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eternity will be born from hope

Chapter Text

Jan 1 

Yu-Topia Katsuki

Hasetsu, Japan 

04:08 

New Years Day 

 

Yuuri breathes deeply, his jaw stretching low as he lets out a loud yawn. His eyes sting with sleep as he ushers himself out of his bedroom, slipping his fingers underneath his glasses to rub at his eyes roughly. 

Yu-Topia Katsuki is empty of all customers, a shell of its usual boisterous self. Yet, with the brightly lit garlands sprouting all across the inn, Yuuri’s home is as bright as when it is filled. Vicchan yips from his place at the bottom of the stairs, and Yuuri scoops him up, burrowing himself into the soft fur of his dog. 

“Yuu-chan.” Yuuri’s breath catches.  

“It’s been a while, sweetheart.” 

There she is, his grandmother, all seventy-two years of age. Her hair is more of a light brown than the grey he remembers, face plumper with only a few wrinkles around her eyes. She hadn’t been around to see Yuuri win gold. His heart twists at the sight of her, healthy and alive. 

“Obaachan.” He doesn’t put down Vicchan, instead rushing to loop his arms around her small shoulders as tightly as possible. “What are you doing here?” 

Vicchan yelps at being squished between the two bodies, and his grandmother smacks his back hard . Yuuri cringes, depositing Vicchan in his grandmother’s arms while rubbing his back frantically, attempting to alleviate the pain of the elderly woman’s indomitable strength. 

His grandmother ignores his cry of pain, too busy soothing her favourite grandchild. “Oh, my Vicchan. Did your niisan hurt you? Don’t worry, grandma will punish him!”

Obaachan!”  

“Darling, please don’t tease our Yuuri.” His grandfather pops next to him, immediately pulling Yuuri into a tight hug as well. He looks so much more younger than Yuuri remembers, his strong hold on Yuuri’s shoulders tightening when he attempts to wiggle out of his grasp. “Oh, Yuu-chan. It’s been far too long since I last saw you.”

“Well it’s your fault.” His voice doesn’t sound annoyed, instead filling with warmth. “How’s Osaka?”

“Horrible!” His grandmother cries, interrupting her husband. “I don’t know why we decided to move with you Aunt, Yuu-chan. I should have moved to Hasetsu with your mother years ago.”

“That’s a lie.” His grandfather rolls his eyes from behind her, motining for Yuuri to help him walk. “You hated Toshiya’s mother. Besides, she loves the city too much. It’s doing her some good by coming here though, the air is much cleaner.”

Yuuri helps his grandfather settle in their family quarters in the downstairs lobby. It’s a small ‘staff-room’ of sorts, with a second-hand, worn out L-shaped futon pushed into the corner. His grandfather pats him on the arm, whilst his grandmother continues to shower Vicchan with belly rubs, sitting crossed leg on the floor. 

“Yuu-chan!” Arms wrap around his neck, cutting off his circulation. He gasps out, clawing at the hand as his Aunt Hisae digs her knuckles into his hair. 

Obasan! I can’t breathe! ” 

She giggles, releasing him from her grasp. Instead, she twists him around so that he’s facing her, immediately reaching up to pinch his cheeks. “If it isn’t our fancy National athlete!” 

Yuuri’s face burns red. “Let’s not talk about that.”

“What?!” Hisae cries out. “No way, I came all the way here to see your medals! I promised to send them to the kids.” She grabs his arm, shaking him roughly. Yuuri frowns at the thought of his distant cousins, all of whom were well into their thirties and had kids of their own, and instead, decided the best course of action to deal with Aunty Hisae at three in the morning was to not interact with her at all. 

“Hisa-chan. It’s three in the morning.” Yuuri bows immediately at the sight of his Aunt’s wife, Ayuka. She rounds the last member of the party, coming inside to ruffle his hair. 

“Morning, Yuu-chan.” She extracts Yuuri from her wife, linking her arms through his and dragging him towards the kitchen. 

“Are you helping with the mochi?” 

She nods solemnly at that. “In-law duties. Your dad’s in the backyard doing it too.” 

Yuuri grimaces. “Wait.. is that why you’re dragging me there?!”

She tightens her grip on his arm. “Are you going to leave your elderly aunt and father out in the cold, January air?”  

Yuuri fails to escape, as Aunty Ayuka drags him all the way into his backyard. The garden was his father’s pride and joy, separated from the rest of the inn by locked gates. Inside, there were fresh produce that his father would painstakingly care for, enough that they were able to provide their guests with the freshest ingredients. 

It’s alight with lanterns now, garlands and wreaths of flowers lovingly hanging from the walls and around the garden. Yuuri stills, frozen in his tracks. 

It wasn’t that the Katsuki family was a small one, it was just that they were never around whilst Yuuri was growing up. His father had been an only child, inheriting his family business from his parents. There was a second cousin that he knew of, Uncle Keisuke, a lone bachelor that Yuuri could see now helping his father pour a humongous rice flour into the mochi mixture, ready to be pounded. 

The rest of his family however were on his mother’s side, sprawled far across the mass of Japan, too far away for Yuuri to know them well. On top of that, the generational gap between Yuuri and the other members of his family was so huge that by the time Yuuri was five, most of his cousins were either in college or married. 

Suffice to say, Yuuri had expected to spend New Years with just his family and Minako-sensei. Of course, he is completely wrong. 

He should have realised when his mother’s parents had first arrived. Aunty Hisae and Aunty Ayuka were less of a surprise - since they lived with his grandparents, it made sense that they came together. 

But walking outside and seeing gaggles of cousins and aunts he barely remembers, all with the accompanying “ Do you remember me? I used to change your diapers when you were a baby ”, or “ You’ve grown so much taller since I’ve seen you last! ” when they have not in fact met before, or the dreaded “ You’ve gotten so handsome. You must have a girlfriend or boyfriend? Oh, you don’t? Such a shame, you know, my shogi partner’s grandson is a very handsome boy, you’d love him!” - Yuuri is feeling a little overwhelmed. 

Sue him, it’s four in the morning and he’s running on five hours of sleep. 

Aunty Ayuka drags him towards his father, who immediately puts him to work kneading some type of mochi dough. Another grand-uncle comes up to him, chastising his kneading prowess. The sun begins to rise by the time all of the mochi is flavoured and shaped, and Yuuri and his family are ushered back inside to the banquet hall by the aunties, where his mother has set out a feast for breakfast. 

Minako turns up somehow around this time, joyously announcing her arrival with cheers from the adults as she brands crate-full boxes of sake. Both generations of Nishigoris appear as well, Takeshi and his father carrying in more breakfast dishes to help with the sudden influx of people, as Yuuko and her mother-in-law attempt to wrangle the toddlers into sitting positions rather than crawling all over the place, enacting havoc. 

Soon, Yu-Topia Katsuki glows with festivities. It may be closed for the holidays, but it is alive with noise. Yuuri’s mother is at the forefront, orchestrating an incredible routine of sending food out of the kitchen and into the banquet halls, aunties and uncles all coming together to help. 

Various osechi dishes are placed around the banquet hall. Zōni is ladeled into Yuuri’s little soup bowl, the pieces of mochi that he had painstakingly made floating to the top. His stomach growls, and he shovels the food into his mouth without waiting, savouring the taste. 

Sometimes, Yuuri forgets that he’s the youngest in his entire family. Maybe it’s because he’s actually an adult, but he finds that wherever he goes, he is being accosted by some kind of relative ready to pinch his cheeks and coo at him like he’s a toddler. It’s fine, he thinks begrudgingly - when he finishes one bowl of rice, another is pushed in front of him, or another piece of tamagoyaki is shovelled into his mouth by an overeager aunty. 

