Yuri’s senior debut is just around the corner when he passes out on the ice.
It isn’t his fault, he argues. It’s his stupid body. None of his competitors have to worry about their breathing being constricted while jumping.
He knows he will have to work longer and harder to adapt to the new binder. It’s not like he’s going to go to competition without it. He’ll adjust.
The real problem is the panic that comes with an inability to breathe. Mila has had to forcibly drag him out of the rink when she hears him begin to wheeze.
It was just the one time. She was being overly cautious.
The next time he panics, he has enough discipline to keep it to himself.
He doesn’t like Katsuki.
Viktor promised he would choreograph Yuri’s routine. Figure skaters only have a short span of years to compete. Yuri has even less than that. If he can’t breathe, he can’t skate.
He could change his body, he thinks. He could mold himself into the shape of his male competitors under a knife and the promises from hormones.
It’s tempting, but terrifying. He puts it out of his mind and forces his turmoil onto Katsuki.
“Loser,” he tells the other Yuri after the man was crying in a bathroom stall. “You might as well retire.”
He kicks over a bin on his way out.
Viktor doesn’t say much when Yuri is out of breath running through his routine for Agape. Part of him is grateful, and another part wants to scream, Why are you pretending it doesn’t matter?
“Unconditional love,” Viktor reminds him with a smile. “Show me you have it in you, kitten.”
“Don’t call me that,” Yuri says.
He runs the routine again, and Viktor catches him when Yuri begins to fall after striking his final pose.
“I think we’ve had enough today. You go home and get some rest, okay?”
Katsuki is watching them from the sideline, and Yuri feels embarrassment and anger rise like a tidal wave inside him. He wants to throw something, but the closest thing is Viktor, and Viktor might like that too much.
“Don’t think you’re getting off easy, Katsudon,” Yuri growls, yanking himself up. “When I master this, I will end you.”
Katsuki doesn’t look as scared as he did in the bathroom, and it only make Yuri angrier as he glides to the edge of the rink and stomps off.
Otabek is the first person Yuri talks to about the dysphoria. He nods in that quiet way of his, then orders Yuri a second dessert crepe.
“I mean, it’s not like it’s a big deal—“ Yuri says, stabbing violently at a strawberry. “People think it is. It’s not like I care, but I’m still young and I can decide later what I want to do about it.”
Even as he says the words with confidence, his face falls.
“I like the way I am,” he murmurs, head low so that his curtain of bangs cover an eye. “I don’t want to change. I don’t want to look… like Mila.”
Otabek doesn’t make a sound. After a moment, Yuri feels the other’s fingers under his chin, tilting his face up.
“You won’t,” Otabek says. A surge of something gooey and disgusting pulls at Yuri’s heart. “You have your own beauty.”
“Are you serious?” Yuri says, deadpan.
Yuri takes a moment to consider, then swipes away the hand when his cheeks flush. “Get out of here with that crap.”
Otabek cracks a tiny smile. Yuri glowers at him, but finally manages to eat the strawberry.
When Viktor figures it out, he’s a little too supportive.
“Should I call you he or she or they today?” He asks, sweetly eager.
“Go away,” Yuri grumbles. “This doesn’t change what you’ve been calling me.”
“Then I will call you he!”
It’s a pronoun of convenience. It fits like a familiar pair of skates. Yuri finds comfort in it, even if it’s not completely accurate.
“Yes,” Yuri agrees. “Now watch me nail this routine and make Katsudon cry.”
Viktor gives him a proud smile and a little sigh. “He really is sensitive. Honestly it’s attractive in a man, no?“
“Shut up and watch me.”
Yuri falls to his knees at the Grand Prix Final. His piece is done. He doesn’t need to pretend anymore that he has everything under control.
He leans forward to hide his face from the crowd. And cries.
It’s Viktor’s faul for announcing his un-retirement. For hugging Yuri like they were friends, and he was excited to finally compete in the same division.
He hopes Katsuki was watching. It’s his fault too -- Katsuki cries, not Yuri.
Everything he gave today, he did to prove he was the best. All along Yuri said he would win the gold in his senior debut.
He can’t breathe.
If he’s going to suffocate, he’s going to do it with a gold medal between his teeth.
Over the years, and against his will, he does change. He’s prettier now. It’s harder to hide the places where his body wants to swell. He hates it.
Otabek says he likes Yuri, not the gender presentation. It helps to hear that.
“I think I’ve decided something,” Yuri says. “I want to have top surgery. That’s the only thing I want.”
Otabek leans over to bump their foreheads. “I’ll be there.”
“You don’t have to be,” Yuri whispers.
“I don’t want to be anywhere else, Yura.”
Yuri wraps his arms around Otabek and hangs there like he was meant to live in a hug. Otabek hooks his arms at the small of his back.
“Thank you Beka,” Yuri whispers.
Otabek squeezes him tightly in return.
Afterwards, when everything stops hurting and Yuri can see his healing scars -- he stares.
He doesn’t look exactly like he did when he was fifteen, but it’s close. He is slightly taller now, smaller in the waist, but… this is good, overall.
This feels… right. How he expected to grow up.
He angles his body different ways in the mirror. He puts on his favorite shirts with large-print cats and poses for selfies like he’s modeling for Instagram.
“Sexy?” He writes in a text to Otabek, not quite ready to press send. He shakes his head, deletes the question, and sends the picture on its own.
The reply is nearly instant.
“You look good,” Otabek writes, and the three dots following it set Yuri’s heart thumping. “I want to take you out tonight.”
Yuri’s brain stops. The dots appear again.
“Just us. If you want that.”
Yuri remembers to breathe, and breathe deeply. It’s a good feeling.
“I want that,” he says out loud. He facetimes Otabek to repeat the words to him.
“I want that.”
“You sound like you are in competition, Yura.”
“It means I am serious.”
Yuri looks away as if he has been caught doing something predictable.
“Pick me up,” he says quickly, and Otabek chuckles.
“Wait for me.”
Yuri sticks his tongue out and promptly ends the call.
He can’t go home again. The Russian press finds out about his surgery and Grandpa is flooded with reporters.
Yuri sinks to the floor, phone cradled against his ear.
“I’m sorry,” he whispers. “Grandpa, are you alright? Do you feel well enough to come to the hotel?”
His grandfather coughs and Yuri winces.
“Yurochka, this will not be forever.”
“I’m afraid for you,” Yuri admits. “I don’t want anything to happen because of me. I’ll try to send someone to sit with you—“
“My sweet boy,” Grandpa says. “Don’t be an idiot. I am fine.”
He is still mistaken for a woman sometimes. Yuri is uneasy about it afterwards, but it isn’t the end of the world.
“There aren’t words for people like me,” he complains to Otabek. “Not nice ones.”
Otabek has an arm around his shoulders and bumps his nose against Yuri’s temple. “Are you still comfortable as a boy?”
“Most of the time,” Yuri says. “With you, I don’t care.”
It feels like a release to admit that.
Otabek hums and Yuri closes his eyes so he can keep talking.
“I think I’m something in between.”
He likes his hair long. He likes rhinestones and spikes and tigers and winning and pierogi and Otabek. None of this helps him decide who he is.
“I think you are stuck on definitions,” Otabek tells him. “You can be both. I see you do it every day, Fairy of Russia.”
Yuri snorts. “Fairy is not a gender.”
Otabek twirls the end of Yuri’s half-ponytail around his finger and smiles.
“That is the secret of fairies.”