Yuuri had called ahead to let his parents know that they were bringing another person with them.
As soon as they poured into Yu-topia, Yuuri was engulfed in hugs, as though he’d been gone for ages. And moments later, Victor received the same treatment.
“Oh, and you must be Yuri!” Hiroko exclaimed when she set eyes on the newcomer.
She attempted to pronounce his name the way it was supposed to be pronounced in Russian, which was a bit different from the way her son's name sounded; and although it didn’t quite come out right, Yuri appreciated the effort. Like most athletes, he was used to sports commentators and journalists messing up his name as though Internet didn't exist. And it wasn't even a particularly difficult name.
At least Hiroko tried.
“Yes, hello,” he replied. “Nice to meet you.”
He bowed, feeling a bit awkward, but Hiroko smiled brightly at him, doing her best to make him feel comfortable.
“We’ve prepared a room for you,” she said. “You can stay for as long as you need.”
Yuri intended to eventually get his own place, but it was nice to not have to worry about where he would stay for the time being. Especially considering that his knowledge of Japanese was virtually non-existent, and it certainly didn’t hurt that he didn’t have to go and try to make his own way around Japan right off the plane.
“Let’s get you settled in,” Hiroko said, leading Yuri to his new room.
Meanwhile Yuuri and Victor remained in the lounge, where Toshiya immediately offered them food and drink, and asked them all about their trip, congratulating Victor once again on his wins at Nationals.
“You’re going international now, Victor?”
“Yes, I am.”
“I remember the first time Yuuri went to an international competition. He was so nervous, my poor boy,” Toshiya said, making Yuuri blush. “Are you nervous, Victor?”
“I...I’m not sure.” Victor laughed, because that was such a strange thing to say, but it was true. He wasn’t sure how he felt. “Right now I’m mostly just excited. I think the nerves will kick in a bit later. There’s certainly a lot of pressure.”
“I’m sure you’ll do great!” Toshiya said cheerfully. “I don’t understand the sport the way you two do, but I can see talent. I think everyone can see yours.”
He poured them more tea, and they chatted for a bit longer. Toshiya would occasionally slip into Japanese when his English failed him, and Victor was glad to realize that he could understand almost everything now. He still wasn’t entirely comfortable speaking the language, but his comprehension was improving drastically.
Eventually, Toshiya had to attend to customers, so Yuuri and Victor left the lounge. They went to Victor’s room, which was essentially their room now, as they always slept in it and most of their things were in it. Yuuri’s room was still Yuuri’s room, and always would be. His parents had told him a long time ago that they would never occupy it, even if he never lived in it again, it would still be his. It gave Yuuri great comfort to know that he had this safe space that was his no matter what.
As they entered Victor’s room, Victor let out a contented sigh.
“I’ve missed this place,” he said, then flopped down on the bed happily.
Yuuri, on the other hand, had a bit of a different reaction to the homecoming.
“It’s tiny,” he said, as thought that somehow hadn’t been obvious before.
It had always been tiny, but after having lived in Victor’s penthouse for a while, the size of this room became all the more apparent. It wasn't that it bothered him all that much, but he suddenly became worried that this was just nowhere near comfortable enough in the long run. Of course, Victor had lived in much worse places than this, but that was exactly why Yuuri thought that he shouldn't have to anymore.
“I like it,” Victor said with a small shrug. “It’s cozy.”
“There’s cozy, and then there’s how-do-you-even-fit-the-bed-in-here.”
“It’s not so bad,” he said, but then he realized that this was the perfect opportunity to bring up something he’d been thinking of for a long time now. “Although, if you want more space, we could...you know...get our own place?”
Yuuri’s turned sharply to meet Victor's eyes.
“You...would want that?”
“I would love that.” He sat up on the bed, took Yuuri’s hands in his and pulled Yuuri closer. “Don’t get me wrong, I love living here. I love seeing your parents every morning. I love being this close to the onsen. And I do actually love this room. But...I think at some point it would make sense for us to get our own home.”
Hope warred with apprehension in Yuuri’s chest.
“I don’t have a lot of money,” he reminded quietly.
“But I do,” Victor reminded back.
“Victor, I’m not going to let you just buy us a house or something.”
“Hmm...” Victor looked up, pretending to think. “How about this? We find a house we like, calculate which percentage of the money I have its price would take up, and then you can pay the same percentage out of your own savings!”
Victor accompanied his convoluted plan with lots of gesticulation. Yuuri rolled his eyes.
“Right. I’d end up paying like 5 yen. Very fair.”
“Actually, it would be fair,” Victor said, sounding more serious than before. “It would be fairer than paying half and half, when it would eat up all your savings, while not even putting a dent in mine.” His eyes lit up with an idea. “Hey, we should get a joint account! Then my money will be yours! Problem solved!”
Yuuri groaned, sitting down on the bed next to Victor.
“We can’t do that.”
“I’ve already told you, I have several accounts, some of which I never touch. We don’t have to share all my money. But we can definitely share some. It makes sense. We’re...a family, aren’t we?”
Yuuri looked at Victor, whose eyes were filled with hope and a hint of insecurity.
“Of course we’re a family,” Yuuri said without hesitation.
He was surprised to realize how easy that was, how smoothly he settled into a realization that he and Victor were now a family unit. It wasn’t even that big of a deal. It felt right, like it had been true for a while, and now it has simply been said out loud.
“Great! We can have a joint account set up tomorrow then! I’ll just write you into the one I use for everyday spending. And then we can start looking at places to live.”
“Okay,” Yuuri said, placing his head on Victor’s shoulder and resigning himself to having a joint account with a multimillionaire. “I guess this means you don’t have to pay me a coaching fee anymore. I was starting to feel really weird about that.”
It was true, Victor was still technically paying Yuuri a coaching fee. Though it was automatic and they never actually talked about it, still, every time that money dropped into Yuuri’s account at the beginning of a month, he felt strange about it. There wasn’t really anything wrong with it – he was being paid for a service he was providing to Victor – but it still felt weird that he was charging his boyfriend for something he would happily do for free.
“I suppose,” Victor said nonchalantly. “I guess I’ll have that fee covered for a while by giving you access to about 7 million dollars.”
Yuuri almost choked on his own breath.
The first day after arriving in Hasetsu, everyone was still settling in. Yuri was acquainting himself with the onsen, and with the part of town immediately adjacent to it.
Everyone ate at the inn. Yuri was welcomed with open arms, which made him both grateful and moderately uncomfortable. Part of him craved belonging and warmth, but another, slightly bigger part of him demanded independence at all costs, so while he liked being in Yu-topia, he was definitely not planning to stay there long-term.
On the second day after arrival, Yuri demanded to be shown to the rink where he’d be practicing, and Victor was all too happy to back him up. He’d been itching to skate, and it was time for him to start practicing for the international competition.
Yuuri called ahead to book the time at the rink, and the three of them set out for Ice Castle Hasetsu. They walked all the way, and Yuri made sure to remember the road as best he could so as to be able to find the rink on his own in the future.
When they arrived, the ice was being resurfaced. Yuuko was driving the resurfacer, while Takeshi evened out the edges of the rink. Yuuko was wearing big, fluffy noise-canceling headphones that almost looked bigger than her head. She waved at Yuuri when she noticed him. After parking the machine, she approached the skater gang, giving Yuuri a hug and waving at Victor.
“Oh, and you must be the other Yuri!” she said to Plisetsky, but as soon as the words left her mouth, her face contorted in guilt. “I’m so sorry, that was so rude!”
Yuri wasn’t entirely sure how to react to that. He didn’t want to lash out at her. He’d been trying to manage his anger better the past few years.
“It’s fine,” he said, with as little emotion as possible, though the words came out mostly through his teeth.
“It will get confusing though,” Victor pointed out. “Two Yu(u)ris...Oh!” his face lit up in excitement. “We need to give you a nickname!” he said to Plisetsky.
“Why me?” Yuri said, now having a harder time containing his anger. “Why don’t you give a nickname to Katsuki?”
“Well, he was here first,” Victor said, tilting his head. “And he is your coach.” Victor only smiled when Yuri groaned in response. “Okay, how about we name you–”
“Wait!” Yuuri interrupted him mid-stream. He knew that whatever Victor came up with, Yuri would instantly hate it, and since Victor could be pretty insensitive at times, he would likely still call him that, and Yuri would get angry every time he did. There was no need to create animosity in this little group right off the bat. “Ah, Yuri, how about your think of a nickname for yourself? Something that you wouldn’t mind being called?” he looked at Yuri pleadingly, hoping this would work. “Or me. You can think of a nickname for me, if you’d prefer.”
Yuuri didn’t really want a nickname. But he also didn’t want conflict.
“Fine,” Yuri said flatly. He took a minute to think before responding. “You can call me Yurio.”
“That sounds like a rapper name!” Victor said with a wide smile. “I love it! Welcome to the rink, Yurio!”
For a moment Victor considered giving Yuri a hug, but decided against it. Perhaps they weren’t at that state of acquaintance yet. Especially considering that the last time they had physical contact had been borderline violent.
“It’s nice to meet you, Yurio,” Yuuko said with a gentle smile. “I’m Yuuko. And that’s Takeshi.” She motioned toward her husband who was finishing up the edges of the ice. “Let us know if you need anything.”
She retreated into the backrooms. Yurio sat down to put on his skates, and the others soon followed.
Takeshi stepped off the ice just as everyone was finishing up their laces.
“Ice is ready for you,” he said. “Hey, new guy!” he waved at Yurio. “Welcome to the show.”
He went into the observation deck, while the skaters took the ice.
Yurio immediately felt uncertainty and determination battle for dominance in his chest. This was the beginning of the next step for him. What it would bring he didn’t yet know, but he hoped that he would find out soon.
Victor felt relief as he entered the rink. He’d been off the ice for a while, and it was starting to make him uncomfortable. He still often felt like staying off the ice too long would throw back his progress, so finally getting to practice again was putting his mind at ease.
Yuuri was...worried. He had 2 skaters now. One was Russia’s favorite skating star, who turned his whole life upside down in order to chase his inspiration; the other was an international celebrity that brought the world’s attention to adult figure skating, and turned millions of people who had never cared about the sport before into figure skating fans.
“Alright,” Yuuri said, attracting his students’ attention. “This isn’t really a training session yet, we’re just here to get used to the ice, get back to it. Practice your basics. If you want to do jumps, you may, but be careful. I want to see how you’re doing, see what you need to work on.”
Victor and Yurio nodded, then skated in opposite directions.
Yuuri took some time to skate as well. He hadn’t been on the ice in a while either, and he missed it. Sometimes he wondered if he should do exhibitions. He missed performing sometimes, especially if there was no pressure to win anything. But the fear of failing in front of an audience was what usually stopped him from taking the offers to perform. He wasn’t always sure if there was a good balance between the thrill and the anxiety that came with a public performance.
Victor started by doing some single jumps, which Yuuri silently approved. It was smart to start simple. Going into the second hour of the session, Victor did some doubles. He was landing a few of them very cleanly now, so progressing to the Gold division next season was starting to look like a real possibility.
Yuuri wondered how long it would be before Victor would want to do triples. Very few adult skaters advanced past doubles, and Yuuri still wasn’t sure how good of an idea it was and if it would be a successful endeavor, but he knew, perhaps, it was inevitable that sooner or later Victor would try.
Yurio did very few jumps. He was doing a lot of moving-in-the-field elements, and occasionally he’d throw in a triple jump, which by Yurio’s standards was fairly tame. He even did a double once. On purpose.
Yuuri watched him carefully, trying to understand his new student’s needs as well as he could. Yurio was graceful and his technique was superb, but there was something else. A sort of restlessness, dissatisfaction. Like he wanted to do something, but didn’t know what it was. Or did know what it was, but wasn’t sure if he could achieve it. Yuuri knew that a large part of skating was psychological, so he knew that there was a lot he would need to understand about his new student before he could become a truly effective coach for him.
The truth was that Yurio was unhappy. He had won 5 Grand Prix Finals, 3 World Championships, Silver and Gold at 2 different Olympics, and every single Russian National competition since entering the Senior division. He wasn’t entirely unbeatable, though he’d never fallen below silver in a final. Winning was what was expected of him now. The pressure of it didn’t bother him as much as the tedium. What on Earth does one do when winning international competitions becomes boring?
Yurio loved skating, and he didn’t want to quit. He wasn’t going to retire until he absolutely had to. But it couldn’t be all about winning anymore. He needed something else. But he wasn’t entirely sure what it was.
Yuuri was lost in thought as he watched Yurio, and it startled him a little when Victor skated up to him and stopped at his side.
Yuuri smiled, bumping his shoulder against Victor’s.
“Something’s wrong with him,” Yuuri said quietly.
“Yes,” Victor replied. “I think I might know what it is.”
“You do?” Yuuri looked at Victor hopefully.
“I’ve had it. With music. He loves his art, but he’s lost the spark. He knows something needs to change, but doesn’t yet know what it is.” Victor shrugged. “I think. I might be wrong. I barely know him.”
Yuuri turned back to Yurio, watching him with interest and concern.
“Well,” he said, taking a deep breath, “I’m his coach now. If he’s lost his spark, I’ll do everything in my power to help him find it.”
Yuuri and Victor refer to the international competition in which Victor will participate as 'Worlds', but it's not really called that. There are no adult Worlds, they've just fallen into using the name for a specific competition in this particular social group.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When the skaters stepped off the ice and started packing away their gear, the rink became eerily quiet. But that didn’t last, as soon 3 girls entered the building, talking and laughing amongst each other.
“Who’s that?” Yurio whispered at Yuuri.
“Oh, that’s Axel, Lutz and Loop. Yuuko and Takeshi’s kids.”
“Axel, Lutz and Loop? Seriously?”
Yuuri suppressed a giggle.
“Yeah, it was less ridiculous when they were younger. Now they’ve grown into individual people...named after jumps.”
Yurio looked at them for a while as the girls went into the back rooms to find their parents.
“Which is which?”
Yuuri blushed, feeling a bit ashamed.
“I’ve no idea.”
Victor laughed softly at his side.
The girls soon came out in the the rink area. Two of them started putting on skates, the third set up shop on one of the benches, taking out a sketch book and some drawing equipment.
Yuuri, Victor and Yurio went to take a shower and change. Yurio was the first to be ready to leave. On his way out he passed one of the triplets, the one who wasn’t skating. He took a peak at what she was doing.
Her sketch of her sisters wasn’t very detailed and still lacked in technical skill, but it looked good, and had a unique style. Yurio wasn’t much of an art enthusiast, so all he knew was that he liked the drawing.
The girl looked up from her work and stared at Yurio.
“You must be the new guy,” she said.
“And you must be the odd one out,” he replied.
She smiled in response.
She looked back down at her drawing, starting to add more shadows.
“Mind if I draw you next time you come to skate?” she asked.
“Knock yourself out.”
Yurio walked off to wait for Yuuri and Victor outside.
Lutz knew who he was, of course. She might not have been the best skater in the family, but she still liked the sport, so of course she knew who Yuri Plisetsky was. She was quite proud of herself for having managed to play it so cool.
Her sisters soon skated up to the edge of the rink to interrogate her about her conversation with the skating star. Sometimes there were advantages to being the only one off the ice.
Yuuri and Victor were still in the locker room. Victor always took longer in the shower than anyone Yuuri had ever known, and then he’d come home and go into the hot spring as if he hadn’t just poured water over himself for 15 minutes barely an hour earlier.
“Yuuri,” Victor said as he closed his locker, “do you think it was a mistake to take those 2 weeks off? Should I have been practicing all this time? Worlds are in barely a month.”
“Actually, you’re doing really well.” Yuuri shrugged, and it wasn’t even a deliberate attempt at reassurance. He genuinely felt like Victor didn’t have much to worry about. “Your programs are solid. There are always little things to work on, nothing’s ever perfect, but there are no glaring problems. If anything, I thought you would want to add more complex elements to your programs.”
Yuuri immediately regretted saying this, because Victor’s eyes lit up, and it was all Yuuri’s fault that he’d put this thought into Victor’s head.
Well, it had been in Victor’s head all along, of course, but now his coach all but approved of it.
“That’s a great idea, Yuuri!” he said, lunging himself at Yuuri in a massive hug.
“No, no, it’s not. Victor, you just said there’s barely a month before Worlds. It’s not enough time to change anything.”
“It’s enough time to try...”
“Victor, you’ve basically already maxed out your allowed technical difficulty.”
“It doesn’t have to be more difficult. It can just be new.”
Yuuri sighed. Victor knew that sigh well – it was a sigh of positive resignation. It was a sigh Yuuri let out when he was about to give Victor what he wanted, and he wasn’t even all that mad about it, but he needed to punctuate the decision with some sort of filler sound.
When it came to Victor’s skating, and especially his safety and health, Yuuri was more than capable of saying ‘no’. But more often than not, he didn’t, because he knew Victor wouldn’t have gotten where he did as quickly as he did if Yuuri held him back. As long as Victor wasn’t intending to do anything obviously dangerous, Yuuri would guide him rather than tell him not to do it, since that would likely only cause Victor to do it anyway, on his own.
“Fine,” he said. “We can change up your flying spins. And maybe make your step sequence a bit more elaborate.”
Victor was practically jumping up and down with excitement. It had been a bit of a dream of his to change up his programs mid-season. But it had been more of a distant, hypothetical dream, the kind that resides somewhere in the back of your head without truly surfacing. Now, however, it looked like it could be a real possibility.
Victor knew his programs back and forth. He could always just fall back on them if this plan didn’t quite work out. But if it did...if he could change his programs between Nationals and Worlds. Well...wouldn’t that be a surprise?
Victor and Yuuri left the Ice Castle holding hands. They waved at the Nishigoris as they left the building, then met up with Yurio outside.
Yurio watched them with an expression of mild disgust. They looked at each other with adoration and joy. It looked almost like they were cuddling even though they were walking down a street.
“Must you be so...” Yurio tried to find a word that meant ‘adorable’, but was also adequately mean. He couldn’t. “So...lovey-dovey.”
Yuuri chuckled and blushed. Victor turned to face Yurio, faking seriousness.
“Well, if you have to know, yes, we must,” he said. “We are in love, and there’s no reason for us not to display it.”
“It’s gross. That should be reason enough.”
“It’s only gross to you,” Victor said, cocking an eyebrow.
“It’s gross to everyone. I’m just the only one who’s telling you that.”
“Come on, Yurio, you know that is factually incorrect.”
Yurio fumed. Victor was right, but...that didn’t mean he had to admit it.
“Yurio, if it bothers you this much, we can stop,” Yuuri said apologetically, earning a shocked gasp from Victor. But Yuuri did mean it. It had taken him a long time to get used to how affectionate Victor was in public, and he still often felt a little uneasy about it. Public displays of affection weren’t everyone’s cup of tea, and if it bothered Yurio so much, Yuuri was prepared to tone it down in his presence.
Yurio looked at Yuuri for a few seconds, considering.
“Whatever,” he said, picking up pace.
He was really grateful to his 3-hours-ago self for remembering the road well enough that he could now return to Yu-topia on his own.
Truth be told, he wasn’t really disgusted by Yuuri and Victor’s behavior. He simply tried to cover up his true emotions by pretending to be grossed out. Like Victor said, they were in love, and there was no reason for them to hide it. Once upon a time, Yurio would have thought it pointless. But then something happened that changed his perspective on love. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out quite as well for him as it did for Victor and Yuuri. It took a tiny piece of his heart, and though it was mostly in the past, sometimes, when he saw people that were in love and happy, his heart ached for its missing piece. But there was little he could do about it, so instead he told himself that love was gross and pointless and he was better off without it.
He pulled up his hood and walked faster, leaving Yuuri and Victor as far behind him as he could.
When they returned to Yu-topia, Minako was in the lounge. She smiled brightly when she saw them.
“My favorite students, past and present!” she exclaimed. “Ready to get back to practice, Victor?”
“Very much so,” Victor replied. “Same schedule?”
“Yep. Kept your time slots for you.”
“What’s all this?” Yurio asked after watching the exchange.
“Oh, this is Minako, Victor’s ballet coach,” Yuuri explained.
“Ballet?” Yurio perked up.
“Yes, you do ballet?”
“I used to, for a while. It helped my skating. I paused during my growth spurt, and then my skating style changed, and I just...never really went back to it.”
“Do you miss it?”
“I...don’t know,” Yurio admitted. “I didn’t really enjoy it at the time. It was a means to an end. But...it was helpful.”
“It still could be,” Minako chimed in. “If you’re interested, I wouldn’t mind having another athlete in the studio.”
These days most of Minako’s students were kids who would never go into ballet on any kind of serious level. Some of them enjoyed it, some had talent, but most were just trying it out and quit fairly quickly. Minako didn’t often admit it out loud, but it was a bit dissatisfying to spend so much energy on students that didn’t much care for the sport. Victor was indeed her favorite student by far. Even though ballet wasn't his priority, he was dedicated and, at the very least, took it seriously.
And maybe Yurio wouldn’t care much for ballet either, only using it to improve his skating, but at least he was an athlete, and had done ballet before. It would be a nice change.
“Alright,” Yurio said. “As soon as coach here works out my training schedule, I’ll see if I can make room for ballet.”
“Great,” Minako said, letting on a lot less excitement than she was feeling. “I have to go now, but Yuuri knows how to contact me.”
“Actually, we should get on that scheduling,” Yuuri said after Minako left. “You can train at the same time as Victor or I could train you separately. Since I only have 2 skaters, I could give you both undivided attention. The Ice Castle won’t mind if we buy out more time, especially during the day, I’ve already asked. There’s almost no one there for public skating at mid-day anyway.”
The Ice Castle wasn’t exactly making ends meet these days, being the only rink in town, but they weren’t making all that much money either. There were surges of popularity after a Japanese skater did well at a competition, but most of the time there weren’t that many people coming to the rink. Sometimes people came to see Victor, but most of them didn’t actually skate, they just sat outside and watched as he came and went.
The Nishigoris, who now owned the rink, had offered Yuuri and Victor to use the rink for free, but they’d rejected the offer. Victor could afford to pay for the time, and he was glad to support the rink. After all, he didn’t want it to go out of business.
Now, if Yurio was to train separately, that would mean more steady income for the rink, which was a lot more reliable than waiting for casual skaters to come by. And, ironically, despite there being less time available for public skating, it would likely bring in more clients, because now the Ice Castle was home to not 1 but 2 celebrity skaters, as well as their famous, albeit retired coach.
By the end of the day, everyone’s schedules were worked out and all required session times were booked for the foreseeable future. Yurio scheduled 3 ballet sessions a week for now, though he intended to increase that if they were beneficial and/or enjoyable.
Yuuri smiled internally at the realization that his students were ever-so-slightly boosting Hasetsu’s economy. Helping the Ice Castle, Minako’s studio, and Yu-topia. To be fair, Victor did also plow through a lot of food he never paid for, but that was nothing compared to how much money the inn made from people that dropped by to stay in the same building as the pop-star/skater/hot guy from Versace ads.
The next day, Yuuri and Yurio went right to planning the new programs for Yurio’s upcoming season. There was, after all, no time to waste.
Victor was sitting in the bleachers, having stayed at the Ice Castle after his own session was over. He didn’t have anything planned for a few hours, so he decided to watch Yurio’s practice.
“Do you have music selected?” Yuuri asked.
“I have some options, but nothing I’m certain of. Everything’s just...not quite right.”
Yurio knew that he probably couldn’t find the right music because he didn’t actually know what he wanted. It was always difficult to find a preexisting piece of music to satisfy the emotional needs of a program, and harder still when you weren’t quite sure what those needs even were.
He hooked up his phone to speakers and started playing the pieces to Yuuri one by one, demonstrating elements he wanted to use in his program. When he was done, Yuuri was deep in thought, trying to process what he’d just seen and heard. It was a lot of options and nothing concrete. He needed more information in order to understand what Yurio needed.
“Do you know what you want your theme to be?” he asked.
“I think, maybe...Change.”
“Oh. That’s...good.” Having a theme always helped. Now Yuuri could see the music in a new perspective. “Do you want to do your own choreography or do you want help?”
Yurio groaned. He hated that there was so much uncertainty. He thrived on being sure, on picking a path and walking it. This new state of being – undecided, in flux – it made him angry and frustrated.
He hated to admit it, but he wasn’t a very good choreographer. Perhaps the only self-choreographed program that he could call a success was an exhibition skate that he created with the help of his...friend. He enjoyed skating that program probably more than anything else in his career. But there were things you could do in an exhibition that you couldn’t in competition. He could go out onto the ice and skate his heart out, but he didn’t quite know how to do that in combination with fulfilling all the requirements and making sure his technical score would be sufficient.
“Okay, well, let’s start with what we know then,” Yuuri said, picking up his notebook and pen. “How many quads do you want in your programs?”
“Three in the short, and 5 in the free skate.”
“But I want to do them all in the second half.”
Yuuri looked up from his notes. This was, well, not impossible, but not very wise. These days, 4 quads was considered fairly tame. Several skaters did 5 quads in a single program. Yuuri himself had been the first skater in the world to land 6 quads in his free skate, utilizing his best asset – his stamina – to achieve the feet. But it was ridiculously hard, and he knew he’d be paying for it for the rest of his life in joint pains and spinal problems.
Five quads was not as unheard of now as it had once been, but doing them all in the second half...well, that wasn’t something you’d see every day.
“Are you sure?” he asked. “Can you do it in practice?”
“I see.” Yuuri looked back down at his notes.
“You don’t think I can do it?” Yurio asked defensively.
“I don’t know yet. I just started coaching you,” Yuuri replied calmly. “But...if that’s what you want, then that’s what we’ll do.”
The anger that had started to rise in Yurio’s chest was quickly quenched. He had been prepared to defend his plans, but it turned out that he didn’t have to. Not for the first time he thought that he had made the right choice in changing his coach. His former coach had never stopped him when he tried to push boundaries, but she hadn’t been too keen on reckless ideas with a high probability of failure.
“I want...I think maybe I want to do a slow dance in the first half, make it...graceful.” He felt strange describing it that way, but that was what he wanted. “And then in the second half, get more aggressive, faster, and that’s where all the hard elements would be.”
Yuuri knew this was an incredibly risky idea, but he also knew that Yurio was well aware of that himself. He had come to Yuuri for freedom, so at the very least, Yuuri could give him that.
“Alright,” he said, making on a note in his notebook, “it looks like things are starting to take shape.” He gave Yurio a reassuring smile. “Let’s get to work.”
In the first week and a half since returning to Hasetsu, Victor has managed to re-choreograph his programs almost completely. He kept the music and the theme, but he changed most of the movements to the point where he was essentially skating new programs.
Yuuri actually had to look up if that was even allowed, because, despite having put every effort into becoming the best coach he could, there were still some thing about the adult figure skating world that he didn't yet know.
