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Yuuri is fifteen, staring up at Viktor with those large brown eyes.

He looked as timid as he’s always had and Viktor knew what he was saying was crushing Yuuri into small, fragile pieces. But Viktor had decided it was best to finally tell Yuuri now, not being able to keep this to himself anymore. He needed to save them both from a life-time of heartache.

“I… should have made this clear sooner. I’m sorry.”

And he was sorry. Sorry he couldn’t imagine himself spending the rest of his future with this boy standing in-front of him, looking so painfully small as he listened to and accepted every word Viktor was telling him.

Yuuri deserved to know what Viktor saw for his own future - one that he couldn’t imagine them spending together. He needed the omega to understand that his and Yuuri’s lives would not be controlled by what their parents had set out for the both of them at a time in the past when neither he nor Yuuri even knew the other existed.

“If you and your family ever need anything, I’ll be ready to help whatever way I can. The treaty doesn’t have to change in that aspect,” Viktor said.

Yuuri had always admired him, had always looked at him with these awe-struck eyes, his lips always parted in wonder as though Viktor was the epitome of perfection.  

Viktor couldn’t blame him, really. It was what they had been raised to believe, after all – that the other was who they should always, always want.

“But I just … really can’t see myself being with you.”

Being together was what nature had dictated them to be. Alpha and omega.

Their parents had thought the same and their families had agreed to marry them to one another once they were both old enough, had even signed a binding contract in thick, dark ink when he and Yuuri had been nothing but toddlers just learning how to stand on their own two feet.

A joyous union between the Nikiforovs and the Katsukis.

“I was hoping as soon as you turn eighteen, you’d… sign the termination contract.”

Yuuri’s eyes dropped to the ground, staring at the grass swaying by his feet.

The termination contract. Of course. Their parents weren’t cruel.

He and Yuuri had been given the choice to terminate the marriage contract if they both wished to with the condition that they’d only do so once they were both old enough to decide for themselves. Eighteen years old had been the agreement.

Viktor was eighteen now. Eighteen and wanting to break free from the notion that he would be spending the rest of his life with this shy, brown-eyed omega whose cheeks were a little too rounded and whose feet became a little too clumsy when Viktor was around.

He and Yuuri were no good for each other.

“…did you already sign it?” the younger boy asked quietly.

Viktor looked away guiltily. “Yeah…”

As soon as midnight had hit, he had signed it.

“I see…” Yuuri exhaled slowly, gaze still trained on their feet. “Ah. Well, I can’t do anything about it right now. But…yes. Y-yes, of course,” he nodded, trying to appear as though his breath hadn’t been knocked out of him. “Once I’m eighteen, I’ll…sign the termination contract,” he said. “If… if that’s what you really want.”

Viktor nodded solemnly, glancing back at the younger boy with apologetic eyes.

“It is,” he said, sad but not regrettable. “I’m sorry.”

‘Sorry this is hurting you. Sorry we’re not good for each other.

The omega didn’t speak for a long while, eyes still on the ground and Viktor shifted uncomfortably, not really knowing if that was the end of their conversation and whether he should leave or if he should stay and say something else instead.

In the end, he didn’t have to do either because Yuuri finally moved, lifting his head. He met the older boy's hesitation with brown eyes closed, a painfully bright smile etched on his lips.

Yuuri stepped closer to Viktor -closer than the omega had ever instigated by himself- and wrapped his arms around the larger frame, the tight embrace he’s never had the courage to give to Viktor until now feeling like a goodbye.

Yuuri nodded against Viktor’s chest, pressing just a little bit closer, his voice breathy and quiet as he said-

“It’s okay. I understand.”


“So… how long has it been again since you two saw each other?” Christophe asked, looking at his best-friend seated beside him as they lounged in the cushioned seats of the Nikiforov manor’s living room.

“Since my eighteenth birthday,” Viktor responded, brushing some strands of hair away from his face.

“Nearing three years then?”

Two years and five months to be exact but yes, somewhere along those lines. “Yeah.”

“And then he didn’t come to any more of the seasonal galas or parties since your eighteenth birthday? Not even to the ones held by the other noble families?”

“No… at least not to the ones I’ve went to anyway. His sister and his parents were sometimes there but… never him.”

Toshiya and Hiroko Katsuki had always been kind to him. Viktor didn’t think Yuuri had told them about their inevitable plan to terminate the contract yet. Still, the two Heads of the Katsuki family had always been so welcoming and Viktor hoped that this wouldn’t harm that too much.

“Hm,” Christophe scratched his chin in thought. “I wonder how he’s been.”

Viktor sighed, folding his arms behind his head and leaning back on the sofa. “Me too.”

The other alpha raised an eyebrow. “Really, now?”

Viktor frowned, squinting at the ceiling. “Just because I want to terminate the marriage contract doesn’t mean I don’t care about his well-being. We were…friends? Somewhat.”

“I suppose,” Christophe leaned his elbows on the arm rest, resting his cheek on his palm. “Still, it’s strange Yuuri could cut off contact with you that easily. He was really shy around you but…well, he really liked you when we were younger, you know.”

“Yeah,” Viktor continued to stare at the ceiling, a small churn of guilt settling low in his stomach at the flickering memory of sad, brown eyes and a warm set of arms encircling his waist. “I know.”

Christophe studied his friend, noting the uncomfortable way he was chewing on his lips. “What’s this whole …thing supposed to achieve, huh?” he asked, diverting the conversation away. “This whole ‘Yuuri living with you for the next six months till’ his eighteenth birthday?’ thing.”

Viktor shrugged. “Part of the contract.” 

“The circulating rumours are saying it’s just a way of you two finalising things with each other - that you’re going to get married on his eighteenth birthday and he’s going to be living here until then so you two can plan the perfect wedding together.” 

Viktor’s forehead scrunched. What a romantic storybook-esque type of gossip.

“They can think what they want,” he said with a small shake of his head. “I see this as more of a way to make sure the treaty is still going to be in place with the Katsuki household even if Yuuri and I aren’t… getting married. I’m sure Yuuri would agree to that.”

Six months. That’s all he and Yuuri needed to do. Live together civilly for six months and then they can both be free.

“…You’re really sure about this ‘breaking the contract’ thing?” 

“Of course,” Viktor nodded firmly. “I have been for a long time. Yuuri knows that too.”

“It’d be big news. ‘Dispute between House Katsuki and House Nikiforov amidst termination of the marriage contract.’ Wow.”

“It’s not going to end up as a dispute, Chris. Yuuri’s not like that.”

Christophe pursed his lips, biting his tongue as he swallowed back the ‘How would you know how he’s like, eh? You never actually took the time to get to know him.’

Yuuri had also been a close friend of his, after all.

“So… once the marriage contract is broken, what next?” He asked instead.

Viktor shrugged again. “We go our separate ways - move on with our lives without this hanging over our heads.”

Christophe leaned back, a sly smirk creeping onto his face. “So Yuuri’s going to be a free man soon, huh,” he wagged his eyebrows. “Maybe I’ll decide to court him afterwards then, Viktor.”

Not that Yuuri would even consider that seriously but hey, anything to tease his best friend with. 

Viktor rolled his eyes. “You can do whatever you want, Chris. You have my blessings. Though, that’s assuming he’d even let you.”

Christophe huffed a laugh, intending to tell the other man that he’d only been goading only to be interrupted by several knocks on the door. Yakov stepped in without waiting for a response, tilting his head forward at them.

“He just arrived, Viktor,” the elder alpha said. “Come.”

Viktor and Christophe glanced at each other.

Viktor took a deep breath, looking back at Yakov with a nod. He stood up from his seated position, followed by Christophe as Yakov began to lead them towards the entrance of the Nikiforov mansion.

Yuuri was here.



Viktor stared idly in-front of him, steps unconsciously matching Christophe’s as they trailed behind Yakov.

He didn’t feel nervous, not really. More concerned than anything, actually. His last interaction with Yuuri had been… sombre, to say the least. He hadn’t seen the omega since then and there had been no contact between them at all, just as he and Christophe had discussed. Viktor hadn’t tried to initiate any, believing it wouldn’t have helped either of them.

He wondered how Yuuri will react to him now, after all these years. Would Yuuri be hostile? Would he be emitting the same cold aura that Mari always did after Viktor’s eighteenth birthday every time she saw him in those seasonal galas and parties the noble families like theirs always held?

‘How have you been after all these years…?’

Viktor didn’t really know what he should be expecting waiting to greet him outside the Nikiforov mansion.

Perhaps the same timid boy who fiddled with his fingers when he was anxious, that very same one who would jerk away when Viktor’s touch even so much as hovered over his skin. Maybe the same Yuuri who couldn’t meet Viktor’s eyes without being so jittery, that omega who’d rock on his heels and fidget every time Viktor spoke to him.

The familiar scents of Mari and Lady Minako reached his nose and Viktor's pondering came to a sluggish halt as they finally stepped outside of the mansion.

He paused, staring at the three figures surrounded by a small number of house servants at the bottom of the steps. The faces of Mari and Lady Minako were easy to recognise, especially when the two females were looking up at them. Huh, so Yuuri decided to bring his sister and his mentor for the duration of these next 6 months, then. Well, whatever made the omega more comfortable, Viktor supposed.

Viktor squinted at the sight of his last guest, the face of this one a little more difficult to make out as he continued to shift back and forth, helping the maids and servants with the large sets of luggage. Not that Viktor needed to see his face to know who it was. The last guest could only be Yuuri.

Yakov continued down the stairs and he and Christophe immediately followed. Viktor inhaled deeply when a different scent reached his nose, this one a little more familiar than Mari and Lady Minako’s. His brows furrowed, finding Yuuri’s scent slightly different to what it had always been like in the past.

The omega’s scent was clearer now, richer without the additional scent of nervousness heavily coating it. Viktor had smelled this a few times before though it had always only been for a split second.

It was a sweet scent. Like saccharine honey tinged with just a small hint of spice.

Viktor had always thought the scent smelled… good. Really, really good.

At least before the thick overlay of anxiousness overwhelmed it.

The moving figure paused their movements at the new approaching footsteps and Viktor immediately stopped when his gaze collided with brown eyes.

Viktor blinked once. And then blinked twice more.

“Yuuri!” Christophe greeted from Viktor’s side, engulfing the omega in a hug. “Well, well,” he whistled lowly as he pulled back. “Time’s certainly been kind to you. Look at you!”

Brown eyes crinkled as Yuuri chuckled, the sound pleasantly calming.

Viktor wanted to hear it again.

“Hello to you too, Chris,” the omega greeted back with a small grin before turning to look at Yakov, nodding courteously. “Sir Feltsman.”

Yakov nodded back in greeting.

Yuuri’s eyes finally settled on Viktor, gaze piercingly steady behind the blue glasses and so very unlike the brown eyes in the past that had always darted around when they landed on Viktor.

“Hello, Viktor.”

Viktor didn’t reply, still staring at Yuuri with slightly startled eyes.

This Yuuri standing in-front of him was…different, somewhat. Appearance-wise, this Yuuri was taller now, the mop of black hair just brushing the tip of Viktor’s nose. His build was slimmer, the rounded cheeks replaced by a sharp jawline. Of course, Yuuri had grown older, had matured with time just like everyone else.

But this Yuuri… did not squirm under Viktor’s gaze. He did not gulp nervously like he’d always done before when their eyes remained connected like this.

Christophe raised an amused eyebrow at his friend's silence. “It’s rude to stare, Viktor.”

Viktor snapped back to reality, blinking rapidly. “Ah…” he smiled apologetically. “Hello!” He greeted warmly. “It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Welcome to the Nikiforov manor again, Yuuri!”

Yuuri hummed, giving him nothing else but a small, polite smile.

Yakov coughed quietly and everyone’s attention diverted to the elder alpha as he addressed the newly arrived guests. “Well, we should get you three settled before sundown,” he said to the Katsuki siblings and Minako who nodded at him in return. “Your bedrooms are going to be on the same floor. I hope they’re to your liking. If not, we can always move you around. There’s plenty of other guestrooms in the mansion. Of course, you’re welcome to make yourselves comfortable with how ever way pleases you. Please don’t hesitate to ask any of the staff if there’s anything you’d like or need.”

Yakov began to walk up the stairs of the mansion’s entrance again, waiting at the top of the white steps for the three guests to join him. Viktor watched with interest as Yuuri began to help the servants once more. He shifted forward in a move to help the omega, offering his hand and waiting for the younger man to hand him one of the heavy trunks he was lifting.

He blinked in confusion when Yuuri only stared at his open palm.

“It’s fine. I can do it,” Yuuri said, glancing up at him. “Thank you but… I don’t need your help.”

The omega brushed passed, movements graceful and poised even while he walked up the stairs carrying a large trunk in each hand.

Viktor’s outstretched arm slowly fell back to his side and Christophe muffled a snort of laughter at the baffled expression on his friend’s face.

Mari and Minako trailed behind the youngest Katsuki, both carrying bags of their own.

“Hey, baka,” Mari said as she walked in-front of Viktor, her deadpan tone making him wince. “If you’re so keen on helping – here, catch.”

Viktor’s arms shot up immediately, catching the heavy, black bag before it could collide with its target – too precisely aimed for his face to be an accident. He stared at it in astonishment, not quite believing he actually caught that in time. He’d have been knocked out if this had managed to smack him in the head.

‘That… had to be attempted murder.’

The elder of the Katsuki siblings trudged passed without a glance, a snickering Minako by her side. Viktor followed their forms in muted silence, watching as they slowly disappeared inside the Nikiforov mansion.

He slowly glanced back at the heavy bag, mind replaying everything that had just happened in the last five minutes.

There had been no star-struck eyes the colour of aged-whiskey gazing up at him this time around. No slack mouth parted in awe. Not even so much as a second glance.

Just a steady stare. Just a small, tight smile. Just an aura of indifference.

“…Well, mon pote.”

Viktor's gaze slowly slid to the side at the sound of Christophe’s voice. Christophe’s eyebrows were raised at him, hazel eyes twinkling in mirth at the stumped expression on Viktor’s face.

Christophe grinned, wide and amused.  

“This is going to be interesting.”

Viktor needed to lie down.

Chapter Text


Grapes.

Yuuri was eating grapes and Viktor couldn’t stop staring.

Dinner had been a rather quiet affair with the sound of cluttering cutlery only occasionally being interrupted by bouts of small talks every now and then, more from Christophe and Minako than anyone else. Mari and Minako had headed back to their rooms as soon as they finished eating, wanting to unpack the last of their things before the next day. 

Yuuri had stayed behind upon Christophe’s insistence, a little reluctant at first but gradually giving in with a defeated ‘okay, okay. Just for a while then, Chris’, knowing the alpha would not budge until he had sat back down again.

Admittedly, Christophe’s company was more than welcomed. As far as Yuuri knew, only Christophe and Yakov were aware of what was to happen on his eighteenth birthday besides Mari, Minako and Phichit. Christophe’s presence would no doubt make adjusting to temporarily living in the Nikiforov mansion a little easier and knowing he was going to be around for most of the time was reassuring. Yuuri and Viktor wouldn’t have been sat in the same table all by themselves any time soon and Yuuri greatly appreciated the blonde’s efforts in making any interaction between him and Viktor a little more comfortable.

And now here they were on Yuuri’s first night at the Nikiforov mansion, sitting in the empty dining room with the omega at the end of the table and the two alphas at either side.

“-and you’re basically sticking around because… you really have nothing else to do?” Yuuri asked, placing a red grape carefully on his tongue.

“Precisely!”

Yuuri shook his head. “Sounds exactly like something you would do, Chris.”

“I’m glad you know me so well!” Christophe beamed. “So… what do you think about my offer, hm?” he asked coyly. “Would you consider giving me the honour to court you after you turn eighteen then, Yuuri?”

Yuuri took another grape from the white, porcelain bowl, unaware of the blue eyes still absentmindedly following the way he neatly placed the small fruit between his lips.

If Mari was still here, Viktor was sure she’d have stabbed him with a fork by now for all the staring he was doing.

The omega chewed quietly while he pretended to give Christophe’s words some thought, swallowing before regarding the blonde with a smooth “Sure”, too familiar with the other man’s relentless teasing nature to take any of it into heart.

Christophe shot up from his seat in shock at the response. 

“W-what?”

“I said ‘sure’,” Yuuri replied, tone sounding dangerously serious. “That was your proposition there, right?” He quirked an eyebrow. “I accept. When do you want to start?”

“What?!”

Yuuri shook his head, flicking a grape at Christophe and Viktor followed the red fruit as it soared into mid-air, bouncing off the centre of his best-friend’s forehead before rolling back to the table.

“I’m kidding, Chris. That’d be really weird.”

Christophe slumped back in his seat in relief only to perk up once again when he fully processed what Yuuri had said.

“Weird? You and I?” He shook his head in fake disbelief. “I think not!”

“Whatever you say, Chris,” Yuuri said, shifting the bowl to his other hand.

His gaze slowly shifted to his left where Viktor quietly sat, noticing the strange lack of input from the alpha who was now absently observing the lone red grape on the table.

“…Hey,” Yuuri called out softly, “Viktor.” Blue eyes peaked up at him curiously and Yuuri held out the bowl of grapes, offering it to the older man out of politeness, not really knowing how else to engage him into his and Christophe’s light banter. “Would you like some?”

Christophe watched in slight confusion and a little alarm as Viktor mechanically nodded at the omega, taking one piece from the small pile without a word. ‘Is he serious?’ He watched in growing panic as Viktor popped the red grape into his mouth like it was a normal feat for him and that all was well in the world. ‘…He’s serious. He’s actually serious.’

Because if Viktor wasn’t serious, he should be removing that grape out of his mouth right about now. But no, Viktor was most definitely going through with it judging from the way he was just about to sink his teeth onto-

“…Aren’t you allergic to grapes?”

Viktor spat the grape out instantly.

Blue eyes widened, looking more shocked at himself than anything else as he turned to Christophe, gawking at the other alpha with wide, scandalised eyes.

Yuuri blinked at Viktor. “You’re allergic to grapes?”

“No one’s supposed to know that, Chris,” Viktor hissed.

Well,” Christophe crossed his arms with a huff, “sorry for being a decent human being and trying to save you from a hellish week of rashes.”

The omega leaned over the table, peering up at Viktor in slight wonder. “You’re really allergic to grapes?”

“Um… yes.” Heat rose to Viktor’s face when brown eyes squinted at him.

“But…you drink alcohol, don’t you? Even wine?”

“Yeah,” Viktor rubbed the back of his neck, feeling hot all over. Why the hell didn’t Christophe stop him sooner? “Wine is fine. It’s only the actual fruit I can’t have.”

“Oh,” Yuuri tilted his head to the side, processing the odd piece of information. “What happens if you do?”

Viktor paused at the question, sinking slightly into his seat. “…Just an itchy tongue. Maybe a little rash,” he answered coolly, hoping he didn’t sound too casual. It was technically true. “Nothing too bad.”

The omega nodded, glancing back at the bowl thoughtfully and Viktor took a moment to note how this was the first real conversation he and Yuuri were having that didn’t involve the younger man being so skittish and evasive. This calm Yuuri was friendly and it pleased Viktor a little to know that Yuuri was at least feeling more comfortable in his presence now than he had in the past.

‘Or… he just finds you not interesting enough anymore to be affected,’ another part of his mind jeered at him.

Well.

It could be that too.

Whatever the case was, the way they were interacting right now was... nicer. Definitely nicer. Quite enjoyable and-

“… ‘Just an itchy tongue’, huh?” Christophe mused from the other side of the table. “That’s a little bit of an understatement, Viktor.”

Yuuri settled back in his seat, pulling the bowl of grapes closer and picking at another one of the red fruit as he watched on in mild amusement.

Viktor glared daggers at the other alpha, knowing exactly where this was going.

“Don’t.”

Christophe tilted his chin up, hazel eyes leering at Viktor. “Don’t what?” he goaded innocently, batting his eyelashes. “Don't tell Yuuri that the last time you ate some grapes, you drooled more than Makkachin did for 3 hours straig- Ow!” Christophe let out a sharp yelp as Viktor’s foot collided with his shin underneath the table. “Hey! That hurt!” 

“You were the one that gave me the fruit-salad bowl, Chris!”

“How was I supposed to know they didn’t take the grapes out?!”

Yuuri released a quiet laugh and Viktor paused his forming retaliation, peering back at the omega.

Huh. There was that pleasant sound again.

Viktor’s mouth twitched up involuntarily.

“You two remind me of how Phichit and I can be like sometimes,” Yuuri said warmly, leaning his chin onto his palm.

“Phichit?” Viktor tapped his lip in thought at the familiar name.

“Mhm,” Yuuri nodded fondly at the mention of the beta. “My best friend. Phichit Chulanont.”

A flitting image of a tanned-skinned beta flashed through Viktor’s mind. “Oh, yes I remember!” he nodded.

“And how has our beloved Phichit been, Yuuri?” Christophe asked.

Yuuri smiled softly, the question reminding him of the last misadventure Phichit’s shenanigans had landed them. “I haven’t seen him in a while actually but-”

Christophe listened on with interest, nodding every now and then as Yuuri continued to speak about Phichit, his voice light and at ease. He leaned his cheek on his hand, snickering quietly at Yuuri’s story as his gaze travelled to the other side of the table.

Christophe paused, squinting suspiciously upon finding a small, warm smile dancing on Viktor’s lips.

‘...Eh?’

Viktor remained comfortably sat in his seat as he continued to listen to Yuuri’s words – quite keenly, Christophe might add, judging from the way his dear friend was unconsciously leaning forward to hear the omega better- completely oblivious to the hazel eyes that were currently scrutinising him.

Christophe’s gaze slowly slid up, all traces of humour melting off his face when he zeroed in at a peculiar flicker of light in the blue eyes.

‘…Uh oh.’

“Well,” Yuuri finally concluded, stretching his arms over his head as he finished his story. “I’m going to head back to my room now,” he said, standing up from his seat. “You can have the rest of the grapes if you want, Chris.”

“…Sure,” Christophe muttered, flashes of endless possible future scenarios already whizzing through his head. “Thanks.”

“Goodnight then,” the omega said, flashing them another quick smile and Christophe watched in morbid fascination as the light in the blue eyes flickered brighter.

‘Big, big uh-oh...’

“Goodnight,” Viktor responded, smile becoming just a little warmer.

‘Oh boy…’

“Yeah,” the blonde muttered back as he continued to stare. “…Sleep tight.”

He wondered distantly if Yakov was going to turn completely bald by the end of these next six months - wondered if he himself would have any hair left on his head by the time Yuuri’s eighteenth birthday came.

Viktor’s eyes remained on Yuuri as he quietly walked out of the dining hall, unintentionally lingering on the natural sway of the omega’s hips before finally glancing back at the other alpha when the sound of the closing door resounded in the empty room.

Christophe stared back, face wiped clean of any expression.

 “What?” Viktor asked, confused at the blank look being directed at him.

Christophe twitched in his seat, coming to a tragic -but oh so hilarious- conclusion.

‘…Viktor’s doomed.’ 



Yuuri sighed in relief, placing the last of his folded clothes inside the mahogany drawers. ‘That took longer than expected,’ he thought to himself as he glanced behind him, catching sight of Mari just as she hanged the last of his shirts in the wardrobe.

“So, what did you and those two buffoons end up doing?” His older sister asked, glancing at him as she closed the wardrobe door quietly.

“Oh, we just stayed in the dining hall for a bit and talked,” Yuuri answered, thanking Minako who had re-entered the room for putting away the empty trunks for him.

“Really?”

“Yeah. Just a little catch-up,” the omega nodded, examining his new bedroom with interest.

It was quite spacious with a comfortable looking bed in the middle, a desk at the side, some additional cushioned chairs at the corner, a nightstand, a large wardrobe, a chest of drawers and to top it all off, his own private bathroom. What’s not to like?

“And how did that go, otouto?”

Yuuri tilted his head to the side in thought. “Same old Chris, I suppose. It wasn’t too bad, nee-chan. Quite funny, actually.”

“Oh?” Mari raised an eyebrow at him, flopping down on his new bed. Giacometti was notorious for getting a little touchy sometimes -all for the sake of teasing, Yuuri insisted- but that wasn’t what Mari had been most concerned about. “What about the albino baka?”

The omega sputtered. “T-that’s-” A surprise bubble of laughter escaped his lips when Minako burst into a round of giggles. “You can call him by his name you know, nee-chan.”

“That’s a privilege he’s going to have to work hard to earn,” Minako piped in, flopping down on one of the cushioned chairs. “But seriously, how was Viktor with you?”

“He was…nothing, really. Polite?” Yuuri answered after a moment of thought. “Maybe a little quiet, now that I think about it. He was listening to me and Chris talk more than anything.”

Mari pursed her lips. “Right,” the female alpha rose from the bed, stretching a little before looking at Yuuri pointedly. “Well, don’t get too comfortable around him, Yuuri.”

“Who? Chris?”

“No. The other one.”

Minako snorted at Mari’s blatant refusal to use Viktor’s name.

“Comfortable?” Yuuri blinked. “What do you mean?”

“You know,” Minako answered and Yuuri turned to the female beta with questioning eyes, “comfortable.”

“…Oh.”

“Yeah. ‘Oh’,” Mari leaned towards her brother. “Six months. And then we’re going back home.”

Yuuri chewed on his bottom lip, nodding faintly at her.

Yes. Six months. Six months and he can go back to Hasetsu.

“That’s always been the plan, nee-chan.”

The mood in the room began to dip when the elder Katsuki fixed her little brother with a hard stare, lips twisted downwards in a small frown.

“No, it hasn’t. Since he turned eighteen, that became the plan.” Mari’s eyes narrowed, disdain rising as she recalled the slow, sinking helplessness that had grasped at her more than two years ago when shattered brown eyes peered up at her, overflowing with hot, hot tears that neither she or their mother could stop. “You remember, don’t you? Crying your heart out in Kaa-san’s arms the entire night?”

Yuuri shook his head weakly at his older sister. “It’s not going to end up like that again.”

It wasn’t going to. He would make sure it wasn’t going to.

“Good,” Mari nodded.  

It didn’t matter that there had been those strange flutters -too familiar and not welcomed at all- in his stomach throughout their whole journey from Hasetsu. It didn’t matter that his heartbeat had stuttered in that very same way he had forbidden it to when his eyes connected with those agonisingly blue ones once again for the very first time in more than two years.

He had been able to keep a calm composure the moment he arrived in the Nikiforov mansion, had even been able to make a small conversation without a hitch at all just an hour ago and Yuuri swore to himself that those would be the most Viktor would ever get out of him.

A calm façade and polite, civilised conversations - nothing more. 

There was no way he would ever let Viktor close enough to crush him into those small, broken pieces again.

“Don’t forget what he wants, otouto.”

Minako observed her ward quietly, studying the conflicting mixture of emotions on his face as silence descended in the room.

She sighed internally when the sadness eventually won, knowing that Yuuri’s mind was already replaying that one specific memory he never could find in himself to share any particular details of.

The sting of unshed tears in his eyes. That tight, unbearable clenching in his chest as he listened to every word Viktor was telling him-

“You’re never going to have to see him again as soon as you sign that paper, Yuuri,” Minako said, tone a little gentler than what the older Katsuki had used. “Be polite and approachable, of course. You naturally are but…I think what Mari-chan is trying to say is it’d be best to keep some distance between you and him.”

The brutal way the air had been punched out of his lungs by such a simple request from the one person he had wanted to want him. The only person he knew he’d have chosen even if they hadn’t been bound by a mere piece of paper-

“Remember, you’re here for one reason.”

The words “It’s okay. I understand” burning like acid on his tongue while he had embraced Viktor, ears pressed so close to the heart he had wanted so much to beat just for him someday- 

Brown eyes dropped to the floor.

The painful up-tilt of his lips as he had smiled through it all, hugging Viktor a little bit tighter and refusing to let the tears fall just yet even when all he could think about was ‘Yes. I understand why you’d want that. It’s okay. I’ll let you go. Of course, I will. After all-

“… Yeah,” Yuuri finally said, quiet and small. “Of course.”

He was here to sign the termination contract.

-I wouldn’t choose me either.’

Yuuri could never forget.

Chapter Text


“I do not.

“…Uhuh. Sure, Viktor.”

“I don’t!” Viktor insisted. “At least not like that…”

“Right.” Christophe continued to sip his tea, the stinky side-eye he was giving him making Viktor feel twitchy.

“Honestly, Chris! I was just being a good host and listening to him talk like any other good host would do. I can’t not look at him while he’s speaking.”  

“Mhm,” Christophe nodded, looking anything but convinced.

Viktor sighed, falling back on the couch. “He’s been here for less than a day. You can’t possibly think I’m suddenly attracted to him that way.”

“Mhm,” the blonde nodded absently again, blowing at the steam rising from the porcelain cup. “Say that to the googly eyes you were giving him last night, Viktor.”

“Googly ey- I was not giving him googly eyes,” Viktor huffed, crossing his arms. 

“Of course, you weren’t,” Christophe snorted. “You were just so enraptured by his grape-eating technique that you couldn’t look away from his mouth, could you? Oh, how does one place a grape in one’s mouth and chew so well? Please, Master Yuuri, teach me your grape-eating ways for I, Viktor Nikiforov, have difficulties swallowing my thirst.”

Heat immediately rose to Viktor’s cheeks, the tips of his ears turning red. “That- it- I wasn’t- I wasn’t looking at his mouth!” he sputtered back.

Not for that long, anyway.

So what if Yuuri happened to have nice lips that Viktor had only really taken notice of while he had been eating grapes? Never mind that he had stared long enough to come to the solid conclusion that Yuuri’s lips were in fact delightfully plump and perfectly pink. It wasn’t something he’d have noticed in the past, simply because of how much Yuuri had always chewed his lips raw around Viktor when they were younger.

It wasn’t like he had been ogling last night. His eyes just happened to wonder around the room and coincidently land on a nice set of innocent lips belonging to an equally nice and innocent person. 

Nice, pink lips.

Nice, perfectly shaped lips that just puckered oh-so enticingly. Around grapes. 

…And probably much more so if they were to ever be wrapped around his-

“Hey.”

Viktor jumped out of his skin, nearly falling out of his seat at the sound of Yuuri’s voice.

Both alphas turned towards the door where Yuuri’s head was poking through. Viktor immediately banished the bad, bad thoughts to the pits of hell with a vigorous shake of his head, pulse raising like he had been caught doing something he most definitely shouldn’t have been.

“Yuuri!” Christophe grinned. “Good morning!”

“Good morning. Sorry to interrupt,” the omega said, giving the two an apologetic smile, “but Sir Feltsman said he wants to see Viktor and I quickly in the meeting room. It’s about the plans for that party in a couple of months.”

“Party?” Viktor asked weakly, trying to calm his erratic pulse.

“Yeah… the one that’s supposed to be celebrating the- um…” Yuuri hesitated, pursing his lips in thought for the correct wording, “…upcoming union of the Nikiforov and Katsuki household.” He paused, expression scrunching. “…sort of.” 

Celebrating their upcoming not-wedding. Yuuri meant celebrating their upcoming not-wedding.

“Oh.” Viktor coughed. “Party. Right. S-sure." 

Christophe refilled his cup quietly, eyes shifting between the two in silent observation before glancing back to his tea.

“Party, you say,” he piped in, giving a short hum of satisfaction as he watched the dark liquid neatly pouring out of the teapot. “Sounds fun. I do love parties,” he said with a small grin, stirring in some milk. “And I love my parties just like how I love this tea you brought here from Hasetsu, Yuuri - hot, steamy and just so délicieux.”

Yuuri laughed and Viktor poked absently at his own empty cup, blaming the slight warmth that had arisen in his stomach at the sound on the tea he had finished drinking prior to the omega’s appearance. Christophe was right - that tea had been really nice, especially with that glob of strawberry jam Viktor had mixed in.

Yuuri probably wouldn’t be so fond of the jam-sweetened tea.

“What kind of parties have you been going to, Chris?”

Christophe winked. “You’re very welcome to join me and find out for yourself.”

Yuuri shook his head, releasing another quiet chuckle before turning to Viktor once again. “You ready to go?”

Viktor nodded, rising from the couch and stretching his arms over his head. “Ready.” He began to walk towards the open doorway where the omega waited, pausing and looking back when Christophe called out to him. “…what?” he asked suspiciously, not liking the mischievous smile playing on the other alpha’s lips.

“…be sure to tell Yakov to have the kitchen pre-slice all the fruits before sending them out in that party.”

Viktor’s brows furrowed. “Why?”

Christophe lifted the cup to his mouth. “Because as your best friend, it’s my responsibility to keep you alive for as long as possible. We can’t have you suddenly dropping down dead from an unfortunate heart-attack, Viktor,” he said solemnly, taking another sip of his tea. “I mean, Yuuri eating grapes is one thing. But imagine - just imagine it, Viktor. Picture it - sitting by the table in the dining room at night again. Sitting there in near-darkness with nothing else but a candle to help you see. Are you picturing it?”

Viktor nodded in confusion, well-aware of the smirk hiding behind the rim of the cup in Christophe’s hand.

“Good. Now… imagine if instead of grapes in Yuuri’s mouth, it was a long, thick -” Viktor snagged a cushion from the couch immediately. “-juicy banan-” He threw it at the blonde’s head, glaring vehemently when the other man dodged it with ease.

Bye, Chris,” Viktor gritted out, looking flustered as he trudged out of the living room to the sound of Christophe’s laughter. He slammed the door shut with a huff, pausing at the quizzical look Yuuri sent him.

“What was he talking about?”

“Um,” Viktor shifted uncomfortably. “…Nothing at all.”

Whiskey eyes -were they always this brown?- peered up at him. “Are you allergic to bananas too?”

“What?”

“Bananas. Are you allergic to them too?” 

“No…?”

“Oh.”

“…why?”

“Well, Chris said something about a banana and a heart-attack. I thought maybe it was-” Yuuri stopped, frowning up at him. “Are you okay? You look a little…flushed.”

“…I’m fine,” Viktor gave the omega a strained smile, feeling his ears burn a little hotter. “That was just Chris being Chris. Don’t mind him.” Stupid, stupid Christophe. “Ah… shall we head off?”

Yuuri nodded slowly, appearing a little confused though choosing not to push the matter any further. He began to lead the way to the meeting room wordlessly where Yakov was patiently waiting, unaware of the pair of blue eyes glued to his back throughout the entire duration of their short, silent journey.



Yakov dipped the tip of the quill on the ink, tapping lightly to remove any excess liquid before swiftly continuing to write on the piece of paper laid out on the table. He dotted the i’s neatly, placing a full-stop at the end of the sentence before staring at Viktor blankly. 

“…sliced fruits?”  

Viktor nodded, his mouth wound up in a small, tight smile and a hint of pink on his cheeks.

“…and that’s really the only idea you have to contribute to this, Viktor?”

Viktor nodded again.

Yakov carefully set the quill down, slowly glancing at Yuuri sat some distance away from Viktor’s side. The omega shrugged lightly, giving him a “whatever you think is best, Sir Feltsman.”

The elder alpha sighed.

