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The Distribution of Protection

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Four significant things happen at the Olympics, for Shoma. Three of those are, of course, the competitions. The other... well, that’s when Kana drops a fistful of condoms on Shoma’s head. Or at least, that is how it all starts.

Kana laughs at his confused blinking.

“Be safe, little buddy,” she says, and runs off. Shoma can hear her giggle fade as she heads down the hallway. There are a lot more footsteps than a single woman could produce. He suspects that Kaori and Satton were right beside the door, listening, but what does Shoma know.

The plastic packaging of the condoms crinkles when he picks one up. They are shiny and colourful and have a brandname stamped onto them. He rubs it between thumb and forefinger, feeling the weird squish of latex and lube inside and shudders.  

“Gross,” Shoma mumbles, and shrugs to himself. His game beeps, reminding him that he is currently dying rather terribly. He starts, drops the condom, and curses.

“Thanks Kana.”

Keiji will, days later, find a dozen discarded, unopened condoms on the floor beside the couch. He will shudder, and grab a broom. He will also disinfect the entire couch, the couch table, the floor around it, and, for safety’s sake, himself.

Keiji deserves better, Keiji decides. Shoma doesn’t know this, but Shoma agrees.

If that was the only instance of weirdness, Shoma might have forgotten about it completely and carried on with his life. Instead he skates the team competition. It goes okay. Shoma is truly too tired to even care. It is very difficult to not fall asleep while Miu and Ryuichi skate their little hearts out, but he does it. He cheers, and claps and fails at a high five.

No, the problem is that, two days later, there is a box on his nightstand.

The box is filled with familiar, crinkling and colourful wrappers.

Shoma looks at the box. The box, he thinks, would stare back if it had eyes. He half-wishes it had a mouth, so it could answer his more poignant question: “What the fuck is this?”

Shoma wants to lie down in bed, so he does. He wraps himself in his comforter, and tries to go to sleep.

The box stares at him. He can feel it on his bedside table, like it is filled with alligators rather than protection.

Shoma sits up, groans, and picks it up.

There must be clues. Nobody just leaves stuff like this, if it is a prank then it must do something, and if it is a gift – albeit a weird, slightly invasive one, though not at all on par with the time some middle-aged women had thrown Shoma underwear. He has a mother, he doesn’t need more underwear, thank you very much, that’s just weird. If it is a gift, Shoma reiterates, then there must be a card.

There’s no inscription in the lid of the box, and none on the bottom of it when he picks it up.

Shoma sighs.

He tips it over, letting the condoms spill all over his bedspread.

There’s no note inside, but there is something printed onto the bottom of the box:

“Use me!”

Shoma shudders.

He collects the condoms back into the box as fast as he can, and then he untangles himself from his sheets.

This cannot stay in his room. He will never find rest if this stuff is just there, waiting, glowering at the nonexistence of Shoma’s sex life and waiting to embarrass him.

He stands by Keiji’s door for a moment, listening. When there are no noises from inside, he opens the door, slowly, slowly.

Keiji is conked out on his bed, head tipped back and snoring. There’s drool on his cheek. It’s hilarious, and if Shoma wasn’t on a mission, he might snap a photo. He wouldn’t send it to anyone, obviously. He would just have it to have it.

The condoms are most likely Keiji’s fault, anyway.

Shoma deposits the box on the bottom corner of Keiji’s bed as quietly as he can. Then he pulls the blanket over his friend, and sneaks out of the room.

Because Shoma isn’t very good at tidying, there are three condoms still on his floor where they slid of while Shoma groaned and complained.

When Keiji wakes up, he is as confused about the strange gift as Shoma was. He is less bothered by it, though.

Keiji will, after the free program, head out to buy 37 envelops. He will write a letter to every single friend he can think of, and then he will stuff a condom into the envelope with the letter. He will think this is the epitome of hilarity. His friends, upon opening these missiles, will groan and facepalm. They will also smile, though, because they now own Olympic condoms.

There are many things one can do with an Olympic condom. One of them, of course, is get laid. Only about 16 of Keiji’s friends will proceed with this plan.

Shoma pushes this occurrence out of his mind and has a beautiful, restful nap.

He has many of these over the next days: his training schedule is packed, and so is his general itinerary, and Shoma is perpetually exhausted. There are too many people, too many activities, too much, in general. The bed becomes a safe space.

This doesn’t change upon Yuzu’s arrival, not really. If anything, Shoma naps more, because with Yuzu there, the intensity of every practice session racks up, everyone goes tense. Intense.

It’s not Yuzu’s fault, obviously. He’s the same smiley, silly, easy-going dude he always is. He reassures Keiji that his injuries are fully healed, he hugs Satton and commiserates with her on returning to competition after being out for so long. He jokes with Kana, laughs when Chris talks English at him, and congratulates them all on the team results.

And yet, it is as if Yuzu’s arrival reminds them all that this is serious. That this is perhaps the most important event in their lives, that this is it .

Or maybe that is just Shoma. Sometimes he feels like everyone else feels this much more intensely than Shoma can, as if Shoma passes through his life as if wandering through a fog: sort of lost, following the lights and hoping to find his path somehow.

