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⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

The first major competition of this season: Grand Prix Final in Turin!

The single men competition looks pretty exciting this year.

We have, as usual, Takashi Shirogane from Japan and Lotor Galra from Russia: will Shiro grab his six gold medal, or will Lotor be able to beat him at last?

But beware, we have a third contender for the gold: Keith Kogane, the last year junior world champion! This is his first season as a senior and he managed to win both his Grand Prix Competitions and he even beat Lotor at Skate Canada!

Let’s make a summary of what these skaters can do…

[…]

Edit: we were informed Takashi Shirogane withdrew from the final because of the flu. Sad :(

⸛⸛⸛⸛

The dining hall is crowded. The two big screens are on, channeling the Grand Prix Final. The announcer talking about the man short program. Lance scoffs and passes through, heading for the dormitory.

There is no point, in his opinion, watching the competition if Takashi Shirogane – Shiro – isn’t in it. The evil part of him hopes for Lotor to gain a spectacular victory and spoil the Keith Kogane parade, but in truth, he doesn’t really care.

His day is ruining as he enters his bedroom to find both Hunk and Pidge there, watching the very same Grand Prix.

“This isn’t the women dormitory,” Lance points out.

Pidge looks annoyed. “They told us that, as a pair, we have to spent as much time possible together, doing mundane things, to improve our synchronicity.”

“Is it even true?”

“No, we read it on Evangelion,” Hunk replies. “But maybe it works in real life too?”

Lance rolls his eyes. “Whatever. If Pidge wants to change her place with me, I’m okay with it.” He smiles. “I don’t mind sleeps in the women dormitory.”

“No gonna happen.” Pidge stretches. “I’ll be out of here once the short program is over.”

“Good for you.” Lance lies down on his bed and closes his eyes.

He pretends not to pay attention, but it’s hard when the screen is a couple of meters away and Pidge sets the audio of the commentary pretty high.

“So, Johnny, do you have expectations for the men competition?”

 “A lot, actually,” Johnny replies. “If Shiro wouldn’t have withdrawn, I would have bet on his victory, of course.”

“That was unfortunate, especially because this is the first occasion we could have seen a direct confrontation between him and Keith Kogane.”

“Oh, sure. Every ice skating fan around is waiting for it, since Kogane beat Shiro’s record at the junior world.”

“Well, hopefully we’ll have the rest of the season to enjoy their performances.”

“Definitely. I really like Shiro’s programs this year and I’m waiting to see them better at the Four Continents.”

“And speaking of Kogane, do you think he’s the favorite candidate for victory here? He already beat Lotor this season, at Skate Canada.”

“He’s definitely one of the candidates, but Lotor is a strong skater. His score is overall higher than Kogane and his jumps are flawless. It’ll be interesting to see if Kogane will try to catch up with him adding a second quad in his short program.”

“For now, his conservative strategy works.”

“Yeah, and Kogane has two wonderful programs too. Higher PCS of the season for the transitions. He hasn’t managed yet to take a four level on the step sequence like Shiro did, but he’s getting there.”

Okay, Lance is so not going to stay still and hear them praising Keith. He stretches out and opens a drawer to take his headphones. He is about to put them on, when he hears the gasp of the announcer and his curiosity gets the better of him.

“We… We’re a little surprised because there are only five skaters on the ring right now but it hasn’t been announced a withdrawn yet. Do you see which one?”

“Yes.” Johnny’s voice was shocked. “Kogane isn’t here.”

“What?” Lance jumps off his bed and places himself between Pidge and Hunk. “Mullet won’t compete? At his first Grand Prix Final?”

“Maybe he’s just late,” Hunk assumes.

“In an official competition? Nah.”

“Maybe he felt ill too, like Shiro?” Pidge checks his phone. “It’s strange, there was no announcement on the Ice Skating Union, neither in the Skating Galaxy Garrison website.”

“A skater can’t disappear like that.” Lance watches the screen closer. “Any of you can see coach Iverson somewhere?”

“Okay, finally we got the confirmation about Keith Kogane’s withdrawn from the official panel, but no explanation about the reason,” the announcer says. “We sent our correspondent to investigate on the matter and we’ll inform you as soon as we have more news. In the meantime, Johnny, if you can please introduce the other skaters…”

The voices fade as Pidge lowers the volume. She looks at the others, but none of them have answers. They’re not Keith’s friends – Lance loves to call him his rival, but their results speak a different story – but they train with him at the same rink. With Shiro too, who is the Galaxy Garrison best skater.

And now both of them lost the first major competition of the season.

And after that, nor Shiro neither Keith comes back.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

[…]

End of the Grand Prix Final Commentary

Final note: I know a lot of you are upset about what happened with Keith Kogane. I agree with you skaters should be professional and for no reason at all they should just leave a competition like it means nothing. Especially without any warning or notice. Keith Kogane’s behavior shouldn’t be excused.

But, mostly, I think you’re sad. Like me, you wanted to see Kogane skating and having him disappearing instead, and without a word, was upsetting. I understand you.

But I hope we have more occasion in the future to see Kogane competing. And I’m pretty sure he has a really good explanation for his behavior and maybe he’s the one suffering the most from this situation. We should try to be open-minded and wait for his comeback. And then, maybe, we can forgive him.

⸛⸛⸛⸛

There is a conbini near the hospital. Keith grabs a bento and a bottle of water and he eats them on his way back. He knows it is considered rude – Shiro told him many times, when they ate on the street back to Odessa. At that moment, he doesn’t care. The fact that he’s half Korean spares him from most of the glares foreigns get in Japan, but he still gets enough amount to not worry about luring attention.

He throws away the remains of his lunch and returns back in the intensive care waiting room. The ward door is still closed, so Keith lumps on a chair. He checks his phone: his mother sent him a message.

 

Mom: do you want me to recharge your credit card?

I: no I’m fine

Mom: ok

Mom: let me know if you need something

I: thanks

 

Keith’s grateful his mother is supportive. Sure, it’s probably the best she doesn’t know Keith has only one meal for day and he goes to sleep at the capsule hotel only when he feels too tired to stand up and spends the rest of the time in that waiting room, but at least she didn’t yell at him for being there in the first place, nor she tries to convince him to come back. Nor she complained about not being at home for Christmas. And that is enough for Keith.

He had to block every other call, especially from the people of the Galaxy Garrison. He has a hard time to consider them friends and, after what happened at the Grand Prix Final, he doesn’t want to speak with them. He doesn’t want to speak with anyone.

Not until Shiro wakes up.

A nurse opens the door of the ward. Keith hurries inside, placing his cell phone on his pocket. Thirty meters on the right and he reaches the window that looks out on Shiro’s room. Every time, Keith feels his heart crushes, despite already knowing Shiro’s condition. But he can’t help: Shiro completely still, cables coming all off him, the beeping monitor, the bandages around his face and head and especially the empty space where once it was his right arm. All that is a lot to take in.

Keith places his hand on the glasses and sighs. He leans his forefront too and closes his eyes. He hears steps around him, but nurses and doctors are used to his presence and, as long as he respects their rules, they don’t bother him. So he registers with a little suspicious as he felt someone next to him.

He raises his head to meet the gaze of a strange man with unusual red hair.

“Keith Kogane?”

Keith blinks. Normal people don’t recognize him. He has some fan in Japan, but they don’t frequent the hospital.

“I’m Coran Hieronymus Wimbleton Smythe,” the man introduces himself. “We met at the Skate Canada this year.” Keith blinks. “I’m Allura Altea’s coach. You know, the princess.”

Keith knows who Allura is – there was an uproar the year before at the Galaxy Garrison as she was able to land a triple axel at Skate America, and managed to beat Ina Leifsdottir. He never spoke with her, though.

“Sorry, I don’t remember you.”

Coran isn’t offended. He shrugs. “Oh, I guess you had a lot to do back then. First senior competition and all.”

“Yeah.”

Keith isn’t in the mood for a nice chat, so he turns his gaze again on the window. Unfortunately for him, Coran doesn’t catch his gesture.

“The ice skating world is still looking for an answer about your sudden disappearing, and you were here all along.” Coran moves next to him looking through the window. “The Galaxy Garrison only spoke about your expulsion, saying you just left before the Grand Prix Final, but they never gave us a proper explanation about it.”

“They’re not honest about anything.” Keith snorts.

“You mean, about Shiro?”

“The flu, they called it in the official announcement.”

“They didn’t want to alarm fans around.”

“It didn’t work.”

After the Grand Prix Final, journalist hopped around hoping to find more information about Keith and his withdrawal. It was hard not notice Shiro didn’t return to train at the rink for a suspiciously long time for simple flu, until the Galaxy Garrison admitted it was a car accident all along and that they had no idea when Shiro would be able to return, if so.

That, at least, takes a lot of attention from Keith. Who cares about the junior champion that may or may not become a new star of ice skating, when the actual star, the golden boy, the five-time world champion is in a hospital bed, fighting for his life?

Keith does care more about Shiro too.

Frankly, it’s strange Coran was able to find out Shiro’s hospital. They were pretty secretive about it, especially because Shiro’s a star in Japan. But if Coran’s a coach, he probably has connections.

“Do the doctor say something about his condition?” Coran asks.

“I don’t know. They tolerate me, but I’m not a relative so they don’t speak with me. They don’t even let me in.”

“And his parents?”

“He isn’t in a very good term with them and they’re kinda… into business or something. Shiro grow up with his grandfather, but he’s old and he lives in Hokkaido, he’ll be complicated to him to stay here in Sapporo. He’s the one that informed me about Shiro’s accident.”

“Let me guess: just before the Grand Prix Final.”

Keith nods. He doesn’t know why he’s telling Coran all those things, but he’s relaxing someway. He spends too much time alone in the hospital.

“There’s Adam – Shiro’s boyfriend,” Keith continues. “He comes every evening. For what he said, a normal period of coma after such a big accident go from four to eight weeks. If Shiro doesn’t wake up after that, then he possibly never will.” He swallows, as he tries to accept the fact. “For now, we can only wait. His condition is stable. Adam made him listen to music or movies for, you know, stimulate a reaction.”

“Have you spoke with Shiro?”

“No. As I said, I can’t enter.”

“We can amend it.”

Keith watches with horror as Coran steps a few meters from him and then starts screaming. His loud voice sounds in all the hallway, catching the attention of doctors, nurses, and visitors. Coran falls to the ground, clutching his chest and yells something about a heatstroke.

Keith doesn’t know if the people there know English enough to understand him, but they gather around him. Keith takes a brief glance, before deciding to take his chance. He opens the door of Shiro’s room and slips inside.

In the room, the beeping sound was higher. Keith takes a deep sigh to calm himself, remembering that sound means good. It means Shiro’s still alive. Keith moves next to the bed. Shiro’s face is almost invisible under all the bandages and his chest moves just a little as he breathes. An IV is attached to his left arm, other cables come out his pajamas.

Keith touches Shiro’s hand. He expects it to be cold, instead it’s warm. Warm as Keith remembers it, when they skated together hand in hand the first time Keith arrived at the Galaxy Garrison. Keith dares to touch his face too, his fingers gently rub the cheeks.

“Shiro…”

For a second, Keith gets the impression Shiro clenches his eyes. He retracts, fearing he just did something wrong, and he sees it: Shiro’s fingers are moving.

