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A Beginner's Guide To The Dangers Of Making Out With Your Fellow Athletes At Parties

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‘No,’ Yuri says, and he realises at once he’s been too forceful, but it’s too late. ‘No, we always eat in the breakfast room!’

‘And you always complain about it,’ Mila says, looking at him like he’s crazy. He probably is. Georgi always orders room service before a competition, which, Yuri typically insists, is exactly the right way to do things. Viktor insists the entire Russian contingent at any event eat together - barring Georgi, who puts his foot down.

‘There are only we four this year,’ Yakov says, with a nod to Lilia, whose terrible idea this was ‘and Mila isn’t skating until the second day.’

‘Breakfast with me,’ Lilia says. ‘It will do you good to be calm.’

‘Bite me.’ It’s not as if Yuri expects to see Viktor and the pig at breakfast, and he doesn’t care if he does or doesn’t. Katsudon will be too busy having the vapors to eat, anyway.

‘I have no intention of biting you,’ Lilia says, over Mila’s snorting. The hag never had children but she’s got the overly-patient parent voice down perfectly. ‘Well,’ she says, ‘have it your way.’

Yuri stares at her in shock. He has literally never heard those four words - or any equivalent - come out of her mouth. Yakov says them all the time, to her, though. Wherever Lilia Baranovskaya goes, people do things her way or not at all.

‘I will be ordering room service for two,’ Lilia says, turning away from them all. ‘Join me or not, as you please.’

With that, Yakov dismisses their little evening meeting, and Mila drags Yuri out into the corridor. It’s not yet ten - Yuri had left Otabek in the hotel garage less than an hour ago.

‘What’s got into you?’ Mila asks. Her tone of voice is irritated, but her expression says she’s actually concerned. Ergh.

‘Nothing!’ Yuri shakes her off. ‘I’m fine.’

‘Did you…’ she frowns. ‘Wait, were you alone all afternoon?’

Oh, great, even Mila thinks he’s a social outcast.

‘I was with a friend,’ Yuri tells her, as sharply as he can. He does not add ‘until, like, the entire men’s competition ambushed us and Viktor announced his engagement and then everyone looked at pictures of the pig pole-dancing’, because… well, because he happens to know Mila still has pictures of that on her phone.

‘Good?’ Mila’s frowning at him like he’s being particularly weird.

‘I’m going to bed,’ Yuri says, and turns on his heel.

When he gets back to his room, Otabek has liked a selfie on his instagram. Yuri knew Otabek had instagram, of course: Yuri has stalked every major player on the figure-skating scene for the past year. It’s professional research. He didn’t think Otabek used his instagram, though. There’s been practically nothing on it for ages, not even so much as a medalist selfie from the NHK. On further investigation, there’s a new shot: it went up a few days ago. Otabek on an escalator. It’s not even possible to tell where it was taken, let alone who took it, but the angle’s good.

Yuri clicks ‘like’.

A few minutes later, Otabek follows him.

You could’ve done it this way ages ago, Yuri thinks, following back. If Otabek’s been remembering him for five years or whatever, he could’ve liked a few selfies.

Breakfast is crowded and loud, and every bit as annoying as it usually is. There are tables full of hyper-active Juniors, who are up first that day and all dealing with nerves terribly, as usual. There are tables full of journalists, who at least know better than to bother competitors before the competition starts. There are tables full of officials and special guests and all the millions of people who seem to be necessary to events like this. Yuri’s sure they’re necessary and just as sure that he never wants to know what most of them do.

‘Yakov says if you won’t take up Lilia’s hospitality he will,’ Mila says, falling into the buffet line behind him.

That’s… whatever it is. Yuri’s done a great job of not thinking about the intricacies of those two’s relationship for the past eight months, he’s just going to keep right on not thinking about it.

‘He wants you to meet him in an hour and a half,’ Mila adds, as if Yuri hadn’t received three text messages to that effect already that morning. And four detailing what he is and isn’t allowed to eat at breakfast, as if he doesn’t already have his training diet memorised.

Yuri and Mila end up sitting alone; there’s no sign of Sara, although she and Mila were glued at the hip at the Rostelcom. Weird. Whatever. There’s also no sign of Viktor or the pig; presumably they are busy making kissy faces at each other, or Viktor’s playing nursemaid while Katusdon has one of his weeping fits. Good. They can keep all of that out of Yuri’s way indefinitely.

A few tables away, a junior in US colours stands up suddenly from her seat, shouts ‘I hate you!’ at the boy across from her, and runs out of the room. Her coach, or handler, or whatever, goes after her, but everyone else just shrugs.

Yuri is extremely glad to be out of that, although, if he’s fair, he’s always been sequestered with Yakov’s entourage manyway, rarely left to mingle with the junior skaters.

The thing is, figure skating season is like summer camps, only worse. Yuri hated summer camp, especially with the novices: he was stuck with his age group, although everyone was well aware he was miles better than any of them. He was limited by his body, by his lack of height or strength compared to the juniors, most of whom lacked even half his technical gift. He didn’t make friends. Mila sort of adopted him when Yakov took him on full-time, and Viktor moved from bland condescension to taking a real interest when Yuri made Junior Worlds the first time. But making friends from enforced proximity with other skaters? Not part of Yuri’s competitive skating experience, as a rule.

Other people seem to think it’s the whole point, though. Take Christophe: if Mila’s gossip is anything to go by, Christophe’s slept with practically everyone who’s come through senior division in the last five years, regardless of gender, skill or nationality. Except possibly Viktor: even Mila can’t figure out if Viktor ever slept with Christophe. And the Juniors. The Juniors are a festering pile of teenage hormones and heartbreak. It’s not just the dating, although some of them do. (Yuri remembers his first Nationals: there was some kind of Junior power couple, all of thirteen, who hooked up the first day and were broken up again by the time the gala rolled around. Both of them faded out of the sport long ago.) It’s the best-friendships forged in the course of days and forgotten by the end of the season, or broken up under the pressure of competition, or abandoned in favour of new crushes, or, or, or.

It’s not that Yuri’s never been friendly with other skaters, although to be honest, most of his peers hate him and he doesn’t mind that. There was a girl at Junior Worlds a few years ago who he’d thought understood him. She was fierce and ambitious and uninterested in to being ladylike, and she’d won bronze and refused to pretend she was happy with that. He’s not even sure, now, where she was from. Poland, maybe, or Lithuania or one of those places. She’d hugged him and promised to see him the next year. And she never showed up again. He hadn’t got her number or even her Facebook, and, well. That was that. He’s never seen or heard of her since. It wasn’t that she wasn’t good enough, so maybe she got sick or injured, or her family couldn’t afford the training costs.

It is entirely coincidental and not at all because he’s been keeping an eye on the door that Yuri spots Otabek as soon as he enters the room. Otabek scans the room but doesn’t seem to notice Yuri, and then dodges around the hot buffet in search of something.

