Ed has Angels tailing him, and usually he’d be cool with that, but at the moment he’s maybe slightly planning to start something (something low-energy! No fights the day before a competition), so he parkours his way out of that situation. The Angels are good at a lot of things, but high-speed chases through city streets are not one of them. (That’s mostly true, anyway. A couple of them are keeping up suspiciously well, but they’re still not quite at Ed’s level. The baby criminals.)
Of course, no sooner does Ed shake off the Angels and drop back down to street level than he runs headfirst into that trouble Al accused him of. And he didn’t even get to start it himself.
“Sergei,” he says, torn between horror and laughter. “Imagine meeting you here. In Barcelona. Where you do no business at all, ever.”
“Edward,” says Sergei, nodding back and smiling. Probably smiling. The Glasgow smile makes it hard to tell sometimes. “Perhaps I enjoy skating.”
“You’re totally the president of my fanclub, aren’t you?” Ed asks in despair.
“Betting on skating is surprisingly lucrative,” Sergei informs him, dodging the question like a pro. Because he is a pro.
“Yeah, sure. How’s business?”
“Booming. You know how it is. People are always looking for new and more efficient ways to kill each other.”
“Ain’t that the truth.” That said, Ed doesn’t approve of enabling it. Not that he’d bring that up with Sergei. It’s easy for Ed to get precious about it now that he has a reliable source of income, but he sure wasn’t asking moral questions when he was hungry, was he? He’s the last person who can judge Sergei. He’d choke on the hypocrisy.
Anyway, arms dealing isn’t the reason he’s worried about Sergei probably being the president of his fanclub. There’s a more personal reason, and now that he’s face to face with the guy, he’s gonna have to bring it up. “Hey, Sergei.”
“Weird question, but what, uh. What happens to my crazy fans?”
Sergei doesn’t change expression. “Crazy fans?”
“Yeah. Everybody has ‘em. The stalkers and creeps and ‘you belong to me and only me’ types. But I’ve never clocked one, ever. So. Where are they?”
Sergei considers Ed for a long, uncomfortable moment. And then he says, “I think you ought to ask your brother that question.”
Which, fuck. Is Al burying the corpses of Ed’s stalkers in the empty lot behind Grandpa’s place? Is he? He wouldn’t, right? He’s a good person.
A good person who is deeply, almost fanatically loyal to his best-loved people.
Shit, is Ed too scared to even ask? He thinks he’s too scared to ask. It was one thing when he thought an arms dealer might be killing his stalkers, but if it’s Al who might be killing his stalkers, that’s much worse.
It’s at this moment of existential crisis that Otabek pulls up on his motorcycle out of nowhere and just…observes. With no expression on his face. Asking no questions at all in the loudest silence Ed’s ever heard.
Otabek is so fucking cool sometimes. And his timing is fantastic—Ed was in dire need of a distraction.
“Otabek, this is Sergei,” Ed says before anybody decides to do anything rash. And hell, he always did want to introduce these two to each other. They are two of his favorite people. “He kept me from getting my stupid ass killed when I was a kid. Also he’s probably the president of my fanclub, but he won’t admit it.”
Otabek nods, accepting this in stoical silence.
“Sergei, this is Otabek. He’s a kickass skater who’s been helping my brother keep me in line since I was…I don’t know, thirteen or something.”
“Twelve,” Otabek puts in, still expressionless.
Sergei, on the other hand, is outright grinning now. “Always nice to meet another member of our secret society,” he says, clearly finding himself hilarious. He’s always had a shitty sense of humor.
“Is there a secret handshake?” Otabek asks with a very serious face, causing Sergei to laugh out loud. Otabek has also always had a shitty sense of humor.
“I’m glad he has someone sensible keeping track of him,” Sergei is burbling on unhelpfully. “He only lets me watch over him from afar.”
Otabek nods wisely, but Ed says, “Hey! Al’s sensible.”
Sergei stares for a while, like he’s trying to decide if Ed’s serious. And then he says, “No.”
Just that. Just No. What the hell has Al been doing? Also Otabek needs to stop snort-laughing about it. It’s unattractive.
“Well, I’ll leave you two to your rest day,” Sergei says, sidling away, damage accomplished. “Skate well tomorrow, Edward. Or I’ll make you sorry.”
“Death threats are tacky!” Ed howls after him as he disappears down a side street, laughing.
“You know a lot of interesting people,” Otabek says after a moment. “Want to go with me to check out the weird park?”
“Park Guell?” Ed asks, brightening immediately. “Hell yes. I already saw Sagrada Familia and Casa Batllo. Gaudi. I love that guy. He was such a weirdo. And a genius. A genius weirdo.”
“I see why you like him,” Otabek murmurs, so quiet Ed almost misses it as they arrange themselves on the motorcycle.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ed demands.
“I mean what I say,” Otabek informs him calmly, and then takes off like an asshole, because he knows Ed won’t distract him when he’s driving a damn motorcycle.
Ed doesn’t remember to bring it up again at the park, either, because the park is so fucking cool and bizarre that he forgets everything else. In fact, he barely even remembers Otabek’s with him until they’ve wandered back around close to the entrance again, and are standing looking out over the city together.
At which point, out of nowhere, Otabek says, “You’ve been an inspiration to me since the first time I met you when we were children. I thought we were alike, but you were…ahead of me. A goal.”
“…Thanks?” says Ed, at a loss. Because it’s cool that Otabek thinks he’s cool? But also this may be the most embarrassing moment of Ed’s life.
And besides, Otabek wouldn’t think he was such an inspiration if he knew all the things Ed’s done.
“I see you in your life, in your competitions, in your studies, and your eyes are always full of purpose. Determined, ready to do whatever it takes to succeed. You remind me of a soldier,” Otabek tells him.
“A soldier, huh,” Ed says thoughtfully, figuring Otabek must know a lot fewer dick soldiers than Ed does. But he’s met the kind of soldier Otabek means, too, even if they’re not the first ones he thinks of. The ones who war burned down until all that was left was determination, strength, a terrifying sense of duty, and…usually a healthy dose of slow-burn rage and/or self-loathing, too, in Ed’s experience, but that last part’s probably not what Otabek’s getting at.
It’s interesting that Otabek would think those things of Ed, that he thinks it’s something they have in common. Otabek is a quiet, calm badass, while Ed is…well, also badass. But that’s it. It’s nice that Otabek thinks they’re similar, flattering, but Ed’s not sure how right he is.
“I would’ve been, probably,” he finds himself saying, inexplicably. Maybe it’s just that Otabek seems so unflappable, like he can take it. And Ed’s been wanting to admit this to someone for a long time, because God knows he can’t talk about it with Al. “I’m not actually…my brother and I, we’re not really Russian, we’re from…somewhere else.”
“Another planet,” Otabek agrees, nodding thoughtfully.
Ed’s line of thought is momentarily derailed. “Wait, you believed that?”
Otabek shrugs. “It does explain a lot. About you and you brother both.”
Ed is not sure how to take that, so he’s just leaving it there. “Uh huh. Well, we think it’s more another dimension…but anyway. Where we’re from, and with the shit we’d done, the government would’ve found out about us. I’d have been in the army by thirteen, I bet.”
“Is that why you left?” Otabek asks, curious, but not freaked. About the alien thing or the military thing. This is why Otabek is perfect.
“No. We did something incredibly stupid, wrong, and so we were…I guess you could say banished. We had friends there, family, and we wouldn’t have left them if we’d had a choice.” Ed lets himself think about Winry and Granny Pinako and Teacher and Sig for a while, just long enough for it to hurt. God, Winry would love Otabek. They would gang up on Ed so much, it would be fantastic. It’s also impossible, would always have been impossible, no matter what Ed did. “They don’t even know we’re alive. And there’s no way to tell them.”
“You were sent here,” Otabek points out quietly. “So there must be a way to get back.”
His voice is remarkably judgment-free. Ed can’t tell whether Otabek would miss him or not if he and Al went home, and that’s…well, it’s not a happy feeling.
“We got here through alchemy, and the most fundamental rule of alchemy is equivalent exchange,” Ed explains distantly, trying not to think about anything but natural laws. “Last time, we lost our ability to do alchemy, our families, our lives as they ought to have been, and our native world. There was a whole lot of physical trauma, too, come to think of it.” He turns to Otabek, feeling very tired. “What do you think it would cost to gain all those things back?”
