“Who was supposed to do the précis on the Andersen book?”
“I think it was Yuuri.”
“Yuuri as in not-here Yuuri, as in supposed-to-be-here-at-8:00 Yuuri. Yuuri Katsuki. That Yuuri.”
“So that’s worth approximately fuck-all then. We’ll have to reread it ourselves, which means we won’t get our lit reviews done in time, which means we’ll all flunk straight outta grad school.”
“Shaun, don’t be a dick. Yuuri’s never been this late before.”
Shaun sighed. “Yeah, but he’s usually at least a little late, and always with some excuse about this perfect husband of his. Who, I will remind you, we have never seen once.”
“Oh, so that’s why you’re bitter about him running late,” said Laura, as sardonically as possible. Shaun’s unrequited crush on Yuuri had become a running joke among their cohort. Not that anybody could blame him. Being in a program where TAships meant teaching 2-credit fitness classes, everybody had gotten plenty of looks at Yuuri’s prodigious ass in yoga pants, although he spent his time outside the gym wrapped in baggy sweaters and jeans. Plus Yuuri was genuinely nice, if a little shy.
“I’m just saying, do we have any evidence that this dude exists, aside from Yuuri’s ring on the wrong hand and occasional totally obvious sex hair in the mornings?”
“Keep dreaming, Shaun. But seriously, has he not texted you about why he’s late?”
“I… don’t have his number,” Shaun admitted.
“You know, I was gonna insult you for that, but I don’t think I have it either. Facebook? Email?”
Everyone at the table shifted uncomfortably. For all Yuuri’s popularity in the department, he somehow wasn’t in regular contact with any of his colleagues.
“Fuck’s sake, you guys. Here, I’ll Google for him. There aren’t any other Yuuri Katsukis at Wayne, yeah?”
Ten seconds later, Laura was staring at her phone in confusion.
“Uh, guys? Yuuri has a Wikipedia page.”
Laura cleared her throat and read, “Yuuri Katsuki—it says he’s 30, by the way, if anybody wants to be even more jealous of his ridiculous genetics—is a Japanese men’s singles figure skater. He holds the 2018 Winter Olympic silver medal, is a three-time World and Four Continents champion, and won five medals total at the Grand Prix Final between 2015 and 2019, in addition to other medals and prizes. He holds two consecutive World Records for highest score in a men’s singles free skate program.”
“What the fuck?” Shaun’s exclamation drew the attention of the whole coffee shop. The others shushed him and Laura continued.
“There’s more: In addition to his accomplishments on the ice, Katsuki is known for his partnership with husband Viktor Nikiforov of Russia, who remains the most decorated figure skater in the sport’s history. Nikiforov coached Katsuki for five years, 2015-2020, and also competed against Katsuki from 2016 until the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, where a severe knee injury during practice forced Nikiforov to withdraw from competition and announce his retirement.”
Olivia gasped. “Holy shit, I remember when that happened. It was all over the Olympic coverage. I just didn’t know who that was!”
“Okay, so the husband does exist and he really is perfect,” grumbled Shaun.
“The couple is famous for performing ice dance programs together at post-competition exhibitions, beginning after Katsuki’s silver medal win at the 2015 Grand Prix Final in Barcelona. They married in May of 2017. Katsuki retired from competitive skating at the end of the 2019-20 season, joining Nikiforov in coaching and choreography. Their most notable student is 2018 Olympic gold medalist Yuri Plisetsky of Russia. Katsuki currently resides in Detroit, Michigan, where he is pursuing a master’s degree in kinesiology from Wayne State University, his undergraduate alma mater.”
There was total silence after Laura stopped reading. Then the coffee shop door was flung open and Yuuri Katsuki rushed in, dragging another man by the hand.
“I am SO sorry!” he called, still a few yards from the table. “We’ve been running behind schedule all day, and then traffic sucked! But I have the précis handout done, here!” He brandished a stack of paper. The man with him looked like he was trying his very hardest not to laugh. Yuuri set to distributing the handouts, adding another “Sorry” as he reached each group member. He only looked up when the other man—this had to be Viktor Nikiforov, they all knew it, everything about him practically screamed ‘most decorated figure skater of all time’—called him by a name nobody could quite make out.
