Things weren’t going smoothly in Detroit.
Six months ago, Yuuri and Phichit moved out of their dingy apartment and into a considerably nicer, more spacious place. Phichit had finally graduated university (top marks, mind you, and he’ll never let anyone forget it), completed his seemingly endless amount of hours as a pharmaceutical intern, and got a job rather quickly (“Of course they couldn’t wait to hire me,” Phichit had said when Yuuri pointed this out, “I’ll be the cutest pharmacist in Michigan.”) As soon as he received his first paycheque, he demanded that he and Yuuri find a better place. Yuuri, of course, didn’t protest.
So, they did exactly that. And things went smoothly for those precious, beautiful six months. Their comfortable little home was in a great area, and it only had a few minor issues. (“Phichit, are you sure the heat is on?” Yuuri asked countless times. They both swore they would get someone in to fix the insulation one day.) But to make up for it, the rink Yuuri practiced at was only a short, blissful drive away, and they actually had a decent sized yard for Vicchan.
This was until Yuuri sat down one night to watch television after a long day (F.R.I.E.N.D.S was calling his name—a few seasons wouldn’t hurt, would they?) and was immediately met with some odd discomfort.
His initial thought was that he had bruised his tailbone by falling during practice, but he couldn’t recall being in any pain prior to that day. Perhaps it was more serious, like hemorrhoids (Yuuri shuddered at the thought) or maybe everything was fine, and there was just something hard under the couch cushion, and—
Of course, Yuuri has always been stubborn. No 24-year-old adult wants to walk into the ER claiming to have something seriously wrong with his ass. He remained anxious about it for days, refusing to go to the doctor out of embarrassment. Eventually, the discomfort became severe, and rapidly turned into agonizing pain. Sitting became out of the question, and his figure skating coach, Celestino, definitely noticed his student’s grimaces when he flubbed a jump and fell. Telling Phichit was a nightmare for his dignity (“A sore butt, you say? What have you been up to while I was at work, Yuuri? Care to share?”) but his Thai friend’s skin was quick to turn a sickly green when he saw the angry red bump at the base of Yuuri’s spine, grabbing his car keys and announcing that Yuuri was going to the emergency room right then and there, no questions asked.
Which is precisely how Yuuri ended up in the operation room a few hellish weeks later, knocked out cold with general anesthesia while a crowd of surgeons made it their sole mission to extract an infected cyst from the top of his intergluteal cleft—or in other words, the top of his ass crack. He had been diagnosed with a pilonidal abscess: generally thought to be caused by a sac forming around a strand of hair that had pierced through the skin. (“But to tell you the truth, Mr. Katsuki,” the doctor had said, “It isn’t clear what causes them, but they’re a real pain in the butt.” Yuuri didn’t laugh, only winced at the harsh pronunciation of his surname. Americans insisted on calling him ‘Mr. Kat-soo-ki,’ and Yuuri had long since stopped correcting them.)
When he was wheeled back to day surgery, groggy and terribly disoriented, Phichit was waiting with a spare change of clothes and the worried expression of a best friend.
“Mr. Chulanont,” said one of the nurses as she pulled a privacy curtain around Yuuri’s bed. “Mr. Katsuki’s documents are waiting at the front desk when you’re ready to leave. He shouldn’t feel any pain for a while yet, but he’s still drowsy from the anesthesia and will probably need help getting dressed.” Phichit gave her a polite nod and a swift thanks as she left.
“Phichit?” Yuuri croaked. His throat was undeniably messed up from the endotracheal tube.
Giving his friend a quick sympathetic pat on the arm, Phichit stood up with a look of pure determination on his face. “Yuuri, everything went great. The surgeon gave me the 4-1-1 while you were napping in the recovery room. The incision they made wasn’t as big as they thought it would have to be, but—Yuuri, are you listening?”
Yuuri’s eyes had closed and there was a relentless stream of drool escaping from the corner of his mouth. His black hair was stuck up every which way, and there was a faint bruise on his chin from having to be positioned awkwardly during the operation. His skin was deathly pale, lips cracked; he even looked a bit skinnier since he arrived at the hospital early that morning. Phichit’s eyebrows knit together as he wiped his friend’s mouth delicately with the hospital bed sheet.
“Rise and shine, Yuuri. We gotta go, like, ASAP. This place is giving me the shivers,” Phichit whispered, not wanting to be overheard by the nearby patients, recognizing that the curtain was not impermeable to sound.
