Yuuri stood and walked slowly to the podium. The numbness that had extended over his body since Viktor’s death kept his anxiety at bay, even as he felt the entire room’s eyes on him. Once there, he stilled for a moment before taking a deep breath and looking out over the crowd. Everyone here were people who loved Viktor. Everyone here was someone who was hurting, just like he was.
He opened his mouth. “Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov will be remembered by the world as the most decorated figure skater in history who was never too busy to make a fan happy. He will be remembered by the world for his poise and grace and beauty, but there was so much more to Viktor. Those who knew him will remember his heart shaped smile, the way his eyes sparkled when he laughed and how almost comically forgetful he was. And I will remember Viktor as the man who saw something in me that I couldn’t. I’ll remember Viktor as the man who always met me where I was. I’ll remember Vitkor as the love of my life, who liked to take naps on the couch cuddled around Makkachin and who would pout at me to get his way. I’ll remember Viktor as my husband and the other half to my soul. I’ll remember Viktor as the place home was, no matter where we were.
“I know I’m not very good but whenever Viktor was sick, he liked me to sing to him. Towards the end, I spent a lot of time singing. I hope I was able to give him comfort. I can’t think of a better way to honor him than to perform for him and singing is all I can do in a church, so bear with me, okay?”
Yuuri paused and took a deep breath and closed his eyes. He didn’t need cue cards for the lyrics. He wrote this song for this and the words were already engraved into his heart, just like Viktor was.
“I took the supermarket flowers from the windowsill
I threw the day-old tea from the cup
Packed up the photo album Phichit had made
Memories of a life that's been loved
Took the "Get Well Soon" cards and stuffed animals
Poured the old ginger beer down the sink
Dad always told me, "Don't you cry when you're down."
But, love, there's a tear every time that I blink
Oh, I'm in pieces. It's tearing me up but I know
A heart that's broke is a heart that's been loved
So, I'll sing Hallelujah,
You were an angel in the shape of my love
When I fell down you'd be there holding me up
Spread your wings as you go
And when God takes you back
He'll say, "Hallelujah, you're home."
I fluffed the pillows, made the beds, stacked the chairs up
Folded your nightshirts neatly in a case
Yura said he'd drive, then put his hand on my cheek
And wiped a tear from the side of my face
And I hope that I see the world as you did 'cause I know
A life with love is a life that's been lived
So, I'll sing Hallelujah,
You were an angel in the shape of my love
When I fell down you'd be there holding me up
Spread your wings as you go, when God takes you back
He'll say, "Hallelujah, you're home."
You were an angel in the shape of my love
You got to see the person I have become
Spread your wings and I know
That when God took you back, he said, "Hallelujah, you're home."”
Yuuri took a deep, shaking breath and felt tears spilling down his cheeks and he whispered weakly. “Viktor Katsuki-Nikiforov was the most beautiful idiot I’ve ever met and he’ll be sorely missed. Thank you.”
Yuuri half stumbled down the steps back to his seat and collapsed into it. The first tears he had shed since crying on the floor with Yuri hit him like a truck. That stubborn numbness still sat in the back of his mind, but it was lighter now and with these tears it seemed like maybe he could feel something besides anger again.
The rest of the funeral passed in a blur, Yuuri unable to focus on the other beautiful tributes to his husband, the tears sliding down his face unstoppable. He cried silently until it was time to go to the cemetery and he barely remembered how he got there, let alone what happened afterwards.
The next thing he knew, he was kneeling next to the grave, a handful of dirt clutched in his hand, as he leaned his forehead against the gravestone Yuri had helped him pick out.
“You’d yell at me, wouldn’t you, Vitya,” he whispered. “You didn’t want us to cry over you and here I am, I can’t stop it. Or would you scold me for the dirt on my suit? I wore the Armani you made me get because I knew you’d like to see me in in one last time, but now I’ve made it dirty. You’d be absolutely scandalized.”
“Do you know how hard it will be to get the dirt off of your knees? Yuuuurrrriiii, stand up, that’s Armani ,” a voice with called out from behind him and Yuuri whipped his head around to see Yuri standing behind him. The blonde smiled weakly. “You’re right, he’d lose it.”
