The best thing about the off-season is the softening of Yuri’s face, her body, her mind. Next year looms, of course, and every once in a while when they’re lying in bed Yuri stiffens up, pulled taut.
Viktoria stays and cuddles and waits her out, which is hopefully what she needs. Viktoria is still working on it, being pliable and present and calm. Viktoria is always working her best at being loving.
So the man at the grocery store can go to hell.
“Hey,” he says, “when are you due?”
The apples were getting all of Yuri’s attention—can I become an apple, Viktoria wonders—and still are, for a few precious moments. Internally, Viktoria dares him to continue.
Like a fool, he does. “Boy or girl?”
Finally, Yuri looks up at him, blue frames glinting. “Are… are you talking to me?”
“Not anymore,” says Viktoria easily, and tries to bodily nudge her fiancée towards the next fruit display.
“Of course!” The man insists, “I just wanted to congratulate you!” At the awkward pause, he doesn’t do the normal human thing and reconsider. Viktoria wonders if the dawning horror she feels is what she induces in others, sometimes. “You’ve got a cute little baby bump there, and a beautiful wife.”
“My,” Yuri says, and looks down, past the shopping basket on her arm, filled with fruits and vegetables and carbohydrates and one allowance of pork. Even when Yuri is being good, ridiculously good for the off-season, sometimes… it doesn’t matter. “Baby bump.”
The conversation is abrupt, and oddly stilted. The man leaves, having given himself enough embarrassment for five minutes. It could be a whole day’s agony, for her Yuri, and in the characteristically cool St. Petersburg spring, Viktoria vows to be even more affectionate than usual. She’s… not sure how she’ll accomplish that, but thinking about it only adds to the fierce glow in her chest. Her Yuri.
“You don’t look like you have a baby bump,” she tries, as soon as they’re through the door and Yuri is handling the doggy drool display of Makkachin’s welcome.
Yuri just looks like Yuri, all rosy cheeks and shapely curves and determination. In reply, her beautiful fiancée bodily flings herself onto the couch.
“No? I feel like I do,” she groans into a pillow. Promptly, Viktoria remembers a particular item in their grocery cart.
“Oh, sweetheart, it’s normal to feel bloated. I didn’t realize you’d started.” Her lips twist. “I wish I could make your period go away.”
Flipping herself, Yuri stares up at her from behind a pillow, strangely pink. “Yeah? Tell me how.”
“I—what?” The medicine cabinet flutters in front of her mind. “We could, uhm, get you birth control, but sharing mine is no good. We can talk to your doctor! Phone number, phone number.” She’s already got her phone pulled out, settling herself on the ground beside where Yuri’s hips rest on the couch.
“Maybe I don’t want to go on birth control.”
“Ah, that’s your choice, bunny.” She pauses, feels the righteous words bubble up in her throat. “If this is about that ridiculous man’s baby bump comment, just because you’re bloating a little and it’s the off-season… you should know. You’re beautiful, my Yuri, no matter your weight, and there’s nothing shameful about—“
“I’m not ashamed.” Hands are tipping Viktoria’s silver head back onto the couch, short fringe falling from her eyes.
“I, well,” her lashes flutter, and despite the gravity of the situation all the hot blood that was fueling Viktoria’s speech now rushes down low. “After he said it, I got distracted and couldn’t think of anything else except…”
“Except,” Viktoria breathes. Oh, oh, she’d wanted to strangle that man but Yuri can make anything spectacular—
“Being pregnant,” she whispers, “with our baby.”
A sinful amount of kissing follows.
When Viktoria sneaks a hand under her shirt, just to sweep over the soft skin of her stomach, Yuri makes a noise that leaves Viktoria with no choice but to press her even deeper into the pillows.
“So,” Yuri huffs between kisses, “I hope this means you’re not opposed to us having children, so many children, because I’d love—“
Viktoria does not even grace this ridiculous statement with a response, now that she knows Yuri feels the same way.
“Our baby,” she sighs, dreamily, nuzzling up to Yuri’s collarbone when the kisses slow. She refuses to let herself ask any of the necessary questions, she’s too happy now, the details can wait—
Ah, but it’s Yuri. The details will not wait. “I’m not sure how I’ll conceive, exactly,” she fusses, eyes on the ceiling. “Haven’t worked that out yet.”
“I mean,” says Viktoria, “I’ll impregnate you. Obviously.” Yuri’s hips roll up against her, and it was her turn to tease, that’s not fair, Yuri.
“You can’t say things like that!”
“Why not? You used to mutter about it all the time. Never as quiet as you thought, you know, and Yuuko might adore you and keep all your secrets, but one time he desperately needed a babysitter, and I would rather be paid in things that aren’t money.”
“Betrayal,” Yuri pouts. “…but really. Not sure how I’ll get pregnant.” The pause that follows is contemplative, strained. “Or when. I don’t mean to be unfair—I know we’re both excited about this, it’s just… I’m not ready to leave the ice. Maybe not for a long time.”
