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If You Tell Me You Love Me

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Been staring at my toes
All day long
I failed to catch my head
I'm trapped in a love song
The words I love you
Seem to just get by
I failed to catch my head
From reaching cloud nine
Can you tell me what to do?
Tell me how to be without you
When you and I are falling

 

The skaters’ bus is finally making its way back to the hotel. We just finished the customary sightseeing of skaters in between ice shows, from amusement parks to historical landmarks, to beaches. Japan is really a beautiful country. The most memorable one for me is the ocean just in walking distance from our hotel. The water is crystal clear, the wind is welcoming and the sand is gentle to the feet. In my free time I will see to it that I'll be able to come back there. Good thing it's just near. And now, sitting next to the window with my earphones in full blast and listening to a classic love song so familiar and memorable to me I can't help but to reminisce the old times. When everything was still alright. Other skaters though are still energetic, some are joking with each other, some we're talking about our little adventure earlier. Well that's not the case for the man sitting beside me. His eyes are closed, his head lolling from side to side due to sleepiness. Cute. His head finally lolled in his right side where it accidentally found its way to my shoulders. I tried to wake him up but I suddenly took pity on him. He deserve his rest. He's such a ball of energy earlier. So I let him make my shoulder his pillow for now. I'll just endure it. We're pretty close to the hotel anyway. I stared at his face. He's so handsome. His eyes are closed, eyelashes slightly fluttering, and his mouth is set with a shadow of a smile. All of a sudden his mouth began to move as if he's saying something. Is he sleep talking? I removed my earphones to listen to what he was saying. It's just a whisper, barely heard inside the bus. But I heard it clear as the day.

 

“I love you…”

 

Wow, is that a declaration of love? That girl is pretty lucky, whoever she is.

 

“I love you, Zhenya.”

 

My mind became blank as I heard that and it remained like that for the remainder of our journey.

 

If you tell me you love me
Make sure you'll fight for me
Be sure you'll wait for me
Don't leave me in a corner in tears

 

We we're taking a short break from learning our group choreography. I sat in the makeshift stage where artists we're collaborating with sings while we skate. Everything has been a blast. I enjoy skating and performing for people so much. But when I do it with friends and other skaters with no sense of competition it gets fun even more. Loud music is still blasting around the ice rink. Nobu is being his goofy self once again, dancing comically to the song playing. After a while, Johnny and Stephane followed suit. They reenacted a tribal dance while making weird noises. Evgeni decided to join in the fun. He started dancing his Sexbomb routine. Ah, these dorks. I just laughed at their crazy antics. All of a sudden, someone sat beside me. I looked to my right and saw Yuzu sporting a goofy smile while shaking his head amusedly.

 

“Those dorks…”

 

“You're a dork too. You should join them.”

 

"I got to admit that I'm a dork. But I'm not as dork as them.”

 

He pointed to the dorks’ direction, making me look back at them. The crazy dancing has now turned into a twerk battle. It's so hilarious! I clapped my hands while laughing so loud.

 

“Hey, Zhenya can I tell you something?”

 

“Yeah, sure!”

 

“I love you.”

 

“What!? I can't hear you! The music is too loud!”

 

“I love you!”

 

The music stopped in perfect timing while Yuzu said those words. My jaw dropped as all of the other skaters including those dorking out earlier stared at us with large eyes.

 

“I love you, Evgenia!”

 

Frantic whispers echoed throughout the rink. I even saw Waka and Gabby giggling and jumping up and down from excitement.

 

“I love you, Plu-sama!”

 

“Huh?”

 

“Didn't he say Evgenia?”

 

“What is going on here?”

 

Now the whole crowd including me is confused. What's going on in that mind of yours, Yuzu?

 

“I love you Johnny! You too Stephane, I love you! Nobu, my friend, I love you too! We are like a family here so we should love each other!”

 

“Aaah!”

 

“Now that clarifies everything.”

 

Yes, that really clarifies everything because he'll never love you, Zhenya. He never will.

 

If you tell me you love me
Make sure you'll fight for me
Be sure you're ready
To be here in the battle with me
Don't give up on me
If you tell me you love me

 

I have free time so I made my way to the beach I really want to go to. When I got near the beach I saw a man sitting on the sand while looking at the ocean seemingly in deep thought. I looked closer and I realized that it's Yuzu. I made a beeline back to the hotel but it's too late. He already saw me.

 

“Zhenya!”

 

“I'm sorry. I intruded your privacy. I'm going back now.”

 

I once again started making my way back when his voice stopped me from doing so.

 

“No, you didn't. You can sit beside me if you want.”

