Yuuri Katsuki took a deep breath and then bellowed, “What did I say about going too fast?”
Little Yuri Plisetsky at least had the decency to look back at his instructor as he sped away on the ice. “But I wanna!”
With a small sigh, Yuuri caught up and grabbed his tiny hand to stop him from shakily skating even further away. “Please stay with the group, Yuri? For me?”
Yuri squinted up at his face before smiling gently and saying, “Ok!” He then yanked Yuuri behind him to rejoin the group. Yuuri resumed his duties of prying shaking hands from the walls and pulling uncertain children around the outside of the rink. He looked up after picking up one of his students from the ice to see Celestino standing outside the rink.
“Hi, Yuuri! How goes the lesson?”
Yuuri looked sheepishly around the rink to see the young children stumbling around the ice and laughed. “I don’t think they’re quite ready for the Olympics yet, but when they are, I’ll send them to you!”
Celestino laughed in return. “Well they certainly look good for three year olds! I don’t know where you find the patience to do it, Yuuri.”
Yuuri raised his eyebrows and said, “And I don’t know how you find the patience to teach your own three year olds.” As if on cue, the door to the rink burst open and Phichit huffed over to where they were standing.
“Ciao Ciao! Do I have to practice today? I just engaged in a Twitter battle with JJ and I can’t lose already!”
His coach's eyebrows scrunched together. “How do you battle using birds?”
Phichit sighed dramatically and draped his upper body over the wall of the rink. “How was I punished with a coach who doesn’t even know what Twitter is?” He peeked up at Yuuri and narrowed his eyes at him. “Yuuri, you know what Twitter is, right?”
Yuuri gulped nervously at his best friend and looked anywhere else. “Oh, look, Yuri must need my help!” He quickly skated away, chuckling at his friends cries of dismay. He glanced down at his watch and saw that the lesson was almost over. Yuuri gathered the little skaters on the opposite side of the rink and wrapped up the lesson with some words of encouragement. The tiny faces staring up at him in astonishment made his heart swell. He helped everyone get off the rink and started to undo their skates.
As parents came to pick up their children, Yuuri said goodbye to each child. The only child left was Yuri, who was currently playing with Yuuri’s shoelaces. He sighed internally but did nothing to stop him as he waited for the woman who had been picking up Yuri to arrive.
When the door to the rink opened, Yuuri’s heart skipped a beat. Because who else but Victor Nikiforov was walking through, taking off his designer sunglasses and throwing his gorgeous hair to the side. Yuuri only realized he was staring when Victor had stopped right in front of him, a light smile on his face. Yuuri quickly shook his head and blinked.
It was no secret that Victor had been training here for a couple of months. Phichit had told him all about the day he first arrived and how his routines were coming along. Yuuri would sit on his couch and soak in every word about his idol, sometimes closing his eyes and imagining what it would be like to watch Victor skate in person. He had been too shy to actually try to watch the man practice, but he had seen him around the rink a few times.
Of course, he had never said anything to him. And Yuuri didn’t think he could break that streak now, as both his voice and soul seemed to have left his body. He just opened his mouth and pointed at Victor.
Victor looked down at his finger, then back to his face, and just grinned even wider. “Yes, I’m here to pick up Yuri?”
Hearing his own name come out of Victor’s divine mouth did unhealthy things to his heart rate, but he quickly realized that he must have meant the Yuri currently plastered against his leg. He blushed as he saw his finger still pointing, and instead balled up his hands into fists by his side. “Oh, I, I’m so sorry for p-pointing, that was so rude of me, oh my god..” he mumbled, staring resolutely at the floor.
Victor waved a hand. “It’s quite alright…” he trailed off, “I’m sorry, I didn’t even catch your name.”
With a hard blush, Yuuri said, “Yuuri. Yuuri Katsuki.”
“Wow, two Yuris! I’m Victor Nikiforov, nice to meet you!” He thrust out his hand. “Thank you for taking care of my Yuri.”
