Yuuri swallowed the bile building in the back of his throat and adjusted his waistcoat for the fourth time, securing the leather collar around his neck. Minako had informed him earlier that morning of another round of suitors coming to call, their meetings set to begin after tea time.
Yuuri had turned away so many by that point that it was all becoming drudgery, so many of the alphas confidently leaving calling cards after disastrously terrible first meetings, the droll, deathly boring ones as well, left their cards with confidence that Yuuri would return their calls.
Fools, every one of them.
Katsuki Yuuri was not an omega easily won, swept off his feet with flattery and gifts; tradition bound him to nothing. The moment his proposition was made, they laughed and shrugged him off, deeming it a joke. The few that considered his requirement genuine fell easily, treading carefully around him as though he was made of glass.
Yuuri fought to protect his hand, and few, it seemed, thought it worthy to truly fight for.
He sighed and gave himself one last review in the gilded mirror propped up in the corner of his bedroom and slicked his hair back, running the styling oil through it once again. The silver buttons on his jacket gleamed like the buckle of his collar… and the hilt of his rapier. He plucked the weapon from its rack and buckled the sheath around his waist, his boots clicking on the marble as he walked down that grand staircase, greeting the first of that day's suitors.
"I've heard the rumors, what they whisper about you in the streets," the alpha said with a jaunty laugh, "That your hand is protected by a swift blade and a cold smile, but I fail to see that chill…"
Yuuri snorted at his arrogance, albeit in his mind, where none could hear. "You have heard correctly, I am not the sort to easily fall for flattery and patronizing conversation." He replied, his stomach turning at the sudden burst of scent in the room.
"Is that so, Lord Katsuki?" The alpha growled, something in his voice unpleasant and acrid. "And the blade, I assume this refers to the men I met at the door?"
Yuuri chuckled softly and shook his head. "I'm afraid you're mistaken there as well, Lord Alistair, the blade is mine." He nodded down to the grip and crossguard glittering on his hip. "If you intend to pursue me, I intend to test your skill with steel, and should you best me, your courtship will be permitted to continue."
A tense, pregnant pause filled the air as the alpha seated across from him floundered for his retort, the look on disgust clear on his face.
"My Lord, shall we adjourn to the gymnasium? I've finished my tea." Yuuri pressed, withholding the smirk he so often wore when the confident, the overzealous, the knot-brained of them finally understood.
"I…" Alistair cleared his throat, "I believe it would be in our best interest--"
"I suppose you meant 'my best interest' there, no, my Lord?" Yuuri interjected, permitting himself the breach in mannerly conduct. "Are you perhaps second-guessing your choice of conquest?" Yuuri snapped, feeling the heat begin to rise in his chest. "Because I assure you, a conquest I am not, and I will not be swayed by your insistence otherwise."
Minako graciously escorted the man out when he turned with his tail between his legs, simpering out of the sitting room like a kicked dog. Yuuri poured himself a cool glass of water from the pitcher and willed himself to relax. The next suitor would be arriving momentarily, and Yuuri had higher hopes for him.
The young Lord Plisetsky, recently of age and freshly graduated from a prestigious university, had made waves as a talented swordsman even from a young age. What Yuuri hadn't been expecting, however, was for the alpha, nearly five years his junior, to be a head shorter than he, and double the confidence of the alpha before him.
“I find it odd that you won’t let alphas near you unless they best you,” the young alpha laughed, “Have you even had another alpha pick up a blade against you?”
“Rarely,” Yuuri said simply, trying to keep his composure as Lord Plisetsky bragged on about his prowess, going so far as to unsheath his rapier in the parlor. Yuuri had to withhold a gasp at the lack of manners, but his breath was stolen at the gorgeous detailing of it, the golden and glittering silver woven sweepings and inlaid diamond in the pommel and guard.
“It’s an heirloom, but it’s seen its fair share of blood,” the young Lord explained with a smirk, “Care to duel?”
Yuuri returned that sly grin and nodded, finishing off his tea and standing, offering his hand. “Let’s see if you can hold your own.”
Yuuri had him figured out the moment he stepped onto the mat; his movements were easy to pin down, his tells plain as text on his forehead. A feint to the right, followed by a jab left, his eyes darted to his target seconds before the movement. Yuuri quickly, easily disarmed the young Lord, his emerald eyes wide in disbelief as Yuuri extended a hand down.
Lord Plisetsky left with his blade and bruised ego, though Yuuri saw more than the disappointment of a loss on his features; perhaps the young alpha could train further and win someday, gods above knew Yuuri hadn’t found a suitable match thus far… perhaps he never would.
Yuuri gave himself leave for an hour, shining the blade again after the short duel. When he returned, having wiped the sweat from his brow, Minako announced the next suitor would be arriving shortly. Yuuri sighed, wondering why he had bothered to shine his sword again at all, until said suitor strode through the door.
He nearly choked on his tea at the appearance of the most attractive man he had ever seen in his life, an alpha he recognized from his own training, whose duels he had attended in person, years ago. Viktor Nikiforov, swordsman and quite eligible alpha bachelor.
