Chapter 1: it's a long way down to the bottom of the river
This is a pet project, one I've had in mind for a year.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It was meant to be a ceremony to welcome the proof of Rutha's gratitude after Hasetsu aided the newest government as it got back on its feet after a violent coup that resulted in the decimation of its royal family.
Yuuri hadn't expected a token such as this one, and he could tell his parents and sister didn't either.
Lady Minako, the representative of sorts to Queen Hiroko and the one bolstering the friendship between Hasetsu and thee victorious Ruthenian rebels, stood next to the Queen's throne, speechless as the Ruthenian representative presented but a small part of their tribute.
Had the Ruthenians forgotten that Hasetsu hadn't kept omegan harems in generations?
Yuuri stared at the two omegas from his seat on the dais, shocked at the sight of them. The representative declared them both to be skilled and untouched, trained for both entertainment and pleasure, a show of wealth and power in any traditional Ruthenian noble house.
They'd walked in several steps behind the representative with their faces down, and Yuuri had been caught off-guard by their sweet scents. They were clad in short, red tunics and dark red trousers, and with delicate-looking shoes on their feet. The shorter of the two was yellow-haired, and every now and then he glanced up with sharp green eyes that were filled with furious hate.
The taller one, with silver hair that cascaded down his shoulders, kept his face down and his hands at his sides, almost baring his nape in submission.
Yuuri couldn't blame his family for being shocked. Even their guards looked surprised.
"This is...very unexpected, my Lord," Lady Minako said, cheeks flushed with barely-restrained indignation as she looked at the omegas.
Yuuri heard his mother clear her throat, and instinctively turned towards her. A quick glance at the omegas had Yuuri seeing them flinch, and the sight of it shocked him even more. His mother was an alpha, but certainly not an alpha like the ones that held power in Rutha.
There, omegas and betas were meant to submit, a fact Yuuri's mother and Lady Minako had been bitterly aware of.
The deposed and murdered ruler had been purportedly trying to change things, but plots against him had already been set in motion. Yuuri's mother had hoped to foster such change with the new alliance, but judging by the Ruthenians' "gifts" that change would not happen soon.
Hasetsu was strange by outsider standards, especially in the way alphas, omegas, and betas were all equals. Yuuri's father was a beta, and his marriage to Queen Hiroko would have probably been an aberration to Ruthenian culture.
Maybe the fact that Yuuri and Mari were both alphas made the alliance platable to the Ruthenians.
"Yes, unexpected," Queen Hiroko added, the line of her mouth flat on her otherwise soft and round face. Her voice was by no means hard, but she'd never had any trouble making herself heard. "As you know, my ancestors did away with omegan harems generations ago."
"We are aware," the Ruthenian replied almost condescendingly. Only the fact of Hasetsu's aid had him being somewhat civil, Yuuri realized. "We do not wish to offend your Majesty, but rest assured that merely possessing these two jewels would only tell the rest of the world of the high regard Rutha has for your kingdom. After all, omegas such as these are still well-valued outside of Hasetsu."
Abused, Yuuri thought, eyeing the silver-haired omega's stillness.
"And after all," the man continued, his eyes falling on Yuuri. "Your daughter and son are young and healthy alphas, are they not? Would they not appreciate the presence of two unblemished omegas?"
Yuuri blushed, mortified as he tore his gaze away from the Ruthenians and tried not to react with nervous anger. Never. He was inexperienced, and often doubted he'd ever have a mate, but not even that would convince him to touch the omegas without their permission.
After a moment, the queen responded evenly, "We accept all of your gifts gratefully, my lord, and will make good use of them."
In that instant the yellow-haired omega's head shot up, his face furious and his teeth bared.
Then the silver-haired omega's hand shot out to grab the younger's wrist, and he raised his gaze slightly and shook his head quickly, a clear warning.
Seeing his face, Yuuri stopped breathing.
His features were fine and lovely, and his eyes were a gorgeous blue, bright with urgency.
Yuuri couldn't help staring, his heart breaking several hundred times in the moments before the young man dropped his gaze again, and the small one did the same, albeit grudgingly, his hand clenched in a fist in the other's grip.
The representative looked pleased with himself, ignoring the two omegas behind him. "May our alliance flourish, dear Queen."
"That is my hope, my lord. Please, rest and take a meal tonight in the rooms we've prepared for you. After all I'm sure you're needed back in Rutha," Yuuri's mother said pleasantly.
Yuuri anxiously watched one of the servants lead the Ruthenian away, to rooms preferably far away from the royal wing.
Once he was gone, Yuuri's mother sighed heavily and brought a hand to her forehead, looking disillusioned.
Meanwhile Mari exclaimed, "What is wrong with those Ruthenians?!"
Both omegas jumped, the taller of the two stepping closer to the small one, who still looked defiant.
The silver-haired one still kept his gaze down.
Lady Minako groaned, all decorum gone as she wearily rubbed the back of her neck. "Should've known what we were getting into with those snakes," she drawled, obviously displeased. "So what do you plan on doing with those two?"
"The right thing," the queen answered, getting up and walking down the stairs of the dais. While her regality remained, she had softened considerably since the representative left, and her pine scent turned soothing as she made her way towards the omegas.
The palace was all warm browns and soothing blues.
Different from the gilded halls of his home.
No. Not home.
That wasn't home. Victor had gotten it through his head.
Home used to be a house, small and deteriorating, under lock and key.
Home was dark reds, heavy curtains, dim lanterns, and mingled scents of alpha lust and omegan distress, heavy with heat and rut.
Home was tears and the promise of pain, one way or another. Home was listening to some omega weep after the babe inside them bled out, killed by the abortive tea that saw near monthly use.
White columns and soft beds were just a dream. Blood and pain and punishment were all real.
He couldn't remember the first time he'd heard about Hasetsu. It seemed like a place out of Grandfather's stories, away from angry voices and fear.
Hearing of it a month ago had him terrified of losing his brother, only fifteen, and moving from one prison to another.
But they wanted to be rid of both of them.
I want your wretched grandfather to watch you and your brother crawl and beg.
He'd heard that from one of the men he remembered. A traitor who'd escaped any sort of punishment, covering his tracks much too well and being welcomed by the rebels who hadn't really changed much.
Through it all, from the time he was nine, Victor swore to do everything he could to protect his brother.
And he had, so far.
Over and over again, learning all he could in the brothel to draw more attention than his brother, already punished for his defiance.
He'd put himself on the line, enduring any and all violations from the royal he was now bound to, and hopefully keep him away from Yuri.
When he smelled the four alphas his heart had sunk.
Omegan harems apparently did not exist in Hasetsu, and yet here they were.
Then he heard the prince's name.
He hadn't dared to look at any of them, terror disconnecting him from his body as the warm scents of every alpha filled his nose.
Now their sneering escort was gone, expecting to be well paid for depositing them both into servitude.
The Queen, smelling of pine, made her way towards them, and Victor tightened his grip on Yuri, not trusting him to control himself.
She didnt try to overpower them with her scent, and spoke softly when she asked, "Do you know our language?"
Swallowing, he found his voice and replied quietly, well-aware of his accent, "...I learned it. Not all, your Majesty."
"What are your names?"
Victor stood utterly still. She didnt demand an answer, nor was she shouting. "...Victor. He is my brother, Yuri."
He heard the prince inhale sharply, and finally dared to peek up at him, standing a few steps behind his mother now.
He was young, handsome, and his dark brown eyes were wide with surprise, a flush high on his cheeks.
He smelled sweet and warm, like cinnamon. The low cut of his dark blue neckline revealed a muscled chest, and Victor remembered that it was unwise to underestimate any alpha.
He tightened his grip on Yuri and lowered his gaze again, his heart racing.
Queen Hiroko gazed at them for a moment before saying with a gentleness Victor was no longer accustomed to, "Well, then you're both free."
Yuri gasped sharply and Victor had to keep his knees from buckling. He couldn't have heard her right.
He wasn't free. Not since life as he'd known it ended in blood and violence, since he and Yuri were betrayed and thrown into a brothel, whether or not they presented as omegas.
It was made very clear to him that he'd serve and suffer until the day he died.
And yet a queen wanted to set him free.
"...What did you say?" Victor asked her as he stared her in the face, confused by the sympathy on her face.
"It's a shock, I know," she said with a soft laugh, one that made her face even friendlier. "But I promise, no one will lay a hand on you. No one will harm you or give you orders."
Victor didn't hear the second servant approach, only seeing her when she appeared beside Victor. She was curvy and wore a smile as she bowed to the queen.
"Please escort them to a room in the royal wing, Yuuko, and have some hot food and clothing sent to them. They look dead on their feet."
The woman led them out of the throne room, and Victor was only barely aware of following with Yuri in tow.
It felt like an eternity had passed when Victor realized where he was and what had transpired.
Yuri had eaten his fill of everything Yuuko had brought them, wearing a soft green robe. Victor barely touched the food.
Letting out a belch, Yuri told him, "That bath is weird. You just turn this thing and hot water fills the damn tub."
Victor remembered that luxury. There'd been bubbles and laughter back then, Yuri chubby and boisterous, splashing Victor as he giggled.
"Maybe...after you eat," Victor said, smiling faintly and trying to figure out just what the queen had meant. What her aim was. Why else would they be given a room in the royal wing, likely close to the prince and princess.
They couldn't be free. Not after nearly a decade of enduring, of Yuri forgetting everything about their golden childhood so he could survive. Of doing everything they could to stay together.
It just couldn't be that simple.
Victor had been prepared for anything, but...
The bed was big enough for both of them, mattress firm and blankets thick. Candles burned merrilly, casting a gentle light in the room.
He eyed the tunics bunched up in the corner, red as blood. He'd wondered if a royal alpha would rip it apart that very night.
They both froze when they heard a knock on the screen door, and Victor tensed further when he smelled cinnamon.
"Stay here," he murmured to Yuri, who was scanning the table for a knife, anything sharp.
Victor tried not to sway as he got to his feet, frantically bringing to mind everything he'd been taught, remembering to smile alluringly, to let the alpha smell his scent, and bare his neck as much as possible.
It was easy enough to do when his robe slipped off his shoulder and he made his way to the door.
He slid it open and immediately slipped out, gazing demurely at the sweet-smelling prince, who was blushing charmingly as he gaped at Victor.
Somewhere in his mind Victor hoped that reaction boded well. A timid alpha was certainly ideal.
"Your highness," Victor greeted, turning his head slightly to show off the length of his neck and scenting the air around them.
He watched the prince's eyes go wide and his face turn redder as he smelled Victor, and Victor kept smiling at him, thanking his stars he was nowhere near his heat.
He was a concubine. An unwanted inconvenience in Rutha. It was made clear he was not permitted to bear an alpha's babe.
"I...I came to see you...and your brother," the prince mumbled.
Victor wanted to shout a denial, to give in to the urge to claw at an alpha's, any alpha's, neck before letting him touch Yuri, consequences be damned. "You don't need Yuri," Victor replied, tone still sweet as he let the robe fall further down his arm, knowing his chest was exposed. "I can tend to your needs myself, my prince."
Please just take me take ME leave him alone don't touch him
"N-no!" the prince finally blurted out, shocked as he took several steps back. "No, I just...I wanted to make sure you were both alright!"
He looked so mortified that Victor blinked at him, surprised. "...Yes..."
"Good!" the prince exclaimed, looking ready to run. "Good, I...Just...if you need anything..." The alpha made a sort of choking noise before finally running off down the hall.
Victor stared after him, still so confused.
He stepped back into the room, silent as he was met by Yuri's furious questions.
Laying a hand on the boy's shoulder for a moment, Victor walked away from him and into the bathing room.
The alpha hadn't laid a hand on him.
But Victor shivered, his own scent too heavy on his skin.
He shut the door to the room, hoping Yuri remained on the other side.
He couldn't be that lucky.
He'd been told it was the way his life would end, legs spread for an alpha who'd paid enough. His and Yuri's only fortune was being considered attractive enough to not have to sell their bodies nightly, to be sold to some wealthy noble to decorate a harem.
And it was what Victor expected when he and his brother were sent to Hasetsu, away from any who wanted their grandfather's omegan heirs back on the throne.
Victor shed his robe, shivering as he filled the tub with hot water, the air going hazy soon enough.
Yuri was calling for him.
Yuri shouting for him as an alpha ripped Victor away from him to throw him into a pitch black pit, a punishment for defending his brother from the madame's wrath after he'd cut his yellow hair short.
Victor sank into the tub, still shaking and realizing he was crying.
He covered his mouth, muffling his sobs and shaking in the water.
Next: the prince in agony
He smelled like flowers.
The omega named Victor smelled like flowers, roses, sweet and lovely, and Yuuri almost died.
He tore into his room and shut the door behind him, taking several deep breaths to try and clear that wonderful scent from his head.
If he'd stayed there any longer he would have fallen to his knees in front of the omega and made a complete fool of himself.
At least he hadn't, though his reaction shamed him. It wasn't as though omegas never crossed his path. He could walk past Yuuko and her sweet blossom scent without it affecting him as it used to, when he harbored an intense crush on the beautiful omega. It was likely the newness, and how strange the whole situation was, but damn it all he was better than this.
He wasn't about to act the smitten alpha towards two traumatized omegas. Yuuri knew very well why they were here, and why his mother accepted the "gift" of two untouched omegas, essentially freeing them from the Ruthenians' control.
Victor and his brother were only two. What about all the others like them in the Empire?
It made Yuuri sick to imagine it, which helped take his mind away from his reaction to Victor.
Things were supposed to change in Rutha. His mother had said they would. Then again the Ruthenian rebels would have said anything for the sake of Hasetsu's aid, given them whatever. And that included what they saw as the honorable gift of two slaves.
Yuuri sank to the floor, feeling drained and ill. He needed a nest. He needed something to ground him into a coherent thought process, something more productive than thinking about the evils in the world. If he couldn't help omegas and betas in the Ruthenian Empire he could at least help the two now residing in the palace.
He got to his feet and made his way to the chest next to the wardrobe. For the sake of convenience Yuuri never locked it, wanting it and its contents to remain within reach at all times, anxiety-prone as he was.
He had things arranged as he wanted on his bed, and was just about ready to take his clothes off to put on his sleep clothes and settle into his nest, and maybe wake up early enough to meet with his parents and sister so they could determine living arrangements for their guests until they could figure out what the omegas wanted to do.
He let out a yelp when his door slid open, and spun around to see his sister enter the room.
She was mostly mild and easygoing, for an alpha, but where it counted she could be incredibly stubborn. As she wasn't in any hurry to mate or have children, Yuuri and his own potential children would one day be her heirs, if he ever managed to find a mate.
"Nesting?" she asked, nodding in the direction of his bed.
"Yes," Yuuri answered grumpily. "At least I was until you came in."
Mari chuckled softly as she shut the door behind her, all ease and relaxation. "So, are they settled in okay? Didn't scare them, did you?"
Yuuri could feel his cheeks heat up, and all he could manage was a weak, "Uh..."
"Oh gods, your face is red," Mari remarked, suddenly serious. "What happened?"
"I don't know!" Yuuri exclaimed, dragging a hand through his hair and making a mess of it. "I thought...He thought I was there to..." He covered his face and groaned into his hands, realizing how it must have looked to the omega when he appeared at the door to his room. What on earth had Victor and Yuri been told when they were brought here? "What is wrong with these Ruthenians!?" Yuuri asked, frustrated. "What did that man think? That...That we were going to pounce on them as soon as they walked into the throne room?""
"Yeah, that reeking alpha did look pretty surprised that we didn't," Mari remarked bitterly. "Well, did you run? You look like you ran. What's he smell like?"
"Roses," Yuuri automatically replied, and he immediately thought about it again. "Gods, I don't want to scare them. Not after what they've been through"
"So...what, are you going to avoid them?"
"Maybe? I don't know..." Yuuri eyed his nest and knew he'd have to move things around again once his sister left. "...I should ask Yuuko and Kenjiro to attend them. At least until...they're more comfortable or they know where they want to go."
Mari eyed him with uncertainty. "Two Ruthenian omegas raised as sex slaves? Chances are they've got nowhere to go. Otherwise they'd have been put in some Ruthenian harem a long time ago."
Yuuri bit back a growl at the idea, and his blush intensified. He had no claim on either of the omegas and he didn't want one. If he ever had a mate he didn't want one that reacted to his presence the way Victor had, like he actually needed to please Yuuri simply because he was forced to. "Then they're...better off here," Yuuri concluded, his throat going painfully tight at the idea. No matter how much distance he attempted to put between himself and the omegas they were bound to run into each other eventually, and Yuuri wouldn't be sure of what to say or do if Victor still thought Yuuri only saw him as someone who could physically satisfy him.
Nodding in agreement, Mari said, "I'll leave you alone, then. Enjoy your nest."
Yuuri watched her leave and eyed his nest for a few moments before deciding he needed to start over.
Victor woke up thinking it was all a dream. That he was back in that brothel in Petra, waking up to another day of having to endure the noise coming from the private chambers. Alphas moaning while omegas whimpered. Sometimes screams that Victor didn't want to think about.
There were times when he heard a scream and thought it sounded like his mother. But that was, of course, completely impossible. He'd watched her die. He knew she was dead, preferring to join her husband after ensuring her sons' safety rather than be taken as a trophy by the men, the alphas who'd betrayed and murdered their whole family.
But we weren't safe, Victor couldn't help thinking guiltily. Mama, we weren't safe.
However, the beds at the brothel never felt this firm and wonderful.
And everything smelled...clean.
Nothing smelled of pungent, rutting alpha, or distressed omega, or heat or incense.
All Victor could smell were clean sheets and Yuri's calm, sweet apple scent.
Opening his eyes and sitting up with a jolt, Victor remembered everything from the day before, and the...Gods, that alpha, the other Yuuri.
Victor shuddered as he exhaled, sitting on the bed and looking at the room around him. Blues and browns and whites, a wardrobe all their own and that bathing room.
And a sliding door.
He'd gone to sleep oddly detached from everything last night. He vaguely remembered leaving the tub and draining the water once his skin pruned up, having washed away the oil on his skin, something he'd been told to wear to make his skin supple and fragrant.
But the alpha didn't want him, and the princess hadn't come to the room either.
So he was free.
Victor didn't know how to feel about that, even though he'd prayed for it so fervently in the early years, after they were found out and betrayed and sent to the brother with the promise that they would both suffer.
Their only stroke of luck was the madame deciding they were too valuable to waste on just any rutting alpha that walked in. Of course that didn't mean life was necessarily any better. Not in a brothel.
So he'd let his hope die a little bit as time went on, until all he could hope for was some rich alpha with a harem big enough that Victor wouldn't have to bear their touch frequently.
Then he and Yuri were unceremoniously packed up and put on a ship, enduring weeks of motion sickness and uncertainty until they were finally told that they'd been given to Hasetsu's royal family as gifts.
Victor knew what it meant, even if the queen didn't. The new government wanted them to disappear quietly in some far off kingdom, permanently out of sight.
Knowing that just made Victor and Yuri feel even more uncertain, and Victor tried to remember everything he'd learned about Hasetsu when he was a boy. He remembered that the heir to the throne was a princess, but he hadn't been able to remember what her name was, or her parents' names.
And he certainly hadn't remembered that she had a younger brother.
He heard Yuri stir, and looked down at him. His brother stayed asleep, his features smooth and calm. Victor didn't remember them exchanging a word after he'd gotten out of the bath and put his robe back on. He just knew that he'd fallen asleep with Yuri's back against his chest, the way they'd slept after their parents' deaths, before the brothel.
He gently carded his fingers through Yuri's hair, grown long almost midway down his back. It grew so fast.
Victor realized with a start that if they were truly free, he could take scissors to Yuri's hair himself and cut it as short as his brother wanted and no one would say anything about it.
He could cut his own hair...
He jumped again at a sound from outside the door, and immediately sniffed at the air, completely alert.
Not cinnamon. Not an alpha. Victor paused to give Yuri's shoulder a squeeze before getting up off the bed and walking towards the door again.
He opened the door and recognized the pretty brown-haired omega from the day before. She'd introduced herself, but Victor couldn't really recall her name. All he remembered was that she'd smelled like cherry blossoms, her scent sweetened with...something vaguely familiar.
"Good morning!" she greeted brightly, her smile friendly and earnest. "Prince Yuuri's asked me to look after you and your brother. I wanted to know if you needed anything, other than breakfast of course!"
She giggled as she said it, which set Victor at ease a little bit, and he smiled back. She was another omega, another ally. "I...I think we'll need clothes, mostly," Victor replied, trying to make sure he was saying the words correctly. He realized why it had been so important to the madame that he'd learn to speak these peoples' language. Had she been ordered to have him and Yuri learn it? Were they always meant to disappear in Hasetsu? "And I have questions," he admitted, needing to find his feet in this place that had no harem.
"Oh. Oh! Of course!" the girl (Yuuko, Victor remembered) replied with several nods. "I'm sure you do, after..." she trailed off with a blush.
Victor stared at her for a moment before stepping aside. "Coming in?"
Yuuko stepped inside, pausing when she caught sight of Yuri on the bed. "Oh, is he sleeping?"
Yuri stirred and this time he woke up, the blanket falling off of him as he sat up, eyes glazed over and hair disheveled. "Not anymore," Yuri muttered in Ruthenian.
"Yuri," Victor warned as he shut the door. "We live here now, so we speak in their language."
Yuri glared at him before rubbing at his eyes and growling so Yuuko could at least understand it, "I'm awake."
Moments later they were sitting at the small table set a few feet away from the bed, Victor and Yuri kneeling on one side and Yuuko on the other. "So how was your first night? I hope you were comfortable," Yuuko said, still smiling at both of them.
"Everything was fine," Victor told her, omitting the fact that he'd fallen asleep despite a headache after his quiet crying. "It's just...there are things I'd like to know about...this court."
"Ask whatever you need to," Yuuko said.
Taking a deep breath, Victor thought about his most urgent concerns, and finally asked, "If there is no harem, where would we spend our heats?"
Yuuko blinked at him before slowly replying, "In your room, of you like. You don't suppress your heats?"
Victor stared at her, confused by the wording. "Suppress?"
"As in...stopping your heat?"
That got Yuri's attention. He was sitting up straighter and grabbing Victor's wrist, his eyes wide as he asked in a demanding tone. "You can...you can stop a heat?!"
Victor wanted to know too, as it seemed almost way too good to be true. That was...not something omegas did in the Empire. Omegas would have full heats there, and alphas noticed.
Yuuko looked caught between bewilderment and shocked. "We have contraceptives too...You really don't know about heat suppression?"
Shaking his head, Victor replied in quiet tones, "...No...No one would want an omega to stop their heat. We...Concubines are...made to take contraceptives, but...omegas spend their heats in seclusion or...or in a harem, if an alpha isn't with them."
He flushed at the sound of Yuuko's sharp inhale, but then she immediately said, "I'll give you the leaves for the suppressant and teach you how to use them. But trust me, you're both safe here. No one will harm you. Especially not an alpha."
Victor exhaled sharply, trying to properly absorb her words because...he just wasn't this lucky.
No, you are, he thought. You were lucky enough that no one took Yuri away from you.
"Holy shit," he heard Yuri murmur, then he practically shouted, sounding happier than he had in months, "Yeah, show us how! I don't want to keep dealing with a heat!"
There was that odd feeling again, of being...detached from where he actually was, his mind focused on how much he'd prayed that Yuri wouldn't turn out to be an omega like him. If he'd been an alpha he would have had a fighting chance for...a life other than the one they'd ended up having. Even if it probably meant Victor would never see him again.
But then Yuri had presented as an omega, and suffered through every heat in anger and despondence, but at least Victor could help him through it, reminding him that the madame's orders assured them a measure of security. All they could do was hope they would remain together.
Did the Ruthenians know that they'd sent them to...this? To a place where an omega could spend a heat unmolested, or forgo a heat altogether?
"Where is..." Victor cleared his throat, trying to ground himself again as he squeezed Yuri's hand. "Where is the man who brought us?"
Yuuko's nose wrinkled in distaste at the mention of him. "Having breakfast with the queen, most likely. He'll leave soon, so we'll never have to see him again."
Victor nodded, hoping the man would go back to Rutha before he figured out that he'd brought him and his brother to a place unlike the hell they'd been promised.
Yuuri barely ate breakfast, having felt nervous ever since leaving his nest early that morning.
He knew Yuuko was still in the room with Victor and Yuri, having asked her to see if they were alright. But she'd been in there for such a long time and Yuuri was feeling anxious and fidgety for some reason. Was Victor telling Yuuko about his embarrassing display the night before?
Stop it, he thought, reminding himself that Victor and Yuri were in an entirely unfamiliar country, one that held omegas and betas in a much higher regard than in Rutha. He and his brother probably had a thousand questions, and Yuuko was another omega, one who would quickly have them feeling at home. Of course they wouldn't be talking about Yuuri.
"Pining already, your highness?"
Yuuri yelped at the sound of Takeshi's voice at his ear, and spun around to glare at the older alpha. "I'm not!" he replied, frantically looking back towards the door at the end of the hallway, worried that he'd been heard. "It's just...Yuuko's been in there for a while, and I wanted to make sure they were alright."
"Right," Takeshi said with a playful jab with his elbow. His expression softened into something more serious as he eyed the door. "Still...Rutha, huh?"
"Yes," Yuuri replied, frowning yet again at the thought of it.
Moments later the door opened, and Yuuri froze as he watched Yuuko walk out. He hadn't meant to stay there for so long, but then his eyes met Yuuko's, hers looking mildly disturbed.
Behind her stood the other two omegas, Victor looking thoughtful and Yuri grinning.
Yuuri caught his breath at the sight of Victor, and swallowed thickly. He looked as beautiful as he had the night before, even with that slight frown on his face. Then those blue eyes found Yuuri, who immediately blushed and tried to avert his gaze.
Still, he felt compelled to check up on them himself, to hear Victor say for himself if they were comfortable or if there was something he needed.
Taking a breath, Yuuri made his way over towards them. It was the first time he actually had to try to not seem...threatening. Usually he simply didn't, but he wasn't entirely sure we he stood with the omegas after their talk with Yuuko.
The blond Yuri simply glared at him, looking like he was ready to tear into Yuuri's throat for coming near them. Yuuko gave him a respectful nod, stepping away from the other omegas and saying to Yuuri, "I'll go get them their breakfast. We had a rather long talk."
Victor stared after Yuuko, his frown deepening briefly, but then returned his gaze to Yuuri, looking at him steadily before nodding in the same way that Yuuko had. "Good morning, your highness."
Yuuri felt a little relieved that Victor didn't try to disrobe again, and tried his best to smile at the brothers. "Good morning, Victor. To you as well, Yuri."
The small omega merely grunted in response and retreated back into the room. Victor looked like he wanted to tug him back, but apparently thought better of it and just looked at Yuuri.
Swallowing again, Yuuri asked, "Were you both...comfortable last night?"
"We were. Thank you," Victor replied, his voice soft and his gaze cast down.
Yuuri was glad to hear it. Still, he couldn't resist asking, "Is there...anywhere you and your brother would want to go now that you're free?"
Victor hadn't expected the question, even if he'd been mulling over the answer as he spoke with Yuuko. Where did he want to go?
The answer was so simple and childish it was unrealistic. What he wanted was to take Yuri and go back to their old life, back to safety and parents who were alive and who promised Victor things would be better when his older cousin became emperor.
But everyone was dead.
It was just him and Yuri left, free from whatever hell their family's killers had planned for them in Hasetsu.
"...We have nowhere. No one," Victor said, keeping his eyes on the alpha's hands at his sides. "Are you sending us away?"
"No!" the prince exclaimed, and Victor flinched at his tone. "No, not...Not when there's nowhere for you to go," he added quietly. "You're safe here. You can stay until...until things change. However long you need. You and your brother can stay right where you are. We can even get you separate rooms if you need-"
"My brother stays with me," Victor interrupted firmly, looking the prince in the eye and practically glaring at him. Something in him that he'd kept stifled was ready to pounce and defend his brother first, and himself second. That was how it always was. And it seemed to Victor that he was ready to pounce on this most permissive alpha.
Yuuri looked surprised at his hard outburst, and quickly nodded with a chagrined look on his face. "Alright. Alright, that's fine. I wasn't thinking, of course you wouldn't want to be separated from him."
It was Victor's turn to look surprised, not having expected that much understanding from any alpha.
Clearing his throat after a moment, Yuuri shyly added, "Please...feel free to look around. If you need anything, don't hesitate to ask. I'm sorry for disturbing you."
Victor watched him walk away in the same direction as Yuuko, and let out a breath he didn't know he'd been holding. He backed away from the doorway and slid it shut, his breaths coming hard.
Yuri was at his side in an instant, though he was grinning again. "Holy shit, you actually got away with that!"
He had. He really had. For all Yuuko's reassurances that omegas were treated as equals to alphas, Victor would watch his steps, and try to guide Yuri's. Equal or not, the prince was just that; a prince.
So were you, a traitorous voice in his head reminded him.
thank you all for the amazing response to the first chapter! please comment!
Chapter 3: oh the river, oh the river, it's running free
*writes whole chapter while waiting for the ice ado trailer* AAAAAA
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
While Victor was trying not to let his own bitter thoughts consume him, he didn't notice what his brother was getting up to. He only heard the sound of a drawer sliding shut, and turned to see his brother holding a pair of scissors.
Yuri was standing in front of the mirror, a manic look in his eye as he held the scissors to his hair. "You heard them, Victor. We can do whatever we want! There's no madam, no damn alphas telling us to keep our hair this long!"
Even so, Victor's heart was in his throat as he gazed at his brother, his expression impassive while his emotions were in a turmoil. What Yuri said was true, but Victor's memories urged him to yank those scissors out of Yuri's hand.
Yuri must have read what was in his heart, because his expression turned desperate as he exclaimed, "It's not like before! No one's going to hurt you for something I did!"
Tears swam in his brother's eyes then, and Victor felt horribly cold as he remembered.
Two years ago Yuri had gotten a hold of a pair of sewing scissors from one of the slave betas, and was found having cut his hair up to his nape.
The madam wanted him beaten and thrown into isolation in the cellar without meals.
Victor had begged to take the punishment in Yuri's place, as Yuri was his responsibility, his to watch and he hadn't watched him closely enough. He'd just wanted to relish a rare moment of solitude, away from groping alphas and the sound of their grunting in the private rooms.
The madam had coldly reminded him that he and Yuri only belonged to her, and not to each other. But she'd had Victor beaten and made Yuri watch to ensure he learned his lesson. Beaten and bloody, Victor had spent two nights in the dark, with only water to sustain him through the pain and terror.
He'd always hated the dark.
And despite everything they'd still beaten Yuri, and locked him in his room for those two days. Victor swallowed his tears when he found him, tending to him as best he could, and trying not to let the hate and fury in Yuri's eyes feed his own.
And he could tell that Yuri still remembered. He was fifteen and naturally defiant, but always remembered that Victor would always put himself between Yuri and any harm.
His throat tight, Victor seized on the reminder that it wouldn't be like that anymore. They were free, and no one threatened them with rape or punishment.
"Let me do it," he said, smiling at his brother and forcing down his terror down deep in his stomach. Yuri was right, after all. The prince hadn't reprimanded him for speaking out of turn, and had even apologized for suggesting that Yuri sleep in separate chambers. While he knew things would be different here, memory kept him almost frozen.
But he took a deep breath before making his way towards his brother, taking the scissors from him before he started hacking away. They certainly looked sharp enough that the ends of Yuri's hair wouldn't look untidy. He got to work combing out his brother's hair, and tied it in a low ponytail at his nape, all while Yuri fidgeted impatiently.
After taking another breath, Victor cut the entire length just above the tie, and watched Yuri's shoulders flinch as he drew in a sharp breath before letting it out, like Victor had lifted some enormous burden off his shoulders.
Victor envied him that feeling, but kept it to himself as he tidied the ends that would frame his brother's face, the golden strands of hair lying abandoned on the floor while Yuri stared at himself in the mirror, his eyes round with surprise as he took in the shortened length of his hair, the tips touching either side of his jaw. Yuri turned his head back and forth, his smile growing bigger at the apparent weightlessness.
Meanwhile Victor bent down to pick up the discarded strands, soft and silky between his fingers, and he could almost pretend that it was their mother's hair.
"Alright. Give me yours," Yuri suddenly said, reaching for the scissors again.
Victor drew away, keeping both the scissors and Yuri's hair close to his chest. "No," he said, frowning and pouting at his brother.
Yuri gaped at him with bewilderment. "Why?!"
"Because..." Victor looked at the floor between them, suddenly feeling childish. It was just hair, his own to do with as he pleased, no longer needing to look attractive for any alpha. Still, he quietly said, "...Because it's mine..." And Mama's was long, he thought, thumbing the length of Yuri's hair as his throat grew tight. But he shook it off and placed the scissors and the hair on the vanity table, steadying himself before smiling again and taking his brother by the wrist to tug him into the bathing room again. "Come, I'll help you wash it."
Yuri hissed a couple of times, not wanting to be babied, before relaxing as Victor poured hot water down his back using his cupped palms. The room smelled of all the oils and soaps they began to playfully experiment with, and Victor got to watch Yuri laugh after he'd sneezed thanks to one particular oil. He could almost fool himself into thinking they were still in the small palace of their birth, and Victor was blowing bubbles into his baby brother's face, making him wrinkle his tiny nose.
After a few minutes, Yuri grew quiet, his smile fading as he drew his knees up to his chin. Victor observed him, noting how small and thin he was. But he was strong, physically strong to the point of giving even an alpha pause. Victor was too, something that went against the traditional view of a physically delicate omega. They weren't necessarily the only physically strong omegas, even in the brothels, but it was certainly a quality the madam didn't encourage, despite the insistence on learning various types of dance.
Yuri frowned again and muttered, "I don't care how tame these alphas are. I don't want to be anywhere near one."
Victor shrugged as he drew a finger over the surface of the water. "The prince seems harmless," he replied noncommittally.
"He's an alpha. A royal one. The worst kind."
"But not like the ones in Rutha."
"At least it doesn't stink of rut in here," Yuri conceded.
No. It smelled sweet and clean, and everything was so well-lit. And he could hear and smell people moving about outside. "You heard what Yuuko said. They can suppress that too." It had sounded too good to be true when she mentioned it. Alphas didn't willingly suppress their nature. Not in Rutha.
"Maybe they ought to pour those leaves in the rivers," Yuri said with a smirk. "Then all the omegas back home could sleep without anyone bothering them, for once."
Victor's stomach dropped when Yuri referred to that place as home. It wasn't his fault, he reminded himself. Yuri knew no better. He was so young when they lost everything, and for all he knew they were born and raised in that isolated house with an old dog that only got sicker by the day. "This is our home now, Yura. We have nowhere else to go," he said, wishing it were otherwise, even wishing for that house where they'd been discovered months after Victor realized he was an omega.
"I know," Yuri mumbled into his knees, his frown still in place. "It's weird, though. I keep remembering this place with white walls, and...there's a woman with yellow hair, and she's saying something."
Victor froze. He knew very well who Yuri was talking about. But he kept smiling, successfully hiding his disquiet as he cupped his hands again to dip them into the water to pour it over Yuri's head again, making him grumble and hiss. "It's a dream, kotik," Victor said, his heart aching at the lie. But it was better than letting Yuri think about what they lost, to add that weight on his shoulders.
Yuri gave him a petulant look but remained silent, thumbing the ends of his hair with what appeared to be satisfaction.
The prince had said it was fine to look around, so that was what Victor intended to do, leaving Yuri to inspect their chambers a bit more.
Victor remembered thinking as a child that it would be impossible to walk the entirety of his grandfather's palace, and part of him still believed that as he remembered running through the halls of his family's smaller palace with Makkachin, Yuri toddling after both of them.
This palace was certainly big, though not as big as Victor's grandfather's. He observed everything, navigating his new residence and becoming familiar with every sight and scent.
The servants smiled and nodded their heads at him with slight bows, and for some reason Victor couldn't resist smiling at each friendly face, especially if they were omegas and betas.
The alphas were...surprising. They mostly served as guards, but there were a few of them wandering the halls with laundered sheets and even cleaning the floors. Watching them, Victor tried not to seem nervous as he tried to determine where he stood with them.
And they smelled...normal. One thing Victor remembered about his grandfather's palace was the man's scent all over...everything. Strong and almost oppressive, though it never felt so when Victor was in front of him. Alphas were supposed to be naturally territorial, subtly warring against each other for dominance. These alphas, however, seemed to just...exist with each other, the guard Takeshi giving his fellow guard a friendly nudge when they passed each other in a hall while Victor tried to make himself invisible.