Mari squeezes next to him, her body pressed closely to Yuuri’s side. There is no room for Yuuri to move his chopsticks at all, but he cannot stop the flood of warmth that fills him at the noise that surrounds Yu-Topia Katsuki. She piles her plate with delicacies, chowing down next to Yuuri as the sound around him becomes muffled, honing in on his sister’s sudden appearance. 

“When did everyone get here?” Yuuri murmurs, voice drowned out by the loud clattering of his family. 

Mari chuckles, nudging his side. “Around midnight, after you fell asleep.”

“Is that why the inn’s closed for the holidays?” Mari makes what Yuuri assumes is a noise of confirmation, but is really just her gulfing down food in a series of inhuman inhalations. Yuuri is quick to hand her a napkin when the soup dribbles out of the side of her mouth. 

“They wanted to keep the National champion all to themselves.” Yuuri evades the scrunched up napkin she sends his way, glowering at his sister. 

“Junior National Champion.”

“Who got silver at seniors . It's an incredible feat, Yuuri.”

“Well, what about you? Businesswoman has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?” Yuuri narrows his eyes, a shameless smirk stretching across his face. “You’ve been glued to your phone ever since Tokyo-”

He yelps sharply, cringing away as Mari twists his ear painfully. “Who’s fault is that? You dropped me in the middle of an on-going police investigation !” She whispers harshly, eyes shifting around conspiratorially. Lowering her voice, she says, “If I told kaasan what we got up to in Tokyo, I’d be ten feet under the ground.” 

“It worked out in the end!”

“Barely!” She screeches under her breath. “I’m in over my head! They all think I can walk on water just because I was able to balance their stock-input/output figure and know how to work excel.”

“Which you did spectacularly . ” 

“Not the point Yuuri! I’m used to making sure the inn has enough towels in the onsen, not how much stock intake a skincare company can keep before it expires before launch! How the fuck did you even know about all that-” 

“Yuuri-kun!” Yuuri’s eyes almost roll to the back of his head in relief as someone unceremoniously plops themselves in front of him, chopsticks reaching out for some tamagoyaki. It’s Shun-san, one of his cousins that’s closer in age (and by closer, Yuuri means he’s in his early thirties with a child on the way). “How’s school? Feeling okay about the entrance exam?” 

“Oh, I hope I’ll do well.” 

Mari chokes on her mouthful sake. “ Okay? Your teachers think you’re Einstein reincarnated into a second life. Onii-san , Yuuri ranked fifth in his class during midterms, and sixth in the entire school.” 

One of the Aunties behind him actually shrieks , and there is a sudden moment when everything goes quiet, the sound of utensils clattering to the table. Then, pandemonium hits. 

“Sixth in his entire school?!”

“How did you have time to study? You were at competitions all year, Yuuri-kun!”

“Rena-chan, look at your cousin! He was out of the country and still , he’s keeping up with his studies!”

“Hiroko, what are you teaching this boy?” One of his aunties clasps onto his mother’s arm. 

“Well… the truth is…” Hiroko laughs awkwardly, her voice high and uncomfortable. “Toshiya and I don’t do anything. It’s all Yuuri-kun.” Yuuri keeps his eyes focused on his soup. 

The aunties around become even more enamoured. There is an influx of people turning towards Yuuri, and he can feel his body clam up at the attention. His cheeks flush red, and he pinches Mari’s thigh when she snickers loudly. 

“Yuuri-kun, well done!” 

“He’s smart and a national athlete?”

“Wow, how did he get so self-sufficient? It’s like a war just waking Mika-chan up to get ready!”

“So,” Aunty Ayuka pipes up from across the room. “What university are you applying for?”

Minako catches Yuuri’s eye. She raises an eyebrow.

Well , he thinks to himself. Might as well pull the bandaid off. 

“I’ve been searching for a new coach for seniors. There is one I’ve made contact with, but he’s American so I’m thinking of applying to a university over there.”

America?!”

“An overseas university? My god!”

“Toshiya! Your son at an American university? How incredible!”

“He’d be the first in the family, right? Who else has gone to university?” 

His parents’ mouths are wide open. Mari eyes are popping out of her sockets. Nishigori might have fainted. Yuuri wants to die . Shun looks around at the room in commiseration, places his two hands together and bows deeply at Yuuri. “I never should’ve mentioned anything. Forgive me, Yuuri-kun.” 

Yuuri laments into his soup. 

***

Hasetsu Higashi Senior High, 

Hasetsu, Japan 

Saturday Morning 



Yuuri truly did not understand the severity of nerves that would hit him as soon as he arrived at the entrance of Hasetsu Higashi. Mari nudges him from behind, camera flashing as he turns around. “Can you stop taking pictures? What the fuck, neesan .”

She rolls her eyes and takes no head to his words, phone clicking after each photo is taken. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I’m about to throw up.”  

She takes a side-step away from him. “Not on my shoes. They’re new.”

“Oh, that’s fine. It’s not like I have control over my regurgitating functions. I’ll just aim for some bushes or something.”  

“Nice plan.” 

“Yuuri-kun!” A voice shouts from inside the gates, and Abe comes tumbling towards him, cheeks flushed and his backpack slung tightly across his back. “How are you feeling?”

“I’d stay out of the splash zone, Abe-kun.” Mari holds her hand out in preparation, snickering. “He’s feeling a little nauseous today.” Abe unceremoniously takes a step back. 

“Stop making fun of me!” Yuuri cries to his sister harshly. “Abe-kun. I’m fine, just nervous.”

“Me too.” His friend is actually trembling, whether from the cold January air or nerves, Yuuri doesn’t know. “Want to come inside? Sensei has tea for everyone who came early.” 

“I-I guess so. Yeah, no, I’m going inside.” Yuuri clenches his fists, taking a deep breath. “If I think about it anymore, I’ll actually throw up. Let’s just get this over with.”

“Good plan.” Abe says. “It’s just a boss level. We’ve won plenty of those.”

Yuuri turns back to Mari who stays outside of the school grounds. She tilts her head and rolls her eyes. “You’ve got this.” She winks at him. 

Yuuri takes a deep breath and closes his eyes. This was it. Celestino and Detroit were waiting for him after the finishing line. Just the last hurdle he needed before he could reach the senior circuit. Just a little longer. 

***

[ VIDEO: An excerpt from Tokyo News, one of the biggest news channels in Japan. Behind the announcer, there are repeated clips of students taking the National Test for University Admissions. Underneath the screen, there is a rolling banner that says ‘ shiken jigoku’ , otherwise known as ‘exam hell’. 

The announcer begins to speak. “The National Test for University Admissions has finally concluded this Sunday, with experts saying it is the hardest version of the test in over thirty years. This has tracked recent data linking the difficulty of the entrance exams to lower university admission rates throughout the country. Stay tuned as we talk to some students as they leave the entrance hall in Tokyo…)

***

Monday 

Ice Castle Rink, 

Hasetsu, Japan 

 

“You think he’s alright?” Takeshi’s eyes trail after Yuuri, who is walking through the locker room. 

Takeshi wouldn’t normally watch Yuuri get changed, but well, when his friend walked face first into the entrance door and then proceeded to stumble into the locker room like he’d been possessed, he feels like he has a right to worry! 

Yuuri’s cheeks had sunken into their bones, losing all of his signature rounded chub. Dark layers shadowed his under eyes, and his lips were void of any colour. For all intents and purposes, Katsuki Yuuri looked like death

It had gotten to the point where Takeshi and his father, Koushi, decided that for Yuuri's sake, it would be best if the two of them followed him around the rink to ensure he didn’t accidentally maim himself before Worlds. But well, what does one say when their friend has just finished one of the most gruelling tests of the century? 

