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• 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.

Victor sighed.

“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.

Chapter Text

• 6 February 2017 • Yuuri and Victor •

Because of the time difference, it was about 8:30 in the morning on Monday the 6th when the Versa ad played at the Super Bowl. Mike’s satellite feed played on the onsen’s TV, so that he could set up a shot with Victor and Yuuri framed with the traditional decor in the background as they watched.

Victor glanced over at the camera as Mike was setting up, and laced his fingers through Yuuri’s, carefully angling their hands so that their rings were easily visible.

As they watched the game, Victor looked vaguely perplexed, and Yuuri explained the rules to him.

“How do you know this?” Victor asked.

“Where did I live for five years?” Yuuri asked.

“I would have thought you were too busy for American Football,” Mila said from the other side of the room.

“There were parties outside. Phichit has a nose for parties,” Yuuri explained, and then turned to point out a play on the screen.

• • •

It didn’t matter that they’d lived it, filmed it, and previewed it. Seeing their story play out in a 30-second spot on the television in a series of other ads was completely surreal.

The room was buzzing with energy as the ad played. About twenty seconds in, Yuuri just buried his head against Victor’s shoulder, scarlet-faced, and refused to watch any more.

Victor stared with rapt attention through the whole thing.

As it ended, and another commercial started, the room erupted in conversation and exclamations.

Hiroko’s eyes were lively as she chattered at Minako about her son’s commercial. Minako looked over at Yuuri and asked Victor in quiet Russian, «Is your husband still breathing?»

Victor looked back at her, and then down at Yuuri. “Yuuchan?”

Yuuri made an incoherent squeak of embarrassed overwhelm.

Victor turned a little and said to Minako, “Da. He’s just, hm… daunted.”

Mike, tucked in a corner with three separate computers arrayed in front of him, said, “I have our first interview request.”

Victor looked back down at Yuuri. “I’m not sure he’s able to do that yet.”

“No hurry,” Mike said. “We’ve got another three hours or so before they want us. Oh. And another for a morning show…. Ah… that would be about 7 pm tonight.”

Yuuri picked his head up. “Vitya, do you know how many people just watched that? Watched me?”

“Millions?” Victor said.

Lutz looked up from the laptop she was sharing with her sisters. “Last year, 167 million.”

Yuuri made a small, incoherent noise and tried to hide behind Victor and under a low table at the same time, with limited success.

Victor laughed. “Yuuri, you knew this. What did you think we were doing when we filmed that commercial?”

Hiroko put a hand on Victor’s shoulder and said, “Just give him a minute to catch up.”

Victor glanced down at his phone, and said, “I think they liked it. At least the ones we care about.”

Yuuri groaned.

Victor climbed to his feet, and tugged Yuuri up.

“What?” Yuuri asked.

「My apologies,」 Victor said to the room. 「We will return in a few minutes.」

• • •

Yuuri’s old room still had a bed and a desk, but nothing else. Even the mattress was bare. Victor knew his old room had been dismantled as well, and he had a momentary panic that there was no familiar place for Yuuri to settle down, when Yuuri folded to the floor next to the bed and then rolled onto his side.

Victor sat on the floor next to him, and waited.

After a few minutes, Victor lay down on his side, facing Yuuri, and curled himself in the exact same position, sliding the fingers of his right hand between Yuuri’s and propping his head on his other hand.

Finally Yuuri said, “You should go be social.”

“Why?” Victor asked. “You’re the one I care about.”

Yuuri’s fingers tightened around his.

“You have nothing to be ashamed of,” Victor said.

“I’m…” Yuuri pushed himself upright and leaned his head back against the mattress. “I’m not ashamed. I’m embarrassed. I’d be embarrassed if I won gold and people wanted to interview me. They’re going to want me to say something, and I know I don’t know how to find the balance between being a lump and oversharing.”

Victor looked up at him, and then rolled over to put his head on Yuuri’s lap. “So maybe you should let me play the fool? I honestly don’t care how much of a dork I am on international TV.”

Yuuri’s hand went automatically to Victor’s hair, and he ran his fingers through the silky stuff as he chuckled and said, “I always loved it when you were a dork on international television.”

“Cut yourself some slack,” Victor said. “Why do you assume your fans don’t feel exactly the same way? The only reason I feel anything negative about you being goofy on TV is that you take it to heart so much.”

“I can’t help it,” Yuuri said.

“Throw me the questions,” Victor said. “Say things if you want to, but I’m happy to be a big enough dork for both of us.”

Yuuri smiled sheepishly, his voice soft. “You know, I’m head over heels in love with you.”

Victor reached up and cupped his hand around Yuuri’s cheek. “I loved seeing our story.”

“Selling credit cards?” Yuuri asked.

