They hadn't won. She'd risked everything, only to fail once again. She'd skated the best performance of her life, but they still hadn't been able to snag the elusive gold medal she felt like she'd been chasing half her life.
She'd had talent. She'd had discipline. She'd had more discipline than she'd known what to do with and had channeled it all into skating and practice, spending long hours at the rink until her feet were bruised and bloody and still she'd skated because she didn't know what else to do. She was an Olympian before she'd ever tried for the team. It was her destiny and she was going to have a gold medal.
She'd had talent and she'd had discipline, but she had never managed to have passion.
And it still hadn't been enough.
Their illegal move had resulted in docked points from their technical score while simultaneously earning them a perfect artistic score. They'd lost the gold but had still landed on the podium.
Despite the loss, Kate didn't regret including it in the program. She'd trusted Doug, trusted herself, she'd let go and she had flown, so, no, she couldn't regret the decision.
"They look like umbrellas." Doug probably thought that he was being quiet, but his version of quiet was still loud enough to be heard a couple feet away and there were people there that had glanced over at his words.
"Shut up," Kate hissed at him automatically, but there was laughter in her voice and her fingers tightened around his.
"Or maybe bugs," Doug continued on undaunted. "Look at those hats."
Kate didn't reply that time, choosing to simply land the sharp point of her elbow against his ribs as she applauded politely for the medal presenter.
Smilkov and Brushkin took their victory lap as Kate watched them with no small amount of envy, before climbing onto the podium.
She could handle envy. She'd been bitter about Calgary because they'd messed up, they could have won but didn't because of a fall. This time, she didn't have that pain. She and Doug had had a fantastic skate. Smilkov and Brushkin had had a better one. That's just all there was to it.
Silver medal was announced, followed by Moseley and Dorsey, and she and Doug took to the ice. Kate wished she could fly again, but knew that this wasn't the time. Maybe once she was back home.
She couldn't help but smile when she realized that the crowd had cheered louder for her and Doug than for Smilkov and Brushkin. Majumdar, the IOC official that was putting their medals around their necks, smiled at her, his teeth white against wrinkled brown skin. "You were the crowd favourite. They were disappointed you didn't win." His smile stretched a little wider. "You were my favourite, as well," he confided before stepping away.
The bronze medalists were announced, another Russian pair, and Kate made sure she looked like the ice princess she had always been reported to be, calm and decorous, not clapping, because she was on the podium, but smiling as she was supposed to. She'd forgotten to coach Doug on proper podium behavior, because he was grinning like a loon. Thank God he'd had sense enough not to clap; if he'd started, she would have had no choice but to tell him to keep clapping until the cheering was over, but either he'd realized the podium wasn't the place, or they were their competitors, and his hands had stayed where they were, one by his side and one around her arm.
The Olympic hymn started playing, and Doug gave the barest of winces. "That's got to be hard." He was quieter than he'd been before, but Doug really didn't do quiet very well.
Rather than admonish him again, Kate simply asked "What is?" She was curious, after all.
He nodded at Smilkov and Brushkin, who were standing and looking straight ahead, giving no indication of whether or not they knew that Doug was talking about them. "That. It's one thing to not hear your anthem because you came in second, but to win amd still not hear it..."
Kate couldn't stop her own wince. "Yeah," she breathed the word out. "But at least they have a flag."
Doug nodded up at the flags. "So do we. And next time, we'll get to hear our anthem."
Her fingers tightened on his again, and she smiled up at him. "Promise?"
"I promise. Want me to seal the promise with a kiss?" He gave her a lazy smile.
"Not here. Neanderthal. But later, I'll take that kiss."
But neither Kate nor Doug were at the 1994 Olympics. Kate was on bed rest because of a difficult pregnancy, her fingers too swollen for her to wear the simple gold wedding band so she kept it on her bedside table. She'd told Doug that he could find another skating partner and try to go to the Olympics with that girl, and Doug had just given her his "you are out of your damn mind but I love you anyway" look (she got that look from him a lot, but she rather liked it) and told her "You are the only person I ever want to skate with".
Truth be told, she was glad he hadn't taken her up on the offer, because she'd feel like he was cheating in her. Their relationship had started on the ice. They'd skated with other people before, him with his teams, and her with Brian, but they'd only skated with each other since they'd started skating together. She couldn't imagine skating with anyone else, molding her body to fit next to someone else's, trusting someone else to hold her and not drop her. She didn't want to do those things with someone else.
If he'd accepted her offer, obviously, Kate couldn't have been mad at him for it, but she loved him for turning her down.
They watched the Olympics on TV from their bed together. Kate was enchanted by little Oksana Baiul along with the rest of the world and cried when she won. Doug had learned to not be alarmed when she cried anymore (he'd stopped being alarmed the day he found her sobbing over a broken lightbulb once he'd made sure she hadn't cut herself) and simply cuddled her close against him.
