Yuuri Katsuki was twelve when he presented as an Alpha, to the shock of his family and everyone who knew him. They had fully expected Yuuri to be a Beta like his father, or if anything, an Omega like the mother he took after.
“Well,” his mom said with a thoughtful hum as the nurse approached Yuuri with a distressingly large needle, “our family tree is littered with early bloomers.”
“That’s true, that’s true,” his dad agreed genially. “When I married into the family your grandfather wouldn’t stop telling me all about the time your grandmother made a dozen people kneel when she was only eleven. Isn’t that right, Mom?”
Yuuri missed his mother’s reply as he whimpered and turned his face away while the nurse drew his blood. “There, there,” she said, smelling strongly of rubbing alcohol and soap. “An Alpha shouldn’t be afraid of a needle, right?” Yuuri scowled and bit his lip hard. “All done!” she chirped and put a plaster on his arm.
“The blood test isn’t really necessary,” Dr. Yamada kindly reassured them later as Yuuri leaned against his mother’s side, irritable and wishing that this entire week was just a bad dream. “Just following procedure, but Yuuri-kun here is a pretty cut and dry case even though he is presenting a little earlier than usual. I’ll update his medical files and register him as an Alpha-Dominant with the NRO. You’ll get a call from them later this week to confirm the presentation and to schedule his control classes, and that will be that!” He turned to Yuuri with a smile. “Congratulations, young man. You’re an Alpha! How does it feel? Are you excited?”
Yuuri, who for the past four days had suffered from presentation fever and chills and had to miss school and ballet and skating— “No!” the little boy snapped, finally fed up with it all. “I don’t want to be an Alpha and I think this is all stupid and I don’t want to be sick and I want to go skate so you can just go away!”
And when Dr. Yamada—who had been Yuuri’s pediatrician since he was a baby and who Yuuri actually really liked because he gave the best lollipops ever—fell from his chair, eyes blank and glazed over from the strength of Yuuri’s push, his forced compulsion tasting like burnt sugar in his mind, so horrible and suffocating Yuuri threw up, it cemented in Yuuri’s mind that being an Alpha was the worst thing to have ever happened to him.
“So, what’s it like, being an Alpha?” Yuuko asked.
Yuuri looked away, brow wrinkled as he focused on tying his laces. It was the first time she’d seen him in weeks, all his free time lately taken by mandatory classes and home training on how to control his dominance. “I don’t like it,” he said quietly.
“Oh,” Yuuko’s voice was soft with sympathy. Yuuri didn’t really change much since becoming an Alpha. She thought maybe it was because she herself hadn’t presented yet, or was probably a Beta like her parents, but she couldn’t sense anything like dominance from him. If anything Yuuri seemed more shy and closed in on himself than he was before. “Do you still have to go to those classes?”
Yuuri only shook his head, head still bowed. She exchanged a worried look with Takeshi. There had been some bullying incidents that she and he had stopped back when they were all in the same middle school.
“Well whatever,” Takeshi declared loudly. “I don’t care if you are an Alpha or what, you’re still chubby little Yuuri to me!”
“Takeshi!” Yuuko scolded, but Yuuri only looked at him with wide and grateful eyes.
“Yeah!” Takeshi snorted. “And I’ll whap anyone who makes a big deal of it.”
“Okay.” He was smiling a little now. “Can we go skate now?”
“Yeah, let’s go!” Yuuko grinned, heart warm as she watched Takeshi sling an arm over Yuuri’s shoulders. Two and a half hours later Yuuri was more like himself, sweetly happy and pink cheeked as they started taking off their skates. “Yuuri-kun, you know you can tell us anything, right? Me and Takeshi, we’re here for you.”
“Thanks Yu-chan,” Yuuri said, fiddling with his jacket zipper. Then he blurted out, “It’s just… I really, really wish I wasn’t like this! I don’t want to be an Alpha and I don’t want to tell people what to do and everyone keeps telling me I’m lucky but I hate it.”
