Chapter 1: Prologue: He Refuses To Bend, He Refuses To Crawl
the face of heaven (the taste of sin)
Prologue: He Refuses To Bend, He Refuses To Crawl
“Give a moment or two to the angry young man/ With his foot in his mouth and his heart in his hand/ He's been stabbed in the back, he's been misunderstood/ It's a comfort to know his intentions are good/ And he sits in a room with a lock on the door/ With his maps and his medals laid out on the floor/ And he likes to be known as the angry young man.”
- Prelude/ Angry Young Man by Billy Joel.
Yuri Plisetsky @y_plisetsky
Skater flubbing a triple loop=fucking useless coach. Embarrassment to rest of skaters. ISU need to look at which skaters they let on ice.
Phichit Chulanont @phichit_chu
You directing that comment towards me, @y_plisetsky?
Yuri Plisetsky @y_plisetsky
(sips tea) No.
Phichit Chulanont @phichit_chu
@y_plisetsky Are you directing that comment towards me and my coach?
Yuri Plisetsky @y_plisetsky
If shoe fucking fits, then by all means, wear it, @phichit_chu.
Phichit Chulanont @phichit_chu
Speaking of things people wear, does your face have another expression thats not a scowl, @y_plisetsky ? No wonder your PCS’s always so low.
Yuri Plisetsky @y_plisetsky
Pity you didn’t medal at Four Continents, @phichit_chu . That way you’d have something other than my hands around your fucking neck.
Phichit Chulanont @phichit_chu
@y_plisetsky, can you even reach my neck?
After Four Continents
When Yuuri first decided to become an international figure skater, he never imagined it would lead to this moment.
He was sitting in the hotel’s cafe in what had to be the world’s most comfortable chair, breathing in the smell of freshly baked bread, roasted coffee beans and cinnamon. The cafe served some of the best pastries Yuuri had ever eaten. It had terrible lighting though, which was why Phichit refused to step a foot into the place, saying that if he couldn’t get a decent picture of his coffee to post on Instagram, then it was not worth paying for an overpriced hot drink.
He stared at his phone as he scrolled down, pushing his glasses back up on his nose as he scanned the words on the screen quickly.
Yuuri literally took a nap for a few hours and Phichit started a twitter war with a fifteen-year-old. Christ.
If the situation hadn’t been so serious, Yuuri would have laughed at the mental image in his head of Phichit and Yuri Plisetsky angrily tapping on the screens of their phones, scowls in place.
Instead, he winced at some of the harsher tweets that one of Plisetsky’s fan had posted and Phichit’s rather scathing response. It was a bit of a shock to see such a gentle-natured being so vicious on social media. Yuuri knew that Phichit possessed a protective streak a mile long but this was just an overreaction. Not to mention damaging to his reputation.
He eased himself out of the chair with some slight regret, patting the red velvet arm as though to thank it, and disposed of his empty coffee cup.
Yuuri made some calls as he walked back to the hotel room he was sharing with Phichit. The first call was to his publicist instructing her to take care of the situation online and the second was to Celestino to see if he was aware of the situation.
Celestino did not pick up his phone but texted him to tell him that he was currently in a meeting with the ISU officials about Phichit’s conduct.
Yuuri worried his lip between his teeth as he read the text. The ISU's involved?
Yuuri had hoped that the Podium Incident with Cao Bin would have kept the ISU occupied and not focused on this recent twitter war. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
He reached his hotel room quickly, taking out his key and unlocking the door hastily. The sooner he talked with Phichit, the better.
He called out to Phichit, hoping he hadn't gone out. “Phichit? We need to talk.”
Phichit turned his head from where he was sitting on the end of the bed, watching the TV. His grey t-shirt was slightly stained with something orange and there were wrappers scattered over the white sheets. The Post-Season Binge-Fest had begun. Just looking at the wrappers made Yuuri briefly overwhelmed with the urge to go to the nearest fast food restaurant before he remembered his mission.
Yuuri grabbed the remote, switching it off without any warning.
“Hey!” Phichit said, frowning. “I was watching that.”
“Phichit,” Yuuri said, trying to keep his voice even. “You started a twitter war with a fifteen-year-old.”
“Plisetsky? Yeah, so?”
Yuuri forced himself to take a deep, steadying breath. “Do you have any idea about what you have done?”
“What do you mean?”
“Celestino is in a meeting with the ISU because of it,” Yuuri said, his voice clipped. “They’re not happy.”
“Well, somebody had to put that kid in his place,” Phichit snorted.
“Can you actually be serious for one moment?!”
Phichit crossed his arms, turning his face away from Yuuri to stare at the beige wallpaper. “He was being a dick!”
“He’s a teenager. They’re all dicks! And now you look like one too,” Yuuri said, exasperated. “Do you realise the consequences of what you have done? This entire rivalry has gotten out of hand!”
“He started it!”
“And now it’s time to end it!” Yuuri snapped back. “You’re almost twenty years old. You should be above this. What does Thailand think of their star skater lowering himself to argue with a child?”
Phichit bowed his head.
He’s only nearly twenty years old, Yuuri thought.
It was easy sometimes to forget how young Phichit was. Yuuri was only a few years older, of course, but he had a bit more experience in life than Phichit did, more time to reflect on his past actions and learn to do better from them. Or, at least, cover his fuck-ups better like all adults learned to do.
Yuuri knew that he and Phichit were athletes representing their countries and that came with certain responsibilities, which they knew about and had agreed to. But when his sister Mari was Phichit’s age, Yuuri remembered that she went out to get drunk with her friends most nights and went street-racing every other weekend.
He and Phichit were still so young in the grand scheme of things, still reckless and prone to making mistakes. They didn’t have all the answers and they still had a lot to learn.
But that was okay. It was okay as long as they learned from them.
And Yuuri could help Phichit learn from this one.
Yuuri pinched the bridge of his nose, exhaling sharply, before sitting on Phichit’s bed beside him. “Look, I’m sorry for yelling. I just don’t want something this stupid to ruin your career.”