He doesn’t hesitate. He rushes outside the room, calling for the doctor.

“Shiro! I mean, the patient… he’s waking up. Maybe…” he adds, because a part of him believes he just imagined everything.

The crowd is still around Coran, who stands up with a small jump. “I’m fine! I healed!”

One of the doctors glaces at both Coran and Keith, maybe understanding their stunt. With a quick shrug, he moves to Shiro’s room, followed by a couple of nurses. Keith doesn’t understand what they’re saying, but they don’t look worried.

Another nurse makes all the visitors leaving the wand. Coran places his hand on Keith’s shoulders as he follows him in the waiting room. They wait there. Keith doubts they will call for him, but that doesn’t mean he would leave. A couple of hours later, Adam appears. He doesn’t notice Keith at first, too eager to reach for the wand’s door and ring the bell.

Keith’s about to call him. He doesn’t: there is a smile on Adam’s face and he’s clutching his bags as he waits for the door to open. That’s all the confirmation he needs about Shiro’s condition. He stands up and heads for the door.

“Are you leaving?” Coran follows him.

“Yes.”

“What are you going to do now?”

Coran’s ask can have more meanings. Now about Shiro’s waking up, now about in the next ten minutes, or about Keith’s life in general. Luckily for Keith, he has the same answer for everything.

“I don’t know.”

“Will you skate again?”

“Probably not.”

What is the point to do it without Shiro?

“Well, if you change your mind, call me.”

Coran leaves before him, before Keith has time to ask him more about the visitor card Coran placed in his hand.

Ice Skating School “The Castle of Lion”.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

[Video interview of Takashi Shirogane after his recovery]

I think I speak for all the fans around the world: we are happy to see Shiro again. After we received the notice about his car accident, we all feared for him. Two months aren’t a short amount of time waiting for good news.

But we also have to face reality. As Shiro himself states, he has no chance but retiring for competitive skating. I am a bad person: I couldn’t keep my eyes out his missing arm during his interview. It’s heartbreaking. We wish Shiro good luck for his future!

At least, maybe Lotor can win more now?

⸛⸛⸛⸛

The dance school haven’t changed from what Shiro remembers. The small building has almost the same cracks on the violet façade. The smell is also the same, and so it is the creaking of the wooden floor under his steps. Even Krolia has still the aspect of a thirty years old.

On the contrary, Shiro changed. Not voluntarily, of course, but it’s the truth.

He doesn’t change enough for Krolia to not recognize him. She reserves him a brief smile, as she ends her lessons. Once all the children left the dance room, she greets him with her strong handshake.

“How are you?” she asks, her eyes fix on his face and not his right shoulder.

“I’m good.”

“Keith didn’t tell me about your arrival.”

“He doesn’t know. It’s… kinda a surprise?”

He waits, while Krolia scrutinizes him. She’s too much alike to Keith, Shiro realizes.

“I see,” she says at last, and smiles. “But you stay with us, right?”

“If it isn’t too much disturb.”

“Good,” she replies.

Only then Shiro dares to ask, “Do you know where I can find Keith? I’m not sure if he has lessons or…”

Krolia rolls her eyes. “You know where he is.”

Shiro doesn’t ask further. “Thanks. See you later.”

He leaves the dance school and heads north. It’s a twenty minutes’ walk to reach the ice rink from there. He remembers the route, he did many times in the past, every summer he spent there with Keith after the skating season, training and creating the programs, far away from the pressure of the Garrison. One of the many positive things of having Keith as a friend.

The ice rink has remained the same too. Shiro knows the hockey team Keith’s father would have liked him to join disbanded a few years ago, so right now it’s not as lively as it used to be. He wonders if they still have the photo of the old team; the one Keith’s father was a part of. Keith jokes, saying he has to inherit both his parents’ legacy, so he dances on ice.

Shiro smiles at the memory as he enters.

Ulas’s at the reception desk. As soon as he sees Shiro, he blinks. He jumps and rushes to greet him. “What a surprise!” He pauses. “I’m really sorry about what happened to you.”

“Thank you.” Shiro changes the subject. “Is Keith here?”

“Where possibly could he be, if not here?” Ulas shakes his head, but there is a fond smile on his face.

“Maybe in class?” Shiro tries, with a smirk. “He’s a college student now, isn’t he?”

“Yeah, sure.” They both know the place Keith belongs to.

Ulas gestures at the glass door and Shiro thanks him with a nod.

He opens it and the cold air hit him in full force. Shiro breaths hard, the feeling of being on the ice passing through him. He walks near the boards: the rink is empty but for Keith. He’s in the center, making the step sequences of his last year short program. His footsteps are gorgeous as ever and his edges deep.

A mohawk turn and then he makes a triple Lutz out of nowhere. High, perfect landing, but the starting edge was wrong.

“Ouch,” Shiro says. “That wasn’t a lutz, that was a flutz to say at best. Not very good for score: I would call an underotation and give a minus three for GOE.”

Keith stops. He’s far from Shiro, but he can imagine Keith with wide eyes, and then his smirk. Keith moves again on the ice. No Mohawk turns this time, but the edge is correct and the triple lutz is delivered wonderfully. Shiro nods satisfied. Keith slips towards him.

“That was perfect.”

“I had a good teacher. Pretty harsh, but good.” The amused smile on Keith’s face turns slowly into an affectionate expression. “It’s good to have you back here.”

“It’s good to be back.”

Keith uses the boards to push himself backward. “Come on. Join me.”

“I don’t have skates.”

“Wonder where you can find them, here, in an ice rink.”

“This is definitely the last place I would look for them.”

With a shake of his head, Keith returns to the center of the rink, pretending to not pay him attention. Despite all the jokes, Shiro would like to explain, to open his heart. There isn’t a place anymore for him on the ice and returning there it could only make the pain worse. But Ulas is already next to him, a pair of skate in his hand, and Shiro finds himself lured by the rink.

He takes off his coat, put the skates on and places his feet on the ice. It feels strange, at first. Without one of his arm, his balance is a little off. A couple of slips later, he regains enough confidence to speed up a little. He makes a little jump backwards to test his legs, then skates towards Keith. But before reaching him, he stops and skates backwards.

“Catch me.”

Keith crosses his arm, for a second refusing to participate. Not for long, though: Shiro has just reached the other end of the rink when Keith grabs his hand. He doesn’t let it go, at first, and for a while they skate together, hand in hand. It’s good for Shiro to rest on it.

“How are you feeling?” Keith asks.

“Good. Better,” he admits.

His eyes look far, remembering the first time he came in Toronto. As a junior champion, it was asked to judge a small competition for novice skaters. He accepted: he liked young skaters. He didn’t expect to find a talent so pure to fall in love with, but this is what happens when someone watches Keith skating. Even if there’s no music, Keith doesn’t let anyone take their eyes off him.

“But it’s ok, I need to at least be able to stand on the ice if I want to become a decent coach.”

Keith, who left his hand and made a couple of steps of his own, stops and turns. “A coach?”

“The Garrison proposed me.” Shiro shrugs. “There isn’t Paralympic discipline for figure skaters, so it’s not like I have any other possibilities.” He sounds more bitter than he wants but, as usual, he feels more like himself with Keith. “But I haven’t accepted yet.”

Returning to the Garrison had been complicated. His entire team was there, his fans, the other skaters, people that looked at him with pride and now… Now they had no idea how to act with him. Unlike Keith. It’s unfair, Shiro knows, because he’s putting too much weight on Keith’s shoulder, but when he was recovered from the accident, it was nice messaging with Keith, talking about mundane things. Having a friend that could raise your mood.

“The hard truth is that my days as a skater are over.”

Keith frowns. He licks his lips, unsure. In the end, he says, “yours and mine both.”

He turns around and he jumps. He attempts a quadruple Lutz this time, but his balance is a little off. He completes the rotations, but he falls behind at the end. Still, that wasn’t a jump that can be executed well without training.

“That’s not true. You skip a season, not big deal. You have a lot of years in front of you. Last year was only your first as a senior.”

“The Garrison expelled me because the Grand Prix Final, and there are no figure skating school out there that would take me after that.” Keith snorts. “I got accept at the Garrison because of you, after all. What did they say? That I’m unreliable and impossible to control. You are the one that never gave up on me.”

“I can be your coach then.”

They stare. For a long minute. It wasn’t Shiro’s first idea. Sure, he came there to convince Keith to return, but being his coach wasn’t in his mind. Now that he expressed the idea, though, it doesn’t sound so bad.

“The stall is still open?” he asks, to break the silence.

Keith smiles. “Yeah, it is.”

The leave the ice rink, Keith cleans his skates as Shiro returns back to Ulas his own, then they reach the park. The stall is here and they used to stop by after trainer. They respect the tradition of buying churros and sit down in the bench in front at the small lake. Shiro places his corned on his legs as he eats with his left hand.

“I was being serious, you know.”

“You can’t be my coach,” Keith replies.

“Why not? Afraid you’re not at my level?”

Keith rolls his eyes, but doesn’t fall for it. “It’s just… We still need an ice rink, and a choreographer, and pay for the transfer… let aside we have to convince the Canadian Federation to let me participate again…”

“Small problems.” Shiro shrugs. “I was able to convince you to join the Garrison in the first place, after all.”

That makes Keith smile. “And I have the college.”

“Five dollars you haven’t attend a lesson yet. No, wait, ten dollars you don’t even know which class you’re supposed to attend to.”

“That’s not true.”

“Do I have to call the college?”

“Maybe. But do not rely on me for the number, I don’t know it. I’m not even sure about the name.”

They both laughs.

Shiro doesn’t let the moment pass. “The important thing is that you love skating. Everything else can be resolved. And, if I may be a little bit selfish, I want to see you back on the ice.”

For a long minute, Keith waits. He takes a visitor card out of his pocket and rolls it in his finger. “I can’t ask you to be my coach, Shiro. I want you back there too.”

“I can be there. We can be there, together.”

Keith looks at him: Shiro knows that gaze. It’s the gaze of a person he’s afraid to ask, he’s afraid of looking for what is best for him, for once. So he gently takes the visitor card from his finger.

“What is it?”

“It’s a new figure skating school. In France. They told me to call, but… I didn’t.”

“Why?”

“It doesn’t feel right… without you.”

Shiro takes his phone. He looks at the time. “They’re still up in France?”

 

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Aaaand this skating season is over.

With Lotor’s victory at the World Championship. I’m a happy girl.

(An happy girl that tries not to think about why Lotor manages to win, I mean, we all know who is missing…)

Russia took two out four gold medal and six medals in total, so I’d call a pretty good result, but we can do better.

Stay tuned, because I will keep you informed about all the exhibition of this summer, along with all the news about our favorite skaters!

⸛⸛⸛⸛

Lance is happy.

Sort of. He’s an optimistic one.

Sure, he could have done better for his last season in the junior division. Even if he managed to qualify for the free program at the Four Continents, he ended up in a disappointed fourteen position; at the junior world championship, he didn’t even pass after the short program. He can feel, around him, the rumors about him and the fact the Garrison took him only because the money the Cuba government gave them for training the first Cuban figure skater ever.

He doesn’t care. He can do better, he knows. He’ll show next season. New place for training, new coaches, new colleagues…. Well, almost new colleagues.