Changing one's programs between competitions wasn't against the rules, especially considering that adult competitions weren’t as interconnected as those in the Junior and Senior divisions. But many skaters did compete in both national and international competitions, and changing their programs completely in the short span of time between events was something people simply didn’t do very often. Which, of course, only made Victor more certain that this was what he wanted to do.
The idea of people coming to see him do one thing, but seeing something completely different filled him with more excitement than even the prospect of winning. Winning was great, but it would be a lot more satisfying to be surprising.
As Yuuri watched Victor skate his new programs he realized that aside from the choreography, Victor had managed to change the feeling that the programs portrayed. They had originally been created to express grief over the loss of a friend, but that grief was now gradually subsiding as time passed and new things happened. It wasn’t completely gone, and maybe never would be, but it wasn’t front and center anymore. So Victor changed his programs to reflect that. The programs were still about grief, but perhaps about a different stage of it.
Victor’s new choreography was just as captivating, if not more so, and Yuuri marveled once again at Victor’s ability to put emotion into his skating with such clarity.
Even Yurio, who rarely took much interest in other people’s skating unless he was personally attached to them, started coming to the rink early so he could watch Victor skate. Part of him almost felt bad about what he had said to him during their first meeting. He wasn’t about to initiate an apology, but he’s certainly changed his opinion quite a lot about Victor.
Two weeks into his time in Hasetsu, Yurio was still struggling to find music for his programs, and it was really starting to frustrate him. There was less and less time left before the GP series, and he couldn’t begin practicing his programs when he didn’t even have them, and he couldn’t have them until there was music.
Yuuri had suggested several good options for music, but none of them were quite right. Nothing really fit, and Yurio was beginning to think that the music he needed simply did not exist.
One day as he arrived at the rink in a foul mood, Victor was just getting off the ice. As he saw Yurio, his face lit up and he waved at his rinkmate excitedly. It actually made Yurio’s mood worse, because seeing someone else happy when he was feeling so wretched himself only made him more grumpy.
“I have something for you!” Victor said. He picked up his phone from the table where it was hooked up to speakers and pushed a few buttons to find what he was looking for.
“Unless it’s magic in digital form, I doubt I’ll enjoy it,” Yurio said.
Victor smiled at him, unfazed, and pressed play.
The music that flowed out of the speakers caught Yurio by surprise. It was fast and energetic at first, but halfway through it transformed organically into a more gentle melody that gradually tapered off, leaving a sensation of a promise of more.
“And now the free skate,” Victor said, pressing another button.
The second piece started out where the first left off, sounding like a continuation of the first piece, but the melody wasn’t the same. It was a completely different tune, which simply happened to compliment the first. The music was soft, comforting, but about 2 minutes in, it switched rapidly into a faster form of itself, with more aggressive and elaborate arrangements. It ended on an angry, almost pompous note, and Yurio could feel his whole body sort of...activating. He wanted to skate to this music. And he wanted the whole world to see it.
“That’s...” he trailed off, uncertain of how to formulate the obvious question.
“Yours if you want it,” Victor said helpfully. “I composed these pieces based on what you’ve said about what you want your programs to be. They’re just demos, of course, but if you like them, we can have them recorded properly.” Victor looked at Yurio, feeling just a tiny bit of uncertainty. “Do you like them?”
Yurio didn’t want to demonstrate just how much he liked them, but his excitement was leaking out of him in a way that he couldn’t quite control.
“They’re perfect,” he said simply.
“Great!” Victor said, smilingly brightly. “I’ll commission an orchestra to record them. Should be ready in a couple of weeks, maybe less.” He headed back toward the rink entrance, taking off his guards as he stepped onto the ice. “And while we’re at it, I had some ideas for your short program.”
He nodded to Yuuri to play the first piece, and started skating. Yurio was...surprised to say the least. He knew Victor was a talented skater, but for an adult skater who was still fairly inexperienced to choreograph for a Senior division skater with a boxful of medals wasn’t something anyone would really expect, so Yurio was skeptical.
But not for long. Because Victor’s choreography was captivating, and Yurio watched with increasing excitement as Victor skated what would become Yurio’s short program for the upcoming season. Of course, a lot of the elements were downgraded in Victor’s version, and would be replaced with more advanced ones when Yurio would perform, but the frame of the program was solid, and the connective parts that turned a bunch of technical requirements into a piece of art on ice were better than most of what Yurio had ever been given by professional choreographers.
When Victor was done, Yurio’s mouth was hanging slightly open. To say he had not expected that would be an understatement. It simply never would have occurred to him that he would have his program choreographed by an adult figure skater that couldn’t even do triple jumps. But here he was, itching to skate this program to its full potential.
“Something like that,” Victor said as he skated up to the barrier. “I’m sure you can easily upgrade it to your skill level.”
Yurio just stared at him, unsure of how to react.
“Thank you,” he said at last.
Victor smiled, stepping off the ice.
As he disappeared into the back of the Ice Castle to take a shower and change, Yurio turned to Yuuri, who had been silent all through this event.
“Did you know he was doing this?” Yurio asked.
“I knew he was writing music for you, though this is the first time I got to hear the whole thing.” He sighed. “He practiced the program without me. He does that sometimes.” He pulled out his notebook. “I have some suggestions on which elements need to be replaced to boost your technical score though.”
“Obviously,” Yurio said, starting to regain his sass after the shock of what had just been given to him started to subside. “He barely had enough rotations to make a quad in all of his jumps combined.”
Yuuri rolled his eyes and restarted the music.
That night in bed Victor pressed his nose into Yuuri’s chest in a way he sometimes did when he was feeling guilty about something.
“I’m sorry I worked on that program without telling you,” he finally said. “I wasn’t sure if it would work, and I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of you.”
Yuuri kissed the top of Victor’s head.
“And I’m sure getting to dramatically reveal it wasn’t entirely unwelcome either.”
“You know me so well.”
Yuuri ran his hand through Victor’s hair for a few moments before speaking again.
“I’ve been working on a free skate program for Yurio on my own as well.”
Victor laughed, sending vibrations through Yuuri’s chest.
“During your ballet sessions. It’s nowhere near is complete as what you’ve achieved, but now that there’s music, it’ll get easier.”
“Nishigoris are really good at keeping everyone’s secrets, aren’t they?”
Yuuri joined Victor in laughter.
“Our lives would make a great reality show.”
Victor raised his head and his eyes lit up.
“Oh, that’s a great idea! I could make it happen, you know.”
“No! Victor, no. We are not making out lives into a reality show.”
Victor dropped his head onto Yuuri’s chest, laughing.
“I know, I know. I’m just messing with you,” he said, placing kisses above Yuuri’s heart. “It wouldn’t work anyway. Yurio would swear so much, half of the episodes would be nothing but beeps.” He watched Yuuri laugh, feeling his chest fill up with warmth. “Although, if it was on a cable channel...”
I feel like every long fic in this fandom has to have at least one chapter ending in Yuuri dramatically shouting "Victor!" after Victor says or does something moderately outrageous, so this was my contribution. XD
This chapter is kind of discombobulated and nothing really happens. I'm sorry. It's sort of just getting from point A to point B.
Victor’s international competition was getting closer and closer.
“Are you coming with us?” Yuuri asked Yurio one day as they were discussing the details of adult Worlds.
“Why would I do that?”
“To watch. To support Victor.”
“Do I have to?”
“No, of course, you don’t have to. You just can, if you want.”
Yurio thought about this for a moment. Victor had helped him a lot, and he didn’t want to be disrespectful or dismissive of his competition, but he also...didn’t really want to go.
“I’d rather practice,” he said honestly. “I don’t have much time.”
“Yes, of course,” Yuuri said. He looked at Yurio apologetically. “I’m sorry I’m leaving you at such a critical moment.”
“No, it’s fine,” Yurio said flatly. “Victor needs you.”
To an extent, Yurio still felt like adult competitions were inferior to the Senior division, because...well, the whole world thought so. But he was starting to shed this belief the more he watched how hard Victor worked and how much the sport meant to him. Maybe he still felt, just a little bit, like his training should take priority over Victor’s silly contest, but he pushed that feeling down, because he knew now that it wasn’t true.
Besides, Victor was Yuuri’s student first. He had dibs.
After Yuuri showed his ideas for Yurio’s free skate to him, Yurio has calmed down significantly. Things were taking shape now, and all he needed to do was work and practice. He knew how to do that.
About a week before Victor’s Worlds, Yurio’s programs were effectively done, with only a few elements still in flux. He wanted to do a charlotte spin, but he wasn’t sure if he could. He used to be very flexible when he was younger, but has lost a lot of that flexibility with age. Still, it wasn’t impossible, and Minako assured him that she could help him stretch. The quadruple flip-triple axel combo that he intended to put in his short program still made Yuuri twitch with apprehensiveness, but Yurio was determined.
So he would have plenty to work on while his coach and rinkmate were away.
The idea of staying alone in Hasetsu did make him a little worried. This worry wasn’t common for him. Yurio didn’t fear new places or experiences, and even the fact that he didn’t understand the language in the slightest didn’t much bother him. What bothered him, he realized eventually, was that he would be staying on his own in Yuuri’s parents’ house. And he would probably have to talk to them at some point. Usually, he would silently join everyone at dinner, participate in conversation if he felt like it, stay silent if he didn’t. And then he’d leave and stay in his room or go out on his own. Victor and Yuuri served as a buffer between Yurio and the rest of the Katsuki family, but that would no longer be the case. It made him a little nervous. He didn’t fear loneliness and he didn’t fear new things. But he did sort of fear bonding with people. Even if he actually kind of liked them.
Yuuri gave Yurio a lot of instructions before leaving, even though he’d only be gone for about a week. Yurio silently accepted the lecture and the printed work-out and training plan. He actually intended to follow them too. Well, for the most part.
Yuuri asked Minako and Yuuko to keep an eye on his student, and he asked his parents to not bother him too much even if it seemed like he could use some company. He said that Yurio was like a cat. He would come when he wanted to, or he wouldn’t, and it was better to just accept that. Trying to get affectionate with him against his will would only result in scratches.
The trip to Vancouver, where the adult international competition was taking place, was long and exhausting, and by the time it was over Victor and Yuuri didn’t even know what day or time it was. They knew theoretically, but they lost the feeling of time. Traveling long distances wasn’t anything new for either of them, but it never got any less unpleasant or disorienting.
Victor’s first practice time wasn’t until later the next day, so as soon as they entered their hotel room, they fell face-first onto the bed.
“Food or sleep?” Yuuri asked after about 15 minutes of just lying on the bed.
“Shower,” Victor said into the mattress.
“Of course you’d pick an option that wasn’t listed,” Yuuri replied with a smile.
They showered together, relaxing even further thanks to the hot water and steam. Then they crawled into bed, struggling to stay awake.
“This will ruin our sleeping schedules,” Victor mumbled, snuggling up to Yuuri.
It was just after 7pm. If they fell asleep now, they’d likely wake up in the middle of the night.
“We can try to stay awake longer. Order food. Go...somewhere.” Yuuri couldn’t even pretend like he was committed to that idea.
Victor only grumbled in response, and a few minutes later, they were both asleep.
Yuuri woke up when it was still dark, but Victor was still asleep, wrapped around Yuuri like a possessive octopus, so Yuuri resigned to his fate of staying in bed, and eventually fell back asleep. The next time he woke up, Victor was awake and gently running his fingers through Yuuri’s hair. When he noticed that Yuuri had awoken, he started applying a bit more pressure, massaging Yuuri’s skull.
“Mm, that feels nice,” Yuuri said. “What time is it?”
Yuuri raised an eyebrow.
“We slept for 12 hours?”
“Hmm. Well, they always say it’s good to be well-rested before a competition.”
“The competition is tomorrow. We’ll need to somehow fall asleep tonight after having slept for half a day.”
Victor didn’t want to think about the competition right now. He just wanted to enjoy his morning cuddle with Yuuri before going back to reality. Not that reality was bad right now. It was quite good, actually. Victor was about to participate in an international figure skating competition, with programs he liked and enjoyed skating. It was a dream come true. And his chances of winning were quite good.
But this – being with Yuuri like nothing else in the world mattered, it was important too. It was a dream he’d never thought he had, and yet it was handed to him, and he still didn’t know what he’d done to deserve it. Probably nothing. He probably just got lucky.
Yuuri’s stomach grumbled.
“We should probably get up,” Yuuri said reluctantly.
“Yes,” Victor agreed, placing a kiss on the top of Yuuri’s head. “Let’s go see what Canada has to offer.”
They were walking through a mall, wearing some of Victor’s more elaborate disguises.
They’d eaten at the food court, which was something neither of them had done in years. Victor was hoping his stomach wouldn’t rebel against mall food so close to a competition, but so far there were no signs of a storm.
“Have you seen Canada before?” Victor asked. “I know you’ve been here on competition, but have you actually gone out to see it?”
“No,” Yuuri said. “The only times I went sightseeing and such were when I was assigned somewhere together with Phichit. On my own, I would generally just stay in the hotel or close by. Celestino was a great coach, but we weren’t close enough to really hang out together, and going out on my own in a foreign country made me too anxious.”
“Hm.” Victor wove their arms together as they walked. “When I first started touring internationally, I wanted to see everything. I would go out everywhere, shop, eat at the quaintest restaurants I could find. And it was fun at first, but it got sort of...lonely.” He tried not to sound too melancholic, though he wasn’t quite succeeding. “When I was still working under Yakov, I was effectively alone. There was no permanent band. There were some musicians that came and went faster than I could befriend them. Yakov himself wasn’t always on tour with me, and even when he was, he was always busy and we weren’t all that close either. I always wished I could go to all those places with someone I cared about.” Victor sighed. Then he forced himself to brighten up and think of the present instead of the past. “But now I get to do this. With you.”
He took one of Yuuri’s hands in his and brought it up to his lips for a quick kiss.
Yuuri was looking down at the floor, not daring to look up at Victor just yet. He wanted to compose himself first. He wasn’t sure what Victor would see in his eyes, and he didn’t want Victor to feel pitied.
Finally, he looked up at Victor with all the love that he felt for him and smiled.
“We can travel more, if you want. You can compete in non-qualifies, skate in exhibitions. Plus...no pressure, you don’t have to, of course, but I would really appreciate it if you would accompany me to Yurio’s competitions as well.”
Victor’s smile was wide and excited.
“Of course! I’d love that.”
He couldn’t help but put a short kiss on Yuuri’s lips.
Yuuri felt something in his chest. Like a sense of incompleteness, like he needed to do something, resolve an issue, make things better. He wasn’t sure what exactly it was and what he could do, but the feeling was still there, and he was trying to figure out what it was that he needed to do.
What Victor had said made him want to hold him close and never let go. He knew that he and Victor were a family now, but sometimes Yuuri felt like Victor was doing more committing than Yuuri ever did. He moved to Hasetsu, he gave Yuuri his money, and what has Yuuri done? He didn’t doubt that Victor knew how much he meant to Yuuri, but he still wanted to give him something more. Something tangible. Something like...
He saw a jewelry store and an idea popped into his head. He practically ran toward the store, pulling Victor with him.
Inside, he selected 2 simple gold bands, paying for them from his separate account rather than from the one he shared with Victor. Perhaps, it didn’t really matter, but he wanted it to be a gift, not a joint purchase.
Back when he skated, he’d always wanted to have a good luck charm, but it just sort of never happened. But it was never too late to get one. And this...it could be a thank you to Victor, a symbol of their commitment to each other, and, perhaps, a promise.
Victor watched in mild shock at Yuuri picked out the rings. He wasn’t entirely sure what this meant exactly, but it certainly felt pretty important.
They exited the mall and found a nice, secluded spot in a nearby park, under a big cherry tree. Yuuri took the rings out of his pocket. He took one of Victor’s hands and carefully pulled off his glove.
“Victor,” he said, his voice shaking a little. “I don’t think I’ve ever really known love properly before meeting you. I know there are many people in my life that love me, and I love them back. But you’re the first person I’ve ever really wanted to keep. And I never want to be apart from you.” He gently slid the ring onto Victor’s finger. “Say something for me?” he said as he handed Victor the other ring.
Victor took his hand and looked Yuuri in the eyes.
“Yuuri...You’ve helped me make the biggest dream of my life come true. But you’ve given me so much more, so many things I never even thought to dream of. You gave me a new understanding of love and life itself. And I would be honored if you would keep teaching me about them for as long as I’m alive.” He slid the ring on Yuuri’s finger and smiled.
They kissed, perhaps a little too passionately for a public place, but they hardly cared.
Later that day, Victor arrived at the event arena for his practice.
He saw other skaters and coaches staring surreptitiously and whispering amongst each other, which was nothing new. But now it wasn’t just his fame and his unexpected ascent in a new art. People noticed his and Yuuri’s rings, looked at Victor and then and Yuuri, trying to figure out what was happening, what the rings meant. If they were engaged or married, or something else.
Whatever the rings meant, it was obvious that Victor and Yuuri were committed, tethered to each other. And everyone around could see it every time they saw the rings shining on their fingers.
And Victor had never been happier.
That year, the competition had to be moved from its usual arena to a slightly bigger stadium, because the demand for tickets was so high that the original arena wouldn’t be sufficient.
When Yuuri and Victor arrived at the stadium and saw how packed it was, Victor’s eyes lit up in excitement.
“Think I can take credit for this?” Victor said quietly, indicating the massive audience turn-out.
Yuuri rolled his eyes affectionately.
“Not all the credit,” he said. “But some, definitely.”
When Yuuri first started coaching Victor, he watched many videos of adult figure skaters, and it was disheartening to see just how little attention adult competitions usually got. Many events had so few spectators that it seemed like the arenas were practically empty. Yuuri was glad to see that this was finally changing.
Victor’s group was skating in the afternoon. They arrived early – this time without disguises – to watch the other performances. Considering how many different age groups and skill level divisions were performing, the event had a lot to offer, and Victor was happy to think that he helped, to whatever extent, to bring more viewers in.
They watched some of the performances from the bleachers, eventually moving into the skaters’ area so Victor could warm up and stretch, but they kept watching on a screen.
“You know,” Yuuri said, watching as one of the ladies in the Silver division performed her artistic program. “This is almost more pleasant to watch than the Senior division.”
“I love figure skating, but I’ve often found watching it a bit...stressful,” Yuuri explained. “People on sharp metal blades perform complex acrobatic sequences, jump up into the air, rotate several times around their own axis, then attempt to land on that same sharp blade. There’s so much potential for disaster there. And I’m often scared to watch, because I’m afraid that the skater will fall and hurt themselves. Adult skaters don’t do as many complex elements, so it’s not as terrifying to watch them. Especially the artistic programs. You get the beauty of figure skating, but with less danger.”
Victor laughed softly and wrapped his arms around Yuuri’s shoulders.
Yuuri rolled his eyes with a smile.
“Thanks,” he said sarcastically, but with good humor.
“You could always just watch ice dancing,” Victor suggested.
“I do. I love ice dancing.”
This just made Victor giggle more. He really did find it endearing that Yuuri had had no problem putting his own health on the line as he performed the most complicated elements that existed in figure skating, but he was too worried to watch someone else do it.
Victor and Yuuri were still being subtly stared at, but they were getting used to it now, if one could ever get used to such a thing. It got slightly less unnerving once they learned to expect it.
Popovich and Chakharidze were also there. Chakharidze gave Victor and Yuuri a respectful nod. Popovich even smiled at them. Victor counted this as significant progress.
Victor was skating last in his group, and by the time it was his turn to take the ice, he almost regretted coming to the arena as early as they did. Though this allowed him to watch the other skaters, he was also starting to get tired of waiting. He was blessed with not having an anxiety disorder like Yuuri did, but spending this much time waiting for his turn to skate has gotten him a bit worried.
Yuuri recognized this as soon as the symptoms started cropping up, and immediately rushed to reassure his student.
“Victor, you’ll do great,” he said quietly. “Your program is amazing, you’re in great shape, you know all your elements. You’re as prepared as one could be.”
Victor smiled. He liked when Yuuri gave him pep talks. They were very efficient and logical. Not just some generic ‘you’re amazing’ speech, but actual lists of facts that would make Victor feel more certain.
“Thank you, Yuuri,” he said, placing a kiss on Yuuri’s cheek just before heading out into the rink area.
Victor appeared before the audience to the familiar sound of cheers and applause. He waved, causing an even louder reaction. People cheered even when he had been on the ice a bit earlier for a warm-up, but now was time to perform, and the crowd was roaring in anticipation.
There was no way of telling how many people that came to watch him specifically were his fans and how many just thought he was an entertaining peculiarity, but either way, he was going to give them a show.
After a final hug from Yuuri, Victor skated to center ice, getting his mind into the proper mood. As Victor was skating away, Yuuri brought his hand up to his lips and kissed his ring for good luck.
Victor started in the same position as he had during Russian Nationals, but as soon as the music started, the differences between his old and new programs became evident to anyone who was paying attention.
Where his old program started reserved and closed off, his movements in the new program were open from the start. Broad sweeps of his arms accompanied wide circles skated across the ice. The flying camel spin was one of the newer additions, and he performed it flawlessly, making Yuuri beam proudly as he watched.
Though the program was still rooted in sadness and grief, Victor’s movements were lighter and softer, giving the performance an air of acceptance.
Of course, most of the people who watched Victor skate had no idea what his program was really about, so they didn’t get quite as detailed a picture as Yuuri did, and the program was more of a blur of emotions to them, rather than a story. But it was beautiful and evocative – everyone could appreciate that, even if they didn’t know the specifics of Victor’s inspiration.
When Victor froze in his final pose as the last notes died down, the crowd cheered him on, showering him in flowers and plushies.
Yuuri was waiting for him at rink exit with a loving smile. They embraced before heading to the Kiss&Cry.
Victor’s score didn’t break any records, but it did put him comfortably in first place, and soon enough Victor was being awarded his first gold at an international figure skating competition.
As Yuuri and Victor headed back into the skaters’ area, Yuuri wove their fingers together.
“You’re making a habit of being in first place, aren’t you?”
“It’s not hard,” Victor replied with a soft smile. “I have an amazing coach.”
Yuuri's feelings about figure skating are all mine. I'm not afraid of skating myself, but I'm terrified of seeing other people do it because I'm afraid they'll get hurt.
The situation with the press at this event was even more overwhelming than at Nationals. This was an international competition, everyone knew Victor would be there, so the amount of people who wanted to ask Victor a question was slightly unnerving.
In fact, the event organizers had to limit media presence to representatives of channels, websites, and magazines that had at least something to do with sport, because otherwise reporters would simply overflow the arena. Media attention was welcome, of course, but there was such a thing as too much of it.
“Mr Nikiforov, why did you change your program so much? Did you not like your old one?”
“Why didn’t you change the music?”
“Did you change the free skate as well? What can be expect tomorrow?”
“What do the rings mean? Are you married?”
“Do you plan to keep skating?”
Victor answered several questions, politely evaded a few others. He didn’t want to comment on his free skate, because there was no point in doing so – everyone would see it the next day. He didn’t comment on the rings, because he didn’t think Yuuri would want him to. He was excited to note that there were barely any questions about him going back to his music career. Not that he was disowning of it or anything, but he didn’t want to be asked about it at a skating competition. It reminded him that there were still people there that weren’t there for his skating, but merely because of his fame.
Once Victor answered as many questions as he could manage without getting annoyed, he and Yuuri finally escaped, changed, and headed out of the arena.
Just as they were leaving, an unfamiliar voice called out to them. Victor turned around, expecting a fan asking for an autograph, but was met with a surprise.
“Mr Katsuki, Mr Nikiforov, I’m–”
“Sakamoto Tora!” Victor exclaimed. “You were at my first competition. You won spectacularly. You were amazing!”
She looked at him with her mouth hanging slightly open. She’d spent quite a long time preparing for this meeting, thinking of ways to hold their attention long enough to make her case. She hadn’t even thought to consider the possibility that she’d be recognized, let alone with such excitement.
“Thank you,” she said. “You were quite good as well. Though, of course, you’ve improved significantly since then.”
“Thank you!” Victor replied, still brimming with excitement. “Are you competing today? Tomorrow? In which division?”
Victor’s enthusiasm was almost unnerving to Tora who had never been recognized for her skating before in her life.
“Oh,” Victor said with obvious disappointment.
He hadn’t thought of her in a while, but he remembered now that he’d hoped to see her skate again when he first watched her program on the day of his first competition. He’d wondered if they would both be competing at an international competition, and now here they both were. Though, apparently, she wasn’t skating.
“I had a mild injury a few months ago, so I’m sitting this one out.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that,” Victor said.
Yuuri watched this exchange with a slightly dumbfounded expression, because what was even happening, seriously?
“It’s nothing serious, just a twisted ankle, but it’s best not to risk it.”
“Of course. So you’re just here to watch?” Victor asked.
“Yes. I have family here. My father was Canadian.”
“Did he skate?” After asking this, Victor realized that it was a strange thing to say – it almost sounded like he was assuming that being Canadian somehow made a person more likely to be a skater, but Tora was taking the strange interrogation in her stride.
“He did, yes. He was an ice dancer. Though he didn’t compete much. He started coaching really young. He loved coaching.”
Yuuri continued to watch, wondering if he should insert himself into the conversation or not. It looked like this could take a while, and he wondered if at some point Victor would remember that this stranger came up to them with some sort of purpose, before Victor decided to learn everything there was to know about her.
“Did he get you into skating?” Victor continued.
“Yes. But then...some things happened, and I was only able to get back into skating in my 30s.” She turned to Yuuri. “Mr Katsuki,” she said, hoping that it wasn’t too strange to refer to him as ‘Mr’. She was never quite sure which honorifics to use when crossing cultures and languages. “I’m...in need of a coach.”
“Oh.” Yuuri’s eyes widened. Another person was asking him to coach them? Why did this keep happening to him? Wasn’t this backwards? Wasn’t he supposed to go out and try to find students? He still felt like any day now Victor and Yurio would realize that he wasn’t that great of a coach, and now another person wanted his services? “I...”
“It’s alright if you don’t want to or don’t have time, I understand,” Tora said, bowing her head slightly. “But just in case you could take on another skater...”
“I...” Yuuri said again. Any moment now he would form a sentence. Any moment now. “I... Ah. If you want me to coach you because of Victor’s success, I assure you, I have very little to do with that.”
Victor snorted dramatically.
“Yuuri, please...” He rolled his eyes affectionately.
“Actually,” Tora said, “while Mr Nikiforov’s performances are indeed quite impressive, they are not why I’d like you to coach me.” She took a deep breath. “I’ve actually wanted you to coach me for years. Since I started skating seriously. But you were still competing then, and besides I had no idea if you’d even want to coach at all, let alone an adult skater. I found a different coach, and it worked well for a while, but now we’re parting ways, and I thought, perhaps, I’d try and ask...”
“Oh...” Yuuri wasn’t really sure what to say, but he knew this probably wasn’t a decision he should be making on the spot. “I’ll think about it?”
