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Consideration

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Your kingdom is not a prestigious one.  

It is newly formed, where kingdoms are concerned, and borne out of the immense wealth gained by the unification of two powerful, coastal merchant families.  You are the product of this infant dynasty--less a princess and more an heiress. Nevertheless, you take your title seriously, and you take the continued prosperity of your kingdom even more seriously.  So, when your parents inform you that the negotiations with the neighboring kingdom went well, and that your hand in marriage is to be the price of attaining more security and prestige for your homeland, you accept the news with dignity and grace.  

Perhaps, had you known the character of the prince you were to be marrying, you would have put up a bit more of a fuss.

--

The first sign that something is dreadfully amiss comes when you meet your soon to be parents-in-law.  They are much too eager to greet you when your chauffeur helps you from your carriage, and the furtive glances they send every which way--as if they were looking over their collective shoulder for someone or something--do nothing to help put you at ease in your new surroundings.  Still, at least they are kind, and do not seem to look down on you for barely being royalty, as many other kingdoms believe you to be. If anything, they seem eager to please you, which is particularly strange given that they are the ones from the royal family with the generations of history and prestige in their blood.  You are aware of the fact that the Matsuno royal family was only willing to accept someone like you because of how desperately they needed your family’s tremendous mercantile fortune. This arrangement was to be a marriage of convenience that would unite established reputation with new money. Two monarchs had no need to attempt to please someone in your position, at least, not personally.

The three of you come before a set of massive, pearly white doors inlaid with a golden silhouette mimicking a forest of pines.  You have no time to admire the intricate pattern before two guards yank open the doors and the king and queen shove you bodily inside before slamming the door behind you.  With a shout, you stumble into a sizable hall that is entirely absent of furniture save a chaise lounge sitting directly in the center of the room. Upon that lounge is a young man in fine garb with slicked back, black hair adorned with cherry red streaks running through it.  He is tipped halfway off the lounge in a deep sleep, his mouth hanging agape as he snores loudly. You notice that a slightly dented crown has rolled away several feet from where the young man is sleeping, undoubtedly having had fallen off of his head whenever he’d dozed off.  

You realize, with growing dread, who this man likely is, and how he may be responsible for the behavior of the king and queen.  

Taking a deep breath, you straighten your back, and slowly advance on the sleeping man in the center of the room.  He twitches, bodily, and you rear back in surprise until you realize that he still has not awoken. After a few moments, you again rouse the courage to continue forward.  Once in front of him, you slowly bend over and gently prod him in the cheek with a finger. Lazily, he reaches up to slap his hand up against the center of your face while groaning,

“Ss…’op it, Choromatsu, I’m not gonna learn about yer dumb taxes.”

Gasping, you wrench his hand from your face and wrap your fingers around his wrist.  Giving a mighty heave, you pull the stranger off of his lounge so that he falls off of it and lands face first directly into the marble floor.  This is not something he takes kindly to. Before you can properly react, you hear a shouted curse, and feel the force of a body colliding with your middle and knocking you to the ground.  Your breath leaves you in a rush as you are tackled and then promptly pinned to the floor, your hands over your head and your tiara skittering off somewhere you cannot see. Your aggressor bears down on you, his nose to yours as he shouts,

“How many times does your older brother need to put you in your place, you jackaaaa-”  

The last syllable gets caught in your aggressor’s throat as the realization you are not whoever he thinks you are seems to finally dawn on him.  Dark eyes blow wide in shock, taking in your face. You are breathing heavily, chest heaving, heart in your bared throat as you can almost physically feel his gaze travel from your face and down your form.  For one very, very long minute, his eyes focus on your chest before finally going back to your face. The shocked expression on his face abruptly turns smug. With lowered lids and a wide grin, he says,

Score.

You immediately press both of your feet into his stomach and kick him off of you with all of the indignant fury you can muster.

Chapter Text

With your skirts bunched between your fingers so as to not impede your decisive strides, you march towards the entrance of the Matsuno castle and off to freedom.  One servant trails behind you, attempting to balance your impressive collection of luggage while matching your fervent pace. Behind the unfortunate servant are the kingdom’s monarchs, both of them very desperately shouting after your quickly disappearing figure.  You manage to make it all the way to the double set of staircases that lead you from the Great Hall when you hear two synchronized thuds and feel two sets of arms wrap around either of your ankles.     

“Please don’t leave!  I don’t want my dynasty to die out just because my firstborn is a super lame virgin!” King Matsuzo begs you from his place latched onto your left leg.  You let out a surprised shriek when you feel the Queen tighten the hold she has on your right ankle into a vice grip. With watery eyes, she pleads you,   

“No one else would agree to marry him!  We know he’s good for nothing, but please-!!!”  

You are flustered, to say the very least.  To have two monarchs reduced to begging you on hands and knees to stay and marry their son is not even remotely the situation you had been mentally preparing yourself for since you’d heard news of your engagement.  While their behavior is certainly undignified, you can’t help but feel rather badly for them. Nevertheless, your pity could only extend so far. Every time you thought back to the prince’s drooling face as he slept instead of waiting to meet you, something bitter stirs in your gut and purges you of most of your sympathy for his parents.     

“I understand that acquiring a wife for your son is very important, but perhaps you should consider making him a worthy husband before trying to marry him off!” you inform the king and queen while trying in vain to dislodge them from your ankles.  When you glance up to send the servant who’d been carrying your luggage a pleading look, it is to find that they are very studiously staring at their own shoes and pointedly avoiding your gaze. You can’t blame them for not wanting to be stuck between choosing you or the king and queen.  Still, you would think someone around here would feel at least a little bit badly for your predicament.

It is amidst all of this chaos that none of you notice the root of everyone’s problems appear on the scene.  Only when he calls out to you from his position leaned lazily up against a pillar that you realize he is there.  

“So you’re chickening out, then?  I didn’t think someone so important from your kingdom would turn out to be such a quitter ,” the prince remarks casually while digging a finger into one of his ears.  Immediately, you snap your head in his direction just as he pulls his finger away to examine whatever he’s managed to get stuck to it.  You gape at him while he carelessly flicks away his earwax and begins taking the stairs at a slow pace towards your position.

“I beg your pardon?” you ask him incredulously.  Now only a few steps away from where you are at the bottom of the staircase, the prince tilts his head back so that he’s looking down his nose at you.  His lips curl into a bemused smirk.

“You heard me, Princess.  You’re a quitter. And that’s something coming from me, you know.  I’m a professional at not doing jack shit,” he informs you. He sounds proud of being able to tell you he’s perfected the art of being hopelessly slothful.  You find yourself lost somewhere between raw indignation and utter shock. His parents, however, seem happy to step in while you blink dumbly up at their son.  Both of them are on their feet, shouting various curses at the young man until you finally manage to gather your bearings.

“I am not a quitter,” you say, slowly, your voice low and unsure.  The other three royals turn to look at you as you try to find your words and your spine.  Straightening your posture, and collecting your dignity, you lift your chin and inform the prince, “My kingdom did not become as prosperous as it is because its leadership simply quits.  It’s incredibly insulting you would make that kind of accusation against its princess. I demand satisfaction! Take back your insults and perhaps I shall forgive your many slights against my person.”

You can barely keep the smile off of your face now that you feel more and more like the monarch you were raised to be.  Your response had been both dignified and altruistic, and you like to imagine that your parents would be proud of you for handling this prince’s poor manners so effectively.  You reach up to readjust your tiara and reassert your status when the prince’s lips spread into the widest smile you’ve seen from him yet.

“Oh, I can give you all the satisfaction you need, Princess.  But you might not make it to the wedding first if I do,” the prince purrs, his voice low and his tone impossibly smug.  Whatever dignity you’d regained in the last minute immediately leaves you as you let out a gasp of insulted horror and lob your tiara directly into the prince’s face.  The prince drops like a stone while you fume and stomp over to the servant still uselessly hanging onto your luggage. With a mighty heave, you wrench your belongings from the lackey and begin an undignified hobble towards the castle entrance.  It was very difficult to remain balanced while trying to hold on to both your skirts and all of these bags. You make it right up to the set of double doors when you hear a familiar voice wheeze out, “Chicken.”

You drop all of your luggage at once.  Your skirts billow out around you like clouds in a storm as you turn around and immediately march back towards the continued source of your offense.  You have no idea why you keep allowing this man to get under your skin, aside from the fact that he is a royal and you feel as if you deserve his respect, even if your bloodline may not be as storied as his.  Okay, perhaps you may have had a bit of a chip on your shoulder and something to prove. Either way, this prince was going to find out the cost of continuing to test your temper.

You skid to a stop in front of the staircase, your hands on your hips and your lips pulled into a deep scowl.  The prince is only now just starting to sit up, and is rubbing at his likely bruised nose. He has your tiara in one of his hands.     

“I am not a chicken, nor am I quitter, your highness,” you sneer up at the prince.  The prince scrunches his nose at you, and you can tell he’s making a very concerted effort to not smile.  Deep down, you know that responding to his goading the way you are is giving him more than he deserves. Still, you can do nothing to stop the words that tumble out of your mouth as you inform him, “I am staying here.  And I am marrying you.  But not before I make a proper spouse and king out of you first.  We do things my way or no way at all.”

Both the king and queen give out elated gasps, which you decide to ignore in favor of narrowing your eyes at your betrothed.  He finally does smile at you, all the while radiating a smugness that makes you want to slap him across the face. His cheek in a hand, he tilts his head at you and sing-songs,

“We’ll see~”

Chapter Text

You are in the middle of trying to explain the tense political climate between the Fish Kingdom and the Cat Kingdom when you glance up just in time to see Prince Osomatsu wedging the rounded end of an extremely expensive fountain pen up one of his nostrils.  When he catches you staring at him with your mouth agape and one eyelid twitching conspicuously, he shoots you a toothy grin and holds up another, unmolested fountain pen for you to see.

“I’m trying to-” he starts, his voice coming out in a nasally pitch as he starts in an attempt to get the other pen up his free nostril.  Upon seeing this effort, you immediately launch yourself halfway across the desk you’ve been situated at for the last, fruitless hour, and swat the pen away viciously while screaming,

“What in the name of our good Lord Akatsuka are you doing!? ”  

Osomatsu turns to watch the pen spiral off across the room before looking back to you with a deadpan expression.  The effect, however, remains somewhat diminished by the pen still hanging from his nose. The prince heaves a whistling sigh and leans a cheek onto one fist while he explains to you,  

“Well, I was trying to show you my impression of a walrus--Jyushimatsu loves it, I’ll have you know--but then you decided to be a even more of a stick in the mud than you already are.”

As you try, with little progress, to comprehend the reply Osomatsu has given you, the prince finally yanks the other pen from his nose.  He puckers out his lips and tries to balance the pen there instead. After watching Osomatsu fail at this several times, you finally grab said pen before realizing just where it had been not a minute prior.  Grimacing, you drop it somewhere behind yourself and look back towards your intended. Still propped up casually by the elbow, Osomatsu waggles his eyebrows at you when he sees you looking his way. With as much patience as you can muster, you delicately twine your fingers together and fold your hands over lower abdomen with the poise you’d been taught to evoke since a young age.  

“It has come to my attention that in the last..” you trail off and glance to the small, golden pocketwatch you have sitting open next to the manuscripts you’d been reading earlier.  When you see the time, a sneer steals quickly across your face before you can stop it. You remind yourself of your manners, and smooth your expression as you continue, “...hour...that I’ve managed to make very little progress in the task of making you a more able and prepared royal.”  

Osomatsu opens his mouth to say something, but you cut him off sharply before he can stoke the slowly simmering rage building within you.  

“I’ve considered the possibility that my methods are at fault.  Not everyone learns the exact same way. How do you best learn something new, Osomatsu?” you ask him, sweetly.  You try to remain optimistic, which is, of course, an entirely foolish endeavor given who it is you’re dealing with.  Osomatsu throws both of his hands behind his head and kicks his feet onto the desk. Leaning back as far as he can--somehow without tipping over his chair, he tells you,

“I don’t do learning.  I always sucked at school.  All of us did. Gave all those fancy-schmancy tutors our parents got us hell when we were kids, you know?”

Osomatsu looks at you and sweeps his arms out in a wide arc ahead of him.  You assume this is meant to emphasize both the breadth of his tutors’ suffering as well as his and his brothers’ efforts.  Osomatsu speaks often of his brothers, despite the fact that all of them are conspicuously absent from the castle. Apparently, the ruling monarchs had thought their eldest likely more than enough to scare you off, and had thus sent the rest of their sons elsewhere until you’d become acclimated enough not to bolt at the sight of five other belligerent young men with Osomatsu’s face.  For now, as far as you’re aware, things around the castle are as peaceful as they likely will ever be. Unfortunately, that isn’t saying much.

“Surely there must be something you’re good at.  Something you enjoy?” you press Osomatsu encouragingly.  He cocks his head to one side before a grin you’ve already begun to recognize as a warning to your fraying sanity splits his face.  Already exasperated, you collapse back into your chair and sigh, “Your sex life, dubious as I find your tellings of it, does not qualify.”  

Osomatsu frowns and slumps in his seat.  The both of you stare sullenly at one another from across the desk before Osomatsu abruptly perks up and shouts, “Gambling!”  

Dread seizes your heart, and you bury your face in your hands.

“Lord Akatsuka, please...whatever I did in another life to deserve divine punishment, I think I’ve suffered enough,” you plead to a higher power you somehow know laughs at you in particular.  You feel fingers curl around your wrists, but before you can properly react, Osomatsu has already peeled your hands away from your face so that he can peer into your eyes. He’s ridiculously close to you now, his body already halfway across the desk and his dark eyes twinkling in visible mirth at your obvious predicament.  He has several errant strands of red and black hair hanging messily in his face, and his cheeks are colored such a soft pink, you almost feel compelled to reach out and touch him. As soon as the thought occurs to you, your heart lurches in panic in your chest, and you yank your hands away from Osomatsu’s in defensive haste.  

“Listen, listen, it’s not as bad as it sounds!  I mean, there’s money involved, which is like, math or something, right?” Osomatsu explains while stubbornly trying to reach for your hands again.  You try to scoot your chair back and away from the prince, only to realize you have nowhere to run with the sturdy bureau behind you. Osomatsu unashamedly and without dignity drags himself even further across the desk to snatch up your hands so that he can begin plucking at your fingers.  You realize he’s trying to stick your digits up as if to count off the very few points he’s making.

“And what kind of royal doesn’t know how to take risks?  Your parents took risks when they made your super rich kingdom, didn’t they?”  

Distressingly, you find that Osomatsu makes a rather valid point.  Making the leap from bourgeoisie to bona fide royalty had involved a lot of luck and chance, from what your parents had told you, anyway.  There had been a lot of hard work involved too, of course, but you weren’t above admitting that capitalizing on risky opportunities had come into play on a multitude of occasions throughout your family history.  Your silence seems to speak for itself. Osomatsu grins triumphantly at you as you scramble to take back control of the situation. Finally, you manage,

“Correct as you might be on that point, there’s always doing things in excess.  That being said, I’ve elected to address your multitude of vices at a later date.  For now, let’s readdress your gambling habit.”

Osomatsu pulls a face.

“I thought you said you weren’t going to nag me.”  

With a sniff, you attempt to pull your hands away from Osomatsu’s again as you say,  

“I’m not.  I’m insinuating that maybe you can learn something if I give you a reward-”

Osomatsu releases your hands, but only so that he can lurch forward and plant both of his on either arm of your chair.  An impossibly eager smile on his face, Osomatsu scoots the rest of the way across the desk so that he’s practically sitting in your lap.  You turn your head so that you’re not looking at him directly. Being in such close proximity isn’t proper.

