Can I take them?”
“Of course, that way there’s proof that I actually did what you say I did. Just don’t share them unless I say you can – after I’ve sobered up.”
“Awww. You know Chris will want to see them.”
“I know. And if they’re not TOO bad, I may let him.”
“Okay. Any other rules you’d like to set beforehand?”
“Don’t let me do anything permanent like go out and get a tattoo. Or dangerous that would get me badly hurt. I really don’t expect this to be a problem, you wouldn’t do that, but no matter what I think when I’m drunk, I’m not ready for sex yet. Even if I were, I’d like to remember it, and I’m not expecting to remember much of tomorrow night…”
“Sounds good to me. Anything else?”
“Not that I can think of. I’m taking a giant leap of faith and trusting you to have some sense and good judgment.”
“Hey!” Viktor kissed Yuuri’s cheek. “I’ll have you know that I am a paragon of good judgment.”
“No, you’re not. I love you anyway.”
Viktor was practically bouncing as he set down the bag from the liquor store. “Okay, I got champagne – you’ve had that before, you know what to expect – vodka, of course, this is Russia and you have to at least try it, and I was able to find some sake, too! Have you ever tried that?”
“Yeah… Kokei gave me some a couple times. That was a long time ago, I was like ten, so I’m not gonna think too hard about the fact that I remember hating it.” Yuuri reached for the champagne, and Viktor found him a glass. “What are you going to do with the leftover stuff?”
“Hide it or give it to Georgi. He may ask to see photos…”
“Georgi’s probably fine to share with, I guess. Misha, too.” Yuuri opened the bottle of champagne and poured himself a glass. “Here’s to being an idiot!”
At first, Viktor played Assassin’s Creed while Yuuri drank and watched. The first thing Viktor noticed was Yuuri starting to swear at bad guys in the video game whenever Viktor messed up. It was quite entertaining, too, as there was no predicting whether Yuuri’s opinion of the Templar’s mothers would be expressed in English, French, Japanese, Russian, or Thai. “I’m almost afraid to ask where you learned that kind of language in French, Yuuri.”
“Chris, where else? The Thai is from Phichit. I don’t know where he learned it. He’s also taught me a couple in Korean, which he learned from Seung Gil.”
“Wow. My sweet innocent Yuuri knows how to curse in six languages.”
“Not my fault I have a gifted tongue!” Yuuri got to his feet and found the bottle of vodka. “To Mother-in-Law Russia, huh?”
Viktor took a photo and made a note of that one. “To Mother Russia.”
Later on, Viktor had to put the game away. It was hard to play with Yuuri in his lap clinging to him and pouting whenever Viktor tried to pay attention to the game instead of him. “I think I like this aspect of you drunk. There’s certainly worse things!”
“Yay! You like me, you’re not just putting up with it because soulmates are special!” Yuuri reached for his phone and started tapping at it, and then cursing at it when he was too drunk to make it do what he wanted to do. “Where’s the laptop…?”
Viktor was too curious about what Yuuri was trying to do not to find a way to get to the laptop with Yuuri doing his best impression of a barnacle. “Here. What are you doing?”
“Just remembered I never signed up for summer dance lessons. You wanna join me? Please join me.”
“Of course I’ll join you. Latin, right?”
“Yeah, that and another one. No telling Lilia about the other one, she’d probably die of shock, but everyone keeps telling me it’s fun and I should try it. There. Done. Emailed. First two lessons already paid for. This is gonna be fun. Don’t let me back out!” Yuuri closed the laptop before Viktor could see what it was. Should be a fun discovery in the morning!
Morning after. Yuuri is embarrassed. Viktor finds it amusing.
Timeline: end of April 2010
The first thing Yuuri did when he woke up was slap Viktor. Hard. The second thing he did was apologize profusely. The third thing he did was start praying for death as the hangover caught up. “Is there a reason you called my mother a buffalo? In Thai?”
“Is that what that means. You were shouting it at Ezio last night. I was curious.” Viktor grinned at him, not looking the least put off by the slap. “I think Yuri would be impressed to know that you can swear in six languages.”
“Six…?” Yuuri covered his face in the hopes of not melting the bed from the power of his embarrassment. “What’s the sixth?”
“Oh, right. Seung Gil.” Yuuri let his hands drop. “What else did I do? Wait, no. Why was I cursing at Ezio? He’s the good guy!”
Viktor’s grin got even bigger. “You were mad at him because I was paying more attention to him than you.”
“I get jealous when I get drunk?” He wasn't jealous sober. At least, not that he remembered. You couldn't be when your fiancé was Viktor Nikiforov. Viktor flirted with everyone.
“You get sentimental and clingy and, yes, jealous. It’s quite cute.” Viktor tossed Yuuri his phone. “Check your email, you signed us up for dance lessons and wouldn’t tell me what one of them was.”
“Oh no.” Yuuri took the phone with slightly shaking hands. “Okay, Latin dance… I don’t see why I wouldn’t tell you about that one, we’d talked about it before… wait, what.” Yuuri dropped the phone, pulled his pillow over the phone, and buried his face in the pillow. “Ydrntndtoknbkzicnslgt.”
Viktor laughed at him. “What was that?”
“Isd…” Yuuri lifted his head up from the pillow. “I said, you don’t need to know because I’m cancelling it.”
“Awww. Come on, Yuuri, it can’t be that bad.” Viktor kissed Yuuri’s forehead… and pulled his hand out from under the pillow with Yuuri’s phone. “Pole dancing! How fun! I think you should do it. It would be good for you. You signed me up, too, so it’s not like you’d be alone in a room of strangers.”
“Viktor, I can’t! I will literally die of embarrassment.”
“You will not. You may even come to like it! Come on, the deposit you paid covers the first two classes, we’ll go check those out and then decide if we’re going to continue. Please?”
Viktor… damn him, were those puppy eyes? “Please? Just two lessons. How bad is it going to get in two lessons?”
“Vitya…” Yuuri snatched his phone away from Viktor and got to his feet. “Fine. Two lessons. If I die of embarrassment, you get to live the rest of your life with the guilt of having killed your soulmate. I need a shower.”
Yuuri’s mood improved a little after the shower. He even managed to convince himself that it might be fun, getting on a pole and dancing. It wasn’t exactly something he could imagine translating to the ice, but you never knew, did you? Chris’s coach had told him to take pole dancing lessons, there was probably a reason for that.
Viktor had breakfast ready for him when he came out. “Have you ever actually seen any pole dancing, Vitya?”
Viktor shook his head. “I know Chris does it, but I’ve never seen him perform. Only in movies and stuff. Why?”
“Just curious. You seem so interested…”
“It looks like fun! Chris says it’s good for body confidence and core strength, too, so it’s not like it’s completely useless.” Viktor winked. “I wonder if they’d let us do a pole dance exhibition sometime?”
“Oh no. I am not pole dancing ANYWHERE MY MOTHER COULD SEE ME.” Yuuri stuck his tongue out at Viktor. “You don’t have that problem. And you of all people don’t need the body confidence boost.”
“No, but you do. I know you still put too much weight on those schoolyard taunts of fat piggy.”
Yuuri dropped his fork and covered his face. “Vitya. That pun was terrible.”
“That… oh! Unintentional, I assure you. Yakov does a good job at keeping you in skating shape, but after you retire, if you don’t want to keep it up, I think you’d look cute with a bit of extra chub!”
“Ugh, a bit of extra chub is one thing, but…”
“That’s so far away. Maybe I’ll feel different by then.”
“Which kind of reminds me. Last season I started getting annoyed with constantly having to spend hours on my hair before competitions. I was thinking about cutting it short.”
Yuuri smashed down his first impulse, to run at Viktor and hug his hair and beg for mercy. Viktor's hair was iconic and Yuuri couldn't imagine him without it. “It’s your hair and if you’re sick of it, do what you want. I’m going to miss your long hair. Just so you know.”
“Okay. I haven’t made a decision yet and won’t until I start figuring out costumes for this season, but everyone said I should tell you before I did it. So this is me telling you that I’m thinking about it.”
“Okay. I appreciate that. Thank you.”
Yakov and Yuri got back a few days later, and Yuri looked happier than he’d been in a while. “What’s got you so excited, hmm?” Viktor asked as they laced up their skates.
“Grandpa thinks he can get to New York in July, if his back keeps healing well, and Yakov says I can go too, and Mama promised to take me to Cats. Just me. No Boris. Maybe this baby sister is gonna be a good thing after all.”
Viktor clapped. Maybe Irina had realized how badly she fucked up! “Could be! That’s so exciting! I hope everything works out! If something happens with your grandpa and he can’t go, Yuuri and I are willing to go with you, if Yakov will allow it.” Yuri stuck out his tongue. “I know it’s not as good, but it’s better than not getting to go at all, right?”
“I guess.” Yuri headed out onto the ice as Yakov approached.
“Got your homework done, Vitya?”
“Yes! The music's still being composed, but the short program is a sunrise thing, and a firebird theme for the free skate. I don’t have the choreography set in stone yet, but I can show you what I’ve got so far. I'm not going to commit to a final version until I've got the music, which I'm supposed to get next week sometime.”
Yakov crossed his arms and glared. “Coordinating with Yuuri again?”
“How does fire have anything to do with swans? Swans burn up when you expose them to fire! That would be cruel!”
“Firebird, swan, sun, Yuuri did space last year…”
“It’s still a cool theme! It’s going to be amazing. Trust me. You’ll see!”
“That wasn’t meant as a criticism, Vitya. Just an observation.”
“Oh. Well. Point remains.”
“Show me what you’ve got for the choreography. Also, I overheard your conversation with Yuri. If Kolya can’t go, you and Yuuri can as long as you haven’t run into some major problem with training.”
“Thank you!” Viktor hugged Yakov. “You’re the best coach ever.”
Using the cute face to get your way makes its appearance! Bless the creators for Yuri!!! On Festival.
Pole dance and Assignment Day
Timeline: May-June 2010
The first pole dance lesson was the first week of May. Yuuri was sure he was going to die. Larissa had somehow managed not to laugh when he told her why he wouldn’t be back the next week, but Yuuri could tell she wanted to. She just encouraged him and told him to go for it. “At least Viktor will be there with you, right? You won’t be alone, and Viktor will probably share your struggle.”
“Viktor is not going to struggle with anything. He never does. This all comes so easily to him.”
Larissa smiled. “Pole dancing isn’t figure skating. You, with your much stronger dance background, will probably catch on to things faster than he will. Trust yourself. You can dance, and you know it. This is just another way. You’ve started the Latin dance, right?”
“Two days ago. That was fun. But that… it’s got a lot in common with ballroom, just different rhythms and more hip action. Pole dancing is not like anything I’ve done before!” What else was like pole dancing, anyway?
“I bet you’ll find some similarities when you get into it.”
The instructor started squeeing when Viktor and Yuuri walked in. “Oh my god! I thought it was a joke! You two really are here!”
Yuuri turned beet red and hid behind Viktor, who waved with a huge grin. “No, we’re really us! A fan, I take it?”
“Proud Hamster! Can I get your autographs?”
“Of course! Do you have something for us to sign, or should we just bring them next time?”
“Next time’s good. Are you wanting to keep this secret?”
“At least for now, if you don’t mind. I’m still trying to convince Yuuri that this will be more fun than embarrassing, and not letting the media get hold of it will help with that.”
“True! Okay.” The instructor waited while a few more people showed up. Some of them openly stared at Viktor and Yuuri. “All right. We’ve got two groups in this class. Most of you are not Olympic athletes in a sport that requires a lot of dancing, so I don’t want anyone using Viktor or Yuuri as a standard for what they should be able to do. They’re coming in with huge advantages. The best thing to do is focus on yourselves anyway. Don’t worry about what others are doing – I promise, everyone looks ridiculous at first. You can’t get good at something before you’re bad at it. Use the mirrors, keep an eye on yourselves, don’t stare at the guys the whole time, and remember to have fun!”
She demonstrated some simple moves, climbing the pole and sliding down. Yuuri got it almost right away, while Viktor took a little time getting used to using his feet that way. They both got it well before the end of the class, and the instructor showed them a couple of more advanced moves to try. It was fun, Yuuri had to admit. Viktor was having a bit of fun getting sexy with it, but Yuuri realized he didn’t have to get too sexed up to make it work. Next time, he promised himself. Next time, he’d try for a little bit of sexy. For Viktor.
“That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Viktor started working on freeing his hair from its coiled braid. “We’ll have fun, I bet.”
“It was… less embarrassing than I thought it would be.” Yuuri finished off the bottle of water. “I was a little surprised we were the only two guys there…”
“Lots of guys see it as a woman thing, so they’ll never try it. It’s silly. Why limit yourself like that?”
“Don’t ask me. I’m the kid who got bullied for being a boy doing ballet. I never understood it then, either. It’s fun, I’m good at it, last I checked every ballet company has positions for male dancers, so why not?”
“So? Are we sticking with it past the next lesson?”
Yuuri shrugged. “Ask me again after the next lesson. We might want to sign up to do private lessons, though. I hadn’t really thought about the impact having us in a class with people without any dance training could have.”
“Less embarrassing for you, too, if it’s just me and the instructor in the room.”
“Exactly. Plus we don’t end up getting held back by the class in general.”
Yuuri swallowed and nodded. “So. Let’s go talk to our instructor.”
She was perfectly happy to schedule them for private lessons instead of the class. Viktor paid for three months’ worth. “During the skating season we get so busy we probably wouldn’t make it anyway. Is there a good way to practice at home?”
“If there’s some kind of pole in your home, yes. You can buy portable ones to set up. I can give you a couple recommendations.”
May passed in a blur of skating practice, dance lessons, Assassin’s Creed, and looking at places to live. For now, they were gathering ideas and making a list of things they wanted. Dog-friendly was an absolute must, with their two poodles. Walking distance both from the rink and from Lilia’s place. At least one extra bedroom so that Yuri could come visit. Yuuri stopped fighting Viktor’s insistence that they didn’t need to worry too much about the rent early in the process – after all, between the two of them, even just looking at their sponsorship money they could afford something nice, and if they decided to buy instead of rent, Viktor could probably afford to pay cash instead of getting a mortgage.
By the time assignment day came, Yuri was starting to get very nervous about his trip to New York. Right now, it looked like Nikolai would be able to go, but it wasn’t a guarantee, and even if he could, there was no promise that Irina would behave herself.
“You know the baby’s going to require a lot of your mom’s attention, don’t you?” Yuuri asked him as they waited for Yakov to come out with the list.
“Of course. She’s just a baby. But with Grandpa and Boris there, Mama should be able to find time for me, right? Not just going to the play, but some actual time together?”
“I hope so, Yuri. She’ll be tired, but you should be able to spend some time with her. Do you know when she’s due?”
“Not exactly. Soonish. By the end of the month, Grandpa says.”
They were interrupted by Yakov coming out with the assignments. “Listen up. I’m going by tournament again. First tournament, NHK. Yuuri, you’re the only one there.”
Yuuri swallowed hard. The first tournament, at home? That was not going to be fun. “Who else will be there?”
“The only other names I recognize as real contenders are Kamil Macek and Kaleb Hagel. Jude Hartman had a breakout performance last Worlds, so you might keep an eye on him. You can win this, though.”
“Alright. Next up, Skate Canada. Viktor and Misha.”
“Of course! How fun!” Viktor and Misha fist bumped. Then Viktor’s smile fell. “Which means you’re not going to let me go to Japan with Yuuri.”
Yakov shook his head. “No. Yuuri, I’m sorry, but it’s just too close.”
“I understand.” He didn’t like it. First competition, in his home country, and now without Viktor. He was not going to do well.
“Also at Skate Canada: Aaron Delmote. I’m not so sure about him, he didn’t exactly do well last year. Could be he’s on his way out, could be he just had a bad year. And Paul.”
“Cup of China… Georgi. Cao Bin, Christophe… and I am expecting you to go in there and kick Rykov’s ass. He may be the best Russian skater who’s not one of mine, but that still makes him the fourth-best skater Russia has.”
“Hey!” Viktor crossed his arms and glared.
“Yuuri doesn’t compete for Russia, Vitya. Skate America, that one’s Misha. Could be a good contest, Kamil, Kaleb, and Aaron. Cup of Russia, Georgi, you’ll have some good competition getting onto the podium with Bin, Chris, and Paul. And then finally, Eric Bompard…”
Viktor jumped up and started doing a victory dance. “Me and Yuuri! In Paris! Yakov, can we stay an extra day? Spend Yuuri’s birthday in Paris?”
Yakov stared hard at Viktor. “If I say no are you going to conveniently forget and do it anyway?”
“Probably!” Yuuri buried his face in his hands. Of course Viktor would do that.
“If you lose to Rykov, you’re coming straight home after the exhibition.”
Yuuri's head snapped up. Viktor stopped dancing. “Rykov will be there?”
“You two, Rykov, and possibly Jude are the ones I’d watch for the podium.”
Yuuri got up and walked outside. Yakov didn’t try to stop him, just let him go. It wasn’t long before Viktor was out there with him. “Yakov wanted me to make sure you were okay.”
“By then, Rykov will know. That’s going to be fun.”
“Are you worried about another Canada?”
“A little, yeah, especially with the NHK already being so stressful. You know how I hate going first.”
“I know. I wish I could go.”
“Yuuko and Takeshi probably won’t even be able to come, what with the triplets. Minako and Mari might choose to stay home too.”
Viktor shook his head and pulled Yuuri in close. “Someone will come for you. They can’t all come, the triplets will be far too young to bring, but there are enough people there to help out that they’ll be able to spare Mari or Minako or both.”
“Does the losing to Rykov means we come straight home apply to me too?”
“I don’t think so. For me, that’s extra motivation. For you, that’s just added pressure. Yakov wouldn’t do that to you.”
“Okay.” Yuuri leaned into Viktor, taking a few deep breaths to calm himself. “Let’s go. We’ve still got practice.”
Back to school week is fun, but it's also such a huge adjustment. Sorry for the missed update!
Baby Sister Time! Yaaaaaaaaaay!
Timeline: end of June/early July 2010
June 30th, Yuri’s phone rang in the middle of practice. Yakov let him answer it. “Grandpa?” The worry on his face changed to anger as Nikolai talked. “Yes, Grandpa. I’ll be ready to go.” He hung up and threw his phone at the wall.
Yakov raised an eyebrow. “What was that?”
“Oh, nothing important, Grandpa called Mama last night to make sure everything was okay since we hadn’t heard anything about the baby, and everything’s good, she was born LAST WEEK and no one bothered to tell him or me.” Yuri stomped out as best he could with blade guards on.
Yakov startled, but recovered quickly. “Yuuri. Go after him, keep him out of trouble.” Yuuri nodded and took off.
Viktor skated off the ice. “How bad’s his phone damaged?”
Yakov retrieved the phone and handed it to Viktor. It wasn’t too bad. “How are you feeling with your programs, Vitya?”
Viktor set the phone back with the others. “Good!”
“He’s a little frustrated. Trying to get everything perfect now because he’s in the first event.” As expected, Yuuri was not handling having to go first very well. Viktor was finding it harder to drag him off the ice, even with the promise of pole dancing or having some fun or getting some wedding planning or apartment searching done.
“Sounds like he could use a break.”
Viktor agreed, but... “He’ll probably argue with that. You have a plan?”
“Go to New York with Yuri. If he asks, make up some wedding planning stuff or something. If Irishka’s really gotten to the point where she doesn’t think they need to know the baby’s born, this could end up being a bad trip for Yuri, and he could use all the support he can get. They have rinks in New York, you might be able to book some practice time.”
Yuuri caught up to Yuri in the locker room. “Hey.”
Yuri looked up from his skates. “Yakov send you to babysit?”
“Pretty much, yeah. You don’t have your phone so if you get in trouble you can’t call for help.”
“Not like anyone cares.” Yuri yanked the skates off his feet.
“You don’t think your grandfather would worry himself sick if you got lost and we didn’t know how to find you?”
Yuri sighed and curled up into a ball. “There’s a baby. Another grandchild. I’m not the only one anymore. Grandpa…”
Yuuri sat beside him. “Your grandfather would never abandon you, even for your sister. He knows how much you need him, and he needs you just as much. Your mom hasn’t exactly treated him any better than she has you.”
“Yeah. She never even called when he had that thing with his back last month.” Yuri curled up a little tighter. “Is it bad that I kind of hate my sister? Hating Boris, that’s fair, I don’t care what anyone thinks of that. But my sister… I don’t even know her name, she’s just a baby, and I already hate her.”
“Hating her’s a bit unfair, but resenting her is perfectly normal, I think. My mom tells me Mari took a couple years before she really accepted me, and that’s with the ideal situation of my parents both being there and taking the time to make sure Mari knew they still loved her. If you’ll give your sister a chance, maybe not now, but when she’s older, you might like her.”
Yuri scoffed. “What, like Viktor and Sasha? Magical reunion as adults that makes everything all better?”
“Not like them. You and your sister are in a different situation.”
“Whatever. She’s being raised by Mama and Boris. For now, anyway. What are the chances she doesn’t end up horrible too?”
Yuuri agreed, but he wasn't going to say it. “Maybe you can help with that, when she’s old enough for you to have a relationship with despite the distance. Okay?”
“Whatever. Anyway, I’m leaving for Moscow tomorrow, and New York the day after.”
At the train station the next morning, Yuri glared at Viktor and Yuuri. “I’ve done this trip a million times, I don’t need a babysitter.”
“Good! We’re not here as babysitters. We’re flying to New York, departing from Moscow, and we just happen to be taking the same train as you, then.” Viktor winked at Yuri.
Yuri kicked him. “You have training, old man. You and the piglet both do.”
“Piglet. Haven’t heard that in a while.” Yuuri smiled at Yuri. “Yakov thinks I need to take some time off from beating my head against a wall in my program. Viktor thought a trip to New York would give us some nice wedding ideas. That’s all.”
“So you’re not here because Grandpa’s backing out?”
“Your grandfather’s fine, as far as we know,” Yuuri promised. “If you want some time away from your family, you can call us, but if things go well… once we get there, we may not see each other again until the flight home.”
Yuri scowled and grabbed his bag. “Fine. Let’s go, then, they just announced our train.”
Boris was at the airport when they arrived. He raised an eyebrow when he saw Viktor and Yuuri. “I didn’t realize you were bringing guests, Nikolai.”
“I didn’t, exactly. They’ve made their own arrangements for being here.” Nikolai held out a hand. “It’s good to see you again.”
“Same.” Boris shook Nikolai’s hand after a moment’s hesitation. “Welcome to New York, Yuri. Ready to go?”
“Yeah.” Yuri tightened his grip on his bag, ignoring Boris’s hand. “Where’s Mama?”
“At home with Natashka. I’m hoping she’s getting some sleep, she was up all night with a cranky baby trying to get her to nurse and sleep.” Boris let his hand drop. “Come on, then. Do you two need a ride?”
“No, thanks!” Viktor hugged Yuri quickly. “Be nice to your sister, okay?”
“Whatever.” Yuri glared at him, but waited expectantly for Yuuri’s hug, too, before following Boris and Nikolai.
“That… looks like it’s going to go well.” Viktor adjusted his bag. “Let’s go. Lots to do today!”
I want to punch Irina. But she just gave birth, so...
More New York and some Ugly Heads pop up.
Timeline: July 3, 2010
The first text from Yuri came that night. Neither Viktor nor Yuuri could even pretend to be surprised.
Natasha is having some problems. Mama didn’t want us to worry when there wasn’t anything we could do.
She doesn’t nurse right or something. Mama hasn’t been able to leave the house for long because she wouldn’t drink from a bottle.
They think they’ve got it just about fixed.
Mama says she’s still taking me to Cats. I don’t know.
The next day, Yuuri and Viktor had fun shopping. Viktor insisted that they both needed new suits unless they were going to do the whole wedding in kimonos. “Those, we can rent if you prefer, but given how useful suits are for us…”
Yuuri rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t argue too much. “Fine. Go nuts. Suits. Wait, wasn’t there someone who was going to give us free suits if we did their advertising? Which we did?”
“Oh yeah! I’d forgotten…” Viktor looked it up on his phone. “Conveniently, they have a branch here in New York. Let’s go!”
Viktor’s fitting went smoothly and quickly. Yuuri’s wasn’t as easy, as they argued over how much taller he was likely to get in nine months. Yuuri had to promise to come back a month or so before the wedding before they would do much, in case they needed to start completely over by then because they’d guessed too wrong. “One good argument for not getting married as a teenager,” Yuuri joked as they left to go find food.
Yuuri had to grin at the look of hurt on Viktor's face. He was almost certainly playing. “What? One good argument against, when I’ve got so many good ones for getting married now?”
“There are a lot of good arguments for not getting married as a teenager. They just don’t happen to apply to you. You know me, you know what you’re getting into, you aren’t deciding based on how you feel now that’s likely to be different in two years. I wasn’t ready for marriage when I was seventeen, and not just because I didn’t know who you were.”
Before he could come up with a good answer for that, Yuuri’s phone rang. He stared at it. “What time is it in Thailand right now…?”
“Not sure. I think pretty late at night. Why?”
“Phichit.” He answered the phone. “What's up?”
“You might want to check headlines. The Hamsters are happy, they finally have something to do, but you might not be.”
“Thanks for the warning.” Yuuri took Viktor’s phone to look for headlines and started laughing. “Wow. That’s… I know they were getting bored!”
Viktor took his phone back. “And once again they bring Yakov into things. We had to run off to New York because Yakov was trying to keep us apart? Yakov has better sense than that. If he tried to separate us, he would have to deal with me whining.”
Yuuri laughed at that. “Thanks for the warning, Phichit. We’re in New York for wedding research. That’s what the Hamsters can say if they want something.”
“And the real reasons?”
“I’ll text. It’s kind of crowded here.” Yuuri hung up and texted Phichit, explaining about his panic over his assignments and Yuri’s mom. Phichit texted back with sympathy and promised to try to come to the NHK.
Viktor burst into laughter loud enough to get half the restaurant’s attention. He was laughing too hard to explain, instead just handing over his phone for Yuuri to see for himself. Yuuri stared in disbelief at it. “What the fuck. How… what even…”
“I don’t know!”
Yuuri dropped the phone on the table and buried his face in his hands. Once he regained his composure, he picked up his own phone and called Phichit back. “Did you see the one where we came to America so the doctors here could try to figure out how Viktor got me pregnant?”
Phichit’s voice was wheezy and gasping. “I just saw it! I was going to call you back once I had this laughter a little more under control. You would tell your best friend and favorite Hamster if you were pregnant, right?”
“You’d be, like, the third phone call. Yakov, Mom and Dad, you."
“Wow. That’s…" Phichit got himself calmed down a little. "The Hamsters are gonna go nuts. Anything you want to say about it?”
“Ask them if they’re trying to kill Viktor. I’m starting to worry about the lack of oxygen here.”
Phichit's laughter came right back. “Oh man. I can’t believe this. This is hilarious.”
After lunch, they did more shopping, and then late in the afternoon headed for a rink they’d been able to convince the owner to keep open an extra hour for them to practice. Yuuri had only just set skate on ice when his phone rang.
“Yuri? What’s wrong?”
“Boris says you’re pregnant.”
The very last thing Yuri needed was another pregnancy in his life. Yuuri could forgive him for the biology fail. “There’s an article out there. Don’t believe it. We’d have told you long before Boris could have found out. I’m not pregnant. They’re taking my sudden and understandable interest in weddings and babies and spinning a ridiculous story.”
“How’s everything going?”
“Grandpa’s in love with Natasha. It’s weird. Mama’s gotten some rest and she’s feeling better and she swears she’s going to Cats with me tomorrow. Boris still sucks. He doesn’t like you two. And… and he said something awful that I can’t get out of my head.”
Yuuri turned on the speakerphone so that Viktor could hear too, in case they needed to go intervene. “What’s that?”
“I told him he’s not my papa and he doesn’t get to decide anything about my life, and he asked me how I know he’s not my papa.”
Well. Yuuri had no idea who Yuri's father was either, so he had no idea how to help Yuri deal with this. He didn't want to make any kind of promises that could get broken. “Did you tell your mom?”
“She was right there and she told him to back off, that was too far. She says he’s not my papa, but she won’t tell me anything about him, so…”
Viktor took the phone. “You trust Yakov, right?”
“And your grandpa?” Viktor continued.
“They know who your papa is. Ask them. They may not want to tell you who he is either, but they will tell you if Boris is.”
The relief in Yuri's voice almost hurt. “Yeah. Thanks.”
Yuuri took the phone back. “What about Natasha? I know she’s just a baby, but how are you and she getting along?”
“They let me hold her. It was weird and awkward and I don’t think I like babies.”
“That’s okay. Have fun at Cats tomorrow!” Yuuri hung up and tried to settle back down for practice.
Adventures in New York Continue!
Okay, so, you might have noticed the rating change. For what happens in this chapter, it's definitely overcautious, but I didn't want to have to change it again later. ;-)
I also changed to Creator Chose Not to Use Archive Warnings. Honestly, if you've gotten this far in the series, you probably won't be bothered by this chapter. I didn't want to slap the Underage label on this, given the dynamics of their relationship.
Yuuri spent the next day with his phone in his hand as much as possible. He couldn’t shake the feeling that something horrible was going to happen. Viktor, for once, didn’t try to reassure Yuuri. He was just as nervous. They spent the day doing tourism things – the 9/11 memorial, the Statue of Liberty – in the hopes that it would distract them better than wedding ideas or skating. It didn’t work very well, and by the time they headed for the rink, they’d both decided to take it easy and just practice something nice and safe. No jumps, not even flying spins. Both of them could use the time on step sequences or even just working on basics.
They’d just stepped off the ice when Viktor’s phone rang. Viktor looked at the number and did a double take. “Hello, Nikolai!”
“I thought you’d like to know that Yurotchka and Irishka just left for Cats. It was good to see my grandson’s smile again.”
Well, that was a big relief to Yuuri, and Viktor clearly agreed. “Oh, good. Finally something goes right for him. How is he after yesterday?”
“It’s not as bad as I’d thought at first, Boris didn’t know anything about Lev, but still bad to taunt a child about not knowing his father. Yuri is blameless in Lev’s cowardice and selfishness.”
“Has Yuri asked?”
“He asked, and I… chickened out and continued to follow Irishka’s wishes. I told him that Boris was not his father and that his mother didn’t want him to know anything about his father because his father was a horrible person.”
Viktor snorted. “Well, that’s true enough. How did he take that?”
“As well as could be expected. First he said that didn't exactly rule out Boris, then he called Yakov.”
Yuuri couldn’t help the chuckle. That sounded like Yuri, all right. “Did Yakov tell him anything?”
“I don’t know, I didn’t listen in. Judging by Yuri’s temper tantrum, I’m thinking not. I’m a bit worried about his cell phone. From the looks of it, this wasn’t the first time it’s hit a wall…”
“No, Yuri takes his frustrations out on his phone. Don’t worry about it, sponsorship will cover it if he breaks it too often for you to keep up. He needs a phone to stay in contact with his coach and rinkmates.”
“I plan on investing in a good cover, first.” There was a shrill cry. “Excuse me, that was Natasha. I must go.”
“Thanks for letting us know Irina and Yuri got off all right. Maybe things are starting to change?”
“Don’t get your hopes up too high. Goodbye.”
Yuri didn’t call or text after the show, which Yuuri tried not to worry about. Maybe it meant that Yuri was having such a good time with Irina that it never occurred to him. Plenty of time to worry about his program. Naturally, there had been a few rule changes this year, two of which worked against Yuuri. The short program would now have one step sequence instead of two, and the free skate’s second step sequence had a fixed base value. Just what Yuuri needed. Even with that, Yuuri thought he could do better. Having the quad helped. He was a lot more comfortable with it, enough to take the risk of putting it in both programs.
Viktor kissed the top of his head. “Yuuri. Sleep. Yuri’s fine, your program is beautiful, wedding planning is where we want it to be.”
“I know. I keep telling myself all that, but I still can’t sleep.”
“Is there anything I can do to help you?”
“You should sleep yourself. I don’t need to worry about keeping you awake…”
“I’m not all that sleepy. Otherwise I’d have stayed asleep. You didn’t wake me up, I just noticed that you were still awake when I woke up.”
Unsurprisingly, Viktor lying to him wasn't helping. “Vitya.”
“I mean it! So if there’s something I can do to help you sleep, please, let me know, otherwise I’m going to get my phone out and start playing games or something.”
Oh. Maybe... maybe Viktor wasn't lying? Yuuri scooted in close. “Do you think you can make my brain shut up?”
Viktor went very still. “Yuuri?”
“Not… I don’t want to go all the way, not yet, but we can push some boundaries. Is… is that okay?” Yuuri was very glad for the darkness. Not that Viktor wouldn't feel the heat from the blush, but it was easier to say in the dark.
Viktor searched Yuuri’s face. Whatever he was looking for, he seemed content with what he found. “Stop me whenever you need a moment or I’m at the boundary of what you’re comfortable with. Promise me.”
“I promise.” At first, things were slow, hesitant. The longer they went, the more confident Yuuri got, both with himself and with reaching out to Viktor. So he was surprised when Viktor started to pull back, taking hold of Yuuri’s wrists to stop him. “Vitenka?”
“I need a minute. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. Take whatever you need. I’m not the only one who deserves that kind of consideration.” Yuuri curled up against Viktor. “Actually, if you want to stop here… I think I could sleep, now.”
“Good. See if you can get to sleep. If you can’t, I should be fine by the time you’re ready to give up.”
Yuuri must have fallen asleep, because the next time he opened his eyes, the room was bright and Viktor wasn’t in bed. Yuuri got up and headed for the bathroom. Viktor wasn’t there, either. That was a little weird. Once Yuuri was done, he got his phone to check for messages.
Good morning, Yuuri! If you wake up before I get back, don’t worry about me, I woke up early and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided to go out and get something to eat. Text me when you wake up and I’ll bring you coffee!
Yuuri texted back with a smile. Viktor showed up ten minutes later with a good coffee and a bagel. “I was told this is THE thing to eat for breakfast in New York, so I brought you one, too.”
“Thanks. What’s the plan for today?”
“Unless Yuri calls, we’re supposed to Skype Mari to talk about wedding stuff. Might have some errands to run this afternoon depending on what gets decided with Mari. If not, I want to go to Central Park. If there’s anywhere you’d like to go, just speak up!”
“I kinda want to go to the Hall of Science." Yuuri thought for a bit. "Do you think Yuri would be mad at us if we go to a zoo without him?”
“Depends. Central Park we’d probably be okay, they don’t have many cats.”
Perfect. “Let’s do that then. Mari, wedding errands, Central Park with a trip to the zoo.”
They’d been talking to Mari for an hour or so when Yuuri and Viktor’s phones both went off, indicating a text. Viktor checked. “Sorry to interrupt the planning. That was Yuri texting. Cats went well, but now everyone’s fighting and Yuri doesn’t say why, just that he’s hiding from the noise.”
