They decided to stay friends. It was just easier for them. They can’t really avoid each other because of competitions. Three years of friendship, one of which they were in a relationship, is too hard to let go of. The whole thing is pretty amicable.
Otabek thinks maybe it’s too amicable.
They don’t do anything different. They still live together (though Otabek has moved back into the abandoned second bedroom), they still go out together, they still train together. They still come to each other when they need comfort. They still cuddle.
It makes Otabek wonder. How did it not work out when they dated when they are so good together as friends? It makes Otabek miss it.
Some things have changed. They don’t have sex anymore, for one. Otabek doesn’t miss that. Well, not entirely. It was good sex, but he would never have it again if it meant that Yuri was always near. Otabek doesn’t need sex.
They definitely don’t kiss anymore. Otabek does miss that. Yuri is such a versatile kisser. Sometimes, he takes charge, like if he’s angry. Those are amazing kisses. When there is the pain of teeth on teeth and Otabek’s lips feel like they’ll bruise from the force. Those are great.
But the softer kisses. Those are phenomenal. When it’s so tender and sweet, Otabek’s heart breaks while it rests beneath Yuri’s palm. When they pull back to breath each other in and their noses rub together. When it feels like the Earth will stop and fall through space if their mouths don’t meet one more time. When Yuri smiles so wide that Otabek has to smosh his cheeks together in order to get a proper kiss. Yeah, Otabek missed those.
But they don’t kiss anymore. They smile at each other over the island at breakfast. They go to lunch on Saturdays with Viktor and Yuuri. They hold each other on the couch and watch superhero movies. But they don’t kiss because they are just friends.
“Beka, are you okay?” Yuri draws him out of his thoughts. Otabek cringes to himself when he realizes that he’s been focused on Yuri’s mouth.
“Uh, yeah. Didn’t get much sleep last night. What were you saying?” Otabek deflacts.
Yuri rolls his eyes at him, ”I was saying that I noticed your quad toe is inconsistent in practice. You need to practice it more before worlds.”
“Yes, coach.” Otabek jokes.
“Shut up and eat your breakfast.” Yuri huffs, returning to his eggs. Otabek chuckles.
Yuri is much more anxious this season. Katsuki just retired last year and his partner the year prior. Yuri keeps talking about how this is the year for him and Otabek. He critiques Otabek’s jumps and asks him to do the same. It’s annoying, but admirable at the same time. Yuri is lying to himself if he doesn’t think they have competition anymore. Seung-gil has become more passionate about skating since him and Chulanont have gotten together and Jean and the American have upped the technical difficulty in their programs this year. All of them placed first in their national championships.
“How is your knee feeling? That fall was pretty rough yesterday.” Otabek asks.
“It’s alright. It’s still a bit sore, but safe to skate on.” Yuri tells him.
“Better be, Yura. You need to be careful. Don’t push yourself too hard.”
“I’m not. Don’t you need to leave?”
Otabek swears. “Yeah.” He gets up and throws his plate into the sink. “I will see you at the rink, okay?” Yuri nods and Otabek leans down and kisses him. “Bye!” He calls on his way out the door, not noticing the shock on his friend’s face.
He almost crashes his bike when he realizes what he did.
“What do you want to do for your birthday, Yurio?” Viktor asks at lunch a few days later. Otabek notices Yuri putting his chin in his hand while he thinks. Yuri has always loved his birthday. Last year, they all flew to London and went to see the sights there. It was a few weeks after Otabek and him finally got together. They went on a date to a small cafe and Otabek gave him leather bracelet with a cat etched into that he made. Yuri stopped wearing it when they broke up.
“I want you and Katsudon to move to another country.” He grunts.
“You ask for that every year and yet, you still hang out with us, Yurio. I’m beginning to think you actually enjoy our company.” Viktor teases.
Yuuri rolls his eyes at Viktor, “Would you like to go on another vacation, Yuri?” He asks sweetly. Yuri has always had a soft spot for the Japanese man, despite what he says. Otabek gets it. Since getting with Viktor, he’s begun to come out of his shell a bit with other skaters. Katsuki is much more soft spoken and reserved than his partner that’s for sure.
“No, I am sick of long flights. I would rather be home and close to the rink. Can’t stop training.”
Concerned, Otabek places his hand on Yuri’s arm. When his friend looks up, Otabek stares at him meaningfully, asking if he’s okay. Yuri shrugs and shifts his gaze to Otabek’s hand. Otabek removes it with embarrassment settling in his cheeks. They haven’t talked about Otabek’s slip up, but he can tell he’s made Yuri uncomfortable. It was just a habit, to kiss Yuri goodbye. He didn’t mean to put strain on their friendship.
Yuri looks away and visibly pretends to listen to whatever their companions are talking about. Otabek painfully does the same.
Really though, he’s still thinking about Yuri. They only broke up six weeks ago and he’s still adjusting. What makes it harder is Yuri never told him why he ended things. Which is fine for Otabek. Yuri doesn’t owe him anything. His feeling are his own and if he doesn’t want to be with Otabek anymore, that’s acceptable. It hurts, but it’s alright. Otabek doesn’t want to be apart of a relationship that’s not 100% mutual.
The thing is Otabek didn’t get closure. Did he do something wrong? Did he pressure Yuri? Otabek would rather die than entertain the thought that Yuri felt forced to be with him. Otabek is the one who told Yuri that he had feelings for him and Yuri was never very vocal about being happy. Otabek thought it was just normal Yuri behavior, but what if he was unhappy from the start?
