“We’re almost there, Yurio,” Viktor is saying into his phone. Yuuri can hear the teasing smile on his face as he adds, “Yelling at me isn’t going to make the car go faster!”
Yuuri can hear Yuri’s voice escalate from Viktor’s cellphone, and he and Viktor chuckle at the same time.
“We wouldn’t miss it for the world, you know that! Mikaela will do wonderfully. You’ve trained her well, Yurio, and her senior debut will be as lovely as yours was.”
As Viktor happily chatters away, Yuuri smiles to himself, running a thumb over Viktor’s wedding band as they hold hands in the back of the cab. He glances out the cab window, the world dark except for quick flashes of passing streetlights. Swirls of fluttering snow fall from the night skies of St. Petersburg as they ride to the event venue, where Yuri Plisetsky’s young protege will be performing in the senior division for the first time.
Their longtime friend, underneath his usual brusque demeanor, has been worried sick. Not over Mikaela’s competence—no, she is a brilliant skater, a brilliance that Yuri has done all he can to help cultivate—but simply for the fact that she is his first student, and he wants to do well by her.
Of course, his fear is natural but unfounded. He and Mikaela have worked so hard. Viktor is repeating it into the phone using his calm coaching voice, tempered by years of coaching experience after his official retirement.
Years. Yuuri sighs to himself. Has it already been so long? It’s been ages since he’s skated competitively—even longer for Viktor, who helped Yuuri win a number of other competitions after officially retiring to coaching after Yuuri’s first Grand Prix win.
Even now, he remembers the music flowing through him, the choreography he and Viktor made together as he danced over the ice, the gold medal heavy around his neck and Viktor’s congratulatory kiss that made him feel so very light.
The years have been good to them. He thinks of their younger selves—of Viktor, standing naked in his family’s onsen and declaring himself Yuuri’s coach, and himself, red and sputtering and overwhelmed in the presence of his idol.
He grins to himself at the memory. Neither of them had had any idea of what was in store for them.
Instinctively, Yuuri feels Viktor’s eyes on him. He doesn’t bother hiding his nostalgic smile as he glances over, and there’s a glittering mischievousness in Viktor’s gaze as he lifts Yuuri’s hands to press a kiss to his knuckles.
“Yes, Yurio, I’m still listening.” He returns to his conversation, but not before tossing a wink at his husband. Yuuri huffs a soft laugh before turning his head back towards the window.
The brightness of oncoming headlights blinds him.
“Viktor!” he cries out, pulling a shocked Viktor to his chest and shielding him just as a sickening, metallic crunch hits the passenger side of the car.
Viktor’s phone flies out of his hand, glass shattering and metal screeching around them, and Yuuri feels sharp pain explode from behind him before everything goes dark.
He snaps awake with a pounding migraine behind his eyes and a scream caught in his throat. With a gasp, Yuuri presses a hand against the side of his head and waits for the world to stop spinning.
What… what the hell was that? A dream?
A nightmare, more like. It must have been, since he’s in bed and the room is still mostly dark. Still trying to shake off his dizzy spell, Yuuri turns over to see if he’s accidentally woken up Viktor only to smack into a wall that should not have been there.
He stares gobsmacked at the wall for a long moment before his blood runs cold. This isn’t his bed or his home. Where is he? And where is Viktor?
A thought comes to him. If… if that crash was real, shouldn’t he be in a hospital? In the dark, he doesn’t recognize the room he’s in, but it doesn’t look like a hospital room. Yuuri had been knocked out quickly, but he’d definitely felt pain right before he’d blacked out. But at the moment, other than the migraine, he feels fine physically. Maybe better, somehow.
A sharp spike of fear ripples through him. What about Viktor? Is he alright? Yuuri remembers grabbing and holding him tightly to his chest as the car hit, and his heart rate accelerates as he realizes he has no idea what has become of his husband.
Panicked, he opens his mouth to yell for Viktor—for anyone to tell him where his husband is—when he is interrupted by the sound of knocking on the door.
“Yuuri?” a muffled voice calls from outside. It sounds vaguely familiar, but Yuuri can’t place who it belongs to. “Are you awake? Can I come in?”
Yuuri hesitates for a moment before calling back, “Yes,” and immediately balking at the sound of his own voice.
He doesn’t sound like this. The voice that has come out of his mouth belongs to a youth, not a middle-aged man well into his fifties as Yuuri is. He hasn’t sounded like this since he was a young man himself.
The door creaks open, and the light is flicked on.
“Hey, I heard you yelling from my room. Are you alright?” a concerned Phichit Chulanont asks from the doorway, looking much, much younger than he had been the last time Yuuri had seen him.
