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can you hear my heartbeat?

 

 

 

The noise in the waiting room was everywhere, but to Yuuri, this moment was slow and silent.

He could see Phichit on his phone, scrolling through the ISO's website, trying to see if there was something to contest about the judge's ruling. The few skaters that Yuuri had met in and out of competition were similarly discussing his score, a few were bold enough to flag down Celestino.

It won't matter though, the judges were fair: he had fallen out of his quadruple Salchow, had scraped the ice in the split-second his shock was reflected back at him.

Had Yuuri skated his best, his routine would have just gotten him to the podium. Had Yuuri skated his best and Christophe slightly less, his routine may have been a silver medal. 

A silver in the era of Viktor Nikiforov may as well be a gold.

The world sped up and a voice cut through the chatter: 

"Jean Jacques Leroy of Canada has been awarded a 288.59. He is ahead of Yuuri Katsuki of Japan by .33 of a point!"

The world blurred into normal speed and everyone was speaking. Yuuri felt a warm weight droop onto his shoulder and was greeted by Phichit’s sympathetic eyes. Yuuri smiled for his sake. 

 

~*~

 

"We had a public viewing! Everyone was there!" 

Yuuri’s entire face pulsed red.

He had assumed his friends and family would organize a viewing party, but it was now hitting him that maybe they were literal in inviting everyone in Hasetsu to watch. The whole of Japan probably watched too... 

"A public viewing? Please, I'm so embarrassed!"

"HIROKO! Is that Yuuri?!"

Yuuri paled when he heard his ballet teacher. From her voice Yuuri could tell she was drunk and angry. He shoved his shame down, gasping out an unconvincing laugh, "Minako-sensei, I did well, right?"

There was a beat of silence of the phone before Minako sing-songed, "Of course you did well Yuu~ri~!" but then she growled out,  "But you should've won!"

"Sorry, I messe–"

“Don’t you dare finish that sentence,” she hissed into the phone. Yuuri could hear her breathe deeply. When she returned, her voice was fierce, “You should be proud of how you skated—I’m proud, we’re all proud. You could’ve given any type of performance tonight and none of them would have disappointed us, but you gave us that one—” 

Her voice cut off, but Yuuri heard her sniffling in the background. “You’re my prima ballerina,” she said, choked with tears, “you’re not at your peak yet, you’re going to be better, don’t tell yourself otherwise.” 

Something bloomed in Yuuri's chest. It wasn’t shame or humiliation, but something light, a sliver of happiness that lifted his whole body up from the slump. They're not disappointed in me.

"Minako-sensei! It's fine, it's fine! I'll skate better next time!"

Rudely, Yuuri ended the call before he could say goodbye to his mother. The feeling in his chest was a flickering candle, he wanted to cherish it before stepping out into the crowd.

But then the bathroom stall shook and burst open. The force of it causing Yuuri to drop his phone. He looked up but all the filtered light was blocked out by a kid wearing a tracksuit. In that corona of light, his bright hair and eyes simmered with hatred. 

Yuri Plisetsky, Yuuri's mind supplied, now understanding the junior champion's epithet. The "Russian Punk" is looking at me like a piece of trash.

"Oy!" the skater hissed, "I'm competing in the senior division next year." The Russian leant in so close that Yuuri’s breath stuttered in the suddenly too-tight stall. “We don't need two Yuris in the same bracket. Especially a coward like you. You should just retire already."

The kid sneered at the last part, but he deflated when he stood straight. "No response?" He stepped back with crossed arms and Yuuri could breathe again. "Well? Aren't you angry?"

Yuuri blinked. "About you?"

The other Yuri–huh, their names are similar—went purple in the face. "No, piggy. I meant about that Canadian narcissist.” Is he talking about? “JJ,” Yuri ground out, he threw Yuuri an exasperated look, as though he were explaining simple mathematics to him, “that asshole who beat you for third.”

That’s what this is about.

The blond kid huffed when Yuuri stood. I’m taller than him, Yuuri observed, smiling at the thought. 

“What are you smiling about?” Yuri spat.

Yuuri couldn't keep his smile off his face. “Nothing. But whatever JJ said to you…” Yuuri tried to summon up the memory of JJ the year before, awkward and suddenly long-limbed, fighting tooth and nail against the relentless drag of puberty. He should have taken a break, but he was just as confident. “He’s always talking big.”

 

~*~

 

"Yuuri! How do you feel about the rest of the season?“

Had Yuuri not run into Motooka for the entirety of his career, he would accuse the man of getting a soundbite. He was probably still trying to get a soundbite, but he hid it between genuine encouragements. 

Yuuri had eyes for other things, though.

Vicchan will be twelve now, he thought, watching a poodle yip in its owners arms. Yuuri smiled, waving his arm in a fond hello. Excited, the poodle nipped at its owner; she turned, regarded Yuuri with a smile, and left.

“Yuri!”

Yuuri whipped his head around, recognizing the voice from hours spent hunched over clips of his interviews. Does he want to talk to me? The impossible thought died when Yuuri finally located Viktor Nikiforov, speaking in rapid Russian—to the blond-haired Yuri. 

That was careless—if Yuuri could pinch himself without unduly drawing his Motooka’s attention, he would have—we never talked. 

Never. Not once. Not in the two other times Yuuri was seeded into the Grand Prix circuit. Not in the three years he spent as Japan’s reluctant entrant to the World Championships. He had Christophe’s phone number, was Facebook friends with the Crispino twins, and not once had Yuuri spoken to Viktor.

He remembered the few times he watched Viktor from afar, backstage, in the stands, desperately wishing he’d turn and acknowledge him, yet praying to stave off a meeting. What if he was mean? Nice? Too nice? Did he like Yuuri’s skating? Yuuri preferred wondering than knowing.

It’s different this time, Yuuri reminded himself, steeling up his nerve, I had a shot this time. I can speak with him as an equal now.

Viktor turned. 

I didn’t mean now! 

When Viktor’s eyes settled on him, his expression morphed into something charming. It chilled Yuuri’s blood. He knew that smile, had seen it in the hours he spent hunched over a computer screen. 

“A commemorative photo? Sure!” 

His disappointment was plainly written across his face. It would be less of a fuss to go over and smile for a photograph, but Yuuri couldn’t trust himself to not burst into tears. He turned around and walked away. 

This is humiliating. I was an idiot for thinking I can finally meet my idol on the same playing field.

 

~*~

 

IcePrincess83
Wow. 

*slow clap* 

Vikki does it again. 

IcePrincess83
I mean. Why does anyone even try?

evie1031
Sucks to be Christophe. Will that man ever have a gold medal?

LeChat_C'estMoi
maybe if he stops cumming on the ice he would 

evie1031
If you can’t see past his fine ass—it’s a beautiful ass have you not seen it?!?!—to see that he is one of the most artistically gifted and technically consistent skaters rn…

LeChat_C'estMoi
calm down. 

uncle chris never screws up.

but no judge is gonna see past his “style” and not judge. 

Li’Katsu
Speaking about style…

Can we talk about Yuuri??? Who knew he had it in him!!! Sure, I don’t need a hand to count all the times he landed that quad sal perfectly… but daaaaaaaaamn. You can just tell he was a dancer first. 

Boy was robbed. He did not deserve the potato medal this time. He was so close to breaking that curse.

4TheKing

“Originally Posted by Li’Katsu
You can just tell he was a dancer first

Yes. He’s never cleanly landed that quad sal. 

JJ deserved bronze. If there’s anyone who was over-scored, it was Little Miss Piggy.

JustAFan
Oh, you’re still alive. 

Li'Katsu
Regardless of what you think, figure skating is an art. God knows how many people forgot about that trying to jump around like soulless machines just to beat King Vikki. 

4TheKing
Look at these points. 