“He’s acting like this because of the exam, isn’t he?” Takeshi’s father sighs deeply. “I watched the news, does he really think he can’t get into an American university?”

Takeshi bites the inside of his cheek. “Maybe. Mari says he’s been like this for the whole week. He prepared really hard for them too.” Takeshi shivers, remembering Yuuri’s intense studying. He could’ve sworn that metaphorical fire was exploding around him with how fast he had been annotating his notes. “There’s no reason for him to be in school now that exams are over, but…”  

“If he gets on the ice like this he’ll injure himself.” His father finishes. 

“Exactly.” Takeshi narrows his eyes. “What time is the next class coming in?” 

“You mean the beginner’s class? Yuuko’s out on the rink now. They’ll just be on for around half an hour before I need to resurface the ice. Your hockey team is coming at six, right?”  

“So we have no other lessons between four and five?” His father gives him an affirmative nod. 

“Do you know if Haru-chan decided to start lessons again?”

His father frowns. “Well, she’s out on the rink now with the other kids, but it’s the same problem as before. There’s not much Yuuko can teach her.”

“Wait, she’s here? Right now?”

“Well, yes-” Takeshi runs further down the locker-room hallway, leaving his father behind. 

“Ni-Nishigori!” Yuuri screeches out, gripping his sports jacket tightly in his hand. Takeshi is heaving loudly, latching onto Yuuri by the shoulders.  “I- how long have you been here?”

“Long enough to know that you’re out of it.” His eyes narrow, realising Yuuri is holding his national jacket. “Where’s your ‘Ice Castle’ merchandise?! You promised to wear it! Besides, you hate wearing the national jacket when you don’t have to.”

“I’ve lost it, okay!” He cries. “I have no idea where it is. It’s not like it’s a generic black hoodie or something. It probably got stuck in Mari’s laundry again. Can’t you just give me another one?”

“Like hell! Buy it from us this time!” Takeshi growls. 

Takeshi .” His father interrupts him, having finally followed the two further into the adult locker room.  He smiles benevolently towards Yuuri in a full 180-turn from the demon eyed glare he had sent towards his son. “You’re talking about that hoodie you always wear- the one with our logo? I’m sure there’ll be some in stock at the gift shop. Ask Fumie-chan later, I’m sure she’ll be happy to give it to you.” 

“Oh- thank you, Nishigori-san.” Yuuri bows. Takeshi’s screams about ‘lost business’ seem to fall on deaf ears as Koushi leaves the two of them alone in the locker room, humming to himself.  

In the silence, Yuuri’s friend takes a deep sigh, before sticking his thumb towards the door, looking at Yuuri with beady eyes. “Come with me.” 

“What? Why?”

Takeshi tightens his hold on Yuuri’s shoulder. “Because I said so. Oh, at least wear your clothes properly before you walk out. Your pants are inside out.”

Yuuri looks down at his legs, eyes widening. He scrambles out of the locker room in record time.

There was not much noise surrounding the rink today than usual. After Yuuri’s increased ‘celebrity status’ in Hasetsu, or whatever it was that Minako called it, Ice Castle had seen a record number of calls asking if classes would start up again. 

The rink had fallen on hard times in the past few years, with less and less people willing to pay for figure skating lessons. Of course, that usually meant Yuuri had the rink to himself, but that added bonus paled in comparison to the fact the rink had been on the brink of closing. 

Their only source of income had been from Yuuri himself (who was given a very discounted rate) and Takeshi’s junior ice hockey team from Hasetsu Middle School that came every day after school.

In that sense, you could almost call it cataclysmic, the very moment Yuuri began making national and international news. 

Suddenly, everyone wanted to know about the rink that trained the Junior Grand Prix champion. 

There had been a huge influx of calls at reception, to the point where Takeshi’s cousin Fumie would come around to help after school. Everyone was asking the same two questions - who was coaching Katsuki-senshu, and were they available for more students? 

Of course, Ichika was very firm, telling everyone who called that Okukawa was not a figure skating coach, but instead was doing a favour for Yuuri. She then mentioned that Okukawa was in fact a ballet teacher, and directed calls back to Minako’s studio. 

Which, yes, also meant that Minako was now under a pile of people begging to take lessons at her school, even willing to board here in Hasetsu if it meant that their child would be taking classes from the esteemed Okukawa-sensei herself. 

Both companies were overrun with demand, and it had been all hands on deck the moment Yuuri had returned back to Hasetsu after senior Nationals. 

Yuuko had convinced her mother-in-law that they shouldn’t accept any coaching enquiries, at least not until they hired new skating teachers that were willing to come and live in nowhere-Hasetsu. She, herself, was feeling overwhelmed by the increased demand from Hasetsu itself , especially as she was the only qualified teacher available at Ice Castle. 

The parents who called were looking for someone to make their child a champion, and for all intents and purposes, Katsuki Yuuri was an anomaly who had essentially trained himself. It was baffling to all. 

After the sudden overhaul of insanity, Ice Castle had fallen into a manageable swell of business. Minako’s dance studio, however, was not manageable, and was moving ahead purely on Minako’s own grit and effort. It meant that Yuuri was coachless most of the time, (which, to be fair, Minako really couldn’t help him with the technical aspects anyway). He kept up his training, but with school now finished and Junior Worlds three months away, he was being buried with boredom. 

It was a sluggish sort of feeling. Who knew he was almost begging for some kind of problem to come up? 

He had started the application process for universities, including applying to some online colleges in case Detroit fell through. Celestino had been a bright light in the entirety of it - he was an adjacent professor in the Health and Sports department at Wayne State, which meant Yuuri had a shining recommendation from a professor already set for his application. It also meant that if Wayne State fell through, Yuuri would still have access to the university rink via Celestino, so if he had to take online classes instead, he would still be set. 

So, there really wasn’t anything for Yuuri to do, bar training. He wasn’t set to start intensive training for Worlds until February, and so, all he could do was listlessly trail around the rink, doing odd-jobs for Koushi and Ichika to make up for letting him run amok in their business most of the time.  

He’d already given his soul away to Minako, spending most of his mornings at her studio. The sharp uptake growth of people willing to travel to Hasetsu to be taught at her school meant that she needed more ballet instructors for all ages. That in turn, meant that Yuuri had been stuck in her office on the top floor, vetting out new applications ready for her to interview later on in the week. 

It was the biggest movement Minako’s company had in years - all prepped and raring to go for when she’d return full-time after Junior Worlds. His teacher had looked exhausted, but there had been a light in her eyes that Yuuri had not seen in years. 

She had shooed him away after spending all morning with her, and here he was, thinking about ways to keep busy. He thought about attempting to help Fumie man the reception area again, but quickly shook his head of the thought. Everyone and their mother had seen the chaos that had erupted when Yuuri had attempted to man the station in the past. 

He was thinking of staying at rentals, re-organising skates or taking stock - Fumie could record the skater’s sizes and he could bustle around in the stockroom, hiding from the world. It was at least something proactive, and then Takeshi had gripped his shoulders tightly and ushered him towards the main rink. 

He nudges him now, eyes narrowed. “That’s our beginner class, well, it’s our only level at the moment. We can’t accept anyone who’s intermediate to advanced since it’s just Yuuko teaching. We’ve had to split them by age instead.” The group was not big, with Yuuri counting five children under the ages of five. Most of them could only reach the top of Yuuko’s knees, and were holding on tightly to the side of the rink, shuffling forward in a single line. From the side, there were parents and friends filming the children, and Yuuri would’ve spent more time looking if his eyes didn’t suddenly catch a figure on the opposite side of the rink, running through what looked like some simple jumping passes. 

“How old are they?”

“The youngest is Akiko-chan, she’s four. This group usually ranges from three to five. If they can master standing on their feet, we move them up with the big boys, but there aren’t a lot of older skaters. In fact, most of them already quit, we just have one - oh, you might know her, Haruka-chan.”