He emerged in what appeared to be a garden, and lost his breath at the sight of it. He'd seen the trees, branches laden with the red leaves of autumn, almost framing the palace as they neared it the day before, but there were smaller ones here, littering the grounds and pond with leaves.
It was beautiful and simple, and Victor almost wanted to cry at the sight of it. Instead, he felt a rare excitement, wanting to see what everything would look like in full bloom.
Then he heard two sharp yips from his left, and looked in that direction in time to see a small poodle racing towards him.
Victor gasped and immediately knelt and held his arms out to catch the tiny shape, laughing breathlessly when the dog leaped on him and started licking and sniffing at his face exuberantly. "Hello there!" Victor exclaimed amid giggles, his heart aching with adoration. "Who do you belong to, detka?"
The darling poodle barked a reply, still trying to clamber up Victor's chest and devour him in licks. Victor beamed as he cuddled him, even as he ached for Makkachin with an almost unbearable pain.
"Hey, you found the other Victor!" someone called.
Victor looked up to see a boy around his age approaching him, his hair a dark gold with a dash of red. Behind him was a short middle-aged man, a relaxed smile on his face. An omega and beta, by the smell of them, allowing Victor to let his guard down. "That's his name? Victor?" he asked, still laughing as the poodle settled in his lap. "He is adorable. Who does he belong to?"
"To my son, the prince," the beta answered casually.
Victor looked at him with barely-hidden surprise. A beta was Queen Hiroko's chosen mate? He'd sired the two alphas sitting on either side of the queen?
The older man added, "Poor thing's been ill for weeks, and he's finally coming around. He really seems to like you!"
Victor the Poodle gave another yip at that, giving Victor the Omega's neck a curious sniff as he blushed. Beta or not, the man was a member of the royal family, and Victor dipped his head in a gesture of respect. "I did not realize who you were. Forgive me."
"Oh, none of that," the beta said with a soft laugh, which made Victor lift his gaze again in mild bewilderment. The man was smiling cheerfully, and said, "We run a very lax court here, as you can see. Especially when there are no dignitaries or courtiers within sight. You can call me Toshiya."
Victor couldn't believe it. All he could do was gape at the beta, sire to the future queen and mate to the current queen, as he urged Victor to be on first name terms with him. He remembered only being able to call his royal grandfather "dedushka" in private.
The younger omega piped up proudly, "I'm Minami Kenjiro, and my family's served the Katsukis for generations!" He then turned to Lord Toshiya again, and said, "Prince Yuuri just had his lunch, and I told him that Victor's doing better. He's coming over right away!"
Victor almost dropped the dog when he heard that, hoping he didn't smell nervous. Of course he was bound to run into the prince sooner or later, and...he'd been kind. Shy even, bolting when Victor tried to begin seducing him the night before. Lord Toshiya nodded and said, "Good, good. I'll see if I can head him off. I haven't really gotten his impression about what went on yesterday. He's so tight-lipped, that boy. Please excuse me."
He clasped his hands behind his back and walked off like his head was in the clouds, though Victor could quickly sense that the man was quite observant, especially if he wanted to know Prince Yuuri's impression of, Victor guessed, his and Yuri's arrival.
Placing the poodle on the ground, Victor smiled at Kenjiro and asked curiously, "What sort of man is the prince?"
A red blush immediately flowered on each of Kenjiro's cheeks, and he practically squealed as he took Victor by the shoulders, "Have you looked at him?! He's so handsome and graceful, even for an alpha! He can seem cold at first, but he's incredibly kind. He's always been nice to everyone in the palace!"
Victor was observant too, and looked at Kenjiro in a new light. Kenjiro obviously worshipped the prince. It was just as well, Victor thought. The prince could take his pleasure with someone who was perfectly willing, and would eagerly, as it appeared, welcome his attentions. Yet Victor kept in mind that the prince had run away from him, as though their roles were actually reversed. "You have feelings for him, then?" Victor asked slyly.
Kenjiro's blush intensified, and his voice caught in his throat as he whispered, "H-he's the prince!"
"And you said he's kind and handsome," Victor replied, his smile and voice soft. "And he is. I bet he'd be especially kind to you, though."
The boy looked so flustered Victor almost wanted to take pity on him. Victor had probably encouraged even more fantasies for him, but in any case at least he knew that the prince wouldn't be cruel. Even so, Victor had a choice now, and he did not want an alpha's hands on him again any time soon. Then Kenjiro froze and squeaked out, "Gods, it's him!" and then tried to hide in Victor's shadow, all while Dog Victor yipped in excitement and started running off somewhere behind Victor.
He turned around and saw the prince standing a few feet away, staring back at him with those wide, dark eyes, clad in dark blue that made him look exceptionally...regal.
Yuuri felt pathetic, staring at Victor as he bit the inside of his cheek to ribbons. The omega stared back, stiff as a board, and Yuuri couldn't help feeling responsible. He was probably making Victor nervous, and wished he could somehow make himself smaller.
And he couldn't help but still think that Victor looked lovely standing in the garden, wearing grey robes and trousers and his hair in a high ponytail.
A sharp bark tore Yuuri's attention away, and he looked down at his poodle with a relieved smile. "Vicchan! You're all better!" he exclaimed, bending down to gather his dog up in his arms and feeling overjoyed to see him recovered.
He looked up to see Kenjiro making his way over to him, a blush high on his cheeks as he bit his lip and said, "He's been getting stronger every day."
Yuuri smiled at him gratefully. "Thanks for helping to look after him, Kenjiro."
The young omega nodded, biting his lip a bit more before rapidly saying, "I'll...I'll go, your highness." He then darted off and back inside the palace before Yuuri could react.
And so he was left alone with the silver-haired omega he and his father briefly spoke about when they passed each other in the hall. His father had been curious to know what he thought of the Ruthenians' gesture. He'd said he'd been as shocked as his mother was, but avoided talking about what Victor was about to do that night.
He tried very hard not to think of Victor trying to seduce him with that sweet, rosy scent, lest he start blushing again. Swallowing, he held Vicchan and made his way over to the omega, smiling anxiously. "What do you think of the garden?" he asked, avoiding Victor's face.
Victor cleared his throat, his hands loosely clasped at his front, and said pleasantly enough, "The garden is beautiful. Peaceful."
"I'm...glad you like them," Yuuri replied, his heart racing. Even though he knew Victor probably didn't want him, Yuuri couldn't help wanting the omega's approval. "It's pretty in the winter too, a-and in springtime..." He trailed off, knowing he probably sounded stupid.
Vicchan barked in his arms, straining towards Victor with an excited little whine. The omega smiled genuinely and reached over to scratch the spot behind Vicchan's ear. Relaxing a little at the tender sight, Yuuri remarked, "Vicchan really likes you."
"I thought his name was Victor," the omega said with a soft laugh.
That laugh made Yuuri's heart skip a beat. "Vicchan is...it's like a nickname. I guess it's what I'll call him now that you're around."
Victor chuckled softly, though he still looked a bit guarded even as he smiled. "Two Victors and two Yuris. It's very funny." He met Yuuri's gaze again, steadily this time, and Yuuri watched his eyes narrow briefly before he said, "So your father is a beta."
Yuuri gaped at him. He was certainly...blunt. "U-uh...Yes...He was the son of a minor lord, and...well, he and my mother fell in love." It was strange to speak of his parents in that way, but there was no denying the true and lasting fondness between them.
"And no one minded?" Victor asked directly.
"...Why would they?" Yuuri asked before remembering just where Victor came from. Things were obviously wildly different there, even for betas it seemed.
Victor confirmed Yuuri's thoughts by saying, "In Rutha her consort would have been another alpha, and he practically would have ruled for her."
Yuuri felt cold at the thought of anyone ruling in his mother's place, at least anyone who wasn't his father. "And...why haven't the Ruthenian nobles...criticized us?" he asked, thinking about the man standing in the throne room with Yuri and Victor in tow, all courtesy and pungent alpha scent.
"Because of the money you've given them," Victor replied, tone flat as he gave a small shrug. "They've given you their thanks and things in the Empire will stay the same."
He said it with such detachment that Yuuri couldn't help feeling distressed on his behalf. But he didn't remark on it. It wasn't his place. "...I'm sorry," he couldn't help murmuring.
Victor blinked at him, looking surprised. "Why? You've been...good to us, even after my behavior."
"I wasn't...I wouldn't punish you for that," Yuuri replied, his grip on Vicchan tightening.
"You're a prince," Victor said.
"That...That doesn't give me the right to...to do anything to you," Yuuri managed to say, heat coloring his cheeks. "We want you to be comfortable here."
Victor kept gazing at him, like he was trying to determine whether or not to trust Yuuri's words.
Then the wind picked up, and they both shivered. Yuuri looked up at the sky, watching the clouds begin to roll in. He instinctively reached a hand out towards the omega, face hot as he said, "We should go inside before it starts raining."
Victor stared at his hand and then at his face, hesitating for a moment before slowly placing his hand inside of Yuuri's. It was warm in Yuuri's palm, though still rather stiff. Even so Victor looked right at him, almost a tentative challenge.
Yuuri met it as best he could, keeping his grip loose as he led the way back inside the palace, trying not to think about how soft Victor's hand was.
Chapter 4: who do you call when you're by yourself?
short chapter tonight gang
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Victor's hand still tingled in Yuuri's hold, and he was forcing himself to ignore the alpha's cinnamon scent as they walked back inside the palace halls as rain began to fall outside.
Vicchan stayed in Yuuri's arms, though Victor felt his black eyes on him, like the tiny poodle was observing him. Victor couldn't help smiling back at him, the dog's friendly demeanor allowing him to relax a little as he brought his gaze up to the prince's face.
His cheeks were dusted in pink, which wasn't something Victor would have expected from an alpha his age. He didn't smell of any other omega, or even another alpha. Just his own scent, subtle and quiet, like he wasn't looking to be noticed or identified as the most dominant alpha in the room.
As if just realizing that he was still holding Victor's hand, Yuuri's blush intensified and he suddenly let go, holding on to Vicchan tightly while Victor kept regarding him with curiosity.
"Are you...getting more familiar with the place?" Yuuri asked quietly.
"I am," Victor replied, still looking right at the other man in subtle challenge. Victor knew he was tempting fate, but Yuuri wasn't even looking at him, like he was allowing himself to be cowed by an omega concubine. He smiled at the thought, feeling a bit braver, and asked, "Is there anything important that I may have missed, your highness?"
Yuuri inhaled sharply, blinking several times and biting his lip almost anxiously. Victor knew how to sweeten his tone enough to let his coy suggestions move even the hardest alpha, but Yuuri looked like Victor had laid a single hand on his bare skin. He cleared his throat, seemingly recovering himself, and finally dared to look at Victor. "You haven't seen the library yet?"
It was Victor's turn to suck in a breath.
He knew how to read, while Yuri had forgotten the few things he'd learned after their escape from their family's enemies. Victor had missed their small library in those short years of hiding, so he'd written about their days, simply to not lose track of the time and to remember. He'd hidden those makeshift journals from Yuri, but they'd burned along with the house after he and his brother were found.
Yuri knew enough Nihan to get by in their new home, but only Victor could read and write it as well as any advanced student. Learning the new language had been a sort of blessed escape, one that Victor cherished during those long years in the brothel, though he never thought the alpha he'd be bound to would allow him use of a library. He beamed at the prince, excitedly grabbing his arm and demanding, "Show me!"
That tone would have earned him a slap from the madam.
Yuuri, however, just looked relieved and happy at his enthusiasm, and said with a nod, "Alright. Follow me."
Victor did so as Yuuri picked up the pace a little, his heart doing the same for a reason that wasn't terror and absolute despair. He was...excited, and supposed that was what Yuri had felt when he cut his hair. Victor was possibly freer than he'd ever been in his life, here in a far off kingdom where he wouldn't be forced to endure heats for the sake of an alpha.
He'd had enough of watching other omegas do that and avoiding alphas, even the brothel guards, when he was in heat. Victor supposed the madam's wrath saved him and Yuri from the guards taking things too far with them, though nothing stopped them from making use of Victor's hands, mouth, and thighs, knowing he'd do anything to keep them away from Yuri. While he'd have to wash the stench of them off his skin and hair they never marked him. The madam would have murdered him for risking her losing a profit, even if the mark would have faded in time.
Even remembering it had Victor's throat going tight with nausea, but he kept smiling at the prince, chattering on as though to outrace his memories, "I want to know more about this palace. When was it built? Which ancestor built it? How many people live here?"
Yuuri looked surprised at his questions, and asked, "You really want to know all of that?"
How to tell him that it was a good way to block everything out? A royal alpha, no matter how kind he was, would never be able to understand. Victor just kept smiling and said, "It's a beautiful place, and I've always loved learning new things." At least it wasn't a lie.
The prince still looked a little bewildered, but cleared his throat and murmured, "Um...well...Gods, where to start?"
"As far back as possible, of course!" Victor replied.
And that was what Yuuri spoke of while they made their way to the library, Victor listening closely with genuine interest as his nerves started to go away, and he could once again feel excited.
The doors were open, and Victor couldn't hold back a gasp as he caught sight of the tall bookcases, and when they entered the library itself he stopped breathing as he saw just how many there were.
But there were also scrolls and paintings hanging on the walls, splashes of simple, vibrant color in the light browns and blues of the large room.
Victor forgot about Yuuri and Vicchan, stepping inside like a man hypnotized. The library he'd grown up in had been so much smaller than this. He remembered wandering in, knowing it was a time to be as quiet as possible, and finding his father and mother sitting at one of the tables together, gazing at each other and ignoring whatever book lay open between them.
He quickly filed that memory away, fingers trailing over the piles of scrolls neatly set up on the shelves, over each of the spines of varying height and thickness. He could read the letters at least, and he was suddenly starving for something to distract him from...everything, for someone else's words on a page.
"This is...incredible," he murmured, unable to stop himself from turning and smiling at the alpha, who went on blushing. "I haven't seen so many books, in..." He let himself trail off, remembering that it was dangerous to elaborate. Yuuri could think whatever he wanted, think that he was just some omega whore raised in a brothel.
Yuuri seemed to think nothing of it, looking sweetly pleased by Victor's reaction. He put Vicchan on the floor, but the poodle seemed disinterested in the books, padding away and out of sight like he was giving them a moment alone.
Victor briefly felt a little self-conscious, left alone with the shy alpha who couldn't meet his eyes again. "Feel free to look around," he said quietly, keeping his hands at his side as though Victor would bolt if he made a single move.
Victor took him at his word and continued to look around. He must have done so for ten minutes when he ran into the first volume in Ruthenian, drawing in a sharp breath at the sight of letters in the familiar alphabet.
He immediately pulled the book out, a biography of some ancestor of his. The man looked nothing like his grandfather, but even so he was a Nikiforov, the same as Victor. and yet their lives were so incredibly different.
"You have books in Ruthenian," Victor remarked.
"And a couple in Gallian, and other languages," Yuuri replied, peering at the book in Victor's hands. "I know a few words in a few languages. I even know a few words in Ruthenian. I try to read these every now and then to keep up..."
Victor wondered just how much he knew. But he didn't wonder long, an idea forming in his head as he looked at the words in his native language. He held a treasure in his hands, one that he could make good use of. He remembered grabbing any random book he could reach when he was five years old, taking it to the nursery so he could read to Yuri, his mother having to remind him to stop when Yuri finally fell asleep.
"I'm going to teach my brother how to read," he suddenly blurted out, beaming at the book in his hands and at the other ones on the shelf. "Not just in Ruthenian, but in Nihan too."
Yuuri's smile widened and Victor couldn't resist appreciating the sight. Those eyes appeared to brighten even more when he smiled. "That's a good idea," he said. "Where is your brother?"
"Still getting familiar with our chambers," Victor replied absentmindedly, making a mental list of all the books and trying to remember if he'd read them before in their old library. He recognized slim poetry volumes, and collections of short stories that looked a bit familiar.
His hands itched to grab them all and just start reading without fear of interruption, eager to share them with Yuri as soon as he could.
Excited as he was, Victor almost didn't notice the portrait.
When he did, the book almost slipped out of his hands, and the tight awful feeling returned to his stomach.
He remembered the portrait, having walked past it every day of his life for nine years. Not only that, but he knew the subject's face as well as he knew his own, having worshiped it for as long as he could remember.
Victor had his mother's eyes, and they were staring right back at him from the portrait hanging on the wall next to the bookcases filled with the books written in Ruthenian. It was the same frame, nicked in some places but...it was the same one.
He'd known the palace had been ransacked by looters. He tried not to think about anyone rifling through the delicate things his mother loved, like the piano she loved playing. He didn't want to think of them trampling his father's gardens.
It was easier to think of it all destroyed, without a trace of it left in the world, nothing left for strangers to violate with their hands. He'd prayed they'd left his mother's body alone, burning it along with the rest of the palace to just burn away every part of her out of the world that wanted her total submission.
Yet here she was, in a palace in Hasetsu where her sons had been sent to live out their lives as slaves.
Victor didn't hear Yuuri approach from behind, only noticing he was there when he said quietly, "I know, she's beautiful."
"The Lady Nadezhda Nikiforova," Victor replied just as quietly, her name sounding like an invocation, like he was walking across the grave she would never have. Yuuri was right, she was beautiful. She always had been, with waves of golden hair cascading down her shoulders and her crystal blue eyes looking straight ahead. Her smile was rosy and soft and her neck was pale and long, and Victor remembered how he would bury his face against it to inhale her lavender scent.
"You know about her?" Yuuri asked, still keeping his voice at a respectful volume.
She was my mother, Victor wanted to scream. She was my mother and she was beautiful and Yuri looks just like her and sometimes it hurts to look at him. "Everyone in the Empire does," he answered, keeping his tone even and the steady smile on his face, as though it were some stranger's face he was looking at. "It's our most infamous love story."
Victor rolled his eyes, his grip on the book tight as he struggled to put distance between himself and the whole terrible story. "The youngest son of the Emperor, an omega at that, elopes with an alpha noble's betrothed. It's not exactly something the ruling class is proud of, especially when that class is dominated by territorial alphas."
His father had been that omega, daring to steal away a beautiful, and engaged, omega and claim her for himself. And his grandfather, despite all outrage, allowed the union, all because he'd favored his youngest son, the only omega out of all his children. It was supposed to have been such a meaningless thing. After all, Victor's grandfather had promised the injured party a niece's hand, so it all should have been resolved.
But it wasn't. Nine years of deceptive peace hadn't stopped everything from happening the way it did.
The alphas who had betrayed his grandfather were then taken by surprise by the opportunistic army, who'd staged a bloody coup that decimated Victor's remaining family, and they were the ones who'd come with their hats in their hands to beg Queen Hiroko for help, a help that was quickly given in hopes of changing things for the better.
Yuuri, to Victor's relief, didn't seem to have a clue as to what was going through Victor's head. "She died, didn't she? She and her mate and their children. We never really heard anything about their children."
Which was why their visits to the court were always done without ceremony. Why their grandfather only saw them in private, without the eyes of the court on them. "Probably to hide the disgrace," Victor said, heart aching as he summarized all the awful events of his life in the simplest terms and in a few short moments. "She and Prince Leonid went against tradition and weren't even punished for it. It was said the Emperor was already too much of a modernist in other areas, and that displeased the nobles."
"I knew that much," Yuuri said, sounding pensive as he kept staring at the portrait. "I just wish we knew what happened to their children."
You don't want to know, Victor thought, holding on to the book that held every single boring detail about the life of one alpha ancestor who'd done nothing to change things. His grandfather had tried, and everything had fallen apart.
Even so, Victor preferred to hold on to this image of his mother, and not of her bleeding out from her wrists onto the floor of the bedroom she'd shared with his father, while Victor stared at her in quiet shock before a servant dragged him away, urging him amid terrified sobs to run and not look back.
Here he was, in a warm and beautiful palace, looking back and trying to maintain his composure next to the alpha prince who could only picture all that tragedy from a safe distance.
Victor sighed. It wasn't the prince's fault. He'd shown Victor this...treasure trove, a way for him and Yuri to escape. "Thank you," he said, finally turning away from his mother's portrait and back to the prince, who blushed again. "This...It means much to me," he added with a sincere smile.
Yuuri blushed again, looking down as he said, "I'm...glad you like it."
He kept his hands at his sides and Victor found himself appreciating that, though he could admit that he did like the prince's smile.
Chapter 5: I didn't know I was a phoenix till I learned how to speak
thank you all for the completed support! it means so much to me, y'all <3
song inspo: sum of our parts by mary lambert
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yuuri may have nested for the third time that week with Vicchan curled up beside him, but he still felt unsettled as he walked the palace halls.
Victor and Yuri - now playfully referred to as "Yurio" by Mari - had been in Hasetsu a week, and Victor had been dragging a disinterested Yurio to the library to start the reading lessons.
At first the "lessons" involved Victor reading Ruthenian poetry aloud, Yurio sitting in front of him looking entirely bored. Yuuri, unable to resist listening, was hypnotized by the sound of the words in Victor's light, laughing voice, a soft smile on his face as he read poetry Yuuri could only just understand with his limited grasp on the language.
The day before Victor had finally knuckled down and began teaching Yuri in earnest, going through the sounds of the complicated-looking alphabet.
Yuuri anxiously wondered if going into the library was even a good idea. Hiding in his room sounded like a better plan, especially if it helped him avoid Victor. Surely if he met the omega's lovely eyes, Victor would read the shame on his face, and Yuuri wouldn't be able to bear the embarrassment.
He'd been preoccupied with thoughts of Victor for days, and the night before he'd dreamed of him, of his sweet scent and soft-looking lips.
It was by far the most innocent dream of the sort Yuuri had ever had, and even so he was terrified of facing Victor, already feeling guilty over thinking of him in such a way. Victor had been warming up to him and his family, openly smiling at them and greeting them. Yurio didn't seem to mind Yuuri's mother, but he kept glaring at him and Mari, only speaking comfortably with Minami and Yuuko but actively avoiding her mate.
Victor's scoldings to his younger brother began to bear a tinge of bemusement, now that he more or less knew Yuuri wasn't going to punish Yurio for anything.
Yurio for sure wouldn't take kindly to Yuuri thinking about either Victor or himself in that way.
Yuuri chewed the inside of his cheek, worried to death that he'd do something to push them both away. He knew where they'd come from, and how they must have been treated. He didn't want to be one more alpha for them to be afraid of.
But could he avoid them forever? Not when Hasetsu seemed to be their only home for the moment.
He lingered just outside, listening to Yurio sound out one of the strange letters, sounding frustrated. He inhaled quietly, his heart seizing as he smelled Victor's flowery scent.
When he dared to venture in, he drew in a breath at the sight of Victor standing behind Yurio, his arms loosely crossed over his chest and his hair unbound. He was smiling as he listened to his brother, though he made a soft, critical-sounding noise whenever Yurio started sounding impatient.
Yurio stiffened when he appeared to realize that Yuuri was in the room, and lifted his gaze from the page in front of him, looking at Yuuri with an irritation that made him flinch.
Victor too noticed him, and his greeting smile was so dazzling Yuuri felt momentarily stunned. "Hello, your highness! I apologize for my brother's rudeness, again." He then playfully tugged at a strand of Yuri's significantly shortened hair, making the younger omega hiss and swat at Victor's hand.
Yuuri smiled back nervously, trying not to give away the fact that he couldn't get Victor out of his head. "I-it's fine. How are the lessons going?"
"Yura is stubborn, which is a good thing," Victor said breezily.
Yuri then growled in Nihan, "Are you going to talk to the alpha all day or are you helping me?"
"Like I said; rude," Victor lamented, tossing his hair over his shoulder and peering down over Yurio's yet again.
Yuuri stood there, uncertain if he should even remain. He hadn't given himself away, at least, but he probably smelled nervous, especially as Yurio started to challengingly push his own scent, sharper still than Victor's, as though Yuuri were an intruder.
It was quite a dare, and Yuuri had spent most of his life in a less-dominant state, likely because he was secondborn, destined to answer to his sister and be her support when the time came. He had anxiety and was so timid that it was a surprise he wasn't a beta.
Yuuri didn't push back, swallowing down his injured pride and trying not to resent the young omega.
Yuri glared at the sheet of paper, quiet for a moment before growling, "I've got a question, prince."
Victor sighed sharply, and Yuuri replied, "A-alright..."
Looking up at him again, Yuri asked, "What the hell's a Ruthenian noble's portrait doing here? Victor says he doesn't know anything about it."
Yuuri glanced at Victor, who suddenly looked paler, squeezing the back of Yuri's chair. Confused, Yuuri wondered what the cause was before thinking back to eight years ago when some visiting noble from Silla presented Yuuri's mother with the portrait. "A Sillan noble gave it to us as a gift. He said it made its way south from Rutha, rescued from hers and her mate's palace before it burned. Apparently it was the only thing that came out. No doubt it was looted, but the Ruthenian government didn't want it back when Lady Minako offered to return it."
"It's all ancient history at this point anyway, Yura," Victor said, smiling a bit unsettlingly. "Come now, keep going. I still have to teach you to read Nihan too."
Yurio rolled his eyes but went back to looking at the letters, silently mouthing them while Victor stared at...nothing in particular, his smile fading. Yuuri realized how exhausted the silver-haired omega looked, and wondered what the cause was.
But just how was he supposed to ask what the matter was without seeming invasive? He already felt that way standing there, trying not to let Yuri intimidate him so much.
Then he smelled his sister's sandalwood scent and suddenly she was in the library, groaning as she tiredly rubbed the back of her neck.
As the heir, her prescence was mandatory at council meetings. Yuuri tended to avoid them, and meant to participate that afternoon, but felt so thoroughly unsettled he preferred to nest until he could at least face people.
The meetings bored Mari but she wasn't unsettled by anything. One of the few things Yuuri was sure of was that the gods had made no mistake in making his sister their parents' firstborn. "That went on long," Yuuri said.
"Long and exhausting." Mari craned her neck with the faintest pop, her tired eyes falling on the omegas with a kind look. "You two look like you're having more fun than I am. Meanwhile I'm about ready for a nest."
Yurio had been avoiding Mari's eyes, but suddenly looked up at her with the same incredulity as Victor, who asked with total surprise, "You nest?!"
Yuuri stared back at him, wondering why such a thing was so surprising. "...Uh...yes? Everyone nests."
"Not alphas!" Yurio exclaimed, looking at him and Mari as though they'd each grown extra limbs.
They had to be joking. Nesting was a mostly private and intimate thing, so it wasn't like Victor and Yuri would have run into anyone's nest, but to question the fact that alphas nested? Yuuri almost couldn't wrap his head around it. Then Mari sighed and said dryly, "Let me guess. Alphas in Ruthenia don't nest?"
Victor, still looking so astonished, shook his head slowly. "No."
Yuuri's shoulders sagged in his shock. "Well, that explains a lot," he couldn't help murmuring, trying to imagine what it would be like to go without seeking the comfort of a nest. Clearing his throat, he felt his face grow hot again as he said, "Obviously betas don't need to, but...alphas...do."
"How the hell do alphas even nest?" Yuri asked, glaring at him and Mari. "Or what, do you just climb into an omega's?"
"No!" Yuuri's face felt even hotter under the suspicion in Yuri's eyes, and thinking of...climbing into any nest of Victor's wasn't helping at all.
Mari tried to stifle a snort and added with a small shrug, "We do it the same as you. There's not really much of a difference."
Yuuri watched Victor's grip on the chair go tight even as he blinked at them several times, appearing to gradually absorb the information. Once again Yuuri was struck by the stark differences in their cultures, wondering at how Ruthenian alphas could even function without nesting. Yuri still looked mildly disbelieving, and Yuuri couldn't blame him, but at the same time he wasn't about to show the boy his own nest just to prove that he did.
Victor cleared his throat, still gripping the chair tightly and smiling as though Yuuri and Mari hadn't, apparently, turned his worldview around on its head. He looked up at Yuuri, eyes filled with an odd sort of fascination that made Yuuri slightly uncomfortable, like he was being scrutinized all the way down to the bone.
"That's..." Victor seemed to be at a loss for words, his gaze softening slightly as he moved his hand from the chair to Yuri's shoulder, making the younger grudgingly look back down to the page. "Definitely interesting."
"Weird," Yuri muttered.
Mari snorted all while Yuuri blushed hotly, realizing how self-conscious he was becoming about himself as an alpha, more so than ever before in his life.
And he didn't even have the relief of knowing if Victor and Yuri felt any safer, because he certainly couldn't read their minds and he wasn't going to ask. He'd agonize about it forever, but it was better than asking two omegas who were probably still terrified.
"Are you having nightmares?"
The question caught Victor off-guard, his mind having trailed off towards...nothing and nowhere in particular, as it was wont to do when it felt like he was in the middle of a thick fog. It was disconcerting to think about, especially when Victor had hoped that everything was changing. Everything had already changed for the better, and yet Victor couldn't find it in himself to...feel it all. He was happy to be free, to not be living the nightmare he'd envisioned for almost a decade, and yet those same nightmares were still there. "What?" he asked, giving Yuri a bewildered look.
His brother stared right at him from the other side of the bed, his bangs covering one of his eyes so only the one, vividly green eye was looking at Victor like he wanted to dig through him for the truth. "You keep hitting and kicking me at night."
Victor fought down a wince, turning his back on Yuri as he sat on his side of the bed and tried to sound casual as he said, "Oh. Sorry, kitten." It just kept happening. He kept dreaming of the night they escaped the palace and the day they were discovered.
He dreamed of other awful moments he'd wished really were just nightmares, when he would just close his eyes and pretend he was someone else, someone who wasn't an omega. He kept waking up in the dark, the darkness he so hated, sitting upright and drenched in sweat, fighting for breath and trying not to scream because Yuri was next to him.
It wasn't supposed to happen. Not now, not in this place where an alpha queen treated him with such kindness, where the prince and princess never even laid a hand on him or on Yuri. He was free, no one was hurting him anymore, making him learn how to please some hypothetical alpha who'd own him until the last moment of his life.
Everything was fine. Better.
"Don't call me that," Yuri snarled, clambering over the mattress and sitting next to Victor and staring at him again. "It happens every night. Did that prince do anything?"
"No!" Victor sighed, trying not to sound exasperated. He frowned and briefly closed his eyes in an attempt to calm down, trying to do it quickly because Yuri had enough to worry about, and Prince Yuuri was the very last person his brother needed to concern himself with. "No, he's been kind. Everyone has, so stop being so rude. I taught you better," he couldn't resist saying with a firm glance.
Yuri glared at him and spun back around to his side of the mattress, lying down on his side and curling up stubbornly. "Whatever."
Victor dropped his smile, swallowing and wondering if he was going to lie awake. It was better than waking Yuri up and rousing his suspicions, even though they both knew it was something that tended to happen. But his mind was racing, his knee jumping up and down as he thought about nesting alphas and the place their supposedly cursed fate had led them to.
Part of him wanted to tell Yuri the truth. The entire truth. But he couldn't. Yuri had to think their parents were simple people who died and left them alone in that isolated house, and avoid the burden of memory that Victor had to carry for a decade.
Yuri had questioned why learning to read suddenly mattered, and all Victor could tell him was that it was important, urging him to keep his eyes on the page. "Get some sleep," Victor said, fighting to keep the tightness out of his voice. "Yuuko is taking us out tomorrow, remember?"
She'd asked them to join her in the market if they wanted, offering to give them a look at the world outside the palace, one they had only barely glimpsed when they arrived in that shrouded carriage.
Victor had immediately agreed, though Yuri was quick to remind him that they'd be surrounded by alphas. While that gave Victor some pause, he couldn't bear standing still, stuck in one place almost as if they were still virtually imprisoned in the brothel. Yuri, stubborn as ever when it came to sticking to Victor's side, relented and agreed to go, though Victor was sure he would probably throttle any alpha who so much as glanced at them.
Yuri gave him a soft grunt, and draped the blanket over himself.
Lying down on his side, Victor made sure to keep a bit of space between them. At least one of them deserved a good night's rest.
I'll probably update Something Slightly Resembling Gumption next! Maybe a couple of solo stories featuring domestic!victuuri goodies.
Chapter 6: with ashes in my mouth
tfw no teaser yet *cries victor's ghibli tears*
content warnings: mentions of forced abortion and abuse
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"You're sure this is a good idea?"
Victor paused, staring at his brother's reflection in the mirror. Yuri's face was over his shoulder, his eyes narrowed with suspicion over their planned outing. He was nervous, quite obviously, and Victor couldn't help but feel nervous too, but he kept smiling at his brother. "If you want to stay here, you can. Work on your reading, get to know Vicchan, introduce yourself properly to everyone..."
"No way," Yuri growled, crossing his arms tightly across his chest. He'd immediately picked out an orange tunic with black trousers, but had done nothing to fix his disheveled hair other than drag his fingers through it one or two times. "It'll be boring as hell if I stick around here."
"Then comb your hair and get ready," Victor said, tucking back an errant strand of silver hair behind his ear and observing his reflection critically. He himself was dressed in blue and gray, and had his hair up in a high ponytail. While nervous, Victor was even more excited to at last take advantage of his newfound freedom, and set eyes upon a world that didn't follow Rutha's cruel societal norms. Even as an un-presented prince Victor's life had been one of rules and limitations, and his parents frequently reminded him that he couldn't really count as his tenuous status as a prince to always protect him.
But the fact stood that he was free, freer than he'd ever been in his life, and he was both terrified and delighted by all of the different paths presented to him now that he was away from the empire that had had its boot on his and his brother's necks for their whole lives, and had taken their parents from them. They'd broken their fast and Victor prepared the heat-suppressing tea for the first time, recalling all of Yuuko's instructions and hoping he'd get accustomed to making it regularly. Whatever anyone said to reassure him, Victor did not want another heat any time soon. Yuri had been so eager to drink it he'd scalded his tongue, while Victor barely controlled himself and sipped the sweet, smoky liquid with care, his insides tight with tension.
He spun around, enjoying the twirl of his hair a little too much, and asked Yuri, "How do I look?"
"Why do you care?" Yuri grumbled, appearing irritated by the question.
Victor pouted and replied, "I want to look nice at the market!" He'd taken the time to luxuriate in the hot bath and the oils, enjoying the silkiness of the water on his skin and the softness of his hair once it was dry, his scent somehow stronger without seeming cloying as it would be were his heat approaching. "Just for me and no one else," he added softly, almost speaking to himself.
Yuri grunted in acknowledgement, though it didn't necessarily mean he agreed. "Does Yuuko know we need to be fed if she wants to use us to carry shit around?"
"Don't be rude to her. She's been nice," Victor admonished, stepping behind his brother and tugging his hair back to reveal his face. "Do you want me to braid your hair up? It's still long enough, and it'll show off your eyes."
He held Yuri's wide-eyed gaze in the mirror for only a brief moment, wherein Yuri seemed genuinely interested in his appearance. Then he shook Victor off, strands of his hair falling over his face again. "No, just comb it."
Slightly disappointed, Victor picked up a comb and started to carefully untangle his brother's hair, noticing that the young omega was avoiding looking at the mirror. Victor could guess why, but chose to remain silent. Yuri's pride had survived everything, and he would lash out if Victor mentioned anything. Still, Victor was glad to see some of the stiffness leave Yuri's shoulders as he dragged the comb through his hair. "So what the hell are we supposed to do now?" Yuri asked, staring at the table before him. "Are we servants? Are you going to offer to wash that princess's hair for her from now on, since you're such an expert?"
"If I must," Victor replied simply before reaching over to pinch his brother's cheek. "We're guests, Yura. Everyone's been very kind."
"No one's kind for nothing," Yuri reminded him, his eyes turning cold.
Victor nearly shivered at the look, suddenly reminded of their mother. One thing that had him rather nervous was Yuri finding the similarities between himself and the woman in the portrait. So far he hadn't, but Victor feared the day that he would eventually figure it out. If that was the case then perhaps it was best if they left the palace sooner rather than later, but that would take time.
He was grateful no one else in the palace had pointed out any resemblance between Yuri and the noblewoman. If they had, perhaps immediately assuming the two were mother and son would be a stretch, considering where he and Victor were brought from, and it wasn't as if Yuri's looks were all that uncommon.
Had it been a portrait of their father, Victor probably would have had a slightly harder time explaining away that resemblance.
He kept his composure and said, "Ah, I'll remember that the next time you're nice to me. It's a good thing it happens so rarely."
Later on Victor could no longer hold back any of his excitement as Yuuko led them out of the palace grounds and to the outside of the city itself.
They walked at such a slow and steady pace, and Victor wished that he could just grab Yuri's hand and run through the crowded streets, exploring as much as they could and taking in every new sight and smell. And indeed the air was fragrant with all the different scents around, alpha and omega. For a moment he was caught off-guard by the sharp and sweet scents of rut and heat he sensed from nearby, but there was no explosion of violence and fear in the way he was used to. Just...people walking around going about their business.