Viktoria laughs, even though the thought of waiting, waiting for sweet babies that look like a young Yuri and hold out their arms to her like Yuri and that call her Mama in cooing Russian, rubs a little raw against her heart. A rough chafe, that warns of future blistering.
Viktoria can wait. Viktoria waited for Yuri herself, and that made it all the sweeter to have her.
“Five gold medals,” she reminds her fiancée. “Enough for you, me, and three babies.” She almost doesn’t say the next words, almost doesn’t want them exposed to the air. “Then we’ll finally be a family.”
“Viktoria.” Oh, she doesn’t want Yuri to cry. She didn’t mean for Yuri to cry—but isn’t that half of their relationship, Viktoria saying things that are foolish and too much and Yuri politely—“aren’t we already a family?”
Four years and a positive pregnancy test later, the Katsuki-Nikiforovs plan to grow a little more.
They send Yakov and Ilia an ultrasound, so the two can privately cry over it and publicly, somberly announce their congratulations. There are also many, many warnings.
“I know how to childproof a house, Yakov,” says Viktoria, “you had child-locks around when I was a teenager.”
“That’s because they still worked on you,” her coach says, with narrowing eyes.
“Mm hmm, the one on the liquor cabinet definitely did.”
“You’re married and having a baby,” Yakov groans, gripping her grey hair. She’s going to bald before her soon-to-be-not-ex-husband, she just knows it, and it’s all because of Viktoria Nikiforov.
Still, Yakov and Ilia are among the first to know, and despite their flat looks—they’re elated. Viktoria knows.
Viktoria feels it, too.
There is no Instagram announcement, to Viktoria’s quiet sorrow. It had been all well and good to stay quiet about it—Russian superstitions about pregnancy have to come from somewhere—until the slightest whisper of an actual baby bump appeared.
Then, as far as Viktoria was concerned, it was time for international celebration.
But Yuri insisted. No announcement; not yet.
Despite Viktoria’s camera roll dominating her storage space—Yuri’s stomach, Yuri’s hair, Yuri’s ankles, god, Viktoria can’t believe she almost forgot about ankles swelling during pregnancy and now she can’t stop thinking about it—
There is no official public announcement whatsoever. Viktoria’s Instagram features Makkachin, Viktoria playing with Yuri’s shining, sleek hair, and Yuri in progressively roomier sweatshirts.
Papa Hiroko and Mama Toshiya are Skyped nearly every weekend, but it’s not until Yuri is sitting at a comfortable 2.5 month mark that Viktoria realizes they haven’t told the Katsukis.
How could they remember to send Yulia diapers and #1 Babysitter T-shirts (they assume both are in the trash by now) and not remember to inform a whole side of the family?
Surely—surely she’s mistaken, and Papa has already been let in on the secret.
“I figured,” Yuri says blithely, “we’d tell them on our next visit to Japan? It’s not the kind of thing to reveal over the phone.”
Viktoria books tickets. Papa Hiroko greets them with a veritable feast: pork cutlet bowl, obviously, oyakodon, vegetables, and… a lot of fish. It’s probably the first time that Viktoria has physically stood between food and her wife. It will hopefully be the last.
“It’s not going to jump into my mouth,” Yuri says dryly, gesturing with her chopsticks. “Pork cutlet bowl is fine, Viktoria, I’m avoiding the fish.”
“I read all the books on food,” Viktoria blurts. “All of them.”
“I know,” Yuri laughs, “they’ve filled up our bed and our couch, I’ve used one for a pillow.”
Hiroko is too busy bustling, and Toshiya too busy with her cup of sake and the soccer game on mute in the background, for either of them to take note. Mari narrows his eyes, quietly resigning to his opinion on strange figure skating diets, and says nothing at all.
Soon, Viktoria thinks, nearly giddy with it, soon, they’ll know. Everyone will know.
“I was thinking!” Viktoria says at bedtime, going through her nightly routine in front of the bathroom mirror, “that making the social media announcement while we’re in Japan might be a good idea? After we tell your parents, of course.”
Yuri shuts her Nintendo3DS with a soft click, purses her lips. Viktoria accidentally slathers on too much face cream.
“I… don’t want to.”
“Oh,” says her own voice, succinctly. “Okay.” Then, because Viktoria doesn’t know when to quit: “Later, then. And while we’re here, we can stockpile your favorite snacks so we’ll get through your cravings easier, and maybe Toshiya will give us advice and Hiroko will give us your old tiny clothes so when the baby’s born…”
It’s not that Yuri interrupts her. But that instant stiffening, the resistance, is enough to make her list to scatter away into the air, breath catching. Yuri doesn’t want to announce the pregnancy. Or discuss it. Or even ask her doting father for scraps of the past.
Things need to be said. She’s never sure how to navigate them. Wiping off her routine, she joins Yuri on the bed, peers at that glass heart through her wife’s pulled-up, defensive knees.
“Are you scared?” Viktoria blurts.
