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In the Hope of Open Hands

Chapter Text

“Oh my.” Chris taps his lips with a finger, peaking into the car of the train. “Victor, you’re not going to believe this.”

“Really now?” Victor rolls his eyes, keeping the motion small enough that no one but his current company would see it. He may be only twenty-seven, but at this rate, Victor feels as if he’s seen it all. Being a prince means that he’s constantly experiencing new and exciting. He’s been everywhere, spoken about everything, seen every sight exceptional enough to show royalty. There’s no magic left that could inspire him, no situation so stressful he can’t brush off the emotion and just deal with it.

And he’s not sure if that’s supposed to be a good thing or a bad thing anymore.

Chris pouts. “You don’t have to be a spoilsport.”

“I haven’t spoiled anything.” Victor huffs out a sigh, sounding an awful lot like Makkachin when she’s been denied a treat. She’s prancing at his feet, her thoughts so excited that they don’t even translate into words as they echo in his brain. She’s a brilliant familiar and a great conduit of his magic, but sometimes he wishes he could absorb her easy enthusiasm. “Though you’re going to spoil my mood if you don’t let me sit down.”

You’re the one who wanted to take this damn train,” Yuri grumbles, crossing his arms and looking away like he hadn’t fought harder than anyone else to come along.

“Yes, and you’re…” Well, Chris is his attendant and had to come with him. Mila, who looks like she’s biting back a giggle, is the bodyguard they wouldn’t let Victor escape without. And Yuri’s the grandson of an old family friend—only allowed to trail after the adults because for some reason they thought a teenager would keep them out of trouble. Victor has no idea how the kid’s pulled the wool over so many people’s eyes, but Yuri has a fiery temper more likely to get the lot of them in trouble than anything Victor could think of.

Maybe when Victor was younger he would have absolutely caused havoc and used the trip to avoid his responsibilities. He’d be lying if he said the thought didn’t occur to him when he suggested to his parents and the council that he take a scenic train to unwind as opposed to quick air transport to reach his destination. Maybe a younger Victor would have needed to be watched, but now…

Now he’s done running away from his problems, he’s done struggling. After all, he’ll be marrying into the biggest problem he’s had yet.

“Fine, fine.” Chris raises his hands. “I’ll leave it as a surprise for you. After all, didn’t you used to say you love surprises?”

“Yeah, before he became a boring old man with a bald spot.”

“Hey!” Victor only just avoids reaching up and covering the exact spot he knows Yuri’s talking about.

Mila snickers, “C’mon, we’re holding up traffic.”

Food? Makka pants at Victor’s side, pushing at his legs as they trail into the car. Yuri and Mila take their seats, and Victor and Chris sit opposite them.

Victor laughs. “No, not quite yet.”

“Can’t you get your mutt to change into something smaller?” Yuri glares at Makka as she leaps up onto the seat between Yuri and Mila, much to Mila’s delight and Yuri’s misery.

“She’s a chimera, and I won’t tell her to do anything. Would you like to demand she do anything?”

Yuri pales, and his scowl deepens. Victor may not be the most powerful magic-user in the world, but it was enough to draw Makka to him. Chimeras are uncommon familiars, beings made of multiple forms. Their true form is only known to the one they’ve bonded with, and Makka’s is her poodle form. Victor’s never been much one for subtlety, and neither is she. She’s transformed into a giant wolf a few times to protect him when the need arose, taller and broader than any man he’s ever met.

And Yuri’s seen it happen in person before.

Mila snickers. “Aw, he’s afraid of Makka, how cute,” she coos, scratching underneath Makka’s chin and getting the chimera’s leg shaking—right into Yuri’s side.

“Shut up. At least I’m not escaping my shitty marriage by taking a dumb train ride.” Yuri crosses his arms.

Victor winces. He’s a prince. There is no marrying for love in the life of a monarch, not outside of fiction and fairy tales. And he could be worse off. His husband to be is, to put it bluntly, quite handsome. He’s seen him through pictures and magic projection, even if there’s not much else about him out there. His fiancé belongs to a line of royal mages who only joined Victor’s kingdom a few generations back in search of refuge from prosecution for their magic—they’re the most powerful mages in existence so far as anyone knows. It will be a powerful alliance for both families, beneficial to Victor and the kingdom. It’s good. It is.

But a small part of him wishes that he could have some part of his life that could be for him and not his kingdom.

“I’m not escaping anything,” Victor murmurs, turning away from them all to stare out the window, at the countryside passing by. He just wants to use the day-long trip to escape reality with the few friends he has—if they’d even consider Victor a friend. He heaves a sigh. Looks like there’s no avoiding the future. “We’re headed right toward… him.”

“No we aren’t,” Chris pipes in, crossing his legs and not bothering to fight his grin.

Victor frowns. Mila made sure that they were headed onto the right train, the conductor would have caught them with the wrong tickets headed anywhere else…

“What did you do, pervert?” Yuri snarls.

“I didn’t do anything. It was already done when we walked into this car,” Chris gestures vaguely with his hands.

“So that is what’s going on?” Mila quirks an eyebrow, though they all know that she’s the most observant of the lot of them—which means she and Chris are most definitely up to something. “That’s him?”

Wait. Him?

Yuri’s eyes bug. “What the f—?“

“Language,” Victor scolds, though his voice is faint. “Are you sure you saw…?”

“If Mila and I both spotted him and knew exactly who he was, what do you think?” Chris shrugs.

“Where?” Victor squeaks, clearing his throat and gripping the edge of his seat to avoid swiveling his head around. He shouldn’t be nervous. He’s met kings and empresses and everything in-between. This is nothing. Absolutely nothing.

Mila takes pity on him, rolling her eyes and throwing a thumb over her shoulder, and leaning  to the side so Victor can get a clear view.

At first, no one stands out. But there aren’t a lot of people in this car of the train, which was why Mila had led them over here. Victor’s eyes catch on a head of mussed black hair, and he knows. The man isn’t dressed up in any sort of finery like the few pictures and projections have portrayed him, in fact, he’s downright disheveled. He’s bundled in a large coat, face half-hidden with the small, brown dragon curled around his neck. Though… is that a dragon?

