Sparks Filled With Hope
Yuri dreams of fire.
He dreams he's in a burning house. He dreams of the flames licking his body; he watches as his skin blackens. Yuri turns to every window, a different person staring back at him. He bangs on the window, screaming. Their faces are blank. Otabek reaches out and touches his hand on the other side of the glass, his face as stoic as ever. The smoke fills his lungs; he can't breathe anymore. The fire consumes him until there's nothing left but a pile of ash.
A scream wakes him up and he realizes it's him.
Yuri clutches his chest, his skin drenched in sweat. He gasps for air and examines his arms. Nothing. His pale skin reflects off the moonlight. His hair, now past his shoulders, isn't on fire. It was just a terrible, shitty dream.
He glares at the brace on his ankle. Yuri wishes that would have burned up.
"What?" Yuri turns to Otabek, who is laying on the bed beside him.
Otabek tucks Yuri's hair behind his ear. "You were screaming."
It's been three months since his injury; three months since he fell during the European Championships and failed to earn a medal - again. It's been three months of physical therapy with a shitty excuse for a doctor. It's been three months of watching his friends - and his boyfriend - earn medal after medal while he stands to the side.
It's been three months since he could look at himself in the mirror and be happy.
Yuri rests his head back down on the pillow and turns away from Otabek. He used to love when Otabek spent the night, but now Otabek knows he's having nightmares. There's no doubt Beka will tell Yakov and they'll both blow it out of proportion.
He knows Otabek isn't asleep but he can't confide in him. Yuri isn't weak.
Yuri can still smell the smoke from his dream. His skin burns as though he actually were on fire. He's afraid to go back to sleep and ends up watching Potya clean herself before he finally closes his eyes.
Yuri insists he goes to practice even if he can't skate. The skating rink is something he knows, somewhere he's always felt like he belonged. Though lately, it's turned into the Viktor and Yuuri show.
He rolls his eyes as he watches them do yet another pair spin. They're sickeningly sweet, and it only seems to amplify the fact that he and Otabek aren't on the same page right now. Otabek is the best boyfriend Yuri could ask for; he flew out to St. Petersburg three months ago without even a second thought.
He wishes Otabek hadn't done that. It's too much pressure. Yuri wants to curl up with Potya and pretend he never fell, pretend that everything is okay and it's just a rest day. At this point, Yuri wonders if Otabek is sticking around just because he said he would. Yuri knows he wouldn't waste his time with a whiny crybaby like him, not if he had a World's medal around his neck.
Honestly, Yuri doesn't know what he wants. More than anything, he's scared.
What if his first season is his only full season? What if he will never skate the same way again?
What if Otabek doesn't love him anymore?
Tears sting at his eyes and he shakes his head, refusing to show his teammates. He stands quickly and walks to the locker room. Luckily, his ankle has improved to the point where he can walk without crutches or assistance.
Yuri wants to be back on the ice more than anything. Lilia has him doing a modified ballet routine for him to maintain some semblance of fitness, but it's agony not being able to feel the sensation of his blades slicing into the ice.
Otabek is standing in the doorway to the locker room. His face is flushed from practice, and he looks so good, so vibrant and happy. It's an expression Yuri knows well.
He turns away from Otabek and quickly wipes his eyes. Once his eyes are dry, he fixes a smile on his face and turns back. "Hey, Beka."
Yuri hates that question. His foot is in a goddamn boot. He hasn't skated in nearly three months. Of course he's not okay. "I'm fine. Just needed to wash my hands."
Otabek eyes Yuri closely. He squirms under his gaze.
"I said I'm fine, Beka."
Yuri appreciates that Otabek doesn't push him. "Want to come to physical therapy with me?"
Otabek's expression brightens. "Sure."
They step into the physical therapy office and Yuri breathes a sigh of relief. It may be almost May, but there's still a chill in the air that makes his bones ache. They check in with the doctor and he starts Yuri on his series of exercises.
