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Transition: Coming Out

Chapter Text

“They can’t fucking do this. You earned…” Yuri stared at the listings for the Russian Federation’s team for the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Victor shrugged. “We knew it was a risk.”

“But I want to skate against you both. I’m strong again, I can keep up… I want to beat you, and I can’t fucking do that if those homophobic assholes won’t let you fucking skate!” Yuri was vibrating with rage so hard that Yuuri was afraid he’d come apart the seams.

Otabek reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. “Skate against the records.”

“I don’t want to skate against fucking records. I already broke that record.”

“Which I broke again,” Victor said.

“For about ten minutes,” Yuuri says, laughing.

“I know I can beat the records. I want to stand on a fucking podium with that idiot on one side and that idiot on the other.” Yuri pointed at Victor and Yuuri in turn.

“It could be me,” Otabek said, his voice even and his expression thoroughly bemused. “I have the quads for it.”

Yuri’s eyes widened. “Oh god. Beka. Yes, of course.” He flushed in embarrassment, and Otabek laughed.

“Yurotchka, I know what you’ve been fighting for. And I know you’d be just as happy to have this idiot,” Otabek said, pointing to himself, “standing up with you as either of them.”

“Only if they can fucking skate,” Yuri said. Then his eyes widened. “I need to call my agent.”

“Yura,” Victor started, looking alarmed. “What are you… you can’t…”

Yuuri frowned. “What?”

“I fucking can and I fucking will,” Yuri said.

“They can take you off the list as easily as they took me,” Victor said.

“I’m not gay,” Yuri said.

“The optics on that aren’t ideal,” Otabek said. “How much do you want to explain it to them? You know they’ll ask.”

“Fuck optics,” Yuri said. “I don’t fucking care. Either they let Victor on the Olympic team and I’ll stay, or I’m not going. It’s not as if they can make me.”

• • •

The press conference was startlingly well attended for such short notice. When Yuuri said so, peeking in from behind the temporary curtain, Victor laughed and said, “That’s the benefit of being in New York. Everyone’s already here.”

Yuri’s agent, Annette, one of Goldie’s employees and a brisk Black woman in her mid-twenties, had set up the conference in a cafe on 42nd Street, in a surprisingly spacious private room that was packed, wall to wall, with reporters.

Annette stood at the small podium and said clearly, “If you’re here, you have our press page. Please pay attention to spellings. Yuri’s last name is Plisetsky. There is a Y at the beginning of his first name and the end of his last name. All pertinent information is in the press kit. Mr. Plisetsky has an announcement to read. Whether he answers questions probably depends on what you ask him. Please remember that he is a minor, emancipated, but a minor nonetheless. With that, I’d like to introduce Yuri Plisetsky.” She stepped back, clapping her hands, and looked to the temporary “wings” formed by the curtain that draped the walls.

Yuri stepped out of the wings, back dancer-straight in his tailored grey suit, and took the microphone.

He read from a sheet of paper gripped in his left hand, resting on the podium but not letting go. “I found out yesterday that I have been offered the privilege of representing the Russian Federation at the Olympic games. I wish I could say that I was thrilled by this, but it is difficult to be happy about being on a team where our most valuable member, someone who earned his position dozens of times over, was denied a chance to compete for reasons unrelated to sport. Like any athlete, my goal is to win, but a victory is no victory if the best competition is defeated not by my own skill, but by my skating federation’s fear and bigotry.”

He paused, looked over at the wings, and then continued. “Victor Nikiforov is not only the most decorated men’s figure skating champion in history, but he has been instrumental in bringing the sport to new levels of artistry, and has pledged to be my coach when my current coach, Yakov Feltman, retires after the Olympics. He and his husband are some of my best competition, and I’ve been working incredibly hard to develop the skills and stamina to push them off the gold medal podium and take their world records away.”

A low murmur rippled through the audience. He ignored it. “I want to beat them, and I can’t do that if Victor is not competing. Japan doesn’t recognize their marriage, so he can’t compete for Japan, and he’s given his life to bringing glory to Russia. He is the reason that we have three slots at the games, and while I may be certain of my current abilities, the fact of the matter is that at our last competition together, he beat me up, down, and sideways, and it’s ridiculous that he’s not even on the list.”

