Victor thought he liked surprises. He honestly, firmly believed they were something that he enjoyed. But this… this is too much.
“Vitya? Honey, are you still there?”
Victor’s somehow on the floor. He had been standing in front of his desk, he’s sure of it, but Makkachin is suddenly in his face, licking his chin and whining. He wraps his free arm around her, digging his fingers into the curls.
Victor is… He’s…
“What—” He clears his throat. “What did you just say?”
“Vitya,” Mom’s tone lowers, obviously concerned. “You do remember about your arranged marriage, don’t you?”
“I…” He absolutely does not. He thought that wasn’t what was in store for him. He’s always had such grand daydreams about meeting someone, and falling in love, and—
But his mamas were an arranged match. Or, well, if he listens to his grandparents, it was really arranged in the sense that Mama arranged herself out of a different engagement and into a much more advantageous match with, to quote her, “The most beautiful woman to walk this earth.” But it had still been for politics. And he knows that their family could use firmer holds in certain countries and circles—the arrangement makes sense.
But if this was something they discussed, Victor would have remembered it.
“It was when you were little, darling.” Mama sighs. “See, I told you he wouldn’t remember.”
“I’d just hoped, dear…” The line goes quiet and Victor can practically hear the look they’re exchanging.
“When?” Victor blinks, trying to focus on the room, on anything in it, but his head spins. “How young was I?”
“When you were in school. There was a magic-bound oath and everything. We needed it, and you didn’t seem worried at the time. You really don’t remember?”
Victor wracks his brain for anything that might remotely resemble that. He’d learned about a lot of ceremonies in school, and that’s when he started participating in his family’s dealings, too. Though… he had spent a lot of time on his phone, playing games and texting Chris… or Yuuri. He was so distracted back then and, well, marriage would’ve seemed so far away. Maybe he did forget.
If Victor could grasp time travel magic, he’d go back and kick his younger self’s ass.
“Do we really need to go through with it?” Victor whispers. He knows the answer, though. No matter how much he daydreams, or wishes, he knows that his mamas will only ever try to do what’s best for him and the people that they’re in charge of. He wants to complain and throw a fit like a toddler, but he knows better.
“Oh, Vitya.” If Mom were anywhere nearby, her arms would be wrapped around Victor, and she would murmur in his ear and make him feel like he’s a child again, safe and without worry from the outside world. But she’s not here, and Victor’s alone.
“They’re a powerful family,” Mama starts slowly. “But I’m sure if this is too upsetting, we could reach out and attempt to negotiate things. You know your Mom’s way with words.”
“You’re one to speak!” There’s a smile in Mom’s voice, but not like it usually would be. This is stressing her—of course it’s stressing her.
Victor’s causing them too much trouble, and he won’t bear that.
“It will be fine.” Victor takes a breath, and is pleased with how steady it sounds. “You just… you took me off guard.”
“Are you sure, Vitya?”
And Victor knows, absolutely, that Mama would stop this for him. She would move heaven and earth if he asked. She would destroy the Nikiforov name and abandon her position if she knew it would make her Vitya happy—
But if she’s even mentioned this other family being powerful, he knows it’s not that simple. You can’t cancel an engagement between two powerful households without repercussions.
Victor will be fine. Even if he and his betrothed aren’t ever in love, they can be friends. After all, Victor can charm anyone into being his friend. Even if it’s shallow and the opposite of what Victor wants.
Though the memory of his old friend, fresh in its just turned over nostalgia, pops to the forefront of his mind. He couldn’t charm Yuuri enough, in the end.
Vitya clears his throat. “Of course I am. I knew this was a possibility ever since I was young. After all, you both were an arranged match. It will be fine.”
“We won’t force you,” Mama pushes.
Victor grimaces, doing his best to keep his voice calm. “I know. When will I meet them?”
“Oh!” There’s rustling as Mom does something or other. “We’ve already booked your flight, dear. You could use a vacation as it is. You’re scheduled to fly out to meet your betrothed and his family tomorrow.”
