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Transition: Puberty

Chapter Text

Yuri Plisetsky was furious with his body. The betrayal started with his toes bumping up against the insides of his skates, increased with a growth spurt that literally happened overnight, and was only compounded when he woke up with a mess in his bed, which, of course, had to happen for the first time in Hasetsu.

He managed to get the sheets to the laundry, but getting new ones off-schedule required an embarrassing moment with Mari, who just looked at him for a long moment, then handed him a stack of linens with a small, tolerant smile.

He knew what it was, the changes in his body weren’t unexpected, just unwelcome. He’d studied the process of puberty with the sick fascination of someone diagnosed with a terminal disease, trying to be prepared, but mostly freaked out by the inevitability of doom.

He’d seen too many skaters flame out during their growth spurts. But worse, as long as he had a child’s body, people might make jokes about girlfriends or whatever, but they didn’t make too much of the fact that he didn’t have one. Or want one.

He’d seen the older boys joking about penis size in the locker room, but his own changes in that department were not welcome.

“Oh, you’ll change your mind,” Mila had said, during one particularly ill-advised tantrum about how his line was no longer smooth. “They can be a lot of fun. When you’re old enough, maybe I’ll help you out.”

“Gross, no, and literally never,” he spat at her. “I don’t want that. I’ll never want that. What’s wrong with you?”

He ranted about it later to Otabek on a video call. “Why is everyone so obsessed?”

Otabek shrugged. “I tried it. I don’t see the big deal one way or another. You don’t want to have sex? Don’t have sex. Makes life simpler, that’s for damn sure.”

For his own body to betray him like that?

He’d made the mistake of venting his frustration around Victor, who just laughed, and said, “Why did you want to skate Eros so badly then, if you hate the idea of your body changing and becoming more sexual?”

“Anger is a passion,” Yuri said. “Agape is not.”

“Agape can be all-encompassing, no? Pure, but you feel it with your whole being. It’s like the antithesis of sexual love, while still being love. You skate that perfectly. I knew you would.”

Yuri glared at him. “Could you stop being smug for one second of your life? What am I saying. Of course you can’t. Jesus.”

The bastard had just laughed at him.

He was sure he could feel his shoulders widening. They ached, for one thing, and he fell walking onto the ice because his center of gravity was higher, not just because he’d grown, again. The actual distribution was different.

“Look,” Minako said at a practice at the Ice Castle. “You’re adapting. You’re taller. Your shoulders are putting on muscle, and that’s good, you’ll be able to hold yourself tight better in the air.”

“But I won’t spin as fast if my shoulders are wider!” he said.

“Your arms are getting longer too,” she said. “It will help. You’re going to catch up to Yuuri’s height soon. You might even catch Victor.”

Yuri blinked. Then he went back off the ice, slapped his guards on, and called Otabek. “How tall are you?” he said, before Otabek could say a word.

“168 centimeters,” Otabek said. “Why?”

“I’m taller than you,” Yuri said, his voice filled with ire.

Otabek laughed. “You make that sound like a bad thing. I always wish I was a little taller.”

“You’re the perfect height for figure skating,” Yuri said. “That’s nonsense.”

“They like long lines. I’m compact. But I’m okay with it. I’m strong. It makes it easier to jump.”

Yuri’s breath hitched. “I can barely walk on the ice today. My shoulders grew.”

“Maybe I’ll teach you how to drive a motorcycle the next time I see you,” Otabek said, soothing.

“That won’t be ’til Worlds,” Yuri said. “Unless Yakov lets me tag along to Four Continents with Katsudon.”

Otabek gave a noncommittal grunt. “It could happen. I might come to the European Championships.”

“Can you even afford that?” Yuri started to say, and then he brightened. “No, you’ll see me before that. Yuuri-san said he wanted to invite you to the wedding.”

“Where?” Otabek asked. “When?”

“I don’t think they know, before Europeans, and probably Denmark? But they said they’d invite you to bribe me to go.”

Otabek hesitated and then said, “I’m not sure…”

“Oh, they’ll pay for it. Hell, I’d pay for it, I got some money from a sponsorship thing. We had camera crews here filming for two solid days. The US ones were interesting, but the Japanese ones were… I don’t think I’ve seen so much cat merchandise in my life. The food was great though.” Yuri looked back at the screen. “What?”

“You’d pay for me to come visit you?” Otabek said. “To go to a wedding?”

“Don’t get excited, you’re just one of the only people I can stand, and it will be unbearable without you. They’re going to be kissing so much. And people will applaud them for it.” Yuri shuddered.

Otabek laughed. “Yeah, okay. If I can get ice time.”

“Get this. They want to get married at a goddamn ice rink.”

Otabek considered that. “Well, makes sense.”

“What, are we all going to be on skates? He’ll want Okaasan there, and she’s tiny and round and I don’t think she’s ever put on a pair of skates.”

“Who’s Okaasan?” Otabek asked.

“Yuuri’s mother. I’m not sure anyone under the age of 30 has ever stayed at the onsen without being adopted by the Katsukis. She looks just like Yuuri, only she’s shorter and rounder and has longer hair. She makes the best food.”

“Look at you, forming human attachments,” Otabek said. “I feel like I’ve been a good influence.”

“Shut up,” Yuri said, but he was smiling.

The downside was that he had to buy a bunch of new clothes because his pants were turning into capris and his arms were sticking so far out of his sleeves that even Yuuri noticed.

The upside was that he bought a ton of new clothes, oversized enough that he could pretend he was still small, and the cat prints available in Japan were fantastic. He was starting to worry about his luggage when he was reminding of the private jet. So he bought more luggage on the corporate card he’d been given, and ignored Yuuri’s pointed comments about Russians and their excessive baggage.

He studied himself in the mirror of a changing room. If he stood just so, he still looked like a kid. Then he noticed a pimple and stalked to the nearest facialist, who set him up with a half dozen products. When he made it clear that he wasn’t averse to using makeup to cover up, another dozen products ended up in his bag.

Everything he bought that he liked, he bought in the next size, as well, including the shoes.

Everything hurt. Growing pains.

The ice was the worst. He stalked into Minako’s ballet studio. She took one look at him, and he burst into frustrated, angry tears. “It’s not working.”

Minako put an arm around his shoulders, and said, “Come to the barre. Let’s start with the basics. First position.”

His reflexes took over. She ran him through the positions, the tendu, the elevé, the arabesque.

“Plié et elevé, tendu, et répété. It’s all there,” she said. “Your brain just hasn’t caught up to the change in your center of gravity.”

“It can’t, it keeps changing,” he said. “I’m supposed to compete in four weeks. And I can’t even walk onto the ice without falling. I feel like a massive bruise.”

“Back to the basics,” she said. “Don’t lose your muscle mass. Keep doing the things the children do to learn from scratch. Don’t hurt yourself. Let your brain catch up. If walking is hard, hold the wall. It’s going to happen like flipping a switch. Your brain will adjust to where you are. You just need to teach it, and not fight it. You know how to ride a bike?”

He nodded.

“It’s exactly the same thing. It’s hard and it’s hard and it’s hard and then your brain gets it, and it clicks, and it’s easy, and from there you can refine quickly. Pirouette.”

He stumbled. Everything about it felt wrong.

“Pirouette, slowly, spot yourself,” she said. “Do it on purpose, not by reflex.”

He did it again, slower.

“Slower still,” she said. “Pirouette.”

He turned, form perfect.

“Now faster. Pirouette.”

He did.

“Jeté,” she said. “Carefully. Not high.”

He gave a small jump.

“Jeté et répété et répété,” Minako said, clapping her hands to mark the pace.

He leapt, each one a little larger.

“Good. If you can dance, you can skate. Just give it time.”

Chapter Text

On the plane to Russia, Yuliya was a pleasant surprise. Their conversation rambled. Yuri would later realize that he’d probably said more words to her in the six or so hours they hung out together in the crew quarters than he’d said to any other human being in his lifetime. There was something incredibly freeing about talking to someone who expressed no desire whatsoever to do anything other than talk with him, and that, only at his request.

After the second hour, she put a hand on his arm and said, “Promise this won’t get weird, that you’re not like, going to flip if I never want to kiss you or something.”

“Ugh,” he said. “No.”

“Not into girls?” she asked.

“Not into. Not anyone. Not like that,” he said.

“Are you ace, too, then?” she asked. “Asexual?”

“Everyone says that changes when puberty hits,” he said. “But it’s hitting, and I still have no interest. Yuuri-san says that he was like that for everyone but Victor. Everything works, I just don’t care about that. The idea of being naked with someone or more… it just sounds messy and awkward.”

“People say they know they’re gay pretty early in a lot of cases, that they’re drawn to who they’re drawn to,” Yuliya said. “I’ve never quite understood people. I love watching skaters, and romance stories can be cute, but I never put myself in them. My sister is mooning about wanting a boyfriend and needing someone to love her and I just… I have people who care about me, and people who love me, but I don’t crave romance the way she does. I hit puberty a couple years ago, and it didn’t change that the way they said it would.”

“Yeah, I never wanted anyone the way I wanted skating,” Yuri said. “I kind of assumed that part of me is just broken.”

“Not broken. Just different,” she said. “I don’t think the old rules were ever very good at describing reality. And the human race won’t end just because some people lack the drive to make it happen.”

He laughed. “I hear they can work miracles with modern technology, though the whole idea of me ever parenting someone sounds ridiculous.”

“I used to think that it was better just being alone,” Yuri confessed after lunch. “That people couldn’t hurt me if I didn’t let them in. But I find myself missing… people. Friends. I didn’t even have friends until the Grand Prix.”

“Not Yuuri and Victor?” Yuliya asked, tossing a colorful knitted blanket over their laps as she settled the laptop across their knees where they sat sideways on a crew bed.

