Yuzuru was slowly dying. He could swear he was slowly dying. He had mentioned it to Javier several times since they had arrived, and Javier just rolled his eyes and called him a drama queen every single time he tried to explain he wasn't being dramatic.
He had spent the first three days of rehearsals staring at Shoma from afar, trying to gauge how his friend was doing, but too terrified to go and talk to him.
See, the last time they had talked had been at Worlds, after the banquet, when Keiji, Shoma and him had gone back to his room, to play video games. Keiji had left them soon after they arrived, saying he was feeling queasy from the amount of champagne he had had in the banquet. Shoma and Yuzuru hadn't had any alcohol, so they decided to stay up for a while longer.
"Do you really think I can do it?" Shoma had asked while they took a break from the games as they finished a mission. Yuzuru raised an eyebrow, puzzled expression on his face. "Do you think I can still be at the top? Last season I was good enough for silver. This year, I'm not even close. Should I just... quit? Can I even be competitive anymore?"
Yuzuru instantly turned the game off.
"Shoma." Yuzuru forced him to look at him. "Should I retire? I'm getting older, my injuries keep getting worse, and I can't even skate two clean programs. I shouldn't be competing anymore."
"What do you mean!?" Shoma panicked, clenching his fists and frantically trying to find the right words to say. "Are you insane!? You're injured, that's why you couldn't skate clean! And you're not that old, look at Voronov, he's 31 and he's still skating! You're the main competitor in the sport, the only one I ever want to beat, how could you think about retiring? You haven't done everything you want to do for the sport, it would kill you to be off the ice!" Yuzuru raised an eyebrow, and Shoma instantly shut up. "... oh."
"Yes, ‘oh’. You are at the top, Shoma. A competition that was badly judged, scores that were unfairly given, under rotations that weren't called, and an ankle injury that you're downplaying but I know it actually hurts more than you let it show, that's what kept you away from the bronze medal this week. Can you honestly tell me, if you retired today, you would be at peace with that decision? That you'd be able to go on living your life knowing that you haven't peaked yet and you're already giving up because of someone else's shitty decisions?"
Shoma bit his lip, trying to keep the tears at bay, and Yuzuru lifted a hand and rubbed his shoulder.
"I've been having these thoughts for months Sho-kun. I was terrified I wouldn't be able to skate at all for months. But I'm here. And I will be here next season, trying to be better, and smarter, and next year, it's going to be me wearing that gold medal around my neck." Yuzuru took a deep breath. "And even though everyone is right by saying I found a worthy opponent in Nathan, they don't know one big detail." Shoma looked straight into Yuzuru's eyes. "I want you there in the podium with me, Shoma, right by my side. Whether I'm standing to your left, or to your right. You're the only person I'd be okay losing gold to now, Shoma. You're my main opponent now."
Shoma let out a shaky breath and rubbed his eyes to get rid of the treacherous tears that were threatening to fall, before giving Yuzuru a genuine smile.
"Don't thank me, it's the truth." They sat there in silence for a few minutes, just letting their feelings settle down. "Oh, right!! I never gave you your birthday present!" Yuzuru rushed to one of the suitcases that lay neatly on the floor next to the wall, and picked a small bag out of it, sitting on the bed once again and handing it to Shoma. "Well, presents, actually." Shoma looked at him with wide eyes, surprised. "Well, open it!"
Shoma wordlessly opened the bag, taking out the first thing in the bag, eyebrows furrowing as he tried to make sense of the writing on the box.
"Uh... what is this?" Shoma asked cautiously, making Yuzuru laugh.
"It's called flex tape. I bought it on impulse, thought it would be nice for you to have, since you keep breaking things around your house." Yuzuru took the box away from him hands and showed him the contents. "You peel the plastic on this side, then you stick it to what you're trying to fix, and it holds. It's super strong and even waterproof." Shoma's mouth fell open in understanding. "It's a stupid present, but I thought of you when I saw it, so..."