Yuuri didn’t say what he was thinking, that of course he knew who he was, but he dazedly shook his hand. Then he really did say what he was thinking, which was, “Your son?”
Victor chuckled lightly and rubbed the back of his head. “Ah, no. Yuri is my nephew. My nanny quit on me a few days ago, so now I’m picking Yuri up.”
Ah, so that was who was picking up Yuri. Yuuri was also strangely relieved to hear that Victor didn’t actually have a son. Shaking himself from this line of thought, Yuuri leaned down to try to pry Yuri off of his leg. The young boy just squeezed even tighter and burrowed his face into Yuuri’s sweatpants.
“Ah, I’m sorry, normally he’s so well behaved in class. Come on, Yuri! It’s time to go with Victor!”
Victor perked up. “What did you just say?”
Yuuri looked up at him, confused. “Oh, just that he behaves well normally. He just doesn’t like saying goodbye, I think.”
Yuri responded by squeaking out, “I wanna stay with Yuuri!”
Victor looked from Yuri, to Yuuri, then back to Yuri, before finally settling his bright blue eyes on Yuuri. “Well, that settles it.”
Yuuri gulped. “Settles what?”
Victor lunged forward and cradled Yuuri’s hands in his own and staring deep into his eyes. If Yuuri’s soul hadn’t already flown away, he was sure that Victor could have easily seen it. “I’m going to take you home, of course!”
It took a few minutes for Yuuri to register Victor said after that. He just stared at Victor’s eyes and the way that his mouth moved as he excitedly chattered on and on about something that couldn’t have been more interesting than watching his shining face.
Eventually, Yuuri felt himself drift back to Earth, hands still in Victor’s. “What?” he asked simply, because simple was all he could handle at the moment.
“You’re going to be Yuri’s new babysitter, obviously! I’ve had so many quit on me because of his personality and unwillingness to listen, but if he listens to you then maybe he will behave better, and I really can’t do this on my own once the season starts because I’ll be too tired from training to properly raise a kid, because it’s not like I even know what I’m doing in the first place… Oh dear. I’m rambling, aren’t I?” Victor took a deep breath and Yuuri could see the faintest blush rising on his cheeks. “Well, you’ll do it, won’t you?”
Yuuri sighed dreamily and muttered an easy “Yes,” before gasping and saying, “Wait! I mean, I think I want to, but I have to look at my class schedule and your schedule and ask Minako and…” he trailed off helplessly, losing himself in Victor’s eyes.
Victor squeezed his hand and smiled. “How about I take us all out for some coffee and we can talk about it more in depth?”
Yuuri smiled back and felt himself relax slightly. “Yes, I would like that.”
As he sipped at his coffee, Yuuri finally came to terms that he was talking to Victor Nikiforov. The living skating legend who won an Olympics and five Grand Prix Finals and World Championships in a row. The same person who inspired Yuuri to even take up figure skating in the first place. The man whose routines he would copy back home with Yuuko. Whose face covered the walls of his room. Well, he supposed that was the hard part to absorb. The rest somehow felt easier.
Yuri was sucking on the straw that led to his chocolate milk and doodling on a napkin. Victor was staring at him intently, hands cradling his coffee cup. Yuuri blushed and stared back down at his own coffee. Victor broke the silence. “Well even though I technically already offered you the job, would it be ok for me to ask a few questions?” When Yuuri nodded, he continued with, “What work do you do?”
“Well, right now I’m in college at Wayne State. I study linguistics.”
Victor tapped a finger to his chin in thought. “How old are you?”
“Ah, so you must be graduating very soon?”
Yuuri blushed and looked at his coffee again. “I actually took a year off in between high school and college to help my family run our hot spring. And even though this is my senior year, I will need another extra year to complete all of the requirements.”
Victor’s eyes glittered. “Hot springs! Is it nearby? I would love to try!”
