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Shattered & Healed

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The scent was the first thing the blonde noticed, his nose twitching faintly as it picked up on the mix of apples and vanilla. It was a foreign fragrance yet it felt so familiar; the puzzling aroma pushing at his willfulness. He hated to be left in the dark, and what he hated, even more, was feeling unperceptive; he was supposed to be the smart one.

His senses screamed at him to identify the source and he wandered through his memories probing for the answer. What surprised him wasn’t the lack of it, but the dark fog that filled his mind. It was something the young teen never experienced; he was used to finding the results he sought in moments, never straining his wits.

It was no wonder he felt frightened, his heartbeat picking up slightly as it thumped against his ribcage. Was the air poisoned? He felt as if it was a solid notion, one that deserved proving or in this case hoped to disprove it. He needed to go find a soldier or a general, anyone to look into it before he sought a healer. His brilliance was his most treasured gift, one that his father boasted about daily. “You’d be the best strategist,” he’d tell him, and Kei didn’t want to risk losing that. It was all he had.

He wasn’t allowed to dwell on it, though. His chain of thoughts breaking by a small hesitant voice; it sounded mousy to his ears. “Your highness, you are going to be late for your lesson.” The response emitted from the young lord wasn’t verbal, it was physical. His brown eyes that were ever mistaken for topaz gems were darkened with irritation. “Perhaps you’d like to attend it in my stead-” His purr concealed his emotions, venom covered with the silkiness of wine; a song of concealed sarcasm. “-Since you seem so interested in it.”

Tsukishima gave no thought to the tremor that took over the figure of the smaller attendant, his feet leading him through the halls of the castles, navigating from memory. He was not yet ready to tuck his suspiciousness away, his schoolings can wait; the matter at hand was more urgent; thus, he considered seeking his brother.

He was dimly aware of the heat that was rising from the pit of his stomach before it overtook him, spreading through his veins to the rest of his body, mixing with his blood. The blonde felt as if he was burning, dark spots appearing in his vision when he focused on the pain that outstripped him of his senses. The voices calling out to him sounded so far away and he wrapped long lean arms around his center; a failed attempted to clamp the pain back. His fluids were boiling and he couldn’t help the whimper that escaped his throat, biting down on chapped lips to prevent another noise from escaping; Kei didn’t want to appear weak in front of the servants.

“He’s presenting.” He was in a haze, the crucifying heat dimming his judgment, numbing his subconscious while he tried to breathe, a weak attempt in preventing the tears from escaping his eyes. It felt as if nothing existed in that moment besides the pain and the sweet fragrance that filled his nose.

The musky scent of an alpha overshadowed the sugary odor; then it hit him. “I’m in heat.” A whisper that couldn’t be heard through the sound of springing. The taste of fear was bitter in Kei's mouth as he felt the hands of the alpha grip his wrists and hoist him to his feet.

"When did he fall to his knees?" The thought was fleeting, instantly replaced with the dilemma he was facing; how was he supposed to protect himself from the hungry figures that enclosed on him? The situation growing as awareness dawned on him; legs felt heavy, the structured muscles and bones displaced by lead and arms caged by firm fingers. “Don’t you dare touch me!” Tsukishima's vision turned foggy, his eyes burned and tears gathered in them. He was supposed to sound commanding, yet all he heard in his voice was the need and whine.

He desired to get out of there, he needed to get to safety, but how was he supposed to do that? Terror was slowly filling him, burning along with the waves that rocked his frame and prompted him to flinch. The young teen tried to kick his jailer, however, his body refused to cooperate; instincts taking over him and he prepared to scream. He was the young prince of this castle, surely someone would come to help him.

“Kei!” The name was screamed, worry laced in the one word spoken, the source taking off to his side, a growl sounding from between his lips. Akiteru pushed the alpha away, gentle hands hoisting the younger Tsukishima up, the later not wasting a second to conceal his face in the crook of his brother’s neck. It was so unlike him, Kei was distant when Akiteru was clingy; the action promoting the older to freeze for a moment, taken aback by the attack. The distress and fear evident in the slight quiver that ran down the younger's spine.

To Kie, the scent of Akiteru was home, the warm fragrance of coffee beans and cinnamon promised safety. Still, he tried to force his body to step back, to enable the space between them to grow. Instincts took over; denying his conscious control over his muscles and it didn’t help when Akiteru snapped out of his daze to growl at their surroundings, warning him of the danger that still swarmed around.

“Take one more step and I’ll have your heads.” These weren’t mere words and they weren’t just the words of an alpha trying to protect a member of his pack as fearful as that was. These were the words of the next in line to the throne, and they were delivered in an authoritative tone that indicated the seriousness of the threat.

Kei zoned out, his senses focusing on the pain in his abdomen and the way his lungs protested the lack of air. He tried to focus on everything but the shock and he failed. He didn’t want to reflect on the fact that he was going through his first heat, still, he failed again. Tsukishima Kei, for once in a long time wanted to cry; the pain and the events were too much for his fourteen years old mind to process and it made him feel so small even as he stood at almost the same height as his brother. Presenting was supposed to be the start of his adulthood; but to the young omega, it felt like the beginning of his end.

 


 

The world seemed disoriented, his eyes unfocused as he attempted to take in his surroundings.  His lids fluttered, long lashes fanning his cheeks as Kei fought away the drowsiness that threatened to tip him back into dreamland. The room came into focus, the grainy stone floors, the wooden decorated bed posters and the draped creamy curtains. The young prince’s room was bare except for an antique chair and a dresser that matched the poles of the bed; he preferred this disposition, enjoying the space rather than filling the room with unnecessary furniture; ignoring the fact that his selection got on his mother’s nerves.

The young youth pushed himself to sit, his muscles protesting the movement with a wince that flew past his lips. Memories flashed through his eyes, the events of the previous week a slap to his face. He presented as an Omega; Tsukishima Kei second in line to the Throne of Karasuno and the son of two alphas presented as an omega.

It wasn’t supposed to be like this. He was supposed to be an alpha, he was supposed to study until he was sixteen before joining his father and brother in ruling the country. He was supposed to be the advisor of Akiteru when he rules, but an Omega couldn’t do any of that. An omega’s worth was in being a breeding cow, and Kei was certain that his father would never spare him a glance now.

What redeeming quality did he have? The blonde had no answer to that. He surely wasn’t built as a typical Omega, so he knew he would fail to gather the attention of suitors and he was the first to present as an omega in his line in generations; he brought shame to his father.

“Kei, are you up?” The words were muffled behind the heavy wooden door, the knock that followed snapping him out of his haze. His older brother was the only one who came to check on him during his heat; knocking on the door to ask about his condition or send a beta attendant to check on him. Kei was silently grateful for the display of kinship; it made him feel safe even though he hated the fact that it validated this reality.

“I’m up.” His answer was brief, his throat felt scratchy as if he had screamed for years and he felt dehydrated. Wasn’t it enough that he felt pain during his heat, his body not receiving the relief it was seeking; he had to feel exhausted after it ended? The blonde’s eyes darted to the door as it creaked, the golden head of his brother peeking through the widening space. “How are you feeling?” Akiteru appeared cheerful and it got on the younger’s nerves; how could he sound carefree when Kei was suffering? How could he sound as if nothing is wrong when his brother's life was over?

The silence was heavy, yet Kei took comfort in it. It was relaxing not having to focus or worry about his surrounding; his mind still heavy with drowsiness and fatigue and he was grateful that the first prince didn’t attempt to break it, settling on sitting at the empty chair as if waiting for his brother to be ready before speaking.

“Where is father?” Kei was the first to break it, wanting to get the conversation over with; bracing himself for the torment that was inevitable. He didn’t need to notice the way Akiteru flinched at the words or the way his gaze darted around the room as if exploring it for the first time. The younger brother didn’t need to hear the hesitation in his voice to know what was left unspoken. “He’s busy, Kei.”

“He won’t see me.” It wasn’t a question, it was a statement. It was a fact. It was the truth that was left concealed in a struggle to spare the fourteen years old the pain of the reality, yet he didn’t need the confirmation. He didn’t need to see how his brother started fidgeting or how he tried to change the subject immediately. The king of Karasuno was a man who hated omegas, who believed them to be weak creatures that did no good but spend their well-earned resources; and now his son presented as one. Kei was surprised he wasn’t disowned yet, but perhaps he’s going to be gone soon.

“Kei, are you listening to me?” The question was quiet, an indication that the oldest Tsukishima knew his precious family wasn’t paying attention and he didn’t miss the shadow that passed through his eyes before he masked the pain; flashing a reassuring smile. “What are you hiding from me?” He asked, ignoring the previous question. He knew his brother better than anyone and he was positive that he was trying to hide something from him; a useless attempt to protect him.

Being lied to only cause his chest to tighten, a frown appearing on his face. He wanted to snarl at whoever deemed him weak and in need of protection. He was an Omega, yes; but he was still Tsukishima Kei and nothing was going to break him. It’ll hurt but he can take anything, nothing can compare to the grief of presenting as an omega. “Would you like to reply to father for me then?” It dripped with sarcasm, his voice cold and his gaze icy; in that moment he was the image of the ice prince he was known to be.

Akiteru pursed his lips, a failed attempt to keep quiet and it only succeeded in riling Kei up as he snarled. “I’ll ask him myself then.” Long limbs pushed the thin blanket off him, feet kicking the sheets to the foot of the bed as he moved to stand, ignoring the scream of his muscles as he touched the ground; a whimper of pain escaped Tsukishima's lips shattering Akiteru's resolve. “You leave for Nekoma within the month; you are to marry their crown prince.-" The light disappeared from the younger prince's eyes, the blood draining from his face and he looked like death. "-An alliance is to be created from the marriage.” Nothing prepared him for the words, his mind protesting his reality and there was nothing but silence.

Chapter Text

It was quiet, the silence unnerving as they sat at the dinner table; meat, fish, and vegetables lined the wooden surface in different dishes in an exaggerated display that was known to please the king. The servants’ movements were hushed as they attended to the figures that sat at the table, dining together as a family in an attempt at normalcy.
It was Kei’s first supper with his parents and brother after his heat. He never expected his father to allow him to dine with them, let alone provide him with the privilege to eat at the table. “Omegas aren’t permitted to sit at the same level as alphas,” the king would tend to explain to his sons.


His astonishment didn’t overshadow his delight, he never expected this dinner to be a blessing. This seemed like the perfect chance to discuss his future with the king and if his father was willing to tolerate his presence during their supper, then surely he’d listen to him. It was too soon for Kei to marry, too soon for him to move to a kingdom that had an eternal rivalry with Karasuno and what of his dreams? He is supposed to serve his brother when he becomes king. Any other noble omega could marry the Prince of Nekoma to establish the alliance between their two countries.


His thoughts were more courageous than his spirit though and Kei sat there, dreading the silence that allowed for his desires to grow, his need to discuss the subject felt heavy on his chest. Lean fingers rolled the ball of bread around, the colorful vegetable soup that adorned the bowl left untouched. The young blonde feared that eating would only humiliate him when he attempts to speak.


“Otosama-” The word left his lips before he could think about it any further, his desires taking control of his reason as he spoke, yet his expression never changed; the collected facade unwavering. A prince must always keep his calm. “- Can we discuss the matter of the treaty to Nekoma. If I may, it’s absurd. I presented merely nights ago, I can’t accept the proposal to….”


He anticipated his father’s interruption to come at some point, the king was a man that no one spoke back to and Kei was now disobeying him even if just verbally. “A lowly omega has no right to state his feelings, let alone accept or refuse my orders.” The voice was booming, his status and authority clear as the words carried through the silenced room and the young son finally dared to raise his head and meet his father’s gaze.


Brown orbs met his own, the golden tones twinkling in the candle light as if topaz gems held out for viewing. Kei surely inherited his father’s eyes and pale skin, but that was where the similarities ended as raven waves fell down the king’s head to his shoulders, the color majestic if a dark crown that rivaled the golden one tucked comfortably on top of the strands. The king’s features were sharp suitable for a Greek god and not a king; his nose long and his jaw was adorned by a black beard. That is where his beauty ended; his eyes were cold, his gaze piercing and there was no kindness to him. The King was the image of a strikingly beautiful tyrant.


Kei felt helpless, all the hope that was built inside of him shattered leaving his chest empty and his spirit sapped. In that instant the young prince understood that his worst fear has come to pass; to the king, he was no longer viewed as a son but merely as a bargaining chip in their political game. The reality was bitter, the weight heavy on his shoulders and he wanted to scream and beg his father to offer him another chance; presenting didn’t change him, he was still as keen as he used to be merely a week ago. That intelligence was what provided him with enough sense to stay composed, he can’t afford to anger his father more than he already was.


“Otosama, please allow me to stay here. I want to serve you as well as Niisama. We have nothing to gain from a treaty with Nekoma. You always said the kingdom could use my intelligence” The dinner was long forgotten as Kei pushed his chair back and stood, his steps measured and he dropped to his knees at his father’s feet. The silent was dreadful, heavy with tension and the anxiety was starting to weight down on his shoulders. Here he was, kneeling in front of his father, debating his marriage when he was fourteen years old.


Kei never realized the mistake he made till his eyes met the king’s for the second time that night and he saw the shadow of anger that darkened them. Panic started to slowly creep up his spine, a shiver running down his body and the frown that was ever presented on his face deepened.


“An Omega’s use isn’t needed in this kingdom.” Those words were harsh, the cold tone stabbing the omega in his chest and he flinched visibly; the reaction pleasing his father as a small smile crept its way across his face. “You are nothing but shame to this family, thus you have two choices, Kei.” His name was spoken in a snarl as if it was the worst curse ever emitted. “I can have your head on a spike or you can go marry the prince of Nekoma as per our agreement. I think your choice is obvious.”


Kei wanted to argue, to open his mouth and tell his father that he’d rather die, but the arguments were stuck in his throat. He was frozen in place, fighting the tremor that threatened to consume him. If he was frightened before, then he was horrified now.


“Otosama, that’s going too far.” It was Akiteru that spoke next, springing to his feet as he attempted to argue on behalf of his younger sibling, but he wasn’t given the chance as the King spoke over him, ignoring his words as if they were never uttered. “Guards, take Prince Kei to his room.” His gaze was on the blonde whose shoulders were hunched in defeat. “You are to be confined to your room until your departure.”


The conversation ended with the last sentence from the king, his attention turned back to his lukewarm supper when Kei felt the presence of two figures standing behind him, but he paid them no attention gathering his self-control to ask to speak to his brother. He wanted to disregard their father’s order but it was futile as he felt the weight of a hand on his shoulder. A snarl sounded out of his throat, shrugging the touch off him as the prince turned to glare to the soldier that dared touch him. “Do not touch me.”
It wasn’t a long walk to his room, but time dragged out as the prince considered his future and contemplated his next move. He could play his cards when he gets to Nekoma and possibly delays the marriage or even ensure it never happened, but he didn’t want that. He didn’t want to move to another kingdom; especially, not one that was as far as Nekoma, he would rather move to Aoba Josai. Kei wasn’t friendly or outgoing, but Karasuno was his kingdom; his home.


“Kei-sama, please go in.” The prince blinked out of his trance, noting that the door to his chambers was held open by one of the soldiers and so he stepped in, allowing the familiarity of the space to comfort him. The scent of apples and vanilla was as intense as it was in the morning, yet it washed over Kei like a blanket. The door closed behind him with a creek and stood there, lifeless. He was ordered to leave this kingdom and for the rest of his time in Karasuno he was to be confined to this room.
For the first time in his life, the room felt cold to the teen. Was he allowed visitors while in his room or was he to be treated like a royal criminal; his only visitors are those granted permission from the king? His eyes started to burn, tears gathering in them as Kei moved to lay on the bed. He wasn’t going to cry, he wouldn’t allow himself that luxury; if he cried now he wouldn’t be able to stop. A knock sounded at the door and so he took a shaky breath, using the distraction to hide his emotions. “Come in.”
Kei didn’t know who to expect at the door, but Akiteru was the last person he predicted after the scene earlier and if the younger was honest he didn’t want to see him; not when he was on the verge of breaking down. “How are you feeling?” The gentleness in the familiar voice didn’t help Kei calm down as the lines of his face twitched into his condescending smirk. “Marvellous, especially after being given the choice between either an execution or a marriage.” A cold chuckle ended his sentence, his gaze dropping back to his lap where lean fingers entwined together. He needed to compose himself.


The crown prince looked as if he understood what Kei was feeling, the sarcasm not phasing him. His steps were slow; hesitant as he studied his brother’s reaction. “How about building a nest? It’ll help you feel better.” If looks could’ve killed, Akiteru would be dead; the glare he received from the young Tsukishima was the sharpest in their lifetime. “I won’t build a nest. I’m not weak enough to seek comfort from such things.”


His words hid his emotions. The mention of nesting produced a buzz inside of him; a noiseless plea from his instincts to follow his nature. ‘A nature that he didn’t understand yet.’ Tsukishima thought. His next words were quiet and if the older man wasn’t paying attention he would’ve missed the shy confession. “Even if I wanted to make one, I don’t understand anything about it. I don’t understand anything about being an Omega.” Kei was basically contradicting himself; denying the previous statement, but he didn’t care. In that moment he felt helpless and he needed to voice out his thoughts even if no one heard.


Akiteru seemed to understand his brother’s conflicts; of course, he did. He loved being an older brother to the emotionally shy prince. The memories of Tsukki’s birth still clear in his mind; it was one of his top reminiscences and this made his desire to look after the younger that much stronger.


When another crown prince would’ve been worried about the chance of the younger trying to steal his throne; the Tsukishima crown prince worried about the environment in which his brother was growing. His parents both fixated their attention on the oldest prince; focusing on grooming him for the throne while neglecting the youngest so Akiteru took it upon himself to care for him; to be a brother he can rely on.


“We’ll have someone come explain everything you need to know tomorrow.” He noticed the way the younger stiffened at the words, most likely not expecting them; they were never allowed to learn about Omegas, their father viewing it as nothing more than a waste of time and at this moment they both hated the lack of information.


After mere moments of silence, Kei released the air from his lungs in a loud sigh and nodded. His shoulders finally relaxed, but the distress was still clear in his golden gaze. In the span of a week, his whole life changed and not for the best. Presenting was supposed to be a day of celebration, but he wished it never happened.


As if sensing his line of thought, Akiteru shifted to sit on the bed before reaching to wrap his arms around the shoulders of the younger. The teen stiffened, alarm sounding in his brain and he attempted to shrug the contact off. He hated physical interactions, it wasn’t a secret and everyone in the castle was aware of the fact, but in that moment he dreaded it as well. Kei was concerned that the comfort the hug was radiating would free the tears he was fighting hard to prevent from escaping.


“Let go.” The natural bite in his voice was gone, replaced by a vulnerability that screamed from within his soul. With merely two words, it felt as if Kei has leaked his deepest secrets. It was a side that the older never witnessed, a sight that was always hidden behind concrete walls. “You’ll be okay.” It was the only reply the youth received as the older squeezed his shoulders pulling him closer. His instincts were screaming at him to protect Kei at all costs.


It was that moment when everything shattered, a sob escaped the ever composed and distant Kei. Tears followed, the fluid escaping his eyes and dripping down his cheeks to fall on his brother’s shoulders producing spots on his garment. All the fear, sadness and pain that collected since the moment the young Tsukishima presented came out in waves running down his cheeks.


Akiteru started releasing a comforting aroma to counter the fragrance of sorrow that scented the air as Kei pressed his nose against his brother’s scent glands. His sobs were loud, filling the peace that overtook the room and caused the crown prince’s heart to squeeze in his chest. He felt guilt for allowing his brother’s agony to grow to this point; to a point where he wasn’t able to control himself and cry. The older in that moment couldn’t forget the fact that the man he was holding was a mere pup, a teen at the age of fourteen. He was a man in the fact that he presented, but his age spoke of another story.


It felt like an eternity has passed when the sobs and tears started to calm down and eventually they came to an end. There only sound was the labored breathing and sniffles of Kei, causing Akiteru to reach and rub circles on his brother’s back; a calming gesture he hesitated to try earlier in fear it’ll cause the teen to cries to grow.
There were no words between them as the younger blonde pulled back, his mesmerizing eyes red and puffy and his cheeks and glasses wet with the remnants of his tears but neither of them dared to comment on anything until Akiteru moved off the bed, ruffling Kei’s hair as he stood to his left. “I got permission from father to be the one to escort you, so trust that I’ll protect you, Kei.”


There was no reply, no sound as if the night found shelter in the bedroom and the crown prince moved to leave the room, closing the door behind him silently. He loathed the sight of the soldiers standing at each side of the exit, yet even that couldn’t ruin his mood. Akiteru could’ve sworn that he heard Kei mumble the words, “Thank you, Nii-san.” As he closed the door.

Chapter Text

His feet touched the ground, grateful for the solidness beneath him after hours of mounting a horse. Kei enjoyed riding his favored stallion, but days of constant traveling left his body in a state of fatigue and soreness – even with the constant breaks. The blonde reached to run long digits over the chestnut colored coat, brushing the darker mane. It didn’t matter how nervous he felt, the small movements of stroking the steed had a calming effect on his nerves; especially as he stood in front of the castle that is to be his new home.

 

The young prince turned his head to a tan skinned boy who looked no older than twenty as he extended a hand, his head bowed in respect. “If you may, my lord, I’ll take it from here.” His voice was low, his gaze lowered while he waited. As much as he wanted to stick to the creature that accompanied him through his trip, Tsukishima had no choice but to place the reign in the offered hand.

 

Akiteru was standing ahead, waiting for Kei to collect himself the gesture prompted the younger prince to hurry his steps; standing to the right and bowing to their host who was waiting patiently. “We welcome you, Prince Akiteru and Prince Kei. I hope your journey was pleasant.” The gentleness laced in the words surprised the omega; he never expected the tone, even with all the tales that spoke of the King's fairness.

 

Akiteru straightened and once again Kei followed his lead, watching the interaction between his brother and the King in an attempt to distract himself; his nerves threatening to swallow him. “As enjoyable as it could be, Your Majesty. It is an honor to be welcomed by you.”

 

He hated this, the masks of politeness that nobility and royals tend to wear. Kei was a frank person; he preferred to speak his mind without the need to sugarcoat the words, but even he knew the importance of such pleasantries; Alliances were power, after all. His gaze swept over the castle, marveling in the colors of the walls and the greenery that surrounded it. He couldn’t help but compare it to the one he called home and wondered if he’ll ever fit here.

 

His thoughts were interrupted by the rise in his brother’s voice, causing him to flinch slightly and unless someone was watching the movement went unnoticed. “Your Majesty, before accepting your hospitality I’d like to discuss adding a condition to our agreement.” The meaning of the words shocked him, causing him to break his calm facade; his mask slipping to be replaced by his surprise if only for an instant. “Nii-Sama, what are you thinking?” Kei's words were a whisper, one that went either unheard or ignored, the oldest's focused solely on the king who was studying him publicly. “Very well, follow me.” 

The air was filled with tension that seemed to grow as the king moved to his Throne. It was a throne that was fit for a powerful king; gold and decorated with gem stones. Kei was mesmerized by its majesty, but he his gaze didn't linger as he knelt behind the Crown Prince.

 

“I’d like to add a condition to the alliance,” Akiteru repeated his earlier words, his voice carrying through out the massive room for all to hear, giving no chance for interruptions. “I’d like for Kei’s safety to be guaranteed in the agreement.” Silence fell on the hall, no one daring to speak.

 

“And why should I accept such condition?” This time his words held no hint of that gentleness that filled his words, this time he was speaking as a king and not a host. “Because if you do not, I’m willing to gather my men and leave.” The reply came swiftly, immediately as if he was expecting the question.

 

The king looked surprised, his eyes widening for an instant that didn't last long “Why do you care to protect your brother so much? Very soon he’ll be a part of another household and another kingdom.”

 

“Because if I can’t protect him, how am I expected to protect my people in the future.” His voice was no longer the booming one used earlier, he was speaking as himself. “And even if he marries, he’ll remain as family, Your Majesty.” The blonde prince bowed his head as he finished his words, silence followed; a sign that his argument was stated.

 

Laughter filled the room, the sound loud and surprising; provoking many to flinch, including the crown prince of Karasuno. Kei shifted his gaze from his brother’s back to the source of the laughter, noting the shadow of amusement in the king’s eyes.

 

“Your condition is granted, young prince. My advisers shall revise the agreement and it'll be adjusted accordingly. It is good to see that Karasuno might be getting a kind king.” His words were light but suddenly all the amusement was gone. “An advice from a king, be ready to sacrifice yourself for your people. The happiness and safety of a sole person are not worth the loss of a kingdom.”

 

Kei felt the weight of the words shifting to land on his shoulders and he wondered what Akiteru was feeling. As a future wife to a future king, he’d hold part of the responsibility, but the weight wouldn’t be as heavy as the one carried by a king; a Queen’s duty is to the king. “Well then, you must be tired, the servants shall show you to your chambers.”

 

The young Tsukishima was ready to stand up and be led to his room; the idea of a nap and a bed too tempting after days of uncomfortable sleep, but his movements were stopped short as he noticed that his brother was not done yet. “Thank you for your advice, but I have a personal request, Your Majesty.” The light was back into the king’s eyes as he waited for the Young Prince. “I wish for you to postpone the wedding. Kei just presented recently and he is far too young to marry.”

 

Kei couldn’t contain his shock and he couldn’t hold his tongue; speaking his mind. “Nii-sama, father isn’t going to be pleased if it doesn’t go according to his plan.” The young prince winced, slapping himself mentally at his impatience.

 

“He doesn’t care, Kei. As long as his alliance is formed he wouldn’t blink an eye.” Akiteru’s reply was much calmer as if he wasn’t shaken by his brother's reaction - he probably wasn’t.

 

The wait was long, the minutes and the seconds blending together as Kei’s muscles started to scream from after putting too much pressure on them all day. Then the words came, his gaze meeting the King's for a brief moment. “How old are you?” It wasn’t a question as to who the words were directed and for the first time since they arrived the prince spoke to the king. “Fourteen, your Majesty.”

 

There was no answer as the whole room waited, Kei wondering as to why no one attempted to advise the king. He wanted this. He knew he did. He never wanted to marry so soon and maybe if the wedding is delayed long enough he’ll get to return home. “Your request is granted. The marriage shall be put on hold until Tsukishima-kun turns sixteen, but the engagement shall proceed as planned”

 

Relief replaced the hope that filled him, grateful to both the King’s consideration and his brother’s mercy. “Thank you, Your Majesty.” He spoke for both of them a shadow of a smile twitching on his face. “The servants will show you to your chambers. Get some rest as we are hosting a banquet in your honor this night.” They stood, Akiteru moving faster than him to leave the wide hall when his name was called. “Welcome home. If you need anything do not hesitate to ask for it."

 

Kei was grateful for the warmth in the King's words, the feeling engulfing him in a blanket of reassurance that countered the nerves still buzzing in his veins. He bowed at the waist before turning to leave; taking the chance to escape the gazes of the nobility and the servants that filled the throne room. He was Grateful for the peace that met him in the corridor.

 

Akiteru was already gone, leaving the brother on his own and Kei was starting to feel the fatigue hit him. His thighs were sore from riding his horse and he wanted nothing more than to lay on a bed; to sleep until it was deemed necessary it was time for dinner.

 

“My Lord, I'm Yamaguchi Tadashi and I’ve been assigned to your service.” Tsukishima turned his brown and gold orbs to study the boy bowing in front of him; the slight stutter catching his attention. He looked the same age as the golden prince so he took note of the dark color of his hair and the freckles that decorated his face adding to his charm.

 

Kei was ready to ask the boy to lead him to his chamber when the boy shifted, his movements smooth; as if he’s been practicing the posture for days. His head was still bowed, left arm tucked against his abdomen and his arm was extended out. “Your chambers is this way.” The words were uttered before panic swept over him and he started to fledge around. “Unless you’d like to go somewhere else… I’m at your service. Whatever you wish to do...”

 

Yamaguchi was babbling, the unease in the words was slowly affecting Kei until he lost control of himself, snapping at the boy to be silent. “Just show me to my room.” His tone was back to normal and the boy looked pleased to be given directions, leading the prince to his chambers.

 

Tsukishima didn’t know what to expect as he stepped into the room, but as he took in the furniture he was pleased; the room resembled his old one to an extent. It put him to ease; the small display of welcome producing a new feeling in his chest. ‘Maybe I will fit in.’ 

 

“Tsukishima-sama, I had a bath drawn for you earlier, if you wish.” His voice was squeaky in Kei’s ears and he hated the nervous hint to it, turning around to follow Yamaguchi’s line of view before he walked into the bathroom. Kei hadn’t thought about it earlier; consumed by his exhaustion but the mention of a bath sounded heavenly.

 

His long fingers brushed along the surface of the water, testing the temperature, a pleased smile twitching on his face at the warmth that greeted him. Kei was ready to strip, his fingers leaving the water to reach for his shirt when he noted the light soothing scent filling the bathroom. He turned questioning orbs to the shorter boy. “Herbs in the water, to help you relax.”

 

Kei hummed in acknowledgment, finally tucking the shirt over his head and onto the floor his leather pants soon following after.  It was the job of a servant to dress and undress someone of his status thus Kei had no problem standing naked in front of the boy, even if he preferred handling such tasks himself.

 

The temperature of the water was pleasant against the blonde’s skin when he stepped in, lowering himself until he was soaked to his neck. The tanned boy was right, the water was already washing away the soreness of his muscles, enjoying the comfort the bath brought him as his brain started processing the events of the previous hour; the most important development was the postponement of the marriage and he was indebted to his brother for it.

 

Realization came soon after; Kei was yet to meet his future husband. He didn’t know what he looked like, but he was positive that if they had met, they would’ve been introduced to each other. He hated not knowing something. ‘Hopefully, we’ll meet tonight.’ The young prince thought, stepping out of the now cold water.

 

.

.

 

Kei was grateful for the nap he took earlier if hadn’t rested after the long journey he wouldn’t have been able to handle all the chatter and the noise that filled the large room. People from different ranks of nobility were seated at tables that filled the majority of the room; enjoying the feasts and the festivities.

 

His signature frown was plastered on his face, his calculating eyes darting around, studying the faces of the people. Soon, he would be expected to formalize himself with all of them; he was a Prince, after all, his status required a certain degree of friendliness. Kei wasn’t the most outgoing, he preferred to be left alone with a horse or a book, but he was intelligent and that intelligence along with what he learned about people through socializing with them was a weapon.

 

The scents of the room, a mixture of beer, wine, and food was making him queasy, destroying his already small appetite; leaving him with no choice by to play with the food on his plate, pushing it around without entertaining the plan of eating it. The young prince held back a sigh as he felt a gaze bore into him and he turned his head to the side, glittering orbs meeting the blue cat like eyes of the queen.

 

He tried to smile, a small display that never reached his eyes, but the female omega returned it with a reassuring one of her own; it was as if she saw his discomfort through the mask of calmness. It had surprised him to learn that the king’s mate was an Omega, in Karasuno it was unheard off for a nobility to take an Omega as a mate and when if it happened it was a scandal that would anger the monarch. 

 

The Queen parted full lush lips, ready to speak when silence settled on the room, all chatter coming to a halt. A young Alpha walked into the hall, his steps sure and confident. It didn’t take a genius to understand who the newcomer was as Kei studied him. A tall muscular frame, raven messy hair that looked as if he just stepped out of bed and a provocative smirk that ticked the omega off. What caught his attention though, was the eyes that peeked at him; shaped like a cat's but the color was bright as the sunshine in the summer.

 

Kuroo Tetsurou was the image of a Prince that broke hearts. Tall, tanned with raven hair and hazel eyes, but it was his scent that lingered in Kei’s nose as the seemingly carefree prince leaned over the table to hug his father; he smelled of Cocoa and Bourbon; the aroma lingering long after he stepped away.

 

“Like what you see, Megane-kun?” Tsukishima snapped out of his daze by the words, clicking his tongue at the amused tone. “Did you bother to check your reflection in a mirror this morning, my lord? And it’s Tsukishima.” His frown was replaced by a cynical smirk, his eyebrow raised before he turned his gaze to look at his brother not waiting for a reply.

 

Kei’s neck snapped back as laughter boomed through the room, the sound causing the omega to wince; he hated loud people and his future mate seemed to be as loud as they came. “Well then, Tsukki-.” The name rolled over his tongue as if he was testing the Omega's patience. “I’m Kuroo Tetsurou your future mate. It is a pleasure meeting you. I’m sure the pleasure is all yours, but let’s get along, alright?” His sing song voice told Tsukishima of all he was in for. Maybe he won’t fit in after all.

 

Chapter Text

19th of May

It was a scene that writers wrote poems about. The golden ray was warm against his skin, the field soft underneath him and the breeze gentle. He lay on the ground one arm tucked underneath his head; a make shift pillow to the naturally made bed of grass while the other hand held a book. It was a perfect moment, the peaceful and harmony adding to the excellence of the day, creating a moment he can relish in. If only the seconds would stop ticking and the time would freeze so he'd be able to live in that second for eternity.

 

A moment such as that never lasted, the sun would eventually shift to set or clouds would block the warmth, leaves and grass would wither away, books would end and peace would be interrupted. In Kei’s case, his mind would go through all the scenarios that could ruin his enjoyment. It was as if he was no longer merely a realist; he was now a pessimist that believed the worse is yet to come. His arm started to ache and his moment was over before he knew it, so he lowered the book placing it over his face in an attempt to block the world out.

 

He needed to snap out of his mind, his thoughts needed to stop wandering. The engagement was announced, letters were sent to kingdoms and envoys were informed; it was no longer a guarded secret between two kingdoms and whispers started to spread. It was no surprise to him, Karasuno and Nekoma haven’t been on the best of terms in generations and for a marriage alliance to be formed now would shock the political world. Neither were weak, but they weren’t the strongest of nations either, but with an alliance, they’d be a force to be wary of.

 

What worried the blonde prince wasn't the whispers of the alliance between the two kingdoms, but the talk of him. Peace was no longer easy to seek, not when every member in the court of Nekoma’s king was watching him. Whispers started when he walked into a room, rumors spread like fire through the whole castle and he was never alone; strangers came to speak to him, ignoring his status as a prince.

 

Everything had him on edge and it took every ounce of self-control not to snap at the nobles who dared speak to him. All he wanted was to be left alone, but it was getting harder and harder to sneak away with all the eyes on him or with Yamaguchi following him in an attempt to serve him.

 

This moment, behind the castle under the sun with a book and without the presence of another human being, was rare and Kei wanted to live in it as long as possible; to forget all about the reality that awaited him in the castle.

 

The warmth from the sun was suddenly gone, the book that was covering him in a comforting darkness was lifted off his face. Annoyance was the emotion that crept into his chest, he thought it was his chance to slip out of the castle and find solace, but apparently, he was mistaken and whoever had attempted to ruin his peace was going to have it from him. Kei was tired from all the faces that tried to barge into his life just because he was betrothed to the future king; it was as if he was no longer viewed as anything but a link to the Crown Prince.

 

A tanned individual came into view, messy raven hair shining under the morning sun and the now familiar smirk was plastered on a face that had a name to it. “Did birds make a nest in your hair, Kuroo-san?” A light chuckle sounded as a reply to his words and a scowl found its way across his face. “Come on, you know you like my hair. It’s an art.”

 

“I see, so you are too much of a barbaric to recognize art.” His voice was bitter, calculating and Tsukishma moved to push himself into a sitting state, reaching with his hand to snatch his book back from the clutches of his fiancé's. “What do you want, Your Highness?”

 

“Come on, Tsukki-“ The words were dragged, his voice a whine and the raven haired man moved to sit next to the taller one. “-can’t I just sit with my fiancé?” If Kei was honest he wanted nothing to do with the prince; he was loud, annoying and all he did was try to provoke reactions out of him. He didn’t want to have anything to do with him, not when all he would gain was irritation and distress. He was positive that if their situation was any different, the Alpha wouldn’t want to have anything to do with him. What Alpha would want an omega such as Tsukishima Kei?

 

The younger prince pushed himself to his feet, planning to leave the spot to the older prince when strong fingers wrapped around his thin wrist, pulling him back to the spot he was monopolizing. “Everyone is awake in the castle, you’d better stay here for a while more if you want to avoid them. I know I don’t want to deal with any of them, at the moment.” For once, his voice and words weren’t intriguing; he sounded honest and Kei couldn't resist the temptation of hiding for a bit longer. “And to be fair, it’ll be nice to not be avoided by you, for once.”

 

He couldn’t feel guilt at the words, even when anyone else would've felt that emotion. Kei wasn’t an extrovert, he wasn’t outgoing and he preferred sticking to himself. He was the exact opposite of Kuroo, who was always surrounded by people, who was loud and it was natural to see him laughing. If they had anything in common, then it was their tendency to analyze people, to observe and attempt to incite reactions out of them. It wasn’t a good trait to share; especially not by a future king and his future wife.

 

“Why did you agree to this, Kuroo-san?” He surprised himself by asking the question, but he wanted to know. From what Kei saw, the King and Prince of Nekoma were close and the king was a fair one, surely he wouldn’t force his son into a marriage he didn’t want. And Kei was raised as an Alpha; he wasn’t a typical omega; he wasn’t submissive and he wasn’t built like one. Heck, he was even taller than the Alpha. No Alpha would want to be bonded to someone like him.  

 

“The feud between our kingdoms has gone for too long if a marriage would stop our people from killing each other; then this is a small price to pay.” His sigh was audible as if he just revealed his darkest secret and the answer sat heavily on Kei’s chest. He was forced into this, so he had no choice, but to agree to this when you didn’t even want it, that was so cruel, not just to Kuroo himself but to his future mate as well.

 

Kei averted his watchful eyes away from the observing ones of the raven haired prince when a light chuckle sounded, breaking the silence that had fallen over them. “We’ll make it work, Tsukki. Don’t look so worried.” He didn’t want to reply, they have to make it work; otherwise, their future is going to be hell.

 

Kei didn’t want to hope for anything; not when he’ll be the one to suffer for it, so he didn’t answer settling on a small frown as they both sat there, watching the clouds move and change as time passed. It was peaceful and the moment of harmony was back; if their lives could be like this, then maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. Then maybe Kei wouldn’t mind living through it.

.

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6th of October

The night was long, the flow of time felt frozen in a moment that refused to end. The air was suffocating him; the scents of all dynamics mixing together to form a stench that seemed to go unnoticed by everyone in the hall. The conversations were shallow, gossip and rumor the main topic; his brain cells were dying as seconds ticked. Kei needed to escape, to find solace even if for a short instant.

 

The blond excused himself, his steps confident as he crossed the hall and out of the wide open doors into the vast scenery of the garden behind the castle. As the sound of the music and chatter dimmed, relief started to overflow into him and he inhaled, taking in the fresh air; relieving his nose after hours of smelling the different scents of people.

 

The night air was gentle against his skin, the moonlight covered him in an ethereal glow that was comforting to his eyes after hours of candle light. Kei felt as if this was his moment, the place where he belongs. He didn’t fit in a party with people from different status, he didn’t fit in the company of anyone; he was moody, loud people annoyed and his rank wasn’t of any assistant to him as people stuck to him like a moth to a flame. He hated it all. He was born to live in peace, surrounded by nothing but nature; to live in a space where he could be his own snarky self without being judged. He wanted to line a moment where he didn't need to observe anyone.

 

The sound of heavy footsteps against the grass caught his attention, but he didn’t bother to turn around, topaz eyes following the night sky as stars blinked and clouds moved with the wind. He planned to ignore the presence of whoever it is that dared to intrude on his moment, especially after he excused himself to escape the presence of humans. The scent of cocoa and bourbon took over his senses. “You are making a habit of intruding, Your Highness.”

 

 The light chuckle that vibrated through the air was contained, the sound reserved contrary to the prince’s personality and it was all that Kei needed to shift his gaze from the night scenery to rest on the features of the shorter man. The time they spent together was of no importance and if the younger was being honest, he made it a task to avoid the older; it wouldn’t do them well to get on each other’s nerves long before the wedding. But they spent enough time for Kei to know his usual expression. The provocative smirk; the calculating gaze and the loud booming laugh.

