“Okay, okay,” you breathed out shakily, ankles wobbling as you stepped into the rink, goosebumps prickling on your skin as the cold air above the ice hit you. You let go of the rail and pushed off into a somewhat smooth glide, breathing deeply as the feeling of weightlessness floated over you.
Your lips stretched into a smile as you gained speed, your laps around the rink blowing your hair back and brushing past your neck with a chilly kiss. Pop music echoed off the high rafters as you wove around the other skaters, debating whether or not to try some fancier footwork; it was open rink time, so it wasn’t like you were going to embarrass yourself in front of any actual trainees, but you were still loath to chance suddenly reintroducing your buttocks to the ice’s surface.
The pop track ended and you stopped shifting your feet, letting your momentum carry you around the perimeter while you waited for the music to start up again; if you were going to do something, you wanted to do it properly, with the music.
Static fuzzed gently from the speakers and you tensed in preparation, ready to extend your back foot and push off again. There was a moment of silence before the first notes of a very familiar piece began to play and you gasped in delight.
“What do you see from there?”
The light-hearted melody of Shall We Skate? filled your skull, muting any doubts hiding behind your ears, and you pushed off, shifting your weight to your front leg for a brief second before leaning to curve around the edge of the rink and build up speed, turning your body sideways.
You could see his short program choreography now, the shadow of his figure dancing behind your eyelids; your feet slipped into the same pattern you remembered from watching Phichit’s performance on TV during last year’s Cup of China.
There was a turn here, and as the music swelled, you needed to extend that back leg for a short glide…the ice blurred in front of you and you heard Phichit’s giggling flying by as you entered his first spin. You tucked your knee in, timing your revolutions to the swirls of the music and exited the spin, skating forward and narrowing the radius that Phichit had taken so that you could avoid the ring of recreational skaters still circling the rink.
Now here came his quad; your stomach tightened in anticipation and you surged up with the vibrato of the singer, thighs clenching as you left the surface of the ice, throwing your weight to complete your revolutions—one, two, thr—the edge of your blade came crashing down onto the ice at an odd angle, sending you pitching into the hard white surface.
You pushed yourself up, face furiously red, and dusted yourself off, trying to retain as much dignity as possible despite the intensifying throbbing in your hip. You skated slowly towards the side of the rink, fully intending to limp back to your rental locker and go buy yourself some ice cream while thinking about the actual Phichit and how fantastic his program was.
As you sifted through your pockets trying to find the key, however, a warm hand tapped on your shoulder, startling you; with a yelp, you turned around and found yourself staring into Phichit Chulanont’s eyes.
The corners of them crinkled as he smiled brightly, a soft chuckle drifting from his soft lips. “Sorry,” he started, his accent nothing more than a leaning suggestion of vowels and rhythm, “I didn’t mean to scare you.”
You managed to string together some sort of reply, the functions of your brain muddled up, preoccupied with the exact chocolate colour of Phichit’s eyes, and how his smile lit their depths up with a thousand sparks.
“I just saw you on the ice—”
Instantly, your cheeks burned and you wanted to shrink into yourself until the gaps in the locker doors were big enough to swallow you. Unable to look your idol in the eyes, you fixed your gaze on the corner of his ear instead, staring intently at the curve of skin as if it would save you.
“And I was wondering if you wanted me to teach you the choreography?” Phichit’s voice tilted up at the end, painting a question mark instead of a period, his accent coming out ever so slightly stronger. Your eyes snapped to his face instead of his earlobe in shock, mouth opening in a tiny ‘o’ as you briefly wondered if your fall had put you in a wonderfully hallucinatory coma.
“As in, you…teaching me your short program?” you heard yourself ask, voice seemingly very far away. You put a hand against the cool wall of lockers at your back to steady yourself, a gleeful voice in the back of your head singing out Phichit’s name. This had to be a dream. You had fallen on the ice and now you were in the hospital, dancing through a drug-induced wonderland where Phichit Chulanont, the very same one you had as your phone lock screen, was offering to teach you his program.
A faint dusting of rose appeared over Phichit’s dusky cheeks as he nodded, clarifying, “Well, the one from last year. Um, the one set to Shall We Skate from The—”
“Yeah!” you exclaimed suddenly, almost afraid that if you didn’t accept right then, you would lose control over your tongue muscles forever. “Yes,” you repeated, nodding your head feverishly, “that would be great, I would love to do that.”
Phichit grinned, looking somewhat relieved. He leaned on one arm against the lockers next to you, and you realized for just how toned those arms of his were. A tiny voice in the back of your head piped up with the question of what dancing with him would be like, or swinging your arms together, fingers intertwined… Another wave of blush spread across your face and you fervently hoped that Phichit couldn’t hear the pounding of your heart as he said,
“Free skate ends in about an hour. Do you want to go and…do something in the meantime?” He trailed off hesitantly and you realized that this was your home rink, not his—you didn’t even know why Phichit was here instead of Bangkok or Denver and frankly, you didn’t have the extra mental facilities to ponder over the matter at that exact moment.
“Sure. There’s a little park near here, its got some good sightseeing spots, if you’re interested,” you suggested tentatively. Phichit’s face lit up and he pulled out his phone, fingers already flicking over the screen.
“Fantastic! I can do a post-by-post tour of the city! Here, let’s take a selfie together to start it off!” Before you could say anything, Phichit slung his arm around you and held his phone out, the front camera already primed and ready. His hand was so warm on your shoulder and his cheek was mere centimetres away from yours, the faint but intoxicating scent of sandalwood and spicy ginger wreathing his skin and wrapping you in a second embrace. “Smile!”
You could only hope that your expression actually resembled a smile and not some tortured, frozen grimace before Phichit’s phone clicked, capturing the moment. He released you a moment later and tapped away on his phone, presumably captioning and sharing his post, before he caught you in his radiant, so impossibly cheerful gaze. “Lead the way!”
Your lips curved up in a grin of your own as you nodded. “Let me get my skates off first.” Phichit’s eyes widened for a moment before he glanced down and let out a laugh, its effervescent peal ringing like a bell in your ears.
The Thai skater loved documenting his life with pictures of all the wonderful things he found in life, but right now, the last thing he wanted to do was share you and the moment that he was enjoying so much with anyone else. “This is going to be the start of something beautiful,” he mused aloud, noting with some degree of giddiness the faint pink that his remark dusted over your cheeks. “Something very beautiful indeed….”