“Do you want me to get you a coffee?” he asked.
“Yes, please! Hazelnut roast with milk.”
“I know,” and he called Yuuri the strange name again. It started with a Yu-, like Yuuri, but Viktor’s accent made the final syllables hard to decipher. Viktor beamed at the rest of the study group. “Anybody else need anything? Refills? Pastry? My treat!”
They all shook their heads, too starstruck even to take up an offer of free food. Yuuri took a seat and then jolted upright again.
“I’m sorry, this is so rude of me! Everybody, this is my husband, Viktor. Vitya, this is Shaun, Javier, Olivia, Laura, and Lin. They’re all in my program.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Viktor shook hands with each of them in turn. “I wish I could say my husband has told me all about you, but he barely says a word about school!”
Yuuri dropped his pencil, looking as if he hoped the ground would open up and swallow him. Viktor winked at him and left to order the coffee.
“Viktor seems nice,” said Lin in an effort to return the table’s atmosphere to normalcy.
“He’s basically incapable of not being sweet,” Yuuri agreed. “Even when he’s calling me out in public for not introducing you guys to him sooner.”
“So, um, what’s that name he called you?” Olivia asked.
“Oh, it’s ‘Yuurochka.’” Yuuri enunciated the word slowly for them. “My name sounds like the Russian name Yuri, so the diminutives work out about the same. Russians love their diminutives. He could call me Yuura or Yurka too, but Yuurochka is really affectionate, plus it annoys our friend Yuri because his fans–”
Yuuri trailed off. He seemed to realize he’d said too much, but did he already know that they knew?
“I’m just gonna see if Viktor needs help with the drinks–” he mumbled.
“Why didn’t you tell us you were an Olympic-level figure skater?” Javier hissed. Yuuri froze, eyes wide.
“I, uh… It… never came up?”
“We’re all athletes, dude. How was that not relevant information?”
Yuuri blushed brighter than he already had been.
“Well, none of you seemed to recognize me, so I just… decided not to mention it. Or my husband’s name. Or anything that could possibly lead you to Google me, which, uh, I’m guessing you just did before I got here.”
They had the dignity to look guilty.
“In our defense,” said Lin, “we were trying to find your email to make sure you were still coming.”
Now it was Yuuri’s turn to look guilty. “Yeah, sorry again. We’ve been working out the details for an ice show this summer, so most days we get bogged down with calls to our lawyer about contracts and our booking agent about the venue. I’ve been wondering if I can convince my advisor to let me count this as my capstone internship. But I still shouldn’t keep letting it interfere with studying, especially not when I’ve got obligations to all of you.”
“Don’t worry about it,” said Shaun. “If I had a husband who looked like that, I’d never be on time to anything either.”
Rather than blushing more, Yuuri actually laughed. “Don’t let him hear you say that! His ego is bad enough as it is.”
“Aw, but I thought you found my ego endearing.” Viktor was back, coffees in hand. He set Yuuri’s drink on the table and gave him a peck on the cheek. “I’m gonna put in another email to the FFKK about getting Yurio permission to do the show, love. Let me know if you need anything else.”
“I will.” Yuuri, an impossibly fond smile on his face, watched Viktor sit down at an empty table and pull out his phone.
“Why does somebody need permission to be in your show?” Laura asked.
“Oh my god, don’t even get me started,” Yuuri groaned. Then he treated them to a rant on the mountains of regulations—national and international—governing skater eligibility, skate clubs organizing paid performances, and the draconian approval systems of the ISU and “the toe-dragging, bureaucratic robots at the FFKK” (which, he finally explained after the fifth mention, was the Russian skating authority). Every few minutes, Viktor would glance over at their table and chuckle, clearly knowing what had set Yuuri off.
The study group had known Yuuri Katsuki for almost a year, but today was the first time they felt like they were seeing the real Yuuri. No more studying was accomplished that day and nobody cared, not even Shaun.