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Yuri doesn’t mean to leave the gala. After all, he’d made a promise to his grandfather that he would stay for the entire duration, and even attempt to not look like he was being forced into attending for diplomatic reasons, but JJ just wouldn’t stop talking, and Victor was of no help at all, what with him mooning over the goddamn Japanese Yuuri, who was drunk, and dry-humping Victor, Jesus fucking Christ.

But here he is disappointing his grandfather anyway, away from the ballroom, in the royal gardens, because at least there’s peace and quiet here, and he won’t have to bleach his eyeballs at the end of the night.

His grandfather would understand. Probably.

“Yuri Plisetsky?” a deep voice calls from behind him, and fuck it, so much for peace and quit.

“What?” Yuri snaps.

“You’re not at the gala,” the stranger says. “Are you lost? Would you like me to walk you back to the ballroom?”

Yuri snorts. “If I’m not in the ballroom, it’s because I have no wish to be there,” he says. “Now if you’ll leave me a-”

“You don’t enjoy the gala,” comes the next astute observation from the man, even before Yuri is able to politely (because asking impolitely would probably cause a diplomatic incident, with how sensitive all the people here tonight are) ask him to leave.

He barely keeps himself from rolling his eyes. “No, I don’t enjoy the gala,” he confirms.

“Do you…” the man trails off, frowning. “Do you dislike Prince Otabek?” he asks quietly.

Yuri arches his eyebrows. “I’ve never met Prince Otabek,” he says truthfully. He and Victor had arrived much later than Yuri’s grandfather, and had both skipped the audience with the king and Prince Otabek. “But if he has to go to all this trouble to find someone to marry him, then logically, there must be something wrong with him.”

The man’s frown deepens at Yuri’s words, and it suddenly occurs to Yuri that badmouthing the monarch of the country he’s currently in is probably not the best idea.

He’s not had the chance to artfully backtrack yet, when the man says, “Let’s go somewhere else.”

“What?”

“You don’t like the party, and I know somewhere better than the gardens that we can go,” comes the simple reply.

Yuri’s eyes narrow. “I don’t even know who you are.”

“You may call me Beka,” the man —Beka— says. “The gala is going to last at least three more hours. The royal garden is nice, but not that nice.”

Beka’s words make sense, and Yuri is already bored of the gardens anyway.

He takes stock of Beka — he’s well-groomed, dressed in what looks to be a ridiculously expensive suit. He’s bigger than Yuri, but Yuri reckons he’s more agile, and could probably outrun Beka if he has to. But what settles it for Yuri is that Beka looks…honest, like he couldn’t be a bad guy even if he wanted to.

“What about you?” Yuri asks. “Don’t you have to be at the party?”

Beka waves a dismissive hand. “I came only to look for one person, and he’s…not inside.”

Yuri considers his words. And then shrugs, and says, “Okay, lead the way.”

Beka takes him to the royal ice rink.

“It’s really nothing much,” Beka says as Yuri makes a pleased noise. “You must have bigger, better rinks back home. But over here, this is already extravagant. The royal family would be hard-pressed justifying anything bigger.”

Yuri vaguely remembers being told by his grandfather that Prince Otabek enjoys skating, and that if all fails, Yuri and Victor should try to engage Prince Otabek in conversations about his hobby.

Huh. He wonders how Prince Otabek is on the ice.

“Go on,” Beka says, pouting to the skates lined by the side. “Try the rink out.”

Yuri does. He does a few rounds on the rink, and then a few spins and flips, and he’s really starting to feel like he should seriously thank Beka, because he’s feeling a lot better than he has the entire day.

When he stills, he’s laughing softly.

He turns back to find Beka watching him at the side of the rink, and feels an inexplicable warmth in his stomach.

“Do you skate?” he calls out to Beka.

“Not as well as you do,” Beka says.

Yuri bites back the waspish that goes without saying that he would normally say in such a situation, because Beka doesn’t seem to be saying it to gain Yuri’s favour; he’s just saying it like it is, telling Yuri a fact.