The murmur grew to a rumble, and he said, “So with that, I’m giving Russia a choice. They can have both of us on the team, and have the best possible shot at two medals in the Olympics, or they can have neither of us on the team, and good luck getting slots for next year’s Worlds.”

The room erupted in shouting. Annette looked out, spotted a reporter she knew well, and said, “One at a time. Joyce?”

The room stilled, and a reporter’s voice called out, “Just to clarify, you’re giving an ultimatum saying the only way you’ll compete for Russia is if Victor Nikiforov is also allowed to compete?”

“He earned the spot more than I did,” Yuri said. “I’m not interested in medals that the best people aren’t allowed to compete for.”

A masculine voice cut through, “Are you sure you don’t have a more personal interest?”

Yuri looked baffled and annoyed. “He’s my friend. He’s going to be my coach. He choreographed the routine that broke his own world record at the Grand Prix final last season when I took gold. Of course it’s personal.”

“Are you gay, too?” the same voice said.

“No, I’m not,” Yuri said, without hesitation.

The same guy’s voice rang over the clamor. “Is it true that you’re currently living with Otabek Altin?”

Annette started to step up to the podium, but Yuri held up a hand. “Look, I didn’t say I’m not gay because I would be ashamed to be gay. I said I’m not gay because I’m asexual and aromantic, and I’m living in a queerplatonic relationship with my best friend. And if you don’t know what that means,” he hesitated a split second to bite back an expletive, “Google it. I’ve said my piece.”

He balled up the paper in his hand, stuffed it into his trouser pocket, and stalked back into the wings.

Victor gave him a hug and murmured, “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Yurio, than are dreamt of in their philosophy. Thank you.”

Then Yuri moved into Otabek’s arms and bent his head against Otabek’s shoulder. “Fuck.”

• • •

Most of the immediate reaction was confusion, with a large percentage of the negative responses coming from people who heard the “queer” in “queerplatonic” and failed to understand any other words from the press statement. Several conservative media voices launched into tirades about how unnatural it was, until someone pointed out that most clergy were expected to be at least performatively asexual, and that living with someone platonically was what most conservatives would think of as “good behavior” in a 16-year-old kid. That didn’t stop the tirades, but it did change the discussion in more lucid circles.

The Russian Federation made no public reply, but Yuuri Katsuki received a call from the JSF three days later.

He was at the rink when the call came in, and he listened for a few moments before his face went dead white and he landed on his knees on the ice, rested his head against the boards, still listening, waving blindly until Victor, Yuri, Otabek, Phichit, Celestino, and Yakov had gathered curiously around him as he asked questions in Japanese.

Phichit and Victor startled as they got the gist of what Yuuri was saying, and Victor knelt to put his ear up against the other side of the phone in a vain attempt to hear more.

“Jesus, what?” Yuri said, and Yuuri held up a silencing hand.

The call went on for another minute, and then Yuuri said, “Doumo sumimasen, arigatougozaimasu!” and let the phone slip out of his fingers. Victor caught it.

“Oh my god, what?” Yuri said, alarmed. “Why were you apologizing?”

“That was more of a ‘Thank you from the bottom of my heart for going through the trouble,’” Phichit said. “But yeah, tell us!”

Yuuri looked completely shocked, and Victor put a gentle finger on his cheek to turn his head. “Yuuri? Can you talk?”

Yuuri blinked, and then said, “Victor Nikiforov, will you do me the honor of marrying me?”

Victor laughed. “We did that, remember?”

“... In Tokyo?” Yuuri finished.

Victor blanched, and then flushed, and finally said, “What.”

“They didn’t call right away because they had to talk to the ISU and the IOC, but apparently your situation is odd enough and public enough that the IOC really doesn’t want to let Russia win on this one. Japan is willing to authorize extraordinary naturalization for you. And if I adopt Yuri, both of you. They’ve never done that for anyone, but the legal option exists.”

Yuri sagged against Otabek, who threw an arm around Yuri’s waist without seeming even remotely surprised.

“But the ISU says two years, and the IOC…” Yakov said.

