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You Ruined Everything (In The Nicest Way)

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Sochi, 2015.

 

Katsuki Yuuri made it to the Grand Prix Final, and he is stressed beyond belief.

He keeps trying to tell himself it’s just another competition.

It’s just another competition, it’s just another competition, it’s just another competition.

But it’s not just another competition, and Yuuri knows it.  It’s something so much bigger.

It’s bigger than the first time he competed nationally, or even the first time he competed internationally.  It’s bigger than the first time he was approved by the ISU to compete in the men’s singles category.

This is Viktor-fucking-Nikiforov big.

Of course, they’ve shared the ice before.  Yuuri has competed in Grand Prix qualifiers against Viktor many times.  But the four-time international champion and holder of more than a few world records definitely doesn’t have time to pay attention to lower-ranked competitors.  Viktor rolls among the best of the best, and Yuuri is just lucky enough to get a glimpse of what that looks like this year.

It’s two days until the first men’s singles event, and Yuuri is more stressed than he’s ever been in his life.

It’s not really about Viktor, or about the pressure of making it to such a high-level competition.  It’s partially the jet-lag, partially coping with the news from home that his dog Vicchan died.

It’s mostly that his daughter Eri, six months old to the day, has been miserably sick ever since they arrived in Sochi.  She has a cold, which means she can’t breathe, which means she hasn’t stopped crying.  Yuuri wouldn’t have believed that such a large volume of snot could have come from such an impossibly tiny little button nose, except that he’s been suctioning it out himself, every few minutes, just to give her some relief.  

And himself.  He needs relief from it too; he’s already pushed the limits of how much headache medicine he can take, and he’s running on a far-reduced sleep schedule.  It’s okay to want your own relief.  It’s okay to admit that parenting is hard.  He has to consciously remind himself of these things as he looks down at his sniffling daughter.

She looks the most like she did when she was born like this, despite all the layers of protection against winter’s cold.  Bundled up in her bassinet, Eri is a wailing red raisin with a shock of jet black fuzz on top, and Yuuri is sure he’ll never fall in love again if it means having to divide his heart between his beautiful girl and someone else.

Except that his heart is already broken from her constant, pitiful whining and screaming brought on by tiny little clogged-up sinuses.  He’s about ready to drop out of the competition.  He has no desire to tear his attention away from her, even if it means professional (and personal, cough, Viktor, cough) opportunities he hasn’t yet encountered.

Although, if by some miracle a few skaters really mess up their free skates, Yuuri could be on the podium with Viktor Nikiforov.

The same Viktor Nikiforov that still winks down at him from the posters in his room, same as he has for the past ten years.

That chance, small as it may be, is still there.  And Yuuri knows he has to compete.

Fanboyism aside, he’d be letting himself and everybody else down if he chose to let this one go.

Yuuri doesn’t know what he would do without Phichit, who told every one of his professors that he had also made it to the finals, knowing none of them would be interested enough to watch or check, and tagged along to provide moral support and serve as Eri’s personal “baby-nanny.”

(His words.)

(Definitely not Yuuri’s words.)

Yuuri had pushed back on the idea of letting Phichit help, at first.  He’d protested and cried and they’d fought and Yuuri’d had to order an apology pizza for being stubborn.

“It’s not like What’s-His-Name is going to come and help you take care of her,” Phichit stated calmly once Yuuri had given in, “and I know your family can’t close shop for that long.   And,” he added with a wicked smile on his face, “I don’t think Celestino’s ever held a baby in his life, let alone taken care of one.  You're going to need someone to help you out.”

Now that he’s here, tucked away in a corner of the locker room, Yuuri is so glad he let Phichit muscle his way into his position as single-dad’s-right-hand.  Otherwise, he might have already lost his cool.

“Yuuri,” the Thai skater soothes, flashing a sympathetic smile as Yuuri fusses over Eri’s face yet again with a little plastic bulb and a warm washcloth, “you need to start lacing up if you’re going to make practice on time.”