Yuuri giggled quietly before replying, “No it’s in Japan.”
“Oh, so do you live by yourself here?”
“No, I live in an orphanage run by Minako-sensei. She’s an old family friend from Japan.” Victor’s expression softened, and Yuuri was quick to add, “Oh no, my parents are alive! It’s just a cheap place to stay here in America. And even though I’m rather old to be living there, sometimes I help take care of the younger children, cook, and clean.”
Victor smiled and nodded. “Interesting! Well, when are your classes?”
“9:30am-2pm every weekday.”
Victor clapped his hands together. “Perfecto! So you could take Yuri from daycare to the skating lesson or home! We live within walking distance of both.”
Yuuri nodded. He guessed this was really happening. There was just one more question that was burning at the back of his mind. “Uh, if you don’t mind my asking, why are you taking care of Yuri?”
Victor sighed and looked at the young boy, whose tongue was sticking out at the effort of continuing to draw on the napkin. He hadn’t looked up at the mention of his name. “His father, my brother, ran off a couple of months ago. His wife died in a car accident that day after the World Championships.”
Yuuri leaned over and placed a hand on Victor’s. “I’m so sorry to hear that.”
Victor squeezed his hand in response. “Thank you. Georgi asked me to take care of Yuri for a couple of days while he got back on his feet, and while I didn’t know the first things about children, I was already flying in to Detroit so I agreed. That was the last time I ever heard from him. I don’t have a clue where he is.” His grip tightened around Yuuri’s fingers before loosening and breaking the contact. “I can’t help but be so mad at how selfish he is being. I don’t mind looking after Yuri, but Georgi still doesn’t get to run away when things get bad.”
Yuuri scrunched his nose up. “Georgi? That name sounds familiar.”
“Popovich. He’s also a figure skater.”
“Oh of course! I had no idea you two were related.” Yuuri realized that this conversation had already long passed the line of what you tell a near stranger, but with Victor he couldn’t seem to question it.
“He changed his last name to my mother’s maiden name when they got divorced.” Victor waved a hand in front of his face. “Ah, but this is all in the past! My present is here with Yuri, and hopefully with you?”
Yuuri’s heart fluttered and he had to remind himself that a childhood (okay, childhood and adulthood) crush were no reason to misconstrue everything the man said. Still, he blushed and was about to speak when he felt a tug at his sleeve. He looked down to see Yuri proudly displaying his napkin. On it were three stick figures holding hands and a blob. Yuri proclaimed, “It’s you, me, Victor, and Makka!” Yuuri’s heart swelled at the sight and he ruffled Yuri’s hair.
He smiled warmly at the sight of them and said, “Yes.” He had no idea how any of this would turn out, but he supposed that was okay.
Yuuri stood outside of the house and willed his feet to move closer. He still couldn’t quite believe that he was supposed to enter and take care of Victor Nikiforov’s nephew. Just yesterday he had been teaching figure skating lessons like normal, and then the tornado that was Victor upturned his whole life. With a deep sigh, he put one foot in front of the other and approached the front door.
He tentatively rapped on the door and heard a high pitched scream from the other side. Before he could turn around and run all the way back to Japan, the door burst open and a very tired Victor ushered him in. Yuri was currently running across the living room wearing nothing but a tiger stripe hat and screaming at the top of his lungs. Victor sighed and spread his arms out wide, exclaiming, “Welcome to our home!” while holding a pair of zebra striped underwear in one hand and a leopard print onesie in the other.
Yuuri looked around in horror at the house. The floor of the living room was covered in toys, there were still moving boxes piled up in the corners, and from what he could see of the kitchen, the rest of the house was in similar shape.
Victor chased Yuri throughout the living room while trying to explain to Yuuri that he was so grateful that he could come help, as he had a late night training session that he couldn’t skip one more time or Celestino would “give him an off ice session to remember.” Yuuri shuddered at the phrase, recognizing it from Phichit when his friend would sneak his phone onto the rink.