“The IOC is barely willing to let Russia come to the Olympics at all. The fact that they refused to let their national champion compete without even giving a reason? Apparently the IOC was exploring options for putting you on the refugee team, but there was some resistance since you’re still able to travel for now, and aren’t technically a refugee,” Yuuri said. “They’re willing to waive the time requirements on the grounds that we’ve been married for almost a year anyway, that you have spent the majority of the past two years in Japan, that both of you put in your good faith efforts to go through the steps required by your home country, and the fact that this option has not been available to us until now because of Japan’s laws. Which have apparently been quietly changing in spots. Including Tokyo.”

“But adoption?” Yuri asked.

“You’re able to consent because of that thing you did in the fall with the emancipation, and there’s actually a really long history of adopting young men into families without sons, to provide heirs, traditionally,” Yuuri said. “I think it’s actually more common than infant adoption. From Russia’s perspective, you’re legally an adult.”

Yuri took a deep shuddering breath. “Japanese citizenship?”

Yuuri nodded. “Both of you.”

• • •

Later, they did a conference Skype call with both Yuuri’s parents and the Nishigori family. Yuuri began by explaining the legal situation. When he said, “And if Yuri is adopted by a Japanese citizen, he can compete for Japan,” both Hiroko and Yuuko said, “We’d be happy to…” and then started laughing and apologizing to each other. It took several minutes for a gobsmacked Yuri to fully process the fact that he had not one offer, but three.

“It’s all a technicality since you’re an adult and supporting yourself,” Victor said. “I suppose it boils down to whether you want to have a bunch of younger siblings, or whether you want Yuuri to be your brother or your father, legally. And me, I suppose. I’d be fine with either.”

“It’s not like we’d abandon you, regardless,” Yuuri said.

“We like having you around,” Toshiya said. “But you’ll be welcome as family whether or not you’re legally ours or Yuuri’s.”

“I need to think a bit,” Yuri said. “Thank you all. It… means a lot.”

• • •

It was ultimately the triplets that decided him. They swiped their mother’s laptop after she went to bed and sent a video chat request.

“Yeah?” Yuri said, as their faces appeared on the screen.

“We figured it out,” Lutz said.

“You can’t be a Katsuki, it would be too confusing,” Loop said, shaking her head.

Axel said, “We really want you to be our brother.”

“I might not be around much,” Yuri said. “The lease is up on the rental and I don’t know where we’re going next once we come back to Japan.”

“We do,” all three girls said at once.

“Tou-san and Victor have been doing a secret project that we aren’t supposed to know about,” Lutz said.

“But it’s so obvious. And we heard them talking about it at night,” Axel said.

Loop continued, “It’s next to the rink, we pass it every day.”

Axel grinned. “We snuck in and looked and it’s got room for everyone.”

Lutz said, “There are two closed onsen there. We think that Victor bought one of them for a skating school.”

Loop finished, “Anyway, there’s going to be plenty of room and I think we’re moving there, too. Our apartment is very small for six people and Victor was talking to Tou-san about it. Before.”

“Be our brother,” Axel said.

“We really want you to,” Lutz agreed.

“It’ll be fun!” Loop said.

Yuri laughed. “Yeah, okay.”

Chapter Text

"Vitya, I don’t think I can do this,” Yuuri said. “It’s so much.”

Victor tried to glance at Yuuri, but the makeup artist in front of him had threatened to stab him with a lash curler if he moved so much as a muscle again, so he settled for saying through motionless lips, “It will be fine. He’s an ally. He’s not going to try to put you on the spot.”  Only it came out a lot more like, “Ihlll ee ine. He snally. Snot gna try du puchu onna spa.”

“Pardon?” Yuuri said, and Victor put a hand on the makeup artist’s arm. The guy straightened for a moment and Victor repeated himself.

“I just… I don’t even know why we’re doing this.”

Victor smiled. “Because you’re amazing and we’re fascinating and the Olympics are coming, and you know it’s helping.”

The cards, letters, emails, tweets, and comments had been constant for nearly a year, but every time they spoke in public, there was an uptick in teens saying, “This helped me.”

Yuuri sighed.

“Do it for them if you can’t do it for you,” Victor said. “The happier you look, the more hope they have.”

“Not sure that’s helping, but I’ll try,” Yuuri said, touching the exposed undercut and then the tight, neat loop his hair had been gathered back into. He caught his reflection in the mirror, and everything was in place.

“You look fabulous,” the makeup artist said, and then glared at Victor. “You, on the other hand, need to hold still or you’re going to go out looking lopsided.”