Otabek considers this in silence for a long time, gazing out over the city. Then he turns abruptly to Ed and says, “Too much.”
Ed smiles painfully back at him. “Yeah,” he says. “I know.”
“…What did you gain?” Otabek asks in a soft, hesitant voice.
“Knowledge,” Ed tells him. He doesn’t tell him that it wasn’t what they asked for. “Of alchemy, which is useless here. Of science. Of how much arrogance can cost.”
It was valuable knowledge, too. Just not valuable enough.
Otabek has no further comment, and actually seems a little stunned. He probably needs food. Ed steers him to his motorcycle and orders him back to the area around the hotel.
* * *
Otabek understands that one of Ed’s favorite things about him is his composure, possibly because Ed himself has no such thing as composure. Usually this is fine, because Otabek generally has trouble forcing emotions to show up on his face.
Ed has a real skill at testing that tendency, however. He would not, Otabek knows, appreciate it if Otabek suddenly had hysterics or started crying. That said, the temptation to do those things is very strong. This talk has only given him the barest hint of what Ed and Alexei have been through, and already Otabek can’t cope.
Ed, meanwhile, has moved on. He’s told his terrible life story, he’s over it, he’s ready for dinner.
Otabek follows him to a restaurant in something of a daze.
He should have seen this coming, really, once he knew the Plisetskys weren’t from Earth. That he could accept without much trouble. Meet Edward and Alexei, particularly together, and it becomes harder to believe they aren’t aliens than that they are. But it had never occurred to him to wonder about their original home, about what they’d lost or how they’d lost it. Or when.
The when does at least explain why Ed’s unbothered. It’s old news as far as he’s concerned. He was probably well accustomed to the weight of this burden by the time he first met Otabek.
They did something stupid, he said, something wrong. When Otabek met Ed, he was twelve years old, and he wasn’t new to the planet then. What could small children possibly have done that was so wrong they were banished, probably forever, from their home?
Otabek knows he’ll never ask.
The screaming nightmares Ed used to have make a lot more sense now. Otabek’s mother was seriously alarmed by the screaming nightmares. She would beg him to tell her what Ed was dreaming about, tears in her eyes. Otabek always thought it must be Ed’s missing parents, or possibly his criminal childhood. When he first set eyes on Sergei, he was prepared to blame him for those nightmares, at least in part.
The missing parents might still have something to do with it, but childhood crime is apparently a footnote in Ed and Alexei’s litany of trauma, and Sergei probably more of a help than anything. This is something Otabek can never tell his mother—that cage fighting is not the worst thing that ever happened to her beloved Edward. That it’s not even close. Otabek still doesn’t know the details, but he can see the shape of the nightmare now, and he doesn’t know how the brothers can bear it.
And yet they do bear it. Cheerfully.
Otabek has always known Ed was incredibly strong, so this shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as it is. Still, there’s a difference between being strong and being made of pure steel all the way through.
Otabek more or less daydreams his way through dinner, and Ed allows this, even seeming a little sympathetic. Sympathetic because he knows he’s traumatized Otabek with his own life story. Because that’s the kind of life he’s led. The kind that causes other people trauma by proxy.
“Don’t look now,” Ed says, interrupting Otabek’s increasingly morbid thoughts, “but Katsudon’s crew are plastered to the window staring at us.”
Otabek is grateful for the distraction. He’s also grateful for his slow reaction time, because he does manage not to look. Well, he manages to look slowly and out of the corner of his eye, anyway. And yes, there are two Japanese women at the window, staring shamelessly and avidly. “Why?” he asks. It seems to cover everything.
“You don’t hang out with Katsudon unless you’re some kind of freak,” Ed explains unselfconsciously.
Otabek continues to observe as Nikiforov and Katsuki himself approach, only for Katsuki to be flying tackled by both of the women.
Otabek’s life hasn’t been what you’d call normal since he first met Ed, but today is managing to stand out.
“I’m texting Al,” Ed announces. “His paper must be proofed by now. And anyway, he has to eat sometime, and we need the moral support.”
Which means that soon Otabek is going to have to look Alexei in the eye and try not to think of him being violently ripped away from his home and family and cast alone into a strange new world as a tiny child. Wonderful.
* * *
Ed ends up texting Phichit as well as Al, because Katsudon’s Teacher is here, and he doesn’t know how scary she’ll turn out to be. He wants a buffer.
At least Mari’s around, even if she’s distractedly staring at Otabek. Ed can sympathize with that. Though it seems like she mostly finds Otabek interesting because she didn’t realize Ed was capable of having normal friends, and that’s just insulting. She also says she made a banner special for Ed. He doesn’t know what’s on it, but he’s already scared.
As for Minako, well. Ed’s never really talked to her before, which was right and proper—she’s Katsudon’s Teacher, not Ed’s. But damn, she seems to want to make up for lost time now. First she wanted to chat about Lilia, then his skating, then his costumes, and now she’s moved on to his street clothes.
“I like your sweater,” she announces. “It looks handmade?”
“Yeah, Beka’s mom made it,” Ed tells her proudly, happy enough with this topic. It’s the sweater Beka’s mom sent him after Skate Canada—it’s knitted, and sure, it doesn’t look professional or anything, but it’s soft and warm and, most importantly, all black with a big old red demon head with its tongue sticking out on the front. Ed loves it. It is his favorite item of clothing.
“My mother made you that?” Otabek demands, clearly having Emotions right now. It’s so rare for Otabek to show emotions, and yet here he is, emoting over a sweater. He may be taking the whole banished from home story harder than Ed first thought. Which…makes sense, actually. Looking back on it, Otabek used to get all agitated whenever Ed got hurt in a fight, too. He always and only freaks out when Ed is hurt. Huh.
“If you called her more often, maybe she’d make you cool sweaters, too,” Ed tells Otabek, shelving that revelation for later.
Mari is looking teary-eyed and delighted. Ed doesn’t know why, and he doesn’t like it, either.
Thankfully, this is when Viktor comes in dragging Katsudon, who was apparently outside also frantically texting for backup. Viktor’s presence is enough to derail any conversation: he’s instantly the center of everybody’s attention. It means Chris and Phichit arrive on the scene almost without comment, which isn’t normal.
Skating really attracts big personalities. Or maybe it’s just sponsors who like big personalities, so quiet people like Otabek get screwed over. Is Ed going to have to have a conniption right now over the possibility of bias against quiet people in skating?
Chris takes this moment to sidle up and squeeze Ed’s ass, possibly detecting the oncoming storm of brooding and trying to fend it off. Ed can’t believe Katsudon texted for backup and chose Chris.
Still, Ed does like Chris. He probably shouldn’t like Chris as much as he does, but…well. Chris lives his entire life at the extreme limit of what he thinks he can get away with, and Ed feels that. The biggest difference between them is what they want to get away with.
That said, Ed would really love some personal space.
“If you touch my ass again, I’m going to break your fingers,” he informs Chris.
Chris gasps theatrically, clutching his hands protectively to his chest, because he’s a dick. (But he makes no move to touch Ed again—whatever else he is, he’s not a stupid man.) “Yuri! I thought we were close! I thought we were friends.”
“We are friends,” Ed agrees. “That’s why I warned you before I started breaking parts of your body.”
“Such violence, young Yuri,” Chris says sadly. “That’s going to end with you banned, you know.”
And that, right there. Such a Chris moment. Not ‘violence is wrong,’ but, ‘violence could mess up your career.’
Yeah. Ed likes Chris. The only problems are the personal space thing, and also the thing where Chris is unbelievably freaking weird about Viktor.
What is it about Viktor, seriously?
Anyway, he introduces Chris to Otabek, even though they both medaled at Worlds and so probably know each other already. Otabek needs all the distractions from Elric drama he can get, and Chris is professionally distracting.
It’s a distracting dinner in general, which is good. Mostly it’s the Katsudon and Viktor show, which Ed’s embarrassed to find he’s actually missed.
And hey, it turns out Katsudon was too drunk to remember The Banquet. He actually thought he’d never even talked to Viktor before Viktor showed up naked at his house. Fuck, that explains everything. He must have been so goddamned confused that whole first month when Russians invaded Hasetsu. Almost as confused as Viktor was. And yet he just…rolled with it? Didn’t dare question a good thing?