 

His line of thoughts was interrupted as a crystal glass with a dark red substance was held out to him, the prince being considerate with his gesture, giving Kei no chance to refuse as lean digits wrapped around the stem, the cool of the crystal comforting against his skin.  “Shouldn’t you be with your guests, Kuroo-san?” 

 

It was quiet, the only noise is the distant chatter and music seeping from the party and into their direction. Kei didn’t give thought to the lack of answer that came from his companion; he wasn’t curious for a reply as much as he asked the question in a polite dismissal to send his fiancé away and back to the party.

 

Long fingers shifted the crystal glass lightly, watching the moonlight dance on the dark surface of the drink; the shade changing into a lighter one underneath the glow before he raised it to his lips allowing the sweet taste of the wine to fill his mouth washing down his dry throat. Tsukishima almost choked on the liquid as words surprised him. “The guest I wanted around didn’t make an appearance.”

 

It didn’t take a genius for someone to understand the meaning behind the words; his lover didn’t show up at the party and Kei didn’t care to understand, he didn’t want to hear anything about the man or his past relationships; he was ignoring him for that purpose. But he didn’t want to be rude, a small hum of acknowledgment escaping his lips. His attention was now on the slight ache that started to travel from the back of his feet through his legs to rest on his knees; a protest from his muscles reminding him that he’d been standing for far too long. He didn’t want to sit, not while Kuroo was still around, but the twinge of discomfort forced him to shift gracefully despite his long limps, sitting on the slightly damp grass.

 

 To the blonde's displeasure, the raven shifted to sit next to him, too close that his scent was all Kei could smell but not close enough to touch. The whole ordeal was slightly getting on his nerves, the fire of annoyance building in his chest but he kept it contained, his temper under control with a scowl on his face. The darkness seemed to hide his features, it was either that or Kuroo choose to ignore his reaction “You won’t ask me about that guest?”

 

Kei understood where this was going, he was trying to provoke him, to inspire a certain reaction out of him and he hated it. He didn’t want to be moved according to the crown prince’s whims. “I don’t care, but I’m sure you’ll tell me anyway.” And boy how he wished he was wrong, but he was right. He wanted to ignore the wide smile that spread on Kuroo’s face as if to confirm his statement.

 

“He’s an Alpha, the heir to a Marquees and I’ve known him for five years now since he first came to court with his father.” Kei didn’t want to hear any of it, he wanted to zone the words out and focus on the natural sight around him but he was unable to; the raven’s voice and smell captivating his attention. “We’ve been courting for a year now.”

 

It was clear that he was not finished, words were hanging on his lips as the blonde interrupted him with a cold, uninterested voice and a piercing gaze. He might not have feelings for the Alpha, but they were expected to bond and he doesn’t want to hear any more about his love interest; not when they were expected to marry . His pride wouldn’t allow it. “What do you want to do, your Highness? Do you wish to marry your ‘lover’ and take me as a mistress instead?”

 

His words were harsher than he intended, the flames of annoyance in his chest growing until it felt as he was housing a furnace that burned in his body. “No, I want your permission before I take him as a mistress. You’re my fiancé I’m aware of that thus the wedding shall go as planned.” Kei wanted to point down the emotion he identified in the words, was it defines? He couldn’t tell, not with the aroma of anger that was leaking from him.

 

He kept his voice calm, it was too calm for the situation and he wanted to praise himself for the ability to control his vocal level. “I don’t have any say in what you do, Kuroo-san. One day you’ll be king and I’ll be nothing more than your Queen. I couldn’t possibly stop you or even dare to deny you permission, but you agreed to this. You agreed to this marriage when you could’ve said no.” He paused for a moment, collecting his breath and allowing the words to sink in. His mind was screaming at him, telling him that this was his chance to ensure the cancellation of the wedding. He just needed to play it correctly.

 

 “You can always marry your lover, Your Highness. You aren’t forced to marry me, but if it was my permission you wanted, I can’t give it. My pride wouldn’t allow it.” He was done now, surprised that it didn’t take much planning for it all to fall in place and he understood that he meant his words, they weren’t said merely for the sake of the moment. The realization brought peace to him, allowing the scent of anger to fade; replaced by his natural aroma.

 

It was Kuroo’s turn to get angry, the fragrance he was releasing to strong that the blond couldn’t help but the whimper that escaped him, his instincts screaming at him to submit. ‘An Alpha is angry.’ But he would never submit. He was raised as an alpha and that pride fought against his Omegan instincts.

 

“I know I agreed to this, but not all of us are selfish enough to think about nothing but ourselves. I’m the next king! I have a duty to my people. I won’t break the alliance so you can go back to the family that threw you away as if you were nothing but a bargaining chip just because you are an omega.”

 

The words stung, hitting too close to home and Kei brushed his fingers over his clothed chest; the glass of wine now long forgotten. “Yes, Kuroo-san. I was thrown here to marry you because I’m an Omega. I presented and brought shame to generations of my family, so do as you please, your highness.” Pushing himself to his feet, the blonde bowed at the waist in a courtesy before walking away.

Chapter Text

 

25th of February.

The moon was hidden behind gray clouds, the night sky invisible to the human eye. Kei dreaded such evenings and tonight was no different if anything it was worse; the darkened night holding the promise of rain and cold if not snow. As much as he loved the nature that surrounded him, he wasn't a fan of the cold winter, even with the beauty of snow or the mystical nature of rain.

 

He hated the feeling of sweat running down his back, but the way goose bumps formed was worse. He'd welcome the summer anytime over the cold winter. He found beauty in summer days and lazy mornings more than silver puddles or white coats.

 

The young omega knew this night was different though, because even as he stood at the edge of his window watching the way his breath left his lips in a visible cloud; he didn't feel the cold his body was enduring. What he felt was an overwhelming heat that left him trembling with memories he wanted to forget.

 

His steps were slow, his body was heavy and sluggish as if he intoxicated by the fragrance of apples and vanilla that filled the room. He wasn't a fool and after experiencing this once, Kei knew what these changes in his body meant; he was in heat and he wanted nothing more than to shed his skin and escape.

 

He didn't notice his state until he reached the bed, extending his arm to pull his blanket over his body and he saw more than felt his fingers tremble. His heart skipped a beat, his breath was stuck in his throat as time stopped. 'I need a nest. I need to run. I want this to stop.'

 

The young teen was pierced by a chain of mental screams and flashes of pain that left him curled on the ground. This whole scenario was nothing but a reminder of the hell he went through no more than three months ago, at least back then he was surrounded by familiarity; the scent of his brother filled him with the sense of safety that was lacking now.

 

He was in a foreign kingdom, stuck in an ordeal he wanted to avoid. His mind was covered in a fog of darkness that left him grasping for any of the information that the healer explained to him before he was exiled from him home. His instincts told him to seek safety in a nest, but he couldn't remember how to build one and Kei isn't someone who moves on instincts.

 

He snapped out of the darkness, eyes dilated and wide; molten gold searching for the source of the touch that burned his shoulder when his attention finally focused on her. Her hair was as red as flames, her eyes a green as deep a forest and he felt himself drown in her gentle gaze. It was all contradictory to her petite frame, making her seem insignificant compared to the larger build of that omega that was on his knees. “Your Majesty” His voice sounded muffled to his own ears.

 

“Tsukishima-kun, you’re in heat.” No reply left his mouth, it felt like a chore to speak; to do anything when all he wanted was to slip away. “Why aren't you in a nest? It'll help you feel better. It won't be as intense.”

 

She was already moving, seeking the closet with the pillows and blankets that appeared there one day as if someone knew he'd need them; he had a suspicion that the fiery queen was behind it. “I don't know.” He heard himself speak, the emotions clear in his eyes, he was left with no energy to draw on his usual calm and uncaring mask.

 

He didn't want to clarify, but the momentarily tense of the queen's shoulder told him she understood. 'I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't know how to do anything. I don't know how to be an omega.' They were moments like this that left him weak and his true age of fourteen surfaced; without any mask or disguise.

 

“Come on, I'll show you how to do it.” The perfume of peaches and cream filled his nose, it was a scent that reminded him of warm summer days and sunshine rays. Kei wanted to cling to that warmth and so he stood up, any flashes of heat and pain pushed to the back of his mind while his topaz orbs followed the petite omega’s movements. He studied the way she arranged the blankets and pillows on the bed, creating a space he can escape to.

 

The Omega's instincts were getting louder; needing the relief of said nest and so he didn't hesitate when his future mother in law ushered him to the safe spot that was now on his bed. Warmth instantly wrapped around him, the screams in his mind silenced and the tension in his muscles relaxed. He understood for the first time in his life why omegas sought this comfort. “I was going to add something with Tetsu’s scent, but I think that might not help you, not right now.”

 

He didn't know when his eyes had drifted closed or when a blanket was pulled over him, but as his lids fluttered open and he saw the empathetic look in the queen’s eyes, Kei couldn't help but wonder if that is what a mother is supposed to feel like; tender and understanding. Everything she did for him and every word she spoke to him left cracks in his walls; her care was too much for him and it left him speechless, more than grateful. This was a moment that made him believe that coming here wasn't as terrible as he thought it'd be. “Thank you, Your Majesty.”

 

The rise of her lips caused his heart to flutter, her smile was as gracious as everything about her. He wouldn't be surprised if she whispered nonsense about her being a summer fairy. “I'll get Beta guards to stand by your door. If you need anything ask someone to find me.” Her touch was soothing, darkness engulfed him once more as his eyelids covered his eyes. Kei wanted Kuroo Aoi to keep brushing her fingers through his pale curls, but he knew that was unreasonable. “Your first heat is over. This one won't be as intense, and you won't go through it alone, either.” He didn't need her to clarify; in an alpha household none of his family members were allowed into his chamber during his heat and no one knew what to do to ease it. It wasn't the same now and that washed away some of his fears; there was an omega who could help him now, someone who can teach him what he needs.

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10th of March

Normalcy was slowly creeping on Kei, his days were planned to leave him with little room for himself, but he was starting classes again. The young prince was a sponge that sucked every information in; learning was his favorite thing and to be able to learn again brought a sense of peace to his exhausting daily life.

 

It was the excitement of what the day held that had him up before Yamaguchi even came to wake him. He didn’t want anyone else to know about his emotions, and that’s why he found himself taking a stroll through the castle hall, planning to use the need for a walk as his excuse. What he didn’t expect was to find Kuroo Tetsuro awake and in the garden. The sunlight illuminated him as if he was a center piece and Kei didn’t notice the way his gaze followed his movements; watching the way the muscles in his arms and back flexed as he swung the silver sword.

 

“Tsukki, isn’t it early for you to be up?” The boy in question flinched, the words catching him off guard. Blood crept up his neck and ears, heat rushing all over his body. “I was checking to see how terrible you are.” The words rushed past his lips and Kei knew he gave the prince material to mess with him for the rest of the month, especially when his signature laugh sounded aloud, shattering the morning peace. “You’ll wake up the whole castle.” His words were unheard, the prince making it a habit of ignoring him whenever he pleased, or perhaps he just didn’t hear. “Well, Tsukki. You can show me how good you are then.”

 

His heart skipped a beat, the world slipping from his vision and his senses were trapped in the intensity of the Alpha’s scent. There was nothing on his radar but the aroma of cocoa and bourbon as well as the heat radiating from the man who flung his arm over the blonde's shoulders. He wanted to be unconscious of him, unaware of his movements but it was impossible with their engagement, they are future mates and Kei was unable to forget that fact.

 

When he is alone and left with nothing but his thoughts to occupy him, he is forced to admit to himself how much he respects the raven prince. As loud and obnoxious as he was, he was kind to those around him, he was smart and he acted when it mattered. Every day the blonde prince learned more and more about him. He saw the way he doesn’t discriminate against anyone and how he struck conversations with everyone even the servants that roamed the castle; he even recognized them by name. Kuroo was a leader who’d react when it mattered, but he was never cruel and always smart. Once they are older and wiser, he’d be a kind and just king and as much as Kei hated the idea, wouldn’t mind being his strategist and ruling along by his side.

 

‘That is if you actually marry him. He loves another.’

 

It was that thought that ground him, that pushed him to keep his distance from Kuroo, even with how persistent the later was. Kei wouldn’t allow himself to get close to anyone, especially not someone who would someday discard him for another. He had his share of being thrown away. “Your Highness, please don’t touch me.” The embarrassment he felt earlier was gone, the heat replaced by a cold that squeezed at his chest and left him feeling empty, but he gave it no thought as he shook the Raven's arm and stepped back to put some distance between them.

 

Kuroo seemed to understand Kei’s discomfort, ignoring the way he was pushed away and moving back to his previous spot, where he apparently discarded the shiny sword. Kei was ready to step back and walk to his chambers when a sword was flung at him while his name was called. He almost froze in place, but his reflex took over, moving to the left and the metal fell to the ground with a loud thud, vibrating through his veins and toward his now pounding heart. “That was dangerous.”

 

The scowl on his face didn’t disappear even as the raven rubbed his hand against his neck and smiled apologetically if anything it deepened with a hiss until the prince apologized verbally. “Anyone would think you are trying to kill me.” His words were meant to be sarcastic, but his tone didn’t match his intentions; his voice was cold and uncaring, shaken from the incident. “Come on, Prince Kei, train with me.” He wanted to reject the offer and walk away, ignore the prince as he would tend to do and avoid him in an attempt to protect himself from getting attached, but the idea of holding a sword again, of training even if with the offensive raven was alluring and he didn’t have it in him to leave.

 

Kuroo was too observant for his own good, the look in Tsukishima’s eyes as his gaze darted between the neglected sword and the door leading into the halls of the castle telling him enough to understand his conflict. He wanted to give him his space, to let him walk away if he wished, the raven didn’t want to push the blonde away, especially after the bomb, he dropped on him. He knew he wasn’t being fair to him and he certainly didn’t mean what he said. If anything he was being selfish and unfair, but he couldn’t help it; he was in love with his kingdom as much as he loved the alpha he was courting and he didn’t want to sacrifice either.

 

The rise of his lips widened, the amber in his eyes glistened in contrast to the deep forest green that surrounded it as Kei reached for the sword, picking it from the ground to stand in front of him. The way he stood with the sword in one hand, shifting his weight from one foot to the other spoke a story of how uncomfortable he was, bringing more questions to the Raven's mind. The prince continues to be a mystery that he can't seem solve. That fact worked wonders in making him want to spend more and more time to learn everything about the blonde.

.

.

 

17th of November.

He used to dread parties due to the noisiness of people and what is expected from him while attending such events, but the person he is turning into hates such nights for entirely different reasons. He hates the way the scents of all those attending would mix and blend until it was an unbearable aroma, he hates the way people would look at him and try to read him as if he was a book left open and he hates the way omegas would look at him with eyes burning with revulsion; because he took their prince from them. But what he hates the most, is the way alphas would look at him with different views; some treating him as nothing more than a breeding cow; who’s duty is to provide an heir, while the others hated that he wasn’t built like any other omega. Much for a kingdom that respected the weaker dynamic.

 

He sat at the table, topaz orbs focused solely on the plate placed in front of him and the conversations around him seemed so far away. Kei felt out of place at the table with Kuroo and his guests, they weren’t all as loud and annoying as the raven prince, but there was a second figure there that he couldn’t stand. Bokuto’s hoot started him, snatching his gaze from the plate to land on the buffed figure who was standing now and he couldn’t help the click of his tongue. Why was he surrounded by idiots? Was this his divine punishment?

 

“Bokuto-san, please sit down.” Tsukishima was grateful for the calm figure seated beside him. If not for him, he would’ve probably attempted to murder the prince of Fukurodani the moment he set foot in the castle with his booming laugh and excited demeanor, which was contagious in the way it caused the raven’s obnoxiousness to increase; something, Kei didn’t think was possible.

 

He was starting to worry for the future of both nations when a beautiful omega with dark curly hair and lazy eyes walked in to stand behind the prince, calming him down. The blonde, later on, learned that the raven omega is the betrothed of the animated prince, but here he was, stuck with them at a table along with the freckled retainer Yamaguchi and the pudding head Kenma.

 

Oh, how much he’d give to be able to excuse himself and seek the comfort of his chambers, to spend the rest of the night reading a book. That wasn’t an option though, as the party was a celebration of his fiancé’s birthday. Thus he sat there, ignoring the conversations around him.  “Tsukki, you need to eat more.” For the second time that evening, he was snapped back into reality as the prince pushed another full plate in front of him, earning a scowl of irritation. “Kuroo-san, I can’t eat that much.”

 

“Nonsense, you haven’t eaten at all.” The words were thrown back immediately as if it was the most reasonable retort and if that wasn't enough, Bokuto started agreeing with his friend. “Are you a mother hen, your highness?” The sarcastic tone was reversed for Kuroo while his piercing gaze landed on the owl-like prince. People tended to flinch in response to his gaze, but their guest was peculiar in the way his smile winded into a grin. Kei was captured by his eyes; his orbs reminded him of Honey in the sunlight, a color so bright it would’ve blinded him has he not looked away; awaken by the laughter that sounded around the table.

 

His own golden gaze swapped over his acquaintances, the silent beauty that was Akaashi Keiji was chuckling quietly, his smile hidden behind his hand. Kenma’s amusement was visible in the way his eyes softened. Yamaguchi was failing at hiding his enjoyment; his shoulders were shaking slightly while his head was hidden underneath the round table. Bokuto was laughing visibly, the sound as animated and loud as his personality. Then there was Kuroo looking conflicted, unable to decide whether to be offended or join in with the laughter.  It was moments like this that broke his resolve and he considered giving this kingdom a chance.

Chapter Text

A black envelope was thrown into his lap, hazel eyes were forced away from the letters decorating the page of the book he was reading to rest on the face of a scowling blonde prince. The look was no longer a shocking view if anything he believes it to be the natural expression on the younger boy.

What surprised him was the nervousness in his golden eyes, the way his lean fingers tugged at each other; an indication of how anxious he was. In the two years that Kei had been in the castle, Kuroo managed to force his way into the blonde’s life until he was welcomed as a friend, which is why he couldn't understand why the boy was on edge.

His cat like gaze shifted back to the envelope, the book now discarded as his fingers picked the object to study it and realization sparked in his eyes. “Why are we hosting a banquet a week before the wedding?” The tension wasn't evident in the blonde’s voice, his speech its natural calm tune.

“Why, because it's your birthday, of course.” The lines on Kei’s faces deepened, the golden color of his eyes darkened and Kuroo could see the annoyance on him as clear as day light. Even when he tried to hide it with a calm face; the raven has become an expert at reading the emotions in the topaz orbs. “We don't need to celebrate it. I thought I made that clear before.”

“Too late, invitations have already been sent.” The older prince couldn't hold back his signature smirk from spreading on his face and Kei clicked his tongue, snatching the black envelope from Kuroo’s fingers with ease. The raven could read his intentions, sitting up and wrapping strong fingers on the thin wrist of the blonde’s, stopping him in his tracks as he turned to leave. “Hey, you don't usually react this aggressively. What’s wrong?” 

Kei didn’t have any reply, the words a jumbled mess in his anxious mind and even if he did he didn't want to answer the question, settling with a slight shake of his head. Everything was wrong, though. The questions were taking over his thoughts, his insecurities eating at him until he felt like a shadow of his former self and he couldn't sleep to escape it all; rest never came no matter how long he lay in bed.

Of course, it seemed that Kuroo could see right through him, tugging at his wrist until he gave in and sat on the bench the former was laying on merely moments ago. “When was the last time you've eaten?” Kei’s lips parted, ready to voice his objection at the silliness of the question. “And no, the apple you had for dinner yesterday doesn't count. I'm talking about actual food.”

“Why? Are you going to force food down my throat, Kuroo-Sama?” The usual sarcastic tone was back, emitting a sigh from Tetsuro's lips in a silent reply. His muscular frame was shifting, long limbs reaching for the plate of fruits placed on the wooden table positioned next to the bench and pushing it onto the blonde’s lap. “Eat.”

“I'm not hung….” He wasn't allowed to finish, his gaze met with piercing hazel eyes causing him to swallow the rest of his words. “I didn't ask you if you are hungry or not. Just eat, otherwise, you'll pass out before the end of the day. You are already skin on bones.” His voice was gentle, contradictory to the burning flames that filled his eyes, leaving the blonde with no choice but to reach for a grape, tossing it into his mouth and allowing the sweet and sour taste to coat his tongue.

“Now tell me what's wrong.”

“I already have to deal with a wedding, I don't want to worry about a silly banquet along with that. Everyone is busy as it is with preparations for next week.” The words were rushed, the syllables mixing together as if to prevent Kuroo from reading into them and Tetsuro's gaze softened, the fire in his eyes dying with every word.

“Your birthday is important, Tsukki. But stop worrying, it won't be anything big. Some people from Karasuno, some from Aobajisai, Fukurodai and of course, the usual group from Nekoma.”

“I'm relieved to know that I'd be surrounded by noisy idiots.”

Kei could already see a dramatic reaction coming, before Kuroo placed his hand on his chest, furrowing his brows and flinging himself against the back of the bench. “Oh, Tsukki, how you wound me.” His voice was Whiny and the blonde pushed himself to get up, but once again he was halted by the raven. “Finish your food, first.”

He didn't want to talk anymore, he had a lot to worry about and indulging Kuroo wasn't one of them. Kei pulled his arm, a futile attempt to shake his fiancé’s grip, who in return tightened his fingers. There was no question of who was stronger, with Kei’s skinny build and Kuroo’s more muscular one and with the latter having no desire to release the former, the blonde knew there was no escaping this time.

He sat back down, accepting the plate back onto his lap. The number of fruits in the plate seemed massive to his non-existent appetite, but with Kuroo staring at him he was forced to eat it.

The watchful gaze felt heavy on Kei’s shoulders, feeding at the tension he was feeling. He tried to escape it, his eyes avoiding the figure seated next to him and darting around as if inspecting the room when he noticed the other plate on the table. It was filled with perfect strawberries, waiting to be eaten.

Following his gaze Kuroo laughed, pushing the plate away and out of Kei’s reach. “Finish what you have there and you can have all of these strawberries.” The blonde could hear the smirk in the raven’s words, adding to his frustration. Strawberries were always his weakness and he was always bribed with them, but he never expected his fiancé to follow that tactic. Kei would bet that he has been exchanging letters with his brother.

‘That traitor.’

Even as he hated that strategy, Kei found himself eating the fruits on his plate, the amount not seeming large anymore with the promise of a treat at the end and that seemed to please Kuroo who looked like a Chester Cat with the grin on his face.

“Tsukki, remember your family will arrive tomorrow morning; we should be ready to greet them.” That seemed to cause the blonde to pause, a flash of a shadow passing over his eyes before going back to eating, giving the raven no other indication that he had heard him. That didn't seem to bother Kuroo though, as he continues talking. “Okasan says that three of you would then sit and talk about the wedding in case your mother wanted to change something-”

The fruits no longer had a taste, the sweetness and the sourness not registering on his tongue. He was merely eating as an excuse not to reply; the strawberries were long forgotten. Kei didn't know what to expect from his parents, the fact that they decided to show for the wedding in the first place surprised him. It isn't as if they ever wrote back to him since he left Karasuno. “-I'm going hunting, but if you need I can always cancel and stay with you.”

Kuroo probably knew what Kei was worried about, his mother was just like his father; their hate toward omegas known throughout the kingdoms and it's the reason behind the upcoming marriage, so the blonde was worried about their visit.

Taukishima shook his head, pushing the plate of fruits onto Kuroo’s lap ignoring the fact that half of it remains while standing up to grab the bowl of strawberries. “It'll be worse with you around.” Before the raven could react to his words, Kei was out of the door leaving the older prince to his own demise.

.

.

The weather was getting cooler, the September breeze felt refreshing against their skin but the sensation didn't register to Kei. If he was worried the previous day about the upcoming banquet, that feeling is gone; replaced by an anxiety that left him breathless and tugging at the hem of his doublet. The layers of clothes were a normality, but now they felt restricting.

He wanted to shrug all of the pieces off until he was left with nothing but his chemise shirt, but that was absolutely out of the question. Kei wanted this to be over; for his parents to be welcomed, so he'll know where he fits in their radar. Maybe they had accepted his secondary gender and were coming to celebrate his marriage. ‘Stop,’ he screamed the word in his mind, crushing the rising hope before it consumed him. If someone knows his parents then it is him and he knew that they'd never accept him as an omega.

Kei allowed his thoughts to wander, his last conversation with the king and queen was pushed to the back of his head, out of reach as if to protect him. He remembers the way his mother refused to look at him, his father’s words felt like nails all over his body, but the worst part was the disgust carved on their faces; he was no longer the son they were once proud of, he was a revolting omega. That memory crushed him, burying any last thread of hope. They will never accept him and he knew it.

A hand rested on his shoulders, the weight bringing his attention back to the figure standing next to him and the man flashed him a wide grin. The gesture was normal but it flooded Kei with a sense of comfort. “Tsukki, don't panic.” A thin brow was raised in response, molten gold glared down at the raven as he spoke. “I don't think you should be this relaxed, Kuroo-San. Are you really meeting my parents with that hair?” His words were followed by a snort as if to emphasize the meaning.

Kuroo opened his mouth to speak but swallowed the words as a carriage came to a stop. The temperature seemed to drop, the air felt heavy and tension surrounded them. The king and queen were the first to move, descending down the stairs to stand in front of the carriage and that shook the dumbfounded princes to move and stand with the royal couple.

The king of Karasuno was the first to step out of the carrier, his eyes as judging and cold as Kei remembered and his presence was as majestic holding the attention of everyone.

The queen appeared from inside the carriage. Blonde hair was left to rest on her shoulders, shifting as the breeze brushed over it, her eyes were a bright blue that sparkled under the sun as if the ocean on a sunny day and her features were sharp. Kei was the image of his mother except for his father's eyes. Her beauty stole the attention away from her husband as she moved to stand to his right.

King Kuroo stood patiently, waiting until Aketiru joined his parents. “King and Queen Tsukishim. Prince Aketiru, Welcome to Nekoma.” His voice was booming, the gentleness Kei came to associate with him not evident in the words, causing a tremor to travel down his spine.

His eyes were focused on his parents, watching as fake smiles were drawn on their faces and hypocrite laughs sounded around them. The conversation was drawn out, the words brushing past his recognition. Kei wanted to greet them, to talk to them, two years is such a long time and he wanted to know how they were fairing.

His eyes were gems in the sunlight, the color more golden than brown as they sparked with a hope he tried to crush, but the emotions were never exposed on his face; keeping the cold demeanor he inherited from his father. “You must be tired after your journey, let's go inside and get you settled in.”

Kei wanted to call out, to greet the couple when strong arms wrapped around his shoulders, squeezing him until the air was knocked out of his lungs. “Nii-sama, I can't breathe.” Even as he spoke the words, his arms wrapped around the shorter man and his nose pressed against his brother’s scent glands taking in his natural fragrance. The blonde almost forgot the way the older's scent calmed him and reminded him of home.

The crushing hug loosed but they remained in place, a sense of peace and serenity washing over them. Before Kei presented he looked up to his brother, followed him around like children tended to do. He was supposed to stay by his brother’s side for the rest of their lives, but fate had another plan stored for them and the younger was sent away to survive without the presence of the older. He grew up, no longer the fourteen years old child that left their home. He is now a sixteen years old prince getting ready to marry into another household; two years are enough to change a person. One thing never changed though; the younger missed his brother, longed for the comfort of his presence and the familiarity of his scent.

Akiteru was the first to pull away, holding Kei at arm’s length to study him, take into his features. “Did you grow taller?” There was longing hidden behind the words, the golden eyes that studied Kei were as gentle as he remembers them to be, but he still snickered at the question. “No, you just grew shorter.” The older prince scowled at the sarcastic tone, finally turning to acknowledge the man standing awkwardly to the side. “See, this is what you’ll have to deal with. I don’t envy you.”

“Akiteru-san, I already have to deal with it. Tsukki can be brutal.” Kei tried to deny the nickname, but his brother’s reaction came faster, amusement flashing in his eyes. He was different than Kei, allowing his emotions to show and a grin to spread across his face. “Tsukki, that’s a cute name.” Kuroo looked excited at the approval, shifting his weight from one foot to the other so he wouldn't jump in his delight. “I know right? But Tsukki here doesn’t like it.”

“It doesn’t stop you, does it?” The younger blonde’s voice was bitter, his lips pulled into a thin line. He knew that Akiteru having any conversation with Kuroo would turn out to be a disaster, but he never expected it to be this bad, not from the beginning. The raven was stubborn about using his nickname, yet now with his future brother in law’s approval, nothing will stop him. His displeasure grew at the way his companions started laughing, the spark of annoyance slowly growing in his chest and thus he decided to walk away, to leave the two alone and deal with the aftermath later, once he is in a calmer mood.

.

.

Kei was ushered into the room, a guard standing behind him while the partner announced his arrival to the King and Queen of Karasuno. Anxiety prickled at his skin, his instincts screaming at him to turn around and leave, yet he was left with no choice but to step into the room. The chamber felt like an oven, sweat instantly gathered over his skin, a drop running down his back and then it hit him, the scent of two alphas mixing with their majestic presence slapping him in the face and knocking the air out of his chest. ‘Run.’ The omegan voice inside of his head was screaming at him, telling him to seek safety away from the couple. He bent at the waist, instead, bowing deep to the figures seated in front of him. “Otosama, Okasama, you asked for me?"

The blonde straightened, his golden gaze meeting a pair of blue eyes; the color so deep and bright it felt as if he was swimming in the sea, it reminded him of long days spent lounging on the beach, enjoying the sun. The warmth in them didn’t help his case. “Lower your gaze.” The words snapped him from his trance, his eyes dropping to his shoes to study his reflection in the polished black leather. The voice was low and uncaring, but Kei heard the curse in it, the command that forced him to obey. This was his mother, a ruthless queen who was gentle only on the surface; the perfect queen for the cruel king.

“Sit down, Kei, we need to talk.” He wanted to get out of the room, the words sounding more like a death threat than anything, but he moved to the chair in front of him, taking a seat as dictated. He felt out of the loop, his mind struggling to understand what his parents would want to talk about. It wasn’t about their son’s well-being that was for sure. “In a week from now you’ll be married to Nekoma's Prince, but that doesn’t mean your loyalty should shift. You’ll always be a servant to Karasuno's Crown and with that comes a new task that only you will be able to carry out.”

Something about the wording left him fumbling at his fingers, his digits tugging at each other in an attempt to focus his attention elsewhere. He wished he took Kuroo on his offer to join him for a ride or went with the queen to look at the wedding’s details. He wished he was busy enough, but here he was stuck waiting for orders he knew will alter his life. “You’ll gain access to their records then; your job will be to deliver information to us. Their plans, their meetings, their contracts and military details.”

Kei’s heart was drumming in his chest, threatening to break out of his ribcage, his topaz eyes were wide as he studied the Raven King’s face. "You want me to be a spy?” His words broke, a lump forming in his throat and he knew he was emitting a distressed scent. “That’s treason.” He wanted to say more, to tell his father that once he’s married his loyalty will be to his new kingdom. He wanted to tell him that even if his life wouldn’t be on the line, he wouldn’t do that to the nation that welcomed him. His loyalty would be to Kuroo Tetsuro and the kingdom of Nekoma, but no words came out.

“I do not care what you call it, as your king, I order you to do it.” His tone was one Kei never heard before, his instincts jumping to life. The word ‘submit’ was all he could hear in his mind, his thoughts gone and his teeth connected to his bottom lip until the taste of copper filled his mouth. How was he supposed to escape this situation? He never said no to his father, not before he presented and certainly not after, but this was one moment where he needed defy him. Kei wished Akiteru was there, to reason with the king, but he was on his own. ‘So much for claiming to be independent.’ He thought.

“I can’t obey that order, as a future wife to the future king, my loyalty would be to my nation and that won’t be Karasuno anymore, it’ll be Nekoma. It’ll be my duty to protect my king, to protect my alpha and the nation he rules. Delivering sensitive information, even to an allied nation could jeopardize that.” The words weren’t mumbled, they weren’t whispered, but his voice wasn't confident, either. He spoke calmly, yet the scent he was releasing told a different story of his mental state. He didn’t know when he stood up, but his legs felt weak, his knees not strong enough to support him. In his panic, Kei didn’t see the fist before it connected to his face; the force driving him to the ground and his head collided with the floor.

“Isn’t it bad enough that you humiliated us by presenting as an omega, you dare defy me now? You useless pup, you do not even deserve to live. I should’ve killed you when I had the chance.” A harsh gasp was heard from him as a foot connected to his side, the world was spinning. Kei’s vision was blurry and he couldn’t tell if it was because of the tears gathering in them or the force of the contact with the floor. What he was aware of what the warm liquid seeping from his nose. ‘Hopefully, it’s not broken.’

Kei wanted to push himself to his feet, but his body protested the movement, so he put his whole weight on his arms and sat down on the floor. A cold sarcastic chuckle escaped his lips, his fingers wiping away some of the blood flowing out his nose. “You should’ve killed me, but you decided to use me for your stupid alliance, you do not get to complain about it now.” A sense of accomplishment washed over him at the look of shock on his parents face. “You haven’t seen me as a son since I presented, a father wouldn't hurt his pup.” He wanted to say more, but the blonde felt drained, his energy gone. His legs were shaky as he stood up and he almost slipped back to the ground before he gripped the edge of the chair.

“Please excuse me, your Majesties.” Kei didn’t bow, he didn’t show any sign of respect and his tone was uninterested, turning around and walking out of the door. The fear was still burning through his veins, the tears prickling his eyes and his breathing were labored but he’d be damned before he cries in front of anyone.

Chapter Text

The room was dark, one candle illuminating the space enough for a figure in the room to place a tray on the table before walking back to the door. The freckled boy looked even more anxious than usual, his lips parting and closing as if he couldn't decide whether to talk or not. “Tsukki, please make sure to eat something.” The words were a jumbled mess, the letters rushed out, but even that didn't encourage the tall figure to open his eyes or raise his head. He wanted the dark haired boy to leave, to go away and give him some peace.

After the long and stressful day, Kei found his way to his chamber, sought the comfort of his bed and stayed there while the sky colors changed. He was unaware of the tears that ran down his face, he didn't seem to notice when they stopped. The boy didn't realize when his eyelids dropped over his eyes and sleep engulfed him in a peaceful darkness. There were no dreams, no nightmares and his thoughts were reserved. He wished to stay asleep, to not wake up, maybe then he won't have to worry.

The next time he opened his eyes, the sky was dark, the stars were bright in the dark background; dots that brought some relief to him. No matter what changes in his life, the sky will always be the same. It's the same sky that he used to gaze at when he was in Karasuno and it's the same now that he's in Nekoma. A painting that will ever remain out of reach, but will always fill him with a sense of nostalgia. It’ll remind him of long talks with his brother when they were younger and life didn't plot against them. It'll remind him of passing hours he spent either idly or talking with Kuroo about nothing and everything, times where he'll scowl and frown because the older raven enjoyed ticking him off as if that’ll bring them closer; maybe it worked, because he no longer hated the presence of his fiancé.

Thoughts like this were a nice change from his usual insecure mayhem. Kei was too exhausted to fight his demons, he was too frightened that they’ll no longer be unrealistic monsters; that they’ll metalize as his father. Once upon a time, he would've felt longing and love toward the man, he'd seek his approval at every turn. Now, the thought left him empty, reminding him that he will never belong. He was cast away by the sole person who was supposed to love him, so maybe Kei didn't deserve to be loved.

The blond reached with trembling fingers to brush against his nose, the pain was gone and he was left with a distant ache; it made it seem unreal as if what happened mere hours ago is just a fabrication of his imagination. Kei knew otherwise, pressing a single digit into the skin to feel the sharp bite of the pain go through his whole face. How was he supposed to deal with this? People love to talk, and they'll surely talk and gossip if they see him in this state, battered up and bruised. The blonde didn't dare look in a mirror but he knew he wasn't in an appealing condition.

He finally forced his eyes away from the window, the light in his gaze was dim, and the topaz gems that were his eyes were nothing more than a pair of brown orbs. Yamaguchi was no longer standing there, Taukishima didn't know when the boy slipped out or when he stopped sensing his presence, but he didn't care. He didn't want to deal with anyone or anything. He was happy to stay in bed, in the nest he made, in the safety he found; wrapped in a single blanket, driving away the cold. Perhaps, if he tried hard enough, any unwanted thoughts would slip away as well.

A loud knock sounded against the wooden door, it was strong enough that he wouldn't have missed it, but he dared not acknowledge it; hoping it was his freckled friend back to remind him to eat the food left in his room. What Kei decided to do was roll on the bed, pulling the blanket tighter around his body. It felt like a cocoon; nothing but his eyes visible and it made him slightly better, no longer the corpse he was moments ago.

Of course, whoever was at the door didn't respect his wishes to be left alone, pushing the door open and walking to the bed where Kei was curled, trying his best to ignore his unwelcomed guest. “Tsukki, Yamaguchi-kun said you weren't feeling well. What's wrong?” Kuroo was observant; the blonde knew that, but it seemed in that moment Kuroo’s observation skills were lacking as he tried to sit on the bed. Tsukishima finally reacted, sitting up and pushing the larger figure away. “This is an alpha free zone.” Kei didn't like his voice, didn't recognize the hoarseness in it and didn't enjoy the way his throat felt dry and scratchy after he spoke, but it seemed to drive the point home.

Kuroo was taken aback by the push, amber and green eyes studying the bed, finally taking note of the pillows and blankets piled together in a systematic way. It wasn't the first time he saw a nest, his mom tended to make them whenever she wasn't feeling like her bubbly self, but it was a shocking sight to find the cranky and salty Kei curled in one. It was a harsh reminder to the raven that the younger boy was still an omega. It was a fact he was always aware of; the sweet fragrance of vanilla and apples a strong indicator, but after spending years around that scent the fact started to slip from his mind more than he would've liked.

His gaze shifted from the nest to rest on the blonde figure, his heart skipping a beat at the sight displayed in front of him. The blanket that was wrapped around him is now pooled on the bed, eyes swollen and red but what silenced his thoughts was the dark bruises covering his face. Two cuts were on his cheek, angry looking against the pale skin and his bottom lip was tattered from biting it too much. His cheek was swollen, forcing the left eye closed. What drove the point home was the frightening shade of purple that his nose was. If he didn't recognize the blonde curls, Kuroo would’ve considered that perhaps, he was in the wrong room.

The blood in his veins started heating, boiling and he could feel something seething inside of him. He couldn't fight the argue to step closer, holding back before he touched Kei or stepped into his nest. “Who did this to you?” His voice sounded calmer than he felt and the younger boy shrugged. It took all of the raven’s control not to reach and touch him as he felt the anger rise in his throat, a growl sounding out. “No one did this, calm down before your scent causes the guards to barge in.”

The words made sense, Kuroo’s logical side understood that, but his instincts didn't and he could feel the need to break something grow by the second. He didn't view Kei as his omega, that was the reality, but he still worried for the boy dearly. He cared for him enough to want to rip out the throat of whoever dared hurt him. After spending two years together, he started viewing him as a part of his family. The alpha in him wanted to protect the omega in Kei, but he failed, the ugly purple and red marks on the pale skin of the prince were taunting the fact that he let him down.

The distressed scent of an omega hit his nose, shaking his senses to watch as the boy on the bed pulled his blanket around him The Omega was frightened at the sight of an angry alpha, even if his bruised face was masked by a calm facade. It drove the guilt in Kuroo to grow until it replaced his anger. “I'm sorry.” The words were a whisper, but he knew he was heard in the silence of the night.

The raven waited for a reply standing still, not daring to breathe for minutes. It was evident that the boy was adamant on ignoring him. Kuroo knew this mood, aware that Kei was forcing his whole focus on music pieces he had memorized. It was his escape, finding a shelter in his love for music even if the sounds were not playing around.

Through the last two years, Kuroo would step into the blonde’s chambers to find him with a violin or in more rarer occasions with a Cello. The older boy would sit in the room while the younger played till his muscles ached and sweat coated his skin. Only when he's too exhausted to play, would he notice the second figure in the room. It took Testuro a couple of times to understand that this was the blonde’s outlet and it took Kei the same number of times to start noticing when his fiancé would step into the room.