“I’m what?” Victor stands up, glancing around while his brain scrambles to catch up.
“It’s better not to dread these things, believe me.” Mama sounds so solemn that it almost jolts Victor out of his panic. Almost. “So we’ll just pull off the bandaid!”
Meeting his betrothed will be like pulling off a bandaid. Wonderful. Just wonderful.
Victor shakes his head—there’s no time for that now. “I need to pack, Mamas!”
Mom hums. “Oh, yes, I suppose you do.”
“Remember to let them care for you, Vitya! You’re their guest, they should be showing you what good in-laws they’ll be. And if they don’t, I’ll personally come over to—”
“Dear,” Mom interrupts, “we should let Vitya pack. Let us know if you need anything! Love you!”
And then the line’s dead.
Before Victor’s thoughts catch up to him, he bursts into his bedroom, dragging a suitcase from his closet. He starts in his bathroom, taking what he doesn’t need that evening of his hair and skincare routine and tucking them away into their familiar places in his luggage. He travels very, very often for his work, and he doesn’t know how long he’ll be staying, or how far he’ll be going or if his husband—his Mamas said his family, so it’s probably a husband—is going to be a horrible, terrible excuse for a human being—
Focus. His mamas wouldn’t let him within one-hundred feet of someone that might hurt him, much less betroth him to a person like that.
Victor finishes with what he can of his toiletries, then opens his closet and walks in, running careful fingers over the fabric within. Now this is essential to be careful about. An outfit can make an even greater statement than the person wearing it can, so what does Victor want to say to his betrothed and his family? What would this person like?
How can Victor even know that when he doesn’t even know his fiancé’s name?
He could text his mamas for more information, but he doesn’t want to bother them. They’re probably tired, and they’ll be headed to bed soon, he can’t. He has to focus.
Carefully, he plucks outfit after outfit from his closet, sending out small prayers that he’s choosing right, that his first impression won’t go over too terribly. Victor knows he can come across… strong, especially across cultural differences. His enthusiasm works for him more often than not, but he can’t know how to hold himself when he doesn’t even know if his betrothed is in the same country.
He doesn’t… he doesn’t know anything.
Victor slowly lowers himself to the floor, sitting cross-legged. Makka trots in and drapes herself across his lap, giving him something to fidget with as he looks at all the clothes spread out on his bed.
His life is boring. Predictable. He manages to exceed expectations and do the very best for his family and country, but really, his life itself is nothing special. It’s comfortable, and it’s cozy in its sameness. He might have joked or daydreamed about wanting something extreme like this, but in this case, it isn’t even his choice.
And he deserves to know more about this. He won’t open the door to more uncomfortable conversations with his mamas, but he knows someone else who can get the information he needs.
“Makkachin, do you want to go for a walk?”
Her head pops up and she gives a soft boof before scrambling off of Victor’s lap and then bouncing in the doorway while Victor gets up.
He can’t help but laugh a little at her antics. At least, if all else fails, he’ll have Makkachin by his side. His mamas know better than to book him a flight anywhere without getting passage for Makka, too.
But… what if his fiancé hates dogs?
Oh yes, he needs to find out more about this man. He hadn’t even considered the important things yet—of course he hadn’t, he’s been in shock.
“If he doesn’t like you, we’ll be coming right back home and I’ll end the engagement myself, our parents be damned,” Victor mutters as he slips on his shoes and clips on her leash.
Makka’s tongue lolls out of her mouth as she begins to pant in excitement, but otherwise she doesn’t respond.
With a sigh, Victor opens his door and slips into the hallway.
The royal estate is impressive, if Victor wants to make an understatement. It’s all rich, magic-pigmented paints meticulously covering every wall, moldings carved into mythical creatures long since extinct or demystified, all of that lined with paintings of historical events and monarchy of old. It’s quite a lot to take in, even for Victor, to the point that some royals choose to live in the city instead of the apartments and houses that were built near the court—his mamas live in a more rural part of town. In fact, Makka loves to visit them and chase the ducks around their pond. On one hand, Victor would like to give Makka the room to run around, but on the other, he doesn’t need a house, and he doesn’t really like a long commute.
