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Blue Roses

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When they met for the first time, Yuuri was 6 years old and very scared.

They had been at sea for a week and traveled an additional 2 weeks by train into the mainland before finally reaching the palace.

Everything was so big and white, towering over Yuuri and his mother as they had made their way through the city. As pretty and fresh and new everything had been upon their arrival, Yuuri missed Japan. He had started to miss his home during the 2nd day of their travels, but now it was too much. Three weeks away from home in a land where he couldn’t understand anyone, didn’t know anyone, didn’t smell like anyone.

He missed Hasetsu and its kind villagers. He missed their foods and laughter. He missed the bright lanterns that hung off of the sloped rooftops, the steam that came from the hot springs that seemed to coat the town in a constant light fog. He missed his puppy and his sister. He missed Yuuko and Takeshi. He missed his father.

His cries started when they walked through the palace gates, Hiroko bouncing him on her hip in an attempt to calm the boy down. His screams didn’t settle until he buried his nose into his mother's neck, inhaling her familiar clean beta scent. It was similar to his father’s smell, but muted and warm.

He didn't even know why they were there. His father had told him that they were going on a trip and to have fun. “Look after your mother,” he had said kindly, “I can't wait to hear all about it when you come back!

“Mama,” he whispered as they walked down the gravel path toward the castle’s entrance. Behind them, he could see two guards following a few yards away, their own scents carefully neutral.

“Are you feeling better, Yuuri?” She asked, squeezing him tighter.

“...A little.”

“I'm glad.”

“Why are we here, Mama?”

“We're going to meet someone.”

“Who?”

Before she could answer, a black haired beta with soft eyes in a fancy pressed suit approached them from the palace steps.

“Lady Katsuki?” He asked with honest confusion. Even Yuuri could sense his composed distress.

“Yes.”

“I'm so terribly sorry that you had to walk! Did the carriage not arrive?” He spoke in perfect Japanese, shocking the boy in her arms. This was the first time anyone they met in this country had spoken in his native tongue.

“Oh, no!” She chuckled and adjusted Yuuri on her hip. The small boy peeked from behind her hair to get a better look of the speaker and was met with a concerned frown, “It's such a lovely day and I wanted to walk. We've been traveling in trains and carriages for so long, it's nice to stretch your legs every once in awhile. The city is very beautiful, right Yuuri?”

He forced a nod. Nothing was as pretty as the castle back in Hasetsu, but he could tell his mother wanted him to be polite.

“I can't argue with you there, Madam. I hope you fared well during the trip,” He smiled when he spotted Yuuri, causing the boy to blush from embarrassment and hide his face once more, “is this the young lord?”

“Yes, this is Yuuri. Yuuri, say hello.”

“But I don't know his name, Mama,” Yuuri whispered, emitting distress in his own scent. The fancy man sensed this and bowed once more.

“My apologies, I never introduced myself. I'm the Master of the Household, Bogdan Popovich. I'll be escorting you to the throne room after we discuss the doctor's results, if that's alright with you,” Yuuri could smell the barest hint of amusement coming from the fancy man.

“Of course, I understand your concerns; this is a… delicate matter.”

“I'm glad you agree. Please, come this way,” he gestured to the steps and moved aside.

“Yuuri, would you like to walk?”

“Yes, please.”

She put him down and held his hand. He followed along side her, his short strides causing him to lag a little behind the two adults as he glanced anxiously behind them at the guards.

“Don't worry, Master Yuuri,” the fancy man spoke again with a grin, “they only want to protect you.”

“Why?” He asked with a frown, “is someone mad at me?”

“Oh, no!” He reassured as they reached the top of the stairs, “not at all! We just want to keep you safe, that's all.”

“Why don't they protect the crown prince?” His frowned deepened, “Mama said a prince lived here - oh!” He gasped and stopped, tears brimming in his eyes, “do they think I wana hurt the prince? I swear I don’t! I’m sorry for calling this country stupid, I’m sorry! I didn’t mean it! Mama, I’m sorry!”

“It’s alright, Yuuri!” His mother squeezed his hand and gave him a reassuring smile, “they won’t hurt you. The crown prince wants to keep you safe, that’s why they’re here. He thought you would feel better if you had someone watching over you in this new country.”

“R-really?” He took the bait and swallowed, mellowing out slowly.

“Of course. You’re a special boy, Yuuri. The guards only want what’s best for you.”

“We’re sorry for scaring you, young Lord,” one of the guards spoke up in broken Japanese, the other nodding in agreement.

Yuuri sniffled, glanced at his mother, and rubbed his eyes with his free hand, “I-I’m sorry I got scared,” he responded. The fancy man smiled.

“Shall we go, Master Yuuri? We can prepare a feast for you after you meet the Vice Regent. There will be lots of sweets made just for you and your mother.”

“O-okay,” he nodded and started to walk with them again, his stress still thick in the air around them but thankfully not directed at the guards.

They walked through a series of lavishly decorated rooms, each more exquisite the deeper into the castle they went. His mother cooed and complimented the various paintings and decorations they saw, from the pastel wallpapers to the rich velvet upholstery to the opulent carved wooden doors. All the while the fancy man explained the origins and history behind a select few pieces. Yuuri, however, stared at the floor during their walk, noticing only the changes made in carpet or wooden flooring as they moved from room to room.

They finally came to a stop in a room floored with marble, and Yuuri looked up to see that they were in a sparsely furnished white room. One side of the hall had 4 large windows to let the sunlight in while the other was decorated with different sized mirrors in many ornate frames.

“Look, Yuuri,” his mother pointed to a familiar mirror with a frame carved to look like cherry blossom tree branches, “I’m glad our gift made it here unharmed.”

Yuuri blushed when he realized what it was. He remembered picking the frame out with his mother 4 months ago, not understanding at the time why, “there are so many…”

“It is customary for visitors to bring a gift for the royal family,” the fancy man informed, “the mirrors help to spread the light from the windows throughout the room. They also greet the guests who gifted these lovely pieces as a form of appreciation for their present. Next to this room,” he pointed to the large white and gold door in front of them, “is the throne room, where you will meet the Vice Regent.”

“Welcome, Lady Katsuki,” a familiar voice interrupted the fancy man. They turned and saw an older Alpha with a harsh face, weathered from years of work and stress. In contrast, his eyes were gentle and welcoming. His smile grew when he saw the young boy, “it’s been a while, Yuuri. How are you feeling?”

“Hello, Dr. Plisetsky,” his mother greeted, and Yuuri smiled brightly at the newcomer.

“Dr. P!” He cheered and let go of his mother’s hand, running to the older man and hugging his leg, “I didn’t know you would be here!” Yuuri liked the doctor. He didn’t have an Alpha musk like the other Alphas in his hometown. The doctor once told him it was due to the berries he ate to suppress his smell. Yuuri asked to try some, but he had refused.

“I’m glad you made it here safely,” he kneeled and gave the boy a proper hug before looking over his head at his mother, “I had heard you didn’t bring any guards with you, Lady Katsuki, but I can now see it’s true. Why?”

“We’re a low ranking family in Japan, Doctor. We keep our business to ourselves. There’s no reason for anyone to want to target us.”

“But you’re still nobility, My Lady. And your son is very special to our royal family. Please be more careful when you travel.”

“The only ones who know about him are whoever you’ve told and my own family. Even Yuuri doesn’t know why he’s here.”

“You didn’t tell him?” He straightened up and frowned. Yuuri looked at the two with confusion before he started to pout.

“Tell me what?”

“Yuuri, do you know why you’re here?”

“Papa said it was to have fun. Mama said we were meeting new people. Mari said it was to get rid of me.”

“Yuuri!” His mother gasped and frowned.

“It’s okay, Mama, I don’t believe her. She was just mad ‘cuz Vicchan stole her meat bun,” he grinned and turned back to the Doctor.

“Yuuri,” the doctor took his hand and guided him over to one of the couches under the windows. The boy hopped up and sat on the plush cushions, radiating contentment as the doctor sat beside him, “has your mother told you what ‘Soulmates’ are?”

“Yes!” He gushed, proud to know the answer, “Mama and Papa are soulmates! My best friends Yuuko and Takeshi are also soulmates too! They have the same flower on their knee!”

“Do you know who your soulmate is?”

Yuuri shook his head and shrugged, “One day I will. Mama said so.”

“Well, Yuuri, that day is today,” Yuuri gasped wide eyed and blushed.

“Really?” He asked shyly, looking between the doctor and his mother.

“Yes, dear,” the doctor looked to Yuuri’s mother and the fancy man. One returned the look with a knowing grin while the other looked pleasantly surprised, “The mark is genuine. I’ve already informed the Vice Regent and Lady Katsuki, which is why she is here with us today.”

“I’m very happy to hear that!” The fancy man cheered, “same location and color?”

“Of course,” the doctor looked to Yuuri’s mother and informed her that, “to protect the crown prince and your son, we’ve limited the knowledge about the mark to only those directly concerned. The purpose of this visit to the throne room is to not only introduce you and your son to the Vice Regent, but to also inform the royal advisors of the discovery.”

“Oh,” she nodded, looking between the two men, “I understand. I appreciate the confidentiality.”

Their conversation was interrupted by two guards entering the room. They stopped a few feet away from the group and greeted them with a bow, “the Vice Regent is ready to see you all. Please follow us.”

The men spoke pure gibberish to Yuuri, who was pulled out of his trance at their arrival. He looked anxiously to his mother when he noticed the doctor stand.

“They’re going to take us to meet your soulmate,” she reassured him happily, holding her hand out. He eagerly took it and followed the rest of the group into the throne room.

 


 

When they met for the first time, Victor was 10 years old and very sleepy.

He had been napping in his mother’s private garden, under the large oak that had his parents Soul Mark carved deeply into the trunk, when a servant had approached. Georgi Popovich, the Beta son of the Nikiforov family’s Master of the Household, towered above the crown prince. His overbearing smell carved a frown on Victor’s face as he cracked an eye open to meet his challenging stare.

“My lessons are over, Georgi, I’ve earned this nap.”

“The Vice Regent requires your presence in the throne room,” he stiffly informed, looking none too pleased with the situation himself.

Victor sighed heavily and closed his eye, “I’ve no interest in going. Do me a favor and tell Yakov you couldn’t find me, okay?” He rolled over to lie on his side in the soft grass, gingerly moving his blue flower crown to the side. Tradition decreed that he was not allowed to wear any of the royal jewels until he was crowned king; until then, a ringlet of blue roses would suffice.

“Your Highness, you really must-”

“Go away! I’m too tired to move! Can’t you see how weak I am?” Victor whined dramatically. He could smell the aggression in Georgi’s demeanor and grinned with childlike satisfaction until the 15 year old huffed.

“Of course, Sir,” he hissed. Victor could imagine the vein popping on his forehead, “it seems that you’re cranky from lack of sleep. Hopefully the reason will be enough to excuse you from meeting your soulmate.”

Victor’s eyes flew open and he jolted upright, “my what?!”

“Enjoy your nap, Your Highness,” the smug servant gave a slight bow and turned. If this had been any other day, Victor would have made a comment that would have sent Georgi sulking for the rest of the afternoon, leaving him to enjoy his nap in the cool shade of his mother’s tree. Instead, an untamed joy burst from his lips in the form of a laugh and he grabbed his floral crown, scrambling to his feet and chasing after the servant.

“You said ‘soulmate’ right? Right?” He tugged on his sleeve, his crown crookedly resting on his head.

“It’s a pity we will have to send him away,” he gently removed Victor’s hand from his sleeve and straightened his crown before continuing, “I was eavesdropping on a conversation between Dr. Plisetsky and my father and heard that he's traveled all this way from Japan-”

“From Japan?!” He squealed and jumped, once again shifting the flowers out of place, “oh, please don’t be lying! I’ll be very cross if this turns out to be some sort of joke!”

“‘Cross’?” Georgi sneered, “how formal! Where’d you hear that word?”

The cheeky grin returned, “when Yakov was scolding you for mixing up the walnut and banana cookies.”

The sneer quickly dropped from his lips and he avoided looking at the crown prince. Victor continued to assault the servant with questions about his mate right up until they reached the doors leading to the throne room. Just as the doors were about to be opened, he gasped and latched onto Georgi once more.

“Georgi! I must change! There’s no way I can meet my mate dressed like this!” He lifted his leg and started to hop on one foot, “look! I have grass stains! I can’t go in there looking like this!”

“There aren’t any stains,” Georgi reached down and gently brushed off some stray blades of grass before fixing his crown once more, “you know which entrance this door is, right?”

“Yes,” he nodded eagerly. The large ornate door decorated with gold-leafed filigree led to a special area behind the thrones. Their entrance would be obscured by the thick sheer curtains that served as a backdrop for the two chairs, keeping their entrance hidden from the Court, audience, and Vice Regent.

“Then you know you must remain still and silent until you are called for?”

“Yes, yes!” Georgi buttoned up the rest of his pale blue coat and smoothed the fabric. He stood up straight and allowed the smallest of smiles for the prince.

“Are you ready?”

Victor could only nod, his cheeks sore from grinning.

Georgi gave him an appraising look. “Remember: you’re a crown prince. Act like it.”

“I’ll try,” he honestly admitted. Georgi sighed.

“I suppose that’s all I can ask for,” he turned to the guards and signaled for them to proceed. The two nodded and stepped forward, each grabbing a heavy bronze handle and pulling. They opened it just wide enough for the young prince to walk through before silently shutting the doors behind him.

Victor, giddy and anxious, inhaled and held his breath. He counted to ten before releasing the mouthful of air and quietly moving forward. He approached the curtain wall in front of him, the sunlight pouring in from the windows illuminating the extravagant throne room before him. From where he stood he was shrouded in shadows, hidden from the eyes of any that might walk through the door.

To his surprise, however, the throne room was empty, save for the handful of guards positioned around the room’s perimeter. Yakov - his uncle, the Vice Regent, and father’s best friend - stood beside the throne facing the curtain, as if he were waiting for him. Victor knew he was.

“Vitya,” he quietly called out. He was dressed similarly to Victor - comfortably, but elegantly enough to showcase his position. It was summer, the affair private. There was no need for pomp and extravagance.

“I’m here,” he answered, practically vibrating with excitement.

“Do you know why you're here?”

“Yes, Georgi told me.”

Yavok hesitated for a moment, “Georgi told you...never mind; you must remain silent. You’re only allowed to come out when I call for you, do you understand?” His scent was calm. There was no real aggression, regardless of what his words implied. Victor caught onto this quickly.

“Yes.”

“Good,” He nodded to himself and narrowed his eyes. Victor knew he couldn’t see him, but the effect remained the same. “Silence. Remember that.”

He turned and took his seat in one of the thrones, bellowing out to the guards below to “let them in!”

The doors to the right opened and a few trusted advisors entered the room. They adjusted their clothes, their banter slowly fading as they took their positions at the steps of the platform where the thrones lay. Yakov waited with disinterest until they were completely silent.

“Are we ready to proceed?” He asked, a hint of impatience seeping into the air. The advisors hesitated from the annoyance radiating from the Vice Regent and nodded.

“What is the meaning of this?” One of the braver ones asked, only to be interrupted.

Are we ready to proceed?” They nodded once more, reeking of submission. Victor found himself amused by how potently the Betas smelled of capitulation.

“Escort our guests in,” he ordered the two guards on standby next to the door. They bowed and headed for the entrance, the doors parting for their departure. The doors remained open, the air in the room thick with anticipation, until finally - finally , Victor thought - the patter of feet and soft voices started to echo in.

The guards returned, and with them came the Master of the House, Dr. Plisetsky, and a small plump Japanese woman. A small boy, about 6 or 7, stood between the doctor and the lady. He hesitated when they walked into the room, staring petrified at Yakov with the warmest brown eyes Victor had ever seen.

The woman kneeled next to him and whispered something, to which the boy responded with a nod and raised arms. She lifted him and balanced him on her hip, proceeding to walk closer to the thrones with the child hiding his face in her neck. Victor could smell his fear - thick and nauseating - and he was sure the advisors and his uncle could smell it as well. He nearly started to move before Yakov’s throat clearing reminded him of his orders: be still and silent.

“Gentlemen,” Master Popovich greeted the Betas when they came to a stop a little ways from the group, “allow me to introduce Lady Hiroko Katsuki of Hasetsu, Japan. With her is her son, the young Lord Yuuri.”

The Betas mumbled their greetings politely, a few failing to hide their confusion from their faces.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, My Lady,” one of them spoke from the crowd in English, “To travel from Japan...you must be tired. We hope you didn’t experience any difficulties.”

“May we ask what brings you here today?” Another Beta questioned in the same language. Although not universally accepted, English was a common language used by traders and ambassadors when communicating with people from other countries. Assuming that the woman spoke that language wasn’t far-fetched .

“Lady Katsuki contacted me 6 months ago about a possible match between her son and the crown prince,” Dr. Plisetsky announced in English as well. The Betas started to murmur to each other about ‘the nerve of that woman’ and ‘scandal,’ a few anxiously looking to Yakov for his reaction to the news. Victor knew he wouldn’t grace them with a reaction, and at any other time he would have found it funny. Now, however, he only had eyes for the small child.

“My Lady,” one of the ruder Betas, Lord Giacometti, began to speak with a hint of arrogance, “if you don’t mind, would you tell us what led you to assume that your son would be a possible match for the Crown Prince?”

The woman put the child down and ruffled his hair. He latched onto her robes and studied Yakov with a look of anxiety. When she smiled to the group, Victor caught the barest whiff of patience intermingling with her pleasant Beta scent. He decided that he liked her.

“My grandfather served as an ambassador for Japan in his youth and, as a result, left my family with many books on different cultures, histories, and traditions,” she responded in perfect English, “One of these books was on your royal family’s marriage customs. As a young girl, you can imagine I had quite the interest in such subjects.

“The book mentioned that the Soul Marks of the royal family are incorporated into their crests. It was just by chance that I learned that my own son’s Soul Mark was identical to the symbol on the crown prince’s crest earlier this year. Rather than trouble the Vice Regent with a possible match, I contacted Dr. Plisetsky.”

“I’m sure you remember, gentlemen, that I had been away on business for a few months earlier this year. I had traveled to Japan to investigate the Mark with the Vice Regent’s consent.”

“You allowed this, Your Majesty?” A Beta questioned.

“She had sent a photo of the Mark in her letter. I knew Victor’s Father wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t look into the claim,” the Betas fell silent at the mention of the late King, focusing their attention back to the doctor and the woman.

“I ran many tests and had gotten to know the family during my stay. When I returned, I conducted some follow up exams to confirm whether or not the results were false positives,” The woman crouched next to her son and whispered something to him. He nodded and held his hands out to his sides, allowing her to help him shed the upper layers of his robes.

“I can happily and confidently say that the Mark is genuine and indeed a match to the Crown Prince,” at the woman’s prompting, the boy turned around to reveal the Mark. Shocked silence filled the room, the Betas staring wide eyed at the boys back. In the center of his back, just below his shoulder blades, was a cluster of blue swirls that came together in the form of a rose. It was about the size of an adult’s hand spread wide and flat.

Victor felt a surge of possessiveness pulsating in the back of his head. He zeroed in on the Mark, on the boy, absentmindedly walking forward as thoughts of how his Mark staked his claim on the boy, his boy, his mate -

Yakov’s bulky frame blocked his view of the child, snapping him out of his trance.

“Madam, you immediately contacted my Doctor when you made the connection.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,” Victor shook his head and rubbed his eyes, at a loss over what overcame him seconds earlier.

“Have you told your country’s Monarch yet?”

“No.”

“Why?” The Betas started to whisper amongst themselves once more as Victor stared up at Yakov’s frame. The Vice Regent had probably been able to sense the shift in his behavior and moved to stop him.

“My husband and I are soulmates. With the exception of 2 children in our region, I haven’t met any other pair. Thousands will go their whole lives without ever meeting their other half, and I didn’t want to risk my King preventing my child from meeting his soulmate at least once.”

“Lady Katsuki and her husband are low ranking nobility. They have no familial connection to their sovereign, so there’s no political threats for either party, should the two meet,” Dr. Plisetsky supplied. The Vice Regent nodded to himself.

“What are your expectations of their relationship if I allow them to meet?” Yakov stepped to the side, allowing Victor to view the group once more. The woman smiled kindly, her hand resting on her sons head. He had put the top half of his robes back on, and resumed staring with uncertainty at the Vice Regent.

“I don’t have any. It’s up to the children to decide whether or not their relationship becomes platonic or romantic. I would just like them to meet. I hope you feel the same way, Your Majesty.”

There’s a moment of silence that settled heavily in the room, the Vice Regent and the advisors staring at the boy while the woman patiently gazed back at Yakov. Victor shifted back and forth on his feet, itching to run out from behind the drapes and meet him. He almost lost his patience when the child finally spoke up.

Dr. Plisetsky started to laugh, as well as Master Popovich and the Lady. It was the doctor who translated for them.

“He asked if you are the crown prince,” everyone’s eyes shot down to the boy, who was still staring at Yakov anxiously. A beat of silence passed before Yakov broke the quiet and erupted into laughter. The advisors tittered with amusement and Victor had to hide his face from how overwhelmingly cute he was.

“No, child, I’m his uncle,” He answered in English and the boy nodded to show his understanding of the language. Yakov turned to look at the drapes behind him. Victor held his breath, waiting hopefully for what would come next.

“Victor, come here and meet your soulmate.”

Victor all but ran through the opening hidden to the right. He popped out from the curtains and would have dashed towards the boy had Yakov’s throat clearing not signaled to him to go to the Vice Regent’s side. He complied with a large smile on his face, his cheeks hurting from happiness as he stared at the child.

“Your name is Yuuri, yes?”

“Y-yes, sir- I mean, Your Majesty,” he confirmed in English. Victor’s smile managed to widen and he trembled from the amount of effort it was taking for him to stay at his uncle’s side.

“This is my nephew, Crown Prince Victor Nikiforov.”

Yuuri blushed and looked at the floor, “Hello, Victor,” he greeted quietly. His mother leaned down and whispered something in his ear that caused him to blush and look up, “I-I’m sorry! I meant, ‘Your Highness.’”

“It’s nice to meet you, Yuuri!” Victor gushed, his hands fists at his side, “please, call me Victor! Yakov, can I take him around the palace?”

"I'm sorry, but a feast was planned-"

“You’ll need his mother’s permission,” Yakov interrupted Master Popovich. Victor left his side and quickly walked down the steps. He hurried to the woman and her son and looked at her, wide eyed and hopeful.

“May I, Madam?”

“Of course, Your Highness,” she looked to Yuuri, who was now staring at Victor with childish awe in his eyes. Victor adored him, “Yuuri, would you like to go?”

“Ah…” Yuuri seemed to snap out of whatever trance he was in and smiled shyly, “yes, please.”

“Let’s go!” He grabbed Yuuri’s hand and dragged him away from the group, “do you like flowers, Yuuri? I want to show you my mother’s rose garden. It’s very pretty!”

“Really?” He gasped and sped up until he was running side by side with Victor, “I have my own garden, but it’s sort of small.”

“Maybe you can take some seeds with you when you leave.”

“Oh, thank you, Victor!” Victor felt his cheeks heat up and he squeezed Yuuri’s hand tighter, glancing at him and smiling wider when he saw the same grin mirrored on his soulmate's face.

Chapter Text

The first time Yuuri spent his entire summer in Russia, Victor was 11 years old and excited. Very, very excited.

He had everything planned perfectly: they were going to go to his favorite lake, he was going to show Yuuri all of his favorite hiding places and secret passages in the castle, and he would take him around the capital city (the previous year, he had only stayed for a few weeks - which wasn’t fair at all!). He couldn’t wait!

For weeks leading up to his soulmate’s arrival, he would badger Master Popovich, his uncle, and many of the advisors and guards for information on their travels. Oftentimes, he was answered with “I don’t know, Your Highness, please concentrate on your work,” or “If there aren’t any delays, they should be arriving on time within the next few days...just as I told you yesterday...and the day before that…”

When he had arrived, Victor was a little confused. Shouldn’t there be banners and trumpets announcing his arrival? Shouldn’t he be traveling in a grand carriage decorated in gold leaf with plush red velvet cushions on the inside? Shouldn’t there be crowds amassing around the roads, throwing flowers and handkerchiefs as they greeted him with cheers and smiles?

He asked Master Popovich this and was saddened by his answer.

“We have to protect him, Your Highness. He’s very important to all of us, but some might not like him. It's best if they don't know he's coming. At least, not yet.”

“Why not? How can people not like him?” He asked, offended on Yuuri’s behalf as they watched the inconspicuous carriage and horsemen on the horizon from the window. “He’s my soulmate, they should be happy for me - for us!”

“Because... some people are afraid of foreigners,” he struggled to explain politics to the 11 year old. The prince huffed.

“That’s dumb. If that were the case, then they should also realize that the foreigners are probably afraid of them as well and wouldn’t cause trouble.”

“If only it were that simple,” the older man agreed.

Within 20 minutes, the carriage had finally arrived in front of the steps to the palace. When its simple wooden doors had opened, a teenage girl dressed in a vibrant floral yukata tumbled out and fell to her knees, crying out in Japanese something Victor couldn’t understand.

