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Love's Requiem

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They were only three hours into their long trek to Tokyo and Yuuri was already tired. He and Viktor had flown a short hop over to Moscow where they were waiting to go to Korea and then they’d fly into Haneda in Tokyo. No matter how many times Yuuri had done these long days of travel, he still hated them. It was an overnight flight, so Yakov had insisted on training that morning, which had Yuuri even more exhausted than normal.

 

Viktor was, well… Viktor. Or what was Viktor these days. They spoke when they needed to speak to each other, but that was it. There was no natural conversation and Viktor seemed to distance himself in every way possible, even when they were sitting next to each other on a plane. Before, they’d hold hands and Yuuri would fall asleep on his shoulder. Now Viktor kept his hands in his lap and Yuuri fell asleep against the hard window.

 

Even now Viktor sat across from Yuuri in the lobby as they waited rather than next to him, their luggage creating a physical barrier between them. Sighing, Yuuri turned his attention back to his phone where he’d been texting with Yuri. The younger man would be traveling with Yakov, Lilia, and Mila in the morning to Moscow for Russian National’s.

 

Yurio: I don’t know why that old hag is still nagging me about it. I could wipe the floor with the other Russian skaters with my hands tied behind my back

 

Me: I’m 100% positive that you could, but she just wants you to be at your best… Even if you could win with several falls…

 

Yurio: Yeah they wish I’d fall!

 

Me: You’ll be great.

 

“I’m going to get something to eat,” Viktor said suddenly, standing from his seat.

 

Yuuri had to take a moment to process what his husband had just said. Yes, he was going to get something to eat, but no invitation? No asking if Yuuri needed anything? As if his heart could sink any lower these days. Somehow it found a way. “Okay…”

 

He should have gone after him. Gone with him. But...Yuuri was so tired of just existing around Viktor. Sighing, Yuuri stood and gathered Viktor’s left luggage and piled it with his own to better keep an eye on it. It wasn’t like he was hungry anyway. Depression did that to you.

 

An hour and a half passed by and Viktor still hadn’t returned. Yuuri checked his messages. Nothing. It didn’t surprise Yuuri. Not really. Viktor didn’t do fast food so he most certainly had gone to a restaurant and that took time. Pulling his legs up onto the seat he curled into a ball and turned on his music. Viktor would be back soon.

 

“Ladies and Gentlemen we will now begin boarding for flight 5431 with service to Icheon.”

 

Yuuri yanked his earbuds out and looked around as people started to stand and gather near the gate. Viktor wasn’t back yet. Cursing, he pulled up his text messages.

 

Me: We are about to board, where are you?

 

He gave him a minute to respond. Nothing. Frustrated, Yuuri pressed the call button. It rang. And rang. And rang.

 

“You’ve reached Viktor Nikiforov-Katsuki! I’m unable-”

 

He hung up and pulled the text back up again.

 

Me: Vitya, seriously, where are you?

 

First class had already boarded and they’d moved on to the regular groups. Yuuri’s anxiety came in hard and his breathing started to increase and his heart thumped in his ears. He should have gone with him. He shouldn’t have let Viktor go off alone. He shouldn’t have -

 

Vitya: I’ll be there in just a second. Go ahead and get on.

 

Yuuri let out a huge sigh and squeezed his eyes shut. Thank god.

 

Me: Ok. I’ll grab your bag. Hurry.

 

Swinging his own backpack over his shoulders, he grabbed Viktor’s bag and got in line, pulling his ticket and passport out of his pocket. Viktor, he knew, at least had his ticket and passport in his coat. jkHis and Viktor’s seats were the only ones still empty in first class as he boarded. He stowed away their bags before taking a seat next to the window and keeping his phone out in his hand. As each person boarded, he watched for Viktor. More and more people got on the plane, but none of them were Viktor.

 

Yuuri pressed the home button on his phone for the fourth time in a minute, lighting the screen up just in case Viktor had texted. As if he could have possibly missed any messages coming in. Nothing.

 

Me: Vitya, seriously, where are you!?

 

He calls him and the phone rings . “You’ve reached Viktor Nikiforov-Katsuki! I’m-”

 

“Shit,” Yuuri cursed, tears already stinging at his eyes. Where the fuck was Viktor?! Frantically he continued to watch as people passed him in the aisle. When there seemed to be a break in people, Yuuri got out of his seat and made a dash for the door.

 

“Excuse me, sir? Please take a seat,” the stewardess instructed as the door was firmly shut by another steward behind her.

 

No. No, no, no, no! Viktor hadn’t gotten on! “Please, my husband, I don’t know where he is!”

 

“I’m so sorry, sir, but he’ll have to catch another flight. We’ve officially closed the doors,” the woman answered calmly.

 

“Then let me off the plane!” Yuuri frantically pleaded. He had to find Viktor!

 

The woman put a kind but firm hand on Yuuri’s shoulder. “Sir, please, I’m going to have to ask you to take a seat. No one is getting on or off the plane.”

 

Yuuri took a step back. Everything started to go blurry and all sound just turned into a ringing in his ears. Reaching up he thread his fingers tightly into his dark hair as he turned around and stumbled to his seat. He couldn’t breathe. He couldn’t breathe. Everything felt numb and all he could do was stare blankly at the back of the seat in front of him as the safety instructions started to be recited over the intercom.