“Poor kid," Mari said. "We can talk more tomorrow after I’ve checked some things out, if you want to go rescue him.”
Viktor shook his head. “I’m going to try calling Nikolai. We’re not just going to kidnap him. You two keep talking about whatever’s next on the list.”
Once Viktor had disappeared into the bathroom, Mari raised an eyebrow. “Everything okay, Yuuri? You two seem a little… off.”
“As far as I know, everything’s good." Well, it had been until Mari said that, because now Yuuri was going to start wondering. "Except what’s the point of us talking if Viktor isn’t here to weigh in…”
“Well, we can skip down and talk about a few things specific to you. Have you decided who you want with you?”
“Dad and Phichit. Yes, I know, he’s fourteen, but he’ll be fine.”
“If someone threw you a bachelor party would you go?”
“Would I be given a choice?”
Mari smirked. “Not really.”
“Who’s planning it?”
“Me, Yuuko, and Takeshi. We’ve gotten as far as the Nishigoris will babysit the triplets that night. Figured we’d get in contact with Christophe to figure out how to keep Viktor busy.”
“Not a bad idea. Okay.”
Viktor came back out. “Irina was mad that Boris dumped Natasha on Nikolai last night and went out himself. Nikolai was a little upset that Irina thought Nikolai wouldn’t be just as happy spending the evening looking after his granddaughter as going out somewhere by himself in a country where he doesn’t speak the language. Everything’s calmed down, but he thinks it would be a good idea if we took Yuri for the afternoon. Yuri wants to go to the Bronx Zoo, apparently they have a mountain of tigers?”
“Somehow that doesn’t sound right, but okay.” Yuuri turned back to Mari. “Thanks for understanding. Same time tomorrow?”
“Yeah, works great. Have fun.”
Viktor <3 Yuuri. Yuuri <3 Viktor. They flex their communications skills and sort out a minor issue before it becomes a big problem.
The trip to the zoo turned out to be just the thing to raise Yuri’s spirits. Tiger Mountain – not a mountain of tigers but a place where the tigers hung out – captivated him, and he was in a much better mood after drooling over the real tigers and then visiting the gift shop and finding a shirt that he declared to be “awesome fashion” and a tiger-stripe hoodie with tiger ears.
Things were quieter when they brought Yuri back, and Irina invited Yuuri and Viktor to join the family for dinner. It was tense, but talking about tigers and skating were nice safe topics. Irina had tons of stories from her skating days, some of which Viktor planned to ask Yakov about, because it sounded like she had been nearly as much of a handful as Viktor was. Such as the time when she was nineteen and skating at the European championships, won a bronze medal, and then got so drunk she ended up at the hospital instead of participating in the exhibition gala. “Yuri, don’t you dare ever get that drunk when you have to skate the next day. Yes, you’re Russian, but you can still get messed up badly.”
“How about you just don’t ever get so drunk you have to go to the hospital no matter what your plans for the next day are,” Nikolai interjected, lips curling up on one side.
“That’s probably the best idea.” Irina smiled brightly. “Be good to Yakov. I think I put him through enough hell for both of us.”
“And now he has Viktor.” Yuuri winked at Yuri. “If you start acting like him, I don’t think Yakov will have any hair left at all by the time you retire.”
“Oh sure, whatever you say, Golden Boy Favorite Skater,” Yuri grumbled. “Don’t even pretend you’re completely innocent.”
Viktor had been about to defend himself, but now he turned his pout at Yuuri into a real glare at Yuri. “When Yuuri gets in trouble, it’s nearly always my fault, or the media’s done something stupid. He’s Yakov’s favorite for a reason.”
Irina set down her wine glass and stared at Viktor in surprise. “Yakov’s playing favorites now?”
Yuuri shook his head quickly. “No, no, Yakov doesn’t really play favorites, it’s just… my family and I are much better at following the rules so if my phone rings during practice he’ll let me take the call. Things like that. It’s led to jokes. No one actually believes that Yakov lets me get away with things that Viktor or Misha would get in trouble for.”
“Like I said, there’s a reason, and that reason is that Yuuri is well-behaved and listens to Yakov. He doesn’t always do what Yakov says, but he at least listens and gives it some thought!” Viktor winked at Irina. “It certainly doesn’t hurt that Lilia came back when she heard Yakov’s newest pupil was Minako’s protégé.”
Irina snorted. “Okay, you brought Lilia back, Yakov will love you best forever. I swear, toward the end there, he only put up with me and my shenanigans because I was the only reason Lilia was sticking around.”
That night, Viktor sat on the edge of the bed while Yuuri got in and made himself comfortable. They needed to talk, but Viktor didn’t know how to start the conversation when he couldn’t even really define what they needed to talk about. Thankfully, Yuuri started it for him. “Viktor? Is something wrong?”
“Kind of, and I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it is. I’m not sure.” Maybe talking to Yuuri could help him figure out what they were talking about. It couldn’t hurt, and at least Yuuri would know that it wasn’t anything about Yuuri that had Viktor feeling off.
Yuuri sat up and reached for Viktor’s hand. Viktor let him take it. “Is this about last night?”
“If you’re worried about pushing me too far, don’t. I was comfortable the whole time. We’ve come too far for me to lie to you about that. I know you’re not going to resent me or anything over what I’m not ready for. Wish you had a different soulmate or whatever.”
“Never. You’re not the problem, Yuuri. I trust you to tell me if you’re not comfortable, and I trust myself to notice the signs even if you don’t.” Viktor squeezed Yuuri’s hand while his heart did backflips over Yuuri’s trust. It wasn’t like he didn’t know Yuuri had discovered that kind of faith despite the anxiety, but hearing it was always going to melt him, no matter how old and comfortable they got. Viktor’s brow wrinkled as something clicked into place. “Does it make any sense at all that I pushed myself too far?”
Yuuri got up to kneel beside Viktor, arms around him and head on his shoulder. “Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. We both tend to think about things in terms of whether I’m ready, because I’m younger, but we shouldn’t ignore your comfort. I’m sorry.”
“No, Yuuri, don’t… I don’t want you to blame yourself, either. It was a mistake but we both made it, and I know it wasn’t because you don’t care. This is… it’s not really either of our fault.” Now that it was out there, Viktor felt the worry loosening in his chest.
Yuuri nodded against his chest. “Viktor? Do you think you might be asexual?”
“No. No, I don’t think so. I want…” Viktor trailed off, thinking things through. He very much wanted to have sex with Yuuri when Yuuri was ready for it, but that probably wasn’t some nebulous far-off prospect. Not anymore. “I think I’m having trouble making the adjustment from the idea that everything is ‘someday, when you’re ready’ to ‘in the near future’. Or even ‘now’ for some things. So one part of my brain is telling me to keep holding back, and another part of my brain is telling me to let go and do things, and the conflict is making things weird for me.”
“Wow. That’s… one hell of a reward for being a good guy and being patient with me.” Yuuri looked up at him, eyes shining with love and concern. “How can I help you get this worked out?”
“You’ve helped a lot, tonight, just helping me work through this weird feeling and figure out where it’s coming from. I think it’s my turn to ask for a bit of patience from you… there’s really no way to work through this but just to do it. At least, not that I know of. If you’d be comfortable talking about it with her, maybe ask Larissa if she has some suggestions?”
“That’s probably a good idea. Come on, you need sleep. That, you’re comfortable with, right?” Yuuri tugged Viktor toward the pillows.
“Very.” Viktor stretched out on the bed, and Yuuri curled up against him. “Good night, love.”
The rest of the trip to New York went reasonably smoothly, although they certainly didn’t iron out all the problems. Yuuri was very nervous to get back on the ice. When he did, though, he found that the time off had helped. As long as he didn’t think too hard or try to force things, his jumps were fine, and his choreography finally felt like it was flowing the way it was supposed to. Yakov was glad to see it. “Good for you. Keep working on it, but it seems like you’ve broken through whatever mental block you had before you left.”
“Thank you for letting me and Viktor go. Or rather, for making me go. I did need a break.”
“Sometimes it’s the only way. I’m glad it worked. Do you have anything else going on between now and October?”
“Yuuko’s triplets will be born by then, and Phichit’s in the Cup of Austria in the middle of September. I’d like to go watch if I’m in a good place.”
“We’ll see what’s going on. Do you want to try to get home to visit Yuuko?”
“Not right away. If you’ll let me, I might take Viktor and go after Skate Canada, since neither of us will compete again for a month. Yuuko probably won’t want too many visitors right away anyway.”
“You and Viktor can go after Skate Canada if that’s what you want to do. It’s probably the best time for a while.”
Yuri’s relationship with his mom was hardly mended, but she at least sent regular updates on Natasha, and there was some small evidence of things maybe starting to get a tiny bit better. Yuri was skeptical. He figured things would start to trail off in a matter of weeks. He was genuinely surprised when they didn’t and he actually got a phone call on Boris’s birthday in early August. Natasha was completely over her early problems with nursing, Irina was recovering well from the exhaustion of those first few weeks, and maybe, just maybe, things were going to get better.
Only a few days later, Yuuri got called off the ice for a phone call from Japan. “Mari? What’s wrong?”
“Yuuko’s in labor. The doctors say it’s expected and everything’s fine, this is normal for triplets and they’ve been doing some things to help minimize complications from them being premature, so everything should be okay.”
Yuuri's breath caught. They'd said the babies would probably come early, but he hadn't really thought about it for a while. “Wow. Thanks for letting me know. Please call me back when there’s more to know?”
Yuuri hung up and went to Yakov. “Yuuko’s having her babies.”
“Keep your phone with you, then. No jumps. Don’t say anything to Misha. I don’t want him panicking about Emiliya and having trouble skating.”
“Yes, sir. I understand." Yuuri turned to go, but stopped when he had an idea. "I’m going to disobey you a little, though.”
Yakov’s eyebrows shot up. “You are.”
“Yes, sir. Yuuko’s been calling them Axel, Loop, and Lutz, so I’m going to do one triple of each for good luck for them. After that, no more jumps.”
Yakov chuckled at that. “I think that’s acceptable. Will Viktor catch on?”
“I’m planning on telling him so that he can jump with me if he wants. I’ll be sure to tell him not to tell Misha.”
Viktor did jump with Yuuri before going back to his own practice, drawing some odd looks from everyone else. Yuuri tried to focus on spins, but it wasn’t working very well, and with Yakov’s permission he left early to go to the studio. Dance might not help much either, but it couldn’t hurt, and Yuuri needed the stretching time to keep his flexibility.
Lilia was surprised to see him. “Yakov let you come early?”
“I’m less likely to hurt myself dancing while distracted. Yuuko’s having her babies.”
“Of course. I really should tell Yakov first, but I just learned earlier today that my daughter is pregnant with her first child.”
“You have a daughter?” He tried to remember if Viktor had ever said anything, and couldn't. Nor had Yakov. He was pretty sure he'd have remembered that.
“Yes. We don’t really have much of a relationship, when she was a child it was common for children to be taken from their families if they had a strong potential in something, and with me and Yakov as parents it was hardly surprising when she turned out to be a danseur herself. She’s recently retired from the Bolshoi, although she never made it to prima.”
“Do you regret that?”
“It’s a little disappointing she didn’t carry on my legacy, but as I had little to do with her training, I don’t really think regret is the right word.”
“No, I meant… not having a relationship with her. Sending her away for dance training instead of raising her yourself."
Lilia hummed while she thought about it. “Like I said, that was common back then. It was even more common when I was a child. It’s how I was raised. I left home at six. Yakov, I believe, was eight. Rorka left us at seven, which we’d somewhat expected and prepared her for. I’m not sure I’d have known what to do with a teenager. Having her around might have helped save our marriage or it might have destroyed it too thoroughly for us to have a second chance. I don’t regret it, although I wouldn’t encourage others to give up their children now. Things have changed.”
“What about Irina? She and Nikolai had a good relationship…”
“For a long time after she signed on with Yakov it wasn’t. There was never any bitterness that I knew of, but she and Nikolai rarely saw each other while she was skating. When she retired, she moved back to Moscow to be near her father, because he and Lev were the only family she had. When she got pregnant with Yuri and Lev abandoned her, Nikolai took her in. I don’t know if Irina had ever thought about the fact that Yuri might inherit her talent and leave her for training, but if she had, she was almost certainly caught unprepared when it happened.”
“It doesn’t excuse how she’s treated Yuri.”
“No. But it might help you understand her a little better.”
Mari called back about six hours later. “Babies are here. Three girls – Hina, Kuni, and Tazu. Yuuko’s good, Axel and Lutz just need to stay in the incubator to keep them warm until they put on a bit more weight. Loop’s on IV feeding because she isn’t sucking, but they say that’s normal and the sucking should come within a few days. They’re going to keep Yuuko a few days to recover, and if Axel and Lutz gain weight like they’re hoping, they might get to go home with her.”
“What about Loop?”
“She’ll probably need to stay a little longer, with not feeding well it’s not likely she’ll gain weight like she needs to before they can let her go. A week or two, they think.”
“And that’s normal?”
“Yeah. The biggest risk with premature babies is that their lungs aren’t developed, but the treatments they’d been doing worked. Takeshi says the kids are already good screamers. He’s staying in Fukuoka with her, and Yuuko’s mom, and her dad and Takeshi’s parents are gonna go up to help get home if Yuuko can bring Axel and Lutz with her when she gets out.”
Yesterday was my first day with kids, and when school was over, I had NO ENERGY at all. Today was one of those busy days (had to go to the city for stuff after school). Sorry this is so late!
More birthdays and something round and shiny!
August 14th brought two important things. First, Yuuko was dismissed from the hospital. If they’d lived closer to the hospital, Axel would have gone with her, but Lutz needed another day, and Yuuko and Takeshi and the doctors agreed that it was better for Axel to stay the extra day as well to spare Yuuko the trip to Hasetsu and back.
It also brought the phone call from Sasha that she and Rykov were going to meet up and talk. “It’s going to be awkward, but I hope it’ll go well. Is there anything either of you want me to tell him?”
Yuuri shook his head. “No,” Viktor said. “Good luck. I hope he’s less obnoxious when he can be himself instead of who he is for the cameras.”
“I do, too. Love you both.”
Sasha texted later to say that things had gone well, she and Rykov were going to hang out regularly and see what happened, and she expected both her soulmate and her brothers to behave themselves when they had to be around each other. Viktor promised that he wasn’t going to start anything, and neither was Yuuri, but if Rykov started something, well… they were only human. They were still going to kick his ass in Paris and Georgi was absolutely determined to destroy him in China.
Yuuko called on Skype the next day to introduce two of her three girls. Yuuko held a baby wrapped in a blanket and wearing a purple hat. “This is Hina. Axel. She’s the oldest and for now at least, she’s the loudest.” Takeshi had a baby that, at least through Skype, looked identical except for the blue hat. “That’s Lutz. Tazu. She’s Daddy’s favorite.”
“I don’t have a favorite,” Takeshi protested, but he held Lutz just a little tighter. “I just have this feeling that she’s going to be the mischief queen. Evidence: she cries every time Yuuko’s mom so much as touches her.”
Yuuri giggled. “So Axel’s the loud one and Lutz is the smart one.”
“Exactly. We don’t know what Loop will be yet, I don’t think she’ll stay the little one very long once she gets to sucking.” Yuuko raised a finger and pointed at Viktor. “Don’t you dare make the pun. Mari’s done it a million times.”
Viktor closed his mouth abruptly, and Yuuri shook his head fondly. “Can you tell them apart yet?”
Yuuko blushed. “We’re working on it, but for now, there’s color coding. Loop’s easy, but that’ll change all too soon.”
Loop got to come home a week later, prompting another Skype call. Loop, it seemed, was her mother’s favorite – she was still the quiet one, even if she was quickly catching up to her sisters in size. Color coding was still in effect, and Loop’s color was pink. Seeing the three of them together was too much cuteness and they were sure to tell Yuuko and Takeshi that.
By the Cup of Austria, both Viktor and Yuuri had reached a point of confidence with their program, enough that they could go to Graz to watch Phichit skate. Phichit was thrilled to see them. “I didn’t think you’d be coming! Thought I’d be stuck making new friends. Do you have any idea how hard that is?”
“Oh, yes, it’s such a tragic hardship for you, you’d be devastated and lonely.” Yuuri hugged Phichit. “Thankfully, we’re here. Has Seung Gil had a competition yet?”
“No, he’s next week in Japan and then he’s got Germany. That Russian guy that won the first event’s going to be in Sheffield. Do you guys have any idea why he didn’t move up to seniors?”
Viktor smirked. “Top of Russian seniors is pretty crowded with Yakov’s skaters. Top of Russian juniors, there’s him and then maybe if a couple of the novices that moved up are as good as they seem we won’t be waiting for Yuri to get up there. Next year he has no choice, but he could take advantage of the one last year before he has to deal with me and Misha and Georgi.”
“Sheffield should be fun. Lots of neat things to see. I had a good time there.”
“Wow. Really?” Viktor crossed his arms and pouted.
Yuuri smacked his arm. “There were a couple things that sucked, that’s where I met Rykov and you weren’t there, but I hit a couple important milestones there and earned a gold medal and my trip to the Junior Grand Prix Finals, and that’s where I met the Crispinos, and the city was pretty neat. Overall, a good experience.”
“I saw they both won gold last week. I hope I get to skate against them in the Finals! Well, skating against Michele. And that Sara will be there to compete too.” Phichit clapped his hands. “Let’s go exploring! There’s gotta be some cool stuff to see.”
Phichit was in second after the short program, behind Denmark’s Lukas Bech, which he was very happy with. Phichit met them for dinner with an obviously fake scowl. “You two are going to take me with you, right?”
Viktor and Yuuri exchanged confused glances. “To dinner? Of course.”
“When you go elope. That’s the rumor. You’re in Graz because you got tired of waiting for the wedding.”
“This is going to happen any time we go anywhere, isn’t it.” Yuuri groaned and buried his face in Viktor’s shoulder.
Viktor wrapped a reassuring arm around him. “No, I don’t expect it’ll happen when we go to Canada. Probably in Paris since we’re staying an extra day… not in Beijing. I don’t think we’re planning on going anywhere else together before the end of the year.”
“Hasetsu after Canada, remember?”
“Oh yeah!” Viktor smiled sheepishly. “Which we’re in your home town and it’s not for a competition, so of course there’ll be rumors.”
Yuuri shook his head, but he was grinning. “Don’t worry, Phichit. We’ll let you know if there’s any change to the plan.”
Phichit took the silver medal, to his great joy. Yuuri and Viktor returned to work, enjoying their last month to refine and polish. On the 28th, practice started as normal. Then Yakov called Yuuri off the ice. “Phone!”
A million scenarios flashed through Yuuri’s head. Was something wrong with the girls? Yuuko and Mari had made it sound like everything was going well, what had happened? Yuuko was even talking about maybe getting back on the ice soon – nothing too strenuous, just some basic laps, but she missed it so much.
His worries all fled when he heard the voice on the other end. “Emiliya?”
“Tell my husband I need him to come get me. It’s time.”
“Why’d you call me?”
“Yakov lets you answer your phone.”
Misha nearly forgot to change out of his skates before leaving, he was so excited. Yakov shook his head and grumbled about wives who thought it was an emergency worth leaving the ice over if they were out of milk and maybe there was a reason Misha wasn’t allowed to answer his phone during practice.
Misha called Yakov a couple hours later, and Yakov rounded up everyone to listen as Misha announced the birth of his son Nikita. Mother and baby were both doing well and everything was normal, except for the fact that it was the cutest and most awesome baby ever born, of course.
They've been communicating so well... whoops.
Phichit took silver in his second event, too, and he called to demand that at least one of Yuuri or Viktor make Finals so they could all hang out in Beijing. “I know whichever of you doesn’t make it will come hang out too, so as long as one of you makes it, we’re good. Both is better, of course.”
Yuuri was starting to have trouble sleeping again as the NHK approached. Viktor and Makkachin started spending the night with him every night. The cuddlepile helped. Viktor’s comfort with fooling around was slowly but steadily improving, which also helped Yuuri sleep. The night before Yuuri was going to leave for Japan, Viktor laid his head on Yuuri’s chest. “Thank you for understanding and letting me take this slow.”
Yuuri ran his fingers through Viktor’s hair. “I had a wonderful example of how to be patient and let my partner know their safety and comfort were important. Thank you.”
Viktor smiled. “Why does it always seem like it’s Japan you end up going to when I can’t come? Last year for Olympic publicity, Nationals every year, and now the NHK…”
“Maybe it’s because Japan’s the easiest place for me to have to be alone? Mari and Minako are coming. It’ll be weird with Yuuko not there, but I’ll have friends. Skye's competing. So are Masumi and Joli.”
“Have you heard anything from Chris?”
“He’s not coming… his leg is enough better that his coach thinks he needs the practice time.” Chris was working on a secret project that had cause him to hurt his hamstring back in August. He hadn't been sure whether he'd be able to come to the NHK with Masumi or not, because of that.
“Wonder what he’s working on. Has he told you?”
“Even if he had, if he wanted you to know, he’d have told you. You know better than that. He hasn’t told me anything other than it’s a surprise that he can’t wait for us to see.”
“I can’t wait to see what’s so amazing he doesn’t mind hurting himself to get there. At least if he’s planning to show us, it’s not something with Masumi…”
“Viktor!” Yuuri got Viktor’s pillow and whapped him with it. “Are you sure? I can see Chris and Masumi being into having an audience…”
Viktor chuckled. “An audience, sure, but the two of us?”
“Of course the two of us. Haven't you been getting the educational how-to videos he sends me?”
Viktor sat up straight. “WHAT?!”
Yuuri blinked. That... was not the reaction he'd expected. “I asked Chris for a couple because… well… I left school before we did much sex ed, at least any practical kind. We got the where do babies come from stuff, but not much that’s ever going to apply to me. And then it just seemed awkward with a tutor, with Yuri and Mila around, and she gave up and told me to learn it the way everyone else does these days, Google and asking friends.”
“And you went to Chris instead of me?”
Yuuri's heart sank. He'd never meant to hurt Viktor with this. “Unless you’ve been bodysnatched and forgot to tell me, you may have done the sex ed but you haven’t ever put any of it to use. Chris has, so I trust him to have a better idea of what’s actually helpful and what’s bullshit.”
Viktor relaxed a little, but he was still withdrawn, pulled away from Yuuri. “I guess that makes sense. I wish you’d told me.”
“I should have. I would have if I’d realized he hadn’t sent them to you, too. I’m sorry, Viktor.”
“Do you still have them?”
“Yeah… give me a minute.” Yuuri got his phone and pulled up the most recent email. “I don’t know that we’ll ever need to know how to use a condom, but it’s important to know.”
Viktor took the phone and watched the introduction, his face scrunched up in confusion. “Wait, they’re literally educational how-to videos?”
“Yes. With practical, real-world demonstrations sometimes, animations if it’s something the guys who make the videos aren’t comfortable doing together. Why, what did you think they were?”
Viktor dropped the phone and came back to cuddle up to Yuuri. “I thought Chris was sending you porn!”
“Oh gosh. No. Not anything I’d want to watch in front of anyone but you, but it’s not porn!” Yuuri went deep red. “Well, he did one time, but I didn’t actually watch it, and it was an honest misunderstanding before he realized that this was what I wanted.”
“So why’d you connect this to Chris and having an audience?”
“Because every email ends with the same thing… if you and I want a live demonstration of anything, he and Masumi will gladly volunteer. I think he’s joking, but… it’s Chris.”
Mari and Minako were waiting for Yuuri, Yakov, and Lilia at the airport. “Thank you so much for being here. Will Yuuko and Takeshi be okay?”
“There is one reason Yuuko’s not here, and that is feeding her babies. She and Takeshi are coming for the free skate, but they weren’t comfortable coming for the whole time. It’s not like they don’t have a ton of help. Even Yuuko’s mom has been great, except with Lutz. Lutz still starts screaming any time Yuuko’s mom touches her.”
Mari pulled out her phone. “You’ve gotta see this. Yuuko got on the ice a couple days ago, just to do a few laps and see how she felt. Once she got comfortable she did one lap with each of the girls.” Mari held out the phone with a video loaded, of Yuuko and Takeshi skating with the girls.
“They’re adorable. How’s school going?”
“Good. Didn’t realize how much I’d missed being allowed to enjoy school until I was back there. What about you?”
“If I wanted, and I really worked hard, I could be finished by December. I’ve already applied to a couple of schools in St. Petersburg, ones Yakov recommended for working with athletes around their training schedules. I won’t start until next fall anyway, but I don’t have much left I need to do to get my diploma.”
“Why wouldn’t you want to graduate in December? Get it over with?”
“Leaving the rink for tutoring is one of the ways I work around things getting tense at the rink. I’m a lot better now than I was when I first went to St. Petersburg, but there are still days when I need to leave. Not quite ready to give that up.”
“You’ll figure something out. Hit the gym, go to the studio, just keep studying anyway…”
“As long as I’m studying anyway, I may as well drag out it actually meaning something until March. The school wants me to come back to Hasetsu for graduation.”
“Are you going to?”
“I don’t know. I know it would mean a lot to everyone, but I haven’t heard what day they plan to do it. Worlds is in Tokyo, so if it’s on a day off, I can come down, but if I have to skate that day…”
“Yeah. I get that. Hope it works out for you to come.”
Meanwhile, Viktor calls Chris to tell him off for not sharing the videos with him. Chris facepalms when he realizes that yes, Viktor's older than him, but he takes the soulmate bond entirely too seriously and those videos would be beneficial to him, too.
Masumi caught up to Yuuri later that evening. “Your boyfriend is a bit… dramatic, don’t you think?”
“Oh no.” Yuuri covered his face. “What did Vitya do?”
“He called Chris to ask where his videos and demonstration offers were.”
Yuuri peeked between his fingers to see if Masumi was mad. If he was, Yuuri couldn’t tell. “You… did know about that, didn’t you?”
“Nope. I had no idea until I talked to Chris after landing.”
“I’m so sorry… but I have no intention of taking Chris up on the offers, so…”
“If you change your mind, just let us know. Wouldn’t be the first time we’ve performed for an audience.”
Yuuri’s tongue got ahead of his brain. “It wouldn’t?”
“Nope. Joli was curious. I had this whole big pitch ready about the importance of trust and chemistry between partners in ice dance. I got as far as Joli and Otto want to watch us before Chris said yes.”
“Wow. That’s… I can’t… it’s not weird, having people there watching you?”
“Nah. Not for me and Chris, anyway. It’s not for everyone, and if you and Viktor aren’t into it I don’t blame you. You’ve got so much of your lives that ends up in the media. Are you going to come watch me skate tomorrow?”
“Probably. I’m curious about how the new format’s going to work out.”
Masumi grinned. “I love it. One fewer routine to choreograph and learn lets us really polish the free dance.”
Yuuri went to watch, and he met up with Skye, Kamil, and Nadiya. Nadiya had a shiny new ring on her hand. “We’re getting married in June. Here.” Kamil handed Yuuri an official invitation. “If you and Viktor can’t come, we completely understand, with your own wedding and all.”
“Congratulations! I hope everything goes well for you two.”
“Paul said to say hi and he wishes he could be here. He’s not looking forward to going up against Russia’s twin terrors next week. At least here, there’s only one of you.” Skye looked apologetically at Kamil. “I don’t think he meant any offense.”
“Well, Aaron’s no pushover, and there’s a couple others who could have breakout years this year. No offense taken. Yakov’s skaters are just on a whole other level.” Kamil winked at Yuuri. “Doesn’t mean I’m taking it easy on you and just letting you have the gold, home country or not. Who do you think gets the podium with us?”
“Kaleb or Jude are the two I’ve seen mentioned. This is a young group… I skated against a lot of these guys in Juniors.”
The men’s short program was the first event the next day, so Yuuri couldn’t sleep in. Yakov met him at the rink. “How are you feeling?”
“Nervous. Very nervous. I didn’t sleep very well. For me, a home crowd isn’t an advantage.”
Yakov nodded. “I know. Forget them.”
“I wish it were that easy. Japan wants to see their new Ace.”
“That’s right. With Masato retired, you’re their top skater. You’re as prepared as you can possibly be – you have a good, difficult program, you know it well, there is nothing in that program you can’t do, if you go out and do it then Japan being proud of you will take care of yourself.”
“Thanks, Coach. Same thing with the medals and the shot at Finals?”
Yuuri tried. His costume was meant to evoke the image of a knight, with a sort of skirt made of sparkly grey feathers as a nod to the swan part. The music always made him smile. It should be easy to go out and skate. Get through the quad right at the beginning, and then everything else should be easy.
He was in the second group. The first group went well, although Yuuri thought a couple scores could have been a little higher. Jude started out the second group, making it clear that last season wasn’t a fluke as he put up a 74. Kaleb followed him and put up a 70, and then it was Yuuri’s turn.
His program didn’t get off to a great start. He didn’t fall on his quad toe loop, but it was close as he stumbled out of the landing and had to put a hand down to stabilize himself. Then he messed up the change of foot on his sit spin, losing enough momentum that he only just barely got the minimum rotations in. After that, though, he was able to settle down. There was a good chance he could still impress everyone, with two jumps in the second half, including his combo. With no more major mistakes, the crowd definitely seemed to appreciate his program. As he skated to the Kiss and Cry, he stopped in confusion to pick up a stuffed llama. Viktor wasn’t here, so who…?
Yakov’s critique didn’t start the way Yuuri expected. “You did good on that quad toe loop. The way you landed, I was sure you would fall. That save wasn’t pretty, but it was better than a fall.” The rest of it was normal, and Yuuri’s jaw dropped when his score came up – 82. “Not bad. Considering.”
No one beat it. Kamil was closest, with a 78. “Good job, Yuuri! I’m glad I won’t have to go against you in America.”
“You’ll be better by then.”
“So will you. I can’t wait to see what you do in France.”
“Let’s just get through tomorrow’s Free Skate first, okay?”
“True, we still have to do that! Good luck.”
The press was waiting for Yuuri when he got out. “How do you feel about the start to your season?”
“Taking the program as a whole, I think I can be confident that I’ll be able to compete. The start of the program, though… it’s quite clear the five weeks between now and my next competition will be useful. That was rough.”
“What did your coach have to say about your choice of music?”
Yuuri fought the smile. “It wasn’t entirely my choice. My mentor, Okukawa Minako, chose it and choreographed the program for me. Yakov trusts Minako, so he had no problem with it.”
“Viktor thought it was hilarious. He loves it.”
“Do you wish he was here to see the program debut?”
“There is never a time I don’t wish Viktor was with me. We both accept that we have our own training to think of so we can’t always go with each other to competitions, but no one ever said we had to like it.”
“Do you and Viktor have any major plans for Paris? Your birthday will be around that time, won’t it?”
“Yes. We’re planning on staying in Paris an extra day, so that we don’t spend my birthday traveling. We’re hoping to have a couple of medals to celebrate, too, of course. As far as actual plans… I don’t know. Viktor loves surprises, so I’m not even bothering to ask.”
Residents of Kyushu are somewhat alarmed by the squealing coming from Fukuoka. No one can explain the high-pitched noise that is disrupting dogs for miles around.
Yuuri stayed at the rink to watch the ice dance. Masumi and Jolanda took the gold by a decent margin. After that, he had a couple meetings with sponsors. Those were mostly routine, but as he was getting ready to leave one, they had a question that threw him. “Have you and Viktor decided anything about names yet?”
Yuuri nearly dropped his bag. Names? What about them? “There’s not another story going around that one of is pregnant, is there? The only interest we have in babies at the moment is in our friends’ children.”
“Pregnancy is a possibility?” The two people he'd been talking to looked at each other in shock.
“No! There are some people out there with access to the media and absolutely no common sense.”
The spokesman breathed a quick sigh of relief. “Okay. Good. That’s what we thought.”
“So why are you asking about names?”
“Yours and Viktor’s. When you marry. Most soulmates end up changing their names to match, and marriage is the traditional time to do it. With both of you already being famous under your birth names, we weren’t sure… and even if you did, there’s not a defined custom for who changes their name in a same-sex relationship.”
“Oh! Um. No. No decision yet. I hadn’t even thought about it.” At least, not since he was a twelve-year-old with a brand new crush and a notebook to scribble on. He wondered whatever happened to that notebook. With any luck, it was burned and Viktor would never find it.
After the last sponsor meeting, Yuuri headed back to the rink to watch whatever was left of the ladies’ skate. Masumi waved from where he was saving Yuuri a seat. “Why a llama?”
“I don’t know. If Viktor were here, I’d blame him, but…”
Masumi chuckled. “I threw it. Viktor said I should throw you a llama, and that you’d get the joke.”
Well that explained a lot. “I was so sick of ninjas I made Viktor watch a sheep documentary one time. Viktor has never let me forget it, and when we went to Peru he made a point of finding me some llamas to admire.”
Masumi cackled. “Your boyfriend is a bit of a dork, you know that? I’m so sorry.”
“He is. I love him anyway.”
Yuuri set up the Skype call so that all Viktor would be able to see was the llama. “Hello, Yuuri! You’re looking exceptionally cute today. Congratulations, you did well!”
“Thanks. That spin…”
“You’ll get it next time! There’s plenty of time between now and Paris.”
“A sponsor asked me what we’re doing about our names when we get married. Have you thought about it at all?”
“A little. Not enough. We’ll get questioned no matter what we do. What about you?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it at all, not since it’s become a thing that I have a real reason to think about instead of a kid dreaming about a crush.”
“Awwwww! Okay, where are you, I need to see you.”
“I’m right here! You can see me.”
“No, I see a llama. Which is very cute, but you’re cuter, and please let me see your face? I miss you.”
“Dork.” Yuuri turned the computer to face him. “I miss you too.”
The free skate started early for being the only event of the day. Yuri slept better, now that he had a llama to cuddle, but he was still nervous. He’d let Viktor design this costume, an all-white prince costume with black trim. It looked good, and kind of wedding-y, thanks to Viktor.
The first group went quickly, with the biggest surprise being the recovery of Sachio, one of the other Japanese skaters present. He’d had an abysmal short program, but recovered enough to be in first after the first group had gone. The second group was also predictable. When Yuuri took the ice for his skate, Kamil was in first, Jude second, and Kaleb third. It looked like Jude was a real threat this season.
Kamil’s score was easily beatable, with an overall score of 234. Yuuri’s program started off with a bang, with a triple axel combination. His quad toe loop went better than it had in the short program, still a little shaky but he landed it cleanly. The announcers referred to his layback spin as his signature move, which caught Yuuri by surprise. It wasn’t a common choice, but it’s not like he was the only one who did it, was he? It threw off his triple Salchow, although not badly enough to make him fall. That was saved for a triple flip-triple loop combo, where he got a little less height than he expected so his balance was wrong when he hit the ice. He was able to shake it off and finish strong, pulling out of a flying camel spin into his finishing pose.