Ed can’t decide whether that’s sad or hilarious. Al firmly informs him that it’s hilarious. Ed tries not to wonder if this attitude is a sign that Al is the kind of person who disappears other people’s stalkers.
Meanwhile, Chris has noticed that the idiot duo are wearing rings, because of course he noticed. Ed himself hadn’t noticed. He carefully and deliberately hadn’t noticed, mostly because Viktor so clearly wanted him to. Al also Hadn’t Noticed, complete with annoyingly vacant smile.
Anyway, Chris notices and comments, thus delighting Viktor and ruining the whole game. And then Phichit, hero of the people, announces to the entire restaurant that his best friend got married. Everyone freaks, especially Katsudon, who can’t screech out denials fast enough. Everyone freaks, that is, except Otabek, who instead sits there clapping expressionlessly like the magnificent bastard he is.
“It’s an engagement ring!” Viktor announces, looking ridiculously pleased with himself.
“Oh thank God,” Ed says, prompting several confused glances in his direction. But the thing is, he didn’t believe they were secretly married. Passing up a fancy ceremony and going to a courthouse on the sly? Viktor would never. Engaged is believable, though, and that means they’re basically married. So they’re gonna stop being so weird around each other, right?
…Katsudon’s awkward flailing isn’t making him feel confident, actually. But at least it’s flailing about Viktor and not at Viktor. That’s gotta be an improvement.
And then Viktor throws down a skating-related gauntlet on Katsudon’s behalf, Katsudon freaks yet again, and everybody else looks all Challenge Accepted. Except for Al, who is clearly annoyed at Viktor for putting Katsudon on the spot. (Al hasn’t been around Katsudon enough to know that he thrives on challenge. Ed’ll have to tell him before he disappears Viktor and makes Katsudon sad.)
In short, the whole dinner’s about to go to hell in a hilarious way when JJ shows up and ruins everything. And then everybody has to leave. Fucking JJ.
“JJ thinks you’re plotting to kill him,” Otabek informs Ed as they walk back to the hotel together.
“Seriously?” Ed rolls his eyes. “I don’t think about him often enough to plot about him. Besides, I’ve never killed anybody, and I sure as hell wouldn’t start with JJ Leroy. How pathetic would that be for a first kill?”
There’s a long pause while Otabek digests that. Never rushes to judgment, Otabek. Ed’s always admired that about him, being pretty much the opposite way, himself.
“I’m a little surprised you’ve never killed anyone,” is what Otabek eventually comes out with.
“I know, right?” Ed replies. “It was hard work sometimes. I’m proud of it.”
Up ahead of them, Viktor makes a strangled, horrified sound, and Chris laughs delightedly. Ed ignores them both with the ease of long practice.
“Congratulations,” Otabek says gravely, which is why Otabek is Ed’s second favorite person.
“Is he joking?” Minako asks Al up ahead.
“What do you think?” Al asks, laughing. Minako nods and smiles, relieved, taking this as confirmation that Ed is joking. Al is the best liar Ed knows, which is part of why he’s Ed’s very favorite person.
“I told you,” Viktor murmurs to Katsudon. “Terrifying.”
Ed’s pretty sure Viktor’s talking about Al this time, which is refreshing. And Viktor doesn’t even know about the epic lecture Al’s composing for him on the subject of pressuring your skater yet.
* * *
The first thing Ed notices after warmup the next day is Mari’s banner, which is huge, and says YURIO in red, sparkly letters. The O is a tengu face, and there are giant, creepy arms flexing their biceps on either side of the name. Ed would like to know what is wrong with the entire Katsuki family.
Further to that thought, Katsudon’s up first for the short program, and in Ed’s opinion, he does great. But Katsudon’s not happy about it at all, because it wasn’t perfect.
Although, to be fair, Ed can’t really judge him for that. They all want to beat JJ, here, and JJ has a habit of being obnoxiously perfect. Also Katsudon’s score is frustratingly low. Fucking judges. He put a hand down, he didn’t skid on his face across the ice. Whatever.
Then there’s Phichit, but Ed can’t pay attention to his skate no matter how fun it is, because he’s up next. He’s gotta focus.
For once, though, he’s not too stressed about his short program. In fact, he’s probably more emotionally ready for this routine than he’s ever been before. Because this is a skate about his loved ones, and he has a surprising percentage of them right here, and has spent the last few days talking about and fondly remembering the rest.
And there isn’t a damn thing he wouldn’t do to make them happy.
Every once in a while, there’s a skate where everything comes together perfectly. It’s the right kind of day and the right kind of ice, you’ve gotten just the right amount of rest and you have the perfect attitude, and for once, after all the hours of pain and tedium that led to this—for once, everything is…easy. Natural. Smooth. It hardly ever happens, but it’s an unreal feeling when it does. Like you were made for this moment.
Ed finishes his skate, and for a second he doesn’t even know where he is. Man, he zoned.
But he thinks back over what he just did, and damn, he zoned in the good way. He actually started kicking up the difficulty level on jumps partway through just because he could. Did he really do all that shit? He did.
Oh fuck, Lilia is crying. He did amazing.
Not normal amazing, either, as it turns out. World record setting amazing. He can hear Al screaming himself hoarse from here. Holy shit.
It takes Ed a while to calm down from that, and by the time he and Al stop babbling at each other over the barrier and Ed changes clothes and hauls himself up to the skaters’ section of the stands (why is Michele Crispino here? He’s not competing. Is this allowed? Someone needs to save Ed from this), he’s totally missed Chris’s skate.
He catches Otabek’s, though, which—no offense, Chris—is more important. And Otabek does fantastic. Even if he’s a giant nerd who gives Ed a weird thumbs-up before he starts. Blank face, weird thumbs-up. Otabek.
Last is JJ. Ed’s already tired. And not just because of JJ—Katsudon’s been giving Viktor worried looks ever since Ed got here. Yesterday they were married, today they’re weird? They need to be better adults.
Ed steals Katsudon’s glasses for a minute, mostly to distract him, partly out of curiosity. Katsudon flails at him trying to get the glasses back, but age notwithstanding, Ed is an older sibling and Katsudon is a younger sibling, and he’s not getting these glasses back until Ed feels like giving them back. It’s not like anybody’s gonna help, either. Viktor has a noninterference policy when it comes to Ed and Katsudon, so he’s just watching with a smile. And the Crispinos are siblings themselves, even if they are freaky ones, so they get it, and wouldn’t dream of stepping in.
Wait. Ed actually thinks of Yuuri almost like another brother. Oh, shit, when did that happen? He’s never admitting that out loud.
“How fucking blind are you, Katsudon?” he demands, squinting through the thick glass. “You wear contacts on the ice?”
Katsudon sighs, resigned. “Yes, Yurio. I usually wear contacts.”
“Huh.” Ed did not know that. Yuuko’s letting him down on Katsudon gossip. He’ll have to text her and complain. She did tell him about Katsudon’s Viktor Wall of Shame, though, and that’s earned her a lifetime of leeway.
“JJ’s about to start, Yurio. I can’t see him skate without my glasses.”
“Ugh, why would you even want to see him?” Ed demands, but he hands the glasses back. Unfortunately, this means he can see JJ now.
JJ, who seems kinda…subdued, by JJ standards. He sleep weird or something? Because there’s the subdued, and then there’s the fact that he starts his program, and his first jump’s…off. But it’s fine, mistakes happen. He’ll pull it together.
Except it’s not just a mistake, and he’s not gonna pull it together. JJ is going to fuck this up.
This is the exact opposite of Ed’s skate. This is when it all goes wrong and you don’t know why and every attempt to fix it makes it worse. Obviously it’s better when it happens in skating than when it happens in life, but it sucks unbelievably no matter what, and Ed wouldn’t wish it on a single skater here, not even JJ.
It’s brutal to watch. JJ never gives up, which is impressive, but damn. That was painful. And so is the score. They are seriously walking out of the short program with Ed in first and JJ dead last. This is not the way he wanted to kick the guy’s ass.
So that’s awkward and kind of a shame, but it doesn’t change the fact that Ed broke a world record, and he wants somebody to be happy about it with him. The skaters are all out, though. Skaters get weird and anti-social mid-competition, and fair enough. There’s always Al, obviously, but Al might resist going out with Ed alone. He seems to think Ed needs adult supervision during competitions, for some reason. Yakov is a definite no, and Lilia…well, Ed loves Lilia, but she’s not exactly a party person.