“Thank you!” Tora said. She took a small piece of paper out of an inside pocket and offered it to Yuuri. “My phone number and email. Feel free to contact me at any time in any way that’s convenient to you. Oh, and...I’ll be moving out of my current residence in about a couple of months, and I don’t yet know where I’ll be going next, so... I could move to wherever your rink is. I work from home, so location doesn’t matter much.”
“Ah, okay,” Yuuri said awkwardly. She’d really thought this through. Which was slightly terrifying.
“Thank you so much for considering coaching me,” she said with a bow. Then she turned to Victor. “Congratulations on your win today, and good luck tomorrow.”
“Thanks!” Victor said joyfully as she walked away. Then he turned to Yuuri with a bright smile. “You’re popular.”
Victor could see the tension in Yuuri’s body and rushed to comfort him.
“Yuuri, you know you don’t have to do this. We’ve talked about this when Yurio pulled this stunt. Don’t feel pressured.” He rubbed his hands up and down Yuuri’s arms.
That was, of course, easier said than done. Yuuri was already feeling pressured, and would continue to feel pressured, no matter how this all turned out. But at the same time...he couldn’t help but feel incredibly honored as well.
“Let’s go back to the hotel, okay? I need to think about this in a private setting.”
Victor picked up his bag from where it had been resting on the floor and slung it over his shoulder. He wrapped his free arm around Yuuri’s shoulders and they walked out of the back door where a car was waiting to take them to the hotel.
They’d both known this competition would be eventful, but somehow it was managing to defy all expectations.
I don't know if anyone remembers this from the first fic, but Victor did indeed see Tora at his first competition and hoped to see her skate again. I had always intended to introduce her in a later fic, though, admittedly, it took quite a while.
Yuuri was sitting on the hotel bed, looking at the piece of paper that had Tora’s phone number and email on it.
“Victor?” he said quietly.
Victor looked up from his tablet to face Yuuri. He’d been giving Yuuri space but also staying close-by in case Yuuri needed him.
“Do you think I’d be diluting my attention too much if I took on another skater?”
“No,” Victor said. “Plenty of coaches have 5 or more students that skate professionally.”
Yuuri knew this, of course, but he needed Victor to tell him these things so that they would seem more real.
“Do you want me to take her on? You seem to like her.”
“I’m not going to tell you what I want, Yuuri, that wouldn’t be fair.”
“Huh?” Yuuri finally looked up from the paper in his hands to look at Victor instead. “What do you mean?”
“I don’t want to cloud your judgment. This should be your decision, I don’t want to affect it with my own desires.”
Yuuri stared at Victor with slightly widened eyes.
“It’s really not.”
“Of course it is.” Yuuri moved closer to Victor on the bed. “That would have made sense if you were just my student, but you’re my partner in every sense of the word. What you want matters. It always matters.” He took one of Victor’s hands and gave it a squeeze. “Please, tell me what you think.”
Victor opened his mouth, then closed it again. Yuuri had a point, but he still felt like nudging this decision with his own wants was questionable.
“I wouldn’t mind if you took her on,” he said. “I won’t be heartbroken if you don’t, but if you decide that you want to coach her, I’d be glad.”
Yuuri sighed. He knew Victor was holding back and giving him a vague opinion that really didn’t reveal much of his true feelings, but at least it was something.
“Okay, here’s what I think,” Yuuri said. “We’ve seen her skate, we know she’s good. And she seems dedicated. I don’t know if she’s taking the sport as seriously as you do, but she’s willing to move ‘wherever my rink is’, so I’m guessing this isn’t just a hobby for her. So, if I’m to take on another skater, she certainly wouldn’t be a bad option.” He paused before listing the counter-arguments. “But taking on another skater will mean more time working, less time with you. It will mean dispersing my focus. Yurio will probably hate it. But more importantly, I’m afraid that you will hate it. I know you never demanded that I be your personal coach, but if I take on more and more students, then we’ll never again have what we had when you first started training. I probably never would have become a coach if it wasn’t for you. And I know it’s not very logical, but it feels wrong sometimes that you’re only one of my students now, and not the only one.”
Victor stared at Yuuri in mild disbelief.
“Yuuri...I had no idea you felt this way.”
“Yes, well, I’ve never told you.”
Victor closed the small distance between them to hug Yuuri. He held on for a few moments before letting go.
“Okay, I would be lying if I said that I wouldn’t want you to stay my personal coach forever. Selfishly, of course, I want all your attention to be on me and only on me. But...I see how much you love coaching Yurio. I love that you get to pass on your knowledge and skills. I love that you’re in demand and that people want you to teach them, because you’re amazing and it wouldn’t be fair if I was the only one who got to enjoy your teaching abilities. And I know that coaching gives you purpose. You deserve to have that.”
“Wow,” Yuuri said quietly. “Thank you.”
It wasn’t very often that they talked about their feelings in such detail, so this was...pretty special. They really should do it more often.
“And another thing...” Victor said.
“Wow, the dam has really broken,” Yuuri said playfully.
“Do you want it to close again?”
“Sorry, sorry!” Yuuri smiled. “Please, go on.”
“Right, well. If you do want to take on another skater...and...if you do want to know what I think...”
“Yes, I really do.”
“Well, I would really appreciate it if you took on another adult skater. Especially one that intends to compete. Because Yurio has learned to tolerate me, maybe even respect my career to some extent, but he will never be able to relate to me, nor I to him. If there was another adult skater in our rink, it would be nice – to have someone with experiences similar to mine.”
Yuuri really hadn’t thought of that. He was so busy worrying that Victor would be upset about him taking on more skaters that it never occurred to him that Victor might want companionship of someone who was traveling the same road as him. And he never would have known if they never had this conversation.
The excessive interest in Tora that Victor had shown earlier made more sense now. She was like him in a way Yurio, or Yuuri for that matter, never would be.
Adult figure skaters that managed to hold on to their ambition, despite how little the general public cared about their sport, were a rare breed. Victor had long since made his peace with the fact that this is one thing he’d have to experience on his own. But it would be nice if he didn’t actually have to.
“We really should talk more,” Yuuri said.
Victor smiled softly.
“Yes, communication is generally a good thing.”
Yuuri felt much lighter now. He’d been worried about the wrong things. The decision really wasn’t as hard as he’d thought it was.
He picked up the piece of paper with Tora’s contact information again.
Taking her up on the offer to contact in whatever way he found most comfortable, he texted her instead of calling. The response was almost instantaneous. They’d be meeting up to discuss details after Victor’s free skate. Tora would be joining Yuuri’s rink.
“Now we have to tell Yurio,” Yuuri said quietly. “Do you think he’ll be mad?”
Victor laughed so joyfully that Yuuri didn’t know whether to be annoyed or laugh with him.
“It’s like he’s a child and you’re telling him that he’s going to have a little sister,” Victor said between fits of laughter.
“Laugh all you want, but you know he can get pretty scary.”
Yuuri’s face lit up with an idea.
“Oh, I know. I’ll text him now, so by the time we get back home, he’ll have it out of his system.”
“Or he’ll hold onto his anger, let it fester and mature until we come back...”
Yuuri groaned and fell face first onto the bed.
“There had to have been other skaters in his former rink, right? Maybe he won’t even care. He’s an adult. He can deal with this like an adult.”
“I’m sure that’s exactly what most people think just before getting punched in the face.”
Yuuri threw a pillow at Victor’s head.
Victor was strangely worried before his free skate. More so than he had been the day before. For some reason, the pressure of an international competition was hitting him harder on the second day than the first, and he wasn’t sure why.
Perhaps it was the fact that he’d won his artistic skate, and the expectations were now higher. It was nice to be able to compete in 2 separate competitions at the same event, but at the same time, there was less room for failure. You couldn’t make up for a less-than-perfect short program with your free skate, you couldn’t afford a mistake in your free skate because your short program score was high. You performed one program and either won or lost. Then you did it again the next day.
Yuuri’s voice brought Victor out of his trance. He’d been staring into thin air for a while.
“Hmm? Sorry,” he said. “I was just...thinking.”
“Do you think people will be disappointed if I don’t win today?”
“Well, they’re here to support you, so, of course they want you to win.”
“But, I mean, will they be...I don’t know, angry?”
Yuuri knew that a large part of coaching in any sport was about helping your student reel in their nerves. Victor didn’t really need as much of that as he was naturally confident, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t occasionally start bending under the pressure as well.
There was more to this than just winning a competition. Victor knew that he was the primary reason the arena was packed. He was bringing fans to adult figure skating, and it was exhilarating. It felt right that people were finally paying attention to the sport, but at the same time, if Victor actually took a moment to think about it, it made him terrified.
What if he lost? What if he didn’t perform the way the audience wanted him to? Would they lose interest? In him, in the sport? Would they no longer come to competitions?
And what would the other skaters think? First he comes into the sport and takes all the attention, but, well, at least people are actually paying attention now, but what if he failed?
Everyone would hate him, wouldn’t they?
Victor has always had a complicated relationship with the idea of pleasing others. He’s spent much of his childhood trying to either please his parents or anger them in order get their attention. Then he spent most of his music career chasing the latest trends in order to stay in demand, while maintaining an illusion of creative independence.
Victor liked to surprise people, largely because he was scared that if he didn’t, then no one would care that he existed.
He started to explore his own creative visions once he parted ways with Yakov, but it was only when he met Yuuri and started skating that he began to truly do what he wanted. In no small part, it was thanks to the fact that Yuuri gave him both freedom and attention at the same time. Victor didn’t need to be perpetually unpredictable in order to keep Yuuri’s affection. He still liked to be surprising, he still relished the look of excitement in Yuuri’s eyes when he did something Yuuri hadn’t expected him to. But he knew now that he didn’t need to do that in order to keep Yuuri. He knew that Yuuri would love him even if he got boring, and the biggest surprises in their lives would be movie night choices and pizza toppings.
Victor had found someone whose attention he didn’t have to work for. And though he never intended to take it for granted, it gave him comfort to know that Yuuri’s affection wasn’t conditional upon how exciting, or surprising, or successful Victor was at any given moment.
But it wasn’t all quite as simple when it came to skating competitively. There were thousands of people out there in the stadium that expected him to perform well. There were also undoubtedly those who expected him to fail, and would rejoice in a collective roar of ‘I told you so’ if he did.
He’d changed his programs because he wanted to surprise people, and he’d succeeded. But now everyone expected him to do something exciting for his free skate as well, so it was like they were expecting a surprise, which both kind of defeated the purpose and put additional pressure on Victor to the point where his natural confidence was no longer able to pull the weight, and Victor was starting to feel a little sick.
Yuuri watched as Victor’s face was growing pale. He had to fight down his own oncoming panic as quickly as possible, because Victor needed him right now.
He grabbed Victor’s hands and squeezed them.
“Hey, Victor, look at me,” he said soothingly. “Listen to me, okay? Remember what I said when people were upset about you changing careers?”
“About entitlement? Yes.”
Victor’s voice was cracking a little, and it made Yuuri even more worried.
“Well, that still stands. Sure, people expect certain things from you, but you don’t owe them anything. They chose to come here to watch the event. You didn’t promise them anything. Any expectations they have are on them. Every athlete occasionally fails. People who truly support you will support you even if you wipe out. And those who don’t aren’t worth your worry.”
“What about the people who want me to wipe out?”
That gave Yuuri pause, but not a very long one.
“Well, those people should go fuck themselves.”
Victor’s eyes widened. Yuuri didn’t swear very often, and especially not quite so colorfully. It shocked Victor enough that he started giggling uncontrollably. Yuuri certainly knew just the right moment to surprise Victor.
When his laughing fit was over, Victor felt much lighter. Maybe not entirely carefree, but a lot less terrified. Yuuri had pulled him out of a spiral of fear and uncertainty; much of his nervous energy was released with laughter, and now he could manage his emotions a bit better.
“Thank you,” he said, placing a soft kiss on Yuuri’s temple.
By the time it was Victor’s turn to take the ice, he felt ready. He wanted to skate. Win or lose, he wanted everyone to see his new program.
Victor skated out to the center of the rink and took his starting pose.
As the music started, he began moving slowly. His arm motions were soft and graceful, his body swayed in a way that looked almost as if he wasn’t entirely in control of it, as if he was being carried around by a gentle wind.
The first half of the program was unhurried and soft, filled with the sadness of loss, and the gradual process of saying goodbye.
In the second half, where the music was speeding up, Victor’s movements became wider and faster. He had 2 flying spins in this section. As he performed them, he couldn’t help but think of a time, not so long ago, when he worried that he would never be able to do them.
In his old program, this segment portrayed denial and anger, but the new one was about acceptance, about learning to remember the good things about the ones you’ve lost and cherish the happy memories, so that a part of them can stay with you forever, even when they're no longer there.
Victor spun with his arms outstretched. The music was fast, but he looked calm and open.
Unfortunately, he didn’t go quite right into his Salchow, and he fell as his skate didn’t properly connect with the ice on the landing, but he only smiled as he got back up and continued his program. It barely even disrupted his flow as he skated on as if nothing had gone wrong.
He landed a clean Axel toward the end of the program, earning a few cheers from the audience.
His last spin was faster and longer than the one he’d performed at Nationals. As he finally stopped, he stretched his right arm out to the sky and waved.
At last, he bowed and skated off to the exit as the audience applauded and cheered. Yuuri hugged him when he stepped off the ice, placing a brief kiss on his cheek.
It was a few minutes before the score came in, and when it did, the gasps and sighs rippled through the arena.
He didn’t win. He came in half a point below the skater from Mexico, and would be getting Silver.
Victor shrugged as he looked at the screen. It would be a lie to say he wasn’t disappointed. That botched Salchow would undoubtedly haunt his dreams for a long time still, but these things happened. No one could win all the time.
During the award ceremony, Victor smiled and waved to his fans. The skater who’d placed first looked almost scared as he received his medal, fearing that the legions of Victor’s fans would tear him apart for stealing their idol’s win. He wasn’t wrong - many did feel like Victor deserved Gold more. His presentation was far superior, and it was only the deductions for a fall that had placed him below Martinez.
Victor did his best to demonstrate that there was no animosity, shaking the winner’s hand and congratulating him on the win. He knew that many of his fans would still be enraged by the fact that he didn’t win, but that too was part of the sport, and he couldn’t quite blame people for supporting him too hard.
As he and Yuuri arrived in their hotel room that night, Victor sat down on the bed and looked down at his medal. He couldn’t help but be a bit angry with himself for not skating better, for not winning; but he had to accept this, accept that he wouldn’t always win.
Yuuri wasn’t entirely sure what to say. He knew Victor was disappointed, but he didn’t want to say anything that sounded like a justification or excuse. Victor had such a great start, winning several gold medals right away, so it seemed like Silver was a step down, but it really wasn’t. Most athletes never even made it to the podium. Silver was a very good result. Yuuri didn’t want Victor to feel as if he’d lost.
“Congratulations,” he said at last, unable to come up with anything better to say.
Victor looked up to meet Yuuri’s gaze.
“Like I said...” He tossed his hair back with a smile. “I like silver.”
When they arrived back at Yu-topia, they were met with cheers and congratulations.
Victor was showered with hugs, pats on the back, smiles, and kind words.
There was a party planned for the next day, to commemorate Victor’s medals in his first international competition.
Yurio was standing a little to the side, watching everyone else praise Victor.
When finally the congratulations were over and Victor started to wheel suitcases to the bedroom while Yuuri stayed behind to catch up with his parents, Yurio approached Victor in a way that would be slightly unnerving if Victor didn’t know that Yurio meant him no harm. It felt sort of like being cornered in a dark alley by a shady character, if a dark alley was a hallways of a family inn and the shady character was an Olympic gold medalist.
“You got robbed, Nikiforov,” Yurio said. “You deserved Gold. That other guy may have skated cleaner, but your program was–” He didn’t know how to phrase it without sounding melodramatic. “–art. You program was art. The dude who won just did a bunch of elements cleanly. Maybe if this was Seniors and he was pulling off quads that’d have been something, but winning with a few clean singles against what you did? That’s just fucking wrong.”
Victor stared at Yurio with his eyes wide and his mouth slightly open. He’d had no idea that Yurio even watched his competitions, let alone that he had such passionate opinions about them.
“Thank you,” Victor said.
“Yeah, whatever. See you at the rink,” Yurio said, retreating quickly into his room.
As soon as Yuuri got to the bed that day, he fell asleep and didn’t properly wake up until the next morning. Victor eventually crawled into bed with him, careful not to wake him up, but Yuuri was so deep in sleep, Victor really didn’t need to worry.
When Yuuri finally woke up, the sun was up, and Victor was looking at him affectionately.
“Wow,” Victor said quietly.
“You slept for about 15 hours.” Victor kissed him softly on the forehead. “How are you feeling?”
“Groggy, but rested.” Yuuri started stretching his body carefully. He wasn’t quite ready to get active though, so he ended up just wrapping himself around Victor for a nice long cuddle. “How are you feeling?”
Victor might have sprung back up after his fall on the Salchow, but that didn’t mean that it didn’t leave any damage behind.
“Fine, mostly. My right knee aches a bit.”
Yuuri hugged Victor a little closer, then kicked the blanket away to inspect Victor’s body more carefully. He’d checked for damage right after the competition, but now that a bit of time had passed, the bruises were more obvious. There was a small bruise on Victor’s butt as well, but it didn’t bother him as much as the one on his knee.
Yuuri kissed Victor’s knee and rubbed it gently. Then he started kissing up Victor’s gorgeous long legs, and soon his touches were less about giving comfort and more about giving pleasure, but Victor wasn’t about to complain.
They didn’t get out of bed for another 2 hours, and when they finally emerged from their room, looking sheepish and hoping no one had heard their muffled moans a few minutes ago, they were both independently thinking that it probably was time for their idea to get their own place to become a bit less theoretical.
The party to celebrate Victor’s medals was taking place later that day. Although, it was less a party and more just a gathering of friends and family for food and drinks.
Minako and Victor soon got into something akin to a drinking game, which Yuuri very explicitly did not approve of, but, well, it was Victor’s celebration, so when Victor made puppy eyes at him, Yuuri sighed and gave in. Not that he could ever truly forbid Victor anything, but he was still Victor’s coach, and Victor was actually surprisingly good at listening to his advice, most of the time. Yuuri wasn’t about to ruin that by being too strict.
Toshiya was the life of the party for a while, but eventually as he consumed more and more alcohol, his behavior tipped from fun to train wreck. Soon he was singing at full volume and taking his shirt off, which – considering his relationships to those present – was less entertaining and more uncomfortable and slightly disturbing. Eventually, he was led away by Hiroko, who had anticipated this as this wasn’t the first time it'd happened, and probably wouldn’t be the last.
Yuuri didn’t drink much, though he did consume a lot of food, and ended up on the couch, reclining so as not to aggravate his bulging belly.
On the other side of the couch was Yurio, who had spent much of the evening quietly eating and drinking mostly on his own, watching everyone else as if they were a reality show, and only occasionally interacting.
Now, however, he was more than a little tipsy, which never failed to make him melancholic and far more talkative than usual.
“I miss my cat,” he suddenly told Yuuri, who immediately turned to face Yurio at the confession.
“You have a cat?”
“Yes. I had to leave her with my grandfather when I came here.”
“Why didn’t you bring her along?”
“She didn’t have all the proper shots for international travel. Plus, I didn’t know where I’d be living, and...well.”
He sighed so deeply and sadly that Yuuri almost wanted to hug him. Almost.
“You can bring her now. I’m sure my parents wouldn’t mind. We had a dog living at the inn for a long time.”
“Hmm.” Yurio took another swig of whatever the hell it was that was getting him progressively more and more drunk. “Actually, Minako helped me find an apartment. It’s a 15 minute walk from the rink.”
“Yeah, but...it’s being renovated. So it’ll be a few more weeks before I can move in.”
“Yeah. Grandpa’s getting Dinka ready to travel.”
“Your cat’s name is Dinka?”
“Aha.” Yurio laughed, but it came out more like a snort. “It’s short for L’dinka, which means...ah, little piece of ice.” He rolled his eyes. “She’s actually the daughter of my grandfather’s cat. His name is Snezhok, which means snowball.”
Yuuri tried not to laugh, but failed miserably. He fell sideways and laughed into the cushion of the couch.
“That is adorable!”
“Shut up,” Yurio said, though with a lot less spite than he usually would.
“It is! It’s so cute!”
Alcohol had mellowed Yurio out enough that his toughness wasn’t really working properly, so he just rolled his eyes and smiled at his coach giggling maniacally into a couch cushion.
“Okay, fine, it’s...pretty cute, I guess.”
Yuuri rolled onto his side, looking up at Yurio.
“I can’t wait to meet her.”
“She’s not a big fan of strangers.”
“Oh, I wonder who she gets that from.”
Yurio smiled proudly and took another drink.
“You should probably follow your mother’s example and take care of your drunk partner,” he said, pointing at Victor whose head was resting on the table.
“Oh-ooow,” Yuuri said. “I think you’re right.”
It was a few more minutes though before Yuuri actually peeled himself off the couch to go and help Victor to bed.
“Hey, coach,” Yurio said as Yuuri was dragging Victor off to their bedroom. “When’s that other skater gonna join the rink?”
“She’s coming in in 3 weeks to see the rink, but she won’t be properly joining us until about 2 months from now.”
“Okay,” Yurio said quietly. “Good night, Yuuri.”
Yuuri left, helping the mostly-unconscious Victor to stay upright on their way to the bedroom.
Yurio stayed in the lounge for a bit longer, finishing his drink.
Though Yuuri and Victor had assumed Yurio would hate the addition of a new skater to the rink because it would mean his coach would be less focused on him, that wasn’t quite true. He was indeed apprehensive about Tora’s arrival, but not for quite those reasons.
The new rink wasn’t like his old one that often felt like a boot camp, where people were sort of friendly but not really friends, and the coach was respectful, helpful, and efficient, but not someone with whom you were ever truly close.
Training under Yuuri, living in his parents’ inn, he felt included and cared for. For the first time in many years, he didn’t feel alone. He feared that the addition of another skater would somehow disrupt that. Because this new rink, with the owners that kept everyone’s secrets and their daughters that did the opposite, with the onsen that came as a package deal with Yuuri’s coaching, and his parents that accepted Yurio with open arms despite how abrasive and distant he could be...it all felt like a family.
And Yurio was terrified of losing it.
Yurio was on the ice, warming up and skating aimlessly before his session.
Victor had some time off after Worlds, but the rink was still booked for the time when Victor would usually be training, so Yurio had taken to coming to the rink early and utilizing that time to skate on his own.
A few minutes in, he noticed that Lutz had arrived at the rink and sat down in the bleachers. He didn’t speak to her. He knew that she liked to draw skaters, especially when they skated freely, without the restrains of practice and training, so this was a perfect opportunity for her.
He didn’t do anything too complex, mostly concentrating on the simpler moving in the field elements and the parts of his programs that Yuuri liked to refer to as ‘connective tissue’. He didn’t want to get too tired before his coach even showed up, so he skated mostly for pleasure. It was nice to do that sometimes. It could be easy to forget that skating was supposed to be fun when it became a job with pressures and obligations, so doing some aimless skating was almost therapeutic in a sense. It helped Yurio remember that this was something he started doing because he simply enjoyed it.
A few minutes before Yuuri was scheduled to arrive, Yurio stepped off the ice, put his guards on, and climbed up to the bleachers where Lutz was.
He sat a respectful distance away from her before speaking.
“May I see?” he asked.
She hesitated for a moment, but decided that Yurio had the right to see her work, seeing as he was its primary subject.
She hesitantly turned the sketchbook toward him.
“It’s not finished yet,” she said.
Yurio studied the drawing. It wasn’t exactly what he’d expected. Though he wasn’t sure what he’d expected exactly, it just wasn’t this.
The drawing consisted primarily of detached lines that made up the shape of a person on the ice. Everything, from the blades to the skater’s hair, was mapped out with simple strokes. The skater was posed at an angle, seemingly mid-spin, with one arm at the side and the other up over their head, only one skate was touching the ice.
The drawing looked as though it was incredibly simple, even though it had taken a lot of time and effort to place those lines just so. And even though there was so little detail, Yurio could easily recognize himself in the drawing. There was no face, no distinctive consume, and yet, he knew that it was him.
“Damn,” he said. “You’re a fucking genius.”
He was vaguely aware that Lutz’s parents probably wouldn’t be too happy about him swearing in front of their very young daughter, but it was too late now.
“Thank you,” Lutz said, blushing slightly at the praise.
She turned a few pages in her sketch book, showing a few more drawings to Yurio. Some were of him, some of Axel and Loop, some of Yuuko, some of Victor and Yuuri. Most of them weren’t like the first drawing she’d shown him, but they had a certain style that connected them all, the artist’s signature ingrained in the way the lines and shapes went together.
The door clicked open, and Yuuri entered the rink area.
“Good morning,” he said, sounding more cheerful than he usually did in the morning, mostly because it was actually a lot closer to noon.
Victor’s post-competition vacation was doing wonders for Yuuri’s mood because he got to sleep in and didn’t have to start the day barely functioning.
“Morning,” Lutz said.
Yurio just nodded and headed back to the rink entrance.
“Hey, Lutz,” Yuuri said. “Where are your sisters?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “We don’t always come as a package deal, you know.”
She didn’t mean to sound rude, but she has been getting irritated lately about the fact that everyone assumed her and her sisters to be some sort of singular entity. They were gaining more and more independence from each other, yet people continued to think of them simply as ‘the triplets’ and expected them to be inseparable.
“You’re right, I’m sorry,” Yuuri said.
“It’s okay,” she said, feeling a bit guilty for the small outburst.
Yuuri smiled at her and sat down to put his skates on.
She flipped to a blank page in her sketchbook and started on another drawing of Yuuri.
“There’re up!” Yuuri finally yelled, startling Victor, even though he really should have known that would happen.
Yuuri quickly got off the bed and ran to Yurio’s room, knocking on his door.
Unlike Yuuri, who’d been expecting Yurio’s Grand Prix assignments with nervous anticipation, Yurio was actually asleep. As far as he was concerned, a few hours would make no difference, so staying up and waiting to see the assignments the second they were up really made no sense. Alas, Yuuri still banged on his door, waking him up.
Yurio dragged himself into the lounge, where Yuuri and Victor were now situated, with Yuuri’s laptop sitting on a table like it was some sort of pedestal of GP assignment revelation.
Yurio sat in front of it and looked at the pulled-up page.
“Skate America and Cup of China,” Yurio read out loud.
“Oh, Skate America!” Victor repeated happily. “That’ll be fun!”
“Wait, why are you coming?” Yurio asked.
“To support you and Yuuri, of course. Besides, I kind of miss America. I lived there for a while before moving here.”
