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Til Death Do Us Part

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“No.”

“But, your royal highness-"

Viktor Nikiforov rolled his eyes and held up a hand decisively. Asserting himself was the best way to ensure that his thoughts and feelings on the issue mattered.

“I said, my answer is no.” No sooner than those words had left his mouth, Viktor’s Uncle Yakov strode into the room, his usual expression of exasperation etched into the lines on his face; constant stress was a natural part of being the King of Russia, but that still didn’t make it any easier for him.

“Vitya, just what the hell do you think you’re playing at? You’re twenty-eight years old, for goodness’ sake. What are you doing with your life? You need a wealthy husband to keep you company, and yet you’re rejecting every possible offer on the table. “

Viktor scoffed, accustomed to Yakov’s rants by now.

“Well, let’s have a look at the list, shall we? Otabek Altin- “

Yakov raised an eyebrow at him. “The Hero of Kazakhstan,” he pointed out. “Wouldn’t he make you look good?”

Was he serious? How could he not see how unsuitable this man was for him? “Not really, no. For one,” he began, looking at the door when he noticed his younger brother slip in the room, “Altin is far too young for me. You know this. Secondly, I think he has his eye on…” he sneaked another, knowing glance at his brother, “someone else. Just leave it, okay? Who said that I even wanted to get married at all? Why should I? It’s not like we can procreate, after all, is it?”

Yakov’s face turned an ugly shade of beetroot, and that’s when he knew he’d got to the older man, something he noted with great satisfaction. “Of course not,” he snapped, fed up of his nephew’s antics by now, “but you need someone whom you can adopt children with. There’s nothing wrong with adoption.”

He would know-his own two children, Viktor’s cousins, Georgi and Mila, were both adopted, due to Yakov and his wife, Lilia, being infertile. It had worked out for the best, in the end, but he couldn’t imagine himself with children. What if he messed up? What if something happened and he couldn’t save them, the way he couldn’t save-

He stopped that thought where it was at, being brought to the present by his brother nudging his side. For a sixteen-year-old boy, he sure was strong. “You have to choose someone, pridurok.

This only enraged the King further. “Yuri, language!” Yakov chastised, practically growing. “Honestly, it’s as though the two of you were raised in a barn or something. It’s disgusting.”

Yuri shook his head. “No, what’s disgusting is him getting all lovey-dovey with somebody! Why can’t he just pick someone he tolerates for political purpose, instead of misguidedly trying to search for love?” He practically spat the word out, as though it left a bad taste in his mouth.

Yakov shrugged. “It’s beyond me,” he articulated, shooting a meaningful glance at Viktor, who sighed and picked at the bottom of his silk shirt.

“I don’t know, I just need to feel it in my bones, know if he’s The One.”

Much to his surprise, Yakov began to laugh. “Oh, you’re a funny one, Vitya. The One? You’ve got to be kidding me, you can’t be serious. That stuff doesn’t exist outside of fairy tales and fiction. As if you could ever find ‘The One’. Anyway, let’s get Lilia in here so that we can review your list of potential suitors again.” That being said, he left the room, snapping his fingers at his scared-looking personal assistant, who followed him diligently. Viktor shut his eyes and rubbed at his forehead, attempting to alleviate some of the tension that had built up in there from the sheer pressure of having to choose the man he was going to be spending the rest of his life with. At least Yakov was accepting about his choice in suitor, but that never had been a real issue for anybody before, in any of the lands. It was a good job, too, because he couldn’t imagine spending the next fifty or sixty years with a woman-it was unthinkable, in his mind.

“What did you mean, earlier, when you were talking about Otabek?” Yuri hissed into his ear; his emerald eyes wide. “About him liking someone else. Do you know that for certain, or…?”

Viktor smirked to himself. Yuri’s crush on Otabek had been obvious to him ever since they’d met at a party three years prior; he’d been enamoured immediately. They’d started chatting and seemingly really hit it off, laughing and cracking jokes. They appeared so at ease, so comfortable with each other. It was something that he yearned for himself, so desperately. Not with Otabek, that was, but with somebody. Was that too hard to ask for?