‘So,’ Mila says, ‘when were you going to tell me about your friend?’ She’s smirking like she knows exactly who Yuri’s looking at.

‘I wasn’t, hag,’ Yuri tells her.

She pouts.

‘You’ve got access to twitter, same as everyone else.’ The Angels have been shrieking about Otabek - in varying degrees of angry, lustful and squeeful - since yesterday afternoon.

‘But I want to hear it from yoooou,’ Mila sing-songs. As if Yuri would be dumb enough to give her anything to gossip with. Not one scrap.

At this point, Otabek sits down beside Yuri. Yuri’d been too busy with Mila to even notice him walk over, and is unaccountably annoyed by that. Otabek doesn’t say anything, just sets down the ugly-ass protein shake he’s carrying.

‘Hi!’ Mila says, brightly. ‘You must be Otabek Altin. I’m Mila!’

‘We’ve met,’ Otabek says. In Russian - Mila had been using English, as most people do in common spaces. Mila stares, first at Otabek, then Yuri. Otabek doesn’t bother explaining where they’d met. Yuri wouldn’t be surprised if that was five years ago, too.

‘Asshole,’ Yuri says, ‘what’s the point of coming to breakfast if you’re going to drink that sludge?’ He points at Otabek’s shake, which is in one of those plastic mix-it-yourself shakers.

‘Breakfast has these,’ Otabek says, and Yuri notices the orange in his other hand. Otabek devotes himself to peeling the rind off with his fingernails.

Otabek eats the orange without segmenting it, just bites into it like it’s an apple. Mila keeps staring at Yuri like this is the worst, or possibly best, thing she’s seen for years. Yuri lets her stew in it, and feels sort of smug.

Yuri almost doesn’t go out to watch Otabek skate. He’s seen the routine before, on livestreams, so he knows it’s good. It’s not that he’s afraid Otabek will be better than him: Yuri’s just broken a fucking world record, no one’s better than him right now.

That’s not the problem. The problem is: what if Otabek’s short program isn’t good? People have come into competitions with great routines and had things go wrong. Take the piglet, for instance: there was no chance he would’ve won against Viktor, but this time last year, people were talking about his success in the Series and predicting he’d stand out at the Four Continents. Look what came of that.

He calls out good luck to Otabek, and what he means is ‘don’t fuck this up’. Don’t make me watch you fail. And Otabek doesn’t fuck it up; he skates beautifully. Oh, sure, Lilia would make mincemeat of him, but Otabek’s not trying to be the prima ballerina. He hasn’t done ballet since that summer, he told Yuri that yesterday. Whatever it is he’s been doing instead, though, he moves with grace and… it takes Yuri a while to settle on the term, while he notes each figure and jump with approval, but it’s dignity. Otabek moves with dignity. Which puts him a couple of steps ahead of certain people and their flagrantly egotistical routines, in Yuri’s book.

Also, he absolutely trounces Katsudon, which is a serious bonus.

Yuri feels good watching Otabek skate, really good. The only comparison point he has is Viktor: he loved - loves - to watch Viktor skate, but he loves it in a way that makes him ache. With Viktor, Yuri knows that he, Yuri, needs to be that good, but by the time he is, Viktor won’t be anymore, and Yuri dreams of beating him and dreads it. Which is why he’s not looking at Viktor now, right after he’s blown Viktor’s world record away. The point is, there’s none of that in watching Otabek. He’s good. He’s as good as Yuri, or nearly, except that he doesn’t have Viktor choreographing for him or the terrible twosome of Yakov and Lilia honing him to perfection. Yuri watches Otabek skate and he knows: he can see perfectly well that Otabek’s not at his peak yet, and Yuri’s going to have to work to stay ahead of him.

And he still feels good, still finds himself smiling as Otabek comes to a stop and punches the air in front of him.

The feeling stays through the next day, even though he doesn’t go out into the stands for Otabek’s free skate. Yuri watches him on the monitors, and he’s still doing what he always does: noting weaknesses, cataloguing every strength that might propel Otabek to a higher score than Yuri himself. And yet. He wants to smile, watching Otabek skate.

Otabek calls out to Yuri as Yuri takes the ice, and Yuri turns around to him. Gives him the thumbs up that Otabek had given just yesterday.

Yuri skates well, but not as well as the piglet, who’d finally broken a record. Yuri’s going to break that one, too. Some day; by some day he means any time now, starting with Nationals and going from there. There’s the interminable wait for the final score, and in it, Yuri looks for Otabek. Otabek’s glaring at the display screen like he might set it on fire - which, given Otbek's place is already determined at fourth, means he must be plotting arson on Yuri’s behalf.

Friendship, Yuri thinks, as he takes the podium together with the piglet, who does honestly deserve to be there, in a way that satisfies Yuri even as he intends to shred that record at the earliest opportunity: friendship is okay, all things considered.

Viktor and the Katsudon being all sappy and ridiculous all over the gala and the banquet is less okay. They are not, apparently, getting married, because Katsudon didn’t win gold, and what even is with those two? Yuri’s fucking fifteen and he can tell it’s a terrible idea to hang your marriage on a gold medal - something that JJ professes to have learned from this season. Yuri somehow ends up stuck talking to the man while his fiancée has been commandeered by Mila, and JJ treats Yuri to a long, and slightly inebriated, ramble about the importance of unconditional love.

Yuri must be growing the fuck up, because he does not treat JJ to a lecture on the importance of gold medals. He does tell him to take his sappy heterosexual shit somewhere else, and then he’s subjected to an equally inebriated but rather more passionate rant about how JJ wishes everyone would stop assuming these things just because he has a girl for a fiancée.

While Yuri is stuck with this, Christophe has talked Katsudon into dancing with him. It’s working out rather more sedate than last year’s banquet, but Yuri still has absolutely no inclination to stand around watching while the expression on Viktor’s face gets more and more contorted. Yuri wonders, a little spitefully, what Viktor wants more: to kidnap his Katsudon back from Christophe, or to get between them. Then Yuri needs to wash his brain out just for thinking that, but the damn waiters in this place have him pegged as under sixteen, so no one’s going to give him anything to wash his brain out with.

It’s a pretty terrible banquet, is the point, and this entirely justifies Yuri’s immense relief when Otabek appears and drags him away. It also entirely justifies Yuri’s decision to interfere with whatever plan Otabek has, and instead pull him into a corner and make the fuck out with him.

Well, that’s how it was supposed to go, except Otabek’s bigger than Yuri is, and somehow doesn’t get the memo, so they stand there in their weird corner. Yuri has made a grave miscalculation: he should have got Otabek against the wall and somehow reached up to him, but instead he’s got his own back against the wall and is standing, hands wrapped around Otabek’s wrists, staring up into Otabek’s face. Otabek’s face, which is not kissing him.