“What kind of reward?!  Hugging!? Kissing!? Maybe even-”

You slap both of your hands across his mouth and heave a breath out through your nose.  Mentally, you reassure yourself that the flush on your cheeks is from fury, and nothing else.  

“I will allow you the privilege of my company, sans any lessons or other responsibilities,” you tell him.  Osomatsu’s brows furrow, and you can see the confusion coloring his eyes before you amend hastily, “-So that we may get to know one another better.  If we’re to be married, it’d be...nice if we could learn to get along.”

Osomatsu’s eyebrows shoot up high across his forehead in surprise.  You fix your gaze to your lap and drop your hands from his mouth.

“So you’re asking me on a date, then?” Osomatsu muses airly.  You snap your head up, a flustered response on your tongue. You expect to see Osomatsu grinning at you triumphantly, a teasing glimmer in his eyes not unlike when you’d agreed to marry him.  Instead, he’s staring at you intently--wondrously--his mouth slightly parted and his eyes shining with an emotion you don’t recognize. Your throat feels dry.

“I-I guess…” you finally manage to mumble as you tuck your chin to your chest.  Upon hearing that, Osomatsu pushes himself away from you, and hops off of the desk.  You watch in stunned silence as he takes his seat back opposite you.

“All right, lay it on me then.  Let’s get learning about your dumb diplomas or whatever.”

Very wearily, you correct him,

“It’s diplomacy.”  

Chapter Text

Plink.  Plink.

A light, persistent sound against the glass of the study window rouses you from your thoughts.  You’d been diligently poring over trade negotiations for the better part of the morning, and had sworn yourself away from any distractions until lunchtime.  The plan had seemed plausible enough when you’d made it, given that your intended was apparently preoccupied with something at the stables that required his attention.  While you weren’t sure precisely what duties could ever demand Osomatsu’s supervision, you weren’t one to dismiss an opportunity for progressing through your work without the prince’s ardent attempts at distracting you from it.  

And yet, here you were, being distracted.  

With a frown on your lips, you glance towards the window to see if you can determine the nature of the sounds you’d heard earlier.  From where you’re sitting, you can see nothing out of the ordinary. You shake your head and turn back to your work. Your efforts proceed undisturbed for another minute before the sounds pick up again, followed by the very startling TONK of something heavy hitting the window.  When you jolt and glance up towards the window again, it is to find the glass spiderwebbed with cracks.  You gape, dumbfounded, at the damage until Osomatsu very slowly slides into view from outside. Even with his expression painted dizzyingly across mismatched shards of cracked glass, you can still see the guilt slowly manifesting across his face as he realizes the damage you’re certain he’s the cause of.  The two of you meet gazes and Osomatsu reaches up to scratch bashfully at the back of his head.

With a sigh and a shake of your head, you push yourself away from the desk and go over to the window.  It takes some careful maneuvering for you to be able to open the window without causing much further damage, but you manage the feat and lean your upper body out into the midmorning air so that you can address your visitor.  Osomatsu is grinning at you shamelessly. You come to the conclusion he doesn’t feel very bad for breaking that window at all.

“To what do I owe the pleasure of your sudden company?” you drawl, leaning your cheek into a waiting palm as you appraise your intended.  Osomatsu’s cheeks are flushed, his hair askew and chest rising and falling with rapid breaths that tell you he’s exerted himself in some fashion or another.  It’s a nice change compared to how often you see him sedentary.

Osomatsu is never subtle about how he looks you over, as he is doing now.  You follow his eyes as he takes in what he can see of you. You see the way he takes his lower lip between his teeth and the way his fingers flex with anxious, unspent energy from their place at his sides.  All you can think of is how greedy he is. He’s royalty that’s probably been given practically everything he’s ever wanted, but when he looks at you, you can tell he wants more .  

More of what, you’re not precisely sure, but you have your ideas.  For whatever reason, those ideas send a thrill of excitement through you, rather than a shudder of disgust that you know would have been there when you’d first arrived.  

“What?” Osomatsu asks you back, apparently so distracted by what he can see of your decolletage that he’s forgotten what he’s come here to bother you about in the first place.  You tap your forefinger to the windowsill a few times to get his attention, and Osomatsu stiffens as he seems to come back to himself. He laughs and rubs a finger under his nose--a quirk of his you’re quickly becoming used to seeing from him.  Once he remembers what he came for, a grin steals across his face, and he leans forward towards you and whispers conspiratorially, “I came to bust you out for our date.”

Your brows furrow.

“Date?  I know I said we would go on one, but we haven’t arranged a time or-”

Osomatsu snorts and shakes his head, cutting you off.  Waving a hand dismissively through the air, he tells you,

“You spend too much time planning.  A date’s not gonna be any fun if you’re too worried about all of your schedules.  So, just leave the fun stuff to me, and all of the boring studying stuff to you.”

“It’s not that boring-” you start, but Osomatsu thrusts out his hand towards your face before you can finish.  You flinch back, having had not expected the sudden gesture, but you relax once he starts wiggling his fingers and shooting you a lopsided grin.  Still, you don’t take the proffered hand. Instead, you fold your arms across your chest and shoot Osomatsu a flat look as you amend, “It’s important.  Work, that is.”

“Relaxing is fun too.  More fun, actually. Like, infinitely more fun.  Though I’m startin’ to think you don’t even know what fun is,” Osomatsu muses.  He tilts his head to the side in a gesture you think you would find cute if not for the fact he was trying to justify his lazy habits.  You know that he’s trying to arouse that competitive part of yourself--the part that simply can’t help but rise to the bait of his various challenges--and you hate that you can feel the undeniable pull of your desire to meet his provocations.  Pursing your lips, you take a deep breath in through your nose in an effort to resist the urge to prove him wrong. Just because you were right didn’t mean you had to prove it every time Osomatsu challenged that fact. Osomatsu’s smile widens as he watches your plainly obvious attempts to refrain from disproving him.  He wags a finger back and forth in front of your face while chirping in sing-song, “Princess No Fun~”

Your desire to prove him wrong gets the better of you, and you swat his hand away from your face as you snap, “Fine!  I shall go on your date! You may show me what you consider fun as I obviously have no idea what is!”

You don’t expect Osomatsu to react as easily as he does.  He steps back and holds his arms out towards you, as if expecting you to step into them.  You look him up and down dubiously, not entirely sure what he wants from you. Osomatsu rolls his eyes and shakes his arms.

“I’m gonna carry you out the window!  You know, prince-like,” he explains. You give him a level look.

“We’re on the first story.  I can climb out the window myself, thank you.”

Osomatsu heaves a beleaguered sigh and jerks his chin downwards, towards the planter he’s standing in.  You can see he’s managed to wedge himself into the space between the window and the decorative rosebushes.  He has thorns caught in his trousers.

“I’m offering to carry you so you don’t get all your skirts stuck in the bushes.  I mean, if you wanna get them torn off, there’s way more fun ways to do it, if you know what I mean,” Osomatsu informs you, his voice lowering an octave as he attempts to shoot you what you assume is meant to be a seductive look.  With a scoff, you step forward and begin climbing through the window.

“No need.  I’ll allow your generous show of...chivalry, then,” you tell him.  You’ve managed to get yourself into the windowsill, your back parallel to the frame behind you and your feet braced precariously across the sill.  You turn your upper body so that you can wrap your arms around Osomatsu’s neck. From the corner of your eye, you can see the smile on his lips widen, and then you feel him scoop your legs into his arms.  For a brief moment, he’s carrying you, full to the brim with smug confidence as you blink up at his face with wide eyes. You find yourself flustered by the way he’s managing to carry you until his heel catches on the back of the planter and the both of you go tumbling backwards in a graceless heap.  You half expect to wind up on your face. Yet, in a surprising show of consideration, Osomatsu takes the brunt of the fall and lets you collapse on top of him when gravity does its work. You hear, rather than see him give out a pathetic wheeze as your weight collides with his abdomen. With a gasp, you push yourself onto your elbows so that you can stare down at your intended with concern.

“Are you all right!?” you ask him, reaching out with feather light touches against his face.  Osomatsu lets out a shaky laugh and lifts his head so that he can properly see you.

“In this kind of position?  Definitely,” Osomatsu tells you as he braces himself on his elbows.  He’s sitting up, appraising your position splayed out across him, your legs straddling either side of him and your hands pressing against his chest.  His hands settle on your hips, and you can tell he’s very shamelessly checking you out. Letting out a groan of dismay, you push yourself off of Osomatsu, despite his complaints, and rise to your feet.  You imagine you look as much a disaster as he does, but at the very least, you’re out of the office now.

You two had a date to go on.  

Chapter Text

“That is not a horse,” you declare dryly as you behold the rather impressive feline before you.  What you are reasonably sure is a cheetah lays sprawled out across the grass, paying neither you nor Osomatsu much mind as it grooms its spotted coat.  Osomatsu lets out an offended gasp at your accusation, one hand flying over his heart and the other gesturing wildly to the cheetah as he rebukes you,

“Of course this is a horse!  Haven’t you ever seen a horse before?”  He arches a brow at you skeptically, to which you fold your arms defensively across your chest.  Predictably, his gaze follows your movements to your bosom for several seconds too long before he finally remembers to make eye contact with you again.  He shoots you a patronizing smile and covers his eyes with a hand. “I never knew other royalty could live such a sheltered life so as to not even know what a horse is!”

“I came to your kingdom on a carriage pulled by horses!” you shout indignantly.  In an effort to calm yourself, you take a deep breath, and gesture back to the cheetah, “That is a cheetah!  A cat! It bears no resemblance to a horse in any way!”

Osomatsu shakes his head at you pityingly.  You’ve been on this date all of two minutes, and you already want to strangle your intended.  Instead of commiting murder, you opt to ask Osomatsu a simple question,

“Is this what you’ve been entering races in with this whole time?”  

Osomatsu grins at you, and before you can stop yourself, you slap both of your hands to your face in exasperation.  When he’d told you after finally managing to get you out of that office that he was going to take you to the royal stables to show you his finest steed, you’d reasonably anticipated that you’d be shown, well, an actual horse.  Perhaps naively, you’d even believed the stories Osomatsu had regaled you with about winning countless tournaments atop his majestic and loyal stallion.     

While you’re busy berating yourself for actually believing the prince’s bragging, Osomatsu approaches you so that he can throw an arm atop of your head and lean on you as if you were some sort of balustrade.

“Look: if this isn’t a horse, why hasn’t anyone said anything in all of the races I’ve been in?” Osomatsu implores of you, his tone smug as if he’s brought up some fantastic point to your great debate.  Throwing your arms into the air, you fervently swat Osomatsu off of your head so that you can whirl on him and point an accusing finger in his direction.

“No one’s told you otherwise because you’re a prince!  Who’s going to tell the heir to their kingdom that he didn’t bring a horse to a horse race!?”

Osomatsu’s smile becomes even more smug.  Realization hits you like a punch to the gut, and you find yourself stuck feeling something between horror and disgust.  You gape at the prince, making indignant noises in the back of your throat until you regain your coherency.

“That’s cheating! ” you shriek loudly enough to startle the cheetah.  It flattens its ears against the back of its head before outright getting up to slink off elsewhere.  Osomatsu’s insufferable smile only widens at your reaction. You stalk up to him and jab a finger against his chest.  “You can’t abuse your position as a prince just to win a couple of races! That’s absolutely wretched! How are your people ever supposed to trust you!?  How are they supposed to respect you!?”

Osomatsu’s placid, bemused expression never falters in the face of your accusations.  Instead, he merely lifts up his hands halfheartedly and gives you a lazy shrug.

“I don’t care about any of that.  I’m just there to have fun and win!  And I do. Every time.”

You give a very loud, very exasperated groan.  Before Osomatsu can even open his mouth to say anything further, you turn away from him to throw your hands into the air.  You can hear Osomatsu chuckling at your antics, entirely unbothered by how you view his disreputable behavior. As tempting as it is to simply march off, you know giving in to your temper will only make him all the more stubbornly believe he’s in the right and that you are simply being needlessly emotional.  You drop your hands and frown at the stables, pondering your next course of action.

“Race me,” you declare suddenly.  Osomatsu stops laughing, and you turn around to see the way you’ve caught him completely off guard.  As if looking for support, he tries to find his steed, only to see that it’s wandered off. Cats are finicky like that, as it were.  

“Right now?” he asks, tugging nervously at his collar.  He appears significantly less smug, which you think is a good look for him.  

“Right now,” you affirm, stepping in close so that you can glare determinedly up at him.  You dare not even blink, serious as you are about your challenge. A bead of sweat drips down the side of Osomatsu’s face before he abruptly turns away from you and waves a hand dismissively in the air.

“No way,” he says.  You open your mouth to accuse him of something--probably cowardice--but Osomatsu stops you by throwing both of his arms behind his head and continuing on, “There’s nothing in it for me.”

It takes a very valiant effort, yet you manage to somehow not plant your foot into his backside and kick him over.  You take a deep breath, and decide to maneuver around this landmine as tactfully as you can. No doubt Osomatsu wants you to have him propose his terms for a race, which you most certainly won’t allow.  Knowing him, he’d want you to strip down to nothing for his rewards, or something equally lascivious. While you don’t think he’d actually be capable of handling the sight of you naked without turning into some kind of repressed, virginal mess, you think you’d rather wait for that disaster at least until your wedding.  Baby steps, and all that.

So, you take a deep breath, straighten your posture, and propose in a clear voice,

“A kiss, should you be so fortunate as to win without cheating.”

Osomatsu whips around to face you so fast you’re amazed he didn’t snap his own neck in the process.  Whatever cards he’d been trying to hide from you are flat on the table, now. You arch a brow at him as he swallows audibly and licks his lips.  With a shaky hand, he gestures to his own mouth and stammers,

“Like-like on the mouth?”

“Yes.”

“With tongue?”

“That depends on how soundly you beat me,” you answer.  You are reasonably confident he won’t beat you, nor will he be able to do so with any distinct advantage.  He can imagine sticking his tongue down your throat as often as he likes, should the possibility encourage him to be more honest in his competitions.  

“Okay,” Osomatsu agrees, saying the word so fast you can barely make it out.  He turns on his heel in the direction of the stables, but you snag out a hand and catch him by the back of the collar.  As Osomatsu makes a choking sound in the back of his throat, you say,

“Horses.  Not cheetahs.”  

Osomatsu grumbles, but doesn’t disagree with you.

--

As it turns out, despite loving horse races, Osomatsu cannot ride atop of a horse to save his life.  Or, perhaps, he might be able to ride a horse, should any of the horses actually have been able to tolerate him.  After his attempt to mount two horses had failed when they’d tried to buck him off, you’d been ready to call off the race out of pity.  The prince may frustrate you a great deal at times, but that doesn’t mean you want to see him get kicked in the face by a temperamental stallion.  Maybe this was why he rode that cheetah.

“Osomatsu-” you start, holding out a hand from where you sit atop of your horse.  It is, of course, not actually yours--it belongs to the Matsuno royal family--but you’d be appropriating it for today’s competition.  The steed hadn’t seemed to mind, nor had it given you any trouble when you’d climbed atop of it. Not like the new, third horse was with Osomatsu.  Somehow, he manages to throw himself out of the way when the horse tries to trample him.

“No calling it quits!  I’m getting on this horse, and you’re gonna kiss me!”  Osomatsu shouts at you furiously. He’s panting hard, and there’s a wild look in his eyes.  You’re beginning to become a little concerned as to why he’s so determined to have the chance to kiss you.  

