"You, what?" Yuri asked, furrowing his eyebrows at Viktor. He set the papers in his hands back onto the table and into the mess that was already there. Viktor sat across from him and was twiddling his thumbs, attempting not to ruin what little organization that Yuri had before him.
"I want us to go to couples counseling." Viktor looked away slightly in his nervousness. "I mean, don't get me wrong! I feel like we've made so much progress on our own in such a small amount of time, but some things I feel like we haven't addressed won't be fixed unless we get some outside help." At the unsure look that appeared on Yuri's face, Viktor continued. "I know it's not something that you really want to do. Trust me, I'm not a big fan of counseling either, but I really want to be able to get past the bad things that have happened between us and move forward. I feel like we're just avoiding the heavy stuff and hoping that it will resolve itself. That will more than likely blow up on us in the future and I just… I want to be able to move forward without having to worry about when that might happen. I want our relationship to be healthy and not like we're dancing around each other out of obligation. I want it to be more real than it is now. There is still some trust issues between us, even if we don't show them very well. I just… I don't know, I'm rambling, but can you at least think about it for me? Or even for yourself?"
Yuri drummed his thumbs against the table and bit his lip. He knew that Viktor was right, and that there was things that they definitely needed to work on, but was this really the only way? Did they really need to secure help from the outside to make sure their relationship moved forward? A sigh escaped his lips and he ran a hand down his face.
"I get what you're saying," Yuri stated after a few moments of silence. "Believe me, I do, but when could we possibly find the time to be able to go out and get counseling? You still have a career that you need to think about, I have a job at the Ice Castle and here at the onsen, and we both have a child to raise that is starting school next week. Those things in of itself already fill all hours of the day. You can't tell me that you just brought this up without thinking about the scheduling issue."
Viktor popped up at that, pulling out his phone and scrolling through it. "I have thought about it. I wanted to be able to cover the basis of this with you so that way you might consider it." He turned his phone around and handed it to Yuri, who began to read through the improvised schedule on the screen. "I've already been in contact with a counselor in Tokyo and told her about my interest in possibly setting up an appointment with her. She gave me the times and days of the week that she was available. The best time for us, based on our schedule, would more than likely be around two o'clock. That way, depending on the path of my career and your job at the onsen, we'd both have time to work in the morning hours and then get a bite to eat before heading to the counseling session. Then, from two to three, we'd sit through the session and be back in time to be able to pick up Yalenchka from school. After that, you'd have time to give your afternoon skating lessons and I can stay at the onsen and help Yalenchka with homework if he has any or I'll be there just to be the parent figure while you're away. Maybe I'll even bring Yalenchka to the rink and he can have some fun and I can help you teach the students."
"Ah," Yuri cuts in, "but here lies the problem." Yuri sets down the phone and looks at VIktor, who furrows his eyebrows.
"I thought I had that planned out pretty well," Viktor mumbled, leaning back in his heat and biting at his thumb.
"You do have it planned really well," Yuri agrees. "But that isn't the problem. You just planned… in the context of what you think our careers are going to be."
"Think they're going to be?" Viktor questioned, looking aghast. "What do you-"
"Let's face it, Viktor," Yuri whispered solemnly. "You're thirty-three, going to be thirty-four in just a couple of months. You can't tell me that your body isn't feeling the tax of skating for over two and a half decades. I know your knees have been hurting more lately and that your lower back has been killing you, which is why you've been spending more time in the hot springs." Viktor looked away, guilt clear on his face. "I'm sorry, Viktor, but I think you really need to consider your health a little more. I don't want you to just charge off into the season and get yourself hurt just because you want to skate one more year. If you think you can go another year, then fine, that's your call, I just wanted you to know what I was thinking."
Viktor sighed, a look of knowing clear on his face. "I know where you're coming from. I promise I'll think about it a little more, but as of now, I think I'll be skating this season."
"And the coaching situation?" Yuri asked.
"I'll either be face-timing Yakov or sending him video clips of my practice sessions. Those were his conditions if I decided I wanted to stay here in Japan with you and Yalenchka."
"That's actually not a bad idea," Yuri agreed, biting his lip and looking back down at the schedule. "At least you have a plan for if you do continue to stake this season. What if you don't?"
