A Froggy Ever After
Victor walked into his new room, still a bit at awe that he could call the Imperial palace now. His eyes go over the stuffy walls. Now that his father was Emperor surely he would be allowed to update the room a bit. After all he was already sixteen, he had an opinion of his own.
The soft knock on the door pulls him back to the situation at hand.
Yakov walks in with the disapproving look on his face, he's closely followed by a teen boy that looks to be about Victor's age.
“Honestly your highness, at least request to know the identity of the one in front of your door before allowing them entry.” The old man sighs deep as if he fears his advice will go to deaf ears. Victor simply ignores him and looks at the boy he brought along.
The black hair is cut in a fairly modern style and his blue eyes have a bit of a sparkle to him, but he looks way to stiff for his age. Victor wonders why Yakov brought him here as he never seems to do anything without a reason.
“Your Highness!” By the bark in Yakov's voice it is clear he missed at least two 'your highness's' already, so he stands up straight and looks at his Father's new adviser. The new appointment fits the man well although in his mind Victor fears he will forever call him uncle Yasha.
“As I was saying; after this afternoons ceremony that will crown your father as the Emperor of Rus you will be presented with the ceremonial tools to indicate that you as the oldest are considered next in line. This is not just some simple title you can scoff at, we, that means your parents, Lilia, and myself, have every intention to prepare you to fulfill this task when time calls for it to be needed.”
Yakov paces the room, lifting a few things here and there, even mumbling about some precautions that need to be taken.
“Now we had a lot of discussions about this, and as we do not want to remove you to much from the actual world we have come to the best compromise.” He walks over to the boy and pushes him a step in Victor's direction. The boy makes a bow at the same moment Victor sticks out his hand.
“Try not to be too familiar with him though, but as you will need somebody to support you I introduce you to your personal valet. Vitya, meet Georgi Popovich. Georgi meet his Highness the Prince Victor Nikiforov.”
“It is a pleasure to meet you sir.” Georgi bows again, completely ignoring Victor's shocked expression. “It is my pleasure and know that I will do anything in my power to make your life as our Prince as pleasurable as I can provide you with.”
“Good. Now that introductions are done, Georgi please make certain his highness is properly dressed for the ceremony. I believe the head of the house told you were his outfit was kept?”
Georgi nods to indicate he had indeed been told so. Yakov gives Victor a pointed look making it clear not to pull any more stunts like he had done the previous day, before turning on his heels and march out of the room. Leaving Victor alone with a complete stranger who he seems to be stuck with for a while now.
“Victor.” Georgi blinks when interrupted. Victor smiles. “Please call me Victor when we are among ourselves or just the family. Your Highness is so impersonal, I feel like I am being scolded whenever it is used for me. Now what were you planning to say?”
“Well, Victor,” Georgi's mouth pulls as if he's still not certain he can use that name, “I was wondering if you were planning to take a shower or if you required a sponge bath. It seems you have some dirty streaks along your face and neck that require to be cleaned.”
Victor's fingers move over the cheek he knew Makka had head bumped him earlier that morning, they do come back a bit dirty.
“Just a sponge bath for the face should be sufficient, I already showered this morning.”
It took Victor half an hour convincing Georgi he was more than capable to wash his own face.
Mila loved that her Uncle once removed was now the Emperor, it meant that she could play with her cousins in a much bigger garden now. And as they were now of a higher rank there were people that were there for no other reason than to look over them, which in the eyes of the bustling seven year old just meant more people to play with.
Especially the valet that was tasked with keeping Vitya in check was fun. It had taken the Nikiforov's all but one afternoon to find out he was not very good in dealing with sudden things jumping out at him. Especially frogs seemed to do the trick in startling him.
Now it just so happened that catching frogs was one of Mila's specialties. So as it is finally warm enough to go out again without to many layers she has decided to hunt for the prettiest frog out there to show it to him. Surely she can make him like frogs as much as she does.
