“Sumimasen!” someone yelled loudly as the door to the classroom banged open, the man bowing repeatedly to the teacher before looking at the rest of the class with a dazzling grin. Annabeth looked up from where she was reading over the syllabus for the semester and noticed that the rest of the class did the same.
The man was tall and lean with piercing blue eyes and a head of silver hair. At first Annabeth thought he had dyed it that color, but upon closer inspection his eyebrows were about the same shade, and either he was super dedicated to making people think silver was his natural hair color, or it was natural. She hoped it was the latter.
The teacher waved away his apologies and handed him a syllabus before she continued from where she left off, talking about the late assignment policy. He took a seat next to Annabeth and gave her a smile, showing off his perfect teeth, which was very unfair and made her re-evaluate her conclusion about his hair. If someone had teeth that straight and white, they could definitely have dyed their eyebrows.
“Since today is just an introduction to the course, we are going to start with an icebreaker,” the teacher said, looking around at her students. Most of them looked dead on account of the class starting at 8:30 in the morning, only Annabeth and Victor seemed to be functioning at more than 50 percent. “Turn to the person sitting next to you and introduce yourself. After about 5 minutes, you are going to introduce your partner to the rest of the class. Understand?”
The teacher received acknowledgement from most of the students as they turned to find someone to talk to. Annabeth was just turning toward the man who came in late to ask if he wanted to be partners when she heard the scrape of his desk as he brought it closer to her.
“Hi, I’m Victor!” he said with a bright smile on his face, “what’s your name?”
“Annabeth,” she said, giving a hesitant smile back, “it’s nice to meet you.”
“So, Annabeth,” Victor said, tilting his head and placing it on his hand, “what brings you to Japanese class?”
“Oh, um,” she started, completely taken aback by the complete attention he had on her, seemingly actually curious about her answer, “My company just opened up a branch in Tokyo so I may need to travel there for work on occasion. I figured I should learn some of the language in order to get by when I’m there.”
Victor clapped his hands together in front of himself with a wide smile on his face. “Wow, you’re already working for a company? You look so young!”
Annabeth blushed a little at the compliment. “I’m 29. I have a 5 year old daughter. She just started Kindergarten.”
Victor smiled even wider, if that was possible. “I’m also 29! I thought I would be the oldest in class, but I guess we’re tied. We have to become good friends now!” Annabeth nodded without realizing what she was doing. “Good. It’s been so long since I’ve been in school. I never went to college, but if you work for a company you must be very smart. We should become study buddies.”
“Why are you studying Japanese, Victor?” Annabeth asked, ignoring his statement for now. “What do you do?”
“I’m a trophy husband,” Victor said with pride, making Annabeth choke a little. He looked so proud of the fact. “Or, I like to think of myself more as a gold medal husband. I think it fits me better,” he said with a small laugh. Annabeth didn’t get the joke but smiled anyway. “My husband is Japanese and I want to speak with his parents more. They only speak a little English, and it isn’t fair to them to not learn how to communicate. Besides,” he said with a pout, “my husband has only been learning Russian for a year and he’s better at speaking it than I am at Japanese. It’s not fair.”
Annabeth just stared at the pout that was coming from the man and shook her head, amused by his antics. Her own husband was born in America, but his parents were from Brazil and often spoke Portuguese to him growing up. They were mostly fluent in English, but sometimes she found it difficult to speak with them.
“I understand,” she said, giving him a smile. “What does your husband do?”
She saw his eyes light up as he gave her a big grin, sitting up straight. “He’s so smart,” he said dreamily. “His name’s Yuuri and he’s getting his MA in teaching at the university. He’s also a TA and teaching beginning level Japanese to the undergrads. I wish I could attend his classes, but he told me under no circumstances that I can’t attend, as I would be too distracting.” He pouted again at this and Annabeth noticed that he wore his emotions on his face clearly for everyone to see. She could also tell that he was head over heels in love with his husband. It was adorable.
They were called back to attention by the teacher and their classmates went around introducing their partners. Even though it was a community college class, Victor and Annabeth were the oldest by 9 years. Everyone else was a teenager or newly 20, trying to rack up enough credits before attending a university.