Yuuri’s eyes fluttered open again, the rims around them horrifyingly red. “It went okay?” he asked, spluttering as he realized the condition of his throat.
“Yes, it went okay. We can go home after I help you get changed,” Phichit said, not particularly looking forward to guiding his lethargic roommate into his underwear.
“I can do it myself if you get me out of this bed,” Yuuri suggested, trying to sit up and failing miserably.
Phichit quickly got to work helping him, adjusting the tilt of the bed so that Yuuri could carefully rotate his legs off of it without having to bend them too much.
When Yuuri was on his feet, Phichit gave a low whistle. “Wow, Katsuki. You’re really working those gowns.” His hand reached out to playfully tug on one of the strings on the front of Yuuri’s hospital gown. “And would you look at that! Legs for days, my friend.”
Yuuri wore a scowl on his face. “Stand outside the curtain,” he demanded in his raspy voice. “I can dress myself.”
“Feisty and persistent,” Phichit laughed, throwing Yuuri a mischievous grin as he pulled aside the curtain. “Let me know if you need me; don’t wipe out on the floor or anything. I’ll have my ear to this curtain, ass-man.”
Phichit had always been a high-spirited person. Playfully teasing Yuuri was his favourite thing to do now that he didn’t have college parties to attend and endless margaritas to be consumed. He meant well, however, and it sure didn’t seem like it, but now was the best time to joke around with his friend. It kept Yuuri’s anxiety at bay, even if it did trigger his sass to make a (beloved) appearance.
As Phichit disappeared into the void that was the blinding white room of the day surgery unit, Yuuri huffed irritably at his new nickname. All his hard work throughout his life—becoming an English major as a Japanese student, winning silver at last year’s Grand Prix… and yet, in the end, he had just become Ass-Man—The pitiful man with a thick bandage on his rear end, legs wobbling weakly as he attempted to ease his legs into his baggy sweatpants without causing damage. It was risky business. The sight of blood on the gowns didn’t help with his lightheadedness.
By the time his clothes were back on again (and let it be known that his lazy-day attire was a hell of a lot comfier than the hospital’s roughly-textured gowns, thank you very much), Yuuri had broken out into a sweat from the exertion. The only thing he couldn’t manage to do for the life of him was put on his socks, as he feared the angle he needed to bend his knee at was too dangerous, to the horror of his strong-willed disposition. When he pulled the curtain back to ask Phichit for some assistance, he was not there.
Yuuri, beyond irritated, had no choice but to waddle out into the openness of the room, which was bustling with every different colour and pattern of scrub suits imaginable. He quickly realized that he couldn’t see a damn thing. He racked his brain trying to think of where his glasses had gone, but he was still in a state of confusion, his memory was failing him, and the coldness of the floor against his bare feet was the only thing he could concentrate on.
“Mr. Katsuki?” There it was. Kat-soo-ki.
Yuuri realized he had been standing there for quite some time, squinting around the room in his mission to locate his friend.
“あ、ごめんなさい,” he apologized in the nurse’s general direction, slipping into his native language without realizing. He couldn’t see it, but the nurse gave him a confused smile, linking arms with him as she led him to the front desk where Phichit was (no surprise) chatting up a man behind the counter.
“Dave, can you grab Mr. Katsuki’s things from the bottom drawer? He’s ready to go,” she stated, unlinking her arm from Yuuri’s to help an elderly man put on his hospital slippers.
As the man working at the front desk began to rummage, Phichit turned to face Yuuri, his cheeks adorned with a cute flush.
“Yuuri! I see you got ready just fine,” Phichit exclaimed as he gave him a once-over, his eyes stopping abruptly at Yuuri’s pale, bare feet. “Uh…”
“Couldn’t get my socks on,” Yuuri murmured, “and I was abandoned.”
Phichit parted his lips in preparation to defend himself from his poor choice of actions, but he was saved by Dave hollering “A-ha!” as he held up a brown envelope with the words ‘Personal Belongings — Yuuri Katsuki’ written hurriedly on it with black sharpie.
Reaching out for the envelope, Phichit gave the man a quick wink and a suggestive “Thanks so much, David. Or can I call you Dave, too?”
Yuuri snatched the envelope out of Phichit’s hands seconds later, not planning to stay to watch Dave become flustered from his friend’s incessant flirting. He dug out his blue-framed glasses and settled them on his nose. He then took firm (as firm as he could muster) hold of Phichit’s wrist and pulled, hard, back towards his hospital bed.
