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Oh Baby Mine

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It’s late when Yuri arrives at home. He‘s spent a long day at the ice rink, working on a new choreography with Victor’s latest protégé. Why Victor didn’t choreograph the program himself is beyond him but he had been adamant that he needed Yuri for this one.

It has only been a year since Yuri made the hard decision to stop skating professionally. Or rather, his body made the decision for him. Skating just wasn’t the same after he injured his knee two years ago and had to get surgery. Yuri knows he would never have been able to keep up with the other top skaters again.

What he does now is a mix of choreographing (mostly that), coaching and the odd commentary job for Russian TV. He has no fixed schedules but that’s what he likes about it. It never gets boring.

“Beka?” Yuri calls into the apartment as he takes off his shoes in the hallway. The lights are on, his boyfriend should be home.

“In here…”

Yuri follows the familiar voice and finds Otabek in the study, staring at his laptop screen, the whole desk littered with books and papers. Yuri embraces him from behind and kisses his cheek.

“How long have you been cooped up here?”

Otabek sighs. “I need to finish this assignment today… have I ever mentioned that writing a conclusion is the worst?”

Yuri nods. “Hmm… more than once,” he affirms, “Take a break and have dinner with me. Clear your head a little.”

Otabek decided to take a completely different path when he ended his career, going back to university instead of doing something related to skating. He’s in the middle of a degree in literary studies. He picked something simply because he was interested in it, without any connection to his former career.

“That might help.” Otabek nods. “What’s for dinner?”

“I got us something from that Indian place near the rink,” Yuri replies, already on his way out the door.

They settle on the sofa with their food, not even bothering with plates and eating the food straight from the boxes.

“So what did you do while I was despairing over that paper?” Otabek asks around a mouthful of curry.

“Oh, I was despairing, too.” Yuri rolls his eyes. “Alexei has so much fucking potential but his nerves are worse than Yuuri’s at his very worst. He doesn’t properly believe in his abilities. So it was tedious.”

“Hard day then…” Otabek concludes.

Yuri shrugs. “Victor brought Ryutaro to the rink because his day-care was closed today… so that lightened things up a bit.”

“I can imagine,” Otabek replies with a smile.

“Did you know he got skates for his last birthday? Victor let him go on the ice during the breaks. It was cute, really. He was more on his butt than on his feet, though.” Yuri smiles thinking about it, Victor’s and Yuuri’s 3 year old son is really quite something.

“Victor actually sent me a short video just before you came home,” Otabek says, pulling out his phone from his back pocket.

He hands it to Yuri after opening the video clip. It’s a 30 second video of Ryutaro on the ice, Yuri holding his hands and skating backwards in front of the little boy. He wobbles along as Yuri pulls him slowly and then loses his balance, sliding right between Yuri’s legs on his back. The child giggles and Yuri laughs. You can hear Victor do the same from off screen. Yuri smiles looking at the screen. He didn’t even notice that Victor was filming them.

“Cute,” Otabek comments.

Yuri nods. “He is.”

“I meant both of you.”

Yuri looks up at his boyfriend and raises an eyebrow. Ten years ago, a comment like that would have sent him on a rant.

“You’re different around Ryutaro,” Otabek elaborates, “Looser and just… happy, I guess?”

“Well, he’s 3 years old… and my godson. Of course I’m different around him.” Yuri shrugs.

“That’s not what I meant.” Otabek shakes his head.

Yuri knows what Otabek means. He means that Yuri’s good with children, that being around children makes him happy. Especially Ryutaro, who’s his godson and special to him because of that. It’s not like Yuri hasn’t been thinking about these things. But it’s a scary thought, in a way…

Otabek is still looking at him, he’s not dropping this. Yuri sighs.

“I know what you mean. But… it’s scary, I guess?”

“How?” Otabek wants to know.

“How is it not?!”

“I don’t think it’s scary. I mean, it shouldn’t be scarier or harder for us than for anyone else,” Otabek explains, “I think if we really want to…”

Yuri takes a deep breath and interrupts Otabek. “I want to,” he admits.

Otabek chuckles. “You can’t even say it out loud,” he teases.

Yuri pouts a little and shoves at Otabek’s shoulder.

“I do want to have a child with you,” he says then, “Why do we have to discuss starting a family over Indian takeaway?” He gestures to the boxes sitting on the sofa between them.

“Because we’re weird like that.” Otabek leans forward and kisses Yuri softly.

*

A while passes and the topic of children and adopting comes up a few more times between Yuri and Otabek. But things suddenly become serious when Yuri brings home brochures from several adopting agencies one day.

“I have no if any of those will even help a gay couple adopting a baby… but it’s worth a shot, I guess,” he says while he spreads the brochures across the kitchen table.

“So this is happening now?” Otabek asks.

“Yes,” Yuri says, “If you’re in it, then so am I.”

Otabek leans in and kisses his boyfriend deeply. Yuri chuckles.

“I’m guessing that’s a yes.”