"We'll be there in 1998," he promised her, kissing her forehead. "We're going to get that gold medal, and our daughter will be right there with us, cheering us on. She'll have your hair and your eyes, but hopefully my sense of humour. But she'll have your determination. The best of both of us, which means she'll be getting more from you than from me."
Kate gave a sniffly little laugh, curling her body against his, his hand going to the swell of her stomach and her hand resting on top of his.
A week later, she went into labour two months early. She couldn't watch the Olympics when she was worried about little Jackie. Doug stayed with her constantly, and Kate was simultaneously glad for it and frustrated that she didn't get alone time. She was more glad than frustrated, though, and she spent a lot of time sitting next to him, the line of her leg pressed against his.
It was enough. It was everything.
Kate was teaching Jackie how to skate. Jackie was almost four, and only a little younger than Kate had been when she started learning. Sometimes Doug helped teach, sometimes he didn't. Kate was careful to try to share something she loved with her daughter without pushing her, even unconsciously, to follow in her footsteps.
This was one of the days that Doug joined her. "Do you want to go to the Olympics again, or do you want to retire?"
Kate looked at him. "Do you think we can really win, or would we just be has-beens?"
"We can win. We're still skating strong. We can get our programs together and make them the best we've ever had. We can do this, Kate." He held her hand and looked her straight in the eyes, trying to give her some of his own belief in them.
Kate found herself nodding. "Let's do it, then." She didn't have quite the same faith in them that Doug did, but she knew he was right: they were still as strong as they'd ever been.
So they started training again, to be ready for the US Nationals and then Japan. They'd thought about petitioning onto the team, but Doug pointed out that they did better in the clutch, especially if they were performing for a crowd. Kate agreed with him, and that was the end of the discussion.
She'd forgotten, however, how infuriatingly relaxed Doug could be about training. While she was winding tighter and tighter, he was enjoying himself.
Before things hit a head and she exploded on him, Doug grabbed her hands and spun around with her. "Skate with me."
"I am," she responded through gritted teeth.
"No, you're not. You're going through the motions. Skating against me. Don't do that." Doug started pulling her along. "Come on. Just skate with me."
Kate followed him, trying to think how to get them back on track. But Doug had other ideas, and would spin her around or lift her up before she could. "We're going to go to the Olympics and this time, we're coming home with gold. I know it. You just need to know it, too. So stop obsessing and look at this as recess. Skating is supposed to be fun and you're treating it like you used to. Like it's something for you to just get through." Doug pulled her into a lazy spin and kissed her softly. "So let's have fun with it."
It didn't fix everything. Kate was an uptight planner, and she knew it, while Doug was more a fly by the seat of his pants person. But Kate was able to relax more after that.
All the creative control that Doug had wanted the first time around and hadn't gotten, Kate was more than willing to give to him this time. A lot had changed in the skating world in six years, and the traditionalism that she'd been raised on wasn't as important as it used to be. It was Doug that came up with the concept of their routine, presenting it as "leather and lace".
"Think about it," he enthused. "You can be the traditional ice skater and I can be the rebel that's trying to get you to do new things. We can play ourselves as everyone thinks we are! It'll be a lot of fun, and people will love the story."
Kate couldn't argue, and truthfully, she quite liked the concept, though she'd insisted that Doug's character should also learn the value of tradition, and that way it could be a good blend of their personalities.
They worked on their routine, making it fluid and streamlined. Kate turned into a drill sergeant, making the two of them go over their routine over and over and over and over again. Doug would roll his eyes but acquiesced without complaint, until he'd had enough for the day and would "kidnap her for fun skate time".
Kate didn't actually get to see Doug's costume before Nationals. He wouldn't let her. All she knew was that it had some leather. Doug had insisted that her costume be lace and satin in pastel pink, and Kate was pretty sure it was to contrast his costume; obviously, he wouldn't be in red because then she wouldn't be in pink, so it was probably black leather.
Finally, it was go time, and Kate was so nervous she felt like she was going to throw up. Doug didn't look much better, but at least he wasn't actually throwing up this time. Kate would take that progress. Their short program was solid, but not really flashy. The short program was usually seen as something to get through, while the long program was to really let the skaters shine. The scores that Kate and Doug received reflected that; they weren't leading the pack, but they were still in good standing for the next day. The goal of the day wasn't to prove that they were the best short programmers, but that they were solid and dependable. Or, at least, that's what Doug told her when Kate was obsessing over the scores.
"Come on, Kate, you know as well as I do that anything can happen during a long program. Like getting tangled up in lederhosen." Doug managed to not smile, but Kate could see it peeking at the corners of his mouth and Kate couldn't help but relax next to him.