Yurio cringed. He didn’t mind Victor coming per se. It made sense for him to come, if for no other reason than to support Yuuri emotionally, but it also made him a bit worried, because where Victor came, his fame followed, and Yurio didn’t feel like answering reporters’ questions about why his famous rink mate was accompanying him to his competitions.
“American pirozhki are terrible,” he said, just because he wanted to say something mean. “How do you ruin pirozhki? They’re pretty straightforward. What do they even do to them?”
“Same thing Russians do to sushi, I imagine,” Yuuri said matter-of-factly.
Victor let out a bark of laughter. He knew exactly what Yuuri was talking about, remembering the time he and Yuuri went to a very expensive Japanese restaurant in St. Petersburg, and Yuuri was visibly straining to not let on that the food was nowhere near anything that could ever have the right to be called Japanese. Even Victor could tell it was pretty bad. He wouldn’t have been able to tell before, but after having lived in Japan for a few years, even he knew that Russian Japanese restaurants were an epic fail.
Meanwhile, Yuuri remembered the time when Phichit came to visit Japan and, on a whim, they went into a Thai restaurant. Phichit was very polite and cheerful while in the restaurant itself, but as soon as they walked out of the door, he let out a tirade about how horrible the place was, and how insulted he was by the fact that the atrocities served in it were labeled Thai.
Yuuri could understand Yurio's hate for American pitozhki, but if there was one thing that most cultures in the world actually had in common, it was failing at replicating cuisines from other cultures.
Besides, Yuuri knew Yurio was just trying to be mean for the sake of being mean, so turn-around was fair play.
Yurio scowled at Yuuri before getting up and leaving the lounge to go back to sleep. He knew the Katsukis would probably throw some sort of party for him in the morning to celebrate his assignments, and that would be...kind of nice, actually, but for now he just wanted to crawl back into bed. He needed to maintain a decent sleeping schedule during the season, after all.
When Yurio was gone, Victor wrapped an arm around Yuuri’s waist, resting his chin on Yuuri’s shoulder.
“Sassy Yuuri is my favorite Yuuri,” he whispered.
“Is that so?” Yuuri turned to look at Victor. “Two days ago sleepy Yuuri was your favorite Yuuri. And the day before that it was giggly Yuuri. And last week it was strict Yuuri, and before that–”
“Okay, okay, point taken!” Victor laughed. “All the Yuuri’s are my favorite.” He nuzzled Yuuri’s neck, making him giggle. “Oh! there’s giggly Yuuri again! I do adore him so much!”
They kissed for a while, until it started getting a little too heated for the lounge, at which point they retreated to their room.
An hour later, Victor was resting his head on Yuuri’s shoulder, relaxed and content. After a few minutes of silence, he forced himself to roll off Yuuri to pick up his tablet. He opened the right tab and gave the device to Yuuri.
“What’s this?” Yuuri asked, even though he knew what it was, he just...needed Victor to say it, to make it more real.
“A house. For sale. About 3 kilometers from here.”
Yuuri studied the listing. He had to admit the house looked good. It looked neat and sturdy, big, but not too big. It would give them enough space to feel comfortable, but not so much that it would feel extraneous for just the 2 of them... Yuuri started to panic.
Victor noticed immediately.
“Hey, hey, Yuuri, we don’t have to decide anything. If you like it we can look at it, and even then we’re not obligated to make any kind of decision. There’s no pressure. No pressure at all. There are other houses. We don’t have to get this one. And even if we do, we don’t have to move right away. And even if we get it, and we change our minds, we can just sell it. We might even make money on that. And even if we lose some, it won’t be a big deal. We’re rich, remember?”
Yuuri took a deep breath, let it out slowly. Though he still felt strange about the idea of sharing Victor’s millions, he had to admit that Victor’s comforting technique was working. Reminding him that there was no pressure to make a decision in a time frame, no risk of financial trouble, not even the pressure of finality of the decision – it all made Yuuri calm down significantly. Not completely, but enough to be able to think a bit more clearly.
He looked at the listing for a little bit longer.
“Okay,” he finally said. “Next weekend. If it’s still available...let’s go see the house.”
Sorry, I know the assignment announcement scene is kinda silly, I just really wanted an excuse to write a rare sassy Yuuri.
I kinda stuffed a lot into this chapter. Sorry if it's a little discombobulated.
Yurio still had some time before his first Grand Prix event. His programs were ready, and he practiced them so much that he could skate them with his eyes closed.
In fact, he practiced them so much that at a certain point Yuuri actually told him to stop, and practice individual elements instead, because over-practicing a program could lead one to hate it or start skating it on auto-pilot, which could lead to serious problems if the skater were to make a mistake during the performance and needed to recover.
Eventually, Yuuri had to start following Yurio everywhere to make sure he wasn’t overworking himself, because even when he wasn’t practicing his programs, he was still practicing something, or working out at the gym, or doing ballet. Dedication was a good thing, but Yurio didn’t always know when to take a break, so Yuuri had to make sure he forced his student to rest.
The closer the event got, the more certain Yurio became. The doubt he’s felt when he’d first made the decision to part ways with this former coach was now entirely gone, and all that was left was determination. He wanted to skate well, not just for himself, but for his coach, and his new-found family. He’d always had a large fanbase, but it didn’t quite feel the same as having people cheer for him because they knew and cared for him as a person. Yurio found it unexpectedly empowering.
When the next weekend came, as planned, Victor and Yuuri went to see the house.
Despite Victor’s best attempts at reassurance, Yuuri still felt anxious and scared, though not nearly as much as he’d expected to. Excitement spread over his anxiety like a blanket, and though the nervousness was still there, it didn’t have as much bite as it usually did.
The house was mostly empty as the previous owners had started moving out, taking all their personal belongings with them. Most of the furniture and even some of the doors had been removed, which made the house look all the more spacious.
Both the outside and inside of the building were a combination of modern and traditional, which was perfect in a number of ways. Yuuri was pleased to find various storage areas around the house, while Victor was absolutely enthralled with the small attic-like nook just under the roof.
“I’ve always wanted an attic,” he told Yuuri.
“I’m not sure this qualifies for the title,” Yuuri replied.
“Doesn’t matter. It’s cozy and secluded, like a secret room for secret projects.”
Yuuri couldn’t help but chuckle softly at Victor’s bright smile as he studied the slanted ceiling.
“What kind of secret projects are you planning to do?”
“I don’t know. A sex room?”
Yuuri almost hurt himself with how quickly he turned his whole body toward Victor.
“A love nest.” Victor smiled as Yuuri blushed in response, which really had been Victor’s plan all along. “I’m joking, love... Sort of.”
Yuuri looked around and realized that Victor kind of had a point. The mini-loft was smaller than most of the rooms downstairs, giving it a cozy feeling. It would actually make a nice love nest. Not that they really needed a love nest if they were to have a whole house to themselves. But...they could have one, if they wanted.
As they walked back downstairs and paused in what would likely be their bedroom if they were to live there, Yuuri looked out of the window to see a young cherry tree growing just outside. If cared for, it would grow to be big and beautiful someday, just like the tree outside Yuuri’s bedroom window back in Yu-topia.
Victor came up to Yuuri from behind, wrapping his arms around Yuuri’s waist.
“Hey,” Yuuri said, turning slightly to look at Victor.
“So...what do you think?”
Yuuri placed his arms over Victor’s and looked back at the tree swaying in the gentle wind.
“I like it.”
“I do too,” Victor said, placing a kiss on the back of Yuuri’s head.
By the end of the day, Victor and Yuuri were on their way to owning a house together.
Even though they were, in fact, rich, and could afford simply buying the house on the spot without worrying about overpaying or additional expenses, Yuuri insisted that they jump all the regular hurdles, such as appraisal and inspection for structural damage, and Victor had to concede that it was wise. So it would be a while still before they could actually move into the new house, though still a shorter time than the process usually took, since they didn’t have to get a loan.
One of the inspections found some bad piping, so that had to be fixed. Plus, they decided that they’d be doing some minor redecoration before actually moving in any furniture.
Between the minutia of the house-buying process, Tora’s visit to the rink, and Yurio’s frantic last-minute training, time passed quickly, and all too soon, it was time to go to the US for Skate America.
After a series of flights, the utterly exhausted Yurio, Yuuri and Victor were finally exiting their last airport of this particular trip.
“Portland, Maine,” Victor said with exactly zero enthusiasm. “You know, when I said I was excited to go back to the States, I thought it’d be Chicago, or Lake Placid, or maybe Detroit, not...Maine.”
“How is Detroit any better?” Yuuri said.
“You lived there! That makes it a must-go location. I want to see where you went to college, where you trained!”
“Okay, okay, I get it,” Yuuri said with a blush. It still felt strange to him sometimes that Victor got so excited about things simply because they were somehow adjacent to Yuuri, but Yuuri got just as excited about things from Victor’s life, so he knew logically it made sense.
Yurio very emphatically rolled his eyes at them as he put his suitcase into the trunk of their ride.
“Let’s go, lovebirds,” he said. “We’re here so I can skate, in case you forgot.”
The next day, Yuuri and Yurio went to the arena to make use of the provided practice time, while Victor went for a walk on his own.
Victor would have likely been allowed to join them at the arena thanks to his ISU membership, but he decided that he didn’t want to go. Yurio needed time with his coach, Yuuri needed to concentrate on his student. Victor was happy to provide whatever support he could, but right then he would really just be in the way.
As Victor had suspected, Maine didn’t have much to offer, but it did have the ocean right there, which was always welcome. Victor lingered for a while on a bridge. He’d always had a soft spot for bridges. Though the cold from the water and wind seeped into his bones quite quickly.
It wasn’t long before Victor returned to the hotel, abandoning the idea to explore, because this was just like all those years when he’d traveled on his own. He felt lonely, and not even the greatest sights were all that great when he had no one with whom to share his excitement. In the end, Victor concluded that it wasn’t Maine that was boring. It was absence of Yuuri.
On the morning of the short program Yurio found himself unusually nervous. Most athletes experienced at least some level of worry right before a competition, but Yurio usually beat his down with anger and excessive determination.
However, this leap he’s taken when he changed coaches and moved to Japan was opening up all sorts of new feelings in him. Or maybe he was just aging. Unfortunately, even he wasn’t immune to that. He wasn’t worried about losing, it wasn’t really all that likely at this stage in the series, nor was he worried about doing something wrong, because he was as ready as he could be. He wasn’t sure what he was worried about, just...something. An anxious feeling the source of which he couldn't quite identify. He wondered if this was what Yuuri felt like all the time.
“Should I do all my jumps right away?” Yurio asked Yuuri as he stretched in the backroom of the arena.
Whatever Yuuri said, Yurio would probably make his own choices when he was out on the ice, but it was good to hear what his coach thought nonetheless.
“You can downgrade one of the quads in the short program. Then, depending on the scores, we can decide on the technical complexity of your free,” Yuuri said.
That made sense. Yurio had a tendency to go in hard, then go in even harder in the final, but his free skate was so technically difficult that if he performed it to its full potential right away, there would be nothing left to improve.
“Not like I have much competition here anyway,” Yurio said, looking around at the other skaters.
Yuuri didn’t like that attitude toward one’s opponents, but he knew deep down Yurio had a point. Many of the great skaters Yurio used to skate against were now retired, and new talent of his level hadn’t quite emerged yet.
“Yang could give you a run for your money,” Yuuri suggested.
“A very short, leisurely run,” Yurio deadpanned.
“Maybe one of these days some fresh 15-year-old prodigy is going to come crashing in and taking every medal imaginable.”
“Quit complaining, Coach. You took every Gold available in your last competitive year. ‘Took me down a peg’, as the media liked to put it.”
“That was the Axel!” Yuuri said defensively.
“You’re saying that like it’s not an accomplishment.”
“I... It is, I just mean I wouldn’t have beaten you without it.”
Yuuri had been the first skater in history to land a quadruple Axel in competition. It was indeed one of the main reasons he won every major competition in his last competitive year, though not the only reason. Being able to land 6 quads in a single program also didn’t hurt. And then there was his presentation. When he skated to the right music, the feeling he put into his programs was difficult to ignore.
“It took me years to land that jump,” Yurio said. “By then you’d quit competing, and now I’ll never get to beat you.”
Yurio scowled a little.
“Whatever. Now you just gotta help me beat everyone else.”
The truth was that Yurio hated competing against inferior opponents. There was little satisfaction in a victory you didn’t truly have to fight for. Yurio was really angry when Yuuri retired, even though it made sense considering his age.
Most of the other skaters Yurio had any respect for started dropping out one by one, and even the ones he didn’t respect but liked beating, like JJ, have also retired. The previous year Phichit Chulanont that did, in fact, often give Yurio a run for his money, and once even beat him at Worlds, also quit the game. And this year was rumored to be Otabek Altin’s last.
Yurio sighed as he watched Peter Yang get a pep talk from his coaches. He wouldn’t mind new talent swooping in and start winning. But he did mind competing against skaters who could never challenge him.
As the other skaters performed their routines, Yurio stretched and paced. Yuuri watched him protectively. Victor was in the audience in disguise, having opted to hide his presence so as not to distract attention from the skaters.
Yurio was the last one to take the ice. He walked out to the cheers and applause of his fans, silently handed his jacket and guards to Yuuri, then skated to center ice. There were a few gasps and whispers in the audience as the announcer stated that not only was the music for the program composed by Victor Nikiforov, but it was, in fact, choreographed by Nikiforov as well. Yurio paid the reaction no mind. Victor may have created the foundation for this program, but Yurio was the one who would bring it to life.
As the angry music started, Yurio launched immediately into a complicated step sequence. His first quad wasn’t far behind. The strips of orange fabric that hung off the sides of his costume danced around him like rogue flames. Even his triple jumps looked heavy as he landed them at high speed, and his spins were almost terrifying for their velocity.
Then halfway through, the music slowed down, and so did Yurio. His movements became more graceful, the elements he performed demonstrated elegance and control. The slightly downgraded jump combo looked effortless, the landings precise and seemingly weightless.
He finished with an arm stretched out in an aborted motion, as though there was more to come, but not just yet. A promise of a continuation.
After a few seconds of silence, the audience cheered, throwing flowers and assorted plush felines at Yurio’s feet.
He got off the ice and into the Kiss&Cry with Yuuri. Even with the technical side of his program downgraded, he placed first easily. In fact, he could flub half the jumps in his free skated and likely still win.
“Congratulation,” Yuuri said to him with a warm smile.
Reporters soon swarmed Yurio to ask him questions and compliment him. Over and over they started their questions with praise of how superior he was to his opponents, how unparalleled, no competition... Yes, that was true. But to Yurio that wasn’t such a great thing at all.
On the day of the free skate, the gang arrived at the arena early to watch the ladies’ programs. Victor was in disguise, though once he took a seat in the back row, it was unlikely that anyone would notice him. Yuuri and Yurio joined him a bit later.
Yuuri watched the skaters with a strange sense of melancholy or something like it. There were so many new skaters that he’d never met or even heard of. It was almost distressing how quick the turnaround was in sport. Athletes came in like falling stars only to burn out within a decade. Of course some of them set records, but those records were soon broken, and their names remained a passing mention in books and webpages on sports history.
People still listened to music from 50 years ago, even from centuries ago. But only dedicated fans remembered retired figure skaters whose records were no longer standing. Sometimes it felt really unfair how quickly sport discarded its heroes.
One of the skaters was talking to her coaches before taking the ice. Victor watched as if it was a reality show.
“Those are Peter Yang’s coaches, right?” he asked.
“Yes,” Yuuri said. “They coach several skaters, 2 are in this competition.”
“They’re as gross as you two are,” Yurio added.
“Excuse me?” Victor looked at him, then back at the coaches in question.
Now that it was mentioned, he noticed that they stood close to each other, and when their skater took the ice, they held hands.
“You don’t know?” Yurio said in an annoyed tone. “It was all over...everything. Guang-Hong proposed during his exhibition skate. After a competition that I won. Way to steel my fucking spotlight.”
Yuuri suppressed a smile.
“Leo de la Iglesia and Ji Guang-Hong,” he explained. “Sports media likes to call them The Skating Power Couple. Or, well, The Coaching Power Couple now.”
“They’re hardly all that powerful,” Yurio said. “They’ve barely won anything.”
“Guang-Hong won the GPF twice!” Yuuri said. “Leo won Worlds and Four Continents, and got Silver at Olympics.”
“Who hasn’t,” Yurio deadpanned. “Doesn’t look like they’re terribly great at coaching either.”
This statement was slightly undermined by Leo and Guang-Hong’s student, Maria Brown, effortlessly landing a triple Lutz-triple loop combo. The crowd cheered, which made Yurio growl a little.
Victor watched all this with utter fascination. He’d never truly gotten into watching figure skating. When he was younger, he didn’t watch it because it made him feel sorry for himself. Lately he’d been watching adult skaters because that felt like the better option for a number of reasons. But apparently the Senior division had power couples and exhibition proposals. He was missing out.
Brown won gold. Yurio stomped off into the skaters’ area to start warming up. It would be a long time still before he’d be skating, but it was never too early to start stretching.
Yuuri gave Victor a brief kiss and followed his student.
Yuuri stood leaning against a wall, watching Yurio stretch and warm up.
“You sure you’re good enough for this job?” an unfamiliar voice came from behind him.
Yuuri turned to see Gina Callow, the Canadian coach. He’d never met her, but knew enough about her to be slightly intimidated.
“Coaching?” he asked.
“Coaching Plisetsky,” she clarified. “You’ve only ever coached that Nikiforov guy. And sure, you did well there, but it ain’t the same as coaching the reining champion of just about everything in the Senior division.”
Yuuri didn’t know what to say. He’d considered that something like this might happen and had thought of possible reactions, but never settled on anything concrete. The truth was that he wasn’t sure if he was good enough for the job or not. But he did know that he wasn’t good at objectively measuring his own worth. Not that anyone really was. But Yuuri had a tendency to sell himself short.
“He chose me,” he said. “They both chose me. I don’t know if I’m good enough or not. But they seem to think I am. And I try to trust my students as much as possible.”
He held her gaze for a few moments, feeling the back of his neck beginning to sweat.
Callow watched him, assessing his worth, then she cocked and eyebrow, and her lips turned up in a small, cunning smile.
“Fair enough,” she said. “Good luck.”
She walked away, leaving Yuuri to ponder the encounter. As far as confrontations went, this one was mild and respectful. He wondered if there would be others.
Like many other coaches, Callow was a bit jealous of Yuuri. There were so many great coaches in business. Plisetsky could have picked anyone. But he picked this timid man whose only previous coaching experience was with an adult skater whose greatest achievement so far was a single Axel. Many wondered why.
It was important to remember, however, that different athletes needed different things. Some couldn’t progress without harsh discipline, others lost all motivation if you didn’t give them enough freedom. Callow concluded that whatever Plisetsky needed, he found it in Katsuki. That had to be worth something.
Yurio watched halfheartedly as the other skaters performed their routines.
His opponents weren’t actually bad. They wouldn’t be in the Grand Prix series at all if they were bad. But most of them were inexperienced. The Japanese skater only had 2 quads in his roster. The Italian only had 1. The Canadian was clearly struggling through his growth spurt and wasn’t in full control of his body.
Yurio watched as one by one his opponents did their questionable best. His motivation was flagging. At last it was Peter Yang’s turn to skate. He was supposed to be Yurio’s main competition at this event, but Yurio didn’t expect much from the American. He was wrong.
Peter Yang was 17 years old, and this was his second year in the Senior division.
He didn’t do very well the year before. Not poorly, but not nearly as well as he knew he could.
Now he was about to take the ice in his first event of this season, and he had everything to prove. More importantly, he wanted to succeed for his coaches.
Two years previously, his parents died in an accident involving a gas leak. This left him with no family, and no home. He had no one and nothing. On top of that, the events have heavily affected his mental health. He’d always struggled with depression, and losing everything overnight certainly didn’t mesh well with that.
He had no extended family, and his parents didn’t even have life insurance. His life could have gone a number of ways from there, and most of them likely wouldn’t be great.
He was, quite literally, saved by his coaches, who took him in, became his legal guardians, helped him through the worst of his mental illness. They never attempted to be his parents, but they gave him stability, they attended to his needs, and their help was what allowed him to continue to skate – a privilege he likely would have lost otherwise.
Leo and Guang-Hong had actually advised him against competing the previous year. Seeing as he’d been through so much, was still recovering from the trauma, and had lost a lot of practice time. But as soon as he was well enough to train again, he was back on the ice, putting every bad memory and emotion he had into his skating. He wanted to compete. He insisted. He wanted to make his coaches proud.
He didn’t. Well, they said he did, they always said they were proud of him, but he knew he’d done poorly. He got bronze at one of his qualifies and silver at the other, which got him into the final, where he placed 5th.
Leo and Guang-Hong kept telling him that he did incredibly well, all things considered. That he was still the 5th best skater in the world in his bracket. That he probably shouldn’t have even competed at all, but instead he got all the way to the final.
He didn’t medal at Nationals. And that was the end of the season for him.
He was still considered one of the better skaters in this season, but most people didn’t expect all that much from him. He intended to prove them wrong. They didn’t know how hard he’d trained and how much he’d improved. If they thought the most interesting thing about him was his tragic backstory, they had another thing coming.
Peter stood in the middle of the ice, head lowered, arms at his sides.
When the music started, he moved with precision and the kind of viciousness that made it difficult to look away. His costume was black and silver, often making him look like a shadow as he moved across the ice at a high speed.
His movements were sharp, his arms held at right angles during several sections of his routine. It went perfectly with the music that rose and fell suddenly in volume.
He landed a quad loop. Not flawlessly, but well enough. Triple Axel from a spread-eagle. Quadruple flip.
The crowd was captivated. His step sequence, enhanced in its intensity by the way Yang continued to hold his arms, was art in motion.
A quad toe loop-triple toe loop combo, a combination spin, and at last, he slowed down, finishing in the same position in which he’d started.
The audience applauded, showering him with flowers and plushies.
Leo and Guang-Hong embraced their student as he stepped off the ice and followed him to the Kiss&Cry.
The score was high. A personal best. Current first place. The crowd was going wild, cheering for their own.
Yurio stood in front of the screen in the skaters’ area, ignoring the nervous reminders from the arena employee that it was time for him to get ready to skate.
Yuuri watched him silently, recognizing that this moment was somehow important for his student.
Yurio’s lips curled up ever-so-slightly as he finally tore his eyes off the screen.
“This just got interesting.”
Since we're going to see Yurio's programs several times throughout the season, the level of detalization with which I'll be describing them will vary from chapter to chapter.
Yurio knew that if he landed the quad Axel, he could win quite easily, but he didn’t want to do that. For one, he didn’t intend to use the Axel until the final. For two, it would be so much more interesting to win without it.
He sort of understood what Yuuri had said about the Axel being the only reason he’s won so many competitions in his last year. It was almost an unfair advantage. Of course, it was perfectly fair to win because you were the only athlete to master a difficult element, but it also felt like less of a competition when you knew you could land that element and instantly put yourself above your competitors in points.
It was like bringing a gun to a knife fight. Sure, you’d win. But you’d never know if you could have won the actual knife fight.
Besides, there was so much more to figure skating than just jumps, and reducing the whole competition to who could land the most difficult quad sometimes felt a little wrong.
Yang had landed 3 quads. Which really wasn’t that big a deal these days, but this wasn’t the final, so Yurio didn’t know if Yang was actually holding back. He did land a loop and a flip though, which were both difficult and high-valued jumps, so he clearly wasn’t holding back too much.
Yurio and Yuuri walked out of the back area, greeted by cheers from Yurio’s fans.
“You still have a good cushion in points from your short,” Yuuri said. “I would advise against doing the Axel.”
Yurio nodded as he handed his jacket and guards to his coach.
“I’ll do 3 quads,” he said. “Four if I fall.”
Yurio rarely flubbed jumps anymore, but it wasn’t impossible. No one was infallible, and things were never quite the same in competition as they were in practice, no matter how experienced you were.
He skated out to center ice and waited for his music to begin.
His starting pose was the same as the ending pose of his short program. The aborted motion now had a continuation as he picked up where the short program had left off.
He started to skate slowly, unfurling like a flower. Many in the audience expected so see his first quad early in the program, but that was not to happen. Instead, he kept gliding across the ice gracefully, performing moving-in-the-field elements, making his ballet teachers proud.
He did have a jump combination in the first half of the program, but both of those jumps were triples. He landed them with grace and ease. As he continued his performance, many in the audience were realizing that his quads would all be coming in the second half, and the arena was filling with a sense of anticipation.
When at last the music sped up at the halfway mark, Yurio’s movements became more harsh and angry. His first jump was a quadruple Lutz. A rare jump, which sent the audience into excited cheers. His inside spread eagle with lowered arms made him look grim and determined. He launched into a quadruple flip-triple toe loop combo. A quadruple Salchow wasn’t far behind. A fast flying sit spin, followed by a Y-spin, which was a fan favorite.
He ended on a vicious spin combo, finally stopping abruptly as the music ended. The roar of applause filled the arena mere moments later.
It wasn’t nearly the best performance of that program. Only 3 quads, no 3-jump combo, and even many of the MITF elements were missing. There was a lot Yurio could improve once he got to the final, but the program was still impressive even in its downgraded state.
He picked up a giant tiger off the ice as he skated to rink exit. These days he was trying to show a bit more appreciation for his fans than he had when he was younger. He still found the incessant enthusiasm of his fanclub wildly annoying, but he was learning to acknowledge that there was value to having such unwavering support every time he competed.
It didn't take long before the results were announced. Yurio outscored Yang by a point and a half.
The reaction in the arena was mixed. Yurio’s fans were loud, but this was a competition taking place in the US, so of course, most of the audience rooted for Yang. Yurio could barely hear the conflicted sounds of the fan reaction as he smiled at the screen that displayed his result. Perhaps he hadn't fought as hard as he wished he'd had to for this win, but it wasn't a default victory either. This win had value to it in a way that Yurio hadn't expected this competition to provide.
After the award ceremony, when the medalists were posing for pictures, Yurio extended his hand toward Yang.
“Thank you,” Yurio said when Yang hesitantly took his hand and shook it. Then Yurio leaned in and whispered in Yang’s ear, “but I expect you to do much, much better than that at the final.”
The cameras flashed and clicked, catching only the visual part of the exchange.
A photo of the handshake, with Yurio’s scowl and Peter’s shocked expression, would spark many discussions on the Internet, as fans of both skaters debated what Yurio could have possibly said to provoke that kind of reaction.
Both skaters would often be asked about it in interviews and at press conferences, but neither ever shared the details.
Like most skaters that had ever encountered him, Peter Yang was intimidated by and even slightly scared of Yuri Plisetsky, but having been both thanked and challenged by him was an invaluable experience for Yang.
After getting silver, his motivation had flagged. He feared that despite all the work he’d put in, despite all of his improvement, this year would be a repetition of the year before. But clearly Yuri Plisetsky, a far more experienced, indecently decorated skater who could land a quad Axel, considered him to be a worthy competitor.
