• Hasetsu • 31 January 2017 • Yuuri •
Yuuri didn’t know what he expected coming into the Ice Castle after Europeans, but he really wasn’t prepared for the shining remodel that was underway. Already the roof had been lined with glittering new insulated panels, with a harness system spanning the length of the rink. The seating was cordoned off with tape and plastic for further construction, and the music coming over the speakers was richer, less tinny than the old, familiar sound system.
He stood stock still in the lobby Tuesday morning, mouth agape.
Victor glanced around, taking in the new changes. “Looks nice, let’s warm up,” and started to move forward, still holding Yuuri’s hand. He looked back when Yuuri’s fingers slid out of his without resistance. “Yuuchan? Are you all right?”
“It’s so…” Yuuri stopped, still staring.
“I know, right? I like our new sponsors. They wanted to make sure we’d have a good place to skate while Yura heals.”
Yuuri shook himself a little. “It was always the same, always. Like, even when I couldn’t count on anything else, this place was the same. I mean, new paint, sometimes a new piece of equipment, but this looks like a different rink.”
Yuuko came out from behind the counter with a smile. “Oh, you’re here! Look at it!”
Victor grinned. “It’s really lovely. Yuuri seems to be in shock, though.”
She laughed brightly. “I thought he might be. Look, Yuuri-kun, it’s good, right? The electric bill is already so much less.”
“Come on, Yuuchan,” Victor said. “We need to practice.”
“Right,” Yuuri said, gathering himself.
“I’ll take Makkachin,” Yuuko volunteered.
“Thank you!” Victor handed her the leash and slipped an arm around Yuuri’s shoulder. “Come on, stretches.”
• Mari •
Mari wasn’t at all surprised when Victor and Yuuri showed up for dinner, but she hadn’t quite expected Minako, Mila, and Lilia.
“How is Yurio?” Mari asked Victor as he found his familiar place.
“Yakov says he’s grumpy and bored, but that everything went well,” Victor said. “We’re going up tomorrow to visit.”
“I am going after dinner,” Lilia said as she eased herself to the floor next to Minako with a wince. “Yakov and Otabek are coming back tonight so that Otabek can practice.”
“I want to come,” Mila said, watching the two older ballerinas and then copying Minako’s position.
Lilia gave her a long look. “All right. But you head back midday, so that you will not miss too much practice. I will be leaving when Yuuri and Victor arrive.”
“You want me to come back alone?” Mila asked.
“It’s not hard,” Victor said with a dismissive flip of his bangs. “I can explain it to you. Everyone takes the train.”
Mila looked skeptical. “You speak Japanese, though. I don’t.”
“I don’t read it,” Victor said. “Not much anyway. You’ll be fine. If you’re not fine, we’ll send a taxi for you wherever you end up.”
Mari shook her head. “Minako, are you busy tomorrow?”
“Hmm?” Minako asked, pulling her eyes from the TV.
“Want to go shopping in Fukuoka? We could pick up Mila from the hospital, take her shopping, and then show her how to take the train back.”
“Can you afford the time away?” Minako asked.
“It is the middle of the week, the middle of the day, and as far from tourist season as we can get,” Mari said. “It’ll be fine.”
“Sure, it sounds like fun,” Minako said.
“See?” Mari said to Mila. “Not so bad, hm?”
Mila nodded, and took another bite of her vegetables.
• Victor and Yuuri •
When they arrived at the hospital the next afternoon, they found Yuri wide awake and looking grumpy, with Lilia sitting near his bed, reading.
“What are you two doing here?” Yuri snarled. “Where is my cat?”
“Your cat is fine,” Yuuri said. “He was pretty skittish when we first got there, but when Makkachin came home from Nishigori’s, Potya relaxed.”
“But you’re here, who’s with my cat?” Yuri asked.
“Nishigori and the girls are visiting until we get back this evening,” Victor was clearly trying to be reassuring, but it came out just patronizing enough to start winding Yuri up. “But he was fine while we were at the rink.”
Yuuri changed the subject. “How are you feeling?”
“Trapped, pissed off, and in pain,” Yuri said. “They won’t let me up. They’re making me exercise in bed so that my muscles don’t atrophy any more. And they’re weaning me off of the heavy drugs.” He held up his arm. “Look, no IV.”
