Fezzes are cool (rawthorne) wrote in miracle______,
Fezzes are cool
rawthorne
miracle______

On a quasi-tragic note... (Shihan, NC-17)

Title: On a quasi-tragic note...
Authors: nemesis_cry (with butterflyweb)
Genre: Figure skating AU!
Rating: NC-17
Pairing: Siwon/Hankyung, mentions of Siwon/Heechul
Summary: Hangeng swallows thickly, an uncomfortable weight in his chest. Choi Siwon. The competition.
AN: We've taken some liberties with the jargon of the sports and the stunts available. Don't try them at home, we don't guarantee they're possible.

With input from the gorgeous, wonderful luvmeanddespair.



Fingers rub circles of fatigue around his eyes, trying to dispel the urge for sleep. It's 4 AM, it's just the beginning of another normal training day. There is no competition, no pressure on his shoulders. That, at least, is what he's supposed to think to keep a clear head while out on the ice.

"Warm up and then try the quads again, Hangeng, yes? Go!" The coach repeats the question twice, as if he's slow. On the upside, he knows she does it to everyone and he's at least no different. The only preferential treatment he receives from her is a pat on the back and loud complaints when he screws up what he knows is his best program to date.

"And make sure you land on your feet this time!" thunders in his ears, her voice, his conscience, before the rush of wind reduces all to silence. He'll try the quads once there's less people on the ice. It's a good plan. It's not the fear of failure that leads him to postpone the attempt.

*

He listens to the scrape of his blades on the ice, feels the chill ride his skin. He misses just feeling the pleasure of burning calves and rough ice, sometimes, before skating meant PR and a paycheck. Sucking air through his teeth, he reverses direction, comes at the jump from his right.

There's no music, but a crowded rink and he has no choice but to take the leap, hands against his body and a lurch in his chest. He hits the ice at an angle on the landing, equilibrium working against him for a second before he rights himself.

In competition, that would cost him the podium and he can practically hear his coach clicking her tongue. "Try again, try again."

Skidding to a stop, he cuts sharply, digging into the ice as he tries to pick up speed. Knows things like other skaters and a too-small rink aren't reasons, they're excuses, and there's nothing but to push through them and conquer. It's jargon he's been fed since a child, not something he's liable to forget.

*

He tries a sequence of steps, warming himself up as instructed before he feels brave enough to tackle the jump once more. A new presence in the rink cuts him off sharply, throwing his rhythm and his impetus out of balance.

Everything is dark, from the man's face to his clothes, but there's no hiding his identity.

Hangeng swallows thickly, an uncomfortable weight in his chest. Choi Siwon. The competition.

*

The man doesn't spare him a second glance, pushing off from the gate and working his way through the rink in a graceful eight, warming up his muscles--for a practice. Hankyung can see Choi's coach leaning on the wall, expression as solid as a block of marble. Sighing, he pushes his fingers through his hair, eyes on the dark figure. It wouldn't hurt to size up Choi's routine, would it?

At the other end, he glimpses his own coach following the champion's figure as if mesmerized. Childishly, he feels a pang of jealousy, easily swept away by the first of what he's sure will be many successful jumps--and not his own.

Choi doesn't need music. He glides over the ice like a dancer, hands doing more than helping his balance, and he slides right by him, features intent and focused and looking right through Hangeng. Somewhere along the line, his knees start to go a little weak and he figures he's going to be sick.

He needs to get off the ice.

*

His coach's voice is a constant whir in his ear, sucking down cold water and lacing up his sneakers. Trying to just drown her out, even as he feels a pang of guilt for it. But he can't shake the image of Choi's face, completely in center, the power in his jumps and the grace. It shakes his confidence, and the last thing he needs is to have criticisms thrown at him en masse.

She abates only with his promise to return on his own at least twice more before the event tonight. It will do him good, she thinks, to repeat the routine. As if he's at risk of forgetting: step, step, spin, step, step, turn, step, step, jump. The introduction is simple enough, but is it too simple? Is he taking the easy way out?

Will the judges prefer Choi's powerful intro instead?

*

Running a hand through his hair, he plugs in his earphones, making for the hotel restaurant to a techno beat pulsing low into his brain. It's his way of unwinding. Some skaters prefer the power of prayer, others call their loved ones before they take to the ice. He needs to forget he's a living, breathing, human thing, whose body is not only breakable but pretty much the only thing he's got going for him.