“Saito’s granddaughter.” Yuuri interrupts, frowning. “Yeah, of course I do. She’s always at the inn. She didn’t tell me she was skating again.” 

Takeshi purses his lips. “You know, the only reason she quit was because Yuuko couldn’t teach her anything else. We tried to convince her parents to get her a coach in Saga, but well, you can’t expect them to drive two hours every weekend for a one-hour class. Plus, with Sakura going back to Minako’s class, her parents would prefer it if she switched over to ballet.” 

“But she loves skating! You can’t force someone to do another sport when-”

“I know Yuuri.” Takeshi rests his hand on Yuuri’s arm. “But it’s not like I can convince her parents. And why should I? I understand their perspective. It would be easier if she chose another extracurricular activity that Hasetsu actually offers, but…” Takeshi sighs deeply, eyes turned back on to the ice. Yuuri follows his gaze, and he sees it. 

Haruka is set apart from her peers, going through what seems to be jumping passes away from the rest in a smaller part of the rink. Yuuko makes occasional glances towards her, but her focus is always pulled back towards the small group of children in front of her. She is alone, out there on the ice, so far ahead of the younger kids in her class that it seems prudent to leave her by herself. 

“Look, to her parents skating is just a hobby, but I look at Haru-chan, and I- '' Takeshi scoffs out a laugh, sounding so baffled and amused. ”You. She reminds me of you, when we were kids. She’s here, day in, day out, even without a coach. If all she can do is skate around the rink, then she’ll do that for an hour. She can do all of the double jumps, well, except for the axel. We’ve put out job vacancies to see if anyone will come coach junior or intermediate level, especially with the increase in demand, but nobody seems to bite because we’re so isolated from the city. There’s no-one here who’s experienced enough to take her to the next level.”  

Takeshi turns his piercing eyes to Yuuri. “Well, you know, everyone except you.” 

Yuuri’s throat turns dry. He blinks, eyes defocusing as his brain stutters to a stop. His eyes turn back to Haruka. How could he have forgotten that earnest feeling, the magic of being on the ice? 

Yuuri, Yuuri of all people knew exactly what that felt like. He had been Haruka - alone, fighting out of a doghole pit made of his circumstances within Hasetsu. It had only been when he was eleven that things changed - the moment Yuuri had watched Viktor skate in Sofia, he had seen the staircase form, had felt the rope tangle down into the hole. Painstakingly slowly, he had gripped the rope and pulled himself to the edge of the pit, where Viktor lay in weight, hand extended to drag him out for good. 

The rope was still there, dangling in the doghole, but what would be the point if there was no-one there at the top, urging the person to come up - to let them know that it was clear to come up? 

Saito-san was close with his family. As one of the town’s elders, it was almost expected that he was to be revered just on account of his age, but then it was his demeanour that had earned the respect of the rest of the village. Always ready to help anyone in distress, he had been Hasetsu’s biggest supporter. 

Yuuri still remembers with vivid memories the time when his Yu-Topia Katsuki had almost fallen into disrepair along with the other hot spring resorts. It had been Saito himself who had begged his father not to take another loan out, had given his father the money to keep their livelihood afloat with no underhanded intention other than to see his family stay in Hasetsu. Yuuri had been eight at the time, but even then, he had known that the elderly man was a person the Katsuki family would always be indebted towards. 

There was little his father could give back towards Saito-san that the elder would willingly receive - he had almost punched Toshiya when he had tried to return the loaned money. 

Saito was content to live in Hasetsu with his family, he had hoped to see his town thrive, to see the place of his childhood grow to the wonders it once was. 

His only vice was his twin granddaughters - there was nothing he would not do for Haruka and Sakura. With the way Saito talked about the two girls, it was hard not to fall in love with them. They were a staple at the inn, hiding behind him whenever they were there. Everyday, they would watch Yuuri with their big, puppy-dog eyes and Yuuri’s heart would melt a little. 

Perhaps, this way, Yuuri could repay a debt long overdue. It wouldn’t be asking for too much either, Haru-chan would be worth a few lost hours of training.

“I’ll go speak to her.” Takeshi nods his head, although he grumbles underneath his grisly exterior. Yuuri snickers to himself, moving towards the rinkside as Takeshi follows him. 

“How long do we have before Yuuko’s class finishes?”

“We’ve got..” Takeshi pulls a face, squinting at his watch. “Ten… fifteen minutes maybe?” 

“And you don’t have another class after this?”

Takeshi bits his lip to stop himself from smiling. “Nope. Not until my babies come at six.”

Yuuri scowls at the mention of hockey players, but rolls his eyes anyway. Takeshi narrows his eyes as Yuuri turns to walk away from the rink. “Oi, where are you going?”

“Please tell me you’ve thought this through.” Yuuri points towards his national jacket that screams his importance. “There’s no way I’ll be able to talk to Haru-chan if the other skaters see me. I’m not going to deal with the entirety of Hasetsu descending on Ice Castle to beg that I teach their kids skating.” 

Takeshi grimaces, face twisting in sympathy. He snaps his fingers, sending Yuuri a poor imitation of finger guns. “Good plan. What do you want me to do?”

“I’ll be in the meeting room. Bring Haru-chan with you.” Yuuri sends his friend a wink. “You should be used to wrangling unruly girls, right?”

Yuuri’s gone before Takeshi could even beat him for calling his baby triplets ‘unruly.’. They’re complete angels, thank you very much. 

 

***

Miyagawa Haruka is six years old when she sees Katsuki-senpai skate for the first time. 

It was not a televised competition, but it was a regional one, so she had made a big fuss, hoping her parents would let her go to Fukuoka to watch him. In the end, it turned out she didn’t need to - her skating club at Ice Castle had planned a trip to go and support Yuuri, Coach Nishigori saying that it would be like “seeing a pro in action.” 

Katsuki-senpai was different from everyone else. At thirteen, he was already having private lessons with Coach Nishigori, and had won all of the novice competitions he could get his hands on. There were rumours around the rink that he could even become a national champion! 

Except for the triple axel, he could land all triple jumps. His spins were so fast and sharp, Haru had no idea how he was able to twist his body like that. He had incredible edge control and his speed across the ice would make Haru’s brain spin from trying to catch up with him. 

But it was at the regional championships that Haru really understood who Katsuki-senpai was. The way he moved across the ice, it was like nothing Haruka had ever seen before. She had watched some competitions at home before -  when she was five, it had been the Winter Olympics that had made her start figure skating in the first place -  but seeing Katsuki-senpai compete had been so different

He was everything Haruka wanted to be. The difference between them was so large - Katsuki-senpai was in a class of his own, and Haru, poor, six-year-old Haru had been enamoured from the start.  

Of course, reality was a hard pill to swallow. 

Katsuki-senpai did go on to become the junior national champion. In fact, he went on to become the junior world champion, and he did it without a proper coach. Haruka never once won a medal at a novice competition. 

There was only so much that Coach Nishigori could teach her. Ichika Nishigori was a capable teacher, but even she could only teach her students so much. By the time Haru was seven, herself and her peers had stagnated and become disheartened

Katsuki-senpai hired a new coach that would exclusively train him. Nobu was not a very nice person, but Haru couldn’t help the jealousy she felt every time she saw him. At least he was an actual trainer, Haru was still stuck doing double jumps by herself. 

Soon, more and more of her friends started to leave the skating club. There wasn’t much else they could do, how could they be on the same level as Katsuki-senpai, who was just so talented that he could teach himself before an actually qualified coach could come along and help? Everyone else was just average. 