"It's quite nice, thank you!" Shoma put it down next to himself on the mattress, and took another box out of the bag. He opened it and instantly froze when he saw the contents. Yuzuru blushed a little, hurrying to explain.
"I thought about your necklace, and how much you like it, and the fact that you gave me one, so I bought this for you." Shoma couldn't tear his eyes away from the delicate bracelet he was holding. "I have one just like it, but with a different pattern." He looked away from his present to see the bracelet that Yuzuru was showing him, there against the pale skin of his wrist. "You don't have to wear it if you don't want to, I just thought... that maybe, even though we compete against each other, we're actually an united front, together, and maybe we could use a little reminder of that." Yuzuru bit his lip, worry apparent all over his face.
Shoma smiled at Yuzuru.
"I love it. Thank you." Shoma took the bracelet out of the box, and extended his hand to Yuzuru. "Can you put it on me?"
Yuzuru nodded, taking the bracelet, and scooting closer to Shoma to be able to fasten the bracelet around his wrist.
Shoma leaned forward to watch how Yuzuru carefully undid the little clasp and wrapped the bracelet around his wrist, carefully fastening it, and turning it around to make the pattern more visible.
"There, it's done no-" Yuzuru looked up, and all breath was knocked off his lungs when he found himself basically nose to nose with Shoma.
Both their eyes widened as they took each other in. Yuzuru couldn't help but stare at Shoma's blushed cheeks, and barely open lips, marveling on the feeling of the warm puffs of air from Shoma's breathing against his own skin.
In a trance-like state, both of them started leaning forward, hearts beating faster...
Until the sound of Shoma's ringtone made them jump back, blushing profusely and trying to stare at anywhere but where the other was.
"It's Itsuki, he's waiting for me in my room." Shoma hurriedly got up, collected his things, shoving them in the bag Yuzuru had given him, and rushed to the door. "Thanks for the presents, Yuzu-kun! See you!" And with that, he was gone.
And Yuzuru was left there, sitting alone on the mattress, breathing hard and thoughts a mess.
And that had been it. For months. He and Shoma were usually rather good at keeping in contact, both during and off season, but the radio silence after Worlds was starting making him worry about the state of their friendship. A lot.
So he made a plan to try and see where his friendship with Shoma stood, with Jason's help of course, he needed a second opinion and Jason was quickly becoming a good friend so he knew he was safe to discuss important matters with him.
He was going to get to Japan, and talk to Shoma.
Except that when he found Shoma, laughing in the middle of what looked like the entire Japanese team, with the exception of Yuzuru, of course, the plan they had carefully crafted shattered.
He ran away from the scene, and threw himself behind Javier's back, burying his face into the hood of his jacket. Javier yelped in surprise, making Alex and Maia laugh.
"Yuzu! What do you think you're doing!?" Yuzuru grumbled a little, and then let out a high pitched whine. Javier sighed, and reached his hand back to pat Yuzuru's side. "Okay, okay, I get it. You hide there for as long as you want."
Yuzuru thanked every higher being in existence for giving him such an understanding friend.
He stayed there for the rest of the hour, before they were called for the group number rehearsal.
Yuzuru was having an asthma attack. That was the only explanation possible. Because, otherwise, why couldn't he breathe?
It was an asthma attack, that was certain. It had nothing to do with the way Shoma was moving on the ice, lost in his own head as he skated See You Again in such a raw, passionate way, Yuzuru couldn't tear his eyes off of him.
He followed Shoma with his eyes as he covered the entire length of the ice with a cantilever, and gulped when he saw a strip of skin show between the hem of his shirt and his trousers.
Then, he gasped silently when Shoma lost his balance and fell flat on his back, laughing with high pitched, breathy giggles as he starfished on the ice. And Yuzuru understood.