Yuzu is the brightest light Shoma knows. Maybe that is why, when Yuzu steps onto the practice ice for the first time, jaw set and eyes dark, something shudders down Shoma’s back.

He puts his everything into practice. Everything he has to give, and more.

He gives it his everything, and then he finds a reservoir of energy that he hadn’t known he had access to. He carries this knowledge into competition, and he uses it. That’s all there is for him, and it is monumental.

He looks at Yuzu, his jaw perpetually tense, and thinks his gratitude at him as hard as he can. It isn’t like Yuzu would accept all the thank yous Shoma thinks at him if Shoma had the guts to voice them, so it’s fine. It’s fine to lean into Yuzu’s side a little when Yuzu offers his arm and Shoma takes him up on the offer.

Yuzu relaxes a little at that, his smile turning a smidge more genuine, and perhaps Shoma is fooling himself believing this, but he’ll take it. He’ll pose for the photos and try not to look stiff, too.

If that had been it, then stuff might have worked itself out, in a year or three or maybe ten.

Instead, Satton catches up with Shoma. He should have expected it, really. Satton has a way of seeing to the core of him. They are friends for many reasons: convenience, similar habits and preferences. Satton’s work ethic is like Shoma’s, and her eating habits are the opposite. If things were a little different, Shoma thinks, he would be in love with her.

“So… what is going on between Yuzu and you?” she asks, when they are on their way back from the mess hall to the apartments. They had dinner as a group. Kana is meeting up with some friends, Yuzu is returning to his room on the other side of the city.

Shoma’s nap is in jeopardy, if Satton insists on opening this particular can of worms.

He sighs. “Nothing,” he says. “Nothing much, anyway.”

Satton frowns at him. It makes her look like a mournful puppy, it’s awful. “Didn’t look like nothing, earlier,” she presses. She looks hesitant to do it, like there’s some reason other than just Shoma’s general awkwardness in life and in general that concerns her.

“What exactly do you mean?”

“Don’t make me specify,” she says, quickly, blushing. “Just tell me you guys are fine, whatever you’re doing.”

This is... odd. It isn’t the line of questioning Shoma suspected.

A penny drops. It drops with a crinkly, plasticky, Olympic-rings-stamped sound.

It’s you !”

Satton’s eyes go wide. “No it isn’t!”

It makes Shoma laugh, that she incriminated herself by refusing to profusely. Satton’s eyes go wider, and then she starts laughing too. “Fuck, the stress got to me,” she gasps. “But also please tell me what is going on, the tension is killing me and I need to focus on more important stuff than your love life, Shoma, come on.”

It’s bullshit, obviously. Satton definitely is spying for someone. It’s probably Kana. Kana seems like the type of person to mastermind a plan like this to distract herself from the pressure of competition. Satoko is perfectly capable of compartmentalizing.

He deliberates if telling her is a betrayal to Yuzu. But she already knows something, and she might as well know it all. It’s not like she would tell, and perhaps she will know how to deal with it.

“So... we kissed? That one time.”

She stares at him. Shoma tends to break when stared at. He says stuff. Most of the time it is half-lies, but this time, accidentally, the truth slips out.

Damn Satton for looking so trustworthy.

“Okay, maybe more like... a few times. Not recently, though?”

Satton smiles. It’s one of her soft, kind, patient smiles. Shoma keeps talking. It’s like now that he has started, his worries just flood out of him. “So… we are being really awkward, huh? Is that why I am being bombarded with condoms?”

“What condoms?” Satton smiles, bigger. More devious. She stops, turns to Shoma and pats his shoulder.  “But good to know, thank you for this information, I will use it well!”

And with that, Satton opens the door to the building, and runs up the stairs. Shoma stands there, dumbfounded. He hadn’t realized they had arrived yet. That is also not the response he expected to his revelation.

Shoma gets the feeling that she already knew this. He also expects the condoms to stop appearing under his pillow. And in the pockets of his clothes. And in his training bag.

When he tries to shove his feet into his skates and finds condoms stuffed into his boots, crinkling happily under his toes, Shoma gives up.

“Kana,” he says. It took half an hour and directions from seven Japanese athletes to track her down, but Shoma has found her. The group of Americans around her look at him, a little strangely, when he throws a handful of condoms at her head.

“Kana, you have to stop.”

Kana picks up the condom, and looks at it. She looks confused. She is not recognizing these condoms.

“What’s this?” she asks. Beside her, Adam Rippon is elbowing Nathan Chen. Nathan has gone red in the face.

“That, Kana, is a condom,” Adam says, slowly enough for Shoma to understand. “A cool one, though. I haven’t seen one with an Olympic stamp on it yet.”

He grabs one of the condoms out of Kana’s hand. Kana is still staring at Shoma.

“You are leaving these in my room, aren’t you?”

Kana shakes her head. Shoma feels heat crawl into his cheeks.

“The ones I’ve seen so far were generic,” Adam explains to Nathan. Nathan takes one of the condoms. “Cool,” he says.

“But you threw a bunch at me, at the beginning. Kana!” Shoma tries to explain. He’s speaking rapid Japanese, so the Americans mostly ignore it. It makes this a modicum less embarrassing.