Kuroo was aware that Kei was itching for the peace he found in music, but it was too late in the night to play. It was during times like this where the memory of musical pieces came in handy. The boy would retreat into his own mind; for an escape from reality, no matter how short the duration is. It was for that reason that the older prince was hesitant to interrupt the boy, yet it was as important that he does that and check his wounds.

He extended his hand, reaching far enough to feel the heat radiating from the body slouched on the bed, but not enough to touch, giving him enough space to flinch away, if necessary. This seemed to do the trick, grabbing the attention of the boy who looked at him with uninterested eyes and lips drawn in a tight line. “Can I come in?” He didn't need to elaborate, the blonde shaking his head instantly.

“It's either that so I can touch you and check your face or I'll have to go get Kachan. I know you don't have the energy to deal with her bubbly personality, right now.” Kuroo didn't want to push this point, knowing how important it is for Omegas to feel safe and unpressured in their own nests.

The silence was back, the only sound is that of the blonde breathing through his mouth, but Kuroo wanted to give him his time, to allow him to make a decision he felt comfortable with. If Kuroo Aoi is what Kei needs right now, then Kuroo wouldn't think twice. “Okay.” The hoarse sound snapped Kuroo out of his thoughts, hazel eyes meeting topaz ones, for a fraction of a second.

“Okay?”

“Okay, you can come in, but if I say you need to get out then you will.”

There was a finality in that condition even if Kuroo didn't plan to challenge it or debate the topic. He took the last step to the bed, shifting his weight to the edge of the mattress slowly, giving Kei time to push him away before he sat directly in front of the younger boy. His fingers were rough from years of sword training and horse riding, but his touch was gentle as he held the boy’s chin, shifting his face to the side to get a better look. He reached with his other hand, poking at the bruises gently, testing for broken bones. He wasn't a healer by any means, but years of training tough him enough to differentiate between minor injuries and more severe ones.

“I don't understand. When did this happen? You were perfectly alright when I left in the morning and you had locked yourself in your room by the time I came back. I'm positive the only meeting you had today was with your…” The words were swallowed, lips parted and eyes widened as the color drained out of his face. The realization that dawned on him was cruel and the dark feeling of his anger threatened to swallow him, once again.

Kei never replied, averting his eyes to study the threading of the blanket as if it was the most interesting subject and Kuroo didn't need any more confirmation. “I’ll kill him.” There was a tremor in his voice, his anger almost showing through the words.

“Don't be silly, Kuroo-San.” There was a sarcastic tone under the words, feeding at the darkness in the raven’s heart. “Don't mock me, Kei. I'll really do it.” He meant every word, feeling as if nothing would stop him from seeking his revenge. An Alpha protecting his pack was a feared Alpha and Kei was a member of his pack.

“And then what? The marriage would be canceled and I'll have to go live with them, not for long. I'll be executed soon after. Is that what you want? I know you never wanted to marry me, but it'll be cruel to send me to my death because of that.” The laughter was muffled, the words unclear with the way his nose was swollen, but it only provoked the raven more, emitting a growl from him. He was the master of provocation, but Kei was doing a good job pushing his buttons, at that moment. It was his nature, Kuroo knew that it didn't mean that he needed to stay there and take it.

“Nothing seems broken. I'll have a healer come take a second look in the morning. I need to go calm down or I might seriously kill your Otosan.” A forced laugh escaped his lips, never reaching his eyes, earning a frown from the blonde who winced as the lines in his face deepened. This seemed to earn him a genuine chuckle from the raven, a soft and rare smile on his face. It was unlike him to look so defeated and Kei didn't like it.

His lips parted ready to speak when he felt something soft against his forehead, Kuroo’s lips pressed against his skin in a gentle kiss. He didn't move staying there for a while and Kei felt the loss as he pulled back, establishing some space between them. “I'm sorry I wasn't there. I won't allow them to hurt you again and I'll get them back for it, just wait.” The blonde didn't get the chance to speak, the words left to die on his tongue as the raven left the room, the door closing behind him with a creak.

.

.

Kei never thought he'd be grateful for the night. If someone told him a week ago that he'd be happy for the banquet to start, he would've told them that they were lying. But as he sat on a chair, watching the loud trio that consisted of Bokuto, Kuroo and Oikawa play a card game and make stupid bets, he felt a sense of serenity. It was the fact that this scene where Akaashi was having a conversation with Iwaizumi while Kenma lay on the carpeted floor doing nothing and Yamaguchi watched the game unfold - had become a familiar scene in the last two years.

Kei had learned that due to Fukurodani's strong alliance with Nekoma, the two princes of the nations grew alongside each other; meeting whenever their fathers had business with the other or if they deemed that their children needed the company. It, later on, grew to include Oikawa as Aobajousai entered an alliance with Nekoma and with Oikawa came his best friend and future general Iwaizumi. It was terrifying, truthfully, to learn that all those kingdoms that Karasuno considered a threat were allied.

The blonde hated socializing and it was a fact known to the group, but they didn't mind having awkward people such as himself and Kenma amidst them. If anything, he was grateful that they kept it small, gave those who are socially impaired a chance to relax and in turn, a reason to look forward to being with people. Not that he was ever going to admit that out loud.

Another round was over and being the sour loser he is, Oikawa threw the pile of cards at Kuroo. Bokuto, on the other hand, was bent on one knee, a fist in the air above his head and his booming voice filled the room. “Hey, hey, Hey!” His signature line caused those who weren't watching the scene to flinch and Kei to click his tongue in annoyance. He might enjoy their company, but he didn't enjoy how loud they could get, especially Kuroo and Bokuto.

“Kei-chan, what happened to your face?” The question caught Kei off guard, not expecting anyone to direct their attention to him, not with all the buzz around them. He expected to hear the question at least once during the evening, but the blonde believed that he was in the clear after spending an hour without the topic being brought up. “Oikawa-San, I wanted to match your face.” There was a snicker in the room, the horror present on Oikawa’s face as his eyes widened and he turned to look at his best friend. “Iwa-chan, Kei-chan is being mean to me.”

“Don’t be nosy, Shittykawa, he’ll tell you if he wanted to.” Kei was grateful for Iwaizumi’s intervention. He didn’t want to explain the situation, even if only to their group of close friends and he didn’t want to lie. They were a pack of perceptive people, it would be impossible to miss it if the blonde decided to twist the truth and give in a realistic intake that won’t destroy his father’s reputation. For the time being, he was sated with only Kuroo knowing the full story. He knew that with the wedding date growing closer, more and more questions were going to be asked, rumors will spread and people would talk, but they’ll deal with it in due time.

“Who’s ready to play?” The voice was a new one, Kei had never heard it but the shock was evident on the faces of all the other occupants of the room; save for Kuroo. No one moved to greet him, no one spoke and the silence was heavy. The blond wanted to break it, to ask what’s going on, but he hated social situations and he surely didn’t want to be the first to speak to someone he didn’t know.

“Yu-chan, what are you doing here.” Oikawa was the first to speak, earning a glare from Iwaizumi and a smack to the back of the head that forced a whine past his perfect lips. No one seemed pleased with the question as if the presence of this newcomer was unwelcomed and he knew better than that. If they hated him, he’d already been out of the palace, escorted by guards, even if he was a nobility. Their discomfort seemed to come from somewhere else and it put Kei on edge.

“I invited him, I wanted him to meet Tsukki.” Kuroo seemed to be pleased with himself, his words lights and there were stars in his eyes, gazing at the new comer with his blonde hair and his almond eyes. His features were normal, his stance spoke of the confidence nobility hold and his smile told a story of mischief. None of that was of any interest to Kei, what he focused on was the scent of grass after a rainy day, the aroma refreshing and gentle. His perfume was the contrast to his pierced ears.

“Tsukki, this is Terushima Yuji, he’s the son of Marquees Terushima. Yuji, this is my fiancé Tsukishima Kei, he’s the second prince of Karasuno.” The rest of the sentence was muffled in Kei’s mind, anger started to rise in his chest and it all made sense to him now. The gazes of the group in the room, the way the air seemed unsettled and the happiness in Kuroo’s eyes. Did the raven expect the blonde to miss the most important factor? He almost missed it, albeit, Kuroo’s eyes gave him away. It was a look that he never saw on his face before. The way his eyes gazed at the pierced blonde was that of a star struck lover; it was a look that poets would write about and gods would rage wars over. It was the same way the king of Nekoma looked at his queen.

Kei felt eyes on him, the hair on his skin stood at attention and goose bumps covered his pale skin. He wanted to ignore them all, to go back to the book he was reading. He needed the previous, comforting atmosphere to be back. He didn’t want to have any more to worry about and this guy was something he knew would add to his worries. “I wouldn’t have guessed; he looks like a pirate with those piercings.” There was more bite in his words, his anger, and discomfort traveling through his voice. The younger boy was in no mood to pretend, he was in no mood for fake smiles and pleasantries. He hated those and he wasn’t going to bother with them right now. Not for the new guest and certainly not with the storm of emotions growing in his chest. 

“Tsukishima, don’t be rude.” The blonde wanted to laugh at this, at the defensive tone in his fiancé’s words. Did he call him by his name for this guy? Of course, he did. This was the love of his life and Kei was an obstacle they’ll eventually need to shatter.

“You know better than to say that, Kuroo-san. I’m a rude person by nature.” Why did he allow himself to get comfortable around all of them? Why did he allow himself to get attached to this rowdy crowd? It was clear from their reaction that Terushima was a member of their troop before Kei came along. Kei felt exhausted, he no longer wanted to be here. He wanted to go away, be alone and away from all of them.

“If you’ll excuse me, I have a long day tomorrow so it is best that I retire for the night.” His tone was polite once again, his words formal. The younger boy was ready to bolt if not for the hand on his shoulder, holding him in place. The scent of Salt and tobacco was a welcome change to that of Yuji’s and it told him enough to know it was Iwaizumi’s hand touching him. “Didn’t we agree that you’ll keep Terushima away from Tsukishima? Why are you introducing them a few days before your wedding?” He didn’t want to hear more, didn’t want to be a part of this conversation but Oikawa has moved to stand in front of him and Iwaizumi’s touch was impossible to shake off. Kei felt caged in.

“Does it matter, Iwaizumi-san? It’ll probably be some stupid reason. Oh don’t tell me, you are moving to court?” The rush of blood in his ear was loud, too loud. There was no light in his eyes as he looked down at the couple standing a few inches away, too close for Kei’s comfort. He forced a small smile on his face, the gesture never reaching his eyes. “I made it clear that I didn’t want to meet him, but of course you had to go against my back and arrange this stupid introduction, Kuroo-san.” The words were calm now, his voice monotone even.

“Terushima-san, please remember that I’m of a higher social class, you can’t speak to me unless I initiate the conversation.” Nothing seemed to soothe the younger boy as he finally shrugged Iwaizumi’s hand away, pushing Oikawa slightly out of the way, striding out of the room, escaping the heavy atmosphere before he stopped breathing. He could hear Oikawa’s voice as he argued with Kuroo, the words were carried over by the silence of the night. “Why would you go this far to introduce them? They can never be friends! Don’t forget that Kei-chan is a prince just like you and me, his pride is as big as ours. He would never accept the presence of Yu-chan. That’s why we told you to keep them separated.”

Chapter Text

Kei wished he lived in a work of fiction, where weeks went by in a blur and things were always smooth, but of course, that wasn't the case. The days were slow, the minutes and hours dragging on as if on a mission to keep him trapped with wedding plans. He wanted this week to be over as much as he wanted the time to stop. It was starting to get too much and with every passing second, the air seemed to thin out more and more until he thought that he'd stop breathing eventually. The weight on his chest was growing, spreading until it wrapped around him and it wasn’t comfortable or warm; it was tight and threatened to crush him.

 

The blonde didn't mind being busy, it kept his thoughts tranquil and it provided Kuroo with no chance to meet up. He didn't want to worry about talking to the raven. After their last incident, Kei was positive he'd lose his senses if he saw him. The meeting on his birthday was still fresh in his mind and it planted a dark seed inside of him; his rage was still burning. He didn't have any feelings for the older prince, not technically, but he spent the duration of two years being reminded that they are betrothed. It was hard to accept that he'd be nothing more than a secondary thought. What was the point, though?

 

The countdown to the wedding left him feeling defeated. Once their vows were recited and the ring went on his finger, Kei would be Kuroo’s, but he wouldn't either and Kuroo would never belong to him. He'd be his wife in name only. Before meeting his lover, he believed that perhaps something good would come out of it; after all, the raven was kind to him. But seeing the look in Kuroo’s eyes told him everything. He was too naive.

 

It made Kei wonder if it was worth it, was he desperate enough to accept a loveless marriage? Once the wedding is over, they’d be married for life. Royals do not separate or annul, if he wanted out, death would be the only option. Is living a couple more years, worth the humiliation? The only reason he was still standing was the thought of sitting in a field, watching the blue sky change as clouds shifted or read a book under the warm sun. He lived for such moments, will it be enough to keep him going? He didn't know.

 

As time passed there were no tears, no break downs. There was an emptiness that filled him, leaving him with nothing but exhaustion. He'd spend the day with Queen Kuroo, finalizing everything, planning to sleep the moment the night was over, but that never happened. Kei would lay in bed and stare at the ceiling for hours, there were no thoughts, no insecurities. He was left alone in his head, but sleep never came, not even when his eyelids grew heavy.

 

No one mentioned the dark shadows under his eyes or the fact that he spoke fewer words. If anyone noticed, they ignored it and Kei was grateful to them for it. He didn't want to talk. He didn't want to explain and he surely didn't want to be reminded that he needed to rest. Of course, Akiteru had different plans, finally calling out to him a day before the wedding.

 

“Kei, when was the last time you slept?” The younger brother had no answer, his gaze darted everywhere and nowhere, never meeting the worried gaze of the older. He knew the last time he slept for more than an hour was the night of his birthday and he was smart enough to understand that the little to no sleep he got since then would only harm him, but it wasn't his idea. He wanted to sleep, to close his eyes and escape the reality that weighed heavily on him, threatening to kill him. Even crying would've relieved him, but no emotions came as if everything was sucked out of him.

 

Akiteru seemed to sense this, understanding his brother's reluctant to speak. “Let's go for a walk.” It wasn't a suggestion as he started leading them through the hallways, navigating the castle as if he was a resident and not a guest. Kei wanted to protest, his legs felt heavy and his body ached, but in that moment walking sounded better than speaking so he followed his brother, catching up to him with wide but lazy steps.

 

The silence was comfortable, neither felt the need to speak and if Akiteru had a lot to voice, he didn't show it, deeming the time as wrong. Kei was grateful for it, his brain felt fuzzy and he doubted he'd be able to focus; days of not sleeping were catching up to him, not only appearance wise, but also mentality wise.

 

The scenery started to change; the castle walls were replaced by the open sky, the air that smelled of people and liveliness was replaced by the freshness of grass and the breeze caressed them as it blew past them. It brought an ease to his strained self and a peace he could never find under a roof. Kei would have loved to have been born a farmer, to be able to live his life peacefully surrounded by open fields, trees, and the sky. He wanted to live a life away from the suffocating castle walls, away from the responsibilities that were thrust upon him. He wanted to be isolated, never observed, never watched and never forced to make choices he didn't like.

 

They came to a stop in front of the stables, nose scrunching from the strong odor of animals and humans alike. It had been so long since he found himself surrounded by horses and it warmed his freezing soul. He missed this, the way stable boys and soldiers walked around, horses being brushed and prepared or trained. “What are we doing here?” His throat felt scratchy, his voice strained as he spoke, causing him to cough. None of that stopped the light from finding his eyes, brown eyes glistening under the sunlight, the gold in them reflecting that of a gen. It was a look that Akiteru has missed; a look of excitement that never showed on his face, but his eyes spoke volumes.

 

“I thought I'd give you your wedding gift.”

 

Kei wasn’t really interested, he didn’t want gifts, just as much as he wanted to forget about the wedding; if only for a couple of hours. The countdown to the ceremony started when his parents stepped foot in Nekoma’s court, but it didn’t feel real to him till the sun rose on this particular day. The castle came alive instantly, chatter and music were already filling the hall; the kingdom was celebrating a day before the actual wedding and yet he felt none of that. He hated that he couldn’t share their joy, after all, they’ll soon be his people, but how could he feel any joy when he felt as if every passing minute was leading to his demise.

 

He didn’t want to be rude to his brother, though, Akiteru was the only family he has left. Kei stayed quiet, topaz eyes following the stable boys as they cared for the beautiful stallions filling the area. He wanted to reach out and brush his fingers over one of the horses, feel their softness underneath his skin and follow the firmness of their muscles with his touch. The older blonde was already walking toward the horses, stopping in front of a white colored one with a golden mane that looked almost platinum underneath the sun. It was a beauty, with firm muscles and brown almond eyes, his image was reflected in it as if a mirror to his soul. Horses are sensitive creatures and he wouldn’t doubt that as the animal watched him, it was reading him, analyzing him with intelligence that humans never appreciate.

 

“This is your gift, her name is Asa.” Disbelief flooded him, stealing his attention from the mystical creature standing next to his brother to study the Crown Prince with unbelieving eyes. He could trust his brother not to joke about something like this, but it still seemed unreal. An omega with his own horse didn’t seem like something his parents would approve of, but he was grateful. Kei could feel the warmth starting to spread inside of him, not hot enough to melt the ice in his veins, but warm enough to remind him of rainy nights where he’d curl up in a blanket and watch the sky weep.

 

“Aki, you look like her.” There was a sarcastic tone in his voice, his lips curled slightly at the corner, no longer drawn in a straight line, but his eyes spoke of his happiness, a smile sparkled in them. “She’s beautiful.” He was hesitant to touch her, afraid that she’ll reject him as her master, but his unease didn’t stop him from running long fingers through the soft blonde curls covering the stallion’s neck and back. “Thank you.” It was a whisper, words said without turning around or meeting Akiteru’s gaze, but Kei didn’t need to say anymore.

 

.

.

 

He was drowning, his lungs sought air with difficulty, his body felt heavy and nothing registered to his brain. The cheers and music were muffled in his ears. Kei was slipping away, his reality was the sea that surrounded him and slowly drained his body of life. He wanted to reach out for the light that broke through the surface, he wanted to break free and breathe but he never escaped only slipped further to the pit of hell. No one was going to rescue him, no one was going to pull him to safety and he had no one to blame but himself. He cursed his uselessness, his hopelessness and he cursed his weakness. If he was smarter if he was stronger and if he wasn't an Omega this wouldn't have happened. He wouldn't be sitting in the carriage while the town people crowded the streets trying to get a glimpse of him.

 

The weight on his chest never eased, was he really drowning or was it just his imagination? It didn't matter anymore, either way, Kei would be dying soon. There will no longer be Tsukishima Kei, he will be no more than the wife of the crown prince. The horses halted and the carriage came to a bumpy stop, the cheers grew, his name was called out more and more and only the weight of a palm on his shoulder caught his attention. “Are you okay, Tsukki?” Yamaguchi’s voice was as shaky as ever, now more from worry than anxiety, but Kei didn't care as he uttered a usual, “Shut up, Yamaguchi.” To earn a smile from the freckled boy.

 

The door was pulled open, leaving the blonde with no option but to step out of safety and to the reality. The air was cold against his pale face, slapping his cheeks to a rosy color that contrasted against the yellow bruising around his eye and on his cheek. The sun shone down on him, the rays creating a halo over his golden locks and he looked almost ethereal, a princess stepping out of a fairytale in his maroon damask gown that hugged his waist and widened as it dropped to the ground with a train trailing behind him. Kei was grateful for the long sleeves that protected him from the cold, but he didn't feel the same sentiment to the diamond and ruby necklace that lay just above his collarbone. He hated everything he was wearing, being used to the usual attire that consisted of pants and a doublet the gown he was wearing was heavy, the weight of the diamonds sewn as a belt around his hips were restricting.

 

The young omega didn't miss the momentarily look of repulsion from his father before he looped his arm around the older man’s arm, leaning into him to take some of the weight off his own legs. He didn't care anymore, every step toward the church was heavy and slow more as a result of the weight of his reality than a load of his clothes. Silence fell and music started playing once they stepped into the grand hall and all eyes fell on him, studying him. Kei had no more energy to spare, even the act of drawing a smile on drained at his already non-existent energy and his lack of sleep finally caught up to him. For once in his life, he couldn't appreciate the sound of the music as the notes danced around them, filling the air with what felt like his death announcement. He would turn around and flee, but in his state, he wouldn't get far before he was dragged back to his execution.

 

The walk to where Kuroo was standing dragged on until the omega feared that it was a destination they'll never reach, anxiety ate at him, the voices in his mind whispered to him; telling him that this moment will never end, his torment won't ever stop and he almost stopped breathing when his arm was released, transferred into a much warmer and firmer grip.

 

Molten gold met with amber and green eyes, a reassuring smile was in the eyes of the man who squeezed his hand, reminding him silently that he was not alone, that Kei isn't going through this torment by himself and he hated how the air was easier to breathe and the voices have calmed down. He was no longer drowning and it was just because the raven standing next to him looked at him as if everything would be alright. Why? Why would he have such effect on him? Why did the younger boy feel so much safer at his side after everything he had done?

 

He didn't want to feel reassured. He didn't want to accept this wedding. He wanted to deny everything. But one look from Kuroo and all his anxiety, all his fear was shattered; leaving him with nothing.

 

They were kneeling while the priest started talking, the cushions underneath their knees protecting them from the hard surface of the ground underneath them. Kei didn't know when the time had passed, he didn't realize that it was finally time to seal his fate as Kuroo stood and pulled the blonde’s weight along with him as if he weight no more than a rag doll.

 

"I, Kuroo Tetsurou, take you, Tsukishima Kei, for my lawful wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part."

 

Kei wanted to choke on the words, he wanted to swallow his tongue, to not vow to leave this room and live his life freely, but he wasn't one to run away, as much as he wanted to. “I, Tsukishima Kei, take you, Kuroo Tetsurou, for my lawful husband, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and health, until death do us part.” These were lies, a beautiful lie that no one would believe not even himself, his voice was calm with no hint of the turmoil raging inside of him and the hate eating at him, but he accepted the lie as the ring glided to rest on his finger sealing his fate as the property of Prince Kuroo Tetsurou, Crown Prince of Nekoma.

 

Books and stories promised this day to be the best day of your life, it promised a future with your loved one, the person who'd love all of you, accept all of you and live with you through the bitter days of life. It was just a fairytale. Marriage was a political tool, used for dowries, alliances and to grow in status. The couple going into the marriage are the ones to pay the price. Kei wouldn't experience the love promised, he would always be an obstacle in the way of Kuroo who was in love of another. Nevertheless, neither of them flinched away as the priest announced the ending of the ritual, gently instructing them to seal it with a kiss. The blonde didn't move, didn't breathe, waiting for the touch of the raven’s lips against his to end before both of them turned to the cheers and claps of those who attended the wedding, witnessing the union between not two people but two nations.

 

.

.

 

Silence and peace, that's all that Kei wanted in the last couple of hours as he was forced to endure people flocking around them, nobles seeking their company with the excuse of congratulating them. It was as overwhelming as the tightness in his chest, the pain of drowning that never ceased. He wanted to be alone, to breathe and collect himself as much as he wanted to rip off the heavy dress that restricted him, wrapping around him like chains. He hated the whole scene, the whole day and all the traditions that bent their will.

 

There was one thing he was grateful for though, his friends. He appreciated their efforts of keeping Terushima of their backs. Kei watched him, studied, followed him with his gaze whenever the chance presented itself. The man was energetic, an extrovert and his smile never left his face even as he watched his lover, his court mate gets married to an omega. The younger blonde was aware that he is probably the perfect match for his 'husband'.

 

Where did that put him?

 

The night air was cold against his skin, still and unmoving, not harsh enough to slap him awake but it left its mark on him. Kei’s pale skin was slowly darkening, the blood rising to his cheeks to add color to his exhausted face. Sleep was finally seeping into his body, the events of the whole week now no longer registering to his sleep deprived brain. He wanted to sneak away, not just from the hall to the outside, but from the whole palace to find a place to sleep. He wanted the comfort of a bed and even a nest, but that wasn't an option, not when soon enough they'll be ushered away to be prepared for their bedding ceremony.

 

‘I can't do this.’

 

He wanted to open his lips and scream, to allow all his frustration to seep out, but he couldn't. Kei could deny it as much as he wanted, but he has a responsibility even as a second prince and marrying to be the next queen is better than being stuck with nothing more than the title of the second prince for the rest of his life. Nevertheless, he wanted to deny that fact, to pretend as if he had any choice in who he would marry even before he presented.

 

Footsteps echoed over the marble floors, confident and unwavering, but Kei didn't care, didn't turn around to see who it is. If it's someone else pretending to be happy for them and trying to congratulate them he'll just tell them off. He doesn't have any energy left for this charade.

 

“Kei-chan, isn't it cold here?”

 

“Not as cold as your soul, Oikawa-san” Oikawa gasped, sucking the air into his lungs loudly and earning a snicker from the blonde. “You are all so mean to me!” His voice was whiny if only for a moment before he moved to stand next to Kei, shifting against the railing that separated the veranda from the rest of the garden. “I didn’t take you as someone who’d need to escape the festivities, Oikawa-san?”

 

“I need to sober up before Iwa-chan realizes how much I’ve had to drink, I kept telling him that I was still at my fourth drink.” It was only after that sentence that Kei noticed the slight slur in Oikawa’s words, the unsteadiness in his legs as he shifted around. How did the prince manage to drink that much without his general and best friend noticing was beyond him. “What are you doing here, Kei-chan?”

 

“I needed to escape the scent of idiocy that fills the place, thank you for bringing it to me.” This time there was no whine or gasp, no reaction save for a small scoff that appeared for an instant. “For real though, how are you feeling?” The silence stretched around them, the younger only shrugging as an answer and the older waiting for a verbal confirmation. “I’m fine.”

 

Oikawa seemed at a loss for words, or more accurately he seemed to search for the right phrase when Akiture walked out of the palace doors, his molten eyes immediately falling on the figures standing under the moonlight, the only light reflecting against their skin is the orange hue coming from the door the crown prince just walked through. “Kei, it’s time to get changed.”

 

The muscles in his shoulders tensed, his heart skipped a beat and the unease was back into his eyes, but it was all momentarily, a fleeting gesture that the blonde hoped would go unnoticed. His scent was masked by more than enough perfumes that he was grateful for, something that would hide his emotions from slipping into his natural fragrance. No matter what he was feeling, he doesn’t want anyone to know about it. His unease, his pain, and his struggle were his to deal with.

 

“Oikawa-san, try drinking a glass of water, it should help you sober up. Please excuse me.” His voice was dry, monotone and detached, using the silence that settled after his words to slip after his brother, allowing the alpha to lead him away to the chambers where he would finally slip out of the dress he was wearing.

 

Kei allowed his mind to settle on nothing, to wander around, to watch the people around them as they chattered and laughed. It was a scene of festivities, the nobles celebrating the marriage of their prince to a prince from another nation. It was a political move that strengthens relations and it should be the first step to peace between the two kingdoms, but Kei didn’t believe that to happen. He learned to be a pessimist, to expect the worst, not to trust anyone and as long as his father is the one sitting on the throne once he finds a reason, he’ll strike and it’ll be the prince’s job to prepare for that case. 

 

They were standing in front of a door, Akiteru waiting for his younger brother to take the first step when he’s prepared. The bedding ceremony wasn’t a pleasant one and Kei would never be ready for it. At least they weren’t barbaric enough to stay and watch, just ridiculous enough to get them settled in bed. ‘As if they have any reason to consummate this marriage.’

 

The door was pushed open, giving the blonde room to walk in and note Yamaguchi already there waiting to help him get ready along with the crown prince. The thin night-shirt laid on the bed didn’t slip his attention, but he didn’t dare look at it, choosing instead to focus on the freckled dark haired boy who was taking slow, deliberate steps to stand behind the taller blonde and help him slip off the insufferable gown. “Kei, are you prepared? I mean you know what to expect right? You don’t have to be nervous though, I’m sure Kuroo isn’t going to be rough. He seems kind.” The words were leaving Akiteru’s lips in a nervous rush, the letters mixing together making it hard to understand, even as Kei tried to pretend not to hear, mumbling a quiet, “Niisan.” Which went ignored or unheard through the rush of words.

 

“Aki, shut up!” This time his voice was louder, the volume high enough to be heard over the nervous chatter and it got the desirable effect, silence falling over them filled only with the shuffling of clothes to fill it as the gown dropped to the ground, pooling around Kei’s legs. “I’m not having this conversation with you.” The sigh of relief was loud in the room, dragging a short chuckle from Yamaguchi who was still engrossed in his task of helping the blonde get dressed, but he was slow, much to Tsukishima’s dismay as the cold air slipping from the open window hit his naked skin harshly, a tremor going down his back. If his brother wasn’t moving around the room, the younger blonde would’ve snatched the shirt from the trembling hands of his retainer and pulled the material around himself. Of course, he didn’t, respecting his status and waiting with a fast running patience for the shorter raven to pull the cloth over his body, straightening in relief as his skin finally found shelter from the cold.

 

Kei didn’t resist as Akiteru pulled his wrist, running a crystal stick covered in the oily texture of a sweet smelling substance he can only assume is a perfume- over his skin. There was no longer small talk or important topics to discuss, only silence as he was being readied. The seconds seemed to drag on, every small step or action seemingly prolonged. It wasn’t as if he wanted the time to pass, but he wanted to get over with, once it was over, they’ll have nothing to worry about and the blonde would finally be able to relax, he’ll finally be able to breathe and the unease in his chest would drift away, knowing it all went smoothly, or as smoothly as possible.

 

“Are you ready to go now, Kei?” This time Akiteru didn’t sound nervous or rushed, his voice was gentle and the words were slow as if giving the younger a chance to process the meaning behind them and he hated it. He didn’t need to be babied, not now when he needed to be collected and strong, but he didn’t say anything, satisfied with just a nod of his head to deliver his answer. Akiteru took that as his cue, drawing on the happy smile that seems to never leave his face as he led the second prince to his bridal chamber.

 

The walk wasn’t long, the corridors were familiar as they walked. Kei didn’t dare think about what awaited him once they reach their destination, he understood enough to know that a crowd would have gathered, but instead he used the minutes to assure himself, to kill his nerves and remind himself that it was merely a political marriage, there was nothing to worry about as neither of them wanted it.

 

The first thing he noted as they stepped into the room was the foul stench of the alphas that crowded in, leaving no space for the presence of anyone else and it took all of Kei’s control not to double over and throw up. The omega in him screamed at him to escape, to run; this room is not safe, but it was beyond him as the gentle hand on his back pushed him, guiding him till he was standing next to Kuroo - his husband – in front of a priest.

 

The chatter that filled the chamber mere seconds ago died slowly, giving room to the priest to bless the newlywed couple and proceed to do the same to the bed with experienced movements. The pressure seemed to increase, the air felt heavy and the chants of the elderly man felt ominous to Kei’s ears, his heart lost its rhythm skipping a beat. He could feel gazes on him, causing him to shift his weight on his feet, but he allowed nothing to show on his face, his gaze uninterested and his lips pulled into a tight line.

 

The chants stopped, the priest walked away to stand next to the two kings and the muscles in Kei’s shoulders tensed, molten gold shifted to meet molten gold as Akiteru stepped in front of him, resting a gentle hand on his shoulder and prompting him to turn around and step into the bed. Kei opened his mouth to protest, catching his mistake and swallowing the words that were on the tip of his tongue. It should’ve been his father instead of his brother, as the man who gave him away at the altar, as the man who held the highest authority in their kingdom, but Kei was grateful it was his gentle brother. He knew it was another way of his to try and protect him and give him his blessing, so he eventually settled against the pillows on one side of the bed.

 

“The bride is stunning, but you should stop looking so stunned, Prince Kuroo.” It was that sentence that forced Kei to notice the situation they were in, the raven prince frozen in the same spot and not moving. Of course, he would look so stunned, he never wanted this, just as much as Kei didn’t want it. If anything, the prince probably dreaded it more. Anyone would’ve wanted to marry the person they love and this marriage ruined that for Tetsurou.

 

Laughter sounded around them and Kei could hear the familiar booming laugh of the raven as he joined the crowd, finally moving to shift on the other side of the bed. “What can I do? I’m a lucky man.” He knew Kuroo well enough to note the way his fingers brushed against his neck as he lied, his eyes darker in the candle light, studying the crowd before finally moving to study the servants who were pulling the curtains around the bed, bathing them in semi darkness.

 

“Get busy now, boys.” The words forced a wince past Kei’s lips, his body betraying him in retaliation to the vulgar sentence and he was glad for the laughter that muffled the sound. Kuroo’s eyes were burning a hole in the side of his face, but he opted to ignore it, shifting to lay down on his side, his back to the figure sharing the bed with him. He was still angry, still haven’t forgiven him for the events on his birthday and he was going to use that as an excuse to ignore him for the rest of the night. His eyelids felt heavy against his eyes, slowly drifting closed and before he knew it, his exhaustion took over and darkness engulfed him.

Chapter Text

His dream seemed foggy, the images blurry and far away, the sounds were low and the voices appeared muffled. The reality started to blend with the scenes that filled his mind, a voice uttering his name sounded far away, growing along with the vibration of shuffling clothes and moving objects until his name was pronounced clearly and loudly. "Tsukki!" It forced him out of the comforting dream and into the bright reality.

Kei’s eyes blinked open, his eyelids heavy and his vision unfocused, almost slipping back into unconsciousness when hands gripped his shoulders firmly and the world surrounding him started to rock; a figure was shaking him, the gesture rough to his unfocused senses, forcing him awake with a jolt. His eyes snapped open, his gaze resting on a blurry vision of salt and pepper hair, and tan skin. “Tsukki, wake up.” The voice that spoke was loud, the volume too high to be legal. Kei was grateful for the presence of the ever stoic Akaashi who started chastising the older male, instructing him to release his grip on the young prince. "You are making him uncomfortable, Bokuto-san."

Lean fingers were brushing against the soft sheets covering the bed, seeking his glasses. Kei's fingers wrapped around the frame, picking up the object to place it on the edge of his nose, his vision cleared instantly. The blonde wasn’t a morning person, always dreading waking up from his escape and facing the intrusion of his daily life. Being forced awake after long sleepless nights should've been a crime, and it put him in the worst mood; pushing his polite mannerism out of the window. “What the hell do you want, Bokuto?”

If either of the figures noticed his sour mood they didn't comment on it, the only alpha in the room moving back into Kei’s personal space to gaze at his face, his nose mere inches away from the others. The blonde’s heart dropped to his stomach at the proximity, his shoulders tensing. He was caged between the bed and Bokute with no chances to escape; it seemed like Akaashi had given up on stopping his betrothed from bothering the younger omega. “Tsukki, you need to get ready. We are all going out on a picnic.”

The lines on his face deepened, a scowl appearing on his face and the gold in his eyes seemed to freezes as annoyance started to circulate in his blood. Kei was one step away from pushing Bokuto off the bed and away from him. “I’d rather not. Especially, not with any of you.” One week ago, he would've hated the idea, but eventually, he’d have given in and went along with their plans. He enjoyed their company, to some extent. But now he wanted nothing to do with them. They were never his friends the were Kuroo’s; Kei knew he would never fully belong in their group. If anyone was going to get hurt, it would be him and because of that, he needed to keep them away, never allowing the distance between them to diminish.

A spark of guilt settled in the pit of his stomach, growing in an attempt to crush him but he pushed it back, ignoring the burning in his chest at the look of hurt that passed through the Alpha’s eyes. “Come on, it'll be fun. We’ll all be there.” This time the blonde opted to ignore the alpha, moving to try and slip out of the bed when piercing emerald eyes landed on him, pinning him in place. Akaashi was as perspective as Oikawa and Kenma. His eyes followed him, watched him, Kei couldn't help but feel as if he's being read, studied and observed. It took all of his self-control not to shudder under the gaze. As if Bokuto's presence wasn't enough.

“I don't feel like handling any idiocy today, so please leave.”

“No!” His voice was its usual high volume and Kei could already feel a headache building at the back of his head. He wanted to spend the rest of the day lazing in bed or playing music, neither of which included joining the loud bunch. “I'm not leaving until you get up and get ready.” The buff man's arms were crossed against his chest, his golden eyes shining with finality and determination, but to the blonde, he looked like a child throwing a tantrum.

Kei wanted to tug on the sheets and roll back underneath them, hide from the brightness that was Bokuto and his outrageous personality, but he was stuck facing the intruder that sat in front of him, holding the covers hostage under his weight. He didn't need to enter a tugging war with the owl like prince to know who is stronger. He needed to come at it from another angle, to play this game differently.

“Bokuto-san, are you my husband?” The words were spoken innocently, the sarcasm going unnoticed to the unsuspecting prince and it took all of Kei’s will not to laugh as Bokuto’s eyes shifted between him and Akaashi, studying them before eventually tilting it to the side. If Kei didn't know better he would've presumed the guy was an owl in disguise. “No? I'm Akaashi’s fiancé. Right, ‘Kaashi?”

“Yes, Bokuto-san.” The reply was as short and as monotone, as anyone would expect from the beauty, but he could feel the perspective gaze of the Nobel on him and Kei wouldn't be surprised if the older male already knew what he is planning.

“Aren’t you being unfaithful to Akaashi-san by sitting so close to me? And isn't improper to sit on a married couple bed, more so after their first night together? What would Kuroo-san think if he came in and saw us like this? I'll be charged with adultery and you'd lose your friend.” His voice was mocking now, his tone low and his eyes bright as horror slowly clouded Bokuto’s eyes, his face darkening and he jumped off the bed, turning to look at Akaashi. The older prince opened his mouth and closed it, repeating the motion; he looked like a fish out of the water. Kei was taking delight in it, the corner of his lips raised in a slight smirk.

Akaashi was smarter, albeit, raising his hand to brush his fingers across the prince's cheeks. There were no words exchanged, just eyes meeting as Bokuto’s shoulders fell, his muscles relaxed and the color was back to his face. “He’s messing with you, Bokuto-san. I'd say pull the sheets as revenge.” Kei didn't get the chance to react. Bokuto turned around and pulled the sheets off the bed, leaving Kei bare and vulnerable to the cold.

He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, noticing for the first time, how thirsty he was. The smirk was wiped off his face, his lips were pulled into a tight line as he moved to adjust his position, shifting to tuck his legs underneath him in an attempt to preserve some of the warmth. “I'm not going to go on any picnic. Please leave.”

“We aren't leaving until you agree to come with us.” The Prince was basically vibrating in his place, his feet shifting, moving against the rough floor. He looked like a bomb ready to explode and it was a scene that Kei didn't want to witness when he does pop. He could leave the room, find another hiding spot, but he doubted he'd even reach the door and he surely couldn't leave still dressed in his night shirt. Leaving would also provide the royal staff with the chance to check the sheets and he wanted to avoid that. It wasn't uncommon for people not to consummate the marriage on the first night, but it was dire for them as royalty and eventually, they'll be forced to do so. It was useless, but the younger prince wanted to hide that fact for as long as possible.

He could always ignore the figures standing next to his bed and that seemed the best move as he shifted to lay back down, his lids drifting closed to cover his eyes. There was no sound except for the music of breathing and it lasted for a couple of longs minutes, the rhythm lulling Kei back to sleep. The mattress dipped underneath him, his eyes snapped open, all concepts of rest flying out of his head. The scent of strawberries and oranges was captivating as it flooded his senses and Topaz eyes met with Emerald ones. He didn't know what to expect, but the gentle fingers brushing through his hair were beyond his expectations. Akaashi wasn't a physical or intimate person by nature and in the two years since they've first met, Kei was sure they never touched, they were both reserved and they were both similar in many aspects, thus the gesture left his shocked and breathless, eyes wide and expression fearful. He knew the noble was perspective and he knew he was being read like an open book. “The sooner you get out of bed, the sooner it'll happen and the faster it'll be over. People won't talk after a sole night, Tsukishima-Kun.”

“Don't touch me.” He finally found his voice, the shock melting into his blood and disappearing into his cells, Akaashi didn't seem to hear him, lean and pale fingers still combed through golden locks. They were so alike in personality, alike in gender, but their upcoming were as different as their looks.

