“So, you just gonna waste over half of your lesson time looking at videos with Viktor on the phone?”
Yuuri blinked in surprise, caught off guard by the strange question from Yuri. “Huh? What do you mean?”
Yuri rolled his eyes so far back into his head Yuuri was afraid they might just stay there. “Are you kidding me? You spend more time rinkside than you actually do skating. I told you - get a choreographer.”
The frown on Yuuri’s face couldn’t grow deep enough at the comment. Just how much clearer did he have to make it that he wasn’t going to do that to Viktor? “I know it’s unconventional, but this works for us, Yurio. Things have been going really well.”
“You are the only skater here that hasn’t completed their free program,” Yuri pointed out. “Have you even picked the music yet?”
“Yes,” Yuuri replied back quickly, “and we’ve started choreography, too.”
With a huff, Yuri crossed his arms and moved into a spread-eagle circle around Yuuri. “Show me.”
A wave of anxiety came crashing into him and he felt the heat he had created from his workout dissipate in an instant. “U-um,” he stuttered, tapping his pointer fingers together. They’d started choreography, but they didn’t actually have any choreography.
“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” Yuri spat. “Assignments are next week and you’re telling me you don’t even have a complete program?” Slamming down his toe pick in the ice to stop himself he grabbed for Yuuri’s wrist. “Katsudon, listen to me. If you end up not being a worthy opponent this season because of Viktor, or worse – don’t qualify for the Grand Prix Final – then I will fucking kill you both. Got it?”
Normally, it was easy to brush off Yuri’s threats. Rarely could they be taken seriously and they were usually still so childish in nature, but this… This Yuuri felt in his core. The seriousness of the reality. Yuuri might not qualify for the GPF. The anxiety started to coil itself around his throat and he yanked his wrist free from Yuri to turn his back and push towards the barrier and Viktor. The noose that had been created yanked hard just before he could reach his husband. Yakov was talking to him - at him - in an angry voice.
Carefully, Yuuri backed off. As much as he wanted to eavesdrop, he respected Viktor and Yakov’s relationship too much to do that. Viktor would tell him later if he wanted Yuuri to know.
With one eye on his husband, he worked leisurely on his short program’s step-sequence, the movements lacking any sort of real passion or structure. He waited for Viktor to call him over or give him a task once Yakov had left, but the man only remained hunched over the barrier with a glossy gaze.
Yuuri sighed sadly. If previous incidents were any indicator, Viktor wouldn’t be able to pull himself out of whatever was going on in his head before the end of practice. Another day would pass without any work on his free skate. Only this time, as much as he tried to beat them down, Yuri’s words lingered in the back of his head, giving him more to worry about than just his husband. Could they afford to lose another day like this? What should he do? Yuuri didn’t know...
Viktor didn’t say much the rest of the practice and he and Yuuri parted ways from the rink in an almost awkward silence. While Viktor went on to his physical therapy, Yuuri started into a jog to try and clear his mind. It failed miserably, the haunting thoughts simply chasing him the entire way back to their apartment. The shower he took after he returned home was no better. Beneath the steaming water he had nowhere to run and he was trapped with the dark thoughts.
With a towel around his neck he emerged from their room to find Viktor home preparing to cook dinner in the kitchen. Yuuri waited for a second, waiting to see if Viktor noticed him and spoke first. He didn’t, the man too lost in his own world. “Hey.” Yuuri approached Viktor from behind and stood up on his toes to kiss him on the cheek. “How was therapy?”
Viktor leaned into the kiss, putting Yuuri a bit more at ease. “The usual,” he commented. “I’ve gained about another five degrees in my range of motion. Still behind the curve, but it’s progress.”
Yuuri squeezed his bicep reassuringly. “Hey, any progress is great progress, right?”
Viktor only hummed. It was his way of pushing Yuuri off.
Frowning, Yuuri took the hint and started to walk away, wiping at his hair one more time with the towel before dropping it into the laundry. Grabbing his yoga mat, he unrolled it in the living room so that he could keep an eye on Viktor while he stretched. Maybe that wasn’t the best idea, but Yuuri was worried. Viktor still wasn’t opening up to him about this morning. The longer he stretched in silence the more the unwanted thoughts filled his mind. Every worst case scenario started to creep up on him and he wondered if he’d still have a coach or even a husband by the start of the season. It was stupid and irrational, he knew, but his anxiety didn’t care about being rational.
