“Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh, my god. ”
Jack stopped in the doorway and went through his mental tally of Reasons Bittle Is Having A Minor Breakdown. Bitty was hunched over his laptop, staring at it with awed disbelief, but — as Jack checked every month — there were no upcoming concerts or awards shows of the kind that usually merited this sort of a response. Bitty used his phone for email, so he couldn’t have gotten an offer to collab with anyone, and nobody had molested any of his pies recently.
That left only one tactic: direct questioning. “Is something wrong, Bits?” Jack asked, fully aware that if something important was going on, he would trigger another meltdown like the fiasco back in 2013.
“Wrong? Are you crazy?” Bittle said, catapulting up from the bed and shoving his laptop in Jack’s face.
The laptop, as far as Jack could tell, was showing nothing more important than some bird-boned ice dancers. “Uh?” Jack managed.
“Jack, Four Continents is in Boston this year!” Bitty said, in the exact same tone that he used when Beyonce did… well, anything… and the Great Phelps-Bittle Jam Feud was settled in Suzanne’s favor. Jack might have no idea what Four Continents was, or why it was so important to Bittle, but by God, he was going to learn.
“Sounds like it’s pretty important to you,” Jack said. Active listening; Lardo would be proud.
“It is, yeah. Do you know anybody who could get us tickets? I don’t wanna ask for much, but it used to be my dream to compete there, and it’s so close…”
“Yeah, definitely,” Jack said. “One of Dad’s friends’ wives is pretty pally with the ISU, and she should be able to hook us up.”
“And this friend’s wife wouldn’t happen to be an international figure skating champ you’ve never told me you know, would she?”
“A figure skating champion who can get you the tickets you want, Bits,” Jack said. “Maybe even rinkside.”
OH MY GOD
8:23 PM · Jan 14, 2016
SWEET MOTHER MARY FOUR CONTINENTS IS RIGHT NEXT DOOR
8:24 PM · Jan 14, 2016
AND GUESS WHOSE AMAZING BOYFRIEND HAS TIX
8:47 PM · Jan 14, 2016
I know, I have a French exam that Monday but WHATEVER I can do my homework in the Uber
8:47 PM · Jan 14, 2016
And congrats to @leodelhielo on making it in! Us Southern boys gotta stick together!
8:49 PM · Jan 14, 2016
Leo made a habit of keeping up with his old competitors. Some people just faded out of the sport and didn’t do anything of note, but others went to college or pursued interesting careers. He figured it was a good way to get a look at his options post-figure skating, and besides, some of those guys had been cool. It was nice to keep in touch, or at least stalk their social media. He hadn’t been expecting a nostalgia follow to @ him, though.
He remembered following this account. He’d been Googling a list of boys who’d made it to regionals, and found not only a college and major but a Twitter, attached to one Eric Bittle. Leo dimly remembered him: won Southern Junior Regionals 2010, peppy as anything. The guy had brought tiny pies to the party afterwards, pissed off at least three skaters’ nutritionists, and then vanished from the sport despite what every announcer had said was astounding potential. And had apparently ended up in Boston, attached to a hockey team.
It couldn’t hurt to acknowledge an old acquaintance, and Leo didn’t have anybody managing his social media anyway. He dashed off a quick tweet.
@omgcheckplease thanks! we should totally catch up sometime.
9:17 PM · Jan 14, 2016
Sweet! @leodelhielo I was actually planning a party that weekend, so…
9:21 PM · Jan 14, 2016
Jack heard a piercing screech from the kitchen and ran in to check that Bitty hadn’t gotten hurt and another surprise album hadn’t dropped. “What’s going on, bud?”
“Leo de la Iglesia just @-ed me. Leo de la Iglesia is in my DMs. Leo de la Iglesia thinks it would be totally swawesome to come to the Haus after Four Continents and bring his skater friends.” Bitty looked up from his phone with reverence in his eyes. “Jack. He used the word ‘swawesome. ’”
“Sounds cool,” Jack offered.
“It is so not cool, Mister Zimmermann. I have to make plans! I have to figure out who all is coming, email their nutritionists so I can set up an appropriate menu, do a deep-clean of the Haus — what if one of them gets a virus from the couch? — and let the boys know to give them their privacy. There’s so much work to do, oh my god.”
“And you’ll love every minute of it.”