He placed a hand on his brother’s frail shoulder, attempting to reassure him. “Yurio- “

“That’s not my name.”

He bit down on his lip, hard, to stop himself from swearing at him. “Yuri, I can tell how much you like Beka. It’s clear that you're good friends, but you want more.” The teenager opened his mouth, ready to interrupt him, but Viktor placed a slender finger in the air, stopping him from speaking-it was a secret rule the two of them had. They’d had it for almost ten years, now, as far as Viktor could recall. “And that’s fine, even if his reputation isn’t always the best at times. I will support you as fully as I can with him, I promise. The person I was referring to was you-anyone would have to be blind not to see the chemistry between you both, and the way he looks at you. Whenever you walk into the room, his face lights up. I’ve seen it, and I’m happy for you.” He saw Yuri’s face. “Really, I am. You both really like each other, and that’s great.”

Yuri bit down on his nails, a nervous habit he often possessed. “You won't tell Uncle Yakov or Aunt Lilia, will you?”

Viktor shook his head. “No, of course not. You can trust me.”

“You promise?” Yuri checked.

“I promise,” his older brother confirmed, holding out his pinky. They’d done pinkie promises all the time when they were younger, so he thought it would be a funny thing to do now, and oddly fitting. Chuckling to himself, Yuri wrapped his pinkie finger around his brothers.

“Pinky promise?”

“Pinky promise.”

They release their fingers, and Viktor’s brother glared daggers at him. “Tell anyone about my crush on Otabek and I’ll kill you, I swear.”

“I don’t doubt that for a second,” the Prince responded jovially, never one to take his threats seriously. “Now look sharp, Yakov is coming back with Lilia.”

Both of them immediately stood up straight, knowing the value Lilia placed on immaculate posture and grooming. After a quick inspection, she gave them a nod of approval and sat herself down on the round table in front of her, gesturing for the boys to do the same. Yakov himself sat down next to her, drumming his fingers onto the table. She shot him a look, and he stopped. Even her husband could be intimidated by her and her icy presence. Who knew?

Their personal assistants retreated to the other side of the room, next to the piano in the corner of the room. It was a beautiful thing, old and antiquated, casted from the finest bronze and gold. Dust collected and swirled around it like a snowstorm when the lid was lifted on it, which was not often, only on rare occasions, such as banquets and balls on parties. They hadn’t thrown many since-

Viktor swallowed. Well. They had only thrown a handful in the past fifteen years, put it that way. The rest of the room, he observed, was just as precious and worthy of preservation as that piano, with the heavy scarlet curtains lined with gold gilding draped over the spacious windows that lit up the room, the colourful chandeliers swinging precariously overhead, the dark, shiny tiles that covered the room. Not every room was tiled, just the meeting rooms, the Hall and the kitchens. This was done for the sake of their safety; when they were younger, the boys had races, and Yuri had tripped and injured himself once. Never again, they’d vowed at the time, so they replaced most of the tiles with luscious carpets imported from all over the world. That had been nearly ten years ago.

Even though the brothers were both considerably older now, too old for such childish games and the like, the children of Viktor’s personal maid, Yuuko, and her husband, the head chef, Takeshi Nishigori, would chase each other down the halls, despite Sara’s best efforts to prevent them from doing so. Sara Crispino was the royal nanny, and usually did an excellent duty, but it was not her fault that the seven-year-old triplets were so rambunctious. Maybe one day, she’d be charged with looking after his own children. Viktor was aware of how little he could be trusted.