Shortly after her interjection, his soulmate also hopped out of the carriage, face-planting when he tripped over his foot on the way down. A few of the guards were startled by the rough exit and swarmed to help him to his feet as the girl laughed and reached out to him.

Once situated, Yuuri glared at the girl, his eyes brimming with tears of embarrassment as he hit her hand away and dusted off his pale blue yukata. She laughed at his pout and stood up fully, asking him something in the same foreign language that garnered an eager head nod and a smile. She turned and kneeled so he could clamor up her back, locking his arms around her neck. She muttered something and stood up straight, holding him securely around her as she gave him a piggy back ride up the stairs.

Victor got tired of waiting by the window and ran for the front entrance. He had just dashed out of the hallway to the top of the grand staircase in the Foyer when he saw them waiting at the bottom of the steps.

“Yuuri!” Victor called out, a wide grin plastered onto his face. Yuuri perked up upon seeing him and squirmed in the teenager’s grasp. She said something to him in their language and put him down. As soon as he made contact with the floor, the little boy started to run up the stairs. Victor dashed down to meet him halfway and hugged him, nearly knocking them off balance. They were saved by a nearby guard that had followed Victor down and hooked his finger into the back of the prince’s shirt.

“Be careful, Your Highness,” the guard had warned when they returned upright, “goofing off on the stairs can be dangerous.”

“I’m sorry! I was just excited!” Victor quickly apologised and turned back to the boy in his arms, “Yuuri! How was your trip?” He asked in English.

“It was fun! My older sister came with me!” He responded in kind. Yuuri stepped out of his grasp and ran back down the stairs, the crown prince following closely behind him. He stopped right in front of the girl and grinned happily at him, “This is Mari, my sister!”

“It’s very nice to meet you!” They both greeted each other at the same time - one clearly happier than the other - and bowed. Victor still wore his broad grin as he introduced himself.

“I’m Victor Nikiforov, Yuuri’s soulmate and Crown Prince of Russia. I didn’t know that you were coming but I’m very happy that you’re here!” His mother had been really nice and Victor wanted to meet all of his family, so he was excited to see that Yuuri brought a sibling with him.

His older sister, Mari, narrowed her eyes for a moment after she had straightened up from her bow. She studied the ecstatic prince, making him feel slightly uncomfortable for a moment, before a teasing smile crept its way to her lips.

“Hello, Your Highness, It’s nice to meet you too,” she greeted in English as well, clearly privy to some sort of joke Victor had yet to get the punchline of, “I’m Yuuri’s sister and the oldest child of the Katsuki family.”

She looked to Yuuri and told him something in Japanese, mentioning Victor’s name and causing the prince to frown. Her brother’s reaction was to blush and look down, avoiding eye contact with both of them as he muttered something in response. She replied with a snicker.

“Did I say something wrong?” He asked her earnestly, looking back and forth between the two. “I’m sorry if I offended you-”

“Oh no, Your Highness!” She quickly corrected him with a smirk, “you didn’t do anything wrong! Your introduction was cute, that’s all.”

Victor frowned again and cocked his head to the side. Russian etiquette dictated that he introduce himself and his titles in order of importance. Nothing was more important than him being Yuuri’s soulmate, right? Was she laughing over that? If so, why?

“Are you giving the prince a hard time, Mari?” A voice called from behind. They all looked towards the entryway and saw a bespectacled Japanese man with kind eyes and an amused smile make his way to them. His yukata was a much darker solid green than Yuuri’s striped blue one. The Alpha smelled like Yuuri's mother, but with a spicy undertone  

“No, father,” she reassured him, the same teasing grin back in place as she looked back to Victor, “He was just introducing himself as ' Yuuri’s soulmate and the Prince of Russia.'” She emphasized his titles. The man - Yuuri’s Father, oh God - beamed at the information and said something in Japanese to Yuuri, who whined in response and pouted.

“You’re Yuuri’s Father?” Victor asked, taking a step forward and giving a deep formal bow, “it’s very nice to meet you, Lord Katsuki! I had no idea that you were coming as well! I’m Victor Nikiforov-”

“I know who you are, Your Highness, there’s no need for introductions,” the man walked forward and patted his shoulder, returning the gesture with a polite bow of his own once the prince was looking at him, “I’m Toshiya Katsuki, Mari and Yuuri’s Father and Lord of Hasetsu Castle of the Saga Prefecture in Kyushu, Japan. I’m happy to meet you, young prince. Call me whatever you’d like.”

“Thank you, My Lord,” Victor smiled shyly, the tips of his ears turning a light shade of pink.

“Is there any way I can greet your Uncle?” He asked, “I’d very much like to meet him in person.”

“Of course, My Lord,” Master Popovich answered as he strode down the stairs, “He’s been eagerly awaiting your arrival. I shall take you to him now, unless you’d like to freshen up from your journey.”

“No, we’re quite alright. We arrived in the capital last night and were able to sleep in this morning. The trip from the inn only took an hour.” He looked down to Victor and asked, “would it be alright if I left my children in your care, Your Highness?”

“Absolutely!” Victor nearly stuttered, still in shock over the surprise of meeting Yuuri’s father. Mari directed her cheshire grin to Victor and he struggled not to flounder under her gaze.

“Thank you,” he bowed once more and turned to follow the Master Popovich. “I’m sorry, I haven’t introduced myself yet.”

“There’s no need, My Lord,” he responded smoothly as he led him and several of the guards out of the room, “As the Master of the Household, it’s my job to know practically everything. I’m Master Bogdan Popovich.”

Their conversation became obstructed by the doors closing behind them, leaving Victor alone with Mari, Yuuri, three guards from Hasetsu, and his own royal guards posted along the perimeter of the room.

“He’s gone now, you can relax,” she laughed at Victor, who still stood stiffly at attention.

“How can I relax?” Victor honestly admitted, furrowing his eyebrows, “my soulmate’s family is here, I’m very nervous!”

She laughed once more and stepped forward, putting her hands on his shoulders and squeezing once before shaking him side to side, “Let loose! He’s a sweet old man, he already likes you very much.”

“I hope so,” Victor stumbled a bit when she let go, confusion replacing his earlier anxiety.

“She does that to help me calm down sometimes,” Yuuri answered his unspoken question, “she shakes off whatever is bothering you. Don’t you feel better now?”

“I do. A lot,” he smiled at his mate and looked up to Mari, “thank you.”

“It’s no trouble,” she grinned and pointed to the door opposite from where her father and Master Popovich walked through, “can you show me around? I know Yuuri’s been here before, but I have no idea where anything is.”

“Of course! Do you wana eat something before we go?”

“Food later, adventure now!” She linked arms with the prince in a friendly manner and started to head toward the left, looking over her shoulder and calling out to her brother in Japanese. He yelled something back in the same language and dashed after them, latching onto Victor’s hand in the tightest grip he could muster and struggling to keep up with their longer paces.

 


 

When Yuuri spent the whole summer in Russia for first time, he was 7 years old.

His father came with him in order to meet the Vice Regent and his sister begged to tag along. Yuuri argued that he would much rather have the old family cat come with him, but his complaints fell upon deaf ears.

She didn’t have much opportunity to torment him during the boat ride - being sea sick dampened her attitude a bit - but as soon as they hit land, she made up for lost time. He hated having her along and wished desperately that she would leave early and never come with him to Russia again.

He was also shocked to see that she was making fun of Victor, too! And in their language so that he couldn’t understand her! That’s just mean!

“You hear that? Victor is your soulmate first and a prince second. How romantic!" She had teased during his introduction, making Yuuri red from the embarrassment.

“That’s mean! Don’t be mean!”

“It’s not mean if it’s fact.”

Needless to say, Yuuri was a little surprised when she practically jumped on him and dragged him out of the room. “You’re going to have to stop eating Katsudon if it’s gonna slow you down,” she had taunted over her shoulder at her brother when he still hadn’t moved. Yuuri was just grateful she had said the remark in Japanese so Victor couldn’t understand and followed after them. He was happy when Victor had squeezed his hand back when they left the room.

Victor walked around the palace with the Katsuki siblings hanging off of him. Mari had readjusted herself so that her arm was thrown around his shoulder and Yuuri stayed holding his hand. He showed her the different rooms Yuuri had seen already, like the throne room, the hall of mirrors, and the library, as well as a few areas he hadn’t been shown before - unused Solars, the kitchen, and Victor’s bedroom (Yuuri had insisted on changing into clothes like Victors, so they all ended up leaving the room wearing one of his many outfits; Mari preferred pants over her summer yukata and was happy with the change while Yuuri had to wear a small pair of overalls that they had thankfully found in his size when Victor searched through the storage cabinets).

He ended their tour in the gardens and was in the middle of explaining the types of plants that they had when Mari interrupted him.

“How old are you, Victor?” He looked up from where he was crouching next to Yuuri and holding a flower.

“I’m eleven.”

“Really? You’re so tall.”

“My mother was really tall too,” he revealed, “So was my father, but my mother was taller.”

“Well, I’m 14, so I’m your senpai,” Victor frowned once more, drawing out a laugh from the older sister, and looked to Yuuri for some understanding. He smiled and leaned in, whispering a response for him to say, which he parroted back all too joyfully.

“I am in your care, senpai! Please look after me!”

“Of course!” Mari laughed and crossed her arms, looking around the garden, “there’s a lot of plants here. I bet we can make some sort of dye.”

Yuuri’s smile dropped and he stared at her wide eyed. “Mari, no-”

“Oh, hush,” she chided in Japanese and started to look around at the plants, “Mom’s not here to stop me, and you better not either.”

“But Papa's here!”

“He doesn’t care.”

“Mari!”

“It’ll wash out soon anyway,” she shrugged.

“What sort of dye do you want to make?” Victor asked, picking back up the English conversation the siblings had abandoned earlier.

“Back home, I was able to make a few dyes out of the plants we have in our own gardens,” she turned and gave Victor an appraising look, her gaze lingering on his hair, “I use it all the time to dye my hair. Since your hair color is so pale, the dye will stand out a lot stronger. Don’t worry, though, it only lasts about a week.”

“Really?” Victor asked, his eyes sparkling. Yuuri knew that Mari was swaying him over to her side and quickly tugged on his arm to get his attention.

“Don’t do it, Victor! You’ll get in trouble!”

“Why?” He asked, cocking his head to the side.

“Because...because…” Yuuri struggled to come up with a reason. Why would he get in trouble? Whenever Mari got in trouble, she was scolded for wasting plants in the winter, but it was summer right now. There were lots of plants in Victor’s gardens, plus they would grow back quickly in the current weather condition, wouldn’t they?

“I don’t know…” he finally admitted, “Mama always gets mad at Mari for wasting plants, but other than that, I don’t know why…”

“Exactly,” Mari cheered, triumphantly holding up a handful of roots and flowers, “there’s no reason for her to get mad! These aren’t our plants and there’s also a lot of them! Can I pick some roses off of the wall, Victor?”

“Yes, you can grab a few,” he allowed, gesturing to the castle wall covered in blue roses. He looked back at Yuuri and held his hand, squeezing it, “it sounds like a lot of fun, I’ve never dyed my hair before.”

“It’s really messy,” Yuuri revealed conspiringly, glancing at his preoccupied sister, “If you’re not careful, you’ll also stain your hands.”

“We’ll just have to be careful then.”

“Victor!” Yuuri gasped with disbelief, “don’t do it! The King’ll get mad and you’ll be in trouble!”

“He’s not the King, I am,” Victor announced proudly, “well, I will be one day. He’s a temporary king, so it doesn’t matter. What if I only dyed the tips of my hair? I’ll even let you pick the color.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” he huffed.

“Please?” Yuuri hesitated, finding the blue of Victor’s wide pleading eyes to be very pretty...and very persuasive.

“Blue,” he acquiesced slowly, “because...your crown is blue...and your eyes are blue.”

“Perfect,” He confirmed and hugged Yuuri, “Don’t worry, this will be so much fun! Let’s go ask your sister what we should gather, ok?”

“...Ok” he reluctantly took Victor’s hand and allowed him to lead them toward his sister.

They finished gathering the necessary plants and headed to the kitchen. Yuuri distracted the head chef with questions about the upcoming dinner courses as Victor and Mari gathered the supplies they would need to prep the dye (including vinegar, cloth, buckets and a jug of water).

Yuuri felt guilty about tricking the woman, but Victor made him feel better by reassuring him that she had plenty of the items they took in stock; she’d never know it was missing.

They went to one of the vacant guest chambers and set up in the bathroom. Mari was the only one experienced in the process, so she did almost all of the work while Victor and Yuuri did whatever she told them to do.

Once the blue dye was properly prepped, she turned to Victor and cracked her knuckles.

“Do you wana go first?”

“You can,” Victor offered. She shook her head.

“Since you’ve never done it before, you’ll go first. You better listen to your senpai.” Victor laughed and stood. He untied the braid Yuuri attempted to turn his ponytail into while they were waiting on Mari and offered her the hair.

“Only the tip.”

“What? No, it’s a lot more fun if it’s your whole head. Looks cooler!”

“I promised Yuuri I would only do the tip,” she looked at him and called him a traitor in Japanese. He responded by pulling down his eye and sticking his tongue out, but she ignored him in favor of working on the prince's hair.

He watched nervously as she lowered the bottom of his long ponytail into the dye, and Victor readjusted himself to get more comfortable. She had told him it would be a long wait after all.

“I usually make a red paste and put it in my hair,” she explained as she leaned herself back against the wall, “it gives my hair a red tint in the sunlight. Your’s should be more obvious, though. It’s gonna look great.”

“I’m excited,” Victor confided and smiled at Yuuri, “what about you?”

“I think we’re gonna get in trouble.”

“Don’t be a loser,” she snapped in Japanese. Yuuri scowled at her and stood up, trotting over to Victor and sitting in the open area between his legs.

“She...mean,” Yuuri struggled to say in garbled Russian. Victor perked up, visible warmth and enthusiasm shining in his eyes at Yuuri’s Russian. Seeing the reaction, the little boy was glad his mother was forcing him to learn.

“Really? What did she say?” He asked back in the same language. Yuuri frowned, slowly deciphering the words Victor said. He could only do a couple, but enough to know gist of what he was asking.

“She...called...loser…”

“That’s not nice.”

“Mari not nice,” Yuuri confirmed with a scowl in her direction. She, too, stuck her tongue out and he returned the gesture. Victor laughed at the exchange as the siblings continued to make more and more grotesque faces at one another.

They sat and talked for an hour, with Victor telling them about the many secret passages that he was planning on showing them while they were there and the siblings responding with descriptions of their own town’s famous ninja house. He had been right in the middle of telling them about a painting with a peephole that lined up with the portraits eyes when a knock came on the bathroom door.

Someone spoke in Russian outside of the door, and Victor frowned before responding. Yuuri listened with fascination at how easily the rough language rolled off of his tongue. It sounded so different from his own native language, and it was so funny to hear.

Mari must have had the same thought because when they looked at each other, mutual understanding passed between them. After Victor responded, the person beyond the door grumbled another sentence, to which the young prince groaned and looked at the siblings.

“They guards watching you two tattled on us. We have to go to Yakov’s office now.”

“Aw, man! I forgot about them!” Mari lamented in Japanese, dramatically pinching the bridge of her nose, “Alright, let’s get your hair out and see what it looks like.”

When they pulled the lock out, they were pleasantly surprised to see that the color had taken well to his hair. Yuuri stared in awe at the beautiful dark blue, and noticed how it seemed to seamlessly transition from his natural grey-platinum blonde hair into the dark indigo.

“Wow!” He awed at the color, and Victor tightly hugged him, vibrating with excitement.

“It looks amazing!” He cheered and gave a toothy grin, “I love it! Thank you for picking the color, Yuuri! It’s perfect!”

“I’m glad!" Yuuri gushed, too excited by their successful attempt to remember that they got in trouble. Mari cleared her throat to remind them of her own labors, and Victor was quick to sing her praises.

When the Vice Regent and Yuuri’s father saw, the latter chuckled, “I should have warned you this would happen,” he good naturedly told the scary older man. He sighed heavily and withdrew a dagger from the inside of his boot.

“No!” Yuuri screamed and ran to stand in front of Victor, who looked at him with surprise, “Please don’t cut his hair off! Please!”

“It’s alright, Yuuri, it will grow back,” His father tried to pacify him, but he refused to listen.

“He has really beautiful hair, please don’t cut it! It will wash out, I swear! It always does when Mari does it! It will wash out in a week, I promise, please don’t cut his hair!”

Yakov was caught off guard by the outburst, especially since Yuuri had switched to crying in Japanese halfway through the rant. He looked to his father for understanding, who quickly summed up the plea as Victor and Mari tried to calm him down.

“It’s okay, Yuuri, it’ll grow back,” she cooed and he nodded.

“She’s right. Look at me, it’s my hair and I’m not upset.”

“B-b-but your hair is s-so pretty, Vicchan,” Yuuri stuttered out, fat tears rolling down his cheeks, “I don’t want you to cut it! I’m sorry we ruined your hair, I’m sorry!”

“It’s okay! It’s not ruined, Yuuri!”

“B-but they think it is!”

“We’ll give it a week,” Yakov hesitantly agreed, “but if it’s not gone by then, I’ll be forced to cut his hair.”

Yuuri sniffled, trying to stop his tears, “I-I’m sorry, sir!”

“Don’t worry, Child,” Yakov put the dagger onto the desk and held his hands up to show that they were empty, “we can wait for it to wash out. I was only surprised, that’s all.”

Yuuri nodded and rubbed his eyes. The children were given permission to leave after that, with Yakov staring dumbstruck after them and Toshiya chuckling.

“He’s a bit of a cry baby,” he admitted as the children left, “But it makes him feel better afterwards, so I don’t mind.”

‘A week’ ended up being ‘the rest of summer.’ The blue stubbornly clung to the tips of his hair, and Mari commented numerous times on how jealous she was over the lasting color. Yuuri and Victor usually responded by sticking their tongues out and would run away quickly to avoid her wrath.

Yuuri grew quite attached to Victor’s hair that summer. He worked hard to learn how to braid it and style it, often times spending lazy afternoons running his fingers through the strands and admiring it in the sunlight as Victor and Mari talked about different foods, plants, places they had visited, or the trouble they had gotten into in the past.

Yakov waited until he had left for Japan before cutting the color off. Victor was a little sad, but only because he knew how much Yuuri loved his hair and how he fiercely defended and protected it. Yuuri wouldn’t know this tragedy for another 3 years.

Chapter Text

When he made his first major decision about protecting his mate, Victor was 12 years old.

Lady Katsuki and Yakov came to an agreement about Yuuri’s visitation schedule: he’d spend his summers with Victor in Russia and his winters with his family. Both Yuuri’s parents and the Vice Regent wanted the two boys to spend as much time as possible with their soulmate, which was difficult to arrange given that they lived in different countries.

Yakov agreed to provide any and all protection necessary for ensuring Yuuri’s safety, as well as paying for his travel expenses. Lord Katsuki, his daughter Mari, and a handful of the Katsuki family’s own trusted guards traveled with him the first time the previous year to evaluate the quality of protection given and make sure Yuuri was, indeed, safe. Yuuri’s father approved of the arrangement, and Yuuri was to travel to Russia that year by himself.

Victor, however, didn’t like the idea of Yuuri being alone during the three week journey.

“Yakov?”

“Yes?” Victor lazily kicked his legs under the table, the last of his vegetables safely tucked away under the napkin beside his plate. The older Alpha didn’t look up from the documents to his right as he absently stirred his spoon in what remained of his borscht.

“Have you been to Japan before?”

“Once,” he flipped a page and continued to read, “years ago.”

“What was it like?”

“Beautiful. Humid. Their buildings are much different from ours,” Victor nodded and tapped his fork against his plate.

“Have you ever been to a hot spring?”

“Yes.”

“What was it like?”

“Peaceful,” he glanced at the prince and put his spoon down, “stop doing that.”

Victor reluctantly dropped his fork onto his plate and looked at the table’s candelabra center piece, “Chris’s dad is teaching me about different countries.”

“I know,” he wiped his mouth with his napkin, leaning back in his seat and waving a servant over. The Beta gathered his and Victor’s plates and quietly left the room. Another servant came and refilled their water before backing off into the corner, “he tells me you’re doing well with geography.”

“I like learning about new places. I really want to travel.”

“Perhaps you will, one day.”  Victor bit his lip and glanced at Yakov, who was staring at him intently, “spit it out already, I know what you want.”

“... can I go to Japan?”

“Not now,” Yakov rolled his shoulders and exhaled heavily, “you’re still too young.”

“But Yuuri travels between Japan and Russia all the time!”

“Yuuri is not the Crown Prince of his country.”

“What if I only went to Yuuri’s town? There and nowhere else?”

“No.”

“But Yakov-”

“Vitya,” he interrupted the boy with a stern look, “it’s too dangerous for you. You’re very important to me - to us... to Russia” he closed the file and crossed his hands on the table, “we care very much for you, which is why we can’t let you go. Not yet.”

Victor’s expression was carefully neutral. He could feel heat boiling up inside himself, and rage bled into his eyes. He guessed Yakov noticed the change when he shifted - his scent probably gave him away.

“So my mate isn’t important?” He growled, and Yakov straightened his posture to make himself even taller than the prince, “my soulmate isn’t important?”

“Victor,” Yakov started, his voice low, “you know that’s not what I meant.”

“You implied it, Your Majesty,” Victor sat up straighter and moved his hands to his lap, not trusting himself to leave the remaining silverware alone, “my soulmate makes the voyage across the sea and through the land twice a year. He has for the past 2 years and he’s 4 years younger than me.”

“We send a special group of our finest soldiers to protect him. There’s no need to worry.”

“Second finest,” Victor bitterly corrected, “right? Because only the best should protect the crown prince of Russia, right?”

Yakov scowled, “Victor-”

“That’s what you implied, though,” Victor snapped, “after all, I’m important to Russia, but clearly my mate isn’t!”

“You are young,” Yakov stood from the table, “but I have little tolerance for your insolence. The boy is safe and we make sure of that. That’s all you need to know.”

Victor stood as well, knocking his chair over in the process. “‘The boy’ is my mate! My soulmate ! You want me to believe that he is safe with guards I don’t know? With people who don’t view him as important to Russia as I do?”

“They obviously do their job well, Victor. He has arrived safe and sound each time, now drop the subject.”

“Just let me go with them,” Victor moved to stand directly in front of Yakov, “They’re leaving in a few days, right? It takes 3 weeks to get there, they stay for another 3 or 4 days, and then another 3 weeks to get back. I’ll be back before you even know I’m gone!”

“That’s almost 2 months, Victor. You can’t afford to be gone for that long.”

“Yes I can! My tutors can come with me so that I won’t miss out on any lessons!”

Yakov reached a hand out and clamped onto Victor’s shoulder, “you will stay put. If I have even the smallest suspicion that you plan on sneaking away with the guards, I will have you chained to your bed, your doors and windows locked, and half of the cavalry stationed both inside and outside of your room.” He squeezed Victor’s shoulder, the young boy’s flinch not going unnoticed, “do not test me, Vitya.”

He gulped. There was a tense silence between the two, the guards and the Beta servants practically holding their breath during their showdown, the air thick with Yakov’s aggression and Victor’s defiance. It felt like an eternity before Victor finally looked down in submission and hesitantly nodded. “Yes, Your Majesty….forgive me for my tantrum,” he quietly apologized.

“I’ll consider it,” he shoved Victor toward the guard stationed by the door and tsked, “take him to his room. He’s not allowed to leave for the rest of the evening.”

Victor sent him one last glare before he was escorted out of the room.

Although they spent the entirety of the next day ignoring each other, Victor and Yakov eventually made peace.

It happened the following evening. Yakov summoned Victor to his office and presented him with a group of high ranking officers.

“These are the candidates to lead the group. The last officer has requested leave for his retirement. You may interview them, ask them anything you like, and I’ll let you have the final say on who you’d like to be in charge of protecting your soulmate.”

Victor didn’t cry. He didn’t. Dust fell into his eye, and he let Yakov know that before walking to the several guards lined up before him.

In the end, he selected a young officer named Celestino Cialdini. Victor liked his answers for his questions, and he thought Yuuri would like his kind eyes.

 


 

When he traveled to Russia for the first time by himself, Yuuri was 8 years old.

The officer leading his group, Celestino, was really nice. He always greeted Yuuri in the mornings, always stopped their group whenever Yuuri told him he wasn’t feeling well and waited until he felt better before they moved on. During their time on the ship, he taught Yuuri a few card games and helped him with his English and Russian. He even let Yuuri call him ‘Ciao Ciao’ because his name felt awkward and clunky on his tongue.

When he arrived at the palace, he sprinted out of the carriage and ran straight for the stairs. Celestino, instead of scolding him and telling him to stop like the other guards, ran after him, staying a few feet behind him to make sure he was alright.

The guards by the entrance opened the doors for him, and when Yuuri ran inside he spotted Dr. Plisetsky almost immediately.

“Dr. P!”

“Hello, Yuuri!,” the Doctor greeted. The boy latched onto his legs and hugged him tightly, staying aware of his bad back. Yuuri had heard him complain about it a few times and didn’t want to make it worse, “I’m glad to see you are safe. How was your trip?”