98 PCS? We all know they inflated everything because of The Queen but this has gone on long enough.

Also, Piggy winning bronze? He screwed up all his hard moves, JJ didn't. 

JJ has a clean quad lutz and a quad toe. And—as everyone seems to forget—he always skates with the music. Sure, he’s no Vikki—yet—but someone’s looking at the crown… 

Also: if Piggy really cared that much about the artistry, why doesn’t he just go for ice or pair dancing? He’d do really well there.

IcePrincess83
Ok 4TheKing.

JJ has clean jumps but Yuuri (Yu-u-ri) has really good spins and step sequences. I think only Vikki’s are better.

We can also both agree that with everyone adding in all these ridiculous moves to take down Vikki (which: dream. on.) it’s refreshing to have a skater who cares about the art. I’m not saying Yuuri doesn’t need improvement—he’s really gonna have to land that sal and tighten up his toe to stand a chance—but he did deserve his score. He should also have better programs. Angelica's good but I don't think she's ever realized what Yuuri can do.

MesPieds
Yuuri’s good. I don’t think I’ve seen anyone else—including Viktor, I’ll fight you on this—who gets that into the music. Also, you know you gasped when Yuuri finished that spin. I thought he was gonna faint coming out of it. It was stunning.

Though I just want to see him look like he’s having fun for once.

LeChat_C'estMoi
JJ’s program was clean… but he didn't deserve 
his 94 PCS. The judges shouldn't be rewarding him for singing a song ffs.

MesPieds
Let’s not get too harsh on JJ though, rumor is he’s been dealing with a foot injury and any skater willing to do all his planned jumps and land them on an injury deserves at least a bronze.  

yoanna
Yo, I have a friend skating with him in Detroit, and apparently Yuuri’s much better in practice than in competition. (You’re right, MesPieds He ~never~ looks like he’s enjoying it. No one else is winning gold. Just relax.) She says he’s working on something new there and that he’s been practicing a new jump. Which, idk why, I winced for him with that sal…

He could be really good at worlds.  

 

~*~

 

“Yuuri, you should stop reading that.”

Yuuri guiltily shut his laptop close when his coach entered the room. “It’s not all bad,” he explained. “A couple people think I’ll do well the rest of the season.”

Celestino lifted an eyebrow, motioning for the laptop, which he stowed away in the desk drawer. “Remember the rules, Yuuri.”

Yuuri blinked—Celestino had forbidden Yuuri from reading figure skating forums during competitions, but he had already competed and lost. 

Celestino smiled widely. “I just talked with the hosts. They want you to perform at the Gala Exhibition, tomorrow.”

“But I didn’t—” Yuuri’s throat constricted.

“Yuuri, you scored fourth place and you might as well have gotten third.” Celestino looked as though he wanted to add something. “What do you have in mind for the exhibition?”

“The piece Phichit helped me with,” Yuuri responded. The routine was sugar sweet—a type of fun piece choreographed to a bubblegum pop song. Phichit had sung it every day for two months straight. A month into Phichit’s obsession, Yuuri had unabashedly started dancing along to the frustratingly catchy song. Together, the two had hashed out the bare bones of a routine before handing it to Angelica, Celestino’s go-to choreographer.

Celestino hummed, let his eyes drift to Yuuri’s backpack. Yuuri swore it felt like he was heat-tracking the CD inside it.

“That one?” 

“Isn’t her birthday coming up? It’d be a great birthday gift.”

 

~*~

 

Yuuri loved exhibitions. The lights would shut to a couple of spotlights and the ice would glow. When he skated on that bright ice, the audience would fade away into darkness, and he could skate for whoever he wanted.

He would skate for Minako today.

The piece she sent him was set to something soft and sorrowful. The triplets had filmed her performing the dance portions in her studio and she had listed which technical elements could fit in where. They sent it to him two months ago. "I heard it in a film," Minako explained on the phone, "and started dancing. It was originally for one of my students but I think you can do more with it on the ice."

Yuuri had smiled and promised to film himself performing it as soon as he had free time. Regardless, the melancholy of the piece called out to him. He found himself skating it absent-mindedly in practice, identifying too strongly with the lonely narrator.

"Skating for us today is the Men's Figure Skating Fourth Place Winner, Yuuri Katsuki!"

Yuuri skated towards the center, clad all in black—really, he had so little prepared for this performance, but it counted for nothing and would make his most ardent supporter smile. Yuuri breathed in and looked into the dark space of the audience. 

His eyes drifted shut. In that oblivion, he summoned Minako’s ghost. When he opened his eyes, he could see her suspended in the air a few meters away.

The gentle notes of the piece filled the air, hung in that empty space, and Yuuri moved.

 

~*~

 

Minutes later, he gasped himself out of a trance. The lights were too bright, the room too cold. I'm crying, he realized, bringing a hand to his cheek. And it's too loud.

He looked towards the announcer, he was gesturing wildly, but Yuuri was too far to make out any expression. 

Aware he was just standing there, squinting at the light, Yuuri skated towards the rink entrance, but the skater waiting grabbed his arm. She rubbed at her eyes with her free hand. She, too, was crying.

"Look," she whispered, gesturing to the crowd in front of them. "Enjoy this."

Yuuri looked again.

Everyone was standing. 

 

~*~

 

Li'Katsu
I'm telling you, Yuuri was robbed.

IcePrincess83
brb. I'm sobbing. I didn't think I could feel so much from one piece.

ivychan
...did he also land that quad sal? The fuck. Why doesn't he skate like this all the time???

Li'Katsu
ivychan, anxiety is hard. 

DO YOU NOW UNDERSTAND?

King4Ever
...he was good.

 

~*~

 

Yuuri was strong-armed into going to the banquet.

Normally, he would have been okay with the turn of events—he had settled into an easy friendship with Christophe (no one, absolutely no one, was to know that the older boy was Yuuri's first, tentative kiss), was on friendly enough terms with the Crispino twins (even if Sala would mock flirt with him to rile up her brother) and, if he looked pathetic enough, was usually approached by Cao Bin's schoolteacher wife (which, though embarrassing, was sweet). 

Between all of the skaters, there was the occasional sponsor Yuuri would be thrown into conversation with—"Yes, yes. Thank you. I've been skating since I was 9. Oh, you're never too old! I'm sure your daughter is a beautiful skater"—and doubtless, the judges would be lingering. It never hurt to remind them how grateful one was for the opportunity to skate for them. 

He had been in the circuit for years, the banquets were a necessary evil.

But clad in a too-old suit—his only suit—which hung awkwardly on his frame, Yuuri was dreading the prospect of running into JJ, who would doubtless be wearing something bespoke and would probably say something casually dismissive of Yuuri. And if he wouldn't, then one of his Olympian parents would, or his figure skating siblings, or his model girlfriend, or any of the seemingly endless people he took along to the Grand Prix.

Celestino had been inordinately pleased by "The Rain"'s standing ovation, had even surrendered Yuuri's laptop, crowing about the swift turn of public support—"Late Bloomer Katsuki Yuuri Promises Exciting Season," "Japanese Skater Stuns Crowd," or "Katsuki Yuuri is the One to Watch". 

"You've given them something they've never seen before," he had explained, clapping Yuuri's back. "You'll enter Worlds with their love."

But each show of support threw JJ's narrow victory into doubt. Yuuri hadn't shown up to the press conference, but a few commentators had cornered him in the hotel, looking for his honest viewpoint. Yuuri had no honest viewpoint, had simply restrained himself from saying what everyone wanted to hear: "I'll beat JJ in February". 

He didn't know if he could beat JJ. 

He didn't just want to beat JJ.

Staring bleakly at the assembly of well-coiffed athletes, Yuuri resisted the urge to down a flute of champagne. Phichit had been industrious in taking photos when they went clubbing over the summer. It sent shivers down his spine thinking about how many photos he had to frantically untag. 

