Despite what Yuuri and Victor had expected a few months ago, the ice rink was packed to the rim with an excited crowd. It seemed like word had gotten out that Victor and Yuuri’s son would be making his debut today and now everyone who was even marginally interested in skating wanted to know how he was going to do. From their position on the sideline Victor could even see that some people were here hoping Yuri would fail, he was just lucky Yuri wasn’t old enough to understand what the rude words and intentions on the posters meant. He had never thought he could want to assault someone as much as he wanted to do now, but his sense told him to find an employee to remove the offending signs and people before too many people got wind of the controversy.
The stress of the large crowd seemed to work a number on Yuri too because what had only a few hours ago been excitement at showing everyone his tiger suit was now fear that he might trip up and embarrass himself. He had wanted to mimic the exercises he’d seen his father’s do before their big performances, but Yuuri was able to calm him down enough to simply lay down in the locker room and warm up his muscles.
Looking back at him from their position by the wall, Yuuri leaned into Victor and asked, “Do you think we should make the program a little easier. It’s probably harder than anything the other kids are going to do and if we change the last combination it would be easier on his stamina.”
Although Victor had the same concern, he shook his head and explained, “He’s going to freak out even more if he thinks we don’t think he can do his program. It’s going to sike him out and cause him to break down on the ice.”
“So then what should we do?” Yuuri asked anxiously. “I don’t like seeing him this stressed over something he knows like the back of his hand.”
“He did fine on the warm up,” Victor said optimistically. “He landed all of his jumps and the under rotation was mostly because he was trying to find us by the sideline. If he stays focused we shouldn’t have a problem.”
Yuuri shook his head and countered, “There was hardly anyone else there during the warm up. It’s the people freaking him out and unless we can somehow convince everyone to leave he’s going to be scared.” He nervously added, “He’s also had a problem with under rotation every practice this past week.”
“Should we pretend not to notice that everyone’s looking at him?” Victor asked. “If he asks we can say they think his outfit’s the cutest one here.”
Looking around Yuuri had to admit, “It really is. Most of the people here are pretty forgettable and the ears and whiskers really pull it all in together.”
“Do you think we made a mistake not letting him wear the paws on his hands?” Victor asked comparing the images in his head.
“Nope,” Yuuri said with certainty. “That would have made him look gimmicky and over the top. This is a good medium where he looks cute and has the talent to back it up.”
Not wanting to leave his son to worry on his own, Victor decided, “We can get Makkachin to go over and show him a lot of love. That always calmed me down when I was worried.”
It only took a signal from Yuuri for Makkachin to get the point. He had been worried about his youngest owner to and once he had permission he immediately leaped past everyone else and tackled Yuri until he submitted to his kissed. Yuri tried to swat Makkachin away from him, but it obvious he enjoyed the support. Still, once he saw his parents coming closer to investigate he complained, “He’s bothering me and I can’t concentrate. I can’t finish my stretches with him on top of me.”
Victor leaned down beside him and assured him, “You don’t need to finish, kiddo. You’ve already done them all once and you’re going to win to matter what.”
“How much longer do I have?” He didn’t know if he wanted more or less time, but he needed to know something.
Yuuri peaked out to see what number they were at now and said, “Three more people have to go before you. You have at least fifteen minutes.”
Nodding along, Yuri decided, “I can do my jumps over. They might help later.”
“Actually, I think you should do out to the rink and watch the others perform.” At the curious looks from his family Victor explained, “It will show you how much better you are than everyone else.”
Yuuri seemed to agree and said, “You’re going to do great, Yurio.” The use of the nickname bothered Yuri, but it did it’s job of distracting Yuri into think about something other than his stress. It only took an outreaching hand from Victor to convince him to leave the locker room and see the routines from the competition.
To his surprise there was nothing near as technical as the program his parents had made for him. Most of the other performances only involved two jumps, little to no combinations, and not a single one was completed with no mistakes. Victor had that verified by a few of the employees and it immediately calmed Yuri down to the point he was practically a limp cat in Yuuri’s arms. It was only when the last skater before him went on the ice he frantically began to ask, “What if the music is wrong? What if my ears fall off and I trip on them? What if they don’t like it?”