“Long,” Yuuri sniffed in English, letting him go and rubbing his eyes. “Ciao Ciao was super nice, though. He taught me some card games and sea sha..chan...uhhh…”

“Shanties,” Celestino filled in, out of breath from running up the stairs in his armor, “Sailor’s songs.”

“Did you know his daddy was a sailor?” Yuuri told the doctor, eyes brimming with excitement, “that’s why he knows so much about the ocean! It’s so cool!”

“Yuuri!” Everyone’s attention was redirected to the other side of the room. Victor came running in and headed straight for the Japanese boy, nearly barreling him over from the force of his hug. Their collision with the floor was stopped by Celestino stepping in at the last minute and catching the two boys.

“Careful, Your Highness,” he said, pushing them upright and back onto their feet, “Lord Yuuri is tired from traveling all day.”

“Oh, you must be!” Victor gasped, and pulled away, cradling Yuuri’s face in his hands. Yuuri blushed and reached up to hold Victor’s wrists, preparing himself to pull his hands off of his face, “let’s go get food, Yuuri! I want you to tell me all about your trip while we’re eating, okay?”

He released Yuuri’s face and grabbed his hand, turning around and pulling the boy with him as he chattered away about the things he missed while he was gone. They had just reached the door, the doctor and Celestino trailing behind them, when Victor came to a sudden stop. Quietly, he look down at his and Yuuri’s interlocked hands for a moment.

He hesitated, glancing shyly at Yuuri’s face before facing him and pulling him into another tight hug, “I’m really happy to see you, Yuuri.”

“I’m...happy to see you too,” Yuuri answered quietly, his hands slowly reaching up to return the embrace. The boy inhaled his mates scent and his blush deepened. He’d forgotten how nice Victor smelled…

When they pulled away, Victor looked at Celestino and smiled, “thank you for taking care of him.”

“Thank you for putting your trust in me, Your Highness,” Celestino bowed. Yuuri perked up at his voice and tugged on Victor’s hand, drawing his attention back from the guard.

“Ciao Ciao is really cool!” Yuuri gushed excitedly, “he’s really nice too! When we were on the ship, he showed me a bunch of card games and dice tricks!”

“Really?” Victor asked, intrigue and amusement mixing with his contentment as he guided Yuuri into the dining room.

“Yes! He’s also helping me with English and Russian.”

“Yeah? What kind of Russian words do you know?”

Yuri furrowed his brow in thought, “Well it’s mainly the parts of a boat and stuff. And different fish names too. Did you know his daddy was a sailor?”

“He told me that when I interviewed him.”

“Interviewed?”

“My uncle let me pick your guard, and I chose Celestino,” Victor admitted with a hint of red on his cheeks. Yuuri’s grin widened and he hugged Victor’s arm tightly.

“Oh, thank you! He’s really nice and I really like him!”

“I’m glad…” Yuuri didn’t notice the blush that tinted the tips of Victor’s ears red. Instead, he spent the rest of their lunch telling his mate all about the trip and all of the great things Celestino did.

When he thanked Victor once more for picking such a lovely officer to watch over him, his mate grinned and squeezed his hand, telling him he was just glad that Yuuri was safe.

“You’re silly,” Yuuri huffed and sipped his water, “Why wouldn’t I be? I have you with me.”

Yuuri laughed when Victor choked on his water at the admission. He retaliated by flicking some water at the younger boy. Yuuri gasped dramatically and grabbed his cup.

They ended their meal happy, tired, and soaking wet.

Chapter Text

Yuuri was 9 years old when he started to feel insecure about his relationship with Victor.

He wasn’t allowed to tell anybody that his soulmate was Victor Nikiforov, the Crown Prince of Russia. He wasn’t allowed to even say that he had already met his soulmate. At first, he didn’t understand why and had been upset that he had to keep it a secret from his best friends Yuuko and Takeshi.

His mother explained that it was to keep him and Victor safe, but safe from what? She was never very clear on that, always telling him that it was for the better that people didn’t know.

Yuuri finally understood why he needed to keep Victor a secret, and that happened when he and Yuuko were playing in the streets of Hasetsu. Yuuri didn’t have many friends his own age, choosing instead to associate himself with older kids like Yuuko and Takeshi - a duo that he had met when he started taking dance lessons from Minako sensei.

Kids his age were cruel to him. They thought that he must be arrogant because his family lived in the biggest house and had the most servants and the prettiest clothes and the yummiest food. Yuuri didn’t understand it, and neither did Yuuko; she wasn’t afraid to voice her confusion on the subject.

“You’re the sweetest boy I know,” she’d said when they were in the market that day, “even sweeter than Takeshi, and he’s my soulmate!”

“Hey!” Takeshi managed to complain through a mouthful of food. The two laughed at him.

“You know I’m right!” She scolded, “didn’t you used to hate him to before you met him?”

“Yeah,” he sheepishly admitted after swallowing the mouthful of Taiyaki, “but that was because of the way he walked. His posture always gives off this air of confidence and arrogance.”

“That’s because Minako sensei tells me to walk that way!” He defended himself, “she says it’ll improve my balance and discipline if I do.”

“Well, it’s one reason why they hate you.”

“That’s not fair!” She scoffed and looked to Yuuri, who had deflated a bit upon hearing the revelation. She exhaled and threw her arm over his shoulders, pulling him in for an open hug and grinning, “cheer up! We’re the greatest people you’ll ever meet, you don’t need anyone else!”

“That’s right! No one is as awesome as we are!” Takeshi chimed in, “those idiots don’t deserve you! We also like the way you walk!”

Yuuri smiled, feeling a little better from their attempts to cheer him up, “you’re right, they’re complete idiots.”

“See? Glad to know you’re not an idiot too,” they laughed together and she squeezed his shoulder one more time before pulling away, “Are you hungry? My mom gave me some extra money to buy snacks today. I’ll get you some Yaki Imo.”

“Wana get me some too?” Takeshi winked and wrapped an arm around her waist. She stomped on his toe and shared a grin with Yuuri at his pain.

“Pay for your own! If you were even half as cute as Yuuri, then I might consider it!” She winked in return and walked away. Yuuri giggled at the exchange, his laughter slowly becoming more hysterical as Takeshi mock glared at him and stomped away.

“I’m gonna go follow her and try to get revenge. Don’t move from this spot, Yuuri, ok?”

“Ok! Hurry back!” He waved as they left and turned to examine the goods of the cart he was standing in front of. The farmers market that was held weekly every spring, summer, and autumn had started early due to the weather warming up, and Yuuri was glad he was able to go before leaving for Russia the following week. It was just a matter of days before Ciao Ciao and his group would arrive in town. Maybe he could find a gift for Victor.

Surprisingly enough, no one had caught onto his absences during the summer lately - other than Yuuko and Takeshi, of course, who he had told was for training purposes for his dancing. It was well known that he was Minako sensei’s most studious, promising student, a title that the other kids seemed to believe his parents had bought.

Speaking of the other kids…

A hand fell heavily on his shoulder and pulled him away from the stall, making him fall onto his bottom in the middle of the pathway. Three boys about his age, if not a year older, stared down at him with a range of emotions varying from scowls to pleasure at seeing him fall to the ground.

“Hey, Fatso,” one of them sneered with his arms crossed. Yuuri glared at him. Takeshi was trying his best to make him feel better about the taunt, using it as a good-natured pet name around him. Hearing it spoken to him maliciously wasn’t nice, but his repeated exposure to it also helped him to deny what the children wanted - a reaction.

“Go away!” He huffed and stood back up, clenching his fists at his side. Yuuko and Takeshi would be back any second now and scare them off; he just had to wait for them.

“Or what?” One of them asked and laughed. The third boy grabbed Yuuri by the bicep and started to drag him away, with the other two following behind them and waving to anyone staring at their group.

“We’re playing ‘tag’ and he’s it! He just doesn’t wana be.”

“Yeah, Yuuri, don’t be a baby! It’s your turn!”

“I’m not playing with you guys! Let go!”

They finally dragged him into an alleyway and shoved him to the ground once more. Yuuri landed roughly and scraped his elbows, hissing from the pain and glaring up at them with watery eyes.

“Nishigori is gonna come looking for me! He’ll beat you up!” He tried to threaten with Takeshi’s name. It usually worked, but only when Takeshi was actually there. The boys didn’t look impressed.

“Hey, Yuuri, what’s your Soul Mark look like?”

“Yeah, Yuuri, what does it look like?”

“I’m not telling!” He yelled and scooted back. Two of them laughed and the third one who was watching the entrance to the alley smiled.

“That’s fine. We’ll just look for it, then.”

“What?” Yuuri panicked and struggled to scoot even further back, his green Yukata getting dirtier with the bottom ripping over a loose stone as the two boys ganged up on him. One of them started to tug the opening of yukata off of his shoulders while the other pushed the fabric up his legs.

“See it yet?”

“No.”

“Let go!”

“Found it!” the older boy forced Yuuri to lie on his stomach on the rough ground and yanked the cloth down, revealing the blue swirls on his back.

“What is that?”

“It looks like a flower…I think?” He hears the other one answer.

“It looks like a puddle to me,” the boy watching the entrance of the alley answered. The other two laughed and started to poke it.

“Yeah, like water rippling if you drop a stone in it!”

“Or garbage!” They continued to laugh. Yuuri felt tears start to drip down his face and he shoved the boys away when they weren’t expecting it. He pulled the robe back up tightly around his shoulders and glared at the boys.

“Leave me alone! Go away! I’m gonna tell-”

“Do that and we’ll beat you up!” One of them viciously threatened. Yuuri was startled into silence, biting his lips and rubbing the tears off of his dirty streaked cheek.

“Oh look, you made the baby cry,” the third one walked toward Yuuri, nudging one of the boys on the ground to watch the street in his stead as he prowled toward the young lord. Yuuri watched his approach with trepidation, pulling the fabric tighter around himself and glancing anxiously around for any sort of help.

“Listen, Yuuri,” the third one stopped, towering over him and crossing his arms, “I’m gonna be an Alpha one day, and you’re clearly going to be an Omega.”

He froze for a moment, letting the words sink in.

“W-what?” Yuuri finally stuttered, “No! My Mama is a Beta and my Papa is an Alpha! I can’t be!”

“Doesn’t matter!” The boy yelled with a glare, “I can smell it on you, you’re gonna be an Omega! There’s not a lot of Omega’s in the town, and none of them as rich as you are. We’re gonna be mates, ok? So don’t try to get cozy with anyone else!”

“Mates?” Yuuri shot to his feet and glared at him, “No way! We don’t have the same Soul Mark! And you’re a jerk!”

“You don’t know that,” he confidently smirked, “what if I do have the same Mark?”

“You don’t!”

“And how are you so sure of that?”

“Because I already met my soulmate!” The group fell silent and stared at Yuuri, the two boys in the back quietly laughing from disbelief as the third boy in front of him glared darkly. Yuuri shrunk in on himself a little and took a step back, hitting the wooden wall of the building behind him.

“You’ve already met your soulmate, huh?” He scoffed after he had recovered from the sudden admission, “who is it?”

“I’m not telling!” Yuuri snapped, just then realizing his mistake. His mother was going to be disappointed.

“I bet you the girl is super ugly,”

“Yeah, or maybe it’s an old man! Gross!”  

“Tell us who it is.”

“No! You don’t know him anyway.”

The three looked at him with blank faces. Yuuri thought that they had gotten bored and were going to leave him alone until they suddenly erupted into laughter.

“He’s lying!” one shouted.

“He’s totally lying!” the other agreed.

“I am not!”

“So it’s a boy?” The third one asked. Yuuri freezes, and he hummed at the confirmation.

“Has your soulmate presented yet?”

“N-no.”

“Was he interested in anyone else before you?”

“I-I don’t know,” Yuuri meekly admitted.

“Has he bitten you yet?”

“No!”

“Has he told you he loves you?” The kid cocked his head to the side, “did he even say that he liked you yet?”

“I-I don’t know,” Yuuri muttered, unable to recall a time where Victor used those exact words, “not really…”

“He clearly doesn’t want you,” the third boy smirked, “no one does! I’m doing you a favor by telling you that you’re gonna be my mate. I don’t have to take you, but you’re so pathetic that no one would want you.”

“The only thing good about him is his money,” one of the boys called from behind.

The one standing in front of Yuuri smiled maliciously, his eyes hard and hands coming up to grab Yuuri’s shoulders, “I should do your soulmate a favor and bite you right now.”

“Oi!” They all snapped their heads to the alley entrance and saw Takeshi standing with his sleeves rolled up, “do you wana die?!”

The third boy quickly glanced at Yuuri and shoved him hard in the chest before bolting away with the other two, their group managing to evade Nishigori by throwing dirt in his face and running down the street. Yuuko quickly emerged from the side and rushed to Yuuri, gasping when she saw the state of his clothes and gathering him into her arms for a hug.

“Are you alright?” She asked him and ran her hand through his hair, “what did they do? Your yukata is ruined, how will we explain this to your mom?”

“What did they say?” Takeshi came up behind Yuuko, his eyes red from the dirt. Yuuri gently pushed her away and straightened himself up, crying silently with a scowl on his face.

“They told me that my soulmate didn’t want me and that they were gonna bite me to help him out.”

“What?!” They exclaimed, horrified.

“Yuuri, that’s not true!” Yuuko quickly recovered from the shock and stood, tucking him against her side with an arm around his shoulder, “Of course your soulmate wants you, who wouldn’t? Even those jerks wanted you, that’s why they threatened to bite you.”

“One of them said that he was gonna make me his mate,” he sniffled, “because he thinks I’m gonna be an Omega; but I’m not gonna be an Omega! Mama said so!”

“If you ever see them on the street, let me know,” Takeshi cracked his knuckles in a show of strength, “I’ll take care of ‘em next time.”

Yuuko agreed wholeheartedly and reassured Yuuri that they would be punished. Yuuri however, found little comfort in their confidence. He couldn’t stop thinking about what the boys had said about his soulmate.

Victor was nice, yes, but he was nice to everyone. Yuuri wasn’t sure if the crown prince actually cared about him or not. Surely he must have: he hand-picked Ciao Ciao to watch over him, right?

But then again...he’s only being protected because he’s his soulmate, not because he actually cares about Yuuri. What sort of king would he be if he couldn’t do that? It would reflect badly on him…

Victor was always friendly, but nothing really beyond that. He never told Yuuri he loved him or that he cared about him. For all Yuuri knew, maybe Victor liked someone else before he met Yuuri...maybe he still liked them now...Victor was probably better off without Yuuri…

“Don’t pay any attention to what they said,” Yuuko ordered and squeezed his shoulder, “they just wanted to be mean. None of what they said is true, okay?”

“Okay?” He plastered a smile on for her. She grinned and nodded.

“Good. Now there was a stall somewhere over there that was selling summer yukatas. Let’s buy you a knew one that doesn’t have their grubby hand prints all over it.”

”Or their awful stench. Gross.”

Yuuri was grateful for the support, but guilt and doubt settled heavily in his stomach. He wasn’t going to be able to forget what the boys said anytime soon.

Honestly, he wasn't too sure if he should be going to Russia anymore...

Chapter Text

When he learned that Yuuri had never skated before, Victor was 14 years old.

Russia was experiencing a cold front that was lasting much longer than what was previously recorded in history; when Yuuri arrived from Japan, he was greeted by white roaming planes of snow and a bitterly cold wind.

The most vivid memory Victor had that day was of Yuuri’s arrival. He remembered being bundled up tightly in his own parka and seeing Yuuri leave the carriage. He was wrapped in his own thick coat, and if the courtyard had not already been shoveled earlier that morning he would have been up to his waist in snow.  When he looked up at Victor, he smiled, his cheeks and ears pink and snowflakes stuck on his eyelashes.

Victor had blushed at his appearance.

They spent the next few days playing in the snow for as long as they could stand before moving on to staying in the palace’s warmest sitting room. They would wrap themselves in blankets and sit in front of the fireplace, Makkachin at their feet with mugs of Sbiten warming their frozen hands.

Sometimes Yuuri would have one of Victor’s favorite books in his lap and would practice his Russian. Other times, the roles were reversed and Yuuri would tutor Victor’s Japanese through the use of some literature they would find in his library. Often, however, they would just chat and catch each other up on the various gossip and events that had happened while they had been separated.

Yuuri had been at the palace for almost a week when Victor started to tell him about his ice skating.

“Chris comes along with me, too, and so does Georgi. Chris can’t seem to nail his Salchow jumps - he even struggles with doubles. I think it’s because he never stretches properly before we go onto the ice.”

“What’s a Salchow?” Yuuri asked with a frown. Victor reflected his expression and sighed.

“It’s...well...maybe it’s better if I just show you,” Victor stood up and offered his hand to Yuuri, who readily accepted the help.

It only took them a few minutes to find Georgi, and then another 10 minutes to get permission to head to the lake. Victor gathered his skates from his room and managed to find an old pair that fit Yuuri comfortably enough. He wrapped Yuuri up in his favorite scarf - a soft green one that he was told his mother wore often before she passed away - and put warm, thick ushanka’s on both of their heads.

It was thankfully sunny outside, which meant that they could wear light jackets to the lake. Georgi tagged along with them, 3 guards trailing behind and carrying the necessary equipment as Victor and Yuuri dashed ahead of the group and threw handfuls of snow at each other. Yuuri had managed to hit Victor in the side of the neck and he retaliated by picking Yuuri up and throwing him into a tall snowbank.

Yuuri practically squealed when he saw the lake. Victor admitted it was a beautiful sight to behold: the snow in the landscape looked soft and clean, the icicles dripped like jewels from the tree branches and sparkled in the sunlight. The lake, though, was breathtaking: smooth, glittering, almost otherworldly in its appearance.  Yuuri clearly felt the same way as he gazed at the scene before them.

“It’s beautiful, Victor,” he gasped and grinned up at the prince, “You skate here?”

“Yes,” he confirmed and continued their walk to the lake, “every winter. I love it.”

“That’s so cool!” Yuuri called out and chased after him, struggling to keep up with his pace in the knee-deep snow,  “I’ve never skated before, but I see other kids do it all the time at home. Even Yuuko and Takeshi skate, although Takeshi isn’t very good.”

“You’ve never skated?” He gasped and turned to stare at the boy.

“No. My dancing keeps me busy, I don’t have time.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you!” Victor backtracked a few steps and grasped his hand, dragging him along at a faster pace to get them to the lake quicker.

When they reached the shore, he plopped himself down on a log and proceeded to untie his shoes. Georgi quickly appeared at his side and handed him his skates and socks. Yuuri gasped when he saw his battered feet.

“You, too?” He asked, his expression conveying sympathy and understanding. Victor frowned and put on a new pair of thicker socks.

“It hurts a little at first but you get used to it,” he pulled the shoes on and quickly laced up both feet. He stood and motioned for Yuuri to sit, helping him change his boots and socks and pausing when he saw the blue and purple splotches similar to his own. He looked up at Yuuri.

“You don’t figure skate, though.”

“Did you think dancing was easy?” Yuuri snickered and shivered, “can you put my socks on at least?”

“Oh, sorry!” Victor quickly slipped them on and helped him into the skates, lacing up his boots relatively quickly before patting his knees and standing.

“It’s safe to skate,” Georgi announced after he had checked the lake, “but please be careful, Your Highness.”

“I will,” Victor reassured him and stretched his legs out, “You can stay here and watch for a little bit if you want to, Yuuri. Let me know when you’re ready to get on the ice and I’ll help you.”

“Okay,” Yuuri acknowledged and directed his undivided attention to Victor as he gracefully stepped onto the ice. Victor did a couple of laps around the ice, deviously scooping up some snow during his run and tossing it at Yuuri as he passed to tease him. Yuuri always cried out and would try to retaliate by throwing his own snowballs, but always missed; Victor was too fast.

Eventually, when he was warmed up, Georgi started to call out different jumps for Victor to perform. He executed each one without falling, stumbling on the landings of a few but overall staying on his feet. Each time he launched himself into the air, Yuuri gasped, holding his breath. Upon touch down, the smaller boy would cheer and clap his hands, singing his praises and gushing over how beautiful he looked in the air.

When Victor finally grew too tired to attempt the more difficult quad jumps, he stopped in the middle of the lake and smiled at his soulmate.

“Would you like to try skating now?”

“Yes!” Yuuri hopped to his feet, nearly falling over had it not been for Georgi’s help, and waddled awkwardly to the ice. Victor quickly met him at the edge and held his hands out for Yuuri to take. Their large height difference gave Victor some back aches, forcing him to stoop a bit to keep his balance, but the look on Yuuri’s face when they started to glide forward on the ice sent him soaring.

“I’m going to let go of your hands now,” he warned after their third lap around the ice, deeming Yuuri ready once he saw the boy pick up on proper foot motions, “On three, okay? One...two...three!”

As soon as he let go and moved out of the way, Yuuri struggled to keep his balance. He hadn’t fallen yet, which was a good sign, but he was teetering side to side. Victor skated closely behind him, arms poised and ready to catch him if he fell, but Yuuri managed to stay upright.

“This is hard,” Yuuri pouted, slowly turning with the curve of the lake, “you make it look so easy!”

“All it takes is practice,” Victor reassured him and grabbed his hand, “Let’s try speeding up a bit.”

They continued their laps, progressively getting faster and faster until they had set a good pace. Victor noticed that Yuuri was no longer struggling to stand and reached down, holding him securely by the waist and lifting him up.

“Whoa!” Yuuri yelled and held his hands out to the side as Victor rotated them in the platter lift. He joyfully cried out again when Victor put him back on the ice and tightly held his hands, spinning them once more.

“Another one!” Yuuri demanded, and Victor had no choice but to oblige in the face of such joy. He lifted Yuuri again by the waist and threw him up. The boy only went a few inches into the air and Victor easily caught him, but he was screaming and demanding he do it again while Georgi yelled from the lake’s edge.

“Victor!” He screeched when the prince had thrown his mate, “do not do that again!”

“You’re no fun!” Victor whined and put Yuuri back down, “I wasn’t going to drop him!”

“Again!” Yuuri shouted and Victor squeezed his hand.

“Georgi won’t let me,” he sped up and turned so that he was in front of Yuuri, skating backwards and holding both of his hands. He had the lake mapped out perfectly in his head, so he was able to navigate around without looking.

Yuuri would have been amazed had Victor not distracted him by rotating them around in a few circles. Once Yuuri was back on track, he let his hands go and skated ahead, leaping into a triple axel now that he had his breath back and grinning at Yuuri’s admiration.

“Can you show me how to do that?”

“It would take a lot of practice before you’re able to do any jumps,” Victor admitted with a sympathetic sigh, “just focus on getting the feel of skating before you start attempting anything difficult, okay?”

Yuuri reluctantly agreed and continued to skate laps around the rink. Victor would jump and rotate at his request, lifting him up occasionally before Georgi would yell at him to put Yuuri down. Before their trip had ended, Yuuri was able to do a decent Ina Bauer due to his flexibility and experience with ballet. He did attempt a laid back Ina Bauer, but ended up off balance and falling over. They both laughed at the error and Victor helped him up, patting off any excess ice and guiding him to land.

 


 

 

When Yuuri saw Victor ice skate for the first time, he was 10 years old.

It had been a few days since their excursion to the lake and Yuuri couldn’t stop thinking about the way he had moved. The graceful curve of his body, the elegantly executed jumps and spins - ‘rotations,’ Victor had corrected him later - and how he glided as if he were born for the ice. With the backdrop of a beautiful winter wonderland to set the scene, Victor had appeared godly; unobtainable and untouchable.

These images of the prince seemed to be ever present in Yuuri’s head, and whenever he saw his mate he couldn’t help but blush.

Whenever they shared their baths, Yuuri always found himself staring at his Soul Mark. The lovely blue swirls looked gentle and fluid against his skin, seeming to glow in contrast to the light pink that tinted his back from the hot water. Whenever Victor caught him staring and teased him, he would turn red and look away.

Yuuri actually started to grow ashamed of his own Soul Mark. He had seen the Marks of his parents and friends plenty of times. They were completely identical, down to exact color and line. But seeing Victor’s Mark and how lovely it looked on his back...there was no way Yuuri’s could be as beautiful.

Maybe this was a mistake. Maybe their Marks were similar but not the same. After all, Victor had never personally seen his own Mark, and he definitely never would. He had never before felt so insecure about his relationship with Victor; elusive, intangible Victor.

The cruel taunts of his bullies the year before cluttered this thoughts and he bit his lip.

When they had met for the first time as children, Dr. Plisetsky had taken a photo of their Marks side by side for medical and historical purposes. Yuuri had managed to find that photo when he snuck into the doctor’s office while he and Victor were away learning about Secondary Genders and health.

He pocketed the paper and crept into the hallway, quickly making his way to back to his room. The only reason he was able to complete his mission was thanks to the excuse he had given Victor about not feeling well. He had just turned the corner to the hallway where his room was when he spotted Georgi leaving through his door.

Yuuri startled and was about to turn and run when Georgi looked in his direction, eyes slightly widening with surprise.

“My Lord, you should be resting.”

“I was…” Yuuri hesitantly answered, “I was just...I wanted water.”