“That’s good, though, right?” Yuuri said.
“The thing that was best for the pain they won’t give me without an IV, and they say it’s too hard on my kidneys to keep taking it,” Yuri said. “I’m not supposed to move, but I have to exercise.”
The door opened, and Nikolai came in. Yuri’s whole demeanor softened. “Dedushka!”
«Ah, Yurotchka, I got turned around but Yakov helped me find my way.» Nikolai put down two bags full of takeout.
«Avoiding the hospital food?» Victor asked.
«The food here is pretty good, actually,» Yuri said. «But he got me beef.»
«I wanted to walk around,» Nikolai said, pulling cartons out of the bag. «It would seem silly to come to another country and never see any of it. I got beef and noodles. Not stroganoff, but adequate. Meat is good for healing.»
They ate with Yuri and headed back after dinner to relieve Nishigori, who informed them when they arrived that Makkachin had been fed and walked and walked some more.
The kids were chattering with each other too fast for anyone else to follow as they got into the elevator to go.
Yuuri and Victor collapsed into bed about five minutes after they got undressed.
• 1 February 2017, Yuuri •
In the morning, Yuuri had a message waiting from Goldie.
Discussed with Yakov, probably better for you two to stay put in Japan for Super Bowl weekend. Gloria would like to send Mike to you so that we can accept satellite interview requests if you’re willing. It supports your sponsor and helps your name recognition in the US. But please consider coming to the US to do a publicity tour after Worlds.
Victor set something hot in front of Yuuri and looked over his shoulder. “You’ve been staring at that for five minutes; do I want to know?”
Yuuri blinked and looked over at Victor, and then angled the phone so Victor could see.
“Hm, yes, that would make things easier. There are shows that would happily have us who won’t if we’re not face to face, but this is good.”
“Worlds seems like a long way away,” Yuuri said.
Victor smiled. “It’s really not. We should start thinking about the off season. But maybe a trip to the US between Worlds and Team Trophy? Then a proper honeymoon after?”
Yuuri flushed and nodded, then said, “Where do you want to go?”
Victor smiled. “Anywhere it can be just you and me and no interruptions.”
With a thoughtful look, Yuuri let his fingers fly across the keyboard. A moment later, he turned the screen to Victor. “It’s a gay resort.”
Victor sat down abruptly next to Yuuri and gasped as he looked over Yuuri’s shoulder. “The whole thing?”
Yuuri laughed. “Phichit said they let straight couples in, but they’re an exception, not the rule.”
Victor breathed, “Amazing,” reverently, and then lit up with an idea. “When I retire, we should go on tours of gay resorts.”
“I’ll blow up like a balloon if we’re not working out,” Yuuri said.
Victor wrapped his arms around Yuuri and nuzzled against Yuuri’s neck. “I could keep you in shape.”
Yuuri ducked away from Victor’s tickling nose, laughing. “You can’t say things like that with a straight face, oh my god, Vitya.”
“You’re right.” Victor was way, way too serene.
Yuuri looked at him suspiciously. “I’m right about what?”
“I can’t say anything with a straight face.” Victor grinned.
Yuuri grabbed a pillow and lobbed it at Victor’s face, then shut the laptop quickly and slid it under the bed before Victor could retaliate.
They were not on time to practice.
• Yuri •
By Wednesday morning, two days after his surgery, it was obvious that Yuri was starting to heal, and the pain was getting easier to deal with, most of the time, thanks to a custom 3D-printed cast on his left foot and ankle and a high-tech brace for his hip.
Otabek had studied the brace and then called Yuri a cyborg. Yuri had complained but been secretly pleased that if he had to be trapped in a goddamn cage, at least it was a cool-looking black-and-metal high-tech goddamn cage.
But the biggest thing they bought him was the ability to get upright for short periods of time.
He was eternally grateful that Victor was not around to call him kotenok, for he was absolutely as weak as a kitten the first time he tried to get up, bed exercises or no bed exercises. But with a physical therapist on one side, and Otabek on the other, he was finally allowed to get up just long enough to sit back down again on a commode. He never thought he’d be so grateful for a portable toilet in his life, but too many days of catheters and bedpans left him ridiculously grateful and remarkably immodest about finally being able to crap upright, even if it was on an elevated, rolling monstrosity that someone else was going to have to look at, test, and flush.