“She’s still not eating,” Yuuri mutters.  “My poor akachan.  Phichit, she’s miserable.”

“Well yeah, dear, she can’t breathe,” Phichit sighs.  “I’ve got this.  Go shake it off, get a drink, and then come back and lace up before Celestino has to tell you.”  He pushes Yuuri aside, pausing just long enough to let the wrung-out father kiss his baby on her soft, warm forehead.  “You’re doing great.  Keep letting me help.”

“But—” Yuuri whines, but Phichit takes his hand, interrupting him.

“She’ll be fine.  If at any moment I’m concerned, I’ll come and get you,” he says, his smile warm and reassuring.

Yuuri knows he’s right.  Rationally, it makes sense.  She’ll still be taken care of.  She’s only got a cold, anyway, and he’s been doing everything right to make sure she’s comfortable and healthy.

But rational rarely exists in Yuuri’s life after Eri.   Rational isn’t even a thing when Eri is sick, let alone sick and jetlagged in another country.  Yuuri can feel his mama-bear instincts kicking in.  He reaches out one more time, smoothing back the wispy tangle of her pitch-black hair, before hoisting his skate bag over his shoulder and pulling himself away in the direction of the rink.

It’s going to be fine.  Everything’s going to be fine.

And for the most part, it is.  Yuuri tries to make quick work of lacing up his skates, although he knows the trouble he’d be in if he broke his ankle from a loose boot would far exceed Celestino’s annoyance at his tardiness.

He can’t help but wince, his heart heavy with guilt, any time the echoes of Eri’s hiccoughing and wailing make it out to the bench, though.

This is the hardest traveling with her has ever been.  Yuuri is starting to wonder whether he’s being selfish.  He’s starting to wonder if What’s-His-Name was right, if he doesn’t have Eri’s best interest in mind.

Maybe he’s trying to have it all out of spite, to prove he could do what he was told was impossible.  Maybe he just wants What’s-His-Name to see him succeed in raising their kid and in doing what he loves—the one thing that he has passion for and the thing he’s best at.

It occurs to Yuuri that proving a point to an ex isn’t a great motivating operation for anything.  Even success. Not if it’s eating him up.

The twitch of Celestino’s brow, the quirk of his lip indicate the most sparing hint of impatience as he preps Yuuri for their practice session.  Yuuri does his best to focus.  He does his best to let everything fall away out on the ice, to ignore the other competitors, to avoid scanning the arena for a hint of silver hair and the ruthless angle of high cheekbones.

He tries to relinquish all concerns about Eri to his best friend and closest rinkmate in the locker room.

He tries especially hard not to wonder if this is his last season as a professional skater.

 

 


 

 

Viktor Nikiforov is trying to decide what to do with this season.  It’s the day of another free skate in another Grand Prix Final, and yeah, they were exciting when he started making it this far, and more exciting still when he started placing.  But four wins later and Viktor is starting to lose direction.

What more is there to strive for when you’ve met everyone’s expectations, except to defy them over and over again?  Viktor’s been defying expectations for years, just for his own benefit, out of a need to challenge himself and push himself further than anyone else could.

Now, even that is starting to get stale.  And what does he have to show for it?

A display case in his home rink that’s starting to run out of room?

Enough sponsorship deals that he could retire today and be set for life?

(And he’s considered it, no doubt.)

What Viktor has now is a big, empty penthouse apartment and a ticking time bomb of a career.  A set of eyes on him everywhere he goes, waiting to see what the great, unpredictable Viktor Nikiforov is going to do next, because everyone knows it’s going to be big and surprising and record-breaking.  But nobody ever breaks away from the onlooking crowd to try to meet him—the real him, not just the one everyone loves to watch on the ice.

What Viktor has now is an image to uphold, and not much else, and he’s starting to crack.

He doesn’t know how to say any of this to Yakov.  He knows he’s the old man’s greatest asset, but that’s just his problem.  He hates that he even considers that as a factor in his decision.  Viktor doesn’t want to be a moneymaker anymore, he wants to be… something.   Something he can’t figure out yet.