Viktor leaned back and looked up in contemplation. "I'll probably start coaching here in Japan, give Yakov a run for his money and send a few foreign skaters after his prized Russians. It wouldn't be too hard to find a few skaters here in Japan that would jump at the chance of being coached by a three time Olympic Gold Medalist, so I think it's a reliable plan to fall back on."
"And if I want to jump at the chance?" Yuri blurts, looking down at the table and curling in on himself and flushing brightly.
The stunned silence dragged on, the noise from the common room seeming to have disappeared, almost as if everyone were listening for the reply. The creaking of Viktor's chair reached Yuri's ears and he looked up over his glasses, to stare at the baffled face before him.
Viktor opened and closed his mouth and Yuri flushed darker in embarrassment.
'I shouldn't have said anything. He thinks it's a stupid idea. I never should have even implied that I wanted to get back into skating-'
"You-you really want to get back into skating competitively again, Yuri?"
The soft tone of voice laced thickly with a sense of longing nearly threw Yuri for a loop. He startled up, looking at Viktor almost as if he didn't understand the question that was presented to him.
"I…" Yuri cut himself off, not knowing how he should reply. What was he supposed to say? VIktor looked so hopeful at the prospect of Yuri skating competitively again that it threw him for a loop. He had almost expected the man to worry over getting back into competitive shape after taking a near six year break from the ice. He even expected Viktor to comment on how Yuri was approaching thirty and that going back in may cause problems for his health too, but none of that came to light at all. Instead, Viktor looked so happy and baffled that Yuri had considered coming back to skating.
"And… you want to be coached by me?" Viktor asked, putting his head on the table. "You wouldn't mind being coached by a man with no coaching experience?"
Yuri stayed silent.
"Phichit had mentioned that you weren't sure about coming back. He had said it and I couldn't help dreaming but to hear you say something like that now is… it's like a dream come true." He looks up at Yuri with tears in his eyes. "You mean it, right? Please tell me you mean it."
Yuri softened and slumped in his chair, looking up at Viktor with a shy half-smile. "I mean… I wouldn't have said anything if I hadn't been thinking about it." Viktor brightened. "And, I mean, I would probably not be able to participate in this season because assignments are going to be out soon and there's no way that I could be registered as a skater in time for me to be placed anywhere, and then there's the fact of coming up with a short, free, and exhibition program in such a short time-"
"Oh, Yuri, you're overthinking!" Viktor exclaimed, jumping out and grabbing his hands over the table. "We can climb that hill once we get there! For now, think long and hard about this and give me your final decision by the end of the week, and I promise to seriously think about my career as well."
"I…" Yuri bit his lip and sighed, widening his small smile. "Okay, I promise to think about it, Viktor."
"Oh, this is amazing! Just wait until Phichit hears this! He's going to be ecstatic!"
A few days later, Yalenchka ran around the playground with Uncle Phichit while his parents watched from the sides, talking softly to each other. His squeals sounded throughout the air as Uncle Phichit stumbled on the rubber diamond steps in his attempt to capture the small boy. Phichit grinned mischievously at his nephew and lunged forward with his arm in an attempt to capture the small boy. Yalenchka shrieked and laughed, hopping out of the way and racing toward the slide. Once he reached it, he grabbed the bar that was above it and flung himself forward and down the plastic slide. Once his feet were planted firmly onto the wood chips of the playground, he looked up at his uncle, who was already racing down the slide himself.
"You can't get me, Uncle Phi!" Yalenchka called out as he ran towards the opposite end of the playground and began to trek up the rock climbing area to gain high ground. About halfway up, Yalenchka felt a pair of arms grab him from around the wait and he shouted in surprise before bursting into a flurry of giggles as Uncle Phichit began to dig his nose and chin into his sides while making a funny noise.
"Uncle Phi, Uncle Phi, I can't breathe!" Yalenchka wheezed and pushed on his uncles dark mass of hair in an attempt to remove the older man from his side. "Okay, Okay! Uncle Phi! Stop, okay, I submit! I submit!"
Uncle Phichit laughed and removed his face from Yalenchka's side, allowing the boy to catch his breath and laugh it off. In an act of mischief, Yalenchka bent his back all of the way down to where he was upside down in his uncle's arms and giggling as his hair strained to reach the dark pieces of wood beneath them. While upside down, he caught sight of a blur of bright yellow that he couldn't quite make out while swaying.
