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Falling is just like flying

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It was really a beautiful morning: the sky was blue, it was sunny and warm... well as warm as an April morning in St Petersburg could be. But for Viktor, who was now used to this climate after 28 years, the temperature wasn't a bother at all and, by the way Makkachin was happily barking and jumping along the path, it didn't trouble him at all too. It was early for a normal standard, but for them it was regular to take a walk at 7.00 am in their favourite park. Makkachin needed the exercise and so did Viktor actually. Yuuri wasn't there with them: he was sleeping so peacefully that Viktor hadn't had the heart to wake him up, being one of his few free days. After all the Worlds had already passed, and they had gone great! Yurio had beaten him (for his pure joy), Yuuri had managed to collect another silver medal and he had come home with bronze. Yuuri had been concerned he would have been disappointed or furious for not having won, but Viktor was just happy to have got a medal out of it. He was old for skating competitively and this was going to be his last season nevertheless. It wasn't the time to be greedy: he already had enough gold medals, and seeing Yurio and Yuuri happy was more than satisfying for him.

A woof from Makkachin diverted his attention back to his beloved poodle: his dog was chasing a black bird not far from the path in their favourite park. He checked the time and saw it was later than he thought. If he wanted to go to the rink before lunch he needed to get going right now. He whistled to Makkachin and directed themselves towards the exit of the park. The rink was just at a 10 minutes walk distance, so he had time to stop for a coffee on the way at their favourite café. While waiting for it at the counter, he noticed they had restocked Yuuri's favourite pastries. Perhaps he could stop after practice and surprise his fiancé with them. He deserved a little treat after his medal (katsudon had to wait until they were able to return to Japan and to Hiroko's unsurpassable cooking). He made a mental note and retrieved his drink.

 

As soon as the rink came in sight he knew something was wrong: there was an ambulance in the parking lot with its back door open, and a small crowd was gathered there. Obviously someone had got hurt. He knew he was being very selfish, but his first thought was relief: Yuuri was home, so at least that someone wasn't him. He hoped anyway that whoever the person was wasn't severely injured. He spotted Yakov among the crowd and headed towards him: if he wanted information he was the right man. However something odd happened: as soon as Yakov saw him, he turned pale (and Yakov hardly ever turned pale) and addressed Mila: “Mila, Viktor is here. Take care of the dog, while I explain”. A teary Mila followed this order. Viktor couldn't understand: was Yurio injured? Or maybe Georgi? But why couldn't Makkachin stay with him?

“Viktor, I need you to stay calm, ok? - Yakov was talking to him slowly, with a hand on his shoulder as to support him. He still couldn't grasp the reason. - Vitya, listen. You have to keep a cool head for your fiancè. His injury isn't too severe, but they still want to take him to the hospital.”

Yakov's words reached his brain, but they didn't make any sense. Yuuri was at home. He wasn't at the rink that morning. He was in their bed, sleeping (and drooling on his pillow). He couldn't have got hurt. It just wasn't possible. He had to tell this to Yakov: surely he was wrong.

“No, Yakov. Yuuri is at home. He can't be here... he can't be the one injured. It just can't be...”

“Vitya, he was here to surprise you, but something went wrong and he fell...” - Why was Yakov lying? It wasn't a good joke. It was cruel! Did he want to punish him for slacking yesterday at practice? He could hear a deafening buzz in his ears, his eyes were misty and he couldn't breath well. Words reached him, but his brain couldn't really comprehend them. His whole body was shaking, he could feel fear spreading in all his bones.

“Yakov, stop lying. You're wrong. Yuuri is at home. It must be someone else. It can't be him. It just can't!” - He was yelling by now, and everyone was looking at him with pity in their eyes. Why? There wasn't anything to be pitied about. There couldn't be.

In that moment a stretcher pushed by two doctors exited the building. Yurio was just some steps behind them, following the gloomy procession in tears: one hand was on his mouth as if trying to stifle his sobs, the other was frantically moving in his hair. Viktor had never seen the teen so upset in all the years they had known each other. It had to be someone he cared about then. But who?