Yakov started with the fall. Yuuri listened attentively while waiting for the score. 162, for a total of 244. Not a bad start to the season. Japan should not be disappointed in him. He’d need to be much better if he wanted to keep up with Viktor in Paris, but a gold medal was a gold medal.
Jude offered him a huge smile and a hug on the podium. “Yakov’s monsters are off to a good start. Nice going, Yuuri.”
“Thank you. Congratulations on your first senior Grand Prix podium.”
The press, naturally, was waiting for him. “Yuuri, you just destroyed the competition, winning by over ten points today. Do you think you can keep that up?”
“No. My next competition, I’ll be up against Viktor, and I’m going to need to improve if I want to not let him beat me by over ten points. Kamil and Jude are both excellent skaters, but Viktor is the reigning champion, and I’ve seen his programs for this season. It’s going to be hard for anyone to dethrone him.”
“Do you think you can do it?”
“Viktor will kill me if I say anything but yes. So, yes. I’ll have to skate very well, much better than I did here, but I can do it.”
After the press conference, Yuuko ran up to him. Yuuri broke into a huge grin and held out his arms. "Mari said you were going to come! I'm so glad to see you! You look amazing!"
"Thanks! I was worried about it when my doctor told me to keep eating a lot of fat still, but it's all going into the milk for the girls, so I'm actually losing weight. It's going to take a while to get the muscle built back up for skating, but right now, I think I'm going to try. I miss the ice, and the competition, and my friends. By the time I'm looking to compete again the girls will be over a year old so they should be okay."
"That's great! I hope you make it back. Nationals and Four Continents won't be the same without you."
"I'm going to try to get to Nationals for you, at least for one day like this. Since Viktor won't be there, either. Worlds should be easier, the girls will be older."
Takeshi took his turn to hug Yuuri. "You'll probably hate me for telling you this, but you have a while to shake it off. After the short program yesterday, Dad got a call from a skater who was wondering about coaching. He tried to tell the kid's parents that he wasn't really a coach, just an instructor who had a couple of very talented and driven pupils, but the kid had his heart set on skating for the person who taught Katsuki Yuuri everything he knows."
Yuuko winked. "We tried telling him that Yakov only takes foreign skaters if they're soulmates with one of his skaters, but he wants to skate for Nishigori. He's eleven so he's still a novice, so eventually, Nishigori said yes."
Takeshi shook his head. "You might get a chance to meet him when you come visit. He's going to come to the rink every weekend, and for longer during school breaks. Your parents are letting him stay at Yu-Topia."
Home to Russia, off to Canada, life is hectic and Misha is worried. Yakov is done with his skaters' drama.
Viktor was waiting at the airport for hugs and kisses and the dragon’s first feeding of the year. What he got was Yakov rolling his eyes and grumbling about dramatic idiots, and Yuuri hanging back from him. “Yuuri? What’s wrong?”
“Dragons eat llamas. I’m not sure it’s safe.”
Viktor took a step toward Yuuri, putting a finger to his lips in thought. “Dragons will spare llamas if the llamas come bearing tribute. Do you have anything gold you could use to protect yourself?”
“Well, there’s this…” Yuuri pulled the gold medal out of his pocket. Viktor’s eyes lit up.
Next thing he knew there was a stuffed llama being shoved into his chest, wearing Yuuri’s gold medal. “Yuuuuuuuuri…!”
“Next time you drag one of our friends into a joke, tell him what’s going on. Otherwise, you force me to tell them what a dork you are.” Yuuri took the gold medal back and put it around his own neck. Once the dragon was sated and Viktor had made sure that Yuuri wasn't really mad at him, Yuuri took his hand to walk outside. “Everyone said to tell you they missed you and they’re looking forward to seeing us after Canada.”
There wasn’t very long before they had to leave for Canada, and Yuuri spent as much of it as Yakov would allow working on his quad toe loop. Viktor spent it working on his step sequences, which were giving him trouble. He still wasn’t quite comfortable with them by the time he had to get on a plane. This early in the season, everyone would have things they were still working out, though.
Across the aisle, Misha was driving Yakov crazy with his fretting. “Nika’s a month old and I’m already leaving him. Maybe I should have taken this season off, at least the Grand Prix. Emya shouldn’t have to deal with a month-old baby by herself…”
“Who says she is? You don’t trust Lilia to help out? Or Georgi?”
Misha snorted. “Georgi? When’s he ever had to deal with a baby? What does he know?”
“His older brother has children. Therefore, he knows more about babies than you do.”
“He also knows how to run errands, bring food, and help Emiliya with chores around the house. He is ready and willing to help, and you should be grateful.”
“I should be there! My wife, my son, my job to…”
Viktor leaned across Yuuri. “You do realize Emiliya would kick your ass if she heard you talking about skipping competitions, right?”
“She loves to watch you skate. Skating is your job. She knew that when she married you, she knew that when you two started trying for kids, or put it in God’s hands or decided to keep the oops baby or whatever happened.”
“If you’re so worried about leaving them, why didn’t you bring them along? Emiliya seems to be okay now aside from the tiredness from having a new baby around,” Yuuri said.
“Nobody wants a month-old baby on an airplane for seventeen hours. Feeding and diapers and screaming… not to mention Nika’s immune system’s just barely getting started and bringing him on an airplane? That is a terrible idea. If I’d drawn Russia, that would be different, Moscow’s close and we know people there.”
“Oh. Good point. Still… I’m sure they’ll be fine. Relax.”
“Easy for you to say. He’s not your son.”
“Misha.” Yakov barely spoke above a whisper, but it was enough.
“Sorry. I’m going to try to sleep.” Misha turned away from everyone, head resting against the window.
Viktor held Yuuri’s hand as they headed for the Hockey Hall of Fame. “Does this feel weird to you, just going out exploring instead of spending all day with reporters and sponsors?”
“It does, kinda. At least we have time to spend with our friends when we see them.”
Paul chuckled. “I didn’t have it as bad as the two of you, but I know what you mean. I almost feel like I’m being lazy and slacking off, being out here instead of in some kind of meeting. How’s wedding planning going?”
“Good. Mari’s been awesome, handling a lot of the legwork in looking at things, and we should be making a lot of decisions next week.”
“We really owe Mari something huge for all her work on this, on top of her schoolwork and her job at the onsen,” Viktor said. “Any ideas?”
“I keep hinting about that to her and I’ve outright asked Yuuko and Mom and Dad and Minako. They all say that Mari thinks she owes us for the fact that the onsen’s doing well enough that they can send her to school, and this is her way of repaying that debt.” Yuuri smiled mischievously. “I was thinking maybe in Paris we could introduce her to Florentin. She's got a thing for blonds.”
Viktor tried to remember who that was. He couldn't. “Who?”
“That guy that hit on you last year in Canada? The one who doesn’t have a soulmate?”
“Wait, what, you got hit on?” Paul looked between Yuuri and Viktor. “When was this? What happened? Is that why you had that meltdown and decided to call off the prank?”
Yuuri nodded. “We’re trying to keep it quiet, neither of us blames Florentin and we don’t want him to feel bad for anything. He’s a good guy who got taken in by our prank, he didn’t mean to hurt anyone.”
Viktor hated thinking about the last time they were in Canada. He changed the subject. “Where’s Skye? I know she’s a hockey fan...”
“Remember Sergei?" Viktor didn't, but Paul didn't wait for an answer. "His college team’s playing in Montreal. They’re gonna come down tomorrow morning to watch me skate.”
“Oh, how fun! Your coach wouldn’t let you go?”
“No, too much risk of something going wrong and me not making it back in time. Sergei understands. He’s a pretty cool guy, I’m glad there were no hard feelings over me being Skye’s soulmate." Right. That's who Sergei was. Viktor had been trying to think of someone Russian. "Oh, but hey, speaking of Celestino… he’s contacted Phichit’s current coach to talk about a proper scouting trip. I may have a new rinkmate next season!”
Yuuri lit up. “Wow! That’s great! I hope it works out. Phichit’s current coach won’t stay with him into seniors. I don’t know if Phichit’s planning to make the move right away, probably not, but it’ll be good for him to find a coach who will be with him in seniors.”
The next day, as Viktor got dressed for the short program, Yakov raised an eyebrow. “Whatever happened to cutting your hair?”
“I talked to Yuuri. He supports a haircut if I want one, but he likes it long like this, so I’m keeping it this way at least until after the wedding. That way if he hates the new haircut once I decide what I want, at least it won’t ruin the wedding pictures for him.”
Misha smirked. “Told you. Always consult the lover before doing something huge like that.”
“Whatever.” Viktor finished tying it back and pulled his Olympics jacket over his costume. “Let’s go kick some ass, right?”
“Right! I need to start getting Nika familiar with what a gold medal looks like…”
“I’ll be sure to bring it when I come visit then.” Viktor winked. Misha reached over and smacked his shoulder, but he was grinning. “I hope Paul gets the bronze. I wouldn’t mind seeing him in the Finals with us.”
“It’ll probably be Aaron, but Paul would be nice. As long as it’s you and me top two, I don’t really care who gets bronze, though. No one here I wouldn’t want to share a podium with.”
The only person Viktor knew in the first group was Yulian. He did all right, not well enough to be second group the next day, most likely. In group two, Aaron looked good – much better than he had at Worlds. That was a relief. Misha beat him, and Paul didn’t quite pass Aaron, putting him in third. Viktor was the last skater.
His gold costume had made Yakov roll his eyes and inform him that if he didn’t win gold, the clash would be horrible and he’d never live it down. Viktor really didn’t care. He liked the way it looked and felt and moved while he skated.
He started off big with a quad toe loop-triple toe loop combo. The triple could have gone better, but it was clean. He struggled a bit with the step sequence – not badly, but it certainly wasn’t his best performance of it. His other jumps, a triple axel and a triple Lutz, both went well, and his flying camel spin was beautiful. Overall, a good routine. Good enough for first, he assumed.
Yakov had quite a bit to say about the step sequence, including “get that fiancé of yours to help you sort out those last transitions, you idiot.” The 83 was a little disappointing, although not as disappointing as it could have been, since it was good enough to put him in first by two points. Comparing it to the year before wasn’t entirely fair, either, because of the dropped second step sequence.
“Viktor! Your theme this year is rising up, but last year was quite possibly the best year you’ve ever had. Olympics silver, a world record, the quad flip…”
Viktor winked to the camera. “Surprise!”
“How high do you think you can rise?”
“There’s still two more world records out there for me to get, and while silver is nice, gold is nicer. Not to mention getting married! I’m one of the top skaters in the world, but I can be better. Thankfully I have Misha and Yuuri and Chris and others constantly pushing me, keeping me motivated to improve and keep pushing myself. Quite the fight to stay on top!”
“Next time you perform this program, you’ll be competing against Yuuri. Yuuri made a couple mistakes in Japan, and yet his score was only slightly below yours. Are you nervous?”
“Yuuri’s base value and mine are very close for the short program – his is actually a couple tenths higher than mine. Typically I have better GOE, but he does better on the performance score. I’m quite excited to see which of us is ahead after the first day!”
“What about the free skate?”
“My base value is higher, but not so much that he can’t make it up with his performance scores, especially coming in with a lead from the first day. I’m not going to take it easy or make mistakes to let him beat me, but if he does skate better, I might explode from pride and joy. I would love to see it.”
With the free skate the next day, Viktor didn’t try to do much between the two. There’d be time for goofing off afterward.
It had been tempting to revisit his dragon costume, but he didn’t. His trousers were grey and mottled to look like ash, while his shirt was a bright red with gold and orange ruffles. His hair was pulled into three long braids that were arranged to resemble a phoenix’s crest. It was tricky, and Yuuri had to help him do it, or Georgi for the one occasion where Yuuri wouldn’t be there.
The first surprise of the day was a breakout performance from Canadian Clarien St. Denis, which catapulted him up to first after the first group. It held up through the first two skaters in group 2, until Paul finally beat him. Aaron stumbled out of the gate – literally – and never quite found his equilibrium. It was reflected in his score, dropping him out of the medals with Viktor and Misha still left to skate. It was hard for Viktor to watch, and harder for Misha to skate after. Misha was good at shaking things off, though, and he put up a very respectable score of 168.
Viktor took the ice and shoved down the rush of nerves. He was starting off with a quad flip. Clean landing. Once again, he struggled with a step sequence, this one because he kept thinking ahead to the quad salchow-double toe loop combination. Once he’d landed that combo cleanly, he relaxed, slowing down with the music after the fiery explosive death of the old firebird. The music gradually picked back up as the new bird rose. As much as he’d like to pretend it was on purpose, the young bird struggling as it found its way, the hand down on the triple toe loop stung. From there, he finished clean, but it could have been so much better.
Yakov made sure to let him know about it, too. He had to quiet down, though, when Viktor’s score came up at 171. If he could improve this performance over the season, another world record seemed well within striking distance.
The podium was nice, sharing with Misha and Paul. Yuuri was thrilled to get to kiss a gold medal. Viktor was not surprised to learn that Aaron had been taken to medical, where he was diagnosed with dehydration. "What was his coach thinking, letting him skate like that?"
Yakov raised an eyebrow at him. "You are asking that?"
"If it were me I'd have hidden it from you, but I always thought Aaron had more sense than that!" Viktor protested.
"At least it's nothing more serious?" Yuuri said. "The way he looked, I was afraid there was something seriously wrong, but if it's just dehydration, he should be fine by Skate America."
"We can hope. He's not going to make the Finals this year, but I'd hate to see him blow America too," Misha said.
Viktor’s exhibition skate had mostly been done to make Yuri laugh. “Eye of the Tiger” certainly fit the theme of rising up, and the tiger costume was just cute. “Don’t worry, Yura, I haven’t forgotten my promise to choreograph you a cat program. Music from Cats, do you think?”
“What else?” Yuri rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.
Stalking the ice as a tiger gave Viktor a new appreciation for them. They were almost like ninjas. Stealthy, deadly, solitary, and terrifying. No wonder Yuri loved them so much. Viktor still preferred his dog, but doing a poodle skate would just be silly. Unless he could do a poodle pair skate with Yuuri...
After the exhibition, Viktor and Yuuri headed for Japan. They got to Hasetsu late at night, but Minako was still there to meet them at the train station. “Congratulations, both of you!”
Yuuri hugged her. “Thanks! How’s everything here?”
“Great. You know, Yuuri, when you were younger, Hasetsu was dying. Now, things are picking up. Nishigori’s new student was down here for the weekend, he’s had a couple other calls from people wanting him to coach their young skaters, I’ve gotten calls from people looking for ballet auditions for their kids. A couple of the inns that were just about to go under have been saved, although most people prefer Yu-Topia.”
“What’s the new student like?” Yuuri had almost forgotten about that.
“He’s… excitable. Very eager to learn, but any time someone mentions you, it's like any concentration is just gone." Minako smirked. "In some ways he reminds me of you, when you first started going on about Viktor.”
Yuuri reddened, but Viktor couldn’t help smiling. “Yuuri, it’s not like you’ve ever tried to hide that you were a fan before we met. Don’t be embarrassed about it!”
Minako laughed. “If he turns out to be Yuuri’s soulmate, is that going to be a problem?”
Viktor put a finger to his lips. “Probably. Not for me, if he has another soulmate I’ll do whatever I can to make sure everything works for everyone, but at the end of the month we are done with any attacks about Yuuri being underage. Mari said this kid is very much a kid?”
“He’s eleven. And I see what you mean. You don’t have a problem with it but the media is going to lose their shit and there’ll be another seven years of attacks.”
Yuuri groaned just thinking about it. “Not to mention accusations of faking my bond with Viktor, faking my bond with… what’s his name?”
“Minami Kenjirou. I don’t know how long you’re staying, but if you’re still here Friday night, you’ll get to meet him.”
“Faking my bond with Kenjirou to keep the spotlight on me…”
Viktor snorted. “Because that’s something you truly desire so much. You just can’t live without the spotlight anymore. You wouldn’t be happy living a perfectly normal life where you don’t have to deal with reporters every day.”
“I will be perfectly happy to wake up on my birthday with only one soulmate. Even if he does bring entirely too much press attention.”
The next morning, Yuuri and Viktor visited the Nishigoris. Yuuko answered the door, hair messy and exhaustion lining her face. “Here.” She handed the baby she was carrying to Yuuri and ran inside to where another baby was crying.
Yuuri stared at the baby, trying to figure out what to do with her. If he remembered the color coding right, this was Axel, wearing purple pants. The loud one. She stared up at him, and he smiled at the oddness of seeing Yuuko’s eyes staring out from under Takeshi’s eyebrows in baby form.
Takeshi came to the door with Lutz. “What are you three just standing there for? Come inside!” Yuuri and Viktor obeyed quickly, Viktor shutting the door behind them. “Sorry for the hectic, Loop is… we have no idea what’s going on. She’s not hungry, her diaper’s fine, we’ve checked her for tender spots or fever or chill. She just won’t stop crying unless someone’s holding her.”
“I’m sorry! Is this a bad time for us?” Yuuri held Axel a little tighter. He didn't want to go, but if something was wrong with Loop...
“If you don’t mind trial by fire, it’s a wonderful time for you to be here, extra hands mean Yuuko can focus on Loop. If you’re not comfortable, I understand, and we’ll see you tomorrow.”
Yuuri didn’t move, so Viktor ended up making the call. “Can I hold Lutz?”
“Sure.” Takeshi handed over his daughter with a smile. Viktor with a baby was an adorable sight. He just looked like someone who was meant to have a baby to cuddle, the way his face lit up and there was a softness that Yuuri had only ever seen directed at Makkachin or Vicchan until Natasha. Takeshi was struck by it too. “You know, I know it’ll probably wait until after you retire, but it would be a damn shame if you two didn’t have kids. Never really saw you as a dad type, Viktor.”
Yuuri chuckled. “I don’t know about retirement, but it will definitely be a long time. Yakov says we should wait until Viktor grows some sense.”
Viktor looked up from Lutz, eyes twinkling. “I say that if we’re waiting for me to grow some sense then we might as well forget the idea. I just don’t want to be tied down yet.”
“Tied… Viktor, you are marrying Yuuri!” Takeshi said. “How are you not tied down already?”
“Tied down to one place because traveling with small children is difficult, and then they have school to plan around. I still have a lot of exploring the world I want to do!” Viktor looked back down at Lutz. “Yuuri doesn’t tie me down at all. He doesn’t have to.”
“No, but it might be fun.”
“Takeshi! In front of your innocent little girls?” Viktor moved one hand to cover Lutz’s ear and cuddled her so the other ear was in his chest. “I am scandalized!”
Takeshi’s booming laughter brought Yuuko running in with Loop. She stopped and stared in confusion at Takeshi, now doubled over, Viktor still looking shocked, and Yuuri bright red and trying to hide his face with Axel. “Do I even want to know what happened?”
“Viktor is a dork who doesn’t realize that our girls are too young to understand sex jokes,” Takeshi said around the laughter he still didn’t have controlled very well. “I won’t do it again or Viktor might just melt.”
“You’re awful. Best to start watching our language now, before they’re old enough to start repeating what we say.”
Gosh! It's Minami! I'm sure you're all completely shocked! ;-)
Yuuri meets his fanboy and is confronted with reminders about his own fanboy side.
Their time in Japan was divided between wedding plans, triplet-sitting, and practice. The Trophee Eric Bompard was coming up too quickly to neglect skating, even if Viktor or Yuuri were inclined to. Friday evening, Yuuri had just launched into a quad toe loop when there were footsteps followed by a piercing shriek. Naturally, Yuuri landed on his butt. Viktor skated to help him up. “Are you okay, Yuuri?”
“I’m fine. I’ve had worse falls.” Yuuri took Viktor’s hand to pull himself up. “What was that?”
“Yuuri. Viktor. I’m so sorry about him.” Nishigori put his hand on a young boy’s shoulder. “Kenjirou here is a little excitable, and when he heard you were here…”
“I’m so sorry, Katsuki-san!” Kenjirou bowed. “I didn’t mean to distract you and get you hurt! Are you okay? I’m sorry, I was just so excited when your sister said you were here and skating and…”
Yuuri gave up on waiting for the kid to take a breath. “I’m okay. Just don’t do it again, okay? Skating requires a lot of focus.”
“I know! Nishigori-sensei tells me that all the time! I’m going to be great like you one day, so I need to learn how to calm down and think about what I’m doing when I’m on the ice and I’m babbling again I’m so sorry you don’t want to listen to me talk can I have your autograph?” Kenjirou held out a notebook and a Sharpie.
Yuuri took the notebook to signed. Out of habit, he handed the Sharpie to Viktor. Viktor, thankfully, hadn’t completely shut down. “Do you want me to sign it too?”
“Sure! You’re Yuuri’s soulmate, right? Viktor Nikiforov?” Viktor signed the notebook and handed it and the Sharpie back to Kenjirou. “This is so amazing. Katsuki Yuuri signed my notebook!”
“Viktor, too…” Yuuri protested, glancing at Viktor, who had a hand over his mouth trying to control the laughter. “You’re really that excited about meeting me?”
“Yes! You’re the best skater Japan’s ever produced and I want to skate against you when I’m old enough! Please don’t retire until I have the chance!”
Yuuri had no idea what to say to that. He couldn’t promise that. Injuries happened and forced skaters to do things they didn’t want to do all the time. Just look at Yuuko – she was working on coming back, but it wasn’t a guarantee, and she was only twenty.
Viktor took pity on him. “I’m sure Yuuri’s looking forward to that day, Kenjirou. I always look forward to meeting my competitors on the ice.”
After practice, Viktor and Yuuri holed up in their room. “So, your fan. Cute kid. Introduce him to Phichit, or would the world explode from the combined adorableness and Yuuri-love?”
Yuuri buried his face in his hands, giggling. “It’s bad enough having you and Phichit together. Don’t even try to play innocent, I saw you steal his phone. You gave him Phichit’s email, didn’t you.”
“Facebook, but close enough.” Viktor’s grin was 100% unrepentant. “If he’s not a Hamster already, he will be by morning. I bet Phichit will even find him a special place in the organization.”
“It’s so embarrassing! Why does he love me so much? I’m just…”
Viktor smacked the back of Yuuri’s head. “Seventeen-year-old bronze medalist at Worlds? I seem to remember another Japanese boy who fan-worshiped the last one of those Yakov had.”
“Shut up, that’s different, I’m your soulmate, it was our bond making itself known early,” Yuuri protested. “Besides, you had an Olympic medal and you’d never had a massive meltdown on the ice.”
“Ah, but I had Yakov Feltsman coaching me since I was very young. You brought yourself to this level from a much humbler beginning, one that Kenjirou is likely able to relate to. Hard work around traditional schooling, determination, and a hero to chase. He doesn’t even have a Yuuko, supporting him on the ice.”
“Did you have a hero you wanted to chase, when you were young, or was it just about maintaining Yakov’s stranglehold on the top of men’s singles?”
“Sort of both? Kesar Agafonov. He was one of Yakov’s older skaters when I started, and I looked up to him much the way Yuri looks up to the two of us. I never got the chance to skate against him – he retired the year I started in Juniors.”
“Freak accident – he fell trying to learn a quad Salchow, and he was so close to the wall that he went sliding into it head-first. He got a nasty concussion and was never the same skater afterwards, too scared to go for big jumps and not a good enough artist to make up for not even being able to do a triple axel anymore. He quit after he missed the free skate at Worlds.”
“Ouch. I can’t say I blame him, if I had a meltdown that bad, I’d probably quit too. I’m sorry you never got to skate against him.”
“It’s okay. It didn’t take me long to start to see Misha as the person I was chasing, and it’s even better now that we’re on the same level. I’m so excited about having you there with us!”
“I’m not there yet, you know.”
“Not quite, but you’re close. You can beat me even if I don’t make serious mistakes, now. Last year, I don’t think you could have.”
“It’ll be a long time before Kenjirou is on that level, if he makes it. I hope he does.”
“Me too. I might be retired by then, but you should still have a few years left, anyway. In the meantime, there’s Chris and Phichit and Misha. We’ll never lack for good company standing with us on the podium.” Viktor hugged Yuuri. He then reached under the mattress. “Mari gave me this earlier. She said she found it cleaning out an old store room and had no idea how one of your old school notebooks got out there…”
Yuuri blushed again. So that’s where it went. “Did you look at it?”
“Yes, of course. It’s nice, seeing all our options laid out in ink like that – in three different writing systems, no less. Saves me the trouble of figuring out how to spell Nikiforov in katakana.” Viktor kissed the top of Yuuri’s head, which was all that was within reach at this point as Yuuri was trying to smother his embarrassment in a pillow. “It’s cute, Yuuri. Just like Kenjirou.”
Woooooo. Did not mean for that to happen! I'm kind of in crunch time on some challenges - on Sunday I realized I had five fics due by Thursday night, and nothing started for any of them. I now have 4/5 done and posted and the fifth is started. Probably no update Thursday; Friday may or may not happen because of school, football, and travel (depends whether I stay and go to the game or drive up first and listen online).
Several competitions between Canada and France. Chris takes silliness to a new level.
While Yakov and Georgi were in China, Mila was in Celje with Lilia for her first competition of the season. She handily defeated her competition for gold, and was very excited, talking about a European Criterium sweep. Viktor reminded her not to get too overconfident, but she shrugged him off easily. “I’m not overconfident! I can do it. It’s my last year in novices, next year I get to go to juniors. That’ll be awesome! Emil's coming with me. Think Phichit will still be there?”
"Probably. Seung Gil, too. The Crispinos will probably move up," Yuuri said.
"Darn. I want to skate against Sara. I'm not surprised, but I can hope, right?"
"You'll get a chance when you get up to seniors. Just be patient, okay?" Viktor reassured her. "Keep busy and those two or three years will fly by!"
Thankfully, Kenjirou calmed down a lot over the weekend. He was still excitable, but not distractingly so. He watched the Cup of China with Viktor and Yuuri at Yu-Topia, following their lead in cheering on Chris and Georgi, along with another skater he liked, American Bryson Hallett. He did not follow their lead in watching Rykov respectfully, even going so far as to throw a fit when he finished in fourth after the short program. Viktor and Yuuri were too busy staring at the rankings in confusion. “What on Earth happened? How is Bin in seventh?” Viktor said.
Yuuri shrugged. “His skate was… there was something off about it, didn’t you think? Even with the hometown crowd, it seemed mechanical, like he was just going through the motions instead of really interested in what he was doing.”
“Hmmm. I hope he gets over whatever’s wrong quickly. Seventh here means he won’t be at Finals no matter what.”
Bin did not finish seventh after the Free Skate. He finished eighth. Chris took the gold, and Georgi silver, to Viktor, Yuuri, and Kenjirou’s great delight. Kenjirou was utterly disgusted with Rykov taking the bronze, and Chris and Georgi didn’t look any happier about it. “You two better destroy him in Paris. If he goes to the Finals, that’s going to suck!” Kenjirou declared.
“Maybe,” Yuuri said. “I’m just going to focus on getting myself there. I try not to let Rykov get in my head.”
Later that night, Yakov called. “Have you seen the interview Rykov did?”
Yuuri and Viktor looked at each other blankly. “No? What did he say?” Viktor asked.
“They asked if he was looking forward to meeting you and Viktor in Paris.”
That… could go several different ways, Yuuri thought. “And?”
“He said that he was more concerned with his quad Salchow than he was with what other skaters were doing, even the two of you. He hoped you did well, because you’re both excellent skaters, but that he was going to concern himself only with his own skating and let everything else look after itself.”
Yuuri’s jaw dropped and he couldn’t come up with a response. Viktor started giggling. “Either he’s gotten himself a new coach, he’s grown up a lot since Worlds, or someone is working on banging some sense into him.” Yuuri blushed and smacked Viktor's arm, but Viktor was completely unrepentent.
“I suppose we’ll find out in Paris. I still expect the two of you to work hard and take gold and silver, do you understand?”
“Of course! Don’t worry, Yakov, Yuuri hasn’t been replaced by an impersonator, you don’t have to worry about him slacking off, and if I want to beat him I can’t afford to!” Yuuri’s cheeks pinkened. Beat Viktor? That seemed unlikely. Possible, he knew that, but unlikely. “Tell Georgi we’re very proud of him. Do you know what’s wrong with Cao Bin?”
“You noticed that. Everyone’s talking about it – except Bin. Liao Su dropped a hint that it was a personal matter rather than an injury, but that’s all he’d say. I’m encouraging Chris and Georgi not to get complacent before Moscow, but it does sound like this isn’t just a fluke.”
“Hmm. I hope everything’s all right. He’s too good to be skating this poorly.”
Yuuri and Viktor got home at the same time as both the Celje pair and the Beijing pair. Georgi handed Viktor a gold medal, which Viktor stared at in confusion. “Since I’m going to see him again in two weeks, Chris sent that with me so you two could kiss it before he had another one. I didn’t have the heart to tell him he wasn’t going to get another one before the Finals because I’m taking it.” Viktor’s laughter was so hard that Yuuri took the medal to kiss first while they waited for Viktor to recover.
Skate America brought the first two confirmed Finalists, Kamil and Misha, who took gold and silver respectively. Aaron recovered from Skate Canada to take the bronze, much to Viktor’s relief. Misha reported that he’d talked to Aaron and the Belgian skater had admitted to skating with a hangover after a long series of bad decisions that he didn’t want to give specifics about.
Yuri got to go with Yakov and Georgi to Moscow to visit his grandfather. Irina had kept up contact with Yuri, which had continued the hesitant repairing of their relationship. Irina wanted to bring Yuri and Nikolai out to New York again during the offseason, which Yuri was resisting because he was going to be preparing for his debut in novices, but Yakov and Lilia were encouraging. Viktor agreed, but there would be time to convince him after Nationals.
Chris was very happy to get his medal back, despite the teasing from the Russians and Paul. As Georgi had predicted, he and Chris traded places on the podium, which put them both in the Finals as well. Paul took the bronze here, giving him a shot depending on what happened in Paris. Bin continued his struggles, still looking mechanical and not like himself, ending up in seventh. As before, everyone talked about it, but with no one able to find anything new other than at this point it probably was not an injury or Bin would have withdrawn from this one, with Finals out of reach.
Welcome to Paris! Enjoy the family drama.
Timeline: November 24, 2010
The flight to Paris was filled with anticipation. Skating against each other, dealing with Rykov now that Rykov knew they were sort of family, celebrating Yuuri’s birthday, hopefully celebrating two medals and being the last two finalists… it was going to be an eventful week. Viktor couldn’t help the amusement that Florentin would be here too. “How do you feel, Yuuri?”
“There’s a lot going on. I’m nervous. Anyone would be, I think. I’m in better shape than last year, though. Experience, I’m not still weirded out from Rykov flirting with me, if anyone hits on you I can fight back but they’d have to be really dumb to hit on you, I’m turning eighteen in Paris, and I’m coming in with a gold medal instead of silver. As long as I beat Rykov and Jude, or don’t fall too far behind them at least, I can get fifth and still go to the finals.”
“That’s true!” Viktor kissed him. “Is there anything in particular you want to do on your birthday in Paris?”
“You say that like you haven’t been making plans since we found out about this in June." Viktor was sure his face betrayed his guilt, not that he was sorry. "I’m sure we’ll get back to Paris at some point, so it’s not like if we don’t do something we won’t ever have a chance. You’ve been, right?”
“I’ve been a couple times. Your birthday isn’t about me, though, it’s about you. So if you want to do something…”
“The only thing I want for my birthday is to watch you having fun spoiling me. It sounds awful and I cannot believe that’s my plan, but there we are.”
Viktor grinned and hugged Yuuri around the airplane seats. “It doesn’t sound bad at all! I like it.” He sobered up a little. “What do you want to do if you have another soulmate?”
“Depends who it is and what they want. You might be able to keep quiet about it, so if they’re fourteen…”
“I don’t know that I’ll be able to keep quiet, if it’s someone we know and like. If it’s Phichit, I’m going to have a hard time.”
“Can you imagine the look on Phichit’s face when we tell him? I think he’d be horrified at the thought of interfering with his favorite ship!”
“If he is, he doesn’t know me. If you have another soulmate, that’s not a problem for me. Your bond with them is too important for jealousy.” He wanted to be Yuuri’s only soulmate, yes, but if he wasn’t, he could accept that.
“Thank you. I hope it’s not necessary. I want you to be my only soulmate.” Yuuri snuggled in. “I love you. I don’t want to adapt to someone else in here.”
Once they’d landed and checked in, Yuuri took a nap. Viktor was too wound up, so he went out shopping. While out, he ran into Sasha and Rykov. “Hello!”
Rykov walked away. Sasha came over to him, arms crossed. “What are you doing?”
“Shopping? My soulmate has a birthday soon and has given me permission to spoil him. Why are you so hostile?”
Sasha glared, but Viktor held his ground. Eventually, she softened. “You really were just saying hi? You weren’t going to be mean to Rykov?”
“You have my word. Yuuri and I will fight back if he starts something, but as long as he behaves himself, so will we. Do you really think I’d let my feelings about the guy overcome the fact that he’s your soulmate?”
“Yes? You hate him.”
“And he deserves that. He doesn’t deserve for me to start sabotaging his soul bond, no matter who it’s with, and you’re my sister. I would never sabotage your soul bond without a much better reason than the way he’s behaved toward Yuuri.”
“What would be a good enough reason for you to sabotage my soul bond?”
“If he reacted to losing by beating up a locker or something. If I had reason to think he might be abusive instead of just a whiny twit. I don’t like the guy, he’s a whiner who never takes responsibility for his failures, but that’s something he’s likely to grow out of eventually. He’s not evil. I have no reason to think he’d hurt you. I am, at some point, going to give him the shovel talk, but I’d do that if your soulmate was Chris. Or Yuuri.”
Sasha's jaw dropped. “You’d give Yuuri the shovel talk.”
“Yes. I know perfectly well it wouldn’t be necessary, but I’d do it anyway.”
“Okay.” Sasha hugged Viktor. “I’m gonna go catch up, but it’s good to see you.” Sasha started away, but she turned back. “If you and Yuuri end up sharing the podium with him, what are you going to do?”
“Celebrate! Unless Rykov gets gold with a higher overall score than whichever of us takes bronze did in our first competitions, in which case Yuuri and I don’t both make the Finals. Even then, we’ll behave for the pictures. Your soulmate or not, Rykov wouldn't be my first choice to share the podium with, but I'll deal like the grownup I'm supposed to be.”
“Okay.” Sasha walked off again, leaving Viktor to get back to shopping.
Yuuri woke up to find Viktor gone. That wasn’t a surprise; Viktor was probably out shopping. He pulled out his phone and checked messages. Yuri sent him pictures of his cat sleeping in a pile with Makka and Vicchan. “Didn’t go to Moscow this weekend, staying with Lilia and your stupid beasts. Potya’s a traitor.”
