The things Otabek wouldn’t do for a certain blonde figure skater were, to say the least, extremely limited. However, a certain other ice skater showing up at his doorstep, definitely made the list.
He had been working up the courage to tell Yuri how his feelings weren’t entirely platonic anymore, as he was sure Yuri had figured out by now. Their relationship had felt in sync, they seemed to simply flow around each other. Everything was perfect in Otabek’s opinion, that is, until the news of JJ having broken up with his fiancee makes its way to his apartment while Yuri is there.
Alongside the new information arrives a frantic JJ in search of a place to crash. Otabek is hesitant, the flow he’s build up with Yuri over the last year was something to be treasured in all forms, and now it seemed JJ was trying his best to invade on one of their casual moments together.
Yuri, however, was quick to invite the older skater inside and make him a cup of tea. JJ grudgingly sits down and waits. Otabek simply stands in the doorway between his tiny kitchen and the slightly larger living room.
He keeps his voice low and his head turned fully into the kitchen as he speaks, “what do you think happened?”
Yuri slows down in his search for tea bags, Otabek knows he has some somewhere, and takes a breath before he turns towards Otabek. “I don't know, but it seems pretty bad if he’s come running to us don’t you think?”
To that, Otabek decided it would be best to simply shrug his shoulders in agreement. Then he realised that their roles had reversed.
Back when him and Yuri were still getting to know each other better, in the months after last season’s grand prix final, it was always him taking care of the younger skater. Now it almost felt as though they were in Yuri’s apartment, and Yuuri was the older one. The thought brings an amused huff through his lips.
A few minutes later they’re all seated in the single couch Otabek has managed to fit into the room. Otabek is awkwardly squished between Yuri and the armrest on one side, with JJ being pressed against the opposite. Three cups of watered down tea stand on the coffee table. Yuri had managed to find only two tea bags by the time the water had boiled.
“So, care to say what happened?” It was obvious Yuri was doing his best to keep a level tone of voice, and not sound offended or annoyed. Otabek nearly smiled at the failure that was his best friend, but quickly schooled his face into worry when he realised JJ was looking at the both of them.
“Well, it’s kind of a long story.” JJ nervously rubbed his hands together, “The short of it, I guess, is that we got into a nasty argument.” he laughed, “And then it ended with me leaving the hotel in a fit of anger.” His mouth cracked into a large, and clearly fake in Otabek’s opinion, smile. “Kinda childish of me.”
It seemed JJ was the only one who found it funny. Yuri’s lips didn’t twitch. On the contrary they twisted into genuine worry. And expression Otabek could barely see from the angle they were seated in, but also one that surprised him.
In the past year JJ had been no stranger to the two of them. Just the fact that he knew his way to Otabek’s apartment, which he had moved into shortly after the last season, was proof enough of that. He was nowhere near as close to them as they were each other though, and certainly not as close to Otabek as he was to Yuri.
The relationship between JJ and Yuri had alway baffled Otabek. He could never figure out if they hated each other or if they were friends. Once, he’d tried to get Yuri to delete the canadian off social media since it seemed seeing his face only enraged the blonde, but Yuri had promptly refused, stating he had to scout out one of his worst opponents to spy their weaknesses.
Now Yuri looked as though nothing hurt him more than JJ going through a breakup with his soon-to-be wife. Otabek was losing hope that he was ever going to define their exact relationship.
“I really don’t see how it’s childish to leave an argument behind.” He supplied, surprising both himself and the other two.
“He’s right you know. You shouldn’t stay in a place where you get negative emotions.” Yuri was keeping his tone of voice low and serious. It was hard to believe that he was talking to the skater that usually only received yells from those very same set of lips.
JJ looked taken back at their immediate feedback.
“But still, it was stupid of me to run away from the argument. I mean we were supposed to get married this summer!” His voice sounds as though he could hardly believe the words as they left his mouth. “I mean we’ve both been searching for new places to stay since, you know… a shared apartment in Canada won’t exactly be the nicest thing to come back to.”
“Hey don’t worry about that now,” Yuri laid his hand over JJ’s in an act of reassurance. “We’ll help you figure something out. Right Beka?” He said as he turned to look at Otabek.