Yuuri was finally startled from his thoughts and he tucked his legs beneath him out of the split. “Hm?”
“Am I holding you back?”
The boldness of the question was so shocking that Yuuri didn’t know how to respond for a moment. When it finally hit him, he found himself scrambling to his feet and to the kitchen. “What?! Vitya, no! Of course not! Who told you that? Yuri? Don’t listen to him.” Viktor forced a smile as he stirred the pot and Yuuri realized how familiar that look was. Like the one he had been giving Yakov earlier today. “Yakov. That’s what Yakov was talking to you about today.” His heart sank through to the bottom of his chest. “Oh, Vitya…”
“He’s right, you know?” The forced smile grew larger, like the one he had been giving the media all those years before Yuuri. “We’re so far behind. You should already be practicing both programs in full, but you can’t because I haven’t given you a free program yet.”
Yuuri opened his mouth to protest, to tell Viktor that it was fine and that they’d work through it, but Viktor continued without giving him a break.
“We need to be talking about costume designs and getting in those commissions. Assignments are next week, and we’re so far behind. And it’s my fault, I know.” Viktor’s voice didn’t falter, but Yuuri could see the pain all over his face and every bit of it stabbed him in the chest. The stirring stopped and Viktor removed the wooden spoon setting it down on a plate. “I’m sorry… Could you finish dinner? My leg- I can’t stand anymore.”
Words jumbled together in Yuuri’s throat, fighting each other over what should be said. Nothing won, and he remained silent as he took over at the stove. Watching Viktor limp to the bedroom he felt tears sting at his eyes. Why didn’t you say anything? Tell him it wasn’t true?
But it was true, no matter how badly Yuuri wanted to think otherwise. The time and energy they were putting into helping Viktor work around his injury was time not being applied to Yuuri’s program. He was dangerously behind and, worse, he and Viktor both knew it. Still, he was supposed to lie. He was supposed to tell Viktor what he needed to hear to feel better.
Letting out a shaky sigh he reached up to turn off the stove, no longer hungry. Given Viktor’s reaction, he didn’t think the other man was either. Pulling out some containers, he stored the cooked vegetables for another day, knowing they would not be consumed tonight. Slow and silent tears fell down his cheeks as he cleaned up the kitchen and then made his way to the couch. The grandfather clock ticked on, an ominous metronome counting down the seconds of some impending doom.
How could he make this better? What could he do? Viktor was right. He knew it, Yuuri knew it, Yuri knew it, and now even Yakov knew it. There was no hope of changing Viktor’s mind about that. What they needed to do was simply make it not true. But how?
Come on, Yuuri, stop feeling sorry for yourself and think. How can we fix this?
Brown eyes caught a glimpse of his laptop on the armrest opposite him. Yuri had said they spent more time looking at videos than skating. Well, that was because for Viktor so many years and so many programs started to blend together and it only served to confuse Yuuri’s once perfect library of Viktor Nikiforov trivia. What if they could unjumble all those memories? That was it! Wiping away his tears, he stretched across the sofa to grab the laptop and headed swiftly down the hall.
Even though it was technically his room too, Yuuri knocked politely against the half-open door before peeking his head in. “Vitya…?” When Viktor rolled over to acknowledge him he stepped in fully, laptop in hand as he carefully sat down on the mattress next to his husband. “I...I know things have been hard lately. We’ve had a hard time figuring out how to work through the challenges, but we have. We’ve put together a really solid short program that I’m proud of and can’t wait to perform.”
Yuuri hushed him with a gentle touch to the forearm. “But you are right. We are behind, and we need to find a way to work through these challenges too. So I thought of an idea.” Yuuri opened the laptop on his thighs. “The problem is we are both a little forgetful these days and we spend more times trying to figure out which program to reference than skating. Why don’t we take a little time to refresh our memories?”
