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Love's Requiem

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Yuuri woke slowly, his mind becoming aware before his body. His toes flexed in a nice stretch and his cheek nuzzled against the soft sheets of the pillow. Viktor’s back was pressed to his, bathing him in warmth. It was hard to believe they were going to start training today. Yuuri felt far too rested this early in the morning and the alarm hadn’t even gone off yet. Maybe he was just finally getting used to the routine after all these years.

 

His eyes flew open.

 

Springing up off the bed he reached out a fumbling hand for his glasses and then brought his phone to his face: 9:36. “Vitya!” Yuuri screamed, throwing the sheets off his legs and scrambling off the mattress. “Did you turn off the alarm?! We were supposed to be at the rink over an hour ago!”

 

“Hmm w-what?” Viktor moaned, blue eyes slowly opening as he turned over in bed before sitting up, a hand to his head. “Oh...Yuuri, I’m so sorry. I think I turned it off in the middle of the night.”

 

With one foot in his track pants Yuuri froze with a heavy frown. “Is it hurting again?” He didn’t need to ask the question to know the answer. There were clear bags beneath Viktor’s eyes from where he hadn’t been sleeping. The pain medication didn’t seem to really be helping anymore.

 

“It’s fine, just had trouble sleeping is all,” Viktor responded, slowly pulling off the covers to reveal the black brace on his right knee.

 

It had been a month since the surgery, but it still stung every morning to see Viktor like this. It was still early, of course, but there were concerns already that Viktor wasn’t healing properly. Yuuri blamed himself. He would always blame himself for it. There wasn’t a day that went by that Yuuri didn’t think about it, and the worry had caused him to barely medal at World’s this year. He would have traded the podium for a healthy Viktor in a heartbeat.

 

“We can just start tomorrow,” Yuuri offered, shoving his other foot into the pants and securing them up on his waist.

 

“Yuuri, no.” Viktor winced as he swung his legs over the mattress. “We’re already a week behind as it is because of me.”

 

“Viktor, you’re still on crutches. You should be taking it easy,” Yuuri argued, opening a drawer to pull out a shirt. “I can go to the rink and practice on my own. It’s not like we’ve even decided on programs yet. This is just for me to get back into shape.” Yuuri didn’t have to get back in shape, though, this year. It was the first year he hadn’t gained weight in the off season. He’d been too sick with worry and taking care of Viktor post-op to let himself go.

 

Viktor was silent for a moment, still sitting on the edge of the bed. His right hand was gripping the sheets tightly as he stared down at the floor. “Are you sure?”

 

Yuuri swallowed hard, forcing a smile with a nod. Viktor hadn’t fought back - hadn’t argued. It felt like he was already giving up. “Yeah. I’ll have Yurio take some video or something so you can give some feedback when I get home. Ok?”

 

“Ok…” Viktor answered quietly, slipping his legs back beneath the covers with a wince. “I’m so sorry, Yuuri.”

 

“Hey, no,” Yuuri bent down and kissed his husband on the cheek, cradling his face in his hands. “I love you, Vitya. We’re going to make it through this.”

 

Viktor closed his eyes, sighing as he allowed his head to fall into Yuuri’s hands. “I love you, too, Yuuri. So much.”

 

Leaving him with another kiss - on the lips this time - Yuuri slipped on his shoes and put on a light jacket before securing his bag on his back and heading out the door alone. He still wasn’t used to life without Makkachin. Thinking about the poodle made his heart ache even more than it already did and when he finally took a seat on the bus, he felt a tear slip from his eye.

 

The poodle’s passing and what followed had held shades of Yuuri’s dark debut in Sochi. Makkachin was getting older with every day, and a week before the European Championship, he had let Viktor and Yuuri know it was time to go. They had at least been able to say goodbye, a closure that Yuuri never got with Vicchan. Not that it had made it any better. Viktor had been overcome with grief. It was something Yuuri recognized all too well. He should have never let Viktor go out onto the ice - should have never allowed him to skate. But he had. He would live with that guilt for the rest of his life.

 

It wasn’t even like it was sudden. Viktor, like the poodle, had been going downhill the entire year. The first year back had been the most amazing time of Yuuri’s life. It had been hard for Viktor to coach and compete at the same time, but they managed. They were happy, and Yuuri finally got to skate on the same ice for real this time. He’d even won, and they finally married. But Viktor secretly wasn’t content. He hadn’t claimed his world records back, and he wanted them. So, he decided to go for one last season. Yuuri had agreed, reluctantly. He had seen the fatigue that had gotten to Viktor by the time World’s finally came around. The next season, Viktor barely managed to qualify for the GPF at all and just slipped by JJ to stand on the lowest tier of the podium.

 

A few weeks later disaster caught up to them. Yuuri would never forget the horror and fear that had run through him watching Viktor unmoving on the ice in Slovakia at Euros. He’d jumped the barrier of the ice and had run to his husband’s side. It was impossible to not notice the odd angle of his right leg. A torn ACL, MCL, meniscus tear, and signs of degenerative osteoarthritis. There was no coming back from it. Instead of going out in a blaze of glory, Viktor Nikiforov-Katsuki had fizzled out like a candle that had reached the end of its wick.

 

Yakov had taken up as Yuuri’s coach through 4CC and World’s. Yuuri wished he had withdrawn all together, despite Yakov’s insistence that it wasn’t what Viktor would have wanted. Yuuri had skipped all interviews, ducking out the back doors so that the press couldn’t find him. He’d cried for hours, burying the bronze medal in his bags and not even making an appearance at the banquet. He’d dropped out of the World Trophy team, too. Without Yuuri there to carry them, Team Japan didn’t podium.

 

They’d waited to perform the surgery until the off season so that Yuuri could help take care of Viktor. For almost two full weeks Viktor could barely even move his leg. Yuuri had never felt so completely helpless. He wasn’t even the one injured, and yet, he found himself locked in the bathroom crying more times than not.

 

Yuri had been his saving grace for those two weeks. He’d brought them food and the insults ceased with a tight lip. There had even been the one time he’d held Yuuri as he sobbed. Yuri had threatened murder if he ever told anyone about it, of course. It had been the first time Yuuri had laughed in months.

 

The bus came to a stop and Yuuri got off, hands in his pockets as he walked solemnly the rest of the way to Yubileyny. Mila and Yuri were already sweating through their clothes from practice out on the ice, Yakov shouting out various instructions in Russian. Yuuri had gotten quite decent at the language after living there the last two years, though reading and writing sometimes remained a struggle.

 

Taking a seat on the bench he pulled out his skates and slipped off his shoes. He’d have to share the ice now since he was so late, but it was ok.

 

Yuri stared at him as he stepped onto the ice, lazily gliding to the far side. The teen had grown a lot the year after Barcelona. Now eighteen, Yuri stood almost as tall as Viktor with broad shoulders and hair that went well down his back when it wasn't up in a bun. He’d filled out nicely.

 

That first year after dominating the circuit in his debut had been a wake-up call for Yuri, though. With his sudden growth spurt he had been thrown off balance and struggled to land his jumps for the first time in his life. In his anger, he’d ended up pushing himself too hard and sprained an ankle. It ended up being minor, but it had finally scared him into listening to Yakov and relearning his body properly. He barely qualified for the GPF and had ended up last. Yuri didn’t let it stop him, coming back with a vengence the next year, reclaiming his place as the world champion.

 

“Oi, Katsudon,” Yuri called out, pushing off strong so he could quickly catch up to Yuuri. “You’re late. Where’s Viktor?”

 

Yuuri twirled around and came to a stop, eyes cast down onto the ice and his fingers tight on the hem of his shirt. “He isn’t feeling well today.”

 

“Is it his knee?” Yuri asked with a heavy frown.

 

“Yeah,” Yuuri responded simply.

 

“Yuuri!” Yakov’s booming voice carried across the ice. Both Yuris looked up, but it was clear that the older man was calling to the Japanese one with a wave of his hand.

 

“Hey,” Yuri reached out a hand and caught Yuuri’s before he was able to skate off. The teen was silent for a moment, green eyes unusually soft and his touch gentle. “He’s going to be ok. I think he might be more stubborn than you - if that’s even possible.”

 

Yuuri’s lips twitched with a small smile and he squeezed Yuri’s hand in thanks before slipping through the grip, skating over and coming to a stop in front of Yakov. There was a time when Yuuri  had been slightly afraid of the older Russian, quietly averting his gaze from the coach at all costs. Lately, though, those harsh lines had softened and the constant scowl had become a worried frown. Viktor’s injury had been hard on him too.

 

“I take it Vitya isn’t doing well today,” Yakov began, a hand on the barrier to steady himself - to hide his own worry from the other skaters.

 

“He isn’t sleeping much,” Yuuri confirmed.

 

Sighing, Yakov nodded. “Go warm up. We’ll work on some spins and get you back in the rhythm of your jumps. Absolutely no quads, understand?”

 

“Yes,” Yuuri nodded, a small blossom of warmth blooming in his chest. Yakov cared far more than he would ever admit to anyone. “Spasibo.”

 

“Hmph,” Yakov huffed. “Don’t thank me just yet.”

 

Yakov worked him hard and was far more critical than Viktor ever was, but Yuuri appreciated it all. He never argued or complained and soaked up every bit of advice that he could. On more than one occasion had Yakov admitted that he much preferred Yuuri as a student than both Viktor and Yuri. Although he was lacking in the raw talent the two Russians had, he more than made up for it in his enthusiasm and ability to actually be coached.

 

“That’s enough for today,” Yakov finally called the skaters in just after noon. “Spend the afternoon either in the gym or with Lilia. We start again tomorrow morning at seven sharp. Yuuri, you are more than welcome to join us.”

 

Yuuri smiled, but his fist clenched at his side. Yakov was already counting Viktor out. Should Yuuri be doing the same? No, of course not. Yuuri was Viktor’s husband, and it was up to him to stay positive. For both of them.

 

“Hey,” Yuri brushed a shoulder up against him, knocking him out of the way so that he could exit off the ice first. “I’m going to Lilia’s. Do you want to join?”

 

“Yes,” Yuuri breathed out excitedly. Even though it wasn’t with Minako, Yuuri still loved his time in the dance studio. It was the one place that he could truly let his mind go and relax. It helped that Lilia absolutely adored him. Almost every time he went, she went on and on about how he should have been a danseur instead of a skater. It annoyed Yuri who had to work exceptionally hard to please the woman. It was the one thing that Yuuri would always be able to dangle over his head.

 

“We should grab lunch first,” Yuri suggested. “You’re too skinny. I don’t like it. It’s weird.”

 

Yuuri genuinely smiled as he unlaced his skates and kicked them off. “I guess I haven’t really been eating much lately.”

 

“Last year you blew up like a freaking blimp in the off-season - especially after the wedding,” Yuri said as he threw his skates into his bag and pulled out his cheetah print sneakers. “How am I supposed to call you piggy when you aren’t a pig?”

 

“If anyone can think of something, it’s you,” Yuuri offered. Believe it or not, Yuri had mellowed out a bit in the past two years - well, mellow in terms of Yuri. He certainly still had his outbursts. Maybe Yuuri had just gotten immune to them.

 

They grabbed pirozhki from a stand on the way to Lilia’s studio, mostly walking in a comfortable silence. The weather was perfect today, and Yuuri wished he could have spent it in the park with Viktor. And Makkachin. Every time Yuuri saw a dog, his throat tightened. They’d already talked about another dog, of course, but right now it just wasn’t feasible with Viktor’s condition. Yuuri would be gone at the rink most of the day and Viktor couldn’t walk. Maybe next year.

 

“Your head is in the clouds,” Lilia commented, tapping Yuuri on the shoulder with her ruler.

 

Yuuri hadn’t even realized he’d been day dreaming. “Sorry, Madam.”

 

“Hmm,” she hummed, arms crossed and chin tilted high. “Your movements are much freer that way. You aren’t thinking too hard about it. It’s the prettiest I’ve seen you on the barre.”

 

“Thank you, Madam,” Yuuri responded flatly, unable to find pride in her compliments. Yuri flashed him a look over his shoulder, concerned. Yuuri looked away.

 

“I know it’s early, but have either of you thought about your themes for the season?” Lilia asked, moving on from Yuuri.

 

Yuuri had thought about it. A lot. Maybe it was all he could think about since the surgery. “I want it to be about overcoming. Persevering.”

 

Lilia flashed him a rare smile. “A fine theme.”

 

“Tch,” Yuri scoffed. “Boring.”

 

“And what is your theme, Yura?” Lilia asked him with a side-eye.

 

Yuri smirked. “Chaos.” The response earned him a hard slap on the back. “Ow! What was that for!?”

 

“You’re slouching. I keep hoping you’ll outgrow this phase of yours,” Lilia huffed. “It turns out we aren’t there yet.”

 

Yuri cursed as he rubbed at his lower back before straightening. Yuuri couldn’t help but chuckle. It was hardly a phase. His surprising and rebellious exhibition in Barcelona had only been the start of it. Yuri was Yuri, though, always true to himself. Yuuri admired that.

 

Lilia had them dance a simple and short routine, making mental notes of things each student needed to work on since coming back from the off season. Yuri stayed behind to help lock up since he still lived with Lilia. Yuuri threw on his light jacket and headed to the bus stop to head back to the mainland and his and Viktor’s apartment.

 

A strong aroma of food hit his nose as he entered the apartment. Viktor turned his head and grinned. “Yuuri! Welcome home!” The man was standing by the stove, his weight shifted onto his left leg.

 

Yuuri found himself taken aback, surprised at the cheerfulness of his husband compared to that morning. “Ah, you must be feeling better,” he said as he dropped his bag and shed his jacket.

 

“Much!” Viktor beamed, leaning in for a kiss on the lips.

 

Yuuri tasted a tinge of vodka on his tongue. His eyes quickly scanned the kitchen for a bottle but he didn’t find any, and Viktor’s cheeks weren’t tinted pink. Maybe he’d just had a small glass earlier. That was perfectly normal for him. Still...he wasn't supposed to mix alcohol with the medication. “Dinner smells good.”

 

“Hmm,” Viktor nodded in agreement. “How was practice?”

 

“Good,” Yuuri opened a cabinet and reached for a glass to pour some water. “Yakov helped me and then I went to Lilia’s with Yurio. He said his theme this season was Chaos.”

 

Viktor let out a full-hearted laugh. “How did Lilia like that?”

 

“She didn’t,” Yuuri smiled in amusement. “I don’t think he’s going to budge on it, though.”

 

“Probably not,” Viktor agreed. “And what about you, my Yuuri? Have you picked out a theme?”

 

Yuuri playfully bumped his hip gently against Viktor on his good side. “Overcome Chihoko.”

 

Viktor dropped the spoon into the pan and his eyes went wide. “What?! Yuuri! You wound me! You’ll never let me live that down, will you?”

 

“Never,” Yuuri laughed with a peck to his cheek. “You’ve already overcome Chihoko many times over, anyway. But I do want my theme to be about overcoming obstacles and perseverance. Because that’s what we’re going to do - together.” He grabbed both of Viktor’s hands in his, his thumb rubbing soothing circles into the soft skin. “It’s going to be ok, Vitya. I just know it. You’ll go to physical therapy, and you’ll get strong and be able to walk and run again. You’ll be able to get out on the ice and even though you can’t do quads, you’ll do the most beautiful doubles the world has ever seen!”

 

Viktor smiled, but there was a sadness in his eyes. “Doubles? Wait until you see my singles. They’ll blow your mind.”

 

Yuuri released Viktor’s hands and melted against his chest, wrapping his arms around his waist but careful not to lean in so much as to throw him off balance.

 

Everyone had offered their unwavering support today. They had all offered words of encouragement, assuring Yuuri that everything was going to be alright - that he and Viktor would make it through this together. Hell, Yuuri had even sort of started to believe it.

 

But even so… He couldn’t shake a nagging prickling at the base of his neck sending him a warning.

 

Chapter Text

“Viktor, what do you think?”

 

“Hmm?” Viktor’s head lifted from where he’d been resting his chin on his palm leaning against the ice barrier. “It looked great, Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri’s frown deepened and his shoulders slumped. “Vitya...I fell.”

 

Viktor stiffened as he realized his mistake, his expression reflexively smoothing into the blank smile he put on whenever he was caught off guard. Yuuri could almost hear him trying to figure out how to justify his lack of attention. “I’m so sorry, Yuuri. Do it again. I promise I’ll pay attention this time.”

 

Yuuri could only sigh and bite the inside of his cheek, trying to keep himself from saying all the things running through his head as he skated off. There was no way he would land the jump now with so much on his mind. The throbbing on his hip was a burning reminder of how distracted he had been all practice. Maybe he was just as much to blame as Viktor was.

 

“You are too tight in your knees,” Yuri offered, brushing a shoulder into Yuuri as he skated past. “Allow yourself to be a little more elastic.”

 

“Right,” Yuuri mumbled to himself, taking in a deep breath and focusing his mind as he lapped around the rink to prepare for the jump. Bend the knees, allow them to be elastic. He went deeper into his take off, using the extra bend to send him higher into the air. It gave him much more time to come out of his rotations and he landed cleanly.

 

“Nice, Yuuri! Much better!” Mila winked and gave a thumbs up as she skated past him.

 

There was no clapping or cheering from the barrier, though. Yuuri looked over to Viktor and he was once again off in his own little world.

 

It stung. Bad.

 

“How long are you going to put up with this, Katsudon?” Yuri hissed as he came up beside him suddenly. His nose was curled up in disgust as he glared at the oblivious Viktor.

 

“It’s not a big deal, he’s just having an off day,” Yuuri tried, but he couldn’t even believe it himself.

 

Viktor had been like this all week. Two days in, on Wednesday, Yuuri had the idea of sitting down and working on his short program together, something that Viktor could still be a part of and take an active role in. But even that ended up being mostly Yuuri coming up with ideas, while Viktor just nodded and agreed to everything - even the purposefully awful suggested Yuuri had made. Yuuri didn’t like to choreograph his own programs, but he supposed this year he’d have no choice.

 

“As much as I’d like to say you’re an idiot, you aren’t that big of an idiot,” Yuri huffed, pulling Yuuri to a stop so they were face-to-face. “Look. I’m not saying Viktor doesn’t have a lot on his mind and that he doesn’t have a good reason to be distracted - he does - but you have to think about yourself and your career. Is having him as your coach right now really the best idea?”

 

No. It wasn’t. Yuuri knew that, but Viktor’s reputation had already taken a huge hit after his injury and forced retirement. Although Viktor never really talked about it with him, Yuuri knew that the social media articles and comments bothered him. If Yuuri suddenly fired him as his coach, it would just make things worse. Yuuri couldn’t do that to his husband. This was the only part of the ice he had left. “I can’t just fire him, Yura.”

 

“Yes, you can,” Yuri argued. “Yakov would take you on and Viktor could be like an assistant when he’s not high on painkillers.”

 

It was a solid arrangement and it made Yuuri hate it all even more. “Things are fine, okay?” He said, harsher than he meant to.

 

Yuri huffed and turned his back to Yuuri in an angry response. “Fine. But when you fail to even qualify for the GPF this year, I better not find you in a bathroom stall crying. You chose this.”

 

And like that, Yuuri was done for the day. Yuri’s comment hurt almost as bad as Viktor’s lack of interest in the practice. Skating to the exit he grabbed his skate guards from the rail and slid them on his blades.

 

“Huh? Done already?” Viktor blinked in confusion.

 

“I’m tired,” was the only response he could muster up.

 

Viktor should have given him a disappointed frown followed by a lecture on how he would never win gold without putting forth the effort. He should have convinced Yuuri to get back on the ice and work until he wasn’t frustrated anymore. There was none of that, only a nod and a wince as Viktor put his weight on his right leg and followed after Yuuri with a slight limp. Yuuri felt an overwhelming urge to cry which was stupid. It was still so early in the off season. Viktor would only get stronger and healthier as the days went on. If he could just make it through these next few months it would be totally fine.

 

“Yuuri, let’s go to Solntse on the way home!” Viktor suggested, his frown quickly replaced with a focused grin. “Or maybe Breaking Bad if you feel like beer? Maybe beer would be better.”

 

“What? Vitya, we have practice tomorrow. I can’t drink,” Yuuri sighed, working on unlacing his boots. “Are you sure you should be on your painkillers?”

 

Viktor groaned playfully, a hint of the Viktor Yuuri knew and loved before the injury. “Yuuri is so mean to me!! Though you are right, it would be rather irresponsible of me as your coach! But maybe on our next day off? I’m so lonely and cooped up in the apartment all the time without you!”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile as Viktor wrapped his arms around him, pulling him for a tight squeeze. It made him feel guilty he didn’t defend Viktor more to Yuri, or at least defend the idea of keeping Viktor on as his coach. Surely Viktor was feeling lonely without Makkachin there. When Yuuri was working out or with Lilia, Viktor was either at therapy or was alone and he couldn’t really make it around the city comfortably just yet. Everyone’s just overreacting...Viktor is going to be fine. He just needs more support. “Ok. I promise, our next day off we go wherever you want.”

 

Viktor beamed at him and it was like everything was fine again. As quickly as they had been knocked out of place, the blocks of their life realigned. They returned to their apartment and Yuuri helped Viktor through his stretches and exercises. Viktor whined and complained at first, but the moment Yuuri offered up kisses as a reward they got through them without much fuss. It was wonderful.

 

As Viktor showered Yuuri started on dinner, something more elaborate than usual since they left the ice so early. He even caught himself happily humming as he sliced vegetables, the relief brought by the change in their afternoon moods holding fast. He barely noticed as the fridge opened next to him, Viktor casually pulling out a beer, until he heard the tab pop. “Vitya! I thought we were waiting until our day off?!”

 

“To go out,” Viktor winked. “I don’t have to skate and run ten kilometers tomorrow.”

 

Yuuri nearly dropped all the utensils straight into the pot. “ NANI?! Ten? Vitya!”

 

“Don’t think I didn’t notice you got off the ice early,” Viktor pointed out, taking a comfortable seat on the couch with his beer. “We need to work on your stamina, Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri blinked a few times in confusion before he let out a happy huff in defeat. Maybe Viktor had been paying attention after all. Even with the large brace a cold reminder against the back of his thigh, Yuuri found himself falling asleep immediately that night, held close to Viktor’s chest. For the first time in a while, he couldn’t help but be excited for the new dawn to come. Tomorrow would be different. He just knew it.

 

The next day was different alright. It threw Yuuri right out of the temporary dream he had put himself in and back into reality. Yuuri started to realize that the blocks had never been put back into place, but instead had turned into a game of Jenga where they had simply taken up a new position while the base slowly chipped away. Waiting. At the moment, only a few blocks had been taken and moved to the top, but Yuuri felt the impending crash in his core, taunting him. It was like his anxiety, looming on the horizon, but for once it wasn’t Yuuri creating the problems.

 

Viktor had shown up and was paying attention. Too much attention. “No, no, no!” Viktor called out. “That’s not right!”

 

Yuuri threw his hands up in the air in frustration, pulling at his hair. This was the 8th time Viktor had made him re-do this part, and he wouldn’t let Yuuri move on in the program until it met his standards. The problem was, Yuuri was beginning to think that was impossible. “Viktor! I don’t know what you want! I’m doing the twizzle into the choctaw!”

 

“That’s not how I envisioned it!” He threw back.

 

“Ugh!” Yuuri practically stamped his skate against the ice. “Then YOU do it!” The other skaters on the ice all immediately stopped mid-sequence and all looked over to stare. Yuuri gasped, throwing his hands to his mouth. He wished he could swallow his tongue right then and there. “Viktor, I-”

 

Viktor slammed Yuuri’s guards he had been holding against the rail. “Well, Yuuri,” his voice was low but quivering, “I wish I could.”

 

His husband turned his back and Yuuri immediately scrambled after him, almost slipping and falling in his haste. “N-no! Vitya! I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean it! I-”

 

Yakov met him at the barrier, eyes sad and unusually sympathetic. “Let him go,Yuuri. I will talk to him.”

 

But I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! Please! Yuuri couldn’t breathe and his heart was pounding against his chest. Someone must have had a pillow over his face, the entire rink going hazy as he struggled to get air, and he felt himself fall to the ice as pain shot through his legs, the back of his blades digging into his thighs as he curled himself into a ball. Wave after wave of fear crashed into him and his stomach seemed just fall out of him completely.

 

“Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri whimpered and curled further into himself.

 

“Hey… Yuuri, it’s pretty cold down there.” A gentle and small hand started rubbing circles into his back. “We wouldn’t want you to get that pretty face of yours stuck to it, now would we? Come on, sweetie.”

 

Yuuri could feel a tug on his arm but his body just fell limp no matter how hard he tried to let himself follow the pull. An arm wrapped around his back, pulling him up and back so that another could curl up underneath his knees. Suddenly he was weightless and he began to fall deeper into panic, hands reaching out and grasping for something - anything.

 

“OW! Fuck! Katsudon, watch it! I’m going to drop your fat ass!”

 

“Yura, shut up, you aren’t helping! Get him off the ice! Yuuri, you’re doing so great!” The soft hands were on him again and he was grounded once more. A warmth draped itself across his shoulders. “Slow breaths, Yuuri. Nice and even. Do you know if he has his medicine?”

 

“Yeah, in his bag. He always has it on him.”

 

“Go get it. Yuuri, stay with me. There you go. Nice and steady. Can you tell me where you are?”

 

Yuuri’s heart was still thumping harshly, but had slowed in its pace. Everything was still a cloud in his field of vision, but the fog slowly started to dissipate in his mind. “R-Russia.”

 

“Yeah! Do you know where in Russia?”

 

Yuuri let out a shuddered breath, pulling the warmth tighter around him. “S-St. Petersburg.”

 

“Right! Do you know who I am?”

 

Yuuri blinked, trying to focus his eyes until there was just the normal blur from his lack of glasses. Fire red hair and a kind face. “Mila.”

 

Mila beamed, her hands gently resting on Yuuri’s knees. “So good! Is there something I can get you, Yuuri? To help?”

 

Yuuri realized his fingers were clenched in the fabric of a Russian warm-up jacket that had been wrapped around him. He was sitting off the ice, back propped up against one of the large windows that made up the Ice Palace. The panic started to settle but the anxiety crept up, stinging at his eyes with tears. “I messed up.”

 

“Stop.” Mila brushed back his bangs caringly. “We all know you didn’t mean what you said - Vitya, too. We’re all still getting used to it.”

 

“Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri looked up, Yuri holding out a medicine bottle and a water bottle for him to take. With a sniff Yuuri maneuvered his hands from beneath the coat and grabbed the proffered items. His hand shook with an incredible force as he tried to pop the top of the medicine bottle and he felt the crushing force against his heart again.

 

Yuri knelt down next to Mila and took took the bottle back, opening the top. “How many?”

 

“J-just one,” Yuuri answered. Yuri placed one pill into the palm of Yuuri’s hand and he swallowed it, throwing it back with a splash of water. There was a yank on his right ankle and he watched as Yuri started to unlace his boot in his lap. Yuuri couldn’t help but stare blankly in confusion.

 

“What?” Yuri started to unlace with a fiercer pull. “It’s not like you’re going back out on the ice, baka.

 

“You could be a little gentler, Yura,” Mila nudged him, working on Yuuri’s other skate.

 

It wasn’t that. Of course Yuuri wasn’t going back out on the ice after that. It was likely he couldn’t even stand. Yuuri was just confused that Yuri Plisetsky - world champion and the Ice Tiger of Russia - was taking off his skates. “S-Sorry.”

 

“Why the hell are you apologizing?” Yuri yanked the skate off angrily, his face suddenly softening when he noticed Yuuri flinch. “It’s not your fault Viktor is a shit coach.You don’t see Yakov out on the ice trying to show me moves because he can’t explain it, do you?”

 

“Oh, can I ask him to do that?” Mila giggled.

 

“It’s not his fault.” Viktor had always been out on the ice with him, whether it was as a coach or a competitor. He had never had to try and explain things in that way - he could just show Yuuri his vision. There had been a time when Yuuri thought he might never step out on the ice again because of his depression, and it had been the worst time of his life. A part of him knew what Viktor was going through, but at least Yuuri had a choice to one day return. Viktor was at the mercy of his recovery.

 

“Why are you always defending him?” Yuri growled. “The idiot may be your husband but he still has to be a decent human being. Viktor is being selfish by staying on as your coach, and you know it. He knows it, too. Maybe after today, he’ll finally be man enough to do something about it.”

 

Mila pinched Yuri hard on the arm. “Ok, that’s enough. Yuuri, are you going to be ok? Do you need us to get you anything?”

 

Yuuri just shook his head, hugging his knees back up to his chest. Mila pulled Yuri away back to the ice, arguing with him in rapid Russian that faded and was too much for Yuuri to try and translate. He stayed sitting there, letting the sounds blend into an indiscernible muffle.

 

Time passed, slowly, quickly, he couldn’t tell. There was no one on the ice anymore when Yakov tapped him on the shoulder. Yuuri jolted in surprise, and the older man apologized quickly. “Go home, Yuuri. Things will be okay. Vitya just needs some time. Take tomorrow off. Try to talk and spend time together. He needs your support now more than ever.”

 

Yuuri was sluggish in his movements, grabbing his skates and heading to the locker room. He still had ten kilometers to run, he remembered. So he ran. And ran. And ran. By the time he finally came to a stop at the base of the apartment his legs were wobbling and there was a mix of sweat and tears running down his cheeks. Though the summer Russian sun still shone, it was late. Yuuri expected Viktor to already be there when he turned the key and pushed the door open, but the apartment was dark and eerily silent.

 

With a quivering lip he wiped at his eyes and dropped his bag by the door, unzipping his jacket and moving to hang it up. His arm stopped as he realized that it wasn’t his Team Japan jacket he was hanging up, but Yuri’s blue Team Russia coat. Pulling it back to his chest he ran his fingers over it. The jacket had swallowed him much like Viktor’s did. Yuri had grown so much.

 

Trudging to the laundry room he placed the jacket in the washer and started it on delicate. It was drenched in sweat and there was no way he could return it to Yuri that way.

 

Yuuri’s shower lasted as long as the hot water did, the man curled up in the corner as the water sprayed over his skin. The longer he waited, the more likely it would be that Viktor would be there waiting for him in the living room and Yuuri could apologize and maybe - just maybe - they could gently replace the block that had been removed from their stack. When Yuuri finally turned the water off and wrapped himself in a towel, he emerged to an apartment just as empty and quiet as the one he had come into.

 

Pulling out his phone he started to send messages, waiting a few minutes between each of them to give Viktor a chance to respond. There was nothing for ten minutes, and then his phone chimed.

 

 

 

Yuuri’s heart immediately dropped through his stomach. It was as good as having given no response at all. The ultimate cold shoulder. Without even thinking about the time difference he pulled up his Skype app, scrolling through it for Phichit’s name with quivering hands and tears threatening to spill. The phone rang and rang with no answer, and Yuuri immediately regretted his decision. It was well past midnight in Thailand. Just as his finger hovered over the ‘end call’ button, Phichit picked up.

 

“Yuuri?” His voice was heavy with sleep.

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have called,” Yuuri hiccuped, covering his mouth as he tried not to cry as he curled up on the bed.

 

“Yuuri, what’s wrong?” Phichit was instantly alert.

 

“I messed up, Phichit,” Yuuri sobbed, the tears coming in full force. “I messed up so bad.”

 

“Hey, hey, deep breaths,” he encouraged. “Tell me what happened.”

 

“He just kept yelling at me and I got frustrated because I didn’t understand what he wanted from me!” Yuuri began. “He just kept saying I wasn't doing it right, that it didn’t match his vision. S-so, I told him to…” He squeezed his eyes shut, shivering with the guilt and horror at what he had said. “I told him to come out and show me.”

 

Phichit sighed heavily on the other end of the line. “Ok. That...You probably shouldn’t have said that. But I know you didn’t mean it, Yuuri, and I’m sure Viktor knows that, too.”

 

“Then why hasn’t he come home?!” Yuuri cried out in frustration and worry, grabbing at his black locks.

 

“Because even though you didn’t mean it, it still hurt,” Phichit began. “Viktor hasn’t not been on the ice since he was like, what? Five? I can’t even imagine how bad it must suck to have to look at the ice every day and know you can’t step onto it. It’s going to take months for him to recover enough to do something as simple as a crossover. He’s going to get frustrated and he’s going to get angry. It’s not directed at you, though, even if it may seem that way.”

 

Sniffing and wiping at his eyes, Yuuri asked, “Then what do I do?”

 

“Just be there for him,” he instructed. “Some days you may have to put up with him yelling. You may have to put up with him wanting to be alone. But he’ll come back, Yuuri. As long as you’re there, he’ll come back. He loves you more than anything.”

 

Yuuri was silent on the other end, unable to come up with anything to say through his fear and doubt.

 

“Hey. I know it’ll be hard, but try and get some sleep. Everything will be fine in the morning, you’ll see.”

 

“Ok,” Yuuri finally agreed. “Thanks, Phichit.”

 

“Anytime, Yuuri. Night.”

 

Yuuri ended the call, putting his phone on the charger on the nightstand before curling underneath the covers. Now more than ever he wished that Makkachin was there for him to cling to. The poodle had always found a way to ease his anxiety and help lull him to sleep. But neither Makkachin nor Viktor were there.

 

When Yuuri woke up the next morning, Viktor still hadn’t come home.

Chapter Text

By now it was muscle memory. Or at least, that’s the only way any of this made sense. One moment Yuuri was crying in the apartment and the next he was crying on the ice. The journey inbetween was completely lost to him. He’d been so beside himself waking up with Viktor still absent he hadn’t remembered getting dressed or taking the bus to the rink. Or did he run? He honestly couldn’t remember.

 

What he did remember was Yakov yelling at him for even being at the rink. Yuuri had remembered the coach had told him to take the day off to work things out with Viktor and then immediately erupted into tears. Even though he had gotten onto the ice, he had done nothing but a few figures up and down the rink. The other skaters didn’t bother him - not even Yuri - and he pretended not to notice their looks of pity.

 

When the doors at the end of the rink started to open up and the zamboni appeared to prep for the next session Yuuri finally stepped off the ice having accomplished nothing. Skates off and discarded in front of him he pulled in his knees and stared blankly in front of him. No texts. No calls. Nothing. What if he returned to the apartment and found everything gone? What if Viktor had packed everything and left? Oh god, what if -

 

“Yuuri? Come on now, you know you can’t leave your hard guards on your skates like that. It’ll rust the blades.”

 

Yuuri blinked rapidly, squinting his eyes to make out Georgi kneeling in front of him removing the skate guards and wiping off the wet blades with a towel. “S-sorry…”

 

Georgi smiled up at him, kind and calm. “No need to be sorry, Yuuri. Ah, there we go.” He slipped the blue soaker over the final blade and neatly laid the boots next to Yuuri’s feet.

 

“Why are you here?” Yuuri asked as the retired skater rose and took a seat next to him on the bench.

 

That warm smile faded. “Because I had a feeling that Viktor hasn’t contacted you and that you were probably worried. He’s at my place. Still sleeping off last night, I imagine. He was....very emotional last night when he came over.”

 

Of course he was. Because Yuuri had gone and said something stupid and hurtful. Feeling his lower lip tremble he sniffed. “It’s my fault. I’m so sorry.”

 

Georgi chuckled, much to Yuuri’s annoyance and confusion. “Vitya said much the same thing last night in his drunken meltdown. Ah, soulmates…” He sighed longingly before continuing, “None of this is anyone’s fault, Yuuri. The two of you just have to learn to communicate a little better.”