“I’ll see you on Thursday!” Victor shouted to Annabeth on the way out, waving goodbye. Annabeth waved back and walked to her car, intending to go to a coffee shop for the remaining hour and a half she had before she needed to pick her daughter up from Kindergarten.
Class with Victor was interesting. He always came to class with a smile on his face, even though it started early. When asked by one of their classmates, he stated that he has been up since five in the morning, earning a look of disgust from the people that overheard.
“Ugh, why?” one of their classmates asked as he sat with his head on the desk, coffee in hand as they waited for their teacher.
Victor smiled at him. “I have to get my son to the ice rink by 5:30am for practice, so getting up at five is actually pretty late. He always has to drag me out of bed because if we don’t leave by 5:10 we will be late, and no one wants to deal with him if we cut in on practice time.”
“You have a son?” Annabeth asked as their teacher walked in. With how much he talked about his husband, she would have though he would mention his son more.
“Yeah, Yuri,” Victor said, giving her a smile. “I thought I mentioned him? I must have forgot. My memory is really bad.”
“I thought Yuri was your husband?” Annabeth asked, confused. Victor was always talking about Yuri, talking about how smart he is, praising his beauty, and other mushy nonsense that made the whole class roll their eyes and tune him out. Some of the girls sighed, clearly loving the fact that he loved his husband so much, but most of them were tired of it.
“Yuuri is my husband,” Victor said brightly, “Yuri is our small, angry son. There’s a difference.”
“Don’t tell me you named your son after your husband?” Annabeth asked, dreading the answer. It was something Victor would probably do, and if so, his poor kid. Actually, poor kid in general.
“No, Yuri came with his name already when he came to live with us. But the vowel sound is different between the two. And one of the names is Russian and the other Japanese.”
Annabeth shook her head. “Yeah, I can’t hear it. You might have talked about your son before but I just assumed it was your husband.”
“That’s okay,” Victor said with a smile.
“Victor,” the teacher called on next, speaking in Japanese, “tell us about your family.”
Everyone groaned because they would have to listen to him talk about his husband again but Victor just grinned and jumped out of his seat.
“I have a beautiful husband named Yuuri,” he said in Japanese. “He is studying to become a teacher. I also have a son named Yuri. He is a student and a ______,” he said a word that nobody understood. The teacher nodded at him to continue. “My parents-in-law live in Japan. I have someone like a Grandfather named Yakov who lives in Russia. Also I have a very cute dog named Makkachin. That is my family.”
Everyone clapped as he sat down and the teacher laughed a little bit.
“Eh? Nani nani?” Victor asked, pouting at the teacher who just shook her head a little.
“Sorry Victor-san,” she said in English. “When you are speaking freely like that you have a Kyushu accent. It’s not bad, but it is funny to hear it in my classroom.”
Victor smiled happily. “Thank you very much,” he told the teacher. “I am trying very hard. I want to speak like my parents-in-law, and I first learned Japanese in Kyushu, so…” he trailed off, still smiling.
“Okay,” the teacher said, still chuckling, “who’s next?”
“You really can make anything into a compliment, can’t you?” Annabeth asked him quietly as the next person started speaking. Victor grinned at her.
“Why yes I can, thank you,” Victor said. Annabeth groaned and shook her head, turning back to the front of the room while Victor smirked.
“Here everyone,” Victor said as he came in to the classroom, thrusting a box of something in front of him. “I made these scones last night. You should try them.”
The students already in the classroom shot out of their seats and grabbed a scone, mumbling out their thanks, faces already stuffed with the food.
“Here, this is for you,” Victor said to Annabeth as he walked to his usual seat, passing her something wrapped in a napkin. “And I have something for your daughter here,” he said, passing her a small box. Curious, Annabeth opened it up and gasped at what she saw, a smile coming across her face.
“Victor, this is so cute. Thank you,” she said, looking at the cat shaped scone with features drawn on it in icing. It was a little lopsided, but she was sure her daughter would squeal when she saw it all the same.