And you don't want to be drunk around him... he reminded himself, spotting Viktor mid-laugh with a judge.

Yuuri could already see himself sloppily drunk, draped all over Viktor, saying he'd make sure Viktor would never forget him...

Then, like a nightmare, Viktor turned, his eyes widening as he met Yuuri's gaze. Yuuri whipped around, feeling his ears sting with heat as he marched towards the food spread. 

I was just staring at him, he bemoaned. He knows me as that crazy fan who keeps staring at him. Yuuri busied himself, nodding critically at the food hoping no one would guess his heart was beating a sharp staccato against his chest.

"Yuuri!" 

He wasn't allowed to have nice things. 

Yuuri found himself pulled against a warm chest, arms wrapped tightly around his middle. "You were amazing!" Christophe purred, his chin resting on Yuuri's shoulder. "Where have you been hiding that?" 

Yuuri slowly extricated himself from the grip, spinning around to clench at the table's edge. Christophe was so tall, Yuuri had to lean up to meet his eyes. "Christophe," he hissed, drawing titters from—Yuuri gulped—everyone within a two-meter radius. He forced his embarrassment down. "Christophe, warn me next time.”

"Aww, Yuuri," he leaned closely into Yuuri again, "as my good friend says, what's the point of living if you can't surprise people?" He leaned back and walked to the table, picking up a strawberry. "Speaking of which. You surprised everyone today. He wants to meet you.”

"Who?"

Christophe smiled, "My friend." He bit into the fruit. It stained his lips red when he spoke again, "Viktor." 

Yuuri was numb. "Viktor?"

Christophe’s smile was a bloody curve against his face. ”Nikiforov. You've heard of him, right?" 

Christophe kept on smiling, but Yuuri felt his arm snake around his shoulders. Without warning, he was being pulled through the crowd and deposited in front of Viktor Nikiforov, like an errant subject summoned by the king.

"Yuuri." Viktor Nikiforov pronounced his name as if it were music. "Yuuri Katsuki. We finally meet."

He was bright-eyed and grinning. In truth, he looked like an overeager child. Yuuri had heard Viktor was gracious and pleasant, erring on the side of flirty, to nearly everyone; he'd never heard he was so unabashedly playful.

To his right, Christophe gave a delicate cough and Yuuri blinked, realizing he had yet to shake Viktor's offered hand. In his haste, he stumbled forward and shook Viktor's hand too hard. He paled—his hands were clammy—but Viktor laughed and waved Yuuri's arm up and down. Yuuri smiled, relieved.

Looking at the two of them, Christophe added, "I'm surprised you haven't met before, Yuuri's been Japan's ace skater for years now."

Yuuri froze as Viktor regarded him coolly, tapping a finger to his mouth. 

Don't bring up the lobby, Yuuri willed. 

"Ah, sorry, sorry," Viktor explained after a beat, "that may be my fault—I may have met Yuuri dozens of times and never realized." He gave a sheepish shrug. "I'm not that good with names and faces."

Of course not, the only person Viktor challenged when he skated was last month's Viktor. 

Christophe threw Viktor an unreadable look before he clapped both of them on their backs. "I see a Spaniard in need of rescue, I'll let you two catch up on all the missed opportunities.” He disappeared into the crowd.

Yuuri smiled dimly, but his cheeks burned under Viktor's gaze. I have seventeen posters of you in my childhood bedroom, he thought, and a framed photo of you on my desk in Detroit, but you're much prettier in real life.

Viktor released a breath. "That last bit was for me," he said, "I was rude before. I should have recognized you."

"It's fine," Yuuri said out loud, staunchly ignoring how he spent the hours after reading news articles examining every fault, had scanned through the forums looking for the answer, but came up short. Even those who conceded JJ victory said Yuuri's skating had been more beautiful to watch. "My career hasn't been that memorable.” He hoped his laugh didn’t sound as pathetic to Viktor’s ears. "How could it be memorable to you?"

Viktor was rendered silent. He open his mouth, but then shut it again, unable to find the right words. "You surprise me again," he finally said, voice soft. "Not that many people walk away from me."

He said the last part as an after-thought. Even under the terrible lighting he looked like a brooding movie star. 

”Because you're you. Who would walk away?"

Viktor reached out to tap Yuuri playfully on the chest. "You did."

Yuuri was too distracted by the slight touch to think straight.

"It's fine," Viktor relaxed, pulling his hand back, "I forgive you." A smile unfurled on his face and he added, "Just don't go thinking you're not memorable."

Yuuri grinned. "I forgive you, too." 

Viktor smiled, his eyes roving over Yuuri’s face, greedily taking him in. “If you don’t mind me asking,” he licked his lips, “what were you thinking about when you skated yesterday?”

Yuuri looked at his feet, trying to remember that moment. “I don’t—” he glanced back up to Viktor’s waiting expression, “—I wasn’t thinking. Just feeling.” How could Yuuri describe it? “It wasn’t my normal program, I was just practicing it to show Minako, but Celestino really liked it. I can’t believe I did it so well…”

Something flickered in Viktor’s eyes and Yuuri gulped. He was babbling, Viktor didn’t want to hear all this. Yuuri closed his eyes, trying to find an easy way to describe the routine. 

“It’s about loneliness,” he said after a long moment, opening his eyes and finally meeting Viktor’s gaze fully. “Like you’re watching people from outside a window, but you can’t meet them where they are.” 

Someone screamed Yuuri’s name from the distance and he used that excuse to turn towards Celestino, who was in conversation with an older, wealthy couple, and frantically gesturing for Yuuri to come over.

“I’m sorry.” I can’t believe I told him that. “I think I should be talking with them.”

Viktor’s eyes were impossibly soft. “It’s fine,” he whispered. “I should probably go, too.”

Yuuri smiled and turned away, but Viktor suddenly reached out to grip his bicep.

“Wait—” The heat of his bare hand radiated through the layers of Yuuri’s suit. “We’ll meet again?”

“Yes.”

 


 

tired of feeling never enough                                                       

 

~*~

 

lechat, c’est moi

[image]
Haters gonna hate. 


283,713 notes

 

~*~

 

Yuuri was greeted with a minute of yelling and clapping when he stepped onto the rink at Detroit. The shutter of a phone told Yuuri that, yes, Phichit was photographing his expression.

Just don't put it on Instagram, Yuuri hoped, though he knew Phichit would do exactly that and caption it "the returning champion #HeWasRobbed."  

He didn't need another elite figure skater throwing their own opinions on his supposed rivalry with Jean-Jacques Leroy. The fumes were already fanned when Yuri Plisetsky inexplicably screamed he would beat "that third place loser, Yuuri Katsuki" to a pleased newscaster. Though the reporter had politely corrected him, Yuri had looked away, muttering, "Does it matter?"

It did. 

Overnight, Yuuri's fanbase exploded from die-hard Japanese skating fans to nearly the entirety of Yuri's Angels, who were eager to defend their star’s would-be rival. ("Or more," Phichit snickered, "they're calling you two Yuri!!! On Ice" Yuuri furiously didn't google it.) It lent about a couple dozen devoted fans willing to spend an entire night tweeting #HeWasRobbed until it was trending. Yuuri would have been annoyed had JJ's fans not begun mass-posting on any social media outlet details of every mistake Yuuri made in the last season. Celestino had grabbed his laptop and blocked the sites, but Yuuri still had his phone. 

“Yuuri. Yuuri!” 

Yuuri turned towards the noise. A younger skater, Mei, was waving her hand in front of his face. 

“I’m sorry,” Yuuri said, realizing that she was waiting for an answer to a question he hadn’t heard. “What did you say?”

She looked at him impatiently and then pointed to the now-vacant ice. “We want you to skate that program for us.”

 

~*~

 

Yuuri spent the next few weeks as Detroit’s resident celebrity. 

