The first time Victor skips backwards in time, he is fourteen years old.
He has been on the ice for five hours, not stopping for anything, despite Yakov's protests that he needs a rest. He's been a skater long enough that he knows his own body; his hands are shaking, his legs are screaming protests, and his feet are certainly bleeding within his skates. Despite all of this, Victor is determined. He is going to land a quadruple toe loop before he leaves the ice today.
Victor knows the movements his body needs to make. He can make each of them, individually; a filmmaker would be able to stitch together individual frames of his five hours on the ice today and make a flawless quad toe loop. The trouble is doing it all in sequence. He knows he can, he knows it, and that's why he's so frustrated. That's why he can't give up.
"You get one more chance," Yakov yells from the edge of the rink, "before I come in there and drag you out myself."
One more chance.
He glides through the 3-turn. He jumps. Spins. The number of rotations is right.
His hand touches the ice.
Victor knows his body, knows the movements his body needs to make. He knows how to fix it this time. Yakov is already beginning to skate towards him. If he only had ten more seconds...
There's a flash of light, followed by a moment of darkness. Then, rapidly, he starts moving backwards, retracing the failed jump in reverse, completely out of his control. It's like someone has pressed rewind on a video, except he is living it.
And then he's back to the moment right before the jump.
More than anything else, it's startling. Victor panics, unable to readjust his mind to the fact that his body has reverted to the position it was in ten seconds earlier. His right leg, confused, gives out underneath him, and he falls inelegantly on the ice. The scrape of his skates echoes loudly, the only sound in the rink.
Yakov is at his side before Victor has even pieced together what's happened. "Idiot boy," Yakov snaps, but his hands are gentle as they check Victor's limbs for injury. Once he's satisfied that Victor hasn't hurt himself, Yakov drags him to his feet by one elbow. "You're done for today," he says, turning and leaving the ice before Victor can even begin to protest.
That night, Victor is alone in his bedroom, lying flat on his back and staring up at the ceiling. He's spent the whole day thinking about his failure and how, somehow, he'd managed to wind back time to try and correct it. He doesn't know how he did it. He wonders if he can do it again.
He turns on his side and rummages through the drawer in his bedside table for a minute or two before he finds what he's looking for: an old pocket watch, an heirloom from a family he barely remembers. It stopped long ago, neglected in the bottom of the drawer, but Victor doesn't need to know the time so much as he needs a way to count the seconds. He winds the watch, then just stares at it until he's satisfied by the rhythmic sound of the second hand.
Victor waits until the second hand reaches 12, then closes his eyes. Rewind, he thinks.
He can feel it happening even before he opens his eyes again, which he does just in time to watch the second hand tick back through the 11, to the 10, then start moving forward again.
Victor snaps the watch closed and clutches it to his chest, his mind spinning with possibilities. He knows now, without a shadow of a doubt, that he will land the quad toe loop tomorrow.
Victor uses the power sparingly, at first. He does use it to land the quad toe loop, to both Yakov's delight and irritation; a few weeks later, he uses it to land his first quad salchow. Months after that, he falls badly on the ice at Junior Worlds, and he feels one second of agonizing pain, sees one second of the unnatural angle of his ankle, before he rewinds the clock. This time he corrects and lands the jump, not perfectly, but better. Good enough.
But as time goes on, as Victor rises in the ranks of competitive skating, as his fame sweeps the entire world, he starts rewinding more and more. It's not abnormal for a skater to keep a running score total as he performs, but Victor slowly becomes obsessed with it, calculating the points for each element and turning back the clock when he knows a subpar jump will make his total come up short. The knowledge that he has more than one chance to perform flawlessly can come as a relief, but knowing that perfection is possible if he tries enough times can be exhausting. Most days, those feelings seem interchangeable; with each rewind, each correction, Victor's standards shift higher and higher until, to anyone else, they would be insurmountable. But Victor Nikiforov, living legend, is not just anyone anymore.
When he wins his fifth consecutive gold medal at the Grand Prix Final, he rewinds sixteen times in the short program and thirty-eight times in the free. Every jump is flawless, every spin immaculate. The crowd cheers, screams, cries, throws flowers on the ice. Victor, standing at the top of the podium, doesn't feel accomplished, doesn't feel proud. He just feels tired.