While Yuri's main injury is the broken ankle, his ACL is also damaged. Yuri thanks whatever gods above it didn't require surgery. He spends most of physical therapy performing stretches and exercises to build up strength in his foot and calf.
"Push just a little harder."
Yuri winks at Otabek and pushes his foot into Otabek's hands as hard as he can before he reaches his limit.
He takes a band from the prop box and slips it between his ankles, moving onto the next exercise. The stretch is easy, especially with his flexibility. His ankle strength is almost back to normal. At this point, the boot is simply preventative.
His doctor seems to agree and tells him he can keep the boot off during the day.
Yuri is cleared to start training again - though he can't perform any jumps for another two weeks. His heart sinks as he realizes that the season will be completely over by then.
Otabek squeezes his hand. Yuri refuses to look up at him, but instead listens to the shitty doctor drone on about boring medical information. Yuri doesn't care.
"When can I do quads?"
The doctor and Otabek both look at Yuri.
"I don't recommend any jumps for a few weeks. If you fall wrong, you will be set back worse than your initial injury. Get used to skating again."
Yuri's been skating since he was old enough to walk. Getting used to skating is a foreign concept.
He wakes up in a burning room. The flames lick the walls and ceiling, and Yuri is alone on his bed in a boiling-hot room. He screams for someone, anyone to help. His ankle is twisted again, just like how it looked after his fall. Yuri knows he can't put weight on it. He yells again, throwing his bottle of water at the window. Perhaps if he can break a window, someone will hear him scream.
The bottle bounces off the glass and falls to the floor. He watches in defeat as the fire melts the plastic.
“Can anyone hear me?”
Tears stream down Yuri’s face. His body aches and soon, he discovers the rest of his body is as broken as his ankle.
He’s going to die in here, helpless and alone.
“Yurio! Wake up!”
His eyes fling open and he looks around rapidly. He’s on Viktor and Yuuri’s couch. He and Otabek had come over for a movie night. At some point, Yuri must have fallen asleep.
Viktor is gripping his shoulders and his face is white. Yuri takes a moment to steady his breath. “Let go of me, Old Man.”
He releases his death grip but doesn’t move away. “You were crying.”
Yuri grimaces and pushes Viktor away. "Your breath stinks."
"Come on, Yurio." Viktor sits down on the floor beside the couch and leans against the coffee table. "It's okay to not be okay. And you're getting back on the ice, aren't you?"
He rolls his eyes. It's better to ignore Viktor when he tries to impart wisdom upon Yuri. "Where's Otabek?"
"He took Makkachin out on a walk."
Yuri looks around. "What time is it?"
"It's morning." Viktor motions to the sun shining through the curtain. "You slept on the couch all night."
He sits up and stretches. He finally gets to actually do something at practice rather than watch everyone. "I need to get ready."
Yuri takes off his boot and rolls his ankle. He can't wait.
Lacing his skates feels unfamiliar. He wraps the laces around his fingers and squeezes. Yuri watches as his fingers turn red and his knuckles turn white.
He finishes tying his skates and stands. Yuri is elated when he looks down and that goddamn boot is gone.
His first few steps with his skates against the floor are awkward. It's been a while since he's waddled to the rink.
As he approaches the ice, the other skaters stop and cheer. Yuri rolls his eyes and steps into the rink.
Skating is the only thing that will always make Yuri feel like he belongs. It's the only place he feels he can truly be himself. He glides across the rink, hungry to jump but resists the urge. Instead, Yuri tries a spin with his left foot. It doesn't feel as natural as it does using his right, but the momentum gives him a rush like he hasn't felt in months.
He does a few figures, clasping his hands behind his back and leaning into the turns. The rush of air coming out of the turn feels invigorating.
Once he finishes, he looks around and realizes everyone is staring at him.
"What are you looking at?"
Mila waves him off. "You look so happy, Yurotchka!"
"Whatever. I'm going to practice my short program. Without the jumps." Yuri eyes Otabek, who looked ready to speak up.
