Chapter 1: from moscow, with love
The first time he’s taken to see an ophthalmologist, he’s seven years old and he has yet to figure out how to pronounce ophthalmologist, so he and Grandpa call him the ‘eye doctor’ and leave it at that.
The eye doctor is a tall adult with black hair, round glasses and an impassive expression. Yuri dislikes him right away and says so out loud and meaningfully, but Grandpa doesn’t pay him any mind. Even though he’s a small child, just shy of the one-meter mark, Yuri is already known for disliking virtually everyone he meets. His complaints about all the weird paintings and the creepy machines in the doctor’s office are dismissed with a quick reprimand to be quiet and listen .
Yuri, unaware of how those words would later come to define him, does as he is asked without further objections.
That afternoon, he doesn’t understand a word of what the eye doctor tells them.
He tries, of course, because at seven years of age Yuri Plisetsky is already different from all the other children. He is quicker on his feet and sharper with his tongue. He is determined, above all, practically the embodiment of the word, but determination is not enough to make him comprehend all the medical jargon that enters one ear and escapes through the other in a blur of white noise.
His eyes scan the eye doctor’s office for the umpteenth time as Grandpa talks to the man. After trying out most of the machines, Yuri has concluded none of them are scary anymore. They are just things now. Yuri loves puzzles, but he always loses interest as soon as he finds the answer.
He is about to ask if there are any more machines he can see when Grandpa stands up without warning. He’s so brusque that he knocks back his chair in his haste, startling everyone in the room.
“Come, Yuri. We are leaving,” he announces.
Yuri follows him without any protests. He had been starting to grow bored anyway.
On the way home, he asks about what happened; what’s wrong with him. Grandpa shakes his head and squeezes Yuri’s hand tighter before he replies.
“Nothing. That doctor doesn’t know anything. I’m gonna take you to a better one, Yuri. I’m sorry I didn’t do it before.”
“Alright,” Yuri says because he is seven but he is not dumb.
He knows the reason why Grandpa took him to medical practice set up above a Chinese restaurant is the same reason why sometimes the heat went off in their flat for days on end. Why they ate rice with beans on most nights and used up all the bits of a chicken, including the bones, whenever they bought one.
He knows that his skating lessons, which started two years ago, eat up most of Grandpa’s pension. In essence, he knows that they were poor and that he is only making them poorer, but there isn’t anything he can do about that for now. Soon, though, Yuri is going to become the best figure skater to ever grace the ices of Russia and then he and Grandpa will never have to visit a doctor like that one again.
Until then, they just have to go forward.
“Your vision isn’t so bad, is it, Yurochka?” Grandpa asks.
Yuri shakes his head. He has trouble seeing at night, and when he moves his head too quickly, his vision blurs entirely, but they’re not big issues. He’s fine. He can see.
“Good,” Grandpa says.
Yuri wants to ask more questions, but he’s soon distracted by the promise of piroshki and his favorite movie, The King and The Skater, before he goes to bed.
His second visit to an ophthalmologist occurs five months later.
This time, he’s taken to a nice practice in the heart of Moscow, one with a waiting room bigger than their entire flat. The walls in this practice are all a remarkable shade of white, so pristine they seem to shine. One of the nurses gives Yuri a lollipop to suck on while he waits and Yuri, who was raised on the concept of ‘nobody gives anything for free’, has to look to his grandfather for guidance before he accepts the offer.
He doesn’t complain during any of the tests the doctor asks him to perform. Most are like the tests from his last visit to an eye doctor, but there are new ones as well. He has his blood drawn — just a precaution — and he gets another lollipop in return for his courage, for the way he bites his bottom lip in order to stop the tears.
Just like the first time he visited an eye doctor, he doesn’t understand any of the medical jargon coming from the man’s mouth. Only now, after he’s done explaining everything in complicated, convulsed words, the man turns to Yuri with a smile on his face and he explains everything in small words, using terms Yuri can understand.
Yuri listens. He bites down on his bottom lip and he does not cry.
The name of his condition is retinitis pigmentosa.
It’s an inherited, degenerative eye disease that causes severe vision impairment due to the progressive deterioration of the rod photoreceptor cells in the retina.
In other words: his eyes are sick, were always going to be sick and will only get sicker as time progresses. There’s no treatment for it, just glasses and maybe prayer, if you’re into that kind of stuff.
Grandpa doesn’t have the disease and he doesn’t know anyone in his family who does, which means Yuri got it from his father, who disappeared from the picture before Yuri was even born. Goddamn bastard.
Retinitis pigmentosa can manifest initial symptoms independent of age. This means some people only get it when they’re old and dying and they don’t even need to see anymore.
“The fact that Yuri got it at such a young age is not necessarily a bad sign,” the doctor says, but there are so many hidden lines behind his words that the statement falls flat.
The early stages of RP are compromised peripheral and dim night vision. As the disease progresses, patients experience progressive "tunnel vision”, which means they can’t see anything but what’s standing right in front of them. Yuri, who is just starting to feel firm on the ice, wonders what this means for his career. Can he even skate if he can’t see what’s around him?
Yes, his instincts tell him. He could skate with his eyes closed if he had to. Eventually, he will since the final stage of RP is blindness. Pure and total. No colors or shapes. No light. Nothing.
“Some patients never reach that stage. This is a progressive disease, which means with careful monitoring we’ll know exactly how you’re doing,” the doctor tells him.
He’s probably trying to sound reassuring, but Yuri can no longer hear him at this point. All he can hear are his own thoughts and the word blind going around his head like a nightmare.
Grandpa picks Yuri’s hand from where it’s lying by his side. He squeezes it and he does not let go, not as they try out glasses for Yuri, not as they leave the practice, not even after they get home.
“We’ll get through this,” he says. “You are strong, Yurochka. This is not your end.”
Yuri doesn’t know what to reply. He wants to cry. He wants to shout and to fight; kick, punch and bite until something bleeds. He is too young. He is afraid.
“You are strong,” his grandfather repeats, hugging Yuri close to his chest.
Yuri hugs him back with all the strength he has.
Here is what Yuri does: he throws himself into practice with all he has. He asks to be homeschooled so he has more time for skating and he loses himself to the ice. He takes gymnastics and then ballet when that proves to be not enough.
He practices with his eyes closed whenever he can, preparing himself for the future even after the doctor tells him his disease is progressing at a slow pace, meaning he still has at least ten, maybe twenty more years ahead of him before he loses his sight. He excels in every way he can, pushing his body to the point of breaking and then marching on after it does.
Since he cannot fight his condition, he decides to embrace it instead. He refuses to let his disease limit him, but he doesn’t mind it if it defines him because he knows it means he’s stronger for it. He learns to rely on his other senses and how to put all of that into his skating, turning pain and frustration into something poetic, something beautiful.
He moves to St. Petersburg by himself when he’s nine. He’s awarded a scholarship at one of the most prestigious ice academies in Russia, the one where Victor Nikiforov and other stars train.
Yuri doesn’t give a shit about any of that nonsense, but he does care about all they can teach him. He knows that with them he can fulfill his dream. He can be the best.
Going means leaving Grandpa behind in Moscow because the old man is too old to be moving cities and Yuri’s scholarship will only pay for himself. He can’t lie and say it’s a tough decision for him because it’s not even a decision. He has to go so he can improve. It’s the only way he can transcend the barriers in front of him.
Later, in St. Petersburg, some people comment on how remarkable it is for a child to grow up so quickly like he has.
He ignores their words and sneers at their awe. As cliché as it might sound, they don’t know Yuri or his story. He doesn’t tell them either.
He gets his first sponsor check when he’s thirteen, right after he premieres in the Juniors. He uses it to fill grandpa’s fridge with food and to pay the rent for the upcoming three months. He lives in St. Petersburg by himself now and he worries about his grandfather often, especially during the colder evenings. At least this way Yuri doesn’t have to wonder if the old man is staying warm and fed anymore.
For his troubles, he gets an ass whopping from his grandpa the minute his landlord — an old lady with seven cats and a gigantic beer belly — tells him Yuri stopped by earlier with a load of cash for her.
“Who do you think you are, boy, paying for my bills like I’m some kind of invalid?”
“Don’t be so stubborn, old man! I’m just doing what I should!” Yuri yells, pinching his grandfather in the arm before he makes a hasty retreat to his bedroom.
“What you need to do is focus on yourself and stop being such a brat!” Grandpa yells after him, making Yuri blow a raspberry at him before he locks the door behind him.
It’s all worth it, of course, so he hardly cares.
With his second paycheck, he buys himself a new pair of glasses. The old ones still work fine, but they’re ugly as shit and Yuri is desperate to replace them. He can’t look cool if he goes around wearing bottle bottom glasses that look like they came from a retirement home.
He orders his new pair from a specialized company in the USA. They’re custom-made and should adapt to his condition for at least three years before Yuri has to replace them. They’re also sleek as fuck, with a sharp cut and an onyx black frame. They’re cool .
A couple of people at the rink compliment him when they see his new purchase, but nobody pays much attention. With the exception of his coach, nobody here knows about his disease. They think Yuri is just a bad-mouthed kid with shitty eyesight and a dislike for contact lenses. Yuri doesn’t correct them, since the statement is mostly true.
