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chase the sun into midnight

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my body is a border drawn up by some man long ago
love is everything that happened in between

what i learned in the fire by Safia Elhillo        

 

 

 

It’s the night after the medal ceremony and, instead of getting the well deserved rest that he expected, Shoma’s currently sandwiched between Keiji and Satton on one of the three-piece couches. Team Japan is in a festive mood, they're binging on snacks and Korean delicacies like there's no tomorrow.  Well, most of Team Japan anyways. Yuzu got lucky. He escaped with Javi to God knows where. After the event, Shoma received a curt nod and a strained smile, while Javi got a heartfelt hug and whispered secrets. And before he knows it, the two of them already went off somewhere.

Shoma’s not bitter . He only sounds bitter because he's really, really tired and desperately need to sleep. So, he peels himself off of Keiji lazily and reaches for the shot glass.  The liquid is clear and smells sweet, like rice cake and flower. It seems relatively harmless; plus if he’s drunk, he can go to bed and no one will complain. It’s a win-win honestly, so Shoma knocks it all back in one large gulp. And regrets it immediately because it fucking burns all the way to his stomach. Why must he has to suffer so much when all he wants to do is sleep?

“Blergh!” Shoma exclaims, sticking out his tongue as his face scrunches up in disgust . He asks “What is this vile poison?”

Kaori laughs brightly at his expense and he pouts. He can also feel Keiji shaking slightly. The traitor, he’s laughing too isn’t he? Satton, though, smiles fondly and chides “That was Soju. And you shouldn’t have drank everything in one go on your first try! You’re gonna get drunk soon.”

Well, Satton’s chuckling at him too but she offers placidly “I’ll go get you some water to wash that down.”

Satton’s an actual angel and that’s why Shoma loves her the most.

Satton’s out of her seat for a beat when Kana suggests mischievously “Well, since Shoma-kun already had a drink, it’s terribly unfair for him to be the only person tipsy right now...”

“You just want to drink!” Miu teases and Kana shrugs guiltily, causing the whole room to burst into laughter. Keiji leans forward, displacing Shoma a bit, and grabs a glass from the living room table before he says  “Let’s do it then!”

And then they’re knocking back their drinks. That’s when the door bursts open. The sound of Javi’s heavy accent fills the apartment before it fades away when the door slides shut again. Shoma relaxes, melting into the comforting warmth of Keiji's side; the smell of sweet alcohol is soft and tingling on his breath.

“Oh, hi Yuzu!” Miu, who finishes her glass first, greets cheerfully. She toasts her empty glass at Yuzu and says “Come sit, mister two-time Olympics champion, we’re celebrating!”

Yuzu’s face does the thing where he’s amused and wants to laugh but he doesn’t wants to give his audience the satisfaction of that. His brows knit together cutely as his eyes start to roll in exaggeration. The lower part of his face is scrunching up as his lips pull into a smile. He always ends up smiling though, bright and soft and beautiful. Shoma never gets tired of looking at Yuzu’s lips pulling into a soft, gentle smile.

Yuzu stares at Shoma briefly, the fleeting look in his eyes is as mysterious as ever to Shoma, then he gestures vaguely at Satton’s currently empty seat. And Shoma… panics. What’s taking her so long? He wants her back because she’s soft and safe to the touch. He doesn’t burn when their knees knock together and she doesn’t try to touch him insistently when he doesn’t want her to. He doesn’t want to deal with electricity shocks and blistering burns on top of his bone-deep tiredness.

Shoma scrambles away from Keiji to practically slams his palm onto the space next to him before he can stop himself. He squeaks out “Satton!”

Yuzu’s softerned mouth turns taunt and his eyebrows knit again, but this time it’s not out of amusement, it’s out of… something else entirely. Shoma sees it directed at him numerous time but he doesn't understands. And when he speaks, Shoma can feel the chill down to his bones “I’ll just sit on the floor then.”

Shoma swallows. He’s sure the entire house notices the tension and unfriendliness between them. Thankfully, it's dispelled once Satton comes back into the picture. She presses a cold bottle of water to his cheek and drops a bunch of snacks onto his laps. Shoma jolts and turns to look at her as she says “Nonsense. The couch’s more than big enough to fit all four of us.

She nudges Yuzu forward and continues “Take a seat Yuzu-kun.”

Yuzu smiles kindly at her before he turns to look at Shoma as if to challenge him. He feels heat leaves his body as Yuzu approaches. But the instant Yuzu sits down and scouches closer to make space for Satton, Shoma’s side starts to warm. Yuzu is like a merciless furnace now, he heats up Shoma’s skin and burns bright whenever he is close. Shoma squeezes closer toward Keiji, trying to leave some room between them.

The night progresses from there as they reminisce about the passing season and drink like old goats. Shoma laughs here and there and interjects at the appropriate time. Keiji and Satton ply him with sweet, watered-down alcohol and delicious Korean snacks. Yuzu also gets progressively closer to him as the clock ticks. And, at one point, head fuzzy with korean wine, Shoma feels a familiar weight settles on top of his thigh, burning a slow heat into his skin. He doesn't have to look down to see what it is.

Shoma wiggles his leg subtly and receives a side eye from Yuzu. He tips his chin at Yuzu's hand on his thigh and the older looks down briefly at his limb. Shoma expects him to take away his hand, but Yuzu just turns back and continues his tale, as if his burning hand on Shoma's leg is nothing. As if this burning thing between them is nothing. Feeling unusually pissed, Shoma shakes his leg harder this time to try and dislodge Yuzu's hand. It’s mostly unsuccessful because the hand is still there ; still heavy, still simmering. Shoma can feel the heat leaving an imprint on his flesh and he’s tempted to growl. He moves a tentative finger to push at Yuzu's wrist and his pad comes away in the shade of sky blue and purple and green. This time, he pulls the sleeve of his jacket down and not so subtly uses his covered finger to nudge Yuzu's hand off. However, Yuzu's touch turns into a tight grip and Shoma feels like his thigh just bursted from electricity and burning liquid. He flinches and jumps up to get away from the pain, hand pushing Yuzu away from him.

Everyone turn to look at him, surprised. Not Yuzu though. Yuzu just looks at him blankly as he tugs his hand into the space between his thighs and the couch. Shoma can see the color of blue and silver on the skin of his palm but Yuzu's acting like nothing happened; like he didn't just brand Shoma with his fingers and body heat. He even has the audacity to tilt his head innocently, as if he’s confused .

Shoma glares, body shaking. He never reacted like this before, so it must be the alcohol that makes him this emotional.

“Sho-kun?" Satoko asks, frowning with concern. She leaning her head to look at him, eyes full of question. Shoma can feel her soft, gentle fingers against the bank of his hand and he briefly flips his hand to grasp on them for support. When he looks up, Yuzu is staring at Satton’s hand in his, his mouth is set in an tight, unpleasant curve. Shoma takes in a sharp breath and looks away from Yuzu’s angry set of jaw. He bows as he apologizes “I’m sorry for my outburst.”

When he looks up, Kana and Chris are looking at him like he’s a different person and he squeaks out “I’ll be going to sleep.” and then he’s pushing pass Keiji to their room.

He has a moment of peace as he tries to recollect himself and look for something to treat the wound that’s surely on his thigh when there’s a knock on the door. Shoma knows it’s Keiji but he scowls anyways and bits out upsetly “Go away.”

He can hear Keiji’s amused huff before the older replies “Technically, it’s my room.”

Shoma rolls his eyes and calls out “Then why are you knocking like a weirdo then?”

A small laugh from Keiji, but Shoma can’t find himself to laugh along, and the door swings open. Keiji leans against the closed door and starts “So,”

Shoma rolls his eyes and takes out the antiseptic wash that Itsuki packed for him. No doubt his brother knows that this kind of shit will happen. Shoma desperately wish he took up Itsuki’s offer to game at his side of the Olympic Village.

“What was that for?” Keiji asks when it’s clear that Shoma will say nothing. Shoma shrugs, still stubbornly not turning around to look at Keiji. He mumbles out an answer “I don’t like being touch.”

Which is a total fucking lie and Shoma’s a hundred percent sure Keiji’s gonna call him out on it. And he does because immediately, Keiji says matter of factly “You like it just fine when I touch you."

His arms are crossed and his expression are a bit demanding. Shoma swallows and takes a seat on his bed. He can either tell the truth or lie. The most sensible thing for himself, and for Yuzu, is to lie and insists that he really doesn’t like being touched. Keiji will leave him alone if they stare at each other long enough. And the thing is, Shoma's been lying about it for the past 4 years now. It won't be hard to lie again and says that Keiji is the exception, like what he told Kanako and Mao and Nobu and Miki and basically everyone else. Except he lets Kanoko and Mao kiss his cheeks, let Satton loop her arm with his, let Nobu and Miki pinch his cheeks, let Stephane pulls him into a bear hug. It’s Yuzu who is the exception. And he’s fucking tired of lying to everyone because of Yuzu, for Yuzu.