Even so he held on to his brother, overwhelmed and trying to take in so much information at once. So this was the center of Hasetsu, the streets they'd ridden through in the carriage that brought them from the coast. The scent of cooking meat cut through the nervousness in his belly, and a multitude of colorful fabrics drew his gaze, widening when he spotted an omega stubbornly haggling with an alpha merchant.
Yuri smelled like he was on edge, and Victor squeezed his hand to reassure him. He'd expressed no excitement, and merely looked around with the curiosity of the innocent child he'd once been before everything went wrong.
Yuuko was walking beside them, not stopping at any of the stores Victor had seen. She was looking for meat, fish, and fresh fruit and vegetables for the palace kitchens, armed with coin and a critical eye. "Stick close to me, alright? It's not exactly crowded, but you can still get lost. And you let me know if there's anything you like!"
"Yuuko, we couldn't!" Victor exclaimed, surprised by the offer. He'd had nothing that was really his from the time their hiding place was discovered, the few books and clothes they had burning in the night as Victor's nightmare intensified. He was grateful for the bed and clothes and toiletries, but he was acutely aware, as always, of the need for certain things like nesting materials.
As though following his train of thought, Yuuko gently asked, "You'll need to nest soon, no? You brought nothing with you, and you still need more clothes."
Victor blushed and bit his lip. "We...managed back home." Nesting was never truly soothing, no matter how closely Victor held his brother. They usually nested together, without any sort of object to aid or bring comfort other than their own clothes, and it wasn't as though they had that in abundance in the brothel. He remembered nesting with a piece of fabric off an old dress of his mother's, and he wished he'd remembered to save it. He supposed if, in an ideal world, he'd presented as an alpha he would have kept nesting no matter what anyone said just for some semblance of contentment, but Victor knew he could never have it.
Yet here was Yuuko, offering it all so freely.
"I don't mean to embarrass you," she said, gazing at him. "You were brought to a different country with only the clothes on your back, expecting something terrible to happen to you." Her face flushed with indignation as she said it, but she took a deep breath before continuing. "Nesting helps keep one grounded, and you both deserve total comfort when you do nest."
It was more than anyone had ever offered before Victor and his brother were dragged out of their beds and told they were being taken away. He'd been miserable during the trip and on the ship, wishing for even just a proper bed on solid ground just with the clothes on his back for a pathetic nest that would barely soothe his and his brother's terror. It was all he could do to make sure Yuri was alright, dragging his fingers through his brother's unwashed hair as he lay down to try and settle his stomach.
He forced himself back to the market, where he was surrounded by alphas who couldn't really help staring at him for a few moments. Even a few omegas and betas. Yet no one made a move toward him. Swallowing, Victor smiled at the woman and said, "I suppose I could see if I find something I like."
And he did. So did Yuri.
Victor had probably exaggerated with a few of the soft fabrics and items he'd grabbed when Yuuko led them to a favored shop that sold nesting materials, and Yuri had gaped at the alpha and omega pair that ran the place together. The three of them had emerged with individual packages, Victor hauling his on his back, a satisfying weight of things that were his now, and he almost wanted to run back to the palace and make his new nest.
Then again he would probably get dreadfully lost in these streets.
Yuri kept adjusting his package every which way as they followed Yuuko, who placed her orders and had them sent to the palace after expertly haggling and handing over the money with a satisfied grin. Victor eyed the coins, suddenly curious about their individual value compared to Ruthenian money.
Then he smelled cinnamon, warm and soft in the air.
He quickly turned toward the source, and gasped softly at the sight of a familiar head of messy black hair standing on a bridge, staring out at the water passing beneath it from behind a pair of eyeglasses and clad in the clothes of a commoner, no better than the ones Victor wore.
He looked so...normal and plain. Not at all like the prince Victor had met. And people just walked past him as though they didn't even notice him.
Victor was so shocked to see him that he hadn't noticed he'd been rooted to the spot until noting someone's bewildered stare as they walked by him. He gave a jolt and, with a quick look over his shoulder at Yuuko and Yuri, he made his way over towards the prince, who seemed oblivious to his approach.
He took in the look of melancholy on the prince's face, and cleared his throat softly before asking, "...Your highness?"
Then Yuuri let out a rather undignified yelp that had Victor drawing back with surprise as the prince turned and looked at him with a shocked expression. "Victor! What are you doing here?"
He was blushing so hard, as if Victor had caught him in the act of something. Amused, Victor smiled at the prince and said, "Yuuko invited me and Yuri to come to the market with her. She's been helping me pick things out for nesting, you see. I'm afraid my brother and I may have found too much!" He leaned in towards Yuuri, asking directly, "Are those glasses real?"
The alpha's blush only intensified, self-consciousness flickering across his dark eyes. "Y-yes. My eyesight's a bit...bad, I'm afraid. They're mostly to see things that are far off and read the signs."
"So why don't you wear them in the palace?"
The prince blinked at him and bit his lip. "The palace is...It's familiar," he murmured. "I can make my way around."
"But you still put a strain on your eyes. Especially when it's dark," Victor reasoned.
As Yuuri looked like he was thinking up a proper reply, Victor heard Yuri exclaim with outrage, "What the hell?!"
He turned to see his brother and Yuuko approaching, a grin on the woman's face. He smiled back at her and called, "Look, who I found! It's the pri-"
Yuuko quickly went to him and covered his lips with her fingertips. "Hush! Don't blow his cover!" she whispered with a wide smile of amusement.
Victor looked at Yuuri, cheeks warm after his blunder. Yuuri was still blushing too, and he mumbled as he adjusted his eyeglasses, "Please...call me Katsuro while we're out here."
"Feeling cooped up again, Katsuro?" Yuuko asked with a soft laugh.
"Only a little. Do you need help with anything?" the prince-Katsuro-offered. It was strange to think of him in that way, especially when Victor had gotten used to the fact that Yuuri shared a name with his brother. But the fact that a royal alpha was offering to carry their burdens was an even bigger surprise.
"I think we're fine for now," Yuuko answered.
"You're sure?" Yuuri asked, frowning slightly with concern.
Yuuko rolled her eyes. "I'm only pregnant, Katsuro. I'm not fainting."
Victor gaped at her, caught off-guard by her revelation. So that was the sweetness he'd found so familiar. He was no stranger to the telltale change in an omega's scent, but it never boded well. The madam would not allow any of the omegas to carry a pregnancy to term, and would not risk losing a biologically male omega in childbirth. Sometimes someone would forget to take a contraceptive, and there were more than a handful of times when Victor heard someone agonize for hours after they either willingly drank or were forced to drink the tea that would induce a miscarriage. Yuuko, with her bright smile, stood as a drastic contrast for Victor, who couldn't help smiling at her as warmth filled him at the sight of her. "That's wonderful! Congratulations!"
She beamed at him, her cheeks colored with a pink flush. "Thank you. Only Katsuro and Takeshi know so far, but it'll be nice to tell everyone soon enough."
Yuri's frown only seemed to deepen after Yuuko's revelation, and suddenly he was shoving his package at the alpha, grunting, "You want to carry something? Carry these."
"Yura!" Victor exclaimed as Yuuri scrambled to get a grip on the package before it could slip out of his hands.
"No, it's fine!" Yuuri said, smiling shyly at Victor. "I can carry your things too if you want, Victor."
Victor stared at him, aware that it bordered on rudeness, but not really caring at the moment. He read no ulterior motive in the offer, but merely a sincere with to help. Strange, when such shows were usually meant to try and impress omegas. There was no brashness in Yuuri's manner, even if that was his other intent when he offered. Like always, it was as if he expected nothing in return. "You wouldn't mind?" Victor asked him shrewdly. It's not beneath you? You truly want nothing in return?
Yuuri stared at him again from behind those eyeglasses, and replied, "I wouldn't. Really."
It was a moment before Victor nodded and smiled as he placed his package on top of Yuri's, saying in a bright tone, "Alright, then!" He never would have gotten away with such a stunt had it been his oldest cousin. Victor had never met him but his parents used to describe him as a braggart of an alpha with an enormous sense of entitlement.
Then again here was Yuri, asking Yuuko in a gruff and demanding tone, "I'm starving. Are we stopping to eat soon?"
"Well, Katsuro knows a wonderful place nearby," Yuuko said with a gentle nudge at the alpha with an elbow before putting her own package on the pile he already carried.
Visibly flustered, the alpha cleared his throat and turned to lead the way. "Yes, let's...Let's go."
Victor and Yuri hung back while Yuuko fell into step with Yuuri, the omega chatting with him amicably, with very little of the deference she usually showed him and his sister.
"They're pretty friendly," his brother murmured in his ear in hushed Ruthenian.
"Yes, they are," Victor murmured back, watching Yuuri blush and smile timidly when Yuuko giggled at something he'd said. It was certainly odd to see such...friendliness between an alpha and omega, especially of differing social ranks.
"Think the kid's his?" Yuri suddenly asked quietly.
Victor could feel the heat rush to his face, and gave his brother a scandalized look. "What did I tell you about being rude? The prince can't hear you but he does understand some Ruthenian."
"Come on, look at him. He blushes whenever he talks to her," Yuri insisted, lowering his tone a little bit as he tossed a smirk in their direction.
"Well, she's a beautiful woman." Still, Victor couldn't deny the telltale look of mild infatuation on the alpha's face. It was there, but there was a boyishness to it that made Victor smile. "And anyway, they don't even smell like each other," he added.
Yuri gave him a suspicious look. "How do you know? Have you been sniffing him or something?"
"I just pay attention to my surroundings," Victor quickly replied, trying not to confirm Yuri's unfounded suspicions.
Yuri forgot about his interrogation quickly enough once they started smelling food, and Yuuri and Yuuko led them to an outer dining area where they were surrounded by about a dozen people conversing among themselves over their meals. Victor's stomach growled, and he suddenly didn't know what he could possibly want. Yuri was practically salivating.
Once the four of them were seated, Yuuri asked, "Do four bowls of katsudon sound fine?"
"You read my mind," Yuuko replied with a greedy sigh.
Yuuri nodded and made his way to one of the booths, and Victor watched him blend in with such ease. Perhaps it helped that he was already so quiet and timid, without any of the entitlement that came with being second-in-line to the throne. It was so strange.
"He's actually going to get our food for us?" Yuri asked incredulously. Victor silently asked the same, still having trouble believing what he was seeing.
Yuuko laughed softly and leaned in to explain in quiet tones, "'Katsuro' was something we came up with when we were little. Takeshi and I would sneak him out of the palace and we could act like three normal kids for a little while, especially when all the responsibility of being a prince got to him. The princess used to do the same when she was younger." She turned to look at Yuuri again as he was placing their order. "It lets the rest of us act differently around him. Takeshi and I are his best friends rather than two people who serve and protect him."
Victor gazed at Yuuri for a moment before turning to look at Yuuko. "You make him sound like...he's anything other than an alpha."
"He is an alpha, though." She gave him a shrewd look, adding, "And that still surprises you."
Victor met her gaze readily, replying, "No alpha in Rutha would ever act the way he does. Even if they were masquerading as a commoner." He'd been so used to the way alphas strutted around at looked at every omega as if they were something to be possessed and dominated, their heats something an alpha could make use of whenever they pleased.
Pity flickered across Yuuko's eyes, stinging Victor briefly, then she said in thoughtful tones, "No one's going to claim that the alphas here are perfect, but at least here we're equal and have rights, and there are laws that protect us from anyone who harms us. That goes for betas too. And if any alpha tries to hurt you, you have a right to keep yourself safe. No one will ever punish you for that."
Victor almost snorted. While he knew Yuuri would not harm him, there were still consequences to raising a hand to a prince.
Then again there were no consequences for everything that was done to Victor.
It wasn't a thought he expressed aloud. Still, it was almost amusing to think that they were both pretending to be something they weren't. Victor knew Yuuko's reasoning, but he was curious as to the prince's.
You're not pretending, though, he reminded himself. You're not a prince anymore.
Yuuri returned minutes later with a wooden tray holding their bowls, handing them out and pulling his hand away when Yuri started devouring his food as soon as he got his hands on it. Victor would have mourned his brother's lack of manners were he not just as voracious when he started to eat, savoring each bite. "Mmm, I think katsudon may be my favorite thing to eat now!" he said, brushing away the crumbs of bread off his chin.
"It's my favorite too," Yuuri replied with a wide smile, though he ate a bit more calmly.
Yuri paused, his mouth comically stuffed, and swallowed before saying,"Oh, now I get it!" Then he pointed at Yuuri, grinning gleefully. "Katsuro. Katsudon!"
He cackled so hard Victor momentarily though he would choke. Yuuri blushed and sputtered in embarrassment, but Victor was more preoccupied with the sound of his brother's laughter.
Yuuri hadn't set out to embarrass himself when he decided to leave the confines of the palace and try to take his mind off of Victor. Then it turned out that Yuuko had invited them to do the shopping with her, and of course Victor was the first one to run into him.
They'd eaten and were on their way back to the palace, pausing every now and then to let the Ruthenian omegas get a last look at the stalls. He couldn't help but watch as Victor put some balm on his lips, gazing at his reflection on a window set up at the stall as he applied the balm to his lips in a sweeping motion.
Biting his lip, Yuuri tried not to think about how soft Victor's lips probably were now.
Then Victor paused and turned to look at him, smiling softly and making Yuuri's heart race and almost making him drop the packages he still carried. He thought it a mercy when they started making their way back towards the palace, though Victor was falling into step beside him while Yuuko and Yuri hung back and talked among themselves.
"Can I ask you something?" Victor suddenly asked. "Why pretend to be someone else? You're a prince, after all."
Yuuri hadn't expected such a blunt question, one that touched at his insecurities so acutely. He kept his gaze away from Victor's, and replied, "It lets me disappear for a while." It sounded pathetic, he realized.
Victor frowned a bit, his lower lip sticking out as he processed the answer. Then he asked, "Is that your wish? To disappear completely, rather than just be anyone other than a prince?"
Well that answer was a little harder to just come out and say. It wasn't something he'd ever discussed with his friends or his sister, keeping it to himself because he dreaded their pity and their disdain. "Disappearing's easier," he finally murmured. "No one...expects anything of you. They don't see you or the things you're doing wrong."
"And what are you doing wrong, Katsuro?"
"...Hopefully nothing yet," Yuuri mumbled.
Victor hummed thoughtfully, saying, "Expecting yourself to fail? Well, that's no good. Not for yourself or your sister."
Flushed with self-consciousness, he replied, "I haven't exactly stood out."
"You are absolutely capable of standing out, Katsuro," Victor declared confidently.
"You don't have to humor me."
"I am not." Victor smiled at him, looking like he actually believed Yuuri was more than some timid spare heir with no real accomplishments. "And I don't humor you when I tell you that today was...a wonderful day."
The sincerity in his voice had Yuuri's throat feeling tight. "Was it?"
"I haven't had a day so simple in...a very long time." A shadow crossed his blue eyes, and he looked over his shoulder at Yuri as he added, "Neither has my brother."
Yuuri couldn't help smiling at the omega, relieved that he and his brother could begin to feel safe and happy in Hasetsu. He had no clue if they wanted to stay in the palace, or if Victor would prefer that they forge a new life of their own somewhere else that wasn't Rutha. "I'm glad you had fun."
Victor looked at the ground before them, his smile fading a little. "Once we're back in the palace, things will be simple in another way. You'll be the prince again, and I'll be..."
Yuuri could see the way he almost made himself smaller, though it was in a more subtle way than Yuuri's need to disappear. "...A friend?" he couldn't help but ask hopefully, despite fearing making a fool of himself in front of Victor.
"Hmm," Victor hummed softly before reaching to take back his and his brother's packages, his smile holding a touch of hesitation. "...I think I would like that...Yuuri," he finally said.
He said his name with such sincerity that Yuuri felt his heart almost fly out of his chest.
(FOR REAL THOUGH: reminder to not be mean to the crew or anybody who may or may not have been behind the decision to delay the release. there IS a teaser and we WILL see it. we just gotta wait a little while longer.)
Victor woke up curled around his brother, who lay nestled against him in a way that reminded him of the kittens Yuuko had introduced them to the day before, three of them tiny and wriggling against their mother. While Yuri would not admit it aloud, Victor could sense that he was instantly enamored of them.
It had been such a gratifying sight to see Yuri truly enjoy something, even something as small as kittens belonging to a kitchen mouser. Yet even that brought back the old ache of Makkachin's death, the most peaceful death in the middle of every loss they suffered in those days. Better that he'd died of old age rather than be killed by the ones who'd finally discovered them.
Victor woke up closer to balanced than he had felt in years, even in the middle of what should have been his heat. His and Yuri's last heats had been a total nightmare of terror, trapped in their room in that ship with dozens of alphas roaming about outside, deterred only because their "escort" threatened punishment if the omegas were touched.
Over the past few days there had been no sign of their heats, and Victor and Yuri had shared a nest almost every night since that day in the market when Victor further opened up to the prince.
Nesting was comfortable again, something Victor had missed dearly and that Yuri had never really experienced at all. His scent was...settled in a way that Victor didn't really recognize, but cherished nonetheless.
He kept his eyes shut, wishing sleep would just drag him back down. He was safe and he was free and yet there was...nothing calling to him. No excitement over the new sights around him or the people who had been so kind to him thus far.
All he felt was crushing loss, something that had pursued him for so long, tempered by perpetual terror and the instinct to survive and protect. Now, safe in his nest in some faraway land, away from people who wanted them hurt and humiliated, he could feel it all, like a hundred weights on his body that urged him to sink into the safety of darkness and sleep.
He pressed his nose against Yuri's hair, scenting him as much as he could, pressing into the pressure of Yuri's knees on his belly until it was almost painful. He just wanted to sleep, a refuge from the memories and loss.
He gave up and sighed against the whorl of Yuri's hair, squeezing him until Yuri let out a protesting growl and started to sleepily shove and kick him away. Victor whined for a moment before Yuri kneed him rather painfully in the stomach, and he hissed and clutched his middle as he turned around and curled up in a ball.
Yes, he was definitely awake now.
Deciding that his restlessness would no longer allow him to comfortably fall back asleep, Victor sat up on the edge of the bed and tried to rub the sleepiness from his eyes, a pounding pain finding a seemingly permanent home behind them. He rolled his neck and shoulders, screwed his eyes shut tight for a moment, and opened them again with a yawn that shook his entire body.
He got up and tiredly made his way towards the mirror, standing before it and staring critically at his reflection, almost dissociated from it for only a few moments before he inevitably recognized the familiarity of his features.
He was identical to his father, save for his eyes, blue as a clear winter morning, wide and emotional on his face when they would be cool on his mother's, unless she was at her piano. He could remember them both much too clearly, even when he did his best to forget as Yuri had, but remembered them when their family was last at peace. Victor could remember his father's wide smile when he first presented him with Makkachin, and his mother's laughter the first time Yuri let out a loud belch.
The memory of her laughter turned into the awful memory of her screams when she was told his father was dead.
Victor felt nauseous as he recalled that moment with terrible clarity, and shook his head to tear it away from those thoughts. He tried to soothe himself with Yuri's scent around him, and looked over his shoulder at his brother.
He was ecstatic when his parents told him he'd have a younger sibling. Growing up in isolation and hearing about the myriad of cousins he had had been utter torture for him, and he'd ached for a playmate his own age. The servants in their palace were his only playmates for the longest time, all of them indulging him whenever they could. He'd been sorely disappointed to learn that the infant Yuri wouldn't be able to play until he grew a bit more, but the next day Victor's father had brought home Makkachin, who was all too happy to tumble around with Victor as much as he wanted until Yuri was big enough to chase after them and demand attention from both of them.
Now it was just the two of them. And Victor would have been happy with just that, despite the fact that Makkachin was long gone. Had things gone perfectly right there may have been some way to make it out of Rutha. Perhaps even as far as Niha, where they may have lived a happy life on their own. Victor grew up learning how to dance. Perhaps he might have entertained here, at this very court, and caught the dark-haired prince's eye without the indignity of being presented to him as a sex slave.
But those thoughts were nothing but pure fantasies. Fantasy wouldn't take back everything that had been done to him, or bring Makkachin or his parents back. It wouldn't fix the country of his birth or make things fairer for betas and omegas. He couldn't let himself picture what life would be like if he could truly be an emperor, to bring about the changes his grandfather had envisioned, taking advantage of his relationship with Queen Hiroko and her children.
Victor sighed and dragged a comb through his hair in long, painful sweeps, blinking away the tears that stung at his eyes. He was no prince. Hell, he wasn't even a slave anymore. Free or not, he was more like a ghost, the ghost of his family's "glorious rule," wandering the walls of Hasetsu Palace without a real purpose or aim.
You have a purpose, he told himself furiously, coldly looking at himself in the mirror. Do everything in your power to give Yuri a better life. Love him as much as Mama and Papa did.
But then there was the "small" matter of asking for favors that would help him achieve that. Could he really put himself in a prince's debt, no matter what everyone told him about his freedom? Yuri had said it himself; Yuuri was royalty, and raised as a prince no matter how anxious and shy he was.
Victor set the comb on the table with a too loud clatter, and he flinched at the sound of Yuri's groan from the bed. "Vitya?" his brother moaned sleepily. Victor almost smiled. He hadn't heard that nickname in a long time.
"Nothing, kotik. Go back to sleep," he murmured, reaching to give Yuri's ankle a squeeze and listening until his brother's breathing evened out again.
Deciding that nothing good would come out of sitting about in the same room, Victor got up and tied his hair back into a ponytail, not wanting to bother with braiding it. He craved fresh air. Solitude. Companionship. Anything but the awful thoughts that kept invading his mind. He hurriedly washed up and dressed, suddenly feeling trapped.
He spared Yuri one last look, curled up safe in their nest, and shut the door quietly.
He felt like a ghost walking in the palace hall, barely acknowledging the respectful nods from the guards as he passed by them. On any other day he might have been thrilled. Most of them were alphas, smiling at him with sincere welcome, neither rushing to bow to him or take advantage of him in any way.
I am a ghost, he thought. A ghost trying to find peace and failing utterly.
The servants looked busy, though they chattered happily as they moved about. He recalled Yuuko mentioning something about an upcoming party, though Victor was too preoccupied with his coming heat and his nest to really listen to her.
He somehow found his way to the garden again, the rush of cold air greeting him. It was bracing, a welcome feeling even as it made him shiver. He hadn't really looked at a calendar in a long while. He supposed it was the middle of November, judging by the fallen leaves and barren plants and trees dotting the landscape. Still, it was all still so beautiful in its simplicity and barren state.
Victor had good memories of his father chasing him around the garden he so lovingly cultivated, teaching Victor the names of every flower he planted and cared for with his own two hands, rough with work when they were expected to be soft, the way an omega's hands were expected to be. Victor wondered who had been responsible for this garden, and if Prince Yuuri and Princess Mari had played in it.
A familiar bark made Victor smile, and he turned to see Vicchan running towards him. His heart aching for Makkachin, Victor knelt to let the small dog tumble into his arms, and laughed with unexpected delight when Vicchan started licking his face. "Good morning to you too, Vicchan," he exclaimed as he giggled and clutched the dog's wriggling body. "Did you want some fresh air too?"
Vicchan gave several yips in response, excitedly licking Victor's face again before bolting out of his grip and running in circles around him. Victor beamed at the dog, grabbing on to the sudden feeling of joy and amusement before it could slip away. "And where's your master? Not too far behind you, I bet."
He could smell sweet cinnamon in the air, though it barely bore any hint of an alpha's scent. It was just...Yuuri. And sure enough Victor looked over his shoulder and saw him approaching slowly, a hand raised in greeting and a soft smile on his face.
Victor rose to his feet and gave a bow, shivering as the wind picked up again. "Good morning, your highness."
"Good afternoon, more like," Yuuri said, cheeks pink from the cold. He bit his lip and seemed to hesitate before continuing, "...You and Yuri missed breakfast."
"Ah." No wonder Victor's stomach felt so empty, but it wasn't as though he had an appetite. "We had a bit of a lie-in." It wasn't a total surprise, since it was their first nesting that wasn't tinged by any feeling of fear or anger. He looked at the prince's face and smiled to see the frames on his face. "You're still wearing your glasses."
Yuuri's blush darkened and when he ducked his face the glasses slipped down the bridge of his nose. He pushed them up with a finger and said, "They do help. I suppose I was getting tired of squinting." He glanced up at Victor again and frowned with what appeared to be concern. "Aren't you cold?"
Victor shrugged before shivering again. "I forgot my cloak. I was distracted." He waved a hand as though it mattered little that he was freezing. "I just needed to be outside for a little while."
And then, to his immense surprise, Yuuri was removing his cloak and holding it out, his cheeks ablaze with color. "Here. It's too cold to stand around in just your clothes."
Victor gaped at him, feeling his own cheeks grow warm. "I couldn't! You're not exactly dressed warmly under all that."
"I'll be fine," Yuuri insisted before taking another step towards Victor and gently laying the cloak on his shoulders. Victor stopped breathing as the heat and Yuuri's scent surrounded him, and he clutched at the cloak with such relief, as though he hadn't known how cold he was. He was no longer blushing because of the cold.
He looked Yuuri in the eyes. It was not a challenge, nor defiance. Victor had just had enough of ducking his face. The man's mother had given him freedom, and Yuuri had given him...warmth and kindness. "Thank you," Victor said as he looked at Yuuri. "But we can't just stand around and watch each other freeze with only one cloak between the two of us."
"My clothes are a bit thicker than yours," Yuuri said with a sheepish smile. "I promise I'm fine. It actually feels good to be outside. It may be the last lovely day before winter starts, and everything's covered in snow."
"I can't wait to see it," Victor confessed, wrapping the cloak tighter around himself. "Honestly, I have no clue what the date is, so winter could begin tomorrow, for all I know."
"It's the...twenty-ninth of November," Yuuri said quietly, biting his lip again.
"So the New Year is coming quickly," Victor said, realizing that he looked forward to it. "I'll be nineteen soon, and Yuri will be sixteen." Ten years. Mama and Papa will have been gone for ten years. He sighed heavily and turned to smile at the prince, who was still gazing at him. "And when is your birthday, your highness? I'll need time to come up with a good gift for you."
"Er..." Yuuri looked away, his cheeks still a vivid pink. "I-It's today, actually."
Victor stared for several moments, letting the information sink in before exclaiming, "You're joking!" He groaned despairingly and hid his face in his hands, adding, "Oh, Yuuri. So that's what Yuuko was telling me the other day! I've just been so preoccupied with Yuri and nesting, and-"
Yuuri turned red as a cherry as he waved his hands around frantically, sputtering out, "It's okay, Victor! It's not a huge deal! Like you said, you...you were busy with..." He swallowed thickly. "With nesting, and...Well, you've been settling in too."
Shaking his head, Victor looked at the prince and said firmly, "You've been more than generous. You've been kind to me and my brother. There must be something that I can do for you."
"...Come to my birthday feast," Yuuri suddenly said, biting his lip again and looking tremendously anxious. "You and Yuri. I...I'd love to have you both there. If you want to attend, of course! I...I just...I hope you'll come."
He was so tongue-tied and nervous that Victor could almost believe that he was being courted by this prince. It wasn't as though he was unaware of his effect on people. On alphas. But Yuuri's intentions seemed almost...innocent. And he was giving Victor a choice. Truly. He'd had no illusions of being gently courted for a long time, especially after growing up in a brothel. And perhaps Yuuri was only being courteous. He was a prince, and he knew where Victor had come from. Who would truly court a whore?
Even so, Yuuri looked like someone speaking to a crush, and Victor almost wanted to coo protectively and wonder at the mere fact that someone like Yuuri existed. Earnest and kind and soft-spoken, but such an obvious wallflower. Yet Victor could sense a hidden passion in those dark eyes, something as of yet unleashed. And it didn't seem like the wild, untamed thing that was more viciousness than passion. If the warmth of Yuuri's actions and words were any indication, it would be more like the heat that gently surrounded Victor the moment Yuuri put that cloak on him.
But Victor couldn't deny that the idea was...terrifying. Other alphas had never been so kind, and he could still remember the humiliation, the intense need to be anywhere than wherever he was, pretend his life hadn't been totally torn apart, but still endure for Yuri's sake. He didn't want to fear Yuuri, if something ever came of...whatever these confusing moments were.
"...Alright," Victor finally replied, smiling at the prince and the flabbergasted expression on his face, as though he didn't really expect Victor to accept. "Yuri won't be hard to convince once he hears about the food."
It looked as though his acceptance made something combust in Yuuri's head, because he turned redder still and looked incredulous. "Th...Thank you, Victor..."
The warmth and astonishment in his tone made him so utterly endearing that Victor's smile widened. Yuri was going to call him a fool, for sure, give him all kinds of warnings and maybe even hiss at Yuuri in suspicion. The question lay on the tip of his tongue: What are your intentions? Will you break my heart? Hurt me? Hold on to me?
Suddenly he didn't want young Minami to capture the prince's attention. But Victor wasn't entirely sure if he wanted the prince's attention either.
But he had choices. He knew he could pick Yuri up and they could go anywhere in the world, make a life for themselves and try to forget about everything that had happened to them.
He just kept smiling at the prince, choosing to. Wanting to.
Yuuri needed to stop drinking.
He wasn't drunk enough that he would black out and begin dancing as wildly as his father did when he got drunk, but he was almost at the point where he got braver than he usually was.
The birthday feast was simple, as he'd hoped it would be. There were a handful of relatives that his parents had invited, and a few other nobles that wished Yuuri a happy birthday. The feast was bearable, though Yuuri felt like he was put on display and coming up short, unimpressive as ever.
And then there was Victor, a silver moon dressed in light blue finery, his hair loose and cascading down his back.
Even with a few bracing drinks, Yuuri couldn't really seem to approach Victor. He was...a curiosity to be sure, but everyone seemed to politely refrain from asking him anything directly. He smiled at everyone to be sure, impressing them all with his grasp of their language. Gods, some even seemed as dazzled by his beauty as Yuuri was, and so, so curious as to what he and Yuri were even doing there.
The real answer would have shocked everyone, but for now...they were simply guests. His mother's wards.
Yuri glowered at everyone, but stuck to Victor's side and ate ravenously. He seemed content to just let Victor speak for him, and settled for simply glaring at every alpha who approached them. Yuuri had no doubt about the reception he would receive from the omega if he went over to just speak to Victor.
They hadn't spoken. Victor had smiled at him and drunk a toast to him along with everyone else, but Yuuri didn't feel brave enough to approach him.
And he wasn't about to risk making a fool of himself with even more drinks, so as soon as he finished the one in his hand he decided to put a stop to it.
"You have it bad," he heard Mari mutter beside him.
He just about kept himself from jumping at the sound of her voice, and gave her a brief glance before looking at Victor, who was laughing at something their tipsy father was saying to him. "I don't. I just...I'm glad he's enjoying himself." He hoped to every god in existence that Victor didn't think Yuuri had invited him with some ulterior motive in mind. He didn't wish to force Victor into anything, and...maybe he was having fun. "I doubt he'd...ever see me that way anyway," he quietly admitted, well aware that his words were slightly slurred.
Mari frowned at him, and Yuuri tried to avoid her gaze. She was always so sharp, no matter how her usual manner belied that. It would make her a good queen, just as it made her a good princess. "He'd be lucky to have you, Yuuri. Don't sell yourself short."
"Maybe he doesn't want me. Or anyone." Even Mari couldn't argue with that. The last thing Yuuri wanted was to make Victor feel like he was being forced into anything. Victor was free to choose whatever, whoever he wanted, and Yuuri doubted Victor would ever choose him. Alpha or not, Yuuri was plain and unimpressive, a mouse compared to Victor, who carried himself as though he were royalty. Yuuri wouldn't find it hard to believe if it were true.
Then those blue eyes found him, and Victor's dazzling smile widened. To Yuuri's horror, the omega turned to say something to his brother and started to make his way over to...
"Oh. He's coming," Mari confirmed, as though Yuuri weren't watching it for himself, not really sure if he should stay and endure what was coming or run to his room. Both options seemed equally humiliating. Yuuri stared ahead, noting Yuri's scowl as Victor walked towards him.
Yuuri's options disappeared when Victor stood before him, smiling at him before bowing to him and his sister. "I'm having a wonderful time. Everyone's been so courteous," he said.
Yuuri's mind couldn't seem to find the right words to give Victor an answer. "Good. That is..." He swallowed and tried to smile back, hoping he didn't look insane. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself." He heard Mari's stifled chuckle and wanted to glare at her.
Victor didn't appear to notice, his lovely smile making his face glow. "I'm glad you invited me. Though I'm still mortified that I haven't gotten you a proper gift. I suppose...I owe you one."
"You...You don't owe me a thing," Yuuri quickly said, feeling his cheeks grow unbearably warm.
Victor's gaze turned shrewd for a moment, and Yuuri feared that he had offended him. But Victor merely shrugged and said, "I'll have to think of something then." He then turned to Mari and said with a soft laugh, "And I won't forget about your birthday, your highness. I'll have plenty of time to think of a gift for you."
Mari let out a snort, smirking at Victor and giving Yuuri a knowing glance. "Just make sure it's not a bolt of silk or another mirror. I have too many of those already from my own relatives."
Yuuri choked on his mortified inhale while Victor laughed, the sound so remarkably lovely that Yuuri felt his heart constrict in his chest. Mari was right, and Yuuri didn't know what on earth he was going to do.
"But there is one thing I know my brother loves more than anything," Mari suddenly said, a dangerous edge to her voice.
"Oh? What is that?" Victor asked.
Before Yuuri could stop her, Mari replied, "Dancing. He's brilliant at it. All he needs is a partner."
She was smirking, damn her, and Yuuri wanted to die then and there. But then he felt Victor's hand on his arm, and turned to see those blue eyes brighten with delight. "If you love to dance, then I'll happily be your partner. I trust that I won't disappoint you. After all, I love to dance too."
With all the grace in his movements, Yuuri couldn't find Victor's words hard to believe. He swallowed and focused on the younger man's smile, finding himself drawn to the middle of the ballroom as the music played almost faintly. "Alright," he answered softly, hypnotized by Victor's smile and his sweet scent.
He didn't need to drink anymore to become intoxicated as he danced with the omega, letting him lead the dance as the night wore on.
Chapter 8: but as the water fills my mouth it couldn't wash the echoes out
It was late, and Yuuri's head swam with the effects of his drinking, but he was managing the walk back to his chambers without embarrassing himself.
Honestly, the only thing that would have brought him any real embarrassment was the cow-eyed look he was likely sporting, the sweet scent of lilacs and lavender swimming around him and making him feel drunker than if he'd actually drunk enough that he'd likely be crawling back to bed.
Victor wasn't with him, but Yuuri had breathed in enough of his sweet scent that he could almost pretend the omega was next to him.
He remembered the dance. Not how long it had lasted, but the way they moved and the look of the carefree smile on Victor's face. He danced like he'd been made for it, even taking the lead half the time while Yuuri could only follow along as best he could, smiling so wide his face was sore from it.
It wasn't until Yuuri noticed that Yuri was glaring at them furiously before turning on his heel and stalking out of the feast. "You should go after him," he said to Victor, his words still a little slurred and his legs somewhat unsteady even after dancing with Victor for most of the evening, observed by a curious and admiring audience.
The dreaminess in Victor's eyes appeared to fade at the mention of his brother, his head quickly turning to catch Yuri leaving. He appeared conflicted for a moment before giving Yuuri a sheepish look. "You're right, I should," he said softly, hesitating for a moment before letting go of Yuuri's hand and shoulder and giving him a low bow. "Good night, your highness. Thank you for inviting me."
"I wanted you here," Yuuri replied with a bit more intensity than was necessary.
Victor straightened and stared at him in obvious shock, eyes round and cheeks turned pink. Yuuri essentially forgot to be embarrassed the whole time, watching Victor as he turned and walked off, following his brother.
Exhaling hard as his back hit the mattress, Yuuri shut his eyes and tried not to think about Victor joining him here, filling the room with his wonderful scent, drenching Yuuri's bed in it.
He dragged his hands over his face, the sensation allowing some clarity to creep in. And he was already feeling a sharp pain in his forehead, radiating throughout his head. He was in such trouble, realizing he was becoming infatuated with Victor.
All he was doing was hurting himself. No matter how much Victor began to trust him, he most likely wouldn't be interested in Yuuri. No, Victor most likely wanted to live out his life the way he wanted after what he'd been through, to build a life with his brother and keep the boy safe. Yuuri was happy to help him achieve that, unreservedly.