This could be his break, he thinks, head lowered as he advances through corridors awash with the competition. If he gets a medal here, he has a shot at the Olympics in two years. A shot at being somebody, and isn't that what it's really about in the first place?

*

A shoulder bumps into his own carelessly, sending him into the wall opposite.

"Hey, watch where the hell you're going," he snaps, tugging his headphones out of his ears, exhaustion and nerves rubbing raw against each other.

Dark eyes flash to his disdainfully. "Get out of my way," he's told, a smirk tugging at thin lips he's seen in pictures on the cover of too many magazines. "Please."

*

Choi. It would figure the prick would think he owns the damned hallway as well as the ice. Hangeng sneers, replying in Chinese rather than his fractured Korean. It's cowardly, but he's too exhausted to care about posturing. "Up yours, pretty boy."

One hand clasps around his bicep as he moves to pull away, grip surprisingly strong for a skater. "What did you just say to me?" He sounds almost amused, as if he can't believe someone's failed to bend over in awe and sincere admiration. There's comfort in knowing his personality sucks.

"Up," he enunciates carefully, "yours." And if he doesn't know Mandarin, that's his loss.

*

Choi smirks, leaning in a bit closer, grip never failing on Hankyung's arm. "Yeah, I heard that was your thing," he returns, speaking in flawless, if accented, Chinese.

He should clock him one for that, but there's a distinct possibility the other man has his face insured and if his manager doesn't kill him for getting disqualified for his distinct lack of sportsmanship, Choi's legions of fans will. But he can't let the insult slide, gritting his teeth into a snarl.

"And bullying is yours," he snaps. If he could keep a clearer head, he might realize Choi's just admitted he knows who he is.

*

The smirk widens, Choi's features as expressive as they are smug. "Cute."

It's infantilizing and rude and Hangeng barely avoids shoving him back. "Go to hell." And so help him God the moment he gets home he's going to make sure there's not a picture of Choi left - even in his sister's bedroom.

A laugh sounds as he shoves past the other man, fingers curling into fists.

"Even there, I could still out-skate you. Have a good program."

Prick.

*

His focus is shot after the encounter in the corridor, arm aching from some invisible hurt. Every step reminds him of the harsh press of fingers into his skin through the hoodie, the scrape of his skates on the ice uneven and lacking in control. He barely lands the triple Axels, deciding against the quads.

His confidence can only take so much and the competition starts in less than ten hours.

God damn it. Pull yourself together. He cuts a sharp right, flying down the ice until he can pull himself into a sharp spiral, arms held close to his chest. Trying to set in his focus in stone, otherwise he might as well pack it in.

He lands another jump and allows himself a small nod of victory when the sharp sound of clapping echoes in the arena.

It's damn near poetic.

*

"At this rate, you're going to be competing for the bottom rungs with that kid from Jamaica. I hear they have great skaters." Choi's Chinese hasn't improved in the past hours, nor has he lost his ability to get right under Hangeng's skin.

He skids to a stop, skates sending up a spray of ice. "Be careful, Choi. Mom and Dad aren't around to pay off the judges any more."

The other man smiles coldly, removing his skate guards and gliding onto the ice, grace in every movement. "My parents still have something to read about in the news when it comes to their son. Contrary to yours..."

Hangeng pushes forward, a smirk twisted his own lips, even if the confidence is all a show. "Little victories don't compare to the gold. You win, but against who?"

"You," comes the laughing retort. "For starters." He's self-assured and quick, two powerful kicks to the ice and he's up and flying, his skates coming off the ice as if they weigh less than feathers. He lands with his hands in the air, shamelessly flaunting his talent.

*

Hangeng raises his chin. "Not anymore."

It's a reckless promise, but it falls from his lips before he can stop it.

Choi smirks incredulously, skating a perfect circle around him. "Prove it," he challenges and it's stupid, there's no way he can get away with this without a broken arm or a dislocated knee, but he's got the incentive he's been missing all week. It's worth a shot.

He looks him up and down slowly, a quick smirk before cutting his blades into the ice, taking off down the rink. Reckless and stupid but he'll give the other man a challenge if he wants one. Bearing down in a half-circle, he picks up as much speed as he can muster in the short distance, shifting direction until he's sliding backwards, then on one foot and then on none at all, stabbing the tip of the skate into the ice and drawing himself up into the air.

