Victor is driving home from a shoot when he gets the news.
His bop to John Lennon is rudely interrupted by the ringing of his phone. He glances at the screen on the dashboard and winces when Yakov’s name flashes up on the screen.
He presses the wrong button to pick up a couple of times (he only got the Jaguar a couple of weeks ago, okay!) and braces himself for his lawyer’s shouts. What’s he done this time? Signed a sponsorship deal without checking it properly again? He gets that Chanel were pissed, but they still made him the face of their new collection a month later. It all worked out in the end, right?
“Victor,” Yakov says. At a vaguely normal volume. Viktor almost swerves off the road in shock.
“Yakov?” he tries “Is everything alright?”
“Get to my office as fast as you can.”
Yakov hangs up. Victor puffs. It’s almost eleven at night. He’d been looking forward to an eye mask, American Horror Story and cuddles in bed with Makkachin, but he guesses that will have to wait.
Feltsman & Co was housed in an skyscraper with a weird rounded top which Victor fondly called ‘The Glass Dildo’. It gleamed in the St. Petersburg night, a single light shining at the top of the building. Only Yakov would be crazy enough to still be working at this hour, Victor thinks, ignoring the fact that he’d been working just half an hour ago.
He tosses a wink at the secretary (she flushes a little) as he is ushered into the weirdly plush lift by a velvet-jacketed concierge. Yakov said rich people spend more money if they think they’re with other rich people. Victor agrees, but he doesn’t get the need for the velvet lift walls. It’s excessive, even by his standards.
“You really need to get rid of all the velvet, it’s out of season,” he chimes as he strolls into Yakov’s office.
Yakov is facing away from him on his leather chair, like he’s the Godfather or something. Victor grins and opens his mouth to tell him this, before Yakov spins around. The look on his face cuts him off. Victor sits down quickly, tapping his fingers on the glossy desk that separates them. Yakov unclenches his fist, revealing a crumpled ball of paper.
“Read this,” Yakov says hoarsely, pushing it towards him.
Victor smooths out the paper and does just that.
Dear Mr. Feltsman,
I hope this letter finds you well. You do not know me, but I know you. Or rather, I know you through Victor.
In fact, Victor probably doesn’t remember me either. The night we spent together was short, after all, and we were both drunk out of our minds. But I haven’t forgotten it since, for more reasons than one.
Victor left me without saying goodbye the morning after. I wasn’t upset. He’s a busy man, after all. Some part of me thought I might have been special, but then those pictures of him with that Tahitian model came out a week later, and I remembered that Victor is a celebrity and I was Nobody to him.
So I carried on, only boasting to a couple of my close friends about sleeping with a supermodel, satisfied with seeing his pictures in magazines. More time passed. I began feeling ill. On a base level, I knew what happened. The doctor’s visit only confirmed my thoughts.
I was pregnant, Mr. Feltsman, and it was Victor’s child.
I couldn’t get rid of it, Mr. Feltsman. I went to the clinic and stumbled straight out again, sobbing. But I couldn’t afford to keep this child. I was a nursing student at the time. I could barely afford to feed myself, let alone a child. I couldn’t afford to get Victor to pay his share either. Besides, who would believe a girl without two rubles to rub together over an internationally loved celebrity?
I gave birth on the first of March 2010 at home with a friend who was training as a midwife.
I named him and left him at the closest orphanage. St. Michael’s, in St. Petersburg.
He had Victor’s eyes. Icy blue, big and wide and curious. He looks like me though, I think.
I had called him Yuri Plisetsky. Maybe his name’s changed by now.
So why have I waited seven years to tell you about Victor’s son, Mr. Feltsman? The reason is simple.
I’m dying, Mr. Feltsman. By the time you receive this letter, I will already be dead. I was planning to find Yuri, explain myself to him when he turns eight. By the time he turns eight, I would have passed on. I don’t know if he’s been adopted. That orphanage is overcrowded as it is. He might have nobody, Mr. Feltsman.
This is not a demand. This is a plea.
Please, Victor. Find your son and take him home. Show him all the love I never could. Tell him I’m sorry.
Victor sets the letter down with trembling hands.
He has a child. He is a father.
He has a child, who is alone, who probably thinks neither of his parents wanted him.
His eyes meet Yakov’s.
“Have you found him?” he rasps, digging his nails into his palms.