It doesn’t matter, not really, Victor will know soon enough. He’ll know everything he’ll needs for this alliance of families. Though… this man really doesn’t look like one of the most powerful mages in existence, staring out of the window with the softest brown eyes Victor’s ever seen. His focus keeps shifting, like he’s trying to take in everything he possibly can.

If Victor’s being honest, it’s slightly… cute.

“Gawking isn’t very princely, you know.” Chris gently shoves Victor’s shoulder, and he quickly looks away from his fiancé. “Though I guess you have every right to, since he’s your man.”

“I don’t own him.” Victor glowers at Chris. “Not any more than he owns me.”

“Well, apparently he already owns you.” Yuri scoffs. “You look at him like you’re the damned teenager.”

Victor turns his scowl at Yuri. “I do not. I don’t even know him!” Victor just knows what he looks like. And he knows about all the impressive papers the man’s written and fascinating experiments he’s conducted throughout his career as a mage. And maybe a bit of what the gossips have to say about him, too. But that’s it.

“You don’t have to know him to be infatuated.” Chris rolls his eyes. “I know you’ve been too busy being a perfect little prince to get romantically involved with anyone, but not everyone needs to get to know someone before they fall for them.”

Mila hums in agreement, mouth oddly quirked like she’s holding back another grin. “What was his name again?”

At least Mila’s trying to save him. Possibly. “Katsuki Yuuri.” It's out of Victor's mouth before anyone else can say it, his eyes flicking toward slightly younger man again. His mouth’s a little open now, staring at the mountain range glittering with the shining flight trails of the dragons around it.

Yuri snarls like some wildcat. “Bastard has the same name as me.”

“I’m sure you're the superior Yuri, no need to have a pissing match.” Victor sighs, sneaking another glance at his fiancé—his eyes are closed now, and he’s frowning. But… why?

“No need to go pissing when you're already so pissy,” Yuri grumbles.

Victor almost cracks a smile. “Was that supposed to be a comeback? I expect better from you, of all people.”

Yuri snorts. “It’s no use putting in any effort in when you’re distracted like the loser you are.”

That gets Victor’s focus back on the teen again. “Stop being ridiculous.”

“I’m sure he would, if you stopped being ridiculous first.” Chris smiles like a cat that’s got the cream. “After all, there’s no need to be lusting over your fiancé from afar, you can go and say hello, you know.”

Lusting,” Victor scoffs, fighting back the flush threatening to spread across his cheeks. “Hardly.”

“Oh, really? You know how I recognized him? Because you spend nearly all of your free time looking at your husband to be’s image.” Chris folds his arms, leaning back. “You can lie to yourself, but you can’t lie to us.”

Victor splutters. “I don’t stare that much.”

“Well, at least you’re attracted to the man you’re marrying.” Mila pipes in, and once again, Victor can’t help but wonder once again if she’s trying to help or harm his case.

Victor sighs. “It isn’t like that.” Even if he is just slightly attracted to him, he’s not going to force himself on the man. It’s not like Lord Katsuki would ever want that. Victor is Prince Victor, untouchable, unreachable, unlovable. He doesn’t blame most people for keeping him at arm’s length, he’s built up his own reputation to be exactly what people see him as. No one wants the mess underneath.

“Of course it won’t be like that unless you don’t talk to him, dumbass.” Yuri huffs.

“The kid speaks sense, for once.” Chris grins. Yuri opens his mouth to retort, but Chris raises his hand. “Wait. He’s on the move. Now’s your chance, Victor.”

Every one of them swivels to look at Lord Katsuki, watching him shift in his seat and standing up, hands reaching up to run fingers along the back of the dragon around of his neck as he smiles slightly. And…. Oh, that smile.

All right, maybe Victor could live with this man as his husband. Even if it’s just work to the both of them, that smile does something to his chest. Something warm, and… and…

Dammit, he needs to stop thinking like a fool.

It’s a miracle that Lord Katsuki doesn’t notice the lot of them with all eyes wide and stuck onto the mystery that is Victor’s fiancé, but his head stays down and his eyes stick to the floor as he walks their way. He seems to be completely alone, too, not surrounded by an annoying escort like Victor. How lucky.

Makka rises with all the commotion and shifting bodies swiveling her head over the back of the chair to see where everyone else is looking.

All Victor gets is a spark of excitement through their connection before she’s on her feet.

Friend? She looks back at Victor, tongue lolling out.

“Makka, don’t—!”

But her attention’s already back on the face she’s seen Victor looking at as often—if not more often—than Chris has.

Friend! She leaps down from the seat, escaping every hand grasping at her, and ignoring all of their calls as she scrambles down the aisle and leaps.

Lord Katsuki doesn’t stand a chance.

He barely manages to look up before Makka slams into his chest, knocking him over and causing the dragon to fly off of his neck, rolling onto the ground. And then in the blink of an eye, it isn’t a dragon but… another dog? Almost a miniature version of Makkachin, and nearly as adorable as her—but now’s not the time for that.

Victor scrambles to his feet, jogging over toward where the two dogs are now nipping at and playing with each other, and Lord Katsuki is still flat on the floor.

“Ah, I’m sorry about her.” Victor reaches out a hand, putting on the same smile he’s used to woo dignitaries and generals. “She’s normally much more well behaved. I think she was just eager to meet you.”

“Meet me…?” Lord Katsuki grabs his hand before he meets Victor’s gaze and goes absolutely still. His eyes widen, and his jaw drops. “Oh… oh my… you’re…”

“Ah, yes, how rude of me.” Victor keeps the smile plastered onto his face, no matter how much he’d rather let it slip off. “I’m Victor Nikiforov. And you are?”

“You don’t…” Wetness builds in Lord Katsuki’s eyes, and far too late Victor realizes his mistake.

“Ah, I meant—” But Victor doesn’t get the chance to get out a full sentence before there’s a slight pressure wrapping around him, the smell of brine and salt flooding his nose, a vivid image of the sea flooding his mind’s eye before he can even process what’s happening.

The sunny train around him flickers out of existence. Instead, there’s a forest, only lit by the stars above, and fireflies flitting around himself and Lord Katsuki. Instead of kneeling on the hard carpet of the train, he’s half-buried in wildflowers and brush, cricket and frog song filling the air in a cacophony of sound.