“Very much so,” Otabek answers.

The next months are nothing short of hell. They look up information, fill out forms, meet people from adopting agencies and fill out even more forms. A few times they get their hopes up just to be disappointed again in the end.

They have people pry into their personal life and Yuri wonders more than once if they really need to know all these things. Of course he understands that they have to make sure a child is going to have a loving home… but do the agencies really need to know every tiny detail about their life?

Yuri wishes they had someone to help them with this mess. But even though Victor and Yuuri have a child, they had opted to get a surrogate mother and aren’t any help when it comes to the proceedings of adopting. The other couple provides a lot of mental support, though. And boy, do they need that.

Until one day, they get a phone call. It’s an agency they have already given up hearing back from after they said they’d get back to them. Now they have a child for them. Nothing’s set in stone yet. They came this far with another agency and then they decided to have another (straight, married) couple adopt the child, a little boy.

This time it’s a baby girl, born only two weeks ago in Moscow. Yuri’s wary but they assure him that they’re the only ones considered to be her new parents and it’s basically just technicalities now.

“So you’re absolutely serious?” Yuri asks again and the woman on the phone assures him that yes, she is 100% serious and she wouldn’t have called him if she weren’t.

Yuri nearly drops his phone and answers on auto-pilot for the rest of the conversation. He’s in a daze when he ends the call and sends a quick text to Otabek who’s at university right now.

Otabek comes home half an hour later. “What’s so important that you couldn’t tell me on the phone? I’m missing a lecture right now, so it better be important.”

“We’re going to be parents,” Yuri answers.

“What?” Otabek looks at him like he’s suddenly got two heads.

“I just got a call. We’re going to adopt a baby girl.”

“Oh my god…” Otabek says and then drops his bag on the floor, walks over to Yuri and hugs him tightly.

“They’re gonna send all the important stuff in the mail. It should be here tomorrow or the day after that,” he mumbles into Otabek’s shoulder.

It feels surreal. Suddenly a realisation hits Yuri.

“We need to go shopping,” he says.

“Eh?” Otabek pulls back a little and looks at his boyfriend, confused.

“For the baby,” Yuri says, “We have nothing.”

“Oh… you’re right,” Otabek replies.

Yuri tsks… “Of course I am.”

They couldn’t buy anything when they didn’t even know if they were approved. The stuff would have been sitting in the apartment, taunting them by being unused. They also didn’t know the gender of their future child, nor the age because they also hadn’t ruled out adopting an older child.

But now they do. It’s going to be a girl. And she’s still tiny. So they need to buy all the baby stuff.

The first person to hear the news is Yuri’s grandpa. He wants to see a picture of his great-granddaughter as soon as there is one. Otabek calls his parents after that and Yuri can hear Otabek’s mother squeal through the phone although she isn’t on speaker.

“I still can’t believe it’s really happening,” Yuri says when they’re in bed that night.

“Better get used to the thought, though,” Otabek replies and pulls his boyfriend closer to him.

Yuri wraps an arm about Otabek as well and rests his head against his shoulder. “I will… but what if we fuck this kid up?”

“We won’t.”

“How can you be so sure?”

Otabek shrugs. “Fake it till you make it. No one knows everything about raising a child until they do it. I mean, you can read a few things, get some tips… but the rest is impro.”

Yuri sighs. “I hope you’re right.”

*

The letter is in the mail two days later. A big brown envelope. Yuri makes Otabek open it, he’s too nervous to do it himself. That’s a thought right there… Olympic champion, too nervous to open a letter.

Yuri and Otabek look through the stuff together. Most of it is legal paperwork they’ll have to go through with their lawyer. But then a photo falls out from between two pages and they see their daughter for the first time.

She’s tiny. But she’s the cutest baby Yuri has ever seen. She’s sleeping so there’s no telling the colour of her eyes. But the little hair she already has on her head is blond. Yuri’s finger traces her little face on the photo. Which is stupid, it’s just a picture after all.

“She’s beautiful,” Otabek says and Yuri can only nod in agreement.

After all the documents are sorted, Yuri and Otabek are supposed to fly to Moscow to bring her home. A meeting at the main office of the agency is arranged and the date is in a couple of weeks. They turn out to be the longest weeks of their lives.

The only thing that’s mildly distracting them from the waiting is the fact that they still need to set up the nursery and get everything they need for their daughter.

*

“You honestly want to paint the walls pink?” Yuri looks at Otabek incredulously.

“I don’t know… my sister had a pink bedroom when she was little and she liked it.” Otabek shrugs.

Yuri shakes his head. “Nope, there won’t be any gendered shit. If she wants pink when she’s older, fine, but I’m not getting girly colours for her just because.”

“As I said… it was just a suggestion. Which colour then?” Otabek asks.

They’re standing in front of a line of paint in every colour imaginable in the hardware store. There’s definitely too much choice.

“This one, maybe,” Yuri says and points to a light green.

“Hmmm… or this.” Otabek points out a pastel shade that’s somewhere between blue and purple.