 

Communication. Yuuri’s worst skill ever.  Wiping at a small tear that had formed he sucked in a steadying breath, determined. “I want to fix this. How can I?”

 

“Talk with him. Be honest with each other. Tell him how you are feeling and don’t hold anything back,” he instructed. “It’s best to lay it all out on the table at once. I know that Viktor wants to fix things, too. And Yuuri? Know that you two aren’t alone, ok? We are here to help you. All you have to do is ask.”

 

“Ok,” Yuuri agreed. “Ok.” He repeated it, for good measure, trying to make himself believe it. “ Spasibo , Georgi.”

 

“Anything for true love,” he smiled.

 

With a new found determination Yuuri packed his skates and headed home, using the jog to help clear his mind completely of all of his doubts. Viktor was going to wake up, come home, and they were going to talk it all out. Things were going to get better. With every step he gained confidence. By the time he reached their door he had so much pent up energy he dropped the keys trying to fumble with them. Finally slipping the golden key into the door he unlocked it and opened the door. Making sure to lock it behind him he moved to slip off his shoes. His body came to an immediate halt. Viktor’s slippers were absent. He was home.

 

Suddenly all his anticipation and confidence vanished.

 

Oh god, he wasn’t ready. He was supposed to have at least a few hours to prepare his speech begging for forgiveness and then a few more hours after that to go through every possible scenario in which it could all go terribly wrong. With a shaking hand he pushed the door open and stepped in. Viktor’s eyes were immediately on him.

 

“Yuuri! Welcome home!” Viktor’s heart-shaped smile was large and his blue eyes were sparkling. Like nothing had ever happened. Except there were bags underneath his eyes and his usually neatly groomed hair looked like it hadn’t been brushed in days.

 

Yuuri dropped his skating bag and immediately broke down, completely unable to take the faked response from his husband. “Vitya, I’m so sorry! I’m so so so so sorry!” The moment he felt arms around him he clung desperately, fists grabbing onto his husband’s shirt with a deadly grip.

 

“No Yuuri, I’m the one who is sorry. I never should have gotten angry at you like that,” Viktor apologized, burying his face against Yuuri’s hair on the top of his head. Now, his expression matched his appearance: exhausted. “I know you didn’t mean it. I overreacted.”

 

Yuuri didn’t have a response, too busy crying into Viktor’s chest and enjoying the feeling of being in his arms again. It was only one night, but it had felt like an eternity. He wished he could go back in time. Go back to Euro’s and keep Viktor from going on the ice. Convince him just to somehow call it quits and retire. But Yuuri couldn’t go back in time, and this was the hand Viktor was dealt. They both had to learn how to deal with it.  

 

“I just wish,” Viktor’s voice trembled, “so badly that I could be out on the ice with you.”

 

“I wish that, too,” Yuuri sobbed, clinging tighter.

 

They stood like that, clinging to each other like a lifeline while they let all their tears fall from their eyes and the sorrow from their chests. The couple had been through so much in the last few months and never had really properly grieved. This was something they should have done a long time ago before it had festered like this.

 

Viktor lightly patted Yuuri’s shoulders when they both quieted down, though still before Yuuri was quite ready to let go. “Yuuri, I’m sorry, but my knee...I need to sit.”

 

“Ah, of course!” Yuuri quickly pulled the rest of the way back and helped Viktor hobble over to the couch where they sat. It was impossible to miss the Russian’s flinch of pain and Yuuri immediately accepted the offered hand and its grip. When the pain eased, so too did the tensed muscles in Viktor’s hand. “What can I do, Vitya? Please tell me.”

 

“Just… have more faith than I do that I’ll win,” Viktor smiled softly. “That I can beat this.”

 

Bringing Viktor’s hand up to his lips, Yuuri gave the knuckles a gentle kiss. “Of course you can beat this. You’re Viktor Nikiforov.”

 

“Nikiforov-Katsuki,” Viktor corrected with a small sniff.

 

Yuuri grinned. Anytime a reporter or television network forgot to properly hyphenate his name, Viktor always got so angry and defensive. “Right. Nikiforov-Katsuki. In that case, it’s impossible for you not to beat this.”

 

They fell into a comfortable silence then, Viktor’s thumb brushing across the soft skin of Yuuri’s hand. After last night and the morning’s stress, this quiet scene felt like a balm on his nerves. But...there was still more to discuss. Yuuri peeked at his husband’s face and said quietly but seriously, “Vitya...promise me you’ll talk to me. You’ll tell me if you’re hurting or if you need help. Please don’t shut me out.”

 

Viktor swallowed and squeezed his husband’s hand. “Ok… Ok. And you’ll promise to tell me if I’m being too much? Don’t let me hurt you.”

 

Yuuri leaned forward, brushing a strand of silver hair out of Viktor’s face. “I promise.”

 

Carefully taking Yuuri’s hand in his, Viktor placed a gentle kiss to his palm. “Did we get back together then?”

 

Yuuri scoffed with a smile. They had to be broken up to get back together, but Yuuri knew better than to let his anxiety blow the statement out of proportion in a moment like this. “Yeah, we’re back together.” With a gentle pat to Viktor’s good knee he stood. “I think I’m going to make lunch. I didn’t eat anything this morning. Are you hungry?”

 

“Very,” Viktor nodded. “I should probably do my exercises… I didn’t do them last night.”

 

With a hum of agreement Yuuri leaned down for a quick kiss. “You can do that while I cook then. Does it hurt much today?”

 

“Not really,” Viktor responded, starting to get into position to start on his physical therapy exercises while Yuuri padded to the kitchen. “Though, to be fair, I haven’t been on it much. I took the bus from Georgi’s even though it’s nearby.”

 

“Good. You can start walking more after the therapist says it’s okay, not before,” Yuuri stated. “You still have to use crutches when you walk for more than a few minutes. Don’t press it.”

 

Da, da ,” Viktor sighed, a slight twitch in his face as he started working on his first exercise.

 

Yuuri let out an exasperated sigh, but couldn’t help but smile right after. Everything was fine. It was good. They’d talked it out and it was all back to normal. Yuuri happily worked on slicing vegetables and preparing their meal while listening to Viktor moan and groan about his exercises.  Maybe he could slip in a treat after dinner for Viktor, a small reward for making it through. Yuuri had been to physical therapy before, and while his injuries had been nowhere near what Viktor was having to go through, he remembered it wasn’t too fun.

 

The rest of the day they spent completely together, watching terrible soaps on television and cuddling on the couch. It was amazing how easily they fell back into their normal routine like the fight had never happened. Yuuri felt his heart at ease when they both slipped under the covers that night, alarms set to get up for the rink in the morning.

 

/*/

 

“Yuuri, I was thinking,” Viktor started as he watched Yuuri lace up his boots on the opposite bench.

 

“Hmm?” Yuuri questioned, not taking his eyes off the task at hand.

 

“About how I can be a better coach. You said that you used to copy my routines with Yuuko when you were younger, right?” he asked.

 

Yuuri glanced up for just a second and nodded. “Un. I could probably still do all of them really.”

 

“So then you know that part in my short program from my junior year? When I was 14?” Viktor paused for Yuuri to answer, but his husband could only squint in thought. “Darkness and Frost?”

 

Yuuri’s face lit up. “Ah, yes!”

 

Viktor’s face lit up in a sort of excitement. “So then you know the part after my first quad? Where I did the twizzle to the choctaw to the spread eagle?”

 

Finishing tying off his skate, Yuuri paused to replay the routine in his head. When he reached the point of the program that Viktor was talking about, his eyes widened. “That’s what you meant when you were trying to tell me what to do for my routine!”

 

“Yes, yes!” Viktor clapped in excitement. “I thought hard about how I could better convey my intentions to you without getting on the ice. Knowing what a fan you were, I figured I could use my own routines to help guide you.”

 

“What a fan I still am,” Yuuri corrected with a smile. “And always will be. That’s perfect, Viktor. I’m fairly certain I remember most of your programs, but we can always look at film to help.”

 

“I expect it to be just as good - if not better - than my own execution!” Viktor beamed, his heart-shaped smile in full effect.

 

When Yuuri stepped out onto the ice he felt warmth. His heart was at ease and the worries he’d carried with him on the ice the previous days were completely off his chest. Already he could tell in just his warm-up that today would be a good day. His movements were graceful and light, and his mind was empty.

 

Maybe too empty. Yuuri just missed slamming right into Yuri as he worked on his outside edges. Though, Yuri looked like he had purposely moved into his path, a frown on his face. “Ah, hi, Yurio. Sorry, I didn’t see you there.”

 

“No shit,” Yuri huffed. “So… you and the old man work things out? You seem happier.”

 

Yuuri smiled at Yuri’s concern. “We talked.”

 

Yuri hummed, narrowing his eyes. “So he did the right thing and resigned as your coach?”

 

“What? No, of course not.” Yuuri frowned, an edge of irritation at the mere thought. “I apologized for what I said and he apologized for his reaction. We talked things over and think we have a plan going forward for better communication.”

 

“And what about your skating?”

 

“We have a plan for that too,” Yuuri said stiffly. His good mood was becoming hard to maintain under this sudden aggression.

 

“And how long do you think that’s gonna last, Katsudon?” Yuri huffed. “You’re living in a fantasy world.”

 

Over the years Yuuri had gotten really good at not letting the teen’s words get under his skin. After all, they usually weren’t as vicious as the tone might have insinuated. Yuri cared, which was why he got so angry, but this was pushing it. He began to feel angry himself, looking at the younger man’s judgmental expression. “I didn’t ask your opinion.”

 

“Yuuri! Stop chit-chatting and skate!” Viktor called out playfully with a wave.

 

“I have work to do,” Yuuri said sharply, effectively killing the conversation as he turned on his blade and skated off to his husband. If Yuri wanted to talk bad about Viktor, then he could do it to his own face. But the other man didn’t follow, and Yuuri was privately glad. Still, his good mood was thoroughly crushed and the scowl on his face must’ve been obvious, because Viktor was already frowning when he came to a stop.

 

“Are you ok?” Viktor asked, straightening up against the barrier. His eyes slid past Yuuri to some point further along the ice, then back.

 

Yuuri forced a smile. “I’m fine, sorry. I’m ready to start.”

 

“Ok, from the top then with the new element. If I like what I see, then we’ll try and finish the short today, ok?”

 

Yuuri nodded firmly, positioning himself in his starting pose. His body didn’t feel as weightless as it had moments ago. Just let it go. He didn’t mean anything by it. Yuri was Yuri. Everything with Viktor was fine, and he was going to prove it to them all.

 

With a deep breath to ground himself, he began.

 

/*/

 

The next few days of training were like transporting back in a dream to their days in Hasetsu. Yuuri and Viktor fell into an easy routine now that Viktor had a way to show Yuuri what he was envisioning.They finally finished Yuuri’s short program - well, mostly. Although Yuuri felt very happy with it, he could just see the wheels spinning in Viktor’s head. The slight wrinkle of his nose the night before when Yuuri had mentioned it to Phichit might have been nothing for any other skater, but Yuuri had grown to know that expression in the years prior. Something about the program made him unhappy.

 

“Vitya, why don’t you just say what’s on your mind instead of making me guess?” Yuuri huffed playfully, hands on his hips as he approached the barrier after finishing a run through.

 

“Hmmm.” Viktor pondered, his index finger to his lips. “I’m not quite happy with the transition of the triple combination into the spin. Do you think you can do a spread eagle coming out of the salchow? You’d need to then three-turn into the flying sit.”

 

“Like a separate movement or right out of the landing?” Yuuri asked, trying to visualize his ask.

 

“Right out of the landing, if you can,” Viktor clarified. “Ah, I think I did it in my Innocence program - the short.”

 

Yuuri remembered that program. It was the one Viktor did his first year in the senior division and one that Yuuri had watched obsessively before his own senior debut. Like a film behind his eyes, he started to run through the program. Eventually, he frowned. “Are you sure that’s the right one?” he asked. “I don’t remember anything like that.”

 

“Really?” Viktor blinked and then pulled out his phone. “Hold on, I’ll pull up a video. I know it was that program.”

 

Yuuri hummed in acknowledgment, using this time to take a much needed break. He toweled off his face and took a sip from his water bottle as Viktor searched for the right video. It took barely any time before the distinctive soft music of that program played from the phone. Yuuri thought to lean in and watch, but Viktor kept the screen angled towards himself. His husband kept frowning as the minutes passed and, eventually, the music ended for applause. “Vitya?”

 

“I… I guess that wasn’t the right program,” Viktor admitted, his voice almost a whisper. Yuuri could hear the disappointment. “I could have sworn…”

 

Yuuri was quick to offer a smile. “Vitya, you’ve done so many programs! I’m sure it must be hard to keep them straight. Do you remember what you were wearing? Maybe I can help find the right one. What was the jump combination into the spread eagle?”

 

Viktor obediently held out his phone for Yuuri, but there was a lingering frown on his features. “Um, it was a triple axel, loop, triple salchow.”

 

“Hmm.” Yuuri started to scroll through the programs on Youtube listed under Viktor. “Long hair or short?”

 

“Long,” Viktor said certainly and then paused. “...Maybe? I think the outfit was dark blue and purple. Or maybe it was red…”

 

Viktor was clearly flustered and Yuuri felt his confidence deteriorating fast. With a determined bite of his lip, he started wracking his brain for the sequence in question. For some reason, Yuuri seemed to remember the spread eagle out of the salchow now as they discussed it. “Wait. Vitya, was it the In Remembrance program?” Finding the video on Youtube, he tapped on it and held the phone up so they could both see.

 

It only took a few seconds for Viktor’s face to light up. “Yes! Yuuri! That’s the one! You’re a lifesaver!” With strong arms Viktor practically attacked Yuuri with a hug, the phone almost going flying out of the skater’s hands onto the ice.

 

Screen safe from ultimate demise, Yuuri held the phone back up so they could both see. Sure enough, a minute into the program, Viktor performed the sequence in question on the small screen. Yuuri nodded firmly in understanding and handed the phone back. “Ok! I think I can do it.”

 

Landing into a spread eagle was not easy even for the most flexible of skaters. It required perfect balance and technique. Even the slightest of fumbles would ruin it. Secretly, Yuuri was panicking. This was hard, but he felt determined to do it for Viktor.

 

Taking a lap to gain speed, Yuuri moved into the check for the axel before launching himself off the ice. Immediately upon landing, he pivoted off the outside edge of his landing foot into the half-loop and straight into the salchow. As soon as he felt the weight in his knee as he landed, he shifted to open his hips and moved into the spread eagle. It wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. It moved his flying sit spin a little further to the left of the rink than he would have liked, despite his attempted correction in the three-turn.

 

Viktor still clapped and nodded in approval. “It could use some work, but the idea is there! I think I like that much better than before, no?”

 

Yuuri smiled, pleased with the response he got from Viktor as a coach. “It feels good to know the program is complete.” Well, it was kind of complete before, but now it was complete according to Mr. Nikiforov-Katsuki’s exacting standards. “Is there anything else you want me to work on today?”

 

“My, Yuuri,” Viktor chuckled, “even off the ice your stamina exhausts me. I think we can call it a day. Did you still want to go to Lilia’s while I’m at therapy?”

 

“Mm.” Yuuri nodded, looking forward to spending time in the studio. “But only if you’re sure you don’t want me to go with you.”

 

Viktor grabbed his crutches and positioned them beneath his armpits with a wink. “I hear I get to trade these bad boys out for a cane since I’m doing so well. Sexy.”

 

“Very,” Yuuri chuckled. “Ok, well, text me when you get home if you beat me, ok? Just so I know you’re ok.”

 

“I will! Tell Lilia hi for me!” Viktor called as he slowly and carefully started to crutch his way on down the rink away from Yuuri.

 

Yuuri felt a small blush of happiness dust his cheeks. They’d successfully completed the short program and the music for his free had been cut. Everything was progressing smoothly. Yuuri sort of wanted to shove it in Yuri’s face.

 

“Keep staring like that and you’ll have Lilia kicking your ass for being late.”

 

Speak of the devil. Yuuri smiled at the familiar threat despite himself, and gave his usual retort as he turned to face the blonde. “The Madam likes me too much, and you know it.”

 

“Tch.” Yuri scoffed, knowing it was true, and Yuuri knew then that they were fine.

 

Yuri would never actually say it - words that meant anything were hard for him - but this, right here, was his way of an apology. He’d kept his distance since their last encounter about Viktor, and now he was making an effort to return things to normal as though the words had never been spoken.

 

Yuuri had learned how to speak Yuri.

 

“Yeah, well, I don’t want to be late, so hurry up, Piggy.”

 

“Hai, hai,” Yuuri sighed, grabbing his water and his towel and started to skate off the ice, Yuri in step with him as they moved.

 

“Hey,” Yuri stopped Yuuri just before he stepped off the ice. The teen looked uncharacteristically sweet and almost embarrassed by the words he was about to speak. “Your program looks good. I liked the eagle out of the salchow. It’s pretty.”

 

With warmth spreading through him at the apology and compliment, Yuuri smiled. “Thank you. Viktor did good with the suggestion. Now, let’s hurry before Lilia kicks your ass when we’re late.”

 

Yuri growled in response and Yuuri laughed.

Chapter Text

“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…?”

 

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.”

 

“But-”

 

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,”

 

“I’m kidding, solnyshko . 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!”

Chapter Text

September came upon them quickly and with it, their first competition of the season. Both Yakov and Viktor agreed that placing Yuri and Yuuri against each other in one of the ISU’s Challenger Series events would be beneficial since neither would meet again until the GPF. Yuuri’s free skate costume hadn’t been completed in time, but that was an easy work around after raiding Viktor’s closet. What was important was that his programs were ready and Yuuri felt good.

 

The Lombardia Trophy was held in Sesto San Giovanni, Italy, a comune in the city of Milan. Yuuri had only been to Italy once before and it was a long time ago as a Junior. This time promised to be a very different experience. While they were staying at the ISU sanctioned hotel, Viktor spared no expense for a suite with an incredible view, just like he’d spared no expense on their first class tickets on the flight. Granted, Yuuri had a feeling that had more to do with Viktor’s knee than anything. Even though Viktor had always been used to going first class in his day, Yuuri liked to be more careful with their money and had always insisted on coach.

 

They slept off the jet lag and then went out for a meal, just the two of them. The only other competitors besides Yuri that Yuuri really knew were the Crispino twins and he wasn’t exactly trying to hang out with them. Even though Yuuri was happily married, Michele could still find a way to accuse him of going after Sara, even if he had gotten much better through the years.  It was just too much trouble before a competition.

 

He couldn’t find it in him to regret not inviting Yakov or Yuri either. Viktor was in fine spirits, happily regaling Yuuri with stories of previous trips to Italy and the food he’d eaten. It was fun, and Viktor seemed to genuinely be enjoying himself. So it was with a continued good mood that Yuuri reported to the rink the next day.

 

“How are you feeling?” Viktor asked after Yuuri had gone through his short program.

 

Yuuri took a sip of water and wiped at his face with the towel. “Good. It’s so low-key… Not a lot of people. It helps.”

 

“You look good. Nothing to be nervous about,” Viktor assured him. “One more run through, but no jumps this time.”

 

Nodding, Yuuri took one last sip and skated to his starting point.

 

Closing his eyes he let the music play in his head as he moved through his program. While he felt good through every turn and spin, he couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of his eye how Yuri was jumping like a powerhouse. The teen had finally learned how to control his new body and it was frightening. Don’t think about it. You can be frightening, too. It was a good thing he wasn’t jumping, because the further along he got the more distracted he became. The way his spins travelled uncharacteristically was telling of that, and Viktor saw right through it.

 

“Yuuri,” he frowned as Yuuri came to collect his guards. “You were fine two minutes ago. What’s wrong?”

 

With a heavy sigh Yuuri stepped off the ice and took a tissue from the Makkachin holder Viktor still carried around fondly. “Yurio looks good.”

 

“He does,” Viktor agreed calmly, “but he’s also getting cocky. Yurio being cocky is like you being anxious. Same end result. Both are equally as destructive.”

 

Except Yuri usually backed up his cockiness. Yuuri didn’t voice that opinion out loud however. God, why was he like this? Even at an event as low-key as this, he had to to start talking himself down and creating problems where there were none.

 

“Yu-uri,” Viktor’s frown deepened the worse Yuuri fell.

 

He couldn’t be like this. He had to be strong for both of them. “Kiss it better?” he asked with a small smile, a reference to the time Viktor had offered to do so during his mental breakdown in China.

 

Viktor returned the smile, but turned away. “You know I only kiss gold, Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri leaned up and pecked him on the cheek anyway. “I can always get gold lipstick.”

 

With an amused scoff Viktor turned his head and captured Yuuri’s lips in a quick kiss. “Well, I wouldn’t be opposed.”

 

“Get a room,” Yuri growled as he purposely stomped right between them.

 

“We have one, thanks!” Viktor proudly shouted at him.

 

Yuri flipped him off which immediately earned him a tongue-lashing from Lilia and an actual physical beating on the shoulder.

 

“Room service and a nice bath to relax before bed?” Viktor suggested as Yuuri took a seat on the bench to unlace his boots.

 

Yuuri smiled and nodded. It may have taken a year of getting to know each other, but now Viktor knew exactly how to make Yuuri feel his best before a competition.

 

/*/

 

It was strange how relaxed Yuuri felt the next morning. Strange in a bad way. It wasn’t a calm relaxed, but an aloof relaxed, like nothing even mattered.

 

Ah, I haven’t hit this bad in a while, Yuuri thought. Now more than ever Viktor’s reputation was on the line, and that made Yuuri panic more than anything else.

 

Both Yuri and Yuuri were in the last group, though thankfully Yuuri had drawn the third position and Yuri the first. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t concentrate. His mind was everywhere and nowhere all at once. Whenever he tried to watch the television to see the other competitors he found his eyes wandering after less than a minute of the performance. For some reason, he just couldn’t focus, where usually he was overly focused.

 

Viktor for the most part kept his eyes glued on the screen, always curious about fellow competitors. Yuuri noticed, though, that he seemed annoyed.

 

“What’s wrong?” he eventually asked, hoping he could occupy himself with his husband if nothing else.

 

“I’ve never seen so many scores in the 40s and 50s. I thought this was a Senior event, no?” Viktor huffed. “Mila could be out here destroying half the competition!”

 

Yuuri winced. His first season in Seniors was similarly horrible. Viktor, however, had never scored lower than 80. He also had no doubt that Mila would wipe the floor with the majority of the men in this competition. Even now at 20, she was a force to be reckoned with.

 

“If we don’t both break 100, I’m going to punch you and then myself,” Yuri mumbled from behind them, equally as irritated as Viktor it seemed by the lack of competition.

 

Although he smiled, inside, Yuuri was screaming a little. While it was true he’d broken 100 before, he was trying not to set the bar so high the first time out with new programs. The higher he set his expectations the worst it felt when he inevitably didn’t meet them.

 

When their group was finally called to warm-up, Yuuri still felt this emptiness. On the outside, he knew he looked fine; at least, he knew he didn’t look like he was having a mental breakdown. Which is why it shocked him when Viktor called him out on it.

 

“No quads during warm-up,” Viktor instructed.

 

“Huh?” Yuuri questioned, eyes wide in surprise.

 

Viktor held out his hand for Yuuri’s guards. “You didn’t do your normal stretch routine. You can’t sit still. Your mind is going a mile a minute.”

 

Yuuri looked down in embarrassment at having been caught. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what’s wrong! I don’t feel nervous, I just don’t-”

 

“Feel anything?” Viktor questioned, voice soft. Like he’d been there too. “Yuuri. You trust me, don’t you?”

 

Yuuri nodded vehemently. “Of course I do!”

 

“Then trust me when I say you have nothing to worry about. You’re going to be amazing,” he promised.

 

Nibbling at his lip, Yuuri nodded, and their group was suddenly called to step out onto the ice for their six minute warm-up. Viktor may have known Yuuri inside and out, but he still didn’t get this. It wasn’t Yuuri that Yuuri was worried about. He’d lived through the humiliation and embarrassment for himself and survived. What he couldn’t survive was embarrassing Viktor.

 

Despite only going for a triple salchow instead of the quad, Yuuri fell right out the gate anyway.

 

“Katsudon, don’t you fucking dare,” Yuri hissed as he skated by, green eyes slicing right through him where he lay on the ice.

 

Yuuri used his words to light a fire in him and he got up and quickly got back to it. This time he landed it cleanly. There you go, Yuuri; you’ve got this. He kept his axel and flip-toe combo to doubles. At this point, he couldn’t afford a crash to his confidence. When the skaters were instructed to leave the ice, Yuuri’s eyes went straight to Viktor’s in an attempt to read his coach’s mood.

 

Viktor’s nod was small but approving. “You got the fall out of the way now, but also proved you can do it. You’re fine.”

 

Letting out a large sigh of relief Yuuri moved off to the side in order to watch Yuri go, though he was mindful to continue to stretch and keep himself warm. Yuri’s hair was pulled back into several braids and he wore a maroon jumpsuit with gold stripes and plates of fabric that looked like armor. He looked like a soldier. The song was a slower pace than what Yuuri knew Yuri liked to skate to, but it had a heavy guitar solo that made it powerful and completely fitting for the Russian.

 

Yuri’s first quad went beautifully clean. Yuuri couldn’t help but hold his breath as he watched Yuri’s every move. The step-sequence was towards the beginning with Yuri backloading with his triple axel and combination. Yuuri had personally worked with Yuri on improving it through the summer, and it was showing.

There was a collective gasp as Yuri stumbled out of the quad loop and doubled the triple toe, catching an edge and just managing to hold on.

Yuuri glanced at Viktor who seemed completely unsurprised by what he’d witnessed on the ice. Viktor did say he was being cocky… Guess he was right.

 

Yuri recovered on the axel and ended strongly, but the anger was written all over his face. Yakov was all over him the instant he stepped off, and all Yuri could do was cross his arms as they headed to the kiss-and-cry knowing his coach was right with every word.

 

Viktor let out a small laugh. “Some things never change.”

 

A smile found Yuuri’s face at that. It was true. While Yuri did not break 100, he still had pulled out 94.56. Yuuri remembered a time when he would have been ecstatic for that. Now, though, Viktor expected more. He expected better. The next skater was someone Yuuri had never heard of from Latvia. While they went clean, they had no quads in their program and could only manage a score in the low 70s.

 

With Yuuri up next, he shrugged out of his jacket to reveal a white top with streaks of dark blue, pink, and gold swirls. The dark blue collar was trimmed in gold lace that followed down the edge of the lapels to the waist. The same gold lace trimmed the sleeves and he wore dark blue gloves that matched his pants. Viktor pulled out his Chanel lip balm in tradition and applied it to Yuuri’s lips.

 

Although the crowd was small, there were still loud cheers as his name was called and he found his starting position. The sound of rain started, followed by the soft sounds of the harp and into the oriental chimes of the song. His first jump was up quick, three three-turns right into a quad salchow, with a difficult entry he’d been practicing for weeks.

 

Crap. He tripled.

 

It was fine. He still landed cleanly and most skaters didn’t even have a single quad let alone two. Yuuri wasn’t feeling it though. It was like the music was far away and he couldn’t connect his body to it. His spins and steps were accurate, but there was nothing there. Okay, triple axel - his signature. Moving into his spread-eagle he rode his edge and went up into the jump.

He landed on the ice with a hard thud.

 

What little confidence he had was now completely gone and all he could think about was the end of the program. There was still a jump combination to go and he didn’t know how he was going to do it. On paper it was a 4F+3T but there was no way he was going to land the flip like this. Change it. You have to. Coming out of his camel spin his mind raced as he started the entry into his flip and, at the last second, changed his leg out of the three-turn and went up into a quad toe-loop. It was his best jump and he came down clean and went straight into the triple. Clear.

 

There was a sigh of relief, but his combination spin travelled in his complacency and he knew he’d get marked for it. Getting called on spins was something Yuuri never did. Even though he knew his program would score better than the GPF-that-shall-not-be-named, Yuuri had never felt more miserable after a performance.

 

Viktor’s mouth was drawn into a tight smile as he handed Yuuri his guards. “Well, I expected worse if I’m honest.”

 

“What!?” Yuuri almost screamed.

 

With a comforting smile Viktor wrapped Yuuri’s jacket around his shoulders and brushed the back of his fingers against his cheek. “I could see it in your eyes. You weren’t here.”

 

Yuuri’s shoulders fell as he was guided to the Kiss-and-Cry. He should have known he couldn’t hide it from Viktor. While there were still things about each other they still didn’t know or were working out, Yuuri’s anxiety was something Viktor had made sure he had figured out quickly.

 

“It’s okay,” Viktor assured him as they sat and waited. “If you’re going to have a bad day, today is the day for it. But, if something is wrong, I’d like for you to talk to me. We promised to talk to each other, didn’t we?”

 

Yuuri hugged the plush dog he had picked up from the ice. “I don’t know what’s wrong… Not really.”

 

“The score for Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov: 87.26. He is currently in second place.”

 

Okay… Well, not terrible. His PCS was much lower than usual though. So, the judges had seen it, too. “I’ll do better tomorrow.”

 

Viktor took his hand and gave it a squeeze. “I know you will.”

 

Yuuri was immediately pulled aside for an interview where he quickly explained that he was just nervous and promise that nothing was wrong and to give a better performance during the free program.

 

“Someone must have poisoned us at the hotel,” Yuri suddenly said next to him.

 

Yuuri blinked. “Huh?”

 

“We both had room service last night,” Yuri pointed out. “It’s the only explanation for us both sucking out there. Michele Chrispino is ahead of you! How?!”

 

Yuuri checked the scores. Though it was only by two points, it was true. He sighed. “At least you can just tell people you are still learning to handle your body. I don’t have an excuse.”

 

“Stupid,” Yuri growled, frustrated with Yuuri’s answer and frustrated with himself. “What is wrong with you anyway? Usually if it’s your anxiety, you completely freak out. You seemed normal.”

 

“Yeah,” Yuuri simply agreed, having no real answer for him.

 

After changing and heading back to the hotel, Yuuri and Viktor met with Yakov, Yuri, and Lilia at the hotel restaurant. Neither skater felt like making an appearance in public after their performances. Viktor, Yuuri noticed, hardly touched his food but was making quick work of the drinks that came to the table. Was he really that mad…?

 

“You two feed too much off of each other,” Yakov finally huffed, pointing an accusing finger first at Yuuri, then Yuuri himself. “When you thrive, you both thrive and break world records. But when you are in a slump, you are both in a slump . Start thriving. Vitya might put up with such a terrible performance, but I certainly will not.”

 

“It wasn’t terrible, but it certainly could improve,” Viktor argued.

 

“Stop being a husband and be a coach,” Yakov growled back. “You aren’t doing him any favors!”

 

Yuuri felt himself grow red hot in embarrassment, knowing Yakov was right. Viktor wasn’t being a coach. He wasn’t scolding him for his mistakes and grinding into him on how to fix it. Even Celestino would have yelled at him for such a performance, but Viktor hadn’t at all. And maybe… Maybe that was worse.

 

“I’m going to go back up and get ready for bed,” Yuuri finally spoke.

 

“Okay,” Viktor smiled at him. “I’m going to stay down here for a bit longer.”

 

Yuuri nodded and Viktor gave him a kiss bathed in liquor. Yuri also quickly excused himself and scurried after Yuuri towards the elevators, though he didn’t say anything as they waited. Just as Yakov had said, they fed off of each other, and right now they were feeding off of disappointment.

 

“Hey,” Yuri called out to him as they split off at the elevator down different ends of the hall. “I still owe both of us a punch in the face. That is… unless we can redeem ourselves.”

 

Smiling, Yuuri nodded. “Ah, well, I don’t really want to get punched.”

 

“Then do better,” Yuri said simply before shoving his hands in his pockets and walking away.

 

Somehow, that made Yuuri feel better, for whatever silly reason. Ever since that first year, Yuri had known how to push the right buttons.

 

Stripping down the moment he got into the room, he took a shower and stretched out sore muscles and a bruised hip. In the middle of his splits, his phone chimed with a text message. He moved just enough to pull it from the charger.

 

Phichit: You okay?

 

Yuuri paused, wondering what he meant, and then realized that enough time had passed that his dreadful showing was probably all over Instagram. Oh.

Me: Yeah… Just a bad day, I guess.

 

Phichit: I hear you… We all have them. How’s Viktor though?

 

Me: Okay, I guess? I mean, he didn’t really say much… He knew I wasn’t really with it during warm-up, I think.


Phichit: So he hasn’t seen?

 

Phichit: Wait, no, ignore that! Sorry! Don’t listen to me!!

 

Yuuri’s face fell. Seen what? Usually Yuuri had a very strict no social media rule during competitions, but his fingers flew across the keyboard typing his name into the news bar. The headlines that came up weren’t really surprising.

 

YURIS STRUGGLE IN SHORT IN ITALY

 

IS THE REIGN OF THE YURIS OVER?

 

REIGNING WORLD CHAMPION KATSUKI-NIKIFOROV BOMBS AT LOMBARDIA

 

Jesus. The reporters couldn’t help but drag Yurio into it, too. Yuri was still in first place and Yuuri third, but it was like that didn’t mean anything at all. Anything other than perfect was the end of the world. He stopped scrolling when the headlines suddenly shifted.

 

VIKTOR NIKIFOROV, FROM LEGEND TO OBSCURITY?

 

What?! Yuuri quickly clicked on it and started reading.

 

“While Katsuki has often struggled with nerves on the ice during competitions, today’s performance felt like maybe there was a different culprit. Katsuki’s performance lacked its usual surprise and artistry that his programs have had since coming under Nikiforov as a coach. Nikiforov is known to have a very hands-on approach to his coaching style, primarily working side-by-side on the ice with students. With a career ending injury still on the mend, one has to wonder if perhaps these limitations have something to do Katsuki’s performance. Has Nikiforov lost his ability to coach in his injury as well?”

 

A loud gasp left Yuuri’s lips and he almost dropped his phone. What?! They were blaming Viktor for his failure? No. No, no, no! They couldn’t! It wasn’t his fault! It was all Yuuri!

 

Me: How could they say this stuff?! It’s wrong!

 

Phichit: Yeah, I know, it’s stupid. It’s like they are reaching for a story or something. Has Viktor seen the articles yet?

 

Me: I don’t know… but he hasn’t come back from the hotel bar yet… I need to find him.

 

Phichit: Let me know if you need anything. Kick ass tomorrow.

 

Throwing on his track jacket and shoes, he pocketed the key room and quickly made his way back downstairs. Sure enough, Viktor was alone at the bar, a drink still in his hand. Cautiously, Yuuri approached. Viktor’s cheeks were tinged pink and his bad leg was propped up on another stool. Half a year later and he was still so far behind in his recovery. It worried Yuuri.

 

“Vitya…?” Yuuri asked softly.

 

Viktor blinked in surprise. “Yuuri? What are you doing still up?”

 

Pulling out one of the bar stools, Yuuri took a seat. “I was worried about you. Vitya, it’s not true. It’s not true what they are saying!”

 

There was a pregnant pause, Viktor’s face void of any sort of emotion, until he put down his drink and smiled. “Yu-uri, you know you aren’t supposed to be looking at your phone during competitions. Coach’s rules. Do I need to take it from you?”

 

If it weren’t for Viktor’s knee, Yuuri would have kicked him for such a comment. “I’m serious! Some of the stuff those articles said-”

 

“Are no worse than things said when I was skating,” Viktor countered. “Now that I’m not on the ice they have to find something to complain about. It doesn’t bother me, Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri’s eyes fell on the half-empty glass. “Then why are you drinking so much?”