That, added to the fact that the last time they’d spoken, Yuuri had been in Russia and Phichit had been at home in Thailand, miles upon miles away.
Yuuri gapes. Maybe he still is dreaming.
“I… A nightmare, I think,” he answers faintly before another wave of pain throbs behind his eyes. Wincing, he curls up on his side and adds, “And a bad migraine.”
Phichit gives an empathetic wince himself. “Ouch. Should I tell Ciao Ciao that you’re not up for practice today?”
Ciao Ciao… It takes a moment for him to remember that it’s Phichit’s old nickname for their coach, Celestino Cialdini, back when they were in university. Of course.
Yuuri hasn’t spoken to him in ages. The last he’d heard was that Celestino had retired somewhere in California. They hadn’t really kept in touch, something Yuuri feels a bit guilty about.
“Um… Yeah. I’m not feeling that great right now,” Yuuri slowly agrees. “Thank you, Phichit.”
“No problem. I’m about to head out to the rink. You need anything? I can pick it up on the way back.”
“No, it’s alright. I’ll be fine.” Phichit turns to leave, but after a moment of hesitation Yuuri calls him back. “Phichit?”
Phichit sticks his head back in the doorway. “Yeah?”
“This might sound weird, but… What’s the date today?”
It’s supposed to be November. Yuuri remembers the snow falling in St. Petersburg, Viktor’s hand clasped in his own. Mikaela’s senior debut is on November 15th, he recalls Yuri Plisetsky growling over the phone. You both better be there.
We will, Yuuri remembers replying.
But maybe he did miss it, after all. Did Viktor miss it, too?
He doesn’t know. Yuuri can’t tell what is real anymore—his memories, or what he is facing now. His mind is racing.
Breath coming a bit faster, he asks, “What year is it?”
Phichit frowns, replying, “2015. That dream must have shook you up pretty badly if you can’t remember the year. You sure you’ll be okay alone?”
“I’m… I’m just a bit confused right now. I just need to sort myself out,” Yuuri responds, trying not to outwardly react to hearing that he’s somehow decades back in the past. He hides his trembling hands beneath the covers. “Go on, I’ll be fine.”
Phichit still looks hesitant to leave him, but he takes a look at the time on his phone and grimaces. “Ah, I’m gonna be late if I don’t go now. My phone’s on if you need me, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks.” They haven’t seen each other face-to-face in a long time, but Yuuri quietly thinks that it’s nice to be reminded that Phichit has been a good friend to him since the beginning. “See you later.”
Yuuri waits until he hears the hallway door open and click shut before he slowly rises from bed to sit upright and takes a look around the room. His face is pale as he finally recognizes his university dorm room, vague memories dulled with time steadily becoming sharper as he takes in a space he hasn’t seen in what feels like forever.
He glances over to the nightstand and sees a familiar pair of blue glasses. Hand trembling, he reaches out to pick them up and stares at them.
It’s like unearthing a relic of the past. As he got older and changed prescriptions, the only time he’d seen this particular pair had been in the photographs of his golden days—young and strong, actively competing, traveling across the world with Viktor at his side. It feels nostalgic and even a little foreboding to have them in his hands again.
Phichit—somehow once again his roommate and rinkmate—told him that today is September 20, 2015. If Yuuri remembers correctly, Phichit should be 19 this year. God, so young.
This gives Yuuri pause. Quickly calculating his own age, he realizes that he’s only 22.
It’s impossible. He has to be dreaming. It’s the only explanation for this, yet everything around him seems so real.
Yuuri fights through another headache pang as he shakily puts on the blue glasses and heaves himself up from bed. He moves hesitantly towards the closet door, where he remembers having a full-length mirror on the inside.
This won’t prove that this is real, he tells himself as he pulls the closet door open. He can’t help but stare at himself, bewildered.
Yuuri looks as he did in his old pictures. Young and unwrinkled, his face full and his body at peak physical condition for competitive figure skating. He turns in the mirror to see himself at different angles, gaping at his own reflection. It’s definitely him, and yet not. He feels like a memory come to life, a ghost standing in the body of his past self.
“How?” he whispers, and his reflection perfectly mirrors the movement of his lips.
With half a thought, Yuuri pinches himself hard, and the pain certainly feels real. He watches his skin redden with a chill in his veins. He then stumbles over to his desk and pulls out the chair, dropping heavily into it. Homework is scattered across the desk, and Yuuri glances at a paper before grimacing, having no memory of the topic being discussed. He hasn’t been in school for a long time.
Rubbing at his temple, Yuuri notices a duffel bag on the floor. He pulls it closer and unzips it, revealing a pair of black ice skates, still relatively new. He holds them in his hands, and the weight is grounding.