He caught a glimpse of the injured man, and the world stilled. Yuuri was lying on the stretcher unconscious and so very pale. He had an oxygen mask on his mouth, blood on his forehead and on both his cheeks. The rest of his body was covered by a thick blanket, but one of his arms had escaped that layer and was hanging motionless at on odd angle. All the air seemed to escape his lungs in an istant. His forces betrayed him and he collapsed on the ground, hitting painfully his knees. However the sensation wasn't even registered by his mind, because everything he could think about was Yuuri, lifeless and bloodied on that stretcher. A moan of agony left his throat without him being aware of it. He felt arms around him and heard voices trying to comfort him. But that image wasn't disappearing from his eyes. In a second of lucidity he stood up, but he moved so fast he became dizzy and had to lean on whoever was beside him. When he could move again, he started to sprint towards the ambulance. Hands were trying to stop him, but he didn't allow it: he had to get to the ambulance and see it was not Yuuri. He had to be sure this was all a nightmare, an illusion shaped by his twisted brain to mock him of his bliss.

He reached the ambulance right as they were loading the patient, ready to feel relief, but even up this close the sight that greeted him was torture. He tried to rub his eyes, to clear his vision; he even pinched his arm to wake himself up. But nothing changed. It was really Yuuri on the bed. It wasn't hallucinating.

“Sir, sir. You have to step away.” - One of the medics was attempting to move Viktor.

“He's the next of kin. He has the right to come with Yuuri.” - Thankfully Yakov was lucid enough to explain instead of Viktor.

The doctor seemed skeptical at first, but in the end he resigned. “We are taking him to the MEDEM, – The man was telling to Yakov. - if you want to follow after. But I think he'll stay in the A&E for some hours, so there's no rush. - Then he addressed Viktor, who was sitting just next to him. - Are you stable enough to be here, sir? We already have one patient, we don't need more.”

Was this man really trying to make him leave Yuuri's side? “No, no. I'm okay. Let's go.”

The answer seemed to satisfy the man, who yelled to his colleague driving they were ready. Just before the doors closed, Yakov assured him they would meet at the hospital and not to worry too much.

 

He didn't remember much of that drive: it just felt endless. Apparently Yuuri had fell and hit his head hard. They thought he had a concussion, but when they had arrived he had been conscious for a bit and that was a good sign. His blood pressure was good, but he had some cut on his forehead and had lost a lot of blood. His right ankle was probably sprained, but at least it didn't appear to be broken. After all it could have been so much worse. That was what the doctors were telling him, but he wasn't fully relieved: Yuuri was still unconscious and white as the sheet he was laid upon.

After what felt like hours, they reached the hospital. Rationally he knew he couldn't go inside the examination room, but his brain wasn't understanding logic at the moment and the mere thought of loosing sight of Yuuri made him want to puke. He was left in the care of a nurse, until his ears caught a familiar voice. He turned suddenly towards that feeble source of comfort: Yakov was walking towards him, red in the face, followed closely by Yurio.

“I can take it from here. - He muttered to the nurse. - Any news?”

“No, sir. The patient is under examination. Sit in the waiting room and we'll call you when it's time”.

Yakov replied only with a stiff nod and then directed all his attention to his student: “Viktor, let's go sit down. You'll feel better.” - He let himself be manhandled towards a line of chairs near the wall. There he stood still, watching his trembling hands.

“What happened?” - The question that had haunted him for hours finally escaped his gritted teeth.

“Yuuri came this morning at half past six. - His coach started to recount the events in a low, pained voice. - We weren't expecting to see him since it was his day off, but he told us he wanted to practice a new piece. He said it was a surprise for you. - Viktor could have sworn he had tried to contain his tears, but he was doing a poor job because sobs were wrecking all his body, making him shake hard. - He was the first on the ice. He warmed up a bit and then started to try some jumps. But something must have been wrong with the ice. I don't know. Perhaps it wasn't smooth enough... I don't know. He fell... hard. He hit his head and blood started to come out from his wounds. At first he was conscious: Yurio kept him calm while the ambulance arrived. He was still lucid when the medics came, but he soon collapsed. The rest you know.”

