The truth was, he now belonged only to my past, and it was time I begin to accept it, as much as it hurt to do so.”
“What are those?” Sergei asked him, eyeing the stick-like dough sitting on the plate that Javier had brought for the both of them.
“Churros, you said you wanted to try them remember?”
The Russian hummed but kept his disgusted expression as his boyfriend suddenly submerged his churro on hot chocolate, “And why are you doing that?”
“Just try it c’mon.” Javier shoved the plate towards him, he already knew that this was going to be an adventure.
It was only a matter of how long it took him to give up.
“That looks disgusting.”
Just like the hot weather, and too many people, and too long walks and everything since you got here.
He’s lucky I love him.
“Fine.” Javier grabbed the other stick and shoved it on his mouth after coating it in dark chocolate.
“That was the last one.” Sergei deadpanned.
“You complained for half an hour, sucks to be you.”
“I wanted to taste it.”
“Go buy one then.” Javier dared him, he didn’t notice how his boyfriend’s mischievous smile had taken over his offended expression.
“I have a better idea.”
He didn’t get to finish the sentence as Sergei jumped from his own seat and brought his lips down to his own, pulling him forward by the back of his neck. Javier was about to pull back and ask him what on earth was he doing in public.
Spain might be an evolved and open-minded country, but Javier had some sense of public decency.
But then he understood his boyfriend’s intentions, so he parted his mouth and gave in to him.
What else is new.
He tried his best to keep himself from moaning out loud in the middle of the café, and somehow save his face but just as quick as it started, Sergei pulled back and Javier whined at the loss of contact.
There goes his resolve to not seem needy. But then again, when had he ever been able to resist Sergei?
“You were right,” Javier opened his eyes, still a little dazed due to everything that just happened, even though the kiss must have lasted only a few seconds, Sergei had his smug smirk back in place and the Spaniard wanted to punch him for the tenth time that day, “churros do taste amazing.”
“I hate you.”
“Love you too.”
“Only one more and we’re done.”
“I just want to go home…this is a nightmare…”
“You just won Europeans for the seventh time, right before retiring, it’s anything but a nightmare.”
The Spaniard looked around him and wondered if he could escape the reporters somehow, he was eyeing the exit sign and noticed how close the door actually was. If they all just turned around for a second…or two…
“Don’t even think about it.” Before he could even come up with a plan Brian already had one hand tightly around his elbow, keeping him in place, “Behave like the champion that you are.”
Javier rolled his eyes, he had been the European champion a few times before, six to be exact, he already knew the journalist and half of the press by heart. Yet, this time he knew that the press conference would take twice as long.
He was retiring.
Javier Fernandéz, the prodigy that had put Spain on the map, as reporters liked to say, was retiring.
Put Spain on the map my ass-
“Just enjoy the glory, kid.” Brian said, gesturing to the whole circus around them, waiting to get to their seats and start the awaited panel.
More like execution. He would miss a lot of things, but no this grueling sessions after they skated each program and had the bad luck of ending up between the three highest scores.
Haven’t people realized yet, that the only thing skaters want after their performances is a warm shower and a horizontal surface so they can pass out for the next twenty-four hours?
“With the glory comes a hundred interviews that I would rather do next year,” his body ached in places he didn’t even know they existed despite not having fallen on his but this time.
“Suck it up, smile and keep them happy,” his coach reminded him, “never forget that you need them.”
Oh, I know pretty damn well how I need them. One word and they will end your career, one action and they will make sure you regret ever being born.
He looked around the arena one last time.
This was it.
He wouldn’t stand on the familiar ice as a competitor ever again.
It hurt, it messed up with his head, the sole notion of not being able to step on a podium and feel the adrenaline rushing through his veins…it was surreal.
Yet, so freeing.
it was time.
He could hear the announcer calling his name, he had to move. Yet, he looked behind him once again. The stands were almost empty, there was no sight of him.
There hadn’t been all week.
“No, he never left the country…and they saw him in practice this afternoon.”
Of course, he would never miss practice.
He had tried so hard to get him the best seats for both the short and the free, he had made sure that he would be able to walk around backstage freely and still he hadn’t bothered to show up.
He hadn’t even texted him an apology of sorts, some explanation.
How stupid of you to raise your hopes up.
Even after all of these years, you were never a priority. Perhaps they were right, your whole relationship was just for show.
“Let’s just get this over with.”