Agreeing to bring Leo’s friends to a college town forty minutes from the rink right after Four Continents was far more difficult than firing off a promise to do so. Seung-Gil hated loud noises, alcohol, and fun, so he was right out. Guang-hong might be down, but would be just about impossible to sneak into a frat party when he looked twelve on a good day. Otabek… was Otabek. Leo was planning on asking JJ, because Leo was a nice person, dammit, but that invite might make the night sound more boring than JJ would ever stand for. Phichit would be much easier to lure in with the promise of a genuine American frat party. And if Leo played his cards right, and was very, very lucky, through persuading Phichit he might get to Yuuri.
Leo had seen rather too much of Yuuri with drunks, but he’d never actually seen Yuuri get hammered, and there were all kinds of rumors. Yuuri had reportedly barely touched the champagne at the GPF banquet this year, claiming he wanted to actually remember this night, thanks, which as far as Leo was concerned might as well be an invitation to get him blackout drunk. All he had to do was handle the situation with care.
hey, you doing anything after Four Continents?
you got any ideas?
yeah, this guy I know from juniors lives in a frat house and makes amazing pie
he invited us all to dinner and a frat party
you bet ur ass I am
sweet, can you bring yuuri with you?
think about it
this is a chance to get him totally wasted
see if the rumors are true
*and* get photographic evidence
all for the cost of an Uber to Samwell
well when you put it like that
I’ll see what I can do
Yuuri had no idea why he was here. Getting his first real gold of the year had felt pretty nice, but after the win all he’d wanted to do was cuddle with his fiancé. Instead, Hurricane Phichit had burst into his room, said only, “Yuuri! We’re headed out in ten minutes! Grab your best party outfit!” and dragged him into an Uber while Victor was distracted by a crowd of fans. Apparently there was some kind of party, somewhere, and Phichit’s radar for a good, Yuuri-embarrassing time was just as strong as it had been in Detroit.
“Don’t you have a leg injury?” Yuuri asked.
“A of all, this sprain has been healing for a week; second of B, I just won bronze with it; and thirdly, you don’t need your legs when you’re doing a kegstand,” Phichit grinned.
Yuuri was doomed.
The house was… well. Yuuri would have liked to say it was nice enough, but that would have been a lie against God and architecture. It looked, frankly, like a crack den. With very spiffy curtains. “You’re sure this is the place?”
“Yeah, number 151.” Phichit carefully did not hobble up to the door.
A tall guy with a bemused look on his face was sitting on a chair on the roof above the porch. “Bitty!” he yelled into the house. “There’s more short guys showing up! Did you invite a gymnastics team over?”
A blond a little taller than Phichit opened the door in oven mitts. “Hi there,” he said, “ignore Tango, he’s, uh, special. Everyone else is ready to eat, unless JJ shows up out of the blue, and I’ve been instructed not to tweet about this party until Uber rush pricing starts, so that’s not very likely.”
“Uh, thanks?” Yuuri said.
“No problem! We’ve had some problems in the past with big personalities ruining the ambience, and I wouldn’t want that to happen tonight. Now, I’ve stuck to healthier food than I normally would, so you don’t have to worry too much about portion control. After dinner, we’re going to be pre-gaming and setting up for about an hour, and then the full-on kegster starts. No judgement if either of you want to leave before then. Any questions?”
“You’re Eric, right?” Phichit asked. “The guy Leo knew from Juniors?”
“Oh, where are my manners?” said Eric. “Yeah, that’s my name, but you can call me Bitty; everyone does around here. Pleased to meet you two!”
Bitty led them inside to a veritable buffet line and half of the men’s singles competitors, along with a decent number of jocks and, inexplicably, a tiny Southeast Asian girl. He introduced Phichit and Yuuri to his teammates, but the names were indistinguishable: everyone was called something random like Birker or Dexy.
“I know,” said a tall Black guy with killer cheekbones, “we’ve all got weird nicknames. It’s all a long and storied hockey tradition, like weird pre-game superstitions or everyone hating the Flyers.” And then he and a loud, blond, giant white guy launched a full-on Powerpoint presentation about the history of hockey names and how to make your own.
“So my hockey name would be what, Chiter?” Phichit asked, when he thought he had the hang of it.
Some dude with a mustache stared into his soul for a second and said,“Bruh, no. Cheetah. ”
“Yeah, figure skaters are speedy little fuckers, right?” Loud Guy said around a mouthful of chicken breast. “Bitty beats everyone in suicides. Now, the rest of you guys gotta make your own nicknames, Shitty’s genius won’t stick around. Do your names sound like anything cool in your own language? Animals or weapons or something?”
“Oh my god,” Phichit said. “Yuuri. Katsudon. Plisetsky was right about you all along!” Yuuri was flailing and making the usual panicky noises that indicated Phichit was onto something.
“That’s not really—” Yuuri started to say, but Phichit interrupted him.