The reason why he couldn't bring himself to talk to Shoma, but couldn't stop being aware of where he was at the same time. The reason why he tended to just... not talk to people for months but always made an effort when it came to Shoma, trying to talk about his day, music, a new video game, anything, to keep the conversation going. The reason why he was terrified to ruin his friendship with Shoma and make Shoma stop talking to him completely.
He was in love with Shoma.
Yuzuru instantly got up, and ran backstage, completely ignoring the ice where Stephane had started his run through.
He ran as fast as he could, dodging people as he went, leaving a trail of confused skaters and staff members in his wake.
"HABIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII!!" He screamed as soon as he got to the skater's lounge, making everyone's heads snap in his direction, running to his friend, grabbing his hand and dragging him out of the room before he could protest.
"Ouch, Yuzu, slow down, you're walking too fast. Where are we even going!?" Javier said, but kept walking behind him, and simply stared at Yuzu as he shoved him inside an empty changing room, locking the door once they were both in.
"Javi, what to do!? I don't know what to do!?" Yuzuru was hyperventilating by that point, both hands buried in his hair, tugging harshly as if that would make him suddenly know the answer to all his problems.
"Hey, hey, okay, let's sit down first. And you need to breathe, we don't have your inhaler, you can't have an attack right now, okay? Breathe with me." Javier sat Yuzuru down on a chair, and knelt in front of him, walking him through the breathing exercises he'd been told to learn years prior, when Yuzuru first arrived to the TCC, with weak lungs and too much thirst to become better to learn the cues his body was giving him to know when to stop. "Better?" He asked, rubbing Yuzuru's shoulder soothingly, and Yuzuru nodded, slumping forward, making Javier raise his arms and pat him on the back. "Okay, now you can explain what the problem is, and we can try to find a way to solve it."
"Javi, I love Shoma." Javier raised an eyebrow, as if saying 'well, duh'. Yuzuru groaned. "No, you don't understand. I'm in love with Shoma."
Javier's eyes widened and a smile graced his face.
"Oh, you finally realised?" Yuzuru looked at him, stunned, frowned eyebrows and mouth wide open in disbelief. "Damn, I thought I was going to win this one. Guess I owe Alex fifty dollars now."
"Yuzu, everyone that knows you and is actually your friend knows you have been in love with Shoma for ages. God knows why you didn't see it, it was crystal clear all this time." Yuzuru paled. If that was the case, then... "Don't worry, if there's someone more oblivious than you, it's Shoma. I'm ninety-nine percent sure he has no idea." Yuzuru sighed in relief.
"Javi, what do I do? You know we have not talk since Worlds. I... it's my fault."
"You don't know that."
"Yes, I do! Last night in Worlds... we're in my room, I gave him birthday present, and then... I was so close to kiss him." Javier did look surprised at that.
"Oh, wow, okay. Hmm... I think you should try to talk to him still, gauge what's going on, stop avoiding him."
"Don't say you're not avoiding him. You run out of the room every time Shoma even looks your way. The other day he tried to talk to you five separate times and you always found excuses to run away. Stop it, be brave, and go talk to Shoma." Javier rubbed his eyes in frustration. "You two better solve this whole situation soon, or I swear I'll find the tallest building in the city and throw you both off of it for being so stubborn and blind."
Yuzuru didn't, in fact, stop it and talk to Shoma.
He kept running away the entire week.
Everyone was starting to get frustrated at him, Javier especially, so he had taken to running to his room once rehearsals or that night's show were done. It was proving to be a rather foolproof technique.
Until that night.
It was late, he had already taken a shower, and had changed into a pair of comfortable pyjama bottoms and a soft gudetama shirt a fan had gifted him, when someone knocked the door. He had accidentally taken Javier's hat when he packed his bag and figured it was him coming to get it, so he opened the door without looking, but froze in shock when the one standing on the other side of the door wasn't Javier, but Shoma.
Shoma reacted before he had time to snap the door closed on his face, slipping inside, grabbing Yuzuru's right hand with his left hand, lacing their fingers together, pushing Yuzuru’s bracelets down so they wouldn’t be on the way, and quickly wrapping something around both their wrists securely but not tightly.