New Jersey, USA
“You okay there?”
Javier looked up from his place on the ice. One of his fellow rink mates was staring down at him like he was some kind of interesting piece of pottery standing in the middle of the ice.
Who am I kidding, I’m strapped to freaking broom, on my back and unable to get up on my own, it doesn’t get much weirder than this.
"Hey, want to hear something funny?”
“It’s not like I can go anywhere else, for the time being, so please, go ahead.”
What the hell is wrong with this guy?
“Do you want to know what the others call you?" the blond boy asked him, his Russian accent thick and sounding completely amused at the whole situation.
Was he really going to ignore the fact that they had never talked before and he was bound to a piece of wood in the middle of the rink?"
“Dumbass? The moron who decided to leave Spain with a dude that likes to strap people into things and didn’t actually leave after the third time?"
He didn’t even smile and just answered him with the most serious face he could probably muster, "No, they call you Jesus."
"Is the goal of this whole exercise to end up nailed to the broom?”
Javier mentally chastised himself, his mother would have smacked him for that tasteless joke.
"Well, you walk on water and have a cross on your back, it’s a shame you get up like Lazarus though..."
He looked to the Russian skater and tried to figure if he was actually being serious or he was mocking him all along. Either of the options didn’t seem very pleasant.
His current companion seemed to finally understand that Javier was getting tired of their current exchange and extend his hand towards him, Javier didn’t take the hand quite immediately, still wondering what the hell was the other boy’s real intentions. The blond gestured for him to take it, once again, “I’m Sergei.”
We’re making progress.
“I know,” Javier said as he managed to get onto his feet with the Russian’s help, “I did my homework.”
“Well, I always hated homework, so…”
So you decide to creep people out instead of asking for their name, great.
“My name’s Javier, and coach didn’t tell you guys that you had a new rink mate or something?”
“Our coach is…” Sergei started “not really into pleasantries, as you might have noticed…given your current state.”
Javier had almost forgotten the stick holding onto his back, and groaned, “I think I’m getting the idea.”
“Gentlemen, we’ll start the press conference now.”
The room looked so full, it seemed like everyone had come there for a special reason, he actually hoped that Alexander and Matteo would somehow diverge the attention from him, but once he spotted the Japanese reporters he lost that sliver of hope.
“Yes, the lady in the back, please.”
He searched for the reporter in the middle of the crowd, he managed to find Brian in the far back, but…he was talking to someone?
He was talking to a much taller man, he was wearing a cap and didn’t look like some other journalist.
Did he actually come? Talk about dramatic entrances…
Javier barely remembers hearing a question directed at him.
A French journalist? Or was she Japanese? He didn’t particularly care.
Because in the midst of people shouting his name, both his coach and the mysterious man had turned towards him, facing him. And suddenly Javier didn’t know where he was or what was he supposed to be doing.
For all he knew he was back in Russia and buried in four layers of clothes.
He could be huddled up in his tiny apartment back in Moscow in front of the fireplace.
He could be out in the streets fighting over which Christmas tree was the prettiest and losing the battle to another boy’s pout and whining.
But that had been a long time ago, this was the present.
So why was Sergei Voronov in Minsk, looking right back at him?
“You can’t let him get to you.”
“Better said than done.”
“I’m sorry, I’m just trying to help.” Sergei had immediately dropped the hand from his shoulder and Javier could immediately feel the cold settle in.
“I know,” it wasn’t the Russian’s fault if anything it had been Sergei’s insane sense of humor and tendency to randomly spring jokes on him that had made some days easier to bear, “look I’m sorry, I’m just…barely hanging on, to be honest, and everything sucks and I just think I made the biggest mistake of my life.”
“Too much information…? Sorry.”
“Stop apologizing,” Sergei crouched down again and sat beside him on the frozen floor, both getting their skating gear wet, but neither seemed to mind a bit, “I get it, and perhaps you need someone to talk to, so I’m volunteering as of now. I shall be the co-president of our ‘Morozov bitching club’ from now on if you want.”
Javier snorted at his rink mate’s excitement, “You really want us to get kicked out don’t you?”
“First you help the new kid and now you want to riot against the powers-that-be? Scandalous.”
Sergei laughed and Javier found out that he didn’t mind listening to that sound more often. Somehow he wanted the older man to smile.
And for him to be the cause of that.
“Listen, half of us may have a resting bitch face but we are not really in love with our coach.”