“Katsudon and Cheetah,” he mused. “Cheetah and Katsudon.” It was only natural at that point to force Yuuri into a selfie, captioned, “Me and katsukiyuuri at an #Epikegster pregame! #cheetah #katsudon #nameamoreepicduo #illwait #hockeynicknames #makeyourown!”
After the last bite of souffle had been eaten — “don’t worry,” Eric had said, “they’re actually pretty low in sugar and you get a ton of protein!” ― and the dishes had been heaped in the sink to ignore, the older jocks went out to grab beer and… well, nobody was sure what Tiny Girl was up to, but it had something to do with pregaming.
“Okay,” Loud Guy said, after Tiny Girl returned with a projector from somewhere and the skaters had been assembled on a revoltingly filthy green couch. “In honor of Cheetah, here, who says he’s seen every figure skating movie ever made but never fucking got to Blades of Glory—”
“Like you’ve ever seen Shall We Skate?” Phichit fired back.
“Dude,” said Cheekbones, “that movie’s in Thai and Holtzy can barely manage English.”
“What, and subtitles aren’t a thing in America?”
“We are doing a very special pregame today,” Mustache said, barrelling over the incipient movie argument. “The Blades of Glory drinking game: drink every time Chazz and Jimmy get in a fight, every time Chazz mentions his sex addiction, and every time figure skating just doesn’t work like that. Two drinks for every outdated cringey gay joke, and finish your drink every time the parents’ death gets mentioned. If we notice any slow-sipping, you’ll have to finish your drink on the spot. Ready?”
“How many lines am I gonna be able to quote out of context and embarrass Yuuri?” Phichit asked.
“He’s skating with another dude in exhibitions, right? Started in Detroit?” Loud Guy said.
“Oh, around half the movie.”
And Loud Guy was right. Phichit ended up elbowing Yuuri when the announcers talked about Chazz’ upbringing in Detroit’s sewer skating scene, groaning at the hideous excuses for choreography, and whispering, “Look, it’s you and Yurio! He’s even got the haircut!” every time Jimmy and Chazz laid into each other. By the time the Iron Lotus subplot came up, he was buzzed enough to genuinely consider the physics of a bullshit movie-magic pairs skating move.
“I don’t think they would actually have been able to cut her head off,” Phichit said to nobody in particular. “Cut her throat, yeah, but there’s not enough momentum to cut through the spine. What do you think, Yuuri?” he asked, and turned to his friend, who was looking a little green.
“I think I’m gonna help the jocks set up,” Yuuri said, and fled the room.
Different strokes for different folks, Phichit figured, and took another drink— Chazz and Jimmy were fighting again.
It didn’t take long after that for the kegster to start in earnest. Students filed into the house, Loud Guy and Cheekbones brought in a keg, and before Phichit knew it, D.R.A.M. was blaring at full volume. But as Phichit got his ass kicked at flip cup, he couldn’t help but wonder where Yuuri had gone off to.
It wasn’t that Yuuri was having a bad night. Everyone was incredibly friendly and it barely mattered that he couldn’t socialize when the entire point of the night was getting hammered in creative ways. He didn’t so much greet people as slide between different drinking games. But an hour or so later and five drinks in, he was beginning to question the contents of whatever “tub juice” was.
He shambled towards the kitchen — which was blocked off with CAUTION tape and a sign reading “absolutely NO puking on appliances- ERB” — and found that somebody else had had the same idea. Somebody else looked a little like a much taller and ripped JJ, and was sitting at the table contemplating a can of root beer. Yuuri took a sip of the tub juice and tried to look as if he were neither drunk off his ass nor interested in conversation.
A few moments passed in mutually-appreciated silence.
“It’s a lot sometimes, isn’t it?” Root Beer Guy said, finally. “All the people and the socializing, and the compulsory drinking.”
“It’s not like I mind all that much,” Yuuri said. “The drinking helps with the people.”
“You’re one of the figure skaters Bittle invited, right? Katsuki?”
“The captains told me I’m supposed to call myself Katsudon now, but yeah.”
“They would. Well, I heard from Bittle that one of the reasons your friends wanted you to come tonight is to get you black-out wasted. Apparently they want to take pictures, maybe put a video on Youtube. You weren’t in on this, I’m guessing?”
“Oh God no.”
Root Beer Guy sighed. “That’s what I thought. Well, Shits is always going on about how the Haus is supposed to be a safer space, and we have to be part of consent culture and everything. I guess part of that is not forcing booze down people’s throats. Anyone tries to get you to drink when you aren’t feeling it, I’ll be here with my root beer.”
“Thanks, I guess? But I’m pretty awful at interacting without getting drunk.”