In the end the scolding she receives of her aunt Vita is highly undeserved as far as Mila is considering. It was not her fault that the frog had managed to wiggle free from her hands at the last moment. Or that it had gotten into Georgi's shirt, making him scream so loudly that it had caused Yura to start crying. Yura was four, he cried over everything.
Her parents take her home and tell her she can not return till she finds a good way to apologize to Georgi for what she did.
It's not easy for her, as she has no idea what the sixteen year old might like. Well that's not completely true. She knows he likes kissing one of the maids that help in the kitchen, but when she told her parents that she had no idea how that could help her in apologizing they had sent her to her room.
Two days later the answer drops her right in her lap. Literally.
Getting grounded for two weeks because her parents could not appreciating her gifting Georgi one of her teeth was definitely unreasonable. They had told her to give something that came of her and she did. Plus she had made a lovely card for it and glued it on herself. Even managed to write his name down almost correctly. A feat she was immensely proud of.
After Sofia was sent to work at the Plisetsky mansion, Georgi had been heartbroken. That was till he met Anna, and after Anna there had been a Theresa, an Olya, an Euvgenia, and even a Maria.
Victor had been there for him when he first started gushing about his new love interest, about how this one must be the real one. How the love between them bleached any feelings he had ever thought to have have for the other girls.
And he was there when Gosha ended up heartbroken, because once again the girl turned out not to be the true love his friend so desperately desired for. A feeling Victor understood for he too was hoping to find that one person that would come into his life and would fill it with love.
They were lamenting about it while soaking their feet in the pond, looking at many of the Nikiforov's splashing about in water barely above freezing.
It had been an exceptional cold winter, leaving snow to cover the grounds well into March. Victor claimed it was so cold because as long as the roads were frozen over even the Nihon empire would not make too much fuss about the trade routes.
“Is it true what I heard your highness, are the Nihon royals truly attempting to entangle you into a forced marriage?”
Victor looks up to see who spoke to him, taking him a fair amount of time to recognize his second removed cousin three times over, Anya was leaning over him, an eager expression on her face.
If he had any other inclination but his own the twenty four year old might have been enamored by her display but as he was not he saw it for what it was, another removed cousin that hoped to step into a bed closer to the top of the ranks.
Now it simply bored him. By the short intake of breath coming from Gosha he understood his friend had no trouble being put under the eager ladies spell.
“They are, but I have no doubt my parents will be able to persuade them away from such folly. After all one must be practically insane or a saint to wish to be united with this bunch.” He makes a wave to indicate the others that are around just in time to make the three of them see fifteen year old Mila throw a large toad at Yura while yelling 'Happy twelfth birthday, loser.' under the force of her laughter.
Georgi thinks he stands very little chance with the lady Anya, she is just so sophisticated, surely she could find ten men better than him in a heartbeat. So when he takes a chance and asks her to visit a summer night festival with him he had not expected a positive reaction.
What should have been a romantic first date ended up a group event though when Mila had gotten wind of it and demanded he would take her along as well.
Luckily Anya did not mind that several of the royal family came along, she even allowed him to hold her hand during one of the rides set up at the fair. And allowed him to win her a price, which she promptly rewarded with a soft peck on the cheek.
He had been on cloud nine for the rest of the week.
Mila was apprehensive about Anya at first. Her mother had called the older girls mother a very interesting word and when she had looked it up it translated to a person that slept to get up in the world. Now as a fifteen year old she had a fairly good understanding that it wasn't the sleeping over she did with her friends.
She had talked to her cousins about it and they all agreed to keep an eye out for her.
But as Georgi had no title, he was even lower than her parents in rank being but simple Esquire, they had to conclude that perhaps she really liked him.
When nearly two years after that first meeting they were still an item, Georgi was talking about asking official permission of her father for a proposal, it seemed that he had indeed found the one for him.