“I’m trying to be a better husband,” he said as he placed his own scone on the desk. “My Yuuri cooks a lot more than he should considering he’s a student full time and a TA, but I’m kind of clueless in the kitchen. But I saw these on a website known as Pinterest. Do you know it?”
Annabeth rolled her eyes. She had a daughter in Kindergarten. Of course she knew what Pinterest was.
“It’s so hard,” Victor whined, putting his hands in his cheeks. “But I knew that Yuri would never eat anything I made unless it was shaped like a cat, or a tiger or something. How do stay at home parents do this kind of thing? I’m a horrible homemaker.”
Annabeth sighed, very used to her classmate’s actions at this point. “It’s really cute, my daughter will love it,” she assured him. “And I’m sure your son appreciates it too.”
“Really?” Victor asked, looking close to tears. “That’s good to know. I just wanted to make my Yuuri smile when he opened his lunch at work, you know?” he asked. “And he trusted me in the kitchen by myself yesterday, so I can’t let him down.”
Annabeth just gave him a smile and a nod. He really was the perfect husband already. She didn’t know Yuuri, but Victor was always gushing about him and smiling happily when he gazed at his ring. And he tried to ease his husband’s burden by doing the housework, even though it seemed like Victor had never had to take care of anything before and always relied on others.
“Hey, Victor,” she said, just realizing something, “what did you do before you married Yuuri? Before you became a ‘gold medal husband,’” she asked, using his term from the first day of class.
“Oh,” he said, looking surprised. “I’m actually retired. Right now we’re living off of the money I made in my teens and twenties-”
The teacher interrupted the moment by walking in to class, already speaking to the students in Japanese, eyeing everyone who was still trying to eat their scone until they put it away for the remainder of class.
“And he said that he made a whole bunch of money in his teens and twenties but is retired now, what do you think his job was?” Annabeth asked her husband that night as they were cleaning up their dinner. Her daughter was doing her homework at the table while they washed the dishes.
“A prostitute?” her husband, Daniel, joked. “You told me he was pretty right? And calls himself a trophy husband?”
“Be serious,” Annabeth scolded, rolling her eyes at her husband’s antics. “Maybe a model? Maybe he aged out? But he’s still so handsome…” she trailed off, humming slightly to herself.
“Do I need to be jealous?” Daniel asked, raising an eyebrow, yelping when she smacked him in the arm.
“Shut up, you know he’s completely in love with his husband. He is always talking about him, and it would be cute if he ever shut up long enough for us to say ‘aww.’”
“If you like him,” Daniel said, “invite him and his husband over for dinner. And their son. He can play with Gloria while we get to know each other better.”
That wasn’t a bad idea. Annabeth didn’t have many friends in the area as she moved here when her husband got a job, worked at home, and had a young daughter. She genuinely liked Victor, and he seemed to enjoy her company in class. But would he want to come over for dinner?
“I’ll ask next time I see him,” she said, already planning a menu in her head.
Victor wasn’t in class on Thursday, which was also, coincidentally, when they got assigned a partner project.
“I’ll pair up with Victor,” Annabeth suggested to the teacher when she came around with copies of the assignment. She nodded.
“He told me after class on Tuesday that he wouldn’t be here. When I informed him we would be starting group projects, he told me he would work with you.”
Annabeth smiled at that.
Victor was back in class on Tuesday and waved at her excitedly from his seat.
“So I heard we’re partners,” Victor said when she came to sit down. “When do you want to get together? Would after class work for you?”
“I have to pick my daughter up at noon from Kindergarten, but we could work on it after that sometime this week?” Annabeth asked, noticing the happy nod from Victor. Then she remembered what she wanted to ask. “Actually, your whole family could come to dinner one night? Maybe meet us once we’re done with the project?”
For once, Victor’s grin dropped as he scratched at his chin. Annabeth also dropped her grin, feeling unsure of herself. Did he not want to eat dinner together?
“Sorry, but nights aren’t a good time to see us all together. One of us has to be with Yuri when he’s practicing at the rink, so…” he trailed off, looking unsure of himself. “But if the offer is open, I could still have dinner?” he asked hesitantly. Relief spread through Annabeth.
