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same song, different dance

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Victor finds waiting around in airports almost cathartic. There are so many people hurrying to get somewhere that they don’t even notice him. He likes that all that is expected of him, as he waits, is to exist as quietly and undisrupting as possible.

Whenever he knows he’ll have a long layover or will have to wait for the airplane for a long time – and with Aeroloft, that happens more often than not – Victor likes picking up an overpriced book from the first bookstore he finds inside the airport and use the receipt as a bookmark. There’s a neat collection of books from all over the world in his bookshelves back home.

Today Victor is waiting at the arrivals area, which is an almost novel experience for him. Victor doesn’t have anyone to wait for, usually he’s the one being waited on by his fans and reporters which is… fine. It is what it is.

Waiting for someone, and waiting for a flight is different. When Victor is waiting for his flight there’s a certain amount of nervous energy under his skin either in preparation for a competition or in impatience to get back home.

Victor finds that waiting for someone fills him with restless energy that he has to redirect somewhere, because doing nothing for even a short period of time makes Victor feel like he’s dying.

He bought himself a cup of overpriced tea and the first paperback he could find with a man with flowing hair on the cover and a distinct regency feel to it. He’ll survive.

He splits his attention between his book and the monitor displaying flights, and isn’t incredibly surprised by the fact that the one he’s waiting on has been delayed by almost an hour.

His phone buzzes with a notification and Victor quickly unlocks it, only to feel the usual pang of disappointment when he sees it was just Chris updating his Instagram.

It’s idiotic of him to still be so hopeful when it’s been almost a year since Sochi, when in one month’s time the Grand Prix series will start all over again and Katsuki Yuuri has as good as fallen off the face of the earth. Every single one of his social media accounts has been quiet for months, and fansites are unusually and eerily silent. There’s no news from him.

The last thing on Yuuri’s twitter is a four part apology for his performances in Sochi and All Japan that are absolutely heartbreaking to read wherein he mentions he’s going to focus on finishing his degree and will then decide how to proceed from there. And after that… nothing.

He hasn’t even appeared in Phichit Chulanont’s accounts aside from a couple of throwback pictures.

Victor doesn’t know what he’s waiting for or why he’s waiting for it. It’s been almost a year, and nothing.

He glances again at the monitor to see that the airplane has landed. It’ll be a while before they get off the plane and get their luggage, so Victor takes the time to like Chris’ newest Instagram post and leave a comment, and packs up his things slowly, before he heads towards the luggage retrieval exit.

They’re not hard to spot. A loud balding man and an even louder blonde teenager stand out among a crowd, even if they seem unusually quiet. There’s a depressive aura hunching Yuri’s shoulders and Victor almost feels bad for it.

Yakov spots him first and frowns as Victor approaches them.

“Victor, I told you not to come, we could’ve grabbed a taxi back,” he harrumphs, clearly displeased.

“And I told you I would pick you up,” Victor says with a cheerful smile. “How was America? Did you have fun?” He aims the questions at Yuri, fully expecting a full meltdown.

It never comes. Yuri just glares up at him murderously and lets his rolling suitcase topple over at Victor’s feet, smacking loudly against the floor as he keeps stomping his way to the exit.

Victor presses his lips together a little. “He’s really angry, huh? That bad?” he asks, bending down to pick up Yuri’s suitcase for him and following him towards the exit.

“He hasn’t lost in years,” Yakov says gruffly in that tone that exposes just how concerned he is, no matter how much he tries to pretend he doesn’t care. “What did you expect?”

“Shouting.”

“He’s angry with himself more than anything,” Yakov says, keeping his voice relatively down so Yuri doesn’t hear them.

“Do you think it was a bad idea, after all?” Victor asks, a little worried.

He was the one who had first suggested to Yakov that he should put Yuri in an international competition before the Grand Prix, and the Challenger series seemed like a great opportunity for Yuri to test himself. Yuri is good and he knows it, but he has a bad habit of underestimating his competition.

Victor had watched the competition, of course he had, and Yuri clearly underestimated his opponents just because they weren’t big household names like Victor or Chris are. Finishing third behind people he hadn’t even considered competition in the first place must have been a blow, but Victor hopes it’s one that encourages Yuri to take other skaters more seriously.

“He asked me to call Lilia,” Yakov admits.

Victor almost sighs with relief. Not a bad idea then. If anyone can whip Yuri into shape, Lilia Baranovskaya can.