Victor started to nod, remembered, then froze and said, “Of course.”

• • •

The energy in the theater was incredible as they ran out onto the stage, hand in hand, laughing, as the band played a raucous riff with the Eros melody running through it.

“So glad to see you both!” Colbert said in their ears as he gave them an over-enthusiastic hug and then ushered them to their seats.

Yuuri sat closest to the desk, but leaned toward Victor, who took the hint and wrapped a steadying arm across Yuuri’s shoulders, twining the fingers of his right hand in with the fingers of Yuuri’s right hand, taking care that his ring was still visible.

There was a little swell in the volume of the already noisy applause, and Victor grinned as Yuuri blushed.

When it finally settled down, their host said, “Well, aren’t you two just utterly adorable? How long have you been married?”

“Which time?” Yuuri asked, which got a laugh.

“Oh, that’s right, you just got married again! How was it?”

Victor laughed. “We signed papers in a little room, and then walked out into the biggest street party I’ve ever seen. And then we had to leave the party to go sign more papers. There were so many papers.”

“So you’re Japanese now?” Colbert asked.

“I have been naturalized, yes,” Victor said. “I am still learning about my home, and probably will for my whole life.”

“And there was a rumor that you were going to adopt your rival, Yuri Plisetsky?” Colbert asked Yuuri.

Yuuri blushed. “Yura? It was an option we considered, but we ended up losing out to the most adorable children in the world who sold him on becoming their big brother.”

“I think a lot of us were impressed at him standing up to the Russian government that way on your behalf,” Colbert said to Victor.

“None more than me,” Victor said. “We don’t call him the Ice Tiger for nothing.”

“There’s been a marked increase in awareness since his press conference of the very concept of asexuality. Were you aware?”

“It wasn’t a shameful secret,” Yuuri said. “I mean, if I think about it, sex had nothing to do with my falling in love with Victor, and it took a ridiculous amount of time for me to even start to grasp that this was going to be the great romance of my life. I actually thought I might be ace. I didn’t even think of myself as gay until I realized that I was head over heels for him and not just in a ‘This guy is the most amazing skater I’ve ever seen and I want to be him’ way.”

The audience laughed and Victor leaned over and kissed Yuuri on the cheek. Yuuri flushed.

“People have been saying, ‘Oh, why do you have to make a big deal about it? Why would we care if you don’t want to have sex?’ And I know you two have had some things to say on that subject.”

“Given that he’s 16, and has been dealing for months with questions about his relationship to Otabek,” Victor said, “it was in both their interest to stop the speculation. I’ve known Yura for many years, and if he was gay, he’d say so, and probably swear at you for asking. He’s not one to hide. And I think he just got fed up with people trying to sexualize something that a) isn’t any of their business, b) isn’t sexual, and c) has been a really stabilizing and nurturing relationship. And he’s been pretty pissed at how people have been treating us, especially back in Russia.”

“So you’re definitely going to the Games?” Colbert said.

“I will be marching with Yura and Yuuri behind the Japanese flag,” Victor said.

“Any predictions?” Colbert asked.

They both laughed. Victor looked at Yuuri, who said, “We practice together, and we are all very competitive, and that’s had some interesting results. I don’t think any of us could tell you who’s going to walk away with the gold. I’m going to do my best, and I hope Victor and Yura do as well. I think we’re all working on some surprises. Our base programs are all very similar in difficulty. What we do with them once we’re out on the ice is another story.”

“I have a clip here of your memorable pairs skate at the 2016 Russian Nationals. Can you set this up for us?”

Yuuri said, “The thing that finally brought Victor to me was this program of his that I skated without music, that Yura’s new siblings posted online without my consent.”

“So you’re not mad,” Colbert said, and the audience laughed.

“No,” Yuuri said. “Though at the time I was so embarrassed I think I hoped the ground would swallow me, that video, and all trace of my existence from the universe.”

“So you decided to use this for your exposition at the Grand Prix Final…” Colbert said.

Victor jumped in, “And I suggested that we do it together.”

“So a pairs skate?” Colbert asked.

“It’s actually ice dancing,” Yuuri said. “The way we do it now has more pairs elements, but at the time neither of us had quite enough upper body strength to do more than simple lifts. We just didn’t have time to develop those then, though we do them now.”