Plisetsky’s strange way of showing approval was in no way more important to Yang than his desire to make his coaches proud and show the whole world that they hadn’t been wasting their time with him, but it was an additional source of motivation. Now he had all the more reason to get to the final and do his absolute best.
The next few chapters will just be little bits of fluff and slice-of-life, before we start on the angst.
“Yuuri?” Leo’s voice was quiet and uncertain.
Yuuri jumped at the sound and immediately turned red. Kissing in the back of the arena had seemed like a fun idea. They’d thought no one would be coming there anytime soon but alas, they got caught.
“Who is this?” Leo said hesitantly. “I thought you were dating...ah, Victor Nikiforov.”
Leo knew this was none of his business, really, but when you saw your friend kissing someone who was not his partner, it raised some questions.
“Huh?” Yuuri said, his face twisting in a confused grimace. The realization came barely a second later. “Oh!”
Victor was in disguise. He looked like someone else entirely. Over the course of their relationship, Yuuri had gotten used to the disguises to the point where he could almost ignore them. He could still see Victor behind whatever camouflage he wore.
“Hello!” Victor said, smiling at Leo. “I’m Victor.”
He took off his wig and glasses. The make-up still made him look a little not like himself, but the mystery of whom Yuuri had been kissing was now solved.
Leo’s lips parted in a slightly shocked smile.
“Wow,” he said. “I mean, hi, hello! I’m Leo.”
They shook hands, Leo still staring at Victor both because of how fascinating his disguise was, and because...well, he was a celebrity that Leo had often seen in music videos and on magazine covers. And now here he was, in person. With his lips swollen from kissing Yuuri.
“Both of your students did so well today!” Victor said. “Congratulations!”
“Thank you. We’re very proud of them,” Leo said. “Actually...we’re having a celebratory dinner. You’re welcome to come! Yuri as well if he’d like to join.”
Victor looked at Yuuri before responding. He wanted to scream ‘yes’ without thinking, but that would put Yuuri in a position where he effectively couldn’t say ‘no’ even if he wanted to, and Victor was learning to slow down and not speak for both of them no matter how excited he was about what was on offer.
Once Yuuri gave a small nod, Victor turned back to Leo with a bright smile.
“We’d love that!”
“Great! Meet us at the back exit in an hour?”
“We’ll be there,” Yuuri said.
As Leo walked away, Victor all but jumped up and down with excitement.
“This is amazing! I get to meet your old skating buddies!”
“If you’re expecting them to tell you embarrassing stories from my past, don’t get excited. We competed in a few events together, shared some dinners, but never spent enough time together to get into any interesting trouble.” You’d have to ask Phichit for the embarrassing stories, Yuuri thought, but didn’t say out loud.
Victor would be lying if he said that he didn’t want embarrassing stories from Yuuri’s past. He wanted to know absolutely everything about Yuuri. But...he also knew that Yuuri wasn’t the kind of person who enjoyed being teased, and that embarrassment could actually be a crippling experience for him.
“I wouldn’t want to know anything about you that you wouldn’t tell me yourself,” he said.
Yuuri looked up at him in surprise. He hadn’t quite expected that, but wasn’t about to complain. Yuuri knew, and even accepted, that most people wanted to know everything about their lovers, even the embarrassing things; and Victor had the kind of over-the-top personality that often came with not knowing when to stop. So it was really a testament to how much Victor respected Yuuri that he put Yuuri’s peace of mind above his own curiosity.
“Thank you,” Yuuri said, taking Victor’s hand and weaving their fingers together.
He gently bumped his shoulder against Victor’s as they walked back into the depths of the arena to find Yurio.
Maine’s selection of restaurants was not what one would call particularly rich. A ridiculous amount of them was centered around seafood, which presented a challenge, since Maria was allergic to shellfish, Peter was vegan, and Yurio could barely even stand the smell of fish. He growled about it for several minutes as the gang searched online for a suitable restaurant and kept running into proud ads that boasted a wide selection of cooked sea creatures.
Finally, they settled on a relatively low-end Italian restaurant that mostly served pasta and didn’t require table reservation.
When they arrived at its doors an hour later, the restaurant was empty, and a hostess welcomed them inside.
“Ah...are we in the right place?” Guang-Hong said quietly.
“I had my publicist reserve the place for us,” Victor explained. “They were all too happy to accommodate, since they were having a slow night anyway.”
Yuuri shook his head with a fond smile. He was used to this kind of thing, but everyone else was a little shocked.
“That’s what you were doing on your phone earlier? Texting Amanda to buy out a night at a random restaurant in Maine?”
“Yes!” Victor said, unfazed. “And now I don’t have to wear a disguise.”
It suddenly dawned on all of Victor’s new acquaintances that simply showing up at a restaurant and having a quiet dinner was not really a viable option for Victor. They’d been in his presence for an hour, and they were still a little star struck. If the restaurant had other patrons in it, they would undoubtedly stare at Victor all night, possibly ask for autographs and who knew what else. Figure skaters might be popular in certain circles, but Victor’s fame was on a whole different level. He couldn't just show up somewhere and hope that no one would notice.
They settled around a large table, perused menus, and soon were waiting for their orders to arrive.
Conversation didn’t exactly start flowing freely right away, but eventually, the unease of meeting new people began to dissipate.
It took Yurio a while to even start speaking, but he eventually gravitated toward Maria who was a lot like him – fierce, determined, perpetually low-key angry.
Yuuri happily listened to stories of Leo and Guang-Hong’s wedding, Victor excitedly looked at old pictures from Yuuri’s competitive days, glad that they were never deleted.
Peter mostly stared at Yuuri the whole night, because – while Victor was an international star – Yuuri was one of Peter’s idols. He’d never hoped to actually meet Yuuri now that he was retired, so this was one hell of an experience for him.
Little by little, everyone found something to talk about. Maria turned out to have a love for poodles, which immediately made Yuuri and Victor warm up to her, and soon they were sharing pictures and stories. Peter and Yurio apparently used the same skates, though Peter used them because they were synthetic, while Yurio used them because they were light-weight. They both had sponsorships from the company that made them. Leo and Victor discussed music for a while. Their tastes didn’t exactly align, but they shared a deep appreciation for music in general, and had plenty of topics to discuss. Yuuri, Leo and Guang-Hong jokingly lamented about the hardships of coaching over-zealous skaters, but they couldn’t keep up the charade for long and quickly switched to showering their students with praise.
By the time they left the restaurant, everyone was relaxed, and even Maria and Yurio were smiling.
Victor found himself in possession of a few old pictures of Yuuri that Leo and Guang-Hong had shared with him. They were mostly group selfies taken right after getting off the podium. Victor had asked if Yuuri was okay with him saving the images to his phone. Yuuri couldn’t possibly say no when he saw the utter adoration in Victor’s eyes when he looked at the photos.
As Yuuri and Victor lay in the hotel bed later that night, digesting their carbs, Yuuri couldn’t help but wish he could meet Victor’s old friends as well. Victor knew Yuuri’s family, his friends from his hometown, and now even some of his old skating rivals. Yuuri hadn’t met anyone from Victor’s past. He wasn’t sure if he should say anything though, because Victor’s family situation was less than happy, and from what Yuuri knew of his music career, it hadn’t exactly been conducive to forming long-term relationships. Yuuri didn’t want to awaken any unpleasant feelings in Victor by bringing up what he didn’t have.
Victor didn’t know what Yuuri was thinking, but he noticed that Yuuri clung to him a little bit harder that night.
Yuuri didn’t say anything about meeting Victor’s old friends, but he decided that it didn’t really matter if he never did. Victor had a new life now, in Hasetsu. Maybe Yuuri would never meet people from Victor’s past, but he was determined to make sure that Victor would never be without family or friends in the present and future.
They would be in Maine for 2 more days, since Yurio still had his exhibition skate, press conference, and banquet to get through.
Yurio loved his exhibition skate. It didn’t really have a theme or idea, it wasn’t particularly well-choreographed. It was mostly just him skating around the rink the way he would on his own. Just having fun, throwing in jumps and elements when he felt like it, dancing around to the music. He intended to change it around after each event as well, which would make it fresh and interesting both for himself and for those who would see it multiple times.
It wasn’t like most of his exhibition skates from before. Most of them had been choreographed by his coach or a hired choreographer. They were beautiful, but Yurio had found them boring and uninspired. This year, he was skating like no one was watching, and even though it was unprofessional and sort of silly, the audience felt as though they were let in on a secret, as though they walked in on a skater fooling around on their own. Watching that exhibition skate gave many in the audience a sense of privilege similar the the one you got from having a butterfly land on your fingers.
By the time the events of the day were finally over, everyone was exhausted and fell into their respective beds to fall asleep almost immediately.
Yuuri slept well into the next day, as he usually did after an important, nerve-wracking event was over. And even Yurio slept in, and then spent much of the day lounging around his hotel room, taking a bath, ordering room service, and very emphatically doing nothing.
Their first flight wasn’t scheduled until the next morning, so they still had a full day in Portland, which allowed Yurio a day of rest before the long travel, while Victor and Yuuri could go out to explore the city.
They walked around Portland for a while, with no destination in mind. Eventually they got to the same bridge Victor had visited earlier and paused in the middle to watch the water. Victor breathed in the humid air and felt himself relax. It was amazing just how much more pleasant everything was when Yuuri was by his side.
As they crossed their bridge, they immediately ended up in a different town.
“I’ve always loved this about America,” Victor said, looking at a road sign. “You can just walk from one town to another. People often live and work in different cities, sometimes even in different states. That doesn’t happen in Russia. Most people spend their whole lives in one town, never leaving its limits. People in the US can up and leave their hometown, move across the country. If not for my music career, I probably never would have left St. Petersburg. My parents always told me I was lucky to have been born there. People in smaller towns often dream of moving to Moscow or St. Petersburg, but are never able to achieve that goal.”
Yuuri looked down at his feet as they walked down a street modestly entitled Broadway.
“I probably would have spent my whole life living in Yu-topia if not for my skating. Which probably would have been fine, actually. Sometimes I get so anxious I get too nervous to even go outside, let alone travel around the world.”
He paused, though Victor could sense he wasn’t quite done.
“But... I’ve always wanted to...leave some sort of mark in the world, I guess. Do something that would be remembered.” He blushed as the words left his mouth, feeling self-conscious, and even slightly ashamed of his ambitions. “Not that there’s anything wrong with just...living. My parents make people happy with the services they provide in Yu-topia. My sister has a travel agency now, she helps people make the best memories of their lives. There’s nothing wrong with lives that are...more conventional, I guess. But, I don’t know, it’s silly, I guess, but ever since I was young and first started getting into sport, I’ve wanted to do something great. Be in history books. Or at least Wikipedia pages.”
Victor smiled, leaning into Yuuri’s shoulder.
“You’ve succeeded, Mr First-Person-in-the-World-to-Land-Six-Quads-in-a-Single-Program-Including-a-Quad-Axel.”
“That’s a very long title.”
“And you’ve earned every part of it.”
They walked into a small gift shop to get souvenirs for their friends and family back home. Mostly pointless trinkets that looked cute – tiny statuettes, ornate thimbles, a set of shot glasses with ocean views and pine trees.
Victor zeroed in on a gigantic plush moose that seemed to take up half the space in the store.
“Do you think Lutz would like this?” he said.
Yuuri just stared at him with his mouth open for a while, wondering how they could fit that thing into their bags.
“It’s...a bit large,” he said.
“That’s the best part of it!”
Yuuri chuckled quietly. Once Victor set his mind on something ridiculous, it could be very difficult to convince him that it maybe wasn’t the best idea.
“Victor, she shares a room with 2 sisters,” he said with an apologetic smile. “That thing is the size of a small human. Even if we somehow manage to stuff it into a suitcase, where would she keep it?”
“At...the Ice Castle?” Victor looked at the moose dubiously, then sighed and set it back down. “I guess you’re right.”
He continued his trip around the gift shop, eventually settling on a snow globe as an alternative gift.
Yuuri felt bad for ruining Victor’s excitement, but at least now they wouldn't have to buy an extra suitcase for a toy that Lutz would politely accept, but would in all probability hate. Sometimes Victor got so caught up in the fun of something, he forgot to look at the more realistic parts of the situation, and that’s where Yuuri came in.
Similarly, Yuuri often had a hard time seeing the bright side of things, and Victor was there to shine some light on things that often seemed too dark when Yuuri looked at them on his own.
It was just one of the ways in which they balanced each other out.
With their newly-purchased bags of goodies, they walked for a while longer, until eventually they arrived at a college campus that stood right by the ocean.
“There’s a lighthouse!” Victor said as he noticed the white tower in the distance.
Yuuri smiled, relishing the enthusiasm that was coming off Victor in waves.
“Let’s go see it,” he said.
It was quite a hike, but eventually they got to the lighthouse that stood on a sort of rocky semi-island connected to the mainland with a small path rising out of the water.
They found a relatively comfortable spot to sit down and watched the ocean for a little while.
Both Yuuri and Victor had a soft spot for the ocean as they both came from towns that stood on water. Both of them had spent much of their childhoods around beaches. Yuuri always found it calming to look at waves and seagulls. Victor always thought of water as a friend.
They sat in silence for a while, happy to be sharing their love for the ocean with each other.
Eventually they started to get cold and were forced to leave the lighthouse.
They took a cab back to the hotel because neither of them was quite sure how to get back on foot, plus it would take a long time and they were getting tired. On their way to the hotel they were treated to a traditional local pastime – getting stuck halfway to Portland because the bridge was open.
While they were waiting for the ship to pass, Victor rested his head on Yuuri’s shoulder and almost started dozing off. They hadn’t seen anything particularly exciting that day, but he was no less happy for it. Yuuri was right there beside him to share the joys of seeing a new place, and suddenly even Maine didn’t seem so boring anymore.
Victor was finally traveling the world the way he’d always wanted.
The 2 weeks between Yurio’s Grand Prix events were filled with training and, surprisingly, moving.
Yuuri was apprehensive about moving in the middle of the series, but Yurio insisted. He didn’t actually want to leave Yu-topia all that much, but he did want to have his cat with him. And besides, now that the season was active, there would never really be a good time to move, so any time was as good as any other.
Victor and Yuuri started moving into their new home as well, and Tora would be moving to Hasetsu soon.
It turned out that Tora would actually be living in the same building as Yurio. Neither of them was quite sure how they felt about it just yet. They’d barely met during Tora’s initial visit, so whether or not they’d like or even be able to tolerate each other was yet to be determined.
“Must you all be leaving at once?” Hiroko said, watching Victor carry a box out of the inn.
“It is a bit sudden,” Toshiya concurred.
“We’ve been planning this for weeks,” Yuuri said, somehow managing to sound both guilty and defensive at the same time.
“We just didn’t think you’d all be gone overnight,” Hiroko said.
Yuuri’s parents knew that this was inevitable, and it was bittersweet. It was a good thing, of course, that Yuuri had found love and was starting a new life with Victor, but he was leaving. Really leaving. It wasn’t like the time he went to Detroit to train, because back then there was still a good chance that he would return. This time it was permanent. It made sense that Yuuri and Victor wanted a place of their own, but that made it no less difficult for Yuuri’s parents to see them leave. They kept telling themselves they were lucky that Yuuri was staying in Hasetsu. He could have moved to Fukuoka like Mari. He could have stayed in America after college, he could have moved to Russia with Victor. Instead, he was moving to a house that was within walking distance. It really was the best case scenario, and yet...he was leaving home. For good.
And on top of that, Yurio was leaving on the very same day. Over the time he’d lived in Yu-topia he’s become part of the family. He was grumpy and antisocial, and slightly scary at times, but he was loyal and surreptitiously helpful, and the Katsukis didn’t want to see him go. Certainly not on the same day as Yuuri and Victor.
Yu-topia was never truly empty. It would never be an ‘empty nest’ per se, but it was a family inn. And a large part of that family was about to leave.
“We’ll visit all the time, I promise,” Yuuri assured his parents. “You know Victor practically lives in the onsen, he won’t be able to stay away.”
“It’s true,” Victor said in passing as he handed Yuuri a box of clothing.
They gradually carried all their things into the hired truck. They could have easily hired workers to carry things for them, but Yuuri was uncomfortable with strangers handling his stuff, so instead they were hauling everything out themselves.
Yuuri was surprised to realize just how much stuff Victor had accumulated over his relatively short time in Japan. He seemed to have more than Yuuri, even though Yuuri had lived in Yu-topia most of his life, while Victor had only been there for a few years. But then again, Victor did have a tendency to buy a lot of things. Yuuri didn’t really blame him. Victor had been poor as a child, and now he had millions. There was no reason to stop him from buying yet another useless souvenir or overpriced shirt.
He also really liked clay teapots for some reason. They now had 7.
Once everything was loaded into the truck, it was time for Yuuri, Victor, and Yurio to leave. It proved to be a little difficult, as they were being viciously hugged by both Hiroko and Toshiya.
“We’re not going very far,” Yuuri protested from his mother’s iron grip. “And we’ll be back tonight for dinner.”
“I know,” she said. “But you’ll be visiting then. Not coming home.”
Even Yurio got a set of hugs. He scowled at little, but didn’t protest too much. It was nice to know that he’d be missed, and that he would always be welcome to return.
The first stop was Yuuri and Victor’s new house. Yurio helped them carry all of their things inside.
“I know why you’re moving now,” he said, carrying a particularly heavy box. “It’s so you have more space to keep all of Victor’s shit.”
Yuuri chuckled. Victor looked at Yurio incredulously.
“No,” he said in a serious tone. “It’s so I can buy more.”
Yuuri put a small kiss on Victor’s cheek when he passed him, and Yurio could only roll his eyes as he watched them. He contemplated breaking one of Victor’s pots, but decided that was too petty even for him.
When all of Yuuri and Victor’s boxes were unloaded, the truck traveled on to Yurio’s new apartment. Yurio didn’t have much stuff, but did buy some new furniture that needed to be moved in, so Yuuri and Victor went with him in case he needed help.
The apartment was nice, especially after the recent renovation. It was much, much smaller than Yuuri and Victor’s house, of course, but larger than Yurio’s old room at the inn. Most importantly, it looked brand new. The whole building had been renovated and all the apartments had been stripped of as much as possible, and everything that could be replaced had been replaced.
Yurio loved that. He loved things that were his own and no one else’s. He’d moved around a lot in his life and had gotten used to living in spaces that didn’t belong to him, but what was his was his, and he didn’t like sharing. Moving into a place that was as close to new as one could get without building a home from scratch certainly felt good.
“Do you need any help unpacking?” Yuuri asked once the boxes and furniture were inside.
“No, I’m good,” Yurio said, taking the last box from Yuuri’s hands. “Thank you.”
They parted ways, and soon everyone was settling into their new homes, unpacking gradually, getting used to their new lives.
Yuuri didn’t like unpacking. When he moved to Detroit, he lived out of boxes and suitcases for several months. Then he got so used to it that it barely even made sense to unpack since he already knew where everything was, plus, eventually he’d have to travel for competitions, and – oh, look – he already had everything packed.
It was Phichit who eventually convinced Yuuri to unpack. He had to make a presentation, with a list of reasons, and slides.
Victor, on the other hand, was excited to unpack. He started getting stuff out of boxes almost as soon as he was inside, and Yuuri had to accept that this was happening. He had mixed feelings. He found the idea of unpacking daunting, but at the same time, it looked like Victor would be doing most of it, so Yuuri could just go with the flow.
Of course, Victor was more of a tsunami than a flow, so within a few hours most of the boxes were empty, and Victor was standing in the middle of one of the rooms with a thoughtful expression. Yuuri was afraid to ask.
“I think this is a nice spot for my pots,” he said, signifying a currently empty space near one of the walls. “I could get a display case or something. What do you think?”
Yuuri sighed in mock resignation.
“Get a big one,” he said. “I’m sure your collection will grow in the future.”
Victor smiled brightly, kissed Yuuri soundly on the lips, then went online to look at display cases.
They were almost entirely unpacked by the time they went back to Yu-topia for dinner, and when they returned, they were exhausted and collapsed into their new bed.
Going to sleep in the new house somehow gave this move a sense of finality, and Yuuri almost panicked, but Victor wrapped his whole body around him and held him close and tight.
It all still felt strange, almost surreal. But this was a new step in life. A good one. One that Yuuri hadn’t been quite sure he would ever take. When he was younger, he wasn’t even sure if this was something that he wanted. But he no longer had any doubts.
Victor had always dreamed of this, but he didn’t know if he’d ever find the person with whom to build a life. He’d tried building several homes on his own, but they were never quite complete. Until this one.
When Victor fell asleep, his embrace loosened, and Yuuri turned around in Victor’s arms.
He traced the lines of Victor’s face, carded his fingers through his hair for a while. Victor hummed in his sleep and nuzzled Yuuri’s neck without waking up.
Yuuri chuckled softly and wrapped his arms around Victor. It was a while before he finally fell asleep, but he didn’t mind. Sometimes it was nice to just lie there and listen to Victor’s breathing.
A few days later, Tora moved into her new apartment.
Yurio had left for Russia to visit his grandfather and bring Dinka to Japan.
It was a good opportunity for Yuuri to dedicate plenty of time to getting to know Tora better as a person and skater. He’d watched a lot of her old programs – both the ones available online and the ones from her personal archives that she’d emailed him upon request – but it wasn’t the same as actually getting to watch her skate in person. He needed to see what she could and couldn’t do, and what she would require from him as a coach.
By the time Yuuri arrived at the Ice Castle for their scheduled session, Tora was warmed up and ready to practice. They greeted each other, Yuuri put his skates on and stepped onto the ice. He likely wouldn’t need to actually skate, but he liked being on the ice with his student just in case.
“Alright, where are you at?” he asked. “I know you’ve been competing in Silver up to this point.”
“Yes. I intend to progress to Gold, either next season or the one after it.”
“How close are you to passing do you think?”
“I’m good on step sequences, I can do a double Salchow, though I’m still struggling with the Axel.”
“You can choose do to the Salchow for the test,” Yuuri suggested.
“I know. But I want to be able to master all the usable elements before I start competing in the bracket.”
“Alright. I can help with the Axel.”
“I can do a required spin combo, but I have a hard time with sit spins in general. I’m flexible, but don’t have as much leg strength as I’d like. I, well...” She sighed, ashamed to admit a flaw. “I hate off-ice training. I do it. But not as consistently or vigorously as I should.”
Yuuri smiled kindly.
“You could train with Victor. Do you think that would help?”
“Yes, actually, I think it would. It’s easier to get motivated when someone’s watching. Do you think Victor would be alright with it?”
“I’ll ask him. If he agrees, you can set up a schedule together.” Yuuri skated around the rink, and Tora followed him. “You didn’t have anyone to train with at your old rink?”
“Not really. It wasn’t much of a community. My coach had several skaters that came in at different times to train. There were other coaches with their students. I knew a few people, but we didn’t really spend much time together off the ice. I didn’t mind. I don’t crave human contact usually. Having a training partner would be beneficial though.”
Yuuri nodded, then stopped near the rink exit and leaned on the barrier.
“Alright, show me what you’ve got.”
She skated out closer to the center and started performing various moving-in-the-field elements and single jumps. Yuuri noted that she was certain on the ice, which was always a plus. Being comfortable on the blades was often more important than mastering specific elements. If you still felt and looked like you barely knew what you were doing, no amount of jumps could make up for that.
Tora landed the double Salchow cleanly. Then she stopped and skated up to Yuuri.
“Want to see me flub an Axel?”
“By all means.”
She skated away from him, gaining some speed, and launched into a single Axel. She didn’t fall, but had to touch the ice to balance herself.
“It irritates me so much,” she said as she skated back up to Yuuri. “I can do a double, but not a single Axel.”
“A lot of skaters struggle with Axels,” Yuuri assured her.
“I know. That hardly makes me feel better.”
Yuuri smiled with a small shrug.
“It’s okay. I think I know how to help.”
For the next half hour, they worked on the Axel, discussing technical minutia, use of muscles, rotation speed. She landed a much cleaner Axel by the end of the session, though that was just one success. It would take a lot of practice and training before she could land it consistently. She also wanted to start working on a double toe loop.
“I’m surprised you haven’t mastered it yet,” Yuuri said after demonstrating a double toe loop to Tora. “Most skaters find it to be one of the easier jumps, and you’ve already mastered the double Salchow.”
“Oh my own,” she explained.
“What do you mean?”
“My old coach wasn’t keen on teaching doubles to adults, especially women. He claimed it was too difficult and unnecessarily dangerous.”
“Oh,” was all Yuuri could say.
He had to admit, he often had such thoughts as well. Of course, adults were more prone to injuries than younger skaters, and would take longer to heal if they got seriously hurt. He knew a lot of coaches were very strict about what their skaters were allowed to do, and often it made sense. Reeling in a youngster who wanted to do quads at 13, telling a skater recovering from an injury to slow down, reminding someone going through a growth spurt that sometimes you needed to wait it out instead of pushing your changing body beyond its limits – those things made sense. Did it make sense to tell adult skaters that they couldn’t progress beyond a certain point? At all? He didn’t know. They would be safer, of course. But he would have been safer if he’d never done a quad Axel. How was that any different? Sport was never meant to be safe.
Part of Yuuri’s job as a coach was to make sure his students didn’t take unnecessary risks. But, as far as he was concerned, telling them when to stop progressing wasn’t his decision. It was up to the skaters themselves. They were adults, after all. They could make their own choices.
“Coach?” Tora said, drawing Yuuri out of his thoughts.
“Yes, sorry!” Yuuri said, refocusing on his skater. “I was just...thinking.”
“About?” Tora was fairly sure she knew what he’d been thinking about. And his next words would be very important to the future of their professional relationship.
“I was thinking...if you mastered a double Salchow on your own, you’ll have no trouble mastering the toe loop with my help.” Yuuri could actually see Tora’s relief as her shoulders sagged a little with the released tension. He decided not to draw attention to the importance of the moment, and instead concentrate on Tora’s training needs. “Why did you choose the Salchow? Do you find it easier?”
“I do. Although it was also because there was another skater at the rink who could do it and she helped me.”
“I see. Well, we can start working on the toe loop little by little, although I suggest we concentrate on your Axel first. You’re close to being able to land it consistently.”
Tora nodded in agreement.
They spent another hour on the ice. Toward the end of the session, Victor came to the Ice Castle and sat in the bleachers, watching Tora practice. She greeted him when she stepped off the ice, and they discussed off-ice training together. As Yuuri had hoped, Victor was excited about the prospect.
They worked out a training schedule for Tora. It wouldn’t be as packed as Yurio or Victor’s because she did actually have a job outside of skating and needed more off days to meet her deadlines.
Since she and Victor were on similar skill levels, Yuuri scheduled one joint session a week for them. Their skills might have been similar, but their styles were different, and they could learn from each other, or at least support each other, since they were currently working on similar goals.