“Do you want me to call her for you?” Victor teases.

“I am perfectly capable of calling my own wife!”

“Ex,” he reminds him.

Ex-wife. That’s what I said!”

“Sure, Yakov.”

“Brat,” Yakov spits, without any force behind it. “Tell me you brought my car and not that pink abomination.”

“I brought your car and not that pink abomination,” Victor parrots, turning in the parking lot and heading straight for his pink convertible.

Yakov sighs very wearily.

“Look on the bright side, Yakov,” Victor says cheerily, raising up his key to unlock it so Yuri can get inside and not just lean against it in the cold. “I can’t make you go any balder than I already have.”

“One day, you will meet someone who will make you go prematurely bald and justice will be served, Vitya.”

Victor immediately slaps his hand over his hair, accidentally smacking himself with his car keys. “You take that back!”

Yakov ignores him in favour of popping the trunk and putting the suitcases he’s been carrying inside.

Victor puts Yuri’s suitcase in the trunk before closing it and going around to the driver’s seat. He pretends to adjust the rearview mirror a little to check on Yuri who is slumped down on the seat and glaring unseeingly ahead.

The drive from the airport to Yakov’s isn’t terribly long, but still Yakov falls asleep in the car, since he probably couldn’t sleep a wink on the plane. Victor drives around and takes a couple back roads that make him double back until he’s sure Yakov is dead to the world before he heads to the next McDonalds and pulls up to the drive-thru.

“What do you want?”

Yuri stays quiet. It’s more than a little unnerving.

“If you don’t tell me, I’ll just order whatever I want for you then. You like the ones with the pickles right?”

“Fuck you, I don’t want your pity,” Yuri spits, and Victor could almost sigh in relief.

“I’m not getting you pity, I’m getting you McDonalds. Now are you going to pick or am I?”

Yuri glares at him through the rearview mirror, and Victor shrugs, pulling up to the ordering machine, and saying, “Hi, can I get a-“ before he gets rudely interrupted by Yuri lunging toward the window so he can shout his order at the machine, kneeing Victor in the thigh in the process, in what is one of the pettiest things Victor has ever witnessed.

“Will that be all?” the voice asks, as Yuri climbs back into the backseat with a self-satisfied smile.

“Yes, thank you,” Victor says, politely. Because contrary to some people he has manners.

Yuri is quiet for a minute as Victor slowly pulls up to the window, and then asks, “Aren’t you getting anything?”

“I’ll die before I do that to my taste buds,” Victor tells him.

“Ugh, rich people.” Yuri twists his nose at him, but doesn’t say anything when Victor pays for his meal and passes him the bags.

“Don’t spill.”

“I’m not five,” Yuri bitches and immediately almost overturns his coke onto the upholstery.

“And don’t get grease on the seats.”

Yuri glares at him and shoves as much of his burger as he can fit in his mouth, chewing obnoxiously loud.

Ugh, teenagers.

“Yakov told me you agreed to work with Lilia Baranovskaya,” Victor says as a way to start conversation.

“If that hag can make me win, then I don’t care what I have to do.”

“Don’t call her that,” Victor says reflexively, sure that somehow Lilia will just know and make him work en pointe until his feet bleed.

“What? Don’t tell me you’re afraid of her too,” Yuri snorts, wiping his hand on his shirt to reach for his soda. Victor watches him do it through the rearview mirror with a disgusted face.

“I’m not afraid. I just have a healthy dose of respect for her.”

“She can’t be worse than Yakov’s sadistic regiment.”

“Oh, you sweet ignorant infant,” Victor says, pityingly. “You have no idea what you’re getting into.”

«»

Yuri is working on the shitty program Victor gave him when Lilia Baranovskaya walks into the rink, her arrival foretold by the click of heels on the floor and Victor suddenly standing ramrod straight and whispering, “She’s here,” like he’s in a shitty horror movie, further proving that he’s a bitch.

“Yuri, come here,” Yakov calls him.

Yuri skates to the edge of the rink and stands as straight as he can in front of Yakov and the woman standing at his side. She’s taller than he thought she would be and reeks of old lady perfume. She looks down at Yuri like he’s something dirty on the soles of her heels.

“Yakov, why are you giving me a ten year old to train? You know I can’t bear children,” she says, distastefully.

How dare she! That hag! Who does she think she is?

Yuri opens his mouth to ask her just that when he suddenly finds it covered by a large hand.

