Ryouma is an up-and-coming junior skater who has recently had a coaching change. His previous coach pushed him too hard, to the point of injury. Since Ryouma doesn’t come from a country with a powerful skating federation, there’s a lot of pressure on him to succeed. His current coach, Shiranui Genma (two-time World Champion, Olympic bronze medalist), is awesome for his ability to nurture young skaters and to smile pleasantly but murderously at anyone who tries to mess with his students.
Kakashi is another young skater, perpetually grumpy and brilliantly talented, who has to both live up to and live down the reputation of his father, a brilliant skater who fell from grace when he was implicated in a doping scandal. Minato (recently retired, much to the relief of every other competitor because now they can finally win stuff) is his coach, because Kakashi won’t listen to anyone else and someone has to keep the boy from jumping his knees to ruin before he turns twenty.
They meet at Junior Worlds Championships, which Kakashi wins (of course). Ryouma does very well in the short program, but his still-healing injury makes him drop just shy of making the podium. Kakashi, who is interested in rivals and is also destined to never make a good impression on anyone he likes, ever, goes up to Ryouma and says, “Hey, you’re actually not bad at this.” Ryouma, who’s already hurting and has not yet learned to translate from Kakashi to Normal Person, snarls back, “Hey, you really fucking are,” and stalks off.
Thus begins Kakashi and Ryouma’s sort-of one-sided rivalry, where Kakashi unwittingly becomes an excellent motivator for Ryouma to be diligent about attending his physiotherapy sessions, while Kakashi is bewildered by this skater who always glares at him in competitions, because – what did he do? They quietly follow each other’s careers and watch each other’s skates, but never approach each other because Kakashi thinks Ryouma hates him and Ryouma thinks Kakashi is a douche.
In the background, Genma and Minato sigh over the foolishness of kids these days, because when Genma had a crush on Ryouma’s incredibly hot physiotherapist, he did the reasonable adult thing and asked Namiashi Raidou to dinner.
“Have you considered just asking him out?” Genma says, after Ryouma has spent an entire six-hour flight obsessively watching recordings of Kakashi’s programs.
“Why would I do that?” Ryouma asks, brow furrowed in confusion.
Genma, Raidou, and Minato do try, though, combining their powers to get their stupid students in one place and create opportunities for them to work out their feelings. Kakashi and Ryouma, for example, note that they are repeatedly sharing hotel rooms at competitions, even though they’re not from the same country. Alas, it all fails in the face of the sheer magnitude of their obliviousness.
Which is not to say that they make no progress. There are moments where someone makes a snide comment about Kakashi and Kakashi’s father, and Ryouma whirls around and Loudly Voices His Displeasure. And there are moments where Ryouma rips his costume during warm-up and a sewing kit magically appears in his bag. From there, it graduates to them friending each other on social media, and making tentative forays into an approximation of friendship by liking Instagram posts.
And then unliking them.
And then liking them again – before just putting the phone down because this is ridiculous.
There is a period where they don’t see each other, because Kakashi competes for European Championships and Ryouma for Four Continents, during which time they passive-aggressively but also kind of supportively send each other videos with pointed comments about technique and stamina. They both tell each other that they’re going to win at Worlds, but insist that the other person must also win their respective championships too, or else their victory will be meaningless.
Their coaches are both dying by this point. Minato and Kushina swear that Naruto will never grow up like this.
At Worlds, Kakashi comes first in the short program. Ryouma comes second, so for the free skate, Ryouma goes second last and Kakashi goes last. And right before Ryouma goes on the ice, Kakashi taps him on the shoulder and wishes him good luck. Only, what comes out of his mouth is, “Don't fall like you did in the warmup.” Ryouma is furious and indignant, because – really?! Until he turns around and actually looks at Kakashi, and then he realizes what he probably should have known all this time, which is that Kakashi is not a jerk; he’s just really bad at people. But before he can say anything, he has to go skate.
Ryouma wins in the end. By an incredibly narrow margin, but he wins, and he’s World Champion, and he most definitely cries on the ice and then again at the Kiss and Cry and then again backstage.
He sees Kakashi once more at the medal presentation ceremony, and he thinks Kakashi’s going to be upset that he lost, and now they can’t be friends after all. This isn’t something that would have bothered him an hour ago, but now… Except that Kakashi actually looks happy for him, or at least not hostile, which is basically the same thing. And some strange force inside him makes him say to Kakashi, as they’re on the podium, “Hey, you know, you’re not actually bad at this.”
Kakashi stares at him, and Ryouma thinks, fuck. Because that first meeting was a year ago; why did he think that Kakashi would have remembered something like this? He probably meets people who say things to him all the time. But then Kakashi ducks his head, gives a soft chuckle, and says, “Hey, you really fucking are.”
Minato takes a photo of the smile they share on the podium and sends it to Genma and Raidou, accompanied with a series of crying emoticons.