The thing is, now that he's gone this far, he doesn't know how to stop. It's not even a matter of willpower; he uses the power completely on reflex now, instantly course-correcting the second anything goes wrong. The sooner he reacts, the more time he has to fix it, after all. Worse, he no longer has any reference for how to cope with failure. Failure is a thing that happens to other people. To normal people.
He has to quit skating. He knows it. It's the only way to turn his life back around. So once the cameras stop flashing and the reporters recede, Victor turns to Yakov and says, "This was my last competition. I'm done."
Yakov's eyes go wide. Then, unexpectedly, little Yuri Plisetsky interjects, his whole face a scowl. "Don't you fucking dare, Victor Nikiforov, I swear to--
Victor doesn't even think about it. He rewinds.
"You look like you want to say something," Yakov says, raising one thin eyebrow.
The brilliant smile is just as automatic as reversing time had been. "I changed my mind."
At first, Victor doesn't even want to go to the Grand Prix banquet. His body never feels the effects of rewinding time as often as he does for competitions these days, but his mind feels it, each back-and-forward adding a little extra strain. Victor is exhausted. If he can't make himself quit, he at least wants to rest.
Christophe Giacometti corners him in the lobby of the hotel as Victor waits for the elevator. "Victorrrrrr," he whines, draping both arms over Victor's shoulders. "You're not trying to skip out on the party, are you? You're the man of the hour!"
"I've been the man of the hour for quite some time," Victor says; he means it as a joke, but it comes out sounding egocentric. Chris, who is the most egocentric person Victor knows, doesn't even bat an eye. "I'd much rather go to bed."
Chris's eyes go big as saucers, instantly shiny with tears. "Victor, you can't!" he wails, loudly enough that most of the lobby turns to look at them. "You can't, Victor, you can't abandon me li--"
Victor manages a thin line of a smile this time. "Perhaps I'll make an appearance later? Surely you can survive long enough for me to take a nap."
This time, Chris doesn't threaten to cry, but he does pout mightily. "When did you get so boring?" he says, matter-of-fact, and somehow that stings Victor's pride more than the performative screeching had.
"Of course I'm not skipping out. Come on, I'll even let you dress me up." A grin and a wink, only mostly forced. Victor has mastered the art of placating Chris, even though Chris is unaware of the fact that he's being placated. He lets himself be led back to Chris's room and his utterly excessive wardrobe; Victor rewinds time only once while letting Chris choose his outfit for the evening, because he will be damned if he will be seen in public wearing the first tie Chris foisted on him.
It's easier to keep from using his power if he avoids speaking to people, so Victor hangs back on the outskirts, champagne flute in hand, hoping that his reputation as untouchable will keep everyone away. Victor is well aware of the fact that most of the other skaters are intimidated by him; other than Chris, who has zero sense of shame, only Victor's rink mates feel comfortable enough to interact with him, and even then it's awkward more often than not. It's hard for ordinary people to speak to someone who never seems to fail, and it's hard for Victor to speak with people who are able to fail. Thankfully, the conversations he has with other skaters at the banquet are brief, and once the congratulations have been worn out and the overall inebriation level of the room has risen, they seem content to leave Victor alone.
This is how Victor has an incredible vantage point when Yuuri Katsuki, the Japanese skater who had placed last in the competition, challenges Yuri Plisetsky to a dance battle.
Victor is so engrossed by the bizarre scene that he doesn't notice that Chris has sidled up next to him. "Isn't he just adorable?" Chris purrs, gesturing with the champagne flute pinched gently between his thumb and forefinger. "Both of them, really. I knew Plisetsky would take the bait, but I thought it'd be harder to convince Katsuki to challenge him."
"You just can't mind your own business, can you?" Victor says, glancing at Chris out of the corner of his eye, keeping most of his attention on the dance floor.
"Why would I want to?" Chris replies, bumping his shoulder companionably against Victor's. "That boy is very suggestible right now. Do you think he'd dance with me, too?"
There's a split second where Victor almost rewinds time to choose a turn of phrase that's less goading, but he doesn't. This is the most entertaining the Grand Prix banquet has been in years. He nudges Chris with an elbow. "Only one way to find out, right?"
Chris gives him a strange look, as though he'd been expecting Victor to talk him out of it. As if, somehow, he'd been expecting the type of outcome that Victor had nearly gone back in time to achieve. But the moment passes; Chris winks, presses his empty champagne flute into Victor's free hand, and dashes out to the dance floor.