And then Lord Katsuki is scrambling away from Victor, yanking his hand away and running off into the woods around them.

“Wait!” Victor reaches out towards the retreating form, but there’s no hesitation in Lord Katsuki’s step.

Before he can so much as blink, Victor’s entirely alone. In a strange forest, away from the rest of his party, with no way back.


Chapter Text

Victor gets to his feet, attempting and mostly failing to wipe the grass stains off of his pants. He has charms to protect from magical interference, no one should have been able to do something like this. This is ridiculous.

Though he supposes if anyone’s going to effortlessly break through his charms, it would be one of the most powerful mages in existence. Who is also his fiancé. The same man who just abandoned him in this strange forest for reasons unknown. Maybe he should have worried less about having to get married for the throne, and more about whether or not Lord Katsuki would try and assassinate him. Even if this is a bit much just for an attempt on Victor’s life…

With a sigh, Victor gets to his feet and starts crashing through the forest in the direction Lord Katsuki had just disappeared. At the very least, the man can explain himself instead of running off. Maybe Victor was accidentally rude, but he hadn’t meant anything negative by his words.

Then again, how else would someone take what Victor said? Heavens above, if Victor hadn’t even bothered to know his fiancé’s face…

And at this rate, he’s never going to see Lord Katsuki’s warm, brown eyes again. It’s just endless trees, the brush tearing at his clothes—Chris will be pissed—and scratching his skin—which will be pissing Mila off as well. And as if Yuri needs any excuse to be pissed. They’re all going to kill him when he gets back.

If he gets back.

He stumbles forward, breaking from the grasp of a particularly stubborn snarl of branches, and sets foot onto… a dirt path? It weaves and wanders so that Victor can’t see very far down either way. Victor’s never so much as stepped foot in a woods ever before, not one that hadn’t been maintained by some groundskeeper. Makka would probably love it here, but Victor would love to get out.

What if he spends the rest of his life here? What if he starves? He ate lightly for breakfast this morning, dreading where he was headed, but now he wishes he’d fattened himself up. Maybe his magic could help him? He’s learned a navigation spell, he knows he has, but what was it?

There’s a rustle in the bushes behind Victor. He freezes. There are predators out here, aren’t there? Wolves and bloodthirsty fairies who won’t give a damn where Victor was born.

He’s going to die here. He’s going to die, and it’s going to be all for—

The rustling gets louder, and Victor turns around just in time to find a figure leaping from the bushes that he himself just escaped from and pressing him into the trees on the opposite side of the path. He’s slammed up against a hard surface, the wind knocked out of him as something comes up and covers his mouth. He tries to suck in breaths through his nose, but they come too fast and short. He needs to run and scream, not panic.

“Shhh!” The figure hisses, pressing against Victor more firmly.

Victor’s eyes focus, and then widen. It’s Lord Katsuki. His clothes are less mussed, but he has some twigs and leaves in his hair, a sight that almost makes Victor smile. He’s looking away from Victor, the furrow of his brow lit intermittently by the fireflies’ light. A twinge of offense tightens in Victor’s chest, finding Lord Katsuki’s attention elsewhere when he has Victor like, well, this. But then he hears it.

A voice. A song floats through the air, but it’s nonsense words—at least to Victor’s ears. The rest of the forest almost seems to still and quiet around them, until a small figure twirls into view.

It’s a child, his delicate voice weaving through the air, nearly making the leaves themselves tremble. The fireflies dance around him in an intricate pattern that almost paints designs in the air. The flowers open up their sleeping petals as if to watch, and the crickets chime back in an odd harmony. A small pup trots at the end of the procession, only pausing to sniff at the trail Victor and Lord Katsuki’s must have left before continuing on.

Even though Victor could have guessed from the dog, or the black hair and the distinct shade of brown of the kid’s eyes, it’s the scent of the magic being woven through the air that makes it unmistakable: the brine of the ocean.

It’s Lord Katsuki as a small child.

But… how? Questions flit through Victor’s head faster than he can process them. How can such a small child be powerful enough to weave such a spell without massive incantations and preparations? How is Victor even seeing this? If this is real, if they’ve gone backward in time… This isn’t possible, the magic it would take to do something like this is inconceivable.

The child moves on, his voice fading until the crickets and the frogs took up their own song again. Ever so slowly, Victor turns his eyes back to Lord Katsuki.

He’s breathing fast, faster than when Victor had been trying to breathe only moments before. And his eyes are still honed in on where his younger self had disappeared, almost as if he can’t believe it either.

Victor lets him take a moment, but it’s too hard to stay still when the entirety of Lord Katsuki’s body is pressed up against his, his hand warm against his cheeks and mouth.

In careful movements, Victor reaches up and takes Yuuri’s hand from his mouth. “I know that we’re fiancé, but perhaps we should get to know each other a bit better before we get into foreplay that’s this rough?”

Lord Katsuki squeaks—squeaks!— and jumps away as if touching Victor burns. “I-I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean… Oh gods, I meant absolutely none of this, I’m so sorry. This sort of travel is, um. Messy. If he saw us, it would be… messy. I’m so sorry. I’ll get us back right away, I didn’t mean to, I’m so, so sorry.”

Before Victor can get a word in and say that it’s fine, in fact Lord Katsuki’s younger self was quite adorable and worth the trip, Lord Katsuki squeezes his eyes shut and there’s a pressure against Victor's skin. Once again, the gentle scent of sea wraps around Victor, and the delicate light of the fireflies flickers out of existence.

Instead, they're somewhere brighter—but not as bright as the train was. They're in a narrow hall, light seeping warmly from the corner where the walls meet the floor. There are some paintings on the wall, but before Victor can look to check them out, there's noise coming from around the corner—voices and a clattering.

Lord Katsuki grabs Victor's hand, and tugs him into a dark room, movements nearly silent as he slides the door behind him, like he's intimately familiar with the creaks and groans of this house.

Given their adventure so far, Victor would be willing to bet that's the case.

But before he can look around or ask where they are this time, Lord Katsuki is pulling him and then pushing him between a couch and the wall and shoving him to the floor.