“Yeah, but. Those weren’t like these,” Kana explains. “Those were ones I got from the medical center when Chris and I went. I thought it was funny, I had no idea anyone else got you condoms.”

Her eyes go wide. “Shoma, just how much sex are you having!”

Shoma throws his arms up. This did not help at all.

The strangest thing, he thinks on the way back to the apartment, is that he believes her. Her actions might not have been part of what has been happening. That means someone else is responsible. If Kana isn’t responsible, Satton was asking for someone else. Or perhaps she just really wanted to make sure Shoma was okay.

Shoma opens the door to his bedroom.

There, on his blue bedspread, perfectly aligned with the heads of the stick-figures of the print, are more condoms.

So many more condoms. Shoma needs to put a stop to this. Shoma cannot live like this, it is driving him insane. But he can’t figure this out on his own, apparently. All his guesses so far have been so, so wrong. And so, so embarrassing.

There is only one person who he can be sure is absolutely not involved in this. And that is the person who knows that Shoma doesn’t need condoms in his life because Shoma does not have a sex life.

It’s probably an odd thing to bring up to your friend. Friend with benefits. Benefits which include a few heated make-out sessions, and one instance of heavy petting.

“Help me,” he tells Yuzu.

Yuzu, as expected, finds the whole thing hilarious.

Shoma tells him, sitting in Yuzu’s bigger, cleaner, and all around nicer hotel room. Yuzu does not have to share his bathroom! Except with Shoma, because Shoma will be making use of these conveniences as much as he can. He had thought himself as straightforward and easy to take care off, but communal living grates. The hair in the shower: it is gross.

“But why would someone prank you with… condoms?” Yuzu asks, laughing. He is towel-drying his hair after his shower. Hir hair is sticking up in every direction. It defies gravity. Yuzuru’s hair is probably the reason for the velocity of his jumps, or, no, that makes no sense.

“I don’t know,” Shoma tells him. “I don’t even know if it is a prank or not. Maybe someone just thinks I should--”

Yuzu’s eyebrows rise. Shoma stops while he’s ahead.

“Protect myself,” he ends, lamely.

“Hm,” Yuzu says, “but there are supposed to be condom in the vending machines at every corner. It isn’t necessary at all to stuff condoms under your pillow.”

Shoma throws his arms up. “I don’t know! I just want it to stop, so you have to help me find out who is doing it!”

“You said Satton was suspicious?”

Shoma nods. Yuzu nods. They understand each other perfectly.

But there is one problem: Satton has been completely and utterly invested in practice. So it is kind of likely that she was legitimately just worried about Shoma and his frazzled existence. Her competitions are coming up, she has better things to do, truly.

Shoma realises this when he is lying in his own bed, staring up at the ceiling, a day later.

It isn’t Satton and Kana, but Satton and Kana might have been in on the plan. But who is devious enough to create a plan that involves people and giftboxes, who is sneaky enough to get at Shoma’s stuff without Shoma noticing, and who, of all people, would enjoy watching Shoma puzzle.

Shoma pulls out his phone from under his pillow.

A condom sails through the air and lands on the floor with a slight thwack. Shoma is used to the noise by now: he has long stopped cleaning up the floor. He swipes the newly gathered protection under his pillow to the floor, where it will lie until he finds a solution to this.

“It’s Keiji,” he texts Yuzu.

“Brb,” Yuzu texts back, “I’m coming over.”

By the time Yuzu arrives, Shoma is fast asleep. The room has fallen into a dim sort of half-dark, and Shoma only wakes up when the mattress dips under Yuzu’s weight. He’s sitting half-assed on the side of Shoma’s bed, near his knees.

“Oh,” Shoma croaks. “Sorry.”

Yuzu wheezes. Shoma switches on the bedside lamp and sits up, and the wheeze dissolves into a laugh when a bunch of condoms slide to the floor as he shifts. Shoma can follow Yuzu’s eyes as they follow the colourful condoms on their way down. There’s an entire pile down there. Shoma knows, Shoma feels that pile of condoms looming every day.

He doesn’t know if it is quite possible for something that is beneath you to loom, but this small mountain of protection sure does.

“That,” Yuzu says, “that’s a whole lot of condoms.”

Shoma nods. Yuzu keeps making that weird wheezy laughing noise for a while. This might be a strange kind of asthma attack, but Yuzu doesn’t seem concerned and he isn’t pulling out his inhaler, but Shoma also can’t spot the band-aid on the back of his neck that means he’s medicated. He doesn’t quite know what to do, here, do he just watches Yuzu’s lips to see if they will turn blue. If they turn blue that’s bad and he has to call an ambulance.

Shoma doesn’t know how to call an ambulance in Korea. But Keiji does. If Yuzu continues making that noise, Shoma will call Keiji who will call an ambulance for Yuzu.

“I’m capable of calling my own ambulance,” Yuzu says. He has stopped laughing. He has also stopped wheezing, which is a relief. Yuzu is pulling out his phone like he is going to prove his proficiency at calling ambulances. Shoma believes him, and it would also be quite unnecessary, so Shoma grabs the phone out of Yuzu’s hand.

“Hey! Rude.” Yuzu says, and grabs it back, “I’m looking up how many condoms is normal.”