“I’m sorry. It’s just… Ciao-Ciao’s done a lot for us. It’s easy for the Russians; they’ve never left Russia for a coach,” Phichit swallowed thickly, “They never had to leave their homes for years at a time, never seeing their family, and having to adjust to a new culture whilst knowing very little of the language. Ciao-Ciao saved our asses so many times and when someone insults the man who has helped us get so far, I-”
“I know, I know,” Yuuri wrapped an arm around Phichit. Phichit immediately cuddled in and Yuuri leaned his head against Phichit’s, the tension leaving his shoulders. Some of the orange dust on Phichit smeared onto the soft blue of Yuuri’s shirt. “But Celestino wouldn’t want us to sink to their level for him. Not if it costs us our careers. He’d have no one to coach and God knows Feltsman would give him grief about that.”
“True,” Phichit said slowly. “When’s Ciao-Ciao back from the meeting?”
“He won’t be much longer,” Yuuri said, “Want to watch a bit of 'The King and The Skater' while we wait?”
Phichit immediately brightened. “Yeah! Let me just grab my laptop.”
We’ll be okay, Yuuri thought as he watched Phichit scurry around the hotel room, we’ll be okay.
ISU SPEAKS OUT AGAINST FRICTION BETWEEN COACHES FELTSMAN AND CIALDINI
The International Skating Union has spoken against the long-standing grudge held between coaches Yakov Feltsman and Celestino Cialdini, following the recent Twitter war between their students, Thailand’s hero Phichit Chulanont and Russia’s rising star Yuri Plisetsky.
The row over Twitter took place earlier today and the slew of insults exchanged between the two brought several former and present students of Feltsman and Cialdini, to join in the dispute. This, in turn, encouraged skating fans to enter the vicious fight.
The International Skating Union’s council has stated that it “does not condone the conflict between Feltsman and Cialdini” and “in light of the recent posts on Twitter between the skaters of Yakov Feltsman and Celestino Cialdini, the ISU council has decided that, in the event of further disputes, skaters will face penalties, the most severe being banned from competing in the sport altogether.”
President Riccardo Escalus of the International Skating Union has said that he is “disappointed in the recent behaviour of the skaters as the ISU aims to promote sportsmanship and peaceful competition” but hopes that the recent decision will end the strife.
The skating unions of each of the respective skater’s countries had been in contact with the skaters, informing them of their support for the ISU’s decision and advising the skaters’ to not engage in the quarrel.
Both Feltsman and Cialdini have declined to comment on the ISU’s decision, although one of Cialdini’s students, Japan's Ace Katsuki Yuuri, has recently posted on his Twitter page that “hopefully things will be a little less tense around competitions now.”
The next season will surely tell us all.
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Viktor leant against the side of the rink, sliding the cap of his water bottle open with his teeth.
He closed his eyes as he took a long drag of his water, closing his eyes in relief.
Yakov was getting tougher on them now that Worlds was coming up and he would be facing off against Cialdini again. It was mostly him and Yuri feeling the strain (Georgi had injured himself at Europeans and had decided to not go to Worlds so he could compete next season) but Mila was rising up in the Ladies’ now so Yakov was putting pressure on her as well.
“- on this Twitter. The ISU refuses to accept-”
Speaking of Cialdini.
Yakov was talking loudly at Yuri whilst Yuri rolled his eyes and yawned. Viktor noticed that Yakov’s voice lacked its usual amount of venom when he told off his students.
Truth be told, Viktor was worried about Yuri. The ISU’s warning had rolled off him like water off a duck’s back. Viktor wanted him to stay out of this rivalry business; it was more trouble than it was worth. Viktor did his best to not be a part of it, though it was very difficult not to be. He kept his head down when he was putting his skates on and make no contact whatsoever with anyone looking to start a fight.
He didn’t want a repeat of The Lion King Debacle.
On the other side of the rink, Viktor could hear Georgi enthusiastically telling Mila about his recent date with his girlfriend, Anya, though he lowered his voice every time he entered Yakov’s earshot. Yakov did not like Anya as he said she took Georgi’s focus away from skating.
At least Georgi had someone outside of skating.
His phone beeped from next to his bottle and Viktor grabbed it, tapping on the alert. Headlines filled his screen.
THE CONTINUANCE OF THE COACHES’ RAGE: FELTSMAN AND CIALDINI’S STUDENTS FIGHT ONLINE
ANCIENT GRUDGE BREAKS TO NEW MUTINY: PLISETSKY AND CHULANONT TWITTER WAR
PLISETSKY VS. CHULANONT: ARE THEY THE NEXT KATSUKI-NIKIFOROV RIVALRY?
The press were having a field day.
They weren’t as focused on the Four Continents Podium Scandal as Viktor had thought they would have been. This did not bode well for them, especially Yuri.
Viktor glanced through one of the articles quickly, pausing when he got to the part about his rival Katsuki Yuuri tweeting about the warning.
The article had a photo next to a enlarged quote of Katsuki’s tweet, a shot of three skaters with their arms thrown over each other's shoulders. Katsuki was in the middle, holding up the gold medal at Four Continents, and next to him were the silver medalist, a Canadian skater whose name he couldn’t remember, and the infamous Phichit Chulanont, who had come in fourth place.
Katsuki’s smile in the photo was brighter than the medal in his hand.
Viktor turned his phone off again and headed back to practice, firmly pushing thoughts away about the Japanese skater.
He’ll think about a safer topic instead, like the rink’s pretty receptionist.
Chapter 2: Burning Glances, Turning Heads
Hi everyone! Happy Valentine’s Day! Chapter 1 of TFOH (TTOS) is finally here! I am sorry that it’s so late. I know I originally said I was going to publish it in late December but I decided to redraft it and then my laptop lost the new draft. Twice. I also had exams. But it’s here!
I want to thank everyone who left comments and kudos, they really brightened up my day a lot of the time and made me want to give you the best chapter I possibly can write! I really hope you enjoy the chapter.
I also want to thank Red/georgipopovich from the Victuuri Writing Chat for beta-ing this chapter! You're really lovely for doing so!
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy!