It's a triple, not a quad, but he manages a combination and a good landing. When he looks to the other man, he sees the insufferable smile is back as he reclines against the wall, shaking his head.

"That the best you can do?"

*

He raises his arms, gliding backwards. "Scared to come out on the ice?" Oh, fuck, Han, just shut up.

"I fear for your ego. Don't know how many hits you can take before you implode." Still, he's not wholly indifferent, pushing away from the wall and brushing past, unnecessarily close. "Anybody can do a triple. How are you on your quads?" he laughs smugly, picking up speed and, in the next breath, gliding into a jump that isn't so high as it is long - precisely the kind of thing Hangeng's been having problems with lately.

Choi skates to a stop in front of him, eyebrow arched. "Seething inside yet?"

*

Don't take the bait. Don't take the fucking bait.

"You wish," he sneers, rounding the turn, teeth sinking into his lips as he preps for an approach.

It's inevitable. He's going to break something and his career will be over before it even starts, just because some idiot with a few medals to his name riled him up. Meanwhile, said idiot will go on to win every championship there is and get a stadium named after him.

There's no justice in the world, Hangeng thinks bitterly, teeth clenched as he draws in a breath and pushes up with his skate.

*

Some jumps you can tell will succeed - the quad is perfect, feet together, axis perfectly straight and it's high. Higher than Choi's attempt and that alone makes him attempt another the second he hits the ice again. It's a bad idea.

The ice is unforgiving as he lands, hitting his shoulder like a sheet of rock, knocking the breath out of him. His head hits second, leaving him stunned and gasping on the slick surface. Fuck, he thinks, the pain in his head splitting. Oh, fuck, what did you do...

*

Tears well in his eyes, more out of shock than actual pain, blood loud in his ears. It's the press of foreign fingers against his skull that draws him back into the moment.

"There's a reason no one does two quads in a row, moron," he hears the other man rant in Korean, dark eyebrows turned into a frown. "It can't be done." A hand is waved in front of his eyes. "See? No blood? Just a spectacular fall... you okay?"

"I'm fine," he grunts, rolling away from the other man, biting back a groan as his body swears at him. Idiot. Fucking idiot. Not only has he made a jackass out of himself, he's now incurred Choi's pity as well as his disdain. Just perfect. "Wasn't trying a double quad anyway..."

"Yeah, you were," the other man scoffs at him, tucking his skate under him so the blade won't get damaged. Either that or he actually cares about cutting him. "Unless it was an attempt to perform the world's highest triple and there's no Guiness Record for that one. You'll live to lose the gold to me again."

*

It's enough, enough to make him take a swing at the other man, as if he hasn't embarrassed himself enough today. "Prick!"

For the first time, he sees Choi look surprised, eyes going wide and confused for a second, but reflexes still quicker than his own. His hand makes it back to the ice with a dull smack, the other man just barely fending off another punch.

Hangeng pushes himself to his feet, glaring at the other man viciously. "Are you so damn insecure that you have to throw your victory in everybody's face? Gold medal isn't enough for you, you have to have people kiss your ass for it as well?"

*

He makes it to the end of the rink feeling vindicated for getting the last word before he's jerked back, Choi's style severely lacking variety. Cold palms shove him against the wall, a much warmer body pressing against his. It's the last thing he notices, a retort lost on his lips before the other man leans in, kissing him harshly.

"Got to get to know you first before you get to kiss anything else," Choi retorts, drawing back after a few, breathless moments. He's gone before the words can register into Hangeng's brain, the sound of his skate guards vanishing quickly to the silence of the empty stadium.

Hangeng leans against the wall, breathing heavy from shock and exertion, glancing down and muttering a quiet fuck at the sight of the erection tenting his sweats. The cherry on top a Sunday from hell.

*

He's not sleeping when his coach knocks on his door the first time and he's not sleeping when she knocks the second time, an hour later and frantic because the competition's starting and he needs to get his ass down there now. He's not warmed up and he's got no time to get his body into gear, but adrenaline hasn't stopped pumping through his veins since Choi backed him against that wall. Any warmer and he'll spontaneously combust.

"I'm coming," he yells through the door, grabbing his skates with hands that are much too shaky and dreading the barrage of insults he'll be getting when he comes face to face with his coach. The alternative - hiding in his room - is not acceptable, no matter his excuse.