Victor hadn't expected pole dancing, but Victor isn't sure why he expects anything when it comes to Chris. It's even more startling coming from Katsuki, a skater that Victor only remembered on account of how incredibly average he seemed. If he could move like this, Victor wondered, why didn't he do so on the ice? That's something Victor would have noticed. He takes some pictures of the spectacle, because he knows Chris will want to see them later, and he drinks more champagne, because it seems ridiculous to be the most sober person in the room when minors are present.
Which is how Victor manages to not notice Yuuri Katsuki approaching him until Yuuri's face is the only thing visible on Victor's camera app's display.
"Victor!" Yuuri shouts, very loud. It's unnecessary, because Yuuri is incredibly close. Victor nearly drops his phone, but manages to lock the screen and tuck it safely in his pocket before Yuuri advances further into his space. His gaze flickers past Yuuri to where Chris is hovering several feet away, a delighted smile on his face. Victor can't even trick himself into being surprised.
Yuuri's cheeks are flushed pink and his breath smells of alcohol, though not as overwhelmingly as Victor might have guessed from his behavior. He leans in until his face is very, very close to Victor's. It's overwhelming, all at once, and Victor's fight-or-flight instinct kicks in. Reflexively, he tries to rewind time.
"Dance with me, Victor!" Yuuri is saying. He's pulling away suddenly, grabbing hold of both of Victor's wrists and tugging him towards the dance floor. After years of carefully calculated physical interactions, Victor doesn't know how to handle a situation he can't control. His whole body tenses up; he tries to rewind again, very consciously now, and still time remains exactly where it is.
Victor has no road map for this, no reference point for Yuuri Katsuki. If he could rewind time, he would try twenty different conversation starters until he found the best one, slowly triangulating the fastest way to endear himself to this person he's never spoken with before. But he can't do that, and it feels like he's been pushed out of an airplane without a parachute. He's freefalling, and the only anchors are Yuuri's hands on his wrists, Yuuri's lopsided smile, the light in Yuuri's eyes.
"Please, Victor?" Yuuri says, eyes sparkling, and for the first time in years, Victor can't give himself a second chance.
"Okay," he says, and lets Yuuri drag him out to dance.
Victor has spent almost all of his life training to be beautiful, graceful, nimble, elegant. When he steps onto the dance floor with Yuuri Katsuki, he immediately steps on Yuuri's foot.
Rewind, he thinks, desperately. Nothing happens.
Yuuri laughs, and Victor is mortified until he realizes that Yuuri is delighted. Yuuri throws both arms around Victor's neck and giggles, his breath tickling Victor's skin. He leads Victor in lazy circles around the dance floor; Victor tries to remember his ballet training, to stay cognizant of where his limbs are in relation to Yuuri's, to keep from doing anything else embarrassing that he can't take back.
And then Yuuri steps on Victor's foot. Hard. Victor might have thought it was revenge if it weren't for the way Yuuri yelps adorably afterwards. "Sorry!" he says, then giggles again, wild and carefree.
The tension Victor had been holding between his shoulderblades unravels; the strings that have been holding him back all night suddenly snap. "Now we're even," he says, a smile spreading across his lips. He removes Yuuri's arms from around his neck, then intertwines their fingers so he can position their hands for a waltz.
Yuuri, once he realizes what is happening, lights up like the sun. For a little while, Victor forgets about trying to be perfect.
"Be my coach, Victor," Yuuri says in Victor's ear, and of course Victor says yes.
Victor is a forgetful person, partially by nature, partially as force of habit; having the ability to rewind time means that not everything in his memory is something that has ended up happening. This, he thinks, might be the main reason he can't forget about Yuuri Katsuki: he knows, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that everything that happened during the banquet, for better or worse, actually happened. Despite this, every time he considers finding some way to contact Yuuri, to follow up on the drunken promise they made, Victor can't make himself do it. There's a dark feeling looming over him, something so large and ominous that it takes him months to even be able to identify it.
He can't remember the last time he felt afraid. Yuuri Katsuki makes him afraid.
The further he gets, temporally, from the banquet, the easier it is to convince himself that the whole thing was a fluke. He hasn't had any trouble using his power ever since that night, and he's half-convinced himself that it was a side effect of the alcohol. He's avoided drinking ever since, just to be safe. The days wear on, into weeks, into months, and Victor thinks about Yuuri less and less, certain that everything about their encounter at the banquet was pure coincidence.