Javier made a disgusted face at the comment, “I really hope not,” he said, “because that would be really messy.”
They both ended up laughing so hard their stomachs hurt, as they just laid on the ice side by side. It felt good.
It felt like breathing was easy again.
“Thank you, really.”
“No problem, just…think of what brought you here and what you’re going to achieve in the future if you manage to get through this rough phase, think of happy memories and not of what you are missing, remember the good times and the people cheering for you back home.”
The Spaniard tried to swallow past the knot that had suddenly taken place on his throat.
Even the smallest mention of his family almost brought back the tears into his eyes. He missed them…terribly. He thought that one day he would just wake up and then the constant heartache would disappear.
It never did.
“Is that…how you do it?” he asked, turning to face the man on his right side.
“Does it work?”
Does it ever get easier? Does the emptiness ever get filled?
“Do you want to have a drink with me? Tonight after practice?”
Javier closed his eyes and for once tried to follow Sergei’s lead, “Yes,” he said.
That night he would forget.
He had so many questions.
Why are you here?
How did you get here?
Sergei didn’t look away and for a moment Javier could have sworn that they were completely alone, the sound of the cameras shutters completely muted.
It had been so long.
You look different.
Your hair seems shorter.
Did your mother finally convince you to get a haircut?
Grandma is still complaining about you eating too little?
Do they miss me? Do they talk about me?
Javier shook his head and tried to shift back his focus to the question thrown at him, he needed answers but he needed to make it to the end of this interview first, “I’m sorry, what was the question?”
He didn’t need to look at both of the figures still standing at the end of the room to know that he was being laughed at.
“I asked you if you’ll ever compete again?”
No, I’ll just take a break and come back when I’m forty, I’m not pulling a Daisuke Takahashi, people.
“No, I’m officially retiring from competitions, just like I said before.”
“Maybe you are retiring because of the new competition?”
Are they for real?
Javier knew they were trying to get him riled up, but they wouldn’t get the satisfaction, not today.
“No, I’m retiring because I think this is the right time for me to step down. Every skater knows exactly when they should stop and this is it for me.”
“But, won’t you miss all of this?”
Not the part where I sit here for an hour answering dumb questions, I won’t.
“Of course I’ll miss it, but I believe that everything has a beginning and an ending. I’ve done my part in this sport, I already gave up so much for it. Now, it’s time for me to live for myself.”
I’ve given up far too much.
“You left home at seventeen, moved to America on your own, then everything changed again and you had to leave for Russia. And that was not the end for you, you actually packed your bags and moved to Canada after a few years…” the next reported started, Javier wondered if they realized that there were two other skaters in the table, ready to be asked questions as well, “What can you tell us about these constant changes and their impacts on your life? Do you believe that you made the right choices?”
Somehow, he didn’t even have to think hard about his answer, “Sometimes we need big changes to realize what’s best for us. We should never settle for less when there’s someone out there ready to help us to grow as skaters and as people.” Something that Morozov had never accomplished for him, “I’m glad I’m ending my competitive career as Brian Orser’s student because he was that person for me. He was the man that thought me so much more than skating, his lessons will forever be part of who I am. Without him I would have been truly lost, that much I can guarantee but there’s one thing I must say,” he looked to his ex-training mate and tried to convey his feelings, he needed him to know that despite everything, he wouldn’t regret anything that had happened before his departure to Canada, “even though my beginning in the figure skating professional circuit was rough, even though I wished every day that I could leave New Jersey or Russia and just go home…I don’t regret anything. These experiences are also part of who I am, and I also had people over there that supported me unconditionally, because family can be much more than blood…and sometimes you just need someone to grab your hand and tell you that it’s okay, that everything will be fine.”
Sergei had bent his head down. He had no doubt gotten the message.
Life is not only made of your best moments, it’s made up of blood and tears too, of pain and suffering. It’s made up of trauma and fear and everything that teaches you that you need to grow up quickly in order to keep up with the world.
It’s made up of everything that has led you to this exact moment in life.
Nothing more, nothing less.
“So what do you call me behind my back?” Sergei smiled at the familiar voice behind him, he had been expecting him to make the first move after they had gone out for drinks or dinner almost every day for the last few weeks. He started to notice how he was the one constantly asking Javier if he wanted to do something after practice, so he had decided to stop asking and just wait for him to make a decision. He knew how shy the other one was, but sometimes you had to muster some courage to show other people if you actually cared for them.