“I know the both of you aren’t exactly the most interested in this matter -whether that’s in relation to the actual party or what it’s supposed to celebrate isn’t important at this point. But I also know neither of you want to cause any type of uproar with what you’re about to do. So,” he picked the quill up once again, dipping the tip into the ink as he gave the two a pointed look, “act as if you are celebrating and let the people think the wedding will be commencing as normal. Make this party as extravagant as its expected to be. Then in six months, the contract can be terminated behind closed doors and any of the resulting commotion that will cause will be minimal compared to what it would be like if word of it leaks out beforehand.”

“So… during the party we act like there’s still going to be a…wedding?” Viktor asked carefully.

Yuuri shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

“Yes,” Yakov nodded. “Accept the congratulations, shake the people’s hands and keep the particular detail of the termination to yourselves. Don’t let it slip that there will be no marriage in the near-future until that termination contract’s been signed.” He quirked an eyebrow. “Unless, of course, you two want to be bombarded with questions about it for the rest of the night.”

And the rest of the year, if these two were hoping for a miracle.

Yakov stared at the two in-front of him, waiting patiently for an idea -any ideas. Big ideas, small ideas. Any details he can squeeze out of them just to make all this planning a little bit more bearable. Please, dammit- to pop out of their mouths. He sighed again when he was only met with silence, placing the quill back down on the table and regarding Viktor with a scrutinising look.

Really, why was Viktor acting so clueless about this? The younger alpha had never been one to hold back when it came to throwing the most grandiose celebrations in the past. What was so different with this one? 

“… Can we get a koi pond?”

Yakov blinked, turning simultaneously with Viktor to Yuuri who only met their questioning stares with a thoughtful expression.

“I think the guests would like it,” Yuuri elaborated. Yakov rubbed his chin in thought at the suggestion. “It’d be really pretty – something quite nice to look at if they wanted to go outside for some fresh air.”

The elder alpha released a low hum of acknowledgement, nodding as his wrist moved to write, stopping at the first stroke on the paper when Viktor spoke up. 

“…A koi pond?” he asked uncertainly and Yakov resisted the urge to pinch Viktor’s ears.

Surely, Viktor wouldn’t be opposed to building a small, simple koi pond. The koi fishes and the nice pebbles that would come with it will definitely liven the garden up a little.

“Yes, a koi pond,” Yuuri responded, glancing at the alpha beside him. “Mari nee-chan said she already missed the one from back home. I was thinking maybe something similar from the one in our manor can be built here.”

“Similar to the Katsuki manor’s koi pond?!”

Yuuri’s face immediately flattened. “…What’s wrong with our koi pond?” He lifted an eyebrow.

“N-nothing! Nothing at all!” Yakov leaned away, avoiding the sudden flaps of Viktor’s flailing arms. “I-I guess a koi pond in the garden would be fine.”

The elderly alpha nodded, pressing the tip of the quill onto the paper and beginning to write once more, listening intently to Yuuri’s detailed description of what this proposed pond could look like.

“-and then a small bridge with some railings over it. The bridge would look really nice if it connected to the pathway that’s already in the garden-”

Yakov paused, shooting up a startled glance when Yuuri swiftly moved on to the actual parameters and measurements of the pond. 

Huh. Scrap that small, simple koi pond decorated with pretty pebbles, then. More like a miniature lake. With a mini-waterfall. And some fancy, chiselled boulders.

‘Interesting.’ Yakov nodded again, forehead creasing in concentration as he squinted at the paper, trying to imagine where exactly in the Nikiforov manor’s garden this would fit.

He paused mid-sentence at the sound of Viktor’s voice, the pointed tip of the quill hovering over the parchment.

“Ah,” Viktor interjected hesitantly, giving Yuuri an apologetic look, “sorry to interrupt but um…would it be really necessary for the pond to be that big, Yuuri?”

Yuuri’s brows furrowed. “What do you mean?”

“It’s just…if it’s going to be taken down once the celebration is over,” the alpha explained, “then perhaps putting that much effort into building a replica pond like the one from Hasetsu would be a little meaningless since… it’d…um,” Viktor trailed off, mouth snapping shut upon sensing the sour mood now being emitted by the omega beside him.

Yakov’s eyes darted to the young Katsuki in time to catch the miniscule twitch underneath the omega’s eye.

“…meaningless?” Yuuri repeated blankly. Viktor swallowed. “You think our koi pond is meaningless?”

Yakov slowly leaned back in his seat, carefully placing the quill back down on the table.

Viktor wilted, looking as though he very much would like to gulp back everything he just said when Yuuri pitched forward an inch, clearly offended by what he evidently thought had been Viktor insulting the Katsuki manor’s beloved koi pond.

Yakov remained silent while he watched the two with interest - an inkling telling him that the omega’s next words, judging from that bland expression still playing on the young Katsuki’s face, would be one very much worth paying attention to.

And Yuuri, much to Yakov’s barely-concealed amusement, did not disappoint.

Brown eyes narrowed, taking the lack of a response as a confirmation that Viktor had been, in fact, belittling the Katsukis’ cherished koi pond.

“Well,” Yuuri huffed, “you want all the fruits sliced up even though I happen to like peeling my bananas by myself,” he retorted. “But you didn’t hear me complaining about that, did you?” Yuuri crossed his arms, bottom lip jutting out in a scowl that looked more like a pout.

“And besides, Sir Feltsman approves of my idea about the pond anyway,” the omega turned his chin up, the action a little too reminiscent of his older sister and for a split second, Yakov was a little lost as to which of the Katsuki siblings was actually sat there in-front of him.

Maybe this person currently glowering at Viktor was Mari Katsuki in disguise. That would make much more sense. 

So,” Yuuri continued with a thin glare, “you can leave my meaningless koi pond alone.”

Absolute silence filled the room. 

Yakov’s eyes slowly shifted to the side, landing on Viktor whose mouth hanged open, looking very much like those koi fishes in the pond that they will, no doubt about it, soon have in the Nikiforov mansion’s garden.

The elder alpha coughed behind his hand, fighting the uncontrollable urge to smirk.

Now, wasn’t that display of aggravation something?

But as with all good things, the small outburst was disappointingly short-lived. Yuuri immediately froze, blinking in rapid succession. His back instantly straightened, wide eyes snapping to Viktor in shock at the horrifying realisation of what he had just said. The omega bolted up from his seat, abruptly giving Viktor a low bow as he began to splutter out stammered apologies, turning a brilliant shade of rosy red all the way from his hairline to his collar-bones. 

Yakov listened in mild interest, gaze drifting to Viktor sitting speechless at the other side, expecting to find the same dazed reaction that had been etched on the younger alpha's face the moment Yuuri began his scolding. He faltered in slight disbelief when he caught sight of Viktor’s mouth slowly beginning to tilt up instead, the younger alpha’s shock quickly ebbing away and morphing into the ridiculously wide grin that was now creeping its way onto his lips.

Viktor beamed through Yuuri’s profuse apologies, face lighting up like a firecracker as he rocked forward from his seat, leaning towards Yuuri with a light-hearted laugh.

“Wow!”

Yakov massaged his temple, already feeling the incoming headache at Viktor’s incredulous antics.

Yuuri’s stuttered apologies increased two-fold, words flying around the room in panic and Viktor laughed good-naturedly once more, the sound bright and lively. Viktor turned to Yakov with a grin, face glowing with vibrant, overflowing elation.

“A replica koi pond with a bridge it is then, Yakov! Just like the one in the Katsuki manor!”

Yakov fought to keep his expression neutral, biting back the urge to roll his eyes at the adoring glee sparkling in the younger alpha's blue ones.

Yuuri looked on the verge of collapsing from embarrassment and Yakov took a brief moment to take pity both on Yuuri and his own sanity before seizing the quill between his fingers once more, beginning to jot things down on the paper once again with a small shake of his head.

Trust Viktor to find absolute endearment in being affronted like that.

What kind of buffoon-of-a-ward did he end up raising?



“-really, really sorry.”

Viktor shook his head, releasing another small chuckle. How long was Yuuri going to be apologising for?

“That was so rude of me,” Yuuri continued, “I was so out of line, Viktor. I really, really am sorry.” The omega stopped in the middle of the hallway, giving the alpha another low bow of apology. “Y-you don’t have to have the koi pond built if you don’t want to. It’s your garden, after all, a-and I shouldn’t have spoken to you about it like that. I’m sorry!”

“Nonsense, Yuuri!” Viktor laughed. “You can’t take it back now. The construction’s going to start tomorrow!” The same pretty shade of pink -like the strawberry icing on Viktor’s favourite vanilla cake- remained on the omega’s face despite the reassurance. “If it makes you feel any better, I took no offence in you insulting me whatsoever!”

Yuuri shrank back further, squirming beside him whilst they continued to walk towards the other end of the Nikiforov mansion, making their way to the dining hall just in time for lunch.

“I-is there anything I can do to make it up to you?”

The alpha tilted his head to the side. “Make it up to me?”

Yuuri nodded, biting his lip. “Yes.”

“How?”

“I- I don’t know.” The omega peered around the corridors. “Maybe I can clean the mansion? Dust the bookshelves in the library?” He offered tentatively. “Maybe do some of the laundry if you want?”

A startled noise escaped Viktor’s throat. “What? Why would I have you do household chores?”

Yuuri shrugged lightly, his shoulders slowly sagging as he stared at the floor.

“…Kaa-san and I help the maids back home with those sometimes.”

The alpha blinked at the information, a little surprised with how easy it was to actually imagine Yuuri doing all of those things – running around the Katsuki manor carrying a basket of fresh, clean laundry, standing on his tip-toes reaching for the old, dusty books on the top end of the bookshelves while smiling and humming to himself, delightfully happy in the comforts of-

Oh.

Viktor’s gaze slowly shifted to the side, studying the omega carefully from the corner of his vision.

The koi pond.

He took in the flicker of sadness and longing hiding behind the brown eyes, gaze softening in understanding. 

Kaa-san.

Of course.

Home.

Yuuri was already feeling homesick.

“…I see,” Viktor said, offering Yuuri a smile, one that was smaller and a little gentler this time. “Well,” he cleared his throat, “if you really want to help with those then I won’t stop you. But really, you don’t have to do anything for me, Yuuri.” 

The omega nodded, still looking at the floor as they continued their quiet walk to the dining hall.

“So… you like to read, then?” Viktor asked softly, hoping to temporarily distract Yuuri from any melancholic thoughts he was having of Hasetsu. Yuuri peered up at Viktor hesitantly, giving him a small nod. Viktor smiled again. “Me too,” he said. “What else do you like doing, Yuuri?”

Yuuri blinked at the question, face scrunching in thought as he took a moment to think.

The small smile remained fixated on Viktor’s lips when Yuuri began to answer, his voice soft and light as it drifted through the corridors. He hummed in appreciation when the omega spoke of dancing and ballet and of skating on ice, pleased when the tension in Yuuri’s shoulders slowly dissipated.

As the entrance to the dining hall finally came into view, Viktor couldn’t deny the slight disappointment that arose with the fact that their conversation was about to be cut short, thinking to himself how he wouldn’t mind spending a little more time with Yuuri like this. 

It’d be nice, probably quite enjoyable, Viktor thought, especially considering the two of them would be living under the same roof for the next six months.

"What about you?” Yuuri asked quietly, pulling him from his musings. “Do you still skate on the ice?”

Viktor glanced beside him, staring into the curious whiskey eyes peering up at him.

His lips lifted a fraction higher.

No, Viktor definitely wouldn’t mind spending more time with Yuuri. Not one bit.

Chapter Text


As it turned out, Viktor was completely right. He really, really didn’t mind spending time with Yuuri at all. Not one, single bit.

As a matter of fact, Viktor enjoyed his time with Yuuri. He enjoyed it a lot. Enough that he’d much rather spend the whole afternoon watching the omega watch the new koi fishes that were now swimming in the recently finished koi pond -big, cinnamon eyes wide in wonder behind the blue frames and mouth parted in a small ‘o’- than sit in the meeting room and entertain a bunch of Noble family Heads about some matter or another.

Yakov was going to strangle him.

At Yuuri’s side, Makkachin let out a happy bark, tail wagging in interest as she, too, watched the new koi fishes with vigour interest. Yuuri rubbed the poodle’s fuzzy head, giving a small hum. 

“Pretty aren’t they, Makkachin?” the omega smiled.

Makkachin barked once more, tongue lolling out as she leaned forward, the tip of her button nose almost touching the surface of the water.

“Nuh uh,” Yuuri gently reprimanded, pulling the poodle back from the pond slightly, “don’t lean in too close Makkachin, you might fall.” He patted her head again when she obliged without a struggle, sitting on her haunches and continuing to observe the koi fishes from that position instead.

More than 3 weeks had passed now since the construction began and the final touches to the koi pond had just been finished the prior afternoon. The whole process had taken a lot shorter than what Viktor initially expected - not that he was complaining. The pond looked… exquisite, actually. Not quite an exact replica of the one in the Katsuki manor because, hey, no other koi pond could ever match that behemoth in all its colossus glory but judging from the pleased expression on Yuuri’s face, this new one in the Nikiforov mansion seemed to be satisfactory.

Viktor studied the pond several feet away, taking a moment to appreciate the calmness that came with the new sight. 

The koi pond was indeed quite something to look at, especially with its mini-waterfall and that small, railed bridge linking directly to the garden’s pathway. And, of course, the koi fishes too.

Very peaceful. Calming and pleasantly pretty.

…Like Yuuri.

Viktor coughed.

Yuuri turned, mouth turning up in a polite smile upon spotting him. Makkachin’s tail began to wag and the poodle gave a happy bark of greeting before trudging towards him, tongue lolling out of her mouth. The alpha grinned, bending down on one knee to scratch her head before peering up at Yuuri.

“Hi, Yuuri!”

“Hello, Viktor,” Yuuri greeted back.

“Enjoying the koi pond, I see.”

“Mhm,” the omega nodded. “The constructors did an excellent job.”

“They did,” Viktor agreed, rubbing Makkachin’s cheeks. “So… you like it then?”

“Of course! It’s wonderful!” Yuuri replied.

“Excellent!”

“…What about you?” he asked tentatively, watching the eskimo kisses Viktor was now giving Makkachin. “Do you like it?”

Viktor paused, cheeks pressed against the fluffy, brown fur. “Definitely! Yakov’s certainly pleased with it too,” he nodded with a grin, hands wandering down to lightly squeeze Makkachin’s paws. “You were right – it’s quite a view!”

“That’s good,” Yuuri smiled, bending forward. “I’m glad.”

The omega patted his knees in a subtle beckon for Makkachin to come over to him again and Viktor’s mouth parted in slight awe when Makkachin happily obliged, cheerfully leaving his side with a small, eager leap as she trotted over to Yuuri.

“…Well,” Viktor mused, not quite sure what to make of his poodle’s recent displays of favouritism. “Look at you, Yuuri,” he said in amusement, “stealing my dog from me, you thief.”

Yuuri responded by pressing his cheeks onto her fuzzy head, giving the other man an innocent smile as Makkachin licked his jaw in a show of affection.

Well, Makkachin had always been quite fond of Yuuri in the past, Viktor supposed, and now that they’ve had the chance to stay with the omega for an extended period of time, it wasn’t too difficult to understand why she’s began to like Yuuri even more than before - enough that at some nights for the past two weeks, she had happily left Viktor’s side to curl next to Yuuri until dawn instead.

Must be all the belly rubs Yuuri had been giving her lately.

“Makkachin,” Viktor called out warmly, extending his arms out in invitation, “come here, girl.”

Makkachin glanced at him, tilting her head to the side before peering back up at Yuuri, looking a little conflicted on whether she should remain where she was or whether she should go to him.

“…Makkachin, you traitor,” Viktor pouted when his poodle ultimately decided to stay plopped by Yuuri’s legs.

Yuuri chuckled, giving Makkachin one last pat on the head before gently nudging her towards Viktor. She trudged towards her owner compliantly, tail wagging in excitement only to falter when Viktor crossed his arms, puffing his cheeks out and looking away in a jest display of hurt.

Yuuri watched in amusement as Makkachin stood on her hind legs, pawing at Viktor’s thighs and beginning to whine in distress at the lack of attention. The alpha’s lips twitched up slowly, a clear sign that Viktor was only seconds away from breaking his wounded charade and scooping Makkachin in his arms.

Yuuri laughed quietly when Makkachin glanced at him with big, rounded eyes.

“What is it, Makkachin?” he asked, walking closer. “Are you being ignored?”

He leaned down, resting a palm on his bent knees when Makkachin released another whine. “There, there,” he consoled, rubbing her soft, fluffy head. “Here, let’s give you a boost, shall we?”

Yuuri carefully lifted Makkachin up, arms secure and steady around her chest and abdomen as he hoisted her high enough to reach Viktor’s face. Viktor watched from the corner of his eyes, a little impressed at how effortless Yuuri made the action look, especially considering how heavy Makkachin actually was.

The alpha laughed, uncrossing his arms when Makkachin began to pepper his face with wet licks.

“Cheeky, cheeky Makkachin,” Viktor cooed, massaging the side of her fluffy face with his thumbs.

“Yuuri.”

The two stopped, turning just in time to the halting of twin sets of footprints behind them. Yuuri peered around Makkachin and Viktor, catching sight of his older sister and mentor.

He smiled warmly. “Konnichiwa, Nee-chan, Minako-sensei.”

“Konnichiwa,” Minako replied with a forward tilt of her head.

Mari nodded back slowly, an unreadable expression on her face. The older Katsuki’s eyes lingered on her younger brother momentarily before slowly shifting to Viktor.

Viktor liked to think he was making very good progress with Yuuri when it came to conversations and general interactions. Yuuri certainly seemed… comfortable enough around him now. Sure, their prior interaction with Makkachin was a lot more on the friendly side compared to the majority of their otherwise civil conversations but there was plenty of time to make ‘friendly’ the norm. Viktor was sure it’d only be a matter of time before the omega’s reserved and polite exterior will crack to reveal exactly what’s hiding underneath that small, courteous smile.

He’d already seen glimpses of a peculiar spark in those brown eyes -bright and excitingly defiant- and Viktor had known with utmost certainty the second those eyes had narrowed up at him in the meeting room weeks ago, that there must be something more in Yuuri that was waiting to be ignited.

He just knew it.

… Just like how he knew, also with utmost certainty, that Mari would readily trade these new koi fishes for some man-eating sharks and, if given the chance, gladly tie his torso to some large, chunky rocks before hauling his flailing body over that new, railed bridge.

All without so much as a twitch on that blank expression that would be staring down at him from above the water of the koi pond.

How petrifying.

Viktor withered, resisting the urge squirm under the penetrating gaze.

“…Aho.”

He remained stock-still, thinking to himself how he probably resembled a little possum in this current position right now – limbs frozen and lungs paralysed while he stared into the eyes of this predator.

This predator who’d gladly throw heavy bags at his face.

“…Your hands.”

Viktor’s gaze slowly fell to his hands, finding they had unconsciously migrated from Makkachin’s squishy face and dropped to Yuuri’s forearms. His chest jumped, abruptly hyperaware of the warmth of Yuuri’s skin seeping onto his palms.

Viktor slowly glanced back at Mari.

“Off,” the female alpha said flatly. “Now.”

He peeled his hands off immediately with a wince, taking a wide step to the side to put some distance between him and Yuuri.

“Ah…” Viktor scratched the back of his neck sheepishly, giving Yuuri an apologetic look who only dismissed it politely with a small shake of his head, carefully setting Makkachin back on the ground.

Minako poked the omega’s shoulder. “Ready for some ballet, Yuuri?”

Yuuri’s face lit up instantly at the question, nodding enthusiastically. “What’s for today, Minako-sensei?”

Minako crossed her arms, tapping her chin in thought. “Well, I was thinking we can focus on that flexibility of yours today. You said something about working on your penché?”

Penché? Huh, interesting.

Well… a good penché did require some flexible hips and rather strong legs but Viktor had a hunch that Yuuri would have no trouble in morphing his body into a perfect penché, one leg extended out and raised high above his head, delicate toes pointed up and agile arms flawlessly poised - the position just right to flaunt the firm, rounded flesh of his as-

Viktor blinked rapidly, eyes widening in shock at the audacity of his own imagination.

He glanced back at Yuuri, finding the omega’s face had suddenly fallen at his mentor’s words.

“…Flexibility?” Yuuri asked uncertainly, no longer looking too fond of his incoming practice session.

“Yep.”

“So… split-stretches today then?” Yuuri asked hesitantly.

Minako smirked. “Yep. You got that right, kiddo.”

Yuuri sighed, shoulders drooping. “Right. Splits,” he said dejectedly, oblivious to Viktor’s inner struggle in maintaining a nonchalant expression. “All day long.”

Minako laughed. “Yes. Splits,” she agreed. “Legs wide apart on the floor.” 

Viktor’s face twitched ever so slightly, unable to control his mind from conjuring the passing image of Yuuri perched on the floor, legs straight and thighs 180 degrees apart in an immaculate centre split-

“All day long, Yuuri.”

- leaning down and back arched, a bead of sweat trickling down the side of his face, cheeks flushed and brandy eyes hooded-

Viktor bit his tongue.

‘…Bad thoughts. Bad, bad thoughts.’

“And, of course,” Minako continued, “right up against the wall too.”

Viktor’s brain short-circuited -bad thoughts! Very bad!- and the alpha froze in place as his demon-mind summoned the abominable image of himself caging a smaller form against a wall, instantly becoming hyper-sensitive to the non-existent heat of strong legs around his waist and lithe arms encircling his neck that felt just a little too real.

‘Stop right there, you lizard brain!’ he commanded in internal panic.

But stop, his traitorous brain did not and Viktor was sure he was seconds away from collapsing from a stroke when his imagination ventured on to cook-up the phantom sensation of hair -soft, dark strands the colour of midnight- teasingly grazing his shoulders. He held his breath in horror, feeling the ghost press of soft lips against the underside of his jaw, wide blue eyes shooting to the grass below his feet when his-snake-of-a-brain suddenly bestowed him with the fictional sounds of Yuuri’s heated moa-

Viktor choked on his tongue -not good! Not good!- no longer able to contain the strangled noise from escaping his throat when something else further down-south abruptly twitched to life -down, boy! Down!- the confines of his trousers now feeling a little bit too tight.

Yuuri jolted, startled at the sound.

“Are you okay?” the omega asked and Viktor nodded briskly, hoping that the vigorous bobbing of his head was enough to launch these corrupted thoughts far, far away. He stopped, feeling a little bit dizzy with how hard and fast he had moved his head.

…Hah. Hard and fast. Like how his and Yuuri’s hips would be moving against that wall whilst they-

‘Fuck. Wait. No! Not fuck! Ugh, блин…’

“…I’m fine,” Viktor croaked out with a strained smile, aware of the three pairs of eyes -and probably Makkachin’s eyes too. Makkachin you, my sweet, sweet girl, really are a traitor- staring at him in a mixture of confusion, scrutiny and, likely, crippling judgement. How mortifying. “All good. Just…ah, needed to clear my throat.”

Yuuri nodded slowly, looking unconvinced as he glanced down at Makkachin in question as though she could give him a reason for the bizarre, choking noise that her owner had just let out.

“…By the way,” Minako drawled out, “Sir Feltsman’s been looking for you, Viktor.”

Viktor turned to the beta mechanically. “Oh…?”

Minako nodded, raising an eyebrow. “Yeah. Something about that meeting today?”

Meeting?

Oh. Oh yeah. Whoops.

Viktor cleared his throat. He thanked Minako quietly, finding himself incapable of meeting Yuuri’s eyes as he bade the three a hasty farewell before hurriedly walking away to the meeting room, most definitely not waddling no matter what Makkachin’s puzzled button eyes might say.

…And most definitely, definitely not thinking about Yuuri’s legs or Yuuri’s thighs or Yuuri’s anything.

Absolutely not.  



Yuuri sighed as he lounged on his bed, scanning the piece of paper Yakov had handed him earlier this morning.

It’s been a total of six weeks now. Six weeks in the Nikiforov mansion and…well, things weren’t too bad, actually.

He had stayed true to his word and kept all interactions with Viktor as friendly as he could manage - no significant mishaps excluding that minor one concerning the koi pond outburst but Yuuri liked to bury that particular incident under the carpet, regardless of what Viktor insisted had been an ‘enlightening show of spirit’, whatever that meant. Yuuri thought he was better off not understanding, honestly.

He had settled in well-enough for the most part, the regular sessions with Minako helping in setting up a daily routine for him. The hours he spent with Christophe and Viktor weren’t too bad either – tolerable and even enjoyable at some point and while Yuuri had initially preferred to keep his distance when Viktor had been around, Christophe’s presence certainly made that a little harder and soon enough, courteous interactions with Viktor began to lean towards the friendlier side of the spectrum.

That wasn’t exactly a bad thing, was it? Yuuri didn’t think so.

Nonetheless, everything had been going rather smooth and there wasn’t anything to really complain about. Though…

Yuuri stared at the piece of paper between his fingertips, the words of the finalised details for the party nothing but a blurred mess in his vision.

The party.

The godforsaken party. The one that was now only two weeks away from tomorrow. Yuuri truly was not looking forward to that celebration, not at all keen on the idea of dressing up and greeting guests that would be more strangers to him than anything and definitely not in the least bit interested in standing next to Viktor all night in-front of a horde of aristocrats with beady eyes, pretending as though being by the alpha’s side was how it’s going to be for the rest of their lives.

Nope. Yuuri was absolutely dreading it.

‘Just make the face Mari-chan always makes,’ Minako had suggested jokingly when Yuuri had confided to his mentor and his sister about it. ‘Then they’ll never even have the guts to approach you for any of that ‘congratulations' nonsense.’

Yuuri had shaken his head, burying his face into his folded arms while he laid on the carpeted floor. ‘…I don’t know what to do.’

‘Simple. You do what Sir Feltsman said,’ Mari had told him, sprawled on a cushioned chair in his bedroom. ‘Nod, smile, shake their hands and then move on to the next. And when you’ve gone through all of the guests, you can disappear. Let that baka handle them all afterwards, Yuuri. It’s his mansion anyway so he can’t vanish since he’s technically the host.’

‘Hm, that could work. But I still say try my advice Yuuri,’ Minako had interjected with a snicker. ‘There’s plenty of time to perfect imitating your sister’s death face. Your guests would end up high-tailing out of there if you greeted them with that. Then we can all just have a peaceful night.’

Speaking of that death face…’ Yuuri had mumbled, peeking up at his sister. ‘Stop scaring Viktor, Nee-chan.

‘…I have no idea what you’re talking about, little brother.’

‘….That, Nee-chan,’ the omega remembered gesturing in exasperation. That expression is what I’m talking about.’

‘What about it?’ 

‘…It freaks me out when you have that expression on your face and I’ve lived with it since I was born,’ he recalled answering, rolling his eyes when the corner of his older sister’s mouth had begun to lift up. ‘Stop using it on Viktor, Mari nee-chan. It scares him and I know you’re doing it on purpose.’

‘I am not, in any way, trying to scare that delicate snowflake on purpose,’ was what Mari insisted, façade breaking when Yuuri imitated the very same flat expression right back at her. She had snickered, springing up from her seat with a ‘it’s a good look on you, actually. Almost there but not quite yet. There’s still a few tweaks you can work on. Hah, come to me after you’ve gone through that check-list, otouto. Let’s work on making your eyes look a little icier.’

And that had been that.

Yuuri sighed again, eyes flitting over the words on the paper, not really understanding why Yakov had wanted him to check through it. He was sure Yakov would have everything perfect, anyway.

But nevertheless, a ton of food and a sea of drinks for the guests? Check.

Plenty of music and fancy decorations - all for the guests? Check.

Lots and lots of champagne on the side, also for-

“Pssst.”

Yuuri looked up from the parchment, startled to see Christophe’s head peeking through the open doorway of his bedroom.

“…Hello?”

“Yuuri,” Christophe whispered, stealing a glance behind him before peering back up at the omega. “I need help.”

Yuuri sat up immediately. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?” He frowned, placing the paper on the nightstand. “Also…why are you whispering?”

The alpha cleared his throat. “Oh, don’t worry, I’m perfectly fine. I’m just trying to avoid Viktor and Yakov,” Christophe explained, volume rising to normal.

“…why?”

Yuuri watched in confusion as a Cheshire-like grin morphed its way onto Christophe’s mouth. “Because…” he stepped fully into view, whipping out a long, thin, object from behind him and presenting it to the omega proudly like it was some mythical sword.

“Tada!”

Yuuri stared at the metal pole blankly.

“…what is that?”

Christophe’s grin widened, the pride radiating off him in blinding waves. “This, my friend, is a portable dance pole!” he paused. “Well…most of it, anyway. I still need to smuggle the base.”

“…a portable dance pole?”

“Yep!”

Yuuri tilted his head to the side. Those existed? “…okay?”

Christophe visibly deflated at his unenthusiastic reaction. “You don’t look so excited.”

The omega examined the pole. “Should I be?”

“Uh, yes!” the alpha waved the pole at his face and Yuuri leaned back in an attempt to avoid it. “It’s for your party, after all!”

Yuuri’s eyes widened. “What?”

Christophe laughed boisterously, stopping mid-way and whipping his head around the corridors to check for prying eyes. He turned back to the younger man upon finding none, stepping fully into the omega’s bedroom and shutting the door.

“Why would you get a dance pole for the party?!” Yuuri asked incredulously.

“Shhhh! Viktor and Yakov might be nearby and they don’t know about this!”

“Of course they don’t! Otherwise that thing wouldn’t even make it halfway from wherever you got it from!”

“Hey! This precious gem is going to be the definition of fun, okay!” Christophe said, clutching the pole close to his chest. He cleared his throat at Yuuri’s disbelieving look, setting one end of the pole to the floor and leaning on it. “…And um, this ‘thing’ also needs a place to hide until the day of the party. Somewhere that neither Yakov or Viktor wouldn’t even think of looking. So…” He batted his eyelashes at Yuuri purposefully.

“…no way.”

Christophe’s lips puckered. “Pretty please?”

“Nope.” The omega shook his head. “I refuse to be involved in anything to do with your stripper pole.”

Christophe let out a scandalous gasp. “It is not a stripper pole!”

“Uhuh.”

“It is an innocent portable pole built for fun dancing, thank you very much, Yuuri,” the alpha defended with a pout. “The type of dancing that is going to bring some life to that celebration of yours.”

Yuuri sat back on his bed, picking the paper back up from the nightstand. “Nope.”

“But Yuuri!” Christophe protested. “I’ll fall asleep in your party, otherwise! You’ll fall asleep!” The younger man let out a short hum in response, scanning the words in-front of him absent-mindedly. “Imagine the nonstop, repetitive ‘congratulations Lord Katsuki and Lord Nikiforov’ coming out of the guests’ mouths! This is going to distract them!” Christophe shoved the pole towards the omega again who only flicked it away, not appearing the least bit interested. Christophe huffed. “We’ll all end up diving in that koi pond of yours from the sheer boredom, I tell you, Yuuri. Is that what you want? For the dirty guests to go diving into the koi pond? Think of their diseased noble bacteria contaminating the clean water!”

Yuuri glanced up. “You’re a noble, Chris. I’m a noble.”

“Then think of your poor koi fishes! Your beautiful, innocent koi fishes! The betrayal they’ll be feeling once they realise you brought them into that majestic koi pond only for you to do absolutely nothing while their beautiful home gets invaded by ugly, naked nobles! Oh, the tragedy!”

Yuuri stared at the other man, waiting for the dramatic charade to finish.

“Come on, Yuuri!” Christophe finally whined, poking him in the belly with the pole when he didn’t budge. “Help me out here or I’ll tell Viktor that the fruit-salad bowl with the grapes came from you!”

Yuuri stiffened with a sharp inhale, mouth hanging in disbelief as he stared at Christophe in astonishment. He wouldn’t. The omega let out a groan of exasperation at the answering jut of Christophe’s lips. He would. He definitely would.

“Okay, okay,” Yuuri surrendered, standing up from his bed. “I’ll hide it in my room Chris,” he said with a sigh of defeat. “But I’m, in no way, going to be named and shamed as your accomplice in smuggling this.”

He gave Christophe a pointed look. 

“Of course! My mouth is zipped!”  The alpha held the metal stick out with a grin, happily offering it to Yuuri. “Merci!”

Yuuri shook his head, carefully taking the pole from Christophe’s hand. “You’re setting that up by yourself on the day, Chris.”

“Fine by me! Watch Yuuri, that pole’s going to be the life of the party once I find a spicy dance partner to salsa on it with.”

Salsa?

…Right.

Yuuri flexed his wrist, twisting the long pole around and examining the shiny polish of the metal rod clutched in his hand before looking up at Christophe.

“Good luck finding that dance partner, Chris,” Yuuri said sympathetically, shaking his head once again when Christophe only grinned back at him in response.

Who, in their right mind, would be shameless enough to willingly tango with Christophe on this pole? In-front of a crowd of nobles, nonetheless?

Yuuri glanced back down.

‘…Absolutely no one,’ he thought, staring absently at his reflection on the pole glinting innocently under the light of his bedroom.

Chapter Text


Yuuri winced at the light tap Mari delivered to his hand.

“Will you stop fiddling?” She said with a small glare, referring to the way he had been picking at the top button of the white dress-shirt he was currently wearing. “You’re going to end up tugging the buttons off if you continue doing that, Yuuri.”

Yuuri nodded, chewing on his bottom lip and well-aware that the jittery energy was radiating off him in waves.

Mari sighed.

“Yuuri,” she tried again wearily, watching her brother begin to fidget with his shirt’s collar instead. “You look fine.”

Yuuri shook his head, arms falling back to his side. He shifted uncomfortably in his seat. “That’s not what I’m worried about Nee-chan.”

Standing in-front of the omega, Minako tapped her chin in thought as she eyed the younger Katsuki’s hair with a frown.

“Maybe we should slick your hair back, Yuuri?” Yuuri ran a hand through his hair, glancing up at his mentor. Minako poked the side of his glasses. “You can survive the night without your glasses too, can’t you?”

He shook his head again, leaning back before Minako can tug the blue frames away. He stared at the black leather boots enclosing his feet, absently wiggling his toes inside before peering back up at the two women.

“…I don’t want to go,” he said, the unpleasant churning in his stomach that had been present since he woke up this morning twisting just a little bit more.

“Believe me, I’d take us home right now if I could, otouto,” Mari said, gently taking hold of his wrist and adjusting the cuffs on the sleeve. She pulled back, surveying Yuuri’s outfit one last time, lingering on the intricate gold design embroidering the black blazer he wore. She nodded in approval before squinting down at his hair.

“Hm. Maybe your hair should be slicked back.”

Minako nodded in agreement, picking up the comb from the table beside them.

The omega sighed as his mentor began to work on his hair, more worried about the nervous flutters in his belly and the constant dryness in his throat than his clothes.

“I’m not really too bothered about how I look, Minako-sensei.”

“Yes, I know,” Minako replied, glancing down at her ward’s anxious face, “but it’s not going to hurt anyone if you dress up like this for tonight’s occasion, Yuuri.”

Yuuri bit his lip. “…I don’t want to go.”

He really, really didn’t.

“Yes, I heard you the first twenty times you said that.”

The omega peered up at them with big, rounded eyes and Minako paused, sharing a discreet look of concern with Mari.

“Hey,” the elder Katsuki said softly, “just this night, okay? Bare it for one night and it’ll be over before you know it.”