“Yes, that’s perfectly okay. Thursday after class?”
“Remember, Gloria,” Annabeth said, looking into the back seat where her daughter sat, looking through a book, “I have a friend coming over to do some work for school.”
Her cool daughter just shrugged and looked out the window. “I remember, Mom.” Apparently the stop listening to their parents at a young age.
“Woah,” she heard her daughter say as she pulled onto their street. “Why is there a prince in front of our house?”
Annabeth followed her daughter’s gaze and saw Victor leaning against the railing of the porch, smiling at something on his phone. His silver hair was blowing gently in the wind, really making him look like a prince.
“That’s my friend Victor, honey,” she replied as she pulled in front of their house. Gloria was out of her seat and on the front lawn before Annabeth had even unbuckled her seatbelt.
“Are you a prince?” Gloria was asking by the time Annabeth made her way up the stairs.
Victor chuckled and crouched down so that he was even with her and gave her a large smile, eyes crinkling slightly. The small wrinkles at the corner of his eyes made him look more human.
“No, I’m not,” Victor said, staring at her daughter in a kind way. “Are you a princess?”
Gloria just giggled and shook her head. Victor pouted.
“Oh, I really thought you were. You’re so pretty,” he told her, making her giggle again, blushing as she stared down at her toes.
When Victor spotted Annabeth watching them he widened his eyes before mouthing ‘she’s so cute.’ Annabeth smiled, proud of her family.
They worked for four hours on their project while Gloria colored at the table next to them. She would occasionally talk to Victor, but he never seemed bothered by the random questions, always answering them with patience.
He was a hard and dedicated worker when it came to his own work, and he pushed Annabeth to do the same. Once he was focused on something, it was like he was a completely different person. It made Annabeth wonder why he never went to college, if he seemed to enjoy the work and he was good at it.
They finished about an hour before her family usually ate dinner, and Victor insisted on helping her cook. While he was serious when working on school things, he was unbelievably silly when cooking. Even Gloria laughed at him as he made a mess of things, mumbling under his breath in Russian.
“It’s a mess in here,” Daniel said when he came home, kissing Gloria on the top of the head when she ran over to hug his legs before going over to his wife and hugging her. Annabeth just laughed.
“Yes, sorry,” Victor said as he waved around a spatula, looking especially silly in a cat patterned apron. “I’m afraid that’s all my fault. When I cook, somehow the kitchen becomes a war zone. I don’t even remember using half of these dishes.”
“You must be Victor,” Daniel said, waving from where he stood. Victor grinned at him and waved the spatula again before panicking when the timer went off.
“What should I do, what should I do?” he mumbled, staring at the oven.
Gloria giggled from where she was watching the proceedings and got up, walking to where Victor stood.
“Silly Victor, you need to take the chicken out.”
Victor turned to her and brought a hand to his forehead. “You’re right, princess Gloria. I remember now. Now move away so you don’t get hurt.”
Daniel and Annabeth stood, just watching what was happening, alarmed when Victor almost reached in to grab the pan without putting on oven mitts. The whole world seemed a lot safer when the chicken was finally on their plates, along with the vegetables Annabeth was in charge of making.
“Have you ever been ice skating?” Victor asked Gloria when they had sat down to eat.
She shook her head. “What’s that?”
Victor gasped and put a hand to his chest in shock before leaning toward her with a frown. “You don’t know the best sport in the universe? How… I know,” he turned toward Daniel and Annabeth, “it’s all your parents’ fault they’ve never taken you.”
“But what is it?” Gloria asked, looking at her parents as well.
“Don’t tell her,” Victor said, holding out a hand when Annabeth had opened her mouth to explain. She shut it, looking confused at the man in front of her. “It’s much better to show her, so she’s surprised. There’s actually an ice show next week at the local rink. Yuri will be performing, along with a lot of students of all ages who practice there. Do you three want tickets? It’ll be something fun you can do together as a family.”
They shared a glance before Daniel smiled. “Thanks, Victor. That would be nice.”