Chapter warning: This chapter features a graphic description of an anxiety attack. The description also includes two healthy coping mechanisms to cope with an anxiety attack: a breathing exercise and a visualisation exercise. I am writing from my own experience about having anxiety. The description begins from “Yuuri didn’t want anyone seeing him break down should someone come in” to “Yuuri stood up” .
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
the face of heaven (the taste of sin)
Chapter 1: Burning Glances, Turning Heads
“Masquerade! Grinning yellows, spinning reds... / Masquerade! Take your fill - let the spectacle astound you! / Masquerade! Burning glances, turning heads… / Masquerade! Stop and stare at the sea of smiles around you!/ Masquerade! Seething shadows, breathing lies... / Masquerade! You can fool any friend who ever knew you!”
- ‘Masquerade’ from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom Of The Opera .
Everything Important (A.K.A DRAMATIC) That’s Happened This Figure Skating Season So Far
Have you been living under a rock the last few months? Luckily for you, this post is going to keep you up to date with all of the dramatic affairs that happened in the Ladies’, Nonbinary, and Men's singles this figure skating season!
(This post will only include highlights and drama. If you want to see who won what, go to my other post here.)
Jiya Chakrabarti, America’s ‘Empress of the Ice’, won her third senior gold at the Grand Prix Final with her masterful freeskate, ‘Bird Set Free’. Mila Babicheva from Russia also placed third in her first Grand Prix Final.
It seems like this is the year that the Petersburg Pack (a nickname for Coach Yakov Feltsman and his current students (Viktor Nikiforov, Georgi Popovich, Mila Babicheva and Yuri Plisetsky) for those who don’t know) has run out of luck in the relationship department! Babicheva broke up with her boyfriend Anton Kozlovsky, HC CSKA Moscow’s Left Wing, a day after Europeans. Babicheva refused to comment on the split. Georgi Popovich was dumped during Europeans by his ice dancer girlfriend Anastasiya Kozlovskaya (also known as Anya or ‘The Beauty of Moscow’). Anya is also Anton Kozlovsky’s sister. Anya caused a big stir when she was then pictured kissing another man an hour later! There are no details as to who the man Anya was caught kissing is but rumour has it that it is her choreographer, Demyan Boytsov. Popovich is said to be extremely upset by the sudden split. Feltsman has also finally divorced from his estranged wife, Lilia Baranovskaya, and has understandably opted to not comment on the subject.
Bulgaria’s Darling, Kostadin Galabov, won xyr first bronze at the GPF whilst Canada’s Niimi Odjig won their second gold at both the GPF and Four Continents. Amadore Fanucci from Italy has also announced zir retirement at the end of this season.
Switzerland’s Dominique Aurand is reported to have begun a relationship with their rinkmate, the Swiss Stud Christophe Giacometti! Giacometti, off the market! Christophe Giacometti has often been described as “Viktor Nikiforov’s heir to the Casanova throne”. Will Aurand be blowing Chris’s alphorn for long? Or is their relationship going to melt quicker than Swiss chocolate?
I saved the best till last because this is where the real gossip of the season is!
The Grand Prix Final saw Russia’s Living Legend Viktor Nikiforov gain his fifth gold medal in a row whilst Japan’s Ace Katsuki Yuuri created a new World record with the highest marks in presentation. Nikiforov and Katsuki both went on to win golds at Europeans and Four Continents respectively. Christophe Giacometti was injured during his Gala Exhibition at Europeans but he has announced a full recovery in time for the World Championships.
Four Continents gave us all quite a show! Cao Bin’s shocking display by throwing his bronze medal onto the ice and storming off the podium has resulted in him being banned from competing permanently. This decision has caused a media storm on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr with hashtags like #SinBinned, #ISUtakingtheBinout, #BinThereDoneThat, and #CaoBanned trending for four days!
Sources tell us that the reason behind Cao Bin’s action was because he believed that he should have received the silver medal, despite scoring ten points lower than Jean-Jacques Leroy. Indeed, there was only had a zero-point-two-three difference between Cao Bin and Thailand’s Phichit Chulanont, who is now rumoured to receive the bronze medal now that Cao Bin has been banned.
Speaking of Phichit Chulanont… The infamous twitter war!
Shortly after the Cao Bin Podium Incident, Chulanont engaged in a heated Twitter war with Yuri Plisetsky from Russia. As we all know, they are the students of rival coaches, Yakov Feltsman and Celestino Cialdini. It appears that Plisetsky insulted Cialdini and Chulanont leapt to his defence. The twitter war escalated rapidly, with fans and other skaters chipping in with their own comments. The ISU has spoken against this “unsportsmanlike behaviour” and has warned the skaters that they will begin dealing out penalties from now on. Let’s hope our boys behave themselves as Worlds is only a week away!
What did you guys think of the drama this season? Let me know in the comments!
Boston, United States of America
Despite his theme being ‘Courage’, Yuuri did not feel very brave as he waited for his scores.
He did his best to not bounce his leg, knowing that it was better to keep smiling and attempt to possess some level of calm that he ought to have as one of the best figure skaters going. He should be not flying into a panic, wondering if this was where it was all going to go downhill for him.
What if it was? What if this was it? He felt like the freeskate went well but what if there were a number of mistakes? His last quad had not gone the way he had wanted it, Yuuri already knew that. Oh God, this was it. No, no, no. He did okay. He was over-thinking as per usual. Was he over-thinking? Or was he under-thinking? Is under-thinking a thing?
Celestino, probably sensing Yuuri’s whirling thoughts, nudged him gently. “You performed well, passerotto. Your step sequences were lovely as always. Your PCS was almost as high as it was at the GPF.”
“My landing on the last quad was shoddy,” Yuuri said, fiddling with the new handmade toy that had been thrown onto the ice for him, a rice ball with a smiley face stitched on the front and the kanji for courage on the back. He wiggled it at the camera, a grin on his face, momentarily cheered by the fact a fan had made this to give to him. Logic dictated that he couldn’t have been too bad if someone was his fan and gave him a toy they made themselves. Still, his stomach was fluttering nervously.