 

Casually, as if he wasn’t on his fourth, fifth, sixth? drink of the night, he nodded towards his propped up knee. “It was really bothering me aftering being on it all day.”

 

That was a far worse answer than Viktor just admitting the articles bothered him. “Vitya, the doctor warned you about drinking on your meds.”

 

“I didn’t take my meds,” Viktor pointed out. “I forgot them back home.”

 

Yuuri was two seconds from making a scene in the middle of the hotel bar. Forgot his medication? How could Viktor just forget his medication? Wait. Yuuri remembered Viktor taking a pill before their flight. He was lying. Yuuri’s lower lip trembled, but he didn’t shout or scream. He didn’t call Viktor out on his bullshit. Instead, Yuuri took the glass from Viktor’s hand and set it down gently. “Vitya. Please come to bed. We’ll put some ice on your knee and go through your stretches. It’ll feel better.”

 

Viktor didn’t argue, leaning into Yuuri in a show of surrender. “Okay. My Yuuri is so good to me.”

 

With a sigh of relief, Yuuri signed for Viktor’s tab to their room and helped Viktor to his feet. Yuuri supported a good portion of his weight as they slowly made their way to the elevator and then their room. Usually Viktor was the one to massage Yuuri’s feet and tend to any injuries after a competition day, but not today. Yuuri undressed him and got him comfortable on the bed, his husband too far gone to do anything else but lay there. They wouldn’t get through any of the exercises, but Yuuri placed ice wrapped in a towel on his knee for ten minutes anyway while he got ready for bed himself.

 

When Yuuri slipped under the covers Viktor was fast asleep. Turning out the lamp, Yuuri rolled away from Viktor and finally let himself cry. The tears were silent. They were out of frustration. Anger. Hurt. Viktor was in pain and he wasn’t talking about it. He wasn’t opening up to Yuuri despite their promise. He had to address it. Not now, but after the competition.

 

Yuuri didn’t sleep, and in a rare occurrence he was up long before Viktor. Despite being physically exhausted, something had sparked overnight in Yuuri mentally. A fire. He wasn’t going to let those journalists slander Viktor like that. It was one thing to come after him, but the second they went after his coach - his husband - he had to act. Yuuri was going to go out there and win gold. Then they would talk.

 

“Vitya,” Yuuri shook Viktor to wake him. “Come on. Let’s get to the rink. I’m ready.”

 

Viktor groaned as he came out of his sleep, eyes blinking open slowly. “Wow… You’re up before me? Really? Yuuri,” he pushed himself up onto his elbows with a frown. “Did you not sleep?”

 

Yuuri had already covered the dark rings with make-up, but his smile was genuine anyway. “I’m ready, Vitya. I’m going to go win.”

 

That seemed to be all Viktor needed to hear, as he quickly returned the determined smile. “Good. But first… water? My head hurts.”

 

“You shouldn’t have drank so much,” Yuuri grimaced, making his way to the bathroom to get him a glass of water.

 

“You’re right,” Viktor agreed with his heart-shaped smile as he was handed the glass. “Should have saved it for when you win gold today!”

 

Yuuri smiled, but it was the most forced one he’d ever given. Not now, Yuuri. Just wait. “Hurry up and get ready. I want to grab a bite before we head to the rink.”

 

“Shower with me?” Viktor asked as he flung off the covers.

 

“I already showered,” Yuuri pointed out.

 

Viktor’s lower lip pursed out in a heavy pout.

 

Yuuri caved with a sigh. “Fine. Okay. But let’s be quick?”

 

They weren’t quick. Not seconds into the shower, Viktor’s hands started to wander and his lips trailed kisses across Yuuri’s skin. Yuuri wanted to chastise him for trying to start something, but he couldn’t help but fall into his touches. Any anger he held over the previous night was gone in his bliss the moment Viktor lathered his hand and reached between his thighs. Yuuri’s legs became instant jelly after his release, but Viktor was there to catch him. He was always there. Their mouths locked together in deep, heated kisses while Yuuri stroked Viktor to completion in return.

 

“We’re going to be late now,” Yuuri huffed as Viktor turned off the water. “I should be mad at you.”

 

Viktor kissed him on the nose. “But you’re not.”

 

Yuuri stuck out his tongue.

 

Grabbing breakfast to-go at a cafe next door, they managed to make it to the rink perfectly on time somehow. Since it was a smaller competition there were no days between programs for the men, only the ladies. Last year it had been the opposite, so Yuuri figured it was only fair. It was also an earlier start than Yuuri was used to, with the final group going on early afternoon. Yuuri felt ready, though, and it looked like Yuri had also had his own self-reflection sometime in the last 24 hours.

 

Yuuri didn’t watch any of the other groups, instead putting in his headphones and putting his focus on his stretches and warm-up exercises. Today his mind didn’t wander and he didn’t feel empty. He felt full. Full of desire and determination. Viktor watched silently by the wall with a smirk on his face. He felt it too.

 

Warm-up only served to boost his confidence. Every quad landed smoothly from the toe-loop to the flip. His spins were centered and fast and he even played a little with arm position in his combination. With two skaters ahead of him, Yuuri retreated back into the warm-up area and ignored the TV. It wasn’t that he was worried about them - he was still eight points above the next person - but he didn’t want to lose his focus.

 

“Yuuri.” Viktor tapped him on the shoulder.

 

Yuuri nodded, knowing it was time. They walked together to the ice, the previous skater going into his final spin. Yuuri unzipped his jacket to reveal the simple blue shirt he’d raided from Viktor’s closet. It had some light blue and white crystals around the neckline but wasn’t anything extravagant. For now, it would do, but Yuuri knew his final costume would be mind blowing. As the crowd applauded, Yuuri stepped onto the ice and turned around at the barrier. Both men leaned in and their foreheads rested against one another.

 

“Will I get my kiss today, Yuuri?” Viktor asked.

 

“You’ve already had a hundred,” Yuuri pointed out with a smirk.

 

“But I haven’t kissed gold,” Viktor corrected.

 

Reaching up, Yuuri poked at the spot on top of Viktor’s head. “You will soon.”

 

“Representing Japan, please welcome to the ice, Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov.”

 

In position, Yuuri closed his eyes and sucked in a breath. His body was still until the piano started to play and then he was free. Although by two completely different artists, his short and free program music complemented each other. While the music was much slower than his free, it allowed all his artistry to come out in full.

 

Preparing for his first jump, he breathed.

 

Perfectly executed 4S+3T.

 

As the music started to pick up just slightly, he felt his feet move quicker and his heart pounded faster. The step-sequence was hard, easily a level 4, but he flew through it. Every jump and spin was clean. Before he even realized it four minutes had passed and he was flying into his last spin. He didn’t even feel tired.

 

It felt like eternity that all Yuuri could hear was his own labored breathing, but everyone in the stands was standing and clapping. Like a slow crescendo, the noise finally hit and he realized he had gone completely clean. Viktor was jumping up and down on his good leg and extending his arms, eager for Yuuri to join him. Giving the judges and audience a quick bow, he scurried over to the barrier and jumped into Viktor’s arms.

 

“I did good, right!?” he asked.

 

“AMAZING!” Viktor beamed. “Wow! Yuuri! That could be a new high score for you!” Viktor’s eyes were sparkling in delight.

 

“Ah, you think?” Yuuri questioned, slipping on his guards. “I don’t know. It felt good but not as good as Barcelona.”

 

Viktor wrapped an arm around him as they moved to the Kiss-and-Cry. “Close, then. It has to be.” He took a moment to blow the camera a kiss as it zoomed in.

 

Michele stepped onto the ice for his warm-up while they waited for the scores. It was silent between them, but a good silence. There had been little improvement needed, but Yuuri was still thinking about how maybe he could chase a higher technical score in the future.

 

“The score for Yuuri Katsuki-Nikiforov’s free skate is 219.28 for a total score of 306.64. He is currently in first place.”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but clap for himself at that, smiling and giving the camera a heart. He’d done it. While it was still possible Yuri could beat him, Yuuri just had this feeling.

 

Michele struggled following Yuuri’s flawless program earning a score of 188.53 and putting him well below Yuuri in the final rankings, though he would still end up getting third.

 

The last to go, Yuri’s hair was pulled back into a high ponytail and he shed his jacket to reveal a mostly black outfit with red accents. The shirt had flowing sleeves and red crystals around his neck that came down to the waist in a V pattern. The same red crystals adorned the cuffs around his wrists. It was a dark flame that perfectly fit him and the music. Yuuri knew how hard Yuri had fought against Lilia and Yakov to be able to choose his own music. To express his true self out on the ice.

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but smile as Yuri changed the first combination out the gate. Ah, he’s trying to catch me. He’s angry, I can see it. Yurio has always been driven by spite, hasn’t he?

 

Despite touching down a hand out of his lutz, Yuri’s technical score would likely blow Yuuri’s out of the water. Where the teen was struggling was in putting on a face that wasn’t a complete scowl. The second he stepped off the ice, Lilia rode into him about it and Yuuri couldn’t help but giggle. He expected Viktor to find it funny too, but when he looked his husband’s eyes were still out on the ice with a finger to his lips in thought.

 

“Vitya?” Yuuri questioned, though he was interrupted by the announcer.

 

“The score for Yuri Plisetsky’s free skate is 210.89 for a total score of 305.45. He is in second place.”

 

Yuuri found himself bouncing just slightly at the announcement. “I won! Vitya!” But Viktor’s expression hadn’t changed, just where he was looking, and it was at the breakdown of Yuri’s score. “Vitya, what’s wrong?”

 

“His technical score was ten points higher than yours and would have been higher if it weren’t for the touchdown,” Viktor mused. “His component score is the only reason you did win, and Lilia will fix that before the next competition. We need to up the base value of the program.”

 

A balloon popped somewhere, and Yuuri quickly deflated. It somehow didn’t matter that despite being seven points behind going into the free, he still managed to win. Nor did it matter that he had skated clean. “Can’t you just be happy that I won?”

 

At that, Viktor finally pulled his eyes away from the screen. “What? Of course I’m happy! I get to kiss gold tonight as promised!”

 

Yuuri let Viktor pull him into a hug, but he didn’t return it, arms limp at his side. He found himself seeking out a private corner away from everyone while the podium was rolled out onto the ice and they prepared for the medal ceremony. Don’t cry, dammit. It’s not that big of a deal. He’s just being a coach and trying to make sure you win the next competition.

 

With the cameras and all eyes on him, he smiled through the hurt as he was handed a small bouquet of flowers and the medal was draped over his neck. Yuri was to his right and Michele to his left. Yuri shared a similar expression, though for different reasons than Yuuri, he expected.

 

“Oi, Katsudon. Why do you look like you’re about to cry?” Yuri whispered as the announcer went on about their scores and amazing performances.

 

Yuuri tightened his grip on the bouquet. “Vitya wasn’t happy with my performance.”

 

Yuri ignored the cameras and lowered his bouquet in anger. “What? Are you kidding? It was perfect!”

 

“He was comparing it to yours. He’s worried about my technical scores,” Yuuri explained, trying to keep his voice low.

 

The scoff Yuri let out was almost a growl. “Stupid old man. Everyone starts out slow and ramps up as the season goes on. Plus, you almost always outscore me on component. Want me to kick his ass? I won’t hold back just because he’s broke.”

 

Yuuri could only shrug as he tried to keep it together. He wanted to cry, but he couldn’t. There were still interviews and photos. Thankfully, because of the small scale of the event, there were very few members of the media present. Unfortunately, the one question he wanted to avoid was - well - unavoidable.

 

“Yuuri, how do you feel about the statements that Viktor’s inability to coach is to blame for your performance during the short?” the one woman asked.

 

Slowly, Yuuri clasped his hands behind his back in a manner to control his emotion. “I feel like they are ridiculous. I believe that my performance out there today is proof enough that there is nothing wrong with myself as a skater or Viktor as a coach and that our relationship - both professionally and personally - is stronger than ever.” Except he’s lying to you and now you are lying to the world by saying everything is okay. “I want to thank everyone for their support and please, look forward to my upcoming performances.”

 

Yuuri barely turned away from the reporters before Viktor was pecking him on the lips in front of all the cameras. “My Yuuri won gold!”

 

With a slightly annoyed but amused huff, Yuuri blushed. Maybe this was his way of apologizing for being kind of a jerk earlier. “Vitya, please.”

 

Viktor smiled, bringing the medal to his lips and kissing that too. “It won’t be your mother’s katsudon, but we’ll find somewhere nice to go tonight. We can even have dessert.”

 

Playfully snatching his medal back, Yuuri nodded. “Okay. Let me go change and I’ll meet you by the warm-up area.” Viktor kissed him again and let Yuuri walk away without another word. The second he stepped into the locker room he felt all the exhaustion of the last two days slam into him. Not just physically.

 

“Congrats on your win,” Michele mumbled.

 

Yuuri smiled at him, but he couldn’t find the energy to strike up a conversation.

 

Yuri came up and nudged him shoulder-to-shoulder. “You sure you’re okay? I meant it when I said I’d kick his ass.”

 

“No, because I’d still have to take care of him after,” Yuuri said. “But thank you. Really. It means a lot that you’d say that.”

 

Yuri took a step away and then paused. “Um. Good job out there today. You looked really good.”

 

This smile was genuine. “ Spasibo , Yurio.”

 

Yuuri waited until he and Viktor got back to the hotel before showering. With a towel wrapped around his waist, he walked to the sink and started digging around the toiletries bag for his toothbrush having put it away before the room service came. He immediately stilled when he saw a medicine bottle. It hadn’t been there this morning. Pulling it out he looked at the label and, sure enough, it was Viktor’s prescribed painkillers. A tear fell onto his hand.

 

“Yuuri! Hurry! We’re going out with Yurio to celebrate!” Vikor called from the bedroom.

 

With a shaky breath Yuuri buried the bottle of meds back into Viktor’s toiletry bag, wiped at his eyes, and walked away.

Chapter Text

Yuuri’s gold medal sat untouched in his lap, occasionally sparkling as it caught the light from the airplane’s window when they emerged from a cloud. Winning had been almost easy for him in France even with tripling a quad in each of his programs, just like he and Yuri had easily swiped the competition in Italy despite so many errors. He hadn’t fallen or put down a hand, though, and that had been huge for him. What hadn’t been easy for him was dealing with Viktor’s heavy absence throughout the competition.

 

Sure, Viktor had been present at every official practice and the competition itself, but anytime outside of that he was gone. Chris had come to the competition to see Viktor and Yuuri and cheer them on, and Yuuri had been excited to see him. At first. The one dinner Yuuri had excitedly agreed to had turned into Chris and Viktor conversing almost entirely in French. While Chris had started off eagerly conversing and flirting with Yuuri at the start, he started to ignore Yuuri just as much as Viktor as the night went on and more drinks were consumed. Yuuri was convinced they had been laughing about him. It was stupid to think that - Chris was his friend and Viktor his husband - but Yuuri’s anxiety didn’t care. Viktor had promised to show Yuuri France, take him on a ride up the cable-car to see Bastille. None of that happened.

 

Viktor reached out for his hand and Yuuri found himself recoiling, his hand retracting back into his lap and away from his husband. He didn’t need to look at Viktor to know the hurt expression all over his face, but he looked anyway and cringed. “Sorry…”

 

“What’s wrong?” Viktor questioned, keeping his voice low. “You won gold, but you don’t seem happy about it at all.”

 

“Are you happy?” Yuuri fired back.

 

Taken aback, Viktor blinked in surprise. “Of course I am, why wouldn’t I be?”

 

With an exhausted sigh, Yuuri sunk deeper into the airplane seat shoving his medal back into his bag. “Because just like in Italy all you could do after the performance was comment on my mistakes. I know my performances weren’t perfect, but there were a lot of things that were good about them, you know? And you didn’t even celebrate with me. You went out with Chris instead.”

 

“Yuuri, we invited you out and you said you were too tired,” Viktor pointed out, eyes narrow and brows drawn together. “But I’m sorry that you thought I wasn’t proud of you. Of course I was. I just wanted to make sure you knew there was still room for improvement.”


Oh, Yuuri knew. Of course he knew. It was shoved in his face in every news article and Instagram post. And, apparently, it wasn’t just his skating that needed improvement. “So none of the rumors bother you at all?”

 

Viktor blew out an annoyed puff of air. “You aren’t supposed to be looking at things during competitions.”

 

“It wasn’t about me, it was about you!” Yuuri snapped. “Saying our marriage is in trouble because you’re dating Chris behind my back!”

 

Viktor was so taken aback that he hit his head against the window and had to give it a shake. “W-what? Who the hell is saying that?”

 

“It’s all over the internet! Trouble in Paradise , so they say!” Yuuri had screenshot one of the articles and saved it. He pulled it up for Viktor to see.

 

The other man barely glanced at it before staring hard at Yuuri. “I am your husband. I love you more than anything and Chris is happily engaged and your friend. There is absolutely nothing going on between us other than friendship.”

 

He knew that. Of course he knew that and he was an idiot for even giving in to his thoughts even for a second. The sting of tears pulled him back to his senses and he put a hand to his temple as he squeezed his eyes shut. “I know. I know that, Vitya. I know all of that and I don’t know why-”

 

This time Viktor made sure to grab Yuuri’s hand forcefully enough that Yuuri couldn’t pull back. “You’re tired and you let your anxiety get to you. It’s okay, Yuuri. I understand. This season… It’s been hard already and it’s only going to get harder with everyone talking about us at every turn. The world wants us to fail, but we’ll prove them wrong. Together.”

 

With a small sniffle Yuuri let his cheek fall against Viktor’s shoulder and cuddled against his side as much as the seat would allow. “I know Skate America is in a few weeks, but can we just take a few days? Just the two of us?”

 

Viktor let his head fall against Yuuri’s. “Of course we can, zolotse . I think it would do us both some good.”

 

Letting out a sigh of relief Yuuri let his eyes close to try and get some sleep. Viktor was here, with him, and they were fine. No matter how badly his anxiety wanted him read into everything, the articles were lies and he and Viktor were fine. They were fine.

 

Their first day off they spent almost entirely in bed either sleeping or making love. The taste of Viktor on his lips and their bodies entwined made Yuuri forget all his fears. The second day they spent cleaning up the apartment and simply enjoying each other’s company. It was an all day affair despite being only a 2-bedroom dwelling. Yuuri and Viktor ended up getting far too occupied in each other to clean. The third day they went out to eat and properly celebrated Yuuri’s gold. It rejuvenated Yuuri in body, mind, and soul. On the fourth day, they returned to the rink.

 

The mini-vacation they had seemed to be worth it as Yuuri excelled during practice. Yuuri felt relaxed and more at peace than he had during competition season than he had in ages. Despite having an incredible first day back on the ice, though, Yuuri found he couldn’t sleep a wink that night. He had too much anxious energy and his mind wouldn’t settle no matter how many of his breathing exercises he cycled through. Tired of tossing and turning Yuuri finally just opened his eyes with an annoyed huff. Must be nice that Viktor was sleeping like the dead - wait, the other side of the bed was empty.

 

Turning towards the nightstand, he reached around for his glasses. Slipping them on he looked at the bed again to make sure he hadn’t been imagining it. Viktor was indeed gone. He’s out again. Why? Checking his phone for a message from Viktor, he disappointingly found nothing. What little hope he had of finding him in the living room was quickly squashed as he entered to silence and darkness.

 

Sighing, Yuuri did the only thing he knew to do. He grabbed his skating bag and slipped on his shoes. When he reached up for his Team Japan jacket he paused. He grabbed Viktor’s jacket instead and shoved his own into his bag before leaving. It was stupid to run in the middle of the night by himself on the streets, especially with how distracted he was, but they lived close enough it didn’t matter. He’d just have to be back before the bridges went up.

 

Yuuri forewent the locker rooms and just headed straight for the rink where he could put his skates on at a bench. His heart stopped when he heard the sounds of blades scraping over ice. Someone else was here.

 

Someone else was here? Who? And then he saw him. Skating over to the barrier, looking defeated, frustrated, and wrung-out was none other than Viktor. Yuuri dropped his bag and was running again.

 

“What the hell are you doing here?!” Yuuri barked out as he approached his husband. “You shouldn’t be on the ice, Vitya! You haven’t been cleared for it!”

 

Viktor was sweating and breathing hard as he gripped the barrier.  He didn’t look happy to see Yuuri. Or rather, he was unhappy before he saw Yuuri, and the surprise of his appearance only gave a new focus for the emotions. “Nine months, Yuuri. It’s been nine fucking months!”

 

Yuuri flinched. Viktor never swore.

 

“Nine months and what do I have to show for it?!” Viktor’s voice started to get louder with each word, the empty rink only amplifying it. “I can’t even do cross-strokes or power-pulls without excruciating pain! How can I ever hope to do anything on the ice ever again?”

 

“You just need more time, Vitya,” Yuuri tried to reassure him, voice small in comparison.

 

Viktor laughed. It sent a shiver down Yuuri’s spine. “More time. It’s always more time. How much more time do we give it until we finally admit it can’t happen?”

 

“But it will happen!” Yuuri reached out for Viktor’s arm, but it was promptly pulled away. Defiance rose up within him and he stepped out onto the ice in his sneakers to grab at Viktor. “You’ve been working so hard! You’ve come a long way!”

 

Viktor yanked his arm free almost sending Yuuri tumbling on the ice. “I have barely made a dent in it! I’m 30 but feel 60, Yuuri!” His voice cracked with potential tears as he continued. “My knee hurts all the time no matter what I do! I am always hurting, and the only thing that ever made me feel better when I was feeling down is the one thing I can no longer do!”

 

Yuuri didn’t realize he was crying until he tasted the tears. It hurt so bad to hear Viktor admit how much pain he was in. Of course Yuuri had noticed it, but he’d pretended not to so that he could stay in his perfect bubble. Yuuri had noticed the drinking with the medicine and ignored that too. “Vitya, please don’t give up. You just have to try harder -”

 

“What, you think I’m not trying?!” Viktor snapped, tears quickly forgotten and exchanged for anger.


Yuuri flinched for the millionth time in the last few minutes. “No, that’s not -”

 

“I am doing everything I can to balance my therapy with being your coach and your husband, all while getting eaten up by the media, and yet I need to try harder ?”

 

“I didn’t mean it like that, Vitya!” Yuuri pleaded reaching out once more only to get rejected. Viktor headed for the door. “Wait, where are you going?”

 

Viktor stepped off the ice and grabbed his guards, not even bothering with slipping them on. “Drinking.”

 

Yuuri scrambled to run after him but forgot he was on the ice and slipped hard onto his knees. As quickly as he could, he got back onto his feet with the help of the barrier. “It’s almost one a.m.!”

 

Viktor turned around but continued walking backwards as he shrugged. “And it’s Russia. Bars are open all the time.”

 

“Please don’t go drinking, Vitya! Please!” Yuuri begged, but Viktor ignored him and turned his back.

 

A loud sob echoed through the empty rink as he sunk down to the ice, back against the wall. It was an absolutely ugly cry as he pulled his knees into his chest and let it all out. Viktor had turned his back. He had walked away. He refused Yuuri’s help. More than that, Yuuri had said the wrong thing at every point in the conversation. Why did he say those things? Why couldn’t he just get anything right? He was holding Viktor back and he knew it. This was all his fault and Viktor was starting to hate him for it. Yuuri had never felt anything this painful in his life. Even Vicchan’s death at the Grand Prix Final hadn’t hurt this badly.

 

At some point he laid down completely on the ice, face cradled in his arms covered by the large sleeves that belonged to Viktor’s jacket. He curled up tighter on himself as he breathed in Viktor’s scent, an act that only had him crying harder. He didn’t feel the cold starting to seep through his clothing or taste the salt on his tongue. All he could comprehend was the utter heartbreak. Eventually, he became too exhausted to keep crying.

 

Dragging himself off the ice he somehow managed to pick up his bag where he had dropped it and set it on the bench. Rummaging around for his phone he pulled it out and saw zero notifications. Nothing. It was also now ten to two. All the bridges were about to be up and he wouldn’t be able to get home. If he had any more tears to cry he would have, but there was nothing anymore. Miserably, he pushed his bag aside and curled up on the bench to sleep.

 

/*/

 

“What the actual fuck ?!”

 

Yuuri woke with a gasp shooting up into a sitting position only to fall off the bench. Bench? Why was he on the bench? Ice?! He was at the rink? Where were his glasses? Where-? He blinked rapidly and looked up to see a blurred figure that could be no one other than Yuri. “W-what- Achoo!” Yuuri let out a powerful sneeze and a strong shiver rippled through his body. Cold. He was so cold.

 

Powerful and warm hands were on him helping him to his feet. Yuuri leaned into it, desperate for heat. “You want to tell me why the fuck you were sleeping at the rink, Katsudon?! Holy shit, you could have gotten frostbite or worse! You might have worse! What the fuck is wrong with you?!”

 

“What is going on here?”

 

Yuuri’s knees wobbled from standing and he let out another sneeze. Someone helped him to sit back down. Was it Yuri? Oh. Was that Yakov?

 

“I found this idiot here sleeping on the bench!  All night, I think! He’s freezing!”

 

Yuuri flinched as a hand was pressed to his cheek and then his forehead. It wasn’t soft like Viktor’s. Where was Viktor?

 

“Have you seen Vitya?” Yakov’s gruff voice questioned.

 

Yuuri shook his head, thinking the question was directed at him, but it was Yuri who answered. “No.”

 

“He needs to get out of these clothes and warm before he catches cold, assuming he hasn’t already,” Yakov instructed.

 

“He can wear my extra pair of clothes. Should I throw him in the shower you think?” Yuri suggested.

 

Yakov hummed in affirmation. “I think there are some blankets in a closet, too. I’ll find them and try and get a hold of his idiot husband.”

 

Yuri’s arms looped around Yuuri, helping him to his feet. “Fuck, you’re cold. Think you can walk?”

 

Yuuri’s teeth started to chatter, but he nodded and let Yuri’s hands on him guide the way. Everything was blurry as they moved and Yuuri didn’t even bother trying to pull his senses together. His arms remained wrapped around himself as he was sat down on a bench and Yuri started to undress him. Strange. Yuri had always been uncomfortable around naked people and being naked in front of others. He hardly ever went into the locker rooms and had to be forcefully dragged into the onsen by him and Viktor.

 

“Yurio, don’t have to -” Yuuri’s mumbled sentence was cut short as Yuri pulled him to his feet again.

 

“Yeah, yeah, but I’m gonna,” Yuri huffed.

 

A loud gasp bounced off the tiles as Yuuri found himself shoved under a stream of warm water. Instantly Yuuri tried to move back from the water and he bumped straight into Yuri.

 

“Uh, what the hell are you doing?” Yuri huffed, blocking the way.

 

“It’s too hot,” Yuuri mumbled, curling in on himself.

 

“It’s barely luke warm! You’re just cold as shit. Get your ass back under that water, Katsudon!”

 

Reluctantly, Yuuri stepped back under the water. His surroundings started to become clearer and he blinked through the water and usual blurriness to find that Yuri had joined him in the stall, though he still wore a pair of boxers and was mostly staying clear of the stream. “I can do it myself.”

 

“Can you? Excuse me if I think the idiot who slept at the rink might drown in the shower if I don’t watch him,” Yuri scoffed. “What the fuck happened anyway?”

 

Even though the water was pleasantly warm, Yuuri felt cold again. Wrapping his arms around himself, he lowered his gaze, refusing to meet Yuri’s. He and Viktor had fought. Not the small fights or bickering they’d had before. This had been real and it had hurt. It had hurt and it was terrifying and Yuuri was scared. A sob that surprised even himself left his lips and he fell into Yuri, desperate for any sort of comfort.

 

Yuri didn’t move to wrap his arms around Yuuri like Viktor would. He had gone tense and rigid in his uncertainty of what to do, but Yuuri didn’t pull away. Eventually, Yuri softened and his arms loosely wrapped around Yuuri awkwardly.

 

“I… don’t really know what to do when people are crying,” Yuri finally confessed.

 

A choked laugh interrupted Yuuri’s sobs and he pulled back. Viktor never knew what to do either. “S-sorry… I just… needed tha- achoo!”

 

“Ah, shit, you have definitely caught a cold,” Yuri sighed and turned off the water. “Come on, dry off and get in some clothes.”

 

Using the towel Yuri handed him, he slowly dried himself off and dressed in the clothes the teen gave him. They were too long and too big, hanging off of Yuuri’s shoulders and the sleeves going well beyond his hands, but the oversized clothing gave him a sense of comfort. Yuri, too, had dried off where Yuuri had hugged him and dressed back in the clothes he’d been in.

 

“Here.” Yuri held out his team jacket.

 

Yuuri took it gingerly, eyes looking over at Viktor’s team jacket that he’d discarded when he’d undressed. Viktor… Please be okay. Please. “Thank you.” The warmth from the shower was wearing off and Yuuri could feel the chill returning to his bones as he slipped into Yuri’s jacket.

 

The door to the locker rooms opened and both Yuri and Yuuri’s heads turned to see Yakov entering with a fluffy blanket in his arms. Carefully, he draped it around Yuuri’s shoulders. “Yura, get on the ice and warm-up your jumps. Yuuri, let’s have a talk in my office.”

 

“But-” Yuri started to protest, but Yakov held up a hand.

 

“No buts. China is next week and what’s happened is none of your business,” Yakov insisted. “Thank you for your help, Yura, but I will take it from here.”

 

Yuri let out an annoyed growl but took off for the door regardless, long ponytail swinging angrily with every step.

 

Wordlessly, Yuuri followed Yakov out of the locker rooms and past the ice to his office. He pulled the blanket tighter around himself as he entered and the door was quietly shut behind him. Yakov pulled out the chair for Yuuri to sit and he gladly complied.

 

“Vitya isn’t answering his phone,” Yakov started as he took a seat himself. “Do you know where he is?”

 

Yuuri slowly shook his head. “He said he was going drinking, but I don’t know where. I… Hopefully he made it home.”

 

Yakov’s eyes narrowed as he folded his hands in front of him on the desk. “Yuuri, what happened?”

 

Tears tickled his eyes but Yuuri refused to cry in front of Yakov. “I couldn’t sleep last night and when I finally went to get out of bed I noticed Viktor was gone. I figured he had gone out again and the only thing I knew to do to get it off my mind was to come skate. When I got here though, Viktor was already on the ice.”

 

“Vitya was on the ice?” Yakov questioned, a fluctuation in his voice of surprise.

 

Yuuri nodded. “He was frustrated. Angry. He struggled to do simple moves. I tried to reassure him, tell him he would get there with more work, but he just started yelling. We… fought.” And that was putting it lightly.

 

“And then he went drinking,” Yakov added. “Has he been doing a lot of that lately?”

 

Yuuri shrugged. “He’s Russian, he says. All Russians drink.”

 

“And all Russians know never to go drinking alone,” Yakov huffed angrily. “Yuuri. Has he hurt you at all?”

 

The blanket almost fell from Yuuri’s shoulders as he loosened his grip in shock at the question. “W-what? N-no! No, of course not! It was just a verbal fight! It wasn’t anything like that!”

 

“Okay,” Yakov accepted, lifting a hand slightly to acknowledge Yuuri’s answer. “Good. I simply would not be doing my due diligence if I did not ask. Even after a verbal argument, people don’t usually sleep next to a block of ice, and this is Russia. We do crazy things. Go home, Yuuri. If Vitya isn’t there, let me know. I know where he frequents and I will drag him out myself. If he is there, then you tell him to call me immediately. Okay?”

 

Yuuri nodded in understanding. He retrieved his own bag where he had left it at the benches and folded up the blanket to leave behind setting it next to Yuri’s things. Slipping on his glasses and his own jacket over Yuri’s, he left the rink behind and headed home.

 

By the time he opened the door, his nose was running in full force and he could feel the flush in his cheeks. He’d already taken a few days to spend with Viktor and now he’d have to stay off the ice a few more because of this. Great. Halfway to their room, Yuuri stopped and noticed Viktor dead to the world on the couch. He let out a sigh of relief to see him there, his chest rising in a slow but steady rhythm. Rummaging through the drawer for a post-it note he wrote simply ‘Call Yakov’ and put it on Viktor’s phone on the coffee table. Not even bothering to remove his two layers of jackets Yuuri buried himself under the covers and closed his eyes.

 

Yuuri fell asleep fast and hard. When he did finally wake back up, it was from a hard shiver that rippled through him. Throwing back the covers he moved to go to the closet to find an extra blanket or jacket but stopped when he heard voices. They were arguing. Pressing an ear to the door he listened. One voice was clearly Viktor’s. It took a moment for the other voice to ring recognizable as Yakov’s. He guessed Viktor must have called and Yakov felt the need to come in person.

 

It was too difficult to try and decipher the muffled Russian through the door so Yuuri retreated with an extra blanket back to the bed and cocooned himself back in. He wished Makkachin were here. Makkachin would curl up with Yuuri and bring him comfort. She’d know how to make Yuuri feel better like she always did. But Makkachin wasn’t here, and that was what had started this all, wasn’t it? Sighing, he reached for his phone and pulled up Mari’s text thread. Usually, he’d go to Phichit, but for some reason he needed family.

 

Me: Viktor and I got in a huge fight last night… I was so scared. We’d never fought like that before.

 

It took a few minutes, but Mari responded, probably having to find a break in onsen work.

 

Mari: Shit, about what? Are you okay? Do I need to fly to Russia?

 

Me: I’m fine. It was about his knee. I think we both thought he’d be further along by now, but he isn’t. And anytime I ask him about what the doctors are saying he just ignores me.

 

Mari: So then ask them yourself. I’m sure Viktor put you down to access his records and as second authorization as his husband.

 

Oh. Right. Yuuri always did the same. Why hadn’t he thought of that? Well, probably because it was an invasion of Viktor’s privacy, but now this was starting to affect not just Viktor but both of them.

 

Mari: I know this has been really hard on Viktor, but it’s no reason to get mad at you. You didn’t bust his knee. You’re just here to help.

 

Me: I’m trying, I just don’t really know what else to do.

 

Mari: That’s why I think you should talk to his doctors. Maybe they can tell you what’s really going on and what you can do.

 

Me: You’re right. Thank you. I’ll go with him to his next appt.

 

Mari: Good. Offer still stands tho if you need me to come kick his ass for you. We worry about you. Specially Mom and Dad.

 

Yuuri felt the stab in his heart. He needed to go visit, soon. He couldn’t let another five years pass before coming home.

 

Me: I’ll come visit a bit after National’s before 4CC.

 

Mari: K.

 

With another heavy sigh he set his phone aside and covered his head completely with the comforter. Tuning out the small buzz that he could still hear from Yakov and Viktor he let himself fall asleep again. This time when he woke it wasn’t because he was cold, but because he was burning up. A heavy weight was pressed up against him and it took him a few seconds to process that it couldn’t be Makkachin. Peeking out from the top of the comforter he saw Viktor pressed tightly up against him.

 

As happy as Yuuri was to see Viktor there with him in bed, he was literally about to die from overheating. A powerful sneeze ripped through him and he was kicking off the covers desperately. God, he was even sweating.

 

Viktor moaned next to him and his bright blue eyes blinked open. “Yuuri?”

 

“Sorry,” Yuuri apologized, sitting up to start shrugging out of the jackets. “I’m just so hot.”

 

Sitting up Viktor put the back of his hand to Yuuri’s forehead. “You’re burning up. I’ll go get a cold compress for your head.”

