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Until My Feet Bleed and My Heart Aches

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Yuuri fell in love with Viktor’s skating from the very first moment he saw him.

It happened on what had started as an ordinary day, he and Yuko holed up in Ice Castle after a hard day of practice, crowded around the battered old television that was currently showing the Junior Grand Prix in fuzzy muted colours. It was a ritual of theirs, to sit and watch the figure skaters glide across the screen and fantasize about what it would be like when it was finally them out on the ice rink in front of the crowds, or standing on the podium waving to adoring fans with medals around their necks.

Yuuri had been distracted that day, half his mind still on their skating practice and the other half dreaming about the future, when he heard Yuko let out a gasp of surprise. Quickly he had turned his attention back to the screen just in time to see a skater that he had never seen before gracefully land what must have been an impressive jump, if Yuko’s reaction was anything to go by.

From that moment on, he couldn’t look away.

The other skaters were graceful but this one was different. He danced across the ice like he was born for it, his movements so fluid and enrapturing that Yuuri was frozen to the spot. The skater was young, Yuuri had never seen him before and he assumed - correctly as he would later find out - that this was the boy’s first time in the Prix. He still had the fresh-faced innocence of a young boy and his silver hair whipped out behind him as he twirled, softening his features into an almost angelic likeness.

Yuuri had watched as the boy spun and leapt across the ice, never missing a beat in the music that seemed to flow all around him. The routine ended with his arms held gracefully out, his head bowed demurely although Yuuri could have sworn he saw the hint of a smile hidden by the locks of hair.

“That was amazing!” Yuko had squealed, bouncing up and down in her seat, unable to contain her excitement. “I can’t believe that was only his junior debut. He’s only four years older than you Yuuri!”

A banner had unfolded along the bottom of the screen, detailing the name and nationality of the skater as his scores were calculated.

Viktor Nikiforov, Yuuri had read, still in awe of what he had just seen. He read the information again, committing the name to memory. Viktor Nikiforov from Russia.

Someday, I want to skate like you.

 


 

From that moment on, Yuuri had been hooked. He and Yuko followed Victor’s career religiously, watching as the young skater quickly shot up the ranks in the junior division, winning medal after medal with easy grace. Yuko pored over magazines, scouring them for any information about Viktor while Yuuri watched the videos they had taped of Viktor’s performances obsessively, coping the moves over and over again on the ice until he could do a passable, if still slightly shaky impression.

The walls of Yuuri’s room slowly became filled with posters of the other skater. Official posters, competition photographs, pictures cut directly from the magazines Yuko loved so much. He was in love with the way the other boy skated, the grace and ease with which he moved. Whenever he needed to be by himself he would go to the skating rink and lose himself in Viktor’s routines until he could think again.

Gradually he began to work his way up through the ranks, competing at local competition first and slowly branching out, going further from his little hometown to compete in bigger and bigger competitions as he slowly but surely improved.

He knew in his heart that if he practiced hard enough, he could skate on the same ice as Viktor someday.

 


 

 

When Yuuri was eleven, he asked for a poodle for his birthday. Just the day before, Yuko had found an article that mentioned Viktor had a pet poodle, accompanied by an adorable picture of the two of them together, and Yuuri had gone to his parents the next day and begged for one. They had good naturedly allowed it and Yuuri fell in love with the puppy immediately. When his mother had asked what he planned to name him, Yuuri knew without even thinking about it.

It was only later that evening, when Vicchan was curled up asleep on Yuri’s lap, that his parents presented him with the second part of his birthday gift.

“We got them for you as a surprise,” His mother had told him as he clutched the tickets in shocked fingers. “We know how much you love skating and we thought since you’ve been working so hard this would be a nice treat for you.”

Yuuri had thrown himself into her arms then, the tickets to the Junior Grand Prix finals still clutched tightly in his fist.

He was going to see Viktor skate in person and he had never been more excited in his life.