He pretended to be annoyed at Otabek, who cheered his toileting efforts on as if he were some toddler learning to piss, but the relief was so great that his heart wasn’t really in it.
Afterwards, he kicked Otabek out, saying, «Show’s done. Get out of town. Take Yakov with you and for god’s sake, don’t come back until tomorrow. You need to skate.»
“What, no encore?” Otabek quipped.
Yuri, nearly flat on his back again, lifted just enough of his hand to flip Otabek off.
Yuliya came in not long after, with a determined look and a new pair of hair clippers.
«Oh, thank god for that,» Yuri said. «I can’t stay upright long enough to get the tangles out.»
They pored over haircut websites together, looking at hair shorter than Yuri had ever worn it.
«Lilia’s going to freak,» Yuri said, as they settled on a cut that wasn’t long enough to need much care.
Yuliya studied the picture of the cut. «If you ever want it to be femme, all you have to do is use a little product, comb it forward and down instead of up and and back, and put on a little bit of makeup.»
“Eh?” Yuri stared at the picture. «What do you mean?»
She turned the laptop and her fingers flew over the keyboard. She turned it back to a woman with a pixie cut, and he smiled.
Then the smile disappeared. «That only works when I have a baby face. I’m getting hairs.»
«Whatever, you could still totally pull off femme if you wanted,» Yuliya said. «You’ve got years before you start looking angular. If ever.»
“Do it,” Yuri said.
«Let me look at the instructions,» Yuliya said.
«Wait, tell me you’ve done this before.» Yuri tried to twist to see the laptop, which she’d turned towards herself, but was thwarted by the brace.
«I thought I could do it with clippers,» Yuliya said. «I’ve done those lots. Half my friends have stealth undercuts. But this is talking about scissors and I think you’d have to be up too long.»
Yuri sighed and stared at the ceiling. «Just shave it off. I’ll grow it out again.»
«Shave? Bald?» Yuliya held up a clipper comb. «I thought we’d leave it about…» she squinted at the comb, and then held up her fingers about three centimeters apart.
«As long as it doesn’t take too long and you can do it,» Yuri said.
She pulled a plastic cape out of the case and studied him, then put it on him backwards, spreading the plastic behind his head to catch the little hairs.
The process took longer than Yuri would have expected, and when she was done, it took a little maneuvering to get him in front of a mirror. She finally resorted to unlocking the wheels of the bed and carefully turning it to face the mirror over the sink.
His hair stuck out from his head, short, yes, but ragged and uneven where the comb had not picked up the hairs properly. He winced. «I think that might be too long. Isn’t it all supposed to be the same length?»
Yuliya frowned at his head and picked up her cell phone, speaking in rapid French, waving the clipper in one hand as her pitch and volume slowly escalated. Then she abruptly calmed down and said to Yuri as she ended the call, «Ivo is coming.»
Yuri stared at his reflection, already-fair skin pale with weariness, shorn hair rough and lifeless, and shades darker with the pale sun-bleached length missing.
«I’m so sorry,» Yuliya said. «I know it’s not as good as it should be.»
Yuri glanced over at her, and a tired half-smile managed to escape. «I seriously don’t care,» he finally said, after a moment spent looking for, but not finding, the upset she clearly expected. «It looks like anime hair. Kind of spiky. Chunky.»
She rolled her eyes and he looked back at the mirror. He’d lost weight, or stretched it out. He’d never really thought one way or another about cheekbones, but he could start to see that he would have them. He’d been used to looking at his reflection through hair half the time, but that shelter was gone. Looking with both eyes, he wasn’t sure he recognized himself in the gangly, dun-haired man lying in the hospital bed.
“What do you see?” Yuliya asked.
“An idiot.” Then he hastily added, “Me, not you.”
“For cutting your hair?” she asked.
He sighed. “For getting myself into this mess. I don’t care about the hair. If I cared, I wouldn’t have asked you to cut it.” He studied his reflection a moment longer. “Can I have the clippers?”
“Are you sure?”
He nodded. She handed it to him, and he said, “Can I see the other combs?”