Yuuri just stared at him for a few moments and the started to laugh. Real laughter that Yuuri had been uncertain was possible ever again. He slowly released the handful of dirt and brushed his and off on his already dirtied trousers before he stood and pulled Yuri into a hug.
“Yura,” he said softly. “I’ve been unfair to you.”
Yuri snorted. “No one blames you for how you’ve been, otousan, least of all me.”
“Let’s go home,” Yuuri muttered and took Yuri’s hand, leading him back to the car that was waiting to take them back to the apartment.
“Yuuri,” Phichit spoke softly.
Yuuri looked up from the bed. He had been sitting here for the better part of an hour, unable to join the friends and family who had gathered in the apartment. “Hey, Phich,” Yuuri tried to smile, but he could tell how absolutely he had failed with the look on Phichit’s face.
“I’m so sorry,” Phichit whispered and came into the room, sitting on the bed next to Yuuri.
Yuuri sighed. “I think… I’m doing a little better that I have been, but… Phich, I don’t remember how to live without him.”
Phichit wrapped his arm around Yuuri’s shoulders and pulled him close. “You don’t have to. He’s still here with you, Yuuri. Do you think that someone who was as in love with you as Viktor was and frankly, as extra as he was, will let something as simple as death keep him away?”
Yuuri huffed out a laugh. “Alright, I don’t know how to exist in a world where I can’t see Vitya anymore.”
Phichit bit his lip. “That one is harder. You might not like my answer.”
“Lay it on me,” Yuuri muttered.
“As you always have,” Phichit said quietly. “The world does not stop turning because Viktor passed away. He would want you to keep living as you had, take on the new students you told me that you guys were talking about. Viktor would want you to find a way to be happy.”
“Easy for you to say,” Yuuri frowned.
Phichit grimaced. “I thought about this for a long time, Yuuri. I thought… What if it was Chris. What if our roles were reversed and Chris was the one who died and I couldn’t bear the thought. And then I thought about… What if it was me? What would I want for Chris? Tell me, Yuuri, if it was you gone and Viktor was left, what would you hope for him?”
Yuuri chewed on his lip. “It’s just as you said. I’d want him to figure out how to be happy without me.”
Phichit nodded. “And it will take time for you to figure out how to do that, but you have us to help you. Yuri and Chris and me and everyone else who loves you.”
Yuuri felt his eyes fill with tears as he sat there, cradled in Phichit’s arms. Now that he didn’t feel so numb, the feeling of being alone wasn’t as strong, but it was still there.
“I… I want your help, but I can’t guarantee I’ll be kind,” Yuuri whispered.
“I know, Yuuri,” Phichit said softly. “You’re hurting and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that you feel like we don’t understand. To a degree, you aren’t wrong. The closest anyone can get is Yurio, he lost his dad, but even if we can’t fully understand, we love you and we’ll be here by your side until you can be happy again.”
“What if I can’t ever be happy again?” Yuuri muttered into Phichit’s shoulder.
“Well then you’re stuck with us forever,” Phichit waggled his eyebrows.
Yuuri laughed hoarsely. “Don’t you and Chris have jobs and lives to get back to? You’ve both been here for so long already.”
“Well, that’s the thing Yuuri. We both quit to move here. We were kind of hoping that when you went back to coaching you’d let us tag along,” Phichit said quietly. “We weren’t planning on leaving. We even have been looking for an apartment around here so you aren’t stuck with two vagrants in your house.”
Yuuri blinked at this. “Phich…”
“If you want us gone, that’s fine, too,” Phichit said, hurriedly. “No pressure.”
“You know I love you both, right?” Yuuri pulled back. “I’ll go back to coaching and you two can be my assistants. Thank you, Phich.”
Phichit smiled. “You’re our family, too, you know.”
Yuuri found himself smiling back. “I suppose we should go back and talk to the guests, huh?”
“Probably,” Phichit stood and lead the way back to the group in the living room.
As time passed, Yuuri found himself able to smile with more honesty. They were less frequent than they had once been, but he stopped forcing fake smiles onto his face. He went back to work. Mila started to train under him, something that she had spoken to Viktor about before. He took on a few other students as well, younger ones that had potential.
He still had bad days, ones that had him curled up in a ball at home, sobbing and miserable, but they were less and less frequent as time went on. On those days, Phichit and Chris handled the students all on their own. They had finally found an apartment a few blocks over and usually worked alongside Yuuri. He was unendingly grateful for their presence.