“You don’t have to tell people what to do—“
“But that’s what all the kids in the class said!” Yuuri said, all worked up now. “They said that if I’m not strong and brave and tell people what to do then I’m a bad Alpha. They said that there must have been a mistake because I’m so little and, and…”
“Yuuri-kun…” Yuuko didn’t know what to say and Takeshi looked just as lost as she was. She wished she knew how to make Yuuri feel better… “Oh! You missed it because you were busy with your extra classes, but look at this!” She went to the TV and turned it on to the recording she had made last week, a figure skater with long silver hair, wearing an elegant black costume, filled the screen as he performed in front of a packed and cheering audience. “He’s Russia’s Victor Nikiforov, and he just won the gold in the Junior Worlds with the highest score in history!”
Yuuri, who loved anything related to figure skating, stared rapt at the TV, eyes wide as saucers behind his glasses. “Wow…”
“And you know what? He’s an Omega.” Yuuko revealed delightedly.
Yuuri gasped. “Really?”
“Yup! He’s sooo cool! He beat all the other Alphas in the competition, even though everyone said he wouldn’t be able to do it because he’s an Omega.” Yuuko smiled at Yuuri’s expression; he was so focused on the screen he’d stopped breathing. “Isn’t he awesome?”
“Yeah,” Yuuri said, shining eyes glued to the screen. “Yeah, he is,” he whispered, awed.
Yuuko smiled, glad she was able to cheer Yuuri up.
That woman was here again. Yuuri knew it as soon as he came back from the rink and walked inside his house. She had long dark hair, a calm manner, and smelled like an ordinary Beta, but Yuuri still didn’t like her. Something about her just rubbed him the wrong way.
Her name was Nagisa Doumeki, and she was from the Nature Registration Office.
“Yuuri, welcome home,” his mom greeted him with a smile. “Doumeki-san is here to visit you.”
“I’m home,” Yuuri mumbled, dropping his backpack on the floor and sitting across from Doumeki, who had an empty bowl of what had been katsudon in front of her. Yuuri could tell by the smell. “Hello, Doumeki-san.”
“Yuuri-kun, it’s good to see you,” she said in a soft, pleasant voice. “How have you been?”
Yuuri hunched his shoulders. “Okay.” He had wanted to go straight to his room and look up everything that he could about Victor Nikiforov on the internet, but he wasn’t about to do that with her in his territory. “Why are you here? I finished all my classes already.”
“Yuuri!” his mom scolded, but she sounded more surprised than angry.
“It’s okay, Katsuki-san,” Doumeki said, “Actually, I came here to talk about the classes. Did you like them?” And when Yuuri said nothing, “Did you hate them?”
Yuuri was silent, sullenly staring at his hands.
“As I told you before, the classes are mandatory for all newly presented Alphas,” she continued as if he’d answered her. “They teach the basics of what their nature is, and how to conduct themselves properly in society in their day to day lives.” Yuuri didn’t know why she was talking about it, he already knew this stuff. “That’s what the classes are, at the surface.”
“At the surface?” he asked, curious in spite of himself.
Doumeki smiled at him. “Their real purpose is to accurately rate the dominance levels of the students. Yuuri-kun, you scored the highest in your class. In fact, you’re in the top 10% among all Alphas in the country.”
“…I am?” He looked at her, then his mom. “I don’t understand.”
Doumeki hummed a little. “Perhaps it’s best to show you.”
Then, it was as if a lake had appeared right in the middle of the room. Yuuri felt like he had fallen, was submerged in cold water: a mental pressure strong enough to drown him. He struggled against it, something deep inside him instinctively rebelling against the threat, the presumption of this outsider. How dare she think he was weak. That he wasn’t strong enough to fight.
He finally broke through the surface of her push only to hear his mother make a small sound, sitting frozen where she was. Then he was between her and the threat, worry and fear and anger and something else, something he didn’t have a name for, welling up fast inside him as he looked at the other Alpha straight in the eye—and shoved.
Doumeki blinked, looked down, and the pressure was gone, disappeared like it had never been there. Yuuri collapsed to his knees, gasping, hands shaking and forehead beaded with sweat. “Mom? Mom, are you okay?” he asked, voice high and strained. That had been so scary!