Before, his skating career had been somewhat lackluster—full of consistent rises, but never a breakthrough moment. The double-whammy of a controversial loss and a viral YouTube video lent him a temporary fame. “The meme,” Phichit added, “also helped.”

The younger skaters at the rink followed his every movement, some of their parents bold enough to invite him to dinner. His project partner snuck in questions about the competition. The barista at the university café let him cut the line for a rare, pre-final-exam indulgence, and then handed him his drink free of charge. Yuuri had shyly accepted, hoping that someone would call him out on how ridiculous this fame was and his life would revert back to its normal rhythms. However, the person he cut recognized him from an art class he took for the easy pass. She had derided him as a dumb jock on scholarship for half of it and then a zombie for the other half. This time, though, her eyes blew wide with awe. 

She had looked at him from under a sweep or eyelashes. “You were always so distant, but you were just scared, weren’t you? I was wrong, you are an artist.” It had taken Yuuri a full moment to realize she had written her number on his hand.

Yuuri hated every second of it. 

 

~*~

 

Unanimously, it was decided that Yuuri would switch out his “Turandot” program for “The Rain.” Minako had been thrilled, sending a text of “!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”.

Yuuri spent every spare moment at the rink. He and Angelica had to work overtime to reformat Minako’s program to cram in every required element. Though Angelica was confident in the new version, Minako had stood stony-faced when she saw it on a Skype call. 

“It’s fine,” she had pronounced, “but I don’t think you understand it.”

“What does that mean?” Yuuri had panted, sweat pouring onto the ice.

“Well—” she closed her eyes, “to be honest, I don’t think you understood it at the Grand Prix Final either.” At Yuuri’s devastation, she admitted, “your version was beautiful, but the piece isn’t just about loneliness, it’s about reaching for people to stand by you.”

“I didn’t get that,” Yuuri ground out.

“Well, I sent you a cut version of the song. It’s suppose to end with the first bars of ‘Summer’—something hopeful and happy.” Minako tilted her head, “without the music cue, you’ll have to convey that hope yourself right at the end.” 

She observed him again and added, “right before your last jump, this sequence” she stepped quickly into a mimicry of the movements, her arms gracefully cutting through the air, “this is where you should begin to think of hope. Then you jump and the landing should be effortless. They should all be effortless, of course, this music won't suffer harsh landings. Talk to Angelica and switch out that last triple axel for your quad toe—it’ll be more memorable.”

Yuuri heaved out a sigh.

He practiced the piece religiously, but surrounded as he was, he couldn’t skate it the way Minako wanted, nor could he recapture the magic of his old version.

 

~*~

 

yoanna
Update: Katsuki Yuuri is skating “The Rain” instead of “Turandot” the rest of the season.

Li’Katsu
ngngngngngnngngasdfhljhasf

Kat(e)rina 
…Am I the one person who thinks this is a bad idea? Sure, "Turandot" was a bit...unoriginal. (And I don't know what the eff was going on with that blue fire costume.) Yuu's had months to learn it and it got him so far… It’s a bit risky to switch it out halfway through the season.

Also, can we confirm who choreographed “The Rain”? It doesn’t look like Angelica’s work.

Skating-Through-My-Tears
Minako Okukawa. 

She was the first Japanese ballerina to dance prima for the American Ballet Theatre and is the first Japanese dancer to win a Prix Benois. (She also doesn’t age. Google her. You can thank me later for your new obsession.)

She’s his childhood ballet teacher. When Yuuri was still in Japan, she choreographed all his stuff. I think she exclusively choreographed for him.

Li’Katsu
Huh. That explains it—it looked so different—and I guess all those years spent teaching him, she knew better than anyone what his strengths were? I really don’t think Angelica got Yuuri as a skater.

LeChat_C'estMoi
^ she always seemed way more involved with that Thai skater.

yoanna
Breaking: Friend confirmed that Katsuki Yuuri is practicing the King Vikki's flip.

Kat(e)rina
I guess Christophe and Yuuri are coming for Vikki.

 

~*~

 

Regardless of his struggles, Yuuri had to fly out to Japan the second his finals ended. 

He was mobbed at the airport. A crowd of reporters and teenagers greeted him, even a couple of passengers lingered, trying to take a photo. 

“Is everyone here for me?” Yuuri whispered to a newscaster, half-shocked the person who barreled to meet him was anyone but Motooka. This never happened. 

She laughed. “The last time we had a world champion was six years ago.” 

She said it so matter-of-factly, as though Yuuri weren’t aware, hadn’t been skating with that weight for the past five years. Seeing her expression, Yuuri forced a laugh. 

Somewhere between Detroit and Japan, it leaked that he was skating “The Rain” for the rest of the season. It was also leaked that he’d been practicing Viktor Nikiforov’s trademark flip. If he could add it, Christophe wouldn’t be assured of second place.

But World Champion?

Seeing something in his face, the reporter added fiercely, “We believe you can do it, Yuuri. All of Japan believes it. You have the skill.”

To her shock, Yuuri colored, stammered his thanks and quickly walked away.

“You have the skill,” her mouth formed, but…

“Why can’t I make it happen?” Yuuri said out loud, hours later in the privacy of a hotel room.

 

~*~

 

Yuuri didn't skate a clean program at the national championships.

He still took first place by a wide margin. 

 

~*~ 

 

The next time Yuuri stepped into a Japanese airport, he was flanked by Celestino on his left and Phichit on his right. They were met by a bigger crowd. Although all the other competitors were flying into the same airport, Yuuri counted out more Japanese newscasters than foreign ones. 

This is your country, he reminded himself, they were always going to be here.

The reassurance didn't work, his stomach lurched uncomfortably and Phichit wound his free arm through Yuuri’s to steady him. You have the world’s best friend, Yuuri thought, feeling Phichit wince at a too-bright light.

"Yuuri," Phichit whispered when he adjusted to all the cameras, "what are they saying?" 

Yuuri didn't have to listen long to know what they were saying. Mari had informed him of it over the telephone, "Everyone's talking about you. They're saying you're going to win the Four Continents.” 

Looking into Phichit's bright eyes, Yuuri lied, "They're saying 'Try your best and do your country proud.’”

Phichit beamed. To the crowd's astonishment, he whipped out his cellphone, snapping a photo. "I want to remember this!" he sung brightly. Yuuri could already see the various press corps melt under Phichit’s charisma. “This is a first for Thailand!"

Celestino cheered, "That's the spirit!"

 

~*~

 

The bronze medal hung heavy from his neck.

This is good, Yuuri thought, forcing a smile for the cheering crowd. Mutinously, he remembered they weren't this loud when he took bronze the year before. 

When he squinted, Yuuri could make out Phichit, waving back cheerfully. He had scored a personal best, had won the crowd easily, but it hadn’t been enough to edge out Yuuri. For Phichit’s sake, Yuuri smothered his frown, even as he felt a familiar misery grip him. 

Celestino saw it. When Yuuri met him at the gallery, he pulled Yuuri aside, reaching into his jacket to pull out a piece of paper.

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, handing the paper over. “You’ve been skating non-stop for so long, you need a break.”

Yuuri had looked down. Through his blurring vision he made out the characters for Fukuoka. “I can’t.” There was no conviction in his voice, so he added, “My classes.”

“I talked with your professors before this—they also think you’re overworked.” Celestino regarded him for a moment and said, “I also talked with your mother, she’s thrilled to finally see you.” It was an accusation, Yuuri was sure of it.

He looked back to the mass surrounding Otabek, imagined himself trapped inside that circle. “Why can’t you make it happen,” they accused. “We were all rooting for you! These weren’t even the best!”

He choked down a bitter bile, shut his eyes and nodded. 

 

~*~

 

Yuuri was smuggled out of the venue before the press conference the next morning. 