 

When clouds became the view outside of his window, he held his hoodie up to his face and let out a wretched sob. Viktor hadn’t come. Viktor had left him. He said he was coming! Why didn’t he come? Was he okay? Did something happen with his knee? Was he hurt? Why didn’t he say something? Anything?

 

It was an overnight flight where the passengers were meant to sleep for almost nine hours, but Yuuri didn’t sleep at all. After he had cried all the tears he could cry and covered his hoodie in snot and tears, he curled up as tight as he could in the seat and just stared blankly in front of him. All attempts at offering him food or drink went completely ignored. Yuuri had well and truly never felt so dead inside.

 

The second they touched down, Yuuri turned off airplane mode. Nothing. There was nothing but a few texts from Yuri. With a quivering lip he pressed the call button again.

 

Ring. Ring. Ring. “You’ve reached Viktor Nikiforov-Kats-,”

 

Was Viktor even alive?! There was no way he just wouldn’t respond to Yuuri after nine hours unless something was seriously wrong! All Yuuri could do was think the absolute worst. He continued to call and hang up. Call and hang up. Desperately trying to reach Viktor as he grabbed their bags and got off the plane. Continuing the pattern he headed to the bathroom where he entered the last stall and locked it behind him.

 

Ring. “You’ve reached Viktor -”

 

Yuuri hung up and tried again.

 

Ring. “You’ve reached Vik-”

 

Again.

 

Ring. “You’ve reached-”

 

Again.

 

Ring. “You’ve r-”

 

Yuuri kept trying and trying and trying but he just kept reaching Viktor’s voicemail. His hands trembled as he slid down the side of the bathroom stall and fell to the floor. Even with the mask pulled up over his nose his heavy breaths echoed off the walls. Frantically pulling up his texts he saw they still went unread. What was he supposed to do? What do I do, what do I do, what do I-

 

Call Yakov.

 

Right. Yakov. Fingers still trembling he fumbled with his phone to pull up Yakov’s number. The phone rang. And rang. And rang. And -

 

“Yusha?”

 

Yanking down his mask to better speak Yuuri went off like rapid fire. “Yakov! I don’t know what to do! I don’t know where Vitya is or if he’s okay or if he’s safe and I’m so worried! I’ve called him so many times and he’s not answering and -”

 

“Yusha, calm down! Your Russian is terrible when you speak so fast. What’s this about Vitya?”

 

Squeezing his eyes Yuuri tried to calm his breathing and his heart despite the shear panic he was feeling. “W-when we were in M-Moscow for our layover,” he started, lips trembling as he tried to keep it together enough for Yakov to understand, “Vitya said he was going to find something to eat. I-I didn’t go with him. I thought it was fine. But he wasn’t back when they started to board. I tried calling and sending texts, and he didn’t respond until they were boarding the last group. He told me he’d be there in just a second and to go ahead and board. S-so I did, but then they closed the doors and he wasn’t there and they wouldn’t let me get off!”

 

“Yusha, breathe,” Yakov instructed on the other end of the line and Yuuri did. “Where are you now?”

 

“Korea,” Yuuri answered.

 

“And Vitya is still in Moscow as far as you know?”

 

“Y-yes,” Yuuri responded, his lip quivering. “He won’t answer me. I don’t know if he’s okay. I don’t know what to do.”

 

Yakov went silent for a moment on the other end before starting to give the instructions Yuuri so desperately needed in this moment. “You are going to continue on to Tokyo and I will find Vitya. The second I find him and make sure he is alright I will come to coach you, but is there someone you can call in the meantime? That old ballet instructor of yours?”

 

Minako. Right. Yes. He could call Minako. “Y-yes, I can call Minako-senpai.” What if she was busy and couldn’t come though? She’ll come anyway. You know that.

 

“I’m going to find him, Yusha,” Yakov promised, but there was a heaviness in his voice that Yuuri easily recognized as doubt and worry. “I know it’ll be difficult, but I need you to focus on yourself and getting to Japan. I will call and text you with every update the moment I have news.”

 

How could Yakov say that so easily? Difficult didn’t even begin to describe how impossible getting on the next plane without Viktor was going to be. He should be finding the next flight back to Moscow, finding Viktor, making sure he -

 

“Yusha, I know what’s going through that head of yours. Stop it,” he ordered firmly. “Crying and turning into a mess will not solve what is happening here.”

 

Of course it wouldn’t solve it, Yuuri knew that, but his anxiety and depression absolutely didn’t give two shits whether it would solve it or not. The tears that had soaked through his mask already proved that. Plus, his anxiety was already thinking way ahead of this moment. As in - everyone was going to notice that Viktor wasn’t with him the second he landed in Tokyo. “What do I do when I land? What do I say when the press realizes he’s not with me?”

 

Yakov took a moment to think. “He got sick last minute and had to stay behind. It was too late to rearrange my flights immediately so I am still working on getting to you.”

 

Sick. Sure, it was the most obvious thing, but would people even believe that? It doesn’t matter what they believe. It’s all you have. Wiping at his eyes, he sniffled and nodded to himself. “Okay.”

 

“Good. I will speak with you soon.”

 

The click on the other end of the line somehow managed to startle Yuuri and he had to come to terms with the fact he was now truly alone in a foreign airport and a foreign country. It wasn’t the first time, but this was different. This was his husband abandoning him. Clutching his phone in his hands, Yuuri sucked in a shuttered breath and pressed his knees in tighter to his chest. He let himself cry. He let himself ugly sob until his body just had nothing else to give. When he finally felt too exhausted to put up anymore fight, he pulled out his phone and made his dreaded call.