‘We should make out,’ Yuri says. He mentally awards himself points for clarity.

‘We should?’ Or maybe not. Otabek sounds distinctly confused.

‘Yes.’ Yuri tugs him a little bit closer, and Otabek goes along with it. ‘We’re the hottest people here, we should make out.’

‘Your logic is… peculiar,’ Otabek says. This is still neither a rejection nor cooperation.

‘Don’t make such a fuss out of it.’ Yuri rolls his eyes. ‘You’re hot, I’m bored, let’s make out.’ He lets go of one wrist and reaches up to Otabek’s neck. With an odd little sigh, Otabek gets with the program and leans down to kiss Yuri. He makes it gentle and slow, though. Practically sweet.

Yuri bites Otabek’s lip in retaliation. He gets a bit of force back in return, and there’s some fumbling and Otabek’s weight against him, before the stupid man decides he needs to stop and go back to talking.

‘Yuri, I,’ Otabek says, and frees one of his hands to scruff his hair awkwardly. This is more endearing than it ought to be. ‘I didn’t expect this.’

‘Neither did I.’ Yuri folds his arms. ‘This genius plan just occurred to me now.’

‘I wanted… I wanted to be friends.’ Otabek says this rapidly, looking down as he does, like it’s an embarrassing fact.

‘We are friends,’ Yuri points out. ‘We shook hands on it.’

‘I’m concerned this might… affect that. Our friendship.’

‘We only just started our friendship. We can be friends who make out.’ Christophe’s got lots of friends he makes out with - all signs point to this list shortly expanding to include Katsuki and Viktor simultaneously. Yuri thinks he can have one making-out friend, at least.

‘I,’ Otabek says, and then smiles just the littlest bit. ‘You make a good point.’ He leans back into Yuri’s space, bracketing Yuri against the wall, which is pretty fucking awesome. ‘Just this, though, right?’

Yuri blinks for a second. He hadn’t actually considered the situation beyond his sudden and very clever idea of making out with Otabek.

‘Yeah, duh,’ he says. ‘Do you have any idea how much shit I’d be in if Yakov thought I was having it off with a rival?’

‘We’ve been friends three days,’ Otabek says, breath close on Yuri’s skin, ‘and I already know you love the prospect of getting into shit.’

Yuri gives up and yanks him in for a kiss. A kiss becomes a sequence of kisses, fast and rough, and Yuri pulls Otabek closer by the hips. He has a nice body, Yuri decides - not that that was actually in doubt, but it’s particularly nice when Otabek’s pressing him into the wall and nipping at his lips.

They sort of break apart naturally, after a while. Could be three minutes, could be thirty, for all Yuri knows. Otabek stares down at him for a moment, face solemn, then says,

‘I was planning on taking the bike out for a bit, to clear my head. Want to come?’

Getting your friend’s number before you leave a major event makes sense. Getting the number of the guy you made out with in a corner the previous night, however, is a whole different layer of weird. So Yuri doesn’t. Otabek knows he’s on practically every social media platform there is; that will have to do.

Yuri’s got Nationals to contend with, and Viktor, who is in Saint-Petersburg having Yakov kick his ass. Viktor back is exactly what Yuri wanted, but it’s not permanent - Viktor’s got some damn fool idea about continuing to coach Katsudon, and will be flying in for intensive work with Yakov only to fuck back off to Japan. Yuri has no idea how he got Yakov to agree to that, but the condition seems to have been that the first of those intensives start at once. This means Katsudon is training alone, and Minako will be standing in as his competition staff, for Japanese Nationals. Viktor is being insufferably mopey about this, for a man who has known perfectly well all along that the Japanese and Russian national competitions overlap.

None of this has anything to do with Otabek, except that Yuri didn’t get Otabek’s number, and so he can’t bitch to him about the whole situation. He makes do with bitching to Mila, who at least agrees that Viktor is impossible to deal with right now.

Otabek keeps liking Yuri’s selfies, but that’s it, that’s the complete and total sum of his communication with Yuri for an entire two weeks. Yuri is not mad about it because there’s nothing to be mad about. They are friends and this, it turns out, is what friends do. Like each other’s selfies and make out at international sporting events. He’s pretty sure Mila’s got at least three friends that fit exactly those parameters.

Come Nationals, Yuri’s lurking in a back room, trying to avoid Viktor, who is going to be either in a foul mood or on his phone making sweet noises down the line at Katsuki. Apparently they’d actually tried to figure out a way to get the piglet here for Viktor’s Short Program and/or birthday - Katsuki’s SP isn’t until the 27th, but between flight patterns and time differences, they couldn’t manage it. Yuri has already yelled at Viktor about what a terrible idea that was, anyway. If Viktor’s responsible for the piglet fucking up his qualifier for worlds a second year in a row, just because they wanted to suck face, Yuri is going to punch him. No, both of them.

Because Yuri is lurking, he has his phone out, and consequently sees the alert the moment it comes in.

Twitter, 13:05:
@otabek_altyn: I had to get an account on this stupid site just to say this. Good luck.

It’s not a verified account, obviously, because it’s been created all of half an hour ago. Yuri figures it’s probably genuine, though. No one else would sound so grumpy about either social media or wishing someone luck.

Yuri tweets right back at him: ‘About bloody time.’ He does it in Russian, too, Cyrillic and all. It’s not as if this will actually prevent his fangirls from reading and having collective conniptions, but he likes to force them through the process of at least clicking ‘translate’.

09.01.15, direct messaging
@otabek_altyn: you realise your fans are terrifying.

@yuriplisetsky: they’re terrifying but they’re mine. Get your own.

@otabek_altyn: pass, thanks.

@otabek_altyn: if you gave me your number I could talk to you without a horde of screaming teenagers watching every word.

@yuriplisetsky: ffs they can’t see DMs.

@otabek_altyn: not the point.

@yuriplisetsky: i should tell them you’re a good kisser.

@otabek_altyn: you really shouldn’t.

@otabek_altyn: i mean it.

@otabek_altyn: no really give me your number.

@otabek_altyn: or I’m going to call Mila and ask her for it.

@yuriplisetsky: why do you have Mila’s number?

@otabek_altyn: because she gave it to me, like a civilised person.

At Euros, Yuri gets bronze and somehow Christophe takes gold. Yuri’s pissed as hell about it: at himself, at Viktor for giving way, and everything and anything under the sun.

He makes out after the gala with one of the newly-qualified French girls. She’s fifteen and very pretty and half a head taller than him. Her English is heavily accented and she thinks his Russian accent is funny.

Someone gets photos, and then a whole lot of terrible things happen at once. Yuri is cornered by both Viktor and Katsuki, who insist on jointly giving him a talk about responsible conduct, not breaking people’s hearts, and proper use of condoms. Yuri points out that the pair of them got together because Katsuki danced half-naked on a pole with Christophe, then Viktor moped about it for half a year after, and they’re currently in a weird coach/boyfriend/competitor thing, so they’re in no position to lecture him about healthy relationships.