“Yes, I was only a bit surprised there.” Then she looked at Doumeki and said, “Oh dear, I see what you mean.”
“What—what’s going on?” Yuuri cried. “I don’t understand!”
“Yuuri,” his mom said kindly, wiping his tears away and hugging him. “This means you’re a very strong boy, and really take after my side of the family!”
“I’m very sorry for scaring you, Yuuri-kun, and for my rudeness in your home.” Yuuri looked over to see Doumeki’s head bowed. He blinked, suddenly feeling less prickly and angry toward her, and also less uncertain. He stopped crying. She raised her head and smiled at him. “Do you feel better now?”
“Um, yeah… what did you do?”
She laughed a little. “It’s not what I did, but what you did. You didn’t like me in your home because you unconsciously knew I was a very strong Alpha, like you. You automatically saw me as a threat,” she explained. “But just now you protected your territory against me and since I acknowledged you as the Alpha here, you don’t see me as an enemy anymore.”
“Oh,” Yuuri said, frowning as he thought. “But you don’t smell like an Alpha at all!”
“I use soaps and lotions to neutralize my scent. It makes it easier in my job to deal with newly presented Alphas if I don’t smell like competition. Normally, that is,” she said with a shrug. “You’re strong enough that a trick like that won’t work on you.”
Yuuri fidgeted, a bit flustered. He wasn’t used to being told he was strong. Usually it was the opposite.
“Now we can move forward and discuss your future, Yuuri-kun,” his mom said cheerfully.
“Huh? My future?”
“Yes,” Doumeki said. “Because you have such a high rating, you automatically qualify to a, well I guess you can think of it as a scholarship. Part of the NRO’s job is to make sure that powerful Alphas like you have the necessary resources and support to succeed in their chosen paths in life. I know you’re a little young, but I don’t think it’s too early for you to consider what you want to do—“
“Figure skating!” Yuuri blurted out.
Doumeki and his mom blinked. “You don’t have to make a decision now,” she began, but Yuuri interrupted her again.
“I already know what I want to be,” Yuuri declared, voice ringing with conviction. “I want to be a professional figure skater.”
“Well, if you’re sure…”
“Yes, I’m sure.”
She considered him for a long moment. Yuuri didn’t look away and kept his eyes directly on hers. “I guess you are,” she finally agreed with a smile.
“Mom, can I?” Yuuri implored his mother.
“Well…” she wavered, then turned to Doumeki. “Doumeki-san, is that all right?” she asked, sounding a bit concerned.
After a short pause she said, “It’s not unusual for Alphas to go into professional sports."
Yuuri grabbed his mom’s hands. “Please, Mom. Please let me!”
“…All right,” she said, smiling. “You know your father and I will support you in whatever you choose, Yuuri.”
“Thank you!” He hugged his mom joyfully. He still hated being an Alpha, but if it meant that he could become a professional figure skater, then he guessed it couldn’t be all that bad.
Doumeki pulled out her phone. “I’ll start making arrangements. I hope you’re ready to work hard, Yuuri-kun.”
Yuuri nodded vigorously. “Yes, I’ll work very hard! This is the best,” he said excitedly. “Today Yu-chan told me all about this amazing figure skater, Victor Nikiforov. And now I can become just like him! What a coincidence!”
“I see…” Doumeki said slowly, then she smiled. Yuuri blinked. There was something mysterious and otherworldly about her, just then. “It’s not a coincidence, Yuuri-kun. It’s hitsuzen.”
Three Years Later
Celestino Cialdini sat in the bleachers and ignored the noise from the rink below him, of the skaters practicing and the occasional shouted instruction from their respective coaches, and considered again the contents of the email he had up on his phone.
He skimmed the CV quickly: trained in ballet and a variety of other dance disciplines, in the last three years gained a lot of experience with varying degrees of success in the domestic Novice and Junior circuit, but to date hasn’t participated in an international event.
Celestino tapped the screen of his phone thoughtfully. He had already agreed to take him on this season, but…
“Um, Mr. Cialdini?”