“It’s not like most people don’t already have them,” Victor said. “That ad was ground-breaking, and they’re going to say that so many times in the next three days that it will register on the Richter scale.”

“We should make a drinking game,” Yuuri said. “Oh. Maybe without the booze.”

“One sip for every time they mention that we’re a same-sex couple,” Victor said.

“A gulp every time they ask about Russia,” Yuuri shot back.

“Can we do body shots every time they ask about our sex lives?” Victor asked.

Yuuri snorted. “Only in our heads.”

“I’d take a rain check,” Victor said, and then rolled over lightning-quick to pull up Yuuri’s shirt and lick his belly.

Yuuri shrieked, and then clapped a hand over his own mouth.

Victor stared up at him with a ridiculous grin. “Sorry,” he said, without the least hint of apology in his tone.

“A sip for every time they ask you how you felt when I showed up on the ice,” Yuuri said.

“You know if we really did this we’d be smashed in an instant,” Victor said.

“We’d certainly be a scandal to the ISU,” Yuuri said.

“Mmm, scandal,” Victor said with a silly grin.

• • •

After the game, Mike set them up for the remote interview with ZNN, complete with earpieces and lapel mics.

Several times during the short interview, when an obvious question was asked, Yuuri and Victor glanced at each other, shared the small smile of an inside joke, and then moved on, answering the questions anyway.

• Otabek •

With all the chaos Monday morning at the onsen, all the coaching staff tied up there, and the inevitability of a daylong media siege, Otabek slipped away and jogged to the now-familiar train station to catch the train to Fukuoka.

When he arrived in Yuri’s hospital room, Otabek said bluntly, “So, do you have any interest whatsoever in American football?”

Yuri rolled his eyes.

A half smile quirked briefly at the side of Otabek’s mouth. «Do you want to see their commercial?»

«Saw most of it,» Yuri said. «You used to live in the States, do you want to see the game?»

Otabek shrugged. «Not my sport.»

«No practice today?» Yuri asked.

«Yakov told me to take a rest day. Last one before we leave.» Otabek shifted the chair over and pulled his laptop out of his bag.

«I want to see your program,» Yuri said.

“Patience, Grasshopper,” Otabek intoned, as he opened a folder full of practice videos.

Yuri backhanded Otabek’s upper arm with a frustrated swat. «You’re not that much older than me.»

• • •

Otabek didn’t leave until long after dinner, which they shared with Nikolai, Katya, and Yuliya.

«Don’t take this the wrong way,» Yuri said, «but I don’t want to see you back here until after 4cc.»

Otabek rolled his eyes. «We’re leaving from Fukuoka. You going to be pissed if I visit before we leave?»

«Of course,» Yuri said, not quite looking at him. «But don’t let that stop you.»

• Yuri •

Eight days after his surgery, while the inestimable Dr. Nakajima examined his now-exposed surgical incision, Yuri asked, “What do I have to do to get out of here?” He was lying on his stomach on the bed, painfully aware of his ass hanging out of the sheets.

“Your most recent scans are excellent,” she said, running a finger along the edges of the cast around his foot. “I want to see how you do on crutches, and if you can manage that, we might let you do your rehabilitation on an outpatient basis.”

“What does that mean in regular English?” Yuri asked.

“Hm. Mr. Feltsman has described your new living situation, and it is acceptable to me if you go live there and attend your rehabilitation from your new home. You will have a home nurse to assist you until you do not need assistance.”

“I can go home?” Yuri said, wonder in his voice.

“Possibly tomorrow or the next day,” Dr. Nakajima agreed. “But first, we need to make sure that you can safely transfer with minimal help.”

He’d been working on transferring for a few days, so he nodded. “Watch me.”

• • •

It turned out to be a good thing the staff were watching him, because he fell, trying to push himself, and was caught by a strong therapist. He didn’t go home the next day, but the day after, he managed to successfully navigate himself from his bed, onto crutches, and onto the commode, and most importantly, back again, so the doctor gave her approval and discharged him.

This proved to be a more elaborate process than he’d expected, since she didn’t want him taking the train yet, and he ended up in a non-emergency medical transport.

At the new house, his “room” was in the middle of everything, but the bed had a bar over it and railings to help him maneuver.

Most importantly, it had his cat.

Chapter Text

• February 13, 2017 • Yuuri •

On the plane to Seoul, Yuuri’s fingers kept straying to his ring, twisting it absently as he stared out the window.

After half an hour of watching Yuuri’s tension build, Victor leaned over and murmured, “Something on your mind, Yuuchan?”

Yuuri startled and glanced over to find Victor’s face startlingly close to his own. He blinked, and then kissed Victor’s nose, which had the precisely desired effect of startling Victor upright.

Victor wrinkled his nose. “I wasn’t fishing for kisses, I really do want to know. You seem… hm. Preoccupied.”