“Fair. One thing, though. You might wanna lay off the tub juice, that stuff’s basically Hi-C and Everclear.”
Yuuri squinted at his cup’s contents. “Really? I’m on my third cup and it doesn’t seem like it’s doing anything.”
“If tub juice doesn’t get you drunk, nothing will,” said Root Beer Guy. “Just keep it in mind, eh? I’d be a shitty ex-captain if I let guests get forced into situations they weren’t comfortable with.”
“I guess I will,” Yuuri said, and made his way out of the room. If tub juice wasn’t working for him, maybe beer would.
Phichit was having the time of his life. The music was pounding, his friends were dancing, and two gorgeous hockey players were helping him out of a kegstand. “Alright,” said Cheekbones, “pong table’s open! You got a partner?”
“Sure,” Phichit said. “Anybody know where Yuuri is?”
“Cute Japanese kid? Just came out of the kitchen with Jack,” Tiny Girl said from the table. “You sure you want to go with him? He looks pretty sloshed.”
“Dude, Yuuri is the best pong partner. He’s, like, a Hoover for booze and he never loses his coordination. He’s a freak of nature or something.”
“Your funeral,” said Tiny Girl. “Now, Haus rules are as follows. No smacking the ball away if it bounces, blowing and fingering are forbidden, and shots before the last cup are mandatory. Got it?”
“Yeah, but are we playing singles or doubles?” Phichit asked.
“Two of you, one of me,” Tiny Girl grinned. “If I can handle Kent Parson and half the Falconers, I can take a couple figure skaters.”
Yuuri wandered over, finished his cup of tub juice, and the game began. In short order, Tiny Girl had changed her tune.
“Aight, that’s a bounce off the ceiling, you drink four cups,” she said, and then, “The fuck, Katsuki? You’re allowed to alternate those, you’ve already been drinking half of Cheetah’s.”
“I’m fine, thanks,” Yuuri said, and chugged all of them. “Phichit’s got the alcohol tolerance of one of his hamsters, we’ve been playing pong like this for years. We end up equally wasted, so it’s not like I’m cheating.”
The game went on like that for a while, Yuuri and Tiny Girl landing all their shots, to the point where Phichit ducked out in favor of filming the legend unfolding in front of him. Finally, Tiny Girl and Yuuri had one cup left each. It was Yuuri’s turn. Somehow he managed to down the shot and bounce the ball into Tiny Girl's cup at the very edge of the table, and the room exploded.
“Holy shit!” Loud Guy said. “Somebody just fucking beat Lardo at pong.”
“Barely,” Yuuri said, somehow managing to be self-defeating and plastered at the same time.
"Are you kidding me?" Mustache chipped in. "I never thought I'd see the goddamn day."
“His aim gets better when he gets drunker,” Phichit said. “I tried to warn you.”
“I’m still the undisputed Haus flip-cup champ,” said Tiny Girl.
“Really? Let’s see about that,” Yuuri said. Drunk Yuuri was finally coming out of his modest megane shell, and Phichit was going to be around to film every second.
“Hey,” Guang-hong asked Phichit around 1 AM, “has anybody seen Leo around?”
“I lost track of him after they started playing “Vivir Mi Vida” and he freaked out,” Phichit said. “How come?”
“Eric’s totally wasted and we need a translator.”
Phichit thought for a second. “From English? We’re using English right now.”
“No,” Guang-hong said, “from Southerner. He’s slurring all his words and allergic to consonants and the last phrase I heard from him was ‘Y’all boutta git sum.’ Leo’s from Houston, he knows that accent.”
“She like music, she from Houuu-ston, like Auntie Yonce,” a familiar voice warbled from Phichit’s seven. He reached out and grabbed Leo from the mass of partiers around them.
“Leo,” Guang-hong said with a valiant attempt at sobriety, “we need you to translate what Bitty’s saying. He’s getting up in Yuuri’s face and I just heard him saying everyone was gonna get something.”
“We don’t need to worry about a fight, Yuuri’s not a fighty drunk,” Phichit added, “but he might cry all over the host and that would just be embarrassing for everyone.”
Leo squinted at Phichit as if his eyes weren’t quite focusing right. “Wouldn’t you want that?” he asked. “You could film it and add it to your Yuuri Blackmail Stash.”
“It’s not a blackmail stash, it’s just a thing friends— look, we don’t have time for this!”
“Aight,” Leo said, “lemme at ‘im and I’ll do my best.”
They elbowed their way over to the circle of onlookers surrounding a slurring Bittle and confused Yuuri, both drunk off their asses. “Aintcha never done no dance-offs b’fore?” Eric said.