“Right!” Yakov clapped his hands, alarming Viktor enough to bring him back to the present, back to reality. Ah, yes. He hadn’t even chosen a husband yet. Great. What was he going to do? He had no choice in the matter; he was to be married, and that was the end of the story. For the sake of upholding the Nikiforov’s reputation and the family name, to keep them relevant and rich and noble in the eyes of other countries. To keep Russia great. Viktor was doing this for his country, he reminded himself, so there was some comfort to be found, at least, in his selfless sacrifice. “Let’s get started, shall we?”

Lilia nodded and Yuri shrugged, looking sullen. Viktor groaned, internally. So, it was going to be one of those meetings, was it? One of the ones where Yuri sat there, slumped down in his seat like a moody teenager, ready to kick off at any given moment. Perfect. Just what he needed today, of all days. He massaged his forehead again, feeling a headache coming on from all the stress he’d been experienced recently. This was all so frustrating; he didn’t know why his life had to be so complicated. Why couldn’t he just be a common person, and marry for love instead of political purposes? Surely, his life would be much better that way. But he knew that he was privileged nonetheless, so he decided to grit his teeth and bear it. What other choice did he have, at the end of the day?

“So,” Lilia began. “What about Jean-Jacques Leroy? His name means ‘King’, and he is a prince. You could even visit Canada frequently, that way. A good-looking Canadian prince-who could possibly say ‘no’ to that? He speaks fluent French, so he’s very cultured, and he’s even in a band! He’s musically talented, so there should not be an issue there.”

Viktor raised an eyebrow at his aunt’s uncharacteristic display of enthusiasm towards his future spouse, but welcomed it all the same. He never really saw this side of her, so it was nice to see, he supposed. “Remind me how old he is again?” Viktor prompted, knowing that he probably was not going to like the answer. Lilia flushed and adjusted her glasses, looking a little embarrassed, if he wasn’t mistaken.

“Well, he’s twenty-years-old, but- “

“Then he’s too young for me,” Viktor was quick to interject. Lilia tutted.

“Won’t you try to work with us here, Vitya? You know we love you very much- “

He let out an undignified snort in response to this. “Yeah, you love me so much that you’re arranging to get me married to a complete stranger for your own political gain. How very Machiavellian of you.” Yuri clapped a hand over his mouth, trying his best to suppress a laugh at Viktor’s words and failing-his brother did make a good point, to be fair to the guy.

Yakov slammed his first on the table, pink in the face, causing them all to jump. “Enough! Vitya, I will not have you disrespecting the two of us like this. As for you-“he looked straight at Yuri-“you are rude and disrespectful towards your elders on a regular basis, and even rude to Viktor. He saved your life, you know, and this is how you thank him?”

Yuri flushed and scratched the back of his neck, caught off guard all of a sudden. “That was years ago,” he mumbled. “I don’t even remember it.”

Lilia wagged a finger at him. “You wouldn’t be here today, having this conversation with us, if he hadn’t done what he did,” she pointed out. “Like your aunt Olga, like your parents, like your Babushka and now your Dedushka, too. The least you can do is be polite and courteous towards him.” Yuri rolled his eyes but agreed.

“Fine,” he muttered, shoving his hands in his pocket. His boredom was obvious to them all, but they didn’t care; there were more pressing and urgent matters to be taken care of right now than pandering to the insignificant whims of a moody teenager.

Viktor, on the other hand, was preoccupied by something else completely. Even though he had never been close to his aunt Olga-she’d died at the age of seventeen, twenty years ago, when he was eight-the loss of his Babushka ten years ago still upset him, because they’d been close, and she’d given him wise counsel in her time. The grief from the death of Nikolai, his grandfather, six months ago, was still very painful, raw and real, for both him and Yuri, who had no real experience with grief prior to his death-he’d only been six when his grandmother had died, not alive yet when his aunt had passed away, and only one when his parents were killed in a fire.

For Viktor, on the other hand, his parent’s death had shaken him to the core. He’d been very close to his parents, especially his father, who had always told him to be brave, like a soldier, and to fight any battle, no matter how hard it was. He missed him every day. His mother had been a caring, wonderful woman, and he sorely missed her, too.