 

Finally getting out of his and Yuri’s jacket, Yuuri pulled the last remaining layer over his head and breathed out a huge sigh of relief as cool air hit his bare skin. There. That was much better. Viktor returned with the cold press, but he came to a stop where Yuri’s jacket and shirt were discarded on the floor. He didn’t say anything, but Yuuri couldn’t help but notice a strange expression on his face.

 

Sitting on the bed next to Yuuri, Viktor pressed the compress to Yuuri’s forehead. “I’m sorry. This is my fault. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. None of this is because of you and I had no right to act like that or throw around accusations.”

 

The grief from the last 24 hours slowly started to fade away. “It’s okay… I know you’re frustrated. I am too. I want you to get better, Vitya. You will get better.”

 

Viktor let his head fall against Yuuri’s and placed a kiss to his cheek. “I love you.”

 

Yuuri leaned in to the touch despite the heat. “I love you too.”

 

Thankfully, Yuuri’s cold was short-lived and he was back on the ice in two days. Although he was forced to take it easy by basically everyone at the rink, it was a productive practice and he felt good about Skate America in a month. This time, when he’d normally go to ballet practice and Viktor to therapy alone, Yuuri stayed latched onto Viktor’s arm.

 

“Aren’t you going to see Lilia?” Viktor questioned, quickly catching on that Yuuri was still following him.

 

“No,” Yuuri answered. “I want to come with you to therapy.”

 

Viktor chuckled. “You don’t have to. I’m alright by myself.”

 

“I know you are, but I want to come,” Yuuri pointed out. “I want to be there for you. Be supportive.”

 

“I already know you are here for me and supportive,” Viktor mentioned, but he didn’t put up any further fight as Yuuri tightened his hold on Viktor’s arm.

 

Viktor checked in with the receptionist and headed to the back where Yuuri could see a room full of equipment through the glass windows in the lobby. Waiting a few minutes for Viktor to be fully occupied with his exercises, Yuuri approached the receptionist.

 

“Um, excuse me,” Yuuri started. “I was wondering if I might be able to speak with my husband’s therapist about his recovery? I have some concerns and Viktor thought it would be best if I spoke to him directly to fully understand.”

 

“One moment,” she said as she started typing away at the computer. After a few clicks she nodded. “You are on his file, so it’s fine. I will let the therapist know.”

 

“Spasibo,” Yuuri thanked her and walked back to the view of the windows to wait.

 

“You wanted to speak with me, Mr. Nikiforov? About your husband?”

 

Yuuri pulled his eyes from where Viktor was on the treadmill and turned. The man was in his mid-40s it looked like with light hair and eyes. He wore a polo and khakis like the other therapists and wore a name tag that read Maxim Sokolov. Yuuri smiled, not commenting on the drop of his own name from the address. “Yes, thank you for speaking with me.”

 

“Of course. What can I do for you?” Maxim asked.

 

Yuuri fidgeted with the hem of his coat. “Um, well, it’s about his recovery. Is it… normal? I mean, it’s been nine months. Most of the articles I’ve read on this sort of injury say full recovery is after six.”

 

“It is true that with this injury we usually see full recovery in six months, and sometimes as early as four, but that’s with an athlete who is otherwise healthy and 19-years-old, Mr. Nikiforov, not pushing 30,” he explained. “Your husband has many other underlying factors that are causing a longer recovery. After so many years of jumping up and down on the same leg, there’s a muscular imbalance that has weakened that knee even prior to the injury. Not to mention the osteoarthritis that most skaters tend to develop.”

 

Slowly, Yuuri nodded as he took in what he was saying. It made sense. These were common things skaters developed and went through. “So, then, his longer recovery time isn’t abnormal?”

 

“Mm, well, not really. He’s a little further behind than I would like, truthfully, but we’ve made big progress this last month getting him to start running.”

 

A small breath of relief left his lips. “Oh, well, that’s good. Really good, thank you.”

 

Maxim’s mouth twitched with a knowing smile. “Mr. Nikiforov, what is it you are really asking?”

 

Yuuri swallowed hard as he tried to gather the courage to ask. “Will Viktor ever skate again?”

 

“Oh, yes,” the therapist nodded, “And he’ll regain full range of motion and be able to run, ride a bike, do almost everything he was able to do before. Will he be able to land a quad again? Well, I am not a fan of saying never, but the force put on the knee after a quad - or even a triple - is something that could break him again and perhaps permanently. Like anything that breaks, no matter how well you repair it, it is much easier to break the second time.”

 

Carefully, Yuuri processed the doctor’s words. Viktor would skate again, but it would never be on the same level. That was okay, though, wasn’t it? He didn’t have to skate on the same level. Choreographers didn’t have to jump and neither did coaches. They just needed to know where to put the jumps in a program and understand the mechanics. Viktor would be able to be out on the ice with him again, just like in Hasetsu. “Am I holding him back? By keeping him as my coach? Is he not focused enough on his therapy?”

 

“Viktor is in the clinic at least three times a week and has home exercises he can do anywhere without equipment,” Maxim explained. “I would say that is as much if not more than what most patients do. However, Mr. Nikiforov, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how many times he comes to see me if he isn’t mentally ready to get better. I would say nine times out of ten, when we aren’t seeing improvement, it’s not because the patient can’t get better. It’s because they won’t.”

 

A breath left him like he’d been punched. Was that it? Did Viktor not want to get better? But why? “I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t patients want to get better?”

 

Maxim smiled sympathetically. “Unfortunately, that’s a type of therapy I’m not licensed in.”

 

Shoulders dropping in defeat, Yuuri nodded in understanding. “I understand. Thank you.”

 

“Time, Mr. Nikiforov. It heals all wounds.” He gave Yuuri a final smile before retreating back into the training room.

 

Time might heal all wounds, but it also created new ones. Viktor had a rare smile on his face as he joined Yuuri back in the lobby. He also was far more chatty than he had been recently. It gave Yuuri hope and the courage he needed to address the problems Maxim had brought to his attention.

 

“Vitya,” Yuuri started, squeezing Viktor’s hand as they waited for the bus. “You’re going to skate again. You’re going to be able to be out on the ice with me again and create beautiful programs. You will.”

 

Viktor was silent for a moment in his surprise, but it melted into a warm smile. “Okay… Okay.”

 

“Okay,” Yuuri smiled back.

 

They were fine.



Chapter Text

“Give me your key.”

 

Yuuri looked up in surprise from where he was half-way through lacing up his right boot. Yakov was hovering over him with an extended hand palm up. “Key?”

 

“To the rink.” Yakov clarified. “I didn’t find the last few days an appropriate time to address it, but now that we have seemingly moved past whatever it is between you and Vitya I’m bringing it up. This isn’t Japan, Yuuri. You cannot come and go from this rink as you please and you certainly should not have a key. I shouldn’t have to tell people not to make unauthorized copies. If Viktor wasn’t a coach I’d take his, too, after the stunt you two pulled. Key. Now.”

 

With a defeated sigh Yuuri rummaged through his bag to find his keyring. Reluctantly, he found the key in question and worked it off the metal ring to place in Yakov’s palm. Now he had nowhere to go run. Nowhere to help clear his head when the thoughts became too loud. “I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”

 

“It certainly will not,” Yakov agreed pocketing the key. “Don’t worry. Vitya will be receiving a similar lecture. Just because he is a coach doesn’t mean he gets to come skate in the middle of the night, especially when he hasn’t been cleared to do so.” He let a moment of silence fall between them, hand fiddling with the key in his pocket, before addressing the elephant in the rink. “Are things better?”

 

Yuuri let out another sigh. Sometimes. Some days. It was hard to tell. Viktor had seemed to be putting more effort into his rehab exercises, but Yuuri also knew it was only when he was watching. “We’re taking it day by day, but he has been in better spirits since we talked things out.”

 

“Good,” Yakov responded with a pleased nod. “I don’t want to receive a phone call while Yura and I are in China this weekend about you two.”

 

“Yeah, don’t ruin my moment Katsudon,” Yuri barged in, brushing past Yakov and dropping his bag right on top of Yuuri’s. “I don’t need you distracting me from winning gold.”

 

Kicking Yuri’s bag off with a playful smirk Yuuri responded, “Maybe that’s my secret plan all along.”

 

“Tch, if that’s how you have to win gold then you don’t deserve it,” Yuri retorted.

 

“Why don’t you let your skating do the work instead of your big mouth?” Yakov chimed in. “Unless you are trying to be like Leroy instead of beat him?”

 

A growl left Yuri’s mouth and Yuuri watched his muscles flex beneath his tight fitting shirt at the mention of JJ. He was gripping his skate so hard Yuuri worried he might actually crush it.

 

“Get on the ice,” was the last of Yakov’s words before he walked away.

 

“I’m going to crush that asshole,” Yuri hissed, finally releasing his hold on his poor victimized boot.

 

Yuuri continued lacing up his long forgotten skates. “You know, by letting him get you so worked up he’s winning, right?”

 

“He’s not winning shit,” Yuri assured him, removing the soakers from his blades and throwing them into his bag angrily,  “Because I’m going to be the one on top of the podium and that’s the only thing that matters.”

 

With a shake of his head Yuuri found himself smiling. When Yuri was on his game, it was impossible for JJ to catch him, which made it even more amusing that the Canadian sparked such a fire in Yuri. “I have no doubt you’ll put him in his place.”

 

“Damn right,” Yuri said, shoulders back and chin high.

 

Yuri chattled eagerly about the recent changes to his short program that he was sure would bring him a new world record. Yuuri listened quietly, enjoying his friend’s enthusiasm. The moment they stepped out of the locker rooms, though, the blonde’s attitude changed. Yuuri followed his green eyes to Viktor. His own body went tense, ready to break up a fight he knew was coming.

 

“Don’t worry, old man, I won’t let Katsudon freeze to death out on the ice today,” he spat angrily as he jerked his skate guards off with far more force than necessary.

 

Viktor crossed his arms and sucked in a harsh breath through his nostrils. “Mind your own business, Yura.”

 

“Considering I’m the one that found him frozen on the bench the next morning, it’s my business,” Yuri threw back, taking a step into Viktor’s space.

 

Yuuri immediately wedged himself between them, hand on Yuri’s chest to hold him back. “Yurio, stop. Please.”

 

“I didn’t mean to leave him, ok?” Viktor said in his defense. “I thought he had left when I didn’t see him.”

 

Yuri scoffed. “Seriously? That’s your excuse? Going blind now, too in your old age?”

 

“Yurio!” Yuuri repeated, this time with more force and warning eyes. Yuri’s green eyes narrowed with one last glance towards Viktor before he was backing off onto the ice and skating away. Tense shoulders relaxed in relief.

 

“Yuuri, please, I swear, I thought you’d left,” Viktor went on, a slight quiver in his voice. “You’d sat down on the ice behind the barrier and I didn’t see you and-,”

 

Yuuri turned and took Viktor’s hand. “Vitya, it’s ok. I know. We’ve been over it and talked it out. It’s ok.” Except it wasn’t ok. Viktor looked...frightened. “Vitya, what’s wrong? You never let Yurio get to you like this.”

 

Viktor’s hands squeezed Yuuri’s almost painfully hard. “It’s just...it’s stupid.” He looked away with an embarrassed flush.

 

“It’s not stupid if it bothers you,” Yuuri countered, squeezing back. “We promised each other, Vitya. We communicate.”

 

Opening and closing his mouth a few times, Viktor eventually blurted out, “You’ve come home twice now wearing Yura’s jacket.”

 

...Huh?! Why-wait. Was Viktor...jealous? With a gentle smile Yuuri couldn’t help but chuckle before leaning up on his toe-pick to peck him on the cheek. “Ok, that is stupid. The first time it was just for comfort after an anxiety attack. The second time I just needed an extra layer of clothing after getting myself sick. I love you and only you.”

 

Viktor’s eyes fluttered close as their foreheads touched. “I know, I’m sorry...you’re right, it is stupid.”

 

“I can’t believe you were threatened by Yurio of all people for a second,” Yuuri teased, another kiss but this time on the lips. “No more jealous husband. It’s time to be a coach. Skate America will be here before we know it.”

 

With a sigh of relief Viktor nodded, his own body seeming to have relaxed as well, finally. “Ok. We’re drilling your quad salchow today. It’s been horrible lately.”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but groan, especially because Viktor was right. “Yes, Coach.”

 

After three failed attempts at the salchow, Yuri suddenly started throwing them in randomly out on the ice and Yuuri didn’t know who he was taunting, Viktor or himself. After the fourth fall Yuri went for a quad salchow half loop triple salchow right in front of him and Yuuri felt himself grow angry. Quickly getting back to his feet he took a lap before setting up for the triple three-turn into the quad salchow. He landed it. Viktor clapped excitedly from across the rink and shouted for him to do it again. Yuuri complied and landed as cleanly as he had the last time.

 

Yuri did a hockey stop right in front of him, showering his lower leg with snow, and smirked. “I should start charging a coaching fee. That’s twice now I’ve fixed your quad sal.”

 

It took a moment for Yuuri to realize what he’d meant, and then it dawned on him it was him Yuri had been taunting after all. “By making me mad?”

 

He shrugged. “It worked, didn’t it? Maybe I’ll take up coaching after I retire. Seems I’m pretty good at it.”

 

“Pretty good at getting on people’s nerves,” Yuuri dished out before he even realized it had left his mouth.

 

Yuri only smirked despite Yuuri’s embarrassment at having voiced the thought out loud. “That, too. Given Yakov and your stupid husband, that seems to be a requirement.”

 

After running through his short twice Viktor called for the end of their practice session. With Viktor’s worries still fresh on his mind, Yuuri suggested they grab lunch together before their therapy and ballet sessions. Although Viktor didn’t voice it, Yuuri could tell he was extra appreciative of the suggestion.

 

Yuri and Yuuri’s silent competition continued with Lilia earning them both extra praise from the former prima. She even commented that she enjoyed when they practiced together rather than separate, the two obviously pushing each other to their best. It was going to make the Grand Prix Finale even more of an excitement. For once, Yuuri believed - no, he knew - he would make it without doubt.

 

That weekend they spent less time at the rink and more time together. Yuuri stretched and exercised with Viktor and they enjoyed home cooked meals while they stayed up to watch the Cup of China. It was a showdown between Yuri and JJ, the Canadian half a point above Yuri after the short. Yuuri could see how it affected Yuri, and the Russian came out on fire for the free practically drowning JJ by a solid ten points in the end. Viktor thought JJ had injured himself after a jump even though there was no official statement saying so.

 

Time flew by and they were on their way to Washington state for Skate America before Yuuri knew it. Viktor slept like a baby the entire flight, but Yuuri couldn’t quiet his mind. It was typical for him, and all he could do was hope he could get sleep at the hotel. He did manage three hours before Viktor woke him for dinner. The second they stepped out of the elevator Yuuri heard his name being shouted across the lobby.

 

“YUURI!”

 

Yuuri turned around and was immediately hit by a freight train by the name of Phichit. “Oof! H-hi!”

 

Phichit pulled back from his tackle and smiled wide. “Yay! I’m so happy to see you again! Hi Viktor!”

 

Viktor smiled and waved back. “Hi!”

 

Without missing a beat Phichit was grabbing Yuuri’s hand. “Come on, I’ve already scoped out where to go to eat! We have so much catching up to do!”

 

Yuuri had to dig in his heels to keep himself from being hauled off. “W-wait, Viktor?” He turned his head towards his husband whose smile grew bigger.

 

“It’s ok, go catch up with Phichit!” Viktor told him. “Celestino and I can go out together, right?!”

 

Celestino happily threw an arm around Viktor with a grin. “Yes, coaches’ night out! It’s been a while since I’ve had a good drinking partner.”

 

Yuuri’s muscles tensed. Anytime Celestino and Viktor went out together it ended up in a drunken mess. He shouldn’t let them go alone. “Phichit…”

 

Phichit seemed to understand the plea in Yuuri’s eyes and he dropped his friend’s hand, but by the time Yuuri turned back around Celestino and Viktor were already headed off excitedly chatting to one another.

 

“Hey, they’ll be fine,” Phichit promised, nudging Yuuri’s shoulder. “Ciao-Ciao can’t drink like he used to.”

 

While that may have been true for his old coach, that wasn’t true for Viktor. There was nothing he could do now, though, so Yuuri let his shoulders fall in defeat as he fell in step with his friend.

 

“Look, Yuuri, you’ve got to talk to him about it,” Phichit started as they stepped out into the cool Washington air. “You sitting back and hoping it’ll change obviously isn’t working. Didn’t you say even Yakov was worried about it?”

 

WIth a sigh he shrugged. “Yeah, but he’s been way better since they talked. I still see him drink, but it isn’t as much. I think I’m just being paranoid.”

 

Phichit hummed, unconvinced. “Yeah, but didn’t you say he’s not supposed to be drinking at all on his medication? He’s not really improving much with his knee, right? That’s probably a big reason for it.”

 

“I’m tired of fighting with him, Phichit,” Yuuri confessed. “If I bring it up it’ll just be another argument. I’m done with it. Things are fine right now and I don’t want to ruin that..”

 

Phichit quickened his pace so he could step right in front of Yuuri to stop him. “Yuuri. Listen to me. I love Viktor. A lot. And I will always be the biggest Viktuuri shipper on the planet, but what I won’t do is watch you sabotage your own marriage. You both suck at communicating, and if one of you doesn’t speak up this is going to get ugly real fast. The fights you two have been having will seem like nothing.”

 

Yuuri’s heart jumped into his throat and his brain screamed at him to flee. With more force than he had meant to he brushed past Phichit to keep walking. “We’ve talked, Phichit, and things are fine, ok? We are working on being honest with each other.”

 

“Well it’s not working if he’s still drinking with those pills,” Phichit countered.

 

“Phichit, I don’t want to talk about this anymore, ok?!” Yuuri snapped, hands balled into fists in his jacket pockets.

 

His friend flinched in surprise, but eventually licked his lips and nodded. “Ok…”

 

The mood for dinner was ruined after that, and Yuuri continued to kick himself mentally for it. It was his fault, and now he wasn’t able to enjoy dinner with his best friend who he hadn’t seen in a year. Phichit was good at letting it not get to him, happy to lead the conversation and do most of the talking, but Yuuri also knew him well enough to see that he was hurt by it.

 

“I’m sorry for snapping at you earlier,” Yuuri eventually apologized on the walk back to the hotel. “You were only trying to help.”

 

“It’s ok,” Phichit said with an encouraging smile. “I shouldn’t have pried like that. You’ll come to me when you need me, and I should know that. I want a re-do on the dinner though after I win gold and you win silver.”

 

Yuuri cracked a smile and nudged Phichit with his shoulder, “You mean when I win gold and you win silver, right?”

 

“Uh-huh, we’ll see. I’ve finally got a quad in my arsenal, so you better watch out,” Phichit teased.

 

When Yuuri entered their hotel room, Viktor was absent, but he found himself not worrying just yet. He and Phichit’s dinner ended up shorter than it usual would anyway due to the rocky start. After he showered and got ready for bed and Viktor still wasn’t back, he started to worry. Finding his phone he sent a text message. Viktor responded almost immediately.

 

Vitya: Finishing up, be back soon!

 

Yuuri let himself sink into the bed with a sigh of relief. Knowing Viktor would be back soon he allowed his lids to close and his head to sink into the fluffy pillow. The three hours from earlier was gone and he was out like a light.

 

His sleep was so deep that when he did come out of of it it was so forceful he jerked in the bed. When he finally found himself blinking awake in the darkness he realized it was the door that had woken him. He remained still and waited for the mattress to sink down with Viktor’s weight. Yuuri didn’t need to look at his phone to know that hours must have passed since Viktor’s text. When Viktor wrapped his arms around him and buried his face in Yuuri’s neck, the smell of vodka hit him hard.

 

Yuuri couldn’t find it in himself to feel anything about it.

 

While he did end up falling back asleep, it was anything but restful, the smell of alcohol lingering in his mind the entire time. He was a mess when he looked into the mirror, glasses doing little to distract from the circles under his eyes. Viktor said nothing about the previous night, and Yuuri didn’t ask.

 

They took the bus to the venue with the other male single skaters for their assigned practice time. Yuuri left Viktor by the rink to head to the locker rooms. He wasn’t going to say anything. He didn’t want to know, but then he did. He had to know.

 

“Phichit,” Yuuri started, voice quiet as they laced up their skates. “What time did Celestino come back last night?”

 

Phichit stopped mid-way through lacing his boot. “About an hour after we did….why?”

 

Yuuri didn’t say anything, not even pausing in his movement as he pulled his pants over his skates. There was just nothing to say.

 

While Phichit didn’t say anything either, he finished lacing his boots up with so much force Yuuri thought he might break the laces. After leaving the locker rooms and entering the rink through the hallway, Phichit headed straight for Viktor instead of the ice.

 

“I was hoping you and Yuuri both looked like crap because you were both up all night doing things husbands do, but instead I find out it’s because you were out on another bender when you shouldn’t be drinking at all on your meds!” Phichit started into him right in front of all the other skaters and coaches.

 

Viktor blinked silently in surprise and Yuuri found himself running full speed with one guard off and one guard on to quickly diffuse the situation. “Phichit! Stop!”

 

“No, Yuuri, I lied last night. I should definitely be prying!” Phichit’s black eyes were dark as they bore into Viktor.

 

Yuuri pulled Phichit away from Viktor and turned him around. “Phichit, stop, people are staring! Just get onto the ice, please! Let me handle this!”

 

“But you aren’t handling it, Yuuri,” Phichit argued.

 

“Get on the ice,” Yuuri pleaded again, his voice starting to quiver.

 

Throwing a glare in Viktor’s direction, Phichit looked like he might not let it go, but after a few seconds he caved and walked away. Yuuri let out a shuddered breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding, and he barely contained the sob that threatened to follow. His hands were shaking.

 

“So,” Viktor’s voice started low behind him, speaking in Russian which is something they rarely did amongst each other in private. “You’re just advertising our problems to Phichit now?”

 

“It’s not like that,” Yuuri retorted, voice still shaking. “I just needed someone to talk to, Viktor. I’m allowed that.”

 

“You should be talking to me,” Viktor countered, arms crossed tightly against his chest. “Especially when it concerns me. I thought we were supposed to be honest with each other. Isn’t that what you said?”

 

Yuuri quickly felt himself starting to lose it. “Yes, you’re right. I’m sorry, just - please Viktor, I can’t fight with you right now. Please.”

 

Viktor was silent for so long that Yuuri started to hear the voice in his head. It started whispering dark thoughts into his ear. A hand on his hushed them. “Ok. I’m sorry about last night. I shouldn’t have stayed out so late. I didn’t realize it bothered you so much. You hadn’t said.”

 

Nodding, Yuuri gripped Viktor’s hand tightly to ground himself. “You’re right, I hadn’t. Thank you. For apologizing. And I’m sorry I talked to Phichit before talking to you.”

 

Surprisingly, Viktor leaned in and kissed Yuuri on the cheek. “No, it’s ok. I shouldn’t be angry about that when I know you were likely asking his advice on how to approach me. I should be happy that he cares for you so much to yell at me like that.”

 

Yuuri didn’t want to get out onto the ice. He just wanted to latch onto Viktor and not let go. Make everything right again and forget about the entire world around them. That was out of the question, though, especially given how reporters and skaters alike likely saw or heard the brief altercation. He had to step out onto that ice and prove that things were fine by winning gold.

 

Unsurprisingly, practice was atrocious. Yuuri wasn’t mentally there in even the slightest capacity and he found himself tripping over his own feet without even jumping. When he did land hard after a failed quad flip, he didn’t get up right away, too mentally exhausted to push himself up off the ice.

 

“Are you ok, Yuuri? That looked nasty.”

 

Through blurred vision Yuuri somehow managed to look up and see Leo hovering over him with an extended hand. Gratefully, he took it, and allowed himself to be helped to his feet. “I’m fine. I just couldn’t sleep last night and the exhaustion is really getting to me.”

 

“You should rest,” Leo instructed. “I would hate to see you get hurt because of it. Although I want to beat you, I want it to be you at your best.”

 

Yuuri smiled genuinely. “Thank you, Leo. I’ll do my best, no doubt.”

 

When Yuuri stepped off the ice, Viktor said nothing, only pulled him into a hug which was exactly what Yuuri needed. When the press asked about his abysmal practice and the small feud, Yuuri laughed it off as the two of them spending too much time as a couple and not enough time as coach and student. It had earned him a room full of amused chuckles and, more importantly, time. More time to steal any and every kiss and touch that he could in front of the cameras. A touch at the side of the rink before his name was called, and a kiss to the lips as they waited for his scores. More time to try to convince the world that the hushed rumors were only that.

 

Yuuri stood at the top of the podium at the medal ceremony, but the gold medal felt like a weighted noose around his neck. While his short program had been good, the free skate was a nightmare worthy of Sochi. The only reason he had survived was because he was the only skater there that could do more than one quad. He’d gotten the rotations in, even if he hadn’t landed them. Leo had just slipped by Phichit for silver earning him a roaring applause on his home turf.

 

The press conference had been a blur. It was mostly congratulations on his secured spot in the final, and questions on his feelings about his performance. Disappointment, of course. He’d yet to perform cleanly in both programs at the same event. With false laughter he blamed it on wanting to leave something for the final.

 

As promised, they had a take two of dinner to celebrate their medals. Finally, Yuuri found himself genuinely smiling when no one ordered alcohol and Viktor ordered them dessert to share. A treat for winning gold. Phichit and Viktor also played nice, some unspoken truce between them that Yuuri was overly grateful for.

 

The long flight home was their chance. Their chance to talk things out properly and work through their problems. They didn’t. Instead they silently clung to each other in hopes that would simply be enough. While they didn’t talk, Yuuri noticed the bottles disappearing within a week of returning home. It was enough. It was proof of progress.

 

Two weeks later, Yuri returned triumphantly from Moscow with his second gold. They would meet in the Final once more. This time, Yuuri didn’t feel nervous about it. He felt determined.

 

“Oi, Katsudon, this is for you.”

 

Yuuri looked over his shoulder as he threw his ballet bag over it. Yuri was holding a key in his hand. Yuuri took it with a raised eyebrow. “What’s it for?”

 

“The rink,” Yuri smirked. “Sorry it took me so long. I had to find a moment I could sneak into Yakov’s office without him noticing. You should try and stick to Mondays and Thursdays, if you can. The night leagues don’t play those nights and no one is around late.”

 

With a genuine smile, Yuuri took the key. “Spasibo, Yurio. It means a lot to me.”

 

Yuri shrugged casually. “I only stole it so you could be better than you were in the US. Shitty free program. I expect way better in France next month.”

 

Yuuri nodded with a determined fist. “You’re on.”

Chapter Text

Yuuri only managed bronze at the Grand Prix Final, but for Yuuri, it’s the most precious bronze medal that he had. After the short program, he and Viktor finally had the screaming match that was long overdue.

 

“You can’t keep doing this, Vitya!” Yuuri had screamed in their hotel room in the middle of the night, likely waking their neighbors.

 

“Keep doing what, Yuuri?” Viktor fired back drunkenly. “Go out and enjoy myself? Is that not allowed!?”

 

“You are my coach, Vitya!” Yuuri cried. “Even though you aren’t out on the ice performing I depend on you! I depend on you to be my rock when I get anxious! For you to have a level-head when I can’t! For you to believe in me when I don’t! If you’re hungover you can’t do any of that for me!”

 

Yuuri’s words had finally gotten to Viktor and after that night he finally stopped drinking and began taking his therapy seriously. What Yuuri could remember was being so emotionally drained the next day he’d had a miserable performance. It was shocking he had only dropped to third. Feeding off his terrible energy, Yuri had fallen off the podium completely.

 

It had been worth it. Everything felt like normal again after he grabbed the gold at National’s and they began training for 4CC. Viktor was making visible progress in his therapy and his smile returned. Yuuri would trade all the golds in the world to keep that. Hopefully, it hadn’t come to that quite yet. He still had two more golds to win this season including the most important: World’s.

 

“Yuuri!”

 

Yuuri paused from where he’d been lazily working some move patterns for a cool-down when he heard Viktor shout his name. His husband was waving and smiling at him from the barrier and he was running - running! - towards him. Beaming, Yuuri quickly skated towards him. “Vitya! You’re running!”

 

“Of course I am!” Viktor’s smile grew brighter as he finally met Yuuri at the barrier. “I do run as a warm up to my therapy every session now, you know? Though not that fast, I admit. But I’m running because I have exciting news! My doctor cleared me to skate!”

 

“What?!” Yuuri exclaimed in surprise before it sunk in and he threw himself over the barrier to bring his husband in for a hug. “Vitya! That’s amazing!”

 

Viktor hugged him tightly. “Right?! Of course, light skating only, but it’s a start!”

 

Yuuri chuckled as he pulled away and pointed a finger at Viktor’s face. “Light skating means holding hands at public session, not light skating the week after a competition. Remember that.”

 

Grabbing Yuuri’s hand Viktor brought the knuckles up for him to kiss. “Yes, yes, my love. No jumps or spins.”

 

“Or complicated footwork,” Yuuri added. “I meant it when I said public session skating. That way you can’t be tempted.”

 

Viktor pursed his lips in a pout. “Public session… I haven’t done that since I was five. Well, if you promise to hold my hand the entire time then I suppose I could agree to it.”

 

Playfully tugging his hand free from Viktor’s Yuuri skated to the open door and stepped off the ice. “We can be that annoying couple that goes slow and doesn’t let go and just starts kissing each other out on the ice.”

 

“Oh, I like the sound of where this is going,” Viktor beamed, handing Yuuri his guards. “Should we invite Yurio? It seems only right.”

 

Yuuri thought about the comments Yuri made some days about their own rinkmates’ skating and how annoyed he’d be going to public. The teen hated it more than anything when people got in his way on the ice. He’d likely kill someone, plus them for their PDA. “Um, maybe not. We can just invite him over for dinner.”

 

“I hope for all of our sakes he wins Euro’s,” Viktor mused as they moved to the locker rooms for Yuuri to pack his skates.

 

While Yuri had won National’s handedly, he was still bitter and angry about the GPF. It showed every day out on the ice. Yuuri was thankful that the Russian team was gone already for the week’s competition. Things were quiet again, even if it was to be short lived. If 4CC wasn’t the next week, Yuuri would have liked to have gone to watch. He knew Yuri would put on a show.

 

“Are you up for a run back home?” Viktor asked as they started to make their way to the locker rooms.

 

Yuuri turned around in surprise with raised eyebrows. “Are you up for that?”

 

Viktor hummed with a nod. “My therapist said it would be good for me to do light jogs. I must admit, I will probably be very slow and might have to walk once or twice, but I’d like to try.”

 

That didn’t matter at all to Yuuri. Viktor was trying - really trying - and that had Yuuri over the moon. “Well as long as the therapist said it’s fine, then of course I’ll run with you. It doesn’t matter how slow. I’ll stay by your side.”

 

With his skates strapped firmly to his back, Yuuri started them off at a slow pace, barely a jog. Gradually, Viktor started to pick up the pace and Yuuri matched it. It was still considerably slower than what Yuuri was used to, and his calves burned from the slower pace, but he had no complaints. After about ten minutes in though, Viktor started to slow even more and his breaths were labored.

 

“Vitya, we can walk if you need to,” Yuuri suggested. “You’re doing really great.”

 

To his pleasant surprise, Viktor didn’t put up a fight, almost immediately coming to a halt and bending over with his hands on his knees.

 

“Keep walking,” Yuuri quickly coaxed, taking hold of Viktor’s arm and getting him going. “Does it hurt?”

 

Viktor shook his head as he tried to slow his breaths. “No. Just...out of shape.”

 

Well, of course he was. They were coming up on close to a year since the surgery, and other than physical therapy Viktor hadn’t had any sort of exercise. “Don’t push yourself. You’ll get there.”

 

“Ugh,” Viktor replied, fully standing again as he walked next to Yuuri with his hands on his hips. “I think we should go back to Hasetsu days and get me a bike.”

 

Yuuri laughed, remembering those days quite fondly. “A bike isn’t a terrible idea, but you have to run too. Come on, let’s walk a few blocks and we’ll start up again.”

 

It took more than twice as long as it normally did for them to get home, but Yuuri was beaming with pride at his husband. His performance was worthy of a gold medal or two. It was also apparently worthy of collapsing on the living room floor and sprawling out at the base of the couch dramatically. Viktor was certainly ‘back’, as it were.

 

Yuuri playfully kicked him. “There’s a perfectly good couch right next to you, you know?”

 

“I’m too weak, Yuuri,” Viktor huffed. “You’ll have to carry me.”

 

With an amused sigh Yuuri bent down and grabbed underneath Viktor’s armpits and lazily hoisted him up just enough to toss him onto the couch. “There.”

 

Viktor’s frown was excessively large as he moved to lay down properly. “That was anything but romantic, Yuuri! In fact, that was quite hateful.”

 

“You just proved to me that you are capable of taking care of yourself again, so Dr. Yuuri is no longer in business,” Yuuri fired back.

 

A shocked gasp left Viktor’s lips. “Tragedy! What would it take to keep the best doctor in the world in business?”

 

“Mmm,” Yuuri contemplated it as he filled his water bottle. “You could start with dinner. And maybe...show your appreciation for said doctor tonight in bed.”

 

“Oh, zolotse , if I had known it would be that easy I would have done it ages ago,” Viktor smiled, getting back to his feet and making his way to the kitchen to wrap his arms around Yuuri from behind. “If the doctor would like, I’ll even wash his hair for him in the shower before dinner.”

 

“The doctor would like that,” Yuuri said, leaning into his husband’s touch and his warmth.

 

Viktor passed out hard after their first go at it, much to Yuuri’s dismay. Running wasn’t the only thing the man was out of shape with apparently. Yuuri didn’t stay mad long though, enjoying Viktor’s soft snores and watching as drool started to pool on the pillow. Only Yuuri got to see the god of skating look like this and he loved it. He might have snapped a photo or two.

 

When Viktor wasn’t looking after practice the next day, Yuuri found a rink manager and worked out purchasing two hours of private ice time. Before they’d gotten married, Yuuri would have screamed at the pricetag of doing such a thing, but Viktor had slowly torn down that wall. Of course Yuuri hadn’t been serious about the skating on public ice. That was far too risky with children going a million miles an hour and not looking where they were going. They could knock into Viktor and hurt him. No, Yuuri would make sure they had the entire thing to themselves. A nice surprise.

 

They headed home and Yuuri showered while Viktor made lunch. Afterwards, they curled up in bed together with a laptop on Viktor’s legs so that they could watch the Euro’s short program. Yuri came out firing on all cylinders, finally posting a season’s best. By the end, Yuri was leading by a solid 20 points.

 

“Well, my Yuuri, what should we do with the rest of our evening now that we watched our dear Yurio destroy all of Europe on the ice?” Viktor asked as he closed the laptop and set it aside, moving to wrap his arms around Yuuri as a hint to what exactly he’d like to do.

 

Yuuri scooted away teasingly. “Not that. I actually have a surprise for you.”

 

Viktor’s eyes lit up. “Oh?! What kind of surprise.”

 

“One that requires us both to be dressed,” Yuuri said before leaning in to kiss Viktor on the lips. “Come on, grab your skates.”

 

The other man raised a curious eyebrow as he threw off the covers. “Are we going to a public session?”

 

“Just grab them,” Yuuri instructed. “You’ll see when we get there.”