Celestino turned. Yuuri Katsuki stood on the aisle, a slim, pretty, brown-haired woman a step behind him. It seemed his smile was just as shy in person as it was in his photo.
“Yes, that’s me,” Celestino said, standing up to shake the kid’s hand. He had a surprisingly strong grip for such a thin, little guy. “Ciao ciao! You must be Yuuri Katsuki. Welcome to Detroit! I saw your videos, they were very good! You show a lot of promise.”
“Thank you, sir,” he said, fidgeting. “Uh, this is Minako Okukawa.”
Celestino shook her hand and exchanged greetings. “Okukawa… that sounds familiar.”
Minako laughed, a gregarious, engaging sound. “Maybe from my old touring days.”
“Ah!” Celestino said, remembering. “With the American Ballet Theatre, wasn’t it?”
She looked pleased. “You have a good memory! That was a very long time ago.”
Celestino laughed. “Surely not,” he said, then connected the dots. “So, you are the source of young Yuuri’s excellent ballet skills.”
“Yes, Minako-sensei is my ballet instructor and dance coach,” Yuuri said warmly. “You noticed?”
“Of course! All your programs scream ‘ballet!’ I look forward to seeing what we can do with such a strong foundation.”
The kid nervously pushed up his glasses. “Um, thank you for taking me on, Mr. Cialdini.”
“Please call me Ciao Ciao, everyone does.” Minako chuckled but Yuuri only blinked owlishly at him. “Or Celestino, or Coach if you prefer,” he continues affably. “Now, first things first. Go ahead and show me what you can do.”
“Yes, Coach.” Yuuri nodded firmly, spine straightening up with grace. Celestino raised his brows. All of a sudden Yuuri Katsuki didn’t look so small and nervy.
“When it comes to figure skating, Yuuri becomes almost like a different person,” Minako said conversationally as they watched him stretch by the boards, voice ringing with clear pride for her charge.
“So I see,” Celestino said. “I saw his last programs. He got silver with them at the Japan Junior Nationals, didn’t he? He’s got the necessary skills to compete at the ISU level already, so…”
“So why hasn’t he?” Minako said, taking a seat. Celestino joined her, but kept his eyes on Yuuri as he put on his skates.
“There are a lot of reasons,” Minako began. Celestino listened carefully even as he watched his newest student step onto the ice, his strides sure and his posture upright. He had specifically scheduled their first meeting today when he had no other students so he could focus entirely on him. “There’s school, of course. And, since he was so young when he presented, it was best to stay near his family for a year or so.”
“Ah. I thought that was a typo,” Celestino said. “So he’s really an Alpha? I couldn’t tell.”
“He is,” was all Minako said. On the ice Yuuri began what Celestino recognized as the step sequence for his Burgmuller free skate. He leaned forward; either Yuuri was a lot better in person, or he had improved since the video was taken. “But the real reason is because he doesn’t want to just compete in the Junior Grand Prix. He wants to win it.”
Yuuri jumped, and nailed a double toe loop, double axel combination clean.
Celestino grinned, delighted. This was going to be a more interesting season than he thought.
Minako thought that after she retired from performing and came back to Hasetsu to settle down permanently that her days of traveling for work were over. And yet here she was in an airy two-bedroom apartment in Detroit in the middle of January, surrounded by half-unpacked boxes of her and Yuuri’s things.
“Eep!” Yuuri squeaked. “Uh, I think I found your, um,” he shoved an open box at her, lacy frilly things spilling out of it. “This is yours!” His face was a solid bright red.
Minako laughed and took the box from him. “Here, I found your treasures,” she said, handing him a large cardboard tube, carefully sealed, which she knew from experience was full of Victor Nikiforov posters.
“Thank you,” Yuuri said, still slightly blushing.
“So,” Minako began, “how do you like your new school?”
Yuuri shrugged. “It’s okay. The classes are a lot easier than back home.”
Minako hummed and looked thoughtfully at him. Yuuri was smart, and did well enough in his classes, but she knew his main priority by far was his skating. She was surprised that he had chosen to transfer in the middle of the school year rather than wait until the new one started, but he said he didn’t want to graduate high school any later than he had to, and if transferring meant he could graduate sooner then all the better. So he had enrolled as a sophomore and was somehow admitted as such.