He didn’t notice that his hands were shaking until Yuri placed his pale hands on top of Viktor’s to stop them from doing so. Turning to him, Viktor nodded in acknowledgement, mouthing ‘thank you’ to him. Yuri ignored it, however, focusing his attention back to their aunt and uncle. It felt like a truce. Viktor couldn’t help but smile at the small victory.

“Let’s continue,” Yakov decided, before any of them could get too worked up about what they had lost in their time. Lilia peered at the list in front of her, squinting a little.

“Ah, yes. Here, we have Christophe Giacometti.” If Viktor had been drinking in that particular moment, he would have done a spit-take.

Tetya, I love you and all, but you are joking, right? He’s a notorious sex symbol, for fuck’s sake.”

Lilia lowered his glasses and fixed him with a sharp glare. “Language. Do not use such unattractive words, please. They are not fit for royalty.”

Viktor didn’t care, though, and brushed off her words in an instant. “Look, I am open to finding a suitor, but he’s too…promiscuous for me, shall we say? He has a vast array of sexual experience that I do not possess.” Yuri snickered somewhat at his twenty-year-old brother’s lack of sexual prowess-you’d think somebody that age would have done something, at least. Yet he had not; he was allegedly ‘waiting for marriage’, or whatever. Geez, what a loser, he thought. Viktor flushed, embarrassed at his own transparency.

“Vitya, my dear, the Giacomettis are Swedish royalty, and very well-respected,” Lilia argued.

“I don’t care. Not him. Please.

She sighed at his stubborn nature. Just like Aleksander, she thought. His father would be proud of him if he were alive today, she had no doubt about that-but the young prince was hopeless sometimes. “Okay, what about Phichit Chulanont, then?”

Viktor scrunched his nose up in distaste. “The Prince of Thailand?” Lilia nodded. “No, he’s too bubbly all the time. He would get on my nerves. I met him once, remember?”

Who could possibly forget? A drunk Phichit had stumbled his way on over to him, giggling as he introduced himself to Viktor at his twenty-fifth birthday party. Taken aback by this, he had moved away from the man, who proceeded to follow him and accidentally spill his champagne all over him, before apologising profusely. Then, he’d returned to chatter loudly to his attractive, dark-haired friend who was stood across the room from him, someone he had been meaning to talk to but didn’t have the courage to converse with. Odd, considering that he was literal royalty, yet he was too afraid to go and talk to someone he found good-looking.

Anyway, Phichit had left the event having completely humiliated himself, but not after talking Viktor’s ear off for half an hour about his homeland. At the time, Viktor had cruelly labelled him ‘the disgrace of Thailand’, but now he looked at that nickname in shame. Nonetheless, he could not stand the guy, regardless of whether he was drunk or sober.

Lillia paled at the memory. “Okay, that is understandable. How about Lee Seung Gil? His family are aristocratic South Koreans, the richest family in the whole country, in fact. And he is quiet, drawn in to himself, furtive. Like you.”

Yuri snorted, but his amusement was quelled instantly by a sharp glare aimed at him from his uncle. Viktor groaned. “He’s too similar to me, then. I wanted somebody who could help bring me out of my shell, not someone who would put me back in it.”

Lilia sighed. “Viktor, don’t rely on your future husband for that. Only you can do that yourself. Although, perhaps the pair of you are a bit too similar in terms of personality, we need someone a bit different to make your relationship appear interesting…how about Yuuri Katsuki?”

Abruptly, Viktor stood up and pushed his chair into the table. He was sick of talking about suitors at this point. “I’m going for a walk.”

“Viktor, no- “ Yakov began.

“Not again, please-" Lilia pleaded, pinching the bridge of her nose and rising with him. Yuri just stared at him, silently pleading for his older brother not to leave him alone with their older relatives. Ignoring this, Viktor tore his icy blue eyes away from him and focused on the door in front of him, pushing it open.

Don’t wait up for me.”