“So then, Russia…”

Behind them, the tape started playing, with Victor skating.

“Where were you?” Colbert asked Yuuri.

“Already on the ice,” Yuuri said. “I’d just gotten in from the airport, thrown my clothes at some friends, and gone out.”

“You had no idea,” Colbert said to Victor.

Victor laughed, and shook his head. “I knew something was off when the music started. The aria and the duetto are not identical at the beginning, so I knew the music was different, but the skating is identical at first, and my muscle memory took me through it. But he had an exhibition scheduled for the next day, so it wasn’t, how do you put it… on my radar.”

On the screen, Yuuri skated into the spotlight.

“What was that moment like?” Colbert asked.

“It was honestly the best present anyone had ever gotten me for my birthday. Here was this amazing man who was supposed to be thousands of miles away, and he was there and we were skating,” Victor said. Yuuri turned and handed him a handkerchief without a word. Victor wiped his cheeks and said with a wave of his hand, “See? I still get emotional over it.”

“Was that the beginning of the end with Russia?” Colbert asked as the film cut to the strange reaction to the end of their skate.

Victor rolled his eyes. “The beginning of the end with Russia was when I was 15 and skating with hair down to my ass and the most feminine costumes I could get away with. Russia tolerated me because I brought home medals, but they never accepted me. Perhaps one day they’ll get their wish and have no more queer people, but they’ll never recover what they’re losing with every one of us who leaves.”

“Was that the costume that Yuuri wore last year?” Colbert asked, and two pictures showed behind them of Victor and Yuuri both wearing the same costume.

Yuuri nodded. “He talked about wanting to embody both the masculine and the feminine, and it was actually the spark that really opened up my performance. It’s been really freeing to let that inform my performances.”

“You’ve been really playing up the androgyny this year,” Colbert commented.

“Genderfluidity, actually,” Yuuri said. “Androgyny would be looking more ambiguous. I’ve been actively moving back and forth along the gender spectrum.”

“As a performance thing or something more? If you don’t mind my asking?” Colbert said.

Yuuri grinned. “You know, someone asked us last year about this and we realized that neither of us was particularly binary about our gender, and they joked that we were still gay then, because it was still a same-sex relationship.”

“We laughed, at first,” Victor said. “But then it was one of those moments where you’re laughing and it’s like, ‘Hahahaha...oh.’”

“So then, drag? Or something else?” Colbert asked.

Yuuri shrugged. “It doesn’t really feel that way to me. Like, pretty much anything that isn’t me in my sweats and a nerdy t-shirt is drag to me on some level, but it doesn’t feel more weird to let my hair down,” and with that, he pulled the tie out of his hair and shook it out around his shoulders, “and put on lipstick,” and with that he pulled a colored lip gloss out and slicked it on, “than it would to put on a suit like this and put on chapstick.”

“I’m half expecting you to turn that suit into a dress,” Colbert said.

With a smirk, Yuuri stood up, and handed his jacket to Victor, unbuttoned his shirt, and pulled it off, revealing a silky, cap-sleeved dress that tumbled down around Yuuri’s thighs. The audience went wild. He modestly stepped out of his trousers and shoes  and sat down stocking footed, crossing his legs at the ankle and handing the rest of his clothes to Victor, who set them neatly aside.

“So then are you trans?” Colbert asked after he stopped laughing at the way he’d been set up.

Yuuri shrugged. “I’m comfortable in a masculine body that also works well as a feminine body when I want it to. Nonbinary is more accurate, but trans isn’t 100% wrong either. The Venn diagrams aren’t a complete overlap, but they’re not separate, either. Being able to step out of my fear and into a more masculine or more feminine performance mode has been really helpful for my skating, and for being able to get past my anxiety to talk to people. But the ‘real me’ is somewhere hiding under a blanket assuming that all the attention is a huge mistake someone made and the joke’s going to be up eventually. I’m hoping that talking about these things will make it maybe less scary for other people with anxiety, other people who don’t feel like they fit. Victor was that person for me in so many ways.”

Colbert turned to the camera and said, “When we come back, we’ll continue this conversation and get a little taste of some of the cross-training they’ve been working on.”

• • •

During the break, Colbert said, “If you need us to cut anything, we can.”