 

“Minako-sensei… I need your help.”

 

/*/

 

Yakov has been in the business for a long time, and he’d been on the earth a lot longer. He had contacts everywhere, and if he didn’t, he knew who could get him a contact where he needed. So it doesn’t take long for Yakov to find Viktor in Moscow. The hard part was shackling Yuri to Lilia while he took care of the complete mess Viktor had made.

 

“I need you to coach Yura and Mila this weekend,” Yakov had told Lilia as he pulled her aside the second he had hung up with Yuuri.

 

Lilia had raised a perfectly arched brow. “Without you? Why?”

 

“Vitya didn’t make it to Korea with Yuuri,” Yakov answered, keeping his voice low and away from wandering ears. “I need to find him and then get to Japan immediately.”

 

“What do you mean Vitya didn’t make it to Korea?” Lilia hissed in confusion. “What happened to him?”

 

“I don’t know,” Yakov answered truthfully. “He isn’t answering calls or texts. The last Yuuri saw him was at Domodedovo. Take Yura’s phone from him. You know what he’ll do the second he finds out what has happened.”

 

Lilia scoffed in disbelief. “And what do you think he’ll do when he finds out you are leaving? Yakov, what if something serious has happened to Vitya?”

 

“Something serious better have happened to him, Lia, for him to pull this stunt!” Yakov growled. “Of all the things that idiot could pull, this is something even I couldn’t have predicted. Tell Yura I had a family emergency.”

 

Lilia frowned heavily, but she crossed her arms with a resigned sigh. “Fine, but I want to be updated the moment you find him. I’m going to have to take Mila’s phone too, you know? And I can’t keep the rest of the rink quiet. Whispers will start.”

 

Yakov unfortunately knew that, but all they could do was contain the best they could. “Just keep his mind on other things.”

 

After being placed on hold a few times at the airport, he’d finally been connected to a security manager that had informed Yakov that Viktor had been arrested and detained for drunken and disorderly conduct. He’d tried to board a plane that had long ago left and had thrown a fit. Even though he’d been assured it had been as quiet as possible, Yakov knew it was only a matter of time and YouTube videos later before the whole world would know that Viktor was not sick, just a sad, drunk alcoholic.

 

The moment Yakov laid eyes on Viktor in the back of the cell he felt pure rage. “Get up.”

 

Yakov had never seen Viktor look so disheveled and haggard. His hair was all over the place and there were heavy bags under his eyes. Even his designer clothing looked like it had seen better days. Viktor looked up, but he made no effort to move.

 

The guard opened the cell door for him and Yakov reached down and grabbed Viktor’s coat. “I said get up!” It smelled like Viktor had bathed in vodka and Yakov wrinkled his nose in disgust. There had only been one other time Yakov had felt such anger. It had been when Lilia had gotten away, and that anger had been at himself. “Look at you! Making a fool of yourself. Making a fool of me! Making a fool of Yusha!”

 

That seemed to pull some reaction out of Viktor. “Yuuri? Where is he?”

 

“By now, in Japan - where you’re supposed to be, you idiot! Let’s go,” he instructed, refusing to have this conversation where people could hear or worse - record it.

 

Having already signed the necessary paperwork he dragged Viktor out of the police station and into his car where he promptly locked the doors the moment Viktor was in the seat. “I never in my life have felt the desire to strike someone until now. How dare you, Vitya? How dare you? You left Yusha to fend for himself for what? So you could drink yourself into a stupor? I thought we had talked about this! I thought you were getting yourself straight!”

 

Viktor swallowed hard, eyes glossy with unshed tears as he stared out the window away from Yakov. “I tried. I really did, but having to go to the rink every day and watch others have what I no longer can, to see what I used to be.... I couldn’t take it anymore.”

 

Yakov gripped the steering wheel tightly to steady himself. “So instead of speaking up like an adult you decided to drag Yusha down with you. Wow. I really thought you loved that boy, Vitya.”

 

“I do!” Viktor answered, choking on his own words. “I do…”

 

With a clenched jaw, Yakov felt like a knife was twisting in his own heart. Yes, he’d always been hard on Viktor and Yuuri both. He’d thought they were both idiots, but they were idiots in love. Everyone was on the Viktuuri train, including himself, even if he’d refused to show it. But this... This wasn’t love anymore. This was something entirely too familiar to Yakov, and it was that recognition that pulled the words from his mouth. “No, Vitya. You do not love Yusha. You do not destroy those you love just because you cannot help yourself. You leave them long before that happens.” Or let them go when they leave you, just like he’d had to let Lilia go.

 

“I do love him,” Viktor repeated softly, this time finally shedding tears that Yakov didn’t believe. Those tears weren’t for Yuuri. They were himself.

 

Yakov sat there silently for a long time contemplating. Originally, he had intended to bail Viktor out and take him back to his apartment, but now he saw the truth. He saw how far Viktor had fallen. Not only had Viktor fallen onto the ice, but he’d fallen all the way through it. Viktor and Yuuri both may not forgive him for a long time, but he had to do this. For both their sakes. Turning the key in the ignition he took off.

 

It took a good ten minutes before Viktor asked, “Where are we going?”

 

Yakov’s grip tightened so hard his knuckles went white around the steering wheel. “You need help, Vitya. Badly. But you are beyond anything I can do for you any longer. You need professional help.”