“They’re more family than friends. Victor is twelve years older, Yuuri is eight years older, and they treat me like a much younger kid brother. They’re more family than I’ve had, and they’re important to me, but it’s not the same?”

“I get that. I have a couple of friends at school, the ones who don’t care that my Papa is who he is. I miss them after a while. It’s nice to have someone to talk to.” She pulled up her Instagram and showed him a few pictures of friends.

“Otabek was the first person who ever asked me to be friends with him,” Yuri said. “I always thought he was aloof. Turns out he’s just…”

“Really picky?” Yuliya asked.

“That’s accurate,” Yuri agreed. “He respects me. Not many people do.”

“They will,” Yuliya said. “You’re not going to give them any choice.” She bumped his shoulder and took his hand in hers. “I predict great things.”

He stared at their hands, perplexed.

“What?” she asked.

“It’s just… it feels nice to hold your hand.”

“You’re not getting any weird urges, are you?” she said, looking slightly alarmed.

He shook his head. “Kissing is gross, and the rest of it is grosser.”

“Being asexual doesn’t have to mean cutting yourself off from all human contact,” she said. “I mean, unless you really want to.”

He shook his head. “I don’t touch people, normally, mostly because I’m afraid they’ll get the wrong idea.”

“But is there someone in your life who hugs you? Touches you not-sexually?” she asked.

“My coaches have to, sometimes, for skating. Mila likes to annoy me by draping herself all over me sometimes. Victor messes my hair up.”

“I’m going to message you a bunch of links,” she said. “When I started boarding school, I had a couple months before I really clicked with anyone, where no one touched me. Like, no hugs, nothing. And I may not be attracted to people for sex, but I still need some physical contact. I felt like I was going to fall out of my skin all the time. And then I made a friend, and she hugged me, and I swear I burst into tears on the spot. She was really worried, but when I explained, she started going out of her way to stay in contact. She braided my hair, and sat, well, like this, and she said it was the same for her.”

He blinked, and then said, “I like it when people braid my hair. I know how to do it, but that’s part of why I’m growing it out.”

“You can ask for what you want, and set boundaries about what you don’t,” Yuliya said. She sounded like she was reciting something she’d read. “The friends you want to keep will listen, and respect it.”

“I don’t know what I want,” Yuri said. “I mean, I want to skate, but that’s been my life since I was tiny. I’m not very good at people.”

“You’re alright,” she said. “I mean, I think we could be friends, if you want. I think you just have to figure out how to let it be okay to need people on your own terms. Let yourself reach out, and ask for what you need.”

“I don’t even know what I need,” he said.

She tossed a cushion down on the floor at her feet. “Sit. I’m going to do your hair.”

He grinned, let go of her hand, and stood up, stretching. She crossed her legs up to make room for him on the floor in front of her, and he sank down cross-legged onto the cushion.

“You manage to be graceful even sitting down like that,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”

He shrugged, smiling wryly.

“Do you care how I braid it? Are you worried if it’s girly?” she asked.

“I literally don’t care at all,” he said. “Just not pigtails.”

She snorted. “Curses, foiled again.”

“Or you can do pigtails if you really want to,” he said. “But I’ll leave it in longer if it isn’t too cutesy.”

She ran her fingers through his hair, getting a feel for it. His eyes closed, and as she worked out one of the few tangles she found with gentle, nimble fingers, he found himself relaxing, his shoulders bumping into her knees.

“Don’t go to sleep on me,” she said.

Yuri smiled, eyes still closed. “I’m not.”

“If you start purring, I’ll know you really are a cat.”

He purred, and she laughed. “Figures.” Her fingers continued to work until she had a tiny braid made at his temple. “Hold this, I need to find my floss.”

“Dental floss?” he asked, perplexed.

“Embroidery floss,” Yuliya said. “To tie off the end.

She pulled a small kit out of her bag and asked, “Colors?”

“Can you match my coat?” he asked.

“Brown, black, and tan it is,” she said, pulling a few skeins out and a small, grooved lump of wax. She separated out a few strands from a thread of each, snipped them with a tiny, ornate pair of scissors, and then twisted the strands back together, waxing the result. “Keep holding it.”

He nodded, and she wrapped the thread around the braid, tied it off, and said, “Okay, you can drop that one.”

It hung down against his cheek. “It won’t stay there,” Yuliya said. “I’m going to do the next one now.”

She repeated the process until she had three long, skinny braids hanging from each temple, then braided them together. She braided for the rest of the flight, and in the end, he had two complex but small side braids that met and became one braid in the back, while the rest of his hair hung loose under the braids.

“That will stay for a while,” she said. “But if you want to take it out, pull the floss off gently. It’s waxed, so it won’t slip, but it should roll off if you work at it.” She handed him a mirror.

“Very androgynous,” he said. “I like it.”

“Keeping it off your face will keep the zits down,” she said.

He stared at the mirror, and she laughed. “No, you don’t have any bad ones right now.”

“Good,” he said. “I spent a lot of money on products so I wouldn’t.”

“I’m just saying, your hair might get kind of oily, and keeping it off your face will help.”

“How will I brood sullenly?” he declared with a grandiose gesture.

She laughed outright. “You could try eyeliner and an eyebrow piercing.”

“Too retro,” he said.

“Can I visit you when I’m in St. Petersburg?” Yuliya asked.

He turned, stared at her for a long moment, then climbed to his feet, tossed the cushion back onto the bed, and sat down next to her. “I would be deeply offended if you didn’t,” he said. “Wounded, even.”

She flung her arms around him, and then said, “Oh, sorry, I should have asked if that’s okay.”

“As long as you don’t start kissing me,” he said.


He hugged her back for a moment, then said, “Alright, that’s enough. I’ll lose my tough guy cred.”

“You have tough guy cred?” she asked innocently, letting him go.

“I have a very cultivated crust of surly adolescent, with an iron core of badass,” he said seriously.

She stared at him for a long moment, failed to stop herself from smiling, and then said, “And how’s that working for you?”

“They keep calling me tigrenok,” he said with a sigh.

She laughed. “And what should I call you?’

“Yura would be good,” he said. “Do you like Yulya?”

“They call me Yuli, at school,” she said. “Stefan calls me ‘Yuli’ka’ sometimes. It’s not the usual, but I like it because it’s mine. You can use either.”

“Yuuri-san and I already figured out that Yuri’ka is a bad idea in any language,” Yuri said.

She snorted. “I’m surprised Victor doesn’t use it anyway.”

“I’m pretty sure he never thought of it,” Yuri said. “And neither of us will tell him.”

Chapter Text

Yuri felt almost relaxed as he climbed into the town car at the airport and buckled himself between Minako and Yakov in the back seat.

Minako’s knee bounced next to him, out of sync with the vibrations of the car. He almost snapped at her, and then looked at her face. She was staring out the window, biting her upper lip, worry set around her eyes.

“You… okay?” he asked against his better judgment.

“Da,” she murmured, and then continued in Russian, «It’s been ten years since I spent time here. Twenty since I lived here.»

«Is your Russian better than your English?» he asked.

«It’s rustier, but I’m fluent in both,» she said.

«You seem nervous?» he said.

She turned and stared at him for a long moment, and then said, “This country isn’t very friendly to people like me.”

“Japanese?” he asked.

“Queer,” she said.

His eyes widened. “But you hide it, you go with men… you didn’t have to come.”

“Like hell I was going to let Yuuri-chan come here without me,” Minako said.

«It’s a lot harder to hide,» Yakov said, «when you are with someone you care about.»

«Someone you care…» Yuri blinked.

«I was terrible at it back then and I’m not sure I’m any better now,» Minako said.

«She was happy enough to see you at the Grand Prix Final,» Yakov said. «She was thrilled to hear you were coming. Insisted you stay with us.»

«You and Lilia are back together then?» Minako said with a frown.

Yuri snorted. “As if.”

«We stay there so she can help Yuri,» Yakov said. «We are not back together.»

“They’re not,” Yuri said. “They barely speak except for my training.”

«She still misses you,» Yakov said quietly.    

Yuri looked rapidly back and forth at them both. “Wait, what?”

«Lilia will decide what she’s willing to tell you,» Yakov said.

“We were close,” Minako said. “For several years. A long time ago.” She resumed watching the city go by.

Close, Yuri decided, was probably an understatement.

Lilia’s sister, Elena, in town for the Christmas season, opened the door before Yakov could unlock it, saw Minako, and gasped. She gathered herself and gestured for them to come in, still staring at Minako like she’d seen a ghost.

Yuri’s cat wound around his ankles, and he dropped his luggage inside the front entry in order to scoop her up and bury his nose in her fur.

There was a brief bustle of getting outdoor shoes off and house slippers on, and when they looked up, Lilia was standing in the doorway to the sitting room, hand over her mouth, staring at Minako. They all froze for a long moment.

«You said you’d come, but I don’t think I really believed it,» Lilia said, finally.  

«My boy needs me,» Minako said.

Lilia’s eyes darted to Yuri and then back to Minako. «Funny how that goes,» she said with a wry smile.

«And I’d forgotten how much I missed you, until the banquet,» Minako said.

«I never forgot,» Lilia said, and then turned to Yuri. «Don’t leave your luggage there. Go put it in your room. Close your mouth, you look like a fish.»

«I’ll get dinner,» Elena said.

«I’ll help,» Yakov said.

Yuri set the cat down and picked up his bags.

«You can get the boxes later,» Lilia said. «You look tired, Yura. Go rest.»   

He went down the hallway toward his bedroom, and paused, looking back. He heard Minako say, «It took a lot of alcohol to forget. It wasn’t easy. Forgive me?»

«I never blamed you,» Lilia said. «You did nothing wrong.»

Yuri put his headphones in and didn’t come out of his room until dinner.