A week later found their small family on the cold bleachers of an ice rink, Gloria bouncing out of her seat. She still didn’t know what ice skating was, but when she saw the ice she started jumping up and down between her parents.
“How do you spell Yuri?” Gloria asked, looking through the program before the show started. “I want to find out when Victor’s son is performing so we can cheer extra loudly.”
Annabeth spelled it and watched as her daughter used her new reading ability to find his name. “He’s in the first number with a whole bunch of other people, and then after the in-ter-miss’in,” she sounded out, “he performs by himself. Is he a good skater?” she asked her mom.
Annabeth shrugged. “If he has a solo, he must be pretty good.”
When the lights went out and spotlights started circling around the rink, Gloria became very excited, squirming from where she was between her parents. Finally, a large group of people skated out and started performing to a pop song Annabeth couldn’t remember the name of. She heard Gloria’s gasp of delight and smiled at her husband, glad Victor suggested the show.
She could tell some of the skaters were better than others by the way they moved, graceful and effortless on the ice. It was more of a synchronized skating performance than anything she had seen before, with a lot of passes. There was also a pinwheel thrown in there, which made Gloria clasp her mom’s hand in happiness as she gazed at the skaters moving about the ice.
By the end of the song, Annabeth still didn’t know which one was Yuri, but was absolutely ecstatic to be seeing the show.
As it went on, groups of all different ages and abilities performed. The toddlers waddling out onto the ice were so cute and Annabeth just sighed, missing when Gloria was that age. Some of the skaters were very good, and the first time Gloria saw someone jump in the air for what looked like a double, she cried out in happiness.
“Did you see that?” she asked her mom, eyes shining in delight. “Dad did you see that? She just flew into the air. Wow.”
There was a small intermission when the Zamboni came out to resurface the ice and Gloria was even happy to see the machine, gaping when the ice became like new again.
“Hey dad, can I buy a rose to give to Yuri after the show?”
“Sure, let’s go.”
When they made it back, the lights started to dim, but the energy was different. Many of the people in the stands were murmuring amongst themselves. They spotted a figure skate out in the dark, settling on the ice. Annabeth looked around, bewildered, when so many people in the stands started yelling Yuri’s name, along with what sounded like “davai.”
“He must be good,” Gloria whispered to her parents, leaning forward in her seat.
From the very first moment of the skate, Annabeth could tell that Yuri was on another level. The emotions he exuded while skating were present from the first note, and he quickly went into a spiral sequence, startling them with his flexibility.
“He’s so pretty,” Gloria said to herself as she saw the light reflect off of his braided hair, his foot raised behind his head. He was wearing a black costume with red and purple spreading out from his chest and a thousand rhinestones glittering across the whole outfit. He looked like a prince.
Yuri went into a spin, flying through the air and coming down in a sitting position, rotating quickly before transitioning, grabbing his blade and pulling his leg behind his head, back arched gracefully.
The first jump he did was met with screams and shouting from the audience. When he landed, Annabeth gripped her husband’s shoulder and they exchanged looks, startled at what they just saw.
They were still shocked through the rest of the performance, only stopping to stand and clap when he finished, kneeling on the ice with his hand reaching out toward the audience. He spent a little more time on the ice than the other performers did, waving at his fans before skating off behind the curtain.
“Mom,” Gloria said, still standing, “I want to do that.”
‘Holy shit,’ Daniel mouthed at her while the next group came out to perform. “Did you know?” he asked his wife, but she just shook her head.
“I had no idea,”
They enjoyed the rest of the numbers, but it was clear no one was as good as Yuri. When the show was coming close to finishing, another skater came out that caused a stir.
“Yuuri,” some fans shouted again, making Annabeth look closer at the skater, noting the black hair. Her stomach clenched as she realized who that was.
“Is Yuri performing again, mom?” Gloria asked, squinting in the darkness.
Annabeth gave a small, hysterical laugh, causing Daniel to look over. “No, honey, no. That’s Victor’s husband.”