The only thing they get wrong is that he would wear contacts if he could, but they don’t make any for people like him.
Whatever, though, Yuri doesn’t give a shit. He doesn’t need to see when he’s on the ice and that’s all that matters. He knows the rink better than he knows himself.
The glasses are a minor thing, even if he feels much better wearing his new pair.
Victor Nikiforov sucks.
No other word best describes the man. Victor Nikiforov is a thoughtless idiot, a worm with slightly better brain capacity than other worms, a hairless ape who flies to Japan without a care for anyone else, disregarding promises and something that Yuri would only dare call friendship if he had a gun pointed to his head.
Victor Nikiforov sucks and because Yuri is an honest person, but mostly because he’s angry and wants express that anger, he flies all the way to Japan to tell him that.
“Well, someone fucking has to!” he tells Yakov when the man calls him demanding explanations. He then hangs up the call without warning and buys himself a sweatshirt with a cool tiger print because he has fuck you money now and this is what people with fuck you money and a fashion sense do.
He also uses the opportunity to yell at Victor until the ugly buffoon lives up to his words and makes him a winning choreography for next season.
Yuri detests every single second he spends in Japan. He loathes Hasetsu and its ridiculous, mind-numbing hot springs. He abhors the food, which is gonna make him gain five kilos by the time he leaves. He certainly hates the people, who all smile too much and are always too nice, as if anyone could be that pleasant without having secret intentions. Most of all, he despises Katsuki Yuuri and his fat belly, his lack of strength and the way he blushes whenever Victor so much as glances at him.
Yuri leaves Japan as soon as he can and if afterwards he spends a lot of his time on his phone, texting Yuuko, Victor and Katsudon, that’s just to remind them of how much they all suck .
For Yuri, winning is not just about proving he’s better than everyone else.
That’s part of it, obviously, but there is more to it for him, unlike some people whose name begins with ‘Jean’ and ends with ‘dumbass’.
For Yuri, winning is something to live for. It’s the path beneath his feet, the arrows giving him direction. Winning is a will, a desire, an ache beneath his skin, settled deep in his bones. Winning is something to work for, the reason why he wakes up every unholy morning with the sunrise and goes to bed far after the sun has set.
Winning justifies all his aches, and there are plenty of those, even if Yuri makes it a point to never acknowledge them out loud. He always has blisters on his feet, to the point where they become constants in his life. His joints are going to putty and he’s twisted his ankle five times, torn a muscle once. His body is a canvas, spattered with shades of vomit yellow, nauseating purple and sickly green. He is a collection of bruises, old and new, and he catalogs them all, spends hours running his fingers over where it hurts and pressing in, memorizing the pain so that he can distinguish one injury from another by touch alone.
And then there are the competitions themselves. The rush he gets from performing, the elation he feels when the crowds call his name. Figure Skating is a niche sport, but their fanbase is nothing short of ridiculous. Yuri doesn’t care for the fact that he has his own group, but he can’t deny that it’s flattering.
He has given himself to this sport. His whole life, his body and his mind — it all belongs to the ice.
Sometimes late at night, Yuri wonders for how much longer.
His eyesight gets worse, progressively, just like the doctor told him it would.
Yuri works his way around it. It’s hard to avoid dizzying movements in figure skating, so Yuri doesn’t bother. Instead, he puts his longer spins on the end of his choreographies, when it doesn’t matter if he’s two seconds away from throwing up because his vision is so bad that it made the world twist and blur before his eyes. He spends hours upon hours practicing his movements with his eyes closed to help him build up resistance, always trying to go further than the last time.
Yakov thinks he’s insane, but Yuri doesn’t give a shit. As long as the old man continues to train him, he can think whatever he wants.
Without Victor there, Yuri feels compelled to take his place. He knows doing so is foolish. Victor is older and more experienced, plus trying to fit his role is exactly what people expect Yuri to do, but again, he doesn’t care about any of that rubbish.
All he knows is that his time is limited. He will not waste it.
Meeting Otabek is unexpected, befriending him even more so.
Yuri has never had a proper friend. He has family and rink mates, with the two groups sometimes blending into one. He has people like Yakov and Victor, who guide him on the ice. He has a lot of people he dislikes, some he would even dare call enemies.
But he doesn’t have a real friend. He’s never wanted one either, too afraid to get attached to people when he knows they’re bound to disappoint him sooner or later. Yet, when Otabek extends his hand to him and says, “you have the eyes of a soldier,” it hits something inside of Yuri, resonating deep within.
Yuri thinks that if anyone will understand him, it’s the quiet skater from Kazakhstan. The press calls him a hero. How heavy a weight that must be.
And to think Otabek remembers him, from so long ago. Back then Yuri had been nothing but an assortment of expectations. Now he’s still that but bigger, sharper.
He says yes when Otabek asks if he would like some coffee because he knows he’ll regret it later if he refuses.
The coffeeshop Otabek takes him to is near the city center, but so late in the day there aren’t many people there. They talk for over two hours before they’re interrupted by Annoying, Annoying 2.0 and the rest of the Holy Fucking Shit You’re Annoying gang. Yuri may or may not spend ten minutes mentally yelling at everyone until Otabek puts a hand on his knee and smiles at him like he just knows Yuri is currently berating at everyone inside his head.
Yuri doesn’t know what does it for him, if it’s the hand or the smile or the fact that he genuinely enjoyed talking to another human being for two whole hours, but something about Otabek does the trick and calms him down.
This inner sense of peace is short-lived, but it’s still a nice change from Yuri’s usual mood, which is composed of varying degrees of anger.
Otabek doesn’t take his hand off Yuri’s knee, preventing him from rising from his chair and throwing around a couple of punches when Victor and Katsuki announce they’re fucking engaged but will only do something about it if Katsuki wins gold. What a bunch of self-righteous dickheads. From Victor, Yuri always expected stupid like this. But for Katsudon to go along with it? They really were meant for each other.
Still. “They’re such dickheads,” he comments.
“They’re in love,” Otabek says. Yuri glares at him, but that only makes Otabek smile. His hand doesn’t budge from Yuri’s knee.
“Whatever.” Yuri huffs, crossing his arms over his chest.
Later that night, Otabek takes him back to their hotel on his rental bike. Both of them ignore Victor’s catcalls (fucking dickhead) and Christophe’s whistling (more predictable, but just as much of a dickhead in Yuri’s opinion). Otabek even goes as far as walking Yuri back to Yuri’s hotel room.
For a fleeting moment, Yuri entertains the thought of asking Otabek into his room, but he discards the idea in the blink of an eye. For all his self-proclaimed maturity, he still feels too young for something like that and anyway, he doesn’t even know if Otabek is interested.
Then again, Otabek just spent the past four hours protecting Yuri, driving him around and talking to him. Who would do that, if they weren’t the least bit interested?
Yuri, with his limited notions on friendship and romance gathered from all the crappy romance movies Mila has forced him to watch, struggles to find a good answer for that question.
“I’ve had a lovely evening. See you tomorrow, Yuri.”
Yuri nods, stuffing his hands in his pockets. “See ya,” he says. He doesn’t plan on saying anything else, but then Otabek doesn’t go anywhere, just stands there in front of Yuri’s open door with a look of pure intent on his face and Yuri feels compelled to fill the silence before someone does something stupid. “Good luck,” he adds and then he hugs Otabek, moving without thinking before he dashes inside his room in a hasty escape.
“I had a lovely night too!” he yells through the door after he’s closed it, leaning his back against the cold surface.
From the hallway outside the hotel room, he hears Otabek chuckle before he walks away.
Chapter 2: through the streets of barcelona
Yuri wins the fucking Grand Prix Final at the sweet, young age of fifteen.
He wins on the year of his senior debut.
The first person he calls is his grandfather. The old man probably watched the entire final on television, but Yuri needs to talk to him anyway. He needs to say those words to grandpa, have them ring in the year crystal clear.
“Grandpa,” he says after the call is picked up and then he chokes, his voice getting caught in his throat as the tears start to fall from his eyes.
He hates crying. His cheeks always heat up like the sun and he swears his whole face swells up while he lets out a stream of fat tears. He’s been told he’s an ugly crier (by Victor) and that the sight is refreshing for those who have a tendency to put Yuri on a pedestal.
Yuri runs away from the crowd so no one can see him, finding himself a quiet spot in the dark near the locker rooms.
“Yurochka, I’m so proud,” says his Grandpa. He doesn’t even need to, to be honest, because Yuri can hear it in his voice. The pride. The happiness. The sweet, sing-song tone of victory.
“I did it.”
“Of course you did. I always knew you would. You’re so strong, Yuri. There isn’t anything you can’t do, now and forever.”
Yuri shakes his head even though Grandpa can’t see him. It’s not true, they both know it’s not true, but right now he doesn’t care to argue.
Yuri is fifteen. He has a degenerative eye disease that one day will leave him as blind as a bat and he has just won the Grand Prix Final. Fuck the world.
Yuri is glued to Otabek’s side throughout the entire Banquet Ceremony. He’s not like, literally glued. Occasionally they part from each other to do dumb shit like take a piss and talk to other people. Yuri hates talking to other people, but everyone seems desperate to congratulate him like their crops will wither and their family will die if they don’t give Yuri at least one hug and a condescending pat on the head.