He'd just have to resign himself to just pining for the blue-eyed omega, his mind filled with his scent and his hands already aching for the sensation of Victor's hands.
Victor was walking on a cloud even as he hurried after his brother, shocked and dazed at what had occurred.
He'd danced. With an alpha. Not for. But with.
All while his warm scent cloaked around them in a cloud that calmed him as he and Yuuri danced to the beautiful music played by two musicians, and Victor could forget why and how he'd gotten to Hasetsu.
He was just an omega dancing with an alpha in the middle of a feast. They could have been two princes, one courting the other, dancing as the night wore on. Nothing to fear at all.
All Yuuri had wanted from him was...a dance.
Victor's heart beat with both nerves and a strange sort of excitement, marred by quick flashes of memory that had him hesitant to recognize this feeling for what it was.
And it wasn't as though he could confide in Yuri. As it was his brother seemed angry that they had to go to the feast at all, so after all they'd been through, all those close calls, Yuri was still suspicious of Yuuri and any alpha.
He has a right, Victor thought, pain lancing through his heart.
He was almost tempted to race to the library, to dig out his mother's portrait and confess everything. I always wanted a love like yours. If it happens, I don't know how I'll react. But I want it. I want...
...I don't want him to break my heart.
Instead he followed Yuri all the way to their chambers.
He shut the door behind him as Yuri started to tear off the expensive clothing he'd been wearing, pointedly ignoring Victor until he seemed unable to contain himself, aiming an icy glare in his direction.
"What the hell do you think you were doing?" Yuri snarled, his eyes cold.
"Dancing," Victor replied, staring at his brother levelly.
"With him. With that alpha," Yuri spat, flicking his head towards the door, as if Yuuri were standing just beyond it.
"With Yuuri. Yes." Victor couldn't resist smiling at him before going over to seize him by the hands, laughing giddily as he spun him around and began to hum an old song his parents used to love dancing to.
Yuri hissed indignantly, trying to tear away from Victor. "Let me go, you fucking idiot!"
"No foul words, Yuratchka. We're dancing!" Victor sang, placing a hand on Yuri's waist and playfully leading him in the dance, still humming as if they were both children again, Yuri small enough to fit in Victor's arms.
At least Yuri it stopped complaining about Yuuri, and Yuri just gave Victor a grudging smirk, betraying his own enjoyment, for Yuri loved dancing.
"Where'd you learn all that fancy dancing? Not at the brothel, right?"
Victor suddenly went cold, and almost let Yuri go. He was being careless, and Yuri wasnt stupid. He slowed down, keeping a smile on his face as he shrugged. "Something I picked up when we were little. You wouldn't remember."
Yuri grunted, apparently accepting his answer. "I don't remember a lot of things."
"Neither do I, little brother," Victor said, the lie burning in his throat. He stopped dancing and let Yuri go, reaching up to stroke his hair. "Come, let's have a bath and go to bed. I'm exhausted."
"Do you know what you're doing?" Yuri asked him, voice hard.
"I'm making friends with a prince. He's been kind to both of us."
Yuri's eyes were narrowed in suspicion. "Sure. Friends."
Victor sensed Yuri wasn't only suspicious of Yuuri.
Yuuri wasn't sure what had him feeling worse: his hangover or the news his mother and Lady Minako had shared with him that morning.
He wasn't exactly eager to welcome a Ruthenian delegation to Hasetsu once again, but it was what he would have to do for the coming New Year, to celebrate the continuation of their alliance.
His mother wasn't exactly happy about it, but her happiness had little to do with it. She still had hope that she might do something to bring about change in Rutha, but Yuuri had a feeling these alphas would not look kindly on such an intrusion.
He could at least warn Victor.
Yuuri stood staring at a bookshelf, not really knowing what he was looking at. He'd entered the library minutes ago, and Victor, sitting alone and engrossed in a book, hadn't even noticed his scent.
Was he that distracted? Yuuri almost wanted to ask what he was reading, but he didn't want to frighten Victor.
So here he was, quiet as a mouse, trying to figure out how to tell the omega that people he feared were coming here.
"You smell nervous," Victor said softly.
Yuuri jumped in shock, turning around to see Victor looking at him over his shoulder, smiling brightly. "Sleep well?"
"Y-yes!" Yuuri cleared his throat. "Yes...I hope you did too."
"Like a babe," Victor laughed, closing his book and turning in his seat. "Yuuko told me you and your sister met with the queen. I didn't think your mother could make you nervous."
Gaze drifting away, Yuuri tried not to smell so nervous. It was a hard thing to do, and the subject was so important. He finally sighed and went to the chair across from Victor's. "There's something I need to tell you..."
And he spoke, telling Victor everything that Lady Minako and his mother had told him.
And Victor sat and listened to it all.
Chapter 9: and if you're still breathing you're the lucky ones
CW: suicide mention
chapter tunes: "youth" by daughter
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Yuuri said that he could take Yuri wherever he wanted. That had been made perfectly clear to Victor from the moment Yuuri told him that Konstantin Antonov and an entourage of Ruthenian alpha lackeys would be making their way to Hasetsu in order to "celebrate" their alliance.
"Don't trust them," Victor had told Yuuri that day, once he recovered from the shock of learning that his family's enemy would come to the place Victor had begun to see as his home. "The Ruthenians tolerate your mother because she's an alpha. Otherwise, they would do the same to her as they did to the Nikiforovs." He'd watched Yuuri's face grow pale at Victor's frank words, but at least he'd listened. And he'd apparently given his family that same warning.
Victor had almost told him everything. Who he and Yuri were. Their role in all of this, and Antonov's role in sending them here. But a month later Victor still held on to those secrets.
No doubt Antonov saw it as an opportunity to truly see if Victor and Yuri were truly suffering in the way he'd envisioned, but Victor wasn't going to give him that satisfaction. Oh, yes, Yuuri had indeed told him that he and Yuri didn't have to stay in Hasetsu. After all, they'd been free to go from the very moment they'd entered the family's protection.
As tempting as it was, Victor had no good memories of running for his life. Who was to say that, even with armed guards to defend them, Antonov wouldn't send someone to find them once again, and finally do what he should have done six years ago?
Victor wouldn't give the man any satisfaction, but neither would he give him any sort of confirmation. No, he and Yuri would remain in the castle, their home, until the celebrations ended, far from Ruthenian eyes. Perhaps he might even cloister himself in the library that entire night after making sure to drink a suppressant to make sure his scent was as unnoticeable as possible. He'd douse himself in the stuff until every last Ruthenian alpha left Hasetsu.
That had been a month ago, and Victor was still feeling a measure of shock knowing that he was days away from having his family's killers in a place that had become a sanctuary. In his worst nightmares history repeated itself, and he would awaken just after he ran down the hall leading towards the prince's chamber, fearing what he would find within it.
He had never spoken to Yura about his dreams and wasn't about to start now. Especially not when the possibility of Yuuri's death featured in his nightmares.
Speaking of Yura...
"Are you going to eat the rest of that or just nibble it until it gets cold?" Yuri asked across the table from him, specks of rice dotting his face.
Victor stared at him with mild surprise. He tended to lose himself in his thoughts these days, trying to distract himself from the imminent arrivals. Yuri seemed to want to do everything he could for a distraction, even immersing himself in learning how to read in Nihan. He hadn't been at all pleased when Victor told him that the ones responsible for putting them in the brothel were going to celebrate the New Year in Hasetsu's court, and Victor had quite a time convincing him to not confront any of them while they were there. There was no guarantee that one of them wouldn't try to put him in his place even with the Katsukis' protection.
Better to lie low and wait for them to leave, as infuriating as it was.
Victor gave his bowl of katsudon a brief glance, not really hungry. He handed it over to Yura, who gave him one quick look before grabbing the bowl and inhaling its contents. "Haffeh urfday," Yuri said around a mouthful, swallowing it so he could get another mouthful.
Victor gave him a weak smile, appreciating the sentiment. Nineteen. Nineteen years and he'd spent six of them in captivity, waiting for the worst to happen. Now here he was, in a small, full little restaurant in Hasetsu with his brother celebrating something they really hadn't had the chance to celebrate since they were little.
It was nice to have this to themselves, though it was a day he would have loved to share with Yuuri, but he preferred to let him prepare for the feasting. To have these moments with Yuri was a blessing in itself, and they could have it again on Yuri's birthday in little more than two months. He'd be sixteen and it would be the first happy birthday he'd remember. Victor would have it be a good one. For the moment they would endure possibly the most torturous week of their lives.
He didn't want to face the man responsible for killing his entire family, for murdering his father and driving his mother to suicide, for taking Yuri's childhood and enabling every awful thing done to them both.
"Don't eat so fast, you'll choke," Victor warned lightly, trying to keep smiling at his brother and make it seem as though he weren't so affected by Antonov's arrival. Last Yuuri had told him, the Ruthenian delegation was around less than a week away. The rest of their time in Niha would be spent appealing to the other kingdoms, all of them largely holding beliefs similar to those of Hasetsu, so if the Ruthenians were looking for sympathetic ears they would have very little luck.
"I don't know why those alpha fucks won't just stay in fucking Rutha and finish running it to the ground," Yurio growled, finally brushing the rice off of his face. "And I don't know why you're so scared of that Antonov fuck. He can't do anything to us now."
Yes he can, Victor wanted to say. He could finish destroying us. Instead he just kept on smiling, fighting the nauseous sensation in his belly as he remembered everything that had gone wrong from the moment he first heard the name Konstantin Antonov, shattering his idyllic childhood...
Ten-year-old Victor hid behind the curtain, his book abandoned at his feet as he watched his father quickly walk into the library, dragging a hand through his hair with an agitated look on his face.
Mama soon appeared behind him, and Victor grew alarmed to see that her eyes were red with tears. "Have you gone mad?" she suddenly asked, fury in her voice as she grabbed Papa's shoulder and forced him to look at her. "If they find you they'll kill you too! And what will become of us?!"
Victor stopped breathing. This had something to do with his grandfather and the rest of the family being killed. It had all happened in the last few days and suddenly they were alone in the world, the only Nikiforovs left. Supposedly every member of the royal family that had been murdered were strung up outside the palace, leaving no doubt that they were all dead, down to the last infant.
It had all been terrifying to hear and Victor hadn't been able to sleep afterward. Grandfather was always kind to him and Yura when he came to visit, so why would anyone want to hurt him? Mama and Papa had wept together and held him and Yura close, taking them both to their bed and building a nest. Even so, Victor couldn't relax. Neither could his parents, it seemed.
Now Mama was afraid of someone finding Papa. Where was Papa going? What was going to happen to them?
Were the people who killed his grandfather looking for them now?
Papa's back was to Victor, and he sighed before saying quietly, "I can't just hide, Nadya. Not anymore." Victor watched his mother's face crumble at that, and Papa had to hold her up when she almost fell to her knees. Mama never cried like this. "If everything goes right, I'll be emperor. Men loyal to my family will protect you and the boys."
Victor almost gasped when he heard that. It was true, if they were the last ones of their family left alive, Papa was first in line to take the throne. But even Victor knew that was impossible. No omega ever held Rutha's throne, and it was clear that no alpha would ever allow such a thing. Papa was kinder still than Grandfather had ever been, fair and smart, loving and sweet where Mama was firm. But he was still an omega.
Mama's thoughts seemed to be in line with Victor's, and her voice was low with fury as she tearfully asked, "Do you really think any alpha in this empire will listen to you?"
"Something has to change!" Papa exclaimed, holding Mama by the shoulders. "For God's sake, my sons are princes. Heirs to the throne! They deserve a real life, better than one spent in hiding just because we humiliated Konstantin Antonov!"
Victor had learned much from the servants' gossip: his parents, both omegas, were never supposed to be together. They were both noble omegas, both meant to be wed to noble alphas. Victor knew that for some reason Grandfather didn't arrange Papa's mating to any alpha, but Mama was betrothed to someone else when they met. They'd fallen in love and eloped, and Grandfather had allowed them to stay together, but it was obvious that people didn't approve of it at all. It was one of the reasons why Victor and Yuri weren't taken to court, and why they lived in isolation.
He hadn't realized he was leaning out so far until Mama's gaze fell on him and she gasped, "Vitya."
Victor froze just as Papa turned around and spotted him. He feared angering him, and was about to apologize when the unusually stormy look on his father's face suddenly melted into something so sad and painful that Victor's breath caught. He made his way over to Victor and drew the curtain away before kneeling and taking Victor in his arms.
He smelled afraid beneath his sweet scent of lemon, and Victor stood there, still shocked at everything he'd seen and heard, and could only stare back at his father when he drew away. Papa, his face nearly identical to Victor's, said to him in a firm voice, "You're a strong, smart boy. Never let anyone tell you what you can or can't do just because you're an omega. You are my son, and you will be Emperor. I promise."
He then scented Victor thoroughly as he embraced him tightly. Minutes later he did the same with Yuri, who was totally unaware of the entire situation.
A fortnight later Victor's father was dead, and he watched his mother slice her veins open just as he and Yuri and Makkachin were taken to what was supposed to be a safe haven for them.
He never knew if their bodies were hung up on display. He didn't want to find out.
"Konstantin Antonov is the most powerful man in Rutha now," Victor explained, omitting everything else, including the fact that Antonov was the one who wanted them here, sentencing them, in his view, to becoming Yuuri and Mari's slaves.
How wrong he'd been, and based on what his parents had said about him it would be yet another humiliation to learn that Victor and Yuri were quite possibly the happiest they'd ever been.
Still, Victor didn't want to see the man's reaction. Nor did he want to think about anything the man might do to retaliate. "It's warmer here than it is back in Rutha," Victor said, staring out towards the door where a trio of alphas were walking in. They brushed the snow from their cloaks while Victor tried to fight down the instinctual feeling of fear of seeing so many alphas in one place. But all they did was glance at him and Yuri, and then proceed to go make their orders. It was a relief. Victor would rather stand out as a foreigner than an omega.
"Yeah, I can actually walk outside without freezing my balls off," Yuri commented with a grin, his words making Victor wince and think that their father would be shocked to hear one of his sons speaking in such a way.
At least he said it in Ruthenian. Still Victor shook his head with a regretful sigh, thinking that he should at least give his brother a decent enough education in the social graces, even if such an education couldn't amount to something a prince would know.
They were both the happiest they'd ever been, but Victor would be happier still if he had his parents back, even if it meant completely renouncing his claim on Rutha's throne.
Yuuri would have given anything in this moment to not be a prince of Hasetsu.
The air in the castle was now hot and oppressive with the un-suppressed scent of Ruthenian alphas, all of them seemingly determined to cow their hosts as they walked through the palace.
Yuuri's mother and sister were not having it though, both of them readily scenting the air wherever they went, subtly fighting back against the Ruthenians' attempts to assert dominance over them. All the while Yuuri's mother wore her usual beatific smile, and Mari wore that same disaffected look she always wore.
Meanwhile Yuuri was trying his best to be as nonchalant as his sister, and knew he was failing at it. These alphas intimidated him, but the fact that they disgusted him helped him keep a level head and stand firm before them. They may not have been the ones responsible for hurting Victor and Yuri but Victor was still justifiably terrified of Emperor Konstantin, who was a tall, forbidding looking alpha who almost seemed to sneer at Yuuri's father when he stood next to his wife, the ever unassuming beta.
It was immediately obvious that the members of the court were not impressed by the Ruthenians' abrasive, domineering manner, particularly not the way they eyed the omegan servants and courtiers with an obvious greed that made Yuuri sick to have to witness it. Takeshi had even approached Yuuri in private, asking if it were possible to allow Yuuko and Minami to avoid having to serve the delegation. Yuuri had agreed, and apparently those two joined Yuri and Victor and their chambers, along with Vicchan and the kitchen mouser and her litter of growing kittens.
It was torture, sitting in that hall pretending to enjoy the presence of foreigners who treated them so condescendingly, and Yuuri knew how much of a toll this was taking on his mother. But she still sat and bore it all well, meeting every barbed compliment with a grace that no Ruthenian alpha could hope to match. Not even Emperor Konstantin.
The man sat between Yuuri and his mother, his scent of burning wood almost choking Yuuri and curbing his appetite. He had taken only a sip of the wine he'd been served, not wanting to humiliate himself in front of these too-loud, foul-smelling alphas who behaved as though the alphas of Hasetsu were just the same as them.
Meanwhile Yuuri's mother privately wondered aloud if she'd really done the right thing. If there really was any hope of helping change things in Rutha with alphas like these in power.
Even the toasts were rife with hidden hostility, and Yuuri just wanted for this all to end.
"Tell me, how well have the two omegas I gifted you served you and your sister, your highness?" the emperor suddenly asked.
Yuuri nearly choked at the question, and tried to get his reactions and scent under control. He was his mother and sister's heir, and this was his home. He could protect Victor and Yuri without so much as a single claim on either one of them. "They're both well," he replied, looking straight ahead. "Thank you for sending them to us."
The emperor gave a low hum, and Yuuri wished this were all over. It was past midnight, already the beginning of the New Year, and Yuuri silently admitted to himself just how much he missed Victor. The omega had coped so well with all of this, and Yuuri envied that. Still, he wouldn't have made Victor sit in his place for any reason.
"My chancellor tells me you have an extensive library," the emperor commented. "You even have a collection of Ruthenian literature. That's quite surprising."
Was it really so surprising, or was that condescension yet again? Yuuri was quite sure it was the latter. He had his pride, but he also had common sense, one that prevented him from calling the pretentious man out. Besides, he wasn't like that. Not like these alphas polluting his home and leering at every omega who still wanted to serve at the feast. "It's...one of the jewels of our castle," Yuuri said, really not wanting the man to ask about the garden.
He could feel the man's eyes on him, dark and calculating, and knew with dismay what the man would ask next. "I would very much like to see it. We Ruthenians are proud of our literature, and we all like to think of ourselves as poets at heart."
Poets. Of course. Yuuri could feel tension coiling in his heart, battling with his building anxiety as he tried to keep it from the other alpha. "Of course," he said, trying to keep his voice even. "I'd be honored to show you."
He knew he had no other choice. If this all fell apart, it would not be his doing, even though he wanted nothing more than to send the Ruthenians out of Niha entirely.
Victor had no clue how they'd lost track of little Potya, but it had happened and he was the first to volunteer to look for the mischievous kitten.
According to Takeshi every member of the Ruthenian delegation was preoccupied at the feast, which was a relief now, because even with the halls empty he could still smell them, as if they'd purposefully scented every spot they could. It felt wrong to have those scents mingling in the halls of the place he'd grown to love. It made him mildly sick, and he didn't want to stand it for much longer, nor did he want to keep sneaking about. The sooner he found Potya, the better.
He didn't dare let Yuri come out to find the kitten by himself, and Yuuko and Minami were already asleep. So Victor was on his own, his insides cold with terror even though he knew he was safe here. Yuuri had told him he and Yuri were safe here, that no one was going to lay a hand on them.
He didn't know how to describe what that reassurance made him feel.
"Potya?" he whispered as he wandered into the library. There were several little nooks and crannies for a kitten her size to wander into, and her milky sweet scent led here. He smiled in relief, glad that something was going right tonight.
He sniffed at the air inside, trying to determine where she was exactly. Potya was as devilish as Yuri, and had a habit of trying to eat Victor's hair when he wasn't looking. She could hide from him all night if she could, if only to make him suffer. "Come on, it's way past your bedtime and we've got at least another day of...staying in our chambers to look forward to."
He hated this. He absolutely hated this. But there was no way he wanted to come face to face with Konstantin Antonov again.
He moved down a few shelves when he smelled Yuuri's warm scent.
He froze, shocked at how...strong it was, almost as if Yuuri was purposefully scenting the hall much like his mother and sister had been the entire time the Ruthenians were here. Sweet, warm cinnamon, familiar and yet so surprisingly new, almost as if Yuuri were in heat.
There was another scent beneath it, but Yuuri seemed to be pushing his scent. Were the strange alpha scents bothering him too? Was this a show of territoriality? Victor wouldn't have expected it from such a timid alpha, but...these were not normal circumstances.
The only thought Victor had as he made his way towards the library doors was asking Yuuri if he could help search for Potya. That, and perhaps ask him why he smelled like he was in rut.
When he opened the door, the air smelled of burning wood, and Victor froze.
The black expression on Yuuri's face disappeared as soon as he saw Victor, replaced by a look of shock. Victor barely looked at him, his gaze focused on the very last man he'd wanted to see.
The last time Victor saw Konstantin Antonov he swore he would make sure he and Yuri were humiliated by whatever means he wanted for the sake of further humiliating his long-dead grandfather. He remembered the cold smile on Antonov's face as he said it all and went so far as to threaten Yuri, still so small, with the worst humiliation. Victor wanted to kill the man. He wanted to do everything he could to protect Yuri, to give his very life if possible.
In some moments he thought it would have been nice to see Mama and Papa again, if it meant keeping Yuri safe.
Victor couldn't move. He couldn't turn and run. He couldn't walk away. All he could do was look up at the man who orchestrated everything, who blamed it all on a military coup and emerged the victor, wearing the crown that should have been Victor's father's. He'd promised. Papa had promised.
Antonov looked just as surprised to see him, almost as if they were old acquaintances running into each other on the street. Victor watched his eyes narrow briefly, and then his smile widened as he said in thickly-accented Nihan, "I see that this omega is...doing well."
What did he mean? Victor couldn't speak, his heart was beating so hard. He knew he smelled afraid, but couldn't control it. Cold sweat ran down his back, and he realized Antonov would know that his plans hadn't worked, and he'd be furious because there was no hint of alpha scent on Victor, because Yuuri and Mari weren't the violent alphas Ruthenians were so accustomed to being. Victor glanced Yuuri's way, still terrified and still so angry and wanting to throttle the man in front of him for taking everything from him. Yuuri swallowed visibly, but his scent was still so strong as he replied in a soft tone, "Yes. Yes, he is."
Then, to add to Victor's shock, Yuuri slowly went to stand beside Victor, and that was when he noticed the anxiety in his scent, so close and warm and still so sweet in a grounding way.
Victor didn't move, tense as he waited for a hand to push him down to the floor by the neck. Right before he looked down he saw a flash of fury in Antonov's grey eyes, and he couldn't stand to look at him any longer. He'd killed his father. Destroyed his home. Broken the brief years of peace Victor and Yuri had in their supposed sanctuary and sent them to the brothel where Victor just kept waiting for the worst to happen.
Then he heard Antonov clear his throat and say in a tight voice, "Excuse me, Prince Yuuri. Suddenly I'm...feeling rather tired. I'll make my way to my chamber now."
Yuuri quickly replied, "Goodnight, your majesty."
Victor felt dizzy as he heard Antonov's footsteps, thinking that they sounded so far away when Antonov had been so close only seconds ago.
He's gone. He's going. He's still here, he could find you and he knows you're happy he'll do something to destroy it all again just like he did to Mama and Papa...
"Victor?" Victor flinched at the sound of Yuuri's voice, and turned quickly to find the alpha looking at him with worry. Yuuri visibly swallowed again and said gently, "Let's get you out of here."
Victor blinked and looked around him, half-remembering why he'd been here in the first place. "I...I came to find..."
A sharp mewl caught their attention, and they both looked down to find Potya winding around Yuuri's feet. Sighing shakily in relief, Victor bent down to pick the kitten up, holding her close to his belly as he rose and felt too...humiliated to look at Yuuri. Antonov hadn't even touched him and it was as if Victor's past was lain bare for the prince to see.
Yuuri didn't say a word, but walked beside Victor as he tried to ground himself further and make his way back to his chamber.
He barely heard Yuuri wish him a goodnight, and his own voice sounded so hollow as he wished him the same.
He entered the room and shut the door behind him.
Yuuko, Minami, Yuri, and Vicchan were all asleep in the impromptu nest they'd build hours ago, the cats resting atop their bodies.
Victor sank to the floor and held Potya for a long time, not daring to even cry.
next up, secrets and courtship
Chapter 10: why don't you be you and I'll be me
chapter tune: "let it go" by james bay
this is it folks
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Victor eventually wandered back into the makeshift nest with the other three omegas, placing Potya next to her littermates and lying down against Yuri, close enough to Yuuko that he could draw comfort from her soothing scent.
The tightness in his chest began to dissipate at long last, leaving his entire body totally exhausted. Even climbing onto the bed took an enormous effort, and for a second Potya's tiny body felt too heavy to carry.
Part of him was too terrified to fall asleep when he knew Antonov and his men were still in the castle. He felt as defenseless as he did when he was thirteen and losing sleep every night trying to remain vigilant and determine just what else he could do to keep himself and Yuri fed.
You're safe, he told himself, closing his eyes and breathing in his brother's scent, spreading his own over him. You're safe and they're leaving soon.
They would leave in a few days.
Victor wouldn't be able to stand it. Neither would Yuri, but not for the same reason. Not reasons he could remember anyway. After all, Antonov had only ever interacted with Victor, never with Yuri, thank goodness.
He unconsciously squeezed Yuri harder, drawing a little grunt from his brother. He loosened his hold, thinking of how he'd stood frozen with horror as he stood before the alpha he feared most, his scent bringing back unwanted memories of filthy hands on Victor's hair as he was forced onto his knees the first time, praying that they wouldn't touch Yuri.
But then he remembered that Yuuri was there too, that the prince had brought him back to his chamber and looked at him with such anxious worry.
His scent had been flooding the hall, practically overpowering Antonov's.
Even so, Yuuri never scented Victor. He just...stood next to him and waited until Antonov left.
He asked no questions of Victor. Just stood by him and readily faced Antonov, despite how nervous he obviously was.
In the darkness, Victor listened to the other three omegas' breathing, focusing on Kenjiro's. The boy smelled like strawberries, and nothing else. There was no hint of spicy cinnamon on him.
Victor didn't even need to wonder why that made him feel happy.
Still, he knew that by admitting such a thing he would only be asking for more trouble. The blood in his veins was undoubtedly royal, but it meant nothing living as a powerless omega in a foreign kingdom. He'd only ever be Yuuri's concubine, never his mate or the parent of his children.
Katsuki Yuuri could easily break his heart.
In another life, Yuuri would have been the ideal mate. Maybe his grandfather would have arranged the marriage in hopes of seeing a grandchild of his ruling Hasetsu one day. Papa would have loved Yuuri. He would have loved Hasetsu, especially the castle gardens. Mama would not have feared for their family's future.
They might have all been together and happy. Victor wouldn't feel unworthy of the sweet-faced alpha who blushed whenever they spoke to each other.
Victor sighed and closed his eyes, breathing as deeply as he could and letting the exhaustion in his body push him to an uneasy sleep.
When he woke up he felt someone moving in the nest, and he felt mildly unsettled by the sensation of having slept only for a few moments when it was quite obviously dawn.
Yuri had turned towards him in the night, and Kenjiro was lying on his back in what had been Yuuko's spot, snoring loudly. Vicchan and Potya's entire litter lay at their feet, the kittens busily nursing. Blinking and raising his head, Victor found Yuuko standing by the door, opening it a fraction to peek out.
It sounded like there was a lot of movement going on in the hall.
Yuuko opened the door a bit wider and, to Victor's surprise, Takeshi stepped inside, looking haggard with exhaustion. He focused on Yuuko, his warm scent wrapping around her protectively. "They're leaving today," he said quietly, glancing at the other three still in bed.
Victor sat up and stared at Takeshi, both confused and wide awake.
"What are you talking about?" Yuuko asked worriedly.
Takeshi shrugged and answered, "Some Gallian came a few hours ago and talked to the Emperor about some kind of rebellion starting up in Rutha. He has to get back there as soon as possible."
It was too good to be true.
Victor had no clue what this rebellion was about, but it was worrying enough that Antonov wanted to return as quickly as he could. Returning to the capital in time would be difficult, even if the rebels hadn't taken it over yet.
But he'd be gone in a matter of hours, and would hopefully die in this rebellion.
Realistically, though, Antonov would emerge victorious yet again.
"If any of you wants to go somewhere, every Ruthenian alpha is holed up in Antonov's rooms. They haven't been bothering anyone," Takeshi told them.
Still feeling so exhausted and devastated by last night's events, Victor nodded and got to his feet, saying, "If it's not too much trouble, I'd like to go to the library."
It would hurt to see her, but he needed to. The portrait was all he had left to feed his memories of her. Antonov seemed too preoccupied with the situation in Rutha to worry about just where in the castle Victor was.
He went to wash his face as Takeshi asked, "Er...did you want to wake Yurio?"
Victor glanced at him through the reflection in the mirror. "...Let him sleep."
Mari probably hadn't intended to squeeze the little ball attached to the bottle of perfume as many times as she did right after she said that.
That was how Yuuri found himself being sprayed a good half-dozen times by possibly the most foul-smelling perfume in the world, immediately shutting his eyes and covering his nose and eyes as the much too bitter and almost coal-like scent filled the room. "Nee-chan! Gods, that stinks!"
"Whoops," Mari said, shrugging as she set the bottle on her vanity table. "That was a gift from Emperor Konstantin. Now I'm not sure if it was meant to insult me. Whatever. They're leaving soon and we can air this entire place out. A couple of them smelled worse than this crap."
"Says the woman who fills her pipe every hour," Yuuri muttered, his eyes streaming as his own scent was completely overwhelmed by the awful cologne. No one would be able to recognize him wearing it. People would probably go out of their way to avoid him, and he wouldn't blame them.
"So," Mari said slowly, giving Yuuri a thoughtful look. "You were pretty tight-lipped last night after you and Antonov went off. What happened?"
Yuuri glanced away at the mention of the Ruthenian alpha, feeling cold and hollow as he remembered feeling so disgusted by the very presence of the alpha walking beside him, in his home. The feeling grew even worse when Antonov appeared to tower over Victor, who had frozen before the imposing alpha. But even Antonov looked shocked to see Victor, appearing disconcerted as he retired, even though Victor never even said a word to him. "...I just didn't like being alone with him," Yuuri replied, not wanting to get into what had obviously been a terrifying experience for Victor.
Mari grunted in agreement. "Well, whatever's going on in Rutha, they're leaving. I just hope they don't drag us into it again."
Yuuri nodded, not wanting to imagine the position they'd all be put in depending on what course of action Antonov wanted to take. Allying with him after the bloody coup was a mistake, but he'd made so many promises for the betterment of every Ruthenian, wanting to restore th empire, that Yuuri's mother wanted to help bring it about.
What were the aims of the new rebellion? Would they make the same promises? Would Yuuri's family be considered fickle for supporting yet another rebellion?
He realized he ought to check on Victor and ask how he was doing. He wasn't in a good state when Yuuri left him, and he'd smelled so afraid, more so than he did when he and Yurio first arrived.
"I'm going to wash this off," he said to his sister, not wanting to go see Victor smelling like this.
She nodded and, true to form, brought her pipe to her lips.
Walking down the halls and trying to seem as inconspicuous as possible as he indeed ran into a couple of lone Ruthenians who were hurrying down the halls with frantic looks on their faces. They certainly seemed nervous.
He walked past the door leading to Antonov's chambers, and heard shouts from within. Frowning, Yuuri wondered if these Westerners had ever learned anything about common courtesy and respecting their hosts. Anyone nearby could hear them, after all, even the guards further down the hall.
Yuuri inhaled sharply through his nose and bit his lip as he walked past the doors as quickly as he could, but even so he still heard someone say in the Common Tongue with a thick, Gallian accent, "...should have killed both of those omegan sons of whores when you found them in Vladika, Antonov!"
He froze as his blood grew cold at the words.
Who were they talking about?
Who was Antonov meant to kill?
He heard a low growl, realizing he'd walked closer to the door, and breathed in the bitter scent of furious alpha through it. "Remember who you're talking to, Gillard," Antonov threatened.
The Gallian scoffed and said in a much lower tone, "I'm talking to a man we trusted to make sure the Nikiforovs were all dead, not to settle some petty old score just because your son couldn't keep his future bride in line."
Yuuri immediately thought about the noblewoman depicted in the portrait. The one who'd taken a biologically male omega as her mate, defying tradition and eloping with him. They'd both been disgraced, but most were so focused on the love story they would forget about the third party in the story.
Vasili Konstantinovich Antonov.
Yuuri hadn't made that connection.
But now the connections made themselves, and the Gallian, Gillard, had just awakened several dozen questions in Yuuri's mind.
He was sure about one thing.
Antonov had something to do with the eradication of the Nikiforov family.
Perhaps everything to do.
A moment later he heard choking sounds, and more growls from Antonov. "Never mention my son again or I'll tear your throat out. I had a score to settle. How was I to know that these Nihan alphas don't know what to do with virgin omegas when they're dangled in front of them?"
Yuuri's heart gave a hard pang.
Victor and Yurio.
What did they have to do with anything?
Gillard coughed and struggled to catch his breath a few moments later, straining out, "Well now your idiotic revenge has backfired and those two are still alive. If Feltsman finds out-"
Antonov furiously cut him off, "Feltsman won't find out because no one knows those two are Nikiforov's grandchildren."
Yuuri covered his mouth before he could let out an audible gasp, suddenly feeling incredibly dizzy as he went over those words in his mind again and again.
Victor and Yurio...were part of the Nikiforov family?
"You should just kill them now and be done with it," a third voice said, the only one lowered to a near whisper.
"How do you propose to do that in the middle of a fucking castle, Levshin? Shall I walk out in full view of the guards and wring their skinny necks?" Antonov snarled, and Yuuri had to bite back a growl of his own at those words. Antonov added with certainty, "Victor Nikiforov knows what I'll do to his little brother if either one of them ever tries to claim the throne. I don't even have to remind him. I knew he remembered when I saw him last night. He won't say a word to the Queen. To anyone."
The night before. Victor's terror. Antonov's bewilderment.
Yes, Yuuri knew just what Antonov had expected to happen to Victor and Yurio once they were in the castle.
Only it never happened.
Victor smelled like himself, and not like any alpha.
Was that the petty revenge Gillard had spoken of?
Rather than killing the last surviving Nikiforovs, he'd orchestrated it so they'd be destined for a life of violation?
What if they hadn't ended up in Hasetsu?
"They can rot in this place," Antonov growled, his scent strong in Yuuri's nose. "Feltsman's children are all dead and he thinks his grandsons are too. His little rebellion will die with him, and he's the one I'd rather deal with than two useless omegas."
Yuuri, astounded, was about to step away when he heard Gillard warn hoarsely, "Just be careful you don't end up going the same way as your son, Konstantin. After all, he underestimated an omega, and he died screaming."
Vasili Antonov. It was said he died during that violent coup...supposedly defending the royal family.
That was what Konstantin Antonov had said.
Apparently none of it was true.
The truth was that Victor and Yurio were...Ruthenian princes.
The Ruthenian princes.
Victor was the rightful Emperor.
Yuuri didn't breathe until he was far away from the door, and then he ran as quickly as he could towards Victor and Yurio's chamber.
He tried to think of the names of every young member of the Nikiforov family, down to the very last infant. Every name had haunted Yuuri ever since, and...he couldn't recall Victor and Yuri's names. Had he forgotten them as time went on?
He didn't understand.
Victor used to beg his parents to tell him their story.
Mama would try to dissuade him but Papa always told it eagerly, softening Mama up until she joined in the telling.
They'd met in a crowded ballroom, their eyes meeting in a single moment as Mama danced with another man and she caught sight of a lone omega, beautiful and lonely as he stood against a wall.
The only omega child of the emperor, timid and delicate, but with a rare sort of passion hidden in his eyes.
They'd shocked all of Ruthenia with their dance. They'd both gotten in trouble with their fathers and they were told they couldn't see each other again.
And then they'd run off together. They were mated and married. And they'd had Victor.
When he was a child he thought it the happiest ending in the world. He had no idea the horror such a story would unleash in the coming years.
Victor sat in the library and held the portrait in his hands, his heart feeling too empty for any more tears as he looked at his mother's face. It was a good likeness, but it would not reveal the softness of her gaze whenever she looked at Papa, or the look of concentration when she played her piano.
Even the air tasted bitter, and Victor shut his eyes to try and remember his parents' sweet scents. They may have both been omegas, their union forbidden, but the last time Victor felt completely safe was when he was with them.
"Oh my God..."
Victor gasped sharply and turned around.
Yuuri was standing a few feet behind him, looking at him with such shock, his gaze switching back and forth between Victor and the portrait.
A moment later realization dawned in Yuuri's dark eyes, and Victor's heart sank as the prince breathed, "Victor, you're..."
Victor had no clue what Yuuri was about to say, but that didn't stop the building dread in his heart as Yuuri's eyes seemed to really see him for the first time. He shook his head, praying Yuuri would just forget whatever he was thinking, whatever he believed, especially now that Antonov was still here and he would do anything to make sure no one discovered who Victor and Yuri were.