 

Viktor straightened and he gave his ex-coach an angry frown. “Yakov. Where are you taking me?”

 

“They are a highly rated and discreet rehab center,” Yakov calmly explained, even though he felt like he was damning his own son. It is for the best. “They will make sure you get the help you need.”

 

“A rehab center?!” Viktor’s eyes went wide in disbelief. “Yasha, please, I-I’m alright! I swear! It was an accident, I-”

 

Yakov barely had time to pull over to the side before he went off on Viktor in a way he didn’t think he was capable. “Accident!? It was an accident that you chose to go to a bar at the airport and leave your husband to coach himself at a National competition right before the Olympics?! It was an accident that you’ve practically been ignoring him out on the ice the last few months? That you’ve been a coach to him in name only? It was an accident that you couldn’t be man enough to admit you needed help before all of this?! No. No, Vitya, this was no accident. This was a choice, and now you must suffer the consequences of it!”

 

Tears fell down Viktor’s cheeks, eyes bright red. “Please, Yasha… The Olympics. I have to be there for him.”

 

“You made your choice, Vitya,” Yakov shook his head. “You are no longer Yuuri’s coach. I assume full responsibility of it, and it will be me and only me that sits next to him in Pyeongchang at the kiss-and-cry.”

 

Viktor actually flinched at that. The rest of the drive was spent in horrible silence, Viktor’s long body curled up towards the door as he stared out the window. It was only when they arrived forty minutes later, Yakov smoothly putting the car in park, that Viktor stirred.

 

“Yasha, please,” he begged one last time, silent tears painting wet streaks down his face.

 

It felt like a true betrayal, but Yakov had to do it. This drawn and worn out Viktor was proof of that. “I’m sorry, Vitya.”

 

Without another word, his lips trembling, Viktor opened the door and got out.

 

It was with the heaviest of hearts that Yakov filled out the paperwork for admission and watched as Viktor was taken away out of his sight. It felt like this day had lasted forever, and yet it was still far from over.

 

He needed to book a flight to Japan immediately.

 

/*/

 

“You look exhausted, kid,” Minako sighed as Yuuri skated over to the barrier after another nasty fall.

 

“Because I am,” Yuuri responded with a dejected sigh. The king-size bed at the hotel felt emptier than ever, even though beds had felt empty with Viktor for months. Even though Yakov had called and told him he’d found Viktor, he hadn’t gone into detail as to the what, where, when, why, or how. Yuuri hadn’t slept. He hadn’t eaten. He felt like he was barely even alive. “I can’t sleep and I can’t concentrate. I feel like I’m having an out of body experience. Like I’m not even really out on the ice at all. Why won’t Yakov tell me anything else?”

 

Minako let out her own sigh and reached for Yuuri’s shoulder, taking a moment to just gently rub at it with her thumb. “I think it’s because he wants you to put your focus on this competition. I don’t know him that well, but I have to believe if Viktor was in serious trouble he would tell you instead of waiting until he arrived. But, with that being said... I know you, Yuuri, and I think you should drop out.”

 

“No!” Yuuri quickly responded, heart fluttering in a moment of panic. Yakov had already tried to tell him to pull out, and he’d ignored it. He couldn’t be getting this from Minako, too. Not now. “Minako-sensei, I can’t! The Olympics!” It was only a few weeks away and he couldn’t show weakness. Not now!

 

Rolling her eyes she huffed in annoyance. “Yakov told me you’d say that. You really think even if you don’t compete here at National’s they wouldn’t put you on the team? You are the best Japan has to offer. Minami is good, but he has no shot at the podium and everyone knows it. I think everyone would rather you pull out and be at your best. Blame it on your ankle if you don’t want to blame Viktor - though I absolutely think he should shoulder some blame for this. I hate that you won’t tell me what the hell is going on with you two.”

 

Yuuri flinched. Minako had thrown so many questions at Yuuri when he’d called and slandered Viktor’s name in ways he never thought she could. Mari must have said something about their strained relationship. Of course, Yuuri said nothing. Just that he didn’t want to talk about it. Minako had promised to leave it alone during the competition, but had promised she’d pull it out of him after. “I need to do this, Minako-sensei… For me.”

 

I need to prove I can do this without him.

 

Minako opened her mouth to object and then shut it, waiving a white flag for now. “Fine. You aren’t going to win anything landing on your ass instead of your feet so I suggest you go out there and start landing your jumps correctly,” Minako said simply, waving a hand back out towards the ice. “Understand that I am still completely against this.”

 

“Noted,” Yuuri murmured like a scolded child before heading back out onto the ice.

 

“Hey!” Minako called out, making Yuuri turn around. “You’re sweating. Don’t you want to take off your coat?”

 

Yuuri blinked, running a hand through his hair. Oh, he was sweating. Really? Strange. He still felt cold. “No. I’m good, thanks.”

 

It took a few more unsteady jumps for Yuuri to find a rhythm. Eventually, he did, even if there were some underroations and less-than-stellar landings. Usually a skater who could pride himself for his stamina, Yuuri found himself bent over and gasping for air by the end. Why was it so hard to breathe? Why did he still feel chilled even though he was sweating through his jacket? Why did his chest hurt with how hard his heart was beating?

 

“Yuuri? Are you okay?” Minako asked in concern as Yuuri stepped off the ice and quickly found the nearest bench.