Otabek was entirely focused on the new point of contact between the other two skaters. He missed the question initially, but caught sight of Yuri’s eyes on him and quickly nodded.
At his nod, JJ visibly relaxed, but Otabek was back to focusing on Yuri’s hand sprawled across JJ’s in his lap. How could Yuri simply touch the guy like that? The action further confused Otabek about the dynamic between the two.
“Would you guys really do that for me?” This JJ was entirely different to the one Otabek met at international competitions. Surprisingly it felt refreshing, in a way, to know that the always confident ‘king of the ice’ wasn’t all too confident in his own self worth outside the rink.
“Of course, it wouldn’t be fun to beat you if you’re a crying mess before you even step on the ice.” Leave it to Yuri to, not only, lighten the mood, but also light the fire within JJ to compete against him, be it on the ice or through mindless banter.
“You wish, If I remember correctly I wasn’t the one to cry before I received my points because of a certain japanese guy.” Now that piece of information was new to Otabek, Yuri had always told him he had cried because of how he finally executed his program perfectly.
“I did not cry because of that fat pig.” Yuri shot back, reaffirming the version of the story Otabek knew.
“Of course you didn’t. That’s why Viktor told me everything you and the japanese Yuuri said to each other straight after.” He reached a hand up to stroke his chin thoughtfully, posing like he was remembering something that happened long ago. “Things like ‘I couldn’t let you retire’ and ‘I’ll make sure you never get married?”
Otabek let out a hearty laugh at that. Frankly he couldn’t help himself, JJ’s impression of Yuri was too spot-on to warrant anything but a laugh.
JJ joined in after half a second of hesitation at suddenly hearing Otabek was there. Yuri, however, just looked shook and betrayed, his eyes shot between the two of them for a few seconds before landing on the turned off TV in front of him. He crossed his arms and pouted, instigating another round of laughter from the two 20 year-olds.
After about five minutes of non-stop laughing, they both resigned to giggling frantically and then ultimately stopping. JJ wiped a fake tear away from his eye with his right hand, whereas Otabek simply chose to lean back on the couch to try and calm down.
“Are you two finished laughing at my expense?” Yuri’s voice came out shaky, dripping with laughter he couldn’t contain. It brought a smile to Otabek's face once more. This was the Yuri he knew best. This was the Yuri that had caught his attention all those years ago.
“Sorry, I didn’t know you were so sensitive.” JJ laughed once more, now holding his stomach.
Yuri’s head shot around to - presumably - glare at JJ. It surprised Otabek how natural it felt to sit squished in his couch with JJ and Yuri. It was way too easy for them to fall into this rhythm. Although, he reminded himself, he didn’t actually contribute all too much, it was mostly the rhythm between the other two that was guiding the atmosphere in the room.
. . .
It felt amazing to skate, it always had. JJ never felt more alive than when he was on the ice. It was his, and his alone. Or so he had thought before. At 19 he had gotten engaged to spite some of his older competition, not really thinking about the consequences of proclaiming it so publicly.
The proclamation caught up to him when he was presenting the ring to Isabella. A ring he had gone out and bought the night before the Grand Prix final last season. With it he promised to win the gold medal. He’d borrowed this condition from Viktor and Yuuri, it seemed fitting, now that Viktor wasn’t in the final it was almost confirmed before he even put on his skates.
Now he was in a rink in Moscow with his current worst-rival and his best friend, who also happened to own the couch JJ had been allowed to crash on until he figured something out with Isabella.
They were all skating around, forwards, backwards, spinning around. JJ tried his best to focus on the feel of the ice beneath his skates, it was the one thing he knew to always calm him down. His thoughts were slipping around in his head, his turns were sloppy, he nearly fell more times than he remembered in his career, skating backwards.
He could feel Yuri and Otabek’s gazes on him as he skated unsteadily around the, rather large, rink. When he finally fell, after trying a half-assed single jump, they appeared at his sides nearly instantly, or Yuri did, Otabek came a few seconds later at a slower pace.
“Oi, you okay?” Yuri’s words resonated with poorly contained worry, yet he still managed to keep a sharp spin on them. It felt like a stab to JJ, his worst opponent worrying about him, the king of the ice. He felt pathetic having flunked a simple single jump in the presence of others, back home he didn’t even allow himself failure when he was alone.