“Not yet. I’ve got people working on it,” Yakov replies, frowning at him “you want to meet him, then?”
“I don’t want to meet him, Yakov. I want him, full stop.” Victor stares hard at his reflection in the desk. He tries to imagine the child, his child, Yuri Plisetsky. Yuri Nikiforov, in the future. But he can’t for the life of him remember a girl named Katya from seven years ago. His career had just bloomed then, a shoot with Burberry blowing up, plastering his face across billboards and magazines.
He looks up to see Yakov looking incredulously at him.
“Victor,” he says finally “Victor, you can barely look after yourself and your dog, let alone a child,”
“That’s not true!”
“You’re constantly travelling, too. How do you expect to raise another human being?!” Yakov’s voice is getting louder and louder. Victor feels anger bubble under his skin, curl in his muscles.
“I’ll work it out! I’ll work it out, Yakov. But he might be alone, and I can’t stand that,” Victor grits out.
Yakov looks at him again. He puffs and turns to his computer, muttering about bratty supermodels raising his blood pressure.
Victor smiles, a little.
His sleep is fitful, filled with small, crying children with blue eyes and silver locks, brown curls, blonde fringes.
“Papa," they wail, reaching chubby hands for him, faces smeared with dirt, shivering with cold “Papa!”
Makkachin senses his mood and whines, snuggling into his side. Victor pats his head absently, staring at his phone. He’d been too distracted at the shoot today. His head was awkward, his back was stiff, his eyes were somewhere else entirely. Christophe Giacometti, the cameraman regarded as a genius by the fashion world, had lowered his Canon and simply pointed his finger at a taxi.
Victor got the message, walking off set to the melody of hushed whispers from the crew.
He sat, mind thrumming like an overheated car engine. Would they find him? Would they find him? He's found himself staring at young children in the street, on kids' clothing websites. What size would he be? What's his favourite colour?
He gets the second phone call as he pours himself a bowl of granola for dinner.
Victor drops the milk and races out of his flat.
Yakov’s waiting outside in his Bentley. Victor flings himself into the front seat, almost slamming the door shut on his own foot in his haste.
“Where is he?!” Victor pants. Where’s my son? his mind says.
“He’s been adopted,” Yakov says as they shoot into the night, weaving through traffic, ignoring blaring horns and angry shouts. Yakov’s one of the best lawyers in the business, he hasn't had a traffic charge since he defended some big politician's son. The man had got drunk and smashed up his ex's car. Yakov twisted the plot into a heartbroken man desperately clinging onto the memory of a heartless lover. It'd worked.
Victor’s heart leaps into his throat, beats there, once, twice, a hundred times.
“What? By who?!”
“We’re about to find out,” Yakov says, clearly ending the conversation there, turning the radio up. Victor has a million questions.Yakov’s forehead vein looks like it’s actually going to burst out of its head. “But I just- who?!”
“I don’t know, Victor! I had to bend a hell of a lot of rules and pay a lot of people to get the bloody address. I know as little as you do!” Yakov roars. The vein looks like it’s going to give birth. Yakov stamps on the accelerator.
They’re ten, twenty, thirty kilometres over the speed limit, but they could never move fast enough.
They’re in the dodgy part of St. Petersburg. Victor shudders to imagine his poor, defenceless son growing up here, among all the gangs and ruffians and pickpocketers. The minute they get to wherever they’re going, Victor’s going to whisk him away to his penthouse. He can take the bedroom. Victor will sleep on the couch.
They stop outside a ugly apartment block. “Flat 44,” Yakov says lowly, and they’re both rushing out the car.
The entrance is dingy and depressing and smells like cigarette smoke. There is graffiti on the walls. Victor is getting more furious by the minute. His child, his child.
The lift is broken. Victor leaps up the stairs, Yakov far behind him. Numbers flash by. Flat 12, 27, 32. They reach the fourth floor. 44. 44.
Victor knocks hard on the door, presses the bell over and over again.
The door swings open. “Yuri Plisetsky! I’m here for Yuri Plisetsky,” Victor half-yells.
A short foreign man stares at him, frown marring his forehead. Oh, Victor flails. Maybe Yakov has the wrong place? “Um, Yuri Plisetsky? I am here to meet with him?” he tries in English. Shit, this guy looks East Asian. What if he-
“Sorry, what?” the man replies in slightly accented but perfect Russian, nudging his glasses up his nose. He’s cute, part of Victor thinks, which he shuts up immediately.