Not to mention, his friend lives here.
Victor travels down a couple flights of stairs, to the level of the massive building that the ambassadors typically stay on when they aren’t at their embassies. The decorations are just as obnoxious here if not even more so than on the other floors, but Victor doesn’t have the mental capacity to pick on that right now—well, not much, anyway. Instead, he stops in front of a familiar door and raps at the knocker.
As the quiet begins to settle in, Victor frowns. He probably should have texted first. But it’s a Thursday evening, it’s not like anyone else would be going out—
The door cracks open, and green eyes glower at Victor.
Victor plasters on a smile before he can snicker. “Did I wake you, Chris?”
Chris’s eyes travel down Victor’s form, not checking him out—Victor’s well aware of what Chris checking someone out looks like, he’s far from a subtle person—but just taking him in. “Did you honestly just get back from court? Really, Victor, you overwork yourself. I would have hoped Makka at least would hold you accountable.”
Victor winces as Makka whines at the sound of her name. “I hired a dog walker, Chris. You know this.”
Chris rolls his eyes. “You and I both know that’s not the point I was trying to make.”
“Yes, I just—” Victor runs a hand through his hair, then glances up and down the hallway. “Can I come in?”
Chris raises an eyebrow, but thankfully steps aside, allowing him to walk in.
Chris’s chambers are more opulent than the hallway or Victor’s own place, but Victor’s never sure whether that was Chris’s choice, or just how it was furnished. It’s weirdly comforting in a way, though. Victor’s spent a lot of time here throughout the years, though less so now that Chris is engaged.
In retrospect, it’s a very good thing Victor didn’t interrupt anything.
“What sort of trouble did you get yourself into this time?” Chris collapses onto a chair in a graceful manner that is most definitely practiced.
Victor scowls, settling into the seat across from Chris, Makka hopping up onto his lap. “I don’t get myself into trouble that often.”
Chris cocks his eyebrow again, but stays quiet.
Victor gives a sigh. “Fine. But it really isn’t me, it’s my mothers.”
Now that gets Chris to sit up a little straighter.
Victor’s mamas have a bit of a reputation, you see; The Nikiforovas are renowned for their power over ice, and given that all magic is drawn from emotions, well. People draw conclusions. They may be soft on their Victor, but they’re known as two of the world’s most brutal and ruthless royal mages, the ultimate power couple. Victor does his very best to live up to their reputation, and though he doesn’t always succeed, he has made a bit of a name for himself as well.
Gods, what if his betrothed is afraid of him? Or worse: what if he expects the heartlessness rumored to run in his family?
Victor’s only had time to consider how awful his fiancé might be, he hasn’t even considered the inevitable expectations of the man and his family.
“Earth to Victor.” Chris is sitting up straight now, waving a hand to catch Victor’s eye. “Are you all right? What’s going on?”
Victor takes a shaking breath. “I’m… engaged. Apparently.”
“What?” Chris blinks, and Victor can practically see the cogs in his brain spinning. “To whom?”
“That’s the problem, I don’t know.” Well, truth be told, that isn’t “the” problem, Victor has a lot of other problems, but this is the only one that can be solved.
“They didn’t tell you?” Chris frowns.
“No.” Victor glances away. “I didn’t exactly think to ask, and I had to pack. Well, have still to, considering the day’s early done and I leave tomorrow. But I can sleep on the plane.”
“When are you leaving?”
Chris curses. “That damn Nikiforov airheadedness. And I imagine you’re avoiding your mothers because they’d try and talk to you, but you’re slithering away from things again, and that’s why you’re here?”
“Well…” That’s the problem with having good friends, Victor supposes, they call you the hell out. “Yes.”
Chris sighs. “Do you even know where you’re going?”
“Um… no?” Victor attempts to smile.
“How unsurprising.” Chris rolls his eyes and shakes his head, but draws out his phone at the same time. “Lucky for you, and despite the fact that you should call your mothers, I have a lead.”