Victor’s sessions these days concentrated largely on perfecting double jumps and flying spins. As Tora left for the shower, Victor was putting on knee pads. He didn’t actually fall as much any more on most of his jumps, but double Lutz still had him sprawled across the ice more often than not.
Later that night, Yuuri and Victor were sitting up in bed together. Yuuri was designing an off-ice training regiment for Tora, while Victor watched Tora’s old performances online.
“I can’t believe I haven’t watched all of these yet,” Victor said as he started another video. “She’s amazing. Kind of creepy though. But in a good way.”
Yuuri laughed at the summary, looking up from his notes to see what Victor was watching.
“Yeah, she...has a style.”
A lot of Tora’s programs were dark. Most of her costumes were in black, gray, and red. The music was usually fast and intense. Sometimes it was slow and creepy. But the programs were invariably eye-catching.
Victor started a video of Tora’s artistic program from the previous year’s Nationals. The music was a song from Nightmare Before Christmas. Victor chuckled at first, because that seemed sort of ridiculous, but somehow Tora managed to pull it off.
As Jack Skellington whined about ruining everything, Tora hydrobladed slowly, then rose up into a dramatic spread eagle.
“Wow,” Victor said.
“She has a lot more leg strength than she claims,” Yuuri said, craning his neck to watch the video on Victor’s laptop. He’d seen it before, but now that he was actually training Tora, he was beginning to see her old programs in a new light.
“She’s certainly not lacking in presentation,” Victor said.
Then his eyes lit up with an idea, and he turned to Yuuri, looking exceedingly excited.
“Oh no,” Yuuri said. “What’s happening in that gorgeous brain of yours?”
“It’s Halloween in a few days!” Victor said.
“This is perfect!” Victor opened his Twitter and started typing a new message. “I’ll share this video with my followers!”
Yuuri smiled. He wondered if maybe Victor should ask Tora first, but then again, the video was online already. All Victor was doing was sharing it...with several million people.
@v-nikiforov ✔: Happy Halloween, everyone! Check out this season-appropriate program by my new rinkmate, Sakamoto Tora! (video)
Of course, many of the people who watched the video only cared peripherally, and Tora only mattered to them by association with Victor. But many were drawn to Tora’s skating and her distinctive style. Since adult skating was still a fairly underappreciated sport despite the interest Victor was drawing to it, Tora’s programs had never had much of an audience in the past. Most people simply hadn’t known they existed. But, once again, Victor’s fame came in handy and drew attention to great things that had been there all along and had simply been overlooked before.
By Halloween night, Tora had an army of fans.
Yurio came back from Russia in a good mood, happy to have Dinka with him at last.
After arriving at the new apartment, Dinka spent some time walking around slowly, exploring, rubbing her cheeks against various objects and corners to make the place her own. Eventually she felt safe enough to eat. Yurio watched her with something like relief settling in his chest. He hadn’t wanted to admit just how much he’d missed Dinka, but now that she was here, a certain tension that he’d been carrying around was finally released.
He’d moved around a lot in his life and had gotten used to not feeling attached to any place where he stayed. He knew, perhaps, Hasetsu would be no different, but as he watched Dinka settle down on the couch, curling up in a ball of white fur atop the maroon cushions, Yurio felt an almost unfamiliar sense of belonging. He loved where he was, and now that his friend was with him, his new place started to truly feel like home.
When he came into practice the next day, he was actually smiling.
As Victor changed out of his skates, he waved at Yurio with a bright grin.
“Welcome back, Yurio! How did it go? How was Russia? How’s your grandfather doing?”
“As well as one can at his age,” Yurio said.
“How’s your cat? When can we meet her?”
Yurio rolled his eyes, but he found that he didn’t really mind. Victor’s excitement could be overwhelming at times, but it felt good to have someone be so genuinely invested in your life and well-being.
“She’s fine, settling in. If you must, you can come over for dinner tomorrow. Assuming your bring your own food, because I don’t have any.”
Victor’s eyes lit up. He turned to Yuuri, who was trying to suppress laughter.
“We’ll come,” Yuuri said. “And maybe bring you some groceries while we’re at it.”
“Perfect,” Yurio said, then sat down to change into skates.
Victor kissed Yuuri briefly, then left the rink to go home, change, rest, and prepare for his ballet lesson later.
Yurio was itching to skate. He’s been off the ice for a few days, and it made him twitchy. The trip had been nice, but the Cup of China was coming up, and he needed to practice.
After a long, meticulous warm-up he finally started running through his programs. He fell when he tried the quadruple Axel, and it made him angry and frustrated, all of the good mood from earlier instantly evaporating.
“I know what I did wrong!” Yurio yelled at his coach, then immediately felt bad about it.
He got up and skated around for a bit before trying again. He landed the jump almost perfectly this time, but he was still angry.
He knew it was irrational. Everyone made mistakes sometimes, and that flubbed jump actually had enough rotations, so he’d have still gotten a lot of points for it in competition. And yet.
His relationship with the quad Axel was complicated. After most of his best competition retired, he didn’t really have anyone to beat. He was effectively competing against himself, against his own world records. Landing the Axel had put him even further above everyone else, and that made Yurio feel like he couldn’t flub it now. If he couldn’t land that stupid diamond unicorn of a jump, it would mean that he was slipping, that he wasn’t as good as he’d been. And worse than having no competition was reaching a point where you were no longer good enough to compete. It was terrifying and inevitable. And Yuri was by no means ready for it. He was still young. But retirement loomed over everyone in sport, almost from the very start of their careers.
When the time came, hopefully in the relatively far future, Yuri was intending to go out on a high note. Unbeaten. The way Yuuri did. He wasn’t going to leave when he could no longer land the damn Axel.
He took a deep breath, then started to gain speed to do the jump again.
“Stop,” Yuuri said.
Yurio skidded to a stop and turned, directing all of his anger at his coach.
“You’re angry. You need to calm down first. If you keep going like this, you’ll hurt yourself.”
Yurio growled in a way that was almost scary, but Yuuri was used to it.
“Fine!” Yurio said and skated up to the barrier.
Yuuri joined him, and they stood side by side without talking for a while. Yuuri considered placating Yurio, telling him he’d been off the ice for a while and this was perfectly normal, but he knew at the moment that would likely just make Yurio angrier. So they just stood in silence until Yurio calmed down enough that his body was no longer tense.
When he was ready, he skated around the rink once, then came back up to Yuuri.
“Do the 3-jump combo," Yuuri said. "You were shaky on the toe loop.”
Yurio nodded and followed his coach’s instructions.
The rest of the session went much better. Yuuri had Yurio run through his programs a few more times, mostly working on flow and synchronization with the music. The pieces Victor had written for him were perfect, but a lot of the beauty of the programs relied on going in synch with the melody, and that required a lot of practice.
He landed the quad Axel three more times without a hitch, which calmed him down significantly.
By the time practice was over, Yurio was drenched in sweat and craving a shower.
As he stepped off the ice, he noticed that Tora was in the bleachers, watching. They’d met once before, but very briefly. He nodded at her as she stepped off the bleachers. She nodded back.
Takeshi came out to resurface the ice while Tora was warming up.
“Have you seen Lutz?” Yurio asked Yuuri. “I need to give her something.” He'd bought her some books on traditional arts and crafts when he was in Russia.
“No, but if I do, I’ll tell her you’re looking for her.”
“Lutz?” Tora asked Yuuri quietly. “That’s...a person?”
“Yes, that’s–” Yuuri started to explain, but was cut off by Yurio who got up in Tora’s face, pointing an angry finger at her.
“It’s not her fault that’s how she was named!” he yelled. “What kind of name is Tora anyway?”
“It means tiger,” Tora said calmly.
Yurio froze in surprise.
“Yes. My parents shared a love of big cats,” she explained. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude about your friend’s name.”
“Her sisters are named Axel and Loop,” Yuuri said.
Tora almost choked on suppressed laughter.
“I see,” she said, then turned around so as not to aggravate Yurio further with her inappropriate reaction.
As Tora got ready for practice, Yurio stomped off, to the shower, and then out of the Ice Castle.
Later than night, Tora passed Yurio’s door on her way to her own apartment, and briefly considered knocking on it, but decided against it. She had upset him earlier, and he seemed to be generally unfriendly, so, perhaps, attempting to force some sort of communication would only lead to hostility.
To her surprise, it was Yurio who ended up knocking on her door a few hours later.
He wasn't sure why exactly he was there, in front of Tora's door. He knew people did this, made friends with neighbors, but the idea never seemed particularly appealing to him. Nonetheless, they were rinkmates, they lived in the same building, he knew it made sense to at least acknowledge their proximity.
“Hi,” he said, when she opened the door. “I’m sure you know, I live in this building too."
“Yes, I'm aware. Would you like to come in?”
“No, I just–” His gaze fell on a gray ball of fur that was carefully moving around the room behind Tora. “Who’s that?”
She turned around and smiled at the source of Yurio’s surprise.
“That’s Ichabod,” she said. “I just finished rabbit-proofing this place. So he’s taking a stroll around the new territory.”
Yurio looked at Ichabod in wonder.
“I’ve never seen a rabbit in real life before,” he admitted.
“Really? Not even at a zoo?”
“I hate zoos,” he said with a scowl. “Never been to one. I faked illness when they tried to force me to go to one on a school trip.”
Tora smiled briefly, motioning for Yurio to come in because despite his earlier statement, he now clearly wanted to.
“I never meant to have a pet,” she said. “I sort of inherited Ichabod from an old roommate who died.”
Yurio hummed in acknowledgment as he paused in front of Ichabod.
“Can I hold him?”
“I would advise against it,” Tora said. “Rabbits don’t like to be held.”
“Oh.” Yurio was disappointed, but accepted it. Dinka didn’t like to be held either. “You've probably heard – I went to Russia this week to retrieve my cat.”
“Yes, I've heard. How did it go?”
“Fine. Dinka’s fine. She was happy to see me.” Yurio grinned. “Well, as happy as she ever is to see anyone. She’s a bit of an asshole.”
Tora smiled at how fond Yurio looked while saying that.
She sat down on the floor, Yurio followed her lead. Ichabod smelled him, and eventually jumped up onto his lap. Yurio sat very still as Ichabod moved over his legs, smelling him some more. After a few minutes he jumped off to continue exploring the rest of the apartment.
“Perhaps we could pet sit for each other during competitions,” Tora suggested.
Yurio looked up at her with a tiny smile.
Does anyone know if Guang-Hong's name should have a hyphen or not? I mean, I realize rules are questionable when a name gets dragged from one language to another, so there's essentially no correct way to spell it in English, but I wonder which is better, hyphen or no hyphen.
Tora trained less than Victor, but competed more. She had a dual citizenship and often competed in both Canadian and Japanese competitions, though she was certified with the JSF and only represented Japan in international competitions.
Victor was only starting to truly get into the competitive scene, but he was considering competing more as well. There were many non-qualifying competitions, several international competitions held for adult skaters, some local competitions and several events in Russia. He also constantly got invitations to various exhibitions, galas, and even corporate events and birthday parties, but most of them got filtered out by Amanda’s assistant. Victor wasn’t opposed to the idea of skating in exhibitions, and he didn’t think it was in any way reprehensible or inferior for a skater to perform at someone’s bar mitzvah if it helped them support their sport, but he didn’t have to. He had enough money that he didn’t have to make more in ways he didn’t like.
Participating in more competitions, however, was something Victor certainly wanted. He and Yuuri already started researching events where Victor could compete and comprised a list. Since Victor lived in Japan, participating in all the adult events in Russia wouldn’t be very practical, but there were a few big ones he wanted to go to, plus several international events, as well as a few competitions in Japan that didn’t require Japanese certification.
“You’re about to make some event organizers very happy,” Yuuri said as they looked through their event list, trying to decide which ones Victor would be attending.
“It’s so wrong,” he said in a rare moment of complete seriousness. “There are so many great adult skaters competing at these events, but they’ll only have an audience if I show up. And not even because I’m such a great skater, just because I’m famous for other things.”
“You are great skater,” Yuuri said.
“But that’s not why people come to watch me.”
Victor still struggled with this sometimes. He knew there were people who did, in fact, truly appreciate his skating, but it would be dishonest to deny that he would not be able to gather the kind of audiences he did if it wasn’t for his previously-earned fame. Sometimes he wanted to tell people to only come to see him skate if they actually cared about his skating, not just because it was a way for them to see a celebrity or because they liked his music, not his skating. But that would be rude and unfair. He had no right to tell people which events to attend and why. He didn’t want to be unappreciative of the fans of his music, even if it irritated him that they came to his skating competition while having no real interest in skating. And besides, it was a good thing that he was attracting more attention to adult skating events, even if a lot of that attention was for the wrong reasons. Victor tried to remind himself that, though it didn’t always feel entirely true.
He tucked his head into the crook of Yuuri’s shoulder and closed his eyes.
Yuuri didn’t know what to say. There wasn’t much he could say that wouldn’t be a hollow platitude. The situation was strange and dubious, but it was what it was. Of course, many would give everything to be in Victor’s position – famous from a successful music career, and now pursuing his dreams in skating as well, but that didn’t mean that Victor didn’t have the right to occasionally feel that things weren’t exactly perfect.
“The nearest event is in 3 months,” Yuuri said. “Do you want to make new programs?”
Victor smiled softly without opening his eyes.
“I do,” he said. “I already have the music for my free skate.”
“Do you have a theme?”
Victor didn’t reply right away. He’d thought about this for a while. There were many things he could express, many things he wanted to address through art. But in the end he settled on a simple, yet profound concept that meant so many things at once.
Victor once again accompanied Yuuri and Yurio to the event.
Before leaving, Yurio left a long list of instructions for Tora on how to take care of Dinka, even though it was relatively straight-forward. She didn’t require any special care, but if there was one thing Yurio took as seriously as skating, it was taking care of cats. He only barely resisted threatening Tora to insure that she did her best.
Tora absorbed the instructions diligently and promised to call if anything went wrong.
They arrived in Shanghai 2 days early. Victor and Yuuri went to a restaurant as soon as they could, while Yurio spent most of his free time in his hotel room. He wasn’t a particularly big fan of sightseeing or traveling in general. He didn’t care where to skate. He was vaguely aware of being in a different country, but it didn’t fascinate him the way it did most people. He did go out sometimes during competitions and even took pictures of landmarks that caught his eye, but as a general rule his concentration was on the competition, and everything else was just a distraction.
Since Skate America, Victor has had to devise some new disguises, because people had figured out that he was accompanying Yuuri to Yurio’s events, and were looking out for him now. He saw it as an exciting challenge, though it was less exciting for Yuuri who had to suffer through an hour of having make-up put on him, because if they went out together, they both had to be in disguise, or else people could just spot Yuuri and know that Victor would be nearby. The worst part of Victor’s most recent disguise for Yuuri had to be the high-platform shoes that ate away at some of the distinctive height difference between Yuuri and Victor. For what it was worth though, by the time Victor was done, they were both unrecognizable, and their trip to the restaurant and subsequent walk had gone without anyone approaching them.
The disguises were so good that when they returned to the hotel later that day, they went completely unrecognized by Leo and Guang-Hong who had one of their skaters competing in the Cup of China, and were staying at the same hotel.
“Hi!” Victor said excitedly as the four of them poured into the same elevator.
“Ah, hello?” Leo said.
“Oh, right!” Victor said, taking off the wig and false nose.
Leo’s eyes widened, and Guang-Hong could barely suppress laughter at the look on his husband’s face.
“You should stop doing that to him,” Guang-Hong said.
He’d heard all about Leo’s first run-in with Victor and his epic disguise. In Leo’s words it had been ‘weird’, ‘kind of terrifying’, and ‘bordering on Uncanny Valley’.
“Ah, Yuuri?” Leo said to the man standing next to Victor, who didn’t really look like Yuuri, but was presumably Yuuri nonetheless.
“Hi,” Yuuri said, waving at Leo and Guang-Hong, which felt sort of awkward in the tiny space of the elevator. “We had to do this so Victor wouldn’t get recognized.”
Actually, Yuuri wasn’t sure if it was really all that necessary. If they got recognized, Victor would probably just have to pose for some photos and give a few autographs, it wasn’t that big of a deal, really. But Victor loved disguises. He loved making them and putting them on. He got so excited about the challenge and the process that Yuuri simply accepted that this was something they were doing.
Victor didn’t mind being recognized per se. He loved being famous, actually. But not everyone who could recognize him would be a fan. Not every person who approached celebrities meant well. Victor had had enough unpleasant run-ins in the past to know that he did not want Yuuri to experience anything similar. Disguises were fun. Even more fun was having a quiet dinner with his partner without worrying about who might feel the need to come up to him and tell him about everything they thought he’d done wrong in his life.
“This is incredible,” Guang-Hong said, studying Yuuri’s make-up. “And yeah, kind of creepy.”
“Sorry,” Yuuri said.
The elevator dinged, Leo and Guang-Hong exited onto their floor.
“We’ll see you at the rink tomorrow for practice!” Leo said just before the doors closed.
When Victor and Yuuri arrived in their room, it was time for Yuuri’s favorite part of the whole ordeal with disguises. After they washed off the make-up, Victor put some moisturizing cream on his face, then started putting it on Yuuri’s face as well. The first time this happened, Yuuri rolled his eyes but succumbed to the grooming. As Victor worked on Yuuri’s face, simultaneously giving him a speech on the importance of facial care after washing off make-up, Yuuri realized just how much he enjoyed having Victor’s hands on his face. He wasn’t as attentive to his looks as Victor was, but he gladly accepted Victor’s views on the matter if it meant Victor would be giving him facial massages on a regular basis.
Yuuri thought that, perhaps, if he simply asked Victor to massage his face, Victor would gladly agree, but Yuuri liked the idea of getting this as a treat at the end of the day after wearing a disguise. It sort of made him look forward to wearing disguises.
Of course, Victor had noticed how much Yuuri enjoyed the process and always made sure to stretch out the message beyond what was necessary. He wondered if Yuuri was aware that he was humming quietly while Victor worked on his skin or if it was involuntary.
The light in the hotel room was dimmed, it was late, and Yuuri was starting to fall asleep under Victor’s gentle ministrations.
“It’s lucky so many of Leo and Guang-Hong’s students got to skate in their home countries,” Victor said, slowly rubbing cream into Yuuri’s forehead.
“Hmm,” Yuuri replied, barely staying awake. “I always found it harder to skate in Japan.”
“I know a lot of people like the support of skating in their home country, but I just felt like it was more pressure.” He tipped his head down as Victor moved on from rubbing cream into his face to massaging his scalp. “I didn’t mind skating abroad. I felt like people didn’t expect as much from me there. I know it doesn’t make much sense since everything is broadcast and live-streamed anyway, but in terms of crowd energy – being surrounded by people who felt represented by your performance was always too much pressure for me.”
Victor placed a gentle kiss on the top of Yuuri’s head.
“It makes sense.”
Yuuri relaxed further still and sprawled out on top of Victor on the bed. Victor just pulled a blanket over them and wrapped his arms around Yuuri.
“I hope Yurio’s doing fine,” Yuuri said quietly just before he fell asleep.
“Are you sure you’re alright to practice?”
“I’m fucking fine, stop fucking asking!”
Sometimes when Yurio’s emotions ran rampant, Yuuri felt helpless. It was impossible to talk him down, because any attempt at conversation only made him angrier. Worse yet was the fact that Yuuri had no idea what was causing his student to feel this way. He had no idea how to help him, because he had no idea what was wrong.
“Don’t do any jumps.”
“You’re keyed up, you’re likely to fall. It could–”
Yurio didn’t listen to the rest of his coach’s words. He skated off to the other side of the rink. He skated past Otabek, pointedly not making eye contact.
He knew Yuuri was right about jumps, but ignored the advice nonetheless. After doing some basic elements he launched into a quad Salchow, and fell.
As he got up on his knees, he scraped the ice with his fingernails and groaned.
“Fuck this,” he said to himself.
Then he got up, skated to rink exit, and got off the ice.
Yuuri didn’t comment or object, he simply followed Yurio out into the backroom.
Yurio took his skates off silently, packed away his gear and walked out of the arena. Victor’s hired car was waiting for them outside, and Yurio barely waited for Yuuri to join him in the backseat before he barked at the driver to take them back to the hotel.
The ride was silent and tense. When they arrived in the hotel lobby, Yurio paused, unsure of what to do next.
He’d wanted to get out and away from the arena, but what now? Go back to his room and sulk there for the rest of the day? Get drunk? That would be a bad idea before the competition. How would be even compete if practice got him this angry?
“Do you need anything?” Yuuri asked softly.
“I...” Yurio turned around to face his coach. “I don’t know.”
The uncertainty in Yurio’s eyes startled Yuuri, but he was slightly better at dealing with other people’s emotional meltdowns than he was with his own, so he nodded and steered Yurio toward the hotel restaurant.
“Okay, let’s go get you some sort of beverage and maybe food, and if you want you can tell me what’s happening. Or not. Whatever makes you feel better.”
Yurio was glad to be given direction, because for once, he wasn’t sure how to take care of himself.
Yuuri found them a secluded booth in the corner of the hotel restaurant. Yurio collapsed into the seat, dropping his bag to the floor. He put his arms on the table and buried his face in them. His emotions had been running so high for so long that he was finally crashing.
Yuuri ordered some chamomile tea. When it arrived, Yurio finally raised his head. He grimaced as he tasted the tea.
“This is gross, why do people drink this?”
“It has a soothing effect, helps to calm down.”
Yurio groaned, but kept drinking.
They sat in silence for a while. Yurio was trying to decide whether he wanted to talk or not. Minutes passed, and he still didn’t know. He didn’t like talking about his feelings. It never did him any good. But his body was still buzzing with tension, and he wasn’t sure how he would manage to compete if he didn’t find some sort of valve to open.
“You know all of my competition, right?” he asked when all of the tea was gone and a waiter had taken away their pot for a refill.
“Of course,” Yuuri said.
“You know the skater from Kazakhstan?”
“Yes, Otabek Altin. He’s come back for a final season after an injury. He got bronze at his first event, so he needs to do well here to qualify.” Yuuri paused, watching Yurio’s expression carefully, but he was hard to read. “Why?”
“We, ah...have a history?”
Yuuri tried to recall Yurio’s past competitions that involved Altin, but couldn’t remember anything controversial or in any way dramatic. Whatever had gone down between the two skaters had to have been behind the scenes.
“What do you mean?” Yuuri asked carefully. “Did you have a rivalry?”
Yurio let out an aborted chuckle that was more pain than laughter.
“No. Not really.” He looked down into his empty cup. The waiter arrived with a fresh pot of chamomile. Yurio poured himself some more brew just so he could procrastinate saying what he had to say. “We had, a...ah, relationship.”
“I was in love with him.”
Yuuri’s eyes widened comically, which actually made Yurio laugh. He sipped his chamomile.
“He was the first friend I’d ever had,” he said. “As I’m sure you’ve noticed, I’m not a particularly friendly person, and I was even less so when I was younger. But he wanted to befriend me for some reason. He actually liked me for what I am. Abrasiveness and all.” He sighed, realizing that he was actually starting to feel a little better, whether from chamomile or talking. Either way, he decided to keep going. “I was 15 when we properly met. We’d met before that at a skating camp, but I don’t remember that. He approached me during my first Senior year when we were both at the GPF. He helped me choreograph my exhibition skate.”
“I remember that skate. It was...impressive.”
Yurio smiled weakly at the memory.
“We maintained a friendship after that. We didn’t spend much time together in person, since we lived and trained in different countries. But we called, texted, Skyped. And we met at competitions. I’ve grown...attached to him. And...more.” He took a frustrated sip of his chamomile. “Just before my 18th birthday, I...told him how I felt.”
“You?” Yuuri said, then immediately felt terrible about it. “Sorry! I’m sorry. I just mean...you’re not usually one to initiate emotional conversations.”
“And I would have been better off if I didn’t do it then either,” Yuri said. “He...didn’t return my feelings. Well, he never actually said so, but he said he didn’t want to be in a romantic relationship. He suggested we stay friends, but...things got awkward after that, our conversations tapered off, and eventually we started barely acknowledging each other. Then he got injured and didn’t even tell me. I found out from the media. We haven’t talked since.”
He fell silent. Yuuri didn’t say anything either. The silence between them was polluted only by the sounds of the restaurant around them and the soft clattering of ceramic on ceramic as Yuri’s hands shook slightly, causing his cup to bang softly against the saucer plate.
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said after a few minutes had passed.
Yurio chuckled nervously. He looked down into his cup, noticed his shaking hands and promptly hid them under the table. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
“I didn’t think it would affect me this much,” he admitted. “A long time has passed. I thought I was over it. Well...at least I thought I could handle it.”
Yuuri didn’t know what to say. Of all the things that had gotten Yurio this angry, he never would have thought to consider love. He felt bad about it now. He knew Yuri was more than capable of love, so this shouldn’t have been so surprising. Still, if Yuuri were ever to think of Yurio as part of a romantic disaster, he would have imagined him as the heartbreaker, not the one who’d gotten hurt.
“Do you want to talk to him?” Yuuri asked.
Yurio’s eyes snapped up to meet Yuuri’s. A myriad of emotions passed through them, never settling on anything in particular. Then he lowered them again.
“I don’t know. Maybe? What would that achieve?” He groaned loudly, and was now circling back to anger. “Wouldn’t that just be asking for more pain?”
“I don’t know, maybe.” Yuuri said honestly. “Maybe you just need closure.”
“I got closure. He said he didn’t want to be with me. That’s as closed as these things get, no?”
“No,” Yuuri said, earning himself a look of surprise from Yuri. “He said he wanted to stay friends. He stayed a presence in your life but not in the way you wanted.”
“Well, that’s my fault. I could have just said no. He didn’t force me to stay friends.”
“I’m not saying he intentionally hurt you. But you loved him, you couldn’t have possibly judged the situation well. You wanted to keep him in any way you could. And then your relationship sort of...dissipated, and you never got a clean break.”
Yuri moved his cup to the side, then dropped his head back into his arms.
“This is bullshit,” he said. He moved his face to the side so his voice wouldn’t be muffled. “What the fuck do I do now?”
Yuuri didn’t know. Probably no one knew. In all of human history, no one ever really knew how to handle these situations well. Love still messed people up on a daily basis and no one has ever truly found a way to resolve it without pain.
“I guess...if you want to get past this you need to understand what the problem is. You need to know if you’re just mad at him or if it’s...something else.” Yuuri sighed quietly. “I guess what you really need to understand is if you’re still in love with him.”
Yuri raised his head. His eyes were unfocused and uncertain. It was almost scary for how unusual it was to see him so lost.
“I...” His mouth hung open as he searched himself for a proper answer. Then he dropped his head back down on the table, causing the cups to clank loudly and the other patrons of the restaurant to look over at their table in irritation.