He didn't take more than 15 seconds. Yuzuru gaped at him, trying to understand what had just happened, and Shoma smiled smugly.
"Hi Yuzu-kun. Let's see if you can keep avoiding me now."
"Shoma... what??" He looked down to where their joined hands were still entwined, and kept trying to make sense of what was going on.
"I've been trying to talk to you for the whole time we've been here, and you keep running away. I needed you to listen to me." Shoma raised their hands, and Yuzuru saw Shoma had taped them together. "Now you have no choice but to talk to me."
Yuzuru just... nodded, and turned around, dragging Shoma behind himself and sitting down on the bed.
Shoma simply stared at him.
"Why were you running away?" He asked gently.
"I didn't know if you wanted to talk to me at all" Yuzuru answered, looking at the bedcover, trying his hardest to avoid staring at Shoma.
"Why? You're my friend."
"I- I didn't know if we were still friends."
"What?" He looked up to see shock written all over Shoma's face. "What do you mean? Why?"
"Last time we saw each other, you ran away. And then we didn't say a word for months. I was scared you didn't want to put up with me anymore."
Shoma tightened his fingers' hold around Yuzuru's.
"I always want you around. You're my best friend after Itsuki."
Yuzuru smiled, thankful it had all been in his head, and nodded.
"I'm glad to hear that." Yuzuru looked down at their joined hands. "Now can we take this off so we can play some video games?" Shoma laughed and nodded, tugging his hand away, only to widen his eyes when he realised the tape wasn't breaking, or even giving in a little.
"Uh..." Shoma tried again, tugging at it, with the same result, or lack thereof.
Yuzuru actually inspected the tape and he gasped.
"Shoma... did you use the tape I gave you?" Shoma nodded. "Oh shit. Well, we're fucked then." Shoma looked at him, puzzled. "This thing has industrial strength. There's no way we're getting this thing off without help." Yuzuru looked at the clock, and made up his mind. "C'mon, just... lie down and let's go to sleep, we can deal with this in the morning "
Shoma opened his mouth to protest, but a wide yawn came out instead, making Yuzuru laugh. He rolled his eyes, but nodded.
They had a couple logistics problems, elbows and knees digging into places they weren't supposed to dig into, but they made it work, lying side by side, joined arms between their bodies and facing each other.
Shoma looked at Yuzuru, smiling softly, sleepily, making Yuzuru gasp.
"You're so beautiful." He whispered out, instantly regretting it when he felt Shoma tensing up next to his body. "I'm sorry, I..."
Shoma bit his lip, but looked up at him, something he couldn't identify shining in his eyes.
"You... you really think I'm..."
Yuzuru took a deep breath. Now or never, he guessed.
"You're the most beautiful person I've ever seen in my entire life." Yuzuru said, leaning closer, eyes flickering from Shoma's eyes, to his mouth, back to his eyes again. Shoma let out a shaky breath, and scooted closer to Yuzuru, both their heartbeats quickening when they felt the other's breathing on their faces.
Shoma slowly let his eyes fall shut, and waited.
Yuzuru smiled, and gingerly pressed his own lips to Shoma's. They both whimpered at the touch, and Yuzuru leaned back a little bit, before pressing another, less gentle kiss to Shoma's lips.
It felt so right, Yuzuru thought, opening his lips a little to deepen the kiss, feeling Shoma instantly adjusting his head to get a better angle. Nothing had ever felt so right as kissing Shoma.
They kept kissing for a while, kisses still slow, calm, tentative, testing the feeling of lips against lips, and Yuzuru's hand on Shoma's waist, and Shoma's hand caressing Yuzuru's cheek.
They broke apart when the need for oxygen became too much, but even then they separated only just enough to be able to breathe, warm puffs of hot, moist air hitting the other's skin as they rested their forehead against each other's.
