25, December, 1989
“He’s beautiful.” The man smiled down as his newborn son. Soft silver hair, gray eyes. Pure, untouched by the world.
In the beginning the man’s wife was not so privy to the idea of child, but now as her newborn sat smiling up at his parents in her arms, she thought ‘How could I not?’
“He is, Yakov, dear, he is.”
“I love you, my darling Lilia.”
“And I, you.”
The young couple’s son was ready to go home as soon as the next morning. The young man - Yakov could not stop smiling, not as he led his wife out of the hospital room, or to the car, or on the road, or walking into their front door.
The nursery was carefully decorated in a light grey and the crib was gifted to them by Lilia’s mother. Everything was perfect.
The days went by, every two hours for nursing and diaper changes, play time and crawling. The couple barely got any sleep, and no matter the exhaustion they couldn’t help but love the newborn baby as he sat around on his blanket.
Family members continued to call to announce their congratulations. Yakov and Lilia’s students included. Many happy wishes and celebrations thrown for the people they love.
Their son was six months old when Yakov came home with a small stuffed toy, it was little but it could barely fit in the boy’s hands. The child looked to his father as the man sat down next to his son. Big blue eyes stared at him as he reached for the toy.
It was a brown and fuzzy stuffed sea lion of all things. Yakov babbled praises at his adorable son and booped his nose, the boy laughed. It was the happiest Yakov had ever felt. Lilia smiled from the kitchen as her husband played with their child.
“Viktor sure does love that thing, yes?”
“It seems so.” He smiled as he kissed his wife.
“Where did you even find that?”
“A student of mine, said it was a gift, she loves babies.”
“That’s nice of her.” Lilia sat down next to the baby and clapped gently her hands to get his attention, instead he focused on his sea lion. She tries again, but the toy seemed much more interesting.
Yakov chuckled, reassuringly. “Boys never listen.”
“How else would we have had him?” Lilia deadpanned.
They couple went to bed happy as ever that night. But the trend of their little Viktor not listening would be a permanent one.
The parents finally figured it out when Viktor was three years old. They had taken him to a local festival that a few of Yakov’s skaters would be at, they had asked him to go. They walked around for many minutes, bought snack foods and fitted little Viktor for his first skates.
With Viktor’s hand in his, Yakov led the boy onto the ice. The three year old looked up nervously.
“You won’t fall, don’t worry, Vitenka.”
The boy smiled as glided for the first time. In a matter of minutes he was cruising around the rink slowly and happily looking to his father. Yakov smiled and positioned his son to glide backwards.
“Look at me, Papa! I’m a skater!”
“Yes, you are, would you like to learn?” Viktor stared unknowingly at him, blinking.
Yakov only figured it out completely when a few of his students came over and gushed to Viktor. He kept steady eyes on Yakov, like he couldn’t hear a thing.
“Lilia, I do believe that he cannot hear. Maybe we should ask a doctor?”
“He can hear just fine, Yakov dear, I do not understand why you would think something like that.” Lilia looked to her son. “He can hear just fine.” She mumbled distantly.
Viktor was painting on a large paper in front of the television, where he was watching a show about a kitten. He was painting the little dog in the show on the paper.
In all that time, Lilia has called to her son, who kept hopping around with the dog quietly and painting the little puppy. He was also whispering quietly to the little sea lion, which he apparently had named William.
Lilia sighed at her husband. They scheduled an appointment.
In the meantime, Lilia was finding it all the more plausible, the only way to get Viktor’s attention was to touch him and look at him directly, even then he could babble something that didn’t make sense or was completely off topic from the question being asked.
It worried the parents to death.
The appointment arrived.
Viktor was surveying the space, everything was so white! There was man sitting in chair and his Mama and Papa were talking to the man. But he didn’t understand what they were saying. He looked up to them with big eyes so he might understand.
The man has him sit in a chair and asked something. The man asked for a thumbs up or a thumbs down, he didn’t really know why but Viktor liked the thumbs up better.
Next a small pair of earphones were placed on his long, messy silver hair and he was given a weird red button, he didn’t know what it was for so he waited until the man did something else.