Then Ed catches sight of Mari in the hotel lobby. She’s hanging out with Katsudon’s Teacher, which makes sense, and Katsudon’s old coach, which doesn’t. She spots him and beams happily. “Yurio!” she says, “Want us to take you out for a celebratory drink, world record boy?”
And the thing is, she thinks she’s joking, but actually she’s exactly what Ed was looking for, and he’s not letting her escape. Anyway, he likes bars—people do all kinds of wild shit in them. What the hell, he’s got all tomorrow to rest.
“Sure,” he says. “I mean, obviously I’m not drinking. But yeah, I’ll go.”
Mari looks a little shocked, but Minako laughs, delighted. Lilia is eventually going to hunt Ed down and drag him away by the ear, but it’s gonna be a good time in the meantime.
He’ll call Al on his way out the door. That way it’ll be soon enough for Al to catch up, but too late for him to put a stop to this without looking rude.
* * *
Why are you and your brother at a bar?
Why are you at a bar with Minako and Celestino!?
idk seemed fun
I notice you didn’t mention your sister
don’t trust her to be a calming influence, katsudon?
It is the middle of a competition.
Also you’re nowhere near old enough to be in a bar!
And your brother is even younger!!
jesus will you calm down
I’m not drinking or anything
we’re just talking
about you actually
you should be worrying about that, pal
You two are OBVIOUSLY UNDERAGE.
They shouldn’t have even let you in the door!
people can’t even keep me out of bank vaults, katsudon
this bar had no chance at all
don’t have a fucking heart attack about it
anyway barcelona barely pretends to give a shit about stuff like drinking ages
You should be in bed!
sure but consider this:
SO. SHOULD. YOU.
* * *
Day three of the Grand Prix Final begins with Ed bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and well-rested, while Viktor and Katsudon are clearly worn down and in the middle of some kind of relationship crisis. Again. So really, who’s the irresponsible skater here? Is it Ed? He thinks not.
JJ’s first up. Ed almost can’t watch, but JJ actually does okay? He falls one time, but then he throws a quad loop in at the end like a lunatic. Which is pretty cool, Ed has to admit.
Still, it feels like the judges score him too high. They scored him too goddamn high yesterday, too, out of pity, probably. Though…Ed gets the impulse to give the guy a break. He doesn’t like it, but he gets it.
Next is Phichit, who is a fucking delight as always, but he falls. Given the difficulty level of his skate, he’s probably not looking at a medal. Still, it’s his first year in Seniors. To make it to the GPF at all is damn impressive.
Says Ed, who is going to throw five kinds of tantrum if he doesn’t medal in his first Senior GPF. Luckily nobody can hear what he’s thinking, so nobody has to know what an asshole he is.
Katsudon is up next. He and Viktor are making a display of themselves at rinkside, as usual. Ed hopes this is a sign they’re over their issues and not the opposite. Getting engaged was supposed to make them less of a problem, the bastards.
Katsudon’s skate is fucking fantastic, though. Yuuri at his absolute best. Ed still doesn’t get how he’s so goddamn beautiful on the ice, not even after Katsudon’s best efforts to explain. It’s plain old magic.
It’s world record setting magic, as it turns out. Ed’s not surprised. So that’s Katsudon with a medal. Ed had a pretty good lead on the guy coming in, but world record setting free skates are tough to beat. Ed’s gonna have to get crazy.
Oh, and Chris is having a fit about that world record, Ed can tell just from his skate. God, the guy is so weird about Viktor—and Katsudon, too, now. It’s like just being Viktor-adjacent is enough to make Chris weird about you. Skaters are nuts.
Ed leaves the warm up room a little early because he wants to catch some of Otabek’s skate in person, but instead he gets accosted by fucking Viktor. Apparently Viktor’s going to start skating again (yeah, screw you ankles! Deal with it), but Katsudon’s threatening to quit. And Viktor only wants to skate because he wants to skate against Katsudon.
And that’s why Ed is standing in the hallway hugging a freaking out Viktor. To think, not too long ago, he was in a hallway hugging a freaking out Yuuri, and for pretty much the same reason. Does Ed look like a fucking relationship counselor? Does he? He is a child. He would like to point out that some people get paid to deal with shit like this, and also that he is not one of those people.
“So you’re saying you don’t know if he’s quitting?” Ed demands.
“…He’s going to decide. Later,” Viktor says in a tiny, un-Viktor kind of voice. Damnit, Katsudon.
“Well, I’m not letting him quit,” Ed informs Viktor.
Who laughs weakly, and releases him. “Work your magic, then, Yurio,” he says, tugging at Ed’s sleeve like an anxious child and then walking away. Lilia and Yakov watch him worriedly, but they herd Ed toward the rink without comment.
Viktor thinks they can’t change Katsudon’s mind, and it’s true the guy is stubborn. But Ed’s got him figured out—when it comes to skating, anyway. All he needs to do is piss Katsudon off.
Katsudon is competitive as fuck. He will not want to go out on a silver medal, world record or no. And he doesn’t actually want to quit, either, the loser, he just wants Viktor to be happy and is incapable of communicating. In view of all that, Ed will be damned if he lets the idiot win.
It’s always convenient that this program calls for Ed to be murderously enraged, because he has yet to get to the end of a competition and not be super pissed off about something. In this case, there’s the whole Viktor and Katsudon situation, but there’s also the fact that their angst caused him to miss all but a few seconds of Otabek’s awesome free skate.
So he’s nice and mad at everything when he starts his skate, and that’s perfect. He may fall on his face a little bit, but he’s also moved most of his jumps to the end of the program and is just very good at skating angry.
It’s enough. Barely, but it’s enough. Ed actually wins gold at his very first Senior GPF. He is going to be smug about this forever.
(Also Ed’s plan worked, and the idiot duo have collectively decided that Viktor’s going to coach Katsudon while somehow competing himself. Which means that in real life Yakov is going to have to coach both of them while also navigating their stupid relationship. There goes the last of that guy’s hair.)
* * *
Barcelona has been fantastic, and Ed’s enjoyed basically everything about it right up until this moment. The moment where he’s sitting at a table with Katsudon and JJ, getting blinded by camera flashes and interrogated by idiots.
Yeah, this part fucking sucks.
“You’ve had some tension with skater Jean-Jacques Leroy in the past,” a reporter says, eyes gleaming like a shark sensing blood in the water. So basically, looking like a reporter. “How would you say you feel about him after his Grand Prix Final performance?”
“I’ve never liked him, and I still don’t,” Ed informs the guy. “But I have to admit he handled that fuck up of a short program with grace I didn’t know he had, and then he got back on his feet and fought through the free skate like a badass, even if he was totally overscored and Otabek was robbed. Still, the scoring thing isn’t JJ’s fault. He did all the right stuff. I almost have to respect him now, which is making me uncomfortable.”
Katsudon claps both hands over his face and bows his head, shoulders shaking. Ed honestly doesn’t know whether he’s laughing or crying.
Meanwhile, JJ, to his left, looks totally blindsided by this show of honesty and basic human decency. Come on, Ed’s not that horrible to the guy. Is he?
“And what are your feelings about Katsuki Yuuri?” asks another reporter. Ed recognizes this one. It’s Morooka, the guy who’s obsessed with Katsudon. Ed likes it when reporters are obsessed with Katsudon—it’s probably good for the weirdo’s self-esteem. “You claimed at the beginning of the season that you were going to destroy him because the world only needed one Yuri,” Morooka goes on. “Do you feel you’ve accomplished that?”
Case in point—why does this guy even remember that conversation? Obsessed. Also, Katsudon’s shoulders are all frozen up now, like he’s panicking about what Ed’s going to say. Why? Ed would never say anything terrible to reporters that he hadn’t already said to Katsudon’s face, so it’s not like it could come as a surprise. Christ, everybody in this room must think Ed is some kind of asshole.
“Obviously a tenth of a point isn’t destroying somebody,” Ed points out, because reporters are drama queens and take any excuse to dive off the deep end, so you have to make things clear. “A tenth of a point just means one of the judges liked my hair better. I’ll kick his ass for real eventually, but I haven’t done it yet.”
Morooka beams. Ugh, and now Yuuri’s giving Ed one of his stupidly sweet smiles. In public! Why, Katsudon? Don’t let reporters see that shit and get the idea I’m going soft.