There's a sigh and Shoma looks up to see Keiji letting go of his angry stance and approaches him. He takes a seat next to Shoma on the bed and puts a comforting hand on Shoma's knee. The expression on Keiji’s face is one of defeat now, like he’ll smile through all the lies that Shoma will throw at him.

Shoma breathes; deeply, happily, soaking up affection of that touch. He likes this, physical affection with people he loves and cares about. He enjoys the warmth and the care that comes with hugs and kisses and hand holdings. And Keiji's palm is just the right size, and his fingers are just as pointed and slender. And it's warm, warm . Not burning. Not like Yuzu's.

“Hey, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to push...”Keiji says softly, always kind, always understanding, not like Yuzu who pushes and takes, only to leave Shoma to dry up like an empty well. He squeezes lightly and points out “I know things haven't been the best between you and Yuzu for the past few years, but it's never been this bad, you know. You never actually pushed him away and glare at him like you want to cause him bodily harm."

Shoma's expression must have morphed into a frown or something because Keiji quickly add “Hey, you don't have to tell me anything; not now, not ever . But I'm worried about you, all of us are. So if there's anything we can do to help, just tell us okay? Don't push us away. We just want you to be happy and comfortable.”

The smile Keiji gives him is kind and he moves to pat Shoma on the crown of his head. His hand is even of the right weight and Shoma is reminded of the heat that burn his skull when Yuzu briefly touched his head and told him he was proud of Shoma.

This is it, Shoma thinks and takes a deep, shaky breath. He's so tired of lying. And then he stands up to take off his sweatpants and let Keiji takes a good look at the handprint-like burn on his thigh. It's the color of angry red with scattered tiny blisters and it hurts him emotionally than it does physically. Keiji is blinking dumbly at the burn mark before he says just as confusedly “God, that looks horrible Sho. When the hell did you even get burnt? And at that sort of place too! Also, why on Earth does it looks like a hand-”

A pregnant pause as Shoma pulls up his pants. He can see the clockwork turning as Keiji thinks. Then the older voices out his thought “Yuzu's hand was there just now.”

Another pause, and Keiji breaths in a deep, shaky breathe. It’s like he's trying to make sense of everything and rearranges his thought around one single fact. And Shoma can see it in Keiji's eyes the moment he finally understands what the burn is. It takes him a beat to say “He leaves burn marks on you."

Shoma nods slowly, confirming, and Keiji continues, voice dipping down into barely a whisper “He- you two are soulmates.”

Shoma feels like crying.

His chest is filled with relief to have someone other than him, his family and his coaches to acknowledge it, to see it for what it really is: a soulmate bond between him and Yuzuru. But it also feels like a betrayal, to Yuzuru; for giving in so easily and acknowledging it. For even thinking about it in the first place.

He never cares, Shoma think bitterly and nods, his eyes are a bit teary now and he sniffs to fight back the sob that threatens to spill.

“I'm sorry." Keiji offers quietly, uselessly, pulling him into a comforting hug and seat him on the bed. Shoma answers, swiping the back of his hand against his nose, “It’s okay, it'll probably be healed by morning.”

Keiji looks at Shoma like Shoma's breaking his heart. He tugs a strand of hair behind Shoma's ear and asks, quite dumbly, “Does Yuzu… knows?”

This time, Shoma huffs out a humorless laugh and from the look of it, Keiji already derived his answer from Shoma's reaction. Still, Shoma replies, a bit spitefully, “He does. I saw his hands colored when we shook hands at Nationals all those years ago.”

“Junior!?" Keiji demands, eyes bulging and his voice raising an octave higher in disbelief. Shoma shakes his and answers “No, it was at Nat 2014. I wasn't sure at Junior… It was so quick, I thought his palm was just unusually hot and the color was so light.”

Keiji is momentarily speechless, so Shoma seizes the opportunity to continue “Even at Nat 2014, I thought it was just my mind playing tricks on me, you know. Maybe adrenaline, to explain away the heat, and a trick of the light, to explain away the glowing colors on my palms. But I saw Yuzu looking at his palms and they were the exact same glowy shades as mine. And then he gave me this look… I still don't know what he means by it.”

He's going crazy. He's spilling his gut to Keiji now. He should be sleeping. He has an interview early tomorrow morning with Yuzu.

Yuzu.

Yuzu again.

His life always revolve back to Yuzu somehow. He pushes his face into open palm; angry, frustrated, heartbroken. He's a mess and he needs to calm down. And Shoma only realizes he's heaving when Keiji puts a steady and soothing hand on his shoulder to rub small circles with his thumb pat. Shoma looks up, and oh, his face is wet. Keiji tugs him into his sides and pats his arm gently.

They stay like that for awhile, Shoma swallowing back his quiet sob with the weight of Keiji’s warm palm against his forearm.

-

The next morning, Shoma’s tired and grumpy and sleep deprived. His head is also pounding mercilessly because of his crying last night and Shoma’s pretty sure that his eyes are puffy. Smiling and talking is the last thing on his mind. And when he leaves his bedroom to go and wait for the Fed people in the living room, the first thing he sees is Yuzu. Yuzu looks up at him with soft eyes and softer mouth, lips curving into a gentle smile; unlike his burning fingers and stern mouth from last night. Shoma immediately regrets being a responsible adult for once in his life and wants to hightail back to his room. The door opens just as he’s about to throw civility out the window and returns to his room.

Kobayashi-san looks at them with a beaming smile and offers them words of congratulations before she leads them to the car. She gestures for Shoma to take a seat next to Yuzu in the van, even though there are plenty of available seats. He does so with great hesitance, still extremely wary of Yuzu. Whatever Kobayashi-san has to say to prepare them for the Press, Shoma doesn't hear it. His head is still fuzzy from sleepiness. And, this close to Yuzu, all he can think about is the burn mark from last night that's still on the tender flesh of his thigh. Shoma rubs it as an afterthought, Yuzu briefly looks down and nod. His face is unreadable and his hands are primly on his laps.

Shoma is suddenly aware of how much he's gonna hate having to spend so much time in such close proximity to Yuzu. He's already hating it. He misses Yuzu, even when Yuzu is there, he's still missing him. But having Yuzu so close… It's difficult and it hurts. And the media. They're gonna ask questions Shoma won't know how to answer.

But doing interviews with Yuzu makes Shoma remembers that he do enjoy going doing Press from time to time. If it's with Yuzu, that is. The attention of the media and the fans aren’t on Shoma when Yuzu's there, and he relishes in that. He also enjoys the relative normalcy that is allowed on him when Yuzu is there standing in front of him and hiding him away from the flashing lights of the camera. Mostly, he enjoys it because Yuzu is unconditionally kind to him and never quick to judge. He always makes sure that his good opinion of Shoma is heard and that Shoma is not misunderstood. He teases Shoma, but he keeps it to an absolute minimum, unlike Kanako and Nobu. It's probably because Yuzu isn't comfortable and as close to him as the others and a part of Shoma is hurt from that thought but he's okay with it. He learns to be okay with it, he gets enough teasing from everyone else anyways. Plus, Yuzu takes care of him well, he's such a mother hen . He Adjusts Shoma's medal strap, reminds him to tug in his strings and smiles fondly when he catches Shoma dozing off. It's very nice, calming and relaxed, and it feels like he is loved and treasures. Also, Shoma likes being taken care of, even if he doesn't express it well, and to have Yuzu fuzzing over him like this... Shoma just takes it as an opportunity to soak up Yuzu’s undivided attention like a sponge. Shoma wishes he can have this all the time

But when his skin burns hot from Yuzu's casual hand on his thigh or lingering fingers against the back of his neck, Shoma sobers up. And when Yuzu just smiles at him innocently afterward does Shoma remembers that no matter how much he loves this and how desperately he wants it to be a constant in his life, he'll never have it. Because the reality is this: Yuzu and Shoma are soulmates, but Yuzu does not want him.

-

After their many shared interviews and his own private ones, Oohama-san drops him off with strict instruction for him to not exert himself needlessly, by which he means no gaming. Shoma nods, more than happy to agree because he’s dead on his feet and he’s tempted to throw himself onto the sofa and sleep forever. The apartment is basically a ghost town with how quiet it is and he’s glad that he’s alone right now. But when he does throws himself onto the sofa, Shoma can hear hushed conversation from the direction of the bedrooms. He groans and burrows into the loveseat, hugging a pillow to his face.

“G’Morning Grumpy!” Kaori’s voice drift over his head excitedly and Shoma groans unhappily. “Me and Satoko-chan are going to watch some winter games with Team USA, you wanna come with?”

Shoma shakes his head into the pillow and croaks out a pitiful “No.”