“It was not as terrible as you think,” Celestino said, “You did not stumble or two-foot the landing. It was still a clean quad, just not landed as gracefully as you wanted it to be. You’re too hard on yourself.”
“I know,” Yuuri sighed, looking down at the plush toy. “But I’m better than that.” At least, I think I am.
“We’ll work on it,” Celestino patted his shoulder. “Look, your scores are coming up.”
He sucked in a sharp breath as the announcer spoke to the stadium and his scores came up on the screen. “Katsuki Yuuri from Japan has been rewarded 213.44 points in his freeskate, putting him in first place!”
First. He was in first.
Oh, thank God. He could breathe again.
His freeskate combined with the score of his short program was 314.89, which was slightly higher by 0.32 than it was at Four Continents. This was good for him. Great, actually. Amazing. There was only Viktor Nikiforov left to skate so it was only the toss-up of whether Yuuri had gotten gold or silver this World Championship.
Yuuri would love for it to be gold. He really, really wanted it to be gold.
But he could be proud of silver. He had been for the last five years.
They exited the Kiss and Cry not long after that. Yuuri had already given a short interview before his skate so he would answer any new questions at the press conference later.
“Where’s Phichit?” Celestino asked. The man in question had not come to the Kiss and Cry like he usually did.
“He’s probably in the stands. I think he wanted to stay up there because… you know, the Petersburg Pack,” Yuuri said, plopping down on a bench near the side of the rink. From here, he could see Viktor talking to his coach.
Celestino followed his gaze and scowled. “Ah, I had almost forgotten about them.”
“Celestino,” Yuuri said, his tone almost scolding.
Celestino merely pursed his lips into a thin line. “I take it you’re going to watch?”
“It’s good to watch your competitors’ performances,” Yuuri said. “It helps identify their weaknesses and your own.”
Celestino grunted. “Very well. I’m going to find Minako. If you see Phichit-”
“I’ll make sure he doesn’t get up to any trouble,” Yuuri said, smirking a little. “Have fun with Minako-sensei.”
Celestino ruffled his hair, suddenly embarrassed, before leaving. Yuuri let out a sigh, letting his shoulders finally relax, and returned his gaze to see Viktor taking his starting position at the centre of the rink.
Yuuri remembered that when he had first started out skating competitively that his only wish was to skate on the same ice as Viktor’s equal. Now it was over a decade later, his wish had come true in the worst possible way. He was Viktor’s hated rival, in the sport and in the press. Yuuri may not have won any gold medals yet whilst competing in the same competition as Viktor but some people like Phichit and Celestino believed that it was only a matter of time. Yuuri knew that Celestino and many others wanted Viktor dethroned. Viktor had been the best in their field for so long that he had been given the moniker ‘The Living Legend’. Yuuri thought it was such a grand and lonely title to bear that he was quite glad he had been passed down the name of ‘Japan’s Ace’.
Yet, Yuuri couldn’t deny that Viktor’s skating was legendary. Even after so many years watching him, seeing Viktor skate in person took his breath away.
‘Stammi Vicino’ was probably Viktor’s most beautiful skate to date. Every spin, every turn of his skates showed a hunger, a yearning bleeding into every movement like the pink ombré of his costume jacket. His step sequences were one of Yuuri’s favourites to practice. He had learned them secretly after he first saw Viktor perform it. He had gushed about ‘Stammi Vicino’ a few days ago with Minako. She had not been as impressed as he was.
“It’s a beautiful program but it seems artificial,” she had said, shrugging. “What would a worldly man like him know about longing?”
Privately, Yuuri disagreed.
The longing was there, deep and sincere, in the lines of Viktor’s face, in the curve of his fingers, as he tried and failed to grasp onto the imaginary subject of his desire. The real mystery wasn’t why Viktor chose 'Longing' for a theme. The mystery was what he was longing for.
“What are you doing?” Phichit’s voice came from behind Yuuri. It was a testimony to their friendship that Yuuri didn’t startle. Phichit had the unnerving quality to move without making a sound, which contrasted quite sharply against his personality. In the early days of their friendship, Yuuri had sworn he was going to die at forty years old with the number of heart attacks Phichit had given him.
“I’m jumping a quad axel whilst eating a bowl of katsudon,” Yuuri said, not taking his eyes off Viktor. “What does it look like I’m doing? I’m watching Nikiforov’s freeskate.”
“Er, because he’s my competitor?” Yuuri flipped the cap of his water bottle open, taking a swig of water. “I reckon his freeskate’s beaten mine.”
“I think yours is better,” Phichit said, sitting down on the bench with a soft thump. He stretched his arms above his head, grunting slightly.
Yuuri rolled his eyes, almost missing Viktor perform his quad flip. “Are you saying that as my friend or are you saying that because of who Nikiforov’s coach is?”
“Thanks,” Yuuri said drily. “That means a lot to me.”
“Speaking of Feltsman,” Phichit shuffled closer, lowering his voice. “Have you heard?”
Yuuri turned his head slightly. “Heard what?”
“Plisetsky is moving up to Seniors next season,” Phichit said, his scowl deepening.
Well, that certainly complicates things, Yuuri thought as he watched Viktor do his combination jump, a quad toe-triple toe. All of the things.
Plisetsky had only been training with Feltsman for a couple of years but already was stirring up trouble among the skaters. Enough trouble that if he carried on, his career would be cut short.
“Who told you that?” Yuuri asked curiously.
“Overheard a conversation between J.J. Leroy and his girlfriend,” Phichit shrugged. “Plisetsky shouted that he was going to teach J.J. a thing or two about skating when he moved up into the Senior division next season.”
“Strange,” Yuuri mused. “I thought it was you Plisetsky had it out for.”
“Plisetsky has it out for everyone,” Phichit answered, a sudden bite to his voice. “He’s not the Russian Punk for nothing.”
“So why are you really telling me about Plisetsky?”
Phichit’s eyebrows drew together. “Because he’s coming up to Seniors?”
“The only person that is going to affect is you,” Yuuri said, taking a sip from his water bottle. “I’m not his rival.”
“Rival?” Phichit snorted. “That child is not my rival.”