But, to Victor's horror, Yuuri stepped closer, still staring at the portrait in Victor's hands. The color drained from his face as he quietly said, "...You're her son. You..." His eyes widened and exhaled shakily, adding in low tones, "Yurio looks just like her..."
Victor's heart nearly stopped, his entire being seized with fear and the memory of every one of Antonov's threats.
Yuri was alone. Antonov would make him suffer and make Victor watch.
Victor got up and clutched the portrait to his chest, his heart racing as he quickly went to Yuuri and hissed desperately, "Stop! I'm no one!" "I'm just an omega. A gift sent to you!" He silently begged him to not ask any more. He couldn't bear putting Yuuri and his brother in any danger. Let Yuuri think of him as some poor, unfortunate omega with no one in the world. No power at all. Certainly not a prince.
Yuuri looked at him with shock, knowledge stubbornly swimming in his gaze. "Victor-"
"I'm not her son!" Victor exclaimed urgently, arms tight around the portrait as he shook his head rapidly. "I'm not, that whole family is dead, they're all dead!"
But that awful, terrible pity in Yuuri's sweet eyes only intensified, as if he hadn't heard Victor's pleading words at all. He looked right at Victor, and softly said, "...It's alright. I know everything. I...I overheard Antonov...H-he said a lot of things..."
For weeks Victor was so sure he would never have to fall on his knees before Yuuri.
Yet there he was, the portrait discarded on the floor while Victor fell to his knees and desperately grabbed the prince's hands and begged as tears filled his eyes, "You can't tell anyone, I'm begging you! Just forget this, forget all of it!"
Yuuri looked down at Victor with wide eyes, disturbed as Victor looked back up at him entreatingly. "Yuri can't know. No one can know. You can't know," he nearly sobbed, the tears escaping his his eyes. His shoulders sagged and he hung his head, arms falling to his sides as his tears fell to the floor and he realized just how futile it was.
Yuuri wouldn't forget.
He felt scared, wary, and some traitorous part of him felt relieved, his heart beating so hard as though he'd been running hard and long.
Suddenly Yuuri was on his knees in front of him, and Victor looked up to find the alpha looking at him worriedly, shaking his head and saying with total sincerity, "I won't. I won't tell, I promise."
Victor didn't trust alphas. If he was completely honest he'd probably only ever trusted only one alpha in his life, and it wasn't his paternal grandfather.
But the alpha in front of him, on his knees just like him, looked so honest that Victor's heart ached to accept Yuuri's promise.
Yuuri turned to look at the discarded portrait, gently touching the frame with his fingertips. "...This whole time, it never even crossed my mind."
Victor made a sound that was a cross between a sob and a dry laugh. "How could you? My father was an omega who stole a valuable bride away from an alpha. Yuri and I were abominations. A stain on our family name. We were lucky our grandfather acknowledged us." He picked up the portrait and looked at it again, suddenly feeling so tired and afraid all at once. "How did you know I was here?" he asked quietly as he gazed at his mother's face.
"Yuuko told me. Yurio was worried about you."
Guilt stabbed at Victor's heart and he rubbed at his face wearily. For all the confusing relief he felt, Yuri couldn't know. The loss had affected him greatly and Victor had been grateful when Yuri eventually stopped asking for their parents, and his memories of them were locked away with every horrible one. He gave a sniffle and wrinkled his nose with a groan. "What are you wearing? I couldn't even smell you."
Yuuri blushed and bit his lip, replying, "...A perfume Antonov gave to my sister."
"It reeks," Victor said, voice still shaking.
"I know," Yuuri groaned self-consciously looking at his lap.
courtship discussions begin in the next chapter
Chapter 11: your heart’s a bird without the wings to fly
holy hell, I cranked this out immediately after work with only a couple of notes on this chapter ._.
say hello to the first chapter that's exclusively in Yuuri's POV
cw: discussions of suicide and sexual abuse
chapter tunes: "carry you feat. fleurie" by ruelle
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They sat across from each other, Yuuri staring at Victor, whose eyes were lightly rimmed with red from his earlier weeping.
When Victor glanced up at him, Yuuri looked away guiltily. The omega smelled anxious, and hadn't said much since sitting down, his fingers still touching the frame of Lady Nadezhda's...his mother's portrait.
"Won't you be missed when Antonov and the delegates leave?" Victor suddenly asked, his gaze still, remarkably, on Yuuri.
Shrugging as he tried to meet the omega's gaze, Yuuri answered, "Not really. Mari's the important one, after all. Anyway, I don't really care what Antonov thinks."
Victor smiled weakly at that, and gave the door a quick look as though he were still afraid that Antonov would appear. With everything he now knew, Yuuri looked at the events from the night before in a new light. Victor had extremely good reasons to be afraid of the man beyond just fearing Antonov simply because he was an alpha. The man had apparently even threatened Yurio's wellbeing after everything he'd done to their family.
The silver-haired omega turned back to Yuuri and sighed heavily, looking exhausted beyond his years, and asked in a low tone, "...What exactly did you hear Antonov say?"
Yuuri wasn't sure what the best response was, not wanting to repeat Antonov's cruel words or say anything that would trivialize everything that Victor had been through. He bit his lip as his palms began to feel clammy, and carefully said, "He...Well, it wasn't just him...There was a Gallian, a man named Gillard, who was telling him that..." He looked down at Victor's hands, one gracefully placed on top of the other on the table, and continued hesitantly, "...He told Antonov that he should've killed you and...and Yurio when he found you both in Vladika."
Victor inhaled sharply, and when Yuuri looked back up at him he appeared pensive rather than afraid, though his brow was slightly furrowed. "...Yuri and I were hidden away in Vladika. It was the region where my mother's family came from. We hid there for almost four years, ever since we lost our parents. Our mother...she was supposed to come with us..." He closed his eyes for a moment, as though in pain, and when he opened them he looked at Yuuri again. "What else?"
"Gillard, he..." He had to soften the words somehow. This was already painful enough for Victor. "He said that...they had trusted Antonov to make sure all of the Nikiforovs are dead, and that...he shouldn't have gotten distracted avenging the slight to his son."
Victor let out a dry, bitter-sounding laugh. "Vasili Antonov. My mother's intended. If he was anything like his father then my mother saved herself by running off with my father. But he and his father weren't satisfied with knowing the royal family was humiliated or my grandfather's offer of another bride. They wanted to make the omegas who humiliated them pay. My father was killed and my mother killed herself, so Yura and I were the only ones left that Antonov could make suffer."
He said it all so bluntly that Yuuri could only stare at him in shocked silence for a few moments. He hadn't known that Lady Nadezhda had killed herself. How could she when she had two sons to look after? Had she done it after ensuring her sons were safe? "Victor, I...I'm sorry..."
Victor nodded mutely, closing his eyes again. "What else?"
Yuuri's cheeks burned as he recalled what Antonov had said next. "He, um...Antonov said that...h-he hadn't known that...that Mari and I wouldn't actually touch you or Yurio." He wouldn't repeat Antonov's words in this regard.
"Rape us," Victor replied, the usually vibrant blues of his beautiful eyes dark and flat. "After all, what healthy alpha wouldn't mount an omega in heat?" he asked sardonically. "And last night Antonov saw me outside a harem and, as far as he knew, unclaimed. You haven't marked me or my brother in any way."
"Because I wouldn't do that!" Yuuri exclaimed, sick at heart and flushed with mortification over everything Antonov and every wretched Ruthenian believed about what alphas could freely do to omegas. "You're not my slaves! You're free! I wouldn't even try to scent you without your consent!"
"You're a prince," Victor said, as though he didn't quite believe Yuuri.
"But I'm not an animal," Yuuri replied firmly. "And like I said, I don't care what Antonov thinks. The only thing I care about in this whole situation is you!"
He watched Victor's eyes widen instantly, a pretty blush spreading across his cheeks as he stared at Yuuri, and Yuuri realized just what he'd said.
God, he'd really blurted that right out, hadn't he?
He felt his face burn almost unbearably, and he quickly cast his eyes down to the table's surface, trying to say, "I just...I really hope that...you can feel safe here. In all of Hasetsu, I mean..."
He felt Victor's gaze on him for a long moment, and heard a soft laugh from him. "That's not too difficult when Antonov isn't here."
Yuuri couldn't help smiling a little at that. When he looked up at Victor the omega had picked up the portrait again, his fingers carefully touching the soft, pink smile on his mother's image.
Without prompting, Victor began, "...Papa heard about the massacres. His father was dead and so were all his siblings, all of our cousins. Suddenly he was Emperor of Rutha, and an omega." Pain slowly flooded his eyes, but his voice was somehow steady as he went on, "He wanted to secure the throne. He promised we'd be safe, and that..." He took a deep breath, and his voice shook as he said, "...I'd be emperor one day. Can you imagine that?"
Were Rutha a different kind of place, Yuuri could have easily imagined Victor as its ruler. The Silver Star of the Empire, talented and beautiful, and completely untouchable. "...Would you believe me if I said I can?"
Victor laughed genuinely, a tear escaping his eye. He brushed it away and smiled at Yuuri. "I'll have to think about that one...But it wasn't to be. Later on we heard Papa was dead and...Mama couldn't take it." He shut his eyes and covered them with a trembling hand, and added, "...On the night we were supposed to go to our hiding place, she...she slit her wrists. I watched her fall and a servant took me away before I could do anything."
Yuuri couldn't hide a gasp. "Why? They...They could've saved her!"
"She ordered them not to," Victor said, eyes still covered. "It was just me and Yuri in the mountains of Vladika. Our household scattered and one servant kept coming to bring us food and medicine. I lost my family. My parents. I knew it was impossible, since both our parents were omegas, but I prayed." He lifted his tearful gaze and said shakily, "Yuuri, I would pray so hard for God to make us alphas. I wanted to keep us safe. To not have to hide anymore. Then my first heat came and I just wanted my parents back...and after that Antonov's men found us, and he had us sent to the brothel."
He wept quietly for a moment as Yuuri watched, devastated on the brothers' behalf. He thought of Yurio, young and defiant, and how much he must have suffered. However, Yuuri remembered something Victor had mentioned earlier as he begged for Yuuri's silence. "Victor...what did you mean when you said that Yurio can't know?
Victor sighed raggedly, wiping his eyes as dry as he could and looked at the table again, shame filling his face. "Exactly that. He doesn't know anything about us...being royalty. He doesn't remember."
"But...he must've been old enough to remember," Yuuri said, confused.
"He just...doesn't remember anything. And I've never let him remember," Victor replied softly. "He cried for weeks at first, asking for our parents, and I didn't know what to say. He'd just...cry until he fell asleep, and eventually he stopped asking. For all he knew we'd been in Vladika our whole lives, and he didn't remember our parents' faces. I thought he was the lucky one." He shut his eyes and shook his head, adding softly, "He'd never forgive me for letting him forget."
An ache bloomed in Yuuri's heart as he thought of Yurio again, and the way he clung to Victor as though knowing that they only had each other in the world after such an enormous loss. He couldn't bear to think of Victor, still so young himself, being put in such an impossible position after a trauma that Yurio's memory seemed to have locked away. "Victor...you only did what you thought was right."
"Was it right? Or was it just easier for me?" Victor asked guiltily.
"You were a child," Yuuri insisted. "Mari...she probably would've done the same if it were me."
"No," Victor said firmly. "Princess Mari would have made sure you remembered them every day of your life. She would've made their memory a comfort rather than a horror."
Yuuri knew that it wouldn't do either of them any good to argue over that, despite Yuuri feeling that Victor had been taking on far too many burdens when the loss was his too. "You still protected Yurio. You're still protecting him. He knows that."
"But I can't risk losing him," Victor said, shaking his head. "He's all I have left of my family."
Yuuri couldn't imagine how that felt, and prayed he never knew. But then he remembered something he'd heard when outside Antonov's chamber. "But...Antonov mentioned your grandfather. Your other grandfather, I mean. Someone named Feltsman. Supposedly he's the one leading the rebellion."
At that Victor's eyes widened and hope bloomed within them in a way Yuuri hadn't seen before. "My grandfather Yakov? He's alive?!"
"Maybe," Yuuri replied quietly, hoping for Victor's sake that it was true. "We could...If you wanted, we could try and find him, and-"
"No!" Victor exclaimed, rapidly getting to his feet and looking at Yuuri with desperation and agony. "...As much as I want to see him, I can't take that risk. Yuri and I can never set foot in Rutha again, and no one can know we're still alive! Antonov will kill us for sure."
"Victor, we can protect you-"
"It's not worth the risk!" Victor shot back, frustrated. "I will never rule Rutha and the only thing I want is..." His shoulders sagged and his eyes filled with tears again, and he added tiredly, "...I want to feel safe again. I want to stop being afraid of what's going to happen to us."
Yuuri slowly got to his feet too, feeling entirely unprepared to give Victor the comfort he needed, as wrapped up in himself as he could get sometimes. But he couldn't deny Victor's agony.
Swallowing nervously, Yuuri said softly, "...I won't tell anyone. Not Yurio or anyone else, because you're the only one with any right to do that. And..." He blushed hotly and looked at the floor, finally blurting out, "Y-you deserve to feel safe wherever you are!"
He breathed hard after he said it, his heart beating unbearably fast as he realized how important Victor's comfort and security were to him. He'd thought he was reaching too high when Victor was simply a Ruthenian omega, and now...Victor was, by rights, an emperor.
Yet Yuuri couldn't blame him for not wanting to go back to a homeland that had taken so much from him.
He raised his gaze and Victor was still looking at him with such surprise and...Yuuri couldn't fully understand just what that look in his eyes meant.
Clearing his throat, Yuuri stammered, "Can I...I mean...Do you want to go back to Yurio?"
"Please," Victor sighed, pain and need filling his gaze again.
When Yuuri led Victor through the halls no one disturbed them, despite the lingering scents of strange alphas.
That night Antonov and all who came with them were gone, and Yuuri wondered if Victor was going to sleep well.
Then he dreamed of Victor.
Yuuri felt guilty.
Guilt over his ongoing dreams about Victor.
Guilt over keeping such an important secret from his family. But it wasn't his secret to tell. He had no right to destroy Victor's hard-gained peace of mind by revealing his parentage, or by doing anything else.
However, Takeshi seemed to be doling out the appropriate punishment by giving him the usual challenge when they practiced their kendo, especially when Yuuri found himself getting distracted by Victor's presence during these sessions.
It felt embarrassing to look so clumsy in front of the omega he was (unfortunately) infatuated with, but more than once he caught Victor looking at him with such open admiration that Yuuri felt even hotter beneath the armor he wore after exerting himself while sparring.
Yuri, starting to stand on his own against every alpha he came across, immediately wanted to be taught and, contrary to Yuuri's expectations, Victor enthusiastically supported his decision, a proud look on his face.
It had been a month since Antonov returned to Rutha, and Yuuri's mother hadn't heard of any enormous changes in Rutha. For all anyone knew, Antonov's rule was going unhindered, though that may have been lies. Victor never asked Yuuri for any sort of news, and Yuuri knew that Victor didn't want to hear anything. If he worried about his only living relative he didn't show it, focusing on Yurio and trying to live as they'd begun to live before Antonov appeared in Hasetsu.
In the middle of all those changes, and the agonizing realization of his own growing and confusing feelings, Yuuri could sometimes forget that Victor was an emperor, totally beyond his reach if circumstances were different.
Victor was still beyond his reach, despite their friendliness. Yuuri would never want to make him uncomfortable, or cause him to fear him. All the while, all Yuuri could do was agonize over his dreams and fantasies, and try not to keep embarrassing himself in front of the omega, who could obviously tell that Yuuri kept staring after him far longer than what was necessary, and blushed and stammered whenever they spoke.
That was easier said than done. Well...at the moment, it was being done, as Yuuri had donned his "Katsuro" disguise and went off to try and clear his head out in the streets of Hasetsu.
The snow piled high in the streets, shopkeepers sweeping up pathways to keep them clear. Breaths billowed in the cold air, and Yuuri felt a bit calmer after shedding his role as a prince, especially a prince that lusted over an emperor that was hiding among Yuuri's family.
No. He couldn't even think that. Victor hadn't wanted to talk about that reality at all, or the fact that his maternal grandfather was still alive. His focus was on building a life in Hasetsu and making sure Yurio was happy.
Yuuri knew that such a life couldn't possibly include him, and he was perfectly fine with that. Victor quite likely didn't see him in that way, and probably never would.
And then Yuuri smelled his scent.
His luck couldn't possibly be this awful.
It wasn't as if Victor were a stranger to going out on his own nowadays, being able to be both invisible among the crowds and stand out as a foreigner even though he'd walked through Hasetsu for months now.
Yuuri needed no help finding him on the deserted snow-covered bridge that overlooked Hasetsu's river, where Victor first came upon him that day in the market with Yuuko.
His hair was unbound over the dark blue cape he wore over his thick clothing as he stared out towards the icy waters, a pensive look on his face.
Inhaling deeply (and immediately regretting it as the cold wind carried the other man's scent right towards him), Yuuri gritted his teeth and resolved to walk past the omega as quickly as possible. He lowered his gaze as he tried to give Victor a wide berth the closer he got to him-
"Hello, Katsuro!" Victor greeted brightly, looking right at him over his shoulder.
Yuuri yelped as he jumped back, face red as a cherry as he struggled to regain his balance. "Victor! I-I didn't see you there! How are you?!" What was wrong with him?
Victor beamed at him, his cheeks and the tip of his nose pink from the cold. "I'm well. Yura's practicing his kendo with Takeshi, and he told me he didn't need me hanging around him like a nanny."
That definitely sounded like Yurio. Yuuri gave Victor a weak, embarrassed smile, and the omega nodded at the spot next to him. "Come here next to me. It looks so beautiful out here."
Yuuri felt rather warm at the invitation, as though it were a hot summer day and not the middle of winter. Victor was close enough that Yuuri could breathe in his sweet, soothing scent, one he sometimes imagined lingering in his bed. His face burned hotter at the thought, and he realized just how much trouble he was in thanks to the man beside him.
"I'm...I'm really glad you're comfortable," he began, not quite sure where he was attempting to go with that statement. "Comfortable here in Hasetsu, I mean."
Victor raised a perfect eyebrow as he smiled at Yuuri, his eyes warm and tender as he gazed back at him. "I'm glad you're glad. Because I really am comfortable here. Especially right where I'm standing."
He said it with such soft surprise and sincerity that at first Yuuri thought he was just fooling himself when he heard it, but the enormity of it hit Yuuri in a few moments and he couldn't stop himself from looking back at Victor, hungry for the sight of him even though they saw each other practically every day. He was making his infatuation with Victor far too obvious, and...how on earth would Victor take it? Would he still feel comfortable? His skin prickling with shame, Yuuri looked at the icy water beneath them. "...Am I making you uncomfortable?"
"You're not," Victor answered calmly. "I know now that you wouldn't do anything to make me uncomfortable. You're...kind, and you've been gentle and gracious. A true prince." He laughed softly as he said that, and Yuuri looked up to see his eyes, still so bright and as lovely a blue as the water beneath the bridge. Then Victor added, "And I like your scent. I'm not afraid of you. My fears are..."
Yuuri didn't breathe, Victor's few, soft words sinking in and making his heart beat with thunderous impact against his ribcage. He blushed yet again, realizing just what Victor was referring to, and tried to put his own emotions out of his mind as he quietly said, "You don't have to explain yourself to me, Victor." It was obvious Victor still feared being used and hurt, and feared the same for Yurio. He was still afraid of what everyone in Rutha would threaten him with. "I'm sorry."
Victor's smile faded and he shook his head. "You didn't do anything to us, Yuuri."
"But it still happened," Yuuri replied as gently as he could. "I don't blame you for being afraid of me."
"I told you it's not you." Victor then turned towards him completely, that lovely smile, oddly reassuring, reappearing. "You're so good and sweet, you wouldn't hurt your omega. You wouldn't need to force one."
Suddenly his fingers stroked Yuuri's jaw, and he sucked a breath as they stopped beneath his chin. Yuuri, frozen and warm at the same time, stared at Victor incredulously, watching his soft lips shape a sweet, alluring smile that had Yuuri imagining what it would be like to press his own lips against Victor's, breathing in his wonderful scent and feeling his body press into his. "You don't...You don't have to...to flatter me, Victor," Yuuri said, voice still sounding weak as Victor touched him in the slightest way, setting his blood on fire.
Fondness filled Victor's smile, and he stepped closer to Yuuri. "I promise I'm not. I'm being completely honest. I think you're lovely too, strong and graceful in a way alphas usually aren't. It's presumptuous of me, but I haven't been able to stop thinking about you since we danced."
Every word hit Yuuri like an almost physical blow, and he felt that this was happening to anyone else but him. Not the plain, unremarkable alpha spare heir who was too shy and mild-mannered to really stand out. All the while Victor was just...confessing so easily when Yuuri could barely admit his own feelings without feeling guilty. Confessing. To Yuuri. "How can you just...say that and not be embarrassed?"
Victor shrugged and said, "We Ruthenians tend to be open about our feelings. But I've never seen such a shy alpha." He shook his head with such fondness that Yuuri's heart ached from the certainty that he would be getting his heart broken.
"It's just that here...Two people usually don't talk about...things like that unless..." Yuuri shut his eyes and felt his face burn as he said, "...U-unless they were courting properly..."
Several agonizing moments of silence passed and after Yuuri couldn't take it anymore he opened his eyes and looked at the omega, and Yuuri was astounded to see that Victor was truly blushing now, his eyes wide with disbelief as he stared at Yuuri. "...Oh."
Now he felt embarrassed?
But Victor looked out towards the water again, and added quietly, "...I...I never exactly thought that I'd be...properly courted. One doesn't really properly court a concubine."
And even thinking that, Victor still revealed so much? Things that Yuuri found so hard to believe? Yet it was easy to imagine that Victor, after all Antonov had done to him, wouldn't think an alpha would treat him with the respect he deserved. Yuuri wanted that for him, and still wasn't sure if, despite Victor's confession, he was worthy of being chosen by someone so beautiful and remarkable. And Victor was still so sure that he wasn't worthy of being anything more than a concubine, even if he weren't a prince by birth. "You're not my concubine," Yuuri stated simply.
Victor kept looking at the water, eyes melancholy as he asked quietly, "You'd make me your mate?"
He asked it in a way that was meant to be sardonic, yet Yuuri saw some kind of yearning flare in his eyes very briefly. The question stunned Yuuri, and he couldn't answer for fear that he would blurt out that he dreamed of doing just that, of the two of them, just an alpha and an omega, together and marked, and Yuuri would be the one to make Victor happy, to love and satisfy him.
Victor's eyes widened again, and utter disbelief filled his lovely features as he quickly looked at Yuuri again, his rapid breaths clouding the air. "Yuuri...you're a prince."
"So are you," Yuuri managed to say in a small voice, forcing himself to keep his eyes on Victor. "And...even if you weren't I'd feel the same. That is...I do feel the same."
His nerves screamed at him to run away, to become anyone else but the idiot prince who confessed so pathetically and thought he really deserved someone so beautiful and extraordinary, but his heart wanted Victor, his words, an answer, time, time and something that would tell Yuuri that he hadn't just done something so monumentally stupid that Victor would take it all back and-
Victor was kissing him.
Yuuri watched it occur almost as if time had slowed, and Victor closed the short gap between them and pressed his soft, soft lips against Yuuri's. Time then appeared to continue almost too quickly, and Yuuri didn't dare breathe as Victor kept kissing him, his cool hand slowly curling over Yuuri's nape as he tipped his head slightly to better fit their lips together. Yuuri inhaled slowly through his nose, and closed his eyes with a soft sigh as Victor's scent filled his head.
And much too quickly Victor pulled back a little, his eyes tender as he quietly said, "I wanted to surprise you as much as you've surprised me."
Yuuri breathed shakily, unable to resist smiling at the omega, shaken in the best possible way as he realized just what had occurred. "...It worked."
Victor smiled back with a soft laugh and took Yuuri's hand, leading the way back to the castle, all while Yuuri felt drunk and dazed as he went over the memory of the kiss, warming his body as the snow kept falling around them.
When they arrived they went their separate ways, Victor's wrist grabbed by his brother as he pulled him away, demanding he watch him try and beat Takeshi for the fourth time.
Victor looked back at Yuuri with a wide smile, and Yuuri wanted to believe that it had all happened. That Victor...actually wanted him, for some reason, and...perhaps wanted more than that.
Yuuri knew he was potentially reaching too high, but part of him wanted to stop holding himself back from something that could possibly be wonderful for both him and Victor. He'd be pushing himself well out of his comfort zone, and opening himself up to future heartbreak, but...Yuuri couldn't forget that yearning in Victor's eyes when he asked if Yuuri were willing to make him his mate.
Nervous and determined, Yuuri made his way towards Lady Minako's chamber, knowing full well that she would make an enormous deal out of this and would probably be able to read the look on Yuuri's cherry-red face.
When she opened her door and looked at him with confusion, Yuuri didn't waste a single moment before blurting out, "Can you teach me how to court an omega?!"
Her jaw dropped and Yuuri wanted to shrivel up and die.
more on victor's feelings and the rebellion next
please comment, beebs
Chapter 12: I was highest by your warmth
Thank you all for your comments, loves! Glad to be home again!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Whatever possessed him to kiss Yuuri, Victor couldn'tsay that he regretted it at all. He would do it again in a heartbeat, loving how Yuuri's lips, even dry, unmoving, and yielding, had felt against his. Sweet and soft, just like the prince.
It might have been the realization that Victor was just lucky. Lucky to have met Yuuri and...grown extremely fond of him. Maybe dangerously fond. After all, even at this point, Yuuri could just...take what he wanted and leave Victor heartbroken.
But he isn't like that, Victor reminded himself.He's sweet and shy and gentle. He'd blushed so red after Victor kissed him, and it was immediately evident that he had little knowledge of what to do other than...stand there and let Victor kiss him.
Hard as it was to believe, Yuuri seemed to lack experience. He'd reacted to Victor's first attempt at seduction with such timid shock, and Victor had been too surprised himself toreally think about it. Only relieved that neither Yuuri nor Mari seemed interested in bothering them that night.
No matter what conclusions Victor reached, Yuuri was still such a mystery, shying away from Victor even a week after that kiss.
For now it was easier to concentrate on the news from Rutha, which was easily gained sitting among omegas, alphas, and betas in the small noodle shop Victor had entered that afternoon.
Antonov and his people had set off and were still at sea, according to the gossip Victor was carefully cultivating as he ate with genuine gusto, all while comparing it to the information Yuuri shared with him. Best of all no alpha bothered him. All he got were friendly greetings and pleasant scents from...everyone. Friendly and harmless, yet curious, something Victor could easily bear.
It was good to be around people, to be in the middle of ordinary people having every day conversation. And if that conversation happened to include news about Rutha, then Victor welcomed it even more.
When it seemed as though he'd heard everything there was to hear, Victor paid for his meal and left, wandering out into the cold.
He easily found his way to the bridge where he kissed Yuuri, smiling as he remembered the surprise on Yuuri's sweet face. The...innocence. Victor's remembered his first kiss being forced away, and remembered how he had even dared to kiss some of the other male omegas in the brothel under cover of darkness, always careful to take it no further than that, not wanting to incur the Madam's wrath.
He remembered that feeling like a brief escape, using someone and being used in turn to forget. Christophe, bright-eyed and pink-cheeked, would always gravitate towards him, and Victor could sometimes swear he saw worship in his eyes at times.
He was bought by a young, rich, foreign alpha who looked at him with such adoration, and Victor supposed Christophe was one of the lucky ones in that regard.
Kissing the prince, kissing Yuuri just because he wanted to was such a foreign emotion, and unexpected. But it felt so tender and wonderful, and Yuuri's soft whimper had made Victor's chest feel warm with adoration. A dangerous feeling to be sure, dangerous for any omega living in the empire.
But he wasn't in the empire. He was in Hasetsu, and here was an alpha who had never laid a hand on him without permission, and likely never would.
Victor absently touched his lips as he watched the water flowing under the bridge, wondering for the hundredth time if Yuuri had truly meant it when he hinted that he was willing to take Victor as a mate. In the brothel Victor's place was made entirely clear; he would never be allowed to bear children, especially as a concubine. The Madam didn't want to risk losing any of the male omegas in her possession to potentially dangerous pregnancies and deliveries.
Yet here was Yuuri, a prince and second-in-line to Hasetsu's throne, possibly considering Victor as a mate, as a parent of Princess Mari's heir.
It was more than Victor would have ever dared hope even when he was still a minor prince, destined to be ignored due to the shame of his and Yuri's births.
And how precisely did Victor feel about all of this? He couldn't quite name the emotion. Happiness? Desperation? Was it a dream come true or a way out? Victor admittedly did feel safe with Yuuri, and...perhaps not just because they were alpha and omega. Yuuri's kind nature was a relief, as were his bursts of sincerity whenever he wasn't wrapped up in shyness.
And he didn't even have to scent Victor to stand up to Antonov that night. But was it even possible for Victor to feel truly safe in a world where Antonov lived, even with a prince as his mate?
Yet, if rumors were to be believed, Antonov was having quite a time trying to gain ground again in Rutha thanks to one Lord Yakov Feltsman.
There wasn't a day that went by that Victor didn't wish he could see his grandfather. That he could tell Yuri that they had family out there, and that his grandfather could somehow know that they were alive and safe.
But Victor was determined that neither he nor Yuri would ever set foot in Rutha again, no matter who sat on the throne. No matter what changes came, if any.
It would be a miracle if Victor's grandfather ever set foot in Hasetsu. It would be the only way that Victor would ever see him again.
Here, with Yuuri, was Victor's chance to rebuild his life, to live and be happy to spite Antonov, and to fulfill almost every hope Victor's father had for him and Yuri.
But would it all really happen? Was Victor worth the trouble? How would Antonov react when he realized all he'd done was send Victor and Yuri to a place where they were respected, and even cared for? That a child born of Victor could one day rule Hasetsu?
And yet Victor couldn't bear to call it vengeance. Not when he knew he felt something for Yuuri, and knew that he would never want to use Yuuri in such a way, not to provoke Antonov. If he was ever with Yuuri, it would be for him, for Victor's own desire.
And that desire was certainly there. Yuuri was strong, graceful, beautiful, handsome, sweet, and stubborn. He did not deserve to have his heart broken by anyone, especially not by anyone he loved. And then there was that awful jealousy that came whenever Victor thought of Yuuri choosing anyone else, be they alpha, omega, or beta. To think that Victor once thought it would be better to encourage Kenjiro to act on his crush on the prince.
Sighing, Victor backed away from the ledge and made his way towards the palace, reminding himself that he was free. Free to hope. Free to love. Free to live.
Free to choose.
He chose to walk back towards Yuuri.
Yuuri couldn't remember being more interested in the goings on beyond Niha's shores than he was now.
He and Mari attended every one of their mother's councils, something Yuuri used to try and avoid out of anxiety.
But he had a responsibility to his family, to his sister, to be her right hand and help her lead Hasetsu when the time came. He wanted to carry on with every hope his mother had for Hasetsu, to represent the best Hasetsu had to offer.
For now, he could help his mother think of how to contend with what might happen in Rutha now that Lord Feltsman had effectively declared war on Antonov, to cope with the aftermath of allying with Antonov's supposed cause and potentially allying with Feltsman...with Victor's grandfather.
In spite of Yuuri's pathetic confession to Victor a week before, he knew that things could easily change. Would it not suit Victor better to find his and Yurio's remaining family and hopefully take the throne one day.
Yet Yuuri could clearly remember everything Victor told him. Every fear he had for Yurio and for himself. To return to Rutha now would put them both on a dangerous path, and the thought of that had Yuuri feeling terror and fury, somewhat similiar to that night when he saw Victor in front of Antonov.
Wanting him safe went beyond instinct, and that scared Yuuri, especially when he didn't know what the future might bring.
Victor obviously knew how he felt. He had kissed Yuuri and given strength to so many more feelings all at once, and Yuuri had gone running to Lady Minako to beg for guidance because he had never done anything like this even though he was supposed to have an heir with, and that would be difficult to accomplish alone.
After teasing him lightly, Lady Minako advised him to just use his natural charm.
Then Yuuri asked just what his natural charms were supposed to be.
She looked at him as though she couldn't believe what he was saying, and shook her head with a sigh before listing a few...virtues that Yuuri had a hard time seeing in himself. What in the world could Victor possibly see in him that would be worth potentially giving up the throne that was rightfully his?
But that stubborn, idiot part of Yuuri that had been hounding him for an entire week ever since Victor gave him his first kiss wanted more. He wanted to give Victor everything he wanted and make him happy. Somehow. With his..."charms," as Lady Minako called them.
He didn't shiver as he stood at the garden's edge, watching Vicchan playing in the freshly fallen snow, leaping about and leaving enormous prints there. He stood warmed by the memory of the kiss, the softness of Victor's lips on his, sweet and tender as blossom petals that would soon litter the garden. It filled his mind so readily that it was a surprise he hadn't just opened a window to his heart for everyone else to see. Yuri seemed to sense something, which resulted in him giving Yuuri quite a time of it during their kendo practice.
And his dreams had only intensified, which made it near impossible to even look Victor in the face most days. But the nights were a torture of lust, triggered by memory of Victor shrugging off his clothes to bare his remarkably long neck and strong chest. He would wake in agony, hungry for the omega's scent.
Vicchan gave an excited bark and suddenly bounded out of the snow, running past Yuuri and making him turn to see Victor approaching.
He was smiling at Yuuri, his arms wide open to welcome Vicchan into his arms. Vicchan easily went, covering Victor's laughing face in friendly licks. Still laughing, Victor gave Yuuri a bow and said, "Your Highness."
Swallowing nervously, Yuuri struggled to meet Victor's eyes, trying not to give his whirling emotions away while aching to kiss Victor. "...I-It's good to see you," he mumbled, quickly covering it by adding, "Did you hear anything new out in the market?"
"More of the same as what you tell me from the councils," Victor replied, a sober look on his face as he bent down to put Vicchan on the ground. "But there is news of Ruthenians escaping the empire through Silla. Some are even sailing to the northern end of Niha."
That wasn't entirely unexpected, not even by Yuuri's sister and mother. If northern kingdoms would allow Ruthenians entry to Niha, then Hasetsu would need to prepare itself, for it seemed as though soon Victor and Yurio wouldn't be the only Ruthenians to find Sanctuary in Hasetsu. Still, the development appeared to affect Victor, who frowned a little as he stared at the floor. Concerned, Yuuri asked, "Are you alright?"
Victor's gaze quickly filled with surprise at the question, and he smiled once again as he shook his head. "Just thinking too much. A dangerous thing to do. I think it'd do me some good to stop thinking for a while." His smile widened and his eyes became bright as he looked at Yuuri, taking a few steps toward him and finally saying bluntly, "If you want to kiss me again, you can."
Yuuri nearly jumped right out of his skin. He knew Victor could see right through him, but now he just felt...entirely exposed, all thanks to an omega's pretty smile. He only managed to stammer until he could finally exclaim, "You're the one who kissed me!" His face felt hot with embarrassment, especially once he realized just what Victor had offered.
"Your point?" Victor replied, blinking at Yuuri and smiling coyly, all while Yuuri tried to determine if the offer was indeed genuine. If he truly had Victor's permission to step into his space and kiss him the way he wanted to, hoping that he could at least do it right and that Victor would enjoy it.
"...I don't want to make you uncomfortable," Yuuri mumbled, his heart beating extremely hard as he took one step towards Victor.
"I'll tell you if you do," Victor said, taking a step of his own and giving Yuuri a gentle, coaxing look. It was almost as if he really wanted Yuuri to touch him, and Yuuri really didn't want to misread that, doing away with the trust and...affection Victor had for him.
In a just world Yuuri would have likely felt truly unworthy if Victor stood before him as a prince, an emperor. As it was he stood before Yuuri with no title to claim, and Yuuri still felt terribly unworthy.
Yet here was a beautiful omega, the most beautiful person Yuuri had ever seen in his life, asking Yuuri to kiss him if he wanted to.
Giving in, Yuuri closed the distance between them, heart racing as he focused on Victor's soft lips, remembering how Victor had kissed him a week ago.
When their lips touched and Yuuri darted back he realized just how quickly it was over. Just a quick, close-lipped peck that didn't come close to the kiss Victor gave him.
Victor looked just as surprised, blinking at Yuuri as if he were waiting for something. He finally smiled knowingly and said, "That's nice, if you're kissing your grandmother."
Yuuri wanted to bury his head in the snow and scream. "I...it's just...I never..."