Valued, maybe.

Loved, in a way that a crowd cannot love.

Viktor has tried love.  He’s tried his hand with women, then with men, and he’s met a few who made his heart race and his skin crawl.  He’s met a few who have made him feel good for a while, and a few who have made him feel terrible for a long time.

With each new partner came a choice to make time for them or to continue to grind and disappear into his work.

It’s never felt worth it to make time.

He worries he’ll never be able to make time for someone.

He thinks of all this stuff during the official warm-up, marking idly through his program as he tunes out the sound of the crowd and the announcers.  The sounds that make up his life.

Another skater breezes by him close enough that he has to stop himself short, and he looks up to see Japan’s Ace caught up in a beautiful step sequence that reminds him of his Firebird Suite from two years ago.

Wait, actually, it is his Firebird Suite from two years ago.  Viktor choreographed that exact step sequence; he remembers because Yakov gave him hell about the transition out of that Choctaw turn.  

It’s weird, considering Katsuki’s performance the previous day was nowhere near as fluid or as remarkable.  He’s been on Viktor’s radar, sure.  He’s been on everyone’s radar.  After all, he made history by competing even as he went through hormone replacement therapy, enduring several years in women’s seniors before the ISU finally accepted him into the men’s category.  It’s a feat of bravery Viktor would never have been able to achieve at such a young age.  He’s always admired the younger skater for staying true to himself.

But yesterday, Viktor was actually a little disappointed.  Yuuri didn’t seem to be on his game at all.  Normally, his ballet is unparalleled, his musicality so intuitive you’d think he’s making music with his body rather than the other way around.  But this week, his short program was stiff and stilted and full of irredeemable mistakes.  Then again, Michele Crispino, another GPF first-timer, didn’t do so hot himself.  Maybe Viktor just can’t remember what that kind of pressure is like anymore.

He makes a mental note to make a comment about it to Katsuki later; to apologize for almost barrelling into him and to point out that he really did the move justice.  Maybe a little recognition from an older skater will be the morale boost he needs.

Anyway, it’s kind of flattering.  That’s not the first time he’s noticed elements of his own programs in Katsuki’s skating.  That’s… nice. Unexpected and nice.

He scans the faces in the locker room when they leave the ice, to no avail.  Chris catches his eye questioningly, but Viktor brushes him off.  He’s not in the mood for making post-competition plans or getting roped into helping his friend stretch.  Viktor just wants to get this over with.  Another free skate, another medal ceremony, another exhibition, another evening of nodding and smiling and being coy and pleasant with the sponsors, then he can return to teaching kids’ classes all day, curling up with Makkachin and wine all evening.  

It’s just that he’s got to wait.  He scored highest in the short program; that means he goes last today.  He’s got a copy of Wuthering Heights in his bag.  He grabs it before stalking out again, confident that when it’s his turn, someone will come find him.

The skater’s lounge is practically empty, everyone off touching up makeup, or stretching, or sewing their costume pieces in place.  Viktor settles in on one of the less-than-comfortable seats, getting ready to lose himself in some gothic tragedy before he realizes he’s sharing the room with one of his competitors—Katsuki Yuuri is crouched down by a nearby bench, talking in hushed tones to someone Viktor is pretty sure is another figure skater.  They’re hunched together, leaning over what looks like a bundle of blankets and towels, muttering to one another in hushed but urgent tones.

“—just changed her so that shouldn’t be a problem.”

“Kiss her and go, you’re first, Yuuri.”

“I know, but—”

“Yuuri, she’s asleep.  She’ll be fine.”

Yuuri straightens up then, his costume shimmering with his movements, a frown deepening in his brow.  “I’m sorry. I’m just nervous. What if I finish last?”

The other skater stands too, pulling Yuuri close and wrapping him in a tight hug.  “Then you’ll finish sixth in the world, baby, you’ve got to remember how amazing it is that you’re here.”