“I’m still wondering why you two come too,” he comments, as he, Hunk and Pidge head to the ice rink.

“Aaaaw, come on, Lance, do you really think we could let you alone in this?” Hunk says in a mock tone.

“We aren’t here for you,” Pidge points out. “It may be a new school, but the technology they use is amazing, I can’t wait to see it!”

Lance would never understand their passion. “Whatever. I’m still happy I’m not alone.”

He lived in the USA for many years, he forgets how scary can be staying in a foreign country. And France is totally new for all of them.

“Same,” the other two say.

Once they reach the ice rink, the man that picked them up at the airport and then showed them their dormitory welcomes them.

“Oh, here you are, our soon to be champions.”

“Coran, right?” Hunk says, shaking his hand.

“That’s me. Was everything good in your rooms? They are great, aren’t they? Do you have any request? I’m not sure we can afford it though.”

Pidge interrupts him before he can continue his monologue. “When can we see Alfor’s technology?”

“Oh oh, an impatient one,” Coran replies, with a big smile. “Soon. But first, you have the physical. Oh, and you have to meet everyone. Come, come.”

Coran pushes them inside. They pass the main hall, climb the stair and reach a meeting room upstairs. Alfor is there, alongside his daughter Allura. She’s already in the senior division for two years before. Coran introduces them.

“There is also our doctor, Slav. You’ll meet them soon enough.”

“He said it’s a bad day today, he’s very superstition,” Alfor chuckles.

Hunk sits down. “All the skaters are here? I mean, there are only us?”

“There’s another one,” Allura speaks. “The school is new, so we prefer to start slowly.”

“Did you receive many requests?”

“Actually, no. There’s a couple of good schools here in France, so most skaters go there. Better for you though.”

Lance has the feeling that Alfor meant they didn’t receive any request but theirs. “Well, this school has already a better point than the others.” And he winks at Allura, who pretends to not notice.

Pidge rolls his eyes. “Are you going to be our coach?”

“No, no.” Alfor shakes his head. “I’m here only for assistance.”

“I’m the coach,” Coran says, with pride. “Well, truth to be said, we just hired a new coach, so I’ll be the assistant and the choreographer.”

“Who?”

“Here he comes.” Alfor gestures at the door.

Lance’s eyes widen and he hears Pidge and Hunk gasps, as Takashi Shirogane enters in the room. They barely notice the other figure following him.

“Sorry, guys,” he greets, with his left hand. “Since we are finally all together, I want to start programming our work.”

“Good idea.” Alfor nods.

“God,” Lance exhales. “Shiro! I’m… I’m a great fan of you. Are you really going to be our coach?”

“So it seems.” Shiro smiles. “Lance, right? You also were a student at Garrison.”

Lance hesitates only a second before shaking his hand. “Yes. I chose it because of you. Oh, this is so great, I can’t believe it.” Hunk coughs a little. Lance snort. “Oh, yes, Hunk and Pidge. They’re the pair couple.”

Shiro greets them too. “You’re Sam’s daughter, right?” he asks Pidge. She nods.

“I used to be on pair with my brother, but we both need a change of partner.”

“I can image,” Shiro laughs. He moves aside. “I’m not sure if you all met Keith at the Garrison too.”

Only after that, Lance moves his gaze and sees him. Keith Kogane stands there, folders on his arms and an annoyed frown on his face.

“No,” he answers Shiro. “Nice to meet you all.”

“Yeah, same.” There is surprise in Hunk’s voice.

“We’ve met before!” Lance screeches. “We were like, rivals, back at the Garrison.”

“Really?” Shiro raises an eyebrow. Keith blinks.

“I don’t recall that.”

“How could you?” Lance is outrageous.

“Weren’t you a junior?”

“You were too, two years ago!”

“Can we start?” Allura’s calm voice interrupts the discussion, and all the others nod.

Shiro sits down and gestures with his head to Keith, who distributes the folder to all the skaters, before taking place next to Shiro. Coran and Alfor are near Allura.

“Giving our timetable and the timetable of the ice rink, I prepared the program of the week,” Shiro explains. “Until the Grand Prix assignments aren’t out, we’ll work on your personal weakness and on your program. Coran has music chosen for you, but it’s just a suggestion.”

“We can work together to select them,” Coran says happily. “I have an enormous music collection.”

“I decided mine already,” Keith points out. “Can we arrange them?”

“Oh. Sure. You won’t use the same of last year?”

“No.”

Shiro doesn’t comment further, neither seems surprised by the fact. Lance can feel the curiosity in Pidge and Hunk: they, as the entire ice skating world, have now idea Keith will be back competing. Neither they know what caused his disappearing last year. But apparently, in that room, the three of them are the only one surprised.

“Allura, I’d like for you to improve your jumps combinations. Your triple axel is good and you will maintain it, maybe having two in the free program, but you can’t win without good combinations. You have a strong Lutz, let’s work on it.”

She nods. “Not making the triple-triple combination made me lose a world medal last year. I don’t like making the same mistake.”

“Lance,” Shiro continues. “Your footwork is impressive, but your jumps are often underotated. I also think you have a wrong edge on most of them. Let’s try to correct it.”

“As your order!” Lance is so happy Shiro praised him that doesn’t really care about all the critics about his jumps.

“Pidge and Hunk,” Shiro finishes. “Next will be your last season as juniors. You could maximize your result now, using Pidge’s small body, but I would prefer to help you improve your transition and skating skill, preparing you for the next years, when Pidge will probably grow up.”

“We want to be around as many years as possible,” Pidge says, and Hunk nods.

“Plus, maximize our result would mind doing like… quadruple throw jumps and I’m not sure it’s a good idea. It’s dangerous. Let’s stick with the triple.”

“Hunk.” Shiro is pretty serious. “You’ll get there. Just not this year.”

“Oh. Too bad.”

“Our doctor Slav is supposed to give you more information about diet and everything, but since he’s an idiot he isn’t here right now. You’ll meet him soon. I don’t have anything more to say except… good work and let’s see you tomorrow.”

“Can we give a look at the technology?” Pidge chirps in.

“Of course,” Alfor smiles.

“I’m interested too,” Hunk adds.

Allura turns to Coran. “I’d like to start looking for music.”

They leave together, and so do Shiro and Keith. Lance watches them, realizing Shiro didn’t give Keith any information about how improving his skating.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

I have news. Huge news. Huge, huge news.

Shiro’s back. No, not as a skater, unfortunately. But as a coach.

And apparently Keith Kogane is back too, and as Shiro’s student. Wow. Nobody expected that, but maybe we should have.

Well, I’m a little scared now that Lotor’s victories won’t last long… Come on, Lotor, show us what you can do.

⸛⸛⸛⸛

The fact Keith put a suit on should be more appreciated. By the look of the two members of the Canadian Ice Skating Federation, Shiro doubts it’s the case. He moves his leg to brush Keith’s as they wait.

“Mister Shirogane,” the woman says. “I don’t have to point out your reputation as a skater and we truly appreciate the fact you’re here today to advocate for Mister Kogane’s situation. We are looking to see how far you can go as a coach.”

“However, you have to understand that being an excellent skater doesn’t mean you can be also an excellent coach or able to control Mister Kogane’s… behavior,” the man adds. “Leaving the Grand Prix Final last year ten minutes before the actual competition and without even warning his former coach or even someone from the official panel was serious. It put the entire Federation in a bad light.”

“And we have to pay an amend.”

“That. We have to put this into consideration before including again Mister Kogane in our athletes’ list.”

You should put into consideration you don’t have right now another skater as skilled as Keith, Shiro would say, but he needs to be calm. Give the impression he has everything under control.

“I understand,” he nods. “The accident at the Grand Prix Finals was exceptional. It won’t happen again; you have both our words.”

The woman sighs. “Can we be informed of the exact circumstances of this accident? The reasons may be useful to judge Mister Kogane’s behavior with lighter methods.”

Keith briefly shakes his head, so Shiro answers, “no, I’m sorry. It’s private.”

“Then the situation is problematic, at least. We have no justification for this.”

“Keith lost the last season. Can’t be this be considered as enough punishment?” Shiro takes a deep breath. “Even people who use doping return to compete.”

“We can consider this,” the woman admits.

Shiro and Keith exchange a look. “Before your leaving, I would like to show you something.” Shiro stands up and gestures them to follow him. “Please.”

They move from the meeting room to the ice rink, that is empty. Keith’s skates are there, ready. He takes off the black jacket and he opens the first two bottom of the shirt. After putting the skate on, he slips at the center of the rink.

“We haven’t arranged the music yet, and we still like to add some difficulties to add up the score,” Shiro explains. “But the set up for the short program is ready.”

And so it is: it starts with a flying spin, then a camel spin. Shiro smiles as he heard the woman surprise gulp. Keith continues with his step sequence, that ends in a moonlight following by a triple Axel. Perfect rotation.

“All jumps in the second half of the program?” the man says. “Can he pull it off?”

Shiro’s smile becomes a grin. Of course, he can. Quadruple Salchow, not perfect the landing but enough rotation for the score, and then a combination quadruple Toeloop + triple Toeloop. Maybe underotated, but no fall. The last spin is a little slow, Shiro considers; not level four, maybe not even three. He still thinks it’s an impressive program for the start of the season.

And it seems the two members think the same.

“Can… Can he do that in competition too?” the woman asks.

“He can do even better,” Shiro answers. He pats Keith’s back once he returns to the board, and adds, “I hope you take this into consideration. But if you decide to not register Keith, well, Keith’s mother is Korean. I wonder if the Korean federation will be a little more flexible than the Canadian one.”

The two exchanges a look. “I’m pretty sure there won’t be any problem to register Mister Kogane in our federation,” the man states.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Non-Russian Skaters I’d like to see more this year (but not as much as I hope they don’t beat our skaters)

 

Keith Kogane: he’s returning and he has Shiro as a coach. I can’t image what they can do together. Also, it seems he won’t use the same programs of last year? I liked them :(

James Griffin: last year Junior World Champion, he’s working on a quadruple flip. Wonder if he’ll make it.

[…]

Allura Altea: okay, I said I don’t like her very much, and it’s true, I don’t like she always skate on Disney songs, but if she will jump two triple Axel in her program, well, I want to see it **

⸛⸛⸛⸛

Not even the gym distracts Allura from her worries. She lays down her carpet and glances a look to Keith, who’s stretching to the other side of their room. He and Lance don’t get along well, so Shiro and Coran set up the shift for the ice rink to avoid most of their interactions. Allura is often paired with Keith.

She doesn’t mind. It’s not like she doesn’t like Keith. She doesn’t know him enough to. What she knows, what she’s worry about, are the problems he brings with him. Not only the situation with Lance, which is, Allura must admit, mostly Lance’s fault, but the entire bad reputation caused by the Grand Prix Final and the Garrison’s expulsion. The fact that Keith doesn’t talk about it, not even to explain himself, doesn’t help to put her at ease.

His father accepted Keith for the school because they absolutely need someone as Shiro for advertising reason, and Shiro wouldn’t come without Keith. And Coran advocated for both of them.

It’s clear Shiro and Coran know something Allura ignores. She should trust them, but her brain doesn’t let her.

“Hey, are you done?” Shiro’s head pops up from the half-open door of the gym.