Ed treats the guy to his most intimidating scowl, but Katsudon just keeps on beaming at him because Katsudon is a maniac.
“How does Viktor Nikiforov’s announcement that he’s returning to competition affect your future plans?” asks a Russian, because all Russian reporters are as obsessed with Viktor as Morooka is with Katsudon, but it’s nowhere near as cute.
“Gives me the chance to kick his ass officially, which I appreciate,” Ed informs her. “And it gives Katsu…ki a chance to kick his ass, and Otabek, too.”
“I’ll be the one to defeat Viktor Nikiforov!” JJ declares, not that anybody asked him. And like. Borderline respect or not, Ed can’t let that comment stand.
“Yeah, okay. Dream on, dreamer. Have you ever broken a record of his? No. He still doesn’t even know who you are,” Ed tells JJ and also the world.
Katsudon’s hiding his face again. He’s definitely laughing this time, though. Ed can hear the snickering from here. At least this stupid press thing is making somebody happy.
Ed wonders how murdery Lilia will be if he just bolts at this point. Will there be knives? There haven’t been knives so far, so…
“How did it feel to come so close to losing after setting a world record in the short program?” asks some reporter who was born without a sense of empathy, and also without a sane understanding of what constitutes loss.
Ed sighs and thinks knives might be worth it.
Which gives him an idea, actually.
* * *
Viktor collects a traumatized Yuuri from the press after the panel and escorts him back to their skater friends, who will be sympathetic. Usually he’d blame the reporters, but seeing as Yuuri was just on a panel with Yurio, well. He knows whose fault this is.
“I didn’t understand what it was going to be like to talk to the press with Yurio,” Yuuri tells Viktor in a hesitant, almost dazed voice. He’s still a little pink from second-hand embarrassment. Dazed and pink is a very good look on him, Viktor notes. He’s noted it before, but it’s always a pleasure to be reminded. “Can’t anyone do anything to stop him?”
“No, Yuuri,” Viktor informs him. “It’s quite impossible. Hadn’t you ever seen any of his interviews?”
Yuuri shakes his head. “Before…I didn’t know him well enough to look them up. And once I did know him, I was afraid to look them up.”
“Wise,” Viktor concedes.
“You should see him talk to sponsors,” Mila puts in dreamily. “It is an education.”
“But they keep giving him money?” Yuuri marvels.
“Witchcraft,” Chris suggests. “Possibly mind control.”
Yuuri’s friend Phichit, who has been tapping away on his phone, now proudly holds it up for inspection. It’s showing a video from when Yurio was about thirteen, after he’d won his first Junior Worlds. Viktor remembers this interview well. Not as well as Yakov does, though. Yakov may still be having nightmares about it. The poor man spends so much time trying to bury interviews in which Yurio admits to something incriminating, but they will keep resurfacing. And now that Yurio’s in Seniors and winning international competitions? Oh, there’s no hiding anything.
Viktor worries for Yakov’s health sometimes.
“Are…did you…” Phichit’s picked the interview up in the middle, when the reporter’s started to realize what she’s dealing with and is turning into a stammering mess in response. “Are you saying you lived a life of crime before you began skating?”
Yurio stares at her, impassive. “I’m gonna have to check the statute of limitations on a couple things and get back to you on that.”
Phichit cuts the video off there and beams at everyone triumphantly. “See?” he says, oddly cheerful. “He’s improving.”
The truly horrifying thing about that comment is that it’s true. Ah, Viktor remembers his innocent youth, back when he thought Yurio was only making up stories to shock the reporters. Happier days. “Where is Yurio, by the way?”
“He and Al ran off together,” Phichit informs him. “I think they grabbed Otabek, too. Al was saying something about damage control.”
“Well,” Viktor says brightly, “I wish him the best luck in the world with that.”
He says that, but Alyosha must be managing some kind of damage control—otherwise Yurio’s career would have been over the first time he opened his mouth in front of a reporter.
Alyosha is a menace and Viktor swears he will never anger him. Or let Yuuri anger him, either. Though he seems predisposed to like Yuuri, thank God. One less thing to worry about.
In any case, everyone has more or less survived the interviews, so there’s nothing left of the GPF except the exhibition skate (Viktor honestly can’t wait) and the banquet. The banquet! It’s their anniversary.
And this has been the best year of his life.
* * *
It’s no surprise to Chris that Yuri’s exhibition skate is absolutely terrifying on every level. The music, the stunts, the costume…his face. To say nothing of the whole thing where Otabek stood at the edge of the rink throwing knives at him. Is that legal? Maybe it’s just that no one thought they needed to make it illegal before now. Chris hopes this exhibition isn’t going to involve police. With any luck, the authorities will assume the knives are props and therefore won’t do anything about them. The poor fools.
Also, Chris thanks God once again that all that backflipping around on the ice scares the judges and is therefore forbidden in official programs, because if it weren’t, Yuri would be the reigning world champion of everything for life.
But no, none of that is surprising, not even the knives. What is surprising is Yuri’s brother’s reaction to his skate.
“Brother,” Alexei says sternly after the exhibitions are over, when they’re all standing around outside the locker room waiting on Viktor and the less alarming Yuuri to head out for pre-banquet drinks. “What if it had worked?”
Intrigued, Chris pretends to be absorbed in his phone and eavesdrops shamelessly.
“It wasn’t ever going to work, Al,” Yuri argues, exasperated. “If it was gonna work, we wouldn’t still be here, would we?”
“It would be typical of your life if it had decided to work just once, just now.”
“Yeah, sure. Very scientific, little brother.”
“Where were you planning to get the carbon from, anyway?”
“From the antifreeze. Obviously.”
And then blessed little Phichit, who is even more shameless, in his way, than Chris, just up and asks the thing. “What are you two talking about?”
And Alexei says, “Brother was trying to transmute the rink into diamond.”
To which Yuri responds, “I just said I was going to transmute the antifreeze into diamond. Because there’s no carbon in H2O.”
“I mean, there are definitely impurities in the—”
“Not enough to make enough diamond to coat the whole—”
“And if you had made enough diamond to coat the whole rink, you would have broken your skates and probably your stupid head!”
“Excuse me,” Phichit cuts in, now recording this conversation on his phone and not being as subtle about it as he seems to think he is. “Maybe my English isn’t as good as I thought…‘transmute’?”
Yeah, that’s a new one on Chris, too.
“It’s a specialty word, don’t worry about it,” says Yuri dismissively, completely missing the point.
“I’m curious, though?” Phichit. Chris may be starting to love him a little.
“It’s when you change a substance from one thing to another,” Alexei explains. “Especially through alchemy.”
“Alchemy,” Chris repeats, unable to stay out of this conversation any longer.
“Yeah, alchemy. Which doesn’t work on this planet, so Al is just being a big baby about it.”
God, so they really are aliens, or at least they firmly believe they are. Chris had thought that was a joke, but this seems too elaborate for a joke. What kind of world is this? Chris is upset. He checks on Otabek—standing slightly behind Yuri and to his left, as usual—but Otabek is displaying all the expression of a sphinx, also as usual.
“Um, and how did you know Yuri was trying to…transmute?…antifreeze into diamond?” Phichit persists, a stronger man than all of them.
“He was skating the array for that transmutation,” Alexei explains more or less completely incomprehensibly. “That’s the pattern he was skating—just that array, over and over. To see if he couldn’t manage to maim himself on a sheet of diamond, apparently.”
“I didn’t feed any energy into it, did I?” Yuri grumbles. “It was just an inert array. For fun! And it wouldn’t have worked anyway, so you need to let it go.”
“You also forgot to take temperature into account, Brother,” Alexei informs him.
“I did not,” Yuri howls indignantly.
It’s at this point that they switch to their apparently actual alien language and become officially incomprehensible, which is something of a relief.
Phichit stops recording, sighs with deep satisfaction, and sets about posting that video absolutely everywhere. That should be fun.
Otabek may, perhaps, be smirking slightly. Maybe.
Wow. Viktor and Yuuri need to stop canoodling and get the hell out here already, because Chris needs a drink immediately.
* * *
Katsudon cuts Ed away from the crowd outside the door to the banquet hall and lectures him about the knife thing at length. Why now, Katsudon? Also, Ed doesn’t remember asking for a Katsudon-shaped mom at any point, but here they are, anyway. Doing that mom thing.