Then Chris sends Victor the video of Yuuri skating Stay Close To Me, and Victor wonders if he's misinterpreted everything all along.
Victor watches the video over and over, mesmerized. Yuuri's performance of his routine isn't perfect, not by a long shot, but Victor would never expect that. The secret that Victor keeps close to his chest is that he's never skated the program perfectly either. He wonders how similar his performance would be to Yuuri's if he just let himself skate it straight through, without rewinding time to fix his mistakes; once he thinks this, he can't let it go, and he's pulling on his boots and racing to the practice rink before he fully processes what he's doing. It's a quarter to midnight, so the place is completely deserted, but Victor's had his own key for years. He laces up his skates and glides out onto the ice, his pulse throbbing between his ears. He doesn't need to listen to the music, which he knows by heart, some sections more intimately than others.
He doesn't think to set up a camera to film himself, so he can't know for certain how his performance of his own program compares to Yuuri's. It's almost impossible to control the urge to rewind time for each tiny mistake, each misplaced step, each less than flawless jump, but he manages it. Adrenaline courses through him, and without the music to keep him in check, the speed of the program increases by degrees as he goes, further compounding the difficulty without Victor even realizing it. At the end he missteps the quad toe loop triple toe loop combination, and wipes out spectacularly on the ice in a way he hasn't allowed himself to do in thirteen years. He knows he's not seriously injured, but the parts of his body that took the brunt of the impact sting terribly, and he lies on his back without moving for a long time, the ice melting against his over-hot skin and soaking into his clothes.
He laughs wildly; he hears it echo in the empty practice rink and wonders if he's finally lost his mind.
It takes him several minutes of lying flat on the ice to finally catch his breath, his heart racing in his chest like a bullet train. It takes him that same several minutes to realize that this is the most he's enjoyed skating in years. He needs to know if skating makes Yuuri feel the same way.
But Victor is a forgetful person, which is why, when they meet in the hot spring and he sees the mortified look on Yuuri's face, he immediately tries to rewind time.
Of course, nothing happens.
There's a moment of pure, animalistic terror, the fear of failure wrapping its tendrils tightly around Victor's heart. This time, he doesn't have the safety net of inebriation to cushion his inevitable mistakes. But he's already come all this way, shipped all his belongings, uprooted his life; it would take far more than ten seconds to rewind through all of that.
Maybe he can be braver than he thinks.
So he stands up in the bath, extends his hand to Yuuri, and says: "Yuuri, starting today, I'm your coach. I'll make you win the Grand Prix Final."
Yuuri shrieks incredulously, and Victor has no choice but to live with it.
As far as Victor can tell after a week of living at Yu-topia, it's proximity to Yuuri Katsuki that disables his ability to rewind time.
It's possible that he might not have figured it out if he only ever used the power consciously; after living with it for nearly half his life, it's become instinctual, like walking or breathing. So when he runs headlong into Yuuri's sister in the hallway, knocking the tower of bath towels she'd been carrying to the ground, the rewind happens without Victor even thinking about it. When time starts flowing forward again, he stutters to a stop in the hallway, heart pounding. Yuuri, he knows, is still out for an afternoon run, and this is when Victor forms his hypothesis.
He tests it over the next two days, changing as many factors as he can think to change, seeing what his limitations are. It seems to be entirely distance-based; he can be in the same room as Yuuri, if it's a large enough room, without losing the power to rewind, but once he's within about three meters of Yuuri, the ability shuts off completely. It doesn't matter if Yuuri can see him, or is aware of him; Victor has tried it from the room adjacent to Yuuri's bedroom with no success. Verticality is included as well. It's as though there's a three meter nullification bubble surrounding Yuuri -- the Yuuri Field, Victor catches himself calling it.
The thing is, apart from not being able to use his power, Victor very much enjoys being inside the Yuuri Field. There's no trace of the flirtatious extrovert that Victor had met at the banquet, but there is still something about Yuuri that's tantalizing, a magnetic pull that's all the more powerful because Yuuri himself seems unaware of it. The bone-deep fear that Victor had experienced the first two times he was near Yuuri slowly siphons away over time, replaced with a genuine curiosity about this quiet boy who seemed so average and was actually extraordinary.
