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The picture Guang Hong had sent Yuri made absolutely no sense. He recognized Isabella Yang, of course; he just didn’t understand why Guang Hong would think Yuri would care that JJ’s fiancée was curled up in a corner of the hotel lobby crying. Maybe she’d just realized she agreed to marry a complete dick.

He texted back. “Guang Hong? What’s up?”

“Well, uh… have you heard anything from Otabek since he got here?” Guang Hong stammered.

“No, Beka and I agreed that during competitions we aren’t both in, we focused on the ice and his friends who were there with him,” Yuri said. Theoretically, that applied to Yuri too, but since Yuri didn’t have any friends at Europeans… “Are you telling me Otabek made Isabella cry somehow?” It didn’t make any sense, but that was the only thing he could think of. Otabek wasn’t the type to make girls cry unless they got upset when he rejected them, and Isabella wouldn’t be setting herself up to be rejected like that.

“Oh. Um…”

Yuri rolled his eyes, glad Guang Hong couldn’t see him. “Whatever it is, just spit it out already. I promise not to shout at you if something stupid is happening, if that’s what you’re worried about.”

“Look, it’s not… I wouldn’t blame you for shouting when you hear this, is all. I know I would be in your situation.”

“Just. Tell me what the situation is already.”

“Okay, well, you and Otabek… I know you’re not dating or anything, but you’re kind of feeling your way out that way, right?”

“Yeah, I think so,” Yuri said, fighting the heat down. He and Otabek hadn’t really talked about it, but Yuri definitely had a big fat crush on his new best friend. As obnoxious as Viktor and Mila could be, they had good instincts. If they said that Yuri wasn’t just projecting in seeing Otabek returning that interest, he’d let himself believe. For now, he was content to sit back and wait for Otabek to make the first move, but if something hadn’t happened by the Grand Prix Finals this year, he’d make a move then.

He could hear Guang Hong swallowing. “Well, uh, you might want to talk to Otabek about that. Because he and JJ went out to dinner and hanging out last night.”

“Of course they did. I don’t get it, but Beka and JJ are friends, and if I’m not there, Beka’s not gonna pass up the chance to hang out with him.” At Worlds, things might get a little more awkward. Yuri was going to try to suck it up and be good and not make Otabek choose, but if JJ pulled his shit with calling him a lady or a kitten or whatever, Yuri was not going to be able to keep his temper. “So what’s the big deal?”

“Well, Isabella didn’t go with them, and now she’s hiding in a corner crying…” Guang Hong trailed off. “I don’t know, I may be jumping to conclusions, but…”

“I sure hope so,” Yuri said. There had to be some good explanation for this. Some explanation besides the obvious, that JJ cheated on Isabella with Otabek. He couldn’t quite call it Otabek cheating on him, but he kind of felt cheated by this. If, of course, it had actually happened. He wouldn’t believe it until he could talk to Otabek and ask, but that would be a few days. Until then, he’d just have to try to ignore it.

 

Ignoring it was supposed to be easy, but he hadn’t counted on Mila. She came to find him after practice the next day. “Hey. Have you been hearing any of the rumors out of Gangneung?”

“Of course, because I pay so much attention to gossip and care so much about whatever drama is happening around me,” Yuri said. “I can barely bring myself to care about drama here, what makes you think I give a shit about drama in Gangneung?”

“Well, it’s just… considering who it involves… you really haven’t heard anything about the rumors from Otabek?”

“No, of course not, Beka and I aren’t talking right now.”

“Oh no!” Mila threw her arms around Yuri. “What happened, kitten?”

“Oh for… get off me, hag!” Yuri shoved Mila back. “What happened? You were there. I screwed up so bad at Nationals that the ridiculous old man was able to beat me despite not training properly for even two weeks and being distracted trying to coach his piglet by phone, remember? Beka felt bad, and we agreed that during competitions we don’t talk like we usually do. That’s all.”

“So you two didn’t have some kind of fight that drove him to hook up with JJ?” Mila pressed.

“If he hooked up with JJ, it’s got nothing to do with me. What makes you think he hooked up with JJ?”

“Well, they went out to dinner…”

“They’re friends.”

“And Isabella didn’t go, and the next time anyone saw her she was crying, and then JJ took her to the airport and sent her home to Canada,” Mila finished. “You might want to call Otabek and find out what’s going on? Even if you’re not supposed to be talking to him?”

“No,” Yuri said before Mila had even finished. “If Beka wants to call me and tell me something, he can, but I’m not gonna distract him during a competition over some stupid rumors. For all we know, Beka’s got nothing to do with JJ and Isabella breaking up. Hell, maybe they haven’t broken up, there was just some kind of emergency back home that Isabella had to leave for but JJ didn’t.”

“I hope so, kitten.” Mila mussed Yuri’s hair. “If you need a shoulder to cry on or someone to help you plot revenge, I owe you one. Or two.”

“Or eleven, but who’s counting?” Yuri stuck his tongue out her and headed home.