Akaashi Keiji was the heir of a Duke, the sole heir. The Duke of Wingstone fell in love with his intended fiancé and their marriage was one which songs were written about. Then a child was born, a beautiful son that was accepted by his parents even after presenting as an omega. He was graceful and polite, fair skin, green eyes as beautiful as the grass after a rainy night and hair as dark as the night sky. He was the image of a perfect queen and the ideal Omega.

Kei was the complete opposite, he was unwanted, born as a spare to his brother; the sole person who loved him. There was no love in their home, not because his father was a king or his mother was a queen, but because it was a loveless marriage; arranged for power. He wasn't the product of love and he was rejected, thrown aside like a dirty rag. Kei was his mother’s son with golden hair and pale skin, but more so because of his cold detached heart. And maybe he'll be cruel like her after years in a loveless marriage. He was nothing like Akaashi whose mother was an omega, who was a perfect omega. He was raised as an alpha and he looked nothing like an omega. His husband would never love him the way Bokuto loved Akaashi; he had no redeeming qualities.

He reached with hesitant fingers to push Akaashi’s touch away, sitting up to move further down the bed and away from the other omega. He paid no attention to the older prince as he asked questions about what his fiancé meant, opting to ignore both of them. He'll pretend he doesn't understand what he meant with those words, ignore it all and focus on going back to sleep when strong hands gripped his shoulders and pulled him to sit. “Stop being stubborn, Tsukki!! We are only making everyone wait.” The blonde flinched as the voice sounded in his ear, piercing his senses both with his loudness and the scent of mint and pine leaves.

“Alright, I'll go, stop touching me.” Kei was grateful for being released, cursing Bokuto’s ignorance to personal space as he shifted into a more comfortable position, uninterested eyes searching the room before landing on the couple. “I need Yamaguchi to help me get dressed. So please leave.” There was a second of heavy silence where Akaashi and Bokuto shared a look. “Bokuto-san will leave, but I'll stay. If that's alright with you.”
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He could feel a vein throbbing in his skull, his eyes felt tired and his lids heavy. Kei wanted nothing but to slip back to sleep, but he was stuck under the watchful eyes of Keiji. A maid has already gone to inform his retainer that he was awake and ready to start his day, all they had to do was wait for the freckled boy to come with his clothes. The waiting was over before he knew and he cursed his luck under his breath. If only he took much longer, gave the blonde more time to prepare for the company of Kuroo’s friends. For the company of his friends.

The door was pushed open enough for Yamaguchi to step in followed by a male in his forties with a dark beard filled with white strands and black piercing eyes; the Chamberlain, Earl Fujii. Kei could already feel his muscles tense as the male stepped in front of the bed and bowed then turned his attention to Akaashi who was seated on a chair across of the bed and extended the same courtesy. The blonde could already feel his throat tightening as the fierce gaze of the lord rested on him. “Pardon the intrusion, Your Highness. I'm here to inspect the sheets.”

Kei didn't know if the color drained from his face or if the blood rushed to his cheeks and nose. He was positive his expression was unpleasant and his face was burning. “It can wait till I'm gone, can it not, my lord?” To his satisfaction his voice didn't break, holding the same authoritative tone he grew up using while managing to sound uninterested. “I fear that it cannot, your highness.”

He bit the inside of his cheek, eyes darkening as the tightness in his throat grew, extending to his chest. The blonde opted to ignore the elder, motioning for Yamaguchi to step closer with his clothes as he moved to slip off the bed and stand on his feet. “Can't you see that I'm about to get dressed? Leave.” He was gentle with his command, standing there as he waited for the Chamberlain to leave, but the man didn't move. “Did you not hear me?”

“I apologize, Your Highness, but it needs to be done, immediately.” Kei didn't need to shift his body to look down at the man, his eyes cold and uninterested as he moved to sit on the chair opposite of the raven. “Hurry up, it's cold.”

The sigh was stuck in his throat, eyes fixed on the ground while his fingers worked on each other, tugging and linking in a nervous mess. Kei wasn't aware of the motion until he heard Akaashi whisper. “It’ll be alright, Tsukishima-kun.” No words left his mouth, forcing his protest back. He wanted to voice out his thoughts, explain to the quiet figure that nothing is ever alright, but decided against it, closing his eyes and leaning back into the chair. His fingers were linked together, knuckles tight and the blonde focused on the sound of shuffling of the sheets. He could already tell that it's going to be a long day.

“It's done, your highness.” His lips drifted open, eyes landing on the man that was kneeling in front of him, Kei’s lips parted, ready to dismiss him when the former spoke. “Forgive me, but it seems like nothing happened.” He bit his tongue, shifting his gaze from the elder to Keiji and back again. He could feel the heat rising to his neck and ears. “It doesn't concern you, does it? Now if you are done, leave.” His voice was higher than usual, the blood burning in his veins. Why was he the one dealing with this? Where was Kuroo?

The elder opened his mouth, ready to speak again when Kei stood up, towering over him. The annoyance was evident in the glitter of his eyes, moving to stand in front of Yamaguchi. “If you have something to say, speak to your prince. Now leave, I won't repeat myself a third time.”

Kei didn't miss the way his eyes twitched and lips pulled into a tight line as he straightened and stepped out of the door. He wasn't oblivious to the fact that the royal household staff wasn't pleased with him. As nobility seeking power he stole their chance of joining the royal family by marrying their prince and this incident would probably put him on the Chamberlain's radar. He made a mental note to stay alert, as a royal prince the blonde wasn't oblivious to the threat to his life, but even after sixteen years of being in constant danger, he was still cautious and now he was on higher alert, more so than ever. Kei was in a foreign kingdom and the political game left him with no one to trust, especially, as the future queen.

“Akaashi-San, I don't believe you'd allow me to skip on your picnic after this scene?” Yamaguchi was already moving to tug the nightshirt off, pulling the strings at the chest that held it closed to allow it to drop on the floor and pool around Kei's bare feet. A tremor went through his back as his skin was left vulnerable to the cold air, a frown adorning his face. The muscles in his arms twitched, begging him to cover his body, but he left them still at his side, his gaze following Yamaguchi as he handed a waiting servant the nightshirt and picked up his outfit of the day. “No, Tsukishima-Kun, you need to get out of this castle. Get some fresh air.”

His fingers clenched together in a fist, his tongue clicked against the roof of his mouth, the sound muffled as a cream undershirt was pulled over his head, followed by brown leather trousers. The warmth that covered his body was instant, relaxing his tense shoulders, but his eyes never left the floor, even as the older male in the room spoke. “It'll do you good, to be away from this atmosphere, everyone can tell you need the break.”

His laughter was sarcastic, his lungs felt even tighter in his chest if that was possible. “And you think spending time with Dumb and Dumber and their minions would help me relax, Akaashi-San?” There was no gentleness in his tone, his eyes finally landing on the shorter male still seated and a smirk had replaced the frown. The glint in his eyes couldn't be mistaken, the contempt and arrogance present in the way he stood and the air that surrounded him. He wasn't going to cut any shortcuts to get out of this, even if it meant putting on the act that he mastered from a younger age; to look down at everyone, even when he felt worthless.

It wasn't Akaashi that spook, but the freckled boy, his burning eyes met the golden ones of Kei and the later almost flinched. “Won't you cut it out, Tsukki? How far are you going to take this? Stop pretending and acting as if you are alright. Stop pushing people away. They… we all worry about you, care about you, but we can't help you if you keep acting like this. We all want to be there for you, but you won't let anyone in, won't let anyone get close and it's gotten worse since your birthday. Stop pretending as if you don't consider us your friends and let us help you because you are our friends and we are done seeing you suffer by yourself.” His voice was high, his words piercing Tsukishima until he thought his walls would crumble, but he stood his ground, watching Yamaguchi pant and try to collect his breath.

There was silence for long minutes, no one daring to speak as if giving the blonde a chance to process all that had been said and he knew it was on him to break the tense atmosphere that settled over them. “And here I thought the son of Earl Yamaguchi was spineless, but what happens when you have to choose between Kuroo-san and me?”

His fingers were back at it, tugging and entwining together and Kei shifted his gaze to look at the silent raven, directing his next question to him. “You are going back to your own kingdoms in a couple of days. Too much for wanting to be here for me.” His tone couldn't be mistaken, his shoulders were hunched as if his body was automatically trying to shield him from any mental blow that he could receive. The blond didn't notice when Yamaguchi exchanged a look with Akaashi, but he couldn't miss the way the later started talking. “Fukurodai is a five days trip, we can come back if there is ever a need. The important matter is there will never be a choice to make between you and Kuroo-san.”

The laughter that bubbled past his lips sounded off to his eyes, his fingers were steady - as opposed to what he felt - as he reached for the doublet that the shorter freckled boy was holding. “Of course.” There was no hesitation in his words, pulling the piece of clothing out of Yamaguchi’s hold to slip it on with hurried movements. He wanted to get out of this room, away from their watchful eyes.

“Tsukishima-kun, there is no choice because none of us would ever choose between the two of you. You are both our friends.” Kei’s movements stilled, the words spoken sounded alien to his brain, the world was spinning as if changing axis and it was Yamaguchi that snapped him back to reality by pulling the rest of the doublet on and adjusting it on the blonde’s shoulders. His voice was quiet again, but it still wasn't it's usual hesitant tone. “I told you, Tsukki, we are your friends.”

He didn't know what to say, how to reply, there were no words he could speak and he was grateful for the knock that interrupted his jumbled thoughts. Salt and pepper hair peeked through the open door, a grin on Bokuto’s face as he looked at the figures standing in the room. “Tsukki, you are dressed. Hey, hey, hey!”

Akaashi was the first to move, standing up from his seat and walking to his hyper fiancé as he celebrated at his spot, vibrating with the excitement he felt. “Let's go!” The blonde could swear his ears started bleeding at the loud tone. “Just a minute, Bokuto-San. We’ll be done then and we’ll be right behind you.”

The alpha was ready to protest, but Akaashi was one step ahead, mumbling words that didn't get carried to their ears before they walked out of the room, Yamaguchi already moving to close his doublet. The conversation from earlier was already circulating in his mind, his brain analyzing every word that was spoken and Kei was already clinging to the confession. It won't be easy to change, to fully accept people, but it'll be easier to fight his insecurities. His demons won't disappear, yet they won't consume him.

 

Chapter Text

The tension seeped out of his muscles, his shoulders relaxing as fresh air surrounded him, yet he didn't dare loosen his grip on the horse's rein. They were right, as much as Kei wanted to deny it, he needed to step out of the contaminated environment of the castle. As he did, his worries didn't vanish, but they melted away and the fog in his mind cleared.

The blonde didn't know what to expect once they get to the outing spot, but reality didn't allow for happy endings and he no longer believed in them. He wanted to trust in Yamaguchi's words that kept playing in his head, to trust the promises they made, to leave his tears dry and unshed. As if he'll cry, the last time he allowed himself that luxury was after he first presented and it was his weakened sense that allowed it, he was no longer the fourteen years old.

Once upon a time, he believed himself to be dependent, then he presented and learned the bitter truth. Two years in a foreign country shaped him, there is a monster that resides inside of him, slowly growing, feeding off him and consuming him and Kei knows that one day, he won't exist. One day, only the ache of not belonging, only the demon of abandonment would remain and he'll be forgotten, with no legacy; thrown away, just like he was tossed into the unknown two years ago.

The noises that were wrapped around him earlier started to diminish until the bubble caging him in his thoughts popped and he was forced to pull at the leather in his hand and tug until the beauty he was mounting came to a stop. The young prince didn't bother to speak, turning his lazy eyes to rest on his companions. Akaashi no longer had his arms wrapped around Bokuto’s waist, his figure hidden behind the wall of muscles that was his fiancé.

It didn't take long for Koutarou to explode, his whole body vibrating where he was seated and his loud voice carried out clearly throughout the scenery around them, mixing with the tweeting of birds and the rustle of leaves as air swept past trees and plants. Not even the energy radiating from him could destroy the magnificence of the nature that surrounded them. “It's right through that path. Everything should be ready there. Let's go. Hey, hey, hey!”

Kei’s fingers were brushing through the platinum mane covering the stallion, his eyes never shifted as he watched the way light reflected against the strands, Asu looked like a mystical creature, surrounded by greenery. It was a scene worth painting as Kei looked ethereal on top of the horse, a bud of a smile forming on his face. He belonged there, under the trees and in the open space with the sun glowing in the sky.

“What Bokuto-San means, is that the others should be already waiting for us, Tsukishima-kun.” The blonde ripped his gaze away from his horse to look at Akaashi who was peeking from behind Bokuto. The curls crowning his hair were pitch black under the shadows cast by the trees, the green of his eyes darkening to look like two dark tumbled green goldstone.

“You can go ahead. I'll be right behind you.” The blonde’s voice was no more than a whisper, but it was loud enough in the calm of nature, the wind carrying his words like a song. There were no more worries in his head, no anxieties, and no insecurities. Kei’s only thoughts were of the cool air against his skin and the warmth of the horse. He had no plans of turning back and finding his way to the castle, but he looked forward to the promise of a nap under the wide sky and in the embrace of a tree.

His plans were buried before they found sunlight as Bokuto shook his head, correcting his posture on the horse and shifted to grip the dropped the leather of the rein. Kei was too immersed in the promise of a calm time to notice the way the older prince started guiding his mount through a path of trees. “What do you think you are doing, Bokuto-San?”

“You are supposed to be smart, Tsukki. I'm taking us to where the others are.” The tension was slowly seeping back into his muscles, but Bokuto’s innocent way of speaking left him empty with nothing to feed his anger. The raven seemed to notice that, his lips curling slightly at the blonde’s discomfort while his arms found their way back around the wide waist of his betrothed. “We know you'd rather be alone. Kuroo-San is always mentioning how you enjoy being outside with a book or for a nap, but your safety is our responsibility, Tsukishima-kun and as allies of Nekoma we cannot put the future queen in danger. I apologize, but please bear with us.”

The apology was stated calmly. It made sense, of course, it did. Yet Kei didn't want to accept it. It caused his blood to start boiling. They were speaking about being his friends earlier, but this statement made it seem as if he was no more than Kuroo’s wife. He was grateful for the rhythmic movement of the horse underneath him, rocking him as if a mother rocking her child. He understood what Keiji meant, where he was coming from, but he wished it was different. If only their status could disappear. If only they could be nothing more than normal people even if just for the day.

His thoughts stilled as the crystal surface came into view, the sun reflecting diamonds over the sea and a small smile tugged at the corner of his lips. The anger that was slowly growing in the pit of his stomach shattered, the tranquility replacing it. “Yoo-hoo, Kei-chan, you came.” The blonde didn't move his gaze from the blue surface that spread in front of him, mesmerized by the beauty of it. He always wanted to see this, to look upon the spread surface of the water in person and not through a painting and now that he'd seen it, he was beyond himself. Nothing could ruin this day for him.

An arm came to rest on his shoulder, the owner of the arm shorter than him and the position awkward as the blonde shifted his mesmerized gaze to look at Oikawa who was stuck to his side, his usual charming smile spread across his face. He was glowing under the streaming sunlight, eyes radiating with mischief. “Don't ignore me, Kei-chan.” The wind carried the notes of his voice, the whine clear in the blonde’s ears as he shrugged off the touch, stepping to the side and out of reach. “I'm sorry, Oikawa-San. Do you feel ignored?”

“Yes.” The reply was immediate, his voice growing louder in his excited daze, victory in his grasp and Kei couldn't hold back the smirk that twitched at his lips. “Good. That was the point.” His tone didn't change, but his interest was evident in the glow of his topaz eyes and it only grew as the older omega turned to look at his best friend, a frown on his face. “Iwa-chan, Kei-chan is being mean to me, again.”

Iwaizumi was in the midst of laughter, the sound loud and rough, matching his personality and Kei couldn’t resist the smirk that appeared on his face as Oikawa’s face fell, his eyes darkening with his emotions and he stomped his way to his best friend, his feet hitting the ground with a thud and causing clouds of dust and sand to form behind him. He looked like a spoiled child and it wasn’t a rare sight, but it never failed to frighten the blonde. It was a reminder that his true nature was hidden and only when he sets his mind on something, does it show. He was a force to be reckoned with, an omega prince who swayed and charmed his way to regain his right as the heir; a right, he lost when he presented. Oikawa Tooru is set to be the first omega ruler of his nation. That fact alone was enough for him to never underestimate the brunette. One day, he’ll be a formidable ally and a ruler to be wary of.

Kei watched as Iwaizumi’s palm landed with a smack to the back of the Omega’s head, a breathless whine reached his ears, but their conversation was hushed, their words exchanged in whispered words and silent looks. His chest squeezed at the sight, the smirk slipping off his face and his stoic, uninterested appearance was back. What was he doing here? He wanted to be alone, to close his eyes and feel the wind brush against his skin. “Where’s Kuroo?”

Oikawa and Iwaizumi’s whispers stopped, their movement in sync as their attention shifted to the speaker. Mismatched blonde hair and black roots came into view, Kenma’s shorter frame shifted from where he was sitting on one of the cushions placed on the ground. The young beta looked uninterested, bored with no games to keep him occupied and it was no wonder he was seeking his childhood friend. “He went to fetch Terushima.” The tone of the speaker was enthusiastic, the words uttered with no care to the sequence and the temperature seemed to drop more, silence fell like snow around them. Kei could feel the laughter bubbling past his lips, molten gold freezing in his eyes and the cold settled in his chest. He was such a fool.

Kei turned around, his back to the group behind him and his gaze lingered, once again, on the crystal surface, golden eyes watching with longing. What would it feel like to ignore them and go there, to feel the water under his fingertips, to walk into it and see how far he can go before the water surrounded him entirely? Would it feel different than a hot bath?

The blonde would bet that whatever he experienced near the water wouldn’t feel as suffocating as he felt now, knowing where his ‘husband’ was. His feet started moving, one limp after the other, but his gaze never left its goal until he felt more than saw his body collide with a foreign object. Kei shifted his gaze, his wince swollen as he met the darkest orbs he’s ever seen and he was sucked into the black holes that were Iwaizumi’s eyes. “Sorry.” The word was mumbled, rough hands rested on his shoulder, fingers gently held him in place and he felt trapped.

It was déjà vu, a reminder of the night he was introduced to Kuroo’s lover and he knew that in both cases the couple was trying to protect him, from what? He didn’t know. He didn’t need protection, so why did they feel like he did. “Listen, we know you don’t want to see him, but it wouldn’t hurt to stick around.”

His lips parted, ready to speak his objection, a snide remark on the tip of his tongue when Oikawa stepped into his field of vision, slinging a tall arm around Iwaizumi’s board shoulder. He looked natural there, as if he belonged next to the shorter man and it forced Kei’s to swallow the words back. He wanted this, to belong, to be close to someone. He wanted friends and family. He didn’t deserve it, though, did he? What did he do to earn such a grand gift? He was just another asshole who pushed people away, it won’t be easy to allow them in now, and not when he didn’t trust them to stay.

 

‘Stop pretending and acting as if you are alright. Stop pushing people away. They… We all worry about you, care about you.’

The words were screamed in his head, the memory vivid in his mind and the words Yamaguchi spoke a mere hour ago were clear to him. Would it pay to trust them? Would it pay to let them in? It was a thought that ate at him, and it frightened him more than death. He wouldn’t be able to handle being betrayed again. The wound was still bleeding, he could see the blood leaking from his chest every time he looked down at his body. He wanted the wound to heal, but it never will and he wouldn’t be able to live with another betrayal inflected wound. Does he tell them this? Does he explain?

“Stop overthinking, Kei-chan.” He never heard Oikawa’s voice like this before, the tone was low enough that only he and Iwaizumi could hear, but it held a tone that couldn’t be ignored. “Sometimes it is best to just act. Stay and stop Tetsu-chan and Yuu-chan’s presence from controlling you.”

The warmth of Iwaizumi’s touch on his shoulders was gone, the cold air replacing it. Kei could feel everyone watching him, anticipating his reaction and all he could do was avert his gaze. “So it is alright for me to abandon my pride, when you would rather die than talk to prince Ushijima because of that same pride, Oikawa-san?” He didn’t need to look at the older omega to see the snarl directed at him, to feel the anger that started to burn and the fire that he so stupidly fed. Why couldn’t he just accept it all?

Strong fingers tightened around his collar, pulling him down to meet the chocolate of Oikawa’s eyes. He could see the fire burning in them, the way the dark brown of his eyes looked brighter and it wasn’t because of the sun that reflected in them. “Because my situation with Ushiwaka is the same as yours with Tetsu-chan? When would you understand that if you keep this up you’ll be left with no one? Look around you, Tsukishima, you have friends, but you keep pushing them away.” He knew. He was aware of that fact, he knew it better than any of them. Kei understood the consequences of his actions, of his words, of his fears.

“I was forced to accept all of this, this marriage, his presence and the way he forces people to like him. He forced me to like him, Oikawa-san, to trust him as not just a political tool, but as a friend. I thought I could believe in him and then he pulled that stunt. I don’t want to have anything to do with his lover and he ruined it; it was the one thing I had a say over and he took that from me. And all of you are that alpha’s friends.” It was all whispered, spoken so softly that Kei believed he was speaking to himself. Why was he saying all of this? He blamed it on the way Oikawa’s gaze disarmed him and left him naked, to the way his words resonated so deep within him. He needed him to understand, that it hurts beyond what they think they knew, that it’ll be better once he is left alone. “He is so kind but so cruel. I don’t want to feel this way anymore, I do not wish to see them together, and I do not wish to be anywhere near his lover.” The memory of Kuroo’s eyes as he looked at Terushima was burning behind his eyes and his voice dropped even lower. Kei was face to face with Oikawa and Iwaizumi had stepped back, his scent fading as he walked away from them, giving some space and privacy.

A shadow of realization settled in Oikawa’s eyes, the chocolate looked darker and the fire of anger started to fade. The older omega was looking at him with a look of understanding. He was ready to speak and Kei felt the weight on his shoulders grow until he swore he was going to kneel under it. Whatever he had to say, the blonde knew it was dangerous and he didn’t need to hear it. “What did we miss?” The grin was unmistakable in the familiar voice and Kei was grateful for the interruption, even as he saw from the corner of his eyes the shadow of blonde hair next to the raven head.

“We’ll talk later, Kei-chan. Now stay, there are fresh strawberries and I hear they are to die for.” The lightness in his voice was back, but the twitch of frustration didn’t escape the blonde’s attention as Oikawa released his collar, turning his attention to the newcomers and giving Kei the chance to straighten back to his full height. “We’ll talk later, Kei-chan.” It was his last sentence before he strolled to the group, leaving the blonde with an empty chest and burning eyes.

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The cushion underneath his was welcomed, the comfort much needed and sought as the conversations around him seemed to fade away, his focus shifting to the dancing leaves of the trees above them. Kei loved it, but a sense of dread replaced the blood in his veins as his gaze shifted upward, seeking the open sky, only to be met with an unwelcoming cloth. He understood what it meant when they mentioned a picnic, they were all nobility after all; comfort surrounded them wherever they went, but he didn’t appreciate the tent that hid the welcoming space that connects all living beings. Instead of comfortable seating arrangements and servants to dot on them, he wanted an open area with no barriers and peace, to forget all about his birthing and status, to feel free and normal. What was the point of going out if they were going to replace the palace walls with tent walls?

His line of thoughts was interrupted as a plate of fresh red strawberries was placed in the open space between the group. The fruit skin was shining with the water they were just washed with, and the red color was calling to him. Oikawa did mention strawberries, didn’t he? Kei was fast as he shifted his long limbs to pick up the bowl and pull in into his lap, taking the fruits hostage. They made him join in, restricted his movements and hid the sky he loved so much and for that, he wouldn’t share.

“Come on, Tsukki, don’t be like that.” It was Kuroo that spoke first, his words playful and his smile sly as he shifted the arm from around Terushima’s shoulders to try and reach for the bowl that Kei was faster to hold over his head. “Did you want some, Kuroo-san?” His tone was challenging, not the usual sarcastic volume but a provocative one, mimicking the alpha’s usual tone.

“You need to share those.” The older male seemed to be smarter though, not falling for his own trick, trying to turn the tables on the blonde instead. “I know how to share, Kuroo-san. I’m sharing you with Terushima, aren’t I?” Any playfulness was gone, the bowl was back in his lap and his fingers found a piece and brought it to his lips for a bite. He allowed for the sweetness to wash away any of the feelings that were smoking him, the juices that filled his mouth and coated his tongue stole his attention, but it didn’t slip him how the gold in Kuroo’s eyes darkened until his eyes looked almost black in the shade from the tent. He wouldn’t have been surprised if his husband punched him then.

“I can’t have either of you miss on the art that is my hair, so you are the one benefiting from this arrangement.” The shadow of anger that flashed across his face was amiss from his voice, his words light and almost teasing. Kei expected him to react by throwing a fit, not retaliating. He didn’t expect the situation to be downplayed.

“Kuroo-san, it’s your hair that is blessed. No one else would be able to look at it every day and not commit suicide.” His words were dripping with sarcasm, his teeth nibbling on another piece of fruit held by one hand while the other slapped Bokuto’s fingers as he tried to take a piece. “Tsukishima-sama is correct, your hair looks like a bird's nest, and we can use it to hunt birds when we go hunting.” Even Kei couldn’t hold back a laugh at Terushima’s joke, even if it was only short lived and he swallowed it back. The gentle tone wasn’t a miss between the playful one. “Hey, you should be on my side.”

“Your side, not your hair’s.”
“One would be insane to be on the side of that natural hazard.”

Their gazes met, gold and almond colored orbs, silence falling over them as they spoke at the same time and Kei couldn’t help but raise a brow at that. The anger that Kei was feeling earlier was a back thought as he studied the blonde hair and the earrings of the noble who sat across of him, his shoulders touching Kuroo’s. He remembered snips and pieces from his conversations earlier; talks that Kei decided to stay out. He was playful and fun, throwing jokes at everything. He was the opposite of the blonde who was sarcastic and rude and he hated that as time passed, his anger was dying away. He wanted to hate him, but it would be impossible if he got to know him. Surely, he wouldn’t mind someone who had enough sense and taste to joke about Kuroo’s hair.

‘Why was everything changing?’

The weight of the bowl in his lap was gone and a gasp sounded past his lips as his gaze shifted between the empty space the bowl previously occupied and the culprit with the earrings. Maybe it wouldn’t be too impossible to not like him, after all. “Give that back.” His tongue was calm, but the gold in his eyes was not, rising to his feet and standing taller than any member of their group. A flash of silver caught his eyes, a tongue was stuck out and the piercing couldn’t be missed before Terushima took off, running away with the bowl.

“What did I do to deserve all of this?” It was a quiet mumble that left the younger omega’s lips before he took off, kicking dust behind him as he tried to catch up with his husband’s lover. Kuroo didn’t matter, his fears and thoughts didn’t matter. In that moment, Kei had one objective; retrieve the strawberries and deny anyone else a share of the treat.


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The night sky was dark, the moon a small crescent that left the land underneath it in darkness, with no light, but that of candles and the illumination of the many stars that covered the blue carpet. It was a clear beautiful night and in the darkness of the early days of the month, the stars shone even brighter, the sky looked even more striking and any azure lover was left in awe.

His steps were confident as he walked into the room, his body starved for rest and sleep after a draining day out in nature and a sleepless night, one where he couldn’t close his eyes without seeing the love of his life in bed with someone else; an omega. They might both want it, to be together, to get married and bond, but as heirs, it was an impossible dream. They have responsibilities to their households and in turn to father heirs. An omega such as the one he spent time with today was the perfect fit for his bedhead lover; both in status and in gender. It didn’t mean he stopped wishing it was him, it didn’t mean he didn’t envy the blonde for the freedom to marry the alpha.

The state of his chambers as he walked in left his thoughts in gambles, a growl sounded past his lips. A massacre has occurred in his room and the young Alpha wasn’t there to stop it. Papers were in tatters and shreds, the pieces covered the floor. His quill was broken into two halves, each half in a different spot and the bottle of ink was tipped over, the dark liquid covering the wooden desk and dripping on the solid ground underneath. What awoke his inner beast was the empty box on the floor, broken and empty, the letters that were stored in gone.

His hand was at his side, ready to pull his sword and strike whoever dared step into his room. “Are you trying to destroy this family?” The familiar voice stroked his alpha, calming the beast down so his nose was able to pick out the scent of alcohol and peppers. It was his father and the alpha’s senses started to seep back into his veins, the growl of his alpha subsiding to the back of his mind and realization slowly crept up his back, leaving him speechless.

“You are in an affair with another alpha? A prince to be more specific. Do you wish to be hanged? If you are found out, ruin will follow this family.” His voice was its usual high pitch, fear and paranoia evident in the tone and he couldn’t surpass the snort that escaped him.

“You think this is funny?”

“No, but there is nothing to fear. He’s married and I’ll be married soon anyway. An affair will be looked over, neither of us is an omega or a female for it to cause any disturbance. Now if you’ll excuse me, father, I’ll find a servant to clean this mess.” The young alpha turned around, his steps fast and he walked out of the room, leaving his father standing there, surrounded by shredded papers and broken mess. “What about when his omega finds out? A queen will not allow it pass.” The words fell on deaf ears, the reply left unspoken. 'He already knows.'

Chapter Text

The door clicked closed behind him, creating a barrier to separate him from the hypocrisy and lies that manifested in the people surrounding him. He could read the envy and hatred in their eyes as they gazed upon him, could feel the disgust as they sat with him, all while they smiled and laughed, bathing him with compliments that left him empty. It was a toxic atmosphere, the air was heavy and the minutes would drag out till he wished for any interruption. Those people, the strangers and residents of the court were predators and one misstep would lead to his demise.


Eyelids drifted down, covering his topaz eyes and allowing the empty blankness to fill the space around him. Kei was tense, his shoulders were hunched and his fingers tightened in a fist while he gave himself moments to calm down, to allow the uninterested persona to take over once more. He was growing uneasy as the days passed, his instincts screamed at him to run, to escape and find safety and the environment of the court didn’t help to ease his fears. It had been two months since the last guest of the wedding departed, Akiteru had stuck around as long as he could after the wedding, but as the Crown Prince of another nation, he eventually retired, leaving his younger brother to defend himself, feeling more alone than when he was abandoned two years ago.


‘It’s probably because my heat is growing closer.’ This sentence has become his new mantra, the words would be thought at every step as if to force the blonde to believe them and eventually, he started to believe it. Soon enough, he’ll need to seek peace in a nest and that was all a result of him embedding heat. Kei’s eyes snapped open, taking in the room that spread in front of him, the space that he shares with his husband. How are they going to handle his heat? An alpha with an Omega in the same room was a disaster waiting to happen. They needed to discuss it, to find a solution before the worst came to pass and they were left in shatters.


‘Am I going to spend the rest of my life like this? Worried for my safety during my heat?’ It was a thought that started to surface since he was introduced to Terushima; a fear that was embedded deep within him and Kei could feel the weight of the thoughts grow on his shoulders. He’ll never be claimed by his husband, he’ll never bond with someone, not after he saw the way Kuroo looked at his lover. He had taken his place, he didn’t belong here and eventually, he’ll be the one to pay that price. Would the price be his head or his pride? He didn’t know. He didn’t care, either. Not about people talking. Not about spending the rest of his life alone, it was better than dying, wasn’t it? And he didn’t want to be like all other omegas, raised and taught to be submissive, to be no more than a mother to a prince. As much as he thought that, he couldn’t deny the squeeze in his chest whenever his thoughts slipped in that direction.


His steps were slow, his body felt heavy as he made his way to the bed. His fingers were already at the collar of his doublet, loosening it and bringing the undershirt into view. Kei was exhausted and a nap sounded heavenly after waking early to sit for hours with nobles who had nothing better to do than gossip. The sound of rubbing interrupted his line of thoughts, his gaze instantly jumping to the direction of the noise to rest on a serpent with vibrant green, blue and orange scales.


Kei could feel his heart dropping into the pit of his stomach, his throat and mouth going dry and his topaz gaze followed the movement of the creature as it slithered its way towards him. It was a species that he’s never seen before, nor have he learned about it and that forced unease and dread to travel through his veins. The blonde took a step back, careful not to agitate the creature. He was dimly searching through his memories, recalling his studies about the animal, but his thumping heart left him with no option but to take another step back.


“Calm down and think.” His voice was whispered, but it was steady enough to calm his frightened heart and look around the room, to observe the situation. The snake had his mouth open as it inched closer and Kei was trapped against the chair with nothing to use if it decided to strike him. His seeking hands came to rest on Kuroo’s sword, the item left unattended on the chair next to the blonde. It was the only weapon left for him to defend himself with, but he didn’t trust himself enough to strike before the snake felt threatened and attacked him, not when it had its mouth wide open and it looked ready to strike. Could he use it as a barrier in case it tried to reach him?


“Don’t overthink this.” Speaking out loud was proving to help him plan his next move, to calm down and not panic in the face of the threat. Kei’s fingers tightened around the sword handle, picking the item up and feeling the familiar weight as he held it out. It’s been so long since he last held a sword, but it was something that he could never forget, not after all the years of training he went through, not after the last time he trained with Kuroo. It was something ingrained into his muscles, omega or not, he was taught to defend himself with such weapon and he’ll do so.


The serpent’s mouth parted even more, a hissing sound leaving him and now with the sun shining through the window the fangs were clear to the blonde, a drop of liquid dripped from one of the pairs and in that same instant a drop of sweat travelled down the blonde’s back causing goose bumps to travel across his skin as he leaned down and forced the sword with the scabbard down the snake’s throat and all the way to the hilt, twisting it around and raising it in the air to render the creature immobile.
His shoulders dropped, his muscles ready to give in but he pushed himself to straighten and take fast steps to the bed, pulling the white sheets of the mattress and wrap it around the scaly body of the animal attached the sword before dropping it to the floor.


A moment of silence passed, his body frozen and his breath was stuck in his throat before his feet collapsed underneath him, sinking to the floor with uncontrollable movements. It took Kei a few more seconds to realize that his whole body was trembling, the tremors taking over him. The covered serpent was left discarded next to him while the omega tried to regain his control.


The sour scent of distress was leaking from his body, covering the room in a transparent cloud that drove the omega inside of him into a frenzy. Kei wanted to get up, to stand and flee the room, to seek safety somewhere else, but his body refused to obey him. His worries were no longer just useless thoughts, his fears had slipped into reality and he could've died. It was no coincidence that such hostile and dangerous creature had found its way into their bedchambers, but who did it?


The memory of the serpent flashed into his eyes, a broken breath leaving his lips. Nekoma and Karasuno were neighboring kingdoms and in a sense, they shared similar wildlife, but the snake looked foreign, unknown to his memory. If his assumptions were correct, then it must be someone of considerable power who planted it, but who could it be? Anyone in court could be after his life, and at this point, he was left friendless, with no one to trust. ‘What should I do?’ His back pressed against the wall, his options limited as he was surrounded by people who hated him and others who wanted to replace him. Investigating this would be difficult with no allies, especially as his actions were being monitored closely by the residents of the court.


A knock sounded against the door, the person on the other side not waiting before pushing the door open and peeking inside, a frown instantly graced the face of the Queen’s face as she took into the scene in front of her and the scent that hovered over the area. “Kei-kun, are you okay?” The blonde was robbed of the chance to collect himself as the female omega closed the door and rushed to his side, kneeling next to him before taking his face between her hands.


Emerald eyes bore into him, her vision followed his movements before her scent wrapped around him and Kei was transferred to a peach field, the sun was warm against his skin as it shone down on him. How could someone be so gracious, so gentle without even trying? Kuroo Aoi broke his walls and left him defenseless. Perhaps he isn't as alone as he believed himself to be. Could he trust the woman who felt more than a mother to him?


“There was a snake, a poisonous one from the look of it. Someone attempted to assassinate me.” His tremor has calmed down, his voice was its usual steady tone and Kei seemed calm as he spoke, but he felt far from it. It couldn't have been the queen, could it? Did she come to this room hoping to find his lifeless body? A shadow of uncertainty flashed through his topaz gold, darkening the color and then his fingers found hers, his touch hesitant as he peeled her hands off his face, warmth slipping away from his skin along with her touch. “I know what you are thinking, Kei-kun, it wasn't me, but we need to find out who it was. This is treason.”


“Looking into this is going to be dangerous. We can’t go investigating an assassination attempt, they might be after me now, but if you start meddling they might go after you, your majesty.” This was his problem to solve, his situation to fix and he didn’t want to endanger the one alley he has here. It won’t be an easy task, whoever attempted this, wasn’t going to give up anytime soon, not when the queen is involved as well. Her lips twitched, a smile forming on her face and her eyes brightened, the color a glowing emerald gems; they never failed to mesmerize the blonde, to leave him breathless and speechless and feeling out of the world. Her beauty was that of fairytales and poems, it shouldn’t exist in this ugly world.


“How silly, Kei-kun. This isn’t the first time for me to deal with such case, leave it to me.” His lips parted, ready to protest. This was his problem, after all. A thin arm wrapped around his shoulders, gentle fingers racked through his golden locks and his head was brought to rest on the queen’s shoulder. Her scent was leaking from her skin, the scent of peaches and cream washed over him and his thudding heart started to calm down. She didn’t smell like home the same way Akiteru did, but there was no denying that the omega in him, the teenager in him craved the comfort that came with the queen’s perfume.


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The palace was buzzing with life, servants were moving around in preparation for the arrival of the King’s guest. It was like a bee nest, movements were efficient and no one was free. The preparations of the guest chambers were done, but the feast held the attention of every worker in court, including the chamberlain; the only good thing coming from the whole fuzz. It gave the young prince the chance to relax, to be free from the watchful eyes of the Earl. The king’s nephew was coming to court and Tsukishima Kei wasn’t anticipating that upcoming meeting, not with the looming threat to his life.


The breath escaped his lips in a sigh, a cloud of fog forming in front of his face. The sun was hidden behind grey clouds, the sky left lifeless and the earth underneath cold without the yellow rays. It was that time of the year where the blue curtain above was stolen from him and he was left with nothing but the cold as the land was covered with a yellow carpet of fallen leaves, the greenery of the trees nowhere to be found. It was beautiful, but he preferred the summer and spring days to the colorful beauty of autumn and the white carpet of winter.


The piece of fur resting on his shoulders and covering his frame did nothing to spare him from the cold as a gush of wind brushed past them, a tremor going through his body and a scowl found its way on his face. Couldn’t they wait for his arrival in the warmth of the palace? Why did they have to stand out in the cold waiting for a guest he didn’t even wish to meet? Kei knew it was only polite and the protocol was to be followed, whether he liked it or not. The baron of Clifford was the future Royal Duke and the third in line to the throne; until the purpose of his visit is stated, it’ll have to be treated as a formal occasion, but Kei didn’t have to be pleased about it.


The sounds of hooves on the ground started to grow, catching the attention of the young omega as he raised apathetic topaz eyes, his gaze following the carriage as it drew closer. It was nothing out of the ordinary, but the stallions that were pulling the vehicle were breathtaking with matching raven coats and even lighter manes. The carriage came to a stop in front of the staircase, the king, queen and Kuroo Tetsurou were already waiting at the bottom of the stairs and Kei was forced to descend the steps till he was standing to the right of his husbands.


A young man in a golden doublet stepped out of the carriage, instantly bowing to the king and queen before pressing a kiss to the ring on the extended hand of the king. It wasn’t long after that when he straightened up, a gentle smile drawn on his face. A smile that reminded the blonde of the king’s own and it was then that he started to note the similarity between the two, both of them with raven hair trimmed neatly and tanned skin, but it was his eyes that interested Kei; the color was a deep brown but the look in them was so warm the blonde wondered if anyone could ever doubt the prince with the chocolate colored gaze.


His fingers were suddenly engulfed in warmth as Kuroo’s callused hand took hold of his and gently tugged him forward, his usual Cheshire cat grin plastered on his face. “Daichi, this is my wife, Kei. Kei, this is my cousin Sawamura Daichi.” The young alpha didn’t waste a moment to bow at the waist, his movements graceful despite his larger build and the gentle smile never faltered even as the omega raised a curious brow, not bothering to sugarcoat his words. “Shouldn’t your last name be Kuroo as well, Sawamura-san?”