Victor kept looking at him, his soft gaze conflicting with the verbal jab, and he said with slow realization, "...I really was your first kiss."
Yuuri said nothing, biting his lip and wondering once more what Victor had expected. What everyone else expected. But then he didn't have to wonder, not at his age.
But then Victor took both his hands and brought him closer, declaring with a wide smile, "Then I'll teach you."
Yuuri stared at the omega, thrown violently by his words. "W-what?!"
By way of response, Victor placed a soft hand on Yuuri's cheek, stroking it soothingly as his sweet scent filled the air. The touch hypnotized Yuuri, and he found himself standing still as Victor came even closer, murmuring as he kept stroking Yuuri's cheek, "Wet your lips a little."
Yuuri immediately obeyed, tongue quickly darting out to rid himself of the dryness, thinking of the balm Victor sometimes wore. The omega brought his other hand up to frame Yuuri's face, smiling up at him so beautifully. "Now trust me..."
Yuuri's eyes fell closed at the request, and there was only the sweet, rosy scent, and tender touch on his face.
When Victor's lips touched his they stayed right there, a sweet pressure as Victor tilted his head and fitted them together perfectly, and Yuuri could relish the feeling of his lips for the first time.
Victor's mouth moved over his with a little sigh and Yuuri shivered, hands finding their way up to Victor's waist, settling on either side with a delicacy worthy of touching porcelain. Yet Yuuri knew of the steel under his hands, the strength that could drive Yuuri to his knees.
All Yuuri could do was try and imitate every little move Victor made, every quick little suck and press, that wonderful flick of his tongue against the seam of Yuuri's lips, making him part them in a gasp that let Victor lick into his mouth with a sigh.
Yuuri's back hit the railing, Victor's body pressing against his as Yuuri let the omega lead the kiss, pleasure firing through his head as Victor's tongue roamed his mouth, ocassionally brushing across his own. One of Victor's hands found its way to Yuuri's hair, fingers dragging through it repeatedly, soothingly.
He was left with his mouth wide open when Victor slowly drew away, breaths coming hard as he opened his eyes to find Victor's face just a whisper away from his, flushed with what Yuuri hoped was pleasure. "...Was that good?" he asked softly, fingertips stroking Yuuri's cheek.
Swallowing and trying to breathe normally again, Yuuri replied, "...It...it was..." He opened his eyes and realized his hands were still on Victor's waist. "Um...Is this alright? Was that...fine, I mean? I-I know I'm not good at this, I mean...Am I making you uncomfortable?"
Victor laughed, airy and bright, the sound somehow reassuring, and he smiled as he rested his head on Yuuri's chest, his rosy scent filling the air, sweet and warm and content. "No, you're not. You couldn't. Not anymore."
Yuuri sighed in relief, daring to inch his hands further back to settle on the small of Victor's back, the ends of that fine silver hair tickling his knuckles. He closed his eyes and buried his nose in Victor's hair, his heart still beating so fast as he remembered how he wanted to do this, court Victor properly. The way he deserved. "...Do you like poems?" Stupid question. Of course Victor did, he only spent every other day reading Ruthenian ones to Yurio.
Victor beamed up at him anyway, asking, "Have you written me any?"
Blushing, Yuuri answered, "I'm not all that good at writing poems, but...I can read you my favorite Nihan ones."
Victor's smile widened, and he drew away to bend at the waist and take Vicchan in his arms. "And I'll read you Ruthenian ones," he said, taking Yuuri's hand and drawing him inside, out of the snow.
Chapter 13: I couldn't whisper when you needed it shouted
Every single one of your comments and kudos is so appreciated you guys, I love each and every one that you leave <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
This had to be a dream. Because Yuuri couldn't remember for the life of him just what led to this.
But if it was a dream Yuuri hoped nothing would ever wake him up.
He watched Victor move above him, the omega smiling adoringly as he straddled Yuuri. His loose shirt hung off one shoulder, leaving the other beautifully bare, much like it was on that first night. The scent of roses filled the room.
Victor was smiling at him, eyes bright with adoration as he rocked his hips in slow, swaying motions that had Yuuri gasping and grabbing his hips. Victor's f ingers, slim and graceful, trailed over Yuuri's lips, and he wanted so badly to suck them into his mouth, to kiss the spaces between them and rub his scent all over them.
But Victor kept moving them, trailing them down Yuuri's throat. He unexpectedly rocked his hips down, and Yuuri's voice caught in his throat at the sudden heat and pleasure-
Yuuri awoke in the dark with a sharp inhale, his hands hovering in the air above his lap, holding nothing. Certainly not a beautiful omega with silver hair.
So it had been a dream.
Unfortunately the insistent hardness of his cock wasn't.
Dragging his hands over his face, Yuuri took several deep breaths to calm himself down. Victor wasn't in the room with him. He wasn't on top of him and he certainly wasn't...moving like that on top of him.
Yet it had felt so real. Devastatingly real.
Just what was wrong with him? He cursed his thoughts, his imagination, his traitorous subconscious that summoned these torturous dreams that left him an untouched knot that he had to contend with until he brought himself off to whatever memories he could gather of those fleeting dreams.
And tonight would be no different, not with his knot pulsing as painfully as if would have if he was in rut.
Sighing with shame, Yuuri brought his hand under the blanket.
Victor washed his face for the second time, his heart still racing uncontrollably.
The nightmare had been so real. Everything had felt so real, so physically real that Victor even felt as nauseous as he had...back then. The memory of hands yanking painfully at his hair was so horribly vivid that he was breathing rapidly and shallowly through his nose, like he was about to be sick.
He couldn't even bear to lie in the same bed as Yuri. Not now.
And heartbreaking as it was, Victor had many long torturous minutes where he thought he wouldn't be able to even stand Yuuri's presence. Or any alpha's.
That feeling was only just beginning to go away, leaving behind a yawning emptiness that made Victor ache all the way inside. He wanted to sleep and forget, he wanted a bath to wash this sensation off, burn it away in the hot water. He wanted his father, his mother-
They're dead, he remembered, the ache growing worse.
His anger was stronger than his grief for a moment. He knew by now that one could hate someone as much as they worshiped them, and Victor certainly felt that way about his parents. One had left them and gotten himself killed and his mother had killed herself right in front of Victor, leaving him and Yuri alone.
Couldn't she have kept them safe?
Shame stabbed through him and Victor hid his face in his hands. He felt too drained to cry, and didn't want to go back to bed. He wanted Yuuri and that still scared some small animal part of him that had learned through terror and pain.
Sighing and getting his breathing under control again, Victor felt completely exhausted, and thought that he'd perhaps be able to lie down and go back into a dreamless sleep.
The room was only illuminated by a small oil lamp when he wandered back out to the sleeping area, and Victor could hear Yuri's soft breaths. They sounded steady, so maybe Yuri hadn't woken up.
He got back into bed and laid down on his side, taking a deep breath and closing his eyes.
"Did that alpha touch you?"
Victor didn't flinch at the sound of Yuri's low, angry voice. He merely sighed in defeat and reached over to lay a soothing hand on Yuri's arm, not wanting him to reach the wrong conclusion. "I'm alright, Yura. He hasn't done a thing to hurt me." Of course Yuuri had touched him, but only in the most chaste and timid way possible. In the handful of days since their last kiss, Victor had been the one to tentatively initiate their kisses, and Yuuri still blushed so sweetly, never moving his hands away from Victor's waist or arms.
He felt Yuri sit up, voice louder with anger as he growled, "You said he wasn't interested in us! If that fucker-"
"Shh, Yura. I said he wouldn't hurt us. He wouldn't hurt me." Victor sat up, realizing he wouldn't be getting much sleep tonight. "...He likes me. And I like him," he admitted to his brother.
Yuri sounded so incredulous, almost like he didn't want Victor's words to be true. Avoiding Yuri's gaze in the darkness his eyes were slowly getting used to, Victor added, "He's sweet and...and gentle."
"He's an alpha. And a prince."
"But he'd never hurt me. He's different from..."
"...All those other alphas."
The ones in Victor's nightmares. Tangling his hair around their hands like they wanted to possess him completely. Victor shook those thoughts away and thought of Yuuri, of the warmth in Yuuri's eyes whenever he looked at him. "He said...That he would take me as his mate," Victor admitted softly, his heart beating fast for an entirely different reason. If Yuri couldn't believe that there were feelings between him and Yuuri, he definitely wouldn't believe that.
"And you believed him!?" Yuri exclaimed, sounding almost furious at Victor for accepting Yuuri's words.
"He's not the kind of man to lie about that," Victor said firmly, saying it half to himself, because there were definitely moments when he couldn't quite believe it either. His blood may have been as royal as Yuuri's, but not to the rest of the world. He was just...someone who should never have been born.
"Right, because he's definitely not thinking with his knot," Yuri snarled, a hiss building in his throat. "Has he fucked you yet?"
"No! And don't be vulgar!" Victor scolded. "It isn't like that. He wouldn't force me to do anything."
"Well, as long as you've got him wrapped around your finger-"
"Look, you ass! I just don't want anyone else to hurt you! I'll kill him if he does! I'm old enough now!"
"Yuri, I'm fine. You don't have to worry about me-"
Yuri interrupted with a hurt voice, "I know what they made you do. I know what you did to keep them from noticing me. I know you're scared of the dark and I know why you...Why you keep having nightmares."
His brother wasn't a baby anymore. He'd been old enough to remember those memories, and none of the good memories of their childhood, and that was the most painful part of it. Even so, Victor thought him lucky, and he felt selfish for it. "Yuri..."
"I'll kill him. If he hurts you I'll kill him. I don't care if he's a prince," Yuri snarled, sounding close to tears. "And what, you really think a prince is going to want to have a kid with someone who came from a brothel!? Fuck, do you even want any alpha putting a baby in you?!"
It was a question Victor kept asking himself, and he would eventually reach the same conclusion in a roundabout way. He used to imagine himself having a baby with a loving alpha, and then it was made clear that he'd never be allowed to, so those fantasies went the same way as his and Yuri's innocence.
But he was free now. Free and terrified and excited, all at once, and for the first time he imagine what it would be like to have a baby with Yuuri. A baby that would undoubtedly take after the dark-haired prince. His first instinct was to hope that any baby of his would be an alpha, but he remembered that that didn't matter here. Not in Hasetsu or in all of Niha. His baby could be an omega and still be heir to the throne.
Tucking those thoughts away, far away as he could to concentrate on Yuri, Victor turned to face his brother and said, "You think I haven't asked myself all these questions a hundred times? I'm terrified! Sometimes I worry if when I kiss Yuuri...I won't...see him, I won't feel him. I'll feel...something worse."
There was a pregnant pause between them before Yuri asked quietly, "Then why take that chance?"
"...Because for the first time in years, in my life, I can choose. And I choose...Yuuri." He gave a breathless laugh before adding, "I think I'm falling in love with him, and I want that love so badly. It's my feelings, my choice, and no one can tell me to stop. And if I go back to that place, those memories that scare me...I know Yuuri is here. He's real, and so is everything I've felt when I'm with him."
It felt like he had just poured most of his heart out, and he felt so thoroughly drained by it. And he could feel Yuri staring at him hard in the semi-darkness. "So that's it? It's you and him now?"
"God willing," Victor breathed.
"Because what I think obviously doesn't matter."
He sounded so sullen but Victor had no energy to scold him for it. All he did was reply reassuringly as he reached up to stroke his brother's face, "You're my brother. My only family. Of course it matters."
"You don't fucking act like it," Yuri growled, pulling away.
"I'm sorry if I brush your worries away, it's just...Look, I'm the older one. You don't have to worry about me."
Yuri was quiet for a moment, and Victor could feel all his fear, his apprehension. "...You don't need to worry about me anymore either. Go have a bunch of babies with that prince. That's obviously all you care about."
"That's not true. Not ever." Victor drew him back towards him in a tight hug, burying his face in his hair. If he lost Yuri, he would have nothing left. Absolutely nothing. "If I ever make you feel abandoned, feel free to kick me up the arse," he joked weakly, stroking Yuri's back.
"Whatever," Yuri muttered, face pressed against Victor's shoulder.
"I mean it. No matter what, you're still my priority. I don't know what I'd do if I lost you."
Yuri stayed put, his weight a welcome pressure against Victor.
"You look tired."
Yuuri could have bitten his tongue once the words were out of his mouth. It wasn't precisely the most flattering thing one could say to the omega one courted. Minako would have told him to compliment Victor on his sweet scent or the bright color of his eyes. But the words tumbled out of his mouth before he could stop them, fueled by concern because Victor truly did look tired.
It was noon, and they sat on the edge of the quiet garden, eyes on the snowy landscape that would soon be replaced by bursts of color. Yuuri had found Victor there, gazing out towards it like it was a beautiful painting. When he'd noticed Yuuri he eagerly patted the spot on the mat beside him, and Vicchan nestled in the space between them quite readily.
He'd greeted Yuuri with a soft kiss on the lips, and Yuuri ached for more, but wouldn't push. Not beyond that until Victor wanted it.
Yuuri just wondered if he'd be ready for it. Lustful dreams wouldn't prepare him.
Victor glanced at him briefly, smiling reassuringly and saying with a quick shrug, "I didn't sleep very well last night."
"Oh." Yuuri wondered why that was. He and Victor had spent the day before walking around Hasetsu in search of the old ninja castle Yuuri's mother wanted restored sometime soon. Victor had been curious and excited, badgering Yuuri to tell him everything he could about it, and his excitement was so infectious Yuuri gave in to every request. So Victor should have been exhausted. Then again the same could be said about Yuuri, and he'd lain awake half the night with shame after pleasuring himself to the thought of Victor.
Victor bit his lip and quietly added, "Yuri and I had a bit of an argument about you."
"M-me!?" Yuuri asked, surprised.
Victor sighed dramatically, swooning playfully against Yuuri and saying, "He thinks you'll take advantage of me, poor, defenseless omega that I am."
"You...You're not defenseless. A-and I wouldn't...!"
Victor sat up again and nodded as he put in, "I know you wouldn't. But Yura, he's..."
Yuuri's face felt like it was on fire, but he sobered at the mention of Victor's younger brother. Yuri still distrusted him, and that distrust would probably intensify now that he knew that Yuuri and Victor were...well, Yuuri wasn't quite sure himself. Not yet, as things stood. And Yuuri couldn't blame him for it at all. "...I know. You've both been through a lot. I don't blame him for thinking any of that..." It angered him to think of anyone doing that to Victor, and he was ashamed that a small of that anger was fueled by a sudden burst of possessiveness. Victor wasn't his. In a just world Victor would probably beyond his reach, ruling a vast empire and having children with a worthier alpha. Not some spare heir who would only sire actual heirs who would take his place in line.
Victor's voice was soft and thoughtful when he suddenly asked, "I know you'll sire heirs to the throne, but...Do you want children?"
"Eh?!" Yuuri exclaimed, pale and thoroughly shocked. Had Victor read his thoughts?
It wasn't a new question. Well...from another person it was, but Yuuri had asked himself that about a million times in his life. Any child of his would be Mari's heir, but...he'd be their father, and the thought of being anyone's parent frightened him as much as finding a mate and spouse did. Biting his lip and thinking as quickly as he could, Yuuri peered down at Vicchan, who was looking up at him, and replied hesitantly, "Honestly...I...I do, it's just...I'm terrified I'd be an awful parent. I'd make a million mistakes and...Well, I'd need a mate first..." He definitely wanted to hit himself for that last bit.
But he also realized that he was...courting Victor. For some reason Victor was interested in him, and if he wanted Victor as his mate...children would undoubtedly be a sensitive subject. "What about you?" Yuuri asked, trying not to sound terrified.
Victor's eyes went wide and Yuuri wondered if that was too far. But he looked like he was really thinking about it too, and a soft smile appeared on his face after a moment. Then he began in a contemplative tone, "When I was a little boy I used to dream of finding the perfect alpha to be my mate. Strong, handsome, and gentle." He turned to look at Yuuri, like he had found just that in him, and went on, "We grew up lonely, so I wanted to have at least four babies." He laughed brightly, shaking his head a little like he was amused by his own childish innocence. His smile faded a little, and he was quiet for a moment before adding, "I was meant to die a prostitute or as some alpha's forgotten concubine, which meant that either way I wouldn't be allowed to have children, so I gave up on all those fantasies." He looked at Yuuri again, an unexpected hardness in his eyes, and said, "My blood is royal, but no one here knows that. They only know that I come from a whorehouse. Would people accept that you want to sire an heir on me? Would your mother accept that?"
It was a blunt, honest question, and Yuuri knew Victor had a right to ask it of him, especially if Yuuri had made his intentions clear. Victor didn't deserve any sort of disdain, even if his blood weren't royal, and Yuuri needed to make that clear to him. "We value our political alliances, but we value strength and character. Even if you weren't a prince, anyone could see that you're...extraordinary." He blushed as he said it, but so did Victor, remarkably, and Yuuri had the urge to kiss the bridge of his nose. He held back and instead asked, "Did I ever tell you that my father's family were descended from merchants?"
"Well, they were. My father was...an unknown in Niha. A minor noble and a beta, and my mother was the future queen. But their union was still celebrated."
"A merchant is a far cry from an omegan whore," Victor replied wryly.
Yuuri bit his lip and admitted with a sigh, "My point is that...I'd be...lucky to have children with you. Even if it's just one."
"Only one?" Victor asked with a grin, still blushing. "From what I hear, childbirth is safer for male omegas here"
Yuuri knew quite well that male omegas still risked losing their lives in childbirth, and while that had been true in Niha a few centuries ago, things were definitely safer now. Still, the possibility of...losing Victor, harming him in any way, frightened Yuuri. But the thought of Victor holding a child of theirs, one that would one day rule Hasetsu, made Yuuri's heart beat faster. "And, well...you're a good parent to Yurio."
Victor's smile faded completely at the mention of his brother. "...A good parent wouldn't lie. Keep their whole life a secret."
"You still won't tell him?" Yuuri asked.
"I can't," Victor replied with a shake of his head, looking torn. "I know I have to, but...He'd hate me for keeping it all from him. I keep hearing about my grandfather, everything he's doing in Rutha, and I just want to tell Yuri that we still have someone out there." His voice was so full of yearning that Yuuri wished it were entirely possible for Victor and Yuri to be able to safely see their surviving grandfather again. Victor went on despondently, "But what would the point be if something happens to my grandfather? And it's not like we could ever go back. Not with Antonov in power."
Yuuri knew that too. Victor had made it clear that he never wanted to set foot in Rutha again and Yuuri couldn't blame him for feeling that way. Still, he said as gently as he could, "Eventually...the secret you kept wouldn't matter. It's that you kept it for so long."
"I just don't know, Yuuri." Vicchan wandered up onto Victor's lap, and the omega had taken him into his arms stroking his fur like it calmed him. "What would I do if I tell him the truth and he decides he wants to reclaim the throne? If he goes back to Rutha, they'll kill him, or..." He shut his eyes and hid his face in Vicchan's fur." I'd give my life to keep him safe," he mumbled.
Yuuri shivered at that possibility, his instincts screaming at him to do everything in his power to prevent it. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to put pressure on you."
"I wish I could, you know," Victor said, leaning against Yuuri and sounding tired. "I hate shouldering all of this on my own, but...he's just so young..."
Yuuri was lucky enough that he couldn't imagine ever being in Victor's position. It was such an impossible situation, and he could understand why Victor was so afraid to just...come out and say it all to Yuri. The young omega would undoubtedly be angry at Victor, and the last thing Yuuri wanted was for there to be any kind of distance between the brothers. "You don't have to shoulder it alone. I'm right here," Yuuri murmured, timidly putting his arm around Victor's body.
Victor pressed closer to him, and Yuuri inhaled sharply at the sensation. Victor was closer than ever and he smelled so wonderful.
"You smell amazing," Victor said quietly, and Yuuri gave a little jolt at the words. When he peered down at Victor the omega's eyes were still closed, and he wore a soft smile of contentment, as if his world was entirely perfect in that moment.
Yuuri found that his hand was hovering near Victor's face, fingers trembling slightly right before the tips touched Victor's cheekbone. Yuuri watched for a flinch, but Victor remained still, inhaling deeply as Yuuri stroked his cheek with a feather-light touch. His skin was so soft and warm with the rapidly spreading blush that made Yuuri's heart race. He stayed quiet for fear of disturbing the moment, gently laying his palm on Victor's cheek.
Victor shivered quietly and leaned into the touch, and Yuuri held his breath, only daring to trace circles on Victor's chin, right under his rosy lower lip. Yuuri held him closer without meaning to, and Victor let out a soft noise, like a...
Oh, he was purring.
Yuuri almost died right then and there. He'd fantasized about such a noise coming from an omega, and now Victor was making it. As though this were the most satisfying thing Yuuri could have done. Breathing shakily, Yuuri stilled his hand, his entire body feeling unbearably warm.
Victor froze too, eyes slowly opening and the blush on his face deepening. But he stayed right where he was, relaxing again after a moment and murmuring, "...No one's ever touched me or held me like that before..."
He pressed his face to Yuuri's neck and Yuuri inhaled shakily, but didn't let Victor go.
He could smell Victor's scent intensely, and realized the omega was scenting him. Victor hummed happily and kissed Yuuri's scent gland.
Yuuri's dreams were not going away any time soon.
It had been the most sensual experience of Victor's life and he hadn't even so much as kissed Yuuri when they held each other.
And Yuuri, still so sweet and shy, was blushing so vividly and all they were doing was holding hands as they walked towards the library, Vicchan wandering off to find something to eat in the kitchens.
Victor felt so incredibly safe. Safer than he had felt ten years. It might have been the days of his golden childhood for all he knew, but he was with Yuuri, an alpha who wanted to share the pain of Victor's memories.
While Victor would never wish it on Yuuri, it felt so wonderfully good to know Yuuri wanted to help him through it all, even if he thought Yurio needed to know the truth.
But Victor just couldn't tell him. He couldn't risk breaking his brother's heart like that and risk losing him forever. All he wanted was to delight in the marvel of being able to purr for his alpha and scent him without compunction.
He glanced at Yuuri with a smile, which widened when Yuuri's blush intensified so prettily. He laughed softly and tugged Yuuri into the library.
Without thinking Victor led them to their usual table, and when he turned around he saw Yuri, and his smile disappeared.
Yuri was staring right at the portrait of their mother, a look of intense concentration on his face.
Chapter 14: but I keep my hands 'til you come into the water
Holy shit, thank you all so much for your comments and all the support you've given this thing, I am so grateful to you all for the comments, especially the ones pointing out favorite lines and scenes, and all the kudos and bookmarks!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
The change was instantaneous. The air went from smelling honey-sweet to sour with all the anxiety flooding from Victor, and Yuuri understood why. Yuri was staring so intently at the portrait of Lady Nadezhda - his and Victor's mother - with what could only be recognition. But there was also undisguised longing in his eyes, the same that Yuuri could see most often in Victor's whenever he spoke of his past.
The younger omega rapidly turned towards them, face going pale when he realized he was being watched. But the look of surprise was quickly replaced by defensiveness, and he clutched the portrait as though Victor were about to snatch it away.
Yuuri guessed that that was precisely what Victor wanted to do, but he instead swallowed nervously, and took a careful step towards his brother with a false smile on his face. "Yuri...what do you have there?"
"I found her," Yuri replied, his voice sounding so terribly young in that moment as he turned to gaze at the woman in the portrait again. "I was...I wanted to show Yuuko those poems you made me learn, and I found...Mama..."
Yuuri heard Victor's sharp inhale as he slowly approached Yuri. "Yuri...Yuri, that's a...a noble lady. You remember where we grew up-"
"Don't lie to me!" Yuri snarled, glaring at Victor in a way that made Yuuri flinch. Victor froze where he stood, dread paling his face as Yuri added, "I remember her! I remember...our home. Papa's garden..." His eyes widened as he appeared to realize something, and he said accusingly, "You look just like him..."
Such fury filled Yuri's eyes, and he kept glaring at Victor as he set the portrait on the table with a loud thud and shoved Victor aside to walk past him. Victor quickly caught him by the arm, exclaiming with a desperate look, "Yura, don't run off!"
"You've been lying to me. The whole time!" Yuri growled, trying to wrench his arm out of Victor's strong grip.
Yuuri had no idea how to even begin to cope with this. He knew he should go and leave them to resolve this themselves, that this was Victor's secret to divulge, but Victor looked so helpless that Yuuri couldn't bear to leave him on his own, and Yuri looked so hurt in his anger. "Victor...Victor, I should...You should talk to-"
Both omegas looked right at him, and Yuri's looked betrayed as he looked back at Victor and demanded, "Does he know?!"
Victor said nothing, pain flooding his eyes as he looked at his brother.
Yuri's face showed such hate that Yuuri's heart ached, and he finally succeeded in wrenching his arm away from Victor before hissing, "You lying bastard..."
He then shouldered past Yuuri and out of the library, and Victor exhaled raggedly before going after him with Yuuri in his wake.
It was a torturous walk to their shared chambers, one where several guards and servants looked at the pair of upset omegas with concern and confusion, and it was all Yuuri could do to ignore the mortification and focus on helping Victor get through this.
When they finally reached the chamber and Yuuri shut the door behind them, Yuri had his back to them, radiating fury as Victor went to him and begged, "Yuri, please. Please, I...I just wanted..."
"What? To protect me?!" Yuri shouted, pointing an accusing finger at Victor, looking fiercer than any alpha Yuuri had ever known. "Tell me the truth. The whole truth, damn it! I'm not a fucking baby anymore! You owe me the truth!"
Victor looked like he wanted to deny Yuri that. Yuuri stood there and realized that it wouldn't do much good at this point, not now that Yuri's memories appeared to have been triggered by that look at the portrait, despite how much time had passed since their lady mother killed herself. Swallowing, Yuuri quietly said as his face burned, "Victor...maybe you should tell him."
The betrayed look Victor gave him hurt like nothing else ever had, and Yuuri could have bitten his tongue. But then Victor looked resigned, though still in such pain as he appeared to relive everything he'd shared with Yuuri, the weight of all those awful memories, every horrifying trauma on his shoulders. He took a deep breath and stared at the floor, hands curled into loose fists as he murmured, "...she's our mother. She was our mother. Lady Nadezhda...was our mother."
Yuuri looked at the young omega. Yuri looked surprised, like he really hadn't expected Victor to tell him anything. Then he looked so thoughtful, as though more pieces were falling into place in his mind as Victor confirmed everything his own memory had hidden from him. "...and our grandfather was the emperor. But...everyone...they're all dead..." He raised his incredulous gaze to Victor, and added, "...You're the fucking emperor."
"I'm no such thing," Victor protested weakly.
Yuri stared at his brother as though he were an entirely different person. Honestly, Yuuri could understand a little about how he felt. Victor had seemed so extraordinary when no one had known who he really was, and now, being, royalty, an emperor, he may as well have been the sun to Yuuri. But Yuri still looked so deeply betrayed. "Why?" he demanded, anger and hurt in his voice. "Why didn't you tell me?!"
Victor shook his head and held his hands out towards Yuri, as though begging him for something, for understanding, to share the burden that had been all Victor's for so long. "You were so young you...you forgot and it was all so terrible...I thought it was better for you to-"
"You thought?!" Yuri shouted, making Victor flinch again, and Yuuri had to fight the urge to rush over to his side and offer some kind of comfort. The air was leaden with bitter scent, and Yuri shook his head with disgust before spitting out, "Fuck you...just...leave me the hell alone! I'm staying with Yuuko!"
He tore out of the room just as Victor exclaimed, "Yuri, don't-"
But he stayed right where he was, devastated and lost as he watched his brother leave.
Yuuri felt just as devastated, watching Victor stand there, looking so incredibly lonely. He knew Yurio wouldn't react well. He was so young, so proud, but Yuuri had never expected such cold anger from him.
Victor was trembling where he stood, and said with quiet agony, "He hates me...He's never going to forgive me..."
"I'm so sorry," Yuuri blurted out. "I shouldn't have stuck my nose in..." He felt so guilty for urging Victor to reveal everything to Yuri, for nagging him, for witnessing the break between the brothers.
His first instinct was to run, run from Victor's pain and his own guilt, coward that he was.
When he began to take that step back towards the door, Victor suddenly spun around, eyes bright with tears as he reached for Yuuri, wrapping a hand around his wrist. "Don't go. Don't go, it was my fault...I should've told him, and now...I don't have anyone else," he begged with such sorrow, tears flowing from his eyes as he looked at Yuuri beseechingly.
Yuuri's mind raced to come up with a way to comfort the distressed omega, and he had never felt so pathetic. Some alpha he was. "I'm so sorry, Victor," he apologized weakly, wishing he were brave enough to just...pull Victor into his arms and give him what he needed.
But Victor was the braver of them, tugging Yuuri towards him and burying his face in his neck as he wrapped his arms securely around his waist, quietly sobbing, "Don't go. Don't leave me, you're all I have left..."
Victor was shaking so violently that it shocked Yuuri, whose hands hovered uselessly in the air before he finally placed them on Victor's back, still not sure what he could possibly say. How could he possibly understand Victor's pain? His loss? Every awful thing he'd been through for the sake of protecting a brother who now hated him? In his arms, Victor felt as fragile as glass. No, he was shattered, leaving Yuuri with the pieces scattered about, his mind, heart, and instincts crying out to him to do something, to protect and comfort.
The shaking slowly subsided, and Victor's hands gripped Yuuri's clothes like it was everything that held him upright. His distressed scent just pushed Yuuri further and further towards the edge of his control and he found himself wrapping his arms around the omega, burying his nose in his silver hair and breathing in his sweet scent, so close to the beautiful column of his neck.
His heart kept on racing, and Yuuri was too overwhelmed by the intimate contact to realize that he was scenting the omega. What he did notice was that Victor was scenting him again, wrapping him up in that sweetly floral scent that had clouded his fevered dreams, and here it was, in his arms and all around him, and he wasn't asleep.
No, he was definitely awake. Awake and frozen as he held on to Victor.
Then the omega slowly raised his gaze again, tearfully gazing at Yuuri before closing his eyes and kissing him, a hand burying itself in Yuuri's hair.
The kiss wasn't gentle, but desperate and hard, Victor whimpering softly against Yuuri's mouth. His lips tasted like bitter tears, but the sweep of Victor's tongue across Yuuri's lips shocked the alpha into gasping, and Victor moaned softly when he licked into Yuuri's mouth.
The sensation made Yuuri shake with pleasure, and Victor's fingers were practically clawing at his back, crushing them closer and melding their mouths together perfectly, deepening the kiss. Yuuri's hands took a life of their own, stroking Victor's hair, his back, his scent surrounding them so completely until it was mingling with Yuuri's, creating a wonderful combination that had Yuuri's head spinning.
Victor dragged his lips across Yuuri's jaw, sounding breathless as he murmured, "Please...Yuuri, please..." He then tugged Yuuri back towards the bed, a desperate look in his eyes. "Please, I don't want to think. I just...I want to forget..."
Yuuri's heart skipped a beat, and not in the good way. "Victor, no," he said, his head going clear as he realized they would be going too far if he let Victor have his way. His face hot, he shook his head firmly. "We can't. I won't. Not like this...I can't do this to you."
Victor looked too shocked to keep sobbing, though his tears still fell down his cheeks, agony filling his gaze. That was what kept Yuuri in place, and he barely even thought about pulling away when Victor fell to his knees with a sob. "...Don't leave me like this. Please don't leave me alone tonight, I'm begging you..."
Yuuri barely held back his own tears, his throat growing tight as he looked at Victor. Unable to bear it anymore, Yuuri gently drew him upright again, holding him up by his arms as he trembled. "Alright, I'll stay. But...I'm not going to-"
"I know. Honestly, I...I don't think I could bear it after all...I'm so sorry," Victor apologized, looking so breakable even as he asked Yuuri to stay. His gaze fell on Yuuri, nervous and beseeching. "But please share my bed with me. Share my nest."
Yuuri gasped softly, his entire body feeling warm as he realized just what Victor had asked of him. To share...his nest. Swallowing, Yuuri shakily replied, "...A-alright..." He scented the omega intentionally, his heart beating anxiously as he did it. "But you don't ever have to apologize to anyone for....for any of this."
Victor squeezed Yuuri's hands, still smelling so distressed even as Yuuri blanketed him in his scent. "Yurio..."
"I'll have someone send a message to Takeshi to make sure he's alright," Yuuri told him, amazed that Yuri's anger was strong enough to allow him to get even closer to the bigger alpha.
But then he wondered just what he would say to Takeshi.
How was he to explain what happened without revealing Victor's secret?
And...oh gods above he was about to share an omega's nest for the first time. Nothing would happen between them, that much was clear. But still...Yuuri was going to share a nest with Victor. That thought alone had his breath and heartbeat speeding up again, but not necessarily with lust.
He just...he wanted to stay, he wanted to make sure Victor would be alright, to not let him feel as alone as he did. He'd lost so much already, and he couldn't lose his brother too. Maybe there was still hope for the two of them, but neither of them appeared to be in any state to speak seriously to each other tonight. And Victor needed him. Maybe not to resort to the physical to forget everything that had gone wrong in his life, but Yuuri could at least start acting like a prospective mate and scent him in his nest and give him some semblance of comfort.
But he was still so surprised that this was actually happening. That Victor truly wanted him, and believed he could take care of him.
Victor pressed his face to Yuuri's neck again and cried silently. Yuuri just held him, hoping his best would suffice.
Victor woke surrounded by heat.
It had been a dreamless sleep, though Victor had been restless for what felt like a long while before he finally fell asleep in the nest he'd hurriedly put together while Yuuri spoke to Takeshi last night, confirming that Yuri was indeed with him and Yuuko. He'd said nothing to them about why he was so angry with Victor, but refused to leave the sweet omega woman's side.
When they finally went to bed, Victor thought nothing of the fact that he was sharing a bed with an alpha, and neither of them had taken their clothes off.
And yet here he was, in a nest that smelled like Yuuri, and it smelled so right. Best of all Victor knew the alpha had scented him as he held him, his chest to Victor's back all night. He'd cried and shaken, terrified that he'd driven away his only family, his one reason for living for such a long time. Yuuri kept scenting him, smelling anxious and sweet all at once, and it had soothed Victor to sleep in a way no alpha ever had.
He blinked awake, breathing steadily as he slowly realized just where he was and who was wrapped around him. Yuuri's warm breaths wafted over his nape, and while he wasn't holding him tightly anymore, his arms were still secure around Victor.
His heart began to beat so hard, but...he wasn't afraid. Not of Yuuri. Never of him. And yet he'd behaved so stupidly the night before, ready to beg Yuuri to fuck him just to forget every single one of his troubles.
He turned around carefully in Yuuri's grip to face him, and Heaven's blessing, he was beautiful to look at. Yuuri slept so deeply, his lovely face so peaceful. His brow was smooth and his mouth was slightly open. Victor couldn't resist reaching up to touch his soft cheek, stroking it gently as the urge to weep with gratitude filled his heart.
Those sweet brown eyes slowly blinked open, and Victor smiled as Yuuri came awake. "Good morning,"
Yuuri kept blinking at him, eyes gaining clarity and widening comically as though he were surprised that Victor was even here. "...This isn't a dream," he mumbled.
"No, it isn't, lyubov moy," Victor replied quietly, rubbing his nose against Yuuri's, wanting to shower the alpha in affection.
Yuuri exhaled shakily, visibly relaxing as Victor cupped his cheek. "How are you?"
"I'm alright. I just...I need to talk to Yura, but I'm..." A new fear seized his heart, and he buried his face against Yuuri's throat to soothe himself. "...I don't want him to hate me."
Yuuri held him closer, his heart racing against Victor's chest. "He's just hurt and...probably confused. I know I would be."
Victor just shook his head, feeling helpless. "I don't know what else he remembers...If it's just the bad, or the good too."
"You'd help him remember, wouldn't you?"
Victor peered up at Yuuri. "Of course I would. If he ever talks to me again."
Yuuri's eyes filled with sympathy, and he kept scenting Victor as he stroked his hair. "I'm so sorry, Victor."
Everything had gone so wrong. It wasn't the way things were meant to happen. Then again, Victor couldn't put much stock in hoping things would go exactly as planned. "I want to tell him. Everything good. To share all the wonderful memories." The way they would playfully wrestle as children, their father reminding Victor to mind how small Yuri was. Their parents' scents, sweet and calming.
"So you want to go find him?" Yuuri asked quietly, his cheeks beautifully dusted with pink.
"I suppose I'll have to, sooner or later..." Victor wasn't looking forward to that conversation, or hearing any of Yuri's other accusations. But Victor couldn't just let them break apart so easily. Sighing, he kissed Yuuri's chin and said, "Thank you for staying. I'm sorry for...for last night..."