That Shoma can tell him: the amount spread out on Shoma’s floor is certainly not normal. Nobody needs that much protection. Nobody has that much sex. At least not the kind of sex that would require condoms.

Shoma resolutely does not think about chafing.

“Apparently, every athlete staying in the village has about 37 condoms allocated to them. So, subtracting the minors, that is probably about 40 to 45 per adult.”

“We’re here for a month.”

“Uh-huh, yeah, that’s only about once a day. Considering most people would not have sex immediately before competing, that probably amounts to like, what, twice a day?”

Yuzu illustrates his advanced calculus with his fingers. Shoma swallows.

Twice a day, huh.

“That doesn’t account for broken ones, either due to puncturing through careless handling, or production faults,” Yuzu continues. He sounds so casual about it, a little bit curious, like he’s talking about the weather, or a local custom, or a math problem of medium difficulty. “But then, considering that some athletes do not spend the entire month here, but only some of the time, it is still a quite generous estimate.”  

Shoma is having trouble breathing.

“Oh,” he says. “Sure.”

Yuzu swipes up on his phone, murmuring to himself. Half a chance is that he has stumbled over an interesting article relating to what he just said. The other half is dolphin photos.

Shoma reaches down the side of the bed. He pulls up a handful of wrappers. Slowly, methodically, he counts them.

It’s six. There are about ten more handfuls down there. That would be sixty. Shoma is alright at math, he knows that sixty is a lot more than the allotted 37 that are his due. He rubs one of them between forefinger and thumb, feeling the oddness of the silvery packaging move against what is inside.

It crinkles. It’s a sound Shoma is well used to.

Yuzu looks up. Shoma has no idea what his face is doing, as he is contemplating the future. By the time he leaves, there will be even more. Shoma doesn’t know what to do with this many condoms. Whatever Yuzu sees, it makes his face soften, his eyes focus on Shoma’s face.

“Hey,” he offers, gently, “do you want to come to my room and play video games for a bit?”

Shoma wants.

He’s not angling for anything, not really. But sometimes when he is hanging out with Yuzu, just the two of them, Shoma feels like he is walking on eggshells, waiting for… well, the egg to drop.

So far, Yuzu hasn’t said anything. They haven’t kissed, again, either. They might be just friends now, which is good. Shoma isn’t waiting for anything to happen. He just likes hanging out with Yuzu, laughing at his silly faces, plotting advanced gaming strategies. It’s simple like that.

But it also just so happens that he really wants to lie in Yuzu’s big, comfy bed while they game, and Yuzu will not permit Shoma in his bed unless he has ascertained that Shoma is clean and wearing anti-allergenic, freshly laundered clothes.

This means that when Shoma sleeps over at Yuzu’s, he ends up wearing Yuzu’s clothes rather a lot. Everything Yuzu owns is a little long on Shoma, and a little tight, but it fits fine. Every item Yuzu owns and is willing to lend him is soft, worn-in cotton.

It’s happened only once or twice over the course of their friendship. It never happened when they had kissed before, and they never kissed when it happened.

Kissing, Shoma establishes, as he is lying in Yuzu’s bed wearing Yuzu’s clothes, waiting for him to finish adjusting the room temperature just so, is a rushed, spontaneous thing. It happens in changing rooms after the gala, it happens in a hidden corner of the kitchen after stealing an extra slice of cake, it happens in an abandoned hallway in a hotel after they spent the whole night talking.

This isn’t a kissing situation, this is a friendship situation. Helping your friend figure out who is flooding them with sex paraphernalia is a friendship thing. Shoma is sure of this.

It reminds him, with a startle, of his initial suspicion.

“It’s Keiji!” Shoma exclaims. Yuzu jumps, a little.

“What’s Keiji?”

“The condoms. It has to be Keiji! He is the only one who would plan something elaborate like this, he is the only one who would ask Kana for help and Satton to ask me questions, and he didn’t make a big deal about the condom box! It’s because it was his box !”

Yuzu frowns. Then he bounds over and flops all over the bed. This means he is flopping all over Shoma, too, because Shoma was starfished out on Yuzu’s bed first. Yuzu’s elbow makes contact with Shoma’s ribcage, Shoma’s knee makes contact with Yuzu’s bony, bony hip bone.

They both groan.

“Ouch,” Yuzu says, and rolls onto his stomach. Shoma pulls his arms and knees in, so there is space enough for both of them. It still leaves them pressed together side to side. “Okay, but Keiji arrived much later than the first incidents.”

Shoma shrugs. Yuzu looks at him. He is very close. Shoma swallows.

“Yes, well. Uh,” he gathers his wits. Maybe just one wit. “He probably asked Kana to throw condoms at me to confuse us. It’s a long-term, large-scale plan.”

Something about this makes Yuzu smile, slow and deliberate and excruciatingly attractive. Shoma breathes through it. He is a figure skater, he is used to pain that feels like an elephant tap-dancing on your lung.

“We should talk to Keiji, then,” Yuzu suggests, and leans over Shoma to grab something off his nightstand.

It makes a crinkly sound. Shoma’s skin breaks out in goosebumps.

“Gummy bear?”

