Yuuri's recovery was going slowly but steadily towards a full comeback. Even though in the end he had to stay in hospital for four days, he was feeling incredibly better now. The bruises had long faded, as well as the stitches. The only thing still needing rehabilitation was his ankle: it hadn't regained the force necessary to sustain quads yet. But the doctor had reassured the worried skater more then once: it was only a matter of time; there were no complications at all. Considering the whole situation he had been incredibly lucky: he had fallen really hard and his ankle could have been broken, if not his entire leg! The fright had certainly been huge, both for Yuuri and his loved ones. All the fellow skaters had offered their help in any possible way they could: Georgi and Mila had housed Makkachin alternately while Viktor and Yuuri were in hospital; Pichit had made a frantic call, threatening to fly to Russia if they didn't keep him informed (and send him some pictures). Chris had sent him a vase of his favourite flowers to “brighten your hospital stay”. Yurio at first had been really shaken: he was one of the eyewitnesses of the incident and seeing Yuuri hurt had touched that deep and soft part of his heart that he always tried desperately to hide from the whole world. He had come religiously everyday to see Yuuri before he had been discharged, bringing him a bag full of pirozhkis because “hospital food tastes like shit”. Now that Yuuri was resting at home, he continued to bring him food nevertheless, claiming that “Your rest is useless if you end up being poisoned by your fiancè's terrible cooking!”. Yuuri could only agree with him. Yakov and Lilia had both come to see him too, offering words of encouragement and help (and fortunately a ride home because Viktor could not be trusted driving if there was traffic). Yuuri's family had also been really worried by the news: Hiroko wanted to come immediately to visit his son and only Viktor's constant reassurance that he would keep her informed of everything managed to calm her down enough.
It was evident however that the most frightened of all had been Viktor: his usual cool demeanour had broken in a million of pieces in front of everyone that morning at the rink and in the following days he had been so consumed by worry and fear that his appearance had slowly become worn and sickly. He was dotting Yuuri like a mother hen, trying to appease (if not precede) his every need. Yuuri at first had been grateful and in a way pleased: that surely had showed all the extent of Viktor's love and affection for him. But with the passing of days he had started to notice obvious signs of exhaustion in Viktor, so he had been forced to push him into resting as well. Therefore his first days at home had been spent with warm cuddles, light exercise, hugs and kisses, movies, and more cuddles.
When Viktor had to restart training at least a few hours a day, he had pouted a bit: not because he didn't understand that it was compelling, but only because he wanted to be on the ice himself, as soon as possible! However the doctor told him he had to wait one other week before attempting to resume practice, and those days had been hell: he was so bored. He had nothing interesting to do, and although Makkachin's presence was more than welcome, he couldn't really have a conversation with him. During one of those endless and monotonous days he had to spend alone at home, Yuuri decided to occupy himself with choosing his costumes for the following season: Viktor had already got his, but he had waited a bit more because he wanted to refine his theme before ordering the final products. For this year Yuuri had opted for an odd theme: “Phoenix”. He had chosen it because like the mythological bird he felt himself reborn after last season, with the help especially of Viktor. His short program was meant to show the last flashes of energy of the phoenix before burning to ashes, its brightest moments just before fading away. His free skate, however, was more cheerful, depicting the rebirth and the first joyous instants of the new life. For this one he had picked a dress in a vibrant crimson tonality, with gold intricate decorations. For his short program, instead, he had settled on a black costume with sparks of scarlet ornaments and a lot of see-through patches. This particular dress was now causing a big problem.
Yuuri had the tailor ship him the costumes at home and was trying them out for the final test. They fit him perfectly, but the problem was that one of the transparent parts clearly showed his stretching marks just under his hip. Logically he knew that the public wasn't going to see that while he was performing, but they were certainly not escaping the cameras filming for TV and the photos for the magazines. He couldn't even start to think what the press and fans all around the world were going to comment.
How can Japanese Katsuki Yuuri skate with that body?
Fat people in sports: is Katsuki Yuuri the proof of our lowering standards?
Is the love between a demi-God and an elephant possible? Viktor Nikiforov and Katsuki Yuuri's relationship under scrutiny.
His mind was manifacturing those and a lot more of possible titles, dragging him in an abyss of self-hatred. He started to become gradually aware of his body: how large were his hips, how heavy his thighs, how puffy his cheeks, how tight his leggings... Every minimum imperfection his body could have was being scanned and criticised by his brain. A dark and unpleasant feeling began to swell inside his chest, preventing his lungs from breathing normally. He started to hyperventilate and the tears forming in his eyes and blocking his vision weren't helping at all. His mind wasn't giving him pause: every truth he thought he had established was being crushed.
I am a good figure skater.
Are you sure? How can you think that when you haven't really accomplished anything? Viktor is so much better than you and even Yuri, still so young, is more brilliant than you. You are a dishonour for your country and your family. Nobody could be really proud of being associated with you.
But I have a World Record for my FS.
Ah, yes. And you don't think Yuri or Viktor are going to beat it soon, do you? Let me tell you this: not only they are going to break it, but their scores are going to be so much higher that you will never be able to overcome them. You should have retired already. You'd better do it now... before you embarrass yourself even more.
Viktor loves me anyway.