 

Yuuri clutched his heart as he closed his eyes and tried to slow his breathing.

 

“Yuuri!? Do I need to call a medic?” Minako asked, an increased urgency in her voice.

 

Shaking his head Yuuri responded, “N-no, just… just my anxiety.”

 

“Where are your meds?” Minako asked.

 

“My bag, front pocket,” Yuuri answered, still feeling like he couldn’t get enough air. This wasn’t just his anxiety, he knew that, but he couldn’t raise the alarm. He couldn’t give her an excuse to pull him. He just needed rest.

 

Whether it was anxiety or not, Yuuri felt better after the pill slid down the back of his throat. It gave him the mental strength to deal with the press after the official practice. After the natural influx of questions regarding Viktor and his health that Yuuri deflected as much as possible, they asked if his poor performance on the ice was due to his ankle. Yuuri said yes. It was easier than telling the truth.


By the time he reached the locker room, his heart had calmed and the chill had gone away. The exhaustion was ever present though. Even though he wasn’t wearing glasses, his focus seemed to blur in and out worse than usual as he worked to remove his skates.

“Yuuri-senpai,” Kenjirou’s small and worried voice broke through Yuuri’s thoughts. “Is Viktor really sick?”

 

Sighing inwardly, Yuuri put on the best face he could. He needed to be strong despite all the pain he felt. “Yes, he is.”

 

“Oh…,” Kenjirou’s face fell. “You must miss him very much. I can see how sad you are. It’ll be okay! I know you’ll fight!”

 

Did Yuuri miss Viktor? Really? Did he miss the cold shoulders and the silent stares during practice where he hid in the shadows while Yakov did the work? Did he miss the empty bed or the vodka-laced kisses? Is that really why Yuuri panicked? Did Yuuri miss Viktor, or did he just fear being alone?

 

“Thanks, Minami-kun,” Yuuri said, flashing him a smile. “It’s just strange not having him here is all. I… I can’t remember the last competition where he wasn’t there.” Moscow… wasn’t it? The first time Yakov had coached him. How fitting that was where Viktor stayed behind. His hands started to shake again.

 

Kenjirou launched himself across the locker room and wrapped his arms around Yuuri. “Please don’t cry, Yuuri-senpai! Please know that everyone here supports you!”

 

It was the first real hug that Yuuri had gotten in a long time and he instinctively reached up and clung to the younger skater. He hugged back harder than he should, the warmth blanketing his chilled bones. A sob tried to tear itself from Yuuri’s lips, but he swallowed it down. He ended up not saying thing, afraid he would break down, but Kenjirou seemed to quietly accept the returned hug as response enough.

 

Since it had been last minute and the hotels all around the event had been booked up, Minako had no other choice but to stay with Yuuri in his room. Yuuri had offered to sleep on the sofa, but Minako had baulked at him and said there was plenty of room in the king size bed for the both of them. There was, and Yuuri was too tired to argue it.

 

“You want to go out and get something, kiddo?” Minako had asked after they’d both showered and settled in.

 

Yuuri shook his head. “Can we just order in?”

 

Minako looked like she might try dragging Yuuri out of the room, but she eventually nodded. “Sure thing. As long as you promise me you’ll actually eat something.”

 

Ah. Right. That. Yuuri nodded and found the menu to glaze over. He ended up just ordering a bowl of soup and rice. Minako had frowned, but he’d made sure to at least eat all of it. She’d also taken his phone, which had been standard practice even back when she was his coach as a kid. She had, at least, promised to keep an eye on it for any news from Yakov. Other than the fact he’d gotten a flight that would arrive mid-day tomorrow, he had divulged no information.

 

“I have some stuff that’ll help you sleep,” Minako says as the hours pass into the night and Yuuri is still up reading a book with the night lamp on.

 

Yuuri reluctantly nods. “Yeah. Okay.”

 

He sleeps, but it’s not restful at all. When he wakes up he feels like a lead brick. His mouth is dry and his eyes are almost swollen shut. It takes every effort for him to roll on his side and reach around for his phone on the nightstand. Oh. Right. Minako had it. Sighing, he rolled onto his back and rubbed his forehead.

 

“Yuuri.”

 

Rubbing at his eyes, he grabbed his glasses and slipped them on before sitting up. Minako was on the other side of the bed frowning heavily with her phone in her hand. “What?”

 

Minako opened and closed her mouth several times. “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”

 

Ok. No. Something was up. “Minako-sensei, what’s wrong?”

 

Again, his ballet instructor struggled to say anything. “It can wait. You don’t need to worry about anything right now.”

 

She was hiding something. Something big. She knew he was already struggling and didn’t want to worry him anymore, but now he was really worried. What the hell was wrong? “Minako-sensei? Tell me.”

 

Sighing, she relented. “Look at this.” Minako held up her phone that was pulled up to a YouTube video.

 

VIKTOR NIKIFOROV VIOLENTLY LASHES OUT AT AIRPORT SECURITY DRUNK

 

What?! Yuuri took the phone and pressed play. Viktor was at the counter next to a gate and he was very clearly at the airport arguing with several security guards. His words were slurred and it was more than obvious that he’d been drinking. No. No, no, no. No! Viktor had not left him alone because he’d been drunk! It couldn’t... It couldn’t….

 

“How long?” Minako asked, her voice low but serious. “How long has this been going on, Yuuri?”

 

Tears were already falling down Yuuri’s cheeks as he continued to watch the horror on the screen. “Months. Years.”