This time Lord Katsuki doesn't press against Victor, instead on hands and knees hovering over him. Victor's not sure he has the right to be disappointed, but he'd be lying if he said he wouldn't mind a repeat of before. The thought is tugged from his mind as he follows Lord Katsuki's gaze, however.

They're both lucky that the room's nearly pitch dark, because Victor's fairly sure his feet are poking out the end of the couch, and both their heads are nearly entirely out the other side. And they're far from alone.

There's another version of Lord Katsuki here, lit dimly by the magical projection in front of him. He's older now, a teenager if Victor had to guess. His baby fat is gone, and he's definitely hit a growth spurt. Like the pictures that Victor's seen, this version of his fiancé has his hair pushed back from his face, and the clothes he's kneeling in are simple but respectable to the current fashion—or rather, the fashion of a years ago.

The projection itself though, that's something Victor would never expect—himself. He has longer hair, and his grin is a little more honest than he'd ever let it be nowadays as he waves at a crowd that doesn't exist in this room. He'd just delivered a speech, the last one that he would with his hair as it is. He doesn't remember what it was about, just that it was the end of any rebellion or fun that he'd ever gotten away with.

And the young Lord Katsuki is… enraptured. His eyes sparkle and his mouth parts as he watches a past Victor smile, and present Victor's heart does an odd flop in his chest. Does Lord Katsuki…? Could he…?

The younger Lord Katsuki reaches out a tentative hand toward the projection of Victor, and—

“Yuuri!” A female voice rings through the hall outside the room.

The teenage Lord Katsuki scrambles to his feet, severing the flow of magic to the rods casting the projection with the wave of a hand before running out the door, yelling, “Coming!”

The door shuts and the room goes absolutely dark and silent. All that Victor can hear is their breathing, and the echoing of his own thoughts around his head. What he wouldn't give to have Makka right about now.

“So,” Victor starts slowly, trying to pick his words a little more delicately this time. Unlike their first awful conversation, he's on the floor and Lord Katsuki's kneeling above him, so that at least is an improvement—though he can't really enjoy the view in this pitch dark. “We aren't quite back on the train?”

Lord Katsuki moves away, sitting on his legs and creating a faint ball of light in his hands to see by, even if he won't look at Victor. “I-I’m so sorry, Prince Victor. Without Vicchan it’s hard for me to focus and cast spells properly.”

Victor blinks. “Vicchan?”

Even in the faint light, it's easy to see how Lord Katsuki goes bright red. “Um. It’s… a nickname. For my familiar.”

Oh, well, Victor supposes he does call Makkachin Makka for short. “What’s your familiar’s name, then?”

Lord Katsuki covers his face, smothering the light and mumbling something.

“What?” Victor leans closer to hear better.

A moment passes before Lord Katsuki peeks through his fingers, letting a little light back into the space between them  “It’s… His name is Victor.”

“Oh, like me!” Victor blurts before he can think about the words, and immediately wishes that his fiancé would stop destroying Victor’s ability to actually think before he speaks.

“Yeah… after you.” Lord Katsuki looks away, but lowers his hands at least. “I wanted to be a powerful enough mage to have a chimera as familiar like you, so I…”

“So you did!” Victor smiles. “That’s amazing.”

“No, it’s creepy. You don’t have to pretend that is isn’t.” Lord Katsuki bites his lip. “Just, um, don’t hate me enough to cancel the engagement, please? Though I don’t blame you, if that’s what you want…”

“Lord Katsuki.” Victor sits up straighter, his voice firm. “If you’re creepy, then I am too.” Victor pauses to wince. Gods, he could have worded that better. “I’ve, well. I’ve been doing research on you since we were engaged. I’ve read all the papers you’ve written, and looked into all the studies you’ve participated in. Your work is extremely impressive. You say you wanted to be like me, but your work? I’ve never seen anything even remotely like it. It’s beautiful, really. And then I collected all the projections and pictures I could find, and—” Victor cuts himself off before he makes an even bigger fool of himself. “Well, the point is that we both knew a lot about each other before this point, even if we don’t know one another yet.”

Lord Katsuki stares at Victor long enough to make him fidget—and he hasn’t fidgeted since he was five years old, and his mother smacked his hand for it. But eventually, Lord Katsuki takes a deep breath. “Yuuri.”

“What?” Victor’s brow furrows.

“You can call me Yuuri. Since we’re…” Lord Katsuki—no, Yuuri looks away from him again.

“Engaged?” Victor tries to keep his voice light, but he’s not sure he succeeds. “Unless you’d rather not be engaged to me after all. I know that I’m a bit…” Much. Dramatic. Excessive. Powerful. Vapid. He’s heard them all, of course he has. He’s in a spotlight at all times. Except he isn’t right now. In this very moment, it’s only him and Yuuri. Funny how that almost makes it more terrifying.

“No!” Yuuri reaches out, taking Victor’s hand. “I’d always imagined I’d marry for… But, well. I’ve grown up seeing you from a distance, and I’d like to get to know you better. If you want to? I know this is an arrangement, not…”

“Not love?” Victor whispers, heart thundering as he barely has the courage to voice the words.

“N-no.” Yuuri squeezes Victor’s hand slightly. “But… Well, I don’t know what you want from this.” He laughs, a stilted thing.

“I’ll be whatever you want, Yuuri.” Victor’s eyes are wide and earnest and for once not hiding behind a mask. He would do it. It’s a truth that runs deep into his bones; this man could ask anything of him, and Victor would try to do it.

Yuuri shakes his head so fast that Victor’s a bit concerned for his brain. “I just want you to be you. Even if nothing else about… about us true to anyone else, that’s all I want. What do you want?”

Victor wants… he wants to be happy. He wants something that belongs to him—and not in a possessive way. Just something that doesn’t have to be about the kingdom, something that could allow him to be himself. And that’s what Yuuri wants from him. Victor’s not entirely sure who he really is beneath the mask of Prince Victor anymore, but he wants to be able to find out who that is again. And maybe, hopefully, with Yuuri by his side throughout that journey.

He clears his throat, squeezing Yuuri’s hand in return. “I… well, since I’m calling you Yuuri, I’d like it if you called me Victor.”

Yuuri stares for a moment before a smile begins to spread across his face. “Okay. Then I, um. I look forward to getting to know you, Victor.”