Viktor has the grace to look abashed at that, but Katsuki says, with a perfectly straight face,

‘We’re pretty good at condoms, though. And lube. Has anyone told him about lube, yet, Viktor?’

Yuri kicks over his chair and storms off. Shortly after that he’s cornered by Yakov, who gives him a lecture on age of consent laws. Yuri points out that he and Sabine are both fifteen thank you very much, and why does everyone think making out means having sex, anyway?

Yakov pinches the bridge of his nose.

‘Because,’ he says, ‘you’re almost sixteen. And if you fuck up, Plisetsky, there’s more than a few broken hearts on the line. The FFSG could bring down serious repercussions.’

No sooner has Yuri extracted himself from that horrifying conversation than he realises his phone has basically blown up. Mostly the Angels screaming, and he’s about to ignore them, when Mila grabs him and drags him into her hotel room.

He thinks for a second that she’s going to yell at him, too, or possibly lecture him on contraception, but instead she looks concerned.

‘You haven’t seen, have you?’

‘Seen what? Yakov’s been lecturing me for the past half hour.’

Mila pushes him into sitting down on her bed. ‘Sabine,’ she says. ‘She’s getting death threats.’

‘She what?’

‘Your insufferable little fans are plastering Twitter and Tumblr with insults, saying she’s a slut and whore, she should kill herself, and at least one of them has volunteered to do the job herself.’

‘They’re not serious!’ Yuri yelps. ‘No one actually takes that seriously!’

Mila folds her arms. ‘They’re probably not actually going to kill her, no,’ she concedes. ‘But the poor girl won’t be able to go online for months without getting shit.’


‘Does Yakov know?’ Yuri asks. He feels sick.

‘Lilia’s gone to talk to him.’ Mila sits down beside Yuri, and nudges his shoulder gently. ‘She says you’re not to say a word to anyone online until they’ve decided what to do about it.’

‘I can’t just leave her to deal with that!’ Yuri’s got his phone unlocked already, but Mila pulls it out of his hands.

‘Look,’ she says, and hands him hers instead. She’s got Twitter up, and she hardly even uses it. There’s… there’s a lot of shit. There’s also three angry posts from Viktor, in which he’s acting all pompous and protective, going on about how unhealthy it is for young athletes to exist under this kind of scrutiny. It’s kind of sweet. Then there’s Katsudon and Phichit, and Sara and… Yuri gets it. It’s not just that Viktor’s protective of Yuri. The others have been retweeting a particularly good shot from Sabine’s free skate, and selfies she took with Mila at the gala, and so on. Christophe’s contribution is a picture of his own cat hissing viciously at something, apparently expressive of Christophe’s feelings toward Yuri’s fans right now.

Yuri fucked up, and his friends are stepping up to help. Apparently they’re all his friends now. Or they’re just hyper-protective of new talent, but that’s okay, too, in its own way.

Mila’s following Otabek on Twitter, of course she is, so Yuri can see that even he’s trying. It’s stiff:

01.02.15, 18:05
@otabek_altyn: @sbeaniegal, loved your short program. Courage.

It’s stiff, but it’s there.

‘We’re gonna have to do a press thing, aren’t we?’ Yuri says, leaning into Mila’s side. She wraps one arm around him.

‘Probably, yeah.’


‘That’s not the first thing you gotta do, though.’

‘If I go within ten feet of her, her coaches will kill me,’ Yuri says. ‘Can I just skip the banquet?’

‘No, you can’t.’ Mila takes her phone back, and swipes a few times. ‘But here.’ She holds it back out to him, and he sees she’s got Sabine’s number up. ‘You’ve gotta talk to her, okay?’

‘I’m never making out with girls again,’ Yuri says, flopped out on his bed and staring at the ceiling. ‘That’s it, you’re stuck with making out with me forever.’ That sounds… weird, actually. ‘As friends,’ he adds.

Otabek just laughs down the phone at him.

‘I told you your fans were terrifying.’

‘Yeah,’ Yuri says, and bites his lip. He still feels sort of sick about it all. ‘I didn’t… really realise.’

‘The day we met they were stalking you across the city,’ Otabek points out.

‘That’s just me, though.’ Yuri shrugs, even though Otabek can’t see it. ‘I’m used to it. It’s not supposed to hurt other people.’

Otabek hums in sympathy.

‘That’s not the first time we met, anyway,’ Yuri says. ‘You told me!’

‘First time you remember, then.’ Otabek is still laughing at Yuri, and Yuri… really doesn’t mind.

‘Can’t you find make-out buddies in St Petersburg? At, I dunno, parties or something? Where there aren’t hordes of skating fans?’

‘Otabek, everything I do is skating.’ Yuri rolls onto his side. ‘Wait, do you make out with people at parties? What people?’

‘Not really,’ Otabek says. ‘I don’t like parties much.’ He pauses for a second. ‘And I, um, I don’t make out with people much, either.’

‘You made out with me.’


There’s an awkward silence. Yuri has this sudden and horrible feeling they’re talking about their relationship, which is ridiculous, because they don’t have a relationship! Not a capital-R relationship, anyway.


Yuri can practically hear Otabek rolling his eyes. ‘You made such a compelling case for friends-with-makeout-benefits, I thought, why not?’

‘Ugh,’ Yuri says, and covers his face with one hand. ‘If someone had seen us it’d be you getting threats, I didn’t even think of that.’

‘Yeah, and.’ Otabek stops, and sounds really hesitant. ‘I know you… I know we agreed we were just making out, and that’s how it works, but would anyone believe that?’

Yuri considers this for a moment. ‘Probably not. It’d do wonders for my image, though.’

‘It really wouldn’t do wonders for mine,’ Otabek says.

‘Come on, I’m a great catch.’

‘You’re fifteen, and the darling of the FFKK. I’m nineteen and doing this on my own.’

‘I’m nearly sixteen and you’re barely nineteen!’ Yuri yelps. ‘And we’re not having sex anyway!’

Then his stomach sinks right out of his middle again. ‘Serious repercussions’, Yakov had said. Like obviously if Yuri got anyone pregnant, that would be Serious Repercussions. And the horde of fans abusing poor Sabine was Serious Repercussions, but… Yuri has Yakov on his side. Rumours aren’t going to do much to hurt Yuri. Otabek, though. He’s changed coaches every few years; he’s in Almaty right now, but his coach isn’t even there year-round. Otabek needs the goodwill of the ISU in a way Yuri doesn’t.

Well. That’s.

‘Fuck,’ Yuri says. ‘No, I get it. I’m sorry.’

‘Don’t be,’ Otabek says. ‘It was fun. It was fine. I just… friendship is more important to me than making out, you know?’

‘Right,’ Yuri says. He takes mental stock of his friends, all these people who’ve come to his aid today. ‘You’re right. No more making out.’