“Just thinking about Phichit,” Yuuri said. He opened his mouth as if he was going to say more, and then shut it again.

“Oh?” Victor gestured for Yuuri to continue.

“Ah…” Yuuri looked down at his ring. “I just… the last time I saw him he was teasing me because we’re married and I couldn’t tell him anything about our shared finances, because we don’t share them.” Yuuri’s eyes widened as his own words registered, and he said, “Not that I would tell him even if I knew! It was just that he… He seemed to think I should? I told him that I didn’t marry you for your money and I have money of my own, so it’s not like I really need to know, right?”

Victor blinked. “Of course you need to know. I… I don’t know how much you have either. For that matter, I don’t really watch my own money too closely.”

Yuuri’s brows furrowed for a split second, and Victor laughed. “The look on your face. I’m not careless. It’s just most of it is in a portfolio I set up so that I wouldn’t have to look at it too often. I give myself an allowance out of that, and every so often the account I draw from gets high enough that I don’t bother taking it for a month or two. And some months are more expensive than others.”

He reached down below the seat in front of them and slid his small computer out of his bag, and booted it up.

“You’re not logging into a bank on the airplane’s wifi?”

Victor rolled his eyes. “Tony set me up with a thing to make it more secure.”

Yuuri glanced around business class. No one was in a position to read Victor’s screen. “Okay.”

Victor pulled up a banking firm’s page and logged in, then angled the screen for Yuuri.

Yuuri’s eyes widened. “Six…” He’d taken enough financial classes in the States to have a good understanding of the value of six million US dollars.

“Hang on,” Victor said. “That’s just the index fund and long term bonds.”

He opened another tab and logged into an investment firm’s site. “This is where I play the market.”

A series of graphs opened up, a few angled downward, but several rising steeply.

“What year did you buy the Amazon stock?” Yuuri asked.

“Oh, most of it was in 2007 and 2008. Netflix, too. That was right after I got control of my money, the first big sponsorship payment, and after watching my parents burn through so much, I decided I didn’t want that to happen to me.”

Yuuri reached across and touched one of the graphs. It expanded to fill the screen with detailed information on profits and reinvestment. “You picked well.”

“I don’t keep the ones I don’t like,” Victor said. “I invest in companies that people like and use, as long as I think they’re managing themselves well.”

“Still,” Yuuri said. “How much did you start with in that account?”

“I’ve put in about a hundred thousand US. In that part of the portfolio. Not counting reinvested dividends and interest. But it’s been growing for the ten best years that market has ever had. Most of my money just goes into an index fund because the index is the most consistent. This account is just one I play with.”

Yuuri’s mouth went dry. “You just play with two…” He lowered his voice. “Two million dollars?”

Victor shrugged. “It does well, no? I never spend it. Why not?”

“You spend all the time,” Yuuri said. “I’ve never seen someone spend money the way you do.”

“Yes, but I don’t spend any of this. It’s just paper until I cash something out. Which I might, if we decide to buy a house someday. I don’t quite have enough for that in my spending account.”

Yuuri leaned back and stared at the little lights over their seats, trying to get his mind around it.

“There,” Victor said. “That’s my spending account.”

Yuuri glanced at the screen and made a small, incoherent noise. “But that’s five mi…” he stopped and lowered his voice. “Five million?”

“It’s just rubles,” Victor said. “Not even a hundred thousand in US dollars. Ten million yen, give or take.”

“Just,” Yuuri said, shaking his head. “So what’s your total?”

“About half a billion rubles, ish.” Victor looked thoughtful. “Maybe eight and a half million US? Not so much as to make me careless, enough that I don’t worry. And neither should you. If you ever need something, or just want it, ask.”

“I do have my own money,” Yuuri said reflexively.

“Still,” Victor said. “What’s mine is yours.”

“Same.”

Yuuri stared at the screen, and then reached over and tapped one of the tabs. “What’s your exposure here if the US does sanctions against Russia?”

“Probably nothing,” Victor said. “I think? Those are mostly against big political players that are close to Putin. I worry more about keeping money in Russia. I pay my taxes there, but I wouldn’t put it past them to freeze my assets to try to control me.”

Yuuri shuddered.

“Anyway, the next time we’re in the States together, I’ll add you to my accounts,” Victor said.

“I should do the same for you,” Yuuri said.

“So how much do you have?” Victor asked.

“I’ve been with you since I earned every penny of it,” Yuuri said, rolling his eyes. “You should have a pretty good idea.”

Victor leaned over and put his head on Yuuri’s shoulder. “I showed you mine…”

Yuuri laughed, and pulled the laptop over to his lap. “Nothing so dramatic. And I haven’t invested a lot yet, so the bank balance is high…”

“You have time to make decisions about that,” Victor said.