“And I you.” Victor beams. “Though… we should probably head back soon. After all, we are both headed to meet each others’ families.”

“Oh, yes, I’m sorry, um—” Yuuri pauses, brow furrowing. “Wait, you knew who I was then? Back on the train?”

Victor tries to keep grinning, but fails. “Yes? I was trying to be… polite.”

“By saying you didn’t know your own fiancé?” Yuuri keeps on a stern face, but his lip trembles as if holding back a smile.

“I didn’t say I succeeded in being polite, but I tried.” Victor pouts.

Yuuri laughs, the sound ringing around the room and settling inside Victor’s ribs. “All right. I’m not really the best at this whole thing without Vicchan, like I said, but I’ll do my best.”

“I would offer to, but I have no idea how to wield magic like this.” Victor pauses, taking a breath. “And besides, I trust you.”

Yuuri scoffs softly. “You don’t even know me.”

“Well, I may not know all of you, but we have time for that.” They’ll have the rest of their lives, through thick and thin, through better or worse. “And I trust what I know of you right now.”

Yuuri smiles softly, looking down at their joined hands. “I like you like this.”

“What?” Victor feels like he’s saying that single word far too much, but Yuuri keeps taking logic and sense and throws it out the window every time. Honestly, Victor can’t wait to see what he does next.

“Um. I mean…” Yuuri looks up to meet Victor’s eyes. “I like you. Not the pristine Victor that I’ve seen projected, the one that I thought I was getting married to. But the one who’s terrible at flirting, and really bad at trying to be polite, and honest and… This Victor.”

Something swells in Victor’s chest, and it takes every fiber of his being to resist leaning forward and pressing his lips to Yuuri’s. But there’s time, so much time. So instead he smiles at Yuuri until his cheeks ache.

He’s so engrossed in Yuuri’s face that he nearly doesn’t notice the pressure of magic thickening the air around them, filling the air with the smell of the ocean. The golden light of late afternoon lights up Yuuri’s eyes so that they’re nearly a shade of gold, the jostling of the floor beneath his feet only making him cling tighter to the hand wrapped around his.

The kick in his side, however, is finally enough to distract him.

Chapter Text

Yuri glares down at where Victor and Yuuri are sat comfortably on the floor of the train. “You lousy son of a—”

“Language!” Victor snaps, even as he blinks up at Yuri, trying to settle his thoughts in the here and now. They’re back on the train. There’s a spark of excitement in Victor’s mind, his thoughts suddenly not alone. Makkachin and Vicchan jump and yip around them before the latter jumps at Yuuri, making him giggle… which naturally draws Victor’s attention right back to him.

“Where the hell did you two even go?” Mila snaps, arms crossed. “That was dangerous, you idiot.”

Victor smiles. “I’m pretty sure that we were perfectly fine. I had Yuuri to take care of me.”

Yuuri flushes a bright red, made all the cuter by the fact that Victor can see it so much better in the bright light of the train than he could in the darkness of the previous room.

“You don’t even have any sort of protection with you,” Yuri snaps and jabs a finger at Yuuri, making Yuuri flinch slightly. “How the hell would you keep him safe?”

“I don’t need it. Or, uh, my family says I don’t.” Yuuri sits up a little taller, but is still cowed by the prepubescent boy.

Yuri snorts. “They must not care about you, then.”

Yuuri narrows his eyes. “They know I’m powerful enough to take care of myself. I don’t need to travel with three others to keep myself out of trouble.”

Victor gapes, Chris chuckles, and Mila grins a little.

Yuri, however, just crosses his arms and looks away. “Whatever.”

“I-I mean…” Yuuri wrings his hands, glancing around.

“You’re one of the most powerful mages alive, Yuuri.” Victor pushes himself up and holds out a hand to Yuuri. “You don’t have to justify yourself to a feisty teenager.”

Yuuri smiles as he takes Victor’s hand and rises to his feet.

“Well,” Chris speaks before Yuri can spit out some retort. “I told you that you could go up and say hello without worrying. Though it seems like he stole you away so say hello himself.”

“I didn’t mean too.” The flush on Yuuri’s cheeks deepens in color. “I’m so sorry.”

“Well, I enjoyed it.” Victor smiles and Yuuri’s lips twitch upward in return.

Mila and Chris exchange a look while Yuri gags.

“I suppose you’ll have to tell us all about it over dinner.” Chris grins, and Victor can tell that he’ll have absolutely no choice in having every single detail wrung out of him. “But for now, we’re here and should probably get to the hotel.”

“What?” Victor turns, facing fully toward Chris. “But the train was just running…” And now it's stopped. Gods, how long had they been gone?

“Yes, and now it’s stopped.” Mila puts a hand on her hip. “We were wondering what the hell we were going to do if you didn’t show up. We searched the place like five times while you were gone.”

Yuuri frowns, shoulders rising up. “I’m sorry, time can get a little… tricky?”

Time?” Chris’s brows raise, and he brings a finger to his lips.

Victor clears his throat, placing a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder. “We can talk about this later.” He looks around, finding the rest of the car empty, probably eager to escape the shenanigans he and his party are creating. “For now, the hotel? Like you said?”

Chris smiles and shrugs, waving a hand for the lot of them to move forward. “I suppose you have a point. Lord Katsuki, where are your bags?”

In a quiet voice, Yuuri answers Chris, and then tries—and fails—to insist he carry them himself. Instead, they’re shoved into Victor’s arms, and the rest is distributed among Chris, Mila, and Yuri. Yuuri starts to wring his hands a bit until Yuri takes mercy and shoves a small bag into Yuuri’s arms.

“It’s Victor’s, so feel free to toss it under the train,” Yuri mutters before stomping off the train.

Victor barely resists cooing at the feisty teenager, only distracted by the warm smile spreading across Yuuri’s lips.

The trip to the hotel is a blur, his companions loud and heckling as always. They try to bring Victor and Yuuri into the conversation, but Victor feels as if he’s in some sort of a daze, and Yuuri shrinks in on himself and clutches Vicchan almost every time he’s addressed. It’s a lot—but it’s over soon, the lot of them walking into the lobby of a large hotel, white ceilings arching above them, and a slightly gaudy fountain in the lobby. Chris and Yuuri go to the front counter, taking care of their rooms. Makkachin and Vicchan play quietly around Victor, Mila and Yuri’s feet while they wait, both trained well enough that Victor doesn’t even have to ask either to stay quiet.