 

Viktor tried relentlessly the entire way to the rink, but Yuuri held firm in keeping his secret. By now, he was immune to all his husband’s tricks. Besides, he enjoyed seeing Viktor’s pout. It was cute. When they arrived, Yuuri was sure to pull Viktor straight to the locker room so he wouldn’t see the empty rink just yet.

 

Viktor paused half-way through lacing up his skate. “It’s strange...after all this time.”

 

“A good strange, I hope?” Yuuri asked with a tilt of his head.

 

“Definitely a good strange,” Viktor smiled, finishing lacing it up and pulling his pant down over the top.

 

When they had both finished getting their skates, coats, and gloves on, Yuuri reached for Viktor’s hand once more. “Okay, come on.”

 

Viktor must have been catching on that something unusual was going on as he was uncharacteristically quiet behind Yuuri, only the sound of their guards clicking as they walked filling the air. When they finally entered the rink it was to complete silence, the ice sparkling with a freshly zambed surface.

 

“Yuuri…? Where is everyone?” Viktor asked, mouth parted in awe.

 

Yuuri grinned. “I bought the ice. It’s just us for the next two hours.”

 

“Yuuri!” Viktor gasped. “You bought the ice? Mr. Frugal?!”

 

With a chuckle he tugged Viktor on. “You might have rubbed off on me a bit since we got married. I figured you’d like it more if you could step out for your first time without having to worry about kids crashing into - mph!”

 

Viktor had closed the distance between then and pulled Yuuri in for a kiss. “Thank you, Yuuri. This means so much to me.”

 

Full of warmth, Yuuri ran a finger down the side of Viktor’s face and touched their foreheads together. “Anything for you, Vitya.”

 

Finally separated, they both removed their guards and Yuuri stepped out onto the ice first. He didn’t stray far, ready to have to swoop in and catch Viktor if he needed to. He didn’t need to. Viktor stepped out with confidence, though slower than he usually would, and started to stroke across the ice.

 

“You look good!” Yuuri commented. “How does it feel?”

 

“Surprisingly, very good!” Viktor exclaimed as he went into his first set of crossovers. They were a little shaky, but he got through them. “Unfortunately, though, this is my good way.”

 

Well, that was true. Crossing over to the right on his surgery knee would likely be much more difficult. “Just take it slow. I’m here if you need me.”

 

And Viktor did need him as soon as he changed direction, his weakness now exposed, but Yuuri was there. He held on to one of Viktor’s hands as they started working the crossovers on a large circle. The longer they went, the more Viktor started to settle in and held on by only his fingertips. They worked through other low-level moves until Yuuri noticed the sweat starting to break out on Viktor’s forehead.

 

“I think that’s enough for today,” Yuuri suggested. Their two hours were almost up anyway. “Vitya, you did really well. I’m impressed.”

 

Viktor blew out a tired breath, though he smiled. “That was a lot harder than I was thinking it would be.”

 

“It won’t be like that for long. You just need some conditioning. It’ll come back to you quickly, just don’t push it.” Yuuri skated up to Viktor and stood on his toe picks to give his husband a peck. “I think my husband deserves a prize for doing so well.”

 

Viktor grabbed Yuuri by the waist and hoisted him up into a lift, making the other man yelp in surprise. Quickly recovering, Yuuri wrapped his legs around Viktor, careful not to hit him with his blades. “Oh, I honestly didn’t know if I could do that or not,” Viktor said with a laugh. “Hmm, this opens up new opportunities.”

 

“No shower sex,” Yuuri scolded with a quick kiss. “Too risky.”

 

“What about the wall?” Viktor suggested.

 

Yuuri hummed thoughtfully before tapping Viktor on the nose. “We’ll see.”

 

They did not use the wall. Yuuri was not surprised by that. By the time they made it home, Viktor started to complain about a sore knee and Yuuri became a doctor once more. The sofa wasn’t a bad substitute though. Maybe it was simply because both men were so happy with the progress they’d seen that night, but it had been some of the best sex they’d had.

 

For the rest of the weekend, Yuuri spent more of their money on private ice time. It wasn’t sustainable, but at least they could do it for a few more days. Viktor still struggled on his right knee, but Yuuri could see the determination that made him so hopeful. More than ever, Yuuri felt they would come out the other side. They would show the world. His performance at 4CC would be the best he’d put out all season. He just knew it.

 

/*/

 

Yuuri groaned unhappily as his phone continued to blare music throughout the room. Surely he still had an hour or two until his alarm, right? It felt like he had just gotten to sleep. Shifting around under the covers he reached a hand out to find his phone. That’s when it dawned on him the noise wasn’t his alarm - it was his ringtone.

 

Throwing back the covers he patted his hand around the nightstand for his glasses and slipped them on before grabbing his phone. Yakov. What? Why was Yakov calling him?

 

“Hello?” Yuuri answered, voice still groggy from sleep.

 

“Yuuri. I’m with Vitya at the hospital.”

 

“What!?” Yuuri shot up in bed and looked over at the other side. It was empty. “What happened?! Is he okay?!”

 

“I found the idiot laying on the ice when I arrived this morning,” Yakov explained. “He hurt his knee. They are taking MRIs as we speak to see if he re-tore his ACL.”

 

Even though the room was already cold with the winter air, Yuuri felt himself get colder as his stomach dropped. “The doctor said he couldn’t jump. Why was he jumping?! He was struggling to do crossovers last week!” A year’s worth of work could have been completely undone!

 

“Because he’s a stubborn idiot. Always has been,” Yakov sighed, exhaustion in his voice. “He could walk, though it was painful. It’s a good sign, I think, but we won’t know for sure until after the MRIs.”

 

Getting out of bed Yuuri started to scramble through the closet for clothes. “I’ll be there as soon as I can.”

 

Yakov only grunted in response before he found himself hanging up. A wet drop splashed against his hand and his grip tightened on the phone. Why? Why had he done this? Just as everything was going to perfectly? With a shuddered breath he wiped at his eyes and got dressed.

 

When he arrived at the hospital, Viktor was lying in bed with Yakov in the chair next to him. Viktor wouldn’t even look at Yuuri as he entered because he knew. He knew he had been wrong.

 

“Coach Yakov… can I have a minute with my husband?”

 

Yakov huffed and stood, casting Viktor a harsh glance. “Don’t go easy on him.”

 

The moment Yakov was out of the room, Yuuri clenched his fists and sucked in a breath. “Why? Why did you do it?”

 

Viktor was silent for a long moment before he finally shrugged and shook his head. “It was just a waltz jump. It was just a waltz jump and I couldn’t even do that.”

 

“You weren’t supposed to do any jumps at all!” Yuuri snapped. “Vitya, what were you thinking? You couldn’t even comfortably do crossovers when you skated with me and you thought you could jump!? Why are you so stubborn!?”

 

“Like you haven’t done things I’ve told you not to do before!” Viktor fired back, finally looking back at Yuuri. “How about all the times I told you not to do quads in your programs that you did anyway?”

 

“That was different and you know it,” Yuuri hissed. “I was healthy and simply challenging myself. What if you tore your ACL again, Vitya? This time, you may never be able to skate again! Ever! How could you risk such a thing?! How-” he paused, tasting salt on his lips. He sniffled and looked away. “Vitya, please. Please. Listen to the doctors. I don’t think I could bare it if we never shared the ice again.”

 

Viktor shook his head, his own tears falling. “I’m dead, Yuuri. Viktor Nikiforov is dead. I will never be able to do the things I used to. I may never be able to jump again.”

 

“Why does it matter?!” Yuuri asked. “You aren’t competing anymore. Why does it matter if you have to downgrade jumps or not jump at all?! And of course Viktor Nikiforov is dead. You’re Viktor Nikiforov-Katsuki, you big idiot.”

 

A small laugh left Viktor’s lips and he smiled. “I’m sorry, Yuuri. I messed up.”

 

“Yeah, you did,” Yuuri agreed, crossing his arms. “Because now I have to withdraw from 4CC.”

 

Viktor’s head shot up and his eyes went wide. “What?! No! Yuuri, you can’t! Yakov can coach you!”

 

“Do you honestly think I could go out there and compete knowing you’ve hurt yourself again?” Yuuri questioned. “It would be all I could think about! Are you ok? Are you in pain? Do you need help? That’s all I’d think about the entire weekend! I’d end up botching all my jumps and just embarrassing myself! You and I both know that!”

 

Of course Viktor knew he was right and his silence told him as much. “I’m sorry. Yuuri, I’m so sorry.”

 

“Save it, Vitya,” Yuuri sighed, wiping at his tears again and taking a seat in the chair. “Maybe, maybe , I’ll be ready for World’s. I guess it depends what the doctor says.”

 

Two hours. It took almost two hours of almost complete silence in the room before the doctor finally came. Yakov brought Yuuri coffee at one point and they’d exchanged a few words, but that had been it. Viktor and Yuuri said nothing else to one another. Yuuri used the time to draft his official email to the ISU to pull out from 4CC. It left only days for Japan to find a replacement that could be ready within 48 hours to fly to Korea. They likely would end up just dropping the slot. It wouldn’t be long before messages started flooding his phone, questioning the reason for his drop out. Most would assume injury, which wasn’t wrong - it just wasn’t his injury.

 

“Good news,” the doctor, a Dr. Vasiliev according to his nametag, spoke in Russian. Yuuri at least understood that well enough. “Your ACL is still intact.”

 

There was a collective sigh in the room and Yuuri could feel the tears building again with relief. Thank God.

 

Dr. Vasiliev continued to talk, but Yuuri couldn’t translate it through the traffic of so many things going on his mind at the time. When he finally pulled himself together he looked to Yakov for a translation summary.

 

“Tendonitis,” Yakov said. “Not really major, but can sometimes take months to fully recover from. He’ll have to go back to therapy several times a week.”

 

Months. More months of recovery. Yuuri knew it could have been so much worse than it was, but just the idea of taking so many steps back weighed heavily on his shoulders. “Okay… Can he go home today?”

 

“Yes, they are sending in a nurse for discharge,” Yakov responded. “I can take him home, Yuuri. You should be at the rink.”

 

Yuuri just shook his head. “I already pulled out. Maybe World’s, too.”

 

“Four Continents I understand, but don’t you dare pull out of World’s because of this buffoon,” Yakov grunted in Viktor’s direction, shooting him daggers.  “Next year is an Olympic year. Getting you on that team starts now. Don’t jeopardize your ranking.”

 

Except Yuuri couldn’t trust Viktor. He couldn’t trust that he could leave him alone while he was at World’s. Would he do something to hurt himself again? Or worse, start drinking again? What consequences would there be if Yuuri let him out of his sight?

 

Most of all, Yuuri couldn’t trust himself.

 

He couldn’t trust himself to not completely self-destruct out on the ice. To not let everything go fuzzy (more than usual) and fall with every jump. To not break down in the kiss-and-cry and crumble beneath the questioning gazes of his fans. To not twist and break at the reporters’ words.

 

“We’ll see.” It was the best Yuuri could manage right now.

 

The nurse brought crutches for Viktor and Yakov helped Yuuri get him to the car.

 

The drive home was just as silent as their last two hours had been. Yuuri helped Viktor up to their apartment and set him on the couch. He brought over the ice pack and set his pill next to a glass of water.

 

“Yuuri-” Viktor started, reaching out for Yuuri’s hand that was snatched away.

 

“Not now, Vitya,” Yuuri sighed, too mentally exhausted to deal with this right now. “I’m going for a run.”

 

Viktor looked like he might try and argue, but he let his shoulders drop and nodded. “Okay. Please be safe.”

 

Safe. Like you were safe. Yuuri bit his tongue no matter how badly he wanted to say it. Instead, Yuuri ran. He ran away from all his problems just like he always did. He ran, and ran, and ran, and even when he finally did stop it was from boredom rather than exhaustion. Yuuri stopped on a bridge overlooking the Neva and he just stared out on the water. Even though his body had been warm from running, the bitter chill of the winter wind bit at his cheeks painfully. Yuuri pulled the scarf over his nose but didn’t budge from his spot.

 

“Oi, you’re gonna freeze, you idiot.”

 

Yuuri turned his head to find Yuri walking up to him bundled in a heavy coat with the fur hood up and his hands shoved in his pockets. His long blonde hair was loose and blew in the wind. “Hey.”

 

“Don’t ‘hey’ me,” Yuri scoffed, stopping next to the other man. “What the hell are you doing out here? And barely dressed.”

 

“I went for a run,” Yuuri explained. “I didn’t realize how cold it was.”

 

Yuri huffed. “Yakov told me what happened with the old man. Did he lose some brain cells in his accident last year or what? How dumb could he be?”

 

“I think we are finding that out,” Yuuri answered, a small smile tugging at his lips. While his anger had faded somewhat, there was still an anxious tugging on his heart that wouldn’t stop. “Where are you headed?”

 

“Home,” Yuri answered, as if it had been a stupid question to ask in the first place. “Looks like I’m taking a detour though. Can’t leave either of you alone, can I? Come on, let’s catch a bus. No way you are walking - or running - back.”

 

Yuuri shoved his hands in his armpits. “I’m not ready to go home yet.”

 

“Fine, whatever, but you’re not staying out here. Cafe?” he suggested.

 

“Yeah, that sounds great, actually,” Yuuri agreed, eager to feel a cup of warm tea in his hands.

 

They walked in silence, the sounds of the busy city around them. Yuri kept close, though, blocking the worst of the wind and providing Yuuri some sort of shelter. By the time they finally reached a cafe Yuuri could barely feel his face and fingers. While Yuri removed his jacket, Yuuri kept his firmly in place.

 

“Why won’t you take Yakov as your coach to 4CC? Why pull out?” Yuri asked as they took a seat at a small table with their drinks in hand.

 

“You know why,” Yuuri answered, eyes cast down at his mug.

 

Yuri let out a grunt of acknowledgement and annoyance. He did know, but he didn’t like it. “Forget him… How are you?”

 

How are you? How was he? No one but Yuri had bothered to ask that since the accident. It was always how Viktor was. “I’m thinking about retiring.”

 

“Don’t make me slap that mug right out of your fucking hands,” Yuri growled.

 

With another heavy sigh Yuuri sat back against the seat. “I mean it, Yura. Skating is what brought us together, but now I think it’s what is pushing us apart. I could retire and keep a better eye on Viktor. Make sure he gets better.”

 

“That’s not your job, Katsudon,” Yuri fired back. “Viktor did all of this to himself. You can’t retire before the Olympics. You can’t. I won’t let you. Fire him as your coach, work with Yakov, and let him focus on not being a goddamn idiot by himself.”

 

If only it were that simple. Well, maybe it could be that simple, if Yuuri wasn’t Yuuri. While Yuuri may have had plenty of reasons to call Viktor stubborn, he was stubborn in his own right.

 

Honestly, he was lost. What was the right thing to do? Viktor wasn’t just his coach, he was his husband, and as his husband that meant there were certain obligations. He’d taken a vow, hadn’t he? In sickness and in health.

 

“I have a lot to think about. I promise I won’t make a decision hastily,” Yuuri promised.

 

“Think all you want, but I’ll kidnap you and handcuff you to me to drag you to the ice everyday if I have to,” Yuri threatened.

 

Yuuri surprised himself and laughed. “I think we could manage spins alright, like the pairs do, but jumping might be interesting.”

 

“Well, if anyone could figure it out, it would be us,” Yuri said confidently, taking a sip from his own mug.

 

By the time they finished it had started to snow outside, making Yuri even more insistent on taking Yuuri home. While Yuuri was cold, it wasn’t like he wasn’t wearing anything. He would have been fine, especially if he could have jogged home, but he let Yuri hover over him. It was nice to be looked after for once. It took convincing, but he finally managed to get Yuri to leave him at the entrance to the apartment.

 

“If you don’t show up to practice tomorrow I’m going to come knocking,” Yuri promised.

 

Yuuri didn’t doubt that he would. Bidding Yuri farewell, he entered their apartment building and shook the snow out of his hair as he started up the stairs. The pull on his heart started up again. At least now, he thought, he was ready to talk to Viktor. Or at least listen.

 

Closing the door behind him and locking it, he started to kick off his shoes and unzip his coat. “Vitya?”

 

The room was already getting dark even though it was afternoon still, winter casting its dark blanket through the windows. Reaching around the wall for the switch, Yuuri turned on the lights and was greeted with an empty living room.

 

With a sigh, Yuuri hung his coat and made his way towards the kitchen to start working on dinner. His eye caught the empty glass as his hand reached for the refrigerator. His heart stopped. It was just water. Or a soda. Right? A shaky hand reached out and moved to bring the glass to his nose. It barely made it halfway before the smell hit Yuuri hard.

 

The tears were immediate and his fingers almost let the glass slip to the floor before he managed to set it back down. Instead of the glass it was him that ended up on the floor, knees pulled to his chest and arms pulling them closer. This was his fault. He should have done better. He should have stayed and not left Viktor alone when he needed Yuuri the most. He should have done better at making sure Viktor didn’t go to the rink without him. He should have just done better. Now, all the work they had done, all the progress they had made, was gone.

 

The tugging on his heart turned into a forceful pull, and Yuuri started to wonder if this was the beginning of the end.

Chapter Text

Yuuri doesn’t go to 4CC and he unsurprisingly bombs at World’s. It’s Yakov, not Viktor, that pats his leg in comfort when his total score and place is announced. Viktor is there on Yuuri’s right, but he’s silent. What is there even to say? Even with Yakov’s intervention, Yuuri hadn’t been able to keep it together enough to perform. If anything, Yakov being there likely only made things worse by driving a knife further between him and Viktor. When the media asks if he’s injured, he can only laugh in the familiarity of it all.

What is surprising is the support he receives after he musters up the courage to explain Viktor’s injury and how the recovery had put a stress on him he hadn’t been able to overcome going into World’s. The fans, for the most part, wish Viktor and Yuuri both a quick recovery. They say they look forward to Yuuri resting and coming into the next season – an Olympic season – strong. Yuuri is grateful for their support.

Yuuri’s friends and family, however, are another thing entirely.

“How bad is it really?” Mari had asked him when he’d call to apologize for his performance at World’s, knowing that they likely had a party at the onsen to watch.

“Not as bad as the first injury, but-“

“I don’t mean Viktor’s injury, Yuuri, I mean your relationship.”

The question had shocked Yuuri into a silence. Yuuri had never described their relationship as ‘bad’. He didn’t even think it was possible to do so. It wasn’t bad, he had said, just strained. All couples went through things like this and they’d make it through just like everyone else.

“Except not everyone makes it, little bro,” Mari had countered. “I’m worried about you. Mom and Dad especially. Maybe just come for a few weeks so they’ll stop worrying.”

They’d make it. Of course they’d make it. Why would anyone even say they wouldn’t make it? They were Viktor and Yuuri.

“It’s just a rough spot,” Yuuri had insisted again. “We’ll take the offseason to get Viktor better and everything will be fine again.”

“Isn’t that what you were supposed to do last offseason?”

Yuuri hung up on Mari. He’d told himself it was because she was dead wrong and didn’t know what she was talking about, but the longer he went the more her words haunted him – following him around like a shadow. It didn’t end with Mari, either.

“Look, Yuuri, I love you and Viktor both, and I know you don’t want to hear it because you didn’t want to hear it at Skate America – but you two need some serious help.” Phichit had cornered him at the banquet. “Therapy has always been really good for you, hasn’t it? Ask Viktor to go with you.”

Yuuri didn’t argue with Phichit that time. Maybe…it would be worth a shot if Viktor would agree to it.

Then there was Yuri.

“Fix it. I don’t care how, just fucking fix it,” Yuri had flat out demanded after landing back in St. Petersburg. “Don’t you fucking dare let that asshole bring you down in an Olympic year.”

Was…Viktor really bringing him down? Yuuri so badly wanted to say it wasn’t true, but as the days went on, he began to truly doubt everything he had known about the two of them. He’d fallen into his offseason habits far quicker than usual and at what seemed like an accelerated pace. Yuuri was all too aware of the signs – the feeling of helplessness, the lack of joy in things that once made him happy, the binge eating. For the first time since meeting Viktor, Yuuri found himself falling into a deep depression. Before, when Viktor had first injured himself, there had been a sense of hope. Now, there was nothing.

Yuuri sighed as he opened the fridge and found little to be had. “We need to go to the store.”

“Maybe if you didn’t eat everything we wouldn’t have to go so often,” Viktor countered from the couch.

The words slammed into Yuuri like a brick wall. His hand slipped from the handle of the door and he blinked rapidly, trying to comprehend what Viktor had just said to him. Yes, Yuuri had gained weight, like he always did, but Viktor had never done anything but tease. “I… You’re right. I’m sorry.”

Viktor sighed. “Just don’t let it get too out of hand, right? This year is the most important season. You need to be in top shape.”

Swallowing hard Yuuri put on a smile. “Right, of course. Actually, I’ll go for a run, I think. You okay by yourself?”

“Why wouldn’t I be?” he asked, with an accusing tone.

Clenching his fists Yuuri forced himself to keep the smile. “No reason, just wanted to make sure.” Leaning down he planted a kiss to Viktor’s cheek. “Love you.”

Viktor only hummed.

Somehow, Yuuri managed to keep himself together until he started to run and then his mind went crazy. Why was he even upset? It wasn’t like Viktor wasn’t right with what he said. Yuuri had been eating the entire fridge and his pants fit tighter than normal. He couldn’t even button up a pair of jeans and strictly wore joggers. When he finally stopped running he found himself at the entrance to the rink out of habit.

“Yuuri! Hi!”

Yuuri looked up to see Mila waving with a smile, Yuri walking next to her with his typical scowl. Wiping at the sweat around his eyes he smiled and waved back. “H-hi!”

“Hey, Piggy,” Yuri nodded to him, scowl lessening slightly.

Yuuri cringed and lowered his eyes, a hand going to his opposite arm and rubbing.

“Are you going to practice? Couldn’t keep this one away from the ice long either,” Mila teased, wrapping an arm around Yuri and rubbing at his cheek which made the younger man growl.

“No,” Yuuri shook his head, keeping his eyes fixed on the ground. “Just went out for a run.”

“Well then, sounds like you could use a bite and a drink after so much work! We were just going - do you want to join?” Mila offered.

Yuuri wanted to join them, wanted to get his mind off of Viktor, but he couldn’t. He’d already eaten way too much today. “Um, thanks, but I’ll pass. I have to get home to Vitya.”

“Aww, okay,” Mila pouted.

Yuri, however, had narrowed his eyes at Yuuri. “Go on, old hag, I’ll catch up with you in a sec.” Once Mila was out of earshot Yuri stepped forward. “Okay, what the hell did Viktor do?”

That had Yuuri looking up in surprise. “N-nothing! Why would Viktor do anything?”

“You’re upset. I can tell,” Yuri pointed out. “You never go running in the middle of the day unless something is on your mind.”

Sighing, knowing he couldn’t avoid Yuri, he ran a hand through his hair. “It’s not Viktor, it’s just me. He got onto me for eating too much and he’s right.”

Yuri shrugged. “So you’ve put on some weight - who cares? You always do, and you always lose it before the season starts. Why is he being an ass? There’s still three months before the first grand prix competition.”

Yuuri smiled, appreciating his friend’s comfort. “Yeah. I think he’s just worried because it’s an Olympic year, you know?”

“Not an excuse to be a jerk,” Yuri argued.

“You’re always a jerk,” Yuuri countered with a smile.

Yuri bumped shoulders with him. “Well, yeah, because it’s expected of me, duh. Fuck Viktor. Come on, you can enjoy some time with me and the old hag for one day.”

He should say no. Viktor had more or less apologized and was waiting for him back home. Things were okay for the moment and Yuuri didn’t want to risk ruffling any potential feathers. And yet...Yuuri hadn’t spent a minute away from Viktor since the accident. A few hours away wouldn’t hurt anything. Right? Smiling, Yuuri nodded. “Okay. Yeah.”

 

An hour in and Yuuri realized he needed this. Bad. He ordered a beer simply because in Russian culture it would be extremely rude not to, but he hardly sipped it. Instead, he sat back and laughed at Mila and Yuri’s usual back and forth banter, finding himself relaxing easily. He asked Mila about Sara and their long-distant relationship, which had the redhead gushing with love over giggles, making Yuri stick out his tongue with a gagging sound.

 

“Oh yeah, tough stuff, what about your precious Beka?” Mila wiggled her eyebrows.

 

Yuri shrugged absently. “We broke up a while ago.”

 

“Wait, what?!” Yuuri and Mila exclaimed in unison.

 

“It’s not a big deal. Just didn’t work out as a couple or anything,” he explained. “He’s still my best friend and we’re totally cool.”

 

Even though Yuri was playing it cool, Yuuri still felt his heart sink for the blonde. He and Otabek had seemed to be a great couple and Yuri was always nicer and more relaxed around the other skater. “I’m sorry it didn’t work out. You two were cute.”

 

Yuri scoffed, a slight tinge of pink spreading across his cheeks. “Whatever. Besides, can’t be trying to date someone whose ass I’m trying to destroy at the Olympics.”

 

“Literally or figuratively?” Mila purred, earning her a fast growl and swing from Yuri making her howl in laughter.

 

“Shut up, you hag!”

 

Yuuri’s laughter had him almost forgetting all about his problems at home. Almost. As the conversation naturally started to die down, Yuuri checked his phone. It was getting late. “I should start heading back before it gets too dark.”

 

“You need one of us to go with you?” Mila offered.

 

“No,” he shook his head. “I’m fine, but thanks for the offer. I had a good time.”

 

After paying the bill and saying his goodbyes, Yuuri headed off down the streets of St. Petersburg once more at a jog. He went much slower this time, almost at a shuffle really. It wasn’t like he was that far out of shape, but maybe… Maybe he wasn’t in much of a hurry to get home. When he finally did make it to the door and slid the key into the lock, an exhaustion unrelated to running came over him.

“Where the hell have you been?”

Yuuri flinched in surprise at the voice as the light flicked on. Viktor was frowning – practically scowling – in his underwear with his arms crossed.

 

“I-I went for a run and ran into Mila and Yurio. I was out with them.”

“Really, Yuuri? I tell you to watch your weight and you go out eating and drinking?” Viktor scoffed and then laughed. “Silly me was worried about you and you were out stuffing your face.”

Yuuri’s mouth opened and closed, too surprised by Viktor’s words to even come up with a response. “I’m s-sorry, I didn’t even know you were worried! You didn’t text or call!”

“Oh, so now I have to be the one to do everything?”

They had gravitated close enough to each other by then that Yuuri could smell the alcohol. His lower lip trembled. “Vitya… you’re drunk.”

 

He shrugged. “If you could go out and drink, why couldn’t I? All you do is hound me about it but it’s fine for you?”

“C-can we please just talk about this in the morning?” Yuuri’s voice was so small he wasn’t even sure if he had spoken at all.

Viktor looked like he might get mad and yell again, but his shoulders relaxed and he ran a tired hand through his disheveled hair. “Yeah… Sure.”

 

The breath Yuuri had been holding came out so swiftly it turned into a half-sob. Why hadn’t he just sent Viktor a text letting him know where he was? He always had let Viktor know where he was or where he was going before. Why hadn’t he done it this time?

 

“Take a shower and come to bed,” Viktor said, turning his back to walk away.

 

Yuuri turned the water on as hot as it would go. Even then, it didn’t seem hot enough as he scrubbed at his skin. He stayed under the stream until it began to turn cold, and even then he was reluctant to step out. Viktor was asleep by the time Yuuri entered the bedroom, or rather, he appeared to be. Grateful for it, Yuuri pulled back to the covers and got in bed. Even though he had put on long pants and buried himself next to Viktor, he felt cold.

Cold and empty.

Time passed by the hour as Yuuri’s eyes stayed open staring into the darkness just listening to Viktor’s soft breaths. Not long after Yuuri finally found sleep, too exhausted to stay awake any longer, he was woken by a press of something wet against his cheek. His eyes blinked slowly open and caught the sight of Viktor just pulling away from him. “V-Vitya..?”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you,” Viktor apologized. “Go back to sleep.”

Sighing, Yuuri pulled the covers back and sat up. Even if he tried he wouldn’t be able to. Reaching for his glasses he slipped them on and looked back to Viktor. The other man looked just as much a mess as Yuuri felt. His heart went tight as he opened his mouth to discuss the elephant in the room. “Vitya-”

“I’m sorry, Yuuri,” Viktor interrupted. “I had no right to get upset at you about going out with Yurio and Mila. Maybe just, next time, invite me too, da?” He smiled and Yuuri found any fight inside himself die.

“Y-yeah, of course, sorry. I promise I only had half a beer that Yurio finished and water,” he assured, opening the door for another apology. Sorry for hurting your feelings. Sorry for calling you fat . But there were no more apologies, just another smile. Of course. Why would Viktor apologize for simply saying something that was true?

“We’ll go to the store together and get stuff for our training diet. We’ll have you back in shape in no time,” Viktor promised. “I’ll even join you. I’ve been gaining a little myself no longer skating.”

Already? Viktor never put him on the diet until almost September. All he could do was smile and nod. It was probably for the best. It was never too early to start training, especially in an Olympic year. This was for the best. “Yeah, sure. That sounds good.”

 

“Great!” Viktor smiled. “How about I make us some tea and a smoothie to start off right? I’m pretty sure we have enough fruits and veggies for that. Let me go check.”

 

Viktor didn’t even wait for Yuuri to respond before darting off towards the kitchen. Yuuri just sighed. Back to it, then. Why couldn’t he be one of those depressed people who just didn’t eat? That would be too convenient, he supposed. Heading to the bathroom he ran a comb through his hair and brushed his teeth before heading to the kitchen. The aroma of the tea lifted his spirits somewhat.

 

“Here you go, my sweet piggy,” Viktor beamed, placing a smoothie down on the counter in front of Yuuri.

 

And there went those spirits. Yuuri bypassed the smoothie altogether for a cup of tea, gripping it tighter then he should have. “Thanks. I’ll drink it after my tea.”

 

“Okay, I’ll put it in the fridge then,” Viktor said, grabbing the smoothie and doing just that. “I started making a list of groceries. Are you okay to go around eleven? I have PT at one and would like to get this done before then.”

 

Yuuri hummed an agreement into his tea.

 

Viktor’s PT session had been cut to once a week and he was doing better. He was. Really. He was going to the gym more often and could run on the treadmill. One thing he didn’t do, however, was skate. Not once since the last incident. The doctor had cleared him to be on the ice again, but Viktor’s skates remained in their bag collecting dust. More than once Yuuri had considered asking Viktor to join him on the ice, but just like every other thought that came to his mind, he couldn’t bring himself to voice it. He wasn’t sure if Viktor was scared of getting hurt again or scared of things just getting worse.

 

The smoothie was still in the fridge untouched when they headed to go to the grocery store. Viktor read off the list in bubbly excitement, but all Yuuri could feel was dread. Usually, they’d celebrate the end of the offseason with one last big meal, but Yuuri hadn’t even been given the chance for that this year. No time to mourn the loss of anything with taste.

 

After returning home with arms full of groceries, Yuuri worked on unbagging everything and stocking it away. Viktor left before he was done, giving him a kiss on the cheek before leaving for therapy. The smoothie still sat among all the fruits and vegetables that now filled their fridge. His stomach growled, but he ignored it.

 

Sitting on the couch and scrolling through Instagram, he stopped at a photo of Phichit with his siblings on a beach. His conversation with his friend started to come back to him. Maybe he should ask Viktor about joining him for therapy. He was in a good mood today, and the timing seemed right given how they had flipped the switch to training mode. A healthy mind was part of training, wasn’t it?

Yuuri waited until Viktor had started dinner that night, his husband still beaming about the progress he had made during today’s session. “Hey, Vitya… I…I’ve been thinking,” he started off carefully, approaching Viktor at the kitchen counter.

“Hmm?” Viktor answered, keeping his eye on what he was doing with meat and vegetables.

Licking his lips Yuuri continued. “I’ve been thinking about kind of going to therapy again, you know, with this being such a high-pressure year and all. I want to keep my mind right.”

Viktor nodded in understanding and smiled slightly. “I think that makes complete sense and is a great idea. We’ll want your mind at its best.”

Okay, that was off to a good start. Viktor was being supportive. “Mm, well, I was also thinking, that maybe, well, you could go with me?”

That had Viktor taking pause and he turned his head to frown at Yuuri with a tilt of his head. “Why would I need to go with you?”

Good start gone. Yuuri felt himself immediately drop into panic mode, but he clenched his fists and tried to keep himself together. “I just thought it might be a good idea. You always say you don’t know what to do sometimes when I retreat from you, so maybe this will help. And...well… Maybe we could talk about some of the problems we’ve been having.”

 

“What problems have we been having?” Viktor asked, now turning his body to face Yuuri.

 

“Vitya, we’ve been fighting so much lately,” Yuuri went on, urging himself to not back down from this. “We don’t really talk about it either, we’ve just sort of been sweeping it under the rug. I think we should openly discuss some of the issues.”

 

Viktor’s jaw clenched tightly. “And what are some of the issues?”

 

Yuuri wanted to flee. Viktor was already taller and bigger than him, but now he seemed like a giant towering over him. “Y-Your drinking, for one.”

 

“Oh, so now I’m an alcoholic?”

 

“That’s not what I said-”

 

“I’m fine, Yuuri!” Viktor growled, slamming the knife so hard into the cutting board it stuck.

Yuuri jumped, a gasp leaving his lips as his heart lurched from his chest.

Viktor’s own eyes went wide in shock and his hand immediately let go of the knife. “Yuuri…”

Yuuri did the only thing he knew how to do – he ran. He always ran. Not even bothering to grab his phone or a set of keys, Yuuri reached for a pair of shoes and sprinted out the door without even putting them on. Viktor was shouting at him, but he didn’t stop to listen. It wasn’t until he was already halfway in the street that he shoved his feet into the shoes while half-maintaining his run. His muscles burned, not used to going at this pace after time off. Yuuri ignored it, instead running faster.

 

It took his lungs and heart feeling like they were on fire for Yuuri to finally come to a stop, instantly hunching over and placing his hands on his knees as he tried to catch his breath. Drops of saltwater dropped onto the tops of his hands. Tears. Sweat. Both. Where had he even run to?

 

When he finally felt like he wouldn’t throw up if he stood up straight he did so and looked around. It took several glances around to find a shop he recognized. He’d run all the way to Yuri’s side of town. Well, Lilia’s side of town, really. The teen still lived with the prima even now. Should he go there? He couldn’t go back to the apartment, not tonight, but he didn’t want Lilia asking questions. Ultimately, there was no other choice, and he started to drag himself to Lilia’s lavish apartment.

 

To Yuuri’s relief, it was Yuri that opened the door with surprised green eyes. “Katsudon? What are you doing here? Did you run here?”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help the tremble of his lip or the soft sob that left him. “C-can I stay here for the night?”

 

Yuri ushered him in and closed the door behind him within seconds. “What did he do?” His voice was low and already full of anger.

 

“I was stupid, so stupid,” Yuuri hiccuped, wiping at his eyes. “I should have never asked. I should have never brought it up. I was so stupid-”

 

“Yuuri,” Yuri hissed, using Yuuri’s actual name in a rare power move. “What. Happened?”

 

With a shuddered breath Yuuri gathered himself enough to speak. “I-I’ve been thinking about going to therapy again with everything that’s going on. I’ve been so stressed and there’s only more stress to come. P-Phichit mentioned that maybe I should ask Vitya to go with me and I thought that was a good idea so I asked him and he c-completely flipped out!” Another sob left his lips and he covered his mouth trying to keep another one in.