You watch with worry plain on your face as Osomatsu does a running leap at the indignant horse.  He manages to fling his body sideways across the saddle. You feel something akin to pity for him, though you respect his wounded pride enough not to offer to help him again as he struggles to get into a sitting position.  It takes another five minutes or so to accomplish the feat, but he does. He’s sweating bullets as he shoots you a victorious thumbs up and laughs triumphantly in your direction.

“Would you like to wait a moment before we start or-?” you begin tentatively.  Osomatsu digs his feet into sides of his steed and urges it on before you can even announce a start to the race.  You’d have been angry had his horse not decided to run in the complete opposite direction of Osomatsu’s urging. You and your horse watch Osomatsu’s screaming figure disappear into the distance.

--

“I’m dying ,” Osomatsu groans, long and loud into the evening air as your two horses trot side by side on an out of the way path that leads back to the castle.

It had taken the rest of the morning and the entire afternoon to finally catch up with Osomatsu’s errant steed and reign it in before it actually did manage to kill the prince.  You’d arrived on the scene--well away from the stables where you’d both started--to find that Osomatsu had been flung off of his stallion’s back and into a nearby tree. From what you could tell, the horse had been kicking at the tree with its back two hooves in what was likely an attempt to fell it and get Osomatsu on the ground and within trampling range.  Fortunately for the prince, and subsequently the future of the Matsuno Kingdom, you’d been able to calm down the horse with some well placed sugar-cube related bribes and soothing pats. After that, you’d gotten Osomatsu out of his tree and onto his place behind you from atop of your horse. Osomatsu’s horse had willingly agreed to follow yours without any trouble thereafter.  

Presently, he’s leaning all of his weight into your back while squeezing you tightly around the waist.  You don’t believe he’s dying because he has enough energy to try and grope you every few minutes between all of his complaining.  

“You’re fine,” you reply, rolling your eyes.  Osomatsu makes some kind of grumbling noise, and nuzzles his face into your hair.  You can feel his breath against your neck, and you tighten your hold on the reigns.  

“M’not.  I’m gonna die because you wouldn’t let me cheat on a few races,” Osomatsu accuses you sullenly.  You don’t have it in yourself to be mad at him for fixating on something so foolish. Instead, you reach down to your middle and pat a consoling hand across where his fingers are interlocked across your stomach.

“It wouldn’t have been a hard lesson to learn had you not learned such an obvious lesson in the first place,” you chide him, without any bite.  Osomatsu huffs a frustrated breath, and buries his face in your hair again. You’re pretty sure, at this point, he’s just using any excuse to be close to you.  Alas, he wouldn’t be able to do so for much longer. You can see the castle rising over just the next hill. The prospect of being able to return back to civilization, and a nice, warm bath makes you urge your horse to go a bit faster.  Osomatsu’s hold tightens around your waist, and you hear him suck in a sharp breath.

“Hey-” Osomatsu starts, but you decide to ignore him.  While you knew he would probably want to make this brief moment of contact last, you were tired.  However endearing you may have found his want to hold you, it didn’t take priority over your want for the day to be over.  You lean back in the saddle as your horse picks up speed, and Osomatsu’s hands suddenly grip at your hips like a vice.

All at once, he buries his face into your neck and moans.  The closeness of his low, breathy tone shoots down your spine like lightning, and you jolt at the feeling of him pulling your hips back over his lap.  Your mind goes completely blank as he rolls his hips up into your backside without restraint or shame. Distantly, you can hear him saying your name, hot breath against your ear, and you jerk the reins in your hands--

The horse rears up, and Osomatsu tips off the side of it and onto the ground in an indignant heap.

The two of you stare at one another in shock, both equally flushed, though perhaps for different reasons.  It takes every ounce of your willpower to keep your eyes trained on his face, and not elsewhere. Osomatsu opens his mouth to say something at the same time you do, but before either of you can get a word in, Osomatsu’s horse sees its chance and takes it.  

You’re too busy questioning the heat in your face to help Osomatsu as his murderous steed chases him the rest of the way back to the castle.  

Chapter Text

You find yourself holding a bouquet of red roses.  For whatever reason, you cannot place the course of events that has brought them to you.  They are not wrapped in paper, and the thorns have not been cut from their stems, so sharp pin pricks of pain dig into the flesh of your palms as you squeeze your bouquet close to your chest.  No matter how much this bouquet hurts you, you know that you cannot let it go. A heavy, expectant gaze bores into you from some unseen observer. You know that they are waiting to see if you will drop your flowers, and you also know that they will be the arbiter of your punishment should you do so.    

You swallow, and take a step forward.  The long stretch of white carpet at your feet grows longer.  Your breathing picks up as panic begins to curl icy fingers into your chest and constricts.  You try to take another step and your foot catches on the hem of your dress. As you lurch forward, losing balance, the bouquet tips out of your hands.  The roses burst apart into crimson petals that hit the ground in a cascade of golden coins. You throw your hands out in front of you to catch your fall when someone seizes you by the shoulder and pulls.  Terrified that your punishment has now arrived, you open your mouth to scream and-

“Dear, are you all right?”

You jolt into waking with a gasp that lurches you so bodily, you nearly tip out of your chair.  The pounding of your blood in your ears and the mindless panic of a hazy nightmare leave you entirely disoriented and unprepared to handle the sudden presence of another person in your space.  You reach up to clutch at the fabric of your shirt as your heart attempts to flee its place in your chest, and it is only the sudden feeling of a piece of paper peeling stickily away from your face that finally allows you to recall where you are.  At a loss, you watch as your paperwork slips off of the desk and onto the floor in a mess of shipping logs and records of exchange you’d dozed off while studying a few hours ago.

Queen Matsuyo touches your shoulder again, and you’re only barely able to refrain from jumping out of your skin at the contact.

“I saw the light on in the study, and knew neither my husband or Osomatsu could possibly be in here so late.  And here you were, sleeping away! Sleeping at a desk isn’t good for your back, so I came to wake you, but it looks like I only ended up scaring you instead,” the queen explains herself as she idly tucks a loose lock of her hair behind an ear.  You get a good look at the older woman now, and realize she’s in none of her formalwear, crown included. At present, she’s garbed in her nightclothes, with a robe pulled snugly across her slender frame. You avert your gaze, entirely unsure where to look when faced with someone dressed so casually.  The last time you’d seen your own parents in any of their nightclothes had been in your childhood. Not that they slept much, busy as they were with, well, business.

Hastily, you push yourself out of your chair and smooth out your clothes in an effort to regain some of whatever dignity you’d no doubt lost when the queen had so abruptly roused you.  You meet her eyes briefly before letting your gaze flit nervously to the paperwork scattered across the study space.

“I’m sorry for making you have to come all the way to wake me.  I got caught up in work and…” you dither, twisting your fingers around anxiously before you finally fall into a quick curtsey.  “I’ll make sure to clean up and head to my quarters soon.”

The queen laughs.  It is a full-bodied, throaty laugh that has her clutching at her stomach and doubling over in her amusement.  You gawk at her in alarm, your mouth opening and closing uselessly until she straightens up again and reaches up to wipe a tear from her eye.  She seems to note the concerned expression on your face, so she waves a hand through the air, as if to wave off your concerns with her gesture.

“I’m not laughing at you, dear.  I just...it’s been so long since I’ve heard someone in this castle say they were going to clean up after themselves...much less, clean up after themselves because of a mess they made working-!!!”  

She breaks off into peals of laughter again, and your thoughts trail off unbidden towards your intended.  You are immediately assaulted by the reminder of your last, flustering encounter with Osomatsu, and you recall why you’d been trying to distract yourself so thoroughly with work in the first place.  Your face hot, you pull your expression into a schooled frown, and fold your arms defensively over your chest. Preoccupied as you are with your own thoughts, you don’t notice the queen stepping closer to you until she’s already taken your face in her hands.  The affectionate gesture has you inhaling sharply through your nose, though the queen doesn’t seem to notice your alarm and she looks you over in a way you can only describe as fond.

“If you keep frowning like that, your pretty face will get stuck that way,” Queen Matsuyo chides you gently.  You blink back at her, utterly at a loss at how to respond to her treatment, and you watch as her already kind expression softens even further.  “Really, the bags under your eyes are terrible. When was the last time you got any decent sleep?”

The queen releases your face so that she can turn and begin a confident march toward the door.  

“Let me make you something warm to drink.  Do you like tea? Or warm milk? The boys haven’t changed much, even from when they were little.  You give any of them a cup of warm milk after a bath and they’ll be out like a candle after dark. They’re so cute,” Matsuyo muses with a sigh, obvious love coloring her tone.  The expression on her face is strange and unfamiliar territory to you. You stand awkwardly next to the desk, still.

“The mess…” you start, but the queen whirls around and shakes a finger at you in reprimand.  

“The mess will be here in the morning.  And if you keep stalling, so will you! You need to rest.  Now, tea or milk?”

“I, ah, not to be rude, your Highness, but I’m sure the staff are sleeping by now and I don’t want to be a bother,” you try to explain while awkwardly rubbing at the back of your neck.  The queen fixes you with a flat look before she heaves a sigh and plants her hands on her hips.

“That’s why I’ll be making it!  What’s with that expression? I make wonderful tea, and hot milk isn’t hard at all.  All good mothers know how to make that when their children need it.”

You aren’t sure your mother knows one end of a teapot from the other, so the queen’s statement seems a little far-fetched in your mind.  In fact, the mental image of your mother trying to dote on you in any fashion makes you break out in a cold sweat. You wonder if Osomatsu grew up with the Queen Matsuyo standing before you now: insistent in her attempts to care for someone else.

The hours of lessons drilled into you on proper decorum crumble away under the queen’s unwavering stare.  Finally, shyly, you acquiesce to her offer, and follow the queen into the kitchens.

The queen tells you late night anecdotes about her sons’ collective time growing up as she makes the both of you a warm drink.  There was a period, when the boys were all little, that one of them would get a nightmare, and would seek refuge in their parents’ shared bed.  Inevitably, despite the others not having a bad dream, they would all filter into their parents’ room until both the king and queen would wake up in the morning to find their limbs encircled by six pairs of tiny arms and legs.  Try as you might to imagine six, smaller Osomatsus doing something so endearing, your mind cannot create the picture.

“Of course, they’ll always be my precious boys.  When I look at them, I still see the babies I had, and the little boys I raised, even if they’re all grown up now.  But I’d been worried that they were going to have to go off and grow up on their own, now that they’re adults,” The queen confesses  as she sets a steaming mug before you. She takes a seat opposite you, her gaze far off as she stirs her own drink with a delicate silver spoon.  Suddenly, she fixes her gaze on you, and you stiffen under her scrutiny. She smiles at you warmly. “But I feel like I can rest easier now that you’re here.  If my eldest can find someone so responsible to help him along, I’m sure my other little princes can do so too. They always follow his lead, even now.”

“You think they’ll get married, then?”

“Maybe.  Hopefully!  I want grandchildren!” The queen crows, emphatically slamming one palm to the top of the table.  You scoop up your mug before the force of her blow can tip it over, and make sure to fix your gaze studiously to the contents inside of it while trying to pretend you are unaware of the expectant way she is looking at you.  When she feel her eyes leave your person, you finally look back her way. She’s staring off at the other side of the room as she says, “I think, once they realize Osomatsu is finally taking the steps to grow up and be an adult, they will want to do so too.  They’re all so competitive. I think once you and Osomatsu get married, they’ll move off on their own ways and find themselves.”

You chew on your lower lip and nod thoughtfully.  It isn’t as if you know the other princes well enough to say one way or another if the queen’s speculation is true.  You open your mouth, ready to offer forth a reply, when a door slams somewhere in the distance. Both you and the queen jump in your seats, your drinks sloshing and hearts racing in surprise.  The queen gets up before you can, and peers out of the kitchen doorway before looking back over her shoulder at you. Her smile is easy and nonchalant.

“I think it was only the wind.  This castle is pretty old, after all.”

With that said, you and the queen bid one another good night, and you begin making headway back to your chambers.  Your journey faces no interruptions until you pass Osomatsu’s chambers to find his door open. Standing in the dark, the prince stares at you with an unreadable expression before taking his door and slamming it closed with force.

For some reason, you feel as if you’ve done something wrong.

Chapter Text

The morning finds you feeling better rested than you have felt in ages.  For once, you decide not to immediately throw off your blankets and doggedly push yourself through your usual morning rituals despite the sleep still tugging at your eyelids and that familiar, heavy lethargy weighing down your limbs.  Rather, you sit up in bed, stretch your arms high over your head until you feel the familiar little pop in your back, and breathe.    

The usual, frenetic pace of your life has slowed down significantly since you moved into the Matsuno castle for your engagement trial run.  As adverse as you had been to Osomatsu’s much more lax approach to daily tasks, in a moment like this, where you have the chance to just appreciate how you feel in the now, you can sort of understand where he’s coming from.  That wasn’t to say you were planning on loafing around all day like he did. It was just that you were willing to admit, at least to yourself, there was some merit in the concept of relaxing every now and again. To be sure, doing so was much easier when you weren’t under your parents’ constant scrutiny and expectations.  

Now, you’re not entirely sure you’re ready to give Osomatsu the leverage of knowing you thought he was onto something.  But perhaps, you think, you’ll be at least a little more accepting if you find him sleeping face first in his breakfast this morning.    

By the time you do manage to get out of bed and started on your day, you’d already long since dismissed last night’s encounter from your mind, and the sour look on Osomatsu’s face.  Knowing him, yours and his mother’s conversation had probably roused him from his sleep and he’d been put out at you for waking him after he’d finally decided to go to sleep at some ungodly hour.  Reassured by what you know of Osomatsu’s behaviors and routine, you confidently make your way down to the kitchens for breakfast.

Your cheerful morning comes to a grinding halt when you pass by the throne room and see, of all people, Osomatsu in it.  You too come to the grinding halt, your feet skidding on the marble flooring and your face collapsing into an expression of utmost horror as you realize just where the prince is.  Osomatsu never, ever willingly went to the throne room. He’d made it known to you, throughout your study sessions, that to him the throne was an ever present, symbolic reminder of the impending duties he would one day inherit from his father.  Not even the prospect of being able to smugly lord over others from on high with a golden crown atop of his head was enough of a tantalizing offer to lure Osomatsu into the throne room. So to see him in there, you realize something must be very, very amiss.

“Osomatsu…?” you call out to him nervously from the doorway.  At first, you’re not even sure he’s heard you. It is only after you start to make your way into the cavernous space of the royal hall that you note the stiffness in his posture and the way his shoulders twitch as your footfalls echo throughout the space.  You stop; the only sound in the room now being the swish of your skirts coming to rest against the smooth flooring and the sharp breaths Osomatsu is taking in through his nose. The atmosphere in the room feels like glass---one wrong move and you’ll send sharp, glittering shards scattering every which way.  Like last night, you feel as if you’ve done something wrong, though you’re as equally unsure of what as you were previously.

“Osomatsu,” you try again, with more certainty.  Your voice rings out clearly, bouncing off the walls, and you decide to advance towards your intended.  Before you can reach him, he whirls on you. His hands are balled into shaking fists at his sides and his lips are stretched into a thin, tense frown the likes of which you’ve never seen before on his countenance.  You’ve seen him frown before, certainly, though those occurrences had mostly been the product of his dismayed grousing whenever you’d attempted to coerce him into your study sessions. This foul mood was not brought about by something as trite as studying.

“You seem happy,” Osomatsu spits at you.  Being accused of the crime of good humor leaves you blindsided.  You meet the frenetic energy glinting in his eyes before looking elsewhere, away, as if trying to find some sort of foothold on a rapidly collapsing situation you had no idea how you’d stepped into.  