Victor wants to learn everything about Yuuri Katsuki. But, without rewinding time, he has no idea how to do it.
Once he knows for certain that it wasn't the alcohol that thwarted his power, Victor wastes no time in getting completely shitfaced drunk.
Luckily for him, Minako Okukawa is more than happy to get completely shitfaced drunk with a world famous figure skater. It takes a few tries for Victor to make the invitation not come off as awkward, but he manages it eventually, and the two of them make themselves at home in the lounge at Yu-topia, chatting and joking and laughing together long into the night. Victor can tell from Minako's demeanor, as well as the nonchalant response from the entire Katsuki family, that this is far from the first time Minako has used their lounge as her own personal bar.
On five separate occasions throughout the evening, Victor tells Minako about his time powers. The first four times, she laughs in his face, convinced he is telling a hilarious joke, and Victor laughs too before rolling time back to before he said anything. The fifth time, somehow, is different: Victor confesses it in the exact same off-hand way -- "I'm not perfect, I can just control time" -- but this time, Minako doesn't laugh. Instead, her mouth is a hard line.
"Don't tell Yuuri that," she says, deathly serious. Victor feels like her gaze is boring into his soul. "You'll break his heart."
Victor rewinds, of course, mostly because he's terrified. But even when memories of the rest of the night have faded away into an alcohol-induced haze, he remembers the way Minako had glared at him and resolves to never speak one word about his power again.
"What the fuck is going on with you?" Yuri Plisetsky snaps at Victor, sharp as a skate's edge.
Victor blinks, all innocence. "I have no idea what you're talking about, Yurio."
Of course, he knows exactly what Yurio is talking about. It's been five days since Yuri Plisetsky arrived in Hasetsu unannounced, which means it's been five days of Yuri Plisetsky watching Victor operate within the confines of the Yuuri Field. Yurio, who has only ever seen Victor practicing or performing, has never experienced Victor as anything less than flawless.
"How many times do I have to tell you..." Yurio cuts himself off mid-grouse and glares up at Victor through the messy fringe of his hair. "The way you act around him," he says, his eyes darting to the ice as though there is any question about the object of his sentence. "You don't act like that around anyone. Why?"
Honesty is out of the question, because that will make its way back to Yuuri. He's on the opposite end of the ice from them, far enough away that Victor can use his power to tweak this conversation if he needs to, but Victor looks back at Yurio and finds himself wondering why he's planning for that eventuality. It's a bit ironic, when he thinks about it.
He reaches out and ruffles Yurio's hair; Yurio immediately recoils. Victor puts on the most dramatic pout he can muster. "Yuriooooo, lighten up! Enjoy yourself!"
"You've lost it," Yurio declares with a roll of his eyes. "You're such a narcissist that you see a video of this pig skating your program and you go completely fucking certifiable. Is he a good kisser at least?"
"No idea!" Victor says, and he delights in the look of disgust on Yurio's face. Just a few weeks ago, he would have rewritten the history of this moment just to pacify Yurio. Why did he ever think that was better than this?
It seems as though Yurio is about to say something, but there's a loud scrape and crash on the ice. Victor and Yurio turn their heads in unison to see Yuuri sprawled on his side, a pained expression on his face. Victor, on instinct, commands time to rewind and watches the whole thing play out in reverse; it's a triple axel, over-rotated, not even the hardest jump he's planned for Yuuri's short program. Time has begun to spin forward again before Victor realizes there isn't even anything he can do. Rewinding time for himself is one thing, especially with all the practice he's had doing it, but there's very little he can do to help another person in only ten seconds, especially when he has to start from at least three meters away.
He's halfway across the ice when Yuuri hits it, for all the good it does.
Yuuri looks up at him with a dazed expression, then his cheeks turn pink and he glances away. "S-sorry, I was..."
The thing about being able to rewind time is that it's very easy to learn about people. Some respond well to humor, while others find it offensive. Some want to be comforted, while others find it demeaning. With anyone else, Victor has infinite chances to learn the correct response for each person in every possible scenario. But with Yuuri, Victor doesn't get any shortcuts.
If Victor wants to learn about Yuuri, he has to try a little harder.
Victor wants to learn about Yuuri very, very much.
He leans down to brush one knuckle over the bright blush on Yuuri's cheek and whispers, "What were you thinking about?"
Yuuri looks back up at Victor, his eyes wide. The blush deepens. "N- nothing."