“So, I take it you two had fun?” Mila wiggles her eyebrows, jabbing Victor in the side.

He tries to keep a straight face, but Victor can feel heat spreading across the top of his cheekbones. “It isn’t like that.”

“It isn’t like what?” Yuri taps his foot, eyes focused on Chris’s back as the man leans against the corner, probably flirting with the receptionist.

“We just… talked.” A small smile spreads across his face, his own eyes flicking toward Yuuri. He stands straight, his back to the group of them. Would it be weird if Victor went over to him? It would probably be weird.

“He has you blushing from talking?” Mila smirks. “Sure.”

“It really was just talking.” Victor frowns at her. “He’s… he’s just… special.”

Special.” Yuri scoffs.

“You really have it bad, don’t you?” Mila’s eyebrows shoot up. “I’m happy for you, Victor.”

Something warm bleeds into Victor’s chest, almost as if filling him. “Thank you.”

“What?” Yuuri’s voice echoes across the lobby, drawing all eyes to him. He glances around and almost catches Victor’s eye but looks quickly away, hunching over the counter as the receptionist stares blandly on.

“What the hell’s going on?” Yuri mutters, narrowing his eyes.

“I don’t know.” Victor stands a little taller. “But I’m going to find out.”

“Want backup?” Mila offers.

Victor straightens his shirt, and shakes his head as he strides forward. Yuuri obviously hadn’t done well with the lot of them before, and besides, he can handle whatever it is.

“Is there a problem here?” Victor puts on his most brilliant smile as he places a hand on Yuuri’s shoulder.

The receptionist sighs, glances at him—and then looks again. “P-P-Prince…?”

“Prince Victor. And you’re speaking to my fiancé.” He lets an edge seep into his expression.

The man pales.

“Victor, that isn’t official, yet.” Yuuri frowns up at him.

Victor blinks innocently. “But you haven’t had a change of heart, no?”

Yuuri bites his lip, and shakes his head. He doesn’t flush, and there’s no hint of a smile on his face, though. Victor may not know him very well yet, but it doesn’t seem quite per his usual reaction.

“You still haven’t answered my question.” Victor turns his attention back to the man.

He pales. “Um, I’m so sorry sirs, but as I was saying, we have no reservation for any Katsuki until tomorrow night, and we’re completely booked with the upcoming event.”

The upcoming event being the preparation for their engagement, of course. And these people are trying to keep poor Yuuri out of it. Victor’s lip twitches down. “You can’t even—?”

“It’s fine, Victor,” Yuuri murmurs, but doesn’t meet Victor’s eyes. “I’ll just stay somewhere else.”

It’s not fine, but… Victor won’t push if that isn’t what Yuuri wants. He will, however, do what he can. “Nonsense. Do you have spare beds?”

The man seems to be sweating now as he nods enthusiastically. “Yes, yes we do. We can move one into any room that you need.”

Victor turns his attention back to Yuuri. “I didn’t book a very large room, but there should be enough room for a second bed. If that’s… acceptable to you.”

Yuuri finally looks up and meets Victor’s eyes, that wonderful blush spreading across his face. “That would be amazing, thank you so much.”

“Then I’ll have it sent up to your room right away.” The receptionist nods in jerky movements. “Until then, please feel free to make use of our restaurant. On the house for you and your companions, of course.”

“That sounds lovely, thank you.” Victor turns the both of them around toward his whispering and smiling friends—or in Yuri’s case, scowling—but pauses. “I… was going to have dinner with the others. But if you prefer, we could dine alone?” Some part of him itches to try and introduce them all again and do better to help them get along, but forcing won’t help anything.

“I… it’s okay.” Yuuri fidgets a little with his sleeves. “So long as you don’t mind.”

Victor grins, moving them forward again. “Never.”

“Is everything all right?” Mila frowns, glancing between the two of them.

“It is now,” Yuuri says softly, glancing up at Victor quickly before looking away.

“Just a mishap with Yuuri’s room.” Victor tries to hold back his smile, but fails magnificently. He’d wanted to get to know Yuuri better, and what would be a more perfect opportunity? “However, while they… attempt to fix the problem, he has nowhere to go. Do you mind if he joins us for our meal?”

“Of course not!” Chris beams, and Victor narrows his eyes in warning. If he scares Yuuri away… “The more the merrier.”

“Besides, we’d like to get to know the latest addition to the family.” Mila gestures Yuuri forward as they make their way toward the other end of the lobby that branches off into the restaurant.

“He’s not family yet,” Yuri grumbles, side-eyeing Yuuri.

“But he will be, so long as everyone consents.” Victor beams, resisting the urge to hug Yuuri.

“They will.” Yuuri avoids everyone’s eyes, but his cheeks are bright red. “Everything’s nearly already settled. No one will be backing out now, and no one wants to.”

Yuri crosses his arms, grumbling as he takes a seat at a table.

Victor glances around as he and the rest follow suit, Yuuri at his side. It’s a nice place, full of dark woodwork and lit dimly only by the candles floating around the dining area on a floral-scented current of magic. It doesn’t suit Victor’s mood, however. He feels like he might light up the whole restaurant if he let his magic run wild.

Chris settles in and throws Yuri a look. “Stop looking for flaws because you wish you had an ass like that.”

Yuri’s face twists in disgust, and Yuuri bursts out laughing, the noise echoing in the otherwise fairly quiet room. He cuts himself off abruptly as all eyes turn toward him, and his face goes redder than Victor’s seen it so far.

Glancing down to where Yuuri’s hands rest in his lap, Victor slowly reaches out and rests his own palm over the back of Yuuri’s. He keeps his grip gentle, so that Yuuri can pull away if he feels uncomfortable. For a long moment Victor’s heart thunders in his chest as Yuuri freezes. But then he melts, and he entwines his fingers with Victor’s, holding on tight.

“I don’t care about his butt!” Yuri finally hollers, trying to leap across the table—but Mila’s too quick, grabbing him and sitting him back down.