Ed pretty much ignores the whole lecture until Otabek’s name comes up. “And how did you talk Otabek into throwing knives at you?! He seems like such a responsible person!” cries Katsudon, obviously stressed. Way more stressed than Beka’s mom, who texted Ed immediately after the skate and clearly thought the whole thing was hilarious. Ditto Yuuko, actually. Ed’s own mom would’ve been a little worried, but mostly impressed that Ed managed to dodge all the knives. Katsudon is more of a mom than any actual moms Ed knows.
“It was easy, Katsudon,” Ed explains. “He knew I could dodge the knives, and he knew it would freak everybody else out. That’s the magic of Otabek. He’s quiet and he’s chill, so everybody assumes he’s responsible. They’re wrong, though. In real life, he’s a goddamn trolling asshole, and that’s why I love him.”
And then Otabek laughs, because apparently Otabek’s been standing behind him for a while, which at least explains why Katsudon was staring wide-eyed over his shoulder making panicky little hand-gestures.
“And Ed is so loud and abrasive that everyone assumes he’s a violent maniac who hates humanity,” Otabek counters, smiling faintly. “But in real life, he’s one of the most caring people I know, and that’s why I love him.”
Ed may be blushing. Ed is going to firmly pretend that he is absolutely not blushing. “So there you go,” he explains to Katsudon, who now has an expression unacceptably close to the one people get when they’re looking at baby ducklings. “Assholes unite! You and Viktor should know all about that. Anyway, dinner. Are we eating fucking dinner or just hiding in a corner gossiping all night?”
And he storms away without waiting for an answer, ignoring Otabek’s laughter and Katsudon’s concerned follow-up questions, both.
Once he gets to the table, he also firmly ignores Al’s smirky face. He needs better loved ones.
* * *
The banquet this year is nowhere near as fun as last year. Admittedly, it’s possible that nothing will ever top The Banquet, but Ed was hoping for some entertainment. Sadly, Katsudon is sober as fuck, which leaves nothing to amuse Ed but an insufficient amount of food and far too many sponsors. Sponsors everywhere. Babbling. Asking invasive questions. Asking stupid questions. Making weird demands. Breathing right in Ed’s face like fucking creeps.
At least that’s true for the first hour and a half, but blessedly that’s about the time Katsudon snaps and physically drags Ed away from a sponsor mid-sentence without a backward glance. Apparently he can’t even handle this shit sober. Katsudon is kinda the best.
“I’m so sorry to have interrupted when you were talking to sponsors,” he says once he’s successfully towed Ed into a corner where nobody should overhear them, lapsing into overly polite Japanese and clearly on the verge of hyperventilating. This sure is Ed’s night to get dragged into dark corners by Katsudon. People will talk.
“It’s cool,” Ed tells him, and it really is. It would’ve been even if Katsudon didn’t obviously need help, because the sponsor Ed was talking to had grabby hands and the plastic, self-satisfied expression of the unrepentant hypocrite. Basically, if their talk had gone on much longer, Ed would’ve punched him, and that would’ve been much worse than being dragged away.
“So…Viktor just…um, we’re getting married.” At least he’s dropped the polite, but he’s kept the Japanese, so…this is meant to be a secret? Somehow?
Ed bites back the first thing he wants to say, which is, Aren’t you already married? He bites back the second, third, and fourth things, too, and settles on, “…Congratulations?”
“Yes. Thank you.” Katsudon still seems panicky. More panicky, it has to be said, than the time he walked in on Ed with a suitcase full of knives. The guy’s priorities are so broken. “I…Phichit…that.”
“Spit it the fuck out, Katsudon, before I kick you in the gut and make you miss your flight.”
“I want you to be in the wedding, but I don’t know how!” Katsudon basically wails, clutching at his hair. “Viktor wants you in the wedding, too! But Chris is going to be best man, and Phichit, and then there’s Alexei—oh no, we can’t leave Alexei out! He would be so upset! And then Mari and Yuuko—”
At this point, Ed smacks Katsudon’s hands away from his hair, then grabs his cheeks and squeezes them together, rendering Katsudon incoherent until he gives up on talking altogether and just breathes short, panicky breaths onto the inside of Ed’s wrists.
There are not many ways to make Katsudon look unattractive, but this is one of them. Ed stores the knowledge away for future use. “Katsudon,” he says, “Al and I will not be offended if we’re not in your wedding.”
Katsudon’s eyebrows go all distressed and he pries Ed’s hands away enough to say, “But we want you in the wedding.”
Ed firmly squishes Katsudon’s face again so he’ll shut the hell up. “So make Phichit do it. He’s your best man, right? That’s what you were trying to babble at me? Just tell him who all you want involved, and he’ll make it happen. He loves this party shit. And you, you just…have a fucking drink—but not twelve drinks!—and try not to think about it until the actual day, okay? You’re such a disaster. Why are you even getting married? Our parents never got married. Marriage is weird.”
Katsudon mumbles something, and since Ed actually wants the answer to this, he reluctantly releases him.
“Viktor is mine,” Katsudon declares.
“That’s creepy,” Ed informs him.
“I’m Viktor’s, too!” Katsudon counters, indignant. Ed nods, reluctantly accepting this as equivalent. “But I want everyone to know it,” Katsudon continues. “Also, I want the law to recognize it. And immigration, and tax agencies. And hospitals. And…in general, marriage would make living together simpler.”
So there’s a weird, possessive reason, and then there’s a good, rational reason. Ed would be lying if he said he didn’t get both reasons.
“Whatever makes you idiots happy,” he concedes. “Talk to Phichit.”
“Phichit,” Katsudon agrees, looking bizarrely serious and determined.
Ed nods back—mission Don’t Panic About Weddings accepted. And then he steers Katsudon toward the banquet, because Viktor is the one who signed on to deal with Katsudon’s wedding nerves, not Ed.
* * *
YURI’S ANGELS MONTHLY
The monthly newsletter for fans of Yuri “Edward” Plisetsky
Well, it has been a glorious Senior debut for our Ed, and we haven’t even made it to Worlds yet. In this issue, we’ll go over the highlights of the Grand Prix Final, which Ed. WON. Ed won the Grand Prix Final. During his Senior debut. This is a real thing that happened. I was there, and it was amazing. (Details collected by myself and many enterprising Angels on the spot—thank you so much, Angels!—and also by our mysterious President, who was apparently there and deliberately told no one. ~*~*Mysteriously*~*~)
“Every once in a while you get a perfect day.”
Ed is a world record holder, Angels.
He is fifteen years old, this is his Senior debut, and he broke a world record.
And for that program of all programs! His beautiful, moving program based around the theme of his devotion to his loved ones. I don’t know how he can make that any more flawless before Worlds, but this is Ed, so we know he’ll try.
His free skate was also fantastic, and at any other competition would take center stage. How does he keep getting more and more vulnerable and endearing in his short program, but simultaneously so much more terrifying in the free? Mysteries!
“We didn’t get arrested last time! …Technically.”
Speaking of Ed’s loved ones, let’s…let’s just discuss Ed’s relationship with Otabek Altin for a moment, shall we? We’ve known for years that Otabek was close to Ed, though whether that closeness has become romantic or not lately, nobody knows. (Especially not Ed, one feels.) We all know Otabek as a quiet boy, a solid but not outstanding skater, and, if we’ve taken the time to stalk him especially hard, a DJ. So maybe that last thing was surprising, but not the kind of surprising that would lead us to expect a) his surprise bronze at Worlds last season, b) his amazing performance this season, and c) his apparent history of COMMITTING CRIMES WITH ED. And yet? These facts are our new reality?! (Not to mention the thing with the knives. THE THING WITH THE KNIVES.)
Then, too, our mysterious President has this to say about Otabek: “He’s a good boy. Solid. The kind of guy you want at your back in a fight.”
This is like the cage fighting thing all over again.
“I almost have to respect him now, which is making me uncomfortable.”
Oh, JJ Leroy. Thank you for being you. Thank you for not being able to read a room to save your soul. Thank you for your great skating, your resilience, your seemingly genuine kindness, and your total inability to play the mind games you are always trying to play. Thank you, most of all, for bringing out the best/worst in Ed at all times. We Angels salute you.
“I’ll kick his ass for real eventually, but I haven’t done it yet.”