"You were," Victor insists. He can't restrain the force of his smile. "You get distracted when you think too much. Did you believe I wouldn't notice?"
"That's not..." Yuuri trails off and looks away again. After a moment, he starts to right himself, but gets no further than kneeling on the ice before he stops. Victor watches in silence as Yuuri's eyebrows knit together, as he bites his lip, as he is lost to thought once more. Yuuri glances over to where Yurio is, leaning against the boards on the other end of the rink. Then he looks back at Victor again.
"How did you get here so quickly after I fell?" Yuuri asks.
Victor's heart skips a beat.
"You were all the way over there, with Yurio," Yuuri continues, talking his way through the logic out loud. "You would've had your guards on too... there's just no way..."
"I'm very fast," Victor says, the lie unconvincing even to his own ears. The impulse to rewind is itching under his skin, but it won't do anything here in the Yuuri Field. He watches the way Yuuri's eyes slightly narrow, the way the corners of Yuuri's mouth start to turn down, all the movements that he might never have noticed on another person, simply because Victor had never had any reason to look. He knows Yuuri doesn't believe him, but the memory of Minako's words rattle around in Victor's head. You'll break his heart.
Victor can't help but think that he might end up doing that regardless.
"Hey!" Yurio yells, interrupting Victor's train of thought and making Yuuri flinch. "Did the piggy break a hoof? Should I call an ambulance for his hurt feelings?"
"I'm fine," Yuuri says, though Victor isn't sure if it was loud enough to carry to the other end of the rink. Yuuri gets to his feet in one fluid motion and skates away; it happens so quickly that it takes Victor a moment to react. Yuuri and Yurio pass each other at center ice, and Yurio looks back over his shoulder incredulously before coming to a stop next to Victor.
Unceremoniously, Yurio smacks Victor upside the head. "Like I was saying, what the fuck is going on with you? What the hell was that?"
"Not everyone is as heartless as you," Victor sniffs, falling back into comfortable banter. He's already figured out how to deal with Yurio. Dealing with Yurio means he doesn't have to think about what just happened with Yuuri.
Yurio crosses his arms and turns up his nose. "Never thought I'd see the day when the great Victor Nikiforov fell in love with a common peasant. Disgusting."
Oh, Victor thinks, I'm in love with Yuuri Katsuki.
Victor doesn't remember the name of the first boy he kissed, which seems ridiculous because he could easily describe the feel of his lips, the taste of his tongue, the sharp contours of his body. He was a skater at Russian Nationals, which Victor had won handily, but this slender and beautiful boy had so enchanted Victor with his free skate that Victor had backed him against the wall of the changing room and stolen a kiss.
At least, that would be how that nameless boy would remember it. For Victor, it was at least fifteen kisses, played out and rewound, until Victor had worked out exactly how to take that boy apart with just a press of lips and a slip of tongue.
He'd done the same thing with Christophe Giacometti at Worlds later that year, though this time it was in a bathroom at the banquet. Victor had thought he would be more confident the second (sixteenth) time, but kissing Chris was very different from kissing that Russian boy; where the recipient of Victor's first (fifteenth) kiss had been gentle and passive, Chris was forceful, all tongue and teeth and knees between legs. But Victor had made a career out of being perfect, so he rewound and rewound until he carved their tryst into something so flawless that he was not at all surprised when Christophe's short program the following year was set to a Russian love song.
If Victor could rewind time while in the Yuuri Field, he thinks as he watches the warm up before the free skate in Okayama, he would have kissed Yuuri Katsuki hundreds of times already. He doesn't know how many of those kisses would have been erased from Yuuri's memory, but Victor knows that he, at least, would have savored each and every one. He's lost track of the number of times he's wanted to throw his arms around Yuuri's waist and suck his anxiously trembling lower lip into his mouth, or bury his face into Yuuri's neck and run his teeth along his smooth skin, or even just lean over into Yuuri's space and press the softest kiss to his cheek. But he doesn't know how Yuuri will react, so he refrains, though not without effort.