Before Yuuri has the chance to argue, the bundle of blankets starts crying, the distinct colicky scream of a distressed infant, and Viktor can actually see the color drain from Yuuri’s face.

“Phichit, I—”

Phichit Chulanont.  Thailand.  Viktor competed against him in Skate Canada.

“Go and do your best,” Phichit urges.  “I know this is hard. After the press, you can spend the rest of the day in daddy mode.  For now, take a breath, find your zone, go out and get it. Okay?”

“Phichit, she’s crying—” Yuuri pleads, his voice heartbreakingly small and helpless.

“I know, I’ll get her.  Go show everyone what you’ve got.  Skate so hard that Viktor Nikiforov falls in love with you.”

Viktor feels his face burn.  He buries it in his book, glad for the little corner he snagged and the degree of seclusion it affords him, and tries to get some actual reading done and stop being so nosy.

But as Yuuri makes his way reluctantly to the rink, unaware that he’s being watched, Viktor finds himself silently rooting for Japan’s Ace, hoping that, at the very least, he’s happy with his performance.

“It’s not nice to eavesdrop, Nikiforov,” the Thai skater calls, as if into empty space, as he scoops the fussy baby into his arms.  “Yuuri would probably have a heart attack if he knew you heard any of that.”

Viktor laughs, letting his book drop down into his lap and looking up at where Phichit is sitting, cradling the little swaddle dutifully.  “Can’t a guy read Brontë in peace?” he jokes.  “You two are a handsome couple.”

Now it’s Phichit’s turn to laugh, a sputtering giggle that has him sprawling out on the bench, the baby still clutched tight in one arm.  “Oh my god, we’re not…” he chortles, “Yuuri’s my roommate, I’m here to nanny.”

The heat in Viktor’s cheeks deepens a degree more.  “O—Oh,” he mumbles.  “That’s his kid though, right?”

“Right,” Phichit confirms.

“But not yours.”

The young Thai man eyes him suspiciously, and Viktor realizes he might be prying.

“I’m sorry.  Sorry,” he says, diffusing the conversation with a wave of his hand in front of him.  “I’ll mind my own. Your friend is just full of surprises, that’s all,” he says.

“You’re telling me,” Phichit says, his face relaxing into a fond smile.  “I don’t know what I would do without that fool.” He starts to say something else, but the baby’s crying drowns him out and he frowns again, folding back layers of blanket to examine her face.

Viktor knows the sound of colic, and with a pang of sympathy he realizes this kid, barely twenty years old by the look of him, is trying to figure out what to do next.  He hops up and wanders over.

“You could try laying her across your lap,” he posits, hovering just at the end of the bench.  “Like… on her stomach? And rubbing her back. Here,” he runs over to his bag and grabs his heat buddy, just a simple fabric pouch full of rice to compress his sore muscles, and hands it to the puzzled skater.  “Sometimes a little bit of heat does the trick too. Just don’t make it too hot,” he adds with a wink.  

Phichit stares up at him, then back down at the heat buddy, then back up at Viktor.

“Are you a god?” he asks, his tone hushed and reverent.

Viktor laughs and stalks back over to the seat where Catherine and Heathcliff were waiting for him.  “Despite what people will try and tell you, no.” It comes out a little more conceited than he would have liked, and it shows in Phichit’s puzzled expression, so after floundering to come up with something to say next, Viktor sits and turns his attention back to Brontë.

Pretty soon Phichit and the baby are gone, and other skaters start to flood in, chattery and drenched in glitter.  Chris drags Viktor up and out of his reclusion to help him stretch as they watch the first few skaters, and Viktor obliges.  According to the closed-circuit TV in the lounge, Katsuki didn’t do very well at all in his free skate, but Viktor can’t blame him in the slightest.

Now he really needs to get to the Japanese skater and offer up some words of encouragement.  He doesn’t think Yuuri realizes how much more work he’s putting in than any of his competitors right now.  That deserves some recognition.