Viktor gave no reaction to those words. The shaking had stopped; he just stood there motionless like the statues in a museum; he was pale like one too. His hair was hiding his face, so his expression wasn't visible to others. He wasn't crying, he wasn't shouting, he wasn't actually emitting a single sound. The waiting room was oddly empty and you could only hear a faint beeping and a nurse talking to the receptionist in the distance. There was some sort of stillness, waiting in the air. And then it all came to an abrupt end. A wail of anguish mounted from deep inside him and forced his way out of his throat. Tears started to fall copiously from his eyes. Tremors crossed his entire form.

His cheek was slapped. He turned, ready to crush to pieces whoever had dared such a gesture, disrupting his misery. But when he found himself face to face with a sniffing Yurio, he came to a halt.

“Stop this, you fucking idiot. Katsudon needs you now. You can't break!” - He had never seen the teen so shaken. He brought a hand to cover his burning cheek: damn, Yurio was strong. But it was probably what he deserved. Yurio was right: now was not the time to crush, he needed to be strong for Yuuri.

“Is there a Mr Nikiforov here? Mr Nikiforov? - The kind nurse from before was calling his name. - There you are. Right. The doctors have completed Mr Katsuki's examination. Mr Katsuki has sustained a serious concussion, but there's no brain damage. The wounds on his head weren't very deep, although he did need some stitches and there'll probably be scars. His right ankle is not broken: however it suffered a light sprain. His doctor is coming to see you in a minute and you can ask him all the questions that you want.”

However Viktor had a question that couldn't wait: “Can I see Yuuri?”.

The nurse smiled: she had probably been in a lot of situations similar to this. “Sure. He is still not conscious because of the painkillers, but we have put him in a room to rest. So after you've talked with the doctor, you can go to him.” - That was probably the first joy of the day.

A man in a white coat came into view; when he spotted the nurse he strode towards them with a steady pace. “Good morning, I'm Doctor Vasilyev. I was the one examining Mr Katsuki. I'm here to answer any of you questions.” It was the moment he had been waiting for, but now that it had arrived Viktor couldn't seem to find the words. One more time that morning, Yakov came to his rescue: “The nurse has just debriefed us on Yuuri's injuries. But how severe are they?”.

“Well, his concussion is pretty serious, so we're going to keep him here at least for the night to monitor his condition. But if tomorrow he's feeling well, he's going to be discharged. We had to put some stitches on him: seven on his forehead and nine under his chin. Those will probably leave marks, but not so visible ones. He had bruised his ribs in the fall, but no bones have been broken, which is very good. His right ankle is sprained, but it's not a very severe injury. I understand he's a professional figure skater, though. After this incident it's better if he stays off the ice for at least one week, better if more. And in the following days he can't overexert himself: he has to rest because of the concussion and all the other bruises. Is there anything more you'd like to know?”

Viktor tried to speak, but again his tongue wasn't able to form clear words. This time it was Yurio who helped him out: “We were said we could see him. Where is he?”.

“Yes, you can see him. Visiting hours last until seven; after that only one person can stay for the night. He is in room 221.”

Just as the doctor was leaving the room, Viktor managed to utter a weak “thank you”, at which the doctor replied with a nod and a light smile.

“Let's go see Katsudon.”

 

 

Yakov and Yurio had remained with him until 7.00 pm, when they were forced to leave. However Yakov promised to come the next day with clean clothes for both Yuuri and Viktor, while Yurio threatened to bring twenty or more pirozhkis. During their stay they had managed to keep his mind away from the worst thoughts, but now that he was alone with a still unconscious Yuuri he drifted towards those. What if Yuuri wasn't fine? Yes, the doctor had reassured him more than once, but what if the scans had missed something? What if Yuuri never woke up again? What was he going to do with his life? How was he going to be able to live an empty and meaningless existence? Yuuri had brought him his two L words: he was sure that if Yuuri left, life and love were going to abandon him too.

His dreary chain of thoughts was fortunately stopped there by a movement coming from the bed. At first it was almost unintelligible, but it became more obvious any second: Yuuri's eyelids were twitching. Viktor instantly rushed towards the bed: “Yuuri, Yuuri! How are you feeling? Do you need anything? - But the only reply he got was coughing. - Right, water. Here. Drink it slowly.”