This time when Yuuri saw the tears in those blue eyes, they were from happiness. “I think that’s a perfect idea, zolotse .”
Smiling, Yuuri curled up against Viktor and shifted the laptop between them for better viewing. Program after program. Hour after hour. Yuuri felt like a little boy rediscovering Viktor all over again.
Gradually, Yuuri started to come out of his sleep peacefully. With a full body stretch he uncurled himself, releasing a pleasant sigh. The sheets were cold against his sleep-warmed skin and there was no blaring alarm sound. If only every morning could be this way. Seconds later, Yuuri’s eyes flew open and he bolted upright reaching for his glasses. Slipping them on his nose he saw his laptop neatly placed on the nightstand. How late had they ended up staying up? Turning over his phone he cursed at the time. They’d missed morning practice. Why had Viktor let him sleep in?
“Vitya!” Throwing off the covers he opened the door and headed for the living room where he could hear faint music. He stopped in his tracks when he saw Viktor dancing to his free program music.
Well, dancing was certainly not the right word. It was more like a series of intricate arm movements as he sort of hopped on one leg. Still, it was the most peaceful Yuuri had seen Viktor since his injury. With a smile, Yuuri leaned up against the wall silently, watching the scene unfold in front of him. In the back of his mind he could hear the doctor, the therapists, and Yakov all yelling at allowing Viktor to do so much… but Yuuri didn’t have the heart to stop him.
Eventually, Viktor stopped himself, having finally become aware of Yuuri’s presence. He stumbled, startled, and fell down right onto the sofa.
Yuuri gasped, running to him, afraid that he was hurt. When he looked down, Viktor was grinning from ear to ear and pulled Yuuri down with him. “Vitya!” Yuuri yelped before chuckling, hyper aware of his husband’s knee. “You could have hurt yourself!”
“I’m already hurt,” Viktor argued, wrapping his arms around Yuuri’s waist.
With a fond smile, Yuuri brushed at sweaty silver bangs. “What were you doing?”
“Choreographing your free skate,” Viktor responded. “I’ve finished it. Well, I think. It might need some fine-tuning once I actually see it out on the ice, but it’s a pretty good start.”
Matching Viktor’s smile, Yuuri bent down and kissed him. “I can’t wait to try it. Though you know we’ve missed morning practice.”
“I know. Yakov already called to yell at me for being a terrible coach.” Viktor pursed his lips in a pout. “But coaching doesn't always have to be on the ice, right? I still think this counts as practice.”
Yuuri let out a snort. “Except you were the one doing all the work.”
“You can make it up to me by making me breakfast.” Viktor winked. “I’ll count it.”
Rolling his eyes, Yuuri bent down and gave Viktor one final kiss before crawling off of him. “Do your physical therapy exercises and then ice your knee.”
“Is my student giving me orders!?” Viktor gasped.
Yuuri picked up the spatula and pointed it at Viktor. “No, but your husband is! I don’t want you complaining about how you overworked yourself when we have to go to the rink this afternoon.”
“Okay, okay,” Viktor whined. “My Yuuri is so mean to me.”
Yuuri smiled as once more the anxiety and fear was closed behind a door.
“You missed practice this morning,” Yuri said casually, eyeing Yuuri as they both worked on lacing up their skates.
Yuuri smiled knowingly. “Yup.”
Yuri’s green eyes narrowed skeptically. “Why?”
Finishing tying the bow and pulling his socks down over the boot Yuuri smiled wider. “We were finishing up my free skate. Since Viktor can’t skate, we just decided to work on it off ice.” The look of surprise from the Russian was satisfying, to say the least. “Hurry up and maybe you can see it!”
“We’ll run through it without the music first, to make sure it flows the way I envisioned it,” Viktor instructed as he took Yuuri’s skate guards.
“Mm,” Yuuri acknowledged before stepping out on the ice to start his warm-up moves and figures. It was hard not to notice the way Yuri continued to stare at him the entire time. Smiling, Yuuri moved into a backwards spiral pattern, stretching to his fullest towards a standing split on the last one reaching down for his ankle. He just missed colliding with Yuri on his way back up, which he was sure was intentional. “Everything okay, Yurio?”