They were, he decided, possibly worse than Katsudon and Victor. By the time dinner was over, they were actively flirting, while pretending badly not to. He didn’t know which was worse, their obviously rekindling romance, or the sour look on Yakov’s face. He couldn’t figure out whether it was jealousy or annoyance and refused to ask.

It was positively disconcerting to see the great Lilia Baranovskaya not just flirting, but giggling.

He took refuge in his cat, and waited for someone to tell him to stay on the couch in Yakov’s room, since the four bedrooms were currently all in use and they had five people.

He finally asked if he needed to move to make room for Minako.

Minako looked at Lilia, who fucking blushed.

He blinked, and threw up his hands, startling the cat off of his lap, and stood. “Nevermind. If I need to move, someone tell me before I’m asleep. I don’t want to know who’s sleeping where otherwise.”

They didn’t return to Lilia’s the next night. Yuri seriously wanted to purge his brain of all memory of the things he’d heard that first night, but he probably never would.

Chapter Text

Everything felt different at the rink. It felt smaller, everything did. Even Yakov, though the man had been with him on the trip to Japan. In the familiar context, the old man was still a little taller, but not looming. Yuri was actually a little taller than Lilia already, shocked when he finally got close enough in the ballet studio to realize that he was actually looking down a little at her.

She folded her arms and looked him up and down. “You will be magnificent. A dancer still, if not a ballerina,” she finally declared.

He found himself reassessing everyone. Mila no longer towered over him, and it took one conversation between her and Yuuri-san for her to shift her tone dramatically. After two days he finally threw up his hands and said, “What? Why are you so different around me?”

She blinked at him. “Yuuri-san told me you weren’t interested. And with you growing up so fast…”

“I was never interested, but that doesn’t mean anything has to change,” he snapped.

She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t understand.”

“I don’t want to date you. I never did. But I don’t have any other big sisters to bother me, so I guess you’ll have to do.”

She blinked at him. “But you always tell me to leave you alone.”

“And you’re going to start respecting that now?” he said, incredulous.

She stared at him.

He sighed. “Look. You’ve got your parents. You have an endless string of boyfriends. You have your other friends, and you are constantly touching everyone.”

“Which you hate?” she said.

He rolled his eyes. “I never see my mother, I’ve never known my father. My grandfather lives in Moscow. Yakov only really hugs me when I win. It was… explained to me that perhaps my bad mood might happen in part because I have very few people who ever touch me at all. You’ve always been one of the few. I don’t want to date you or kiss you or anything gross, but apparently you, bugging me—it’s helpful. It keeps me from crawling out of my skin.”

“So you want me to…”

“I have to spell everything out? Do what you do. That glomping thing. It’s annoying as fuck, but I miss it when it’s not there. Like a poorly housebroken puppy or something.”

She pressed her lips together and then said with a mix of annoyance and amusement, “You want me to annoy you. By glomping you.”

Yuri looked profoundly uncomfortable. “Yes? Basically?”

“You want me to treat you like a friend. Or a kid brother.”

He shrugged, and didn’t quite meet her gaze. “Basically.”

She laughed. “You know, Yuratchka, you can do some glomping of your own if you need contact. We won’t mind.”


“Me. Yuuri-san. Viktor. I don’t know about Georgi. But no one’s going to take it the wrong way. You can even, oh, maybe, ask for a hug?”

He stared at her, and then his gaze dropped away. “Could you help with my hair?”

She was silent, and he glanced up at her, and she smiled. “Sure, I’ve got a few minutes.”

Half an hour later, she’d braided the wisps at his temple into the longer hairs and then brought everything up into a high bun.

“Trying to make me look like a girl?” he asked.

“You’d have to shave your sides and get rid of the hairs on your lip,” she said. “Buns are good for working. Besides, since when do you care about looking like a girl?”

“I really don’t,” he said, his fingers finding the fuzz on his lip. It was thicker than he expected but not thick enough to be interesting.

“Have you ever shaved?” Mila asked.

He shook his head.

“Ask Victor. Or maybe Yuuri.”

“How hard could it be?” he asked.

“Look, I don’t know about faces, but on legs if you do it wrong you get ingrown hairs and big ugly red bumps. You don’t want that. No one wants that.”

He sighed. “Victor will want to throw a party and post on social media about it.”

“So talk to Katsuki.” she said. “You’re done, by the way.”

He nodded and stood up. “I…Thank you.”

She clasped her hands together and brought them over her heart. “Will wonders never cease!”

“Shut up,” he said, but his heart wasn’t in it.

Yuri was afraid to ask what Mila had said to the other elite skaters, but something shifted in how they treated him, and he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Victor was the loudest shift, greeting him with a firm hug and a usually inconvenient hair-rumpling that generally required intervention from Yuuri, Mila, or Lilia to fix.

Yuuri was quieter but more ubiquitous. He and Victor spent a lot of time completely wrapped up in each other, but Yuri began to wonder if “mother-hen Yura” was set as a reminder on Yuuri’s phone, because it kept happening so often. The fourth day, in the locker room, Yuri snapped, ducking away from Yuuri’s attempt to tuck in a wandering braid, saying, “You don’t have to fuss so much! What did she say to you all?”

Yuuri got that strange grin he often got when Yuri was at his most aggressive. “She said you needed more tending than you’d been getting, more contact.”

“I don’t need to be coddled,” Yuri said.

Yuuri laughed outright at that. “No, you don’t. But you do need more family than you’ve got. And I remember feeling like I was walking through the world in a bubble no one ever noticed. Neither of us is weak, but that doesn’t mean we thrive on isolation 24/7. I’m an introvert myself, and even I do better if I’m not completely isolated.”

“You’ve got Victor panting down your neck 24/7, you’re hardly isolated,” Yuri snapped.

Yuuri blushed. “When I was 16, my sister was away at school, Yuuko was getting married, and my parents were running the onsen, and I was training hard, and the only time anyone ever touched me was when I was training, and even then I was reaching a point where I didn’t need much physical contact for corrections. I went years barely having contact with anyone. Mari came back and ruffled my hair and gave me a hug and it settled me in a way coaching praise and skating success couldn’t. It was the same in Detroit, before and after I made friends. You’re already cranky enough, we just decided to see if we could help, maybe, be the family you need, even if you’re not entirely thrilled about it. If you really want us to stop, we’ll stop. Or you can let me fix your hair and check in with you now and then.”

Yuri scowled, and said, “Fine. But…”

“Hm?” Yuuri asked, unbraiding the small braid that had failed to keep the short hairs contained in the bun.

“I think I might need to learn how to shave,” Yuri said.

Yuuri dropped the bun he’d been holding together, leaving Yuri’s hair sticking out in a weird mess of half braided sections, and peered over Yuri’s shoulder to look at his face in the mirror. “Oh, I guess you do. It’s so blonde I’d hardly noticed. Victor is like that. I can feel it before I can see it, with him.”

“Augh, too much information,” Yuri said. “But seriously, please don’t make me learn from Yakov. Or Victor. Or god help me, Georgi. Mila only shaves things I don’t care about. You always seem to be close-shaven.”

“Hai,” Yuuri said. “Beards itch. I like it better close. Come over in the morning and I’ll teach you.” He fingered the braids loose, and said, “This will be fastest in a low ponytail.”

“Whatever,” Yuri said.

“It’s getting longer fast,” Yuuri said, pulling the hair into a low loop.

“Are you growing yours out?” Yuri asked.

Yuuri gave a small affirmative shrug. “For now. I’ve never grown it long before.”

“What, did you wear a wig?”

“Extensions, once,” Yuuri said.

“Has Victor seen pictures?” Yuri asked.

Yuuri made a small, embarrassed noise as he finished with Yuri’s hair.

Yuri turned around. “He liked them?”

Yuuri shrugged.

“He cried for a week after he cut his hair,” Yuri said. “I bet he flipped seeing your hair long.”

“I think it was the overall effect that got him,” Yuuri said, bringing the picture of him in femme makeup up on his phone and handing it to Yuri.

“Okhuyét'!” Yuri said. “Seriously? That’s you? I mean, of course it’s you. I’m not even going to ask.”

“It was just a silly thing with some classmates who roped me into it,” Yuuri said. “It didn’t last very long.”

Yuri handed the phone back. “You could pull off some serious genderfuck on the ice.”

Yuuri grinned. “If I’m still skating when my hair is long, I probably will.”

“You better be.”

“We will have to retire someday,” Yuuri said. “You know that, right?”

“Why do you think I pushed to get you better skates? The longer your knees last, the longer you skate.”

Yuuri grinned and threw an arm around Yuri’s shoulder. “I’ll be skating as long as I can put my feet on the ice. I just don’t know that I’m going to want to compete forever. Victor asked for five years of my skating. He promised me one of his.”

“Yeah, but he’s ancient,” Yuri said. “You’ve got at least five years left in you.”

Yuri’s bodyguard drove him over early on the morning of the 6th. He still thought the idea of a bodyguard was ridiculous, but the guy had already kept a small flock of fangirls from mobbing him, and having the guy there and able to drive him was a new level of freedom. A few calls and he was riding the elevator up to the top level. Yuuri opened the door, and said, “Go take a hot shower in the hall bathroom.”

“I had a shower already,” Yuri said, looking annoyed.

“The skin needs to be warm and plump,” Yuuri said. “You’ve been out in the cold already. Do you want to learn, or not?”

“Yeah, all right,” Yuri grumbled.

“Text me when you’re out of the shower and covered,” Yuuri said. “There’s a robe in there.”

There was a momentary awkwardness, letting Yuuri into the bathroom, which dissipated when he saw that Yuuri’s neck and face were ridiculously swathed in a giant damp towel. Yuri snorted. “What’s that for?”

“I already bathed, but it needs to be warm and damp.” Yuuri said, his voice somewhat muffled. He set a small basket on the counter in front of the mirror, frowned, and said, “The master bathroom is bigger, we should go there.”

“Augh. Quit stalling, Katsudon. This is fine.”

