Phichit always enjoyed the off season—coming up with new routines, getting to skate for fun and not just competition, spending time with his family. But the last few years were even better, because Victor wasn't letting go of Onsen on Ice anytime soon.
This year was looking to be incredible, for two major reasons: Yuuri had specifically requested he perform his old Shall We Skate SP, and Yuri Plisetsky was recovering from a bad fall and had been drafted into playing announcer.
It was guaranteed to be the greatest ice show ever.
"Why that routine, though?" Phichit asked, head cocked to the side. He definitely didn't mind—it was still one of his favorites—but Onsen on Ice tended to involve more showcases of ridiculous exhibition skates than anything.
Yuuri shifted, briefly disappearing from Phichit's computer screen, then reappeared with a poster—one of him and Victor in the middle of their pair Stammi Vicino, looking utterly lovestruck.
"I never would've managed this without you," Yuuri told him earnestly, and Phichit still wasn't used to Yuuri being so open.
"Obviously," Phichit agreed with a laugh, not meaning it in the slightest—Yuuri always thought too little of himself, even now that he was off living it up in St Petersburg with his adolescent celebrity crush.
"No, I mean it," Yuuri said seriously, leaning closer to his webcam. "You've always loved skating so much—not just the competitions, but skating itself. For years, just watching you reminded me that I loved it too—enough to keep going even when it seemed pointless."
"When you told me about your dream a few months ago, all I could think was—'of course'," Yuuri continued determinedly, a little red-faced but refusing to back down. "Of course you want other people to have fun with skating—of course you want your country to have the chance to love what you love. So I thought it'd be nice if we all did our favorite routines, the ones we had the most fun with, and I know for you that's Shall We Skate."
Phichit smiled at Yuuri helplessly. "That sounds...that sounds really great. Okay. Let's do it!"
"Great!" Yuuri said, more relieved than Phichit thought was really warranted.
"You do realize this means JJ's going to choose That Song," Phichit warned him. "The Cursed Song."
Yuuri snorted. "Yurio's the announcer, remember? He'll just scream into the microphone for three minutes if JJ tries."
"JJ would skate to it anyway. ...I would totally watch that."
"A quad for every four letter word."
"Oh my God, he would die after thirty seconds. His legs would fall right off. Yurio would love that."
"Let's not repeat this conversation to anyone," Phichit suggested with a slightly nervous laugh. He still remembered Yuri on Darkness. He still had nightmares of Yuri on Darkness. "Or if we do, at least make sure I go first, I'm not skating on a murder scene. There are some moments from the King and the Skater even I don't want to reenact."
“I...don't remember that scene.”
“From the newest movie. King and the Skater VIII: the Skate Guard of Fate, it's amazing. Get this, Arthur and the king totally—”
Phichit knew this was going to be one of the greatest experiences of his life the moment Mila carried Yuri Plisetsky to his station by the camera crew, holding him up over her head for no other reason than because she could. It didn't seem to matter that, at nineteen, he was actually taller and heavier than her.
“Make way, make way, very important tiger coming through,” she sang.
"Yeah, yeah," Yuri snarled as a muffled wave of laughter went through the assembled skaters. "All of you can go straight to—"
"Yuri," Otabek interrupted, nodding a greeting.
Yuri smiled, realized he was smiling while he was still in Mila's grasp, and immediately froze in horror. He didn't recover from this gross betrayal of his own principles until Mila dumped him in a chair and jammed a headset on him.
"Fuck," Yuri said quietly, wide-eyed. "Fuuuuuu—"
"THERE ARE CHILDREN," Morooka barked. "SO MANY CHILDREN."
"Oh shi—godda—cra—I mean right. Right. Children," Yuri sputtered. "This thing isn't on yet, right?"
"This is going to be amazing," Phichit said, tears stinging his eyes.
"I'll tell my grandkids about this one day," Mila agreed, watching Yuri fondly. "I'll tell them a very, very censored version, but nevertheless. 'Yes, your babushka was there the day the music died.'"
Yuri warmed to his role quickly.
"Welcome to the third annual—what, fourth? Are you sure? Shut up, I know I was at all of them, I'm not an idiot. Fine, we're here for the fourth annual Onsen on Tiger—I mean, Onsen on Ice. Onsen on Tiger would be better, right? See, they agree with me. Mila, what are you—PUT ME DOWN, HAG, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU, I AM HOLDING SENSITIVE EQUIPMENT. ...NOT A WORD, GIACOMETTI."