Maybe she should have stayed in the hall she was supposed to be for her dance classes, surely she should not have been wondering about. If she had she would not have seen Anya sneak off into a rarely used corridor, she would not have told Gosha where to find her when she bumped into him only a minute later.
In the end she was torn between feeling guilty over having been the one that allowed him to walk in on her accepting a marriage proposal from a third removed cousin, and being angry that it seemed that she had been right. Anya had used her relationship with Georgi to have a reason to be in the palace a lot hoping to use that time to catch a man that could elevate her status.
Collectively the family sided with Georgi over this, banning both Anya as the cousin from darkening their threshold unless there was a major family event. Sending only a small gift and a lower ranked member to the wedding held only a few months later. The Lady Anya was left unspoken for after that as Georgi was somehow still convinced she would see the error of her way and come back to him.
Mila may or may not have send an anonymous stink bomb to the Baronet and his wife's house when she knew they were to have a dinner party. If she did it was a secret she would take with her to the grave.
Georgi sets his own heartbreak aside when the final messages of Victor's parents come in. It seemed that no matter how hard they had fought for their son's love cold politics had won in the end. Victor was to be married by the end of the next month over, if not a war could erupt and they might stand to lose everything.
“I am truly sorry for you my friend.” Georgi smiles ruefully. “After my own heartbreak I had hoped desperately that you would find your love and be allowed to keep it.”
The sad empty smile Victor returns to him just makes him feel like crying.
“It can't be helped. If anything your fickle heart has provided me over the years with ample examples on how to grow strong after heartbreak. So I will take note and be strong.”
How she has no idea, but the moment that one young man steps off the train she knows. Somehow she just knows that somehow he is different from the rest. Maybe it is in the way he helps the other's get off safely. Maybe it's that little voice in the back of her head that seemed to always know a right person from a wrong.
Not that many believe in her having a voice like that as her track record in dating would suggest otherwise. Mila just refuses to tell them that even then she knew, but she would still pick the bad ones over the good ones. She may have been adamantly convincing herself it isn't punishment for the heartbreak Gosha still exudes at times.
Maybe she has a latent gaydar as her friend Sara tends to say. It could explain why several of her exes ended up with men almost as often as that they end up cheating on her with other girls. Sara is also the first one she calls once the carriages are on their way for their little tour through the city. The driver taking the shortcut that will make them arrive well before the retinue at the palace.
Her friend insists she must inform her cousins to keep an eye out for the hottie. Poorly by the time they have parked the car the Imperial family are already on their way to the door, so she rushes in and changes her outfit from the one she wore at the station to the lovely dress her cousin Liza's friend had made for her.
She joins her other cousins out just in time to see the carriages come in through the gates. Poorly as she is standing at the top part for her they are standing at rank she also has a good view of Anya and her Baronet husband standing quite prominently in sight.
Wondering if she should warn the man that his wife might leave him if she can put her claws in one of the Nihon royals, but decides against it. She doubts he doesn't know as she doubts he did not know of her dating Georgi at the time of their courtship.
When she spots the young man she tries to signal to her cousins that they should check him out, being so busy keeping sight of him that she is surely one of the few to see the young lady Kibi deliberately tripping herself. Making just enough of a ruckus that all attention is on them. Due to that very, very, few see the sudden peak in color on Victor's cheeks when his eyes meet that of the man. Mila is elated.
Georgi walks into the war room as he has dubbed the study the family is using to keep track of all the information they have collected about the people in the retinue. He sees the photo of Yuuri in a very prominent spot on the wall with most of the post-its around it still empty. Mila is scribbling some notes along the photo of one of the younger Ladies.
“Milaya,” he chuckles when he sees the note reading nothing but 'w/w', “surely you can not mke any accusations like that over one of our honorable guests.” he moves and takes the post-it of the wall. “What if you are mistaken. Or worse, you are right and this information falls into Nihon hands.”