“They’re going to love you.” Seeing their couch out of the corner of his eye, Yuri added, “If even Yakov liked what your program there’s no way you won’t completely win over everyone in the arena.”
At one point they had to let him on the ground and Yuri immediately began jumping in place to warm up his legs. For all he knew the smallest incremental change could be the difference between a gold or silver. It was only when the skater in front of him fell down that his spirits lightened up enough for him to feel optimistic. He gave her a small smile as she got off the ice and went to her family before the score was announced, but smiled confidently to his parents.
Leaning up close so someone might not hear, Yuri whispered, “I think I’m going to be fine. If everyone was like that then I’ll be fine, even if I do mess up.”
“The good thing is you aren’t going to mess up. You’re going to do great and everyone here is going to know just how good of a skater you are.”
They announced the score, it was a respectable 72.45, and it lifted Yuri’s spirit enough to know he’d do fine. It only increased when he heard that she was ranked third and only 7 points behind the person ranked first. As long as he performed as well as he had in the warm up he had first place locked.
The announcer called out Yuri’s name and he took a final hug from both of his parents before skating onto the ice and giving a polite smile to the judges. He took a deep breath and shook off his nerves like his Papa had taught him and prepared for the music to start.
Victor had decided they could use the song “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” considering it was traditional enough to not shock the judges and relevant enough to Lion King to not bother Yuri. It took a few seconds for people to catch onto what the song was, most of the other music was popular contemporary song and no one had expected a love song from a 90s animated Disney movie, and the happy faces from the crowd spurred him onto his first combination. It wasn’t like any of the combinations his fathers’ performed in their routines, an impressive jump and spin before moving onto the exciting footwork that was Yuri’s favorite part. His dad had come up with something that actually reminded him of a big cat and he pranced around the rink imagining he was actually in the jungle with the cheer of the crowd spurring him on. As the melody picked up he knew he had to move onto the second combination, it was the only one with three jumps, and the crowd cheering on when he landed everything almost perfectly. It took a few moments for him to remember that he had to finish the rest of the song instead of basking in the feeling of everyone clapping for him and when he finally got back on track he was a few seconds behind the music. He rushed past the rest of the footwork, he hoped the judges didn’t notice and thought it was meant to be more difficult, and he had thought he covered for the mistake until he saw his parents looking cautious behind the barrier. Suddenly all the more cautious, Yuri decided to make up for the mistake by changing his last combination to something harder. Instead of a single jump, Yuri decided he could add another spin. He wasn’t completely sure he could land it, the last jump was challenging enough for his stamina, but if he did he knew it would make up for any mistake he had made.
The jump was almost perfect, in the moment of clarity he had he could tell everyone was excited, and the slight under rotation was probably not noticeable to anyone other than him and his parents. Yuri debated not adding on the final spin, but as soon as his feet touched the ice he was in the air again. Only this time instead of landing on his skates he landed on the side of his leg and screamed out in pain.
Yuri couldn’t tell from his position on the ice, but as soon as Victor and Yuuri saw the failed landing they were leaping over the barrier and running on the ice. It took them a moment to get used to the feel of ice under their regular shoes, Victor even needed to use his hand to keep from falling on his ass, but soon enough they were beside Yuri asking him in unison, “What hurts? Do you think you broke something?”
Through tears Yuri reached out for Yuuri to hold him and motioned to his landing leg. “I think I broke my foot. It really hurts, really, really hurts, and I can’t get up.”
Victor was ready to carry Yuri to the medic tent, but before he could move a muscle a medic slid down beside him and asked, “Where does it hurt?”
Pointing again to the same foot, Yuri repeated, “I think I broke it,” before letting the medic mess with it while he focused on his parents.
He didn’t do much, only pressed on the wound from outside the shakes and asked some questions before smiling at Yuri and saying, “I doesn’t look broken. You probably only twisted it and after couple weeks in bed you should be perfectly fine.”
