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People sometimes asked Nishigori how he had prepared for triplets, and he always said, “Well. It’s not something you really prepare for, really.”

It was the most honest way he could explain it. Sure, they had done anything they could think of for luck, even before the ultrasound had shown three babies. Sure, their parents had bought three of just about everything. Sure, Minako-sensei had offered to give the girls dance lessons as soon as they could stand, which they all knew was really just a polite way to offer free babysitting.

But nothing prepared you for three babies, so small Nishigori could have almost cradled the tiniest in his palm. Nothing prepared you for the panicked trip to the hospital, for having your wife in one cold, clinical building and your children a half-hour away, in Hatsetsu Red Cross Hospital and its special ward for babies. Nothing could ever prepare you for that.

Yuuko’s parents stayed with her when he went to the hospital, and they went to see Axel, Lutz and Loop when he was with Yuuko. Nishigori’s own parents came once in a while, though not as often. Mom had never liked hospitals, and Dad was always busy with work.

Once in a while Yuuko would try to say something, like she felt guilty her parents were around more. Nishigori had told her she was just being silly, that the girls were just lucky to have such great grandparents. It wasn’t a lie. Not really.

Still, he’d worried. Worried about money, and about the girls, and about Yuuko, who the doctors said was doing fine but had given birth to three children, sooner than anyone would have wanted.

When he and Yuuko had been kids, the rink had been busier. A full-time manager, two assistant managers. But there were fewer and fewer people coming to Hatsetsu, and that meant fewer and fewer people skating at the rink. "It's barely enough to keep two people busy," Minoru had told him when they were working together to fix the Zamboni. "You know what it would be good for? A married couple. Maybe someone with kids. Rink's always been a good place for kids."

"We'll be okay," Nishigori said. But the possibility, bright and sharp as a skate blade, crossed his consciousness.

"Nishigori-kun," Minoru said flatly. "Do you know how old I am? Do you think I want to fix up this hunk of garbage when I'm eighty?"

"I...you might?"

"Talk to your wife. See what she thinks. I'm happy to stick around to train you two. I don't want this place to fade away. But my daughter's just had another baby, and she keeps telling me I should move, be closer to her. Think about it at least. Talk it over."

"Yeah, okay, I will. Thank you."

"Don't thank me, just help me get this piece of junk fixed."

 

He had loved Yuuko for so long it was hard to remember a time when he hadn't. The first time he'd seen her dance he'd thought maybe she wasn't even human, was a kitsune or a forest spirit, come to enchant mortals and take them away.

She had looked very human in her hospital bed, exhausted, pale. She was stronger now--hell, she was the strongest person he knew, but he still worried sometimes. 

The babies were healthy enough to be home but still tiny. It was hard to believe that they might someday walk and talk and do all the things he'd been expecting when Yuuko had first told him she was pregnant. They seemed smart, though. They watched as he and Yuuko tended to each of them, though they often closed their tiny eyes to scream during baths or diaper changes or for reasons neither he nor Yuuko could figure out. But when they were calm, they'd stare at their parents' faces, or the pictures in a book, still and seemingly focused.

"They're beautiful when they're asleep, aren't they?" she asked once, when for once all three of the girls were down and the two of them still had enough energy to stand.

"They are," he said. "They look like their mom."

"Don't," she said. 

"It's true," he said. "You think your mom's got them for a little bit? I want to walk out to the rink with you."

"That sounds good," she said. "I could use some fresh air. Let's go before anyone tells me I need to be relaxing here at home."

He kissed her temple. "We'll go quietly."

 

"You really think we could do it?" Yuuko asked. When the rink was empty, their footsteps echoed, even over the hum of the machines.

"I know you'll get bored staying at home with the girls all the time," he said. "And this would give them a safe place to run around. There aren't as many kids around here as there were when we grew up. It'd be good to keep them busy."

"We could let Yuuri-kun whenever he wanted, when he comes to visit. Promise I won't even tease him much."

"You stopped teasing him years ago," Yuuko said, "and they already do that." 

"We don't know if the next managers will."

"You're not really trying to get me to agree to this just so Yuuri-kun can skate."

"No," he said. "But I wanted you to remember how much this place mattered to us, when we were kids. How much it could matter to the girls." He slid his arm around her waist. "We don't have to decide tomorrow. We can talk about it. All right?"

"All right," she said. She leaned against him. He always loved the way she felt against him. The first time he'd put her hand on his arm deliberately, not just as an accident, he thought he was going to lose his mind. Her touch was more familiar now, but it still thrilled him.

"It would be easy to get them to skating lessons," she said, thoughtfully.

"It would."

"You think we'd get tired of each other? Seeing each other all the time?"

"I'm never going to get tired of you," he said.

She shook her head, but he caught her smile. "What if I get tired of you?"

"I'll just have to make sure you don't," he said.