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Very Gay and Debonair

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Victor is the kind of child that can charm people whether or not he uses magic to do so—and he would have you know he does not use magic to accomplish it.

First, he appreciates the challenge of doing things for himself and proving everyone wrong.

Second, royals are the only ones with magic so they need to use it responsibly, for the people. Not to mention that magic comes from emotions, but that doesn’t mean that they make easy to manipulate emotions.

Third, in this particular case, the Katsuki boy has so thoroughly charmed Victor without using any magic himself, that Victor’s making it a point of pride to do the same in return.

You see, despite having a knack for wooing others, Victor isn’t very good at people. Yes, he can talk to them, he can get what he wants from them, but life is easier when he lets his family name, and his charm and power draw them to him. He’s not lonely, per se, but he wouldn’t say that he’s the sort to seek out others’ company. He focuses on his work, and people come to him.

But not the Katsuki boy.

He’s even more of a child than Victor is, with about four years separating them, give or take. In all reality, Victor shouldn’t give him a passing glance, and yet…

It all starts when he passes by one of the empty dance studios at their boarding school. Victor had just finished practicing, since Aunt Lilia would have his head if he gave it up—honestly, probably literally.

There are lessons he could take here. The art programs are very good according to his mamas, but what does it matter? His future is already set in stone for him. Art, including dancing, will only ever be a hobby for Victor to entertain in his indulgent moments. Just like the friends he makes will become political pawns to him, same as he will to them.

It’s the life he was born into. He shouldn’t resent it.

The soft hush of movement shakes Victor from his thoughts, and draws his attention and his feet into the empty room.

Well, almost empty.

In the slanted light of the afternoon, another boy moves to a melody that he weaves out of dust motes and light, and the delicate sounds of cloth against cloth and ballet slippers against the floor. He’s so small, soft around the edges, short hair mussed with sweat and exertion, and the way he moves…

He would be a dream for Lilia to teach. He shouldn’t be in some school to learn how to survive politics and magic, he should be creating art with his body, he—

The boy turns and nearly topples over when he sees Victor.

For a moment they just stare at each other, and Victor can’t help but notice the kid’s eyes, wide and earnest and filled with an emotion that Victor can’t really make heads or tails of.

Victor could just wave and keep walking, play it off like he’s just passing by. But something begins to burn in him.

His life is out of his control, and the kids here have their own agendas. He shouldn’t get attached. He shouldn’t be curious. He should go back to his room and continue studying since exams are going to be coming up soon.

But he doesn’t.

For the first time in years, curiosity whispers to Victor.  What sort of royal spends the time learning to move like that? What sort of family allows that? What sort of person is he? Victor needs to know. And he’s aware of the reputation that he and the power that his family has, so even if this boy is only concerned with political connections, befriending Victor would be in his favor. He doesn’t want to slip through someone’s fingers as just another talented mage, again.

So, Victor takes a deep breath, puts on his best smile, and says, “Hi, my name is Victor! What’s yours?”

For another second the boy just stares at Victor, and it takes all his effort not to let his smile fall. Then the boy mutters something too quick to make out, and brushes past Victor so fast that it takes a moment for him to process that he’s alone again. Something that Victor didn’t even realize could be heavy falls in his chest and sinks down to his feet.

Well he was just a kid, a small boy. Maybe Victor freaked him out. Maybe he’s scared of the older boys. Maybe… Maybe he doesn’t want anything to do with Victor?

But… not all is lost. The boy left something on the floor. His bag. And his phone on top of it.

And it would only be the gentlemanly thing to do to make sure that he got his possessions back, wouldn’t it?

 


 

If only things were that easy.

Using the help of his best and, well, only sort of friend, Christophe, he can at least find the boy’s name: Katsuki Yuuri.

As sweet a name as the boy seemed, in the glimpse he caught of him. And, really, without having a name, Victor would think he were a ghost. When he manages to try and watch the crowd coming out of Katsuki’s classes, he never sees that head of black hair. When he tries to stick around the cafeteria for an entire meal, he doesn’t show up. When Victor finally gets Katsuki’s dorm number and knocks, there’s no answer.

Maybe he’s being a little creepy.

Okay, a lot creepy.

Maybe Katsuki has a point in avoiding him. But Chris gets his information from a friend of Yuuri’s, and whoever it is wouldn’t be telling Chris—and therefore Victor—if he didn’t want Yuuri to be found. Or at least that’s what Victor chooses to believe.

If only he could call Katsuki’s phone, but Victor has his cell and with no way to returning it…

He sighs, flopping down on the edge of a fountain and blowing a few strands of long hair from his face. His mamas have been encouraging his to cut it so it’s easier to manage, maybe he should…

What would his mamas think of him now, sitting here, chasing a boy that obviously doesn’t want to be chased?

It had been a couple of weeks, and Victor might be persistent, but he can get a message. He doesn’t know how to do this. He doesn’t know how to reach out for a friend without scaring them away—gods know Chris is only still around because he’s the one typically annoying Victor. Of course no one wants to be around Victor, otherwise.

It’s time to move on.

A phone vibrates in his back pocket—not the one in the bag he always carries around, that had stopped making noises after the first day or so, and he never looked at the notifications or tried to read anything… despite the temptation—and he heaves out another sigh before pulling it out.

 

Heidi:

Where r u?

 

Victor frowns at his screen. Chris should be in class right now, and he doesn’t usually skip.

 

Victor:

Why?

What are you planning?

 

Heidi:

;)

Don’t spoil the surprise

Wheeeeeere

 

Victor bites his lip. It can’t be about Katsuki, Chris hasn’t had any leads for a while, but maybe… Well, maybe Victor can use whatever the distraction is.

 

Victor:

At the fountain in the courtyard.

 

He hits send, and then waits.

And waits some more.

And even more.

Victor’s frown deepens. Chris doesn’t normally do things like this. If he’s doing Victor a favor it always, always starts off with him trying to weasel Victor into changing Chris’s name on his phone. If Victor didn’t know any better, he’d say he finally gave up.

But he knows better.

Maybe Victor should go somewhere else. Whatever Chris is planning can’t be good. He may look and act innocent, but Victor knows full well the terror that lurks underneath. The last time Chris pranked Victor, it took him months to wash out the pink hair dye… even if Victor had kind of liked it. But it wasn’t colored evenly, it was a disaster, and—

“H-Hello?”

Victor jumps, and nearly falls back into the fountain.

“Sorry! Oh no, I’m so sorry, I—“

Right in front of Victor, in the flesh and somehow not a ghost at all, is Katsuki Yuuri. He’s biting his lip and wearing some baggy clothes that don’t fit his frame at all—he must not have classes today if he’s out of uniform—but it’s him.

What did Chris do?

“I’m so, so sorry.” Katsuki bows his head, keeping his eyes on the ground. “You’ve been trying to give me back my things, and I…”

And he what? Victor’s dying to know, but he doesn’t push; sometimes, occasionally, he has tact. He clears his throat. “I’m so happy I finally found you! Here.” Victor holds out Yuuri’s bag.

Yuuri quickly snatches if from his hands with a furrowed brow. “Th-thank you. You didn’t… you didn’t look inside, did you?”

Victor shakes his head. Oh, he wanted to. If Chris hadn’t gotten Katsuki’s information from whatever sources he found, Victor would have. But he wanted to be good and he’d done his best, and it pays off in the way that Katsuki’s shoulders relax. “I’m happy I finally got it back to you.”

“I-I’m sorry, I should have come to get it sooner. Or not left it. Thank you for doing… so, so much.” Katsuki keeps his eyes focused anywhere but on Victor.

And, well. That won’t do.

Victor stands up, at least a head taller than the younger boy, and steps forward until Katsuki has no choice but to look up at him. “I know what you can do to make it up to me.”

Katsuki stiffens up, swallowing. “Um… what?”

“Be my friend, Katsuki!” Victor beams, and finds he’s not even pretending to smile that much. “You seem like a nice person, and I want to get to know you.”

Katsuki narrows his eyes. “I’ve been avoiding you for days.”

“You have.”

“And I’m, like, four years younger than you.”

“You are.”

“And you’re… You’re very popular. You’re Victor Nikiforov.”

“I am.” Victor nods along with Yuuri’s points, even if he doesn’t see the reasoning behind them. “Though I’d prefer it if you called me Victor.”

For one moment, Katsuki eyes Victor, a refusal written clear as day in his pinched expression. But as the seconds tick by, the tension slips away, and a small smile spreads across his face.

“Then… Call me Yuuri.”

 


 

“Yuuri! We’re going shopping!”

“Ah, I shouldn’t—”

“Let me clarify.” Victor rests a hand on his shoulder, startling him. “I’m going shopping and I’m kidnapping you to go with me.”

“K-kidnapping is illegal, you know!” Yuuri squeaks as he lets himself get dragged off for Victor to buy him an entire new wardrobe.

 


 

“I’m not really powerful. Or good at anything.” Yuuri sighs into his knees, pulled up to meet his face while he sits next to Victor.

“Yuuri, that isn’t true at all.” Victor frowns. “How dare you put down my favorite person.”

“Favorite?” Yuuri’s tone is serious, even though Victor swears he can see the corner of his mouth twitch up. “Even more than your mamas, or Makkachin, or Chris?”

Victor gasps, bringing a hand to his heart. “That’s not fair, Yuuri! Fine. You’re my favorite Yuuri. The best Yuuri I could ever know, and I don’t ever want to not know you.”

Yuuri grins a little, and brings his head up. “I… I feel the same.”

 


 

“Um… this is Vicchan.”

Victor gasps, covering his mouth. “Ohmygodhe’ssocute!”

“Victor… are you crying?”

“N-n-no,” Victor says as he sobs.

 


 

“You… you want me to call you Vitya?” Yuuri’s cheeks turn pink as he sits at the edge of Victor’s bed. Chris isn’t always around their dorm, which is fine by Victor. He loves his friend, but knows he can overwhelm Yuuri at times. Not to mention one on one time with Yuuri is almost as comfortable and easy as breathing, and Victor wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Or at least it’s supposed to be that easy. But it’s not right now.

Victor lounges back on his bed, trying to get comfortable, but Yuuri looks so stiff today and it makes something in Victor feel unsettled. So he tries to reach out with one of the few things he has left to offer.

“Yes! Yuuri, you’re my best friend—though don’t let Chris hear that.” Victor tries his best to give a bright smile. “You can call me Vitya.”

Yuuri frowns, though if anything his cheeks turn even pinker. “I-I can’t take your word for it when you’re smiling like that.”

Victor’s smile becomes even more strained. “Like what?”

“Like you’re forcing it.” Yuuri glances away, eyes on the floor. “When you look at me, I don’t want that. I just want Victor.”

Victor’s heart stutters in a way that’s probably unhealthy in his chest. No one notices or cares about that kind of thing, save for his mamas. Victor himself hardly even noticed, his face moving before his mind caught up with it. Something warm and bright blooms in his chest, spreading through his limbs until he can’t resist anymore, he launches forward and tackles Yuuri to the bed, a real grin spread across his face. “Then you’ll have me. But only if you call me Vitya.”

When Victor pulls back, Yuuri’s face has, impossibly, turned an even brighter red.

Yuuri sucks in a deep breath, large brown eyes searching Victor’s face. “V-Vitya,” he breathes Victor’s name like something precious, something sacred.

“There, that wasn’t too hard, was it?” Victor beams at him, hair falling over his shoulder and next to Yuuri’s face. It’s nice to have someone he’s so close to, that he can trust enough to let use his diminutive.

And Yuuri… Yuuri reaches up, wrapping a hand around the back of Victor’s neck, and pulls him down so that their lips brush together.

It’s over so quickly that Victor doesn’t even have time to process it. Yuuri’s eyes are even wider than before, his cute flush gone and leaving him nearly as white as a sheet.

“I, um…” Yuuri licks his lips, lips that were somehow on Victor just second ago.

Victor has been pursued by other students before—in fact, he often encourages it. The only time he’s ever had to hunt down someone was when it was Yuuri, and that hadn’t been remotely romantic.

Yuuri shoves Victor off, scrambling off the bed and snatching the books that he’d brought over to study with Victor. He needed help finessing his magic, something Victor had a little more control with, but of course they got to chatting instead and…

And what just happened?

“I’m s-sorry.” Yuuri turns for just a moment, but it’s long enough for Victor to catch tears in his eyes. “I’m so, so, so sorry.”

And then he’s running out the door.

Victor doesn’t know what just happened, he doesn’t know what to say. Obviously a kiss isn’t exactly the way to make this one better, but he knows he has to do something. He scrambles off the mattress, running barefooted out of his dorm.

“Yuuri!”

But Yuuri’s not in the hallway. Victor’s not even sure which stairs Yuuri used, or if he’d gone off to his dorm, or the dance studio, or the cafeteria. Knowing Yuuri, he won’t be letting Phichit know where he is either, and… Gods, Victor needs to study for his finals. He can’t run all over the campus right now, when Yuuri probably needs some alone time as it is.

He’ll see Yuuri tomorrow, and they’ll talk.

 


 

But tomorrow is no good. Yuuri—predictably, in retrospect—avoids him. He doesn’t answer texts, and the one time that Victor goes to Yuuri’s dorm, he only gets sympathetic frowns from Yuuri’s friend and roommate, Phichit.

Not that he even has any idea what to say when he sees Yuuri next.

He cares about Yuuri more than anyone, differently than anyone, and he always wants him to stay by his side, it’s just… Yuuri’s still so young, and Victor’s old and they should get through school before even considering something like this. Victor refuses to until Yuuri’s old enough, it’s too weird and not right, otherwise. But it’s important to Yuuri, obviously. They need to talk about it.

Except… they don’t.

Victor would be lying if he said there wasn’t a tight coil growing in his gut, unsure of how to tackle any of this. Because there’s a chance Yuuri won’t forgive him, won’t want to be around him if he doesn’t handle this right. So, Victor just… doesn’t handle it. He and Yuuri go to the same school, they’re bound to run into each other. Maybe Victor will think of something perfect to say by then.

It was so much easier to chase when Yuuri was just a face, just a graceful dancer whose song called to him, but now he’s Yuuri. He’s Victor’s best friend. His nose crinkles adorably when he laughs, he’s incredibly shy around new people but can be incredibly bold for the ones he cares about, and…

About a week later, there’s a freak accident in one of the dorms; some idiot used their magic to set the place on fire and destroyed nearly the whole building. They all have to leave for a couple of months while repairs are made, and when they all come back to school, there’s one noticeable person absent:

Yuuri.

And there’s absolutely nothing Victor can do to change that, despite the fact that he wishes he could. Victor chased a stranger into being his best friend, but when his best friend needed chasing, he didn’t chase him. He chose not to address this, and now he has to deal with the consequences.

And the consequences, quite frankly, suck.

 


 

Ten years pass in a blur of politics and magic and fake smiles that Victor can’t help think that Yuuri would hate. He’s become more adept at reading people now, moving beyond charming them to working them, to talking his way into and out of anything, and it’s after long days of talks and negotiations like this one that he thinks of Yuuri.

He shrugs off his jacket, heavy in ornate beading and embroidery, and lush in rich fabric. His impulse is to just drop it on the floor and let it wrinkle, let it get dirty. But he knows better. He hangs it up like it should, to get magicked clean later.

In retrospect, Yuuri’s actions were obvious. Victor should have seen it coming from miles and months away. The way he had a smile just for Victor, his easy blushes, and his gentle teasings. He cared deeply for Victor, and Victor barely looked at Yuuri in return. He called Yuuri his best friend, but had he really reached out and paid as much attention as he should have?

It’s silly for him to think about this as often as he does, to have these regrets when surely Yuuri’s moved on. He’s considered texting to ask, but Yuuri could have a different cell phone number by now. And maybe Victor could go and visit Yuuri and his family, but would they consider that rude? There are cultural differences, and Victor has to think not just of himself, but the country and people he represents.

Even if he doesn’t want to.

It’s been ten years, and this shouldn’t haunt him.

But it does.

Victor flops down in a chair, taking in a deep breath before Makkachin leaps up onto his lap and knocks the air right back out of him. Once he can, he laughs and gives her the scratching she always deserves. “I missed you too, girl.”

He should get up and walk her. He should get up and see if he has enough food in the fridge for dinner. He probably has a dozen different things to do, and people to call, if he dared to look at his to do list. And even if he’s let the relationships that matter to him wither, he is meticulous about his work life.

But… just for a few minutes, Victor lets himself have the luxury of daydreaming about what Yuuri grew up to be. He’s stayed well out of the public eye, to the point that he isn’t even on any of Phichit’s social media anymore. Sometimes, though, Victor will stumble upon an odd article about Yuuri’s philanthropic work, or some deal he’s negotiated. There are rumors that he’s become a highly powerful magic worker, and Victor doesn’t doubt that.

Victor sighs. It’s silly. People drift apart all the time and never see each other ever again. But there are just so many regrets here, it’s hard to just forget

His phone ringing snaps him from his thoughts. And there are only two people who have his mama’s wedding song as their ringtone.

He gently nudges Makka off his lap and then scrambles over to where he’d placed his phone down on his desk, catching it at the very last second. “Mom, are you all right?”

Mom scoffs. “Can’t we just call you, Vitya?”

Victor’s stomach begins a slow descent. “You just got back from a vacation, and you two and I all know that your staycation begins immediately with a day of quiet and, well,” Victor clears his throat, “wife time.”

“I told you he was too smart.” Mama sighs. “You should just tell him.”

“I thought you were going to tell him?”

Mamas.” Victor sighs. “Just tell me. I like surprises, not suspense.”

“Very well.” Mom sighs. “Vitya, we can’t put it off any longer. You’re getting married in a few months.”

For a moment, Victor’s mind goes incredibly silent.

And then it starts shrieking like something from a horror movie.