“Oh, I like that one!” Yuri exclaims and nods, “Imagine this with little stars or clouds on the wall.”

Otabek smiles. “I think that’d look lovely.”

And so they buy two buckets of paint and spend the afternoon painting the spare bedroom in the apartment. Even without furniture, the colour makes it look cosy already. Otabek has gotten a small bucket of white paint and is now painting fluffy little clouds here and there.

It’s perfect. They’re getting the furniture the next day, they’ve already ordered everything online and just have to pick it up at the store. A crib, a changing station and a drawer. Everything made out of wood and painted white. Also some decoration, curtains and plushies.

With only a few weeks’ notice, they didn’t have the time to get every little thing. But they’ve managed to get the basic stuff and can still buy the rest later. Victor and Yuuri have also given them a few of Ryutaro’s old things that he doesn’t need anymore… like the pram and some clothes and baby toys.

Everything’s ready. It’s just missing a child now.

*

They fly over to Moscow a day early and spend the night in a hotel. Yuri’s grandpa has offered them to stay at his flat but they want to keep to themselves. Nikolai understands and only tells them to visit soon again, this time with their daughter.

Yuri cannot recall ever being this nervous before. Not even before a World Championship or the Olympics. He suddenly feels like he’s not ready to be a father. He’s not ready for any of the responsibility. He starts pacing the hotel room with no other outlet for his nervous energy.

Otabek has been trying to read and distract himself but it’s quite clear he’s not concentrating on the book either.

“Yura,” he says after a while of watching his boyfriend, “Stop it.”

Yuri stands in the middle of the room and looks at Otabek accusingly. “How can you be so calm?”

Otabek shakes his head in reply. “I’m not. Do you really think I’m not just as nervous as you are?”

Yuri moves to sit down on the bed next to Otabek. “I don’t feel ready.” He sighs. “I mean, what do we know about babies? I’ve read all that stuff but it can’t be enough? What if…”

Yuri starts rambling and Otabek interrupts him, placing a hand on his arm. “Yura…”

“No!” Yuri says, “What if I accidentally kill her because I don’t know any better? Fuck… Beka, I’m scared.”

Otabek wordlessly pulls him into his arms and holds him. “Shh… calm down. It’s just nerves,” he says after a while, “You’ll be okay. We’ll be okay.”

“Do you really think we will be?”

“I’m sure. I’m also pretty sure all new parents feel like this…”

“Hmm…” Yuri hums, leaning against Otabek. “Aren’t you scared at all?”

Otabek presses a kiss to Yuri’s temple. “I am… but I’m sure we’ll manage. And we’re not alone.”

Yuri sighs. “You’re right.”

They’re not alone. They both have family they can always go to for advice. They have Victor and Yuuri who assured them they’d help whenever they needed it. They’re definitely not alone.

“Sorry for freaking out,” Yuri mumbles.

“It’s okay… but maybe we should try to sleep now. It’s getting late and we have a long day ahead tomorrow.”

Yuri nods. “Yeah…”

Of course they don’t get nearly enough sleep. Yuri knows he should feel exhausted but the excitement and the nervousness trick him into being wide awake.

The next morning, 10AM sees them in front of nice-looking, if a bit old-fashioned, office. It’s the right room number (Yuri has checked 4 times), they only have to knock.

“Do you think she’s in there already?” Yuri almost whispers as he nervously twirls a strand of his hair around a finger.

“I think we should find out,” Otabek answers and knocks on the door.

A woman, maybe in her 30s or early 40s, opens the door.

“Oh, you must be Mr Altin and Mr Plisetsky,” she says with a warm smile and shakes their hands, introducing herself as Ekaterina Koskova, the woman they were in contact with before. She ushers them inside.

“Someone’s been waiting for you,” she says and gestures to the infant carrier they hadn’t seen sitting on the sofa before.

Yuri is rooted to the spot as he looks at his daughter for the first time. The photo didn’t do her justice.

“Can we…” Otabek starts and then trails off.

“Of course, of course!” Mrs Koskova exclaims, “Go on.”

Otabek walks over and kneels down in front of the tiny little girl who’s looking at him curiously.

“Hello, ainalaiyn,” he says softly and blue eyes are blinking up at him.

Yuri moves to stand next to his boyfriend. “God, she’s so beautiful…”

“Can I… take her out of the thing?” he asks Mrs Koskova.

The woman makes a gesture telling him to go ahead. “She’s your daughter… I trust you know how to hold her?”

Yuri nods, he’s had enough practice with Ryutaro to know the basic things. He unbuckles the seat belt like straps keeping her in the carrier and picks her up carefully. She doesn’t make a fuss or anything, just keeps on looking at him, like she’s trying to figure out what’s happening.

“Beka, please pinch me, I don’t know if this is real…”

Otabek chuckles next to him. “She seems quite real,” he says.