 

“Has he hurt you?”

 

Yuuri’s mouth opened to answer with a resounding ‘no’, but he found himself hesitating. No, Viktor had never struck him. He’d never physically laid a hand on Yuuri, but… yes. Yes, Viktor had hurt Yuuri. Terribly. He’d absolutely destroyed his heart. “N-no…”

 

Minako’s jaw tightened and her lips pressed together into a thin line. “He may not have ever come down on you, Yuuri, but he’s hurt you. Look at you. You are thin as a rail. I can see your ribs and the bags under your eyes. You aren’t well. Please. Please, pull out of the competition.”

 

“No,” Yuuri whispered, tasting salt as he shook his head. Now that this had gotten out, there was absolutely no way he could drop out. Why do you feel the need to prove yourself? To whom? For what? What’s the point?

 

Because you want to show you don’t need him anymore.

 

Yuuri dropped the phone to the mattress and covered his face at the silent realization. It felt like he was already ready to move on when he wasn’t. God, he wasn’t! Except you’ve known this was coming, even if you didn’t know it would be like this. Yuuri just started sobbing, not knowing what else he could possibly do.

 

Minako wrapped her arms around him and pulled him into her chest, slowly rocking him back and forth. She stayed silent, just allowing Yuuri to unload all of his emotions as she stroked his hair. When his sobs finally started to subside she pulled back and spoke. “You aren’t going to practice today. I don’t want you out in public until Yakov can get here.”

 

Accepting that, Yuuri let himself fall back onto the bed where he curled up around the pillow and continued to let his tears fall. At some point he must have fallen asleep because he woke to muffled voices. His glasses had been removed and body covered with a blanket. Rubbing his eyes he strained his ears to listen. One voice was clearly Minako’s and the other… Yakov. Yakov was here.

 

Throwing the covers off, he padded over to the door and opened it. Both Minako and Yakov turned in unison to look at him, each of them sporting similarly exhausted looks. Yuuri swallowed. “You don’t have to keep anything from me.”

 

“We weren’t trying to hide anything, just letting you sleep,” Minako explained, stepping back into the room with Yakov on her heel.

 

Yakov removed his fedora and looked at Yuuri with pity. Yuuri looked away, unable to take that from the older man. “I’ve checked Vitya into a rehab center. They’ll get him the help that he needs, though we’ll be unable to reach him for some time due to the process.”

 

Yuuri’s fists clenched and he nodded in understanding. Do you even want to talk to him anyway? “How long?”

 

“That’s up to him,” Yakov answered simply. “Minako tells me you still want to skate. Are you sure? I do not advise it after everything.”

 

“Skating is all I have left,” Yuuri answered, body feeling so heavy he felt anchored to the floor beneath his feet. “If I lose that too, what am I?”

 

“That’s Vitya talking, not you,” Yakov cautioned him. “I understand, though, all too well. I will speak with the officials and the press. No one is to ask you about Vitya and you will not do interviews outside the official podium requirements. Keep your earphones on at all times.”

 

Yuuri nodded in understanding.

 

“I’ll be back after I handle everything then. Get some rest,” Yakov instructed before nodding to Minako and leaving the room.

 

Minako crossed her arms and shifted uncomfortably from one leg to the other. “Your parents called. Everyone at the onsen is talking about what happened. They are worried sick about you.”

 

Of course. Of course this news had even reached their small inn and become the - undoubtedly - talk of the town. “I can’t talk to them right now. If I do…”

 

“I know,” Minako smiled softly in understanding. “I assured them that Yakov and I are taking care of you. You’re going to have to talk to them after this, though. You’re going to have to talk to all of us.”

 

What would he even say that couldn’t be assumed from everything already out there? He didn’t want to talk to his family because the second he did, it became real. “I just want to get through this competition.”

 

Minako clucked her tongue in disapproval. “Oh, you. Typical. I haven’t missed your stubbornness. Go back to sleep.”

 

Now that was something Yuuri could finally agree to. Since seeing the video, Yuuri had hit bottom barrel depression mode and the sleep that had been alluding him now wanted to consume him. He slept hard until someone shook him awake.

 

“I secured private ice time for you if you are up to it,” Yakov’s gruff voice travelled through the darkness.

 

Yuuri was immediately up. He looked over to the alarm clock and saw that it was almost nine in the evening. “No reporters?”

 

“No,” Yakov confirmed.

 

He still felt heavy and tired, but Yuuri nodded. “Okay.”

 

Yuuri got dressed and grabbed his skating bag and they met Minako in the lobby who had gone ahead to make sure there weren’t any lurking reporters waiting for a moment to strike. As promised, the rink was empty. “How did you manage this?”

 

Yakov huffed. “When you’ve been around as long as I have, you know how to pull favors. It helped that the JSF is wanting to do everything in their power to help you. Go on then, get out there and warm up. We don’t have all night.”

 

Getting to work, Yuuri quickly put on his skates and went through his warm-up routine. He worried he’d feel too tired and stressed to perform, but the chilled wind on his face brought a calm with it. Maybe it was just the calm before the storm, but Yuuri would relish every second of it. He kept his jumps to doubles and allowed him to stretch himself out in a change-foot camel spin before feeling satisfied and ready to work.

 

“We’re going to run through your short, but you’ll do no quads, no rippons, no tanos. Understand?” Yakov asked, arms crossed and face stern.