A lot of things come in small foil packages, Shoma reminds himself. He can’t convince himself to eat a gummy bear regardless. Yuzu just shrugs and pops a red piece of candy into his mouth and makes a pleased noise. It’s unfair, it’s so unfair.

Shoma dedicates himself to beating as many zombies as possible. Yuzu, after a little bit of shifting, does the same. After a while, the lights in the room dim. Or perhaps Shoma’s eyes just slide closed, he can’t remember.

Shoma returns to consciousness to the quiet huffs of Yuzu’s exasperation. He lies there, face still half-covered under the comforter, and blinks. Yuzu is sitting up against the wall, knees pulled up to his chest. Shoma’s head is on the height of his hip, but when he turns his head, he can look up at his face. Yuzu’s phone, turned away from Shoma and towards Yuzu’s chest, is the only light source. It throws his chin and nose into relief, but leaves his eyes in darkness.

“Damn,” Yuzu huffs again, and taps his phone more viciously. “Argh.”

He’s quiet about it, though. It’s so nice, Shoma could probably close his eyes again and drift off for the rest of the night. It has happened before. Not here, not in this hotel room, and not just with Yuzu, but accidental sleepovers are a Shoma special.

His phone vibrates, a more jarring noise than Yuzu’s whispered curses, and Yuzu presses his phone to his chest to still it, throwing the room into complete darkness. Shoma doesn’t know if Yuzu had seen his face, it might have been too dark for him to realise that Shoma’s eyes were open.

“Sleepyhead,” Yuzu whispers, and reaches out. Shoma can feel the bed dip when he shifts, when he runs his fingers through the tufts of hair that are sticking out under the comforter. He pushes the comforter back from Shoma’s face, fingers tracing Shoma’s ear before combing his hair back again.

It makes Shoma want to preen, lean into the touch, but he stays still. Breathless, because it might stop if Yuzu realises that he’s awake. Eyes closed, because he can’t see him in the darkness, and it is easier to focus on every single touch. He can feel Yuzu shift to reach better, and then, just when Shoma thinks he is going to stop and resume his game, Yuzu sighs and lies down.

His hand stays in Shoma’s hair, but it quiets as Yuzu slides down and curls himself around Shoma’s body. He’s not too close, touching only where his hand is tangled in Shoma’s hair still, but Shoma can feel him breathe against his forehead, can feel where his knees might knock into Shoma’s hip if they moved inches closer.

“Rest well,” Yuzu whispers, softly. Perhaps he is imagining it, but Shoma thinks he might feel his lips move. In the dark quiet, it’s easy to doze again. Now and then, a small movement will wake him up, but it’s too comfortable to move, the moment too fragile to disturb it.

Yuzu is asleep as well, Shoma can tell by the sound of his breathing. Sometimes, it is a little labored, heavy and deep, rather than shallow as it should be when in deep rest. It takes Shoma some time, lying awake and just listening, to work up the courage to reach out and place his hand on Yuzu’s chest, just to feel it move, steadily, steadily.

They don’t talk about that, obviously. There’s no need.

Instead, Shoma wakes up to Yuzu’s loud alarm clock, and Yuzu’s louder grin.

“I know what we’re going to do with the condoms” Yuzu says. Shoma blinks. He isn’t entirely sure if this is a dream or not. “We are going to fill them with water, and then we are going to throw them at Keiji and then he will either stop filling your room with condoms, or he will just be very wet. Either way, the end results will be satisfying.”

“Uh,” Shoma groans, sleep-rough. It is a lot of information to take in, early in the morning.

“But first we have to go to practice!”

So they do.

If Keiji suspects that they are onto him, he doesn’t let it show. Instead, the three of them joke in the changing room, and then they make the most out of their practice time. If Keiji is confused that Yuzu is joining them in the apartment, rather than returning to his hotel, he doesn’t show that, either.

“Are we doing it now?” Shoma asks, when they’re in his room. Yuzu is carefully taking stock of the condoms on Shoma’s floor. There is a new pile of them on Shoma’s bedspread. Perhaps Keiji just shifted some off the floor and back onto the bed: at this point Shoma legitimately can’t tell.

It occurs to him that he could have just thrown them away. He could even have gathered them in a bag and brought them to the medical center.

Yuzu picks up another handful and stuffs it down his pants’ pockets.

“Here, do the same,” he says, and offers Shoma a hand.

Filling up condoms with water is more difficult than Shoma could have suspected. For one, the things are slippery out of the wrapper. They are also not like balloons, the opening is too big to wrap around the head of the faucet. Yuzu is better at it than Shoma is, so Shoma ends up ripping open the packages, and Yuzu fills them with water and ties them.

When the sink is full of penis-shaped water bombs, Yuzu turns to face Shoma. His grin is dangerous. It’s very, very disconcerting, because Yuzu proceeds to grab too many water-filled condoms, and just. Goes. Purposefully.

He heads right into the living room, where Keiji is sitting with Satton and Kana, and throws one at him. This is shaping up to be a formative event in Shoma’s life: Keiji’s face, set in shock and surprise at the bright green, phallic balloon flying at him, Yuzu’s gleeful laughter, Satton and Kana jumping into each other’s arms, screaming.

The condom flies in a high arch through the air.

Keiji is frozen, unable duck.