“Almost,” Keith answers, while Allura stands up and nods.

“Great. We received the assignments for the Grand Prix, so let’s make a small briefing before going home.”

“Which ones am I in?” Allura asks, but Shiro shakes his head.

“Later, together.”

She sighs, too eager to know, but Shiro turns his back at her. She looks for a brief moment as he helps Keith stretching, his left hand moving gently on Keith's leg. Keith is relaxed, no frown on his face. No doubt about it, whatever relationship they have, is a strong one.

She leaves the gym and takes a brief shower. When she returns in the hallway, Shiro and Keith are waiting for her. They are talking and smiling, but as soon as they see her, they stop. She feels she interrupted them.

“Let’s go,” Shiro says.

He walks next to her, while Keith follows behind. She doesn’t enjoy the silence she provoked, so she asks, “what do you think about my music choice for this year? Coran told me you helped creating the programs, but until now you train me only on technical elements.”

“Sorry about that,” Shiro says immediately. “Unlike the others, you have your routine with Coran and I didn’t want to mess up with it. But if you’d like my advice, I’ll be pleased to give you.”

“Yes, I’d love to. I want to improve my programs.”

Shiro nods. “I was surprised to know you chose a rock piece for the long program.”

“I need a change,” Allura explains. “I like being called the princess by fans, but I also received some critics. Apparently, Disney songs are considered good only for juniors. Maybe they’re right.” She hears Keith snort. “So I decided to try something new, to find a new way. Coran suggested me to keep slowly, that’s why I still have a Disney song for the short.”

“Coran is right,” Shiro says. “Not always judges take the skaters’ changes in a positive light. Let’s see how they will consider the princess with rock music before experiment more.”

“Which Disney song did you chose?” Keith asks.

“Let it go.”

“An ice princess for an ice princess. It fits.” There is no mocking in Keith’s tone, just an amused consideration. “I still find bad having to change your way to skate because some people don’t like it.”

Allura shrugs. “Yes, but changes could be fun too.”

Shiro chuckles. “That’s why I approve Keith choosing a Disney song too.”

“What? Really?” Allura turns to look at him. “Which one? For which program?”

“The one from the Treasure Planet, for the short.” Keith put himself in a defensive position. “I like it. I like the book too.”

“And because we think to honor your school using your kind of music,” Shiro adds.

“That’s… nice.” It really is. “I’m looking to see it. And for the free?”

“Where my heart will take me,” Keith answers.

She frowns. “Is a love song, isn’t it?”

“It’s the opening theme of Star Trek Enterprise,” Shiro corrects her.

“Oh.”

Both Shiro and Keith exchange an amused look. “Don’t worry, not all people are nerds like us.”

“I am a nerd,” she states. “Disney nerd, but still.”

This time, all three of them laugh and they are still discussing it once they arrive at the meeting room. The others are already there, so Shiro coughs and composes himself. As Keith and Allura sit down, Coran gives them a paper.

“So, this is the list of your competition this year,” Shiro explains.

Pidge and Hunk have two Junior Grand Prix, and Allura has two in the senior division, but while Allura also has the European Championship before the World, she won’t do other competition, while Pidge and Hunk will do some minors competition to keep them training for the junior world championship.

“Why I only have one GP?”

“Your rank last year wasn’t enough to get two invitations,” Pidge says, as a matter of fact, but there is a smirk on her face.

“This isn’t fair,” Lance grumbles.

Shiro tries to cheer him up. “Since reaching the Grand Prix Finals isn’t possible for you, I subscribe you to other competitions, so you can be at your peak for the Four Continents.”

Lance glares. “Not the World Championship? And why do I have the same competitions as mullet here?”

“We need to save our transfer expenses,” Coran states, with a deep voice. “It’s pretty lucky for us your only Grand Prix is also Allura’s.”

This lifts Lance’s humor. He turns to Allura immediately. “Nice! Let’s support each other. Can I come to your Kiss&Cry?”

But Allura isn't paying attention. Her eyes are focused on Shiro, who places his hand on Keith’s shoulder.

“I know there’s a lot of competitions, but Alfor calculated they are necessary for you to reach enough score to be selected. Otherwise, even if you win the nationals, they won’t send you to Four Continents and World Championship.”

“I know. I can handle it.”

“We can handle it. I don’t want anyone saying I wouldn’t able to train it well enough.”

Keith smirks. “No pressure at all, thanks.”

“You’re welcome.”

By the way Keith’s eyes shine, Allura realizes he is excited to compete again. They both are, he and Shiro. She can still have her worries, but they can work on that together.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Summary of the Lombardia Trophy

First competition for Keith Kogane, first victory. Not a perfect short program (he fell on the quadruple Salchow, hand down with the triple Axel, and the combo turned in a quadruple-single) and a conservative long program with only a quadruple, but I’m not disappointed. The programs look amazing.

⸛⸛⸛⸛

Shiro is proud.

He’ve been able to avoid interviews so far. He avoided them after his accident, he avoided them during his recovery phase, he avoided them after the recovery phase. And despite Coran’s pleas, he avoided them after he joined the Castle of Lions School.

He realizes, though, that he can’t avoid them forever.

The Lombardia Trophy is a minor competition, but considering it marks Keith’s return and Shiro new role as a coach, it lures journalists from important sports papers. So the evening after the competition, he agrees to sit down with a couple of them and answer some questions.

“Thank you for your time,” the female journalist greets him. “And welcome back.”

“Thanks.”

“I’m pretty sure your fans are happy to see you again, even if in a new role.”

“I hope so.”

“There is something you want to tell them?”

“Just to follow my skaters. They deserve their support.”

The journalist smiles. “We’ll talk about them shorty. Now, I’d like to find more about your accident.”

“Great. When you do, tell me, because I don’t remember anything about it!”

“I mean, something about your feeling in the matter. It was a pretty hard accident and it’s also said you broke up with your historical boyfriend after that…”

Shiro grits his teeth. He knows he must face the curiosity about his accident, but it still hurt. And definitely he doesn’t want to talk about Adam. Shiro doesn’t resent him: Adam stays at his side during his all recovery. It just doesn’t work after that, it happens.

“I didn’t plan to retire from competition so early,” Shiro says. “So I was angry. And sad. Pretty normal reaction, but life goes on. And I’m happy I can still be on the rink, with another role.”

The journalist understands and changes the subject. “So, you’re a coach now. How does it feel?”

“Great,” Shiro answers sincerely. “Back at the Garrison, I liked seeing our juniors grew up and became better. Now I can help it. I wasn’t sure I would become one, but here I am.”

“You chose a new Ice School for your new career. Why not the Garrison?” There is no malice in the question, but Shiro is sure a lot of people wondering what happened. Especially because Shiro’s now Keith’s coach, after Keith got expelled from Garrison.

“Garrison had been my home for a long time,” Shiro explains. “It has a special place in my heart. But I need a fresh start, in a place where I can’t have any excuses.”

“So Keith Kogane has nothing to do with your decision.”

“He needs a fresh start too.”

The journalist stops for a second. “Fans expected the two of you to battle on the ice, and instead you’re his coach. How does it feel?”

“I didn’t expect that too. I can say it’s easy working with Keith, since we know each other for quite some time now.”

“You have high expectations for his season?”

“I have.”

“He tried two quadruples in his short program at his first competition. This is impressive, even if he fell on the second one.”

“To be honest, I told him to take his time. Patience yields focus, that’s my motto.” Shiro smiles: he had already a fond memory of the first time as Keith’s coach. “I want him to peak at the bigger competition, and use the minors to gain confidence.”

“Instead he went for two quadruples?”

Shiro laughs. “Yep. But he learned: we’ll plan five quads for the long program, but for now I forbid him to do more than one. Especially because they’ll be in the second half of the program. He needs to train for that.”

“I can say for everyone: we will look forward it.”

“You won’t be disappointed.”

“Your faith is sweet,” the journalist says. “Don’t worry, I won’t write down this,” she adds. “What about the other skaters? What about the princess?”

“She’s great. Very hard worker and very talented. I don’t have much to teach her.”

“Do you find difficult to be the coach for a female skater?”

“Not really. The technique is the same. I have some difficulty with pair skating mostly.”

“Oh, yeah. Katie Holt and Hunk Garrett. How do you manage to steal them from the Garrison? They were their top junior pair.”

“I know secrets at Garrison,” Shiro replies with a smile. “I blackmailed them.”

The journalist laughs. “They’re still juniors for this year, correct?”

“Yes. I help them improve their skating skill for their debut in senior, so I don’t expect results for this season, but they can surprise us.”

“The last member of your school is Lance McClain. Compared to the other, he’s the least promising.”

Shiro frowned. It can’t be denied his results aren’t as great as the others, but he still doesn’t like the journalist’s tone. “Lance is the first Cuban skater. They don’t have many ice rinks there. He’s doing history too.”

“That’s true.” The journalist nods. “What do you think of his first competition?”

“Lance is at his first year in senior, he needs time to adjust,” Shiro explains. “He’s a very elegant skater, and we’re working to improve his jumps.”

“Still, Keith Kogane won the competition and he ended up in the sixth position. Do you think this can cause some tension inside the school?”

“I and Keith never skated against each other, but we wanted that. We got better thanks to the other. Competition help improve. I’m pretty sure Keith and Lance will be fine.”

It’s a lie. Well, more hope.

There was tension even before the competition and Shiro has no doubt the difference of score can be a problem. Lance already complain about the difference in the layouts, with Keith having more jumps in the second half of the program. Alfor scheduled their timetable trying to avoid as possible their time together, but Shiro is the only coach and Coran the only choreographer, so Keith and Lance can’t avoid themselves forever. Still, Shiro is an optimistic one: he hopes the competition between them only help to improve their techniques. He doesn’t expect for Lance to win, only to skate at best of his possibilities.

Lance will understand too.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Summary of the Helsinki Grand Prix.

Lotor won!!! And what a victory: the first competition of his season and he nailed already six quads. I’m so so excited to see what can do more at the end of the season.

James Griffin took second place. No quadruple flip for now.

Now, about the other contender…

Side note: Lance McClain, who ended in the last position, is another of Shiro’s students.

⸛⸛⸛⸛

There is a small dining room at the Castle of Lions Ice school; they use it for brainstorming and for small breaks during the training sessions. After the morning session at the gym, Keith finds Shiro there: there are papers scattered in front of him, along with markers and pens. Coran is there too, sat next to him, and they both look at the laptop screen.

He takes a yogurt from the fridge and sits down next to Shiro. A brief look at the paper makes Keith understand they are the scores of skaters at Helsinki, including Lance’s. The part about jumps is a tribute of negative scores. Lance’d fell once in the short program and twice in the free program, and he turned three triples into doubles. Definitely not a good test.

“It wasn’t your fault,” he says.

Shiro takes some time to realize Keith’s talking with him. He smiles. “I know. But I’m his coach, so the least I can do is to see where he can improve.”

Keith submerges the spoon in the yogurt. “Have you spoke with him?” he asks.

“A little. Not everyone reacts to disappointment in the same way. He was pretty depressed.”

“Don’t worry, he will return to his goofy mood soon enough,” Coran assures.