‘Definitely no making out at international events.’ Otabek sounds pretty firm about that. Yuri wonders, for a second, if that means he plans on making out somewhere else, but it’s not as if he sees Otabek outside of skating.

They end up in a tea shop in Shanghai, eating some kind of sweet bun. They split it between them, because neither of them is supposed to be eating sweets the day before Worlds. They don’t talk much, but it’s sort of nice, just sitting around and not being bothered by other people.

Or it was nice, until Yuri’s fans found them. And some of Otabek’s, apparently, if the three girls in leather jackets with Khazakh flags are anything to go by. They do seem more civilised than Yuri’s Angels, but not by much.

‘You know,’ Yuri says, kicking Otabek gently under the table. ‘If you wanted to avoid rumours, making out in fancy hotel restaurants was actually less public than this.’

‘Point,’ Otabek says. He glances out the window again. ‘Your fans are terrifying.’

‘I know.’

‘I want to say hi to mine, though.’ Otabek looks over at Yuri, hesitant. ‘Come with?’

‘That is not going to help.’

‘Distract your nightmare fangirls for me, Yuri. Please. You’re my only hope.’

For some reason, this actually gets to Yuri. So he goes and takes selfies with screaming girls, and repeats, over and over again, that he and Otabek are not an item, and then lets the Khazakh fans photograph the pair of them together anyway.

Several unfortunate things happen over the course of Worlds.

Yuri loses second place to the Katsudon and JJ both. Otabek places fifth, and seems surprisingly stoic about it. Christophe falls hard in the Short Program and has to drop out. He sits in the stands with an ankle fracture, and somehow seems happy, apparently unworried about healing times and repeat injuries and prospects for next season.

Sabine scrapes third in the ladies comp, but won’t so much as look at Yuri all week. Honestly, he’s relieved.

Lilia attempts to question Yuri, in what passes for a tactful manner for her, about his intentions toward Otabek. Or Otabek’s toward him. Or something. It’s excruciating, and the only good thing about it is that Yuri gathered it’s prompted by miscellaneous social media rumours, not anyone actually suspecting him and Otabek of making out at international events.

Also, Yuri realises that Otabek is very, very attractive.

This is a terrible realisation, given everything. It’s not as if Yuri didn’t know Otabek was hot. He told him as much at the GPF: ‘you’re hot, I’m bored, let’s make out’. But somewhere along the line Otabek became not just hot but fascinating. Yuri spends far too much of the time he should be watching other competitors actually watching Otabek’s expression out of the corner of his eye. Otabek watches the others with rapt attention, but rarely a flicker of excitement - not even when he Katsudon pulls off his signature quad at the end of a combination, which really is impressive. What makes Otabek smile is when the skater is having fun, Yuri realises: he smiles through Phichit’s routines, and through Katsuki’s free skate, which is practically dripping in sappy delight.

Yuri wonders if Otabek smiles at Yuri’s routines. Yuri’s not exactly having fun on the ice, not even when everything’s going perfectly. He feels exhilaration, exultation, but not fun.

During the gala, Yuri loses track of Otabek for a while. This is getting increasingly difficult to do, as some part of him has decided he must know exactly where Otabek is any time they’re in a room together, and keep checking to see if Otabek is looking at him. His first thought, when he turns around and Otabek’s not with Phichit and Chris like he was five minutes ago, is that Otabek’s probably found someone new to make out with. Someone older and not endowed with a horde of vicious fangirls.

Then Yuri remembers that Otabek hates parties, and the logical assumption is that he’s ducked out of this one, too.

Pretty much immediately after coming to that conclusion, he spots Otabek in corner with Viktor and Katsuki, and the Japanese woman who they’ve taken on as Katsuki’s secondary coach. The four of them have their heads together and are talking far too seriously for people who’ve just survived the World Championships.

Yuri slinks over to join them. He catches names, as he gets closer - Minako and Yuko are implicated in whatever it is they’re plotting. As is someone named Minami, who Yuri thinks is the kid who took silver at Japanese Nationals and was sent along with Katsuki to the Four Continents. The woman - Hanomori, or maybe Hanamura, and her first name starts with S, Yuri’s heard Viktor talk about her - has been coaching this Minami kid for a few years.

‘Yuri,’ Viktor says, and he shifts over to make space in the circle. ‘We’ve got big plans for the summer.’

Big plans mostly involving Viktor and Katsuki being lovey-dovey in their hot spring, Yuri knows. And somewhere in there Viktor’s going to choreograph for Yuri again, that’s also part of the deal they’ve struck with Yakov.

‘We’re putting on an exhibition,’ Katsuki says. ‘To thank the Nishigoris for letting us train in their rink.’

‘Good for you,’ Yuri says. He’s also been privy to one too many of Yakov’s rants about the waste of Viktor paying rink fees to train in Japan, and then some more when he figured out how little Viktor was paying in the first place.

‘We’re going to make it a bit of a workshop, as well,’ Viktor goes on, ‘bring in some of the younger Japanese skaters, book out the rink for a couple of weeks so we can all work together.’

‘How incredibly generous of you,’ Yuri says. ‘Don’t forget you’re supposed to be choreographing my free skate for next season.’

Viktor rolls his eyes. ‘Come and join us, and I won’t forget.’

‘I’m not joining your stupid summer camp!’ Yuri splutters. ‘I hate training camp and you know it.’

‘I’ll be there,’ Otabek says, from where he’s been quiet for the past few minutes.

Yuri stares at him. ‘You’re way too good for their little school,’ he blurts.

Otabek raises one eyebrow. ‘I’m pretty sure nobody’s too good to turn down working with Viktor Nikiforov.’

‘I said workshop, not classes,’ Viktor says. ‘Routines for the exhibition, not competition training. I want to know how Otabek does what he does, I’m not trying to teach him.’

Otabek flushes a little at that.

‘The triplets will be heartbroken if you don’t show up,’ Katsuki says, to Yuri. ‘They’ve been talking about you non-stop since we suggested this.’

‘Ugh, fine,’ Yuri says. ‘If it’ll keep the baby hags happy.’ It will aso mean he spends more time with Otabek, which sounds like the best and worst idea he’s had this season.

It turns out going to Japan to train as a planned undertaking, rather than by booking himself onto a flight and hoping for the best, is quite an undertaking. Despite the fact that Yuri keeps reminding everyone he is sixteen and has been to Japan before, Yakov wants his every move planned out and submitted for approval. Viktor even has to call Grandpa and obtain his permission to act in loco parentis for the month. Yuri wails that no one made him do that last time, and Yakov tells him in no uncertain terms that last time is why he has to go through all this now.

Someone decides that Yuri should be collected from the airport, even though it's only a few hours on the train to Hasetsu. When Yuri kicks up a fuss, Yakov tells him point-blank that since the incident with Sabine, they don't want to leave Yuri unsupervised.