Otabek seems amused by this — the bastard — grinning as he watches Yuri be manhandled by a bunch of forty-year-old Spanish women who used to figure skate in the dark ages.
“Help me,” he whispers after he’s persuaded the old women to go pinch Victor’s nipples or some other shit. What does he know? The only Spanish words he knows are curses.
“You seem to be doing fine.” Otabek looks at him out the corner of his eye, grinning when he sees the metaphorical daggers Yuri is throwing at him.
“You managed to tell those women to go molest Victor in Spanish. That’s pretty impressive.”
Yuri sighs. “You’re useless. At least go get me another drink before I die from dehydration.”
Otabek opens his mouth to say something stupid and responsible like ‘alcohol actually makes dehydration worse’ so Yuri shuts him up with his foot, pressing the roof of the shoe against Otabek’s mouth. Being highly flexible has so many perks.
“Just do it or I’m going to tell everyone here you like having your ass groped by middle-aged women.”
Otabek glares at him but he does as he’s asked, coming back with an entire bottle of champagne for them to share. Yuri nearly weeps at the sight.
“You’re only getting a glass. You’re too young to be heavy drinking.”
Yuri rolls his eyes. “I’m Russian, we drink vodka for breakfast.”
Otabek pours him a single flute of champagne then stashes the bottle away underneath a table. “That is a stereotype and we both know it.”
Yuri downs his flimsy flute of champagne in one go. “There’s always a modicum of truth in every stereotype.”
A few minutes later, Otabek has poured them both another flute and they’ve decided to relocate to the outside balcony where there are fewer people. It’s also freezing out there but neither seems bothered by the cold. Yuri has grown up on ice and Otabek just seems impenetrable, like being cold is something that happens to other people who give a shit.
There’s a slight possibility that Yuri is a little tipsy from the champagne, but he hides it well, so it doesn’t matter. Otabek pours them a third glass while Yuri is looking at the sky and contemplating the abscess of stars.
He can’t figure out if there isn’t a single star in the sky above Barcelona or if his eyesight is just too shit for him to see anything but overwhelming darkness. Even with his glasses and the lights pouring from the banquet, his sight is nothing short of dog shit at night.
He wants to ask Otabek about it, but instead the words that come out are, “Oh god, I can’t believe I won.”
Otabek takes a few seconds to reply. “Really? I kind of thought that was a given.”
Yuri opens his eyes — when the fuck had he closed them? — to squint at him. “I know I think I’m the best, but it’s kind of weird to hear someone else say something like that.”
Otabek shrugs. He doesn’t seem to mind that Yuri is staring at him like he’s some kind of weird alien. “You skate like no one else and you practice more than anyone I know. Don’t get me wrong, I’m going to beat you soon enough, but I’m not surprised to see you win after you put so much of yourself on the ice.”
Yuri opens his mouth to reply, but he has no idea what he wants to say. Thank you? Probably. Maybe. Yes.
Otabek laughs and puts a hand on Yuri’s knee. Yuri stares at it, trying to define its contour. The alcohol in his bloodstream has affected his vision and even with his glasses, he has trouble separating the shapes and colors. He looks up and noticed Otabek is staring at him.
“I’m thinking of moving to St. Petersburg to train for next season. Almaty is nice, but I think I need to be near other challenges to get to another level.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“We’re friends, aren’t we? This is the kind of stuff friends tell each other.”
Oh, Yuri thinks.
“That would be cool,” he says, smooth as butter. Otabek smiles, though, seeming pleased with the answer.
At that exact moment, Katsudon arrives holding two flutes of champagne in his hands. He’s drinking from both of them, which answers the unspoken question of whether he was planning on sharing.
He says, “Yuri, let’s dance!”
“Fuck no,” Yuri replies, pinching the bridge of his nose and closing his eyes so he doesn’t have to look at Katsudon’s flushed face.
“Yuuuuri!” Katsudon draws out his name like a song and skips to Yuri’s side, pulling at Yuri’s arm until he’s forced to get up. “Come on, it will be fun.”
“It will be embarrassing,” Yuri hisses.
He looks at his side, searching for Otabek’s help, but his friend just smiles at him and repeats Katsudon’s words in a mock impression of his drunk tone. “Go dance, Yuri. It will be fun.”
“You are terrible,” he says as Katsudon begins dragging him back inside the banquet hall. Otabek follows them a few steps behind.
Two more flutes of champagne later, Yuri and Otabek are on the dance floor together, moving without any semblance of rhythm or coordination. Their elbows bump a lot and Yuri’s cheeks feel like they’re on fire, but he’s too drunk to care. He’s having fun and Otabek is grinning from ear to ear so he’s fine. They’re both fine.
Yuri wins gold at the Euros but only he gets silver at the Worlds after he takes a nasty fall during his Free Skate. The gold goes to Christophe, who claims he saw Jesus in his dreams the night before the Championship started. Apparently, the sight was so inspiring that it pushed his routine to a whole level.
Considering Christophe’s routine is essentially a clothed striptease, Yuri does not want to know any details about the man’s messed up relationship with religion. In fact, he doesn’t want to know any details about Christophe, period.
Otabek takes gold at the Four Continents. Yuri is so proud of him that he shares two videos of his skating routine and three pictures of him on the podium on his Instagram. It’s the first time he’s ever publicly congratulated a fellow skater in his social media and everyone seems to go wild for it, which Yuri thinks is fucking ridiculous. Otabek’s performance was amazing and Yuri is acknowledging that. It’s not a big deal.
When Otabek calls, a few minutes later, Yuri nearly throws his phone out the window for some baffling reason that he can’t comprehend.
“Thank you,” Otabek says.
Yuri lets out a deep breath through his mouth. “Shouldn’t you be celebrating?”
“I am,” is the reply he gets.
Yuri needs to take a few more deep breaths before his heart rate slows down.
“Have you rubbed your victory on Katsudon’s face yet?” he asks, making Otabek chuckle.
“No. I like him.”
Yuri scoffs. “Why? He’s an idiot and a loser.”
From all the way in China, Yuri can see Otabek shrugging through his special Otabek sensors. “He’s not that terrible.”
“I’m better than him though,” Yuri says, rolling on the bed so he can lay on his stomach.
“Well, yeah,” Otabek says, like Yuri is an idiot for even questioning it. They talk for a few more minutes before Otabek has to hang up so he can do a few interviews. He later posts a selfie with his gold medal on his Instagram account. It’s the first selfie he’s ever shared online as far as Yuri knows, so he regrams it with a simple hashtag of #congratsyoudeservedit and decides now is a good a time as any to put his phone on airplane mode and watch The King and The Skater.
Otabek moves to St. Petersburg in June. In between the Grand Prix Final and that day, he and Yuri talk a lot through texts, phone calls and the occasional Skype video connection. Otabek is not a man of many words. If anything, he’s the embodiment of ‘never say in five words what you can say in one’, so more often than not their conversations are full of Yuri’s ranting and the occasional word of agreement from Otabek.
It’s not weird, although sometimes Yuri feels lost in their relationship, like he doesn’t know where to put his feet anymore. He’s figured out by now that part of his interest comes from the fact that Otabek is, in the simplest terms, a mysterious person.
He is blunt and honest in ways most people couldn’t ever dream to be, and yet, he never says more than he wants to. He’s confident in a quiet way, a distinct opposite from Yuri, who feels like he’ll never find a place for himself in the world if he doesn’t fight tooth and nail for it.
They get along well, so when Otabek asks if Yuri knows anyone with a spare bedroom for him to rent, Yuri doesn’t have to think twice before offering his own place. It’s a nice two-bedroom flat and up until now Yuri was using the second room as storage for his trophies and medals. He’ll need somewhere to move them to, but he’s sure they can make it work.
Otabek doesn’t drink coffee, only tea. He enjoys waking up with the sunrise like Yuri, so they often go on morning jogs together. They never talk while they run except for when they pass a cat or a dog and point it out to the other.
Otabek can’t cook, like, anything. In the space of a month he somehow manages to burn a pot of pasta and cook two batches of gross, saltless rice.
“How the fuck have you lived by yourself for so long?” Yuri asks, horrified. He takes whatever is in the pot on the stove and throws it into the garbage, pot included.
“Takeaway mostly?” Otabek asks. He seems embarrassed, which he damn well should be.
“You’re eighteen. You should know how to cook something.”
Otabek scratches the back of his head, looking away. “I try.”
He’s blushing, like a proper blush that floods his cheeks and goes all the way down his neck. Yuri looks at him and can’t help but think whoa, he looks cute. It’s the last word he ever expected to apply to Otabek, but in that moment it fits him like nothing else. Otabek, with his oversized pajamas, Yuri’s cat nuzzling at his feet and a blush on his cheeks, looks cute.
There are more things about him that Yuri learns and catalogs over the months. He likes reading pulpy sci-fi novels and watching shit action movies, but he doesn’t have the patience for television shows. He enjoys long walks. He has a little sister who’s six years younger than him and has yet to decide if she wants to be a gymnast or a pirate (Otabek tells her she can be both). He doesn’t have a preference between cats or dogs. He’s earnest and just as determined to succeed as Yuri.
He’s a good roommate and a better friend. Somewhere along the line Yuri becomes convinced that he’d make an even better boyfriend, but he has no clue how to breach the subject, so he avoids so much as thinking about.