“You must look really young compared to your new classmates.” Although he was an Alpha, Yuuri had not gone through his growth spurt yet and would likely not be very tall, even after he was done growing. His slight frame, combined with an innocently sweet face, made him look younger than he was.
“I get mistaken for a freshman a lot,” Yuuri confessed. “And once a teacher actually thought I was a middle school student who had gotten lost.”
“But no one’s bothering you, right?” Minako couldn’t help but ask. No matter what, Yuuri was still just a kid, and she couldn’t help but worry about him.
“Don’t worry, Minako-sensei. I can take care of myself,” he said with a small smile. Minako blinked. Sometimes even she forgot what Yuuri was. He used special soaps and lotions to soften his scent almost to the point of neutralizing it, and was so shy and gentle that it was easy to forget that he was probably the strongest Alpha that she’d ever met.
She had been as shocked as everyone when Yuuri presented as an Alpha three years ago. She was even more surprised when a few months later someone from the NRO approached her with a job offer to be Yuuri’s personal full time dance coach and manager, to travel with him for training and competitions. She had been of two minds to accept it, but the salary offered was very good and when Yuuri himself had asked her, nervously fidgeting the whole time… well, naturally she couldn’t refuse.
She didn’t regret her decision of giving up her studio even now, three years later and living so far from home again, but sometimes she thought she would have been just as happy to simply be Yuuri’s fan, cheering him on from the stands instead of by the boards. Well, at least this way she got to meet a lot of fit and handsome professional figure skaters…
“Minako-sensei, it’s not good to be thinking of weird things,” Yuuri said, voice flat.
“Yuuri-chan,” she teased, tackling him and ruffling his hair while he struggled against her, “you’re still such a child aren’t you? Don’t worry, you’ll understand soon enough, hahaha!”
Then the two of them yelled simultaneously as Vicchan, who had been napping quietly in a corner all this while, finally woke up and decided it must be play time, jumping all over them and officially making a mess of everything.
“Jim, Cathy, this is Yuuri Katsuki, and he’ll be your new rink mate from now on.” Yuuri tried not to look too nervous as Celestino introduced him to two skaters, his other students. “He’s come all this way from Japan to train with us, so give him a warm welcome, okay?” Yuuri smiled wanly at their curious looks. With the exception of while he was skating, he was never comfortable being the center of attention.
“But Ciao Ciao,” the girl said, an Omega with short purple hair. “I thought you didn’t take on Novices.”
Yuuri flushed with embarrassment even as Celestino corrected her. “No, no, Cathy. Yuuri here is fifteen and he is already confirmed to be Japan’s one and only men’s singles entry in the next JGP.” He slapped Yuuri in the back, making him stumble forward in his blade guards. And now they were looking at him even more closely.
“Wow,” said Jim, a Beta who had to be in university already, Yuuri thought, based on the amount of facial hair alone.
“Yuuri, Cathy and Jim will be competing in the senior divisions this year. And now that you all know each other…” He spent the next few minutes going over what he wanted them to work on. “You three go out there and make me look good in front of the other coaches!”
Yuuri hung back as Jim entered the rink, but Cathy stayed with him. “So, Yuuri, right? What jumps can you do?” she asked as she leaned into his space, and he knew it was so she could figure out his nature.
“All the doubles—“
“Of course,” she waved a hand airily in dismissal.
“Um, and I’m working on the triple axel and toe loop right now.”
“Oh those are my favorites! Want me to help you with them?” she said. Then, with a glance at him, “Ah, but you probably don’t want to get help from an Omega, right?”
“No, that would be—I’d appreciate it.” He smiled, she blinked in surprise, and then he looked back at Celestino who was watching them. “But doesn’t Coach Celestino teach us all our jumps?“
“What are you two doing standing around?” Celestino called out.
“Flirting!” Jim yelled back without missing a beat. Yuuri startled, face red, but Cathy only flipped Jim off and stepped onto the ice.
