Sho had always known he couldn't marry for love. He had messed around as a teenager - flirted with slumming it, pretended his pointy chin and sloping shoulders (and not-so-discreet bodyguards) didn't give him away - but his parents finally put their feet down and insisted he take on the responsibilities a Prince of Earth should.
"Think of it this way, Sho-chan: at least he's cute," Nino said, not even looking up from where he sat hunched over on the chaise in Sho's parlor.
Most of the time, Sho was glad he'd managed to hang on to Nino from his slumming days. "Please get your feet off the chaise," he said, stern mostly because he was nervous.
Nino lifted his shoes up and held them in place, hovering an inch above the cushions while he frantically punched buttons on his XDS5. Sho found that acceptable and wished he didn't; he was desperate for something to distract himself from the upcoming appointment to meet - he gulped - to meet his new bride. Wait, his new groom? His new soon-to-be-spouse.
"Stop fussing, it'll be fine," Nino said, still not looking up.
"But," Sho said, almost stuttering, "I don't even understand why we need this marriage - Earth and the Moon are literally gravitationally attracted to each other! There shouldn't be a need for this kind of political tie!"
A peal of triumphant music burst forth from Nino's XDS5, and he leapt up with his arms outstretched in victory. "Yes! It only took five days but I beat you, Zebra Queen!"
"Nino," Sho sighed. Why couldn't his problems ever take precedence?
Nino put the game down on Sho's desk and patted him conspiratorially on the shoulder. "Don't worry about it so much, Sho-chan. By all reports, Prince Ohno is easygoing and his parents just want him to live someplace where he can pursue happiness."
"But what about -" what about me, Sho wanted to ask, but it sounded too pathetic even to himself.
Nino still knew, though. "As if your royal parents would trust you if you were married to that airhead from Venus," he scoffed. "After your reckless youth - and acquiring me - I'm pretty sure their majesties just want you close to home."
Sho rolled his eyes, but by then it was time for his appointment.
The meeting between Sho and his future groom - his future spouse - his future, full-stop, turned out to be less of an appointment and more of a meet and greet, but it was still more than enough for Sho to realize something, something not life-altering but certainly...something: Prince Ohno was cute. Really, really cute, like if someone had made a baby chick into a man and then given him sleepy eyes and a soft, pouting mouth.
A baby chick guarded by one of the fiercest and most well-tailored attendants Sho had ever seen. Even his eyebrows seemed to be both professional and on guard. "Your highness," he said to Sho, "all the arrangements have been made. Your royal parents have graciously arranged a Welcome Banquet this evening -"
"Who are you?" Sho stuttered out, distracted from Prince Ohno's face and the way his loose-fitting pants left far too much to the imagination.
"Matsumoto Jun, your highness," Matsumoto said. Sho was certain he had not introduced himself before. There had been nothing about a Matsumoto in the information docket Nino had brought him.
"Nice to meet you," Sho said automatically, his gaze already straying back to Prince Ohno. "And you as well, of course, Prince Ohno."
Prince Ohno made eye contact with him for the first time. He was a little shorter than Sho, and his eyes lifted before his chin did. "Nice to meet you," he said, mumbling a little bit, blinking, and then looking away again.
Before Sho could even say anything else - which might have been for the best, considering his only options were, "You're adorable," and, "So, are you busy tonight?" and either would have been embarrassing beyond belief if they'd crossed his lips - Matsumoto started up again. "Prince Ohno will of course be at the Welcome Banquet promptly at seven."
And then, without even a proper goodbye, Matsumoto and Prince Ohno left.
Sho's heart fluttered in his chest all afternoon. It was ridiculous, he knew, to be so affected by someone he'd never met before - and even if he hadn't realized it, Nino told him repeatedly that he was being stupid. "You look fine," Nino said, exasperated when Sho adjusted his tie again in front of the mirror, "but if you take any longer, you'll look late."
The welcome banquet turned out to be mostly full of the same politicians and politicians' eligible daughters and sons that they'd always had. He couldn't even use the opportunity to get to know Prince Ohno better - he was seated on Sho's mother's right side, while Sho was seated to his father's left; the arrangement gave an excellent view of the other guests but a terrible view of his. Of Prince Ohno.
At least Nino seemed to be having fun, Sho thought, feeling somewhat self-pitying over the soup course. Nino had managed a spot in between both of the "airheads from Venus" (as Nino referred to them; Sho found Prince Aiba and Princess Ayaka to be quite charming if - well, all right. Airheaded) and appeared to be having quite the time.
Sho did his best, though, to make conversation and not look sullen. It was probably a good thing that Ohno disappeared before the after-dinner dance; Sho had two left feet.
Sho went to bed feeling lonely and unsatisfied, but he was still in that weird half-awake state when someone started pounding on his door.
"Sho, c'mon, open the door!" Nino called out.
Blearily, Sho let Nino in - except Nino didn't want to come in, it turned out.
"Nino, it's like. It's late. I want to sleep," Sho said. He knew he sounded petulant, but Nino was the only one he could get away with speaking to like this.
Nino rolled his eyes and pulled Sho bodily through the door. Sho wondered if he'd ever had a chance of resisting to begin with. "Wait, can I - can I get some slippers?" The floor was cold, even though Sho's pajamas slid over the heels of his feet.