“Fine,” Yuri responded curtly. “You seem happy.”
“Because I am,” Yuuri responded. “Is that okay with you?” He winked, only serving to anger the blonde. “You should try it sometime. Being happy.”
“Who says I’m not happy?” Yuri retorted. “I’m gonna be plenty happy when I wipe the ice with you at every competition. There can only be one Yuri on the ice, after all.”
Yuuri smirked and skated past Yuri, brushing shoulders with him purposely. “You’re right. Me.”
Not waiting around for Yuri’s response he moved to the center of the ice and into the starting pose for his free skate. The first runthrough was rough, but that was expected. He forgot the choreography in one spot and another didn’t flow right from Viktor’s head to the ice.
“Play the music,” Yuuri suggested. “Let me see if I can come up with something to replace that sequence. I need to do it in the moment though. Feel the music.” Viktor pulled out his phone at the stereo system, pulling up the music and plugging in. Yuuri got into position and started the moment the music filled the rink. He followed the choreo up until the questionable point.
Hmm...what can I do here? He landed out of the triple toe-loop, giving himself pause to feel the music for just a second. Double three-turn, down into a lunge maybe? Nice back-bend...up into a nice extended inside three-turn oh! Slide stop with this musical pause. Nice, Yuuri. Backward crossover, two twizzles? No, three is better. Now, power three, straight into my camel spin. This part of the music is a little more bouncy, though. What about an illusion? Two rotations there, now into my back-spin. Okay, now onto Viktor’s original choreography. Hm. I wonder if he liked that? Yuuri tried not to think about it, focusing on finishing the routine. He downgraded his salchow from a quad to a triple and touched on his flip, but otherwise finished what he thought was a fairly solid routine.
Viktor was clapping excitedly next to the stereo. “Yuuri! I loved your changes! Let’s keep them! But what was with changing the jumps? Are you out of shape?”
“W-what?! No!” Yuuri shook his head. “I just - um,”
. It’s fine. You were focused on the choreography,” Viktor chuckled. “Let’s practice just the jumps though, da?”
They worked on his quads and combinations, Yuuri falling several times before he eventually landed the salchow. At least his triple axel was perfectly consistent as always so he had that. It was frustrating, but for once Yuuri didn’t let it get to him as much. He was tired, after all, having stayed up so late with Viktor. Good things had come from this practice even through the falls and under rotations.
“We’ll need to have a practice this week to just focus on the jumps,” Viktor mentioned as he handed Yuuri his guards. “I don’t want those to suffer as we work through perfecting your choreography.”
Yuuri grabbed for the towel and wiped at the sweat on his brow. “Okay. I’ll work on them off ice in the studio too.”
“Are you going there while I’m at therapy?” Viktor asked as they started to walk back to the locker rooms.
“Mm, I think so. I want to practice the routine to really get the flow of it,” Yuuri said.
“Good idea. I’ll make dinner tonight since I was supposed to last night. Have a good practice.” Viktor leaned down and gave him a kiss before they parted.
Yuuri wiped down and packed his skates and left the rink feeling light and happy. Just ahead of him at the bottom of the stairs he spotted Yuri. “Yurio!” Yuuri called, hurrying down the steps to catch up to the other man. “I was going to go practice in the studio. Did you want to join me?”
“I’m tired,” Yuri mumbled with his hands in his pockets. “Some of us practiced twice today.”
Yuuri laughed, scratching the back of his head nervously. “Ah, yeah. Okay. Well, then, see you?”
“Wait,” Yuri sighed. “I’ll go.”
The smile on Yuuri’s face was telling enough as they walked side-by-side to Lilia’s. “Your programs are looking good. Are you excited?”
Yuri shrugged. “As much as I am for any other season, I guess. I’ve got my first fitting for my short program costume tomorrow.”
“Eh? Already?” Yuuri blinked in surprise.
“Yeah. Some of us aren’t behind, remember, piggy?” Yuri jabbed playfully.