“Have you ever been in a dance-off?” Leo translated, enunciating carefully and swaying slightly.
“‘S rumors. Like, tons of ‘em, ‘n’ all of ‘em gotcha winnin’ ‘gainst some miiiiiiighty tough competition,” Eric continued.
“Many rumors claim that you’ve won previous dance-offs against very tough opponents,” said Leo, deadpan.
“An’ I’m thinkin’, how ‘bout it, huh? You an’ me, here ‘n’ now, mano a mano,” Eric concluded.
“And I think we should have a dance-off here and now,” Leo said.
Yuuri blinked. “Thass wha’ he’s sayin’?” he asked. Drunk Yuuri was its own dialect, heavy with slurs and sobbing and the Saga-Ben he never quite scrubbed from his accent. Luckily, Phichit was fluent.
“Yep,” he confirmed. “You down?”
It was a foregone conclusion; between the tub juice and the pong and the kegstands, Yuuri was a good eight drinks in, and eight-drinks Yuuri was a walking bad decision. “Am I down?” Yuuri said, looking like he was about to laugh, or maybe fall over. “Phichit, ‘m a gold medalist , gonna kick ass at Worlds. I think I can take an American who doesn’ even know how t’ breakdance.”
“Famous last words, buddy,” Phichit said, but he stepped back. If this disaster happened, somebody had better preserve it for posterity, and that somebody was going to be him.
“Hey, Cheetah!” Eric hollered, and hurled his phone at Phichit. “Use my phone, I gotta Youtube channel that’s gonna wanna see this.”
The phone was already set to record, so Phichit had nothing to do but stand in a clear spot, press a button, and hold on for the ride.
“Get Me Bodied” blasted through the speakers and Phichit had no adequate words to describe what came next. There was quite a bit of breakdancing on Yuuri’s part— Phichit thought he could recognize that K-kick from the banquet photos— and Eric was shaking his ass like the world was ending and twirling around like a bizarre headbanging ballerina. Between the two of them, Phichit thought they’d used a bit of every kind of dance Phichit knew, and a few he didn’t. As the music ended, Eric came out of a giant spin and… fell? On purpose? He didn’t look hurt, and it had been timed to the music, so probably it was deliberate.
“That’s a death drop, what Bittle ended with. Although I don’t know what you call the spin he did going into it,” said Otabek from behind Phichit’s shoulder, and since when had Otabek even been at this party?
“I’ve been here all night, you just haven’t noticed because I’m not a rowdy drunk like some people,” Otabek said. “I DJ on the side, and there’s always somebody asking for the latest American hits. I figured it would be field research.”
“Okay,” said Yuuri from where he was draped against the banister, “so who won?”
Phichit pressed STOP and the recording cut out. “Everybody who just witnessed that. Maaaybe Eric, by a tiny margin? But most of all, Eric’s twitter followers,” he said, and uploaded the video.
“I’m so gonna regret that tomorrow,” Eric said, accepting a bottle of water from his boyfriend.
“I’m regretting it already,” Yuuri said. As Yuuri was tragically boyfriend-less until Victor tracked them down, Phichit grabbed some water for him.
“But oh my god, Eric, that move you did at the end? You have to teach us!” Guang-hong piped up.
“Yeah,” Phichit chirped, “Yuuri can fall on purpose for once.”
“I really hate you sometimes, Phichit, “ said Yuuri.
“Hate me later, it’s time for a podium selfie!” Phichit said, throwing Eric’s phone back to him.
Eric carefully took a photo with Yuuri, and Phichit wrote the caption for him: “4CC gold medalist katsukiyuuri and the reigning Haus Dance-Off Champion! #Epikegster #danceoffroyalty #yourfavescouldnever” The party wound down after that, and around 2 AM everybody headed back to their hotels after extracting a deal: Eric would teach them how to do a death drop someday if Yuuri helped him land a quad loop.
Bitty woke up in the middle of the night with an enormous headache, aching joints, and several thousand new followers. His phone had apparently alerted him to all of them at once, and didn’t stop buzzing for the five minutes it took Bitty to scroll to the source of the problem. Sure, the dance-off video accounted for his new Twitter followers, but why on earth was his Instagram blowing up?
And then he saw the selfie, and more importantly, the top comment.
“Jack. Jack, if you love me at all, you have to see this.”
“Bits, it’s four in the morning.”
“Look at this. Look at it. Viktor. Nikiforov. Just. Liked. My. Photo. He complimented my selfie prowess, Jack! ”
“I’m divorcing you.”
“We’re not even engaged!”