"No," Nino said shortly, "because then you would also want your robe, and then you would think better of wandering around the guest wing with me at two in the morning."
"What, the guest - Nino, what are you doing!" Sho hissed, suddenly awake and anxious about where this was going. Right now the palace only had one official guest staying in the guest wing, and it was -
"Nino!" Sho hissed louder but with little effect as Nino dragged him down one hall and another until they were at the entrance to the Moon Gardens, reachable only through the guest wing.
Weirdly, Nino didn't push him through. Instead, he pulled Sho down until they were eye to eye. "Listen to me, Sho-kun," he said, voice low but more serious than Sho could remember hearing before, "I know you think you have no say in this but you do: if you told your royal parents that you couldn't marry Oh-chan, they would stop preparations. They would, because they love you. But you should have a chance to make up your own mind about it, don't you think?"
"Oh-chan?" Sho asked.
Nino ignored him. "So go out there and get to know him a little bit, okay."
Nino opened the door, and pushed him through.
Luckily, Prince Ohno wasn't paying attention when Sho nearly tripped on the too-long ends of his pajamas.
Prince Ohno wasn't paying attention because Prince Ohno was too busy picking his nose.
It definitely wasn't cute, Sho told himself, definitely not, and he picked his way across the damp grass to the bench where Prince Ohno sat (now apparently finished with his nostrils). There were no lights lit, but there didn't need to be: it was a full moon, and the Moon Garden was designed precisely to allow for a clear view of the stars. All around them, night-blooming flowers held their faces to the sky, in muted but beautiful yellows and pinks and whites.
"Good evening," Sho said, feeling like it was an evening that required gentleness.
Prince Ohno looked up at him, then smiled, his whole face changing to accommodate the shape.
"May I," Sho gulped, "may I join you, Prince Ohno?"
Prince Ohno nodded, but didn't move over at all, so when Sho sat down they were close enough that Sho imagined he could feel Prince Ohno's body heat. "But," Prince Ohno said, "please call me Satoshi."
Sho's heart fluttered again; he should really have that looked into. "Satoshi-san," he said, tasting the air in his mouth as he said it. (It tasted like minty toothpaste, which was fine.) "Please call me Sho."
"Sho-san," Prince Ohno - Satoshi said, lowering his eyes and smiling. The moonlight lit up the line of his nose and the tips of his eyelashes, the soft spikes of his hair and curve of his cheeks. He was so cute, Sho worried about his heart beating out of his chest.
To steady himself, Sho looked up at the moon. It seemed huge in the sky, huge and magnificent, and every bit Earth's equal in power, even though it was so much smaller: without it, who knew what Earth's orbit would be like, or the tides, or if they'd even have life.
Sho thought about saying that to Satoshi, to let him know that Sho knew they were equals, that they didn't need to get married for their nations to be at peace. "Satoshi-san, are you okay with this?"
"Are you?" Satoshi asked.
Sho considered it seriously: this was both of their futures, after all. "I like you, Satoshi-san. I'd like to get to know you better. I wouldn't mind - " he looked back at Satoshi, and couldn't resist the way the smaller man was staring at him, almost too close. He couldn't stop himself from brushing his knuckles over Satoshi's cheek. "Can I kiss you?" he whispered.
It was soft and warm and inviting, and when they parted Sho just wanted to kiss again and again and again. "Would you like to marry me?" he asked instead.
Satoshi's eyes crinkled up as his smile got even bigger. "Yeah," he said, "I'd like that."
Sho kissed him again, Satoshi's hands getting caught in his shirt, and -
"Hey!" Nino called from the entrance. "No hanky-panky, I think Jun is on his way!"
Satoshi giggled and stood up, but Sho needed a second to steady himself. "Tomorrow?" he said.
Satoshi nodded and leaned down to kiss Sho, fast, before practically skipping out.
Sho held his fingers over his lips, staring dreamily up at the moon until Nino started shouting again. "Some of us need our beauty sleep, like you, Sho-chan!"
Sho grinned. Maybe he would be marrying for love after all.
It was only at the wedding reception that Sho realized Nino had been sitting on Ohno's side of the room the entire time. "What," he said when he confronted Nino. "Why."
"Sho-chan!" Nino laughed, and Prince Aiba and Princess Ayaka giggled on either side of him. They had clearly been getting into the champagne. "Did you finally discover my secret? It's only been three and a half years, if we'd made it to four then Jun-kun would owe me twenty-six favors!"
"Nino's my cousin," Jun supplied at Sho's baffled expression. "His letters about you were the first time that Ohno-san had shown any interest in anything besides art and model cars, so of course his royal parents were delighted." He downed his flute in an impressive swallow.
"I think I might start fishing," Satoshi said, coming up behind Sho and smiling pink-cheeked at all of them. His champagne flute was also disturbingly empty.
"Earth is the best for fishing!" Prince Aiba said, entirely too loud.
("How would you know?" Princess Ayaka asked, pinching him around Nino.)
Sho couldn't tell what he was supposed to feel here - had it been some conspiracy this whole time?
"Would you go fishing with me, Sho-kun?" Satoshi asked, looking up at him, still smiling and leaning in close to Sho.
Sho sighed, then dropped his hand to entwine it with Satoshi's. It seemed it was his fate to be surrounded by devious planners of plots - but if he got Satoshi out of it, it would turn out okay, he was sure of it.