"Yuzu-kun..." Shoma whispered, shivering. "I..."
"I love you." Yuzuru hurriedly said, before he chickened out and didn't say a thing. "I think I've been in love with you for years, but never realised." He closed his eyes, awaiting for the rejection he knew was coming, but what he got instead were warm lips against his, kissing him enthusiastically, and short fingers intertwining with his own.
He answered the kiss in an instant, feeling the smile against his lips and smiling back, making it almost impossible to keep kissing each other. They broke apart in giggles, and Yuzuru buried his face in Shoma's neck.
"I love you too."
Can you come to my room?
Yuzuru, it's fucking 5 in the morning.
I fucking hate you, you Japanese asshole
I'll be there in 10.
Javier just rubbed his hands over his eyes the second he saw what the big deal was.
“You made me come here before sun was even out because you two are idiots and taped yourselves together?”
“I don’t know how to get it off, Javi.” Yuzuru whined, pulling at Javier’s sleeve, making Shoma giggle sleepily. Javier rolled his eyes, and walked further inside the room, opening Yuzuru’s bag and fishing something out of a pouch, before turning around and showing them what he was holding.
Shoma and Yuzuru looked shocked, and turned to look at each other with mouths wide open.
“Oh.” Shoma muttered.
“Yes, oh.” Javier said, scoffing.
He was holding a pair of scissors.
It took them 15 minutes and a whole bunch of swearing in English, Spanish and Japanese until they were able to cut the tape in two so they could have their hands back.
Javier spent all the time he didn’t spent swearing mocking them because they were still holding
hands with intertwined fingers.
Javier left after the deed was done, taking the ruined pair of scissors with him to throw them away, and loudly telling them to use condoms, slamming the door to avoid being hit by the pair of pillows that had been aimed at his head.
Yuzuru knew he would never live this one down.
“Argh!! Shomaaaaaa!! It hurts!! Be gentler!!”
“It wouldn’t hurt as much if you just stopped moving around, stayed quiet and let me do it.”
“But I’m scared.”
“Just the tip. Just the tip and it’s done.”
“No, no, please, no, I give up, I can’t do it, let’s stop. I don’t like this.” A swift movement forward. “FUCK, SHOMA!”
“SON OF A FUCKING BITCH! HOLY SHIT, THAT HURT SO BAD!”
“I told you to be gentle, but you decided to do it your way.”
“I wasn’t going to suffer for 15 minutes while you moved slowly. I saw how much it hurt.”
A soft kiss to the temple. Yuzuru grabbed Shoma’s hand. Shoma moaned in pain as he moved.
“Fuck, I think you ripped at least a layer of skin off. All the hair is gone.” Yuzuru winced, seeing how raw Shoma’s wrist looked. “You ripped all the hair as well.”
Shoma pouted, tears in his eyes.
“I fucking hate Flex Tape. I’m throwing it away the second I get home.”
“I told you to be gentle. Yes, it hurt for longer, but the only thing my wrist is missing is hair, but yours… We should probably have someone with medical training take a look at your wrist, just in case you need to do something to it.”
Shoma moaned in pain again, holding his arm to his chest, carefully trying to stop the injured part from touching anything.
Yuzuru sighed in defeat, leaning forward and pressing a comforting kiss to Shoma’s lips.
“My poor, poor boyfriend.”
Yuzuru heard the snickers before he saw everyone looking at them.
“So... “ Nobunari said, raising his eyebrows at them, sight instantly zeroing in their joined hands. “We heard you two lovebirds got into a… sticky situation.”
Shoma paled. Yuzuru instantly knew.
Javier was sitting next to Stephane and Carolina, and he just smirked, looked down and inspected his nails.
“I’m your best friend, but just try making me get up before 8AM again, you little shit, and this will look like a walk in the park.”
Everyone laughed, and Yuzuru and Shoma just groaned, embarrassed, and tried to ignore the comments, quickly making their way to the rink, laughter following them through the door as they ran away together.