Yuuri nodded. His investment would be a little more concrete than the stock market. In fact, quite a lot of concrete, if he had his way.

• Yuri •

Lilia and Nikolai were staying behind with Yuri while the rest of the skaters and Yakov and Minako headed to Korea. The house was very Japanese, and lovely, but also spare and the adults were quiet.

Yuri was so relieved when Yuuko and the girls showed up he forgot to be surly.

The girls were excited about something, so excited that they forgot to use English, and their Japanese was way, way too fast to follow. Yuri laughed at their enthusiasm and shot a confused look at Yuuko.

「Girls, quiet down a minute. Give him a chance to breathe. Why don’t you go find Makkachin?」

The girls tumbled out into the other room, and Yuri asked, “What’s that about?”

Yuuko sighed. “I’m pregnant. And it’s all your fault.”

His jaw dropped, and she giggled. “The look on your face!”

“I’m pretty sure I would have known if I’d done something to cause that,” Yuri said.

“No, you just watched the girls and sent us for a spa day we didn’t plan on,” Yuuko said.

“Wait, you got knocked up at the wedding?” Yuri shifted in the bed to look at her more carefully. “Are you okay? Are you happy?”

She laughed. “I wasn’t planning on another, but as long as it’s not twins, I think a baby could be a lot of fun. The girls are so happy.”

Yuri rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling. “Huh.”

“That’s it?” Yuuko asked.

“Give me a minute, I’m processing,” Yuri said. “I mean, congratulations. And are you going to name the kid Salchow or Flip?”

She laughed. “Probably not Salchow. I mean, we could name it Twizzles, right?”

“Please don’t name the kid Twizzles,” Yuri said. “Flip’s cool, though.”

She looked thoughtful. “Maybe so.”

“Have you told Yuuri-san yet?” Yuri asked.

“We thought that since you’re at least partly responsible, we ought to tell you first.”

He blinked. “I’m… I’m honored. And I’ll pay my debt for child support in babysitting…”

“Really?” she said, astonished. “I wasn’t expecting… Have you ever even held a baby?”

“Psh,” he said. “Not the baby. The older ones. They’ll drive you up a wall, otherwise. You’ll have a million other people wanting to hold your spawn. The kids are fun.”

She laughed. “Okay.”

• 14 February 2017 •

Victor and Yuuri both woke up to their alarms at the same time, frowned at each other, and started to say, “Why don’t you go back to sleep,” in unison, cutting off in confusion once they realized they were echoing each other.

They wore looks of equal consternation when a knock at the door heralded their breakfast. Breakfasts, actually, as they’d each apparently ordered for the both both of them, and there were now four meals.

“I was going to bring you breakfast in bed,” Victor said, only a little ruefully, as they sat down together at the small table in their bright white hotel room.

“Same,” Yuuri said, lifting up a cloche. “For Valentine’s day.”

“I was going to surprise you,” Victor said. “But I’m thinking maybe we should compare notes now?”

“Let’s pick out what we want to eat and give the rest to Phichit and Otabek,” Yuuri said, smiling.

Victor laughed, and a few minutes later the other two skaters showed up in bathrobes to have trays unceremoniously shoved at them through a half-open door.

• 15 February 2017 •

The day before the official start of the event was filled with practice, media, and a really odd interview with the ISU, who danced around the subject of their marriage until Victor finally snapped, saying, “Are you concerned about something in particular, or are you just satisfying your curiosity?”

An older British woman said, “Your situation is unique. If your marriage is legal, have either of you changed your names?”

At that, they blinked, looked at each other, and then shook their heads. “We haven’t discussed it,” Victor said. “Until we tell you otherwise, please simply keep our names as they are. We’ve broken no rules, and neither of us plans to let our relationship get in the way of competing.”

Yuuri nodded, and Victor continued, “If there’s nothing else?”

“No, I think that’s all clear,” the senior ISU official said.

Later, at lunch, they relayed the conversation to Phichit and Otabek.

Phichit looked intrigued and said, “You know, there’s really only one thing for you to do with your names. It’s so obvious.”

“What, hyphenate?” Yuuri asked.

Phichit rolled his eyes. “Katsuki Yuuri Nikiforov, you should know my solutions are much more elegant.”

“That would make me Katsuki Victor Nikiforov!” Victor exclaimed with a delighted smile.

Yuuri buried his head in his hands. “That literally works for neither of our countries. Japanese people do not have middle names. Russians are required to have three, but not like that. I won’t be able to fit anything on any form anywhere if we hyphenated, but this… literally the only place we could use it is in the States.”

“Maybe I’ll change mine, when I retire,” Victor said. “It’s not like I care much about where I come from. And I care very much about where you come from. I could live happily as Katuski Victor.”