“Eh? Why not! It’ll be fun! You’re gonna regret staying hauled up in the apartment!” Kaori singsongs. How is this girl so cheerful so early in the morning? Shoma can barely keep himself standing. He fell asleep through 90% of the interviews and, at one point, Nobu had to wake him up. It was live. Shoma will never live it down ever again. But on the brightside, Yuzu did spent about ten minutes telling a few hosts that Shoma is mentally strong and hardworking and adorable despite falling asleep like that. And now Shoma’s conflicted, why the hell did he think about Yuzu again.  He throws the pillow to the foot of the loveseat out of frustration and sees Kaori and Satton putting on their shoes. Horrifyingly, Yuzu’s sitting crossed leg on the other sofa, his sponsor jacket on and his laptop on the coffee table. When the hell did Yuzu get here. Wasn't he supposed to be occupied with his own interview? Also, Yuzu's looking at Shoma now. It’s stifling and Shoma is having difficulty breathing under his scrutiny.

Satton catches his eyes and says “You should go sleep in your room Sho-chan."

Shoma grumbles and moves to get up. He's gonna suffer three meter of walk to go sleep in the privacy of his bedroom. He can’t sleep here, with Yuzu right there, looking at Shoma like that.

Satton adds as an afterthought ”Or maybe not… Keiji-kun’s skyping in there.”

She laughs when Shoma’s color drains away from his face. So now, if he wants to sleep, he’ll have to do it here, in the living room, where Yuzu is looking at him. Shoma thinks of Yuzu's smile and his heated touch and he just can’t .  And Yuzu’s smiling at him now, lips stretch into a cheshire grin like he just won something. He suggest with a nonchalant shrug “You can keep me company Sho.”

The way his nickname rolls off of Yuzu’s tongue is smooth and effortless; like honey on soft skin, like how Shoma wants Yuzu’s touch to be like. But he can't have that, not when Yuzu’s fingers still burn his skin. He takes a deep shaky breathe and calls out “Wait! I’ll go get my jacket.”

Satton looks at him confusedly as Yuzu’s gaze harden into a glare. Shoma gulps and walks to him room before he realized that Keiji’s probably doing unspeakable thing in there. So he has no choice but to go out in his not so warm Team Japan jacket. Shoma groans and puts his forehead against the mahogany. He thinks about Oohama-san’s instruction for him to rest and he thinks about Yuzu’s kind eyes and soft smile during the interview. And Shoma wants that. Shoma squeezes his eyes shut at the thought of it. Maybe it’ll be okay. It doesn't matter. He’ll sleep and Yuzu will do whatever it is he’s supposed to do and they’ll be okay.

He’s pushing away from the door and turning back toward the living room when Yuzu abruptly enters his field of vision. He roughly shoves something into Shoma’s chest and Shoma scrambles to catch it. Their hands touch and Shoma yanks away, stumbling into the door. His skin is hot and Shoma refuses to look down to see the red that is surely blossoming on his skin. All Shoma can do is look at Yuzu's face and see his mouth twisting into a hard, angry line as he snarls “Have fun going out.”

His eyes are cold and sharp and he looks at Shoma like he wants to put his hands on Shoma and burns him; like he wants strips him bare and hurt him.  Then Yuzu’s stalking down the hallway to his room, slamming the door shut and making the wall rattles under its force. Shoma thinks he saw the color of dawn spreading across Yuzu's palm and when he finally looks down, all he can see is the white of Yuzu’s ANA jacket in his hand. It’s warm, he thinks, and selfishly puts it on. Satton and Kaori are looking at him in concern now but Shoma ignores them, zipping up the jacket and pulls the collar to his nose. It smells of green tea and burning ember and Shoma feels safe despite everything.

 

Chapter Text

 


settle soft and as pure as snow
i fell in love with the fire long ago

would that i by hozier  



 

Team USA is… bright, energetic and extremely surprised to see Shoma. There is a moment of calmness before they catch sight of him and Shoma is eternally grateful for the brief quietness . He takes a few seconds to take it all in and try to calm himself. And then chaos kicks up again when Adam has both hands on his forearm and practically shouts excitedly into his face. He's speaking too fast for Shoma to understand and before Shoma knows it, he has two over excited, puppy-like figure skaters screaming into his face because Mirai is also turning him toward her.

Alex pulls them both away by the collars of their jackets and Shoma is thankful that he is saved. But then Alex and Maia intrude into his personal space and hug him before letting him go so Nathan can greet him with a subdued wave. Shoma's slow and sluggish but they don't seem to mind. In fact, they make it an effort to greet him one by one, it seems.

Shoma’s head throbs from all the noise and enthusiasm and he’s starting to regret coming out with Satton and Kaori. He should've just stayed in. What if Yuzu's at the apartment. Whatever. Who cares. Nothing’s gonna happen because Shoma will just sleep and Yuzu will just dissect his own performances through videos or whatever it is he does on his laptop. Nothing ever happens. Even if anything happens, it'll still be good. He'd still get to sleep. He'd still get to be near Yuzu.

Heaving a sigh, Shoma decides to tug at Satton's jacket and tries to beg his way out from watching the games. When she turns to him, the smile on her face falls and replace by a look of concern. Shoma hates himself a bit for making her worry. He casts his eyes down guiltily and says “Satton, I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to go. I’m too tired, so I’m just gonna go back. Please tell them I’m sorry?”

Satton frowns “Mm, you look beat Sho-kun.” before she turns toward Team USA and translates.

The bunch of them look over worriedly and Alex immediately crowds him, speaking in a mixture of English and broken Japanese. And then Mirai is on his face again, speaking in accented but understandable Japanese “Oh Shoma. Let’s go send you to sleep!”

Maia joins in with her this time, frowning in concern and patting Shoma’s forearm. Shoma shakes his head, taking a step back “No. No. I’ll go back alone. You should go enjoy the game.”

“Nonsense!” Mirai exclaims and Satton squeezes in between Mirai and Shoma while Kaori comes to stand by his elbow. Satton’s saying something in English now and they mostly look dejected. After a couple of minutes of discussion between Satton and the Americans later, Kaori lets go of his elbow and Nathan replaces her. He looks at the younger with bleary eyes and asks “What?”

Nathan smiles down at him, head tilted to the side, and now that Shoma’s really looking at him, his eyes are a bit puffy. He tells Shoma slowly “ I’ll walk you back.

Technically, Shoma understands, but he also doesn’t really understand so he plants his feet solidly on the ground when Nathan tugs him in the direction of the apartment buildings. He looks at Satton in confusion and she smiles softly “Nathan-san volunteered to go back with you.”

Shoma frowns, glancing briefly to see Nathan looking at him with a soft, lingering smile. He says “He shouldn’t miss the game just to take me back. I can go back myself, I won’t get lost.”

“Well, he said he didn't really wanna come out anyways… Adam dragged him out.”

Shoma winces at that as Adam perks up at the mention of his name. Adam, not unlike Jason, is an overly energetic, chatterbox golden retriever. But unlike Jason, Adam is very convincing and very forceful. He nods in sympathy and turns to Nathan “ You back with me?

Nathan nods and Shoma asks “ Sure?

Nathan nods again and something Adam says makes him flush and roll his eyes. Maia giggles into Alex's shoulder as Mirai elbows Adam. Satton looks between him and Nathan briefly with amusement before she shakes her head. Nathan looks at him and says a bit too quickly “ Don't mind them...

Shoma’s tired brain can’t catch all of what Nathan said, but the ‘don't mind' is enough indication that they’re teasing, so he shrugs and waves them goodbye as they take their leave. Nathan and Shoma spend a few extra seconds shifting from one feet to another, not knowing what to say, and when Shoma finally works up the nerve to say something, Nathan is also stumbling to get his words out. The two of them end up speaking over one another and both laugh briefly.

Nathan gestures with his hand and tells him “ You go first.

Shoma takes a while, going through his options, before he suggests shyly “ Coffee shop?

Nathan raises an eyebrow. He looks thoughtful for a moment before he asks “ Didn’t you say you were tired and want to go back and rest?

Shoma doesn’t quite get everything, but he does catch ‘tired’ and ‘go back’. He immediately thinks of Yuzu’s grimace and sharp gaze, and now that he’s no longer overwhelmed, he thinks it’s terrible and suffocating to go back to that. It already hurts to be near Yuzu. To be near an angry Yuzu… He can’t imagine. So he shrugs “ Hungry .”

Nathan looks at him amusedly before shrugging as well and tugging Shoma along by the wrist. Shoma follows and finds himself settled in the corner table of a cafe.

They make excellent hamburger steaks. ” Nathan tells him conspiratorially over the menu. Shoma smiles and shrugs. He has no preference; as long as they have meat and the place is comfy, he's okay with everything.

They end up ordering a bit too much food, but somehow still manage to finish everything. Shoma devours all the meat he can get his fork on and pushes away all the greens. At one point, Nathan laughs at him as he makes a face at the vegetables before offering Shoma the wings on his side of the table. Shoma shakes his head and Nathan transfers the meat to Shoma's plate before taking the veggies to his.

Shoma smiles shyly and says “ Thank you .”

Nathan smirks back, shrugging, and Shoma digs in. The sleeves of Yuzu’s jacket gets in the way when Shoma has his fingers wrapped around the wings so Nathan helps him roll them up awkwardly. Nathan looks at the red patch of skin on the back of his hand with concern. Shoma tries to smile and says “ It's nothing. ” before he tugs it against his chest.