They weren’t winning competitions, in fact, they were coming in dead-last. When Haru was eight, her parents had sat her down and told her that perhaps skating wasn’t for her. Sakura had already dropped skating when they were six, switching over to Okukawa-sensei’s ballet school where she had begun to flourish. 

It was Haru, who was trailing after her twin sister. Haru, who was stuck in an endless loop of hoping that something would change at the rink. It took her being Ice Castle’s only student for her parents to finally pull her from the rink - ‘a waste of money’, they called it - useless, unnecessary, worthless .  

Sometimes, after school when she was alone, the time when her sister would be at Okukawa-sensei’s ballet school, the time when she would’ve been at the rink, Haruka would find pulling out one of her homemade costumes, and just herself staring at the mirror. She would raise the costume up high, dragging the hanger up to her shoulders, and stare at herself. 

Her skates didn’t fit her feet anymore, shoved underneath her bed into a little box. On days like that, she would scrunch her costume up into a ball, and throw it as far away from her. She would crawl downstairs to her grandfather, curl up at his side, and stare at the wall until Sakura came back from ballet. 

Now, at age eleven, things had started to change. Katsuki-senpai himself had fallen into a slump, only to force his way out of his by himself, once again. Watching him at the Junior Grand Prix, surrounded by the other people of Hasetsu, had changed Haru’s whole world. 

It was like he was someone completely different. Something had stirred inside of Haruka’s small heart, a firing passion that burst through her whole body, and suddenly, she had awoken again. 

Her parents weren’t the most appreciative of her taking lessons again, fearful that Haruka would turn into the same, shell-shocked girl from the past. But this time, Haru was determined. If Katsuki-senpai could become a World champion by himself, so could Haruka! 

She just needed to try harder, like Katsuki-senpai.  

A few years ago, Coach Nishigori had passed the business on to her son. Takeshi-sensei had been on the ice since she was four, a grisly figure that made Haru want to cower in fear, but wherever Takeshi-sensei was, Yuuko-sensei was.

Yuuko-sensei was only ever here to teach the beginner classes, spending most of her time with her three toddlers (Axel, Loop and Lutz were so cute , and Takeshi-sensei was infinitely less scary when three babies were hanging off his legs), but when Yuuko-sensei was there, it was like Haru could breathe again. 

She wasn’t the best at teaching her technical things, but at least she would try and help stabilise Haru’s skating. They had tried to do hundreds of different things to improve Haruka’s skating, but alas, Haru could feel the same things happening again. She may have regained most of her double jumps, but there was no way she could compete and win. 

So imagine her surprise, when Takeshi-sensei gruffly calls out her name. Yuuko-sensei looks at him with shock, immediately following Haru as the two of them go towards the rinkside where Takeshi-sensei is standing. 

His hands are crossed over his chest, and he’s making some kind of face towards Yuuko-sensei. 

“What’s wrong, Takeshi?”

“We’ve sorted it out.” He responds to his wife, but his eyes are focused entirely on Haru. She gulps, gripping the edge of her shirt tightly. 

“Am I in trouble?” She whispers, eyes trained on her feet. Her skates had been too big for her, and with such uncertainty as Haru not having a proper coach, her family had conceded to allow her to rent some skates. They weren’t the best fit, nothing like the way her old skates had hugged her ankles perfectly, but Haru wouldn’t complain. She would do everything in her power to move forward, she just needed to prove it to everyone else! She just needed them to believe her, just this once. 

There is something warm flooding her back, and she looks up to find that Yuuko-sensei had placed her hand on her back, and is smiling at her with something Haru did not recognize, (later on, much later, when Haruka is older, she will recognise the look as a combination of relief and happiness, so much happiness .). 

“You’re not in trouble.” Yuuko-sensei crouches down on the ice, smiling. “You’re definitely not in trouble.” 

“She’s right.” Takeshi opens up the ice barrier. “Come with me. There’s someone who wants to speak to you.” 

So she follows Takeshi-sensei, who waits patiently as she slips her skates off and fishes out her trainers from Fumie-chan. There’s a nervous feeling building in her small chest, and she grips her jacket tightly. Questions are swirling in her head, buzzing around with the worst possible scenarios possible. 

Oh god, were her parents here to pick her up? Had they decided that she wasn’t worth the classes? Sakura was winning ballet competitions left and right, Haru had nothing to show for her skating. They weren’t going to let her skate, were they?

She could feel her stomach twisting into a torrent of nerves, eyes pricking with unshed tears. They don’t go outside however, instead, they stop by the front desk. The entrance is well-lit, Makoto-san the single person manning the reception desk. There’s a door behind him though, one that had been infamous to the skaters at Ice Castle. 

The tortue room. 

There is a sign on the door - ‘Staff Only’, disguised as a breakroom of some sorts, but Haruka knew the truth. Makoto-san doesn’t even take notice, far too busy typing away at the computer to realise that Takeshi-sensei was going to send Haru to her doom. 

The layout of Ice Castle was always strange to Haruka. From the outside, the building was so big, but she had only ever seen the single rink inside. Where did all the other space come from? 

She soon found out. Behind the staff door wasn’t a room but a well-lit corridor, with pictures erected all over the wall. Haruka gawks as she follows Takeshi through the hallway. There were black-and-white photos framed high, obviously from a time before Haruka was born, but must;ve been from when the rink was first opened. But the thing that made Haruka gape was how many pictures there were of Yuuri-senpai. 

Posters from when he was at international competitions, photos of him shaking hands with important figures from when he was younger, so many pictures. Haruka could only look in awe, stumbling to keep pace with Takeshi-sensei. 

At the end of the corridor, there are some stairs going up and down. Takeshi-sensei sees her questioning look, and finally begins to speak. “This is our office area, we’ve got to keep the rink running somehow . Downstairs are our archives, I wouldn’t recommend going down there, it’s a complete mess. We’re going upstairs to the meeting room.”

“Meeting room? Why are we going there?”

“You’ll see.” 

Curiosity fills Haruka as she follows her teacher up the stairs, taking two at a time. She reaches the top before Takeshi-sensei, looking eagerly around. He meets her at the top, clearly winded. 

“Having a bit of trouble there, Nishigori?” Haruka’s head snaps up at the sound of someone laughing. 

“Shut up, baka .” Haruka gapes at the sight of Takeshi-sensei blushing . The laughing continues, and Haruka’s mouth drops even wider when the person comes to meet her at the top of the stairs. An angel- a real-life angel , descends from the top level, smiling with celestial elegance, until he stops right in front of her. 

Miyagawa Haruka is eleven years old when she finally talks to Katsuki-senpai for the first time.  

***

“One more time.”

Haru gasps, her stomach heaving as she claws at the rinkside, barely able to keep her up right on the ice. 

This isn’t right , she cries to herself, face creasing in pain, I was wrong. I was so wrong!  

“What, are you tired already, Haru- chan ?” Katsuki-senpai smiles angelically, eyes curling into pretty moon-shapes. Of course, Haruka thinks. There was no way of Haru even knowing that Katsuki-senpai was like this. 

How could she? When he looked like a seraph incarnate. 

But that was the danger of the whole thing - Katsuki looked like an angel, but he was the devil. He sends Haruka smiles that set her heart into palpitations, only to then tell her she needs to do another five laps around the rink.  

An oni , Haruka cries to herself, shaking her head. He’s a training demon. 

Haru thought herself to be a pretty good skater, at least she was the best skater at Ice Castle (bar Katsuki-senpai, but who could compare to him?). She was on a different level than the others who had just started, and despite taking a break for almost a year, she had quickly regained almost all of her double jumps. She knew she was a good skater. So why is it that doing simple skating drills was making her body ache to the point of no return? 

Haruka’s eyes widen, voice trailing out of her mouth like someone is forcibly clogging her throat. “I- are you sure?”

