After Barcelona, their lives whirled into a tornado of urgent tasks. They flew back to Japan Monday morning, as planned, only to immediately start packing, between marathon sessions at the skating rink.
“I gave you and Yurio two of my best short programs,” Victor said ruefully, the morning of the first full day back.
“It’s Nationals, and we won’t be skating against each other. You could skate Eros,” Yuuri said, refolding Victor’s clothes more compactly.
“I’m afraid that they’ll compare me to you,” Victor said.
Yuuri laughed. “Worried you can’t stand up to the comparison?”
Victor blinked at him, stunned, and then broke out in a radiant smile and kissed Yuuri on the nose. “Now, of course, I must skate it. I’ll come up with something new for the European championships.”
“What about your free skate?” Yuuri asked, rubbing his nose with a bemused smile.
“I have something in mind. But I think that I will practice that while you are elsewhere. You can watch it with everyone else. But let us see how I do with Eros today.”
The practice went well. After a while, Victor told Yuuri to go home and work on packing, and set to work on his free skate.
They fell into bed that night exhausted, Victor shaking with tiredness. “I should have run with you when you were training,” he said, wrapped in Yuuri’s arms.
“You’ll be fine by the end of the week,” Yuuri said. “How did the free skate go?”
“I think it will work fine, and no, I am not telling you what my plans are.”
“I looked up the schedules. Your free skate is going to happen after midnight for me, assuming you place first in the short program,” Yuuri said.
“Promise me you won’t stay up late for it. And there is no guarantee I will place first. Yurio has a very good chance of beating me this time, though I would love to make it difficult for him. I only need to place in the top three to go to the European Championship.”
Yuuri said nothing in response, and Victor glanced up at him, to find he’d fallen asleep already. He let the slow rhythm of Yuuri’s breathing pull him into sleep soon after.
The week passed in a blur of practice, packing, and paperwork. Victor’s things went ahead to St. Petersburg without him, care of Yakov, and on Monday, Victor got on a nonstop plane to Moscow.
Parting was hard. “I hate not being there for your skating,” Victor said, between dropping kiss after kiss on Yuuri’s ring at the airport.
“I’ll let the knowledge that you are making your comeback lift me on the ice,” Yuuri said. “You’ll watch me. It will be fine.” He laughed. “That’s getting wet.” He looked pointedly at the ring, which Victor was continuing to kiss.
“I want to make sure you have enough kisses for your skating while we are apart,” Victor said.
Yuuri sighed. “You’re ridiculous,” he murmured, and picked up Victor’s hand to drop a dozen rapid kisses onto the ring there.
“I’m in love with you. Of course I’m ridiculous,” Victor said, and abruptly pulled Yuuri into a tight hug. “I will miss you so much.”
“You won’t have time to miss me. And we’ll be together as soon as the visa clears,” Yuuri said.
Victor pretended a look of absolute horror. “Our reunion is dependent on Russian bureaucracy?”
“The lady at the consulate was a fan; that might help,” Yuuri said. “You need to get through security.”
“Ah, Yuuri, I hate leaving you. Tell me after this we’ll be together.”
“Until the next nationals,” Yuuri said. “Assuming the visa comes through.”
“If it doesn’t, I’m coming back,” Victor declared. “But it will. Both our governments have an incentive.”
“How did you get a visa so fast, anyway?” Yuuri asked.
“I walked into the Japanese consulate, asked to speak to the highest ranking official, and told her that you’d asked me to come to Japan to coach you, but that we’d lost touch before I could get your contact information. At first she could not believe that I would help someone not Russian attain such glory, but I said I was the only one who could talk you out of retirement, that the sport needed your artistry, and that I wanted to be an emissary of goodwill between our nations. She called the Japanese Ambassador in Moscow and they fast-tracked me for a visa for an indefinite stay, contingent upon me coaching you. It was very simple, really, once I was talking to the right people. It helped that I’d been in Japan multiple times before, but really, I think she was just a fan.”
“You have so many fans, Victor,” Yuuri murmured.
Victor laughed. “Not my fan. Your fan. In any event, tomorrow I go to the central processing facility in Moscow, and then on to St. Petersburg as soon as I can bang some sense into their thick Russian skulls. They might be dragging their feet because they don’t want to help a foreign national, but I think they will change their tune when I tell them that if they don’t want me competing for Japan at the next Olympics, they need to let you come.”
With a disbelieving laugh, Yuuri spluttered, “Could you even do that?”
“Probably not, but without you, I wouldn’t bother with the Olympics at all. I think their lust for glory will outweigh their distaste for letting me help you, and for our relationship.”
Yuuri dropped his head against Victor’s shoulder and said, “This isn’t going to be easy.”
“Since when is anything we do easy?” Victor said, his hand coming up to cup the back of Yuuri’s head.
“You know,” Yuuri said after a moment. “You should ask Yurio how he got a visa so fast.”
“He went to the Russian government, and told them that he was the only one who could drag me back to Russia. He apparently now has diplomatic credentials, if they didn’t revoke them for failure. It’s terrifying.”
“That is unsettling,” Yuuri said, pulling out of Victor’s arms.
Victor pulled him back for a quick kiss and then picked up the handle of his rolling bag. “Oh, Yuuri.” His face was a mask of worry and reluctance.
“Go. Be a champion. Let me kiss your gold,” Yuuri said with a smile. “I’ll be with you in no time.”
Victor kept glancing back as he made his way into the secured area.
Yuuri stared after him until he couldn’t see. Reflexively he removed his glasses to clean them, and a moment later, he turned away, slipping them back on, to be faced by a small group of giggling girls. Bemused, he signed autographs for them as they cooed over his performance and over Victor.
“We didn’t want to interrupt you,” one of the girls said. “But we took your picture.”
Still bemused and more than a little perturbed, Yuuri said, “Oh? Can I see?”
The girls conferred, and then nudged one of them to the front of the group. She held out her phone, and Yuuri breathed in sharply at the picture of the two of them, wrapped up in each other, startlingly intimate in the vast airport.
“Do you follow my friend, Phichit?” Yuuri asked.
“Who doesn’t?” one of the girls said with a laugh.
“Send that to him privately, tell him it’s for me and me alone. Send him the highest quality version you can.”
“Can… Can I post it?” the owner of the phone asked.
“Can you wait a few weeks?” Yuuri asked. “It’s an excellent photo. I would like to frame it and give it as a gift to Victor, but it won’t be a surprise if it’s up before then.”
Several of the girls giggled and more than one “Aww” was heard.
“Can I get a selfie with you and post that?” she countered.
Yuuri grinned. “Done.”
It took him another half hour to get out of the airport, but his heart was surprisingly light.