Minami visited more frequently than Yuuri thought he should be able to while still competing. He was more than happy to let the young skater use the rink when he was there and offer some tips with Minami’s coach’s permission, but he knew that the back and forth was probably detrimental to his career. One day, he never left. When Minami’s coach called him and begged Yuuri to take on the young man, Yuuri was more than happy to oblige.
His family back in Japan called him like clockwork, once a week. It wasn’t an new occurrence, but Yuuri was grateful for the consistency just the same. They seemed to sense his need for routine and fell into the role without a problem.
But the one he owed the most to was Yuri. The man that looked to his as a father and mentor had fallen almost seamlessly into the role of protective son. After he had moved back home, he never left. The apartment he had been renting was forgotten about and when Otabek expressed interest in moving in together, the blonde asked Yuuri, blushing and embarrassed, if a third person in the apartment was alright. It was Yuri who sat on the floor with Yuuri, surrounded in pictures of Viktor and sobbing together. It was Yuri who picked up the slack around the house, doing the tasks that Viktor had done before. It was Yuri who stood between his otousan and a too pushy reporter when he saw Yuuri getting overwhelmed. It was Yuri who threatened a rude paparazzi when they asked too many questions about Viktor. It was Yuri who gently placed his hand on Yuuri’s shoulder and smiled to drag the older man back to the presence when he saw him drawing in on himself.
Before he knew it, a year had passed. Then two. Yuuri had finally found his new rhythm. He found his new routine and let himself fall into it wholeheartedly, even as Viktor lay in the back of his mind, sitting in the place of honor in his heart, he allowed himself to feel happiness fully again.
He leaned against the barrier of the rink, watching Yuri run through his program when he heard ringing. He frowned at the unknown number on the screen of his cell, but swiped to answer anyway.
“Hello?” Yuuri answered.
“Mr. Katsuki-Nikiforov? This is Ella, with the adoption agency,” the smooth female voice said through the line. When Yuuri didn’t say anything she called out again. “Mr. Katsuki-Nikiforov?”
Yuuri coughed. “Yes, I’m here. Just Yuuri is fine.”
“Yuuri,” Ella said warmly. “I had heard the news about your husband, but I was wondering if you were still interested in adopting? I know it’s been a long time, but I have a child that I think would be perfect for you.”
“I-” Yuuri cut himself off as he turned his back on the rink, trying to keep Yuri from seeing the look on his face. “Can I have a few days to think about it?”
“Absolutely,” Ella said. “Would you like to know about the child or would you like to wait until you’ve made a decision?”
“Tell me,” Yuuri said weakly. Adoption had been his dream with Viktor. Could he do it alone?
“It’s a little girl, age 16 months, her given name is Victoria,” Ella said softly.
Yuuri’s hand flew up to his mouth, trying to suffocate the soft sob attempting to make its way out of his throat. “Victoria?”
“Yes, Victoria. I’ll email you a picture. I honestly thought of you when I saw her because of her attitude. She reminded me of a tiny version of your husband,” Ella said quietly.
Yuuri bit his lip. “I want her. I want to go through with it.”
“Lovely,” Ella said warmly. “I’ll need you to come in and meet her, sign some papers and such.”
“Can I bring my son with me? Yura is twenty two, but he is currently living with me,” Yuuri said quietly.
“Of course,” Ella replied. “Can you come in tomorrow? I know it’s soon, but I’d like to get you together as soon as possible.”
“Alright,” Yuuri bit his lip. “We will see you tomorrow.”
Hanging up the phone he turned back to the rink and noted Yuri standing in the center, looking at him curiously. When he saw Yuuri was off the phone, he skated over. “Are you okay, otousan?”
“Yeah,” Yuuri said softly. “Yura, do you remember when I told you that Vitya and I had been talking about adopting?”
Yuri nodded. “Yes.”
“Well, what I didn’t tell you is we had already started the process. We talked about it an awful lot, until… I suppose he stopped mentioning it when he got diagnosed. I didn’t know at the time, I just thought… Maybe he had lost interest,” Yuuri studied the barrier between them.
“Why are you telling me this now?” Yuri asked.
“I just got off the phone with the adoption agency,” Yuuri turned his eyes up to Yuri’s to gauge his reaction.