“Water,” he repeated and slowly walked to the boy.

“Yes, water, but...I got lost on my way to the kitchen.”

“I see,” he nodded and studied the young lord for a moment. Yuuri squirmed under his gaze, anxious to get away. Subtlety was not his strong suit, so it was only a matter of seconds before Georgi could see through his lie.

“Allow me to escort you, My Lord,” he offered, “some exercise might be helpful in recovering from your symptoms.”

“I would rather rest-”

“This way, please,” Georgi started walking in the opposite direction, “no wonder you were lost, Lord Yuuri, you were heading in the wrong direction.”

“Ah,” Yuuri hesitantly followed, keeping a few paces behind the attendant and anxiously looking around, “I didn’t realize… I’m sorry for bothering you, Georgi, there’s no need to take me. I can just go back to my room.”

“Not at all, My Lord. Your health and comfort comes first,” he turned the corner and waited until Yuuri was beside him before they continued walking.

A majority of their stroll was silent, and when they arrived in the kitchen the head chef gave him water and a freshly baked roll wrapped in a cloth napkin in case he got hungry later on. He warmed at the gesture and hugged her tightly in gratitude.

They were halfway back to is room and Yuuri had foolishly believed he was going to end the small trip without any conversation when Georgi finally spoke up.

“What’s troubling you, young lord?”

“Huh?” He jolted and looked up at the servant before glancing away, “nothing. I just feel bad, that’s all.”

“Are you sure? You haven’t been your usual self lately,” he continued to prod, “you’ve been closing in on yourself more. Your posture has changed and you’ve been unusually silent. Are you anxious about something?”

Yuuri struggled to come up with an excuse, “I guess... I’m just feeling homesick. I miss my family.”

“I can let the Vice Regent know. He will make arrangements to send you home-”

“No!” Yuuri quickly declined and grabbed onto Georgi’s sleeve in a pleading gesture, “Please don’t! I want to stay!” As much as he believed he and Victor weren’t meant for each other, he didn’t want to leave him; he liked Victor...he wanted to spend as much time as possible with him before he would be asked to stay in Japan.

“Why would we ask you to stay in Japan?” Georgi asked, kneeling to be eye level with the lord. Yuuri blushed upon the realization that he had said his concerns out loud, forgetting that Georgi knew Japanese thanks to his father, “Yuuri... has Victor said anything to you?”

“No!” He fiercely shook his head, “no, he hasn’t!”

“Then why do you feel this way?”

Yuuri looked down and released his arm. He stuck his hands into his pockets and felt the picture, grabbing onto it tightly enough to crinkle it in his fist.

“It’s just... he’s so…” Yuuri struggled to put his thoughts into words. Georgi waited patiently for him to continue, “he’s so amazing. He’s everything I’m not and everything I want to be.”

Georgi was clearly caught off guard by the mature admission, but Yuuri didn’t notice, “when we went skating, he was so beautiful. He was perfect and wonderful and and you could tell just how much fun he was having and how much he loved the ice from the look in his eyes... I can’t measure up to that. My family is always telling me how lucky I am for meeting my soulmate, but when I see my parents and friends with their mates, they just… the look perfect for each other. You can tell that they were meant to be together, they’re so alike and me and Victor - we’re completely different.”

Yuuri pulled the picture out of his pocket and held the crinkled photo out to Georgi, “please look at this! Look at this and tell me that our Marks don’t match, that this is a mistake!”

The attendant hesitated. He slowly, gently pulled the paper from Yuuri’s grasp, but he didn’t look at it. He kept it crinkled in his own palm and gingerly smiled at the young lord. “that look that you were talking about,” he started, reaching his other hand out to tip Yuuri’s head so that he was making eye contact with him and not the floor, “when he was skating? That love for his sport... he has the same love in his eyes when he looks at you, My Lord. Surely, you’ve seen it... haven’t you?”

Yuuri sniffed, his eyes watering. He was so desperate not to cry in front of Georgi - why was the attendant saying those things? He didn’t mean it.

“You’re insecure about having Victor as your mate, I know. There are many times where I even find myself in awe over His Highness, almost as if I can’t believe what I’m seeing.

“But it’s important to remember, Yuuri,” Georgi unfolded the paper and glanced down at it briefly before holding it out for Yuuri to take and examine himself, “He’s human, just like you. He has his own flaws and problems, and he is just like anyone else.”

Yuuri looked down at the photo. It was a sepia picture of the two of them, side by side with their backs to the camera. They each had the exact same Mark in the same place and their hands were linked between them. Yuuri remembered when they took this picture 4 years ago. Yuuri thought it was weird and didn’t want to do it, but Victor had convinced him, saying it was to show everyone else who they belonged to.

He remembered Victor was constantly being scolded by the photographer, the Court Historian and his Uncle for not being angle to stand still.

How could anyone stand still in the presence of their soulmate?! ” Victor had argued and hugged Yuuri, “You were made just for me and I was made just for you! It’s amazing that we found each other! Stay with me, ok?

“He has told me before that he can’t believe how perfect you are,” Georgi revealed, “at first I dismissed it as the childish ramblings of a lovesick teen, but when I saw you two on ice, when I saw the adoration in your eyes when you watched him and the same look of pure affection in his when you smiled, I realized he was right.”

Yuuri started to cry and clutched tightly at the picture. He rushed forward and threw himself into Georgi’s arms, latching tightly around his neck as fat tears rolled down his cheeks.

“I-I’m just scared that I’m not good enough!”

“Yuuri, you’re 10 years old,” Georgi held him tightly, rubbing soothing circles into his back, “there’s still so much that you don’t know, so much that you're going to learn. How can you say for certain that you’re not right for him, especially when you’re the only person who believes that?”

“Yuuri,” Victor called out, surprising the two in the hallway. Yuuri pulled back from Georgi’s embrace and stared wide eyed at the prince, who had been hiding to eavesdrop on their conversation. Victor looked so torn and upset over Yuuri’s tears, and he rushed forward to embrace him.

“Oh Yuuri,” Victor huffed as he squeezed the boy tightly, “you’re too perfect for me, Yuuri. I’m the one who doesn’t deserve you.”

“Victor-”

“You care so much for me, my love,” he breathed into his hair, “I’m trying so hard to prove to you that I deserve you, but I didn’t know it was making you feel this way. I just want you to be proud to call me your soulmate. I love you... so much,” he kissed Yuuri’s temple and pulled away, his cheeks and ears red from blushing as he held on tightly to his hands, “I’m just trying to make you fall in love with me too. I didn’t mean for this to happen. I’m sorry.”

Yuuri blushed and also looked down to their interlocked hands. He hesitated to answer, not really sure about what he should say.

Lyubov moya ?” Victor prompted, his eyes filled with worry and his voice wavering before he translated, “my love?”

Victor loved him... he said he loved him...

The doubts the children back home had instilled in him started melting away.

“I’ll have to try hard too, then,” Yuuri eventually spoke, looking back up at Victor, “to show that I... that I care about you... more than you care about me.” His tears had stopped but his eyes were still watery, now burning with childish determination.

A huge grin spread on Victor’s face at the admission, “you think you care about me more than I care about you?”

“Of course I do,” Yuuri huffed, gaining confidence from Victor’s earlier confession, "and I'll prove it, too!"

“You’ll have to try hard, then,” Victor’s smile turned into a teasing grin, and he gently wiped the tears off of Yuuri’s cheeks, “I wish you luck; because I love you more than you could possibly imagine.”

Chapter Text

When he presented as an Alpha, Victor was 15 years old.

In the days leading up to it, he wasn’t feeling well. He was fatigued, sluggish, irritable, snapping at everyone who wasn’t Yuuri. He was more possessive of the boy, keeping him close to his side and a constant hand on his shoulder, interlocked with his fingers, ruffling his hair- just anywhere on his body. Yakov noticed these changes almost as soon as they started and forbade Victor and Yuuri from being alone together.

Victor didn’t understand why. He made his confusion known. Yakov threatened him with a more rigorous training schedule if he refused to obey. Victor promptly ceased his complaints.

When he woke up on that dreaded day, he was drenched in sweat. He felt sick to his stomach, sore all over, so, so hot,  and - worst of all - angry. He felt prickly, like he was being poked with needles, and nearly ripped Georgi’s head off when he tried to wake him up for the day.

“I’ll get the doctor,” was all his servant said as he stumbled out of the room, voice hoarse and red handprints imprinted around his throat.

“Fantastic idea!” Victor shouted back, voice dripping with sarcasm as he slammed a fist against his wall, “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?!” He grabbed a chair and threw it across the room, grunting in frustration before throwing himself back into bed and curling into himself.

He found the barest hint of relief when he started to rut against the mattress. Humiliation, rage, and Alpha hormones were thick in the air, suffocating him and tearing tears from his eyes. He knew what was happening: he was experiencing his first Rut. He was presenting as an Alpha, like his father. He couldn’t find any comfort in that now, though. He’d heard horror stories of how other Alphas experienced their Ruts, and he didn’t pay attention during Dr. Plisetsky’s lessons on secondary genders.

He was close to dry heaving when a soft knock interrupted any coherent thought he could have had. He saw red, snarling as he pushed off of the mattress, ready to attack whoever dared to enter his room.

“Victor?”

He froze. An eternity had passed in the few seconds it took for the boy to enter the room. Yuuri had walked in, a tray loaded with a bowl of fruit, a bowl and glass of water, and a folded towel in his hands. His scent sliced through Victor’s own emotions as he walked towards the newly presented Alpha, conveying his concern, fear and (touchingly) his care for his soulmate.

“Are you okay?” Yuuri asked when he reached the bed, putting the tray on the bedside table.

“Yuuri,” Victor spoke softly, tense as he watched his mate walk around the bed and head towards the windows. His head became clouded with thoughts of mate mate mate and he felt himself harden. He licked his lips and shifted uncomfortably, “you shouldn’t be here. Now is not a good time, my love.”

“You’re presenting,” Yuuri answered matter-of-factly, cracking one of the windows open slightly before moving onto the next one, “it stinks in here. My sister presented as an Alpha earlier this year and my mother had me help her through it.”

“I appreciate the thought, but you still shouldn’t be here,” he gritted through a forced smile, his eyes all but pleading him to leave as his inner Alpha screamed at him to grab the boy.

“You won’t hurt me,” he opened another window and moved onto the last one.

“You don’t know that,” he huffed, “I don’t know that…”

“I do. You care about me-”

“Yuuri,” Victor interrupted him, standing up from the bed and prowling toward his mate, “I know you can smell what I’m feeling right now,” Yuuri turned to look at him, his eyes widening slightly when he noticed Victor’s approach. Instead of moving, he defiantly stood his ground, irritating Victor just a little more, “tell me what the air is telling you.”

“You’re irritated,” Yuuri accepted the challenge, maintaining eye contact, “you’re tired - exhausted. You’re... confused. Scared, but only a little. That’s understandable, Victor, it’s alri-”

“What else?” He was toe-to-toe with him, towering over his smaller frame with his hand resting next to Yuuri’s head.

“You’re happy to see me,” he said after a moment of hesitation. Victor responded with a toothy grin, toeing the border on sneering.

“Just happy?” Yuuri didn’t respond, but his eyes communicated the snark he wanted to say, “Come on, Yuuri, what’s the last thing?”

Yuuri still remained silent as Victor trailed the fingers of his free hand lightly up his arm, caressing his cheek before resting at the back of his neck where his mating bite would one day go, “arousal, Yuuri,” he supplied, drawing a shiver of discomfort from the younger boy, “I am very happy to see you, which is why you shouldn’t be here. It’s admirable that you took care of your sister during her ordeal, but we are not blood related.

“At any moment…” he breathed, leaning in and nuzzling the crook of his neck, “at any moment, Yuuri, I could take you. I wouldn’t care that your unpresented, that you’re a child,” he inhaled once more, resisting the urge to pull him close, “but from the way you smell, I know you won’t be anything else other than an Omega.”

“I can’t,” Yuuri clarified, putting his hands on Victor’s shoulders and gently pushing. He didn’t budge, “My mom’s a Beta. The most she can give are Alphas and Betas.”

“My lovely Omega,” Victor continued, as if he’d never heard Yuuri. His inner Alpha refused to believe that his sweet, soft soulmate wouldn’t present as an Omega. He had to... he would… “Lovely little Omega...”

“Victor,” Yuuri tried again, “look at me, please.”

He obliged his mate and reluctantly leaned away, allowing Yuuri to balanced himself on his tiptoes. He reached up and ran his fingers through Victor’s soft silver hair, pulling the long locks back until they were gathered into a ponytail and eliciting a soft hum from the prince. He used his teeth to unknot a ribbon from his wrist - a habit he had started last year for this express purpose - and used the strip to tie Victor’s hair out of his face.

After he secured the knot, he gently held his face in his hands, “You’ll only feel hotter as the day goes on. Take off your shirt and get back into bed.” Victor’s expression slowly melted into a warm smile.

“Come with me,” he drawled, “come to bed with me.”

“I can’t if you keep holding me.”

“I’ll carry you.” Yuuri smiled, absolutely dazzling Victor as his warm brown eyes crinkled with emotion. He smelled sweet amusement in Yuuri’s scent but noticed something on the very fringes, something sour.

“I can walk, but thanks.”

“Let me hold you, my beautiful Omega,” he carded a hand through Yuuri’s hair, pushing the strands out of his face. The sour smell became stronger, and Victor frowned. His Alpha wasn’t too happy either. Was this...anxiety? Was it fear?

Why would his Omega be afraid of him?

“I’m not an Omega, Victor,” Yuuri gently reminded him and took a step to the side. Victor allowed this, gently taking his hand and caressing the back of his palm with his thumb, “Come on, let’s go to bed.”

Victor followed closely behind, all of his senses locked onto his mate. His earlier concerns of Yuuri’s fear melted away when the boy pulled the sheets back on the bed and patted the mattress. He obliged his request and got into bed, pulling off his sweat-soaked shirt and throwing it to the side. He kept his eyes locked on Yuuri.

When his mate started to move, he reached out and caught his hand before he could step away, “Where are you going, love? Join me, there’s plenty of space.”

He had been pouring extra honey into his words, doing his best to lure his mate into the bed. Yuuri smiled at him - that same bewitching smile - and squeezed his hand before slipping out of his grasp.

“I only want to clean you up a bit. The towel is on the table over there.”

Victor watched him closely as he walked around the bed. Yuuri stopped at the bedside table and grabbed the towel off of the tray, submerging it in the bowl of water and wringing out the excess.  Balancing a knee on the mattress, he leaned forward and wiped the sweat off of Victor’s brow. He wrinkled his nose playfully and chuckled.

“You smell gross.”

“You smell delicious,” Victor countered, his eyes hooded with a sultry look at he studied the way Yuuri blushed. He reached forward and stroked his cheek with his thumb, fascinated with the way Yuuri’s eyes widened as he froze ever so slightly.

“Would you like some food or water?” He asked quietly, stiff, and Victor wanted nothing more but to massage the tension out of his shoulders.

“Feed it to me?” He countered with a hopeful grin. Yuuri watched him for a moment, pulling the towel away from his face. Hesitantly, he returned his smile with a small grin of his own.

“You’re so needy,” he tried to joke, tilting his head and accidentally brushing his lips against the Alpha’s thumb.

Victor felt his eyes dilate. He nearly popped a Knot at the contact.

Just then, Dr. Plisetsky burst into the room with Master Popovich, Yakov, and two guards trailing in from behind. Their sudden entrance caused Victor’s Alpha instinct to protect his mate to flair and he grabbed Yuuri, pulling him against his chest as he growled at the intruders.

“What are you doing here?! You shouldn’t be here!” The doctor snapped with a frown, turning his glare to the guards, “how did this happen?!”

“I-I wanted to help,” Yuuri answered weakly. Victor could feel his heart was racing and smelled the sour anxiety that came from his mate. His inner Alpha passed the blame onto the doctor and the rest of the group in his room. He growled once more, red seeping into his vision as the guards shifted nervously behind the doctor, hands on their weapons as they held their breaths, “h-he was fine before you guys came in.”

“That was probably due to your scent and his control,” the doctor said, his eyes trained on Victor’s tense form, “unfortunately it is a temporary fix. It would not have lasted. Your Highness, please let him go.”

He answered with another growl, holding Yuuri even tighter. The boy winced from his strength, but Victor didn’t care. He was at war with his inner Alpha, torn between attacking the intruders and making sure his mate was safe.

“Your Highness, please,” he continued, taking a step forward. Victor snarled at him, stopping him in his tracks

“Victor, you’re hurting him,” Yakov spoke up this time, “You’re hurting Yuuri.”

At the mention of his name, he tried to pull Yuuri even closer than before, his grip borderline bruising. Yuuri whined from the sudden pain, making him freeze. The doctor noticed this change and attempted to take another step closer. Victor responded by scooting back towards the edge of the bed, pulling Yuuri along with him. He shifted his hold so that one arm was around his chest and the other was around his stomach. Yuuri tried to move but was stopped by a growl.

“Yuuri, listen to me. I have an idea, but I need you to calm down…”

Any words exchanged between Yuuri and the group became muffled in Victor’s head. He couldn’t process their conversation; all of his attention was focused on protecting his mate, evaluating the risk in fighting off the intruders, sizing up the competition and determining his chances of success.

Yuuri wasn’t safe here. Victor wasn’t either. The air in the room was tainted by the scent of the others, their own fear and aggression fueling his rage. Too many Alphas were in the room, and they were a threat to his mate - his Omega. His oh so young Omega, still a child, probably on the brink of his first heat. He had to be, with a scent so sweet and mouthwatering and just begging for an-

“A-alpha,” Yuuri quietly called. Victor froze at the whine, immediately looking down at his mate in his arms, baring his neck oh so prettily. In response, he slowly leaned down and nuzzled the crook of his neck, starting the process of scenting his beautiful, lovely Omega.

He shuddered with discomfort at the intimate gesture, and Victor tightened his grip as a way to comfort his mate. A few moments passed of Victor contently humming and inhaling his mate’s scent; Victor ignored the group and the way Yuuri suddenly tensed in his arms.

When he licked his neck, Yuuri shoved his elbow into Victor’s ribs. The shock made him release the boy, who promptly propelled himself forward by kicking Victor onto the ground.

Yuuri scrambled off of the bed and ran to the doctor as the guards and Yakov surged forward. Victor had bounced up from where he’d fallen on the floor and lunged for Yuuri, only to be caught and forced onto his back on the bed by the guards.

“Don’t touch him! Don’t touch my mate!” His inner Alpha’s voice leaked into his own as he struggled. He kicked and howled, fighting against them with all of his might as Yakov grabbed a handful of his ponytail and tugged his head back, exposing his neck in an unspoken threat.

“Behave!” He hissed, his own inner Alpha’s voice also coming through as he tried to subdue the prince. Victor growled defiantly and continued to thrash as Yuuri was escorted out by Master Popovich. It was only when his mate left the room that he finally calmed down, Yakov’s threats finally forcing him into a tense submission.

For the next five days, he was confined to his room. A collar was locked around his neck and he was chained to the bed. Such extreme measures were brought on when he tried to escape the room twice, attacking 4 guards in his last attempt and making it as far as Yuuri’s bedroom before he was caught. Luckily, the boy had been in the gardens at the time

On the sixth day, Victor had woken up dry mouthed, exhausted, sore, and starving. When he opened his eyes, Yakov was standing over him, a fatherly grin gracing his lips as he looked at the young Alpha with fondness.

“Welcome back, Vitya,” the old man greeted him, “an Alpha… just like your father.”  Victor replied with a tired smile of his own and closed his eyes, tears of relief streaming down his cheeks. The ordeal was finally over.

 


 

When Victor presented as an Alpha, Yuuri was 11 years old.

He was sitting in the kitchen, shocked by the abrupt change he had seen in Victor. His beautiful ethereal blue eyes had turned grey, pupils blown, and his voice had changed. He had never seen anything like that before, he didn’t know what to think.

The cook’s 6 year old daughter, Mila, came waddling back with a plate of cookies and a heavy mug of warm milk.

“Mama said this will help you feel better,” she cheerfully placed the items on the table in front of Yuuri and sat in the seat next to him, reaching for a cookie, “I’m gonna take one, though, ‘cuz I had to bring ‘em to you.”

“You can have the whole plate,” Yuuri offered, but was met with a sassy head shake.

“No. You need them more than me,” she nodded to herself and took a bite of the treat. Yuuri smiled warmly at her and ruffled her hair, laughing at the whine and gentle smack to his hand when she protested.

Master Popovich entered the room a few minutes later, bringing with him Dr. Plisetsky.

“What were you thinking?” He scolded, sitting at the table across from him. “Georgi said he was the one who told you about Victor, but surely you saw the markings around his throat!”

“I thought I could help,” Yuuri admitted honestly, “My sister presented as an Alpha earlier this year. My mom had me help her take care of her. She wasn’t like Victor...she wasn’t so mad…”

“Female Alpha’s develop their aggression over time,” Dr. Plisetsky informed him, “Male Alphas are...they’re angry from the very start.”

“We appreciate that you care,” Master Popovich spoke up, “We know His Highness does too, it’s just….we were worried about you. You’re so young, and unpresented. If Victor hadn’t been strong enough to control himself for as long as he did, then...who knows what could have happened. If he had snapped and we weren’t there, he wouldn’t have cared about your age or secondary sex.”

Yuuri didn’t say anything. He stared at the table, reeking of insecurities and anxiety. A moment of silence passed before a gentle feminine voice interrupted their thoughts.

“That’s not what’s bothering you, though,” Mila’s mother, the burly Royal Chef, walked into the room, stopping next to Master Popovich, “right? What’s troubling you?”

Yuuri didn’t deny it and they all waited patiently for him to reveal the source of his stress.

“I knew that Victor wouldn’t hurt me, as foolish as it sounds,” he started hesitantly, “but... he kept calling me his ‘Omega’... I can’t be an Omega. My mother’s a Beta, and I tried to tell him that, but he kept insisting that I would be…”

He looked up at them, his eyes watery and face red with shame, “I’m just... I’m afraid that when I present as a Beta, I’ll be letting him down.”

“Oh, sweetie,” Mila’s mother moved to his side and pulled him into her large arms, holding him tightly as her scent emitted comforting rays of concern and care. Mila noticed this and frowned, confused, before joining in on the hug as well.

“The prince cares deeply for you,” Master Popovich reassured him, his expression softening, “he truly does. Your possible secondary sex has nothing to do with it, nor will it change how he feels.”

“The prince really likes you,” Mila piped up, her rough understanding of English clueing her into the topic of their conversation. Yuuri’s knowledge of Russian was at a high enough level to allow him to understand the little girl, “Whenever you leave for the winter, he gets all sad and grumpy. Not even Makkachin can can cheer him up. But when you’re here, he’s super happy!”

“She’s telling the truth,” Dr. Plisetsky continues, “he cares for you, regardless of how you may present. He’s never been one to judge another based on whether or not they’re Alpha or Omega or Beta. That’s trivial to him, not worth giving his attention to.”

“But... what if that was because he was unpresented?” Yuuri asked, “He’s an Alpha now. What if his opinion has changed?”

“You don’t need him,” Mila’s mother pulled away, giving him a supportive, stern look, “Soulmates are nice, but not a life sentence. You don’t need him, You can find someone else.”

“Or no one at all,” Master Popovich’s expression softened, “There’s nothing forcing you to be with someone. And if anyone tries, we'll stop them.”

Yuuri smiled gratefully at them and looked at his hands. He still felt anxious about the idea of disappointing Victor, but knowing that he had the support of these people, especially when he was so far away from home, helped comfort him more than he could have imagined.

“Thank you,” he sniffed, “I... feel a little better now.”

“‘A little’ is a good start,” Mila's mother squeezed his shoulder and looked to her daughter, “Mila, take Yuuri with you to harvest the garden. I know you haven't done that yet today.”

Mila huffed and rolled her eyes, “Mama-”

“Now, little girl!” She stood and grabbed two baskets that were resting on the table before Yuuri and the rest of the group arrived. She practically threw one at Yuuri and demanded that he follow her.

“But I'm emotionally distressed right now!” He half heartedly whined when Mila tugged at his arm.

“Distractions are good! I don't want to see either of you in my kitchen until those baskets are full!”

The two left the kitchen, playfully grumbling about the chore as the adults grinned in their seats.

The week passed by excruciatingly slow for Yuuri. When he wasn't practicing his dances, playing with Makkachin, or helping Mila and her mother in the kitchen, he often found himself napping in the garden or library, trying to sleep through the hours he was spending away from Victor.

The guards and castle staff refused to tell him anything about Victor's condition, and he was left in the dark until the 6 days after the incident, when Georgi approached him in the ballroom.

“His Rut is over,” he said when Yuuri had finished his routine. Yuuri released a sigh of relief and nearly collapsed onto the floor.

“Is he alright?”

“Yes. Just exhausted,” Georgi answered, the marks on his neck finally fading to a pale purple, “The Vice Regent and the Doctor agree that you can see him tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” he smiled kindly, “I’m glad.” Georgi nodded and left the room. Yuuri took his time to gather his things and left the ballroom as well. The anxiety that he had been trying to suppress for the past couple of days flared up once more. He wasn’t even entirely sure if he wanted to see Victor tomorrow...but hadn’t he been looking forward to it all week?