 

 


 

 

“Phichit, I’m sorry, I don’t really care about Viktor Nikiforov right now, please just give me my daughter,” Yuuri groans, throwing himself down on the bench by his bag.  “In fact, I don’t want to talk about skating, or other skaters, or anything related to today ever again.”

“Dramatic, but okay,” Phichit tuts, lowering Eri into Yuuri’s arms.  She’s fast asleep for once, nice and warm bundled in her blankets.  In fact, she’s incredibly warm.  Yuuri’s first instinct is to panic, and he pulls back the blankets to get a better idea of her temperature, when a beanbag topples out from beneath the folds and onto the floor.

“What’s this?” Yuuri asks, kicking the beanbag up with one foot and catching it in his free hand.  It’s warm, and Yuuri determines it to be the source of the heat.  “Did someone give you this?” He asks.

“Yeah, to soothe her stomach,” Phichit grins.  “It’s been working like a dream.  You’ll never guess who gave it to m—”

If he gets any further than that, Yuuri doesn’t hear.  He’s too busy staring in horror at the influx of notifications scrolling across the lockscreen of his phone.

“Oh god,” Yuuri moans, his stomach turning over.  A flood of “It’s okay, Yuuri!” and “Keep it up, there’s always Nationals” and “We’re so proud of you for trying” messages are pouring in, and Yuuri feels the dread creeping up on him as he sees just how numerous they are.  He isn’t sure he can handle having to apologize to this many people.  Not only that, his Twitter mentions are skyrocketing, and he knows that the internet is a tool created by the devil for the express purpose of tormenting him, but he can’t help but click one of his notifications.

It’s a Pandora’s Box of bittersweet well-wishes and disappointed admonishment.  He’s done a decent job at filtering out the transphobic remarks, but a few stragglers have made their way in, and all of that isn’t to mention the ruthless coverage of real-time reporters, tweeting out their headlines along with links to news articles, all declaring Katsuki Yuuri’s crushing failure at the Grand Prix Final.

“Stop.  Stop, Yuuri,” Phichit says through gritted teeth, prying the phone from Yuuri’s fingers.  “That is not going to do you any good right now.”  He pulls Yuuri’s laptop from his bag, setting it up on the bench opposite them and kneeling on the floor to type in Yuuri’s password.  “Since you don’t want to hear about skating, I’ll spare you The Skater and the King , but you owe me once we get home.  How do you feel about Terrace House?”

Yuuri doesn’t feel about anything, except for the walls of helplessness closing in around him.  He didn’t just perform less than his best today, he performed less than his average.  This competition is going to reflect poorly on all the decisions he’s made for himself—transitioning, continuing to compete so soon after Eri was born, insisting on getting used to the lifestyle of bringing his kid along to compete and making this split life his New Normal.  After today, it all stinks of self-sabotage, and Yuuri is certain that’s exactly what the press is going to say.

Not that he’s letting the press anywhere near his baby.  He’s been very clear with Celestino on that.  The second they come for her, he’s out.

“Yuuri?”

Phichit’s face is wrinkled with concern as he leans in close, studying his friend closely.  Yuuri shakes himself out of his negativity spiral and tries to do an impression of a pleasant smile.

“What?”

Phichit eyes him suspiciously, biting his lip.

“What, Phich?”

“I asked if you’re caught up, and then you zoned on me.”

Yuuri hugs Eri close to him in his lap, suddenly aware of just how much he hurts.  She’s getting heavy, and even more so with this little heat compress Phichit managed to procure, and Yuuri thinks if he sits up for even another second, his back is going to snap in half.

“I’m going to sleep,” he mutters abruptly, rising to his feet with a groan that shocks even him and returning Eri to her carrier.  Baby in one hand, warm-up mat and winter coat in another, he moves to a patch of open floor towards the far wall of the lounge and sets up camp, curling up on his side around the carrier with his coat under his head and a baby blanket wrapped around his torso.