Yuuri shook his head and rolled his eyes, and took the towel off, hanging it over the rack. He was wearing sweatpants and house shoes, but nothing else. “First thing, gel.” He squirted a generous dollop in his hand and handed the tube to Yuri, who mimicked him.

They spread the gel across their chins, and Yuuri said, “Massage it. Little fast circles, everywhere. Don’t forget underneath. I don’t think you want a neckbeard.”

Yuri looked horrified and felt for hairs under his chin. A couple rough hairs stood out, but only a few.

Yuuri picked up a razor, and handed a second one over. “It’s new, don’t worry.”

“One blade? I would think you’d want one of those fancy things.”

“No need if you do the rest right,” Yuuri said. “Better a single, cheap blade you replace often, very sharp, than to waste money and hesitate because the refills are expensive.” He started to move the blade in a practiced pattern, pausing to comment on technique every few strokes. “With the hair, always. We make funny faces to smooth the hard spots.”

He demonstrated by dropping his jaw to pull his upper lip and then shaving there. “Be careful on the sides. Keep them even, wherever you decide you want them to end. Later, the hair might be different above and below and you’ll just want to shave the hair that’s different, or you might want to grow out sideburns. Let it glide.”

Yuuri turned and watched as Yuri copied him, wincing as he got the angle wrong, and swearing as a little line of blood trickled down his cheek.

Yuuri reached into the basket and said, “Turn.” He dabbed at the spot with a little pencil, and then set the pencil in front of Yuri. “That stops bleeding. Nicks happen. They’re like falls on the ice. The more you practice, the less they’ll happen, but they’re always possible.”

“Did you have all the extra stuff?” Yuri asked.

“We stopped at the store last night to pick some things up,” Yuuri confessed. “Our treat.”

“I’m surprised Victor isn’t in here, making a fuss,” Yuri said, and he sounded like he wasn’t sure how he felt about that.

Yuuri grinned. “I told him to go to the rink early, that you didn’t need him making your hand wobble. He’ll make a fuss when you get there, I’m sure. Oh, you missed a spot.”

Yuri looked and said, “How can you tell?”

“The gel has color, there’s a streak over there. Some people like foam because it’s so obvious when you’ve hit all the spots. I get closer with gel though.”

“Electric?” Yuri asked, getting the last spots of gel and then rinsing his face.

“Pat it, don’t rub it,” Yuuri said, handing over a fresh face towel. “I try to do a wet shave once a week. If I’m in a hurry, though, I have an electric razor which is okay. I’ve got one on order for you, just like mine, but it’s coming from Japan so it’ll be a couple days. The wet shave feels nice, though. Touch your skin now.”

Yuri’s fingertips moved lightly over his chin. “It feels really different.”

“Try shaving your legs sometime, that’s a real change,” Yuuri said. “You won’t need to do this often yet, just when you start to notice stubble.”

“You’ve shaved your legs?” Yuri said.

“Every gram counts? I thought it might help, so I did it before a competition when I was a couple years older than you are. It didn’t help and it itched like hell growing back, but it was so strange that first day,” Yuuri said, with a shrug, wiping his face down and then rinsing the razor. “Let your razor air dry, don’t use it more than a couple times.” He pulled another bottle from the basket. “Moisturize after. It’s civilized.”

Chapter Text

Yuri said no to going to Christmas Eve dinner out of a pure reflexive contrariness he wouldn’t pretend to understand himself, regretted it almost immediately when he realized that he kind of actually wanted to go, and capitulated immediately, jumping at the excuse of Yuuri’s dangled offer of a gift. He told himself that Elena being there might at least chill out the couples.

Yakov told him to bring the cat.

Gregor—who was actually an okay guy, younger than the guys he’d seen protecting Yuuri and Victor, quiet in a comfortingly dangerous way—drove them over.

Dinner was, whatever, it was food. No one insisted on the usual bullshit religious stuff, but the fire in the parlour was nice, and the leopard pajamas were too entirely irresistible to care about his dignity around a bunch of people who wouldn’t know dignity if it jumped up and bit them.

He fell asleep curled around his cat in front of the fire, and woke to the twin annoyances of having to go back across town and Instagram notifications because fucking Victor had taken a picture of him and the cat, and posted it to fucking Instagram.

“Yakov, we can just stay here, right?”

Yakov shook his head. “I have plans tomorrow. They don’t involve sleeping poorly in a house with my ex-wife and her… I’m not sleeping here.”

So they packed up the leftovers that Elena insisted on sending with them, as if they couldn’t cook for themselves. Well, that was mostly true, but still. The cat was loathe to leave, and Elena made him promise to bring her over to stay at Lilia’s with Elena while the rest of them went off to the wedding.

One less thing to worry about. It would save his grandfather the trip.

Yakov was being cagey about something, but Yuri was too tired to press. Tired and sore.

«Tell me your plans for tomorrow don’t involve skating, working out, or moving in any way, shape, or form,» Yuri muttered on the ride home. «I need a break.»

Yakov looked at him with narrowed eyes and then said, «I said that I have plans, not that I have plans for you.»

«You could have left me there,» Yuri grumbled.

«I thought that I was doing you a favor,» Yakov said. «You kvetch about them enough.»

At home, he collapsed into bed, and was asleep before his cat had finished curling up on his legs.

When he woke in the morning, it was to a fantastic, unmistakeable smell.

He flew out of bed, still dressed as a leopard, and ran to the kitchen.

His grandfather looked up from the stove, and smiled. “Yuratchka!”

«You shrank!» Yuri exclaimed as he embraced his grandfather, who was no longer taller than him.

«You are a giant, but yes, the doctor says I’ve lost a few centimeters. Something about inadequate rations once upon a time, bone density, I didn’t listen closely. But I think it’s more that you have grown. So fast!»  

«I’m not as tall as Victor yet,» Yuri said.

«Yakov tells me you’re leaving soon for their wedding, no?» Nikolai said, turning back to the stove to flip something over.

«Yeah, a week from Sunday,» Yuri said. «I should be back after Europeans. Assuming I can skate it at all.»

Nikolai looked at him sharply, «Is something wrong?»

«Yakov keeps threatening to pull me because my jumps aren’t consistent. I just need to work harder.» Yuri absentmindedly rubbed the nagging sore spot at the top of his leg.

«I’ve never known you to not work hard,» Nikolai said. «Don’t be too stubborn. If Yakov says don’t skate, don’t skate.»

«I just… I feel like it’s all slipping away,» Yuri said. «I did so well at the Grand Prix, and I’m not used to going backwards.»

«You always go backwards before you leap, no?» Nikolai used a fork to lift a piece of meat out of the pan.

Yuri chuckled. «Yeah, alright, I guess. That smells fantastic!»

«I made it for you,» his grandfather said. «Sit. Eat. I’ll be here for a few days.»  

Chapter Text

Otabek was waiting for them at the airport in Denmark when they arrived, looking the same as he always did until Yuri got close enough to realize that he was a little higher than eye to eye with his friend.

“You shrank,” Yuri said, his voice irritatingly rough, with more emotion than he felt like he ought to have.

“Next thing you know, I’ll be skating juniors,” Otabek said dryly.

Yuri tried to suppress a smile and failed. Grinning widely, he wrapped his arms around Otabek and stood on his tiptoes to rest his chin on Otabek’s head.

Otabek tolerated the hug, but said, “See, now you’re just cheating.”

Yuri dropped back down and said, “It’s literally the only upside, let me enjoy it. Do you have any idea how many times Victor has used me as a goddamned elbow rest?”

Otabek smiled at that, and then looked down and said, “So I wanted to ask you something, now, so I don’t spend the next few days thinking about it.”

“Oh god,” Yuri said, looking over to see where Victor and Yuuri were. They were standing at a baggage carousel, watching, pointed not looking at Yuri. He turned back. “This isn’t going to be something awkward, is it?”

Otabek’s face shifted, closed off a little, “I didn’t think so, but now I’m wondering.”

“I trust you,” Yuri said quickly. “What?”

“So I was talking to my coach, about what I’d need to do to take my skating to the next level, and it basically came down to learning more quad jumps and catering to the judges. I’m not sure about the last one, but I’m pretty sure the best jumpers in the world are all training in St. Petersburg right now.” Otabek wasn’t looking at Yuri, his eyes stayed fixed on a point about waist level, in the middle distance somewhere off to Yuri’s left.

“I mean, Victor’s there,” Yuri said, stepping a little to the side as he turned to look over at the baggage carousel. “I’m far from the best jumper right now. Yuuri-san’s got four now and I think he’s going to try for the loop soon, but JJ’s training on the other side of the world and he’s the only other one regularly doing four different quads…”

“How fast is Yuuri-san adding quads, anyway? Last year he had one. Now he has four and is going to work on a fifth? And the only reason you’re not working on your fifth quad is that you didn’t have the power for it before, and your body isn’t settled yet,” Otabek said, next to him. “JJ may be a good jumper, he may know how to wow the crowd, but he’s an asshole and I wouldn’t train with him by choice again if someone paid me to.”

“We’ve got some good equipment,” Yuri said. “Yuuri-san loves it because he doesn’t feel anxious about falling, so he tries things more relaxed and learns to do them right. You should come try.”

Otabek stared at him, a small smile tugging at his mouth. “Funny you should say that.”

“Wait, what?” Yuri blinked at his friend. “Are you asking if I mind if one of the only people I like hanging out with comes to train with me?”

Otabek shrugged. “Maybe.”

Yuri turned to check on Victor and Yuuri again. Without looking, he elbowed Otabek. “Dork.”

“So that’s a yes?” Otabek asked, as if he were asking about the time.

“Of-fucking-course it is. You didn’t even have to ask. When are you coming?”