When Yuri saw who came in through the door, he shrieked and hid behind his legs. Victor just collapsed onto his knees in front of them. “Please, Yuri, just let me put something on you. You’re completely naked.”
Yuri peeked his head out from between Yuri’s knees and responded, “hat.”
Yuuri chuckled softly. “He has you there, Victor.” When Victor mouthed “help” to him and started pouting, Yuuri took pity on him. “Well, that’s too bad, Yuri. I had a really fun game planned, but you need to be dressed to play.”
“Game?” both Victor and Yuri asked at the same time.
Yuuri sent a few winks Victor’s way as he explained, “Yeah, it’s a very very fun game, but it requires clothes. Oh well, maybe Victor and I can play it without you?”
With a shriek Yuri grabbed the clothes from Victor’s hands and held them out to Yuuri. “I wanna play! I get dressed!” he said proudly.
Yuuri smiled and helped him put his legs through the holes as Victor watched in amazement. “I knew you were the one.”
Blushing, Yuuri waved away the compliment, saying, “This always works with the kids at the orphanage. Ok, Yuri, wave goodbye to Victor so we can go play!”
Yuri pouted and turned away, but he still raised a single tiny hand and waved it twice. Victor’s eyes shone as he grabbed his bag and mouthed “thank you thank you thank you!” to Yuuri and then slipped out the door.
Yuuri scooped up Yuri and carried him to the mess of toys, asking, “So why don’t you show me which ones are your favorite?”
When Victor came back from practice, he went to hang up his coat and almost dropped in when he saw the living room. Every single toy was put away, all of the boxes were stacked neatly, and even the bookshelves were dusted. He walked to the kitchen and called out for either Yuri but quickly silenced himself as he saw the older Yuuri asleep at the table. There was a tiny bit of drool coming out of the corner of his mouth and his glasses were askew. Victor reached down to ruffle his hair and almost didn’t stop himself in time. That wasn’t appropriate semi-parent/babysitter behavior. Instead he ran an approving eye over the clean counters and floor.
He quietly padded over to Yuri’s room and found him asleep on top of the covers, clutching a stuffed tiger with his hat 99% off of his head. Victor leaned down to kiss his forehead and then quietly shut the door. He walked back to the kitchen and grabbed a glass of water and a protein bar from the cabinet. Victor leaned against the counter and ate in silence, scrolling through his phone when suddenly Yuuri awoke. He whipped his head toward the clock, then Victor, his face a mask of horror.
“Oh my god! I’m so sorry I fell asleep! And I wasn’t even awake to greet you when you arrived…” he trailed off miserably, turning his gaze to the floor.
“Please don’t worry about that, Yuuri. The house looks amazing, you didn’t have to clean! And if Yuri was able to fall asleep by this time of night then he must have been incredibly relaxed. Thank you so much for your hard work.”
Yuuri blushed and replied, “It was no trouble, really.”
Victor stood up straight and threw out his trash. “Well, it’s been a long day, so should I take you home?”
“Oh, that’s really not necessary, the bus stop is only a ten-minute walk from here. I’ll be fine!”
Victor hummed. “Can I at least walk you to the bus stop, then?”
“I, I guess so.”
They walked in comfortable silence most of the way, until Yuuri shyly asked about how the night’s training went. Victor animatedly chatted about how Celestino had different concentrations than his old coach, Yakov, when they rounded the corner and saw the bus was pulling into the stop.
Yuuri started to run forward, waving to Victor and calling out, “Good night!”
Victor waved back, a small but warm smile on his lips. “Good night.”
Yuuri settled into a normal-as-you-can-be-when-babysitting-your-idol’s-nephew routine after a few days. He arrived to the house before Yurio woke up and walked him to daycare before taking the bus to campus. After class he picked up Yuri from daycare and then walked him to the ice skating rink for lessons or straight home. Victor has erratic training schedules, interviews, appearances, and errands to run, but he was usually home around the time that Yuri went to sleep.