Meanwhile, Ed really respects Katsuki Yuuri, doesn’t he? Here he is, winning his very first Senior GPF (!!!), and still he’s refusing to imply that he’s better than Katsuki. I don’t think we’ve seen him show this much respect for anyone before, not even or perhaps especially not Viktor Nikiforov. They’re going to be such wonderful rivals—both successors of Viktor in a way. Both world record holders. Both deeply, deeply strange people.
Watching Katsuki interact with Ed is intriguing, too. How many people have we seen who become less nervous in the presence of Ed? Off the top of my head, I’m thinking Katsuki, Alexei, and Otabek. They’re the only ones, Angels, unless we count Lilia Baranovskaya, who has probably never been nervous in her life.
Simply braver people than the rest of us.
I’m excited and scared to see how Viktor plays into Ed and Katsuki’s rival dynamic when he’s skating as well as coaching (which, by the way…how?). So much to look forward to, Angels!
“I’m telling you, don’t fuck with Phichit.”
And now an overheard comment from Phichit Chulanont to Ed:
“Hello, hi, oh my god. You are a walking meme, and I love your work so much.”
Phichit Chulanont: one of us. ONE OF US. We’re so proud. And we love his skating! And his Instagram! And his vengeful spirit when his friends are threatened! Angels, we’re adopting him.
“Brother was trying to transmute the rink into diamond.”
Have you all seen the video? THIS VIDEO? In the extremely unlikely event that you haven’t, you must, immediately. Go. We’ll wait.
…Yeah. Still not sure what to make of any of this, Angels. Trolling, insanity, actual alien invaders? Jury’s out. But Phichit did good work helping Ed and Alexei break the internet with that conversation, so once again, bless that boy.
(Alexei, meanwhile, has successfully evaded any Angel attempting to interview him for the third year running. It’s deliberate, Angels. There’s no way it isn’t. Ed has a criminal history and his brother is a ninja. They may both be aliens. These are the facts we’re working with.)
Look forward to Worlds, everyone! Who knows what wild things Ed will have done to amuse us by then?
The answer is no one. Literally no one knows what Ed will do next. That is the beauty of our fandom.
See you next month, Angels!
* * *
“Pack up your shit, Al, we’re moving to Japan,” Ed announces. “I’m thinking six months a year. Definitely over winter. What do you think?”
Ed took a week after the GPF to go back to Moscow with Al and visit Grandpa. Yakov didn’t like it, but that’s never stopped Ed before. Lilia didn’t seem to mind, which is what matters.
“…Does Yakov know about this?” Al asks suspiciously instead of answering the question.
“Yakov’s hair is all falling out because of Viktor already. I’m easing him into this one. Honestly, Grandpa’s gonna be the harder sell. And so is Japan, because Japan’s got buckets of old people already. They’re not gonna like us moving in Grandpa. We may have to smuggle him in.”
“Ed. No more smuggling people. You promised!”
“It’s not like I’d be doing it personally! C’mon, Al, those connections are just sitting there going to waste. I should use them.”
“It would absolutely not be healthy for Grandpa to switch countries every six months! And that’s twice as true if you’re smuggling him in and out. Don’t be more ridiculous than you are already.”
“You are ridiculous. You spend so much time with Viktor you’ve forgotten what normal looks like!”
“You go back to St Petersburg and skate with Viktor and Yuuri, like we planned. I will go to Hasetsu and pick out a house, because I don’t trust you to pick anything livable on your own—”
“Man, you are lashing out today.”
“And then I will visit you all the time when you move there. And maybe I’ll bring Grandpa sometimes, but not too often. You know he doesn’t like flying.”
“Fine,” Ed allows, because the house is the important thing. He’ll talk Al into more when he’s in less of a mood. “Why are you in a mood, anyway?”
At first it seems like Al’s going to deny it, at which point Ed will flip his shit, but eventually he sighs and says, “I’m happy.”
Ed fails to see the problem.
“And you’re happy. It’s been five years, Ed, and we’re happy here. At this point…would we go back home even if we figured out how?”
Oh, well, that’s a bleak as fuck conversation for a pleasant afternoon. “Not until after Grandpa dies, that’s for sure.”
“Yeah, but by the time Grandpa dies, you’ll be married to Otabek.” Al states this like it is just a fact.
“I will not—”
“And we’d have to leave everyone behind. Otabek and Viktor and Mila and Yuuri and Sergei and Yuuko and Lilia and Yakov. Phichit and my advisor and my classmates and the police who helped me find you—”
“But we’d gain back Winry and Teacher and Sig and Granny Pinako…if Granny Pinako’s still alive by the time Grandpa dies—”
Al shuts up. He shuts up, but he looks goddamn miserable about it, so Ed slides down the wall of their room—the room Grandpa gave them in the nice apartment Ed bought for him—and pulls Al down to sit next to him. So they can stare at this room, think about what they have here, think about what they lost by coming here, and math this shit out.
So far, Ed’s only given up on Amestris on his bleakest days. But it’s past time to face the possibility that getting back there might do more harm than good, for one thing, and not even be what they want, for another.
“I want to see Winry and everybody,” Al says in a tiny, helpless voice, like he’s ten years old again. “I want them to know we’re alive.”
“Me too,” Ed admits, probably not sounding much older.
“But I also want to do Earth science and live with Grandpa and see all our friends here.”
Yeah, Ed wants that, too. But one thing he’s damn sure of is that there’s no way to get any of that through the Gate, even if they figured out a way to the Gate. The cost would be crippling—probably literally. Even if they could get their hands on a philosopher’s stone to offset the cost (which they can’t), the Gate showed signs of being irrational and petty in any case.
So fuck it. They’re gonna have to do it the Earth science way. “I wanted to punch a hole in space-time anyway,” Ed murmurs.
Al goes tense beside him. “What.”
“Let’s do both!” Ed decides, jumping up. “Let’s just open a fucking wormhole and jump back and forth between worlds.”
“Ed,” Al says in a quiet, serious tone of voice, like he’s talking to someone who might be dangerously unstable. “We have no idea how to do that. Earth science is probably hundreds of years from knowing how to do that. No one’s even proved that wormholes actually exist.”
“Good thing we’re smart.”
“Even if we could do it, we’d have no idea where our hypothetical wormhole would go. It could go anywhere. Assuming we managed to reach alternate universes, they must be infinite. How would we ever find ours?”
“We’ve gotta be connected to it somehow. There’s gotta be something in us that’s unique to our universe. We just gotta figure out what it is and how to track it.”
“And then open a wormhole—or something—between dimensions.”
“Probably a lot of wormholes.”
Al stares at Ed for a while, then slides sideways down the wall, collapses onto his back on the floor, throws his arm over his eyes, and starts laughing helplessly. For a long time. Maybe a little hysterically.
Sounds like agreement to Ed.
It’s good to finally have their future plans sorted out.
* * *
Today is Yuuri’s first day skating in Russia. He’s a little nervous. Very nervous.
Okay, he’s terrified, and Viktor’s out walking Makkachin one last time before they head to the rink, which means the only person available to panic at is Yurio, who is just. Really unlikely to be sympathetic. But you have to work with the material you’re given.
“Yakov’s going to hate me,” he informs Yurio.
Yurio dramatically rolls his eyes. “No, he’s not, Katsudon. Are you going to listen to me if I tell you why he’s not, or are you gonna keep freaking out no matter what I say until I have to punch you in your stupid, perfect face?”
…Now Yurio’s claiming that Yuuri has a perfect face. As Viktor would say, wow. “I’ll try to listen.”
“Yeah, well, you better fucking listen. Or else,” Yurio says, holding up a demonstrative threatening fist. “You’re gonna be Yakov’s favorite, okay? You don’t even have to do anything special to earn it—all you have to do is be less of a diva asshole than the rest of us. Which you are, just, by nature. You could fuck up every single jump all practice long and then burst into tears and you would still be less annoying than Georgi. Who is less annoying than Viktor.”
“…Where do you rank in all this?” Yuuri asks, still worried, but also a little entertained.
“I’m probably tied with Georgi,” Yurio decides after some consideration. “I have a problem with authority,” he adds, as if this might be news to Yuuri. “Mila’s probably the least annoying of all of us, and even she’s a giant, shameless troll who lives off the suffering of others. Most everybody else falls somewhere between Mila and Georgi. You’re going to be the best one, I’m telling you. You’re a pain in the ass, sure, but you’re not on our level.”