 


 

 

Waiting almost a whole year for the Junior Grand Prix to come around was torture but Yuuri bore it as best he could, still not quite able to believe his luck. Yuko had squealed when she had found out, partially excited for him and partially green with envy that he would get to see the skaters live in person while she would have to make do with the fuzzy old television set in Ice Castle like she did every year.

When the date finally arrived, Yuuri could hardly sleep for the excitement. He glided through the day like he was in a dream, still not quite able to believe it was really happening. His parents had to guide him through the crowd to prevent him from wandering off and to make sure they actually found their seats in the throng of people surrounding them.

Yuuri could barely keep still as he waited for the competition to begin. When the skaters finally appeared on the rink for their warm up he felt his breath catch in his chest.

There was Viktor, Viktor Nikiforov in person, fifteen and beautiful and everything Yuuri had dreamed he would be. His costume was covered by a white zip up jacket with RUSSISA emblazoned on the front to keep the costume from prying eyes but even without the glitzy costume he still looked like a god to Yuuri, flying across the ice like he owned it, silvery hair trailing behind him.

The bell rang, signalling the end of the warm up and the rest of the skaters left the ice, leaving Viktor alone in the rink. Skating to the barrier, Viktor carefully unzipped his jacket and handed it to his coach, exposing his short program costume to the crowds. It was a skin tight blue and white ensemble, covered in tiny diamantes with spirals stretching over his shoulder and down his arms, like a snowstorm on skin. Viktor skated into the centre of the rink to begin his routine and the crowd roared its approval.

Yuuri cheered loudest of all.

 


 

 

The first notes of the music began to play as Viktor took his starting position, head bowed and arms wrapped tight around his body. As the music filled the stadium he began to move, the song hard and cold, sharp notes like icicles dancing through the air and Victor danced with them. Each of his spins was perfect, every slide of his skate precise. His movements were sharp, almost dangerous and there was a hard edge of ice to his eyes. Gearing himself up he launched himself into the first jump of the program, a triple axel that drew cheers of approval from the crowd.

The lights danced off his costume, turning it to icicles across his skin. Yuuri could almost feel the story Viktor was weaving with his movements, an ice prince, as cold as the snow he commanded, bending the world to his will. There was a beauty, almost feminine, in his movements as he danced like he was part of the ice, a snowstorm trapped in a body.

Silver hair whipped out behind him as Viktor launched himself into a flying sit spin and Yuuri realised he was gripping the edge of his seat so hard his knuckles were white. The crowd roared its approval again as Viktor executed another jump, this time a triple salchow, landing it perfectly, arms extended and leg stretched out behind him. It was quickly followed by a step sequence and Yuuri couldn’t hold back a gasp at the complexity, the way Viktor skated as though the movements were nothing, as if he were born for this and this alone.

Yuuri never wanted the program to end. He watched Viktor glide across the ice, spinning and twisting, enchanting the whole room with the way he moved. No-one could look away. Distantly, Yuuri could hear the announcer’s glee as Viktor completed the last jumps of the program, a quad double combo that had the crowds screaming in approval.

Yuuri was on the edge of his seat as Victor finally finished in a combination spin the accentuated every line of his lean body under the dazzling lights. He could hardly believe that less than three minutes had passed since Viktor had begun skating. It felt like his whole world had shifted. He never would have believed before that Viktor could be even more incredible but watching him skate in person was so much better than seeing it on TV. He could see every movement of Viktor’s body perfectly, every expression that crossed his face and Yuuri loved it.

The crowd was giving Viktor a standing ovation and Yuuri jumped up too, feeling like his heart was about to burst. Distantly he registered his parents sitting beside him, clapping politely, blissfully unaware of the beauty of what they had just witnessed. But Yuuri didn’t care. All that mattered was Viktor.

When the scores came in Viktor had scored well into the nineties and no-one was surprised. Viktor acknowledged the praise from the Kiss and Cry with a warm smile for the camera, the ice gone from his eyes as if it had never been there at all.