Yuri’s face remained impassive. “You’re not alone,” he said quietly. “If you still want a kid, you won’t be by yourself to raise it.”
“Her,” Yuuri corrected. “I won’t be alone to raise her. Ella, the agent assigned to me, offered me a baby girl named Victoria.”
“Oh, otousan,” Yuri’s eyes softened. “Is that what they call fate?”
“I don’t know, Yura, but will you come with me tomorrow to meet her?” Yuuri smiled a little bit.
“Of course,” Yuri said without hesitation. “Do you think I’d pass up the opportunity to beat out Chris and Phichit to holding my baby sister?”
Yuuri laughed. “Fair enough. Thank you, Yura.”
“Otousan, you know I meant it, right? You’re not going to be alone with this kid. In fact I’m pretty sure you’re going to have to beat people off with a stick to get alone time once she arrives,” Yuri grinned.
“I know, Yura,” Yuuri smiled back. “It’s been a while since I’ve felt alone.”
“I’m glad. I know it’s been difficult, but I didn’t like seeing you suffer,” Yuri turned away and skated to the center of the rink to start running through his program again.
“Hello, Victoria,” Yuuri said quietly, smiling down at the little girl who shyly blinked up at him. “I want to be your otousan. This is Yura.”
Yuri shuffled forward and smiled down at the bright eyed child. “Hi, Victoria. I’ll be your big brother,” Yuri turned and grinned at Yuuri. “Otousan, look at her, she looks like she really is my sister! And her eyes kind of look like dad’s.”
The little girl looked between them and then a huge smile broke out on her face. She babbled at them and then reached out and pulled on Yuri’s long hair, much to his amusement. Yuuri laughed watching them interact and soon found himself with the little girl in his arms, clutching onto the strings of his sweatshirt. Viktor’s sweatshirt. Yuuri had worn it today to feel like Viktor was close to him while he went through with this. She studied the end of one of the strings for a moment before she shoved it in her mouth and Yuuri was suddenly struck with the memory of Viktor chewing absent mindedly on the very same string as he planned choreography at their kitchen table.
He smiled wistfully as he watched her in his arms until Yuri touched his arm. “You okay, otousan?”
Yuuri blinked and nodded. “Ella was right, she makes me think of Vitya.”
Yuri nodded. “That’s not a bad thing, right?”
Yuuri shook his head. “Not at all. I love her already.”
“That’s good,” Ella said from behind them. “As much as I’d love for you to be able to take her with you today, I have a lot of paperwork we have to get through and I need to set up a home study to look at your apartment.”
Yuuri smiled down at the little girl. “Whatever I have to do.”
Yuuri was running around like a crazy person. To be honest, if Yuri had to watch him nervously wipe down one more surface for the thousandth time, he might have to tie the older man to a chair.
“Otousan, put down the rag, everything is clean,” Yuri said finally, crossing his arms.
Yuuri stilled and took a deep breath. “I just want this to go well. Everything in the nursery is set up, right?”
Yuri rolled his eyes and walked over to Yuuri, placing his hands on the older man’s shoulders. “Everything is perfect.”
Yuuri bit his lip and looked away. “I wish…”
“I know,” Yuri said quickly. “Me too. Dad would have known just how to keep you calm.”
Yuuri looked up at Yuri, his eyes filling quickly with tears even as he tried to blink them away. “I’m sorry, I’m just nervous.”
Yuri smiled. “Who wouldn’t be?”
“You’re right, I just… Am I doing the right thing, Yura?” Yuuri fidgeted.
“Do you want Victoria?” Yuri asked after a moment.
Yuuri nodded without hesitation. “Of course I do.”
“Then you’re doing the right thing. Don’t second guess yourself, otousan. You’re a wonderful parent,” Yuri said gently.
“Am I? I feel like I’ve done so many things wrong with you,” Yuuri studied his shoes.
“I think I’d know best if you were a good parent or not, hm?” Yuri frowned. “Out of anyone I’m the most qualified to make that judgement.”
Yuuri smiled weakly. “But you were 15 when we met, 17 when we got the papers through. Victoria is a toddler. It’s different.”
“It is,” Yuri nodded in agreement. “But it’s also the same. Don’t overthink it, just be yourself and everything will be fine.”