He spent the hours of the trip staring at his reflection in the window. With his eyeglasses and face mask on, no one recognized him at the ticket counter. It was for the better, he couldn't deal with the shame. 

He looked outside. His reflection was clear in the window, a ghost floating over the countryside whizzing past. Gingerly, Yuuri unhooked the straps of his mask, pulled off his hat. There was a bruise, huge and ugly, over his right temple and his shoulder was a mess of blue and purple under the layers of his coat and sweater.

In the window, he could see yesterday play out like a news reel. Katsuki Yuuri, does it again, why doesn’t he retire already? The musty scent of the train faded away and Yuuri could recall the the sharp scent of ice. He shut his eyes, but the images of him falling were seared in the back of his eyelids.

Think of something happy, Yuuri willed. Think of everyone you're going to see.

Minako-sensei. Yuuko. Phichit. Mari. Mother. Father. Vicchan. 

“I’ll see Vicchan,” he breathed against the glass.

 

~*~

 

Home was warm.

Regardless of how many layers he wore, Yuuri had never fully adjusted to a Detroit winter, perpetually chilled everywhere but on the ice. Hasetsu, down along the Japanese peninsula, was always warm. But his home—with the constantly circulating superheated air—was the warmest thing Yuuri had ever experienced.

He swore it wasn’t just because Vicchan had clambered to greet him the second he opened the door, nearly knocking him with the force of his jump. 

“Vicchan!” Yuuri pulled himself to his knees, burying his nose in Vicchan’s fur. “I missed you, too.”

The dog nipped at his ear.

“Yuuri!” Yuuri looked up in time for his mother to barrel into him. “Oh Yuuri,” she sighed into his jacket, “It’s been so long.”

Yuuri clung to her. “I’m sorry I didn’t visit.” Like a coward, he squeezed his eyes shut when he said it.

“Oh Yuuri.” His mother leaned back to look at him. “If you could have, you would have.”

All the air rushed out of his lungs. Yuuri pulled her into another hug, burying his face in her shoulder and willing the tears in his eyes to not spill.

“I missed you too,” she breathed. After a long moment, Yuuri felt controlled enough to let go. “Your father and sister won’t be back until later tonight, but come, I have a treat for you.”

Yuuri let his mother guide him to the family’s private dining room. He could smell the fried pork before she even sat him down.

“Katsudon!” she shrieked. “Your favorite!”

Yuuri kept a tight grip on the lacquered chopsticks she shoved in his hand. “Okaa-san,” he whispered. How could she forget their rules? “I didn’t win anything this time.”

She smiled, her hand pulling forward to cover his, “This is for all the times in-between.”

It tasted like ashes in Yuuri’s mouth.

 

~*~

 

He found Yuuko immediately after, secretly thrilled her husband was at work and the triplets in school.

The rink had been empty and he had easily persuaded her onto the ice. They were making lazy laps on the rink. If he closed his eyes, he could pretend they were in high school and both prepping for the regional tournament. 

“Do you miss this?” she asked.

“Skating with you? Of course.”

Yuuko playfully bumped into his shoulder. “Of course.” She chewed her lip, frowning up at him. “Remember when I was taller?”

 Yuuri flushed—like a good skater he had hoped and prayed to every deity to stave off puberty, but then Takeshi had shot up like a tree and was suddenly lumbering after Yuuko with the hormone-addled brain of a teenager. Seeing his precious time with her disappear, Yuuri wanted nothing more than to grow—center of gravity be damned—until he was the only person she noticed. Yuuko had been heavily pregnant by the time it finally happened. 

“It wasn’t that long ago,” Yuuri murmured. Yuuko was twirling absent-mindedly on the ice. “Can you still do that double axel?” 

Yuuko gave a nervous laugh. “Nah—the triplets ruined me for anything like that.” She looped to his front, reached for his hands, and dragged him into a smooth spin. “Besides, you were always the real skater here.”

Yuuri stilled, the air filled with the scent of fried pork. “Are we sure about that?” he whispered, finally succumbing to the terrible urge to cry, “there were always—”

Yuuko launched forward, curling himself around him. She was so small Yuuri could tuck her into his side, but he let her hold him, bending over to bury his wet face in her hair. 

“Yuuri, is this about Four Continents? You were so good. We all watched, it was beautiful.”

Yuuri sobbed harder and Yuuko felt silent, simply carding her fingers through his hair. 

“It’s not,” he finally gasped out. Look at her as you say this, his mind screamed, you owe her that much. Struggling for breath, he stood straight. His glasses were fogged and murky, she looked like a ghost through that haze. “I haven’t won anything in five years.”

Yuuko sighed, “Yuuri, do I need to pull up your Wikipedia page?”

“Nothing important,” he ground out. “Nothing more important than what I won when I was here.”

Yuuko opened her mouth to speak but Yuuri stopped her. “I’ve never won gold, not when it mattered.” The words were hard and ragged, Yuuri could see them in his mind, but he couldn’t choose the right ones. “Christophe keeps beating me. Cao Bin, too. Even Mickey. And—” Could he say Viktor’s name? The truth he kept silent for so long? “I just—I didn’t want to come back—not without a gold medal.”

Yuuri looked back at Yuuko, standing so still and silent, a beautiful Madonna. She reached for him again, but he stepped out of it, feeling terrible as the hurt flashed across her face. She just wants to help, his mind hissed, and it added to his misery. 

“Is this the best I’ll ever be?” 

“No,” Yuuko said fiercely. She didn’t go to him this time, letting her voice travel the distance. “It’s not. You’re good. You’re so good. My daughters love you,” she laughed, “I think they love you more than Viktor.” 

Yuuri let himself grin at the thought. Yuuko smiled at the sight of it. 

“He’s actually nice,” Yuuri admitted, monitoring her face under hooded eyes. As expected, her eyes began to shine. She looked twelve again, crooning over one of Viktor’s routines, mentally trying to map out how to do it.  

“Really?” 

A smile slowly spread on Yuuko’s face. “Yes,” Yuuri added, “he thought my routine was great.”

A gasp tore itself out of Yuuko’s mouth, but she quickly smothered her delight, “Your exhibition? ‘The Rain’? He’d have to be blind to not like it.”

“He said I was memorable—” Yuuko’s eyes were sparkling, Yuuri didn’t dare tell her the full truth. “—He wanted to meet again.” Her shriek echoed in the rink.

“Oh my god Yuuri!” She skated back to him. Yuuri reached for her hands, pulling her into a spin this time. She giggled, her glossy hair whipping behind her like a ribbon. “It’s like a story! You’ll see him again and your eyes will meet across the room and then the two of you will—”

Yuuri laughed. “I already have a best friend, Yuuko, don’t worry.”

She snorted, it shook her entire body until she collapsed onto the ice in a fit of breathless laughter. When she calmed, she threw him a wicked grin. “I was going to say—then you’ll have hot, hot sex. Is his ass that tight up close?”

“Wha—?” 

Yuuri keeled over backwards, his elbows hitting the ice.

“Yuuko!” he wheezed. “It’s not like that?”

She sat on her knees, tilting her head. “Yuuri… you have a framed photo of him by your bedside table.”

Yuuri’s eyes grew round, how did she—

“I’ve been in your house multiple times. Takeshi too. He’s the one who first noticed.”

If Yuuri could sink into the ice…

“And when we last Skyped, he pointed out that you had another framed photo of him in your dormitory.”

Takeshi was always a plague upon his life, but how dare he ruin innocent, bubbly Yuuko.

Yuuko rolled her eyes. “Oh Yuuri, don’t look at me like that. Between me and Takeshi, I’m probably the one ruining him. Did you know… He thought you just kissed Viktor’s photo when you went to bed at night.” Yuuko licked her lips, her expression suddenly lascivious, “But with an ass like that? Oh, if I had a dick I would wreck—”

“Stop. Please stop.”