Otabek sighs and sips his black tea. He really ought to stop thinking so much.
Otabek curses himself as he looks down at the paper gift bag in his hand. He told himself not to get anything too sentimental or too expensive for Yuri’s birthday, but his normally strong self-control has always crumbled when it came to Yuri.
He runs his hand over his face one more time before unlocking the door and stepping into the apartment.
“Yura?” He calls. He sees his friend on the couch and goes to sit with him, concealing the present beside him.
“Hey, Beka. Viktor and the piggy took me out to dinner. I brought you back something. It’s in the fridge.” Yuri tells him, not looking over.
“Thank you. Happy birthday. Did you have fun?” Yuri shrugs, but still doesn’t look over. “Yuri, something is wrong. You’ve been acting strange for the past week and I want to know why. Is it because I kissed you? I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable. It was just habit, I—” Otabek stops talking as his friend finally looks at him. There is nothing particularly alarming about his expression. He almost looks nervous.
“I’m okay, Beka. Really. Don’t worry.” His voice doesn’t waver and his eyes are determined. Believe me, they say. Otabek doesn’t.
“Okay, then. I got you a present.” Yuri jerks up at those words and excitement shines on his face. Otabek chuckles and hands the bag over.
Otabek can feel Yuri tense up beside him as he pulls the soft fabric out. It’s a small black hoodie with a pouch that you can put your cat in. It’s nothing too extravagant, but gifts like this always mean more to Yuri and Otabek knows this.
Yuri squeals and immediately stands to pull it over his head. The sleeves have little holes for his thumbs and Otabek watches as he pushing his arms through and looks down at his body. It’s a touch too big and Yuri looks absolutely adorable.
Suddenly, Otabek can’t breath. Yuri has wrapped his arms around him and is squeezing very tight.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you. I love it, Beka. So will Potya!” Otabek only gets to hug back for a second before Yuri is off him and looking around for his cat. He watches amusement as Yuri tries to wrestle his cat into the pocket. Potya is not as excited.
It’s a nearly half an hour later before Yuri has calmed down and reclaimed his spot beside Otabek. He looks over at him, nervous again.
“I didn’t think you would even get me a gift.” He admits.
Otabek turns to look at him, “Of course I would, Yura. We’re still friends.”
“Yeah.” He says, pulling at his sleeves. Otabek can tell he’s working himself up to say more, so he waits. “Are we though?” He asks finally, a small quiver in his voice.
Otabek is confused. “What do you mean?”
“Come on, Beka.” He prompts, suddenly exhausted. “We still act like we are dating. Don’t even deny it. That’s why you kissed me. Everything feels the same.”
“Everything?” Hope blooms in Otabek’s stomach. Does that mean he still feels the same? Yuri doesn’t answer. “You broke up with me, Yuri.”
His friend notices that Otabek doesn’t use a nickname. “I did. Do you know why?”
“You never told me.” He points out because it’s true. He still feels the need to explain himself. “Which is fine. I get it. Maybe I was too forward. You don’t have to want to date me.”
Yuri tugs at his hair, frustrated. “I do though!” His voice raises. Otabek knows that he’s struggling to get his feelings out.
“Then why did you end things?” Otabek asks, softer.
“Because, Beka!” Yuri turns his entire body so he’s facing Otabek and his shins rest underneath him. “It was never going to work! I’m too temperamental. I can never talk about how I feel and you’re not much better at it either. For fucks sake, Beka, you thought I didn’t even want to be with you! All I do is yell! I’m always angry and not to mention, I’m immature. You’ll only get sick of me.” Yuri’s breathing is harsh. He’s spiraling. “And I am done waiting around for it! Fuck that.”
The pair lock gazes. Fire burns beneath Yuri’s eyes, but Otabek knows he’s not mad at him. No, Yuri is mad at himself.
“I haven’t got sick of you yet.”
“Yet! Yet, Beka. Not yet.”
Otabek holds Yuri’s hand and pulls him close. “Ever. Honestly, Yura. We spend everyday together. We train together. Coming home to you everyday is the best feeling ever. I know you have a short fuse. Everyone knows. I also know that most of the time, you’re only angry because you feel inferior. You don’t feel like you’re enough. You spend too much time training, but it’s never enough. Not for you.”
Yuri tries to pull away, but Otabek only holds on tighter. “That’s not what this is about.”
“It is. I can’t believe I never saw it. You are enough, Yuri. You are magnificent. How could I get sick of you? How could I ever be tired of having this, having you close? You are the only person I trust. The only one I need. I want you, Yuri. I want you to be around. I want to tell you when something good happens. I want to come to you on my bad days. Win or lose, I want you by my side. I want to step of the podium and hold you. I want to know that no matter how amazing or terrible I was, you’ll be there. To celebrate or to consol. I want to do the same for you. I hate having you at a distance. I really hate it.”
“Things change.” Yuri whispers, defeated. Tears gather in the corners of his eyes.
“They haven’t. Three years and nothing has changed. They won’t change in three more years. They won’t change in six years and every multiple of three following that. I want you in any way I can have you and I have since I looked in your eyes and saw more strength than anybody I have ever known.” More tears fall and Otabek pulls him close. His point has been made.
An eternity later, when the silence falls, Yuri looks up at Otabek.
“I love you. I don’t know if I ever told you. I was always holding myself back. Talking myself out of wanting you.”
“I know, Yura. I love you too. I don’t ever want you to hold back. I care about everything that is you. That includes the bad things.”
Yuri chuckles wetly, “We really have to work on our communication don’t we?”