Yuuri stared at him. “You would take my name?”

“I mean, we could share it,” Victor said.

“What if I wanted to take yours?” Yuuri asked.

“Yuuri Nikiforov?” Victor asked.

Yuuri flushed.

“You could trade,” Otabek said dryly.

“I think we shouldn’t change anything until we’re truly retired,” Victor said.

“It’s a lot of paperwork,” Yuuri agreed. “And we’re going to be busy forever.”

“I can’t change my name in Russia without braving Russia,” Victor said. “And I wouldn’t want to ask you to do something I cannot.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” Yuuri said, “but it does seem practical to keep our existing names.”

“For now,” Phichit said. “I’m still rooting for Katsuki Victor Nikiforov.”

“Phichit, it doesn’t even make sense,” Yuuri whined.

Phichit looked affronted. “You were the one who doodled that in kanji and Cyrillic in your note margins!”

Victor’s delight was radiant. “Yuuchan?”

“I…” Yuuri sighed. “Yes, I did, but that doesn’t mean it would work.”

“When was this?” Victor leaned forward, eyes sparkling.

“Literally as long as I’ve known him,” Phichit declared. “It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure it out.”

“If I wanted you to read it, I would have written it in English,” Yuuri said.

“Wait, how long have you known my alphabet?” Victor asked, and without waiting for a reply, continued, “Yuuchan, did you learn it for me?”

Otabek snorted. “As if that’s an actual question.”

Yuuri buried his face in his hands.

“I don’t know why you’re embarrassed,” Victor said. “I started taking Japanese lessons in January of last year.”

Yuuri’s reply was muffled by his hands. “You had met me already.”

“Once,” Victor said. “Japanese is hard.”

Phichit stood up. “You two are adorable, but I need to get back to the ice.”

• 17 February 2017 • Yuri •

The 4cc men’s short program competition played in the background in Japanese as the lower level competitors went, group by group.

Hiroko had insisted on setting up a proper place for Yuri in the common room of the onsen, so that he could watch the skating and be with family without stressing his hip. While it had been complicated getting out of the the house, once settled in at Yu-topia, the relief of being out among people after so long in bed had Yuri in a fantastic mood. The little girls buzzed around, chattering incomprehensibly fast unless they were right next to him, and seemed to be doing a joint running commentary of the worst skaters.

Nikolai and Lilia had both been afforded actual chairs in deference to their back and knees, respectively. And Makkachin seemed enthralled by the entire business.  

During the next to last group, Yuuko and Nishigori showed up, to be briefly mobbed by kids and dog and then ignored completely.

Yuri figured out as the last group started warming up that the girls had been starting a list.

「What’s it for?」 he asked in his halting Japanese.

Axel answered in English, “Yuuri wants an exhibition at the rink in the summer. So we’re deciding who to invite.”

“Am I on that list?” Yuri asked.

There was a brief consultation, then Loop straightened, put her hands on her hips, and said in her most imperious tone, “Only if your doctor says you can.”

“Duh,” he shot back.

“You won’t be ready to jump more than doubles by then, most likely” Lilia said from across the room.

“It’s an exhibition,” Yuri said. “I don’t have to jump more than doubles.”

The bustle continued, and then Lutz shushed everyone. “Leo’s up!”

The speed at which the girls’ attention shifted startled Yuri. “What’s so special about him?”

The three girls turned in unison. “It’s Leo.” They giggled, and then turned back to the screen just as the music started.

The first two competitors put up scores that would have topped the standings just a few years prior, but which were unlikely to put either of them on the podium. Yuri didn’t really care about either of them; they might be good, but they weren’t in the same class as the people he cared about.

Then Phichit took the ice, and he paid closer attention. Yuuri tended to talk about the Thai skater a lot, so Yuri knew that there might be something to new to see.

The beginning of the routine was familiar, but when Phichit went up into a quad Salchow and then comboed into a triple toe loop, Yuri found himself yelling, despite a two-footed landing.

«It’s okay that he had two feet there?» Nikolai asked.

«Yes, grandfather,» Yuri answered without looking away. «It would be better with one, but he’s never landed that jump in competition before. Having two quads lets him do up to four quads in the free. He’s just jumped to a new…»

On screen, Phichit went up into a quad toe, and landed it smoothly.

Yuri grinned in spite of himself and continued, «…he’s at a new level if he can do more than one kind of quad. I won the Grand Prix final with two quads.»

«You like the competition?» Nikolai asked.

«He lives for the competition,» Lilia answered. «He’d rather lose to someone who skates beautifully than win against incompetents.»

«I’d rather beat someone who skates well than someone who can’t,» Yuri said. «It means more.»

Phichit’s step sequences and spins sparkled, and the look on his face was radiant as he came to a stop.