“Yakov suggested I follow along with you. He’s booked some substantial time at a separate facility already for Yuuri-san to train during Europeans, so that he… so that we don’t lose practice time. I guess it doesn’t matter to add one more since you’re all taking the private jet there?”

“We are?” Yuri said, feeling very much out of the loop. “How do you know?”

“Yakov said.” Otabek shrugged.

Yuri stood there mulling the implications until Yuuri called over, “I see leopard.” Yuri pulled his main bag off the conveyor just before it reached the exit, and Otabek took it from him.

“I can carry it,” Yuri said, but Otabek just started walking, dragging the rolling bag behind him. “The tour van is this way.”

“Tour van?”

“The lady who booked my tickets said it was hired for the group for the entire time we’re here.”

The entire wedding party would be taking over much of the top floors of a hotel in downtown Copenhagen. It was a quaint old building filled with overstuffed chairs, potted plants and signs bragging about the sustainability of every element. Yuri wanted to hate it immediately, but there was a leopard print pillow in the first lounge they passed, and the hotel room had two four poster beds and a balcony overlooking a charming street. Everything about the place seemed aggressively comfortable.

He hoisted his carry-on onto the full bed closest to the window, and Otabek slid the big suitcase into the closet.

“Where are you staying?” Yuri asked.

Otabek pointed to the other bed. “If you don’t mind.”

Yuri grinned. “I was afraid they’d stick me with Phichit. Or worse, Yakov.”

“Phichit seems like a good guy,” Otabek said.

“I don’t do so well with relentlessly cheerful, and Yakov snores,” Yuri said as he unzipped his bag and started putting his clothes in drawers. Then he blinked. “I didn’t even ask, did you want the one closest to the window?”

“I’m fine,” Otabek said. “It really doesn’t make a difference to me.”

“When did you get in?”

“Early,” Otabek said, glancing at his phone.

“Have you slept?” Yuri asked.

“Hailey got me rink time,” Otabek said.

“How are you still standing? I’m tired, and it was only like four hours for us. Yours was what, eight?” Yuri put his toiletries in the bathroom, stuck his carry-on up on the upper shelf of the closet, and started hanging up the clothes in the big bag.

Otabek shrugged, and said, “I wanted to be awake when you got here. And it was closer to 13 hours, with the layover. I did sleep on the plane.”

“Do you know if we have to be anywhere tonight?” Yuri asked.

“Hailey said that room service and the hotel restaurant are all included on the room bill, and they’re picking it up within reason. You’ll have rink time tomorrow, and there’s some dress rehearsal for you in a day or two? She suggested spa time as well. But nothing tonight.”

Yuri turned around. Otabek was sitting on his bed, fully clothed, in stocking feet, a pillow stuffed behind his head against the headboard, watching him. Now that he knew Otabek hadn’t slept, he could see it, the tiredness, a weariness around the eyes. “You should… We should nap,” Yuri said with more confidence then he felt.

That got a raised eyebrow. “We?”

“There are two beds,” Yuri said. “And it’s not like that.”

“I know,” Otabek said. “I would never ask that of you.”

“Then why did you make it weird?” Yuri asked.

Otabek shook his head with a small smile. “I’m not used to people… I’m usually on my own. You pull me in. You assume. It’s different.”

Yuri’s forehead creased in a worried frown. “I don’t know how to do any of this shit,” he said. “Friendship. People. But I’m glad you’re here, and you look really tired, and I’m really tired, and we should nap. I’m sorry if I’m doing it wrong.”

Otabek consider him for a moment, and then put an arm out to the side. “Well? Are you going to come nap here? Or over there? You look like you’re going to tip over.”

“If… If it’s not weird.” Yuri took a hesitant step forward.

Otabek rolled his eyes at that. “You’ve been talking to me for weeks about needing physical contact that isn’t about ‘gross stuff.’”

Yuri sat on the edge of the bed. “I’m not used to people taking me seriously. Or doing what I want without arguing with me.”

“I’m literally only here because you want me here,” Otabek said. “If I had a problem with it, I wouldn’t be here. I don’t have an agenda.”

Yuri made a soft, laughing snort, and tossed his socks onto the other bed.

“Okay, my agenda is to be around people who aren’t turning me into a living statue to be worshipped, to learn to jump better, and to be your friend. Right now, the last one is the biggest priority.”

“I wish I understood it better,” Yuri said, staring at his hands.


“Friendship. You looked around at all the people, and could have connected with any of them, and I called you an asshole, and you said, ‘Ah! Friend! That one!’ and I still don’t quite understand why.”

“Are you going to come here, or lie down or something?” Otabek asked. “Because this is way, way easier to explain when you’re not staring at your feet.” He shifted down until he was lying on his back.

Yuri lay down gingerly on the edge of the bed, facing him. Otabek turned to look at him, and said, “Look, no one knows why anyone becomes friends. Why would Victor look at Yuuri and say, ‘I pick this one!’? There were better skaters. Why did Yuuri fall head over heels for Victor the moment he saw him on TV, and become friends with Phichit, and not one of the other skaters? Why does anyone pick anyone?”

“They have things in common. Or close proximity. There was a pole dance. Shit like that,” Yuri said.

“I looked at you and I thought, ‘He knows what it’s like to be really, really alone.’ And then I thought, ‘Maybe I don’t have to be alone. Maybe he doesn’t, either.’”

“Everyone makes everything about sex,” Yuri said.

“Stop making it about sex, because it’s not. It’s about, what did they call it? Hygge. Coziness. It’s okay for you to be comfortable.”

“You sound like a donkey when you say that,” Yuri said.

“Hygge?” Otabek laughed. “Yeah, funny word. Doesn’t mean it’s not a reasonable thing to want for a nap. You’ve been telling me for weeks that you need contact. So, c’mere. No gross stuff.” He patted his shoulder.

Yuri looked back at Otabek, considered for a moment, and then, before he could reconsider, scrambled over and dropped down next to Otabek, hiding his face against the offered shoulder.

Otabek brought his left arm up around Yuri’s shoulders, and shifted a little to bring his right over to push the hair away from Yuri’s face. “Hey, Yura, you okay?”

Yuri’s body was shaking as he mumbled something incoherent into Otabek’s shoulder.

“That would be a no,” Otabek said.

Yuri pulled back just enough to mumble more clearly, “Yuliya said this would happen.”

“That what would happen?”

“She lost her shit the first time she got a hug at school because it had been a while.”

“You said your people had been working to up your contact level.” Otabek shifted again, and Yuri settled in, arms tucked between them.

“I let them do my hair and roughhouse,” Yuri said. “Not…”

“How long has it been since anyone just held you?” Otabek asked.

“I can’t… I can’t remember,” Yuri said. “I thought what I had was enough.”

“Well, clearly not.”

“Shut up,” Yuri said and snuggled closer. “I’m comfortable. This is the first time something hasn’t hurt in weeks.”

Otabek chuckled, and closed his eyes.

Chapter Text

Other than the breaks for magazine shoots and playing hooky in the afternoon with Otabek to go sightseeing on a rented motorbike, they spent most of their first two days at the rink. Phichit and Chris were there by breakfast on Monday, and Yuuri’s people, as Otabek called them, a very polite and yet somehow very loud group showed up on Tuesday morning.

The triplets were in heaven.

“How are my favorite six-year-olds?” Yuri asked.

“We’re seven,” Loop announced.

“You missed our birthday,” Lutz said reproachfully.

“You can make it up to us by taking us with you to the rink,” Axel declared.

Yuri’s eyes widened, and he looked at Otabek, who seemed amused by the girls.

“They’re cute. Remind me of my sister,” Otabek whispered to Yuri. “I don’t mind.”

“We really need to practice,” Yuri said.

“We’ll watch,” all three girls said together.

“Girls, you’ll stay here with us,” Yuuko said with an apologetic look at Yuri.

Yuri glanced at Otabek, then back at Yuuko’s travel-worn face. Her exhaustion was palpable. The girls seemed unfazed by the travel. Before he knew what he was doing, he said, “Don’t be stupid. They’ll be fine at the rink with us. Hailey said we can use the spa. You should do that.”

Takeshi squinted at Yuri and then reached out and pretended to feel his forehead. Yuri ducked and rolled his eyes. “Don’t make me reconsider.”

“Just checking for fever before I send my kids with someone…” Yuuko elbowed her husband hard and he switched to saying, “who has very kindly offered to take my three hellions so I can spend time with my wife.”

“Ugh, don’t make me think about it,” Yuri said. “Get out of here, you two. Or don’t. I don’t want to know. They’ll be fine.”

At the rink, a brand new building, big enough for a large event, but so new that it lacked the sweat-and-popcorn smell, only the sharp tang of the Zamboni and new plastic were obvious. As soon as they were inside and it was clear that they were the only ones on the ice, Axel stepped forward and said, “We need you to do something for us. Both of you, if you’re willing.”

“Does it involve murder?” Yuri asked.

“Would that make it more or less likely you’d help us?” Lutz asked.

“It doesn’t involve murder,” Loop said with an eyeroll. “We need you to skate something.”

“I’m competing in about a week,” Yuri said. “My jumps aren’t there right now because I’ve been growing.”

“You’re a giant and it’s ridiculous, but you don’t have to jump for this,” Lutz said.

“We picked out the music and we know how it should go, but it would look better if you did it, obviously,” Axel said.

“I’m sure you guys would be adorable!” Otabek said.

“We’re cute. He’s the Grand Prix Final winner,” Lutz said.

“Did you bring your skates?” Yuri asked, and then kicked himself as they each pulled skates out of their backpacks. “What am I saying. Do you ever go anywhere without them?”

That got a triple eyeroll.

“Okay, you said you had music picked out?” Otabek said, pulling on his own skates.

Axel pulled her phone out of her pocket and Lutz handed her a pair of mini speakers, and a moment later the music started. The intro wasn’t familiar, but Yuri had heard the song before, and he nodded.