Yuri’s scared of losing him. He would never admit it out loud, but it’s the truth. Otabek is his only friend and Yuri is complicated, to say the least. He’s heavy, carrying too many burdens and expectations for anyone else to share.
Yuri loses his eyeglasses on a Tuesday. Right after that, everything goes to shit.
He is not panicking, per se. He is worrying. Fretting. He’s maybe having a little trouble breathing, if you want to get technical about it, but overall, he’s fine. Sort of. Not.
He’s in his home rink in St. Petersburg, finishing up another practice late just like he does every day. Almost everyone else has gone home by now, which means that the locker room is close to empty when he gets there.
Yuri walks to his corner without bothering to look up from the floor. He always leaves everything in the same place so he never has trouble finding it with or without his glasses. Usually, it’s without because his glasses are fucking expensive and Yuri abhors the idea of breaking them. Plus, since he doesn’t wear them in competitions, he finds that it’s more efficient to dismiss them altogether from practice too.
He always leaves the glasses on top of his bundle of clothes, always, but on that September evening, there is nothing there.
“Shit,” he swears, biting down on his lip to stop himself from crying out in frustration.
He searches his clothes, pull them inside out before he discards each empty piece. Next is his backpack, which he empties on the floor with care. He can’t risk breaking his glasses. That would be as bad as losing them.
He’s in the middle of going through his backpack’s contents when the door to the locker room opens and someone else walks in.
Yuri freezes, freaking out for a second before a familiar voice asks, “What’s going on?”
“I lost my glasses,” he confesses, trying to keep his voice level and failing as his voice hiccups on the last word.
He doesn’t like being without his glasses. He doesn’t mind it when he’s on the ice because he knows his way around there, but he hates going anywhere else without them. Yuri can’t see. He can distinguish shapes and colors but those aren’t anything. They’re just smudges, impressions, fleeting and useless. Yuri is going blind and he can’t. Lose. His. Fucking. Glasses.
The person kneels next to Yuri. He’s just a blob of black and brown, but his voice has already set him apart. They’ve been friends for a little over a year, lived together for about half of that and yet, Yuri can already identify Otabek from sound alone. The cadence of his voice, the pattern of his footsteps and the tempo of his breath — all these things separate him from others.
“Is this the last place you left them?”
“Yes,” Yuri says, gritting out his teeth. A hand falls on his shoulders, squeezing the soft flesh beneath the sweater.
“I’ll help you,” Otabek says. “Sit on the bench.”
Yuri does so, trembling just a little. He hates feeling this powerless, but he trusts Otabek. They’re friends, after all.
“How bad is your vision?” Otabek asks.
“Bad.” Yuri pauses. A year ago he would have never even dreamed of admitting this to anyone, much less a fellow competitor. Then again, a year ago he didn’t have any friends. “Like, legally blind type of bad. All I can see are shapes and colors.”
He notices the Otabek shape stops moving for a moment before it resumes searching through Yuri’s stuff. “How do you even skate?” he asks.
Yuri shrugs. “Practice.”
A few more seconds pass as Yuri hears his stuff being tossed to the side. “Your glasses aren’t here. I’m gonna search the rest of the locker room, okay?”
Yuri nods, doesn’t move from his spot on the bench. His breath is slowing down, allowing him to think better. He still has his old pair of glasses at home. He hasn’t used them in years so they’re a likely few diopters behind his current sight, but they should be good enough for the two weeks it will take to get a new pair. Thankfully, he has enough money saved by now that he can afford new glasses without having to worry about how he’ll be paying rent for the next few months.
He waits in silence as Otabek moves around the room. When his friend lets out a happy, “Got them!”, Yuri swears his whole chest deflates.
“Fucking hell. Thank you,” he says, accepting the glasses with a smile on his face. He slips them on, blinking as the world rearranges itself into something that makes sense once more. “Where were they?”
“Behind one of the benches. They must have fallen there by accident.”
Yuri nods. He doesn’t believe any of his rink mates would ever hide his glasses on purpose, not even as a prank. They’re all idiots, but they’re not mean.
Afterwards, they walk home together, their hands bumping into one another every so often. Neither of them says a thing. The silence, which Yuri often finds comforting, rattles him. He knows Otabek just saw him at his weakest and that he’s probably thinking about it now. People usually don’t lose all their shit because they lost a pair of glasses, even if their sight is as bad as Yuri’s.
There is more to his story and now they are both aware of that.
Yuri sighs to himself, stuffing his hands inside his pockets.
They stick to the silence for a few hours longer, until they’re sitting next to each other on their couch watching yet another shitty action movie. At this point, Yuri can’t distinguish one movie for another and he’s sure Otabek can’t either, even if watches them all with interest.
The first words are the hardest to get out. He opens his mouth, closes it then opens it again. Otabek notices the same way he notices when Yuri tries a new type of braid or adds a new ingredient to his piroshki. Otabek always notices. Yuri has always been fond of this since it makes their relationship easier, but right now he wishes Otabek would remain oblivious to his struggle and not put the television on mute for Yuri to speak.
“I have a disease in my eyes,” are his opening words. Direct. Cold. It’s easier when he describes his condition through clinical terms, like it’s just a medical experiment and not his life. “It’s called retinitis pigmentosa and it’s degenerative. Basically, the cells in my eyes that pick up light are dying and my body can’t do anything about it so I’m losing my ability to pick up light.”
There is a pause in which they both sit so still they could be statues. Then Otabek turns on the couch until he’s facing Yuri. He puts a hand on Yuri’s knee and asks, “Isn’t everything we see just light?”
Yuri’s whole body trembles when he exhales. So Otabek is smart. Whatever. He already knew that.
“Yeah, it is. The doctors say my disease is progressing slower than expected. I probably have another fifteen years, twenty if I’m lucky.”
“And then you won’t be able to pick up light anymore.”
“And then I’ll be blind.”
He detests saying those words out loud. When they’re trapped inside his mind, Yuri can ignore them and pretend they’re not real, but when he says them out loud they grow solid and inevitable.
“It’s not the end,” Otabek says, just like Grandpa had all those years ago. His other hand reaches around Yuri’s shoulder, pulling him in for a claustrophobic hug. Yuri tries to push him away, but it’s all for show. His hands are trembling like hell. He couldn’t even push away an ant if he tried.
“Yes, it is,” he argues. “If I can’t see I won’t be able to live independently, I won’t be able to do anything, not even skate.”
“That’s not true. You can skate even if you’re blind. I’ve seen you skate with your eyes closed all the time.”
“That’s not the same,” he says.
“Because I’ll be blind, Otabek. I won’t be able to learn new choreographies or to move around outside of the ice. I’ll be weak and my body won’t adjust. Even if I decided to continue skating, everyone will see me as a freak; as something to be pitied. ”
Otabek hugs him tighter, like he believes he can squeeze out all of Yuri’s fears through force alone. It’s ridiculous, so fucking ridiculous, almost as idiotic as the tears falling from Yuri’s eyes.
Yuri bites his bottom lip like he always does, trying to keep it all in, but it seems once the gates have been opened nothing can shut them again. He’s open dam, wet and gross and leaving snot all over Otabek’s favorite pajama shirt.
“I’m a mess,” Yuri says.
“You are the strongest person I know and I’m not just saying that for the sake of saying it. Yuri, you are amazing and you will get through this. You will always have people by your side to help you.”
Yuri snorts and the sound, mixed with his heaving breaths and leaking nose, is disgusting. “Who? I’m not exactly known for having loads of friends.”
“You have friends. You have me.”
People don’t stay, Yuri wants to say. His mom and dad left when he was but a baby. All he has is Grandpa and one day he will leave too. Victor left. Mila and Georgi will soon find other people and go as well. Everyone leaves, he wants to shout, but Otabek is still hugging him so tight Yuri has trouble breathing and he can’t say it, he can’t fucking say those words and believe them while Otabek is around him like a mollusk, refusing to budge.
Everyone goes, but if Otabek wants to stay, Yuri won’t be the one to push him away. He might be complicated and heavy and on the wrong side of self-destructive, but even he isn’t enough of a masochistic bastard to throw away something like this.
Chapter 3: in the heart of st. petersburg
Right before Yuri turns eighteen, he takes gold at Skate America and at the Cup of China, setting new personal bests for his Short Program and his Free Skate. He continues to lead in the podium all the way through the Grand Prix Final, earning his second gold medal in the competition after Katsuki’s steal the year before. He finishes his golden skate season with a first place at the Euros and a bunch of new magazine articles about him being the best skater in the world.
Otabek takes silver at the Four Continents, again, and this time Yuri is on the stands to support him. By his side is Victor, who has decided to retire yet again. Turns out not even the great Nikiforov can keep up with the youngsters after turning thirty. Although his spirit and grace are still there, the strain on his body has become too great; he twisted his ankle during the Grand Prix Final and almost busted his knee at the Euros, effectively ending his season and career.
The gold medal at the Four Continents goes to Katsuki, who Yuri hugs as he whispers a few genuine words of congratulations. Turns out not even Yuri Plisetsky is immune to Katsuki’s own brand of charm, with all the soft smiles and earnest well-wishes.