 

Yuuri’s jaw tightened. He was being treated like a child. It was the same sort of thing Viktor would do to him when he thought Yuuri couldn’t handle it. “I can do a quad.”

 

“Yes, I’ve seen you do them plenty of times,” Yakov agreed, “but you’re not doing them now. Don’t argue with me, Yuuri. You aren’t at full health.”

 

Minako also decided to drill holes into him. “If you aren’t going to listen to us then we don’t need to be here.”

 

Jaw still clenched shut, Yuuri relented and skated to the middle of the rink to move into his starting pose. He downgraded his lutz-loop combination as instructed and skated through the motions. It was nothing more than that. Just skating through the motions.

 

“I don’t need to tell you what was wrong with that,” Yakov huffed as Yuuri skated over.

 

“Technically fine but completely void of emotion,” Yuuri responded, grabbing his water bottle.

 

How the hell was he supposed to go out there and act sexy when he felt disgusting in every way possible? “What am I supposed to do? Fake it?”

 

“Yes,” they both answered in unison.

 

“Skating is a performance, Yuuri. Sometimes you have to pretend to feel a way you don’t,” Minako shrugged. “Dance was always the same way. You just have to put on a face. Not just for the audience, but for yourself.”

 

Of course Minako was right, but it didn’t mean Yuuri had to like or agree with it. So he ran through the program again and attempted to put some sort of feeling into it. It was better, but he was certainly running the risk of getting a PCS score that was as low as it had been at the GPF. At least this time it would be understandable to the fans.

 

After the third run through Yuuri’s heart started to thump painfully again in his chest just as it had the other day. The chill of the rink sent a shiver down his spine and he zipped his jacket all the way up even though his face was coated in sweat. “I need a second.”

 

“Since when do you get so tired after a short program?” Minako asked, brow furrowed and brow eyes wide in concern. “Yuuri, what’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing, I just need a lap,” Yuuri responded, turning to skate off before either of them could try and pull anything else from them. Of course he could hear them start to murmur behind his back, but he ignored it as he took a leisurely lap to try and catch his breath.

 

When he came back around, Yakov was holding out his skate guards. “That’s enough for tonight, I think.”

 

Yuuri took them and frowned. “What? Why? I can go again.”

 

“Technically, nothing was wrong with your program,” Yakove explained.”Let’s leave it alone and not agitate anything. I can tell your ankle is still bothering you some.”

 

Yuuri’s ankle wasn’t bothering him at all.

 

“I think you should leave the program as it is for tomorrow,” he went on, not giving Yuuri the chance to argue. “You don’t need quads in the short, especially against your competition. Kenjirou Minami’s quad sal is iffy at best and is often under rotated anyway.”

 

He wanted to scream. Why was everyone treating him this way? Like a baby that needed to have his hand held and coddled? “Fine. If that’s what you think is best.”

 

Yuuri skipped morning practice on Yakov and Minako’s orders and when they did arrive at the rink for the short program it was with his music turned up to full volume and Yakov acting as a shield. Thankfully, the Japanese press were respectful and for the most part there were no issues, but Yuuri could feel all eyes on him. Even the other skaters kept staring, and Kenjirou looked like he was constantly going to cry.

 

Usually, by this point, his nerves would start to get to him. Except now, he felt only a little more than nothing at all. Ignoring the television displaying the on-ice skaters, Yuuri kept to himself in his corner where he practiced his jumps and stretched. The only time he took his headphones out was when Yakov came to fetch him for his turn.

 

The crowd was loud as his name was announced over the intercom, but all Yuuri could hear was white noise. If his body wasn’t so trained to start moving to the sound of Eros he might have missed the queue completely. With his step-sequence right at the start of his short, he already felt tired by the time he stepped into his back camel spin. He had to work harder than normal to keep himself center. After landing his triple axel he felt like he was completely out of gas with three more jumps left to go. Even if Yakov hadn’t ordered him to downgrade his jumps, there was no way he could successfully land a quad. His salchow was stable, but he barely made it off the ground for his loop behind his lutz and he questioned whether or not it would be downgraded. The second the music ended and he finished his final pose he gasped and hunched over, hands on his knees as he desperately tried to catch his breath. The ice was spinning beneath him.

 

It took several long seconds before Yuuri felt like he could stand without falling and he gave his quick bows prior to retreating to the barrier. Minako immediately embraced him and Yuuri wondered if he could even move without the support of her weight.

 

“Something’s wrong,” Minako said the moment she pulled back. “Is it your ankle? Are you hurting?”

 

“You looked labored,” Yakov explained, handing Yuuri his guards.

 

“I felt it,” Yuuri finally confessed, still short of breath. Why did his chest hurt so badly? He was thankful to sit on the bench in the kiss-and-cry, his muscles screaming as badly as his lungs.

 

“It won’t break any records, but it was still above the rest,” Yakov said as he crossed his arms and waited. “You’ll get called for that loop.”

 

Yuuri’s mouth twitched into a heavier frown. Yeah, well, he figured he would. Minako rubbed her hand in comforting circles on Yuuri’s back as they waited.

 

“The scores please for Katsuki-Nikiforov Yuuri...The score for the short program is 90.45.”

 

Ouch. It was still three points ahead of Kenjirou, but by far Yuuri’s worst score in two years - at least. All he could do was nod because it was justified and deserved.