Shoma knows that Nathan is a good kid, but Nathan has a big heart and he's very fun to be around, even with the language barrier. He enjoys eating with Nathan; although all they do is eat and then Shoma falls asleep when Nathan excuses himself to the bathroom. It was terribly impolite of him but Shoma’s tired and full and Nathan doesn’t seem to mind much; just shrugs good naturedly with a fond smile before asking if Shoma's ready to go or if he wants to nap some more. He gets a pout from Shoma at that and he laughs, hair tousling wildly as his body shakes from it. He looks carefree and child-like, unburdened by unnecessary pressure and the public eye.

The two of them walk side by side in silent after that, arms brushing against one another occasionally. When they arrive at Team Japan's apartment building, Shoma decides to knock his shoulder against Nathan’s arm He does that a lot with Jason because they’re friends but they don’t have enough language efficiency to communicate properly. He hopes Nathan takes it as good naturedly as Jason did.

Thankfully, he does because he turns to Shoma with a smile. Shoma smiles timidly back in reply and they sort of just look at each other for a while.

Are you skate at gala? ” Shoma asks, breaking the silence. Nathan looks at him funnily, mouthing ‘gala' to himself. He's probably confused with Shoma's atrocious English so Shoma says “ Exhibition?

Nathan lets out an exclamation before shaking his head. The smile on his lips is something Shoma is familiar with: anger with yourself and the need to prove that you can do good, that you can do better, that you deserve . He knows that feeling very well, he lives with it a lot. But this isn't about him. This is about Nathan, and he needs strength and understanding. So, boldly, Shoma reaches out to grab at Nathan's forearm, squeezing lightly. He tries to say comfortingly “ You skate good.”

Nathan worries his bottom lip between his teeth. There’s more he wants to say but Shoma can't find the right words in English to tell Nathan just how wonderful and brave he is. He wants to tell Nathan that it's okay to fuck up with that kind of pressure on him. Shoma is intimately aware of what it feels like to try and live up to something, someone , greater than yourself. He understands. He understands . And it's not the end of the world. Nathan will come back from this stronger than ever before. Instead, all Shoma can do is settle with “ See you at World.

Nathan looks down briefly before he turns his gaze to Shoma and nods, there's steely determination in them and Shoma tries to smile reassuringly. He hopes that he can appropriately convey his hopefulness and understanding to Nathan through his smile.

As he's letting his hand slide away, Nathan grabs onto his fingers and squeezes. It's an odd gesture but people do odd things when they're in need of comfort. So Shoma squeezes back, the skin of Nathan's palm is cold, but soft, under the tip of his fingers. Nathan leans over and murmurs “ Thank you. "

His voice is soft, and sweet and Shoma thinks there's something greater going on in this moment. Something fragile and groundbreaking. But before Shoma can understand what it is, Nathan’s already out of Shoma’s personal space and wiggling his fingers goodbye. Nathan's fingers are long and boney and Shoma can still feel their lingering coldness against his skin. He tries not to think about Yuzu's burning fingers and takes all twelve flights of stairs up to his floor.

-

Kaori is already back when he finally gets to the apartment. Presumably, Satton is here too but he only sees Keiji and Kana, who are cooking, Yuzu, who types up a storm on his laptop at the kitchen table. Kaori greets him with a cheerful hello and asks “What took you so long Sho-kun?”

She wiggles her eyes suggestively and giggles. Shoma rolls his eyes at her and enters the open kitchen, narrowly misses bumping into Keiji, and goes for the fridge. Kana whirls around to look at him with a mischievous smile of her own and sing-songs “Well I know what took him so long~”

“Ohhh~” Kaori pops up from behind the sofa. Kana continues “Me and Chris saw a certain someone eating with Nathan this morning at one of those fancy, romantic café.”

Kana winks at him as Keiji turns briefly to look him with appraisal. However, what catches Shoma’s attention is Yuzu. The typing sound silences immediately with Kana’s statement and Shoma darts a look at Yuzu to see his jaw clenched tight. Kaori gasps dramatically, plants herself besides Yuzu, and whispers in a conspiratory manner “A date.”

“No! I was just hungry.” Shoma blurts out and Kaori giggles. “It wasn't a date. I don't- I have-”

Shoma stops short and chances a glance at Yuzu. The older is looking at him intensely, eyes black and shiny. Shoma clutches at the water bottle tightly and says again, firmly, returning Yuzu's fierce gaze “It wasn’t a date.” like he’s trying to reassure Yuzu.

Yuzu says nothing, just stares at Shoma for a few more seconds before he turns his stormy eyes back to his computer screen. It seems like Shoma and Yuzu are gonna part ways on bad footing. But by the time the gala ends and the homecoming event rolls around, the strain around Yuzu's mouth smoothens and eventually curves into a smile again. He looks at Shoma with more lightness and, maybe, even fondness, and reminds Shoma to take care of himself.

On the plane, he stops by Shoma’s isle and says things like “It’s cold, put on the jacket I gave you.” and Shoma complies; because it is cold; because Yuzu’s jacket is nice and comfy and oversized but not by too much and it fits him perfectly.

And later, when they're preparing to part ways, Keiji points out amusedly how Shoma still has Yuzu’s jacket with him. Shoma tries to give it back to Yuzu after that, conscious of using it, but Yuzu just shakes his head and tells him softly, with an underlying hint of fondness, “Keep it, it looks good on you.”

Shoma thinks that maybe, maybe , this cancels out the anger and the glaring and he puts the jacket back on. Yuzu’s lips stretch wide with triumph, like he just won the Olympics all over again and Shoma doesn't understand. Yuzu is confusing like that. But it's good that Shoma's last memory of Yuzu before they part ways is of Yuzu's smile. He thinks it'll last him all the way until Worlds.

-

After all the whirlwind of press at and after the Olympics, Shoma comes back home with little to no affair. Which is a huge relief.

Well… He did have to go through a few interviews and visit his sponsors but it's tame, compared to Yuzu. He had to attend numerous press conference and interviews and a huge parade. He's gonna get another Purple Ribbon of Honor and he's all over the news.

He's on the news now .

Shoma doesn't mean to watch him. He is channel surfing when Yuzu's current press conference comes up, so he pauses; listens, looks, admires . Yuzu has such a way with words and Shoma inhales slowly, deliberately; listening to Yuzu’s cute giggles and soft pronunciation.

The front door swings open a while later, after Shoma got absorbed in listening, and Itsuki immediately groans when he see who Shoma's watching. The younger boy calls from the kitchen, “Why are you watching him?"

Shoma hums reaching for his phone, acting like he doesn't care even though he's pretty sure Itsuki caught him looking intensely at the TV just now. He answers as he fumbles with his phone “It came on."

Itsuki comes to stand besides him and narrows his eyes “You could just change the channel.”

Shoma shrugs, feigning nonchalance. His brother rolls his eyes now and reaches for the remote on Shoma's chest. Just then, the host asks Yuzu a question about Shoma, and the sibling freezes in their playfight, attention focused on the screen.

Based on the point gap, I will still win. Yuzu says, his smile is afterward is confident and happy and his little shrug showcase his playful nature. His chuckle afterward is just as cute. Shoma hasn’t seen Yuzu this happy and carefree around him in a while. They might have ‘reconciled’ after their non-fight, non-argument, whatever the hell it was, at the Olympics, but their interactions have always been tense and somewhat unpleasant. There are lines they cannot cross and words they will not speak and Shoma’s heart aches at the thought of all the unspoken thing between them.

“Cocky.” Itsuki says disapprovingly, walking himself back to his grocery, and Shoma rolls his eyes.

“But to surpass me… I don’t think that is his true intention. Yuzu continues, the quirk of his mouth is knowing and his eyes shine brightly, like he’s privy to the most delicious secret in the world. Yuzu continues with certainty “He thinks of me as someone he wants to be close with.”

And Shoma’s stomach drops. Whatever Yuzu has to say next, Shoma can’t hear because all he can think of is he knows, he knows, he knows .

Shoma turns off the TV and goes to his room.

He wants to throw a tantrum, wants to take Yuzu's wrist into his hands and burn his skin, wants to ask Yuzu how he could be so cruel. Because how could Yuzu say these things so casually, acknowledge Shoma's desire for him so openly; when he’s fully aware of who he is, what he is, to Shoma. But he won't do any of that. Shoma pushes Yuzu away from his mind and turns his attention to his life in general.

He practices and tries not to dread the fact that Yuzu’s also going to Worlds.

-

Realisation comes to him when he’s in the middle of his ballet dance session a couple of days later: Yuzu isn't willing to give Shoma what he wants. He will never give Shoma what he wants. The tentative non-friendship, non-relationship between them is just kindness on Yuzu’s part.