"I told you, you don't need to apologize for any of this. Not for anything that was done to you," Yuuri replied gently.
Everything. Things that should have disgusted a noble prince. All his secrets. "You're so wonderful," Victor breathed, purring against Yuuri's throat.
The alpha gasped softly before wrapping his arms around Victor again. He felt so warm and right that Victor wrapped a leg around one of Yuuri's, wanting to be even closer and take all the comfort Yuuri wanted to give.
Victor almost didn't hear the door slide open with a thud, but he did hear Yuri's rough voice when he called, "Hey, wake up. I-"
Victor peered over his shoulder just as Yuri fell silent, and saw his brother standing at the door, frozen with a look of shock on his face. Yuuri quickly sat up beside him, his scent becoming nervous.
Victor and Yuri just stared at each other, his little brother taking in the sight of him in bed with Yuuri, in a haphazard nest in a chamber that smelled like both omega and alpha. Behind Yuri stood Yuuko, who quickly gasped and blushed when she peered into the room over Yuri's shoulder.
Everyone appeared to be speechless, frozen for several seconds until Yuri's face contorted into an expression of utter fury, beyond anything he'd shown the night before. He suddenly ran into the room and growled, "You son of a bitch! Get off of him!"
Then he pounced on Yuuri and started punching and scratching him.
Yuuko shrieked in horror and Victor's jaw dropped as he watched his brother attacked Yuuri, who had raised his arms defensively and tried to cover his face and hold Yuri away from him, exclaiming, "Yuri, wait-OW!"
Yuri had scratched at Yuuri's face, two thin gashes appearing underneath his eye, and Victor saw red.
It was like looking at himself through glass, snarling and shoving the younger omega away from Yuuri, hard, and onto the edge of the bed, his hands gripping Yuri's shoulders tightly. Yuri stared up in incredulous rage, but it quickly disappeared when Victor hissed at him viciously, a possessive surge flooding his mind. Mine he's MINE DON'T TOUCH HIM.
His scent filled the room, strong and territorial, and all Victor could hear were Yuri's shocked breaths.
Sudden fear spiked Yuri's scent, and Victor realized just what he was doing. He didn't breathe, staring at his brother beneath him, at his own hands holding him down in a bruising grip. Sucking in a horrified breath, Victor rapidly lifted himself off of Yuri, who stared at him a moment longer before snarling again and shoving Victor further away. "Get the fuck off me."
He leaped off the bed and sped past Yuuko, who looked so pale and shocked. Victor quickly got up, his heart filling with agony yet again as he struggled to form an apology as he began to run after him.
But Yuuko, who caught her breath after a moment, quickly touched his arm, shakily reassuring him, "I'll talk to him."
Victor looked at her beseechingly before nodding and allowing her to go, watching her leave the room and close the door behind her.
He stared at it for several moments, trying to remember how to breathe as he recalled everything he'd done. The betrayed look in his brother's eyes. "What is wrong with me?" he asked quietly before wearily rubbing a hand over his face, shame burning through him. He wanted to fix things, not make them worse! And yet here he was, acting like a territorial alpha, of all things.
"...what just happened?" he heard Yuuri ask.
Yuuri! Victor spun around and spotted the alpha still sitting on the bed, a thunderstruck look on his face. Victor spotted the two red lines beneath his right eye, and exclaimed, "Oh, darling, you're hurt!" He rushed back to his side, taking his face in his hands and examining the scratches closely. The wounds were shallow, at least.
"Um...is that why you hissed at him?" Yuuri asked, still looking so flabbergasted.
"I won't let anyone hurt you," Victor said firmly, frowning as he retrieved a bottle of ointment and gathered some in his fingertips, carefully applying it to the cuts and wincing apologetically when Yuuri flinched. He kept scenting the alpha in an attempt to calm them both down, adding forlornly, "But I think I made things worse. And all he wanted to do was talk to me."
Yuuri bit his lip as Victor continued to fuss over him. "...What happened last night was my fault. I shouldn't have nagged you about telling Yurio."
"It was my fault for letting him forget," Victor insisted, checking Yuuri for any bruises while breathing in his cinnamon scent.
"No it wasn't. You were trying to protect him."
Victor let out a bitter laugh, "Protect him? He grew up in a brothel. We heard omegas being raped every single night for almost six years." He sighed and shut his eyes, pressing his forehead against Yuuri's, not wanting to think too much about that. "...I was willing to do whatever I had to so that would never happen to him. No matter the consequences. I could've told him then and there, but...I thought it'd be worse if he remembered just what we'd lost, and it'd make everything much worse than it already was. He'd lose every bit of hope he had left...In spite of everything, I still managed to hold on to just a little bit of hope.
They were both quiet for a moment, and then Yuuri asked gently, "Did it keep you going?"
Victor laughed again, softer. "I suppose it did." He opened his eyes and looked into Yuuri's brown ones, drinking in the adoration he saw within them. "And then fate brought me here. To you."
Yuuri sighed softly, trembling hands holding on to Victor's waist. "...I want to hold on to you forever. You're the first person I've ever wanted to hold on to like this. I love you, Victor..."
He was blushing so hard as he said it, and Victor wanted to weep. "I love you too." He closed his eyes again and pressed his lips against Yuuri's hairline, trembling as he begged, "Don't ever abandon me, Yuuri."
"Never," Yuuri quietly replied.
I've been waiting to write that last scene for a year, holy shit.
Yuri and Victor will have their talk next chapter!
...And so will Yuuri and his family. Because of COURSE everyone would know these two spent the night together. xD
NSFW Twitter (for art!!): @DucksFucka
Chapter 15: life will make you grow, dreams will make you cry, cry, cry
Chapter title from Birds by Imagine Dragons. Had it on repeat when writing the first scene with Victor and Yurio.
A quick update for you all <3
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Victor remembered his first heat.
He was eleven. It was rather early to present, but his father's first heat had occurred around the same age. He was eleven and forced to act as a parent to Yuri, who still cried for their parents sometimes.
The servant who brought them supplies periodically wasn't around, and Victor found himself producing slick one night, his scent surrounding their little nest. He'd scented Yuri that entire night, frightened and disappointed. He'd almost wished he'd had a knot instead, but it was impossible. He was an omega, and he was doubly in danger.
He would think of those days when his parents had a heat, and they would disappear into the privacy of their bedroom for a night and a day. When they emerged, Victor's mother would play the most beautiful songs on her piano, and his father would pick the prettiest flowers from his garden to present them to her.
For years Victor knew he would never have that. He would have no such consideration from an alpha. Now, with Yuuri, he believed he could.
All he had to do now was mend the rift between himself and Yuri.
Yuuko told him his brother was in the garden. She'd done her best to cool his anger, to convince him to listen to Victor, and explain that Yuuri hadn't harmed Victor at all.
Victor spotted him sulking at the very spot where he'd first purred for Yuuri the day before. His shoulders were set in a hard line as he sat there, chin resting on his knees.
He'd found Victor with an alpha in his bed. After all they'd been through, his reaction was almost understandable, but Victor couldn't condone it. Not against Yuuri, when all he'd done was take care of Victor and put him back together again.
It wasn't Yuuri's fault that Victor had needed to keep secrets. To save Yuri as much pain possible for as long as he could.
Yuri could smell him. That was clear. Bracing himself against the cold, Victor approached his brother. He had to listen. He had to.
He took a deep breath as he neared Yuri, and said, "Come inside, Yura. It's freezing."
"Leave me alone," Yuri growled, the line of his shoulders growing harder.
"I can't," Victor replied with a sad smile. "I can't just walk away from my little brother. You're the most important thing in the world to me, Yuri, and that will still be true even if you end up hating me." It hurt but it was a pain Victor felt prepared for. Perhaps because he'd been preparing himself for it.
Yuri got to his feet with a snarl and turned towards Victor, who stared back with surprise as his brother's eyes became wet with tears. "You don't give a fuck, you piece of shit! All you care about is him! You told him everything and you let him fuck you! That stinking, fucking alpha!"
Victor had no clue when he'd taken Yuri's chin in his hand, gripping it tightly in warning as he looked into his brother's rebellious expression. "Stop it," he said, quiet and firm as his own fury simmered. "Yes, we slept together. But that was all. I didn't know what to do when you ran off. I thought I'd lost you and I couldn't stand to be left alone. He stayed with me and held me, and I wasn't afraid of him. I was safe, Yura, but I needed you too." He loosened his grip on Yuri's chin and instead held his face in his hands. "I needed my brother. I always have. Ever since you were born."
Yuri kept glaring at him as he asked in a shaking voice, "Then why the fuck did you let me forget everything?! I don't even know which memories are real!"
Victor let his hands fall to his sides. Real memories. Memories he wished he could just erase. The ones that kept him awake at night, awash in terror and shame and disgust. He stared at the floor between them, saying wearily, "I thought I could keep you from suffering more. You forgot about everything that was taken from us. About Papa dying and Mama killing herself..." Thinking, over and over again, of ways he could have saved her. Stopped her from slicing her wrist open, seizing the wound to try and stop the flow of blood, and feeling powerless as one servant pulled him away and another ran to his mother's side. Trying to keep from hating her for leaving them alone in the world.
He didn't look up at Yuri as he continued in soft tones, "Do you have any idea what I'd give to forget...so many things? Every alpha that's touched me..." Alphas tugging his hair, his scalp burning with pain as he choked around the wretched weight in his mouth. He couldn't stop the words from coming out, saying shakily, "Even if they never fucked me, I have nightmares about every single one." His nails dug into his palms, the pain grounding him as he added firmly, "But I would've done it all again. Let them...rape me, kill me even if it meant no one ever laid a finger on you..."
It was the most powerful instinct that had driven him for years. Kept him alive in the worst moments. Stronger than any so-called omega instinct. He could feel his own heartbeat, strong and frantic, his skin turning clammy as he recalled every cruel touch in an instant-
"Stop," he heard Yuri order, and Victor inhaled sharply and quickly looked up at his brother, panting like he'd just run a long distance. Yuri really was crying now, fat tears rolling down his cheeks, the sight alarming Victor. "Just stop it. Stop talking like that. I don't want that to happen! Not again, alright?!" He suddenly wrapped his arms around Victor, his fists beating at his back as he sobbed, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry I'm such a piece of shit and I'm sorry I hit your alpha! I'm sorry you had to keep looking out for me-"
Victor hugged him back tighter, his heart still beating painfully hard. "No. Never be sorry for that. I never will be." He stroked his brother's hair, breathing in his scent to calm himself down before he started shaking in fear. He scented him as they held on, and Victor said, "You're my brother. If we break apart, we have nothing left. I promised our parents I'd always look after you. I promised myself I'd do it for the rest of my life."
Yuri gave a little sniffle, his face buried in Victor's chest as his shoulders trembled. Victor sighed shakily, squeezing him tightly and feeling himself gradually return to himself, to the brother who needed him, even if his tears terrified Victor. All he could do was hold on to him and try to think of what he could do to make everything...better.
After a few moments Yuri grew still, and he murmured, "...You really wanted him in bed with you?"
Smiling at the memory of that morning, Victor replied, "He just...he held me. He held me and scented me...and I felt so safe, Yura. He could have done anything, but he said he wouldn't take of advantage of me that way."
With another sniffle, Yuri muttered, "His scent's all over you. And I bet it's all over the bed too!"
"Yes, it is," Victor replied with a chuckle.
Yuri didn't seem to want to move, but Victor was happy to keep holding him. It was like Yuri was a baby again, grumpily seeking affection. Then he very quietly said, "...They're really gone. Mama and Papa..."
Victor's throat tightened and he felt his eyes fill with tears. "...Yes they are," he breathed, his tears landing in Yuri's hair.
"Papa had a garden and Mama played the piano. She...she smelled like you," Yuri continued, like he was recounting what he had begun to remember.
Victor nodded, smiling as a weight lifted from his heart. "She was so beautiful. You look just like her, Yura."
"...I miss them," Yuri added quietly, sounding so much older in that moment.
Victor let out another shaky sigh. "I miss them too."
"The Queen would like to speak with you."
Yuuri would have panicked had Yuuko not been smiling as she said it. "...What about?"
"About you and Victor," Yuuko replied, her smile widening.
That had his heart beating wildly. While his courtship of Victor was general knowledge among his friends and a handful of other servants, he hadn't exactly talked about it with his parents or sister. What he'd told Victor about their potential enthusiasm for a marriage wasn't an exaggeration, but that didn't stop Yuuri from worrying about their reaction. "...What do they know?"
Yuuko bit her lip and clasped her hands together, saying, "Lady Minako and his Majesty may have had a few drinks too many last night, and her Majesty happened to be with them. She told them how proud she was that you came to her for advice."
Yuuri groaned and rubbed his hands over his face. It wasn't exactly how he'd hoped to tell his parents, but...he was well-aware that it was an easier conversation than the one Victor was likely having with his brother. "I'll go right now," he said to Yuuko, who had a hand on her still-growing belly as she tried to hold back her giggles.
After checking on the small scratches on his face he made his way to his mother's solar, a little wary about what they might say. They wouldn't be angry or order him to abandon the courtship, but...Yuuri was still nervous in spite of that certainty. Would they question him about wedding plans? Would they ask to speak to Victor, forcing him to lie about his past once again?
Yuuri couldn't put him through that, even if they were essentially keeping that secret together. So would Yurio.
When he was let into the solar, his parents, his sister, and Lady Minako were all inside. Each and everyone of their faces said the same thing; I knew it.
"We found out the good news! Congratulations, Yuuri!" his mother said enthusiastically, her smile wide and warm.
"W-what?" Yuuri asked, blinking at them.
His father nodded at him, looking totally unaffected by any hangover he may have had. "You really surprised us, son! I almost didn't believe it when Lady Minako here told us that you were courting Victor!"
"...Really?!" Yuuri asked, glancing at Lady Minako, who looked completely miserable with her own hangover. "Even if...Victor isn't of noble blood?"
The look on his mother's face softened, affection flooding from her as strongly as the scent Yuuri had known and loved since he was a child, and once again he felt a surge of pain on Victor's behalf. "If you have feelings for him, then he's the perfect match for you, noble or not. He's a strong young man, willful and sweet and funny. Another love match in our family! Who would've thought it?"
Yuuri couldn't help smiling with relief as he looked at them all, his heart beating fast and hard as his courtship with Victor became all the more real. A love story worthy of comparison to his own parents'. And he suddenly wanted it to happen so badly, to give Victor the life and love he deserved, even if Yuuri felt so completely unworthy of giving it. But Victor had looked at him so adoringly that morning, and he'd felt so good against Yuuri...
And he never thought he'd have an omega hiss protectively over him.
His sister, blunt as ever, said with a smirk, "Congratulations, Yuuri, and you two take your time giving me an heir. There's no rush. Lady Minako told us you're courting him the old-fashioned way."
"Can we take all alcoholic beverages away from her before she gives away state secrets?" Yuuri muttered while the lady in question winced and put her fingers on her temples.
"What happened there, son?" his father suddenly asked, gesturing at the spot beneath Yuuri's eye
Blushing with sudden embarrassment, Yuuri replied hesitantly, "Uhh, had a disagreement with one of the kittens. I think it was Yurio's Potya."
Victor buried his face in the bed. It still smelled like Yuuri.
That was most of the reason why Yuri didn't want to go into the room for the moment, not until Victor scented it some, at least. But he couldn't bear to. Not yet, not when it smelled so...delicious.
For Heaven's sake, Yuuri's scent made his mouth water, and his heart was beating so hard as his body began to feel warm. He wondered if Yuuri's own bed smelled even better than this, and he felt the urge to hiss again at the thought of any other omega's scent on it.
Yuri was in the library again, after grumpily reassuring Victor that he just needed a little while for himself. "I've got questions...I'm just not sure what they are yet."
Victor was dying to know what those questions were, but he knew he needed to be patient. He mourned. Yuri needed to mourn. Then they could keep mourning together. He most likely went to the library to have their mother's portrait to himself, and...just think. Think of the past. Those lost memories. All the questions he had.
Shutting his eyes, Victor just breathed as steadily as he could. He felt such relief, and yet...what would Yuri expect? They couldn't go back to Rutha or go find their surviving grandfather. No matter what happened in Rutha from now on, Victor could never leave Hasetsu. Not for a birthright that would get him killed.
He had to stop thinking about all of that. Yuuri was alive, and he was loving and beautiful. Victor smiled and purred again, then he shivered as the heat in his body increased. His heart began to race when he realized he was producing slick, and his eyes shot open.
That had never happened before. Not outside a heat and not even when he was kissing one of the other omegas.
He exhaled shakily, spending several moments recognizing the sensations in his body. Tension tugged at his loins, insistent and...surprisingly sweet. That had never happened. His heats had always been filled with fear, and he never thought any alpha would make him feel like this. His heart was beating so fast and the sensation just...went on, curling up in his gut and tensing his muscles so pleasurably.
This was his body, reacting out of adoration for a man who wanted him. Who loved him. A man whose scent drenched the bed he was lying on. Moaning softly into the pillow, Victor reached down the back of his trousers with a trembling hand, and gasped nervously when his fingers touched his slick opening.
His body. His own hand. Touching himself as Yuuri filled his thoughts. He opened his eyes, knowing his mind would betray him if he stayed in the dark. He was in his room, the room where Yuuri had held him all night without taking advantage for a single moment. Where Yuuri had scented him so lovingly and given him the companionship he'd needed.
Keeping his eyes open and breathing deeply, Victor rubbed slick sensation over his hole, and gave a jolt of sudden pleasure as he cried out softly, wondering what it'd be like for Yuuri to touch him with those gentle, timid, eager hands.
Victor ended up filling the room with his own scent all over again.
NSFW Twitter (for art!!): @DucksFucka
Chapter 16: put all your thoughts to bed, you can be king again
Someone in the restaurant was singing a Ruthenian tune. At least that's what it was according to Victor.
The song seemed somewhat appropriate for their rather...unique situation at the moment, but apparently the singer's accent was atrocious.
Freezing rain drew everyone indoors to the warm restaurant, where Yuuri and both omegas were enjoying hot bowls of katsudon. He'd already eaten his and watched Victor and Yurio inhale theirs like it was their last meal.
It was strange to be sitting across from the younger omega after yesterday. He'd gruffly apologized for attacking Yuuri while Victor looked on equal parts approving and stern, which was rather funny to see. But here they all were, listening to gossip from travelers from the northern end of Niha, where there were reports of Ruthenians arriving on the shores to escape the civil war in Rutha.
He could tell that both omegas wanted to devour everything they could in terms of all the news, Yuri in particular.
When Yuuri first saw Victor again that morning, the first time they'd seen each other since that very eventful morning just a day before, and he looked so vibrant as he beamed at Yuuri in greeting, so open and welcoming, like he'd seen Yuuri and the sun had risen all the way up into the sky, just for him.
It was uplifting and humbling all at once, but Yuuri couldn't be bothered to figure out just which one when Victor followed that smile with a hard kiss that had Yuuri's head spinning and knees going weak almost immediately as soon as Victor's tongue swept into his mouth and those beautiful hands buried themselves in his hair.
It felt like something right out of his dreams, and Victor hadn't stopped smiling at him in the hours since, and Yuuri's knees still felt so weak whenever he looked at Victor's beautiful face. Currently his eyes were far away as he listened to the singer, mouthing along with the words to whatever tune was being sung.
"What's it about?" Yuuri asked him, unable to take his eyes off him.
"It was for children," Victor replied, eyes opening brightly as they immediately found Yuuri, his face flushed as though Yuuri had said or done something to cause it. "It's about springtime, birds and flowers and trees. It's lively enough that anyone that's walked into a tavern knows every single word to it. Our grandfather, Yakov, sang it to our mother, and she sang it to us."
"I can't remember Grandfather Yakov," Yuri suddenly said just as the song ended, his brow furrowed as he sank deep in thought. Victor had told Yuuri that he and Yurio were hard at work piecing together all the parts of the past that Yurio was missing. It sounded so emotionally exhausting that Yuuri didn't envy Victor all that effort, especially after everything he'd said about every single fear he had about Yurio discovering everything about their origins.
Pain, though worlds different from the agony Yuuri was used to seeing from Victor, flashed momentarily across those blue eyes, and it didn't quite disappear as Victor looked at his brother with no small amount of sympathy and guilt. He looked at his empty bowl and said, "You were very small the last time we saw him." He then smiled and added, "He used to take us both for walks on the Syperian steppes during the summer, and tell us stories about when Mama was a little girl."
Based on everything Yuuri knew about the Syperian steppes, it sounded like a golden time in Victor's childhood. "What was he like?" Yuuri asked.
Victor's smile widened and he focused completely on Yuuri as he replied, "He was a big bear of a man. He used to carry me and Yura on either shoulder when we were small."
Yuri smiled faintly when Victor mentioned that. "I...almost remember that. I remember the way he sounded too. And his smell...Like peppermint."
Victor laughed softly and shut his eyes, saying, "Yes...just like peppermint. God, I almost forgot that."
He reached out and gently placed his hand atop Yuri's, covering it securely as he sank deep into his own memories, as though he wanted to share them all with Yuri through touch alone.
It was better than Yuuri or Victor could have hoped, especially considering how much anger Yuri held in his heart. At the same time he held so much attachment to his older brother, despite all the insults and teasing. They were brothers after all, and Yuri could never just callously abandon Victor, not after everything they'd been through.
Yuri was quiet afterward, allowing Victor's hand to stay on top of his. His hair covered half his face, and he looked both melancholy and thoughtful, much like Victor did in moments when he allowed his mind to stray back to the past. Yuuri wondered if Yuri's had gone as far back as their serene childhood, or the nightmare of their adolescence.
The young omega then tossed his hair back and muttered as though nothing were amiss, "That shack they stuck us in was a shithole. It was freezing all the time."
"It was quite drafty," Victor concurred with a soft smile. He looked up at Yuuri and explained, "It was all just one room, and we managed to fit a kitchen, some books, and a bed in it."
"Bed roll," Yuri muttered, shuddering at the memory. "With fucking Victor and his bony legs."
"I don't think they're bony," Yuuri said without thinking, and he blushed intensely when Victor beamed at him in pleasure. Yuri rolled his eyes and gave them a look of disgust.
Once finished with the meal and the rain had finally let up to allow them to walk back to the palace, Yuuri led the way out, and Yuri ran ahead of him and Victor, easily shouldering past even the biggest alphas in the crowd, pointedly ignoring them.
He then barely realized that Victor was holding his hand, and his skin was so warm on Yuuri's, his thumb stroking the backs of Yuuri's fingers. Still blushing and glancing shyly at the omega, Yuuri saw that Victor was still smiling at him so adoringly, and it almost made his heart stop.
He could smell Victor's scent, sweet and rosy, and his mind inadvertently went back to that evening when Victor nearly devoured him in kisses, tempting Yuuri to throw caution to the wind and sleep with the omega. The event had hounded his dreams the previous night, and Yuuri was sure that one of these days it would all come spilling out, and he'd humiliate himself in front of Victor.
Once in the palace grounds Yuri ran ahead towards the Nishigoris' apartments. Yuuko had officially taken time away from her duties due to her pregnancy, and genuinely welcomed the visits, loving to dote on Yurio and baby him. Strangely enough, he appeared to allow it. Maybe even enjoy it. Yuuri didn't dare question it. The cut beneath his eye still stung.
Then, unexpectedly, Victor was pulling him towards a secluded corner, and Yuuri could only stumble along in bewilderment as the omega beamed brightly at him over his shoulder. When they were well hidden, Victor pressed his body against Yuuri's, crowding him against a wall as he kissed him, unexpectedly deep and soft, with a soft noise of contentment emerging from somewhere deep in his chest. Glad for the support of the wall at his back, Yuuri instinctively opened his mouth for Victor's tongue, and felt himself begin to melt as Victor's scent surrounded him.
Victor's hands stroked up Yuuri's chest, and he kept brushing his lips against Yuuri's, eyes smoldering as he said in a low voice, "Your scent was all over my bed yesterday."
Yuuri's mouth went dry at the reminder. He'd scented Victor to comfort him, and they'd even embraced in that bed after waking up. It would have been a wonder if Yuuri hadn't left a trace of himself anywhere in the room. He didn't know how to feel about it. He didn't feel at all territorial, it was just a simple fact, and...it appeared to have pleased Victor, if his soft purrs were any indication. "I..."
His voice trailed off and Victor somehow pressed closer to him, his face buried in Yuuri's neck and his lips trailing over Yuuri's scent gland, making him gasp and shudder. Victor's hands found their way to Yuuri's back, stroking up in slow, firm movements, blunt nails dragging over his clothes. "It smelled so wonderful...Mmm, I wanted you so badly, Yuuri...I had to touch myself and think of you, and it felt so good."
Yuuri stopped breathing and immediately felt his cock twitch in his trousers. He was frozen against Victor, his heart pounding tso painfully hard as the omega's blunt words brought up images that Yuuri had seen in his dreams, and even daydreamed about. Slick and fragrant and warm and willing...Taking everything Yuuri had to offer him. Yuuri bit his lip and closed his eyes, desperate to not give any indication that he wanted to know more about Victor luxuriating in Yuuri's scent, somehow finding pleasure in it. Those soft lips trailed up to Yuuri's ear, voice soft and breathy as Victor quietly asked, "Does that please you? Thinking of me like that?"
"Victor..." Yuuri couldn't speak. He couldn't possibly find the words to tell Victor just how he felt knowing that...somehow, an omega so graceful and lovely wanted him so badly. His face was on fire and he kept his eyes shut as Victor nuzzled against his jaw. "I...I..."
He felt Victor smile and chuckle against his jaw, and felt a soft little kiss on his chin right before the omega said, "You're blushing so much."
Yuuri opened his eyes and gave Victor a helpless look. He'd already revealed so much, and he wasn't used to that. He still wasn't used to Victor's blunt honesty, or having anybody look at him the way Victor did. Swallowing, Yuuri nervously managed to say, "...You know how I feel, it's just...I don't want you to do anything you might be uncomfortable with."
"Do you think I'm getting carried away?" Victor asked him, staying close.
"It's not my place to decide," Yuuri murmured, keeping his eyes on Victor's. "I'm not uncomfortable, it's just...This is new to me. All of it. You know you were my first kiss, and...you'd be my first everything."
Victor gave him a tender smile, his fingers trailing up and down the side of Yuuri's neck. "And your last, God willing." But then the light in his eyes faded slightly, and he brushed their noses together as he scented Yuuri again. "I just...I don't want the past to come between us."
Yuuri sighed and pressed their foreheads together, heart still beating incredibly hard. "I told you, I wouldn't blame you if it did. We can...we can take things slow. I'm not...in any hurry."
"Your scent says otherwise," Victor replied softly.
"I can control myself," Yuuri said just as quietly, closing his eyes again as he brought up his arms to hold Victor close and greedily breathe in his scent before leaning in to kiss him again, a soft press that made Victor purr again.
"You're far nobler than even my most royal ancestors," Victor murmured. "You're willing to wait for me? Until I'm ready?"
He sounded like he couldn't quite believe it, and Yuuri felt a fresh hatred for everyone who'd harmed him. "Of course." He took a deep breath and told Victor, "...My family knows about us."
Victor drew away, his gaze sharp. "You told them?"
"No, Lady Minako did." Yuuri blushed as he added, "She was the one I asked about...how one would...court an omega."
Victor smiled again and looked so adoring and grateful that Yuuri lost his breath for a moment. "You precious, sweet thing," the omega said, placing a soft hand on Yuuri's cheek. "What did your family say?"
"They'd have our wedding today if they could," Yuuri replied with a shy laugh. "I told you they adore you. For yourself."
To Yuuri's surprise, Victor hid his face in his neck again, kissing his scent gland over and over again. "You have no idea how happy you've made me. I can...just be your mate and not...an omega playing at emperor."
Yuuri frowned and peered down at Victor. "What do you mean?"
Drawing away slightly, Victor no longer smiled as he shook his head and asked almost bitterly, "What kind of emperor would I be when I hate Ruthenia so much? It took everything from me. Made me and Yurio orphans. I spent half my life in hiding from my own people, and they didn't even know that Yuri and I were alive, that we were Emperor Iosif Nikiforov's grandchildren." He then looked towards the palace gates, opened to let in a dozen guards. "These are your people. You can walk among them without fear. You know them better than I know my own."
"So...you'd abdicate? In Antonov's favor?" Yuuri asked, not wanting to believe such a thing of Victor.
Victor gave him another sharp look. "If my grandfather Yakov managed to defeat him, I'd hand him the throne. But I want Antonov dead for everything he did to us. I don't want to be afraid of that bastard anymore. I want to think about you and me. About Yura, and all the babies I want us to have."
Yuuri let out a breathless laugh as his blush warmed his entire face. But he sobered and added, "...I want you both safe from Antonov too. I wanted to kill him when he was here, and you were so afraid of him..." He still remembered that fury, hot and icy in his chest, as Antonov glared down at Victor.
But Victor sighed heavily and stole another kiss from Yuuri, pressing himself close again. "But I'm here now. I'm safe with you, and...God, my grandfather's alive out there, and he'll make Antonov and all the rest of them disappear..." He embraced Yuuri so tightly, as though anchoring himself.
Yuuri allowed him to, hoping for his and Yuri's sake that they didn't have to be afraid anymore.
yurio's birthday is cominggg
Chapter 17: and I am weeping warm honey and milk, that you stay surrounding me, surrounding me
a short update before the rating FINALLY goes up
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
When Yurio was born, Victor looked at the little bundle his mother held with curious wonder, already imagining all the games and mischief he wanted to share with his new baby brother. And Yurio was such a small thing, possibly the smallest thing Victor had ever seen in his life. When his parents placed him in Victor's arms, repeatedly reminding him to be careful as he held Yurio, and all Victor could do was smile with delight as his baby brother gazed up at him.
Those days were gone and while Yuri was no longer that tiny little thing Victor cuddled in his arms, that didn't stop Victor from grabbing him the morning of his birthday and cuddling him happily as he growled and hissed in irritation. Of course he settled against Victor as he always did as soon as Victor softly sang the lullaby their father used to sing to them.
In years past, Victor had done the same, holding Yuri close and closing his eyes as he sang the lullaby, remembering their father as he did so. Even in the midst of their dismal surroundings in the brothel. This time, however, Victor dragged Yurio and Yuuri out into the city to give his brother the birthday celebration he deserved.
And Yurio was quite happy to oblige Victor once he found his way towards so-called "fashionable" clothing items that made Victor's eyes hurt. But he and Yurio had one thing in common: they each had a mind of their own, and if Yurio wanted a shirt with a tiger's face sewn onto the front in glaring colors, then he would have it.
While they were out, Victor went on noting every change in Hasetsu, particularly new faces. Yuuri remained next to him, a bit more subtle as his gaze caught the new, entirely foreign faces walking through the large streets.
In the past weeks, Queen Hiroko had opened up the city to the Ruthenian refugees coming from the northern end of Niha, but had imposed several conditions that would serve to punish any alpha who committed violence against anyone and keep Ruthenian betas and omegas safe from abuse.
And as the weeks passed, Ruthenian omegas and betas outnumbered the alphas entering Hasetsu. Of course there was violence, and arrests were actually made and the omegas involved were assisted, Victor could easily imagine some of them reacting the same way he had when Yuuko first told him that heats and ruts could be suppressed.
He couldn't help wondering what would happen to the alphas who refused to live by Nihan standards. Yuuri had already learned of one instance of a Ruthenian alpha raising a hand against a Nihan omega who "spoke too boldly." That alpha was arrested and sent back on the next boat to Silla, and perhaps back to Rutha.
In terms of news from Rutha, Victor couldn't really see a happy end to the civil war. He couldn't imagine his grandfather Yakov living through it and actually winning, especially not now that he knew Vladika was in flames, and was largely destroyed. It wasn't the sort of news he'd wanted to hear so close to Yurio's birthday. After all, that had been their mother's birthplace, their hideaway from all the horror until it all suddenly fell apart.
Victor shivered a little at the memory, and pressed himself closer to Yuuri. He peered up at the alpha's face and grinned when he caught him blushing. Victor had never thought a courting could feel so sweet and wonderful. He could wake up from a nightmare and find Yuuri to press his face against Yuuri's neck to breathe in his scent and start to feel safe again, all while Yuuri timidly held him and scented him.
And meanwhile Yuuri's parents treated him like...family. Queen Hiroko and Victor's own mother were polar opposites; alpha and omega, Hiroko warm and open, Victor's mother distant and sharp. Her pine forest scent was so surprisingly comforting, and the first time Victor sank into her embrace after she and her husband congratulated him and Yuuri on their courtship, he felt unbelievably content.
It was no wonder Yuuri was as sweet as he was, with a mother like Queen Hiroko.
For his part, Yuuri still seemed to be surprised by Victor's affection. Victor could shower him in kisses and Yuuri would still appear so self-conscious, like he couldn't really believe that Victor wanted him.
To tell the truth, Victor often experienced such mixed feelings and confusion over his own need for the alpha, and it was all he could do to push those doubts away. He wanted to go on embracing that desire he felt for Yuuri, physical and romantic, remembering how slick he could become at the very thought of the prince even with suppressed heats.
He always imagined Yuuri touching him. Even touching Yuuri...Discovering what else could make him blush, beyond the heated kisses Victor gave him.
It was...exciting rather than totally frightening. There were a hundred different ways Victor could choose to make love to the shy alpha, to give him all the pleasure he deserved, everything Victor wanted to give him.
It all raced through Victor's head as he, Yuuri, and Yurio made their way back to the castle grounds, his brother sporting that eyesore of a shirt and looking much too proud of it.
"I wish we could've celebrated your birthday like this," Yuuri said to Victor quietly, still blushing as they held hands.
Victor replied with a shrug, smiling casually as he gazed at Yurio's back, and the way his short ponytail swung in the cool wind. "Maybe next year," he said, squeezing Yuuri's hand as they re-entered the palace grounds.
"What I mean is..." Yuuri cleared his throat and looked at the ground, his face totally red. "I...I have something for you. Something I should've given to you on your birthday."
Victor's smile widened. "Did you really? What is it?"
Yuuri bit his lip and looked up at Victor as though the sheer embarrassment was about to rip him to pieces. "It...It's in my room." He hurriedly added, "I can bring it to you, if-"
"I'll go," Victor quickly said over him, his heart beating uncontrollably. He'd gone to Yuuri's room before, of his own volition, to wish him a good morning and share a nest with him when he was feeling particularly anxious after his mother held council. Victor had discovered that an alpha's nest was...really no different from an omega's. Lying in that nest with Yuuri felt so peaceful, and it wasn't even Victor's nest. He just...held the alpha in his arms and scented him, his heart overflowing with so much joy. For once, fear didn't hound him. Yuuri had given him more respect and love than he'd ever expected from the alpha who wanted to be his mate. "What? Are you worried about a scandal? Hasetsu's prince brings a pretty omega to his bedroom, again?"
Even Yuuri's ears turned red after that. Victor couldn't help it; Yuuri was fun to tease.
Then Yuuri winced as soon as they heard Yurio clear his throat very loudly. Victor's brother was glaring at them in irritation, eyes narrowing as they fell on Yuuri. He knew what they'd been up to all these weeks, and had even complained about Yuuri's scent on Victor, especially when Victor stole away a piece of Yuuri's clothing and used it in his nests. Giving Yuuri's hand another squeeze, Victor walked over to his brother and nuzzled his hair. Yuri drew away with a little growl, frowning at Victor.
Victor sighed, knowing what this was about. "I'll be right back, Yura. We still need to have dinner tonight," he reminded the young omega with a smile as he ruffled his hair.
Yuri glared for a moment longer before it softened and he gruffly asked, "Can we do some kendo before dinner? Just you and me?"
Unable to resist the lure of exciting physical activity, especially one that Yuuri and Yurio so greatly enjoyed, Victor had joined in, loving the grace and discipline involved. Smiling at his brother, Victor said, "Of course! Go get ready and wait for me there."
Yuri smiled back and went on his way, and Victor quickly returned to Yuuri's side. The alpha was still blushing as he led the way to his chambers.
When they got there, Victor closed his eyes and slowly inhaled Yuuri's scent, surrounding him and bathing everything in the room. He remembered his first time sharing the nest with Yuuri, burying his face in the sheets and feeling such a satisfaction that there was no one else's scent on the bed.
Yuuri rummaged around in a drawer, face red as a cherry as he avoided Victor's gaze, and he finally pulled out a small box the size of his palm. He took a deep breath and turned to face Victor, his eyes glued to the box, and he wordlessly opened the lid.
Victor forgot to breathe for a moment as he stared at what was nestled in the box; it was a pair of golden rings.