“You’re terrible. You’re terrible, and I need you to put my socks and shoes on. Then we’re leaving right away, you’re going to tuck me into my bed at home, and I’m going to cry myself to sleep because there’s a hole in my fucking ass.”
Phichit whimpered, “So strong all of a sudden, are we,” and he didn’t dare laugh at Yuuri’s choice of words, or say his farewells to Dave, or David, or whatever the hell that man’s name was.
As soon as they arrived back home, however, Yuuri collapsed on the couch, face buried in one of the cushions.
“I want to die,” he stated dramatically, his voice muffled.
Phichit simply sighed. He loved his friend, but he was dreading seeing him in inevitable pain once his numbness wore off. Even more, he was also dreading telling Yuuri the contents of the papers he received at the front desk.
He had avoided thus far letting Yuuri know too much about what happens post-operation. He didn’t want to upset his friend, make him nervous—or even worse, send him into a panic attack so soon after surgery. Phichit had even managed to persuade Yuuri to not look anything up on the internet (God knows Phichit had went on several haunting trips to Google—and they all ended in emotional tragedy and nausea) because it would only play with his mind and worsen his worry over the hellish thing.
Here’s the thing, though: this was, for all intents and purposes, quite a Big Deal Surgery, and Yuuri would not be healed in a few days, or a few weeks. Since the wound was left open—not stitched—it needed to be cleaned and packed with gauze…every single day. And Phichit, although he read the pilonidal cyst Wikipedia page, was not a medical professional capable of doing that.
Phichit knew Yuuri would be devastated. After all, you can’t exactly compete and train vigorously with a scary, open wound. Even if he did, he could risk serious injury and end his skating career forever. It was common knowledge that one wrong move was all it took; the skating world saw it time and time again. It was a no brainer: Yuuri would have to take the year off from competitive figure skating to heal properly. He eyed Yuuri’s hospital papers.
“Hey, Yuuri,” he began. “We need to talk.”
Yuuri turned his head at this, eyeing Phichit with suspicion. “About?”
“That great ass of yours.”
“For fuck’s sake, Phichit,” Yuuri groaned, planting his face into the couch once again.
Phichit flopped the pile of documents on the arm of the couch. “No, really. You can read through these or I can just give you the short and sweet summarized version.”
“Just tell me.”
Phichit sat down on the floor and put a sympathetic hand on Yuuri’s back. “While you were having a cesarian section for your ass-baby, I set you up with a home-care nurse. They’re going to come every day to change your bandage and stuff. Plus, if there’s anything, uh, wrong, they can get you an appointment with your doctor. They’re handy like that.”
Yuuri was silent, until, “Phichit.”
“Yes?” Phichit replied nervously.
“How long will it take for it close?”
Phichit hummed and got up to get Yuuri a glass of water.
“Phichit,” Yuuri whined. “Please just tell me.”
Phichit kept his lips tight together, dropping a few ice cubes into the cup with a plop. It wasn’t until he passed Yuuri the drink and sat back down that he spoke again.
“A while. Like, a while a while. I’m sorry, Yuuri. I don’t think you can skate until it’s fully healed.”
Yuuri took a small sip of water, his eyes closed. “Alright.”
Phichit was taken aback at how calm he was acting. Perhaps it was just a façade, and Yuuri’s heart was breaking at that very moment, and Phichit would have to take time off work to console him every minute of every day—
“I was thinking of taking the season off, anyway.”
“Oh, Yuuri, I’m so sor—wait, what?”
Yuuri put his glass of water on the floor beside Phichit with a small breath. “I wanted to take a break. Not retire,” he added quickly. “Just a break, you know, just to do some other things for a bit. At least for this year.”
“So, you’re not upset?”
Oh, Yuuri was fucking pissed, alright, make no mistake. Laying on his stomach for the next few months, eating painkillers as if they’re candy, and having a stranger come into his home to dig inside him every day sounded like a goddamn nightmare. Yet, Yuuri—not wanting to burden him—looked at Phichit, giving him a small smile, and calmly replied, “I’m not upset. Plus, at least now I have an actual excuse to take the season off, right? I was kinda scared of what Celestino would say.”
Phichit let out a breath he had been holding for a while. “Oh, thank god. I had accepted the possibility that you were going to choke me to death.”