*

How did you think you were ever cut out for this? He's going to bury you and it'll be effortless.

He tells his inner voice to shut the hell up, thank you, fingers clenching into fists and unlocks the door.

His coach's glare is almost welcome. "Oh good. I was beginning to think you'd killed yourself." Holding up a hand to stave off a half-baked apology, she nudges him towards the elevator. "That was the only thing that could justify you being so late. All we've worked for and you're going to throw it away with your laziness!"

Not laziness, he wants to retort. Fear. But somehow, he doubts that's better.

*

He lets her rant and rave at him, counting slowly back from a hundred in his head.

"I'm still in?" he asks as they near the stadium and the security cordons leading to the athlete's rooms, the knowledge that he's still got a chance the only thing that matters anymore.

His coach nods, motioning for him to sit and handing him the skates. "You should be disqualified for being so late," she admonishes with a sigh; accent thick in every word. "But I told them I was going to get you and they said okay. The organizers, they were hoping for some big news story: 'Chinese skater found dead on the eve of competition'. Something like that." Shrugging, she pats his shoulder. "You'll just have to disappoint them and win the gold instead."

He laughs but there's no humour in it.

Yeah, he thinks, finishing the lacings and looking up at Choi's score on the board. No pressure.

*

"Get ready," he's told, the words rote by now and still as void of meaning as ever. How can he not be ready? How can he ever feel ready enough?

Hands press against his forehead, drowning out the noise of the audience, of the announcer's voice. He's been to enough meditation classes to know he's supposed to be finding his center, but all he seems to be focusing on is the pressure of a man's lips against his and dark eyes boring into his own.

"You missed my performance," is thrown at him sharply, Choi leaning against the doorway with his skates slung over his shoulder.

*

He doesn't need this right now. Not minutes before he goes on the ice. Keeping his eyes forward, he ignores the other man, staring out at the glittering surface and trying to visualize himself, the jumps.

Rather than push him, Choi heaves a breath, lingering with his arms folded over his chest. "The music's about half a second fast... they're having some sound problems. Anyway, your coach'll tell you the judges won't mark you down for it but the judges are only human. And uh... don't worry about doing more than one quad. You'll tie with me if you land one."

It's said to destabilize him, it's got to be, but by the time Hangeng looks up, the other man is already gone.

He tries to push him out of his mind, his words, his taste, his face, all of it, and just concentrate on what's ahead.

"Next, performing the short program to Puccini's Tosca we have China's Han Geng!"

He steps out onto the ice.

*

There's a buzz throughout the hotel in the aftermath, everyone talking and whispering behind his back. He's asked for autographs at least twice and he can't believe any of this is really happening. It's surreal - a little like a bad dream that seems good before it turns from a nightmare into a night terror.

Dinner with his coach to discuss strategy for the next day is cut short. He needs a smoke and he can't stand the smell of cigarettes. He needs to scratch the itch coiling his nerves tightly but he doesn't even know how.

In the end, footsteps somehow carry him to Room 3579 and the knowledge that he shouldn't have a clue who he's calling on at this hour. It's just want to thank him. That's it. It's the sporting thing to do.

*

The door opens to Choi looking rumpled and half-asleep, far from the cocky, self-assured bastard he is every other time they've come in contact. "What are you doing here?" he mumbles, stepping out into the hall in bare feet.

"I came to, uh..." He doesn't know how to finish, what to say anymore. Thank you seems trite and an apology would be far from honest. So instead, he's left to stare stupidly at the other man, swallowing thickly because he can still remember the brute force of his kiss and it throws him off.

"I came to congratulate you," he decides at last. "I caught the replays. You were good." Not that he needs you to tell him that.

"I know," the other man tells him, voice devoid of arrogance. Just stating facts. God he's fucking obnoxious. "So were you."

*

It's awkward when they're not trying to show off their skills, Hangeng feeling tongue-tied and awkward and Choi looking less elegant and graceful than he ever could be on the ice.

"We're tied first..."

Hangeng doesn't let him finish, lips claiming his wetly, body pressing Choi's against the wall. Payback is payback.

"Fuck," Choi breathes against his mouth, scrambling behind him for the doorknob to lead them back into his room, dragging Hangeng inside and pinning him against the wall in turn. Controlling bastard.