‘I'm not going to make out with anyone in an airport!’ Yuri protests.

‘Idiot,’ Viktor says, and he sounds kind of sad. ‘We’re not leaving you at the mercy of your rabid fans. It'd be irresponsible.’

‘Am I going to be allowed out alone in Hasetsu then?’ Yuri sighs. ‘You can't actually lock me away from them forever.’

‘No, but in Hasetsu you have our place, the rink, and people you can go to if anyone’s harassing you,’ Viktor says. ‘In the airport you'll be alone and jet-lagged.’

In the end it's not Viktor or Katsudon who comes to get him, it's Otabek. He arrived a few days earlier, and is staying at the onsen - whereas Yuri, unfortunately, is stuck with the lovebirds in their stupid new apartment.

Yuri manages to forget, when he sees Otabek, that he has a crush now; and he also forgets that he has fangirls everywhere. So the flying leap he takes to tackle Otabek from behind (the idiot’s looking the wrong way) gets documented and transmitted around the world in twenty seconds flat. That's one way of letting people know he arrived safely, at least.

He remembers he has a crush at about the point Otabek peels him off his back and turns around to hug him properly. The crush is entirely to blame for his brain malfunctioning and switching over to miscellaneous aggression.

‘We hug now?’ He leans back to glare into Otabek’s face. ‘Since when do we hug?’

Otabek lets him go, which just proves how very much the wrong thing that was to say. Being hugged by Otabek was nice. Yuri hugs a fair number of people, from Mila to Viktor and even Yakov on occasion. Otabek is, now and of this minute, his favorite hugger.

‘Sorry,’ Otabek says. ‘It's just that I normally hug people from the front, instead of climbing their backs like a monkey.’

‘Oh.’ Yuri decides he can salvage this situation, actually. ‘That sounds nice. You might need to show me again, so I can do it properly.’

‘How is he so fucking annoying?’ Yuri scuffs the floor with his toes and glares across the room. Sayuko-sensei and her tiny, bouncing offsider Minami are trying to teach Katsuki and Viktor to tap-dance. Why they’re doing this, Yuri is uncertain. Something to do with breaking down the rigid traditionalism of ballet training. Whatever it is, Minami is… too much.

‘Who is?’ Otabek asks, one leg up on the barre and stretching his hamstring.

‘Minnie Mouse over there,’ Yuri says. ‘He’s making a fool of himself, fawning all over Katsudon like that.’

‘How old is he?’ Otabek shakes out his spine and switches legs.

‘Seventeen,’ Yuri says.

‘Well, he’d have to have been looking up to Katsuki most of his life, then.’ Yuri likes that Otabek never calls him Yurio, and always calls the piglet by his family name. He’s about the only person who does that, but it’s nice.

‘Ugh, why?’

‘Because he’s actually pretty good.’ Otabek says this in a perfectly reasonable tone of voice. Yuri knows it’s true, but it’s still annoying. ‘They’re in the same sport, in the same prefecture and everything, it’s normal.’

‘You don’t see me bouncing around Viktor all the time,’ Yuri points out.

Otabek gives him a funny look, then pokes him in the side. ‘That’s because you express admiration for people by yelling at them.’

‘I do not!’ Yuri realises, too late, that he’s doubled his volume just for that protest. ‘Anyway, I yell at you all the time, what’s that supposed to mean?’

Otabek raises one eyebrow, lets him stew in that for a moment, and then says, poker-faced, ‘The range of emotions you can express by yelling will never cease to amaze me, Plisetsky.’

‘Fuck you too, Altin.’

‘You should be so lucky.’

Yuri feels his face flame red, and would very much like to turn away and hide, except they’re in a mirrored ballet studio. Unless he actually covers his face in shame, Otabek’s gonna see.

Otabek doesn’t say anything, though, just goes back to his stretches. After a decent interval, during which Yuri’s blush comes down from excruciating to merely flushed, Otabek puts a hand on his shoulder.

‘Come on’ he says. ‘Let’s go join them.’

‘Ugh, why?’

‘Because,’ Otabek says, in a low voice, ‘I took two years of tap classes after I ditched ballet, and I can tell you right now three ways Katsuki’s doing it wrong.’

‘You’re my favourite,’ Yuri says, with absolute sincerity.

Yuri does not actually hate the Katsudon. He’s okay. He doesn’t seem to mind having Yuri all up in his and Viktor’s space in their tasteful but tiny apartment, even though Yuri knows he’s too loud and Katsudon’s as obsessive about his privacy as, well as Yuri’s fans are about destroying his. Not that Yuri has any desire to take pics of Katsuki and Viktor making out, thank goodness. And they do seem to keep it to a minimum in the living room, at least.

‘Otabek’s looking for you,’ Katsuki says, as Yuri slams his way into the apartment one afternoon. ‘You left some textbook behind.’ Because, on top of everything else, Yuri’s expected to catch up on schoolwork over the summer. Otabek’s helping out, at least, which is better than Viktor, who gets huffy and self-righteous when he realises he’s forgotten most of the stuff he learned in high school.

‘Don’t care,’ Yuri says, and flops down on the tatami. They’ve got an actual couch, which Katsuki is sitting on, like a normal person, but Yuri likes the tatami. No one minds if you fidget and start doing stretches on the floor, but people object to you doing splits on the couch. ‘I’m sick of him anyway.’

‘Otabek, or the textbook,’ Katsuki asks.

‘Otabek, duh.’ Yuri says ‘he’ he means ‘he’. He learned the ‘he/she/it’ lesson the hard way. It involved a pair of US Juniors snickering at him for calling his medal ‘she’.

‘What’s he done?’ Katsuki asks this in the same tone of voice he might use to ask how Yuri’s run went. Mildly curious, but not particularly inflected toward either sympathy or gossip

‘Ugh, nothing,’ Yuri says. ‘Just. I’m sick of his face.’

‘Fair enough. You’re rolling your hip out,’ Katsuki says, and Yuri grumbles and adjusts his position.

‘Is that all you’re going to say?’

‘About your form?’ Katsuki makes a show of peering through his glasses at Yuri, and then says, ‘yeah, you know you’re far more precise than me at that anyway.’

‘Tell me that when I’m not flubbing half my jumps.’ Yuri rolls his hips up so he’s balanced on his shoulders, both feet in the air.

‘It’ll pass, you’re growing.’ Katsuki sounds too bloody reasonable. ‘Be careful with that one, though, if you injure your neck you’ll be fucked.’

‘Whatever,’ Yuri says. He comes back down and contents himself with lying back and stretching one leg up and folding it at the hip, as close to flat along his chest as he can get it. It’s a lot harder than it was last year. ‘Growing sucks.’

‘No argument there,’ Katsuki says. ‘I flunked out at Nationals the year I was sixteen, it was like I’d lost track of where I kept my feet and what I was supposed to do with them.’