“How did it look?” Yuuri asked.

A producer gave a thumbs up.

“Are you going to be doing any quick changes?” Colbert asked Victor.

Victor laughed. “It takes a hell of a lot more contouring for me to look plausibly feminine anymore. That side still exists, but I’m comfortable enough that I only pull it out when I have the time to do it justice.”

The makeup artist came over and sighed at Yuuri’s lips, wiped them off, touched up the foundation, applied deep matte red, and then stood back while a production assistant brought out Yuuri’s heels. Then he came in and fixed Yuuri’s hair and went offstage with a satisfied nod.

Someone cleared the rest of Yuuri’s clothes offstage, and they took their places again.

After the producer signalled their start, Colbert said, “So you were a dancer first?”

Yuuri laughed. “Years of ballet. And others.”

“I had ballet too, but skating was definitely first. Yuuri’s the real dancer of the two of us. It’s how I fell in love with him,” Victor said.

“We agreed that we would never speak of that again,” Yuuri said.

“I just said…” Victor started, and then stopped. “He’s an amazing dancer, in every dance style I’ve ever seen him try.”

“You were going to show us something?” Colbert asked.

They both smiled, and stood. Victor took off his black jacket, slid off his tie, and snapped his red suspenders, revealing that his pants were cut much more loosely than he was accustomed to wearing. He pulled a long piece of silky red fabric out of his pocket, shook it out, and handed it to Yuuri, who fixed it in place as a fluttery, flared wrap skirt over the less showy black dress.

The two of them moved to an open side stage, and got into position as the lights went down and spotlights landed on them, standing ten feet away from each other.

The band started playing “On Love: Eros” shifted into a sultry tango, and the two began to dance.

At first, it was not clear who was leading who, the natural back and forth of the tango allowing each of them twists and turns. Yuuri’s higher heels and Victor’s dance heels put them eye to eye, and they stepped quickly, hundreds of hours of practice together making it easy to play off of each other. Victor led Yuuri for a pass across the floor, and then there was a pause, and a beat, and a shift, and Yuuri was taking charge of the dance, leading, and Victor was happily being led, throwing in kicks and flares and sultry looks to meet Yuuri in the middle, as Yuuri dipped him deep and Victor kicked up. Then they came back together, slow, sultry, the power entirely in Yuuri’s every step, every toss of his head, his hand firm on the small of Victor’s back.

The arrangement of the music played up the sultry guitars and left out all the hurry of the skating version, and as they danced their seduction, the rest of the world fell away.

When it came to a breathless stop, they were nose to nose, each with one arm around the other’s waist, and each with an arm up around the other’s shoulder with a hand on the back of the other’s head.

«You take my breath away, my love,» Victor said.

«Not yet, darling,» Yuuri answered, and then kissed him as the spotlight went out.

Colbert led out the next commercial break by loosening his tie and making a show of wiping his brow, saying, “We’ll finish up with Yuuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov after we return from these messages. Assuming we can pry them apart.”

Because the thing was pre-taped, they were able to take a few minutes to cool down after, drinking water and getting another visit from hair and makeup.

“I can see how that wouldn’t play well in Russia,” Colbert said to them before the main cameras started rolling for the next segment.

Victor snorted. “We’re apparently walking gay propaganda. The ironic thing is that Yuuri only started playing up the drag because we thought it might be safer out walking at night, and then it became rapidly apparent that we were unlikely to return long enough for it to be relevant. We make gay look too good for Russia to tolerate us.”

Colbert tipped his head and said, “You aren’t wrong. You know, that dance alone is going to stop a lot of the arguments people have been having about you two.”

“You mean the ones where I’m not good enough for him? Or the ones where we’re just really good friends, even though we’ve gotten married in two separate countries?” Yuuri asked.

“I don’t think anyone had a question about it after you beat his world record,” Colbert said. “Have you guys seen video of the two of you dancing like that?”

They glanced at each other, and then looked away, and Victor said, clearing his throat, “We have. But we can’t share them, because, well…”

“This is the fourth of this specific dress I’ve had to buy,” Yuuri said, flushing.

Colbert coughed. “And on that note, I think we’re going to talk about the politics of Russia when we get back, are you going to be okay with that?”