 

Yuri’s distraction was, at least, worth it for Otabek. After the short program, he was in second behind Yuuri by three points and ahead of JJ by the same amount. Yuri texted him a quick congratulations and lost himself in a game of Overwatch. Otabek’s brief response – a thumbs-up emoji – was somewhat reassuring, really.

The next day, Mila came over. “Look, I really think you should talk to Otabek,” she said without any kind of preamble when Yuri opened the door. “He’s been spending almost all his free time with JJ, usually holed up in one of their hotel rooms. Just… talk to him?”

“No. If he and JJ are hooking up, me calling now will only piss him off, and if they’re not, it’ll piss him off even more.” Yuri held up his phone, showing Mila messages from earlier that day. “Guang Hong says Leo doesn’t think it’s what it looks like, and Leo’s friends with both of them, so they’d have told him if anything was going on he should know about. Right?”

“I guess so…” Mila read through the messages, shaking her head. “I sure hope so. When are you going to talk to him?”

“At Europeans, I called him as soon as I was done with all the interviews and stuff after the Free Skate. He’ll probably do the same thing. If I haven’t heard from him by the next morning, I’ll call him.”

 

Yuuri held on for gold, while JJ overtook Otabek for silver. Otabek still medaled, beating Phichit out by six points. It wasn’t the result Yuri had hoped for, but unlike in Barcelona, this time JJ deserved to beat Otabek, so he’d deal.

It wasn’t even an hour later that Yuri’s phone alerted him to an incoming Skype call. “Hey, Beka. Congratulations.”

“Thanks. I promise, I will beat him at Worlds. Not sure it’ll be enough to get on the podium with you, but I’m gonna give it all I’ve got.”

“Heh. You’d better. You looked good, I’m proud of you.”

“You’re not mad at me for losing to JJ?”

“Nah, not this time, this time the judges didn’t hand it to him like they did in Barcelona. But, uh…” Yuri had practiced this, dammit. Why couldn’t he remembered the script for how to bring this up without sounding jealous or something dumb like that? “I’ve been hearing some rumors about the two of you.”

“Shit.” Guilt flashed in Otabek’s eyes, and the jealousy Yuri had been fighting off overwhelmed him. “I am so sorry, Yuri. If I’d thought you were hearing that talk, I’d have called earlier, agreement or not.”

“It’s okay,” Yuri forced himself to say. “It’s kinda not really any of my business, is it?”

“It is. I know we hadn’t said anything, but I know you have a crush on me, and I feel the same about you. I just didn’t want to do anything about it until after Worlds. I’m coming up to Saint Petersburg in April. Mom and Dad told me about it last night.”

“Okay, but… what about JJ?” If he’d found out about this before Four Continents, Yuri would probably be doing backflips right now. Figured this would come too late.

“Yura, it’s just talk. I know what people have been saying, and if I’d had any idea it would get to you I’d have called to tell you that it’s just talk. JJ and I didn’t hook up, he just needed a friend’s support, and he didn’t want to take Leo away from Guang Hong when I was there without you.”

“Oh.” Yuri closed his eyes and let the relief wash through him. “Thanks for clearing that up. So what is happening out there? Why’d Isabella go home?”

“About a week before she and JJ left to come here, her grandfather had a stroke. She and her grandfather were really close, and it hit her hard. She wanted to stay, but her grandfather told her to get her ass on the plane and go cheer on her fiancé. The night JJ and I went out to dinner, she was supposed to come with us, but she got a call that he’d had another stroke and was in the hospital. That picture of her crying that’s floating around the internet, she’d gotten the call that this time he didn’t make it. JJ was seriously considering dropping out to go home and be there for her, but Isabella refused. He needed someone to lean on, and you know he’s not exactly Mr. Popular…”

“His own fault,” Yuri grumbled, but his heart went out to Isabella. “If you have Isabella’s phone number, can you tell her I’m sorry for her loss?”

“Sure.” Otabek smiled at him. “We’re good? You’re not mad at me for not calling?”

“Nope. It’s been a rough few days but that’s not your fault. We’re good. Sure glad I’m gonna be there for Worlds, though.”

“Yeah, me too. How did you hear about this, anyway? Other than me, I didn’t think you talked to anyone here.”

Yuri snorted a laugh. “You’re not gonna believe this, but that night in Barcelona I was trying to hunt you down at the club, I called Leo and Guang Hong for help. Guang Hong’s the one who told me where your motorcycle was. Ever since then we’ve been talking on social media. Leo’s your friend, it seemed like a good idea for me and Guang Hong to make friends too.” He stuck his tongue out at Otabek. “And then there’s the obvious. Mila talks to everyone!”

Otabek slapped a hand to his face. “I cannot believe I didn’t think of Mila. I specifically asked Yuuri and Viktor not to say anything to you because there wasn’t anything you needed to know about happening, but it never occurred to me that Mila would hear gossip and do the big sister thing.”