He entered his room and froze. Victor was lying on his bed, face buried in his pillows and wrapped up in his blankets. He paused, looking around the room to confirm that he was indeed in his own bedroom before turning to leave.

“Wait,” he heard a familiar muffled voice call from his bed. When he looked over his shoulder he saw Victor sit up, rubbing his eyes and stretching, “Please don’t leave.”

“You should be resting,” Yuuri murmured, “in your own room.”

“My room is disgusting,” he shrugged and looked Yuuri in the eye. The familiar pale blue that Yuuri missed glittered with happiness as he held out his hand, “Join me. Please?”

Yuuri hesitated and Victor blushed, “I-I swear I won’t try anything like last time! I wasn’t myself, and-”

“I know,” Yuuri quickly reassured him, “I know.” He closed the door and walked to the bed, setting his things on the dresser along the way. Victor smiled when he saw his mate approaching and patted the space next to him. Yuuri allowed a small smile and crawled into the space next to him. Victor quickly gathered the boy into his arms and laid down, pulling him close so that his face was buried in Yuuri’s neck with his arms wrapped around his waist. His long silver hair was still in a ponytail, and his pajamas were - thankfully - freshly cleaned.

Yuuri waited for Victor to get settled before he positioned himself, the hand on his free arm weaving itself into Victor’s hair while the other stayed trapped underneath Victor’s head.

“I missed you,” Victor breathed, eyes closed as he starts to hum. Yuuri smiled and closed his own eyes.

“I missed you too.”

“I’m sorry for anything I did or said that made you uncomfortable,” he continued, “If there’s anything I can do to make you feel better, please tell me.”

“I will,” Yuuri hummed, “for now, just rest.”

Victor fell asleep within minutes, his breathing settling into an even pace. Yuuri had goosebumps from his exhales, but refused to move. He’d take his little victories wherever he could.

When he finally fell asleep, he woke up wishing he hadn’t: he’d dreamed of a clock that counted down the days until he would surely present as a Beta.

Chapter Text

When he found the book on various marriage practices in different cultures, Victor was 16 years old.

He was sitting in the library at one of the many tables he and his tutors used when they taught his lessons. Yuuri sat across from him, reading a story about an adventurer who befriended a troll and a dragon. He kicked his legs back and forth and his feet would occasionally brush gently against the side of Victor’s shins.

Victor huffed and slouched in his seat, rubbing his forehead to make his frustration known. The previously mentioned book was opened on the table in front of him, a pencil and notepad resting to the side with his notes scribbled in messy Russian. He had shredded the bottom of his paper a couple of times in order to bookmark useful passages and chapters he wanted to go back and review.

He had read through the book numerous times but he was still at a loss. He closed his eyes and racked his brain for more ideas, but came up empty handed.

“What’s wrong?” he dropped his hand and looked at Yuuri, who was gazing at him with furrowed brows and clouding the air with his concern. Victor gave an exaggerated pout to dispel the seriousness of the situation for his mate’s sake, although he personally felt like their relationship was jeopardized by his lack of romantic creativity.

“I don’t know how to court you,” he honestly admitted. Yuuri blinked, his eyes widening ever so slightly before he fell into a laughing fit. Victor dramatically gasped and brought a hand to his chest, extending his leg to nudge Yuuri’s chair, “Don’t mock me, this is serious!”

“Oh, Victor,” Yuuri blushed lightly and rubbed the tears out of his eyes, grinning sheepishly, “I won’t present for another 3 or 4 years. There’s no need to worry about this now.”

“Ever since I was a child, I’ve always thought about the ways I could convince you to marry me.”

Yuuri chuckled again and looked back down at his book, “I like how you’re plotting to bribe me into marriage instead of just asking.”

“Yuuri~” he whined, “I’m serious!”

Yuuri sighed and dog-eared the page he was on. He shut the book and pushed it to the side, folding his hands in front of him and giving the prince his undivided attention, “Do you wana share your ideas with me? I know myself better than anyone else.”

Victor huffed, “But then you’ll know and it won’t be a romantic surprise anymore!” he picked up his book and flicked through the pages until he reached one of his bookmarked passages, “How about I tell you what other people have done?”

“Alright,” Yuuri grinned, “I’m listening.”

Victor extended his legs and hooked his feet around the legs of Yuuri’s chair. He dragged the boy closer to the table until his chest was almost pressed against the wood before releasing him. He sat up a little straighter and scooted his own chair in, lifting his legs once more to rest his feet in Yuuri’s lap. The growth spurt that came after his first Rut practically sent him towering over his mate, making it much easier for him to mess with Yuuri under the table at dinner, during his lessons, and whenever he and the boy would sneak to the kitchens for a snack.

Yuuri rolled his eyes and flicked the bottom of Victor’s house shoes.

“Nikolai the Barbarian,” he began, scanning the paragraph to refresh his memory, “was a ruler of Russia many centuries ago. It is said that he courted his wife by building her a castle made of gold.”

“Gold is a soft metal, though,” Yuuri interrupted him, “I don’t think I would like that. Plus, everyone would want to attack and steal the gold. That’s what happened to a woman in my village last year; she walked around wearing all of these gold bracelets and a thief stole them from her when she was walking home alone.”

Victor grabbed his pencil and crossed ‘a trunk of jewels’ and ‘gold statue’ off of his list of possible gifts. He flipped forward to another bookmark. “Catherine the Pale Princess courted her second husband with an armada of Destroyers and Frigates.”

“What are those?”

“Ships.”

“Oh.” Victor crossed off ‘carriage’ and ‘boat’ when he noticed Yuuri’s lack of enthusiasm. He continued with the book.

“An English Duchess gave her suitor jewelry that incorporated her hair.”

“Ew,” Yuuri crinkled his nose, his eyes settling on Victor’s hands, “I wish you didn’t have to cut your hair.”

Victor gazed at him with a tender smile and twirled his finger around the end of his ponytail, “It’s tradition for Alphas of the Royal Family to cut their hair once they present.”

“I like your hair though,” Yuuri mumbled, his cheeks red.

“At least Yakov is letting me wait until I’m 18 to cut it.”

Yuuri muttered something about ‘delaying the inevitable’ and Victor chuckled.

“There’s a Chinese Emperor who filled a lake with wine for his lover.”

“I don’t like wine.”

“You’ve never had it, Yuuri.”

“It smells gross. I don’t think I’ll like it,” Victor shrugged.

He was about to tell Yuuri about the German prince that conquered a kingdom for his bride when Yuuri asked, “What did your mom and dad do? Do you know?”

Victor smiled warmly at the question and closed his book, slouching a bit in his seat. Yakov and Dr. Plisetsky had told him many times about his parents' courtship and he knew the story by heart.

“My mother and father were soulmates. She was the Crown Princess and he was a high ranking noble. When their families learned about the Marks and arranged their marriage, she was so happy. She never thought that she would ever meet her soulmate, so learning that she was going to marry him practically sent her to the moon.”

Yuuri grinned and rested his chin in his hands, elbows propped on the table, “She wanted to get him a gift to convey how happy she was and welcome him to her family. She asked my father’s best friend - Yakov, actually-”

“Yakov was friends with your dad?” Yuuri questioned with wide eyes. Victor nodded.

“Yes. He and my mother eventually became really close, too.” he reached up and took his flower crown off of his head. He gently placed the blue roses at the center of the table between himself and Yuuri, “Yakov told my mother that my father dabbled in botany and that he was interested in a plant native to France. Before my father came to the palace, my mother sneaked out of the country and traveled to France to find that plant.”

“Wait,” his mate gasped, “she sneaked out ? She left the country without permission?”

“Yes!” Victor laughed at his surprise, “Yes, she did! My grandfather was furious! He almost sent Russia’s entire naval force to France to get her until he started to receive letters. Every time she arrived at a major city, she would send him a letter telling him how she was, that she was safe, and that she would be back soon. She was gone for 6 months.”

“Wow,” Yuuri cooed, filled with awe for the enigma that was Victor’s mother, “did she find the plant?”

“Unfortunately not,” he revealed. Yuuri’s expression melted into heartbreak.

“Oh no.”

“There was a terrible storm in France a month before she arrived. A flood and landslide erased all traces of the plant, forcing it into extinction. When she found out, she was devastated and began her long trip back. By then, news of her journey had spread throughout Russia, eventually making its way to my father. When he had heard what she was doing, he was overwhelmed with admiration for his soulmate.

“He traveled to the Palace and arrived just days before she did; he wanted to greet her upon her return home. When he introduced himself, my mother apologized for her failure and presented him with the image of the plant preserved in the pages of her sketchbook. She had managed to find a merchant who had allowed her to sketch his preserved pressed flower.

“My father was shocked and overjoyed by the thoughtfulness of her actions and presented her with his own courting gift: he had cross-bred different plants to make the perfect flower that represented her. These blue roses,” he gestured to the flower crown between them, “are resilient in the harshest weather conditions - both in high heat and the freezing cold - and refuse to wither. It’s petals are thick and take ages to dry out, and it’s nearly impossible to pluck them from their stems - you need to snip them with a blade.”

Yuuri reached out and gently stroked the dried roses in front of him, eyes twinkling with fascination as Victor continued, “They grow on vines, that’s why the walls that surround my mother’s garden are covered in them. They don’t take long to dry out once plucked, and they don’t lose their vibrant blue very quickly.”

“Your dad made an entirely new flower for your mom?”

“She couldn’t believe it either,” Victor’s gazed softened to fondness when Yuuri picked the crown up and examined it closely. He wished that Yuuri would try it on, but he knew the boy wouldn’t feel comfortable. ‘ It’s your crown, ’ he had told Victor once when he had offered to let Yuuri wear it, ‘ they’re your flowers .’

Our flowers , he thought to himself, the Mark on his back tingling and sending goosebumps down his spine and arms.

“My mother’s sketchbook is in this library,” he spoke up, drawing Yuuri’s attention away from the crown, ‘would you like to see it? I’m sure her letters are also around here somewhere.”

“I would love to!” Yuuri stood from his seat, knocking Victor’s feet out of his lap and placing the crown gingerly onto the table, “Let’s go look for them!”

As Yuuri ran towards the towering shelves of books, Victor reached forward and picked up his crown. He placed it back on his head and grabbed his pencil, jotting down a memo on a new sheet of his notepad and pocketing the slip. He smiled to himself, satisfied with the progress he had made concerning his future plans for Yuuri and followed after his mate.

He had to jog to catch up; Yuuri always seemed to get easily lost among the walls of stories.

Chapter Text

The first time he used an Alpha Command on Yuuri, Victor was 17 years old.

He didn’t know what overcame him. He was talking to Georgi about the changing politics in the south and the possible effect it would have on trade with Russia - the Beta was thoroughly convinced that it was the end of the world while Victor knew it would be a minor setback for 4 months, tops - when the two heard a shrill cry come from down the hall.

They initially ignored it, dismissing it as children playing, until they heard the distinct pitch of the visiting Ambassador's son, Phichit, yelling at someone to ‘leave Yuuri alone!’

“They’re probably playing a game, Your Highness,” Georgi huffed with annoyance at the commotion. Victor still hesitated, much to his attendant's dismay, “Let the children play.”

“Christophe, stop it!” Victor tensed and immediately headed in the direction of the noise. Georgi followed behind him, attempting to talk him out of going and begging him “not to make a scene, Sir, the Palace is full of foreign visitors at the moment, what will the Vice Regent say if you run around and-”

“Then stay here, Georgi,” Victor shrugged him off with a fake smile, “I’ll be back, just wait a minute.”

“Your Highness-”

“Georgi,” Victor turned to him and cocked his head, “Are you coming with me or staying behind?”

The servant hesitated, his eyebrows furrowed. Another shriek came from the room and he pursed his lips, exhaling loudly to make his disapproval known.

“Lead the way.”

“Wise choice,” Victor grinned a bit more menacingly before turning back and continuing his prowl.

They stopped outside one of the numerous sitting rooms in the palace and threw the doors open. Inside, 10 year old Phichit held a toy wooden sword in his hand and a sour expression on his face as he glared up at the other two people. Behind a crudely made pillow fort, 15 year old Christophe - Treasurer Giacometti’s son - cradled Victor’s soulmate tightly against his chest in a princess hold. Yuuri looked uncomfortable in his arms, squirming around to adjust himself as he pushed against Chris’s chest.

“The troll doesn’t get kidnapped by the dragon, Chris,” Yuuri huffed, glancing anxiously at the pouting boy and pushing once more against his chest, “they become friends with the adventurer! That’s how the story goes.”

“Yeah!” Phichit yelled, “Yuuri is my friend! You are too! Come back here!”

“Wouldn’t it be more interesting if the adventurer had to rescue the troll?” the newly presented Alpha laughed and rubbed his cheek against Yuuri’s temple. He stiffened at the contact, surprised by Chris’ bold move, “maybe the dragon secretly likes the troll? Maybe the troll is really cute? That would be much more fun!”

“That’s not how the story goes!” Phichit threw his toy sword down and glared at Chris, “You’re no fun! Let him go or I’m gonna go get the prince!”

“Victor and I are friends,” Chris shrugged and moved Yuuri so that he was tossed over his shoulder. Yuuri started to kick his legs and hit his back in protest, earning a light smack to the back of his thighs in response, “he doesn’t care. Cut it out, Yuuri, or I’m gonna drop you! You know that would hurt!”

Victor’s irritation flared at the sight of his mate being man-handled by another person - another Alpha - and his scent thickened with aggression. His presence became much more noticeable as the air reeked of his annoyance, and it was a matter of seconds before all eyes were on him.

“Hello, friend ,” Victor greeted with a tight smile that didn’t reach his eyes, staring Chris down. The other boy froze at the immense anger he could smell radiating off of the prince and Victor could practically see the conflict Chris was having with his own inner Alpha over whether or not he should submit.

Eventually Chris put Yuuri back on his feet and faced Victor, his eyes on the floor as he scowled and slightly tilted his head in a show of submission. He had made the right choice.

“Hello, Your Highness,” he gritted through his teeth, not at all pleased with the situation. Victor allowed his smugness to leak into his scent, “what brings you here?”

“We heard a commotion down the hall. We wanted to make sure everything was alright,” Victor looked to Phichit and softened his expression for the boy's sake. The Thai child was smart, though; he knew he wasn’t the source of the prince’s aggression and kept his pout up, “What’s wrong, little lord?”

“Yuuri and I were trying to play a game,” he immediately started to complain. Victor could see in his peripheral that Yuuri had shifted away from Chris, “and we were having lots of fun. Then Chris came and Yuuri invited him to play with us. When we told him what we were doing, he pretended to kidnap Yuuri and ruined the game. It wasn’t fair!”

“Why would you ruin his game, Christophe?” Victor kept his plastic smile on and looked to the other Alpha, “I’m sure he asked you to stop many times.”

“I did!” Phichit chimed in, “A lot! Yuuri did, too!”

“Did you?” Victor’s eye twitched when he glanced at Yuuri. 

Yuuri hesitantly nodded, his brows furrowed with concern, “Chris was just acting like a Knothead. He took being silly too far, that’s all.”

“Yeah! He’s a Knothead!”

“Phichit, don’t say that.”

“Why not? You said it first,” Yuuri closed his eyes and rubbed his temple, agitation about the whole ordeal tainting his own scent. Victor didn’t like that.

The prince directed his attention back to the younger Alpha and sighed, “You didn’t listen to my mate when he asked you to stop?”

“We were just playing,” Chris challenged, making eye contact with Victor. The prince’s inner Alpha balked at the nerve of the boy with the temptation to teach him his place vibrating through his veins.

It would have been easy. A simple fight, or a hit. Maybe a bite. Just a little something to remind Chris who Yuuri’s mate was, who he dared to mess with. Oh, he was just itching to-

“Your Highness,” Georgi hissed, breaking whatever trance his inner Alpha had managed to put him in. Victor blinked, registering that his scent had started to foreshadow his thoughts based on how uncomfortable Yuuri and Chris were. The younger Alpha’s gaze had reverted back to the floor.

“...What was that?” Phichit asked innocently, looking shaken and breaking the awkward silence. His lack of a secondary sex meant that he didn't have the instinct to respond to certain stimuli. Where Chris and Yuuri knew that they should submit ( one by instinct and the other by scenting the atmosphere), all Phichit knew was that something wasn't right with the situation.

“Nothing,” Yuuri quickly dismissed and walked to Phichit, “I have to talk to Victor about something for a moment. Do you want to go find Mila? I think she’s in the gardens or the kitchen.”

“Yeah, sure,” Phichit picked his sword back up and headed towards the door, “You'll join us later, right?”

“I'll try,” he reassured the boy. Phichit squeezed by Victor and left the room, leaving the Alpha to stare down the insolent boy as Yuuri struggled to mediate peace between them.

“He knows he screwed up, Victor. It’s fine now.”

“Is it?” Victor’s grin was unsettling, “Does he really know? Let’s go for a walk, friend, and talk about this-”

“Your Highness, we’re needed else where,” Georgi piped up, “we don’t have time for this. You’re on a schedule and you’re already late to your next appointment.”

“Surely you can pencil him in,” Victor took a few steps toward Chris, “I always have time for friends.”

“Victor, Georgi is right,” Yuuri stepped between him and his target, “I'll walk with you there. Where's he going?”

“The ballroom. There's a reception being held to welcome the Chinese Ambassador. Master Christophe should also be attending.”

“I'll go change immediately,” the blond quickly maneuvered around Victor and his mate. Yuuri had distracted him for that moment by stepping forward and holding his hand, preventing the prince from lashing out to grab him.

“Let’s go, Victor.”

He studied Yuuri carefully, taking in his eyes and the weariness of his scent.

“I want you to come with me,” he requested, squeezing his hand. Yuuri exhaled softly and twitched his lip into a lopsided grin.

“I'm not needed there.”

“Please?” The 13 year old hung his head and gave an over exaggerated eye roll, thinking he had dispelled the aggression from Victor’s stiff form.

“Fine. But I have to change.”

“We'll escort you to your room.”

“Your Highness-”

“You're not seriously going to try to argue with me on this, are you?” Victor huffed and turned to look at Georgi with his eyebrows raised in a playful manner. He could see his attendant hesitate, revealing to the prince that he knew Victor’s amusement was a carefully constructed façade at that moment. Georgi’s instincts were sharper than he gave him credit for.

“... alright. But the young lord will have to meet us at the ballroom. We cannot wait for him to change. I'll send another butler to escort him.”

“I know my way around the palace,” Yuuri tried to reassure him. Victor turned around to face Georgi, gently prompting Yuuri with a tug to join him. Yuuri took the hint and stepped next to Victor’s side, the height difference almost comical between the two.

“It's more for appearances sake, My Lord,” Georgi informed and stepped to the side, allowing them room to enter the hallway before trailing behind them a few paces back.

Victor knew his foul mood would persist for the rest of the day. It didn't help that he could still smell Chris on Yuuri’s clothes, which made the trip to his room all the more necessary in his opinion.

He remained unusually quiet for the duration of their walk, not noticing Yuuri's concerned glances or registering his worry; he was too busy stewing in his own anger, his senses acutely attuned to the younger Alpha’s offending odor. It was when Yuuri came to a halt at his bedroom door that Victor finally snapped out of his thoughts.

“What's bothering you?” Yuuri asked with a frown. Victor graced him with a smile that was usually reserved for the public and squeezed his hand.

“Nothing. I just have a few things on my mind.”

“You're upset about Chris,” Yuuri narrowed his gaze, “I’m not an idiot, I was there for the whole exchange. I know you're still angry.”

“Then why are you asking me questions you know the answers to?” Victor kept the public grin in place and let go of his mate’s hand, angling himself so that he was facing Yuuri with his shoulder leaning against the door frame, arms crossed. His tone was smooth but his words were jagged.

“I'm just worried, Victor. I've never seen you like that before,” his mate admitted shyly, glancing at a potted plant on a distant table down the hallway.

“You seemed more worried for Chris, earlier,” Victor petulantly mumbled, “you were quick to defend him after he blatantly disrespected you...you and me.”

Yuuri's eyes widened with disbelief. He put a hand on his hip and sighed, using the other to push his bangs up and out of his face. “Victor, really?”

“Don't dismiss this as some trivial fight,” Victor snarled, the smile gone and irritation causing his mouth to frown, “he touched you and hit you-”

“It wasn't that bad, you could hardly consider it a 'hit'. It didn't even hurt-”

“You're still defending him!” Victor pushed away from the wall and rubbed his eyes in an attempt to compose himself. “The way he so freely held you - are you letting other Alphas on staff get away with that too?”

“What?” He gasped, “No!”

“‘Could have fooled me,” he viciously spat, “I don't want you alone with Chris anymore. I don't want you alone with anyone while you're here.”

“You...you're joking,” Yuuri scoffed hesitantly, “you can't be serious.”

“If I were joking, we would be shackled together, ha-ha,” Victor deadpanned his laugh, “so funny! But that's unrealistic and childish.”

“Oh, and this isn't?”

The prince narrowed his gaze, “No, it isn't. If you're going to interact with someone - Beta, Omega, Alpha -” he emphasized, “then I want a guard with you at all times.”

“Don't you trust me, even the slightest bit?”

“Of course I do! Completely! It's the others that I'm weary of-”

“More like paranoid,” Yuuri scowled and pointedly looked away from Victor. The prince didn't like that one bit.

He invaded Yuuri’s space and crowded him against the door, holding his chin and forcing the boy to look him in the eye. His mate flinched, overwhelmed by the Alpha, and reached up to pull his hand away. “Victor-”

“You will not be alone again,” he growled, his inner Alpha leaking into his voice and scent, “you will be accompanied by a guard everywhere you go. You will not fight me on this. Understand?”

Yuuri gulped, insult turning his scent sour as he put on a brave face, “Yes.”

“Yes, what?”

Yuuri’s eyes hardened, his cheeks turning red, “Yes, Your Highness.”

“Wrong,” he quickly shut him down, “‘Alpha.’ Say it.”

“Yuuri hesitated, “Yes...Alpha.”

A small ounce of satisfaction warmed his chest at the coerced word, “Again.”

“Yes, Alpha,” Yuuri gritted through his teeth, his eyes watery, “whatever you want.”

Victor smiled humorlessly, “If I could have whatever I wanted, you would never be out of my sight.” He released his mate and grabbed the front of Yuuri’s jacket. He ripped the offending garment open and practically tore the foul smelling thing off of him, leaving him standing in his undershirt. He threw the jacket at Georgi and reached down to unknot the red sash around his waist.

“I don't care what you end up wearing. Just make it nice and have this on you somewhere,” he lazily draped the fabric over Yuuri’s shoulder and turned to walk away. “I'll see you soon,” he called over his shoulder.

“Yes, Alpha,” he flinched at how bitter Yuuri sounded, but refused to let it show. He snatched the jacket from Georgi and stormed down the hallway, his attendant in tow.

The farther away he was from his mate, the more he saw how deeply he'd dug himself into this hole.

He stopped abruptly and stared down at the jacket in his hands. Georgi’s footsteps were silenced seconds afterwards.

“I…” he started, his anger now confusion and regret, “I really messed up...didn't I…”

“Yes,” Georgi answered honestly. It stung, but it was what Victor needed at that moment.

He groaned and dropped the jacket, hiding his face in his hands. “Oh, Georgi, what did I do?”

“You used an Alpha Command on your soulmate,” he walked next to his master and picked the coat back up, “it's as you said: you ‘messed up.’”

“I didn't mean to,” his words came muffled through his fingers, “I don't know what came over me.”

“Your Inner Alpha did,” Georgi ‘helpfully’ filled in, “clearly.”

“Have you ever done this before?” He looked to his attendant for guidance. What he got in return was an unimpressed glance.

“I'm a Beta, Your Highness. I can't give Alpha Commands.”

“Oh,” Victor dropped his hands from his face and dejectedly groaned, “I have to apologize.”

“Not now,” his servant advised, placing a hand in his back and gingerly prompting him to keep walking with a push. Victor obliged, “you're late enough as it is. Now your whole schedule has been ruined, we will need to make adjustments to compensate for lost time.

“Also,” Georgi continued, interrupting Victors complaint before he could even verbalize it, “I suggest...giving the young lord some time. The damage is too fresh. Wait until he comes to you, or give him time to cool off.”

Victors shoulders slumped, “I mean.…that's all I can do right now…. Right?” His servant confirmed this with a nod, noises from the ballroom finally piercing their silence.

“Give him a few days, Victor,” Georgi stepped back to his original position, 2 paces behind the crown prince, “give yourself a few days.”

Yuuri did end up joining Victor sometime later in the ballroom. He was wearing a dashing black ensemble with the red sash tied like a shawl around his shoulders. His hair was slicked back with the rims of his eyes and his cheeks tinted red.

He silently went to Victor's side, greeting him with “Alpha” and then remaining quiet for the rest of the evening. His eyes were glued to the floor. He didn't look at him once.

Victor felt something break inside himself.

 


 

 

Their first major argument happened when Yuuri was 13 years old.