*

Against his better judgment, Hangeng doesn't push him the hell away, rather choosing to slip a hand under dark cotton, pressing their bodies flush into contact. At least he's not the only one feeling so out of control. Turns out even the hotshot champion is human with human needs. Good to know.

Biting at his lips, he muffles a groan into the kiss, hips shifting forward of their own accord when Choi pulls back.

"So help me God, if you're going to be a dick and remind me why this is a bad idea, I will rip you to shreds," he warns, fists clenched and whole body reacting to the other man's gaze.

The other man laughs, and there's the smugness, the arrogance that Hangeng can't stand, but then why does it make him want to kiss the bastard harder?

"I was going to suggest we move this to the bed, but I'll keep that in mind."

*

He follows him dumbly, pushing away from the door and watching as thin, pale fingers grab the hem of his shirt, tugging it over his head. For a second, he's a puppet in the other man's hands, but in the next, he's cupping his cheeks with trembling palms, fitting their lips together.

If this is a bad idea, at least it's his own.

Quickly tugging down the other's slacks, he finds his hands arrested, the curve of a smile pressed into his jawline. "Slow down... I want you to enjoy this."

It takes him a second to realize that Choi might not be in it just for his own satisfaction.

*

He swallows thickly, gathering up courage he doesn't have. Choi watches him with an arched eyebrow.

"I don't--I've never...."

"Never?"

"No." And if the other man's going to be a bastard about it, Hangeng makes a pact with his conscience to hit him. He's embarrassed enough as it is. Can't get worse.

Choi grins, skimming his fingers over his hip. "That's fine. I know you're a quick study." He kisses him again, lips swollen and red already and it's not a mockery. "Watch me," he orders.

*

A hand moves over the sheets, returning with a small tube of lube. Any other day and Hangeng would be blushing at the sight of it, claiming he doesn't know what it is, let alone what it's for. Claiming he's straight because his parents told him he shouldn't be in the news for anything but his talent. The judges don't care, the audience doesn't care, but over the years, he's come to.

Choi watches him, uncapping the tube and taking his hand like it's a prop. He squeezes liberal amounts of the transparent gel out onto his fingers, stroking his own hand through them. It's more erotic than sucking his dick. Hangeng bites his lip.

*

He expects to be turned onto his hands and knees, face into the pillow. Choi looks like the type to be quick and rough with his lovers. There's no small amount of surprise to be felt when instead the other man leads his hand between his own legs instead, resting one on the sheets and stretching the other, eyes falling shut as he touches himself.

Who'd have thought the guy who's been snatching awards in competitions since he was ten would be happy like this, moaning as he pumps his hand. Lips quirk into a daring smile, Choi spreading his legs so Hangeng can get a better view.

*

"Still with me?"

Nodding dumbly, he kisses his knee, the outline of a scar smooth under his lips and it's a surprise. He didn't think the other man could take a fall. It's an ugly mark too, jagged and white, as if from an operation years ago. It looks painful.

Choi smirks as if hearing his thoughts. "Yes, I have feet of clay. Don't look so shocked." But for the first time, he looks uncomfortable, moving his leg to shake off Hangeng's grip and withdrawing his hand. He swallows thickly, chin thrust out in defiance. "Are we doing this or not?"

"Yes." He settles above him on his knees, lingering in a pretense of courage that leaves him just as quickly. It's the same fear that chokes him when he's supposed to be trying out a quad combination.

*

The other man sighs, hand cupping the back of his neck. "Four years ago, after the World's. Car accident." He kisses gently, as if Hangeng needs the reassurance.

For his part, he wonders why he cares.

Strong thighs wrap around his waist tugging him down. "I want you," Choi breathes in Mandarin, and Hangeng knows he shouldn't make this any more complicated than it is. It's just a fuck. With the reigning world champion. With his rival. With another man.

With Choi Siwon.

*

He wakes in sheets that aren't his own, lips against his shoulder and trailing down his spine, a strange kind of drowsiness grabbing hold despite the blades of light outside the window.

"It's seven thirty," he hears whispered into his ear. "We've got an hour or so to fool around before our coaches come knocking, so wake up." Teeth bite his neck, playful and wet. "C'mon... Know you can hear me..."