Yuuri narrowed his eyes. “I think those two things are mutually exclusive.”
Yuri bit his lip to try to keep from laughing. “Fair enough. Okay, how about this. Channel your inner dad.”
Yuuri just stared at him and Yuri began to wonder if he’d said the wrong thing. After a few moments Yuuri took a deep breath. “So, stupidly confident and obnoxiously enthusiastic?”
Yuri couldn’t stop the laughter this time. “I think maybe just don’t panic?”
“Okay. I think I can do that,” Yuuri smiled and pulled Yuri into a hug. “Thank you, Yura.”
Yuri was going to respond, but the door buzzer rang before he could open his mouth. Yuuri went stiff before he pulled away and nervously smoothed imaginary wrinkles from his clothes before going to the entryway to buzz in the home inspector.
The inspection went smoothly, better than Yuuri could have hoped for. Yuri was a calming presence, even if he didn’t speak much while the inspector was in the house. Now all they could do was wait.
“Welcome home, Victoria,” Yuuri said softly. He was cradling the toddler in his arms, having just picked her up from Ella.
Her bright eyes looked around the apartment as she clutched onto the front of Yuuri’s shirt. After a few moments of looking around she blinked up at him and grinned. She babbled incoherently at him for a little while before she was trying to stretch out of his arms.
Yuuri laughed, watching her squirm. “Okay, okay. You want to explore?” He leaned down and placed her on the floor and she was immediately walking around like a tiny drunken person. Yuuri bit his lip, snorting a soft laugh to himself as he walked just behind her.
“Otousan,” Yuri called, coming out of his bedroom. “You’re back?”
“Yes, we’re in the living room,” Yuuri called back.
He heard some movement and then Yuri and Otabek appeared from down the hall. “Look, Beka, look, it’s my baby sister,” Yuri said, tugging on Otabek’s sleeve like a little kid.
Otabek squatted in front of the child and offered her a little smile. “Hello there, I’m Otabek. Nice to meet you.”
“Her name is Victoria,” Yuri said, kneeling next to Otabek. “Do you remember me, Victoria? I’m your big brother.”
Victoria blinked suspiciously at Otabek before she waddled over to Yuri and pulled on his hair. Yuuri giggled quietly. “She really likes your hair, Yura.”
“She’s going to rip it out if she does that every time she sees me,” Yuri grumbled, but he was beaming at the little girl.
Yuuri stood back at watched as his two children interacted, smiling to himself. Maybe this would go well. There was still a nagging fear inside him that he couldn’t do this without Viktor, but he knew he wasn’t alone now. He knew that he had a support group that stood by his side no matter what was thrown at him. He had a family that spanned more than blood ties and official papers. He wasn’t alone.
“Look, Victoria, that’s your grandpa. He was like a father to your Papa. I’m sure you’ll love him,” Yuuri smiled as he bounced the little girl in his arms. Yakov was sitting on the couch, tears glistening in his eyes as he looked at them. “Do you want to say hi?”
He moved to sit on the couch next to Yakov. Victoria looked over at him with wide eyes. She stretched halfway out of Yuuri’s arms and placed a tiny hand on Yakov’s nose. “Hi,” she said. It was a little garbled, her speech still developing, but it was clear enough.
“Can you say ‘grandpa’?” Yuuri asked gently.
Victoria looked back at Yuuri and them shyly buried her face in Yuuri’s shoulder, clutching to his shirt. “Toan,” she squeaked out.
Yuuri giggled softly and ran his hand up and down her back. “She can’t pronounce otousan yet,” he explained, looking down at the child in his arms fondly. “She just calls me ‘toan’. Isn’t it cute?”
Yakov smiled slightly, but he hesitated. “Are you certain you want me to be her grandfather?”
Yuuri studied the little girl in his arms as she chewed on her finger. “You were very important to Vitya, Mr. Feltsman. If he were still with us, he’d want you to have that role and I wouldn’t want it to be any other way. Plus, I want her to know exactly who her Papa was and you’re part of that.”
Yakov reached out and let Victoria curl her little hand around his finger. “Perhaps you should just call me Yakov then,” he said softly.
Yuuri smiled at him. “Does that mean you’re going to stop calling me Katsuki?”