A forced laugh sounded between them as tanned fingers shifted to rub at the back of Daichi’s neck. His warm gaze didn’t shift away from Kei’s not even as his smile disappeared. The blonde couldn't help but notice the intensifying scent of tree and cinnamon. If the queen smelled of summer, then the Baron smelled of winter. “Ah, I decided to take my mother’s maiden name, there is no need for more Kuroo’s; unless they are your children of course.” It somewhat made sense to the young blonde. It wasn't as if the royal family used or need their surname, to begin with. He could also see the unspoken reason, there were no heirs to carry out that side of his family, thus how he's a baron at such a young age. Kei tugged his fingers out of Kuroo’s hold as he turned to look at the smiling faces of the king and queen, forcing on a similar if only a fake smile. “It’s cold out here, shall we lead our guest inside?” The king was fast to react, agreeing with the blonde and they moved to seek the warmth of the palace.


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The older’s alpha back was turned the other figure in the room, his gaze neutral as he followed the movement of a couple of servants as they chatted among themselves while cleaning the space opening up to the garden. The work was taxing in the unforgiving weather and the King made a note to order extra pieces of leather clothing for the workers, as their king and employer he felt responsible for ensuring their wellbeing especially during their working hours.


A soft thud forced him to turn around, his cat-like eyes shifting from the raven and to the source of the noise that rested uncovered on his desk and the king didn’t attempt to hide the surprise that flashed across his golden eyes as he studied the lifeless figure of the snake held by the scabbard. “What’s the meaning of this?” His tone was businesslike, demanding and confident as it carried through the silence.


“I’ve just met with her Majesty. There was an assassination attempt, they were after Prince Kei’s life, it seems.” The words were easy to understand, easy to follow as the prince reported to the king with formality. His posture was straight, his shoulders tense and his hands were linked behind his back. He looked more like a general standing in front of the king than that of a prince, and the king understood that it was because he was raised to be a knight; he was raised and taught to be an asset to the kingdom and to the future king. “I’ve been summoned by her majesty to investigate the incident and I’d like to ask for your permission to proceed.”


The king’s lips twitched into a gentle smile, his gaze shifting back to the immobile animal. It was so like his wife to act discreetly and summon Daichi, but she never reacted without informing him or discussing it with him first, for her to do such thing; it could only mean one thing, the incident was beyond her or it was extremely dangerous for her to take any different approach. If that was the case, then the king was forced to approve of her actions.


“Who protected Prince Kei?” The question was left to be asked, the situation must’ve been shocking to the young omega, but the status of the snake was surprising. It must’ve taken extreme wit for someone to handle the incident so discreetly. “From what I understood, it was the Prince himself, your majesty.”


Laughter sounded. The noise bouncing across the walls and filling the room until the awkward and formal atmosphere that had built up dissolved like mist, melting into the ground. The laughter was rich, musical and it was a long moment before it died down, leaving the king with teary eyes and a red face; a state that would prove to be extremely inappropriate in a different situation. “People spoke of his wit and intelligence since he was young, but I believed there were exaggerating, especially after his father married him off. It seems that foolish king gave away a big asset.” His voice was gruff with his dying laughter, moving to sit down on the wooden chair placed in front of him.
Daichi was walking across the room, reaching for the crystal glasses to pour some wine and take it back to the king, placing the clear crystal filled with red liquid on the dark wooden desk. Their smiles were matching as he sat on the other side of the wooden piece, his fingers resting on his sculpted thighs. “I agree. Father also believe that this was an advantageous marriage, more for us than for Karasuno.” It proved difficult for him to understand as to why such a young omega has been married off out of the country and for nothing but an alliance that had been agreed on, more so, as rumors said that the king was raising his youngest to be a strategist. Did he despise omegas that much?
“Daichi-kun, I leave this matter to you. Kei-kun is as much of a son to us as Kuroo and you are, please ensure this incident doesn’t pass without catching the culprit.”


Sawamura had a lot of questions to ask regarding that statement, but he bit his tongue, rising to his feet and bowing at the waist. The king’s words were spoken gently, but he felt manipulated to show the appropriate respect to such command before excusing himself and stepping out of the room, the snake once again covered and in hands. Any questions he had, he’ll find the answers himself as he finds the one behind the assassination. Tsukishima Kei might be a stranger to him, but he was clearly loved by their just king and that spoke enough of his character to Daichi.

 

Chapter Text

The brothel was buzzing with life, the chatter was loud and laughter filled the room with a warm atmosphere. People were sitting close, sharing the same air as the occupants of the establishment surrounded the workers. It was a scene that belonged to a place as well hidden from the public as this was, a scene that belonged in a place of the night. What distinguishes this organization from other brothels was the stench that the guests were bathed in, the perfume of sweetness that could only be smelled during a heat, a scent that was multiplied and mixed until the aroma became suffocating. The scent left no room for arguments, no one could deny the fact that omega trafficking was being conducted in this building.

A figure sat away in a corner, a glass of beer resting on the rotting table in front of him. His face was hidden in the shadow of his cloak, the scent of chocolate and milk leaking from his skin was faint compared to the scents wafting in the air; he was grateful for the strength of the stench that masked his own perfume and hid his nature. It wasn’t normal for an omega to frequent such a place, especially, not an Omega from his birthing, but he needed information that might not be found anywhere else.

The bitter scent of ginger cleared his nose as it filled his senses and the male turned his head slightly to gaze at the alpha that occupied the seat next to him, a seductive smile was on her face as candlelight flickered; highlighting the blue of her eyes. The omega was hypnotized, honey-colored eyes drowning in a sea of blue orbs. They were gems that didn’t belong in this hall and the omega felt a wave of sadness wash over him, his chest grew empty and he his heart was being ripped out of his body. If only he could take the prostitute’s hand and grant her a new life, but he knew that was a great feat even for him and his circle of people.

The warmth that surrounded his fingers brought his attention back to the present, his eyes finally breaking away from the gaze of the alpha to look at the hand resting over his own and the grief was replaced by repulsion. Needles of pain started to rip through his body and anguish filled his senses until he saw white. He wanted to snatch his hand away, to bend down and throw up before escaping into the safety of his mate’s embrace, but his mind stayed calm through the chaos of the storm going through his body and his face was masked perfectly, the pain was hidden away behind the warm smile that stretched across his features. The omega in him was shrieking, torturing him as he felt the heat rise in his blood and a gasp almost escaped his lips, but he swallowed it back. He couldn’t go back now, not when his husband needed his help.

This was the third brothel he went to and he was gradually getting used to the disgust that surfaced at the touch of other Alphas. It was the attention he was seeking, but one he didn’t want. If he had a choice he wouldn’t allow anyone else to touch him, to brush his platinum curls or compliment his warm gaze. His strength, though, lay in his beauty and he was going to use that to his advantage. He was going to suck every drop of information he could get for such a small price.

The smile on his face widened, inching closer until his nose almost pumped with the alpha’s own. “Your eyes are such a pretty color. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful eyes.” He wanted to slap himself for such sentence, but it was doing the trick and results were what mattered in this situation. The alpha smirked, the color fading from her eyes as she dropped her face into his shoulder, her nose brushing against the rough material of his cloak. She was more daring than he expected and the omega almost flinched back, a tremor traveling through his back, the storm inside of him growing; threatening to overcome him. He was feeding the demon that ate at him, but he couldn’t back out, not now. “They aren’t as mesmerizing as your own. Aren’t you a pretty one? What are you doing here, doll face? Is your heat close?”  

A screech was on the tip of his tongue, the tears of pain were burning in the back of his eyes and he was glad that the alpha wasn’t looking at him as he hummed nonchalantly. The omega’s fingers were shaking, his whole body was trembling at this point and it seemed to please the alpha who chuckled before wrapping lean arms around his small waist. He felt trapped as he reached to brush hesitant fingers through the brunette locks of the alpha, focusing on the softness between his fingers to ground himself. “It is up in a couple of weeks-“ The blood was rushing to his cheeks as he spoke and he could feel his body heating up even with the cool of the weather outside that didn’t fail to seep into the building. “My healer told me to find this snake, he said he the poison could be used to delay my heat and I was told the nobles who have that snake frequents this place.”

“You should’ve said you weren’t here to have fun from the start.” The alpha backed away, her tall fingers brushing through the waves of brown hair resting against her back, the irritation evident in her voice. “Viscount Ushida just left, he enjoys collecting exotic snakes, from what I heard. He should be back next week.” The female didn’t waste any more time around him, standing up and walking away to find another customer. A week felt like such a long time to wait, but at least he had a name to investigate now. A lead was a start and they could finally move this case and find the person behind the assassination.

The bite of the pain was gradually fading away as he sat there, breathing in and out until he felt steady enough to stand up and leave the building, leaving behind a golden coin for the beer and the information. Once he was safe in his inn room he would be able to send a raven to the palace. Using the court resources would be more efficient at this point and his mate might know something he didn’t. He’ll have to wait for more instructions until then and he’ll use that time to find any more leads.

 

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The world was in peace, the buzzing of life still dead as people slept through the beauty of the sunrise that coated the green earth in a layer of golden rays that reflected off the dew like a mirror. The birds were the first to rise, peeking out of their nests to welcome the warmth of the sun that rid the world of the coolness of the night and replaced the darkness with light. It was a scene that Sawamura would never miss, not in his estate and certainly not in court. After years it became a good luck charm to start the day with and his mate would never fail to tease him for it, even when he’d still wake up to join him in his morning routine.

This morning was no different as the prince stood by the window watching the sun break through the surface of the horizon to paint the sky in a light purple shade that would gradually fade as the goddess of the sky rose to the sky. It was a scene that was nostalgic and similar yet entirely different from what he was used to, but one he enjoyed nonetheless. Chocolate colored eyes shifted from the golden ring to the figure sitting on the grass, the sunray shinning on the golden locks, giving the illusion of a crown of golden hair. It was the same scene for the sixth day in a row and it left Daichi at a loss for words. Ever since the prince took residence in the castle the scene refused to change; he’d stand by the window seeking the sunrise, only to find Kei sitting outside facing the same scenery as if he wasn’t almost assassinated recently.

A heavy sigh sounded past his lips, shifting his gaze back to his treasure to study the sky as it changed colors, but the thoughts were swarming in his mind, denying him the peace that he sought from the picture painted by nature. Why would Tetsurou allow his wife to leave their chambers so frequently and without any protection after the incident?  It wasn’t like him to neglect the safety of his loved ones and this gave birth to more questions. Were the rumors about his cousin’s mistress true?

“I don’t have time for this.” The words were mumbled in a frustrated complaint, his hand brushing through the short trimmed locks covering his head when a knock sounded on his window shifting his attention to the bottom of the glass where a raven was hovering in the air. No more seconds were wasted as he pushed the window open – mindful of the animal standing out of it – and wrapped gentle fingers around the bird, feeling the soft brush of its feathers under his fingers tips. “That was faster than I expected.” The bird was pecking his hand gently as he untied the letter.

His eyes scanned the neatly written letters, his mind instantly working on deciphering the hidden message in the letter and a small smile spread on his face, brightening his whole features. This was the lead he needed and he could finally start seeking out the nobles instead of trying to search blindly. Once they find the owner of the serpent the whole incident could be solved. Perhaps, he could even ask his new cousin a couple of questions regarding what happened. His eyes drifted away from the piece of paper to locate the seated figure only to find his spot empty. Once this case is closed, he should try to have a conversation with his cousin or his wife. Rumours were already spreading amongst the court residents regarding their relationship, rumors that needed to be diminished before they reach the ears of their enemies or their people. Peace must be maintained and their relationship or lack off would disrupt the peace they worked so hard to build. 

Shaking his head, Daichi moved to pour some water into a glass and place it in front of the bird, watching him leap at it in his thirst. Viscount Ushida is the name mentioned in the letter and that is where he is going to start his investigation. Turning around, the young prince picked up the sword resting on the edge of his bed before strolling out of his chambers, seeking his retainer. He needed all records on Viscount Ushida and his estate, he was going to get to the bottom of this before they attempted another assassination.

 

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He sat the table, a pile of played cards resting on the wooden surface and a group of three noblemen sat along with him. They were each holding a hand, studying the numbers discreetly as they waited for each other to play their hands. It was a regular view in court, the room was buzzing with life as they laughed, talked and played games all while they enjoyed the luxury of alcohol. It was all going according to plan.

Daichi was one to use his status as prince whenever and wherever, it was something known in the kingdom. Nothing got to the nobility but status; something he has and he’ll use without hesitation. It was his job to assist the crown and if his title would get the job done, then he wouldn’t hesitate to use it.  The raven might not be the heir, but he was still a prince and he was proud of that, even with the responsibilities he knew a royal duke carried. Responsibilities his father trusted him to understand when he gave him one of his titles and named him a Baron as a wedding gift. The prince didn’t mind the weight on his shoulders, he sought it out, believing that it was his fate and duty for being born a prince.

His warm and gentle smile was stretched on his face, chocolate eyes looked deeper in the darkness of the room and the electric atmosphere was enough to warm them up and shelter them from the coolness of the night. The competitiveness could be smelled in the air, the light tinge of spiciness leaking from the alphas who filled the room and spoke volumes of their need to win. It was in the nature of alphas to seek victory and it was more than in Daichi’s nature to chase it, he craved it like he craved his mate, he sought it out like air and he lived on it. If alphas were competitive then Daichi was a champion that held on the thread of winning and never let go.

His smile grew, the chocolate of his eyes brightened as excitement glowed in them and Daichi placed his cards on the table, revealing his hand to his competition. “I win, my lords.” There was warmth growing in his chest that had nothing with the alcohol he was consuming; every victory counted for something, but the young baron never allowed it to consume him, he’ll seek victory but he won’t lose himself to the rush of it. Victory and loss were two sides of the same coin and he could experience either of them, at any turn. 

“Nicely played, your highness.” The flash of anger wasn’t absent to the prince who nodded his head in a respectful but silent response, his free fingers wrapped around the crystal glass placed in front of him, his eyes following the reflection of the candlelight as it shone on the clear surface and showered the crimson liquid of the wine in a warm glow. “Your mate didn’t join you on your visit this time, I take it, your highness.”

Only then did Daichi raise his head, his expression masked by a calm and gentle facade to hide the flare of emotions at the mention of his omega. His fingers tightened on the crystal glass, the coolness holding him back from raising his fingers to brush against the blue and purple teeth shaped mark at the junction of his neck, a constant and painful reminder of the distance between him and his wife. “He couldn’t accompany me. Unfortunately, his health has been somewhat fragile.” It was an innocent lie, one he hoped would never reach the ears of his mate or he’ll experience his wrath.

“Though, it might be more of a silent objection to the idea of me collection exotic creatures. I’ve been into the idea of serpents lately and he didn’t appreciate it.” The chuckles that sounded from the men gathered around him were normal, forcing him to hold back the frown as he tried to keep the polite and gentle façade. “I heard from my cousin that you collect such creatures, lord Ushida, any advice to this young husband?” His gaze was plastered on the elder’s man face, studying his smile lines, watching for the smallest twitch or shift in his expression and the coldness of disappointment washed down on him as he saw nothing. “I wouldn’t be much of help to your highness, I fear to admit that my wife forced me to sell my collection. I’m a nobleman with no collection, for now, but the happiness of my omega is worth the sacrifice.”

“That’s interesting, I might try to repurchase it. May I ask who you sold it to?”

“Of course, your highness, it’ll be an honor for my collection to be under your care. It was Sir Ozaki.” Daichi’s smile was genuine as he thanked the viscount, listening to the conversation as it picked up with half a mind.  It wasn't much of a lead and the viscount's words would need to be confirmed, but his next step seemed clear to him. Perhaps, he'd have his love dig up more information.

Chapter Text

The sound of scribbling filled the room, broken every now and then by the sound of papers being flipped. It was peaceful, the music created soothing to the ears and the atmosphere that followed, as a result, was light, leaving the residents feeling calm. There were no conversations being held, but the silence wasn’t awkward. It was a routine that they grew accustomed to during the last two months of their marriage, a marriage that was yet to be consummated; one that might never be.

The clouds parted, revealing the hidden moon and allowing the god of the night to shine down on the dark bathed earth. Silver rays seeped through the windows and into the chambers, mixing with the warm hue of the candlelight to illuminate the room in a warm glow. The rays reflected on the surface of the reader’s glasses, creating a glare that didn’t belong in the moment. As if thinking the same, long fingers wrapped around the frame, pulling the glasses off and allowing them to rest on the table in front of him, turning the world into a blur, but he wasn’t missing anything, not in that moment. He welcomed the momentary relief.

Time was ticking, the minutes would fly, the hours would pass and the days would flash by while he sat in a room that didn’t feel like his own, waiting for nothing to happen. Time wasn’t on his side, the clock didn’t tick to his pace. He was trapped in an hourglass, the grains of sand slipping through his fingers to bury him under the accumulated pile. His unease was growing, his heat was nearing and he didn’t feel safe. He didn’t belong. It all left him feeling trapped and alone. Tsukishima Kei no longer existed, he was merely the wife of the future king and even that wasn’t the whole truth. The prince saw him as nothing more than a little brother and it left him with a bitter taste in his mouth.

“Kuroo-san, can we talk?” His emotions would never show in his voice, his words would never break and the turmoil he felt would stay hidden. He was no fool, he would never be anything to the prince and if that was the case then he’d protect his virtue. He’ll turn a blind eye to the servants and nobles as they talk. He’ll pretend not to hear what they say about him, but he won’t go down easily. He’ll fight to live, even if it was a worthless life, he wouldn't allow anyone to banish him into another hell.

The sound of scribbling vanished as the quill was left hovering in the air, catlike eyes shifting to rest on him. The surprise was clear in the piercing gaze and the lazy smile spoke volumes. Tetsurou dropped the quill on the desk, turning his whole attention to the omega sitting with an open book on his lap. Kei couldn’t remember the last time they had talked, he couldn’t remember the last time they sat down and held a conversation that wasn’t for the sake of politeness or show. His anger had controlled him for a long time. It wasn’t as if the rage had died, but this was a conversation that had to be held sooner rather than later if the unease the blonde felt was an indication of anything.

“Of course we can talk, what is it, Tsukki?” It had been so long since he heard the name given to him by the raven and hearing it now after so long left him feeling empty. He didn’t want to be called by that, not by this person, not by anyone. “Don’t call me that.” The bite in his voice caused him to flinch back, his fingers entwining together in his lap. The words Kei had planned to speak had melted into thin air, leaving him with nothing to say and guilt eating him at the look of bewilderment on his husband’s face.

“I’d like to move back to my old chambers.” The tension in Kuroo’s shoulders seemed to seep out, drifting through the air and out of the room as his muscles relaxed. The electricity could be felt in the air, but both chose to ignore it, focusing instead on each other. “Is there a reason as to why you’d bring this up now? I thought we’d agree that it’ll be better for people to see us sleeping together.” His voice grew closer as he stood up from where he was sitting and made his way to the blonde. Kei didn’t move, didn’t shift, even as the raven kneeled in front of him, his calloused fingers reaching for the glasses and slipping them back on the blonde’ face.

He didn’t want to see, didn’t want to look at the raven as he gazed up at him with a tenderness that he shouldn’t feel for the blonde. Kei didn’t want to notice the care as his fingers closed the book resting in his lap and moved it to the ground next to his feet, replacing the weight of the book with the warmth of his hands, hands rough from years of holding a sword. He didn’t want to see any emotions on him, not when he would never see the omega as anything more than a family. He would never look at him with the same intensity that he would direct to Terushima and it would always remind the blonde that he was nothing, his only worth was the alliance.

“Do I need a reason? I do not wish to share a room with you.” It wasn’t a lie, it was the truth. He didn’t want to spend any more time with the alpha, not when every day he’d grow attached to the scent of cacao and bourbon. Not when by every passing day he’d grown fond of the sound of scribbling as the alpha wrote down reports after reports. He couldn’t allow himself to feel anymore for the alpha. “Besides, my heat is coming up. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be around that.”

The relief that washed down on him was visible in the golden eyes of the blonde, his hands squeezed in his lap as Kuroo moved to rest one hand around his linked ones. “It’s fine. We can deal with your heat when it comes up, Tsukki.”

The laughter that escaped his lips was bitter, the anger and sarcasm clear in the sound and it caused the alpha’s smile to falter, slowly slipping off his face. “Because you clearly wouldn’t lose your senses when it comes up. I’m not your family, Kuroo-san. I’m not your brother. My heat, my pheromones would affect you. Don’t be delusional.” Kei wanted to say more, to throw daggers at the alpha, to slap him awake. It was as if he had forgotten they were married.

“I’m well aware of that fact, but I do not want you to go through it alone, especially not in a foreign room. You’ve been nesting in this room for two months.” Why were his words burning a fire inside of him? Tsukishima couldn’t understand. He didn’t understand the repulsion that started growing in the pit of his stomach.

“Do you realize what that means, Kuroo-san? You do not wish to “cheat” on Terushima-san, do you? Then that entails me spending my heat alone.” His volume didn’t increase, but the color of his eyes darkened and his fingers squeezed till his knuckles turned white. “If my heat comes around and we spend it together, but I don’t end with a child, people will talk, Kuroo-san.”

It won’t be you they’ll bash, it’ll be me.’ The sentence was left unsaid, unspoken, albeit, Kei doubted that Kuroo would realize his unspoken plea. The court was an unforgiving environment, more so for a foreigner and it didn’t help that the Omega was a target as it is. He survived one attack, the next time he might not be as lucky and his head could roll. Kuroo was adored as the crown prince, but people didn’t share the same enthusiasm for his wife.

“Let them talk, if I must, I’ll go spend the duration of your heat with Terushima.” Did he do it on purpose? Kei couldn’t understand how one person could be so cruel, even as he tried to be friendly. People were already talking, he was aware of that.

“Never mind, I’ll talk to her majesty, instead.” He stood up, pushing the raven’s hands away and moving past him when fingers wrapped around his wrist, tugging him back and forcing him to look at the alpha standing at full height. Even then, Kei was a bit taller, giving him the chance to look down at him, the moonlight once again reflecting against his glasses. “Did you lose weight?” He expected everything, a continuation of their discussion, a snarky remark, but he didn’t see this one coming, not when it was spoken in the alpha’s usual tone.

The frown deepened on the blonde’s face, his eyes shifting to stare out of the window, watching the way half of the moon peeked behind a white cloud in the carpet filled with stars. He wanted to lose himself in that view, to be washed in the ethereal glow of the nightlight. “I think it’s you that gained weight, your highness.” His voice was filled with sarcasm, the frown shifting into a sly smile before the blonde tugged his wrist out of the gentle hand, moving to slip under the sheets off the bed. Whatever the prince had said, whether Kuroo tried to speak, to say something, he ignored it. This couldn’t be called a conversation, it was one-sided. It left him feeling more alone than he ever felt.

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The sun was hidden behind a curtain of clouds, the sky was painted a grey shade and the light was dim. The earth was covered in a carpet of white that left the world breathless at the beauty of it. It was a painting of innocence and grace, but Kei hated it. He had come out of his room seeking the warmth of the sun to be filled with disappointment at the scene that greeted him. It was a mesmerizing scene, the silence of the scenery capturing his heart, but he craved the light of the sun like he craved the presence of his older brother.

“Just my luck.” The words were spoken out loud, creating a white cloud in front of his face. The cold was slowly seeping into his bones, his heavy clothes and the fur covering his body did nothing to shield him from the cruelty of the weather. Kei had always been more prone to feeling the coolness more than others did, a fact that his brother used to tease him about.

“Tsukki, you’ll catch a cold out here.” Yamaguchi’s voice caught him by surprise, causing him to jump and turn around to study the figure of his retainer and if he was honest his best friend. The blonde used to be able to escape the presence of the freckled boy and hide for hours before being found, but that duration of solitary seemed to decrease as time passed and by now the retainer seemed to have his hiding spots memorized.

“Shut up, Yamaguchi.” His words were gentle, his volume lowered and the usual bite was hidden in his heart. It has grown to be a routine, the same words would be mumbled every time the shorter boy would find him and Kei wouldn’t object much to go inside and seek the warmth of the palace, but today proved to be different as the blonde stood his ground, refusing to shift and head back inside. He needed to be out under the sky, to feel free. He didn’t want to bed trapped, surrounded by four walls and people he couldn’t trust.

“You can go in if you’d like, I’ll stay out for a bit longer.” As if to emphasize his words, Kei shifted his weight to sit down on the white carpet underneath him. The cold wasn’t pleasing as a shiver ran through his spine, but he’d rather suffer the cold than see anyone, right now. Sensing his determination, Yamaguchi shifted to sit next to him, their arms touching and Tsukishima was grateful for the bit of warmth.

Silence wrapped around them, surrounding the area. There were no sounds of birds, no movements of animals in the bushes and there was no wind brushing by them. The only audible sound was their breathing as their chest fell and rose. Kei wasn’t in the mood to talk, his thoughts occupied with demons and fears, so he was grateful for his retainer’s silence. It was then that he realized how much he needed the company, even if it was enjoyed in silence.

They didn’t know if it were minutes or hours later when the silence was broken by the sound of footsteps, the snow crunching under the weight of the body walking towards them. Kei didn’t shift, his eyes fixed on the same spot, and nothing in his demeanor spoke of his acknowledgment of the intruder. Yamaguchi was the one to stand up, greeting the newcomer with confidence that was slowly growing in him.

“Your Highness, how may I assist you?” Kei turned, expecting to find his husband standing in front of the bowing retainer only to find Daichi, a warm smile on his face. The blond stood up, his eyes meeting the gentle gaze of the alpha. “Your Highness, to what do I owe this visit?”

“Please call me Daichi, Prince Kei. We’re family now.” The words felt like nails driven into Kei’s chest, his eyes darkening as he nodded his head in a silent reply. He didn’t want to drop the formalities with the prince, but he was left with no choice. “Of course, please call me Tsukishima, then.” He wasn’t going to offer his first name, not to someone he didn’t trust.

“I believe your last name is Kuroo now, your highness.”

Kei chose to ignore his comment, linking his hands together in front of him. “I don’t believe you are here to just chat, what can I do for you?”

A gentle chuckle sounded around them, the sound as velvety as the color in the prince’s eyes and it caused Kei to scowl, the lines deepening on his face and his shoulders tensing. He didn’t believe he said anything to earn the alpha's laughter. Was he being taken as a fool? “You are as straightforward as they say, Kei-kun.” Was everything about the prince gentle? His voice, his smile and the look in his eyes, even his smell was warm and gentle. Kei hated it. Tetsurou’s whole demeanor spoke of his mischievous personality while Daichi's told a story of his warmth. They were so different, yet the vibe that surrounded them was the same, they were both crafty, both reliable, both leaders and both dangerous.

“Please don’t call me that.” Taking a deep breath, Kei forced a small smile on his face, dropping his hands to his side. The cold has finally won and his bones and muscles started to ache, his skin had grown dry in the unforgiving weather. “If there is nothing, then please excuse me.”

Kei had turned around, his steps slow and graceful as he made his way into the direction of the castle. He faked his disinterest when his senses were on alert, waiting for the slightest change in the baron’s posture. The blonde was wary, he didn’t trust their guest and feared for his life. It wasn’t justified, he was well aware of that, but he had no reason to trust the stranger, either. If anyone had a reason to assassinate him, it was Sawamura Daichi; an heir would threaten his standing and push him further back in line to the throne.

“If you may, your highness, excuse your retainer so we can talk.” His voice was clear as it carried through the quiet scenery and reached Kei’s ears, prompting him to stop in mid-step and turn around to gaze at the man standing confidently with his hands linked behind his back. His request had set him on edge, the hair on his body standing at attention and his gaze focused, watching the alpha, studying him in his stance. “If you have something to say, say it, Daichi-san. I would not excuse my retainer.” There was no way the blonde would accept spending a moment alone with the man, not when he was unarmed and fatigued. Not when he would be out powered easily. Not when he didn’t trust him with his life, cousin or not.

Daichi was eyeing the freckled retainer with curious eyes, the chocolate dark with caution and unease. It was that look that alerted Kei to the fact that Daichi was going through the same turmoil. Both of them were strangers to each other, both unable to fully trust the other and it was more so for Daichi who was willing to give Kei a chance based on his uncle’s opinion of the blonde but couldn’t trust his servant. “Very well, if you are sure.”

“I’m positive.” Kei’s voice matched Daichi’s, his volume mimicking his confident tone while he stood with one hand gripping his bicep, shielding part of his body from the cold. He wasn’t going to give the future duke any leverage, nor an opening; not until he confirms that he could trust him with his life.

“Your marriage hasn’t been consummated. It puts your position in court at risk.”

Kei was fast to reply, fast to defend. “Because it’s your choice or mine whether it happens or not.” His tone was sarcastic, his nails were digging in his clothes, the touch marking his skin. “If that’s what you wanted to talk about, then there is nothing to discuss. Please excuse me.” He turned around, intending to find his way to his chambers and seek the warmth of a fireplace.

Daichi was fast to react, his hand, rough and calloused wrapped around Kei’s clothed wrist, turning him back around to face the alpha. The look in his eyes took the blonde’s breath away, his chocolate eyes were colored black, darkened with an emotion the Omega couldn’t name and the creature inside of him wailed. The scent of pine tree and cinnamon had consumed him, mingled with a hidden hint of sweetness that Kei couldn’t name, but decided to ignore. He wanted to be as further away from the alpha as possible, but his next words froze him in place. “Your unborn child is the future of this kingdom, but there will be no future if your marriage is not consummated. People will talk, nobles would retaliate and your life could be endangered. It won’t be a war not just between both of our kingdoms, but also a civil one and you’ll be the first to burn.”

The alpha’s fingers tightened around the blonde’s wrist, rough as he held him in place and prevented him from escaping when Yamaguchi stepped in, placing his hand over the alpha’s one and the other on his shoulders, pushing him back. “Your Highness, please stop touching Kei-sama.” Their gaze finally broke as Daichi turned his attention back to the shorter boy, releasing Kei’s wrist while apologizing over and over as he did so, but the words didn’t register to Kei, the spoken words earlier ringing loudly in his head. They were all facts he was well aware of, but what could he do about it? He was unwanted, undesired and he didn’t feel like fighting for something that was forced upon him.

“I don’t believe I’ll ever give birth to the heir, your highness. I don’t believe I’ll be allowed to stay in court long enough for that to happen. There are better omegas out there, even betas and alphas and I’m positive Prince Tetsurou would prefer someone else.” Kei didn’t wait to see the anger as it grew in the alpha’s eyes, didn’t wait to hear his mumbled words or witness his rage and smell it as it coated the air. He left, fleeing any judgment and any reaction his words would have produced. He spoke the truth, but he knew they sounded more like words of surrender and he wasn’t pleased with the weakness he has shown. His fears had surfaced for a moment and for the first time in his life he had shown his demons to someone else. He didn’t want to witness the result of his momentary flaw. 

Chapter Text

He moved his pawn, changing its position on the board as a small smile spread across his face, brightening his features. The glow of happiness was radiating in his eyes, but the emotions were confined in his chest, buried not to surface. “Checkmate, your majesty.” The laughter that sounded echoed around them, the sound bouncing against the walls and surfaces that filled the room. It was a warm laugh, one that matched the personality of the man that sat across of him and it never failed to ease his worries. It was the laughter of a king, and nothing could be as reassuring.


“I’m no longer a match for you, Kei-kun. Out with the old, it seems. I didn’t expect you to move your knight there. You surprised me.” His voice was filled with the remaining of his laughter, his smile warm on his face. His features were sharp, his eyes were piercing, but his beard softened his look, the stray white strands between the dark locks adding to the gentleness that he emitted. It warmed Kei's heart and silenced the monsters that screamed in his head. Moments like these with the king and their equivalent with the queen were memories that he treasured and events that he looked forward to. It was when he was in a room with either of them that the blood in his veins would grow warm and the cold would no longer be freezing.


“I still have a long way to go, your majesty. Even an amateur such as myself could tell that you were holding back.” It was the truth, in a sense. The blonde was just a sixteen years old who played his cards well, but it merely three months back when he wouldn’t have been able even to reach the touch the pieces on the board. He remembered the fire of rage that would spread through him every time he lost and still remembers how he’d look at the man sitting across of him and be reminded of his majestic talent. A king who had turned his weakening nation into a kingdom to be feared with, a king who managed over and over to hold back the conquering attempts from the neighboring kingdoms that surrounded Nekoma till they all allied themselves with his country. A king with a talent for war, a genius that Kei looked up to and hoped to obtain his skill. It was a talent that forced any politician to respect the king for.


The smile on his face softened, the amusement in his gaze gone and replaced with a tenderness that didn’t belong in the eyes of a king. It was the same look that Kuroo would give him, but the king’s felt warmer, reminding him of the sun. “It is about time you stop addressing me so formally, Kei-kun. I’m your father in law, after all.”


This wasn’t the first time that the king hinted at the topic, but it was the first time for him to address the blonde directly and Kei knew the king was correct, but he hesitated to do so. He couldn’t understand the source of his fear, he already viewed the king and queen as parents, considered them more of a mother and a father than his biological ones, but the words felt heavy on his tongue, they were bones in his throat. Was he worried the right would be snatched away from him once he started addressing them informally?
The blonde was expressionless, his gaze unreadable as it was directed to the board of chess resting on the table in front of him. The King seemed to be able to read him, though. Noticing his hesitation, hearing his screams and cries. “You are our son.” Golden eyes shifted upward, finding the king’s piercing gaze. “You are our son, Kei.” His voice was filled with the affection that the blonde craved, filled with the gentleness that washed over him and the scent of leather and wood surrounded him as if to emphasize the king’s words. “If you decide to annul your marriage we wouldn’t hesitate to adopt you as our second son. I’ve said this once before. This is your home.”


The words were ringing in his ears, the sun that leaked through the cracks of the closed windows felt warm against his skin and the tenderness in the king’s eyes slowly filled the emptiness that existed in his chest. It didn’t smell or feel like home the way Akiteru did, but it was a warmth that Kei hadn’t experienced his whole life. It was a sense of safety that he shouldn’t feel, not with the chaos that surrounded him, but he felt invincible sitting there with the king. Those words would prove to be his shield for years to come, and the blonde was grateful for them. “Tha-Thank you, your maj….” His words were cut short, his teeth connecting with his tongue to prevent the sound from leaking. “No… Oto-sama.”


The blonde didn’t know, could only guess as it was a new sensation that he had never experienced before coming to this kingdom, but, probably, this was what parents felt like. It was a feeling like no other, the sense of safety and relief that could never be obtained, not even with the promise of guards to protect and preserve one’s life. It was different in the way that it warmed all of him until he wondered if the flames inside of him were radiating through his skin.


The king stood up, his posture straight. He looked more like a ruler standing up than when he was sitting on his throne. Board shoulders and height that even teenagers envied him for, his steps were confident, steady and graceful as he walked across the room, stopping in front of the tray with crystal ware. His movements were studied, the same actions carried out for years until they were implanted in his very muscles, in his very bone, body, and essence. “Daichi-kun is looking into the assassination attempt, but I need you to remember that we’ll protect you, Kei-kun.”


“I trust her majesty was the one who informed you.” A glass of wine was placed in front of him not long after, the king standing next to him and the blonde raised his head to meet his gaze. He believed the king’s words as he spoke, trusted him to keep the promise that no one would have ever dared to make before. “So Daichi-san is here regarding the case?”


“Yes, you can trust him, Kei-kun. He is ambitious, but he doesn’t desire the throne. If anything, he wishes to stand next to a king and protect the kingdom.”


The blonde wouldn’t have known, couldn’t have known that the baron was on his side. His actions to him were justifiable; he was merely looking out for his own life. Trying to guard himself, but a sense of dread filled him, reminding him of the harshness his treatment of the future duke. Sensing his mood, the king brushed his fingers through the golden locks crowning Kei’s head, ruffling the soft curls with an affectionate gesture that was foreign to Kei. “Stop fretting. Aoi was correct. You do over think things. Logic is perfectly fine, but there are situations that only your heart can lead you through. Trust in yourself. You have the talent to rule, and you have the talent to one day, perhaps in a couple of years, sit in my council.”


Kei opened his mouth, ready to speak but the king kept going, apparently not finished. “If you are worried about something that you cannot discuss with Tetsu or me, Aoi would always be there to listen to you. Now, I wish to talk more, but I have a meeting.” The smile was still on the king’s face, the warmth radiating through Kei. “We are here for you. Now, excuse me, Kei-kun.”


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The darkness was overwhelming, leaving nothing for the eyes to study. The only source of light was the moonlight peeking through the curtains and dimming the blackness that wrapped around them. The night was long and silent as he sat on the edge of the bed. Goosebumps covered his skin in a second layer The cold registered in his mind but was ignored in favor of the thoughts that swirled and danced in his head. Catlike eyes turned to rest on the peaceful figure sleeping under folds of sheets, trapping the heat close to his body and sparing him the torture of frost.


Kuroo wanted to shift back into bed, to pull Terushima against his chest and fall asleep listening to the sound of his heartbeat, but the ugliness that swirled inside of his chest stilled him, trapping him to the same spot that he sat at for the majority of the night


He couldn’t sleep. Not when he knew that tomorrow is a day that would change both of their lives. He knew, in his mind and heart that nothing would separate them, nothing would break them when they felt so strongly for each other, but it was still fear that ate at him since the moment his lover informed him and broke his heart. It left him in a daze of helplessness, and a fire grew inside of him. Yuuji was his. His heart, his soul, and his body all belonged to Kuroo, and no one should dare touch him. But he couldn’t deny him this, not when it was his duty to his house, to the crown and his country.


“Stop thinking about it.” The hoarse voice snapped his attention back to the sleeping figure, now awake and half sitting on the bed, the sheets slipping down to reveal his chest and the moonlight slipping through the cracks reflected against the silver piercings decorating his body. “I’m not thinking about anything.”


“Come back to bed. It’s cold.” The voice was steadier that moments ago, but the eyes that bore down on him were half closed, his eyelids heavy with the sleepiness that the blonde fought. His eyes were adjusted to the darkness, his body no longer aware of the cold that filled the air as he drifted his gaze to chapped lips and Kuroo couldn’t resist the urge to lean in and press his dry lips to Yuuji’s for a slow kiss.


The gasp of surprise was swallowed down, the moment passing fast, the last threads of drowsiness slipped away and faded into space, his thoughts and sensations focused on the kiss. It wasn’t rushed or rough, but slow and gentle as they sought each other’s hands, linking their fingers together. This is when they’d feel more intimate, when they’d feel safe and close to each other, more than anytime else. It was the feeling of belonging to each other that left them both breathless and satisfied.


“Your skin is cold. Come back to bed.” The words were mumbled against Kuroo’s lips, and he could hear the grin in them, feel the hot air leaving Yuuji’s lips against his own. His lips were tingling with the urge to kiss him again., to push him down and cover his body with kisses, to leave his mark on each inch of his creamy skin. It was an urge that would never fade, only expanding as time passed and their love grew.

“Not tonight, you know I can’t. I’m meeting her tomorrow.” A sigh of frustration could be heard, catlike eyes shifting away to focus on a spot on the floor, it was too dark to study the ground, but he didn’t care. He didn’t want to argue or show Terushima his feelings. He was selfish; he knew that. He has married after all, and the blonde had to suffer through his engagement and wedding, but he still didn’t complain, instead he worked on encouraging Kuroo at every step. Assuring him that it was an adventure, that they can get through it. The raven knew it wasn’t as easy, could read the frustration in the honey colored eyes even as the words were being left unspoken. Alphas were possessive by nature; the feelings would only get emphasized as they grew fond of someone and the need to mark and to scent is implanted in their very essence so Kuroo knew that this must’ve been what the blonde had felt all along. It was beyond frustrating. It was a burn that left him breathless and filled his eyes with tears.