“Um,” you start, then stop yourself.  If your previous encounters with difficult diplomats and emissaries has taught you anything, it is that your current state is not the root of the problem.   You are likely not the root of the problem.  Whatever the cause of Osomatsu’s agitation, its origins reach far beyond you and towards something that’s seated itself deeply in the person that he is, and was, before you ever got here.  Pushing aside whatever indignance and irritation you have at Osomatsu for seeing ready to set his temper on you, you ask him, “What are you doing in here?”

Osomatsu’s dark eyes flare with irritation and the frown on his lips curls deeper.  Your calm reaction wasn’t what he was expecting, or wanting, out of you. The stories he’s told you of his brothers has led you believe that it wasn’t uncommon for their arguments to descend into roughhousing and screaming matches, though you aren’t certain as to the degree of seriousness of whatever they argued about.  Perhaps that had been what he’d wanted from you. But you aren’t any of his brothers. None of them are here. It’s only you, and him, and his parents, and whatever servants wander the castle halls.

The prince becomes sullen, then, curling in on himself and shoving his fists into his trouser pockets.  He turns halfway away from you, hunched over, the angle of his jaw tight as he glances at you out of the corner of his eye.  

“You aren’t happy?  I thought you’d want me to be in here.  Thinkin’ about having to be King, and all the other crap you’ll want me to do,” he grumbles at you.  The words are meant to dig, and they do. You let an irritated breath out through your nose, but dignify him with no further display of how he’s made you feel.  

Your tone even, you reply, “It is not crap-”

“It is,” he cuts in sharply, insistently.  You exhale through your nose again, and resist the urge to massage your temples.  He obviously wants to make you mad--wants to start something, for some reason. You refuse to give him the satisfaction.  

“Regardless,” you continue, talking over Osomatsu as he grumbles something decidedly ungentleman-like under his breath.  “I’d hoped you’d come in here of your own volition. When you wanted to.  You don’t want to be here.  So why are you?”

Osomatsu avoids your gaze, as if he hadn’t expected you to ask him the question so directly.  You can sort of understand why his brothers just devolve into shouting at him. He keeps trying to prod you into arguing with him in a certain way--in his way.  And then, when you don’t, his bad mood worsens and he sulks even more thoroughly than he’d been doing so prior.

“Why are you in here?” you demand of him, again, and Osomatsu turns your way with a finger pointed in your direction.  

“Because that’s what you want!”

You roll your eyes, and you hear the furious sound Osomatsu makes in the back of his throat.  With your hands on your hips, you ask, “Oh, I came into your room and told you to come here, then?”  

“No, I’m doing what you--” Osomatsu cuts himself off and gestures emphatically up at the throne on high at his back.  You stare up at the seat a moment in serious contemplation before looking back to the prince with impatient confusion.  He jabs a finger in the direction of the throne again, his voice pitching upward in his desperate, ferocious attempt to convey whatever it is weighing on him while simultaneously explaining nothing at all.  His voice cracking, he shouts, “I’m growing up like you want! I’m staring at this stupid chair and thinking about all that stupid crap you want me to think about and how my brothers aren’t coming back because that’s what you and Mom obviously want so bad-!!!”  

Osomatsu throws down his hands at his sides and whips his front away from you so that he can stare in bitter silence at the throne.  

You stare at Osomatsu’s shaking shoulders while you attempt to make sense of the flurry of words hurled your way.  Then, you realize what he’s trying to get at. A sequence of your time with Osomatsu flows past your mind’s eye, all of it centering around the countless stories Osomatsu has regaled you with about he and his brothers.  

Osomatsu is the eldest of sextuplets, and that position defines how the prince sees himself.  And he thinks, for whatever reason, your attempts at coercing him towards kingship have all been part of some long-running plot to rid him of his siblings.  

You recall the glare Osomatsu had sent your way last night, and the door he’d slammed in your face.  And then you remember a door slamming before even that, after his mother had discussed the possibility of the brothers all going their own way after you married the eldest.

“Ah,” you say, at last, your tone thoughtful.  Osomatsu tilts his head, indicating that he’s heard you, but doesn’t deign to respond any further than that.  Folding your arms across your chest, you cant your head as you observe the prince for a few seconds before asking him, “What makes you think that I think you growing up means you have to grow apart from your brothers?”

Osomatsu’s back goes ramrod straight, and you know with absolute certainty that you’ve finally cut to the heart of the matter.  As you’d reassured yourself earlier, this was a fear that long predated your arrival. Osomatsu simply believes you’ll be the catalyst that brings his fear to fruition.  Diplomacy truly is an exhausting affair.

“I...because you want me to be King,” Osomatsu says slowly, uncertainty coloring his tone.  The rough edges of his posture have not entirely left him, but he nevertheless appears less tense than he did a minute ago.  

“And, what, kings exist without the presence of siblings?  Do you think I’m afraid they’ll seek to usurp you?” you sniff, while trying not to let annoyance seep into your voice any further.  Frankly, the idea that he thinks you’re so heartless as to want to banish his brothers, or some such, is far more insulting than whatever anger he’d leveled at you earlier.  You shoot him a sullen glare through your lashes as you sulk. “I know of no precedent that demands your brothers depart from the kingdom permanently as soon as you see yourself married.”

Osomatsu finally turns to face you in full.  His face has fallen slack in shock and he’s gaping at you as if you’d just delivered unto him unprecedented news.  You heave another heavy sigh through your nose and wave one hand dismissively in the prince’s direction as you ready yourself to leave.  This entire affair has seen to it that whatever restfulness you’d acquired over the course of the previous night has left you entirely. You’re so busy bemoaning your lost sense of peace that you don’t realize Osomatsu has charged into you until you feel his body collide into your back.  The two of you go toppling in a graceless heap, the prince on top of you and you hitting the floor with a screech.

“What in the world-?!  Do you mind!? ” you demand furiously while slapping your palm against Osomatsu’s shoulder.  You’re about ready to demand satisfaction for your suffering when you feel something wet and hot hit the bare skin at your neck.  You go stiff as Osomatsu shoves his face into the crook of your neck and shudders while he holds onto you stubbornly.

“They can come back?” Osomatsu asks you, or, really, your shoulder.  You can’t turn your head to look at him properly in this position.

“Of course they can.  Really, Osomatsu…” you chide him, even if your gentle actions betray whatever annoyance has seeped into your tone.  You gently card your fingers through his dark hair as you advise him, “If you’re so concerned about your brothers having an excuse to stay, give them an obligation to do so.  If you’re to be bound here as king, bind them here with other duties. A council, or some such.

Osomatsu finally lets you go so that he can brace himself on his elbows and stare down at you properly.  You stop petting his hair so that you can cross your arms defensively over your chest as you face his scrutiny.  He’s smiling, warm and bright, even under his ruddy cheeks and reddened eyes.

“You’re so smart.  What would I do without ya?” Osomatsu asks you fondly.  While you’d normally be rather pleased to receive such a compliment, you find you can only level the young prince with a flat look.  

“Jump to baseless conclusions, apparently,” you answer him sharply.  The prince winces, his eyes darting away from your penetrating pair. “Your behavior earlier was uncalled for and cruel.  I understand being emotionally distressed about people you care deeply for, but that doesn’t provide you an excuse to be so uncouth.  If you have an issue with me, speak to me plainly so that we can resolve it. I’d seek to do the same for you, as I am now.”

“I…” Osomatsu trails off, still avoiding your gaze.  

“Say you’re sorry,” you tell him.  Osomatsu pulls back so that he can sit on his haunches.  You follow him, sitting up and smoothing out your rumpled clothes.  Finally, he fleetingly meets your gaze and acquiesces,

“I’m sorry.”  

“You’re forgiven,” you reply back while shooting him a polite smile.  It’s not a true one--you can’t find it in yourself to smile at him as fondly as he had you a moment ago.  Still, it seems to relieve him all the same. His previously dour demeanor reverts to its usual, lackadaisical state, and you find yourself leaning back as Osomatsu crawls into your space.  

“Tell me about this council stuff over breakfast, yeah?”  

It’s the first you’ve ever heard him ask you about something related to his duties.  The shock must show on your face because Osomatsu laughs, loudly, at you as you stare at him in dumbstruck silence.  

Chapter Text

The dream is the same, yet not, because this time you know that you’re dreaming.  You cannot change the course of events that you know will inevitably take place in this dream.  As before, as always, you will carry a bouquet of red roses that you cannot afford to drop, and yet you will drop them all the same.  The flowers will burst into coins, and you will awake screaming and fearing punishment for your failure.

This time, you know that you’re dreaming, but still you cannot jolt yourself out of your nightmare.  Following the projected course of this dream is an obligation. You always meet the obligations given to you.  

Then, the dream changes, just slightly.  

The thorns on the red roses cut into your palms, sending blood coursing down your wrists and onto the billowing skirts of your white dress.  As you step into a multi-colored ray of light cast by a circular, stained glass window somewhere behind you, you come to the belated realization that you are in a chapel.  Your distraction makes you lose your footing, and the toe of your shoe catches on your bloodied skirts.

You tip forward, tripping like you always do at this part of your nightmare.  Crimson petals burst into the familiar, chiming song of scattering gold coins.  

The dream changes, more drastically, now.

Two hands--one male, one female--seize you by a wrist each and wrench you back and out of the light.  A shadow moves forward, and Osomatsu steps into the place where you had been standing before. He doesn't even look your way as he falls to his knees so that he may gleefully scoop the steadily growing pile of gold coins into his hands.

A pair of large doors slam in your face, and you wake up.  

--

You awaken to the dark of either the very late night or very early morning.  A cold sweat has your skin slick and uncomfortable underneath your nightclothes, and the pitched void bears down on you like a weight upon your chest.  Your scrambled thoughts race in a frenzy towards the familiar comfort of logic, though it takes far too long for your liking for you to finally realize you are under no real threat.  

It was a nightmare.  The same nightmare as before, mostly.  And nightmares could not hurt you.

With an exasperated groan, you drag your hand up across your face and over the top of your head, pushing your damp hair back and away from your brow.  It’s difficult not to be frustrated with your subconscious for pulling you from your valuable sleep for something as silly as some figment of your imagination.  You know that some people believe that nightmares are the product of what you truly feel in waking, but you’ve never cared for silly superstitions. Anything, even your fears, could be conquered if you worked hard enough and focused on your duties.  

Still, your knees are shaking when you finally manage to drag yourself out of bed.  You startle at your reflection in the mirror when you go to rinse yourself off, and your heart simply refuses to stop pounding against your ribs.  Annoyed, you resolve to distract yourself with busy work and make way towards your now familiar office.

You make it about halfway there before a hand lands on your shoulder and nearly sends your soul fleeing from the mortal coil in your terror.  A scream catches in your throat, and you ungracefully flail your arms until your elbow collides with the face of the mysteriously corporeal spectre.  The ghost lets out a pained grunt, and a familiar voice whines,

“Owwww, what was that for!?”    

One hand clasped over your chest, you whirl around to find Osomatsu ruefully clutching his nose and sending you a particularly wounded look to match his injury.  For whatever reason--likely that he’s not some ghost, not that you believe in such things--seeing who it is truly sets you at ease. The tension melts out of you, and you heave a relieved sigh as you reach out and grab at Osomatsu’s arm.  

“You scared me!  Please, have the decency to warn someone before you sneak up on them in the middle of the night!” you chide him, though without any malice.  Osomatsu is still rubbing his nose and sending you pitiful looks as he replies,

“That’s the whole point of sneaking up on someone in the first place.  Sorry I scared you, though. As an older brother, I just can’t pass up that kind of opportunity when I see it, you know?”

You shoot him a flat look.

“And your brothers react less violently than I do?”  

Osomatsu laughs heartily, and shakes his head.

“Oh, no, way more.  But they also scream louder than you do, so it’s totally worth it.”  

You feel as if the fact that Osomatsu is not deterred by his brothers’ violence in the slightest tells you something important about his character.  Perhaps that he is deterred by very little if there is a substantial chance he’ll be amused. Or, maybe, that he’s just learned to ignore negative reinforcement.  You’re leaning towards the latter.

“Anyway,” you decide to change the subject, eager to move away from this incident before Osomatsu may choose to seize on the opportunity to tease you mercilessly.  “What are you doing up so late?”

You appraise the prince before you, and note he is still wearing the same clothes he wore earlier in the day.  Loose strands of red and black hair are falling out of his typical, slicked back style in excess, indicating that he’s made no effort to re-apply whatever gel he uses when he gets ready in the late morning.  Unthinkingly, you reach out with both of your hands and begin trying to smooth his hair out of his face right when he starts to answer your question.

“Well, you know, I had things to do and-hey!  What’re you..?”

Osomatsu flinches back, unprepared for the abruptness of your hands on him.  You offer him no chance to retreat further, fixated on your task as you are. It’s something small you can focus on--an easy distraction from the fear you’d felt earlier.  Once Osomatsu seems to realize that you mean him no harm, he stops trying to get out of the gentle hold you have on his face. You don’t notice the way his eyes widen, or the fact that he’s started enthusiastically leaning into your touch until he says,

“Soft, right?”

You meet his eager, bright gaze as you push back his hair.  It is soft. Unbidden, you imagine combing your fingers through his dark tresses, your nails dragging across his scalp, and the prince staring up at you with a lidded gaze as he practically purrs under your attentions.  You yank your hands away from him as if they could betray your thoughts via your touch.

“Messy,” you answer back, refusing to give him the validation.  You are rewarded for your stubbornness with another whine, and Osomatsu seizing one of your wrists so as to place your hand on his cheek.  The skin is just a bit prickly. For whatever reason, it’s never occurred to you that he probably shaves. Maybe you never thought he actually tried to take care of his appearance.  Not that you think he’s unattractive, but-

“Noooo, don’t stop.  Your hands are soft, n’ they feel good and stuff,” Osomatsu whines without shame, nuzzing his nose against your palm.  You flush, frowning at him, but don’t make an effort to try and take your hand back. Once Osomatsu realizes you don’t mean to leave, he drops your hand from his hold.  For a fleeting moment, you think he’s releasing your hand because you gave him what he wanted. You are thus unprepared for when he throws his arms around you in full and holds you close.  When you try to pull away, Osomatsu only squeezes tighter until you give up and slump against him. You’re trying to will away the flush on your cheeks when you hear Osomatsu murmur against your ear, “So, why’re you up so late, Princess?”

“I, ah…”

Osomatsu sets his chin atop of your shoulder, his temple leaning against yours as he muses, “Unlike me, you’re boring and go to sleep at a normal time.  But now you’re up.  Much as I like the idea of havin’ all sorts of time after dark with you to myself, I can’t help but wonder what’s got you out of bed.”  

Through your clothes, you can feel him dragging his fingers down across the dips and rises of your spine.  You clench your fingers into his shirtfront, focusing on repressing the goosebumps rising across your skin and answering his question at the same time.

“I just...had a nightmare, is all.  It was silly,” you admit in a rush. Osomatsu pulls back to assess you, his expression surprisingly concerned.  You’d expected he’d leap at the chance to tease you for something like this.

“You gonna tell me what it was about?”

Your mind conjures the image you’d had of him greedily gathering up your coins back in your nightmare.  Shame curdles your blood, so you purse your lips and shake your head.

“Gonna be stubborn about it?” Osomatsu accuses you airly.  With lowered lids, he gives you a knowing look. “Fine, fine, I get it.  Don’t tell old Osomatsu. But you’ll change your mind. My brothers always do.  Or did. Man, they’re so uncute nowadays.”

He has a wistful look in his eyes that makes you feel warm.  You’re glad that he knows he’ll be able to reunite with his brothers soon.  