He knows it’s bad, this low, because Phichit doesn’t even try to stop him.  He sleeps through the rest of the competition, even Viktor’s free skate, and Stammi vicino is one of his favorite programs Viktor’s choreographed so far.  He doesn’t get up until Phichit tries to physically force him onto his feet, warning him that Celestino’s threatening to put him on locker room detail if he doesn’t come support his competitors at the victory ceremony, which means another emotional Eri handoff and taking a minute to fix his hair in the bathroom before he has to present himself once again to the crowds that watched his fall from grace.

“How are you holding up?” Celestino asks as Yuuri approaches the rink’s entrance.

The lights are already beginning to dim, the ice adorned with a royal blue carpet and the coveted podium at one side.

“I finished sixth of six,” Yuuri deadpans.  “So… yeah.”

Celestino nods.  “You pushed your limits this time around.  That’s okay, though.  This is the furthest you’ve advanc—”

“Don’t,” Yuuri interjects, shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other.  “I just need to do better.  I know.”

Celestino frowns, but doesn’t protest, and a moment later the announcer introduces this year’s Grand Prix champions:  Viktor, Christophe, and the youngest competitor, Jean-Jacques Leroy from Canada.

How’s Yuuri supposed to come back if people younger than him are already surpassing him?

He watches as Viktor Nikiforov does his sweeping entrance, addressing the audience on all sides.  As he passes by where Yuuri and his coach are standing, he waves, a smile like sunshine spreading across his face.

Yuuri has to do a double take, spinning around to see if he recognizes anyone behind him that Viktor might have been waving to.  Maybe it was Celestino.  Russia’s Living Legend is on good terms with all the coaches.

But for a second, a weird, fantastical, euphoric second, it felt like the wave was directed at Yuuri.

It wouldn’t make any sense, though.  They’ve never spoken.  Viktor’s just this beacon of hope from his childhood, proof that boys can look like girls and still be boys, an icon that watched over him for a decade from the posters on his walls, who made him feel safe and understood.

All Yuuri has ever done is a couple of homages to Viktor’s program in his own skating, in the hopes that Viktor would notice.

As if he would ever notice.

 

After the medal ceremony, Yuuri watches numbly as Viktor gets swallowed up by the press, thankful at least that that isn’t him, because even on a good day, a crowd like that would send him into total shutdown mode.  As he heads for the locker room, Celestino begins to rattle off reminders for the following day; the round table discussion and press conference are non-negotiable, but the rest is optional, and Yuuri is already planning on making himself as unavailable as possible.

His bag is all packed and ready to go, a Pirozhki in a paper bag sitting on top along with a note from Phichit informing him that he and Eri decided to beat the crowd and make their way back to the hotel, and that Yuuri’s phone is in his coat pocket with all social media apps silenced.

At least, no matter what happens, he’s got his best friend looking out for him.  He makes a mental note to figure out a way to thank Phichit now that a cut of his winnings isn’t an option.

He pulls on his coat and his bag, preparing himself mentally to step out into the bitter cold, and makes his way out into the lobby, only to be intercepted by Hisashi Morooka, a reporter and compatriot who has always had his back at these kinds of events.  Yuuri swallows back the urge to make no comment, because he really does owe Morooka a pleasant interaction at least, but he finds himself growing more and more irritated at the hint of sympathy half-veiled behind the journalist’s encouraging words.

Yuuri gets it.  He let everyone down.  He let himself down.  You only get “Never give up!” speeches when everyone knows you didn’t do your best.  It’s hard to escape the implications of that.

As the impromptu interview winds down and Yuuri starts to lose steam, he hears something that cause the hairs on the back of his neck to stand on end.

“Yuu- ri,” drawls a familiar voice, the word rolling off his tongue in such a unique and beautiful way, rounded and musical.  It’s a voice Yuuri knows from a decade of interviews and tv spots, from every little time he’s gotten to be near to his idol over the course of his career.  After the wave and the smile at the victory ceremony, he was shaken, but he can feel the course of the adrenaline through his veins as he turns to see why in the world Viktor Nikiforov is saying his name.