He was wearing a blue outfit, looking every bit a prince as he started skating, head rolling backwards as he moved his arm to caress it, making Annabeth’s breath catch. Soon, a man started singing in Italian, the singer’s deep voice reverberating through the rink. Annabeth could have sworn that someone behind her started crying as Yuuri knelt down on one knee.
He did two beautiful jumps and when he did a third, the whole stadium seemed to cry out as one when someone skated out on the ice clad in pink, a copy of the costume Yuuri was wearing. As the lights shined on his silver hair, Annabeth gasped and put a hand to her mouth.
“Victor,” Gloria whispered, not taking her eyes off of the ice.
What followed was the most romantic thing Annabeth had ever seen, and by the end of it, when they struck their final pose, she had tears in her eyes, she looked over at Daniel and found the same thing to be true with him.
And… it made sense when she thought about it, that enigmatic Victor was a figure skater. The more she thought about it, the more it seemed to fit. Victor was absolutely in love with his husband, and seeing the two of them out there on the ice, their grace and beauty, and just the way they looked at each other, she could understand Victor a lot more than she ever had before. She could also understand why he was head over heels in love with Yuuri.
After the show, the skaters stuck around for a little while, moving toward the barrier to say hello to their family, friends, and fans and taking pictures. Gloria held the rose she bought during intermission tightly in her hand as they made their way to where Victor and Yuuri were standing, arms around each other and surrounded by fans. When Victor spotted them behind the large group of fans he grinned and waved, gesturing for the fans to clear a path so they could make their way to the front.
“You were stunning,” Annabeth told him, unsure of what else to say. He thanked her with a smile and bent forward to stare at Gloria.
“And what did you think, princess?” he asked. She held out the flower, staring at the ground.
“You and Yuri and Yuuri were so pretty. Are you sure you’re not a prince?”
Victor laughed as he grabbed the flower from her hands before bending forward a little more to give her a hug. “I’m sure,” he said, giving a small smile.
“Really, Yuuri, it was beautiful,” Annabeth said while Victor was paying attention to her daughter. He blushed and gave her a small smile.
“Thanks, Annabeth. I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
The car ride back home that night was filled with chatter from Gloria who wouldn’t stop talking about Victor and his husband and Yuri.
“I looked them up,” Daniel said as Annabeth climbed into bed, rubbing her eyes wearily. “Your friend Victor is very famous, as is his husband. Also, Yuri is not his son. Apparently he’s his 17 year old student, and is currently living with the pair. They have guardianship over him for visa purposes. Yuri is also very famous and between the three of them, there is probably no room in their house for any more medals.”
Annabeth laid there for a second, processing what her husband had said.
“I didn’t know,” she whispered. She felt like a terrible friend.
“You know,” Annabeth said when Victor walked into class the next day, cheerful as always, “you could have told me you were a retired figure skater. And that your husband is as well. I feel quite foolish.”
Victor pushed his lips out in a pout, his eyes wide. “Sorry,” he cried out, forcing her to shush him when several of the students glanced over. “I just didn’t want to intimidate anyone. I’m already one of the oldest students here, I didn’t want to say that I had been to the Olympics twice. And medaled twice. And all those other things. I just want to be Yuuri’s husband, Victor.”
Annabeth gave him a smile, nodding to show she understood. “Well, Gloria is certainly in love with you, and with your husband and son,” she said, putting extra emphasis on the last word. Because really, for the longest time she had assumed that Yuri and Gloria were around the same age. No 29 year old has a 17 year old son.
“Does she want to come learn how to skate?” Victor asked, clapping his hands together in excitement. “She doesn’t even have to pay, I can just take her. What’s the point of being a living legend if you don’t get to use your powers to get free skate lessons, am I right?” he asked.
Annabeth smiled at him warmly. “She’d like that.”
“Oh! And if you come to the rink you can officially meet Yuri. He likes married women with daughters for some reason, but not in a creepy way?” Victor said, not sounding sure of himself. “He really liked Yuuri’s friend who has triplets, can you believe it? He still talks to them. Anyway, you’ll love him. He’s so fun to tease and-”
He continued talking for a few more minutes and Annabeth smiled and nodded while she listened, waiting for the teacher and happy with her newfound friend.