Of course, he rather wishes the gold had gone to Otabek, but as a professional he can admit Yuri’s performance was better. Otabek had slipped during his quadruple flips in the Free Skate and had to place both hands on the ice more than once. Nevertheless, his silver is still a great accomplishment and definitely deserved (eat shit JJ).
After Yuri has pushed his way through the press circling Beka, he pulls him to the side so they can talk. He gives him a hug as soon as they’re alone, but unlike the one he gave Katsuki, this one is long and full of unspoken words. Yuri lingers for far too long, unable to pull away as he counts Otabek’s rapid heartbeat with a press of his fingers on the neck.
“Thanks,” Otabek says even though Yuri has yet to say anything. Yuri kisses him on the forehead and pulls away.
“You were awesome,” he says.
Otabek shakes his head. “I was alright.”
Yuri pinches him on the side with one hand and hits him on the head with the other. “Shut up and take the compliment, idiot.”
That makes Otabek laugh, loud and full of heart, throwing his head back as he pulls Yuri in for another hug. “Look who’s talking, you’re the worst at taking compliments. I once saw you punch Katsuki in the nose because he said you skated gracefully.”
“Then I guess we match,” Yuri huffs.
Otabek hugs him tighter. “I guess we do.”
Yuri pulls back enough to look at Otabek. They’re the same height now, seeing eye to eye. So close together, Yuri could count Otabek’s individual lashes if he wanted to, although he would never do something so romantic and stupid. Instead, he thinks about how easy it would be to kiss Otabek if he were to lean in. It would be no trouble at all.
Yuri begins to lean in, moving millimeter by millimeter. He swears Otabek is doing the same, feels his gaze running across his face and lingering on his lips with his hyper-aware Otabek sensors, which have only developed as the years have gone by. Yuri opens his lips, breathes out. He’s about to dive in when someone calls them from the other side of the corridor.
“Yurio! Otabek! We’re going out to partay. Come with us!” Victor yells, making Yuri jump away in fright before a wave of anger crashes upon him.
“I’m going to murder that silver-haired sack of shit,” he hisses.
“Sure and I’ll help you hide the body.” Otabek winks at him, grabbing Yuri’s wrist as he starts to walk so that Yuri is forced to follow him.
Partying, in Victor’s world, means going to a Japanese restaurant in the center of Montréal and ordering as much food and drink as humanly possible.
Despite his claims and origin story, with time Yuri has discovered that he is not — and will never enjoy being — a heavy drinker, so he sticks to the beer as much as possible. He dislikes losing control of his body, finds the idea of his limbs not moving as he wishes to abhorrent to the highest degree. The worst is how the alcohol affects his vision, making everything lose shape and color past the point where his glasses can help.
It helps that Otabek doesn’t like heavy drinking either, so they can spend the night at each other’s side comfortably, not having to worry about who they’ll talk after Christophe pulls out his portable strip pole (who the fuck even carries that around with them constantly? What a loser) and everyone goes nuts.
The fact that Yuri would stick to Otabek’s side while sober, tipsy, or drunk is like oxygen, fabric, and roads; they’re non-points, things that are so certain and permanent in their lives that they hardly notice them anymore.
A month after the Four Continents tournament is the World Championship, the most important event of the year.
Yuri, at the height and prime of his career, takes silver. His performance is sublime, a testament to art and poetry, but his technical score isn’t enough to place him on top of the podium. Katsuki gets bronze with a higher technical score but a few slips weighting down.
Otabek takes gold.
It’s the first time he has ever bested Yuri in competition and Yuri, who grew up fighting the world in one vs everyone battle, who has always lived for himself and no one else, who is brash and selfish and angry all the time, well, Yuri could not be happier for him.
It is a most distinct feeling, to be happy for someone else instead of yourself. Yuri is a little scared of his own emotions, but he has always rolled with the punches, never stopping to question himself before acting. This situation is no exception. He is happy for Otabek and he does not hide it, grinning from ear to ear as he pulls Otabek down so he can kiss his medal while they’re still on the podium.
Otabek stares at him wide-eyed and stunned, not responding in the time it takes for Yuri to lean back and skate away.
It’s only later, when Yuri is making his way to the locker room, that Otabek finds him.
“Come here,” he says, taking Yuri by the hand and leading him to an empty storage closet.
Even though he’s spent the past three years pulling petals from daisies as he whispered ‘he loves me, he loves me not’, Yuri is not surprised when Otabek kisses him. Sometimes his life is so much like a movie that he already knows what’s going to happen from all the scenes building up to the climax.
Still, that doesn’t make the moment any less enjoyable.
Otabek kisses him like he’s a drowning man and Yuri is last breath of air. He kisses with fervor and impatience, tugging Yuri against his body until they are flushed together. Their noses bump once, twice, before they get the angle right. They part their lips as soon they can, like they’re trying to devour one another in their last moments on Earth. Yuri runs his nails across Otabek’s scalp, tangling his fingers in Otabek’s coarse hair like he’s wanted to for years.
Otabek pulls him closer for that, runs his fingers across Yuri’s back until he finds the zipper. He pauses there, stopping the kiss as well so that they’re just breathing together as their hearts unwind.
Yuri, impatient creature that he is, wants more. He always wants more. It’s part of the fabric of his existence, the constant need to go as far as he can and then farther than that. He doesn’t know if it’s because that’s just who he is or if it’s because of his disease and the knowledge that one day he won’t be able to reach for more no matter how much he wants to.
In addition, a part of him is scared that the minute they walk out of this closet, Otabek will forget him and act like none of this ever happened. It is an irrational fear, he knows, because Otabek is the last person on earth who would ever do that, but who says fears are rational?
For all his confidence and jazz, Yuri is still a ball of hormones and anxiety deep within, his furious exterior just a shell waiting to break.
But Otabek doesn’t go away. Instead, he presses a few lingering kisses all over Yuri’s jaw, reaching further up with each one until he’s reached the cheekbones. Then he moves towards the center, making a stop at the eyelids and forehead. If he were to make a guess, Yuri would say Otabek is trying to memorize every line and dip of Yuri’s face with his lips.
“I don’t want to rush things,” he says, as if reading Yuri’s mind. Yuri wouldn’t be all that surprised if one day he were to learn Otabek could do that.
“We’ve been living together for almost two years, I’d say that’s taking things pretty slow.”
Otabek chuckles, kissing him on the mouth afterwards. “Maybe,” he concedes, “but I still don’t want to rush things.”
“Why do you always have to be so sensible about everything?” Yuri asks. If he sounds like he’s whining, that’s because he definitely is.
“Because you’re the dick punching arsonist in this relationship and somebody has to bail you out of jail when need be.”
Rather than replying, Yuri grabs Otabek by the neck and pulls him in for another kiss. He can’t argue with such sound logic, but he can make the most out of the situation.
It turns out that not rushing things, in Otabek’s terms, means waiting three days until they are back at their St. Petersburg flat.
There is a slight, minuscule possibility that this is due to Yuri deciding to walk around in just his underwear whenever he’s near Otabek. Possibly, one might further argue that him suddenly growing clumsy and constantly bending down to pick up stuff he dropped might have also influenced Otabek’s decision.
Utmost, a final argument could be made that Yuri altered Otabek’s decision by taking off all his clothes and lying naked on Otabek’s bed as he waited for him to finish showering.
Regardless, these are all inconsequential points, easy to dismiss in face of the objective truth, which is that one hour after they’ve gotten to their apartment, Yuri has Otabek between his knees giving him the best — and first — blowjob he’s ever had.
Also part of the objective truth is Yuri afterwards reciprocating the favor to the best of his abilities and then doing it again thirty minutes later.
Not rushing things, as it turns out, is not all that terrible.
Yuri’s eyesight maintains a steady decline as his number of trophies and medals grows.
This lasts until one lonely night in May, after Yuri’s twenty-second birthday, when he realizes he can no longer see the subtitles on television with or without his glasses.
See, the thing about a degenerative disease like Yuri’s is that it’s constant but not immediate.
Yuri will never wake up one day and realize all the colors of his world have vanished. He will never have a sudden moment of realization where everything that was is gone.
Nevertheless, he does have plenty of moments where he realizes the truths of his past are no more. He has moments of change when his world is thrown upside down. The most memorable was his second visit to the ophthalmologist, when he learned that his eyesight problem wasn’t as simple as everyone wished. Another memorable moment is when he becomes aware that his condition has progressed from slow and steady to sharp and destructive.
The biggest mercy he gets is that it happens during off-season. Everything else is excruciating and painful, from the not knowing to the certainty that his eyesight is growing worse by the day and no pair of glasses can fix it.
The doctors have no idea what caused the sudden change. Yuri visits three different clinics, does all the tests they ask for and then some more. He yells and demands and he does not beg, but there are still no answers.
“Sometimes these things just happen,” says the second doctor he sees. The only thing stopping Yuri from leaping across the woman’s desk to punch her in the face is Otabek’s hand on his knee holding him still.
Nowadays, Grandpa is too old to come to these appointments with Yuri, leaving the task to Yuri’s boyfriend. Yuri would have gone alone if he could have, but Otabek insists on being with him and Yuri is too tired to argue.
As for gramps, he hasn’t even told him about the change in his condition yet.