“Hope you’re right,” Shiro says. It’s clear for Keith Shiro blames himself for Lance’s failure at his first major competition of the season, even if Lance had no chance to win in the first place.

“Of course I am! I’m always right,” Coran nods solemnly. “I understand for you two defeat is a distant concept.”

“That’s not true,” Shiro replies. Coran raises an eyebrow, so Shiro adds, “when I was younger, I grew up altogether in the span of a year. I lost most of my jumps because of it. My coaches back then advised me to give up of single skating and maybe trying with pair. My body was too big for their tastes.”

“So he said fuck you to them and get himself in the Garrison,” Keith ends. He has heard the story before. “You can’t win five times a World Championship if you don’t get angry at defeats.” Shiro sends him an amused smile.

Coran laughs. “That’s the spirit.”

“I’m not the only one that hates losing,” Shiro comments. “Do you remember when you decided to learn the quadruple Lutz only to use it in a competition before James Griffin?”

Keith flushes. “He told me my Lutz was a Flutz and it wasn’t. It was better than his.”

“See?”

Before their arguing can continue, the others join them. Allura lifts an eyebrow at the laptop, but she takes her food and sits down next to Coran. Lance is sulking: he sits down and doesn’t look at anyone. Pidge and Hulk peep from Shiro’s shoulders.

“This is Lance’s free program?” she asks, as the video plays on the screen. And she and Hunk, despite having seen it already, comment on it with a lot of “ouch” and “no” and Keith can’t really say if they are serious or they’re just trying to annoy Lance.

“Do you have Lotor’s program too?” Keith asks Coran.

“Sure, but I haven’t edited it yet.”

“Can I see it?”

“You’re studying your opponent already?” Pidge says. “You still have to win the national to get to the Worlds, you know.”

“I will, don’t worry,” Keith says absent-mind, his eyes already focus on the screen. Even Allura lifts her head from her food to look at it.

“Lotor’s jumps are incredible,” she says. “Other skaters can jump, but with him… You know he’s gonna make it, that he won’t fall.”

“His first competition of the years and he already nailed four quads,” Shiro nods. “Six if you consider the short program too. Impressive.”

But there is an annoyed look in Shiro’s face and Keith realizes he doesn’t like Allura praising Lotor. After all, Lotor has never been able to beat him.

“Shiro’s jumps are flawless too,” Keith affirms.

“You’re right,” Allura says. “They were better too. But with Shiro, you could fear the fall even if he didn’t. Not with Lotor. Maybe because he has more power than grace?”

“He’s only raw power,” Keith agrees. “And this is why it’s bullshit.” He takes one of the power from the table. “It takes 8.56 for transitions. He doesn’t have any transitions in all his program.”

“I'm surprised they gave him less than 9 points,” Shiro comments dully.

“They’ll do it at the Final, don’t worry.”

Allura sighs. “Unfortunately, our sport isn’t fair as it seems. People that can jump gain higher scores in PCS too, even if they don’t deserve it.”

“And Lotor’s Russian,” Pidge points out.

“That too,” Allura nods. “Judges tend to overscore Russian athletes. But it doesn’t matter. We can beat them. We just have to be flawless in our performances.”

“Well, you say like it’s easy,” Hunk comments. “I’m happy we don’t have so many jumps. I don’t, at least,” he adds as Pidge growls at him.

“Still, it’s absurd.” Keith picks up another paper. “They gave Lance a 6.89 in transition. Not even a seven and have you seen his entrance before the triple Axel? Okay, he turned it into a double, but still…”

Coran is about to play that sequence to prove Keith’s point, when Lance stands up, his hands smash on the table. “Does it really matter, since I can’t jump? I don’t need your pity.”

“Your jumps will improve,” Shiro assures him. “And having good programs is important too.” Keith has the feeling they have already had a similar conversation after the competition.

“Maybe we should just admit I suck at this.”

He leaves the room with the eyes of everyone on him. None of them expect that admission. Keith rubs Shiro’s left arm as he looks at the screen. Allura sighs.

“Lance’s skating skills are incredible, that’s why we accept him here,” she says. “We never expect him to win, only to skate clear for the public to be remembered. But I’m not sure we can say him that.”

“It’s my fault,” Shiro comments. “I should be able to motivate him more.”

“It’s not,” Keith protests.

“Well, you can’t really say. For now, I only have five athletes and four of them are natural born talent.”

Even if Keith understands Shiro’s talking about him too, he doesn’t care. “My life would have been a lot different without you. I wouldn’t be as good.”

He stands up and follows Lance’s step. He finds him at the rink, arms leaned on the board.

“What do you want?”

“That wasn't pitied,” Keith says. “You’re good with skating skill. You could just…”

“What?” lance snaps. “Stop trying to psychoanalyze me. You don’t know shit.”

“I… I was just…”

“You have no idea. No idea what it means being the first skater of your nation, with everyone expecting results from you because they pay for your training?” Lance snorts. “You don’t, do you? You're so talented people come for you. You can even leave a Grand Prix Final without any reason, putting everyone in jeopardy, and then comes back as it was nothing!”

“Actually, it wasn’t… I mean…”

“You gave so little importance in competition. I know I can’t hope to arrive there, and you were there and you left!”

“I was with Shiro!”

Keith regrets saying it a second later, after seeing Lance’s shock expression. But the “what?” he hears doesn’t come from Lance, but from Hunk. Both he and Pidge are behind him.

“With Shiro at the hospital, you mean?” Pidge asks. “That was your reason for leaving the Final?” She looks sad. Keith images she doesn’t expect that, and she probably believes something else entirely.

He nods. “Yes. Skating didn’t really matter if Shiro was almost dying, you know.” He turns the last time his head at Lance. “Winning isn’t everything. Maybe you should reconsider the reason you skate for.”

“What’s yours?” Lance asks after a second.

“Bringing back someone on the ice.”

And with that, Keith leaves.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Summary of the Grand Prix Final

Lotor lost! Okay, he won the silver, which is good, but still! I’m sad. And here I thought we should fear only Keith Kogane…

James Griffin did really nail it. But Lotor still has the European to get revenge.

No surprise in the women competition: Russia took the gold!

⸛⸛⸛⸛

The e-mail arrives from an official source inside the ISU. Shiro frowns, before lifting his head to look at the table. Pidge, Hunk and Lance are on the opposite side, looking at Pidge’s computer screen as she explains things to them. Keith is there too, his cellphone in his hand, even if his eyes are focused at the others.

“Lance,” Shiro calls. “I just received a mail about your withdrawal from the Four Continents.” Immediately, all the eyes in the room are on Lance.

“Oh.” He doesn’t negate it. “I don’t expect them to inform you. Sorry, I should have told you before.” He stands up and coughs to clear his voice. “I am proud to announce that I officially retire from competitive men single skating.”

Hunk gasps and Pidge losses her words. “Why?” Shiro asks. After the disastrous GP, Lance got better, and he even managed to grab a couple of medals in minor competition. He expects Lance to have gain confidence, not the other way around.

“I realized jumping became difficult for me,” Lance explained. “I ended up focusing too much on them without being able to do.”

“But… but you can’t leave just like that,” Hunk complains.

“Yeah, no fair. It won’t be the same without you,” Pidge adds.

“Woah, slow down. I’m not going anywhere.” Lance looks a little bit offended by the insinuation, despite being the one to retire. “I won’t compete in single anymore, but I’m not leaving. I’ll do ice dance instead.”

“Ice dance?”

“Yep. Allura’s cousin Romelle is looking for a new partner after her brother has to retire because of an injury. So, I said to myself, why not?”

“You could have waited the end of this season,” Shiro said.

“Yes, but I’m really impatient to begin, you know? I want to be ready for next season and I have a lot of things to learn, like the lifts and everything, so I need all the time I can get.”

“Well, I’m happy for you if you think that’s the best. But unfortunately I’m not sure I can help much with ice dance.”

“Oh, Romelle has her own coach, so we’ll be fine. But we can count on you as a choreographer for our programs?”

“Of course.”

“Ice dance is even harsher regarding judges’ lack of objectivity,” Keith says.

“But no jumps,” Lance replies with a smile. “Only skating skills.”

Keith nods. “Only skating skills. You’ll be great.”

“Ah, man, I’m so happy you stay.” Hunk stands up and grabs him into a deadly hug.

Allura interrupts the sappy moments. She storms in the dining room shaking a poster in her hands. “What does this mean?” she demands.

“We could answer if you show us in a better manner,” Pidge protests.

Shiro glares at her because she knows very well what that poster is. She doesn’t have to look at it. Allura places it on the table, and Shiro admires the graphic. When Coran said he can use Photoshop, he was lying.

“Coran’s idea,” Shiro explains. “After Christmas Holiday will have three challenging months in front of us. He thinks it’s nice to relax a bit with a show.”

“And my father agrees with him?”

“He can sell tickets, and we need money.”

“Look.” Pidge shows her a website page on the computer. “I’d put some presale on-line. Price isn’t high, but the tickets were sold out in a jilt.”

“So you all know about it,” Allura crosses her arms. “I can’t believe you organize a show at my ice rink without informing me.” Her eyes scrutinize the room and stops on Keith. He’s her last hope. “Do you agree on this?”

Keith shrugs. “We always made a New Year Show at Garrison. And Shiro used to participate in a lot of show around for Christmas’ holiday. It’s kinda tradition?”

“That’s true,” Shiro adds. “Christmas and the end of the year are the best moments for ice shows.”

“Come on, Allura, it’ll be fun,” Lance whines.

“We are only five people, and two of us are a pair. Too few for a show.”

“I think about everything,” Lance replies. “It will suffice for any of us to do three exhibitions. The short program from last year and both the exhibition programs of this and last year. It’s perfect. I also want to try something new with Romelle.”

“We decide the sixth of January to be the best date, so we can have Christmas with the family and then enough time to organize it,” Shiro explains.

“Why are you against it?” Hunk asks. “You already won your National Competition and only have the European Championship at the end of January. Look at Keith: he agrees with us and he has two more competitions in January plus the Nationals.”

“I’m sorry for you,” Pidge comments.

“Allura’s sulking because she lost the silver medal at the Grand Prix Final for falling on her step sequence,” Shiro says. He would keep a straight face, but it’s hard to do so. It was such an absurd way to lose points, especially when you were able to land a flawless triple axel.

“I’m not sulking,” she protests. “It can happen to anyone.” She glares as if anyone would dare to contradict her. She sighs, and a small smile appears on her face. “Fine. I participate too. But,” she stops the cheers around her. “Two conditions.”

“Which ones?” Lance asks, with a grin.

“First, we’ll make a small exhibition altogether, and I get to choose the music.”

“Let me guess: Disney song?” Pidge asks.

“Second.” She turns her head at Shiro. “You’ll exhibit too.”

He blinks. “This is your evil plan to ruin our show?”

“Just one. I’m pretty sure there is one of your program where you don’t have jumps. You’ll be fine.”

Shiro looks around. Except for Keith, whose gaze is intense, the others are looking at him with puppy eyes.

“It’ll be amazing have you back,” Lance says.

“Fine. We have a deal.”

This time, no one stops the cheers. “I’m gonna fix the website for the event,” Pidge states, and the others start to give her bad advice. Shiro submerges himself again in his computer, planning the timetable of training for the next month. He wants to finish it before the Christmas Holiday. He’s so concentrated he misses the others leaving, until Keith comes back with two cups of hot cocoa.