Mila looks him square in the eye, making him realize that somewhere over the years she has grown in quite a headstrong and beautiful young woman. A young woman that has been of marriageable age for a few years now even, how is it that till she ticks her chin up as if he has uttered her a challenge, he had not seen her as anything other but that young girl that had given him her tooth glued to a glittery card as compensation for scaring him with a frog.
“Then a bet. If I am right you must do my bidding for a whole month. But if I am wrong I will take over your chores in taking care of Vitya during his first month as husband.”
She jabs her hand forward. He looks down at her then at the note in his hand. “On one condition, if you are right and the retinue finds it out before they leave the bet is off. We will be too busy keeping the girl safe.”
Mila ponders it for a moment before nodding.
Neither make a comment about the jolt they feel when their hands meet. Both blaming it on statics in the air due to the cold spell hanging on.
When the lady Kibi seems to favor the attention of Liza over that of any other member of House of Rus Mila can't help but send Georgi a smug grin. Surely he has to agree that she won the bet as only a blind or one desperate in refusing to consider it an option could see it for anything other than what it is.
After Vitya announces his choice for Yuuri for all to hear, she is there to cheer for him, twice even when it seems that Liza and Kibi had made a plan to keep the girl here.
It is Georgi that is roped in delivering the message that apparently the wife of Prince Naozane had grown ill under the weather and requested for her daughters' and cousin's return. Luckily Oleg was there to remind them that Kibi had been assigned a duty, one that was of a high importance.
Mila offered to ride with the two leaving Ladies to the train so that none of the retinue had to interrupt their duties. It struck her as odd that neither of them had needed much time to pack, or seemed to surprised for the sudden need to return.
When she returns it is Tanya that informs her that they had known as well, that they had even hold a pool seeing what the excuse would be that was going to be used to have them return to Nihon as fast as politely possible. Because of this she failed at first to notice that there had been some uproar while she was away.
“Tanya, another question. Why is everyone so active? Was the afternoon schedule not some boring thing that was all planned and set-up before I left?” She turns to her cousin. “Or did they figure out the fencing match wasn't as impromptu as we wanted them to believe. Did he end up refusing.”
Tanya shakes her head. “Of course not, Vasya has trained under enough Nihon masters to know how they tick. He took the bait hook, line, and sinker. Nearly beat her even.” Mila makes a noise unlike any she did before. “Oh be quiet. It was bound to happen one day. Nope the hassle is due to our little kitten infecting Yuuri kun with his cold.”
“He did not. Victor must be in a rightful state over this. If only I had gotten my hands on him sooner after he snuck in my room and cut my hair while I slept.”
“If you had caught him sooner, Katya would not have been out looking for him, he would not have been in confrontations with Yuuri, and we would not have found out in time that he was eligible for being a candidate.” Tanya places her hand on Mila's arm. “I know you, so I might only just started my lessons to be an ordained minister I permit you to forgive yourself over this.” They both share a laugh over it before they get called to help out to get things sorted.
That night Mila finds herself laying awake, wondering how the universe could have contrived such an elaborate scheme to get Yuuri in Victor's arms. Her hand moves to her cleanly shaved nape, courtesy of Maya who turned out to be as capable with a razor as she was with scissors, if losing her long hair was the price to pay for her cousins happiness it was one she was glad to have paid.
Georgi accepts that Mila had won their bet, although he would not be too open about it as he knew the girl could grow a head twice the proper size if necessary. But a bet is a bet and he makes it an effort to do Mila's bidding without it being to obvious that he is doing so. The Nikiforovs all love a good bet and they would not let him live it down if they knew.
The whole week he finds himself being asked to do small things, and always with a good excuse as to why she would be unable to do them herself at that moment. The only down side is that for some reason Anya and her husband are still ever so present, and she tends to give him haughty looks whenever they cross sight.