“She’s not yet my fiancé. If the meeting doesn’t work, I might not proceed with the betrothal, and even if I do, I’ll still love you. I’ll still be a part of your life and a part of you.” Warmth suddenly engulfed him, strong arms wrapped around his waist and a kiss was pressed between his shoulder blades. For a second nothing mattered but the touch of Terushima and his scent. Comfort was radiating from his every move, from every touch and he drowned in it until the thoughts resurfaced. “I don’t want you to proceed with it.”
The touch around his waist loosened, his hands moved to wrap around the fingers linked together against his stomach, forcing the embrace back in place. The anger wasn’t visible, not in the rise and fall of Terushima’ chest and not in his touch. He was calm in every movement, but a tinge of it could be smelled in his scent, a subtle warning. “We’ve talked about this. I’m old enough to marry. My family needs an heir after me, and her dowry is more than nice enough to make it hard for me to refuse. We can’t get married, and we can’t conceive so I must do this, Tetsu.”


It wasn’t a choice. He had no say in the matter, just as the blonde had no say when Kuroo accepted the alliance terms and got married to Tsukishima. It wasn’t a favorable situation for either of them, but the words rang bells of alarm in his brain, his skin prickled as panic started to build under his skin, in his gayness. ‘He is serious about having an heir.’


“You will consummate the marriage?” The words were more than a whisper, loud enough to be barely heard by his partner. He knew the moment when he understood the meaning behind the loaded question, every muscle in his body stiffening. ‘Are you going to cheat on me?’ Was left unspoken, the words hanging like an executioner axes over their heads.


“What’s the point of marrying someone if I don’t validate it by consummating the marriage?” The air was no longer cold, sparkling with the building tension that warmed them up, prickling against them. “You consummated your marriage, why shouldn’t I? You aren’t fun, Tetsu.” There was a small chuckle of annoyance and Kuroo could feel fluttering against his back as Terushima’s eyes drifted closed.


“I didn’t consummate my marriage.”


The silence was his only answer, a silence that stretched out, mixing with the peacefulness of the night and if not for the growing stiffness against his back he would’ve assumed that his lover had fallen asleep. The arms wrapped around his waist pulled away abruptly, shrugging off his hold on his hands and moving back in the bed to put distance between them. Kuroo expected happiness; he expected relief. What he didn’t expect was the wave of anger that covered the room in a thick blanket of miasma, making it hard to breathe.


“So the rumors circulating in court are true? You haven’t slept with him. Why not?” There was no yelling and Yuuji’s voice didn’t hold any of its usual excitement. His tone was low, too low for his outgoing and hyper character and something clawed at Kuroo’s chest.


“I wanted to be faithful to you. I guess we don’t share the sentiment.” His tone was provocative, edging the blonde into a fight Kuroo knew better than to push for.
“What were all our sacrifices for? What was all the pain I felt for? So you’d leave the marriage hanging, never validated until the alliance crumbles and everything is lost? The crown and the council’s efforts for peace. Your sacrifice and mine. Do they mean nothing to you?”


They were all questions that Kuroo had brushed aside, ignored for the sake of his comfort, for his happiness and yet Terushima didn’t hesitate to throw them at him, to force him to see the issue. “I can’t stand the idea of touching someone else.”


The laughter that sounded wasn’t the amused and light one that was Yuuji’s marked laugh, the laughter that echoed was dull and filled with contempt. It was self-degrading as if he was entertaining his demons. “Then why did you agree to the marriage?”


“Because I wanted the bloodshed to stop. I wanted our people to stop dying while fighting a senseless war.”


“And who is the one paying the price, Tetsu? You accepted the engagement to finalize the treaty. You married their second prince for the sake of our country. We agreed to pay the price, for it. To never be able to marry. To never anything more than this-“ His arms were held out, extended out as if presenting a piece of art, but there was nothing but silence and darkness. That is what was meant to be of their relationship, a secret that could never come out and it was known that one day, both of them would have to sacrifice their love for their houses, for their country, and for their duty. “-You aren’t paying anything. Your wife is.”


His voice had grown weaker, the confidence in his words fading as if he hated speaking those words as if it wasn’t meant to be heard. He hated being solemn, hated the duty and responsibility that rested on his shoulders, heavy and weighing him down. It shackled him to the ground, forcing him to be what he didn’t want to be. He wanted to be free, to enjoy the world and to play the game of politics on his own merits, but he saw how dangerous it could be. He experienced his mother’s failure as she played it by her rules and lost her life in the process.


“He shouldn’t have to suffer through the rumors because of your failures. He shouldn’t have to all alone and on his own in a foreign court because you refuse to be a husband or alpha.” Kuroo opened his mouth, ready to speak back, to retaliate, but Yuuji held his hand out, silencing him.


“I know what you are going to say. I’d rather if you didn’t marry. I want you to stay mine. I love you, but this is your duty. King Tsukishima is known to be bloodthirsty, and if the rumors reach his ears or his son does not give birth to your heir, he wouldn't hesitate to breach the alliance. He’d have reason to do so.”


A smirk stretched on his face, slow and small and he threw himself back against the pillows, allowing his body to sink into the softness off the mattress and the warmth of the covers hiding him from the world. “You must see that it never happens. It is your duty as our crown prince. We don't need a war that could've been avoided.”


There were no more words exchanged, no touches or kisses, no movements. Both Kuroo and Terushima laid down under the covers, taking comfort in each other's presence and the warmth of the bed. Sleep never came to either, and thoughts fought off the drowsiness and the rest.


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The sunrays were warm against his skin, sending heat through his veins to fight the bite of cold that lingered in the air. It was a beautiful day, a fact proven by the buzzing of life that filled the town. People from different dynamics moved around with ease, enjoying the winter sun and the merits that could only be found in a town market filled with different stands. It brought a smile to his face, his eyes bright as he watched the scene with a fondness that warmed his chest. It was peaceful, and he enjoyed it.
No one seemed to pay him any mind as he stood to the side, the hood pulled over his head and resting on his shoulders, acting as an extra layer of protection worn against the curious eyes and adding more warmth to his body. The winter was unforgiving, especially as the snow piled down and filled the streets to cover everything in a blanket of white, but it never stopped the people from going on with their lives, huddled in hand-sewn clothes.


A figure seemed to make their way through the crowd, a look of fierceness drawn on her face and the people seemed to sense the aura of danger that surrounded her, stepping away to make way for the female alpha to pass through. The hooded figure watched with curious eyes, noting the alarm in the alpha’s eyes. Shimizu’s expression has always been unreadable, but years of being in her company taught the platinum-haired omega how to read her eyes and find the signs that she would be so desperate to hide.
“Your Highness.” The words were accompanied with a graceful curtsey, bending at the waist with one arm pulled against her stomach and the other resting on her back. Any smile on the omega slipped away, his eyebrows pulling together in a frown. Something was wrong. The alpha wouldn’t greet him officially otherwise.


“What is wrong?”


“A raven from Lord Sawamura. Your presence is requested in his majesty’s court.” A bucket of cold water was dropped over him, his muscles tensing at the mention of court. His mate was adamant about keeping him out of court with an assassin on the loose, and it isn’t like him to change his mind so suddenly. Something must be wrong. “What about our investigation? His voice was calm, but his words were whispered with caution, his honey eyes darting around as if trying to find a threat that lingered in the crowd.


“We are to drop it. Talk of you has reached the palace. It is no longer safe to proceed. There is a chance you are a target now, Your Highness.” The air left his lungs in a sigh, his eyes closing for only a moment before he nodded his head, the hood slipping to reveal his face and his platinum hair to the world, the sun illuminating the curls. “Very well, let’s go back to the inn. I’ll need to change into something formal.”


He was enjoying his time in this town, was slowly growing fond of it and its people. He loathed the separation from his mate, but it was a necessity, he understood that his safety was his alpha's priority. He had looked forward to spending the day idly in the town's market, but he’d look at the Brightside and look forward to meeting the new prince that joined their family.

Chapter Text

He stepped out of the carriage, welcoming the open air that surrounded him. It was a pleasant change to the confined atmosphere, the relief growing in him and feeding at the smile drawn across his face, rivalled only by the brightness of the sun above them. "We are finally out." The excitement was evident in his voice and the sparkle of his eyes.

He was graceful, his movements elegant as he stretched his arms, releasing the tension that was starting to build up from sitting for too long. He was the very image of the noble he was. Status and riches could be seen in every inch of his body; in the soft platinum locks that crowned his head, in the fairness of his skin, in the wine coloured doublet lined with golden threads hugging his body. The air around him held an aura of sophistication that belonged to him.

The wind brushed past them, carrying the scent of Pine trees and Cinnamon and his demeanour changed. The poise was gone, replaced with a cheerfulness that was at odds with the environment around them. "Daichi!" The smile that never left his face grew brighter, the happiness leaking in the scent of daisies and strawberries.

"Okaeri, Koushi." The smile could be heard in the Alpha's voice, could be seen on his face as he crossed the distance to where the omega was standing with rushed strides. "I hope your trip was comfortable." The words were no longer loud, but soft, whispered to Suga's skin, lips pressed to the Omega's neck in a sweet kiss. Daichi could already feel the stress leaking from his body, satisfied with the scent of his mate as it mixed with his own thicker one. His instincts were screaming, urging him to bite into the fair skin and darken the proud mark at the junction of his shoulders.

The peacefulness that had settled around them broke as the twinge of pain left the alpha gasping, eyes widening. Suga's fist kept connecting with his chest in playful punches until Daichi reached and wrapped gentle, yet firm fingers around his wrists, halting any incoming attacks. "That's not a greeting." The mischevious glint in honey eyes almost sent a tremor through his spine, especially as the omega leaned and pressed delicate lips to Daichi's dry ones.

"That's for changing our plans, especially, after making a whole speech about the palace being unsafe."

His fingers brushed at his neck, rubbing the bare skin. His omega was headstrong, one of the many reasons as to why he loved him, but it can be dangerous to cross him, and as his Alpha, Daichi didn't want to upset him. "I had to consider your safety. Talk about a stranger asking questions in the village has been spreading like fire through court. I didn't want to risk it." His mate's safety would always be his priority. "I won't apologise for that."

"I understand." The air left soft lips, the sigh visible as a white cloud courtesy of the cold air that surrounded them. The smile was back on his face, and Daichi couldn't resist leaning in and pressing a small kiss to the mole underneath Suga's eyes, pulling fast enough to notice the shiver that spread through his body. "You must be cold. Let's go inside. Ojisan wanted to greet you himself, but he had a matter to attend to."

A strong arm wrapped around the omega's waist, holding him close to the alpha's side and he was grateful for the nonexistent difference in heights. Daichi was not known to be affectionate toward his Omega publicly, especially not in court where nobles could pass them, but it was hard not to after their period of separation, as short as it was. It proved hard not having his mate by his side.

They walked through the palace corridors, passing by servants who bowed and moved to the side, clearing a path for the couple and by nobles who greeted them with fake familiarity. Sugawara Koushi grew up in court as the son of one of the king's advisors. He grew up watching nobles interact, learned the inner workings of the kingdom. He was groomed to be a politician, to belong to this suffocating atmosphere. He might not be the best, but people underestimated him whether it was because of his secondary gender or his innocent attitude and they were weapons he used to his advantage.

"Lord Fujii, it has been such a long time." Koushi didn't hesitate to greet the Chamberlain as they passed him in the hall, a bright smile decorated his face and the stern male's features softened instantly. "Your Highnesses." His attention focused on the omega after bowing his head. "It has been long indeed. I'm pleased to see that you've recovered from your cold. I was saddened to hear that you were feeling unwell."

The Chamberlain has always been a member of the court, Suga could remember the first day he came into court, welcomed as the new Earl. The Omega had grown under the watchful eyes of many of the nobles. He didn't suspect the truthfulness of the words spoken, could hear it in the gentleness of his tone and the softness of his gaze. But he didn't have the chance to dwell on the emotions, turning a questioning gaze to his husband who merely nodded his head. There were no explanations needed, Daichi needed to explain his absences, especially as they masked Daichi's visit under the pretence of a family visit. If anyone could understand the alpha, it was the omega standing by his side.

"I apologise for worrying you, My Lord. The weather hasn't been kind to me, but it wasn't anything serious, though His Highness was fretting, so I sent him away." The words were honest, the affectionate tone unforced. Daichi has always taken good care of the Omega, and it showed in his words as he spoke. "I say that yet I missed him not long after." Laughter sounded around them, Daichi's more reserved as he tightened his hold around the omega's waist. The Chamberlain's amusement was the loudest, carrying through the corridor.

"I'm pleased to see that you are happy with your marriage. It seems you are the perfect match for our Prince." The lightness that was in his tone was gone, his voice growing serious with every spoken word. "Of course, you are the perfect omega. Graceful and loyal. You were born to marry into royalty. I can't say the same for all Omegas residing here. How he is a prince, I can't say." The meaning behind his words was clear, determined in the shadows of frustration darkening his eyes.

It was dangerous ground to tread upon; a single misplaced step could be treasonous, but it was a potential path to finding their assassin. Daichi dropped the arm wrapped around Suga, a small smile on his face reserved for his mate. The omega was confident that the Alpha had read his thoughts as he leaned in and pressed a kiss to the tip of his wife's ear.

He could feel the warm air hitting his ear, warming him up long after his husband was gone. "I'll be waiting with the King. Take care not to push it and don't forget our agreement." Suga could feel the blood rushing up his neck and face, the blush adorning his cheeks hiding his thoughts.

Of course, he wouldn't forget their deal. It was an agreement that took them months to settle. The subject they went back to over and over and the reason for their rare fights. Suga always wanted to participate in Court affairs, the desire growing after marrying the Duke's son. Daichi was of opposite opinion, believing politics to be too dangerous for his mate. The Omega had to fight long and hard to convince the prince, who only gave in to the condition that Suga would back down if his safety were on the line.

He turned his attention back to the older man, fanning his face with his hand to downplay the significance of Daichi's words. "I apologise, he wanted to give us some privacy." He took a deep calming breath, leaning closer to the male. "Were you talking about the Karasuno Prince by any chance?"

An emotion flashed through the Earl's eyes, darkening the orbs, but it passed too fast for the omega to identify. "He acts and moves more like an alpha. He isn't fit to marry our future king." Silence fell, stretching around them, the older man not done speaking as he contemplated his next words. "Our prince deserves more than an omega who won't carry out his duty and allow his husband to consummate their marriage."

"They didn't consummate it?" The sharp tone of surprise filled his voice, honey-coloured eyes widening comically as the meaning of the words washed down on him. He couldn't ascertain the truth behind the Earl's words, not when Suga knew the older prince agreed to the marriage willingly. At the same time, the older man is Lord Chamberlain; he is undoubtedly tasked with the sheets inspection until confirming the marriage. Suga opened his mouth, ready with a retort that could give him more answers when a noble called the attention of Earl Fujii, the later excusing himself immediately.

The Omega had failed to learn much, the one fact he managed to acquire is that the assassination target isn't a welcomed figure in court. It didn't come as a shock, not when he's a foreign prince who comes from a kingdom that has a history of bloodshed and war with their nation. Tsukishima Kei's path to being a queen is going to be dangerous and filled with enemies, more so for him than any other and unless he starts winning the nobles, it will only grow unmanageable.

 

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The atmosphere was suffocating. The air thin as Kei tried to drag it into his lungs, breathing proved painful under the watchful gazes of the court ladies. The need to flee from his seat was starting to overtake him, travelling across his skin and through his veins until he almost bolted out of the chair he sat in and away from the table that gathered the women of high nobility. It was the knowledge that his every reaction, his every action was being observed and judged that provided him with enough awareness to stay seated, nursing a glass of wine.

Their topics of choice were boring to him, gossip that he had no interest in discussing. He didn't care about the personal affairs of others, never did and he wasn't going to start now.

"Kei-Sama, will we celebrate the birth of a prince soon?" The words caught his attention, his topaz gaze shifting from the crystal glass placed in front of him to meet eyes as dim and as grey as a stormy night. The frown on his face was evident, the gold in his eyes darkening as resentment started to swell inside of him.

The words stuck in his throat, a lump that he couldn't swallow. His fingers wrapped around the crystal of the glass, allowing the coolness underneath his touch ground him. The question came as no surprise. Kei had expected it, saw it coming; what surprised him was the scene as to when the words were uttered, surrounded by noblewomen who had nothing better to do. The different replies he had planned refused to leave his lips.

A small giggle sounded across of him, gathering the attention of all the figures sitting there. "Of course not. Haven't you heard? He hadn't won Prince Tetsurou's favour." His grip tightened around the soft surface of the glass, but his mask didn't betray anything, taking a sip of the burgundy liquid and allowing it to wash down his throat. The gasps and chatter than broke around him were deff to his ears while Kei cleared his mind, allowing the fog of rage that was slowly creeping into his brain to subside. Agitating the lady wouldn't do him any good, as much as he wanted to give a snide remark.

His gaze turned to look at the queen, the mask of magnificence that she wore around the court was plastered to her face, but Kei could see the fire of emotions in her forest coloured eyes. It was her silence that prompted him to bite his tone, to keep any retore from escaping his throat. "If that's the case, perhaps his highness is interested in looking at potential mates." The lavender hue in the speaker's eyes glowed with her interest, her desire to grow in both status and wealth. "What do you think, Your Majesty, my daughter is always eager if the prince is willing." The wine that settled in his abdomen felt like poison in his body, and his stomach twisted as if he was about to throw up.

"Lady Arata, your judgment is clouded. Excuse me for saying this, but your daughter is in her late twenties and has not yet wed. It makes me wonder if the rumours of her immoral activities are true." Kei's voice didn't betray his emotions, the cool tune contradictory to the burn in his abdomen and the strain on his lungs. His gaze was fixed on her, watching as the words settled down on the table, the air growing colder as realisation washed on the Baroness; and her face turned a shade of angry red.

"How dare you?" Her voice had grown in pitch, the sound causing Kei's ears to ring, but he swallowed the wince. A scrap of wood on the hard floor echoed around them, the alpha standing with a force and a growl directed to the blonde. The omega refused to move, sitting with a straight posture and a calm face and it seemed to feed at the rage emitting from the woman. The scent she was releasing was stifling, forcing the creature inside of him to screech and scream at him to run, to hide from the alpha that was advancing toward him.

"Lady Arata, stand back." The Queen's voice sounded loud and clear in his ringing ears, the authority evident in her speech, but the command of an omega did not affect an angered Alpha. The nobles were frozen in their places, eyes watching the unfolding scene with hungry eyes, but Kei could see the guards launching in their direction with cautious steps. "You dare speak about my daughter in such manner when you are nothing more than a prized omega traded for a treaty. What do we know about you before coming to Nekoma? For all we know, you've birthed basterds in Karasuno."

Kei couldn't hold back the laughter that escaped from his lips. His mind was growing hazier as the scent grew and washed around them, the screams to run were growing louder, but the words took him by surprise, and he couldn't force down the emotions that swelled because of them. She had a point; he was no more than a prized omega, exiled and abandoned by his family for an alliance. He had always viewed himself in that matter, but Kei didn't expect to hear the words snarled at him.

His amusement seemed to enrage the woman more, her pupils delighted as she closed the distance between them, her hands held out as if reaching for his neck. Kei's muscles were screaming, his body aching to escape and his head lolled to the side in submission. His features didn't change; calm and collected, but his scent spoke of his fear. The omega wanted to run, but he refused to do so, fought his very instincts. He was a prince; he will not run.

"Lady Arata, stand down." The same words were spoken in a rougher voice, the authority in the tone backed by the power of his secondary gender and the alpha came to a stop at the command. The scent of anger started to diminish, the senses coming back to the woman as she stood frozen in place.

Heavy hands came to rest on Kei's shoulders, causing him to flinch; still on edge. The blonde turned golden eyes to look at the alpha standing behind him with his usual Cheshire cat grin. The fragrance of Cocoa and bourbon wrapped around him, filling his nose; it was the familiarity of it that started to calm the omega down, the air leaving his lips with a deep sigh. "Are you alright?" The gentleness in the tone was unmistakable, but it sounded foreign to him.

"Yes." His words broke, and he swallowed, giving himself the chance to collect his thoughts before trying again. "I had it under control." His tone was lower than usual, but there was no hesitation or fear in the spoken words, and Kei took that as a victory.

"Of course you did, Tsukki." His shoulders were squeezed, the touch grounding, reassuring and calming, everything that was aiding the blonde in breathing, soothing his thumbing his heart and his labouring lungs. He inhaled, allowing Kuroo's scent to waft into his nose. His eyes drifted closed, focusing on Kuroo's touch and his words as he barked out orders.

"Someone get a glass of water for his highness." The anger was masked behind a calm demeanour, but after a couple of years with the alpha, it was easier for Kei to read the hidden emotions, seeking the answers in his scent. "Lady Arata, you are under arrest. Guards, please escort the Baroness to a cell worthy of her crime. Someone inform his majesty and Prince Daichi."

A frown twitched on Kei's face, his eyes snapping open as he turned to look at the raven standing behind him. "Kuroo, don't make a scene out of it. She was another Alpha being stupid and letting anger control her." If the alpha is arrested, the incident would be the fuel of gossip for the next week; the omega wanted to avoid that at all costs.

Kuroo didn't seem to agree with him, raising his eyebrow. "Be quiet, I'm sure you had a hand in provoking her, but threatening the life of a member of the royal family is a punishable crime." The whispered argument didn't seem to slip the attention of the Queen who walked to stand in front of Kei, reaching to brush gentle fingers through blonde curls. "Tetsu is right, Kei-kun. We can't let this incident slide, not when it was public."

The omega swallowed down the sigh of impediment that threatened to suffocate him, nodding his head in silent agreement. Molten gold never shifted to follow the alpha who was being dragged away, his eyes stuck to his husband who watched the scene with intense eyes as if ensuring the threat is no longer viable before shifted to meet Kei's gaze. "Your Majesty, I believe it is taken care of here. Excuse us, but I'll take my wife to our bedchambers. He needs to rest."

"Take care of him, Tetsu." The warning note went missing by the omega who didn't dare argue, pushing the chair back -careful not to hit the alpha - before standing up. He didn't wait for Kuroo, moving to take poised steps in the direction of their chambers. The alpha's laughter was small; marching to catch up with the blonde.

 

Chapter Text

Relief filled him, the emotion washing away all the insecurities and fear that remained from the incident. The room smelled of bourbon and apples, with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla; their natural perfume had mixed into an aroma that lingered in the room, a mark that they left in the space. Kei dropped his weight on one of the chairs, allowing the tension to seep out of his body while his golden gaze followed Kuroo's movements across the room.

The alpha stood next to the closed door; arms crossed over his body, his posture emphasised the broadness of his shoulders, and he looked intimidating in a way unknown to the omega. His lips parted as if he was about to talk when a knock sounded on the door, snapping their attention. Kuroo pulled the door open, revealing Yamaguchi with a half a smile on his face. Nothing would've looked out of place, if not for the unusual glint in his eyes.

"You heard." The words that left Kei's were not a question, but a statement that the attendant couldn't deny. "Are you alright?"

The blonde was about to reply, but Kuroo beat him to it, the authority still visible in his words. "He will be. Please get him a cup of warm milk." There was no room for arguments, no room to mistake the words for a request inside of the order it was, and the freckled boy didn't waste time, bowing at the waist and leaving the room in a hurry.

The door closed with a click, bathing them in silence that didn't last long, but stretched out to feel like an eternity had passed. Kei's gaze was fixed on the raven who in return watched him with the same intensity. "What were you thinking?"

"It seems that I wasn't aware I had a death wish." The blonde's tone was sarcastic, provoking. Cynicism has always been his weapon, the armour that he hid behind. It was his way of coping, of processing and of protecting himself.

"I'm not in a joking mood. What were you thinking? What if I hadn't come when I did? You should've run." The seriousness of Kuroo's voice sent goosebumps through Kei's skin. The acidic response was stuck on the tip of his tongue, never spoken.

"I didn't want to aggravate her more by running."

The air rushed past Kuroo's lips, a deep sigh driving away all the growing irritation that was slowly building in the pit of his stomach. There was no point in getting angry, no point in fighting about the incident when it was over. He crossed the distance in strides, moving to stand in front of the seated omega who's topaz gaze followed his every movement.

"I don't know what I'd have done if something happened to you. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself." The power could no longer be heard in the soft words, in the gentle tone and it couldn't be felt in his touch as he brushed careful calloused fingers across the omega's cheek. Kei's lids drifted closed, driving his world into the darkness and his attention focused on the unusually tender touch across his skin; the touch he didn't think he craved. His upcoming heat seems to be affecting him more than he believed it did.

"Oto-sama wouldn't have started a war over my mistake, Kuroo-san." And it was his mistake; he couldn't deny the truth behind the words he spoke. His father would've been happy to be rid of the omega who brought shame to his family, more so if the death had no political consequences.

"That's not what I meant, Tsukki. I meant that I do not want you getting hurt." The feel of hardness against his forehead forced his eyes open, his topaz gaze meeting the hazel ones of Kuroo who's forehead was pressed against Kei's. The tenderness was back in his gaze, the anger no longer darkening his eyes.

"I'm not a Tsukishima anymore, Kuroo-san. I've stopped being a Tsukishima a long time ago, Tsukki is no longer a viable nickname." He could feel the warmth of Kuroo's breath across his skin, feel the intensity in his gaze, but there was no escape; stuck between the chair and the alpha. "Besides, if I had died there, you'd have been free of this marriage, you'd have been able to marry the man you love." Kei's voice had grown hushed, whispered in a tone so low it would've been impossible for the other to hear and the blonde hoped the words had gone unnoticed as his eyelids drifted closed once again. The burning in the back of his eyes was ignored, forced away; he was not going to cry, not in front of anyone else and not even alone.

"Do you think I want you dead, Kei? I care about you, is that so hard to believe."

He didn't know what to make of the statement, didn't know what to make of the spoken words. He knew the alpha cared about him, as a family member or a brother, but at the same time, he doubted the words; couldn't trust that Kuroo wouldn't want him gone, not when it'll be his chance to marry his lover.

A knock on the door relieved Kei from the obligation to answer, giving him an excuse to shift his attention to Yamaguchi who entered the room with a tray in hand, carrying a cup of what he assumed is the milk Kuroo asked for. Kuroo didn't waste time to straighten up, standing at full height. "Thank you, Yamaguchi."

"Their Majesties the king and queen, as well as His Highness, are on their way here," Yamaguchi spoke the words as Kei picked up the goblet, feeling the warmth of the drink through the surface and allowing the heat to spread through him, warming him. Perhaps, he needed something warm more than he knew.

"Please excuse us, Yamaguchi-kun." The king's voice was gentle as he walked in through the open door, followed by the queen and Daichi. The tension they carried seeped into the room, electrifying the air, but topaz eyes could read the worry in the piercing gaze of the king and the enchanting eyes of the queen. Kei could feel the void that had accumulated in his chest along the years fill up, the hole shrinking; he almost believed it was no longer there.

Yamaguchi was fast to bow and excuse himself, closing the door behind him to give them the illusion of privacy; walls have ears after all, and all of them know, there is no such thing as privacy in a royal court. "Kie-kun, are you alright?" The omega could feel the gazes of all the figures in the room settle on him, watching him. It was years surrounded by alphas as both an omega and before presenting that grounded him, keeping him seated in place. He was never a fan of unwarranted attention.

"I'm perfectly well, your majesty. I apologise for the trouble." There was a chuckle from the side, forcing Kei to turn his attention the bedhead prince now standing to his left. He wasn't the only one with the same idea as the prickle of being watched faded, everyone's gaze shifting to rest on Tetsurou. "She could've stabbed you, left you on your death bed and you would've said the same thing."

He raised his chin in defiance, a scowl stretching on his face. "At least I'll talk. You will merely cry." Kei lifted the cup to his lips, taking a sip to feel the warmth of the drink wash down his throat and fill him. The cold was no longer a feeling he registered.

The crown prince opened his mouth with a shriek of objection; the words of retaliation frozen in his throat, and it caused Kei's lips to lift in a smirk of triumph that no one seemed to share. Tetsurou seemed ready to continue the bickering, refusing to allow it to end at that when the King spoke, interrupting his attempts at the verbal retribution. "The Baroness is going to trial. The date set for tomorrow at noon."

"She doesn't deserve a trial. Losing control of her emotions is not an excuse, threatening the life of a royal prince is treason and punishable by death." The playfulness that had filled Tetsurou's voice was gone, his tone packed with venomous hatred, but it was the stench leaking with his scent that caused Kei to flinch.

"Every single citizen of ours deserves the respect of a trial. They are our people; you'll be their king one day, learn to respect their rights." Kei had witnessed the king in court before, seen the man as he worked and commanded not just a room, but a whole nation. There was something in his voice that compelled people to obey, a hint that left them unable to deny his orders, but it was his first time hearing that booming voice loaded with more than gentleness and power. There was a coolness that frightened him and stunned him all at once. He was a king that was willing to protect his people from any threat, even if that danger was his very son.

The older man's eyes seemed to land on him, a gentle smile that contradicted his tone adorned his face and his eyes appeared to bore deep into Kei's soul, reading his emotions. The king's touch was gentle as he reached to ruffle Kei's curls. "And you can't criticise her for losing control when you can't control your own emotions. We can smell it."

"What if we trade her release in exchange for information on the assassin?" Kei's calm voice interrupted his husband's retore, catching the attention of everyone in the room.

"What assassin?"
"Wouldn't that promote assassination attempts?" Daichi's words were calm, but loud enough to muffle the mumbled question of his cousin.

"Not if we play it correctly. The Aratas are close friends with the majority of the nobles residing in court if anyone could give us a lead it'll be them. Getting on their bad side isn't a favourable outcome, either, not with the support they have." They had grown accustomed to the calmness in Kei's voice during his stay in the palace, it was his usual tone, yet at that moment it sounded different in their ears. "We could make the offer to the Baroness. If she provides valuable information, we'll release her." His throat was growing dry, the attention causing a drop of sweat to travel across his back.

"What assassin?" Kei's words were swallowed down, the yell catching him off guard and relieving him of the attention that was on him.

"There was an assassination attempt on my life." There was no reaction, no sound except for their breathing. Tetsurou was quiet, too quiet for it to be normal. The man was outgoing and always outspoken, his thoughts and ideas no matter how foolish were perpetually spoken aloud; this silence that embraced him was out of the norm.

No one dared to speak, giving the alpha the chance to process the news thrown at him, to solve the puzzle placed in front of him. The emotions were painted across his face, left unhidden and unmasked for them to interpret as they please. The realisation was the first feeling to replace the confusion in his gaze, catlike eyes widening in disbelief before seeking the topaz gaze of Kei's for confirmation; waiting for him to deny the words. When the silence stretched out, Kuroo took it as confirmation, the understanding slowly transforming into anger before getting replaced by grief. He couldn't understand the darkness that settled on his husband.

"Why didn't you tell me?" The emotions drawn on his face were masked in his words, hidden in his usual tone, but Kei could read the disappointment as clear as daylight.

"There was nothing to tell." He shrugged his shoulders, denying his husband the answers he sought and turned his attention back to the king and Daichi. "Let's play her release as me taking responsibility and forgiving her. It'll be a good chance for me to start gaining the trust of the nobility and we'll counter any future attempt by executing the person behind the assassination publicly."

The milk has grown cold as time passed, the warmth it brought has long faded into an emptiness that left him numb. Kei shifted to place the cup on the table in front of him. The reply took longer to come than he expected, but he knew better than to rush an answer or a plan; the risk they were taking was too much.

"I think it's worth a shot, Oji-san." Daichi was the first to speak; his voice collected, his words calculated. "Koushi noted that Kei-san hadn't gained the nobilities' trust and we have no solid lead. It'll be a good step, it has its risks, but they are risks we can take."

"Very well, I'll leave this under your command then, Daichi-kun, but report everything to me." The king's voice softened, turning to look at Kei with the tenderness the blonde started to associate with the king. "Get some rest, Kei-kun. That must have been a lot to take."

"Tetsurou, I need to talk to you." Kei watched with disinterest as his husband released a sigh and moved to join Daichi who had his warm back smile on his face.

"Kei-kun, your heat is coming up, isn't it?" Molten gold shifted to meet the queen's gentle gaze. The question was unspoken but evident in the sparkle of his eyes. "Yes, I'll probably get it sometime around this week."

She leaned in, pressing a kiss to his forehead, the gesture instantly warming him. He could feel the blood rising over his neck and ears, and Kei wouldn't have been surprised if a blush coloured his cheeks. "Be careful, the excessive alpha pheromones from today could trigger it, so please watch out for any changes in your body."

"I will. Thank you."

 

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"You haven't consummated the marriage." There was no question in his words, the tone muffling the sound of the door as it closed behind them, isolating them in the room. Kuroo turned to look at Daichi, green and gold meeting brown coloured orbs. Frustration burned under his skin, the muscles in his body tightening as the tension travelled through his body, and he turned around to throw himself on the nearest chair.

"Oh does the whole country know?" The provocative tone was evident in his voice, the words leaving his lips with ease, but the amusement didn't reach his eyes, the smile never stretched on his face. They were merely words spoken by habit, a trait he developed to get under the nobles' skins.

"Rumors are spreading. People talk, more so when it is about their future king." The air rushed past his lips, tanned fingers brushing through short raven locks and Kuroo shifted his gaze back to Daichi, watching him with focused eyes, studying his movements. The shorter alpha moved to take the seat across of his cousin, his chocolate coloured eyes looked almost black in the dim lighting of the room, but it was the tightness in his jaw that caught the taller man off guard.

It wasn't something out of the ordinary for either of them to look stressed; it wasn't unnatural for their muscles to be tense and their minds to be haunted by state matters. Writers and poets wrote of the ease of their lives, artists drew the luxuries that surrounded them, people spoke of their luck; no one narrated the tale of their struggle. They were born with weights on their shoulders, pressure as their anchor. They were alphas who were taught politics from the moment they could speak; both were men who were pushed into the world of politics the minute they presented and came of age. Prince Tetsurou and Prince Daichi were included in matters of state since they could remember and it left them with their fair share of stress.

The look on Daichi was more than a painting of stress; there was a concern in the chocolate of his eyes, a look that told the bedhead enough to know that it was a worry for him. "Let them talk." He didn't want to brush his concerns away, didn't want to ignore the worried look in his eyes, but there was nothing to discuss. It wasn't a subject worth arguing over, at least it wasn't for him.

"It is not the people I'm worried about, and it's not the rumours that concern me." The words were spoken quietly, but Kuroo could see the determination to get the point through flash within the dark gaze. "Someone attempted to assassinate him, and he didn't tell you. What does that say to you? Do you not care?"

'Of course, I do.' They were words that were never uttered; the vowels never left his lips, the meaning never escaped his heart. He cared, and he felt for the omega. He wasn't just another prince to Kuroo, he saw him as a member of his family. His feelings were what drove him to rush and stop the Baroness from getting her hands on the younger male. His sentiments are the reason behind the bitter taste of betrayal in his mouth.

"He's my wife, Daichi, of course, I care." His thoughts weren't allowed to resurface, his Cheshire cat smile finding its way back on his face. "What do we know about this assassination attempt."

His question was ignored, brushed aside by Daichi who shook his head in a silent denial. "You are not acting like a husband then. How negligent were you that he decided to keep such incident a secret from you?"

"I'm not neglecting him." His voice has grown in pitch, his tone scandalised. "I'm just not ready to consummate the marriage."

"Then when was the last time you scented?"

The silence that stretched between them felt heavy, the tension building in the air and if the room wasn't cold earlier, it has grown cooler. A frown started to appear on Kuroo's face, the scent of Apples and Vanilla drifted into his memories. Before their wedding, it wasn't uncanny for the alpha to find his mother's perfume mixed with Kei's, but in a couple of months since their marriage, the smell has faded from his consciousness; he couldn't remember the last time the aroma of peaches and apples drifted into his nose.

"We've never scented." Daichi didn't need to hear the guilt that slipped into Kuroo's tone to feel the spark of anger in his chest, a growl instantly filling the room.

"And you dare tell me that you aren't neglecting him. How long has it been since the wedding, Tetsurou?"

"Almost three months."

The sharp inhale was all the response he got, the scent of anger started to leak from Daichi's skin his natural aroma fading in comparison to the stench of his rage. The next words that spoken didn't come as a surprise; it was also a wonder that Daichi was the first to speak them. "You accepted this. You agreed to this knowing the responsibility that comes with being married. You could've refused, Oji wouldn't have forced you into a marriage you didn't want!" His voice has started calmly, but as he spoke his volume didn't grow, but his tone has turned sharper, colder and Kuroo could feel the goosebumps on his skin.

"You knew he was an omega before you said yes. You agreed as an alpha and not just as a prince, but you aren't an alpha; you are not acting like one." The shorter stood up to full height, shifting until he was looming over Kuroo. Daichi was many things; he was gentle and responsible, he took care of everyone and took charge of everything and more importantly he was terrifying when angered. That fact stood proven as the raven looked up at him.

"I'm not going to talk about the political aspect of this; I'm sure you've already thought that through. I'll talk to you about being an alpha because you seem to have forgotten how to be one." Daichi's fingers wrapped around the material of Kuroo's doublet, feeling the softness of the cloth under his skin as he pulled him by the collar, pushing his face into Kuroo's. "Stop sulking. When you agreed to the marriage, you agreed to be an alpha to an omega. When you recited your wedding vows, you swore to protect your wife. It is time you grew up and took care of him before he is touch deprived and before he drops."

Kuroo's lips parted, a retort on the tip of his tongue when he was pushed back against the chair, a gasp replacing the words he had planned to speak. "I understand this is a political marriage. I'm not asking you to love him, but stop being selfish. I expected more from you." Daichi's voice has grown calmer, the gentle tone wasn't back, but it wasn't as cold. He inhaled, taking a deep breath to calm the raging monster inside of him, his eyes never leaving Kuroo's hazel gaze. "If you can't even take care of your wife, how do you intend to protect our kingdom. If you can't do this much, then I'd expect you to relinquish your right to the throne." Daichi spared the speechless Kuroo a last glance before walking away, slamming the door closed behind him.

 

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Serenity settled over the world, a tranquillity that belonged to the night and extended to wrap the earth in a blanket of peacefulness. Demons and monsters lurked in the deepest depths of their minds, in the darkness that existed in them, but they slept, calmed by the stars and moon illuminating the earth. It was a long night, a quiet one and Kei could feel the effect in the air as he breathed, felt it in his weary body and his heavy lids.

Kuroo has been quiet ever since his talk with Daichi; the silence didn't suit him, the stillness didn't belong to him. Never have Kei seen the alpha in such condition; he spoke no-nonsense, he didn't try to tease or provoke the omega, and Tetsurou didn't even attempt to force Kei to eat more food than he could stomach. It left the blonde with a sense of dread, with a touch of unease; a feeling that left him unable to focus on anything but the unusually silent alpha.

"Do you not trust me? Is that why you didn't tell me?" The words were the first to leave his lips in hours, catching Kei by surprise and forcing his closed eyelids to snap open. His back was still to Kuroo, not bothering to turn and look at him as a scowl found its way to his face. The unease didn't seep out of his body, didn't disappear. If anything, the words pushed the feeling to spread in his chest.

"Not everything is about you, Kuroo-san." His tone was harsh, with no warmth and gentleness to ease the impact of his words and Kuroo's wince was audible in the silence of the room. Kei didn't regret the cruelty of his tone; it was a way for him to alleviate the dread in his chest, as selfish as it was.

"If the issue is not in your trust in me, then rely on me, Tsuk-" He swallowed the word short. "No, that's not right. Please rely on me, Kei." The gesture to correct himself didn't go unnoticed by the blonde, his lips lifting in a slight smile hidden from the gaze of the alpha. He wanted to tell him that he'd rely on him, to grant him the request if only for the small gesture of calling him by his name, but the ache in his chest left him with no reason to accept.

"I have no reason to rely on you."

"I'm your husband. It's my duty and right to take care of you." He spoke without a moment of hesitation or delay, and Kei could feel the ache spread across his body; it was no longer just a pang in his chest, it was a shock that left him breathless.

"You are my husband in name only." The harshness was gone, the words spoken in a monotonic tone. They weren't meant to hurt, nor were they spoken with hidden meaning. It was a mere statement to Kei, but the grimace it dragged out of Kuroo surprised him, urging him to turn around and look at the alpha. What met his golden eyes wasn't the bright gaze, it wasn't a look filled with tenderness or emotions; the raven was looking at him with eyes that reflected the darkness of the sky.