Which apparently never happened, his mother was crying, his father looked a little disappointed, he wondered why.
Then went home later that night in a depressed mood.
When Viktor was five his Papa started teaching him a new language. It used it his fingers to place words together and he learned how to write on paper. It was fun signalling to his Papa, they made a game of it and for once Viktor understood what his Papa was saying.
As a reward they went to the skating rink and Viktor learned to skating backwards and forwards on his own like he has been practicing for year.
When Viktor was six he was put into what his Papa described as school, other kids would try to talk to him but he couldn’t understand them. He was just makes signs with his hands hoping they would understand, when none of them did he felt sad, a bit pained as they never tried to go to him again.
His teachers were nice, some even made signs to him, they explained the Russian alphabet and colours and animals and the sounds the letters made, it was funny because he couldn’t hear the sounds being made, they were all just written down and signed to where he could understand.
At nine years old, Viktor had finally come to terms with the fact that he was different. The teachers taught him in a separate room, nobody ever tried to talk to him. Why would they? He’d never be able to hear them. He learned he was deaf. It simply meant he couldn’t hear. But he still smiled and laughed like everyone else.
And only his Papa knew how to talk to him. His Mama had given up a while ago, if she needed something she would write it down, his Cyrillic had become extraordinary thanks to her and he was able to sort of communicate with other kids. Those to had the patience to write everything down, not many of them did.
To Viktor it didn’t matter if nobody talked to him or if Mama didn’t like him, he had Papa who skated with him everyday and smiled at him and talked about little things. Like how Viktor’s one foot spin was stupendous and how his language skills outweighed that of anybody in his grade, because he worked harder. They signed about his first pair of skates and the food at the rink concession stand.
It was all okay, and that’s all it needed to be, even if it was just them for the rest of their days, it was all they ever needed.
When Viktor was fourteen he asked his Papa if he could skate professionally, like in the junior league.
But Vitya, you need to have music, Yakov signed
Music, is it sound?
Oh, then I can never skate professionally.
We’ll figure it out.
It was just as hard as it seemed, Yakov would pick easy music for his son. They could add in small steps and jumps and choreography, if Viktor stayed at a certain pace and and did the routine in chronological order of everything planned, he skated a damn good programme.
At the kiss and cry in his first competition, Yakov had never been more proud of a student, even if it were his son.
By fifteen the boy was adding triples and split jumps and even tried a quad. He could already see his father yelling at him, but with a sense of pride underneath.
He grabbed a piece of paper and in angry Russian wrote; Stupid boy, your body is not ready for quads yet!
Viktor sighed, “Will it ever be?”
Do to the media attention in the profession, they decided to keep their father/son relationship a secret as well as Viktor’s hearing disability, the only thing that seemed to be a problem was when Viktor would ‘Outrightly ignore the press’.
At school Viktor would get bullied, jokes on them though, he couldn’t understand a word he said and took some of his mother’s bluntness. Everyday no matter what words were tosses around, he walked on sunshine.
It was only when people threw mean notes in his locker that the sun he walked on drooped into rain drops. They would taunt him, saying he couldn’t hear he was weird and stupid because he learned differently and his hair was long so that made him a girl.
Yakov would notice his son’s down behavior and push him on to the ice.
You don’t have to hear or even see, just feel, those words are on pieces of paper, paper can be crumbled and burned and you don’t have to care about anything on it.
Viktor took those words like a religion.
At sixteen Lilia agreed to train her son in ballet, once again keeping their relationship professional. Not only was Viktor flexible but he was diligent in learning from his mother, who never took the time to learn from him. She never signed to him and only spoke to him, from her he learned to write above his grade and now he was learning to read lips, he was allowing him to get fairly good.
It was only when he was seventeen and had just won with his Lilac Fairy programme did he see first hand what it was like to try and communicate to someone with a foreign accent.
“Okay, Chris, see you at the Worlds!” Viktor really hoped he didn’t fuck up and call the boy the wrong thing. The boy with curly blonde hair smiled and caught the rose Viktor threw. Whoo, that was close. Maybe he should learn French to get a feel for the accent just incase. And English. Lots of people used English.