“Really, it was silly.  If it was serious, I’d tell you.  We promised we’d be honest with each other from now on,” you remind him.  You set your hands against his chest and lean back to give him a reassuring smile.  Osomatsu immediately leans down and bumps his nose against yours as he breathes,

“Okay, honestly, I think you’re super cute.  Especially when you try to lie because you’re really bad at it.”  

“I am not-”

“Buuut, you just gotta promise to tell me when you’re ready.”  

You take in a deep breath and lean to the side so that you can press your lips to his cheek.  Osomatsu jolts as soon as you kiss him, a gust of air rushing past your ear as if you’d sucker punched him.  You pat him on the chest, once, and pull away as he gapes at you.

“I will make sure to do just that.  Thank you, Osomatsu.”

Chapter Text

The morning’s dew had long since dried from the castle’s sprawling front lawns by the time Osomatsu finally deigns to join you outside.  You’d been entertaining yourself with some idle, polite talk with the king and queen up until then, though you’d found yourself missing the prince throughout the conversation.  Deep down, you know you’d missed him because you enjoy his company, but it still remains easier to chalk up such feelings to any awkwardness around your future parents-in-law. The both of them are remarkably friendly, and want you to forgo many of the formalities you insist on inserting into your interactions with them.  It’s a tough habit to break though, especially when you’re talking to the rare few people above your own station. So, when Osomatsu finally does arrive, you absolutely take notice of the palpable sense of relief that washes over you as he slings one his arms across your shoulders.

“Good of you to join us,” you greet him, without any bite.  Realizing that your words carry none of the tartness he’s become accustomed to over the duration of your stay, Osomatsu’s features alight with glee.  He leans forward to nuzzle his nose against the rise of your cheek, and you only purse your lips and look away from him in embarrassment rather than make any effort to encourage him to desist in his affections.  Both of his parents look positively exuberant thanks to your relative receptiveness to their son. Trying to resist the urge to squirm while also pointedly avoiding eye-contact with the king and queen, you continue, “I thought you’d want to be here earlier, considering the occasion.”

When you glance up at Osomatsu out of the corner of your eye, it is to see that he’s keeping an eye on his parents.  You don’t realize why until both of them look away to whisper something to one another (likely about the two of you).  As soon as the both of them are absorbed entirely in their conversation, you feel Osomatsu’s hand begin moving away from its respectable position at your shoulder and rapidly south.  Your eyes go wide as you feel Osomatsu’s fingers drag slowly across the dip of your waist to splay across your hip. Two fingers start tracing the seam that follows the tantalizing trail across the rise of your hip and down your pelvis when you finally gather enough of your wits to try swatting him away.   

Your unmannered intended has managed to keep the exact same, placid expression throughout his inappropriate exploration.  You are just about to elbow him when he finally answers you, “I’ve seen those guys every day of my life up until they got booted out in order not to scare you off.”  Osomatsu pulls away from you, his expression pained, as he nearly shouts, “The last time I knew what it felt like to have time to myself was the two minutes between when I was born and Karamatsu was!”  

You survey Osomatsu’s face, disbelief plainly coloring your own features.  Complain as he may now, Osomatsu’s constant talk of his brothers throughout your visit, as well as his emotional show to you not long ago, were proof enough he’d missed his siblings desperately.  You decide only to roll your eyes, and give Osomatsu a conciliatory pat on the chest, before pulling away from him entirely. Osomatsu makes a sound of complaint, but you manage to shush him with a finger pointed towards the gates.  The four of you standing before the castle all look forward, and see the gates swing open to admit the large carriage you’d all been expecting.

You don’t have to wait long for the carriage, thankfully.  Still, Osomatsu tries to make the most of his last few moments of being the sole focus of your attentions by trying to drape himself across you in the most obstructive way possible.  Knowing him as you do, you have reason to believe he’s doing this to stake his claim as your betrothed. His brothers were very competitive where prospective romance partners were concerned, or so you’d been informed. 

Having Osomatsu tell you about his brothers’ competitive natures was one thing.  Seeing it in action was another.

Not a second after the carriage comes to a gradual stop before your group does the door fly open, tear itself from its hinges, and careen down the dirt path a good ways while kicking up a veritable dust storm in its wake.  Immediately following the door, a figure, bound and gagged, comes toppling out of the carriage and rolling across the earth in a squirming heap of muffled shouting. Your hands fly up to cover your mouth in shock, and you immediately try to step forward to help the poor soul, but Osomatsu holds you firm and tells you,

“He’s a criminal.  He doesn’t deserve any help.”

The bound figure on the ground immediately turns towards the sound of Osomatsu’s voice.  You and your betrothed stare down at the young man on the ground who is dressed in muddied finery you think was probably white before whatever treatment he’d received put him in his current predicament.  His large eyes narrow into slits, and you’ve never seen such malice directed at one person in your entire life. The object of loathing--Osomatsu--only waggles his fingers down at his brother.

“You brought it on yourself, Totty.  That’s what you get for thinking you could get married before the eldest!  Remember your place at the bottom of the heap!”

This was Todomatsu, then.  You only now notice the streaks of dulled pink dye running through the youngest sextuplet’s disheveled hair.  The youngest prince drags his cheek across the ground so that he can dislodge the cloth placed over his mouth, and, once free to speak, shouts up at Osomatsu,

“At least I wasn’t so hopeless our parents had to beg someone to come marry me!  I was so close-!!! I’d just gotten them all comfortable enough to invite me to a ball over at Sutabaa Kingdom and then you sent those demons to bring me back to this hell!  And you--you’re the worst demon of them all!”  

You glance up out of the corner of your eye to see Osomatsu smiling gleefully down at his tormented sibling.  With a sigh, you reach up and plant your hand over Osomatsu’s face to push him back, and cease any argument before it can start.  While your intended whines at your treatment, you turn your attentions towards the youngest sibling, and start to offer,

“Here, let me help you-”

Unfortunately for Todomatsu, you don’t get the chance.  Your first step is cut short when all of the other brothers pile out of their vehicle at the same time.  There is a cacophony of angry shouting, followed by some violent shaking from the carriage, and then, with a mighty pop , four bodies come toppling down to the ground in an ungraceful heap.    

“I told you to let me go first-!” the green prince, Choromatsu, squawks from the bottom of the pile.  

“Why do you get to go first!?  You’re not the oldest!” the blue prince, Karamatsu, whines as he pulls his face out of the dirt.  A booted foot collides with the back of his head and knocks him back into the dust. The owner of said boot--the purple prince, Ichimatsu--is lying on his back, staring up blankly at the sky as he grouses,

“I wanted to stay in the carriage…”

The yellow prince, Jyushimatsu, gets up from his place on top of Choromatsu so that he can flop heavily on top of Ichimatsu.  While Ichimatsu wheezes, Jyushimatsu cheerfully reminds him, “No way! We need to be friendly and meet our big brother’s girlfriend!”  

“Betrothed,” Choromatsu corrects his younger sibling as he pushes himself into a sitting position.  Jyushimatsu, taking note that Choromatsu has recovered from hitting the ground, leaves his place atop Ichimatsu to tackle Choromatsu flat onto his back.  You watch the two of them flail around for a little bit until Queen Matsuyo finally gets tired of all the racket and attempts to get her unruly offspring back in line.  

“Get up, you useless princes!  You’re making a bad impression!”  

The sharpness in the queen’s voice seems to reach Osomatsu first.  Upon hearing his mother’s reprimands, he joins in, dragging Ichimatsu and Choromatsu apart by the back of their collars as he shouts, “Hey!  Hey! Mom said to be quiet! You’re making us all look bad in front of my wife!”

You’d have likely been more flustered by Osomatsu calling you his wife if it were in fact, true, and also not used in the context of lecturing his younger brothers.  A romantic confession might have been nice. Though, such quixotic thoughts quickly abandon you in the face of hard facts and the recollection of how many times Osomatsu has tried to grope you since you moved in.

As all of the sextuplets form a line--save for Todomatsu, who is still trying to get out his restraints--you turn to the lot of them and dip down into a sweeping curtsy.  Now that you think about it, this might be the first time you’ve bothered to curtsy since arriving here. Osomatsu’s mere proximity must have been leeching the decorum right out of you.

“I’m pleased to finally make your acquaintance.  Osomatsu has told me so much about you.”

For whatever reason, this seemingly harmless sentence makes every one of Osomatsu’s brothers groan in dismay.  You blink back at them in surprise as Choromatsu bemoans,

“She definitely has the wrong idea about all of us, then.  He must have made all of us look bad.”

You shake your head.

“Oh, no, Osomatsu spoke of all of you very fond-”

In the blink of an eye, Osomatsu is back at your side and slapping a hand across your mouth.  You shoot him an affronted look as he laughs nervously and reassures his brothers,

“Yup, I made sure she knew what shitty princes you guys all are!  I gotta make myself look like the best prospect, you know?”

He says this with a wink, which you realize is directed at you, and not at his siblings.  For whatever reason, he must not want them to know how much he missed them. Perhaps it was something to do with sibling rivalry, or him trying to adhere to ridiculous ideas of masculinity.  You aren’t sure which, but you decide to let the issue slide for the time being. Reaching up, you gently pull Osomatsu’s hand away from your face so that you can regard the other brothers without anything getting in the way of you speaking to them.  They’re all looking at you with obvious curiosity, and perhaps their gazes linger a little too long in places they most certainly shouldn’t, but you decide introductions are more important than accusing them of impropriety.

“Anyhow,” you start, “I’m truly happy to finally be able to meet all of you.  I hope you’ll let me prove myself and let me join your family.”

You give all of them a shy nod and another curtsy, which you would have finished properly had Osomatsu not let out a fawning cry of your name and dragged you into a crushing hug.  He only stops smothering your cheeks in kisses every few seconds to peer out over the top of your head at his brothers to crow, “See!? She’s part of our family! Cus she’s gonna marry me!  Isn’t she cute!? Isn’t she great!? Look how jealous all of you are!”

Before Osomatsu can try and force even more of his affections on you, you cover your reddening face in your hands and squirm in his grip.  When his hold on you relaxes, you think it is because Osomatsu finally recognized how embarrassed he was making you, so he decided to be merciful and let you go.  It’s only when you peer out between your fingers that you notice Osomatsu, on the ground, being assaulted by his siblings. Karamatsu and Choromatsu have a hold on a leg each, while Jyushimatsu sits on Osomatsu’s chest.  Ichimatsu, cackling a low and ominous laugh, stands over Osomatsu and announces,

“One fart for each slight.  And I’m counting at least ten.”  

As Osomatsu starts screaming, you feel a hand gently land on your shoulder to turn you away from whatever horrors were about to take place.  You come face to face with Todomatsu, who is now free of his bonds and not very intent on helping his brothers torture Osomatsu. The hand not on your shoulder takes one of yours and raises your knuckles to his lips.

“Don’t worry, princess.  Unlike those guys, I’m the perfect prince.  So reconsider marrying my shitty oldest brother and marry me instead, okay~?”

Both the king and queen wrench their youngest son away from you and start lecturing him about getting in the way of their future grandchildren.

Chapter Text

You’ve come to suspect there’s been some kind of a misunderstanding.  You were reasonably sure that you’d come here under the agreement that you’d be marrying the eldest son of this kingdom.    

“I just want you to know, that if some horrible, awful, extremely violent fate befalls Osomatsu, you can rely on me to step in and take his place as your new husband,” Todomatsu reassures you from his place practically nestled against your side.  He’s holding both of your hands in his, and staring earnestly into your eyes while he tells you this. You have reason to believe that this prince thinks he’s far more charming than he actually is. With an awkward smile in place, you try to subtly pull your fingers from Todomatsu’s grasp.  He only tightens his grip and widens the doe-eyed look he’s giving you as he does so.

You hear the screech of wood across the marble floor as Osomatsu tries to launch himself from his seat and at his younger brother.  Being that he’s currently tied to his seat--not all together unlike how Todomatsu had been bound and gagged upon his arrival--Osomatsu only manages to knock both himself and his chair onto the ground.  While he flails his legs, you recall how, not much earlier, you’d coerced the rowdy group towards a cushioned sitting room in an effort to get to know all of them better. Your diversion had postponed whatever punishments were to be heaped on Osomatsu’s head for some point later that evening, when it wasn’t your problem.  

“I, ah, appreciate that sentiment but, I don’t believe anything will be putting Osomatsu out of commission any time soon,” you say in an effort to gently rebuff the youngest prince.  You shoot him a shaky smile that breaks when you hear Osomatsu shout,

“Wha-Are you planning on murdering me or something, Todomatsu!?”

Todomatsu glances out of the corner of his eye down at his brother and sneers at him with bared teeth.  You try to pull your hands out of his again, and immediately, Todomatsu returns his attention back your way, his pout working in full force against you.  His tone chipper, and his eyes never leaving yours, he calls back to Osomatsu,

“What? No!  Of course not!  I’m just saying there’s a distinct possibility you may die in some terrible way in the near future.  My intentions are good! I want to make sure our visiting princess feels reassured that if something or someone takes you out of the picture, she has a dashing and cute prince to lean on in her time of need!”

There’s a loud clatter as Osomatsu starts kicking his legs and screaming, “That definitely sounds like you’re planning on murdering me!  Fratricide! Regicide! I want him drawn and quartered! No, six-quartered!”

Choromatsu finally speaks up, all the while breathing a heavy sigh of exasperation at the eldest’s antics,  

“Osomatsu, there’s no such thing as six-quartering.  And you aren’t even king yet, so it isn’t regicide either.”

Osomatsu gapes at Choromatsu in obvious horror as he accuses him, “That’s what you’re focusing on?!  He’s saying he’s planning to murder me! Doesn’t that upset you at all!?”

“Not particularly,” Choromatsu shoots back, his tone and expression equally flat.  Leaning back in his chair, Choromatsu crosses one leg over the other and finally turns to address the youngest sextuplet, “Anyway, what’s most important is this: you wouldn’t be the first to marry her anyway!  You’re the youngest!”

Whatever regality and composure Choromatsu had been maintaining a moment ago collapses in an instant as he jabs an accusing finger at Todomatsu before slapping a hand back atop his own chest to emphasize himself.  

“If anything, I’m the most responsible and definitely make the most sense as her husband, er, I mean, king-”

“Non, non, non, if we’re talking about the eldest after shittymatsu, then by that logic, I would make the best choice,” Karamatsu rises to his feet in a sweeping gesture that makes the very glittery cape he has thrown over his shoulders billow out in a wide arc.  While you’re momentarily blinded by the sunlight refracting off of the bedazzled fabric, Karamatsu crosses the distance between the two of you to fall to one knee and extend a hand out in your direction.  “So, what do you say, my... Karamatsu Princess ?  Won’t you be mine?”

“Gross,” Todomatsu immediately says on your behalf.  With a stern expression on his face, he finally lets go of your hands to grab one of the couch’s decorative pillows so that he can try and smother Karamatsu with it.  As Todomatsu tips off of the couch and out of his seat during his malicious efforts, Jyushimatsu vaults over the back the couch and into the place his brother had been occupying.  The jubilant royal sits across from you, his feet pressed together and his body leaning wholly in your direction. You lean away the closer and closer he gets, right until you’re practically pinned under him with your back flat to the cushions.   

“My turn!  You should marry me because I can throw a ball the farthest and I got to ride a unicorn!  Also I have the best stamina, so that means I can go the longest!”

You squint up at him dubiously, entirely unsure where to even start with what you’ve been told.  Slowly, you ask, ”I’m sorry? The longest at what, precisely?”