“Yuri’s sixteen,” Victor says, still pressing his hand to Yuri’s mouth. “And one of the most dedicated skaters I’ve met.”

“Are you giving me your word for it, Victor Nikiforov?” she asks, narrowing her eyes.

Victor falters. Again because he is a bitch, so Yuri licks the hand covering his mouth, making Victor wrench it away with a disgusted sound, and wipes his tongue on his sleeve – Victor’s hands taste like coconut lotion and it’s awful – before he says, “I don’t need anyone to give their word for me! I’ll prove how good I am if it kills me!”

Lilia gives him a slow, cold and calculating once-over, and Yuri tries to stand as tall as he can, tips his chin up and straightens his back.

When she speaks next, she addresses Yakov, completely ignoring him. “I want to see his form.”

“Of course, Lilia,” Yakov says, in a way that implies he would say that no matter what she asked for. Yuri is surrounded by weak men, or so he thinks, until he finds himself doing the vertical splits with Madame Lilia Baranovskaya pulling one of his legs back as if she’s trying to snap his spine in half.

Yuri doesn’t make a sound. He gnashes his teeth together and endures it, because if this is what he needs to win, so be it.

Lilia drops his leg, and barely gives Yuri a moment to breathe before she’s prying his mouth open and inspecting his teeth.

“Hm, mediocre, but not a total lost cause.” She lets go of him and turns to Yakov. “He’ll move in with me.”

“What?!” Yuri says at the almost exact time as Yakov and with almost the same level of outrage.

“I expect him to be ready to move in by the end of the week, and I’ll need his training schedule and nutritional plan.”

“Lilia, be reasonable-“ Yakov starts.

“I am perfectly reasonable, Yakov Feltsman. You have asked me to train him and I will. I will not let you interfere and ruin him with your softness.”

Yakov opens his mouth to contest, but is quickly shut down by Lilia, who gives him a thoroughly unimpressed, almost disgusted look.

“Are you going to try to deny it? You spoiled Victor rotten, did you not? You spoil all of them. If it were not for the fact that I already had another man in my house, you would move in as well. Unfortunately two men are my limit, so weekly meetings will have to suffice to make sure you’re not ruining my training.”

“There’s a man living in your house?!” Yakov asks, going red in the face.

Yuri suddenly feels like he should back away from them, so he can watch the meltdown Yakov is about to have from a safe distance. It’ll be much more entertaining if he doesn’t go partially deaf in the process.

“I don’t see how that’s any of your business,” she says, turning away from him dismissively and facing Yuri again. “Do you have any objections, Yuri Plisetsky? If you agree to this, I can guarantee you I will turn you into something beautiful capable of winning even against Victor.”

Yuri hesitates for a moment. There’s only one thing holding him back. “… I have a cat.”

Lilia raises her eyebrows. “Is it fully grown?”

“Yes. I won’t aban-.”

“That won’t be a problem as long as I don’t have to deal with a kitten and you take full responsibility for it.”

Yuri had honestly expected more of a fight. Lilia Baranovskaya might be a cat lover, which definitely makes her look less like she lives in a gingerbread house and eats children for breakfast.

“Then I agree. Even if I have to give my soul to win, it doesn’t matter to me, that’s what I’ll do.”

It might be a trick of the light, but Yuri could swear that for a moment he could see Lilia’s lips curl up the slightest bit in something that could be mistaken for a smile.

«»

Yuri’s scrolling through his phone and sitting on his pile of suitcases outside of his building, waiting for someone to pick him up and take him to Lilia’s. Potya’s in her carrier on his tallest suitcase beside him, which she hates more than anything, so Yuri has to keep his fingers shoved through the grate so he can pet her a little and try to calm her down.

He frowns down at his phone, and tries not to grind his teeth too much when all he finds is more of the same.

It’s not like he cares that Katsuki decided to retire like the bitch baby he is, but there’s something about it that infuriates him, something about how he just dropped off the face of the earth without a word to anyone that makes him want to fly to Japan or wherever he is and beat him within an inch of his life.

And, in a quiet part of him, there’s something about it that makes him feel gut-wrenchingly guilty. It doesn’t matter how angry he tries to be, he’ll always loop back to this feeling, to the secret knowledge that he might be the one to have tipped Katsuki over into quitting.