 

Chapter Text

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.

Marriage.

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.

Wouldn’t he?

“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.

He hopes.

“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?”

“Tomorrow.”

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.

One time.

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.

Chris nods.

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.

Wouldn’t he?

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?

Chapter Text

After Yuuri had disappeared from the school, he had apparently disappeared from the world at large as well.

Victor knew about him going quiet on all social media—not that he was seen much outside of Phichit’s accounts, anyway. And to a point, Victor knew about Yuuri not being much in the public eye. But there are a lot of people that Victor has to keep track of, so not seeing much of Yuuri in the news wasn’t unusual.

And yet there’s so little about him out there that Victor nearly throws his phone at the wall while waiting in the airport for his skycarriage to board. He had been planning on browsing through everything he could read on Yuuri on the trip over to an entirely different country; he’d have the time. But he doesn’t need it. He can read up on almost everything he finds in the time he’s waiting.

And it’s all so clinical, without any photographs, or even quotes. The most interesting thing he finds, after much searching, is that there are a lot of conspiracies about Yuuri being dead. Most people in favor of those theories think that he died in that fire back at the dorms when they were kids, but some people think his disappearance was an injury from that incident—both of which don’t make much sense when you consider the fact that Yuuri didn’t stay in that dorm—and very few people land on what Victor knows to be true:

Yuuri’s always been shy and anxious, and he probably just wants to stay out of the spotlight.

The exact opposite of the life Victor’s been leading.

Victor tries not to notice the inevitable clash of their lifestyles, but it’s not like he can just ignore it.

At least what little he reads about Yuuri is positive. More than that, really. Yuuri’s really stepped into the role assigned to him at birth as a magic user; everything Victor reads about him explains how Yuuri uses his magic and political sway to improve lives and livelihoods, and how he reaches out to those less fortunate to lift them up. His family has made quite a stir in the politics of their country, making them a bit of a powerhouse. Yuuri and his sister seem to work as a team of sorts—she is the driving force in courts, getting things approved, and Yuuri’s the one who goes and does them.

Except that no one sees him, and anyone that does never gets a picture.

Victor has absolutely no idea what his fiancé looks like as an adult, and it won’t do for him to keep picturing Yuuri as he was the last time that he saw him. Not just because it’s not right, not just because he’s dead curious, but because he doesn’t want to remember the disaster that was the last time they saw each other, and the note they left their friendship on.

Gods, that damned fire.

Victor’s not a violent man, but he half-wishes that he could shake some sense into whatever moron decided to probably get drunk and burn the dorm down. There were magical protections on the campus, but any kid knew a few workarounds, and there’s a slight possibility some people were just more powerful than the spells. It’s not like Victor knows who did it—it’s not like it matters.

Victor couldn’t do anything about it even if he had a name.

He just wishes he had someone to blame besides himself.

By the time the skycarriage boards, Victor’s ready to burn the place down himself.

There’s nothing he can do. He can’t prepare more. He can’t contact Yuuri ahead of time. And he absolutely can’t back out.

How ironic that he’d half-heartedly daydreamed about dropping everything and visiting Yuuri abruptly for so many years for it to end up actually happening. Except, in this case, the surprise falls on himself instead of Yuuri.

And, well, if it would make Yuuri feel anything like Victor does right now, he’s happy that he never gave in to the urge.

He can barely keep himself from constantly getting up and pacing around on the trip, already garnering glares as his leg continuously shakes. Victor doesn’t get nervous, not like this. He just doesn’t. He’s learned from his mamas; if you’re unsure of how to handle something you make a plan. And then you make a second one, and maybe a backup for that if you’re still unsure.

And oh, Victor tries to plan. He practices dozens of greetings in his head, he apologizes a thousand times in hundreds of different ways, but the problem is he doesn’t know Yuuri. Not anymore. Even if the heart and soul of his best friend from years ago is still intact, he can’t anticipate how the world has changed him. The Yuuri he knew was shy, but shy enough to hide from everyone and everything like this? Things have happened, and Victor knows nothing about them. Nothing about him.

Victor knows who Yuuri was, but he’s going to be spending the rest of his life around a practical stranger.

And that’s not even taking into account Yuuri’s family.

Victor’s not sure who will be living where—whether they’ll get married and for the most part lead their lives separately, or if he’ll be expected to move in with Yuuri, or if Yuuri will be expected to find a home in Victor’s apartment. Either way, he’s going to have to spend some amount of time with his in-laws. What if they hate Victor? What if he can’t find the right thing to say, and they toss him out, ruining their potential connections? What if they don’t toss him out and Victor has to deal with passive aggressive behavior this entire trip—or the entire rest of his life?

His mamas haven’t given him an itinerary yet, and that’s another thing on the list that he should text them about, but won’t. He doesn’t resent them—he may want to throw a fit and turn the skycarriage right around and go home, but he won’t. He can’t.

After it’s been either ten years or ten minutes, the skycarriage lands. Victor just barely resists the urge to jump from foot to foot as he waits behind other passengers to leave and finally grab ahold of Makkachin and her crate.

He spends longer than is either appropriate or necessary standing there, cuddling Makkachin and cooing at her, but he can’t help it. He’s waited the entire ride wanting to get here and know his fate, but now he more or less just wants to sit at the airport until the Katsukis and his mamas give up on him.

But he knows better. So with a sigh, he and Makka set out toward the exit, and he only realizes once he gets out there that he has absolutely no idea how he’s going to get to the Katsuki estate. He doesn’t even know the address.

He pulls his phone out of his pocket and stares at the dark screen. He should text his mamas. He needs to let them know he got here safely, and that he’s not mad at them, and—

“You’re Victor Nikiforov, right?”

Victor blinks and looks up to find a woman in a suit beaming, brown hair tied back and expression warm with an easy grin.

“Yes,” Victor answers, word slow with hesitance. “And you are?”

Her smile falters a little. “Didn’t anyone tell you who would be picking you up? I’m Yuuko Nishigori, the Katsukis’ top advisor. They’re held up in court today, and we would have to get to know each other at some point if you’re going to be joining the family. So, I volunteered to pick you up!”

If. Victor plasters a smile onto his face. There’s no “if” to it—if there was an if, Victor would have been asked, and he would have scheduled his own flight to meet Yuuri. He could have said no—but he wouldn’t have, not right away at least.

The realization almost startles the grin right off his face, but he neatly tucks away the thought to pick apart later. For now he says, “Ah, this flight was a bit rushed on my end due to some miscommunication, and I’m afraid all of the details aren’t at my disposal yet.” It’s not entirely a lie, anyway.

“It’s so nice to finally meet you!” Yuuko holds out a hand, and Victor takes it without thinking. “I’ll be honest, I feel like I already know you a bit. Yuuri used to talk about you all the time.”

Used to. It shouldn’t sting, it has no right to sting, but it does—especially considering Yuuri seems to have known they were engaged the entire time.

“And it’s good to meet you, too!” Yuuko bends down to scratch Makka’s head, and Victor instantly decides that worse comes to worst, at least Yuuko is kind and welcoming and likes dogs. “Are you ready to head off?”

“Yes, please.” Victor motions for her to lead the way.

Yuuko chatters as they head out to the shiny black car that drives them through the cityscape and away from the heavy traffic. Victor’s mind can’t seem to focus on either her voice or the scenery out the window. At least his responses seem to be enough to keep her thinking he’s engaged, but his mind won’t stop turning over everything.

What if Yuuri’s mostly forgotten Victor? It isn’t like Yuuri would have any reason to care about Victor after he’d failed to acknowledge Yuuri as his fiancé for years. It’s fine. Victor will just… He’ll have to make Yuuri care. Assuming that Yuuri isn’t so angry that he won’t even let Victor talk. In which case, admitting the fact that he forgot about their engagement probably won’t help matters.

Victor lets out a sigh. Why does this have to be so complicated?

“Are you all right?” Yuuko leans a little closer so that the driver won’t overhear—not because she seems to mistrust the person driving them, but probably for Victor’s comfort.

Something tight and warm grows in Victor’s chest at the gesture. “No, I’ll be all right. It’s just… it’s been a while since I’ve seen Yuuri and, to be honest, I’m a bit nervous.” Now that definitely isn’t a lie.

Yuuko’s smile dims slightly, but it’s just as warm. “You have nothing to worry about, I assure you. I know you two were friends in school, so you understand that Yuuri will be doing enough worrying for you both.”

Victor barks out a laugh, almost taken off guard by it. “You’re right.”

“And besides, we’re here!” Yuuko opens the car door without waiting for a response, and before Victor can process it, the driver’s opened his door as well.

The house itself is impressive—more a mansion, if Victor’s being honest. It’s constructed of light woods and vibrant whites, the walls littered with windows, and it gives off such a welcoming air that Victor almost relaxes. The yard itself is smothered in meticulously maintained gardens, with dozens of varieties of flowers blooming, birds and butterflies everywhere. Honestly, Victor almost immediately wants to head off and explore—but the people in front of him keep him from wandering off.

It seems that most of the Katsuki household is out here, ranging from servants, to assistants, cousins and other relatives, but there are three people in the front, and that’s where Victor’s focus falls.

He knows all of them; despite Yuuri miraculously staying away from any sort of camera, the other Katsukis are easy to locate online. Hiroko and Toshiya stand hand in hand, a little shorter in person than Victor anticipated, but their smiles are the most genuine he’s ever seen and he would return the expression honestly if it weren’t for the last person: Mari.

She almost glowers at him as she steps forward, and holds out a hand. Problem is, Victor thinks she’s worn the same expression in nearly every single photo he’s seen of her, so he doesn’t know if he should take it personally. “Welcome, Mr. Nikiforov, to the Katsuki estate.”

“Ah, please, just Victor is fine.” Victor smiles as earnestly as he can with the disappointment carving a hole between his ribs.

Yuuri isn’t here.

Mari eyes him for a moment before nodding, and taking a step back.

“It’s so nice to meet you, Vicchan!” Hiroko comes forward and wraps her arms around him in a gentle hug that almost jolts Victor out of his practiced expression. “It’s a bit like we’re family already, with how Yuuri used to go on about you.”

Again, that used to. But…

“Vicchan? Like Yuuri’s dog?” The words slip out of Victor’s mouth before he can think about them, still in shock at the arms around him.

Hiroko lets go of him, and from the way that Hiroko’s smile falters, he wishes he could take them back. “Ah, no. Unfortunately that Vicchan passed away. But you are who Yuuri named the puppy after!”

Victor starts. Yuuri never mentioned that. If Victor noticed a similarity in their names, he quickly dismissed it as impossible since Yuuri hadn’t known him. But were they engaged that young? It would explain why Victor doesn’t remember, and it wasn’t as if Victor wasn’t out doing work with his mamas from a young age—Yuuri could have looked up a lot of information about him. And then Vicchan passed, another Victor to cut themselves out of Yuuri’s life.

Gods, Victor was terrible to him.

He clears his throat. “Where is Yuuri, by the way?”

Hiroko shakes her head. “Unfortunately he couldn’t make it tonight. We figured that we’d give you space to settle and take your meal in your chambers, and then hopefully he can make it to breakfast in the morning. He’s been… busy.”

Something about how she says the word busy makes Victor remember Yuuri avoiding him constantly when they first met. Well, Victor won’t put any money on Yuuri being at breakfast, then. The least he can do after everything is give Yuuri the space he needs.

Toshiya clears his throat. “Would you like to settle in?”

Victor’s smile settles onto his face like a mask. “Yes please, if you wouldn’t mind.”

 


 

 

The problem is, time doesn’t seem to help with Yuuri being “busy.” In fact, even his family stops making excuses.

Victor wakes up the next morning and has breakfast with the rest of the Katsukis, and it’s more pleasant and less awkward than one would think. Makka even makes Mari laugh with her not-quite begging antics as she makes her home beneath the dining table. Toshiya and Hiroko not-so-sneakily try and give her scraps now and then, obviously practiced movements from another dog, a long time ago.

And, well, at least he can be a little more sure life with his in-laws won’t be too terrible. Makka has always been a great judge of character—even if easily bribed—and how people react to her lets Victor judge them.

Which makes him wonder how she’ll like Yuuri. He’s seen Vicchan, and Yuuri’s seen Makka, but neither of them met each others dogs and, well, now he supposes he can never meet his namesake.

Yuuri, however…

Victor’s hopes rise every time there’s a meal where the other Katsukis are present. He tries to fight down the anticipation whenever he sits in on the court in this country—which is fascinating, both strict and yet more relaxed than his country in different ways—even if he knows that Yuuri hasn’t shown up in court himself since when he was a kid.

What doesn’t help is the sympathetic glances he gets from the Katsukis and even Yuuko whenever they think he isn’t looking. It’s not like he doesn’t ask about Yuuri, but there’s never anything new that they tell him. Honestly, Victor’s about to start believing that the conspiracy theories online are right and Yuuri’s secretly undead, or in a coma, or something.

But ten years ago he’d made the mistake of not confronting Yuuri when he needed to, and he’s not repeating it.

After a week of constant disappointment, Victor takes to exploring the estate at every opportunity he can. He gets lost more often than he’d care to admit, since the property is even larger than expected, somehow. The gardens are intricate and lavish, there’s a huge library with tomes in every language imaginable, and not to mention all of the rooms. Victor doesn’t even understand what half of them are for. But they are beautiful, everything is decorated and styled in an elegant simplicity that is so much more satisfying and oddly homey compared to his apartment.

And yet, Victor doesn’t have half an inkling as to where Yuuri would hide amongst it all. As it is, Victor hasn’t even found the wing where the Katsukis themselves reside—though it might be a little soon to resort to finding and sitting outside of Yuuri’s bedroom door until he shows up. Knowing Yuuri, he’d still manage to avoid Victor somehow.

Well, knowing who Yuuri was, at least. Would the Yuuri that Victor knew avoid him like this? He wants to say no, but he remembers what happened the last few days they were in school together. Still, he doesn’t know the reasoning behind his avoidance now. Gods, he didn’t even really understand Yuuri’s avoidance then, did he?

Maybe Victor can find Yuuri’s room and just borrow a piece of his used clothing for Makkachin to sniff and track him down with. Except that might be even creepier than just waiting outside his room. And Makkachin is lovely and brilliant and adorable, but has never been trained as a hunting dog.

Victor sighs, kneeling down to scratch behind Makka’s ears. They’re in some hallway that Victor thought was by the library, but he can’t seem to find it. He doesn’t want to use magic to track down Yuuri, that’s incredibly invasive and sure to get him kicked out of the house, but what can he try next? What resource can he use that he hasn’t already?

Footsteps sound behind Victor, and he nearly gets excited before he turns and finds it’s only Yuuko

“Oh, Mr. Nikiforov! What are you doing in this part of the house?” Yuuko blinks down at Victor, hand over her heart like he scared her.

He probably did, practically sitting on the floor like this.

Clearing his throat, Victor stands up. “Sorry about startling you, I was just…” Trying to hunt down his elusive fiancé. Considering tearing down the walls to figure out where he’s hiding. Maybe tearing his own hair out while he’s at it. He can’t admit it aloud, but he’s about to lose his mind.

Or… maybe he can admit it? The Katsukis and their staff aren’t treating Victor like an imposition, if anything they seem to pity him.

Maybe the answer was right in front of Victor this whole time.

Victor puts on the brightest smile he can muster, flicking his fringe from his face. “I need to meet Yuuri. Will you help me?”

Chapter Text

Yuuko immediately freezes, eyeing Victor like he’s grown a third arm, or gone bald—and he hasn’t gone bald quite yet, despite cousin Yuri’s assurance that he’s almost there.

“Mr. Nikiforov…” She frowns, like she doesn’t know exactly what she wants to say or do.

Victor can work with this.

“Please, just Victor.” He glances away for just a moment, trying to gather his thoughts. “I’m not asking for you to betray him, I would never ask you that. But you and I both know how stubborn Yuuri is. If we keep this up, the next time I see him will be at the altar, before we’ve had a chance to clear up any of the bad blood between us.”

Yuuko’s eyebrows shoot up. “Bad blood?”

The warmth in Victor’s veins slowly drains away. Yuuri hadn’t mentioned how much of an ass Victor had been to him? Well, he always has been a little introspective about these things. And that would explain why the Katsukis treated him so kindly. Victor takes in a quick breath. “I reacted… poorly to something Yuuri did while we were in school. I should have tried to talk to him, but as it is I never got a chance to tell him what was going on in my mind and try to make things better.”

Yuuko hums, her eyes narrowing a bit. “Well… that does explain some things.”

Victor winces. He wants to know what those “things” are almost as much as he doesn’t want to. “I’m sorry, I know that I could have done better—that I can do better. But I actually have to meet him to do that.”

Yuuko glances away for a second, biting her lip.

Victor sends a little prayer to every god he can think of. This is all he has, his last lead. What if he does only meet Yuuri on the altar? He still hasn’t talked to his mamas aside from a couple of quick texts, and the Katsukis haven’t mentioned a date, and though these things take time, apparently this has been in the works for years…

Yuuko sighs. “Fine. All right.”

Victor barely resists throwing a fist in the air and doing a victory dance. As it is, he grins broadly and takes one of Yuuko’s hands in both of his. “Thank you so, so much, I promise you won’t regret it.”

Yuuko rolls her eyes, but she smiles too. “Don’t thank me yet, I don’t know Yuuri’s every move. But typically around this time of day he’s in the kitchens grabbing lunch since he’s avoiding—” Yuuko’s eyes get a little wide as she catches what she was going to admit.

“Avoiding me.” Victor’s own smile loses its humor. “I may be a bit dense at times, but I can put that much together. Don’t worry about me.”

Yuuko laughs, with an edge that makes it higher pitched than normal. “Well, regardless. Go down this hall, take a right, then the second left past the aquarium, and then the next two rights, all right?”