“Oh, he looks so happy,” Hiroko said with a smile. “Yuuri will be glad.”

“Yuuri-san is probably back there with ear plugs and nerves and…” Yuri stopped, as Phichit was shown skating off the ice, where a very excited Yuuri Katsuki was greeting him with a huge hug.

Everyone stared.

Yuri spoke first. “He’s going to blow them out of the water.”

“JJ skates last,” Axel said.

Highlights played for a couple of minutes, and then the camera returned to Phichit as the scores went up. 100.58 showed first, with PB showing up a moment later.

The room erupted.

“Go, Chulanont,” Yuri said softly, torn between the ubiquitous frustration of not being able to get out onto the ice and the relief that he would not, like Victor, face years between worthy opponents after they retired.

The camera switched back to the ice, where Otabek was sliding into position.

“Davai,” Yuri whispered, and then jumped a little as Otabek flicked his thumbs up and back. It almost looked like a stretch, except…

“Was that for you, Yuri?” Lutz asked.

“Of course it was,” Loop said.

Otabek was skating strongly, but to Yuri’s eye, seemed a little distracted. He’d done 112-plus at the GPF in the short, but this didn’t quite sparkle the same way.

Six minutes later, the score came up a respectable 107.97.

“That’s great, yes?” Toshiya asked.

“He’s done better,” Lilia answered. “Maybe if JJ falls down…”

“Shhh, it’s Yuuri’s turn,” Hiroko said.

Katsuki was electric, and worse, playing up the sex even more than Giacometti. His flip was very good, and he stuck the quad Lutz/triple loop combo, though it wasn’t as elegant as Yuri knew it could be.

He sighed, not knowing if it was in relief that his world record would be safe for now, or at the fact with the increased jump difficulty, all Yuuri had to do in order to take that record at Worlds would be to smooth out jumps Yuri knew for a fact he’d be able to do well with another month of practice.  

If it had been loud before, the noise was deafening from the moment Yuuri came to a stop, then through him running headlong into Victor’s arms at the rink entrance, and through every highlight. And it only got louder when the score came up. 113.02. A personal best by over three points.

Yuri smiled, closed his eyes for a minute, and then said without opening them, “I’m tired, could someone take me home?”

“You don’t want to see JJ?” Yuuko teased.

“I’m trying to pretend he doesn’t exist,” Yuri muttered.

He ended up having to see JJ anyway, because no one else wanted to leave before the end.

The score came up, and Yuri sighed. 113.03. “He’s going to be insufferable.”

“I thought he already was,” Yuuko said, laughing.

“More insufferable,” Yuri said. “That asshole.”

Lilia gave a small, close-lipped, almost predatory smile, and said, “Don’t worry, Yuri. Yuuri-san will wipe the floor with him during the free.”

“He better.” With his nerves? I hope so.

• Sunday, 19 February 2017 • Yuuri • Before the free skate •

“Yuuri Katsuki!” JJ’s voice rang brash through the backstage area as he came in from the locker room.

Yuuri glanced over.

“Do you need me to run interference?” Victor’s voice was quiet and intense in Yuuri’s ear.

Yuuri snorted. “He’s just trying to rattle me.”

JJ came over. “Congratulations, you two! Getting married in the middle of the season… even JJ wouldn’t do that. Must have been really distracting. Hard to polish your program when you’re traveling so much.”

Phichit called from down the hall, “His last free skate broke a world record, Leroy. How much more polishing do you think it needs?”

“You have what, three different quads now?” JJ said to Yuuri. “Maybe you’ll catch up eventually.”

“Catch up to what?” Victor started, but Yuuri elbowed him silent.

“You mean the quad Lutz?” Yuuri’s face was perfectly calm. “Or the quad flip? Have you landed one of those yet?”

“Lutz?” JJ said.

Yuuri smiled, and Phichit said, “Didn’t you pay attention to the short program? Yuuri’s quad Lutz-triple loop combo is so sick, and he does it in the second half. You’re only ahead by one one-hundredth of a point. Don’t act like you’ve got a lead.”

JJ blinked. Phichit held out his phone, video playing, and JJ squinted at it.

“Hey, Yuuri,” Phichit said. “How has your quad Axel practice been going on the harness?”

A momentary look of confusion flicked across Yuuri’s face until he caught the faintest wink from Phichit. JJ was still staring at the video of Yuuri’s most perfect Lutz-loop combo from practice.

Yuuri rolled his eyes. “If I was practicing a quad Axel, do you really think I’d want to advertise it?”

“Oh, I should show you what he did at Europeans while they were warming up for the exhibition!” Phichit said. “There was a quad flip, quad toe, triple loop, triple loop, in perfect combination.”

“But you wouldn’t even get points for…” JJ started, and then stared at the video, his face pale.