Mrs Koskova clears her throat, obviously not wanting to interrupt their little moment. “I’m sure you have a name for her?” she asks, “Usually our children are a little older when they are adopted and already have a name… but since she was chosen for you when she was so little, she hadn’t even be named yet.”

“We do have a name,” Yuri replies, “It’s Alyona.”

“Alyona Otabekovna Plisetskaya,” Otabek adds, supplying her full name.

Mrs Koskova smiles. “Well, that has a nice ring to it.”

“Did you hear that, malyshka? Your name’s Alyona now,” Yuri says. Alyona seems less impressed by the situation than everyone around her, her only reaction being a big yawn.

“I’m afraid we have to go over the papers now,” Mrs Koskova says, “But feel free to bring her over to the desk with you.”

And so they go over endless forms and papers once again. Alyona deems everything too boring and falls asleep in Yuri’s arms less than 5 minutes after they’ve sat down. Yuri cannot stop looking at her. He sees Otabek smile at him and it suddenly registers: They’re a family now.

They fly back home to St. Petersburg the same day. And flying with a 3 month old baby isn’t the most pleasant experience, they find out. Alyona doesn’t like flying at all and so they spend most of the 90 minutes trying to console a crying child. Her wailing is so loud that Yuri feels bad for the people in the rows closest to them. To their credit, no one actually says anything or gives them annoyed looks. A middle aged woman even smiles at Otabek as he’s rocking Alyona and tells him that her children were the same at that age.

For some weird reason Alyona is back to being a sleeping angel once they leave the plane and Yuuri and Victor are there to pick them up at the airport.

“Oh my god, she’s precious!” Victor exclaims when he sees Alyona at which both Yuri and Otabek shush him.

“Don’t wake her up again, she only just fell asleep. And trust me, you don’t want her crying all the way home,” Yuri says.

Yuuri just chuckles. “You think we’re not used to a crying baby? We’ve had our fair share of that.”

“Where’s Ryutaro?” Otabek asks.

“My parents are visiting,” Yuuri explains, “He’s with them.”

“It’s not like we can fit all four of us and two children in the car anyway,” Victor adds, “Alright, let’s get you and the sleeping beauty home.”

It turns out that despite her frequent daytime naps, Alyona is definitely not a fan of going to sleep at night. Yuri and Otabek take turns in carrying her around the room in an attempt to make her fall asleep. It’s no use.

She must be tired because she’s been awake for hours now. She woke up shortly after they came home and she’s been awake since then. But now she just won’t fall asleep. It’s so obvious that she’s tired because she’s cranky and she can barely keep her eyes open. But every time they think she’s sleeping, blue eyes blink open again.

It’s nearly 2AM when Yuri realises that he hasn’t heard a sound from the living room in the past 15 minutes as he’s been in the kitchen, fixing them some tea. He tiptoes over and he’s sure his heart nearly melts at what he sees. Otabek is passed out on the sofa and also Alyona is finally asleep, lying on Otabek’s chest.

Yuri takes out his phone and snaps a picture, adding it to the already rapidly growing collection in his gallery. For one second he thinks about posting it online before he decides against it. He’s not ready to share his little family with the world yet.

Yuri bends down and pecks Otabek on the lips.

“Wake up,” he says quietly.

Otabek slowly opens his eyes and looks at him in confusion for a moment. “What… oh.”

“Let’s put her in the crib and go to bed,” Yuri whispers from where he’s kneeling next to the sofa, “Maybe we’re lucky and she sleeps until the morning.”

Otabek nods and gets up slowly so he doesn’t disturb Alyona. He manages to get her to her room and into bed without her waking up. Alyona’s room is next to their bedroom and they leave the doors open so they’ll hear when she wakes up.

“Can you believe the day we’ve had?” Yuri asks as they lie down in bed.

Otabek shifts so he’s facing Yuri. “Not yet,” he answers.

“We have a child, Beka.”

“I know,” Otabek replies with a smile.

“We’re a proper family now!” Yuri grins.

“I know!” Otabek repeats and now he’s grinning as well.

They fall asleep quickly because they’re completely exhausted and the only thing keeping them awake was the excitement… Three hours later Alyona is wide awake and crying because she’s decided that a full diaper cannot be tolerated for just one second longer.

*

Everything is new and exciting. Alyona adjusts to her new family life almost quicker than her new parents do. She hasn’t been shy towards them from the very first day. Yuri thinks that she was probably used to having different people care for her, so two new faces didn’t upset her. He has also read that children only start to be scared of strangers when they’re a little older than Alyona is now, so he guesses they’re lucky.

Despite all that, he’s still amazed when she starts to actively seek their affection after a while. She doesn’t just let them hold her, she clings to them and very obviously wants to be cuddled. Alyona’s also very vocal about demanding said cuddles and starts wailing just for the purpose of being picked up.

“You’re spoiling her,” Otabek comments when Yuri picks Alyona up from where she’s been lying on her blanket in the living room, surrounded by toys, “You’re doing exactly what she wants you to do.”