“Thanks.” Shiro looks at the dark outside. “It’s already so late?”

Keith nods. “Coran is waiting for us to close the rink.”

“Coming.”

Shiro grabs his coat and put him as they leave the room. He sips the hot drink, feeling the warm against the cold air of the French winter. Keith walks at his side, mouth on the cup.

“Are you going to be okay?” Shiro asks.

“It’s just a cup.”

“I was talking about the show. You don’t like them much at the Garrison.”

“Here is different.” Keith shrugs. “What about you?”

“About me?”

“You haven’t skate an entire program since last year.”

“Oh.” It’s true. And Shiro can’t negate to be a little be anxious, but he can’t say no to the other. They were all so enthusiastic. “I’ll manage. I have a couple of old exhibition programs with very few jumps.”

“I notice, you know.” Keith isn’t looking at him. “The fact you avoid jumping. You always use me to show others how to jump.”

“That’s because I don’t want to embarrass you by our skill difference,” Shiro jokes.

Keith smirks. “Yeah, prove it.”

Shiro surrends. “Maybe I can take off them entirely. It’s a show, it’s for fun.”

This time, Keith turns his head a little to look at him. He says nothing. Sure both of them understand that balance for jumping is a little off if you only have an arm. It’s the sad truth, even if Shiro tries to recover the balance in skating.

They walk together until Shiro realizes he’s following Keith to a route that doesn’t bring to the dormitory. They reach a small square behind a commercial mall, where it was built a mobile ice rink. Some kids are there, skating around, falling and having fun. Before Shiro can stop him, Keith pays the entrance fees for both of them.

“Oh, come on,” he protests, but then his eyes meet with the owner of the rink, who smiles.

“Hey, I fear you wouldn’t come tonight.”

Shiro pales and looks at Keith, hoping he won’t comment further. He doesn’t try to hide it, it’s just easier than the real ice rink. Keith just smirks, before throwing the cup in the trashcan and opening the bags with his skates.

“Let’s see what you can do, old timer.”

He precedes Shiro in the rink. At first, he skates without any elements, but people around him notice he isn’t an amateur. Shiro smiles: in Japan, they can’t for sure skating in a public rink without people recognizing them. In a certain way, there is more privacy not being so famous.

Keith makes a small layback spin, gaining a whistle, then jumps a single Toeloop. “I’m keeping a low profile so you can catch up.”

Shiro grins. He tries a couple of small steps, as people get far from him. Double Loop.

The balance is totally off without an arm, and Shiro hasn’t been able yet to shake off the feeling of something missing as he keeps the left arm on his chest during the jump. He turns, expecting some reaction for Keith, but he pretends not to notice as he jumps a double Axel.

Shiro isn't used to escape a challenge. He takes some speed, does some turns, and tries a triple Lutz. He realizes immediately the edge was wrong and it’s underotated, but he manages to land it with only a hand on the ice. His only hand, so he considers it a success. Applause comes from the crown, while Keith gets near with a concerned look on his face.

“This is why I don’t use my jumps as examples for my athletes,” Shiro jokes. “I prefer them if they win.”

Keith isn’t reassured. But before he can speak, their attention is called by the owner of the ice rink, and only then they notice the rink is empty, because everyone else left to observe them from outside.

“I get you’re good, but I have to work here.”

Murmuring a half excuse half laugh, they basically escape from the ice rink. Shiro’s chuckles die a lot later, realizing how much he misses just having fun on the ice.

“Thank you,” he murmurs.

Keith nods and smiles. “What are you planning to do on Christmas?” he asks then.

“Nothing, really. In Japan the Eve is an excuse to stay with their lovers. We do more a New Years’ Eve.” Shiro have spent the last four years with Adam. Of course, it won’t be the same this year. There is some bittersweet in the remembrance, but it’s easy shrug it off thinking about the ice show they’re organizing.

“Same in Korea. But dad did celebrate Christmas, so mom keeps the tradition. She’ll probably organize the usual party on Eve, with the other members of the dance school. Like Kolivan.”

Shiro tries to imagine Kolivan at the table for Christmas and fails miserably.

“You can come too,” Keith says at last, not looking at him.

Oh. Shiro stops a little. He’d love to. Really. He bought a small present for Keith – the perfect edition of the Back to The Future collections – and he imagines waking up in the same house and exchange gift in front at the window, with the snow outside.

“It would be nice,” he admits. “But I promised my grandfather to return home before the end of the year. Doubt my parents would be there though.”

“I see.” If Keith is disappointed, he doesn’t show it. “Say hello to him for me.”

“Sure.” Shiro adds, “we’ll be together for New Years’ Eve. We have to be here to prepare the show.”

Keith nods. “Of course.”

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Summary of Christmas Holiday Shows

I am definitely going to Bolzano, Lotor will be there!

But if you’re in France, I suggest you take a look at The Castle of Lion Show: they say Shiro will skate too!

⸛⸛⸛⸛

New Years’ Eve Shows at the Garrison were more competitive than real competitions. Not all the athletes of the school could participate, but it depended from their individual results. The public ranking list was hanging on the main hall every week and people kept complaining about it.

Keith was chosen for two consecutive years’ despite being a junior and that definitely caused some tension between the others. The second year, he and James Griffin almost fight over it because they had the same ranking but James was excluded. Keith would be more than willing to give him his spot.

Shiro never participated in the event. He was too famous for a school show; he usually did three or four exhibitions around the world during Christmas Holiday, so Keith was forced to spend the New Years’ Eve at the Garrison, without his best friend.

At The Castle of Lions, everything is different. No competition at all, they are too few to exclude someone from the show. And Shiro is there too, which in Keith’s opinion isn’t a minor detail. The end of the year they are all together, still preparing for the show. Coran brings the champagne directly on the rink and they cheer sitting on the ice.

The arena is fully booked for the show, but despite that everyone is happy and relaxed.

Allura chose for their group exhibition the song “I have a dream” from Rapunzel, in which Keith interprets Finn. Shiro is the man with the hook, and Shiro comments on it, “at least I’m already on the role.” Allura feels bad for it, while the others laugh.

Lance manages to prepare a small program with Romelle, and she lifts him instead of the other way around. Pidge and Hunk improve their exhibition program by putting some break dance move on the step sequences, making the public crazy. Allura makes use of his past self as a rhythmic athlete, and she uses the ribbon and the Clubs for her exhibition. Keith’s only way to keep up with them is jumping three quadruples.

“Show off,” Lance comments, and he’s laughing.

Shiro nails his program perfectly. He chooses the short program from the year before, that he used only in the two GP competitions. He refines it and he manages to do two triples and the double Axel. The public welcomes and greets him with the biggest applause and they also throw flowers on the ice after his exhibition, even if it’s a custom reserve for competition only.

Shiro leaves the ring with his only arm full of the flowers. Lance is the first to congratulate with him, before entering on the ice himself, then the others. Keith doesn’t. He is too much paralyzed by the sight of Shiro’s smiling face. He’s grinning like a child, cheek red and his eyes are shining.

“I’m exhausted,” he comments. The smile is still there, and it remains even after he moves the flowers to Coran’s arms. He drinks smiling. He pats Keith on the back smiling. Keith feels stupid, but that damn smiles just makes him unable to speak. Shiro is too busy smiling to notice.

Once he leaves the boards to return in the locker room, Keith regains control of his body. He notices again the voices of the public, and the others around him chatting.

“Pidge, Hunk,” he calls, his eyes still on the door Shiro disappeared to. “I have a favor to ask.”

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

[Video Keith Kogane SP Tapei Four Continents]

[Video Keith Kogane FP Tapei Four Continents]

[Video Keith Kogane EX Tapei Four Continents]

He changed his exhibition program compared to his other competitions. I wonder why: skaters don’t spent time on exhibition programs during the competition season. It’s also a pretty strange exhibition...

⸛⸛⸛⸛

When Shiro reaches the rink, he finds Keith already on the ice. Coran is looking at him from the outside. Lance and Romelle are there too, with Romelle’s coach.

“Oh, Shiro, my boy,” Coran greets him. “Sorry if we started without you. Keith wanted me to improve his step sequences.”

“Still sour about not getting a four lever for them, I see.” Shiro understands the feeling: at his level of skill, it isn’t acceptable. He wonders if the judges are keeping his score lower than how it should be in purpose.

Coran nods. “I created them to be four level, but clearly isn’t enough. I can improve too as a choreographer, you know.”

“I don’t doubt.”

Keith ends his step sequence and looks back for instruction. He sees Shiro and smiles fondly. Shiro makes a small gesture to assure him he can continue, as Coran yells him a couple of suggestions about the speed of some steps.

“By the way, Coran, the new exhibition program is yours?” Shiro asks, as Keith skates again his sequence.

“Eh? No.” Coran doesn’t tear his eyes off Keith. “I was surprise too when he asked me to arrange a new music. But he created it with Pidge and Hunk, or so he said.”

“Oh.”

Shiro is even more surprise now. Keith didn’t tell him he changed his exhibition program until he skated it at the Four Continents, and that is strange enough. But Pidge and Hunk as choreographers? Shiro wonders what does it means. He looks at the rink, where Keith is skating again the step sequence. From the day of the show at the Castle, Keith has some thoughts in his mind. They didn’t stop him to win, but Shiro is worry because Keith doesn’t confide in him.

It’s just another of his secret, Shiro supposes, like his run from the Grand Prix Final. Whoever it is, Shiro has enough trust in Keith to wait for him to open up when he feels it.

“I’m going to check the other, then.”

He leaves Coran as he murmurs to himself something about adding another turn to the sequence. He enters the gym in the exact moment Hunk is lifting Pidge under his head. Hunk startles seeing him, but his grip is solid. With a turn, he rolls Pidge back on the ground.

“Aren’t you suppose to check on Keith today?” Pidge asks.

“And you’re supposed to do basic exercises when you’re alone, so it’s plenty of people that don’t respect the agreement,” Shiro replies. He’s smiling.

“Sorry, man. We just want to improve our level on the first lift.” Hunk shuffles.

Today is all about levels. “Good. Let me help then.”

With a smile, Pidge and Hunk return back to their exercises, under Shiro’s attentive look. Allura reaches the gym too and wanders a greeting before starting her own schedule. For a while, the only rumors in the room are Allura’s deep breath and Shiro’s advice for the lift.

Once Pidge and Hunk take a break to drink, Shiro decides to ask, “I heard you choreograph Keith’s exhibition.”

“For real?” Allura sounds attentive.

“We don’t really choreograph it,” Pidge answers. “We only gave him some advice about it.”

“We weren’t the only one. Lance and Romelle helped too,” Hunk adds. “Have you see the twizzle sequence?”

“Yeah. I was surprise about it.” Allura frown increases. “But why? He shouldn’t ask help to you, he steals time from your training.”

“It’s no big deal.” Hunk shrugs. “We did it in our free time.”

“Keith wants a program who looks like a pair or an ice dance one, that’s why we helped him. No need to be offended about it.”

“I’m not offended,” Allura replies. Shiro guesses she is, at least a little. She sees the skaters as her family after all, since his father is the owner of the school. “Why did he ask for a program like that?”