Despite all of the strange circumstances he was asked to deal with, the thing that annoyed Yuuri the most was the lack of real food in the house. There were protein bars and shakes and frozen meals, but Yuuri hadn’t been able to actually cook anything healthy for dinner since he started working for Victor. When he could not stand serving Yuri pizza one more night in a row, he took Yuri grocery shopping one day after daycare.
Yuri sat in the cart and sucked on a large lollipop that Victor had probably bought him in a moment of weakness as Yuuri carefully browsed the aisles, only selecting the most well priced items. He had already planned out a few meals that he thought Yuri would like and was halfway through his list when his phone rang.
“Yuuri! I got off practice early for once and wanted to let you know I’d be home soon!”
Yuuri snatched a sleeve of Oreos out of Yuri’s little hands and placed them back on the shelf. “Oh, sorry, we went to the grocery store so we’re not home yet.”
“Oh, I know one you mean! It’s on my way, so I’ll meet you guys there very soon.”
“That’s not necessary…. He hung up on me. Typical Victor.” Yuuri looked to the young boy in his cart who folded his arms and nodded sagely in response. Yuuri pushed the cart through a few more aisles before he felt a warm hand on his shoulder. He turned around to see Victor, and although Yuuri was now more used to seeing him every day, the sight of his idol still made his heart flutter.
“What are we shopping for today, Yuuri and Yuri?” he asked.
Yuuri handed him the list and Victor’s face screwed up in thought, his hand on his chin as he tried to help Yuuri navigate the store to grab their final items. It took a lot longer than when Yuuri shopped by himself, but it was also a lot more fun.
When they finally got to the checkout, both Victor and Yuri tried to sneak candy bars into the cart. Yuuri calmly put both back, and the two Russians gave him matching puppy dog eyes. Even though his heart melted, Yuuri held strong. “Someone needs to be the adult around here.”
Yuuri made a simple curry for dinner, but both Yuri and Victor wouldn’t stop talking about how much better it was than a frozen meal.
The babysitter easily got Yuri into his pajamas and lay down in the living room with him to read out loud before bed. Victor sat at the foot of the couch nearby reading up on the coming year’s competitions. Yuuri’s voice was hypnotic and soothing, and halfway through the second book he looked up to find he had put two people to sleep instead of one. He gently scooped up Yuri and tucked him into bed with his favorite plushie and returned to the living room.
Victor looked serene when he slept, the stress of skating competitively while raising a rambunctious child fading off his face. Yuuri carefully moved his laptop away and grabbed a nearby blanket and leaned down to cover him. Victor shifted slightly and mumbled something under his breath. Suddenly, with his eyes still closed, he grabbed Yuuri’s wrists and pulled him across his lap, calling out, “Go to sleep, Yuri!”
Yuuri remained frozen in shock for a few seconds before Victor awoke from his half-dream and they both jumped back from each other.
“I’m so so sorry Yuuri! I was having this nightmare that Yuri was crawling all over me and would never go to sleep, just like when it was only the two of us…” Victor spat out, his face turning red.
Yuuri stared resolutely at the floor. “It’s totally fine, you just surprised me is all. Yuri is asleep, so I’ll be going now.” He grabbed his coat and bag and was out the door a minute later.
Victor sighed and ran a hand down his face.
Yuuri fanned himself as he filled his water glass again.
Yuri stuck his tongue out like a panting dog. “It’s hot today, Yuuri!”
“It is, isn’t it? The end of summer can be gross.” They had spent all of their Saturday playing games inside, but the heat and humidity were still brutal indoors. Yuuri gazed thoughtfully at the closet in the hall. “I have an idea, Yuri!”
In record time Yuuri located the kiddie pool and inflated it in the front yard. Yuri was vibrating with excitement in his tiger swim trunks as he watched Yuuri finish filling it with water. “Are you done yet? I wanna swim!” he said, hopping from foot to foot.