Yuri rolls his eyes. “You would’ve listened to her crying?”

Otabek sighs. “No, I wouldn’t…”

Yuri shrugs. “See? And I’m not spoiling her… we’re bonding,” he explains and kisses Alyona’s head.

Otabek chuckles in response. “I see.”

Being carried is Alyona’s favourite thing as it turns out. She hates the car seat carrier. She hates the pram. So the next thing they get is a sling carrier. At least they now have their hands free when Alyona refuses to stay in any stationary place.

Yuri and Otabek have both changed their schedules so they can look after their daughter together. Yuri is exclusively working in St. Petersburg at the moment while Otabek is mostly working on his thesis which he can do from home 90% of the time.

Living with a small child is a big change from their life thus far. They knew it would be but that doesn’t mean they were entirely prepared for all the changes. It’s worth it, though, Yuri notes. Sometimes it’s hard to see, like when Alyona refuses to sleep and wakes them up with piercing cries five times a night for absolutely no reason at all.

Yuri groans and looks at the clock on the bedside table. It reads 3:16AM.

“I’m going…” Otabek mumbles, sounding as sleepy as Yuri feels.

Yuri turns around and tries to go back to sleep, burrowing deeper into the blankets. He hopes Otabek will be able to calm Alyona down, for everyone’s sake. He opens his eyes halfway when he hears Otabek return shortly later, with their daughter in his arms.

“I have an idea,” he says when Yuri looks at him in question, “Let me just try this.”

He tucks Alyona in between them and she’s quiet for now.

“I’m kinda scared we’ll crush her,” Yuri objects while Otabek gets into bed again as well.

His boyfriend shakes his head. “We won’t. Instinct or something.”

All three of them sleep until the morning. Well, until 5:30AM, at least.

*

Yuri has started coaching at his old home rink, just like Victor does. He’s not sure it’s going to be a permanent job but it works and for now it’s the best solution. Working together with Victor all the time is less infuriating as he thought it would be, which is also a plus.

Sometimes when Otabek is busy he takes Alyona to the rink with him, all bundled up against the chill of the ice in the sling carrier. She’s generally a happy baby but of course she has her moments.

Today is one of these days and everything seems to annoy her. She’s been in a bad mood since they left the house in the morning. Yuri’s not allowed to stand still or all hell will break loose. He has to keep on rocking her to placate her and it’s distracting. It’s not going to be a productive day but no one is mad at him for that. Alyona has everyone at the rink wrapped around her little finger.

Yuri absent-mindedly kisses his daughter’s head while he watches Alexei skate his routine and he notices Victor looking at him out of the corner of his eyes.

“What?” he asks, confused.

Victor shakes his head, smiling. “Nothing… I just can’t seem to get used to seeing you like this.”

“Huh?” Yuri frowns.

“Just… Alyona brings out a very different side of you. It’s a sight to behold, really,” Victor explains.

“Did you hear that, malyshka?” Yuri whispers to his daughter, “You’re ruining my reputation.”

Victor laughs. “I didn’t say that. But you’ve really grown up, you know?”

Yuri snorts. “Victor, I’m not 15 anymore… of course I’ve grown up.”

Victor shrugs and watches Alexei just in time to notice his sloppy footwork and shout corrections at him for that before he continues talking to Yuri.

“Well, I’ve known you since you were… what… 10? Sometimes I forget how much time has passed and how much we have changed.”

Yuri thinks for a moment before he nods in agreement. If someone had told his younger self that at 27 he’d be in a relationship for nearly ten years and be a father… he’d have laughed and asked them what sort of drugs they were on.

Everyone is on their break when Otabek joins them. He slides into the empty seat next to Yuri and kisses his cheek.

“Hey,” he says and then also kisses the top of Alyona’s head who gurgles happily at that. “Hello, zhanym.”

Yuri chuckles. “You used to call me that,” he accuses Otabek playfully.

“I still do!” Otabek protests.

“Rarely…”

“Oh, hi Victor, by the way…” Otabek now says but the other man just waves his hand dismissively.

“Never mind me.” He smiles. “Do you wanna join us for lunch?”

Otabek shakes his head. “I already ate. I just wanted to take Alyona so you can actually get some work done,” he says.

“Hmm… she’s a bit high maintenance today,” Yuri states.

Alyona seems content enough for the moment, though. She babbles nonsense when she’s being passed over from Yuri’s lap to Otabek’s arms and holds on to him.

“Annoy your other dad for a bit, Alyonushka. Beka, good luck.”

“I’ll see you tonight,” Otabek says and pecks Yuri on the lips.

“Yeah,” Yuri replies with a small smile.

“Okay… what is it now?” Yuri looks back at Victor when his boyfriend has left with their daughter.

“I remember how worried you were before she came home to you. But you’re amazing with her. Both of you are,” Victor says.

“Thanks… I guess,” Yuri says quietly.

“Hmm… I remember when we had Ryutaro, I was freaking out 24/7 for the first few months.”