He was beautiful.

 


 

 

That night, Yuuri could talk about nothing else. He could tell he was boring his parents, even though they smiled encouragingly every time he analysed Viktor’s routine again, marvelling over the way he had jumped, spun, danced, stepped. There was nothing Yuuri hadn’t loved and he didn’t think he could stop talking about it even if he tried.

That night he could barely sleep, still riding high on the excitement of the day and the thought of seeing Viktor skate his free programme in the morning. Tossing and turning, Yuuri ran over Viktor’s routine again and again in his mind, seeing it all in perfect detail. He couldn’t wait to get back to Hasetsu to try and replicate it, although he knew he would never be able to do it like Viktor.

But maybe one day…

 Someday, he vowed to himself again, he would skate on the same ice as Viktor. He’d practice and practice until he was good enough to qualify and then he’d skate so well that Viktor would be the one who couldn’t look away from him. Someday…

When Yuuri finally fell asleep, he was smiling.

 

 


 

 

The next day dawned bright and early and Yuuri awoke with the sun, practically bursting with excitement. Viktor was in the lead, his excellent score in the short program the day before boosting him straight to the top of the score table. None of the other competitors had come close. If he nailed the free skate today he would win gold and Yuuri would be there to witness it. In his heart, he knew that Viktor could do it. The other skater was leagues ahead of the rest of the competition and slated to make a spectacular senior debut next season as long as he could triumph in the juniors one last time.

Yuuri believed in Viktor more than anything and he couldn’t wait to be proven right.

He barely noticed the other skaters performing their routines that day as the competition progressed, too on edge waiting for the main event to be able to give them more than a silver of his attention. Vaguely he was aware of the cheers of the crowd and the scores coming in over the loudspeaker but it was all background noise to the pounding of his heart.

When Viktor skated out onto the rink for the last time Yuuri could barely breathe.

In contrast to the day before, for his free skate the older skater was dressed in a skin tight black costume, partially see-through with silver crystals scattered up one side. There was a half flap of fabric discretely sewn onto one side of the ensemble that flared out as Viktor turned, almost like a skirt. The silvery grey hair was pulled back from his face in a long ponytail that flowed behind him and Yuuri couldn’t look away.

Viktor took his starting position in the rink, the back of one hand gently resting against his cheek and the other raised towards the sky, fingers curled. The music began, swelling through the room in a beautiful melody and Viktor moved. He still glided with the same almost feminine grace as the day before but the movements were softer and there was none of the previous icy hardness in his eyes. Instead they were warm and full of an emotion Yuuri couldn’t quite name.

Every step, every spin, every jump had the crowd on the edge of their seat, gasping and cheering as the story unfolded. If Yuuri had thought Viktor’s short program was incredible it was nothing compared to his free skate. He had upped the difficultly considerably but it was the artistry that stole his breath away.

A quad flip, a move Viktor had never before attempted in competition had the crowd on their feet and for a minute Yuuri panicked as his view of the rink was blocked. The crowd cheered again and he jumped onto his seat desperately, craning to see over the heads in front of him. As the roar died down and people began to take their seats again Yuuri could just see Viktor, gliding in a graceful spin across the rink with his eyes closed, hair flowing behind him.

Time seemed to slow and Yuuri stayed rooted to the spot, still standing on his chair looking over the now seated crowd. Viktor finished his spin, his eyes fluttering open and for a second Yuuri was sure Viktor was looking directly at him. He could imagine their eyes locking, blue on brown, the skater on the rink and the boy high up in the crowds. But then Viktor turned away as the music swelled and the moment was broken.

Still enraptured, Yuuri clambered back down to sit on his seat, never taking his eyes off the rink. Never taking his eyes off the skater it held.

Finally, the music swelled to its last crescendo and Viktor finished his routine with a combination spin. His half skirt flared out around him as he raised his arms for the final rotations, face pointing up towards the sky. The audience burst into thunderous applause and Yuuri was on his feet again, screaming his approval with the rest of the crowd.