After some days of blatantly ignoring him after their training sessions, he saw how nervous Javier would become around him and always seemed to stop himself from talking to him at the last minute. It was endearing and it took all of his self-control to just free him from his misery and ask him if he wanted something from him.
But that would lead them to their previous cycle, so he patiently waited.
And apparently, it had been worth it.
“I call you krasavets, actually.”
Javier scrunched up his nose at the sound of the foreign word. It sounded like something mean. As far as he knew, it could actually mean something nice, but it seemed like every word in Russian seemed far more aggressive than anything else he had ever heard on his mother tongue.
The way Sergei smirked at his reaction didn’t help to ease his worries.
“Is that Russian for idiot?” he asked him.
“I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that,” Sergei watched the younger one fidget where he stood, his hands seemed infinitely more interesting than his face so he assumed that he was trying to ask him something, then out of the blue he raised his head high and straightened his posture, like he was ready for some battle, “I enjoyed our time together, when you know…”
This kid is…really interesting.
He decided to take pity on him, “When we went for drinks.”
“So…?” Sergei tried to sound impatient. Yet, he knew that he would wait all day for whatever he was trying to say.
When did I become so whipped?
“I wondered if you wanted to do it again,” Javier finally let out in one breath, the Russian skater had some difficulty trying to get it all, but he didn’t try to make him repeat it.
He might have a heart attack at this point.
“Well Javi,” he made a sad face pretending to be sorry to disappoint him with his answer, he noticed how Javier’s face had suddenly turned a bit paler, “unfortunately I enjoyed our time together too.”
He saw the Spaniard seemed to finally breathe and he smirked at him.
“You’re a dick.”
“Guilty," Sergei skated closer to his rink-mate and leaned down into his ear, so he could whisper some words to him, letting his breath brush his skin, "isn't this the part where you ask me out?"
“I heard you were crying under my flag”, Javier saw how Yuzuru almost jumped out of his skin and laughed at him from the other side of the rink, the Japanese skater smiled as he turned around and laid his eyes on his training mate, “I mean, I’m flattered but really…”
“Javi!” Yuzuru obviously hadn’t forgotten his tendency to jump into Javier’s arms every time they were apart for longer than usual.
He could still feel the bruises on his butt from the last time they were on vacations last season. So, as usual, he prepared himself as the other skater sprinted towards him.
This is going to hurt. Fuck my life.
After the expected collision and trying to keep both their balances, Javier managed to put down the monkey-like Yuzuru clinging to him and ruffled his already messy hair, “I’m back.”
Yuzuru pouted and stomped his skates into the ice, “You said you be back quick and you take long, I hate you.”
“Hey, it hasn’t been that long. You are just mad that I’m not around to entertain you, and Jun is way too scared of you to join you on your tantrums.”
Javier didn’t see the tiny fist coming, and within seconds he was clutching his sore ribs, “Hey if you break my ribs need to leave again.”
Almost immediately, Yuzuru stopped his assault, “No!”
“I missed Javi, I really did.”
“I know, I missed you too Yuzu.”
And it was true. Some days while traveling all around the country he wondered if the Japanese skater ever thought of him if he even noticed his absence. But, once he saw the popular video with Brian telling the infamous story about Yuzuru crying under his flag, he knew his answer.
Perhaps they hadn’t been only training mates all this time, perhaps Yuzuru actually thought of him as something more.
Last year’s reaction at the Olympics could have been just a spur of the moment thing, probably heightened by the fact that they had somehow ended up in the podium together and the prospect of not sharing another one for the rest of their lives had certainly seemed daunting to both of them. It changed a lot of things and it put them into perspective.
Javier still wondered if he should have tried harder, if he should have insisted more. Perhaps things could have been different? Did he want things to be different at all?
They respected each other, they helped each other in training, they had each other’s backs, was it really important that they didn’t hang out outside the rink or that they didn’t spend time together outside training sessions?
He looked down at the koala hugging him yet again.
Perhaps we should have gotten to know each other better after all this time, but I think that sometimes…sometimes we can find someone that understands just enough.
Having friends outside the skating community was nice, but having someone besides you every day, sharing the ice with you, learning from you and teaching you, having someone suffer and know your own suffering was something that not many could understand the value of. And along the years, he had found out that he didn’t care if people didn’t understood.