It hits him right in the forehead, bouncing off, shaking and shuddering in the air.

It bounces off Keiji’s shoulder. It bounces off the couch. It bounces off the floor, once, twice, before stilling.

There is a moment of silence, in which they all stare at the condom water bomb expectantly.

Then.

“What the FUCK, Yuzu!” Keiji yells, and stands up. Keiji, people like to forget, is not afraid of a challenge. Shoma knows this from plenty of fights that ended with Keiji holding down Shoma’s wrists and mercilessly tickling him until Shoma couldn’t breathe.

Shoma steps aside.

Keiji grabs the balloon on the floor, and fires it at Yuzu. Yuzu squeals.

Yuzu steps to the side, and the waterbomb bounces off the wall. He throws another. Shoma goes into hiding behind the door. He doesn’t expect Satton and Kana to run past him, into the bathroom, and come out with handfuls of glibbery water bombs. They join the fray, as Yuzu and Keiji bombard each other, screaming, laughing.

“Help me,” Yuzu exclaims, more than once, “Shoma! Grab a condom!”

Shoma will not, in fact, grab a condom. He waits until the fight dies down. Kana and Satton are splayed out on the floor, breathing hard. Yuzu has collapsed on the couch. Keiji hangs over the back of it. There are so, so many water bombs on the floor that Shoma has to tiptoe around.

When he gets there, Keiji, softly, fires his last bomb at him. Shoma catches it before it hits him in the face, and hands it back. Obviously, Keiji immediately slaps Yuzu in the face with it.

“Well,” Keiji says, “now at least now we know they’re durable.”

Satton, still on the floor, cackles louder and harder than Shoma had thought possible. Kana snorts with laughter, lying with her back on the floor and trying to catch her breath. “They are… so… very… phallic,” she cries. Satton cackles louder, and slaps her in the face with a water bomb as well.

Yuzu shrugs at Shoma. “I never said this was a great plan.” As if that was any sort of excuse for the 30 water filled condoms bouncing on the floor of their apartment.

Shoma sits down on the floor. Kana hits him in the back of the neck with a bomb of her own.

“It wasn’t Keiji,” she offers.

“What?” Keiji sounds confused.

“Shoma thought you were filling his room with condoms,” Yuzu explains, “and I thought it would be funny to use them against you.”

“Huh. Well, if it helps,” Keiji says, “I got a box of these a while ago. I sent the condoms inside to all my friends.”

Shoma sighs. That… is exactly what Keiji would do with condoms. Shoma should have known better than to suspect him. “Sorry Keiji.”

“Eh,” Keiji shrugs and reaches for another water bomb. “If you let me hit you in the face with this, I’ll forgive you.”

Yuzu snorts.

Shoma offers his face as best as he can. Expecting the glibbery cold, he squeezes his eyes shut.

A long moment passes, and Shoma blinks.

“I can’t do it,” Keiji sighs. “He looks so—”

A waterbomb hits Shoma in the face. He gasps. Satton laughs from where she is leaning over Kana. “No mercy!”

Yuzu reaches up to high five her. “Good aim, dude.” She reaches him, palms slapping against each other, but barely. Keiji blinks at her, shocked again. Shoma shrugs. It’s fair enough. He deserved that.

“But if it wasn’t Keiji,” Shoma says, picking the bright green water balloon off the floor and twisting it slowly around and around itself, “and it wasn’t anyone here,” he twists it again, until Yuzu winces and makes a pained noise, “then who was it?”

Yuzu rolls off the couch and takes the condom from Shoma and lets it fall to the floor, where it bounces a few times and then lies still after a while. His hand remains wrapped around Shoma’s wrist.

“It wasn’t Chris, or Miu and Ryuichi, either,” Kana says, slowly. “I asked, after you confronted me. Besides, they don’t know you well enough to want to prank you, or to encourage you to have a sex life.”

They look at each other. There is only one other person with access to the apartment. There is only one other person who would find this kind of scenario hilarious.

“Where is Kaori?” Shoma asks, and gets up. Yuzu, still hanging on to his wrist, uses it to pull himself up. “I have.. a few questions.”

He bends, picks the green condom up again. Yuzu takes it from him.

“You can’t hit a teenage girl with a condom, Shoma.”

Shoma could. It might be slightly inappropriate, but if said teenager had both access and opportunity to condoms all along: where is the harm.

He looks at the shape of the water balloon in Yuzu’s grip and swallows.

Right. Inappropriate.

“Kaori’s training in the other rink right now,” Satton interrupts, “she’ll be back in the evening.”

Yuzu looks at Satton critically, eyes narrowed and jawline, again, going tense. “Are you okay? Why aren’t you there as well?”

It strikes Shoma has he looks worried for her. Satton trains a lot, she trains as much as Shoma, and Shoma has been told that he over-trains.

“I’m fine,” Satton says. She shrugs. “Coach says that I need to take today off, that I know what I have to do, and it is not a matter of practice now. It is a matter of being rested. I think… whatever I do, now, is about maintaining my form.”

Yuzu nods. “I’m sorry we distracted you like this, though.”

“No,” Satton smiles, first at him, then at Shoma, and lastly, a little softer around the edges, at Kana. “I needed the laughter. I feel relaxed now.”