Viktor came back and joined Yuuri at laughing at Yuri’s indignation. “Hungry yet?”
“Starving. Where are we going?”
“Depends. We’ve got a couple invitations to join people for dinner, or we could go on our own somewhere. What do you want to do?”
“Who are the invitations from?”
“Jude’s going to dinner with a few of the ladies’ skaters and invited us to come, and Rykov invited us to go to dinner with him and Sasha.”
Yuuri shook his head, convinced he'd heard wrong. “Rykov.”
Viktor smirked. “Yes. You should have seen the look on Sasha’s face, it was hilarious. What do you think?”
Yuuri didn't take much time to think about it. “I think we may as well go with Sasha and Rykov. Get this settled so we know what to expect during the competition and I'm not worrying about when things are going to blow up with him. You?”
“I agree. Especially with the invitation coming from Rykov. Either he’s taking his asshattery to a whole new level, or he’s serious about behaving himself and making this work.”
Rykov seemed surprised that Yuuri and Viktor showed up, but not in a bad way. The trip to dinner was awkward, no one saying much. Rykov was the one to break the silence. “I’m guessing this is why you two were so nice - relatively, anyway - to me at Worlds last season?”
“Well, you were part of Team Russia, and that does mean something. But yes, it was mostly because you’re likely to be family one day.” Viktor winked. “I’m not going to apologize for taking one last chance to screw with you, not after what you did to Yuuri in Canada.”
“Ugh.” Rykov shuddered. “That one was too far, and I’m sorry.”
Sasha raised an eyebrow. “What did you do?”
“In your defense, it wasn’t as bad as we let you think it was. Something else happened the day of the free skate, I didn’t screw it up so badly because of you.”
“I kind of figured." Off their skeptical looks, Rykov added, "If you were going to fuck up because of me, it would’ve been the short program, it wouldn’t have waited for the free skate.”
“You were happy enough to take the credit with the reporters…” Viktor said.
“Of course I was! Ego boost and I’m guessing it was Florentin? I was in the locker room too, you know. He felt bad enough after the meltdown that if I could keep the media from digging, I was going to. Aside from having incredibly questionable taste in men, he didn’t do anything wrong.”
Viktor and Yuuri gaped. Viktor had never heard anything that would make him think Rykov would think of something like that. Sasha looked around. “So, are any of you boys going to answer my question…?”
“He was taunting us about the supposed breakup, and he took it a little farther than he meant to, I think,” Yuuri said when neither Rykov nor Viktor would answer. “I’d rather not think about it ever again.” Rykov nodded in agreement.
From there, dinner was a lot more relaxed than Viktor had thought it might be. When they got to the end, Viktor was no longer apprehensive about Rykov doing something to ruin the wedding. “When are you two going public?”
“Probably here. Don’t tell me you didn’t notice the flashes. We’re on the Internet, I’m sure.”
Viktor smirked. “No we’re not. Not yet.”
Sasha raised an eyebrow. “And you say that because…?”
Yuuri’s phone rang and he checked the caller ID. “Now we are.” He answered the phone. “Hi Phichit. Yes, they’re real. Yes, there is a good reason for it.” He set the phone down. “Can the Hamsters break the news?”
“The… Hamsters?” Rykov snickered. “What are the hamsters?”
“Yuuri’s fan club.” Sasha rolled her eyes as Rykov continued snickering. “They can if they don’t mind dealing with the people who won’t believe it until they hear it from a more official source.”
Timeline: November 25-26, 2010
With so many things to do in Paris, it was hard to choose what to do with their practice day. Yuuri let Viktor take the lead – he’d been here before and he knew what he was planning for Yuuri’s birthday. Standing at the top level of the Eiffel Tower with Viktor’s arms around him was an amazing experience – one that would have been even better if there hadn’t been five million other people there, too. Yuuri was surprised that they spent the day as tourists, instead of shopping, right up until it occurred to him that he’d given Viktor permission to go nuts and do whatever he wanted for Yuuri’s birthday. Viktor was probably saving the shopping for then.
So far, there wasn’t much belief about the Hamsters’ assertion that Rykov was Viktor’s sister’s soulmate and that’s why they were acting the way they were. Yuuri was rather insulted on behalf of his fans. Viktor told him to let it go, and he was trying, but it irked him. Why would his fanclub be lying about this?
As they got ready for the short program, Yakov watched the two of them carefully. “Is it safe to assume the Hamsters have good information?”
“Of course. Can you imagine what Vitya would do to Phichit if he found out the Hamsters were spreading fake soulmate rumors, after all the times we’ve had to deal with them?" Yuuri could. It was not pretty. Not the kind of thoughts he needed before skating. "I got Sasha and Rykov’s permission to let the Hamsters talk about it.”
“And how’s this going to affect you?”
“I’m a little weirded out still, but I’m fine. Vitya and I have known about this for months, it was just waiting to see how Rykov would behave, and it seems like he’s going to leave us alone. I have no problem with that.”
Yakov accepted that with a terse nod. “Vitya?”
“He’s not a complete asshole and he seems to be treating Sasha well, so as long as he leaves us alone, I have more important things to think about. Like skating, or Yuuri’s birthday.”
Yakov facepalmed. “I think you’re worse now than you were on your own birthday.”
“Probably!” Viktor hugged Yuuri, completely unrepentant. “This time, Yuuri and I are together and I don’t have to get on a long flight and spend the whole time worried about not being able to get him through the anxiety attack to get him to believe me.”
“Just get your head out of the clouds and on the ice when you have to.” Yakov left, grumbling about saps and annoying lovebirds and irritating little mosquitos that wouldn’t go away.
Yuuri drew into the first group, going last, while Viktor would be fourth in the second group. Jude and Rykov were both in the second group as well, while Florentin was right before Yuuri.
After their group’s warmup, Florentin caught Yuuri. “If I ask you something, will you tell me the truth?”
Yuuri swallowed. This wasn't going to be awkward, and did they really have to do it before the skate? On the other hand, if he could set Florentin's mind at ease, maybe it would help. “Neither Viktor nor I blame you at all for what happened to me in Canada. You had no reason to know what Viktor and I were doing, and we take full responsibility for running the prank to begin with and for not having thought of potential consequences. I deal with Viktor’s fans all the time, I know he gets hit on, I just wasn’t prepared for it to happen in front of me. I should have been. It was a perfectly logical thing for someone to do, given that we supposedly had been broken up for months. You have nothing to feel guilty about.”
“But that was why you ended up doing so badly,” Florentin persisted.
Yuuri hesitated, but nodded. “It was part of it. I wasn’t lying in the interviews when I said the pressure of being so close to making the Finals was getting to me, and I was still a little shaken up from Rykov screwing with me before the short program. It wasn’t your fault.”
“Still, I’m sorry. Thanks for not throwing me to the rabid fans as an excuse.”
“Apology accepted. Now forget it and skate your best today.”
Florentin skated well, although not well enough to be in the lead even before Yuuri skated. Yuuri didn’t watch, too focused on concentrating on being ready for his skate. He could hit the quad. He knew he could hit the quad. The main focus was not letting it bleed into the sit spin afterward if he didn’t.
Viktor walked out with him, holding his hand right up until he got on the ice. Yuuri waited, and when the music began, he let it sweep him away. The quad wasn’t perfect, but he landed it on one foot with enough rotations. The spin he’d messed up last time went beautifully, giving him good confidence. By the time he landed his triple axel, solid like usual, he had a good feeling about the skate. He was going to take the lead from Clarien.
Yakov’s criticisms were much pickier than last time. He didn’t seem a bit surprised by the 88 that popped up for Yuuri’s score, giving him a huge lead over Clarien’s 72. “Well done, Yuuri. That just might hold up. You looked good, too. Could be better, but you were good.”
Rykov’s 75 was somewhat disappointing after a botched triple Axel. Yuuri felt a twinge of sympathy. Not much, especially given he was still in second, but some. There wasn’t time to say anything, though, as it was almost Viktor’s turn and Yuuri was going to walk out with him. Once again, they held hands as they walked to the ice.
Viktor’s routine started out better than it had in Canada, as he cleaned up his combo. His step sequence was better, thanks to Yuuri’s help, and with that behind him, he could enjoy himself out there. The triple axel went well, as did the triple Lutz, and he finished off with a flying camel spin that was not the best he’d ever done but still a good effort.
Viktor only half-listened to Yakov as he reviewed his program. When his 85 came up, he was only surprised because he thought he’d be a little lower, having expected a lower performance score. Yuuri had a more than three point lead on him going into the free skate. This was going to be fun.
Fallout because of course it couldn't be all sunshine and roses. Then it's the Free Skate.
Timeline: November 26-27, 2010
Yuuri and Viktor walked out to the reporters together, holding hands. Viktor couldn’t help noticing the slight tremble in Yuuri’s hands, and he squeezed. “You can do this. I’m right here. If there’s anything you need from me, tell me.”
Yuuri shook his head, so Viktor got the media’s attention. “Yuuri! Congratulations on your first place standing! How do you feel about it?”
“It’s good to know that I’m likely to medal tomorrow.”
“Do you think you’ll get gold?”
The shaking in Yuuri's hands increased, so Viktor scooted a little closer. “I don’t know. Vitya’s base score is higher than mine, by more than my current lead. I’ll have to have another exceptional skate to hold on.”
“Viktor, what do you think of Yuuri being on top?”
“I think it’s amazing!” Viktor kissed Yuuri’s temple. “I’m very proud of him, and if he does produce that exceptional skate tomorrow, or I make enough mistakes, I love kissing gold medals. I’ll be delighted to have the opportunity to kiss one here.” He winked at them. “I’d prefer it to be because of his exceptional skate, naturally. No one likes making mistakes, and I’ve always found victory sweeter when it’s not handed to me because my opponent struggled.”
“You won’t be upset?”
“I think it’s only natural to be disappointed that I didn’t get the gold, but it’s more than offset by the joy of seeing Yuuri excel. We have a lot of years ahead of us to skate together, and I’d much prefer a real rivalry where it’s always interesting to see who comes out on top. Last year, Yuuri did very well for a senior debut, but the only way he could have beaten me is if I messed up. This year, it’s much closer, and I’m hoping the gap continues to narrow as we push each other to greater things.”
“Speaking of rivalries, Yuuri, there’s a rumor on the internet that your rival is Viktor’s sister’s soulmate. Do you know anything about that?”
“Yes, I do, and I’m glad you asked. One of the leaders of the Hamsters is a very close friend of mine, and I’m their source for the rumor. Those photos of the four of us at dinner are real, not photoshopped, and the point of that dinner was to find a place where Sasha is not going to be asked to take sides between her brother and his soulmate, and her own soulmate.”
Once they got back to their hotel room, Yuuri curled up on the bed, the tremor from before becoming much more noticeable. Viktor sat beside him and wrapped his arms around him. “What’s wrong, Yuuri?”
Normally, sitting like this, Yuuri would lean in against Viktor or even climb up into his lap. Today, he just sat there and let Viktor do all the work. “My anxiety’s being stupid. I’m trying to beat it up, but it’s really strong today.”
“Oh no! What’s it telling you?”
“It’s trying to tell me that you’re upset that I beat you today, and you’re just hiding it to keep me from having a meltdown. If that’s true at all, it’s not working, so go ahead and tell me?”
“Yuuri, look at me.” Yuuri looked up into Viktor’s eyes. “Of course I’m disappointed that I’m not first. I’m a competitive athlete and I like to win. I wouldn’t believe you if you told me you weren’t ever disappointed when you knew you had the program to be higher but someone else skated better than you did. I’m not at all upset that you beat me. I don’t like to lose, but like I told the reporters, I’d rather have someone around who beats me than go into competitions knowing I’m going to win unless I mess up badly enough because no one can. I’m very fortunate to have you and Misha and Chris to keep me on my toes. I think it’s one of the reasons Yakov runs his rink the way he does, encouraging us to work together and help each other instead of seeing each other as obstacles. When I’m on the ice, I want nothing more than to win, but I leave it there to support my friends. You’re not just my friend, you’re my soulmate, my beloved, and I am less disappointed to lose to you than I am to lose to anyone else. I love that this is something that you and I share, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. You’ll beat me sometimes, and that’s good.”
Now Yuuri climbed into his lap, cuddling in as tight as he could against Viktor. “Thank you. I needed to hear that.”
Yakov kept a close eye on Yuuri before the free skate, for which Viktor was grateful. It meant he didn’t have to keep as close an eye on Yuuri, he could focus more on himself, because Yakov would alert him if Yuuri needed him. Yuuri would prefer it this way, too, because then if he won his brain couldn’t try to ruin it by convincing him that Viktor would have won if Yuuri hadn’t distracted him.
After warmups, Viktor checked the standings. No breakout scores, nothing that looked like a meltdown, nothing to think about. The same was true for the first two skaters in their group – Yuhan slipped behind Kyle, while Clarien held his position. Rykov was the first skater Viktor paid any attention to. His skate was good, and he landed the quad Salchow cleanly. Not good enough to make Viktor feel threatened, but Jude should be. Jude looked a little nervous – no major mistakes, but enough bobbles and stumbles to cause him to drop below Rykov, guaranteeing that Rykov was on the podium.
Yuuri and Viktor walked out together, holding hands. At the ice, Viktor brought Yuuri’s hands to his lips. “May the better skater win today.”
Yuuri returned the gesture. “Good luck, Viten’ka.”
Viktor rode the love high, his quad flip impressive as always. This time, he didn’t screw up the step sequence between that and the quad salchow, giving him more confidence as he went into the middle of his program. The triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo he’d messed up in Canada went smoothly. His triple flip was beautiful, with huge height and a strong landing. As he came to a stop, breathing hard, he thought back through his program. This one was better than Canada.
Yakov agreed, although he still thought there was plenty of room to improve before the Finals, and the score confirmed. 173, two points better than Canada, ten points better than what Yuuri had done in Japan. His overall score was a few hundredths under 259. Yuuri was better now, but was he better enough?
Yuuri’s opening combination was beautiful, and his step sequence was more polished this time. He landed his quad toe loop cleanly, drawing applause from Viktor. That was already better. Yuuri kept his focus as he continued skating, and when he went into his second step sequence, Viktor tried to look away to see if Yakov was seeing what he was, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Yuuri. When Yuuri got to the triple flip-triple loop combination he’d fallen on in Japan, Viktor held his breath. Only the knowledge that Yakov would start the murder and Yuuri would finish it was enough for Viktor to suppress the squeal of joy when Yuuri kept his footing. Even with touching a hand down, it was still a major improvement over falling. After another bobble on the triple Lutz, Yuuri’s final jump, a triple axel, went so well that Viktor couldn’t quite stop the squee, although he did manage to keep it quiet enough that all Yakov did was glare.
It was going to be close. For once, Yuuri wasn’t listening at all to Yakov as the coach went through the program. His eyes were glued to the screen. Since Yuuri was last, there was nothing to stop Viktor’s scream of joy when the score popped up. So very close to 171, for an overall total over 259. The gold medal was Yuuri’s.
By the time the last notes of the Japanese national anthem had faced, Viktor’s face hurt from smiling so hard, but he couldn’t stop. Even having Rykov there couldn’t spoil this, not that he tried. He smiled for the camera, cooperated for the group shots, and offered Yuuri and Viktor congratulations. He left as soon as he could, but that was a huge improvement over what Viktor would have guessed would happen if he and Yuuri ever shared a podium with Rykov before.
Of course, the first question the press had was for Viktor: “Yuuri held on and beat you. You said yesterday that you’d be okay with this.”
Viktor scowled at them. “I did not.”
The reporters looked at each other in confusion. “Um… yes you did?” one eventually said.
Viktor gave up the pretense and broke into a huge grin. “I said no such thing. I said that I would be delighted to see Yuuri win this. That’s not at all the same as being 'okay' with it.”
“So… now that it’s happened, is that how you feel?”
“I’m a bit upset.” Viktor turned to Yuuri and took his hands. “Yuuuuuuuuuuuuuuri, you’re not supposed to give yourself the best birthday present! How am I supposed to top a gold medal and the top seed to the Finals?”
Yuuri had gone pale at Viktor’s original statement, but now he burst into laughter. “Well, for starters, I don’t feel like I’ve really won this yet. I’ve had it around my neck for a long time now, and it’s starting to feel a little hurt that the dragon doesn’t seem to care!”
Viktor hadn’t thought it was possible, but now his smile got even bigger. “Well then! I suppose I should give it some reassurance.” He bent and kissed the medal, then straightened up and kissed Yuuri. They were on camera, so he kept it short and sweet. “Better?”
Viktor turned back to the reporters. “This is the happiest I’ve ever been about a gold medal, and it’s not even mine. Yuuri and I both skated better than we did in our prior events, and he came out just a little bit ahead this time. I’m taking the gold back at the Finals, of course!”
Post-skate crash and exhibition. Yuuri is a little shit.
Timeline: November 27-28, 2010
For once, Viktor was prepared. He kept Yuuri distracted through the evening, going out to celebrate with Jude, Rykov, Sasha, and some of Jude’s friends in the ladies’ division. It was late when they made it back to the hotel, and Yuuri was tired. Viktor made sure his secret weapon was handy.
Sure enough, Yuuri had just stepped out of the shower when his anxiety caught back up to him. Viktor went in after him, brought him out to the bed, and handed him the stuffed ninja sheep. “You did so well, Yuuri. I’m proud of you.”
Yuuri clutched the sheep to his chest. “I know you’re disappointed, Viktor. Don’t lie to me.”
“I am disappointed. I wanted that gold medal, and I fought for it." Yuuri relaxed and turned to face Viktor better. "You earned this, and I’m so proud of you. We can’t both win the gold medal, and if I’m going to lose, I’d rather lose to you than to anyone else. I know you love seeing me win, even when you’re competing too, so please believe me that I feel the same about you.”
“It doesn’t feel real. I keep hearing this voice in my head saying they’re going to come find us at any moment and say that there was an error in the program that calculated our scores wrong and we need to switch medals, please.”
Viktor held back the laugh in favor of pulling Yuuri close and kissing his hair. “Well, tell it that even if there was such a mistake, once the medals are awarded, the worst that will happen is there will be an asterisk in the reports. For what it’s worth, I don’t think there was a mistake. Neither does Yakov, and you can count on him for an honest opinion.”
“I know. If Yakov thought there’d been a mistake, he’d have said something and challenged. It’s just… I’m top seed for the Finals, I beat you… I’m still struggling with the pressure of being expected to win gold at Nationals this time around. I’m still getting my head around the fact that the media’s talking about me as a medal favorite any competition I enter. I’m still not quite used to the fact that I have a medal from Worlds, and it’s been months!”
“The day you first saw me skating, when I won Junior Worlds? That was my first major gold medal. First of many, but it was a bit of a surprise. If I wanted to be a sap, I’d say it’s because my soulmate was watching, even if I didn’t know that at the time…”
Yuuri giggled. “Sap.”
“Guilty as charged. Anyway, even with being Yakov’s student, even with fully expecting to be a champion one day and no anxiety trying to sabotage me, it took a long time before it really sank in that ‘one day’ was here.”
Yuuri smirked at him. “Seems to be a theme with you.”
Viktor squeezed Yuuri tight while he laughed. “It does! Thank you so much for being so patient with me and helping me get through that.”
“How’s that going, anyway?”
“Reasonably well. Did you want to test it and see?”
“I won a gold medal. You won a silver medal. We’re both in the Finals. I think we deserve some rewards, don’t you?”
"I quite agree. Is the anxiety voice under control?" Yuuri nodded, so Viktor took the ninja sheep from him and stuffed it in the drawer in the nightstand. Viktor had a fleeting moment of discomfort when he realized Yuuri was still dressed for the shower, but it passed as soon as Yuuri started unbuttoning Viktor's shirt. Before long, Viktor was dressed identically.
This time, it was Yuuri who pulled back. “How are you doing?”
“I’m good. If you want to keep going, I think I can push things a little farther, but if you’re ready to stop we’ve had a long day full of excitement and we could both use the sleep.”
“Kind of what I was thinking, and I figured if I was tired enough that I could think about that instead of you, it was time to stop.” Yuuri rolled off of Viktor and curled into his side instead. “Thank you.”
The exhibition skates were their typical routines, Viktor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and Yuuri skating a translation of Odette’s Pas de Deux from “Swan Lake”, from a version where she performed it by herself. Viktor was a little confused why Yuuri asked him to switch with him. “The gold medalist should go last, Yuuri.”
“Just do it? Please?” Yuuri’s turn for puppy eyes. Viktor couldn’t say no, even with no idea what Yuuri was doing.
He found out about three-quarters of the way through his exhibition skate. Yuuri had, somehow, gotten a sheep costume and was out on the ice. Well. A tiger had to stalk its prey, right? There was just enough time left for a good stalk before he pounced and tackled Yuuri to the ice at the end of the song. The crowd loved it.
Viktor had a million questions as they left the ice. “I am impressed. How did you pull this off? Where did you get the costume? Where were you keeping it?”
Yuuri smirked. “So… you know how we didn’t have to explain to Yakov that we were switching, he already knew?”
“No. No!” Viktor bent over double laughing. “Yakov helped you with this?”
“Yakov got Raisa’s coach to bring the costume in. He warned the announcers about the switch – you’ll notice they weren’t surprised at all, either, when I went out there instead of you. His idea, even – until the short program, neither of us really expected me to beat you. I was going to call it off, but Yakov didn’t want to have brought the costume for nothing.”
“How did you convince Yakov to help you with this in the first place?”
“You know the other big Viktuuri news story of the day, right?”
Viktor sobered quickly and wrapped his arms around Yuuri's waist. “You’re having your dream tonight. You’re not nervous about that, are you?”
“No… I know you’ll be there, I don’t expect anyone else there. The thing is, you know the paparazzi are going to be speculating, and if it gets too bad, I might get nervous enough to have trouble sleeping. So I came up with this as a way to give them something else to talk about instead of dragging out all the old shit about us not really being soulmates or me having another one out there. Yakov agreed that it was probably a good idea to create a distraction, and you’re a good enough improviser to roll with it…”
"Do you want me to wake you up in the morning, or let you sleep?"
"Let me sleep. Knowing you, I'm going to need the energy to keep up with everything you've got planned."
Chapter 24: Dream a Little Dream of Me
Lying beside Viktor, Yuuri felt a rush of gratitude that he was the younger soulmate and that Viktor had made contact. Going into tonight not knowing would have been rough with his anxiety. It’s entirely possible he’d have had to drug himself to get to sleep. Of course, it wouldn’t matter that much. He doubted he’d have been in Paris to begin with if it weren’t for Viktor bringing Yakov into his life. The worst thing he’d have to wake up for is school, and lots of people skipped their eighteenth birthday to sleep longer or to start working on finding their soulmates.
As it was, falling asleep was easy. When he woke up in his dream, Viktor was waiting for him on the ice at the Ice Castle. It was just the two of them, quelling the one fear Yuuri still had, that he’d have a second soulmate and Viktor wouldn’t be as okay with it as he said he would. Not that he thought Viktor was lying, of course. It’s just that you can’t know for sure how you’ll feel about something until it happens.
Yuuri skated out to Viktor, who held open his arms to catch Yuuri in a hug. “I know you love surprises, but I’m honestly just as glad there aren’t any here. You, me, and the ice… this is how it should be.”
“Good to hear. If you’d had another soulmate, I’d have done everything I could to help you figure things out, but… I wanted to keep you all to myself.” Viktor bent his head to kiss Yuuri. When they broke apart, Viktor’s eyes sparkled with mischief. “Do you need detailed instructions for how to find me tomorrow?”
Yuuri bit his lip. This should be fun. “Sure.”
“Okay. First, check to see if there’s someone cuddled up to you. That should be me. If it’s not me, we’re going to have serious problems, and that’s no way to start your birthday celebration.” Yuuri giggled. “If I’m not there, check the bathroom. I’m planning to wait in bed as much as I can, but I do sometimes have to pee. If I’m not there either, call Yakov, Lilia if he’s on the plane and has to have his phone off, because something has gone horribly wrong.”
Yuuri snorted. “I’m sure Yakov will love that phone call.”
“Yes. He’s very much hoping not to hear anything from us, because that means your soulbond was exactly as expected and the media is leaving us alone.”
“I figured.” Yakov would hang up on them if they called for anything less than an emergency.
“So that’s how you find me. Hi. I’m Viktor Nikiforov, I’m 21, I’ll be 22 next month, and I’m a figure skater who loves ninjas and dragons and somehow has the press convinced that a giant dork is some sort of skating god untouchable ice prince.”
“I’m a big fan. I have been for years.”
“Introductions, how to find me, I want to see you as soon as possible so come find me. What do we do with the rest of the night?”
Yuuri had been thinking about this all month. He was ready with an immediate answer. “Teach me a quad flip.”
Viktor’s eyebrows shot up. “That… was not what I was expecting you to say. I thought you might want to take advantage of the safe environment for other things.”
“Out there is a safe environment, as long as it’s with you." Once Viktor had calmed down with the hugging and dying of how sweet his soulmate was, Yuuri continued. "You’re not going to remember any of this, and I hate the idea that you won’t remember it if we have sex in here. Besides, you’re still shaking off the last of the need to wait.”
“It’s not like I’ll remember…”
Yuuri crossed his arms. He hated that argument. “So it would have been totally cool with you to have sex with me in your dream?”
“What? No!” If Yuuri'd had any doubts about Viktor's claims about his dream, the shock and disgust on his face would have dispelled them. As it was, he just felt bad about putting them there.
Still, he had a point to make. “It’s not like I’d have remembered.”
“You were still fourteen! It was still you!”
“You’re still you. You’re still working on the mental block.” Yuuri wrapped his arms back around Viktor and stretched up to kiss him. “In Japan, at the temples, we’re taught that what happens in your dream will set the tone for your relationship, even though the other person doesn’t remember."
"It makes sense. Russian churches say something similar. The dream leaves impressions on the other person's soul, and even if the mind can't interpret them, a strong enough mark can influence their thoughts. Scientists haven't found any real evidence of it, but there's still so little we know about the actual souls themselves."
"I don’t know what you did in your dream, aside from what you’ve told me about me giving you tips for getting me through the anxiety attack I was going to have when we met and teaching you enough Japanese that you could find your way to Yu-Topia, but I know that it can’t have included anything you wouldn’t have done with me when I was awake. Aside from getting honest answers that didn’t have to get filtered by my anxiety, anyway. From that first day you showed up in Yu-Topia, I’ve trusted you completely, and you’ve only ever shown me respect. You can’t have taken advantage of me.”
“It’s still not quite the same. You’re not taking advantage of me, you’re taking advantage of a situation where you don’t have to go through my mental block. Just like you were able to be open because your anxiety wasn't interfering, without my brain getting in the way, I'm perfectly ready to have sex with you.”
"Brains are dumb sometimes." Yuuri smiled up at Viktor. “There’s still the problem of wanting us to remember the first times together, instead of me remembering this dream and you remembering out there. Besides, how else am I supposed to both learn the quad flip from you and surprise you with it? I know I won’t get it tonight, but I can make enough progress that you’ll be surprised when I start practicing.”
“You’re skipping the Salchow?”
“It’s easier, but I can’t learn it from the person who did the first ratified one.” Yuuri winked at Viktor. “Unless you’re scared that if I master the quad flip, you won’t be able to beat me anymore…”
As expected, that lit a fire in Viktor's eyes. "I'm not scared at all. You're on."
Yuuri has a great 18th birthday.
Timeline: November 29, 2010
Yuuri woke up to whispers in Japanese. Viktor was telling him how lucky he felt that Yuuri was there beside him, dreaming of him, and how much he loved Yuuri. “You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Yuuri opened his eyes and smiled up at Viktor. “Even the gold medal at Worlds?”
“You were a part of that. The gold was nice, but sharing the podium with you made it ten times better.” Viktor kissed Yuuri. “Good morning. Did you have a good dream?”
“The best. No surprises, just you.”
“Good. Not that I’m surprised by that, but there was a possibility…"
Yuuri reached up to Viktor's hair to play with. "I don't think there ever was a chance. I can't imagine anyone getting between us. We're too close."
"I know, but soulbonds have a way of surprising people." Viktor ran a hand over Yuuri's arm. "Do you want to get up and do stuff or stay in bed for a while?”
“What time is it?”
Viktor looked over Yuuri's shoulder at the clock. “Nearly 10:00. Places will be open, but there’s no hurry.”
“You’re the one who’s got plans for the day. You tell me what we’re doing.”
“All right. I think we should go ahead and get up. I remember being more tired than usual after skating after my dream, and all we did in my dream was talk. A little skating, but nothing that I’d expect to tire us out. You have better stamina than me, but you also probably had a more active dream.”
“Now that you mention it… I tired a lot more easily than usual on your birthday. Nishigori thought it was me being lazy for once and pretending to be tired so I could go stalk social media to see any reports about your soulmate.”
Viktor laughed. “Did you?”
“Yes. I even went looking for English or Russian sources because I knew the Japanese sources wouldn't say much unless you'd already made contact. A younger boy who wasn’t Russian. When I showed her, Yuuko teased me with ‘what if it’s you?’ but I didn’t think there was any way.” Yuuri ran his fingers through Viktor’s hair. “And then you showed up, and my life has never been the same.”
"Mine either." One last kiss, and then Viktor pulled away to get out of bed. “If you get tired and need a break, let me know. Birthday naps are allowed!”
Viktor took Yuuri shopping, as Yuuri had expected. He didn’t go too nuts, at least, not by what Yuuri had been afraid of. A lot of where they went nuts was in buying presents for Yuuko’s girls, or Nika, or Yuri and Natasha, or the dogs. Viktor snuck in buying things for their apartment, once they found one, and buying Yuuri some new clothes. They did make time to visit the Seine and walk along the river, and go to Notre Dame. “You know, I almost wish we weren’t already engaged,” Yuuri said as they stood on the steps outside to watch the setting sun. “This would be a perfect place to do it.”
“But… neither of us are Catholic. Why get engaged on the steps of a Catholic cathedral?”
“Because! Isn’t this a perfect moment for it?”
Viktor looked around. “Yes, I suppose it is. I still like ours better.”
“Yeah, there’s been a lot of people who find perfect moments on cathedral steps, I think we’re the only ones to get engaged during an exhibition skate.”
During dinner on the Champs Elysees, Viktor took Yuuri’s hand. “Yakov has an idea he wants me to run by you.”
“Oh? Good or something for me to worry about?” Yuuri tried to think of things Yakov might want Viktor to talk to him about on his birthday. He couldn't imagine Yakov wanting to talk about a coaching change on Yuuri's birthday, and even if he did, Viktor would never go along with it.
“Good. A way to solve two problems with one solution.”
“Okay. What’s he thinking?”
“With you eighteen, there’s no reason we can’t live together. Yakov and Lilia have reconciled, and he’s only kept his own place for me. If we buy his current place, you move in with me and he moves in with Lilia.”
Yuuri loved the idea, but he had a huge question. “What about Yuri?”
“He can go with Yakov to Lilia’s. Or, if you’d be willing, he can stay with us. I was thinking we’d talk to him and let him make the decision.”
“Sounds good to me. It’s perfect. Close to the rink, the dogs will be welcome, space for Yuri to visit if he decides to go with Yakov and Lilia, not much media circus…”
No hesitation. “If he wants to stay with us, I’d love to have him.”
After dinner, they went for a walk, and then back to the hotel. Viktor seemed a little nervous as they got ready for bed. “What do you want to do tonight?”
“Just because I’m eighteen doesn’t mean we’re ready. It helps, but I’m not expecting the birthday to be a cure for you.” Yuuri sat in Viktor’s lap and cuddled in. “I didn’t sleep with you in my dream, I’m not going to push you now just because it’s my birthday.”
Viktor's jaw dropped. “You didn’t? Why on earth not? I'd have thought with your anxiety you'd be just as happy for the chance to try it out and figure out what you wanted to do.”
“I did, but I didn’t want to remember something you didn’t. I have enough faith in us to believe we'll survive an awkward first time.”
“Yuuri, that’s so sweet!” Viktor laid back, pulling Yuuri along with him. “Thank you. I love you.”
“Thank you for the amazing birthday. I love you too.”
Back to work! Talking to Yuri. Meeting up with friends in Beijing.
Timeline: November 30-December 7, 2010
When they turned on their phones the next morning, there were notifications. All kinds of stories about how sweet they were and how romantic their birthday date had been. Yuuri was quite surprised that there was nothing about him having another soulmate, or discovering Viktor wasn’t really his soulmate.
Viktor called Yakov to let him know their phones were back on. Yakov didn’t say much, just told them to go home and be well-rested when they showed up at practice the next morning. Phichit confirmed what they’d seen – almost all the stories were positive about love triumphing in Paris, and even the ones that weren’t positive also weren’t awful.
Yakov worked them hard when they got back. Yuuri felt the pressure starting to mount – he was the top seed. Considering he beat Viktor to get it, he couldn’t even use the excuse to himself that he’d gotten lucky and drew an easy path. That meant there were expectations, and if he failed to medal, well… it would be another disappointment.
Viktor did everything he could to keep Yuuri from dwelling on it. That included finding Yakov and Lilia to talk about moving plans. Both Yakov and Viktor had people to figure out the paperwork side of things, so it was just a matter of figuring out what needed to be moved or sold or bought.
Yakov had one major concern about letting Yuri stay with Viktor and Yuuri. “You two could handle him, I know. It’s the press. At best, there will be squealing about Yuri being your son.”
“At best?” Yuuri said. Honestly, that didn’t sound too horrible. Yuri might disagree, but somehow, Yuuri thought he might be a little pleased with it too.
“At best. On the other hand, they could look at the facts. Yuuri’s just turned eighteen, he’s moving in with Viktor, Yuri is living with them too. And then the conclusion…”
“Yuri and Yuuri are soulmates,” Viktor finished. “I don’t know, Yakov. I kind of went off on them last time they dragged Yuri into things. He’ll be ten! They have to know that Yuuri would never do that.”
“You’ll never go broke betting on media stupidity.” Yakov shrugged. “It’s up to you if you want to make the offer, and up to Yuri if he wants to accept, but he should be aware of the risks.”
Yuri was skeptical when Yuuri offered to cook him dinner. “You’re not going to poison me, are you?”
“No. I’m making katsudon. It’s not going to be as good as my mother’s, but I bet you’ll love it.”
Yuri didn't take long to decide. “Okay. Fine. If you poison me I’m never going to trust you again, though.”
Yuuri rolled his eyes. “You know Emiliya didn’t do it on purpose, right?”
“That’s what she wants us to think,” Yuri grumbled. "I think Nika was trying to take out the competition."
After one bite of pork, Yuri forgot his skepticism and practically inhaled his bowl. “This is amazing! I love it!”