You hear, but don’t see, as Osomatsu starts screaming obscenities.  Jyushimatsu opens his mouth, probably to answer your question, when Ichimatsu leans over the back of the couch and pulls Jyushimatsu off of you by his collar.  You’re pretty sure Jyushimatsu levitated off of you, rather than climbed off, but you decide it better not to mention that at all. Instead, you push yourself back into a seated position and shoot a grateful smile up at the prince you’ve practically heard not a peep from since you’ve met him.  He’s pointedly avoiding your gaze, and it is only then that you belatedly notice how your bodice had loosened and exposed an inappropriate swath of your skin. With a flush on your cheeks, you straighten out your front, while mentally thanking the young man for being so polite as to look away from you in your disheveled state.  At least one of these princes seemed to understand manners!

When you glance back up, it is to find Ichimatsu staring straight at your chest and sweating profusely.  You open your mouth to ask him what, precisely, he’s looking at, when he lets out a noise somewhere between a snort and a scream.  He reaches for his pants. Jyushimatsu tackles him to the ground.

“Mom said to definitely not do that in front of princesses!” Jyushimatsu reprimands Ichimatsu as he pulls him into some kind of headlock.  You decide you most assuredly do not want to know what “that” entails. So much for any of these lot having any degree of good intentions or manners.  

“I-I’m flattered so many of you want to try for my hand, but I am absolutely set on marrying Osomatsu.  I’m afraid I’ll have to decline your very...generous proposals,” you inform the room as delicately as you can.  All of the sextuplets stop arguing, or trying to maim one another, to turn to face you and take in the information you’ve just given them.  Osomatsu is the first to react, kicking his feet about not unlike an overly excited toddler as he crows,

“See!?  I told you!  She’s marrying me!  Not any of you! Paws off!  She’s my princess to kiss and cuddle and have sex wi-”

Flushing a brilliant red, you pelt a decorative pillow at your betrothed with deadly precision in order to shut him up.  

“The contract between my kingdom and yours stipulates that I marry the eldest son.  Should I not be marrying him, the contract would be rendered null, you see,” you explain in a dry voice.  All of the brothers, save Osomatsu, nod in disappointed understanding. However, the dour mood lasts not a moment before Todomatsu mentions in a cheerful tone,

“I guess I can respect that, since you’re not marrying Osomatsu because you like, actually like him or something!”  

Osomatsu lets out a despairing wail, which his brothers speak over with no concern for his emotional wellbeing.

“Marrying such a despicable man for the sake of your kingdom...adhering stringently to your responsibilities as a royal even when your heart’s desire lies within your reach!  I, your true love, will always remain pining for you, my Karamatsu Princess!” Karamatsu sniffles, a single, dramatic tear rolling down his cheek as he rips off his shirt. You very pointedly look away from the display and back towards where Osomatsu is still on the ground.

“Well, I admit, Osomatsu wasn’t what I expected...or was hoping for, when I’d initially been told of my arranged marriage,” you explain slowly, your gaze fixed on Osomatsu’s face.  He’s looking back at you, his expression raw and wounded until you continue, “But, nobody is perfect. I most certainly am not. And while I may not love him yet, I think of love as a learning experience.  I enjoy learning more than most anything. So, I look forward to learning to love you, Osomatsu.”

The room is dead silent now, save for the way Osomatsu’s breathing very suddenly picks up.  All of you look his way, and you only just manage to catch sight of Osomatsu’s quivering lower lip and watery eyes as he turns his face towards the ground so that none of you can see whatever further expressions he’s making.  You start to get out of your seat to check on him when Osomatsu chokes out, “Jeez, Princess...warn a guy before you lay a line like that on him…”

You decide it may be a good time to let poor Osomatsu off of the floor.  

“Duly noted, Dear.”

Chapter Text

“Before we get to addressing why you’re all here when we’re still a ways off from the wedding, I was hoping you could all tell me what it is you’ve been up to these last few weeks,” you start while taking a delicate sip of your tea.

The Queen had brought all of you something to drink not too long ago, along with some fresh fruit and cookies.  While she’d tried to assure you she’d only gone to the effort because she missed doting on her boys, you suspected it more likely she was making sure they hadn’t all managed to scare you off.  Her constant inquiries after your state of being and whether or not you were still staying at the castle served as very clear indicators of her real concerns. It wasn’t as if you doubted how she sincerely enjoyed the chance to mother on her rowdy sons--the new, peppy vigor with which she carried herself said such very clearly--but her nervous glances in your direction every few seconds had left you with little doubt your staying was her primary concern.  You’d had no problem assuring her of your continuing engagement to her eldest, even if he’d kept trying to grab at you while you did so. That seemed to have reassured her for the time being, so the queen had seen herself off and left you to head your impromptu interview session.

“I want to get to know all of you better, and understand where your talents lie-” Karamatsu opens his mouth to say something, but you swiftly cut him off before he can start, “Administration-wise.”

Every single prince in the room deflates as if you’d told them that a long-anticipated festival was being cancelled due to inclement weather.  So, Osomatsu hadn’t been exaggerating then. All of them truly were as unmotivated as he was.

You feel something bump into your shoulder, and when you turn, it is to find Osomatsu pressing the top of his head against your upper arm while he whines, “Do you gotta bring that kind of stuff up now?  Everyone just got back, and I wanted to take them racing with me.”

Osomatsu looks up at you through his lashes, his eyes wide and pleading and his lower lip quivering in a pout.  You stare back at him, unmoved.

“No races until you get your work done.”

Osomatsu lets out a loud groan, throws his arms into the air, and collapses back into the cushions at his back with a huff.  While he grumbles and slumps and folds his arms tightly across his chest, you adjust your posture and sit primly in a stark contrast to your betrothed.  Smile bright, you gaze out across the princes spread about the room and say, “As I was saying, tell me about yourselves. What were you all up to?”

Jyushimatsu is the first to answer, springing to life like a flower in bloom, one arm arced high over his head and waving wildly back and forth.  

“Oh, pick me!  I’ll want to go up to bat first!”

“Splendid,” you chirp, folding your hands in your lap.  “What duties were you attending to, Jyu-”

“I was made an honorary citizen of the Kingdom of Dolphins!” Jyushimatsu proclaims, while starting to strip.  You wave a hand at him rapidly, trying to deter him from chucking off more of his clothes.

“I-wait!  Please! Don’t take anything else off!  Why are you stripping?! And where is the Kingdom of Dolphins!?”

Jyushimatsu’s boxers go soaring over your head.  The bare-naked prince climbs onto the low table in the center of all of the plush couches, forcing everyone to look his way, save you, who has opted to cover your face in your hands. Thankfully, Choromatsu is deft enough to save the snacks before they can be trampled on.  

“Get off the table!  And put your clothes back on!  A man shouldn’t be naked before a princess!” you hear Choromatsu shout.  You feel a weight shift at your side, and then warm breath puffed out across your ear as Osomatsu whispers deviously to you,

“‘Cept me.”     

You make sure one of your hands is still covering your eyes when you reach out to swat at the prince leaning into you.  Osomatsu only laughs at your efforts.

“J-just explain, please!” you stammer out.  You feel Osomatsu’s arms circle around you and him try to pull you into his lap, but thankfully for your composure, his brothers are having none of it.  There’s a thud , and a complaint, before Osomatsu lets you go so that he can resume sulking.

“Well, I got lost pretty soon after we all got kicked out,” Jyushimatsu begins.  You hear a creak, and decide to risk peeking out between your fingers to see if the prince has decided to appear decent.  He’s sitting down on the table, now. While no less naked, you can’t see much of anything, so you drop your hands and turn his way.  Jyushimatsu smiles at you and continues, “After a while, I just kept heading in the same direction, hoping I’d find something. Then, one day, there was the ocean!  I saw a bunch of dolphins swimming around, and I decided I wanted to be one! So, after training really hard, I became a real dolphin and got invited to join their kingdom under the ocean!”

You squint at the prince, entirely unsure as to whether or not he’s trying to mess with you.  Very slowly, you ask, “What does that story have to do with you being naked, precisely?”

Jyushimatsu laughs, and waves a hand at you airily.

“Because dolphins don’t need clothes!”

A hand comes down onto one of your shoulders, and when you glance back, it is to see Choromatsu looking down at you pityingly.

“Don’t think about it too hard.  We just let him believe what he wants.”  

“I...see…” you reply, understanding nothing.  

Osomatsu leans back over your way again, though only to talk to Choromatsu.  His voice at a drawl, he prods, “Oh yeah, so what were you up to then, Sir Faps-A-Lot?”

Upon hearing that very unique title, Choromatsu’s lips pull into a thin line and his face flushes with embarrassment.  His eyes dart your way, and then back to the eldest sextuplet, as he hisses, “Do you really have to call me that in front of her? ”  

Osomatsu’s gaze slides your way.  When you look away from Choromatsu to Osomatsu, your intended shoots you a wink as he responds cheekily to his brother, “I have to call you that specifically because she’s here.  So, you know, have fun with that.  Now, stop avoiding the question, already.”

Choromatsu grumbles something decidedly uncouth under his breath before straightening out his posture and smoothing down the front of his coat.  With a lofty tone, he informs you, “I spent my time away from home on diplomatic ventures!”

Excitement tentatively flutters in your chest at hearing such information.  Could it possibly be that one of Osomatsu’s brothers really had made an effort to do something for the sake of their kingdom?  You’re just about to press Choromatsu for further details when Todomatsu cuts in acidly, “He spent all six weeks moping between the courts of the Fish Kingdom and the Cat Kingdom because neither princess wanted to give him the time of day.”

Hope gutters out in your heart like a candle in a torrential rainstorm.  While Choromatsu stammers and flushes, Osomatsu throws his head back, laughing, and points a deriding finger towards his younger sibling, “That’s what you get for thinking you could find a wife first, Sir Faps-A-Lot!”

“Stop calling me that!”

You make a point to tune out Osomatsu’s mocking laughter and Choromatsu’s shouting as you turn to those of the sextuplets who haven’t yet volunteered tales of their exploits.  Ichimatsu is very pointedly avoiding your gaze, but Karamatsu is making a very concerted effort at posing dramatically across one of the couches in an effort to get your attention.  You turn to Todomatsu.

“You mentioned staying at Sutabaa Court earlier?”

The sour expression that had been curdling across Todomatsu’s face earlier brightens immediately with faux-cheeriness when your attention turns his way.  He flashes you a brilliant smile, tilts his head, and taps a finger to his lower lip as if in thought.

“Oh yeah, I did mention that!  Thanks for remembering, Princess!  You know, you’re so considerate!”

You give him a hesitating smile in return as you say, slowly, “You’re not going to tell me how that went, are you?”

“Not at all!” Todomatsu supplies cheerfully.  

You feel Osomatsu lean in against you again, his voice a staged whisper as he tells you, “They probably realized that Totty doesn’t have a heart and banished him!  So he’s been wandering the wilds all this time…”

“I got kidnapped from the court, stupid eldest!  That’s why those demons had me tied up when I got here!  Things were going great, and you ruined it by making everyone come back here!”

You raise a hand tentatively.

“I’m sorry, that was actually me…”

Todomatsu’s furious expression instantaneously turns to one of cheerfulness.  Waving a hand airily through the air, he reassures you, “Oh, don’t worry about it all!  I was happy to come!”

It occurs to you that unless Osomatsu is with you to rile his brother up, you may never otherwise know Todomatsu’s true feelings about any subject.  With that unnerving thought in mind, you turn away from the pink prince, and towards the man dangling halfway off of a couch with a rose between his teeth.  Somehow, you already know you will regret your next questions of, “So, Karamatsu, what did you do while you were gone?”

Upon realizing that he finally has the attention he so desperately craves, Karamatsu rockets into a seated position.  The rose that had been in his mouth now in hand, the prince points the ruby red bloom in your direction and declares, “So, the burning question of how this prince has kept the fires of his heart at a steady smolder while out on his journey of self-discovery finally comes to the forefront!  Allow me to regale you with this exciting tale of adventure and romance as I, Prince Karamatsu-”

“He’s wanted in three different kingdoms,” Choromatsu cuts in, his voice deadpan.  

You whip around in your seat to look up at Choromatsu in surprise and dismay.

“I beg your pardon!?”

Choromatsu has the bridge of his nose pinched between two fingers, and he looks almost as if he’s in true pain at the thought of the other prince.  You look back towards Karamatsu to see that he hasn’t dropped his dramatic facade at all upon this information coming to light. Rather, he’s flung himself dramatically over the end of his couch with one arm slung over his eyes.

“Yes, it’s true!  I’m a wanted man! To be as desirable as I am is the curse I must bear upon my shoulders!”

“That’s not it at all!” Choromatsu shouts, emphatically slicing one hand through the air as if to further his point along.  “You’re wanted in three kingdoms for crimes of-!”

“PASSION!  Yes! I confess my sins!  I am a guilty prince!” Karamatsu bellows.  He takes one half of his shirt in each hand and yanks it apart to expose his chest.  Buttons go skittering across the marble flooring. Jyushimatsu goes to chase one.

“PAINFULNESS!!!” Choromatsu shrieks.  He vaults himself over your couch and points an accusing finger at his older brother.  “You’re wanted on charges of painfulness!”

Whatever thin shreds of hope had been holding your soul together up to this point snap straight down their collective middle.  Completely exhausted, you collapse against Osomatsu with your face in his chest and your arms wrapped around his middle. The prince immediately circles his arms around you in turn, and you can feel the smugness radiating off of him in waves.  No doubt he was thrilled to be on the receiving end of your affections, even if they had been brought about only by your exasperation at his brothers. You elect to ignore the fact that he’s probably internally rejoicing in favor of begging, “Osomatsu, please...tell me I have something to work with…anything...”

Osomatsu pets your hair as he reminds you, “You haven’t asked Ichimatsu what he’s been up to.”

Very slowly, you raise your face from his chest to peer over at the purple prince.  The sour-faced young man quickly scuttles into the shadows, receding from view. Osomatsu hums thoughtfully and amends, “To be fair, he was probably murdering someone, so maybe you shouldn't ask.”

You collapse back into Osomatsu’s chest with a cry of despair.  

Chapter Text

After citing your dramatic decline into emotional anguish as reason enough to adjourn your interview session, Osomatsu had seen to it to escort you back to your quarters.  Unsurprisingly, he does not do this out of any concern for your tattered emotional wellbeing. Rather, he utilizes the opportunity of being your sole company at present to try and pester you into letting him into your rooms.  

“I just want one little peek.  One! I’ve never been in a girl’s room before, much more a princess’s.  I bet it smells really nice. Was that weird to say? Well, I’m just saying you always smell really nice and stuff.  So that’s a compliment. I’m really nice, aren’t I?”

You heave a beleaguered sigh and flash Osomatsu an unimpressed look.

“Immensely generous,” you concur with a sardonic smile.  The two of you come to a stop before the double doors that lead into your quarters.  Osomatsu rocks back and forth anxiously on his heels. While the prince has a bright and funny personality, you’ve never known him to be particularly energetic in the way he holds himself during idle moments.  He’s only ever been prone to more dramatic shows of body language in moments of great excitement or duress, neither of which you think he has any reason to be experiencing at present. Naturally, the fact that he’s showing a nervous habit piques your interest.  With an arched brow, you lace your fingers behind your back and lean forward into Osomatsu’s space as you ask, “What is it you really wanted me alone for?”

Almost instantaneously, Osomatsu’s lips peel back into a smarmy smirk.  He easily meets your invasion of his personal space by invading yours back.  

“Oh, well, there’s a lot of things I want you all to myself for.  You got time for me to list ‘em, or would you rather I just got right to it and showed ya?”