When he looked up at Yuuri's face, the poor alpha still couldn't meet his eyes. All he did as he bit his lip anxiously was take one ring out of the box and reach for...for Victor's right hand. Finally, he said quietly, "In the West, they're worn on the left hand...But I read that in Rutha...they're worn on the right." His hand shook as he slid the ring onto Victor's finger.
Victor's heart practically bolted with surprise and joy, and he smiled so incredulously as he looked at the golden band shining on his finger. Breathless, he asked, "When did you...?"
"Yesterday," Yuuri replied, finally meeting Victor's gaze timidly. "I...I wanted to give it to you, but..." His breath seemed to catch in his throat, and he swallowed reflexively. "What I...What I'm asking is..."
Victor closed his eyes again, smiling as he brought his hand to his lips to kiss his ring, wondering if it was possible to die of the happiness he was experiencing. Opening his eyes and gazing adoringly at Yuuri, Victor had mercy on him and said, "If you're asking what I think you're asking, then my answer is yes."
Yuuri exhaled sharply, cheeks flushed as he asked, "Really?"
"What do I have to do to make you believe that I love you?" Victor asked with a small shake of his head, reaching for the remaining ring and taking Yuuri's hand. Sliding the ring onto his finger and committing the moment to memory, Victor added, "That I'll marry you and be your mate and have children with you?"
Yuuri took several shaky breaths, face turning redder as he stared at their joined hands. "It's just...You're perfect..."
"I'm me. I've fallen far and I'm only starting to pick myself up again. And it's thanks to you," Victor said gently, raising Yuuri's hand to his lips to kiss his ring. "You've been patient, kind, and so very loving. You've given me more respect than I ever hoped to get." He purred as he nuzzled into Yuuri's palm, stepping towards him and looking at his ring again. "I'm never taking this off."
He felt Yuuri's lips press against his temple, his scent filling the air around them, and Victor's purrs intensified as he pressed himself against the alpha's solid body. When Victor glanced up at him Yuuri suddenly gave him the softest kiss. A current of delight raced down Victor's spine, and he curled his hand around Yuuri's neck, thumb tracing circles over the alpha's scent gland.
Yuuri held him close as they kept kissing, darting and soft like they were both still timidly learning about each other, and Victor so desperately wanted to mark the alpha up, to claim the pleasure of making love to him and hissing in the face of all the fear, of everyone who used it as a weapon against him.
Smiling against Yuuri's lips, Victor asked, "Will you still love me when I end up being taller than you?"
Yuuri laughed softly, happiness making him glow from within. "Of course I will." He kissed Victor again, hands trailing gently through Victor's hair, and then drew away with a sound of reluctance. "Yurio's waiting for you," he reminded Victor.
Pouting, Victor backed away while holding on to Yuuri's hands. "I'll see you later?"
"Later," Yuuri agreed, letting go of Victor's hands.
Victor shut the door to Yuuri's chamber behind him, and his smile widened as he stared at the ring on his finger, and went on staring at it as he slowly made his way towards the practice area. On the right hand. Just like his parents. I have a mate, Papa, he thought. An alpha who loves me...
When he found Yurio, already clad in his armor, his brother looked even grumpier than before. "Where the hell have you been?" he asked, tossing a kendo sword in Victor's direction.
Managing to catch it before it hit him square in the face, Victor grinned and replied, "Sorry, Yura...Yuuri and I were-"
Yuri groaned and quickly said, "Forget it. I don't want to know. Just get your armor on, damn it!"
Victor nodded and rushed to get ready, deciding to tell him later on.
I've had a few rough days, so if you all wouldn't mind telling me what it is you all enjoy about my writing? Validation is sorely needed this weekend.
Chapter 18: my love, look what you can do; I am mending, I'll be with you
God, thank you all for indulging my request last chapter! <3 Fuck, you all had such nice things to say and I felt so nice and warm inside!!?!?!!!!!! I want to pull a Victor and take a selfie with you all <3 I still have a lot of people to respond to individually, but GOD, I LOVE YOU ALL
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"You want me to what?" Victor asked, blinking at the alpha incredulously.
Yuuri didn't look anxious. He may have looked a little bit nervous, but it was tempered by the eager look on his face. "It's not just me. My mother, my sister, everyone in my family wants you to join in on the council meetings."
"But...why?" Victor asked, perplexed. "They don't know I'm royalty. And even if I were still a prince, I have no experience with government."
"No, but you'll be..." Yuuri blushed intensely that time, but his smile remained nonetheless, warming Victor's heart. "...You'll be my mate and husband. Not only that, but our...o-our child is going to rule Hasetsu one day, so my mother and Lady Minako would like you to be involved. Especially now with more Ruthenians coming into Niha."
"What the hell does that mean?" Yurio asked with a growl, arms tightly crossed over his chest as he glared at them both. Victor had told him about the ring the night before, following their impromptu match, once they were far away from any of the swords. He hadn't been impressed by the ring, and called Victor an idiot more than once while threatening to castrate Yuuri if he ever hurt a single hair on Victor's head. Basically, things were progressing quite well, in Victor's humble opinion.
"It means..." Yuuri glanced around and cleared his throat. "...He'd probably have an opinion about...what else we could do for all of the omegas and betas coming into Hasetsu. How we could help them."
It was Victor's turn to blush. Not even his father had been trusted with so much, not when he was the only omega among his aggressive alpha siblings. In the Ruthenian court, he was an adornment. A jewel in some possessive alpha's crown. Now here was the royal family of Hasetsu, his mate's family, wanting Victor to participate. To find a place in Hasetsu's court, and perhaps help the omegan refugees rebuild their lives back up from whatever they'd left behind in Ruthenia, especially if they decided to abandon their alphas.
His father and mother would have done the same if they'd had the chance.
Who was he to say no to the opportunity?
Victor smiled at Yuuri and started making his way towards the council chamber, grabbing Yuuri by the hand while he was at it. "Why don't you go visit Yuuko, Yurio?" Victor tossed over his shoulder, feeling such anticipation while Yuuri scrambled to keep up with him. "You can show her that ridiculous shirt you got yesterday!"
"YOU'RE RIDICULOUS," Yurio roared after him.
Victor may have denied his royal blood time and time again, but Yuuri could tell that he was born to rule Rutha.
And yet as soon as that thought surfaced, Yuuri had to push it away. He knew now that he didn't want to lose Victor in any way. Not to his responsibilities in Rutha or to the monsters who wanted him and Yurio dead. He wanted Victor by his side, and wanted to live the life they fantasized about together.
He had sat down at the meeting, standing out among them and speaking frankly, as though he were an experienced statesman.
No, not quite. He'd just...lived a life filled with more pain and loss than Yuuri could ever really imagine, outside palace walls. While his life had been anything but typical, he knew what it was to be robbed of his dignity, and what kind of life omegas lived in the Ruthenian Empire.
By the end of the long meeting, they'd all discussed all manner of subjects pertaining to situations that may arise once more refugees entered Hasetsu, including the possibility of there being spies sent by Antonov, laws and decrees implemented by the northern kingdoms, religious tolerance, and a respect of cultural differences without Nihan culture becoming eroded over time.
It had all been productive and Yuuri beamed with pride as his family looked at Victor with approval. Victor too looked so proud and relieved, face flushed as though he'd completed a complicated dance.
As soon as they all left the council chamber Victor let out a heavy sigh, as though he were exhausted. They walked towards Yuuri's room together, and the alpha blurted out, "You were amazing in there."
Victor gave him a proud smile, cheeks aglow with a lovely flush. "You were right. I may not rule over them, but if I can help them..." He sighed and shrugged with a shake of his head. "Somehow, try to help them see that there's a...a better way for everyone to live. Even alphas."
Yuuri couldn't even begin to explain what he felt in his heart, looking at Victor and listening to him speak, and he had to wonder why fortune had to be so fickle, to make it so Victor's innate abilities might have been ignored or set aside had he remained in Rutha. And yet here he was, speaking directly to Yuuri's mother, and she not even aware of his royal blood.
They were next to Yuuri's chamber door, and Victor turned to take both of Yuuri's hands in his, the color in his cheeks growing warmer as he gazed down at their joined hands and smiled tenderly. "And...none of this would have been possible without you and your family. I lost my home a long time ago, but I found a new one. Here. With you." Victor raised Yuuri's hands to his lips and pressed kisses to both of them before taking a deep breath that he let out with a soft shiver. He looked up into Yuuri's eyes once again and said with quiet certainty. "I want to be with you tonight."
Yuuri's heart flipped in his chest, and yet he still pathetically asked the omega, "...You want to share a nest?"
Victor laughed softly, whatever tension he bore melting away. "Eventually," he said, reaching out to open the door and draw Yuuri into the room by the hand. Yuuri swallowed nervously as he realized just what Victor meant, and shut the door behind him as he squeezed Victor's hand back.
The omega stepped back towards him and pressed his lips against Yuuri's, and all the alpha could do was stand frozen, his heart beating so hard and fast as the enormity of Victor's words hit him over and over again. Victor gazed at him, his soft hands framing Yuuri's face. "I love you. And I trust you. I want you, Yuuri." He leaned in to press his lips against Yuuri's scent gland and breathed against his flushed ear, "I want my alpha."
Yuuri exhaled sharply. Victor was so warm against him, so lovely and...and beautiful, and Yuuri wanted him. He closed his eyes and breathed in Victor's sweet scent, tinged with nerves. He pressed his cheek against Victor's hair, trembling hands settling on the omega's waist and imagined what it would feel like to touch the bare skin underneath his clothes. Swallowing, Yuuri drew back to look Victor in the face. "Tell me to stop if...if I scare you. We don't have to do this." He wanted everything, and at the same time wanted to back away, for fear of humiliation, of hurting Victor. He wanted to claim and be claimed, and believe that he was worthy of Victor's love.
Victor's gaze was wide as he looked back at Yuuri, his fingers curling over Yuuri's shoulders. "I want to. Don't you?"
"I do," Yuuri breathed, drowning in Victor's scent as the omega pressed their foreheads together.
He listened to Victor's soft breaths, tremulous for several moments before they grew steady and he brushed their lips together and softly said, "Then take me to your bed." He kissed Yuuri again as his hands darted down to undo the top clasp of his shirt, and his cool fingers touched Yuuri's bare skin.
"Are you nervous?" Yuuri couldn't help asking softly.
"Why? Are you?" Victor replied.
Yuuri shook his head slightly. "Don't do that. You can be honest with me. I am nervous. I'm nervous about hurting or scaring you."
Victor was quiet for a moment before sighing and answering sadly, "...I am nervous. About...all those things. But...it isn't your fault."
"What can I do?" Yuuri asked. He knew he couldn't do anything to change the hurts Victor had suffered, but he could promise the omega a future full of love and respect, and promise that he would always strive to be worthy of him.
Victor took a deep breath and let it out slowly, hands caressing Yuuri's neck. "Let's...let's start by taking our clothes off..." He smiled at Yuuri again and laughed softly, adding. "We don't have to pretend it's our wedding night anymore. I want you to mark me tonight."
Yuuri inhaled sharply as Victor kissed him again and kept sliding his fingers under Yuuri's clothes, touching his bare skin. For all their nesting it was by far the most intimate touch the omega had given him, and it only intensified as Victor's tongue slid into his open mouth and he kept undoing Yuuri's shirt until it was completely undone and Victor pushed it off of Yuuri's body, letting it pool on the floor behind the alpha.
Those perfect hands slowly roamed over Yuuri's chest for a moment, and Yuuri could hear them both breathing hard and shakily right before he opened his eyes and watched Victor draw away just a few steps, his hands leaving Yuuri's body last. Before Yuuri knew it, Victor's clothes were sliding off his body, and he kept his eyes on Yuuri as he pushed his trousers down his long, beautiful legs.
Those blue eyes stayed on Yuuri, still so wide and adoring and hopeful, fingers curling at his sides as he stepped out of the pool of clothes at his feet. Yuuri drank in the sight of him, standing there, his long and pale body lit golden by the light from the lamps in Yuuri's chambers. His cock was half-hard between his legs, and he took another few steps to close the gap between them.
Yuuri swallowed as Victor stood just an arm's length away from him, and he could feel himself becoming completely hard in only moments as he breathed shakily. "You're...you're perfect," he marveled quietly, his flesh warming up almost unbearably.
"So are you," Victor answered just as softly, hands slowly moving to hook his fingers in the waist of Yuuri's trousers, another shaking breath leaving him as he lowered them down Yuuri's legs and let them fall to the floor. He looked right at Yuuri's face and put his hands on his hips, fingers stroking little, tantalizing circles on his skin. "And I want you to have me. All of me. I want you to. I choose you. Your touch. Everything."
Yuuri's lips brushed the bridge of Victor's nose, and he asked gently, "What should I do?"
"Whatever feels good," Victor told him, kissing Yuuri's chin.
"Can I kiss you? And...touch you?"
"Yes." Victor took his hands and placed his palms on his bare shoulders, his voice almost steady as he added, "You can touch me any way you want."
"Is there...anything you don't want me to do?" Yuuri asked.
At that, Victor paused, gaze moving to Yuuri's chest for a few moments before he replied almost silently and stiffly, "Don't pull my hair."
Yuuri felt an ache in his heart at the omega's answer, but nodded in silent promise and tried not to acknowledge his anger at everyone who hurt Victor. He nuzzled the top of Victor's head and mimicked the omega's actions, caressing the sides of his neck as he scented him. "Do you want to keep going?"
He felt Victor nod as he replied with an almost desperate, "Yes..." Then the omega kissed him again, over and over as he moved them both towards the bed, and moments later Victor was lying on top of it, chest rising and falling quickly and his hair spread out beneath his head as he gazed up at Yuuri with such hope and need, his cock completely hard and his scent sharp with arousal and nerves.
Yuuri felt as though his heart would smash through his chest with how hard it was beating as he crawled over Victor, quickly placing a hand on the omega's chest when he began to shake. Victor appeared to calm down, covering Yuuri's hand with both of his, squeezing like he was desperate to touch him.
Yuuri took Victor's hands and lifted them up, thumbs gently stroking at the long, smooth fingers, and he couldn't help saying quietly, "Your hands are so pretty."
A flush spread across Victor's body, and he smiled up at Yuuri with such gratitude. He reached up with both hands to stroke Yuuri's face, caressing it like he wanted to memorize all of Yuuri's features by heart. Yuuri dipped down to kiss Victor, shyly stroking the seam of those plush lips with his tongue until they parted and he darted into that sweet mouth.
Settling comfortably atop Victor and supported on his elbows, Yuuri's hands took on a life of their own, slowly wandering over the hard muscle of Victor's chest. He heard Victor's breath hitch at his touch, but when he glanced up at him, the omega was blushing and his eyes were closed.
"Does that feel alright?" Yuuri asked softly, slowly moving his fingers over Victor's nipples and inhaling sharply when he felt Victor's legs press against his sides. His sweet scent made Yuuri's mouth water, and he couldn't help grinding down against the mattress to ease the ache in his loins, desperate to sink into Victor.
A soft moan escaped Victor at the motion, his own erection dragging over Yuuri's stomach. His eyes opened wide, as though his reaction had surprised him as much as it had surprised Yuuri. "It feels wonderful..." He drew Yuuri back down to mold their mouths together, kissing long and deep as he writhed beneath Yuuri, breathing hard and almost desperate as he clutched at the alpha's hair and shoulders. He murmured Yuuri's name against his lips over and over again, between the kisses that intensified as they moved against each other, Yuuri's scent covering Victor as much as his body was.
Reason shoved away by want, Yuuri went on thrusting haphazardly between Victor's legs, listening to the omega's moans and inhaling his sweet scent and burying his nose in the crook of Victor's neck, hungrily dragging his tongue over his scent gland to feel him shiver and tug at his hair. He smelled so good...
"Don't stop...Please don't stop...You feel so good...lyubov moy..." Victor's voice was shaky and soft, but he urged Yuuri on for fear that he would really stop and both would lose their nerve. Victor wanted this, wanted Yuuri, to feel him inside and have his knot and bare his throat for the alpha to bite into, high enough that everyone would see that Victor was claimed. Yuuri would never humiliate him. He would care for him and love him, learn what gave him pleasure. And Yuuri's teeth grazed his scent gland, making him moan and clutch him harder.
But then Yuuri drew away, his sweet eyes dark with need. He was breathing hard as he pressed needy kisses to Victor's chest, his face flushed and soft little moans escaping him. His tongue darted out against Victor's nipple, and Victor bit his lip and closed his eyes to enjoy every sensation, from Yuuri's mouth and hands and the length of his lovely and warm body on top of his. And his scent...
Yuuri was pressing soft kisses to his belly when Victor began to turn onto it, breathing as steadily as he could as he got on all fours, supporting himself on his elbows. He'd gotten so slick from Yuuri's embrace, and he ached with need and nerves and anticipation. He peered at the alpha over his shoulder, his heart in his throat.
Yuuri gazed at the omega, at the slick glistening from his entrance and down the insides of his pale thighs. Victor was completely flushed, and he gazed back at Yuuri with such anxious need, mouthing quiet words in his direction, a quiet please that had Yuuri's lust cresting.
Oh, how he wanted to take care of Victor. He wanted to kiss and lick him all over, to make love to him and knot him and hold him close. Yuuri knelt behind Victor and followed his instinct to lean down and cover Victor's body with his own, feeling the omega's back arch against his front as Yuuri dragged his lips down his spine, pressing his flushed face against his skin as he scented him on his way down, pausing to kiss the small of his back and inhale his wonderful scent.
He gripped Victor's hips and covered the slick entrance with his mouth, tongue darting out to get his first taste of the omega.
Victor jolted under his hands, sharply gasping, "Yuuri-!" His voice melted into shocked exclamations of bewildered pleasure as Yuuri timidly licked at his entrance, urged on by Victor's cries morphing into moans that the mattress muffled when Victor's arms could no longer support him, and his chest lay flat on the mattress while his rear remained in the air, kept in place by Yuuri's grip.
It was too much and not enough, and all Victor could do was grip the sheets uselessly, moaning continuously into them as torturous tension kept building in his body, constant and glorious. Yuuri was killing him, killing him with pleasure and he hadn't even knotted him yet. Just with his mouth, his beautiful mouth, because he wanted to, he wanted to do just this to Victor and make him writhe, helpless and moaning with rapture.
It was beyond anything he'd anticipated. To have an alpha, his alpha in such a position, squeezing his hips and moaning softly as his tongue moved, God, moved inside him now, sucking at his rim and making Victor sob as he spilled onto the sheets.
His muscles quaked with release, twitching continuously as he breathed raggedly and Yuuri kept licking at the insides of his thighs, stroking his sides soothingly and scenting Victor as he kissed his way up his spine again right before Victor dropped to his side. His chest heaved with his hard panting, his eyes half open as his mind and body settled against the unexpected release and aftershocks. He must have looked a mess with his hair spilling over his face, but he couldn't move. When he could, all he managed to do was turn his head a little to find Yuuri, chest rumbling with a purr as he found his blushing alpha.
Yuuri breathed hard, gazing at Victor and tasting him in his mouth, shocked and delighted by his own actions. An omega, fallen apart underneath him, because oh him. And it was Victor, purring and gazing at Yuuri like he needed him still, his scent warm in the air. "Are you alright?" he asked, voice surprisingly hoarse.
He reached down to stroke Victor's hip, feeling the softness of his skin. The omega swallowed dryly and took a deep breath before quietly answering, "Water..."
Yuuri quickly got it for him, and watched him sit up on shaky arms to drink ravenously. He set the cup aside and reached for Yuuri, a look of total adoration on his face as he tugged Yuuri towards him and kissed him hungrily. He drew a way and pressed their foreheads together, murmuring dazedly, "You made me cum..."
He was smiling so beautifully that Yuuri had to smile back, blushing shyly as he replied, "I couldn't help myself."
Victor purred softly and nipped at Yuuri's chin, mouth trailing down to his scent gland as he dragged him down between his legs again. "...Yuuri...My alpha..."
Yuuri's cock pulsed with need as he lay between Victor's legs, giving him darting kisses to his lips before asking, "Can I knot you?"
"Please..." Victor immediately replied, breathing deep and hard as Yuuri reached between his legs to get into place. Those blue eyes stayed on Yuuri, those soft, trembling hands staying on either side of his face.
He took a soft, deep breath as Yuuri began to carefully push in, gasping sharply and shutting his eyes, fingers flying up to clutch Yuuri's hair.
Yuuri closed his eyes too, a pleasured gasp escaping him as Victor's body surrounded him in slick, pulsing heat. He listened to the soft noises the omega made beneath him, to the whimpers that made him stop, and the needy little moans that emerged as Victor took him deeper, his chest heaving against Yuuri's.
When Yuuri's hips finally lay against Victor's thighs, they both gazed at each other, open-mouthed and achingly vulnerable. Yuuri breathed deeply, urging himself to go steady, to mind Victor's voice, his words, his body, despite wanting to find completion in Victor's body, and finally knot him.
Victor didn't dare take his eyes off of Yuuri. He felt so much at once, so full and nervous and amazed. Yuuri, an alpha, Yuuri was inside him, looking at him and holding him with such love that Victor almost wept. He held back, knowing his tears would frighten the prince, urge him to stop and that was the last thing Victor wanted. This was his, the pleasure and the sweet touches. Each and every touch Yuuri had given him.
No one would ever take any of it away from him.
He drew Yuuri's face back to moan into the sweet kiss, Yuuri's tongue sweeping into his mouth as he drew his length out and back in, body shaking above Victor's like he was holding himself back. Beautiful, sweet alpha. Victor drank in Yuuri's moans and shakily wrapped his legs around him, wanting him to push back inside. "More," he forced out. "More, Yuuri, please..."
He got his wish, Yuuri groaning as he pushed in harder, forcing breathy moans out of Victor as he did it over and over again, filling him so completely each time and crushing their mouths together. The air was filled with their scents, with the slick sound of their joining, their soft moans and noisily wet kisses.
Yuuri snapped his hips into Victor's, cock brushing against the omega's prostate each time he did so, yet again forcing ecstatic moans from him. His fingers scrabbled for purchase on Yuuri's back, his shoulders, and finally the sheets beneath him as he threw his head back and sobbed with pleasure as Yuuri fucked him.
The alpha wanted to keep watching Victor, to see his shoulders shake and his trembling lips part with another choking moan, and Yuuri could no longer hold back the sounds of his own pleasure, moaning against Victor's jaw as his hips moved harder and faster, and Victor felt tighter around him. His knot, he was knotting him, and Victor was gasping like he was overwhelmed, eyes glassy and bright as a few more cries left his lips before he clenched down around Yuuri with shuddering gasp, cock pulsing between them.
Yuuri's knot expanded and the air was punched out of him as he came inside the omega, his mind screaming at him to bite and mark. He obeyed, sinking his teeth into the sweet scent gland as Victor's taste flooded his mouth again.
Victor sobbed, hanging on to Yuuri as hot bliss crossed his body in nearly unbearable waves. He'd marked him. Yuuri marked him, and knotted him. He'd...oh, he came inside, and he felt so good and warm and Victor felt so full...
He felt the last bit of his own spend cover Yuuri's torso, and exhaled raggedly. Mine. He's mine.
He felt the alpha draw away, licking the shallow puncture marks while breathing shakily. "Yuuri," Victor breathed, trying to catch his breath and focus on the alpha above him, touching his face with adoring fingers. "Yuuri..."
Before he could stop himself he took a handful of Yuuri's hair and yanked the alpha back down to bury his own teeth in his scent gland.
Yuuri yelped, "Victor!" He jolted on top of him and shuddered out a moan as his knot gave another weak pulse inside Victor, making the omega whimper and wrap his arms tightly around Yuuri.
"Mine...You're mine," Victor murmured against the mark, his mark, gently lapping at it as he purred and moaned at the knot tugging inside him. "I love you," he breathed, lifting Yuuri's head to kiss him once more, delighting as Yuuri sank into him.
Chapter 19: when I'm walking on water all my dreams have come true
OH GOSH, I STILL HAVE TO REPLY TO YOUR COMMENTS FROM LAST CHAPTER, but have an update to cap off the weekend!!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"Does it bother you?" Victor asked in a hushed voice, fingertips idly tracing shapes on top of Yuuri's thigh beneath the hot water's surface. "Being marked by an omega?"
He sat with his back to Yuuri's chest, the heat easing the aches in his body. They'd lain on the bed while Yuuri's knot deflated, and Yuuri filled the spacious tub in his bathing chamber while Victor curled into himself and closed his eyes to breathe in Yuuri's scent while he touched the new mark on his neck. Minutes later Yuuri, looking at him so bashfully despite what they'd just done, gathered him up in his arms and eased him into the tub.
"No," Yuuri replied, cheek pressed against Victor's head. "Let me guess: a Ruthenian alpha would rather die than let an omega mark them?"
"Basically," Victor said with a soft chuckle, closing his eyes and resting his head on Yuuri's shoulder. Months ago he feared being discarded by the very same alpha who now held him so gently. Victor was so tempted to sink back against him and fall asleep as deeply as he craved, but they still had dinner to attend, and Yurio would soon see the mark on Victor's neck, and undoubtedly smell Yuuri on him.
That would take some explaining, and Victor didn't exactly want his brother to attack his mate again.
It was still so unbelievable. Victor never would have imagined that this would happen. It had seemed as impossible as him becoming emperor, but here he was, mated and marked by a prince of Hasetsu.
"...Is everything okay?" Yuuri asked quietly, peering at Victor.
He looked and smelled nervous, and Victor gave him a gentle smile, turning his head to soothingly nose at the mark he'd left on the alpha's neck before lifting himself with a soft wince to turn around and face Yuuri, straddling his thighs. "I'm alright, my star. I'm just thinking about...how everything has turned out." He took Yuuri's face in his hands, caressing those soft, round cheeks and gazing into those deep, dark eyes that just absorbed Victor. "You're my mate...and we'll have children together..."
Yuuri's face warmed with a dark blush at those words. "So...after today you might be...?"
Victor laughed softly and kissed Yuuri's forehead. "I'm still on suppressants and I started taking contraceptives. I want you all to myself for a little while, but...soon, maybe. Do you think?"
Yuuri gave him a gentle smile, one of his hands slowly wandering up Victor's slim waist. "...I'm not in any hurry either...I think..." His blush deepened and he looked so anxious as he took a breath and finished, "...I think...No, I mean...I-I don't think, I know that...I want you to myself too."
He avoided Victor's gaze, poor thing. Victor looked at him tenderly as he stroked back his wet hair, playfully thumbing at the red shell of his ear. "And...just what do you want to do in all that time?"
Yuuri's exhale was a shudder, and his touch was yet again so sweetly timid. "...I want to...to learn everything about you. I want to know everything."
His hand continued to stroke Victor's hip under the water, and the omega smiled at the gentle pleasure he felt at the touch. "Everything? Like what?"
"...What makes you feel good..." Yuuri finally raised his gaze again, keeping it on Victor's face as his other hand slowly slid up Victor's torso, settling on Victor's chest as it rose and fell with his deep breaths. Victor looked down at it, his heart and stomach doing wonderful flips of anticipation. "You don't know how much I've dreamed of doing that..."
Victor inhaled sharply at that, and he looked back up at Yuuri to find him blushing so deeply, as though admitting such a thing was so terribly difficult. "...Do you dream about me often?" he asked softly, reaching up to trace the alpha's plush lower lip with his fingertips. His smile widened when Yuuri's breath shook.
"...I...I do," Yuuri admitted breathlessly, closing his eyes with a soft whine. That was quickly explained by the erection that touched the inside of Victor's thigh.
That surprised the omega. Yuuri was ready again so soon? Then again it wasn't...entirely unexpected. He was a young alpha, and enough time seemed to have passed since their mating, but he wasn't even in rut. "And what do I do in these dreams?" he urged softly, reaching down into the water to gently take the alpha in his hand. He didn't start stroking right away, wanting to feel Yuuri's solid weight in his hands. His alpha, the only one he would ever want to hold him, to pleasure like this...The only alpha who would respect any limit he had.
Yuuri gasped and jolted, giving Victor such a pained, helpless look that the omega's cock gave a twitch. Oh, oh, no, that sight had Victor growing hard too, and he bit his lip at the pulsing ache between his legs as he slowly stroked Yuuri's hard length. Swallowing, Yuuri opened his eyes again, and they darted about as he breathed shakily and moaned, "Victor..."
This was control, Victor realized. Intoxicating control over an alpha, over Yuuri. His Yuuri, who trusted him so much and trembled at a single touch from Victor. He cupped Yuuri's face with his other hand as he stroked him under the water, playing with the heavy balls with his fingers to hear the alpha whine adorably and watch him arch towards Victor.
He suddenly leaned forward, pressing his face to Victor's chest with a shaky moan before lapping at the droplets of water that coursed down the omega's chest, arms wrapping around Victor's body as he gave a pink bud an eager suck.
Victor's hand flew up to Yuuri's hair, clutching a handful as he let out a helpless noise of his own. Yuuri sucked and licked at his nipple so firmly and the sensation had him shaking on top of Yuuri. He could barely concentrate on moving his hand, his fingers curling uselessly in the water as Yuuri put all his focus on Victor's chest, and Victor peered down to find his eyes closed, as though he were in heaven.
One of his hands wandered down the small of Victor's back, and a finger gently probed at Victor's sensitive entrance, making the omega tip his head back with whimpers and purrs as he raked his fingers through Yuuri's hair, his mind only on the building tension as they mindlessly moved against each other, hard lengths clumsily rubbing together.
Yuuri came with a groan against Victor's chest, dragging his tongue against the flushed flesh as Victor fell apart above him, hanging on to the alpha for dear life.
Victor trembled in the hot water, smiling widely and laughing breathlessly at the tiny quakes of pleasure that pulsed through his limbs as Yuuri went on caressing him. "We'll never be clean at this rate," he said with an intoxicated grin.
"Dinner's not for a couple of hours," Yuuri replied in hushed tones, burying his face between Victor's pectoral muscles. "We've got...we've got time."
Victor moaned quietly and tipped Yuuri's face up towards his to kiss him, hungry for his mouth, his hands, his body. "Want to know everything?" he asked when they parted, playfully taking Yuuri's lip between his teeth and giving his hair a quick tug.
The way Yuuri's eyes glazed over hinted that maybe the alpha liked a little pain with his pleasure. "Yes," Yuuri breathed, eyes slightly out of focus. "Please..."
Good, because Victor wanted to learn as much as he could too.
He leaned in and closed his mouth over his mark on Yuuri's neck, gently dragging his nails down the alpha's shoulders.
Yuuri had marked his chest.
The poor thing couldn't help it, and he was so embarrassed afterwards, apologizing profusely while Victor looked at his own chest with a mixture of shock and pleasure. Victor smiled when he thought of it, gingerly making his way towards his and Yurio's room. Yuuri had taken such good care of him, shyly massaging his sore lower back and thighs while asking if every single touch was fine. He had Victor purring loudly by the end, completely relaxed with only the slightest ache in his rear.
His legs were like jelly the first time he tried to stand on his own, but he persisted and managed to tear himself away from his suddenly lusty alpha to find his brother.
He felt happy. Safe. It was more than he'd ever hoped for, and it was all because of some wicked game of fate.
Still, Victor refused to feel any sort of debt towards Antonov. Not after everything else he'd done.
He sighed and shooed those thoughts away. He didn't want to think of any alpha who had hurt him. That fear and revulsion would hound him for the rest of his days, he knew, but now he could at least move forward, towards the thousand possibilities in front of him. With Yuuri and Yurio.
He could live his life with hope, and grieve his losses in peace.
I hope you're happy for me, Papa, he thought, approaching the door.
He slid it open and found Yurio sitting on the bed, smiling widely as he dangled a feather in front of Potya, who stood on her hind legs and playfully swatted at it.
I kept him safe, Victor thought, sudden relief flooding his entire body as he shut the door behind him. "...Yura."
"About time. How's the meeting go?" Yuri looked up at him, a wonderful brightness in his eyes. Then it just...flickered away as soon as his gaze found the mark on Victor's neck.
His smile faded. His eyes held no fury, just...an odd mixture of shock and grim acceptance. Victor instinctively reached up to touch the mark, giving his brother a soft smile.
Exhaling sharply, Yuri took Potya in his arms and held her close, frowning has he looked at the mattress. "...Are you alright?" he asked, his voice tight.
"I'm wonderful," Victor replied, going over to sit at the edge of the bed and careful not to wince. He reached over to stroke Yuri's hair soothingly, and added, "He didn't hurt me, Yura. And I'm happy. I'm so incredibly happy, I promise."
Part of him wanted to weep with joy, but he had a feeling Yurio would rip Yuuri's head off if he caught sight of even a single tear.
Yuri bit his lip and gave a few quick nods. "Alright," he said quietly. "Alright..." He blinked quickly and kept his gaze averted. "It's just...I wish..."
"...Wish what, Yura?"
"...I wish Mama and Papa were here," Yuri replied softly, sounding and looking so very young. "You're supposed to have your family around for a damn wedding."
Victor's heart broke from the loss all over again. He missed them every day, more than words could ever say. How happy would his parents have been if they knew he'd found a love like theirs? But Victor kept a smile on his face and kissed his brother's cheek, scenting him as he always did. "I have my family. You're my family. Now don't cry. You know how useless I am when people cry in front of me."
"Shut up," Yuri growled, pouting with a sniffle before burying his face in Potya's neck. The kitten purred and nuzzled Yuri right back.
The collar wasn't high enough to hide the mark, but Yuuri wanted to show it off.
At least part of him did. A bigger part of him that he was used to listening to just reminded him of his self-consciousness. He knew his family would be happy about this, but...Gods, just what was it about people having any sort of reaction, even good ones, that just frightened him off? Maybe it was being the center of attention. There was a reason he was thankful he was second-born.
He would have preferred to hide in his room with Victor, in his bed. Their bed. Sharing a nest or making love again while Yuuri learned more about what made Victor smile. He apparently loved having his chest played with, and once Yuuri was over his mortification he realized how delighted Victor was by the mark he'd left right over his nipple.
He loved being held and kissed, and Yuuri could have spent hours figuring everything out, just to make Victor smile and tremble in his arms. He loved it when Yuuri kissed his hands and his neck, and he'd even made Yuuri realize just how much he liked having his hair pulled...
Yuuri took a deep breath and concentrated on walking, feeling slightly drunk from the memories running through his head, filled with images of Victor writhing, his pretty lips parted in a shaky moan and how hot and tight he felt around Yuuri. Thighs wide open, one held down by Yuuri's palm while the other pumped Victor's hard length with every uneven thrust inside him, the omega clenching around Yuuri's knot with pleasured cries as those gorgeous legs trembled...
The alpha almost crashed into his mother and Minami when he rounded a corner, and let out a surprised exclamation as though they'd managed to peek at his thoughts. His face felt extremely warm as he looked at the young servant and at his mother, clearing his throat and weakly apologizing, "S-sorry. I wasn't paying attention."
His mother laughed and waved his words away. "Oh, don't worry, Yuuri. No harm done. I was actually on my way to find you and Victor. Is he-"
A sudden squawk of surprise interrupted her, and both alphas turned to look at Minami.
His wide-eyed gaze had zeroed in on the mark high on Yuuri's neck, and for some strange reason he looked ready to cry.
Yuuri's mother followed his gaze, and covered her mouth with a gasp and a blush as she too recognized the mark.
Yuuri clapped his hand over it, his heart about to shatter his ribs. "Uh...I..."
"Oh! Oh!" his mother exclaimed, smiling widely and at a loss for words. She looked absolutely delighted and Minami looked as though he was on his way to a funeral. "Oh, Yuuri! Oh, this is such good news!" She was apparently holding herself back from hugging him, probably well-aware of his extreme self-consciousness. "We have to celebrate! We have to announce this! Oh, we have to tell your father and sister!"
Yuuri bit his lip and made himself recognize what he saw in her eyes. Pride. Happiness. Sincere joy, as though she were waiting for this to finally happen. It all warmed him so much, and he was glad that he was the source of such a feeling for her. Well, he and Victor. "I...didn't really know how to tell you all," he admitted, smiling weakly.
"You don't have to say anything else," his mother said determinedly, her hands clasped together. "This is wonderful, Yuuri! All of Hasetsu will want to celebrate this! Oh, heavens...You and Victor! Together!"
It might have been her own mating she spoke of for all her delight. But Yuuri found himself actually...anticipating it all, despite still feeling a bit self-conscious. He realized how much he wanted the world to know that he and Victor belonged to each other, that he was the one the beautiful omega had chosen.
He had to smile as widely as his mother was, his heart bursting with happiness.
press F to pay respects to Minami's hopes and dreams. rip in peace