The medic was about to carry Yuri, but he clung onto Yuuri tight enough that no one dared trying to remove him. Before they got up from their position on the ice, Victor took his jacket off and draped it over his family to keep any wayward cameras from catching a glimpse of Yuri’s face covered in tears. He knew the last thing Yuri wanted was to see a clip of him crying all over the news for the next couple of days.
From what Victor could tell leaving the rink, Yakov had also made sure no press came near them as they exited through a tunnel and followed the medic back to the infirmary. For a moment Yuuri was about to ask if Yuri would rather sit on the gurney, but the white knuckles holding onto his jacket told him to dismiss the question. Instead he tightened his hold on his son, hoping it would calm him down, while Victor ran a hand through his hair and whispered soft praises in his ear.
The doctor in the infirmary was prepared for them and calmly instructed Yuuri, “Please place him on the bed and we can see how bad the problem is.”
This time Yuuri and Victor took their place on either of Yuri’s sides and held onto their hands while they tried to coach him through some breathing to calm his nerves. The doctor was confused for a second, but one strong look from Victor was enough to know not to question anything.
Instead, she pulled a stool out from under her desk and rolled over in front of Yuri before asking, “Can you tell me how much it hurts, Yuri? Scale from 1 to 10.”
“A million,” Yuri quietly wept out. He knew it wasn’t the right answer, but it was how he felt right now.
“Okay,” she said calmly, “I’m going to take off your shoes to see the injury.” Yuri cringed in preparation, but to his surprise she took off the skate from the uninjured foot. He didn’t know why, but feeling the skate come off made the ordeal seem easier and it didn’t seem like that much of a struggle anymore. On the injured foot she took some more time and made sure to loosen the laces as much as possible. Once she had created as large of an opening as she could, the doctor slowly removed the shoe with the least amount of force as possible. After placing the shoe to the side, the doctor went back to the desk and pulled out a pair of scissors before returning to her first position. Seeing the concerned look on Yuri’s face, she assured him, “I’m just going to cut off the sock. It’s going to hurt a lot less than if I used my hand and pulled it off.”
After getting an affirmation from his parents, Yuri held out his foot a little closer to the doctor as his signal to move along with the procedure. She took her time cutting it off, she didn’t want to accidentally pierce the wound, and when the scrapes of the sock were on the ground she silently examined the swelling.
Turning the foot over in her hand, she warned, “I’m going to examine the swelling and it might hurt, okay? You might want to hold onto your fathers’ hands to have something to hold onto.”
Following orders, Yuri squealed at the touch but was able to put it out of his mind long enough to focus on anything else. Happily for him the doctor didn’t spend a lot of time looking it over and quickly placed it down before explaining, “I doesn’t look like anything is broken, but we’ll do an x ray just to be sure. If I’m right I can wrap this up and you can leave soon.”
“Do x rays hurt?” Yuri asked cautiously. “Do they hurt more than you touching my foot?”
“No,” she said smiling. “It’s just like taking a picture, but this one goes all the way down to your bone. You can see what your foot looks like under all the skin and muscle when we’re done.”
After getting a quick confirmation from his parents, Yuri nodded and lit up seeing one of the assistants rolling in the wheelchair. “Can I roll myself around?” he asked excitedly.
“Not yet, but we’ll take you to the room where we do the x rays and when we see the results we know what to do.”
Once they were alone in the room, Victor turned to Yuuri and asked, “Is it bad that I want to know the score?”
Shaking his head, Yuuri suggested, “It might be the only thing that makes him feel better right now. I want to sprint up to the arena and see how everything is going. All things considered, the program went pretty great if we forget the last few seconds.”
“I still don’t understand why he added that spin though,” Victor sighed. “His program had been perfect up until then. Even if he didn’t do any of his jumps he would have landed on the podium.”
Not paying attention to his husband, Yuuri realized, “Yakov probably knows the score, but I don’t want to leave and have Yuri find the room empty.”
Victor tried to think of someway to find the results, his phone was god knows where and he didn’t want to waste too much looking hunting down a recognizable face, but an opportunity showed itself as soon as someone walked past the door. He leaped out the room and said, “I want you to go and find Yakov Feltsman and have him come down here. If he groans, say Victor and Yuuri want him here.”