Sometimes, things are meant to be this simple.
“Javi said he would come back with gift! Where’s gift?”
“If you could stop clinging to me like an octopus then I could actually reach my pockets.”
“Sorry sorry.” Yuzuru untangled himself from Javier and gave him some room to breathe.
Javier reached into his back pocket and pulled an envelope into Yuzuru’s eager hands, “Ta-dah.”
He quickly tore through the paper and the Spaniard wondered if perhaps he had just wasted a few thousand euros for Yuzuru to rip into pieces.
“Plane tickets, hotel reservations and an all event ticket,” he reached into the pocket inside his thick jacket and pulled another envelope, “the good part of being Yuzuru Hanyu is that they offered to give you a special pass, so you can walk around the backstage with the cool kids, aka the Europeans that worship the ground you walk on.”
“Javi I don’t know what to say…I’m so happy!”
“I know you have Worlds coming up, but I wanted you to come watch me one last time, and this time you won’t need to beat my ass to get a medal.”
Yuzuru’s eyes seemed to get moist by the second as he weakly punched his arm, “You don’t have to pay hotel and plane, I can-”
“Listen, it’s done so just enjoy, and don’t worry I got you the best hotel in Minsk. Can’t have the Japanese Federation blame me if you lose at Worlds because of a sore back.”
He expected Yuzuru to punch him again, but he only looked down and diverted his eyes from his.
This was not good. Not when there was so little time before...
“Everything’s okay, right? Your ankle is all healed up?”
Yuzuru looked up back to him again and smiled.
The thing is, people like to talk about how they were never close friends, how they had never been friends to begin with.
Some even said their whole relationship was based on media benefits.
A publicity stunt of sorts.
Yet, it took Javier a second to realize that Yuzuru’s smile was as fake as it could be.
“I’m fine, ankle was bad but now is good! How can I repay Javi for all this?”
He was dodging the subject, yet Javier figured that some demons should be kept to oneself.
Sometimes if we speak about them it’s like they can become even more alive.
So, Javier decided to let go.
“You can pay me back by scaring the shit out of the kids if you show up backstage. Brezina keeps yapping about you and how he’s going to kick your ass at Worlds…”
“What did you say?” he clearly had heard him wrong.
What on earth is going on Yuzu? What are you hiding?
“I said I might go to Belarus to kill him for bad joke.”
Please don’t suffer in silence, again.
“I see…you would go because of him and not to support the coolest Spanish skater ever?”
“You the only Spanish man skater..”
“I’m so going to shove that on Raya’s face.”
They were too busy laughing and lazing around the ice that they hadn’t even noticed Brian’s voice from the gallery surrounding the rink, “When you two ladies are done, give me a call and we’ll start practice.”
“Sorry coach.” They both yelled back in perfect tandem, each bowed down their heads and quickly skated back to get their instructions for the day.
“Just get started on warm-up, we have a lot to do.”
“Thank you for your answer Javier, I wish you all the best back in Spain.”
He nodded in acknowledgment and prepared himself for the next question.
Javier needed this conference to be over with before he lost any sense of control and just bolted out of his seat, he heard a Russian journalist throw a question to Alexander and silently prayed that all the questions would be given to anyone else but him.
He needed to know why Sergei had come to him after all this time. He couldn’t help himself and looked his couch trying to make him silently understand.
Brian seemed to read his mind as he mouthed one word to him as an explanation.
Javier almost laughed out loud.
Of course, it had been him.
The one person he had cursed in his mind all week was the one that had pulled this last desperate card out of nowhere.
Yuzuru Hanyu might be known as a somewhat selfish and goal driven person in the field of figure skating. A fierce and ruthless competitor on the ice.
Friendly outside the rink’s walls but cold and distant in every race towards the podium.
But once again, Javi had been the only one to witness yet another side of him. The selfless side that put people’s happiness before his own. It was something that not many people had ever seen, despite his generous actions to his own people and the others around him. To be his rival for so long and still keep being so important to him was completely mindboggling.
Especially after everything.
“Am I going to be uncle Yuzu soon?”
“It’s joke because you looking at phone with serious face.” Yuzuru dropped his bag on the locker room’s floor and sat down on the wooden bench beside him.
“That’s a weird joke even for you.”
“You date for so long, I expect you to be father soon. Not joke, reality.”