“Me too.” Yuuri gave a sigh of relief. Viktor had tried to tell him he didn’t need to worry, but it was Yuuri.
Viktor paused in inhaling his bowl. “You should come to Japan sometime to have his mother’s katsudon. It’s even better!”
“If you’re saying that, it must be amazing.” Yuri pushed his empty bowl aside. “This has also got to be way out of your diets, so what’s going on that’s important enough that you’d do this so close to the Finals?”
“Well, you know how Yuuri and I have been looking for somewhere to live together?”
“We found somewhere.”
“Here. Yakov’s moving with Lilia, and Yuuri’s moving in here.”
Yuri crossed his arms and glared. “And what happens to me and Potya?”
“That’s up to you. Yuuri and I would love to have you here, but Yakov thinks the press will be stupid about it. Potya and Makkachin are used to each other, Vicchan and Potya know each other from when you’ve stayed at Lilia’s when we’re gone, so there’s no problem with Potya staying too.”
“The press can kiss my ass. What’s the rent going to be like?”
“The same as it is with Yakov, either way.”
“Think my sponsor would cover it, living with you two? Living with my coach, that’s obviously covered, but you two are future competition. And then there’s the potential press scandal.”
“Future competition, yes, but we’re also your rinkmates. It’s not like you’re moving in with some random people. I think your sponsor will be okay with it, but if you’d rather move to be sure, we understand. We’re not going to start moving until after Finals, so you’ve got plenty of time to think about it.”
Misha, Georgi, Viktor, and Yuuri were all skating in the Finals, and Lilia wanted to go to spend time with Minako, so they took Yuri and Mila along. Nika was still too young to bring, and Emiliya chose to stay with him. She offered to look after Yuri as well, but Yuri wanted to go with everyone else.
Chris and Kamil were both excited. “I love this group of finalists. I don’t think there’s any other group like this,” Kamil said.
“Have you heard anything about Cao Bin? Aaron just had some bad timing with not feeling well, but Bin didn’t look good in either of his competitions.”
Kamil shook his head. “Nothing. The only thing I’ve seen at all is his coach confirming that he’s not injured and that he hopes to make a comeback in Nationals.”
“Hmmm. Well, in the meantime, let’s enjoy the competition!” Viktor looked for Yuuri. Yuuri had wandered off. “I think Phichit’s gotten in.”
Phichit had, indeed, arrived, along with Seung Gil and the Crispinos. Michele was the favorite to win the Junior Men’s gold, and Sara the Junior Ladies’. Yuuri was hanging out with the four of them, and Seung Gil was glaring at Sara behind Mickey’s back. “What’s that about?” Viktor whispered to Yuuri.
Yuuri shrugged. “Sara said he was cute. Seung Gil was not happy about that, and Michele nearly started throwing punches. Phichit and I broke it up before anyone did anything to get disqualified for, but I don’t think they’re going to make up any time soon.”
Yuri visits the cats, and Phichit has a huge day for his career.
Timeline: December 8-9, 2010
Wandering around Beijing together was a blast. Almost everyone there had been to Beijing before, so they went shopping and hung out at the zoo. Everybody was excited to see the pandas. They were even able to get Yuri to go to the panda exhibit before he ran off to watch the tigers. He was in heaven as there were several different species of cats to watch.
Viktor woke Yuuri up the next morning with his laughter. “What’s so funny, Vitya?”
“Listen to this!” Viktor got hold of himself. “’Competitive skating is a competition. Only one person can win a given division. Apparently, someone forgot to tell this year’s crop of men’s singles Grand Prix Finalists.’ They’ve got pictures of us out running around together yesterday. They’ve even nicknamed us the Saccharine Six!”
Yuuri lost it. That was hilarious. “Four of us are rinkmates and we’re always like this with Chris and Kamil! I don’t know that we’ll all go out partying together right after the free skate to celebrate whoever gets it’s gold medal, but we are going to have fun with our friends when we’re in the same place!”
“I know! If I get it, I know I can count on you celebrating with me, and if you get it, you can count on me." Viktor wiped the tears from his eyes. "Misha and Chris are both very likely, unless Chris is off celebrating with Masumi and Jolanda. Georgi will probably go with Anya if she medals.”
“They say anything about three of the Junior finalists hanging out with us too?”
“Yes. We’re grooming the next generation to not take the competition too seriously and remember that friendship is important.” Viktor paused. “And then they have a picture of Michele and Seung Gil glaring at each other at the snow leopard exhibit, captioned ‘Some skaters don’t seem to agree with this philosophy.’”
The two of the burst into fresh laughter. They barely got themselves together before Yuuri’s phone rang. “Phichit! Did you see it?”
“I saw. Yuuri, I need help.”
It must be bad, if he was distracted from media attention that featured him. Yuuri sobered quickly. “What’s wrong?”
“I know you and Paul said he might be interested, but I was not prepared for Celestino Cialdini to be here! My coach told me he’s here to scout me!”
“Wow. Are you sure he doesn’t have a skater somewhere else?”
“I’ve checked! None of his skaters made it this year!”
“Okay. Just hang on, Vitya and I will be at the rink as soon as we can. Find Seung Gil and try to absorb some of his chill, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, Yuuri.”
Viktor raised an eyebrow, and Yuuri explained what was going on as he got dressed for the day. They got to the rink to find a very annoyed Seung Gil dealing with Phichit hugging him. “Oh, good. You’re here. Phichit.”
Phichit detached himself from Seung Gil and flung himself at Yuuri. “It didn’t work. I absorbed as much as I can, and I can tell the difference in Seung Gil, but not in me.”
Yuuri bit the inside of his cheek. He had not meant for Phichit to take him that literally, but he didn’t dare laugh right now. Viktor couldn’t stop the snicker, but he at least had the sense to wander off to wish Michele and Sara luck instead of sticking around to make Phichit worse. “Okay. Phichit. Calm down. You are at the Junior Grand Prix Finals. You’re skating against one of your best friends. Focus on getting gold so that Seung Gil and Michele don’t have to stand next to each other on the podium. You can do that, right?”
Phichit stared blankly. “What about Coach Cialdini?”
Yuuri shrugged. “If you get gold, don’t you think that impressing him will take care of itself?”
“You never had Yakov at one of your competitions to decide if you were worth coaching, did you?”
“Not exactly. Instead, I had a competition as kind of my final exam. The one where I met Paul and Celestino, in fact. I know exactly how useful the advice is but I’m still going to say it: forget that Celestino’s watching. He’s been watching you for a while now, the only difference is this time it’s live. Did he come introduce himself or did you just spot him?”
“My coach told me he was here and why. If he likes what he sees, he wants me to come to America this summer. I don’t know if I want to go…”
“Leaving Hasetsu is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, but I needed to do it. You need to get out of Thailand. Hopefully you’ll be able to change it for future skaters, but right now, Thailand doesn’t have what you need.”
“I know. But you had Viktor there and Minako went with you. I’d be going alone, and my soulmate may well be in America but I won’t know who they are.”
“You don’t have anyone who could go with you?”
“I don’t know. I’m not sure who I’d even ask. My parents won’t just pick up and take all of us, my coach wouldn’t abandon her other skaters, and I don’t have a Minako.”
Yuuri stayed with Phichit until the junior men’s skate was called for warmups. When he went to the stands to find Viktor, he found him sitting by Celestino. “How’s Phichit?” Viktor asked as Yuuri took the seat on his other side.
“He’ll be okay. His coach is an idiot, but Phichit’s not me, he’ll get over the nerves when he hits the ice.”
“What’s he so nervous about?” Celestino asked. “Being here?”
“His coach told him you were here.”
Celestino shook his head. “In that case, I’ll go talk to him today. I’ve seen enough of his skating on film and heard enough about him from Paul that the only reason I haven’t talked to him yet is because I didn’t want him freaking out about me being here.”
Phichit finished the day in sixth, Seung Gil in fourth, and Michele in first. Yuuri waited with Celestino while Phichit got changed. His eyes got big when he came out and saw Celestino, but he approached them. “Hi. I’m Phichit Chulanont.”
“Celestino." He shook Phichit's hand. "It’s nice to meet you. Nice skating, you looked like you were really having fun out there.”
Phichit relaxed, his usual sunny smile back in place. “I was. You should probably come meet my parents, I know they’ll want to talk to you.”
Senior short program. Trolls! Trolls in the ice rink!
Just thought you should know.
Timeline: December 9-10, 2010
Phichit didn’t join the group for dinner, which meant that neither did Seung Gil. Sara brought a couple of the other junior ladies’ skaters with them, including Emily Landon, who spent the whole time flirting with Michele. Michele was, to Sara’s great exasperation, completely clueless. Mila thought it was the funniest thing she’d ever seen and kept egging Emily on.
Phichit caught Yuuri later that night. “So it turns out my dad’s oldest sister lives in America, and she and her husband were wanting to move out of California anyway. Dad’s going to see if he can convince her to move to Detroit. I don’t remember Aunt Rochana, but she’s family, and I’d have cousins to keep me from missing my siblings as much.”
“That would be good! So you like Celestino? You think it would be a good fit for you?”
“Yeah, I think so. He seems like a good guy and I know he’s a good coach from watching his other skaters. Also, he likes hamsters.”
“Oh, yes. Very important quality in a coach.” Somehow, Yuuri managed to keep a straight face.
Phichit stuck out his tongue. “Hey, you wouldn’t be so fond of Yakov if he didn’t like your dogs, would you?”
“I only have one dog…”
“Bullshit. Vicchan and Makkachin.”
“Makka is Viktor’s dog.”
Phichit rolled his eyes and shook Yuuri's shoulders. “Yuuri. My friend. My best friend ever. You are marrying Viktor. You are planning to move in with him. I think you can consider that you have joint ownership of the dogs. Especially considering they're soulmates!”
Junior men didn’t skate the next day. Chris gathered the senior men’s finalists during a coaches’ meeting. “If they’re going to give us nicknames, we should really play this up. Have some fun with it. Cheer for each other, support each other, console each other if someone doesn’t do well…”
Everyone agreed, and after warmups, everyone but Misha found a place to hang out and watch. Yuuri hugged Misha as he left the ice, and Viktor shouted “Davai!” to him. Misha was skating first, and he did well. Chris was up next, and Misha gave him a quick hug as they passed each other. Viktor and Yuuri shouted “Davai!” in unison as he skated toward center ice. He, too, skated well, but his score was below Misha’s. He hugged Georgi as they traded places. This time, Misha joined the “Davai”.
“I think that’s the best I’ve ever seen Georgi skate that,” Chris said as Georgi finished his short program. “Wow.”
Georgi’s score put him in first, earning him a giant hug from Misha after he’d hugged Kamil for good luck. Georgi joined in the “Davai” this time as well. Kamil’s score put him in last, but not by much, and not so far below Georgi he didn’t have a chance at coming back in the free skate. Kamil made sure to hug Viktor, and joined in the “Davai”. What the hell, right?
Viktor rose up to the challenge easily enough. His combo was smooth, and he had no trouble with his sit spin or his step sequence. His triple axel was good, and his triple Lutz soared, continuing the streak of well-executed programs. As he left the ice, he hugged Yuuri, and he couldn’t resist kissing his forehead as well. Nobody else had gotten a kiss, but then again, unless Georgi and Chris had something they wanted to announce, nobody else was engaged to the skater who followed them.
Yuuri heard the score announced – 86.91. Better than it had been in Paris, not as good as Yuuri’s had been. So far, they were five for five on smooth routines, which probably meant that Yuuri was due to mess something up. There was no way he could do as well as he had in Paris, that had been a magical skate, and…
He snapped out of the worry spiral when he heard five voices shouting “Davai!” in unison. It put a giant smile on his face. He still struggled with his quad toe loop, just barely getting it around, but he didn’t underrotate and he didn’t fall or touch down. Spins and step sequences were reliable for him, and he looked good doing it, so when he got to the triple axel, the last of the nerves fled. Even when he did touch a hand down out of his triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo at the end of his program, he was still smiling. Enough mistakes for Yakov to talk about, not enough or any serious enough that he felt like he’d broken the magic that had been the men’s short program.
There was a lot of shouting when Yuuri’s score popped up. 86.96. Of course Viktor attacked him for a hug, and they were quickly attacked by the other four for hugs as well.
They split up for press conferences, except for Viktor and Yuuri, but they’d discussed and coordinated a promise – only good things to say about each other, and about the attention they were getting for their unusual camaraderie.
“Viktor, you’ve been part of a lot of Finals. What makes this group so special, in terms of the atmosphere we’re seeing from you guys?”
Viktor beamed. “Well, it helps that four of us are rinkmates at a rink that encourages cooperation, friendship, and mentorship. We still all want to beat each other at competitions, and I know that whichever of us doesn’t end up on the podium will be heartbroken, but we’re all happy for whichever of us does end up on the podium. Chris is my best friend off the ice, and Yuuri and I have been friends with Kamil for years. We’re all quite used to the idea of leaving our rivalries with each other on the ice, and the support you saw out there for each other was genuine.”
“Yuuri, you’re in first, by five hundredths. What do you think about the scores for you and Viktor?”
“I think it would be funny if they announced that there was a program error and Viktor’s score should have been five hundredths higher. We’re as good as tied, which likely means Viktor’s going to pass me tomorrow thanks to his higher base value.”
“You’ve been seen to be very friendly with one of the junior skaters, Phichit Chulanont. How do you know him?”
“Phichit is my best friend. Viktor and I go to Thailand most off-seasons, and he’s why, we’re there to visit him. His family asked me not to talk about him in the press until he started earning media attention himself, which I went along with, but now that he’s made the Junior Grand Prix Finals, there’s no reason not to talk about our friendship.”
“Do you know why he didn’t join you for dinner last night, if he’s such a good friend?”
“I do, but it’s something that I don’t think I should be talking about. You’ll have to ask him.”
Timeline: December 11-12, 2010
The junior men were the first event on the last day of competition. Phichit had fully recovered from the oddness of a couple days before, and his excitement showed on the ice. It caused a couple bobbles as he overrotated a jump and had too much energy going into a spin, but it also elevated his performance a great deal. He moved up a little, finishing fifth, ahead of Seung Gil’s sixth. Michele took the gold this year, matching his sister’s from the day before.
The senior men were up after junior pairs. Once again, they all went out together, circling up in the walkway. Misha put out a hand. “Everyone skates their best today, no one gets hurt, and the medals go where they’re earned. Everyone in?” Everyone else put their hand in, throwing them up with a shout of “Davai!”
Kamil took the ice first, and he certainly lived up to the expectation of skating his best. His performance was amazing, and he landed his first quad salchow, drawing cheers from the others on the sidelines. Chris started off well. On his third jump, a triple Lutz, he badly overrotated and fell. He shook it off, but it was enough of a mistake that he finished behind Kamil. If he was disappointed, you’d never know it, even as his coach told him off for something he wore a huge smile. Misha’s skate went well, too, although not well enough to beat Kamil. Georgi practically glowed out on the ice, flowing across it like quicksilver. Even before the score was announced to confirm it, Misha was hugging him to congratulate him on his medal. Sure enough, he was in first, with only Viktor and Yuuri left.
Viktor took the ice on fire. Not quite literally, which was a bit of a shame considering his program was a firebird, but there was nothing that was going to stop him today. Quad flip, landed cleanly. Step sequence, clean. Quad salchow-double toe loop combo, nice. With both quads out of the way, he focused on performance, and it worked out beautifully. He’d worked on his spins to bring them up a level, improving his base value, and he did well. Better than he had in Paris.
There was a loud groan from the skaters when Viktor’s score popped up, and lots of hugs of consolation. “Four tenths, Viktor! You’ve gotta get that before Worlds!” Misha said. “At least you’re probably taking the gold medal today, but…”
“I’ve got three more chances at the record this year. I will get it. I’m determined now. But first… Yuuri! I didn’t get to kiss him for luck!” Viktor folded his arms and pouted. “You’re all meanies.”
Yuuri would have come over to get it then, but he didn’t have time. The music started, and he took off. It was a good start, through his first combo, and his quad went well. His layback spin was exceptionally good that day, as was his second step sequence. He struggled again on his triple flip-triple loop combo, just barely getting the loop around before landing, but he didn’t let that carry over to the next jump.
Viktor barely let him get off the ice before hugging him. “That was better than Paris! You did so well!”
Yuuri hugged back quickly before disengaging. “Thanks, Vitya. I don’t think Yakov agrees, though, and as he’s the one who’s my coach, I think I should probably listen to him.”
“I do agree that it was better than Paris,” Yakov corrected. “That said, there’s still quite a bit to work on.”
Yuuri’s score was good, better than Paris, but not better enough. He was extremely proud of himself for his overall score beating 260, but it wasn’t enough to beat Viktor’s 262. Gold for Viktor, silver for Yuuri, bronze for Georgi. When the medalists came off the ice, the other three finalists were there waiting with hugs and congratulations and Viktor's gold medal received several kisses.
“Viktor, after all the love this weekend, there was a lot of groaning when you took the lead. How do you feel about that?”
Viktor looked baffled for a moment and then broke into a heart-shaped grin. “Oh, that! It wasn’t about me taking the lead. My score was four tenths off the world record for the free skate, and they were sympathizing about how close I was.”
“You seemed upset afterwards. Those were not very nice looks you were giving your competitors.”
Viktor laughed and shot them a wink. “They know I was exaggerating. That also wasn’t about the groaning, that was about them keeping me so busy to congratulate me on my score and commiserate with how close it was to the record that I couldn’t get to Yuuri to wish him luck.”
“It would seem he didn’t need it – congratulations on your new personal bests, Yuuri.”
“Your friend Phichit has announced that he’ll be moving to Detroit after this season to train under Celestino Cialdini. Did you have anything to do with that?”
“Only a very small role. I gave Paul video to show Celestino when he asked for it. That’s officially announced? Good for Phichit! I’m looking forward to competing against him.”
“Yakov has to be pleased about his medal sweep. Do you expect to get some kind of reward in practice?”
Both Viktor and Yuuri cracked up, bent over double. “Not with Nationals in two weeks!” Viktor finally managed to choke out through giggles.
After the press was done with them, Viktor and Yuuri found Phichit. "You did great! Things are official with Celestino now?"
Phichit beamed. "I'm going out there in May. Dad's going to talk to Aunt Rochana, and if she and her family will come to Detroit, I'll probably live with them. If not, Celestino's promised to find me a host family. I get a really long summer vacation from school! In Detroit, they don't start until September, and I'll have finished my current year in February. Of course I'll be spending most of that time getting used to America and training, but NO SCHOOL. FOR OVER SIX MONTHS."
The exhibition skate was fun. This time, Viktor joined Yuuri, doing the pas de deux from “Swan Lake” together. Viktor then hastily got into his tiger costume for his skate. Yuuri hadn’t brought the sheep costume, figuring that wouldn’t be anywhere near as fun as a rerun, but Misha had tiger masks for all of the other senior competitors, along with Phichit. Yuuri couldn’t stop giggling as Viktor found himself surrounded by six other “tigers”. There was a lot of play fighting, and when they left the ice, a lot of laughing as well.
Yuuri and Viktor curse their skating federations for their idiocy.
Timeline: mid-December 2010
When they got home, Yuuri and Viktor spent as much time as they could together. A lot of time was spent packing up and moving Yuuri’s things to Yakov’s place – along with Viktor’s things that had migrated over to Lilia’s over the years when he stayed over with Yuuri. Yuri hadn’t decided what he was doing, which was fine – there was no hurry, no reason he had to decide at all, really.
As expected, Yakov did not take it easy on them in practice. Yes, they had pulled off what the press was calling the “Feltsman sweep” at Finals, but three of them were competing against each other again very soon, and Yuuri had a jump combo to polish up. Even Yuri and Mila got worked hard, to work off their vacation period.
Japanese Nationals started on the 24th; Russia’s on the 26th. Viktor took Yuuri to the airport. “You’ll be done in time to watch me skate, right?”
“Yes. If I make the exhibition – I should – there’s no way I could get to Saransk in time to watch live, but I’ll be watching on TV. And then you’ll be out to Hasetsu after your exhibition?”
“If they have to make our Nationals overlap, do they have to do it like this where they overlap just enough that we can’t go to each other’s?” Viktor wrapped Yuuri up tight in a hug. “Over a week, Yuuri. We’re not going to make it.”
Yuuri clung back. “You’ll have Misha and Georgi, I’ll have my family and the Nishigoris. We’ll make it, Vitya. You’ll keep an eye on China and let me know what happens with their Nationals, right?”
“Yeah. Hug the triplets for me.” Viktor let go as they called Yuuri's flight.
On the flight out, Yuuri indulged the need to mope. Why not? Once he got to Japan, Minako wouldn’t let him, and it’s not like anyone on this flight knew or cared who he was. He could just sit there and miss his fiancé all he wanted.
Partway through the flight, he discovered he’d been mistaken. The person sitting next to him did know who he was, and wanted to talk about skating and Viktor and Rykov and everything else. Yuuri did his best to answer the man’s questions politely and honestly, but he was not comfortable with it, and he was grateful when the plane landed and he could escape to Minako.
As expected, Minako didn’t let him mope. She got him to the hotel, and demanded to see proof that he was doing his stretches and keeping himself as flexible as he could. “How tall are you now, Yuuri?”
“167 centimeters. I’m expecting another growth spurt soon – I’ve been eating a ton and still feeling hungry. I’m hoping this is the last one – Dad’s only a couple centimeters taller than me already, and I passed Mom a long time ago. I don’t want to get taller than Viktor.” That would just feel wrong. He liked the way they fit together now.
Minako laughed. “I don’t think you have to worry about that. Viktor’s a tall guy. How’s your balance and coordination been?”
“Good, Lilia’s taught me some things that are helpful when I change enough that I notice the difference. It’s been awkward, but I’m still doing well.”
“Good. You look good, too, and I’m proud of you.”
“Where’s Mari? She said she was planning to come…”
“She’s coming up tomorrow with Yuuko and Takeshi. They’ll be here for the short program and then Yuuko and Takeshi will go back. Mari’s going to stay the rest of the time.”
After practice, Yuuri called Viktor, who was just waking up for his practice. They didn’t have long to talk, but Yuuri felt a million times better afterward. He didn’t go out wandering around Nagano, choosing instead to stay in and work on schoolwork. He was getting very close to being done. His summer break wouldn’t be quite as long as Phichit’s, and he wasn’t as excited about it, but it would be nice to have his high school diploma.
Viktor called back while he took his lunch break. “You’ll never guess what’s happened!”
Yuuri tried to think of something ridiculous to guess. “Yuri’s decided to quit skating and join the circus as a lion tamer?”
“I think that’s his retirement plan, but no.” Viktor paused dramatically. “Yuri got on a plane to New York with his grandfather. They’re going to visit Irina and Natasha for Christmas.”
“That’s… you’re right, I’d never have guessed. I wouldn’t have thought they’d celebrate. Boris is Russian, isn’t he?”
“Yes, but he’s been abroad so long he’s picked up the tradition, and since Natasha is an American and they’re living in America, they’re going to celebrate the American date.”
“Huh. And Yuri’s going?” This sounded like it could be a good thing for them all. After all, it may be Natasha's first Christmas, but she was just a baby and probably wouldn't care about any of it. Yuri would probably have a lot of Irina's attention.
“Yes. I’m hoping it goes well, since we won’t be there to rescue Yuri if something goes wrong.”
“Same. One thing I’m looking forward to about retirement, getting to be with you on your birthday. Don’t retire for that, but it’s one benefit.”
“Yes. I miss you so much.”
“What do you want to do for our honeymoon? Minako asked me yesterday, and I realized I had no idea.”
“Other than getting to Thailand for Phichit’s birthday, I don’t know yet. Do you have somewhere you want to go?”
“It’s a little redundant with Thailand, I know, but I kind of want to go hang out on a beach in the Caribbean. It just feels honeymoony.”
“Any particular island, or get a private one?”
Yuuri dismissed his first instinct to call that too expensive and ridiculous. Viktor hadn't been half as bad as Yuuri had feared about the Japanese part of the wedding, and he'd even been somewhat reasonable the Russian part, so he could at least hear Viktor out on this. “You can do that?”
“I think so. It seems like a good idea, too, so we don’t get reporters stalking us…”
“That sounds like a very good argument in favor.”
“I’ll look into it. See what we can do. I know there are people who buy their own private island, but that seems a little much just for a honeymoon.”
Yuuri started giggling. “Did I just hear the words ‘a little much’ come out of your mouth?”
“Yes you did. Now, what we could do is buy the island for the honeymoon and then turn it into a skater’s retreat where we can throw weeklong parties every offseason! Wouldn’t that be fun?”
Yuuri facepalmed. “And that’s the Vitya I know and love. That would be fun, but it would also be just a little ridiculous. Don’t do that.”
“No, Vitya. Not now, anyway.”
“Fine.” Yuuri could just see the pout. It was adorable.
I spent way too long researching Natasha's citizenship. She was born on American soil, granting her American citizenship, to Russian citizen parents, granting her Russian citizenship as well.
It doesn't even MATTER all that much! She's a freakin' BABY. :D
Japan Nationals. Yuri experiences a culture clash.
Mari, Yuuko, and Takeshi got there late at night, so Yuuri didn’t see them until the morning of the short program. “Yuuko! You look amazing!”
“Thanks!” Yuuko colored a little. “I’m getting back into training. It’s hard – mostly finding the time – but it feels really good to be out there working hard again. I’m glad I have a long time before I’d be looking to compete, even with having to do a regional qualifier next year.”
“They won’t give you a pass for being medically incapacitated?”
“I don’t think so. I don’t mind. It’ll probably be good for me, really, a relaxed competition before Nationals or if they put me in the Grand Prix. That one I think they will give me a pass for pregnancy recovery.”
“Good. I missed you this year.”
“Everyone loved watching the Finals with all of you supporting each other. You were amazing, and I hope next year Yuuko can be part of the love,” Takeshi said. “You will include her, right?”
“Of course! Yuuko’s our friend!” Yuuri hugged her and headed out to get ready.
Yuuri was skating in the last group, out of six, which meant he had quite a lot of time to sit back and get ready. He kept an eye on the scores, but it took until the second group for anyone to break 60, fourth group to break 70, so he felt pretty good about not paying too much attention. Sachio was in the fifth group, and he did well – not well enough to make Yuuri nervous, but well enough that Yuuri expected to see him at Four Continents and Worlds.
Ichizo was in the sixth group, and he had some major mistakes that dropped him low in the standings. Yuuri had to skate right after him, and he was not happy about that. He couldn’t dwell, though. He focused on Minako. “Go out there and have fun. Show everyone how happy you are to be marrying Viktor in four months. Think you can do that?”
“I think so.” Yuuri squeezed Minako’s hand and headed out to center ice. Thinking about Viktor helped to shut out any thoughts of Ichizo’s program, and he started his program confidently. He bobbled his quad a little, but recovered through the step sequence and spins. No other major mistakes through the triple axel and his finishing combo, and he was smiling as he headed for the Kiss and Cry. As usual, he started working through the critique himself since Minako wouldn’t do it for him. His score was a point higher than the Finals, though not as high as it had been in France. That held up through the three remaining skaters, putting him well in first for the day, nine points above Sachio.
Viktor called as soon as he could. “That was so beautiful, Yuuri! I was a little worried after Ichizo, but you did so well!”
“Thanks!” Yuuri glowed for a moment. “What’s happening in Russia?”
“We’re in Saransk, practice tomorrow and then Misha’s taking me out to distract me from the fact that you’re not here for my birthday. I checked the scores from China – Bin’s in second, score nowhere near what I’d have expected. Liao Su’s in first. Their free skate is going on now, neither of them has skated yet.”
“Any word on what’s going on?” He'd hoped the time off would help, but apparently not.
“I don’t speak Chinese so I couldn’t understand the announcer most of the time. If he said something about it, I don’t know what he said. I’ve asked Phichit to keep an eye on social media, it seems like his kind of thing.”
Yuuko and Takeshi had to leave shortly after dinner, and Yuuri checked time differences. He sent Yuri a text and wasn’t surprised at all to get the call. “Hey.”
“Hi Yuri! How’s New York?”
“We just got in last night. Mama’s been okay, but it’s all weird. There’s all sorts of crap all over the apartment and Boris keeps singing stupid songs about some creepy weirdo who spies on kids.”
Yuuri giggled. “Santa Claus?”
“It’s not meant to be creepy.”
“Well it is.”
“It's like Ded Moroz, that's all." Yuri scoffed, making Yuuri smile and shake his head. "Just try to have fun, okay?”
“Yeah. Don’t fuck up your free skate too bad, okay?”
The free skate went as expected through the first three rounds – lots of scores in the low hundreds, but only Ichizo crossed 130, scoring in the 160s to haul him out of the hole he was in. It wasn’t likely to get him into the medals, but at least it was a redemption. The last group was better, but Yuuri just had to skate a reasonably clean program to earn gold.
As always, Yuuri started strong. He was very impressive in his step sequences, his quad went well, as did his layback spin. When he got to the triple flip-triple loop combo that had been giving him trouble, he thought of Yuri and Santa Claus, which distracted him just enough to let his body do it the way he’d practiced it so much over the last couple weeks. From there, it was all nice and routine.
It was more than enough. His final score was a half-point lower than the Finals, but he really didn’t care that much. He had a gold medal to take to his dragon, it would be a huge shock if he wasn’t put on the team for Four Continents or Worlds, and now he could just sit back and watch Viktor skate.
He called Viktor as soon as he could. “I got you something for your birthday. I hope you like it.”
“I can’t wait to come collect it. I wish I could get you out here, I miss you so much. Bin dropped to third, did you see?”
“I did. I haven’t heard anything from Phichit on why, have you?”
“Phichit thinks it’s a family issue, but he can’t find any details. He’s still going to Four Continents, but he’s listed as the alternate for Worlds.”
“Wow. That’s scary. I hope things straighten themselves out.”
“Have you talked to Yuri at all?”
“I talked to him last night. He finds Santa Claus creepy.”
“You don’t? He sees you when you’re sleeping! I’m the only one who should get to do that!”
Yuuri giggled. “I think my mom might disagree with you. But yeah, okay, when you put it like that…”
“His mom took him skating yesterday. She sent Yakov pictures of the two of them doing a side-by-side double toe loop.”
“Wow. Good for Irina! I want to see those.”
Timeline: December 26-27.
Viktor woke up excited to skate. He could feel his inner dragon trying to get to Japan to kiss the new gold medal. Misha just laughed at him when he said that, but it didn’t deter him. Yakov called him an idiot. Yakov did that a lot, though, so Viktor ignored it.
The men skated last on the 26th, which Viktor did not appreciate. It would be after midnight in Japan when the short program started, which would make it difficult for Yuuri to watch. Georgi and Misha had no sympathy for Viktor’s pouting. “It’s Yuuri. He’ll either stay up to watch, or watch it first thing when he wakes up. You know he’s not just going to say oh well, sleep is too important, guess I’ll miss it,” Georgi said.
“But I don’t want him risking his health just to watch me! What if Minako won’t let him sleep in because he has early travel?”
“Viktor, get hold of yourself. The two of you have never pulled an all-nighter? What is wrong with you, depriving Yuuri of such… wait, never mind, you two haven’t started university yet.” Misha punched Viktor’s shoulder. “It’s a long tradition during finals, and you should get used to the idea. You’ll end up doing it too.”
“Yes. I did it. Some of the most fun Emya and I have ever had was on those all-nighters. You hit a point where the dumbest thing seems hilarious – especially if you’re drinking, too.”
“What did Yakov have to say about it?”
“Nothing. Some glares, but he understood.”
Georgi smirked. “I can just see Yakov in university, pulling all-nighters and showing up to practice still half-drunk.”
“I did no such thing.” Yakov glared at all of his skaters. “Give me some credit. I had the sense to stop drinking in time to show up only a little drunk.”
Rykov, along with Yakov’s skaters, was in the last group. Viktor was curious to see how this would work – Sasha hadn’t been able to come, someone had broken into her gym and while none of the equipment was destroyed, the place was torn up pretty badly and they needed to clean it up and figure out if there was anything missing. Rykov had behaved in Paris, but would that continue if Sasha wasn’t around?
So far, they’d mostly ignored each other. They’d accidentally collided in practice, but it was very clearly an accident – Rykov had never gone that far. Now, waiting for their group to start, Rykov held out a fist. “Good luck.”
“Thanks. You too?” He looked curiously at the fist.
“Oh.” Viktor fistbumped him. “Have you heard from Sasha lately?”
“She called this morning – they think they’ve figured out what the burglars were after. They took a lot of the medicine from the training room. They also took a purse that one of her gymmates had accidentally left behind, but that was probably just a target of opportunity.”
Viktor shook his head. “That’s awful.”
Rykov’s short program went reasonably well, putting him in first. Misha took that from him with the best short program he’d done all season. Georgi messed up his triple axel, dropping him just below Rykov, but not by much. Viktor, naturally, got to go last. Because why not make it as hard on Yuuri to watch as possible?
If Yuuri was going to stay up this late to watch him, then Viktor was going to put on a show worth watching. His quad combo was solid, sit spin nice and clean, everything flowed nicely all the way through to his flying camel spin and finishing pose. Nothing particularly exceptional, but overall, a very good program. Yuuri shouldn’t be too disappointed.
His score, 86, put him just above Misha’s 85. Georgi was furious with himself, feeling like he was letting the rink down. “Don’t worry about it, Georgi. Your free skate’s much better than his, you’ll make it up tomorrow,” Misha said.
Viktor was about to add his agreement when his phone rang. Yuuri. “Why are you not asleep?”
“Because I had to tell my boyfriend what an amazing skate I stayed up to watch, and ask him to tell Georgi not to worry, he’ll get it back tomorrow and there’ll be another Feltsman sweep of the Nationals medals.”
Viktor grinned. “Hey, Georgi, Yuuri says to tell you the same thing Misha did.” Georgi nodded, but he didn’t quite look any happier. “Thanks for watching me, Yuuri. Now get some sleep. Tell Minako to let you sleep in.”
“I’ll sleep when I get to Hasetsu. We’re leaving in a couple hours, hardly worth going to bed for.”
The next day, Viktor woke up to a series of tweets from Yuuri making progressively less sense as he got more and more tired. They were skating last again for their free skate, and Viktor hoped Yuuri got enough sleep. He decided against calling Yuuri, in the hopes that Yuuri was asleep, and went with Misha to watch the earlier skating instead.
As everyone had said he would, Georgi did much better in his free skate. Whatever he’d spent the morning doing seemed to have helped him. Rykov was good too, but not good enough, and his disappointment was obvious when he left the ice. Misha was doing great right up until the end of his program, when his last jump, a triple Lutz, went a little sideways and he landed on the ice. It wasn’t enough for him to drop below Georgi, but it made it a lot closer, and Viktor noticed Misha favoring his left leg.