Minako nodded, carefully slicking back the black locks. “What was it Sir Feltsman said? ‘Smile, nod, shake their hands.’ And then once all the guests are here, you can disappear. Poof. ‘Where did Katsuki Yuuri go?’ Who knows? Certainly not Mari-chan and I.”

Yuuri continued to stare at them blankly, palms itching with the imaginary feeling of the phantom handshakes from the guests, internally flinching at the thought of the impending heat of Viktor’s body standing so uncomfortably close to him and feeling the apprehensive thudthudthud of his heartbeat already thumping inside his ribcage.

Mari waved a hand in-front of her brother’s face, frowning when he only continued to stare at them owlishly. She turned to Minako who only reflected the same worried look back at her, lips tight and brows drawn together.

“Yuuri,” Mari started, bending down and gripping the omega’s shoulder. “Please stop with that look. You’re making even me nervous with that stare.”

“I don’t want to go,” he croaked back at her, unable to shake away the twitchiness in his fingertips or the dryness in his throat.

“ ‘Nod, smile and shake their hands. Say your thanks and move on to the next,’” Mari said firmly. “Repeat it.”

Yuuri hesitated. “…Nod, smile and shake their hands,” he said slowly, the constriction around his windpipe making it difficult to talk. “Um…”

“Say your thanks and move on to the next,” the female alpha offered patiently.

“…Say your thanks and move on to the next,” Yuuri repeated uncertainly.

“Good. Again.”

Yuuri bit hit tongue, blinking twice in an attempt to clear the haziness around the edges of his vision.

“Nod, smile and shake their hands,” he said once more, voice steadier and a little louder. “Say your thanks and move on to the next.”

“Excellent. Now breathe in-” Yuuri followed, inhaling deeply, “-and out.” He sighed out a breath, thankful for his sister’s encouraging nod.

Minako patted the side of the omega’s arm reassuringly. “You’ll be alright, kiddo, you’ll see. It’ll be more boring than anything else, Yuuri,” she said. “I bet you won’t even remember half of the night when you wake up tomorrow morning. That’s how smooth it’s going to be, okay?”

Mari nodded in agreement, squeezing his hand in consolation.

“You really think so?” Yuuri asked the two quietly.

“Of course,” Mari answered, giving him a comforting smile. “Besides, what’s the worst that could happen, otouto?"



Yuuri stood at the top of the stairwell alone, staring down at the steps before him, studying each one absently.

He had insisted for Minako and Mari to proceed to the Ball Room without him, assuring them that he’d be fine making his way to the entrance of the Nikiforov mansion by himself. Going to the Ball Room with them beforehand probably wouldn’t have been very good for his health, anyway.

He’d already had a glimpse of the Ball Room earlier this morning when the last of the decorations -exactly as lavish and as extravagant as they were all expected to be- were being set up. As grand and as striking as the decorations were, the sight of them did nothing but make Yuuri high-tail out of the room the moment he had peeked inside, a surge of choking panic immediately arising at the sight of the boisterous ornaments adoring every corner. He had barricaded himself in his room, staring at his reflection with wide, petrified eyes until Mari and Minako had barged in brandishing his attire for the celebration.

‘Just for tonight, Yuuri,’ were his older sister’s parting words. ‘Pretend just for tonight.’

One night.

‘Nod, smile and shake their hands,’ Yuuri reminded himself, inhaling deeply through his nose. ‘Say your thanks and move on to the next.’ He exhaled through his mouth. ‘Don’t act like anything is out of the ordinary. In the guests’ eyes, Viktor and I are still- are still-’

A high-pitched whine escaped his throat at the unwitting direction his trail of thoughts had taken.

The omega leaned against the top of the railings, thankful there was nobody else around to witness this rather embarrassing breakdown. What was wrong with him? He’s literally had years to prepare for this night.

‘Get it together.’

He peered down at the bottom of the stairwell, breath hitching at the fresh wave of dread the sight of the empty steps below him brought.

‘…why is this so difficult?’ Yuuri thought helplessly, expression crumpling when a snide voice at the back of his mind replied tauntingly.

‘…Because,’ it jeered at him, ‘right before his eighteenth birthday, you’d always imagined this night to start with him down those stairs, remember?’ The omega’s face contorted, immediately stomping down the fleeting image of Viktor standing at the bottom of the stairs with all the might he could conjure, glaring heatedly at the sparkle in the blue eyes that weren't really looking up at him.

‘Regal and perfect - exactly like he always is. Smiling up at you, his hand out and waiting for you to take it. Waiting, just for you.’ Yuuri crossed his arms with a small huff, turning his nose away at the small, gentle smile that would have been but were actually not on Viktor’s lips, gnashing his teeth at the hand that most definitely was not reaching out for hi-

“Yuuri?”

Yuuri yelped, jumping out of his skin at the very real sound of his name being called out.

The omega tumbled forward, immediately clinging to the railings in-front of him. The formulating scream at the back of his throat died down to a choked wheeze when his hands clamped onto the solid bars just in time to break what would have been quite a nasty fall.

He sighed out a breath of relief, staring down the vacant stairwell with big eyes.

The relief, however, was short-lived and the panic instantly returned two-fold when a pair of strong, warm arms encircled his waist. Yuuri bristled at the contact, hairs at the back of his neck standing on end. He began to thrash immediately, trying in vain to wiggle away from the arms encasing his torso without dislodging his hold on the railings in the process.

“Y-Yuuri! Stop! We’re both going to fall!”

The omega halted his flapping abruptly, recognising Viktor’s frantic plea.

He stared at the arms around his middle, taking a second to remind himself how to breathe again before slowly peering behind him. Ice ran down the omega’s spine upon finding Viktor’s face only inches away, chin resting on his shoulder, scent suddenly bombarding Yuuri’s nose.

‘Too close! Way too close!’

Yuuri’s ears burned at the proximity, the warmth of Viktor’s chest pressing against his back simultaneously making his blood freeze and his limbs melt.

Another choked noise escaped the omega’s throat.

Viktor blinked at the sound, staring at Yuuri in puzzlement. They stayed in that position for several seconds longer until the alpha suddenly lurched backwards, releasing the younger man promptly the moment he realised what position they had ended up in. Viktor took a careful step back, scratching the nape of his neck and regarding Yuuri with an apologetic expression. The omega turned to the older man slowly, peeling himself away from the railings and beginning to pat down the wrinkles on his shirt, attempting to regain his composure.

“I’m so sorry, Yuuri,” Viktor started, “I didn’t mean to sneak up on you. It’s just th-”

He stopped mid-sentence and Yuuri stared in confusion, raising an eyebrow in question when the blue eyes began to blink down at him in rapid succession. Several seconds of silence passed by and the omega shifted uncomfortably, fighting the urge to cover himself with his arms when Viktor’s eyes slowly surveyed his form up and down.

“Um,” Yuuri took a small step back, feeling a little self-conscious and not knowing how to interpret the expression that had now settled on Viktor’s face.

He pushed his glasses up the bridge of his nose uncertainly. Did his glasses not match his attire? Was that why Viktor was staring at him like that? Perhaps he should have listened to Minako’s advice and taken it off, after all.

“…why are you looking at me like that?” He blurted out, not really knowing how else to address the way the blue eyes seem to want to bore a hole right through him.

Viktor immediately snapped out of whatever trance he had been in at the question, clearing his throat. “You just…well,” he scratched the back of his neck again, shooting Yuuri a sheepish look. “You look…really good.”

The omega glanced down at himself, studying the gold intricately lacing his black blazer in quiet contemplation. Did he? Huh, it sure didn’t feel that way. Especially with how uncomfortably tight these clothes actually were.

Yuuri glanced back up, eyeing the other man’s equally formal attire.

…regal and perfect,’ he echoed distantly in his mind, ‘like he always is.

“…Thank you,” Yuuri replied after a tick of silence. “You too.”

They stared at one another for a long while, long enough that Yuuri had to fight down the incessant itch to fidget.

“Well then,” Viktor eventually said, finally breaking the small silence between them.

And maybe Yuuri couldn’t decipher exactly what the look that Viktor was giving him meant. Or why Viktor was even looking at him with such an unusual expression in the first place.

“Shall we get going?” The alpha asked, a small gentle smile on his lips.

But as Yuuri stared at Viktor’s hand -palm up and open in quiet invitation for him to take - Yuuri couldn’t bring it within himself to deny knowing exactly why just the mere thought of simply pretending the way they needed to do tonight was enough to make him want to bury himself underneath a cocoon of blankets.

‘This is pretend,’ the omega thought to himself, biting his bottom lip in hesitation before carefully reaching for the offered hand. ‘Just pretend.'

He repeated those words over and over in his mind, trying to remind himself of how this would all end even whilst he stared at their clasped hands, pulse unwillingly accelerating when Viktor’s fingers curled around his palm.

A tinge of fear crept up Yuuri’s spine when his heartbeat refused to slow down, feeling the flutters in his belly intensifying even more despite his internal desperation to just not feel anything towards the way their hands seemed to just fit together.

He swallowed heavily, unable to stop himself from thinking about how the warmth from Viktor’s palm now soaking into his skin -very real and truly there- was reminiscent of the heat of the morning sun that never failed to shine through his bedroom window back in Hasetsu.

Because as much as Yuuri had tried to force a cold, unclosable distance between the two of them during the last two months they had spent living under the same roof, Viktor -just like he always unwittingly was in the past- had been everything akin to gravity.

‘I can do this.’

Unwavering. Inescapable. The unrelenting force pulling him towards the centre of it all.

‘Nod, smile and shake their hands.’

Just like gravity – untouchable and out of reach.

‘Say your thanks.’

And just like gravity-

‘Move on to the next.’

-the reason for another calamity.

‘Just for tonight.’

The reason for another inevitable wreck-of-a-fall. 

‘Pretend.’


Viktor’s mouth curled up in a blinding grin. “Thank you very much for coming!” He cheerfully welcomed the guests ascending the small flight of stairs at the entrance of the Nikiforov mansion. “Please, enjoy the night!

“Oh,” an elderly Noble woman cooed fondly, “aren’t you two just perfect!”

‘…Minako-sensei, Mari nee-chan, you’re both wrong,’ Yuuri thought bleakly, giving the unfamiliar couple a grateful smile of his own. “Thank you!”

This wasn’t going anywhere near as smooth as his mentor and his sister had reassured him it would be. Not one bit.

His hands were as clammy as he had feared they would be, his throat ached from the infinite amount of times he had said ‘thank you’, ‘we’re so grateful you could make it! Welcome to the Nikiforov Mansion’ and ‘enjoy the evening’ and he was pretty sure he had sweat patches all over his body. Even his cheeks were hurting from the near-permanent smile currently etched on his face.

It was exactly the way Yuuri had dreaded it would be.

How long did he have to keep doing this for?

The omega tugged at the collar of his shirt in an attempt to cool his body down, taking a small glance at Viktor beside him. He withered even more upon finding the older man in immaculate condition, the smile on his face pristine and just as bright as when this night started. How was Viktor doing that? This whole ordeal was far too exhausting to be able to keep such a lively attitude for this long.

“Hello!” Viktor greeted once more. “Welcome to the Nikiforo-” he paused, trailing off without finishing his words and Yuuri brows shot up, slightly startled to witness the polite, welcoming grin on the alpha’s face suddenly being replaced with something a little more on the sour side of the spectrum.

“…Hello there.”

The omega blinked, turning slowly at the low, smooth voice coming from shadow now looming in-front of them.

‘What?’

“Well, aren’t you beautiful.”

Crystal blue eyes glinted down at him, the colour several shades paler than Viktor’s own.

‘Beautiful?’

Yuuri coughed, realising the compliment had been directed at him. He gave the guest -clearly an alpha- a small, courteous smile, surveying the lean build, pale skin and dark blonde hair.

“Hello,” he said politely, extending his hand out for the same handshake he had greeted every guest with. “Thank you for coming.”

Yuuri froze when, instead of shaking his hand like all the previous guests had done, the blonde-haired stranger delicately brought his hand to his lips. He watched in morbid fascination as the unnamed guest planted a tender kiss on his knuckles, the contact lasting a second longer than what anyone would have been comfortable with and worsened by how those pale, blue eyes remained fixed on his face throughout the entire exchange.

…What a weirdo.

“You’re very welcome, beautiful,” the stranger said. “My name is Mikhail. Mikhail Kulev.” He flashed Yuuri a lopsided smirk, rubbing a thumb over the omega’s knuckles affectionately.

“…Nice to meet you,” Yuuri said curtly, peeling his hand away carefully and restraining himself from wiping his knuckles onto his shirt. “Enjoy the evening.”

He shivered internally when Mikhail’s smile widened, the unnerving gaze roaming his body far, far too suggestively.

“It would be very difficult not to.”

Creep.

Definitely a weirdo and a creep.

Great.

Yuuri’s lips dipped, the corner of his mouth twitching with the strain to keep the polite smile on his face. Mikhail strolled forward, brushing passed them haughtily to enter the Nikiforov mansion and Yuuri took a quick, minuscule step away, too uncomfortable with the leering presence to pay any heed to the way he bumped into Viktor’s side.

Several moments of silenced elapsed, Mikhail Kulev seemingly being the last one to arrive for that particular batch of guests.

 “…глупый человек,” Viktor finally muttered under his breath. 

Yuuri’s head whipped to the side. “What?”  

“…nothing.” 

The omega lifted an eyebrow at the carefully blank expression now playing on Viktor’s face. “You know him?” 

Viktor pursed his lips. “…Somewhat,” he replied. “Mikhail Kulev,” he said like the name was supposed to mean something to Yuuri. He paused, nose scrunching in distaste. “I don’t like him.” 

Yuuri didn’t respond, temporary occupied with rummaging through his memories for anything concerning the name Kulev. There was no particular event that stuck out to him where the name Kulev had been particularly important though the name did still sound somewhat familiar even if he couldn’t pinpoint exactly why. Perhaps his parents had mentioned them offhandedly in the past. 

Mikhail Kulev.’ Yuuri sighed internally. ‘Well, I guess I’ll be avoiding him for the night too.’ 

“…Yuuri?” 

“Mhm?”

Viktor shifted uncomfortably. “I’m sorry but… um,” he coughed out and Yuuri frowned at the alpha’s pinched face and tightened lips. What did that particular expression mean? “You um… You’re kind of-” What now? Was there something on his face? On his hair? “…You’re stepping on my foot.” 

Oh. 

Yuuri’s eyes snapped downwards, finding his booted heel imbedded right on top of Viktor’s foot. He jumped away, cheeks burning red as he spluttered out a stream of apologies.

“It’s okay, it’s okay!” The alpha reassured with a small laugh. “I’d have wanted to move away as fast as I can from that stup- from Kulev too if it had been me, haha!”

Yuuri nodded, cheeks still aflame despite the reassuring words.

“Well, it looks like that’s the end of that round,” Viktor commented, eyeing the open gates currently deserted of any incoming visitors. “There should be more guests coming soon.”

Yuuri stared at the ground, shoulders tense and throat feeling parched.

More guests. When was this going to end?

“Is it okay if I can go inside for a quick drink?” the omega asked quietly, fingertips tingling from the imaginary sensation of the upcoming endless handshakes he’d have to make again. “My throat is a little dry.”

Viktor smiled. “Of course. Go ahead.”

“Would you like anything?”

Viktor shook his head. “It’s okay, I’ll have something once all the guests are here. Thank you though.”

Yuuri nodded, turning on his heels and silently making his way to the Ball Room alone.



Brown eyes scrutinised the glass of champagne currently being offered to him.

“Come on, just one glass,” Minako insisted, shoving the glass closer. “Relax a little more, Yuuri. You’re still too tense.”

Yuuri shook his head, searching the room for the tables of drinks. Where was the water?

“One glass isn’t going to hurt,” Minako chided, playfully wiggling the champagne glass in-front of his face.

“Minako-sensei, I need water, not champagne,” the omega replied, leaning away from the beta.

“The water’s all the way in the other side of the room, Yuuri. But this delicious champagne on the other hand…”

Yuuri shook his head once again, leaving Minako’s side and bee-lining for one of the large tables containing an array of beverages and bite-size food on the other side of the room. He smiled politely at the guests he passed by, idly listening to the calming orchestral melody playing in the background as he trudged towards the table, thinking about how Christophe must be so disappointed with the music. This type of music wasn’t exactly the sort that would encourage someone to grind against a metal pole.

Perhaps Christophe’s beloved stripper pole wasn’t going to make its appearance tonight then, after all.

Well. That’s… a shame. Sort of.

Yuuri smiled to himself upon reaching the table at last, happy to finally be able to gulp down some fresh, ice-cold water after hours of standing outside. His fingertips grazed the edges of one of the highball glasses, hand just about to clamp around it when-

Oi!

Yuuri’s eyes widened as a sharp pain blossomed at the side of his thigh, the well-aimed kick causing him to lose his balance and tumble on the floor.

“You свинья!” An angry, familiar voice growled out. “How dare you?!”

Yuuri stared up at the perpetrator, mouth agape in astonishment.

“Hey!” A feminine and equally familiar voice chastised, the sight of bright red locks the colour of burning embers suddenly coming into view. “You can’t go around kicking people like that! Especially not Yuuri!” 

“Yes, I can, old hag!” The shorter one argued, short blonde hair obscuring almost half of his face. “More than two years since he disappeared without a word and he couldn’t even be at the door to greet us tonight!” Angry, green eyes narrowed down on the omega. “I should have kicked you on the face, Katsudon!”

Delight bloomed in Yuuri’s chest, his mood immediately lifting at the sight of the two, familiar faces above him.

“Mila!” He laughed whilst Mila helped him to his feet. “Yurio!”

“Don’t call me that, Katsudon!” Yuri snapped, shaking a fist at him. “Who do you think you are vanishing without a word after the old man’s birthday, huh?! And then disappearing like that for almost three years?! You sh-”

Mila clamped a hand over the teenager’s mouth, releasing a small chuckle.

“Don’t mind him, Yuuri. He’s just a little upset you weren’t at the door to greet him.”

Yuri struggled in Mila’s arms, muffled protests unintelligible as his ears turned a bright red.

The omega smiled gently. “I missed you guys too,” he said, eyes softening.

Mila grinned widely, surging forward and tightly engulfing Yuuri in her arms. “Oh, Yuuri! Look at you!” 

Yuuri laughed, wrapping his arms just as tightly around her. “Me? What about you? You look amazing!”

She shook her head, red curls bouncing on her shoulders. “Nothing compared to you!”

Brown eyes fell to the shorter form pouting at the side, observing the longer hair in wonder. Wow. The top of Yuri’s head was passed his shoulder now.

“Yurio,” he said warmly, noting in amusement that the same, jutted scowl able to make even the bravest soldier cower was still ever-present on Yuri’s face.

The blonde grumbled under his breath, pointedly crossing his arms and turning his chin away.

Mila rolled her eyes at the display, pinching Yuri’s cheek. “Quit being a brat. Yuuri’s here now so you can stop mopping.”

“Uhuh,” Yuuri agreed with a grin of his own. “That’s right Yurio. You can stop mopping now.”

Yuri gnashed his teeth at the omega with a snap and Yuuri laughed, stepping behind Mila to avoid Yuri’s lunge for his torso, not wanting to take any chances on being thrown on the floor again.

“Shut it, Katsudon! Or I’ll throw you all the way to where the old man’s at!”

Mila giggled upon hearing that, glancing over her shoulder to give Yuuri a cheeky look.

“Weeell,” she started coyly.

..Oh no.

“I don’t think being sent to where Viktor is would be too much of a problem, would it Yuuri?” she said, wagging her eyebrows. “And before I forget-”

No, no, no-

“Congratulations on your engagement!” Mila cheered, giving Yuuri another tight embrace.

Yep. Yep, there it was. 

“…A-ah,” Yuuri smiled hesitantly. “Thank you…?”

“How are you feeling about that?! Future Yuuri Nikiforov?”

Yuuri swallowed audibly at the name. He chuckled nervously, eyes darting to Minako’s approaching form and hoping no one noticed how strained the smile on his face had become.

“Um,” he answered weakly, eyeing the full glass of champagne still held between his mentor’s fingers. “Very… excited?” he said, trying to push down the familiar churn of dread that was once again flipping his stomach inside out. He really should return to the mansion’s entrance. For sure, Viktor was already greeting new arrivals without him there.

“I bet you are!” Mila continued merrily, oblivious to her friend’s inner struggle. “I can already imagine the wedding! Oh, it’ll be so magical, Yuuri!” she squealed. “You and Viktor! Finally!" 

Yuuri nodded slowly, eyes falling to the floor. 

“Yeah…” he said faintly. “Me and Viktor.”

“Ugh,” Yuri interjected, sticking his tongue out in mock distaste. “You and the old man. Exactly how you’re going to deal with Viktor and his stupid forehead for the rest of your life, I don’t ev- ow!”

Yuri rubbed the red mark now adorning his forehead from where Mila had flicked him, sending the taller woman a glare. Mila ignored the glower in favour of turning back to Yuuri with a grin, deep blue eyes alight with excitement. 

“Sooo, what exactly are you two planning for the wedding then, Yuuri? Tell me all about it! Maybe I can help with a few details.”

Yuuri stared at the glass of champagne in Minako’s hand, observing the tiny bubbles fizzing on the pale liquid.

Maybe Minako was right. One glass wouldn’t hurt, would it? Even two would be fine, right?

“Lord Katsuki!”

Or better yet, a whole bottle.

The omega’s head snapped up, immediately stiffening when he was greeted by the sight of a crowd forming a circle around him, finding the room’s attention now honed in on himself. How that alone hadn’t made him bolt out of the Ball Room, he would never know.

“Congratulations on your engagement, Lord Katsuki!”

Yuuri’s blood froze in his veins as the horde of guests closed in, words of compliments at some form or another flying around the room. Majority of the guests nearby offered him congratulatory smiles, some kept their distance and observed him from afar whilst the more snobbier ones blatantly analysed him with a critical eye.

‘…Why did I decide to come here again?’

“Have you decided on where the wedding will be held, Lord Katsuki?” An elderly noble asked, her tone kind and soft.

Yuuri remained static from where he stood, smile frozen stiff on his face and chest thumping like a drumbeat.

…Pretend.

“Perhaps you two are contemplating celebrating in Hasetsu?” Another guest offered.

Yuuri’s knees buckled as he swayed slightly on his feet, throat closing up and feeling very much like a trapped little deer at the onslaught of questions about his and Viktor’s ‘engagement’ and plans for their ‘upcoming wedding’.

He gazed down at the glass of champagne perched innocently in his mentor’s hand.

Pretend. Pretend, pretend-

“Oh! The Sakura season in Hasetsu is indeed quite a remarkable sight! Wouldn’t a wedding during the Sakura season just be so enchanting!”

Pretend, goddammit!’ Yuuri wailed helplessly in his head, snatching the glass of champagne from Minako’s grasp and swallowing the content in one, single gulp.



Viktor frowned in concern, walking down the empty hallway in a hurry, having promptly left his post at the mansion entrance the moment the last person of the most recent round of guests had entered.

This evening had been draining, to say the least. Too tiring and far too tedious for such a simple task as standing by the porch and shaking the hands of an endless number of well-dressed strangers.

Though admittedly… as uncomfortable and awkward as the whole ordeal was, having Yuuri standing by his side certainly made up for it.

Tight-lipped, quiet Yuuri. But also, still a very kind and still a very pretty Yuuri.

Yes, having Yuuri next to him all evening had definitely been the highlight of tonight. The younger man’s comforting scent had definitely been soothing despite it being edged with a slight tint of anxiety, not that he can blame Yuuri for feeling that way, especially with how every single guest seemed to be intent on greeting them with the words ‘congratulations’, ‘engagement’ and ‘wedding’ thrown in the mix.

How awkward.

More guests were definitely on the way, Viktor was sure. Perhaps two, maybe even three more sets were due to arrive sometime this evening. Phichit Chulanont wasn’t even here yet but Viktor couldn’t wait outside by himself any longer, worried that something bad happened when the omega failed to return.

It’s been more than an hour now.

Where did Yuuri run off to?

Viktor’s pace quickened when the distant sound of the music from the Ball Room reached his ears.

Huh. The music definitely sounded a lot more… upbeat than what he had been expecting. Less on the calm, melodic side and more on what Christophe would probably enjoy. What in the world happened to the orchestra?

The alpha shook his head at himself. If the guests preferred this then he supposed he really couldn’t complain. Variety was always good anywa-

“-challenging me?!”

Viktor’s foot hovered over the floor mid-step.

He paused, blinking at the awfully familiar voice overriding the loud music. ‘…Yurio?’ He rubbed the side of his arm absent-mindedly, still feeling the tenderness from where the younger boy had punched him in greeting a little more than an hour ago.

“-dance off, pig!”

That…didn’t sound so good.

‘Dance off?’ Viktor frowned. ‘What dance off?’

The alpha entered the Ball Room swiftly, staring at the sea of people in-front of him and slightly taken back by the sheer number of guests currently inside. Was that how many people they had already greeted tonight?

Blue eyes squinted at the mass of guests, surveying the room carefully for anything that was out of place. Yakov had been meticulous about every detail for tonight’s celebration and should anything go wrong, it will be Viktor bearing the blunt of the blame, no doubt about that. 

Everything seemed normal enough despite the somewhat... inappropriate music. The decorations were set up exactly as Yakov had planned, there was definitely more than enough food and drinks to keep everyone satisfied and- and-

Hm.

That mass of a crowd forming a large, compact circle at the centre of the room certainly was not normal.

Neither was Yuri’s voice erupting right from the middle of it.

Viktor frowned, straining to see what it was exactly that had enraptured everyone’s attention.

“Viktor!”

The alpha twisted around, finding a grinning Christophe standing behind him.

“There you are!” the blonde greeted. “Where have you been? You’re late! The party’s already started!”

Viktor didn’t respond.

“…What are you looking at, Viktor?”

Viktor’s brows furrowed, staring at the long, metal pole currently clutched in his best friend’s hand.

“Hey…stop staring at me like that.”

“…why do you have a pole, Chris?” 

“…Becaaause,” Christophe drawled out, cradling the pole to his chest.

Viktor waited for him to continue, suspicion immediately mounting when the other alpha didn’t elaborate any further. “Chris…” he began slowly, “what’s that pole for?” 

Christophe batted his eyelashes at him, tilting his head to the side innocently. 

Viktor’s eyes narrowed immediately. “Chris…”

The blonde huffed, setting one end of the pole on the floor. “Yuuri told me to set it up!”

What?

“…Set what up?”

What the hell was happening now?

“…The portable dance pole,” Christophe murmured quietly.

Right. The portable dance pole.

…The portable dance pole.

“The p-portable-” Viktor spluttered. The what? “W-why in the world would you have that here? Of all places!”

Yakov was going to strangle all of them before this night ended.

“Yuuri said I could!”

“Yuuri would not give you permission to have that here!”

Where was Yuuri?

Christophe crossed his arms, turning his chin up and for a brief moment, Viktor was reminded of a little, pouting child.

“That’s what you think, Viktor.”

Viktor massaged his temple, attempting to prevent the incoming headache. “You’re not setting that up, Chris.”

“Yes. Yes, I am,” Christophe retorted haughtily, emphasizing each word with a tap of the pole-end on the floor. “Because I-” he puffed his chest out, quirking an eyebrow at his friend, “-will be drunk dancing on it in a couple of minutes.”

“You’re not even drunk,” Viktor hissed back, fighting the urge to tackle the other alpha and grab the pole himself before anyone else in the room had a glimpse of it.

“Ah!” Christophe suddenly grinned. “Indeed, I am not! But Yuuri is and-” the blonde stopped himself, eyes comically widening as he slapped a hand to his own mouth.

Viktor stared at Christophe in confusion. “Yuuri is what…?” he asked, suspicion intensifying when the other alpha didn’t answer. He shook his head, remembering why he had left his position by the mansion’s entrance in the first place. “…Where’s Yuuri?” Viktor asked wearily, a dreading hunch telling him that Christophe definitely knew the answer to that question.

Christophe’s arm fell back to his side to reveal a small smirk snaking its way along his lips. Wordlessly, he pointed to the crowd and Viktor’s eyes followed immediately, passing through the ocean of faces and landing right into the middle of the ring of guests.

He stared.

And stared.

And stared some more.

“Isn’t he even more amazing when he’s drunk?!” Christophe laughed. “He was the one who said it was time for the pole!”

Viktor didn’t say anything, attention wholly fixated on the hurricane of a person currently spinning in the middle of the Ball Room floor.

He stared, lips parting in awe at the random flips and spins being demonstrated before the entire room, instantaneously mesmerised by every twist and every turn from the agile body in-front of him, spellbound by every ripple of movement from the lithe limbs.

Yuuri was… drunk. Yuuri was completely, utterly drunk.

And really, Viktor ought to stop the omega from moving around so fast before he ended up hurting himself, ought to whisk Yuuri away from the prying eyes of these gobsmacked strangers and let him sober up upstairs like a good ‘fiancé’ would do.

But Viktor could not even bring himself to move towards the crowd – couldn’t even take one, single step forward. Not when he was witnessing the breath-taking sight of those brown, brown eyes being so brightly lit – so, so alive in a way that Yuuri wouldn’t have let Viktor see otherwise.

Viktor’s gaze softened as he continued to watch from afar, absorbing every little thing Yuuri did and carving all of it into his memories – memorising every detail he could including the way Yuuri curled his toes so delicately when he was upside-down on a handstand and the way that little bead of sweat trickled down the side of his face. 

Yuuri was… happy.

He was having fun – shoulders relaxed and face alight with glee.

A contrast to the Yuuri, normally so composed and collected, Viktor had come to know in the past two months. A different side to the Yuuri that had been teeming with tension standing next to him less than a couple of hours ago.

Yuuri, right now, was… comfortable and carefree, never mind being completely intoxicated out of his mind.

The alpha listened attentively to the pealing sound of Yuuri’s chiming giggles echoing throughout the room, own lips slowly lifting up in a soft, warm smile as he watched Yuri angrily stomp forward, blonde hair in a messy disarray with a cheering Mila spurring him on. A laughing Minako, appearing to thoroughly enjoy her ward’s delightful show of talent, was at the side-line with Mari standing beside her, scrutinising her brother’s drunken antics with squinted eyes.

Viktor continued to observe Yuuri from a distance, his smile never faltering even for a second, completely unaware, once again, of the hazel eyes studying him at the side.

Christophe cleared his throat, turning back to the crowd and raising the pole over his head.

“Yuuri!” he called out over the music, waving the metal stick around. “I have the pole!”

Yuuri jumped back to his feet mid-headspin, letting out a loud gasp. Bright, brown eyes lit up even more at the sound of Christophe’s voice and Yuuri tumbled towards the direction of the two alphas, lips twisted up in a lopsided grin.

He trudged towards the two, pink-cheeked and swaying all the while – quite extraordinary, Viktor thought, for someone who was just executing mind-bending coordination with their limbs a minute ago.

Viktor leaned forward automatically when the omega tumbled, arms outstretched and ready to catch the younger man should he actually fall.

He faltered, freezing in his tracks the moment Yuuri’s eyes landed on him.

Viktor’s arms swung back to his side wordlessly, perplexed at the abrupt dipping of Yuuri’s lips, not knowing why those brown eyes -glossy and a little unfocused- were now suddenly narrowed so vehemently at him.

“…You.”

Viktor gulped, a trickle of fear crawling down his spine at the venom in Yuuri’s voice.

‘…what did I do?’

“Hey!” Yuuri snapped when Viktor failed to respond immediately, tone coming out slurred as he glowered at the older man. “I said ‘you’!”

Viktor’s back straightened.

“Ah… me?” he asked, giving the younger man a weak and -hopefully- placating smile.

Yuuri huffed, swaying closer. “Yes! You!”

“Yes, me-”

Shhh! Quiet!”

Uh oh.

Viktor’s mouth snapped shut, teeth colliding together with a clang. Wide, blue eyes peered down at Yuuri, ignoring Christophe’s bubble of laughter in the background.

“Aaall I wanted-” the omega began, nose scrunching adorably as he pointed at himself with his thumbs. He wobbled closer- close enough that the smell of alcohol was apparent in every uneven breath he took.

Viktor swallowed, heart pounding nervously in his chest at the unfamiliar close proximity between the two of them.

‘…Goodbye, drunk, happy, dancing Yuuri. Hello, drunk, angry, Yuu-’

Oi! Are you listening, Viktor?!”

Viktor nodded rapidly, eyes widening at the explosive outburst.

Yuuri’s lips jutted out in an exaggerated pout. “I said all I wanted-” he continued, words loud and slurred as he glared up heatedly at the older man. There was an extended pause as Yuuri blinked at himself in sudden contemplation and Viktor struggled not to move a muscle, not even daring to blink as he waited for Yuuri to finish, hyperaware of everyone’s attention currently engrossed on the two of them.

“Aaall I wanted-” Yuuri drawled out once more after a second of thought, rosy cheeks puffing out once again. What? What was it Yuuri wanted? “-was to eat katsudon with you!”

…Oh.

“K-katsudon?” Viktor stammered out. Was that it? “S-sure, Yuuri,” he nodded, “we can eat some katsudon.”

“No! No, we can’t!” Yuuri protested with a vigorous shake of his head, almost toppling over. He scowled at Viktor upon regaining his balance, lightly slapping the alpha’s hands away for trying to catch him.

“You only eat katsudon with the people you love!” Yuuri continued with a huff. “And I-” he smacked his palms onto his own chest, the force hard enough to make his ribcage vibrate, “-definitely, definitely do not love you!”

…Wow.

“I don’t even like you!”

Wow.

“T-that-” Viktor sputtered. That hurt! Yuuri didn’t even like him?! And he thought he had been doing so well in, at the very least, making the omega warm up to him!

“Well, that’s no good, Yuuri!” Mila laughed as she emerged from the crowd, giving Viktor a small grin and a wave. “You’re going to be marrying Viktor soon! You must at the very least like him!”

Yuuri’s head lolled towards her. He blinked slowly, face scrunching in deep, deep thought.

“Hmm,” he said, squinting at Mila, lips puckered out in consideration. Viktor watched in fascination as his expression abruptly lit up like a light bulb once more, eyes widening in triumph. “Nuh uh,” Yuuri snickered, shaking his head with such ferocity that Viktor was sure he’d have to catch him before he fell to the floor again. “I don’t have to like Viktor, Mila.”

“Oh?” Mila chuckled, delighted in entertaining her friend’s drunken behaviour. “And why not Yuuri?”

“ ‘caaause…” Yuuri smirked at her, hands on his hips and his chest out, face flushed and looking absolutely elated with his answer. “Viktor and I aren’t getting married.”

Mila’s smile dropped instantly.

Viktor adjusted the collar of his shirt, tugging it away from his neck so that he can actually breathe. 

Well. 

…Shit.

Blue eyes slowly peered around the Ball Room, surveying the sea of faces one by one, carefully flicking through the mixture of expressions -confusion, incredulity, shock, disbelief and… elation? What? Ugh, that stupid Mikhail- staring back at him.

If the silence hadn’t been deafening before, it definitely was now.

Yuri approached from the crowd, face still a little sweaty from his earlier shenanigans with Yuuri. Green eyes peered at the two in question curiously.

“…Why not, Katsudon?” Yuri asked quietly.

Yuuri’s grin widened at the question. “Becauuuuse,” he drawled out, head flopping back to Viktor’s direction. “Viktor asked me to sign the termination contract!”

