There are a lot of things I could have done over the winter holidays, but instead of doing any of those things, I re-watched Yuri!!! on Ice and then started watching the dubbed version just to see if it was any good. (Verdict so far: not bad, but I still prefer the sub.) One thing that really struck me in these re-watches was Yuuri’s anxiety. On my first run-through, I thought that he just had performance anxiety—it wasn’t until I’d watched it again that I realized he actually had an anxiety disorder. Yuuri describes himself as a dime-a-dozen skater despite making it to the Grand Prix Finals, he doesn’t understand how five time gold medallist Viktor Nikiforov could be interested in him despite his being able to skate Viktor’s free program flawlessly, and he can’t see that his friends and family support him and believe in him despite there being ample evidence of it.
Yuri!!! on Ice’s depiction of anxiety and mental illness was done just subtly enough to feel natural without beating the viewer over the head with Yuuri’s concerns. Most importantly, Viktor and Yuuri’s relationship showed something that’s rarely seen in a fictional romantic relationship: Yuuri’s anxiety doesn’t just up and disappear now that he has a significant other, and in fact, some of the things Viktor tries to help Yuuri end up not helping at all. Today’s fanfic expands on some of those themes in a sweet, yet realistic, story.
Spoilers for all of Yuri!!! on Ice after the jump!
Nationals are over for both of them, and moving to Russia is a given. Yuuri is the first to say it out loud. Victor needs his coach, his rinkmates. It’ll be good for Yuuri, too, if he’s going to be serious about this.
Victor comes back to Hasetsu, his first comeback gold in hand, and they start to pack. Victor livetweets the first few hours.
#Russia bound with #YuuriKatsuki!!
Suitcase #1!! Like if you think we can fit more. RT if you think I should buy #YuuriKatsuki new luggage
How do you fix a broken zipper
Poll: does anyone think this is going to fall open
#YuuriKatsuki: paperclip craftsman extraordinaire
I don’t think #YuuriKatsuki has ever looked at me like he’s looking at this suitcase
Poll: is my fiancé about to leave me for this suitcase
He’s stopped tweeting by hour four. Or at least, that’s when Yuuri notices Victor has abandoned his phone to circle him cautiously.
“Yuuri,” he says, studiously casual. “Why don’t we break for lunch?”
“In a second,” Yuuri says through clenched teeth, testing the paperclip monstrosity they’ve jury-rigged to his suitcase. “I’m going to try something else.”
It’s not until later, when Victor finally coaxes him onto the couch with a sandwich and a glass of water, that he flips back through Victor’s timeline and sees his own packing-related nervous breakdown, backwards and in slow-motion.
Oh, he thinks. Because it catches him by surprise sometimes, too.
“It’s later than I thought,” he says. It’s easier than admitting he’s been fixated on one suitcase for nearly two hours.
“Mm.” Victor drapes an arm over the backs of the cushions, jaw working like he’s chewing on his next words. Yuuri thinks he might bite them back. He doesn’t.
“You’ll tell me if this is too much,” he says. It’s halfway between a statement and a question.
Something was going to change, no matter what. Yuuri was going to feel like this no matter what. He’d rather it be for this than anything else. But that’s a thought too fragile to say out loud.
“And don’t say ‘it’s fine,’” Victor says, eyes narrowing as he taps the side of his temple. “I can hear you thinking from here.”
Yuuri’s laugh is mostly a wince. Victor, very kindly, does not bring up the last time Yuuri thought too hard about their respective careers.
“It’ll be different. Good different,” Yuuri adds quickly. “I’ll get used to it.”
Yuuri’s not sure that will mollify him. But at length, he smiles. “I suppose you have done this before.”
“Right,” Yuuri says, swishing his water in a slow circle around the glass. “College.” The less said about his early years in Detroit, the better.
But there are years between this Yuuri and that one. That must count for something.
counting seconds through the night is set right after the end of the series, when Yuuri is shown to have moved to Russia with Viktor to train. Yuuri’s concerned about everything from the move to the new rinkmates and the new language, and his anxiety doesn’t make things any easier. However, he’s never been good at asking for help, and in his new environment, he starts to wonder how much help he could realistically ask for before becoming too much of a burden.
I love that this story paints a startlingly accurate depiction (to my experience) of what it’s like to live with anxiety—being anxious isn’t always looking worried or acting nervous, and it doesn’t always manifest itself in ways where your brain recognizes your own behaviors as anxious. Moreover, anxiety can often make it feel as though you’re angry at everyone, including yourself and everyone trying to help you—and it’s no different in Yuuri’s case.
But more than that, I love that it shows how other people can try to help but not always say or do the right thing. In most stories, whether fanfic or professionally published, the significant other or partner always knows just what to say and ends up solving all of the anxious person’s problems, thereby further cementing their bond and banishing the anxiety forever. With Yuuri and Viktor, Yuuri can only show how anxious he is through his actions, and sometimes Viktor doesn’t understand those at all. This doesn’t mean they have an unhappy ending—far from it. The truth is that there is no one perfect answer as to what to do or say to help an anxious person, and the two of them slowly learn what works, what doesn’t, and how to ask for and accept help, however imperfect it might be.
You can read counting seconds through the night here on the AO3! It’s fairly short at 3k words, but it’s the perfect length to say what it needs to say.