“What did you have in mind?”

It took some negotiation and quite a bit of experimentation, including an aborted attempt at Yuri lifting one of the girls.

“Hip?” Otabek asked.

“They are a literal pain in the ass,” Yuri said, laughing and ruefully massaging his glute.

“Hey, we’re amazing,” Loop said.

“His ass already hurt,” Otabek said, and widened his eyes as the girls started laughing. “You are seven years old. There is NO way that should have been funny.”

“Butts are always funny to seven-year-olds,” Yuri said. “I’ve got a sore hamstring. No lifts.”

They spent a couple hours on the ice, mostly playing, but toward the end of it, Yuri said, “You know, I actually might use this as an exhibition piece.”

“You’d skate it in public?” Axel asked.

“Our choreography?” Loop said.

“Would you tell people?” Lutz asked.

“We all worked on it together, and sure,” Yuri said. “I might even add some jumps.”

“You could do it with Otabek, in exhibition, like Yuuri and Victor,” Loop said, and the girls all giggled.

“We’re not really like that,” Otabek said.

Axel looked up at him, crossed her arms, and said, “Yuri’s ace, and we don’t know about you yet, but, I mean, you’re his person, right?”

“You picked him,” Lutz said. “Anyone with eyes could see that.”

Otabek blinked, and stepped back. “You kids are seven .”

Loop shrugged. “We spend an ‘inappropriate amount of time on the internet,’ especially hanging out with otaku for a gay skater. Do you think we could spend five minutes, the way they argued last year, and NOT learn about the differences and intersections between ace, grey ace, demi, and gay?”

“I’m guessing they didn’t go into the part about when it is and isn’t any of your business?” Yuri said, turning pinker by the word.

The girls said in unison, “They’re otaku.”

“That’s a no, by the way,” Yuri told Otabek.

“So which is it, Otabek?” Lutz asked.

“If I tell you, will you be telling the otaku?” Otabek asked.

There was a whispered conference. “Tell us, and we’ll tell you if it would help or hurt you to go public,” Axel said with complete confidence.

“They actually have an instinct for this,” Yuri said under his breath to Otabek.

“Grey ace, but mostly ace,” Otabek said. “I’m no danger to Yuri, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Another whispered conference.

“You said you’re moving to Russia to train,” Axel said.

Before Otabek could agree, Lutz continued, “So where are you going to live?”

Otabek blinked.

“It kind of matters,” Loop explained. “If you two are going to be living together, then coming out as ace makes it a queerplatonic relationship unless you’re just roommates.”

“Just roommates don’t usually move to a different country to be together, though,” Lutz said. “There was a whole huge argument between the otaku about this last year about Victor and Yuuri. Most people thought it was a big romantic gesture, then it seemed like just a weird Victor thing, and then we were back to big romantic gesture.”

“Definitely that,” Yuri said, and then narrowed his eyes at Otabek. “You being here isn’t some romantic thing, is it?”

Otabek snorted. “First, you’d kill me. Second, it really is my only substantial chance at getting up to their level in less than five years. Third, Kazakhstan is just lonely right now, professionally speaking, and on a personal level, it’s hard to find people who can relate and deal with my schedule for friendship, and I’m too f… busy to date even if I wanted to.”

“That’s why you’re going to Russia,” Yuri said. “That’s not why you’re here.”

“I’m here because the way is paid, the coaches are here, it’s a free trip, and…”

“And I asked,” Yuri said. “Where are you going to live, anyway?”

“I was going to put out feelers this week,” Otabek said.

“It is intolerable at Lilia’s, and Yakov yells,” Yuri said. “Get an apartment, Two bedroom. Something cheap on the metro line. I’ll pay for it. Pay me back when you’re set up in Russia, or whatever.” He looked at the girls, ignoring Otabek’s look of complete shock. “Roommates. Friends. Good friends. But not like that.”

Axel shrugged. “Yeah, okay.”

“You know,” Lutz said to Yuri, “Just because you don’t do gross stuff doesn’t mean he’s not your person, or that you’re not his. I mean, my sisters are my people. It’s a good feeling. It’s okay to enjoy that.”

“From the top,” Axel said.

“Little drill-master,” Otabek muttered, and they gathered again on the ice.

Chapter Text

The wedding was every bit the romantic shitshow Yuri had expected it to be. The audience was small, but the magazine people had managed to pull out every bit of dramatic whimsy possible for something done on such short notice.

There was a fucking ice swan.

“There’s a fucking ice swan,” Yuri muttered to Otabek, as they waited in the rink for the ceremony to start.

“You can’t possibly be surprised,” Otabek said. They had skates on the sidelines, both of them, but they were wearing dress shoes, standing on the walking surface that had been laid down to protect the guests from falling in their street shoes. The minister was skating back and forth, checking in with people, looking like he’d been born to officiate weddings on skates. Then again, it was Denmark. He probably had been.

“Of course I’m not surprised. It’s just… why? I mean, I know Victor is extra, but are you seriously telling me Yuuri Katsuki wanted a fucking ice swan for his wedding?”

There was a chuckle nearby. “I’m afraid the swan was my fault.”

“Hi, Hailey,” Otabek said. “Why?”

“They wanted an ice sculpture for the pictures, because ice skaters, ice wedding, romance… you know. The photographer begged. I think Mike would have just left it.”

At that moment, a couple of the crew setting things up rolled in a second ice swan.

“Technically,” Phichit said from behind the rail, “that’s two ice swans, and they don’t appear to be fucking.”

“It’s fucking trite,” Yuri said. “I mean, if they’d really been on the money, they’d have done an ice poodle.”

Otabek snorted at that.

“Katsuki used to be a dancer, so, swan,” Hailey said. “Though an ice poodle would have been a delight. Next time they get married, I’ll have to have you consult.”

The look of pure horror on Yuri’s face got a laugh from both Otabek and Hailey. “I thought the whole point of this bullshit was they do it once, until death do them part, blah blah blah,” Yuri said.

“Where are they, anyway?” Otabek asked.

“Minako and the others were with Yuuri a couple minutes ago. I’m supposed to go give them a status report,” Phichit said. “I think Chris is with Victor. You have the rings, Yurio?”

“Don’t call me—fuck, whatever. Yes.” Yuri pulled the rings out of his pocket. “It’s not like they haven’t been wearing them for a month and a half straight.”

“I’m pretty sure they don’t do anything straight,” Phichit said, grinning. “I’m going back.”

Yuri said, “Is he okay?”

“Little nervy, not as bad as it gets. I think he’s more worried about falling down in front of everyone than he is about marrying Victor,” Phichit said.

“And yet, they’re getting married on a slick surface,” Otabek said.

“That was Victor,” Yuri said. “I think Yuuri-san would have been fine just getting paperwork filled out and done. But if Victor had wanted a church wedding with the bells and whistles, he’d have gone along because…”

“Yeah,” Phichit agreed. “I mean, you all haven’t known Yuuri that long, but the entire time I’ve known him, he’s been thirsty for Victor.”

“Don’t you have somewhere to be?” Yuri asked, gritting his teeth.

“Who peed in your cola?” Phichit said. “I’m going.”

“Are you hurting again?” Otabek whispered in Yuri’s ear.

Yuri shrugged. “Ankle and knee on the left, hamstring on the right. I’m not injured. It’s just growing pains or whatever. I haven’t even really fallen badly since we started using the harness regularly.”

“Is that a medical opinion, or just you not wanting to deal with going to a doctor?”

“Shut up,” Yuri said. “I’m not going today, regardless. God, if that’s what our hotel’s like, can you imagine the hospitals? I bet they fucking upholster the exam tables.”

“That… doesn’t sound terrible.”

“It doesn’t matter if you upholster a doctor’s office, it’s still a doctor’s office. If it still hurts after Europeans, I’ll go.”

“I’m holding you to that,” Otabek said.

After the ceremony, which Yuri mostly managed to tune out aside from the bit where he had to hand over the rings, the non-skating guests moved up into the stands, the crew cleared the ice in record time, and the Zamboni slid out to resurface it while the skaters changed. Yuri and Otabek were both wearing simple black button-down shirts and slacks. Yuri was startled when Yuuko came out wearing a black lace skating outfit that matched her girls’ more colorful dresses.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you skate!” Yuri said to her in the hallway.

She grinned. “I didn’t for a long time after the girls, but they begged. I think my hips are finally stable again.”

“I don’t want to even think about it,” Yuri said, wincing.

“I lived it and I don’t want to think about it,” Yuuko said. “I never thought I was going to go very far, but I wanted to go farther than I did. But Yuuri is living the dream for both of us, I suppose.”

“Do dreams work that way?” Yuri asked.

“You know, I got to bring him together with Victor and watch the two of them every day for months. I think it just might.” She smiled, and said in a completely different tone of voice, “Axel, Lutz, Loop!”

The girls straightened, did a quick hair check on each other and then said, “Ready!’

“By the way,” Yuuko said. “Thanks for the other day. They felt so important, ‘helping you,’ and it was sheer bliss spending time with my husband…” She got a faraway look.

“I don’t want to know!” Yuri said quickly. “But… Any time. I mean, when we’re in the same country.”

“We’ll have to figure out a way to get you into the same country more often,” she said, laughing.

When they got back out to the ice, some enterprising soul had taken over the lighting.

“Fancy,” Otabek muttered to Yuri.

“Probably for their documentary bullshit or whatever,” Yuri said. “Have you seen those cameras?”

Hailey waved them over, and went over each music selection. “You get to use the microphone if you want. Raise your hand and nod when you’re ready for the music to start.”

“How much of this are you recording?” Otabek asked.

“All of it, but we won’t be publishing the video, that’s for them. Clips, maybe, if they decide they want them. I barely talked them into letting us record at all, but Yuuri-san’s mother said that she couldn’t remember a thing and wished that she’d had a video, and that was that. Anyway, we’re good to start whenever the grooms are ready.”