Resistance is weakened by the onslaught of hands roving under the sheets, over his hips and under, until he's curving with laughter and the tendrils of desire coiling deep inside. Even now, with the press of a warm, nude body against his back, he's not wholly comfortable with his reaction. At least until Siwon wraps a hand around his waist and finds his erection with skilled fingers.

A phone echoes loudly in the room just as he's getting close, claiming the other man's attention and stilling his fist.

*

Hangeng gasps, writhing in frustration. "Don't..."

The protest goes unheeded, Siwon climbing over him to reach the cell on the nightstand and staying put once he's on top. It's predictable and it would be amusing, except Hangeng is biting his lip hard enough to break the skin, hips thrusting up helplessly. He contemplates wrestling the phone out of reach and throwing it out the window, but it's an idle thought and gone just as quickly as he pales with the first syllables that roll from Siwon's lips.

"Hi, babe. I was just thinking about you... yeah." Siwon grins, twisting his wrist just so and tightening the grip around his cock just a little, as if he's thick enough not to notice the horrified look being thrown his way. Anyone else and Hangeng might think he's for real.

*

The bastard's doing it on purpose, moaning and laughing into the phone even as he strokes him, rhythm needlessly fast.

"What I'm doing right now?" he hears through the rush of blood in his ears. Eyes snap open, pleading with him. For all he knows, that could be a reporter. He wouldn't put it past the other man, no matter how much he likes his hands. No matter the stupid things he confessed to last night.

Choi's probably used to groupies in his bed anyway.

True to form, he smirks and picks up the pace with his hand. "Playing with the world's second best skater." Another laugh, the second more breathless than the first. "Yeah, I thought you'd like that." There's a pause, Hangeng's toes curling and frame shaking as he tries to muffle his moans, shame rising like bile in his throat.

*

The son of a bitch not only fucked him, he's going to make him into a laughing stock for it. Just imagine the headlines tomorrow... "skater takes it up the ass."

"Oh God..." Eyes squeeze shut, hands pressed to block out the sight of Choi licking his lips and watching him with those intense dark eyes, rapid fire Korean spilling from his lips as if he happens to have forgotten his lover doesn't speak the language all that well. Or maybe he just doesn't give a damn.

Hangeng comes with a cry that's two parts anguish and one part pleasure, spilling over the sheets and Choi's hand. It takes him two long breaths before he can move, shoving the other man aside and scrabbling on shaking limbs to recover his clothes.

*

"Hey, where you going?" The phone conversation must be over because Choi's looking at him like he's crazy and the son of a bitch just doesn't get it.

"I need to get... get out of here," he replies, shaky voice and shaky will stabbing him in the back. "Who was that on the phone?"

Choi wipes his hand on the sheets, evidence erased but not forgotten. "My boyfriend."

*

It burns like a brand, assumptions made real with two cold words and he's got no reason, no right to feel like this. It's just a one night stand, it's none of his business. He's been promised nothing but what he received so why does he feel like the wind's been knocked straight out of him? Why is he fumbling for his clothes and feeling like he could throw up any moment now?

Stupid, pathetic.... why didn't you just give him the knife to eviscerate you?

Hands reach out for him, confusion plain on handsome features. "You don't have to leave... He's not coming over or anything. He's back home and..."

"And you thought you'd bear the absence better if you had someone to fuck?" The words are out before he can stop them, bitterness showing plainly as he jerks away, jeans halfway around his thighs. Didn't he have shoes? Socks? What happened to his clothes?

*

How could he have thought coming here in the first place was a good idea?

Choi squares his jaw, stepping in close. Too close. The man has no concept of personal space.

"You know jack about me," he grits out, expression too dark to tell if it's anger or passion or simple cruelty that drives him. "So don't you dare accuse me of things you don't understand. I'm not the one running away with my tail between my legs. If last night was so fucking horrible, at least be a man about it!"

It's his turn. That's the only justification he can come up with that doesn't involve thoughts of getting his head examined. He shoves back, a hard push sending Choi staggering back.

"Fuck," he bites, "off."

*

Being used is one thing. Being used and taunted and ridiculed is another. He can't take much more of that before he snaps and on some level he knows it's never been so easy, for anyone, to get under his skin.

In a few short hours, Choi has succeeded what no one's managed in years. Not even his coaches. Not even the judges.

It's why tearing out of the room barefoot and with his shirt on backwards is the only solution left.

He won't give the other man the satisfaction of his tears.