They had their spats and fights in the past, but they usually exchanged apologies and made amends before the sun had set or by morning the next day.

This fight wasn’t the same. Yuuri had never before been so disrespected and insulted in his life.

Granted, that was a very bold claim to make. Living as a foreigner and soulmate to Russia’s royal heir came with its difficulties and prejudices; he was no stranger to animosity in the palace.

But for his mate - his soulmate - to confront Yuuri with an Alpha Command left him shocked beyond words.

In Japan, Alpha Commands were rarely used in society; they were a sign of weakness and disrespect, a last resort in an attempt to coerce the listener to do whatever it was the Alpha wanted. His culture prided themselves on their words and building convincing arguments, on presenting their case as the only option or the right choice to make. Alpha Commands were a short cut taken by those arrogant enough to think that their insolent action would be acknowledged without any complaints.

It was frowned upon to use the Command on Omegas, women, and children; especially unpresented children.  

It was never, ever used on the unpresented.

Logically Yuuri knew that Victor wouldn’t know this about his culture. If Victor even did know anything about Yuuri’s home, it certainly wasn't their beliefs toward Alpha Commands. It was such an obscure fact since it was so rarely publicly addressed by his society. Children were often educated by their parents and grew up implicitly knowing never to employ such coercion tactics.

Yuuri knew it was common knowledge that Russians were fine with using the Alpha Command as a method of achieving obedience, respect, and asserting dominance. Yuuri shouldn’t have been surprised that he would eventually see his own Alpha mate using the Command.

But the moment when Victor turned on him, crowded him against the wall, held his face to force eye contact, and unleashed his inner Alpha, Yuuri wasn’t thinking about their cultures conflicting beliefs. He wasn’t keeping in mind Victor’s lack of understanding of how this display of dominance would impact Yuuri’s opinion of him. Yuuri wasn’t even humiliated.

He was ashamed of Victor. 13 year old Yuuri was more concerned with how poorly the Command reflected on Victor than the embarrassment Victor wanted him to feel from being yelled at. Yuuri was angry at Victor for allowing his baser instincts to get the better of him and for taking that rage out on him - an unpresented child.

Back home, the mates of Alphas who used the Commands to get what they wanted were also at risk of being ostracized too. More often than not, Alphas that used the Command on their mates were subtly telling society that their Mate was frequently disobedient enough to need a Command. It reflected poorly on the pair.

This, however, was not a reflection on Yuuri, because they hadn't mated yet. He refused to let himself even consider that he was somewhat at blame for provoking him, because he wasn't. After this disrespect, in a thought brought on by a fit of anger, he wasn't even sure if he even wanted anything to do with Victor anymore, regardless of whether or not this was his soulmate. After all, Master Popovich and Mila's mother had mentioned that he wasn't forced to be with Victor, right?

Despite the failed attempt to coerce him, Yuuri decided to follow Victor’s orders. He didn't go anywhere without a guard or attendant in tow. He was never alone with anyone, even mated Omegas, and he didn't allow anyone to touch him. He claimed that he didn't want their scent to entice another rampage from the crown prince.

Yuuri could see the guilt weighing down Victor two days after their argument. He assumed that his mate…that His Highness had heard of Yuuri’s behavior and realized his error. He could see in Victor's posture how he was itching to talk to Yuuri, to make amends and plead for forgiveness. Yuuri never gave him the chance. He would sooner eat a bowl of wasabi than listen to him grovel.

He messed up, and Yuuri wanted him to know that.

On the third day, a few of the staff in the palace started trying to convince him to at least talk to Victor.

“I do talk to him,” Yuuri offhandedly remarked as he was reading in the library, a guard standing at attention by the window a few feet behind him, “I always say hello whenever I see him.”

Yuuri did. He wasn't lying about that. He always bowed his head and greeted him with “Alpha.” He enjoyed the tension it created in Victor's shoulders.

Master Popovich wasn't happy with his answer, “Victor has been acting strangely these past few days. When I asked him for a reason, he wouldn't tell me. What happened between you two, My Lord?”

“I also live in a nice house,” Yuuri looked up at the master and closed his book, “it's not a castle by your standards but we do have servants and attendants and a few guards. I know how quickly gossip can spread. I'm sorry, Master Popovich, but I already know that you know.”

The master sighed, “Georgi told me,” he admitted after a moment, “but I wanted to hear it in your words, to try and understand your feelings about the situation.”

“I don't mind telling you,” Yuuri stood up and moved to a shelf to put the book away, “I'm angry and insulted. I am disappointed in him.”

The master hesitated to respond. Yuuri went back to the table and gathered his things, slipping his indoor shoes back on and turning to the guard, “I'm ready to leave.”

“Where would you like to go, My Lord?”

“The ballroom. I want to practice my dancing.”

“Yuuri,” Master Popovich finally started. The boy looked at him, prompting him to continue with a nod, “when Alpha Commands are used in Russia-”

“I know about your attitudes towards Commands,” Yuuri interrupted him, “my mother has many books on your culture in our library. She has incorporated Russian language, customs, and history into my lessons. I am well aware of Prince Knothead’s intentions for talking to me like that.”

Master Popovich was caught off guard by the slur, his admiration for Yuuri’s proactive education distracting him from scolding his language, “it warms me that you're putting effort into learning about us. How are Alpha Commands used in your country?”

Yuuri smiled bitterly, “Now you know what my problem is,” he snapped and bowed, “Good afternoon, Master Popovich.”

Yuuri kept himself busy with his dance lessons and reading. He didn't travel to the gardens, assuming that a certain Alpha would be there sulking in self pity. He missed the roses.

On the 6th day, Victor had started to send him large bouquets with apologies written in careful English. Yuuri would throw the notes away and give the flowers to Mila and Phichit.

Eventually, a week and a half had passed. Victor and Yuuri did try to talk a few times, but each time ended with Victor begging Yuuri to give him a punishment and the boy yelling at him to leave. It looked like nothing would change, so Yuuri had Master Popovich make an appointment with the Vice Regent. He wanted to go home.

When he arrived at Yakov’s office, the older man looked tired and solemn. The window was cracked open with traces of a familiar Alpha’s scent lingering in the air. When Yuuri registered this, he froze and looked at him questioningly, clenching his jaw.

Yakov waved his guard away, “My nephew visited me an hour earlier. He's gone now.”

Yuuri nodded and entered the room, bowing low to Russia's head authority, “Thank you for seeing me, Your Majesty. I'd like to request that-”

“This fight you and Victor are having,” Yakov interrupted him, gesturing for Yuuri to take a seat in one of the chairs in front of his desk, “I would like to confirm some things I've been told with you.”

Yuuri was taken off guard by the bluntness of their conversation, but took his seat anyway, “That's not what I'm here for-”

“You want to go home, I know,” Yakov nodded, “but before we make any decisions about that, I'd like to talk.”

“Yes, Your Majesty,”  Yuuri gulped. Yakov exhaled and cleared his throat, leaning forward and resting his elbows on the table. He interlocked his hands and peered at Yuuri over his fingers.

“Victor told me that he wasn't happy with how another Alpha was treating you,” he started, “he also admitted that he didn't like that you were alone with another Alpha. Thoughts?”

“That's correct,” he confirmed.

“He told me you did your best to calm the situation down, and that, influenced by his anger, he made some negative accusations towards you.”

“Yes.” Yuuri was surprised by how honest the account was.

“He demanded an unreasonable request that you clearly were against, even though you hadn't explicitly said ‘no.’”

Yuuri thought back to the event, feeling himself getting worked up over it, “Yeah, ‘unreasonable’ is one word for it.”

“He then attempted to get what he wanted through an Alpha Command,” Yakov moved his hands down to rest on the tabletop, “you've been obeying it ever since. Why?”

“I know it'll make him feel bad, so I do it as a constant reminder of his mistake.”

Yakov raised an eyebrow, “Isn't that a little cruel, Yuuri?”

“I don't see it that way,” Yakov nodded.

“He said he's attempted to make amends several times, and I know you've consented to meeting each time. It seems he's still not forgiven.”

“Yes,” Yakov waited for him to elaborate, “Every time we meet, he asks me to tell him what he can do to apologize.”

Yuuri saw understanding click in the Vice Regent’s eyes and he knew he didn't have to explain himself any further.

“Ah, I see now,” Yakov leaned back in his seat and rubbed his face, deflating a little, “Cultural clashes are always difficult to address. Your father writes to me sometimes when you're home for the winter.”

“I didn't know that.”

“He’s a good man,” he nodded, “in one of the letters he mentioned that you were learning about Russian customs and such. I appreciate the interest.”

“I want to do my best to learn about my soulmate,” Yuuri huffed. He found it odd that the open window was doing little to dispel the prince’s scent, "He will one day be king, after all. And you've been nice enough to let me stay every summer."

“I understand your frustration. Victor is a romantic. He sees the world in shades of red and yellow, often times forgetting that there are blues and greens as well.”

He had been there an hour earlier, right? The smell should have been gone by now.

“He’s talented and a genius, academically,” Yakov continued, “but he's not very...aware? I'm not sure how to put it…” he stood from his chair and walked toward the window, “He's like a madman.”

He pulled back the heavy drape, surprising both Yuuri and the occupant the curtain was concealing. Victor looked up to Yakov with a look similar to betrayal, but the Vice Regent ignored it.

“He'll keep making the same mistake over and over again and will expect a different result each time,” Yakov pointedly raised an eyebrow, “Effort will not always solve your problems, Vitya. Sometimes you'll have to reflect on the past before you can fix anything in the present.

“If after your conversation you still wish to go home, Yuuri,” he turned back to the boy, who was now wearing a carefully neutral expression and staring straight ahead, “I will make arrangements. Please let Master Popovich know what you decide.”

“Thank you, Your Majesty.”

Yakov left the room, quietly closing the door on his way out. From his peripheral, he could see Victor was frozen in his spot by the window. When neither person made any attempt to move, Yuuri sighed and looked at him.

“You can sit if you’d like, Alpha.”

“Please,” Victor reluctantly took a step forward, “please don't call me that.”

“Why not?” Yuuri slouched in his seat and kicked his legs, “That's what you told me to call you.”

“Yuuri…” Victor sat in the chair next to him, angling his body to face him, “have some pity. Please?”

“You reek of anxiety,” he continued instead, glancing at Victor with an appraising look, “even if Yakov hadn't revealed you, it would have been minutes before I would realize you were there, Your Highness.”

Victor looked down to Yuuri’s hand, clearly debating whether or not he was allowed to touch. Yuuri shifted and moved slightly away, reading his verbal question and replying with a rejection.

“Yakov mentioned something about ‘cultural clashes,’” he started, “After I talked to you yesterday, I did some research to see if there was anything I could say or do to beg for forgiveness. I thought that there were words in your language that could more accurately convey my regret that English prevents me from saying and Russian prevents you from understanding.

“I found a couple of books on your culture,” Yuuri looked directly at him. He could see the sleep deprivation in his posture and the bags under his eyes. He must have pulled an all-nighter studying those books.

“Your library does have a lot of them,” he bitterly added, “I found a few of them myself over the years.”

“Yes,” Victor acknowledged, “and they're very interesting. Your culture is so...complicated. So complex. So many rules, attitudes, customs that aren't explicitly stated for foreigners, like... like the beliefs held about Alpha Commands.”

He licked his lips, visibly anxious, “I... I know now that what I did was extremely disrespectful. It was a reflection of my own weaknesses, a decision made out of anger, but...I’m still struggling to understand…”

He initiated eye contact for the first time since his hiding spot was revealed. His bright blue eyes brimmed with guilt and hope.

“Can you tell me more?”

This wasn't quite what Yuuri wanted, but it was progress nonetheless. He was so tired of fighting with Victor, and the way their conversation was going now differed drastically from their various attempts before.

“Alphas are more powerful and more privileged in most societies,” he did his best to explain, “yours and mine included. Protection and care are associated with Alphas, along with aggression. Regardless, we're taught to trust the Alphas we're close to.

“You abused your power. As my friend and soulmate, you betrayed my trust by using our baser instincts to influence me and ensure I would obey.” Victor hung his head, his shame radiating from his defeated form.

“I’ll be honest with you, though: it didn't work,” Yuuri admitted, “Alpha Commands don't work on those who haven’t presented yet. We lack a secondary sex to tell us how to respond.”

Victor frowned with confusion, “Wait, but you...but-”

“I wanted you to feel bad for a while,” Yuuri looked away from him, at Yakov’s empty chair.

There was a tense silence. Yuuri waited for Victor to whine or lash out, call him childish, but instead the silence was broken by his soft chuckle, “I suppose I deserved that.”

“Yeah,” they returned to the quiet. Yuuri could feel Victor’s eyes on him, but he refused to acknowledge him. Not all was forgiven yet, only the surface problem that led to the silent treatment in the first place.

Yakov wasn't wrong about the prince. Even Yuuri noticed his shortcomings, his simple minded way of looking at the world. He doubted that Victor would realize that all was still not right between them yet when suddenly Victor moved.

He dropped to his knees from the chair and shoved it away, the noise startling Yuuri into looking at him.

“Vic-...Your Highness, what are you doing?” He asked, straightening up in his seat and peering down at him. The prince looked up at him, his expression gentle and apologetic.

“The whole reason this mess came about was because of my lack of knowledge about your culture,” he said, “well, maybe not the whole reason, I was also a complete jerk- I mean, ‘knothead.’”

He smiled sheepishly and continued, “When I was reading those books, I realized that there was so much about you that I didn't know. During all of the years we've spent together, it never crossed my mind that a good way to get to know you was to learn about where you came from. I thought I had done this through learning about your history and geography, but there's still so much more about your heritage that I can see reflected in you,” he smiled sweetly, his eyes slightly casted away as if recalling a memory, “like how you made those pictures to help Mila sleep better at night when she was scared, or how you lit a paper lantern with Phichit and floated it downstream when he learned that his aunt had passed away... and how you bring back small presents for us whenever you travel anywhere new.

“I know I messed up, and I know that when Alphas mess up in your country - especially when they use an Alpha Command - it's up to them to redeem themselves,” Victor shifted and performed dogeza; he kowtowed, his forehead touching the floor at Yuuri’s feet.

Yuuri was caught completely off guard by the act. When the Alphas in his hometown would apologize they would kneel on one knee, the act itself already considered humiliating to most. But he had never seen an Alpha prostrating before someone’s feet to apologize - it was unheard of.

“What I did was despicable,” Victor’s voice was muffled by the position, but he didn't move, “and I will work hard to make sure it doesn't happen again. I won't ever use another Alpha Command on you. I will study hard to learn all I can about your culture.”

“Your Highness-” Yuuri inhaled, getting to his feet.

“I will never give you a reason to be ashamed of me.”

“Victor, please get up,” Yuuri kneeled in front of him and gently tugged on his bicep. The prince didn't budge.

“I want to prove this to you, my love,” He could hear Victor’s breath hitch, “please give me the time to do this; that's all I ask of you.”

Yuuri’s disdain melted. To his surprise, Victor had figured out what was bothering him. He was touched that his mate would go this far for him.

“Thank you, Victor. I really appreciate this,” he said as he tugged on his arm once more. The Alpha allowed himself to straighten upright, his eyes watery and so beautifully blue when they looked at each other. Yuuri didn't realize how much he missed being with him until he faced him.

“Are you still going to go home?” He asked, sounding hopeful.

Yuuri didn't answer immediately. He let the question sink in and reflected on it for a moment. Did he still want to go home? “I don't think I will.”

Victor’s shoulders sagged with relief, a tear freely flowing down his cheek. “Can I hold you?”

Yuuri bit his lip and nodded, allowing Victor to pull him tightly against his chest and nestle his face in the crook of his neck. He let the prince scent him, releasing a steady scent of his own feelings of content as well as relief that things were better between them.

Later on, they would have a discussion about their personal boundaries and cultural taboos in order to avoid falling into a hole like this again. For now, though, they chose to hang onto each other tightly, one silently crying from the joy of having his mate back and the other relishing in the companionship he had missed for days.

Chapter Text

When Victor visited Yuuri’s home for the first time, Yuuri was 14 years old.

It was the second week of January and Yuuri had been walking through the streets with Yuuko and Nishigori. They were bundled up in their warmest clothes and visiting the various street food stands and watching performers in the square.

Trailing behind them a few feet away were 2 of the Katsuki Family’s guards at Mari’s insistence. She had heard rumors of Yuuri being bullied in the streets, but chose not to believe them (why would anyone want to hurt her brother?) until she saw a nasty blue bruise on his shoulder a few days ago. She agreed not to tell their parents as long has he agreed to protection

It was developing a yellow fringe around the edges and still hurt like hell.

Yuuri had been debating on whether or not to buy Victor a stuffed toy that resembled Makkachin (if you squinted hard enough) from a kiosk when his three tormentors decided to approach. Yuuko and Nishigori saw them almost as soon as he did and narrowed their eyes, one standing in front of the group while the other pulled Yuuri closer against them.

“Hey, relax,” their leader huffed with a smug smile, eyeing Yuuko up and down with something akin to humor. She crossed her arms and cocked her hip, angling herself so that she was blocking his view of Nishigori and Yuuri. Her Beta pheromones flowed freely, making the two Betas behind the other boy flinch from the weight of her aggression in the air. Their leader, however, let his own pheromones challenge hers, clueing the group in on his own private amusement.

“What do you want now?” She hissed.

“We just wanted to see how Yuuri was doing,” he shrugged, “He took a nasty fall a few days ago; looked like it hurt.”

“I knew it,” Nishigori tightened his grip on Yuuri’s bicep, thankfully on the arm that hadn’t hit the gravel. His scent flared with irritation and warning, but wasn’t nearly as effective as Yuukos.

“Why don’t you let him fight his own battles, huh?” he continued, “Look at how pathetic he is, hiding in your shadow, using him as a safety blanket. Looking at you all makes me wana barf.”

“Smelling you is giving me the same effect,” she fired back seamlessly. He raised his eyebrows and looked to his group, encouraging laughter from them before turning back and smiling sweetly at Yuuko.

“Why are you even talking to us?” Nishigori let go of Yuuri and stepped forward so that he was next to his mate, “shouldn’t you be off somewhere sniffing each other’s asses?”

“Hey!” one of the boys growled and took a step forward, only for their leader to hold an arm out and keep him in check.

“We’re actually looking for gifts to bring to the veranda by the lake,” he winked at Yuuri, who felt as though something greasy had touched his face, “for that party tonight, duh. Are you gonna perform, Yuuri? You hold those fans oh so prettily, makes me think of all the other things those hands could do.”

He bit the inside of his cheeks and kept his mouth shut. Their taunting was nothing compared to the Command Victor had attempted to use on him the previous year. Even though it hadn’t worked, it was still intimidating to see his mate go off on another Alpha and himself. What they were doing now was just gross.

“Who’s the special guest? I want to know if this is just another excuse to show off the ‘skill’ of the youngest son,” he rolled his eyes.

“It’s a surprise, as far as I know,” he tiredly answered, glancing behind and seeing the guards slowly inching themselves closer. He had insisted that they dressed in civilian clothes so that they didn’t attract attention. They probably couldn’t hear their conversation. A carriage drove by in the streets, one that Yuuri usually took whenever he and his Russian escorts left the city to head for the docks.

“Don’t you know anything?” he huffed and ran a hand through his hair, “Useless.”

Yuuri felt his eyebrow twitched and he stepped forward, pushing Yuuko and Nishigori gently out of the way so that he was standing directly in front of his bully.

“I’m done with this,” he said, fanning the stench of the group away from his nose, “I’m really, really done with this.”

“Excuse me?” the other lackey asked with a scoff, eyes wide with disbelief.

“This anger you have towards me? I’m tired of it,” Yuuri continued, “I honestly don’t understand why you keep doing this. Nothing has changed!”

“Start making sense, pig,” one of the other Beta’s snapped and invaded Yuuri’s space. Yuuko and Nishigori wanted to move in and help, but a subtle gesture from their friend halted their attempt.

“You don’t like me. It’s something to do with my family or status, I don’t know I’m not entirely sure, but now it needs to stop,” Yuuri reached forward and pressed against his chest, moving him out of his space and catching him off guard with the gesture. When he retracted his hand, he wiped it off on his haori and continued, “There must be better things for you to do. Aren’t you bored yet?”

The Alpha of the group started to laugh, “Look at how stupid my mate is!” the other boys snickered and Yuuri felt himself heat up with rage at the term, “I don’t even know why I’m bothering with him!”

“Who else would?”

“I’m not your mate,” he spat through clenched teeth. The boys laughed harder at his denial, drawing the gazes of a few pedestrians to their group.

“Of course you are, idiot. Still trying to hold out for your soulmate?” he rolled his eyes and reached forward to ruffle his hair. Yuuri moved to hit his hand away before he could make contact, but the boy caught his wrist and squeezed hard , “You should be grateful that I’m doing you a favor. There’s no one else who will take you, let alone look at you.”

Too many things happened in that one moment for Yuuri to process. The guards that were supposed to be watching out for him stepped in and pulled Yuuri and his friends back. The hand that had held Yuuri’s wrist had been yanked away harshly and twisted behind the young Alpha’s back. A suspiciously familiar guard and foreigner crowded in on the two Betas while the silver haired Alpha leaned down and breathed against the bully’s neck; a clear sign of a threat.

“How about you do me a ‘favor’ and never look at him again,” he spoke in accented Japanese. Yuuri and his friends stared wide eyed between the guards’ forms as the younger Alpha hissed something vile in return. His captor tightened his grip on his wrist, ripping a howl and an apology from the other.

“We won’t!”

“‘Won’t’ what?”

“Won’t look at him! We’ll leave him alone!”

“Wise choice,” he released the boy by shoving him to the ground. He scrambled to get to his feet, looking up with caution and rage at the other Alpha as his Beta companions were released by the other two and ran to his side, “I know your face now, boy. I promise you I won’t forget it.”

“We’re going to call the guards, you shitty foreigner!”

“Try it,” the blond companion to the Alpha spoke smoothly, “I’d love to see what they can do against the Crown Prince of Russia.”

Their jaws dropped at the reveal as the supposed prince calmly slipped his gloves off of his hands and passed them to blond, still staring down the Alpha that laid his hands on Yuuri. They looked torn between bowing and leaving, but the look in the prince’s eyes solved their dilemma: Run .

The boys quickly snapped out of their stupor and turned to run, hissing to each other in Japanese as they sprinted down the street, one of them slipping out of their sandal and falling onto his face.

Yuuko and Nishigori were shocked at the newcomers. The guard accompanying the other two Alphas approached them and smiled at the two Katsuki sentries.

“Captain Caldini, what a surprise.”

“We were not expecting you for another few hours, Sir.”

“Gentlemen, good to see you again. I’m sorry if we interfered with your plans, sirs, His Highness had insisted on stepping in. Why were you standing by?”

“Lord Yuuri is not one for confrontations. We assumed that it was just roughhousing among children until the boy touched him.”

“Please take better care to protect the prince’s mate. We could smell their pheromones from down the street.”

Yuuri lost track of their conversation, instead walking around the two guards and Celestino to slowly approach the foreigners. Christophe was the first to notice his appearance and sent him a kind smile.

“Hello, Yuuri. You look lovely.”

Upon hearing his name, Victor finally looked away from the group’s retreating forms. His expression softened and a warm smile spread on his lips as walked to meet his mate half way.

“Yuuri~” he cooed and gracefully kneeled, gently grasping his hand with his slender fingers and bringing it to his lips. He lightly kissed his knuckles and smiled up at his surprised mate, “I’m happy to see you, my love.”

Yuuri pulled his hand away and surged forward to hug the prince. He embraced him tightly, one hand against his ushanka, the other clutching the back of his cape while his cheek rested on to the top of his fur hat. Victor returned the hold with equal enthusiasm, inhaling his mate’s scent deeply.

“Yuuri?” he distantly heard his friends call for him, but he couldn’t care less.

“How are you here?” he asked instead.

“By horseback and boat,” Victor joked in return, voice muffled by Yuuri’s chest. The younger of the two pulled back and lightly pinched Victor’s cheek, both smiling with the other chuckling and turning his head to nuzzle his fingers, “We spotted you from the carriage down the road and got out to surprise you. I’m glad we did.”

“Are you the special guest we’re hosting tonight?”

“Yes,” he admitted and straightened up, placing his hand on Yuuri’s back and guiding them towards Yuuri’s friends, “I asked your parents to keep it a secret from you.”

“That’s mean.” he huffed, making Victor laugh again.

“I’m sorry, but I wanted to surprise you!”

“Yuuri,” Yuuko tried again, her eyes darting back and forth between Victor and her friend, “Who is this?” Nishigori stared down the new Alpha, the couple reeking of caution and confusion.

Yuuri blushed and smiled, looking down and gesturing to the prince, “This is... my soulmate, Victor.”

Their eyes widened and jaws dropped.

“You found your soulmate?!”

“You found your soulmate and didn’t tell us?!”

“Hello,” Victor greeted and bowed deeply, “I am Victor Nikiforov, Yuuri’s soulmate and Crown Prince of Russia. You must be his friends, Nishigori and-”

“Oh, please!” Yuuko bowed quickly out of politeness and ran up to hug Yuuri, her eyes locked onto Victor the whole time as a huge grin broke out on her face, “Call me Yuuko! You can call him Takeshi if you’d like.”