Shoma thinks about how Yuzu smiled and answered Nobu that he wants to get married at around twenty five. He remembers the soft curves of Yuzu's lips when he said ‘aspiration for marriage' and the fact that he loves kids. And the sound of his laughter when he joked that they'll all be ruled by their wives.

Their wives .

Yuzu wants normal things like a wife and his own children. And he had no qualm announcing that to the world. He smile so brightly, so wistfully and talked about getting married to a woman and building a family right in front of Shoma, his soulmate.

His soulmate .

Shoma should've realise then, but he was young and stupid and his heart was so full of hope.

And Yuzu’s very aware of that, what he said the other day is a testament to it. Maybe, this is why Yuzu is kind and caring toward him: because he pities Shoma for it. So he gives Shoma the slightest of smiles, the softest encouragement; maybe he thinks it’s the least he can do for Shoma. Maybe this is why Yuzu is uncaring about being touchy with Shoma, because it doesn't matter to him. They are soulmates, but, to Yuzu, it never even occurs to him that they are. To Yuzu, nothing out of the ordinary is acceptable. And being soulmates with Shoma is beyond the realm of ordinary; unacceptable. So whatever it is between them, it'll never be.

Shoma slips on his spin and lands on his side with a loud thud. His side throbs and it’s supposed to be painful but all he could feel is numbness. Mihoko-sensei takes one look at him, helps him onto his feet and sits with him until the music ends.

-

He is desperately full of hope, still.

-

After that, Shoma's mind is preoccupied by Yuzu, even though he tries really hard not to think about him.

Mihoko-sensei can tell that he’s distracted, in a bad way, when he messes up his practice one time too many. Mihoko-sensei ends up banning him from the ice rink. He frowns at her “I haven’t had a clean skate today. I need to practice.”

Mihoko-sensei takes his hands into hers and squeezes lightly. She’s so gentle with him now, like he’ll break if she isn’t careful. “Shoma, you’re just reinforcing bad habits with the way you’re forcing your practice.”

He frowns and looks away but doesn’t move to take his hands back. She sighs and continues, fingers rubbing soothingly on the back of his hands, “Did something happen?”

Shoma knows she knows that something happened, she’s just asking to let him know that he can tell her anything. Once upon a time, he told Mihoko-sensei everything because he could, because her love for him is unconditional, because she is infinitely kind and understanding and never judges him. But then Marseille happened and she saw the burnmark on his skin hours after the podium. Ever since then, she is more cautious with him and touches him with a gentleness that’s too much for his heart. So now he learns not to burden her with the matters of his heart; he learns to smile and tell her white lies because it hurts him more to see her eyes filled with sadness. He'll nurse his own hurt deep inside his chest rather then spread sadness and hurt to the people he loves.

After a while, she starts to let go “You don’t need to tell me anything Shoma. I just worry because it’s what I do.”

Shoma nods firmly and grabs her hands back, rubbing soothingly on her skin just like how she taught him. He says “I know, thank you.” and she smiles brightly at him.

“Now, take a few days off to clear your head okay? You need the rest anyways.” Mihoko-sensei says with finalty and that’s how he finds himself hanging out with Kotaro and Yura for the next couple of days.

-

About a week or so later, Shoma wakes up to his phone causing an earthquake on his bed. He groans pitifully before reaching out to grab his phone. Shoma’s gonna turn it off, just to be sure, and go back to sleep because no way in hell he's gonna get up early when there's no morning practice. But when he looks at it, he sees a million notifications from the Team Japan group chat. Shoma snuffles, wondering why the hell they’re texting up a storm at eight in the morning. He clicks into it when curiosity wins and it takes a while for him to piece together what’s going on.

Apparently, Yuzu’s withdrawing from Worlds to focus on his rehabilitation and his replacement is the fresh, young star called Tomono Kazuki. Shoma's relieved for Yuzu. He knows how troubling Yuzu's ankle injury was for him even with the pain medication. He's glad Yuzu is more lenient with himself now and takes the time to recuperate. But a big part of him is actually sad because Yuzu won't be there. The next time he'll get to see Yuzu in person will be at ice shows. And if Shoma's offered none or if Yuzu declines his invitations, then the next time they meet will be at Japan Nationals. And that's very, very far away.

Shoma catches himself mid thought and scolds himself. He's being dumb and lovestruck. Why is he still so hung up on Yuzu? Yuzu doesn’t want him.

He pushes the swirl of black, inky thought away and text the group chat to congratulate Kazuki on making it to Worlds. Replies are instant: Kazuki and Kaori send stickers, Satton tells him hello while Kana and Wakaba and literally everyone else teases him for being up early.

He rolls his eyes and backs out of the group chat just in time for his phone to ring.

It’s a private text message from Yuzu.

 

Hanyu Yuzuru

> I really looked forward to Worlds.

> I’m very sad I couldn’t make it.

Shoma stares at the notification for it for a long while, breathe coming out shallow. He stares at his notification bar until another text notification comes in and jolts him out of his reverie.

 

Hanyu Yuzuru

> I’m sorry.

He exhales sharply; clears his notification alert, sets his status to unavailable and exits the messaging app.

-

On the day he leaves, Yuzu texts again.

 

Hanyu Yuzuru

> Good luck.

Shoma doesn’t know how Yuzu knows when he’s leaving. He doesn’t know why Yuzu is wishing him luck, why he’s even texting Shoma in the first place. Yuzu doesn’t do or say anything without a purpose and Shoma doesn’t understands what it is that he wants. He never does. He really should stop trying to understand.

Chapter Text

 

 

i'm running towards the sun and the wind,
i'm following your footsteps.

unknown

 

Between Itsuki and Kotaro banding together to drag him around Milan, the media shoving cameras into his face, and his own private practice at the local rink; Shoma’s mind is temporarily taken off Yuzu. In fact, he doesn't think about Yuzu at all, even when Kotaro and Itsuki both return to Japan and he only has Mihoko-sensei and his practice to keep him occupied. That all changes, however, with the arrival of the remaining members of Team Japan. Wakaba practically jumps on him as she whines “Why are you ignoring us? We've been texting you nonstop, but you wouldn't even give us a minute of your day!”

“Sho-kun has replaced us with Kotaro-kun.” Satoko teases fondly.

“Don't be ridiculous." Shoma replies, eyes rolling, “I’ve only replaced Keiji.”

This earns him a pout and a playfully slap to the arm. Shoma laughs, burrowing his face into Keiji's shoulder, and lets himself be dragged around Milan once again. He does feel guilty about ignoring them, and he also kinda misses spending time with them so that's a plus.

Later that night, Keiji invites himself to Shoma's room.

“Okay, but why have you been ignoring the group chat? My small brain can't figure out the reasons.”

Shoma shrugs, plugging his laptop to the TV screen.

“Yuzu-kun texted me but I didn't reply and I don't want him to know I'm online.” He says nonchalantly.

Keiji hums in reply, distracted.

“Why not?”

"Why not?” Shoma repeats, rolling his eyes “He's never texted me before.”

“Oh.” Keiji mumbles dumbly before he clambers to sit up. He frowns and asks: “What did he want?”

“He said he was looking forward to coming to Worlds and that he wished me luck.” Shoma shrugs as he answers, trying to put an uncaring front; which makes Keiji sigh. Then he winces when Shoma’s expression pinches into a frown.b“He also said he was sorry.”  Shoma quietly admits to Keiji. He fumbles with the buttons on the gaming console as he continues solemnly,

“I don’t know why he said sorry. It doesn’t make sense at all.”

Keiji slides down the bed to sit next to him and Shoma instinctively leans into him, seeking comfort. The older man drapes his arm over Shoma’s shoulder and pulls him in closer. He sighs softly and murmurs “Oh, Shoma.”

“It’s okay. I just-” Shoma tries to shrug under Keiji’s weight. Keiji moves his arm and squeezes Shoma’s shoulder lightly. It makes Shoma take a deep, shaky breath. He hates worrying his best friends and family like this. He hates that Yuzu’s always capable of reducing him to a small, frail human being with a heart that’s always bleeding. But he just can’t seem to hate Yuzu. And Shoma just-

Shoma looks up, chest aching, and pushes the console in his hand into Keiji’s. He looks at Keiji meaningfully and says with determination: “I’m okay.”

Keiji looks like he wants to protest but, after a few seconds of frowning in disapproval, he just sighs and gives Shoma’s shoulder one last squeeze. He nudges Shoma lightly and tells him,

“Take care of yourself, okay kiddo?”

Shoma nods.

“Everything else is perfectly fine. I'm okay, don't worry.”

Keiji’s smile is tight and Shoma inhales deeply before continuing,

“Now let's play this new game. I can't wait to beat you.”

Keiji laughs in reply. It’s not as full as it usually is, but Shoma's heart lightens all the same.

-

It seems like Shoma spoke too soon about everything being fine because nothing is fine now. He busts his ankle two days before the short program and he’s so badly injured, Oohama-san has to carry him out of the rink. His examination hasn't even finished yet when there's a knock on his door. Oohama-san goes to open the door to let in Kobayashi-san and her assistant. The doctor hastily wraps up before handing over the necessary prescription to Mihoko-sensei.