Yuri refrains from pointing out that Katsuki flunked out at Nationals two seasons ago, and can hardly blame that on a growth spurt.

‘Pretty sure I’m not about to flunk out of anything,’ Yuri says, instead, and hopes to all fuck it’s true.

There’s a moment’s silence, while Yuri changes over the leg in his stretch.

‘Did you want me to say something more?’ Katsuki asks. ‘About Otabek, I mean.’

‘No. I’m just sick of his face.’

‘Understandable,’ Katsuki says. ‘Some people, and their faces. Should be banned.’

‘Are you making fun of me?’ Yuri sits up properly to glare at Katsuki. The thing is, he keeps expecting someone to make fun of him and his giant, moon-size crush on Otabek fucking Altin, but no one does. It’s unnerving. It’s possible no one has noticed at all, in which case, Yuri is either the best liar ever, or somehow deluding himself about a situation that’s clearly and evidently not worth the angst.

‘Only a bit.’ Katsuki smiles at him, then stands up. ‘Apparently I’m in charge of dinner,’ he says, over his shoulder, ‘and I’m using my authority to declare you my assistant.’

‘Sometimes I think Yakov agreed to send me here not for Viktor’s choreography,’ Yuri says, getting up and following him into the kitchen, ‘but for all the useful domestic skills I learn.’

‘Nah,’ Katsuki says, ‘not Yakov. It was totally what convinced your grandpa, though.’

‘Yuri. Help me.’

The rink is busier than usual. A couple of girls from some other part of Japan, people Minami and Katsuki know from Nationals, have shown up to join their weird little working group. Weirdest of all, Sara Crispino showed up yesterday, with neither her brother nor any other guy in tow. Apparently Viktor had invited her and then not heard anything back until she broke up with someone-or-other, and now she’s come here to cry on Katsuki’s shoulder (who even knew they were friends?) and put together a routine for this exhibition Viktor’s spearheading. Yuri has been watching her with Otabek and he knows he’s jealous, and he knows it’s ridiculous, but. Apparently he’s stuck like this now.


It’s not Sara who currently has Otabek pinned flat on the rink floor, fortunately. It’s the Nishigori triplets, who are climbing all over him like he’s a hobby horse. He tries to sit up, and one of them claws her way up to sit on his shoulders.

Yuri peels one of the kids off Otabek’s mid-section. He thinks it might be Axel, but who knows, really?

‘Guys, you have to let Otabek get up, he needs to train.’

The girls look sweetly up at him. Yuri’s never sure how much English they understand. Could be very little, could be absolutely everything, they don’t actually do what he says either way.

‘Yurio!’ The kid sitting on Otabek’s shoulders lurches forward, wrapping her arms around Yuri’s legs. The movement yanks Otabek’s neck in a way that can’t be comfortable, and then the child Yuri just pulled off him leaps onto Yuri’s back from behind. They all go down in a tangle.

‘Some rescue that was,’ Otabek says, disentangling the legs of Lutz, or possibly Loop, from around his neck.

‘We can’t all ride in on a motorcycle and save the day,’ Yuri says, elbowing him from under the pile of children.

Otabek, 14:05: Hey, meet me at the onsen in half an hour?

Yuri glares at his phone. Bloody Otabek, so sure he can just call up Yuri whenever he wants.

14:08: Why? We’ve got an afternoon off.

14:12: Because we’ve got an afternoon off, idiot. I want to spend it with you.

Yuri goes. Of course he goes. When he gets to Yu-Topia, pretty much their entire group are there already. Minami and Sara are playing some kind of board game in one of the main rooms; Viktor and Yuri are sitting around a table with Minako and Sayuko-sensei, drinking tea and arguing about something. The two Japanese girls are nowhere in sight, but since they’re staying at the onsen, they’re probably around somewhere.

‘Looks like everyone’s here,’ Yuri says, kicking Otabek in the ankle by way of greeting. ‘What did you want me for?’

Otabek looks at him funny for a second, and then jerks his head for Yuri to follow him. Yuri does; they end up in the alley between the building and the side fence.

‘Hiring a motorcycle’s tricky here,’ Otabek says, ‘but I got hold of these.’ There are two bicycles leaning up against the fence, both in the matching colours of what Yuri assumes is a rental company.


‘Wait, you do know how to ride one, right?’ The look of consternation on Otabek’s face is pretty great.

‘Of course I know how to ride a bike,’ Yuri says, and grabs the nearest one by the handles. ‘The question is, why?’

‘Why what?’

‘Why bicycles? Why me? Why…’ Why a lot of things, Yuri thinks, including why is your stupid face?

‘Bicycles because I wanted to go somewhere, but running is what we do for training. And you, because,’ Otabek frowns at him. ‘Because we’re friends? Aren’t we?’

Right. They are. This is a perfectly normal friend thing to do. Probably.

‘Yeah, we are,’ Yuri says. ‘Get on your stupid bicycle.’

‘So glad to know I can count on you to see the best in my ideas,’ Otabek says. Yuri’s about ninety percent sure he’s not actually pissed.

Viktor, not content with organising an exhibition, organises a beach party. He goes on for a while about the nice bonfire they had last year, and how Yuri had been afraid of Japanese sparklers. Yuri has a nice vision of just a few of them at the beach, and then it turns into a monstrosity with two bonfires and about thirty people. There’s all the assembled figure skaters, and the Nishigorus and Minako and Mari, and a handful of German tourists from the onsen that Viktor’s taken a liking to for some reason. And then there are people Yuri doesn’t have a clue about. He presumes these are Viktor and Katsuki’s friends. Weird. Yuri realises he’s never seen Viktor in Russia with a single friend who isn’t a figure skater or at least some other athlete.

Someone gives Yuri beer, despite the fact that they care much more about drinking age restrictions here than at home. Yuri drinks it, feeling smug about the fact that this is probably on the list of things Yakov thinks he ought not to be doing.

He wanders away from the fire and, almost convincing himself he’s not doing it on purpose, finds Otabek sitting on a rise looking down at the water.

‘Hi.’ Yuri flops down beside him. ‘Why are you all the way over here?’

‘The water’s nice and the people are… nicer from a distance,’ Otabek says.

‘Want me to go away, then?’

‘Of course not.’ Otabek says that like it ought to be obvious, which makes Yuri’s head go all fuzzy. Fuzzier.

They sit and stare at the beach for a few minutes. Otabek seems to be contemplating the beauty of nature, which Yuri is sure is very meaningful. Yuri’s wondering whether it’s a good idea to say something along the lines of hey Otabek it’s a pity we stopped making out. This isn’t an international competition, why don’t we try it again?. It sounds like a great idea, but unlike the last time Yuri got Otabek to make out with him, there’s a lot more riding on the situation now. Not just their reputations; their reputations can go take a flying fuck through a rolling doughnut. There’s this friendship shit. Yuri doesn’t want to make Otabek uncomfortable, and he really doesn’t want Otabek to pity him. Him and his giant moon-sized crush.