*

The stadium is packed, applause and cheers dying to a hush as he takes position, center stage. One skate on the ground, one tilted, the tip stabbing a little too strongly into frozen water. He looks down and closes his eyes--opening them just as quickly when all he can see is full lips parted in a gasp, mirth in a dark gaze. A scar on a wounded knee.

Deep breaths.

The music begins, sound system fixed. All right, all in its place.

*

E lucevan le stelle...

He doesn't speak Italian, but sometimes he wishes he did, head lifting to look, blankly, at the audience; through the audience as if they're not even there. The routine bids him turn, and he does, hands mapping the rhythm of the aria with grace he knows he doesn't possess naturally.

E olezzava la terra
Stridea l'uscio dell'orto,


Right foot behind the left, he propels himself forward, eyes on the prize and not on the public. Not on the faces that stare at him waiting for a jump. Waiting for him to fuck up and fall.

*

E un passo sfiorava la rena.

Another change of foot, quicker this time. Back, forth and then back again, preparing for a jump he can't miss. He breathes in, finds his center in the block of ice beneath his feet and leaps.

Entrava ella, fragrante,
Mi cadea fra le braccia.


The landing is very nearly botched under too little focus and too much practice and the sense that he's going to mess this up no matter what he does anymore. It's a given, regardless of how well prepared he should feel with all the hours of practice he's put in.

It makes no difference. Choi is better. Always has been.

*

He bites his tongue and pushes down with his skates, gathering momentum into a combination.

Choi is in his thoughts like a plague, making it all about him.

Oh! dolci baci, o languide carezze,

Always making it about him. As if he deserves to be thought of that much anyway.

What does he have that Hangeng doesn't? A bruised knee to Hangeng's bruised heart. A smirk for the sobs that have left his throat raw.

*

Mentr'io fremente le belle forme discogliea dai veli

Round steps give way to another jump and for the cool brush of air beating his face he knows he's crying again. It's no less pathetic now that it was before, except this time the cameras are all on him and he's going to go down in the history of the championship as the Chinese kid who wept during his routine.

Still, he supposes, it's better than being in the bottom rungs with that kid from Jamaica.

Svani per sempre il sogno mio d'amore...

For some ungodly reason, the thought forces a smile to his lips.

*

It's only after he lands it that he properly counts the rotations in his head and realizes he's conjured a quad out of thin air and pessimism. The irony cuts just as deep with the possibility of success before him.

L'ora e fuggita e muoio disperato!
E non ho amato mai tanto la vita!


The music fades to a silent, breathless stop and he skates to a stop, on his knees, center stage once more, and palms flat against the ice. He may not speak the language, but he understands the pressing weight of the sounds pouring from the speakers--just as he understood Choi's Korean laughter when on the phone with his boyfriend.

Just as he understood him after, through shock and horror and disgust that choked him into a wreck for his manager to fix.

Things he doesn't understand. Yeah, right.

*

He draws himself up into a crouch, movements slow and fists clenched. It doesn't matter what's in the choreography anymore.

Cymbals and violins join in a sudden clash of sound, exploding around him in the stadium louder than the drumming in his chest. He follows the pace set by the latter, surrendering because it's the only thing that keeps him from skating over the wall and right out of the stadium, out of his entire fucking life.

And for what. Because some guy fucked him? Because some guy lied by omission?

He runs over the ice, skates stabbing the floor and it's risky. He's seen the competition do it. Has seen them fall and tear ligaments because their ankles couldn't take it. For one, horrible, long moment, he wishes it would happen to him. He doesn't care if he never skates again.

*

Sound floods the arena, one pirouette giving way to another until he's turning, running, dancing and he's forgotten the choreography somewhere between going to bed with Choi and waking up this morning, but he's better than he's ever been and he dares--dares another jump even if it's late in the program and he's getting so tired he can barely stand up.

It's a double-double combo but he lands them both, eyes straight ahead as the music halts.

*

He may not know the language, but he knows the opera. Knows about Cavaradossi waiting for death and lamenting lost memories. Knows that it shouldn't mean anything--he's got not memories to lament. He's still alive and kicking and probably getting to step on the podium for flaunting the rules.

Knows too that he shouldn't be staring into dark eyes that watch him from the edge of the ice rink, or smiling because there's a smile on Choi's face.

Siwon's a smug bastard. Hangeng hates him.

Except when he doesn't.
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