Laughing lightly, Yuuri turned off the hose. “Yes, Yuri, you can get in now.”
Yuri yelled and jumped into the pool, sending a splash all the way to Yuuri’s glasses. He couldn’t bring himself to be mad, though, at the look of pure joy on Yuri’s face as he relaxed into the cool water. As he wiped off his glasses on his shirt, he saw a blurry figure enter the front gate.
“Victor? You’re home early,” he said, and then he put on his glasses.
A young woman with short red hair and a young child on her hip was beaming down at him. “Hi! You must be the new babysitter!”
Yuuri nodded nervously. “I’m Yuuri Katsuki, nice to meet you.”
The woman nodded back. “Mila Babicheva. Pleasure. I used to skate with Victor back in Russia. This is Irina, my little sister. She’s the same age as Yuri.”
At the sound of his name, Yuri glanced up and saw the two girls. He backed up to the far side of the pool and practically snarled up at them. “Hag!”
Yuuri gasped and admonished Yuri right away. “That’s not polite, Yuri! Apologize!”
Mila just laughed it off. “It’s okay, the kid seems to hate most everyone except Irina. And oh, Yuri?”
Both Yuris raised their heads in answer.
“Oh. Wow. Freaky. Also, confusing. Two Yuris won’t do. How about…. We call you Yurio?” she asked, cocking her head to the side and smirking at the littler Yuri.
Yuri gaped up at her. “No! No! No!”
This time when another figure came in through the front gate, it really was Victor. “Hey, Mila, Irina. Long time no see.”
Mila grinned at him. “How did you pick a babysitter with the same name as poor little Yuri? I decided to nickname your nephew ‘Yurio’ to avoid confusion in the future.”
Victor gave her a thumbs up. “Good idea! I was starting to wonder about that, myself. How’s your day been, Yurio?” he asked.
Yurio glared up at him. “No.”
Victor’s smile froze on his face. “No?”
“No,” Yurio echoed.
“Well then, how will we tell you apart from Yuuri?”
Yurio held up his hand to his chin in an adorable imitation of Victor and appeared to think very hard for a few seconds. “Yuuri can call me Yurio.”
Victor sighed in exasperation. “Well then, how can I address you?”
Yurio smiled. “You don’t.”
Victor’s smile fell and he turned to Yuuri in horror. “Did you hear that, Yuuri? Do you hear what he says to me? I don’t know if I’ll ever recover!” he cried with a hand draped over his face.
Yuuri couldn’t help but giggle at Victor’s theatrics. As the older man went to mope in a corner, Mila got Yuuri’s attention back. “We were heading to the pool, so Irina is already in her swimsuit, can she join Yurio instead?”
“Why don’t you ask him?”
Mila put down Irina and she toddled to the edge of the pool where Yurio was splashing around. “Can I play with you?”
Yurio glanced her wearily before looking up to Yuuri for approval. His babysitter’s reassuring smile let Yurio give Irina a nod with a tiny smile of his own.
Yuuri and Mila sat on the steps and talked about the weather and other mundane things while the two kids played. Eventually Victor regained his dignity enough to join their conversation and they ended up laughing about something Yurio had done the other day when Victor suddenly snapped his fingers.
“Oh, Yuuri! I almost forgot!” He pressed a small metal object into Yuuri’s palm. He held it up to inspect it and gasped when he realized what it was. “A key to our house! Now you can come over whenever, even if we’re not home.”
“Are you sure? I’m just a stranger.”
Victor glared at him. “Don’t say that! You’re precious to me and Yurio! You helped us when we needed it the most! I don’t know where we would be if you hadn’t come into our lives. Yurio would probably still be miserable and I wouldn’t be able to skate anymore. You’re a part of our little family, too.”
Yuuri felt his eyes burn but he blinked rapidly and squeezed the key tight. “Thank you,” is all he managed to squeak out.