No wonder Victor was getting lost; no house should have that many instructions to get to the kitchens. “I think I’ll be all right. Thank you so much again.”

“Just…” Yuuko takes a breath. “Just be kind to him.”

Victor blinks, and the protest on his lips that he would never dies as soon as it’s conceived. He has hurt Yuuri before. “I’ll do my absolute very best to take care of Yuuri. I just want to get to know him, that’s all I’d like right now.”

She nods, moving aside so Victor can pass and giving a small smile. “Well then, go get him, tiger.”

Victor barely bites back the urge to thank her again as he calls for Makka to follow him and says goodbye. He wants to run down the hallway even though he knows, reasonably, that the Katsuki’s don’t rush their meals and if Yuuri follows that habit—and if he still eats how he did in boarding school—he won’t leave for a while yet.

Instead, Victor’s feet slow as he approaches the door that he hopes is the kitchen—the directions were straightforward, but it seems like the walk was both too long and too short. There’s a muffled voice, or maybe voices, from behind the thin door. A man laughing. Is it Yuuri? Has he finally found him?

Is Victor ready for this?

Before Victor can question himself any more, he slides the door open and lets Makka trot in, then takes a deep breath and steps inside.

There’s a man facing away from him, sitting up against a smooth, metal countertop. He’s larger than Yuuri ever was, and taller, but his hair is black. A little spiked, but messy, not unlike how Yuuri’s hair could get at times. This could be it. This past week of running and waiting could be over, once and for all.

Makka’s already halfway across the room, and before Victor can stop her she jumps up onto the man, feet against his shoulder. He laughs, turning and grabbing her paws—

And it’s not Yuuri.

His jaw is far to square, his eyes grey as opposed to warm brown, and his laugh is far too different from what Victor remembers of Yuuri, no matter how much Yuuri’s voice has changed throughout the years. Victor tries, but probably fails to hide how his face falls and his heart sinks with it.

The man, however, barely even focuses on Victor.

“Yuuri?” He glances around, like he’s looking for the man, too. “Where did you go?”

Victor tries, and fails, not to perk up. “Yuuri’s here?”

The man blinks, finally seeming to register that Victor’s in the rooms and then jumps to his feet. “Ah, Mr. Nikiforov! I didn’t see you come in, I apologize. Though I guess this is your dog.”

“Call me Victor, please.” Victor manages to smile. “And she’s Makka. But what about Yuuri?”

He grimaces, still half glancing around. “I… Uh, I guess I thought Yuuri was joining me, but I was wrong about that.”

“Oh.” Victor allows himself to look down for a moment, taking a shaking breath. “I’m sorry for disturbing you, then.” He gives a short bow, then turns toward the door.

“Wait!” the man calls out, and Victor turns around to see him holding up a hand. “Wait, if Yuuri’s decided to bail, you might as well stay and eat his portion of lunch. It’s his favorite dish.”

“Oh?” Victor can’t help the niggling of curiosity, even if he’d rather go back to his room, hold Makka, and cry a few frustrated tears into her fur. Again.

“Yeah.” He waves Victor toward him, and with hesitant steps, Victor starts forward. “I’m Nishigori Takeshi, by the way.”

“Like Yuuko?” Victor perks up a little as he sits on the stool next to Takeshi.

He laughs. “Yep! I’m her husband, and we’ve got a set of triplets, too.”

“Wow!” Victor can barely keep Makka out of trouble, much less three sets of troublesome hands and feet.

“Yeah, they are pretty wow.” Takeshi grins. “Anyway, have at it. Yuuri made it, and he’d say it’s not as good as his mom’s, but I beg to differ.”

Victor finally turns his attention to the dish in front of him, finding a bowl full of what looks to be rice, some sort of fried meat, and eggs. There are some caramelized onions and scallions too, and the scent wafting off of it is like nothing that’s ever tickled his nose before.

Tentatively he grabs the chopsticks—which he’s still mastering, but refuses to give up on—and tastes a bite.

It’s both salty and sweet, layered in flavors that he’s had hints of on other dishes during his time here, and when Yuuri would share some of their food back when they were kids, but it was never like this. The meat—pork, Victor would safely assume—is moist and tender, the eggs perfectly cooked, and the rice absorbing the sauce that has Victor drooling just thinking about taking another bite.

“This is amazing,” Victor manages to groan before immediately putting another bite into his mouth.

Takeshi laughs and pats him on the back in what seems to be an aggressively affectionate way. “Yuuri will be happy to hear it.”

“Will he?” Victor probably shouldn’t ask the question, but he’s genuinely curious. “I haven’t seen heads or tails of him since I got here, I’m starting to believe he hates me.”

Takeshi stares at his own food, taking some time to chew before he answers. “He doesn’t hate you. He’s just… he’s very shy.”

Victor sighs, and bites back any comments he may have by shoving more food into his mouth. He knows Yuuri’s shy, he really does. But this is getting excessive.

They finish their meal sticking to safer topics, and Victor hesitantly agrees to meet for lunch here again, tomorrow. What does he have to lose to keep trying?

The next day passes much the same, with no sign of Yuuri, but he has another of his fiancé’s favorite dishes. And same as the next day, and the next day, until he begins to understand that his fiancé has amazing, if not a little unhealthy, taste in food.

Well, at least he likes dogs and eats well, but Victor’s nearly back to wondering if the man exists.

He finally passes up on Takeshi’s offer to have another lunch together, despite the extreme temptation, and instead asks where his wife is—which he answers, with much confusion.

Victor and Makka make their way through the maze-like halls yet again, knocking before entering Yuuko’s office.

“Hello, what can I—Victor! What brings you here?”

“I still haven’t found Yuuri.”

Yuuko sighs, looking down at her paperwork, then back up at Victor. “I don’t know what to tell you.”

“Isn’t there anything you can do?” He shouldn’t have to resort to begging, but Victor immediately falls into it. Desperate is an understatement to the point he’s reached.

“Well…” Yuuko glances up. “We could see Minako.”

“Minako?” He remembers Yuuri mentioning that name, but Victor could have sworn that she was his dance teacher.

“She’s, um,” Yuuko frowns. “It’s complicated. C’mon.” She gets up and starts heading out of the room, only pausing to make sure Victor’s following.

Which of course he is. Even if his hope is just a flicker, he has to try.

Victor’s infinitely thankful for Yuuko leading the way, this time—he couldn’t remember all these twists and turns even if he tried. Finally, Yuuko opens… a piece of the wall? No, he must be mistaken, because through the doorway is an office just as ordinary as Yuuko’s. Even if there’s a frankly excessive number and variety of weapons on the walls and the desk.

“Well, I wasn’t exactly expecting you two.” A woman sits behind the desk, back absolutely straight in a way that has Victor instantly correcting his posture, her long brown hair tied back to give all the more focus to how her eyes narrowed at Victor.

“Sorry for the intrusion, Minako!” Yuuko smiles without any real apology, completely ignoring the fact that Minako obviously wants Victor dead and has more than enough means to do so. “But we need your help.”

That breaks her glare. “‘We?’”

Yuuko nods. “Victor hasn’t seen Yuuri since he got here.”

Her eyebrows raise, and her glare is a little lighter when she turns her focus back onto Victor. “So?”

Victor swallows. “I just… I would like the opportunity to talk to him. To apologize, before the wedding.”

“And you tried to help?” Minako’s gaze doesn’t waver from Victor, but it’s obvious the question isn’t for him.

Yuuko sighs. “Yeah. Since Victor got here Yuuri’s been having lunch with Takeshi, but when Victor went, well.”

“Yuuri wasn’t there.”

Victor shakes his head. “And he’s still not showing up for meals, or to any other duties or gatherings.”

Minako’s quiet for a long moment, and Victor does his absolute best not to fidget. “What did you want to apologize for?”

“When we were in school, I made a mistake, and—”

“No.” Minako shakes her head. “You’re telling me the details. Yuuri might be ridiculous in general, but I don’t know if it’s reasonably or unreasonably ridiculous this time. I need to know what happened.”

“I…” Victor glances away for a moment, his cheeks flushing despite himself. “When we were younger, right before that fire at our school Yuuri, um, well. Yuuri kissed me. But I didn’t know about the engagement, and even if I did he was so young, so of course I didn’t kiss him back. Yuuri ran, and… I let him. I missed my chance, and I would like to clear the air.”

Minako and Yuuko exchange a look, before Minako’s eyes are back on him—and without glaring this time. “He kissed you?”

“Yes.” Victor can’t help that the flush grows darker on his face, though he doesn’t know if that helps or hurts his case.

Minako snorts, nearly making Victor jump. “Well, that explains some things.”

“I didn’t mean to hurt him. I—“

Minako waves her hand and stands up, instantly shutting him up despite the fact that he’s taller than her. “Oh, don’t start. You probably screwed up, but only one out of the two of you is still actively avoiding this. You were children, but you aren’t now, and it’s time he faced his fears before it’s too late. It’s cruel to you. Come on.” She strides past Victor and Yuuko, leaving them scrambling after her.

Victor’s honestly a little impressed with the pace she keeps. “Where are we—?”

“Here.” Minako opens a door and… they’re in the library?

Wasn’t this closer to Yuuko’s office? Gods, Victor has no idea how these halls work, maybe they shift when he isn’t looking.

Minako doesn’t stop however, weaving through the tall stacks of books until she comes to a far wall, presses her fingers against a corner and… it opens.

Inside is a small nook, with a small window letting in enough light to illuminate the blankets and pillows and books nested within.

“Damn,” Minako mutters. “I could’ve sworn he’d be hiding here.”

Yuuko snickers. “Isn’t this where he used to hide from his tutors?”

“Yeah, he thought everyone had forgotten about it.” Minako sighs. “But if not here, where the hell is he?”

The women go quiet, but Victor’s attention is focused elsewhere, anyway. He kneels down, eyeing the titles he can see—and his eyebrows raise. He doesn’t have any right to judge, he recognizes quite a few of these novels from his own bookshelves, and perhaps it’s at least a little encouraging that he and Yuuri have the same taste in erotic fiction? He picks up one of his personal favorites, finding the spine well worn, and some pages dog-eared. For a moment he debates if he should allow himself to peek, but, well. He’s never been much of one to restrain his curiosity. He blames his mamas for that.

Oh. The first dog-eared page is the confession scene, something that had Victor sobbing the first time he read it. The second one is the couple’s first meeting, and then—ah, there are some risqué bits. But it’s the softest moment of the whole book, when the stubborn protagonist realizes how in love he is, and…

And Victor’s heart absolutely melts. Yuuri may be just as much of a sap as he is. Not to mention his excellent taste in food, and the fact that they were best friends for years, and he absolutely loves dogs.

He could be perfect, if only he wasn’t so determined to avoid Victor.

Victor spends a few more minutes examining Yuuri’s small collection of well-loved books, his tastes varied, if it’s a little obvious what sort of things he likes in a story. Victor’s picks up a poetry collection to flip through next—

Yuuko sighs. “We’ll have to ask Mari.”

Minako snorts. “You think she’ll tell him a thing? She likes his dog better than him.”

“Well, we can bring Makka.” Victor leans back, looking up at them.

“That… may help.” Minako scowls.

Victor spends a moment wondering if he could take the collection with him before deciding that he shouldn’t dare, then puts the book back down and stands up. He whistles for Makka to join them from where she’d been thoroughly examining a set of shelves. “Why does Mari not like me?”

“It’s not that she doesn’t like you—”

“Yet,” Minako adds, unhelpfully.

“She just cares about her brother more than maintaining an alliance she could do with or without,” Yuuko glares at Minako, who only shrugs. “And it isn’t like Yuuri avoiding you doesn’t speak volumes about how he feels.”

“Does he… does he hate me?” Victor glances between them as Makka presses into his leg. If Yuuri actively despises Victor, and there’s nothing he can do to change Yuuri’s mind, he’ll go. He’ll work for the most beneficial annulment of whatever contract their parents have put together, but he won’t stand for an arrangement where there’s no hope of Yuuri being happy.

“No.” Minako shakes her head. “His emotions are complicated, always, but he would have fought against the engagement if he hated you.”

Then how does he feel about Victor?

“C’mon,” Minako waves a hand, prompting him to follow her as she starts walking away. “Let’s get this over with.”

Luckily the path to their next stop is a short one, and it’s a nice bonus that the walls aren’t covered in various weapons. It’s an office a little larger than Yuuko’s or Minako’s but still not extravagant; fine art covers the walls, and the furniture is just nice enough to be a cut above the rest. Minimalist at its core, but enough to let you know you’re in the room of someone who has power.

A little like Mari herself.

Mari leans down in her chair a little to pet Makka the moment she’s within her reach, but by the time her eyes move to Yuuko, Minako, and Victor, they’re cold. “Well, this is unexpected.”

“Is it really, though?” Minako places a hand on her hip.

“We’re looking for Yuuri.” Yuuko steps forward, cutting off Mari’s chance to respond.

Mari’s eyes fall solely on Victor. “Why?”

Victor swallows, looking at the other two women who just stare right back. Well, here he goes. Again. “When Yuuri and I were younger and in boarding school, I—”

Mari lifts a hand, stopping him. “I don’t care about what happened in the past, I want to know what you want from him now.”

Victor blinks. Well, maybe not again, then. “I want to make amends.”

“And then what? Walk away?” Mari leans forward, placing her hands on the desk. “This is serious to Yuuri. He’s been hurt before.”

“Ah.” Victor winces. “I know. And I hadn’t meant to hurt him, I’m deeply sorry and intend to do everything I can to make it better.”

A frown spreads across Mari’s face. “I wasn’t talking about you. Or, well, just you, I guess. I don’t want apologies no matter what, though. I want to know what you’ll do.”

“I want…” Victor wants to do so much, and so little. There aren’t even words for most of his goals with Yuuri, but if he corners himself, he knows what he dreams deep in his heart of hearts. “I want to be his friend again. No matter what happens with our engagement, I’ve missed Yuuri these past few years. Above all else, I want to be his friend.”

Mari’s eyes bore into Victor for several long moments, enough that sweat begins to bead on his brow despite how he desperately tries to hide how he wants to fidget.

Finally, she lets out a sigh. “He needs a friend,” Mari admits slowly, her eyes still searching.

“Then I hope to be a good one to him. His best one again, if he’ll have me.”

She snorts. “Gods, you’re both so dramatic. You deserve each other.”

“Will you help, then?” Yuuko perks up.

“Yeah.” Mari sighs. “I will.”

“Well that was easy,” Minako mutters, crossing her arms.

Mari shrugs. “You try and put up with Yuuri ghosting around this place and avoiding important matters just to avoid his old crush. Besides, if he got through to get you two to help, he can’t be all bad.”

It really, really shouldn’t bother Victor that everything he and Yuuri have is in past tense, but it still does. He wants to hope this chance to meet Yuuri will change that, but he’s beginning to learn better.

“Then what do you suggest?” Minako raises an eyebrow.

“Well, I know exactly where he is right now, it’s the only place he really has left to hide after being smoked out.” Mari eyes all of them. “But Victor goes alone, no one else—including Makka.”

Victor frowns. “What’s wrong with Makka?”

“Nothing’s wrong with her.” Minako turns towards Victor. “You just have to be… quiet around Yuuri. As you’ve noticed, he’s a little prone to bolting.”

Victor grimaces. “Yes, I’ve caught onto that.”

Mari snorts, pulling something from her desk drawers. “Come here. I’ll show you how to surprise him.”

Victor moves closer, and leans over to see… an intricate map of the gardens?

“We use it for maintenance and planning.” Mari shrugs at his confusion. “Now, he’ll be right here,” she points at a small clearing, it looks like. “But don’t come from here, or here. Wrap around the back of the house and keep yourself as silent as possible, he shouldn’t suspect anyone’s coming to get him.”

“That’s it?” Victor murmurs, staring at the path he should take, and hoping he can make sense of it while walking. It looks pretty straightforward, but…

Mari nods. “That’s it. Good luck.”

“Oh, um.” Victor stands up, glancing around the room and giving a goodbye pat to Makka. “Thank you. All of you.”

“You’re welcome, Victor!” Yuuko smiles.

Mari doesn’t say anything, however, and Minako just snickers as he passes by, his legs carrying him before he can stop and think about it.

He finds his way from the house easy enough once he starts recognizing the landmarks, and then starts along what looks like should be the right path. None others make sense, but at the same time a small voice niggles in the back of his mind that he’s wrong. That he needs to hurry, or he’ll miss Yuuri. But maybe he’s destined to never see Yuuri again. Maybe he’ll wake up and somehow they’ll be married and Victor won’t remember that either.

With a sigh, Victor steps out into a patch of sun—and pauses. It’s a small clearing in a grove of flowering trees, their white blossoms just barely beginning to fall around them. And in the middle of it, standing on the meticulously maintained grass, is a man.

He’s wearing fine clothes—finer than what Takeshi was wearing. He’s thinner than Yuuri used to be, and something in Victor’s a little sad about that, but it doesn’t really matter either way. The man’s hair is black, but it’s long enough that it’s tied into a loose bun at the base of his skull, but Victor’s not sure—

Not until he starts to turn, and those eyes. A shade of brown so familiar that it aches and it burns all at once, and then widen as they turn, and…

Oh. Yuuri’s face has grown a little bit sharper over the years, but mostly it’s still exactly the same as it was. Nostalgia punches him hard in the chest as he remembers all the days and nights spent in Yuuri’s company, talking about everything and nothing and all that’s in between. He’s here, just as he was back then.

Except for the scar along the right side of Yuuri’s face.

The dark, distorted skin seems to go from up a bit above Yuuri’s hairline, around the side of his eye, and then spreading down his cheek and his neck until it dips beneath his collar, the edges of it spreading like roots, or like lightning. Or, like it was caused by magic.