“Really?” Victor perks up. “What is it?”
“Am I still ‘Heidi’ in your phone?”
Victor sighs. “Are you really going to bring that up now?”
“When have I not?” Chris glances up at him, his fingers continue to tap at the screen of his phone.
There was only one time that he hadn’t brought it up. But Victor doesn’t want to mention that any more than he’d like to remember that particular failure with everything else going on, so he raises his hands in surrender. “I don’t have my phone on me, I didn’t think to grab it before leaving my room.”
Chris mutters something too quiet for Victor to make out, before turning his attention back down to whoever he’s texting. “You’re lucky that I love you enough to do this.”
Victor smiles, the first honest smile he’s been able to give all day. “You know I love you, too.”
He catches a smile on Chris’s face before his work consumes him.
Chris isn’t particularly tech-savvy, nor is he into intelligence of any kind, but he does love to hear all about the court drama and apparently has his “sources.” He knows enough to blackmail any piece of information out of anyone, and it makes him one hell of a royal to deal with if you get on his bad side.
Maybe Victor should feel bad about whatever methods are being used to find out this information, but the alternative… Well, if Chris already has a lead, then he won’t have to do too much. Hopefully.
“How do you already know something?” Victor frowns. “My mothers said that this was arranged when I was a child, but I don’t have any recollection of it, and I haven’t heard a word.”
“That’s because you’re terrible at gossiping, my friend.” Chris doesn’t look up as he talks to him. “And it wasn’t about you, or I would’ve asked you before you’d come down here. I thought I heard rumors that there was a certain royal about to be engaged, but they seemed too far-fetched. I would’ve gossiped about it when the time came, but…”
“But I came down here, first.” Victor tries not to wonder why this royal getting engaged would be too far-fetched, and what that could mean about his betrothed. But of course he fails, the same as he’s failed to focus on everything he should be mindful of all night.
Chris nods. “I’m sure you would’ve heard about it at some point, anyway. This holds a certain… personal interest for you.”
But if Chris hadn’t known he was engaged… Victor’s stomach sinks. “What do you mean?”
Chris holds up a finger, eyes flitting across the screen as he reads whatever someone just sent him. Then his eyes pop open wide. “Your mothers didn’t mention anything about where you’re going or who it is to you?”
“Chris, you know this already, please just tell me.” Victor grips the arms of his chair tight, unable to help where a little frost spreads from his skin and across the smooth fabric.
“I just don’t understand why no one would mention it to you.” Chris frowns at his screen. “It’s not like it’s a given—or, well, it would have been a given if it were years ago. Unless…”
“Chris,” Victor hisses, barely resisting the urge to form an icicle with his anxiety and throw it at his friend.
With a deep breath, Chris glances up and meets Victor’s eyes. “Victor, you’re going to marry Yuuri.”
Victor frowns. “Cousin Yuri?” But he’s a child. Not to mention the fact that he lives on the same floor of the same building as Victor, he wouldn’t have to fly to meet him.
“You know it’s not that Yuri.” Chris scowls. “The Yuuri that disappeared from our lives ten years ago.”
“Katsuki?” Victor whispers.
No. No, this doesn’t make any sense. Maybe Victor doesn’t remember whatever ceremony he promised himself at, but he would have known if he were engaged to Yuuri.
If this was before he’d even seen Yuuri dancing, would he have remembered? His mamas never said that his betrothed was at the ceremony, it might have only been Yuuri’s parents. And that would explain how panicked Yuuri was when they first met, considering Victor was his intended, not just some popular kid.
That would explain why Yuuri ran when Victor didn’t return his kiss.
Victor drops his face into his hands and resists the urge to scream.
He’s engaged to Yuuri, they’re going to see each other again. Under any other circumstances, Victor would use this opportunity to make things right. But it’s been so long. Victor should have pushed harder to talk, he should have kept trying to contact Yuuri, to make things right.
But it’s been ten years.
Is there any possible way that Victor can?