“Okay, first of all, we were not dating for that long and I wouldn’t want you near my kids or they will turn in tiny nightmares that like to jump people and make them loose hair.”
Yuzuru gasped and grabbed his chest in mock hurt, “Listen I-” he stopped himself once noticed Javier’s words, “You say ‘were’?”
“Yes, sorry I didn’t tell you,” he sheepishly scratched the back of his head, “Marina and I broke up before I came back to Toronto.”
Not that we ever talked about our love lives in the first place, but oh well.
“I see,” Yuzuru touched his rink mate’s arm in sympathy, “I’m sorry Javi, you seemed to like her a lot.”
“I did, I just wished I had fallen in love with her, she deserved more than what I could give her,” he smiled and decided to lift the somber atmosphere that fallen around them, “But it’s okay, we’re still friends.”
Yuzuru nodded, apparently deciding to let it go. He pointed towards the phone, still clutched in Javier’s hands, “Sooo, why you looking at phone like that? Something bad happen?”
“I just got a message from someone…and I wasn’t expecting it at all.”
Not after all this time.
“I don’t know if we are even friend’s anymore.” Javier didn’t know why he was even telling Yuzuru about all of this, but he figured that if he had always vented to him about his skating issues, might as well take his obvious offer to rant about his personal life. It was kind of perfect.
He only met him once.
“If they send message then they must think of Javi at least.”
That’s not helping my case.
“I want to believe that.” He desperately wanted to.
“Was it bad message?”
“No no, it was actually some encouragement for Europeans…I think...”
Javier turned on his phone again and showed him the message.
“Remember your promise, I still believe in you.”
Yuzuru nodded again as if it all made sense, “Then time to talk again, perhaps old friend wants to be friend again.”
“It’s complicated Yuzu…”
I left him, I have no right no expect anything else.
“Then make simple,” the Japanese suddenly turned away from him and looked to the floor instead, tracing the wooden floor with the tip of his sneakers randomly, “did you…did Javi care for them like you cared for girlfriend…?”
It took him a while o fully understand his question, “Unfortunately no, I cared for him more than I ever cared for anyone else since I left Russia. He’s the reason I’m standing here today and not in Spain in a psychiatric hospital, or worse.”
Yuzuru seemed to ponder his answer, as if analyzing every detail, it was unnerving but Javier was used to it by now, “Why you never talk about him?”
“Because it’s not easy to talk about all of this Yuzu, do you have any idea how much it hurts? I had to leave and he had to stay just so we could survive and have a future in this sport. It hurt like hell then, and it still hurts today almost as much. It’s like this constant voice in the back of my mind is telling me that I did the wrong thing and I should have stayed back in Moscow.”
Was it really worth it in the end?
“You did what seemed best, but now you have another chance.”
“He just wished me good luck, Sergei doesn’t mean anything beyond that.”
“Sergei…?” Yuzuru tilted his head in confusion. Javier hadn’t mentioned his name until now.
“Oh I know him! We share podium together!” Javier smiled, it all seemed so long ago, “You share podium with him in Barcelona and you seemed…okay?”
“We were together then.” And that had been the last time they had seen each other in person. He still remembers the day it all had gone wrong.
They had made promises, and in a few hours and some misunderstandings, things had been said.
Awful things. And not a day had passed since then, that Javier didn’t wish he could take it all back. He thought that their relationship was doomed from the start. It was never supposed to happen in the first place, the odds against them, Sergei’s country and family were supposed to have been enough of an excuse for them to stop long before Javier had left for Toronto.
Yet, both had been young and foolish and…in love. Neither wanted to let go and for that, they had faced the inevitable consequences.
Would Javier do it all over again?
Without thinking twice about it.
“It doesn’t matter, I’ll just thank him and forget all of this, I need to focus and-”
“Javi is being dumb.” Yuzuru had stood up and was now looking down at his rink mate, he grabbed his bag and shook his head, his knuckles white around the straps of his backpack.
“You have a chance to make things right and Javi is throwing it away.” His bangs covered his eyes and he made no motion to move them, he had turned somber out of a sudden and Javier didn’t know what exactly he had done to make him so upset.
“Why are you so upset about this?” he tried to joke, “I’m the one who’s going to end up alone with a thousand cats.”