Two people stumble out of the group by the fire and disappear, giggling, into the park behind Yuri and Otabek.

‘Was that…?’ Yuri turns to Otabek. ‘It wasn’t.’

‘Sara?’ Otabek asks. ‘Pretty sure it was.’

‘Of course it was Sara. Tell me it wasn’t Minnie Mouse she had with her.’

‘Oh, yeah,’ Otabek says. ‘That’s been going on for at least a week now.’

‘But she’s old!’

‘She’s twenty-three, not dead.’

‘He’s tiny!’ The words are out before Yuri realises what very very dangerous territory this conversation is.

‘He’s nearly two years older than you.’ Otabek is definitely laughing at him. Fine. Whatever. ‘Chill. Do you have a problem with Viktor and Katsuki?’

‘I have so many problems with those two,’ Yuri says, sprawling onto his back. ‘But age is not one of them. Did you know he used to have posters of Viktor on his walls? They’re still in the cupboard in his old room, I checked.’

‘Weird,’ Otabek says.

‘I knowwww.’

The exhibition goes pretty well, Yuri thinks. He has fun with it. Viktor’s putting him together a proper free skate program, but for this they put together a routine that will probably never see the light of day again. Well, no, that’s not right. Yuri will probably never skate it again, but it’s been filmed and will be circulating for years yet, he’s sure. Still, ‘Raise your Glass’ is a nice change from all the classical and serious stuff. Lilia's going to be horrified, and he’s looking forward to it.

Otabek and Minami have put together a routine to some J-Pop song. It’s pretty cute - nothing like Otabek’s best work, but their styles compliment each other. Yuri didn’t even think of putting together a pair skate, and by the time he found out several people were doing it it was too late. Well. Good. He doesn’t want to end up like Viktor and the Katsudon, skating together every damn chance they get. And he’s not really sure he’d like it, sharing the creative work and the spotlight like that. Even if it was Otabek.

‘I wondered where you’d got to,’ Otabek says, finding him out on the lawn in front of the onsen. Everyone else is inside, in the banquet room that used to be Viktor’s bedroom and has now been restored to its rightful function as a party venue.

‘Got bored,’ Yuri says.

‘I don’t like parties much.’ Otabek folds himself to the ground next to Yuri.

‘You said.’

‘Well, it’s still true.’

‘You said you don’t make out with people much, either.’

‘Also true,’ Otabek says.

Yuri’s set himself up perfectly for a straightforward proposition. Want to make an exception? would be a good one.

He doesn’t make it.

Otabek doesn’t take the bait, either.

‘You’re not actually that bothered by my fans, are you?’ Yuri asks, instead. There are six million retweets already of a photo of them both kneeling down in front of all three of the Nishigoru kids. They’d been smearing glitter face dust on each of the girls' cheeks, the same glitter Yuri was wearing for the exhibit. The kids wanted some to show off in their role as assistant compéres, and Yuri hadn’t been about to deny them. The internet has collectively declared this to be an ovary-exploding emergency situation. Yuri’s pretty sure ovaries don’t work like that, but who’s he to argue with the collective lusts of the internet?

‘They’re creepy as fuck,’ Otabek says. ‘I don’t like it when they bother you.’

‘They don’t bother me much.’

‘They stopped you making out with people at skating functions.’

Yuri shrugs. ‘Yeah, well. Not the point of competitions anyway.’ Neither of them say anything for a few moments, and then Yuri gives up, groans, and flops back on the grass dramatically. ‘Problemisidrathermakeoutwithyouanyway,’ he says, all in a rush.

Otabek pokes him in the midriff. ‘Try that again in a human language, please?’

‘The problem,’ Yuri says, making it as melodramatic as he can. If it all ends in horrible embarrassment at least he’ll have done half the work himself. ‘The problem is, Otabek, I would rather be making out with you anyway.’

‘At skating functions?’

‘All the bloody time.’

‘I can see how that’s a problem,’ Otabek says, and he’s laughing at Yuri. The fucker. Except Yuri has been doing his best to play up the ridiculousness. It’s ridiculous, he’s going to be laughed at, might as well embrace it. ‘I mean. You have to train some time.’

‘Yup. And I have to go back to Saint-Petersburg, and you’ve got to go back to Almaty. Also, we agreed we don’t make out anymore.’ You don’t want to make out with me, is what Yuri thinks, but he can’t actually bring himself to say it. Better to pretend it’s a mutual agreement.

‘Hmm.’ Otabek flops back onto the grass next to him. ‘You know why I don’t make out with people much?’

Yuri pretends to think about it. ‘Because you have to talk to people to make out with them, and you hate talking to people?’

‘Wrong,’ Otabek says. ‘Making out is a great way to avoid talking to people.’

‘Remind me why we’re talking about this, then?’

‘Because we’re sensible people who value our friendship.’

‘Oh, yeah. Right. That.’

‘Anyway, the reason I don’t make out with people much is that I generally don’t make out with people I don’t like,’ Otabek says, to the sky. ‘And the ones I like, if I go around making out with them, I end up catching Feelings.’ Yuri can hear the capital letter drop into the word.

‘That’s a problem?’ Yuri asks. Sounds pretty good to him. But then, he’s got a case of Feelings as big as his wardrobe already.

‘Depends,’ Otabek says. ‘Hypothetically speaking, would you think that was a problem?’

‘Who me?’

‘Yes you.’ Otabek continues not looking at him.

‘I think I could cope with that. In fact,’ Yuri steels himself. ‘Hypothetically speaking, if Feelings are contagious, you probably shouldn’t make out with me. I definitely have a case of Feelings.’

Otabek, the fucker, still doesn’t move. He just says, ‘Oh. Well, then,’ in this calm, rational voice. He doesn’t seem to be angry, or to pity Yuri or be put off in anyway. He’s also not moving or saying anything more.

‘Oh for fuck’s sake,’ Yuri says, and rolls over, propping himself up so he’s right up in Otabek’s space. ‘Are you going to kiss me or not?’

Otabek takes another second to contemplate the prospective horror of feelings, or whatever it is that’s holding him back, and then leans up to meet Yuri’s lips. He makes it slow, and sweet, and Yuri goes with it, brings up one hand to touch Otabek’s face and be sappy about it. For about thirty seconds, before he sucks Otabek’s lower lip into his mouth and scrapes his nails down the back of Otabek’s neck to elicit a low whine, and a shudder, and the intended reward of Otabek pulling him in closer and kissing him harder.

‘Yeah,’ Otabek says, pulling back a little. ‘Feelings.’

‘Bugger,’ Yuri says. In English, because he just happens to like that swear.

‘Not just yet,’ Otabek says, and Yuri smacks him around the head.