Morooka closed his eyes in abject despair. Mila accepted the protest as valid and slid Yuri back into his chair.
"Crazy witch. Anyway thanks to everyone for supporting us and buying tickets, it's all for a good cause. In return, our skaters today will try not to fail as hard as usual.
“Everyone, first up is Geezer Niliforv and Katsudon Katsuki, doing their gross pair skate thing yet again. Nobody cares about your stupid love anymore, losers, find a new gimmick already. Anyway Katsudon's still okay, he's not a total has-been like his husband, so just watch him."
Victor's jaw dropped; Phichit wasn't sure he'd ever seen anyone look so deeply offended on every possible level.
"You get what you pay for," Seung-gil noted philosophically.
Yuuri just waved over at Yuri with a smile, unaffected. "We love you too, Yurio," he called out loudly and sincerely. Victor looked unconvinced, still reeling from Yuri's devastating attack, but summoned up the spirit to make a heart with his hands in Yuri's direction.
"Shots fired," Phichit said, delighted. "Shots fired."
Morooka wrestled Yuri for the headset before every small child present received a very specialized, very extensive vocabulary lesson.
As much as he enjoyed Yuri's fresh approach to...everything, Phichit was actually looking forward to Stammi Vicino. Yuuri always looked so happy when he and Victor skated together, and that was something that'd been in short supply during their Detroit days.
He watched, eyebrows raised, as both Victor and Yuuri headed to the center of the rink—had they changed their choreography? They occasionally switched up who started and who joined in later, but this was new. And Victor was in the right outfit, looking very regal, but Yuuri wasn't—he was wearing a plain white shirt and tight black pants.
Then the opening strains of their routine began to play, and it took Phichit a moment to realize that he wasn't listening to to Stammi Vicino at all. No, he knew this music, probably knew it better than anyone else in the world.
There were two scenes in the first King and the Skater where the king and Arthur really skated together: one at the very beginning of their friendship, and one when they came together as more. This was the former: a playful exploration of the ice and each other, the king skidding and slipping as Arthur drew him into more complicated spins and spirals.
Yuuri and Victor were good. They'd built a full routine out of the king's learning curve, and they'd clearly practiced the hell out of it. Yuuri didn't even have to act, watching Victor with the same warmth as always, but Victor did a magnificent job as the awkward, determined king, slowly warming up to his new tutor. By the middle of the song, Victor was laughing with every graceful near-fall, eyes sparkling every time Yuuri dramatically saved him from the ice. It was the cutest thing Phichit had ever seen, and his hamsters provided stiff competition.
They must've come up with this right after Phichit told Yuuri about his dream. They must've been practicing this since the end of the season.
Phichit's face actually hurt from how hard he was smiling.
He knew something was Officially Up when Yuri announced, "Ugh, JJ's up, whatever, you don't need to know about him," and the familiar notes of The Theme of King JJ didn't immediately fill the rink.
JJ was skating to Arthur's first program from the second movie, King and the Skater II: Return of the Great Zamboni. He'd added a few more jumps than Arthur had managed during his Olympic debut, threw in a loud "It's ARTHUR STYLE", but it was still undeniably a routine from King and the Skater. Not as polished as Yuuri and Victor's pair skate, but still damn good.
"And now my good friend, 2018 World Championship Gold Medalist Otabek Altin, will be taking the ice," Yuri informed the audience before JJ had even hit his final pose. "He'll be skating to An Axel A Day from the newest King and the Skater installment, the Skate Guard of Fate. Let's all give him a round of applause. Davai!"
"What a subtle young man," Chris said dryly.
"You'd never know he's biased," Mila agreed, snickering.
Phichit was too busy jumping in place over a third King and the Skater routine in a row to join in the sarcasm.
This was the greatest day of his life.
"Christophe Giacometti's turn now, skating to Threw Me For a Toe Loop from King and the Skater V: Unlucky in Lutz. For the love of God, Giacometti, don't be disgusting," Yuri said, scowling. "There are children here. THE ICE SAYS KEEP IT TO YOURSELF."
"Little boy, the ice loves me," Chris shouted back, unconcerned.
Morooka looked dead inside. Phichit felt a little bad for laughing about it.
"Well, now that everyone has been completely traumatized by Christophe Giacometti's interpretation of Arthur's yearning for the king... Presenting Georgi Popovich, he doesn't totally suck all the time. He'll be skating to To Twizzle Alone from the first movie. He never saw King and the Skater until last month, and hasn't stopped crying since."