“It was just screwing around at an exhibition rehearsal,” Yuuri said. “I didn’t have to compete, so I was just messing around. I probably wouldn’t do two quads in combination with each other because I don’t want to miss out on the GOE for the second quad. There are eight jumping passes, and I have to save energy for all of them. I’d much rather jump the quads separately for maximum points.”

JJ stared at him for a long moment, and then, subdued, said, “I need to warm up.”

“Have fun,” Phichit called out as JJ hurried off.

• Yuri •

Nishigori brought Yuri and Nikolai over to the onsen for the last part of the free skate on Sunday, and helped him without comment at every stage of the process.

As Yuri leaned back on the makeshift chaise in the common room, he said, low and quiet, “Arigato.”

Nishigori rolled his eyes and waved his hand. “It’s nothing.”

“It’s something to me,” Yuri said.

“You’re not the first broken skater I’ve helped,” Nishigori said. “And you won’t be the last. It’s really not a big deal.”

“What have I missed?” Yuri asked. “Has Otabek gone yet?”

“They’re on the last group,” Yuuko said. “Guang Hong is skating now.”

“Any surprises?” Yuri asked.

“Seung-Gil landed everything. He’s in first right now,” Lutz answered.

“Leo still doesn’t have a quad, but he was so beautiful,” Loop sighed.

Axel pointed at the screen. “Guang Hong fell on his first jump, but he’s okay now I think.”

They watched as Phichit put up the free skate of his life, clearing 200 for the first time ever and landing three quads in the process. When his score came up, it was just barely higher than Seung-Gil’s total.

“He probably won’t medal unless they underscore Otabek again,” Yuri said. “He’s got Beka, Yuuri-san, and JJ still to go.”

Phichit looked stunned and delighted in the Kiss and Cry, and then the camera shifted to Otabek, taking position at center ice.

Otabek was electric. Within the first minute of the program, he put up three quads, including a quad Lutz that he bobbled but did not touch down on. Yuri found himself cheering and felt a hand on his shoulder, Nishigori, keeping him from trying to sit up.

“He’s really improved his transitions,” Lilia said, as Otabek spun and then went up in a good quad Sal.

“When did he get the Lutz down?” Yuri asked.

“Yuuri helped him with it on the new harness,” Lilia said.

Yuri watched the rest of the program, delighted. “He did four quads. He landed all four. He’s going to medal.”

The replay caught each one, and Otabek’s savage satisfaction at the end. Then the camera cut to Otabek, sitting next to Yakov, who looked remarkably relaxed as he spoke to Otabek, who laughed, gave a sheepish shrug, and nodded.

“What did he say?” Axel asked.

“Probably something about the Lutz,” Yuri said. “Otabek knows what he needs to work on with it, though, and he doesn’t…”

The score flashed up, and Yuri shouted incoherently. His free skate score was just shy of Phichit’s, but his total put him at the top of the ranking, with only two skaters left.

“Why didn’t he beat Phichit? He had four quads?” Mari asked.

“GOE,” Lilia said. “Phichit’s jumps were all clean and a little more polished. It was just enough.”

The camera shifted to Yuuri, standing at the opening with Victor, heads together. Victor murmured something. Yuuri blushed, kissed Victor’s cheek, and skated out onto the ice, waving to the crowd before he settled into position.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in that good a mood before a free skate,” Lilia said.

Yuri managed to restrain himself from speculating on the subject of what might have relaxed Katsuki Yuuri, and watched as the familiar strains of “Yuri on Ice” played.

By the third jump, Yuri muttered, “He’s going to break his own record if he doesn’t fall.” The technical score reflected more +3 GOEs than most programs would ever see. “I wonder who gave him less than a three on that second jump?”

“Shhh,” Yuuko said.

Yuuri went up into a quad flip, and Yuri said, “What the hell?”

“Hm?” Hiroko’s tone was gently chiding but she didn’t take her eyes off the screen.

“He does that at the end if he’s going to… what…” Yuri stared as Yuuri nailed his triple Axel-single loop-triple Sal. “He’s got another combo and he hasn’t… oh my god.”

Compared to the other jumps, it lacked flow, and Katsuki actually looked a little tired coming out of it. But he’d just landed his quad Lutz-triple loop in the last half of his program and the technical score bounced up just over 21 points. “Holy fuck,” Yuri breathed as the room erupted. “He did five quads.”

The step sequence following, which Yuuri usually nailed, only gained a point from the GOE, instead of his usual max, but he did fine on the triple flip at the end, and if the final combination spin lacked a little bit of the speed one might normally expect from a performance with a mere four quads in it, the radiant triumph on Yuuri’s face more than made up for it as he came to his final pose, gesturing to Victor and already crying happy tears.