“I’m- Yuri Plisetsky. Does he live here?” Victor rushes out.
“Yes, he does, I’m his fathe-“
“I’m his father,” says Victor.
The man stares at him.
Yakov puffs up the stairs.
“You better come in,” the man says, and holds the door open “take your shoes off at the door,"
The flat is warm.
Not just in temperature. It’s painted a gentle shade of peach. There are fairy lights strung up across the walls, spilling puddles of yellow across the room, a flood of cushions on the couch, a fluffy rug under their feet. Yakov and Victor are sitting on a twin pair of armchairs, but Victor can't keep still. Everywhere, everywhere there are pictures. Pictures of lots of things, people, places. A dog, Paris, a young woman smoking a cigarette, London, a grinning brown man, an old couple. But mostly of a blond boy with blue eyes.
Yuri. He knows this is Yuri, can feel it in his gut.
A photograph is placed in his hands. It’s a portrait shot. Yuri’s got a gold medal around his neck, is looking away from the camera. Victor drinks in the ocean blue of his eyes, the fall of golden hair, the paleness of his skin. He’s beautiful, cherubic, like a china doll. Victor swallows around a wad in his throat.
He looks up to see the man smiling softly at him. His eyes are warmer than the flat, brown and wonderfully, wonderfully kind.
“That was his first ice skating competition,” the man says, putting a mug that smelled of something orange-y on the table next to him, handing one to Yakov too. He perches on the couch. “He beat everyone else straight out of the water. It was a little inter-rink thing, nothing major, but Yura’s the competitive type. Silver is first loser, according to him,”
Victor opens his mouth. Yakov beats him to the cut.
“Who are you?” he asks, not unkindly.
“My name is Yuuri Katsuki,” he says, “and yourselves?” Victor raises his eyebrows at the coincidence.
“Yakov Feltsman. Barrister and partner with Feltsman & Co. This is Victor Nikiforov, Yuri Plisetsky’s biological fath-,” Yakov starts, before Victor interrupts.
“How long has Yuri been- how long have you-“ he chokes on his words.
“Yuri’s been with me since he was four. I took him in when I was eighteen,”
“Eighteen?! Why did they let you adopt him?” Yakov barks out.
“Yura was…to put it plainly, a bit of a problem kid. He comes off wrong, is all. He didn’t really understand how to express himself, and got into a lot of fights with the other kids. To be honest, they were raring to get rid of him,” Yuuri chuckles a little, but there’s a note of sadness in it.
“And you- you just-“
“It’s a long story,” Yuuri sighs “I was fresh into my first ballet company at the time. It was tricky, but we made it work,” He gestures at the wall behind Victor, who snaps his head round. There’s a large photograph of a younger Yuuri in the kitchen. He’s in a leotard and ballet slippers stirring something in a pot, Yuri on his hip, his hair spun gold on Yuuri’s shoulder. It’s heartbreakingly domestic.
“You’re a dancer?” Yakov murmurs, leaning forward. Victor can almost see the cogs whirring in his head, the case forming in his mind. Foreign, unstable profession, unreliable pay, young, bad area-
“At the Mariinsky,” Yuuri says, and Victor’s jaw drops. This was no ordinary dancer. The Mariinsky is the Vogue of the ballet world. Only the world’s best dance there- he’d met a few ballerinas from there himself, all thin wrists and sharp smiles and the well-worn eyes of warriors, of those who had clawed their way from the bottom to the top.
Yuuri Katsuki does not seem like them. He seems soft and warm. He seems…like a pushover. He seems like Victor can end this custody battle with a bit of intimidation and a promise of a better flat and a new car.
“Well,” Yakov says quickly “Victor is-“
“I’m Yuri’s biological father. Thank you for looking after him until now, but I want full custo-.” Victor interrupts. He's tempted to reach for his wallet. What kind of car do you want? He was going to ask.
Yuuri places his cup firmly on the table. It sounds like the thump of a gavel in the room.
“You might be Yuri’s biological parent, Mr. Nikiforov. But I’m his father. If Yuri wants to go with you, that’s one thing,” Yuuri Katsuki’s voice flows quiet and dangerous into the room “but if he doesn’t, don’t think that you’re taking my child away from home,”
His eyes flash behind his glasses, the burn of someone who’d dug themselves out of their own grave with their bare hands searing Victor’s skin.