Yuuri shot a deathly serious glare at Minako over his shoulder as the alpha entered, chastising her silently for not informing him of the suitor’s name; Yuuri’s omega, for the first time in years, felt like it ought to submit, Lord Nikiforov’s presence almost larger than life. The scent of wintergreen and dark chocolate filled his nose and nearly broke his concentration.
Viktor bowed graciously, an uncharacteristically submissive gesture from an alpha, and Yuuri returned the platitude with a soft nod. “Lord Katsuki,” Viktor’s voice was soft and low in the quiet of the sitting room. Yuuri wasn’t sure what compelled him to it, but he found himself extending his hand, his wrist only slightly upturned. Viktor took his hand and pressed a soft kiss between his pointer and middle fingers, making him shiver, though not visibly. “It is a true pleasure to meet you.”
“And I you, Lord Nikiforov.” Yuuri breathed, “I’m surprised that you came to call.” He lifted his teacup to his lips, breathing in the calming combination of jasmine and honey, trying to drown out the crisp, wintry scent in the room.
“Perhaps you shouldn’t be,” Viktor returned, taking his seat across from Yuuri and pouring a splash of milk in his tea, humming a soft, barely-there growl of appreciation. “From what I’ve heard of you, seen of you, I’m the one who ought to be humbled by your presence.” Yuuri’s cheeks flushed red at the attention from one of the masters of swordplay, and after only a few minutes of short conversation, Yuuri stood.
“Shall we adjourn to the gymnasium?” he asked, eyeing the weapon hanging proudly on Viktor’s left hip, the guard and sweepings cast in what appeared to be solid gold.
“So it’s true then,” Viktor laughed gently, rising from his seat and setting his tea aside. “Katsuki Yuuri is a most unconventional omega, fighting for his own hand.” There was no sneer in his voice, simply appreciation; the smile on his lips was not a false one, not one of condescension. “I’d be happy to best you, Lord Katsuki.” he added, a glint of competitive spirit gleaming in his eyes.
“Let’s see what kind of students the great Feltsman School turns over, hm?” Yuuri smirked, feeling as though he might finally have found a worthy opponent; and perhaps… an opponent he wouldn’t mind falling to.
Viktor met him at every turn, parried every strike and found every one of Yuuri’s weak points. Yuuri lost ground and gained it, took two steps back and three forward, only to nearly tumble to Viktor’s footwork and fine-honed skill. Theirs was an intricate dance of blades, of delicately placed strikes and soft huffed breaths as determination propelled each forward.
The duel stilled when Yuuri caught Viktor’s crossguard, bringing it down in a slatemate, steel clashing angrily with steel as equally matched strength pushed against one another. It was then that Yuuri could hear the ragged breaths, see the pearls of sweat beading on Viktor’s forehead beneath that silken silver hair, the fire and resolve in those ocean eyes.
“Lord Nikiforov,” Yuuri huffed, his biceps aching with the work, “You certainly are a worthy opponent,” he continued, nostrils flaring and taking in deep lungfuls of Viktor’s musky evergreen scent made thicker with sweat. “You might finally be a sword worth my effort.”
The soft, “oh,” sound that fell from Viktor’s lips, paired with the slight falter in his strength, was Yuuri’s chance, and he took it, knocking the weapon from his grip and pressing Viktor back onto one knee, his blade mere inches from his beating heart. For a moment neither spoke, simply panting for breath as the shock of it all washed over both.
The disappointment on Viktor’s features wrenched at Yuuri’s heartstrings, bearing the burden no longer as he released him and turned away, sheathing his weapon.
“I… I truly hadn’t expected to fail,” Viktor breathed, the sound of his voice alone nearly enough to make Yuuri’s omega submit, to please the crestfallen alpha, but he held firm. “Though I cannot be prouder to fall to such a skilled swordsman as yourself, Lord Katsuki. I bid you a fair evening.”
Minako helped the alpha to his feet and Yuuri listened for the clatter of the weapon as he picked it up from the ground, sheathing it in his belt and making for the door.
Go, go after him, his omega pleaded silently at him, aching to be near the man again, who so politely greeted him, so eagerly duelled him, who lost and rescinded without qualm, despite the disappointment.
But the door fell shut, and Yuuri was alone.
His caretaker thanked Viktor for his visit on Yuuri’s behalf at the door, bidding him a good evening. “Safe travels, my Lord,” she said, pausing as both of them heard the thunder of feet rushing down the grand hall and skidding to a stop in the foyer.
Viktor’s heart leapt into his throat at the sight of him, pink-faced and flustered, his hair in disarray and his breaths loud and unbecoming, but Viktor wouldn’t dare to complain.
“Minako-senpai, please inform Lord Nikiforov of my availability for tomorrow morning,” Yuuri huffed, clearly out of breath. “I will expect him at eleven sharp.”
Those eager amber eyes met Viktor’s, and for a moment, Viktor felt as if he could fly.
“I’ll be here. I swear it, my Lord.” Viktor said, admittedly too enthusiastically for such a momentous occasion. “Thank you. By the gods, thank you.” He added, his heart nearly full to bursting as he bowed deeply, his lips curling up in a wide, toothy smile.
“Bring your sword tomorrow, Lord Nikiforov.” Yuuri said, turning on his heel and ascending the stairs. “I expect a rematch.”