The footage cut to Victor’s reaction, and behind him, JJ looked completely stunned.

“Is 140.62 good?” Toshiyo asked.

“That’s just his technical score, Taasan,” Mari said. “They give him more points for artistry.”

Yuri didn’t realize he was crying until Lilia reached over and handed him a handkerchief.

«Happy tears or sad?» Lilia asked.

«Frustrated. Happy for him. I want to skate. I want to learn how to beat him and I’m falling farther and farther behind.»

«Yurochka, you have barely begun. You have so much time.»

«I know!» Yuri hissed. «I do. Does he? Will I even get to try before they stop?»

The replay ended and the camera found Victor and Yuuri forehead to forehead in the Kiss and Cry, already looking emotional, with Yakov sitting on Yuuri’s other side, looking like he was trying desperately to come up with something useful to say and failing. As the score came up, Yakov gasped, and then shook Yuuri to get him to look away from Victor and at the score.

Victor’s jaw dropped, and then he tackled both Yuuri and Yakov at the same time.

Yuuri squinted, blinked, was nearly bowled over by Victor, and then they could clearly see his mouth shape, “JJ.”

“There’s no way JJ is beating that,” Yuri said. “He just got 239.82 and smashed his own world record. JJ would have to land a quad Axel or some shit.”

“Language, Yuri,” Lilia said. “Don’t count JJ out.”

“I really want to, though,” Yuri said. “Maybe he’ll fall.”

Lilia snapped, “Do not wish ill on your competitors.”

The camera found JJ at center ice, looking paler than usual but plastering on a media smile.

His routine started on time this time, but he fell on the first jump.

Yuri winced. “I didn’t mean it.”

The next jump went better, but the quad-triple became a quad-double. The flying camel spin was acceptable, the choreographic sequence lacked a certain zest, and Yuri knew that the competition was going to be for second place, if that.

JJ apparently thought he might have a chance, because he went up in the highest triple Axel Yuri had ever seen.

It was so fast that it took Yuri a minute to figure out what had happened. JJ landed forward, and fell, getting up quickly but dragging a little into the next jump.

“Was he trying to do a quad Axel?” Yuri asked aloud.

“It doesn’t matter,” Lilia said, as JJ turned what should have been a level 4 spin into a level 2 spin.

“No?”

“He’s hurting,” Lilia said. “Knee or ankle, I think. He should stop.”

“He won’t.” Yuri said and watched, horrified, as JJ went up what should have been a quad Lutz, but the air position was so bad that he popped it to a double and then fell anyway. This time he didn’t get up right away, then struggled up to his feet to sympathetic applause and half skated, half hobbled off the ice as the music stopped.

“Ouch,” Yuri whispered as the camera followed him off the ice and then cut to a commercial.

“So Yuuri won?” Toshiya asked.

Hiroko grinned. “He did! He broke a world record”

“Wait, that means… Otabek got silver?” Lutz asked.

“And Phichit got bronze,” Axel said.

Loop piped up with, “Two world records. He got highest free skate and highest total. By a lot.”

A few minutes later the commercial break ended, and that result was confirmed by the rankings. The broadcast cut to Morooka interviewing Yuuri, who seemed completely overwhelmed.

• Yuuri •

The interviews seemed to go on forever, only pausing long enough for the medal ceremony to take place, Otabek on one side, Phichit on the other, Victor looking at him with stars in his eyes from across the ice.

“I can’t believe you did five quads,” Phichit murmured. “I was so proud to land three.”

“I can’t believe you’re still walking after that,” Otabek said.

“It wasn’t so bad.” Yuuri smiled for the camera, then tugged his friends up on the podium with him for another picture. “I’m still walking, anyway.”

“That Lutz is brutal,” Otabek said. “I bet they ban it at some point. I’m not sure it’s worth the wear and tear.”

“I have nothing to lose at this point,” Yuuri said. “I like doing the Lutz.”

“Practicing them gives me a headache,” Otabek said. They stepped off the podium and followed the officials out. “Do you think he was trying for the quad Axel?”

Yuuri looked at Phichit. “You don’t think he was doing it because we said…”

“You put up a world record two minutes before he had to skate,” Phichit said. “He fell on his first jump. If he was trying for the quad Axel, it was because he was trying to beat what you actually did and overcome his own failure, not because of what we said.”

Yuuri sighed. “I still feel like it’s somehow my fault.”

“It’s never your fault how other people react to you skating well,” Otabek said. “He was being an ass, before.”

The conversation was cut short by Victor wrapping himself around Yuuri.

“Marry me,” Victor said. “Let me kiss your medal.”

“Get a room,” Phichit said, laughing.

“I already married you,” Yuuri said, holding up the medal.

Victor ignored it and kissed Yuuri’s mouth instead.

A dozen flash bulbs went off.