“Oh geez wouldn't you warn me if the ice was gonna be this slippery?” The hand Yuri had extended down towards JJ quickly made it’s way back to the blonde’s side. JJ simply chuckled and got up on his own, he thanked the heavens he was even able to. His mind didn’t feel right today, which, in turn, meant his body wouldn’t be acting right either.
When JJ had brushed off the worst of his clothing from the fall he turned. In turning, he came to look directly at Otabek, whose face was still etched with concern. The expression baffled JJ, he’d always thought of Otabek as a person who didn’t often let his emotions show through his face, but now JJ had seen that same expression twice in the same day. Both times it was directed at him.
He flashed Otabek his usual performance smile as he accelerated on his skates, although this time with much more certainty. There was no way JJ would mess up even more with the other two present.
Turns out he didn’t need to worry about falling on the ice again anytime soon. A few moments after he fell roaring footsteps could be heard from the hallway leading to the rink itself.
“Oh crap it’s Yakov.” Yuri hastily gestured for JJ to leave the ice on the other end from the main hall. When JJ just stood staring confused back at him, he put a hand next to his mouth and not-so-nicely whispered; “He’ll kill us if he sees you here!”
Well there wasn’t much JJ could say to that, so he skated as fast as he could to the exit and ducked behind the banister. A quick 2 second decision caused him to sit all the way down instead of crouching.
“Yuri! Otabek! Why are you in here skating?! It’s a day off! You’re both supposed to be resting!” Yakov sounded frantic as he caught the two skaters in the rink. JJ smirked at the coach’s words, it was nice to know he wasn’t the only one that was forced to take days off.
“Sorry we couldn’t help it.” Did Yuri sound sorry? It was getting difficult for JJ not to chuckle or aim a sly comment over the banister.
“We weren’t practising. We were just relaxing on the ice.” That was Otabek’s low and steady voice, JJ had never taken the time to actually listen to it. He figured it was mostly due to the lack of interaction between the two of them, but also the fact that Otabek rarely ever spoke as far as JJ was aware.
“You’re aware of the favour I’m doing the both of you by letting you practise together right?” Disappointment coated Yakov’s voice. JJ had known Otabek had been practising here over the summer. It was the main reason he had an apartment, or at least that’s the version of the story JJ had been told.
Silence spread throughout the hall and JJ assumed the skaters had simply nodded instead of giving an outright answer. Maybe Yakov had sighed, but JJ wouldn’t be able to tell from this distance, the only reason their voices carried so well was because they were half shouting. He gathered Yuri and Otabek were still standing, a fair distance away from Yakov, on the ice.
“I’m gonna lock the place up since you obviously can’t stand the temptation of skating even on your resting days.” he had mumbled something straight after that JJ didn’t catch.
The unmistakable sound of skates biting through the ice in fast acceleration. Maybe he should reveal himself? He certainly didn’t want to be locked up inside a major skating rink in Moscow. Although, he gathered, it would be quite the ironic karma. Propose because of your confidence on the ice, become uncertain about that very same confidence later on, get locked up with that same ice.
His earlier suspicion of the two skaters standing center on the ice was proven when the voices became indistinguishable.
. . .
Back in the apartment it was quiet. The idiot JJ had chosen to reveal himself at the last minute, and Yuri had a plan too! Because the big idiot decided to stand up, Yakov had given them all an extra long lecture on responsibilities. It had dragged on and on, leaving Yuri both sleepy and annoyed.
The other two didn’t seem too happy either though, so Yuri supposed JJ had gotten at least a little of what he deserved. It was so tempting to just take out his annoyance on JJ like he usually did, but Yuri knew there was something off with his older rival, so he decided to lay off the snappy comments for now.
Although it couldn’t hurt… if it was just a little.
“How thoughtful of you,” he began, capturing JJ’s attention fully. Yuri felt it was way too easy, but brushed it off. It was so quiet any noise would have grabbed their attention.“To show up at our rink, just when we needed it.” He capped the sentence with a chuckle, unintentionally his mind had gone into full banter mode.
It had the desired effect, JJ’s smile etched across his face and nearly tore it in half. “Oh I didn’t know you missed me so badly. Pleasure to be of service to such a young beauty.”
“Hah, you wish!” He shot back, “You’re just trying to cover for your loneliness.”