He doesn’t know what to say. How do you explain to your only living relative that your twenty good years have been chopped with an axe without warning? How do you let someone know that you’re twenty-two and expected to go blind in less than one year?
How do you put into comprehensible words something you can’t even say out loud?
The first person Yuri tells, besides Otabek, is Yakov.
He asks the old man if he has time to talk while secretly hoping he doesn’t. When he receives an affirmative answer, he goes without protest.
They sit down at a small café near their ice rink. Yakov orders coffee with a touch of whiskey while Yuri sticks to his usual order of dark and sugar free.
He updates Yakov on his condition through clinical terms, using expressions like “exponentiated progress in the degeneration of the rod photoreceptor cells” and “an increase in the abnormalities of the adjacent retinal pigment epithelium”. They’re empty words, learnt from a lifetime of researching his own disease. He’s trying to confuse rather than elucidate, but Yakov hasn’t become the best figure skating coach in Russia by having problems listening.
“You’re losing your eyesight faster than you expected, that’s what you’re saying?” he asks.
Yuri takes a sip of his coffee, burning the roof of his mouth. “Yes,” he answers, relishing in the slight burn after he finds that the pain grounds him in place.
“How much longer do you have?”
“A year. Maybe a bit a longer, maybe a bit less. The doctors can’t say for sure.”
Yakov scratches his chin, looking Yuri up and down as he thinks. Time seems to compress and unwind all around them. Yuri feels disconnected from the world, to the point where nothing else exists but the cup in his hand and his coach staring at him from the other side of table.
“Well, what do you want to do?” he asks.
Yuri’s eyes grow wide as he stares at Yakov, surprised by the answer. “What?” he asks.
Yakov coughs, clearing his throat before he speaks again. “What do you want to do? Do you wanna quit skating or keep going? I’m fine with either, kid. This is all on you.”
“How will I skate when I’m blind? I won’t be able to learn new choreographies or know what I’m doing right—“
“That’s bullshit. You’re one of the best skaters I’ve ever had and you already do half your routines with your eyes closed anyway. If you’re willing to put in the work, then I’m willing to teach you. It’s not like there are any rules against blind people skating.”
Yuri downs the rest of his coffee in lieu of answering. He had never seriously considered the possibility that he would continue skating after he went blind. For starters, he had always assumed that would only become a reality after he retired.
His disease has caught up with him quicker than expected, but it seems not all choices have been taken from his hands.
Yuri gets a seeing dog. He has to, since he can no longer walk alone without bumping into telephone poles and ducking his feet into every puddle in existence.
He also gets a cane, although he much prefers walking with Izzy by his side. His golden retriever is beautiful, loud and full of energy, a perfect companion.
“She’s just like you,” Otabek says, making Yuri flip him off.
Although Yuri has always preferred cats, he has no qualms in admitting that Izzy is a blessing in his life. Besides helping Yuri move around, she is also an amazing companion. Sometimes Yuri can’t stand being around Otabek, more so as his sight all but vanishes. He feels like a burden, a weight no one should carry, and he detests the mere idea that he’s holding Otabek back.
The truth is Otabek could have anyone he wanted. Physically, he is one of the most classically handsome men on earth, tall and gorgeous and built like the top athlete that he is. He’s talented and successful, the Hero of Kazakhstan. Although he’s past the ages where a lot of figure skaters retire, his careful exercise regime has kept him in good shape and he still has a few more years to go before Yuri allows the word ‘retirement’ to come out of his mouth.
None of this includes all of Otabek’s qualities that go far beyond the physical. From his personality to his behavior, everything about him is stunning. Even his atrocious cooking skills are likable.
Yuri cannot stand the idea that he’s holding Otabek back, but at the end of the day he abhors the idea of letting him go far more.
He is selfish at his core and he hates himself for it. Such thoughts lead him further into himself and into the comfort of Izzy, who doesn’t ask any intrusive questions or judge him as they sit side by side on the couch eating peanut butter.
Calling grandpa is harder than winning any gold medal on earth, but thankfully Yuri has loads of those under his belt, so he manages.
Yuri would much rather do this in person, but since he can’t leave the house without reporters following him, he settles for a Skype call where Grandpa can see him. He doesn’t bother with any soft talk or empty words. He couldn’t do that to the man he raised. He just couldn’t.
Instead he says, “the disease is progressing quicker than expected,” and, “I got a seeing dog to help me move around.”
Grandpa says he’s sorry, a lot, making Yuri yell at him that it’s not his fucking fault, goddammit old man.
Grandpa promises to visit soon while Yuri tells him to shut up and rest.
They’re both such ridiculous messes, yelling at each other kilometers apart and then making up for it by repeatedly telling the other they love them.
At least Yuri knows who he takes his temper from.
One night, two months after the doctors tell him his eyesight has gone to shit and one month after he’s taken a break from practice, Yuri says, “You should break up with me.”
They’re lying in bed together, Izzy at their feet above the covers and Sofiya, their cat, taking up half of Otabek’s pillow. Although they had only gotten in bed a few minutes before, Otabek is already half-asleep, so he takes a few seconds to let out a short, “What?”
“I said you should break up with me,” Yuri repeats. His voice is below a whisper, so soft it is, but in the silence of their room his words are unmistakable.
“And why would I do that?” Otabek’s words are playing, but his expression is anything but. He stares at Yuri with eyebrows drawn and his mouth in a straight line, cold and unwavering.
“Because I’m a burden and you shouldn’t be stuck with me, an invalid who’s going blind before their twenty-third birthday—“
“You are not an invalid,” Otabek says, cutting him off. He grabs Yuri by the arm and squeezes him until it hurts, until it’s bound to leave a bruise.
“I am going blind,” Yuri hisses.
“Yes and that sucks, Yura. That sucks a whole fucking lot and if I could, I would do anything to stop it. I would go back in time and become a geneticist just to figure out a way to help you—“
“Don’t be dumb,” Yuri tries to say, but Otabek rolls right over him.
“I would do anything for you because I love you, blind or not. I have loved you for years.” Otabek pauses to take in a deep lungful of air. “I loved you before you told me you were sick and I loved you afterwards just as much, maybe even a little more. You are no burden, now and forever.”
“You can’t know that,” Yuri whispers.
Otabek lunges forward without warning to kiss him. “Yuri Plisetsky, I have loved you for more than half of my life and I doubt anything will ever change that.”
Yuri has no idea how to reply to Otabek’s confession. His heart is beating so hard in his chest that he’s afraid it’s going to break his ribs.
Yuri bites his bottom lip.
“I won’t break up with you. I refuse. And I won’t let you break up with me either if you’re only doing it because you feel like you should. If you no longer like me, that’s different. I can deal with that or we can talk.”
“No, it’s not that. I love you too,” Yuri says, shaky on his knees and with his voice threatening to break.
Otabek pulls him close, until their noses are grazing each other. “Then no one is breaking up with anyone,” he says, his voice is trembling just like Yuri’s.
What a sight they must make if anyone were to see them, two grown men wrapped around each other in their bed, sniffling as they try to stop themselves from crying, their pets soundly asleep next to them.
In the end, they can’t stop a few tears from slipping out their eyes, but neither are bothered by them.
Pictures of Yuri walking with Izzy are published on a wanky tabloid in August.
It was bound to happen sooner or later, but Yuri still wishes it would have happened later, as late as possible, preferably after the world ended and everyone was dead, if that could be arranged.
Alas, it happens right after he decides to get back on the ice and so he can at least try to have one final, glorious ass-kicking season.
After the first pictures are published, a swarm of reporters gather outside of their St. Petersburg flat, something that had never happened before in their entire careers. All Yuri wants to do is storm out there and tell everyone to go rot and die in a fucking ditch, ugly leeches that they all are. He spends a lot of time debating on whether or not it’s a crime to throw scalding water at them through their windows, only letting go of the idea when Otabek pulls him into their bed and says, “Forget them.”
“I can’t. They’re outside our window. Literally.”
“They’re vultures. They don’t matter.”
“They’re outside our window,” Yuri says. “And they’re there because of me; because they want to talk to me.”
“You don’t have to talk to them, though.” Otabek pauses. “You can’t throw scalding water at them either.”
“Well, if I don’t do something they’re going to stay there for longer. Our neighbors will complain.”
“Our neighbors are a rich couple who isn’t even home most days and an elderly woman who’ll probably start hitting people with her broomstick soon enough. I’m sure they don’t mind.”
Yuri sighs. “I should call Yakov.”
“Call Lilia as well. You know she cares a lot about you,” Otabek says.
“She’ll yell at me for not telling her anything beforehand,” Yuri groans and detaches from Otabek’s side, rolling away until he can grab his phone from the bed stand.
Otabek moves away with a laugh. “She already yells at you all the time.”
“Wow, thanks for the motivation, dear,” Yuri says, glaring at the vague shape on the bed he knows to be Otabek.
A few seconds later he’s pulled in for a kiss. “I’ll make you katsudon for dinner so come on, call them. And if the reporters are still there by nightfall, we’ll drop eggs on their heads.”
“A better offer. Thank you,” Yuri says. He doesn’t need the accessibility functions on his phone to call to either of his coaches, although he does use it afterwards when he decides it’s time to know what people are saying about him.