Viktor remained motionless, mouth clamped shut as he stared at the omega in astonishment. 

Drunk Yuuri was dangerous.

 ‘…I could use a drink,’ the alpha thought faintly in the peculiar silence that had once again engulfed the room for the umpteenth time. ‘A whole gallon of vodka would be thoroughly appreciated right now.

“Sooo,” Yuuri continued, pointing a finger at the speechless red-head. “I don’t have to like him, Mila! Not even a little bit!” He giggled. “Hahaha-”

Viktor almost choked on his own tongue when the bubbles of laughter unexpectedly trailed off into a small, quiet sob. Yuuri’s lower lip trembled, brows suddenly scrunching as he burst into tears. Viktor twitched, fingertips trembling and muscles tensing at the sight. He commanded his feet to stay planted where they were, fighting against the uncontrollable urge to surge forward and engulf Yuuri in his arms in a bid to make the tears stop. 

He didn’t like Yuuri crying. He didn’t like it at all.

“Ara…” Mari sighed distantly in exasperation, smacking her palm onto her forehead. The elder Katsuki shook her head in defeat, trudging past Viktor and exiting the Ball Room. Minako trailed behind her, muttering something about ‘Toshiya-san and his drunk genes.’

“W-wait,” someone called out. Had that been Georgi? “What about Yuuri? Aren’t you going to stop him?”

“Hah, stop a drunk Katsuki?” Minako snorted. “Good luck with that!” she said with a dismissive wave, disappearing down the corridors.

Something clenched in Viktor’s chest at the sight of the trembling shoulders, helplessness grappling at him at the little hiccups accompanying every exhale escaping Yuuri’s throat.

“Viktor,” Mila said quietly, “is that true…?”

His gaze flitted over to her momentarily before slowly returning to Yuuri.

“Why the fuck would you ask for that, old man?”

“Are you two really not going forward with th-”

“-ermination contract? But why wo-”

Viktor ignored the sudden torrent of whispers that was now sweeping through the room, his attention remaining fixed on the trickle of tears cascading down Yuuri’s cheeks. 

“Does that mean he’s going to be-”

“-anyone can court him after-”

“Nikiforov’s not going to be his alpha? So, can I-” 

He tuned it all out, solely focused on the trembling of Yuuri’s lips. He approached the omega slowly, every step feeling heavier than the last as the scent of distress became stronger with the closing distance. 

Doe-like eyes peered up at him, the brown in the iris completely flooded with tears. 

“…I j-just wanted to eat some katsudon with y-you, you stupid baka.”

Viktor gave in to the tugging gnawing at him, encasing Yuuri in his arms tightly.

“We’ll go eat katsudon together, Yuuri,” he said softly, uncaring for the dozens of eyes still watching them. “As much katsudon as you want.”

The younger man blinked up at him. “We will?”

Viktor nodded, smiling gently as he wiped the tears away with his thumbs. “Yes, of course we will.”

Fondness blossomed in his chest at Yuuri’s responding grin, the omega appearing momentarily placated before he blinked up at Viktor once more, the smile dropping.

“…But I only wanna eat katsudon with my alpha.”

...Yuuri’s alpha?

Viktor’s heart stuttered at that.

‘Of course…’

Yuuri’s alpha. Sometime in the future, Yuuri was going to have someone stay by his side.

Someday, someone will be able to call this warm, precious soul theirs.

Someone that wasn’t Viktor.

Viktor bit his lip, pushing away the strange, unsettling feeling that came with that thought.

Yuuri’s forehead wrinkled, sensing the small fall in the other man’s mood. He tilted his head to the side, delving through the mush clouding his thoughts for a solution before his face lit up once again, eyes twinkling up at Viktor in excitement upon finding one.

“Aha!” Yuuri laughed. “I got it!”

The omega gushed forward, wrapping his arms tightly around Viktor’s torso and wiggling in glee. He giggled, the chiming sound making Viktor’s heart skip a beat or two. 

Brown eyes sparkled up at Viktor in a blinding beam.

“Be my alpha, Viiiktoooor!”

Warmth blossomed in Viktor’s chest, something inside his ribcage giving an abrupt lurch upon hearing those words. 

…Yes,’ the alpha whispered quietly in his mind, his thudding heartbeat screaming his answer loud and clear.

‘Yes, I can be that.’  

Viktor released a quiet sigh of breath, eyes softening and heat rising high on his cheeks.

‘I’ll be anything you want.’

Chapter Text


Lashes the colour of midnight fluttered as Yuuri began to float back into consciousness. He craned his neck to the side slowly, trying to avoid the sunlight hitting his face as he shut his eyes tighter. The omega stifled a groan, regaining sensation from his stiff muscles and rigid bones, painfully aching limbs twitching underneath the sheets. He attempted to open his eyes, giving up after several seconds after his eyelids refused to cooperate.

The thumping headache currently hammering through his skull became more and more prominent with the distinct echo of a giggle resounding in the room – the sound mischievous and familiar.

“-akey wakey-”

Yuuri’s eyes snapped open forcefully at the chiding voice, going cross-eyed at the close proximity of the bright, charcoal coloured eyes peering down at him.

He sat up abruptly as Phichit leaped back just in time to prevent their foreheads from colliding.

Yuuri’s head spun at the combination of the sudden movement and the blinding white light coming from the open windows, collapsing back down on the bed with a quiet groan at the stabbing pain piercing through the back of his skull.

Brown eyes stared groggily at the ceiling above him, internally scowling at whoever it was that had left the curtains and the windows wide open when the dizzyingly bright sunlight continued to shine down on him, making his surroundings appear annoyingly vivid and sharp.

“Good morning!”

The omega remained flat on his back, unmoving and making no indication of hearing Phichit beside him.

“Hey!” Phichit began to prod his cheek incessantly and Yuuri squinted, pretending not to feel the small jabs being delivered to the side of his face. “Don’t ignore me, Yuuri!”

Yuuri stared at the small chandelier hanging from the ceiling. He did not like that particular twinkle in his best-friend’s eyes. It looked too suspicious.

Devilish, even.

He racked his brain for something from the previous night, anything at all, that could have entertained Phichit so much only to freeze at the sinking realisation that he couldn’t even remember greeting the beta last night.

He couldn’t remember much at all, actually. 

‘What the hell…’

A dawn of fear began to eclipse the omega’s fogged mind at the lingering memory of empty champagne glasses and champagne bottles, sinking further into the mattress at the dim flash of a large crowd closing in. But then… but then-

There was no recollection as to exactly why his muscles felt like they were made of jelly or why his limbs felt as though they were ready to separate from their sockets if he so much as moved. He couldn’t even remember Phichit arriving.

…Dammit. What happened this time?

 “Phichit,” Yuuri croaked out, throat on fire as he took a slow inhale through his mouth.

He froze immediately when his breath hitched, catching on his throat with a choked gurgle as he began to gag, stomach starting to clench.

“Wait, Yuuri, wait!” Phichit called out in sudden alarm, flailing around the room to look for some type of bucket at the tell-tale sign of an incoming puking episode. “Hold it for just a second!”

Yuuri closed his eyes when the room began to spin, vehemently pushing down the need to throw up with all his might. He was not going to vomit in one of Viktor’s guest rooms, no way. Not if he could help it.

Several seconds of tense silence passed before brown eyes cracked open once again.

“Here, have some water,” Phichit said as he poured a glass of cold water from the pitcher on the nightstand. Yuuri sat up slowly, the need to throw up seemingly being suppressed successfully as he took small sips of the water with the beta’s aid. “Better?”

Yuuri nodded weakly.

“Great!” Phichit grinned, setting the empty glass back on the nightstand. Yuuri eyed the other man cautiously, well-aware of the exaggeratedly wide-smile that had returned on his best friend’s face.

“…what happened, Phichit?” Yuuri rasped out.

Phichit laughed, slanting forward excitedly and bouncing on his heels.

“Phichit,” the omega tried to glare, wincing when his throat burned even more with the effort to speak.

“You don’t remember?”

Yuuri didn’t answer, gaze falling to his lap. He frowned upon finding his nightwear inside-out, studying the inner stitching briefly before peering back up at the beta carefully.

Phichit hummed, folding his hands behind his back and Yuuri swallowed, beginning to feel a trickle of dread at exactly how innocent the other man was trying to appear.

What an absolute rascal.

“Phichit, what did I-”

“Well,” another voice drawled out. Their heads snapped to the open doorway, finding Mari casually leaning against the doorframe, her arms folded and eyebrows raised. “Is my brother finally back to the land of the living, Phichit?”

Phichit glanced back at Yuuri perched on the bed, scouring through the dishevelled black hair and the puffiness under the drooping cinnamon-coloured eyes. Yuuri bit back the urge to squirm when the gaze turned almost critical as it landed on his rumpled navy-coloured nightwear.

“…Almost,” Phichit answered as he glanced back at Mari. “He just needs some good food and something to drink.” The beta wrinkled his nose, taking an exaggerated inhale. “And some water and soap. Lots and lots of soap.”

Yuuri couldn’t summon the energy to roll his eyes. Mari continued to stare at him, her expression as unfathomable as it always was.

“… Kaa-san and Tou-san will be very sorry to have missed last night once they hear what happened,” the female alpha eventually said, nodding solemnly in feint forlorn.

Yuuri twitched at that. “Nee-chan,” he started imploringly. “What happened?”

Mari’s mouth twitched up. “…Minako said one glass of champagne,” she answered with a small shake of her head, light dancing in her eyes. “One glass. Guess how many you had.” 

The omega’s mouth hanged open wordlessly, unable to give a response.

“And don’t forget the champagne he and Chris sprayed everyone with!” Phichit piped in.

“Champagne?!” Yuuri spluttered out in horror. “With C-Chris?!”

“Ah yes,” Mari agreed. “That.”

“B-but…but-”

She shook her head. 

“Never mind the champagne shower, Yuuri. I’m sure Giacometti would be ecstatic if you asked him to recite last night’s events. These-” the elder Katsuki unfolded her arms. She strolled towards the bed, momentarily distracting Yuuri from his rising terror with the thin pieces of paper she was waving at him. “-are a little more important, outoto,” she said, shoving the paper on his lap.

Yuuri stared at the envelopes in confusion, counting three in total -one white and the other two a varying shade of red- before glancing back up at his sister.

“I’m quite impressed with how fast some of them actually are, you know,” Mari continued. “I’m sure there’s quite a few more on its way. You’ll probably get most of them sometime this week. Heh, have fun with those.” She patted his shoulder consolingly before turning to Phichit. “Please make sure he actually gets something to eat, Phichit. There’s food in the dining room for both of you.” Her attention shifted to her younger brother once more, nose suddenly crinkling in distaste. “…But make sure he showers first.”

Yuuri and Phichit followed Mari’s back until she disappeared through the corridor before peering back down at the envelopes still perched on Yuuri’s lap.

 “…what are these?” the omega asked suspiciously, taking one by the corner and lifting it carefully between the tips of his thumb and forefinger.

Phichit studied the envelopes in thought before turning away, humming absent-mindedly to himself as he walked over to Yuuri’s drawers, beginning to pick out different articles of clothing.

“They’re proposition letters, Yuuri,” he eventually answered, tugging open a drawer of folded shirts.

Yuuri twisted the envelope around. 

“Proposition…?” He frowned. “For what?”

“…Oh, you know,” Phichit glanced at Yuuri over his shoulder, closing the shirt drawer quietly. “Courting.”

“Ah,” Yuuri nodded. “I see.”

He scrutinised the name at the back of the envelope, finding himself slightly impressed at the cursive ‘Yuuri Katsuki’ that had been elegantly handwritten in the middle.

“…Phichit.”

“Hm?”

“…why do these have my name on it?”

Phichit raised an eyebrow. “Because,” he said slowly, “they’re courting letters for you?”

“Ah.” Yuuri slowly set the letter down, letting the answer reverberate around his head again and again. “I see,” he said once more.

Courting letters.

For him.

The envelope slipped from Yuuri’s hand.

…Courting letters.

For him.

Yuuri gawked at Phichit with horrified eyes.

Huh?!


Viktor poked at his bowl of Shchi, prodding the various pieces of floating vegetables absently with his spoon.

“Well, I’m glad to see Yakov didn’t behead you,” Christophe said gleefully from beside him, sipping on his own bowl of soup. “And I’m also quite glad he didn’t behead me!” The blond let out a booming laugh. “I was so sure he was going to strangle me with that pole, you know!”

Viktor didn’t answer, studying the mini-vortex his spoon was currently creating.

“…Hey,” Christophe nudged the other alpha, “are you listening to me?”

Viktor gave a short hum, blue eyes still trained on the bowl.

“…still thinking about Yuuri’s thighs are you, Viktor?”

Viktor leaned his cheek on his hand as he gave another low hum in response, Christophe’s words not quite registering as his mind continued to drift away, thoughts as cloudy and as distant as they have been since he woke up this morning.

Viktor internally sighed, mentally replaying the events of last night once again.

The celebration had been…something else entirely. Unforgettable, for a lack of a better word. Tense as it had been after Yuuri had spilled exactly what it was their guests weren’t supposed to know, the worry about what was to come after the revelation had dissolved away the moment Yuuri seized hold of his arms, dragging him to the centre of the Ball Room and guiding him to a clumsy waltz.

Tumbling hand in hand and laughing together amidst the countless pairs of eyes following their every move - forgetting even just for a few hours about why this celebration was being held in the first place, about why it shouldn’t have been held at all – was a memory that Viktor would always cherish.

And as fun as it had been to watch Christophe and Yuuri spiral around that dance pole, to laugh at the moves and to ogle at the show of strength Yuuri had displayed, the disappointment he had felt towards the end of the night was also something he wouldn’t forget any time soon.

Despite himself, Viktor couldn’t stop the twitch on his lips at the memory of carrying the fumbling Yuuri upstairs back to his bedroom, huffing a small laugh at the way Yuuri’s head had lolled around his shoulder while the omega babbled on and on -and their scales! So shiny- about how beautiful and shiny the koi fishes in the pond were.

The real dilemma of the night, Viktor felt, however, had been the predicament he had found himself in upon their arrival at Yuuri’s bedroom. The younger man had immediately taken the liberty to strip himself of his clothes save for his undergarments the moment the door had closed much to Viktor’s stunned astonishment, brazenly refusing the alpha’s frantic request for him to put on his nightclothes.

‘You do it!’ Yuuri had insisted with a giggle, lounging haphazardly on the carpeted floor as he prodded at Viktor with his toes. ‘Hahaha, dress me, Viktor!’

After much struggle and scuffling around, Viktor had ended up dressing the omega, blue eyes shut tight and face burning scarlet as he blindly shoved Yuuri’s limbs through what he hoped had been the correct holes. In the end, Yuuri’s nightwear had ended up inside-out but Viktor, flustered as he was, felt that it had been decent enough.

He wouldn’t have been able to survive undressing Yuuri, otherwise.

After tucking the omega in bed as best as he could, Viktor had even sneaked into the kitchen to fetch a glass and a pitcher of iced water, placing it neatly on Yuuri’s nightstand before opening the windows and leaving the curtains wide open. He had hoped Yuuri would appreciate the fresh air in the morning. 

Viktor had blatantly ignored the bombardment of questions about the termination contract upon returning to the Ball Room without Yuuri by his side, calling the celebration over and bidding the guests a safe journey home.

Yuri had been glowering at him heatedly throughout the whole evening but much more so when he and the teenager crossed paths on his way out of the mansion. Viktor did not miss the low but audible grumble of ‘-not finished here, old man. What Katsudon said better not be true’ but he had acted as such, smiling at Yuri and wishing him a good night.

Upon retiring to his bedroom, he, of course, had expected himself to collapse from exhaustion from the night’s events. Instead, however, Viktor had found himself staring at the ceiling until the crack of dawn, Yuri’s words and that sad, sad disappointment in Mila’s eyes as she bade him her own quiet farewell serving as an insistent, troubling reminder of Yuuri’s tear-stained face.

Lying awake all night until dawn, white sheets pooled around his waist and nothing else but the darkness and silence for company, had given Viktor more than enough time to wonder exactly how many of those very same tears Yuuri had shed because of him in the past.

Viktor glanced outside, staring at the fluffy, white clouds that were now scattered across the bright, blue sky. Was Yuuri awake now?

Poke.

“Ow!” He recoiled back, eyes snapping at Christophe in disbelief. “Did you just poke me with a fork?”

Christophe shrugged, setting the silver utensil back down on the table. “You weren’t listening to me.”

Viktor rubbed his reddening cheek, feeling the small indents from where the fork had dug into his skin as he glared at the other alpha. “What were you saying?”

“Apart from asking you for a synonym for thick regarding Yuuri’s thighs-” Viktor’s lower eyelid twitched, “-I was also asking you what Yakov said this morning." 

Viktor glanced back at his soup, shoulders sagging. “…Yakov sighed a lot,” he answered quietly. 

The near defeat on Yakov’s face whilst he stared Viktor down this morning had been enough to wake Viktor up completely, the tightness on the older alpha’s lips and the unusual silence being much more deafening than the angry shouts he had been expecting when he had stepped into Yakov’s office only hours ago.

“Really?” Christophe brought a spoonful of Shchi to his lips, blowing away the thin steam. “No ‘what have I been telling you two all this time? The incoming mess this is going to make! It will take years, Viktor -years- for words of it to stop circulating! You didn’t even try to stop him!’ None of that?”

Viktor shook his head. “Nope...” 

“Not even a ‘you will deal with the consequences, Viktor. You and Yuuri both. You will face everyone with your heads up and you will handle this in a way expected of a member of the Nikiforov household.’ No?” 

“…there was a little bit of that.” 

‘You will handle this predicament you took part in creating – this predicament you didn’t do anything to prevent, in a manner befitting of the Head of the Nikiforov household,’ had been Yakov’s exact calm words, as a matter of fact. ‘There was no confirmation of the termination of the contract on your behalf if I remember correctly. What Yuuri said could be simply attributed to a drunken stupor of course but… there’d be no hiding the truth in 4 months when that termination contract is eventually signed.

Viktor still couldn’t find it within himself to address the sharp twisting in his chest regarding that particular matter.

‘I suggest you keep silent about the situation until everything blows over,’ Yakov had continued. ‘But in the end the choice is ultimately up to you, Viktor. You can let the rumours stir in your silence or you can confirm it.’

Viktor dimly recalled nodding while he had stared at a feathered quill and bottle of ink placed at the corner of Yakov’s desk.

“…Do you think Yuuri would want to go to the Festival with me?” he asked Christophe quietly. 

Viktor hadn’t exactly been able to meet Yakov’s eyes the first time he mentioned the Festival this morning though he had a hunch Yakov probably had to do a double-take when his answer had been ‘I was thinking… of taking Yuuri to the Festival’ after the elder alpha had asked, tone a little softer than what Viktor was used to, what he had been thinking. Viktor supposed his silence had seemed as unusual to Yakov as Yakov’s calmness had been to him.

Christophe stared at his best-friend carefully. “Yuuri doesn’t... really like being in the spotlight,” he explained slowly. “And after last night, there’s going to be eyes on the both of you no matter where you go so…” he trailed off.

Viktor nodded sadly. He figured as much. “Yakov said it’d be good for us to be seen in public when I told him about taking Yuuri to the Festival,” he said. “Something about it helping in stopping any circulating rumours about a dispute between the Nikiforov and Katsuki households.” 

Typical Yakov. Ever so practical.

“But I was thinking …well,” Viktor sighed, “I was thinking Yuuri would probably love the music there. They play traditional songs from everywhere, even ones from Kyushu. Maybe he’d recognise some of those. He’d probably like the decorated floats too. And all the people parading around and dancing in traditional costumes. And the…” Viktor hesitated, “…and the sunset from the hilltop,” he added quietly.

A slight flicker flashed across Christophe’s face at the melancholic gloss slowly surfacing in Viktor’s eyes.

For as long as either of them could remember, it had been an annual tradition for the Nikiforov family to spend the day at the Festival. Even at his father’s busiest times, the Nikiforov patriarch had never failed to take Viktor and his mother there.

As a young boy, the Festival had always been Viktor’s favourite day of the year, surpassing even his birthday. He had always been allowed to eat as much sweets as he could fit in his mouth when he and his parents went around the different stalls.

And as astonishing as the fireworks that had always lit up the dimming sky were, as awe-striking as those enormous floats had always been, the Festival had been Viktor’s most treasured day of the year mostly because of that little spot at the hilltop where he always sat, curled in his parents lap as they watched the setting sun illuminate the small town below in the rich, pastel colours of dusk.

Viktor hadn’t gone to the Festival since his parents passed away.

“Well…” Christophe began softly after a tick of silence, “even if it’s unlikely that he’d want to go, it’d still be worth a try to ask him in any case, Viktor,” the blonde said gently. “You never know w-”

Christophe stopped with a blink, turning back simultaneously with Viktor to the door at the small squeak that had resounded behind them. He stared in confusion at the open doorway of the dining room, catching a glimpse of Phichit sprinting across the corridor.

“-you doing, Yuuri?! The dining room’s this way!” The sounds of small thumps echoed around the hall. “Nuh-uh, your sister put me in charge!” Viktor tilted his head to the side when the beta’s voice became muffled as though his face was being mushed against something. Like a hand. Or a wall. “-eating n’w!” Phichit continued loudly, “-on’t c’re V’ktor’s th’re!”

After some apparent struggle, the beta waltzed into the dining room with a grin, dragging a floundering Yuuri with him whose head he had trapped in a headlock. 

“Good morning!” Phichit greeted brightly, smile never faltering as he leaned away from Yuuri’s flailing hands that were currently attempting to claw at his face.

Hazel eyes immediately darted to the side, just in time to catch the small glimmer of light in Viktor’s own eyes, the blue orbs becoming just a tad bit brighter at the sight of the thrashing omega.

Christophe slowly grinned back at Phichit.

“Good morning to you too!” the blonde beamed. “Sit, sit!” he motioned to the two empty seats opposite from where he and Viktor sat.

With some difficulty, Phichit forced Yuuri down on one of the chair by the shoulders. Yuuri sat with his chair as far away from the table as he could manage, cheeks pink and stare fixed at the table, avoiding making eye contact with anyone in the room. 

“So,” Phichit started radiantly, clapping his hands together as Christophe gestured helpfully to the pot of freshly prepared Shchi by the stove. “How’s everyone this fine, fine morning?”


“-khail Kulev,” Phichit said, chewing around the piece of potato in his mouth. “He’s holding a celebration of his own in a few months’ time, isn’t he?”

“Yup, apparently,” Christophe nodded, preparing himself a second bowl of Shchi. “Though to celebrate what exactly, who knows.”

“Heh,” Phichit swallowed, shaking his head. “Probably to show off something stupid again. Do you remember that ugly statue he has of himself, Chris?”

“Statue?”

“Yeah, that big marble one.”

“Eh? Marble? You mean the one in his garden?”

“Yup,” Phichit nodded, glancing at Yuuri absently beside him. He frowned upon finding the omega’s own bowl of soup still untouched, shoving the bowl and spoon closer to Yuuri in a silent order for him to start eating. Yuuri obliged, still refusing to look at the other occupants of the dining room.

“That’s supposed to be a statue of him?” Christophe asked incredulously, eyebrows raised in surprise. “I thought that was an antique relic he bought at some auction. You know, for warding off bad-luck and such,” the alpha tapped his spoon to his lips in thought. “Kind of like those gargoyles in the bell-tower.”

Phichit snorted out a laugh as Yuuri wiped his mouth with a white napkin carefully, continuing to listen to the conversation in silence.

“So, are you going to go, then?” Christophe asked.

“Well… I’m going to be leaving by sundown today,” the beta replied. “If we all attend Mikhail’s party, that’d be the soonest I’ll be able to see you guys again.”

“What?” Christophe whined, looking devastated at the information. “You’re leaving so soon?”

“Unfortunately,” Phichit nodded solemnly, thoroughly understanding the disappointment. He’d have loved to stay longer if he could. “I wasn’t even supposed to stay overnight but…well, I couldn’t leave my best-friend waking up to the horrors of a hangover alone now, can I?” he nudged the omega with his elbow, nearly knocking the spoonful of soup from the omega’s hand.

Really, what would Yuuri do without him?

Christophe pouted, voicing out his protest and Phichit laughed, continuing to exchange light banters with the alpha, well-aware of the silence from the other two occupants of the table.

He couldn’t really blame Yuuri for not wanting to speak. As far as Yuuri knew, the sole significant thing –Phichit! Phichit, what have I done?! Viktor’s probably so angry at me! …Opposite of angry? What do you mean…? Stop laughing, Phichit! -he’d done during the celebration last night was reveal the plan for signing the termination contract.

Never mind the other… shenanigans… Phichit had arrived to him doing. Yuuri would probably never venture outdoors again if he was to catch word about himself having pranced around half-naked with Christophe. On a pole, nonetheless.

Phichit hid a snort.

How long this silence between the two was going to last, Phichit had no idea. Viktor probably knew Yuuri well enough at this point to not push when the omega was hunched in on himself like this.

Maybe the incoming proposition letters would eventually be enough to distract Yuuri from his misplaced guilt.

In all honesty, Phichit couldn’t wait to witness the inevitable flock of suitors that would, no doubt about it, be herding around his best-friend’s feet in the near-future. He didn’t know what would be more amusing – watching all these alphas fawning for Yuuri’s attention only to be crushed by the omega’s devastatingly polite rejection or the utter confusion that would be etched on Yuuri’s face throughout it all.

Phichit snickered internally, already imagining the bewilderment on his best-friend’s face at the lavish attention he will soon be receiving.

Of course, trust Yuuri to be completely unaware of his own attributes.

Unassertive, modest and sheltered omegas, in Phichit’s opinion, were always rather boring, anyway, especially now that the traditional personas associated with each of the dynamics were becoming even more and more blurred.

Proud was a bit of an understatement for how Phichit felt about Yuuri scandalising some of those snobbish, hook-nosed Nobles with the swaying of his hips last night.

Hah.

Traditional, submissive, basic omegas be damned.

“Hey, Yuuri…”

Phichit twitched in his seat, pretending not to hear Viktor’s quiet call. He locked eyes with Christophe who seemed just as determined as him to pretend that he, too, was not hearing anything else but Phichit’s story about his beloved hamsters crawling up a maid’s skirt.

“How are you feeling?” Viktor asked softly.

There was some slight shuffling from beside him and the beta resisted the urge to turn and glimpse at his best-friend, choosing instead to pick up his spoon, twiddling it between his fingers as he and Christophe continued to converse amongst themselves.

“…’m fine,” Yuuri eventually mumbled out.

“Does your head hurt?”

There was a slight pause. And then, “…a little. It’s not too bad.”

Phichit’s eyes darted to the side quickly, watching from the corner of his vision as Viktor reached forward for the pitcher at the centre of the table. The beta eyed the glass slowly being filled with water, mouth continuing to spew words at Christophe as he watched Viktor offer the full glass to Yuuri.

“Water always helps,” Viktor said with a small smile, leaning back in his seat as Yuuri accepted the glass wordlessly, taking a small sip before setting it down on the table. “I hope the water on your nightstand was still a little cold when you woke up this morning. I added some ice on it last night after I left your room.”

Phichit increased his volume minutely as Yuuri froze beside him, hearing the silent ‘Viktor took me to bed last night? Why didn’t you tell me that, Phichit!’ booming through his eardrums.

“Shchi’s always good for the morning after too,” Viktor added, nodding towards the bowl in-front of Yuuri.

Phichit leaned forward, nodding at Christophe’s half-hearted explanation about the possible origins of the gargoyles in the bell-tower – I suspect they’re Mikhail Kulev’s ancestors encased in stone. The resemblance is uncanny- knowing the blonde was also eagerly listening to the small conversation beside them.

There was an extended period of silence from the two and Phichit shot a curious glance beside him in slight worry, startled to find that Yuuri’s skin had become ashen.

“…morning after?” the omega asked unsteadily.

Phichit and Christophe paused, slowly turning their heads to Viktor’s direction.

Viktor blinked. “Um…yeah?”

Phichit and Christophe glanced at their respective best-friends and Phichit watched in perplexity as Yuuri began to mechanically open his mouth only to close it again without saying anything.

“M-morning after of what?” the omega eventually croaked out, looking like he was ready to fall off his seat.

Phichit’s eyes widened as Viktor suddenly lurched back, almost toppling over as the rest of them finally caught on to what had been running around Yuuri’s head.

‘Black-out drunk. Morning after. Sore limbs. Morning after. Viktor. Bedroom. Morning after. Morning after-’

“N-no, no!” Viktor flapped his arms around wildly. “I m-mean the morning a-after heavy drinking!” The alpha babbled out loudly. “After heavy drinking! N-not…not- we didn’t- we didn’t- I wouldn’t-” he seemed to choke on his own tongue and Phichit watched in ever-growing amusement, wondering exactly what type of ensuing images were now bouncing around Viktor’s head which had reduced him into a stuttering, tomato-faced mess.

The small snorts from Christophe abruptly erupted into booming laughter and Phichit immediately joined.

“Honestly, you two…I can’t,” the beta sniggered, wiping a tear from his eye. He turned to Yuuri as the laughter subsided, grinning at the omega’s burning red ears. “Have you opened those letters yet, Yuuri?”

Yuuri shook his head mutely, the colour staining his pale cheeks a perfect match to the pink on Viktor’s own.

“Letters?” Christophe piped in curiously. “What letters?”

Ah, yes. No one else had been aware of those proposition letters apart from him, Mari and Minako.

Phichit cleared his throat. “Well, after last night’s... revelation,” charcoal eyes narrowed slightly at the silver-haired alpha seated across the table – the snide stare a small reminder that despite the fact that he and Viktor may be on ‘good’ terms, it did not mean that Phichit didn’t feel some type of hostility towards the older man.

After all, who had this buffoon thought he was, shattering Yuuri’s heart like that?

“...some people believe that Yuuri’s now available to be courted,” Phichit continued, mindful of the small frown now adorning Viktor’s face. “He received a few proposition letters this morning.”

“Is that so?” Christophe inquired in interest.

“Yup,” the beta nodded, eyes creeping to the side upon sensing the sourness emitting from beside Christophe, finding Viktor's shoulders a little tenser than what they had previously been. “Mari said there’s going to be a lot more of those coming.”

“Huh,” the blonde mused, “that’s… interesting.” He turned to Yuuri curiously. “Are you planning to consider any of them?”

Yuuri fiddled with the corners of the white napkin. “I don’t know yet,” he answered truthfully.

“Hey,” Phichit perked up in sudden thought, sitting up straighter on his chair. “The Festival’s coming up soon, right? I heard some people talking about it last night!” He leaned towards Yuuri with wide eyes. “Why don’t you read through all those proposition letters, Yuuri. If there’s someone who pipes your interest, maybe you two can go to the Festival together and spend some time there to get to know each other!” The beta exclaimed, face alight with excitement at the possible prospect of finally finding someone else that may be able to spike Yuuri’s attention.

Yuuri pursed his lips, appearing uncertain about the suggestion. “I’m not sure, Phichit. Maybe…” he trailed off, looking uncomfortable at the idea of indulging a random alpha he’d have met through a letter.

Phichit slumped back in his seat.

Honestly, he was going to choke Viktor someday. What Yuuri saw in this bleach-dipped peacock of an alpha, he would never under- 

Phichit swallowed back a yelp at the pain that had suddenly exploded down his shin, shooting Christophe an incredulous look. He opened his mouth, ready to retaliate for the uncalled kick only to pause at the silent, wide-eyed stare the blonde alpha was giving him. Hazel eyes shifted pointedly to the side and Phichit followed. He blinked, not sure what to make of the crestfallen expression on Viktor’s face.

He looked back at Christophe in question but the other man only shook his head in a wordless instruction for him to stay silent.

“…you should go to the Festival, Yuuri,” Viktor said, words sounding quiet and thoughtful. Sad, almost. “It’s really…beautiful there. You’d like it a lot.”

Yuuri didn’t respond, looking as equally confused at the older man’s disheartened tone.

“…are you okay?” he asked, voice just as quiet as Viktor’s.

Viktor nodded once, offering the younger man a small, kind smile that didn’t quite reach his eyes. Yuuri’s brows furrowed, unconvinced and Phichit bit his tongue when Viktor’s shoulders sagged. The alpha sighed, running a hand through silver locks. His gaze slowly fell on the table. 

“I was…” Viktor hesitated. “I was going to ask if you wanted to go to the Festival with me, actually,” he confessed, not meeting Yuuri’s eyes. “But Phichit’s right,” he nodded. “It’d be good to spend the day there with... someone you want to go with.”

Yuuri remained motionless. “You…want to take me to the Festival?”

Viktor nodded, eyes still locked on the table.

“But,” Yuuri breathed out. “But you haven’t gone to the Festival since…since-”

Silence filled the room.

Phichit slowly glanced at Christophe, not truly understanding the full extent of what Viktor had voiced out. He peered back to Yuuri beside him curiously.

Perhaps him not completely understanding Viktor’s feelings regarding the Festival wasn’t really all that important, Phichit thought distantly.

Not when Yuuri seemed to know its significance perfectly well.

Brown eyes immediately softened.

“…We can go to the Festival together, Viktor.”

Viktor slowly glanced up. “…We can?”

Yuuri nodded.

“…Are you sure?”

The omega gave a low hum. “Yeah,” he answered softly. Phichit and Christophe glanced at one another. “I want to go with you.”

“…You do?”

Yuuri nodded once more. “Yeah. It’d be nice,” he offered the alpha a tentative smile. “You can show me around and take me to some of the stalls there. I haven’t gone before and…well, I heard they have some of the best dango.”

Cerulean eyes the shade of the blue summer sky immediately lit up.

Viktor nodded enthusiastically, mouth morphing into his trademark heart-shaped smile.

He propelled forward happily, reciting to Yuuri all the different food stalls he had visited as a child, words of description tumbling out as he began to tell Yuuri of the music and all the dancing, the floats and the fireworks and that view of the sunset at the hilltop-

Phichit and Christophe observed the interaction from the side-lines, the barely concealed delight twinkling in the hazel and charcoal-coloured eyes sparkling even brighter as they watched the soft, responding up-tilt on Yuuri’s lips.

Chapter Text



Mari drew her indigo robes tighter to her body, feeling the slight chill in the morning air as she stood by the back porch of the Nikiforov mansion with a cup of steaming Gyokuro tea in her hand.

The mornings were getting colder.

“How many does Yuuri have in total now, Mari-chan?”

Mari blew away the steam at the rim of her cup before giving a small shrug, eyes remaining fixed at the garden in-front of her.

“He’s not keeping count,” she answered.

“Has he even opened any of them?”

The elder Katsuki eyed the lone figure stood by the edge of the koi pond completely unaware of the two pairs of eyes observing him from a distance.

She shook her head. “No. Not a single one.” 

Last time she checked, all the seals in the envelopes hidden away in the second drawer of Yuuri’s nightstand were still intact.

Beside her, Minako sighed.

Mari could sympathise. She, too, had been hoping that Yuuri would at least consider skimming through some of those proposition letters. But alas, Yuuri, being Yuuri, didn’t even think twice about shoving those unopened proposition letters someplace where he wouldn’t have to be constantly reminded of them. Or of the events of the celebration for that matter, going as far as to even give the maids and servants in the mansion very firm instructions to shoo away all the suitors that had actually made the effort to personally see him in the last month.