At Twenty Chris found out. He had been fairly mad at Viktor when he had called and Viktor didn’t say a thing, he was yelling and decided to barge into Viktor’s hotel room and give him a piece of his mind.
The yelling didn’t stop and Viktor couldn’t understand a word his friend said. Tears fell down Viktor’s face.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand, Chris.”
“Why?! Why can’t you listen to a word that I say or any words that anyone says?! Sometimes I think the only good thing about you is that fact that you’re pretty and that you have talent.” He turned to walk out the hotel door.
“Chris.” The Swiss man turned.
“What?! Viktor. We’re done here.”
“You seem pretty alive to me.”
Viktor laughed quietly, “No, not death, I can’t hear, deaf. D-e-a-f.”
“I-I’m sorry I didn’t know.”
“Do you want me to prove it?”
“Yes, I do.”
That’s how the boys ended up at a small convenience store buying a airhorn. They went into a nearby park that was deserted and Viktor held the horn directly to his ear staring squarely at Chris. Gee, when did he get so tall?
He sounded the horn and laughed when Chris covered his own ears. Viktor didn’t even realize the air horn stop.
“Dude, the horn isn’t even going anymore.”
“It’s too dark, I can’t even read your lips.”
“Oh, so you do stare at my lips a lot, at least now I know it’s not because you want to get in my pants.”
Chris grabbed the horn and turned on the flashlight app on his phone. They headed back and Viktor felt relieved and happy that for once he told somebody would would stay with him and not look at him with pity.
A few months later, on his twenty-first birthday Yakov took Viktor to a local animal shelter, and told him to pick out a dog. They would take it to be trained as a hearing aid dog, so that Viktor would know when people were talking to him or when his phone was ringing or someone was knocking at the door. They seriously should have thought of it sooner.
Viktor picked out a little poodle puppy, she was rolling around and happy, about four months old her mother was a rescue that had the puppies that day she was brought into the shelter.
He gently picked up the puppy who squirmed and licked his face, he gave her a treat and decided to take her home. Viktor decided her name would be Makkachin.
And after many months of professional training she was given a little orange vest and did her job perfectly. She would stay his side at all times and go to practice with him, she would alert him if he didn’t see his phone go off and would paw at him if someone were trying to talk to him.
She was wonderful.
At twenty-three Viktor was on his way to being world champion and Yakov couldn’t be prouder, his son had been bullied and beaten and misunderstood all the way to the top and still nobody knew he couldn’t hear a thing.
And he was proud of himself, and proceeded to win at least a bronze or higher in all of his Olympic seasons.
Viktor would dance around his little apartment with Makkachin and occasionally with Yakov, when he wasn’t with the new skater Yuri Plisetsky. He would describe the feeling as on top of the world.
Even Lilia would admit she was proud of her son.
At twenty-seven Viktor met the love of his life, he came swooping in drunk and gorgeous in all his glory and oh was Viktor in love. Yakov had the faintest smile at his son dancing, a smile only his son and now ex-wife had seen. He gave a reassuring look to Viktor and retired for the night.
The night was invigorating and fun, like Viktor had never imagined, especially for a banquet. Yuuri Katsuki swept him off his feet. They danced for hours, drank some more and danced again. Viktor evaluated his prior knowledge, this was what being on the top of the world was, this is what living was and what love felt like.
“Be my coach, Viktor! Be my coach!” Yuuri pleaded grinding against him.
Viktor could barely make out the words with Yuuri’s drunk slurring, all he got was, coach Viktor.
Of course he would coach the cute Japanese boy! All he had to do was ask!
Viktor led Yuuri back to his room and got the Japanese man into some more comfortable clothes, most of which he did by himself, he did fall down trying to put his pants on but he decided, to hell with the pants! Viktor giggled at the drunk Japanese man’s ethics. He grabbed his blue glasses and set them down with a glass of water and some aspirin that he always carried with him.
“Sleep tight Yuuri, thank you for showing me what living was like.” He gave the man a small kiss on the forehead and left the room on a cloud.
“Yuuri still hasn’t call me.” Viktor pouted. Yakov laughed.
“Like him that much, do you?”
