They stopped first at Yu-topia, where Victor was reunited with a giant, enthusiastic ball of wiggling dog.
“He really wants to go for a run,” Hiroko said. “None of us are as active as you two.”
“We could run up to the rink,” Yuuri said. “We both need it. Yura, too.”
“Can you film from a bicycle?” Victor asked Mike.
Mike blinked. “I can try.”
Yakov frowned. “I am past running.”
“Oh, the rest of us can drive over, I’m sure,” Gloria told him. “We have reservations near the rink, anyway, for hotel rooms. Yuuri, do you want to stay with your parents? Or at the hotel?”
Yuuri blinked, looked at his mother, and then at Victor, and then blushed.
Minako whispered something to Hiroko, who cackled, and said, “Go stay at the hotel if you want. Victor’s room isn’t set up anyway. You can come back for dinner.”
Minako said, “I’ll see you then. I’m going home.”
Yuuri turned to Minako and said, “Thank you for handling everything.”
She waved dismissively. “It’s been well worth it. And I’m going to have fun in Russia next week. Now I get to go figure out if I can get half my plane ticket refunded.”
Gloria laughed, and said, “Actually, I have something for you. You did us an incredible favor getting them back here and facilitating so much. Talk to my assistant so we can send you a referral fee.”
Minako blinked. “A what?”
“You acted as a liaison in the absence of an agent, helped us navigate an awkward situation, and acted as an able escort. You delayed your plans and rearranged your travel schedule, and allowed us to successfully engage the services of our newest talent. There are considerations that are common in our industry. Consider it a finder’s fee. It should be enough to offset the inconvenience to you.”
“I couldn’t…” Minako started.
“Don’t listen to her, she absolutely can,” Yuuri said.
Gloria looked momentarily confused, but said, “Do please talk to my assistant.”
Minako blushed and nodded.
“I think we’re going to head over to the hotel to get checked in,” Gloria said to Mike. “It looks like they might be a bit, just get whatever you think looks good, and we’ll meet you at the rink in an hour or so.”
Mike nodded, and pointed his camera at the dog.
Hiroko went over to where Yuuri, Victor and Yuri were playing with Makkachin, and put a hand on Victor’s shoulder.
“Vicchan,” she said.
Victor beamed up at her. “Yes, Okaasan?”
“Is it true you want to marry my Yuuri?”
Victor nodded. “Very much. He’s amazing.”
She grinned. “Welcome to the family. It’s good to see you both so happy.”
Yuuri stood up and hugged her. She laughed. He said, 「Will you come? We have to do it in Denmark.」
A glimmer of sorrow moved across her face. 「It’s so far.」
「I can take care of everything,」 Yuuri said. 「Tickets, hotel, all of it.」
She looked around the onsen and he said, 「Hire someone to staff it that weekend. You’re not going to have money going out for my skating anymore. I can even pay you back for what you’ve spent the past few years.」
Her eyes widened, and she shook her head. 「No, no. We will come. You keep your money.」
「Please, Mother, I just signed contracts for more than a million dollars, and so did Victor, and we’re not even having to pay for the wedding.」
「I don’t know,」 she said. 「I am not so old that I should need your money yet.」
「Mother, please let me. It would be a great honor to me if you allowed me to do this for you. A thank you for the support you’ve given me for so long.」
She blinked, and then nodded. “Okay.”
After a brief adjustment period for Mike to the combination of the bike and the camera harness, they took off at a brisk jog toward the Ice Castle.
“We should retire here someday,” Victor called out to Yuuri, on the middle of the bridge.
“I tried, you wouldn’t let me,” Yuuri said, and then squeaked as Victor tackled him playfully, spinning him around.
Yuri dodged them and kept running with a muttered oath in Russian.
Makkachin was thrilled to be out and running.
They realized as they got closer that there was a cluster of news vans in the parking lot, by the little knot of satellite dishes visible beyond the rise that led to the skating rink. They slowed to a stop and Victor flipped up the hood of his jacket, and said, “Tuck your hair in, Yura.”
“Why is it different with the vans than with Mike?” Yuuri asked.
“Mike is working for us, at least, so we have some control over what he does with his footage, and he’s on our side and we know it. We don’t know who they are,” Victor said. “So I don’t want to have them chasing us down here. Makka is going to be telltale enough, but I don’t need them spotting our pale hair this far away. We’ll never get up there. The less time they’re in contact with us, the more we’ll get done today.”
Yuuri leaned against a large boulder and stared up at the uplinks, sighing. “Let’s go around back then. Mike, can you meet us? This isn’t a good route for a bike.”
They climbed up the embankment with Makkachin, and Yuri sent a text message to Yuuko, who met them at the back door, and then went out front to let Mike in.
“They’re camped out there,” Mike said, setting up his equipment. “Want me to tell them that you’ll give them 5 minutes if they’ll leave after? Otherwise they’ll stay until you come out, and they’ll stake out both doors.”
“Do you really think they’ll leave, after?” Yuuri asked.
Mike shrugged. “I would.”
There was a commotion at the front door, loud Russian swearing, and Gloria’s voice carrying over some shouted questions. Takeshi was arguing with someone, and a minute later, Simon, Gloria, Yakov, and the small bevy of assistants and ad reps came in.
“Or we could just pile you onto the bus later,” Mike said. “We have enough people now.”