“Good evening." Kobayashi-san greets and Mihoko-sensei’s face pinches into a frown. She crosses her arms defensively, as if preparing for the next, inevitable question.

“How's your ankle, Shoma-kun?" Kobayashi-san asks and Shoma looks toward his foot helplessly. Anyone with a pair of functioning eyes can tell what terrible condition his ankle is in. But they all know that's not what she's asking.

Mihoko-sensei turns to frown at him because she knows that Shoma will still insist on skating no matter how badly injured his ankle is. Shoma really hates it when he worries her, but he has to skate. Japan is hosting World next year and Shoma knows their three spots have to be maintained. And let's be honest here, Kazuki and Keiji alone… they won't be able to get Japan the three spots it wants. Shoma will have to skate no matter what.

If only Yuzu were here though…

Shoma squeezes his eyes shut and tries to clear his mind before the thought can take a hold of him. It wouldn't do him good to live inside his own head, to hope .  So Shoma looks toward Kobayashi-san and says firmly,

“I can skate.”

And it seems like that's all she needs to hear because she nods once, face set in grim determination, and takes her leave. Mihoko-sensei sits on the edge of his bed and reaches a tentative hand to squeeze his knee lightly. Her mouth is pinched tight.

“Shoma.” is all she says.

“Sensei, it's okay. It's just a sprain, I can skate." Shoma replies.

“Just because you can doesn't mean you should.” Mihoko-sensei chides him and Shoma looks down toward his feet. No, he shouldn't. But he will. He’s the national champion, it's his duty. Shoma will take the pain medications as prescribed, switch up his program layout and skate. He'll get three spots for Japan for next season because he won't be able to live with himself otherwise.

His voice is small when he replies:

“I know, but it's-” Shoma takes a deep breath and looks toward his coach, his lifeline in this sport “Worlds will be on home ice next year. I have to skate.”

Mihoko-sensei's frown morphs into a pained look. She looks like she wants to force him to stay in bed and wraps him in bullet proof blankets until his ankle heals. She looks at him like he's made of glass and paper, like he'll burn out at any moment. Shoma looks away, her kind and caring heart makes him feel impossibly fragile. Mihoko-sensei then reaches to pull him into a brief hug. It's soft and warm, and she smells of sweet flowers. Mihoko-sensei fits her palm against his cheek and says

“Get some rest. I'll come pick you up for your practice, okay?”

Shoma nods, nuzzling his cheek against her soft skin briefly, seeking comfort. He knows everything will be alright as long as he has this kind of love and support in his life.

-

And then Shoma goes and lands himself in fifth place after the short program.

He sleeps the night away and ignores every text sent to him until Keiji and Satoko come over to drag him out for breakfast. How the hell did they get a hold of his hotel key, anyways? He suspects Mihoko-sensei or Oohama-san gave it to these two devils. He glowers at them, hoping to send them away with his displeased look, but Satton just smiles brightly while throwing his blanket off him. Keiji drags him off the bed by the ankle and deftly avoids a kick to the stomach with a hearty laughter.

How the hell are they so cheerful so early in the morning?

“It's past nine Sho-kun. It's hardly early." Satton replies, a hint of laughter in her voice.

Oh, he must've said that out loud.

“I hate you both." Shoma replies venomously as Keiji shoves him into the washroom with an armful of clean clothes. Keiji rolls his eyes fondly at him as Satton bends down to pick up his discarded clothes. Her voice is muffled when she answers “We love you too Sho-kun. Now get ready quickly, we do want to eat breakfast.”

By the time they get to the dining hall, only a few people still loiter around and nearly all of them are skaters. Luckily, there's still food at the buffet table.

Keiji pushes him down to sit opposite of Wakaba and Kazuki and tells them to look after him. Shoma rolls his eyes before pulling out his phone to boot up his game. Wakaba tuts at him playfully while Kazuki stares at him. The younger man picks up his glass before grabbing Wakaba's. Then he turns to ask Shoma if he wants anything to drink, to which Shoma shakes his head.

A few seconds later, he feels a hand on his shoulder; firm and cold, even through the fabric of his clothes. Shoma jumps, phone tumbling out of his hands, and turns to see an apologetic looking Nathan with both of his hands up.

Sorry .” Nathan says before gesturing to the empty seat next to Shoma. He shrugs and Nathan sits, body angled toward Shoma. He has an arm braced against the wooden surface, so Shoma puts his phone to sleep and turns to face Nathan. He can see Wakaba looking at him with mischief glinting in her eyes.

How are you doing? ” Nathan asks, voice low as if he's whispering a secret. Nathan’s probably asking about his feelings after his skate at the short but all Shoma does is shrug and smile weakly. When he gives no indication he's going to reply verbally, Nathan continues “ I didn't see you at morning practice.

Sleepy. Just got up and now hungry. " Shoma answers with a pout and Nathan laughs, the sound of it rings with nervousness. He gestures at the buffet table on the other side “ Should we go get you some food then?

Shoma shakes his head.

Is okay. Satoko and Keiji are take food for me now.

The last time we talked, you were also sleepy and hungry. ” Nathan points out and Shoma has the urge to laugh. Instead he just rolls his eyes and settles for a smile, fingers tapping on the cover of his phone.

Shoma replies by listing:

Number one is sleeping, then eating, gaming, skating...

Nathan laughs again, this time it's clear and true. He looks like he's about to say something more, but someone calls his name across the hall. They both look up to see a brunette girl gesturing and speaking in fast English. Nathan looks apologetic when he finally turns toward Shoma again.

I have to go. ” He says and Shoma nods. Before he gets up to leave, Nathan touches a finger to the back of Shoma hand. It’s cold, but not unpleasant. It actually reminds Shoma of an ice rink; cold, calm, quiet. It doesn't burn.

Hey. ” Nathan mumbles softly, then wraps his fingers delicately around Shoma's “ You skate good.

It reminds Shoma of that time at the Olympics and Shoma smiles. He flips his hand so he's holding Nathan’s and squeezes back before he replies:

See you at free.

Nathan nods, lips quirked up, before the sound of the girl calling for him has him getting up When Shoma turns back to the table, Wakaba is wiggling her brows mischievously and Satton, who just got to the table, is staring at him with a knowing look. Shoma accepts the food Keiji pushes toward him without a word and starts to eat.

-

By the time Shoma's finished with his food, his phone’s vibrating like crazy. He had thought it was probably Itsuki or his parents texting their family group chat. But when he unlocks it, he sees endless incoming notifications from the ensemble team Japan group chat. He’s about to ignore it, but he sees Kanako tagging him with a questionable sentence attached after it. Shoma sighs and resigns himself to reading madness as he clicks into the group chat.

 

Gossip Central

Leafy.Waka @Dancing Mai you’ve got yourself a love rival.

Dancing Mai ???

KaoKao wait whAT???

Leafy.Waka I'm not tryna break home or anything, but I'm pretty sure your hot American boyfriend’s cheating on you with Shoma-kun.

Daddy Nobu I smell gossip *smirk emoji*

KaoKao when did Mai-chan get a boyfriend??? ARE YOU CHEATING ON ME MAI?

Milk_andO Waka only comes online to stir shit up lol

KanaBabyKo Shoma????

Dancing Mai @Leafy.Waka what American boyfriend?

KanaBabyKo @MamaMao *eyes emoji*

I Am KaNa * image attachment : Mai and Nathan standing side by side in an ice rink*

I Am KaNa * image attachment : gossip headline of Mai being Nathan’s girlfriend*

Pineapple Queen *eyes emoji* *smirk emoji*

Dancing Mai oh, that

KaoKao @Dancing Mai just because he's hot doesn't mean you can cheat on me!

Dancing Mai lol

KanaBabyKo @SatanSho how is it that you end up getting into an illicit love affair with hot American-kun when I’m not looking??

KaoKao MAI!

KanaBabyKo you two take your love quarrel elsewhere. @Leafy.Waka I want the tea.

Milk_andO #priority

KanaBabyKo @Leafy.Waka hello??? the tea??

Detective Tanaka rip @Leafy.Waka , she will be missed

KaoKao ???

>> I Am KaNa just added @k0515ki into the group chat!

Dancing Mai Oh no… what happened to Wakaba?

Pineapple Queen Sho-kun just choked Waka to death with his thighs lol

Milk_andO Kinky *wink emoji*

Daddy Nobu @Milk_andO Behave, there are children in this group.

bigboySOTA I TOLD you Shoma’s thighs can kill… Do you believe me now?

k0515ki Hi, I was there when Nathan-san came up to Shoma-kun this morning. I don’t know what they were talking about but Nathan-san held Shoma-kun’s hand before he left.

k0515ki He also left with Great ReluctanceTM too, if I may add.