“Of course we are.” Takeshi-sensei crosses his arms. “Yuuri will be taking over your lessons. We wouldn’t have asked if we weren’t sure he had the time. It’s just until we hire a new coach who’s actually vetted for junior skaters, but that could take up to a year or two. You don’t have that kind of time.” 

Katsuki-senpai nods, looking slightly gloomy. “Time is always of the essence, especially in our sport. If you’re serious about skating, then I’ll do my best to help you.” 

Haru thinks of all the time she’d wasted - she had always watched the regional championships, had seen skaters who were only a few years older than her reach their dreams. Something always clawed at her heart whenever that happened, because regardless of what anyone told her, Haru believed in herself that she could reach that stage. She could be a great skater, she just needs help. 

Although, her stomach still twists because Katsuki-senpai wasn’t just any other skater. 

For as long as Haruka had been in the sport, Katsuki-senpai had been the reigning junior National champion. She doesn’t know how many consecutive titles he has won, but it’s more than anything Haruka could even dream of - she hadn’t even qualified for the regional championships! 

Even going further, he was the only Japanese skater to have a high international ranking, and with how record-breaking his new season was being so far, the Junior World title was already hung around his neck. 

Does she really have the right to be in the same club as him, to be taught by him? Haru knew that she was good, but would it be enough? He would be so busy - and what’s worse… What if he fails Worlds because he didn’t have enough time to train because of her? She would never forgive herself-

A hand comes to rest on her head. Haru can feel her erratic heartbeat starting to reside as warmth spreads through her whole body. She looks up, and sees that Katsuki-senpai has risen from his seat. He ruffles her hair slowly, a soft smile on his face. 

“It must’ve been very hard, Haru-chan. You don’t have to worry about anything else, anymore. Leave it to the adults, hm?” 

Leaving to the adults meant that Katsuki-senpai had taken the entire hour just watching Haru struggle.  

When it seemed like he was finished with her, Katsuki-senpai then coached her through some simple drills. From one foot, she was to glide across the rink on the inside edge of her skates, before countering to the outside edge in a single, fluid movement and then switching over to the next foot. It was a beginner’s drill, something she had done since she was four. It should’ve been easy - except Katsuki-senpai was a demon on skates. 

He would do the movement like it was breathing, each part of his body poised to match the drill. It was a perfect execution of the drill, something Haruka quickly found that she was not capable of. The drill started out fine, until Katsuki-senpai told her to continue the same drill without stopping for ten minutes straight. 

Immediately, Haruka’s technique had faulted and her speed had dropped. If she did not focus properly, Katsuki-senpai would add an extra five minutes that she would have to make up. In the end, Haru could not even show Katsuki-senpai her jumping ability. 

“This is the basis of skating.” He had reminded her. “ If you do not have proper skating skills, then the foundations of your jumps will be shaky. If you can’t change between the inside and outside edge fluidly now, how are you going to make sure you're jumping with the right edge?”

He had followed her around the rink, making her do the same drill again and again until he was satisfied. “That was a good lesson .” He had said. “We’ve checked where your basic skating skills are, so I know what we’re working with. I’ll be making you a specialised training menu for tomorrow, so make sure you’re here straight after school.” asking her to do these little tests that made Haru want to throw up - “ We just need to check what we’re working with! I’ll be giving you more specialised training tomorrow.” 

Tomorrow, Haru shuddered. There’s no way she’ll survive tomorrow. If these were just him checking her general skating skills, how on earth is she going to survive Katsuki-senpai’s actual training? There’s no two ways about it - she’s going to die. 

***

Jan 14 

SYMA Sports and Conference Centre, 

Budapest, Hungary 

European Figure Skating Championships Press Conference 

 

“Good evening everyone to this year’s European Figure Skating Championship press conference. Here today, we have the medalists for men’s singles. To start off, just some general questions for all of the skaters - how do you feel following the free skate?”

The cameras pan towards Viktor, and he only has a few moments to realise that everyone is waiting for his answer. Clearing his throat, he opens his mouth to try and fix the situation, already feeling Yakov’s stare drilling into him from the back of the room. 

“I’m satisfied with having two clean performances - of course, I didn’t break the world record this time around, but I’m positive that I’ll have more to show for Worlds. Please keep your eye on me.”

There is a smattering of applause. Viktor smiles pleasantly, his lips curling into a perfect stretch that compliments the angles of his face. His thumb comes underneath to rest under his chin as he leans his whole head on top of his fingers, starting elegantly into the blaring lights of the cameras. 

The interviewer turns to the other skaters on either side of him, and all Viktor can do is let his body run on autopilot. 

It’s been over a month since Yuuri Katsuki had ghosted him - no DM’s on instagram or private chat on twitter, hell he wasn’t even following Viktor! He had left his phone notifications on on both apps, never missing the chance to check it whenever he was free. The thousands of notifications made it almost impossible, and Viktor had sulkingly turned his notifications off. It’s not like finding him would be hard, Viktor was everywhere! 

He’d been wearing the hoodie for so long that Yuuri’s scent, something spiced and warm that embedded itself into the fabric, had well and truly faded away, leaving behind only Viktor’s own clinically clean scent. It was still one of his favourite pieces of clothing to wear - he would spend hours just huddled underneath the thing. It was a warm hug waiting for him on colder days whenever Viktor struggled to get out of bed, but still, there should be a limit to how long a person could drag this on. 

Yuuri Katsuki had left him dry, and Viktor was dying for him to at least acknowledge that they had met. 

He breathes slowly, refocusing his eyes back to the press conference. He makes some noncommittal comment about Worlds, watches as the reporter clutches their heart at his natural flirting, and thinks it’s a job well done. 

Soon, all three of the medalists are ushered backstage as the press conference wraps up. They’re all walking through the hallway, surrounded by last-minute photographers trying to get another shot at them. When they’re left alone, Viktor’s face drops his smile. 

He groans, stretching his body out and rubbing his eyes tiredly. There’s a snort beside him, and Viktor turns to see Christophe Giacommeti, tilting his head and crossing his arms, watching Viktor with a questioning look on his face. 

“What?” Viktor looks down, wondering if there’s something on his clothes. He’s wearing the team’s jersey, a white sports jacket with red accents, but no sign of any food stains or foundation. Maybe there’s something on his face-

“You look dead on your feet.” Ah, so there was something on his face - his expression. Viktor grimaces at being caught. 

“It’s been a long season.” 

Giacometti nods, pursing his lips. “Yeah, it’s been a fun one though. Congrats on your medal - third consecutive one, right?”

Viktor winces at the reminder, bracing himself for more ‘shop talk’. He just wants to curl up in Yuuri’s hoodie and sleep. “Yeah.” He says, reserved. 

“Let me get you a drink.” Christophe pushes himself off against the wall, looking expectantly towards Viktor. 

He narrows his eyes, “What reason would you have to do that? Is this your way of getting the person who beat you drunk off his ass so you can expose him to the world?” 

Christophe barks out a laugh. “You think too hard, Nikiforov. Who said anything about getting drunk? I said I’d buy you a drink.” He claps his hand on Viktor’s shoulders, winking. “What if it’s a celebratory drink? Come on, the hotel bartender’s got a cute accent when he speaks English, with a little lisp on his ‘s’, you’ll find it adorable.” 

“I don’t think we’re close enough for you to know what I find adorable or not.” Viktor digs his heels into the ground. “Besides, I’m not going to get drunk at four pm.” 

Christophe trails his eyes down Viktor’s entire body, looking unimpressed. “You look like you could use it. I’m a Valentine’s baby, just call me cupid, I know a heartbroken soul when I see one.”

“H-heartbroken!?” Viktor sputters. “I am not heartbroken.” 