 

There was a long pause of Yuri’s silence and Yuuri’s quiet sobs before the younger man finally spoke, voice low. “He flipped out because you wanted to try and fix things between you two? And somehow that’s your fault?”

 

More tears fell and Yuuri shook his head. “I was so, so, so stupid. So-” he gasped as Yuri’s hands were gripping his shoulders tightly.

 

Yuri’s eyes were aflame with a dangerous fire. “Stop. Stop that, right now. You are not stupid, Yuuri. You are not . Don’t you dare ever say that about yourself again. Do you hear me?”

 

There were no words from Yuuri, the man too shocked by Yuri’s words to even know how to respond. All he could give were heavy breaths and slowed tears.

 

“Viktor is the stupid one, got it?” Yuri went on, his grip softening but still firm in a way to ground Yuuri. “You’ve done nothing wrong. Nothing.”

 

“What is going on here?” an angry Russian voice rung out interrupting them. Both boys looked up to see Lilia coming down the stairs in a silk robe. Lilia’s face softened as she took in the sight in front of her. “Yura, please go grab a pair of linen and set up the guest room.”

 

Yuri didn’t move right away, looking like he might argue, but eventually he let go of Yuuri with an annoyed huff and moved to do as he was told. Once Yuri was out of sight Lilia moved down the remainder of the stairs and approached Yuuri with a heavy sigh.

 

“I wish I knew what to say to you, child, but if I knew what to say then I would have saved my marriage with Yakov all those years ago.”

 

Furiously, Yuuri shook his head. “It won’t come to that. It won’t. I promise. I’ll save it. I’ll save us.”

 

Lilia’s mouth twitched with a sad smile as her hand reached up to stroke Yuuri’s cheek in a single motion. “Hope is always good to have, Yuuri, but it takes both of you to keep that hope alive.”

 

“W-what should I do?” Yuuri asked, overwhelmed by a feeling of defeat.

 

“Sleep,” Lilia instructed. “There’s nothing else that can be done tonight. We can talk in the morning when everyone has a clear head.”

 

It wasn’t the answer Yuuri was looking for, but it was obvious it was the only answer he would get, so he gave in with a nod. With a comforting hand on his shoulder Lilia helped guide Yuuri to the guest room where Yuri had just finished changing the sheets. Potya jumped up onto the bed and started to knead the fresh sheets before Yuri was scooping him up and cursing in soft Russian.

 

“You need anything else?” Yuri asked, fussing with Potya who was struggling in his arms.

 

Yuuri opened his mouth to say no but Lilia spoke before he could. “Fetch him some water and some spare clothes. His clothes are soaked through.”

 

Looking down, Yuuri realized that his grey shirt was indeed a much darker color than it usually was. Even Russia got warm during the summer months. “S-spasibo.”

 

“Of course,” Lilia responded. “Are you hungry? I believe there are still leftovers from dinner.”

 

While Yuuri was starving having barely eaten the entire day and run several times, he knew there was no way he’d be able to keep anything down. “No, I’m okay.”

 

Lilia hummed, not believing him but not pressing it either. “We’ll figure things out in the morning at breakfast. Where you’ll eat. Try and rest.”

 

Yeah, right. Like he was going to be able to sleep after everything. Yuuri just kept his mouth shut and his eyes on the ground, not moving to take a seat on the bed until after the madame had retreated. It wasn’t until the sound of Yuri setting down a glass of water on the nightstand hit his ears that Yuuri finally moved again.

 

“This was the smallest stuff I could find in my closet,” Yuri said as he extended a bundle of clothes. “Still probably going to be too big, but at least it’s just for sleeping. We can wash your clothes in the morning, if you want.”

 

“No, it’s fine, thank you,” Yuuri replied, taking the proffered items.

 

Yuri sucked in a breath and crossed his arms like he was ready to go off, but he eventually let out his breath and relaxed. “You’re not stupid, Katsudon. Just remember that, okay? Night.”

 

“Night,” Yuuri whispered, voice so soft he wasn’t even sure if he’d spoken at all. Yuri closed the door behind him and Yuuri was alone. Alone with his thoughts in a deafening silence. Letting out a hitched breath he started to undress to put on Yuri’s clothes. The shirt wasn’t awful, Yuuri was used to wearing oversized shirts and sweaters, but the pants were so long he’d trip on them if he wasn’t careful. It was fine to sleep in. As if he’d get any sleep.

 

The relief the bed offered his muscles was enough to make Yuuri lay down, but his eyes remained solidly open taking in the blurry room around him. He’d left his phone and keys at home. There was no way to reach Viktor. Viktor would get mad again. How was he supposed to let him know where he’d gone? That he was okay? That -

 

A muffled shout reached his ears through the closed door. Lifting his head, Yuuri strained himself to listen closer. It was clearly Yuri, but translating muffled Russian was hardly his forte. Swinging his legs over the mattress he stood and headed for the door opening it just a crack.

 

“Fuck you, Viktor,” Yuri hissed, pacing up and down the hallway angrily with his phone against his ear. “You think you can just call me up in the middle of the night demanding to know where he is after how you acted?” There was a pause as Viktor’s voice came over the receiver, though Yuuri couldn’t make it out at all. “The hell it isn’t! He shows up crying at my door and you are going to stand there and scream how it’s not my fucking business?”

 

Yuuri cringed, gripping the handle of the door tightly. He’d made Viktor even more mad. Of course he had.

 

“Are you-” Yuri paused and started to laugh. “You’re fucking drunk. Of course you are. I swear - don’t you dare! If you come over here I’m calling the police!”

 

That was it. Yuuri couldn’t take it anymore. He opened the door all the way and stepped out. “Yurio.”

 

“Oh, is that the best you got? Seriously, Viktor -”

 

“Yura.”

 

“Oh, really? Yeah, I’d love to see you-”

 

“Yuri!”

 

Yuri stopped and turned frowning. Pulling the phone away a few inches from his ear he answered Yuuri in English. “Go back to bed, Katsudon.” Screaming came through the phone and Yuri instantly switched back to furious Russian. “Fuck you, I’m not letting you talk to him!”

 

“Yura, I’m going home,” Yuuri said, making a move to head for the door.

 

Yuri promptly stepped in front of him. “Over my dead body. I’m not letting you anywhere near that psycho - yeah! You heard me! PSYCHO!” Yuri hung up the phone, cursing in Russian before pocketing it. “There’s zero chance you're going home. Come on.” Grabbing Yuuri’s hand Yuri pulled him back into the guest room and closed the door.

 

Yuuri stood there in shock, still trying to understand what was even going on. “I… What?”

 

Yuri promptly sat in the chair across the room. “I’m not letting you leave, even if that means I stay here all night.”

 

“Yurio-”

 

“Katsudon, just shut up and go to bed, alright?” Yuri sighed, his own exhaustion finally showing through on his face.

 

Yuuri sat down on the bed quickly like it had been an order. Silence fell over them as Yuri pulled his phone back out and started to play on it showing no indication of moving anytime soon. A numbness washed over Yuuri as he suddenly had no idea how to feel. Of course, Yuri thought he was protecting Yuuri, but all it was doing was making Viktor angrier. It would only make things worse. Yuuri needed to go home. He needed to -

 

Tears started to fall down Yuuri’s cheek and he was slowly falling down onto the mattress clutching the pillow. All the emotions from the last few days - weeks - months - hit him at once and he was suddenly sobbing uncontrollably. They were supposed to be perfect. They were the envy of every figure skater and every couple in the world. They were a dream. What was happening?

 

Yuuri didn’t even notice the dip in the bed or the presence of Yuri behind him until arms were around him. Instinctively, Yuuri curled in on himself, letting himself be embraced from behind. Yuri didn’t say anything, and Yuuri was grateful for it as he let himself cry all the tears he had. Eventually, his sobs subsided into occasional soft hiccups. Yuri hadn’t moved from his place behind him. It scared Yuuri.

 

Because somehow, Yuuri fit against Yuri better than he had Viktor in months.

Chapter Text

“You’re really going back to that jerk?”

 

Yuuri stopped where he was tugging at the sheets in an attempt to make the bed Lilia had allowed him to stay in. Viktor had made a spectacle, like he always did, though Yuuri hadn’t found out until the next morning. Apparently, his husband had indeed shown up despite Yuri’s warning, but Lilia had preemptively called Yakov who somehow managed to intercept him until morning. The first chance he’d been given to see Yuuri Viktor had gotten down on his knees begging for forgiveness. “He said he’s sorry.”

 

“Oh, right, he said he’s sorry,” Yuri scowled. “Well, I’m sorry every time I kick your ass and take gold.”

 

Yuuri puffed his cheeks out like he’d eaten a pair of marshmallows and glared at the younger man. “Really, Yura?”

 

“See?” Yuri tilted his head and crossed his arms in defiance. “Just because you say sorry doesn’t mean you mean it.”

 

Frustrated, Yuuri slammed the last pillow down with far more force than he’d meant. “What do you want me to do, Yura? Just leave him and stay here with you and Lilia?”

 

“Yes!” Yuri answered, throwing his hands up like it had been the most obvious answer in the world.

 

Hands curled into fists and, despite Yuuri attempting to count down from ten in his head, he snapped. “He’s not just my boyfriend that I can toss aside the second it becomes inconvenient for me! He’s my husband, Yura, and while I know you haven’t the first clue what it’s like, you don’t just abandoned your partner when things get hard.”

 

The second the words left his mouth Yuuri regretted them, but there was no undoing it. Yuri wore a look of shock that Yuuri had never seen before, backed into a corner of silence. Rubbing his face in exhaustion, he tried to apologize. “Yuri… I’m sorry. That was uncalled for.”

 

“Just go,” Yuri muttered, green eyes fixed on the ground in the corner of the room.

 

Fuck. Why did he ruin everything? Biting the inside of his cheek to keep himself grounded, he grabbed his phone and left Yuri behind in the room to head to the foyer. Lilia and Yakov both had their arms crossed and stern looks on their faces. Viktor looked like a kicked puppy in the corner with his shoulders slumped and eyes cast down.

 

“I suggest the two of you have a long talk when you get home,” Yakov finally spoke, breaking the awkward silence around them. “I will have no more of these midnight dramatics.”

 

Frankly, Yuuri didn’t want more of the midnight dramatics either. Sighing, he stepped forward and held out a hand for Viktor. “Come on. Let’s go home.”

 

Viktor hesitated, eyes wide like he was worried Yuuri’s hand might turn into a snake and bite if he grabbed it. Eventually, he reached out and took it. “Okay… Yes.”

 

Looking towards Lilia, Yuuri nodded his head. I’m sorry to have troubled you in the middle of the night. We’re leaving now . .” Dragging Viktor outside, Yuuri did his best to ignore the stares behind his back. He was mortified to think what Yakov and Lilia might say when they were gone. “Did you bring a car?”

 

“What? Oh, no,” Viktor answered. “I just… I’d taken my medicine and I was… drunk.”

 

Right. He was drunk. He was always drunk. “I guess we’re walking, then.”

 

While Yuuri didn’t necessarily mind walking, he knew it would give him too much time to think and thinking for Yuuri was just everything that could possibly go wrong. It was too much time, too much time to back out and bail and do everything but confront the situation at hand. Too much time to just get home and get it over with so he could sleep, because fuck he was exhausted.

 

They were maybe four or five blocks from Lilia’s place when Viktor gave a tug on Yuuri’s hand and pulled them to a stop. “Yuuri… Maybe we should wait for the bus.”

 

Yuuri’s hand ended up sliding out of his husband’s hold with the force of the tug and he finally came to a halt and turned around. Viktor was sweating and wincing, a hand hovering over his bad knee. Shit. “Vitya… baka … Why didn’t you say something before we started walking?”

 

“I thought I’d be okay,” Viktor puffed, continuing to rub at his knee.

 

Sighing, Yuuri looked around in an attempt to spot a bus stop. “I can see a sign across the street, less than a block. Come on, lean on me.” Wrapping an arm around Viktor, Yuuri helped the man to his feet and let his larger body rest up against him as they walked - or limped in Viktor’s case.

 

Yuuri wasn’t a complete idiot. He knew that part of this - not all of it, but part of it - was an attempt to pull pity from him and ease the tension between them. But shouldn’t that role have been Yuuri’s to play? Hadn’t Yuuri been the victim and not Viktor? Why was it always Viktor, Viktor, Viktor?

 

With clenched fists, Yuuri had to turn away from Viktor once he got the man settled on the bench. He couldn’t stand to look at him without risk of losing it again.

 

By the time they made it home, the exhaustion of the last 24 hours slammed into Yuuri like a wall. While he had slept at Lilia’s, it hadn’t been very restful. And it had been so long since Yuuri had eaten that his stomach had given up on begging for food. Rubbing at his forehead he opened the pantry and grabbed a protein bar. It was all he could stomach at this point.

 

“Yuuri… I’m sorry.”

 

Yuuri closed his eyes and took in a deep breath. “We need to talk, Viktor, but I can’t right now. Please. I need a few hours of sleep to think straight.”

 

Viktor visibly swallowed, shifting uncomfortably on the couch he had settled on, but eventually he nodded. “Okay. Can… can you get me an ice pack?”

 

“Sure,” Yuuri mumbled, grabbing a pack from the fridge and walking it over to Viktor. “I’ll be up in a few hours.” Shuffling towards their bedroom, Yuuri barely removed his glasses before he collapsed onto the bed and immediately closed his eyes. He was out like a light.

 

When Yuuri finally started to come to again, it was with the feeling of having been hit by a bullet train at full speed. His head was throbbing and his mouth was dry. The corners of his eyes were also crusted from sleep. Rubbing his face as he pushed himself upright, he brought himself back into reality - a world he wanted nothing more than to escape from these days. With a heavy sigh he pushed his glasses up on his nose and checked his phone. He’d slept for hours and it was closer to dinner than it was to lunch.

 

Trudging his way into the living room he noticed Viktor was still curled up on the couch and had also fallen asleep, his ice pack now melted and discarded on the coffee table. Out of habit more than anything, Yuuri walked over and pulled the blanket off the back of the couch, draping it over his sleeping husband. Grabbing the ice pack, he headed for the kitchen. Although his stomach wasn’t growling, it felt tight like it was trying to eat itself. Wrinkling his nose in frustration, Yuuri tossed the melted pack into the freezer and then opened the fridge to see what he could manage that would still be low calorie. There was enough to make a stir fry with fish. It would do.

 

Distracted by his focus and the sounds of his cooking, Yuuri found himself startled when an arm wrapped around his waist and lips pressed to his neck.

 

“Smells good,” Viktor mumbled against his skin.

 

Yuuri couldn’t help but shrug him off. “It’ll be done soon.”

 

“Yuuri-”

 

Yuuri tensed, carefully setting the wooden spoon down.  “Are we really doing this now?”

 

Viktor paused for a moment before he stepped back to give Yuuri his space. “Well… when else are we going to do it?”

 

Yuuri sucked in a breath and licked his lips. “Fine. I don’t know what to do, Viktor. I feel like I am always dancing on eggshells around you! I never know what to say because I don’t know how you are going to react! When you are going to snap! I just want to make things better between us!”

 

“I know,” Viktor breathed, a shudder in his voice. “I know. I’m sorry. I should have never gotten upset over your suggestion for therapy. I just… It was a surprise. I thought things were fine between us.”

 

Tears pricked the corners of Yuuri’s eyes, but he bit his lip, refusing to cry at this anymore. “How can you think this is fine, Vitya?”

 

Viktor was silent, eyes looking everywhere but at Yuuri until he found his voice. “W-what do you want me to do?”

 

Yuuri wanted Viktor to not put the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. He wanted his husband to take half the weight and share the responsibility of their relationship. He wanted them to be partners. He wanted Viktor to come to therapy with him, but if there was anything Yuuri had learned in his years of therapy it was that if someone didn’t want to be there then it would never work. “I want you to acknowledge that we have a problem and help me work through this!”

 

It took a moment of Viktor having some sort of internal conversation before he brushed back his silver bangs and nodded. “You’re right. We have been at each other’s throats lately, it seems, and it’s been my fault. I know.”

 

“You’ve,” Yuuri paused, wondering if he should even bother. “You’ve… You’ve said some really hurtful things lately, Vitya.” Because you’re drunk. Because you’re always drinking. But Yuuri couldn’t open that door again. Not after last time. “Please, just love me. And let me love you.”

 

Taking Yuuri’s face in his hands, Viktor leaned in to kiss his forehead. “I will always love you, Yuuri, but I think the fish is about to burn.”

 

Yuuri let out a choked laugh and reached to turn off the stove and move the pan away from the heat. With the fish safe from burning, Viktor pulled Yuuri into a tight embrace and he couldn’t help but melt into it. He wished they could just stay like this forever. It was safe. “I just… Vitya. When you want to drink, will you just let me know? Take me with you if you go out? I just want to take care of you.” That was better than calling him an alcoholic, right?

 

Viktor tensed and Yuuri prepared himself for the worst, but all he ended up saying was, “Okay.”

 

Over the next few days, Yuuri found himself constantly on guard despite their ‘make-up’ if you could even really call it that. Everytime Viktor spoke, Yuuri was just waiting for another jab at his weight or some comment about their relationship. Nothing really happened, but Yuuri just couldn’t help but always be preparing for the worst lately.

 

He did start going to therapy again. By himself. When he had mentioned to Viktor he was going, he had hoped that his husband would decide to come with him, but that seemed a lost cause. Even though therapy had been a relief and aid for Yuuri in years past, it had now turned into a place that just reeked of failure and shortcomings.

 

Viktor started coming to the rink again and Yuuri found himself dreading it. Even though Viktor wouldn’t admit it, being around the ice hurt him and Yuuri knows. He wishes that he’d try to skate again, but his skates had simply been collecting dust beneath a pile of clothes in the closet. It was like Viktor had just given up entirely. What was the worst of all was that Yuuri didn’t know how to help Viktor.

 

Today, Yuuri was especially on edge. Viktor and Yuri had their eyes locked onto each other the entire time with their hackles raised. Any criticism Viktor made towards Yuuri’s skating - warranted or not - Yuri snapped back about how good Yuuri was doing. Which, okay, Yuuri might partly think it was super sweet and totally unlike Yuri, but it was visibly getting underneath Viktor’s skin.

 

Yuuri purposely put himself between Viktor and the ice while receiving his recent critique. Viktor wasn’t being unreasonable with any of his comments. Yuuri’s jumps are under-rotated and his spins weren’t centered. Facts were facts, so he didn’t understand why Yuri was being so defensive, especially when Yuuri had told him to stay out of things. Not like Yuri ever listened to anyone.

 

“He’s under-rotating and not centering because he’s too focused trying to please you all the time instead of just letting his body do his thing,” Yuri commented as he purposely skated by them at the barrier.

 

Yuuri’s eyes went wide as he saw Viktor snap.

 

“Stay out of this, Yura!” Viktor growled, an accusing finger pointed at the younger man. “Stop inserting yourself into our family business. You are not Yuuri’s husband.”

 

“Ha!” Yuri laughed, coming to a stop next to Yuuri. “Keep this bullshit up where you constantly push Yuuri away, and maybe one day I will be.”

 

Suddenly, Yuuri found himself on his back with a hard thump as Viktor launched himself over the barrier towards Yuri. Gasping for air with the wind knocked out of him, all Yuuri could do was watch as Viktor’s hand clenched its way around Yuri’s shirt and fists were raised. Yuuri was screaming for them to stop, but no sounds were leaving his mouth.

 

“ENOUGH!” Yakov’s voice boomed through the rink, bringing everyone to a halt. Yanking Viktor off of Yuri, he placed himself between them, arms extended. “The both of you are forbidden from speaking to one another while at this rink, do you understand?! Utterly ridiculous! Both of you acting like children!”

 

A soft and caring pair of hands grabbed for Yuuri’s and he realized Mila was helping him to his feet. “Hey, are you okay? Are you hurt?”

 

Yuuri didn’t respond for a moment, still trying to catch the breath he had lost. Finally, he was able to nod. “I’m okay, just had the wind knocked out of me.”

 

“Come on, let’s get you off the ice and sitting for a moment just to make sure you’re alright,” Mila said, coaxing Yuuri towards the open door off the ice and away from Viktor and Yuri.

 

By the time Mila sat him down on a bench he could feel a sharp pain forming in his head, but whether that was from the fall or just the situation was hard to tell. “They are always at each other’s throats. I don’t know what to do.”

 

“Oh, sweetie, you don’t do a darn thing but sit here. Let Yakov handle those two idiots,” she smiled, sitting next to him and patting his thigh. “It’s sort of sweet in a way, the way they are both fighting over you, but it’s turned more into a tug-of-war, hasn’t it? Ah, men. It’s why I don’t date them.”

 

Yuuri let himself chuckle at that. Mila had a valid point. Women had plenty of drama, but likely wouldn’t have ripped each other’s throats out in a physical sense like Viktor and Yuri were doing. After a few deep breaths, Yuuri was convinced enough that he physically was okay and his headache was just mental. “I just want to go out there and skate.”

 

“So you go do just that. Forget about stupid boys for now. Come on, come on! I heard from a little birdie you were practicing an I-spin! I want to see!” Mila hopped up excitedly, doing her best to distract Yuuri from everything going on.

 

Frankly, Yuuri didn’t want to think about Viktor. Just for five minutes. For once, he wanted to think about himself. “I’ve been playing around with it, but I don’t think I’ll put it in a program. Guys don’t really do that spin.”

 

“Because most guys can’t do it,” Mila chuckled. “Show me anyway.”

 

“Sure,” Yuuri finally caved, standing and walking towards the ice.

 

A hand stopped him, wrapping around his forearm. “Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri promptly yanked his arm free from Viktor and kept his back to his husband as he stepped back out onto the ice and skated away. He couldn’t deal with that right now. He didn’t want to deal with it at all. Run away, Yuuri, just like you always do. So he did, skating and skating until he was dripping sweat and his legs started to tremble. Viktor was forgotten until Yuuri headed to the locker rooms where his husband was waiting, sitting on a bench hunched over.

 

Viktor shot to his feet. “Yuuri, I’m sorry-”

 

Yuuri held up a hand, tired of hearing Viktor’s apologies. “I don’t understand why you continually let him bait you like this. It’s embarrassing, Vitya. He’s 19. You are 30. Be the adult you are supposed to be instead of trying to chokehold him in public!”

 

Viktor’s apologetic eyes turned cold. “Yuuri, do you even see what he’s doing?”

 

“Yes, I do,” Yuuri argued back, throwing his towel into his bag with enough force it almost knocked it off the bench. “He’s trying to protect me. In his own, stupid, Yurio kind of way.”

 

“Protect you?” Viktor scoffed. “He’s trying to pry us apart and take you away from me.”

 

“Oh my-!” Yuuri practically screamed as he tugged at his own hair in his frustration. “Why are you so obsessed with the idea that Yuri is trying to break up our marriage?! We have created enough of our own problems without bringing him into it!”

 

Viktor stepped back, arms crossed and in full attack mode. “Maybe because you wear his jacket more than you wear mine these days and you go over to his place to sleep now, apparently!”

 

Yuuri couldn’t help it. He laughed. “Wow. Wow, Vitya. So now I’m sleeping with Yura? Right. Thank you so much for throwing away years of trust and marriage in one sentence. Jealousy really looks ugly on you, Viktor.”

 

Realizing his mistake, Viktor raised a hand to his mouth. “Shit. Yuuri, no, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean-”

 

“Yeah… You didn’t mean. You haven’t meant a lot of things lately. Does that include your apologies, too?” His sigh felt like a weight that anchored itself in the floor making it hard to throw his bag over his shoulder to leave. “I’m going to Lilia’s to practice.”

 

“Yuuri-”

 

“It’s your night to make dinner.” He meant it as some sort of insult, but it was a weak one. Just like him. Weak.

 

Run, run, run, Yuuri. As fast as you can.

 

Well, he didn’t quite literally run, only walked briskly. He tried to remember the last time he’d eaten, and once again couldn’t remember. Was the shake this morning or yesterday? Or was it even the day before? Rummaging around in his backpack as he walked he found an apple that he nibbled on. It tasted stale in his mouth.

 

When he finally reached Lilia’s studio it was with more energy but less will. He didn’t want to see Yuri after the rink debacle and he certainly wasn’t ready to face Lilia after the last night’s events. All he wanted to do was dance, but to dance freely without an audience. No such luck for that, he supposed, as he already heard the familiar voices the closer he got to their reserved room. He stopped right outside the room as he realized the voices were in an argument.

 

“Listen to me, Yura, this nonsense has to stop. Immediately,” Lilia snapped, her voice harsher than Yuuri could ever remember. “You are making things twice as difficult for Yuuri by doing the exact same thing that Vitya is.”

 

“I’m not-!”

 

“You are! You don’t realize it, but believe me, Yura, you are making things worse.” The Prima paused briefly before continuing in on Yuri. “Yakov called and told me that all during practice today you inserted yourself between them and belittled Yuuri for making the choice to go back home to Vitya. It is that same childishness that pushed Yuuri to our house in the first place!” She huffed. “That boy is too nice and naive for his own good, honestly.”

 

Yuuri’s jaw clenched. Was he really that naive? Or was he just stupid for hoping that all of this would just go away if he ignored it long enough?

 

“So what do you expect me to do? Just let that asshole continue to-”

 

“Their problems are their own so let it be that way,” Lilia interjected. “Trust me, Yura, I know very well how interference can just destroy things. Either they will work through it, or they won’t. What you need to do is just be his friend who doesn’t take sides or do anything but be his support. Give him something else to focus on, like your on-ice rivalry. You two thrive in that environment, so thrive.”

 

Well, that was one point Yuuri couldn’t argue. Yuri trying to make things better really was only making things worse. It had brought out a side of Viktor that Yuuri didn’t even know existed. Jealousy. How could a five-time world champion ever be jealous? Well, he was, apparently, of only a one-time champion.

 

Before Yuri could give a response Yuuri stepped in and made his presence known, unable to take listening to further conversation. He smiled and waved. “Sorry I’m late!”

 

Lilia and Yuri separated, both looking like they had been caught in the act of something they shouldn’t. The Prima, at least, knew how to quickly recover. “Ah, Yuuri. I was just laying into our dear Yura here about his lack of practice. It shows. Greatly.”

 

Yuuri let his eyes flicker to Yuri for a second, but didn’t let his gaze linger as he continued to pretend he had heard nothing. “Ah, well, I must admit I have not been practicing as I should, Madam.”

 

Lilia hummed unhappily. “Well, then we have a lot of work to do. Hurry up. On the barre.”

 

Despite having already worked himself into the ground at the rink, Yuuri found what little energy he had left to please Lilia. Getting on her bad side was the last thing he needed today. Thankfully, despite the few bobbles, Lilia seemed more focused on chastising Yuri. Yuuri almost felt bad for him. Almost.

 

When Lilia left them to cool down and stretch on their own, Yuri let his tough guard down and started to look like a kicked puppy. Well, kitten in Yuri’s case, Yuuri guessed. Unfortunately, Yuuri was about to kick him a little further. The blonde needed to hear what Lilia said from himself.

 

“Yuri,” Yuuri started as he worked the tape off of his feet, “please don’t get involved in our problems anymore.”

 

Yuri released himself from his stretch, frown deepening. “Okay.”

 

“I mean it, Yura. Please. Just be my friend.” Yuuri reached out and put a hand on Yuri’s thigh. “Support me. Lift me up on the ice, but that’s it. Nothing else.”

 

Yuri’s leg flinched, unused to physical contact and his green eyes went wide in surprise. His mouth opened and closed, clearly fighting with himself on what he should say. Yuuri waited, hand still on his leg. “If… that’s what you want.”

 

A breath Yuuri had been holding released and he retracted his hand. Lilia having gotten to Yuri first helped soften the blow, apparently. “Thank you.” Relieved that Yuri had agreed, Yuuri went back to his own stretches.

 

“If he hurts you, I’m still going to kill him, promise or not,” Yuri blurted out minutes later.

 

Yuuri smiled.

 

/*/

 

Yuuri stood outside the apartment door for thirty minutes, his keys hanging from the lock unturned. Was he ready to deal with this? Would he ever be ready? So many fights and so many apologies. Were any of them even honest anymore? Sighing for the millionth time he finally turned the key and opened the door.

 

A variety of aromas filled his nose as he entered and he cautiously kicked off his shoes after he locked the door behind him. Viktor was cooking, that was for sure, but there was some other smell he couldn’t quite - flowers. Dozens and dozens of flowers littered their apartment. Yuuri’s jaw tightened. Did Viktor really think that flowers were going to make everything better?

 

“Yuuri! You’re home!” Viktor called, busy at the stove. “I, um, I know it’s going to be nothing like your mom’s cooking, but I’m making katsudon.”

 

Yuuri crossed his arms, refusing to cave that easily. “I’m not the one you should be sending flowers to, you know.”

 

Viktor scratched at the back of his head with the spatula. “Ah, well, I don’t think Yurio would appreciate flowers, but I did send him something else and tried to call. He didn’t answer, but I left a voicemail. I fucked up. Bad. I know I did.”

 

“So then why do you keep doing it, Vitya?” Yuuri asked, begging for any sort of answer. “I can’t believe you anymore when you say you are sorry when it just keeps happening.”

 

“I know. It’s just...” Viktor swallowed, visibly trying not to cry. “Yurio is everything I used to be and am not anymore. He’s Russia’s golden boy - the new ice prince. Everything you fell in love with.”

 

Yuuri’s shoulders slumped. “Oh, Vitya… Do you really think so little of me? That I could only love you if you were always on top of the world?”

 

“Sometimes it feels like that’s the only time anyone loved me,” Viktor confessed.

 

And just like that Yuuri’s heart was shattering for someone other than himself. Of course Viktor would feel that way. When they had first gotten together - officially - Viktor had told Yuuri how depressed and alone he’d felt all his life. He had everything from money to gold medals to fame, but it made him feel more alone than ever because it felt like those were the only reasons anyone loved him. Viktor was afraid of vanishing into obscurity.

 

Had Yuuri just been selfish this entire time thinking about himself?

 

“You will always be my golden boy, Vitya,” Yuuri promised him. “Gold medals or not. But you’re on thin ice lately with the way you’ve been acting. Flowers and lackluster katsudon doesn’t make up for that.”

 

“Yuuri, you haven’t even tasted it yet,” Viktor pouted.

 

Yuuri’s mouth twitched into a small smile. “Promise me you’ll leave Yurio alone. I mean it. I’ve already given him the same lecture. Just focus on me. On us.”

 

“Yakov has given me an earful too,” Viktor sighed. “He hasn’t been this angry with me in a long time. I deserved it.”

 

Yuuri hated himself for what he was about to do. He hated that he was once again going to forgive Viktor for his transgressions. Forgive him without forcing more of an apology. Without having a real and honest discussion of how much Yuuri was hurting. It was just easier this way. Yuuri didn’t have the energy to fight anymore.

 

“You know… I’ve been thinking,” Yuuri said, changing the subject, “about my programs this season.”

 

“Oh?” Viktor perked up, glad to be moving on from their arguments.

 

It was Yuuri’s last-ditch effort to try and rekindle the flame between them. “I’m going to skate to Eros and Yuuri on Ice,” he said.

 

Viktor beamed. “Yuuri! I think that’s perfect.”

 

Yeah… Perfect. Those programs were what had brought them together. Maybe, just maybe, it could bring them back together again and fix everything that was broken.

 

Or maybe, it was Yuuri just grasping onto the only thread that was left.

 

Chapter Text

When Yuuri goes in for his final costume fitting, they don’t fit. They don’t fit. The material is stretchy, and he is able to get into the costumes, but there would be no way he could jump or spin in them. How did this happen? He’d gained weight even though he’d been so careful!

 

Darya, the middle-aged tailor that Yuuri had been going to since moving to Russia for costumes, frowned. “Hmm, weird. I have enough to take it out, it’s no problem. I did think your measurements were smaller than normal when you came in last month...I should have stuck with your originals.”

 

Yuuri had worked hard to get smaller under the constant scrutiny of Viktor’s watchful eye, but lately Viktor hadn’t been on him as much. Not since their huge fight. Because of that, Yuuri had backed off his regiment. Too much, apparently. Yuuri’s face burned with the shame of it all. “Please, don’t let it out too much. I’ll get back there soon.” Would he even be able to fit into the original costumes if these couldn’t be done in time?

 

Darya’s frown deepened as she grabbed the gold jacket Yuuri was shrugging out of. “Not to put my nose where it doesn’t belong, but you really don’t need to lose weight. You are already smaller than all of my other male clients. Tall, but tiny waist.

 

Of course Yuuri was smaller than her other clients, he was Japanese. That was normal, but Yuuri was still big for being Japanese! “Just, please...not too much.”

 

The woman huffed unhappily, but didn’t say anything else as she hung the jacket up on a hanger. She tells him to come back in a week for another fitting and Yuuri bites his lip. Would that be enough time to drop some weight? He was pretty good about dieting, but that was fast even for him. With no other choice he nodded and put the reminder in his phone. He hadn’t planned on running to the rink due to the distance from the shop, but now he had to do something. He would have to get off the bus at different stop to compensate.

 

By the time he reaches the rink, Yuuri is already tired and, well, extremely behind schedule. Viktor frowns at him with crossed arms and doesn’t even say anything other than to take a break and eat lunch before the afternoon session. Yuuri’s face burned beneath Viktor’s gaze. Shame was the only word to describe it all. Shame that he had let himself go and gained back the weight, and shame that he had once again disappointed his husband.

 

Why couldn’t he be better?

 

All he could do was sulk in the breakroom with his protein shake untouched in front of him. Nothing he did seemed to be right anymore. Yuuri wished so badly things could just go back to the way they’d been in Hasetsu, but they never would. Life didn’t work that way.

 

“What the hell has you looking like someone kicked your puppy?”

 

Yuuri was pulled from his daze as Yuri pulled the chair across from him out forcefully and sat down. Sighing, he ignored the comment about a puppy and responded, “I didn’t fit into my costumes.”

 

Yuri raised a thin eyebrow as he slurped his protein shake through a straw obscenely loud. “Ok, so? Sounds to me like the old hag fucked up rather than you gaining weight. You look fine and you’ve been nailing all your jumps lately. Don’t let someone else’s mistake get in your head. I’m not above force feeding you if I have to, Katsudon.”

 

Yuuri’s mouth twitched and his hand tightened around his still full container. “You are drinking a protein shake, too.”

 

“Yeah, because I ate real food this morning,” he pointed out. “Did you?”

 

No. Yuuri had had another protein shake. Though, at the time it wasn’t because he was watching his weight, but rather he’d woken up late and didn’t have time for anything else.

 

Yuuri’s lack of response was enough to turn Yuri’s mood sour in an instant. “Did Viktor say something to you again? Is that what this is about?”

 

“Vitya didn’t say anything,” Yuuri fired back defensively. Well, not recently, anyway.

 

Yuri snorted in disbelief. “Bullshit. Viktor may not have said anything, but you’re afraid he will. You’re preemptively acting on something that hasn’t even happened yet.”

 

For a moment, Yuuri thought about arguing, but Yuri’s words silenced him. He was acting on something that hadn’t even happened yet. Of course he was, because that’s how he tended to always live his life. Always expecting the worst, always worrying. But, he had to worry. If he didn’t worry, things could easily get out of hand and it would just be worse.

 

“Whatever,” Yuri scoffed, ready to drop the subject, “Just drink your damn shake before I shove it down your throat. All of it.”