 

“It’s okay,” Yakov said, attempting to comfort him. “You’re in first and in a good position. We just need to make sure jumps are fully clean for the free.”

 

Because Yuuri was in first, he’s forced to attend the top three press event for questioning. The journalists were warned to refrain from personal questions, but Yuuri still felt hundreds of eyes staring right through him. All of them had questions. They all were dying to know. They wanted desperately to ask, even if they wouldn’t because it was Japan’s culture not to pry.

 

“The first question is for Katsuki Yuuri.”

 

Oh, look. They were already removing Viktor’s name from him.

 

“Was there a reason for the downgraded quads today?”

 

Yuuri recited his practiced response. “I am still recovering from my ankle injury at NHK. So close to the Olympics I want to take care of it. There is no need to break world records here.”

 

“And how do you feel about your overall performance?”

 

He sighed. “I am not happy, of course. There was the downgraded loop and overall there was not much feeling in the performance. But what can I say? It’s hard to feel much right now.”

 

An eerie silence fell over the room at his response. No one else asked him anymore questions. It looked like everyone else was just afraid of the idea of Viktuuri being over as he was. Kenjirou’s usual excitement and promises to be as good as Yuuri one day were gone and were replaced with rehearsed responses.

 

The hotel situation is less than idea. Minako was already sleeping in the same bed as him and now Yakov had the couch. It’s more than a full house and Yuuri just wanted to be alone. After a long shower, Yuuri returned to an empty room and he was grateful. Ignoring a rumbling stomach, he collapsed in bed with sore muscles and almost immediately found sleep.

 

When Yuuri next woke up, it was to neither an alarm or a shake of his shoulder and that was disconcerting. When at a competition, there was a schedule and that always meant several alarms in Yuuri’s case. The sun was shining on his face and that was an immediate cause for concern. “Minako-sensei?”

 

“Hey kiddo,” Minako’s soft voice responded. “How are you feeling?”

 

“Why didn’t you wake me? I missed practice,” Yuuri frowned, seeing noon flash back at him in red letters.

 

“Yakov is arranging another private session for you,” Minako answered him. “And you needed your rest.”

 

Of course he was. Yuuri let his head fall back against the pillow. “So? What are they saying?”

 

Minako huffed and put down her phone. “You aren’t getting anything from me, sport. It doesn’t matter what anyone is saying. How many times do I have to tell you that?”

 

It absolutely mattered, but Yuuri knew Minako wasn’t going to feed him any information.

 

“You didn’t eat dinner last night. You must be hungry.”

 

No. Not really.

 

“Come on. I picked up some things from a market nearby. You have to keep up your strength.”

 

Due to the ladies’ short program being held at the main arena, Yakov found a local rink that would let Yuuri practice in private. Yuuri can’t even make it half way through his free skate before he doubles over with heavy breaths. Everything spins and when he manages to stand he doesn’t know where he is. Yakov and Minako are yelling at him and he frowns. Why are they both there? Where is he?

 

“Yuuri!”

 

He snaps to. National’s. Japan. Right. “S-sorry...I...I got confused.”

 

“That’s it, I’m pulling you,” Yakov grunts, pulling his phone free from the aux cord attached to the sound system.

 

“No! No, I’m fine! Sorry, I just...have a lot on my mind,” Yuuri tried, desperately still trying to cling on to this already failed event. “Please, restart the music. I can do this.”

 

The next run through was messy and it had both Yakov and Minako shaking their heads.

 

“Please… Just… Whether I succeed or fail. Let me do this,” Yuuri said at the end, knowing it was one of his worst practices in a while.

 

“I completely do not agree,” Yakov huffed.

 

“Me either,” Minako agreed. “But he’s going to do it anyway.”

 

Something felt different when Yuuri dressed in his free skate costume. The costume was loose, yes, but it’s not that. It’s his body. Something doesn’t feel right, but he can’t pinpoint it. His ankle felt fine and his muscles were no more sore than usual. It’s your heart. Every pump of it was painful. Was this what a broken heart felt like?

 

“Yuuri. It’s time.”

 

His heart could break later. Now, he needed it to stay together for four minutes and thirty seconds.

 

Taking his starting pose, Yuuri felt himself starting to crack. He should’ve listened to Yakov and Minako. He didn’t want to be here. He didn’t want to do this - skate a program for a love that was shattering beneath his blades. Everything that made up this program was now a lie. How could he put on a performance and make people believe in a love that seemingly no longer existed?

 

The music began and Yuuri automatically began to move. Well, at least he knew he could put emotion into this performance, even if it was all the wrong sorts of emotion.

 

At first, he executed each movement as mechanically as he could, but the further he got into his long program, the more winded he started to become. Only two jumps in, he started to feel sluggish in his movements. His skates felt heavy on his feet and his lungs began to gasp for cold air. His next spin was massively uncentered and he struggled to keep it for enough rotations. The crowd around him started to blur and his chest began to constrict impossibly. With every step, his heart pounded harder and harder and the pain became completely unbearable.

 

Yuuri started his step sequence and fell.

 

The crowd gasped and Yuuri moved to get up except he couldn’t. He couldn’t breathe and his heart was thumping so fast. Too fast. A hand moved to clutch at his heart and everything went white. It hurt so badly! His heart felt like it was going to burst! Completely exhausted and spent, Yuuri collapsed onto the ice, hands grabbing at his chest frantically. Rolling onto his back, Yuuri looked up with tears in his eyes.

 

Vitya...