“Because the theme is the Tanabata. Do you know it?” Pidge asks.

“I wonder. This is a Japanese holiday and I’m Japanese, why should I know it?” Shiro replies, with a little smile.

“Oh. Right. Sorry,” Hunk comments.

“I don’t, actually,” Allura says, so Shiro tells him the story of the two lovers, Orihime and Hikoboshi, who can only meet for one day at a year, and only if the weather is good. Of course, Shiro remembers fondly the festival with his grandfather when he still lives in Japan, and he also told Keith the story. He doesn’t know Keith is so interesting at the point to skate it.

“So basically Keith is Orihime,” Pidge explains. “Working and waiting for the day he can see Hikoboshi again, and imagining being with him.”

“Technically, it is an ice dance program,” Hink adds. “Keith skates it alone, but there are a couple of parts where there can be another person. We tried it ourselves.”

“There is one, just after the twizzle sequence, when Keith moves his right hand on the left, as almost he grabs another hand and pushes someone near.”

Allura listens with attention. “This is really interesting, but from the on-line comments, not many catches it.” She sighs. “I hope whatever reason he had to choose this style, it’ll be worthy.”

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Road to Saitama World Championship: Men single

So, in this season we had as a winner at the three major competition:

Grand Prix Final: James Griffin (GBR)

European Championship: Lotor Galra (RUS)

Four Continents Championship: Keith Kogane (CAN)

Keith Kogane doesn’t have a direct confrontation with the other two skaters, but I still think he could be a contender at the World Championship.

In the next days, we will publish some videos to show how these three skaters improve during the season.

⸛⸛⸛⸛

The universe is messing with him, Keith is sure. For an incredible series of coincidences, he, Lotor and James find themselves in the city of Losanna in the same weekend. Keith is there for improving his spins with Stephane Lambiel, Lotor for a brief holiday and James for meeting a new sponsor.

They can just ignore each other, but the rest of the world doesn’t. As soon as Bob the journalist found out, he rushed to Losanna himself praying for a group interview. And since Bob’s sports program is one of the most famous in the USA, Keith knew he couldn’t refuse. He tried puppy eyes with Allura, but in the end he accepted to do it for the sake of the school.

He enters the hotel where Bob gave the appointment and individuates James, sitting on a stool at the counter of the bar. Keith hasn’t seen him since his expulsion from the Garrison and quite frankly he isn’t sure how to speak with him. They aren’t in great terms back then.

“Keith!” James calls for him, hand lifted to greet him, so Keith resolves to get near and sit down next to him.

“Bob hasn’t arrived yet?” he asks.

James shakes his head. “Congratulation on your victory at the Four Continent.”

Keith studies for a second his tone and his expression: it’s genuine, he decides at last. “Thanks. You also did a good job at the Grand Prix Final. Not many skaters won it at their first try.”

“Yeah, it was nice. And thanks to not talking about the European Championship.” He laughs.

“Without the fall on the quadruple flip, maybe you could have won that one too.” Shiro forced Keith to look at the competition to study his opponent’s program, so Keith is pretty informed about it. “And if Lotor’s GOE would be someway correct for his actual skating.”

“We know it’s like it, no big news.” James shrugs. “Do you plan to add another quad on your free program?”

“Yes. What about you? Will you still try the quadruple flip?”

“I don’t discuss my strategy with the enemy.” He jokes. “I will decide basing on my condition. How’s training with Shiro?”

“Hard.” For a countless number of reasons. But also one of the best things ever happening to him, second only to actually meeting Shiro for the first time. He isn’t going to say that to James though.

Their attention is caught by the confusion at the front door, so they turn in time to see Lotor making his entrance with four girls with him. James chuckles at Keith’s expression.

“He has groupies?” he comments, at last.

James loses it and laughs out loud. “Sort of,” he answers once he calms down. “Meet Axca, Zethrid, Ezon and Narti. They used to be ice skaters too but, you know, female competition is wild in Russia. So now they’re like, Lotor’s bigger fans. But they’re also pretty famous in the ice skating community. Do you know Sincline’s blog?”

“Oh. It’s the one with all that youtube video about skating? The one that judges about YuNa and Sotnikova’s free program at the Olympics?”

“That one,” James confirms. “They’re pretty competent, they just follow the wrong skater.” His voice lowers as Lotor approaches them.

“Hello to you, fellow skaters. Are you drinking in the morning? I approve it.”

“It’s mineral water,” James replies. Keith wonders if he realizes he sounds ridiculous.

“Oh, don’t be angry because I beat you at the European,” Lotor replies. His tone is happy and he’s smiling. “Conserve it for the Worlds.” He turns his attention to Keith. “And we also have a score to settle after last season, right?”

Keith looks at him. “Pity all your victory came in the season Shiro isn’t in it.”

“That isn’t nice,” Lotor replies. He isn’t offended, because he’s smirking. Ezor snickers.

“Touchy subject,” Zethrid murmurs, covering his mouth with his hand and moving his eyes to Axca. “Help.”

Axca rolls her eyes, just a little. She takes a step forward. “Can I ask you an autograph, Griffin?” She offers him a notebook, opened to a page where a photo of James is attached, along with a report of his data.

“Sure.” He takes it and the pen and signs the page under the word “signature”. “Did you make it?” he asks as he returns it back.

“Yes. I like the idea of having a sort of encyclopedia of skaters, with all the information I can get.”

“It’s nice. Your posts on the Sincline’s blog are pretty good. So on point.”

“To be a Russian, you mean?” Axca eyebrow is lifted and she is not impressed.

“To be a Russian,” James confirms. He doesn’t step back.

“Ouch,” Ezor snicker. “I feel some envy.”

James shrugs. “Everyone thinks some skaters are a little biiiit… overscored, to say at least. Even you can’t deny it.”

“Well, I jump. That’s the point,” Lotor replies. He crosses his arm. “Ice skating is a show. The public won’t be satisfied if someone with six quads takes a low score. Very few people around appreciate the footwork.”

“It’s not like Lotor bribes the judges. Even if he could.” Zethrid smashes her hand on his back and he almost stumbles forward. James isn’t impressed.

 “Shiro beat me because he had those jumps and the footwork,” Lotor continues. “You have to do the same to reach his level.”

Keith agrees with Lotor in this. Despite the judges’ bias, there is a way to win. Allura said so: they have to be flawless in both jump and skating skill. That is Keith’s entire point on coming to Losanna for improving his spin, and all his effort to bring the step sequence to the four level. But doing the same as Shiro… Keith feels the loss even more. He wants to reach him. He wanted to. Now he can’t anymore. Keith took another decision for Shiro’s sake, but still it’s painful to think he lost the chance to compete together.

“Ehi, ehi. I didn’t mean to upset you,” Lotor says.

Keith realizes he stayed silent for too long, and he shakes his head. “I was just thinking about the time I’ll beat you.”

“Now I like it.” Lotor leans towards him. “But try to be not so much good, Axca likes you already too much for my taste.”

“That’s not true.” It’s a joke from Lotor’s side, but Axca seems annoyed and snorts a little. “Can I ask an autograph to him too or you’ll get jealous?”

“Please.”

Like James before, Keith sees the page dedicated to him, with a bad photo who emphasize his mullet even more. There is a question mark next to the line about his victory at the Grand Prix competitions of the previous season, and Keith remembers having read something in her blog.

As he returns the notebook, he says, “thanks. Your blog was the only one not angry at me after the Grand Prix Final.”

“Oh.” She looks surprised. “I was angry. And disappointed. But I imagined you had your reasons and mostly I was sad you didn’t compete. I’m glad you’re back this year.” She ignores Zethrid and Ezor’s mocking. “Most of us fan think the same, I’m sure.”

Keith has still some problems to realize there are other people outside looking for his skating. For a long time, he felt Shiro was the only one that cared. “I really should apologize, but since the beginning there is only one person I want to see me skating.”

The admission creates the silence around, until Narti speaks for the first time. “And he’s looking at you now?”

“I’m doing everything so he won’t take his eyes off me.”

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Tonight, do not miss Bob’s talk show.

There is an interview with the three candidates for the men’s podium at the World Championship.

I was there, I listened to it and I assure you it’s pretty nice to understand our favorite skaters better.

Especially Keith Kogane; I wasn’t wrong about him last year. Not entirely, at least.

And I might have a clue about a certain thing…

⸛⸛⸛⸛

“I don’t understand why we’re watching it together,” Keith states.

They are in the meeting room, sitting around one side of the table. Pidge connects her computer to a projector, so they all can see the screen from the big whiteboard on the opposite wall. In a couple of minutes, Bob’s program will begin the episode with Keith’s interview on it.

“Worry you said something embarrassing?” Lance teases. “All the entire world will hear it, no big deal.”

Keith rolls his eyes, but before has any chance to reply back, Coran screeches, “it begins!” The attention of everyone turns on the screen, as the signature tune of Bob’s program starts.

After the usual greetings, Bob introduces his interview, explaining how he met the three skaters in Losanna and registered there. He gestured at the big screen in his office and plays the video, which soon takes over all the board. Keith, Lotor, and James sat down three armchairs, while Bob was in front of them, standing. Around Shiro, people start comment on Keith’s clothes, being sure they weren’t his first choice. Shiro thinks he looked nice.

In the video, Bob first asked Lotor, being the current World Champion. In reality, Keith yawns. He was there. He already knows all the answers. Romelle, at his side, gestures him to stay quiet.

Finally, the video moved on Keith. “Welcome back on the competitions, Keith,” Bob said.

“Thanks.”

“I’ll be quick and ask the worst question now,” Bob continued. “Will we ever get an explanation about your dropout last season?”

Shiro turns his attention to Keith: both in the room and in the video he looks calm. Probably he heard the question so many time, he was used to. That is one of the reasons Shiro hadn’t. Keith needs his privacy and Shiro’s trust, so Shiro hasn’t pressed the subject.

“First of all, I think I owe you all an apology,” the Keith in the video stated. “To all my fans, that wanted to see me skating. To my former coach Iverson, and to the Garrison. And to my fellow skaters. I shouldn’t have left without a warning.”

“I wasn’t offended. I won that competition,” Lotor joked. James looked impressed.

“But,” the Keith in the video continued, “I would have still left. I did for a reason, or better for a person, and this hasn’t changed. I’m really sorry if I disappointed so many people, but for me this person was more important than the competition.”

“Man, you should have said you went to the hospital for Shiro,” Lance comments. “People know how close you are.”

“WHAT?”

Shiro realizes a second later it was his own voice. Everyone turned on him. He’s sure to have a very comical expression, but he can’t help it.

“What what?” Lance asks, unsure.

“Did you just say…” Shiro murmurs slowly, “Keith was at the hospital during my recovery?”

“Wait? You didn’t know?”

“The question is, why do you?” His eyes pass on all the faces in the room and realization fells upon him. “You all?”

“Keith told us,” Pidge says, pointing at herself, Hunk and Lance.

“And Lance told me,” Romelle adds.

“I was at the hospital once,” Coran explains. “I told Allura when she asked when I met Keith.”

“It’s more absurd you didn’t know. I mean, you were there,” Hunk comments.

“Because it’s so strange for a survive to an almost deadly car accident in a drug induce coma to not remember something,” Shiro replies.

“Ah. Right. Sorry.”