He knows it’s not his fault. It’s not his fault that Katsuki had been weak and hadn’t handled the pressure of a Grand Prix Final, it’s not his fault that he was stupid to drop his coach before All Japan and then bombed that, it’s not his fault that he decided to quit, it’s not his fault that he might’ve been injured badly enough during All Japan to be forced into quitting, it’s not his fault.

But Yuri did yell at him in a bathroom in Sochi. Yuri did tell him to quit before he got to the senior division. So what if it is? What if it is his fault?

Yuri huffs and clicks out of the fansite he had been scrolling through and throws his phone into his backpack, before he turns fully towards Potya and tries to reach with his fingers as far as he can to pet her.

A car honks close by and Yuri startles, jerking towards the sound to see Victor’s obnoxiously pink car coming down the street, blasting shitty music. His dumb dog has his head out of the passenger seat and is panting happily at Yuri.

Is this man stupid?

“Why the hell did you bring your dog?!” he shouts.

Victor pulls up in front of him and peers at him over the top of his sunglasses. “I didn’t want Makka to feel alone. It’s my day off!”

The backseat door opens and Mila gets out.

“And why the hell is she here?” he asks, pointing accusingly. He should’ve just called a taxi.

“You’ll need someone with actual muscle to carry your suitcases. Lilia’s house doesn’t have an elevator, you know,” she says with a smirk, before picking a suitcase at random and lifting it above her head.

“Be careful with that!”

“It’ll be fine,” she says. Yuri can feel his eye starting to twitch.

“Relax, Yurochka,” Victor says, picking up another one and rolling it towards the back of the car.

Don’t call me that.”

 “Oh, and you don’t mind going in the back do you?” Victor tells him. “Makkachin likes the front seat best.”

Yuri knows, for absolute certainty that he’ll develop an ulcer before he’s done moving.

«»

The weather’s getting progressively colder and Yuuri has to bundle himself in layers of clothes to stay warm. Which means that, when his phone starts ringing, he struggles with it, almost dropping his sports bag before he manages to wrench one of his gloves off with his teeth and accept the call.

“Hello?”

“Yuuri,” Minako drawls into the phone, dragging out his name. “How’s my favourite student doing?”

“Minako,” Yuuri says slowly, unsure if he should ask or not, and then deciding that there’s little Minako can do to punish him through the phone, so. “Are you drunk?”

“No!” she says. “How dare you?! I raised you with my own hands and this is how you treat me? I can’t call to know how my favourite student is doing anymore? Ungrateful. You’re an awful child, Yuuri.”

So that’s a definitive yes for being drunk then. Yuuri had talked with Minako earlier in the day, at the same time he had talked with his parents and Mari, and Minako, as a general rule, isn’t the kind of person who needs to check up on him several times a day. Unless she’s drunk and feeling a little lonely.

“I’m sorry, Minako. I’m doing well, how are you?”

“Drunk,” she tells him. “Are you done with your class? Are any of those punk kids giving you a hard time? Huh? If they are, you tell me, Yuuri, and I’ll teach them a lesson, okay?”

Yuuri feels his lips curling up into a smile. He remembers Minako making that exact offer every time she suspected the kids at school were giving him a hard time. She hadn’t stopped even when he was all the way in Detroit.

“No one’s giving me a hard time,” Yuuri reassures her. “They all listen very well to what I have to tell them.”

It surprises Yuuri, how much some of the classes he teaches are willing to listen to him, when the students aren’t much younger than him.

“Good, good. Are you heading home now?” she asks.

“Yes,” Yuuri says, hiking up the strap of his bag on his shoulder and stopping next to the bus stop. “And I’m being careful going home, don’t worry.”

“Of course I’ll worry! What a stupid thing to say,” Minako huffs, words a little slurry.

The line is silent for a moment, as Yuuri stands there, fingers getting progressively colder as he hears Minako breathe in his ear, not really willing to hang up first.

“The Grand Prix is just around the corner,” Minako says, her tone almost wistful.

Yuuri grips the strap of his bag in his hand until he can feel his knuckles turn white.

He breathes out slowly to steady himself. “It is.”

“… Are you going to watch it?”

Yuuri shouldn’t. He knows it’ll feel awful to watch everyone he knows trying their best at something he loves when he can’t anymore. But it’s Phichit’s first year in the Grand Prix, and Victor’s competing, so…

“Of course,” he says, and is proud of how steady his voice comes out. He doesn’t know if it’s a lie or not.

Minako hums into the receiver, something that tells Yuuri he hasn’t managed to completely fool her, but then again, he was never really able to. Minako knows him too well.