 

I saw him patting the sand beside him and I have no choice but to walk towards him and sit down.

 

“Why did you come here?”

 

“Huh?”

 

“What made you want to go here?”

 

“Ah. The first time I saw this place I fell in love with it. The water, the wind, the sand, all of it is perfect. It makes me want to relax, to think of things more thoroughly. How about you? Why are you here?”

 

“This place reminds me of Sendai so much.”

 

His expression changed from relaxed to gloomy. And then I remembered the 3/11 Great East Japan Earthquake and the killer tsunami afterwards that took thousands of lives. To think that he had been caught in the middle of it and barely made it out alive then living with the guilt of living on and continuing to dream when others died. I can't imagine what he must be feeling.

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

“It's totally not your fault.”

 

“Still, that was insensitive of me.”

 

“No, you did nothing wrong.”

 

Silence prevailed while we continued looking at the waves sweeping the shore. For us skaters, moments of silence like this are very minimal, with us always performing in front of many people and then dealing with media afterwards. I have learned to appreciate and cherish this fleeting moments. I am absorbed in my reverie when Yuzu suddenly spoke.

 

“Have you ever been in love?”

 

“Huh? Why this sudden change of topic, Yuzu?”

 

“I don't know, just, other skaters say that it improves interpretation skills.”

 

Ah, this guy. Everything he's doing is for skating. Now, even love? Isn't that too much?

 

“I haven't been in love. I don't think that I want to.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Love is complicated. So many what ifs and maybes. I'm not even sure if there will be a man that will love me truly for who I really am.”

 

“That's not true!”

 

I got shocked by his intense reaction. Why is he so affected by what I said?

 

“Do you have any idea of who can love me then?”

 

“I…”

 

I stared at him incredulously as I waited for his answer. He looked so lost and confused. Is he hiding something?

 

“I… I don't.”

 

“See!? I don't expect that a man like that will even come. I'm hopeless.”

 

I can only sigh in frustration. Since when have I been this pessimistic about love? But it got me thinking, will there really be a man willing to love me, understand me and will not give up on me no matter how big my doubts and insecurities are?

 

“How about you? Do you know what love is?”

 

“Back then, I don't but now…”

 

“You do…”

 

He just nodded while looking lovestruck. Wow, even the great Yuzuru Hanyu can be hit by the love virus. That's quite shocking considering he's all skating throughout his life. But I guess if he can use that also in his skating then why not.

 

“The feeling is somewhat confusing. I feel nervous whenever she's around, I find myself smiling like crazy whenever I see her happy and I get hurt whenever she belittle herself.”

 

“Wow! That girl is very lucky.”

 

“No. I'm the lucky one if she says yes to me.”

 

“Why won't she? You're Yuzuru Hanyu!”

 

“That's not how I see things.”

 

Who in their right mind will not accept Yuzu as a partner? He's perfect. He's intelligent, he's handsome, k ind-hearted, dependable. I think all of the good traits are in him.

 

“But you still believe in forever, right?”

 

What has gotten into Yuzu that he's this… talkative? And why is he discussing this matters with me?

 

“Hmmm… 50-50. Somehow I still believe in it because there are people who ends up growing old together. Your mom and dad is a perfect example! Even if they are far away from each other they are still going strong. But in a corner of my mind I am always thinking if there really is forever then my parents should still be together.”

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

“No, you shouldn't be. Well, I think we're here for too long. Should we go back?”

 

Yuzu nodded and we then stood up and started walking back to the hotel.

 

Been trying to catch my breath
It's just been too long
Erasing memories
I trapped in that love song

 

“Waka, can you please turn that off.”

 

Waka is in my hotel room for our mandatory girl bonding. She has been listening to a song on loop and not only that it's irritating because it's repetitive but it's also triggering some memories that I'd like to forget.

 

“But why? It's a nice song. Also this singer sang it uniquely and beautifully.”

 

“Waka, please.”

 

Finally Waka got my message and stopped the song.

 

“What's with that song anyway? It seems that you're uncomfortable listening to it in the first place.”

 

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You are my sunshine, my only sunshine
You make me happy when skies are grey
You'll never know, dear, how much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away

“Step, rise, down. Step, rise, down. Step, rise, down. Step, awww. That's a wrong step dear. You should have stepped right here. Practice more, practice!”

 

I just smiled to my dad as he proceeded to pet my head. Meanwhile, my mom came from the kitchen to tell us that dinner is ready.

 

“Do that later, okay?” It's time to eat.”

 

“Mama, please! Just one more dance, you and Papa.”