"I am your husband." The words brushed past Kei's consciousness, his attention on Kuroo's touch, on the feeling of his fingers as they brushed against fair skin. He focused on the warmth of the alpha's body, on the way he shifted closer to run his nose against his cheek, following the trial of his fingers to his neck. "I want you to know that I'm here for you. I'll protect you. You can always rely on me, Kei." The words breathed into his glowing skin.

"What are you doing?" The words were chocked, forced out of Kei's throat. The blood rushed to his neck and ears, leaving his skin burning and flushed. He didn't understand what Kuroo was doing. His brain wasn't cooperating; his thoughts lost to the fog creeping into his mind.

Kuroo's chuckle was heated against his neck, and a tremor went through Kei's back. "I knew you were innocent, Kei, but I didn't think you were this innocent." The mocking tone was lost in the haziness of the omega's brain, but the meaning sank in slowly until a small gasp escaped Kei's lips.

"I'm sorry, you must've been in pain." Kei wasn't given a chance to process the words; he wasn't allowed the opportunity to reply as Kuroo's nose brushed against his scent glands. The smell of Apples and Vanilla was dominant in the air, leaking from his skin as the alpha nuzzled into his neck.

"Kuroo-san, I think my pheromones are affecting you. I'll probably go into heat; you should stop." There was no other explanation for the alpha's sudden affection. No other reason behind his care. He has always been gentle with Kei, still cared about him, the omega knew that, but he couldn't understand why the older prince went this far. He was scenting him, rubbing his tanned skin against Kei's and it left the omega speechless. His body craved the affection, his whole being needed it after going months without it, but it was too intimate of a moment to transpire between them, not when the alpha loved another.

"I can't smell your heat on you. So we are fine, Kei."

Kei's eyes had drifted closed, his body slowly relaxing as the scent of Cacao and Burboun wrapped around him like a blanket. His fingers were on Kuroo's bicep, digits digging in the material of his nightshirt. Give the blonde a political problem, and he wouldn't have a problem finding a solution. Give him a scientific riddle, and he'll figure it out, but this he couldn't solve. "I don't understand." His voice sounded low, a whisper more to himself than the alpha, but Kuroo seemed to have heard the words, laughing against his skin as if it was the silliest statement made.

"There is nothing to understand. I told you, you can rely on me. It's my job to take care of you." He said the words as if they explained everything, spoke them with ease if it solved the problem. He was intimate and affectionate as if the idea of touching Kei didn't disgust him merely days ago.

Kuroo's pulled away from Kei's neck, dragging a whine from Kei's lips before he could suppress it; it wasn't enough, not after months without scenting anyone. "I need you to remember that I'm your husband."

The scowl was apparent on Kei's face, and Kuroo reached with gentle fingers to smooth out the lines of his face. "You were the one who forgot." His tone wasn't as harsh as he wanted it to be, but he was still satisfied with the shadow of regret that flashed through Kuroo's eyes.

"I'm sorry. I'll make it up to you." Kuroo's fingers were warm as they rubbed against Kei's flushed cheek, his grip tight on the omega's chin, tilting his face before his lips touched the blonde's in a soft kiss.

Kei was taken aback, his body tensing and his muscles stiffening in surprise. The thoughts were forced out of his mind. His nails dug into Kuroo's skin, feeling the muscles under
his fingers until understanding flashed in his mind, his face turning a darker shade of red. It was a new sensation, he was unused to the softness of lips against his own, but he finally gave in, closing his eyes and allowing his body to follow the alpha's lead.

It felt wrong, dismay finding its way back into his chest and the heat spread across his body. They weren't supposed to do this; Kei's pheromones were probably controlling the alpha. "Let's consummate this marriage."

"Huh?"

Kuroo broke the kiss as suddenly as he started it, his hazel gaze meeting Kei's golden one. "Let's consummate the marriage."

Kei's fingers were slow as they released the fabric of Kuroo's shirt, his gaze looked darker in the unlit room, cryptic as he searched the alpha's face and eyes, looking for any hidden meaning, for any masked emotions. He was seeking as if he expected to hear Kuroo announce that it was all a joke and that he was leading the omega on for his entertainment. He couldn't be serious, could he? Not when he was in love with Terushima.

"Let me be your husband, Kei. In more than just name" He didn't know what he was doing if he was doing the right thing, but words of warning kept ringing in his head. Daichi's speech filled with rage and Terushima's pained words. They were all reminders to Kuroo that he needed to stop being selfish.

"Then prove yourself first." The determination was back to Kei's eyes the detachment once again painted on his face, as the fog in his mind slowly faded allowing his thoughts to resurface. He shifted on the bed, drawing an invisible line between them. Being touched by the alpha was dangerous, a risk he couldn't risk when he needed his mind to stay clear. "Break it off with him first. Prove to me that you are willing to give us a real chance, that you are giving our marriage a chance."

Kuroo was left with no words to speak, with no comments as the blonde turned around, facing away from the alpha. His skin still burned where he was touched, his lips still tingled from the kiss and his glands ached for more. Fear was slowly seeping into his chest, the warmth dying away slowly. He didn't trust Kuroo not to abandon him, not with the words he last spoke, but he refused to acknowledge that fear, closing his eyes and begging sleep to come.

Chapter Text

A fire was building under his skin, warming him as it spread through him. The outside world was a painting of innocence and purity drawn by snow, covered with a blanket of white, but it was an image only seen with cold eating at them, so why was he feeling warm?

Kei's eyelids lifted, his vision blurry as he took in the scene of the room. Golden eyes were dull, gaze filled with an exhaustion that had washed over him, leaving his eyelids heavy and his body stiff. A cloud had settled on his mind, leaving him unfocused and filled with a drowsiness that was foreign to him. The blonde was known to be a morning person; he relished in the early hours of the day with the sun peeking through the horizon and the birds singing. He enjoyed the moments of peace and silence as people slept, it was his time of the day, every day; an opportunity he looks forward to, a moment he never misses.

"...kki. ...Ukki... Tsukki." The words sounded far away, muffled to his slumberous mind and as they registered in his head, sleepy topaz eyes shifted to rest on the freckled face of Yamaguchi, blinking a couple of times in a wasted attempt to drive the drowsiness away. His vision was blurry without his glasses, and it took Kei a long moment to notice the glasses the beta was holding out to him.

"What is it, Yamaguchi? You don't usually wake me up." His voice was a mumble, words slurred and mixed as he attempted to speak. Kei cursed in his mind, clicking his tongue to the roof his mouth to finally notice how thirsty he was, noting the dryness of his throat.

"Sorry, Tsukki. Kuroo-san asked me to let you sleep more, but your lessons start in an hour, and you need to eat something before then." The words finally washed away some of the fogginess in his mind, forcing him to sit up and reach for the glasses to put them in and focus his vision. The attendant never woke him up, never informed him of his schedule. It was unusual for Kei to sleep long and it was as uncommon for him to feel tired after sleeping for so long.

The omega wanted to curl up, to pull blankets and pillows around him. His instincts were screaming at him to nest, to build a fortress where he'll be safe and comfortable as he sleeps. "Oh." It was a whisper, breathed into the air; realisation slowly crept into his mind. He was in preheat, but it wasn't supposed to be for another couple of days. How annoying.

"Yamaguchi, cancel everything, and I need all the blankets you can get." The look of conflict that slowly appeared on the shorter's face went missing, the blonde shifting to remove his glasses and slide back under the covers. Kei's lids felt heavy, threatening to close and push him back to sleep if not for the growl that emitted from his stomach, the sound driving any other cravings to the back of Kei's mind and halting any words on the tip of Yamaguchi's tongue.

"Tsukki, you need to get up and eat something, and I can't cancel your lessons, Fujii-san won't be pleased."

The answer didn't satisfy the blonde; it forced a spark of annoyance to light in his chest. He was known to get irritated quickly, to be annoyed with almost everything and everyone, but it was uncommon even for him to get provoked this fast. He clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth, the sound loud in the quiet of the room. "Does it seem like I care about him or his opinion, Yamaguchi? Last time I checked, you were my retainer, not his." His tone seemed harsh even to his ears. "Nevermind, don't cancel them, I just won't go. Please get me something to eat."

The freckled boy looked as if he wanted to say something, lips parting and closing before he finally bowed and left the room, the sound of his hesitant steps resounding through the space around them. Kei used that moment to remove his glasses and pull the covers back around him, hiding under the soft material, it was warm, the air heavy and hot in the small space he limited himself to; but it felt safer, safer than the fresh air of the world outside. Breathing was overrated.

A knock on the door sounded, small and low, Kei almost missed it from under the layer of warmth that he had surrounded himself with. His eyelids were heavy; half closed and bathing his world in a fog as the drowsiness clung to his body, the silence almost lulling him back to sleep if not for the hunger that lingered in his stomach; his body was preparing for days of starvation, for when his heat would take over his senses.

"I got worried when Yamaguchi said you wanted to cancel your classes, but now I understand." Kuroo's voice sounded amused, the light tone that Kei associated with the alpha back in his words; it was different than the tone he used the previous night. Memories flooded his mind, clearer than any thought that occurred to him since being woken up and the sensations were vivid, blood rushed in his veins, painting his neck and ears in a red hue and increasing the temperature in his cacoon until Kei couldn't breathe. The sheets came undone, revealing the omega with wild blonde curls.

"I don't feel like listening to an old man babbling nonsense."

The comment seemed to go past Kuroo, the words not registering in his mind as he inhaled the air. Kei watched with hooded eyes, noting the way the alpha's eyes widened, the shadow crossing them lingering until they looked black, the golden of his pupils hidden behind the surprise. "I thought you smelt sweet before, but now I can say that your scent is captivating."

"I'm in pre-heat, of course, my scent seems sweeter." Kei didn't have the energy to force annoyance into his words. He didn't have the power to keep looking at the alpha, allowing his eyelids to drift closed and bath him in a comfortable darkness.

"I can't imagine what you'll smell like when you are in heat. I'll probably lose my mind." The laugh that left Kei's lips was humourless, thick with irritation. It took the alpha walking on him in this state to realise what the omega was talking about days ago.

"That's why you won't be around when it happens." The hunger was slowly seeping through his veins, feeding at the irritation that has been building since he woke up and Kuroo was not helping. Heavy lids lifted to reveal topaz eyes darkened with his anger and glossed with sleepiness as they met the hazel eyes of the alpha he was sitting on his side of the bed, a frown adorning his face.

"Why not? Let me be your husband, let me be your alpha, Kei." The gentleness in his voice was addictive, the weight of them compelling as they settled on his chest with a softness that reminded the omega of the Queen's touch. He wanted to give him this chance, to allow someone in, but he couldn't. It'll be over before he knew it, he'll be left behind once again and this time he'll be stuck in a consummated marriage, unloved, undesired, hated by everyone and utterly alone. It was moments such as this when Kei would crave the comfort of his brother's embrace, for the compassion in the familiar scent. If only he was home and not a week of travel away.

"I told you what the price of being my husband is, Kuroo-san."

"Why is it so important to you that I break it off with him? Why can't you just accept this?" The anger slipped through the words, mixing in the fire inside of Kei. His lips twitched into a small smile, his gaze piercing as he studied the alpha. They were royalty; selfishness was their weakness. They were raised to look at the world from the top, they were bred to be leaders, to rule over people and that planted the seeds of greed in them, seeds they had to kill before they wore their crowns. Their indulgence was worse than their pride; it was the trait that either made them good rulers or bad ones. It was one of the few characteristics that both Kuroo and Kei shared, they were both selfish and prideful princes.

"Because I can't have a husband that is in love with someone else. I'm not one to share."

"He is the love of my life, Kei, please don't ask me to break it off. I truly want to be a husband to you."

The words felt like cold water against Kei's skin, the plea in the voice was a contrast that burned his skin. He feared that the contradiction would peel his skin off. The blurriness of the world around him increased, the objects looked more like blobs of colours than materials that filled the room and his eyes burned. What was he supposed to do? Should he give in to Kuroo's demand and drive himself into an inescapable prison, to a loveless marriage? He didn't want that, feared it as much as he feared death, but with the rumours spreading like fire, with people talking behind his back, Kei grew tempted to accept it, but could he trust the alpha not to throw him away? How can he believe in someone who merely days ago refused even to entertain the idea of scenting the omega?

He could feel the heat against his face as a tear escaped from his eyes, Kei reached with forceful hands to wipe away the evidence of his weakness, to hide away the uncertainty in his chest. Pain and tears he couldn't deal with, but anger; the anger he could redirect somewhere else and the target sitting next to him was perfect.

"How nice of you to want to be my husband." Sarcasm was dripping from his voice, his tone soft and unhurried even as heat crawled across his body, covering him like a blanket. Kei wanted to kick the covers off him, to reach and slap the alpha standing in front of him, but even he knew what boundaries not to cross, and he wasn't going to step off that cliff. If he was going to tear Kuroo down, he was going to use his words to do it. "Should I be honoured and spread my legs now? Or should we wait until my heat hits? It is what alphas enjoy, isn't it? Omegas in heat, begging?"

Kei was making sure to keep the anger hidden behind the thin wall of his snarkiness. He kicked the sheets to the end of the bed, moving into a sitting position, the world covered in a curtain of fog without his glasses, but he gave that no mind as he fixed his topaz eyes on the raven. He knew the alpha was about to speak, his lips parting with a syllable sounding between them as the blonde shifted his body and moved until he was sitting on Kuroo's lap, his legs resting on the mattress each on one side of the raven's long legs.

Whatever was on the tip of Kuroo's tongue was swallowed down, the sounds dying around them and the world stilling. They froze in place, Kei shocked by his boldness, and Tetserou surprised by the action. The air was thick around them, packed with the omega's pheromones and the alpha's emotions. It was sweet, in a way that warned the world of Kei's state and tipped alphas to wait for his heat, tempted them and it was a testament to the crown prince's self-control that he hadn't jumped the younger prince yet.

Awkwardness crept into the room, slipped past cracks and open doors to wrap around the stoic couple, everything felt alive at that moment, and Kei felt the air draining out of the room until he almost suffocated, his lungs straining. The surprise slowly melted away, replaced with excitement at the expression on Kuro's face. It took his mind longer moments to catch the thread of thoughts he was chasing, grasping it to resume his speech.

"Or did you want an omega who can't resist, someone from a foreign court and bound to political responsibilities? You wanted an omega who wouldn't be able to say no and be forced to bear your children-" Kei leaned into the warmth radiating from the alpha, pressing his lips to Kuroo's ear to whisper the remaining words, allowing the words to roll on his tongue as he emphasised every letter. "-especially since your 'alpha' lover can't give you any."

Kuroo's grip was urgent, rough as he pulled the blonde off him and tossed him to the side; the reaction would've caused Kei to laugh with amusement if not for the gaze fixed on him. Kuroo Tetserou was anything but entertained, but the Omega couldn't celebrate the victory. Emotions flashed through hazel eyes, anger, grief and hopelessness. He didn't know what to expect, didn't know what feeling was going to win, to take over, but the flashes of grief sent a spark of guilt through his veins, a spark that Kei didn't hesitate to extinguish.

A heavy silence fell on them; the air felt cold against Kei's heated skin, it was refreshing and gentle, washing away any of the violence that lingered in his abdomen as if it was all due to the heat building under his skin and not an explosion of suppressed emotions and hidden fears.

The silence stretched between them, the air tensing with every passing second. Kei's lids grew heavier, sleep threatening to overtake him if not for the energy cracking in the space around them.

"We are both not thinking clearly; we'll talk about this later." Kuroo's voice was soft, whispered in the air and jolting Kei to sit in bed. He knew the alpha is right, Kei's in preheat and his pheromones are affecting both of their emotions, but he wanted to get this over with, he was tired of all those thoughts dancing in his head. "I'll try to stay away until your heat passes, then we can discuss all of this."

Kei didn't get a chance to speak, Kuroo shifting his weight off the bed and onto his feet before taking quick steps out of the room. Topaz eyes followed his movements, the colour darkening till his eyes resembled honeypots instead of a jewel. He watched the alpha step out of the chambers, the scene playing out in slow motion and ending only as the door closed with a click. He wanted to wrap the covers back around him, to slip back into a peaceful sleep with no worries and insecurities, but not until Yamaguchi comes back with the food.

.
.

Guards stood at every corner of the room, some even stationed outside, the scents of alphas mixed and mingled until it thickened the air, leaving the space heavy with the suffocating aroma of clashing authority, but any figure standing there knew who was in charge.

Daichi placed a crystal glass on the surface of the table, watching the way the red liquid danced and bounced before settling down. The alpha sitting on the other side of the table didn't dare move, her hands linked together in her lap while she fixed her gaze on the crystal, watching the stream of sunrays reflect colours against the transparent surface. "Why isn't the king here?"

The raven raised a curious eyebrow, watching the Baroness for long moments before he pulled the chair, letting it scratch the ground with a loud screech. The movement seemed to catch the lady's attention, finally raising a fearful gaze to look at the standing prince who chose that moment to sit down. "I'm here on his Majesty's behalf." His voice held a gentle tone, his gaze warm and his signature smile found its way back to his face. He could be terrifying when he wanted, but at this moment, he needed to gain the trust of the female trembling in front of him.

"Are you qualified to do so?" The fear was itched in every cell of her body, leaking from her scent as if it had always been a part of it, but Daichi could read the hint of defiance in the tense set of her jaw and the way she clenched her fingers into a fist.

"I do not think it is wise for you to disrespect me in your situation, My lady." The softness never left his voice, his tone dropping lower to give her a sense of security, even as his gaze held the shadow of a threat. "Remember that I am a member of the royal family and right now I'm the one who will be discussing your release." The shudder that went through the Baroness' back wasn't absent to Daichi who leaned forward, resting his arms on the solid surface of the table.

"I meant no disrespect, your highness."

"All is well, my lady. Shall we start over?" Negotiating with the Baroness wouldn't be so easy, it was a fact that Daichi had accepted before taking a step into the room. She wasn't a politician, but she had connections, and she had pride. His only card was her release and thus her life.

"If it were up to Prince Tetserou, His Majesty and myself, you'd be going to trial, My lady." The softness in his voice dropped, replaced by a terrifying seriousness. He needed the Baroness to understand her situation and to coddle her would do them no good, so Daichi was going to state the facts, explain her crime and the situation to her and showing her that they were giving her an easy way out if only to find the assassin. "You threatened the life of a prince by marriage, a prince of an allied nation and by doing so, you endangered the alliance between our kingdom and Karasuno. Wouldn't you call your actions treasonous?"

"That was never my intention. I merely lost control of my emotions! He was provoking me." Her volume had risen considerably, startling the guards into taking a closer step, hands tightening around their weapons.

Daichi was calm, the air around him still as he followed the movement of the Baroness with chocolate eyes, never shifting his attention to look at the guards. "Calm down, my lady." He raised one palm into the air, halting the advance of the guards who, the scent of their emotion leaking into the air. "You can't lose your control again."

She took a deep breath, allowing her muscles to relax and her shoulders to drop in submission before she bowed her head. "Please pardon me, your highness."

Daichi's smile grew, the lines on his face deepening as the chocolate in his eyes glowed, lightening the colour. "You are pardoned, Lady Arata." The alpha allowed the silence to seep into the room, to alleviate the tense mood and give the Baroness a chance to think, to sort her thoughts and understand what he had told her so far. His eyes followed her movements, watched as she nursed the glass of wine before he finally spoke, his voice lower than it has been, softer and gentler. She had two choices, to cooperate with him or face the charges and she was someone who'd fight for their life.

"Princess Kei has spoken to the king on your behalf; he asked for you to be released and your charges to be dropped. His husband wasn't pleased, the alpha didn't enjoy walking into the room to find his 'omega' under threat, but the king made a decision." Her gaze met his, honest and serene, sparkling with the hope that his words had raised. "You are to be released, on the condition that you prove your loyalty to the crown."

"Of course, I'll do anything." The words were rushed, spoken in one breath with no hesitation and it sent a tingle through Daichi's fingers. This might be easier than he expected, he could already feel the excitement rushing through his veins. He couldn't wait to catch the assassin.

"Very good, then it wouldn't be so difficult for you to give me the names behind Prince Kei's assassination attempt. I'm sure its someone from the peerage and if anyone would have any information it'll be you, Lady Arata."

Nothing came after that, no reaction, no sound and no movement as the Baroness froze in her place. Daichi didn't need any more confirmation; he could read the hesitation in the slight twitch of her eyes, as subtle as it was. "I can wait until you decide, but know that once I step out of this room, the offer will not stand." It was a nudge, a hidden plea and a scare tactic, but it was the truth, her answer here would determine whether she goes to trial or step back into her luxurious life.

"I do not know much. What I can tell you is that Sir Ueda planted the snake in his highness' chambers. Lady Ueda said it was by order from a nobleman, I'm not sure who that is, but he is high ranking." It was a whisper, mumbled into the air and not in the direction of Daichi who strained his senses to catch every phrase, every word. "That's all I know."

The alpha straightened, nodding his head once then twice before standing up. He was pleased that the Baroness spoke in a low tone, giving the guards no chance of catching her words. If it was a knight who attempted to assassinate Kei, then guards and soldiers couldn't be trusted. "Once I confirm this information, you'll be free to go, My Lady. Now, excuse me, I have to meet with the king." His steps were loud against the hard ground, rushed as he made his way to the king's study. They had a name and finding the nobleman wouldn't be so difficult with the information he received.

 

Chapter Text

His eyes blinked open, lids heavy with sleep and body aching with exhaustion. The word was buzzing, the sound of conversation vibrating through the walls even if the words didn't make it through the door and to his hazy mind. Kei wanted to close his eyes and slip back into a dreamless world. He ached to ignore the chaos burning outside of the chambers to seek the rest his body craved after a week of sleepless nights, hurting muscles and flaming body.

His eyes drifted closed, welcoming the darkness that surrounded him and comforted him when the door slammed open, hitting the wall with a bang and bouncing back. Kei's eyes snapped open, the drowsiness melting away like sugar giving him the energy to sit up, golden eyes squinted as he tried to make the figure through the blurriness of his weak vision.

The scent of Cacao and Burboun was the first clue that alerted him to the identity of the intruder; a frown soon appeared on his face even if he didn't dare seek the warmth of the bed. Kuroo's scent was heavy with anger, thick as it flooded the room like a wave of miasma and Kei felt as if he was going to chock on the intensity of it all. "What's wrong?" His fingers were searching clumsily for his glasses, inspecting the sheets that pooled around his waist before he felt the coolness of the material underneath his touch and he didn't hesitate to pull the visual aid on his face.

"What have you done?" Confusion drowned his senses, clouding his thoughts and attention as he tried to prop into this memories, searching for something that could drag out such a reaction from the alpha, but no memory came. His mind was blank; his thoughts were quiet, and Kei felt nothing beyond the confusion.

Never in his worst nightmare did Kei ever imagine fearing Kuroo or the alpha that resided inside of him. He wasn't one who flanked his secondary gender around, never one who acted superior or different because he was an alpha when Kei was an omega. He was selfish and prideful. He was greedy and carefree, but he wasn't cruel or arrogant, and he was never rough. The blonde allowed the words to play in his head like a mantra, a boost of encouragement to enable him to look the alpha in the eye, to meet the darkened gaze that looked at him as if he was a monster and not a person. "I don't know what you are talking about."

The anger was slowly subsiding, vibrating with every passing minute, but the air never cleared, the rage replaced with an overwhelming grief and Kei feared the emotion was going to take over him, swallow him whole. He wanted to reach and pat Kuroo on the back, comfort him and wash away any of the sadness that lingered in his heart and leaked into his scent. But he held his ground; he was in the dark; the situation was a mystery to him, and unless the omega understood all the facts he wouldn't be of any help.

"Terushima, the marques and their family's closest friend, were captured by order of the king." Kuroo's voice broke, the words a jumbled mess that Kei struggled to understand through the grief that swallowed the room. "They were captured on the charges of attempting to assassinate you."

Laughter bubbled past Kei's lips, filling the room with sound after the silence that settled following Kuroo's words. So they were after his assassination, it was baffling in the way that they never crossed his mind as suspects. He thought he knew Terushima, turns out he didn't. "So, let me get this. You think I was behind all of this? You give me too much credit, your highness." The blonde could taste the bitterness in his mouth, feel it crawling down his throat and filling his senses. He trusted his husband's mistress more than his husband trusted him. How ironic was it?

"It's the perfect plan to get rid of him, but I expected better from you. I considered you family, and you stabbed me in the back." The laughter died in his throat, Kuroo's grief pushed and proked at his cracks until his eyes burned and his heart ached. Did Kuroo ever consider him family? The whole situation was forcing him to doubt the statement as it rubbed at his wounds, drove the pain so deep the blonde believed it left a hole in his chest.

"If I wanted to get rid of him, I wouldn't have given you a choice." The calmness in his tone was contradictory to how he felt. He wanted to reach into his chest and pull his heart out, relieve himself from the ever-growing pain. He wanted to crawl back under the sheets and sleep. He wanted to dream another reality, one where he felt more than the emotions that swirled in his chest at the moment. "And I was never your family. I was never anything to you, so don't try to guilt me for something I never did. If anyone is to blame here, its the one behind the assassination. Funny enough, it seems it's your lover."

"He's not like that. He encouraged me to consummate our marriage; he wanted the alliance to work."

Kei would've been happy not knowing that. He would've been content living through life never knowing the truth behind Kuroo's sudden interest in him. His vision blurred and his eyes burned, but he forced back the tears. He would rather be hated by the alpha for the rest of his life than show him any weakness, not when he couldn't trust him. "Then instead of accusing me, go explain that to your father."

"So you had nothing to do with it, Kei?" Kuroo's voice has grown softer, gentler as he took a reluctant step closer to the bed, destroying the safe distance that was between them. "I'm sorry, but you are my family. You are like a younger brother to me."

"Stop fooling yourself with sweet words." His voice was louder, louder than it ever was, the words vibrated through the room, bouncing across the walls. "If I was your family then where were you when I was introduced to court as your fiance? Where were you when your noblemen rejected me? Where are you when they inspect the sheets every morning? Where were you when I found a serpent in our chambers? And where are you when people talk about me behind my back?" Kei's voice grew lower and lower until he was whispering his protest in the air. "Just because you've been there for me once or twice doesn't make us family. I've been more alone here than I was ever at home."

"Kei, I didn't...." The words were swallowed back as a piercing golden gaze met his own, silencing his protests. "You chose this marriage and forced this unhappiness on us, don't fool yourself otherwise, but as much as you don't want to believe it, this is my exile." The laughter was full of sarcasm, heavy as it brushed past his throat. "I would bring the marriage up for annulment, but I have nowhere else to go. I have no country to go back to, no home that would take me back, so I'm stuck here with you."

His lips were shaking, his body was trembling, and his eyes burned with unshed tears, but he held his ground. "If I were your family you would've considered the offence of attempting to assassinate me more important than the offence behind the 'false' charges to your lover."

The air wasn't his friend, the room felt cold to him, foreign and unwelcoming as he sat there attempting to breathe and waiting for the explosion. There was no reaction, no words from the man who stood frozen in the same spot like a statue. Why did Kei expect a response? He spoke volumes about caring, about wanting to be there for the omega, but whenever he needed him, whenever Kei looked around, he didn't find him. It would've been easier without the promises, without the lies that lingered between them.

"I'm sorry." The first word was what caught Kei's attention; the sound drowned away by the echo of Kuroo's footsteps on the ground as he crossed the distance left between him and the bed. His weight dropped, kneeling at the edge of the bed, head bowed, and a frown slowly etched on his face. "I'm sorry, Kei. I was in my head and didn't consider how you felt."

How was Kei supposed to react to that? How was he supposed to feel? He didn't trust words anymore, didn't believe this apology, but he couldn't handle the relief that washed through his blood. It was a false relief. The alpha might be apologising now, but the omega had no reason to trust that anything would change, to believe that his life would change.

"Whatever you say, Kuroo-san. I don't care. You can be with your lover all you want. We can consummate the marriage, maybe even give birth to an heir; I won't have any obligations to this marriage after that."

Kuroo's callused fingers wrapped around his, engulfing his hand in warmth. The touch was gentle, but firm, taking his hand a hostage and their eyes met, golden gems catching the gaze of forest and sunshine. Kei didn't know what to expect anymore, didn't know what to think or how to react. His protests were buried deep in his chest, the look in the alpha's gaze a silent command to give him a chance. "I promised to be a husband to you. I don't want to break any more promises."

The hesitation wasn't evident in his voice, hidden behind the determination in his eyes, but the tremble that went through his fingers spoke volumes. Kei knew he shouldn't expect Kuroo's every move to support his words, he was in love with another, and it wouldn't be easy to destroy that passion, but he didn't trust promises anymore.

"Kuroo-san, I'm not a typical omega. I'm too tall, I'm built like an alpha, and I act like one. I don't expect you to see me as a wife." Wasn't it the truth? The insecurity that hunted him for months, days and many sleepless nights since he presented. He was the son of a family that had generations of alphas and no omegas; it was unnatural that he even presented as anything other than alpha, especially with his build. Who'd look at him and want him? He would never be anything more than an abomination, no matter what anyone said. Kei knew that he would never be seen as an omega.

"What are you talking about? You don't need to be petite to be an omega. You smell like one, sweet and captivating, and that's enough for anyone to know you are one." The words were soft, gentle as they brushed Kei's senses, comforting in the way Kuroo's scent softened, the cocoa and bourbon encouraging the omega inside of him. "You are beautiful, Tsukishima Kei."

His blood went cold, his skin dried out. He didn't want to believe this, didn't trust his mind and heart to deny him anything if he accepted the spoken words, even if Kei knew they were another set of lies leaving Kuroo's lips. He tugged at his hand, trying to release it from the cage of the alpha's fingers to no avail. "Do us both a favour, Kuroo-san and stop stringing me along. I've had enough of your game. You said it yourself, earlier, the only reason you wanted to consummate the marriage was that Terushima encouraged you to do so and this is nothing more than a political marriage, so let's stop here. I'm going back to sleep."

It was all political; no feelings are to be involved. The statement was spoken by Kei, by the realisation washed over him. Why was he overreacting? There will never be anything for him here, didn't he understand that when they informed him of the marriage arrangements? Why did he grow to expect anything different? It wasn't as if he was kind or gentle; he was cruel and snarky, and his only good trait was his brain, he wasn't loveable.

His hand was released, the cold air felt like fire against his warm skin as his attention was stolen back by the alpha. Kuroo's hands were blazing against his skin, gentle fingers cupping his face. Kei didn't notice the wetness on his cheeks until thumbs brushed away the tears. "Oh." The word was more of a broken gasp, an unsuppressed reaction of shock. "Maybe my heat is still affecting me."

The statement was brushed away by the alpha, lips soft as Kuroo pressed a kiss to his forehead, and Kei's frown deepened. What was he planning? "I know I've apologised before, but this time, this is a promise, give me one last chance. Your condition still stands, I know, but give me a chance to talk to Terushima and then I'll do everything to make this work."

His vision was blurry, his glasses fogged with his tears, but Kei could see the pain that lingered in the shadows of Kuroo's eyes. The mere prospect of breaking it with the alpha pained him, so why does he keep lying to both of them. Nothing will ever happen. "Whatever you say, Kuroo-san. We both know you'll never choose me over him. You love him, while I'm nobody, just a foreign prince."

Kuroo's sigh brushed against Kei's face; their foreheads pressed together, and it took all of the omega's willpower not to shiver from the sensation that filled him. There was irritation mixed with the scent of Cocoa and Burboun. "Stop cutting yourself short. You are more than just that." There was a moment of silence, neither of them speaking before Kuroo took a deep breath, his lids falling shut to cover his eyes. "I thought I was doing well in regards to you, to our relationship. I believed I had us at a point that worked well for both of us, but after listening to you, I know I was wrong. You kept telling me this for years; I chose this life for us, I need to start taking responsibility for my decisions."

Sarcasm was a part of Kei, in his blood and in every breath he spoke, it dripped from his mouth like venom that pushed people away, kept them as far as possible. It was the shield he had developed over the years, the mask that he hid behind. "Did I give you a wakeup call? Go back to sleep, Kuroo-san." The prospect of the future that the alpha had spoken of frightened him. The unspoken promises were swimming in his mind, swarming his thoughts. There were many possibilities, many scenarios but the worst case scenario was the loudest in his head, reminding him that nothing worked, life didn't work like that; things don't get resolved, and people don't live happily ever after. This was a reality, not a fairytale.

"In that case, good morning, Kei."

Kei scoffed, annoyance building up inside of him. It was a familiar emotion; it was comforting compared to the storm of feelings that were raging inside of him mere moments ago. The remark was on the tip of his tongue when Kuroo's lips brushed against his in a peck that left him frozen, his shoulders tensing in surprise. "I need to go meet with oto-san and Daichi. We can talk later, go back to sleep now if you'd like."

Chapter Text

His steps were loud in the silence of the corridor, the flames of the torches flicking around them to brighten the dark space. The air was heavy with the stench of blood and rust, the scent metallic and revolting in his nose. Nothing was welcoming or warm in the dungeons, not the screams of pain that would sound out of nowhere, not the stains of blood that painted the stone walls and not the echo of shackles. It was a portrait of nightmares, a place of torture and evil and tales that never make it to the surface. Once upon a time, Daichi hated stepping into the dark of the dungeons, but after years it became nothing unusual.

The creak of the metal door as it was pulled open was loud, echoing to warn the figure shackled to the walls. The expensive silk robes and the leather pants that covered him didn't belong in this filthy dungeon; they were outfits worn at one's estate, surrounded by luxury and warmth. The clothes were a sign of the prisoner's wealth and status, but at that moment that sign only worked in fueling Daichi's anger. A high ranked nobleman was behind the assassination attempt.

"Marquess Terushima, I would say it's a pleasure to see you here, but it isn't." The emotions that raged inside of him were hidden behind a mask of calmness, his voice giving nothing away.

"Your Highness." His voice wavered, almond eyes were dark in the lighting of the torches, but the fear that filled them was as clear as daylight. "Please forgive me, I'd bow, but I'm unable to show you the respect you deserve."

The sound of Daichi's laughter was dark, humourless and cold. "House Terushima has been allies of House Kuroo since they came to power. They've been allies for hundreds of years. I hate that I had to witness the fall of such great house."

There was no reply, no answer and no sound. The silence stretched around them, a bubble wrapping them and separating them from the screams that echoed through the other cells. "Don't make this difficult on yourself, My lord. You can acknowledge your crime and answer my questions before going to trial, or you can lie, and I'll have to resort to other means to get the truth out of you, which neither of us will enjoy. If even then you decide to lie, I can always talk to your son." Dread filled Daichi, the weight that settled on his shoulders heavy. He hoped that he wouldn't have to resort to torture, the witnesses had already confirmed the Marquess' crime, but the prince needed him to confess.

"No!" The roar caught Daichi off guard, his gaze flickering to the man as he tugged on his chains, causing the sound of the shackles to resound across the cell. "I'll confess, but my son had nothing to do with any of it. I swear to you, Your Highness, Yuuji is innocent, he knew nothing."

"That is for the crown to decide, my lord. Though, I can tell you this; we have nothing to convict your son as of yet. Now, I'll ask you questions and based on your answer; I'll decide how we proceed."

Daichi didn't wait for a reply, didn't wait for any sign that the alpha is ready; he would never be prepared. No one was ever ready to be interrogated, not in these cells, not with the threat of torture looming over them like a black cloud. "Are you behind the assassination attempt on Prince Kei's life?"

"Yes."

"Who are your accomplices?"

"Ueda Haruki."

"Why did you target the prince?"

There was no answer; his question was met with silence. Daichi's chocolate gaze shifted to the chained man, watching as he chewed on his lip and tried to hide the slight shaking of his limbs. He didn't want to resort to violence, didn't want it to get rough when they could avoid it.

"Please cooperate with us, my lord. You claim Yuuji-dono is innocence, then give us reason to believe your statement and clear him. Don't let the Terushima name die with you."

A shadow flashed across the Marquess' face, masking his features for a moment before it was gone, replaced with the man's neutral expression. "I did it to protect my son." The confession was shocking. The words were spoken out of nowhere, taking Daichi by surprise. It took him a moment to mask his expression. "I found letters in his possession, Letters that detail the relationship between him and Prince Tetsurou."

It made absolute sense, the need to protect one's offspring was ingrained deeply in all of them. It was an instinct, and it was as influential in alphas as it was in omegas. That didn't mean the Marquess' reasoning was just. "And that made Prince Kei a target of assassination how?"

"I feared the day when he'd uncover their relationship. He is a prince while my son is of lower rank. He wouldn't have left it as it is."

"And the answer was to try and kill him? You ruined your family." The anger was leaking from him, into his words and his scent, marking the room with his rage. He took it back; his reasoning made no sense. Daichi wasn't a father, not yet and he didn't know how fathers thought, but he knew that if he were in Terushima's shoes, he would've leashed his son. Taking lives, no matter whose life it was, is no small feat. Humans shouldn't have that kind of power over something, that is why they were decisions left to kings; to people who carry the weight of nations on their shoulders, who wouldn't be consumed by the power so effortlessly.

"At first, I tried to ban Yuuju from meeting the prince, but Haruki convinced me that it wasn't enough, that alphas of their status wouldn't obey such commands, wouldn't let anyone stand in their way." Daichi's attention was on every word, on the way the letters rolled on the alpha's tongue, on the way the syllabus resounded across the cell and on the way his voice rose and dropped. He ate up the confession, seeking the truth in the spoken words greedily. He wanted to solve the case with no issues, to let it end before any harm befell his newest cousin.

"Haruki devised the whole plan; he said the safest option would be to replace the new prince with Yuuji. I merely wanted what is best for my son."

It didn't take Daichi any effort to understand the whole picture, the holes left unexplained by the alpha. Ueda Haruki managed to manipulate one of their nobles into attempting to assassinate the future queen. He succeeded in controlling him, most likely with the goal to have someone he can influence wear the crown. If he managed to manipulate the father, as weak-willed as he was, it wouldn't have been so difficult doing the same to the son.

The anger that raged inside of him only burned stronger as understanding dawned on him, leaving him with the need to punch something. Daichi squeezed his fingers together, his hands in fists at his side. As much as he wanted to hit the man, it wasn't going to happen, not when he is cooperating. "Let me tell you something, my lord. Prince Kei most likely knows about your son's relationship with Prince Tetsurou. The lovebirds are too obvious for him not to have noticed, especially since they run in the same circle."

The words left the lord shaking, eyes wide and panic slowly crept into him, finding a home in his body. The realisation was slower to set, the fear evident in the tense muscles of his shoulders and the glint of his almond gaze. He was manipulated, used for someone's greed, but that didn't lessen his guilt, it only it made it worse. Their world was dangerous, as it was lonely and one needed to be careful, to be perceptive and to play the game wisely. One misstep could cost someone their head. It was a lesson that the Marquess learnt so late in the game with the executioner's axe hanging over his neck.

"Where does your son stand in all of this. You can't convince me that you tried to throne him without his knowledge." Daichi was gentle, kind and warm. Everyone knew him as the one who cared and looked after everyone. That gentleness that was known to him was nowhere to be found in his voice or his stance. To the prince, betrayal was the worse crime anyone could commit. He could forgive the lord's naivety, but in his naivety, he betrayed his monarch.

"He has nothing to do it. He did not know of the plans we made. He wouldn't have supported it." It was a step that the young lord wouldn't have dared take. He was a firm believer in the prosperity of their kingdom, he supported their growth, and Yuuji would place what's best for Nekoma before his own needs, just as he did when he accepted Kuroo's decision to marry Tsukishima. It was evident in every word that the Marquess read, in every letter.

He betrayed his own family when he played into the hands of Ueda. Yuuji had always warned him, had always reminded him that court was dangerous, that it wasn't to be taken carelessly merely because they were wealthier than most nobles. He hinted at his mother's fate occasionally, reminded him of what awaited her when she underestimated the danger of politics. He should've listened.

He wanted to apologise to his son, to ask for his forgiveness. He didn't expect to get the chance to do so, doesn't believe he'll see his son outside of the trial, wouldn't get to speak to him.

"One last thing, my lord. Where did you get the snake from and how did you cover your tracks?" The words snapped his attention back to the reality, his eyes meeting the chocolate gaze of the young prince.

"I do not know. I gave the funding, but I was in the dark regarding the plans. Haruki handled everything."