 

Complying without question, Yuuri reached for his cup and started to throw the shake down his under the teen’s scrutiny. Thankfully, Yuri turned the conversation to his usual moaning and complaining about other skaters at the rink. One unfortunate young kid had been trying to spin in the lutz corner and had unleashed Yuri’s wrath upon him. At one point, Yuri actually pulled a smile from Yuuri and it had him forgetting all his problems. For a moment. Until Viktor came into the breakroom sporting a dejected frown. Yakov was seconds behind him.

 

“Yuuri. I would like to speak to you in my office, please,” Yakov said, arms crossed with an expressionless face.

 

Well, this couldn’t be good. Yuuri’s eyes looked to Yuri who only shrugged. This was why Yuuri always worried. Whatever Yakov could want to talk to him about couldn’t be good, especially given the look on his husband’s face. Sucking in a deep breath he nodded with a tight jaw.

 

Yakov led them through the hall to his office and closed the door behind them making Yuuri jump. His heart was pounding so hard against his chest he thought it would break right through. Taking off his fedora Yakov set it down on the desk and moved to take a seat. Yuuri couldn’t get a read from him no matter how hard he tried.

 

“Vitya and I have had a long conversation about your career here,” Yakov began with folded hands. Yuuri swallowed hard. “You have done very well for yourself since moving here to St. Petersburg, and I would hate to see all that hard work gone to waste given certain circumstances.”

 

“Um,” Yuuri cleared his throat nervously, “What circumstances?”

 

“Vitya,” Yakov replied simply. “He is distracted and unable to give you the attention you deserve, which is why I am going to become your secondary coach.”

 

Yuuri practically jumped out of his skin in surprise. What? Yakov wanted to be his coach? Why? He looked to Viktor for some sort of answer, but the older man was simply staring at the ground. How long had this conversation been going on? “I-I...I’m not sure what to say. Viktor’s agreed to this?”

 

Viktor opened his mouth to respond, but Yakov quickly cut him off. “He has.”

 

Waiting a moment, Yuuri gave Viktor a chance to provide his input, but his husband kept his lips tight with his eyes still staring down. Well, if Viktor had agreed to it, then who was he to say no? It wasn’t like it was abnormal for skaters to have more than one coach. And, well….this was sort of a relief. For over a year people had been subtling suggesting Yuuri do something about Viktor, or in Yuri’s case, not so subtly telling him to make a move. Yuuri wasn’t getting the kind of attention he used to from Viktor, and his only real saving grace was that he knew these programs so well.

 

“Well? Are you fine with this?” Yakov asked, pulling Yuuri back from his thoughts.

 

Yuuri nodded firmly. “Yes, of course. Thank you for wanting to help me.”

 

Yakov grunted. “I’ll be working with Vitya on a new training schedule for you so that I may have eyes on you on the ice. You’ve come a long way since you first debuted these programs and I think there are things we can to do to increase the difficulty. You’ll need every point you can get.”

 

“Ok,” Yuuri nodded again. Surprisingly, Viktor hadn’t suggested changing much of the program despite his increased quad arsenal. Play it safe and be consistent , he’d said.

 

“My first session with you begins now. Go down and get warmed up while I discuss things with Vitya,” Yakov instructed.

 

Lowering his head and giving Yakov a half-bow Yuuri excused himself. His heart was still beating fast over this whole ordeal. Yakov wanting to coach him and Viktor not saying a word. Despite Yakov saying Viktor had agreed to it, Yuuri knew Viktor. He knew there was something else that wasn’t being said, but he’d have to wait to confront his husband later.

 

“What did Yakov want?” Yuri asked as Yuuri stepped out onto the ice.

 

“To coach me,” Yuuri answered, still shocked that those words were coming out of his mouth.

 

Yuri scoffed. “Wow, finally. Good, now I might actually have some competition at the Olympics. How is Viktor taking being kicked to the curb?”

 

“He wasn’t kicked to the curb,” Yuuri explained. “They are both coaching me”

 

“Both coaching you? You mean saving face with the the public so that no one asks questions about why you fired your husband as your coach,” Yuri huffed.

 

Yuuri clenched his fists, but the thing was - the thing was - he couldn’t argue against Yuri’s point. “Everyone agreed to it. It’s fine. I could use an extra set of eyes, especially one that coaches you, too.”

 

“That works both ways, Katsudon,” Yuri pointed out, “Us sharing a coach. We’ll both know each other’s dark, dirty secrets and weapons.”

 

Yuuri’s mouth twitched with a small smile. “As if we’ve ever had any secrets.”

 

After warming up his jumps, spins, and running through Eros’ footwork, Yakov called him over to the barrier. Viktor was nowhere to be found, and Yuuri thought for a moment to ask where he was but thought better of it.

 

“You have all quads, yes?” Yakov began.

 

“Mm, well, my loop is inconsistent. I haven’t done it in competition, but I have my lutz now,” Yuuri explained.

 

Yakov nodded. “The lutz will go in both programs. There is no reason to be doing just the salchow and toe loop in your short. You are missing out on a lot of points.”

 

Well, Yuuri couldn’t argue against that. “Ok. I understand.”

 

“What about tanos and rippons? Can you do any?”

 

“Mm,” Yuuri started, unsure of how to really answer. “I have done them in practice for fun, but Viktor never wanted me to do them in competition.”

 

Yakov grunted with an eyeroll. “Of course he didn’t. That’s because he could never do them himself. Yura can do a tano in almost every jump but his axel. You must have one if not multiple if you expect to win. Show me what you have played with.”

 

Right. Ok. Yuuri started to skate off as he thought what he would show. He’d landed several tano toes before, so he could start with that. He’d thought about a tano triple axel since that was his most powerful jump, but had never actually done it. Moving into backwards crossovers to gain power he decided on just starting with the quad toe. Stepping forward he kicked the ice with his right pick going into the three turn before stepping down to switch feet and launching into his quad toe extending his arm overhead. Yuuri landed smoothly and then something came over him - the intense desire to impress. Stepping immediately onto his left foot out of the landing he launched into his triple axel throwing both arms up above his head. The landing wasn’t as smooth this time, his hand reaching out to catch himself but retracting at the last second as he somehow managed to hold onto his edge.

 

Yakov was clapping. He was clapping!

 

Yuuri wanted to sprint to the barrier with a smile and ask ‘I did great, right!?’ , but he had to remember this wasn’t Viktor. There would be no intimate touches or hugs. Yakov was nothing but strictly professional in that regard.  He settled instead for a lesser smile, though it didn’t lessen the feeling inside. Viktor hadn’t shown excitement over Yuuri’s skating in months (or was it years at this point?). “Was that ok?”

 

“You are doing that exact combination in your free program, no exceptions,” Yakov said firmly. “A quad tano with a rippon axel combination. Unbelievable. How long have you been able to do this and your idiotic coach never once bothered to work with this?”

 

An embarrassed heat crept up his neck. “Um, well, I never told him I could do it and he never asked.”

 

“Idiots, the both of you,” he grunted, unimpressed. “Start practicing at least your triples with tanos on your own. Let’s run through your short program. I want a stand-alone lutz and a flip-toe combination.”

 

Yuuri made note of the changes with a nod and moved into his starting position. It wasn’t a bad runthrough for his first time with the changes, though he didn’t like the entry he’d chosen for the lutz. He had managed to throw a tano into his triple toe at the end of the combination, though, which made both him and Yakov happy.

 

“Good,” Yakov praised as he handed Yuuri his water bottle. “Your lutz needs work, though. You were flat and could get called on your edge. Let’s work on a different entry to force you to the outside.”

 

The rest of the practice was focused on his jump entries and playing around with various combinations deciding what would maximize his points while playing to his strengths. Viktor hadn’t done something like this with Yuuri since their days in Hasetsu. It was desperately needed, Yuuri was realizing, as he was no longer that same skater anymore.

 

“Fire Yakov,” Yuri said to him in the locker rooms with a heavy frown as he plopped down onto the bench hard enough it shook.

 

“Huh?” Yuuri asked in confusion. Hadn’t Yuri been begging him to hire Yakov for years?

 

“He’s making you too good,” Yuri explained, yanking off a skate angrily.

 

Oh. Yuuri smirked. “Scared, Yurio?”

 

Yuri was silent for a moment before surprising Yuuri by responding, “Maybe.” Yuuri laughed making Yuri growl, “Shut up! Yakov actually brings out your real potential unlike Viktor.”

 

Yuuri knew it was a compliment, but that statement had his heart dropping. It wasn’t too long ago that people were saying Viktor was the one bringing out his true potential. That it was Viktor who made Yuuri confident in his abilities and helped him shine. How things had changed. “I just needed a new perspective is all.”

 

After an hour of strength training in the gym, Yuuri and Yuri headed to Lilia’s studio together. They worked more on stability and flexibility than stamina, which Yuuri was secretly thankful for. He was starting to feel the effects of not having eaten much for the day and he needed a good stretch. While he was working on his cool-down stretches, Yuri took Lilia aside to discuss something. Yuuri didn’t pay it much mind, enjoying the feeling of his stretches too much to bother. That was until Yuri left and Lilia approached him.

 

“Yuuri, a moment, please.”

 

Yuuri’s heart dropped as he unfolded himself from his stretch knowing that tone. The madam was angry with him over something, and he preemptively lowered his head in shame for whatever it was he had done. God, twice in one day? What now? “Yes, Madam?”

 

Her lips were drawn into a thin line and her her arms were crossed tight to her body. “I heard you’ve fallen into your old habits again.”

 

“I’m sorry?” Yuuri questioned, unsure of what she was talking about.

 

A perfectly arched eyebrow lifted. “Skipping meals or just drinking protein shakes.”

 

Yuuri’s jaw tightened. Yurio. Freaking tattle-tale. So that’s what he’d been discussing with her. “No, it was just today, I swear.”

 

“Today turns into tomorrow and tomorrow turns into a month. We’ve been through this, Yuuri,” Lilia’s tone dropped in warning.

 

And boy, had they been through this. A month ago Yuuri was almost 6 kgs lighter after Viktor had pushed him back into the season’s routine earlier than normal. The earful he had received from Lilia was worse than anything he’d ever received from Minako or even his own mother.

 

“I’m just trying to get back into shape for the season,” Yuuri had argued. “I gained a little more weight than normal this summer.”

 

“You hardly gained any weight at all,” Lilia had fired back. “I was a ballerina for most of my life and still teach them today. You don’t think I can’t smell an eating disorder kilometers away? The taste of acid will never leave my mouth completely.”

 

Lilia had given Yuuri a written and very specific meal plan to follow and had threatened to force feed him if necessary. It was a threat Yuuri was starting to believe more and more. Yuuri had followed it, mostly, but he’d gained too much back!

 

“I’m sorry, it’s just that maybe my metabolism isn’t as fast as your dancers,” Yuuri tried to argue. “I’ve gained too much back.”

 

“Why on earth do you think that?” She asked, a heavy frown developing on her face.

 

Yuuri shifted uncomfortably. “My fitting didn’t go very well today.”

 

Lilia scoffed. “I’m sure that’s because your initial fitting was when you were at an extremely unhealthy weight. Yuuri.”

 

Yuuri gasped as his jaw was forcefully yanked up and he was made to look directly at the madam’s eyes.

 

“Listen to me. I know things between you and Vitya have been rocky, but don’t you dare sacrifice your body in the process of it all. It is the only one you have and you will take care of it, do you understand me?

 

All Yuuri could do was nod, a fear he hadn’t felt for the madam in years since getting to know her.

 

Releasing her grip Lilia crossed her arms again and stuck up her nose. “I am not above using Yura as my watchdog, either.”

 

Yuuri didn’t doubt that one bit. While Yuuri was irritated that the younger man had gone off and tattled, it at least showed that he cared. It was more than Viktor seemed to do of late. “I understand.”

 

“Do you?” Lilia asked before sighing and rubbing her temple. “Go home. Eat. Keep up your strength. I will see you Thursday.”

 

Bowing his head in shame, Yuuri responded, “Yes, Madam,” before turning on his heel to grab his bag and swiftly make his escape.

 

The day had been full of so many different emotions Yuuri didn’t know what to do with them all. It had started off horribly and embarassing with his costumes and then the fear of Yakov calling him to this office, but his training session had been one of his most prideful moments in months. Yuuri had felt good and confident and accomplished. Clearly, Viktor hadn’t been fully onboard with the move, but would he feel different if he knew how Yuuri had felt after training?

 

When Yuuri finally got home, Viktor was on the couch watching television with the same dejected face he’d been wearing hours ago in Yakov’s office. “Hey,” he called out softly as he toed his shoes off.

 

“Hey,” Viktor responded harshly, eyes focused on the television.

 

Ok, well, that answered that. Yuuri sighed. What did he even say to all of this? “Are you ok with this? I mean, really?”

 

“With what, Yuuri?” Viktor asked, “The fact that you have basically fired me or something else?”

 

Yuuri’s heart thumped. “That’s not fair, Vitya. You’re still my coach! I would never fire you! Why didn’t you tell me Yakov had approached you about this? How long has this conversation been going on?”

 

“Does it matter?” Viktor threw back, “You would have agreed to it anyway.”

 

“What did you want me to say, Vitya? This caught me off guard,” Yuuri explained, because it had. Viktor and Yakov had clearly been discussing this for a while and no one had bothered to say anything to him about it until that moment where he felt pressured to just agree to everything without question.

 

“You could have said no!” Viktor snapped, finally looking at Yuuri.

 

And there it was. Hot anger flared in the base of Yuuri’s stomach. No. No, he was not going to let Viktor push this on him just as he did everything else. Not this time. “Don’t put this on me, Vitya! You were in on this decision, too!”

 

“I didn’t have a choice, you did!” Viktor argued.

 

Yuuri’s fingernails were digging so hard into his palm they were likely breaking skin. “Oh, so, what? Yakov was holding a gun to your head making you agree to this? Is that it? Why won’t you take responsibility for anything, Vitya?! You are my coach and you are supposed to be making decisions that are best for me not you!”

 

The second Yuuri had said that he knew it had been a mistake, and the look was written all over Viktor’s face. Tears started to fill Viktor’s blue eyes as his jaw tightened. “So that's it, huh? Yakov is what’s best for you, then?”

 

“What, n-no! Vitya, please, stop this,” Yuuri begged, his own heart crumbling in his chest. “You’re still my coach. You’re still my husband. I love you, so much, but we need help.

 

“Fine,” Viktor responded, voice wavering as he stood and reached for his keys behind Yuuri. “Let Yakov help you with the programs I created for you. With the programs that are about you and me.”

 

“Where are you going?” Yuuri asked, his own voice cracking.

 

“Out,” was all Viktor said before he was slamming the door behind him.

 

A tear rolled down Yuuri’s cheek as he found himself alone in their apartment. It was beginning to become a regular occurrence these days. What did he expect, though? This was a lot for Viktor to accept. He’d come around after a few days. He just needed time.

 

Refusing to cry for a more than a few minutes he pulled himself together, dug out the meal plan Lilia had given him a month prior, and shuffled through it for something to make for dinner. While he finally put a decent meal inside of himself, it had been too much for his stomach to handle. Whether it was because he’d forced too much down after not eating anything the last week or the stress from his fight from Viktor, he found himself puking up what he’d eaten not long after consuming it.

 

After everything had finished coming up he curled up next to the toilet with tears rolling down his face. Sniffling, he picked up his phone and dialed the only person he knew to call.

 

“What do you want, Katsudon, it’s getting late,” Yuri answered on the other line.

 

“Please come over,” Yuuri pleaded, barely able to keep his voice together.

 

Yuri was silent for a moment on the other line before asking, “Where’s Viktor?”

 

“I don’t know,” Yuuri answered honestly with a sniff. “Probably out drinking.”

 

“I’ll be there soon,” Yuri said, quickly hanging up after.

 

Yuri had a key from when he used to watch Makkachin during competitions and he let himself in when he arrived about 20 minutes later. Yuuri was still curled up next to the toilet, snot and tears running down his face. He was sure he made quite the picture. Yuri joined him on the floor, back propped up against the tub.

 

“Vitya wasn’t too happy about Yakov afterall,” Yuuri started, attempting to turn it into a joke as he smiled but failing miserably.

 

“Well, Viktor is an idiot,” Yuri responded. “Anyone could see this was the right move to make.”

 

Yuuri let out a laugh. “But that’s the thing, isn’t it? He knows that, and that’s what hurts so badly.”

 

Yuri sighed, running a hand through his long blonde hair. “I don’t know what to say, Katsudon, other than I’m sick and tired of seeing you cry all the time. I want you to smile and be annoying. I want to yell at you and Viktor for being completely gross in public at the rink during practice.

 

“I want that too,” Yuuri sniffed, lower lip trembling, “but more and more I feel like I will have to decide between my marriage and the ice.”

 

“That’s stupid,” Yuri argued. “You should be able to have both. You have had both.”

 

“And look how that’s turning out,” Yuuri whispered, eyes falling to the floor.

 

Yuri’s hand rested on Yuuri’s knee and his green eyes went hard. “Don’t give up. Don’t you dare fucking give up. I’ve told you once and I’ll tell you again - I’m not going to let you fucking quit on me.”

 

“I won’t quit,” Yuuri promised, “but I don’t know if I can win this war, Yurio.”

 

All he could do was just keep fighting until life forced his hand.

 

Viktor, or the ice.








Chapter Text

It is no surprise to anyone that the announcement of Yuuri’s two coaches at his first competition of the season sent shockwaves through social media. While many fans used logic that it made sense to have Yakov as a secondary coach since he trained at the same rink, others started to grab on to the fact this might mean problems between him and Viktor. After the short program, where less than half a point separated him and Yuri, it was all the press could talk about during their interviews.

 

“Yuuri, why the decision to start training with Coach Feltsman?” The first journalist asked. “Are things with Viktor not going well?”

 

“Everything with me and Viktor is fine,” Yuuri responded, the lie pouring off his tongue with fine-tuned practice. It was a phrase he’d been repeating over and over to his friends and family for months. Sometimes, he felt like he said it so much it could almost be true. “It was actually Coach Feltsman that approached me and Viktor with the offer to help coach me. I have developed a close relationship with him since training in Russia and he wanted to help me reach my full potential during the Olympic season.”

 

“So Viktor was holding you back?”

 

“No, not at all,” Yuuri quickly responded. Another lie. “We can all agree, however, that two sets of eyes are always better than one.”

 

“Yuri Plisetsky, how do you feel about sharing the same coach with Katsuki - your biggest rival?” another asked.

 

“I don’t feel anything,” Yuri responded with his usual scowl. “Absolutely nothing has changed. We’ve always trained together and shared the same ice, except now Yakov yells at both of us instead of just me. If anything, all our competitors better start shaking in their skates. The two of us are going to be unstoppable.”

 

“Yuuri Katsuki, we saw some elements we haven’t seen from you before today, namely your jumps. Who do you credit for that? Coach Feltsman or Viktor?”

 

Yuuri tried his best to keep his composure. No one else ever asked these sorts of questions with skaters that had multiple coaches. The media was trying to start drama that wasn’t there. Well, okay, it was there, but they didn’t need to know that. “I credit both. My coaches work together, not independently. There is no competition between them. Both are simply trying to help me be the best that I can be during this Olympic season. Viktor, of course, is the reason for my success with so many quads, but Coach Feltsman is helping me elevate them. It’s as simple as that.”

 

“Yuri Plisetsky, do you view Yuuri as a threat?”

 

Yuri groaned, clearly done with this interview. “It’s the first competition of the season. Why are we asking stupid shit like this? You let me and Yuuri worry about who wins silver and gold and let everyone else fight over who is getting bronze. The end, thanks.”

 

Both men walked away from the media once the questions were done. The door had barely closed behind them before Yuri was intercepted by Yakov, who immediately began to tear into him with an earful about his rude responses and cursing. Yuuri paused a respectable distance away, willing to wait or try to distract Yakov for Yuri, but the blonde rolled his eyes over Yakov’s head and waved him on. Yakov would be at it a while - he looked pretty wound up this time.

 

He probably should feel bad or a little embarrassed by Yuri’s rudeness during the interview, but... Honestly, he was just grateful the other skater had done what he hadn’t had the guts to and had gotten them out of there. This was just a Challenger series event - a season warmup - and yet there was already so much controversy and attention drawn to it. He didn’t want to even think about what the scrutiny and pressure would be like when they were even closer to the Olympics…

 

Yuuri took the proffered tissue from Viktor and blew his nose. He tried to get a read on his husband’s face. Viktor closed his expressions off these days and would hide his thoughts from Yuuri where he used to never hide a thing. What did Viktor think of the interview? What had he thought of all those questions pushing Yuuri to say who was the better coach? He couldn’t tell at all. It hurt just as badly as the fact they had barely touched each other in months.

 

“Did I do good?” Yuuri asked, trying to lighten the mood.

 

“You saw your score. You know you did well,” Viktor answered curtly.

 

Yuuri flinched at the harshness of it. “My score doesn’t matter if I didn’t make you happy, Vitya.”

 

Sighing, Viktor reached out a hand and laid it gently on Yuuri’s head. “Of course you made me happy, Yuuri. You skated beautifully.”

 

Where were the comments about his Eros? About how sexy he danced and wooed Viktor? The whistles and heated stares and accusations of seduction? All of it was just gone. Still, beggars couldn’t be choosers and he’d take whatever compliments he could get from Viktor. “Okay. I’m glad. I want you to be happy with my skating.”

 

Viktor softened a bit and smiled. “Just be careful not to peak too soon. Leave something to impress me with at the Olympics, okay?”

 

Nodding, Yuuri allowed himself to relax and accept this moment for what it was. Sure, it was void of the large smiles, hugs, kisses, and excitement, but this was something and right now to Yuuri that was everything. “I’ll just change and shower back at the hotel,” he said hopefully. Praying that maybe he could entice Viktor to shower with him and help massage his sore muscles like he used to do every competition.

 

Viktor turned down the request. Even when Yuuri tried to channel a little Eros into the asking, his husband turned him down. He didn’t have any confidence left to try and change Viktor’s mind, and so Yuuri was left feeling the beat of the hot water on his skin alone.

 

Sighing heavily, Yuuri ran a hand through his hair wishing it were Viktor’s fingers. He missed it. He missed being touched and loved by the first - and only - person who had ever held his heart. It felt like forever since he’d last been able to wrap himself in the comforting cradle of Viktor’s arms and feel loved. Even today, when Viktor touched him, it had felt so distant. Yuuri was trying to be patient, trying to support Viktor as he worked through what was troubling him, but some days he wished it could be like it used to be... That touch that once set him free more and more felt like it was becoming a noose, uncomfortably tightening around him.

 

When Yuuri finally surfaced from his long shower, too caught up in his thoughts to even notice the water going cold, Viktor’s smile and softness had vanished and the dejected look returned. His once bright eyes looked lifeless as they stared at his phone. Yuuri could only guess that articles from the day had started to surface. There was no telling what sort of things people were saying - none of it the truth. It was why Yuuri kept his phone off during competitions, now more than ever. “Everything okay?”

 

“It’s fine,” Viktor mumbled, barely audible.

 

Clearly it wasn’t. Yuuri wanted to tell him not to pay attention to the articles and not to believe anything that was said, but he also knew it would end up in a fight. Funny, how it used to be the other way around. How it was always Viktor prying the phone from Yuuri’s hand and offering comforting and encouraging words. Had it felt this burdensome to Viktor at the time?

 

“What do you want to do for dinner?” Yuuri asked, trying to get Viktor’s mind off whatever he was looking at.

 

“I’m not hungry,” Viktor muttered, still not looking away from his phone.

 

Yuuri’s jaw tightened and he had to count to ten in his head. “Vitya, you have to eat. We can order room service?”

 

“I said I’m not hungry,” Viktor snapped, finally looking up from his phone. Immediately, his eyes widened and his shoulders slumped. “Yuuri… Sorry. I’m just really not hungry.”

 

Don’t say anything. Just don’t. Don’t start it because you won’t like how it’ll end. Yuuri forced a nod. “Sure. Okay.” Whether Viktor wanted to eat or not, Yuuri needed to. Even though he still thought his costumes were a little too snug for comfort, he had to have the strength to compete in the long program. Reaching for his phone and powering it on, he ignored the hundreds of notifications and pulled up his chat with Yuri.

 

Me: You wanna go out?

 

Yuri responded almost immediately.

 

Yurio: Fuck yes Yakov is driving me crazy I s2g sometimes I’m convinced he and Lilia are actually a couple again

 

Yuuri smiled at that, because it was true. While they still argued - especially over their students - Lilia and Yakov had seemed to make peace with their past. He wasn’t surprised Yakov was finding something to argue with Lilia about, especially since she’d been put in charge of his students while he was here in Canada.

 

Yuuri: Give me 10 to get changed and I’ll meet you in the lobby

 

Yurio: k. Old man coming?

 

Yuuri: No….

 

The screen showed Yuri typing a response for a few seconds but then it stopped. Yuuri was sure the younger man was trying to think of something to say with no luck. Relatable. Yuuri didn’t know what to say to it either. “I’m going to grab a bite with Yurio if that’s okay?”

 

“You don’t need to ask my permission, Yuuri,” Viktor answered, clearly trying to bite back his annoyance after his previous snap.

 

“You’re right, I don’t,” Yuuri agreed, “but I like to get it anyway because we are partners. We are supposed to make choices together. That’s how it works.” Viktor didn’t respond to that and Yuuri didn’t care. He’d made his point. Angrily tearing through his luggage for a soft shirt and sweatpants, he got dressed and headed out of the room without another word.

 

When he got to the lobby, it wasn’t just Yuri waiting for him but an over excited Mila as well.

 

Yuri looked thoroughly annoyed. “Sorry. The old hag wanted to tag along.”

 

“You say that like you don’t want me here, Yura!” Mila teased with a giggle. “But, in all seriousness, is it alright, Yuuri?”

 

Yuuri smiled and nodded. “Sure.”

 

Mila would actually be a welcome distraction. If it had been just him and Yuri, the conversation would inevitably turn to Viktor and Yuuri just didn’t want to talk about him. Mila wasn’t stupid, though. Yuuri had seen the looks of pity she’d give him in the breakroom or on the ice. She knew. Everyone knew, they just weren’t as vocal about it as Yuri was. Mila would try to make Yuuri smile at least.

 

Even though they were in Canada, they found a highly recommended Korean restaurant to eat at not too far from the hotel. Yuuri mostly stayed silent while he listened to Mila and Yuri bicker. It was actually enjoyable to hear other people fight, especially knowing it wasn’t serious. He missed these moments. Especially when they involved Viktor joining Mila in annoying Yuri.

 

With Yuri and Mila currently locked in a heated argument, Yuuri took a moment to actually go through his phone for the first time. Most of his messages were congratulations for his performance and well wishes in his long program. Several of them, however, were about Viktor.

 

Phichit: Yo, Yuuri, wtf??

Phichit: I’m your bff forever and you didn’t tell me Yakov was coaching you now?

Phichit: is Viktor ok?

Phichit: Hell are YOU OK?

 

Mari: So are things really getting that bad?

Mari: Mom and Dad are clueless, but I see what this could mean

Mari: I’m worried about you little bro….really, how are things?

 

Minako: YUURI!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Minako: WHY IS YAKOV COACHING YOU NOW?!

Minako: WHAT’S WRONG WITH VIKTOR?

 

Yuuri sighed, not even knowing where to start with all of this. No, he hadn’t told anyone outside of their rink because he knew it would get this sort of reaction. He didn’t need these distractions before the season. Hell, he didn’t need them now either. With Mila and Yuri still in their own conversation, he started with Phichit.

 

Me: I know how you are, Phi...you have a big mouth. That’s why I didn’t say anything. It’s also not a big deal. Viktor is still my coach. Yakov is just helping take the load off so he can focus on recovery.

 

Phichit: ….ok fair. I do have a big mouth.

Phichit: so things are ok?

 

Yuuri swallowed.

 

Me: yeah

 

He switched to Mari’s text. She and Minako likely wouldn’t respond for a while with the time difference, unlike Phichit who had already sent him three new texts. Minako had likely stayed up late at the bar and Mari would be too busy getting the day at the onsen started.

 

Me: It’s not like that...I mean yeah, things have been sort of bumpy, but it’s fine. I’m handling it.

 

And to Minako.

 

Me: Viktor’s fine….Yakov is just helping. Olympic season and all.

 

With the main concerns addressed, he did something he knew he’d regret. He googled his and Viktor’s names and scrolled through the article headlines.

 

TROUBLE IN WINTER WONDERLAND FOR THE NIKIFOROV-KATSUKIS?

 

WORLD CHAMPION FIGURE SKATER YUURI KATSUKI-NIKIFOROV ANNOUNCES NEW COACHING LINEUP

 

IS VIKTUURI AT RISK? VIKTOR NO LONGER NUMBER 1 IN THE RELATIONSHIP?

 

KATSUKI-NIKIFOROV DAZZLES IN SHORT AT THE AUTUMN CLASSIC

 

Wow, great, out of all the articles only one was actually about his skating. No wonder Viktor had been so upset. It upset Yuuri just as much. None of this was supposed to be about coaching or their personal life, it was just supposed to be about what he did out on the ice.

 

“....Yuuri?”

 

“Hm?” Yuuri responded out of habit, not even realizing his name had been called several times before he heard it.

 

Yuri slapped the phone out of his hand. “I swear to god if you are looking at articles I’m going to break the screen on your fucking phone.”

 

To Yuri’s surprise, Yuuri actually slid the phone his direction. “Take it. Please. For the rest of the competition.” The only people Yuuri wanted to talk to right now were right here around him.

 

Yuri looked at the phone for a moment, contemplating a response, but in the end simply pocketed it with a nod.

 

Mila was the one who broke the awkward silence, doing her best to remain an unbiased but comforting friend. “You know we’re here for you, no matter what happens. On the ice or off it. If you ever need someone to talk to that isn’t an angry kitty you just let a girl know.”

 

While Yuri scoffed, Yuuri smiled, truly grateful for someone like Mila being in his life. “ Spasibo. I appreciate it, really.”

 

He must have taken that positive energy into his long program, because after a fall by Yuri in his own program, Yuuri won the competition easily. Unfortunately the good feeling didn’t last much beyond that.

 

Canada was the first competition of the season - not even a Grand Prix assignment - and already he felt exhausted from the extra speculation. He had a hard time smiling for the photos on the podium, the gold medal heavy around his neck, the victory as hollow as Viktor’s congratulations. The interview afterwards was much like the first, focusing more on his coaching decisions than his performance, only this time there was no Yuri to rescue him. And when he powered his phone back on later, anticipating more speculation about Yakov’s appointment, he found that the majority of the fans had already moved on to something Yuuri wanted them to discuss even less: how tight the new Yuuri on Ice costume looked. Even though they were all thirsty comments about his ass, Yuuri couldn’t see it for any more than the fact he still hadn’t managed to lose the right amount of weight.

 

By the time Cup of China came around, Yuuri had managed to lose two kilograms and his costumes fit better. He’d tried them on before travelling and was relieved by what he saw in the mirror. The dieting he’d done had been partly desperation after Canada and partly something to throw himself into instead of arguments with Viktor. They weren’t fighting anymore, but what replaced it was somehow worse. More distant. Yuuri was pretty sure the fighting had been better, because at least then they ended up accidentally saying the things they were bottling up inside, but he just... didn’t have the energy for that anymore. Nor did Viktor. They’d both fallen into a mundane routine and more nights than not Viktor didn’t even make it to the bed. Yuuri was almost more used to an empty bed now than otherwise.

 

At the first official practice for the Cup of China, Yakov took the lead at the barrier. Viktor didn’t even say anything, simply holding the Makkachin tissue holder and Yuuri’s guards. It’s probably better that way, Yuuri thought. Viktor had already given up. In one of their many arguments since the beginning of the season, Viktor had stated he felt like nothing more than a yard ornament on the sideline. Well, now he was acting like one too.

 

Otabek, Yuuri’s biggest challenge for the competition, managed to catch him for a moment on the ice. “Yura asked that I look out for you this weekend. I didn’t really know what he meant, but now I think I do.”

Yuuri blinked in surprise. Otabek had never really talked to him before. The man was either glued to Yuri’s side if he was around or rode solo and ignored all other competitors. “Um, sorry?”

 

“You seem different,” Otabek tried to explain, “like you aren’t really here. I don’t know how to explain it, I guess.”

 

First Lilia and now Otabek. Geez, next thing Yuuri knew Yuri was going to have the entire world trying to look out for him. At least he cares. Yuuri agreed with Otabek however. “Yeah, well, it’s a little hard to be sexy when your own husband hasn’t touched you in months.”

 

He sucked in a sharp breath as he realized what he’d just said. “Shit… Otabek, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that.” Please don’t go telling anyone!

 

Otabek frowned and his dark eyes turned sympathetic. “It’s okay to say how you feel, you know? Maybe you should tell Viktor what you just told me.”

 

Yeah, right. That would go over well. “It’s.. .complicated.”

 

“Isn’t it always?” Otabek raised an eyebrow. “Well, I’m here if you need an ear. And don’t worry - I won’t tell anyone. It’s none of their business anyway.”

 

With a relieved sigh, Yuuri smiled. “Spasibo , Otabek. I appreciate it, even if Yurio can’t mind his own business.”

 

Otabek mirrored his smile. “He may be taller and older, but some things about Yura certainly never change.”

 

Wasn’t that the truth? “Good luck tomorrow.”

 

“Davai, ” Otabek responded before skating off with a thumbs up.

 

Practice went fine, but just as Otabek had said, something was missing. Yuuri knew what it was. Emotion. When he skated, he just felt empty inside and it was obviously showing to the people around him, including Yakov.

 

“I hope you plan on doing more than going through the motions tomorrow,” he huffed as Yuuri stepped off the ice.

 

Going through the motions was the only thing that kept Yuuri going these days. The second he put emotion into something it became a reality he didn’t want to live. Yuuri didn’t answer Yakov’s question, just taking the comment for what it was.

 

Yuuri didn’t put emotion into his performance and he got the worst PCS score probably in his entire Senior career. Not only was that half of his score abysmal, but he’d popped his lutz. After the short, Yuuri was sitting in fourth. Fourth!

 

“I don’t think I need to tell you what went wrong,” Yakov sighed as the score was shown in the kiss-and-cry.

 

“I’ll make it up in the free,” Yuuri answered simply, murmuring into the plush dog he’d picked up from the ice. It was the only comforting presence he felt.

 

“You looked dead out there,” Viktor added.

 

Yuuri squeezed the hell out of the plush in his arms in anger.

 

He looked dead because he felt dead. How could Viktor sit there and say such a thing when he was partly to blame? At least now Yuuri didn’t have to take part in the top three press conference. Less questions about his abysmal performance. He was still interviewed as he stepped away from the kiss-and-cry, but he made no excuses for himself. It was a bad performance. That was that.

 

In the locker rooms, he felt a pair of eyes on his back drilling into him. When he finally looked over his shoulder, it was none other than Kenjirou looking at him with sad brown eyes. It looked like he was about to cry. Why? He was currently in second behind Otabek.

 

“Yuuri-senpai,” he started, voice small, “whatever is wrong, it’ll be ok! You’re strong! I know it! You’ll come back and win!”

 

Oh, Kenjirou. Only he could be upset that he was placed above his childhood hero. It was still, to this day, strange for Yuuri to think he was anyone’s hero. He managed to draw out a smile for him as he said, “Don’t worry about me, Minami-kun. You did great today!”