Predictably, it’s all a load of garbage and rumors. Some people say Izzy is a normal dog with a funny collar while others argue Yuri is just taking care of her for a mysterious blind friend who’s on vacation. Others say he’s had a sudden accident. A few blame it on his trial at the Euros last season, when he lost to a new up and comer from Spain.
A couple of people get the story right, claiming he’s been sick since he was a kid, but their stories get lost in the middle of all the flashier conjunctions.
Otabek finds him like that, half an hour later. He taps on the door to let him know he’s there, but otherwise remains still.
Yuri can tell that underneath that silence is a growing fury. He knows Otabek wants to rip the phone from his hands the second he identifies what they’re listening to. After all, if there is anyone who loathes reporters more than Yuri, it’s him. Still, Otabek doesn’t do anything, choosing to remain at the entrance to their bedroom with Izzy, whose wagging tail lets Yuri know she’s there.
There are things Yuri wouldn’t have spared a second thought to less than four months ago that are now plagues in his mind. They’re constant sources of doubts and worries that he’s trying —and failing — to work through. Losing his phone is one of them. People making sudden movements next to him is another.
Otabek waits. Yuri listens ‘till the end an article that claims he’s chosen to go blind this season as some kind of funky new exercise to improve his skating.
It’s so fucking stupid that Yuri can’t help but laugh after it’s over. He laughs and laughs and laughs, never stopping, not even after he’s red-faced and crying. His chest heaves so fast that no air can reach his lungs and still he keeps laughing, only coming to an end when his darling Sofiya plops herself on his lap and rubs her head against his chin
“I’m sorry,” Yuri tells her. Sofiya licks his chin as if to say she doesn’t mind.
“The katsudon is ready,” Otabek announces, signaling it’s time to leave their bedroom and get ready to face the outside world.
To appease the hordes of people dying because they don’t what the fuck is wrong with him, Yuri does a single interview with a reporter from ESPN he’s always found more tolerable than the rest.
The questions are arranged beforehand, his only request in return for the exclusivity. Despite knowing what’s coming, Yuri still struggles through most of the interview. He abhors discussing his condition out loud, with strangers even more so. To put him at ease, Anna lets him ramble for as long as he needs, humming in all the right places as Yuri talks about his disease, his diagnosis at the age of seven, what it’s like to live with the knowledge that one day he would be blind.
Notwithstanding, the weight of what they’re doing never leaves the back of his mind and he often stumbles and hiccups in ways he’s never done before. He despises every second, feeling a bone-deep need to set something on fire as a vent for his anger.
Anna says, “Think of this as just another regular interview,” during one of the many, many breaks they’ve taken for his sake.
Yuri’s hand takes three seconds to find the water bottle next to him, making him cringe. How can he think of this as a normal interview when the whole damn world will soon know that Yuri Plisetsky — Russia’s top skater, still at the peak of his career at only twenty-two — has gone blind, was always going to go blind, will always be blind?
The mood of their conversation only takes a change near the end of the interview when Anna asks, “What about your career? Will you keep skating?”
Yuri’s reaction is kind of ridiculous if you know about the turmoil that’s been raging inside his head over this topic for the past few months.
Anna doesn’t know about it, though. In fact, no one in that studio knows except for Otabek, who doesn’t react when Yuri scoffs and says, “Of course I am. Why would I quit? I’ve practiced skating with my eyes closed all my life, knowing this would one day be my future. If people think I’m going to quit just because I’m blind then they’re idiots, and if they think my competitors will have an easier time now then they’re idiots and delusional.”
“It sounds like we’re going to see an even more competitive Yuri Plisetsky on the ice from now on,” Anna says. Yuri hears more than sees the smile on her face.
“You can bet on that. Being blind doesn’t affect my skating. If anything it only makes me better.” Yuri turns to where one of the studio cameras should be. “And anyone who says otherwise can go choke on a dick for all I care.”
Anna gasps. “Well, I mean, that’s quite a big statement coming from three-times world champion Yuri Plisetsky, who’s come to our ESPN studios to let the world know about the recent changes in his medical condition, which have left him blind.” Anna makes a small pause. “Do you think we could repeat that last bit but cut off the part where you tell people to choke on a dick.”
Yuri jeers. “Nah, leave it. It will give you more views.”
Yuri smiles as he shakes her hand. He doesn’t talk to anyone on his way out the studio, letting Otabek guide them to their car. Outside the studio, there’s a mass of people waiting for him, fans and reporters alike.
“I know,” Otabek says, his hold on Yuri’s hand growing tighter. “We’ll figure something out.”
Yuri squeezes back his hand and keeps walking with his head held high, refusing to bow down underneath people’s obtrusive gazes.
He’s been under the media’s scrutiny for all of his adult life. He can do this.
Just because Yuri can handle the media in St. Petersburg it doesn’t mean that he has to do it.
Two days after he does his interview with ESPN, he asks Otabek want he thinks about training for the next season in Hasetsu with Victor and Katsuki.
Otabek scratches his hair as he thinks. “I’ve never skated with Victor before. It should be a good experience,” he says, which is all the incentive Yuri needs to book them both flights for next week.
Later that night, Otabek asks, “Are you gonna call Victor to let him know we’re coming?”
Yuri lets out a small groan as he stirs the mix of vegetables cooking on the oven. “I haven’t talked to him about any of this yet,” he confesses.
“Has he called?”
“Yeah, like twenty times. Katsuki another ten.”
Otabek slaps his ass with one of the dishtowels. “Then you should definitely call or they’re going to show up at our doorstep any day now. You know how Victor gets when he’s worried.”
“… Good point,” Yuri says, conceding defeat in this pseudo-fight. Otabek hums a small note of contentment by his side and gives his shoulder a small pat.
They’ve grown so domestic over the years, it almost startles Yuri how easy it is to be Otabek, just like this, cooking together in their cozy apartment as their pets lounge nearby.
When he calls, Yuri learns that Victor and Katsuki are, predictably, losing their fucking shit because of him. The first ten minutes of the call are spent listening to Victor weeping and Katsuki telling Yuri that he loves him dearly, wholly, with all his heart and soul.
Yuri holds the phone as far away from his phone as he can while he debates on whether he should wait for them to shut up or throw his phone out the window.
In the end, waiting wins, but only because he still has to ask if he and Otabek can join them in Hasetsu for a few months.
The shouts of joy he gets in return are, well, they’re heartwarming, honestly. Yuri laughs as he hears them, pushing his hair away from his face. It’s starting to fall over his eyes and he doesn’t know if he enjoys that or not. On one hand, he’s always liked having long hair, but at the same time he knows people will assume he’s trying to hide behind the long cut like he’s in a character in an Oscar Wilde novel.
Victor and Katsuki invite them to stay in their spare bedroom, to which Yuri agrees. The two bought a great condo by the beach after they retired and you can hear the waves from bed if you leave the windows open.
Besides Grandpa, no one has ever been so happy to hear he is coming to visit before.
Everyone in Hasetsu is, always, overwhelmingly nice to him.
If this were to happen back in St. Petersburg, Yuri would have murdered within a day of being there, but he knows that the people in Hasetsu are nice just because that’s who they are, not because they’re giving him special treatment.
Nonetheless, there’s only so much he can take of Victor telling him he’s the most amazing human being he’s ever met (after Yuri Katsuki) before he snaps.
“I came here to get away from all the people treating me differently because I’m blind. If you’re going to keep this stupid act then I’m flying back to St. Petersburg tomorrow if I have to.”
“I’m sorry, Yuri. You’re right. From now on, you shall be my pupil and I shall be your unbiased master. Together, we will take your skating to the next level.” Victor pulls Yuri in for a hug that’s far too tight for comfort.
“Why do you always have to be so extra?” Yuri asks, his words muffled against Victor’s chest. Yuri pokes the idiot in the stomach until he’s let go.
“I do this because I love you,” Victor replies.
Yuri rolls his eyes. “Alright,” he says. As an afterthought, he adds, “Love you too.”
That sets off another flood of tears from Victor because life just ain’t fucking easy for anyone, especially not Yuri.
There are certain things about being blind that he adapts to with more ease than others.
He’s at his most comfortable when he’s near someone he trusts. At first, this is limited to just Otabek, but as the days pass the list gains new members like Victor, Katsuki, Yuuko, the triplets and a few others. When he’s with them, Yuri doesn’t care where he is, home or the unknown. He trusts his friends to guide him and stir him away from any death traps.
Besides, Japan is a fairly safe country, with beeping crosswalks and braille writing everywhere.
That’s a new thing for him, using braille. Even though he always knew he would have to learn it one day, Yuri had never bothered until now. This ends up being a good thing as it gives him something to do when he’s not practicing.
Watching television no longer gives him much pleasure, as most programs and shows are clearly made for sighted people. Yuuko helps with that by showing him the world of podcasts, giving Yuri yet another interest to keep him busy.
He grows a lot better at listening, in return falling quiet far more often than he ever did before. The people around him think it strange, not used to him being so quiet.
It’s not easy to replace his sight with his ears and hands, but Yuri does his best. It’s not like he has much of a choice.
He often tells himself it could be worse as a form of consolation. He could be all alone with no friends and family by his side. Worse still, his disease, which is known for having many variants, could have affected his motor skills as well, so that he would be forced to give up skating.
Yuri can’t even imagine what that would be like.