Yuuri’s eyes go wide, and he pulls at the knot in his hair, dragging it in front of his face—or rather, covering the one side of it.

Maybe… Maybe Victor was wrong. He doesn’t want to be wrong, he would much rather for Yuuri to have held onto a many years old grudge or deep regret than for him to be hiding from Victor because he’s ashamed of something like this.

Chapter Text

“What are you doing here?” Yuuri’s voice is a bit of a squeak that Victor would call adorable, if it were under any other circumstances.

And Victor would give anything for the situation to be different, for Yuuri to have come to him, to have trusted him with whatever fears, or insecurities he has. But that’s just it, isn’t it? Part of Victor still wanted to believe that Yuuri was his friend on some level, that they had a connection that would overcome this.

But that isn’t true.

Victor doesn’t know Yuuri anymore, and Yuuri doesn’t want to know Victor.

“Well?” Yuuri’s eyes keep flitting around, like an animal cornered.

Victor clears his throat, trying to backpedal and find anything to recover this situation. “I… I was out for a walk, that’s all.”

“Th-then keep going, I won’t stop you.” Yuuri waves his hand, though he’s still trying to keep that one side of his face covered with the other, and Victor’s heart cracks at the sight.

“Can’t we… can’t we talk?” Victor attempts a smile, but drops it once Yuuri grimaces.

“About?” Yuuri stops fidgeting for a moment, nearly meeting Victor’s eyes, but not quite.

Victor blinks, his mind scrambling. “Well… it’s been ten years, Yuuri, I’m sure we have a lot to catch up on.”

“Ah.” Yuuri turns completely away, muttering, “Gods, this is why I’ve been trying to tell them to send you home.”

“What?” Victor’s gut plummets, even as he takes a step forward.

“Don’t!” Yuuri holds out a hand behind himself, toward Victor. He takes a shaky breath before his words come out at nearly a whisper “Just… don’t. I saw your expression, when you saw me. I know what you want to talk about. I… I know what I look like.”

Oh no, what had Victor’s face looked like? Victor hadn’t been watching his own expression for once in his life. And maybe Yuuri still has that ability to stare right through him and into the core of Victor.

Though if he actually knew what Victor was thinking, he would hope that Yuuri wouldn’t react like this… except Yuuri doesn’t know him anymore. Victor could never find his friend ugly, yet that doesn’t mean that the change hadn’t taken Victor off-guard. Victor doesn’t know what happened, but he wants to know. He wants to comfort Yuuri and tell him it doesn’t matter—but the problem is, it matters too much to say anything of that sort.

“What you look like?” Victor takes another step closer—not into Yuuri’s personal bubble, but enough that he doesn’t have to raise his voice. He knows he shouldn’t avoid the topic, but what is he going to say? So his mind scrambles back to what it had first noticed. “I see you’ve lost some weight.”

Yuuri snorts, but doesn’t call out the diversion for what it is. “You mean I finally got rid of that awful pudge? Yes.”

Victor frowns, barely resisting the urge to reach out and touch Yuuri’s shoulder. “I loved your so-called pudge.”

“Don’t pretend that you…” Yuuri’s hand begins to shake. “I know that’s not how you felt about me back then, don’t lie.”

Victor lets out a breath, incredulousness coloring his tone. “Of course not Yuuri. You were so young, but I still thought you were cute in the same way a sibling could be.”

Were cute,” Yuuri mutters, and Victor can barely see the way his lips curl around the words.

Gods, he’s just being so stubborn. This is not at all what Victor wanted from meeting Yuuri again. Of course he imagined it would be different than his daydreams, but had Yuuri always been this obstinate? He had always been particular about things, and so determined to believe that he was less than he actually was, and…

Well, all right. Maybe Victor should have seen this coming. Victor’s spent years lamenting that he should have paid more attention, and trying to change, but perhaps he hadn’t really changed at all.

Victor sighs. Even so, maybe he can still fix things. “Yuuri, I don’t think that you’re… whatever you’re thinking. I was surprised. Honestly, I hadn’t even expected to finally find you here. I’ve been considering whether or not the conspiracies online are right and that you died or went into a coma after the fire in the dorms, even if they were silly ideas.”

Yuuri stiffens. “Why were they silly?”

“Well, first off, you’re right here and very much so not dead.” Victor frowns, getting the unsettling sensation that he’s stepping into something larger than the simple question. “And the fire was nowhere near your dorm, it makes no sense—not that they would know that. But you know how gossip mongers can be, I’m sure someone thinks you’re a teleporting werewolf or something.”

Victor hopes for a laugh, but instead Yuuri turns so that the unscarred side of his face is mostly within Victor’s view. “They aren’t all wrong.”

“What?” Victor’s mind seems to be in a constant state of scrambling. Yuuri’s most certainly not a werewolf, those have been extinct for two-hundred years. And not to mention, teleporting is far from a perfected magic and no one’s succeeded in it yet.

“I was there. During the fire.” Slowly, ever so slowly, Yuuri turns so that the scarring is facing Victor again, now framed by Yuuri’s long, coal-black hair. “I started it.”

Victor opens his mouth, shuts it, then opens it again but no words come out. There have been quite a few surprises today, and Victor wouldn’t have been shocked to come across others, but Yuuri being an arsonist wasn’t among them. On top of that, the cause was obviously magical from that odd patterning, which means Yuuri managed to power through all of the wards on the school and the sheer strength that would have required…

“Why?” That’s the only word that escapes Victor’s mouth in the end, but he’s not even sure if that’s what he really needs to ask. His mind is busy trying to process how. The strength of the emotions it would take to create magic so powerful and devastating…

“I-I didn’t do it on purpose.” Yuuri looks away, but he doesn’t hide his face or run and Victor nearly sighs in relief. “It was… I was upset, after…”

“Yuuri, I’m sorry, we should have talked after—”

“It’s not you!” Yuuri snaps. “The world doesn’t revolve around you!”

Victor takes a step back, keeping his arms at his side and half-wishing that the ground would swallow him so he’d stop saying the wrong thing.

“It wasn’t… it wasn’t all you. I’m sorry.” Yuuri squeezes his eyes shut. “It was… I wasn’t in a good place and then Vicchan—” He cuts himself off as his voice breaks. “I’m sorry, I know it’s been years, but I just…”

Victor, ever so slowly, reaches out and takes one of Yuuri’s hands. He’s not good at comforting people—he’s still not good at people outside of working snobbish royals in court, and that’s the only place he succeeds at it. He’s a mess, but that at least hasn’t changed since they were children. “What happened?”

Yuuri opens his eyes and meets Victor’s gaze, the earnestness in them instantly transporting Victor back to a time where things were simple, when he knew of no arranged marriages and Yuuri was what he would call a friend. “Vicchan died.”

Victor’s heart shatters, finally pressed to the point of no recovery. Hiroko had mentioned it, but that’s nothing compared to seeing the pain that still lingers in Yuuri’s eyes. That dog was everything to Yuuri. Before he had Phichit, Vicchan was Yuuri’s only confidant, and the only safe haven he had left. Vicchan didn’t judge him, Vicchan always loved him, and when Yuuri’s own heart was crushed because Victor didn’t bother to clean up his own mess, Yuuri couldn’t even go home to his precious friend.

“I’m so sorry, Yuuri.” Victor winces as he says the words, knowing they’re too hollow compared to what he wants to convey—but what words does he have to express that? He can’t imagine recovering if that were to happen to Makka… He can’t even think about it.

“It’s not your fault.” Yuuri swipes at his eyes, grimacing again. “It’s no one’s fault but mine.”

“But you weren’t home?” Victor frowns. Yuuri had to have been at the school if he burnt down a whole building, he couldn’t have—heaven forbid—injured his dog.

“I wasn’t, but I should have been. I didn’t need to go to school, not when it’s Mari who’s poised to become the head of the family, and I can barely keep up with anything. I can’t do anything, and I wasted time chasing…” Yuuri glances up at Victor through glasses specked with tears, such a broken turn to his lips that Victor manages to become even more hollow and guilty.

As Yuuri said, not everything’s about Victor, but… With that expression, it’s hard not to jump to the conclusion that part of why Yuuri was there was to chase Victor, to learn about him. He had goals beyond Victor; Yuuri was so dedicated to his studies with a perfectionism that bordered on unhealthy. But to think he would so deeply regret why he left home at the point when he needed to be home most…

All the while, Victor had no idea they were engaged.

“I’m sorry, this is… I should go.” Yuuri glances around, as if looking for his escape route.

“No, Yuuri, I need to apologize—”

“For what?” Yuuri sucks in a breath. “You weren’t the one that managed to accidentally destroy nearly all their relationships and a school building in one night. Victor, if anything you’re the last to blame for what happened.”

“Well that’s… honestly impressive how you used magic like that, but that’s not the point, Yuuri.” He grips Yuuri’s hand a little tighter, both needing to hold on and yet not wanting to scare him off. “I messed up, too. I could have handled things differently. I should have been there when it came to Vicchan…”

Yuuri shakes his head. “No, it’s not your fault. You shouldn’t have had to put up with me being dramatic because… Well, it doesn’t matter anymore.”

But it does. Victor wants to scream the words at Yuuri, but he can already see Yuuri’s blasted walls rising up from around him, shutting him out with decisions already made.

“I’ll double my efforts, and I’ll make sure that you’re able to be sent home.” Yuuri nods. “This alliance isn’t necessary to our families, but of course I’ll make sure that you and your mamas are compensated appropriately for your time and effort. We don’t have to be friendly to have a connection.”

But what if Victor wants to stay friendly? “Yuuri, this is—”

“I know.” Yuuri looks up at Victor and something’s… off. Yuuri, who always had emotion simmering just behind his eyes, looks… cold. Empty. As if he’s somehow turned it all off, shut and locked his door and Victor’s left outside to shiver. “It doesn’t undo what’s been done, but I know you don’t want this, and it’s what’s best. I shouldn’t have let my mom get away with this plan for so long, but I will take care of it. Good day.”

Yuuri gives a cordial nod, shakes his hand out of Victor’s, turns, and begins to walk away.

Victor has just found him, he’s already walking away again, and Victor knows that if Yuuri leaves now, he really won’t see his friend again. If anything, Yuuri’s become more stubborn, and he’ll have their engagement destroyed before Victor can track him down again, and—

And this is like that damned kiss all over again.

Victor’s not entirely sure what he wants. He doesn’t know Yuuri like he used to, he doesn’t know if they would remotely work together as husbands, but he has missed Yuuri. He wants to see Yuuri’s smile, and how the dimples around his eyes have changed, he wants to hear him laugh, he wants to introduce Yuuri to Makkachin, and he just—

He wants Yuuri.

“Please, wait!” Victor snags Yuuri’s sleeve, dragging him to a halt before he can get too far.

Yuuri frowns at Victor, an expression more gentle than what he’s had until now. “I told you, Victor, this will be quick—”

“I don’t want you to do it.” Victor’s careful to keep his mask down, to keep all the feelings inside him on his face despite how naked it makes him feel.

“What?” Yuuri pulls back a little, but not enough to free himself from Victor’s grip. “Surely you don’t want to be engaged to me—”

“But I do.” Victor tightens his grip, hoping beyond hope that Yuuri doesn’t pull  away and he doesn’t have to let go.

A slight flush crawls across Yuuri’s face. “But you don’t know me. The last time we met, we were children, and… you don’t know me, Victor. I won’t do this to you.”

Yuuri turns and—

Victor falls to his knees, bringing his other hand up to hold Yuuri’s sleeve as well.

Yuuri startles. “Victor—please, your suit—”

“I don’t give a damn about the suit.” Victor holds Yuuri’s eyes. “You’re right, we have changed. I was immature, and I would have cared more about the suit when I was a teenager. But I would like to get to know you, Yuuri.”

“I’m, um.” Yuuri takes a moment, but his flush only grows deeper. “It’s not worth the time. That much hasn’t changed.”

“If that hasn’t changed, then all the more reason to just… get to know each other.” It’s so odd to say those words, when half of Victor insists that he knows Yuuri still, on some distant level. “I should have done a lot differently, back then. I want to do better. To know you as you are, now.”

Yuuri lets out a shaky breath. “Victor, it’s not your fault.”

Victor shakes his head. “I should have known. I should have—” He should have remembered he was engaged, but he can’t bring himself to share that particular shame yet. He will, but not while Yuuri’s already trying to run away.

“No, I should have asked.” Yuuri glances to the side, his hair falling over his shoulder and nearly tickling Victor’s face. “But it’s always easier for me to do, and damn the consequences to be thought about later.”

“Then let’s do now.” Victor smiles, his grip loosening just slightly.

“D-d-do what?” Yuuri takes a step back, eyes widening a bit.

“Let me walk you back to the house?” Victor gives his best impression of Makka, knowing it’s ridiculous and absolutely counting on it.

Yuuri’s lip twitches. “I… suppose that would be all right.”

Victor resists the urge to immediately get up and do a victory lap around the gardens. Instead he gets to his feet, brushes off his knees—gods Yuuri was right, it’s quite muddy out here—and offers Yuuri his arm.

For a moment it seems like Yuuri will reject it, but then… he doesn’t. His arm links with Victor’s, and the angle is a little off, but Yuuri’s warm, and he’s present and…

Victor clears his throat. “Would you mind leading?”

Yuuri graces him with an unamused look. “You’re still terrible with directions, aren’t you?”

Victor smiles. “Absolutely.”

Yuuri gives a soft snort, shaking his head and beginning to lead them through the trees, petals falling gently around them and landing in the bushes and flowers beneath.

“You do quite a bit of amazing work in your family’s name,” Victor starts, not entirely sure what’s a safe topic to breach with Yuuri right now.

Yuuri stiffens just slightly. “Nothing compared to what you do.”

Victor scoffs. “I’m a peacock. I strut around and weasel my way into convincing others to get things done, I don’t actually spend time out there like you.”

Yuuri stumbles a little bit, but picks up the pace once he recovers. “It’s only because I get too overwhelmed in court. It’s not a strength.”

“Well, maybe it isn’t to you, but I think that it’s impressive. But anyway,” Victor plows into another subject, seeing the way Yuuri curls in on myself, “I’m really enjoying it here. It’s so gorgeous—much more vibrant than it ever gets at home. I think my mamas would like your home.”

“Well, after we’re married, they’re welcome to—” Yuuri shuts his mouth with an audible snap.

“We’re getting married again, then?” Victor doesn’t bother to hold back his grin as he swings their arms a little.

“I-I…” Yuuri huffs. “Why do you even want this? I don’t want your pity.”

Well, if he wants to play it that way… “My family has no personal connection to this part of the world, and your family none to mine. We’re both very powerful mages—your story’s only convinced me further of that—and together there’s nothing that we couldn’t get done. It would help you work, having another mage helping you in court…” And, honestly, Victor would like for his own work to have more meaning and impact, too. “But those are just the reasons that look good on paper.”

Yuuri looks at him out of the corner of his eye. “And off paper?”

Victor hesitates, taking a moment to admire a spectacular weeping willow as they pass it, trying to think about his words before he says them. It’s hard when he can’t know how Yuuri will react… But above all else, he’s had enough of the secrets between them. He takes a deep breath. “Because I’ve missed you, Yuuri. I’m still friends with Chris, but there’s been a hole in my life where my best friend used to be, and I would like to get to know him again. I know that marriage is a large step to take, a commitment, but I want to know and care for my husband the rest of my life, even if…” Even if Victor’s not sure he really knows how to love someone like that, how to open up those parts of him. “I know it won’t be ideal, and I don’t expect you to love me. I won’t hold you to anything, besides giving me a chance to be your friend again. But that’s only if you want.”

Yuuri slows and then stops walking, and it’s only then that Victor realizes they’re back at the house.

But instead of running from Victor’s proposition, Yuuri turns toward Victor, searching his face. “You really mean that, don’t you?”

Victor nods, perhaps a little too quickly. “More than I’ve meant anything in a long time. You don’t have to decide anything now, but maybe… we could spend some time together?”

For a moment Yuuri’s quiet, and Victor’s heart pounds so loudly it’s a wonder that Yuuri doesn’t hear it. Yuuri has grown into a rather handsome man, now that Victor has a chance to look at him properly without trying to traipse around each others’ words. And his long hair looks so soft… Victor’s fingers itch to touch it in a way they definitely didn’t when they were children. His lips almost look a little fuller too, and Victor’s mind wanders to wondering how they taste if he were to—

Oh no, is he starting to have a crush on his fiancé?

Yuuri nods, and it takes Victor a moment to even remember what question Yuuri’s answering.

“All right,” Yuuri says softly. “Why don’t you meet me here this time, tomorrow? We can spend some time together, and do whatever you like. I should really get working on things if we aren’t getting married, but I… I really missed you, too.” And then Yuuri untangles his arm from Victor’s, leaving him longing for it for just a moment before Yuuri takes Victor’s hand, raises his knuckles to his lips and giving a gentle kiss, eyes looking up at Victor through long lashes the whole time.

And before Victor can even dream of reacting, Yuuri turns and doesn’t quite run inside, leaving Victor with his heart doing odd flip flops in his chest. Hardly thinking about it, he brings his knuckles up to his own lips, warmth spreading along his cheeks.

Oh no, he definitely has a crush on his fiancé.

Chapter Text

“Did you really come here for dating advice?” Mari levels Victor with a look that would have a lesser man flinching. “Not just that, but dating advice to use on my brother?”

“Well, I’m trying to learn from my mistakes.” Victor takes a sip of his tea to gather his thoughts and maybe to also settle his nerves a bit. “I don’t want you to betray his trust, I just… I would like to do something special that would make him happy.”

Minako raises her eyebrows. “If you don’t woo him, though, don’t we get you out of our hair?”