“You were,” Yuri deadpans which earns him a dirty look from Victor.

“I guess Yuuri didn’t let it show as much but I know he was, too. And you two just seem really calm which is… surprising. Especially for you,” Victor goes on.

“Excuse me?!” Yuri exclaims and Victor cannot help laughing. “But I guess you’re right in a way… I think it’s mainly Beka’s influence, though. I’d go insane otherwise.”

“Things have really fallen into place for you…” Victor observes.

“They have,” Yuri agrees.

*

A few months later Alyona gets sick for the first time. It’s really nothing more than a bad cold but she’s running a fever and it’s wearing Yuri’s and Otabek’s nerves thin. Alyona is crying non-stop and when she’s not crying, she’s coughing and sometimes she does both at once and it sounds like she’s nearly choking.

The doctor says it’ll pass and it’s nothing to worry about. They get some medicine to bring the fever down and are told to come back with Alyona if she’s getting worse instead of better.

Yuri and Otabek sleep in turns and try to console a sick baby when they’re awake. Alyona cries herself into exhaustion and falls asleep every now and then but it’s clear she’s not getting enough sleep.

Otabek joins Yuri in the living room in a rare moment of quiet.

“Maybe we should take her to the doctor again? It’s been 2 days now…” Yuri frowns.

Otabek leans his head on Yuri’s shoulder. “She’ll be okay… the fever’s gone down already. She just can’t sleep properly because of the cough,” he says, “That’s what the doctor said as well.”

Yuri sighs. “I know… I’ve never seen her cry so much, though.”

Otabek lifts his head a little and presses a kiss to Yuri’s jaw. “We can take her again tomorrow if it’s not better then. It’s too late now anyway… the doctor’s office is closed.”

Yuri nods, gnawing on his lip in thought. Just then they hear Alyona wake herself up with her own coughing again. Both of them get up in sync, prepared to spend another sleepless night with their daughter.

At this point they’ve both caught a cold as well, it’s impossible not to. They’re ignoring it as well as they can. Otabek is only coughing a little but Yuri thinks he might actually have a fever. He won’t check, though. He’s done more stressful things while being sick, including winning an Olympic medal.

Otabek is holding Alyona, trying to calm her down enough to fall back asleep. Yuri has his phone out and is researching household remedies. Maybe there’s something they haven’t tried yet…

“Steam!” he suddenly says.

“What?” Otabek asks over Alyona’s pitiful wailing.

“I’ve just found this online…” Yuri shows Otabek an online article on his phone. “Steam might help with the cough.”

It’s not like they have much to lose and a bit of warm, humid air can’t hurt… so they migrate to the bathroom. Yuri lets the shower run as hot as it gets and soon the whole bathroom is filled with steam, fogging up the mirror and covering every surface with beads of water.

Alyona’s crying has reduced to hiccupping sobs and sniffling. Otabek still has her in his arms and Yuri is sitting next to them on the bathroom mat on the floor.

Yuri feels like shit and at this point he’s pretty sure it’s not just because he hasn’t slept more than 6 hours in the past 48 hours. He’s caught whatever virus Alyona has. But it doesn’t matter. It’s not as important as Alyona getting better. But maybe if he just closes his eyes for a bit…

“Go to bed, Yura…” Otabek says quietly and nudges Yuri where he’s slumped against Otabek’s side.

Yuri shakes his head stubbornly. “It’s not fair on you,” he retorts.

Otabek merely rolls his eyes and smiles a fond smile. “One of us has to sleep.” He brushes Yuri’s steam-damp hair away from his face. “You feel hot.” He frowns.

“Might have a fever…” Yuri replies, not even bothering to open his eyes, “Guess Alyona made me sick as well.”

“Go to bed,” Otabek repeats, more firmly this time.

Yuri grumbles about it but complies. Otabek is right, he’s really no help right now. Some sleep will probably help and he’ll feel a lot better after that. Then he’ll be able to take over and look after Alyona while Otabek can take a break.

Apparently, some sleep is not enough to make Yuri feel better. He wakes up in the early hours of the morning and feels like he’s been run over by a truck. He feels completely disoriented. How long has he even slept? It’s still dark outside but that doesn’t say much.

Otabek is in bed beside him and stirs when Yuri sits up groggily.

“Hey,” he says, voice laced with sleep.

“Is Alyona asleep?” Yuri asks and his throat feels like sandpaper as he speaks.

Otabek nods in the half-darkness of their bedroom.  “She fell asleep not long after you went to bed and she only woke up one since then. Or at least only once that I know of because she woke me up. You slept like the dead, though.”

“I feel dead,” Yuri croaks and lies back down.

Otabek turns to lie on his side, facing Yuri. “Not feeling any better?” he asks.

“Worse… more like,” Yuri replies, “But it’s just a cold, so…”

“Still, you should take some rest. I can take care of Alyona. And she’s a lot better already,” Otabek says quietly and caresses Yuri’s cheek.

Yuri wants to argue but he’s just too tired to retort. He simply lacks the energy.