"Their love is a pure and beautiful thing," Georgi shouted out, unashamed. "You'll understand when you're older, Yura."
"God, I hope not. Also, I'm nineteen, assh—uh, jerk."
"We're talking later," Phichit called to Georgi, delighted. "I have fics you need to read! So many!"
"Yes, absolutely," Georgi replied, beaming. "Have you read that one soulmate AU? With the geese?"
"I wrote that soulmate AU!"
“You're Phichilicious? I should have known! I love you! ”
"Aaand I'm done now, everyone," Yuri announced, turning to stalk away.
"That's what you think," Mila said, catching him and gently setting him back in place.
"Ugh, why does everyone suck so hard? Not you, Otabek, you're still cool. Everyone else sucks. Audience, take note of that: support me and Otabek because we're the only ones who aren't the worst."
Otabek flashed Yuri a thumbs up. Yuri returned it, adding in a sharp nod.
"Don't encourage him," Morooka begged Otabek. "Please."
"That was Georgi, everyone, pretty clear he's been spending his retirement sobbing over King and the Skater and not actually skating."
Mila grabbed Yuri's ear and dragged his face close enough to speak directly into his mic. "What Yuri means is good job, Georgi, that was a stunning display of artistry."
"He barely even jumped at all!"
Mila scoffed, letting go of Yuri's head in disgust.
Phichit sniffled, because Georgi's interpretive skate about the trials and tribulations of being the rarest trading card in a magical card game was one of the most fantastically beautiful things he'd ever seen. Even King and the Skater VII: Activation Day hadn't delved so deeply into the Diamond Crested Dragon's emotions.
"Now Japan's own Minini Kendoll--"
"NO," Morooka snapped. "You will not get this wrong. He is one of only two Japanese skaters here today! He is a Japanese Nationals silver medalist! He is a GPF bronze medalist! You've held joint interviews!"
Morooka looked murderous. Yuri actually paled a little.
"Mina...mmmmble Kenmmmble," Yuri said, very quietly. Minami, on the ice, somehow contrived to look both pissed and amused.
"Good luck, Minami-kun!" Yuuri shouted helpfully, while Victor tried not to look like he was laughing into his husband's shoulder. Phichit knew the feeling.
Minami brightened immediately. So did Yuri.
"JAPAN'S OWN MINAMI KEN," Yuri said quickly, and Phichit bit his lip when he saw Yuri shoot Yuuri a grateful look.
"We believe in you, Kenjiro-kun!" Yuuri's old friend Yuuko added, pointedly, in Yuri's general direction.
"AND NOW JAPAN'S OWN MINAMI KENJIRO—wait, the music's already playing? Shi—cra—I mean...ugh."
Morooka was developing quite the twitch, Phichit noticed. But not even Morooka's descent into madness could hold his attention for long, because Minami was owning Solitary Spiral, the song that so beautifully portrayed Arthur's absolute heartbreak in King and the Skater III: The Skatening.
Every skater. Somehow, every single skater here was doing this for him—performing routines they'd probably never use anywhere else, sacrificing their time and effort. Because he'd told Yuuri his fondest wish, his greatest ambition, something he was secretly a little afraid he'd never make happen. And Yuuri and all their friends and colleagues had somehow organized a tribute to Phichit's love for his homeland, a perfect example of everything skating and Thailand meant to him.
With Yuri Plisetsky as the announcer.
Phichit wouldn't trade any of this for a million new Twitter followers.
"And now we have the Crispino siblings skating the romantic pair routine Triple Flip Into Love, set at the end of King and the Skater VI: the Ice Strikes Back. Wait, is that right? The Crispinos? This is wrong on so many levels I want to puke and it hasn't even started, but I'm the one who needs censoring? The King and the Skater franchise is about two men who are in love. Romantically. Also skating and card games and time travel and I guess a war or something, but my point stands."
Phichit kind of had to give him that one. Morooka actually grimaced and muttered, "Well. I can't argue with that."
Sara shrugged expressively as she skated out onto the ice, eloquently conveying 'sorry not sorry' without actually saying a word. Michele scowled as he joined her. Emil cheered loudly from the gate.
"Is it better or worse that she's cross-dressing?" Yuri wondered.
"Well, that was...not bad. If you don't think about it at all. And now Leo and Guang Hong, they're usually pretty okay. They'll be skating Arthur and the King's wedding dance, Twist Lift My Heart, from King and the Skater IV: the Dark Rink Rises. Let's all just...appreciate them not being siblings."