KanaBabyKo !!!

k0515ki * image attachment : blurry and unfocused image of the dining hall, with a circle drawn around Nathan and Shoma*

I Am KaNa @k0515ki doing god's work

k0515ki *angel emoji*

SatanSho @k0515ki drop me your location, I just wanna talk.

k0515ki Oh shit

>> @k0515ki has left the group chat!

>> SatanSho just added @k0515ki into the group chat!

SatanSho @k0515ki I will find you and I will choke you to death

SatanSho with my thighs

SatanSho sleep with your eyes open

Daddy Nobu Shoma, no! Murder is bad!

Pineapple Queen @SatanSho Kazu-kun's room is 1205, thank me later.

SatanSho thanks

>> Milk_andO changed @k0515ki ’s nickname to KazuDeadKi!

Detective Tanaka lol

-

Goofing around with Kazuki and Wakaba temporarily takes his mind off the upcoming free skate and his hurt ankle. But when it's time for dinner and he's sitting in front of Satoko, the reality of it comes crashing back down.

Satoko smiles at him shallowly and sends a plate full of vegetables his way. He picks at it absentmindedly, and that gets Satoko worried enough to ask:

"Sho-kun, are you feeling alright?"

Shoma looks up blearily at his friend.

“What?”

“You look very… stressed,” Satoko replies. “are you worried about tomorrow?”

Shoma clenches his jaw and looks down at his food again.

“It’ll be alright,” Satton reassures him, reaching out to grasp his hand and rubs her thumb over his knuckles soothingly “don’t worry.”

“Japan will host Worlds next year and I’m the national champion.” Shoma answers with a scoff.

“Sho-kun, it will be alright no matter what.” Satton reasons, squeezing his hand in reassurance.

“That’s easy for you to say when you already secured three spots for the ladies.” Shoma frowns.

“You’re injured right now. You did your best.”

“Yuzu-kun won his second Olympics with an even worse ankle and high on painkillers.”

“Shoma, your ankle is swollen.” Satton frowns.

“Satton,” Shoma sighs deeply, chest aching, “I don’t want to talk about it. Please.”

The conversation ends there, Satton frowning sadly and they eat in silence after that. Shoma feels that he reacted irrationally, and that he was too harsh with his friend. He apologises as they leave the dining hall. Satton smiles in understanding and knocks her shoulders into his playfully. She pushes him toward the general direction of Mihoko-sensei, who’s waiting for him at the lounge, and says “Good luck, I’ll be there to support you tomorrow.”

Shoma nods and turns to find Mihoko-sensei smiling at him brightly, full of kindness and reassurance. She places a hand on the center of his back and guides him to the elevator.  They share a moment of silence before Mihoko-sensei turns to him and says:

“Shoma, whatever happens tomorrow; you did your best despite your situations.” Shoma nods meekly and ducks his head, unconsciously inching closer to her. Mihoko-sensei grabs his chin softly and continues “You’ve grown up to be a fine young man, very strong willed and very brave. I’m proud of you Shoma.”

Shoma looks up to find Mihoko-sensei’s eyes shining under the elevator light. He smiles softly in reply. He just realizes this, but Mihoko-sensei’s hand is warm, even through his thick shirt. He leans into that warmth readily, seeking the stable reassurance she always provides and knows that, despite everything, he will come out okay in the end.

But even with that in mind, Shoma still goes into the free program with a different sort of desperate determination.

This isn't like Boston where he knows he can do better and pushes himself to the limit because he's angry at himself. No, this is Shoma being desperate because World Championships aregoing to be hosted in Japan next year. He's the national champion, the Olympics silver medallist. It’s his duty to ensure Japan gets three spots. He has to make sure that another Japanese man, other than him and Yuzu, gets to skate. It could be Keiji, it could be Kazuki or Sota or Hiroaki. It could be anyone. It just can't only be him and Yuzu. So, the mantra that pushes him to the end is this: World Championships are going to be hosted on home ice next year, he's the national champion, he can’t screw up.

Yuzu wouldn't screw up.

This is the kind of desperation that has Shoma's chest caving into itself and his heart hurting. The kind that makes him anxious and tired. He wistfully thinks about seeing colors on his skin rather than burn marks and steps onto the ice with a deep shaky breath.

By the time the program ends, Shoma is breathless from exhaustion. He doesn't think he has any strength left as he falls into Mihoko-sensei’s heartfelt hug.

As soon as the score is announced, he turns to ask:

“Will Japan get three spots next year?”

Mihoko-sensei’s lips are pressed together into a tight smile, but she nods in answer anyways. Shoma sighs with relief and smiles. He sees her try to smile back but it looks pained, eyes sad. The grip she has on his arm when she helps him up is tight and protective and Shoma pats her hands gently, trying to reassure her. Oohama-san smiles at him when he sees Shoma and takes him off Mihoko-sensei’s hands. He escorts Shoma to the green room and gives him a bottle of water and a towel.

Shoma enters, to see Kazuki sitting on one of the couches awkwardly; feet bouncing up and down with nervous energy. Shoma approaches him and says:

“Kazuki-kun, thank you.”

“You’ve worked hard.” Kazuki replies with a smile. Shoma smile in return and leans down to hug Kazuki briefly; Kazuki pats his back and adds:  “Congratulations.”

"You too, congratulations.” Shoma answers in kind.

Kazuki nods firmly, mouth still smiling, and pulls him down so they can sit together. Shoma chats with Deniss for a bit; congratulating him before asking after Stephane and Koshiro. They stay silent afterward, when Mikhail replaces Deniss on the couch, watching skater after skater take the ice. Shoma feels his heart break for Boyang. He’s a good skater and a nice friend, and Shoma hates to see him so down and defeated. Before long though, it’s Nathan’s turn to skate. And it's really no surprise that he’s in first place after that fantastic skate. It’s what Nathan deserves after all the hard work he put into his training. Surprisingly, Shoma finds himself swelling with pride as he looks at the smiling young man in the Kiss & Cry.

He thinks about Nathan's cold fingers wrapped around his and finds himself smiling, chest filled with genuine happiness.

-

On the ice, Nathan welcomes him onto the podium with a hug and a heartfelt pat to the back. He thinks Nathan mumbles something into his ear when he let go, but Shoma's not sure. He means to ask but then Mikhail comes onto the ice and pulls him into an awkward hug with a big pearl of laughter.

Mikhail is a surprisingly soft-hearted and funny man under that brash accent. And Nathan… Nathan is as Nathan is, somewhat shy and bashful most of the time but also playful, fun to be around and very thoughtful.

Everything is light-hearted from there, the three of them just have fun and enjoy each other’s company in the midst of their own victory. The good feeling follows Shoma back to his room. When Shoma boots up his phone later on, a text is there to greet him.

 

Hanyu Yuzuru

> Congratulations on your medal.
> You've worked hard.

He smiles stupidly to himself, cheeks hurting from how much he's smiling. His mouth is still full of laughter from his time with Nathan and Mikhail on the ice. But seeing Yuzu’s text light up his screen feels like coming home to his mom’s heartfelt hug, his dad's proud smile and Itsuki's playful jibes. It's like a closet full of freshly pressed shirts that smell like flowers and feel like kisses. Shoma's just incredibly happy; and in that moment of happiness, he taps into the app and types his reply.

 

< Thank you.

> Oh. You replied.

> I thought you were going to ignore my messages again.

The reply is instant, and its content makes Shoma swallow guiltily. He's trying to come up with an excuse when Yuzu starts typing again.

 

> Did something good happen?

> Aside from the medal.

Shoma frowns, coming down from the high.

 

< Japan has three spots for World next year.

> Is that it?

> You sure?

Shoma’s frown deepens, and he takes a moment to think about the competition. Did something good happen that he isn't aware of? The silver medal isn't even that good of a thing because he's not happy with it, but it means Japan will have three spots for the men's event next year… So that's good news. It's the only good news really. And so, Shoma sends his replies.

 

< Yes.

Reaction is instant and Yuzu's text bubble indicates a message is being written. Then it's deleted. Written and deleted. Over and over. But in the end, he only receives a non-answer.

 

> Hmm.

< Okay?

The text bubble is busy again; loading then pauses, loading then pauses. It makes Shoma gnaws at his lips anxiously. He ends up falling asleep with his phone in his hand; waiting for Yuzu's reply.

-

Shoma wakes up the next morning to three deleted texts from Yuzu and goes to breakfast alone.

-

He sees Nathan at the soup section of the buffet table and grabs his tray before going over. Nathan smiles at him and Shoma feels light-hearted at the sight of it. He tries to smile back but ends up yawning loudly at the younger man, making Nathanchuckle. He puts a bowl of corn soup onto Shoma's tray and Shoma scrunches his nose in distaste as he looks at the yellow goo. He gives Nathan an accusatory stare, only for the younger man to laugh and tell him:

There's chicken in it.”

Then, Nathan scoops up another spoonful from the pot and pours it slowly into Shoma's bowl. Shoma can see small bits of meat spilling from the spoon.

Small meat. ” Shoma mumbles, and Nathan looks at Shoma with amusement in his eyes.