It’s the wrong question. Pride, which usually settles and hums in Yuri’s muscles, sings only on the ice, inflames and kicks at her Yuri’s chest. Stubborn.
“No,” she bites back.
“Do you,” Viktoria starts and stops. Disoriented. Yuri’s been having morning sickness, and now Viktoria’s stomach roils with nausea, won’t settle. But if Yuri won’t say it, she has to—she has to. “Yuri. Did you change your mind about wanting a baby?”
Yuri’s head snaps up. Her fists clench. Viktoria can’t bear the next words—god, Yuri looks ready to fight, ready to—she’s crying. Viktoria’s wife is crying.
“Of course not!” One shudder, tears stubbornly collecting. “I want our baby more than anything!”
She looks away. Something brutal and raw simmers in her eyes.
“Darling,” Viktoria begins on a whisper, but Yuri’s lips tremble. Yuri would never silence her, but Viktoria is learning when to silence herself. So she waits.
“It’s just.” Her fists are rubbing watercolor, messy red streaks across her cheeks. “Just. We haven’t had our baby yet, Viktoria. We’re barely over three months. I—I’m an anxious mess. The first IVF didn’t even take, I… do you know how many babies are lost this early on? Yakov and Ilia and Yuli know, but we needed to, they’re yours, and Yuli’s too observant to not have figured it out. The fewer… the fewer people we tell, the fewer people we…” She won’t finish, just shakes her head. “You’re already so happy, so excited, and I just don’t want to…”
The answer comes in twisting, shivering clarity.
Yuri swallows hard, head bowed. Relief sits darkly in the forsaken and vulnerable curve of her frame. “Yes.” Then: “I’m sorry.”
It’s strange, how easy it is to feel like a monster. Even when no one has done anything wrong—still, there’s hurt. And hurting.
Because Viktoria is pressure, and expectation, and elation over a victory that isn’t assured. A victory that Yuri believes rides on her shoulders, in the unpredictable strength of her body.
It’s their first year of teamwork all over again, and that’s why Viktoria knows better than to lower her own head in shame, to hide behind a mask and retreat. This is her wife. This is her baby. Love and the gift of life.
They’d both wanted this so badly, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be simple.
Yuri always rises to the challenge. Viktoria will too.
“Darling,” she says, finally. “I’m sorry if I made you feel like you were alone. In any way. I never want you to feel—“ the word barely makes it out her throat “—alone.” Never, never again. Not when they’ve finally found each other. “Pregnancy is something we’ll do together—all three of us.”
The fight is gone, just Yuri quietly tracing patterns on her calves, gaze weaving across the coverlet.
“I just,” she laughs, watery. But it is laughter, and Viktoria clings to the sound. “I ruin the things I care about the most. Too much caring, and I screw everything up.”
“I’m insulted,” Viktoria says, sliding in smoothly, and Yuri starts, big brown eyes swinging up to lock on her wife’s face. “You care about me.”
“The most,” Yuri replies instantly, ardently. Viktoria has to resist the urge to flush and bury her face in her hands—there’s a point to be made. She can’t be sidetracked. “And I’ve definitely screwed—“
“Me,” Viktoria interrupts again, because she is easily sidetracked. “You’ve screwed me. You’ve screwed me sideways and backwards and on every surface of our home. But you’ve never screwed me up, darling. We’re still here. We’ll always be here.”
Yuri doesn’t reply aloud, but Viktoria hears it, in the soft kiss pressed to her cheek. I know. I love you.
One deep breath, and Viktoria can feel it all seeping out—tension and fear, dropping away as Yuri nuzzles in to her side.
“Then we'll talk, and buy baby gear, and plan for anything,” she murmurs, fingers of one hand flexing lightly over the green fabric of Viktoria’s jinbei. The others rest on her waist, still deceptively small. “Together. Like we do everything else.”
“I hope you realize,” says Yuri, burrowing further beneath the kotatsu the next morning, “that once we tell them, my mother isn’t letting me leave.”
Toshiya has cheerfully accepted bruises, and bloody noses, and what must have been frankly disturbing noises coming from Viktoria’s room after the Cup of China. Viktoria can’t imagine her being fazed by three healthy months of Yuri’s pregnancy. She’ll probably just drink to it with Minako, quietly smiling. After all, Hiroko welcomes them home without a trace of desperation, every time they visit Japan.
Ah, she muses happily, though we might have to visit Japan a bit more.
“Papa,” Viktoria says, their hands enlaced the next morning, “we’re going to have our first baby.”
Papa Hiroko graciously attempts to look surprised, one small hand over his smiling mouth.
“First?” Mari mutters, because he focuses on the important details. Viktoria carefully ignores this question. The real question is this, and Yuri asks it:
“Will you help us with baby names?”
Over the years, they’ve learned: life isn’t about struggling by yourself. Not one person alone, or two, or even… three.
Together has always meant more than just her and Yuri and their love, after all.
Makkachin is personally escorted over by Yulia, when they don’t make their return flight.