***

“He’s just so pretty .” Viktor cries into his mojito. 

Christophe rolls his eyes, patting Viktor’s back softly. This had been the third time that Viktor had cried over his boyfriend’s pretty face. God, he hates people who love their significant other - let Chris be single in peace! 

Alas, it seems like he’d bit off more than he could chew with this one. Turns out, Viktor Nikiforov is a crier when he’s drunk - and drunk he is! That Russian alchohol tolerance is a true thing, holy fuck. Christophe does not want to be Viktor’s accountant after their night out as he looks over at the piles of drinks Viktor had somehow weathered through. 

Chris was still nursing his single lone margarita, blinking in the absurdity that Viktor Nikiforov was drunk-mooning over his boyfriend with him in Budapest. 

What a night. 

“So, this boyfriend of yours, you miss him that much?”

“So much!” Viktor whines. “Does he even like me? He never texts me first. I’m all alone, waiting for him to make the first move.”

Christophe chokes on his drink. Viktor Nikiforov, face of Louis Vuitton and Nike and a bunch of other fancy high-end brands, is waiting on someone? What kind of bastard is this guy? 

“That’s so horrible, Viktor. I’m sorry you have to put up with that.”

He glares at Christophe. “Don’t say that about him! He’s perfect! You know, it was freezing in Beijing, I’m always cold, but it was even colder then. He could’ve frozen to death but he made sure to wrap me up in his hoodie, it’s the warmest thing ever. He’s so sweet!” 

Christophe drowns the rest of his drink. So, Viktor Nikiforov was like the rest of them, hopeless when in the face of love. Somehow, it makes him seem normal, like he’s an actual human being instead of a cloned robot made in a Russian lab. He could make a self-help group with Nikiforov, himself and Yuuri - he still couldn't believe that Yuuri had never been on a single date in his life. Maybe the three of them could commiserate about their lonely lives together.

***

Jan 19 

Fukuoka City, 

Fukuoka, Japan 



Neesan

 

Good luck, idiot. 

received  



Yuuko 

You’re going to do great! Your English is the best out of everyone 

received



Abe-kun

Good luck, Yuuri-kun! I still can’t believe you’d do more tests than needed T.T 

received



Minako-sensei 

Deep breathes, kid. Whatever mark you get, I’m proud of you. 

received



Yuuri takes a deep breath, stepping off at Akasaka Station with the pounding of his heart crowinding against his ears. The train had been busy for the entire hour and a half, pushing him up against the train walls as he waited patiently for the train to pull into Fukuoka. 

His last test of his high school career, one that was arguably more important than his entrance exams. The TOEIC. After the complete dumpster fire that was his entrance exam, (honestly, how the fuck did he forget that this year’s exams were the hardest tests in years?), Yuuri's only hope is to do well enough on the TOEIC. 

He needs to pass this test to even be allowed to apply for an American university. There was no other option, it’s either he passed or he failed, and if he failed? There goes his dreams of reaching the top. 

The TOEIC wasn’t generally hard test, especially if you’re a fluent English speaker, but Yuuri had spent most of his time speaking a corrupted version of the language, influenced by Russian, Japanese and American dialects until his language was some kind of amalgamation of words being woven together into a patchwork cloth of idioms and lost-in-translation phrases. 

Yuuri knows that he is fluent in English, that he could study in English, but that didn’t stop him from being nervous. 

Tests were always his nemesis, they never boded well for people with anxiety. He sighs heavily, pushing his fogged classes further up the bridge of his nose. His phone pings with numerous texts of encouragement from his friends and family, but he’s quick to turn it off, worried that somehow it would erupt into sound in the middle of his test, making him forfeit before he even started. 

There are other students around him, clearly from all around neighbouring prefectures. There was no test centre in all of Saga, meaning that Yuuri had to travel to Fukuoka just to be able to take the exam. The train journey had left him already exhausted, and with the way that the morning rush of workers floods all around him, he curls into himself, walking briskly as to not inconvenience those around him. 

The test would be at nine, Yuuri had made the right choice to set off at half six this morning - he would have an hour of rest before he would have to arrive at the test centre. There should be a cafe nearby where he could have his breakfast, and try and focus his mind before his nerves got the better of him. 

He doesn’t realise how close he’s gotten until he passes by the entrance of an ice rink. Hakata-ki Ice Rink. Where had he heard that club before-

“Aaaaagh!” There’s a sudden shriek near him, and Yuuri yanks himself back, gripping his chest in shock. 

“Yo-you. Oh my god , askfhahgs-” Yuuri blinks rapidly at the sound of gibberish, eyes trailing down at the figure of a child. He’s staring up at Yuuri, eyes bugging out and his face turning pale. “You’re- Katsuki-senpai!”

Katsuki-senpai ! The sound of the child’s voice echoes in Yuuri’s mind, when suddenly, a more deeper voice melts into the sound.  

Yuuri freezes. His mouth drops open. 

M-Minami?! The child in front of him has to be Minami Kenjirou, blond hair and rabbit-teeth and all. He’s gaping up at Yuuri with fish-eyes, unfocused and hazy. He looks like he’s about to faint. 

“I- Yes. I’m Katsuki Yuuri-”

“I- oh my god!” He screeches, clasping his hands together and raising them up so that they rest under his chin. “I’m a huge fan! I love you, Katsuki-senpai!” 

He bows so low that his nose almost touches the concrete floor. They have attracted some attention, and Yuuri can feel the blood rush to his face. He grips Minami’s shoulder, which probably does more harm than good, dragging him away from the footpath so that they’re not hindering the other members of the public. 

As soon as Yuuri lets his arm go, Minami melts into a puddle, his arm falling on to the side of the building’s exterior wall in order to keep himself upright. Yuuri sighs heavily. God, what are the chances that he would meet Minami Kenjirou, of all people? Fukuoka is one of the biggest cities in the entirety of Japan, you could almost say it was fate. 

Minami’s as small as Yuuri remembers, even smaller considering he’s a child. He barely comes up to Yuuri’s chest, (and Yuuri himself is shorter than average), cheeks rounded in the obvious signs of childhood. 

It’s like a blast from the past, it takes Yuuri’s breath away, and suddenly, he’s hit by a burning sear of pain for his lost time.

( “The kid loves you,” Viktor laughs, curling an arm around Yuuri’s waist. “That being said, it wouldn’t kill you to be a little more nicer to him.”

“What am I meant to say?” Yuuri throws his head back so that it hits Viktor’s shoulder. His neck is exposed, and Viktor takes it as permission to nuzzle his face into the space, tightening his hold on Yuuri with every shiver that his husband lets out. 

“Just say hello, it’s not hard.”

“For you!” Yuuri spins to face him. “The last time someone had an unhealthy obsession with their idol, they ended up married together.” He pokes his husband’s chest, looking up underneath his lashes with a coy smile on his face. 

“Unless you want something like that to happ-”

Viktor growls, his fingers digging into the skin just above Yuuri’s hip. “Forget Minami. I love you the most.” ) 

“I- what are you doing here, Katsuki-senpai?”

Yuuri blinks, scratching the back of his head as he’s pulled away from his musings. “I’m here for an exam.”

Minami’s eyes widen. “In Fukuoka?”

Yuuri smiles ruefully. “Yep. The TOEIC.”

“TO- The English test?!” Minami screeches. “You- you mean, why would you need to take that? Wait!” His eyes widen astronomically. “Senpai, are- are you thinking of moving?!”

Yuuri grimaces at the thought of the news getting a hold of this. Lucky for him, he knows how to play Minami like a fiddle. “I’ve found a coach, but it all depends on my grades. You can’t tell anyone though, it’ll be our little secret.”  