“NishigorI, actually!” he huffed and bowed. Yuuko kicked some gravel in his direction, not looking away from the prince.

“He’s kidding, Nishigori is just fine. How long have you known you’re soulmates?”

“Since I was 10,” Victor grinned.

“How old are you now, Your Highness?”

“18.”

“Yuuri!” she shouted after a second of hesitation to calculate the math, “8 years! You’ve known since you were 6 and you didn’t tell us?!”

“I was told not to!”

“No one knows we’re together?” Victor asked with a sly smile, “How exciting! I can’t wait to make the announcement tonight!”

“Victor, don’t!” Yuuri gasped and lightly pushed him, “Don’t you dare! That’s so embarrassing!”

“Are you embarrassed to have me as your mate?” Yuuri turned red.

“No! Not at all!”

“Then don’t worry about it! I wanted to tell the whole country that I’m yours, but your village is a good start,” he laughed and affectionately ruffled Yuuri’s hair. The boy shrugged Yuuko off and pushed Victor’s hand away.

“Chris, stop him!”

“It doesn’t have to be a secret any longer, dear boy,” Chris winked. “Part of the reason why we’re here is to hash out the details of your marriage with your Emperor.”

“You’re going to meet the Emperor?” Yuuri and Yuuko gasped. Even Nishigori looked intrigued.

We’re going to meet him,” Victor emphasized and squeezed his shoulder, “you’re coming with me.”

“Oh no, I shouldn’t!” Yuuri shook his head, “I’m not nearly important enough.”

“Yuuri, you’re my soulmate. You’re the most important person in this country as far as I’m concerned,” Yuuko squealed and shook Nishigori’s arm while Yuuri shyly smiled and allowed Victor to wrap an arm around his shoulders. He glanced away and looked to Chris, who was watching the two carefully with his lips pursed.

When he noticed he had been spotted, he smiled slyly and batted his eyelashes, “We’ve only just arrived, Yuuri. Why don’t you show us your home?”

“Of course!” He pulled away from Victor, grabbing both his and Christophe’s hands and pulling them toward the castle, “This way!”

Victor and Chris allowed the teen to drag them through the streets, making gestures to various stores and locations with Yuuko occasionally adding her own commentary. Nishigori trailed behind them, sulking as he walked along side the Katsuki Guards, Celestino, and a few other Sentries that were meant to accompany the prince but were ordered to lag farther behind.

Victor took in the sights with bright eyes and an enthusiastic grin, shouting his praises and gushing over the beauty of Yuuri’s hometown. He stopped several times to buy different trinkets, clothes, and pictures from various stalls, forcing his entourage to carry them for him. There were many times Yuuri had to stop him from going overboard, and eventually confiscated his and Chris’s wallets when he saw the amount of silk robes he had purchased.

By the time they had reached the castle, word had spread of the young lord guiding a foreigner around town. His mother, father, and Mari were waiting for them at the steps of their home, their servants already unloading the carriage and scurrying to help the Russian escorts carry away the prizes bought in the square.

“Your Highness!” his mother gushed with a kind smile, walking forward and pulling him into a hug, “It’s been too many years! You’ve grown so tall!”

Yuuri and Yuuko watched the exchange with giggles. He was happy to see Victor eagerly return the embrace with equal enthusiasm. “You look as lovely as ever, My Lady.”

They both smelled of contentment and happiness when they pulled away, and Victor turned to bow to his father.

“Thank you for hosting us, My Lord.”

His father bowed lower than Victor had and stepped forward to shake his hand, “It’s good to see you, Your Highness.”

“Victor, please,” he corrected and gripped his hand firmly.

“Yuuri must have been quite shocked to see you,” he chuckled and looked at his son, who whined as Yuuko laughed and nodded.

“We were all very surprised! Why couldn’t you have told us about his soulmate, My Lord?” she asked his father and haughtily crossed her arms, struggling to hide her smile.

“It was to protect them, dear.”

She tried to pout, “I wouldn’t have told anyone.”

“Victor!” Mari stepped forward then, and the two shook hands - a proper greeting among Alphas. “You’ve certainly changed. Where did your hair go?”

“I had to cut it. I’m happy to see you in person again,” she eyed the strands and reached forward to gently tug on a lock peeking out from under his cap.

“It’s short but manageable. I’m sure I can get some color to stick.”

“Mari,” her mother sighed and pinched the her cheek, “he can’t meet the Emperor with blue hair.”

“Wait!” Yuuri gasped and ran to Victor, eyeing him suspiciously, “So your hair…”

“Yes, Yuuri,” Victor downturned his lips into a frown and removed his ushanka, revealing the cropped hair as the rest of the fringe fell over his eye, “it was done the day I turned 18. It was quite upsetting,” he rushed forward and scooped Yuuri into his arms, hugging him tightly and spinning him as he cheered, “Comfort me!”

“You’re not upset at all!” Yuuri shouted and pounded against his back. Victor put him down and Yuuri scowled, “I liked your hair! You shouldn’t have cut it.”

“Stop whining,” Mari walked over and lightly flicked her brother’s forehead, “he should have cut it when he was 15 as an Alpha rite of passage. He got a lot of crap for not doing it too.”

Yuuri flushed with guilt and deepened his frown, “How do you know that?”

“We write to each other often,” Mari held her elbow out and Victor, with an amused smile on his face, bumped his against hers.

“Don’t worry, my love, only Chris and a few rink mates gave me a hard time.”

“I’m not concerned about your feelings, I’m concerned about your hair!”

“Oh, you’ve wounded me!”

“Savage, little brother.”

“Yuuri!” His mother gasped.

Yuuri scowled, crossed his arms and looked away. Victor merely laughed as his mother scolded him and Nishigori reached around and hugged him.

“He’ll get over it, just let him cry it out!”

“Not funny, Takeshi!”

“Makkachin is playing with Vicchan in the courtyard if you would like to see them.”

“I would!” He happily cheered and followed Mari, “It’s been too long since I’ve seen that pup! I wonder how big he has grown.”

When they reached the steps, he stopped and looked over his shoulder at Yuuri, who was still being teased by his friends. He noticed Chris studying the small group and frowned.

“Yuuri~” he cooed and held his hand out. The teen looked at him and deepened his scowl, reluctantly shaking his friends off and stomping to his mate.

“I’m only coming to see Makkachin.” he clarified and grabbed Victor’s hand. Their departure was followed by Nishigori’s yell of “Yeah, Right!” and Yuuko reassuring him that they’d see him later that evening at the banquet.

With Yuuri securely in his grasp, he looked at Chris one more time. The cool calculating look was gone and now replaced with mirth.

“Let’s hope Makkachin hasn’t taken a bite out of dear Vicchan,” he winked when he noticed Victor’s attention.

“He wouldn’t dare!” Yuuri snapped, scandalized, and smacked Chris once he was within range. The Alpha laughed and ruffled his hair.

Victor smiled at the exchange and stage whispered to Yuuri, “You’ll have to hit him harder than that or else he’ll never learn.”

“Water might work better than a punch,” Mari ‘helpfully’ supplied and grinned over her shoulder, “Works on the cats all the time.”

“Now that’s just cruel,” He huffed and turned away, a pout prominent on his lips, “I’m getting the feeling that I’m not wanted here. I’m going to run away and join a brothel - at least I’ll be ‘appreciated’ there!”

Victor and Mari gasped, both struggling to keep smiles off their faces as the Russian reached down and covered Yuuri’s ears.

“Children! There are children present!”

“That’s my brother you’re saying lewd things in front of!”

“He’s on the brink of presenting- he can hardly be considered a child now.”

“I’m not a kid, I’m 14!”

“You’re forever 6 to me.”

“Mari!”

“I agree!” Victor adjusted his grip so that he was now hugging Yuuri tightly, resting his chin on top of his head, “You’re too pure for Chris’s taint, Little One. Never grow up.”

“....Oh, Victor,” Chris sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose. Mari started to laugh and hid her face in her hands, ears turning red with embarrassment, “Victor, no. You’re making things weird again.”

I’m making things weird?” Victor parroted back with a frown, “You, of all people , are telling me that I’m making things weird?”

“That’s when you know it’s bad,” Mari laughed and motioned Yuuri to come to her side. He obliged, confused, and looked up to his sister.

“What’s happening?”

“Ignore it, Victor doesn’t know what he said.”

“What do you mea-” he cut himself off, face falling into an expression of horror as his words caught up with him, “Oh my god, that’s not what I meant ! You know that!”

“Do I, Your Highness? Do I?” Victor interrupted Chris’s laughter by lunging at him, forcing him into a headlock. The two started to playfully wrestle with each other in the hallway as Mari and Yuuri rolled their eyes and continued their stroll to see Makkachin and Vicchan.

“They’ll stop eventually,” Mari shrugged, “They must have a whole bunch of energy pent up from all of the traveling they did.”

“I know what you mean,” Yuuri nodded solemnly, “I get that way sometimes when I travel.”

Mari glanced down at him for a brief moment, ruffling his hair when he least expected it. He yelped and went to hit her hand away, but she skipped out of his reach and ran down the hallway toward the courtyard.

“Mari!”

“Try and catch me, piglet!” Yuuri scowled and stepped to the left, pushing against the false wall and easily entering the hidden hallway on the other side. Once used by ninjas and servants, he quickly made his way down the secret passage to the hallway his sister was sure to run through.

She would never see him coming.

 

 


 

 

 

Victor made his first rival during his visit to the Emperor’s winter palace when he was 18 years old.

He honestly didn’t know how anything could top his short trip to Hasetsu. Their home was large and beautiful, but it actually felt like a home and not an imperial palace like his did. The veranda where the feast was held - nicknamed the Ice Castle due to its location next to the frozen lake and the many icicles that dripped from its sloped rooftops and shingles - was beautiful and heated by many self-contained firepits along the edges, keeping Victor and the rest of the guests warm by the heat on their backs. The food was absolutely delicious, especially the Katsudon Yuuri’s mother had personally prepared only for Victor and the small group he traveled with.

The people were kind and welcoming, bringing his gifts and congratulating him on his match with the young lord. He was even pleased to see the three boys that had tried to cause trouble with his mate earlier and took great joy in the looks on their faces when he announced his soulmate was Yuuri. He still instructed the guards to keep an eye on them.

The best event of the night, after all of the performances from the various talents of Hasetsu, came from his mate. He had performed a kenshibu dance, dressed in a haori patterned with gold roses against a black backdrop with a golden obi tucked into his striped hakama of the same color scheme. The fans were also made of shiny gold paper, reflecting light with each graceful flick of his wrist.

His movements flowed like water, and it seemed that the whole room held its breath as he danced before them. When he pocketed the fan and drew the sword, his demeanor changed and the air of his performance shifted from delicate to powerful, all the while looking beautiful. If Victor would have looked around the room, he would have seen the awe in the children’s eyes, the enjoyment on the elder’s faces, and the impressed nods of the adults. However, he couldn’t bear to look away for a second. His inner alpha practically purred with pride.

That was the first time Victor had ever seen Yuuri dance and he was curious to see what else he knew. Russia’s top retired Prima Ballerina Assoluta of the Bolshoi Ballet, Lilia Baranovskaya, had been training Yuuri every summer he visited since he was 8 years old. Victor also knew that Yuuri’s own teacher, Okukawa Minako - whom he had met the night of the banquet and had heard about from Lilia - was also a world renowned dancer and ballerina who had started Yuuri’s training at an even earlier age.

He would love to see him dance again.

For now, though, those thoughts would have to wait. They were at the Emperor’s Winter Palace and the Russian Advisors had just reached an agreement with the Japanese Advisors on the marriage contract between the two. He was to agree to the terms with a signature and a royal seal alongside Emperor Minami, who had asked if he would care to join him on the short walk to the offices where they would sign.

“I hope you have enjoyed your trip,” the Emperor had said once they made their formal greetings. He was much younger than Yakov, yet still years older than Victor. He was entering the early stages of the aging process with crows feet and laugh lines starting to carve into his face.

“I have indeed, Your Imperial Majesty,” Victor confirmed, careful to stay at least a foot behind the Emperor. He was a prince in the presence of a foreign country's monarch. He was doing his best not to perform any social taboos as he had done the first night, “Your country is very beautiful, and your people are welcoming and charming. I honestly will be devastated when I go.”

“But surely you miss your own home, Your Highness.”

“I do,” Victor looked to the left, taking in the view of the gardens as they walked. There was sun that morning, and the snow that covered the grass glittered in the light, “The seagulls in Hasetsu very much reminded me of the birds in Saint Petersburg. Have you ever been to Russia?”

“Unfortunately not,” he revealed, “I donned the title of Emperor at a very young age after my father’s death; I wasn’t given many opportunities to travel. However, I want my son to see the world, or at least a part of it, before he too has to ascend the throne. I hope you will host him well when the time comes.”

“We shall welcome Crown Prince Kenjirou with open arms and treat him like family.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” he nodded, “Do you know much about the Katsuki family?”

“Although my speech has improved, I still struggle to read Nihongo. Almost all of what I know comes from what Lord Yuuri tells me.”

“You speak very well. I was impressed with your introduction when you first arrived.”

“You are too kind, Your Majesty.”

“The Katsuki family isn’t connected to the Imperial Family by blood; they earned their lordship through loyalty to the Emperor many centuries ago and they still remain loyal to this day. You can imagine my surprise when Lady Katsuki admitted to meeting with your uncle first before telling me of the Soul Marks.”

“We did not mean to offend.”

“And you haven’t. I understand her reasons. The Advisors of the court can be difficult to deal with at times,” they both smiled at the insinuation and the Emperor continued, “In the past, the family hasn’t been one to ask for favors or lands. Rarely have they accepted any sort of gift, only asking that they be able to keep to themselves and deal with their own affairs. To receive a request from them now, after centuries of asking for nothing...it seems only fair to grant them what they wish.”

“I am happy you’re open to the union.”

“Yuuri has to refute any and all claims to Japanese land, as I’m sure you understand.

“Completely, Your Imperial Majesty.”

“My Advisors also wanted to revoke his citizenship, but that’s just ridiculous,” he huffed, “but he’s not allowed to be politically involved with any of Japan’s internal affairs.”

The Emperor stopped walking and looked straight ahead. In a room in front of them, the 8 year old prince sat and stared in amazement as Yuuri taught him the proper way of opening a fan for Kenshibu. He attempted to copy the lord and blushed when Yuuri laughed and adjusted his fingers.

“Your mate hasn’t presented yet,” Emperor Minami stated the fact. Victor waited for him to continue, “His parents are an Alpha and a Beta. He won’t be able to give you children.”

“Yuuri’s secondary sex doesn’t have an influence on my decision, Your Majesty.”

“But shouldn’t it?” he glanced at the Russian Prince with a calculating look, “He will present as a Beta. Maybe even an Alpha. What will you do then?”

Victor licked his lips and looked at Yuuri once more. He watched as his soulmate gracefully moved the fan from side to side, showing Kenjirou the proper ways to turn his wrist and fingers with each motion.

“I won’t allow the lack of breeding capabilities to prevent us from bonding. There are contingency plans in place for the possibilities of Yuuri’s presentation. I hope you understand that these are matters essential to Russia’s future and politics and must remain private.”

The Emperor watched Victor a few moments longer before looking back to the children.

“He’s good with kids,” he commented, “whatever plans you have in place, I do hope that children are involved. It would be a shame to deny him that.”

“That’s up to Yuuri to decide. I won’t deny him nor force a child onto him.”

“You have an odd way of thinking,” the Emperor nodded to himself, “It will be interesting to see what kind of Ruler you will become.”

Their conversation was interrupted by the approach of Chris and a Japanese servant.

“I’m sorry for the intrusion, Your Imperial Majesty, Your Highness.” the Beta bowed low, Chris silently copying him, “There was a spelling error made in the documents and must be fixed before we can proceed.”

“In both documents?” the Emperor asked, eyebrows raised with honest surprise.

“Unfortunately, yes.” Chris answered. The Emperor looked to Victor, both just starting at one another before laughing.

“This has never happened before!”

“Neither have I heard of it,” Victor agreed.

“How long until it is fixed?”

“Another hour, sir.”

“I’ll check in on my wife, then,” he said mainly to himself, “See how she is faring in the cold weather. Fetch my son for me, he’s right behind you.”

“At once, Your Majesty.” the servant turned around and headed to the room that Yuuri and the prince were sitting in. The Emperor turned back to Victor and chuckled. “I suppose I shall see you in an hour.”

“Yes, Your Majesty. Until then,” he bowed low to the Emperor just as the prince came sprinting to his father.

“Papa, Yuuri is very nice!” he exclaimed as he ran into his father’s arms, “He knows all sorts of dances and told me a whole bunch of stories! Can I marry him, Papa?! You said I could have whoever I wanted and I want him!”

“I’m glad you like him, but he’s Prince Victor’s mate,” The Emperor gestured to the Russian Prince standing beside him. Victor chuckled when Kenjirou looked up at him, shock and anger battling in his expression.

“What? No!”

“Yes, my son.”

“But I wana marry him! He’s really pretty and smells really good! He’s super nice, too!” Kenjirou stepped away from his father and stomped up to Victor, puffing his chest and crossing his arms, “Stay away from him! He’s mine!”

“Kenjirou!”

“I’m sorry, Your Highness, but he’s my soulmate,” Victor tried to explain without laughing, “he and I have the same Mark.”

“I don’t care!” he turned around and stomped back to the room where Yuuri was watching with wide eyes and a light blush. Kenjirou grabbed Yuuri’s hand and held it against his chest.

“Wait until I get older before you pick, okay? You’ll pick me for sure!”

“Your Highness-” Yuuri tried, but was cut off by the child.

“I’ll be the best mate ever, I promise!”

“I’m sure you will.” but not for me hung silently in the air. The Emperor sighed and snapped his fingers.

“Come with me, child; let’s go see your mother.”

“Can Yuuri come with us?”

“No, he’s also busy,” Kenjirou reluctantly dropped his hand and turned to leave. He had only taken a few steps away when he stopped and pivoted back around, rushing forward to hug Yuuri and whisper something to him. Yuuri grinned wide at whatever he said and nodded.

“Yes, I’ve noticed that too.”

Kenjirou whispered another thing before pecking Yuuri’s cheek and running back to his father. He glared up once more at Victor and shouted, “Today, we’re nenamies!”

“Enemies?” Victor clarified, quirking his brow.

“I think he means rivals,” Chris supplied.

“Yeah! That!” Kenjirou nodded and latched onto his father’s robes. The Emperor sent them an apologetic look.

“We’ll talk later, Your Highness.”

“I look forward to it, Your Imperial Majesty.” Chris and Victor bowed as the Emperor turned and walked away, the beta servant following closely behind while his son held onto his robes with one hand and gestured wildly with the other. Once they rounded the corner, the two straightened up and turned to face Yuuri, who had stood and was walking towards the foreigners.

“Where are the Emperor’s guards?”

“They’re everywhere, Chris,” Victor answered, smiling warmly at his mate, “Remember Yuuri’s home with the hidden hallways and compartments?”

“Yes.”

“Same thing here. Yuuri~,” he gingerly lifted his hand and kissed his knuckles, “What have you done? Am I to fight a war against an 8 year old for your hand in marriage?”

“I don’t know how that happened,” Yuuri admitted with mirth twinkling in his eyes.

“You’ve clearly bewitched him,” Chris winked and stepped beside Yuuri, “Am I next to fall under your spell?”

“Gross,” Yuuri laughed as both he and Victor playfully pushed him away.

“You can’t blame him, Yuuri, you’re a very charming boy.”

“What did he whisper to you?” Yuuri looked up to Victor and gave a toothy grin.

“He said you look like a stick.”

“What?” Victor gasped, hand to his chest, “Me?”

“I agreed.”

“Yuuri, how could you? My own soulmate, rooting against me!”

“He also said that he would easily take you down in an Alpha Brawl.”

“I’d like to see him try,” Victor sniffed and crossed his arms, petulantly pouting and drawing laughter from his two companions.

“If you don’t mind, though, I must go. I promised Mari I would send a letter.”

“We arrived a week ago and you still haven’t done it?”

“The prince has been attached to my hip ever since I did 20 pirouettes.”

“Is that the most you can do?”

“Of course not!” Yuuri looked insulted at Chris’s accusation and nudged him once more, “I’ll see you two later.”

“Good bye, my love," Victor  waved as he made his departure before turning to look at Chris.

“We have an hour to ourselves now, Victor. What shall we do?”

The same look he had seen repeatedly on Chris’s face throughout the trip returned once more. Victor frowned.

“You’ve been a little weird lately,” Chris raised his eyebrows and blinked innocently.

“What do you mean?”

“That look on your face,” Victor gestured with his right hand, “What does it mean? What are you thinking?”

“It’s nothing, Your Highness. You’re looking for meanings that aren’t there.”

“You have that look every time I’m with Yuuri. I want to know what it means,” he asserted more harshly.

“Victor-”

“Christophe.” The Alpha hesitated, sensing his irritation. His expression didn’t change, but his eyes hardened.

“How do you feel about Yuuri?”

Victor balked at the question, “I love him.”

“Do you?”

“Yes, of course,” Chris cocked his head to the side and Victor growled, “He’s my soulmate, Chris, of course I love him.”

“I don’t doubt that,” he acquiesced with his hands up in a show of submission, “It’s clear you love him, Vitya, very much, but...I don’t think you’re in love with him.”

“Excuse me?” he took a step into Chris’s space, crowding against him. Chris didn’t move but he didn’t make eye contact either.

“You view him as family, Victor, and that’s not bad. But if you’re going to follow through with mating him, then you can’t look at him as a brother. He needs to be a lover to you.”

“Chris, he’s 14,” Victor hissed, “I’m 18, in case you forgot.”

“I’m not saying that you should daydream fucking him,” Chris responded haughtily, “but I know you. Very well. We’ve grown up together, you’re practically my brother. These cute little acts of affection you do with him are just things you assume mates do with each other. You call him, 'my love,'  but the words sound hollow each time you say them. There’s no passion in your eyes when you see him, when you speak of him; Georgi is delusional to say so. There’s no jealousy beyond an Alpha’s Primal Instinct to protect what’s theirs.  Yes, you admire him; yes you’re proud of him; yes, you love him - but you’re not in love with him-”

“Walk away from me, Chris. Right now.”

“You’re a passionate man, Victor,” Chris said as he took a step back, finally looking him in the eye, “Some couples want to stay neighborly and it works for them. But you, my friend, are a romantic. Until you’re able to view Yuuri as your mate , he’ll stay trapped in this platonic purgatory you’ve placed him in. If that’s where you want to keep him, then keep him there. Don’t marry him. Don’t sign the contract. Don’t lock him down with you if you won’t love him back.”

As if to prove a point to his insolent companion, Victor had signed the parchment with flourish an hour and a half later, pointedly looking at Chris when he embraced Yuuri afterward. However, he was wearing the same expression then that he had worn earlier that afternoon.

Night had fallen when Victor found himself pondering over Chris’s words. He loved Yuuri. He did...but he struggled to put a name to that love. Certainly not Eros: he was still a child. Not Agape either. His love for Yuuri wasn’t a short playful thing like Ludus, nor was it limited to familial affection. That was only part of it.

Who was he trying to reassure when he signed that agreement? Chris? Or himself?

 

 

 

Chapter Text

When he met Dr. Plisetsky’s grandson for the first time, Yuuri was 15 years old.

Yuuri was working on his warm-up stretches in the ballroom when a blond child came sprinting inside. He made a beeline directly for an armoire and flung the doors open, crawling inside and doing his best to shut the doors behind himself.

Yuuri was dumbstruck at the sudden intrusion, and a mere handful of seconds passed before 3 guards came running into the room as well.

“My Lord!” they shouted and bowed, completely out of breath.

“Hello,” Yuuri slowly greeted in return, confusion evident on his face.

“A child ran in here a few moments ago. Can you tell us where he went?” Yuuri hesitated, glancing in the direction of the armoire before looking to the open window.

“...He crawled out the window. I think he plans on climbing a tree in the garden.”

“Thank you, My Lord,” one of the guards exhaled heavily and the trio quickly made their way out of the room. Once the door closed, Yuuri was left to the silence of the ballroom.

He waited until the footsteps were gone before standing, walking to the cupboard and flinging the doors open. The little boy was curled into a ball, his face red from the effort it took to evade the guards. His bright blue eyes locked onto Yuuri and he shifted anxiously.

“Are they gone?” he asked quietly. Yuuri nodded and the boy exhaled with relief.

“Thanks for not ratting me out,” Yuuri stepped back to allow him room to exit the cabinet. The boy hopped out and patted the dust off of his pants. He informally bowed to the dancer.

“I’m Yuri Plisetsky. My grandpa is the royal doctor,” he said with pride, looking up and scratching his head, “Who’re you? I heard that there was a foreigner in the palace, but I didn’t think I’d meet you. Why are you here?”

“O-oh,” Yuuri was caught off guard by the sudden question and bowed back, “My name is also Yuuri; Yuuri Katsuki. I’m Victor’s soulmate, I visit every summer.”