Keep telling yourself that. That's not pity, right? You are a burden, don't you see? You are a nuisance to everyone and especially to your so-called fiancé. Don't you think he's tired of falling behind for your sake? It's obvious you are persistently incapacitating him from being at his top. He deserves the best, and you are clearly not the best. It would be better if you were brave enough to let him go. But we both know you're so selfish, you are never going to do it.
You are useless.
You are nothing.
“Yuuri, where are you?”
You are worthless.
“Yuuri, are you fine?”
Nobody loves you.
“Yuuri, concentrate on your breathing. Stay in the present!” - He knew that voice: it was soothing him. It was Viktor's voice. He loved Viktor. But Viktor didn't...
“No, Yuuri. You can get through this. But you have to regulate your breathing. Can you do that for me? Breathe with me, sladkiy.” - Yuuri really wanted to please Viktor. He could do it. He needed to.
“Yes, like that! I'm so proud of you, dorogoy. Good, good. You're doing great!”
He was breathing normally now, but his uneasiness had not ceased totally yet. His heart was still beating really fast; his chest hurt and he was overcome by a feeling of dizziness. Anxiety had not left his mind and his heart. But that voice was helping, that voice was his anchor.
“Yuuri, now I want you to raise both your arms over your head. Can you do that for me?” - Raise his arms? He didn't understand how that could help him, but if Viktor wanted that he would do it.
“Well done! Now do it again for ten more times. Yes, excellent!”
Even though he wasn't completely aware of it, repeating that simple task was helping him focus. After the ten repetitions he was conscious enough to ask for a glass of water and to understand what had really happened. He had had a panic attack. It wasn't the first time he had experienced one: his anxiety made those a despised recurring event. But it was the first time he had had one while in St Petersburg and with Viktor present.
A glass of water was gently being thrust in his shaking hands. While sipping his drink, Yuuri raised his eyes from the floor and assessed Viktor's emotions. He seemed a bit frightened, but still in control of the situation.
“Do you want to talk about it?” - One of Viktor's hands was drawing circles on his knee, while his sapphire eyes were probably trying to see through his soul going by the intensity of his gaze. Yuuri pondered the question for a bit, while taking another sip. It was probably the best to talk about it now: he couldn't hide forever.
“Yes, I want to... tell you about it.”
“Okay. I'll listen. Take all the time you need.”
“Mmmh. I was trying my costumes and everything was fine. But then I noticed my stretch marks were visible with this dress. And I started panicking. My mind made up horrible thoughts. My brain was screaming that I wasn't a good enough skater, that I should retire, that... that... that you don't love me.” - At this point his voice was only a whisper and tears had started to draw lines on his cheeks again.
“Hey, hey. Nothing of that is true. Especially that last one. Not only I love you with all my heart, I truly believe you are my soulmate. I can't live without you.” - While saying this Viktor had hugged Yuuri, stroking his back with gentle touches. Yuuri's face was hidden in the other man's neck, breathing in his soothing scent while trying to stop his sobs. That simple action, as well as Viktor's words of course, was helping him to ground himself.
When he felt he was calm enough to talk again, Yuuri moved himself so he could stare directly into Viktor's eyes, encircling his face with both his hands.
“Thank you so much. I didn't want to worry you, it's just that sometimes the world is too much. I'm usually able to deal with my feelings alone, but it's not always possible for me. Every now and then my emotions just burst out. And this time it was a sorer spot than most.”
“But you believe me, right? You have to. I love you, Yuuri. It's not a lie.”
“My reason knows that. But my mind is not always led by my reason: sometimes my anxiety takes command and I start to doubt everything.”
A frown was beginning to form between Viktor's eyebrows, but he soon managed to take it under control. “Well, I just have to remind you more of my love, haven't I?”. His tone was teasing, but Yuuri could see uncertainty in his eyes, as if he wasn't entirely sure that was the right thing to say.
“I think that's actually a very good idea, Viktor. And I also think you should start it right about now.” - While saying this, Yuuri had grasped Viktor's collar and was lowering himself and his fiancé on their large couch, his eyes leaving no doubt on how he wanted Viktor to show his love.
After, they were laying spent and relaxed on their couch (fortunately under a blanket they had always in their living room). Yuuri's head was resting on Viktor's chest: he was listening to his heartbeat, steady and reassuring. In the meantime Viktor seemed content enough just to stroke his hair with one hand. The other was gently tracing his stretching marks, but that wasn't disturbing Yuuri since now that spot was also adorned with many purple marks Viktor had left with his mouth as a reminder of his undying love.
Suddenly a shocking thought came to Yuuri's mind: “Viktor, how did you know how to properly stop a panic attack?”.
Viktor's hands paused just for few seconds, soon resuming their calming paths. “Mari. When I had to return to Japan for Makkachin we were able to talk alone for a bit. She was worried my behaviour was going to hurt you, so she warned me I should be prepared. Internet did the rest.”
“Oh” - Yuuri had raised his head, utterly dumbfounded: he didn't know his sister cared so much.
Noticing his surprise, Viktor tightened the bear hug he was using on his lover. “Maybe you don't fully realise it, but there are many people who love you, lyubimiy . If you remember it, I'm sure everything will be better. I'm … we are always here for you.”
In that moment, enclosed in Viktor's strong and loving embrace, it wasn't so difficult to believe it.