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Soul At Play

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Eric turned fifteen the year his dad got a job as a football coach in a small town in Georgia called Madison. He had just won gold at the Southern Junior Regionals. 

When his father announced that they would be moving, Katya had objected with Eric on her side.

“Eric has too much skill to just give it up like this.” She argued as Eric skated laps around the rink in an attempt to ignore the argument, which was getting harder seeing as the volume seemed to be ever-growing.

“There’s a rink in Madison,” His father argued, “He can practice there.”

“Yeah, a rink that is used by the local co-ed hockey team whenever Eric wouldn’t be at school. He needs a rink that he can use anytime he needs. That is what he has here.”

“Well, what do you want me to do? Not take the job?” Richard huffed, “I have a family to support.”

There was a lull in the argument for a moment, and Eric had pretty much accepted his fate at this point. He would go to the small town and probably be pressured by his father to at least try another sport that he had approved. Something ‘manly’, as his father would put it. Eric sometimes felt tempted to ask his father if he thought he could actually do a double toe loop without falling on his ass. He never did. 

“He can stay with me.” Katya finally said after a while.

“Excuse me?” His mother asked incredulously. She hadn’t actively taken part in the conversation yet, staying quiet behind her husband, but that seemed to be the final straw. 

“I have an extra room in my house, and it’s not like he’s any more than a few hours away from you. He can still visit anytime he wants.” Katya took a deep breath before looking Eric’s mother in the eye, almost daring her. “Your son has promise. Too much for him to give up at such a crucial point in his career.”

“Dicky?” He finally heard from what sounded like his mother. He hadn’t stopped his laps, but now it wasn’t to ignore the arguing, it was to help him think.

When he looked over, he saw his mother’s face, and he almost said no right then and there. She looked so weak, and he hated seeing her that way. She was supposed to be strong, and he never wanted her to look at him like that again. But then he looked over to Katya, who’s eyes were full of determination and fire and, underneath it all, pleading. She believed he could do this. 

He steeled himself with a shuddering breath before skating over to where his mother stood at the edge of the rink. He took her hands in his own and leaned down to kiss her forehead. He may not have been very tall, but his mother wasn’t either, and the skates gave him an advantage he didn’t usually have. 

“Mom, dad,” He looked at them both before giving his mother’s hands one last squeeze. “I promise to win for both of y'all. Every time.”

Eric had never seen his mother cry harder than she had that day. 


As it turned out, Katya lived in a different school district, so Eric had to change schools anyway, but it wasn’t like he had any friends who would miss him. He still had three years of high school left if he wanted to make any friends, but he had a feeling he would be too busy for that with Katya around all the time. 

She lived in a modest home with a kitchen that Eric was looking forward to cooking in whenever he had free time. Despite how often she complained about how he shouldn’t be baking because of his diet, she always managed to down enough pie for at least two people her size, so he never took the complaints to heart. 

School was better than it had been before. People didn’t really seem to care that he figure skated. Sure, it wasn’t exactly his one-way ticket to a whole horde of friends, but no one actively made fun of him for it, which was better than before. Eric still had trouble whenever he was in spaces that were too crowded (so being in a public school hallway never helped) and he preferred to sit in the back of the classroom so he could see everyone, but he got by just fine. 

Most of the time, when he wasn’t at school, he was at the ice rink. He spent some of his time in a designated area of Katya’s home doing barre exercises and dance when they couldn’t get any ice time. Luckily, his coach was an avid believer that rest days were just as important as the work itself. He would usually do homework and bake on those days. 

On holidays, birthdays, and most times when he had multiple days free – and if he wasn’t at a competition – Eric visited his parents in Madison. It was kind of sad, seeing the room that would have been his. It was barren since Eric was never there long enough to actually put his mark on it. He always felt bad for leaving when his mother held him close and cried. For days after that he would usually throw himself too deep into skating in an attempt to work out any of those feelings. 

Three years in high school flew by, and soon enough Eric was frantically searching for colleges. He really should have started before he was halfway through senior year, but had he listened to his councilors (or teachers, or parents, or Katya)? No, he had not. 

Finally, after weeks of frantic searches, he found the school he was going to go to. Even if it buried him in student debt for the rest of his life. Samwell University. 

It was perfect. They had a rink and were nationally ranked for their academics, but above all, they were the U.S. Ranking and World Reports Number One Most LGBTQ-Friendly Campus In America. Not that he had actually come out to anyone yet. He hadn’t even said it out loud to himself. But no one had to know that exact reason for going to Samwell. 

Except, maybe, his vlog followers. However few there may be. 

Thankfully, they gave him a partial academic scholarship and a partial sports scholarship that almost covered the cost of his schooling in all. After all, school was just as important to Katya as skating was. She wasn’t going to have a student who had flunked out of high school. 

He had made sure to have everything planned out to make sure he got the most out of his time at Samwell. Especially since Katya was actually moving up for the next four years to continue training him in person. 

He had planned for everything. Or, at least, he thought he had. But no one really plans for the Samwell Men's Hockey Team.