“Yeah, but we can help each other during our own practice time.” She waited for him to get in the rink. “You’re cool, Yuuri. We’ll chat more later,” she said with a wink before skating off and away.
Yuuri watched her for a moment before furrowing his brow. Can he really do this? He looked back to the bleachers, past Celestino, to see Minako sniggering at him. He sighed.
People were exhausting, he thought as he glided further out. Skating was easier.
“Oh. He’s good.”
Jim looked up from his water bottle at Cathy standing beside him by the boards, taking a break with him. “What?”
“The new kid. Look.” He turned, then forgot all about the bottle still pressed against his mouth.
The new kid was running through what was obviously an old program, movements sure and graceful as he glided across the ice, automatically avoiding other skaters… who began to move, to give him more space, so that they could watch him, too.
Jim wasn’t a great figure skater. He was okay. Good, even, on a lucky day, when the stars aligned or whatever. In every competition he’d been in, he’d always consistently placed somewhere in the middle. When he was sixteen he placed 4th in the Nationals, and that was the highest he’d ever flown.
He knew he wasn’t anything special. But he still loved the sport so much he was going to keep doing it until he couldn’t. If that made him a bit of a moron, then so be it.
But this new kid. Jim could tell he was someone special. More than his technical skills, which Jim could see still needed work, he had that undeniable, undefinable something that made people sit up and take notice.
It would be annoying, if it wasn’t so beautiful.
“What’s his name again?”
“Yuuri,” Cathy said, still staring. “Yuuri Katsuki.”
“Yuuri, let’s talk about your programs,” Celestino said as he sat at Minako’s dining table, finishing up the last of the pizza.
Yuuri didn’t even glance up from the TV on which Victor Nikiforov’s record breaking free skate program at Worlds was playing. Celestino and Minako exchanged a look and without saying anything she brought out a bottle of wine and two glasses.
A woman after his own heart, this one.
“That must be the twentieth time he’s watching it,” she said, fondly smiling at Yuuri, curled up on the sofa with his dog in his lap. “At least.”
Celestino chuckled, pouring for the two of them. “I’ve never seen a bigger fan.” They clinked their glasses together. “Then again,” he said, taking a sip, “if he had to be a fan of anybody, Victor’s a good choice. The man changed the game in a lot of ways. First Omega World Champion, Grand Prix Winner, world record holder… but more than that, he’s really just a damn good skater. A true genius. I honestly don’t think he’s hit his peak yet.”
Minako kicked up her feet on the chair beside him. “Hmmm really? But he’s won everything already at least once by now.”
“If he was satisfied with winning gold medals, then I wouldn’t be calling him a genius,” Celestino said, swirling the wine in his glass. Minako had good taste in liquor. “You don’t see an athlete like him come along often. Not even once a generation.”
Minako raised her glass to her lips, eyes darting to Yuuri. Celestino shifted in his seat. He wondered if he had been perhaps too blunt. Yuuri was good, yes, and there was a strength in him that surprised Celestino sometimes. It was what made him agree to take Yuuri on. Celestino was sure that Yuuri was going to go far, that he was going to make it all the way to the Junior Grand Prix Final and probably win it. That he was going to move on to the senior division and do well there, too. But.
But Celestino knew, just as every figure skating coach knew, that until that incredible shining talent, that monster that Yuuri idolized… until Victor Nikiforov stepped off the podium, no one would even come close.
He had to admit, it was a bit disheartening, even for him—
“Coach.” Yuuri’s voice brought him back to the present. Celestino turned around. Yuuri hadn’t moved from the couch, and his eyes were still staring at the TV screen. But Celestino had to put down his glass; there was a strange pressure in the air. Something he’d never felt before. Like the calm before a storm. Vaguely he was aware of Minako smiling a bit smugly across from him. But he didn’t, couldn’t pay her any mind. It was as if the whole world had stilled and the only thing that existed was Yuuri sitting on the couch, watching Victor Nikiforov perform.
“About my programs. I’m going to produce them.”
Suddenly he remembered. Yuuri was an Alpha.