He’d find out how bad it was when he was done with his skate. He had a world record to set. It didn’t look promising, as he came entirely too close to putting his hand down on his quad flip, and then messed up the timing of his step sequence. At least his quad salchow combination went well, and from there it was smooth skating, but the record was probably not happening today. He’d need a much better performance score than he’d gotten at the Finals, and there was no chance of that. Sure enough, he finished just under 175. The 261 still gave him the gold, but the record remained out of reach.
Yuuri called him. “Viktor, if you deliberately made those mistakes so I could be there when you set the record…”
“No, Yuuri. You know me better than that.”
“He’s in medical. I’ll text when I know something. He’s walking, I don’t think it’s anything too bad.”
“Rykov behave himself this week?”
“So far, yes, we’ve just done our own thing.”
“Good. One less thing for me to worry about. See you soon?”
“Yakov won’t let me skip the exhibition, so it’ll be a few days yet. I’m sorry. I miss you.”
“I know. I just hope the weather’s good so you can get here for New Year’s.”
Viktor is so dramatic that even Georgi is rolling his eyes, but he finally gets to go to Japan and be with Yuuri.
Timeline: late December 2010
The day off in between the competition and the exhibition was there specifically to torture Viktor. He was going to die. Yuuri was going to be left a widow and they hadn’t even gotten properly married yet, and it was all because Russia couldn’t be bothered to either put their Nationals farther away from Japan’s or with better overlap.
Georgi rolled his eyes and called Viktor a drama queen. “How are you actually worse at this now that the two of you are living together and working together and basically never separated from each other except for this one week?”
Viktor shrugged. “Don’t know. Don’t much care. I miss Yuuri.”
Misha left early – he’d pulled a muscle in his calf, and silver medalist or not, he’d been forbidden to skate in the exhibition. As it was, the medical staff said two to four weeks before he should skate again, which made Europeans something of a long shot. Trying to come back too early made for too much risk of reinjury or worse injury. The best thing for him to do was to go home, get some rest, and then start rehab. He was listed as one of the skaters for Europeans, but Rykov was on notice that he was very likely to be called on.
No sheep or guest tigers joined Viktor, but he was able to channel his restlessness into some very good prowling on the ice. Yuri would appreciate it, at least.
Finally, he was able to get on a plane to Japan. Travel took entirely too long, but he got to Fukuoka late on the 30th. Yuuri was at the airport to meet him, which made Viktor think fondly of two years before. This time, he was a little more prepared for Yuuri to jump at him, and instead of them crashing to the ground he managed to keep his balance and just hold on tight. Still got a kiss out of it.
As soon as they were on the train, Yuuri abandoned proper public behavior and crawled into Viktor’s lap. “I missed you. You did good!”
“So did you! Where’s your medal?”
Yuuri wouldn't meet his eyes. Uh-oh. “I’m not sure. I think Axel has it.”
Viktor chuckled. Who else would Yuuri have meant? “Yes, I know, why does she have your medal?”
“I brought it over to show Yuuko the design for this year and Axel latched on to it. I’ve never tried taking candy from a baby, but taking a gold medal from them is impossible. She started screaming worse than Lutz when Yuuko’s mom tries to hold her.”
Viktor couldn’t help the laughter as he buried his face in Yuuri’s shoulder. “I can’t believe I’m about to fight a baby just to kiss a medal.”
“Takeshi’s already decided that this means Axel’s going to grow up to earn her own gold medals. I’m a little more skeptical, but hey, why not? She’ll have friends who’ll know where to get her good coaching.” Yuuri snuggled in. “Where’s yours?”
“In my pocket. Here, scoot back a little…” Yuuri obeyed, and Viktor got the medal out. For once, with no reporters waiting for them or other friends waiting their turn, they could take their time and enjoy the medal kissing ceremony, and it took most of the rest of the train ride to get through.
Once back at Yu-Topia, it was late, and everyone was in bed. Viktor caught Yuuri’s hand as he headed for bed. “Tonight made me think of two years ago.”
Yuuri smiled, eyes going soft at the memory. “That was fun. Except for the part where I scared you when you thought I wanted to take it back.”
“It was! Even I realize that some things really shouldn’t come as a surprise, though. And I’d understand if you don’t want to do anything here. I think I’ve gotten to the point where the only way around the rest of my doubt is to just kick it down, so whenever you want…”
Viktor cut off as Yuuri jumped onto him for a hug for the second time that night. This time, he wasn’t quite able to keep his balance, but he was able to aim for the bed as he fell. It would at least be quieter, less chance of waking up anyone else. Yuuri started to giggle. “You know, this bed, right here… this is where I had my first wet dream.”
“That doesn’t surprise me.” Although he was curious why Yuuri was bringing it up. As much as he wanted to know everything about Yuuri, he wasn't sure that included hearing about his dreams about Yuuko. He was assuming, anyway.
“I was twelve, and I’d just watched Junior Worlds with Yuuko, and there was this skater… he was so pretty. His costume was black, with this half-skirt lined with red and a lot of mesh cutouts and now that I’m thinking about it, how in the hell did you talk Yakov into letting you wear that?”
“Oh, the bondage lingerie costume! Yuuri, that’s so sweet!” Viktor squished Yuuri. “He made the mistake of letting me order it on my own, thinking it was good to see me taking such initiative and responsibility, and I kept ‘forgetting’ to show it to him until it was too late to get a different one. I’d just had a major growth spurt, so none of my old costumes would have fit, and once I’d worn it, the damage was done so I might as well keep wearing it.” Viktor looked critically at Yuuri. “You know, if you’re right about this coming growth spurt, there’s a good chance you’ll end up approximately the same size I was when I was sixteen. I would love to see that costume on you. And Yakov’s face when he saw you in it.”
Yuuri blushed. “You’re evil. It would be fun to wear your old costume if it does end up fitting me, but what would I skate wearing that?”
“I’m pretty sure I could come up with something!" Viktor winked. "Maybe we could put your pole dance moves to use on the ice?”
It was useless. Viktor's brain was already running with it. He could almost hear the beat of a Latin song as he envisioned it. “No pole, obviously, so there’d be limits on what you could do…”
“Viktor, if you do not shut your mouth right now, I will not be putting anything in mine tonight.”
It took a moment for Viktor to catch on, but once he did, he covered his mouth with his hands. “You’re sure?”
“Yes, I’m sure. Everyone’s asleep, and I kind of find the idea of doing stuff here hot. Besides, it’s only fair, how long have you lived at Yakov’s… at our house? If we’re not going to be having a lot of sex there, then we need to cancel the deal with Yakov.”
This chapter is going up on my birthday. I did not do this on purpose but I'm kind of pleased about it.
Timeline: January 2011
They slept late the next morning, tired from the late arrival and then staying up fooling around. They’d gone a lot further than they ever had before, and Yuuri decided he loved the sounds Viktor made when Yuuri had him close to the edge. Viktor had been just as fumbly as Yuuri, but it had felt amazing, and for both of them, what they lacked in experience they more than made up for in enthusiasm and love. Yuuri would not have traded it for anything.
When they did wake up, Viktor insisted that they deserved a day off. The most difficult thing he wanted to do was fight Axel for the medal long enough to kiss it. Yuuri laughed at him, but they headed over to visit the girls.
Yuuko was at the rink practicing, but Takeshi was happy to see them. “Come on in, the girls just woke up from a nap so they should be in a good mood. Yuuko will be home in an hour or so for feeding.”
Getting the medal away from Axel turned out to be easier than they’d thought. All he had to do was pick Axel up to give her a hug, and she let him borrow the medal. Yuuri nearly died from the cuteness. When they were older, they were so getting a kid for Viktor to be a dad to. Or several.
Lutz and Loop were just as happy to see Viktor when it was their turn for hugs. Loop was fascinated by Viktor’s hair, wrapping a tiny fist in it and refusing to let go. Viktor didn’t mind too much, as long as she didn’t tug too hard. It was adorable. Yuuri juggled Lutz around to where he could take pictures for Phichit to put online.
By the time Yuuko got home, there were already demands online for Viktuuri children. Yuuri shared those with Viktor, who was still holding Loop because she wouldn’t let go of his hair. Yuuko found that hilarious. “So Axel loves gold, and Loop likes silver. It’s good to know they won’t fight on the podium.”
“What if Loop wins?” Viktor said.
“Then they’ll still give each other big hugs. They’re going to grow up learning to compete from you two and Chris and the rest of the Saccharine Six, so I bet they’ll be able to leave any competition on the ice.”
“If I make it back! The jumps are killing me. Not to worry, I’m getting there, but I haven’t hit a triple yet. Even so, it’s not like that on the women’s side. Tamae and Iona and I all get along fine, but we wouldn’t be like you were at the Finals.”
“Maybe not, but next year, you can come hang out with us. While I’m here, I’m happy to work with you and see if I can’t help you some with those. I’ve been helping Mila as she’s working toward a triple flip before she gets to Juniors next season.”
“Wow. The only triple I had my first year in Juniors was the toe loop!”
“Mila wants to do quads when she hits seniors, and Yakov’s letting her work for it as long as she promises to listen to him, Misha, me, and our trainer Lidia.”
“Well, if she does, she’ll probably win a lot. Of course, she’s skating for Yakov. His skaters tend to win a lot.”
“I just hope she doesn’t try to move up too early because Yakov won’t let her start training quads until she’s preparing for seniors.”
“I don’t think Yakov would let her if he didn’t think she was ready for the competition,” Yuuri said. “Yakov’s good about that.”
Visiting Hasetsu for New Year’s was always a good rest, and Yuuri was grateful for it. All too soon, they had to get back to Russia so Viktor could get ready for Europeans. Yakov didn’t take it easy on Yuuri just because he didn’t have to compete until Four Continents. Misha did, while Yakov, Lilia, and Mila were gone for Skate Celje, but Yuuri was naturally a hard worker.
While they were gone, and Viktor and Yuuri were the last two at the rink, Yuuri finally found the courage to try something. “Viktor, will you watch me carefully and tell me how I can make this better?”
“You know I will. What are you doing?”
Yuuri didn’t answer, instead leaving to skate off and start building up speed. He wasn’t expecting to land it, but he was hoping to get enough rotations in to qualify as a quad flip. He didn’t quite, it would have been scored down as underrotated, but it was definitely an attempt at the quad and not an overrotated triple. Viktor squealed in appreciation. “Yuuri! That was an amazing first try!”
“It… wasn’t exactly a first try,” Yuuri admitted shyly. “This is what I spent my dream doing, getting you to teach me. We didn’t have long enough and since I wasn’t in my body I knew I wouldn’t get it down, but it was the only way I could think of to both surprise you with it and learn it from you. Since I’d already decided not to sleep with you…”
Viktor threw his arms around Yuuri. “Have I told you recently how much I love you? I am very much looking forward to marrying someone who would use his soulmate dream to surprise me instead of getting around my block.”
“I told you, I wanted you to remember our first times too.” Yuuri accepted the hug, though, holding on tight. Yakov wasn’t there to witness them making out on the ice.
Mila returned with a gold medal and tales from hanging out with Emil. The two of them had a lot of fun together driving their coaches crazy, it would seem. They weren’t old enough to go wandering around on their own, but they were old enough to cause chaos around the hotel and drive their coaches insane.
Yuri returns from America, Viktor and Yuuri leave for Europeans, and an Important Decision gets made.
Yuri and Nikolai had stayed in America through Nikolai’s birthday, and returned to St. Petersburg about the same time Mila did. Yuri wouldn’t talk about it at practice, but when he went home with Yuuri and Viktor for dinner, he opened up. “Americans are so weird about Christmas. Mama and Boris acted like I’d had a deprived childhood because I’d never baked Christmas cookies or any of that stuff they do. They made me buy Natasha a present and gave me one that was supposedly from her.”
“Oh? What did Natasha get you?” Viktor asked.
“A stuffed lion. It’s cute. Natasha had nothing to do with picking it. I’m pretty sure Boris is responsible for that one." Yuri made a face. "Boris dressed up as Santa to hand out presents. That was fucking weird.”
Viktor gasped. “Yuri!”
“You’re too young to be using language like that!” Yuuri said.
“And you’re not my parents! Why should you care how I talk?”
“You’re our rinkmate and you’re family and we’re trying to set a good example for you.”
“Yeah, well, obviously I didn’t learn this from you two. Anyway, New Year’s was weird, too, they made me stay up until midnight. And then made me get up early the next morning because it had snowed. And then yelled at me for complaining about being tired.”
“Parents can be like that.” Viktor gave Yuri a sympathetic pat on the shoulder. “How was January?”
“Weird. Mama kept having to explain to people that I’m homeschooled and that’s why we were at an ice rink every morning. At least she didn’t give up and make me stay off the ice.”
“So things are better with you and your mama?”
“They were this trip, anyway.” Yuri took a giant bite of cabbage. “Even Boris wasn’t completely awful. He still hates me, but he’s not being a total douchebag about it.”
“YURI!” Viktor and Yuuri shouted in unison.
“A total asshat?” Yuri looked between Yuuri and Viktor. “Fine. A total jerk. Anyway, things kind of went bad the last night there. They found out about the two of you buying Yakov’s house and told me I had to go with Yakov. I still wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I don’t see why Mama and Boris should get to decide for me.”
Yuuri shook his head. “Boris, no, but your mama is your mother. Up until my last birthday, if my parents told me to do something, I’d have done it because they’re my parents. Even now, I probably still would.”
“Did they say why they wanted you to go with Yakov?” Viktor asked.
“Stupid media. If I stay, either they’re going to say I’m Katsudon’s soulmate or they’re going to start calling me your son. Which I know they’re gonna do, and I hadn’t decided whether that was annoying enough to be worth the annoyance of moving, but they’re not here. You two and Yakov and Lilia are, and Grandpa’s the one who never abandoned me. I got mad and told them that, they got mad and started yelling, and now I don’t know that I want to go back for my birthday like Mama invited me to. I don’t think Boris wants me there anyway.”
Yuri shook his head. “Natasha’s still a baby, she won’t remember. Besides, summer’s better, going for Natasha’s birthday or something.”
“Of course, this summer you’ll be training programs for your debut,” Viktor pointed out. “You’re excited about that, aren’t you?”
Yuri’s eyes lit up. “Cats!”
Misha was cleared to practice before Europeans, but not in time for Yakov to feel comfortable letting him skate. They left for Switzerland on the 23rd. Chris was very excited about competing in Switzerland this time around. “Where’s Misha?”
“At home babysitting Yuri. Didn’t you hear about his injury?” Viktor said.
Chris shrugged. “I’d heard he was hurt, but not whether he was withdrawing. How is he?”
“Healing well. He’s back on the ice, but there wasn’t enough time for him to both ease into full training and be ready for this, so he decided to let Rykov have it. He’ll be at Worlds.”
“Good to hear. Shame Rykov’s going to be here. I was looking forward to the Saccharine Six reunion!”
At least this time, Sasha got to come. She met up with Viktor and Yuuri. “Sorry I missed you guys at Finals!”
“Everything back to normal?”
“Well, except for the increased security at the gym. They haven’t found the guys who did it and don’t really expect to, there wasn’t much evidence left behind. But training’s normal and we’re all pretty sure it wasn’t anyone who was currently at the gym who did it.”
The first two days were prelims for the three disciplines that had enough entries to require it. Viktor and Georgi didn’t, and their friends didn’t, so after practices were done, Viktor and Yuuri got a tourism and shopping group together. Masumi had been at a rink in Bern before he partnered up with Jolanda, so he played tour guide. “Shame you didn’t bring Yuri with you, he’d love the Bear Pit. Not as much as if it were a tiger pit, but he likes bears, right?”
Yuuri nerded out over the Einsteinhaus, as did Viktor. Everyone loved the Zytglogge, a clock tower with puppets, and the shopping was good. Yuuri somehow managed to keep Viktor at least somewhat restrained – with the wedding coming up so soon, they really didn’t need much yet. “Less than three months!” Viktor realized when Yuuri brought that up. “That’s so exciting!”
“We really should figure out what we’re doing with our names. Some of my sponsors are starting to get annoyed that I won’t tell them,” Yuuri said.
“Is using Nikiforov going to be a problem in Japan? Minako thought it might be, because of the kanji thing.”
“I hadn’t thought of that. Yes. It probably will be, because of the requirement for Japanese citizens to have a kanji-able name. For you, it’s not a big deal, but for me…” Yuuri shook his head. “But Nikiforov is so recognizable. Not that dropping the recognition is necessarily a bad thing.”
“So you keep Katsuki as your legal name on official government paperwork, but Yakov thinks they’ll let you skate under Katsuki-Nikiforov. Like Misha skates under Misha instead of Mikhail, or Sasha competes as that instead of Alexandra. Our kids can be Katsuki for Japanese paperwork and Katsuki-Nikiforov or Nikiforova in Russian paperwork until they have to choose which citizenship to keep.”
Yuuri stared at Viktor, mouth hanging open. “You’ve put a lot of thought into this.”
“Of course! I think Katsuki-Nikiforov sounds better than Nikiforov-Katsuki, and definitely better than Nikiforova-Katsuki.”
Yuuri smiled and crossed his arms. “Okay, since you’ve thought so hard about this, whose name do they use for a patronymic for Russian paperwork?”
“Depends how we get them. If Mari or Yuuko carry a child for us, they use Yuuri, if it’s Sasha or Mila, Viktor. If we adopt, we can flip a coin or something.”
“You didn’t think I’d leave this until the last second when we might panic and choose wrong, did you?” Viktor winked. “Not only have I thought about it, I’ve asked Minako and Yakov for advice. It’s our name for the rest of our lives, it deserved some serious thought. What do you think?”
"I think you're right, about all of it.
Given the current climate in Russia, I don't know if there's an answer for this or not, but what do lesbian couples do for their children's patronymic? Use a grandfather, or the sperm donor if they know him, or just make one up?
In which there is DRAMA (tm).
Timeline: January 26, 2011.
The first day of non-preliminary competition featured ice dance and pairs. Viktor and Yuuri went to the ice dancing with Georgi, Chris, Kamil, and Nadiya. Everything went well, until Christov dropped Anya and she hit her head on the ice. She got back up and tried to continue, but it wasn’t long before Christov scooped her up and carried her off the ice. Georgi got up and ran off, and Viktor followed to make sure he didn’t hurt anyone in his rush to medical.
When Viktor came back, he slumped into the seat beside Yuuri. “I’m sorry I missed Masumi, Chris. He do okay?”
“He and Jolie are in first right now. Kirill and Katya may take it from them, but I don’t think anyone else here will.”
“Jolie?” Kamil asked. “I thought her name was Jolanda.”
Chris smirked. “It’s French for pretty. It’s also spelled almost the same as her nickname.”
“And what does Masumi think of you calling his dance partner Pretty?” Viktor asked.
“He thinks it’s cute. Why?” Chris crossed his arms and glared a little.
“Just a little surprised that you would flirt with someone else so close to him. What if he got jealous?”
“If he gets jealous because I’m calling her Jolie, then he’s got serious issues that he needs to work out.” Chris got up and moved to the opposite end of the row.
Viktor looked at Yuuri in confusion. “What’s he so mad about?”
“You get a little judgmental sometimes, Vitya.”
“Oh, so you’re taking his side?”
“I’m not taking anyone’s side! I don’t know what’s going on with Chris and Masumi and Jolanda but I do know that it’s probably not any of my business!”
“So you’d just let me flirt with someone in front of you?”
“Yes, I would! I don’t know if you do it on purpose or you’re even aware of it, but you kind of flirt a lot, Vitya. I don’t care, because I know that at the end of the day it’s going to be me in the bed with you. You’d never cheat on me, so it doesn’t matter if you flirt.” Yuuri blushed a little, but he made himself continue. “You know how you like the idea of me wearing that old costume of yours so much? The way you talk about the routine you have in mind… how is that not just as bad as calling someone pretty?”
“Because…” Viktor shook his head. “Because it is. That’s dancing. That’s showing off. You’re not leading anyone to think you might actually want them, it’s just…”
“I’m pretty sure Jolanda’s smart enough to know that Chris is not trying to cheat on Masumi or get her to cheat on Ottavio. Your fans are smart enough to know that you’re not going to cheat on me, and if they’re not then you wouldn’t want anything to do with them anyway, so if you flirt a little when you’re signing autographs, why should I be bothered?”
Kamil cleared his throat. “You’re in public, guys. And you’re starting to get some stares. Viktor, how’s Georgi’s girlfriend?”
Viktor jumped a little. “They’re evaluating her for a concussion. Christov took her off the ice because she was clearly unfocused, and she lost consciousness for a moment while their coach was carrying her down to medical. I’m worried about Georgi skating tomorrow if the concussion is too bad…”
“Oh no! Poor Anya!” Yuuri covered his mouth with his hands. “I hope she’ll be okay soon, and Georgi can block it out while he skates.”
Things got a little weird when Masumi and Jolanda came to find Chris and the others. They’d planned on going to dinner together, but Chris was still mad at Viktor. Masumi just rolled his eyes when he heard why. “Viktor, I don’t give a shit what Chris calls Joli as long as it’s not an insult. All four of us are grown adults who can talk about things like reasonable people and set our boundaries clearly.”
“Good for you. Have fun at dinner.” Viktor walked off, leaving the others staring after him.
Yuuri sighed. “I’m sorry about him. He’s being an ass. Congratulations, Masumi, Jolanda. I hope you stay in front and get the gold on Friday.”
“Thanks. If you see Georgi, tell him we’re sorry about Anya and hope she gets better soon,” Jolanda said.
Yuuri went after Viktor, trying to shove down the frustration. He finally caught up to Viktor back at their room. “You’re being an ass.”
“Fine. Go have dinner with your friends. Maybe Chris will come up with a cute nickname for you too. Masumi would be perfectly fine with it, it seems.”
“Vitya.” Yuuri grabbed his shoulders. “Why is this bothering you so much? I know soulmates are a big deal for you, but you weren’t like this when Chris was dating Paul. It’s just a nickname.”
“Chris didn’t know who Masumi was then. Paul wasn’t Masumi’s partner. You really think it’s stopping at a nickname?”
“I think that if it isn’t, Masumi knows what’s happening and doesn’t mind. I also think that Chris is your best friend and you’re being incredibly rude to him over conclusions you’re jumping to.”
“So if I told you I was perfectly fine with you kissing some other man…”
Yuuri rolled his eyes. “Then you’d be so full of shit that a toilet would be jealous, but even if you weren’t, I don’t want to kiss anyone but you. Do you not trust me?”
“Of course I trust you!”
“You don’t trust Chris?”
“If he’s willing to cheat on Masumi…”
“Is it really still cheating if Masumi knows about it? And, Viktor, that there’s anything happening is still an if.”
“And you don’t care if it is or not.”
“If I didn’t think Masumi knew, I’d be talking to Chris about it, but no. I don’t think Chris is doing anything wrong, and I want to keep my friends as my friends, thank you. I’d be upset if I thought you might be doing something with someone else, I don’t want to share you, and I’m pretty sure you feel the same about me, but that’s us. We’re not involved in Chris and Masumi’s soul bond, we’re not going to get involved in it, and I really think that this is one of those things where you need to accept that not everyone feels the same way you do about soul bonds. I do, if that’s what you’re worried about. Is it possible you’re overreacting because of Anya?”
“You know she’s not even Georgi’s soulmate?”
“No? I didn’t know that. He’s been dating her since before I came to Russia, I just assumed they’d have broken up a long time ago if they weren’t soulmates.”
“I thought they would too, but they haven’t. Georgi’s never said anything about his soulmate other than that they’re happy with things the way they are. I don’t know if he even knows anything about Anya’s soulmate – it’s not Christov, but other than that.”
“Huh. Well, they are happy together, and if their soulmates don’t mind…”
“Don’t they? Or are Georgi and Anya just ignoring them?”
“We don’t know, it’s not really any of our business, they’re old enough to look out for themselves. Maybe Georgi’s soulmate is a horrible person. Maybe Anya’s is. Maybe Georgi and Anya’s soulmates are dating each other. You’ve never been an ass to Georgi about it…”
“Georgi wouldn’t be like this today if he were with his soulmate instead of Anya.”
“His soulmate could have gotten a concussion today, too. You don’t know. Or she could have gotten hit by a train last night and died. It sucks that Anya got hurt and that Georgi might be thrown off by it, but that’s got nothing to do with soulmates. Georgi’s not either of our soulmate, but don’t you dare tell me you wouldn’t be a mess if he were fighting a concussion that made him quit on a routine and pass out at least once.”
Viktor sat on the bed, rubbing his face with his hands. “You’re right. I’m being an ass. I’m sorry.”
“Good. Now text Chris and tell him that.”
I have no idea. I'm so sorry. Bad Viktor.
Timeline: January 27, 2011
Thankfully, Chris accepted Viktor’s apology, and things in the waiting area were normal between them while they waited to skate. Georgi was a bit of a wreck, but Viktor sat with him and kept him as calm as possible. Anya’s concussion was bad, but Christov and Georgi had taken good care of her, and Christov promised to stay with her while Georgi skated. She wouldn’t be watching, because of the lights and the music, but she’d be thinking of him.
The skating started, but Viktor paid little attention to the first couple of groups. When he checked at the start of the third group, none of the names looked familiar, and none of the scores were anywhere close to the scores the medal contenders would be putting up. Group three, he paid a little more attention to – Florentin was skating, and an Irish skater had put up a score over 70, which might have him in the final group the next day.
Kaleb, Aaron, and Rykov were in group four. Kaleb put up one hell of a score, breaking 80 for the first time in his career. Viktor could see the shock on his face when the score came up. Aaron struggled, stumbling to just barely in the 70s, leaving Viktor shaking his head. Rykov did well, also ending up in the 70s.
Georgi had to go first, and he looked a little tentative on the ice. Not bad, he didn’t miss jumps, but hesitant. Viktor shook his head. Georgi had always counted on his presentation scores, and the hesitancy was going to torpedo that. Sure enough, Georgi finished behind Rykov. Kamil did better, but not well enough to take the lead.
Viktor took off strong, landing his quad toe loop-triple toe loop combo easily. He skated this program for Georgi, to remind him that rising up was always possible. Anya would make a full recovery from her concussion. Georgi could come back and make it to the podium – or at the very least, get himself above Rykov. This was the best he’d ever skated this program, and the judges were sure to reward it.
The first reward he got nearly killed him. “Good for you for supporting Georgi, Vitya. You did well.” Yakov then went into his usual critiques, but Viktor was still trying to process the compliment. His score – 88 – was a nice reward, too. He felt a little bad for the skater after him, who struggled quite a bit. Chris skated last, and put out a very good performance. He was able to take third, behind Viktor and Kaleb, ahead of Kamil, Rykov, and Georgi in the final group.
Viktor wanted to talk about his skating, his support of Georgi, wedding plans… there were lots of good things to talk about. The media, naturally, wanted to talk about other things. “You and Yuuri were seen arguing in the stands yesterday. Can you tell us what that was about?”
“Yes, I can.”
The press waited. Viktor just stared at them, waiting for them to take the hint and move on to the next question. Unfortunately, they didn’t. “What was that about?”
“I said that I could tell you, not that I would. I was being a jerk, Yuuri called me on it, we’ve made up, there’s no story here.”
“How were you being a jerk?” Once again, Viktor just stared at the reporter. Things were starting to get awkward when another reporter jumped in. “You didn’t go to dinner with Chris and your other friends last night, despite meeting with them right before they left. Is that related to your fight with Yuuri?”
Viktor spotted Yuuri watching from one side and directed his response to him. “I was speaking English when I said that I wasn’t talking about this and there wasn’t a story here, wasn’t I?”
Yuuri smiled at him. “You were.”
“Yuuri! Will you tell us what happened?”
“Nope. I’m just here to watch Vitya.”
The reporters grumbled and turned back to Viktor. “How do you feel about having Rykov here instead of Misha?”
“Misha’s injured; Rykov was the alternate. I miss my friend, but Rykov has done well and while I wouldn’t say that his bond with Sasha has made us friends, Rykov and Yuuri and I have established a peace between the three of us for her sake.”
Once they left, Yuuri cuddled up against Viktor. “I can’t wait to see the articles about the trouble in paradise. What sort of ridiculous fights do you think we had?”
Viktor laughed. “I told them the truth! I was being an ass, you called me on it.”
“Yeah, but they’re going to speculate on what, exactly, that means.”
“Well I couldn’t just come out and say that I don’t approve of Chris’s behavior! I’m not going to throw Chris under the bus like that. Just because I don’t approve doesn’t make it deserving of a public callout like that.”
“I know, which is why I didn’t say anything either. I’d rather see what sorts of rumors they come up with for us than hurt Chris.”
Media fallout and the free skate.
January 27-29, 2011
They didn’t have long to wait. Rumors about the reason for their fight started rolling in. It started tame – an argument over spending, Viktor going overboard on some wedding thing, Yuuri being whiny about Viktor just wanting to show his love. Viktor rolled his eyes at one – “One of these days, I am going to take an entire interview explaining step by step how to do the dishes so that people might get it through their heads that not only do I know how but I do them. I do not need to make my soulmate be my maid as well.”
“Even if you did get a maid to do all your chores for you, you can afford to hire one. Or several. You wouldn’t make your soulmate do it.” Yuuri kissed Viktor’s temple. “It could be a lot worse. This one says we’re fighting because I’m still claiming to be too young for sex and you’re sick of waiting.”
Viktor giggled. “Really? What, are they expecting us to make some grand announcement? Hold a funeral for our virginities? Maybe our Worlds exhibition skate is supposed to be pornographic? Yakov would kill us for that one.”
“No kidding. Guess we should be prepared to get asked about it, though. Let’s see, what else have we got…” Yuuri scrolled past another couple of boring ones. “Well, shit. Someone noticed Chris moving away from us.”
“According to this, we were fighting because Chris…” Yuuri stopped. “Chris invited you to join a three-way with him and Masumi and you said yes.”
“Someone doesn’t know me. I suppose if Chris and Masumi want to fuck around with other people that’s their business, not mine, but I wouldn’t do it. I assume you weren’t invited and got upset?”
“Exactly. Another one Chris-related, oh, hey…” Yuuri started laughing. “You found out that Chris and Masumi have a thing with Jolanda and Ottavio and got sanctimonious about soulmates, and I got mad at you for being an ass to our friends.”
“Wow. Close enough!”
“Yeah… that makes me think they talked to someone who was close enough to hear, honestly. I just hope no one takes it too seriously and causes problems for Chris or Masumi and Jolanda.”
Viktor started laughing again. “I cannot believe this! Back to things I thought we were done with, we were fighting because you and Chris are soulmates and you were sick of the lies and wanted to be with him, and Masumi and Jolanda are soulmates, and Masumi’s paying Ottavio to act like Jolanda’s soulmate.”
“Oh, no. Seriously? Who’s your soulmate?”
“They don’t say, but I’m sure she’s some beautiful Russian girl who is heartbroken but rich because I’m paying her off to keep quiet.” Viktor shut down his phone and reached out to hold Yuuri. “What do you want to do about the rumors?”
“We should talk to Chris about the ones involving him, but I don’t think we need to say anything about the ones that are just about us. Unless you want to call the press conference where you demonstrate your dishwashing skills.”
Chris agreed with ignoring the rumors. “If you’re asked about us and Jolie and Otto, we’d appreciate it if you’d tell them to ask one of us, but other than that, just say whatever you want. If they ask me I plan to say that I know better than to invite Viktor to a three-way, because while he might consider it if I invited both of you, there’s no way he’d come without you.”
Yuuri blushed, but he chuckled. “Sounds good to me. Viktor?”
Viktor shrugged. “I guess. Shopping time?”
After shopping, they went to watch the free dance. Masumi and Jolanda finished in first. Anya was enough better to watch from her hotel room, but not to come to the rink; Georgi watched with her. She was at least expected to be okay for Worlds.
The men’s free skate was the last official event. So far, it had been disappointing for Russia – Kirill and Katya’s bronze in ice dance was their only medal so far. Viktor expected to fix that, but he wasn’t sure Georgi or Rykov could deliver the second one like Misha would have. After three groups, Aaron held the lead, but he was easily beatable by everyone in the final group.
Anya hadn’t come to the rink, but just knowing she was going to be okay made Georgi more confident on the ice. He skated much better than he had in the short program. Rykov did okay, as did Kamil, but neither of them took the lead away from Georgi. Chris went out and skated very well, except that once again he badly overrotated his triple Lutz and messed up the landing. It was very close, but he took the lead from Georgi by a few tenths. Kaleb continued his hot performance, scoring in the high 160s to create a huge separation between himself and Chris. Russia would only be bringing home one medal. Viktor was determined at least to make it gold.
He started out well, landing his quad flip cleanly, and his quad salchow also went well. Everything flowed, his choreography was beautiful… there was no reason he couldn’t get the world record. If he missed, there was still Worlds, but he wanted it here. Rising up, getting that record… he was determined, and he used it to let the firebird soar.
It wasn’t enough. His score ended up being just a little bit below his score from Nationals. He’d expected the drop in performance score, just not how much it had dropped. It pissed him off. He was going to get that world record in Tokyo. He did, at least, take gold by a huge margin. The podium with Kaleb and Chris was not the one Viktor had hoped for, but it was a good one.
The media waited until Yuuri had finished kissing the medal and its winner before they started asking questions. “Viktor, you looked upset with your score. Given how much you won by, what was wrong?”
“I felt as though I’d done better here than I had at Nationals, but my score didn’t reflect that. I’m sure the judges saw something I didn’t feel, but I was disappointed. I’m very close to another world record and I only have one more shot at it this year.”
“There didn’t seem to be any tension between you and Chris on the podium. Is all forgiven?”
“Chris has forgiven me for being rude to him for which I’m grateful. It would never do to break up the Saccharine Six!” Viktor winked at the cameras.
“You’re used to being on the podium with another Russian. Georgi didn’t miss by much. Obviously you’re not upset about Chris taking the bronze, but are you disappointed that Georgi missed?”
“I was hoping that the podium would be me, Chris, and Georgi, although I certainly wouldn’t have minded Kamil being on there. Not that I have a problem with Kaleb having made it, of course, he skated very well and deserved it! I just enjoy being on the podium with my friends and my rinkmates.”
“How would you have felt if Rykov had been the other Russian to make it?”
“Rykov is a good skater, one who I have no problem sharing a podium with if he earns it. Of course I always wish my fellow Russian skaters well, and Rykov is no exception!”
“Even with how he’s treated Yuuri?”
“That’s in the past, and as long as he continues this new leaf he’s turned, I’m happy to leave it there.”
Home from Europeans, off to Four Continents, checking in with friends and family.
Timeline: early February 2011
As they got ready for bed, Yuuri wrapped his arms around Viktor. “Something’s bothering you. What’s wrong?”