Skating isn’t his whole life, but it’s as close as it gets.
His first season back on the ice is rough, to say the least.
Everyone treats him with a mix of pity and awkwardness like they have no clue what to do with him anymore. The commentators are always too nice, glazing over any flaws in his performance like they think acknowledging them will somehow make Yuri more blind or some shit.
At his first competition, the Rostelecom Cup, Yuri gets assigned not one, not two, but three fucking handlers. The idea that he’s such a fucking incompetent bastard he needs three people to look over him sets Yuri off in one of the biggest rants ever recorded on camera and made viral on Youtube.
Yuri doesn’t need any special treatment. He hasn’t asked for it and he refuses to be given any. He can take care of himself. He’s got his coaches, Izzy and Otabek with him, as well as Victor and Katsuki, who came to be supportive as always.
“I’m here to skate, not to be treated as some special fucking snowflake. I’m blind for fuck’s sake, not some stupid freaking diva who needs people to constantly swarm him like he’s going to fall over at any second. All of you fuck off and die,” Yuri yells as a strong pair of hands tries to pull him back away from the center of the fight.
Fuck being blind, he can still kick anyone’s skinny ass, any time, any place. He makes sure to shout that least three more times as he’s led away with some resistance.
The only reason why he doesn’t flat-out refuse to leave is because he’s no longer sure which blob of color are his “handlers” and which are the piece of shit bystanders who decided today was the day to watch a professional figure skater have the meltdown of a lifetime.
“I wanna set something on fire,” Yuri hisses as he’s led away from the crowd.
“I’ll give you some trash. We can burn it outside,” Katsuki says. Yuri gives a jerky nod in agreement. At least someone here knows how to listen to him.
Weirdly, against all logic and common sense, the only person at the Rostelecom Cup Yuri finds semi-tolerable is JJ. The guy has suffered from a chronic condition of head-stuck-inside-the-ass all his life and it comforts Yuri to know not even blindness can change that. JJ turns into the embodiment of arrogance the second he spots Yuri, going on a long spiel about this being the year of JJ and how he’s looking forward to leaving Yuri behind to eat his scrapes.
In reply, Yuri laughs and tells JJ to keep dreaming, grinning from ear to ear.
Even though he can’t see him, he’s sure JJ is grinning as well. “You don’t stand a chance against me, my petite Yuri. I’m telling you, this is my year. I composed, recorded and edited my own song and choreography. My performance will be the height of art.”
“Your performance will be the height of ridiculous and tacky, of that I’m sure.”
JJ scoffs and ignores the insults thrown his way. Before he leaves, he gives Yuri a quick pat on the back and says, “May the best skater win.”
Yuri’s smile is more genuine this time. “Agreed.”
He knows JJ is being kind to him by ignoring the elephant in the room. A few years ago, the mere idea of JJ somewhat nice to him would have pissed him off beyond words, but Yuri isn’t a fifteen-year-old brat anymore.
He’s old enough to appreciate simple courtesy without letting them bother him.
Hell, if put between a wall and a sword, Yuri would even grudgingly admit that he didn’t despise JJ with all his heart and soul anymore.
He was still going to beat him on the ice, though, but that was always a given.
Yuri takes silver at the Rostelecom cup, narrowly lands a bronze in NHK Trophy and misses the podium altogether at the Grand Prix Final. His only consolation is knowing that the gold goes to Phichit, silver to Otabek and bronze to Minami, who practiced with them all summer.
Still, it’s a shit season overall and Yuri doesn’t know what to blame it on.
He knows he’s changed since he lost his eyesight. He’s had to learn new techniques and practice harder than ever before. Nonetheless, up until that point he wouldn’t have said his skating had worsened for it.
After the Grand Prix, he has no choice but to keep going.
He earns gold at the Nationals for the seventh year in a row — smallest of mercies — but he only manages bronze at the Euros and misses the podium once more at the Worlds.
It’s his worst season to date, but the media still call it ‘impressive’ and ‘a feat of endurance, talent and hard work’.
Yuri spends days contemplating murder until Grandpa calls to metaphorically hit him on the head for being a dumbass.
“Otabek called me,” he announces. Yuri immediately starts plotting vengeance. “You can’t be so stubborn and resentful, Yurochka. Not everyone being nice to you is doing it out of pity. These people are just appreciating your work, as they should!”
Yuri pinches his nose with the hand that was petting his cat, making Sofiya scratch his chin in complaint. Yuri goes back to petting her before he replies, “I don’t like their bullshit. This was a shit season for me and they know it.”
“My grandson, you have just lost your eyesight. It’s normal for you to be a little shaky for a while. Lesser men would have quit long ago while you just keep going and expecting perfection. You need to accept people’s compliments and listen to their criticism.”
“And then beat everyone’s asses,” Yuri finishes for him.
“And then beat everyone’s asses,” Grandpa agrees.
So Yuri does.
He takes gold at Skate America, the Cup of China, the Grand Prix Final and the Euros. The only top spot on the podium he misses is the Worlds, which goes to JJ.
Since he sort of deserves it, Yuri doesn’t mind losing. Much.
He keeps skating for another three seasons, retiring a year after Otabek at the age of twenty-seven.
He knows his body can handle a few more years of before it goes bust and that Victor held up for longer than him, but at the end of the day retiring before he develops arthritis is the right call.
For starters, even though he’s been far more than his rival for years, skating without Otabek doesn’t give him as much pleasure as skating against him. Otabek still travels with him to competitions, but it’s not the same when he’s not participating. Plus, Yuri knows that if he had to pick between staying at home with their pets and going through all the hassle involved in competitive ice skating, Otabek would pick their home and pets any day of the week.
Adding to that, Yuri has already proved all he had to in his career. He won every trophy he could, took gold in every competition — including the Olympics, suck on that fat dick world-at-large-and-haters-in-specific — and proved to anyone who cared that you could be blind and kick everyone’s ass as a professional athlete.
Retiring seems like the right choice, so he does it and he only frets about his decision for a little over a month, waking up one to three times a night in a panic.
More than once, he gets out of bed before Otabek has time to wrap an arm around his waist and pull back. Thoughts about missing practice and his muscles growing lazy cloud his mind before he can push them away.
During those times, Otabek’s sleep-addled voice calls him out from underneath the covers, “Yura, come back to bed. We don’t have anywhere to be.”
“Shit, sorry. I forgot,” Yuri whispers. He accidentally lays his head on Sofiya when he gets back to bed, earning a sharp whine in return. “Sorry,” he repeats.
“It’s fine, just sleep,” Otabek says, pulling him back against his chest.
For the most part, though, retiring is like a breath of fresh air. Yuri is sure he’ll grow bored of doing nothing soon, but he enjoys the respite without complaints for a few months.
He’s not sure what he can do as a blind, retired figure skater. He has never seen himself as much of a coach, but Otabek’s been giving a few kid classes for a while now and hearing the joy with which he describes every workday has made Yuri want to try it out as well.
He worries about being terrible with kids, but Yakov and Lilia did alright so there must be space in the coaching world for Yuri.
Grandpa dies a few weeks after Yuri’s twenty-eight birthday. All of Yuri’s friends and acquaintances fly in for the funeral. Even the people he doesn’t even know well like JJ and Christopher come.
Yuri cries a lot and he doesn’t eat for days, only relenting when Katsuki yells that he’ll force a bowl of katsudon down his throat if Yuri doesn’t eat it willingly.
After they clean and give most of Grandpa’s stuff to charity, Otabek suggests they move out of Russia. With Grandpa gone and Yuri retired, there is nothing connecting them to the country anymore.
Yuri assumes that Otabek wants to move back to Almaty to be near his family, but Otabek actually suggests they go somewhere else.
“I would like to live near the ocean,” he confesses.
Yuri freezes. “Are you just saying that for my sake? Because you don’t have to. If you want to be near your family then I won’t put up any objections, dumbass.”
“It’s not that,” Otabek says, chuckling. “We can get a place in Almaty, too. The figure skating scene there is growing, so we could both go into teaching to have something to do.”
“And where else?” Yuri asks. Otabek takes ages to reply, reaching the point where Yuri is forced to repeat himself. “Where else would you like to live, Beka?”
The answer, when he gets it, is spoken in hushed tones. “Somewhere where we could get married.”
Yuri is too young to have a heart attack, but he’s pretty fucking sure he’s having at least a mild stroke right now.
“What?” he asks.
“I know you can’t see me, so I feel compelled to point out that I’m kneeling in front of you right now while holding a ring.”
“Yuri Plisetsky, would you do me the honor of marrying me?”
A heart attack, definitely.
First, they buy a two-bedroom house in the suburbs of Almaty, away from the chaos of the city center. A few months later, they buy a second home, a flat located north of Lisbon in a small fishermen village called Ericeira.
It’s a small place, just the right size for a couple with two pets. They can hear the ocean from their bed if they leave the window open and it’s quiet and lovely throughout the whole year.
Their wedding, on the other hand, is far from quiet. Everyone cries, cheers, sings and celebrates with so much noise and pomp that it becomes contagious.
Yuri is so happy for the entire day that he’s sure his chest will burst at one point.
It’s a good day, like many others.
And we're done! Thank you so much for staying with me until the end, I hope everyone enjoyed reading this fic as much as I enjoyed writing it.