Yuuri hummed. He might have to go more on the simple side this year for his costumes if he was going to get them back in time. Everyone at the rink pretty much used the same designer which meant she got backed up quickly. Or maybe he could just raid Viktor’s closet again. It would be much easier just to get one of those altered. It also wasn’t unusual for skaters not to have their costumes until the second or third competition. He’d have to make an appointment as soon as possible.
Both men changed into a pair of leggings and their slippers when they arrived, moving into their stretches. Sometimes Yuuri was jealous of Yuri’s flexibility. Sure, Yuuri was plenty flexible, but Yuri was ungodly so even through his growth spurt.
After stretching out on the barre and working through a few moves, Yuuri plugged his phone into the stereo and put on his free program music. The more he got comfortable with the routine the more he could work on the elements like his jumps without worrying about forgetting something. Half-way through he found himself closing his eyes and just really feeling the melody.
“It’s beautiful,” Yuri whispered as the music ended, almost soft enough Yuuri didn’t catch it. “Maybe the best I’ve seen you do. But not as good as mine.”
Yuuri huffed in amusement through his heavy pants, wearing his beaming heart on his sleeve. “Of course not. Thanks, Yurio. It means a lot to me that you’d say that.”
“You should choreograph your own programs, you know,” Yuri suggested, working through his positions on the barre still. “You’re capable. The change you made to Viktor’s program was beautiful. Why don’t you have more confidence in yourself?”
Yuuri opened his mouth to answer, but he realized that he didn’t have an answer. Why didn’t he, after all these years? Viktor had given him the confidence to do everything else, but why not this? “I don’t know, to be honest. Celestino just always did everything for me. It wasn’t until Viktor that I even started to choose my own music. I guess…. Maybe choreography is my next step. I’ll try it with an exhibition.”
“Next year, I expect you to choreograph your own competition performances,” Yuri demanded. “Unless you are just going to reuse old programs. Olympic year and all that.”
It was true that a lot of skaters tended to recycle programs for the Olympic season. Would Yuuri follow that? “I think, maybe Yuri on Ice would be the only program I could see myself skating again. Do you think you’d recycle something?”
“Hmm, I thought about Agape,” Yuri mentioned, moving off the barre into a plie and then a saute. “But I don’t know. That’s still a season away. I’d have to commission a new costume.”
That was certainly true. There was no way Yuri would fit into Viktor’s old costume anymore. For a moment, Yuuri thought about what sort of changes Yuri might make into a reimagining of Agape. “Nothing would make me happier than to compete against you in the Olympics, Yurio.”
The last Olympics… That had been the year following Sochi. The one where he had come in 10th at Nationals and failed to make the team. Now, though, he had his performance anxiety under control. He had Viktor.
This time he’d represent his country for sure.
“Viktor, are you watching me at all?!” Yuuri huffed, feeling frustrated as Viktor’s face was deep down in the screen of his phone.
There was a small pause and then Viktor looked up with a smile, turning the screen towards Yuuri. “Assignments are up.”
“Ah! Let me see!” Yuuri grabbed for the phone and started to scroll through the article. It was in Russian and instead of actually reading he just did a quick search for his name among the Cyrillic. “France and the US. Ah! Phichit will be at Skate America! Eh? Yuri and I aren’t in any of the same competitions.”
“No,” Viktor agreed, taking back his phone and further distraction. “You’ll have to both qualify for the final to see each other. Though, Yakov and I have already discussed sending you to the same preliminary competition in September. We’re thinking Italy. Something a little more low-key.”
Low-key. Yuuri could laugh at that. The only low-key competitions for Yuuri were ones that didn’t involve judges or spectators. “Mm, okay. I’ve only been to France once before and I had no time to see the city due to a flight delay. You’ll show me the best places, right?!”
“Of course!” Viktor beamed. “We’ll stay for a few days after. We definitely have to take a ride up the cable-car to the summit of Bastille.”
Maybe a mini-vacation was exactly what they’d need given everything they’d been through. Viktor was getting stronger every day, even if it was at a slower pace than normal. He could walk without his crutches now and the hobbles and limping were less and less. This was good. All of it was good.
With determination, Yuuri pumped his fist. “Okay! Let’s get to work!”