Chest heaving from the exertion he finally allowed himself to show, Viktor lowered his arms and bowed deeply to the crowd, accepting the applause with a serene smile on his face as the praise rained down around him. He stayed there for another minute before finally skating off to the side of the rink towards the kiss and cry to await his scores.

After the performance they had just witnessed, there was no doubt in the mind of anyone in the audience that Viktor had won but there was still an audible gasp from the crowd when the score was announced over the speaker. Excitement was clear in even the announcer’s voice as he declared that the winner of the Junior Grand Prix, Viktor Nikiforov, had finished in first place with the highest score in Junior Grand Prix history.

The crowd went wild and the cameras trained onto Viktor's face where he was sitting smiling with his coach. He raised his hand in a wave of acknowledgment and the cheers increase in volume, almost defending.

Yuuri couldn’t help but think in that moment that Viktor Nikiforov was the most amazing person in the world.



 


There were throngs of people waiting outside the rink at the end of the day after the last competition had ended, all hoping to get a glimpse of the skaters as they left the building and Yuuri was right at the front of the crowd. His parents were quite a distance from him, standing further back having not wanted to force their way to the front. Yuuri hadn't cared about politeness, not this time. This was his chance, a real chance, to meet Viktor in person. A poster was clutched tightly in his sweaty hands, a promotional one from the beginning of the season featuring Viktor wearing the same outfit he had just won the free skate in, arms extended in frozen grace as he glided across the ice. It had quickly become Yuuri's favourite picture and he prayed that Viktor would have time to sign autographs for his fans when he finally appeared.

The thought of seeing him up close, of maybe even talking to him made Yuuri shiver in half fear half anticipation. He had to force himself to calm down, reminding himself that if everything went to plan then one day he would be skating on the same ice as Viktor, as an equal and not just a fan. It wouldn't do to embarrass himself now.

The screams of the fans closest to the entrance jolted him out of his musings and he craned his head, standing on tip toes at the barrier to try and catch a glimpse of who had just left the building. A flash of silver caught his eye and when he craned his neck he could just make out Viktor through the crowds, signing autographs and smiling to his fans.

As Viktor worked his way down the line Yuuri's heart began to beat faster and faster until he thought it might burst out of his chest. Soon, Viktor was only a few feet away from him and Yuuri could feel his chest begin to tighten and his hands start to shake. Frantically he looked down, trying to still his trembling hands and calm his rapid breaths.

There was a sudden lull in the noise directly around him and Yuuri looked up again, mouth falling open in shock as he saw Viktor himself standing in front of him, eyebrow raised expectantly, a small smile on his face.

Yuuri tried to speak but the words stuck in his throat. Still panicking he wordlessly thrust the poster and pen out in front of him, blushing furiously, a blush that only deepened when Viktor laughed gently and took the picture from him wordlessly, signing it was a flourish.

He handed it back to Yuuri and Yuuri, panicking internally and desperate to say something, anything, blurted out the first thing that came into his mind.

"I'mgoingtoskatelikeyousomeday." The words tumbled out in a rush, his tongue tripping over itself in his panicked state. "And one day I want to skate against you too!"

Mortified at what had just happened he snapped his mouth shut with a click and willed the flaming red in his cheeks to die down. This wasn't exactly how he imagined his first meeting with his idol to go, blurting out his biggest dream in a moment of panic like an idiot but Viktor only laughed again, eyes bright.

"You might need to drop some weight before you can think about being a skater свинка ," he laughed, ruffling Yuuri's hair as he handed the picture back into Yuuri's frozen hands. "But I look forward to seeing you out on a rink someday да?"

Yuuri opened his mouth to speak but the words stuck in his throat, this time for a very different reason. Viktor had already turned away to greet the next fan with the same easy smile so he didn't see the moisture that welled up in Yuuri's eyes no matter how hard he tried to fight it back or the way his hands clenched around the newly signed poster, crumpling it in their small grip.