Politely, of course. As is the way of a Katsuki.

Mari released a sigh of her own.

“What do you think he’s planning to do with those new ones that just came in, hm?” Minako asked, sipping on her own mug of coffee.

Mari took a sip of her tea, staring at the silver strands glistening in the distance under the rising sun.

“... I don’t know,” she said after a moment of contemplation.

Her guess as to exactly what Nikiforov was thinking of doing to those two new letters that the maids had handed him only fifteen minutes ago to give to Yuuri was as good as Minako’s.

“Do you think he’s going to give them to Yuuri?”

Mari leaned forward with a squint, resting her elbows on the railed barriers of the back porch to get a closer look.

Judging from the way the ferret’s expression was currently pinched into a frown, his blue eyes scrutinising the thin pieces of paper clutched in his hand in what could only be described as contempt, Mari didn’t think Nikiforov wanted to hand them over to her little brother if the choice had been solely given to him.

In fact, the bakamono looked like he’d rather scrunch up the letters and throw them to the bottom of the koi pond, never to be seen again.

“If he doesn’t, I’ll throttle him until he does,” the elder Katsuki said.

Not that those two new letters would make much worthwhile addition to Yuuri’s unwanted collection but Mari will gladly take any given chance to have a valid excuse to step on Nikiforov’s face. Those proposition letters were likely the last of the bunch, anyway. Their arrival to the Nikiforov mansion had been dwindling down after the first two weeks of the celebration, after all.

“Ah, there’s Yuuri,” Minako smiled, tilting her forward.

Mari watched in mild interest as her younger brother appeared through another entrance from the side of the mansion, Makkachin happily trotting by his side, and also unaware, it seems, of his older sister and Minako stood at the back porch.

“What could be so important that Yuuri’s awake this early, Mari-chan? He’s not exactly a morning person.”

The elder Katsuki took another sip of her tea as Yuuri approached Nikiforov who, upon sensing the omega’s presence, had quickly folded his hands behind him, effectively concealing the letters from view. The two were too far to be heard but were close enough that Mari could clearly see that the tautness which always used to followed Yuuri in Nikiforov’s presence was evidently absent, instead replaced by a relaxed, casual posture.

And a smile.

A real, genuine smile. Like Yuuri was actually happy to see this baka.

How worrying.

“I believe they’re supposed to go to the Festival today,” Mari answered, choosing not to add the sour together at the end of that sentence and silently wishing she and Minako were just a little bit closer so she could hear exactly what it was Nikiforov said that made Yuuri’s eyes suddenly dance like that.

“Oh?” Minako leaned her cheek on her palm, taking another sip of her coffee. “It’s the day of the Festival already? Time flies.” 

“It truly does,” Mari agreed. “And soon, we’ll be back in Hasetsu before we know it.”

Minako paused at that, giving a small nod. Mari watched as a stiff grin made its way on Nikiforov’s mouth, the proposition letters still carefully hidden behind his back.

She frowned when Yuuri leaned closer, a questioning look decorating his face. He poked the alpha’s forehead, brows raised as though to say ‘You’re not fooling me with that, Viktor. What are you hiding?’ - the small gesture a reminder that Yuuri was actually… comfortable around this aho now.

“Haha, if you told him he’d be poking Viktor on the forehead like that four months ago, your brother would have probably thought you were delirious with a fever,” Minako commented.

Mari didn’t respond, too preoccupied with absorbing the interaction between the two.

“Viktor likes him,” Minako said, the amusement evident in her tone.

The elder Katsuki brought the rim of her cup to her lips, hawk-like stare taking in the hesitation now swirling on the blue eyes of the other alpha.

“I can see that,” she said, taking a small gulp of her tea.

It was difficult not to be aware of such… matter. The bleached ferret wasn’t exactly trying to hide the fact that he much preferred spending time with Yuuri more than anyone these days, even Christophe.

Only four months since he’s been exposed to the wonders that was Yuuri and of course the fool was already in the midst of sky-diving head-first into the depths of…of exactly what, Mari didn’t even want to start thinking about.

“Correct me if I’m wrong Mari-chan,” Minako continued, “but I believe, whether he’s aware of it or not, that our Yuuri is quite…enamoured with Viktor too,” she said. “…Again.”

And, of course, trust her innocent little brother to have absolutely no reigns in his sentiments either. Fond, she thought, was a quite a weak description of what Yuuri was probably feeling towards the baka.

Mari could bet the entire koi fishes from their pond back in Hasetsu that Yuuri never truly stopped liking Nikiforov.

“…That – I can also see,” Mari pursed her lips.

Her poor, innocent little brother.

“What do you plan to do?” Minako asked.

Metres away, Mari watched as Nikiforov’s shoulders finally slumped, guilt, it seemed, having won over.

The other alpha released a small sigh, appearing defeated as he slowly unveiled the two envelopes he had been hiding from behind him, timidly offering them to Yuuri. The omega stared at the letters in silent scrutiny and Mari already knew that, in the end, those would only end up being tucked away in that same drawer with the rest, all left unopened and untouched to gather a layer of grey dust. 

“I have no idea,” Mari answered truthfully.

What was there to do?

Yes, she could remind Yuuri about the termination contract – about what it was Nikiforov had asked from him. She could pester Yuuri about how they’d be leaving soon and how he really, really shouldn’t be letting his guard down like this in the way he had said he wouldn’t in their first night here.

But then that would mean reminding Yuuri of many other things too.

Things like the self-doubts and the insecurities. The uncertainties and the dark thoughts about himself that never failed to make her little brother retreat into his own, protective shell.

Those things, she'd end up unwillingly reminding Yuuri of too.

And why would she do that when, above all else, Yuuri’s happiness was and will always be at the top of her priorities?

Minako raised a quizzical eyebrow. “Oh?” she inquired, watching as Yuuri finally took hold of the letters. “You’re not going to try persuade him to at least open some of those letters?”

“Nope,” Mari said, sipping down the last drops of her tea as her younger brother gave the other man a small shake of his head before reaching for his wrists, tugging him back towards the mansion with Makkachin padding right behind their heels. “You know how he’s like. Stubborn as a bull. He isn’t going to budge with that.”

Minako gave a small ‘ah.’ She glanced at the female alpha.

“And what’s going to happen if Yuuri doesn’t end up signing the termination contract?” the beta asked.

Well… that was certainly a possibility that had been plaguing Mari’s head for a while. ‘Kaa-san and Tou-san will be very happy, that’s for sure,’ she thought to herself, thinking about how their parents’ hearts had been aching at Yuuri’s sadness in the recent years. ‘Giacometti and Phichit would definitely be delighted too if the termination contract wasn’t signed. And Yuuri and that baka would be…they’d be- what would they be?’

“I don’t know,” Mari said honestly, following the way blue eyes appeared to be stuck solely on Yuuri as the two in question finally disappeared back inside the mansion.

What would happen?

It’s not as though the two would immediately have to wed if the termination contract wasn’t signed. Without a wedding and the marriage not commencing immediately, Yuuri can very well choose to sign the termination contract years from now and that would be just as valid as him signing it on the night of his eighteenth birthday.

It wouldn’t be too bad, Mari supposed, if the termination contract wasn’t signed straight away. At least that way, the two would probably be well-acquainted enough with one another -and judging from how cosy they were getting recently, that definitely wasn’t going to be a problem- that there would be a lasting respectful, mutual understanding between the two with no lingering animosity on anyone’s behalf when Yuuri finally decides to inscribe his signature on that paper.

“…and if Viktor breaks Yuuri’s heart again?”

Mari glanced up at the morning sky.

She stared passed the rising sun peeking through the white clouds, scanning her memories of all the interactions she had witnessed between them in the past four months- both the ones that had been displayed in public and the ones she had caught from the corner of her eyes. Inevitable as it was that those two would become comfortable with each other, the level of friendless, for a lack of a better word, that they were now at was on a stage that even Mari hadn’t been prepared for.

What was it Yuuri had said the first night they arrived here? It’s not going to end up like that again.’

Mari, for the sake of everyone- yes, even that vanilla-painted marshmallow-of-an-alpha- sure hoped so. 

Yuuri didn’t appear to think he was heading towards the same, chaotic route he had unwittingly taken when he was younger. In fact, how he was acting can even be interpreted as Yuuri being completely confident that he would not be feeling the same things he used to. That Nikiforov does not have and will never again be given the capacity to devastate him hence why it was completely acceptable to let his guard down around the alpha. 

Mari can almost understand that. And yet…

From the recent hesitation in Viktor’s touch, to the sugary warmth so painstakingly evident on his face every time he smiles back at Yuuri, all the way to how his eyes seemed to be permanently glued to the younger man -oh, her dear little brother, ever so oblivious to what his mere presence seemed to elicit nowadays- every time the two were within the same vicinity…

Mari squinted through the morning sunlight.

Break Yuuri’s heart again…?

Somehow, she didn’t think that will be the case this time around.

Nonetheless- 

“…Very simple,” Mari finally said, glancing back at Minako with her lips inched up in a small smirk. “I’ll break the baka’s face.”



“-itarashi or Hanami dango back in Hasetsu. Sometimes, I like eating them while drinking some tea on the side,” Yuuri said. “Are there any stalls selling tea there?”

Viktor nodded, matching his footsteps with Yuuri’s slightly smaller ones. 

“They have almost everything you can think of,” he replied, blatantly ignoring any eyes that happened to befall upon them. “But you need to try the ponchik and the rogaliki first! The people who sell it in the Festival were good friends of my parents.”

Viktor paused as soon as the sentence came out of his mouth.

This had been happening for a while now - being this comfortable that he’d be able to speak about almost anything with Yuuri. Quite unnerving, really.

“They always gave me the largest pieces and some extra ones for free,” he added as an afterthought.

They continued their walk across the small town under the heat of the afternoon sun, keeping their gazes trained forward with Makkachin trotting by their side.

“Ah,” the omega smiled. “We should go there first then, Viktor. I’m sure they’d be happy to see you.” 

The alpha nodded, giving Makkachin’s head a small pat.

Yes, they would be very happy to see him in the Festival, Viktor supposed. More than happy, probably, especially since he didn’t run into them very often when he visited the town. They’d be absolutely ecstatic to find that he’d finally visited the Festival again after all these years.

Still... as exciting as it had been at first to imagine spending this particular day with Yuuri, Viktor knew the slight hint of apprehension that came with the thought of attending the Festival was imminent.

It was, after all, a cherished event he had always visited with his parents.

The mounting anxiety pooling from the preceding days had been frustrating to say the least and Viktor truly hoped that any melancholy he might start feeling would not spoil the time he and Yuuri will be spending together.

‘Just have fun,’ Christophe had advised. ‘I’m sure Yuuri appreciates the sentiment behind it no matter how today is going to go, Viktor.’

Viktor was determined to make today, in the best way, as memorable as possible for Yuuri.

He’d just have to squash down any sadness that might be elicited from today’s occasion, be that sadness from the fond memories of the ponchik and the rogaliki or the fireworks and the sunset at the hilltop. There was a time and place for mourning his parents and the Festival definitely was not the one for that. 

The streets were mostly empty of locals right now. Not surprising, considering majority of the townsfolk were on their way to or were already at the Festival. Viktor preferred it that way since it meant that Yuuri wasn’t as guarded or as tense walking around the town like this with him. Hopefully, the bubbling excitement from everyone in the Festival would be enough to avert any lingering attention away from the two of them. That way, Yuuri was more likely to enjoy his time.

While the scandalous events which had occurred during the celebration had rung out far and loud, the torrent of whispers and pointing hadn’t really stopped Viktor from going around freely unlike Yuuri who had opted to stay out of the public-eye for a couple of weeks.

Not that Yuuri’s lack of presence in the town had stopped those stupid proposition letters from flooding Viktor’s home like a tsunami.

The alpha’s bottom lip jutted out in a stubborn frown.

The first week following the celebration had been particularly problematic.

One letter after another had swamped the Nikiforov mansion like a hailstorm and Viktor had to painstakingly resist the incessant itch to burn every single one he happened to catch sight of. He didn’t even know where Yuuri had been taking those scraps of paper - all of which were a sickeningly sweet colour of white, red or pink.

Viktor hoped the omega was ripping them all into tiny, little pieces.

His pace quickened, deliberately ignoring that nagging part of him which had recently started to ask the daunting question of ‘but why…? Why do you want Yuuri to rip those proposition letters apart?’

Why indeed.

And for the few that actually had the audacity to visit his home and personally ask for Yuuri? 

Well… Viktor was almost, almost sure it had been his stone-cold eyes and tight-lipped smile that had intimidated those idiots enough that they had scurried off with their hypothetical tails between their legs rather than his eerily polite ‘Yuuri’s preoccupied at the moment. I’d be happy to pass along any message if you’d like. Go ahead, tell me. I don’t mind listening to what you have to tell him. I don’t mind at all.

Viktor certainly didn’t mind answering each and every one of those particular visits when he could. The maids certainly seemed to approve of the way he always managed to make those… visitors dash away if the wide smiles on their faces, ranging from politely grateful to thoroughly amused, was anything to go by.

Good riddance.

The alpha was pulled from his thoughts by a low, eager bark beside him.

Viktor reached down, absently patting Makkachin’s head, more for his comfort than anything when the lurch of apprehension intensified as the booming beat of the music in the distance accompanied by the slight buzzing murmurs of what is undoubtedly from a considerably large crowd became clearer.

Just a few more steps towards that intersection. A last turn to the left and then to the right and-

Yes. There it was.

Viktor paused, Yuuri stopping right along with him at the sight of the jam-packed entrance.

They stared at the enormous ‘Welcome!’ adorning the top of the giant makeshift pillars, slightly taken back by the amount of people currently bustling in and out of the large venue. Just beyond the pillars, the edges of the infamous brightly decorated parade floats were peeking through, the vibrant colours augmented by the sunlight and the clear blue sky in the background.

The sunset would be beautiful tonight.

Swallowing down the tightening in his throat at the passing memory of the last time he had set foot in this place, Viktor glanced to the side, sincerely hoping that the badgering worry gnawing at him was not surfacing on his face. 

He blinked once, startled by the glowing delight dancing around brown eyes like orbs of light as Yuuri’s mouth parted in awe. He turned to the alpha with barely concealed excitement, surging closer with an outstretched arm.

Viktor stared at the nimble fingers wrapped delicately around his wrist as the omega tugged at him with a laugh -the second time Yuuri’s touched him today like this- faintly wondering to himself why he had ever been worried in the first place.


Viktor wiped the bead of sweat trickling down the side of his face, panting as he leaned his palm on his knees in an attempt to aid his breathing. A step behind him, Yuuri stood with a frown, clutching the half-empty bag of ponchik closer as they stopped by the base of the hill some distance away from the Festival’s venue.

“What is up with that creep?” The omega asked with a huff, nowhere near as winded as the alpha was. He opened the paper bag with unnecessary aggression. “A normal ‘hello, how are you?’ would have been fine! Seriously!”

Viktor opened his mouth to reply, finding himself unable to talk as he continued to wheeze silently. He gave Yuuri a nod of agreement instead, weakly taking the piece of ponchik Yuuri offered him.

How Yuuri wasn’t out of breath from the unforeseen sprinting they just had to do, Viktor didn’t know.

“Has he always been that… overly-friendly?” The omega asked, completely oblivious to the other man’s current struggle in getting air into his lungs. “Or was it because he was with his friends? Was he just trying to show off?”

Overly-friendly’, in Viktor’s opinion, was an insultingly mild way to put it.

Viktor wanted to choke Mikhail.

“I was enjoying the Festival, you know! The ponchik and the rogaliki were delicious, just like you said! And the dango too!” Yuuri continued, trudging up the hill without thought, Makkachin happily bouncing along his side. “I could eat all of those every day.”

At least, Makkachin enjoyed the run.

“The dancers’ costumes were amazing, Viktor! The way the colours just blended together when they were spinning! It was just so- oh and the children at the end looked so adorable! Everyone was having so much fun!” Yuuri’s cheeks puffed out. “Then he just had to find us, didn’t he?”

Viktor trailed behind the omega, staring at the heels of Yuuri’s feet. It had indeed been a wonderful day at the Festival. Just like Yuuri said, the food was as delicious as he had remembered it to be, the music just as boisterous and the dancers just as graceful and flamboyant as before.

Never mind the whispers and the startled looks some had given them. At least no one had actually approached them or brought up any uncomfortable questions.

Well. 

Apart from one particular skunk.

How that goddamn Mikhail even found them in the hundreds, maybe even thousands of people bustling around in the Festival, Viktor could never understand. It was like the idiot had a radar that sniffed out his and Yuuri’s whereabouts. The only consolidation of suddenly having Mikhail’s face shoved inches from theirs was that it had been towards the late hours of the Festival.

“Suddenly holding my hand and leaning towards me like that - what was he thinking?”

Viktor’s teeth grounded together at the reminder. He should have instructed Makkachin to bite the bastard’s hand off. Viktor would have very much liked to skin Mikhail alive himself, as a matter of fact. How dare that bastard’s leering fingers drift to Yuuri’s hips like that?

“Honestly, I like my personal space, thank you very much! Someone ought to knock some sense into that guy.”

Which was why Viktor’s foot had ended up colliding with Mikhail’s shin. Hard.

Accidently, of course.

He hoped it cracked the bastard’s leg.

“Well…we got away in the end, I suppose,” the omega sighed, continuing to trek up the hill along a track he didn’t know Viktor was very well acquainted with – one the alpha hadn’t walked through in years. “Thank you for pulling me away, Viktor.”

“You’re welcome,” Viktor finally managed to reply. It had been more of a frantic tug to the wrist the moment Mikhail had started hopping on one leg in pain followed by a manic sprint across the entire vicinity of the Festival than a pull, per say.

But hey, like Yuuri said, at least they got away in the end, no matter how much his legs had protested with the frenzied run they had to do.

They finally reached the top of the hill and Viktor’s steps came to a slow halt at the familiar touch of the breeze on his cheeks. His gaze travelled up slowly, staring at the way the near-setting sun was now illuminating the younger man’s back.

It was almost sundown now.

Viktor’s eyes fell back to the grass swaying by his feet. 

Yuuri paused, glancing behind him questioningly at the absence of Viktor’s footsteps. “Viktor…?”

Blue eyes stayed locked on the ground. “…I-” the alpha cleared his throat. “Sorry, Yuuri,” he apologised following a beat of silence. “It’s just- it’s been a while since I’ve been here.”

Yuuri peered around them in confusion. “Here…?”

“Yeah…here,” Viktor ran a hand through his hair. “My parents and I used to sit here at this hilltop at the end of the Festival,” he explained quietly, a small melancholic smile making its way on his lips at the mention of his parents. “Just huddled together watching the sunset from here while we waited for the fireworks to start.”

He averted his eyes purposefully away from the other man, not really wanting to witness whatever expression it would be playing on Yuuri’s face, be it sadness, pity or some other semblance of sympathy.

Viktor froze, tensing when a warm, warm pair of arms encircled his waist instead.

“…thank you for taking me to the Festival today, Viktor,” Yuuri mumbled against his chest, his hold tight and secure. Safe. “It’s the most fun I’ve had in a while.”

‘Absolutely gorgeous’ and ‘just so sweet and polite’ had been how his parents’ friends had described the omega following a brief introduction earlier this afternoon, Viktor’s long absence seemingly forgiven in a heartbeat. Viktor had grinned at his parents’ old friends, enthusiastically nodding in agreement while he accepted the two large bags filled with ponchik and rogalik they had prepared for the two of them.

Those, amongst many other things, would be one of the many reasons why his parents would adore Yuuri today.

Viktor pressed his face against the tufts of soft, dark hair, slowly returning the embrace as he quietly inhaled the comforting scent of the ocean and cherry blossoms underlying the light fragrance of sugared honey.


Viktor rested an elbow on his knee, basking in the silence that was almost deafening when compared to the orchestra of noises that had surrounded he and Yuuri less than half an hour ago. He stroked Makkachin’s head as the poodle snoozed on his lap, staring at the achingly familiar view of the setting sun slowly descending down the horizon, mesmerised at the way the blue in the sky was morphing into the pink, purple, yellow and orange colours of twilight right before his eyes.

Heaviness stirred within his chest despite the beautiful sight, this particular scenery one that Viktor never truly looked at the same anymore.

Not when there was no Mother and Father beside him. Not when there was no awaiting lap to rest his head on and no fingers gently combing through his hair.

Viktor closed his eyes, taking a deep inhale of the crisp air.

“It’s so pretty." 

He glanced at Yuuri sat quietly beside him. 

Years from now, Viktor will continue to revisit this particular memory again and again – will always have the image of Yuuri sat in this hilltop, knees drawn to his chest and chin resting on his folded arms eternally etched in his memories.

And no matter how many times he will look back, Viktor would never really identify what it was about what he was staring at that made him just… realise.

Maybe it was that peaceful expression on Yuuri’s face or that warm smile on his lips, the way he was leaning his cheek on the crook of his elbows or the way his soft, ink-black hair was swaying gently with the wind.

Perhaps it was all of those in one. Maybe just an accumulation of every cherished moments -pure and precious just like this one- that they’ve spent together in the recent months. Perhaps.

No, Viktor would never know exactly which of those had made him realise.

But there it was, nonetheless – strong and dizzying in its ferocity as it slammed right through him, knocking his breath away like someone had punched all the air out of his lungs in one mighty blow.

Azure eyes blinked rapidly, the fierce twisting in his chest and the lurching in his stomach making it difficult to even attempt to think straight.

“I’ve always loved watching sunsets,” Yuuri said from beside him, completely unaware of the sudden turmoil he had unknowingly induced.

‘Me too,’ Viktor wanted to say, watching but not really seeing the flock of birds passing across the horizon. ‘I’ve always loved sunsets too, Yuuri.’

But the alpha could not – not when his throat felt so clogged that not even air appeared to be able to squeeze through. 

Viktor slowly blinked up at the sky, eyes wide as he attempted to force his lungs to work through the overwhelming pressure threatening to burst out of his chest. He forced himself to concentrate at anything else but the internal chaos that was making everything so disorienting, trying to focus on the remote chirps of the flock of birds flying over their heads, fingertips trembling when he heard the fleeting memory of Yuuri’s chiming laugh instead.

He stared at the blend of red, pink, purple and orange above them, seeing speckles of honey and cinnamon flecks in whiskey-coloured eyes behind his eyelids.

Viktor nodded slowly. 

‘…I see.’

Of course. 

Of course, Yuuri would be the one to make him feel like he was perched on the very clouds they were gazing at. Of course, Yuuri would be the one to make him feel what he’d only believed to be as fairy-tale since his parents passing - something so profound and so scary but also something so… vividly pure and light.

Of course.

‘Mama, Papa… there’s colour again.’

Viktor’s eyes stung.

The alpha didn’t know how long he sat there in silence with Yuuri beside him and Makkachin resting on his lap. He didn’t know how long he spent looking up at the twilight skies of dusk, pondering about how his own imagination couldn’t have prepared him for the storm inside him - how his dreams could never compare to the ferocity, could never do justice to the intensity of this sudden reality he had found himself in.

Viktor would not deny it – this warm, peculiar thrumming in his veins. Foreign and daunting but breath-taking and deep-seated and really, truly there.

No, he couldn’t deny it.

He would not deny Yuuri because Yuuri didn’t deserve to be denied - never, ever deserved to be denied. Not when he was so kind and so perfect and an epitome of everything Viktor never thought he’d ever find. 

A puzzle and an explanation. Simultaneously a burst of new flavours on his tongue and a taste tinged with the comforts of familiarity. A simmer of a flame warming up the fireplace with the capacity to be just as bright, just as alive as the explosions of colours from the crackles of fireworks that would soon ignite the sky.

Like drinking hot chocolate during the cold, snowy nights of winter but also like downing a glass of ice-cold vodka during the hot, humid nights of summer.

A riddle and the answer alike.

Someone that can make Viktor’s heart go thudthudthud akin to the way it beats in that split-second right before he takes off into mid-air, spinning and spinning while dancing on twin blades but also someone who can make the contentment and the feeling of home singe through his blood just by simply being there, not all that different from the relief and joy he feels when his bladed heels successfully fall back to the ice.

Yuuri who was like the sand on the beach and the snow on the fields.

Summer and winter wrapped in one.

Yuuri, who was just so, so-

“Beautiful,” the omega sighed happily beside him, still gazing up at the twilight sky.

Viktor stared at the setting sun, at the shades of orange and yellow and pink and red – muted colours that had, for so long, blurred into what had been comparable to a faded grey – and continued to think of Yuuri sitting quietly by his side.

He thought of brown eyes behind blue glasses, of soft, ink-black hair and a gentle curve of a smile.

“…Yeah,” Viktor breathed out, hoping his voice didn’t sound as choked as he felt.

He thought of the sweet scent of honey and cinnamon, of cherry blossoms and the ocean, of that chiming laugh and of the warmth that had been in that embrace not too long ago - thought simply of Yuuri who was just a complete blend of everything Viktor absolutely adored. Everything Viktor simply, unconditionally loved and-

Viktor bit his lip.

“…Beautiful,” he echoed quietly, voice carried away by the breeze.

Chapter Text

 



Christophe massaged his temples, watching Viktor continue to walk back and forth across the room.

“Will you stop pacing, Viktor?” he said, getting slightly dizzy. “You know I hate it when you do that.”

Viktor shook his head, swivelling on his heels upon reaching one end of his room before striding to the other side for the hundredth time.

Christophe sighed, squinting up at Viktor from his seat on the floor. He only ever walked around like this with that pinched expression on his face when he was truly troubled about something. 

“What’s got you so restless this time?”

The other alpha didn’t answer, staring at the carpeted floor in deep concentration though Christophe highly doubted Viktor was actually seeing whatever it was he was looking at. He wondered if Viktor would even notice it if he were to stick his leg out right in-front of him.  

Maybe face-planting on the floor would finally bring Viktor’s head back from whatever cloud it was currently floating in.

“…Yuuri’s a little worried about you, you know,” Christophe commented nonchalantly, a little impressed at how Viktor perked up almost immediately at that.

Funnily enough, the last time Viktor had been anywhere near as twitchy as this had been on the night following his eighteenth birthday – the same night he and Yuuri had bade their previous… farewells. As far as Christophe could remember, Viktor’s movements had been just as restless back then, face just as disconcerted as he, vague as he had been, recounted to Christophe how Yuuri had simply and easily agreed to do what he had requested.

Though, this time, Christophe noted, there was a trace of burning in Viktor’s scent - alpha pheromones that, at its faintness right now, could either be an indication of an oncoming rut or simply general agitation. Nonetheless, it had steadily been getting stronger these past few days, something which Christophe knew he hadn’t been alone in noticing. The additional edge of tension in the way Viktor moved was also something new, the tautness in his best-friend’s limbs making him appear as though he was a hair-breadth away from lashing out if provoked.

Christophe tucked his leg back firmly in place. 

No tripping Viktor today then, he supposed.

“He said you’ve been acting strange since you two came back from the Festival. He thinks he might have done something to upset you.”

Viktor frowned, steps faltering.

“Yuuri hasn’t done anything to upset me,” he said.

“No?” Christophe rubbed his chin in thought. “With how weird you’ve been acting lately, someone seemed to certainly have done something.”

An internal debate seemed to ensue as Viktor’s expression twitched and Christophe knew his best friend well enough that the sudden stillness meant that it was only a matter of waiting before he conceded and told Christophe what exactly was on his mind. Christophe let the silence drag on, resting his back on the frame of Viktor’s bed.

Finally, Viktor’s shoulders drooped in what appeared to be defeat.

Christophe scooted a little to the side, letting the other alpha slump down next to him on the floor. Viktor’s head rolled back as he stared at his bedroom ceiling, looking so thoroughly anguished that a fresh roil of worry churned from Christophe’s stomach.

 “…I don’t want him to go, Chris.”

“Um… who’s ‘him’, exactly?” Christophe asked, a creeping notion that he probably already knew the answer. There was only one person Christophe could think of that will be leaving in the near-future.

Viktor’s face crumpled slightly. Christophe studied the forlorn expression, deciding to take pity.

“Are we talking about a certain someone of this height,” he gestured, raising one arm. “Someone with black hair. Wearing glasses. Possibly a certain omega, to be more precise? Succulent scent, plump lips, delicious thick thighs an-” his mouth clamped shut immediately when Viktor’s eyes glinted, snapping to him and looking unimpressed.

Hm… maybe he really ought not to tick Viktor off right now.

“Alright, alright, I’m joking,” Christophe yielded, putting his palms up. “What seems to be the problem?”

Viktor tilted his head back to stare at the ceiling once more. “I don’t want him to go,” he repeated gravely. 

“…right,” Christophe cleared his throat. He didn’t want Yuuri to go either, actually. The duration of the omega’s stay has been rather pleasant, to say the least. “Okay…You don’t want Yuuri to go where exactly?” he asked. “I mean, there’s plenty of places you probably don’t want Yuuri to go. Prime example: Mikhail’s party tomorrow.”

The other alpha shook his head, seemingly not up for any banter, not even one to make fun of Mikhail Kulev.

“His 18th birthday’s coming up soon,” Viktor said quietly, looking so uncharacteristically disheartened, “and he’s…going to have to go back to Hasetsu after that, isn’t he? After he signs the-” he hesitated, “-the termination contract?” 

Christophe nodded uncertainly.  “Well…yeah,” he answered. “That’s his home, after all. Where else is he supposed to go? Stay here?”

Viktor did not answer, keeping his gaze purposefully stuck on the ceiling and appearing, Christophe daresay, almost guilty. 

Christophe’s back straightened.

 “…Okay,” he repeated slowly. “You’ve been acting weird for some time and you don’t want to share why. Fine, fine.” He leaned closer, scrutinising the other alpha behind feigned casualness. “But heeey, you know, I’ll share something with you that I’ve been thinking about for a while now.”

Viktor studied him suspiciously from the corner of his eyes.

“Do you remember what you said to me before Yuuri arrived here? When we were in the living room waiting for him?”

Viktor shook his head in confusion.

Christophe pushed down a smirk, forcing his lips to pucker instead. He fluttered his eyelashes in exaggerated innocence. “‘You can do whatever you want, Chris,’” he mimicked in a purposefully poor imitation of the other man, teasingly flicking away imaginary strands of hair from his face.  “‘You have my blessings.’” 

Christophe knew, as he watched Viktor’s darkening expression that he ought to be careful. Alphas, naturally, can get awfully territorial and with how positively adorable Yuuri truly was, Christophe couldn’t really blame Viktor for feeling on edge from all the attention the omega had been gnarling since the night of the celebration. Instincts were instinct and no matter where Viktor and Yuuri stood in their -coughcough, what could only be described as- complicated relationship, Viktor’s instincts were ought to be on haywire from what he was most certainly perceiving, subconscious or otherwise, as threats.

Still, Christophe couldn’t help himself as he leaned forward, sincerely hoping the other alpha wasn’t jumpy enough to throttle him for what he was about to say.

“I was thinking- and this is all theoretical by the way,” he accentuated pointedly, “But I was thinking,” he stroked his chin, “that if I should decide to pursue that difficult and truly daunting-” suicidal, he doesn’t add, “-route of actually courting Yuuri,” he paused, shooting Viktor an annoyingly innocent smile, “would you, in all honesty, be able to tell me that I still have your blessings now?”

And really, it was a testament to Viktor’s self-control, and even their friendship perhaps, how the only thing he did was glare daggers at Christophe with enough heat that he might as well have melted through the floorboards.

No,” Viktor bit out angrily to Christophe’s utter glee. “No, you most definitely do not have my blessings.”

Christophe threw his head back, his loud, booming laugh echoing throughout the room.

“Is that your way of admitting that you, as a matter of fact, like Yuuri? Not just like,” he emphasised, waving both his arms around, face lighting up like Christmas lights as the other alpha looked away, crossing his arms with a small huff, “but like like.

Viktor refused to answer again, guilt crossing his expression once more.

Aha.

“What do I do, Chris…?”

Finally.

“Well,” Christophe began, resisting the urge to jump up and down in triumph, “the very first thing you can do, Viktor Nikiforov, is reverently and whole-heartedly apologise to me and tell me that I, Christophe Giacometti, am, in fact, truly omniscience because, ah yes, what were those infamous words I’ve been itching to say? Aha!” he jabbed Viktor on the cheek, flashing a victorious grin at the side-glare being thrown at him. “I told you so.”



Viktor sat atop the koi pond’s bridge, legs slotted through the railings and forehead resting against the metal bars as he gazed down at the murky water beneath. It was night-time now, the moon full and bright and the pitch-black sky scarcely scattered with dark grey clouds.

The previous conversation with Christophe played in his mind like a broken record, the particular reminder of Yuuri’s upcoming birthday intensifying the restlessness he’d been feeling since the Festival.

The strange prickling underneath his skin, uncomfortable and vexing, continued to scratch at him persistently and Viktor slumped further against the railings, not really knowing if this recent frustration had been provoked by the continuous loop of ‘Yuuri, birthday, termination contract, leaving. Yuuri, birthday, termination contract, leaving. Termination contract, leaving… Yuuri…leaving’ or if it had been caused by something else completely.

Maybe he needed a stronger dose of his rut-suppressors.

‘You don’t stink of rut pheromones. Not yet anyway,’ Christophe had said. ‘But you’re being awfully moody for someone who just had a wake-up call. Maybe it’s not your rut after all, Viktor. Might be the uh… perceived competition making you edgy. All the proposition letters and the idea of all the eyes on him tomorrow at Mikhail’s party, perhaps?’

Viktor frowned. He didn’t think so. There was no such as thing as competition when it came to this, at least not in the way Christophe had been implying. Yuuri was remarkably independent, completely aware of what he wanted in many aspects which, Viktor was certain, extended to knowing who he’d want to spend the rest of his life with. He was not some prized trophy to be handed over to the wealthiest alpha or to some brute who fought the bloodiest in an arena.

‘Spend the rest of his life with…' Viktor pressed his forehead against the metal bars. 

Yuuri choosing to accept someone’s courting proposition, no matter how far in the future that would be, was as inevitable as Yuuri departing for Hasetsu. Both notions made Viktor’s head spin.

‘You wanted this, remember?’ An ugly part of his mind reminded him. ‘You’ve wanted this since it began and now what you wanted is happening. He’s going to sign that termination contract and he’s going to leave.’ Viktor closed his eyes. ‘He’s going to leave and you two won’t ever have another reason to see each other ever again.’

He sighed quietly, staring at the small ripples caused by the slow, lazy swim of the koi fishes below until a light nudge to his left alerted him to Makkachin’s presence by his side. He patted her head absently in greeting, wondering how deep into his thoughts he must have been to not have heard her approaching footsteps.

“Hey, girl,” Viktor said softly, brushing the back of his hand against the fuzzy tufts of brown fur on her cheeks.

The responding bark was muffled by the miniature, stuffed toy poodle currently held in her mouth.

Viktor smiled when she dropped the small object on his lap.

“Have I been looking that upset, Makkachin?”

Makkachin nudged at the stuffed toy on his lap before gazing back up at him expectedly, tongue lolling out of her mouth. The alpha obliged, picking it up and letting Makkachin rest her heavy head on his thighs in its place.