Victor’s smile showed a lot of teeth and no warmth as he said, “That would be fine.”

• • •

“So are you likely to go back to Russia?” Colbert asked. “Do you have ties there?”

Victor shook his head. “I’m retiring after the Olympics. I’m hoping that the ISU will have the good grace to avoid assigning Yuri or Yuuri there.”

“No family? Friends?”

Yuuri smiled. “We took the ones we needed with us.”

“Do you miss it?”

Victor looked down at his hands and said, “I miss the beautiful things that made my city special, but we never felt safe enough to go exploring together. I don’t miss the undercurrent of fear, or the constant pressure to conform. Conformity and excellence are not comfortable associates. I believe Russia, which has long aligned itself with excellence, has gone too far towards conformity to maintain excellence much longer.”

“Has Japan been better?” Colbert asked. “I know the social pressure there can be strong.”

Yuuri made a small, pained smile and said, “Japan has been very welcoming. I think it’s important to remember that Japan looks rigid but changes quickly. We bend so that we will not break. We lose the unessential so that we may keep the essential. My home city has always embraced Victor and supported me. As far as skating goes, Victor and Yura have been very good for Japan, even when they were skating for Russia. Now? I do not think Japan will be easily defeated in figure skating in the next fifteen years, longer if we inspire enough young people to the sport.”

“So the Olympics start next week, are you excited?” Colbert asked. “Your last competition?”

Victor smiled. “I want to see it through Yuuri’s eyes. Skating on the same team will be fun. We’re just very lucky that Yuuri won at Worlds last year, and got Japan three slots.”

“You’re not hanging on for Worlds?” Colbert asked.

“I only skated this past year because Yuuri wanted me to,” Victor said. “I was, hmmm, emotionally prepared to turn my break into retirement. Hopefully I can turn my last skate into something truly special.”

“And you, Yuuri?” Colbert asked. “The Olympics? Worlds? What’s after that?”

“I’ll be at Worlds,” Yuuri said. “Someone asked me to win five World Championships, and while I have no idea if I’m going to succeed, I’m going to try. I think I still have places to improve, and it makes him happy to see me skate.”

“Are you sad that he’s retiring?”

Yuuri glanced over at Victor. “I think we’ll be skating on the same ice for a long time to come, retirement or not.”

Steven turned to the camera and smiled, and said, “Yuuri Katsuki and Victor Nikiforov will be competing in the Winter Olympics, which begin February 9th, and I think a lot of people would be shocked if these two weren’t on the figure skating podium.”

He turned back to Victor and Yuuri and said, “I almost forgot to ask… Who do you think is going to be on top?”

Yuuri said without thinking, “We switch,” and then hid his face in his hands.

“I mean,” Victor said, “that’s true. On the podium, especially.”

Colbert was trying to keep a straight face and failing. “On that note, good night, everyone!”

As the credits rolled and the band played, Yuuri muttered, “I knew this was a mistake. That’s going viral forever.”

Victor grinned. “I hope so.”

Chapter Text

In Thailand, a cell phone rang, and was answered.

“Da?”

«Georgi Popovitch?»

«Who is asking?»    

«I am with the Russian Federation Skating Union. We would like to offer you a position on the 2018 Russian Olympic Team.»  

«Georgi is not available.»  

«I am aware that he retired last year, but with Yuri Plisetsky refusing to skate, we have no better skaters for the Men’s team.»

«What about Victor Nikiforov? He won nationals, no?»

«The Russian Federation does not currently feel that Victor Nikiforov is a suitable or appropriate role model for our nation’s youth.»

«Georgi no longer exists.»

«He’s dead? We had not heard!»

Zara Popova sighed heavily, rolled her eyes, looked up at the palm tree hanging heavily over her, and said, «I said that Georgi no longer exists. No one died. But he cannot skate on the men’s team for Russia.»

«I… I don’t understand. Who are you?»

«I am the only person who can possibly speak for Georgi Popovitch. Good luck with your team, and good day.»

She ended the call, accepted a chilled young coconut from her favorite waiter, took a long, cool sip of coconut water to sooth her throat, and leaned back with her book.

Eventually she would have to go back to Russia to deal with the paperwork, but that was a problem for another day.

For the moment, she would focus on healing, and relaxing, and getting used to finally, finally feeling like herself.