“Hey, don’t be mean.” Yuuko lightly smacks Minako’s shoulder. “Yuuri will be pissed if we send Victor away on purpose.”

Victor barely resists the urge to tell them that Yuuri was already planning on sending Victor away… Though Yuuri did mention already having talked to his family about having him go home. These women know how Yuuri works better than Victor does—which is exactly why he’s here. “If you’re not comfortable with helping, I’ll leave.”

They’re crowded around the small coffee table in Mari’s office, somehow making the large space seem tiny with all of their personalities shoved in there. Victor’s pride had kept him from asking for help all of yesterday evening, but this morning he woke up and realized not only does he have no idea what’s in the city they’re at the edge of, he also doesn’t know if he might plan for something Yuuri hates for their date. He has one chance to try and repair this friendship he let drift apart, and he can’t screw it up.

Minako reaches out and puts a hand on his shoulder, leaning over the short space between their chairs. “You worry too much.”

Yuuko laughs. “Maybe he’s the perfect match for Yuuri then. Or the worst match?”

“Wait, I—” Victor raises his hands in surrender.

Mari clucks her tongue, rolling her eyes. “We aren’t family if we don’t tease each other.”

“I…” Victor clears his throat. “You don’t even know me.”

The girls exchange a look.

“You really don’t get how much Yuuri talked about you, do you?” Yuuko shakes her head. “He used to carry magazine clippings of you around in his gym bag, so he could strive to live like you and impress you. He told us about the whole situation where you made sure he got his things, and then you became his friend. I’ve never heard him so excited.”

Victor flushes slightly, shame and a little pride pricking along his ribcage. He’d forgotten about their future engagement, sure, but he had honestly wanted to be Yuuri’s friend, to get to know the boy who danced so beautifully, and he did.

“It’s all he’d talk about on his breaks.” Mari grabs the pipe she’d set down not long ago, taking a drag and blowing out the smoke languidly. “I shouldn’t know what your favorite books were, what music you listened to, and what a dork you’d been, but I do.”

Minako gives a wicked grin. “You guys used to have sleepovers, I even heard how big your—”

“Okay!” Victor waves his hands.”Okay, I believe you. Thank you, then. For trusting me, even if I hurt Yuuri before.”

Mari rolls her eyes again. “I put together the full story from everything I’ve been told, and it sounds like you’re both the definition of ‘disaster gays.’”

Minako sighs. “It would be cruel if we didn’t help.”

“Exactly.” Yuuko beams.

Victor swallows around the lump in his throat. He likes it here. He likes these people, and he especially likes that they enjoy Makka resting her old bones beneath the table, each of them reaching down to rub her head or her belly on occasion. He likes that they’re friendly to him because he used to be someone who mattered to Yuuri, that they’re willing to give him another chance.

He… he thinks he wants this.

The girls all huddle in a little closer, all glancing at a map of the town spread out before them—honestly, Victor doesn’t know where Mari gets these maps, don’t most people just use their phones? There’s a lot of back and forth on, well, everything. Apparently Yuuri’s very dedicated to work and doesn’t make time for going out, preferring to huddle up in his room with video games and books.

At least some things never change. Victor used to flop down next to Yuuri and watch while he was trying to get through levels or bosses or whatever was happening on the screen. And even though Victor’s presence always seemed to distract him, Yuuri never asked him to leave.

Well, that makes more sense in retrospect.

There’s a lot of back and forth on where to go, and then even more on how many places to go, but it’s decided it should be short as not to overwhelm Yuuri, the simpler the better, and then they’re up and… moving?

Victor follows along, grasping at any sort of clues they can give him, until he realizes where they’ve stopped.

“Um.” Victor clears his throat. “Is this my room?”

The girls exchange a look.

“I thought you were smart enough to know that at least, but maybe I was wrong.” Mari arches an eyebrow.

A blush rises to Victor’s face.”I didn’t mean—fine. Then why are we here?”

“Time to get dressed, come on!” Minako waves at the door.

Victor raises his hand and dismisses the magical lock on it before their words can catch up to him. “Wait, what?”

“We know Yuuri’s tastes pretty well.” Yuuko gives him a wink. “But if you don’t want our help, we can leave.”

“I…” Victor sighs. What the hell. He can use every bit of help he can get. “I-I suppose this is fine.”

Minako gives a wicked-looking grin. “Good, then.”

 


 

 

A few hours and many, many changes of clothes later, Victor waits outside of the house in an outfit far more basic than what he would have chosen. At least his button-down is a splash of color, a green that, in the words of Yuuko, makes his eyes “pop.”

It’s taking everything in him not to pace or fidget with his hands as he waits. Clouds are starting to roll in on the horizon, and it almost seems to match Victor’s mood—anxious and roiling. If this is what Yuuri’s anxiety feels like all of the time, Victor’s greatly underestimated him. Anyone who can live with these sort of emotions is stronger than Victor could comprehend.

“Victor?”

Victor turns—and sucks in a breath. Yuuri’s in a pair of very, very form-fitting jeans, his shirt loosely wrapped around him an artful sort of way. He’s still wearing his glasses, but his hair is tied back in a loose bun, showing off those wide, brown eyes.

“Um.” Yuuri’s hands flutter a little, like he’s unsure where to put them. “Am I dressed okay? I didn’t know what we were doing, and I didn’t want to overdress, but you look so nice—just tell me if I need to go back in and change. I’m sure I can find something. Phichit just said—”

“Yuuri.” Victor steps forward and finds now he is the one who doesn’t know what to do with his hands. “You look absolutely perfect.”

Yuuri flushes up to the tip of his ears. “I-I… Thank you. You look perfect yourself. I mean!” Yuuri glances around, before his eyes settle on Victor again. “I… Well, I mean that.”

Warmth spreads across Victor’s cheeks in an echo of Yuuri’s face, before he holds out an arm for Yuuri. “Thank you, Yuuri. Shall we?”

Yuuri nods, accepting the arm. “Yes. Where are we going?”

Victor grins. “A secret!”

Yuuri’s eyes narrow. “You still haven’t outgrown your love of surprises, have you?”

“Of course not! What do you take me for?” Victor sends him a wink. “Try not to worry too much, I had some help in putting this together.”

“Well if anything, that makes me feel worse,” Yuuri mutters, looking down at the sidewalk as they leave the Katsuki’s property.

“Why?” Victor blinks.

“I know you’re still friends with Chris and, er. I don’t think his idea of a nice time out matches up with mine.”

Victor snickers. “I’ll have you know that Chris has a fiancé.”

Yuuri nearly stumbles over his own feet. “What? It’s arranged, isn’t it? It has to be.”

“Nope! They met at a class reunion a few years back, and apparently hit it off while… reminiscing.” Victor leaves it at that—Yuuri doesn’t need to know what they were reminiscing about or how they were doing so. Victor’s been cursed with that knowledge, and Yuuri doesn’t need to be, too.

Though from the look on Yuuri’s face, he can imagine enough. “Ugh. That still doesn’t make me feel any better.”

“It isn’t Chris that helped me, I swear.” Victor smiles at Yuuri, trying to be reassuring. “It was Mari, Minako, and Yuuko.”

Yuuri blinks up at him. “What?”

Oh no, did he make it worse? “I swear that they didn’t suggest anything nefarious.”

“Oh, that’s not it, I just…” A small frown forms on Yuuri’s face. “They helped you?”

“I, well… yes. They helped me find you in the first place.” Maybe not the smartest thing to admit to, but Victor would rather not hold the information back.

Yuuri mutters something under his breath before sighing. “I knew you weren’t just out for a walk.”

Victor laughs, a little too high pitched. “I didn’t mean to stalk you like that. I apologize if it came off as creepy.”

Yuuri’s grip on Victor’s arm tightens. “No, I… I was being childish. I just couldn’t bear…”

“What’s done is done, right?” Victor swings their arms a little, as much as he can. “Let’s just enjoy the time we have together, now.”

Yuuri gives him a tentative smile, and then turns to the road ahead.

For a while they walk in quiet, a companionable sort of silence. The point of having a nice, long walk into town was to hopefully catch up and chat about anything and everything before having dinner and doing other things, as was Victor’s plan. But the quiet’s nice in a way that Victor hasn’t experienced in a long time. A lot has changed, Yuuri’s no longer a child—Victor’s no longer a child. He never realized just how young he’d been back then. And, in retrospect, he never would have expected a teenager to handle a situation like theirs well.

But in some ways, they’re still just Yuuri and Victor. They’ve hopefully both matured a little and, well, perhaps Victor is slowly developing a crush on Yuuri, but otherwise

Thunder rumbles, loud enough that the noise rattles Victor’s bones.

Yuuri and Victor have just a moment to pause and glance at each other before they turn and find a wall of rain coming toward them.

And… there goes Victor’s plans for dinner. It was an outdoor place, somewhere new but with a menu that Yuuri would like—the women may have suggested it, but Victor can attest that the food should be something Yuuri would like. At this point, he’s tried so many dishes that Yuuri enjoys. Victor was a little proud of it, honestly. But now what is he going to do?

“Run!” Yuuri grabs Victor’s hand and pulls him forward.

Victor stumbles for a moment before finding his feet and keeping pace with Yuuri while the rain inevitably catches up to them and instantly soaks them through to the bone. And yet… Yuuri laughs, a smile wide on his face.

“What are you laughing at?” Victor pants as Yuuri leads him deeper into the city, despite the fact that they should turn back.

“This is ridiculous!” Yuuri laughs again, tugging Victor harder so that they’re running even faster now.

And… well, he’s right. Victor manages a snort as he’s dragged along. Not to mention, all plans have yet to be ruined, the next step of his outing takes place indoors—and they’re still on the right path to get there, if they turn at the next street.

“This way!” Victor yells over the pounding of the rain, taking the lead and pulling Yuuri, who follows along without question. The rain is coming down so hard it’s nearly deafening, and the streets are abandoned except for them. It’s as if they’re in their own little world, just for the moment.

Victor finally spots the gigantic building, wondering if Yuuri recognizes it, but not daring to look back until they’re underneath the awning that leads to the entrance of the ice rink. And when Victor does turn… Yuuri’s frowning.

“Victor…” Yuuri glances between Victor and the door. “The ice rink is closed today.”

“What?” Victor blanches at Yuuri for a minute, before dropping his hand to scramble to the door and lock at the sign, and… it’s closed. Of course, it’s closed. “Oh, well.” Victor’s brain scrambles, trying to think of a way around this. “I suppose I can just open the door with magic.”

Victor!” Yuuri huffs out a laugh, half amused and half incredulous.

“What? We’ll clean up after ourselves.” Victor plasters a smile on his face as he turns back towards Yuuri, knowing it’s fake but unable to help it.

“No!” Yuuri shakes his head. “Even if we could go in—which it’s very wrong to break into a business, Victor—our clothes are soaked. Even with magic, it’d take forever to dry them. We’d freeze.”

“Oh.” Victor wilts. That makes sense. Of course it does. Of course it’s all gone downhill during Victor’s one chance to impress Yuuri. He should have had a backup plan, and a backup plan for that. Maybe he should have asked Chris for advice—he’s the one who has a successful engagement, after all. But now Victor’s let down Yuuri, his mamas, and even the women of Yuuri’s house. He lets out a deep sigh, staring at his feet. “Yuuri, I’m so sorry, I messed up. I know I’ve let you down, and I don’t blame you if I’m a… a disappointment. You’ve given me this chance, I tossed it out the window, and… if you wanted to break off our engagement, you have every right to.”

“But… Victor.” Yuuri takes a step forward, yet Victor doesn’t look up to see his face.

Victor shakes his head. “I don’t want you to have to settle for me. I couldn’t even… I had to get help to even do this much, and look how it turned out.”

A moment of silence passes, anticipation churning faster and faster in Victor’s gut before… Yuuri takes his hand again. “Let’s get something to eat.”

Victor’s stares down for another second before his head snaps up. “What?”

“Let’s eat.” Yuuri gives him a small smile, even if it doesn’t quite reach his eyes.

Victor shakes his head. “The place I wanted to take you to only had outdoor seating—”

“No.” Yuuri shakes his head. “I want to show you my favorite spot to eat.”

Victor swallows, unsure whether he should be feeling the cold sting of uncertainty, or borrow himself into the warmth of Yuuri’s words, and ends up suspended between the two. “Okay.”

Before Victor can think more on it, Yuuri’s pulling him forward again, bolting through the rain—though the downpour’s tapered off a bit. Still, it’s a welcome reprieve, and it’s not long before Yuuri yanks Victor through an entryway of a building that Victor wouldn’t have even know was a restaurant.

Yuuri’s instantly greeted in the local dialect, which Victor’s still trying to pick up on but is far, far from fluent in. Yuuri shrinks a bit in onto himself, but answers, laughing a little in conversation with the man, then quickly escaping and tugging Victor along to a table in the furthest corner. Not that the privacy matters much, considering the place is completely deserted.

Victor doesn’t think he’s ever been somewhere so, well, ordinary since maybe boarding school. But even then, he didn’t go anywhere like that often. The table here rocks slightly when Victor leans against it, and the seat has a few stains—subtle, but there. There are a lot of decorations on the walls—pictures and posters and memorabilia of local things and symbols. It makes the place feel… lived in. Loved. He glances down at the menu, and—Ah.

“Yuuri.” Victor frowns up at him. “I… um, well, I can’t read the menu?”

Yuuri grins up at Victor. “I know.”

“What?” Victor blinks.

“Well, you’ve been eating my cooking for days now, I think I understand what you like to—” Yuuri slaps his hands over his mouth.

“Wait.” Victor leans forward, putting his elbows on the table in a way that would make his mamas sigh. “Yuuri, you made that food? Not just the katsudon—all of it?”

“Um… maybe?” Yuuri squeaks.

“How?” Victor frowns. It makes sense, but it doesn’t. Takeshi was obviously talking to someone when Victor got there, so Yuuri had been around at some point. But Yuuri was always suddenly gone and the food was always hot and fresh when Victor got there.

“I, um…” Yuuri begins to pick at the flimsy tablecloth, eyes downcast. “Well, my magic is pretty volatile. Obviously. So I have a lot of hobbies in the craft, to try and help keep calm, and focused, and… Well, I’ve learned a lot of types of magic to help keep it under control. Like…” Yuuri holds out his hand, and for a moment Victor wonders if he’s supposed to take it, but then… then it’s gone. Yuuri’s hand has just completely vanished, his sleeve seemingly suspended in midair by itself.

“How?” Victor asks, reaching out to take Yuuri’s hand, and it’s there. It’s warm and present beneath his fingers and palms, but he can’t see it. He explores the invisible surface with soft, searching touches. “This isn’t… This is possible?”

Yuuri shrugs. “I guess. And it doesn’t harm anyone, so… Yeah. It uses up restless magical energy, and can help me out in tough spots. I’ve learned to make it work with my clothes, but it takes more energy that way.”

A gasp escapes Victor. “You were there. In the kitchens, and even in your little book cubby. Weren’t you?”

“You—what?” Yuuri goes red. “You found my book cubby?”

“I didn’t find it, but that’s beside the point. You were in the kitchens, weren’t you?”

“I… yes.” Yuuri looks down again. “I’m sorry. I just… didn’t want to get attached, if you were going to leave when you…”

When Victor saw that Yuuri had an unfortunate accident. Victor’s heart sinks. So this is why Yuuri was so elusive in photographs, why he was able to sneak around and get so much done without anyone seeing any hint of him. He was so worried about being perceived as less, being rejected for it—and Victor will do his damndest from this moment on to never have Yuuri believe that of himself. “Yuuri, I’m not leaving you. Not unless you tell me to go.”

“I… I don’t want you to,” Yuuri whispers haltingly, as if it’s something he doesn’t want to admit.

And just like that, something burns within Victor. “Good. Because I don’t want to leave, either.”

Yuuri looks up then, finally meeting Victor’s gaze and giving such a tentative, heartfelt smile that Victor melts beneath it. Victor makes a new goal in life in that very instant: make Yuuri smile as much as absolutely possible. Because, well, if Victor didn’t know it before, he is now very much aware he is very gay, and absolutely head over heels for his old best friend… who may want to try and be his friend again, too?

The waiter walks over then, saying something quick that Victor can’t make any sense of.

Yuuri turns an impossibly darker shade of red, and pulls his now-very-there hand from Victor’s grasp. He answers back, glancing down toward the menu from time to time, and sometimes even to Victor, a hint of that smile still on his face.

Well, this may not have been how Victor was planning to spend the day, but now he wouldn’t have had it play out any other way. And there’s still more of it yet to come.

Chapter Text

The food takes a little while to be prepared, and in the meantime, Yuuri and Victor chat about everything and nothing. Yuuri’s smiles seem to come a little easier, now that he’s somewhere comfortable. It strikes Victor that in that respect, he’s exactly the same as he used to be when they were children.

It’s strange how this Yuuri is most definitely the same one that used to be his friend, but he’s grown up. Yuuri’s the same, but not. He shares small stories about his life that Victor wasn’t a part of, and it causes a small ache that wasn’t there before, but also a small flame of pride blooms as well. Yuuri’s grown up to be more brave and caring than Yuuri will ever admit—even if he still has that stubborn pride, too.

Yuuri ran from him before, and was afraid of confronting Victor now in an echo of that childish fear, but he’s also come so far given that he was able to take the lead of their date like this, to take Victor and welcome him in a place that’s safe for Yuuri. Not to mention, Yuuri being so active in court and helping his sister with her work is something that Victor would never have seen for shy, quiet Yuuri as a teen, but it makes sense to hear him and see him now.

Victor’s half-tempted to reach out and take Yuuri’s hand again, now that he can actually see it. But he doesn’t want to push.

