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."