It takes a concerted amount of effort on your part for you to not roll your eyes at Osomatsu’s show of bravado and flirtation.  This was nothing you weren’t already used to, after all. Normally, you’d assume his intentions were purely of a more salacious nature, and leave it at that.  Yet, he’s shifting his weight from one foot to the other and jamming his hands into his pockets. He’s anxious about something that has nothing to do with trying to see what’s under all of your skirts.  

“I know you’re not sick of your brothers after only a few hours of them being back.  I’ll rephrase my question: Why are you with me right now, when you can be with them?” you ask him slowly, making sure he hears every word.  

Osomatsu laughs--not one of his real laughs, but a high sound through his nose as he pointedly avoids your gaze.  He scratches at the back of his neck.

“What?  I can’t want to spend time with my super cute soon-to-be wife?”

“Osomatsu,” you call him, your tone brooking little argument.  Osomatsu swallows hard and shifts his gaze to his feet. His cheeks are dusted a rosy pink as he bashfully scratches a finger against one of his cheeks.  

“I, uh...I just,” Osomatsu starts, stammering.  He shifts from one foot to the next, and then says in a rush, “I just wanted to ask you about what you said earlier.  About the love stuff.”

You arch a brow and tilt your head to the side, rather caught off guard by the topic.  You hadn’t actually expected Osomatsu to react much beyond how he initially had to that little speech of yours earlier.  Did he want you to be more clear about your feelings? The thought of him wanting that kind of honesty from you regarding your affections for him brings a blush to your cheeks.  Now it is your turn to fidget anxiously.

“O-oh, yes, what I told your brothers about learning to love you,” you supply.  You let your gaze flit upwards, through your lashes, towards the prince. He’s staring at you with wide eyes and a red face.  You quickly avert your gaze to stare down at your fingers, as if they’d suddenly become remarkably interesting to you in the past minute.  “I was...I was simply being honest. After spending as much time with you as I have, I think we could be a good couple. Not just as rulers, or whatever else.  Something...something where we care about each other a great deal.”

“Do you care about me?” Osomatsu blurts out, leaning towards you with undisguised eagerness.  You jolt a little before giving him a few, quick nods of confirmation.

“Of course I do.  Do you…?”

The very next thing you know, Osomatsu is letting out a joyous laugh as he yanks you into his arms.  You stumble against him, but he catches you with no issue. Smile bright on his face, he leans down to nudge his nose to yours.  

“Hell yeah I do!”  He pulls back, his hands still on your shoulders, to stare up at the ceiling as if he were thanking some deity for their kindness.  Osomatsu lets out a gust of air as he looks back to your face. The two of you stand there, staring at one another. Osomatsu’s gaze flits down your mouth.  You chew on your lower lip before taking a small step towards him. He leans down and-

Osomatsu dips down too fast, too eagerly, and knocks your foreheads together.  The two of you let out simultaneous, pained cries, and stumble backwards as both your tiara and his crown topple off of your heads and onto the floor with a clattering racket.  Osomatsu lets out a very, very colorful curse as he dives down to collect your tiara. You bend at the knees and scoop up his crown. Once you are both righted, you look at one another before Osomatsu breaks the awkward tension by laughing, rubbing a finger under his nose, and offering,  

“Round two?”

You snort, barely able to hold back your laughter as Osomatsu bends forward to place your tiara delicately back atop of your head.  Once he’s close enough, you suddenly rise up on your toes and press your lips to his.

It’s an incredibly brief kiss.  Your mouth is a soft whisper of pressure against his as you reach up to drop his crown atop of his head while he’s distracted.  Osomatsu doesn’t react beyond the way his eyes bug out in surprise and his mouth falls completely lax against yours. Barely able to contain your giggles, you fall back onto your feet and waggle your fingers teasingly at your intended.

“Round two.  I’ll see you tomorrow, Osomatsu.”

You leave the prince in a daze as you close the door to your quarters behind you.  

Chapter Text

“You’ve created a monster,” is the first thing Choromatsu says to you when you make your way to the great hall the next morning.  Caught off guard, you blink back at the prince for a few seconds before you manage,

“I’m sorry?”

“You should be!” Choromatsu shouts.  You wince. You’re amazed someone can manage to be quite that loud this early in the day.  Actually, you’re amazed anyone wearing that face could manage to be up at this hour. You distinctly recall Osomatsu mentioning that all of his brothers slept in the same way he regularly does.  Choromatsu heaves a sigh through his nose and levels you with a reprimanding glare. “Really, you should know better than to encourage him with something like that!”

For a moment, you pretend that you don’t have any idea what Choromatsu is talking about.  You take your time, letting time drag on slowly while you tap a finger to your lower lip in a show of serious contemplation.  This is an act. It wouldn’t be proper for you to just outright admit to having kissed Osomatsu. You find the lack of shame you feel regarding your actions last night at least marginally disconcerting.  The proper princess that had come to this castle all that time ago would have been abashed to know about the pride swelling in your chest as you recall Osomatsu’s lovesick expression.

“I wouldn’t necessarily call the affection between future spouses ‘encouragement’.  If anything, isn’t that the norm?” you reply, keeping your tone level. On the one hand, you can more or less hazard a few good guesses why kissing Osomatsu may have been a bad idea.  On the other hand, that kiss had been a very deliberate choice on your part. Rarely did you do much on impulse, so that kiss had held significant meaning to you. That kiss meant you were willing to try and trust Osomatsu.  You wanted to trust him--not to hurt you, not to make you do everything yourself, and, perhaps most importantly, not to use you for your money.

It had taken a lot of thinking, and a lot of willingness to put your denial of premonitions aside for you to finally admit that your recurring nightmares had a great deal to do with a fear of Osomatsu only wanting you for the money your parents were giving with your hand in marriage.  Undoubtedly, that nightmare probably had some other symbolism you could probably parse out, but nothing you willingly wanted to address at the moment. After spending as much time as you have with Osomatsu, you think his affections for you are genuine. His vices with money derive from being too willing to spend it when he hasn’t had to put in the work to earn it.  You’re optimistic that’s another lesson you can impart upon him.

You’re so caught up in your musing about your intended you don’t even realize that Choromatsu has gone off on some tangent about Osomatsu’s behavior the previous night.  You snap back to attention, nodding dutifully and attempting to make it seem as if you’d been listening to him all along.

“...and he was so caught up in all of his bragging he didn’t even see Ichimatsu until he’d already started smothering him.  And he wasn’t even mad about it! Talked about how it was just ‘his cute little brother Ichimachan being himself’! Who the hell says that about being suffocated!?  And all the rolling around and squealing like a little-”

“That’s truly unfortunate to hear, Choromatsu.  Truly. And as much as I sympathise, I do have duties to attend to, so I should probably be going…” you say in an attempt at making a clean getaway.  Choromatsu’s so busy ranting he doesn’t even notice when you press yourself up against the wall to scoot past him. Nor does he note when you break out into a full sprint down the hall.  

“Eventually, we had to throw him outside and--Princess?  Princess!?”

All Choromatsu manages to catch is the last flash of the color of your skirts as you round a corner towards freedom.  

--

The door to the office you’ve more or less claimed as your own is ajar, and you hear a great ruckus from within.  A possessive concern for the welfare of your documents immediately seizes your heart, and you rush into the room to confront the intruder in your space.  Much to your surprise, you find your office not occupied by an interloper, but your future husband. He’s balanced precariously on the ladder you keep propped up against the tall, wall to wall bookcase, sheafs of paper tucked under one arm and books thrown in a disarray about the room.  Had you been holding anything in your hands, you are absolutely positive you would have dropped it in your shock.

“Osomatsu!?”

The prince jumps slightly upon hearing his name before glancing over his shoulder to find you in the doorway.  Upon seeing you, his face splits into an elated smile, and he hops off of the ladder with no regard to his safety.  You extend a hand towards him in concern, but Osomatsu seems to land with little issue before he’s rushing in your direction and scooping you into his arms.  The papers he’d been holding a moment prior go flying into the air around the both of you as Osomatsu twirls you around and presses his lips hard against your cheek.  

“‘Morning!” he manages a muffled greeting against your cheek, seemingly unwilling to pull away from your face long enough to say anything properly.  

“What are you doing-?” You’re about to ask him what he’s been doing in your office--aside from making a tremendous mess of it--when he starts trailing wet, open-mouthed kisses against your jaw and down your throat.  You let out a flustered squeal and plant your hand against Osomatsu’s cheek in an effort to make him desist in the way he’s vigorously lavishing your bare skin with affection. “Hh-stop! Answer the question!”   

Osomatsu does stop.  Much to your embarrassment, you feel the way he smiles in amusement against where your neck meets your shoulder.  You’d have been able to deflect verbal teasing had it come to that. Instead, Osomatsu takes the hand you’ve put against his face so that he can press kisses into your palm.  With your face bursting into a blush, you let out a startled, high-pitched sound in the back of your throat.

“Osomatsu-”

Finally, thankfully, Osomatsu stops tormenting you and settles for holding your hand up against his cheek.  He’s warm to the touch--maybe a little too warm, as if he is also flustered--and smiling at you with such warmth you can’t help but squirm under his gaze.  

“King stuff,” Osomatsu says, finally.  You manage to look him in the eye long enough to ask for clarification.  Osomatsu shrugs, and provides a bit more detail, “That thing you mentioned earlier when I was worried about everyone being able to come home.  The council thing. No one knows my little brothers better than me, right? So I thought I should pick their places out. I mean, the stuff I picked is so good, all of ‘em are totally gonna have to admit I really am the best older brother out there, you know?  Maybe they’ll go back to calling me what they used to before they thought it was embarrassing or whatever...”

Osomatsu’s words carry all the shock of a bucket of ice water being dumped over your head.  You feel the way your jaw drops, hanging agape in utter shock as you try fruitlessly to comprehend the information you were just given.  Osomatsu...taking responsibility? Osomatsu doing a job that was actually related to ruling the kingdom? Even after all of the weeks you’d put into trying to hammer your lessons into Osomatsu’s unwilling brain, never before had you been confronted with a reality where those lessons managed to take root.  Osomatsu idly plucks at your fingers while your brain continues to short-circuit.

“The...council….what kind of….jobs…?” your words come out slowly, halted, as you stare off into the space over Osomatsu’s shoulder.  Your eyes are unseeing. The world is spinning too fast for you to make anything out.

“Oh, y’know, stuff that suits ‘em.  Like, I think Totty’d make a good spymaster because he’s a sneaky little shit.  One time, he snuck out to a harvest festival all by himself without telling any of us, and a bunch of maidens were totally falling for his ‘prince of the people’ bullshit till we managed to track him down!  Who does something like that without taking their brothers? We could have all played along with that!”

Osomatsu’s words start processing in your brain a little more effectively.  You nod slowly up at your betrothed. That...actually didn’t sound like a terrible idea.  

“And-and, Choromatsu’d be a really good, uh, what’d the book call it?  Royal...secondary…?”

“Secretary?” you supply, unsure.  

Osomatsu snaps his fingers and points at you.  “That’s it! Knew you’d figure it out. You’re always smart like that.  Anyway, he’d be good for that because he basically gets to nag me to do stuff while also getting to nag everyone else to do whatever I told him to tell them to do!  He loves bossing everyone around! And for Karamatsu-”

“Osomatsu,” you call out, cutting him off from any further rambling.  As loathe as you are to dampen any of this miraculous enthusiasm where work is concerned, you feel it absolutely necessary to speak your mind.  Obediently, Osomatsu’s mouth snaps shut and he looks at you with wide, expectant eyes. “Why are you doing this?”

As if you hadn’t experienced enough shock for one morning, Osomatsu’s features flush and he bashfully avoids your curious gaze.  Never, in all the time you’ve known Osomatsu, had you known he was even capable of being embarrassed. As far as you were concerned, your intended may as well have been completely shameless.  While your poor, frazzled brain tries to make sense of whatever strange spirit has possessed the prince, Osomatsu admits, “I just, ah...you know...I was thinking about how cute you are when you’re happy.  And how good it feels when I’m the one makin’ you happy.  You’ve been making me happy pretty much nonstop lately, so I thought maybe I’d try it out too…”  

He’s still not looking at you, which may be for the best.  You’re reasonably sure the warm, stinging feeling welling up in your eyes is the promise of tears.  Some more removed part of yourself knows that crying because Osomatsu is doing something he should be doing in the first place is ridiculous.  But the part of yourself that’s in the now , here, sitting beside Osomatsu as he explains his actions to you can’t help but be affected.  Not simply because it’s perhaps the most selfless thing he’s ever done for your sake, but because it is most likely the most selfless thing anyone has ever done on your behalf.  You’ll admit your standards might be pitiably low, but you’re too caught up in the warmth blooming in your chest and the sudden overwhelming fondness you have for the man sitting at your side to care overmuch.  Without thinking, you throw your arms around Osomatsu’s neck and press your lips to his. Osomatsu reacts with a noise of surprise before he seems to realize that you’re kissing him. Before you know it, you’re on your back, Osomatsu leaning over you, his mouth sloppy against yours and his body slotted between your legs.  You’re quick to realize this could get out of hand very fast.

Speaking of hands…

You swat at the hand trying to sneakily work its way towards one of your breasts, and Osomatsu makes a dismayed sound against your mouth.  Pulling away from him, you appraise the prince from your place below him before saying, “Thank you.”

Osomatsu’s brows furrow.

“Okay, you say ‘thanks’, but then you won’t let me touch your boobs, so-”

“For working!” You cut him off, a bit impatiently.  After taking a deep breath, you continue more amicably, “Thank you for thinking of me.  Thank you for realizing that your working would make me happy, and doing it. I really appreciate it.”

Osomatsu waggles his eyebrows at you, and it takes more of your restraint than you’d like to admit not to reach over your head, grab one of the couch’s decorative pillows, and swat him in the face with it.  

“How much do ya appreciate it~?”

With an amused snort, you take his face in your hands and bring him down until you are nose to nose.  Smiling, you say, “Good to see you’re still in there. I was beginning to get concerned.”

You kiss him again, and forget about work for a little while.  

Chapter Text

Getting Osomatsu alone isn’t precisely the most difficult task.  While you can almost always find him with one of his brothers, luring him away from them takes next to no effort on your part.  Fortunately, his brothers usually seem quite grateful to you for taking him off their hands.

Ichimatsu offers no resistance when you ask him if you can borrow Osomatsu for a few minutes.  In fact, he seems very relieved. From what you can gather from their current arrangement--with Ichimatsu’s foot planted across Osomatsu’s cheek as his fends his older brother off from the snacks you know he stores solely for his feline friends--you’re probably doing the younger prince a favor.  After noticing your appearance at the doorway, Osomatsu abandons being a nuisance to his brother in favor of being a nuisance to you instead. Smile wide on his face, your intended eagerly trails after you when you bid he follow you somewhere more private.

“We’re not going to your office?” Osomatsu asks when he notices you turn left rather than your usual right.  You shake your head, and try not to let your nervousness show in your body language. You’re not entirely sure you’re doing a very effective job.  Your cheeks are positively burning and you can feel the stiffness in your spine as you try to carry yourself with feigned confidence. When you glance at your prince out of the corner of your eye you notice him watching you with narrowed eyes and a cocked brow.  You quickly avert your gaze when your eyes meet and you hear Osomatsu let out a bemused huff of laughter from where he is following after you. His tone playful, he prods, “Where are we going then? Secret date?”

You turn another corner and come to a stop before a familiar set of double doors.  Expression stern with focus--though the effect is undoubtedly mitigated by your brilliant blush--you turn around and inform him, “My quarters.”

Osomatsu looks behind you and realizes, indeed, you’re both standing in front of your rooms.  His gaze slowly peels away from the doors and towards your face in plain disbelief. His cheeks color.  Does he know what you have in store for him?