“Come skate with me,” he says, and knows from the way Beka’s lips curl into a tentative smile that it’s the right thing to say.

In an attempt to make Beka feel less out of place in the rink, Yuri purposefully keeps to his simpler routines, but only a few minutes of making circles around the rink go by before Beka is frowning at him, and telling him to enjoy himself.

Yuri doesn’t tell Beka that he’s already enjoying himself despite everything.

It’s nice being here, in the royal ice rink, with Beka, just silently making circles on the rink. The thought makes his cheeks flush a little.

He does as Beka tells him to, and to his astonishment, Beka starts following his moves, matching him jump for jump, spin for spin, and Yuri-

Yuri is a little in love.

“You’re trained!” he says, glaring at Beka a little.

“I didn’t say I wasn’t,” Beka tells him, smiling a little. And then he straightens up and says, “I wasn’t lying to you, though. I don’t do this professionally. I’m really not as good as you are.”

“Liar,” Yuri says before he’s able to stop himself. While Beka’s jumps weren’t as neat or controlled as Yuri’s was, watching him skate was…something else. “You were perfect,” he breathes out.

Beka’s eyes widen just a touch at Yuri’s words, and he shifts closer to Yuri. Yuri, caught in the moment, leans in closer to Beka too.

Yuri’s heart is beating the wildest rhythm out in his chest, and he’s so sure, so sure that Beka is going to kiss him, so sure that he’s going to let him, when Beka takes a step back, and says, “You’re not how I remember you to be.”

Yuri blinks, uncomprehending. His face is still flushed, he’s sure, and his heart is still racing. “Have we met before?”

Beka looks away from him. “You wouldn’t have remembered,” he says quietly. “You were still so young when we first met, but…we came here as well.”

“What?”

“You were still too young to skate,” Beka continues, still not meeting Yuri’s eyes, “but you latched onto my back, and made me do the skating. We didn’t go fast, couldn’t really, but you said you liked the way it made you feel like you were-”

“-flying,” Yuri finishes for Beka, and Beka’s eyes snap to his. “I… That was- I’ve heard my grandfather tell that story before. I was three the last time I came here, and I was with Prince Otabek.”

Beka clears his throat. “I am Prince Otabek.”

Yuri stares at him. “What?”

“I didn’t mean to mislead you, earlier tonight,” Beka —His Royal Highness Prince Otabek— says. “I just…didn’t know how to tell you.”

Yuri has questions. So many questions. He doesn’t know what they are, but once he’s processed this whole thing, he’ll have all the questions. What the fuck?

“But… But that was twenty years ago, you were barely older than I was then. How do you still remember?”

Otabek is very serious when he replies, “You don’t forget moments that are important to you.”

And damn, Yuri’s cheeks are back to feeling way too warm.

“What do you want with me?” he asks, and he’s maybe sulking a little at the thought of Otabek being able to get to him so easily when they’ve really only known each other for half a night.

“I…” Otabek trails off, and then clears his throat. He starts again, “I would like your permission to court you.”

Court me,” Yuri echoes, disbelief drenching every syllable.

Otabek nods.

“As in, with dates and stuff.”

Otabek nods again.

Yuri’s eyes narrow. “What kind of dates?” he asks, because he’s genuinely curious, and because Otabek has been…interesting this whole night.

The fact that Yuri’s heart is still beating at twice its normal rate doesn’t factor into anything at all.

“I…haven’t thought that far ahead yet,” Otabek confesses, and for the first time tonight, he looks upset. “If you’d give me some time,” he says in a rush, “I can draw up a plan for your approval?”

Yuri’s lips twitch despite himself. “Can I make a suggestion?”

“Of course,” Otabek says, again very seriously.

“More skating,” Yuri tells Otabek, extending his arm out to offer his hand to Otabek. “A lot more skating.”

Otabek smiles, and takes his hand.