Yakov huffed to himself. “Yura already yelled at me for that, if you’d remember.”
Yuuri blinked a few times, the memory from that time rushing over him but he shook it off. “I meant, you could call me Yuuri.”
“Yuuri,” Yakov said in an agreeable tone. “I think I could manage that.”
“Yuuri!” A voice called as they heard the front door close. Yuuri turned and smiled as Phichit and Chris came in.
“Hey guys,” Yuuri said warmly. “I have someone I want you to meet.”
“It’s about time. Hello, Mr. Feltsman,” Phichit bounced into the room, waving to Yakov before he turned to Yuuri. “Give me my god-niece!” He held out his arms excitedly.
Yakov nodded his greeting as Yuuri stood up, rolling his eyes. “If I hadn’t planned on asking you already, I would probably be offended that you just assumed you are going to be her god parents.”
Phichit scoffed. “Of course we will be!”
Yuuri tilted his head to the side, a teasing glint in his eyes. “Maybe I’ll ask Minami-kun. Or Yura and Beka.”
Phichit pouted. “Can I just hold her?”
Yuuri laughed. “Victoria, can you say ‘hi’ to Uncle Phichit and Uncle Chris?”
Victoria looked at Phichit for a long moment before she looked back at Yuuri and said several half formed words and ended her little unintelligible rant with ‘toan’.
Yuuri nodded along with whatever she was trying to tell him, a serious look on his face. “Yes, Victoria, I understand. Do you want Uncle Phichit to hold you?”
Victoria seemed to think about if for a few seconds before she reached out for Phichit. Phichit gladly took her and cooed. “Aren’t you just the cutest? I’m going to be your favorite uncle, you’ll see. We’re going to have a ton of fun together!”
Yuuri snorted out a laugh. “You have a long line to beat off to be her favorite Uncle, Phich.”
Phichit hugged Victoria to himself and sent an offended look to Yuuri. “Do you doubt me?”
“I’m not even going to touch that. I’ll just settle for second favorite,” Chris said with a laugh. He turned to Yuuri and hugged him. “How are you, you look tired.”
Yuuri smiled. “Parenthood isn’t the easiest,” he admitted. “But I’m happy.”
“Good,” Chris smiled.
Victoria was squishing her little hands into Phichit’s face as the man made faces at her. She giggled happily as he crossed his eyes. “She’s so precious,” he sighed happily.
“She really is,” Yuuri laughed while watching his best friend play with Victoria. He glanced back at the clock. “Yura and Beka should be home soon. You’re all staying for dinner, right?”
“Sure, that sounds great,” Phichit grinned.
“Okay,” Yuuri smiled and reached out, booping Victoria on the nose. “Stay here and play with your Uncles and your Grandpa, alright, Victoria? Otousan has to make dinner.”
Victoria squealed happily and Yuuri laughed before turning away to head to the kitchen.
Yuuri smiled down at Victoria who was wearing the onsie that Yuri had made for her that looked like Viktor’s Stammi Vicino costume. Today, Chris and Phichit had agreed to coach the students on their own, giving Yuuri a whole day to himself with just him and the toddler. As grateful as he was for the support network he had, sometimes it was nice to spend time alone with his child. Recently, it had seemed like there was a constant stream of people in and out of the apartment.
Victoria sat on the floor, shaking a rattle happily a foot or so in front of Yuuri. He smiled down at the little girl. “I wish you could have met your Papa,” he said quietly. “Vitya would have loved you so much. I’m sure he’s watching us now, loving you just as much as I do.”
Victoria cooed at him and suddenly, Yuuri felt a chill run up his spine, like familiar eyes on him. He shivered and looked around as if what he felt could have actually been real. He sighed softly to himself. “You’re with us, right, Vitya?” he whispered to the empty room. “Isn’t our little girl beautiful?”
The chill tightened his back muscles again and as much as Yuuri’s logical brain told him he was imagining the feeling he couldn’t help but smile at the thought that Viktor was still with him, despite everything.
“Vitya, are you proud of me?” He asked, reaching out to stack up some of Victoria’s blocks.
Victoria looked at him curiously and reached out for him. “Toan.”
Yuuri smiled and took the little girl in his arms. “Don’t ever forget, Victoria, no matter what happens, we aren’t alone. No matter what, we have family and your Papa is always with us.”