If this is real… If this is real, either everything he remembers—Viktor, his first GPF, Viktor coming to Hasetsu, training and winning and losing, his entire life, his life with Viktor—
Either all that was just a dream, or… Or, somehow, Yuuri really has ended up in the past.
He hunches over, holding the skates desperately against his chest. There are tears in his eyes.
It was real. It has to have been. Yuuri remembers the progression of his life clearly, knows it down to his bones that he’d been awake through each moment. He lived through all those years himself, had woken up and gone to sleep every day, had lived and aged alongside the people he loves, and he knows that it could not have been just a dream.
He thinks of his Viktor, good and gentle and beloved. If he doubts anything else, he can never doubt that what he had with Viktor was real. Even when he looks down at his ring finger and sees it empty.
Head ducked and young again, Yuuri cries in his dorm room, clutching helplessly at his skates.
Because, he thinks, if he really did die in that car crash and end up here with no way back…
He’s left everyone behind—his friends, his family. He’s left Viktor behind.
Yuuri thinks of his husband, weathered and weary, left alone to pick up the pieces. He can’t stand it.
Too soon, he mourns, tears hot as they spill from his eyes. Too soon.
He hadn’t even been able to say goodbye.
Skaters pack up around Celestino Cialdini as the ice skating rink begins the motions of closing up for the night. Plucking out his cell, he quickly calls Yuuri Katsuki’s number. It takes a while for Yuuri to answer his phone, but Celestino wastes no time in filling him in with the latest GPF update.
“Yuuri!” Celestino exclaims into his cell. “You qualified for the Grand Prix Finals!”
There’s a long moment of silence.
“… Ah.” Yuuri’s voice sounds tinny and subdued over the receiver. “That’s… good.”
Any of Celestino’s other students would have been rightfully overjoyed and excited at the news, but Yuuri Katsuki has always been a little different. He’s so quiet and shies away from attention, having a tendency to crumble under pressure, but he truly is a phenomenal skater. Celestino has tried to encourage him to come out of his shell a bit more, but in all the time he’s worked with Yuuri, the boy remains reluctant to open up.
His self-doubt is to the point of crippling, but nothing Celestino has done so far has been able to help.
He wonders sometimes if he’s the right coach for him. But, for now, all they can do is try.
“I heard from Phichit that you’re feeling under the weather today,” he mentions. He remembers Phichit’s worried look and frowns. “You alright?”
“… I took a nap,” Yuuri responds. His voice sounds a little off, but Celestino writes it off on his student feeling unwell. “I think that helped a bit. The headache is wearing off.”
“Good, good.” Celestino nods to himself. “Think you’ll be set to come back to the rink tomorrow? Now that you’re a GPF contestant, we have to start working right away. We gotta get to nailing down those jumps.”
“Yes, I’ll be there,” Yuuri confirms. There’s a pause before he adds, “Coach?”
“I want to change my program. Both of them, actually.”
Celestino blinks, shocked. They’d discussed possibly changing Yuuri’s free skate program before, if he was able to make it into the GPF, but this?
“Both of them?” he asks. “Are you sure about this? You had your short program down pretty solidly, aside from the jumps.”
“I know what I want to do for both the short program and the free skate,” Yuuri tells him with notable conviction, and Celestino is downright shocked. He’s never heard Yuuri speak with so much confidence in his own decisions. “It might take a while for me to get the free skate music, but I can get the song for the short program easily. I’ll show you what I have planned tomorrow morning.”
Bewildered, Celestino can only say, “Well, if you’re sure. Rest up, and I’ll see you bright and early tomorrow.”
“Right. See you then.”
He hangs up, and Celestino lets out a long exhale.
What the hell was that? On one hand, it was good to hear Yuuri finally make his own decisions about his skating, but on the other he hopes that Yuuri knows what he’d doing. The young skater is going to have to work even harder if he’s going to perfect two whole new programs in time for the GPF in December.
There was something in his voice, though. Maybe it was finally some budding confidence?
Celestino smiles to himself as he heads to the locker rooms to retrieve his belongings. He believes in Yuuri, believes that he can rise to the top.
It’s about time that Yuuri starts to believe in himself, too.
Following his breakdown, Yuuri lays down to go back to sleep. He feels exhausted and worn, painful thoughts of what he’s left behind stinging like a thorn in his side. He feels Viktor’s absence keenly, like a yawning expanse of cold emptiness at his back.
If this is real, he thinks to himself, closing his eyes. If this is real, I’ll wake up in this exact spot again, and then I’ll decide where to go from here. Just go to sleep.