“Good,” Kana says, softly, as if just to her, “Me, too.”

Keiji clears his throat. “Uh, I’m glad everyone is feeling lovely and mushy, but. We should tidy up the water bombs before anyone sees this.”

Satton and Kana excuse themselves rapidly, claiming that they need to stretch and meet up with their partner respectively. Keiji laughs as they walk off. “Lazy, those two. All the fun, none of the—”

“Technically,” Yuzu interrupts, “we did all the work, by preparing them.”

“I am not cleaning this up by myself!” Keiji says. “Shoma should do it.”

He turns to him. Shoma picks up one of the water bombs gingerly. There is hair stuck to it. It looks disgusting.

“Nah,” Yuzu says, and grabs one, too, “that’s okay.”

It seems unfair to corner Kaori a day before competition, so Shoma doesn’t. He’s survived so long with condoms crinkling underfoot, he can do one more day. If he takes a few pockets filled with condoms and stashes them in the joint bathroom, finally, nobody will have to know.

As he does it, he remembers something. Someone. Adam was delighted by these. Shoma could perhaps bring him, some.

Adam does not look confused by Shoma’s gift of a dozen condoms. If anything, his face brightens profusely.

“So you used them?” he asks. Shoma shakes his head. His head feels like a tomato.

“Oh well,” Adam says, “there’s still chances. You have a lot more of these after all.”

It’s only after Shoma has run off that he realises that there is no way Adam would know of Shoma’s condom problem. Unless someone told him. Unless he is complicit, somehow.

This prank is a lot more far-reaching than Shoma had assumed, if it transcends national boundaries.

That night, he visits Satton to bring her dinner. She just came back from the other rink, and was too tired to go grab her food, so Shoma offered. He tells her about his encounter with Adam just to make her laugh.

“So you were carrying condoms around just in case you met him somewhere?”

Shoma’s plan was absolutely successful. He nods, grins sheepishly.

“You know that could be misconstrued,” she continues, still giggling. She takes a bite of food.

“Do you think he thought it was an awkward preposition?”

Satton sways a little, head tilting one way then the other. “I don’t know. I doubt he thinks you want to have sex with him.”

The idea drives heat into Shoma’s head. It’s terrifying. Also embarrassing. Adam is.. Adam. He’s… not Yuzu. Shoma clears his throat. “Uh,” he says.

Satton laughs. “You look like a tomato! You know who really, really likes tomatoes?”

Shoma rolls his eyes at her. She laughs, bright and breathy.

“You could make use of all those condoms, you know,” she adds. “It’s not like anyone would judge you for it. And nobody will tell, either. It’s kind of… like what happens here happens in a bubble. It doesn’t touch real life.”

It’s probably why such a big amount of condoms is necessary. People are full of anxiety, full of adrenaline, here. It’s all pent-up energy that wants to be released. “I know,” Shoma says, slowly. Satton nods.

“You don’t have to,” she says, “you shouldn’t feel like it’s expected, because it isn’t. It’s just fun to embarrass you sometimes.”

Shoma is perpetually embarrassed at changing levels of intensity. He isn’t entirely sure if Satton is aware of this, but he isn’t going to tell her. Not when she is happily munching away, finally smiling.

Satton’s idea doesn’t leave Shoma. There is still a small pile of condoms on his nightstand. The longer they are there, the less sinister they seem. Perhaps he has just gotten used to their looming presence, or perhaps it is the fact that he has spend more nights in Yuzu’s bed than his own since they wrapped up competing.

He lies there, staring at them for a while. Then he texts Yuzu.

Yuzu is waiting. He throws Shoma a towel as soon as Shoma in in the door. Shoma catches it with his head, because his arms aren’t fast enough to reach up and Yuzu has startlingly bad aim.

It’s disorienting, but Yuzu is laughing, so it’s ok. Shoma pulls it off his head, and sticks his tongue out at him.

Yuzu laughs harder. “Your hair,” he says, and Shoma steps closer, “it’s ridiculous.”

Shoma’s hair is a tangled mess on a good day, and since he got it accidentally bleached he can barely get a comb through it. He’s not surprised when Yuzu’s fingers get stuck when he tries to fix the parts that are sticking up and out.

He’s very close. Satton’s suggestion echoes in Shoma’s head, but he doesn’t want that. It isn’t what he came for, the kind of irresponsible, consequence-free hook-up that seems to be the prevalent form of sexual intercourse in the Olympic village.

Shoma is so lost, here. He’s lost and he doesn’t quite know how to make sense of his feelings and perhaps the entire condom debacle was just an attempt at pushing it away from him.

Yuzu is close enough that his breath is warm on Shoma’s face. His fingers are still buried in Shoma’s hair.

What Shoma wants is what they had before. He wants to press closer and up, press his lips against Yuzu’s. he wants close contact, he wants Yuzu to know that this is more than friends, this is more than experimentation or whatever they kisses before were to Yuzu.

Everything else is a distraction. He thinks about Yuzu deftly filling a condom with water, sloshing it all over himself, laughing at Shoma and, oh. It’s a revelation, how much he likes him. He knows it, he has always known it, that friendship isn’t enough. He can’t sleep in Yuzu’s bed and not want to sleep there all the time, just because the sheets smell like him.