Viktor studied the plush toy, a complete replica of Makkachin herself, in melancholic fondness.

“I’m sorry if I’ve worried you again, Makkachin,” Viktor apologised, running his thumb over the soft, brown, albeit a little drool-sodden, fabric. “I’m okay.”

Makkachin never failed to bring this to him on his most sombre days.

“It’s just… well, there’s this person, you see,” he continued, tracing over the familiar lone, gold symbol stitched at the base of one paw. It was a rather peculiar emblem, one that, strangely enough, highly resembled that Greek letter, Lambda. In all these years, he never figured out what it was supposed to signify.

“He’s… beautiful. Breath-taking in every way without even trying. But not just on the outside.”

Viktor tapped the stuffed toy against Makkachin’s nose.

“But you already know all of that don’t you, Makkachin?”

Makkachin gave a soft whine in response, nudging her muzzle into his palm.

Makkachin had borne witness to many things in Viktor’s life, the aftermath of his parents’ tragic demise being one of the most significant. As excruciating as those following days had felt, as terrifying as it had been to be shoved into the throes of responsibilities that he had been far, far too young to face, Viktor would always remember how he had tenaciously hammered the thought of ‘Be strong. Don’t cry’ in his head, how he had been unable to bare the sympathetic, concerned looks that had drowned him like a tsunami in the early days.

Viktor had spent many hours in his room by himself, choosing to suffocate on the devastation of the loss alone because in his young, naive mind, the house of Nikiforov would have no need for a Head who cried in the presence of strangers.

Makkachin had only been a tiny pup at the time, a brand-new, days-old gift from his parents.

A stranger.

And so in those early days, Viktor told himself he couldn’t cry, not when Makkachin had followed him everywhere he went to the point that Viktor had decided to lock his door at night, listening to Makkachin’s small cries for him to let her inside, to encase her in his arms again like he had the very first time she had been presented to him, echo in the corridor without acting on it.

He remembered forcing his stare to remain blank at every word of condolences during the funeral, barely blinking in fear of a tear escaping every time someone had tentatively patted his shoulder.

But, Viktor recalled, it had also been that same, cold night, -hours after the dull echoes of the eulogy had finally faded into silence and the heaviness of the people’s sad, sympathetic stares were no longer weighing on his shoulders like boulders - when Makkachin had pushed open his unlocked door, timidly approaching Viktor who had sat alone on his bedroom floor, blue eyes meticulously dry, knees drawn to his chest and arms wrapped tightly around his legs. 

She had been holding the miniature stuffed poodle in her mouth, offering it to him with a quiet whine as though saying ‘This is all I can give you and I don’t know what else to do. Please, take it and hug me again.’

It was the first time Viktor had ever seen the plush toy and to this day, he still had no clue as to where Makkachin had even picked it up in the first place but it had been that simple sight of Makkachin, looking as worried and as sad as she possibly could look, which had triggered the breakdown Viktor could no longer control.

That was the first time he had sobbed onto her fur in the confines of his frosty bedroom floor, clutching at the small, stuffed poodle while he cried and cried until he couldn’t breathe, her warmth and her ever-persistent presence reminding him he hadn’t been alone.

For Viktor, that was his and Makkachin’s beginning.

“Yeah,” the alpha nodded to himself, affectionately rubbing her fluffy head, “he’s beautiful. But he’s not-” he bit his lip. “He’s not mine. He wouldn’t want me, Makkachin. Not anymore. Why would he?”

Makkachin stared up with her big button eyes, releasing another low whine at the dejected, forlorn expression on Viktor’s face.

“Ah, Makkachin,” the alpha sighed defeatedly, gaze lifting from the miniature toy to the stars littering the black sky. “What am I going to do?”

Viktor continued to sit at the bridge in silent solitude, pondering at the helplessness currently eating at him from the inside, staring at the sky for so long that his neck had begun to ache. He paid the twinge at the base of his nape no mind, too lost in the memory of teary brown eyes that had gazed up at him almost three years ago to hear the approaching footsteps behind him.

“Hey Viktor...”

Viktor startled, whipping around at the quiet sound of Yuuri’s voice and internally wincing when his spine clacked into place.

This was the second time someone had managed to sneak up on him today. He must really be out of it.

“Hi, Yuuri.”

Yuuri gestured to the empty spot beside Viktor. “Can I…?”

The alpha nodded. “Of course. Go ahead.” 

The omega settled beside him, mimicking his position and slotting his legs through the railings of the bridge. He eyed the younger man curiously, giving Makkachin an absent pat as he waited for Yuuri to settle.

“Everything okay?” Viktor asked.

Yuuri lifted a perfectly-shaped eyebrow at him. “I could ask you the same thing, you know. You didn’t even hear me coming up to you.”

“Haha, yeah…” Viktor laughed weakly, internally grimacing at how forced he sounded even to his own ears. “Just lost in thought, I suppose.”

The omega frowned, looking even more concerned. “Yeah, I can see that.”

Viktor studied the koi pond beneath him, aware of the scrutiny in Yuuri’s gaze.

“You’ve been a little quiet since the Festival,” Yuuri began softly following several seconds of silence. “I hope I didn’t do anything to upset you.”

The alpha shook his head. “You didn’t, Yuuri,” he said reassuringly. “I just-” he paused. “I just haven’t been feeling very well lately.”

Yuuri glanced at the koi pond below. “Do you need to visit the infirmary?”

Viktor shook his head once more.

“Maybe you should go inside if you’re not feeling well, Viktor,” the omega offered gently. “It’s getting late and it’s a little chilly. You might get sick if you stay out here.” Viktor tilted his head up, feeling the coldness in the air brushing against his cheeks. The breeze was a little chillier tonight. “You can’t leave me to go to Mikhail’s party alone tomorrow just because you suddenly catch a cold, you know.”

Viktor absently squeezed the stuffed poodle in his hand.

“Of course not,” he said, the corners of his lips twitching upwards in response to Yuuri’s tentative smile. “A little cold wouldn’t stop me from going with you, Yuuri.”

Viktor would accompany Yuuri to the ends of the world if he had to.

They stared at the water in silence, both lost in their own thoughts before the alpha finally sighed, slowly pulling himself away from the railings and rising from his position when his mind inadvertently drifted to the haunting memory of sad, brown eyes and a painfully understanding smile.

Yuuri was right. He ought to get some rest in preparation for tomorrow.

Mikhail’s little celebration was bound to drain the little energy he had left.

He bade the omega a quiet goodnight, unable to bring himself to look the younger man in the face, knowing Yuuri would probably become a little concerned should he catch sight of the doleful expression Viktor couldn’t hide.

Yuuri shouldn’t waste any form of sentiment on the likes of him.

Viktor paused on his second step at the soft call of his name, fingertips a hairbreadth away from Yuuri’s back.

“You’re worrying me.”

Viktor studied the silhouette bathed in silver moonlight from the corner of his eyes.

“And I know you said it isn’t anything I’ve done,” Yuuri continued, “but something’s troubling you nonetheless and I worry for you.”

Viktor's gazed shifted to the fluffy, brown toy still clutched in his hand, absently studying the glittering gold insignia on its paw.

“You don’t have to tell me anything you don’t want to but is there anything I can do, Viktor? Anything at all?”

Yuuri deserved anything he wanted, Viktor thought to himself. Anything and everything including knowing that he was the reason for why Viktor’s world seemed to have tilted and toppled over so quickly, so unexpectedly in the most beautiful and yet the most frightening way possible.

“I’m sorry for worrying you, Yuuri.”

But Viktor wasn’t that brave, not tonight, and the upcoming consequences of what he had asked for was something he still needed time to accept alone.

‘You coward,’ that ugly part of his mind taunted. ‘What kind of alpha are you? Can’t even pacify your omeg-’

Yuuri was not his.

The younger man sighed, sounding defeated as he finally turned around to face Viktor. “That’s not what I-” he stopped abruptly, eyes zeroing in on the miniature stuffed poodle and the alpha watched in confusion as a strange, unreadable expression crossed Yuuri’s face.

“It’s Makkachin’s favourite toy,” Viktor explained hastily at the ensuing awkward silence, words spilling out uncontrollably under the sudden intensity of Yuuri’s stare. “She found it somewhere years ago and she gives it to me sometimes when I’m-”

The omega reached forward, fingers brushing against Viktor’s knuckles who shivered at the fleeting burn the touch left on his skin. He let Yuuri take the toy, expecting some puzzlement, maybe even some amusement from the younger man who now studying the miniature poodle resting almost delicately on his palm.

Yuuri slowly traced the brown fur with the tip of his pointer finger, flitting over the stitch sticking out of from where the left leg connected with the body - a peculiar flaw that had already been there the first night Makkachin had offered it to him, one unnoticeable to someone who did not know it was there.

Something tight and painful began to coil in Viktor’s stomach at the blatant familiarity of the touch.

The miniature poodle hadn’t been new when he received it, Viktor knew that. The fabric had been soft in a way that indicated the plush toy had been washed a handful of times before it had found its way to him, had probably been hugged by another child for countless nights before Makkachin had ever set her eyes on it, holding it the same way Viktor used to do when he was younger on the nights of his parents’ death anniversary.

Clearly, it had been made by skilful hands, thoroughly well-taken care of, and the fact that it appeared to be such a loved, precious little thing initially made Viktor feel slightly guilty for claiming it as his own without even attempting to search for the original owner.

Viktor always wondered who it belonged to - wondered who it was that had left that faded but much too faint saccharine scent blended with the smell of seawater and flowers.

“You kept it,” Yuuri whispered, sounding in awe as he continued to gaze at the stuffed poodle.

And really, that golden, scripted ‘Y’ – not a Greek letter or some private crest at all, idiot- stitched neatly on its paw should have made the answer so painstakingly and so heartbreakingly obvious.

“I’ve always been fond of dogs,” the omega continued softly. “My mother made this for me and…I loved it. Couldn’t sleep without it.” He smiled nostalgically. “I believed it’d protect me from all those scary monsters in Mari nee-chan’s bedtime stories.”

Viktor’s legs remained fixed at the spot, feeling numb as he watched Makkachin nudge her nose against Yuuri’s side.

“But then after… after-” the omega hesitated, voice quieting even more. “I didn’t know how to approach you that night so…” he returned the plush toy to Viktor who took it back wordlessly, feeling, for the umpteenth time, that everything he had known about himself was being uprooted and wrenched out of balance.

“I didn’t know if Makkachin would actually give it to you or if you’d even take it. I was worried but… I’m glad it reached you.” 

Yuuri rested a hand on Makkachin’s head, smiling tenderly as he patted the poodle in gratitude.

Viktor wanted to cry.

“Why…?” he rasped out with burning eyes, throat feeling scratchy and raw.

‘Why would you give me something this important to you?’

Yuuri stared at him steadily.

‘Why did you have to be like this – so good and so kind? Why?’

“I thought at the time… you needed it more than me.” 

‘Why do you do this to me?’

The unshed tears continued to burn behind Viktor’s eyelids, hot and fierce but unfallen as he laid in bed that night, staring at the emptiness of his dark room and feeling so very nauseous over the fact that the familiar comfort he sought in his darkest hours all these years had its roots from Yuuri.

At this point, Viktor didn’t know why that even came as a surprise anymore.

One way or another, his life had always been intertwined with Yuuri’s. Kind, beautiful Yuuri.

Yuuri who he had inadvertently hurt in the past.

‘You chose this.’

Yuuri, who had since moved on from the idea of him - of being with Viktor.

‘You wanted this.’

Yuuri, who, this time, will be the one to leave Viktor behind without another thought, without a second glance because Viktor wouldn’t deserve to be anything else but a forgotten shadow from Yuuri’s past.

‘You wanted this and here it is.’

Viktor didn’t sleep that night. 



“You look like shit, old man.”

Viktor couldn’t find the energy to do anything else but glare at Yuri through heavy-lidded eyes. To his further aggravation, Yuri only quirked a haughty eyebrow back at him.

“Don’t glare at me like that, Viktor. I’ll poke your eyes out.”

“Yura, not tonight,” Victor said, well-aware that his dishevelled hair and the dark circles under his eyes were nothing short of unappealing. “Please,” he added with a strain when the teenager pursed his lips in suspicion.

“What’s wrong with you?”

Viktor pinched the bridge of his nose.

This place. This place was what’s wrong.

“Did you and Katsudon have a fight?”

He stared at the younger alpha wearily. “Why would you think that?”

“ ‘Cause he’s all the way there with Chulanont-” Yuri gestured to the other side of the massive, jam-packed hall, pointing at a tuft of unmistakable black hair in the distance, “-and you’re all the way here. Alone.” 

Viktor glanced at the surroundings, eyeing the boisterously decorated hall, the place unnervingly foreign and loud and too damn bright.

“Yuuri and I didn’t have a fight, Yura.”

“Then why are you standing here by yourself?”

Because Viktor had been an unpleasant git the moment he had stepped out of his bedroom this morning, not having slept a wink the prior night. ‘Irritable and cranky’, he had heard Christophe whisper to Yuuri behind his back as they left the Nikiforov mansion. ‘His temper’s been the worst today. Yes, I’ll try persuade him to get checked after tonight, Yuuri. I’m not sure he’s going to listen to me though…’

Yuuri had quietly left Viktor’s side with a hesitant goodbye in search for Phichit as soon as they stepped into the Kulev’s mansion, joined moments later by Christophe who waited for Viktor’s silent nod at him. Yakov had wandered away too soon after, likely to converse with the other Nobles present, leaving Viktor alone to stand in this specific corner of the large hall where the overwhelming mixture of scents and the rowdy jumble of voices were the most muted.

“Listen,” Yuri began when Viktor failed to answer, “if it’s about that stupid termination contract, it’s about damn time Katsudon gave you some hell wi-”

“Don’t.”

The countless pairs of eyes that had fallen on them when they arrived here in this foreign territory had only served to stir his aggravation further, his mood tilting closer to dangerously unhinged with every passing minute though that, with more effort than he'd normally need, was something he could probably keep tight reigns on for the rest of the night. But to undergo another round of ‘termination contract this. Termination contract that’…?

Viktor didn’t think he could take hearing it again right now.

Yuri studied the other alpha critically before taking a small, blatant whiff of the air around them.

“What’s wrong with you?” the young alpha repeated, standing his ground under Viktor’s unblinking stare. “You’re starting to leak pheromones like a broken faucet. Did you forget to take your rut-suppressants?”

“No.”

“Then why the fuck do you smell like you’re ready to tear someone’s head off?" 

Viktor frowned. What the hell did that even smell like?

“I don’t know.”

Yuri’s eyes narrowed up at him and Viktor stared back blankly, refusing to break eye-contact and yield from this other… alpha’s…challenge? 

…What was wrong with him? 

“Go get some fresh air, Viktor,” the teenager finally said, averting his eyes and nodding towards the exit leading to the Kulev mansion’s garden. “You look like you’re either going to faint or you’re getting ready to knock someone out.”

Did he look that bad that even Yuri was choosing to back down?  

Yuri rolled his eyes when Viktor didn’t move though his gaze remained intentionally pointed away from the older alpha’s eyes. “You’re not going to be missing anything in this fucker’s boring-ass celebration.”

Viktor glanced at the wide doorway with some hesitance. He hadn’t even had the chance to see Mila or Georgi yet but… perhaps fresh air might help clear some of this thick, grey mist currently fogging his mind and thoughts.

“Go, Viktor,” Yuri pressed on. “Nothing’s going to happen.”

He peered back down at Yuri, giving a small nod. 

As it turned out, Yuri was very, very wrong.



Viktor pressed the heel of his palms to his eyes, wanting the bone-deep restlessness to dissipate. He exhaled sharply through his nose, frustration bleeding through when the slight gust of wind felt like an invisible sting to his hyper-sensitive skin. Standing around the Kulev’s garden wasn’t helping, not one bit. If anything, the marble statue of Mikhail towering over him, its face permanently twisted in that stupid pompous smirk, was making his blood boil even more. With some reluctance, Viktor begrudgingly made his way back inside, not really sure how long he had been standing outside for.

The small journey back to the hall was …quiet, to say the least. Strange, considering the music that was playing before he left had been loud enough to be heard miles away. Viktor frowned. When did the music even stop?

He paused at the silence that greeted him upon re-entering the Kulev’s hall, the unexpected sight of hordes of guests assembled into a single mass, heads turned away from him and towards the other end of the room, bringing about a foreboding feeling of déjà vu from the night of the celebration in the Nikiforov mansion. He shook off the dread as he attempted to walk through the mob, keeping his eyes on the distinct blonde hair sticking out from the other side of the crowd.

What the hell was Mikhail spouting that necessitated such silence?

“-forov was so, so foolish for ending an engagement with such a beautiful omega like yourself, wouldn’t you agree-”

Viktor froze. 

“-greatest honour if you, Yuuri Katsuki, would-"

Heartbeat beginning to hammer through his ribcage, loud and furious, he continued moving forward, the large crowd of guests who, unbeknownst to him had immediately began to part at the potent, intimidating scent he was now unconsciously emitting. Viktor lightly pushed aside those who weren’t fast enough to move from his path, stopping at the edge of the crowd.

He stared at Yuuri’s hands enclosed within Mikhail’s, own fingernails digging into his palms hard enough to leave red, curved imprints.

"-the pleasure of accepting-”

Blue eyes flickered upwards, landing on the forced calmness on Yuuri’s face, knowing that behind the omega’s composed façade was an accelerated heartbeat and a nauseating mixture of anxiety and rising panic.

“-proposition to formally court-”

‘…you fucker.’

Was that this bastard’s plan all along? Host this ridiculously grandiose courting proposition so Yuuri couldn’t possibly say ‘no’, not under the undivided attention of all these Nobles who were watching the scene unfold like it was another fascinating live-show. Another drama to gossip about.

‘How fucking dare you…’

He should have known Mikhail had something up his sleeve. What other reason was there to assemble such a large audience so suddenly?

Viktor held his ground despite the pounding in his ears. Yuuri will be okay. He’ll know how to manage this situation without making things unnecessarily escalate any more than they would need to.

…Right?

Cerulean eyes slowly roamed the faces surrounding him. He resisted the urge to gnash his teeth at the grotesquely invested expressions, clamping his mouth shut to prevent himself from growling at everyone to back off because Yuuri didn’t like being the centre of their. Goddamn. Attention.

An animated laugh snapped his attention back to the front of the crowd, finding Mikhail’s head thrown back at whatever response Yuuri -what did Yuuri say? It was a no, wasn’t it? I didn’t catch what he said, dammit- had given him.

“Let him handle this, Viktor. He can take care of himself.”

Viktor’s gaze remained locked on Yuuri, Yakov’s sudden presence beside him as much of a blur as the elder alpha’s reassurance amidst the near-deafening thudding currently reverberating across his eardrums.

Glinting blue eyes narrowed into slits when Mikhail’s hand raised to grip at Yuuri’s shoulder, the skin of the other alpha’s inner wrist dangerously close to the nape of the younger man’s neck. The movement didn’t appear nearly as casual as Mikhail was trying to make it out to be, especially when the blonde alpha flashed the crowd a toothy smirk, looking as arrogant and as conceited as ever.

Sweltering heat, volatile and unbearable, coursed through Viktor’s veins when Mikhail lightly brushed his wrist on Yuuri’s neck, the omega immediately bristling at the intimate contact. 

‘Who do you think you are, touching him like that-’

“Viktor…” Yakov began lowly in warning, instantly spotting the haze that had begun to cloud Viktor’s eyes. 

But Viktor paid him no mind, head spinning at the hair-raising thought that some egotistical bastard was trying to scent Yuuri.

Without Yuuri’s permission.

‘I’ll break your fucking spine, you asshole. How fucking dare you-‘ 

A low, constant rumble began to emit from Viktor’s chest as he watched the blonde alpha’s hand begin to crawl from Yuuri’s shoulder, fingers slowly inching upwards. 

“Viktor,” Yakov hissed beside him. “Snap out of it.”

Disbelief froze Viktor into place, the low vibrations radiating from his chest abruptly halting when the fingers nonchalantly wrapped around the nape of Yuuri's neck.

No.

That bastard did not- he didn’t just-

“Viktor, listen to me-”

At this point in the omega’s life, having the back of his neck gripped in such a manner was something only familial alphas would have had the right to do, something his father or sister probably never did to Yuuri simply because of how sensitive and intimate the act itself was, especially towards an omega.

It was a show of power, something someone only did to make another submit.

And in this situation, it was also an act of utter disrespect.

Towards Yuuri. In-front of all these people.

Viktor’s teeth snapped together with a loud clack, lips curling up in a silent snarl.

Viktor, are you listening-”

Wide honey-brown eyes landed on Viktor, not even having to search this room full of strangers to find him and Viktor… Viktor could feel himself slipping, the last strings tethering him in place burning away as he watched the hold on Yuuri’s neck momentarily tighten.

Despite the hammering in his head that was making the surroundings too vivid and too sharp, Viktor tried to listen to Yakov but failed to comprehend what was being said to him amid the loud ringing currently resonating in his ears. 

Yuuri had sought him out.

The moment that hold had tightened on his neck, Yuuri had sought him out.

And as forcefully unperturbed Yuuri’s demeanour had suddenly become as soon as their gaze had collided, the omega now looking merely uncomfortable and just slightly troubled to those who didn’t know him well enough to read him, there was no denying what Yuuri’s eyes had reflected back as he implored at Viktor from a distance. Whether it had been elicited by innate instincts because of what this other alpha -this fucking filth-was doing or if it was something else entirely, Viktor could hardly care to decipher anymore. He didn’t care about anything or anybody else in this room, least of all these strangers watching them like hawks. He didn’t care about control or social etiquettes. 

All of those be damned because- because-

Because even if it had just been for a brief moment, even if it had just been for a split second, there had been fear in Yuuri’s eyes.

Yuuri had been… afraid.

Afraid.

Yuuri was afraid.

And there it was – the final bullet to shatter what little control he had left.

Viktor’s vision flared red.

“Viktor, do not-”

Viktor lunged forward, a deep, menacing growl- loud and feral and dangerous- ripping its way out of his throat. 

Chapter Text

 


Christophe liked to think of himself as the level-headed one. Logical and rational. Completely, utterly reasonable when the situation called for it. His, ahem, wild tendencies aside, of course.

But yes, Christophe being the sensible one of the Syrniki and Cheese Fondue duo was a well-known fact. He knew this. Viktor knew this. Everyone knew this.

Even his answer to the simple question of ‘what’s the best way to drink tea?’ demonstrated this.

‘Take the teabag out after 3 minutes in the hot water before adding a splash of milk and a dash of honey. No, not with a glob of strawberry jam, thank you very much, Viktor, you weirdo. What’s wrong with you?’  

So yes, clearly Christophe was the sensible one.

He’d always found it particularly easy to assess a situation on the spot, able to keep in mind both the emotional and practical aspects before putting forward his own opinion on the matter.

And thus, when he had screeched ‘absolutely not! That’s a terrible idea, you stupid idiot! Are you crazy?!’ into Viktor’s ears almost 4 years ago following his best-friend’s haphazard explanation of his plans regarding the termination contract, Christophe knew exactly what he was talking about.

The moment Yuuri had waltzed back into Viktor’s life after their prolonged separation, Christophe would still be able to confidently say that he knew what he had been talking about all those years ago.

Viktor’s plan had sounded abysmal back then. Terribly reckless and one that, Christophe thought, was bound to end in nothing short of a disaster. And no, he hadn’t thought this because he had been thinking about what the other Noble families would have to say about the situation -they can all go take a hike, those meddlesome, opinionated cretins- but because Christophe knew Viktor.

He knew what kind of person Viktor was - what it was Viktor liked and what he didn’t like in the many different aspects of life. He knew what Viktor thought of himself, of the world around them and how Viktor’s rebellious streak had always been such a fundamental part of his character. What is more, Christophe, being the self-proclaimed best-friend that he was, also knew with utter most certainty what it was that was actually good for Viktor.

Whilst Christophe would not dare claim to know Yuuri in any near of a depth as Phichit did, he was still absolutely certain that he knew Yuuri well-enough to say that the omega was the type of person that could have captivated Viktor’s interest from the very beginning if both Viktor or Yuuri had been willing to give it a chance - if Yuuri had gathered enough courage within him to actually be himself around Viktor and if Viktor hadn’t automatically turned his head away in stubborn refusal to pay attention just because he didn’t want to do what was expected from him. 

Had everything played out the way Christophe imagined it should, then it would have been a plot befitting that of those cheesy romance novels that he and Viktor used to giggle at – all the sweet and spicy contents included.

But a romance novel - their current predicament most definitely was not.

This particular situation they were presently in was, as a matter of fact, a catastrophe. An absolute debacle.  

A live, apocalyptic tale in the making.

He knew he should have made Viktor stay at the Nikiforov manor today. The foul mood the other alpha had risen up with this morning should have been enough of a reason to barricade Viktor within the confines of the mansion. From the dark circles underneath the narrowed eyes to the tightly clenched jaw and the rigidity in the way he walked, it was so blatantly obvious to anyone with some semblance of sentience that Viktor was not to be crossed today. Even Yuuri had made sure to stay clear of Viktor’s way all day, only looking on with worry from a distance though Christophe didn’t think that particular detail had helped Viktor’s mood at all - had probably even soured it some more.

“This is bad,” Phichit whispered to him from the side, charcoal eyes equally engrossed on the grim scene before them. “Chris, this is so bad.”

Bad, in Christophe’s view, was a rather simple way of describing this situation.

This could have all been avoided if that goddamn gargoyle didn’t find the need to put Yuuri in the limelight like this. And naturally, Mikhail just had to start his oh-so grandiose courting speech when Viktor hadn’t been anywhere to be found.

Trust Viktor to leave and return at precisely the wrong times. 

Exactly how Yuuri was keeping such a calm façade with that serpent arm currently snaked around his shoulder, Christophe would strangle Mikhail himself to know. Exactly how Viktor was able to remain rooted where he was standing amidst this ordeal designed to humiliate him, Christophe would also be quite invested to know.

“…I think,” he started slowly, internally cringing as he listened to the shallow, sugar-coated praises the other blonde alpha -how embarrassing can this asswipe possibly get- was showering Yuuri with. He recoiled, nose scrunching upon picking up Viktor’s scent – the smell now overtly unpleasant due to the heavy overcoat of burning acid currently saturating it.

These irate pheromones Viktor was emitting smelled like something akin to burning charcoal doused in chlorine.

Christophe didn’t like it, not one bit.

Goddamn Mikhail.

“I think I should probably move over there to where Yakov and Viktor are.” He gestured towards where the two were currently stood just a few metres away, unable to decode accurately what it was Yakov was saying from this distance. “See what’s going on in that end.”

“What? Why? You can’t just sneak off now!” Phichit protested in a harsh whisper, undereye twitching when Mikhail’s boisterously haughty laughter, high-pitched and just so downright annoying, reverberated around them. “We have to think of a way to stop this, Chris! Diffuse the situation before Yuuri has to actually give that moron an answer!” 

Hazel eyes lingered on the head of silver hair, watching Viktor’s face slowly darkening with every word coming out of Mikhail’s mouth. 

What was that clown saying now? More sly, sneering remarks about Viktor? The diplomatic advantages from a union between the Kulevs and Katsukis?

“…Viktor’s not looking too happy at all, Phichit.”

Truly, watching this scenario was as uncomfortable as it was provoking.

 “I don’t think anyone apart from Mikhail is very happy right now.”

Christophe’s gaze lingered back to Yuuri, worry stirring in his chest at the anxiety he could practically feel roiling off the omega in waves as the fingers around his shoulders began to creep up.

Christophe chewed on his lips, uncertain of what to do. It was making his palms sweat, this thick tension in the air.

“You’re good at distracting people, Chris, quick, think of something!” Phichit’s voice rose in its octave ever so slightly, the faint panic for Yuuri making itself known as Mikhail’s speech began to near its end. “We’re the best-friends and we have to stick together until we’re sure Yuuri’s safe and sound and far, far away from that sh-” 

Phichit’s mouth clamped shut immediately, teeth colliding together with a clack.

Christophe had already envisioned the carnage that the abominable act was going to elicit the moment he spotted those long fingers leisurely wrapping itself around the back of Yuuri’s neck, had already distinguished that the ensuing small squeeze around the nape of Yuuri’s neck would be the one, single act to detonate the ticking time-bomb that had been pulsing inside Viktor all evening in those milliseconds before the disgust and disbelief in what he had seen had turned his own blood to ice.

He didn’t need to witness the next few minutes of this event to know how this particular gathering would end. The flash of silver rocketing forward, leaving the burning scent of an angry alpha in its wake, the smell too threatening and too heavy that it made those in close proximity step back, would have been enough for Christophe to conclude that this night would be ending in nothing less of chaos.

An apocalypse, just like he previously determined.

Viktor’s fist collided with the bastard’s face with a heavy thwack in the first of what would turn out to be countless hits, sending the pompous ass crashing on the ground with a yelp of pain.

And maybe on another day Christophe would have laughed his head off and patted Viktor on the back for a job well-done as they all watched Mikhail clutch his bleeding nose, looking absolutely stunned -serves you right, you little shit- but Viktor… Viktor looked so angry in a way that Christophe didn’t quite think he’d ever seen before. The other alpha’s lips remained curled up in a menacing snarl as he darted forward, straddling Mikhail who, it seemed, was either too dumbfounded or too weak, to do anything but take the next blow to his face. 

On and on the assault went, one straight punch after the other.

Very impressive, really. Though at this rate, the poor bastard wasn’t going to have a face soon.

And Christophe absolutely refused to be sued just because he was standing smack down in the middle of the crime scene.

He darted forward, joined not a second later by Yakov and Georgi. They grabbed at what they could, Christophe choosing to clamp down on one of Viktor’s elbow in an attempt to prevent the next hit from striking its target. He jerked forward with a sputter when his grip barely slowed down the other alpha’s punch, shoulder joint throbbing at the sudden lurch.

So… Viktor was a big, strong alpha now, was he? When did that even happen?

“Viktor, enough,” Yakov reprimanded through gritted teeth as he pushed at Viktor’s shoulders from the front. “I said enough!” 

Christophe wrapped his arms around Viktor’s chest from the side, leaning away to avoid the flail of arms. He tugged to no avail, feeling the reverberating vibrations rack across his best-friend’s frame as Viktor continued to growl, his body so tightly coiled it felt as though he was ready to combust.

“Viktor, quit it,” he hissed, face creasing upon spotting the red mess on his best-friend’s knuckles as his fists continued to connect with Mikhail’s bloody face.

Shit.

Viktor snapped his teeth at all of them in response and Christophe’s hold momentarily loosened, mouth parting in shock and taken back by the near feral display from the other man.

He gathered himself with a deep breath, arms tightening once more around Viktor’s chest.

“What the hell’s gotten into you, Viktor?”

There was another low rumble as Viktor’s body tensed once again. Christophe braced himself for another round of blows, preparing to yank back harder only to blink confusion when another weight settled from behind. Lithe arms encircled Viktor’s waist, the hold effectively freezing the livid alpha.

Christophe glanced at the face peeking from behind Viktor’s head.

“Viktor, stop it,” Yuuri said through clenched teeth, chin nestled on Viktor’s shoulder as he tried to pull the older man away.

A tremor rocked through Viktor’s frame, caught, it seemed, between following the omega’s order or continuing with his blitz-like onslaught.

“Viktor,” Yuuri pleaded. “Stop. You’re scaring me.”

Viktor’s body instantly sagged, the tension in his muscles abruptly dissipating as he became lax as a pillow -what the hell, Viktor- allowing the omega to drag him back several metres away.

There were a few tense seconds filled with the sound of Viktor’s heavy breathing as the alpha stared at the limp form on the floor, flashing blue eyes looking predatory enough that for a moment, Christophe was truly worried that Viktor was going to pounce again.

But the dangerous glint immediately faded when Yuuri stepped in-front of Viktor, taking hold of his hand as he trudged away, the older man following mechanically as he was led out of the Hall without another word. 

The awkward silence that had filled the room following their departure was only broken once Christophe shifted from his previously knelt position. The alpha dusted his knees, straightening up with a slow exhale as he smoothed down his hair. He looked up, mouth parting and intending to address Yakov only to freeze upon coming face to face with countless pairs of astonished eyes boring holes through his skull. The words died away on his tongue, his audacity to be the first one to move after that spectacle, it appeared, honing in everyone’s interest.

Christophe shifted uncomfortably at the unwanted attention, adjusting his collar and blazer. 

 “…Uh,” he coughed, peering around cautiously. “Well…” he began, unsure of what to say. “That’s all for tonight, ladies and gentleman. Please stay safe on your journeys home and um,” he glanced at the unconscious body on the floor in thought. 

He tapped the tip of his foot lightly at the bastard’s thoroughly-pummelled face to verify if he really was going to have to testify as a witness in court against Viktor for manslaughter.

Christophe glanced back at the crowd, flashing everyone around him a poor excuse of a smile when the imbecile actually let out a small, pained groan, signalling that he was very much still breathing.

“Call a medic and not a mortician because he’s still alive, folks! So, all is well! No authorities or lawsuits required whatsoever! Thank you for coming and goodnight!” 

Not one guest in the room looked even a little bit placated by his show, all still staring at him with rounded eyes. The smile on Christophe’s face faltered when no one else spoke up after him -not even Yakov or Mari or Phichit - the stress of having to diffuse the tension all alone making him feel hot all over.

The best friends are supposed to stick together,’ that hamster-loving peanut said.

Yeah, right.

Christophe let out a tired sigh at the ensuing silence. It seemed like he would be the one that’s going to have to call a medic then.

What a bunch of ungrateful souls the Nikiforov household and its associates were, honestly. 


 

Yuuri marched forward, keeping a vice-like grip on Viktor’s wrist as he dragged them outside to the Kulev’s empty garden. They stopped under a Manchurian ash tree, one far enough for that hideous marble statue to be out of view.

Adrenaline continued to pump through Viktor’s veins with every heartbeat, Yuuri’s hands that were now on his shoulders doing nothing to ease the tremors still racking his body from the excess tension in his muscles.

“Viktor…”

The alpha’s fists clenched and unclenched.

“Viktor, breathe.”

Viktor forced a gulp of air into his lungs, the sharp inhale morphing into a low growl of an exhale when he got a fresh whiff of Mikhail’s citrus scent, no doubt lingering on Yuuri’s skin, instead.

His smothered down the snarl on his lips, eyes clenching shut when Yuuri’s face became alarmed at the sound.

Taking a careful hold of the omega’s wrists, touch as gentle as he could muster it to be despite the evident strength he’d just displayed minutes prior, he guided Yuuri’s hands away before twisting on his heels.

Viktor leaned a palm against the tree trunk, attempting to take one, deep breath once more only to falter when a breeze drifted by, bringing about a fresh trace of Mikhail’s scent once again.

Boiling rage, uncontrollable and so overwhelming, bubbled in his chest like hot flames, intensified by the knowledge that the pungent scent would otherwise be almost undetectable if his senses weren’t currently on overdrive.

Viktor’s fists clenched tightly.

Heavy thuds resounded in the dark as Viktor’s fists collided with the tree trunk again and again, the increasing ferocity in each punch punctuated by increasingly louder growls.