“Isn’t he?” Yuuri slid the cap back in place. Viktor was a whirl of fuchsia on the ice as he performed a combination spin. “I mean, you’re both likely to get into the GPF next year. You both currently have the same amount of quads prepared. You both want to beat each other. Not to mention there’s the whole coach thing, we can’t really forget that.”
“I get that you’re foes for life with Plisetsky and not bros for life, but can you just watch where you’re saying it? We’re in a stadium full of cameras.”
“Oh my God,” Phichit breathed, a delighted grin replacing the irritation on his face. “Did you just say ‘bros’?”
Yuuri stared incredulously at him. “Is that really what you’ve taken away from what I just said?”
“But you said ‘bros’,” Phichit said, taking out his phone. “It sounds so weird coming from you. Even Ciao-Ciao says ‘bros’ more than you. Can you say ‘bros’ again? I need to record it.”
“Seriously? Can we get back on topic?”
Cheers and screams rose up from the stadium. Viktor had finished his skate and Yuuri had missed it. He bit back his annoyance. He could watch the rest on Youtube later, though it wasn’t the same.
“Fine,” Phichit huffed. “But why aren’t you more worried about it? We have three of Feltsman’s students in our division now.”
“And only one is currently consistent in getting to the GPF,” Yuuri said, jerking his chin in the direction of Viktor, who had finished bowing and was coming off the ice. “You should be worrying about this next season.”
Phichit sighed. “I guess. We’ll sort it out then.”
We, Yuuri thought, a sudden tightness in his throat. He gazed out onto the ice rink, where the flowers and toys thrown onto the ice were still being collected. We.
Yuuri needed to make a decision.
And he needed to make it fast.
Another year, another gold.
On some level, Viktor was proud of his achievement. A five-time World Champion was not something every skater could say they were.
Yet, as he went over to sit down for the press conference to begin, he couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. He wasn’t sure what exactly, but when he looked at the other competitors, he knew that they had what he was missing.
There were only three seats occupied on the table as there was no need for translators for this press conference since all three medallists spoke English fluently.
Chris was on Viktor’s left, a lazy elegance to his slouch as he shifted in the uncomfortable plastic chair.
On Viktor’s right, Katsuki sat with his back straight, his cross-training with ballet evident in the positioning of his shoulders and the elegant tilt of his chin. He seemed to be calm but Viktor could see the index finger of his right hand tapping gently, betraying his nervousness. Viktor had once mistaken this for impatience a few years ago before realising that Katsuki did it during every interview or conference.
Part of Viktor wanted to say something, something soothing. After all, Katsuki was one of the top figure skaters in the World. He had won silver for the fifth time at Worlds, an impressive accomplishment.
Silver looked good on Katsuki. Not as good as the gold he had won at Four Continents, but still good.
Viktor turned his focus back to the conference, biting his tongue sharply.
He shouldn’t be thinking about Katsuki like that. He was Cialdini’s student, his rival, his enemy.
Viktor hated Katsuki. Really.
Well, okay, maybe not ‘hate’ because it was too strong a word. And so was ‘dislike’. You can’t dislike someone you never actually interacted with, can you?
Indifferent. Yes, Viktor was totally and absolutely indifferent to Katsuki’s existence. That was it.
The people organising the press conference were running around here and there, fetching extra chairs, testing microphones and placing water bottles and paper nameplates on the table. The room was stuffed full of reporters and TV crew from various stations, all of them armed with cameras, recorders, notepads, and pens. Most of them were typically clothed in black but a few spots of red, yellow and blue littered the room. He could hear the soft murmurs from some reporters, different languages speaking into recorders or to other people.
He picked up the nameplate in front of him out of boredom and groaned dramatically as he looked at it. Chris looked at him curiously. “Mr Niliforov strikes again,” Viktor explained, taking out a pen from his jacket and quickly turned the ‘L’ into a wonky, oversized ‘K’. Chris barked out a laugh. Viktor heard a slight snort from his right and he stilled momentarily at the sound, that small hint of laughter.
He had made Katsuki laugh.
Before Viktor could dwell on the thought any longer, the emcee began speaking. They were young and clearly nervous. “Hello, welcome to the press conference. Congratulations to our world medallists. It is wonderful to see you three here and it was absolutely fantastic to see you on the ice today. We’ll first start off the conference with the photographers taking photos of you. If you would please stand up for a few minutes and then we will start with the questions.”
Viktor and the others stood, chairs screeching on the platform’s floor, and took off their lanyards before stepping closer together to get into the picture. It was a routine the three of them were used to by now. Chris slung an arm easily around Viktor’s shoulders. Katsuki looked at Viktor, silently asking permission. Viktor gave the tiniest of nods and Katsuki wrapped an arm around his waist whilst Viktor placed his hand on Katsuki’s hip. Viktor couldn’t help but notice that Katsuki smelled really good, something sweet and musky.
They shuffled around a bit at the request of the photographers, the flashes of multiple cameras blinding them.
Viktor kept beaming but he was counting down the minutes in his head until he would be able to go back to his room for a nap. The high he always got from performing was coming down sharply. He felt exhausted, both physically and mentally, and there was a familiar growing numbness in his chest. All Viktor really wanted to do was curl up on his bed and eat the giant slab of chocolate he had hidden away in his suitcase. Yet, here he was, stuck in a conference room with a dozen cameras aimed directly at him, his signature smile fixed in place and his hair coiffed to perfection. He knew he was blessed to be in this position but God, it was tiring at times.
Finally, they were allowed to sit back down and Viktor felt oddly cold as Katsuki slipped his arm away to go back to his seat. He pushed this feeling away impatiently, irritated with himself.
“Ok,” the emcee cleared their throat, tucking a few dark strands of their hair behind their ear. “I will call out an outlet. Please introduce yourself and your outlet before asking your question. We will first start with RT.”
“Mikhail Smirnov from RT,” The reporter said, clearly a Moscovite. “Mr Nikiforov, are you happy with your performance today?”
“I am very happy with my performance today. I have been playing with my jumps since the GPF so I’m glad that that has paid off. However, things can always be improved so I will aim to continue improving myself and my skating in time for the next season.”