"You are such a little turkey!" Phichit exclaimed walking forward with Yalenchka hanging loosely in his arms.
Yalenchka giggled louder as if it were the funniest thing in the world and began to sway, enjoying the view upside down.
"Phichit!" Yuri called from the sidelines, his head leaning against Viktor's shoulder. "If you drop him we are no longer friends!"
"Oh come on, Yuri!" Phichit exclaimed, using his leg as leverage to bump Yalenchka back into an upright position, resulting in another flurry of laughter. "Let the boy live a little! A little injury never hurt anybody!"
"You can't use oxymorons to prove a point, Phichit!" Yuri countered jokingly, shaking his head and watching as his son struggled out of his best friend's grasp.
"Put me down Uncle Phi!" Yalenchka cried out, looking to where he saw the yellow blob from earlier.
"What's the rush?" Uncle Phichit asked, complying and setting the young boy back down.
Once set down, Yalenchka got a better look at the yellow blob and realized it was a young girl his age sitting on one of the swings at the swingset. She had short, light brown hair with a pretty yellow ribbon tied in a bow in her head and a yellow and white polka-dot dress on her small body. A pair of white tights sat on her legs and yellow strap on shoes rested on her feet. Her green eyes were cast on the ground, a slight frown on her face as one of her shoes toed at the chips beneath her.
'She looks lonely!' Yalenchka thought, pursing his lips before nodding his head in determination.
"I'll be back!" He called to his uncle, running towards the lonely little girl. As he approached, she kept her head down and her eyes stayed blank, still unaware of his presence.
Even though she hadn't noticed him approach, Yalenchka smiled anyway and spoke to her.
"Hi there!" The girl startles and looks up, casting her gaze into Yalenchka's blue eyes. "My name is Yalenchka! But you can call me YinYin if that's easier. I've been told my name is a little hard to pronounce."
The girl stays silent, even though her mouth moves a little. Noticing her trouble with what to say, Yalenchka smiles and asks for her name.
"What's your name?"
The girl looks away and mumbles in a soft voice, "Yumiko."
Yalenchka brightens and laughs. "That's such a pretty name! Do you mind if I call you Yumi?"
Yumiko looks back up at Yalenchka and shakes her head. "I-I don't mind."
"Why are you over here by yourself, Yumi-chan?" Yalenchka asked, tilting his head to the side.
Yumiko bit her lip and flushed. "I had nobody to play with," she replied. "And I really like my dress and didn't want to get it dirty."
Yalenchka made a sound of assent and nodded his head in understanding. "I see! I can play with you, if you want?"
The young girl looked at him with uncertainty and then back down at her dress. "B-But I don't want to get dirt on my dress."
"We don't have to go out onto the playground," Yalenchka assured, taking the open swing next to the girl and smiling brightly back at her. "Why don't we swing together?"
Yumiko's bright green eyes sparkled, the prospect not crossing her mind. She sent the the dark haired boy a bright smile and made a sound of approval.
"Yuri!" Phichit cried out, forcing the older man to open his eyes from his resting place on Viktor's shoulders as his best friend came racing towards their bench with tears in his eyes. "Yalenchka abandoned me for someone else! How could he?!"
Yur's eyes scanned the playground for his son and found him swinging on the swingset with another little girl, their laugher reaching his ears and their grand smiles blinding even from here. His heart soared and he couldn't help but coo at his son with a sense of pride in his chest.
"He betrayed me, Yuri!" Phichit cried, plopping down on the bench next to him. "What am I supposed to do."
"Oh, shush you crybaby," Yuri scolded, swatting his best friend in the arm to quiet him. "Be happy for him. That's the first kid his age that he's become friends with." Viktor startled at the news next to him.
"Really?" The silver haired man next to him baffled. "But YinYin is liked by so many people! How could that little girl be his first friend?!"
"He's never really been around any kids his age," Yuri explained. "He's only really lived in older communities so he has adults fawning over him all of the time, but there really wasn't anyone his age that he could be around and set up playdates for, so this is exciting!"
Viktor was nearly crying with a smile on his face. He wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and sniffled. "I got to see my baby make his first friend."
"That is so precious!" Phichit cried, taking out his phone and snapping multiple pictures of the two children on his phone. "Oh these are so cute! Where are her parents? I want their permission to post these!"