Yuuko stood up and offered Yuuri her hand. He clambered to his feet, unable to meet her gaze.

“Do you feel better now?”

Yuuri’s shoulders relaxed and he wiped the wetness from his eyes. “Yes,” he admitted freely.

“But—”

“Please, nothing sexual.”

Yuuko pouted. “Fine,” she sniffed. “Is he really that good in real life?”

She’s talking about his skating, Yuuri assured himself, but there was something so sly in her look that he wasn’t so sure. “He is. Stay Close to Me is amazing.” 

Yuuko paused, looking meekly at the ice, but turning back to Yuuri with the largest eyes he’s ever seen. “Do you think you could skate it?”

Yuuri froze. He remembered watching Viktor’s free skate in the stands with Phichit. Every inch of it was perfect—the jumps, the spins, the drama Viktor could evoke with one turn. Some of Yuuri’s fans would compliment him on his own artistry, some had even dared to say he was the best at the intangibles, but in the face Viktor’s elegance—the way his long limbs seemed to extend forever, how his muscles seemed to thrum with power— Yuuri knew they were wrong.

“Hypothetically? Or do you want me to skate it?”

Yuuko laughed. “I want you to skate it, why else would I ask?” She spun on the ice. Nearly a decade from competitive shape, yet her form was ramrod straight. Yuuri wondered, not for the first time, how many gold medals she would have won by now had she simply wanted it.

Mercifully, Yuuko’s cheerful voice cut through the din of Yuuri’s head.  “Just think about it Yuuri,” she sang, “we spent so long trying to figure out his routines as children, but now, now, you can actually do them!”

There was a crazed glint in her eye. “I didn’t—”

“You know,” Yuuko was thinking out loud, “I have an old video of the two of us skating—trying, really—his Junior World Championship routine. I could film you skating his routine now, we could make a side-by-side comparison—Katsuki Yuuri: Ascended Fanboy.” 

She’s been thinking about this… 

“I don’t have all the technical elements down.” 

It was a weak excuse, Yuuko saw past it. “I heard you’ve been practicing his flip.” 

“I haven’t landed it yet.”

“Then just make it a triple,” Yuuko said. “I want to see what you can do.”

 

~*~

 

His respite whirred by quickly.

His family had paraded him in front of their awestruck customers. “Our returning hero!” his father laughed at anyone who would listen. Mari had even presented her boyfriend of the month. “This is my brother,” she had exhaled a cloud of smoke in front of the poor boy’s face, “He’s internet famous because a couple of skating fans meme-ed him skating over some Canadian’s dream of bronze.”

Anticipating that his family would serve him katsudon for every meal, Minako commandeered a room for his visit. “I love your parents,” she explained, dumping noodles into boiling water, “but you need fat-free, oil-free calories.” It brought tears to Yuuri’s eyes when she gamely dieted with him.

Each night, Viichan would burrow into his arms and Yuuri would stare up at the ceiling. 

“We’ll meet again?” 

He didn’t remember any of his dreams, but he woke up happy all three days.

 


 

                                                                  i close my eyes and tell myself 

 

~*~

 

ivychan
Bets on worlds' placements?

IcePrincess83
Vikki’s top. No question. 

Skating-Through-My-Tears
Are we sure about that? I saw that practice vid of Christophe and it looks like his lutz is as perfect as can possibly be. If he switches it to the second half of both his programs, he’d have a base score close to Viktor’s. 

cLutzY
Uncle Chris would never do that. He doesn't like backloading for points. Unless your base score is a full ten points higher than Viktor’s it doesn’t mean anything—the judges honestly just hand him perfect PCS for showing up. I think Viktor’s definite top spot but that Christophe, Yuuri, and JJ are gonna duke it out for second.

IcePrincess83
What about Otabek? It’s like he came out of nowhere—who’d ya thunk he’d take down Yuuri and JJ in the Four Continents?

Skating-Through-My-Tears
One, Otabek winning probably had more to do with Yuuri choking than anything else. That field was weaker than normal this year, Yuuri should’ve gotten a gold medal, easy.  Two, JJ shouldn’t have tried to shove in that quad lutz in the end. Sure, he took out Yuuri, but he probably ruined himself for the World Championship.  Tbh, he should be in a hospital fixing that foot.

Final Draw:
1 Viktor
2 Christophe
3 Yuuri / Otabek (Yuuri chokes) 
5 JJ #PrayForHisFoot

JustAFan
Meh.

1 Viktor
2 Christophe
3 Otabek
4-5 Yuuri and JJ duke it out

LeChat_C'estMoi

2 Otabek
3 Christophe
4 JJ
5 Yuuri

 

~*~

 

The sweat sluiced off his skin as Yuuri breathed against the ice. His palms were burning red from having to absorb the full force of his weight when he fell out of the flip. The bell signaling the end of practice went off, but Yuuri pressed his forehead against the ice, willing his heart to slow to something normal before forcing himself up.

His vision was blurring at the edges. Breath, in, out, this isn’t over. But it felt over when Viktor Nikiforov himself skated past Yuuri, smiling in soft consolation. Yuuri turned away, unable to look at him. It’s so easy for you, he thought, skating towards the edge, don’t make fun of me for trying. 

“It’s looking better,” Celestino observed.

Yuuri nodded, unclenching his fists.

“Are you sure you want to add the flip into your short program? You’ve barely landed it in practice.”

“Yes,” Yuuri said, “it’s the only way.”

“To medal? I think anyone would say otherwise.”

To beat Viktor.

 

~*~

 

His vision was still swimming, hours later, when it was his turn to skate. 

Yuuri took a moment before the music cued, to look into the audience. They were screaming, a clear majority were waving tiny Japanese flags, some even holding up banners, but Yuuri couldn’t make out the characters.

Minako is there, he reminded himself when he fell into his opening pose. Phichit is there. Celestino is there

It was no use, Yuuri couldn’t see them. 

 

~*~

 

Men — Short Program

Rank Name Nation

1 Viktor Nikiforov Russia
2 Otabek Altin Kazakhstan
3 Jean-Jacques Leroy Canada
4 Christophe Giacometti Switzerland
5 Cao Bin China
6 Emil Nikola Czech Republic
7 Yuuri Katsuki Japan
8 Michele Crispino Italy
9 Georgi Popovich Russia
10 Javier Martinez Spain

 

~*~

 

Phichit didn’t break the top 10 after the short program. If he was devastated, he hid it well, following Celestino, Yuuri, and Minako for dinner after. But Yuuri could read something unmistakable in his eyes and surrendered Celestino for the morning. 

“Are you sure?” Phichit called out from the bathroom. “I can just work with Angelica all day.” 

“It’s fine,” Yuuri said, pulling on his dance shoes, “Minako-sensei said she’d help me with the choreography today. She’ll probably be busy later, so I’ll see Celestino after.” 

Minako had found him after the short program, took one look at him and told him she’d help him with free skate. When Yuuri protested, she threw him a sharp look, “Your free leg was sloppy and your arms had no extension, Angelica’s influence, no doubt,” and that had been the end of that.

Phichit didn’t look convinced, but Yuuri had run out of the room before he could argue.

Hours later, Yuuri was resisting the urge to double over. “I think,” he panted out, “we should break for lunch.”

Minako lifted a thin eyebrow. She could toggle between Minako the Teacher and Minako so easily that Yuuri sometimes forgot who she was.

She certainly hadn’t. Yuuri had stammered when Minako picked him up and dragged him to the hotel’s dance studio. She had somehow convinced management to close it for Yuuri’s personal use.

“Run through it one more time,” Minako called out from the barre, arms crossed.

Yuuri sucked in air and forced himself back to the center. He stepped through the movements, painfully aware of Minako’s calculating stare. When he finished, she asked, “What do you think about when you go through this?”

