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(I've Never Felt) Nothing Like This

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I.

The ritual starts the day after they bring Prince Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov (born via surrogate on August 29, 2020, with genetic material from both parents, thanks to money and science,) home. Viktor is the one to bring in the car seat. Yuuri follows behind him, shuffling nervously as he watches Viktor pull their baby out of the limousine with exceeding care. The four bodyguards create a wall around them, using umbrellas to shield all three of them and keep the two different helicopters making rounds over Villa Vedici from catching a glimpse of their son. The helicopters have been flying in circles over the hospital for days. Yuuri didn’t think they would follow them all the way home, and he wonders how long they’ll be imprisoned in their home.

“Welcome home, VikNik,” Viktor smiles, ignoring that it feels almost abnormal that their son has already learned to sleep through the sound of engines, “we’ve been waiting for you for so long. You were so very wanted.”

And that’s how their baby inherits Viktor’s nickname.

(It gets confusing only around month three when their friends start differentiating by adding the Jr. How’s VikNik Jr., they ask, and it takes Yuuri a day before he starts to find it palatable. Once it sticks, though, they can’t seem to get rid of it.)

They spend that first day just watching VikNik, still amazed by how he’s both of them in one. He’s Yuuri all over, from his nose to his dark hair and the shape of his face, but Yuuri loves that VikNik is the best of Viktor, from the depth of his blue eyes to his heart-shaped smile and the cupid bow of his lips. For the first time, Yuuri knows Viktor loves someone more than him, and he doesn’t even mind because he feels the exact same way.

VikNik has a nursery, but they don’t even bother. They set up the crib in their bedroom. Yuuri checks it one last time as Viktor lays on their bed right next to their son, his little fists on either side of his face. Viktor touches the knuckles gently, pressing in awe: “You were so wanted, you know. Your Dad and I have been dreaming of you for months. You were planned, taken from the very best of our love and aspirations.”

Yuuri pauses to listen, pretending he’s still fluffing a pillow or relocating a giraffe stuffed animal.

“So, so wanted. The most precious thing I always wanted and never thought I would get and now have thanks to your Daddy,” Viktor continues, whispering almost reverently. “You’re my little Prince.”

Yuuri’s not quite sure why a knot settles thick in the middle of his throat, but when he swallows, he feels tears prickling at the edges of his eyes. It’s not until they’re in bed, resting in between crying calls for food or a new diaper, that Yuuri twines his fingers with Viktor and tugs so their foreheads smash together. Viktor smiles, “we have a baby in the room now.”

“It was important for you that Prince know how much you, we wanted him, wasn’t it?” Yuuri asks, studying his husband’s face in the dark. “Why?”

Viktor hums in assent, pausing to lick his lips before he says, “my family, they never exactly made it a secret that I was a mistake. My grandmother used to call me trouble. My mother used to say that when she became pregnant with me, her life ended, and not in the nice way people say their lives changed forever after a baby.”

For Yuuri, who had always known he’d made life hard for his parents, but never been told anything other than how he was a wanted surprise, hearing the truth from Viktor as opposed to the books he used to keep on his husband is a revelation. It leaves him thirsty with questions, choking at the end of every single one, knowing it’s not something he should make Viktor remember. In a strange way, he understands and doesn’t, because Yuuri’s mother always loved him, because he was always loved. He thinks back to their wedding night when Viktor kissed his ring finger and whispered, “you are the first. You’re the first to have loved me so unconditionally, Yuuri.”

“I want VikNik to know without question that I wanted him, that we wanted him and waited for him,” Viktor says, smiling. And when VikNik wakes up again, angry and loud, Viktor kisses Yuuri’s head and ambles over to the crib happily. He coos as he plucks their son from the crib, “hey, it’s okay. I’m here for you.”

And Yuuri takes the opportunity to turn his face against the pillow and smother his sobs.

II. 

Viktor doesn’t miss a day. VikNik is 6 months old when they finally move him to his nursery, both equally hungry for some alone time, despite desperately loving their son. It takes them that long to realize that quickies in the laundry room or the studio aren’t going to do it in the long term. Yuuri’s not a morning person, though, so it takes him around three weeks before he wakes up one morning to the sound of VikNik cooing through the baby monitor. Viktor’s voice filters through as well. Yuuri has taken for granted the fact that Viktor has taken it upon himself to champion diaper change duty in the morning, bringing a clean, fed, and smiling baby to Yuuri every morning.

Yuuri reaches for his robe. He doesn’t bother to fix his hair as he paws into the nursery just in time to hear Viktor cradling VikNik in his arms with a morning bottle: “You are wanted. You are loved. You are the most perfect creation in this world. You are safe. And I promise that I will always love you, that I will always protect you, and that I will always believe you and in you, no matter what choices you make.”

And Yuuri takes a quick step back, trying not to make a single sound as he rushes back to their bedroom and wonders for how long Viktor has been performing daily affirmations with their son.

III.

Viktor is obsessed with giving VikNik autonomy over his body. It’s consent training, he tells Yuuri, it’s never too early to start. And, Yuuri agrees, instinctively knowing that they both spent too many years giving autonomy over their clothing and their voices to others, often at the expense of personal space and the pain of pulled arms, legs, and hair in faceless oceans of fans. Yuuri’s not exactly sure how it’s going to work with a baby, but he believes Viktor when he says it’s possible. He watches him devour countless bits of information on his tablet, reading late into the night.

“He can decide who he goes with,” Viktor tells Yuuri, who is completely distraught by the idea that VikNik gets to choose if Yuuri holds him.  

“That’s an easy rule for you to impose,” Yuuri cries, big tears rolling down his cheeks as he ices his legs in a tub, “you’re always with him. Of course, he always wants you!”