There. That will squash any rumours of me retiring, Viktor thought with no little savage delight.
Indeed, there were already murmurs among the crowd.
From the side of the room, Yakov nodded at him in approval.
A reporter, in his late twenties with brown hair and untidy clothes, stood up. Viktor recognised the reporter as Hisashi Morooka, one of Katsuki’s most vocal supporters in the media industry. Viktor rather liked the man; he was fair in his assessment but encouraging. Even though Morooka was firmly on Katsuki’s side, he was professional enough to not trash Viktor like some reporters.
“Hisashi Morooka from TV Asahi. Katsuki-senshu, what was on your mind today before you went on the ice? A lot of fans noticed that you were on your phone and they wondered if perhaps you were speaking to a special someone.”
Katsuki has a ‘special someone’? Who is this ‘someone’? What’s ‘special’ about them?
Not that Viktor actually really cared or anything. He was only mildly interested because if Katsuki had a lover or something, that would mean Viktor would have to step up his dating game to keep himself on the front page. Obviously.
“I didn’t make any phone calls before my freeskate,” Katsuki said, confused. He spoke English a little quicker than Viktor did, clearly more used to speaking it, and his accent was tinged with British and American influences. Viktor guessed that, like him, Katsuki had been taught British English whilst he was younger. He must have picked some of the American pronunciation from his time in Detroit.
“My apologies, I meant that you seemed to be texting,” Morooka said.
“Oh, I was looking at pictures of my dog that my sister sent me,” Katsuki grinned sheepishly, scratching his ear. “I was thinking about what my theme meant to me too. About the people who gave me courage and the people who taught me how to be brave, like my family and friends. I also thought about the people who were there for me when I didn’t feel brave, like my dog, and how they would support me through that.”
Viktor could understand what Katsuki meant. Makkachin had been there for Viktor through the best and worst of times. Katsuki’s dog, a beautiful red-gold toy poodle called Bicchan (according to his fansite, the dog’s name was actually Biscuit. Bicchan was a sort of nickname). He wondered if Bicchan was like Makkachin.
Satisfied with Katsuki’s answer, Morooka sat down.
“Orianne Piccard from Telebasel. Mr Giacometti, what would you say about the audience and the support you got today?”
Viktor relaxed in his seat and let Chris’s answer roll over him.
The press conference carried on with the same old boring questions being asked. Viktor did his best to not yawn. He would have killed for a coffee.
Then, a reporter from Sportsperson Daily directed a question to Katsuki.
Viktor had already spoken to this particular reporter before his freeskate today. Alexa Johnson, her name was, and a clear fan of his from a mile off. Her voice had gone soft and breathy when she spoke to him, a worshipful look in her eyes. She had put her hand on his arm and leant in closer than Viktor liked but Viktor knew better than to have said anything about it.
“Mr Katsuki,” Alexa said, sneering. Viktor felt a little taken back by her attitude. He couldn’t imagine how Katsuki felt. “Do you think you can ever match up to Mr Nikiforov’s success, despite the fact you’ve only won silver medals when competing against him?”
The room went cold and silent.
“Excuse me?” Katsuki said so softly that the microphone had trouble picking up his voice. “Despite? Despite.” A troubling stillness had come to fill his face, a kind of coldness that wiped away the traces of warmth usually etched into his skin.
Alexa’s smile had not faded at Katsuki’s reaction but her curling shoulders made her seem a little less sure of herself.
“Let’s make one thing clear,” Katsuki leaned forward to speak into the microphone, his eyes glinting. “I am proud to have won silver for five times in a row at both the Grand Prix Final and Worlds. I am proud to represent my country at competitions. I am proud of all my hard work, that all my practices, my extra dance classes, have all paid off to give me a silver medal to wear around my neck. I am proud of the people who supported me and helped me win those medals, my family, my friends, my coach and my fans. And you sit there and tell me ‘despite’?” Katsuki shook his head in disgust. “I have nothing more to say to you.”
“Yes, I would hate to hear what you’d think about bronze,” Chris commented drily. “I won’t answer any questions from you. Today or any other one.”
“Indeed,” Viktor said. Alexa seemed surprised by his chipping in. He gave her his coldest look. “I’d like to think my career was quite successful when I was winning silvers.”
The people in charge of the press conference tried to get questions rolling again but the politely cheerful atmosphere had vanished. The rest of the conference ended quickly after that.
As soon as Chris, Viktor and Katsuki were permitted to leave, Katsuki went to his coach, mumbling furiously to himself in Japanese. Viktor flicked a final glance in his direction before going to Yakov.
“What was that?” Yakov said, scowling. “Why were you defending Katsuki?”
“Katsuki?” Viktor tilted his head, the patron of innocence. “Defending him? I was defending all skaters. Silver is very good, after all.”
“Perhaps,” Yakov replied. “Still, that reporter was comparing apples to pears. You are better than Katsuki. You should have made that clear.”
Viktor clapped his coach’s back. “Well, we’ll prove that to the sponsors, da?”
OMG, Yuuri went off!!! RIP reporter, you won’t be missed #DespiteSlight
That’s right, my son. You show them! #DespiteSlight #ProudAndLoud
Proof Viktor Nikiforov is an angel: He even defends his hated rival from reporters. #cinnamonroll #toogoodtoopure #DespiteSlight
YUURI KATSUCKI @blipblopnikiforov
Anyone notice that Katsuki never said that he would be as successful as Viktor? Even he knows it’s true. #DespiteSlight #ReporterIsRight
Yuuri didn’t think he could do this anymore.
Any of it.
Voices rose and fell all around the Banquet hall, the sound of heels clicking against the floor and the clinking of glasses making Yuuri’s ears ring whilst photographs flashes from cameras and the white light glaring from the chandeliers made his eyes water.
He was standing between Celestino and Phichit as they talked to a pair of prospective sponsors. The sponsors were from a drink brand, the name of which Yuuri had already forgotten.