“Y-your room?  R-really? With me?” Osomatsu’s hand is shaking when he places it over his chest as he gestures to himself.  The question seems rather silly given there is no one else around. You inhale deeply through your nose and give him a nod of confirmation.  

“Yes.  It’s important.  And something...I think we should share just between us.  So, if you’re okay with that…?” You trail off, meekly, and shuffle aside so Osomatsu can go to your rooms of his own volition.  There’s an awkward moment where he just gapes at you, and you’re absolutely positive he somehow knows what you’re planning on asking him for.  It is, after all, a pretty big deal. His eyes meet yours again, as if searching for your approval. You bob your head in a nervous nod.

Faster than you can blink, Osomatsu lets out a triumphant cheer and sprints into your quarters as if magnetized to space inside.  The sound of his laughter trails after him, bright and loud and familiar in a way that never fails to make you smile. He’s excited then.  Good. Comforted by sharing a similar mindset to your intended, you follow him into your rooms with more confidence. You only just manage to turn around from having gently closed your doors behind you when Osomatsu traps you up against polished wood.  

He’s kissing you, trying to get his tongue into your mouth with neither finesse nor shame as he cinches his hands around your hips to pull them flush to his.  You gasp when his teeth catch against your lower lip, and he moans encouragingly and with embarrassing volume once he thinks he’s got you following his lead. When you tear your face away from his for a chance to breathe, Osomatsu simply diverts his attention to your neck as he pushes you harder up against the door.  Your shoulders flatten out against the surface as Osomatsu shoves his thigh between both of yours and begins rocking against you in earnest. He’s panting against your neck, chasing his own pleasure with blind enthusiasm as his hands come up to palm your chest and push your breasts up in your bodice.

Osomatsu is panting harshly against your skin--air coming out in sharp, stuttering huffs that match the rhythm of his hips.  His breath warm against your ear, Osomatsu groans, “-Been wanting this for so long. You feel so good, so soft -”

Finally, your very flustered thought process manages to realign itself.  You realize, quite belatedly, that Osomatsu’s intentions and yours did not correlate even remotely at present.  And while you are aware of the fact that Osomatsu’s enthusiasm is kind of--no, definitely--flustering you in a very good way, you are also aware that letting this encounter proceed any further the way Osomatsu wants it to is not a good idea.  Were you to pursue less than chaste pursuits with Osomatsu now, he would have the entire kingdom and then some hearing about it within the day. You had a reputation to keep. At least, you did until the both of you were married.

And that thought brings you back to the present, and what you’d wanted to get Osomatsu alone for in the first place.  

You think you’ve put off this wedding business for long enough.  

Initially, it had been easy enough to push off your eventual nuptials until some unforeseen date in the future.  You had barely known your intended, and trusted him even less to be a competent king and husband. As time went on, Osomatsu grudgingly accepted your lessons.  In turn, you grudgingly accepted his affections. This reluctance eventually morphed into eagerness, and before either of you knew it, you had begun to regard your time with Osomatsu as something to enjoy, rather than dread.  Osomatsu still didn’t enjoy your lessons all that much, but he was easy enough to bribe into complacency once you’d decided you rather liked this whole kissing business.

With such dramatic changes of heart on your mind as of late, you’d been having a harder and harder time justifying postponing the ceremony.  So, you’d decided, if Osomatsu was willing, you’d give the whole wedding process a hearty push towards the very near future.

Though, right now, you think the only thing that needs a hearty push right now is your future husband.  Bracing your hands on Osomatsu’s shoulders, you give him a firm enough push to let him know you want him to stop.  He stiffens, his shoulders hunched up to his ears and his fingers tight at your hips, before he finally relents with a dismayed whine.  Once he’s pulled himself back enough to get a proper look at your face, Osomatsu cries, “But we’re in your rooms!”

“I wanted to talk,” you say with a clarity in your voice that kind of surprises you.  At least you weren’t tripping over your own tongue while trying to make an important point.  Osomatsu squints at you, and then gestures emphatically in the direction of where you keep your bed.

“Talk!?  In your rooms!?  We can talk anywhere!  We can only do that here!”  

“Osomatsu, don’t be ridiculous,” you scoff, leveling him with an unimpressed look.  “People can do...those sorts of things anywhere.”

Osomatsu’s eyebrows shoot up high across his forehead, and a grin starts forming on his lips.  Stammering, you cut him off before he can even start.

“T-that’s not the point!  The point is, I wanted you here because I wanted to discuss something private!”

Osomatsu’s gaze goes from your face to the rest of your body.  While staring very blatantly at your chest, Osomatsu asks, “Is it about the anywhere thing-?”

“No!”

Upon hearing your very firm denial, Osomatsu groans and finally peels himself off of you entirely.  He looks incredibly sour as he drops himself onto one of the room’s couches face first and just lays there.  You let him sulk for a few moments as you ask yourself why you want to marry this man in the first place. Your list of reasons comes out far, far longer than you’d ever willingly tell Osomatsu.  Still, the things you do love about him help encourage you back towards your original goal for the day. After smoothing out your ruffled appearance, you make your way over to the couch Osomatsu is laying on and forcefully shove him aside so that you have enough room to sit down with him.  Osomatsu remains as dead weight the entire time. A bemused smile on your lips, you reach out and begin carding your fingers through his hair. Osomatsu grumbles into the couch cushion, but doesn’t stop you.

“The reason I wanted the talk to be private was because I wanted to ask you to marry me, Osomatsu,” you inform him in a level tone.  Somehow, Osomatsu derailing all of your earlier plans had made this spontaneous confession all that much easier. You’re still nervous, of course, but only in the anticipatory sense of stepping into something you’ve been preparing for for a long, long while.  

Osomatsu jolts into a sitting position as if you’d electrocuted him.  His mouth hanging open and his eyes bugging out, he whips around to face as he very loudly shouts out an extended “EHH?!” of complete confusion.  You let him gather his wits while you try to recollect your hearing.

“I was hoping we could get married-” you try again, patiently, before Osomatsu cuts you off.

“But we’re already getting married!  I mean, unless you know something I don’t?”  Reaching out, you gently brush some of the errant hair from Osomatsu’s face.  He takes your hand as it curves against his cheek, and holds it there. His voice tentative, he asks, “We are getting married, right?”

You give him an amused, lopsided smile.

“I just asked, didn’t I?  I’ll rephrase my question: Will you marry me sooner?  I want to be with you.”

Osomatsu stares at you with wide eyes before turning around in his seat to look about the room.  He quickly turns back to face you.

“This is real?”

“Absolutely,” you tell him, earnestly.  

“This is real,” Osomatsu repeats incredulously.  His face lights up with excitement, and before you can brace yourself for impact, Osomatsu is throwing his arms around you and knocking the both of you to the floor.  As you lay on the ground, wheezing, Osomatsu begins smothering your face in kisses. “Yes! Let’s do it! Whenever you want! Right now, even!”

Osomatsu braces himself on his elbows above you so that he can look down at you properly.  You hold up a finger, as if indicating that you need a moment.

“Let me write to my parents and let them know.  While we wait for their response, we can tell your family.”

Osomatsu’s already tremendous grin grows even wider before he drops all of his weight onto you in a graceless embrace.  While you try to recover from having the wind knocked out of you, Osomatsu nuzzles against the side of your face and asks, “So can we have sex now?”

The flat look you level him with is more than answer enough to that question.

Chapter Text

With your heart hammering an anxious rhythm in your chest through the entire process, you manage to carefully send the letter to your parents on its way back to your former kingdom.  Not long ago, you would have thought of your letter’s trajectory being homeward. Yet, nowadays, you can’t help but think of home as being where you’re already staying. It’s likely for the best.  This was where you’d be staying for the foreseeable future, after all. Amazingly enough, you’re not particularly worried about your future at all. Given that your future was not destined to be pursued alone, you find the prospect of the unknown waiting over the horizon a much less daunting prospect than you had before you’d ever met Osomatsu.

Still, you suppose you could afford to be anxious about a few things.  For example, how were you going to break the news to your new in-laws about wanting to speed up your nuptials?  Osomatsu--ever averse to planning--had seemed intent on simply winging the announcement when you’d brought up your concerns to him earlier.  He’d been much more preoccupied with trying to coerce you into innumerable kisses than he had been in trying to help you draft your impromptu speech.  Naturally, it fell on your shoulders to make this an occasion befitting of an announcement of such import. Between trying to organize a nice get-together with your soon-to-be family and thinking of just what to write to your parents, you’d found ways to thoroughly agitate that anxious little knot in the pit of your stomach.  

“I just want to make sure it all goes right,” you tell Osomatsu on your way back from sending off your letter.  He’d volunteered to come along with you when you’d told him you were mailing out your letter, though you suspect his intentions were less for the purpose of providing emotional support and more for the chance to gawk at you when he thought you weren’t looking.  While you certainly were endeared to know he thought so fondly of you, it was hard to focus on not wanting to pull him into a corner somewhere whenever you caught him sighing wistfully at your profile. That was probably his plan, damn him.  

“It’s gonna be fine ,” Osomatsu reassures you as he slings one of his arms across your shoulders.  You find yourself nestled into his side, with him nuzzling his face into your hair as he continues on, blithely, “You could tell my family about this in a barn, and they’d freak out--in a good way!  You don’t have to pull out all the stops for this, you know.” 

You pull back so that you can give him your most serious, determined expression.  Osomatsu’s eyes crinkle at the corners as he smiles at you, the prince plainly amused by the furrow to your brow and the pout on your lips.    

“I want to, though!  This means a lot to me.  It’s just that having something for people to be excited about on our behalf is important to me,” you manage to explain.  You turn away from him, fretting and mindlessly tapping your fingers together in a display of your distress. From your periphery, you see Osomatsu roll his eyes before he steps out in front of you to take your hands in his.  With your fingers now twined together, Osomatsu says, 

“Then it’ll go great.  You always do a great job with things that matter to you.  Hell, you do a good job with things that don’t even matter.”  

Osomatsu’s reassurances soften the tense line of your shoulders, and you let yourself sag forward until your forehead is pressed to his chest and his arms come around to encase you in a warm embrace.

“I hope my parents will be as happy to hear the news as you think your family will be,” you finally say, more to yourself than your intended.  Osomatsu sets his chin to rest atop of your head.  

“‘Course they’ll be.  What kind of parents wouldn’t be happy about this sort of thing?” 

--

You are absolutely positive Matsuyo is on to you the second she steps into the dining hall.  The self-satisfied aura she radiates when she steps into the cavernous space is nearly tremendous enough to bowl you over.  Very suddenly, you are struck by the knowledge of just where Osomatsu gets that infuriatingly smug (if cute) smirk he usually wears whenever he thinks he has some sort of advantage over you.  The fact that the Queen only barely manages to stop herself halfway through an excited squeal when you pointedly avoid her gaze only solidifies your suspicions about her suspicions.. 

Fortunately, the rest of the Matsuno clan seem more focused on the food than the occasion for its presence.  You don’t even have time to rise from your chair, champagne flute already in hand, before Jyushimatsu is leaping onto the table to wrestle with the roast pig.  Somewhat inured to Jyushimatsu’s antics, you patiently watch and wait while Ichimatsu begins counting down the seconds the pig has been in Jyushimatsu’s chokehold with accompanying slaps to the tabletop.  As the dishware rattles, the King wisely picks up his plate from the table before it tips off. Finally having enough, Choromatsu delivers hearty downward chops to the top of the troublemakers’ heads while indignantly spluttering, “Get off the damn table!  Show some manners, you shitty excuses for princes!” 

As Choromatsu and Jyushimatsu struggle over custody of the main course, Todomatsu turns to you with a bright, expectant smile and fluttering lashes.

“Thank you so much for doing such a cute little get-together like this, Princess!  I bet you’d really love one of my tea parties--” 

“She doesn’t want your petty forks, or whatever you call them, Todomatsu,” Osomatsu cuts in, his tone sour as he pulls back the bowl of his spoon to catapult an assortment of vegetables at the youngest.  Todomatsu slices through the air at the incoming volley with a butter knife, saving his pristine outfit from harm. Just as Karamatsu begins to lean over to congratulate his younger brother for his swift reflexes, Matsuyo seems to finally have enough.  With a shout, she slaps a hand over Karamatsu’s mouth before he can even say anything painful, sending him toppling backwards out of his seat with a yelp and a resounding clatter. Now on her feet, the Queen shouts, 

“BE QUIET, YOU GOOD FOR NOTHING ROYALS!!!”  

Every man in the room immediately goes to their appropriate seat, sitting with perfect posture and with their hands demurely in their laps.  Even the pig Jyushimatsu had wrestled off of the table is sitting politely in its own chair. Satisfied, the Queen smiles at you with all teeth and bids you, “You had something to say, Dear?”

“R-right.  Of course. Yes,” you stammer, unable to prevent yourself from wilting a bit under the intensity of the Queen’s gaze.  She’s looking at you like a starving predator looks at the particularly juicy prey it’s managed to corner. Clearing your throat, you reach out a hand towards your intended, which Osomatsu takes eagerly.  With Osomatsu standing at your side, you feel more confident. You would do this just like you planned, with the speech you had taken the time to memorize for this occasion. The room is quiet when you take a deep, bracing inhale, and then-

“We’re getting married,” Osomatsu says, bluntly.  Every person at the table arches a brow, mouths open to ask the inevitable question when Osomatsu clarifies, “In two days.” 

Unsurprisingly, all hell breaks loose.  Matsuyo lets out the loudest cheer you’ve ever heard as she flips over the entire table so that nothing can impede her on her way to you and your intended.  You don’t even have time to take a breath before she’s crushing you and Osomatsu in her arms, your feet dangling off of the ground as she violently swings you both from one side to the next.  There is a worrying crack, and you’re not sure if it came from your ribs, or Osomatsu’s. Mercy arrives in the form of the King, who very gently tries to pry his wife off of the both of you.

“Now, now, Honey, they can’t get married if you crush them both to death, you know…” 

With a mighty sniffle, Matsuyo releases the both of you, and you collapse into Osomatsu’s arms the moment you are free.  He looks to be faring slightly better than you, if only because he has more experience with his mother’s hugs.  

“I mean, I thought the wedding was why you arranged this--” Matsuyo is speaking to you now, her voice thick with emotion as she gestures to the chaotic dining hall.  You only have time to catch sight of five arms reaching out from behind the King like some sort of monster from the deep before Osomatsu is snatched up by the shirtfront and dragged into the throng of his brothers.  The familiar sounds of landed punches and spit curses ring through the air. You trust Osomatsu will make it through his brothers’ congratulatory gauntlet. Probably. 

“I, well, I’d intended it to be a bit more-” You cut yourself off with a bemused huff, finally accepting the reality of the situation.  With a family like the one you’d soon be joining, all plans tended to fall to the wayside. Osomatsu had probably cut in to announce the wedding not to disrupt your speech, but because he knew it was inevitable that it would be interrupted by his family one way or another.  You knew how desperately he wanted you to love his family, and he was more than willing to take your ire if it meant making sure you wouldn’t be truly offended by his siblings. It’s a silly notion on his part--you could never hate his family. “Actually, yes, Osomatsu and I had wanted to tell you about moving the wedding forward.  He’d told me there wasn’t any need to make an occasion of it, but…” 

Both the King and Queen are paying you their full attention.  Mirrored expressions of warmth and fondness spread across their faces, and both of them reach out to place a hand on either of your shoulders.  

“Thank you.”

With a sigh, Matsuzo looks over his shoulder at his many squabbling sons while shaking his head.  

“I’ll try and make sure they’re better behaved for the actual wedding.”