Victor may be a tad bit excited to be Yuuri’s husband, and he may have to resist the urge to blush every time that Yuuri laughs, but he would happily be Yuuri’s friend again and simply that. Victor’s been so caught in the monotony of court and playing political games that it’s become his life, but now that he has this again, he can see how desperately he missed it. And, so long as Yuuri will have him, Victor won’t let Yuuri go again.

Their food is placed in front of them, a few small plates each with rice on the side, piled with vegetables and sauces of all colors and the most delectable savory, heavy scent rising from them.

“Let’s eat!” Yuuri beams as he immediately digs in, moaning in a way that Victor very purposefully ignores.

Victor tentatively takes up a portion of his food, giving it a delicate sniff. It’s laced with spices, things that Victor can’t even remotely identity, earthy with a little sort of tang that isn’t comforting in the slightest. But Yuuri ordered this for him, and everything that Yuuri’s cooked for Victor has been amazing, so…

Victor shoves the food into his mouth before he can think about it anymore.

And he can’t restrain his own moan. “Yuuri, this is delicious!”

Yuuri flushes slightly, then beams to the point that his eyes crinkle, before he continues to eat—though Victor catches him watching, every now and then.

Victor doesn’t mind in the least, though. Everything Victor puts in his mouth is beyond amazing, and he’s almost glad that the rain came and chased them here so that he could partake in this divine food. He may be sopping wet, all his plans may be down the drain, but he’s still here with Yuuri. Yuuri’s stopped running and Victor won’t let him slip through his fingers again.

Yuuri’s almost finished with his meal, and Victor’s not far behind, but… that one, brown dish that Yuuri has looks particularly good. Victor reaches out to take a tiny bite, just a small one to see how that one’s different than his own—

And his hand is smacked away.

Victor’s jaw falls open just a touch as he looks up and meets Yuuri’s wide eyes. Yuuri’s getting increasingly more red by the moment—and that can’t be healthy for him. But before Victor can get out a word, Yuuri shoves his face full of food, cheeks puffed in a way that’s somehow both comical and adorable. There’s a grain of rice on his cheek from his sheer enthusiasm—or, rather, embarrassment.

Gods, how does he manage to be so cute no matter what?

“Yuuri,” Victor wheedles, leaning forward a bit and barely restraining his grin. “You won’t share? How cruel.”

Yuuri frowns, brow furrowing as he raises a hand over his mouth. “Ouo ave ur own oob!”

“Wow, my fiancé is such a selfish man,” Victor laments as best he can while a grin splits his face.

Yuuri huffs, taking a minute to chew. “I ordered for you! Don’t you like it?” His tone leaves its scolding edge, rising a little in uncertainty.

“I love it, Yuuri. This is better than anything I could have even remotely planned.” Victor shakes his head. “I came out here hoping to woo you, little did I expect to be the one wooed!”

Yuuri shrinks back a bit, but instead of closing off completely, he smiles.”I’m happy you like it.”

“Absolutely! I like…” Victor likes everything. He likes talking to Yuuri, he likes this town, he likes this food, he likes… Yuuri. Adorable Yuuri who shoves his face full of food when embarrassed, but still won’t take back what he did in his stubborn way, and… who still has rice on his face.

Before he can think twice, Victor leans across the table and swipes the grain away and… and lets his fingers ghost along Yuuri’s jaw. Yuuri’s eyes go wide, but his flush doesn’t change, even if there’s a hitch in his breath. And Victor wants this. This closeness, this intimacy, this growth that feels so natural from what they had before, even if they’re different people, now.

“Yuuri?” Victor clears his throat, but doesn’t pull away. “Would you call me Vitya, again?”

“O-oh.” Yuuri looks away, and then back. “I didn’t forget about that. I don’t want you to think that I forgot. But I didn’t want to, um. Assume. That you wanted me to call you that.”

“I would like you to assume.” Victor keeps his tone low, as not to scare Yuuri off.

“I… okay.” Yuuri smiles, then tilts his face to lean a little into Victor’s touch, and this time it’s Victor’s breath that hitches. “Vitya.”

“Thank you,” Victor murmurs, running his fingers along Yuuri’s smooth skin. He wants to touch the other side of Yuuri’s face, too, to feel and know every inch of Yuuri as he would like Yuuri to know him. But he saw how Yuuri was about his scarring. Not yet.

A throat clears and Yuuri jumps away as if shocked, stuttering at the waiter while Victor reluctantly draws his hand back and picks at the rest of his meal while Yuuri laughs nervously and wraps up his conversation.

“Are you finished?” Yuuri asks when the waiter finally walks away.

“Oh, yes.” They really did eat a lot, it almost weighs Victor down in a comforting, sleepy sort of way. “It was delicious! How much is the bill?”

“Ah, no bill.” Yuuri shakes his head. “I have, um. A tab, I guess you could call it?”

“Then I’ll have to pay you back somehow.” Victor shakes his head, looking around the room for any sort of inspiration.

“I… Victor.” Yuuri’s tone is serious enough to draw Victor’s gaze back to him, and his brow is furrowed in concern as those deep brown eyes search Victor’s. “If… if you truly want to stay, and be my f-fiancé, you shouldn’t feel like you owe me anything.”

Victor’s heart gives an odd sort of flop before flying up in his chest, the weight of being stuffed completely gone. Yuuri’s okay with this. Yuuri’s all right with him staying. “Then it should be give and take, and you’ve given me so much today, Yuuri. Everything I’d planned on doing went awry and you treated me to something so much better. Just… even if it’s not now, think about it, please? I want to do for you as much as you did for me.”

“But I—” Yuuri cuts himself off, biting his lip and simply maintaining eye contact for a moment before he gives a nod. “Okay.”

“Good!” Victor beams for a moment before the grin slips off his face, and he glances outside to where the rain is still falling, slow but steady. “It’s getting a little late. We should probably call back to the estate and have someone come and pick us up.”

“Or… we could not.” Yuuri holds Victor’s gaze as he reaches out and takes Victor’s hand. “That’s what I want. Let’s not head back, let’s stay.”

“W-what?” Victor has to be hearing this wrong. Yuuri can’t be suggesting… “Where would we go instead?”

“Oh!” Yuuri smiles. “There’s a hotel around here.”

Heat absolutely consumes Victor’s face in a way he’s never quite felt before. He’s been on dates where his partner’s asked for more before, and isn’t like he hasn’t accepted a few offers. But this is Yuuri. Who is now very much so an adult, extremely handsome, and incredibly shy—though perhaps Victor’s mistaken about that.

When Yuuri catches Victor’s expression, his smile falters. “I-I don’t mean like that, that’s just… I’m not…”

“What did you mean?” Victor’s mind writhes with curiosity, even if there’s also a sharp fear surrounding the prospect of truth. But Victor won’t avoid knowing the truth, no matter what it is—he’s done that enough.

“I-I definitely didn’t mean it like that!” Yuuri squeaks, waving his hands. “I’ve never… That’s not, um. I don’t want that right now? It’s never been… I don’t always find myself wanting that level of physical intimacy in others, even if I care for them, um… romantically. Though sometimes I do, eventually? But it’s not about you! It’s me! I just…”

Victor reaches out and takes one of Yuuri’s desperately flailing hands in his own. Regardless of what Victor might be interested in, Yuuri’s comfort and enjoyment of their time together matters, too. “Don’t feel pressured Yuuri. I don’t expect that of you. Just tell me what you were thinking?”

Yuuri shakes his head, drawing in a few unsteady breaths. “It’s just… I don’t want to go back and deal with politics, yet. I’ve never been fond of it. When I was younger, after… the incident, sometimes Mari and I would have little vacations from the chaos of court and stay in town, pretending like we were tourists. I just… I just want to be Yuuri and Victor for a little while longer. No pressure, no expectations. I didn’t mean to imply anything, I wasn’t thinking, I’m sorry.”

Victor smiles softly. “You don’t need to apologize, Yuuri. I want to be just Yuuri and Victor, too. If the rest of our lives together are just silly dates like this, I would be happy. It’s so good to know you, again.”

Yuuri lets out a large breath, a tentative smile spreading across his face as he squeezes Victor’s hand. “Then, thank you.”

“You’re absolutely welcome!” Victor answers the squeeze with one of his own, giving himself a moment to think about his next words instead of blurting them out how he wants to. “Then I think staying out for the rest of the night feels wonderful, so long as your family won’t worry.”

“I’ll text Mari.” Yuuri’s smile turns a little rueful. “Even if I’ll never live it down.”

Victor hums. “I doubt I’ll be able to escape her teasing, either. At least we can suffer together?”

Yuuri laughs as he tugs Victor to his feet and leads him from the restaurant. “Yes, together.”

The rain’s more or less devolved into a light sprinkle at this point, the weather mild. Victor’s dried off more than expected while they sat and talked and ate, so walking isn’t that uncomfortable.

Not that he’s thinking too much about that while Yuuri’s right next to him, holding his hand and laughing and talking. Yuuri said that even if he feels romantically attracted to someone, he doesn’t always want to have a relationship escalate to certain physical points—that itself is fine, Victor couldn’t care less so long as he’s spending his time with Yuuri. But does that mean to imply that Yuuri has romantic feelings toward Victor? But to ask Yuuri that means admitting his own feelings, and this… this feels too fragile and important to risk by placing labels and expectations on it

Even if they are still technically engaged.

Yuuri pulls Victor through the doors of a small, quaint little place with flower boxes on windows, and only three stories worth of rooms. The inside is equally as cozy, the employees smiling, floral patterns delicately smattered across nearly everything they can be. Yuuri blushes furiously as he books their room, but he still doesn’t let go of Victor’s hand, which makes Victor himself flush again. Even if Yuuri’s made his boundaries clear, Victor knows what this has to look like to an outsider, but he can’t bring himself to care too much.

After a few moments, Yuuri tugs at Victor’s hand again, and they step together into the elevator. Yuuri continues to shift, his free hand playing a bit with his shirt, eyes shifting to Victor and away again.

Victor lifts their joined hands, pressing Yuuri’s knuckles gently to his lips, which has the desired effect—Yuuri stops moving, eyes wide and glued to Victor.

“Are you all right?” Victor murmurs, keeping eye contact.

“Yeah.” Yuuri squeezes Victor’s hand, and gives him a small smile. “I… yeah. Thank you.”

“Of course.” Victor swings their hands slightly as the elevator pings, before tugging them out. “I am your fiancé, after all. I’m happy to stop you from being a worry wart.”

Yuuri gives a small huff, though his smile doesn’t fade as he guides Victor in the right direction. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Always!” Victor beams as Yuuri unlocks the door. Victor’s fairly sure he sees Yuuri rolling his eyes before opening up the room, and gesturing for Victor to go first.

It’s… small. Not that it isn’t as beautiful as the rest of the building, and the chair and beds—two beds, which Victor isn’t sure if he feels relief or disappointment over—look comfortable, but… it is only one, small room.

“You don’t like it,” Yuuri notes, frowning. “You know, we can go back. You offered to go back for me, but the same goes for you—we can go back and forget this ever happened.”

“No!” Victor’s voice is loud enough to startle them both. “I mean, I don’t want to forget this. I’ve really enjoyed today, and I want to spend this time with you, more than anything. If I looked otherwise, it was just because… I was surprised.”

“Surprised?” Yuuri glances around. “Is something wrong?”

“It’s just… small?” There has to be a better way of wording this so that it’s less offensive, but some part of Victor still feels as comfortable as he was as a teen around Yuuri, drawing the truth right out of him.

“Oh.” Yuuri glances around the room, a frown spread across his lips as his hand slips from Victor’s. “I… see. I didn’t think…”

Victor shakes his head. “It’s fine, don’t worry about it.”

“It’s obviously not fine when it has you making that sort of expression.” Yuuri’s eyes flick back to Victor, hard with determination. “We’ll go to a more formal hotel. They’ll be more likely to recognize us—or well, you—but I’m sure they’ll be discreet. They’ll probably even have enough rooms available for us each to have our own, since that wasn’t an option here.”

Yuuri.” Victor sighs. “I said it was okay.”

“That’s what you said, but—“

“That’s what I meant.” Victor narrows his eyes. “I want to experience what you love about where you live, and you haven’t let me down so far. What do you love about this place?”

“I…” Yuuri glances away, but that characteristic flush doesn’t spread across his face, and Victor attempts to resist the urge to panic.

Did he mess up things again? Did he scare Yuuri away? Even if he does his best to not avoid situations, that doesn’t mean he’s good at dealing with them.

“It’s quiet,” Yuuri finally answers, just as Victor was going to let his hope slip away. “It’s nice. Nobody asks any questions, and the beds are comfortable. Mari and I would watch movies until my mind was quiet enough that I could sleep, and since I was so far away from the reality of home and those worries, eventually I would.”

“Then why don’t we do that now?” Victor latches onto the idea as firmly as he can. It’s a small place, but it’s not bad, and he likes the intimacy of being with Yuuri.

Yuuri blinks up at him. “Victor, I really don’t mind going somewhere else.”

This is what I want,” Victor says the words as firmly as he can, never breaking eye contact. “And besides, I’m wet and gross and a nice shower and a soft robe sound very good right now, don’t they?”

Ah, there’s Yuuri’s flush. “Yeah, they do.”

“Then we stay.” Victor nods.

Yuuri takes a breath, letting go of Victor’s hand to shrug off his coat. “Then we stay.”

They move lazily about the room as they settle in, Yuuri tinkering around the minuscule kitchenette while Victor showers—he really should have brought some of his beauty products with him. Though, really, who could have predicted this outcome? Not to mention, if Yuuri’s to be Victor’s husband, he’ll see Victor at a lot worse than this.

That thought stills him for just a moment before instinct kicks in and he goes through the motions of his shower even as it echoes around his head.

Yuuri doesn’t seem so apt to cancel their engagement anymore. And it isn’t as if they’re perfect; they're both stubborn, Yuuri sometimes illogically so, and Victor would rather plaster on a smile than have to deal with the issue at hand. But Victor’s willing to try and grow for Yuuri, and perhaps Yuuri might do the same.

And for all he’s fought for this, a shiver of dread still runs down Victor’s spine. What if it doesn’t work out? What if whatever made them work as friends before is completely gone? What if…?

Victor shakes his head before finally forcing himself from the bathroom, out into the room and—

“Oh! You’re done. I made tea.” Yuuri smiles at him, a soft and tentative thing, and everything whirling around Victor’s head and heart calms.

They may not have everything set out for them, they definitely still have a lot to learn and a lot of room to grow, but they can and will try and make the absolute most of it.

Yuuri takes the bathroom next—absurdly quick compared to Victor’s routine—and then Yuuri plops onto a bed, Victor settles next to him, and after a little debate, they pull up some silly movie.

Not that it really matters, considering that they spend the first half of it chattering and teasing, the same as before when Yuuri used to hang out in Victor’s dorm. Except now they aren’t talking about class and gossip, but about Makkachin, and books, and what they do in their downtime. Eventually, though, Yuuri’s words get a slurred edge to them, eyelids drooping and fluttering until they finally fall shut and stay that way. It’s tempting to follow after him into slumber, the warmth of Yuuri’s arms and one of his legs draped around Victor just begging him to nod off.

But he doesn’t.

He waits until the movie’s over, then carefully removes Yuuri’s glasses and sets them aside before slipping out of Yuuri’s grip and into his own bed. And if he sleeps as close to the side of his mattress that Yuuri’s bed is near as he can, well. There’s no one awake to judge him. Honestly, it’s nice how close the beds are to each other. If Victor were more sure, he could just reach out and… he doesn’t know what. Yuuri looks so peaceful, all tucked into the large blankets, his mouth slightly open. Though really, Victor shouldn’t be staring, this is incredibly creepy. He shifts, fully intending to turn over until—

“Victor?” Yuuri’s voice is rough and a little slurred from sleep, but his eyes are blinking open, slowly but surely.

“I’m here,” Victor answers, even if he’s not sure that’s the right answer to Yuuri’s question.

But it must be okay, because Yuuri shifts and moves a hand out from underneath the covers, and reaches out toward Victor.

Victor’s breath stutters in his chest before he moves as quick as he dares to reach out and take Yuuri’s hand. It’s sleep-warm, soft and perfectly fit for Victor’s palm. It shouldn’t make Victor so happy to do something this simple, and yet he can’t remember the last time he’s smiled like he is right now.

“Thank you,” Yuuri murmurs, eyes locked on their hands as he moves to lace their fingers together.

“For what?” Victor squints at Yuuri’s face in the dim light, trying to make out any sort of expression, but Yuuri only seems mildly groggy.

“Everything.” Yuuri’s eyes flick up to meet Victor’s. “For being you, and being so nice, and chasing after me instead of running away. Just… everything.”

His heart races and his throat constricts a little, and if his eyes burn with unshed tears, he doubts Yuuri can see them without his glasses. Honestly, this whole day can’t be good on Victor’s health, but he’ll take it.

“Hey, Yuuri?” Victor grips Yuuri’s hand a little tighter, the words he wants to say fluttering around in his throat. Even if he can’t say that, he has to say something.

“Hmm?”

Victor sucks in a breath, smiling a little. “I think I might have a crush on you.”

Yuuri gives a breathy laugh, gripping their hands a little tighter together. “Me too,” Yuuri whispers before his eyes fall shut again—but this time, Victor can see a slight smile illuminated in the moonlight.

Chapter Text

Victor is the first to wake.

Soft morning light seeps in through the cracks in the drapes, barely illuminating the room, but enough that after Victor blinks and squints, he can make out his surroundings. It takes his brain a moment to process that he’s not in his apartment, and he’s not in his bed at the Katsuki household, but… at a hotel.

With Yuuri.

Who is somehow, impossibly, still holding Victor’s hand between their beds.

A smile creeps across Victor’s face, and he runs a thumb over Yuuri’s knuckles. Gods, just a couple of days ago he was worried about never even seeing Yuuri, and now this. He’s not sure exactly what he’s done in his life to deserve this moment, but he’s most definitely going to do his best to keep being worthy of this; of Yuuri.