"We'll find them in a minute, Phi," Yuri stated, setting a hand on his best friend's arm to calm him down. "I might as well tell you here while you're already in a pretty good mood so I won't get tired of you squealing more than once today."
Phichit calmed down nearly immediately and set his piercing gaze in his best friend, almost intimidatingly. "Tell me, now, or we aren't friends anymore."
Yuri laughed at his friend's antics and buried himself deeper into Viktor's side, the other man chuckling along with him. Phichit whined more at Yuri, telling him he was taking way too long. "You can't keep secrets from me! It's rule between Best Friends! Tell me!"
With the raise of his eyebrow and a mischievous smile, Yuri shrugged his shoulders. "Ah, nevermind. Don't worry about it."
"Oh no, no, no!" Phichit howled. "You can't do that!"
"That!" He exclaimed, pointing an accusatory finger at Yuri. "You don't just start something and then back out from telling me! That's illegal!" Yuri snorted.
"Since the beginning of time! I could imprison you for that!"
"It's not even that big of a deal," Yuri laughed, closing his eyes with a facade of nonchalance. "I'm just returning to figure skating."
The silence was deafening, only broken by the giggles from the children on the playground before Phichit began to lose his mind.
"Oh no, Double Dutch! Double Dutch!" Yumiko called out and giggled.
"Slow down, slow down!" Yalenchka cried out to himself as he laughed, pumping his legs awkwardly in hoped to break the Double Dutch. Yumiko ended up doing the same thing and they stayed swinging at the same tempo.
They both looked at each other with eyes wide before bursting into a flurry of giggles.
"Okay, okay, your turn!" Yumiko called out with a bright smile.
"What's your favorite sport?!" Yalenchka asked with sparkles in his eyes.
"I really like playing soccer," Yumiko replied with a big grin. "I went figure skating one time and I really liked it! But, I think I like soccer better."
"Wow, so cool!" Yalenchka replied animatedly. "My favorite sport is figure skating, and I do it as much as I can! I've never played soccer before!"
"You should come to practice with my team some time!" Yumiko suggested with a gasp. "You'll love it!"
"That sounds like fun!" Yalenchka replied honestly with awe in his voice. "You have to come and skate with me sometime then! I'm sure my mom wouldn't mind helping you on the ice either! It could be so much fun!"
"Yeah!" Yumiko called out in excitement. "Then it's definitely a date!"
"Yalenchka, time to go!"
"Yumiko, sweetheart, we're leaving!"
"Aw!" Both kids cried out, slowing down on the swings. "But we want to stay a little longer!"
"That was so adorable, even if a little creepy considering they've only known each other for thirty minutes!" Phichit cooed on the sidelines.
"I'm sure you'll see him again, hun," Yumiko's mother soothed as she walked over to the swingset.
"Of course I will!" The girl supplied. "We both are taking each other on a date soon, so we have to!"
Both sets of parents choked up.
"Yeah, I promised i'd take her figure skating one day!"
"And I promised to bring him to soccer practice!"
"F-For a playdate, right?" Yuri stuttered out towards the children.
"Well, duh!" Yumiko called out. "That's a date, right?"
All guardians let out a breath and Yuri looked over at Yumiko's mother. "You wouldn't mind that, would you? I don't want to become an inconvenience." The older woman laughed heartily.
"Oh it's really no problem with me! I was just a little surprised is all," she assured. "My husband will probably have a fit that the first friend Yumiko brings home is a boy, but he'll just have to get over it."
Viktor pranced forward, holding out his phone to the woman. "Let's exchange contact information so we can set up their playdates!"
As the parents exchanged numbers and Phichit asked "Can I post these adorable pictures on my Instagram?!", both children cried out in joy and jumped up and down. When both parties began to take their leave,Yumiko hugged Yalenchka.
"See you later, YinYin!" Yumiko called after they separated.
"You too, Yumi-chan!" Yalenchka called, going and grabbing his Papa's hand. "Oh, Yumi-chan!"
"Your dress looks really pretty on you!"
Yumiko flushed and looked down, grasping her mom's hand and smiling. "T-Thank you!"
And that, my friends, is where the first book finally ends! I'm glad that you guys have lasted thus long because I was definitely not able to update regularly because of my schedule, but I'm glad to those of you who are still here!
Thank you guys so much for reading!
The Sequel should be coming in the soon future, so go ahead and look out for it!
For now, I bid the adieu!