“Maybe we could have a viewing party. Yuuko would like that.”

“Maybe,” Yuuri concedes.

Maybe not.

Yuuri knows that watching any competition will feel like self-flagellation, his penance for failing so miserably and spectacularly. He doesn’t want Minako or Yuuko to be privy to his pity party.

“Yuuri-“

“My bus is here. Talk with you later, Minako,” Yuuri says hurriedly. If it were anyone else he would hang up right away, but this is Minako. Hanging up on her would feel a little like slapping her in the face. Yuuri would feel riddled with guilt for the rest of the week.

“You’re a stubborn, stubborn child, you know that?”

“Yes, Minako,” he says dutifully, and bites his tongue over the I take after you.

“Talk with you later, Yuuri. Don’t do anything stupid.”

“I won’t,” Yuuri says, hurriedly jogging to the other side of the street. “Goodbye.” He hangs up just as the bus pulls up to the stop, and Yuuri gets on it, going the opposite way of home and straight to the rink even though he knows he shouldn’t. Even though he’s exhausted from too little sleep and a full day of work.

The Grand Prix is coming and Yuuri has his skates in his bag, and, right now, that’s all that matters.

«»

Lilia Baranovskaya lives in an older building that has clearly seen a lot of renovations, and looks the kind of expensive where you’re afraid to touch anything. She owns a couch, but Yuri highly doubts anyone has ever sat on it.

It looks lavish and cold and Yuri almost immediately hates it.

“Hi, Lilia,” Victor says, smiling wide. “I brought you wine!”

“Are you trying to bribe me into letting you bring your dog into my house, Victor Nikiforov?” Lilia asks terrifyingly.

“Yes?” Victor says carefully, not even having the decency to lie.

Lilia extends one hand for Victor to deposit the bottle in, and then spends a good three minutes looking it over.

“Very well. But if I see one nail mark on my floor, you’re paying to have it replaced,” she says, and then turns her back on him and disappears into the house.

Yuri looks at Victor and Mila uncertainly for a moment, before they collectively shrug and start hauling Yuri’s things inside, choosing to carry every suitcase in their arms instead of rolling them around for fear or leaving any kind of marks on Lilia’s pristine floor.

“Your room is down the hall, the last on the left. You may put your belongings there,” Lilia says, appearing like a ghost behind them, glass wine in hand, and a distasteful look on her face.

“You’ll be sharing a bathroom with my assistant. His room is across from yours so if you ever need anything, bother him and not me,” she tells him before disappearing back into the house.

“Ooooh, Lilia has a live-in boy toy,” Mila says, wiggling her eyebrows at them.

“You’re disgusting,” Yuri tells her, marching down the hall with Potya safely tucked in his arms.

He doesn’t really know what he expected his room to be like, but it wasn’t this. Maybe it’s because of Lilia’s general aura of disgust and how old she is that Yuri was half-expecting rickety old furniture that was too ugly to display anywhere people could see, and an ugly wallpaper. He half expected to have to clean things up and adjust it to his liking but his room looks… new.

There’s a wide window on one of the walls that is letting the afternoon light stream in. It smells like an IKEA display and like cleaning products. All the furniture looks new and as if it had been recently assembled.

And it does look like someone just picked a full IKEA display and called it a day. The furniture all matches and there’s a lot of storage space. Yuri appreciates that everything is muted dark blues and not obnoxiously bright childish colours.

There’s a desk pushed against the window with a lamp on it, but Yuri’s eyes catch on the folded up piece of paper and the cutesy cat toy next to it. He carefully puts Potya’s carrier on top of the bed and moves toward it, picking up the note and unfolding it.

Here’s all my contact info, in case you need anything. Please try not to disturb Madame Baranovskaya.

P.S. I didn’t know if you had a cat bed so there’s a new one in the closet, in case you need it.

Yuri looks suspiciously at the closet, and opens it, and like the note promised there’s a cat bed sitting innocuously inside. It matches the comforter on the bed. Yuri privately thinks that’s one the cutest things he’s seen in his life.

 “Do you need help unpacking?” Mila asks, already getting ready to unzip his suitcases to root through them.

Yuri lets the closet door slam closed and pulls his suitcase away from Mila’s filthy, prying hands.

“I can do it myself!”

She raises her eyebrows at him and smirks. “Afraid we’ll find your porn, Yurochka?”

“Shut up, hag!”