Kate insisted that they go to sleep early, so they could be well-rested for the long program. She especially didn't want either of them drunk or hungover. That would be a few too many shades of repetition than she wanted.
Their long program was different than most. In a lot of ways, it was almost like two solos happening simultaneously, with portions done side by side. Doug had wanted to show up on a motorcycle, but Kate had put her foot down for that. No. Very much no. Not least of which because she was pretty sure it wasn't allowed.
She'd been wrong about his costume, though. It was a dark blue that was almost black, and it was a combination of leather and denim. It worked, though, especially against Kate's innocent pink. They got the scores she felt like they deserved, and that fast, they became the favourites for Olympic Gold. Sure, the Russians were considered a lock (what else was new?) but the pair that seemingly everyone wanted to win was Moseley and Dorsey. Kate had kept her maiden name for skating, because her entire life she'd been skating as Kate Moseley and she'd always pictured herself getting Olympic Gold as Kate Moseley. Doug had seemed to understand without her even having to explain.
If Kate had been obsessive before Nationals, it was nothing compared to the lead up to the Olympics. Doug wouldn't let her change the long program, but he did agree to a new short. Kate obsessed over every movement, worrying that they wouldn't be good enough. She didn't get into screaming matches with their coach, but that was only because she was Kate Moseley, even if she was now Kate Dorsey, and neither Kate Moseley nor Kate Dorsey screamed. She argued and then treated their coach to icy silence while her body performed the moves to perfection. Doug had to shake her out of it, reminding her that that's not how she skated anymore.
Before Doug, Kate skated cleanly and near perfectly, but she'd never learned how to connect, not with Brian and not with the audience and not with the judges. Doug, on the other hand, connected with people so easily it used to make Kate want to scream. He could make people root for him without even knowing him. Kate was icy perfection, untouchable and unattainable. Doug was relateable and everyone's buddy. Doug had taught Kate that it was okay to mess up, as long as it was because you were pushing yourself to your limits. Kate didn't know what she'd taught Doug. It certainly wasn't anything that changed him; Doug had remained utterly the same since they'd started dating, and Kate wouldn't want him any other way.
Though it would be nice if he could leave the toilet seat down.
The Olympics dawned, and Kate was tied in knots. Doug seemed to be taking it in stride and was nowhere near as green as he usually was before competition. When Kate asked him about it, Doug just shrugged. "We're on familiar ice now. We're already Olympic medalists. All that's left is to get you the gold now. It's a lot less pressure."
Kate wished she could see it his way. She wanted to chew her nails down to the quick, but, of course, she didn't, because that would show weakness. She'd gotten a lot better at letting Doug into the workings of her mind and how she was feeling, but she still wasn't good at showing imperfections to anyone else.
Their new short program was well received, though Kate still felt like there was something missing. They were in fifth place, which wasn't a bad set up before the long program, but Kate still wished they were sitting pretty in the top three. Doug rubbed her back and whispered reassurements in her ear, and Kate managed to give him a small smile.
Finally, the day of the long program dawned. Kate fussed with her hair, braiding it into a bun over and over again until it was perfect. Doug just left her to it, knowing that if she wasn't obsessing over her hair, she'd be focusing on something else to nitpick.
The point of their long program was to take how people perceived them and make those personalities larger. For Kate, it meant wearing the Ice Princess persona, haughty, cool, and utterly above everyone. For Doug, it meant rebelling with a smile, making everyone fall in love with them.
Before they struck their opening poses, Doug squeezed her hand. "Let's have fun with this, Princess. It's time for you to fly again."
They skated their hearts out and Kate felt like everything in the last seven years had been leading up'to this. If they didn't get gold, it wouldn't be because of anything Doug and Kate hadn't done or should have done.
And then it was just a matter of waiting for scores.
While they waited for the other four couples to skate and get their scores, Kate had a death grip on Doug's arm. She kept loosening her hold, only to realize a few moments later that her fingernails were digging into Doug's arm, but he never complained.
One couple fell. Kate managed to not show her pleasure at that. She felt bad for them, of course, having been there herself, but it was a gain for her, so she couldn't feel too bad. Another blew their side by side triple lutzes, the male turning his into a double.
And so it went, until it was the Russians' turn, this cycle's version of Smilkov and Brushkin. They did extremely well, but there were some small mistakes. The only question was whether or not the lost points would be enough for Kate and Doug to win or not.
When the last judge's score flashed and Kate knew what the results were, she actually screamed, throwing her arms around Doug and hugging him tight.
"I told you we'd do it, Princess," he laughed in her ear, kissing the top of her head. "We got you that medal."
Kate kissed him hard. It wasn't their first Olympics and they were married now, and Kate was going to kiss her husband after they'd just won an Olympic gold medal. To hell with propriety. "We did it," she exulted. "We actually did it!"
When it was time to take their victory lap, Kate felt like she was flying again.