But Viktor has already swept right past him with long strides.  He’s caught up in a phone conversation, his Russian rapid and heated as he trails behind Yakov off toward another group of reporters.

It figures that it was too good to be true.  Yuri must be a Russian name, too.  Yuuri should know better, at this point, than to get his hopes up.  There’s no way he’s ever going to get Viktor’s attention.

He realizes that in his surprise, he’s drifted away from Morooka a ways and in the direction of the distracted Viktor.  He’s hovering awkwardly and is about to turn to leave when Viktor glances back over his shoulder and meets his gaze.

Yuuri can’t remember what it feels like to breathe - he can’t seem to get his body to make it happen.  He’s sure he’s taken a breath before, but as long as the impossible clear blue of Viktor Nikiforov’s eyes is directed at him, Yuuri might as well be underwater.  How long have they been standing here like this?  Seconds?  Hours?  Every detail of Viktor’s face falls into sharp relief - the hint of black residue where he scrubbed off his mascara, the soft “o” of his lips as he stops short mid-sentence, the imperative quirk of one eyebrow all fill in the gaps in the image of Russia’s Living Legend in Yuuri’s head.

The moment hangs like perfection in the space between them, and just as Yuuri is wondering whether he needs to pick his jaw up off the floor, because he really can’t tell what his face is doing but it can’t possibly look graceful, Viktor opens his mouth to speak.

“Commemorative photo?” he asks.  His smile looks nothing like the smile he gives to the press.  Yuuri’s never seen Viktor smile like this before.

At first he thinks Viktor’s joking, that any moment he’ll break into a chuckle and clap Yuuri on the back and say anything that cancels the suggestion that Viktor Nikiforov doesn’t at least recognize him as a skater, one of only five others in the whole competition.

But instead he just looks on expectantly, grin plastered in place, a hand over his cell phone’s speaker.  Yuuri feels like he’s been punched in the gut.  It’s like the floor is falling out from beneath him; everything he’s been holding onto up until now feels like it’s been in vain.  

If he made it this far and still couldn’t even make an impression on the man who inspires him, what’s the point?

What’s the point of continuing this game that’s been made a thousand times harder by the mistakes he’s made along the way?  What’s the point of putting Eri through the struggles of traveling at such a young age if he’s not good enough to even register on his competitors’ radars?

He doesn’t even answer.  How could he even respond to a diss like that?  Instead, Yuuri turns on his heel and rushes for the door, aware that his skin is on fire and his chest feels like it’s going to burst open, desperate to escape the frosty sting of those azure eyes.

All Yuuri is doing here is torturing himself and his daughter.  He can’t give his all to Celestino, he’s created a world of hardship for his best friend who feels obligated to help out with the baby, he hasn’t seen his family since well before Eri’s birth, and all this to prove to What’s-His-Name that he could take care of their daughter without giving up on his dream.

He suddenly realizes it doesn’t matter.  Why continue being so stubborn if he has nothing to show for it?

He’s barely through the door when the tears come.  They hit him with a wrecking force, twisting his face into an uncomfortable grimace and seizing his chest just as the door opens and he receives a blast of freezing-cold air.

He just can’t stop crying.  He was so determined to “win” that he misjudged his own weakness.  Pretty soon his mask and scarf are soaking wet, then frozen from the chilling wind, and Yuuri’s lungs burn from gasping at the frigid air.

This will be his final season.  He’s sure of it, now.

The air in the hotel lobby burns in comparison to Yuuri’s face, which is numb and raw from the walk back.  The feeling is relieving and painful at the same time.  All Yuuri wants is a bath and his warm bed, although he knows he won’t get nearly as much sleep as he’d like to with Eri up every hour or so.  That’s fine.  His life with his daughter is fine.  And without the stress of competing, it will only get better.