Yuri could’ve sworn JJ’s smile faltered, just the slightest bit. “You must be dreaming. Kings don’t get lonely in their natural habitat.”
“Since when did your ‘natural habitat’ include my rink?” They were regaining their usual rhythm, Yuri could feel it. This, this is what made them both at ease, this is what’ll help JJ. Even if ‘this’ can only exist for a few minutes at a time.
“Well, I mean, since when did you own an entire rink? Last I checked Yakov was the one running that old thing.” JJ’s smile had settled into his usual playful smirk, his eyes held the challenge Yuri so often took, this time was no different.
Unfortunately he didn’t get the chance to retort as Otabek walked into the apartment at that exact moment. He had disappeared after they exited the rink, handing Yuri the key to the apartment.
Now he was carrying a familiar blue suitcase into the apartment. He looked disheveled, as though he had been exercising thoroughly.
“How- wha-?” JJ’s word jumbled together. Yuri could hardly believe it, Otabek had gone to pick up JJ’s suitcase on his behalf. He must have been running around to find their hotel, that was crazy in a city as large as this one, there were hundreds of hotels downtown.
“You picked up his suitcase?” He couldn’t keep the surprise from his voice, it was just too not-Otabek, and yet at the same time it seemed like something only he would do.
Otabek nodded in response. “It didn’t seem as though you’d thought about it.” His words were directed at JJ, who seemed dumbfounded, but Yuri felt the sting behind them regardless.
“I- uh-” JJ scratched at his arm, it was an obvious nervous tick. “Thanks.. I guess.”
Another quick nod followed by the suitcase finding it’s way to the end of the couch closest to the door. He joined the two of them on the couch, it resulted in Yuri being, once again, squished between the two older skaters.
Otabek took out his phone and started scrolling through what Yuri presumed to be Instagram, it was something Yuri wasn’t used to witnessing. He took the hint though, and took out his own phone.
After scrolling aimlessly for a few minutes the awkward tension in the air got to him and he knew he had to do something before he went nuts from it. JJ was still just sitting staring into space and Otabek looked genuinely interested in his screen. Yuri did the only thing he could think of in the situation, he pulled up his front camera and leaned to both sides before stretching out his arm and snapping a selfie.
It turned out just like you would expect it to, JJ was sporting his usual smirk for the cameras, although his hand posture was missing. Otabek had barely had time to react so he was merely looking at the camera with a plain face. And in the middle of them sat Yuri who had tried his best to look discontented at his current predicament.
“Delete that! You can’t just take photos of celebrities without their consent!” JJ didn’t sound genuinely upset so Yuri put out his tongue at him.
“Celebrity my ass, you’re smiling in the photo. Be glad I gave you a warning at least!” Yuri shot up from the couch as he was talking. He quickly typed a caption to the photo, he had to upload it before JJ managed to get the phone from him. He was way too close to actually grabbing Yuri’s phone by the time he tapped upload.
JJ’s eyes scrunched up in realisation when Yuri willingly handed him the phone. “You didn’t!” He threatened, although it was clear he knew the answer.
“You bet I did, also thanks to you I didn’t get to check the caption for mistakes.”
“Ha! Bet you didn’t even tag it!” Ouch, Yuri must say he got him there. He’d just have to go back later and add tags, or even just delete the thing entirely. Outwardly, he shrugged, trying his best to appear nonchalant.
They kept throwing banter back and forth from their spots standing up, that is, they continued until a ringing blared throughout the room. Yuri recognised his ringtone, it was loud and obnoxious to make sure he could hear it during practise, but now he despised it for tearing out his eardrums.
JJ seemed to be just as surprised as Yuri as he quickly thrusted the phone back to it’s owner, his face was priceless in Yuri’s opinion. There was no time to dwell on the hilarity of his rival’s face though, and so Yuri tapped the ‘accept call’ button dreading the consequences.
“YURIO WHAT’S THIS!!” Turns out Yuri hadn’t needed to put the phone next to his ear anyway, he silently sent out a prayer to keep his hearing intact.
“Ugh what do you want old man?!” His yelling was significantly less loud, or at least it was in his own opinion.
“I’m coming down there right now! I can’t believe you’re alone with those two of all people!!”