 

“Zhenya…”

 

“Please…”

 

“Okay. But afterwards we'll eat.”

 

As the song played again my parents danced in harmony with the music. The joy that I felt in my heart is enormous. But that was long ago, back in the days when all are well.

 

I've heard I love you
Followed by goodbyes
Erasing memories
Cause I need to fight
Can you tell me what to do?
Baby how can I unlove you?
When you and I are falling

 

“Yuzu, what has gone through your head!? You know all too well that your alcohol tolerance is pretty low and yet you downed those 5 bottles of sake!”

 

What's that noise all about? Me, Waka, Mai, Kaori, Gabby and Satton we're just hanging out on the hotel lobby and chatting when loud, frantic talking emerged from the hotel’s entrance. When we glued our eyes in that direction we saw Javi helping a very drunk Yuzu who can't even walk in his own. Alongside them, Patrick, Guillaume and Elladj are also throwing exasperated yet worried looks at Yuzu.

 

“I just want to be brave for once! I can't even say to her my true feelings without backing off!”

 

Ugh. He's slurring too much. His system must be full of alcohol. I have never thought that I will see Yuzu like this. Then I saw his eyes trying to focus and then finally landed into where I was.

 

“Ah, there she is! Zhenya!”

 

What, me!? He then detached himself from Javi and staggered towards me, stupid, drunk smile in his face.

 

“Zhenya…”

 

In my shock, he pulled me towards him and hugged me tightly. Now, my eyes are as big as saucers and my mouth dropped. This can't be happening!

 

“Zhenya, do you know how much I love you? Finally, I can say it out aloud! I love you, Evgenia, Zhenya, Janny, Sailor! Whoever you are, I love you!”

 

“Y-Yuzu, what are you saying? I think you should go to your room and sleep it off. You're drunk.”

 

“Why are you not believing me? I'm not lying! I'll prove it you.”

 

He slowly inched his face closer to mine, his eyes closed and lips formed into a kiss pout. Right now my heart is racing. Is he really serious, he's gonna kiss me? I can feel my body froze as his face continues to come closer. I can hear gasps around us. From my peripheral vision I saw Gabby, her eyes big from the shock and her hands over her gaping mouth. I focused back on Yuzu, now noticing that only an inch is separating our lips. That woke me up from my stupor and I shoved him forcefully, making him fall on the floor with strong impact.

 

“Oh my God, Yuzu! Are you alright?”

 

I saw Javi and the other boys fuss around him as he laid on the floor unmoving for a few seconds. Did I hurt him? Guilt rushed in me, making my chest constrict. But finally, he began to move and speak.

 

“Ahh. The floor is so cold. I'll just sleep here.”

 

“Yuzu, you can't sleep here! We'll bring you to your room, okay?”

 

“I don't want! It's comfortable here.”

 

Seeing him just fine removed my guilty feelings but I am starting to feel another wave of emotion that I can't name. Tears started to well my eyes as I quickly ran to the stairs and into my room. I can hear Waka and the other girls calling me but no one can stop me. I don't want them to see me break down.  When I reached my room I locked the door and collapsed on the floor. I started to sob as memories and the wounds from the past started to come back. I can hear knocks coming from the outside, probably Waka and Satton, but I don't paid it any mind. I just want to drown in my tears and sorrow tonight.

 

If you tell me you love me
Make sure you'll fight for me
Be sure you'll wait for me
Don't leave me in a corner in tears
If you tell me you love me
Make sure you'll fight for me
Be sure you're ready
To be here in the battle with me
Don't give up on me

“Mama, when will Papa come home?”

 

“Soon, child. Soon.”

 

Mama always says this to assure me that Papa will come back. But the way Mama’s eyes look, it seems that she's convincing herself more than she's convincing me.

 

------------------------------------------------------

 

“Mama, why are you crying?”

 

“Zhenya, listen. From now on, your Papa will not come back.”

 

“What? B-But why? He loves us, right? He always says that he loves us! Then why won't he come back?”

 

“Zhenya, sometimes things don't work out the way it used to be. Sometimes, love fades. Sometimes it is given to another. But no matter how hurt you are, you have to move on and free yourself.”

 

------------------------------------------------------

 

I dreamt of that conversation with my mom once again. Move on and free myself? How can I do that when I'm always afraid of getting hurt further? My phone rang and I saw my grandmother’s name in the caller ID.

 

“Hello Babushka*. What made you call?”

 

“I just want to check on you. And I think this is perfect timing. You don't sound too well.”

 

All I can do is smile fondly. As expected from her.

 

“You really know me too well.”

