People always say disasters happen in slow motion. That time comes almost to a standstill, and you witness, in grueling detail, every moment of a catastrophe. That, in the instant before a deadly impact, your whole life flashes before your eyes, and you’re forced to review every choice, relive every tragedy and triumph. That’s what they say.
But Yuuri doesn’t even see it coming.
He’s on the ice, performing his Yuuri on Ice routine better than he ever has ever has before. After he and Viktor finished talking through their problems in the hotel the night before—and, ah, maybe thrown in a few minutes of intimacy before lights out—Yuuri had woken up this morning refreshed. Ready. One hundred percent ready. To nail Yuuri on Ice and make up for his pitiful Eros performance. To climb back up the rankings and take home that gold he’s been working toward for so long.
And here he is. Having made every right move, landed every jump.
The moment of truth has arrived—the Quad Flip he’s never landed perfectly in competition. The jump he must land if he has any hope of beating Yuri Plisetsky on the podium.
He approaches fast, a familiar anxiety bubbling in his gut. But this time, he doesn’t let it get to him. He doesn’t count the deductions for his wobbles. He doesn’t wonder if the other skaters spot his miniscule mistakes. He doesn’t think back on his past failures.
He clears his head and imagines one thing only, landing the Quad Flip in front of the man he’s fallen in love with.
Viktor, who’s watching him now, with so much hope, so much joy, so much pride.
He will not let Viktor down this time—no. That’s not right.
(You’ve got it all wrong, Viktor had said. You’ve never let me down, Yuuri. And you never will.)
Himself. Yuuri has only ever let himself down, because he’s allowed his anxiety to get the better of him when it matters most. Everyone else, Viktor assures him, Minako assures him, Mari assures him—everyone else has always been proud of him. So, so proud. And he has nothing to be ashamed of.
For the first time in his life, after looking Viktor Nikiforov in the eye as the man he’d idolized for years told him the truth (yes, truth) point blank—You are not a failure, and you never were—Yuuri Katsuki truly believes he can win.
He will not let the anxiety take him this time.
Not today. Not at this Grand Prix Final. Not during this Free Program. No, he tells the monster in his head that has sabotaged him for so many years. Not now. And not ever again.
He spins four times.
He’s done it. He’d done it! One more spin to finish and…
…and then, he doesn’t know what happens. Not really.
Something snaps, loudly. Something metallic.
Yuuri’s left foot is yanked out from underneath him.
The ice flies up to meet him.
And the lights go out.
“Yuuri,” says a concerned voice. “I know you’re upset about Vicchan, but the Short Program is tomorrow. You’ve worked so hard for this, and it’ll be a damn shame if you miss the podium because you forgo an opportunity for one last practice session.” A moment of silence. A knock on a door. “Yuuri? I know you can hear me. Please come out.”
Yuuri blinks, uncomprehending. He’s in…a room of some kind. On a thin brown carpet, back against a wall, his arms wrapped around his knees. The room is dim, all but one lamp switched off, the curtains drawn to. Sunlight weakly filters into the room through the gaps in the heavy, dark curtain fabric.
Yuuri’s eyes feel heavy, puffy, raw, and his nose is running like he’s been crying in the past few minutes.
Unfurling, unsure of himself, he examines the room in more detail. It looks…familiar somehow, but he can’t quite place it. It’s definitely a hotel room, a generic design with a few standard amenities, a small bathroom attached to the end of the hall, near the door. A suitcase that Yuuri recognizes as his sits next to an unmade bed—but the suitcase in question is one he hasn’t used in a while. One of its wheels broke on his way back from…Sochi.
“Where…am I?” he mutters quietly.
Hadn’t he just been on the ice, skating his Free Program? Hadn’t he been seconds away from winning that gold he’s coveted for so long? Hadn’t he been one spin from fulfilling Viktor’s dream, his own dream, of performing Yuuri on Ice to perfection? Hadn’t he finally landed that Quad Flip?
Where had all that gone, between one blink and the next? How had he gotten here?
And where the hell is here?
Someone knocks on the door again, harder this time. “Yuuri, are you okay in there?”
Is that…Celestino? Why is Celestino knocking on the door to a—it can’t be.
The anxiety froths in his gut, and he can feel it building, building, threatening to topple him, send him sprawling across the ugly carpet, even though he’s only trying to walk. Sucking in too-shallow breaths, Yuuri hauls himself up with the aid of the nearby nightstand and shuffles over to a small desk, where his phone is plugged in.
His trembling fingers drop the phone twice before he manages to rip the charging cord out of it and pull it close to his face. (His glasses are missing. Where are his glasses?) He fumbles his passcode twice too, before he bites his tongue, steels himself—Calm down, Yuuri, a memory of Viktor says soothingly, it’ll be all right—and finally unlocks the phone.
He ignores all his notifications and swipes his screen until he finds the calendar. Then he swipes back because the calendar must be wrong. He taps on his email app and reads the dates of the new messages in his inbox. And they’re wrong too. So he switches over to his text messages, only to find one from Phichit with that same date on it, that same wrong date.
Yuuri drops the phone, and it clatters across the floor.
The anxiety takes over—he can’t breathe, can’t think, can’t control himself—and his legs move on automatic, quaking all the way, as if the earth is shuddering beneath him. He maneuvers around the single bed in the room, to the window. His arms move of their own accord, grab the curtains, and drag them out of the way.
No, says a distant whisper that isn’t Viktor’s, but his own voice in his own head, already trying to run away from this new problem.
But to be fair, Yuuri thinks, staring dumbstruck out the window, this problem is a bit bigger than his usual ones.
He presses his palms against the cool window, followed by his forehead, and breathes steam onto the glass until the city outside is frosted white.
The city he shouldn’t be in. The city he cannot be in. The city he has not visited in a year and doubted he would ever visit again.
Somehow, some way, mere minutes ago, Yuuri Katsuki had been performing his Free Program in Barcelona in 2016…
Now he is in Sochi. It is 2015.
And the Grand Prix Finals start tomorrow.