It all comes to a collision when Yuuri finally joins them again for the picnic, he should not have accepted Mila's offer to join them. But he was to do her bidding so if that was what she wished so be it. And when she offered the option to take out the boats he had made it happen.
So not long after he finds himself oaring the boat they called their own, listening to Mila, Tanya, Kostya, and Liza, all tutting over the young Lord Yura. Who remarkably enough was still enraged about Yuuri calling him kitten earlier on. Claiming revenge on whoever had spilled that nickname to the pig and declaring some very interesting methods of punishment Georgi was certain where illegal in nearly every part of the world twice over.
Mila never completely figured out how it happened. One moment they had come close to the boat carrying Anya, who had called over some denigrading comments towards Georgi; calling him the pet dog with less rights as Victor's mutt, the next there had been a frog. One that had landed squarely on Georgi's lap, making him jump up and tipping over the side of the boat.
When she came up, she could hear Yura calling out to Anya that she would pay for such indiscretions, so all she could assume was that somehow it had been her doing. She sees Kostik and Tanya guide Liza out of the water both desperately pulling her clothes away from her skin as to prevent them from sticking.
Yura in the mean time is steering the turned about boat towards the other one. Mila pulls Georgi up and takes him towards the edge when she hears a loud splash. At first she thinks Yura slipped and fell in after all, but when Georgi makes a startled noise she turns her head just in time to see Vitya pull Yuuri out of the water. Knowing he is in safe hands she takes Georgi back to his car and drives them off to her rooms as they are the closest.
Georgi looks stunned when Mila, pulls him out of most of his clothes without as much as giving his protests. Immensely happy she allows him to retain his underwear before shoving him under her shower.
“Get cleaned. We are going to fill an official complaint over this. Surely there are some rules that were broken here and I will not stand for it.” Mila's angered voice cause him to cough out a laugh.
“She is the wife of a Baronet, I am but a servant. I fear that if you bring this up with the council it will be me and not her that is punished. After all, she can state she only spoke her opinion, it was my erratic action that caused several royals to end up in the water.”
He hears a loud thump followed by a swear. Knowing Mila it seems she took her anger out on one of the pieces of furniture, forgetting for a moment that her foot was made of a more delicate material than whatever it was she had kicked.
“Mila stop being a fool.” Georgi feels his heart plummet when he hears the Empress's voice. If dropping several royals in a cold pond was enough to be scolded he feared what the punishment would be for standing under the shower of an unmarried daughter of a Duchess. “Go see if Tanya is already in her room and get cleaned there, as you so kindly allowed Georgi to use your shower.”
He hears the door to the room open and close before the door to the bathroom opens. “Once you are done in their Georgi put on the clothes I put out for you. My husband wishes to have a word with you.”
“Understood Your Imperial Majesty.”
Mila stares at the large decorations strung upon the large hall that evening. She knew her cousins were masters in getting things done but even she had not expected to see them pull out a celebration of such magnitude at such speed.
Her eyes land on Gosha, or the Baron of Kvint Georgi Popovich, who is the center of the celebration. He looks so out of place in the bespoke suit he is wearing, you would think he had never before been at an official event before.
She also notices that Anya seems to be looking at him with the same glimmer of interest as she had had when she had thought him good enough to help her up in the world. If not for Vitya making a snide comment that a Baron was higher than a baronet she would have ignored it. Now she felt inclined to make certain to seize Gosha's first dance and as many after that she can do in proper fashion.
Luckily her cousins pick up on what she is doing and step in when it seems Anya is trying to get her chance. At one point even Yura is seen dancing with him, and by the look of it the boy is scolding him with every step.
Tanya steps forward, putting a rubber frog in Mila's hand. “We found this when going over the pond. It is not from around here. Upon watching the camera images it was the baronet who threw it, but it was Anya who had carried it in her pocket.”
Mila looks around and sees that all but a few of the Nihon retinue have left the venue, deeming it a Rus only event. This makes what she does next far less likely to cause a scene that would endanger the treaty.