Yuuri looked at his student in mild shock as the full weight of the situation finally settled on him.
The day of the short program arrived all too soon. Yuri hadn’t slept. Not really. He slipped in and out of consciousness, but nothing that could be adequately labeled ‘sleep’ actually happened.
The moment Yuuri saw him, he knew this would be a bad day.
Since Yurio hadn’t practiced the day before, and likely wouldn’t be able to make good use of the warm-up time either, Yuuri made sure that he at least stretched properly, and the rest of the time was spent largely on trying to fortify Yurio’s mind.
The ride to the arena was silent. Even Victor was uncharacteristically quiet and somber.
Yuuri hadn’t told Victor all of Yurio’s story, deciding that the story wasn’t his to share, but he’d given Victor a basic ‘matters of the heart’ explanation of Yurio’s current emotional problems, and Victor knew this would be a bad time for excitement or conversation.
So they traveled to the competition as though they were going to a funeral, in silence, with blank expressions on their faces. Yurio looked out of the car window, not really seeing anything. He couldn’t focus. And he had no idea how he would skate in a few short hours.
When the car stopped, Yurio didn’t want to exit. He didn’t want to go inside, where he would have to be around...other skaters.
Victor exited first, leaving Yurio and Yuuri alone in the backseat.
“I want you to consider something,” Yuuri said. “You don’t actually have to skate.”
“What?!” Yurio’s eyes snapped up to Yuuri’s. “What do you mean? What the hell?”
“I know it seems preposterous, but this is just a competition. If it’s too difficult for you, you don’t have to do this.”
“I’d be dropping out of the whole Grand Prix series.”
“You can afford to do so. And you can still compete in Nationals and Worlds.”
“So can he!” Yurio groaned loudly, then punched the back of the passenger seat. “I can’t sit out the whole season just ‘cause my feelings are being difficult.” He balled his hands up into fists. “I need to face this.”
“Alright,” Yuuri said. “Okay, then...tell me what you need. I’ll do my best to help you through this.”
“Could I...could I be late?” Yurio said. “I mean, I don’t want to go in there and...”
“Okay, stay here a moment. I’ll go in and warn the organizers that you’re coming, but that you’ll be late. Then we’ll find some secluded place for you to warm up.”
“Right.” Yurio nodded with determination. “Thanks.”
Victor was in the VIP booth, without disguise. He drew some attention when he showed up, but eventually everyone calmed down. Celebrities often came to watch sports events, it wasn’t a big deal. He knew cameras would sometimes sneak in his reactions, but he didn’t want to be in disguise that day. He wanted to support Yurio openly and vigorously.
Yurio was warming up in a parking lot. He was skating last. Otabek was skating third.
Yuuri watched over him.
“I want to see his program,” Yurio said.
“Are you sure?”
They found the nearest screen with the broadcast. The second skater had just finished up, and Otabek was getting ready to take the ice.
Yurio tried to pinpoint what he was feeling, but he couldn’t. He didn’t know what any of this mess was even called. They were never together. He hadn’t been dumped. He'd lost a friend, which was bad enough. But he'd also lost a...potential. Something he wanted and never got. And apparently, it was something he still wanted. Which was just so fucking irritating. And confusing. And painful.
Otabek’s program was good. He had 2 quads, both of which he’d landed. A number of triples, also well-performed. His moving-in-the-field elements could be better, but they were never his strong side.
He performed with strength and certainty, in his own unique way the likes of which one rarely saw in figure skating. There was little elegance in Otabek’s skating, yet nothing seemed lacking. He’d always skated in a way that wasn’t conventionally expected. Yurio had always admired that about him.
Otabek’s score was high, currently placing him in first place.
Yurio and Yuuri went back to the parking lot to continue warming up, only going inside when it was Yurio’s turn to skate. They walked silently, barely acknowledging anyone else. The crowd cheered as Yurio walked out toward the ice, handed his jacket and guards to Yuuri, and then skated around the ice a few times. He could actually hear Victor’s voice yelling encouragements in 3 different languages. It was somehow simultaneously annoying and comforting. Yurio took a deep breath and took his starting pose.
He could hear his own heart as if it was beating in his head. The music started, fast and vicious, and he moved. Suddenly, all he could feel was anger – at himself for feeling all these feelings, at Otabek for causing them, at love in general for existing in the first place.
He fell on a triple axel, ruining his combination, which only made him angrier. He recovered well, continuing with the program as though nothing had happened. This had always been one of his strengths. And it seemed like he would be making full use of it at this event.
As the music slowed down, Yurio found it hard to do it justice with his skating. The rage was still coursing through his blood, making it difficult to perform the slow, gentle part of the program. His presentation scores would be low, but he didn’t know how to remedy the situation.
He landed the quad Salchow, but touched down on the quad loop, and fell on the Lutz.
When the music ended, Yurio froze in the final gesture of his program – an aborted motion that would be the beginning of his free skate. Where it was usually graceful and soft, it now looked angular and desperate. Less like a promise, more like a threat, or possibly a plea for help.
He skated off the ice, barely acknowledging the flowers and plushies raining down on the ice.
His score wasn’t as bad as he’d imagined it would be, but it still landed him in 5th place. A shameful position to be for one of the most decorated skaters of all time. Or at least that's how Yuri felt at the moment.
“I’m sorry,” he said quietly to Yuuri as they left the Kiss&Cry.
“What?” Yuuri replied with a shocked expression. “Don’t be! You didn’t do anything wrong.”
“No, Yuri, listen. You didn’t fail, you did your best in a very bad situation.” Yuuri sounded certain and almost forceful. “I’m proud of you. You should be too.”
Yurio lowered his eyes. Proud was the last thing he was right then. It was almost funny, really. He’d gotten bored of winning, he’d felt like there was little competition for him. And yet here he was, in 5th place, taken down by his own fickle emotions. He felt pathetic.
“Yuri?” Otabek’s voice cut through Yuri’s mind like a sharp blade. “Can we talk?”
Yuri turned around, and there he was. After all the dodging and avoidance, Yuri was still standing face-to-face with the object of his unwelcome affections, and he had absolutely no fucking idea what to do. He wasn’t ready for his conversation. Whether he wanted to have it or not, he certainly didn’t want to have it now.
So he turned back around, and then, in every sense of the word, he ran away.
Otabek Altin didn’t have a lot of regrets. He’d made some choices in his career that many would consider mistakes, but he stood by his decisions.
He didn’t have the most successful of careers, certainly didn’t shine as brightly as some of his contemporaries, but he did what he wanted, and that was often worth more than winning. For those who cared about his sport in his country, he was a hero, having achieved far more than was expected of him, having put his country firmly on the map of professional figure skating where before it had only ever passed by in glimpses.
Whatever anyone else thought, he was proud of his figure skating career.
His personal life, on the other hand, was a different matter. That was to say, he didn’t really have one. And that was by design. Otabek had never been a particularly social person. He’d spent most of his childhood and adolescence practicing for hours at the rink instead of spending time with his peers. That wasn’t unusual for professional athletes, but for most young people who dedicated themselves to sport, their limited social life was a sacrifice. Otabek, on the other hand, quite intentionally avoided human contact. He generally found people exhausting and irritating, especially in large quantities. As such, his personal interactions were limited to one-on-one conversations with a chosen few, and not very often.
Though it may have looked like a lonely existence from the outside, he was as happy as he could be. Most of his time was dedicated to training. He had a purpose, and his life was filled with meaning.
As to his love life, specifically, it was essentially non-existent. Though his rough persona known to figure skating fans often caused people to assume that he was secretly a playboy, having slept with dozens of people, leaving them in his dust as soon as the sex was over, that was not true. In fact, Otabek had very little interest in sex. He didn’t oppose the idea in general, but he only thought of sex as an extension of romance, which he didn’t particularly want in the first place.
Otabek freely took risks in many aspects of his life, but when it came to relationships, the truth was that he often played it safe. There had been times in his life when romance was an option, but he walked away, choosing to dedicate himself to his career, choosing to avoid romance so as not to get hurt.
And it was fine. In the end, he didn’t have a lot of regrets. But he did have one.
Otabek had first met Yuri Plisetsky when they were both very young. Well, they hadn’t actually met so much as they’d been in the same room together a few times. Otabek had noticed Yuri for the vicious dedication in his eyes and his movements. He moved like he cared less about himself and more about his goals. Like his body was but a vehicle meant to deliver him to victory. It was a rare thing to see in someone so young, and Otabek couldn’t help but admire it.
The second time they met was years later, at a Grand Prix Final where they would be skating against each other. This was one of the few times when Otabek had made the decision to form a relationship, believing that Yuri’s dedication to his sport would compliment Otabek’s own, making their friendship into a beneficial partnership that would not get in the way of either of their careers.
And he’d been right. Their friendship worked well, enriching both of their lives in ways neither of them had thought possible. They fit so well, in fact, that after a while, their feelings for each other had grown deeper, their attachment stronger.
And Otabek was facing something he never really had before. Once again, there was a possibility of romance in his life, but this time, he wasn’t really sure if he wanted to walk away from it.
If Otabek could ever see himself dating someone, it would be Yuri. He wouldn’t say that they fit together perfectly, because he didn’t think that Yuri was capable of perfectly fitting together with anyone, but that was perfectly fine by Otabek. He didn’t want an extension of himself. He wanted someone he admired, someone who challenged him, someone exciting. Yuri was all that and more, and if their relationship worked, it could be truly amazing.
But then again, if it didn’t...
If it didn’t, not only would Otabek lose his best friend, but he’d have to skate against his ex for the rest of his career, and possibly continue to cross paths with him afterward, depending on what both of them chose to do after retirement. And Yuri probably wouldn’t be a very pleasant ex. And then his fans would probably just kill Otabek at some point.
Or worse yet, Otabek would break Yuri’s heart. That was something Otabek couldn’t even wrap his head around. The idea of Yuri heartbroken seemed so unnatural, unfathomable, wrong on every conceivable level.
So the more their relationship swayed in the direction of romance, the more Otabek thought of such a possibility, the more it scared him. Suddenly, things that had never worried him before took the shape of fears and insecurities. Suddenly, Otabek realized that he was a virgin in his 20s, with no romantic experience whatsoever, and barely anything to show for his life outside of figure skating. That had never bothered him before, and yet suddenly, he wondered if it should. He wondered if Yuri would be disappointed if he were to learn of his inexperience. If whatever image Yuri had of him would be shattered. He didn’t think that would be the case, but he couldn’t be sure.
He also wondered if he was even capable of romance at all. He could barely tolerate people most of the time, and though he enjoyed his relationship with Yuri, it happened largely through remote communication, and their time together happened in small portions, with long periods in-between. If they became a couple, things would have to change, surely. He didn’t know if he was capable of being romantic, if that was what Yuri wanted. He was capable of love, as it turned out, but a relationship was more than just feeling. It was work, it required effort. And he didn’t know how well he could manage.
Yuri was Otabek’s closest friend, the most important person in his life other than his family and coach. He didn’t want to lose that to a failed attempt at romance. He’d seen so many failed romances, he’d seen people date, and date, and date, and go through countless break-ups over and over. But a good friendship could last a lifetime. And Otabek would prefer to keep Yuri forever as a friend than only have him for a short while as a lover.
So when Yuri confessed his feelings, Otabek made a decision – one of the few in his life of which he wasn’t completely certain – he rejected the possibility of a romantic relationship, suggesting that they remain friends. He never did tell Yuri that he didn’t return his feelings, because that wouldn’t have been true. He simply said that he didn’t want romance. He’d hoped that they could continue on with their friendship, eventually putting their romantic feelings to rest.
But, of course, things don’t always turn out the way one hopes.
By the time Otabek realized how much this had damaged their friendship, there was little that could be done. He couldn’t very well suggest romance now that they were barely even talking, and he couldn’t expect Yuri to forget that the rejection ever happened.
Otabek had hoped that nipping the potential of romance in the bud would have saved them heartbreak later, but he had miscalculated. They had been in too deep already. Their love and their friendship could not be separated anymore. By cutting that love, he cut their entire relationship apart, and it could not survive such a wound.
Otabek didn’t know exactly how well Yuri was taking all this, but he himself wasn’t taking it very well at all. His focus was compromised, he became distracted and disorganized. So much so that one day during practice, he made a drastic mistake while practicing a quad loop and crashed quite badly.
He considered himself lucky as he only ended up with a severely sprained ankle with no bone damage, but he was still taken out of competition for a long time, and had to suffer through a long period of physical therapy and reconditioning.
He was angry. At himself for allowing his emotions to distract him, at Yuri for having brought their romantic feelings into the spotlight instead of allowing them to simmer in the background indefinitely, at love in general for existing in the first place.
Overtime, however, his anger dissipated, and all that was left was regret. Acute, painful, undeniable regret. He felt guilty, he felt wrong. Because he could no longer deny that he’d made a mistake. And he continued to make it every day that he didn’t talk to Yuri.
And that was how he arrived at another decision – one he did not doubt for a second – when he saw Yuri at the Cup of China. They needed to talk. That much was obvious.
Otabek hadn’t prepared a speech. He didn’t know what he was going to say. He wasn’t sure what he was expecting. He didn’t think Yuri would accept him back into his life after all this, even if a little part of him hoped that he would. But the least he could do was apologize. Not for the rejection – there had been nothing wrong with saying no to a romantic proposition; but for his cowardice. Because he had wanted that romance, and he’d chosen to reject it out of fear. He would never forgive himself for that. He didn’t expect Yuri to forgive him either. But he needed to tell Yuri what he really felt.
He didn’t know if that was selfish – to bring it up now, after all this time had passed. Perhaps Yuri had moved on, forgetting Otabek altogether. And if so, then maybe he would brush it off and walk away. Otabek would accept that. A rejection from Yuri wouldn’t be undeserved. He would accept any reaction Yuri would have to his words.
What he didn’t expect, however, was Yuri not letting him say anything at all. Yuri was not usually one to run away from things, and yet that was what he did when Otabek approached him.
He ran. He ran, and he left Otabek standing in the back of Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, having absolutely no idea what to do next.
“What the fuck?” Yurio said, not for the first time, as he paced back and forth in Yuuri and Victor’s hotel room.
After running out of the arena, barely waiting for Yuuri to join him in the car, Yurio told the driver to get them back to the hotel. He marched into the elevator, pressing the button that would get them to Victor and Yuuri’s room, and Yuuri just went along with it.
Yurio didn’t give any kind of explanation, but he didn’t have to. For whatever reason, he didn’t want to be alone just then, and if that meant usurping his coach’s room, then that was what would be happening.
At first he just sat on the bed for a while. Then finally he got up and went to take a shower. He hadn’t done so at the arena and was still wearing his short program costume. At least Yuuri had picked up Yurio’s bag before leaving the arena, so Yurio had a change of clothes.
While Yurio showered, Yuuri texted Victor, whom they’d abandoned at the arena.
Yurio took longer in the shower than was entirely necessary. He made the water as hot as he could stand and stayed under the stream until his skin turned red. It was a good distraction from his thoughts and feelings, though not for very long.
After getting out of the shower and changing into clean clothes, he stayed in the bathroom for a long time. He couldn’t quite decide what he wanted. He didn’t want to be on his own, but he also didn’t want to talk. Staying behind the closed door of the bathroom, yet aware of Yuuri being right there in the same hotel room was comforting. He was alone, but not alone.
He heard the front door opening and closing, heard Yuuri and Victor whispering, and then for a while it was quiet. There was ambient noise, some movement, but no one was talking.
Eventually, Yurio decided he was ready to come out of the bathroom, though the plan was still foggy on anything beyond that point.
Yuuri and Victor were sitting side by side on the bed. Victor waved silently at Yurio when he walked in. Yurio walked to the window and looked out over the city for a while. He didn’t really want to verbalize his feelings, but at the same time, he feared that if he didn’t, they would fester and burn him from the inside out.
Yurio didn’t know how much time had passed, but it was enough for Yuuri and Victor to become worried as he just stood there in silence.
“Yuri,” Yuuri said quietly, “if you need anyth–”
“What the fuck?!” Yurio yelled, finally turning around. “What the actual fuck? Why would he do this to me now? He didn’t talk to me for over a year, now he suddenly wants to talk?!” He started pacing, walking from one end of the small hotel room to the other, while Yuuri and Victor just watched him from their spots on the bed. “He didn’t think it important enough to talk to me when he shredded his ligaments, but now suddenly he wants to talk!” Yurio knew that Otabek hadn’t actually torn his ligaments, but he felt the need to be dramatic just then. “What the fuck? What does he even want to talk about? What is there to say anymore? First he rejects me, then ignores me, but now he wants to talk? What the fuck?” Yurio collapsed into a chair that stood opposite from the bed, then tucked his feet under himself. He dug his nails into his knees nervously. After taking a few steadying breaths, staring down at his hands, he said very quietly, “what should I do?”
In the end, Yurio always made his own decision. Whatever anyone would say to him, the final choices were always his own. But he’d learned that getting perspective wasn’t such a bad thing. Maybe he wouldn’t do what someone else told him to, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t listen to an outside opinion.
“My vote is you talk to him,” Victor said.
Victor had a relatively vague understanding of what was happening. He didn’t even know who the ‘him’ in question was, as neither Yuuri nor Yurio had told him, and he wasn’t present for the encounter back at the arena. But he could piece together a general outline of the situation from Yurio’s words.
Yurio looked up to stare angrily at Victor for a few seconds, then lowered his eyes again.
“What do you want?” Yuuri asked. “Do you know what you want?”
Yurio pulled up and hugged his legs, then banged his forehead lightly against his knee. Then he rested his chin on his knees, but kept his eyes closed.
“I want him to want me.”
“Maybe he does,” Yuuri said.
“What if he doesn’t?”
“You’ll never know unless you talk to him.”
Yurio groaned. He felt like punching something, then sleeping for a week.
“Maybe I shouldn’t...” he said. “He rejected me, then he barely spoke to me, then he stopped talking to me altogether. Maybe I shouldn’t want him to want me.”
“That’s...a fair point,” Yuuri said.
“You don’t know the context though,” Victor added. “You don’t know why he didn’t talk to you. It’s bad that he ignored you, and if he doesn’t give you a decent explanation, then by all means, tell him to hit the road, and move on. But you have to talk to him first.”
Yurio still wouldn’t open his eyes, trying desperately to understand what it was he really wanted, and what he wanted to want.
“Either way, it might help you move on,” Yuuri said.
Yurio had to admit that he hadn’t done too well in the moving-on department up until this moment. He’d thought he had. It had been easier to ignore his feelings when Otabek was far away, and he’d hoped that eventually the unwelcome love would die altogether. But it’d had a lot of time to do so, and yet it was holding on to life despite everything.
Yurio ended up sleeping on the bed, while Yuuri and Victor huddled together on the fold-out couch. They couldn’t tell Yurio to leave in his vulnerable state, and they couldn’t let him sleep on the couch either, since he was staking the next day and needed to sleep comfortably.
Not that he slept much. He spent most of the night running various potential scenarios in his head. There were many things Otabek could be intending to tell him. He could say he wanted to be friends again, which would be kind of terrible. They’d had a great friendship, the best friendship in Yuri’s life, really. And he wanted it back, but he knew it would be a mistake. Of that, at least, he was certain.
It was also possible that Otabek was simply seeking closure. That he didn’t want Yuri in any capacity and simply wanted to get that out into the open since they’d never actually had a proper goodbye. And that...well, that would hurt like hell, but in some ways, that would really be the best case scenario. At least then Yuri could well and truly start moving on. Someone had to kill that hope, and it didn’t look like Yuri was quite up to the task.
And then, of course, there was the possibility that Otabek did, in fact, want to propose a romantic relationship. It didn’t seem like a very likely possibility, but a possibility nonetheless. And Yuri absolutely did not know how he felt about that.
This all wasn’t conducive to a good night’s sleep, of course.
Yuuri didn’t sleep very well either, worrying about Yurio. But he had Victor, who held him and comforted him and made him feel safe. Yurio had nothing but darkness and doubt.
He finally fell asleep by the time the sun was rising, and exhaustion finally won over anxiety. Yuuri and Victor quietly left the room and allowed him to sleep well into the afternoon.
By the time they had to leave for the arena, Yurio still wasn’t sure what he felt and what he would do should Otabek attempt to speak to him again. Well, at the very least, this time he would do his best not to run away.
All the emotional turmoil aside, Yurio still had a program to perform. He was in 5th place. He needed to recover if he wanted to qualify. The gold from Skate America gave him some leeway, but if he skated the way he had in his short program, no amount of fame would save him from missing the podium and possibly not qualifying for the final at all.
The problem, of course, was that he felt even worse now than he had the day before. But sport waited for no one. One way or another, he’d have to skate.
Happy New Year, everyone. Let's hope it goes better than the last.
It had been a long time since Yuri skated anything but last.
But he was currently in 5th place, which meant that he would be second to take the ice for his free skate. In some ways that was a good thing. In others – not so much.
Sitting around and waiting to know whether he would qualify while the other skaters’ scores came in was always stressful, but at least his actual program would be out of the way fairly quickly.
Yuuri made sure that his student stretched as well as possible, but there was little he could do for Yurio’s emotional state.
“The option to leave still stands,” he said, examining the bags under Yurio’s eyes.
“Would be stupid to quit now.”
“Might be stupider not to.”
“Do you want me to drop out of the Grand Prix?”
“I want you to be okay. It’s up to you to decide what you need to make that happen.”
“You’re my coach, you’re supposed to push me to win.”
“Not beyond your limits.”
“I’m not beyond my limits!” Yurio stared angrily at Yuuri.
“Good. Then go out there and skate your way to the podium.”
Yuuri’s tactic was working. Anger had always been one of Yurio’s main defense mechanism, and it was working well to push out fear and uncertainty, if only for a short while. Not entirely, but enough that he could get in the mind frame to actually go out and skate. Yurio didn’t expect to do well, but there was absolutely no way in hell that he wouldn’t try.
He continued to warm up, Yuuri helped him fix his hair and make-up, and by the time the first skater was done, he was as ready as he could be under the circumstances.
He skated out to center ice and he took his starting pose. He decided not to pretend like his short program had gone well, so he imitated the hand gesture he’d ended on the day before. It had been intended to be graceful, but had ended up angry and angular. His fingers had been bent at right angles, his arm and hand filled with tension. He started the same way, putting all of his frustration into his opening stance.
As the music started, he relaxed his entire body as much as he could, dropping his arms and letting his shoulders sag. He looked like the notorious marionette whose strings had been cut. The first half of the program called for grace and gentility, and maybe Yurio couldn’t quite deliver on that at the moment, but he could do exhaustion and despair.
He didn’t change any elements, but his posture was different, the mood of the program was different from the way he usually performed it. It was a risk. He’d never performed it this way before. But he was in 5th place. If he wanted to recover, he needed a small miracle, so a risk was more than justified.
Once the music changed halfway through, he could finally tap into his anger as he danced across the rink, leaving cascades of ice shavings in his wake. He did 3 quads – loop, Lutz, and Salchow. He wobbled on the loop, but the others were clean, as were all his simpler jumps.
His step sequences were filled with impatient energy, and the speed of his spins was almost terrifying.
When the music stopped, and Yuri froze in his final pose, the crowd broke out in a cacophony of cheers and applause. Not only was Yurio loved and respected by figure skating fans, but he had made a comeback after a rather disastrous short program. Few things in sport were as satisfying as a good comeback, and Yurio just gave people one hell of a show to remember.
He spent a few moments catching his breath. His chest was heaving and a tear had rolled down his cheek at some point, though he wasn’t sure when that had happened.
His body suddenly felt like cotton wool and he barely managed to get himself off the ice as he couldn’t properly feel his limbs.
Yuuri embraced him as he stepped out of the rink. Yurio generally wouldn’t appreciate something like that, but at the moment, it appeared to be exactly what he needed. He sagged against Yuuri’s frame and just stood there for a few moments, letting the tension seep out of his body.
“Okay,” he said when he was finally ready to move again. “Let’s go see my score.”
The score was quite high, though nowhere near his personal best, which was also the current world record. Nonetheless, the crowd cheered for his result as it revived the possibility of medaling.
He was currently in 1st place, though that wasn’t worth much at the moment.
There were still 4 more skaters preparing to do their programs, including Otabek who had been in 1st place after the short program and would be skating last.
Otabek, however, was nowhere to be seen.
Otabek’s coach didn’t know precisely what was happening with him, but she’d known him long enough to understand that he was going through something important, and though he was choosing to do so on his own, she would stand by and protect him from outside interference.
Whatever else was happening, he still wanted to win, and he could win. He just needed to concentrate on his performance, and set the rest aside to be dealt with later.
Yurio didn’t see Otabek arrive, only seeing him on the screen when he approached the rink entrance. He’d entered through a side door and appeared by the rink without ever walking through the backrooms where the skaters prepared and rested. He hadn’t been at the warm-up either, which made some people worry and wonder if something was wrong. But now he was taking off his guards and stepping onto the ice.
He skated to a classical piece that was more melodic and calm than his usual selections. His season theme was Recovery, and though most assumed it referred to his injury, the true meaning was more emotional and personal. He was trying to recover from what had happened before the injury, what had led up to it. Though he wasn’t doing a particularly good job, he thought.
Otabek’s program was an enthralling combination of strength and grace. His grace wasn’t like that of most skaters. His movements weren’t as smooth or soft, his jumps never appeared as light as some of his competitors managed to make them seem. No, his grace was strong, determined, almost forceful. Like a dragon flying through the night sky.
His first quad was a Salchow. He landed it flawlessly. The crowd cheered in support, though Otabek was trying not to pay attention to anything outside of his program. He needed it to be the only thing that mattered in that moment.
He went into a 3-jump combo from a spread eagle, which not only earned him more cheers, but would undoubtedly give him very high marks as well.
Though moving-in-the-field elements weren’t among Otabek’s strengths, in this program they were utilized well. Many elements that usually looked graceful and smooth looked powerful when he performed them, demonstrating the strength and effort it actually took to bring that beauty onto the ice.
Otabek had 2 more quads, including the loop, which had been the jump that had caused his injury. He performed it last, closer to the end of the program. He did it almost out of spite, to prove to himself that he could, that even something that had once broken you could still be tamed, mastered, or befriended.
He finished his program on a dramatic spin and a simple stance with his feet shoulder-width apart and his arms raised slightly at his sides with his fists clenched.
The audience cheered for him as he left the ice to wait for the score.
In the backroom, Yurio watched the screen with bated breath. He wasn’t even sure what he wanted the results to be. He was currently in 2nd place, and would likely qualify for the GPF even if Otabek outscored him. The score that was about to go up, however, would decide whether or not Otabek would qualify, and Yurio didn’t know how he felt about that exactly. He wanted Otabek to succeed, but he had no idea what was really happening between them; and if Otabek qualified, they would meet again at the GPF.
As the score came up on the screen, Otabek let out a sigh of relief. He won, outscoring the Israeli skater by a point and a half, and bumping Yuri down to 3rd place.