Yuuri winced, heart jumping at the sight of fresh blood blossoming from the alpha’s knuckles, feeling helpless at the fact that he was clueless on how to halt the other man’s explosive outburst.

Viktor stiffened, arms abruptly dropping back to his side at the quiet, pleading “stop…” from behind him.

With forearms leaning against the tree trunk and his eyes shut tight, Viktor forced himself to calm down, vehemently pushing away that part of him that still wanted to tear and claw at whatever he could sink his teeth and nails into.

He was the one scaring Yuuri now- scaring himself, even- and he needed to stop this. Now.

“What can I do?” Yuuri asked hesitantly.

Viktor shook his head, face crumpling at the question. He didn’t know.

“Is it his scent making you feel worse?”

Worse?

Yes. Partly. But no, not completely.

Viktor breathed out a heavy sigh of frustration before tilting his head forward in a nod.

The alpha only had a second to contemplate about how utterly lost and out of control he felt before he was being turned, blue eyes opening just in time to catch a flash of disheartened brown ones peering up at him.

Viktor stiffened as Yuuri’s arms gently enclosed around his neck, tugging down to guide his face towards the crux of the omega’s own neck.

He remained unbreathing, unsure of how to proceed, nose pressed against where Yuuri’s scent would be at one of its most potent, this sudden intimate skin to skin contact that the omega had initiated making their scents blend into one other’s.

The alpha’s shoulders slumped down, the dawning realisation that Yuuri was giving him permission–him! Of all people- to imprint his own scent there being enough to simmer down the fire pumping in his veins.

Yuuri was letting Viktor scent him.

The alpha breathed in deeply, the snarls of his instinct morphing into nothing short of white static as the merging heat of their bodies began to sooth the primal side of him that had ripped through his self-control only minutes ago.

He pressed his nose closer, engulfing the younger man in his arms and nuzzling in, beginning to erase away that other alpha’s scent -that fucking bastard- to replace it with his own. His cheek slowly brushed against Yuuri’s neck, underneath his jaws and closer to his collarbones, rubbing against any exposed skin he could reach.

He paused, breath hot against the warmth of Yuuri’s skin when he hovered over a specific spot at the juncture of Yuuri’s neck - that soft patch of skin where a mating mark would someday be indented.

Blue eyes screwed shut tightly.

A mating mark.

Someone else’s claim.

Viktor’s throat clogged up, the sudden anguish accompanying the loud mantra of ‘Not mine. Not mine, not mine-’ instantly replacing the white, hot fury with a blink.

Yuuri tensed at the abrupt hitch from Viktor’s throat, pulling away so he can study the alpha’s face but unable to when the older man tugged him closer.

“Viktor… what is it?”

Viktor’s lips trembled when the sinking helplessness that his blind rage had temporarily silenced slowly returned, bringing with it a voice to a different set of painful truths that made him want to curl in a ball.

Yuuri could have been his.

All of this could have been his. The unconditional affection and the tenderness, this inherent understanding of what it was Viktor needed even when he himself didn’t know.

This beautiful being holding him like this could have been his.

“Viktor…"

Viktor didn’t respond, the drilling reminder of Yuuri’s near departure and their unavoidable separation knocking his breath away.

‘I thought… I thought I was freeing us both.’

He pressed closer, not able to stop his head from conjuring the numbing image of someone else holding Yuuri so tightly in their arms like this, -not me, not me- the faceless, unknowing stranger ignorant to exactly how blessed they would be to wake up to bright, brown eyes every morning, oblivious to how fortunate they would be to be able to watch the koi fishes with Yuuri in the early morning hours, to lay their head on Yuuri’s lap underneath the shade of a Sakura tree beneath the setting sun.

How Viktor would do anything to be the one in that stranger’s place.

‘…I didn’t think I’d want you like this.’

“Viktor,” Yuuri said slowly, “you’re shaking.”

Viktor bit his lip hard enough to draw blood.

“Please, talk to me,” Yuuri continued, almost pleading at this point. “Tell me what I can do. I don’t- I don’t know what you need me to do.”

The omega stopped as Viktor’s arms tightened around him.

‘I didn’t think I’d feel like I lost you.’

“Do you want Chris here instead? Maybe Sir Feltsman? I can go and get them if you want. You’d have to let me go first th- ”

Viktor smothered down the whine forming in his throat at the suggestion, shaking his head hard. 

“…Viktor?” Yuuri asked hesitantly, unsure of what it was that was now currently running around the older man’s mind that had made his breathing become so ragged. He pressed his cheek against the side of Viktor’s head, lips unconsciously brushing against the alpha’s temple in the process, wanting to erase the despair all the same. “What do you need?”

For now… just for now-’

Viktor burrowed his face further onto the crook of Yuuri’s neck, hiding the wetness in his eyelashes as he finally answered, voice coming out rasped and barely audible even in the non-existent space between them.

‘Even just for a little longer-’

“… Just stay close to me.”

Chapter Text


Yuuri knew Viktor’s favourite flavour was strawberry.

Viktor had always been vocal about his fondness for the strawberry icing on his beloved vanilla cake, after all, and he’d always been completely unabashed at dumping a glob of strawberry jam on his tea every morning despite Christophe’s exaggerated gagging in the background.  

And so logically, Yuuri assumed that strawberries were also Viktor’s favourite fruit.

Strangely enough, Viktor’s favourite fruit actually turned out to be apples – green apples. Granny Smith if he was being precise – which was… completely fine, albeit a little surprising. 

Yuuri also knew Viktor liked to read whenever he could, that the alpha had a large bookshelf in the corner of the library filled with a collection of his favourite books -fiction, history, mythology, romance, mystery- all the way from his childhood including an old, worn-out copy of ‘Ivan Tsarevich and the Grey Wolf’ neatly tucked away at the bottom shelf.

But it was only until recently that Yuuri discovered that he and Viktor actually shared a soft spot for poetry and fables.

The point was, there were many things Yuuri thought he knew about Viktor.

From a young age, he had always placed Viktor to being equivalent to flawless, absolutely faultless in everything he did and was. Beautiful. Ethereal and mesmerising.

Perfect.

These past few months, however, was proving the exact opposite. 

Viktor was not perfect.

His skin did not glow luminously under the winter moonlight like Yuuri imagined it would. He was not perpetually charismatic and eternally courteous every second of the day like Yuuri had dreamed him to be.

In reality, Viktor’s cheeks became blotched with pink when it was too hot. His nose became a light shade of rose when it was too cold. He was childish and silly with those he was most comfortable with, spontaneously flamboyant but also rebellious when he chose to be.

Viktor, Yuuri had come to learn, was also someone who has the capacity to be intimidatingly cold - purposely haughty and callously blunt when he was displeased if what the maids had whispered to him regarding Viktor’s questioningly antagonistic interactions with those suitors that tried to pursue Yuuri not too long ago were to be believed.

More like a tactless, savage little brat,’ Christophe would probably say with a roll of his eyes.

Yuuri supposed he could understand why Viktor would be so irked by foreign alphas coming to his home unannounced. At the end of the day, Viktor was an alpha himself and he had every right to be territorial when it came to his very own home.

Yet what Yuuri and everyone else witnessed tonight went far beyond territorial, especially since they hadn’t been in the Nikiforov mansion in the first place.

It was downright brutal, what Viktor did, and his shocking display of rage made it apparent that the alpha didn’t have such an inhumanly impeccable control of his emotions after all like Yuuri had always thought he had.

And this made Viktor so much more real in Yuuri’s eyes.

It made Viktor human, the flaws and the little quirks – transformed him into someone beyond a simple, childish fantasy of a perfect person.

He was no longer so intangible, no longer someone Yuuri couldn’t talk to or fear being around lest he embarrassed himself, not when Yuuri now knew that Viktor could be vulnerable and unguarded in his own way.

Viktor, Yuuri found, was… someone who he could sit with hours on end next to the koi pond under the sun, someone who appreciated comfortable silence as much as a good conversation like he did.

Viktor was someone who didn’t like marshmallows on his hot-chocolate, someone who preferred winter over autumn and someone who, much to Yuuri’s immense amusement, drooled a little in his sleep when he was really, really tired.

So no, Viktor was most definitely not perfect.

And perhaps that realisation was something which should have drawn Yuuri further away but it didn’t. Because now, the omega could see that all the previous things he thought he knew about Viktor were just simple, factual things -shallow even- that anyone could easily recite.

He understood Viktor now, something a little different than just simply knowing about the alpha, and that to say the least, was completely, utterly terrifying.

“You pace like Viktor does when he’s agitated, did you know that?”

Yuuri paused mid-step.

No, he didn’t. There were still an infinite number of things he didn’t know about Viktor.

He glanced at the direction of the sofa, finding a pair of hazel eyes studying him with an all-knowing glint that would probably give him a headache if he thought about what it meant too deeply.

Yuuri shook his head.

“Well, you do.”

He chewed on his bottom lip, breaking the eye-contact.

“Was Viktor asleep before you left his room?” Christophe asked, adjusting the surrounding cushions as he lounged on the sofa of the Nikiforov mansion’s living room.

The omega nodded faintly.

Viktor hadn’t spoken another word all night, keeping his distance from everyone else and bee-lining straight for his bedroom upstairs as soon as they stepped foot in the Nikiforov mansion. Yuuri had automatically followed him without a moment of thought, ignorant to the numerous pairs of eyes that had been fixed on them as they ascended the stairway. 

“Huh,” Christophe contemplated. “Finally.”

Yuuri hummed back in absent agreement.

His quiet request of ‘rest’ had been enough to make the alpha slump face-down on his bed and Yuuri didn’t have the time or mind to admire Viktor’s boisterously large room, hadn't even thought about how he was actually in Viktor’s room of all places in the first place, not when Viktor had looked so distressed and so exhausted in a place where he should have been the most comfortable.

Yuuri had waited wordlessly, perched at the corner of the bed until the fatigued, cerulean eyes -vulnerable in a way he didn’t think Viktor would ever be comfortable showing him- had closed, until the lines between the alpha’s brows had smoothened – content enough to sleep having Yuuri in close proximity, it seemed – before tugging the covers to the alpha’s waist and quietly heading back downstairs.

“Is he going to be in trouble?” Yuuri asked timidly, thinking back to Viktor sleeping, his head buried in his pillows, cheeks and nose mushed against the soft, white fabric and his breathing deep and steady. It was the most peaceful he had ever seen Viktor, the image such a far cry from the growling, hostile mess the alpha had been only hours ago and the slightly unsettling contrast had left Yuuri staring in increasing concern, the lingering question of what it was that had elicited such a violently explosive reaction from Viktor remaining unanswered.

“Highly doubtful,” Christophe said with a shake of his head. “If the gargoyle decides to file a complaint or something against Viktor, Yakov would sort it all out. Don’t worry, Yuuri.”

Yuuri fiddled with the cuffs of his sleeve. How could he not worry? 

“I asked him to go with us tonight, Chris,” he said quietly. “Even though I knew he wasn’t feeling well. This happened because I asked him to co-”

“He never would have let you go to that party without him, Yuuri,” the alpha interrupted.  

 Yuuri sighed, walking over to the large windows at the opposite end of the living room.

“I don’t understand why he reacted like that,” he said, staring into the darkness outside. How late in the night was it? “Everyone was angry about the whole neck thing, sure. was angry. My sister, Minako-sensei. Phichit. Yurio and Mila….” He sighed. “But Viktor was beyond that. I didn’t even know he could get angry like that.” 

“Well, I didn’t know he had a knack for disfiguring disrespectful baudets either and I’m his best friend so I suppose we’re all learning something a little new about Viktor,” Christophe said, rotating his shoulder slowly before stopping with a wince when the joint ached with a throb. “Honestly, I almost, almost, pity Mikhail’s face.” He glanced at the omega. “Big emphasis on the ‘almost’.”

“…I don’t,” Yuuri confessed.

Christophe shot up from the sofa with a shocked inhale. “Not even almost?”

Yuuri shook his head.

“That is completely shocking to me, Yuuri and I think I might need to lie down to process the sudden darkening of your once-pure heart.” Christophe plopped back down on the sofa with a heavy thud.

Yuuri huffed, crossing his arms and cheeks puffing out defiantly. 

It felt bad admitting it out loud but the most he could give was that he almost, almost felt guilty for not pitying Mikhail. Almost. But not quite.

“He gripped my neck, Chris,” the omega defended himself. “And he kept insulting Viktor. How can I feel bad for someone like that?”

“Hey, hey,” the alpha placated, raising both palms in a display of surrender. “I completely agree with you. I think majority of the people in that Hall do.” He leaned back in his seat, expression becoming thoughtful. “You’re handling all of this very calmly, you know. It’s a good thing, don’t get me wrong. I was kind of worried you’d be a little angry at Viktor.” 

Yuuri blinked, tilting his head to the side. Angry at Viktor? Alarmed and so very concerned, yes of course, but angry? Not even close.

“Why would I be angry at Viktor?”

Christophe shrugged. “You know, for reacting the way he did and causing such a massive commotion. I thought you’d be a little upset by the new attention this is going to attract, especially since the whole banquet celebration fiasco still hasn’t fully died down yet. A lot of people would be unhappy with him if they were in your place.”

Yuuri sighed, arms dropping to his side and gaze falling to the carpeted floor. “What other people are going to say about this is the least of my concerns right now.” At this point Viktor had to be taking up at least the top 3 spaces on his list of worries. “Viktor isn’t fine, Chris. He’s not. He’s not even speaking at all now.”

“…Maybe he just doesn’t quite know yet exactly how to say what he wants to say, Yuuri.”

Yuuri’s brows furrowed.

“What could he want to say that would need this much thought?”

Despite not expecting a full response to his rather rhetorical question, the omega couldn’t help the disappointment from creeping up on him when he was answered with a long, extended silence. 

He sighed internally when the restlessness that was now becoming a little too familiar began to creep up on him once again. It was troubling not knowing what kept running around Viktor’s head and what it was that made the alpha so… unbalanced. So sad.

So desperate to cling to Yuuri like Yuuri was the only one grounding him.

It wasn’t that Yuuri didn’t want Viktor to open up to him -he did. He was more than glad he and Viktor shared things about each other now, truly- which made Yuuri more edgy, it was more so the fact Yuuri believed he was more or less clueless about how to handle all these new sides of Viktor he was being exposed to.

Despite this, Yuuri whole-heartedly believed he could learn to properly handle the complexity that was Viktor if he and the alpha could talk some more, if he and Viktor just… had more time.

The omega faltered.

Well. Time to cut that trail of thought straight from the root.

Brown eyes shifted, intending to address the other occupant of the room and call it a night only to narrow in suspicion upon finding a small smile etched on Christophe’s face.

“What?” he asked, the combination of soft and genuine in the smile, bizarre and alien considering this was Christophe, making him shift uncomfortably on his feet.

“Viktor’s an airhead sometimes,” the older man said, the fondness in his tone cancelling out how offensive the words should actually sound. “He can be impulsive to the point of reckless. Very rash in his decisions at times. But he always means well.”

Yuuri nodded uncertainly, choosing not to voice out that it was something he was already well-aware of. “Okay… um, why exactly are you saying this, Chris?”

Christophe chuckled. “I’ll tell you if you answer my question, Yuuri.”

The omega watched in suspicion as he leaned forward, propping and elbow to his knee and resting his chin on his open palm.

“What question?”

Hazel-green eyes crinkled, the familiar mischievous glint returning in a blink.

“Why are you smothered in Viktor’s scent?”

Yuuri winced, scarlet heat igniting his cheeks like wildfire.

“T-that’s…” he swallowed, feeling the tips of his ears burning. “T-the tree. And his h-hands,” he attempted to explain, stuttering even more at the lingering memory of being encased in Viktor’s arms. “H-he wouldn’t calm down s-so…um…”

His mouth clamped shut, unable to produce anything more coherent than that.

It had been the most… rational course of action at the time. Viktor was being bothered by someone else’s scent and so naturally, the best way to calm him down was to allow him to cover it up with his own. It had worked out in the end, didn’t it? Viktor was sound asleep upstairs right now because of it, wasn’t he?

Still, looking back now, what he had instigated had probably been too forward. Shoving Viktor’s face to his neck like that… ugh, what had he been thinking?

Thankfully, Christophe finally seemed to take pity on his embarrassment, waving it off with another hearty chuckle.

“I’m kidding, Yuuri. You don’t have to explain anything to me,” the alpha said. “Though your sister was probably very curious about it.”

Yuuri sighed heavily. Yes, she definitely would be curious. The entire bloody world seemed to be curious about him as of late. 

He’d talk to her and Minako tomorrow.

“You know,” Christophe said. “If it’s any consolation, you coming back from wherever you and Viktor were and smelling the way you did wasn’t indecent by any means. It made sense, actually. I don’t think you have to worry about your sister reacting to it.”

The omega tugged at the end of his sleeves awkwardly. “What makes you say that?”

Christophe shrugged offhandedly. “She’s an alpha. Like me and Viktor.”

“…So?”

“So she understands it - the whole territory thing. Mates and scents and all that.” 

Well…it was good to hear that someone understood something because Yuuri was most certainly lost.

He frowned. Maybe Christophe was actually more tired than he was letting on and was now spouting nonsense in his fatigue.

“I have no idea what you’re saying, Chris.”

Christophe got up from the sofa, stretching his arms over his head with a small yawn. “I’m saying, dear Yuuri,” he explained offhandedly, “that you’re good for Viktor. You’ve always been good for him.”

Yuuri recoiled, face twisting as if he had been pierced with a poisoned arrow.

‘Wrong,’ he immediately wanted to refute, trying to inhale through the sudden tightening in his chest.

He shook his head weakly, nausea rising to his throat when the room began to spin.

‘You’re wrong.’

“…Yuuri?”

Yuuri kept his gaze fixed on the floor, unable to look up at Christophe lest his eyes started watering without his permission. He forced an exhale through his mouth, wanting to cut this conversation short in exchange for curling under the covers in the comforts of his bed alone.

“…That’s what everyone thought before too, wasn’t it?” the omega croaked out, suddenly feeling very tired.

Why did Christophe even have to say this now, of all times? Right when he didn’t have any more energy left to spare for such a conversation?

“Before…?”

“Yes.”

That’s what he and Viktor had always been about. An omega and an alpha. A perfect pair. That’s why he was even here in the Nikiforov mansion in the first place - because everyone thought he and Viktor were good for each other.

‘Wrong. Everyone was wrong.’

“…You don’t think you’re any good for Viktor.”

Him, Yuuri, good enough for Viktor?

He wasn’t. He wasn’t.

Viktor knew Yuuri wasn’t. Viktor had always known it.

No one’s opinion could ever erase the signature imprinted on that termination contract - thick, black ink, cursive and neat. Smooth and unapologetic. Signed with such certainty, such eagerness. Undeniable proof that Viktor didn’t want him, couldn’t ever want him-

“…of course not,” Yuuri said once he was sure he could speak again without his voice cracking, jarred to the core with what had plagued him incessantly in the past, what he didn’t want to remember and what he had been starting to forget.

It didn’t matter if the world thought he and Viktor were perfect for each other. Being an omega hadn’t been enough to make Viktor want him, not when he was also Yuuri on top of it.

He hadn’t been enough. And being an omega didn’t make up for being him.

“Is that what you really think, Yuuri…?” Christophe asked calmly.

Yuuri swallowed down the lump at the back of his throat, unaware if he had said any of those thoughts out loud.

“…You really think another omega could waltz in here and calm Viktor down the way you did tonight?”

Yuuri listened to the quiet, resigned sigh from the older man when he didn’t respond, finally looking up just in time to see Christophe slowly making his way to the door. The alpha paused by the doorway, glancing at him over his shoulder.

“Put a thousand different omegas in your place tonight right after he pounced and Viktor wouldn’t have budged from where he was raining fists on that tête de noeud if it had been anybody else pulling him away,” he said. “It wasn’t my intention to upset you but… don’t be so quick to dismiss yourself like that, Yuuri. It’s not a simple case of ‘alpha and omega’, not anymore,” he said. “You’re good for him. You,” Christophe emphasized. “I would know. I’m his best-friend, after all.”

Then, as suddenly as if their conversation hadn’t taken a crash-route for the worse, that same, soft smile, small, omniscient and kind, made its way back on Christophe’s face.

“Thank you for taking care of Viktor, Yuuri,” he said. “Goodnight.” 

Yuuri continued to stare at the empty doorway long after Christophe’s back disappeared in the darkness of the corridors, rooted to the spot and unable to move. He rubbed a hand over his face, feeling the fatigue from today’s events creeping up his limbs.

Dim brown eyes peered back at the window, the sight of the crescent moon hanging in the pitch-black skies giving him the familiar churn of dread that roiled uncomfortably in the pit of his stomach.

It was late in the evening, definitely passed midnight by now.

Another day closer to his birthday.


 

“You got to give him some credit, Mari-chan. That Kulev’s face will never be the same,” Minako said with a snicker, sprawled on the chair at the corner of Mari’s room.

Mari grunted in a not-quite agreement but not-quite disagreement sort of way, perching her chin on her hand. 

“Come on, lighten up, Mari-chan. I know you wanted to be the one to beat that bastard’s face in but you have to admit, Viktor did the pummelling with justice, no?”

Mari gave another grunt from her cross-legged position on the floor, not willing to admit how gratifying it had felt to watch that particular scene last night. She couldn’t admit it, nope, partly because her mother would be aghast to find that she found satisfaction in watching someone getting hammered to the floor but mostly because it had been Nikiforov that was delivering those punches.

“Since when did he grow a chivalrous bone in his body, anyway?” Mari countered.

Minako hummed. “You can pretend it didn’t impress you all you want. You being the one to hand me the tissue and rubbing alcohol to clean Viktor’s knuckles with last night says otherwise.”

Mari sputtered, whipping her head towards the closed door as though expecting someone to be there eavesdropping on their conversation. 

“I just didn’t want him to touch Yuuri with bloody hands, Minako,” Mari defended herself.

Never mind the fact that the blood was already dry on the ferret’s knuckles by the time he and Yuuri had made their re-appearance.

And here she was thinking that she and Minako had an unspoken agreement about that particular information never being mentioned out-loud.

“Of course, you didn’t,” Minako humoured her. “Speaking of Yuuri, do you know what time he ended up going to bed last night?”

“No idea,” the older Katsuki said. “He was with Giacometti in the living room last I checked. He probably went to bed straight after that.” 

She and Yuuri didn’t exchange much words last night. No one in their little entourage exchanged much words at all, actually, the journey back to the Nikiforov mansion as dead silent as expected. What had there been to say to anyone?

‘Hey Snowflake, great job defending my little brother’s honour. I appreciate it, I really do. Our Okaa-san and Outo-san would also be very grateful. Now, care to explain why said little brother stinks like you?’

As much as she didn’t like Nikiforov, she had enough decency not to put more salt in last night’s wounds, especially with how Nikiforov had looked ready to drop on the floor by the time they reached the mansion.

“Really? Huh, I could have sworn I saw him checking on Viktor after,” the beta said. “Well, kind of. He hovered over the door more than anything.”

Mari closed her eyes, massaging her temples before giving the other woman a sour look. “Why do you have to tell me these things, Minako?”

Minako smirked. “I just thought you’d want to stay updated about when they spend time together.”

“When are they never together anymore?”

Minako laughed. “Touché.”

Mari side-eyed the other woman. “You like seeing the two of them together.”

“Uh, correction: I like seeing Yuuri happy.”

 Mari jutted her chin out. “So do I.”

“Then I’m sure he’d be happy to know that his beloved sister is finally warming up to Viktor. And all it took was someone getting de-faced. Hah, typical you, Mari-chan.”

Her? Warming up to-

Mari stuck her tongue out in distaste. She was not, thank you very much.

It had become painstakingly obvious that it didn’t matter how much she disapproved of Nikiforov – that she was just a spectator in the background watching it all unfold, that’s all.

Of course, if it was up to her, if it was to play out the way she thought it should, then Yuuri would still be happily signing that termination contract at the midnight toll of his eighteenth birthday and they would all still be making their merry way back to Hasetsu at the break of dawn the following morning, never to see Nikiforov's face again.

But it was not up to her. It was not her decision to make. Mari had made begrudging, painful peace with that.

The best she could do was hope her little brother was aware of what he was doing, that Yuuri knew what it meant for Nikiforov to want to cover him in his own scent, for the alpha to obey him without any struggle even whilst Nikiforov had been lost in the red haze he was entangled in the previous evening.

“Ugh, fine,” she conceded. “The baka did good last night. There. I said it.” That was as much warming up as it was going to get. “Satisfied?”

“Immensely,” Minako grinned. “Now say it again loud and proud when Yuuri can actually hear you.”

“I am not repeating-”

They stopped, simultaneously turning at the sound of the creaking door.

Mari’s mouth snapped shut instantly, lips dipping down in a small, concerned frown when she found Yuuri in the open doorway, shoulders hunched and black hair dishevelled, his expression morphed into that same one that Mari was all too acquainted with – the one that meant Yuuri had been awake for most parts of the night, drowning deep in his thoughts.

“Ohayo,” the omega greeted quietly, small and sad.

They waited until Yuuri had closed the door and sat on Mari’s bed before greeting him back.

“You both wanted to talk to me…?” Yuuri asked, stare glued to the floor. “About last night?”

“…Nah,” Mari decided, having had an internal debate with herself in the second she took to respond.

‘Not if you don’t want to,’ she didn’t add, studying the gloomy expression on her brother’s face.

Enough people were probably already talking about last night, anyway. 

“I wanted to talk to you about your birthday, actually, otouto,” the female alpha continued coolly. “Just curious on what present I could bestow you with.”

Mari watched in slight panic, eyes widening as Yuuri’s face crumpled in what looked like pain, baffled when he erased the expression away as soon as it came.

“…My birthday,” he said with a strain, voice almost inaudible with how quiet he was speaking.

Minako give a quiet, affirmative hum, sharing a look with Mari. “Your birthday.”

Yuuri slowly nodded, distant gaze flickering to his lap. “My birthday…”

The female alpha waited patiently, watching the way Yuuri’s mouth parted numerous times in an attempt to speak, the omega faltering when words continually failed to come out. 

Ah.

Here it was.

Of course.

Mari had been wondering when this would happen – when Yuuri would finally realise how deep in Nikiforov’s orbit he had been ensnared into once more, when he’d begin to propel himself from it in an act to protect himself as though it would all end the way it did in the past if he didn’t run away fast enough.

“I…I just,” Yuuri finally managed to begin, “I just want to go home. Away from here,” he exhaled tiredly. “That’s all I want.”

Mari pursed her lips sceptically, pondering on what could have brought this on so suddenly.

“That’s always been the plan, hasn’t it?” Minako asked uncertainly, looking as every bit concerned as Mari felt.

Yuuri sniffed, not making any eye contact with either of them. “Yes. Yes, it has,” he said, small and wounded, like saying it hurt.

“That’s all you want for your birthday?” The elder Katsuki cocked an eyebrow, forcing herself to sound casual, knowing how much Yuuri didn’t like it when people tiptoed around him. “Really?”

The omega nodded weakly.

Mari would have believed that’s what he wanted, she wanted to believe that was all he wanted, but there were tears pooling at the corner of her younger brother’s eyes that pleaded otherwise.

Seconds ticked by, broken only moments later by Minako’s voice.

“…Hey, kiddo,” the beta said softly, pausing to shoot a quick look in Mari’s direction before continuing. “You know, you don’t…you don’t have to sign the termination contract exactly on your birthday.”

There was that expression again – the one that looked like Yuuri was in pain. Mari hated that he was hurting.

“He asked me to…” Her brother whispered, breathless and defeated.

Minako shared a questioning look with Mari. That was new information.

“Back then?” Minako asked gently.

Yuuri tilted his head forward in a faint nod.

The elder Katsuki stared hard at her brother. “…And that’s still what Nikiforov wants now?”

Yuuri didn’t say anything for a long while, mulling over something she didn’t know.

“It doesn’t matter,” the omega finally said, shaking himself away from the disheartening place his mind had warped itself into. “I want to sign it, Nee-chan. I want to leave as soon as I can.”

Mari wondered if Yuuri would ever be able to say that and mean it from the bottom of his heart.

She supressed the urge to bash her head on the wall, the mental preparation she had been doing just for this moment nowhere near enough to prepare her for the disaster she could see the situation was going to become, more so than the disaster it already was.

Inwardly cursing Nikiforov for putting her in this situation, Mari massaged her temples at the inner conflict she was currently having, torn between the sheer want to go home as soon as possible without ever having to face Nikiforov ever again and the innate need to keep Yuuri smiling the way he did when he was around the baka.

It wasn’t difficult to choose, not really.

She sighed internally. Of course, it was going to come to this. Of course.

Mari took a deep breath, resigning herself to being the unwillingly good sister their parents had raised her to be.

“Even so,” she began reluctantly, already regretting what she was about to say. “You don’t have to stop seeing each other, otouto.” She exhaled slowly. “You and him can keep being… Um, friends. Acquaintances,” she forced out with the least amount of strain she could manage. “Maybe you two can even arrange…visits. Or something,” Mari suggested, practically tasting the bitterness in her tongue upon imagining the pale-haired alpha parading around in Hasetsu and roaming inside their home. Their mother would at least be ecstatic to have him over. Mari supposed the scenario would just be a tiny, tiny bit more bearable if Makkachin was there too.

“No,” Yuuri cut her trail of thought with a vigorous shake of his head. “No visits,” he said resolutely despite the slight quiver in his voice. “It should end here.”

Mari stared calculatingly at the omega from her position on the floor.

You remember, don’t you?” She remembered asking almost six months ago on the first night they spent here in the Nikiforov mansion. “Crying your heart out in Kaa-san’s arms the entire night?”

Back then, she’d trusted Yuuri would be able to choose his course of actions correctly during their time here, would act accordingly on what will make him happiest on the long-run. 

Now, at the other end of the spectrum, she wondered how deep Nikiforov had already fallen - if the other alpha was in deep enough that his heartbeat would stutter upon hearing what Yuuri was stubbornly forcing himself and everyone else to believe he wanted. She thought back to the state of Nikiforov last night - at the instinctually brute violence in his actions, uncontrollable and vicious but respectable and justified- and decided that yes, Nikiforov’s heart would falter, would at least ache something fierce, if not shatter altogether.

She wondered, not with a pang of sympathy-she couldn’t feel sympathy for the aho, not when she thought hard about the state Yuuri had been left in all those years ago- if Nikiforov would be able to keep that annoyingly bright smile plastered on his face or if it would become strained enough to edge on painful and wrong whilst he was forced to accept that the night of Yuuri’s eighteenth birthday really was going to be the end for them.

“Are you sure?” Mari asked, already imagining the way Nikiforov would end up curling in on himself alone at night, not all that different from the way Yuuri always did on his not-so-good days.

She watched Yuuri’s face closely, watched both the micro-expressions and the not-quite subtle ones crossing his face before glancing one final time at Minako from the corner of her vision, knowing the other woman had already arrived to the same conclusion as her long before the younger Katsuki had managed to blink owlishly once at them, lips quivering slightly as he gave one, slow nod for an answer.

Yuuri wasn’t sure, not by a long shot. That much was obvious.

‘That’s okay,’ Mari thought absentmindedly. ‘You’re allowed to be confused, otouto. It’s okay.’

Their departure from this place would not be easy by all accounts, their return to Hasetsu even harder.

She couldn’t care less if Yuuri broke Nikiforov’s heart a thousand times over, gave even less of a damn if Yuuri trampled on its pieces with the heel of his foot for good measure if that was what would allow her brother to truly move on.

But breaking Nikiforov’s heart would break Yuuri’s own and Mari couldn’t let Yuuri do that to himself.

She had promised herself she wouldn’t allow this to end the way it did before, not when she could still see a fifteen-year-old Yuuri crying in their mother’s arms behind closed eyes, could still feel the chill in the air which had accompanied the painful silence of Yuuri’s despair from that cold December night every time Yuuri looked at her like this. 

Yes, Mari had sworn in the past she’d do her damn best to make sure it wouldn’t end like that again. 

And sitting there on the floor, staring steadily into her younger brother’s glassy, crestfallen eyes, Mari silently vowed it again.

Chapter Text


Viktor ran a hand through Makkachin’s fur absently, gazing at the leaves of the trees swaying with the breeze. They weren’t as green as they had been during the last few months, some having become a closer hue of yellow, the edges of others bleeding into all shades of auburn, red and orange.

November was here and with it came the chillier winds of autumn and the darker clouds of the upcoming winter nights. 

Viktor massaged Makkachin’s head, taking comfort in her familiar weight on his lap as he kept his gaze purposely fixed on anything else but the warmth next to him.

He felt…better, he supposed. Better in a sense that the gnawing itch to slam his fists on someone unlucky enough to gyrate into his nerves had all but dissipated, never mind the reason for his calmness now probably being the fact that he had done just that not too long ago. Mikhail’s face would recover soon enough, Yakov had told him so, and in the slim chance it didn’t, Viktor couldn’t say he was even remotely sorry.

Still, sorry or not, there was no point wasting another second contemplating about that idiot. There were other things, other people, worth much more his time.

“I’m not mad at you, Viktor.”

The alpha’s gaze remained on the swaying trees. “…I'm still sorry,” he said quietly, hunching closer to Makkachin.

Beside him, Yuuri sighed softly.

They’ve had this particular conversation numerous times in some form or another in the past and Viktor knew Yuuri must be getting tired of reassuring him that he didn’t feel any sort of anger towards Viktor. Viktor continued to apologise, nonetheless, unable to look at Yuuri in the eyes each and every time. He found that he never could quite look Yuuri in the eyes these days.

There was a newfound space in the way they sat now, the distance a little further than what Viktor had grown accustomed to. Yuuri could say he wasn’t angry at Viktor all he wanted but this sudden cold space between them indicated that Yuuri certainly felt a certain way about what had transpired in Kulev’s party and what Viktor had done.

Neither of them had spoken a word about how he’d clung to Yuuri that night in the Kulev mansion and rubbed his scent on the younger man like he was Viktor’s to scent from the beginning or how Yuuri had allowed him to, and Viktor could feel himself suffocating on this growing rift between the two of them.

The recent detachment in their conversations made his chest ache, the hesitation and reluctance in the way he and Yuuri interacted and how Yuuri’s hands would hover but not touch the way he did before making the ache twinge even more so. Yuuri still asked but he did not probe in the way Viktor had become familiar with, didn’t talk to Viktor nearly as much as the alpha had gotten used to.

It was like Yuuri couldn’t bear to talk to Viktor more than he had to - couldn’t stand being around Viktor more than he needed to be.

It was almost akin to their polite, curt exchanges back when the omega had first arrived in the mansion six months ago, only instead of the puzzlement and subsequent resolve to warm their interactions which Viktor had felt back then, the alpha was now haunted by the flutters of Yuuri’s fingers on his skin that never did more than linger, feeling plagued by the flashes of concern that still crossed Yuuri’s face but no longer formulated into verbal questions for Viktor’s well-being.

“Hey Viktor…” Yuuri called out faintly. “My birthday’s almost here.”

Something in Viktor’s chest tightened with a sharp twist, punching the air out of his lungs.

“It is,” was all the reply he could force out.

Yuuri smiled weakly. “You know, if birthday wishes really do work, I’d wish for you to stop hiding behind Makkachin and start babbling to me about castle ninjas again.”