“It’s not you,” Keith intervenes. “I left the hospital once you woke up.”

“Why?” The question comes from Romelle, but Shiro’s grateful she asks.

“Shiro was awake. And Adam was there too.” He shrugs. “My presence wasn’t necessary.”

But it was. Shiro doesn’t say it though. His mind was still reflecting on the implication of this new discovery. If Keith came at the time of the Grand Prix Final, it meant he stayed at the hospital around… seven weeks? It’s a lot of time. He imagines Keith standing in the hallway of the hospital, leaning against the wall as he watched at his own unconscious body. All alone.

“You didn’t tell me anything,” he comments.

“You never asked, so I thought you knew,” Keith answered. “Adam was there. I guessed he told you.”

He didn’t. Shiro didn’t blame him, they had a lot to do after Shiro’s accident. Or maybe Adam decided Keith didn’t want Shiro to know, since he left after his awakening. Shiro trusted Adam enough to understand there was no malice in it. Still, it doesn’t change the main problem: for all this time, Keith has believed Shiro being not caring enough that he not even thanking him for his time.

He feels awful. He actually can’t image how Keith manages to remain his friend, to keep writing to him during his recovery and not thinking about him being a selfish ass.

“You almost lost your career because of me.”

“I had my career in the first place because of you. If you really think that I could skate knowing,” he swallows, “my best friend he’s dying, well.” He looks at Shiro right in the eyes, a serious expression in his face.

“…thank you.” It’s late, Shiro thinks. Too late.

An awkward silence fells on the room. Keith nods slightly, before looking back at the screen. The video is still running, and they missed a good portion of the interview. For Shiro was impossible to focus on Lotor’s words. His mind comes back at the days after his awakening. At Keith’s strange way to answer his messages. At his caring words. Without notice, his left hand clutches the arm of the chair.

In the video, Bob asked Keith about his new exhibition program, and there Keith explained the legend of the Tanabata. “I noticed it almost look like a pair program. At least, it gives the impression you’re supposed to dance with someone else.”

“That was what I had in mind. There is someone I’d like to skate with, but like Orihime, it can’t happen.”

“But Orihime can meet his lover once in a year,” Bob replied. “Maybe it will happen to you too.”

“I hope so.”

And so, Shiro makes his decision.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Men’s short program result:

  1. Lotor Garla (RUS) – 103,95
  2. Keith Kogane (CAN) – 101,23
  3. James Griffin (GBR) – 100,47

I’d like to say Lotor is going to win this year too… but I don’t believe it. As much as I’d like Lotor to win, my bets are on Keith Kogane.

He just has a stronger reason to win.

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“The score please.”

While Griffin waits for his score at the Kiss&Cry, Shiro gives his last advice to Keith. There’s nothing more to say, to be honest. Being the last skater of the competition isn’t always good, because it passes too much time from the training to the actual program. On the positive side, it gives the idea of what the previous skaters have done.

After Griffin’s score, the placings show Lotor first and Griffin second. They both nailed their program, so Keith has to do his best and even more.

“Shiro.” Keith places a hand upon Shiro’s. “I’m going to do a fifth quad.”

“I know.” Shiro smiles confidently: Keith needs to know he has the utmost trust in him. “Go and show them. And remember…”

“I know, I know. Patience yields focus.”

With a smile, Keith uses his hand to push himself behind. He does a couple of turn around the rink before stopping at the center, ready for the music to start. Shiro clenches the boards. He can’t do anything but watch. He admires Keith’s attire, making to remember Star Trek Enterprise uniform. It looks good on him.

The song fills the arena and Keith moves.

It's been a long road

Getting from there to here

It's been a long time

But my time is finally near

And I can feel the change in the wind right now

Nothing's in my way

Shiro smashes his left hand on the boards as Keith nails the quadruple Toeloop, but he swallows after his triple Axel. It should have been in a combo. The Axel was perfect too, so it means Keith changes the jumps composition of the program, moving a combo in the second half of the program.

He’s going to give Shiro a heart attack.

And they're not gonna hold me down no more

No, they're not gonna hold me down

'Cause I've got faith of the heart

The other jumps in the first half of the program go well, and Shiro takes a relieved sigh. The applause in the arena means the public was appreciating Keith’s skating. It was important for him. He’s loved even out there.

I'm going where my heart will take me

I've got faith to believe

I can do anything

I've got strength of the soul

And no one's gonna bend or break me

Two jumps combo. Perfect. Shiro misses so much his right hand in that moment, because he can’t applaud. He can’t believe the world almost loses Keith’s skating because of him.

I can reach any star

I've got faith

I've got faith, faith of the heart

Last quads, the Loop. Perfect. In previous competitions, it happened for Keith to do some steps up or even hand down, and rarely a fall. Not in this one. Every single jump has been flawless. And with grace, not raw power.

I've known the wind so cold, I've seen the darkest days

But now the winds I feel, are only winds of change

I've been through the fire and I've been through the rain

But I'll be fine

Shiro feels luring by Keith’s performance. He worked hard on that step sequences and the results are showing. Shiro hopes Keith’s enjoying his skating as much as he. The day the met again, the day Shiro proposed to be his coach, Shiro’s idea was to bring Keth back on ice. Now he knows he did the right thing. Even if he was a selfish one.

'Cause I've got faith of the heart

I'm going where my heart will take me

I've got faith to believe

I can do anything

I've got strength of the soul

And no one's gonna bend or break me

I can reach any star

Last jump, a triple Lutz, and the public explodes. Shiro doesn’t miss the smirk on Keith’s face as he enters in the last spin. Well, Shiro can’t blame him: you can’t be not satisfied of that performance.

Shiro imagined to see it as a fellow skater, waiting on the sofa for the result and climbing the podium together. He couldn’t have that, but at least he was able to help Keith in his skating. To be a part of his skating.

'Cause I've got faith of the heart

I'm going where my heart will take me

I've got strength of the soul

No one's gonna bend or break me

I can reach any star

I've got faith

I've got faith, faith of the heart

It's been a long road

Once the performance ends, flowers and plushes waterfall from the stands. Keith bows to the public four times, in the four directions, then makes a small tour of the rink and picks up some of the presents. When he returns to the boards, there are a plush in his right arms and some roses in the left hand.

“Look. It’s a hippo. How do they know I like them?”

Keith’s lips are humid and there is an open smile on his mouth. His cheeks are red and his black hair is sticking on the sweaty skin. He was beautiful.

Shiro grabs him and holds him tight against his chest, his left hand pressed on his back.

“You were wonderful,” he says.

Slowly, Keith lends on him. “Thank you.”

Shiro swallows and moves aside. They reach the Kiss&Cry, where Keith places down his presents and takes a sip of water to recollect himself. Shiro waves his hand at the camera, greetings the comrades that aren’t with them at the rink. “Hi, Lance! Hi, Pidge! Hi, Hunk! Hi, Romelle!” Keith gestured a little with his head, but the focuses his eyes on the big screen upon the rink.

It shows first a replay of Keith’s highlights, then Lotor and Griffin waiting for the results.

“The Score, please. For Keith Kogane, from Canada,” says the announcer.

Shiro places his hand or his knees, to reassure him. Keith’s eyes bulge as he sees the result.

“With a score of 223,20 he is currently in the first position.”

Shiro grabs his shoulder. “You did it! And that was higher than mine! You beat my world record!”

Keith’s eyes are still on the screen, where an annoyed Lotor and a resigned Griffin stands up. “I’m sorry,” he murmurs at the end.

“What are you talking about? You deserve it! You were great.”

“But you’re supposed to be there with me. To defend your record.”

Shiro knows they have little time, before the journalists come for the interview at the winner and for the victory ceremony. He has no time to explain just how much Keith means for him, with his trust and his faith. And that it means a lot more to him that a medal or another world record.

So he just knells down and kisses Keith’s skate.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

TOLD YOU

I’m gonna make a commentary later, now just look at this beautiful program.

[Video Keith Kogane FP Saitama World Championship]

And let me say it… The Castle of Lions Ice School.

They have Keith Kogane, but also:

Allura Altea: silver medalist at the World Championship

Katie Holt/Hunk Garrett: silver medalist at the Junior World Championship

And they have a new ice dance couple too, Romelle Altea/Lance McClain

In two years, there will be the Olympic Games.

If they keep up this way… they’ll take all the golds!

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“Keith Kogane. Gold Medalist.”

He enters in the rink welcomed by the public’s applause. He waves at them and smiles. It’s warming understanding how much they appreciate him. Axca is right about fans forgiving him. But, as he told her, there still one person that means the world to him and whose gaze upon him is the most important of all.

As Orihime, Keith feels he misses an important part of himself that maybe he won’t be able to collect anymore. He did what he thought would be the best, but the final decision isn’t his. He was wonderful having Shiro as a coach, sharing all the emotions with him. However, he wants Shiro back on the ice, because the truth is that Keith loves Shiro’s skating as much as Shiro loves Keith’s.

He stops near the boards: it’s the point of the exhibition where Orihime looks at the river that keeps her and her lovers apart. Keith leans a hand forward, as to invite Hikoboshi to join her, to finally cross the river on a fateful day it allows for them.

At that moment, the applause the public increases. Keith’s heart misses a beat once he sees Shiro on the rink, doing a small spin before stopping on the opposite side of the rink, the left hand leans in Keith’s direction. He wears the same suit as Keith’s, but Shiro’s black compared to Keith’s red.

The music continues, so Keith doesn’t have the time to reflect too much on it. He has to continue skating. He slips smoothly to the center of the rink, as Shiro does the same thing from the other side. The meet in the center, and turning around to make a camel spin. Keith stands up and skates backward, Shiro follows.

“Surprised?”

“Yes.”

It’s hard to speak while skating. Keith still keeps the eyes contact with Shiro. His eyes are shining a there is a smug smile on his face. He knows the step, he knows how to move and he knows what’s supposed to do when they’re separate. After all, that’s the point of the entire program, the reason Pidge and Hunk helped him to create it.

“How?”

“Coran helped me.”

Twizzles sequences and here it is the point when Keith leans his hand forward and Shiro takes it, wrapping Keith’s small hand on his one. Keith dreamed of it. He squeezes the cold and big hand more, not wanting to let it go. Shiro’s with him on the rink and Keith doesn’t want the music to end. But, like Orihime, staying with Shiro can last only the time of the music.

They end the program at the center of the rink, kneeled down in front of each other. Keith’s supposed to lean his hands forward and cup them in an imaginary face. But there’s nothing imaginary in Shiro’s face, in the sweet smile he reserves to Keith. Keith’s fingers caress his cheek slowly. The applause of the public can’t hide the beats of his heard.

“I’m about to do another thing that will upset the Canadian Federation again,” he says.

“And what is it?”

Keith stretches his head and kisses him. Shiro’s lips are humid and warm and Keith hears his heartbeat even more.

The entire arena fell silent.

Has Keith just made a mistake? He freezes, but before he can step back, Shiro pulls him close with his left hand. Someone whistles, and the public start applauding again.

And Shiro kisses him back.

⸛⸛⸛⸛ Sincline’s Blog⸛⸛⸛⸛

Revolution on Ice Show

Casting: Takashi Shirogane

He did it. Keith Kogane did it.

He brings Shiro back.

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