Yuuri accepted the glass of water offered to him. His chocolate-brown eyes were finally open, scanning his surroundings carefully. He had so many questions, but every time he tried to speak his throat started to convulse and not a single clear sound left his mouth. So he continued to sip the cool liquid, hoping to regain his speaking ability soon. In the meantime he looked at his fiancé: he was paler than usual (which wasn't easy considering Viktor's milky skin), his eyes were red and puffy with black bags under them, his hair were in total disarray and his lips were trembling. A very different picture from the one you could have expected from the Russian legend.

“Yuuri, can you talk now?” - Viktor's words interrupted his thoughts, bringing him back to the moment. He cleared his throat and attempted at forming understandable sounds: “Mmh. Y-yes. Yes, I can.”

“Ok. I'll summarise what I know about your conditions and then you can tell me what you remember. Good? - Yuuri nodded in assent. - Ok. You have a concussion, so we have to stay the night here at the hospital because they want to monitor you. You needed stitches on your forehead and under your chin. You have bruised some ribs and sprained your right ankle, but the doctor says it's not very severe. He recommended you stay off the ice for one week. All clear?”

“Yes, Viktor. But before I start talking can you... would you... - Viktor's raised one of his eyebrows, trying to interpret his Yuuri's thoughts. But in vain. Seeing the confusion on him, Yuuri managed to utter his desire, blushing furiously. - Viktor, can you come sit near me on the bed? I just want to hold your hand.”

“Yuuri, you only needed to ask!” - A too excited Viktor nearly jumped on the narrow bed, still careful of Yuuri's injuries. When they were both settled, with one of Viktor's hands clasped between both Yuuri's ones, he started to retell what he remember of that morning.

“Well, as soon as you went out with Makkachin, I went to the rink. I was going to surprise you with my new gala exhibition, so I wanted to practice a bit more. I warmed up and I was ready for some easy jumps. But when I was just to leap in the air, something in the ice felt wrong. I don't know... like a rough patch... but I had already accumulated enough energy for my triple. And I fell. Everything was black at first and I couldn't hear anything. Then I started to focus enough to understand what they were saying to me. Yurio wanted to keep me conscious at all costs... but it was so hard! Then I know an ambulance arrived. I answered some questions, but I must have blacked out because I can't recall anything else.”

“Yeah, that matches what Yakov told me actually.”

An uncomfortable silence filled the room after that conversation. Yuuri didn't know how to lighten the mood: he decided for some humor.

“Well, at least I'm so stubborn my head was too hard to break, uh?” - It didn't go how he'd planned however.

“Don't say things like that! - Viktor's eyes were glassy and he was shouting, which was unusual because he tended not to raise his voice ever. - It was serious. You're in hospital. You could have got a brain trauma! I didn't even know you were at the rink, and then I saw you there... stained with blood and you were not moving... Yuuri you were not moving...”

“Hush... Viktor, calm down. - Yuuri was stroking his lover's back, trying to quiet the sobs erupting from his mouth. - Ok. Maybe it was a tacky joke, but I wanted to cheer you up a bit. Will you smile form me, Vityenka? Mmh?” - That was a trick that always worked... otherwise he didn't know what to do.

At first nothing happened: Viktor's face was hidden in Yuuri's blanket and he couldn't see his expression. But then he raised his head and forced a smile on his face.

“There you are. - Yuuri cooed, teasingly. - Now come here and give me a kiss. I've spent too many hours deprived of your wonderful company.”

“Yuuri, don't joke. - Viktor complained (with less force than before), while approaching the other man anyway. - It's not funny!”

“Ok, I'll be very serious after you give me a kiss, a hug, and we cuddle a bit. You can't deny me anything, I'm hurt.”

“Yuuri! You're incorrigible!” - But he couldn't resist Yuuri's lips and open arms even if he were dying. They stayed locked like that for some time, finding comfort in each other even in those dark hours.

“Thank you, I needed this” - Yuuri murmured into the silver locks after a while.

“Yeah. I needed this too. I always need you, lyubimiy. And I always will. So try not to die, ok?”

“Ok. - Yuuri chuckled, tightening his grip on the other's body. - I'll try that just for you.”