After the last of “On Love: Devotion” faded away and Yuuri and Victor found their way to the cluster of guests in the stands, several of the skaters performed exhibition pieces. Yuri ignored them, working instead on stretching and warming up.

“Does Yakov know how much you’re hurting?” Otabek whispered.

“Fuck off,” Yuri said. “I’m fine.”

“I had growing pains, and they weren’t like that,” Otabek said.

“Seriously, stop,” Yuri said. “This is an easy skate. I’ll rest for a couple days. You can entertain me. I have to get my mind around this sap-fest of a song.”

He stuck his headphones in, stuck out his tongue, and snorted when Otabek rolled his eyes in response and flipped him off before continuing his own warm-up.

They watched later, as a simple piano piece began, and the little girls skated out with their mother. Behind them, Victor was going bananas over how cute they were in their little sparkly dresses . Yuuko took the microphone, and said, “The girls were thrilled to be invited, and since they just started learning basic jumps, they wanted to show you what they’ve been working on.”

They did simple steps together, in sync, and then each girl in turn did a single small jump. Axel did a waltz jump, Loop did a simple half-loop, and Lutz managed her jump with just a wobble on the landing. Yuri glanced back and sighed. Yuuri was actually crying, and Victor looked completely giddy.

Yuuko danced on the ice from child to child, and then built up speed and launched into a lovely double Axel, earning a whoop from Takeshi. All four of them ended with upright spins, though the girls looked dizzy coming out of them and didn’t go very fast.

When the music ended, the lighting shifted, the girls skated off to the side, and Yuuko came off the ice.

“That’s you,” she said to Yuri, and he skated over to the microphone.

“This is something the triplets asked me to do, which they arranged for Victor and Yuuri, for me to perform. We worked on it together with Otabek this week, and it’s sappy as… it’s sappy, but I’m going to do it anyway.”

“We love you, too, Yura,” Yuuri called out.

Yuri made a rude gesture, which the skaters laughed at, but he was smiling as he put the microphone down and skated out to center ice. He nodded and raised his hand, and the rink went dark, with a single spot on him.

Quiet piano chords began, and he started slow with lazy, looping spread eagles, first one direction, then the other, as the first verse to a cover of “ Somewhere Only We Know ” began. He moved into a hydroblade on the third line, switched directions without standing for the fourth, and then rose to build speed for a lazy but complex spin for the chorus. His hamstring wasn’t happy with the stretch, but his grimace aligned with the “I’m getting old” lyric and got a laugh rather than concern. Thank god.

As he pulled out of the spin at the end of the chorus, upright and arms out, the spotlight shifted to Otabek and Yuri moved through the darkness to his next position.

Otabek came out strong with the second vocalist, acting more than dancing the lyrics, building up speed and going up into a triple Salchow at the end of the fourth line. When he came out of it, they skated side by side into a spin for the second chorus, in sync but not touching, through the surprisingly difficult footwork the girls had asked them to do for the first half of the section, and then moving into spirals that mirrored each other.

As the bridge began, the little girls came out, Lutz with Otabek, Loop with Yuri, and Axel in the middle. They skated that part with the girls, simply, though the girls were hamming it up just a little more than it needed.

As the music got quiet again for the chorus, the girls held hands, skating in a circle in the middle while Otabek and Yuri, on opposite sides of them, did different spins, increasing in speed as the chorus crescendoed back into a coda of the bridge. They spiraled out of their spins, and as the song ended, all five met in the middle.

When the lights came up, Yuri skated back over to the mic, and said, “I know Russia doesn’t always feel like the safest place anymore. I’m not sure it ever did. For me, I never really had a place that felt safe other than the ice rink until I went to Hasetsu, and now, even when I’m far away, I think about your home, Yuuri, and your people, and it feels like maybe it isn’t all sh— terrible.”

At least six people were staring at him with sappy faces, and he rolled his eyes. “Don’t get weird about it. I still hate everything.”

They laughed, and he put the microphone down, and muttered to Otabek as they skated off the ice, “Just kill me now. And if I ever pick up a microphone again, kill me before I can actually make an idiot of myself again.”

“That was gorgeous,” Yuuko said, as they came off the ice, handing guards out to each of them. “My girls are never going to shut up about this, you know.”

Yuri blushed, but didn’t make a snappy comeback.

Otabek grinned. “It was fun skating with them.”

Mila, who had skated earlier, cornered Yuri before he could go into the locker room to get out of his skates. “What gives? You’ve been hitting doubles all week. No jumps at all?”

“He’s got something going on with his hamstring,” Otabek said, and Yuri gave him a look of betrayal.

“Does Yako…” she started.

“No, and he’s not going to. He’ll insist on massaging it, and it’s right at my butt, and I just don’t want to,” Yuri said. “I’m going to rest it for two days, and use the cold pool, and it will be fine.”

She put her hands up. “It’s on you. Hey, Otabek. Do you want to come with us tonight after the reception? Drinking age is eighteen, here.”

He shook his head. “I’ll keep Yuri company, but thanks for offering.”

She raised an eyebrow. “He’s fifteen, you know.”

Axel, wobbling by on her guards, said, “Don’t worry about it, they’re both ace.”

Mila blinked, looked back at Otabek and Yuri, and laughed at the flummoxed looks on both of their faces. “Have fun, you two. I’ll see if Phichit wants company.

Back at the hotel, in the largest of the overly-comfortable lounges, the reception was nowhere near as interesting as it should have been, Yuri decided, in part because Yuuri steadfastly refused to drink, and in part because every time he managed to find some champagne for himself, someone would take it out of his hand.

“Are you that desperate to get drunk?” Otabek asked him.

“I’m trying to self-medicate here.” Yuri said. “Sitting is way worse than skating. And they’re doing the thing.”

Yuuri and Victor seemed to be overlapping, they were so wrapped up in each other on an overstuffed couch, while the little girls were everywhere at once.

“That’s it,” Otabek said. “Let’s go to the spa. You need to get off of that and I really have no interest in getting you into bed.”

Yuri blinked at him, and then said “Was that a joke, Altin? Because I think you just cracked a joke.”

“The spa isn’t a joke. You’re miserable and you’ve done your bit. I can’t make you go to a doctor, but if you’ll sit in the spa and stop looking daggers at the grooms, I’ll count it as a victory.”

“I want cake,” Yuri muttered.

“Order it from the restaurant, that thing looks like it was made for cameras, not mouths.”

The cake was elegant, and completely covered in fondant, flowers, pearls, and ribbons, so Yuri had to agree. “Fine. But give me a hand up.”

That actually got Lilia’s attention. She left Minako’s side to follow them toward the restaurant.


«I’m just getting some cake,» Yuri said. «The one they have in there looks gross.»

«You’re moving wrong,» she said.

«I just pulled something a little. I’ll take the next two days off, and start back Sunday.»

«Three,» she said. «But you should let Yakov pull you from Europeans. You don’t need it.»

He glowered at her. «I am fine. »

She shook her head, and rolled her eyes upward and muttered something, and then pointed at Otabek. «You. Don’t let him overwork it. It’s not worth his career, whatever you two are up to.»

Yuri threw up his hands. «We’re friends. That’s it. Why the hell does everyone think it must be some goddamn sex thing?»

«I used to be a teenager. I nearly lost everything for love. The Russian Federation puts up with Victor for you, but if they think you are like him, they’ll cut you both loose so fast, and then where will you be?»

“Japan, hopefully,” Yuri said, and walked away, working mightily to keep his gait balanced.

«I see how you move, Yura. Don’t break yourself for a competition you don’t need,» she called after him.

“Fuck,” Yuri said to Otabek as Lilia walked away. “I want to go up to the room for a bit.”

“We can have them send cake up,” Otabek said.

“I really should just let the girls go explain everything, shouldn’t I?” Yuri said.

“I think Mila probably has it covered.”

“She knew I was ace, she just didn’t know you were,” Yuri said.

“To be fair, she was looking out for you,” Otabek said.  “And she might know…”

“You banged one of the ladies?” Yuri said.

Otabek winced. “It was a year and a half ago. And yeah, she was a skater.”

Yuri sighed. “I’m going up. You can come to if you want, with or without cake.”

“We’ll order it up,” Otabek said. “You look like you’re going to fall over.”

As soon as they were out of sight of the lounge and headed for the elevator, Yuri reached for Otabek’s shoulder.

Otabek caught him instinctively. “That bad?”

“I just need to get off of it,” Yuri said.

Otabek shifted and Yuri snapped, “Don’t you dare try to pick me up. I’m taller than you,”

“You’re not heavier,” Otabek said. “Just lean on me.”

“If you break into song right now, I will maim you,” Yuri said, but he stretched an arm over Otabek’s shoulder and rested heavily against him as Otabek hit the button on the elevator.

Chapter Text

Otabek started to insist that he should stay with Yuri the next morning, but finally agreed to go practice when Yuri started throwing pillows at him.

“I’ll go to the spa. Hang out online. I’m going to be boring as hell and I’m going to be angry if you skip training for me. If you want to be really clever, you’ll get someone to hold your phone so I can heckle you while you work out.”

“Yura… At least let me help you down to the spa before I leave.” Otabek threw a towel into his bag and zipped it.

“I can fucking walk,” Yuri said, and rolled out of bed. The only sign of pain he gave was a slight widening of the eyes and a set of the jaw as he stood and walked over to the bathroom door. “See? Get out of here.”

“Mäjün,” Otabek muttered.

“I didn’t get that,” Yuri said.

“Tupitsa!” Otabek said. “Fucking dumbass won’t accept help.”

“I love you too. Get out of here. Go practice. At least one of us won’t be a waste of ice this winter.”

“Only you, Yura, could make that sound like an insult,” Otabek said, cracking a smile.