Yuuri scratched his head, “I think about someone walking through an empty town. No one’s there because they are all inside. And this person keeps walking, looking through the windows and knocking on people’s doors but no one lets him in. As he keeps going, he dances through the streets, hoping to convince people to want to help him. As he keeps dancing, he catches the attention of someone inside, and they open the door when the song ends.”

Minako frowned. “That’s better,” she drew out, “but try this…”

 

~*~

 

Yuuri spent the night awake, trying to remember the events of the day. Every time he shut his eyes, he could see himself falling, and every time his mind rested, his left hip throbbed with pain, demanding attention.

I made the right decision, Yuuri thought.

“I’ll take out the flip,” Yuuri had announced when he met Celestino in the afternoon, “and I’ll put the first quad toe in a combination.”

Celestino frowned, “I agree, but you seemed set on the flip.”

Yuuri shrugged, “I talked with Minako-sensei and I think I can skate this program better than before, but I don’t want to ruin it with a fall.” Like yesterday, went unspoken.

I can medal without it. He turned and burrowed deeper into the pillow, but his body refused to let him rest. Frowning, he pulled out his phone. 

3:17.

Yuuri shut his eyes. When he pulled out his phone again—3:42—he surrendered to his wakefulness, tiptoeing through the room and throwing on clothes to go to the lobby. When he arrived, the concierge blinked at him with heavy eyes. 

“I know its late, but may I use the dance studio?”

“You’re Katsuki Yuuri, right?” he asked. 

“Yes,” Yuuri murmured.

To his astonishment, the concierge stood up and held his hand out. “Yamanaka Toshio,” he greeted, more awake, “It’s an honor to meet you. You did us proud yesterday.” 

The thank you died in Yuuri’s mouth, he couldn’t spit it out, was instead biting back tears. “I didn’t.” It sounded pathetic. “I can do better.” The worker looked up at him in confusion and Yuuri added, “For Japan. I can do better.” 

There was a long moment where Yuuri’s heart was beating madly and the world was blurring. “You don’t have to,” the concierge’s voice cut through the white noise, “just skate like you mean it.” Yuuri felt pathetic, looked pathetic too, because the man reached out and patted his forearm. “We’ll support you either way.”

“Thank you.”

The man smiled. “Down that hallway—” he motioned to Yuuri’s left “—all the way to the end, it’s on your right. There’s already someone in the dance studio, but two people can fit, just don't make too much noise.” 

Yuuri stammered a goodbye and walked towards the studio. When he reached the door, he paused, peering through the glass partition. 

It’s Viktor. 

Viktor Nikiforov was walking through his free skate. He had the lights switched off, but swathes of moonlight fell through tall windows. He looks so peaceful, Yuuri realized, but he could read something else in Viktor's intensity. Entranced, he stepped towards the glass, pressed close as Viktor spun through the last minute of his routine. Yuuri realized Viktor finished the program when he stopped, doubling over to pant. 

That's why I can't look away. He's serious, he doesn't want to mess this up. Yuuri couldn't think of a single instant where Viktor Nikiforov looked like he was trying for something.

Eventually, Viktor caught Yuuri standing outside and stood up straight. Their eyes locked through the glass. Yuuri lifted his hand in greeting and then sheepishly pulled out his headphones from his pockets. I won’t bother you, he mouthed.

Viktor tilted his head, held the stare for so long that Yuuri felt more of an intruder than he already was. I’ll go, he thought to himself, but he couldn’t bring himself to mouth it. If he left, he’d be stuck in his room, staring at the black ceiling and suffocating with memory. You need this, he urged, you need to dance more than he does.

Finally, Viktor tilted his jaw down in a sharp nod. 

Relieved, Yuuri entered as quietly as he could. He walked towards the barré, held it and exhaled as his hands spread across the polished resin, pulling apart until his forehead pressed against the bar. Yuuri watched Viktor in the mirror—he looked lost in his own world, marking through the opening measures of his routine.

When Viktor realized Yuuri was watching him, his mouth tugged into a smirk. I thought, his expression teased, you wanted to work? 

A laugh bubbled in Yuuri’s throat. He turned around and pulled his headphones on, grinning widely at Viktor, who was exaggeratedly falling into an arabesque. Show me what you got.  

When the opening notes of “The Rain” rung in his head, Yuuri closed his eyes, savored the moment and moved.

They danced in that empty studio until the sun rose, terrifying and new. 

 

~*~

 

The free skate wasn’t until night. Celestino had been scandalized when Yuuri didn’t show up at the rink for a morning run-through, had sent several voicemails that Yuuri only heard when he woke in the afternoon.

“I just needed to sleep,” Yuuri explained, resolutely leaving out the night before. He felt calm during the warm-up and it had placated Celestino.

“You looked good out there,” he said. “Different, too.”

“Thank you.”

Mickey’s routine was drawing to a close and they had scant minutes before Yuuri would be called in. Celestino gave him a measured look, but then he uncrossed his arms and patted Yuuri’s shoulder. 

“I’ve thought about it,” he said, “Keep your quad flip, but switch it out with the toe. Do that and you can bump out Christophe.”

Yuuri’s eyes widened. 

“It’s the last jump.” 

Celestino tilted his head, “We both know you’re capable of doing it. I don’t think I’ve ever really seen your body give out on you.”

“I know you want to beat Viktor—” Celestino laughed at Yuuri’s shocked expression. “Sometimes you’re an open book, Yuuri.” His voice lowered and his expression was solemn, “You won’t do that today.”

He looked Yuuri in the eye. For the first time, Yuuri could something sparking in his coach’s gaze that wasn’t there before–excitement, anticipation. 

No, that was always there, he realized.

“But you can make him work for gold.” 

 

~*~

 

Someone is walking through a town alone. He enjoys the solitude but desperately hopes for someone to stand by him. Trying to remember why he’s set apart, he dances. Caught up in the moment, he doesn’t realize that someone has run out and begun dancing with him. They leave the town together.

 

~*~

 

“Not even Viktor Nikiforov completed a quadruple flip this late in the program! Here is a skater who’ll go above and beyond our expectations!” 

 

~*~

 

From the moment Yuuri collapsed onto the ice in exhaustion, he felt like he was floating above the crowd. His heart was beating wildly in his chest and his face was slick with sweat.  Dimly, he was aware that the audience had leapt to a standing ovation—later, Phichit will tell him that a significant minority (“The Yuuri Stans quadrupled through that performance!”)—had been standing at attention the second he completed the four revolutions.  

He forced himself to stand, to skate around and wave at the still standing crowd. The media section was in a frenzy, the commentators were stammering into headsets, Motooka was among them, grinning—Yuuri was sure of it. Yuuri waved at them too, tried to imagine everyone watching as he smiled into the camera.

He wanted to live in this moment forever.

 

~*~

 

[ video ]

Katsuki Yuuri Breaks Viktor Nikiforov’s FS World Record
274,913 views

 

~*~

 

It wasn’t enough. It would have to do.

 

~*~

 

“I have made the decision to part ways with Celestino Cialdini.”

The conference hall erupted into noise before Yuuri could close his mouth. 

Celestino was leaning against a wall, his entire face alit with the flash of cameras, his expression betraying nothing, but the reporters nearest him were screaming out questions. Their English was rapid and too many were speaking at once, but Yuuri could make out enough of the words to know the accusations weren’t pleasant. 

They had spent all of yesterday night speaking about this. Yuuri had barely had to argue his point, Celestino seemed so resigned. “I knew it,” he had said with a soft grin, “you’ve outgrown me.”

“No,” Yuuri had said, “I don’t think I can outdo today.” I don’t think I should try. 

They had said nothing after that.

Everyone.” It came out too harsh and Yuuri winced, moderating his tone. “Please, Celestino and I have decided that it’s best that I continue my training in Japan. As his club is in the United States, our partnership has reached its natural end.”