Practice goes smoothly. Yuri can tell that Yakov is going easier on him than normal, but he tries to ignore it. He skates around the rink again and hasn't felt this relaxed in ages.
Afterward, Otabek and Mila take Yuri out for lunch. They talk about stupid shit, stuff that doesn't matter, like what celebrity is going into rehab and what is being released on Netflix next week. Yuri can't believe that they're already nearing the end of April.
"Are you planning on re-using your programs from earlier in the season?" Mila takes a fry off Yuri's plate and eats it.
Yuri shrugs. "Maybe I'll start with it and change it this summer. I can't do the same exact thing. That would get boring."
Otabek squeezes Yuri's hand. "You'll never be boring."
Even though Yuri is next to his closest friend and boyfriend, he still feels alone. His dreams seem to confirm that time and time again.
He goes to practice every day that week, skating to the point of his ankle aching and pushing harder. He needs to build strength in his ankle, rebuild the endurance he used to have.
Everyone treats him differently now. If Yuri thought it was bad when he was sitting off to the side, it's nothing compared to the looks he gets every time he tries something even a little complicated.
On his fourth day back to practice, he glares at Viktor and tries a scratch spin on his right leg. He doesn't know why he does it, but he knows it's a mistake as soon as he enters the spin.
A wave of fear flashes over him. He's broken. He can't skate anymore. He's a nobody who peaked at fifteen.
He lies on the ice, panic beginning to set in. What if he broke his ankle again? He can't go through this again.
Yuri realizes everyone is standing around him, waiting for him to get up.
"Give him some room!" Yuuri motions to everyone to back off.
"Shut up. I'm fine." Yuri sits up and tests his weight on his right foot. It's tender, but he thinks he can manage to skate across the rink and put on his boot for support to make it back home.
He's not fine, but he can't let anyone know.
Yuri doesn't go to practice the next day, or even the next week. He can't stop thinking about the moment he fell - again. Is this what his career is going to be like? One fall after another?
Yakov visits, then Mila. Viktor and Yuuri try to give him words of encouragement, but Yuri can barely get himself out of bed. Otabek tries, but Yuri can tell he's growing tired of Yuri's stubbornness. Honestly, he wonders why Otabek stays around at all.
The reason becomes apparent when Otabek lifts Yuri out of bed and forces him to take a shower and eat something besides chips and carrots.
Yuri is too tired to argue with Otabek. Instead, Yuri lets him wash his hair, leaning into Otabek's soft but firm touch. Otabek's hands fit his body perfectly.
"You dream about fire, don't you?"
The dreams haven't gone away; in fact, they are more frequent now than when he was first injured. Yuri turns his head away from Otabek. "Yeah."
"I hear you crying in your sleep almost every night."
Yuri hates that Otabek knows. "I can sleep somewhere else."
Otabek's fingers tighten in Yuri's hair. "Dammit, Yura, I want to be here for you. But you have to let me in."
He winces at Otabek's grip. "What do you want from me, Beka?"
"I want you to remember that I'm your boyfriend and I love you."
Yuri rests the back of his head against Otabek's chest and fights the urge to cry. He feels more exposed than he's felt in months. "I know I can be a handful."
Otabek strokes Yuri's cheek. "I chose you, Yura. You can't get rid of me by shutting me out."
He speaks before he can stop himself. "I dream I'm trapped in a burning house and I burn alive."
"Fire isn't always bad."
Yuri draws in a deep breath and decides not to argue. Otabek feels so nice, so warm and safe.
"I'd like to take you on a trip. Yakov's already approved it."
He threads his fingers through Otabek's. "Do I even want to know?"
"It's a surprise. " Otabek lets out a low chuckle.
It's the last day of April and the ice rink is on fire. Yuri is safe - for now - on the ice. It seems to be consuming the stands and not crossing over to the ice. He skates around the rink trying to find an exit but he's trapped. The fire is loud and hot. Yuri looks down and sees he's wearing a skin-tight green skating costume. He knows he's going to die, going to burn in this rink, so Yuri begins to skate.
