Leaning over the top of the wall, Yuri watched Yakov finish instructing his last class for the day. He’d been here for hours just watching others skating, every now and then digging out his parents’ phones from the bag they’d left him to guard, but it was only now he was starting to feel anxious.
He’d practically grown up in the skating rink, coming down every few days to either watch his parents skate or help teach some of Yakov’s students, but this was the first time he could remember feeling uneasy. He was mostly just annoyed with the lack of skill or grace most skaters had compared to his family.
Victor and Yuuri were on the other side of the rink working with their own coach in making a new routine for a competition, but Yuri could see the day was about to come to an end. Yakov’s students were getting ready to hear his final critiques for the day and the rink staff was preparing to clean up after them.
Looking down at his feet, Yuri made sure his skates were on properly and the laces were tight enough to ensure they wouldn’t fly off as soon as he raised his foot. The last thing he wanted was a technical problem keeping him from doing any good on his first real skating lesson. He’d never really been on the ice before, apparently he’d run on every now and then when he was a kid, and there was stress that came with knowing he had to impress the adults in the room.
Far too soon for him the ice was mostly empty and Victor, Yuuri, and Yakov were looking to him expectantly. Victor skated out to his side and brought him to the opening in the barrier and asked, “Are you ready to take your first steps on the ice?”
The four year old didn’t want to show just how nervous he was, but he felt like Victor might have some idea judging from how tightly Yuri was gripping his hand. Making sure not to take his hand out of Yuri’s, Victor stepped over him onto the ice to be right in front of his son as soon as he stepped through the barrier. Yuri glanced around the room a few more times but he softly put his left step on the ice making sure his father was holding all of his weight. Victor moved his free hand to Yuri’s side and helped him balance both of his feet on the ice.
Neither of them moved for a few seconds, Yuri’s legs feeling like lead he didn’t think he was strong enough to lift, before Victor asked, “Do you want me to let go?”
“No,” Yuri said quickly. The last thing he wanted was for Victor to let go.
“How about I push you to the center like we did with the bike?” Victor asked. “It will help you get used to the ice.”
Yuri remembered learning how to ride a bike, he distinctly remembered Victor saying he wouldn’t let go and breaking that promise soon after, and he mumbled, “You better not let me go like.”
“Sure,” Victor said smiling before looking up to Yuuri and getting a nod of approval. Victor moved behind Yuri and leaned down to almost his level as he placed firm hands on his shoulder and pushing him forward softly. As soon as they began moving Yuri’s hand shot behind him to grasp Victor’s pant leg as his own safety precaution. The ice didn’t seem as forgiving as the grass he’d learned to ride a bike on and he still wasn’t sure his father wasn’t going to let him go.
Slowly and steadily they made their way to the center of the ice and Yuuri was sure to clap his praise for Yuri’s bravery. Yuri didn’t get a lot of time to revel in it before Yuuri asked, “Do you want to try moving by yourself?”
“No,” Yuri said just as strongly as he had the last time he’d been asked that question. That step could wait a few more weeks, maybe even years if he was able to convince his parents, but it definitely shouldn’t happen right now.
With his own plan in mind, Yuuri sat on the ice and motioned for Yuri to step forward. He explained, “It can only be a few steps between the two of us. If we think you’re about to fall we’ll catch you, okay?”
Feeling Victor sit down across from Yuuri and his hold on his shoulders getting softer, Yuri knew he wouldn’t be able to hold out for long. They couldn’t stay here watching him do nothing forever.
Victor’s hands slowly softened their grip until he was just barely touching Yuri’s back. Yuri decided he didn’t want to have his father be the one to push him forward. Instead, he tried to walk forward slowly, cautiously trying to keep his balance and not fall over. It took him a lot longer than he expected to, it just didn’t seem possible to balance on those thin blades, but soon enough he was in the safety of Yuuri’s hands.
“You did a great job, Yuri,” Yuuri exclaimed, “but how about trying to skate instead of walk?”
“Are you sure?” Yuri asked cautiously. “I think I’ve done enough for today.”
“We’re sure,” Victor said from behind Yuri. “You can’t be the best skater if you don’t learn how to skate.”
Although he knew Victor was trying to play to his pride, Yuri couldn’t help but let it work. He twisted around in Yuuri’s arm and noticed that Victor had moved a few paces back, increasing the distance Yuri would have to skate. Not wanting to be too sensitive and complain, Yuri decided he wouldn’t say anything. Instead, he waited until Yuuri’s arms were no longer holding onto him and kicked off the ice towards Victor. Just as he had expected Victor moved a few more paces back while Yuri watched, probably goading him to see if he could get him to say anything, but soon enough Yuri was right at his feet.
There was a slow clap from behind them as Yuuri excitedly said, “Congratulations, Yurio. You’re first time skating and you didn’t even fall.”
Instead of basking in the praise, Yuri asked, “What should I do next? I can try a jump.”
Victor was the one to stand up and say, “You’re not ready for jumps just yet.”
“So what should I do?”
Mapping out a lap around the link, Victor came back around and said, “Try skating one full circle. You don’t have to go very fast just yet, but try not to fall or lean on the side for help.”
Determined not to mess up, Yuri lined up parallel to the barrier and began slowly skating a circle around the rink. He had to stop and through out his arms to balance himself more than he liked to admit, but he felt like he made it back to the starting point in a respectable amount of time.
“That was a great job, Yuri,” Victor praised, “but try going a little faster and without as many stops.”
Yuri nodded and retook his position as he began skating. This time he didn’t stop to regain his balance every time he lost felt like he might fall and while he did run into the barrier a few times he managed to make it full circle a lot sooner. Yuuri and Victor made him repeat the same route a few more times, wanting him to get more comfortable skating, before telling him to do the same in the center of the rink. Yuuri reasoned, “You won’t keep holding onto the barrier every time you feel like you might fall. It’ll help with your confidence.”
Although Yuri wanted to say he already had enough confidence, he followed Yuuri’s instruction and could see his point. He felt the need to focus more on learning to balance and while it was definitely more frightening Yuri knew he was getting better.
It was almost an hour later that Victor finally said, “I think we’ve done enough for today. It’s getting late.”
A glance out the window showed that it was getting dark, but Yuri felt the need to say, “I can last longer. I haven’t even tried a jump yet.”
“It’s your first practice, Yuri. You don’t need to start a jump yet. Maybe next weekend.”
Relenting to fact they probably didn’t have enough time to do much else, Yuri glided over to seats so that his parents could help him take off his skates. It felt weird transitioning from the tight skates to much more forgiving sneakers, but it wasn’t a long trip to the car. In any case, Yuri wondered if he’d be able to sneak his skates away from his parents and practice on the pond near their house when it froze over.