During the award ceremony, Yurio chanced a glance at Otabek, but he was looking straight ahead, his expression somewhere between neutral and grim.
The press conference was uneventful. Both Otabek and Yuri were asked about why they’d missed warm-ups, but they gave vague responses.
Yuri swore wholeheartedly at a reporter who dared to ask if his relatively low result at this competition had anything to do with potential inadequacies of his new coach. Yuri had suffered through a lot of media training throughout his career, and generally he was quite good at reeling in his emotions when he spoke to the press, but sometimes he just didn’t have the emotional resources to be nice. He was willing to deal with whatever fallout followed if he just got the chance to tell some asshole that thought he was being edgy and smart with his shitty questions to go fuck himself sideways with a rusty chainsaw.
As the athletes walked out of the press room, Yuri and Otabek locked eyes. They stood looking at each other for a few moments, neither making a move.
Yurio wasn’t sure what he wanted, but if Otabek wanted to talk, he was willing to listen. However, he had no intention of initiating a conversation himself because he really had no idea what to say.
Otabek did want to talk, but after Yuri had run away from him, he was no longer certain that it was such a great idea. He never wanted to stay where he wasn’t welcome. He didn’t want to force himself onto someone who couldn’t even bring themselves to talk to him.
And so, they arrived at a stalemate, staring at each other as people passed them by.
A part of Yuri wanted to walk away, but a bigger part of him knew that if they simply went their separate ways, never talking, never getting closure, then he might never be able to let go, and he didn’t want to continue feeling the way he had been feeling for the past few days.
“Room 539,” Yuri said. “If you want to talk, I’ll be waiting.”
Then he turned and walked off to go find Yuuri and meet up with Victor.
All the skaters were staying at the same hotel, and no one would be leaving until the next day as there was still the banquet and gala to get through. Yuri and Otabek would be in the same building, within walking distance from each other. If Otabek wanted to talk, all he had to do was show up at Yuri’s door.
Yuri almost jumped as the sound of knuckles on wood startled him. It shouldn’t have, he’d been expecting it, but there was so much tension in his body that he reacted to the quiet knocking as if it had been a gunshot.
However this whole thing would end, Yuri hoped he’d be able to relax sometime soon and stop constantly feeling like a string that could snap at any moment.
Otabek had stood on the other side of the door for several minutes before finally announcing himself. He never considered leaving and not talking to Yuri at all. He was going to do this. He just needed to build up courage. He rarely ever found himself lacking in courage, but clearly this situation was exceeding all expectations.
When Yuri finally opened the door and motioned for Otabek to come in, they both felt even more uncertain than they had a few minutes earlier, if that was even possible.
Neither of them were particularly good at talking about feelings, and yet they would have to.
“Should I...” Yuri said, looking around his hotel room. “Should I make you tea or something?”
“Do you know how?”
“I can pour water over a fucking tea bag!”
Otabek couldn’t help but smile. Somehow, Yuri’s random outbursts of benevolent anger were close to the top of the list of things he most missed about Yuri. There was something really pure and honest about the way he let his irritation fly instead of bottling it up or pretending he wasn’t angry when he was. Otabek sighed internally at the realization that it was likely his own perception that colored Yuri’s behavior in such a positive way. Most people were annoyed with or scared of Yuri because of how he acted, and with good reason. He was abrasive and volatile. He was often unkind and unnecessarily rude. A lot of Yuri’s personal traits were reprehensible and unpleasant. They only seemed appealing to Otabek because of the way he felt about Yuri.
Otabek’s smile made Yuri relax a little. It would have likely irritated him if it was from anyone else, except for maybe Yuuri. It would have felt condescending, like they were smiling at a petulant child having a tantrum. But Yuri knew that Otabek genuinely appreciated his loud self-expression. It always gave Yuri comfort during the time when they were friends – to know that he didn’t need to worry about overreacting loudly. Otabek simply accepted it as part of Yuri’s person, and never tried to tone him down.
For lack of better options, Yuri did, in fact, make tea. He used the set that Yuuri had gifted him before their trip to Skate America that contained a portable electric kettle, 2 small mugs and a variety of tea and instant coffee bags. Yuuri had said that Yuri might appreciate being able to make himself a hot drink in his hotel room since he didn’t go out much during competitions. Yuri had scoffed, but ended up packing the set nonetheless. Now it was coming in handy.
They sat down around the small table where Yuri had set down the mugs.
“Thank you,” Otabek said, picking up his tea.
Otabek felt a little strange watching Yuri do something so domestic, but he didn’t dislike it. He thought, perhaps, he wouldn’t mind that – having Yuri make him tea every once in a while.
He had to cut himself off. That was a dangerous train of thought. They weren’t living together, they weren’t dating. They weren’t even friends anymore. At the moment, they were having trouble getting out more than a single sentence at a time. Imagining tea time by the fire was just asking for pain.
Yuri downed most of his tea in a single gulp, burning his tongue slightly. It looked as though he was drinking spirits, hoping that the brown liquid would give him strength. He wondered if he should have set up this meeting at a bar so they could both get drunk, and maybe that would help the conversation move along quicker, and help them both say what they were really thinking. In vino veritas, etc.
“Say what you came here to say,” he said after his tea was gone. “Please.”
Otabek nodded, making himself more comfortable in his chair. He tried to relax, but it wasn’t really working. Sometimes he felt like he hadn’t relaxed in years.
“First of all, I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m sorry for rejecting you when I shouldn’t have. Second, I’m sorry for not talking to you. You didn’t deserve that. And third...” He took a deep breath, looking Yuri in the eyes. “I’ll do whatever you want. I’ll give you whatever you want. If you want to be friends – I’ll do my best to be your friend. If you want me to leave and never speak with you again – I’ll do exactly that. If you want to date – I’m...up for it. I don’t know how good I’ll be at it, but I will try my utmost.”
He waited for a response, but none was coming. Yuri had broken eye contact in favor of staring down into his empty mug.
“I don’t know what I want anymore,” Yuri said quietly. He hated admitting it, but it was the truth.
Otabek nodded, accepting Yuri’s answer without questioning it.
“I can wait,” he said. “You’ve waited for a long time for me to come around. If you need time to figure out what you want, I’ll wait for as long as it takes.” He got up from his chair and walked toward the door. “Thank you for talking to me,” he said, and then walked out of the room.
Yuri sat for a long time without moving. He felt strangely numb and almost indifferent, but at the same time there was a small storm inside of him – confusion, anger, and dissatisfaction all warring for dominance in his mind.
This didn’t go as he’d hoped. He’d tried not to have expectations, but at the very least, he’d hoped that this night would be the end of indecision. He’d hoped that it would be an end or a beginning, not...another checkpoint. Instead, Otabek carefully set the ball in Yuri’s court and walked away.
There had been no decent explanations given, nothing was really properly discussed, and Yuri knew part of it was due to how bad they both were at communication, but also, he didn’t push, he didn’t ask, he just...sat there and did nothing.
Finally, the tension spilled over, he picked up his mug and threw it against the far wall. Except it was a travel mug made from plastic, and it didn’t shatter. It just bounced off the wall and fell onto the bed, unharmed.
Yuri couldn’t even have the luxury of breaking something. He groaned in frustration and dropped his head onto the table.
As a general rule, he liked being the one to make the final decisions. He felt safer when he was the one in control. His future, and Otabek’s, was in his hands. It should have been a good thing. And yet, for once, he hoped that someone else could tell him what to do.
I considered having them not talk to each other at all until the Final, but I didn't want to do that. I'm a believer in communication, and they've waited long enough. But I also didn't want Yuri to rush into anything. Otabek's had a long time to consider all this. Yuri didn't. Now he has a bit more information and can process accordingly. I hope it doesn't feel like angst for the sake of angst, I just think Yuri needs more time to think.
Yuri was silent all the way back to Hasetsu. At first Yuuri and Victor tried to ask him what had happened, but Yuri just growled quietly and said nothing, so they decided that they’d wait for him to volunteer whatever information he was willing to in his own time.
When Yuri was finally in his own apartment, he greeted Dinka, took a perfunctory shower, then crawled into bed and slept for 17 hours.
When he finally woke up, he had 7 missed calls from Yuuri and 3 from Victor.
He stayed in bed for another hour.
Then there was a knock on the door. He tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t stop.
“Yuri...” Tora’s muffled voice came from outside. “Are you alive?”
Yuri finally had to get himself out of bed. He walked lazily to the front door and opened it with a little too much force.
“Coach called me and told me to check on you.”
“Of course he did.”
Yuri left the door open as a silent invitation. Tora actually had a key to Yuri’s apartment as she’d been taking care of Dinka in his absence, but she wouldn’t use it now that he was home unless she felt like there was an emergency.
Yuri dropped himself on the coach and just sat there in silence.
Tora texted Yuuri to let him know that Yuri was fine. Or alive, at least.
Yuri dropped down onto his side on the coach. Dinka sat on the top of the couch and watched him.
“Do you need anything?” Tora asked. “Food, drink?”
She wasn’t very good at taking care of people. Well, she was good at it, she just didn’t like it very much.
“I’d have a scotch,” Yuri said.
“You’ll have a matcha,” Tora replied, looking through Yuri’s cupboards, which were still rather well-stocked from when Victor and Yuuri had brought him groceries. Though Yuri didn’t really know what half of the stuff in there actually was.
“Why is there suddenly so much tea in my life?” Yuri said, mostly to himself.
A few minutes later Tora set a mug in front of Yuri.
Yuri looked into the mug dubiously.
“This looks like a cartoon character threw up in here.”
Tora ignored the comment.
“I’m assuming something bad happened at Cup of China,” she said. “I watched the stream. I know you messed up your short, but I doubt that’s what’s gotten you so bent out of shape.”
“So, you knock on my door, make me frog puke tea, and start interrogating me?”
“I would leave, but I have a business meeting in Fukuoka in 2 days, and I need you to watch Ichabod. I can’t trust you to do that if you can’t even take care of yourself. So you need to work through your shit by then.”
“I haven’t worked through my shit in 4 years, I’m not going to suddenly work through it in 2 days.” Yuri groaned and dropped back down onto the couch. Dinka jumped down and curled up next to him him. “I have a decision to make,” Yuri said. “A very important one.”
“Is there a deadline?”
“No. But it’s fucking me up, so I’d like to get it over with.”
“I’m not sure that’s how you should approach important decisions.”
“Probably.” He gave Dinka a few strokes, but could immediately tell she wasn’t really enjoying it at the moment, so he stopped. “I just...I can’t talk about it anymore.”
“Alright,” Tora said, pulling a controller from under the couch. “Then let’s not talk about it.”
“When I have time. I like racing games.”
“I have a few.”
They played for several hours. Tora was glad to be helpful without having to listen to stories of heartbreak or cooking someone dinner because they couldn’t do it themselves.
Yuri swore a lot whenever he lost, and swore even more when he won. The decision he had to make still hung over him, but this was the first time in a week that the confusion, anxiety, and frustration had retreated into the background of his mind, and that had to count for something.
Two days later, Tora left for her meeting. Yuri had regained his composure enough by then to go back to training and to take care of Ichabod.
His training wasn’t going terribly well. He fell more often than he had in years, under-rotated his jumps, his step sequences were sloppy.
Yuuri didn’t know how to help him. The problem wasn’t with his technique, but with his personal life, and there was little that could be done with that. The GPF was going to happen regardless of the skaters’ emotional storms. Yuri wasn’t the first or the last skater to fail on the ice because of personal problems.
Yuri hadn’t written himself off quite yet. He was struggling, but he could still win. He was still the only skater at the competition who could land a quad Axel. His programs could garner very high points if performed to their full potential, which he could do. Had done. He just needed to pull himself together.
Victor watched Yurio practice his short program from behind the barrier.
“You’re butchering my choreography,” he said when Yurio was taking a water break.
“You’ll get over it.”
Yurio gave Victor a pointed look.
“Funny,” he said. “The first time I saw you, you almost failed your certification test because of personal crap. Look at me now.” He shook his head with a low growl. “What I mean to say is I’m sorry I yelled at you then. That was shitty of me.”
He put his water bottle on the barrier and skated off without waiting for a response.
Yuuri came up closer to Victor.
“Wow,” Victor said, staring after Yurio. “Remember when you were afraid to coach him because you thought he was a rude, mean, volatile jerk?”
“He is a rude, mean, volatile jerk,” Yuuri said. “But he has other layers.”
After practice and ballet, Yuri dragged himself back to his apartment, fed Dinka, put ointment on a few new bruises, then headed to Tora’s place to check on Ichabod.
Tora had warned Yuri that sometimes Ichabod refused to eat in his cage, so Yuri would have to let him out and let him walk around for a little bit first.
The cage actually took about a third of the main room’s area, and was really more of a separate room than a cage. Tora had to leave Ichabod in confinement when he was alone to make sure he didn’t accidentally chew on some wires or eat something dangerous, but she didn’t want him to feel imprisoned, so she built him the largest cage she could.
Yuri took a container from the fridge, emptied it into the designated bowl, put it in the middle of the room, and opened the cage door.
Ichabod slowly hopped out, examining his surroundings. Yuri waited. And waited.
“Come on, eat! I have things to do,” he said, but that did not have the desired effect. He waited some more. “Fucking eat already!”
Ichabod bolted toward the nearest piece of furniture, then froze in place.
The more agitated Yuri got, the more scared Ichabod became. He remained rooted to the spot, waiting for the potential threat to pass.
Tora had told Yuri to call her if Ichabod refused to eat or if something went otherwise wrong, but doing that would be admitting defeat. And Yuri desperately needed a win.
He took a deep breath, then moved slowly toward Ichabod and sunk down to the floor next to him.
“Sorry, dude,” he said. “I didn’t mean to scare you.” He lay down on his side on the floor near Ichabod and stayed there for a while. Ichabod remained frozen. “I’m just dealing with some shit right now, and I have a tendency to take it out on others,” Yuri said. “You don’t really want to listen to this, do you?” He carefully moved the bowl of food a little closer to Ichabod. “You wouldn’t understand it anyway. Your world is pretty small.” He looked around the apartment. The floor was covered in toys and pieces of wood to help the rabbit grind down his teeth. “All you’ve ever known is your one human, and maybe an occasional guest.” Then Yuri remembered what Tora had said the first time he’d come there. “Oh shit, wait, you lived with someone else before, right? They died?” Yuri groaned and rolled onto this stomach. “Oh fuck, he could die,” he said quietly. “He could crash on his bike, or fall on a jump and break his skull in, or...” He banged his head softly against the floor.
Ichabod had a very limited understanding of human speech. Even that aside, Yuri was currently rambling in Russian, so Ichabod’s previous experience was of little use in understanding Yuri. But he did understand body language. And he could see pain and distress quite easily. So he finally moved, hopping up closer to Yuri.
Yuri moved his head to the side to see Ichabod quietly chewing on the edge of his sleeve. He could only laugh. Tora had warned him this could happen. All of the clothes she wore at home were littered with holes.
Yuri stretched out his hand to pick up a piece of apple from Ichabod’s bowl, then he started eating it. After a minute, Ichabod abandoned the fabric of Yuri’s shirt in favor of actual food.
With a deep sigh, Yuri relaxed the way he hadn’t in a long time. As he was sharing dinner with Ichabod, he realized that here, in the most unexpected of situations, everything suddenly clicked. He knew what he was going to do. He knew what he wanted.
But not before the GPF. He was going to talk to Otabek, but first he was going to skate. The ice was still his first love, his first friend. It was there for him when no one else was. He knew, if nothing else, Otabek would understand that, as they had that in common.
Yuri had decided what his next conversation with Otabek was going to entail. But first, they were going to skate against each other in the final.
Ichabod is a great listener.
Yuuri and Victor settled in their hotel room after the long flights.
Victor had just showered and was drying his hair. Yuuri was lying on the bed, trying not to fall asleep.
“We should go eat some pasta,” Yuuri said.
“How stereotypical of you.”
“It is?” Yuuri raised his head to look at Victor.
He looked so genuinely guilty that Victor couldn’t help but crawl onto the bed next to him and give him a kiss.
“I’m just kidding, love. If a place is famous for their pasta, it makes sense to enjoy it.”
Yuuri snuggled up closer to Victor.
“Maybe a little later though?” His words were a little slurred with oncoming sleep.
Victor wasn’t feeling all that tired, but he didn’t mind just watching Yuuri sleep. He looked so relaxed when he was asleep. He never looked quite like that when awake. Anxiety, responsibilities, worrying about everything that could possibly be worried about – Yuuri was always running on various levels of tense. And Victor loved that in him as much as he loved any part of Yuuri. Nonetheless, he enjoyed the moments when he could see Yuuri’s face completely at peace.
Yuuri only slept for a short while, and as soon as he woke up, he was back to worrying.
“We should check on Yurio,” he said into Victor’s chest.
“He can manage one night on his own.”
“I know, I just...”
“Let him rest, love. He has a lot ahead of him.”
Yuuri sighed, but conceded. He would see Yurio the next day for practice at the arena. Until then, he would try his best to enjoy Italy with Victor.
Yuri had a plan. Not a very good plan, but a plan nonetheless.
He was going to skate, he was going to win, and then he would speak to Otabek.
It wasn’t a very detailed plan.
Practice went well. Now that Yuri knew what he was going to do, his mind has settled and he regained most of his focus. When he saw Otabek on the ice, he just nodded at him, and continued on with his practice. It didn’t slip his attention that Yuuri was watching Otabek cautiously, as if he was a potential threat. It gave Yuri a strange, largely unfamiliar feeling to realize that he had people in his life now that were so protective of him.
Yuuri didn’t think that Otabek meant Yuri harm. If anything, he thought Otabek was probably as heartbroken as Yuri was, or something close, judging by the subtly pained looks he cast in Yuri’s direction when he thought no one was paying attention.
Relationships were often messy and unfortunate. People often hurt each other without meaning to. Nonetheless, Yurio was Yuuri’s friend, while Otabek was a source of anguish, even if inadvertently. So Yuuri watched him carefully whenever he and Yurio got close to each other on the ice.
After practice, Yurio assured Yuuri that he was fine, returned to his hotel room, ate dinner, decidedly did not get drunk, watched TV, tried to sleep, couldn’t sleep, punched his pillow a few times, went downstairs to a vending machine to get chips, stared at the vending machine for several minutes, decided not to get chips, went into the hotel restaurant and ordered camomile, growled at himself for succumbing to Yuuri’s weird self-sedation habits, drank his camomile...
Yuri looked up to see Peter Yang looking down at him sheepishly.
“Hello,” he said.
Peter lingered for a moment, but sort of regretted approaching Yuri now that he realized that he didn’t really know what to say.
“Good luck tomorrow,” he said, and was about to leave, but Yuri called after him.
“Are you having dinner?”
“Ah, no. I just couldn’t sleep and didn’t know what else to do. My coaches are out romancing each other somewhere.”
“Now, that I can relate to,” Yuri said, then motioned for Peter to join him at the table. “I take it you’re not much of a partying type then?”
“Ah, not really, no. Especially not before a competition. Or immediately after. Or anywhere during the season. Yeah, basically, I don’t party. At least not in the way most people do.”
“In what way do you party?”
“Ah...marathonning Lord of the Rings? Maybe some D&D.”
“Nerd parties,” Yuri said with a solemn nod.
Peter really couldn’t tell if that was a sign of approval or criticism or just statement of fact.
Yuri certainly wouldn’t be one to mock Peter in this situation, seeing as he’d spent most of the previous week playing Need for Speed on an actual fucking 3DO console that Tora just so happened to have.
“What is that you’re drinking?” Peter asked. “Smells familiar.”
“Chamomile. Coach claims it soothes the nerves.”
“I don’t know,” Yuri said honestly. “But it’s not making things worse.”
When the waiter came by to ask Peter if he needed anything, he asked for what Yuri was having. He was all but shaking with nervous tension, so maybe some herbal remedies could be of use. His father would have approved.
“You’re doing the quad Axel in your free, aren’t you?” Peter asked when his order arrived.
“That’s the plan.”
“It’s terrifying,” Peter said, shaking his head slightly. “Commentators like to say it’s captivating, beautiful, fascinating... But really it’s just scary as fuck.”
“It really is,” Yuri said. He watched Peter carefully, trying to figure out if he should be supportive or cheerful or something else. He’d never spent much time with his competitors, aside from Otabek. Humans largely just confused or irritated him. But there was something about Peter that made Yuri want to support him. He was like a ball of non-threatening strength. Like he’d shaped himself to be a formidable force intent on achieving every desired goal without ever hurting anyone. “You’re seeded second, right?”
“Yes,” Peter said, starting to bounce his leg nervously. “I’ve never been ranked that high before.”
“You’ll do fine.”
“So they tell me.”
Yuri smiled a little. Then he leaned over the table and looked straight at Peter.
“Peter, listen to me,” he said, waiting for Yang to look at up him. “I expect you to do well, okay? There’s zero interest for me in beating you if you’re not at your best.”
“But you’ll still beat me,” Peter said quietly.
“I intend to. But I really fucking hope that you intend to beat me.”
One of the best things about that year’s Grand Prix Final, for Yuuri anyway, was that one of the commentators present at the event was none other than Phichit Chulanont.
He arrived late the night before the short program, and Yuuri picked him up at the airport, seeing as he had a hired car, courtesy of his rich and famous boyfriend. Victor himself, however, didn’t come along, saying that Yuuri needed some time with his best friend, and Victor would just be in the way. Yuuri hadn’t put up much of a fight. He hadn’t seen Phichit in person in a really long time.
“I’ve missed you,” Yuuri said when Phichit engulfed him in a hug.
Yuuri helped Phichit put his bags in the trunk, then they both climbed into the backseat.
“Do you want to rest? I could take you straight to the hotel.”
“Nah, I slept on the plane. I’m full of energy! But I do need a shower,” Phichit said, looking contemplative in a way Yuuri recognized as his plotting face. “Hotel, shower, then food. And selfies!”
“I’d hoped you would grow out of those.”
“Yuuri!” Phichit gasped theatrically. “One does not grow out of selfies.”
“One does. You don’t.”
“You know I’m no quitter.”
“That I do.”
After Phichit showered and changed, they had the driver take them to a restaurant Phichit had found through an app. It was cheaper and less sophisticated than the one Yuuri and Victor had gone to earlier, but the app ranked it very highly.
It didn’t require a reservation, but there was a waiting line to get a table. It wasn’t very long, and within 20 minutes, they were seated and perusing menus.
Yuuri ordered a light, largely vegetable-based meal, having already had a lot of pasta earlier, but Phichit went all out on carbs.
“So...” Phichit said, planting his elbows on the table, and resting his chin on his hands. “Tell me all about your epic love affair.”
“I’ve already told you all about my love affair. In detail. Repeatedly.”
“Not in person.”
“How does that make a difference?”
“I want to feel the vibes coming off you,” Phichit said, making wave motions with his hands. “They don’t transport well over Skype.”
Yuuri rolled his eyes.
“Yes, vibes. I want them. Go.”
Phichit was only half-joking. Yuuri did indeed have vibes. When he spoke of things he loved, things that mattered to him, the emotions rolled off him in waves, filling the world around him with love and kindness.
Yuuri didn’t really know this, it wasn’t a conscious act. But he was familiar with the idea, as he experienced something similar with Phichit’s joy and optimism. They were contagious, and had gotten Yuuri through a lot of hard times. Of course, sometimes they also got annoying, but after spending enough time together, Yuuri and Phichit had learned to read each other’s emotions and tone down their respective vibes when necessary.
“I’m not sure what you want me to say,” Yuuri admitted.
“Oh, I don’t know,” Phichit said coyly. “How about – when are you getting married?”
Yuuri almost choked on air.
“We’re not...we haven’t...I don’t know? We haven’t really talked about it.”
“Maybe you should. You’re effectively engaged.” Phichit pointed at the ring on Yuuri’s finger.
Yuuri looked at the ring. He’d gotten so used to it that he often forgot that it was there, but then it would catch his eye, and he couldn’t help but smile.
“We don’t have to get married,” Yuuri said. “It’s not obligatory.”
“That’s true,” Phichit said with a shrug. “But I know you want to. You love signed documents. They make you feel safe.”
“We own a house together,” Yuuri said defensively.
“Hey, I’m not saying you’re not committed or anything. I’m just saying I think you’d enjoy being married to the person you love.”
Their food arrived, side-tracking the conversation.
“I love not being on a diet constantly,” Yuuri said.
“Me too!” Phichit replied around a mouthful of pasta. “Best thing about retirement.”
“Last week you said the best thing about retirement was not having to wake up at the butt crack of dawn.”
“Oh yeah...” he said with a dreamy expression. “That too. Also, lack of blisters.”
“Not having to spend half a life at the gym.”
“Not scheduling all your days around training.”
“I still kinda do that,” Yuuri said. “But now I get paid for telling other people what to do, not the other way around.”
“Ciao Ciao would be so proud!”
They talked for a long time, discussing everything from their new careers to hair care products. They spoke almost every day over Skype, phone, and text message, but it wasn’t quite the same as actually getting to be in the same room, enjoying each other’s energy.
On their way back, Phichit fell asleep on Yuuri’s shoulder, and Yuuri really hated to wake him up, but they both had a big day ahead of them.
Phichit continued to lean on Yuuri all the way up to his floor, grateful that they were staying at the same hotel. Yuuri walked him to his door.
“Good luck tomorrow, coach,” Phichit said with a kind smile.
“I don’t need luck. I have fabulous on my side.”
“Don’t I know it.”
On his way back to his room, Yuuri considered checking on Yurio, but it was late so he decided not to bother him.
He slipped into his room quietly. Victor was already asleep, clutching a pillow to his chest.
Yuuri showered and crawled into bed. He ran his hand gently down Victor’s arm. Without waking up, Victor let go of the pillow and immediately clung to Yuuri instead, mumbling a little in his sleep.
Yuuri relaxed as much as he could, but it was a while before he actually fell asleep. His first Grand Prix Final as a coach was about to begin. This was a landmark in the sports world. He knew he would be judged by Yurio’s result by virtually everyone who took any interest in coaches. Yuuri was surprised to find that he didn’t care as much as he’d thought he would. It’s not that he didn’t care at all, but he wasn’t putting as much meaning on this competition as many others did. The GPF was no more important than any of Victor’s competitions, past or future. No more important than Tora’s competitions would be.
The world was watching him more intently now that Yuuri had a skater in the Senior division; and maybe 10 years ago, Yuuri would have thought them right to do so. But he’d been given a lot of perspective in the recent years on what was and wasn’t truly important, on who did and didn’t matter in sport.
Yurio had asked Yuuri to be his coach because he’d been unhappy where he was before. So all Yuuri really cared about was that he didn’t regret that decision.
Something's wrong with my computer, so if I'm late on the next update, it's probably because I can't get online. I apologize in advance.