“Mila!” Victor gasps. “Don’t say that, he’s a baby.”

“I’ll kill you in your sleep, old man,” Yuri bites out, glaring.

“This is a lot, are you sure you don’t want us to help you unpack?” Victor asks.

Yuri thinks about his Katsuki Yuuri posters and the stuffed cats he has stashed in his suitcases.

“No, it’s fine. You won’t know where to put anything, anyway.”

“Okay!” Victor says, already turning to leave. Bitch. He probably didn’t mean it in the first place. “Let’s go, Mila.”

“Wait,” Mila says. “We can’t go yet.”

“Why not?”

“Yeah, why not? Leave, I have shit to do and I can’t let Potya out while Victor’s annoying dog is here.”

“Makkachin isn’t annoying. She came to help, don’t be rude.”

Yuri opens his mouth to answer, but Mila cuts him off.

“We need to check out Lilia’s assistant’s room. This is the perfect opportunity to take a peek at what kind of person he is.”

“That sounds-“ Victor starts.

“Dumb,” Yuri says, crossing his arms together. He might not have hesitated in any other situation, but the fact the guy went to the work to buy him a cat bed and a cute toy for Potya even though he doesn’t know shit about Yuri, makes him want to be half-decent to him.

“I was going to say invasive but that works too.”

“Well, Makkachin agrees with me,” Mila says, pointing across the wall, where Makkachin is scratching at the door opposite to Yuuri’s and whining.

“Makka, no!” Victor says, calling Makkachin to attention. He clicks his tongue, and Makkachin sits up straight. Yuri can’t believe Victor’s dog is actually trained. “Come here,” Victor calls, patting his thigh, and Makkachin dutifully trots over. “Do you want Madame Lilia to be mad at us?” he coos, leaning down to scrub behind Makkachin’s ears.

“Do you think he hoards food in his room?” Mila asks, side-eyeing the door. “We should take a look.”

“Why are you such a nosy bitch?” Yuri asks.

Mila shrugs. “I’m bored. And I want to know more about Lilia’s sugar baby.”

“I think it’s time to leave,” Victor says slowly. “Come on, Mila.”

“But… Lilia’s sugar baby!”

“Is none of your business,” Victor says. “And if we go now, we can stop anywhere you want before I drop you home.”

Fine,” Mila sighs. “Bye, Yurka, if you can’t reach the tall shelves call me.”

“Choke,” Yuri tells her, all but pushing them out of the room and closing the door in their face.

He sighs a little, taking a second to himself to get used to the new floor beneath his feet.

First things first. Yuri needs to get Potya out of her carrier and used to the room before she starts hating him for keeping her cooped up for so long. Yuri would be a lot more worried about how Potya would adapt if she weren’t so used to moving houses. As it is, Potya jumps out of her carrier and immediately starts exploring her new space.

Yuri then goes about taking the cat bed out of the closet and dropping one of Potya’s blankets on top of it. He’ll need to ask Lilia where he can put the rest of her things, but he saves that for later. Not because he’s intimidated by her – he’s not a bitch like Victor – just because he needs to get unpacked. The sooner he makes the room feel familiar to himself and to Potya, the sooner she’ll adapt.

He loses track of time as he gets his things sorted, and the next thing he knows, it’s completely dark outside and Lilia is knocking on his door.

“Dinner will be served in half an hour. Get cleaned up and be in the dining room by then,” she tells him.

“Is your assistant going to eat with us?” Yuri asks, trying to sound like he doesn’t really care.

“No. He’ll arrive later. You’ll meet him then and we can discuss your training schedule. He’ll be in charge of some of your training, and you are to listen to him. You should count yourself lucky that I have found someone like him to assist me, you’ll hardly find anyone more qualified,” she says, and sounds almost… proud. As if she’s bragging about her medal winning show dog or something of the sort.

If it weren’t for the cat bed, Yuuri would immediately hate this guy.

“Sure, whatever.”

Lilia doesn’t look impressed with him.

“Half an hour, Yuri Plisetsky. I hate tardiness, so don’t make me wait.” And with that she turns on her heel and walks off.

Living here might become a nightmare, but if that’s what it takes to win, well, Yuri has come this far. It’s not one hag that is going to make him falter.

«»

Time got away from Yuuri, as it usually does when he’s skating. And if it weren’t for the fact that the rink was closing, he could’ve probably skated for hours on end until his legs collapsed. But the rink closed, and Yuuri isn’t allowed to skate unsupervised anymore.