 

“Of course, you're my grandchild. So, what seems to be the problem? Is it still the same thing?"

 

I remained silent. After a long pause I heard my grandmother sigh from the other line.

 

“Zhenya, your parents’ case is different from yours. You can't confine yourself from the past forever. You have to move on. You have to try to love. And if ever you find yourself hurt in the end, you have to stand up once again. Because what's important is you learned a lesson that will make you stronger.”

 

“But I'm… I'm afraid. I saw how Mama cried for Papa everyday. What if I end up that way too?”

 

“Zhenya, listen to me. You'll never know unless you try.”

 

“I… I need time.”

 

“Okay, sweetie. I understand. But you can always call me if you need someone to talk to.”

 

“Yes, Babushka. Goodbye.”

 

“Goodbye.”

 

I don't know if I can follow her advice as of now. But I hope I can find it in my heart to follow her in the future.

 

Don't even make a sound
If you won't be around too long
Babe can you hear my song?
Don't ever leave me alone
Cause I won't leave you

The final show has just ended and all of us are satisfied with our performance. Cheers and banters filled the backstage and I found myself talking animatedly with Waka and Satton. All of a sudden a voice started to call me.

 

“Zhenya!”

 

I can recognize that voice anywhere. I quickly bid my friends goodbye and walked away fast. But he held my arm and turned me around to face him.

 

“Zhenya, are you avoiding me.”

 

I really don't want to deal with him right now. I sighed in frustration as I stared at him straight in the eye with the goal of intimidating him.

 

“Let go of me.”

 

It seems that my tactics didn't work as he is still holding my arm.

 

“Why are avoiding me? Is it because of that incident?”

 

“Yuzu, don't. Everything that happened that night needs to be forgotten.”

 

“But I only did that because I want to say those words without apprehension. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just want you to believe me.”

 

I can't stop the sob escaping from my lips and tears flowing from my eyes. He can't be serious!

 

“Zhenya…”

 

“Do you even think that I'll believe you!?”

 

My emotions finally burst from all the stress and confusion I've been feeling this past days. There's only a certain amount of it a person can endure before erupting. And I've reached my limits. The joyful conversations died replaced by shock as the other skaters  awkwardly look at us.

 

“The first time you said it you were sleep talking, the s-second time y-you withdrew it immediately. The last one, you're too drunk! How do you expect me to believe you!?”

 

It's getting difficult to continue talking but I want to get my point across, so I kept speaking, wiping my tears harshly using my hand.

 

“My father always tells me and my mom that he loves us. Everyday. In a sincere way. And yet it didn't last long. Then you just throw it immediately in my face like it d-doesn't mean anything and you want me to believe you!?”

 

I never knew that I have emotions this intense inside of me. I have always been calm. That side of me has been an advantage of mine in skating. But my suppression is now backfiring not only on me but also on Yuzu and on other people around us. But I can't stop myself from pouring out my feelings just yet.

 

“You'll never understand what I feel because your family is perfect! They always support you in everything that you do. You're n-not left behind! I'll never get everything of that! So I'll stay like this than risking myself to get hurt further!”

 

I turned around and left Yuzu shell-shocked from my outburst. I think I just destroyed our friendship but if that's what it takes to protect myself, even if it pains me, I'll take it.

 

If you tell me you love me
Make sure you'll fight for me
Be sure you'll wait for me
Don't leave me in a corner in tears
If you tell me you love me
Make sure you'll fight for me
Be sure you're ready
To be here in the battle with me
Don't give up on me
If you tell me you love me
If you tell me you love me
If you tell me you love me

 

Earlier this morning, the final sightseeing of skaters took place. I didn't go with them this time. I just laid down my bed and used my free time to think. Others should be making their way back to the hotel. Meanwhile, I found my way back here, to the beach where me and Yuzu talked about love just a week ago. Tomorrow, us foreign skaters will be back to our own countries. Will he head back to Sendai or he'll go straight to Toronto? I don't even have the right to ask now because I destroyed our friendship. Now, there's nothing left for me. I rested my chin on my knee and buried my face on my arms. I'm so pathetic! I thought that I'm done with crying for today but another batch of tears escaped my eyes. The surroundings seems to reflect my mood. The night is so dark and the wind is so cold. I can't help but to shiver from it. Then I felt a jacket being draped in my shoulders. When I looked at it, it is a Team Japan jacket. I gazed to the one that draped me the jacket and I realized it was Yuzu. He does not keep any eye contact and is looking very awkward standing beside me.

 

“I just saw that you’re shaking from the cold that's why I gave you my jacket. Don't worry, I'll leave now.”