“Then I’d have no one to take care of me,” Yuuri replied sarcastically.
“You’d have your nurse,” Phichit laughed. “And you love me too much.”
“Fantastic. And you’re right, I do. Most of the time.”
“So cruel, Yuuri!” Phichit cried. “Maybe the nurse’ll accidentally fall in love with you, and you’ll have to turn her down and subsequently break her heart,” Phichit fantasized. When Yuuri rolled his eyes, Phichit followed up with, “But you should sleep now, Yuuri. Up, up, up, it’s bedtime.”
“I’m not moving. I’ll sleep here.”
“Suit yourself, but I’m watching Titanic, so good luck sleeping with the sounds of my sobbing,” Phichit said in a singsong voice. “I need a good cry after witnessing the shit I saw in that hospital, the late Mr. Cyst included.”
“Don’t name my cyst,” Yuuri grumbled, but soon enough he was out like a light.
The first thing Yuuri noticed when he woke up was the sunlight. It was six in the evening when he and Phichit had arrived home from the hospital, but one glance around the room revealed that it was now the early morning. Phichit was nowhere to be found. The curtains were open, giving Yuuri a view of the sky from the window opposite him. He checked the time on his phone: 7:26 AM. Yuuri had slept nearly thirteen and a half hours.
The second thing Yuuri noticed was the pain.
It was there, and it had made itself quite welcome.
Getting up from the couch was a feat in itself, as his body was stiff from lying on his stomach, and he couldn’t put any pressure on his backside in fear that the pain would become unbearable. When he turned the living room light on, he breathed out in relief. Phichit had left a note and the painkillers he was prescribed on the coffee table.
‘Yuuri,’ the note read. ‘I have work at 7 so unfortunately I cannot be your humble servant for the day. You know my number if you wake up in a pool of blood. xoxo.’
Rolling his eyes, Yuuri popped open the pill bottle. He didn’t plan on waiting to see if the pain would subside after the initial shock of feeling it as soon as he woke up.
That’s when his phone rang. It was a blocked number, and Yuuri was close to saying to hell with it and not answering, but curiosity got the better of him.
“Hi! Is this Yuuri?” asked a man’s voice, deep but cheerful. He clearly had an accent, but it was only a tiny bit more detectable than Yuuri’s own.
Yuuri chewed on his lip for a few seconds before replying. Usually, the only calls he received were from Phichit; Celestino; his sister, Mari; or his parents. Eventually, though, he gave a small, “Yes, it is.”
“Is it alright if I come in now, or would you like me to come back later in the day?”
“W-what?” Yuuri choked, starting to panic. He was still in his rumpled clothes from yesterday and hadn’t had a chance to wash up, or, well, anything—
“Oh, sorry! I should’ve specified who I was,” the man on the phone said, clearly embarrassed. “I’m your nurse. Should I come back later?”
Fuck, Yuuri thought. Fuck, fuck fuck. He had completely forgotten about the nurse, not even thinking that they would come this early in the morning. Plus, when he had pictured who his nurse would be, he had been picturing an older, stout lady, not some guy with a voice that could melt the Arctic. Serves him right for making assumptions based on nurse stereotypes—
“Yuuri? Are you there?”
“I’m sorry,” Yuuri apologized. “I just need to change. Can I have a few minutes? I’ll be really, really quick, I promise.” He had left too long of a pause. The nurse was probably irritated by now, even though his voice didn’t reveal anything of the sort.
“Sure! I’ll see you then,” he said, and then hung up.
Yuuri was changed, medicated, and his teeth were brushed in just under ten minutes. He had the quickest pee of his life. He skipped showering not only because of time constraints but he was also scared he’d fall or wet his bandage by accident. Nervous, he looked out of the front window to see a black car waiting in the driveway. He couldn’t make out his face, but his hair was grey and Yuuri sighed in relief. Having someone on the younger side would’ve been infinitely more embarrassing.
The nurse must have spotted him in the window or something, because he chose that moment to get out of his car. His head disappeared for a few moments, and when he came back into view he was holding an extremely large, heavy-looking bag, and—
Yuuri’s nurse wasn’t old. His silver hair was incredibly misleading. As he approached the door, (which Yuuri was now awkwardly holding open, his eyes wide in horror) Yuuri realized just how much shit he was now in.
His nurse was the hottest man he’d seen in his entire life.
He was fucked.