It almost feels like Yuuri should be insulted by that. But that’s Yurio’s way: comforting people by means of insults. It’s his brother who actually knows how to be comforting. “Speaking of people who aren’t annoying, is your brother moving back here, or is he planning to stay in Moscow with your grandfather?”
Yurio looks slightly shifty. “Uh. Usually he switches off between us.”
Of all the things for Yurio to be cagey about, Yuuri wasn’t expecting this to be one. “Usually. But not now?”
“Well.” Yurio makes a determined study of the clouds outside the window. “Right now he’s in Hasetsu.”
“…Why is your brother in my hometown, Yurio?”
“He’s buying a house, I guess.”
He guesses. Yuuri stares in complete bafflement until Yurio stops looking sheepish, starts looking belligerent instead, and snaps, “Shut up. We’re planning for the inevitable moment after you and Viktor get married when you drag him off to Japan with you. You’re not leaving me here with Yakov all alone!”
“Why…How…” Yuuri has so many questions he can’t get traction on any of them. “Why do you think we’ll end up in Japan instead of Russia?” There. That’s a start.
“Because who would put up with these fucking winters if they didn’t have to?” Yurio asks. “No one, that’s who. Not even Viktor’s that dumb. Also you have a real family, but all Viktor has is Yakov. Real family wins. Yakov can just shift his ass to Japan if he wants to see Viktor. Fuck knows he can afford it.”
Yuuri feels there are some flaws in that logic, but fine. “You’re sixteen. Your brother is fifteen. Is it even legal for you to own property?”
Yurio frowns at him in honest confusion. “Does that matter?”
Yuuri sighs and hides his face in his hands. Yurio’s criminal tendencies are so exhausting. He doesn’t want to have to fight legal battles to keep Yurio out of prison. That would be ridiculous, and the press would have a field day. The internet would implode.
On the upside, he’s not worried about skating with Yakov anymore. Leave it to Yurio to put things in perspective.
“Yuuri!” Viktor calls out, walking happily through the door with Makkachin, bright and eager as if they haven’t seen each other for years, rather than the half hour it’s actually been.
Viktor. Viktor will protect him from Yurio’s…everything. Yuuri turns, grabs Viktor’s shirt, and hides his face against Viktor’s shoulder, squashing Makkachin slightly between them before she darts away and tackles Yurio to the floor. Viktor puts a comforting arm around Yuuri’s shoulders.
“Save me,” Yuuri instructs Viktor, ignoring Yurio’s grumbles about death by dog.
“Oh, come on. Save you from what?” Yurio demands indignantly, pushing Makkachin to the side. “I was helping, you ungrateful—hey, stop laughing at me, Nikiforov, because I will break your face with my fist, see if I don’t. Katsudon, you stop laughing, too!”
All things considered, and Yakov-related panic notwithstanding, Yuuri has amazingly few regrets about the past year of his life.
* * *
Roy Mustang opens his eyes after closing them on the whiteness of the Gate, and sees…white. Is he still…?
No. No, this is ice. And he’s getting blood all over it. Hawkeye’s blood, his own blood. Where the hell…?
There are voices raised all around him, shouting, demanding, but in a language he doesn’t know. He tries to stand, but can’t manage it. He looks around, recognizing no one and nothing. This is not ideal. Words are his best weapon, followed by information, with alchemy coming in third and guns coming in fourth, and if he has none of those things—
He snaps, and nothing happens. He claps and slams his hands to the ice, and nothing happens. So it’s true. He’s alone here, and he is all but defenseless.
Before he has time to violently panic, a wild-eyed blond boy skates over to him, ignoring the people calling out to him, and comes to a sharp, proficient stop right in front of Roy, spraying ice into his face. Which feels deliberate, so this is an excellent start. The boy is wearing skin-tight, black clothing, with no obvious place to hide weapons—but he hardly needs them, seeing as he has knives strapped to his feet. Then, too, he looks like the kind of person whose body is itself a weapon. The way Havoc used to be.
“Yo,” he says, looking down at Roy. “You must be confused as fuck.”
And he says it in Amestrian. Thank God, he speaks Amestrian. The boy may be extremely dangerous and a brat besides, but it’s impossible for Roy to feel hostile toward him in view of a common language.
“That is completely accurate,” Roy agrees.
The wild boy grins at him. “Well, good news: the Gate didn’t take any of your body parts. It loves doing that shit, okay? I think it has a fetish. Bad news: you did something that unbalanced the balance of the world, or what the fuck ever, so. The Gate sent you to another world. One where alchemy doesn’t work.”
Roy had, of course, heard some of this from Truth itself. It all seems much more relevant and horrible now that he’s living it.
“How do I get back?” Roy asks immediately. Because that’s all that matters. The rest is a distraction.
“Eyes on the prize, nice,” the boy says approvingly. “But my brother and I have been working on that for five years, and no joy. Feel free to help out, though. We can put you up in the meantime, fake you an ID. All us aliens together, right? Grandpa should love that. You’re gonna have to learn a new language or two, though, and then get your ass a job to pay your way, so be ready for that. Equivalent exchange.”
Five years ago. Dangerously illegal alchemy, a blood-soaked array in an empty house, photographs of two golden-eyed, smiling children. Children he’d been certain were dead. “Edward and Alphonse Elric,” Roy realizes, incredulous.
“Ha! Wow, it’s been a while since I heard my actual name. Why do you even know my name? No, never mind, I think I can guess. Bet we’re some kind of cautionary tale for alchemists, huh?”
“I saw your house,” Roy informs him.
Elric abruptly loses every hint of friendliness. “Oh? And what the fuck were you doing at our house?”
“I…” God, that feels like a lifetime ago. “There was a mistake in your documents. You two were listed as being adults, so I was going to recruit you.”
“Huh.” Elric looks briefly distant, picturing an alternate life and not, apparently, finding the vision pleasing. “Weird. Yeah, I’m Edward Elric, and my brother’s Alphonse—he’s sitting over there in the—nope, he’s coming down here now. Anyway. Nice to meet you…?”
“Colonel Roy Mustang, State Alchemist.”
“Figured you for a dog of the military.” Elric makes a face. “Great.”
“Yes, well, we all have our flaws,” Roy snaps impatiently, though he ought to know better than to antagonize his only hope of aid. He’s having a difficult day. “Who are these people?”
Two men have skated up behind Elric, and a boy has walked hesitantly onto the ice to stand beside them. All three are watching Roy with varying levels of bafflement, but the boy is the only one whose eyes promise potential violence. That must be Alphonse. As for the men, for all that this is apparently a different world, one of them looks surprisingly Xingian, and the other surprisingly Drachman. This is useful. It means Roy won’t stand out.
Both men also look frankly appalled by Roy and everything to do with him, which is a little insulting. In terms of threat level, though, they are nothing to the quiet, steady menace of Alphonse, or the barely contained wildfire that is Edward.
“Oh,” Elric says, glancing back at them. “This is my brother, Alphonse.” Alphonse nods to Roy, losing none of his slightly hostile wariness. “Me and Al were the only Amestrians in this world up until you, which means the other guys are actually from here, and…yeah, there’s no alchemy here, and you just fell out of the Gate right in front of them. They’re freaking out. But the guy with the dark hair is Yuuri, and the other one is Viktor. Friends of ours. I’m gonna have to answer a thousand uncomfortable questions from them because of you, so thanks for nothing.”
It is perhaps fortunate that Roy has temporarily lost the ability to transmute fire. “Elric. I need to get back to Amestris quickly.”
Edward Elric has a distinctly unnerving stare. “Oh yeah? Well maybe you shouldn’t have done human transmutation, then, because the party’s definitely gonna be over by the time you get back. Like, I get why you’d do it. I get why. But it’s a sin, and the thing about atoning for sins is that you’re not supposed to enjoy it.”
“Brother,” Alphonse sighs, chiding, though he doesn’t look away from Roy for a second.
Roy has been trying not to wonder what the Elric brothers’ lives were like when they first landed in this strange world as children who knew nothing about the place, not even the language. Children who had lost everything, from their parents to their home to their alchemy. But every comment they make forces him to think about it.
“Welcome to Earth, Colonel Roy Mustang,” Edward says with a horrible grin. “You’re gonna hate it here.”