“Victor?” Yuuri’s voice is a murmur at best, Victor’s name slurring so it has an extra syllable somewhere in there. His eyes aren’t even open, there’s just a furrow between his brow.

It’s adorable.

“Good morning, Yuuri,” Victor tries and fails not to coo, tightening his grip on Yuuri’s hands and snuggling into his sheets just a little more. Maybe someday he can snuggle with Yuuri.

But Yuuri… He stiffens for a second or two, then yanks his hand out of Victor’s, and rolls over and away from him.

“Yuuri?” Victor sits up, all of the warmth and softness in him fleeing. “What’s wrong?”

There’s another moment of quiet before a muffled, “Nothing,” Yuuri’s voice far higher pitched.

Victor frowns. “You don’t have to tell me, Yuuri, but please don’t lie.”

“I…” Yuuri shifts a little, but doesn’t turn over. “I’m sorry.”

“It’s okay.” It takes everything in Victor to resist the urge to reach out and touch Yuuri, but everything about Yuuri’s curled and retreated body language screams stay away. “I don’t expect you to trust me this soon. We’re still learning about each other, I would just—”

“Not that. I’m not… it’s not that.” Yuuri’s voice is still quiet, enough so that Victor nearly talks right over him. “I… I’m sorry that I’m selfish.”

Victor blinks. “What?”

“You could be with anyone right now, doing anything, and instead you’re with me.” Yuuri’s voice is still muffled with sleep, still somehow soft as he tears himself apart. “I can barely hold myself together on my best days, I’m one of the least impressive royals out there, and I… and I look like this. No one, and I mean no one, wants me when I’m like this, not unless they’re stuck with me. I-I’ve tried, I know.” Yuuri finally turns over, and Victor catches the way tears glimmer in his eyes.

“Yuuri—”

“No, don’t try and deny it.” Yuuri blinks rapidly, and the tears start to fall down his cheeks. “I’ve always been like this. I was the one who forced you into that terrible and awkward position when we were kids, and I didn’t even try to straighten it out. I’ve tried to be better, but I’m not. I should have made sure you never had to come here, but I—” Yuuri’s voice breaks, and he closes his eyes. “I don’t deserve to wake up here next to you.”

It’s self-centered of him, but Victor’s happy that Yuuri’s eyes are closed because he has no idea what to do. Of course Yuuri’s insecurities aren’t going to go away overnight, but what does Victor do about them? Is there anything he can do? And not to mention Yuuri’s crying, and Victor hasn’t a clue how to deal with tears other than feel horribly awkward and try to pass the crying person off to someone else.

But there’s no one else here to help, just them.

And, regardless of current circumstance, a part of Victor is still thankful for that. Yuuri is flawed, yes, but so is Victor. He may be shy and buried in his own guilt and blame, but he’d let Victor hold his hand last night, he let them consider their future together. Victor’s a touch confused about what happened in Yuuri’s brain this morning, but he knows Yuuri’s always been one to worry, even if it’s about seemingly pointless things.

Victor takes a deep breath, and sits up a little straighter. “So you’re allowed to be selfish, but I’m not?”

Yuuri blinks at him. “What?”

“You’re not the only one with flaws, Yuuri.” Victor frowns at him, attempting to be stern but probably failing.

“I know that,” Yuuri snaps, pulling his comforter up a bit like he wants to hide beneath it, and lets his long hair fall into his face. “But it doesn’t excuse what I did, or who I am.”

Victor smothers an exasperated sigh. “You ran away, yes, but so did I. Of course you were embarrassed, and I could have tried to talk to you, but I let everything slip through the cracks, and above all else, I should have acted differently.” Victor takes a shaky breath, bracing himself. “I didn’t know about our engagement, back then. I’d forgotten.”

“But, Victor.” Yuuri frowns. “We weren’t—”

“I should have suspected, I should have done something, but I let things slip through my fingers. You made your own mistakes, but you aren’t to blame for my actions, too.”

“But I’m the one who caused the situation in the first place. I didn’t have to kiss you.” Yuuri blushes softly, clutching the blanket even tighter.

Victor wonders what Yuuri would think if he kissed that blush right off his cheeks now… but it probably isn’t the time. “You didn’t have to, but you were a teenager, Yuuri. We all make stupid mistakes. I’ve made my own, too.”

Yuuri snorts. “I’m sure you did.”

Victor frowns. He could give Yuuri a presentation about every single one of his flaws, but it’s obvious that wouldn’t work because Yuuri isn’t listening. “Yuuri. Do you remember what I told you last night?”

Yuuri winces, and it takes all of Victor’s self-control not to let his face fall. “I do, I just… It’s…” He takes a breath. “It’s hard to believe that it’s true.”

“You don’t trust me?” It probably sounds pathetic falling out of Victor’s mouth, but considering that’s how he feels, he can’t bring himself to care much.

“No! I do, I mean. Maybe not as much as years ago, I know you wouldn’t… I don’t think you’re cruel enough to lie about something like that. I just… it can’t be real.” Yuuri glances down at his hands in his lap, hunching over so that Victor can barely make out his face. “Someone like you can’t like someone like me. It just… it doesn’t make sense.”

But… this is Yuuri. Victor’s already liked Yuuri for years, they’ve already been best friends, this doesn’t make sense.

Except, just as Victor just acknowledged, they were best friends for years, and Victor knows how unreasonable Yuuri’s mind can be. He may never be able to completely convince Yuuri that he’s never going to let their relationship slide away again, but Victor will be damned if he doesn’t try.

“Can I sit next to you?” Victor scooches toward the end of the bed, but doesn’t stand up without the word from Yuuri.

“What?” Yuuri looks at Victor for a second before glancing away. “Why?”

“Because I care about you and want to be near you, but I don’t want to crowd you.” Teenage Victor may have already jumped up and smothered Yuuri in a hug, and maybe that could help Yuuri, but Victor’s learned better. It’s about Yuuri, not himself.

Yuuri’s cheeks grow the lightest dusting of pink that Victor’s seen. “I… okay.”

Victor leaps up probably a little too fast before settling in next to Yuuri, leaning gently into Yuuri’s shoulder and taking his hands into his own. “I know I can be a little bit… much. Sometimes I’m too enthusiastic, or too blunt, or any number of other things, but I won’t lie to you, Yuuri. Not about something so important. Whatever agreement has been written up between our parents is important, I’m sure, but more than that I care that we finally know each other again. Even after so many years, I’d think about you from time to time, you know.”

“But… why?” Yuuri looks up at Victor, so close that there are obvious flecks of gold in his brown eyes. “I’m just me. I’m boring, I was when we knew each other, and now I… I look like this. I’m not someone that you can proudly call your husband, and I don’t know why you’d want that.”

“I cared about you because you were kind, and sweet, and so very smart. Sometimes you’re soft-spoken, but when you set your mind on something, you never give up and I wish I had that conviction. You’re one of the most powerful mages I know and, well.” There’s heat blooming across Victor’s cheeks and his nose now, and he doesn’t bother to fight it. Let Yuuri see how he really feels. “If I’m going to be completely blunt, you’re gorgeous.”

“But—”

“Nope!” Victor nudges Yuuri’s shoulder. “That’s what I think when I look at you, and nothing you can say will change my mind.”

Yuuri stutters for a moment before shaking his head. “You’re being too kind, I—”

Victor ever so gently runs the tips of his fingers under Yuuri’s chin, keeping his gaze. “If I may be so bold, I’m going to re-confess that I have a crush on you. That maybe it’s silly because we’ve only known each other for a short time after eons apart, but I would be lying if I said I don’t daydream of waking up to this face next to me every morning; or that your smile doesn’t do things to me that I didn’t know was possible.” With even more delicacy, Victor moves his left hand so that he’s touching Yuuri’s scarring. It’s textured beneath Victor’s careful exploration, but that’s not worth focusing on just yet. What is worth his focus is that this is Yuuri, and Yuuri deserves to know how appreciated he truly is. “That, occasionally, I think about kissing your skin, your lips, your scar. I won’t do it without your permission, but Yuuri, I want to. Your scars are beautiful, and so are you.”

Yuuri sucks in a shaking breath, but his eyes don’t move from Victor. “You… You can, if you want.”

Victor blinks. “What?”

Yuuri instantly goes pink, but not as much as Victor would expect as he says, “You can kiss me, Vitya.”

Now it’s Victor’s turn to suck in a breath. But who is he to argue when Yuuri says something like that without even so much as a stutter to his words?

He leans in, hesitating only a moment for Yuuri to take back his words, but he doesn’t. So Victor presses a soft kiss to the scarring along Yuuri’s hairline, not missing the way that Yuuri’s breath hitches. Victor’s lips curve into a smile as he travels down, ghosting his fingertips along Yuuri’s skin as he moves, giving every inch of Yuuri’s skin the attention it deserves.

Yuuri’s arms wind around Victor’s waist, tugging him a little closer, and something within Victor’s chest relaxes. This morning may have been a ride, but it’s lead them here, to this moment that Victor thought would take months to get to—if they ever reached it at all. The confrontation is well worth these steps forward in their relationship. It may not be the last time that they have a morning like this, but so long as they try to move forward, that they have more mornings together, Victor will be content. More than content.

Victor moves his mouth down along Yuuri’s jawline, following the trails of the scar until he hovers over Yuuri’s mouth, eyes flicking up to make sure it’s okay.

Oh, and it’s okay. Yuuri’s eyes are hooded and dark, attention unwavering as he barely licks his lips.

Victor’s breath hitches. Maybe hes the one not entirely ready—but he wants this. He doesn’t want to say no.

In the end, Yuuri’s the one who leans forward, eyes fluttering shut as his lips press against Victor’s.

It’s chaste, but it’s so sweet and so… filling. Satisfying in a way that Victor didn’t know that he could be satisfied. It’s right, how they fit together, how Yuuri’s arms tighten around Victor as Victor’s own hands continue to roam.

Too quickly, Yuuri pulls back, his eyes flicking from Victor’s own to his lips a couple of times. “Was that all right?”

“That was perfect.” Victor leans forward to press a soft kiss on Yuuri’s nose. “You’re perfect.”

Yuuri scowls. “Hardly.”

“Well, I suppose no one’s perfect,” Victor admits. “But you’re you, which makes it even better.”

“Flatterer.” Yuuri tries to frown, but his lips can’t hold it against his smile very well. “You know I… I have days like this. I talk to someone about it, and I’m on medication, but sometimes I just… I can’t fight it back, and there’s nothing I or anyone else can do.”

“I’m okay with that.” Victor brushes Yuuri’s long hair away from his face, possibly using that as an excuse to run his fingers through it. “I don’t like that you have to go through it, but so long as you keep talking to me when you can, I’m here for you, Yuuri. I remember how you were in school. I’m not afraid of you.”

“I… I know. Or, I think I know.” Yuuri’s frown becomes more genuine for a moment.

“We have time to get to know each other again.” Victor continues to run his fingers along Yuuri’s hair, and he leans into the touch, making Victor’s heart skip a beat. “This past day moved… a little fast, but we have months before the wedding, and then we have the rest of our lives together. If you want that.”

Yuuri turns his head a bit, looking just past Victor for long enough that Victor begins to worry that he’d said something wrong. But then Yuuri turns back to him, eyes intense and burning.

“Yes, I do, I…” Yuuri takes Victor’s hand, squeezing it tight as the most brilliant smile blooms across his face. “Vitya? Let’s get married.”

Victor’s face blooms into the largest grin that he’s ever felt in his life. He tries to kiss Yuuri again, but between their smiles and their laughter, they end up in a giggling mess on the bed.

“Yes, Yuuri.” Victor nuzzles into Yuuri’s head, still smiling. “Let’s get married.”

 

###

 

The rest of the morning passes in a bit of a blur. Now that Yuuri’s opened the door, Victor can’t resist casual touches and less casual kisses as they prepare to leave, and, well, it takes them far too long to put on their now-dry clothes and start heading back toward the Katsuki’s residence.

The sky is clear today, but Victor’s mind doesn’t stay on the weather for very long. Yuuri’s hand is in his, and their smiles come easier than they’d ever come before as they chatter about anything that comes to mind. A part of Victor wants to grasp hold of every little second of this and clutch it close, but… he doesn’t have to. No matter where or how their relationship evolves, Yuuri’s committed, and so is Victor.

This is something he’ll have for the rest of his life.

The walk is too short, real life waiting for them just beyond the doors of the estate. They both hesitate just outside, exchanging a glance. Neither of them are ready, truly, but time stops its march for no one and nothing.

Victor reaches out and takes hold of the handle, then turns back to Yuuri.

And Yuuri leans forward, pressing his lips to Victor’s and lingering there for a moment before he pulls away.

Victor blinks a couple of times, ignoring the fact that he’s now the one flushing all the time. “What was that for?”

Yuuri smiles. “Just a welcome home kiss, I suppose?”

Home. It’s not that Victor never felt loved by his parents, or that he wasn’t comfortable where he was, but that little apartment he was stuck in was never home. But he can have that here, Yuuri’s offering it to him.

Victor leans forward, pressing their lips together again. “Thank you.”

Yuuri beams up at him, and Victor returns it before opening the door and—

Yuuri lets out a soft, “Oof,” before he’s suddenly sprawled on his back, and a large, brown lump wiggles on top of him.

“Makka!” Victor begins to scold, but then Yuuri giggles as she starts licking his face, and any irritation dissipates.

Yuuri begins to coo at Makka in his native tongue, scratching her ears and laughing some more, making no move to get up.

Victor kneels next to them, patting Makka on her back—and nearly gets toppled over himself. “I think she likes you,” Victor manages to get out between fending off the giant dog and his own laughter.

“I like her!” Yuuri sits up and scratches Makka’s side, but his smile… doesn’t quite meet his eyes.

Oh.

Victor reaches out and takes hold of one of Yuuri’s hands. “Is this okay?”

Yuuri looks at Makka for a long moment before turning back to Victor, his smile smaller, but a bit more earnest. “Yeah. I miss having a dog, you know. And she’s such a good girl.” He ruffles her ears again at his last words, and she gives a soft boof as in a response—which makes that small smile grow a little more brilliant.

“Ah, there you two are.”

Victor swivels around, finding Mari leaning against the door frame.

“M-Mari!” Yuuri scrambles to his feet. “We were—”

“Whatever you get up to with your fiancé is none of my business, and honestly I’d rather not know more than I have to.” Mari waves her hand, cutting off Yuuri’s protests. “I’m here because Mom and Dad want to see you. Both of you.”

A slight chill crawls down Victor’s spine as he and Yuuri exchange a look.

“Is it bad?” Yuuri manages to get out. “Did I do something wrong, or forget something? I could’ve sworn my schedule was supposed to stay clear all of yesterday afternoon…”

“Nah.” Mari shakes her head, pushing off the doorframe. “It’s not that. It’s… well, you should talk to them yourself, okay? I’d tell you not to worry, but I know better.”

Yuuri manages a little snort at that, then starts to worry his bottom lip between his teeth.

And Victor doesn’t blame him. Yuuri’s parents are wonderful, and he’d rather trust Mari’s word than worry about the possibilities… but they’ve come so far in just one night. What if the Katsuki’s are tired of Victor and Yuuri’s shenanigans? What if…?

Yuuri stands up, brushes Makka’s hair off him as best as he can, and holds out a hand to Victor. “Shall we?”

A small smile flickers across Victor’s face before he reaches out and takes Yuuri’s hand. “Yeah.”

They follow Mari slowly but surely across the estate, their hands still joined. Yuuri’s hand trembles a bit in Victor’s and he makes sure to give a tight squeeze, wishing he could do more—as it is, he’s not exactly looking forward to this.

Mari stops in front of a pair of large doors, motioning for Yuuri to open them. All Yuuri does, though, is give an audible swallow.

“Yuuri…” Victor’s mind scrambles a bit with words, but what’s the right thing to say?

“Don’t say it’ll be all right.” Yuuri glances at Victor from the corner of his eyes. “You can’t know that.”

Victor gives a soft chuckle. “I won’t say that. But I will say that whatever happens next, we’ll have each other. That I can promise, no matter what.”

“Really?” Yuuri turns to face Victor fully. “What if it’s something awful?”

“Yuuri, I mean no offense, but everything that you’ve thought was awful and would scare me away has only ever made me more endeared toward you.” Victor raises Yuuri’s hand to his lips, kissing his knuckles. “I’m afraid you’ll have to try much harder to keep me from you.”

Yuuri gives a little laugh, almost unbelieving. “Really?”

“Really.” Victor gives a soft smile. “Now, let’s get this done so that we can have a nice lunch together, all right?”

Yuuri takes a deep breath and gives a nod, his shaking subsiding a little. “All right.”

Victor wonders if Mari’s rolling her eyes watching all this, but she chooses to stay silent, and Victor chooses to stay focused on Yuuri as he reaches out and opens the door.

Inside is a small sitting room, full of cozy furniture and soft neutral tones. Sitting facing them are Hiroko and Toshiya, of course, but… they aren’t the only people in the room.

Victor blinks, almost taking a step backward. “Mamas?”

Chapter Text

“Darling!” Mama exclaims as she gets to her feet, walking over and enveloping Victor in a hug—Mom not too far behind.

“Mamas?” Victor repeats, brow furrowing as his mind attempts to wrap itself around the situation. It’s odd, having both the Katsukis and his mamas in the same room, but… it strangely fits.

“Oh, it’s so good to see you.” Mom pets Victor’s hair, and gives him a wide smile. “You’ve been so vague about the details of your visit, we’d been wondering if something was wrong.”

“Not that we hadn’t predicted the cold shoulder treatment.” Mama sighs.