He doesn’t know what they think he’ll do if he’s alone on the ice. It’s not like he’s stupid enough to try quads when there’s no one to spot him. He’s retired. There wouldn’t be a point to anyway, and the sooner he accepts that the better. Never mind that he just spent two hours practicing Victor’s Free Skate routine from last season and drawing up programs that he’ll never get to use.

He’s not a skater anymore, he’s a dance teacher. At least he’s putting his degree to good use, even if the only reason he can is Minako’s good will.

Yuuri sighs, pushing the front door open and hurrying to take off his shoes.

“I’m home,” he says quietly, slowly taking off his outer layers. It’s warmer inside than it had been outside, and in the few seconds Yuuri has been standing in the entrance, he already feels like he’s boiling.

He heads for the dining room, following the telltale sound of silverwear hitting plates.

“Sorry, I’m late,” Yuuri says, pulling up a chair to sit.

“I hope you weren’t out being foolish, Katsuki Yuuri.”

Yuuri hears silvewear being dropped onto the table, and sighs. He was trying to avoid this.

“Of course not, Madame Lili-“

“What the fuck!” Yuri Plisetsky shouts, slamming his hands on the table and standing up.

Yuuri was really hoping to avoid this.

“Yuri Plisetsky, sit down,” Lilia tells him, using the same voice she uses on lazy students, steely and impatient.

“You!” Yuri says, pointing an accusing finger at Yuuri.

Yuuri decides the best way to deal with this is calmly, so he goes about calmly putting food on his plate, and passively says, “Me.”

“What are you doing here?!”

“I live here.”

“Yuuri is my assistant,” Lilia says, and looks like she’s about to elaborate when Yuri interrupts her.

“Since when?”

“The summer,” Yuuri answers. He had been expecting some sort of reaction from Yuri, but not to this extent.

“The summer! You just abandoned everything without saying a word and the entire time you were just here, hiding like a shriveling coward?”

“I’m working. This is my job,” Yuuri says, still not quite getting why he’s getting such a strong reaction. Sure Yuri had screamed at him in Sochi, but… “Why are you so upset about me being here? I didn’t think you’d even remember who I am.”

It’s been almost a full year, and Yuuri is a disgrace in Japan’s skating history. He didn’t think he would be anywhere on Yuri Plisetsky’s radar, who is Russia’s golden child. Yuuri is nothing, and Yuri is set to be the next living legend of figure skating. If anything, Yuuri would have expected him to refuse Yuuri’s help on account of how little respect Yuri has for him.

“You-“ Yuri says, and there’s so much emotion in his voice, so much unfiltered frustration and anger that he seems to have stricken himself speechless with it. Yuuri can see where his fists are balled up at his sides.

Yuuri isn’t really sure what to do in this situation. He looks at Lilia worriedly, who looks displeased as usual.

“If you’re worried about me being in charge of helping you with skating, don’t be. I don’t do that anymore,” he says. The last time he spoke with Yuri flashes through his head, and he adds, almost without meaning to, “I guess you got what you wanted, after all.” which seems to be the exact wrong thing to say, going by how Yuri pushes his chair back so hard he almost topples it over and storms off without a single word.

Yuuri stares after him, still uncomprehending. “What’s his problem?” he mutters. Maybe Yuri really hates him so much that even being in Yuuri’s presence is intolerable. Yuuri has no idea what he ever did to him, aside from letting Yuri yell at him in a bathroom stall.

“I take it you know each other.” Lilia says slowly, transferring her glare to Yuuri.

“We met once,” Yuuri tells her, because Lilia reminds him so much of Minako to the point he almost always finds himself spilling the truth without quite meaning to. “At the last Grand Prix Final. He yelled at me in the bathroom. I had never met him before that.”

“And why would he yell at you, Katsuki Yuuri?”

Yuuri frowns a little. “He wanted me to quit. Something about there not being space for two Yuris in the senior division.”

“I see,” Lilia says. “I only took someone as young as him on because you said you believe he will one day surpass Victor. Do you still believe that?”

“I do. Yuri Plisetsky is an ever evolving monster,” Yuuri says. He’s had a lot of time to watch past figure skating events. And teaching ballet to aspiring young skaters a couple of times a week has the side effect of him being asked for a second opinion from their coaches which invariably led Yuuri to watch a lot of Junior competitions. “He’s a genius.”