“Soulmate?!” he gasped and stared at him wide eyed, “There are rumors about you, but I didn’t know they were true! Can I see your Mark? I’ve seen Victor’s before when he visited my grandpa for a checkup, but I wana see yours too! Can I? Please?” Yuuri found himself blushing from how adorable the child was. Normally, it was considered incredibly rude, both in his culture and Victors, to ask to see someone’s Mark. This child, however, didn’t seem to know or care about the intimate topic, and Yuuri couldn’t find it in himself to say ‘no.’

“Sure, but only because you asked so nicely.”

“Yay! Thank you!” Yuuri grinned and started the tedious process of unlacing his sleeves, all the while listening to Yuri talk about himself.

“I don’t have a Soul Mark- at least, not yet. Grandpa said it just means that my soulmate hasn’t been born yet. I can’t wait to meet my soulmate, I’m so excited! My mom and dad were soulmates, and the old King and Queen were soulmates too! What’s it like meeting your soulmate? When did you meet your soulmate? I heard that billions of people will never meet their mates, and that’s so sad! I want everyone to be able to meet their soulmates, I’m definitely meeting mine for sure!”

“I hope you do, Yuri,” Yuuri finally pulled his shirt over his head and bunched it up into a ball. He sat on the floor and spun around to give Yuri a good look at the blue rose on his back. He heard the child gasp, and soon small fingers were tracing the outlines of the petal-like swirls, “My mom found my soulmate. I met him when I was 6.”

“Wow! That’s so cool! I wish mine was born already!”

Just then, the ballroom doors opened and Victor strolled in.

“Yuuri, I’ve finished my lessons. Why am I not surprised to see you he-” he cut himself off when he spotted the blond 7 year old. He frowned briefly when he noticed Yuuri wasn’t wearing his shirt, but his smile quickly made its way back to his face when he saw the boy’s grin, “Ah, I see you’ve met the other Yuri.”

“Victor!” the blond ran to the Alpha and jumped. Victor caught him easily and spun him around twice before settling him on his hip. Yuuri grinned and stood up, spreading his shirt out and slipping it back on as he approached the two. “Victor, I like your soulmate. He has the same name as me and he’s super nice. He got rid of the guards for me.”

“What did you do this time?” Victor put him down and leaned over to kiss the top of Yuuri’s head, breathing in the smell of his hair before pulling away, “Were you mean to Madam Baranovskaya again?”

“No! I was not! I didn’t do anything! She just likes being mean!” Yuri pouts.

“She’s mean to everyone, Little One.”

“No! She’s especially mean to me! I don’t know why, I haven’t done anything.”

“It must be a ‘Yuri’ thing,” Yuuri whispered conspiringly. Victor raised an amused eyebrow as Yuuri dropped to his knees to look Yuri in the eye, “she helps me with my ballet when I stay here in the summer, and she’s also super mean to me too.”

“You too!?” Yuri gasped, “Maybe she doesn’t like ‘Yuris!’ That’s so unfair!”

“I know, I agree.”

“We should skip her class one day,” the child suggested seriously. “It’s what I’m doing now.”

“You better run off and hide then,” Yuuri warned in an equally serious tone, “She’s supposed to start my lesson in half an hour. You can’t be here when she comes or she’ll make you join me.”

“I won’t leave you!” Yuuri grinned at the conviction in his voice and ruffled his hair.

“I swear to you, we can run from her together one of these days. Just not today. I’ll distract her so that you can run off and play - or hide. Whichever you prefer.”

Yuri stepped a little closer to Yuuri, glancing at Victor briefly with a look of distrust, “My friend Mila works in the kitchens. I run off and play with her sometimes.”

“Go to her, then. She’ll hide you,” Yuri nodded seriously and and placed his small hands on Yuuri’s shoulders.

“We should play together sometime. I don’t have many friends here.”

Yuuri smiled warmly at the offer, “Neither do I.”

“Then we’re friends now.”

“I’m glad.”

“What about me?” Yuri looked to Victor with a scowl.

“You’re on probuption.”

The prince frowned, “Do you...do you mean, ‘probation?’” he clarified with a smirk. Yuri’s scowl deepened.

“Yeah. You’ve already ratted me out to Madam B once. I still hate you for that.”

“What can I do to make it up to you?”

“I don’t know,” he glanced at Yuuri for a moment before looking up at Victor once more, “I’ll think about it.”

He turned on his heel and ran for the window, hopping on a bench just below and climbing over the sill. “Bye Yuuri! Let’s play sometime!

“I would love that, Yurio!” Yuri blushed and graced him with a smile before dropping over the edge. A soft “oof” was heard before the sound of footsteps pattered off into the distance. Yuuri straightened up and stretched before looking back to Victor.

“I didn’t know the Doctor had a grandson.”

“He sometimes brings him to the palace. He’s a sweet kid. He’s learning how to dance, just like you.”

“He’s adorable. I’d love to see him again.” Victor grinned and put an arm around Yuuri’s shoulders, pulling him against his side.

“I’ll tell the good doctor. You said you had a half hour before your lesson, right?”

“Yes.”

“Then let’s go for a walk.” Yuuri rolled his eyes and wrapped his own arm around Victor’s waist.

“Lilia will kill you if you make me late.”

“I swear we’ll walk only to the library and back. You’ll be back before she gets here.”

“Is that a promise?”

“Of course, my love.” Yuuri scoffed but followed him out of the room anyway.

 


 

 

When he made his second rival, Victor was 19 years old.

He had just finished his fencing lesson and had started his stroll through the garden to relax himself, decompress a little before moving onto his apprenticeship with the Royal Tactician of the country’s military. There was a nice breeze blowing through the trees, kicking up dirt and dust and swirling them together.

He was trying his best to tuck his fringe behind his ear when he spotted the doctor’s grandson. The blond had taken a wooden stepping stool from the kitchen and placed it under a window. He stood on the tips of his toes and had his face practically pressed to the glass. His hands were cupped around his eyes to block the glare of the sun.

“Ah!” Victor grinned and made his way to the child, “Yu~ri~o~!”

He tensed and snapped his head in Victor’s direction, his expression falling from surprise into a scowl when he saw who it was, “What do you want?”

“You’re the only child I know who isn’t happy to see royalty,” Victor huffed and pretended to sniff. The sassy boy glared and turned his attention back to the window. The prince could smell genuine irritation coming from Yurio and he frowned. Just a few weeks ago, the boy idolized him; ever since he met Yuuri, he had been giving Victor a child’s version of the cold shoulder.

“Well, that’s not a happy face. What’s wrong, Yurio?”

“Only Yuuri can call me that,” he quickly corrected Victor, eyes glued to whatever was through the glass. The Alpha stepped beside him and peered through the window, spotting his mate and Lilia Baranovskaya almost immediately. Her sharp eyes scrutinized Yuuri’s form as he held his arms above his head, his feet crossed awkwardly over each other.

“He looks silly, doesn’t he?” Victor offered, trying to lighten the mood. The look Yurio sent him was meant to kill.

“He’s been holding 5th Position for forever because you made him late to practice yesterday!” he hissed, “he’s not silly, he’s amazing!”

“That looks like a brutal punishment,”  Victor tried again. Yurio exhaled loudly through his nose, nostrils flaring. Victor figured he screwed up again.

“He wouldn’t have to do it if you didn’t make him late all the time!”

“I promise I’m not doing it on purpose,” Victor had to stop a grin from spreading on his face. Seeing Yurio get all worked up over his mate was adorable.

“Just leave him alone, you jerk!” the prince gasped and widened his eyes. It was the best he could do to combat the laughter threatening to bubble up.

“Language, Yurio!” he groaned and hopped off of his stool. He pushed it behind a bush to his left and started to walk away. Victor was about to call out to him when he stopped and turned around.

The scowl was back on his face and he stared at his feet, clearly conflicted about doing something. Victor was curious to see what he would do and waited patiently, watching his eye twitch and his mouth turn down as if he’d tasted something sour.

“Victor…” he finally started after a moment of silence.

“Yes?”

“....”

“...Do you want to ask me something?”

Yurio inhaled. Victor could see that he was steeling his resolve as the boy looked him in the eye. His inner Alpha found it amusing, “...What’s Yuuri?”

“Yuuri?” he repeated, not expecting nor understanding the question.

“Yeah...what is he? Omega?”

Oh , Victor grinned, bringing his hand up and resting his finger over his lips in thought, interesting . “Yuuri hasn’t presented yet.”

“Oh…” Yurio looked at his feet, his ears turning red, “He smells nice...he might be an Omega….”

“We’ll see soon enough, “ Victor guessed, not having the heart to explain Yuuri’s parentage to Yurio.

“Yeah….soon…” he shifted on his feet and looked at Victor again, his gaze resting on his neck, “Grandpa told me that not all soulmates get along.”

“Oh yeah?” Victor hummed, “that’s unfortunate.”

“Master Popovich also told me that not all soulmates get married. Some stay as friends and marry other people.”

“I suppose some do,” he acknowledged. Yurio’s eyes shot up to his, fierce and determined.

“I’m gonna be an Alpha someday. Grandpa says so,” he announced and pointed at Victor, “When I present, I’m gonna court Yuuri and make him my mate! I’ll protect him with all I got, so don’t even think about doing anything to him, okay?!”

Victor felt a surge of possessiveness shoot down his spine, but he refrained from acting on it. He had to remind his inner Alpha that this was a child - not a threat. “Okay,” he chuckled, deepening Yurio’s frown.

“I mean it, Victor!”

“Yes, Yurio, I heard you.”

“Don’t call me that! He likes me more than he likes you!”

“I’m sure he does. You’re much cuter than I am,” he winked.

“I’m not cute!” he huffed and spun on his heel, running away as fast as he could from Victor as he shouted about how stupid he was.

Victor watched him leave with a fond smile on his face. When he disappeared around the corner he turned to steal one last look at his mate, only to see Yuuri standing at the glass with a towel around his neck. He had a cup of water in one hand and reached with the other to open the window.

“That was an interesting conversation,” he grinned once the pane was cracked open.

“You’re telling me,” Victor walked towards his mate, his calming scent washing over him, crisper than the summer breeze that rustled the tree branches. “Now I know why he hates me.”

“He doesn’t hate you,” Yuuri reassured him, holding his free hand out to Victor. The Alpha grabbed it and brought it to his lips, pressing a chaste kiss to his knuckles, “He just doesn’t like you...right now, at least.”

“I highly doubt it,” he huffed and and squeezed Yuuri’s hand, “his pride won’t allow him to let this go. Mine won’t either.”

“Oh, stop,” Yuuri scolded and pulled his hand away, rolling his eyes playfully as Victor snickered.

“I should be more romantic towards you if I’m going to have a fighting chance against him,” Victor hummed and cocked his head to the side, “If I’m not careful, he’ll snatch you from right under my nose.”

“I’m just counting down the days until he presents,” Yuuri deadpanned, drawing a genuine giggle from his mate. He opened his mouth to say something else when Lilia appeared directly behind him.

“Your break is over, My Lord. Your Highness,” she greeted with a nod. Victor returned the sentiment.

“Madam. You look as lovely as ever.”

“Shouldn’t you be off somewhere learning how to fight a war?”

“Indeed,” Victor bowed, “I’m sorry for the intrusion.”

“Have a good afternoon, Your Highness.”

“See you soon, Victor,” the Alpha smiled fondly at his mate and turned around, inhaling deeply the last traces of his scent before the wind carried it away. He heard the window click shut behind him as he headed to the War Room. He was already ridiculously late, so he might as well take his time getting there.

Maybe he could learn some tactics to foil Yurio’s attempts to steal his mate….

Chapter Text

Yuuri shivers, unsure of what to make of his current situation. They’re on a bed and Victor is holding him from behind, arms wrapped tightly around his smaller frame with his head burrowed in the juncture between his neck and shoulder. Victor has thrown his legs over Yuuri’s, entangling themselves further in an attempt to press their bodies even closer together.

He licks at his neck, long broad strokes that send shivers down his back. The contact is too much, the air and space around them too hot - nearly suffocating.

“Hey, w-wait,” Yuuri stutters and tries to crawl out of his grasp, weakly pushing at his mate. In silent refusal, Victor follows him, holding him tighter, pulling him closer each time he pulls.  “Victor, wait…”

“But I’ve waited so long, Yuuri~,” he coos oh so sweetly, running his hand down the other’s chest and lightly nipping at his neck. He’s too close to the bonding site, his bites getting harder each time he does them. Yuuri feels panic build in his head, but a heat is pooling in his stomach. “You feel so good, my love, so hot and soft.”

“Victor, please,” Yuuri gasps when his hand starts to wander toward his inner thigh and he tries to shove him away. Victor seems to anticipate this and grabs the elbow before it can make contact, pushing hard so that Yuuri is now lying on his stomach under Victor’s full body weight.

“You’re scared, Yuuri, but that’s okay,” Victor tries to calm him down, kissing him directly in the middle of his Soul Mark, “It’s alright. First times are scary, but I promise I’ll make you feel good.”

He starts to grind against the smaller boy, hands having been moved so that they’re pinning his wrists into the silk below them. Yuuri squirms beneath him, the effort sending a jolt of warmth and pleasure down his spine when his own front rubs against the smooth fabric. “Oh, I’m going to make you feel so good .”

Yuuri is nearly lulled into a false sense of security, almost swept away by the warmth of his breath, by the friction of their bodies rubbing together, by the comfort of Victor’s weight pressing down on him. The stimulation is nice and pleasant and hot, so hot, but he’s harshly pulled out of his lethargy when he feels teeth clamp down on the bonding site.

“No, stop!” he’s alert now, shaking off Victor’s relaxed grip from his wrists and pushing him off. He rolls onto his back and sits up, bringing a hand up to cover his neck and he uses his other hand and feet to scoot himself away from the Alpha. “Not yet!”

“Why not?” Yuuri freezes when he hears the voice right next to his ear. Hands come from behind and grab him tightly, pulling him right into the lap of the man he was trying to escape.

“Victor, please-”

“Why not, Yuuri?” he inhales deeply, his breath tickling his hair.

“I-I haven’t presented ye-” his excuse is weak, but he’s cut off when Victor shoves two fingers into his mouth, the other hand shooting down to fondle his member. The abruptness of the actions catch him off guard and he’s quick to uncover his neck in favor of pulling at Victor’s wrists and squirming in his hold.

“Yes you have, my love,” Victor breathes into his ear before moving down to lick his neck again, right over the bonding site, “You’re exactly what I’ve always wanted, I can hardly hold myself back.”

Yuuri’s objections are garbled by the fingers in his mouth. He feels drool coat his chin as Victor slowly moves the digits in and out, groaning heavily and squeezing him particularly hard when Yuuri bites.

“You’re scared, but it’s alright. Everything will be okay,” he growls, the air spiking with his arousal as he nuzzles against his neck one more time, “my lovely little Omega.”

As if freed from shackles, Yuuri shoves him off. His strength has returned ten fold and he’s quick to turn on Victor. The heat of arousal is replaced with rage and he straddles the other Alpha, teeth bared and hands around his throat.

“Don’t call me that!”

Yuuri woke up covered in sweat with a pain in his chest. He felt as if he had been punched in the stomach, his skin  too tight and the rough fabric of his bed sheets against his skin unbearable. His mouth was dry and his head hurt. Worst of all, he needed something - anything - to relieve the itch between his legs.

Once he recovered ( some ) of his breath, he slowly moved himself upright. Everything suddenly ached and he struggled stay sitting. Panting, he kicked off the blankets and stripped himself of his bedclothes. It took a moment for his brain to catch up with what was happening.

When he surveyed the mess in his bed, on his clothes, and between his legs, he couldn’t breath. Fat tears dripped from his eyes and he nearly gagged from the potent stench of his own presentation. The cry - of relief? Fear? - he let out didn’t sound human.

At 16 years old, Yuuri was a late bloomer. He presented a week before Celestino and his entourage arrived.

 


 

At 20 years old, Victor was well versed in diplomacy and foreign affairs. He got along well with the representatives and leaders of many different countries, including China, Thailand, the Americas, and most of Europe. South Korea was a little more difficult to win over; the heir of their monarchy, Lee Seung Gil, wasn’t one for social interaction. Victor did notice that he, too, had a dog. Maybe that could work in his favor.

He and Yakov were having lunch with Thailand’s Diplomat when a letter arrived for the Vice Regent.

“That’s quite shocking, though,” Victor continued as the Beta delivered a letter to his uncle, “to present as an Omega when he’s only 12 years old?”

“It caught us all off guard when it happened,” Master Chulanont acquiesced, “but his mother also presented early, right on her 13th birthday. In retrospect, we should have anticipated it.”

“Still, to suddenly be thrust into your secondary sex at 12 years old,” Victor continued with a sympathetic frown, “Phichit must have been terrified.”

“Most are when they present as Omega’s. They aren’t given the same luxury as an Alpha to get angry,” the two Alpha’s nodded in agreement, “I’m just glad he’s alright now. Thank you for housing him once again, Your Highness, Your Majesty. He really needed a change of scenery.”

“We’re happy to have him! I’m sure Yuuri will be excited to see him again. It’ll be a pleasant surprise,” Victor looked to Yakov and smiled, “Right?”

“Yes,” he answered, distracted the by letter in his hand. Victor and the diplomat looked to each other with a frown.

“Is everything alright, Your Majesty?”

“Hm?” he looked at his guests and quickly folded the letter in half, sticking it into the pocket on the inside of his lapel, “Yes. My apologies. It’s merely news of Lord Yuuri’s arrival.”

“Oh?” Victor perked up.

“He should be here next week.”

“I’m glad to hear it,” Master Chulanont grinned, “Has the young Lord presented yet? The last time I saw him was 3 years ago and I haven’t heard any news.”

“No, unfortunately not.”

“This should be the year, then,” He nodded to himself, “Many usually present once they’ve hit puberty but it’s not completely uncommon for it to happen when they turn 16 or 17.”

“I hope you’re right,” Victor agreed and sipped his tea, “I think he’s sick and tired of waiting, but it can’t be healthy for him to delay this long. The sooner it happens, the sooner I can put my worries about his health to rest.

“I hope it doesn’t happen on the train, though,” Victor huffs and smiles, sending a mock glare to Yakov, “When I presented, they had to chain me to my bed for a week. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be traveling and suddenly-”

“Break out into a heat?” the Master finishes with a nod, “Yes, that would be miserable.”

“Oh, Yuuri won’t experience a heat,” Victor reassured him, “He can’t be an Omega.”

“Oh, that’s right! His parents! My mistake, I completely forgot. He’ll be a Beta, then?”

“We’re all assuming so.”

“I’ve heard they have the worst headaches. Migraines that leave them bedridden for a month. At least Alphas and Omegas have their pain over and done with in a week, although it continues for most of their lives. Excuse me, what’s your name?”

“Mika, My Lord,” the Beta servant in the corner spoke up. Victor waved at the Beta and smiled kindly at him.

“There’s no need to answer anything you’re uncomfortable with.”

“I’m genuinely curious, though,” the diplomat was close to pouting and continued, “How long did your migraine last?”

“About 3 weeks, My Lord.”

“Terrible!” he gasped, “I am so sorry!”

“At least I don’t have to experience a week of rutting 5 times a year, My Lord.” Victor and the diplomat started to laugh as Yakov grinned.

“He wins! He wins!” Victor shouted and clapped.

“I’m sorry I asked!” Master Chulanont snickered and sipped his drink.

“Vitya, Master Giacometti wanted to go over finances with you after lunch.”

“I shouldn’t keep him waiting then,” Victor stood and gave a polite bow to the diplomat, who returned it lower and with a broader grin, “I enjoyed chatting with you, Master Chulanont.”

“As did I, Your Highness.”

“I’ll see you at dinner, Your Majesty.”

“Visit me sooner, I’d like to discuss something with you.” Victor nodded and left the room.

He didn’t think much of the request and soon forgot about it as he went about his day. He carried on with his tutoring from the advisors, he made arrangements for Yuuri’s stay, he helped Phichit pick out some books to read while he waited for Yuuri to come the next week, and he played with Yurio and Mila in the kitchens.

It was an hour before dinner when he went to Yakov’s office. He knocked and, once admitted, sat in one of the plush velvet seats in front of his desk. Yakov closed the book he had been writing in and leaned back in his seat, sighing heavily and scratching his chin.

“I’m getting old.” he huffed.

“Not quite yet,” Victor reassured him with a teasing grin, “Just on the brink of it.”

“You will be King soon,” Yakov continued, “in 2 years.”

“Yes.”

“How does that make you feel?”

“I’m excited but also anxious.”

“I will still be here for you, Vitya. You know that, right?”

“Yes. I’m grateful, although I don’t show it.”

“You certainly don’t.” Yakov grimaced, “You’re good about putting on a polite front when we’re in the company of others, but you can be a little shit the rest of the time.”

“Thank you,” he pretended to sniff, “That’s all I ever wanted.”

Yakov muttered a slur under his breath and pulled the letter from his pocket. “You remember that I got this earlier today?”

“Yes.”

“It’s good news; Yuuri presented.”

“What?” Victor stood from his seat, eyes sparkling and grinning as if he were a child given candy, “he has? When?”

“Thankfully a week before Captain Caldini arrived.”

“That’s amazing! I’m so excited!” Victor cheered and went to reach for the letter, “What is he?”

Yakov pulled the parchment out of his reach, “He’s upset. Very upset.”

“What? Why would he-” he stopped, realization dawning in his expression. “Oh...he’s a Beta, isn’t he…”

“Vitya-”

“Wait, no,” Victor stopped, “No, he can’t be a Beta. His presentation only lasted a week, otherwise they wouldn’t have left and he wouldn’t be able to be here by next week.

“Omega?” Victor covered his mouth, completely shocked, “He’s an Omega?!”

“The letter stated that he didn’t want you to know.”

“Is that even possible? It must be a mutation of some sort, right? A hormone imbalance?”

“It’s probably for the best that you don’t see him for the first few days that he’s here.”

“Why wouldn’t he want me to know? Is he embarrassed? Does he think I’ll only love him for his Secondary Sex? Is he trying to test me?”

“Will you respect his wishes or not?” Victor stopped his pondering and looked to his Uncle.

“As his mate, I have to be there for him. But as his friend, I want to be there. He’s afraid because of how I’ll react, right?” Victor paused for a moment, looking out the window as he thought about what he could do, “If I’m there to meet him, then he’ll see immediately that there’s nothing to be afraid of. That I still accept him. How he presents has never affected my opinion of him, I hope he understands that.”

Yakov sighed heavily and put the letter in his drawer, “Do whatever you think is right, Victor. I’ve upheld my promise, so I won’t confirm or deny your suspicions.”

“I can read you like an open book.” Victor winked and headed for the door, “Since he presented, that means he’s going to be living here now, right? That was the agreement?”

“Yes.”

“I have so much to do now to make sure he’s comfortable. I’m skipping dinner but I’ll see you tomorrow at lunch, Yakov.”

“Make sure you eat something,” he called after him, sounding much more tired than he was moments ago.

Victor was bouncing on the balls of his feet for the next few days. There was so much to do now that his mate would be living with them permanently, so much to prepare! He needed his chambers to be ready, a solar for Yuuri to have all to himself, maybe sectioning off a part of the gardens for the plants he would want to grow when he arrived. He sent instructions to a local tailor to have an appointment made for Yuuri’s fitting when he arrived and informed the horse master of Yuuri’s arrival so that he could find a suitable horse for his mate.

The days were counting down and Victor was absolutely giddy, jittery, any sort of ‘-y’ one could think of. Yakov had lashed out at him a couple of times to calm down and stop acting so obnoxious, but Victor seemed unaffected by his lectures.

When the carriages arrived, Victor nearly had to be held back from sprinting out the door. He stood at the top of the stairs at the palace entrance, Dr Plisetsky to his left and Master Popovich to his right. He noticed that there weren’t many carriages following the group, only the regular 2 that usually came - one to hold his mate and another all of his possessions he would bring during his stay. Would the rest of his things come in later days? He was staying with them permanently after all.

The doors to the carriage opened and Celestino Caldini was the first to step out. His expression was carefully neutral when he spotted the group at the top of the stairs. Instead of holding his hand out to help Yuuri leave, he simply held the door open. His mate exited shortly after.

“Yuuri!” Victor greeted from the top of the stairs and started to descend. As he got closer, he took in more of his mate’s appearance and had to hide his confusion. Yuuri wasn’t dressed in his usual brightly-colored yukata. He wore a dark blue, long kimono that was slightly open in the front. The day had been hot, so Victor could understand why. His hair had been pushed out of his face, slicked back so that one could clearly see his eyes. He also looked like he had lost a lot of weight, but traveling for weeks via train and boat could do that to a person, right?

“Victor,” his mate breathed, surprise registering in his expression when he saw the prince, “Did you...did you get the letter?”

“We did,” Victor confirmed, reaching the last step and walking towards him with his arms spread for a hug, “But I was too excited. I heard you presented! You’re-“

Victor stopped abruptly when he noticed Yuuri hadn’t prepared to receive the hug. He waited for Yuuri to move, unsettled by the blank expression on his face. After a moment, and a perfectly timed gust of wind, he got his answer.

Yuuri held out his right hand.