“I wasn’t—!” Victor swallows the rest of his words as his mamas' arms tighten around him. He wasn’t purposely doing it, but… he supposes he was.

“Well, that’s what we get for springing it on you so suddenly.” The frown is evident in Mom’s voice.

Mama pats Victor’s head, now. “Not that we had much of a choice in the matter, considering.”

“I… That’s why you’re here?” Victor pulls away a bit to get a good view of their faces.

“Not quite.” Hiroko’s voice rings through the room.

His mamas let go of Victor, their spines straightening so that they’re not just his mamas anymore, but also the Nikiforova wives that command the court with their frigid temperaments.

“What’s going on?” Yuuri’s voice is steady, but if the way he grips Victor’s hand—and the fact that he hadn’t let go when Victor’s mamas descended—is any indication, he’s terrified. But he isn’t running, and he hasn’t hidden himself with magic, or behind his hair, or anything else. He could have, while Victor’s mamas were focused on their son, but he didn’t.

Gods, Victor wishes he could kiss this man right now.

Mom blinks, taking a moment to look between Yuuri and Victor. “Oh, you’re together!”

“See, I told you all this worry was for nothing, dear.” Mama pats Mom’s shoulder with a small smile.

“Sometimes you can’t help but worry about your son, I understand.” Hiroko steps around the couch and comes a little closer to the group of them. “Besides, I imagine you’d like to make sure everything’s being handled as it should, in person.”

“We were the ones that called you in the first place about this whole arrangement.” Toshiya nods, an indulgent smile on his lips.

“What arrangement? Something new?” Victor moves slightly to stand a tad closer to Yuuri. Whatever they’ve planned, he meant it; they can conquer this together.

“The one you already know about.” Mom tilts her head slightly. “Well, the one you know mostly about. The marriage.”

“The agreement from when I was small?” Victor’s brow furrows. “The Katsukis initiated it?”

“When you were small?” Yuuri frowns at Victor. “They told me that this was just arranged a few months ago, to help your family out of a tight spot.”

“We aren’t in a tight spot now, but we were back then…” Victor glances at the parents in the room, then back at Yuuri. “But… You didn’t correct me about saying I should have known about our engagement earlier, Yuuri.”

Yuuri glances away for a second, biting his lip. “Well, you moved on so quickly, and… I thought I’d remembered wrong? Somehow?”

Mari snorts from the doorway. “I’m sorry little bro, but how on earth would you forget about marrying your idol?”

Yuuri flushes not unlike he did all of yesterday. It’s adorable, and it takes all of Victor’s will to turn back to the room at large.

“What’s happening?” Victor straightens his spine, standing as tall as he can.

“Well, Vitya…” Mama sighs. “You were miserable, did you realize?”

“I… what?” Victor glances around. “I was fine. I am fine.”

“Oh, darling.” Mom reaches out and puts a hand on Victor’s shoulder. “It was your normal, but it wasn’t fine.”

“And Yuuri hadn’t been much better off,” Toshiya offers, linking his hands with Hiroko who gives an encouraging nod. “You’ve been content at times, but the last time you were happy was at school. When you knew Victor. You've been so afraid of letting others in… It’s been too long, son. We knew we had to organize the engagement and spring the news quickly enough that neither of you could find excuses or reasons to back out without giving each other a chance. Not that it entirely worked, but we did our best.”

“You… you set us up?” Yuuri murmurs, eyes flicking to look at everyone in the room.

“Phichit helped a lot,” Mari offers from behind them. “Apparently someone else did on Victor’s end, too. But I don’t think it would’ve worked without Phichit.”

Someone on Victor’s end…? Well, it wouldn’t be cousin Yuri, he can barely stand talking with Victor on most days much less helping him. But maybe… Oh gods, of course.

Did it work?” Hiroko asks softly, and there’s more meaning to her words than what she outright says.

Yuuri hesitates, glancing up quickly at Victor, then back down at his mom. “I… I think so.”

“Good!” Mama grins. “You see, I told you all we should let them work it out.”

Mari snorts. “To be fair, they weren’t working it out.”

“That wasn’t helpful, Mari.” Hiroko sighs.

“But it is true.” Toshiya gives a half-smile.

Yuuri stiffens. “I-I just… That would be my fault. I apologize.”

“It took a while, but it ended well.” Victor desperately resists the urge to jump into the fray and argue how he didn’t help things himself, but it’s true—they’re here now. They’re moving forward.

“Good!” Mama smiles. “You know we would have destroyed the Katsukis for you if they hurt you.”

“Mama!” Victor scowls, even as Hiroko and Toshiya laugh and Yuuri pales. “Please don’t destroy the Katsukis, they’re very nice people.”

“Of course we wouldn’t destroy them without talking to you,” Mama says, tone gentle and indulgent. “Consent is very important, we taught you this.”

“That—that’s not the point!” Victor shakes his head. “All right. Fine. So the story you gave us about the engagement you all set up wasn’t real. But the engagement itself is?”

All the parents in the room exchange a look, as if Victor asked if the tooth fairy was real and they hadn’t prepared an explanation about that quite yet.

“It… it isn’t real?” Yuuri squeaks.

Victor grips Yuuri’s hand tighter, leaning in closer to whisper in his ear, “We still have each other, remember that.”

Yuuri relaxes minutely, glancing up at Victor with a grateful sort of smile.

“Oh dear, they’re cute.” Mom brings a hand to her mouth, like that could cover her shit-eating grin.

Yuuri flushes deep crimson, glancing down before mumbling, “So… nothing’s been real?”

“Real?” Hiroko raises her eyebrows. “Yuuri, are you saying you don’t want to get married?”

“I…” Yuuri sucks in a deep breath. “I do. I really do.”

“And Victor?” Mom leans forward a bit, meeting Victor’s eyes. “Vitya, dear, is this what you want? You can say no. There are no papers signed as of yet. In fact, it will probably be a few months to a year before the wedding can even happen since there are no real preparations. You both have time to change your minds, but for now: what do you want?”

What does Victor want? He’s been funneled through life, from place to place, from person to person, his career and duty at the forefront of his existence. What he wants hasn’t been a question he could answer—not one that he wanted to answer. What point was there when chances are he couldn’t have had it anyway? So he let things slip away, focused on his work, but Yuuri…

Yuuri’s always been his exception. Apparently to the point where his mamas, along with their friends, and even Yuuri's own parents were in on this whole complicated plan—because they thought it would be best for him to have Yuuri in his life.

Reasonably, they could have just arranged for them to meet up again, or asked them about it, but… well, after this journey Victor can admit both he and Yuuri are all sorts of stubborn. Victor was never allowed the time to entertain the idea of slipping out of the engagement, to let Yuuri slide through his fingertips again, but he would have if everything has been handled more reasonably. And an engagement means that they have to spend time together, have to interact and become closer, and, well.

That’s what Victor wants.

He wants to have Yuuri on his good days and his bad days and all the days between. He wants to hold Yuuri’s hands and kiss his lips and cuddle as they only half pay attention to movies. He wants to try more of Yuuri’s favorite foods, and have him try some of Victor’s own. He wants to stay here in these warm gardens, and learn a new court—a new challenge—and expand his own family with the Katsukis.

“I want to marry Yuuri,” Victor says, voice steady with a wide and heart-shaped smile.

It’s almost as if the room breathes a sigh of relief, everyone grinning and slumping a little—Yuuri slumping into Victor’s side, which he isn’t going to complain about. In fact, he takes his hand from Yuuri’s to instead wrap his arm around Yuuri’s shoulders.

“Well then!” Mom clasps her hands, grinning broadly at Hiroko in a way she never would at anyone in court, and Victor can’t ignore the tiny trickle of dread in his stomach. “It looks like we have a wedding to plan.”

 

###

 

“You knew, didn’t you?” Victor narrows his eyes as he hands Chris a glass of champagne.

“Perhaps.” Chris’ smile gains an edge, though not an unpleasant one. “But do you regret anything?”

Victor sips his own glass as his mind wanders a little. Regret is most definitely not a word that he would associate with the past few months of getting to know and love Yuuri. On top of that, the court here is less brutal and not so full of backstabbing, meaning that with Yuuri’s knowledge and name behind him, Victor’s able to do far more good here than ever before.

Wedding planning has been hectic, but he wouldn’t take that back, either. Not after walking through that floating arch of flowers this morning and seeing Yuuri grinning so brightly in his white suit. Phichit—Yuuri’s best man along with Mari—was openly sobbing before anything even happened, which of course set off cousin Yuri on Victor’s side, no matter how he tried to deny the fact or avoid Chris’s teasing.

Gods, and speaking of Chris, Victor has absolutely no idea how he made a suit so tight and with so much… skin showing. And somehow he pulls it off? Victor’s not going to question it with the rest of the party having thankfully followed dress code, even if Mari draws quite a few eyes of all persuasions in her finest suit.

Victor supposes that degree of charm and handsome nature must run in the family, but he can’t care much at all when he only has eyes for Yuuri. His hair is tied back into a beautiful knot that Victor can’t help but want to untie and run his hands through—which he’ll have the opportunity to do later. He has the time. He has the rest of their lives.

There were officials speaking and words being exchanged, but Victor’s world for that time consisted of Yuuri’s shining brown eyes and his warm smile—honestly, Victor may have cried a bit more than Yuuri. The only thing that drew his attention away was when Makka began to trot down the aisle with their rings—Victor doesn’t want to think about all the training and the one emergency vet visit involved in that; they’ve since decided that a basket for her to carry is much safer than her handing the box—with the Nishigori triplets dancing around her and flinging flower petals everywhere. Once they’re finished, Makkachin presses against their legs as they exchange rings and finally, finally are able to have their first kiss as husbands.

They exit the building to deafening cheering, as it seems like half the courts of both their countries decided to show up. Victor still has trouble wrapping his mind around the fact that Yuuri was so open to such a large ceremony, considering that his initial reaction was a hard, firm no.

But then Victor’s mamas had a talk with Yuuri—Victor’s still trying to weasel out details of that talk from both of them— and the guest list kept expanding from that moment on. When Victor asks Yuuri about his change of heart specifically, he only teases about wanting to show Victor off, or let the world know that they have each other… unless it isn’t teasing? But still, Victor can’t help the warmth of pride that swells in his chest at how brave and lovely his Yuuri is.

The reception, however, is much smaller. Just close family and friends; though Victor highly doubts he can call the affair private with Phichit and his phone lurking about somewhere. Victor’s danced with both Toshiya and Hiroko multiple times, and perhaps cried some more when they both personally welcomed him to their family. Yuuri’s been spirited away by Victor’s mamas for many dances throughout the evening as well, though their excuse is that they’d heard Victor talk about Yuuri dancing enough when he was a teen that they need to experience it for themselves.

The meal is just as loud as the dancing before it, the glasses clinking almost constantly for Yuuri and Victor to kiss. Which naturally, Victor was very happy to indulge, especially when Yuuri so eagerly would initiate as he moved onto his second glass of champagne. Toasts of embarrassing stories from family and friends—and a rather… angry story or two from cousin Yuri, which was entertainment in its own right—occupied the remaining time, and now, well.

Victor’s husband is on the dance floor, facing off against a slightly drunk Yuri—who knows how the teen managed to wheedle alcohol off of some poor, unwitting adult, but they’re all there to keep an eye on him now—and truly enrapturing the attention of the rest of the room, but especially Victor. Poor cousin Yuri had no idea what he was getting into.

“Well?” Chris prompts, nudging Victor’s side a bit.

Victor blinks, taking a moment to recollect the question. Ah, regrets. Victor smiles. “No. I have no regrets. Though you could have just told me, you know.”

“Would you have gone?” Chris raises his eyebrows. “You’ve been so afraid of what you’d done to Yuuri for years that you didn’t even try to text him, even though I’d assured you that his cell number hadn’t changed multiple times.”

Victor winces. Well, he can’t deny that, but… “I don’t know, honestly. But were you in on it from the beginning?”

“I… played a part.” He waves his hand vaguely. “I had a feeling Phichit was up to something with the information I’d provided him, but I wasn’t sure until you came to visit me to ask for your fiancé’s information, and I texted him. Sneaky bastard. Though I could say the same thing about all of your parents, too.”

Victor shakes his head, eyes wandering back toward Yuuri. “You’re awful.”

“An awfully kind best friend?” The smirk is obvious in Chris’s voice. “Oh Victor, you know me too well. Does this mean that I’ll finally no longer be Heidi in your phone?”

“Such a shameless, humble man, too. And no. You’re stuck with it for life. And with me.” Victor rolls his eyes, but then takes a deep, sobering breath. “Thank you. For everything.”

A hand falls on Victor’s shoulder, and he turns to find a warm grin on Chris’s face. “What are friends for?”

Victor returns the smile, his heart light yet full at the same time. Perhaps he knew he wasn’t happy before this whole affair, but he hadn’t realized how deeply he’d needed this. He never appreciated how immensely his family and friends cared for him and how much they noticed. There’s no way he can make this up to them, but there’s a beauty in that, isn’t there? They don’t expect anything in return, they did this for Victor, and that’s that.

“Besides, you’re the one who helped me and my own fiancé get together, I owed you.” Chris smirks.

“I—what?” Victor’s stomach sinks. “But…” But wasn’t Chris the one who introduced Victor to his then-boyfriend? They’d met at a club, and Victor wasn’t there with Chris or even been invited to go with Chris that night since there was a foreign delegation in need of entertainment and the impressive, icy Victor Nikiforov was apparently enough to keep them interested. Victor had absolutely nothing to do with that… Did he?

Chris guffaws. “How, after all that, are you still so gullible?”

Oh. A flush spreads across Victor’s face, even as he scowls. “You ass—”

“Vitya!”

There’s a sudden weight in Victor’s arms, and he takes a step back to regain his balance, before he wraps his arms around the warm body against his.

“Yuuri,” he murmurs, pressing a kiss to Yuuri’s slightly-sweaty forehead. How does he manage to look so attractive, even so disheveled? Honestly, it’s as if he’s even more attractive like this, if that’s possible. Is any Yuuri more attractive than another, or are they just different degrees of attractiveness?

“Vitya,” Yuuri repeats, looking up at Victor with eyes so brilliant they’re practically shining. “Vitya, Vitya, Vitya! We’re married.

Victor leans forward and plants a kiss on Yuuri’s forehead, then his cheek, then his other cheek, then his nose, until they’re both giggling, and Victor nuzzles into Yuuri’s hair. “We are. Is this a dream?”

“Maybe.” Yuuri leans into Victor, his weight so comforting and familiar by this point. “If it is, then I hope I never wake up.”

“Oh Yuuri, you’re so sappy,” Victor coos, lips curving into a smile.

“You started it!” Yuuri pokes Victor in the chest, but otherwise doesn’t move. In fact, he shifts a little closer, face pressed against Victor’s suit.

Victor begins to sway a little to the music, Yuuri catching on quickly even in his slightly tipsy state.

“How are you so pretty?” Yuuri mutters with a deep sigh.

“I could ask you the same, you know.”

Victor can almost feel Yuuri’s scowl, but he doesn’t protest, not like he used to. Not after months and months of Victor showering Yuuri in constant praise. Yuuri might still not like it, but he accepts it as at this point, it’s just a part of living with Victor.

Yuuri eventually lifts his head, eyes only for Victor. “I love you, you know.”

Victor leans down, pressing his lips gently to Yuuri’s for a moment before resting their heads together. “I love you too, Yuuri.”

For a moment they just sway there, breathing in each other and enjoying what they have now and for the rest of their lives.

The rest of the party, however, is having none of that.

Eventually, a chorus of voices starts to ring out with, “Cake! Cake! Cake!” Victor and Yuuri both laugh, then go to the other side of the large room where there’s a three-tiered cake—a layer of vanilla, chocolate, and then one of some sort of addictive spice cake, covered in the most delectable buttercream Victor’s ever put in his mouth—stands tall and proud and ready for the husbands to cut into it.

“Perhaps poodles on the cake was a bit much.” Yuuri frowns as he reaches for the small knife set out for them.

Victor echoes his movements with a soft scoff. “Yuuri, we’re a bit much.”

Yuuri wrinkles his nose, but doesn’t protest.

Victor wraps a hand around Yuuri’s, positioning the knife over the frosting. “Besides, can you really regret poodles?”

Yuuri’s head tilts, and then he smiles. “I guess you’re right. Are you ready?”

“For you? Always.”

Yuuri rolls his eyes even as he grins, and they slice into the cake, together.

The sound of Phichit’s phone camera seems to be coming from everywhere, and the cheers are nearly deafening as they cut out their slices. Victor feeds Yuuri first, gently pushing the piece into Yuuri’s mouth and nearly keeling over when Yuuri manages to suck on one of his fingers on the way out to gasping and wolf-whistles from the attending guests. Yuuri, beet-red now, takes his piece and just… smears it across Victor’s face.

“Yuuri!” Victor gasps then pouts, trying his best not to laugh. “After I was so nice to you, too.”

Yuuri just shrugs, then leans forward to kiss some frosting from Victor’s cheek—

Which gives Victor the perfect opportunity to take a handful of cake and smoosh it into Yuuri’s face.

“Vitya!” Yuuri tries to scold, but then devolves into laughter—which of course sets off Victor, too.

“We’re such disasters,” Yuuri snickers, looking at the mess that is Victor’s face.

“Yes, but we’re each other’s disasters, now.” Victor beams.

“I suppose it’s not that bad, when you put it that way.” Yuuri takes ahold of Victor’s hand, squeezing it tight in both reassurance and promise.

He’s right, it isn’t that bad when put like that. The trail they took to this point was long and winding, that’s undeniable. They’re flawed—disasters, truly, as Yuuri said.

But if these last few months have taught Victor anything, it’s this:

Their tale together, their life of happiness, is only just beginning.