Yuri performs a program he knows in his heart isn't real. He does a quad Lutz, followed by a triple toe loop. Each jump lands perfectly, and his spins are faster than he's ever managed to reach.
He knows the ending to this dream all too well, and soon enough, the fire overtakes him.
He opens his eyes and realizes he fell asleep on the plane. It's a long flight to Edinburgh, after all.
Otabek squeezes his hand and they watch the in flight movie for the rest of the trip.
Finally the plane descends and they head to car rentals. Otabek, ever the predictable one, rents a motorcycle.
They drive through the city, into beautiful rolling hills. Yuri put his hands in Otabek's pockets and watches the scenery fly by them.
"Where are we going?"
Otabek doesn't respond but points straight ahead. Yuri notices that there is an enormous area for parking and hundreds, possibly thousands of people gathering.
"We're going to Calton Hill."
Yuri blinks. "What? Is it some kind of music festival?"
"No, it's the Beltane Fire Festival. I think you're going to enjoy it a lot."
They find a spot to park and begin walking. There is a huge crowd, filled with people in beautiful costumes and painted bodies. People seem to be walking to one area in particular, so they follow the crowd to a grassy open area.
The sun begins to set and Otabek explains to Yuri a bit about Beltane - it's set between the spring equinox and summer solstice and represents fertility and rebirth. He tells Yuri about the May Queen and the Green Man and how the ceremony is centered around their story.
Yuri still isn't sure why exactly he's here. He appreciates the beauty of the Beltane festival so far, but doesn't understand how this applies to him.
That's when the fires begin.
They watch the first performance in silence and in the dark. There's a procession and a torch lights more and more fires until Yuri can see almost as clearly as day. Bonfires appear along the hill, each with different groups of performers dancing to the thump thump of a drum.
"Sometimes, fire can be rebirth instead of destruction."
Yuri watches people painted in red twirl fire-lit batons, watches how they manage to move with the fire. He wants to be like that, wants to fight through his pain and trouble and return to being on top.
Some of the audience members are dancing and Yuri grabs Otabek's hand and pulls him into the circle. They dance, and Yuri smiles more than he's smiled in the past three months. Despite the eight hour flight, Yuri's leg feels normal.
Once they are out of breath, they find a patch of open grass and Yuri slumps onto the ground.
Otabek sits down beside him. "Thank you for being patient today, Yura."
"You're thanking me? I've been a fucking idiot this winter, Beka." Yuri turns to Otabek and looks at him with intensity. "I can't believe I was so stupid."
"Who's to say I wouldn't do the same thing?"
Yuri snorts. "Of course you wouldn't. But in all seriousness, thank you for being so patient with me." He looks down at his hands. "It's been a rough three months."
Otabek rests his hand on Yuri's knee. "I know."
The words Yuri has thought about a thousand times come out. Tears sting at his eyes. "What if I get injured again? What if I can't skate anymore?"
They sit in silence for a bit. Finally, Otabek speaks up. "You probably will get injured again. Most skaters do. But is that reason enough to stop doing what you love?"
Yuri gulps and the tears finally spill down his cheeks. He wipes his face and tries to laugh. "When you put it like that I sound even more ridiculous."
It's July and Yuri's doing his first ice show in the off season. He skates to the music with renewed vigor, lands all of his jumps with precision, and spins in perfect motion. Otabek performs as well, highlighted as the World Silver Medalist.
After a well-earned opening night party, Yuri goes to bed.
He dreams of fire again. Instead of panic, Yuri closes his eyes and allows the flames to consume him. The smoke and burning are still present, but he doesn't fight it. He dies again, becoming a pile of ashes.
This time, he stays in the dream and doesn't wake up. He feels a hand gripping him and pulls him up to standing. Yuri stares into Otabek's determined face. Their hands lock together and they kiss, the flames swirling around them. They are untouchable.
Yuri is different; he can't return to the person he was before his fall.
However, he can be reborn as many times as he wants on the ice.