“Shut up, I have to piss,” Yuri said. The bathroom door refused to slam, which just compounded his frustration level.

“You need to tell Yakov,” Otabek called after him.

When Otabek found Yuri, four hours later, Yuri was in the spa, with a tray of snacks, his phone, and a tall glass of something fizzy with an umbrella in it. He didn’t even look up when Otabek came in, just said, “It’s soda, not booze. I just wanted the umbrella.”

“Are you feeling better?” Otabek asked.

“Couldn’t be better,” Yuri said, still not looking up. “Been switching between hot and cold for what feels like hours.”

Otabek swiped a carrot off the tray. “I’m surprised how healthy your snacks are.”

Yuri made a face. “They have a ‘special spa menu’ that is entirely rabbit food. I would kill for a hamburger.”

“We can order it off room service later. Does it still hurt to sit?” Otabek asked.

“Quit asking about my ass,” Yuri said. “You getting in?”

Otabek slid into the water a few minutes later, and said, “You want to hear what’s going on?”

Yuri looked over. “Yeah, okay.”

“The city is crawling with press. It’s weird, like everything is about to break open. People keep talking about the Americans, and there’s going to be a huge march tomorrow. But right now, everyone’s waiting. Tomorrow they’ll be walking.”

“I said I’d stay off it,” Yuri said.

“If you want to, we can see it on my bike, if that’s comfortable enough for you.”

“And why would I want to?” Yuri asked.

“Thousands of angry people?” Otabek replied.

“Yeah, okay,” Yuri shrugged, ate a carrot, and scrolled down Instagram.

Yuri put in an appearance to an early dinner at Yakov’s request. Otabek diverted the group from the restaurant proper into the lounge in front of it, so that Yuuri could stay off his sore sit bone without making a huge deal of it.

“Anyone seen Katsudon or the old man?” Yuri asked, while they waited for appetizers.

Christophe, sharing a wide, overstuffed easy chair with his boyfriend, laughed. “I’d be shocked if we saw them at all,”

“They practiced this afternoon,” Yakov said. “For an hour.” He returned his attention to the menu, peering at it through reading glasses in the high-backed wing chair he’d chosen next to the little couch that Yuri and Otabek were on.

“I was surprised to see Otabek without you this morning, Yuri,” Phichit said, sipping a tall, multicolored beverage.

“I’ve got a little bit of a hamstring pull. I’m resting it. Mostly just growing pains,” Yuri said.

“I never had those,” Phichit said, sitting with his legs folded under him in a wicker chair across from Chris. “But I didn’t grow very high, so…”

“Lucky,” Yuri said.

“So are you two a thing now?” Phichit asked, gesturing at Yuri and Otabek. Yuri was leaning heavily against Otabek’s side, more to take the weight off his right hip than anything.

Yuri rolled his eyes and went to lean forward to bang his head on the table, but thought better of it when his hip smarted and resorted to banging his head gently on Otabek’s shoulder.

“You didn’t get the lecture?” Chris said, laughing. “You need to spend more time with the triplets.”

“They kind of scare me,” Phichit said. “I mean, I’m social media-savvy. They’re just… terrifying.”

“You follow them,” Chris said.

“From a safe distance!” Phichit said, laughing.

“Anyway, according to Lutz, who is a veritable treasure-trove of gossip, I might add, Yuri and Otabek are… oh, how did she put it. Courgette? No. Zucchini?”

Yuri gave him a blank look.

“Asexual people in a queerplatonic relationship,” Franz filled in.

Phichit nodded. “Like me and Yuuri in college. Inseparable, did everything together except, you know. I mean, except that I also dated, but Yuuri didn’t.”

“Can we be done with this topic?” Yuri said.

“Did you go out today? It was really strange,” Chris said. He looked at his watch. “I wonder if things will be different.”

“What?” Yuri asked.

“It’s 5:15 right now. At 6 pm Copenhagen time, the United States changes leadership.”

“I mean, that’s kind of why they got married now,” Phichit said. “No one knows what he is going to do. Or Russia. Or anywhere else for that matter.”

“Where’s Mila?” Yuri said, looking around. “I haven’t seen much of her this week.”

“She met a guy,” Christophe said. “Some artsy Dane, like, a couple meters tall, built like a pencil. I give it two days.”

“Yuuri-san’s people?” Otabek asked.

“Back to Japan this morning while you were at practice,” Yuri said. “It was a small miracle they could get away at all. I’m surprised you and Phichit are still here, Chris.”

“Oh, well. I decided to tag along to Europeans with you. My coach is coming up on Sunday to join us,” Christophe said.

Phichit grinned. “Since we’re guaranteed ice time, and Yakov and Minako have agreed to help me, Celestino said I could stay with you all until after 4cc. He’ll meet me there. Yuuri said he would teach me more quads, too.”

“As long as you are not a distraction,” Yakov said.

“What happened to only coaching Russians?” Chris said. “You were adamant for so long.”

“The Russian government has been fickle in their support of late, and they’re only likely to get worse,” Yakov said. “Having an international student base and flexibility gives us all options. And I am intrigued by the improvements I’m seeing when you all work together.”

A waiter came by and took their orders in English.

A few minutes later, Yuuri and Victor found them, though they barely seemed to notice anyone else in the room until Chris actually coughed in their general direction and said, “I didn’t think I would see you two at all today.”

Victor pulled a wide wicker chair up next to Phichit, sat in it, and pulled Yuuri down into his lap.

Behind them, Max and Inessa took up positions near the entrance to the lounge.

“Yuuri wanted to see Phichit,” Victor said. “And there’s only so much…”

Yuuri elbowed him.

“I was going to say there’s only so much time can spend in one hotel room, even ones as cute as these,” Victor said primly.

A waiter hurried over and put a menu in their hands. Victor handed it back and said, “Just give us a soup and the freshest fish.”

Yuuri nodded. “Same.”

“Are you going out later? We were thinking about a club,” Chris said.

Victor grinned. Phichit looked interested. Yuuri shook his head, resigned, and said, “Maybe.”

“Come on, Yuuri,” Phichit said. “How often do you get to go out in St. Pete?”

“Ask me after dinner,” Yuuri said.

They didn’t go out after dinner.

Yuri hurt too much and the rest of the world seemed to go a little nuts after 6. They ended up clustered in knots around each other’s phones. Social media reported more than the actual media did, and they all eventually crowded into one of the suites to go out onto the balcony, where they could hear shouting from several parts of the city. “The American Embassy is that way,” Chris said, pointing out over the city.

Behind him, Max said, “There are reports all over of Nazis, in so many cities.”

They looked over the nearby rooftops and wondered, until Yuri said, “Enough, I’m going back in,” and dragged Otabek after him.

Well, he tugged once and Otabek was annoyingly (and helpfully) sliding an arm around his waist to support some of his weight.

“Not a word,” Yuri said.

Otabek just raised an eyebrow and shook his head.

Chapter Text

Yuri was still in pain in the morning, the dull ache turning sharp when he moved or sat wrong.

“Apparently there’s a lot of traffic,” Otabek said over room service breakfast, staring at his phone. “People coming in from all over to march. Yakov cancelled practice this morning.”

“You really want to go to the march?” Yuri asked.

Otabek hesitated for a split second and then shook his head. “Nope.”

“Liar,” Yuri said, rolling onto his back and then winching.

“If it’s a hamstring, sometimes pillows can help,” Otabek said, moving to help pack pillows around Yuuri.

“Fuck off,” Yuri said, and then flinched as he tried to straighten his leg. “I take it back. More pillows.”

“I do want to go, but not as much as I’m worried about you,” Otabek said. “Please let me talk to Yakov.” He slid a hand under Yuri’s knee, and raised it gently, sliding a pillow underneath.

“Don’t you need to go work out or something?” Yuri said, pointedly not looking at Otabek.

“Did that help?”

“Yeah,” Yuri said. “Go work out.”

Otabek stared at him for a long moment through narrowed eyes, and then shrugged. “Fine.”

Lilia visited later in the day, insisting on feeling the painful muscle.

«It’s not like you to lie in bed,» she said. «You are many things, but lazy is not one of them. How bad?»

He shrugged. “The life of a dancer is pain.”

«Roll over,» she snapped.

He rolled, and she worked her hands expertly up the back of his leg, watching him like a hawk. He flinched as she approached the upper end of the hamstring.

“Hm.” she said, narrowing in on the sore area. «Ice only. 15 on and 15 off for an hour. Then wait an hour and do it again. Your friend can help. Rest tomorrow. We fly on Monday. If you aren’t able to skate on Tuesday at practice, I will withdraw you from Europeans myself. Ice as much as you can stand, but no more than 15 minutes at a time.»

«I am so tired of this room, I can’t stand it,» Yuri complained.

“Don’t whinge,” she snapped. «You are a dancer. I expect you to tell me when you have pain, but not to be a child about tedium.»

Sunday was boring as hell, but he thought maybe things were a little better than they’d been. Victor and Yuuri came up to visit with him, but seemed distracted and tense.

Otabek stuck to him like glue, even resorting to finding board games from one of the lounges and playing them with him after practice.

Monday, they left for Europeans. His hip wasn’t too bad, sitting on the airplane, and the flight wasn’t long. Yuliya was already on the plane, and he got to introduce her to Otabek.

Otabek seemed a little thrown by Yuliya’s enthusiasm at first, but by the time they’d landed he’d been charmed, and Yuliya had declared him an “extra brother, and far less annoying than the real ones.”

He walked off the airplane without help.

Yuri realized, while they were walking through the airport, seeing their reflections in the long glass windows, that he was as tall as Yuuri.

“No wonder it hurt this weekend,” he said to Otabek. “I grew a couple more centimeters.”

“Sure,” Otabek said, swiping his suitcase.

Yuri didn’t fight for it.



Note: most of Yakov’s and Yuri’s swears in this series come from here .