“How rude were they?” Yuuri asked Gloria.
“They recognized Yakov,” Gloria said. “Some inappropriate questions were asked. I’d avoid this lot.”
Victor frowned. “What kind of inappropriate questions?”
“Someone wanted to know if Yakov was worried about Yuri’s safety,” Takeshi said. “I told them that Yuri was perfectly capable of kicking ass, but that I’d never met a better man than Katsuki Yuuri and that Victor was so focused on his fiancé that the idea of him looking anywhere else, let alone a child he thinks of as a kid brother, was laughable.”
A complex series of emotions worked their way across Victor’s face, but at the last, he snorted. “That’s accurate.”
Yuuri stared at Takeshi, eyes wide.
“Don’t let it go to your head, Katsuki. They were assholes.”
Gloria handed her briefcase to an assistant and said, “What’s your normal routine?”
Victor said, “Stretching, warm ups. Those are critical. If we went right into jumping, we’d injure ourselves.”
“How disruptive would it be for someone to ask you questions while you warm up?” Simon asked.
“That depends on what we’re doing,” Yuuri said, starting some simple stretches. “If it’s simple stretching, fine. If we’re moving slowly, fine. If we’re breaking a sweat, or jumping, there’s no point. Especially once we get into the routines, it’s actually dangerous to talk to us, even if Victor is talking to me or Yakov is talking to either of them. Our coaches know when to talk and when not to and what to say that won’t distract us too much. Usually.”
Yakov said, “We’re going to be here for a long time today. We’ll need some uninterrupted time later, but if you’re wondering if it’s an okay time to interrupt, you can ask me.”
“And I’ll want all cameras out, probably all of you out, when I start working on my newest routines,” Victor said. “I’m composing, and I’ll need some quiet time for that.”
Mike said, “I can do some recording for you if you want, then.”
“I don’t want my program revealed before the next competition,” Victor said.
“This would be for your own use,” Mike said. “And we might want to use it if you go to the Olympics, but not before then.”
“Maybe,” Victor said. “I’ll probably send you out if it interferes with my concentration.”
“I can live with that,” Mike said. “But it would be fascinating to document your process, for posterity.”
“You can document his posterior for me,” Yuuri said, and then blushed.
Victor threw his head back laughing. “That settles it, then.”
“Augh,” Yuri said. “I’m going to the weight room. So gross.”
Simon waited until they were almost completely warmed up to do the You Can Play video, catching them at the rail and then having them skate off together after. They spent some time before getting into routines having Yakov walk them through thrown pairs jumps.
Yakov shook his head and rolled his eyes when they asked, but when Victor said, “Well, we’ll just have to wing it, and we’re going to start with Yuuri throwing me,” Yakov promptly relented.
“He’s bluffing,” Yuri yelled across the rink.
Yakov waved Yuri off. «Practice spins. No jumps».
Yuri made an incoherent noise of frustration that spanned three octaves, and flung himself into a spin.
Yakov turned back to Victor and Yuuri, who were taking the basic position, hand to hip, hand to hand, and giggling. «You’re worse than our six-year-olds», he snapped at Victor.
“Hmm?” Yuuri said, missing the Russian.
“He says we’re acting like children,” Victor said.
“We’re doing baby jumps,” Yuuri said. “So that seems fair.”
Victor goosed him with the hand on his hip, and Yuuri doubled over, saying. “We shouldn’t waste Yakov-san’s time.”
“No, you shouldn’t. Show me the half turn,” Yakov said, mollified.
Pivot, and pivot and toss and spin, they worked up to a double rotation before Victor shook out his arms ruefully and said, “I can see I’m going to have to do a little upper body work.”
“You’ll ruin your spin speed,” Yuri said nearby.
“I didn’t say I was going to bulk up like a wrestler,” Victor snapped. “I don’t need to build muscle, I need to build strength.”
Yakov called out, “Victor. Have you settled on music yet?”
“They’re working on it.”
Gloria asked from the side of the rink, “You can’t use what you did at Nationals? Or is it tacky for two skaters to show up wearing the same music?”
“It’s not ideal,” Victor said. “But I’ve got them working on a related theme, and it will line up nicely, so it shouldn’t be a problem.”
“Something romantic?” she asked.
“As if he could do anything else right now,” Yuri said.
“I’ve skated a lot of nonsense about love,” Victor said. “I’d like to create a performance that does it justice.”
Yuuri laughed. “Your performances were everything I knew about love.”
“That explains why you reacted the way I did when I showed up in Hasetsu for the first time,” Victor said. “I’m a terrible teacher.”
“How did he react?” Gloria asked.
“Badly,” Yuuri said, skating a figure.
Victor stretched against the rail. “To be fair, I was naked, and you had no idea why.”
“VICTOR!” Yuuri said, turning purple and stumbling out of the figure. Then, to Gloria, “He was in the onsen. Everyone is naked in the onsen. I just wasn’t… expecting to have my first conversation with him that way.”
She put her hand over her mouth and tried not to laugh.
“Don’t put that in the video,” Yuuri said.
Gloria did laugh at that. “No, I wouldn’t.”
They worked for a while, and then Victor sent everyone but Yuuri away.
“Even me?” Yakov said.
“I’ll need your input later,” Victor said. “I’m going to send Yuuri out soon, too. Don’t feel bad.”