 



Yuuri's parents had been worried when he had pushed his way back through the crowd, eyes still bright with unshed tears but Yuuri stoically refused to explain what had happened, sitting wordlessly throughout the whole journey home. He knew he was worrying his parents but he couldn't bring himself to explain. They wouldn't understand and he didn't want to be laughed at any more that day. There was only one person he wanted to talk to right now and she was worlds away, all the way back in Hasetsu.

When they finally made it home the first thing Yuuri did was head over to the Ice Castle where he knew Yuko would be waiting. Sure enough she was there when he arrived, practically bouncing up and down on excitement as she waited to hear his recollection of the final. She froze when she saw his face however and, after a moment of recovery, grabbed him by the wrist to drag him off to a deserted area of the rink and sit him down on one of the benches, expression serious.

"What happened Yuuri?" She asked, voice full of concern. "Viktor won. He beat the world record! I thought you'd be happy?"

Yuuri looked up at her expectant face and could feel his lip begin to wobble again, eyes stinging as he fought back the tears that threatened to come.

"He didn't even believe I was a skater Yuko." He choked out, feeling the first drop of moisture slide down his cheek. "I told him I was going to skate in competitions with him someday and he called me fat and told me if I ever
wanted to be a skater I'd have to lose some weight first."

Another tear slipped out of his eye and joined the first, tracing a wet trail down his cheek. The insult burned and all Yuuri could hear was the voices of the other skaters at Ice Castle, Takeshi pushing him over and calling him fatso, all of them laughing and poking at his stomach as he tried to get changed hiding behind his clothes. He knew he was a chubby child, he put on weight easily and he hadn't had his first growth spurt yet but for Viktor, his idol Viktor who he had looked up to for so many years, to dismiss him like that hurt him more deeply than any of the other skaters at Ice Castle ever could.

Viktor might not have believed he was really a skater but Yuuri was, all the way through to his bones. His love for the sport was reinforced with hours upon hours of practice, he had gone to all the local competitions he could to try and get good enough to compete on the juniors when he finally passed the age restriction. Ice skating was his life, he practically lived at Ice Castle. He had worked so hard, determined one day to skate with Viktor himself only to have the other skater look right past him, seeing only another stupid fan, a chubby little boy who could never compete next to the likes of him.

“Aw Yuuri no, that’s horrible!” Yuko exclaimed and pulled Yuuri in for a hug. Lacing his fingers into the back of her shirt he gripped her tightly and allowed the tears to fall, sniffling gratefully into the fabric beneath his face. At least Yuko understood, in a way his parents never could. She knew just how much Viktor had meant to him, how much work Yuuri had put into becoming just like him.

Yuuri let himself cry into Yuko’s shoulder and vowed never to care about Viktor Nikiforov again.

 


 

 

That night, Yuuri tore down all of the posters in his room. He did it violently, ripping them from his walls, uncaring of the tearing paper as they split apart under is hand. There was a sense of vicious satisfaction as he crumpled up each piece of ruined paper, tossing them away and watching each fragment of Viktor destroyed forever. When he was finally finished the walls were bare for the first time in years, decorated only by the last fluttering fragments of paper that had clung on throughout the carnage.

Yuuri flopped down onto his bed, deciding to deal with the rest of the mess in the morning. For now he just wanted to think, made easier by the fact that Viktor’s face was no longer staring down at him from every corner of the room, mocking him.

Closing his eyes, Yuuri pushed his face into his pillow angrily, trying to block out the thoughts of Viktor’s laughing face from his mind, the way Viktor had laughed disbelievingly at the thought that someone like Yuuri could ever be a skater like him.

‘I’ll show him.” Yuuri vowed, hands still clenched tight around the pillow. “I don’t want to be like him anymore. I want to be better. I’ll beat him at his own game and he won’t be laughing at me anymore.”

And it was with that thought in mind that he finally drifted off to sleep.