Despite himself, Viktor could feel a smile creeping its way on his face. “That’d be a waste of your birthday wish, Yuuri,” he said. “I can babble to you about castle ninjas any time you want.”

The responding chuckle from Yuuri, soft and breathy, weighed down on his chest and Viktor began to fiddle with Makkachin’s ears when there was no further exchange of words after that, lost in the silent echo of ‘in whatever little time we had left, anyway’ that he hadn’t added.

He wanted to say something more, he truly did. He wanted to reassure Yuuri with some form of ‘I’m fine now’ or ‘I feel better’, wanted to fill every second they had left with something valuable, something that could remind Yuuri of him every now and then, no matter how quick in passing those thoughts of him might be.

He didn’t want their limited time together to be like this – silent and bordering on uncomfortable. Like they both had so much to say but were too afraid to try and voice out what they were really thinking. 

“Hey Viktor,” Yuuri called out again, sounding sadder this time. Withdrawn.

Viktor’s fingers unconsciously ran through Makkachin’s fur over and over again, a nervous flutter at the pit of his stomach. There was some movement beside him, Yuuri shifting closer maybe, or perhaps moving further away. Viktor didn’t know. He didn’t look up to confirm, pulling Makkachin impossibly closer instead, the slight jostle waking the snoozing poodle who gave him a sleepy glance before snuggling in and quickly falling back to sleep.

“I was thinking…well,” Yuuri started before pausing, the slight hitch in his breath forcing Viktor’s eyes to finally lift up.

The alpha turned to the side, careful and slow, to face the younger man, immediately becoming immobilised by those brown eyes which drew him in so unfathomably deep that he wouldn’t have been able to look away if he wanted to.

“I was thinking we can spend the eve of my birthday together,” Yuuri said. “You know, while we wait for midnight.”

Viktor sat motionless, tongue like lead in his mouth and feeling paralysed as he wondered how many times Yuuri could possibly unknowingly break his heart.

“I wanted to spend my last day here with you so…” Yuuri bit his lip. “Can you stay with me for that evening? Until midnight? Until-” the omega stopped again, swallowing before continuing. “Until I have to sign the termination contract and… and leave?” 

Even when Viktor had been a small boy, back when he and Christophe had been rowdier and unrulier with youth, Viktor had always known he was a dreamer.

As a young child, he dreamt of riding dragons that drew flames from its breath, dreamt of living in a house of vanilla cake decorated with all of his favourite sweets. As a teenager, he dreamt of a time where he would be holding the hand of another, envisioning a future where he would be gazed at by his other half with that same look his parents only ever shared with one another.

And now, as a young adult, he sat before the very same person he had purposefully turned his back to all those years ago, wishing he could gather enough courage to fall to his knees and ask him to stay.

‘Say it then. Say it,’ a voice at the back of his mind nagged on. ‘Tell him don’t go.’

Yuuri averted his gaze when the alpha didn’t reply, unaware of the sharp, stabbing pangs his request was eliciting. The omega folded his hands in front of him, elbows resting on his knees as he began to fidget with his fingers in that same way he always did.

‘Ask him.’

Viktor inhaled slowly, plastering a painfully bright smile on his face despite feeling as though his ribcage was on the brink of collapsing.  

‘Beg him.’

“Of course, Yuuri,” Viktor chirped merrily amidst the clawing panic and dread threatening to consume him all over again. “We can do that.” 

There was that soft smile on Yuuri’s face again, one that he only offered in privacy to the people he was closest with, one that Viktor was aware he could have marvelled at all these years if he had chosen not to be purposely blind to it.

“Thank you, Viktor,” the omega said. “It’d be nice, I think. Just you and me.”

Viktor nodded fervently, the vicious bobbing of his head making his vision blur as the prickles of tell-tale tears began to singe behind his eyes.

“Yes,” Viktor agreed emptily, voice high and strained, wondering not for the first time, how much time would have to pass before the burn of Yuuri’s smile hurting him just so would fade to a dull, throbbing ache.

“Just you and me.”



They had been standing under a starless sky, Viktor remembered, frosted grass beneath their feet and the sting of an icy breeze on their cheek. The cold back then had been nothing new, the fog of his every exhale and the bite of the wind painfully familiar.

Grey skies, white snow and the silence of his own company.

His birthday was always, always cold.

The night he had broken Yuuri’s heart, the cold December evening hadn’t been any kinder.

Back in Hasetsu, Viktor imagined Yuuri’s own birthday to be one always filled with an explosion of colours from the autumn leaves, one where the boisterous racket from a celebration roared loud and lively until the crack of dawn, if the omega’s descriptions to him were anything to go by. Viktor imagined gallons of sake, delicious home-cooked food of all courses and a household of kind-hearted, generous people that didn’t have to share Yuuri’s blood to be called family. 

It wasn’t Viktor’s birthday tonight and he had no birthday wishes to use yet despite that, Viktor still wished they could celebrate today as if they were in Hasetsu, wished he could offer Yuuri meaningful gifts more memorable than walking side by side with him in the garden in near darkness with only a scatter of lanterns to keep them company.

“I didn’t think I’d be spending my eighteenth birthday watching you watch the grass. What are you thinking so deeply about now, Viktor?” Yuuri asked, his soothing voice matching the equally peaceful atmosphere.

Viktor’s gaze shifted up, meeting gentle brown eyes that glowed with flecks of whiskey-coloured shards underneath the lantern lights.

‘…That you have beautiful eyes,’ he didn’t dare say, memorising everything he could of Yuuri’s face like he hadn’t already imprinted it all in his mind, like he wouldn’t be able to conjure the exact shade of honey the highlights of Yuuri’s eyes would be in paint from memory alone.

“Honey,” he said absently.

Yuuri quirked an eyebrow. “Honey?”

Viktor nodded.

The omega shook his head with a fond smile when there was no further elaboration provided. Viktor glanced back down at the grass, studying the blurred edges of their silhouettes, gazing at their shadows that blended in with the black that surrounded them.

Black. Just like that ink Yuuri will be dipping a feathered quill into in a few hours’ time.

Viktor wondered if, at the first toll of midnight, Yuuri’s hand will skim that piece of paper in the same manner that his own hand did, steady and sure and empty of doubt. He wondered if Yuuri’s eyes would be bright and dry, resolute and void of any regret as he signed Viktor away from his life.

The alpha took a breath, a deep longing stirring in his chest when he caught a faint whiff of Yuuri’s scent, subtle, soft and calming.

Viktor hoped he’d at least be able to tell Yuuri how soothing his scent was before this night ended, hoped he could muster enough courage to tell Yuuri something worthwhile, something meaningful, something that could make Yuuri smile, something like- 

“I like being with you.”

The alpha paused, breath catching in his throat as Yuuri beat him to speaking up once again.

It’s not fair, truly, how the omega had not an inkling of an idea of the kind of things he did to Viktor’s heart – how he could make it skip a beat and palpitate, make it feel warm and make it feel as though it was being squeezed within a fist all at once.

“Ah…” Viktor started unsurely, not really knowing what to say but still having a desperate need to just say something back. “Um…” he swallowed heavily. “I... like being with you… too.”

He winced internally, berating himself at how foolish his words must have sounded as soon as he said them. Christophe would be gobsmacked by his clumsiness and bumbling behaviour, Viktor was sure, would probably snicker at how his smooth eloquence and debonair grace seemed to fly out the window whenever Yuuri was involved.

Christophe was a good best-friend, Viktor thought, and he regretted all those times in the past he had rebuked Christophe’s attempts in pushing him to just look in Yuuri’s direction.

“…You don’t have to stay up with me, Viktor,” the omega said in the ensuing stretched silence, sounding a little disappointed with the other man’s answer. “I just really didn’t want to be alone waiting for midnight to come.”

The mere mention of midnight made Viktor’s stomach lurch and he blinked back down at the grass, forcing himself to remain steady on his feet amongst the uncontrollable nausea rising from his gut.

Yuuri studied the alpha for a little longer, furrowed brows scrunching even more the longer the blue eyes wouldn’t meet his gaze until finally, he released a long drawn out sigh, one that sounded sad and tired and made the guilt curl tighter in Viktor’s stomach at having disappointed Yuuri again.

“Get some rest, Viktor,” the omega said. “I’ll go and wake Nee-chan up. I’m sure she wouldn’t mind being up with me before I sign the termination contract.”

Viktor twitched.

“Or,” he said immediately, the words slipping out of their own accord automatically, almost desperately, “you could… not sign it.”

“…What?” 

Viktor blinked.

He turned to the omega. “What?”

They stared at each other, one looking stunned and the other confused for several seconds before icy realisation dawned on Viktor like a stinging slap to the cheek.

The alpha stepped back, the descending horror making his mouth go slack.

“Um… I’m just going to-” Run. Hide. Ask to be buried six feet under. “…yeah.”

Viktor made a move to retreat, intending to swivel on his heels but feet remaining glued to the ground at Yuuri’s hesitant, “Viktor…?”

Viktor winced when, for the umpteenth time, he couldn’t find his voice in time to answer Yuuri properly. 

“What was that…?” the younger man asked tentatively.

“What was what?” the alpha tried in vain, the unreadable flickers in the whiskey eyes gazing up at him making a trickle of fear race down his spine.

‘Don’t let your fear of what could happen make nothing happen, Viktor,’ was the advice Yakov had given him with a small, reassuring squeeze to his shoulder the night before, using wise words and a calm voice that he only every used on the days Viktor felt the most lost. They had been at Yakov’s office, the termination contract perched on Yakov’s desk and Viktor had sat in silence, fingertips trembling against his forsaken signature etched at the bottom of the page, wanting to tear it all apart. ‘What you want is on the other side of your fear.’

Viktor didn’t have the energy to tell the elderly alpha that what he wanted was actually on the other side of the Nikiforov manor, sitting on the porch with Makkachin on his lap and a steaming cup of green tea on his hand.

“Viktor,” Yuuri said, the firmer tone making Viktor chew on his lip raw until he could taste the faint metallic tang of blood.

Viktor’s shoulders fell, recognising there would be no turning back from this now, knowing that casting his fear aside was one of the least things he could do for Yuuri.

“…I don’t want you to sign the termination contract,” he confessed quietly.

He could face all the things he was afraid of a thousand times over if that’s what Yuuri wanted.

The omega stared at him for a very long time. “Why not?” he asked, genuinely confused and not at all being purposefully obtuse about what Viktor was saying.

Like it never occurred to him that Viktor was saying this because he didn’t want him to leave.

“Because I-” Viktor wavered. “I-”

‘-think about sitting with you under the sunset and the stars too much,’ he didn’t say. ‘Because I spend too many mornings and evenings imagining how your hand would fit in mine.’

Yuuri waited patiently, dark lashes casting twin shadowed fans on his cheeks. 

‘Because I’m always thinking about you. Of you. What you’re doing and what’s on your mind.’

Viktor took a deep breath.

‘Because I don’t want you to go. So stay. Stay, stay-’

“I want to be with you.”

He uttered the words almost inaudibly, feather-soft and breathy, timid as though it was a crime to say it in the first place, like he had no right to utter them at all.

He watched the way the omega’s eyes widened, followed the way his lips parted ever so slightly, waiting in agonising silence at every second that passed with no other reaction from the younger man.

Yuuri gained a hold of himself eventually, jaw moving mechanically several times in a numerous failed attempt to speak.

“You… you can’t say that to me,” Yuuri finally managed to croak out. “You can’t do that. No, no.”

He began to shake his head, taking a big step back. Viktor raised a hand automatically as if intending to close the distance only to freeze mid-air when Yuuri flinched back like he had been scorched.

Viktor’s arm fell back to his side, the ever-mounting hopelessness mixing with a boulder of dread weighing down on him so heavily he could swear he felt it in his bones.

“Y-you never wanted me back then and- and I’ve lived with that. You didn’t want me and I accepted it. I understood it and I accepted it,” Yuuri said shakily, the colour drained from his skin and his lips. “S-so you can’t say things like that. You can’t. No.”

Viktor listened, the tightened knot on his chest twisting even tauter.

“…I didn’t know you then,” he said, knowing it would never be a forgivable reason for crushing the heart of someone who only ever wished the best for him on the meagre illusion that he was freeing himself from a person who he deemed the world had conditioned to want him.

“And you think you know me now?” Yuuri’s voice had risen a little, rough and defensive in a way that made the burn of guilt in Viktor’s veins even hotter.

He didn’t know anything about Yuuri back then, had deliberately chosen not to learn anything about Yuuri in the past.

But now…? Now-

“I…know that you don’t really like sweet food,” Viktor began with an unsteady exhale, “but that you’ve… always had a soft spot for your mother’s Hanami Dango.”

Yuuri faltered, looking taken back at that.

“I know that… you’re a bit of a night owl who sneaks into the library at late hours and return to your room way past midnight because you always get far too absorbed in what you’re reading,” Viktor said. “I know you practice ballet at night sometimes to help ease your mind when you think everyone else is asleep.” 

Yuuri’s lower lip trembled, arms coming up and wrapping around himself as though it would protect him from the naked fact that Viktor had been listening to him after all, that the alpha did care enough to remember these little things Yuuri had told him in the last few months, had even been paying attention when Yuuri hadn’t thought he was looking in the first place.

“I know that you’re kind. And smart. A-and beautiful and I- I just-” Viktor stared at Yuuri helplessly, internally pleading to whatever God or higher being there was up there in the stars that Yuuri will believe him. “I want to know everything I can about you.”

Yuuri’s face crumpled, the corners of his lips trembling.

“…You’re just hearing too much of what everyone else is saying, that’s all,” he rasped out. “It’s gotten into your head.”

Viktor shook his head.

“You can’t want me, Viktor,” Yuuri said, pleaded even.

“…Why not?” Viktor asked, quiet and small. “Why can’t I want you?”

Yuuri hugged his arms tighter around himself, shrinking further away. “Because I…” his teeth dug down on his bottom lip, “because I have to go back to Hasetsu with my sister and Minako-sensei tomorrow. Because that- that was the plan form the beginning,” he said weakly, cheeks still ashen and pale. “To sign the termination contract as soon as the midnight of my eighteenth birthday came and then leave the morning after. I’m-I’m going to sign the termination contract just like you asked me three years ago,” he continued, trying to be firmer now. “And then I’m going to leave for Hasetsu tomorrow. And then I- and then we-” the omega faltered, voice dropping to a breathless whisper, “we’re never… going to see each other again.”

Viktor bit back the bile rising in his throat, a peculiar spiralling void, vast and bitterly cold, indenting and expanding in his chest at the image of this near-future.

Azure eyes flickered sadly.

“If…” The corner of Viktor’s lips turned up in a small, painfully soft smile, reassuring and understanding and accepting. “If that’s what you really want,” he said, tasting the acid of the words on his tongue. 

There was silence.

“It is,” Yuuri responded unsteadily, eyes glossed over and haunted. “I’m sorry.”

And just like the last time they had stood in this very same place on the night of a very similar occasion, Yuuri stepped closer, albeit a little shakier this time, closing the distance between the two of them just as he did before as he wrapped his arms around Viktor in a tight embrace.

This time around, Viktor returned it just as tight, if not tighter, imprinting the warmth of Yuuri’s body in his own -why did he have to fit so perfectly in Viktor’s arms?- and taking a deep, shaky inhale of Yuuri’s comforting scent.

They would have to let each other go soon, Viktor knew, just so Yuuri could cement their separation in paper.

And yet Viktor wished with all his might that time could stop, could slow and extend just for them so he wouldn’t have to let Yuuri go so soon, could reverse so that Viktor could start over and do it right this time around.

But time will not stop, will not reverse and the pendulum on that grandfather clock that Yuuri will soon be staring at whilst he waited for the midnight toll -the very same one Viktor had stared at himself on the eve of his own eighteenth birthday- would only continue to swing back and forth and propel them forward to a future where there would only be fragments of Yuuri’s presence scattered here and there – where the side of the koi pond would be empty and the lanterns would be dim, where the blue beanbag beside the purple one in the library would be void of any occupant and where the sunset would be grey and dull again.

‘…It’s okay, Yuuri. I understand.’

Indeed, there would be shards of Yuuri’s presence everywhere, sprinkled like serrated glitter on the fondest things in Viktor’s memories - vivid and gleaming but so very sharp and cutting.

‘After everything…’

Viktor buried his face further onto the soft black locks, still not quite ready to let go just yet and if Yuuri noticed the warm droplets that trickled from Viktor’s eyes and onto his hair then neither of them were brave enough to acknowledge it.

‘I wouldn’t choose me either.’

Chapter Text


Life back in Hasetsu wasn’t all that different.

The sun continued to rise every morning and the Katsuki manor was as homely as ever, the hallways and the rooms of every floor still as familiar as his reflection. The home-cooked meals still had those delightful bursts of flavours with every bite, the workers of the Katsuki household still so pleasant and good-humoured.

Home was still home and home was still beautiful.

Ballet was still a good hobby, something Yuuri could do to pass the hours of the day. Reading and helping the maids with the household chores too. Sometimes, he even found himself wandering into the kitchen where, more often than not, he’d almost always end up helping the chefs prepare the meals.

Now that winter was here, the snow also meant that Yuuri could use some of his time to shovel the slush away from the pathways outside, could walk around the edges of the koi pond for ages to make sure every single one of the koi fishes were still alive and well even in this cold weather. On some particularly bothersome days, the omega also spent most of the hours dodging visiting suitors, sneaking around the manor with his back pressed tightly against the wall until his parents found him and assured him that they’d shoo’d those visitors away.

It was good – all these distractions. Fantastic, even.

Distractions meant he didn’t have to think about how the very same sunlight that bathed the Katsuki manor in familiar rays of gold even in the coldest of winter days was also shining down on Viktor somewhere on the other side of this world. Distractions meant not dwelling on the memory of his hand flitting across that piece of paper and etching a distinct signature of his own alongside Viktor’s own vivid one at the bottom of the termination contract. Distractions meant there was little time for him to mull over those nights here in Hasetsu where he would find himself awake, the phantom warmth of strong arms that weren’t around him anymore and the memory of ghost tears that were no longer trickling onto his neck preventing him from falling back to sleep.

Yuuri didn’t think of Viktor as often these days.

Thinking of Viktor made something ache, made something hurt so bad, far too deep in his chest. It squeezed the air out of his lungs and made his knees weak for all the wrong reasons and thus Yuuri did his utmost best to not think of the alpha at all.

So yes, these distractions were definitely something good.

It didn’t matter that on most days, he went to bed tired and got up even more exhausted because he could still push all he didn’t want to think about to the back of his mind easily enough when there was something else to diverge his attention to.

The worst had been the first few days following his return home where the image of Viktor’s crestfallen face and the sound of his broken-hearted voice followed him like an unavoidable plague but those days had passed now and Yuuri found that as long as there was something else he could focus on, a task requiring his full attention and concentration, he had less headspace to conjure the memory of Viktor’s face. Or Viktor’s scent. Or Viktor’s smile.

Or Viktor’s tears.

The omega swallowed hard, his grip around the basket of fresh laundry that he was currently carrying tightening. His pace quickened, immediately blocking away that trail of thought.

At this point in time, he was doing pretty well going about his daily life, he really was.

He hadn’t even shed a single tear since he got back home.

He was fine. Really, truly fine.

His parents hadn’t probed him for any type of explanation and Yuuri couldn’t be more thankful for Mari and Minako doing all the explaining on his behalf. The whole household was more or less silent regarding anything to do with his stay in the Nikiforov mansion and Yuuri had chased away any lingering worry with reassuring smiles and soft-spoken words upon his return to Hasetsu. 

It wasn’t as easy as he hoped it was going to be but he had faith that he’d be able to keep this charade up long enough for his sleep to become peaceful once more, hoped he’d be able to keep the smile on his face long enough for the Viktor-shaped silhouette in his chest to ebb into something closer to an old, hollow ache as opposed to this bloody stinging open-wound it currently was which slashed and ripped and tore at his goddamn chest like some fresh, shotgun blast he couldn’t stitch close no matter how much he bloody tried and oh it hurts so very, very much

The omega bit his lip.

So, he wasn’t completely okay. 

That was fine. That was to be expected.

It was relieving actually because it meant he wasn’t the complete heartless monster he felt like he was being when he had stood there and made Viktor cry.

So really, the guilt and the hurt were good.

The guilt and the hurt were healthy.

This was normal.

He wasn’t going to have a breakdown about it, no way.

As long as no one else knew how much he was actually being eaten alive on the inside then everything would continue to be just fine. Yuuri would continue to be just almost fine. Life had to continue and so did he. If everyone continued to treat him normally the way they were doing now and not start walking on eggshells around him then Yuuri firmly believed he wouldn’t end up shedding another tear for Viktor.

Besides, he had enough restraint to be able to control his tears in-front of other people and cry in the privacy of his bedroom alone if the need ever came.

Which he didn’t believe it would because, hey, if he hadn’t cried at this point then that almost certainly meant he wouldn’t be crying any time soon either. Which, of course, also meant he was well on his way to being completely fine. He’d give it a few more weeks. Maybe even a few months. Certainly, by the time the Nishigori triplets had kids of their own in a couple of decades or so, he’d be completely fine by then.

Right now though, distracting himself with mundane tasks like carrying this basket of fresh laundry was okay. Other people in his home treating him like he was never away in the first place was okay. He just needed to stay away from anything blue and silver for a while to keep this façade going, needed to not be reminded of anything remotely Viktor until he could stitch himself back together and smile genuinely once more.

That was easy enough, wasn’t it?

“Yuuri.”  

The omega paused at the sound of his older sister’s voice, glancing behind him at Mari who stood a few metres away, a hand resting on a cocked hip as she regarded her brother with a lifted eyebrow.

Where she got such haughtiness from, Yuuri would never know.

“These just arrived. They’re for you,” Mari said, the handles of a small, basket decorated with a blue and silver ribbon balancing delicately on her fingertips. “They’re from Giacometti.”

Yuuri froze, feeling like ice had crept in his veins.

He didn’t respond, staring intensely at the contents of the small basket. 

“There’s a small note with it saying something about wishing you well and whatnot,” the elder Katsuki continued. “Where do you want me to put th-” Mari stopped when a small, choked noise resounded from her younger brother’s throat. “…Yuuri?”

The laundry basket clattered to the floor. Yuuri took a step back, arms falling weakly to his side.

His bottom lip began to wobble.

“Eh?” Mari glanced at the laundry basket on the floor, eyeing the freshly cleaned clothes before glancing up in confusion. She recoiled immediately, eyes widening in shock.

“H-hey! Are you crying?!”

Yuuri’s eyelashes began to dampen even more, face scrunching in a bid to stop the incoming tears from escaping.

“Why are you crying?!” Mari continued in mounting alarm. She glanced at her hand when her brother couldn’t respond, brows furrowing. “Is it because of these?” She asked cautiously, shoving the small basket in-front of Yuuri’s face in indication.

A quiet sob escaped Yuuri’s mouth at that, the sudden, choking onslaught of uncontrollable tears blurring away the sight of the red and green grapes innocently perched inside the basket.



I just want to go home. Away from here,’ Yuuri had told her. ‘That’s always been the plan,’ Yuuri had said. ‘It’s not going to end up like that again,’ Yuuri had insisted. 

And yet, here they were.

Again.

Mari sighed.

She shifted slightly form here cross-legged position on the floor, idly listening to her mother’s calming voice.

 “…You know,” Mari began amidst Hiroko’s soft, soothing murmurs, her back still turned from the sight of Yuuri crying silently in their mother’s arms. “I did say that if we ended up in the same position as the one after the night of that aho’s eighteenth birthday, I’d make it a personal mission to put an end to the Nikiforov bloodline by making sure that baka wouldn’t be able to actually make any little miniature Nikiforovs in the future, if you get what I mean.”

She peered behind her, staring at her mother’s questioning look before glancing down at Yuuri’s face half-buried in their mother’s arms, nostrils flaring at the sight of the burgundy eyes peaking back up at her that were currently brimming with tears.

Again.

“And now,” she continued with squinted eyes at this familiar scene. “I’m not even allowed to do anything remotely close to that because you still want to be the one carrying his little miniature Nikiforovs. Go figure, little brother.”

Yuuri stifled another sob, burrowing himself further into their mother’s arms. Hiroko sighed, sending her daughter a disapproving look.

“Mari-chan, that’s not helping.”

Mari released a sigh of her own in response, flopping down on her back, unminding of the cold wooden floor she was now lying on. She stared at the ceiling.

“Kaa-san, your son’s back to wanting the baka’s babies again.”

“I d-do not want baka b-babies,” Yuuri sniffed indignantly back at her, voice a little muffled.

Hm. At least her brother was actually coherent this time around.

“Of course not,” Mari absently agreed with a nod. “Your babies aren’t going to be bakas if they’re half Katsuki, otouto. It’s the babies’ Papa who is the baka in this hypothetical scenario.”

Mari’s face scrunched as soon as the words left her mouth. Maybe she really should cut this baby-talk. The image of little blue-eyed, silver-haired toddlers with adorable, chubby cheeks giggling out a garbled ‘Mari oba-chan!’ was giving her the heebie-jeebies.

She wasn’t quite ready for that just yet.

Yuuri shook his head, completely oblivious to what was running around his older sister’ mind. “C-can we stop talking about b-babies? I’m n-not going to be having a-any baka’s bab-” he cut off with a hitch, lower lip trembling once more. The omega buried his face in his mother’s arms with a small whine.

Mari sighed again.

How frustrating was it that Yuuri only ever seemed to become a puddle of uncontrollable emotions when the situation somehow involved Nikiforov? He hadn’t even acted anything remotely close to this since that unfortunate December evening three years ago.

They’ve been home for weeks now. Weeks. Why the hell was Yuuri only having his mini-meltdown now?

At the sight of grapes, no less.

What the hell was that about, anyway? That damn Giacometti, always kickstarting some sort of trouble or another.

And Yuuri had been doing so well too, going about his day with a smile on his face like nothing was amiss the moment they stepped foot back in Hasetsu. His nonchalant demeanour had been good - good enough that Mari had ended up questioning herself more than once if Yuuri’s too-sunny façade was indeed only just for show or if it had all been genuine. She had almost started to believe he wasn’t faking those bright smiles of his, that perhaps the omega was truthfully feeling fine. 

But then… but then there were times she would catch sight of Yuuri when he thought nobody was looking. There were times when she would watch his eyes glaze over, becoming vacant as though his mind wasn’t really where his body was. There were minutes where she spent studying the way his gaze slowly turned distant and empty like he was slipping into a memory of someone that was no longer there, seconds when his sadness and longing bled through so profoundly deep it made her own heart ache.

Mari didn’t think Yuuri regretted signing the termination contract, not really. Leaving Nikiforov behind without so much as a final farewell at the crack of dawn, on the other hand… well, that was another issue altogether.

“Hello, dear.”

Mari looked up at her mother’s greeting just in time to catch sight of her father entering the room. He greeted them all warmly, the smile on his face appearing suspiciously too bright amidst Yuuri’s obvious dishevelled state.

“Where have you been?” Hiroko asked, running a gentle hand through Yuuri’s hair.

“Oh, just hearing out another proposition from a suitor, that’s all, dear,” Toshiya answered, settling down beside his wife.

Mari resisted the urge to roll her eyes.

Another suitor. Of course. They’ve been coming to the Katsuki manor like a goddamn flock since Yuuri’s return here. From what Mari’s heard, there’s even been some who had come following the weeks after the drunken fiasco with the celebration in the Nikiforov mansion. Their parents usually handled these visits quite well from what Mari’s seen, their ever-so polite way of explaining that Yuuri didn’t want to see any suitors at the moment and would decide in his own time if he was ready to be courted or not usually being enough to shoo those people away.

 “Oh?” Hiroko tilted her head to the side in question. “Another one?”

“Yes, sweetheart.”

“And how was that?”

“This one’s a little…interesting,” Toshiya said thoughtfully, leaning forward and brushing back some black locks on Yuuri’s forehead, mindful of his son’s half-dried tears. “He travelled quite far to get here. But, ah…well, the route he was ‘advised’ to take seemed to be that longer one.”

“The one with the meadow and the steep hillside?”

“Yes, exactly that one. Poor thing was half-frozen by the time he was knocking on our door.”

Mari’s lips twitched up.

Finally.

And just in time too.

“Oh my. Who would advise such a thing in this weather?” 

“Who indeed, dear.” Toshiya glanced at his daughter with raised eyebrows. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you Mari-chan?”

“Absolutely not, tou-san,” Mari replied innocently, sitting upright once more. “I would never advice a stranger to take that route in this weather.”

She wouldn’t. Not to a stranger, of all people. And even if she had, why would it be such a problem, anyway? She’d trekked through parts of that route many times and found it to be a rather nice, scenic route, never mind that her long hikes had always been during spring and summertime.

How different could it be during the heart of winter?

“Good, good,” Toshiya nodded, smiling in mild amusement. “He’s fine, dear,” he reassured Hiroko, the unexplainable twinkle in his eyes impossible to miss. “Still has ten fingers and ten toes. On a lighter note, his companion did seem to enjoy the snow quite a bit.” He glanced at his daughter in feign scolding. “I’ve sent him to the manor’s hot-springs to warm him up a bit, Mari-chan. He was almost a popsicle when the maids opened the door.”

Mari paused mid-yawn.

Huh. That was… a little surprising, actually.

“Really?” She raised an eyebrow, tapping a finger to her chin in thought, mindful of the way Yuuri had pulled away from their mother, wiping the half-dried tears away from his cheeks as he glanced between his father and sister in confusion. “That’s strange. I thought he’d be able to handle the cold better.”

Toshiya shook his head. “Oh, he handled it very well,” he said. “But in this kind of weather, I’m surprised that even his lips didn’t turn blue by the time the maids let him inside.”

“Well,” Mari drawled out, stretching her arms over head nonchalantly. Time to face the music, she supposed. God. She truly hoped she wasn’t going to regret this. “He got here with ten toes and ten fingers intact, tou-san.” She glanced at Yuuri, the smile she sent his way coming out a little softer than she intended. “That’s good enough, isn’t it otouto? What more would a baka need, right?”

Yuuri blinked at her, brown eyes beginning to swarm as he tried to process exactly what was going on with the conversation he was hearing and why his father and sister seemed to be talking about something he couldn’t grasp an understanding of.

He glanced around the room hesitantly at the distant echo of what suspiciously sounded like a bark resounding from somewhere in the manor.

Mari turned back to her father. “He’s lucky it was the maids that opened the door for him,” she continued. “If it had been me, I’d have left him outside for just a little bit longer. Maybe let him shovel some of the snow away before letting him in.”

“Would you now?”

“Yep.”

“And would you have left his poor companion out in the cold too?”

 “Of course not, tou-san.” Mari smirked, leaning an elbow on her knee as she rested her cheek on her palm. “I’ve already prepared a nice, warm bed and a delicious, hot meal for dear Makkachin.”

Yuuri stared at her, completely unmoving and she waited patiently as he took a little longer than he should to figure out exactly who their new guest could only be.

Finally, Yuuri’s back straightened, eyes widening as a dawn of understanding, agonisingly hopeful and alive, broke through his expression.

“Y-you-” he swallowed heavily. “A-are you…is it-” his eyes snapped to the open doorway, breath visibly catching in his throat.

“Give him a thwack on the head for me when you see him,” Mari said. “Or don’t,” she shrugged. “I can thwack him myself, I suppose.”

A strangled noise escaped Yuuri’s throat.

He lurched away from their mother’s arms, staggering to his feet unsteadily.

He bolted out of the room with a slight tumble and Mari could only watch his back disappear through the doorway, warmth spreading in her chest at the bright spark of hope that had been in her little brother’s eyes.

She hoped to heaven and hell Nikiforov was ready.

“Oh my,” Hiroko began warmly after a few seconds of silence. “You made Vicchan come all the way here, Mari-chan?”

Mari’s brows furrowed.

Her? Make Nikiforov come all the way to Hasetsu?

She shook her head.

Nah.

She had been the one to hint at the idea, sure. But she didn’t make Nikiforov come all the way here to Hasetsu. That was something Nikiforov did on his own accord.

My brother deserves more than just flowers and some sparkling diamonds. More than shallow compliments and insignificant pieces of heart-shaped paper,’ was the first thing she remember saying to the other alpha at the dawn of Yuuri’s eighteenth birthday.

Nikiforov had been perched on the koi pond bridge when she approached, his back turned to her and clearly not having left the spot all night if his dishevelled state, silver hair a mess and clothes rumpled, had been any indication.

The sight of his solitary form sitting there alone had been a little disorienting at first, Mari remembered, simply because she had gotten used to seeing Yuuri’s smaller frame always sat closely by the other alpha’s side. At the time, she didn’t really know if Nikiforov had been listening to her, didn’t know if he had been registering the things she was saying until he he had perked up, turning to her at the exasperated ‘Viktor’ that had slipped out between her gritted teeth.

The sight of the other alpha’s crestfallen expression, so crushed and too much of an echo of Yuuri’s own expression that morning, had been unsettling enough to elicit a disturbing prick of pity in her chest.

‘My brother deserves to know he’s wanted for who he is,’ Mari said to the other alpha who had remained hunched in on himself, looking so oddly small despite his broad stature. ‘And no matter what he might say to you, Yuuri’s never wanted to be with anyone whose eyes aren’t a boring shade of blue and whose hair isn’t a bizarre colour of silver - would never even consider anyone that doesn’t have a bear-sized poodle and has never punched the living daylights out of Kulev,’ she had continued, tone softening ever so slightly at the sight of the red rimmed eyes that had gazed back at her. ‘So, quit moping and do this right. You’re not bound by a contract anymore. Make him understand that it isn’t about a piece of paper now.’

‘How?’ Was the only rasped response she had gotten out of him that day.

‘There’s only one, very specific suitor our parents would allow to stay at our home longer than a few minutes,’ she had answered, eyes hardening. ‘Make the most of your privilege and quit bawling your eyes out. I left the directions with Sir Feltsman.’ She had turned away then, giving one last lingering look over her shoulder, her final ‘Or you can stay right where you are, if you prefer. You’re a big macho alpha now, aren’t you? Choose for yourself and do what you want, baka’ fading in the distance between them as she walked away.

She had been uncertain at first if Nikiforov would really come, if he had enough resolve and courage within him to pursue Yuuri the way Yuuri deserved to be pursued and Mari had started becoming troubled when their weeks back in Hasetsu dragged on without a single peep from the other alpha.

But Nikiforov was here now, his arrival foretelling all she needed to know about his intentions and Mari knew she had done what she could.

“No, Kaa-san,” Mari finally replied.

Whatever course of action Nikiforov had decided to take with her parting words and whatever he was going to do from here onwards was all on him. A choice of his own. And, likewise, whatever Yuuri decided to do with this turn of events would be to the omega’s own judgement, too. 

This time, their future would be their choice.

Mari stared at the empty doorway where her brother had disappeared through, internally wincing at the thought of Yuuri now running brazenly into the hot-springs where Nikiforov would be bathing.

How utterly embarrassing was that particular reunion going to be, she wondered.

Well. She’ll have to get used to the idea of them eventually, she supposed.

One step at a time,’ the female alpha reminded herself with a small, quiet sigh.

After all, wouldn’t teaching those very same imaginary blue-eyed, silver-haired kids to call their ferret of a father ‘baka’ of all things be such an accomplishment of a lifetime?