Still meat. ” Nathan replies.

Shoma pouts, making Nathan lips curve up into half a smile. The younger one pulls out another plate and piles up some sausage and bacon before giving it to Shoma. Shoma accepts it onto his tray readily before moving the soup from his tray to Nathan's.

I already have soup. ” Nathan says.

Have more, is good for health. ” Shoma replies, and puts bread onto Nathan's tray. That causes Nathan to raise his brow in amusement.

What about you?

Next time .” Shoma answers with a pout

You're ridiculous. ” Nathan mumbles in-between laughter. But he follows Shoma back to one of the free tables and doesn't try to put the corn soup back onto Shoma's tray, so Shoma counts it as a win.

-

 

Gossip Central

Leafy.Waka * video attachment: Shoma and Nathan eating breakfast and sharing laughter then a dramatic zoom in on Shoma's lively face *

Leafy.Waka * image attachments: pictures of Shoma and Nathan at the dining table *

Leafy.Waka * image attachments: pictures of Nathan and Shoma looking at each other at the small medal ceremony while Kazuki stands awkwardly to the side *

Leafy.Waka and here we have third wheeler Kazuki * image attachments: pictures of an awkward Kazuki standing next to Shoma *

Leafy.Waka What does it feel like to be a third wheel?

Leafy.Waka @KazuDeadKi

KazuDeadKi I’ll have you know that it was glorious to see their budding romance up close.

Pineapple Queen *eyes emoji* *eyes emoji*

Leafy.Waka *smirk emoji* *smirk emoji*

bigboySOTA Glad to know you both survived Shoma’s thighs of death.

KazuDeadKi We've been revived by Shoma-kun’s awkward courtship with Nathan-san.

Milk_andO @KazuDeadKi @Leafy.Waka Keep up the good work children.

Daddy Nobu @Milk_andO smh

Milk_andO I'm bored. I need romance! I need gossip!

KaoKao !!!!

KaoKao @I Am Kana @KuRiSu RiiDo what you witnessed at Pyeongchang was the courtship of Nathan and Shoma.

I Am KaNa I TOLD you it was a date.

KaoKao I should've believe you then.

KazuDeadKi They were so cute at the small medal ceremony too!

KazuDeadKi * video attachment: Shoma clapping with a huge smile before paning to Nathan walking up the stage. Nathan accepts the medal then looks up to smirk and one of his brow lifts in amusement. Then pans back to Shoma who chuckles softly.*

Leafy.Waka ohhhhhhhhh

KanaBabyKo @SatanSho my baby is all grown up and dating a hot, gorgeous man *crying emoji*

Dancing Mai looks like Shoma-kun's successful in stealing my man.

MamaMao Oh Shoma. Look at you go. I'm so proud of you kid!! *smirk emoji* *ok emoji* *fire emoji*

KazuDeadKi Nathan and Shoma couple rise *fire emoji*

SatanSho

>> SatanSho has removed @KazuDeadKi from the group chat!

>> Leafy.Waka just added @k0515ki into the group chat!

Leafy.Waka you cannot evade the truth @SatanSho

>> SatanSho has removed @Leafy.Waka from the group chat!

>> SatanSho has removed @k0515ki from the group chat!

SatanSho I will suplex anyone who adds them back into this group chat.

bigboySOTA Stop threatening to kill people with your thighs!

Milk_andO @bigboySOTA it's not good to kink shame other people.

Pineapple Queen @SatanSho Is that a challenge? *smirk emoji*

Daddy Nobu MIKI!

SatanSho We’re staying on the same floor.

Pineapple Queen Fair...

>> WINnie the Two Times Olympics Champion just added @k0515ki into the group chat!

>> WINnie the Two Times Olympics Champion just added @Wakababy into the group chat!

Daddy Nobu I see you're lurking again, Yuzu *smirk emoji*

Wakababy Hah! In your face @SatanSho *LOL emoji* *LOL emoji*

Seeing Yuzu’s nickname pops up in the group chat makes Shoma's hands shake. How could he have forgotten the fact that Yuzu’s in the group chat? It’s the ensemble team Japan group chat. How could he be so stupid? He should’ve put a stop to it since the beginning.

But before he can go into full on panic mode, Shoma gets a call from Keiji.

“You want me to go over?” Are the first words he hears when he answers.

Shoma exhales shakily before he replies:

“No, it’s alright. It’s late. I don’t- You should sleep.”

Keiji hums.

“You wanna talk about it?”

Shoma swallows, fingers picking at the hem of his shirt nervously. Maybe he should’ve said yes when Keiji offered to come over. No. Keiji is probably dead tired. But still, Shoma ends up croaking out:

“I wonder why he did it, why he stayed quiet like that and just-”

The line is filled with their breathing as Shoma’s voice dies out into a harsh exhale. When Shoma speaks again, his voice is rough, like he’s been crying. “I don’t understand what Yuzu-kun’s thinking. I don’t know why he’s doing this. What does he mean? I just- I want to understand, Keiji.”

“Sho,” Keiji starts softly “there’s no use speculating what people are thinking about or what they’re trying to do. You gotta talk to them to find out their intentions.”

Shoma stays silent for a long time, waiting for Keiji to continue. “I think you should talk to Yuzu.” Shoma instantly pales at that and, maybe, he makes some sort of horrified noise because Keiji adds hastily: “Maybe not now ; when you’re ready.”

Shoma hums softly, Keiji’s words spinning around in his head.

“Hey,” Keiji says “I can go over if you want you know. We can game, or watch an anime, or do whatever you want.”

It’s tempting, Shoma thinks, but Keiji sounds raspy and tired and Shoma would hate to burden Keiji with his problems any further so he clears his throat and says:

“You should sleep. I’m gonna get some sleep too. We both have gala practice tomorrow.”

Keiji hums but doesn’t push, so Shoma ends the call with a sigh.

-

 

Gossip Central

Big Daiddy What's going on with you and Nathan?

Big Daiddy @SatanSho

Milk_Ando @Big Daiddy back read

Big Daiddy Oh, well, congratulations. You two make a pretty picture.

Big Daiddy You both be careful and take care of yourselves okay, kid?

Big Daiddy Send my congratulations to Nathan-kun as well.

SatanSho Nathan-kun's a friend, we're not dating.

Wakababy The pics say otherwise Sho-kun, you cannot lie to us~~

SatanSho Wakaba, please. We're not dating. I'm not dating anyone.

Wakababy Mm hmmmm. Okaaaaay.

Wakababy No one's believing you.

SatanSho Wakaba. Stop. It's making me uncomfortable.

Big Daiddy Shoma, what do you mean uncomfortable?

Milk_Ando I can't believe we have to set things straight for Shoma. Really, uncomfortable. *Judging face emoji*

KanaBabyKo @Milk_Ando Don't assume Shoma's homophobic, he isn't like that.

Milk_Ando He's UNCOMFORTABLE with us teasing him with a guy. What else should I assume?

Daddy Nobu Miki, stop. You know Shoma is a good kid.

Milk_Ando A lot of good people are capable of terrible things.

KanaBabyKo MIKI!

KanaBabyKo You are my friend and I respect you, but don't assume that Shoma is capable of hating people purely on their sexuality.

Detective Tanaka Stop, please. I know Shoma and he doesn't mean it like that.

Milk_Ando *rolling eyes emoji*

Big Daiddy Miki, let Keiji explain.

Detective Tanaka Shoma has no problem with men dating men or women dating women or men dating women.

Detective Tanaka It's just a private thing for him.

Milk_Ando Hmmm

SatanSho I apologise for causing this argument. I have no problem with who's dating who.

SatanSho But this is my private life. I don't want to cause any misunderstandings; so please, stop. I am single. I'm not dating anyone.

SatanSho I'm single.

k0515ki @Wakababy I think we owe Sho-kun our apologies.

Shoma's phone keeps on vibrating with incoming notifications. He looks at the screen and sees private messages from Wakaba and Kazuki. And a text from Kanako. Hell, even Miki's texting him privately now, probably to apologise. Shoma doesn't realizes he's waiting for Yuzu to text until he goes into the messaging app and keeps on refreshing it, hoping to see Yuzu's name on top. After about ten minutes of solid staring and refreshing, Shoma is reminded of what Keiji said about talking, and since Keiji is his sense of reasons more times than not, he decides to start the conversation first for once, and texts Yuzu.

 

Hanyu Yuzuru

<Yuzu-kun.

>Hmm?

<You deleted three messages the other day.

It takes a while before Shoma receives an answer to that.

 

>Yes, I did.

<What were they about?

Yuzu takes even longer to reply after that. The chat bubble indicates that he's typing, but nothing comes through. This time however, Shoma's adamant about seeing what Yuzu's reply is; in case he goes and delete it before Shoma can read it.

In the end, all Shoma gets is this:

 

> It wasn't anything important.

Shoma frowns, lips shaking. He bites back uncharacteristic tears and replies with a short 'okay' before he pulls the blanket over his head.

He doesn’t get any sleep that night.