Yuuri glanced at the other side, where Yakov Feltsman and his skaters were holding court with other skaters and sponsors. Yuri Plisetsky appeared to be attempting to charm a sponsor whilst Mila Babicheva was comforting Georgi Popovich, who had spotted his ex-girlfriend dancing with her new beau.
But someone more important held Yuuri’s attention.
Viktor Nikiforov stood a little away from Feltsman, speaking with Chris. He wore a grey suit with a plum-coloured tie, the suit jacket tailored to accentuate his broad shoulders and trim waist. Chris’s navy-clad back was to Yuuri so he could not see Chris’s face so he stared passed the sponsors in front of him to concentrate on the expression on Viktor’s face.
Viktor was gesturing animatedly with his hands, a serious expression on his face before a smile broke out. Yuuri’s breath stuttered a little at the sight, at the way his teeth gleamed against the soft pink of his lips, the way his bangs shifted as he moved. Yet… something about his face was not quite right; the corners of his eyes were not crinkling and there were no dimples in his cheeks like Yuuri used to see in Viktor’s interviews when Viktor was a Junior.
Yuuri wondered what Viktor and Chris were talking about. He wondered that if things had been different if Yuuri would have been able to speak to Viktor the way Chris could.
Viktor’s eyes flicked over to where Yuuri was standing.
Yuuri looked away quickly, tugging at one of his silver cufflinks as Phichit continued talking to the sponsors in front of them.
A waiter came over to their group with a tray of champagne, the flutes delicate-looking and filled with a fizzing gold. The sponsors and Celestino took a flute. Phichit sipped his Coke, pouting a little and looking in envy at the champagne. Yuuri produced his I.D. to the waiter, who then handed over the glass.
Yuuri numbly took it, taking a tiny sip, a practised smile on his face. The champagne was awful, so dry that it scratched his throat as he swallowed.
He tapped the champagne glass in his hand lightly with his index finger as he struggled to pay attention to the conversation around him.
Another compliment from the brown-haired sponsor about his exhibition skate. He smiled, thanking them.
Celestino made some comment, smiling proudly, his hand heavy on Yuuri’s shoulder. Yuuri assumed it was funny since everyone was laughing so he quickly chuckled along with them.
Phichit cracked a joke, nudging Yuuri’s side with his elbow, a grin bright on his face.
“Thank you for your support. I hope we’ll see you next season!” The words fell out stale on Yuuri’s lips but nobody seemed to have noticed but him. The sponsors left and some more were beginning to edge their way over.
It felt like he was sinking, even though he was still. Everything was too much, the noise, the jostle of bodies, the heavy smell of perfume, cologne, and sweat.
Not here, not here.
Yuuri excused himself from Celestino and Phichit to go to the bathroom.
He needed a minute.
He walked out of the banquet room, nearly stumbling, black shoes slapping against the purple carpet. Yuuri spotted a nearby bathroom and pushed the door open, his breathing getting a little too fast.
He approached the porcelain sinks unsteadily, bracing his hands on them as he looked at his reflection in the mirror.
The man in the mirror was unrecognisable to Yuuri some days.
The man wore a designer suit that Yuuri wouldn’t have bought because he would rather spend the money on video games. His hair slicked back and contact lenses in instead of messy hair and blue glasses. The only similarity was that the man in the mirror seemed to be as distressed as Yuuri was, his chest heaving a little, colour draining from his cheeks.
It was too public here by the sinks. Yuuri didn’t want anyone seeing him break down should someone come in.
He locked himself in a bathroom stall, hastily pushing the toilet lid down so he could sit on it, his legs too shaky to stand anymore.
It was stupid. It was stupid to get so upset over a question a reporter asked him. It was stupid to think he would be exempt from getting hate bouquets just because he never said anything. It was stupid, it was stupid, he was stupid, so stupid. He was overreacting, he overreacted to that reporter and now there was a hashtag on Twitter and people were talking about him and the rivalry and-
He felt the build of panic in the centre of his chest, the hard throb beginning to choke him, the familiar feeling of breathlessness making the panic worse. Anxiety attacks always felt like this; the feeling like everything was swirling apart, a sort of swaying looseness around him, and the only thing centring him, consuming his thoughts was the terror in his chest that made him want to cry for help but also paralysed him so he couldn’t form any words.
So he did the only thing he could do.
He inhaled for seven seconds, held it in for another seven seconds, his eyes closed as he counted silently. Then he let out his breath as he counted to eleven. He repeated this many times, keeping it up until he felt the throb begin to reside in his chest.
Yuuri heard the door to the bathroom swing open but he ignored it to focus on his breathing.
He pictured that throb in his mind’s eye; it was a pulsing ball the size of his fist, sticky and the same bright red as Viktor Nikiforov’s Olympic jacket.
And Yuuri breathed around that red ball, accepting that ball was there, and continued breathing until he felt like the ball was smaller. Until he felt like he could manage the world again.
Yuuri heard the door to the room swing open but he ignored it to focus on his breathing.
Yuuri stood up, wiping his sweaty hands on his trousers. He took a piece of toilet paper, patting his forehead and neck dry from where little beads of sweat had collected. He checked his armpits for sweat stains but his deodorant seemed to have held up. He felt his back and it was a little sticky but nothing terrible. He could blame it on the heat of the room.
He flushed the piece of toilet paper down the toilet before unlocking the stall door.
Yuuri noticed the bathroom was mostly cream, with one wall covered in a cream and purple floral design and a pot of purple hydrangeas sitting under the soap dispenser.
Yuuri went to the sink, methodically washing his hands and watching the suds from the soap disappear down the drain.
Maybe it was time for him to retire.
He was a five-time World Silver Medallist, a five-time Four Continents gold medallist and a seven-time gold medallist at the Japanese Nationals. He had skated, he had won medals. Maybe it was time for him to go home.
But there were so many reasons to stay.
Tensions had significantly risen between Celestino and Feltsman in the last several months. Yuuri was Celestino’s main offence and defence as his top skater, the finest warrior on Celestino’s side of their battlefield. If Yuuri left now, a lot of pressure would fall on Phichit’s shoulders to quickly become his replacement. Phichit was not near Yuuri’s level yet and would not be for some time as his jumps still needed a lot of work. Phichit was already facing pressure from Thailand to make skating history. The rivalry would make this worse for him and Phichit was no better in asking for help than Yuuri was.