Phichit breathed in sharply. He loved the Dark Rink Rises.
"Now, last but not least, Phichit Chulanont skating his gold-winning Shall We Skate SP. JJ is least, if anyone was wondering, which you shouldn't be because it's obvious. Anyway Katsudon said he'd give me two thousand yen if I said, uh, wait, I wrote this down, where'd I—here it is, one sec, okay, 'Phichit Chulanont is Thailand's foremost skater and—'...ugh, Katsudon, really? Fine, whatever, 'Phichit is Thailand's blah blah and the world's greatest friend', which is untrue but whatever, he's okay I guess."
"Aw, you love me!" Phichit crowed.
"I DO NOT."
"I accept your love!" Phichit said, even as he stepped out onto the ice. "Everyone, both Yuris love me! All Yuris love me! Hashtag BLESSED." He flashed a peace sign and a gold-winning smile.
"Hashtag Love Wins!"
"HASHTAG SHUT THE F—"
"Ahaha, this is Mila, briefly filling in for my colleague—"
"--give that back, hag, he hashtagged me, he's getting what's coming to—"
"--does that even mean? Do you even know?"
"--was gonna say fudge, okay, not fu—"
"Both of you be quiet, the music's about to start!"
Phichit almost missed his cue to start skating.
"We're sold out," Mila said, astonished. "Every show for the rest of the week. At least ten people emailed in and are willing to pay extra if we stop Yura from opening his mouth until we're done, and several dozen more say they'll help fund a DVD release as long as he records a commentary track."
"That's fantastic," Georgi gasped.
Phichit whistled. He would buy that DVD, in all honestly. He'd buy that DVD and a back-up copy. And hadn't Yuri said earlier that the proceeds were going to a good cause? "Whatever group you're supporting must be thrilled."
Georgi smirked and Mila grinned; Chris laughed and clapped Phichit on the back. "About that," Minami started, but fell silent when Victor clapped a hand over his mouth and nodded unsubtly towards Yuuri.
"I'm getting the feeling that I'm missing something," Phichit said, eyebrows raised.
"It was a fundraiser," Yuuri said, red-faced. "For Thailand's greatest ice show. It's not a ton of money or anything, but it's a start."
"Surprise?" Yuuri said, with a self-conscious smile.
Phichit stared. He'd thought—maybe they were showing support, or just celebrating his favorite thing ever because they all, for obvious reasons, loved him a lot. But this...
"Georgi's been knitting hamster hats," Yuri informed him, shuddering. "They're disgusting, you'll love them. I will not be wearing one ever, I don't care if it's part of the official outfit."
"What Yurio is trying to say," Victor said with a cheerful smile, "is that we've also all committed to being a part of your opening show."
"Those of us who aren't too ancient to even move by then," Yuri qualified, glowering at Victor.
"We can just wheel him onto the ice. People will still pay to see him," Otabek said.
Yuri held out a fist; Otabek bumped it. They nodded to each other seriously.
With expert timing, Yuuri grabbed his husband's hand and kissed his ring. Victor expression went from How Could You, You Are Both Dead To Me to My Life My Love My Katsudon in roughly point two seconds.
"Yeah, and the rest of us will be there, so it'll be fine either way," Yuri said, ignoring them.
"Ah, but everyone will really be there to see some—"
"Don't say it," Yuri hissed. “Don't say it—”
Phichit burst into tears.
JJ apologized frantically; no one, including Phichit himself, felt the need to explain that he was just really happy.
"Suddenly it's all worthwhile," Yuri said, as JJ hovered at Phichit's shoulder and alternated between offering Phichit his own sleeve for a kleenex and patting gingerly at his back.
"Yuuri," Phichit said as everyone else set off for the locker room. Yuuri paused, glancing back at him, and Phichit grabbed his best friend by the shoulders and stared intently into his eyes. "This means...so much."
"It wasn't just me," Yuuri told him with a faint smile. "Everyone really wanted to help you. Victor was actually the one who thought of using Onsen on Ice as a fundraiser this year, and everyone agreed straightaway."
"And I'll thank them all, too. But first I'm thanking you."
Yuuri laughed. "Well, you're welcome."
"I'm still not taking down those pictures of you from Spring Break 2014."
"What more do you want?"
"Firstborn or bust, baby. Firstborn or bust."