By now, Victor is well aware of the amount of hero worship Yuuri has harbored for him. He's barely heard any of it from Yuuri himself, but the rest of Hasetsu has had no compunctions about spilling their local celebrity's secrets. It was Yuuko who'd told him about Vicchan, Mari who'd told him about the posters in Yuuri's room, and the old woman who ran the local bookstore who'd told him about the number of figure skating magazines teenaged Yuuri had special ordered just because they had Victor on the cover. Victor has never idolized another skater, so he has no frame of reference for what it might be like for someone he admired to suddenly be ever-present in his daily life. Up until now, whenever Victor has wanted something, he's tried and rewound and retried until he can have it in the best way possible. But with his safety net disabled, Victor has no idea where to start.
If Victor can't make it perfect, then what's the point?
His heart is in his throat as he watches Yuuri's free skate; even now, months after that first time, he still has the impulse to rewind time after each of Yuuri's imperfect jumps, as though it would make any difference. As a distraction, he imagines himself on the ice with Yuuri, dancing the program as a duet, their bodies curling around each other, telling the story of finding love together.
The idea of skating without being able to rewind time is terrifying, but Victor thinks he could do it, if he were skating with Yuuri.
He's startled out of his reverie by the sound of Yuuri slamming face-first into the boards. Victor doesn't understand it, but every mistake only makes him want to kiss Yuuri even more.
And when Yuuri stretches out his hand to Victor in his final pose, Victor decides he's going to do it. He holds out his arms and Yuuri races towards him; Victor can practically feel the moment when he's engulfed in the Yuuri Field, which means there's no turning back. The look on Yuuri's face is euphoric, in spite of the sheen of sweat on his face and the blood dripping from his nose, and all Victor can think about is how he wants to see Yuuri happy every single day for the rest of his life.
You'll break his heart, the memory of Minako's voice whispers in Victor's ear.
Victor sidesteps. He blames the nosebleed for it.
Yuuri's self-destruction after the short program at the Cup of China is a surprise to Victor, though Yuuri acts as though it was inevitable. As usual, Victor has no idea where to even start.
Before Yuuri, or before the Yuuri Field, Victor hadn't realized how complicated people really are. So long as he could rewind time, he could treat every person like a puzzle to be solved, trying and retrying until he found the answer that made everyone happy. With Yuuri, or with the Yuuri Field, he has to think about everything so much harder, comparing each new situation with past similar situations, fighting tooth and nail for something that might, maybe, possibly work. There are a seemingly endless number of factors that Victor has to consider when it comes to Yuuri, and they interact in ways he can never predict, exacerbated by fluctuations in Yuuri's mental state. He's seen Yuuri nervous before, but never like this, so consumed that he seems barely able to keep himself breathing.
The parking garage is a last resort, a place where Yuuri can't possibly be affected by anyone else. Victor has watched Yuuri retreat just enough times to think this might work. But Yuuri's breathing is still coming fast, his fingers fidgeting in his pockets, and Victor feels like he's grasping at straws.
It's desperation that makes Victor say, "If you mess up this free skate and miss the podium, I'll take responsibility by resigning as your coach."
The way Yuuri's face cracks is the worst thing Victor has ever seen. Rewind, he thinks. Rewind rewind rewind rewind.
"Why would you say something like that, like you're trying to test me?" Yuuri sobs.
Even with his power to lean on, Victor has always been especially awful at dealing with crying people. Skaters are emotional, fragile like glass; Georgi is a prime example. Now, trapped in the Yuuri Field, Victor panics. "Uh, sorry, Yuuri. I wasn't being serious--"
"I'm used to being blamed for my own failures!" Yuuri's voice echoes in the parking garage. "But this time, I'm anxious because my mistakes would reflect on you, too! I've been wondering if you secretly want to quit!"
Victor wants desperately to pull Yuuri into a hug and never let go, but he's terrified to touch him while Yuuri's so upset. "Of course I don't."
"You can't understand what it's like," Yuuri says through his tears. "You couldn't... you're perfect." He spits out the word like poison.
"I'm not," Victor says. This whole conversation is proof enough of that.
"Don't!" The word is guttural, anguished in a way that Victor's never heard from Yuuri before. He knows that this is his fault, and he hates himself for it.
You'll break his heart. What else does he have left to lose?
"I've never told anyone this before," he begins, voice pitched low, and something about it makes Yuuri's whole body freeze up. Victor forces half a smile. "That's not true, actually. I've never told anyone this and let them remember it afterwards."