“You end up alone because you want to,” Yuzuru sighed and lifted one hand to cup half of Javier’s face, he almost flinched at the contact but this was something so out of character for Yuzuru that he mentally made himself stay where he was, “I loved a kind and amazing boy once, and never told them because I was afraid, I was a fool and even if I know that boy would never love me back…I still think I could have tried.”
Does he mean…?
“And I regret, I regret it more than most thing in my life, so please do a favor for both of us and talk to Sergei, yes?”
Yuzuru dropped his hand back to his side and with one last smile, he turned around and left the room.
Javier didn’t know what had just happened. Suddenly everything had been turned upside down. How could he have not noticed, after all these years?
Had he hurt another precious person to him, again?
The phone in his hand seemed to burn, he had a decision to make. Perhaps he could be brave.
Just not today.
Sergei tried to find him in the crowd, it was next to impossible. There was a sea of people in front of him. He didn’t recognize one.
This Javi’s home, he had finally skated at his home country, Sergei knew how it had always been a dream of his. He had managed to snatch a third place on the podium and his boyfriend a silver medal, yet he couldn’t stop smiling all day, he could finally see Javi in person, he could touch him and feel his presence beside him. He could barely wait for them to have a moment for themselves.
He finally found a familiar figure when he heard the boisterous laughter that belonged to the competition’s champion. Yuzuru Hanyu.
He didn’t know the Japanese well besides what Javi told him about the Olympic champion. He admired the boy, he had conquered so many obstacles and pushed through every adversity that the world decided to throw at him, and he was so young.
Admiration didn’t stop some spike of jealousy from hitting him in the gut whenever he saw pictures or videos of their interactions. They got along perfectly, despite being rivals and that was something so rare in the sport, and Sergei had been around for a long time. Their seemingly close friendship also meant that Javier would have a better training environment than he ever had back in Russia, back with him, and for that, he would be forever grateful. He now could have something he never had since he entered the senior circuit of figure skating, and his boyfriend deserved the best he could get, he had been through enough.
Perhaps he can help him in ways that I can’t, anymore.
He hadn’t noticed how the Japanese had made his way through the crowd to him, “Hello?” he awkwardly greeted back.
“You skate amazing!” Yuzuru praised him, eyes wide and his face the epitome of excitement. For his gold medal? For something else?
“Humn, thank you, you skated brilliantly too so congratulations.”
“Thank you!” Sergei waited for him to skate away but he seemed to have something else to say, so he just waited by his side, “you are Javi’s friend, right?”
“Yeah, I am.”
Did he tell him about us?
“I never met Javi’s friends.” Yuzuru told him, “but now I’m in Javi’s country and he told me he would show pretty places and friends!”
Oh, he did?
“I see,” perhaps things had changed and he had been the one too far behind to catch up, “you too look pretty friendly, that’s so rare with two rivals training together.”
“Yes, Javi is kind and helps every day in training! Even when I fall, Javi always helps.” Sergei saw the look in Yuzuru’s eyes as he spoke about their close friendship and everyday life at their rink. He cognized that look.
It was the one he wore every day when he talked to Javier.
It was the one he dreaded to ever see on someone else’s face.
“Excuse me,” he interrupted him, “I should get going, my coach must be looking for me, nice to meet you Yuzuru and it’s such a shame that Javi never tells me about you, I would love to know more.”
And with that he made his way back into the crowd, praying that it wasn't too late for them.
“Javier, over here.”
“It’s time for the last questions, please be quick sir.”
Javier had lost count of how many times he had to be asked the same question twice, he couldn’t focus, not when he was looking at his ex-boyfriend’s eyes the whole time.
Sergei never looked away, he also seemed anxious to see it all come to an end.
“Despite everything that you have accomplished after all these years, and everything that you had to go through like you said before, the hardships and the good parts, the defeats and all the gold…I can’t help but wonder myself Javier…in the end, all of this glory, what did it cost?”
What did it cost? What did it cost, Javier?
That, had turned out to be the easiest question of the day. The answer was quite simple. In fact, the answer was actually standing right there behind them.
It had been years, yet the answer still remained the same. Would it ever change?
God, he had tried. He has tried so hard.
He couldn’t help but take a pause, he was conscious of all the eyes settling on him. Good, they should hear it.
They should know.
For the last time that night, he looked back into the stormy blue eyes, the words came to him naturally yet full of years’ worth of concealed pain, “Everything.”
And just like that, it was over.
“Are you sure there’s no other way?”