Minami looks up at him, eyes alight with stars and hearts. “How- oh my god. Oh. My. God!” He cries loudly. “A secret with Katsuki-senpai?! I am honoured!” 

Yuuri only narrowly is able to stop him from bowing again, closing his eyes painfully. He almost feels bad about the whole thing, before realising that it’s eight in the morning on a Saturday. If Yuuri was a thirteen year old, he’d be dead to the world, burrowing away under his duvet with Vicchan by his side. He says the same to Minami, who looks down at his feet, biting his lip. 

“Well, I read that Katsuki-senpai always wakes up early to start your training. I- I wanted to be like you! I promise I’ll meet you at the international level! We can represent Japan together!”

Yuuri’s breath catches in his chest. That- Minami had said the exact same thing to him, when he was eighteen. Word for word, Yuuri could remember because it had left such an imprint on him to this day. 

Minami had said those words five years earlier than before. 

It’s like someone has poured a bucket of cold water over his head, this numbing feeling that floods his entire body like a deluge of rain. 

The whole time-travelling thing had been an undercurrent to his whole perception of being. If he thought too hard about it, then he would never be able to function, but being shown irrefutable evidence that he has changed the world, well, Yuuri’s pretty sure he’s about to have a meltdown. 

“-suki-senpai. Katsuki-senpai!” Minami screams. “Are you okay? Do you need some water?”

“I- I’m alright.” Yuuri’s voice sounds crackly, like thorns had been shoved down his throat, asphyxiating him. “I, I really should go, Minami-kun.” 

Minami’s eyes widened. “O-of course, senpai! I hope to see you at Nationals in the future.” He pouts suddenly. “I was too young to go to the junior nationals this year, I guess we’ll have to wait until I’m older before we can be on the same ice.” 

Yuuri takes a shuddering breath, remembering Viktor, and is quick to place a hand on Minami’s head, ruffling it half-heartedly. “I’m sure we’ll meet sooner.” He shoves his hand into his coat pocket, hefting his phone out to Minami. “Can I have your Line ID?”

***

February 15

Yu-Topia Katsuki Hot Springs, 

Hasetsu, Japan 

 

“It’s in.” Yuuri chokes on his egg roll as his sister comes barreling into the mess hall. She’s screaming at the top of her lungs, waving around a huge pile of letters wildly as his mother rushes in to grab them.  

“It’s in, it’s in, it’s in!” Mari grabs Yuuri by the shoulders, shaking him roughly. 

“What’s in? What the f..” Yuuri bites his  lip, eyes widen as he sees his parents sifting through the mail. He quickly catches himself, ignoring Mari’s snort of amusement, as he turns towards his parents. “What’s going on?”

“How could you forget?!” Mari gasps. “It’s results day!”

Yuuri pales. “Oh, oh god. I’m going to throw up.”

He dry-heaves, gripping Mari’s arm and forcing himself up. He’s about to run to the bathroom, before his father grabs him tightly in a hug. 

“Whatever grade you get, I’m proud of you for trying my son.”

Trying was hardly the issue, Yuuri was fucked . After having the horrible realisation that he had changed the past , Yuuri had wandered into his test whilst suffering from an existential crisis. He had the power to change the past (or future? It hurts Yuuri’s head to think about it). What else had he changed? Was he even guaranteed to pass the TOEIC like last time? Oh god, what if he had fucked it up so badly there’s no way Celestino could coach him anymore? 

His parents had recognised his demeanour as soon as he had returned home from Fukuoka. The past three weeks had been so quiet as none of his family had the nerves to ask Yuuri how he did - his face had said it all. It didn’t help that the national entrance exam was so hard, Yuuri was sure he flunked. 

“I can’t open it.” He whispers, eyes pricking with tears. His stomach twisted, churning around in a heat of fire. “I can’t. Oh god, I’m going to throw up.”

“Ugh.” Mari roars. “If he can’t, I can. Give it to me!” She grapples the letters out of her mother’s hands, throwing bills and other unwanted letters that were directed towards her parents on the floor. 

“Bill, bill - god, another bill. Fucking hell, where is it, where- GOT IT!” She cackles, holding the two letters high above her head. 

“Open the TOEIC first!” His mother cries. “Nothing can prepare us for the entrance exam, besides he just needs to pass the TOEIC to get into America, right?”

His father nods, “She’s right- Minako-sensei explained it to us earlier, remember? Yuuri’s grades for the application will be based off his overall grades at high school, not just the entrance exam. Open the TOEIC.”

“What?!” Mari screeches. “No way, did you see his face after? Why would we do that to him?”

“He can retake the TOEIC anytime, it’s not that big of a deal. If he opens the university admissions test first, I’m afraid I’ll faint.” 

Kaasan !” Yuuri cries. “Please can we not do this. Just open which ever.”

His mother wrangles the letters from Mari, ripping open the TOEIC test first. 

“Don’t they send these results text, anyway?” Mari pouts. 

“I turned it off.”

“You- you turned your phone off?” Mari blinks slowly, before erupting in rage. She grabs her brother’s shoulders, shaking him roughly. “Why for the everloving god did you do that?!”

“Because it stressed me the fuck out!” He screams. “Everyone in our school’s group chat kept posting about waiting for their results, and it made me want to throw myself out of a window. And then Chris kept texting me, asking if I’ve got the results yet, and then apparently, people on twitter are also talking about it - I can’t escape it!” 

“Mari!” Hiroko yells. “I can’t understand the letter.” She flings it towards her eldest child, who is quick to scan the contents of the letter. Her mouth drops open. 

“I- oh my god.” 

“I DON’T WANT TO KNOW!” Yuuri shrieks. “DON’T SHOW ME.”

“YUURI!” Mari screams. “What the fuck! Oh my god, you have to look.” 

“NO! DON’T- MY EYES- oh.” 

Yuuri’s eye twitches. “A- Is my eyesight weird? Like…” He pulls of his glasses, cleaning them with the hem of his sleepshirt. “Why is that number there?”

Mari chokes on air, gaping widely. “Yuuri, what the fuck.”

892/990. 

“Why is the number not disappearing?!” He cries, grabbing the letter and yanking it closer to his eyes, hopeful that it will change the number. 

“I’m- I can’t breathe.” Mari falls back on her seat, eyes open so wide, her eyeballs are almost gaping out. 

“What does it mean?” Toshiya comes to grab the letter out of her hands. “Is that a good score? How many does he need to pass-”

Tou-san .” Mari’s voice is full of reverence, like she had just witnessed a person rise from the dead. “ Tou-san, the average is 500.”

“T-the av-” Hiroko’s legs collapse around her, and she falls to the floor, mouth gaping wide. “He’s, he’s over the average?”

“He almost had full marks.” Mari screeches, jumping up from her stupor and grabbing Yuuri so tightly, bruises are already beginning to form. “You said you fucked it up! What the hell, Yuuri!” 

“Wait, so if he did that well on the TOEIC…” Toshiya’s eyes trail towards the other, unopened letter that lays resting on the table. 

***

 

From: waynestateadmissions@wayne.eu

Subject: Application No. 25413: YUURI KATSUKI 

To: y-katsuki2909@line.js  

 

Dear Mr. Yuuri Katsuki, 

Congratulations! It is with great pleasure that I inform you of your acceptance to the Physics program with a minor in Sports Administration and Management at Wayne State University. You have been given this opportunity in recognition of your personal and academic achievements. 

We have enclosed a starter package with this letter that will help you familiarise yourself with the campus and its faculties. Furthermore, you will receive a separate email enclosing the details of your academic scholarship, where your tuition will be paid in full by the university, as well as the requirements to keep said scholarship during your duration at the university. 

We look forward to having you at our university this upcoming academic year, 

 

Sincerely, 

Stephanie Adams, 

Head of Admissions