"What are you--"
"Can you let me finish, please?" Victor cuts in. Yuuri flinches, and Victor wants so badly to rewind time that it makes his heart hurt. All he can do is try to make his tone more soothing; he's absolutely certain that this is a mistake, but for some reason that makes him even more determined to do it. "When I was fourteen, I found out I can rewind time."
Victor isn't sure what kind of reaction he'll get. Usually people laugh, thinking that Victor has made a joke, which, to be fair, is how Victor usually presents it. Once or twice, Victor has been accused of being crazy, which he's not entirely sure is inaccurate. But this is the first time he's confessed without intending to take it back, and he's terrified, because no matter what Yuuri's reaction is, that's the only one he'll ever have.
First, Yuuri sniffles loudly. Then he rubs his knuckles under one of his eyes, brushing the tears away.
Then he says, "That makes a lot of sense, actually."
Victor is speechless.
"D- don't laugh, okay?" Yuuri says, brushing the tears from his other eye. "I've watched your programs my whole life. Meticulously. And sometimes it seemed like you did things I couldn't explain. You'd go into a jump and I was sure you'd over-rotate it, but it'd come out perfect in the end. Or one half of your step sequence would be just a little bit different from the second half. I tried to show Yuuko once and she thought maybe the Youtube video had been edited. But I saw it when I was watching you live, too." Yuuri rests his forearm against the pillar next to him and leans his forehead on it, then lets out a shaky breath. "After a while, I was convinced I was just imagining it. I had no idea what could even cause something like that. But if you could..." He trails off, then turns his head to look at Victor. "How far can you go back?"
"Just ten seconds at a time," Victor says. He bites the inside of his cheek, because he's suddenly not convinced he's actually having this conversation.
"Can you do it right now?" There's an edge to the question, and if Victor hadn't needed to watch Yuuri so closely for the past few months, he might have missed the real meaning hidden underneath: Have you been doing it this whole time?
Victor closes the distance between them, reaching out to brush his gloved thumb along Yuuri's cheek. It feels safe to do now that Yuuri's not crying anymore. "I can't do it when I'm near you," he says, and it sounds like a love confession. In some ways, it sort of is.
Yuuri draws back, peering at Victor through narrowed eyes. "Can't, or don't?"
"Can't," Victor admits, and he can't tell from Yuuri's face whether that was the answer Yuuri had been hoping for. "It's something about you, I just can't rewind when I'm anywhere near you. I first noticed it at the banquet, but I was drunk, so I thought--"
"I don't remember much of the banquet." Yuuri bites his bottom lip, his cheeks going pink. Suddenly a lot of things make a lot more sense to Victor.
He doesn't push the issue. They can have that conversation another time. "But when I came to Hasetsu after I saw your video, that's when I realized it was you. And I realized..." He trails off, unsure how to even put into words all the things that he's realized just by being with Yuuri. He runs through them all in his head: He's realized that people are more complex than he'd thought. He's realized that the best response isn't always the right response. He's realized that he's missed out on so much by never letting himself be less than perfect. He's realized that being around Yuuri makes him into a better person than he's ever been.
He realizes that his time powers don't really have anything to do with that. The thing that makes Victor a better person is Yuuri.
"Sorry," Victor says on a breathy exhale. "I'm still not used to having to get things right on the first try."
Yuuri just looks at Victor for a moment, then pushes away from the pillar and steps in close, wrapping his arms around Victor's waist. "You don't have to," he says, the words muffled by the lapel of Victor's jacket. "I like you better this way."
"I believe in you," Victor says into Yuuri's hair, because that's what he should have said all along. "You're the most incredible person I've ever met. And I--"
"Stop it," Yuuri cuts in. Victor can feel Yuuri's hands twisting in the fabric of Victor's jacket. "Just stop, okay? You don't have to say anything. Just stand by me, exactly the way you are. Not perfect. Just you."
This time, after the free skate, Victor leaps out onto the ice and flings his arms around Yuuri's neck and kisses him. The momentum makes him misjudge, and his nose bumps hard into Yuuri's before he can tilt his head properly; their teeth clack together, and Victor actually bites Yuuri's tongue because he isn't expecting it in his own mouth; they land hard on the ice, Victor's knees taking the brunt of his own weight because he doesn't want to crush Yuuri beneath him.
It's not perfect, except that it is.
"That was an accident," he whispers against Yuuri's lips.
Yuuri smiles, brilliant, so brilliant. "Do you wish you could take it back?"
"Never," Victor says.