“Sergei you know this was inevitable…”
“We made a promise Javi,” Sergei looked like he was barely hanging on his feet, but Javier had to be strong, for both of them, “you said that when you retire we could have a life together in Spain, away from Russia and everyone that could ever stop us from being happy.
“Things…sometimes don’t get a happy ending Sergei and this relationship is killing the both of us, I can see how distracted you are when our schedules aren’t compatible and we don’t see each other for months, what if it costs you a title one day? What if you resent me for leaving you waiting?”
“I don’t care!”
“But I do…” Javier had nothing left to give him, he felt hollow. After everything he had been forced to do in his life, nothing had caused him as much pain as these words, “I do and I don’t want to see that day coming.”
Sergei seemed to have finally given up as well, he knew he would be fighting a losing battle so he collected himself and cupped Javier’s face in his palms. He tried his best to brush off the tears that fell one after another from his brown eyes, “Then be happy Javier, that’s all I ever wanted for you since the beginning, for you to be happy even if it isn’t by my side.”
Javier closed his eyes and leaned his forehead against his, and together they mourned for something destined to be over before it began.
“Where is he, Brian?”
Javier had seen him go and almost jumped from his chair, but once he managed to get to Brian, pushing through the crowd, Sergei was nowhere to be found.
“He went back to his hotel, here,” he took a key from his pocket and handed it over to him, “he said something about leaving the choice to you?”
One last chance, one last time.
The club seemed almost empty without Javier, everyone could feel it. The few weeks he had spent there had seemed to fill the entire rink and now they had to say goodbye to one of the oldest students that had ever skated there.
But they knew that it wasn’t a goodbye, not really. It had been a see you soon.
“You seem happy today.”
“And why is that?”
“Because of Javi.”
“Oh, right…well, he didn’t win yet so let’s not celebrate in advance.”
Yuzuru leaped into the air, and within seconds landed a perfect Salchow, “He already won, I made sure of it.”
Tracy looked at him, she knew Yuzuru was confident in Javi’s skills but what on earth did he mean by that, “What did you do, Yuzu?”
“I sent him a reminder of his promise,” he smiled at her, Yuzuru looked…relieved? Almost light like a feather that day, “now it’s up to Javi.”
He picked up right after the first ring.
He was expecting my call for sure.
“You little shit.”
“No, thank you? Javi didn’t like?”
Liking was an understatement. It had been exactly what they needed, what they had been too scared to do themselves.
“Thank you Yuzu, this was…” he didn’t know what to say, “this meant the world for me, and I just want you to know that I don’t care what people might say about us, you were my best friend through all these years and I was just too blind to understand it. So, thank you Yuzu, thank you for everything and I love you, don’t forget that.”
“I love Javi too,” perhaps not in the same way, but he knew Yuzuru, he would adapt and push through, he would fight to get things back to what they were before all of this and Javier would not let him distance himself from him. He was too precious for him, too important and he was certain they could make it work.
Plus he had a feeling that someone would be ready to comfort Yuzuru once he went back to Japan. Perhaps he would have to give the younger Japanese skater a push just like how Yuzuru had done for him.
“So everything went well?”
“You could say so.” Javier looked beside him and smiled at the ridiculous mop of bright blonde hair peeking from under the sheets. The body next to him all wrapped up like a burrito.
He would regret that once he woke up, that man was always complaining about the heat, and even in the middle of winter, he would complain that the freezing temperature in Minsk still didn’t compare to the Russian summer weather. Javier didn’t believe his bullshit for one second.
“How did you know though?”
“I had a conversation with him, I had to find a way.”
“You, my friend, are quite scary sometimes.” And by sometimes, he meant almost every day since he met him.
“I’ll see Javi in Sendai?” Yuzuru sounded hopeful, as if afraid that his previous actions would somehow make Javier want to stay away from him. If anything it made him want to see Yuzuru as quickly as possible. He needed to hug the life out of him for everything he had done.
To hell with his schedule in Spain. He had an ice show to attend.
“Of course, wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
“Good, now you go back to Spain?”
He heard some muffled whining from the blonde next to him, no doubt due to the noise so early in the morning, so he pulled up the sheets and covered Sergei’s head with them.
He could suck it up.
“Yeah, I want to show him Madrid, last time he only got to see Barcelona…he says he wants to try churros but I know he will hate them, he’s such a picky eater oh my god. Have I ever told you about this one time back in Moscow…”