There was also Celestino to think about.
Yuuri may dislike the rivalry but he did not, could not hate Celestino himself. Celestino had become a sort of uncle to him over the years; he had been there to drive him to his therapy appointments, had picked Yuuri up at 3 am and held him as he cried over a breakup, had fiercely protected him against the worst of Yuuri’s critics. He had gone above and beyond what his job called for him to do. Yuuri could not turn his back on him and on Phichit with no sleep lost over it.
Even, his home could be affected if he retired. Tourism in Hasetsu had been revived as he had grown more and more famous, businesses flourishing once again. Because of Yuuri’s promotional work for his hometown, Minako had more students to teach ballet to, his family’s resort was always packed full of tourists, and more young people were staying in Hasetsu instead of leaving for the cities. Would this recovery end if he retired?
And… there was something else.
Yuuri had not spoken to Viktor Nikiforov, the man who had been the one who had unknowingly inflamed Yuuri’s love for skating, pushing him onto his current path.
Yuuri had been in the Senior Men’s Division for five years now and in all that time, he has never said a word to Viktor Nikiforov. They had stood on the podium together, wrapped an arm around each other as they posed for the ISU photographers, and sat next to each other in press conferences. Yet, no words, no greetings. Just brief eye contact or, at the very most, a nod. Could Yuuri leave without speaking to him?
What even would he say to Viktor if he could? How could he put into words the impact this man has had on Yuuri’s life? How he alone had changed Yuuri’s life forever with just one performance?
If he and Viktor were away from the eyes of the world for a moment, just one moment, what would Yuuri say?
The whining creak of a door opening made Yuuri startle. Yuuri looked up to see in the mirror the reflection of Viktor Nikiforov walking out from one of the stalls behind him, white-blond hair gleaming like silver under the lights. He paused, tension rippling through his body, at the sight of Yuuri washing his hands in the sink.
Yuuri stiffened and looked away from the mirror, finishing washing his hands and going towards the paper towel dispenser.
He felt Viktor’s eyes on him, probably wondering why Yuuri didn’t greet him like a normal person would.
Viktor moved towards the sink Yuuri had been using, pushing the top of the taps down and pressing the soap dispenser, the sleeve of his suit brushing the hydrangea flowers in their pot as he did so.
Yuuri watched Viktor carefully as he dried his hands and threw the towel into the bin, studying the way the warmth of Viktor’s smile contrasted against the dull look in his eyes.
“Your eyes are sad,” Yuuri blurted out, “Even when you smile, your eyes are sad.”
Viktor stilled in his movements for a moment, his hands frozen in the sink. His head snapped up to look at Yuuri, staring at him in astonishment, those eyes bluer in real life than in Yuuri’s posters.
Yuuri swallowed nervously. “I hope you’ll smile for real soon, Viktor.”
He left the bathroom quickly, practically sprinting back to the banquet.
Two days after the Banquet
The hotel bar was quiet tonight.
The air conditioning was blasting around every corner of the room, chilling Viktor’s skin to the point where he imagined his nipples would rip through his shirt any moment now. Bartenders in purple shirts spoke easily amongst each other as they wiped down the grey marble countertops, the refrigerators underneath purring. Bottles of spirits lined up across the wall behind, amber liquids gleaming in what little lighting the purple and grey room offered.
“So… how’s it going with Roza?”
It took a moment to realise who Chris was talking about. Viktor took a sip from his cosmopolitan at Chris’s question, a rueful smile on his lips. The drink slid down his throat smoothly, the fruit juice soothing the slight burn of the alcohol. “They’re not interested.”
“No?’ Chris leaned forward on his stool, steepling his fingers. He wore a look of interest on his face, an interest that seemed tinged with something like satisfaction. “Roza’s not interested in the world’s most handsome bachelor and the five-time world champion of men’s figure skating? Do tell.”
“Roza is not interested in me,” Viktor said, looking at the bottles behind the counter. “Because they are not interested in anyone. Ever.”
“Ah,” Chris nodded. “Is it a little awkward between you two now?”
“A little, but it is what it is. Besides, my life’s not over because someone I thought was cute didn’t want to go on a date with me. I still have skating.”
To be truthful, Viktor was not very disappointed that Roza had said no when he had asked the young receptionist at his rink out a few weeks before Worlds. Viktor often went out on dates, hoping there will be a spark and always disheartened when there was none. It happened enough that the press had the nerve to call him a playboy. Now, Viktor was tired and Roza’s rejection honestly saved him the time and effort of going through it all again.
“The ice is not a person, Viktor,” Chris said wryly. He drained the rest of his drink before he continued, “It will not keep your bed warm for you.”
“My sponsors would say otherwise,” Viktor chuckled, running the tip of his finger over the rim of the glass lightly.
“Well,” Chris flagged down the bartender to pay the tab. “As your friend, it is my job to cheer you up.”
Viktor sighed. “We’re not going to a strip club.”
“No, no,” Chris shook his head and laughed. “I have my Dom now. Besides, since I’ve been taking pole-dancing classes, all I can think about is the name of the moves they do on the pole so it doesn’t hold the same appeal anymore.”
“Then what do you suggest?”
Chris smirked, a gleam in his eyes. “How about we go to a little party?”
Celestino Cialdini and his students
request the pleasure of your company
to celebrate the end of the figure-skating season
at the Verona Hotel on the 31st of March.
Cocktails will be served at 7.30pm and
festivities will start at 8.30pm.
Theme: Venetian Masquerade.
*Purple hydrangea flowers symbolise a desire to deeply understand someone.
I chose the title from The Phantom of the Opera’s ‘Masquerade’ because both Yuuri and Viktor have masks on way before the Masquerade ball happens. ;)
If you would like to keep up with any news about 'the face of heaven (the taste of sin)’, my Tumblr is red--heather and my Twitter is @r_e_d_heather. I sometimes post teasers and previews of my work!
Have a lovely day/night! <3