He doesn’t remember falling back asleep but suddenly it’s 10AM and he’s alone in bed. It costs him a lot of energy just to get up and trudge over to the living room where he finds Otabek asleep on the sofa and their daughter sitting on a blanket on the floor, playing with her toys.

Alyona squeals happily when she notices Yuri and lifts her arms up towards him. Instead of picking her up, Yuri gets down on the floor and pulls her into his lap. They need a break. Both Otabek and him. And since Alyona seems to be a lot better now… Yuri takes out his phone and sends a text message to Yuuri.

When the doorbell rings an hour later, Otabek is awake again as well (after having a mini panic attack when he realised he’d fallen asleep while he was supposed to be watching Alyona. “Beka, you can’t keep an eye on her 24/7.” “But what if something had happened?” “We made the whole apartment childproof…”).

Yuri opens the door to Yuuri who’s got Ryutaro in tow. “Hey,” he says, “Come in, Beka’s just getting Alyona ready.”

“How are you?” Yuuri asks.

“Honestly? I feel like sh… crap,” Yuri says with a side glance to Ryutaro.

“You almost said a bad word,” the little boy says and smiles brightly.

“But then I didn’t,” Yuri retorts and lightly flicks at Ryutaro’s nose while Yuuri chuckles.

“It’s normal to get sick as well when kids are sick,” Yuuri says, “And it’s also normal that you get it worse than they do.”

Yuri nods. “Thanks for taking Alyona… we really need a break, if only for a few hours.”

“It’s really no problem at all.” Yuuri smiles. “I’m just gonna take these two to the playground and they’ll be entertained for a while.”

“Playgrouuuund!” Ryutaro exclaims and jumps up and down on the spot.

Otabek joins them then, carrying Alyona who’s already dressed to go outside. “Well, someone is clearly excited.” He ruffles Ryutaro’s dark hair.

“We’re going to the playground!” Ryutaro explains to Otabek.

“So I’ve heard. Have fun and take care of Alyona, okay?” Otabek says as he hands Alyona over to Yuuri.

Ryutaro nods. “I will. Daddy can carry her but I’ll look after her at the playground. I won’t let any of the other children annoy her!” he says seriously and all three adults have to suppress laughter.

*

Before they know it, it’s Alyona’s first birthday. Otabek wanted to have only a small party for her, it’s not like she’ll remember much of it anyway, but their friends had other ideas.

Victor and Yuuri are coming with Ryutaro, of course. Also some of their friends from the skating rink. And Mila will be there, although she’s living in Italy with Sara now. But she decided that it is her duty as Alyona’s godmother to be present on her birthday and spoil her rotten.

“Where did you put the candles?” Yuri calls across the apartment as he’s putting the finishing touches to Alyona’s birthday cake.

“Everything should be on the counter!” Otabek calls back from where he’s decorating the living room.

“Found it!”

When Yuri wanders into the living room a few minutes later, the room is nearly finished and the table set up. Alyona is curiously watching everything unfold from her playpen. She’s turned into a little menace after she started walking on her own a few weeks ago and will most definitely cause mischief if she’s left unsupervised for only the briefest time.

Yuri swoops her up into his arms. “What do you say, malyshka? Are we happy with the decorations?”

“Aah!” Alyona exclaims happily and points to a red balloon dangling from the ceiling.

“Yes, I agree.” Yuri nods and kisses her chubby cheek.

Mila and Sara are the first ones to arrive and they fuss over Alyona like she’s the most precious child in the world.

“How much you’ve grown!” Mila says and plops right down to the floor to play with her goddaughter.

“Well, we haven’t been here in 4 months…” Sara adds, “She looks like a real principessa. Especially with that hair clip. So cute!”

“Victor bought that for her in Japan when they were there two months ago,” Otabek says and bends down to adjust the little bunny hair clip that’s keeping Alyona’s fringe out of her face, “But her hair is only now long enough to actually put it in.”

The pink hair clip goes along nicely with Alyona’s dark blond hair and the dungaree dress she’s wearing. Her hair has started to curl at the ends now that it’s more than just a wisp and she looks like the angel she certainly isn’t.

The other birthday guests arrive and the living room gets a little crowded. Alyona doesn’t understand all the fuss about her and is more content when the blowing candle madness is over and she can happily munch on her piece of birthday cake, completely taking it apart before stuffing the pieces in her mouth.

It’s a bit sad that neither Otabek’s parents nor Yuri’s grandpa can be there but Otabek’s sister has come over for a few days and they’ll go down to visit Nikolai in Moscow in a few weeks.

“Hey, I wanna tell you something…” Mila says to Yuri while everyone else is busy and pulls him aside.

Yuri raises an eyebrow at his friend. “Is it a secret?”

“Not quite… but I haven’t told anyone yet. Apart from Sara, that is,” Mila says in a low voice and then leans closer to whisper the rest in Yuri’s ear.

“Seriously?!” Yuri exclaims when she pulls back.