 

Kenjirou brightened a bit at the compliment, but that look of concern remained. “Thank you, Yuuri-senpai! I just… It is my dream to go to the Olympics with you! So, please, let’s hold our flag together on the ice!”

 

Taking a few steps forward, Yuuri got close enough to put a hand on Kenjirou’s shoulder. “I look forward to it.”

 

Yuuri breaks the world record during his free skate. It’s not Viktor that he thinks about during his program, but his family and friends who have been there and supported him. The 4T(tano)+3A(rippon) combination he had left out at the Autumn Classic is there and he gets almost perfect GOE scores. The fans go wild for it and it’s all the articles and fans can talk about. Viktor and Yuuri kiss for the camera, but his husband’s lips feel cold and Yuuri can still taste the lingering vodka on them from the night before.

 

Before NHK, Yuuri lost another two kilograms. He ran and worked out more than he ever has because he couldn’t stand going home either to be alone or to a drunken Viktor. It was the only distraction that he had other than hanging out with Yurio. His body, however, couldn’t keep up with what he was asking of it. During practice after the short program, he twisted his ankle.

 

“I’ll tell the officials you are pulling out,” Yakov said with a sigh as the onsite doctor tended to him.

 

“No!” Yuuri objected quickly, reaching out a hand. “Please, Coach, I can do it. I’ll tape it up and change the jumps.”

 

“Katsuki-san, I really don’t recommend it,” the doctor said in Japanese, but Yuuri ignored him.

 

“Yuuri, it’s an Olympic season. Rest and come back strong,” Viktor chimed in.

 

Yuuri clenched his jaw. Rich, coming from him. Where had that Viktor been when it was his own injury? “I’ve skated through worse. I need to see this through.” Plus, he had a commanding lead. Even if he ended up falling and downgraded a few jumps he could still win this.

 

Yakov let out another sigh, this one far more exasperated. “Another stubborn student. I don’t know why I attract them. Take the rest of the day to ice and elevate it. We’ll reevaluate it again in the morning.”

 

With a nod, Yuuri accepted that compromise. Viktor was actually surprisingly attentive, giving Yuuri a body to lean up against and helping him get settled back in the hotel bed. He got him ice and propped the ankle up on several pillows, asking if Yuuri needed anything. Was this what was needed to repair their relationship? Yuuri getting hurt? Maybe he should pull out of the competition after all.

 

Except that when Viktor thought Yuuri was asleep, he pulled out the bottle and Yuuri realized he likely just blamed himself and that was the only reason he had paid Yuuri so much attention. It was all about Viktor, wasn’t it?

 

The next morning his ankle had swollen to the size of a balloon.

 

He taped it up tightly before Yakov came in and assured him that he could skate. Yakov clearly didn’t believe him, but he threw his hands up in defeat and muttered unhappily in Russian. Yuuri only did a few doubles in his warm up, doing his best not to aggravate his ankle, but it already hurt. Bad. It was by pure power of will that he made it through his entire free program. He fell once, touched down twice, and stepped out once. After he hit his final pose, he couldn’t help but start crying from the pain.

 

Somehow, he still managed to win gold despite it all since there was no real competition. Even with his fall and step outs, he still had more quads than any other competitor. He’s in sneakers on crutches on the podium, and it’s the worst gold Yuuri has ever gotten.

 

Paradoxically, the reporters were almost easier to handle while he was in pain. Even though Yakov already told him to sit out the GPF, he remained neutral in the interviews. He’d go back to Russia, take a few days off, and they’d reevaluate his injury closer to the Final.

 

After he was finished the interviews, he found a quiet spot and turned his phone on. Once more, it has blown up with concerned notifications.

 

Mari: Mom and Dad are worried...how are you?

 

Me: It hurts a lot, but if I rest it for a few days and let the swelling go down I should be able to still compete in the Final.

 

Since he’s in Japan, Mari responds to him almost immediately.

 

Mari: Stop lying to me kiddo…and the question wasn’t just about your ankle.

 

Yuuri sighed.

 

Me: I said I’m handling it.

 

Mari: are you??

 

Like with most other things in his life, Yuuri avoided the question and left the text unanswered.

 

The swelling did go down rather quickly, but the pain was still present with a week before the Final. Yakov banned him from doing anything more than a double until two days before they left and even then it’s just triples.

 

“You should pull out,” Yuri told him after practice, watching Yuuri struggle to undo the mounds of tape he’d put on his ankle. “And this is me saying this, Katsudon. The Grand Prix Final is nothing compared to the Olympics.”

 

“It’s fine,” Yuuri argued. “I’ll have more than a month to rest before National’s.”

 

“A month isn’t enough for a broken ankle,” he huffed. “I’ll never forgive your stupid ass if you don’t go to the Olympics.”

 

“It’s just sprained, not broken,” Yuuri countered, finally able to remove his boot. “I’m adjusting my program to compensate.”

 

“Why even bother then? Just sit it out.”

 

Yuuri bothered because the world was watching. Every fan and every journalist still wary about his coaching decision and still whispering about him and Viktor. The fans had noticed how Viktor had gone almost completely silent on social media, how there hadn’t been photos of them together outside of a competition since the season began. People weren’t stupid.

 

At the end of the Grand Prix Final, it’s a silver around his neck and Yuuri somehow felt relieved by that. With a loss under his belt, it was like the pressure had been lifted off his shoulders. The only annoying thing was everyone still blamed his ankle instead of giving Yuri the credit he deserved for putting on two stunning performances.

 

Yuri blew up about it at the press conference with a pointed, “I would have beaten Yuuri even with a fully healed ankle! Just wait until the Olympics where I prove my point!” Afterwards, Yuri pulled Yuuri aside and jammed a finger in his face. “Get. Better.”

 

It was the only thing that made Yuuri smile that week.

 

“Two weeks off. No ice time, and I better not hear from Lilia that you are at the studio either,” Yakov ordered Yuuri after all interviews were done. Already he had informed everyone that his exhibition would be jump free.

 

Yuuri did his best to ensure all his concerned Japanese fans present at the competition that he would be well rested and ready to win gold at National’s. The hotel room was full of flowers, cards, and stuffed animals all wishing Yuuri to get well soon.

 

“Wow, I didn’t have nearly this many gifts when I got hurt,” Viktor laughed as they unloaded their luggage from the rink.

 

Wow, so even this was a competition now too? “You had twice this, Vitya; you just didn’t notice with everything going on. Why does it even matter?”

 

Viktor sighed as he reached out to touch a bouquet of flowers. “I suppose it doesn’t.”

 

Yuuri plopped down onto the pillow with an exhausted sigh, the ibuprofen wearing off from the day. “Vitya… Please just stay with me tonight? Can we get room service and just enjoy each other’s company? Please…?”

 

Viktor, too, looked too exhausted to argue. “Okay. You’ll order for us?”

 

Smiling, he nodded and turned on his side to find the menu from the nightstand. They chatted about the competition and it’s the most they’d actually spoken to each other in as long as Yuuri can remember. Viktor even asked about Yuuri’s family. Minako had been the only one who could get time to come to the competition and even she had to leave with just a quick hug.

 

The familiarity of it all gave Yuuri a false sense of security. Reality only started to sink back in when, after getting into bed, Viktor only kissed his cheek. Of course. He hadn’t won gold and Viktor only kissed gold.

 

Viktor’s arms around Yuuri’s waist that night felt like a ghost.

Chapter Text

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...

Chapter Text

Yuuri woke up to a steady beeping and sterile white walls. He was dressed in a hospital gown and his arms were connected to IVs and monitors. Several of the wires were connected to chest as well and there was a mask over his mouth and nose helping him breathe.

 

Somehow, Yuuri didn’t feel surprised at all to find himself here and he let his head fall back against the pillow in silent acceptance. What had happened? He hadn’t been feeling well, that much was obvious, but he thought it had been exhaustion. Was he sick? All he could remember was skating and then falling and his heart. His heart. 

 

“Yuuri? Are you awake? Oh my god!”

 

Turning his head towards the voice his eyes went wide as Mari jumped out of a chair to approach the side of his bed, tears in her eyes. Almost her entire face was red and puffy from crying. Pulling down the mask he gave her a questioning look. “Mari? What are you doing here?” His voice was surprisingly hoarse. 

 

“You are in the hospital , Yuuri,” she sniffed angrily. “Why wouldn’t I be here?”

 

“Where’s Vitya?” The words leave his mouth without thinking and the change in Mari’s expression was grandiose.

 

“Fuck Viktor,” Mari spat, hands tightening in the blankets around Yuuri. “This is all his fault! He did this to you!”

 

Did what? “Mari, what happened? I don’t remember.”

 

“You had a heart attack!” Mari shouted, quickly covering her mouth to try and keep herself under control. Her hand was shaking and the tears were falling fast and hard. “T-the doctor said your whole body has been just shutting down for a while and there were obvious signs of an eating disorder. You were putting so much stress on an already broken body by skating and your heart just gave in. You could have died, Yuuri!”

 

Yuuri’s heart gave a hard thump and his hand grasped at his chest. His breaths started hitching and he had to pull the mask back up before he could go into full panic mode, the beeping on the monitor growing faster. Heart attack. No. Only old people got heart attacks. He was young, healthy, in shape. Except you aren’t healthy. 

 

“Yuuri? What’s wrong? Do I need to get a nurse?” Mari questioned, her hand reaching out for Yuuri’s forearm in worry.

 

Grabbing her back, Yuuri shook his head and used her as an anchor. He just needed to breathe. Breathe. 

 

“I’m finding someone,” she decided, letting go of Yuuri and rushing out of the room. 

 

It was too much. It was all too much and he couldn’t breathe and - 

 

“That’s it, Katsuki-san, deep breaths.”

 

He gasped, fogging up the mask around his mouth and there was a sudden calm. His heartbeat slowed and the pain started to subside. 

 

“There you go,” the nurse smiled comfortingly. “I’m Nurse Akari. Are you in pain?”

 

Lowering the mask, Yuuri gave a nod. “It-it’s not bad now, but my chest aches.”

 

Akari hummed. “That’s normal for the next few days. I know it’s very scary after what happened, but try not to panic too much when you start to feel the pain, okay? Deep breaths and it should pass quickly. We’re also prescribing you some medication that should help regulate that.”

 

“But it can happen again, can’t it?” Mari asked worriedly. “Another heart attack?”

 

Nodding, the nurse started to press a few buttons on the heart monitor and write on a clipboard. “Once you’ve had a heart attack, you are at greater risk for another one. The medication should help ease and prevent pain and we’ll get your brother into a cardiac rehabilitation program closer to your home.” She smiled softly at Yuuri. “You’re an athlete, which is great news for future prevention, but we have some work to do on getting your body back to full health. Proper nutrition is just as important as exercise.”

 

He could still skate though, right? Right?

 

“So what are the next steps?” Mari asked before Yuuri could bring up skating.

 

“We’ll keep him here for a few days for observation. While here, Katsuki-san will need to talk to a nutrition specialist and a therapist regarding his eating disorder.”

 

“I don’t have -” he started, but Mari shot him a glare as cold as ice.

 

“Uh huh,” Akari smiled sympathetically. “Acceptance is part of the process, Katsuki-san. And speaking of nutrition, I’ll have some lunch brought to you shortly. I expect you to eat it. All of it.”

 

Yuuri had a feeling if he didn’t do it willingly, Mari would force feed it down his throat. So he just nodded. Akari switched the oxygen mask for a nose tube now that he was awake and put in an order for his food. When the food did come, it was soup, rice, and a small container of pills.

 

Mari watched him eat from the corner of the room while she spoke to their parents. Even though he couldn’t hear his parents on the other end of the line, he knew exactly when it was they asked to speak with him and his hand tightened around the spoon. 

 

“He’s with the nurse right now,” Mari answered, covering for him.

 

Thank you, Yuuri breathed, completely unprepared to face his parents. 

 

Just as Yuuri set the tray aside there was a knock on the door. Both Yuuri and Mari looked up to see Yakov in the doorway waiting for permission to enter. Pushing herself to her feet, Mari walked over and exchanged whispers with Yakov that Yuuri could not hear. She glanced back at Yuuri before stepping out of the room.

 

Yakov looked like he hadn’t slept in weeks. There were heavy bags under his eyes and what was left of his hair was all out of place. He lacked his usual fedora and his clothes were rumpled. He looked much like how Yuuri felt. Clearing his throat, he asked, “How are you feeling?”

 

“Tired,” Yuuri responded, voice barely above a whisper. “Tired" - and broken - "and my chest hurts.” That, he reckoned, wouldn’t go away anytime soon. Heart attack aside. “I don’t know how I’m going to manage at Pyeongchang, but I’ll figure it out.”

 

Yakov’s mouth opened and closed. His expression changed in a way that had Yuuri realizing what the man was about to say and no. No, no, no. Don’t say it, he wanted to beg. Don’t say it, don’t, please. It couldn’t be true, this couldn’t be happening - 

 

“Yusha, you aren’t going to the Olympics,” Yakov said, his voice starting to crack. 

 

Yuuri could have sworn the heart monitor flat lined in that moment because whatever was left of his heart was now gone.

 

Of course he wasn’t going to the Olympics. He’d had a heart attack and was now at risk of permanent damage if he wasn’t careful. He knew he wasn’t going; no way would Japan send him now. And yet he’d had to open his mouth, had to make Yakov say it. Somehow, even knowing what was coming, hearing those words come from Yakov’s mouth destroyed his entire world.

 

The sob that left his lips sounded inhuman. 

 

“I’m so sorry, Yusha,” Yakov apologized, choking on his words. “This is so much my fault. I could have prevented all of this and yet I turned a blind eye because I didn’t want it to be true. My lack of action could have ended up killing both of you, and I will never forgive myself for this.”

 

Skating was all Yuuri had left. Skating was the only thing he was still clinging to in life and now it was gone. Viktor had taken his love, his heart, and now his life. This was Yuuri’s only chance at the Olympics after self-destructing the last time. Viktor had taken everything from him. Tears spilling down his cheeks, Yuuri reached for the gold ring around his finger. 

 

It slid off effortlessly.

 

Yakov closed his eyes and sighed before nodding and extending his hand to take the ring from Yuuri. “I know a very good lawyer. Discreet.”

 

“Does it even matter?” Yuuri sobbed, letting the ring fall into Yakov’s palm. “Everyone will know. Everyone already does.”

 

“He can help manage it all,” Yakov explained. “Media included. You won't have to speak with anyone. He’ll handle everything.”

 

Letting out another loud sob, Yuuri hid his face behind his hands. Viktor had succeeded in physically breaking his heart. “We were supposed to be together forever. The ultimate power couple.”

 

“We are all the ultimate power couple when we first marry,” Yakov said sadly. His eyes were starting to water. “Lia and I thought we were at the top of the world and that no one could ever tear us apart. Nothing could stop us. I loved her so fiercely and she loved me.

 

“We can never predict how life will change us, nor do we often want to. I would have never wanted to know that in the end we would not work out, because I would have wanted to still enjoy those golden moments that we shared. And you and Vitya had many golden moments. Don’t let the events of today or the last year destroy the memories of the past. At the time, they were exactly what you wanted.”

 

“When does it stop hurting?” Yuuri asked through shuddered breaths. 

 

“When you allow yourself to start healing,” Yakov answered. “I know that you are hurting, Yusha. I have felt this same pain myself. I know that it feels like it will never go away, but time heals all wounds. I also know not being able to go to the Olympics will be a pain you continue to feel the rest of your life, but you aren’t done. There is still so much in you left to give to the ice. Stay here in Japan and see your family. Take time to heal, but don’t give up. Not yet.”

 

How could Yakov ask this of him? How could anyone ask him to ever put on a pair of skates again? Viktor had been why he pursued it as a career.  Viktor had been why he’d continued to skate when he’d been ready to give up before. Viktor had been why he was able to come so far. Viktor had been the reason for it all - and now he was gone. Skate again, without Viktor? “I don’t know if I can.”

 

“Don’t think about it now,” Yakov instructed sympathetically. “Don’t think about it in the next few days or weeks, or maybe even months. But ultimately, you fell in love with ice skating before Vitya, and you can continue to love it without him. You just have to find the strength within yourself.”

 

How? Yuuri didn’t see how that could ever be possible.

 

Yakov placed a gentle hand on his shoulder. “Get well, Yusha. In mind, body, and spirit. Myself and Lia are here for you. Whatever you need.”

 

Yuuri nodded through his tears. “Will you handle things? Between Vitya and I?”

 

He nodded. “I’ll make a phone call here shortly. Divorce in Russia is relatively quick and painless given how common it is in our country. You could be free of his name in as soon as 30 days.”

 

Closing his eyes, Yuuri nodded. “Spasibo, Yakov. For everything.”

 

“I just wish I had done more,” Yakov said sadly. “I’ll keep in touch. Until then, I know your family will take very good care of you.” With one finally squeeze of his shoulder, Yakov bowed out and took his leave.

 

Minako visited a few hours later, a complete wreck. Like Yakov, she placed the blame heavily on herself for allowing Yuuri to compete despite all the warning signs.

 

“I promised your parents I would take care of you and I didn’t,” Minako cried. “I failed you. All of you.”

 

“You didn’t fail anyone, Minako-sensei,” Yuuri argued. “I was the one that wanted to skate so badly. I don’t regret going out onto the ice.”

 

“How can you say that?” Minako asked, voice cracking as she put a hand to her mouth. “You almost died, Yuuri.”

 

“I know,” Yuuri acknowledged, “and I’m so sorry to worry you all. But… if it hadn’t come to this - if I hadn’t almost lost my life out there - then I would have continued to let Viktor suck the life out of me until I wasted away. I wish it hadn’t happened like this, but… it had to happen.”

 

Sleep was impossible in a hospital, Yuuri found out. Every few hours, a nurse came in and checked his vitals. Made sure he was still alive. It was annoying and frustrating and all Yuuri wanted to do was sleep long enough to escape this world for even a moment. 

 

The next morning when Mari visited him again, he had no strength to fight against her when she spotted the lack of ring on his finger.

 

“So,” she started with a frown, “it’s officially over?”

 

Yuuri shook his head sadly. “It was over a long time ago.”

 

“Mom and Dad aren’t going to understand,” Mari sighed. “They already don’t. They love Viktor.”

 

“Yeah, well, I loved him too,” Yuuri fired back in agitation from the lack of sleep. “Things change.”

 

She hummed tiredly, rubbing at her forehead. “Well, there’s someone special here to see you.”

 

Yuuri wondered who other than his parents it could actually be and then entered Yuri. The Russian was dressed in a red hoodie and black pants, hood pulled up on his jacket and hands shoved in his pockets. His hair was a long tangled mess and there were bags under his green eyes. 

 

“Hey Katsudon,” Yuri forced a smile, voice cracking. He tried to keep his composure, tried to keep himself poised, and then he broke and he was lunging towards Yuuri and wrapping his arms around him tightly. “Fuck, fuck, fuck! I was so scared! Lilia took my phone and then at the press conference I was asked if I’d heard you were in critical condition and I lost my fucking shit. I ended up flipping the fucking table trying to get out of that press conference. I couldn’t get a flight out for hours and I kept thinking you’d die and I’d never see your stupid face again and” - he hiccupped - “Fuck!”

 

Yuuri clung to Yuri’s back, letting himself sink into the warmth as both men cried. “You didn’t kill anyone, did you?” He let out a small laugh that turned into a sob. 

 

“Not yet,” Yuri answered, squeezing tighter, a hidden promise in his words. They stayed like that for a long moment before Yuri pulled back in a panic. “Shit! I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have hugged you that tight! Are you okay? Like, your heart isn’t going to stop again is it?”

 

“My chest still aches, but the doctor said that’s normal,” Yuuri replied, wiping at his eyes. The skin around the edges was raw from how much he’d been crying. “They are keeping me here for a few days to monitor it. I have to take it easy for a while and they’ve given me some medication I’ll probably have to take permanently if I go back to skating. I’ll always be more at risk now.”

 

Yuri’s jaw tightened. “What do you mean ‘if’?”

 

“Yura… Please… I don’t want to talk about this right now.”

 

It was still so raw. So fresh. The pain of the Olympics right around the corner. Despite Yakov’s words, how could he possibly even consider returning to the ice after everything? He was breaking so many promises. He wouldn’t be on the podium with Yuri and he wouldn’t be there to hold the Japanese flag with Kenjirou. It hurt too much. 

 

Of course Yuri wanted to fight, but he visibly swallowed down his protests. Instead, his averted his gaze down and reached a hand out for Yuuri’s, a finger brushing over where the gold band used to be. “I don’t want to go to the Olympics without you.”

 

Oh, Yuri. Ever the fierce tiger on the outside, but a soft kitten on the inside. Yuuri forced a smile as a few tears shed. “You have to, Yura. You’ve worked so hard to get there, and you deserve it. Do it for me if you can’t do it for yourself.”

 

Yuri didn’t look completely convinced, and he was undoubtedly trying to formulate some sort of argument in his head. It took a moment of silence while he thought, before he finally relented and squeezed Yuuri’s hand. “Fine, Katsudon. I’ll go destroy all your world records. For you.”

 

This time, the smile was real. “Good. I look forward to it.”

 

Nodding, Yuri relaxed back a little bit where he sat on the edge of the bed, but his green eyes were still threatening to water. “I’m going to kill him, you know? I am. I should have never listened to you and Lilia when you told me to back off.”

 

Closing his eyes, Yuuri swallowed hard. “It would have ended just as bad, Yura, just differently. Viktor is hurting just as much.”

 

“How can you fucking say that?” Yuri breathed in disbelief. “After everything he’s done?”

 

“I don’t want to be married to him anymore, Yura, but you don’t just stop loving someone,” Yuuri explained. “That’s just not how it works.”

 

Yuri shook his head with a hard swallow. “I don’t get it.”

 

“I know,” Yuuri acknowledged, “but I hope that one day you’ll understand.”

 

Yuri scoffed.

 

Needing to shift in the bed Yuuri tried to sit up and a sharp pain shot through his chest. Gasping, he winced and froze as he waited for the pain to subside.

 

“Katsudon? Hey, are you ok?! Yuuri!” Yuri’s hands shot up to Yuuri’s face and cupped his cheeks.

 

A shot of electricity jump started Yuuri’s heart.

 

“Do I need to get the doctor?” Yuri asked frantically

 

Yuuri shook his head as the pain faded. “N-no, I’m okay. I’m fine.” 

 

Yuri’s hands still lingered. “You better not be lying to me.”

 

Lips twitching into a smile Yuuri reached up and carefully grabbed Yuri’s hand. “I mean, I’m not fine, but I’m not about to drop dead on you. I just… I don’t want to talk about Viktor anymore. How was National’s for you?”

 

Yuri finally retracted his hands and shrugged. “Easy. It just felt like practice more than anything.”

 

Fair. There weren’t any Russian men that could really challenge Yuri these days. “How mad were Lilia and Yakov with you for coming here?”

 

“They weren’t,” Yuri answered. “Though they’ll probably be mad when I tell them I want to stay here until Pyeongchang.”

 

“Yurio,” Yuuri sighed.

 

“I know, I know,” Yuri sighed as well. “I’m just fucking worried, okay? How do I know you’ll be taken care of?”

 

“Because it’s going to be my parents and my sister taking care of me,” Yuuri explained. “You really want to tell Mari you doubt her ability to look out for me?”

 

That finally had Yuri thinking twice. “Okay, fine, I guess I can trust Mari to look out for you. Everyone is really worried about you though. My phone is freaking blowing up with everyone asking me if I know how you are since I very publicly announced I was flying straight here.”

 

Yuuri didn’t even want to imagine what his phone was like at the moment. Wherever it even was. “What are they saying?”

 

“About you? Not much more than what happened. Yakov has done a really good job at keeping things under control and the media away. Everyone knows you had a heart attack but are stable. Viktor is another story.”

 

As quiet as Yakov would have tried to keep things, it was no surprise that news of Viktor would have gotten out and been talked about so fiercely. “Do people know he’s in rehab?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Yuri responded. “People can’t keep their fucking mouths shut. Of course, now everyone is speculating about the two of you because of that.”

 

Well, that couldn’t be helped. Yuuri would speculate about them, too, after everything. Many people had been, long before National’s. “I just… I don’t want to deal with it.”

 

“So then don’t,” Yuri shrugged. “Let Yakov handle all of that. He’s good for it. But… at least let people know you’re okay, you know? Like, your friends and shit.”

 

As much as Yuuri didn’t want to face the realities beyond the hospital room, he knew Yuri was right. Phichit was probably worried sick and he had fans that cared about his well-being. Still, Yuuri wasn’t in the right headspace to look at a phone right now. It would be too overwhelming and there would be questions he just didn’t want to deal with. Yuri however… “You do it.”

 

Yuri frowned. “Do what?”

 

“Let people know I’m okay,” Yuuri explained. “If I look at my phone it’s just going to be full of questions about me and Viktor and I don’t want to deal with that right now. But, you and I share a lot of the same fans and friends. You can post on your Instagram. I appear on other people’s Insta more than my own, anyway.”

 

“You’re okay if I do that?” Yuri asked, skeptical. 

 

Yuuri hummed. “That way you have to deal with all the comments instead of me.”

 

“Gee, thanks,” Yuri rolled his eyes before pulling out his phone. “Fine. But that means you gotta pose for a photo.”

 

Impulsive, Yuuri let his head fall onto Yuri’s shoulder and closed his eyes. “Make me look really pathetic.”

 

Yuri scoffed and wrapped an arm around Yuuri. “I don’t even have to try for that.”

 

The camera made its shutter noise and Yuuri opened his eyes. He didn’t want to move from Yuri’s shoulder. He didn’t want Yuri to take his arm away. It was the physical comfort he’d so desperately missed for so long. “How did it turn out?”

 

“You look like shit,” Yuri assured as he started to type out the caption. 

 

 

Yuuri found the strength inside himself to chuckle. “Great.” There was a moment of silence while Yuri worked on making the post. “Thank you. For coming.”

 

“Why the hell wouldn’t I come?” Yuri asked, his arm slipping just slightly from around Yuuri.

 

“A lot of people think we hate each other.” Yuuri smiled fondly, thinking about the million Instagram and Twitter wars from their fans. 

 

Yuri scoffed. “That’s because they are stupid.” He kept that strong frown for several seconds before it softened and turned into a vulnerability Yuuri had never seen. “I was really scared, Katsudon. I’ve never been so scared in my life. If I had lost you…”

 

Yuuri’s bottom lip trembled and he wrapped his arms around Yuri, breathing him in. Yuri had never let himself be so exposed before, even around Yuuri. Not like this. Yuri returned the hug, his chin resting on the top of Yuuri’s head. “I’m still here, Yura…”

 

“Good,” Yuri said simply.

 

Yuri was able to visit over the course of the next few days, but then Yakov declared it was finally time to return to Russia. It hurt Yuuri more than he thought he would, and Yuri left an emptiness in his heart far greater than Viktor, who he had been saying goodbye to him for months now.

 

As promised by both nurse and doctor, Yuuri was visited by several people over the four days he was in the hospital. A nutritionist to help get his weight back on track and to ensure he was eating foods healthy for his still healing heart. A rehab specialist that helped create a plan to ease back into exercise. A therapist to discuss his eating disorder that then led to a therapist to talk about his failed marriage. Yuuri still reached for his ring finger to play with the gold band that was no longer there. He’d spent that session crying more than anything. They’d all provided referrals to counterparts back in Hasetsu.

 

Yuuri and Mari took the train to Fukuoka instead of flying. Mari was too afraid what being in the air might do to Yuuri even if the doctor had said it would be fine. It was a five hour ride where Yuuri had nothing to do but think. Think about what he was going to say to his parents. Think about Viktor. Think about how naked his finger was. Think about how alone in the world he felt despite everyone’s support. 

 

Anxiety and depression were the most dangerous when Yuuri was left alone with them in his mind.

 

There’s something comforting about passing through the gates of Yu-topia, and despite his reservations about speaking to his parents, he found himself desperately seeking out his mother’s arms when he walked in the door.

 

“Yuu-chan!” Hiroko cried, sprinting towards her son as fast as her short legs would allow her to. 

 

Toshiya was not far behind, and despite not usually being a hugger, Yuuri let his parents scoop him into a tight hug, burying his face into his mother’s shoulder. How could he ever have been afraid to face them? Being here with them, at home, was everything that he needed. 

 

“Kaa-san, you’re going to smother him,” Mari chimed in, setting her and Yuuri’s bags aside.

 

Hiroko pulled back, but she reached up and gently grabbed Yuuri’s face as tears fell down her cheeks. “My poor, sweet boy… We were so afraid! They wouldn’t talk to Minako and we didn’t sleep until Mari was able to get to you and promise us you were okay!”

 

“I’m…” Yuuri’s lip started to tremble as all his walls broke down around his mother, needing to feel like a child that could be rocked back and forth in her arms. “I’m not okay.”

 

“Oh, baby, of course you aren’t,” Hiroko whispered, sadness heavy in her face. Now, more than ever, the years showed in her eyes. “Your father and I don’t really know everything that has happened, but we are here for you. Whenever you are ready to talk, we will listen.”

 

“Whatever you need. Stay as long as you want,” Toshiya added, rubbing Yuuri’s shoulder.

 

“Will Vic-chan be coming later?” Hiroko asked hopefully.

 

Yuuri tensed. “No. I don’t think Viktor will be coming back to Hasetsu ever again.”

 

“But-”

 

“Kaa-san,” Mari interjected firmly.

 

His parents didn’t understand. How could they? They absolutely loved and adored Viktor and Yuuri had never told them they were having issues. Now, all of a sudden, he showed up without his ring and without Viktor. Of course they were wondering. 

 

“Why don’t you sit down and rest some?” Hiroko suggested finally. “I’ve got some fish and rice cooking for you already! Relax and let us take care of you.”

 

“I’ll take your luggage upstairs,” Mari offered before pulling out a phone and handing it to Yuuri. “You want this back? Battery is dead, if that helps.”

 

Yuuri took it, knowing he couldn’t escape reality forever. Plus, he did want to keep in touch with Yuri and he needed to call Phichit. He’d just make sure to delete all social media apps the second he had juice again. It would prevent any morbid curiosity.

 

Meandering through the halls he found their family room and settled onto the couch. Some sort of rom-com was on in the background and he looked into the crack between the cushions to find the end of the phone charger stuck in it. He wanted to go soak in the onsen desperately, but that was off-limits for at least a week. 

 

He spent thirty minutes or so just absently watching the television when his mother brought him food. She stayed to watch him eat, and Yuuri wondered if that was Mari’s doing or just his mother being a mom. Secretly, Yuuri was glad for her presence, even if it was overbearing. 

 

When his phone was finally charged enough that he could turn it on, he contemplated calling Phichit. There’s only an hour of time difference between them now, so his friend would likely answer, which made him think twice. Did he really want to bring all his wounds to the surface again? But also… Since when did he feel more comfortable spilling his heart to Yuri over Phichit?

 

Me: Hey....you free?

 

It was at most thirty seconds before Phichit tried to facetime him. Yuuri’s finger hovered over the accept button before he finally swiped right. “Hey Phi…”

 

“Don’t you fucking ‘Hey Phi’ me,” Phichit responded, heavy tears in his eyes. “I have been so worried, Yuuri! I’ve had nothing to reassure me other than Yuri’s Instagram post which, let me tell you, only had me worried more. You looked so dead!”

 

“I feel dead, Phichit,” Yuuri responded with a shrug and a huff. “More than I ever have before.”

 

“Why didn’t you talk to me, Yuuri?” Phichit asked. “I could have been there for you. I am here for you.”

 

Yuuri closed his eyes and shook his head. At least Phichit wasn’t saying ‘I told you so’, though maybe this was his way of doing so. “I don’t know… I don’t know why I kept everything so bottled in other than I guess I hoped it would all just go away.”

 

“So what now?” Phichit asked. “Where do you go from here?”

 

“Well… I’m not going to the Olympics,” Yuuri began with a sad laugh, wiping at a stray tear. “And… I’m filing for divorce.”

 

Phichit was silent for a moment before sniffling. “I fucking hate this. All of it. I can’t imagine an Olympics without you. Without Viktor there beside you. I know I said that you and Viktor needed to work things out but this isn’t what I meant. This isn’t what I wanted.”

 

“I know,” Yuuri acknowledged. “This isn’t what anyone wanted, but… here we are.”

 

“What can I do? What do you need?” 

 

“Rest and time,” Yuuri answered. “A lot of time…”

 

Phichit nodded sadly in understanding. “Are you going to recover okay? From your heart attack, I mean.”

 

He shrugged. “Yeah, mostly. I should make a full recovery, but I’ll always be high risk now.”

 

“You can still skate? You know, if that’s what you want?”

 

“Exercise is highly encouraged,” Yuuri responded, not giving Phichit the answer he was looking for. 

 

Phichit sighed and looked like he might try and press the issue, but he ultimately knew better and let it go. “I’ll let Ciao-Ciao know you are okay. He’s been asking if I’d heard anything.

 

“Thanks,” Yuuri said simply, quickly losing the energy to socialize.

 

The Thai man picked up on it easily after living with Yuuri for so many years. “Alright, well, I’ll let you get your rest. Just don’t lock yourself away. Please. I’m here for you. A lot of us are.”

 

Yuuri gave him a soft smile. “Thanks, Phi…”

 

“Take care.”

 

Just as Yuuri ended the call and put his phone down Mari appeared at the top of the stairs with yet another tray of food. “Hey. I know the doctors said specifically not to over eat, but it's Mom and Dad. I keep trying to explain it to them, but…”

 

Yuuri sighed and shook his head as Mari set down the tray. It was just soup, at least, this time.“I think they’ll be in denial for a while honestly.”

 

“Well, can you blame them? You didn’t tell anyone what was going on. It’s a huge surprise that one minute you’re married and the next you take off your ring. As usual, you tried to carry this entire burden on your own shoulders and look what it did to you.” She sighed and rubbed at her temple before pulling out her cigarette pack. She didn’t light it, but she put it in her mouth. “Why didn’t you let us help?”

 

It was a shitty excuse. It was completely deflecting and using his heart attack as a crutch, but he did it anyway. “I can’t handle this right now, Mari. I just can’t.”

 

“You’re going to have to at some point,” Mari mumbled, walking away to presumably smoke a pack. 

 

Yuuri certainly had no further appetite, even if he had only eaten half of what his mother had brought up the first time. Forcing down half the bowl of soup he washed the bowl in the sink and set it aside to dry before retiring (hiding) away in his room.

 

He was immediately surrounded by Viktor.

 

Viktor had, of course, found out about the posters eventually and had insisted on Yuuri putting them all back up when they’d gotten a bigger bed for the room. Slowly, he took a step forward towards his most rare and limited edition of posters that Yuuko had managed to get him for his 14th birthday. Reaching up, Yuuri ran a finger across the top of the glossy paper until he came to the corner. His fingers easily curled beneath the poster and then he yanked. 

 

The poster ripped in half.

 

Yuuri reached up for the other half and tore it down. Moving on to the next photo, he crumpled and clawed and ripped. Each poster that was up on his wall came down in shreds littering the floor with colorful pieces. The framed photos on his desk went flying and glass cracked. Yuuri kept going and going until every piece of Viktor was turned into something unrecognizable. 

 

Breathing hard, Yuuri looked at what he had done and stumbled back onto his bed. This is what they had become. Broken glass and shredded paper scattered across the floor. Sobs starting to echo off the walls Yuuri let himself crawl to his pillow and cry all that he could cry. 

 

They always said to never meet your heroes. Yuuri should have listened.