He wants to pick up where they left off last time, Shoma’s hands under Yuzu’s shirt and Yuzu’s thigh pressed against Shoma’s dick and there’s no need for condoms at that point because he isn’t ready for more, but that…

He wants that.

Yuzu tugs at his hair, fingertips scratching slightly at Shoma’s scalp, and Shoma sighs, a half-moan, and he doesn’t know when his eyes slipped shut, but blinking them open is difficult.

Yuzu is blushing, lips agape, eyes dark and intent and so, so close. He tugs again, and another noise makes it out of Shoma’s mouth. He doesn’t know what Yuzu is seeing in him, here, but whatever it is, he is jumping to all the right conclusions.

He tugs Shoma closer and Shoma goes, closes the gap, hands finding Yuzu’s hips and lips finding Yuzu’s lips, tilting his face up and letting Yuzu lick into his mouth. There’s no space for sighs, then. There’s no space for anything within Shoma but feeling.

It’s the first time Yuzu lets Shoma sleep in his bed without making him shower before. It may have something to do with how he peels him out of his clothes first, how he revels in the contact of skin against skin. They keep kissing. Shoma drifts in and out of sleep wrapped up in Yuzu, and every time consciousness catches up to him he finds a new patch of him to press his lips again, his shoulders, his neck, the thin skin behind his ear, but he returns to Yuzu’s lips every time.

It isn’t restful. They will not be doing this before competitions. And yet, Shoma wakes up happy. Tired, but smiling.

“I know what we can do with the condoms,” Yuzu whispers, and Shoma experiences a terrible sense of deja-vu. But then he laughs at Shoma’s grimace and kisses it off his face. “I kid, I kid,” Yuzu whispers between kisses.

Shoma isn’t entirely sure about that. He’ll keep a few of those Olympic condoms, just to make sure that they will have them when they’re ready.

“I don’t know if I could take your dick seriously if it was green,” he tells Yuzu while they are getting dressed. Yuzu laughs, high and whinnying. “Maybe red,” he offers once he’s calmed down. “I could deal with a red condom.”

Joking about condoms with Yuzu is one thing. Finding another huge pile on his bed upon arrival is another.

“KAORI!” Shoma yells. He’s too tired for this. He was planning on going to watch Kana and Chris rule and then go right back to sleep. He just did a walk of shame and he is wearing his.. Yuzu’s clothes.

Keiji sticks his head out of his room. “Shush, she’s gone to the rink.” He blinks, stares. “Nice shirt, Shoma… nice hickeys, too.” His laughter is loud enough to penetrate the door. Shoma’s face must equal a tomato. Again.

There’s nothing to do but change into a turtleneck and, for good measure, a scarf, and then Shoma leaves for the rink with Satton, Miu, and Keiji in tow.

They find Yuzu and Kaori there, saving them seats.

Shoma pierces her with a look.

“It wasn’t me,” Kaori bursts out. “or, it was me. I admit to sneaking into your room with a lot of condoms. But it wasn’t my idea.”

She waves at someone behind Shoma, eyes wide. When Shoma turns, he can see Adam waving back cheerfully. Betrayal! He had even gifted Adam some of the condoms. In hindsight, he had probably just returned them to their rightful owner. In hindsight, Adam’s questions make.. No, they do not make any sense.

“What do you mean?”

Yuzu looks equally confused. Satton, on the other hand, looks smug. Shoma should never have trusted her.

“Adam ordered the condoms online,” Kaori explains. “And I was going to leave just a few in your room as a joke, because of how you reacted when Kana threw some at you. But he had so many. Shoma, he ordered so, so many Olympic condoms he didn’t know what to do with them.”

“So.. why Shoma?” Yuzu interrupts her. Satton giggles, and waves back at Adam cheerfully.

“Well… I thought of it as a prank. But Adam thought it might help. With. Uh.” She points at Shoma. Then she points at Yuzu. Then she points at Yuzu’s neck. “And he was right!” she says. “It did!”

“That isn’t because—” Yuzu splutters. “that has nothing to do with the condoms, we didn’t get together because of…“

Well, that assuages Shoma’s fears in that regard. A few days later, before they head to gala practice, Shoma will ask Yuzu how he feels about being his boyfriend. Yuzu will smile, and kiss him, and tell him that they have to go on a date, first. Keiji will make kissy noises in the background. It will be extremely romantic.

“Oh,” Kaori says, crestfallen. “I thought… it would make you happy.”

She looks so sad and disappointed that Shoma can’t help but agree. “It was a good prank.”

Kaori looks up again. “Really?”

Shoma shrugs. “Yeah. I couldn’t figure it out, so… it was a good distraction.”

Satoko’s waving must have felt like an invitation to Adam, because he comes bounding down the ranks. He looks at Shoma and his turtleneck. He looks at Yuzu, and the hickey that is just visible over the collar of his shirt. He does a fist pump.

“CONGRATS!” Adam yells, and pulls even more condoms out of his pockets like confetti. They fall everywhere, with haunting, crinkly sounds.

Shoma looks upon them with horror. Then he picks one up. It will make a wonderful water bomb to throw at Adam’s head later.