 

He turned around and is already taking a step forward but I still want to talk to him so I held his hand to stop him. I can feel him flinch and I saw his gaze dropping to the ground.

 

“Yuzu, wait. Can we talk?”

 

He timidly nod and proceeded to seat beside me within safe distance. When I was sure that he's comfortably seated and ready to listen, I started to talk.

 

“I just want to apologize for what happened last night. I was carried away with my emotions.”

 

“No. It's really my fault. It was insensitive of me. I should have tried to think first of what effect my actions might bring before acting upon them. I was foolish and-”

 

“No! It was entirely my fault! You said that you're a coward. But it is me who is the real one. I am so afraid of being hurt that I had shut myself to the possibility of falling in love. By doing that I belittled your feelings for me, I have hurt you deeply, I destroyed our friendship. All because of my insecurities.”

 

Now, I am a sobbing uncontrollable mess. I felt Yuzu envelope my shaking frame into a hug while rubbing my back and whispering comforting words in my ears. He's too good for me. After all I've done last night he's still here trying to soothe my pain.

 

“I-I'm sorry. I'm just too a-afraid to get hurt. I don't want to be left behind o-once again. I don't want to hope for s-something that might break me in the end.”

 

“I know. I know. I understand. Stop crying, okay? I'm sure that someone is destined to be the perfect man for you. And though I hope for that man to be me, if you're still not ready and it's not meant to be, I'm willing let you go.”

 

I continued to weep in his arms, my face buried in his chest and my tears soaking the shirt he's wearing. He's so kind. He even considered my feelings first before his. I then felt something wet falling to my head. When Iooked up I saw Yuzu with tears flowing down from his eyes. When he saw me looking at him he turned his head to the side and smiled to try to hide it.

 

“Yuzu…”

 

“Ah, why am I crying? I don't deserve to cry.”

 

I wiped his tears which continuously ran down his cheeks.

 

“I'm sorry.”

 

“I know that I have no chance from the beginning.”

 

“No.”

 

“But, damn, it still hurts.”

 

More tears made its way down his flawless face. I don't want to see his devastated face anymore.

 

“No, you're mistaken.”

 

“Huh?”

 

“I-I’ve been thinking this morning. And…”

 

I looked straight into his eyes and held his hand in mine. I have thought about this decision multiple times. I have suppressed my feelings for him for too long. And I think it's time to free myself from the past.

 

“I'm giving you a chance. No, wrong. I'm willing to give us a chance.”

 

I saw his eyes enlarge from shock, his tears instantly stopping.

 

“A-Are you sure?”

 

I asked myself for a split second and I was surprised to find that now I have no hesitation to give my heart to him. I nodded to and  I saw a dazzling smile forming from his lips.

 

“Thank you for giving me a chance! I promise I won't waste the trust that you gave me.”

 

He then hugged me tightly as if he doesn't want to ever let me go. I can only smile in satisfaction as finally, I feel happy. When we separated from our hug, I realized that our faces are really close to each other just like that night when he drunkenly confessed to me.

 

“Can I?”

 

I nodded and slowly closed my eyes. Seconds later I felt his lips softly touch mine. His kiss is so warm unlike the wind blowing across the beach. It made my shivering body heat up. I also felt myself electrified by it. We're getting deeper into our kiss when we heard someone singing or more accurately teasing us.

 

“Zhenya and Yuzu sitting on the sand, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!”

 

“Oh my God, really!? Where?”

 

One by one, our co-skaters appeared to see if what Johnny told is true. We stopped kissing but Yuzu still has his arms around me.

 

“What's going on here?”

 

“That's what we like to ask you, Yuzu.”

 

“I asked first, Javi, so you answer first.”

 

“We're on our way back to the hotel when most of us suddenly decided to check this place again. And voila, here we are! Now, you answer our question.”

 

“I'm just hanging out with my girlfriend. What's wrong with that?”

 

“Oooooooh.”

 

“See, I told yah!”

 

“So that drama yesterday is just an intermission. Wow.”

 

I can feel my cheeks heating up from embarrassment. My heart is pounding so fast it feels that my heart will jump out of my chest. I hid my blushing face on Yuzu’s chest. Is this what it feels like when you're in love?

 

“Zhenya, are you alright? Did I… go overboard?”

 

“Huh? No. It's just that I'm still adjusting to all of these.”

 

I felt Yuzu kissing my forehead as I heard shrieks and cheers from the other skaters.

 

“I think we should go. It's too cold. Look, you're still shivering.”

 

True enough, I can feel myself trembling. With that we started our journey back in the hotel, not alone but together hand in hand.