He quickly returned to his seat beside Yuuri and said, “We probably won’t have to wait long.”
While they waited, the couple quickly deliberated on what they thought the score might be, Yuuri more optimistic than Victor, and were able to settle on a 5 point range between 82 and 87. Before they could make any adjustments, Yakov rushed in and asked, “How is he? Does he need surgery?”
Knowing how worried Yakov could get even when he didn’t like to show it, Victor enveloped Yakov in a hug and assured him, “He’s going to be fine. They think it was just a twist and he should be back on the ice in a few weeks.”
Yakov took a moment to take in the good news before breaking out of a hug and demanding, “Who decided to add a spin in the end? He could barely handle the last jump and someone added a spin?”
Looking between them, Yuuri assured him, “Neither of us did. We actually wanted him to lose the last jump, but we didn’t say anything because we knew it wouldn’t do him any good to change the program last minute.”
“Then it must have been a change he made.” Looking around the room and finding it empty, Yakov asked, “Where is he now?”
“Getting an x ray just to be sure nothing’s broken.”
Anxiously looking back at Victor, Yuuri asked, “How was the score?”
“86.79,” Yakov said proudly. “He’s in first right now and there are only a few people who still have to go up.” Thinking back to every other time one of his students had an injury, he added, “Yuri should be back in enough time to get his medal.”
Not having anything else to do, the three sat back in silent contemplation while they waited for the doctor to bring Yuri back in. The only reason it took longer than they had expected was because Yuri was trying to roll into the room all by himself. His tiny little arms didn’t have the energy to make it all the way, but for the sake of his pride the doctor was hiding the fact she was doing the pushing. Soon enough he was trying to maneuver himself through the doorway and once he was in the room he shouted excitedly, “Yakov! How did I do?”
The usually stoic coach leaned down towards the boy to ruffle his hair and assure him, “You did wonderfully. You’re in first place and no one else has even come close.”
Peeking out behind him, Yuri asked, “Did you hear that? Daddy? Papa? I’m in first!”
“That’s great kiddo,” they both said pretending not to have already known the information. Yuuri added, “Now you’re going to get your first gold medal ever.”
After letting the family have the moment, the doctor pulled out some gauze and explained to Yuri, “This is going to protect your ankle and keep it from getting hurt.” She sat him back on the bed and showed him a tube of salve. “This is going to help with the swelling and make you feel a lot better.”
By now Yuri was ready for the night to be over and nodded his understanding as he held out his foot in wait. “This isn’t going to take long, right? I have to go pick up my gold medal.”
“It’s just going to be a little longer than the x ray.” Warming up the salve in her hand, she softly began massaging it into the swelling and asked, “This doesn’t hurt, right?”
At the nod Yuri gave her in response, she finished up with the salve before wrapping the foot in gauze and explaining solemnly, “You’re going to need it wrapped up for a few weeks, but you still shouldn’t stake until it’s fully healed. You don’t want to hurt it again and make the problem worse.”
Only a few minutes later Yakov was pushing him up to the arena where the skaters who had finished were waiting for the medal announcement. There weren’t as many skaters as Yuri had expected, but he assumed some had left after receiving a low score.
Yakov and his fathers must have looked threatening enough from their position beside him because no one risked going anywhere near Yuri until the final score was announced and they had all the rankings. Just as everyone had expected Yuri was still ranked first in the competition, but rolling up closer to the ice he realized, “How do I get up there on the podium? It’s too high and I can’t stand up yet.”
Victor offered, “We can lift you up to the top, but you have to make sure not to move so you roll off.” Mentally doing the measurements, he decided, “There’s enough room to fit the chair at the top, but be careful.”
Motioning for Yakov and Yuuri to join him on the sides of the wheelchair, they slowly and carefully pushed Yuri onto the ice. As soon as they became visible to everyone in the arena there was a loud cheer, but considering they were still in their regular shoes the adults took slow steps before reaching the podium and lifting Yuri up to the top spot.
Before stepping away to give his son the moment to himself, Victor could see his flushed face and tears ready to drop. He quickly leaned in and whispered, “Remember to kiss the medal. There’s nothing in the world like it.”