Anya nearly chokes on her drink when Mila tosses the rubber frog in her face. “Are you mad!! Do you think that because you are the heritable daughter of a Duchess you can do things like that! My Nika is still a Baronet in his own right.”
“And Gosha is a Baron. But I will be damned if I allow you underhand tactics to get him into trouble again. You brought that with the full intent to make him cause a scene in front of the Nihon guests.” Mila straightens her back, hearing the music turned down she knows that all ears are on them.
“What is it that you feel such need to hurt Gosha? He has done you nothing wrong. But here you are darkening the palace threshold for longer than anyone here considers you welcome and with an intent to discriminate one hold in high regards by your hosts.”
She feels a presence behind her and knows it are her cousins and Georgi backing her. “What was your goal? Even you can not be as foolish as to not think this could have seriously damaged the treaty.”
Anya seems ready to open her mouth but it is Anastasia that speaks loudest. “Perhaps it was that goal that prompted her actions. Seems our Baronet has been backing the wrong projects for a while now. He believed the treaty would fail and a war would erupt.”
Mila looks at Stasya looking every bit as infuriated as she feels. “Do not forget a lot of money can be made from a war if you are the one controlling necessary provisions for certain regions.”
Georgi sees Anya turn pale at the accusation, but neither her or her husband deny it.
“Then as it seems you refuse to make a case for yourself I will make it for you. I have been given enough evidence for the matter and will start a procedure to declare you both with treason. Go to your home and await the outcome.” Stasya smiles her coldest smile. “You are lucky we are currently busy so it will give you time to settle your affairs.”
After that the both of them are guided out of the palace by several guards, knowing that they will stand watch at the mansion they call home to prevent them from sneaking off.
Once the commotion is over most decide to call it a night and soon he finds himself to be one of the last people in the hall. He spots Tanya walking in and looking over the floor for something. His eyes grow large when she picks up the frog he had seen Mila toss earlier.
“Tanya. I know you all too well. Was that indeed the frog that startled me earlier, or was it a good substitute to get Mila riled up?”
Tanya smiles. Then sticks her hand in her pocket and takes out an other fake frog. “I had planned to give Mila this one, but the guards came back with the actual frog that was used before I could.”
Georgi looks over the one she shows him. It looks like a coin purse but of a slightly sturdier material.
“What is it?”
“You wish to use it?” Tanya grins. Then shows him what it is. “Cause if you finally figure it out I will allow you to have it.”
“Figured it out?” Georgi looks a bit dazed.
“Yes. I mean one has to be blind not to see it. After all teeth are sacred, but you were both so very young and are still so very foolish.”
His eyes move to the frog, then back to Tanya. Surely she can't mean. The calm smile tells him she does.
“Surely I can't. I would not...” his mouth shuts. He is a Baron now, it might be frowned upon at some places but in Rus it would be more than okay.
He takes the frog and puts it in his pocket.
“Even if I plan on doing this I can't see when it would be right?”
Tanya simply smiles. “Her Ladyship the Duchess of Babicheva is waiting for you together with the Emperor in the south Library. If you are of certain mind we should not let them wait much longer now should we?”
Georgi shakes his head. “We shouldn't.”
Mila looks at her mother fretting with her hair the next morning. Going on and on about how time flies and little girls don't stay little long enough.
Then upon breakfast she finds the setting intimate, only the closest of family.
Georgi steps forward, a gentle smile on his lips, making her heart skip.
Then plummet when he kneels down using the same toy grog she had once given Tanya to ask her to allow him to become her husband.
How could she answer anything other than a resound yes. Declaring that Maya has to make a dress for her at once as she wishes not to waste any more minutes.
With a smile on his lips Georgi finds himself hauled up in Mila's strong arms, the frog squashed between them.
The wedding takes place in private only the next day. They have a Barony to inspect after all.