Chris raises an eyebrow, and Mila leans in to whisper something into Yuri’s ear, which leads to him launching himself at her.

Yuuri snickers at the antics. “You’re all like siblings, aren’t you?”

“I…” Victor glances around the table at the ridiculous people here, and… they really are more like siblings than any of his real siblings are. He can’t even remember the last time that he had a conversation with one of them that wasn’t related to politics or the like. Had he ever? And then there are these people who are always at his side. They do have their jobs—save for Yuri—but they don’t have to be friendly with him, they don’t have to invest the time. Most people Victor’s known won’t call him anything less than his title, but all of the people at the table call him by what he’d rather be: just Victor. They know him more than anyone else, and he knows more of them than he ever has of the royal family—and hopefully he’ll know Yuuri just as well, soon enough. Victor smiles. “Yes, I suppose we are.”

“What are you grinning about, you buffoon?” Yuri snaps, turning his attention to Victor after Mila successfully pushes him off.

Victor opens his mouth to insist it’s nothing, but he pauses. It really isn’t nothing, is it? He shrugs. “I’m just happy, that’s all.”

Yuuri squeezes his hand a bit, while Mila smirks and Yuri fumes.

“My, what’s gotten into you, Victor?” Chris smirks before he turns to Yuuri. “I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him like this—not for years, at the very least.”

“Yeah, not enough quiet brooding.” Mila smiles and leans on the table.

Yuuri turns toward Victor, tilting his head a bit as if in a question, but then a waiter comes to the table.

After a scramble to look through menus, their orders are placed and then the food is brought back, the chimeras given their own bowls beside the table. The greatest benefit to having a familiar as opposed to a pet, in Victor’s opinion, would be the ability to take them everywhere with the mage they were bonded with. And with Makkachin so settled and content, Victor can turn his attention fully to those at the table with him.

They eat and they drink and they chat. Yuuri loosens up a bit more as the night goes on, something missing that was there when they had been traveling to the hotel. His eyes are bright beneath the light of the candles, and he talks more and more as the night moves along.

Victor can’t help but realize he’s so, incredibly lucky. He feels almost ashamed for not noticing who his true family is until tonight, but he can’t feel too bad when the cause of such a revelation is the man beside him who barely lets go of his hand all night.

They stay longer than they should, the employees beginning to hover a bit as more and more of the candles go out. Victor takes the key to his room from Chris and makes his escape with Yuuri before he can theorize or tease. He’s exhausted, but in a satisfied, bone-deep sort of way. His smile won’t leave his lips as he and Yuuri get into the elevator that’s wrapped in the same floral scent as the restaurant, though they don’t talk too much. The chimeras nip and play in their dog forms throughout the ride in a way that makes their humans laugh. Makkachin’s thoughts flash by too quick for Victor to catch, more excited than she’s been in years. At least they get along. Gods, what if Yuuri’s familiar hadn’t gotten along with his own?

Honestly, there are so many things that could have gone wrong, that couldn’t have worked out. Yuuri could have been a completely different person, he could have hated Victor, he could have decided not to be a part of this marriage.

But none of that happened, and now it’s just… it’s perfect.

The elevator gives a soft ding, and they step out into the hall, following it until they find the correct door. And outside of the room stands the receptionist from earlier.

“Sirs, I’m so sorry,” he begins blubbering as soon as he sees them. “We’re out of spare beds. We’re overrun with guests. We tried contacting nearby hotels to try and borrow one, but they’re all in a similar situation.”

Yuuri stiffens at his side. “What?”

“There’s, um, a couch?” He practically squeaks out the words.

Victor catches Yuuri pale out of the corner of his eye. He frowns. “Thank you for making the attempt. We’ll… make do.”

The receptionist nods repeatedly. “Thank you sirs, I’ll see about compensating you for all of the trouble that we’ve put you through. I just wanted to tell you in person. E-enjoy your stay?”

It doesn’t sound like the words should be a question, but that’s how they come out of the man’s mouth before he bolts. Yuuri and Victor stand in silence for a moment, Victor’s mind racing as for what to say.

Perhaps things are less than perfect now, but they’ll work it out. Right?

Draped in the heavy quiet, Victor reaches out and unlocks the door. The chimeras push in first, taking the time to inspect every inch. All of their things are stacked inside, Victor’s luggage at least twice as much as the puny amount of things that Yuuri has. It’s a very simple room, outfitted with a large bed, state of the art projection rods, a nicely sized bathroom, and… a very small couch.

Victor sighs as he pushes the door shut behind Yuuri. “I suppose I’ll take the couch, then.”

Yuuri turns toward Victor, eyes narrowed. “I’m not letting you sleep on the couch!”

“Well, I’m not letting you sleep on the couch either.” Victor folds his arms. This really shouldn’t be that complicated.

“It’s your room.”

“Yes, it is. Meaning that I get to decide who sleeps where.”

Yuuri grimaces. “Is that what Your Highness does whenever he doesn’t get what he wants? Just orders it to happen anyway?”

Victor gapes. He… he didn’t mean for his insistence to come across that way. He just wanted Yuuri to be comfortable. He wouldn’t be able to sleep knowing how uncomfortable that Yuuri would be. But he hadn’t considered how Yuuri felt—hell, when was the last time he was truly considerate toward anyone?

But did Yuuri really have to put it like that?

Yuuri looks away, clasping his hands together to fidget with his fingers. “I-I didn’t…”

“It doesn’t matter.” Victor’s voice is cold as he brushes aside Yuuri’s words—he should listen, he really should. But he can’t handle knowing what Yuuri will say next. They’ve only known each other less than a day, and Victor’s already been pegged as the person he always dreaded he truly was. “The bed’s big enough. You get one side, I get the other.”

Yuuri takes a shaky breath. “Fine.”


They go about their nightly routines in a hush of silence that weighs on Victor even more than before. Only the rustling of their suitcases and the soft hiss of running water in the bathroom accompany them, but even that feels muffled. Victor finishes first, fidgeting as he decides what to do. He can’t go onto the couch—even if he wanted to upset Yuuri again, the chimeras have settled on it. Makkachin is in her poodle form still, but Vicchan has turned into that tiny dragon that was around Yuuri’s neck at the beginning of the day, burrowed into Makka’s fur.