“Yuuri, you’ll still hold him to feed him and change his diaper and put him into new clothes,” Viktor sighs, running a hand through Yuuri’s hair. “But don’t you remember how horrible it used to feel to have to kiss up to sponsors? Let people touch you that you didn’t want?”

Yuuri doesn’t. Celestino and Minako were always like pitbulls, easily detecting when Yuuri didn’t want to be touched and unashamedly proclaiming that he was touch averse. It was always the little white lie that made Yuuri’s life infinitely better in large crowds of desperate sponsors, some eager to throw money his way more for an endorsement of their bedroom capabilities or dateability than company profitability. Yuuri, once again, doesn’t understand and, this time, he’s too afraid to ask when he thinks back on his first meeting with Chris: “And you didn’t even have to take off your shirt.”

Have you ever been undressed for someone you didn’t want, Yuuri wants to ask him, but he knows Viktor has always been able to protect himself. He refuses to project. Instead, he cries harder: “What if he doesn’t want me?” – even as VikNik stretches out his little arms, smelling clean and feeling soft in his footed onesie.

“He obviously wants you,” Viktor reassures Yuuri.

(Phichit is also not a huge fan. VikNik doesn’t see him much those first few months, which means VikNik is constantly uncertain about letting Phichit hold him. By the time he’s comfortable, Phichit has to go back somewhere. It’s an annoying routine that makes Yuuri question everything they’ve discussed about parenting.  

“Can I hold him?” Phichit asks, already reaching for VikNik as the baby hides his face against Yuuri’s chest. It’s been a long flight. VikNik is in a new place and exhausted, barely able to settle despite having exchanged between both his fathers multiple times.

“Well, ask him,” Viktor says, sounding so new age and Zen that it makes Yuuri almost embarrassed.

“What? He can’t talk yet!” Phichit scoffs.

“Body language,” Viktor says, and Yuuri feels jealous when VikNik immediately leans towards Viktor’s body, asking for his father. “See?”)

VikNik is barely over one when Yuuri begins to understand. They’re in Detroit and it’s cold. They’re already running late for a dinner with Yakov and Celestino, and VikNik is fussing, refusing Viktor’s attempts at rolling a sweater over his body. “No!” his son yells, not wanting socks, not wanting shoes, and most definitely not a sweater or jacket. There’s been many times when VikNik, who is growing into an age when he only wants to be in his diaper, has done the same to Yuuri. Yuuri has always powered through, or called Viktor to help.

This time, though, Yuuri watches impatiently from the sidelines, trying to hand Viktor another shoe. VikNik almost kicks Viktor in the face as he struggles, “No! No!”

Viktor pauses suddenly, tears in his own eyes as he takes a moment to say, “VikNik, I hear you.”

Yuuri walks out of the room to call Celestino, but he keeps an ear pressed to listen to his husband.

“VikNik, I hear you, baby boy. And I want to validate that I hear you telling me no. But I need you to be protected from the cold. Do you understand? – I am your father and I made a promise to always love you, to always protect you, to not hurt you. Today, I’m going to have to do something you don’t want in defense of your overall wellbeing, much like there will be other times when I will have to do this, too. But I want you to know that I hear you, my love. I hear you loud and clear. And someday, when you are ready, I will respect your decision not to wear a sweater in negative degree weather, but today I am going to protect you in the best way I can.”

Yuuri hangs up the phone and cries. He suddenly understands, remembering all the times Yakov told Yuuri that Viktor’s parents were harsh, forcing him on stage even when he was sick. Yuuri had felt so sick (with the guilt of having profited in smiles from Viktor’s tears in a studio room,) all those times he’d realized music had been literally beat into Viktor some days.

(He’ll think to the day when Yuuri, nervous and angry, had sat with Viktor on a bathroom floor, soft fingers brushing his hair back.

“I won’t make you perform,” Viktor had said. “I will never force you to do something you don’t want. That’s why we have insurance. But I will remind you that you’ve been here before and done this, and if you’re just scared, then I will hold your hand. If you’re sick, though, I will carry you out of here and we won’t look back.”)

Yuuri feels love blossom hot and deep inside his chest, knowing that it’s the one thing he can give Viktor. Viktor who – Yuuri is sure – must remember what it is like to be defenseless, screaming no into a void of people constantly saying yes. Viktor, who is so determined to be the father he always wanted, probably even the human being he never thought he could be and only now feels he can create in their son.  

 IV.

He walks inside. With each step, he’ll think of how his love grows for his husband all the more. Viktor has, for years, been treated badly, pushed to the periphery, clawed his way back to live from an existence buried under the pain and sorrows and blame of other people. And, each time he has made the active decision to choose love, to give love.

Yuuri finds Viktor holding VikNik tight to his chest, hushing him gently as VikNik finishes with his tantrum and begins to settle. He kneels to wrap his arms around both of his boys. He doesn’t tell him that Yakov is pretend-angry or that Celestino has already ordered. He just holds him. Viktor stares at him in surprise, giving him a small, uncertain smile, “He’s okay, I think.”

Yuuri nods, cupping Viktor’s face with both hands until he can lock their eyes together. He doesn’t ask, but are you okay? Instead, he repeats, almost like a chant, “Viktor, you are wanted. You are loved. You are deserving of love and safety. To me, you are the most perfect creation in the world next to our son. I hope that with me you feel safe. And I promise that I will always love you, that I will always seek to protect you, and that I will always believe in you, in the good inside you, no matter what.”

VikNik only sniffles as he looks up between Yuuri’s arms, recognizing the words. He rests back against Yuuri, and Yuuri suddenly feels like he has the world in his hands and the universe between his arms.  

The End.