Mila just smiles and nods. Yuri pulls her into a tight hug and says: “That’s so great. I’m happy for you guys.”

Sara joins them. “You’ve told him the news?” she asks with a smile on her face and wraps an arm around her girlfriend’s waist.

Yuri and Mila nod in unison. “That’s great news. Congrats,” Yuri says, “We’ll talk more later, okay? I think I need to save Alyona from her wannabe big brother now.”

“Taro-chan, don’t lift her up like that, she’s not a doll,” Yuuri is already reprimanding his son, though.

Ryutaro pouts. “But you lift her up all the time.”

“Yes and we’re adults and a big bigger and stronger than you are,” Victor explains gently.

“But she likes it! She laughs when I do it!”

“Don’t be mad, Taro,” Yuri says and crouches down to the boy’s eye level, “Your dads are right. Of course Alyona thinks it’s funny… but you might accidentally drop her or squeeze her too hard. We just don’t want that, okay?”

“Okay…” Ryutaro replies dejectedly.

Yuri ruffles his hair. “You can still play with her. Just keep in mind that she’s a lot smaller than you, yeah?”

He sits down next to Otabek on the sofa, keeping an eye on the two kids from there. “Who knew children’s birthday parties were so exhausting?”

Otabek chuckles and wraps an arm around Yuri’s frame. “Just wait until she’s older and actually invites her friends… Think 10 kids instead of 2.”

Yuri groans. “Oh god…”

Otabek kisses his boyfriend’s cheek. “I’m sure we’ll manage that as well.”

*

~Epilogue~

“Papaaaa!”

Yuri hardly has any time to wake up before Alyona is already bouncing up and down on the bed between him and Otabek.

“Your daughter’s awake…” Otabek says sleepily, opening only one eye and peering at Alyona.

“Oh no… at this time of the day she’s clearly your daughter. No child of mine would be awake at this ungodly hour,” Yuri answers.

“Papa, wake up!” Alyona first shakes Yuri’s shoulder, then Otabek’s.

“It’s the middle of the night, malyshka, go back to sleep for a bit, yeah?” Yuri says.

“But you promised.” Alyona pouts, looking at him with big blue puppy eyes.

Yuri sighs. “What did I promise?”

“To teach me to skate today!”

Yuri hears Otabek chuckle next to him. “The rink doesn’t open until in a few hours, zhanym. You’re not missing out on anything if you sleep a little more.”

“Okay…” Alyona doesn’t sound too happy but she eagerly crawls under the blanket when Otabek lifts it up for her and gets herself comfortable in between her fathers.

They arrive at the rink at a more reasonable hour. Victor is already there and he’s also got Ryutaro with him today. The skaters’ practices are scheduled short today and they’re using the time to let the kids have the rink to themselves for a bit.

Ryutaro has already gotten pretty good at skating. He’s not really interested in figure skating but he loves to skate and race around the rink. Yuri thinks he might actually end up doing speed skating if his interests don’t change completely.

Alyona is almost three now and she’s been bugging them about skating for a while already. Both Yuri and Otabek were older when they stood on skates for the first time. But then again, their parents hadn’t been former professional figure skaters.

Ryutaro is already skating while Otabek laces up Alyona’s skates.

“Alyona! What’s taking you so long?” Ryutaro shouts.

“Wait for me!” Alyona shouts back.

“Take it slow, Alyonushka…” Yuri says, taking her hand and walking the few feet from the bench to the ice with her.

Alyona doesn’t answer, instead she just steps onto the ice, her face screwed up in concentration. Yuri feels her grip on his hand get tighter and he follows. He lets her go ahead but he’s there to steady her. She’s wobbly on her feet, trying to find the right balance, but she’s not scared.

Ryutaro skates past them a few times and then slows down, taking Alyona’s other hand.

“You gotta do it like this…” he says and shows her how to push her feet forward, slightly to the side.

Yuri smiles. The older boy really acts like a brother towards Alyona. It’s not surprising, they’re basically growing up together.

But Ryutaro grows bored of skating at snail pace all too soon and is back to zooming around them.

“Papa… will I be as good as Taro?” Alyona asks, sounding a little sad.

“Sure you will. He’s just had more practice than you. You’ll be as fast as him in no time.”

“Really?”

“I think so.” Yuri nods. “Hey, Beka! Come join us, don’t just lazy around.”

Otabek is next to them within seconds, stopping with a hockey stop.

“That was cool, Papa!” Alyona beams at Otabek.

“She’s easily impressed,” Yuri says and chuckles.

Otabek smiles. “Yeah, for now. Wait until she’s older… she won’t be so easily impressed then.”

“Let’s take a picture,” Yuri says and takes out his phone. He holds it up and angles it so that there’s all three of them on the photo. Him and Otabek are smiling and Alyona between them, bright-eyed and red-cheeked, is smiling so much it must hurt her cheeks.

‘Skating family’ is the caption of the photo when Yuri posts it online later that day.