He sorted through them, finding the second shortest one, and brought it up to his temple. It buzzed loudly against his temple as he dragged the comb back through the remains of his hair, then again lower, and lower, until the side of his head was covered in a short stubble that felt almost like cat fur in its directionality when he ran his hand over it, first one direction, then the other.
“You missed… can I try again? You just want the sides?” Yuliya asked.
He nodded, and handed her the clipper.
By the time Ivo got there, the sides and back were much better behaved.
“I left the top long,” Yuliya said to Ivo.
“I see,” Ivo said. “You want it longer?” He looked at Yuri, who nodded.
“Alright, let’s clean it up.” Ivo took his coat off and pulled a slim leather case out of the inside pocket, waving away the clippers.
Yuri closed his eyes as Ivo worked, cold metal at his temples, around his ears, only opening them when Ivo asked him to lean up so that he could tidy the back.
Finally, Ivo stood back, and Yuri looked at his reflection again. “I look like a real boy,” he said, dryly.
“So much for the pixie cut,” Yuliya said with a sigh.
Ivo laughed. “You can girl anything up with enough makeup.”
“I’m a girl and I almost never wear makeup,” she shot back.
“You don’t have to wear makeup to do the girl thing,” Ivo said. “Yuri does. Now, anyway.”
“I’m too tired to care. Boy, girl, whatever,” Yuri said. “I’d settle for being able to walk. And skate.”
“It will come,” Ivo said, brushing the prickling hairs off of Yuri’s skin with a practiced flick of the wide shoulder brush.
“You’ve done hair before?” Yuri asked.
“It’s how Stefan and I met,” Ivo said. “I was supporting my culinary art degree by cutting hair at college, and he needed to not shock his father after a semester of… experimentation.” He put a gentle hand under Yuri’s head and worked the shoulder cape out from under.
“Did it work?” Yuri asked.
“His father was shocked enough by Stefan being outed, the hair hardly mattered after the media got done with it,” Ivo said. “I think we’re content with how things are now. It may not be the life we planned, and the situation in Russia is dire, but we have a good life.”
“I just can’t understand why other people care,” Yuri said. “It’s none of their business.”
“One would think,” Ivo said. “And yet.”
“It looks good now,” Yuliya said. “Thank you, Yanko.”
Yuri ran a hand across his head and said, “It feels funny.”
“I always have my hands on Stef’s head after I’ve buzzed his,” Ivo said. “It’s like petting a cat.”
“Can I feel it?” Yuliya asked.
Yuri tipped his head in her direction and she scritched him behind the ears, dragging her fingers over the short ends of the hairs.
She laughed as he closed his eyes. “Your transformation into a cat is complete.”
“Shut up and keep doing that,” Yuri said.
“I rest my case,” she said.
• • •
With less hair, it was easier to ignore it. His scalp didn’t feel as awful from the lack of a real shower. Victor’s reaction was a little over the top when they came to visit on the weekend.
Victor stared and stared. “You worked all year on that.” His voice was sharp, accusing.
“Is he for real?” Yuri asked Yuuri.
Yuuri laughed, and turned to his husband. “Victor, how do you think the rest of the world felt when you cut yours?”
“At least I left some!” Victor gesticulated at Yuri’s head. “There’s nothing left!”
Yuuri rolled his eyes. “I cried over your hair. For weeks.”
“Same, actually,” Yuri agreed.
“Tell me at least you kept it,” Victor said.
“It wasn’t that long, really,” Yuliya said. “Not the way yours was.”
“You kept your hair?” Yuuri asked Victor.
“Of course I kept it!” Victor waved a dismissive hand. “I worked hard for it. It’s in a special box.”
“Why did you cut it, anyway?” Yuri asked. “I always wondered.”
Victor’s eyes darted sideways and then he sighed. “Because someone told me I never could. I proved to them I was more than my hair. And I started a winning streak, and decided to keep it short, and never really lost after that.”
Yuuri folded his arms over his chest and raised his eyebrows.
“You still miss it, don’t you?” Yuuri said.
“Yeah,” Victor said.
“Well, I don’t,” Yuri said. “It’s fine when you can take a shower every day and aren’t too tired to lift up your arms, but this way I don’t have to think about it.”
Later, Otabek came, stared at him for a long moment, grunted a noncommittal “Hm,” and that was that.