“I’m probably just being stupid, but…” Viktor shook his head. “If Chris were to invite us, would you want to say yes?”
Yuuri smiled and pulled Viktor over to the bed. He pushed Viktor to sit on the bed, and then sat in his lap to kiss him until Viktor was moaning. “I don’t mind you flirting with the fans or any of that stuff. If you wanted to do a routine like Chris is doing this year, where you show off your sex appeal, I have no problem with that. You’re an incredibly hot guy and if you want to flaunt that, go for it. There are some things, though, that should remain between soulmates. I’m the only one who gets to see and hear you like this, and I want it to stay that way.”
Viktor relaxed, kissing Yuuri again. “Good. Like I said, just being stupid.”
“No you’re not. You’re being insecure, but this is important to you. If you needed to hear that I’m not interested in taking Chris up on any of his invitations, then I’m going to say it. Chris can manage his own business however he wants, but you and I should be left out of it.”
“Thank you. Are you skating tomorrow?”
“I hadn’t planned on it. I didn’t bring the sheep costume, or the tiger mask." Yuuri stroked Viktor's face, wondering why he asked. "Do you want me to see if I can find something tomorrow morning?”
“No, that’s okay, I was just wondering.”
“Okay. We good? You ready to finish what I started?”
“Yes, please!” Yuuri pushed Viktor down, lying on top of him to pick up where he'd left off to answer Viktor's question.
Getting home was nice. They had a couple weeks before they needed to leave for Four Continents. Yuri had, grudgingly, officially moved in with Yakov and Lilia, but he and Potya came over to hang out a lot. “Traitor cat mopes if he doesn’t get to see your stupid dogs,” was his explanation, which neither Viktor nor Yuuri believed but also didn’t call him on. At practice, he was hard at work preparing for his novice debut, getting his skills in order. He'd told his mom he needed to stay and work through his birthday instead of going to New York, but promised to come out in June for Natasha's birthday.
Anya recovered quickly, which meant Georgi was more focused in practice. Misha, too, was practicing well. What with having until the end of March, he fully expected to be on the ice and competing for the podium by Worlds.
Mila was hard at work on her triple jumps. She was starting to get very excited about moving up to juniors next season, and Yakov had to yell at her to focus and work on her current programs far more often than he would have liked. Her next competition overlapped with Four Continents, so Lilia would be going with her. Yuuri offered to let Yakov go with Mila and ask Minako to coach him for the free skate, but Yakov said no. He’d already missed one competition for Yuuri, and Four Continents was a much bigger deal. “I’ll leave after your free skate. I should be able to make it to Feldkirch in time for Mila’s free skate.”
Viktor was watching the news out of China. “It looks like Bin plans to skate.”
“That’s good to hear. I’m not going to rule him out, but I’m more focused on Paul and Jude as my competition for the gold. Gonna be weird not having Yuuko there this time.”
“Next year, we can hope! How’s her training going?”
“Good… Minako says that unless there’s some major setback, she should be competing next season. Having a rinkmate again has been good for her, even a part-time rinkmate. Kenjirou’s still super excited every time he comes down and the energy is infectious.”
“That’s great news! Is Kenjirou competing internationally?”
“Next season, Yuuko says. He’s doing good in Japan, but his other coach didn’t think he was ready for international yet. He's improved a lot since October, and Nishigori thinks he'll be ready next fall. I hope so!”
"It'll be good for him. If he wants to skate against you, the sooner he gets comfortable on the international stage, the better. Since you're not going to be his soulmate."
The trip to Taipei was quiet. “You know, I’m glad we decided to get married in April. I’m so distracted getting nervous about Four Continents and Worlds that I can’t get nervous about the wedding.”
Viktor kissed the top of his head. “You’re nervous about the wedding? Why?”
Yuuri shrugged. It was hard to explain. “It’s kind of a big deal. I don’t want to mess up the ceremony and embarrass my family or you.”
“Yuuri, if someone’s going to mess up the ceremony, it’s going to be me. You know that. You won't embarrass me by messing up.”
“No, I don’t know that. I get nervous. You don't.”
“Well, you should know that. You'll do fine. You’re not worried about the actual getting married, are you?”
“No, of course not, I’m not worried about marrying you or you getting cold feet and backing out. For one thing, you’re too in love to do that, for another thing, Mari’s going to be right there and she’s worked so hard on this that she’d be perfectly justified in whatever she did to you if you tried to mess it up.”
Viktor laughed. “Have you decided about going to your graduation?”
“It depends how I do here. If I do well, I’m going to go. For my parents, mostly. I don’t care about the school, and the diploma’s nice but I’m more interested in the college degree, but it means a lot to Mom and Dad. Dad cried at Mari’s graduation. There was a time when none of us thought she’d actually make it.” Mari's graduation had been a very emotional day for all of them, although a month later when Mari had come home from Fukuoka and told them that Kokei wouldn't be around anymore had been an even better day. Too late for her to change her mind and go to university, but she'd long since accepted that. She was much happier working for Yu-Topia than she had been living in the city with Kokei.
“And now she’s in university.”
“Almost done with her first year. She’s doing great, too.” Mari wouldn't be at Four Continents due to exams. She'd been so apologetic that Yuuri'd had difficulty not laughing at her.
Short Program and Viktor Is Extra
Timeline: February 18, 2011
Yuuri only had practice the first couple days, which he and Viktor used to wander around the city with Jude, Paul, and Skye. Naturally, there was some gossip about Cao Bin – he was here, he was skating in practice, and then nobody saw him the rest of the day. His coach wasn’t talking about him, and neither of the other Chinese skaters were willing to say anything, leading rumors to spring up as people tried to understand.
Viktor and Yuuri tried not to listen, and they didn’t repeat any of the rumors they did hear. After all, they knew perfectly well how easily nonsense started resembling fact. The wilder rumors, like Cao Bin was a recently-turned werewolf still adjusting to the change, were easy to laugh off. Others made more sense – a family member dying, mental illness that he was unwilling to disclose, coaching drama, among others.
The men’s short program started relatively early on the 18th. The first two groups were quiet, with the standouts being Japan’s Ichizo and Mexico’s Alfonso. In group three, Liao Su became the first skater to break 70, while most of the others placed into the 60s. Sachio got just above 70 as well at the end of the group. In the final group, Jude started things off well, getting very close to 80, while Paul pushed himself hard and ended up just above. Clarien and Yuhan did respectably, but didn’t get close to Jude or Paul.
Yakov looked curiously at Yuuri as he stepped out on the ice. “You look good. How are you feeling?”
“I dunno, it’s a little weird. I just have this feeling that today’s going to be a good day. Not much pressure – my lowest score this season so far was an 82, which would be good enough for first place, and I messed up really badly that time. I’m just feeling really good about this program and this skate.” Yuuri couldn’t explain the confidence he felt in himself. It was just… there. Maybe it was just Viktor starting to rub off on him.
Yakov nodded. “You should be in first place easily today. Have fun, do your best.”
Yuuri skated out and waited for the music to start. He felt good about it as he started out, and when he hit his quad toe loop, he was proved right. The sit spin went extremely well, giving him a lot of confidence through the rest of the program. His triple axel was good, and he managed his triple Lutz-triple toe loop combo just fine. He’d done very well.
Not well enough to keep Yakov from critiquing him, but that was okay. Yuuri had no problem with listening to that anymore, especially when it was as incredibly picky as Yakov was being today. Even with his confidence, though, Yuuri was sure there was a misprint in his score. 91.54, two tenths above Viktor’s world record from last year’s Olympics.
Yuuri stuck around to watch Bin skate. He wasn’t worried about losing his lead, or even having it cut from ten points, but he hoped that Bin would at least put forth a good showing. Unfortunately, he didn’t. He barely broke 60 with his score, putting him in thirteenth for the day.
Viktor literally knocked over a reporter in his excited rush to get to Yuuri for hugs and kisses and congratulations. He was apologetic afterwards, but Yuuri couldn’t help the amusement. “I’m so proud of you, Yuuri! Of course, you know I’m taking it back at Worlds, but my Yuuri has a world record!”
“I’m still not sure I believe it,” Yuuri said. “Don’t go too crazy celebrating? I still have to skate tomorrow, and you know me.”
“But tomorrow when you’ve got your gold medal, I can go as crazy as I want?”
“Deal.” Yuuri kissed Viktor’s cheek and turned to face the reporters. “Hi.”
“So, you beat your fiancé’s record. I’d ask if you thought there would be problems because of it, but I think you’ve already answered that.”
“The only problem is that now he’s determined to take it back, so he’s going to be working himself to death over the next month, since he’s still got his eyes on the free skate record too. I suspect we’re going to see a monster unleashed in Tokyo.”
“Any thoughts on you getting that free skate record tomorrow?”
“It won’t happen. I don’t have the base value Viktor does. My 173 at the Grand Prix Finals was doing some of the best skating I’ve ever done, while I believe Viktor’s got that extra gear left to find. I expect to do well tomorrow, but not world record well.” Not to mention he was expecting to have a bit of a breakdown tonight and start feeling the pressure entirely too much. He wouldn’t have the same comfort and confidence going into the free skate.
“Viktor, do you agree?”
“I think Yuuri can skate better than he did at the Finals, but no, I don’t expect to see him get the record tomorrow. Of course, if he did, that would just mean I’d need to take that one from him in Tokyo as well!”
“What do you think about Cao Bin’s skating today?”
Yuuri tried to figure out what to say. This was a tricky one. “I think that he’s capable of much better, but he didn’t have the chance to show that today. I don’t know what’s going on, but since he’s not talking about it, I’m not going to speculate. I hope that he’s back to his usual standard of excellence next season; this season hasn’t felt right without him at the top with Viktor and Misha.”
“And you, now,” a reporter said.
“And me, now.” Yuuri groped for Viktor’s hand. He could feel the pressure starting to settle in.
“Right now, it looks like it’ll be Jude Hartman and Paul Chen on the podium with you. The three of you have been hanging out here. Is that the podium you’d like to see?”
“Paul and I have been friends for years, so I’m always happy to share a podium with him. There are several others who shouldn’t be counted out, but whoever’s on the podium, I’ll be happy to congratulate.”
They’d barely made it back to the hotel before Yuuri started shaking hard. “Yuuri, like you said, no one’s expecting you to set the record tomorrow. Your base value isn’t as good as mine, but it’s still enough better than anyone here that between that and your ten point lead, the gold medal is yours to lose. I’m sorry, I didn’t bring the ninja sheep for you to hug, but someone threw you this adorable little piggy.”
Yuuri took the pig and stared at it. “Was this meant genuinely because someone likes pigs, has someone been talking to Yuri or my old classmates, or is someone calling me fat?”
“If they were calling you fat, their eyes aren’t working, if anything you’re a little too thin right now thanks to the growth spurt. I hope it was talking to Yuri, because no one should be listening to your old classmates about you.”
Free Skate and Yuuri gets a couple of surprises.
Timeline: February 19, 2011
They went to watch the ladies’ short program for Skye, who was in fourth behind two of the three Japanese skaters and Korea’s top skater. Tamae came over to Yuuri after her skate. “Congratulations. You did very well yesterday.”
“Thanks! You did good, too. I thought you were retiring after last year?” Not that he blamed her for staying. It had just been a surprise.
Tamae shrugged. “I’d planned to, but then Yuuko got pregnant, so I decided to stay one more year so Japan wasn't trying to replace both of us at once. Do you know if she plans to come back?”
“She’s working on it, and things seem to be going well. I'm very much hoping to see her in the Grand Prix next year.”
“That’s good to hear. She’s too good to quit so young. Tell her I said that, okay?”
“I’ll do that. If you’ll excuse me, I need to go get ready for my skate.”
“Good luck!” Tamae hugged him and waved him off.
Bin was the first skater that Yuuri paid attention to in the men’s free skate. His technical elements were unusually weak, but his performance that day was much better than it had been all year. Thanks to that, he was able to score over 140, putting him above 200 for the overall. It still wasn’t as good as usual for him, but it was better. He had a clear lead after the first two groups. Canada’s Kyle Tremblay took that from him at the beginning of group 3, but three other skaters in that group dropped below Bin, including Ichizo for Japan. It wasn’t what he would typically expect, but he’d be top ten, at least.
Liao Su made a good charge at the top places, but both Paul and Jude answered well, guaranteeing themselves medals. Jude broke 160, Paul got close, with Jude finishing a point ahead of Paul both around the 240 mark. Yuuri only needed 130 to win gold, and he had never scored that low in a senior competition, even the year he self-destructed in Canada.
With that pressure off him, Yuuri could focus on just doing his best. The unnatural-feeling confidence from the day before was gone, but all Yuuri had to do to be confident was to look over at Yakov or up at Viktor. Once the glasses came off, it got a little harder, but he started off with a great triple axel combination. His quad was clean, layback spin was beautiful and he’d taken it up a level. The momentum from getting through the difficult elements carried him through, right up until he two-footed the landing of a triple Lutz. At least he had a triple axel next, which he didn’t need to think about being confident in, and he finished on a flying camel spin. Only the one major mistake. He was getting gold, and he was not getting close to the world record, which is exactly where he’d wanted to be. The world record would have been nice, but this eased the pressure heading into Worlds.
He had made one miscalculation, though. He’d been so focused thinking only of the free skate that he’d missed the possibility of getting the overall record. His score of very close to 173 put him at 264 overall, and six hundredths of a point over the old world record.
After the medal ceremony, Yuuri was braced for the near assault from Viktor as he came flying to kiss Yuuri’s gold medal, and Yuuri, and the dragon Yuuri had picked up to carry off the ice, and Yuuri again just for good measure. It was a good thing, too, because Viktor was quite enthusiastic. The reporters waited patiently for Viktor to finish before they started even trying to interrupt.
“Can we assume that you’ll be coming for that record, too, Viktor?”
Viktor laughed. “I’m aiming to take back my short program and set the free skate. If I can do both of those, I think that guarantees me the overall record.”
“Are you disappointed in how Yuuri did today? He’s done better.”
“Aside from the stumble on the triple Lutz, he did very well. Scores fluctuate a bit, no one makes steady improvement, I think he did just fine.”
“Yuuri, do you intend to let Viktor take his records back?”
“That depends what you mean by let. I’m not going to sit back and not try my best at Worlds, he’d kill me for that, but I’m also going to help him train just like always. I want to see what Vitya’s going to do with this fire I’ve lit under him.”
“There are a couple fans here who were very excited about your skating. They claim to be childhood friends, here to celebrate their upcoming graduation. Did you know you had hometown support here today?”
Yuuri hoped his expression wasn’t reflecting the deer-in-the-headlights panic he felt. Who on earth would have come to this? He looked to Viktor for help. Viktor just hugged him and whispered, “Probably those girls who like to claim you were best friends, now that you’re famous and recognized as being among the best.”
Right. Them. They were probably responsible for the pig, then. “I didn’t know. My usual supporters from Hasetsu couldn’t come for various reasons, so I wasn’t expecting anyone.” Minako, Axel, and Loop had all come down with flu, and Yuuko figured it was only a matter of time before Lutz started showing symptoms as well, so she and Takeshi didn’t want to leave their girls. Mari and Kenjirou both had exams. Yuuri would have thought his former classmates would be in exams, too, but who knew?
“Well, they’re very supportive, and very excited about seeing Hasetsu represented so well. Now that you know they’re here, maybe you’ll meet up with them tonight?”
Was there a polite way to say “I’d rather hurt my leg again than spend the evening with my former classmates”? If there was, Yuuri couldn’t find it. “It’s not impossible, I suppose, but I’m sure Viktor has big plans for the evening. I did promise him he could go crazy now that I’m done with the competition.”
Celebration night doesn't start well, and the season's big mystery is answered.
Warning: references to terminal illness.
Timeline: February 19-20, 2011
It, unfortunately, didn’t take long for the girls to find Yuuri. Miko ran over and hugged him as soon as she spotted him. “Yuuri! We’re all so proud of you! You’re amazing!”
Yuuri hugged back mostly out of habit, but he quickly pulled away. “Um, thank you? Why are you here? Don’t you have exams?”
“They start Tuesday. Only a couple of us came, most people wanted to stay home and study, but I already know what I’m doing after I graduate and no one cares how I do on my exams so I’m not bothering too much about them.”
Viktor came over in time to hear that. “Oh? What are you doing?”
“Getting married. My soulmate’s ten years older than me and has a good job and wants me to be a housewife and mother, and I’m happy with that.” Miko giggled. “It was such a relief to meet him and hear what he wanted me to be! You’re lucky, you’ve known for years that your exams don’t really matter.”
“You know, you don’t have to be what your soulmate expects you to…” Yuuri said.
Miko shrugged. “No, but I never really had any big dreams or ambitions of my own, not like you, so I don’t mind really. I’m not like Yuuko, sacrificing her own life because of a husband’s expectations!”
“Yuuko didn’t. The triplets were an accident, and she’s coming back next season.” Not to mention it wasn't anything to do with Takeshi's expectations, since he expected her to skate as long as she was still enjoying it.
Miko giggled again and shook her head. “Oh, I know what she says, but come on. You really buy that? If the triplets were a mistake, wouldn’t she have just terminated the pregnancy so she didn’t ruin her career? They may have been a mistake on her part, but Nishigori knew exactly what he was doing.”
Viktor wrapped both arms tightly around Yuuri, holding him close. Yuuri leaned back against him, eyes squeezed shut. “Takeshi loves watching Yuuko skate. I think I know my friend a little better than you do. He’d never do something like that to her.”
“He always was a bit of a bully, you remember I’m sure. He treated you horribly!”
Viktor grinned, his very best Press Viktor smile. “Yuuri’s become quite the star for a… what was it… fat piggy loser? I couldn’t be prouder of my soulmate, now or four years ago when I met him and some people thought it was a good idea to bash him online and expose him to years of very public bullying. I swear one of the best things to happen to Yuuri as a result of being my soulmate was to get into an environment where he was surrounded with love and support, instead of bullies and fake friends. If you’ll excuse us, I need to take my fiancé to dinner, we have some world records to celebrate.”
Miko sputtered a little, but didn’t follow them as Viktor dragged a nonresisting Yuuri into the hotel. Once they were safely in their room, Viktor pulled Yuuri into another hug and a long kiss. “I’m sorry if I just made graduation more uncomfortable for you, but she was upsetting me.”
“She was upsetting me, too. I can’t believe she’d say that kind of stuff about Yuuko and Takeshi! Do I have time for a proper shower before dinner?”
“Yes, go on.”
Viktor did not disappoint Yuuri. Dinner was at a very fancy restaurant – “I wanted to take you to Hasetsu for a bowl of your mom’s katsudon, but there wasn’t any way I’d have you back in time for the exhibition skate, and Yakov would have killed me” – and from there they went clubbing. They didn’t have to get up too early in the morning, so they stayed out as late as they could. Yuuri skipped practice the next morning, and they got to the rink to watch the ladies’ skate in time to watch the last group. Tamae took gold, Iona silver, and Skye bronze.
Even with the lack of practice, Yuuri’s exhibition skate went well. Viktor didn’t join him for the pair version of it, saying that Yuuri deserved the solo spotlight this time around. After the exhibition, they went back to the hotel.
The media had quite a bit to say about the two of them out clubbing. Viktor found it hilarious that people were calling them irresponsible children for partying so hard when Yuuri still had to skate the next day. “I’ve never really been around normal people our age, I guess, but isn’t going to clubs a typical way to spend Saturday night?”
“I know. Would’ve been one thing if I had a competition today, but it was an exhibition skate and people don’t watch me to see me do complicated jumps, they watch me for my dancing, and I don’t think anyone was disappointed in my exhibition. I know Minako and Lilia weren’t, they've said as much, and if the professional ballerinas think I was fine, I don’t think I disappointed the audience.”
There was also an interview with Cao Bin, where he finally broke his silence on his struggles this season. His soulmate had been diagnosed with lung cancer the previous June, and he’d been cutting back on his training to spend as much time with her as he could and be there for treatments. He’d wanted to take the season off, but his soulmate begged him not to, she wanted to see him skate. Her prognosis was not good – she was not expecting to live more than a few more weeks – and his next season would be dedicated to her. He expected to make a full comeback next season, and hoped to return to the top of the podium in her memory.
“Wow. That’s awful. I can’t imagine trying to skate if you were…” Yuuri shut the computer and curled up in Viktor’s lap. “Don’t get cancer, please? I don’t want to live without you.”
“You either. When I think of what my life would be without you in it…” Viktor shuddered and held Yuuri close. “At least it’s good to finally know what’s been going on with him.”
Happy birthday, Smol Angry Kit... wait, what?
Timeline: March 1, 2011
For once, Viktor and Yuuri managed to be home for Yuri’s birthday. Yuri was there, Irina was not, and Yuri seemed reasonably happy with that arrangement. When asked what he wanted to do for his birthday, he said he wanted to skate. “I’m competing next season. I need to work on my triple Salchow. Yakov said I had a sponsor thing to do, too. He didn’t say what, but it’s not like I have much choice.”
Uh-oh. Viktor did not like the sound of that. Once Yuri started picking up other sponsors, that road led to huge potential trouble. Yakov would do his best to look after Yuri, but sometimes, people slipped through. “You always have a choice, Yuri. If you’re not comfortable with something a sponsor wants you to do, tell Yakov or Lilia or one of us. Most sponsors are perfectly reasonable, but there are some out there who will take advantage of you.”
“Uh-huh.” Yuri glared at Viktor. “Must be nice to not need sponsorship.”
“It is, but Yakov will tell you the same thing. If you have trouble with a sponsor, Yakov will work with you and your family until you can replace them.”
“Whatever. I’ll do whatever it is they want, I don’t care.” Viktor wanted to argue some more, but Yuri blew him off. “Then Misha and Emiliya are hosting dinner and cake and presents. You two should come.”
Practice was mostly normal for Yuri's birthday. Misha was recovered enough to be training normally, so the four older skaters were preparing for Worlds, Mila was polishing in hopes of a fourth gold medal for the season, and Yuri spend as much time as Yakov would allow working on triple jumps. Everyone left early, though – Yuri for his sponsor activity, Viktor and Yuuri to get ready to leave for Hasetsu, Mila to get ready to leave for her competition, Misha to help Emiliya get everything ready for the birthday party, and Georgi because everyone else was gone.
“Is this you?” Yuuri asked Viktor when Yuri left. Viktor put a finger to his lips and winked. “What did you do?”
“You’ll find out. I can’t imagine Yuri won’t want to tell us all about it.” Viktor grinned. “I don’t think it’s something he’ll object to doing!”
Sure enough, Yuri was bouncing with excitement when he got to Misha’s afterwards. “I got to be in a commercial! For cat adoption! I got to play with cats and they were so cute! They had these kittens…” and Yuri was off and running, telling them about all the cats.
Once he was done, Misha regarded him solemnly. “Which one would you recommend for a family with a very young child?”
“Sveta,” Yuri answered immediately. “You don’t want a kitten, but you should get a cat that’s good with babies, and she lived with two of them before they moved and couldn’t take their cat.”
Emya nodded and typed a note into her phone. “I’ll go first thing in the morning.”
Yuri looked between the two of them. “You’re getting a cat?”
“Why not? You have a cat, Viktor and Yuuri have their dogs, and Emya and I have been talking about getting a pet for Nika to grow up with. We’ll look after it until Nika’s old enough to do it himself, but we could definitely use whatever advice you have for us.”
“Cool!” Yuri hugged them both.
After dinner and cake, Yuri waited for presents. They’d all gotten him something practical – new clothes, mostly – as well as all having contributed to buying Yuri a 3DS and some games. Yuri was so excited about it he nearly missed the knock on the door. Nearly. He didn’t miss it when Misha got up and let Nikolai in. “Grandpa!” Yuri ran and jumped on him for a hug.
Nikolai hugged back. “Hello, Yurotchka. I know you’re coming to Moscow tomorrow, but I thought you’d had enough of not being with family on your birthday.”
“Thank you! I’m so happy to see you!”
“I brought presents – both from me and from your mama. Happy birthday.”
Yuri’s surprise was obvious as he opened the bag and pulled out the presents. “Oh, come on. There is no way Natasha got me anything. She is a baby.”
“What did ‘she’ get you?” Yuuri asked.
“Socks and underwear. Boring. Mama’s trying to be sneaky.” Yuri rolled his eyes and opened the one labeled as being from his mother and Boris. This one had a note on top – Dear Yurotchka, get Yakov to take you to get this fitted properly. You’ll need it now that you’re going to be going to competitions. It turned out to be a proper suit, along with a belt and a tie. Yuri made a face at it. "There are some parts of skating that are going to suck."
He reached into the bag again, this time pulling out a tube. It had a poster of Sasha and her gymmates, autographed by all of them, as well as a couple posters of cats, and one of a metal band that Yuri was fond of. Nikolai winked at him. “Sasha said she’s expecting an autographed poster of you in return, once you start getting merchandise made of you.”
“Wow. This is so cool!” Yuri carefully rolled the posters back up. He ran around the room hugging everyone, including Nika who was awake and watching and held out his arms when Yuri got near.
He's so happy this chapter it's hard to call him Smol Angry Kitten. :D
Timeline: early March 2011
The next day, Yuuri and Viktor got on a plane heading for Japan. Yuuri wouldn’t let go of Viktor’s hand any more than he absolutely had to, which Viktor did not mind but found a little odd. Once they were settled on the plane, Yuuri explained. “It’s just kind of hitting me that next time we get on a plane to Japan, we’re not going back to St. Petersburg until we’re married.” Worlds was in Tokyo, and they were going straight from there to Hasetsu to get everything ready for the wedding.
“Cold feet?” Viktor teased.
Yuuri shook his head with a soft smile. “Not at all. I’m excited. I just hope we both do well at Worlds. Don’t get yourself hurt and have to do the wedding on crutches, okay?”
“You either!” Viktor kissed Yuuri’s forehead. “That is exciting. It would be nice if we had two medals to celebrate, too!”
“And a couple world records. Speaking of, thanks for coming with me, I know you’ve been pushing hard on your programs and this much time off the ice is a big deal right now.”
“So is your graduation! I know this is about your family, not you really caring that much, but I want to be there anyway. Especially after that weird girl at Four Continents. You cared about your exams!”
Yuuri smirked a little. “It just shows how little she knows me. Most people in my situation, going to a foreign university and having a good fallback plan – skating for now, and then even if I don’t stay with the ice or have a university degree to put to use, I can work at the onsen or become a trophy husband – most people probably wouldn’t care about their exams. Like she didn’t.”
“You’d never be happy as a trophy husband. Even if I decide I don’t have to work so I’m not going to, I can’t see you being happy with that life.”
“No, but I could do it. Do you know what you want to do when you retire?”
“Sort of. I’m not sure about coaching, but I could probably be a choreographer, so if I retire from skating and don’t have anything else I want to do, I always have that. Which is really a good plan for me, I can work as much or as little as I want, and have time to travel to watch you and Mila and Yuri and Sasha and other friends who are still competing. Hopefully it’s still a long time away, so I don’t have to come up with anything too soon!”
Yuuri had missed graduation practice, which had him a little nervous, but he was assured that as long as he watched the others in his class carefully, he’d know what to do. Some of his classmates looked at him oddly as he took his place in line in his school uniform, which Mari had gotten for him since, after all, he’d been a much smaller boy the last time he’d worn one. It felt odd, marching in with his class and taking his seat with them. Fortunately, his teacher had been right – the only part that he had to do on his own was to stand when his name was called and respond “Hai!” He’d forgotten the school song, but he was able to pretend to be singing, at least.
The speeches were rather dull – gratitude to the teachers for all their hard work, to the parents and families for their support through the years, the expectations the students had for their futures thanks to the knowledge and values they had learned through the years. A speech from one of next year’s graduates thanking this year’s graduates for their mentorship and leadership. Yuuri nearly fell asleep, and he felt a little bad for Viktor. These were boring enough with it being his native language. Viktor had gotten very good with Japanese, but good enough?
After leaving with his class, Yuuri found himself swarmed with attention as people wanted pictures and for him to sign their yearbook. It was oddly familiar to him, although everyone else was getting the same treatment, for once. He stayed as long as he was still getting approached, but once people started to leave him alone, he found his teacher for one last thank you and left to find Viktor and Yuuko and Takeshi.
The celebration with his family and friends felt so much more genuine. Yuuri started crying with his mom when she hugged him. “Thank you for everything, Mom. You’ve given me so much, and I hope that I’ve made you proud of me.”
“Of course I’m proud of you, Yuuri, you’ve accomplished so much. High school, going to university, you’re getting married, you’re representing Hasetsu and Japan well, and you’re happy with your choices and your life. Both of my children have done well for themselves and for each other and for our family.”
Toshiya was less teary about it, but he expressed much the same sentiment. Mari hadn’t come from Fukuoka – she’d had an exam that morning – but when she called, the first thing she did was offer sympathy. “How bad is Mom bawling?”
“It’s not too bad. Not nearly as bad as it was with you, since me finishing high school wasn’t such a relief. She said she’s proud of you, by the way.”
“Yeah, I know. Wish I’d recorded last weekend when Mom lost it and went off on Yuuko’s mom. She was supposed to look after the onsen while Mom and Dad both went to graduation, and she came over so Mom and I could show her what she needed to do. She said something about how wonderful it must be after the disappointment I was that you were finishing high school, going to university, and getting married. Mom tried to be diplomatic, but the second she said I should call Kokei, Mom went ballistic. I don’t know I’ve ever seen her that angry.”
“Is that why she’s not here?”
“Yeah, probably. She was seriously angry at the thought that after everything I went through with him, I’m a failure because I chose myself and my own happiness over what some mystic force thought I should do. Even Viktor knows better than that, and I don’t know anyone who’s more of a believer than he is.”
Dun dun dunnnnnn! *cue Jaws theme*
Yuuri's world is shaken, and plans change drastically.
Timeline: March 2011
Warnings: off-screen natural and nuclear disasters.
With graduation behind, Yuuri focused in hard on training for Worlds. He was startled when, one morning, Yakov called him off the ice early. “You need to call Mihara. Take as long as you need, and if you don’t want to skate afterward, go on home.”
“What’s happened?” Yuuri could not think of anything that would involve calling Mihara that didn't have Yakov calling Viktor over as well.
“There was an earthquake. I didn’t get many details, but he did say Hasetsu should be far enough away not to be too bad.”
“Oh no!” Viktor heard and started over to Yuuri, who shook his head at him. “Stay here and work hard. I’ll be back soon.”
Yuuri took his phone and found a quiet room. “Yakov told me about the earthquake. If Hasetsu’s not affected, why are you calling me?”
“You’re a Japanese athlete living abroad – the media is going to be looking for you and I didn’t want you ambushed with the knowledge from someone who doesn’t know Japan’s geography well enough to tell you whether Hasetsu was okay. It was off the coast of Touhoku. There’s also been a tsunami, and that one might affect Hasetsu to some extent, but it’s on the wrong coast and well south. Your family and friends should all be all right.”
Yuuri closed his eyes. That was good to hear, but there was something else he needed to know. “How badly is Tokyo affected?”
Mihara understood the real question right away. “I don’t know. There hasn’t been an official announcement, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they had to postpone Worlds – if for no other reason than I imagine with aftershocks, countries are going to be hesitant to send their skaters to Japan. If they ask, until we hear something official from the JSF, dodge the question. Say something along the lines of the JSF and the government of Japan will need to assess the damage and the risks before a decision is made.”
“Okay.” Yuuri shivered. What if they canceled Worlds?
“Do you want to come up with your own statement to run in the press, or do you want me to write a generic ‘my thoughts are with those affected by the tragedy and our leaders as they respond’ for you?”
Yuuri didn't take long to think that one over. “You write it… you know what to say.”
A call to Yu-Topia confirmed that there was a bit of flooding in Hasetsu but no serious damage, not like in the east, and that everyone was all right. Nishigori had checked in with Kenjirou, and he and his family were safe in Fukuoka as well. Knowing that, it only took a couple minutes for Yuuri to compose himself enough to walk back out. He waved Viktor over to the side of the rink. “The earthquake triggered a tsunami. Mihara-san couldn’t tell me how bad things were in Tokyo, but Yakov, you’ll want to keep an eye on the news. It’s possible Worlds might be affected by this.”
“Earthquake?” Viktor hugged Yuuri. “Is everything all right in Hasetsu?”
“Yeah, the earthquake was in the northeast, by the time anything got to Hasetsu it was weakened enough to not cause much damage. Yakov, Mihara-san thinks reporters will be looking for me for a statement.”
Yakov nodded. “Likely. I’ll run interference as long as you’re here. Are you staying to skate?”
“Yes – they haven’t cancelled or postponed Worlds yet, and I have records to defend from Viktor’s challenge!” Viktor stuck his tongue out at Yuuri as they headed back out to the ice.
Mihara sent Yuuri the statement he’d written for Yuuri to use well before Yuuri left the rink for the day. As soon as Yuuri stepped out, he found himself in front of a couple reporters. “What’s happening in Japan?”
“There was an earthquake, followed by a tsunami. I’m not there, I don’t know how bad it was, but my thoughts are with all of those affected by this disaster.”
“Worlds is supposed to be in Tokyo in ten days. Do you think it will happen?”
“That’s for the JSF, the ISU, and the government of Japan to decide once they’ve had a chance to assess the damage to Tokyo. I have faith that their decision will be made in the best interests of the skaters.”
Over the next few days, Yuuri watched the ISU website religiously unless he was on the ice or in the studio. Viktor watched with him. When announcements started showing up that countries were not sending skaters, or were considering withdrawing their skaters, it could only be a matter of time, and three days after the accident the ISU announced that Worlds would not be held at the originally scheduled time, with a final decision on postponement or cancellation to be announced in a week. As soon as Yuuri saw that, he called Mihara.
“The government doesn’t want attention drawn to it, and most of the media here is complying, but there’s been an accident at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. I don’t know how much of that has leaked out there, but when it does, I’d expect Japan to lose this Worlds. When talking to the press, keep the focus on the ISU needing to consider what’s best for the skaters and Japan needing to consider the best use of resources to rebuild.”
The JSF wanted to reschedule to October, feeling that would give sufficient time to clean up. Yakov hated the idea. “That’s getting into next season, and it makes the Grand Prix a logistical nightmare. They won’t know who to seed, who can be invited, until possibly a week before Skate America? Bad idea. Unless they’re going to reschedule the Grand Prix, which can’t be pushed back too much or it starts interfering with nationals. Better to do it early. Even September would be better, but the sooner the better.”
“But Yakov, moving it is going to be hard! Where would they move it to?” Viktor asked. “This isn’t exactly something that can be thrown together in a month.”
“There are places that could do it. Moscow, Beijing or Shanghai, I’m sure America and Canada have places that could step up. It doesn’t give much time for fans to rearrange travel plans, so I would expect a smaller crowd than usual.”