“As a matter of fact I do, Papa.”
They had booked a private time at the rink, not one where all Yakov’s students trained, just like it used to be when Viktor was young.
“I remember the first time you liked someone, Lilia was not happy.”
“That’s because I’m gayer than a box of crayons and she is pure Russian ™.”
Yakov laughed once more. “You do know that she is proud of you.”
“She doesn’t act like it.”
“You still love her, don’t you?”
“How can I not? We were married for over thirty years.”
“I think Mama still loves you too.”
“I don’t and it all started with you.” Yakov joked.
Viktor dramatically put a hand on his heart. “Me? You make it sound like she did not like did not want me.”
“In all honesty-”
“No, Papa, I do not want to hear it.”
They joked around for a while.
“I’m so very proud of you, Viktor. I don’t even need to sign anymore, you just know.”
“I’m not telepathic. I can just read your lips.”
“A useful skill.”
“You’d be surprised. Unless someone is drunk or has an accent.”
Defying his father’s orders Viktor left for Japan a few weeks later.
“Sorry, Papa! Yuuri asked for me to be his coach. I must go!”
“You’re lucky I love you.”
“I love you too, Papa. Dasvidaniya.”
Yuuri didn’t really understand at first. Viktor had been in Japan for many months and it was only at the Cup of China did he catch Viktor do something totally of hand. Other than do a pseudo-resignation and kiss him on the ice.
It’s like he didn’t even hear the mob of people coming toward them.
Which Viktor would explain later as his being deaf. Which made absolutely no sense to Yuuri.
“How do you skate? You need to hear the music, don’t you?”
“Not necessarily. I just think of the choreo in my mind and do it the pace, it’s how I skate, that and I can just - feel it - almost? Like the vibrations.”
“How can you even understand what I’m saying right now?”
“I can read your lips.”
“So you’re not just staring at them? As I much as I did not mind that kiss from earlier I would prefer to initiate it next time. That and my eyes are up here.”
“And all those times we cuddled and watched movies together? You didn’t understand them?”
“Not really, but the pictures were lovely.”
“My gods, you never stop surprising me.”
“Kind of the point.”
“And Makka, is she-?”
“An assistant dog, very much so.”
“My childhood idol and as much as I think I know you, I will never truly.”
“That’s actually my biggest secret you pretty much know everything.”
“There’s always something Viktor Nikiforov.”
Yuuri leaned into kiss Viktor, who gladly smiled into it.
At thirty, Viktor and Yuuri finally got married. It was in Japan in April, the cherry blossoms fell around them and Yakov was happy to walk his son down the aisle. As it turns out being deaf was not Viktor’s biggest secret.
The fact that Viktor’s parents were Yakov and Lilia shocked Yuuri more.
But even Lilla came to the wedding and Yakov cried. It was what anyone would say to be the best day of their life.
As a wedding gift, Yakov handed Viktor a small blue box as the last present.
Viktor his time opening it and burst into tears as he pulled the little sea lion out of the box. He leaned his head on Yuuri’s shoulder, the latter was shoving cake in his mouth and was not prepared for a crying Viktor on his shoulder.
“Viktor? Is that a walrus?” Yuuri asked, he realized that Viktor probably couldn’t see what he was saying so he just pet Viktor’s ever-growing silver hair that the Nishigori sisters put flowers in before the wedding.
Viktor proceeded to cry over the walrus for almost ten minutes as he hugged it and pet it.
“Yuuri, It’s my sea lion, William!”
“I am not sure I understand.”
“I had this thing since I was like, born.”
“You were six months old.” Yakov corrected.
“How in world do you remember that?”
“There are just some things you never forget.”
They sat and talked for hours about the little things Yakov never forgot. When Viktor was three and proclaimed his love for skating. When he and Lilia found for sure Viktor couldn’t hear, when Viktor wanted to skate anyway, learning sign language together, what he told Viktor about the bullies in school. All Viktor could do was hug William the sea lion and hold on to his husband.
Hiroko shared many stories of Yuuri, many hilarious and adorable, some sad and sweet. But in the end, it was made of starting point of their lives and the ending point of this story.