Gods, how much has happened in a single day.

Makka lifts her head up, alert to the sudden dip in Victor’s mood. Friend? she questions, but not in the same, excited manner she had in the train. More… concerned.

“He’s fine.” Victor shakes his head. “It’s all right Makka, go to sleep.”

Makka shifts, as if about to get up, but Vicchan makes a grumble of discontent and she settles back down. She sends a spike of concern into Victor’s mind before she huffs a sigh though, making Victor smile slightly. At least he can always count on her.

Yuuri emerges from the bathroom, not even looking at Victor as he heads toward the bed. Victor follows, but hesitates to lie down. Yuuri, however, doesn’t stall one bit as he hides beneath the covers, nearly hanging off the far side of the bed.

With a steadying breath, Victor slinks under the sheets and clings to his edge of the bed as well. He motions in the air, dimming the lights with his magic—and winces afterward, realizing he hadn’t asked if that was what Yuuri wanted.

Well, it was done. And it was fine. Or… it would be fine. Maybe. Hopefully? Tears prick at Victor’s eyes, and he grits his teeth against them. Why did he have to be so stubborn? He should have just let Yuuri take the couch. And then none of this would have happened. Victor would have been a better person for it. But maybe… Victor could try to be a better person, now?

He turns toward where Yuuri lays in a bundle of blankets, not so much as a hair on his head visible in the dim light. Victor tries to keep his voice soft and gentle as he offers, “Yuuri, if this makes you so uncomfortable, please feel free to sleep on the couch. I just want you to be content, that’s all.”

Even if it means displacing the chimeras, who are bound to put up a bit of a fuss. Victor can loan them the blankets, though, it’s the least he can so.

There’s a moment of stillness before Yuuri turns toward him, peeking from beneath the comforter. “I’m… Well, that won’t make me any more comfortable. Thank you.” Yuuri murmurs as quietly as Victor had.

Victor winces. “I… I know I was selfish before. I’m sorry.”

Even in the dim light, Victor can catch the motion of Yuuri blinking. “What? Victor, I was the one who said something awful that I shouldn’t have. I’m sorry.”

“That doesn’t mean it wasn’t true.” Victor barely resists the urge to pull up his blankets and hide his face like a child.

“That doesn’t mean it was right to say. I…” Slowly but surely, he reaches a hand across the empty space between them. “I’m sorry. We can both be sorry, and we can do better next time.”

Just as cautiously as Yuuri have, Victor reaches out and takes Yuuri’s hand. “Next time?”

“Well, we are getting married. And we’re both, um. Pretty stubborn? So I don’t think we’re going to get along all the time. But…” A smile spreads across Yuuri’s face and he grips Victor’s hand tighter. “But I still want to try. It’s scary, I’ll be honest. But I think we could work.”

Victor lets out a breath. “Well, I suppose at least I’m not alone in being scared.”

You’re scared?”

Victor nods. “I’ve been alone a lot of my life. My friends are people who are forced to be around me. And I don’t want you to feel like you’ve been forced. I want to enjoy the rest of my life with you, Yuuri. Ridiculous arguments and all.”

Yuuri’s smile grows, and he chuckles. “I do, too. Thank you.”

“For what?” Victor frowns a little.

Yuuri shrugs. “For, just… being you. For accepting me.”

“I could thank you for the same thing.”

Yuuri actually laughs this time. “We’re going to talk ourselves into circles instead of sleep.”

“Hmm, I don’t think I’d mind that.” Victor grips Yuuri’s hand tighter, resisting the urge to pull him closer. Should he ask? It’s selfish, but….

“Can I move closer?” Yuuri murmurs.

Victor beams as best he can through the exhaustion. “Please.”

Yuuri moves closer as Victor comes in from the edge of the bed, meeting halfway. Tentatively, so Yuuri can push him away if he wants, Victor moves his arm around Yuuri’s waist. But instead of pulling back, Yuuri tucks his head beneath Victor’s chin, wrapping his free arm around Victor while their hands stay joined between them.

It’s warm, so very warm—but not in a terrible way. It’s something that floods Victor, seeping into his bones and making it feel almost as if he weighs less. He’s struck with the sudden urge to place a kiss on the top of Yuuri’s head, but surely that’s too much. Right? Yet only moments ago he had thought of being closer to Yuuri, and it was what Yuuri wanted too. He can’t assume what would be best for Yuuri, he can’t know anyone as fully as they know themselves. Which leaves one option.

“May I kiss you?” Victor whispers into the top of Yuuri’s head.

For one second there’s no response, and Victor wonders if Yuuri fell asleep. But then there’s movement, and Yuuri’s pulling away, and oh no Victor’s pushed him too far too fast. There’s an odd noise, and… It’s Yuuri giggling?

“You don’t really have to ask, you know. Not after everything we’ve been through.” Yuuri smiles up at Victor.

Victor shakes his head slightly. “I don’t want to do anything to make you uncomfortable, not if I can help it. You can always say no. So—”

Yuuri reaches up, taking Victor’s face between how hands, and presses his lips softly against Victor’s.

He pulls back before Victor can even begin to process what happened. “Ah, I’m so sorry. You went through all that trouble to ask me, and then I just did… that. And I really don’t want to make you feel uncomfortable either, by the way. You can ask me anything. I don’t mind. I just really wanted—”

This time Victor leans in closer to Yuuri, pressing their lips together for a much more satisfying amount of time. It’s fairly chaste, but it still sends a rush down Victor’s spine. If Yuuri would like to lead, Victor will let him—in fact, he likes the idea more than he cares to admit aloud.

He pulls away, but not very far, just enough to murmur, “There. Now we’re fair.”

Yuuri laughs, a contagious sound that Victor catches, both of them unable to fight it off until they’re out of breath and even more exhausted than when they first came to their room. After their lungs have recovered, Yuuri cuddles closer, and Victor wraps his arms around him without hardly a thought, as if it’s instinct already.

“I’m excited to get married,” Yuuri confesses into the crook of Victor’s neck, his lips in a smile that Victor can feel pressed to his skin.

“Me too.” Victor holds Yuuri closer, nuzzling into his hair. “Me too.”