The ISU announced that they did, in fact, intend to move it and asked for bids, and three days later, announced that Worlds would be held in Moscow the last week of April. As soon as the announcement was made, Viktor found Yuuri. “What do we do about the wedding?”
Yuuri’s eyes got huge. “We can’t exactly take a whole week off before Worlds! We… should probably talk to Yakov.”
Yakov scowled at them. “I don’t understand the problem. We’d planned all along to go to Japan for the wedding and then come right back here afterwards. Rescheduling the party, yes, that you’ll need to do, but I don’t see any reason you shouldn’t get married as planned.”
“But that’s three days of skating lost, while we’re training for Worlds.”
“You’ve got an extra month to train for it. If Misha and Georgi want to stay back, don’t blame them for it, but there’s no reason the rest of us can’t go.”
The earthquake/tsunami/nuclear meltdown are all real events, and the reaction by the ISU, JSF, and other skating federations are real.
Pre-Wedding Festivities! Yay!
Timeline: April 1-2, 2011
Yuuri and Viktor flew out to Japan a week before the ceremony, with Yakov’s blessing as long as they promised to train hard when they could. There was a lot to do to prepare, various practices, and, of course, the bachelor parties their friends had put together.
After the earthquake, it became clear that most of their friends wouldn’t be able to come to Japan for the bachelor parties. Yuuri and Viktor spent a lot of time reassuring their friends that it was all right, that they hoped they’d be able to come to the rescheduled afterparty, as that was going to be the more fun one anyway. With so few people coming, they decided that tradition could go to hell and they were doing their parties together.
Yuuko, Takeshi, Mari, and Sasha didn’t have training, and Chris was joining Viktor and Yuuri at the Ice Castle to convince his coach to allow him to go early and be there to help out. The seven of them went into Fukuoka. Yuuri tried to convince Phichit to come along. “You’re my best friend, we don’t mind including you.”
Phichit just grinned and shook his head. “I appreciate that, but without me, you can go more places, stay out later, and have more fun. I’ll stay here and help the Nishigoris with the triplets. Yes, Yuuko, I know what I’m doing with babies, I’ve helped out with baby brothers and sisters since I was old enough to do anything useful.”
After a good dinner, they headed out to a club. Yuuri didn’t know if Chris had done it on purpose. He wasn’t going to ask. He didn’t even know if Chris knew what he was doing. The club they chose was having amateur pole dance night.
Chris was the first to take a turn, showing off the skills he’d put several years into acquiring by this point. After one drink, Sasha decided to take a turn. “Have you taken lessons?” Viktor asked.
“No, but I’m a gymnast. I spend hours on uneven bars and acrobatics. How hard can it be to swing around a pole?” Sasha poked Viktor. “If you’re going to go big brother ‘grr sister can’t do sexy things’, don’t.”
Viktor shook his head. “You’re a big girl, you can do what you want. I’m not going to be the one taking pictures, though.”
“Are you going to stop the rest of us from taking pictures?” Chris asked.
“No, have fun, you might even want to send them to her boyfriend.”
“Viktor!” Sasha screeched.
“What?” Viktor looked at Yuuri, who shook his head and shrugged.
“I know he’s not here, but still. Be nice to Valera!”
“And encouraging… Sasha, no, that’s not what I meant!” Viktor started laughing at his sister as he realized what Sasha was probably thinking. “I honestly meant it as Rykov might like to see this and he’s not here, not taunting him or tattling on you!”
As it turned out, pole dancing was harder than she’d thought, but Sasha laughed along with everyone else at her inept attempts. “Well, that was fun. Who’s next?”
Yuuri shook his head. “No. No way. No!”
Viktor blinked. “I was going to ask you to braid my hair for me so I could go…”
“Oh, that I can do!” Yuuri stood up and started working on Viktor’s hair. It was a little clumsy as he’d had a couple drinks by then, but he got Viktor’s hair braided and tied off for him. “You’re good. I’m taking pictures.”
“Of course you are!” Viktor kissed Yuuri and headed up to the pole. He was a little out of practice, from focusing on skating and aiming for the records, but it didn’t take long to come back to him and he easily got into the swing of things.
After that, they settled down, but Chris kept an eye on how much Yuuri was drinking. A couple drinks later, when Yuuri had abandoned his own chair to sit in Viktor’s lap, he had to ask. “Yuuri, why did you think Viktor was suggesting you take a turn on the pole?”
Yuuri scoffed and snuggled into Viktor. “Because did you see how bad he was? If he’d stop staring at me and focus on his own dancing, he could be so much better!”
Mari stared at him. “You pole dance.”
Takeshi started chuckling. “I have to see this.”
Yuuri reached for his drink and finished it off. He shifted to turn around enough to grab Viktor’s shirt and pull him in close. “Don’t take your eyes off me.”
“I won’t.” Yuuri was gone before Viktor could kiss him.
Viktor kept his word, watching Yuuri spin and not even taking his eyes off him long enough to take pictures. He was counting on Chris and Yuuko and Takeshi to come through. It had taken Yuuri a while to get comfortable with getting sexy with their pole dancing, even with the private lessons, but once he had… even without the promise, even if Viktor had wanted to, there was no way he was looking away from his fiancé.
Yuuri got right back in Viktor’s lap when he came back to the table. Viktor couldn’t help the smirk as the other five people stared at them. “He’s a good dancer. I thought you all knew that.”
“We knew that he could dance,” Yuuko said. “I never thought I’d see him dance like that. I thought you were just teasing him about taking a turn!”
Yuuri grinned. “Nope! We took some lessons last summer and Viktor bought a pole so we could practice at home. You were right, Chris, pole dancing is a lot of fun and it’s a really good workout.”
Yuuko absolutely refused to go on the pole. “I’m a mom now, I have to behave. Besides, I have even less idea what I’m doing than Sasha!” Mari and Takeshi also used the excuse of lacking much dance training. Chris took another turn before they left, but Viktor and Yuuri refused. “If I get on the pole, I have to let go of Yuuri. I don’t want to do that.” Yuuri’s reasoning was very similar.
Phichit narrowly escaped death in the morning, when he woke the three skaters up to go to practice. None of them were happy to be woken up that early, with hangovers, to go work. Phichit ignored them and stayed far enough out of reach that they couldn’t actually follow through on any of their threats, and kept being cheerful at them until they got to the rink.
Chris came up with a solution. “Phichit, if I give you my phone so you can see pictures from last night, will you shut up and let us focus?”
“Sure!” Phichit took Chris’s phone and headed for the bleachers. “Oh my god! Yuuri, that’s so dirty!”
Yuuri froze and looked at Viktor. “What did you let me do last night?”
“When did you learn how to pole dance? I don’t believe this!”
“Send me those!” Viktor shouted. “I was too busy watching.”
Yuuri's face heated up so much he was a bit concerned about the ice. “Vitya. You let me pole dance? With our sisters right there?”
“Chris was the one who got you to go!” Viktor protested. “You don’t remember?”
“Nope. After your dance, I don’t remember much else.”
Viktor raised an eyebrow at him. “So it’s okay for me to pole dance in front of our sisters, but not you?”
“You are impossible to embarrass.” Yuuri buried his face in his hands. “I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to talk to Mari again.”
“Mari said something about you being just like your dad. I have no idea if that’s supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing, but she did inform us all that if she saw a single picture online, she would kill us all unless we had your express permission to post them.” Chris blinked and turned to Phichit. “Did you hear that? Do not post those!”
Phichit burst into laughter. “Yuuri? Can I post them? Please?”
“Are the hamsters really that bored with our wedding being tomorrow?" Phichit didn't answer, but he looked so sad that Yuuri gave in. A little. "Okay. Maybe, after the wedding, I’ll look through and see if there are some that you can post.”
You might want to have some tissues handy in case of feels.
Timeline: April 3, 2011
Friends and family arrived throughout that day, and thankfully, everyone who was planning to come made it to Hasetsu without travel delays or drama. Viktor and Yuuri were both very dramatic when Phichit and Chris came to separate them for the night, but it was mostly for show – they had, after all, agreed to not see each other before the wedding.
The hardest part, for both of them, was taking off their engagement rings to give to their friends. Despite the last-second way they’d been chosen and bought, the rings had come to mean a great deal to them. Taking them off to get engraving done had been one thing, adding their names to the half-snowflake each ring bore, but handing them to someone else felt wrong.
Chris was not happy when Viktor woke him up early, but Viktor was too excited to sleep any longer. Misha was even less happy about it – “there’s no practice, Nika’s not here, and I still don’t get to sleep in?” – but he was mostly joking about it. They met Takeshi at the temple – Takeshi was much closer to Yuuri, but Yuuri had made Takeshi go with Viktor. “He’s Russian. He’s going to need help figuring out how to get dressed.”
As Takeshi talked them through getting the kimono on properly, Misha couldn’t help but tease Viktor. “I’m a little disappointed about one of the Russian traditions you’re skipping. I wanted to give you the wrong Yuri when you came seeking your bride.”
Viktor burst into laughter, causing Takeshi to smack him. “Hold still, this is hard enough without you wiggling around. What’s he talking about?”
“Russian weddings are much less serious than Japanese weddings, and there’s a tradition that the groom has to ransom the bride away from her family. Most of the time, they’ll bring out a fake bride first so they can demand more money.” Viktor wiped the tear of laughter from his eyes. “I would have loved to see how you got Yuri to go along with it. Of course, I’d probably have taken the role of the bride, and Yuuri would have had to buy me from Yakov.”
“Awww. No wrong Yuri moment either way then.” Misha pouted, but he couldn’t keep his own laughter in.
Yuuri got to sleep in later, but he still was not ready to get up when Phichit pounced on him. “Get up! You’re getting married, and you don’t want to be late to your own wedding, and we have to get you dressed!”
“I’m up. Is Viktor gone?”
“Viktor’s gone. It’s safe. Come on.” Phichit dragged Yuuri out of bed. “Mari’s scouting, and Georgi’s ready to go, we’re just waiting for you.”
“Ugh. Fine.” Yuuri crawled out of bed and threw on whatever pants were closest. It didn’t matter, he’d be changing at the temple, but it made him smile when he woke up on the walk there and realized the pants were Viktor’s. It felt like a good sign.
Viktor was starting to get impatient when Yuri ducked in. “They’re almost ready. Come on.” They followed Yuri into the temple, where Viktor met Yakov and Lilia, who were acting as his parents for the ceremony. Yuuri was already out with his parents. He looked amazing in his formal kimono, and Yakov had to grab Viktor’s arm to keep him from running over and hugging him.
When Yuuri caught sight of Viktor, all he could do was stare. Viktor was beautiful in sweatpants after training for hours, but cleaned up and dressed in the traditional black kimono? He didn’t look human. How had Yuuri gotten so lucky?
Flute music signaled their entrance, and the six of them walked in together and took their seats at a table, Yuuri on one side with his parents and Viktor on the other side with Yakov and Lilia. This part of the wedding had a very small attendance – Yuuri’s family, their rinkmates, Sasha, Phichit, and Chris were the only ones there. Even Takeshi had left after making sure Viktor was dressed properly to go to Yu-Topia and help set up for the reception.
It started with a purification ritual. Then there was sake – Yuuri had tried to explain the symbolism, but all Viktor really remembered was that three sips were lucky, and by taking three sips from three different cups, it brought the best luck. Yuuri and Viktor drank together first, and when they had finished, their parents were also given sake to sip the same way.
Viktor was signaled to recite his vow first. He’d chosen to go with a traditional Russian Orthodox vow, as a way of honoring his absent parents. "I, Viktor, take you, Yuuri, as my wedded husband and I promise you love, honor and respect; to be faithful to you, and not to forsake you until death do us part. So help me God, one in the Holy Trinity and all the Saints." Mila stepped forward and handed him a box, which Viktor opened carefully. He took Yuuri’s hand and slid the ring back on, kissing it before letting Yuuri’s hand go.
Yuuri responded with a traditional Japanese vow. “This man I marry, regardless of health. I will love him, respect him, comfort him, and help him until death. I will be faithful. I swear.” Yuri gave him the box containing Viktor’s ring, which Yuuri returned to its place on Viktor’s hand with a kiss as well.
The priest stood up. “Katsuki-Nikiforov Yuuri. Katsuki-Nikiforov Viktor.” Viktor and Yuuri stood, followed by their parents, and everyone bowed twice toward the altar. Viktor and Yuuri walked out together, followed by everyone else. Once they were in the lobby, everyone but Yuuri, Viktor, Phichit, and Chris left to go to Yu-Topia.
Viktor squealed and hugged Yuuri. “That was beautiful! I loved it. I love you.”
Yuuri hugged back. “Thanks. We need to get changed – can’t keep them waiting too long for food. Too many skaters present.”
Phichit and Chris helped them get out of their kimonos and into their suits. Mari met them at the door and sent Phichit and Chris in to find their seats. Once everyone was settled, she walked to the podium. “The grooms have arrived.” Viktor and Yuuri walked down the aisle arm in arm, heading for the table at the front of the room. Viktor couldn’t help smiling as Yuuri was already blushing a little at all the attention, and they had a lot of speeches to get through.
There were a lot more people here. Extended family of Yuuri’s, some cousins of Viktor’s who he’d barely remembered existed until Sasha asked if they were coming. Nearly all their skating friends had come, along with various soulmates, girlfriends or boyfriends, skating partners, or in some cases parents – Seung Gil, the Crispinos, and Phichit’s family. Irina and Boris had meant to come, but had to cancel when Natasha got an ear infection. Yuri was skeptical, but either way, they weren’t there. There were also some less welcome guests. Rykov was there with Sasha, and Yuuri’s parents had made him invite his classmates, and of course there were several reporters who either weren’t put off by the admission charge or got their publications to pay for it so they could be there.
A lot of the speeches were the same – admiration for how well they demonstrated soulbonds, good wishes for their future together, nice and generic. Chris’s speech was rather funny, as he talked about the ridiculously public way Yuuri and Viktor had been forced to conduct their relationship. “A lot of times, when you see a romance play out in the media like theirs has been, you have to wonder just how much of it is real and how much of it is for the cameras. I’ve been lucky enough to find out that, in this case at least, every bit of the love they show is real. I’ve learned not to believe any rumors of trouble in paradise unless I hear it directly from one of them – of course, that’s if they can remember to tell me about things.”
When Sasha had conveyed a request from Rykov to speak, Viktor and Yuuri’s initial reaction had been an immediate no way in hell were they going to let him even have the opportunity to ruin their wedding. Sasha had argued for him, and when Hiroko heard about it, she encouraged them to give him a chance. Reluctantly, they agreed. Yuuri reached for Viktor’s hand when Mari called Rykov up to the podium.
“As a young Russian figure skater, Viktor was my hero. Like many skaters in Russia, I was ambitious, and I knew that Yakov Feltsman was the best coach in the world. When Yuuri came to skate for him, I was angry, and jealous, and I said and did a lot of hateful things to him. Through it all, Viktor demonstrated the support that defines a good relationship. Even then, I couldn’t help but admire the strength they drew from each other. Now, in dealing with my own soulbond, I find myself asking the same question I used to ask myself on the ice: what would Viktor do?”
Mari couldn’t quite keep the surprise out of her voice as she called Kamil up to speak. Kamil told the story of how a somewhat spur-of-the-moment idea had not only potentially saved his career when Viktor and Yuuri intervened before he could throw a punch at his soulmate’s brother, it had also gained him two very good friends. From there, the speeches were a bit more lighthearted.
The last two speeches were Yuuri’s and Viktor’s. Yuuri went first this time. “Mom, Dad, when I was born, I know you didn’t expect me to leave home at the age of fourteen to pursue a career that would take me all over the world. I can’t ever properly express my gratitude for everything you had done for me up to that point, the sacrifices you made so that I could pursue my dream of skating, and for the biggest sacrifice, letting me go when an opportunity to achieve more than I had ever dreamed possible came around. That is a debt I can never properly repay. Hasetsu will always be a home to me, no matter where I live, and I will always honor the two of you.
“Minako, from the time I was young, you supported me. When I showed a talent for dance, you gave me a place to learn and encouragement to keep going despite the bullying I endured and the pain in my body from the hard work. I know you dreamt of me following in your footsteps and becoming a professional danseur, but when I chose to pursue skating instead, you let your own dream go to help me achieve mine. Above and beyond what a mentor would do, you came to Russia with me to help me adjust to the new life. I hope that what I’ve done with that new life has made you proud.” Minako started tearing up, clearly not having expected to be included in the expression of gratitude to their parents, but it had been something very important to Yuuri when they wrote these speeches.
“Yakov, Lilia, coming to Russia was a hard decision for me. The two of you welcomed me, and made it so that even in the worst of times, I’ve never had reason to regret my choice to come, or to stay. The two of you have supported me every step of the way as I’ve pursue gold medals and world records, but you’re both much more to me than that. You’ve looked after me, defending me against those who would try to tear me down as undeserving or weak, helping me fight my own demons that would try to hold me back. Yakov, people say all the time how your skaters are treated like family, and I cannot thank you enough for welcoming me into that family.” Yuuri walked over and handed Lilia a bouquet of flowers with a hug for both her and Yakov.
Viktor stood up as Yuuri came back and took the microphone from him. “My parents couldn’t be here today, because they died when I was still a child. I’ve never felt like an orphan, though, because Yakov, you’ve always been there for me. Our rink is a family, and because of the culture you create, I’ve never been alone. You’re my coach, and that comes with certain responsibilities for me, but you took on far more than just the job. You never made it official, but you never had to. You were the father I needed as I grew from a boy to a man. Lilia, even before you came back to our rink family, you were never more than a phone call away from me. I didn’t take advantage of that nearly as much as I should have, and since you’ve been back, everything has been so much better. Thank you for everything you’ve done both for me and for Yuuri over the last four years.
“Minako, there have been times where I’ve been scared to death of you. You and Mari both are very protective of Yuuri, as you should be, and even when it was directed at me I always appreciated knowing that he had people like you to look out for him. Once you were convinced that I was an ally and not a threat, you’ve been a good friend. Thank you for looking out for Yuuri, and I hope that you will continue to do so.”
“Hiroko, Toshiya. When I first came to Hasetsu looking for Yuuri, even before you knew what I was there for, you welcomed me and treated me like family. When I explained my intentions, instead of questioning me or making me prove myself worthy, you took me in and treated me like another son from the beginning. Even when my own parents were alive, I never had a home like Hasetsu and Yu-Topia have become for me, a place where all I need to be is me. My life in Russia has always been about pushing harder, climbing higher, becoming better. Every time we come to Hasetsu, I feel like I can stop and rest – which only makes me stronger when it’s time to take up the challenges again. By welcoming me into your family, you’ve done so much more than just accepted me, you’ve helped me to be a better skater and a better person. I can never thank you enough for that.” Viktor picked up the bouquet of flowers and took it to Hiroko, with hugs for her, Toshiya, and Minako.
After that, guests started leaving, until only their friends were left. Yuuri walked over to Phichit. “Give me your phone.”
“So I can look through pictures and Mari’s right here to hear me give permission.” As it turned out, the pictures weren’t too bad, and Yuuri fought down the embarrassment and agreed to let Phichit post several of them. “You might want to warn Mihara-san that these are being posted. They’re not exactly proper behavior for a skater representing Japan.”
Worlds! Finally! Yakov has a pretty good day.
Timeline: April 2011
The wedding was the dominant story in figure skating news, and to Yuuri’s relief, the bachelor party was nearly always just a small footnote – “Looks like they had fun.” Viktor was a little disappointed in that; saying it was fun was like saying Yuuri was a good skater. Yuuri blushed hard when Viktor said that, but Viktor insisted.
April was supposed to be a vacation. Instead, it was spent training up for Worlds. When he had some free time, Viktor worked on choreography – with at least his own and Yuri’s programs to choreograph, he didn’t want to fall behind. Yuri was very excited about his programs. There was a fight over the music – Yuri wanted to do Rum Tum Tugger, but Yakov wouldn’t let him. Viktor agreed with Yakov, as did Nikolai. Instead, he would do “Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer” and “Growltiger’s Last Stand”.
“What happened to surprising the audience?” Yuuri teased when he heard Growltiger.
Viktor shrugged. “He’ll do that just fine with his skills. He’s better than I was at his age! Also, the fans don’t know him yet, so it really doesn’t matter that much!”
Meanwhile, with Worlds moved, Phichit spent April packing and preparing to move instead of hanging out on the beach like he usually did this time of year. He was excited and nervous and wouldn’t shut up about the move to Detroit. His aunt and uncle had ended up moving to Detroit, with Celestino’s help in finding a house and getting settled in.
Mila brought a successful end to her career in novices, bringing a gold medal home from the European Criterium Cup. The rest of the rink took her out to celebrate with dinner where she got to taunt the older skaters with being allowed to eat whatever she wanted, which she did by eating three desserts and a salad.
Traveling to Moscow was relatively easy, and Viktor and Yuuri knew the city better than most of the places they went for competitions. Instead of wandering the city, they spent the first day there with Nikolai and Yuri. The first two days of competition were the prelims for the disciplines who needed it. None of Viktor or Yuuri’s friends had to participate, and they skipped watching to hang out.
The men’s short program was the first event that wasn’t a preliminary. After two groups, Japan’s Ichizo had the lead. Florentin broke out of group 3, joining Yuhan as the only skaters above 70. Aaron struggled a bit, ending up behind Florentin, while Su and Jude both did very well.
Yuuri was the first skater in the last group. Viktor stayed out with him to wait. “You’re good to skate this despite already being married, right?” Yakov said.
“I think I can manage,” Yuuri said with a smile. He skated out to center ice when they called his name, and smiled even bigger when they announced Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov. He started his routine off with a nice quad toe loop, into a sit spin. His step sequence was strong, and he kept that energy and joy going through the program until the final jump combination.
Yakov had a good bit to say, but he was working for it, and Yuuri’s face lit up as he broke his own record with a 92. Yakov shook his head. “If Viktor scores between your old record and your new one, you might want to watch for divorce papers.”
“I don’t think Viktor would do that. Unless he wants to plan the rewedding or something. He’ll just refuse to teach me another quad this summer.”
“In which case you learn it from Misha or me. Salchow?”
“Flip. I’ve only tried it a couple times in the real world, with Viktor watching me, but I’ve done it a lot in a dream.”
Yakov shook his head. “You two. I should have known.”
Following that was going to be hard, and it didn’t help when Kamil fell on his quad toe loop, dropping him below both Su and Jude. Misha looked good coming back from his injury, getting over 80, and Georgi held his own by getting into the high 70s, and Chris came out and set a new personal best in the mid-80s.
Yuuri walked Viktor out. Viktor hugged him over the wall. “I hope you’ve enjoyed having the record, because I will be taking it back.”
“I just realized… it’ll look like four different people. We’ve both changed our names since we last set the records.”
Viktor beamed, face glowing like the sun he was portraying. “That’s so cute! And true!” He skated out to center ice, still glowing. He got amazing height on his quad toe loop to start the combination, and managed to control it for a clean triple toe loop after. His spins and steps were good, and he raised an arm on his triple Lutz. Just to be sure.
Yakov told him off for it – he hadn’t practiced it much, so why take the chance? Viktor pointed to the scoreboard. “93.02. I took my record back. That’s why.”
“You probably didn’t need it.”
“Maybe not, but I didn’t know that while I was still on the ice, did I? Insurance.”
Yuuri and Viktor went out for their joint press conference. “Yuuri, Viktor stole your record. How do you feel about that?”
“Not at all surprised. He’s been working hard the last three months to improve his programs, and although my base value is still higher, he executed extremely well today. I’m very proud of my husband and I cannot wait to see what he does with the free skate.”
“Viktor, you came in here thinking you had to beat a 91, and then Yuuri raised the bar at the last minute. Did that make you nervous?”
“No. It made me motivated. My husband did amazingly today, and it pushed me to do even better.”
“You two seem awfully happy to say ‘my husband’.”
“I am!” Yuuri snuggled into Viktor’s side. “I’m sure we’ll get over it, but it’s still so new.”
Viktor nodded and wrapped Yuuri up tight. "I don't expect to ever get over it. It's quite the amazing thing to say!"
Viktor kept a close eye on Yuuri that evening for signs of distress. They went out to dinner with a big group of friends, and aside from cuddling up to Viktor as much as he could get away with, Yuuri behaved normally – and as Yuri pointed out when Jude started teasing them, them being cuddly with each other was hardly anything noteworthy. “They’re gross like that all the time. Except on the ice, because Yakov said he was kicking Yuuri out of the rink if they did, so they keep it to only a little nauseating.”
Georgi smirked from where he was sitting with Anya leaning on his shoulder. “At this point, if he’s kicking one of them out, it’s more likely to be Viktor. He’s not kicking out his son-in-law who’s also his best-behaved skater, not now that the quality loss from kicking out his best skater is just a tiny drop.”
“After Viktor’s little speech about Yakov being his father, Yakov’s not letting Viktor go anywhere either.” Misha stuck out his tongue. “Although honestly, if Yakov did try to make either of them leave, the rest of us would probably revolt.”
Once they got back to the hotel, Yuuri pulled the green dragon plushie out of his bag to cuddle. “Good luck with your record tomorrow!”
“Thank you!” Viktor kissed him. “You’d better be right behind me on the podium, you know. I’d love to see you get another record for me to beat!”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Are you all right?”
“Yeah. I’m still not letting go of the dragon for anything but hugging you, but it’s precautionary, not me being in meltdown. I should be good to go tomorrow.”
The men’s free skate was the first event the next day. After two groups, the big news was Sachio putting up a huge score, smashing his old personal best. In the third group, Kamil recovered from his mistakes the day before, rebounding into the top, Paul did quite well, and Sachio’s score held up well enough to guarantee him top 10, which if Yuuri did as well as expected, would allow Japan to keep their three spots. Su stumbled a couple times, dropping him below Kamil, and Misha and Georgi gave Chris a challenge.
Viktor and Yuuri held their breaths when Chris got to the triple Lutz he’d struggled with in the Finals and at Europeans. This time, though… “That, ladies and gentlemen, was a quad Lutz! He fell, but he got the rotations in!” Viktor and Yuuri squealed and cheered loudly – good for their friend!
Yuuri had to follow Chris, and Yakov looked at him critically. “You know you can beat him.”
“I know. I hope I don’t beat Viktor, because with our base scores and his lead it would mean he messed up too much, but I can get the silver if I just do what I know I can.”
“You’re not rattled by the quad Lutz?”
“That was Chris. Rykov rattled me because he did the quad to beat me. Chris did the quad because he wanted to push himself. I’m fine.” Yuuri handed the green dragon to Viktor. “Let’s go.”
Yuuri started out clean, hitting his first triple axel and his quad toe loop cleanly. His layback spin was flawless, and his triple toe loop sailed. The triple Lutz made him smile, thinking of Chris’s accomplishment, and he finished clean with a flying camel spin. He took a minute to catch his breath before skating over to the Kiss and Cry.
Yakov met him there, carrying the dragon. “Vitya said to tell you well done and he looks forward to breaking your record.”
“I don’t have a record!” Yuuri took the dragon, holding it beside the swan wearing a ninja mask he’d picked up.
“Vitya thinks you do.” Yakov started the critique, which Yuuri listened to attentively because it was easier than waiting for the score. “And Vitya’s right,” Yakov said when it came up. 177, for a total of 269. “You two seem to be having a good competition.”
Viktor declared war right from the beginning, taking off for his quad flip with one arm raised. He never let up, hitting his quad toe loop cleanly and letting the firebird soar through the spins and triples. There was nothing that could stop Viktor as he danced and jumped. He finished strong, landing a triple toe loop cleanly.
When he got to the Kiss and Cry, Yuuri handed him the ninja swan. “Who’d you get to throw that?”
Viktor took it and burst into laughter. “For once, it wasn’t me! This is so cute.”
Yakov rolled his eyes. “You two be careful tonight. It’s supposed to rain.”
Yuuri looked confused, but Viktor started giggling. “We’re not that sweet! Besides, we’re celebrating a gold medal one way or the other.”
“And a silver, and bronze if Chris comes with us,” Yuuri said. “I can’t imagine you don’t get gold, Vitya, you did so good.”
The score popped up, and Viktor and Yuuri both screamed. Viktor hadn’t just beaten Yuuri. Viktor had obliterated Yuuri’s record. 187.96, for an overall total of so very close to 281.
“Once again, Yuuri, you set some records only to watch Viktor beat you. What does that mean for you?”
“It means that I haven’t quite achieved the dream of being on my husband’s level just yet. I’ll be working this summer to improve and hopefully fight him for more records next season.”
“Viktor, you and Yuuri haven’t had trouble competing before. Does that change now that he’s become an actual threat to you?”
“Not at all! Can you imagine how boring it would be to never have a challenge? My scores here yesterday and today happened because I was not just determined to get the record, I knew that I had to push myself to my limits if I didn’t want my husband to take it from me! If I’m going to have a challenger, who better than the person who I love and whose victories I also celebrate?”
“You two are very close with Christophe Giacometti. Did you know he was planning to attempt a quad Lutz?”
Viktor shook his head. “That was amazing! Chris is a good friend, and that was a lovely surprise for us! I’m so proud of him. I hope he’ll join us tonight to celebrate. Records come and go, but no one will take first quad Lutz from him.”
Post-Worlds Celebration and post-wedding shenanigans.
Timeline: May 2011
They went out celebrating, of course. Viktor insisted on celebrating Yuuri’s records, even though they only lasted a few minutes, and of course there were three medals, three records that would stand at least through the summer, and Chris’s quad Lutz. “That was impressive, and such a surprise! Well done, Chris!” Viktor said as he finished the toast.
Masumi growled a little. “Next time you decide to learn a new skill, try not to hurt yourself doing it?”
“Oh, come on, it was just a minor injury, it’s not like I missed competitions!” Chris draped himself over Masumi’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, I’m planning to rest on my laurels for a while and just clean up the Lutz. I’m one of only two skaters who can do three different quads.”
“For now! Someone’s going to learn a loop, or figure out how to do one of your jumps,” Misha said. “Probably not me, but someone.”
Ladies and ice dance took the next two days. Tamae won another gold medal, and then announced her retirement. Skye finished fifth, which she was happy with. Masumi and Jolanda struggled a bit and missed the podium, but Anya and Christov recovered from their problems at Europeans to take the bronze.
Everyone waited to see what would happen with the exhibition. With Yuuri skating right before Viktor, what would they do?
The audience nearly died of laughter when Viktor and Yuuri took the ice for Yuuri’s skate. They were still performing Odette and Siegfried’s pas de deux. It’s just that they were performing it with Siegfried the Tiger and Odette the Sheep. The effect was surreal. Then, for Viktor’s tiger exhibition, he spent the whole time stalking Yuuri until finally he could tackle him and kiss him.
The banquet was boring as usual. Lots of schmoozing with sponsors, lots of congratulating medalists and record winners and Chris for his quad Lutz, not much that was fun at all. This year, though, no one minded. The real fun would come the next few days.
Misha was the first to propose the toast, and a lot of the others there were confused by the shouting and stomping. Viktor let it go on for long enough to be sure everyone was paying attention, and then pulled Yuuri into a nice long kiss. Once he finally broke it off, he cleared his throat and shouted. “If you’re not sure what just happened, find a Russian and ask!” He took his champagne glass and threw it at the floor, where it shattered into a lot of tiny pieces. The Russians in the room cheered and congratulated him.
Yuuri stared at Viktor in shock. “What was that?”
Viktor stared at him blankly until he remembered. “That’s right, Misha skipped this one. It’s a traditional form of telling the future – the more pieces, the longer our marriage will stay happy.” He knelt and carefully looked through the pieces with a big smile. “Look at that, we’ve got quite a while before we need to start worrying!”
Yuuri shook his head. Russians. “How are you going to drink more champagne?”
“Easy! I just get another glass! When you’ve got a room full of drunk Russians, you keep extras around.” Viktor winked at Yuuri and headed off to replace his shattered glass.
As the party went on, the toasts made less and less sense, and Viktor and Yuuri became more and more enthusiastic about sweetening the champagne with their kisses. People started leaving for the night around the time Yuuri grabbed Viktor’s ass during the kiss.
The party continued for another two days – three being a lucky number in Japan, Viktor had agreed that a three-day party would be sufficient. He’d jokingly suggested that nine was luckier than three and they should have a nine-day party, but even he agreed with Yuuri and Yakov and the others that there was no need for that at all.
For the honeymoon, Viktor hadn’t gotten them a private island, but they did have a private beach, and the house they were renting let them bring Vicchan and Makkachin with them. They spent most of their time on the beach or in the water, but when it rained, they stayed inside and played Assassin’s Creed or talked about ideas for the next year or just enjoyed being together.
“Have you thought at all about next year?” Yuuri asked one morning as they lay in bed listening to the rain.
Viktor shook his head. “Not yet. I’ve been busy with getting ready for Worlds and thinking about Yurio’s cats, so I haven’t come up with anything for myself. Why?”
“What about you?”
“I’ve thought about it a little, but nothing’s really jumping out at me. Don’t suggest pole dancing. I know you have ideas, but I don’t think I could pull it off.”
Viktor pouted. “Why not?”
“Because if I showed up drunk to every competition Yakov would kill me, and if there’s anyone but you or our instructor in the room I get too embarrassed about it to dance the way you’d want me to unless I’m drunk. Therefore: I can't do the program. Yet. Give me some time to get a little more comfortable with the pole.”
“Okay. Yakov will probably want us to have ideas when we get back, so be thinking about it. Just not too hard, he’ll get over it if we come back completely idea-less. It’s not like we don’t have something else to work on while we figure out what we’re doing!”
“Oh? I’m training a quad flip, but what are you going to do?” Viktor hadn't mentioned any big off-season plans, and what with choreographing both Yuri's programs and his own, and the short off-season, he hadn't expected Viktor to make any. Leave it to Viktor to surprise him.
“I’d already been thinking I’d try for a quad Lutz this year before Chris went and did one, and now I'm motivated to work harder. I won’t get the first, but I could be the first to do four different quads in one overall program.”
“Ambitious. Good luck. Four quads? That’s… if you pull it off, it’ll be amazing.” Yuuri wanted to see it.
Viktor smiled softly and started playing with Yuuri's hair. “Then there's university to look forward to as well. Have you decided what you’re going to study?”
“No… my brain’s a little at war with itself. One part wants to find the most practical thing I can, like tourism or economics, and the other part says that Mom and Dad run the onsen just fine without college degrees, Mari’s working on a practical degree, and I can do whatever I want that I can work with professors around competitions. Email and online programs should help a lot.”
“If you do that, what would you study?”
“Computer science, foreign languages, or maybe graphic design. You’re still planning on history?”
“Yes! It’s so fun. For what it’s worth, I think you should do what you want. The onsen’s in good hands with Mari in charge when your parents retire. Any of those would be useful anyway, I would think!”