He wakes in the late afternoon, staring up at the ceiling of the dorm room. He doesn’t feel rested at all. Tears slip from his eyes and sink into his pillow.
It’s real. He’s here to stay, whether he likes it or not.
Yuuri can’t bring himself to rise from bed. He has no business being back here at this moment in time, a young man again for whatever reason. He doesn’t understand it.
He likes the life he already had. He misses it already. It was good, and he was lucky. He has no regrets about it, other than it was cut shorter than he would have liked, but he would willingly go through it all again if he could.
Yuuri pauses on that thought. It suddenly occurs to him that here, now, he could. He can.
He slowly sits upright, bringing his hands up to examine them.
The physical aches and pains of growing older have left him ever since he woke up here the first time. While Yuuri did occasionally put on skates to go a few laps with Viktor, or to demonstrate to a student a particular set of footwork, neither of them had the physique to do anything more vigorous as time wore them down.
Yuuri has missed it, the feeling of skating competitively. He misses the exertion, the thrill of landing a jump, the execution of a flawless program. In order to avoid injury, he hasn’t done it in years.
His new—old?—body feels strong and spry, ready to get out on the ice at any moment. It’s possible now, he realizes, eyes widening. He can do it all again.
As the possibilities begin to unfold before him, his phone begins buzzing on his desk with an incoming call. It takes Yuuri some time to figure out the passcode, fumbling with barely-remembered combinations, but he manages to answer before the call is cut off.
Before he can even say hello, the voice of Celestino Cialdini exclaims, “Yuuri! You qualified for the Grand Prix Finals!”
Yuuri’s heart feels like it’s stopped. The Grand Prix Finals. Of course. His first GPF had been in 2015. It had been disastrous, but it had also been the start of everything.
It can still be that. Yuuri can do it all again—better, even. He can do it better this time around, he knows it.
Viktor, he realizes, his chest tight. I can see Viktor again.
But… he won’t know me, will he? Unless he came back, too.
The thought is shocking, sobering. What will he do if Viktor ended up back in time with him? On one hand, they could be reunited, and yet…
On the other, it means that Viktor had died, and he can’t bear to think of it in any circumstance.
Out loud, he barely manages to get out, “Ah. That’s… good.”
Yuuri barely registers the rest of the conversation. Thoughts of Viktor distractedly fill his mind until Celestino mentions working on Yuuri’s programs for the GPF.
Yuuri suddenly realizes that he has absolutely no recollection of what those programs even were—not the choreography, not the jump sequences. He’s probably blocked them from memory, given how his performances had turned out.
He flounders internally for a moment before an idea sparks in his head.
“I want to change my program. Both of them, actually.”
Celestino is rightly surprised, given how out of character Yuuri must seem right now. Yuuri remembers his younger self being painfully timid and self-conscious, self-deprecating, and he would have never proposed such a thing himself. But that spark of an idea now ignites, and there’s a fire spreading in him that he hasn’t felt in ages.
I can do it better this time.
And, if he really did come back, too… Once he sees it, Viktor will know it’s me.
He’s taking a wild chance. Yuuri knows that. But he feels like this is the right thing to do.
The next morning, Yuuri meets Celestino at the skating rink and hands him a handwritten summary of his short program plans. His coach reads it over, and his jaw drops.
“Yuuri,” he begins, watching Yuuri do his stretches in shock. “Do you have the stamina to put all your jumps in the second half? And a quadruple salchow! It’s ambitious as hell, I’ll give you that, but I haven’t even seen you land one in practice yet.”
“I can do it,” Yuuri easily replies, and he watches Celestino’s brows raise at his assured tone.
He pauses, realizing that at this point he probably hasn’t gotten a grasp on such a difficult jump yet. In his own timeline, he’s done that jump so many times that it eventually turned into second nature. Viktor made sure of that.
Ducking his head sheepishly, Yuuri then amends, “Maybe I can’t land one just yet, but I’ll start with easier jumps and then work my way up to the quad salchow. I can build endurance that way, too.”
Celestino is staring at him like he doesn’t know what to make of him, and Yuuri can’t help but smile a little. If he were in Celestino’s place, he wouldn’t know what to make of this new Yuuri, either.
He repeats with determination, “I can do it, Coach.”
Celestino just looks at him for a moment before sighing and clapping him on the back.
“You can,” he readily agrees. “Now lace up so you can show me your ideas for this new short program. On Love: Eros, huh? Not a song I thought you would pick, but you seem to be surprising me a lot today.”
Yuuri just smiles at that, sitting down to put on his skates. Surprising, indeed.
In any case, there's a lot of work to be done. Now that he's here, Yuuri is going to give it his all.