“I see,” Lilia repeats. “I’ll leave him in your care then. His form is atrocious. I want to see something passable before next week is up.”

“But-“ Yuuri starts, and quickly shuts his mouth when faced with Lilia’s determined gaze. He sighs inwardly, resigned to a week of trying to convince a hot-headed teenager who already hates him to listen to him enough so they can present something to Lilia that she deems passable. “I’ll do my best,” he settles on saying, because that really is all he can promise her.

“Good. I expect nothing less of you, Yuuri,” she says, picking up her silverwear to resume her meal. “So, tell me how classes went, anything I should be made aware of?” Lilia asks, which is Yuuri’s cue to start eating again and fall back into their dinner routine of Yuuri reporting back on his day.

Lilia always listens to him attentively, and in the beginning it had been terrifying, Yuuri had been constantly afraid of saying something wrong, of having done something wrong, but now it’s comfortable. Lilia is strict but she is not evil and she is not heartless. Yuuri had realized – read: had been told by Minako – that Lilia asked for a report every day to make sure Yuuri was adapting well to Russia and to teaching.

So Yuuri eats his food and tells her about his day, before he asks about hers in return.

«»

Yuri’s been pacing his room long enough to make himself dizzy, phone in hand as he argues with himself whether or not he should call Yakov to pick him up.

Yakov might look terrified of his ex-wife, and he might be a loud bastard, but Yuri knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that if he called him right now – at any hour of the day or night, really – and told him he didn’t feel well somewhere, Yakov would drop everything to come pick him up.

And Yuri is seriously considering calling him, because this? This is bullshit!

He can’t believe that- that absolute fuckass coward. Because that is what Katsuki Yuuri is. A spineless coward that had quit at the first big hurdle he had found without a single word to anyone, without a single care for what people might think, if they were worried or-

He’s a selfish bastard is what he is. He probably doesn’t give a shit about anyone but himself.

He’s a has-been and he doesn’t have shit to teach Yuri. He’s not doing anything in this house, he can win alone, he’s been doing it for years and he can keep doing it. He doesn’t need any hag or Katsuki fucking Yuuri to help him. He can do it all by himself!

Yuri unlocks his phone, ready to press Yakov’s contact number.

Except.

Except that’s not all true.

He falters and drops his arm again; ends up throwing his phone on his bed out of frustration.

Yuuri’s face mocks him from the glossy poster on Yuri’s wall. It’s from an exhibition skate Yuuri had done in his Junior years – the routine that had made Yuri really start paying attention to him and following his career. Yuri had it special ordered from a fan store because a lot of the times the shots they managed to take were better than the official ones.

Yuuri had ditched his pure as angel image for a hot second and decked himself in leather and eyeliner to skate to something faster paced. His expression is smug almost, in a roguish sort of way even though there was still the slightest bit of baby fat clinging to his cheeks and he was tiny.

The truth is, when Yuri had followed Yuuri to that bathroom in Sochi what he meant to say was I want to compete against you at your best next season. What he meant to say was I don’t know what happened today but you’re better than this and you can recover from it. But what had gotten out of his mouth was… not anything close to that.

The truth is, he looks up to Yuuri and him retiring was a blow that had knocked Yuri off-balance so thoroughly he had felt like the earth had tilted the wrong way the next time he got on the ice.

The truth is, he knows, better than a lot of others, how resilient and stubborn and good Yuuri could be. How he kept being knocked down and got up again, how every single Grand Prix event he had entered was riddled with a long string of bad luck and how much of a victory it had been for everyone that followed Yuuri that he had made it to the Final for the first time last year.

The truth is, Yuuri, even at his worst, even popping and downgrading and falling on jumps, even off-beat, had had one of the cleanest step sequences and spins, and had twisted his program into a song of desperation that was felt through the audience like a shockwave. And Yuri isn’t stupid. He might be stubborn but he is not stupid. He knows Yuuri can help him. He knows that the program he’s skating right now – On Love: Agape – it was made for Yuuri, and if there’s anyone who can teach him how to skate it to its full potential, it’s him.

“This isn’t fair,” he tells Potya. She blinks her big eyes at Yuri from where she had been watching him pace from her perch on top of his laptop, and then starts purring.

Fine.

Fine. He’ll let him help. He’ll go along with it. But not today. There isn’t a force in the world that could make Yuri walk back into the dining room with his tail tucked between his legs. He’ll just meet them in the morning, and act like nothing happened, like an adult.