Yuuri fell silent, but Christophe jabbed at his ribs, his chin pointed towards a few overeager reporters in the front. 

“I—” Yuuri paused, staring at the blurring sea of faces, “—I visited my family in February. It was the first time in nearly five years that I saw them. Celestino has been integral in my senior career—without him, I wouldn’t have the skill set to be competitive at this level. I will always be grateful for the opportunities he has opened up for me.” The next part was the hardest. “But seeing my family last month, I believe, reinvigorated my skating. I didn’t realize how much I missed them until then, and I believe it’s best if I’m by their side…”


Yuuri trailed off, his glance skittering to the side. He could make out Viktor’s perfect jawline in his peripheral vision. “I’m homesick,” he finally said, “it may be silly, but I’m homesick.”

The admission granted him a second of silence before Yuuri was bombarded with questions.

“Have you felt you weren’t skating your best under Coach Cialdini’s direction?”

“Do you think Coach Cialdini has been prioritizing Phichit Chulanont’s career?”

They’re talking too fast, I didn’t—. Yuuri saw Motooka in the front and gestured towards him, he smiled in appreciation. “Katsuki-san, can you please clarify—you will continue skating in Japan, yes? Specifically in your home rink, in Hasetsu?”

“In Hasetsu.”

Motooka’s eyes grew round. He was the only reporter here who understood Yuuri’s career completely. He knew better than most that Hasetsu was a sleepy town by the sea that hemorrhaged all its major skating talent when Yuuri left for America. “Katsuki-san, have you made prior arrangements with a coach to follow you to Hasetsu?”

Yuuri’s cheeks burned. “No.” He gave a nervous laugh, “I’ll see what happens.”

“Are you—” The chatter of the crowd ceased when everyone realized Viktor had crushed his water bottle, turning fully to face Yuuri. “Are you retiring?”

Viktor phrased it like an accusation, but Yuuri held still under his sharp stare. 

“I don’t know.”

 

~*~

 

Yuuri didn’t dare go to the celebratory afterparty, was instead cutting figure eights into the abandoned rink. The silver medal had hung heavy around his neck, even now—hours after he wore it for the official photos—Yuuri could feel a phantom weight on his chest. Absently, his hand drew to his stomach, curling around air.

“You stole my moment.”

Yuuri didn’t have to turn to know who spoke. 

“Shouldn’t you be at the party?”

“Why should I? You’re the most interesting person around.”

At that, Yuuri turned. Viktor was leaning over the edge of the rink, dressed in a suit. 

“You were at the party, weren’t you?” 

“Yep—they didn’t scrimp on the alcohol budget, the champagne is to die for,” Viktor teased. 

Feeling awkward, Yuuri skated towards Viktor. “Why are you here?”

Viktor smiled, “because of,” his voice was a drawl, and he drew a curl with a casual flick of his wrist, “you. I wanted to congratulate you—you upstaged me.” His eyes were laughing. 

“I won silver,” Yuuri said slowly.

“You did.” Viktor’s eyes were warm. He leaned against the sill, pressing his jaw into his palm. “It was beautiful. But not that. The press conference.” He looked down at the ice, then drew his gaze up at Yuuri. The light streaming through the windows made a crescent moon of Viktor’s face. “I was going to announce my retirement.”

The room was airless. The ice was tilting under Yuuri’s blades. 

“You can’t do that!”

“Why not?” Viktor was petulant, unconcerned with how Yuuri’s world was cracking at the seams. “You are.”

Of all the— “I’m not—I didn’t—” Yuuri couldn’t find the words. “You’re you! Viktor Nikiforov, the living legend!”

Yuuri chose wrong. Viktor froze, still as a statue, and looked at Yuuri as though he were finally realizing Yuuri wasn’t worth a response. At last, he spoke, “I see. Who am I?”

“You’re—you’re Viktor Nikiforov! You changed ice skating! Forever! You’re like a dream come true!”

Nothing Yuuri said was working, Viktor was unmoved, worse, his expressive face was dull. “And my ice skating?” he said listlessly.

“It changed my life!” Yuuri erupted, “ever since I was young, your skating inspired me, I never—”

“You’ve never seen anything like it?” Viktor completed. “‘You’ve pushed yourself harder because of it?”

Viktor turned to him, something dangerous flashing in his eyes, and spat something in Russian. Yuuri heard his name in that jumble, but he couldn’t begin to guess what Viktor said. 

Yuuri fought against the sting of tears. No, there were no sting of tears, he wanted to cry, wanted to want to cry, maybe crying would stop Viktor. Instead, he felt angry. “Don’t make fun of me!” Yuuri reached forward to grab at Viktor’s arm, uncaring that he was wrinkling the expensive fabric. 

Viktor stared at the point of contact before gently tugging his arm away. Before Yuuri could process the shock—no, embarrassment? shame?—he felt cool fingers wrap around his wrist.

“Yuuri,” Viktor said slowly, turning Yuuri’s wrist until his palm was exposed, “what is my skating worth to you… personally?”

He was looking at Yuuri so expectantly, as though waiting for a certain response. What did he want Yuuri to say? Viktor was so callous about his skating legacy, how much it had shaped Yuuri’s life. 

“Your skating gave me by best friend,” Yuuri blurted, unable to think of anything else. “She was the best skater in our rink and I was this newbie. And one day we both watched you skate and… We’d spend hours copying your routine. Days. I never… I never had a friend before her.”

Viktor’s expression was incredulous, seeing Yuuri’s blush, he asked, “And what is this girl to you?” 

Yuuri shook his head hard. “She’s not,” he breathed. “That’s not the point.” He stared Viktor straight in the eye. “You mean so much to me. Please don’t belittle that.”

Yuuri pulled his arm back, careful to look anywhere but at Viktor. Silently, he took his glasses off, placing them on the edge. The edges of Viktor’s form were a blur. Yuuri felt detached, as though he were floating above the bravest thing he would ever do. 

“Please watch me,” he heard himself say.

He skated to the center. 

His heart slowed and he let his eyes fall heavy before lifting them open—as if seeing the face of god.

Yuuri moved. 

 

~*~ 

 

Yuuri forced himself to skate towards the bright silver of Viktor’s hair. He was polite—had not stopped Yuuri, had not spoken—but the silence was unnerving. 

Yuuri gripped the sill and reached for his glasses, but warm hands curled over his. “Yuuri.” Viktor’s voice was fond. He let Yuuri’s hand loose, dragging up, up, up Yuuri’s arm to settle on his cheek. His hand was a brand; Yuuri never wanted him to move it. “I thought you would try different types of things to get me to skate, but never that.”

What is he? 

Viktor made no sound, brushing sweaty bangs away from Yuuri’s eyes. He stood so close, Yuuri didn’t need his eyeglasses to know Viktor's pupils were blown wide. Yuuri was held there for a moment before Viktor placed the eyeglasses onto his face. 

Viktor came into focus so beautifully.

“Oh Yuuri,” Viktor sighed again, the breath was a gentle caress against his skin. “I know what I’m going to do now.”

Yuuri stood straighter, but Viktor gently pulled Yuuri’s hand from his—when did I reach for him?—to press a kiss on a knuckle. Yuuri shivered. 

“You’ll be the first to know.”

And then he walked away.

 

~*~

 

Yuuri spent the last couple weeks of his student life agonizing over Viktor. He had set a news alert on his phone, subsequently suffering mini-heart attacks every time it went off.

But Viktor remained annoyingly distant, rebuffing any Instagram messages. 

(Phichit had laughed and laughed when Yuuri explained that neither he nor Viktor had each other’s number. In his desperation, he had friended Viktor on Instagram.)

 


 

that my dreams will come true

 

~*~

 

“Yuuri! Starting today, I’m your coach!”

 

~*~