"Your trial is tomorrow, my lord." There were no more words after that, no sound but the echo of footsteps as they walked away, leaving him alone in his cell, with nothing but his thoughts.

 

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The scream ripped through the air, shattering the silence that wrapped the dungeons. The sound caught Daichi off-guard, an unwelcoming song to the scene that awaited him. The cell that he walked into was packed, two guards holding a figure on the ground while a third guard stood over him.

"Did he talk, yet?" The words brought the soldier's attention to the prince, instantly bowing from the waist in ungraceful but practised movements.

"We apologise, Daichi-sama, but he refuses to talk no matter what we do."

His chocolate gaze took in the scene, followed the way blood seeped from the wounds of the beta kneeling on the ground. He watched as the blood painted him a dark wine shade, hiding his skin and the colour of his tattered clothes. "I already got the confession from the Marquess. I just have one question for you, Ueda-san." He allowed his words to trail away, giving a chance for the meaning behind his words to sink into his mind.

The moment dragged on for longer than he expected, eyes widening comically as they met Daichi's chocolate gaze and there was no denying the look of horror in the Knight's eyes. "He confessed?" The question was laughable, filled with fear and it gave everything that Ueda refused to speak. He refused to confess, but the question was a silent confession.

"Why did you do it?"

His lips were pursed, unwilling to speak or cooperate. His eyes were gleaming with malice, with hate that Daichi couldn't understand. What did they do to warrant such reaction from someone like Ueda?

The prince wasn't the only one who saw the hostility in that gaze, the guard shifting instantly to land a kick to the beta's abdomen and earning a gasp of pain in return. "Show some respect, you traitor." The guard was preparing for another kick, but Daichi saw it coming, his hand instantly resting on the man's shoulders to halt his movements.

"Thank you, but it's alright. I believe Sir Ueda has had enough for one day." Daichi could see the conflict in the guard's gaze, his lips parting as if prepared to argue and he was grateful when he bowed his head in acceptance of the order. "Ueda-san, your trial is tomorrow morning, His Majesty will decide your fate."

He turned around, his steps sure as he crossed the remainder of the cell, almost stepping behind the metal door when the words stopped him in his tracks. "The Karasuno king wanted his son assassinated; he wanted an excuse to breach the treaty without losing his standing with Nekoma's allies. He was going to make me his deputy, a status someone like me could never reach in here. King Kuroo doesn't care about us when King Tsukishima values skill above all."

The laughter bubbled from his lips before he realised it, the sound loud and mocking as it echoed through the dark cell. There was a difference between being ambitious and being treacherous, a distinction the knight in question apparently couldn't understand.

"King Tsukishima doesn't value skills, Ueda-san, he values one's gender, and if you're not an alpha, then you hold no position in his court. Open your eyes, who in his court is a beta or an omega? No one, only servants and lower ranked guards are betas." Daichi had stepped back into the room, moving to stand directly in front of the knight, looming over him. "He doesn't care about you unless you're an alpha. The son he wants dead is enough proof; he exiled Kei the moment he presented as an omega. How can you trust a king such as him?"

Daichi's fingers pulled at the beta's tattered clothes, tugging to pull the man closer to his face. His rage was burning inside of him, warming his skin and boiling his blood. How can someone trust a king who is willing to sacrifice his son for his own gain? How could he believe him so profoundly that he willingly betrayed his own kingdom? He couldn't understand.

"Your trial is tomorrow." The alpha didn't waste any more time, releasing the beta's shirt without warning and letting him drop to the ground before he stalked out of the room. He could only hope he would repent before facing the executioner's axe, not that it'll save his life.

 

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The throne room was buzzing, the sound of chatter and murmurs vibrating around them. The atmosphere in King Kuroo's court was remarkably different than what Kei was used to from his father's court. No matter how many times he witnessed it, it never failed to surprise him. The air was cold, winter leaving them chilled and shivering, but there was still a hint of warmth, foreign to court.

Tetsurou's arm was a grounding weight around his waist, comforting him in the presence of the nobility that has gathered in the hall waiting for the start of the trial. Kei's smile was practised, forced on his face with ease after years of willing himself to act pleasant and polite. He could feel the tickling presence of eyes at the nape of his neck, feel goosebumps on his skins as their watchful stares followed his movements.

"Did you talk to his majesty?" Kei's words startled the alpha, bringing his attention to meet the topaz gems that are the omega's eyes. It was the first look that he gave his wife since they walked into the room, finally noting the tension in the set of his shoulders, the nerves in his bright gaze and the discomfort in his stance and the way he edged closer to the alpha the more people looked at him.

It was unusual for someone who grew up under the watchful eyes of a whole kingdom. As royalty privacy was a foreign concept, a luxury that they could never afford for the sake of the people's peace of mind. Kuroo's gaze shifted to study the crowd of nobility that filled the hall. The alpha mentally cursed himself, cursed his oblivious self and selfishness. How could he miss the scent of hatred that contaminated the air, as subtle as it was, he was supposed to protect his wife from everything, even something as small as the scent, the crown prince just made that promise yesterday, and he was already failing.

"I talked to him, but he didn't tell me much." Kuroo's hand was warm as he rubbed soothing patterns on Kei's back, trying to alleviate some of the tension building in his muscles. If they weren't here because of Kei's assassination attempt, he would've suggested taking the omega back to their chambers, but his presence was necessary. Nekoma's court needed to see Kei as their crown prince's wife that, they needed to see him as their future queen and they need to understand the consequences of targeting him. "Do you want to go out for some fresh air until it starts?"

The piercing glare that the omega gave him told him more than the words could. "I don't need you to baby me. This is nothing compared to father's court." Kei's voice sounded harsher than he intended, his words filled venom, and he almost flinched at his own tone.

He was known to be cruel, sarcastic and brutal, but it was too much even to his ears. He was known to pushing people away, to not allowing anyone near him, but did he want to do the same with Kuroo? Did he want to ruin whatever was left of their relationship? The alpha has stated over and over that he cared about the omega. Should Kei spoil the good between them? He feared the loneliness that he forces upon himself, feared the outcome of such actions to their marriage.

He didn't want to be stuck in a relationship that left them both desiring for more. The alpha could always find someone else, replacing a wife is easy, but the same can't be said about Kei's situation. As an omega, he can never seek more, can never look for comfort from someone else. Adultery could cost him his head.

His lips parted, a weak apology on the tip of his tongue when he was interrupted by the frown that found its way to Kuroo's face, the gold of his eyes darkening into a darker shade. "How bad is court there?" The apology felt like a lump in his throat, but no words replaced them, his mind blacking out for a moment. Kei settled on a shrug, grateful for the hush that washed over the hall as the King stepped into the throne room, taking easy steps to his seat, the crowd bowing as he walked past them.

No one dared to speak, no one trying to emit a sound even as the king motioned for all of them to straighten up. Silence settled on the crowd, growing as if the people were compelled by the magnificence of their king. The spell broke as guards walked in, leading along two alpha males and a beta male. The buzzing started immediately as the nobility recognised the faces brought to trial.

"Your Majesty." Daichi's voice was the first to cut through the chatter, the buzzing dying slowly as everyone's attention shifted to the prince standing in front of the throne steps. "The Marquess of Nightly Terushima Akito, his son Terushima Yuuji & The Knight Ueda Haruki are charged with treason for conspiring against His Royal Highness Princes Kei's life and threatening the alliance with Karasuno." Murmers sounded once more, shocked conversations rising in volume.

"Your Majesty." The young prince's volume rose, his words catching the attention of the nobility. "Marquess Terushima and Sir Ueda have both confessed to the crime, while Terushima Yuuji has been found innocent with no prior knowledge."

The king was a painting of majestic, grace emitting from his very being and his authority seen by everyone standing in the hall. "Marquess Terushima, you are found guilty of treason. You shall be stripped of your title, and all your properties and estates will go to your son who will inherit the status of Marquees." No one dared breath as the king spoke his verdict, condemning the treacherous. "Sir Ueda, you have been found guilty of treason. Tomorrow at sunrise both will be executed publicly in the town hall."

"Your majesty, this can't be right. My father will never betray his kingdom." Yuuji's voice was loud, breaking the silence as everyone's gaze shifted to rest on him, eyes taking in his appearance. He still looked like the noble he was, his status loud in his posture.

"Yuuji-kun, your father, confessed to his crimes and he doesn't deny them. It saddens us, but the reality of it is that he has betrayed Nekoma and thus must face the consequences of his choices."

This time the king didn't allow silence to settle in the hall, standing in front of his throne, his gaze calculating as it took in everyone present. "Prince Tetsurou, step forward." Confusion was heavy in the air, apparent on Kuroo's face as he released the arm wrapped around Kei to move and stand next to Daichi. His father never calls on him in front of anyone in such a manner and certainly not in a court of law.

"Prince Tetsurou and Terushima Yuuji, you are both charged and found guilty of Adultery. We have obtained letters that confirm the continuation of your relationship after Prince Tetsurou's marriage." Any calm that has settled in the hall vanished the moment the king finished his sentence, curious gazes seeking the people in question.

The king raised a hand, catching the attention of the crowd and forcing the lord steward into question, calling out for the attention of the peerage. "Terushima Yuuji, you are hereby banished from court and to the Nightly March. Establish yourself as the next Marquess of Nightly and trust that the crown still believes in the Terushima name and your loyalty."

Tetsurou wanted to reason with his father, to ask him to reconsider, to plead for the reversal of his decision, but a king's word is law, and the alpha still holds enough sense not to disrespect his monarch in such manner. "Princess Tetsurou, you will be stripped of The Duchy of Lux and the County of Saxon and with them their titles and income. These lands are to be transferred back to the crown."

That left Tetsurou with only his title as crown prince; he was stripped of more than half of his income. His lips parted, a plea on the tip of his tongue for both of them when the King started making his way down the steps, the crowd parting and bowing as he left the hall, guards dragging Ueda and Terushima to their cells in preparations for their execution. The king left the throne room, leaving chaos behind him.

Chapter Text

The curious gazes followed his every movement, his every breath. He was trapped under their watchful eyes, the only thing protecting him was his status; they couldn't talk to him unless he initiated the conversation. Kei's golden gaze searched the hall, trying to find Kuroo among the crowd that swarmed them the moment the king stepped out of the room.

In a sense, he understood the reason behind his father in law's actions, but he refused to accept it. The eyes and the chatter left him with a sense of shame; he could taste the humiliation in his mouth. He never wanted any of this; he never wanted to present as an omega, to be sent to marry a prince of another nation and he never wanted to see the disgust and greed fill the eyes of the court nobility. His delicate status has grown even worse.

Kuroo was surrounded, eyes darting around frantically as if searching, seeking. The longing was shinning in his eyes, and as Kei saw his eyes brighten, sparkle, even more, he knew it wasn't him the alpha was looking for. Laughter almost bubbled past his lips, tears almost leaked from his eyes, but he held his ground, raised his head and adjusted his posture. 'I'm their prince. Their future queen.' The words were playing like a mantra in his mind, giving him a boost of confidence.

He needed to get out, to find peace away from the crowd, to find solace in silence. He needed to escape the hall, but he was confined among the nobility that refused to let him free. The weight of a hand settled on his shoulder, warmth soon to follow and Kei turned around to snarl at whoever dared touch him, yet the spoken words were faster. "I'm sorry, Daichi sent me, he said I should get you to Tetsurou-kun."

Fair skin, platinum curls, wide innocent eyes and a mole are what Kei saw. The sweetness of his scent alerted him to the gender of the male, his beauty fitting of an omega of his status. There was warmth radiating from him, from his touch and his smile. Kei's golden gaze darted to the darkening mark in the junction between his neck and shoulders, that's when he noticed the scent of pine trees and cinnamon, hidden in the natural sweetness of omegas. "You're Daichi-san's mate?"

The smile on his face widened, the warmth reminding Kei of the sun. This is how omegas are meant to be, beautiful and warm. Kei was nothing like that. "Nice to meet you, I'm Sawamura Koushi. I wish we met under better circumstances, but I'm pleased to meet you nonetheless."

The blonde felt drained, his energy seeping from his body and leaving him exhausted. Scenes as these always left him tired, but he forced a smile back on his face, pressing himself to be polite, he had made enough enemies in court, he couldn't afford to make more. "The pleasure is all mine, Sawamura-san."

Kei wanted to escape, the urge only growing as people watched their exchange with hungry eyes, taking in every small detail. "Come on, come on. Let's get you to your husband." There was something about the older omega that left Tsukishima unable to argue even as he wanted to turn around and flee, yet his legs followed.

"Tetsu, you can't go to him. Oh, Kei-san, there you are." Daichi's words cut through the chatter as they came to stand near them, the smile slipping off his face. He didn't need to follow Kuroo's gaze to know what he was watching.

"Kei, you are safe. I'm glad."

His lips pursed, a frown twitching on his face. "You were clearly worried about me, that's why you are watching him." The venomous edge was back into his tone. What did he expect? Of course, he wouldn't stand a chance against Terushima. Kei was a fool for ever believing Kuroo's promise. He will never mean anything to the alpha.

His thoughts started to clear, the haze of his emotions slipping away, replaced by what he deemed as the truth and anger burned in his chest. Kei never chose this, never wanted it, but standing here, he was the one being humiliated. He was the one the nobility wished to get rid of, to replace. The Omega was the one deemed as defective because he failed to win Kuroo's love.

Hazel eyes met his own, Kuroo's gaze finally leaving Terushima to look at Kei and both recoiled at the flame of anger in their gazes. "I knew no one would hurt you in front of everyone, not unless they have a deathwish. Yuuji on the other hand just lost his father and was banished from court. I can say that he's in a worse situation than you, so stop being selfish."

Koushi was the first to react to the spoken words, his honey coloured eyes darkening and his hands fisted at his sides. Kei watched, frozen in place as the older omega stepped into Kuroo's space. "You've been acting selfishly since your engagement. You have been thinking about no one but yourself. Do you think you are doing the kingdom any good by marrying Kei-kun and then neglecting him like an abusive alpha? Are you trying to break our future queen before your reign? Wake up and start acting like a prince. You accepted this responsibility so act like it."

"Thank you, Sawamura-san, but I'm alright. I don't need anything from him." Koushi's words were ringing in his head, Kuroo's words erasing the memory of his promise. Kei could feel the ache in his chest; it was a constant feeling that refused to go away. Does he have no other choice but to accept this? Is this better than what awaits him at home? He wished his brother was here, someone he could trust, someone who would never let him down.

"Your promise was a lie; this marriage is a sham. Go to Terushima, Kuroo-san, but if you choose him, then you've wasted your chance, and I'll ask for an annulment." He no longer cared about the eyes that followed their movements, didn't care about the tinge of excitement that seeped into the air at his declaration. The status of their marriage was never a secret, and perhaps his father would forgive his secondary gender if he gave him grounds for war with Nekoma now that Shiratorizawa is no longer a threat.

There was a beat of silence, the world fading from around them as they waited. Kei's gaze focused as he followed Kuroo's movements, took in the angle of his head, the way his hands brushed through his messy raven hair and how his eyes left Terushima and never went back. He could note the twitch in his muscles, the way his shoulders tensed as he kept his attention focused on the omega and away from the other alpha. "I'm sorry, Kei. I shouldn't have spoken in that manner. Come on, let's go."

Emotions surged through Kei, a mix of relief and a tinge of guilt as Kuroo wrapped an arm around the younger's waist, pulling him closer to his side. It was what he wanted, what he asked for, but he couldn't help but feel a hint of guilt at the sourness that mixed with the alpha's scent. "I'm not going to be his replacement, Kuroo-san."

The pace of their steps was slow; their heads raised high as they made their way through the crowd and out of the hall, ignoring the curious gazes of the nobility. The words that escaped Kei's lips were clear of sarcasm, the tone serious. He had been the second choice since their engagement; he wouldn't accept being a replacement. The omega feared the loneliness that was his life feared being left behind and there was nothing as frightening as the loneliness of being a replacement, of being compared to someone else and never meeting expectations. It was a fear he knew very well, lived through the horror of it as his brother's spare until he grew into himself.

"You are no one's replacement." There was a hint of amusement in the tone, the words washing away some of his lingering fears.

"It doesn't mean all is forgiven or forgotten, Kuroo-san." Kei's voice was growing softer, smaller as uncertainty settled in his chest. It was an emotion so similar to what usually controlled his thoughts, yet there was something different in it; this time the doubt was easier to ignore, unhinged with the fear that tormented his every idea. "But thank you."

The words were a silent breath, quiet and Kuroo almost thought he imagined them, but that blush that adorned Kei's cheeks was enough to confirm his suspicions. A weight had settled on his chest, heavy and uncomfortable leaving him with an ache that refused to ease even as a smile forced its way onto his face.

Regret burned in his veins, the feeling a dark cloud that hovered in his mind. His choices brought nothing but destruction, and it left all those involved in pain. He allowed the marriage under the pretence of duty. He accepted knowing that he wouldn't be able to break it off with Yuuji and here they are, humiliated in front of the court, separated by force, their relationship in tatters and what's worse is that he dragged Kei into it.

Kuroo could lie to himself and say the omega was living life peacefully, but the words ringing in his head forced him to admit the truth. He failed to shoulder his responsibility and left his omega to suffer for two years. Nothing he does now, not even the sacrifice of his love would be enough to make it up to the younger prince.

His grip tightened on the blonde's waist, stopping in his tracks and forcing the omega to do the same. The confusion was evident on Kei's face, his topaz eyes darkening as suspicion flashed through his orbs. The raven couldn't blame him, not with all the broken promises and the lonely days he forced on him. Not when he gave the younger male no reason to trust him.

The image of Terushima was ingrained in his mind, the previous scene rooted in his thoughts as he was reminded by the events of the day; the conviction of Lord Terushima, his embedding execution and the look of pain in the almond eyes of his lover. They needed to accept their reality, and they were obliged to take responsibility to shoulder their duties and endure the consequences of their choices. Kuroo had to start with his omega.

He focused on the golden of Kei's eyes, allowed the brightness of them to drive away all his thoughts and ground him into the reality that surrounded them. Kuroo's body moved on its own, his shoulders tensing as he kneeled in front of the taller prince, their positions making him seem even taller and more intimidating than he was. His Cheshire cat grin felt natural on his face as did the frown that twitched on Kei's face. "I knew nothing I do would erase my mistakes and we can never start over, the scars will remain, but I ask this of you; please, allow me to court you. Give me the chance to prove my devotion to you. Give our marriage a chance."

"You were the one who destroyed those chances." Kei's tone wasn't harsh, but Kuroo flinched at the seriousness of his voice. It was the truth, and it hurt more than any sarcastic remark the blond could've delivered. He forced them into this situation, and Kei had been kind to give him more than one chance.

The raven's fingers were firm as he reached for Kei's hand, relief warming his chest as it flared inside of him. He pressed a kiss to the knuckles, feeling the softness of skin under his lips and the prickle of amusement at the darkening of the blonde's cheeks. "I know, and yet I dare to ask for one last chance. Please allow me to court you, not as your husband, not as the crown prince of another nation, but as an alpha interested in an omega, as a person interested in you and your 'charming' personality."

"If you have a problem with my personality you are always welcome to leave, Kuroo-san." The scoff was expected on Kei's face, it matched the harsh tone of his words, the dark glint in his eyes and it eased the pain in Kuroo's chest.

"See, absolutely charming." His laughter sounded loud in the corridor, echoing around them and catching the attention of some of the servants walking by and the amusement only grew as Kei clicked his tongue against the roof of his mouth in irritation. "People are starting to look, please don't keep me kneeling here for long."

"I rather like you on your knees, Kuroo-san." The glint in his eyes was menacing and sinister, a promise of nothing good and it matched the half smile that twitched on his face. "Perhaps I'll agree if you stay like that till the sun sets."

Kuroo's expression faltered for a moment, his hazel gaze darkening before his smile grew, a sparkle in his eyes that didn't please the omega. "Only if you stand here with me until then. I'm sure we are a scene to behold."

The sensation of eyes following their movements registered into Kei's mind, goosebumps rising onto his skin and discomfort grew in his abdomen. He refused to give in to Kuroo's provocation, to allow him this victory but the idea of being watched annoyed him more than admitting defeat. "Fine, but this is your last chance, Kuroo-san. I'm done being your toy; I'm done being moved to your whims."

"Thank you." The sincerity in his voice squeezed at Kei's chest, burned in his veins, and he yearned to be better with words, wished he knew how to comfort someone if only to offer something to ease the pain that was evident in his eyes, but he couldn't find any words.

Their eyes met as Kuroo stood to full height, his grin was wide, and his touch was warm as he laced their fingers, tugging on Kei's hand to pull him closer into his space and press a kiss to his forehead. "You are a perfect height now."

The smile on Kei's face grew mischevious, chest expanding with the excitement of shenanigans. "I'm still growing, Kuroo-san. I'll be leaving you behind very soon."

"I'd like to see you try, you brat."

 

Chapter Text

The dining room was silent except for the occasional scratches of a quill on a paper as the king worked and the quiet conversation of the Sawamura couple that wouldn't reach their ears. Kei didn't mind; he enjoyed the peace, the calm that surrounded the area and he would welcome it anytime. His attention was on the plate resting on the table in front of him; he picked the loaf of bread that decorated his meal, feeling its weight in his hand before he broke a small piece and forced into his mouth.

His appetite tended to be small, and ever since he came to Nekoma, it has grown even smaller. It was a typical discussion between him and Kuroo, the older unpleased with what little the omega ate. It didn't please Kei either, but he didn't like forcing himself to eat, not when he knew it was normal to crave food. His eating habits have improved lately, where he didn't need to push himself to consume, where he didn't feel the need to keep food down, it was an achievement that slowly diminished since his last heat. The very idea of eating at this moment made his stomach churn.

Kei was aware that his appetite was sensitive to his moods, was susceptible to the changes in his physical body and his exhaustion certainly wasn't helping him. It didn't help that the weariness has been growing and weighing him down since his heat; the chaos that had erupted gave him little chance to recover from the sleepless nights he lived through.

"Is the food not to your liking? Would you like something else?" The gentle words of the queen rang in his ears, dragging his topaz gaze to meet the concerned look in the omega's eyes and it soothed him in a way that never failed to shock him.

"I'm alright. Thank you for your concern." Doubt flashed through the warm gaze, her eyes observing Kei for a moment longer before giving in and turning her attention back to her food. The blonde did the same, reaching for a piece of meat to nip on. The exaggerate and colourful display of the food that covered the surface of the table wasn't helping him crave any of the different choices presented to them.

"You revoked my access to all kingdom affairs?" Tetsruou's voice was loud in the silence, his words echoing around them. Everyone's attention shifted to the raging figure that walked into the room, watching as his attention focused on the king who refused to turn and look at his son, resuming his work as if nothing's amiss.

"And you are banned from attending any council meetings." The sound of the quill never broke, the scratching against the paper loud as the silence stretched around them, no one daring to speak and interrupt the discussion between the king and his heir; if that could be called a discussion.

"I'm your heir, I need to be involved, I need to learn and participate and help as much as I can." The anger didn't dispense from the tone, but the volume lowered, disappointment clear in the drop of the young alpha's shoulders.

"I can't have a fool for an heir."

"You can't shun me because of one mistake. Otosan, please, I have a duty as the prince, I have a duty to the crown and our people."

The sound of the king's writing finally broke, his hand stilling and his eyes shifted to take in the stance of his son. His gaze was as piercing as ever, but there was a flame of anger slowly growing in the depth of his eyes. "What of your duty to your wife? Adultery, Tetsurou. Adultery!" His voice has gradually grown in volume, his tone filled with the building anger. "We made it clear that you could refuse this marriage. 'I' made it clear that you didn't have to go through with it, you chose to proceed with it. I raised you better than that."

Tetsruou's lips parted and closed, the words he wanted to speak wouldn't come to mind and any explanation melted from his brain, his thoughts sounding beyond reach. He wanted his father to understand, to know of the turmoil that the young prince felt and lived through since he agreed. He wanted his father to know how he felt as he convinced himself to give up his love, to sacrifice his feelings for Terushima. Walking away had left a void in his chest, an emptiness that resonated within him and left him aching and with tears stinging his eyes.

How was he supposed to live with the emptiness that spread through him? Kuroo's fingers tightened at his side, his nails digging into the skin of his palm and the pain washed away the thoughts that swam in his mind. He shifted hazel eyes to look across the dining table, taking in the look on his mother's face and the disinterest on Kei's. The tension that was building inside of him slowly melted away, leaving his body with the huff of air that passed through his lips. "I have no excuse for my actions; I can only work to correct my mistake."

The king seemed to ponder the words for a bit, consider his next speech when he sighed and placed the quill on the wooden surface, shifting his full attention to his son. "It wasn't a small mistake. It could've cost you your head. The only reason you are both alive is that you are my sole heir. Yuuji-kun, on the other hand, is the last Terushima, executing him would've driven their household to extinction, and the rest of the nobles wouldn't have been so pleased."

The edge was evident in his tone, loud in the room. It was very rare for the king to be driven to this state, it was unusual to hear the anger in his voice or see it in his stance. It reminded Kei that he was an alpha, that he could be as dangerous as any, if not even more. It frightened the omega. He never imagined seeing the gentle king filled with burning rage. It was rare, but it made sense, adultery was a form of betrayal, and a just king wouldn't accept the injustice of the act, especially when the offender is his son.

"What would you have gained from that relationship? Even if you weren't married to Kei-kun and we ignored the fact that no heir could be born from the union, whomever Yuuji-kun marries would marry into the Terushima household; as my heir, that isn't possible for you."

"Dear, I think he understands, you don't need to rub salt into his wounds." The queen's voice was small as she spoke, gentleness leaking from her tone and tears burned in her gaze. The king turned to look at her, the emotions radiating from her washing his anger and his voice grew gentler as he spoke again. "I'm not against your love, but that relationship was an injustice to your wife, Yuuji-kun and even yourself. I would give you the world, but not if it'll burn you, and as much as I wish you could live your life freely you have a duty as my heir, a responsibility you can't escape."

"Is that your tough love, otosan?" The playfulness that resonated from Kuroo's tone didn't reach his eyes, the tightness in his chest leaving him breathless, but if they noticed, no one commented on it.

"If you want your spot on my council back, you'll have to earn it again, and it'll be preferable if you manage to do that before King Ushijima's visit."

"I understand. Thank you." His tone sounded strained, his gaze shifting to rest on the blonde as he nibbled on a strawberry. A smile stretched on Kuroo's face, moving to slip into the empty chair next to Kei. "You can't live without strawberries, can you?"

"You can't live without making unnecessary comments, can you?"

 

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A bead ran down his skin, leaving a trail behind. He could feel the sweat as it covered his body, salt and liquid coating him. It left him with a sense of disgust, his nightshirt clinging to his skin and adding to the heat that left him uncomfortable. His eyelids were heavy, his mind was covered in a blanket of fog, but he knew it was supposed to be cold outside, so why was he sweating so much.

Thoughts of a bath seemed heavenly in his mind, but his limbs were aching, his muscles protesting any movement and Kei almost gave up on the idea as he opened his eyes with more strain than usual.

Was he in heat? It couldn't be, his last one ended merely a couple of weeks ago. Did his body finally succumb to the exhaustion that threatened to overcome him since his cycle ended?

"Kei, what's wrong?" Kuroo's voice broke through the haziness surrounding his thoughts. His topaz eyes were glazed over, unfocused and it felt like the blurriness of his vision was worse. He could feel them burn, watering with tears that threatened to leak for no reason.

"Just tired, I suppose. What time is it?" Kei's words broke, his voice sounded rough, and it was then that he noticed the dryness in his throat. He can only assume that he had pushed his body beyond its limit.

"It's still early in the night. You don't look well, Kei." The alpha leaned closer to the omega; the heat radiating from his body wrapped around Kei and it eased some of the anxiety that he didn't realise was building. Callused fingers brushed across his forehead, hands that grew used to holding swords were gentle against his skin, and the blonde leaned into the touch, feeling the cold touch as Kuroo placed his palm on his forehead.

"Shit, you feel warm. I'm going to get a healer."

Kei opened his mouth, ready to protest Kuroo's words and the worry that mixed in his tone, but the alpha was out of bed and rushing out of the room before he could open his lips. The air rushed past his lips with a sigh, and his eyelids drifted closed as darkness engulfed him and sleep took over.

 

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The corridors seemed to go on, the path endless and the sound of his footsteps deafening in the silence of the castle. The walls were nostalgic, and it left him with the familiar ache to be home. Kei took a deep breath, a scent wafting into his nose and leaving him desiring the safety of his brother's embrace.

He focused on the aroma, letting it tickle his senses, comfort him, wrap around him. It was what his home smelled of, coffee beans and cinnamon and his steps grew faster, his very being seeking the source of the scent.

He walked and walked, pushing himself to take faster steps; to run and find the end of the corridor that seemed to drag on. It felt like an eternity, his steps growing slower, his feet refusing to move even as the ache of overworked muscles never came. It was a straight path, one that wouldn't end, the light at the end of the tunnel never came into view, and Kei felt the determination melt out of his skin.

Hopelessness was fast to replace the homesickness, despair lingering at the edge, threatening to overtake him. Kei wants to give in, to allow the emotions to consume him, to take over and replace the ache for home. How long has it been since he walked in these corridors?

The blonde allowed his legs to give up, sliding to sit on the rough ground, feeling the stones underneath him. Why was he stuck here?

"Kei, what are you doing there?" The scent has long nestled itself in his nose, but the sound drew the attention of the omega, head whipping around to meet the gentle gaze of Akiteru. It took all of Kei's self-control not to run to the alpha standing just a few steps away. It took all of his restraint not to shed tears. The ache didn't disappear, but it didn't register in his mind either, not when his home was standing there.

He stood back up, legs shaky as if unable to handle the weight of his body. His throat was dry, eyes burning. He didn't rush to his brother's side, didn't rush into his arms, he waited as moments passed, Kei remained still till his legs steadied, and his weight was no longer a burden before he took the short steps to his brother.

"You've grown." The words were breathed through his hair, whispered gently. He stood taller than his older brother, not by much, but the height difference was evident as arms wrapped around him, engulfing him in the warmth he craved.

He wanted to be back in these arms, to be close to the person who was his whole family, close to the alpha who never abandoned him. He was tired of letters that are always late, letters that felt impersonal and restricted. All of it made him despise their situation, curse his brother for allowing their father to send him away, to exile him to a kingdom where he was left alone, hated by his husband, hated by the court and with no allies or friends. He was alone, lonelier than he was in his father's court and he wanted to be back home.

The Omega didn't realise that he has spoken out loud until his brother's words rang in his ear. "I'm sorry, Kei. We'll get you home once I'm king, we'll figure something out, but hold out until then."

He can do nothing but nod, allowing the warmth to seep into his bones, to melt the piling snow in his chest. This wasn't supposed to be his life; Kei knew he was born as nothing more than a spare to his brother, as a political tool, but never in his worst nightmares did he expect to present as an omega. Never did he foresee being married off, exiled for nothing but his secondary gender.

"Come on, Kei, let's go get some fresh air."

He was released too soon, the air crisp and he was defenceless without Akiteru's arms around him, but Kei did not dare complain. Instead, he followed his brother with easy steps, eyes taking in the broad shoulders of his brother as he led him through the corridor and before long they were outside, fresh air rushing into their lungs.

If the omega didn't register that something was wrong before, he did the moment topaz eyes took in the scenery around him, took in the greenery of the earth, the blue clear sky and tweeting of birds. There were no piles of snow; there was no white carpet covering the world. The sun was warm, but that was wrong, it should be cold outside.

The stench of death replaced the scent of home, the aroma sickening as it wrapped around him and it was then that Kei finally noticed the spikes in the ground, blood pooled underneath them, dripping from the head pierced by the metal. Golden eyes met his own, familiar even when the spark of life was nowhere in the gaze. The omega was staring at his face, his head detached from his body, the word 'omega' itched into the skin of his forehead, and a scream tore itself from his throat.

Kei woke with a start, the world fading from around him until there was nothing but darkness. He flapped around, trying to get the layers from over him, trying to free himself from the shackles that engulfed him. He wanted to reach for the safety that seemed so far away. Was he dead? Is that the meaning of the darkness that surrounded him?

Arms wrapped around him, muscular and strong, shackling him and pulling him against a solid chest. Kei screamed again, the sound horse, throat dry and scratchy but it didn't stop him from thrashing, didn't stop him from struggling against the hold that refused to budge.

There was wetness against his cheeks, liquid running down his back when the scent of bourbon and cacao washed over him, calming his screams until he merely whimpered. He knew that smell, it wasn't home, it wasn't safety, but it was familiar.

"You're alright. It was just a nightmare." The words sounded distant, tunnelled and away, but they calmed some of the fears that burned in his chest. A maid was lighting a candle in the room, bringing light to the darkness. "You are okay. You are safe."

Kei wanted to speak, to tell them that he wasn't safe, but his eyes took in the scene around him. He studied the structure in the room, the familiarity of it until calmness wrapped around him and his trembling body relaxed.

The hold around him eased, the strength in them no longer restraining but grounding as a hand rubbed circles on his back. Reality slowly crept into his mind; he was an omega, he was married, and he wasn't dead. A sob escaped Kei's lips, loud as the arms around him pulled him tighter against the chest, rocking him as if a child and any other time, the blonde would've chastised Kuroo, but he didn't care, not at that moment. Not when he was startled, not when his whole body was aching, and not when the alpha's scent was a comforting blanket.

They stayed there, Kei curled against Tetsurou's chest, the later's hand a comfortable presence on his back. The cotton of his nightshirt clung to his body, sticking to the drying salt on his skin. His tears had dried, his drumming heart calmed down and the fear that ate at him a distant memory. He was exhausted, drained; the tears and screams left him with no more energy to spare.

"Feeling better?"

Kei refused to answer, refused to speak, his lips were sealed tight and drawn in a thin line. He was trapped in his mind, the image of his lifeless eyes staring back at him, long after his tears had stopped. Tetsurou's warmth surrounded him, holding him down to the reality of the situation.

"Please get his highness a glass of water." The words weren't for him, but for the maid standing at attention next to the door. It was a strange scene; servants were always dismissed by Kuroo at night to give them a sense of fake privacy and seeing one standing there in the light of the candle left him confused.

"You have a fever, Kei; Healer Nakamura emphasised that you need to drink more water." He wanted to deny the request, the gentle tone leaving him on edge, but the dryness of his throat forced him to bite back the reply that was on his tongue.

His fingers were shaking as he pressed them to the alpha's chest, feeling the warmth radiating from him and through his clothes under his touch before he pushed, giving the alpha no choice but to release him, and he rolled back onto the bed.

"Is that a nest?" Kei's voice was hoarse, his throat scratchy and heat rushed to his face, painting his cheeks in a light shade of red. It proved hard to speak, even after he tried to cough and ease the lump in his throat.

Kuroo seemed oblivious to the turmoil in Kei's head, hands rubbing at the skin of his neck, skin brushing against the short hair there. "Yeah, I thought it might help you feel better, even if it's not as good as your nest."

"It's a terrible nest; you merely piled blankets over me." It was a whisper, a gentle murmur to no one that Kuroo would've missed in the liveliness of the day, but it was night, and it was peaceful; no one could miss the soft tone that the omega used. It was as close to an apology as he could get.

Kei's eyelids felt heavy, his energy no longer burning in his veins and he wanted to shift back to sleep. Exhaustion never took over, not when every time he closed his eyes he saw the scene outside of his father's walls. Not when every time he closed his eyes, he saw the word omega itched into his skin and blood dripping from his severed neck.

The distressed leaked into the scent of apples and vanilla, the omega's emotions bared for all to know. Kei wanted to pull the covers over himself, to hide from the nightmare, from the world under the covers, but he wasn't weak, and he wouldn't allow himself that amount of weakness. He cried, and he wasn't going to show any more signs of vulnerability.

Fingers were in his hair, brushing through golden locks, gentle and comforting and as much as Kei enjoyed the touch, as much as it eased some of the fear that ate at him, he pulled back, moving away from the soothing touch. A part of him reminded him that he didn't trust Kuroo. That he didn't want to make it easy on him, that he wanted to make the alpha work for his trust and that he wasn't going to allow him to touch him so quickly, at least not when he was aware enough to pull away. As much as Kei craved human contact, he wasn't going to make it easy.

"Do you want to talk about your nightmare?"

"No." He didn't want to talk about it, didn't want to remember it. Kei wanted to forget the nightmare, the bloody scene that he fell upon just as much as he ached to forget the warmth of his brother's hug and his scent. The omega needed to accept his reality.

Kuroo was holding a crystal glass, the water clear in the surface and giving him nothing to focus on. "Drink some and then try to get some sleep." Kei hated the idea of sitting up, the ache in his body a promise of how difficult the movement is going to be, but the dryness of his throat left him no option but to accept the water.

The fingers were back in his hair, gentle as they stroked his curls. It was a foreign tenderness, a feeling that drove the images away as he focused on the touch, focused on the blanket that wrapped around him, focused on the scent of cocoa and bourbon and the hint of sweetness that filled it. The alpha has been kind on many occasions since Kei stepped into Nekoma's court, but at that moment, his gentleness was addicting, and as darkness hugged the omega, a different sense of dread filled him. Instead of looking at his lifeless eyes, he met the hazel gaze of a boy with golden curls; the Cheshire cat grin on his face was oddly familiar.

Chapter Text

Fear was eating at him, melting his insides like acid as it built up in his chest. The image of the child filled him with ice, left him with nothing but the dread in his abdomen and the ache of his muscles. He knew it was prone to happen someday, to carry a child inside of him, to give the kingdom an heir; it was, after all, the main duty of a queen.

Kei had never considered it much, never thought about what it meant to be married, what was expected of him as an omega. He knew, of course, he understood it, but he never realised the real meaning behind it. It left him breathless, his lungs failing him. As much as he hated the idea, as much as terror filled his veins, a part of him was wrapped in warmth, a small part of him relished in the notion of a pregnancy, in the concept of carrying life and that shocked him even more.

The doubts and the fears that Kei could control, he could handle. He was a bundle of anxiety and insecurities. What he couldn't face, what he couldn't handle was the alpha that stayed by his side, the man with the scent of cocoa and bourbon, the man who watched over him. He didn't want to face him, feared to glance at his eyes, or to see his signature smile; Kei wished to avoid any reminder of the child from his dream.

Avoiding the alpha proved easy as he slipped in and out of awareness. Exhaustion was his blanket; stress was his pillow and fear was his mattress, sleep was his night, his escape.

Warmth wrapped around him, fingers gentle as they brushed across his skin and the scent was familiar; it was an aroma that reminded him of safety, not home but it was growing on him. Kei's lids uncovered his golden gems, watching as flames came into his vision and he looked into the comforting gaze of the queen's.

"Did I wake you? I apologise, I was just checking on you. Tetsu didn't want you to wake up alone."

Her touch was searing; her warmth burned his essence. Kei was the son of a man who didn't love him, he was the son of a woman who didn't care for him, and he was the son of a frozen castle. Ice was in his veins; he was the son of frost, the son of the cold. Affection was foreign to him, but it grew on him, surrounded him and slowly he was growing to be the son-in-law of a man who loved him, the son-in-law of a woman who cared of him and the resident of a warm haven.

"I'm feeling better. I apologise for worrying you." His voice was rough, hoarse from the lack of use and embarrassment washed over Kei, the blood rushing to his face, coating his cheeks with a red tint.

"That's excellent news. How about eating something? I'll get the staff to make you something light."

He could feel his insides twisting, his stomach rolling and he almost heaved at the mention of food. He was feeling better; his headache was gone, his vision wasn't as blurry, and he wasn't burning as much as he was before, but the mention of food left him nauseous and queasy. "I don't think I can eat anything." An apology was on the tip of his tongue, but the gentle smile on the queen's face was reassuring enough that he swallowed the words.

"Do you feel sick?"

"Somewhat, yes." The smile on her face grew, her eyes glistened and sparkled, and it reminded Kei of a polished emerald. He didn't expect anyone to feel happy about his predicament, but the happiness on her face amused him, even if it was on his behalf.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't be happy about your sickness, but maybe you are pregnant, Kei-kun."

Kei wanted to laugh at the words, to find humour in them, but he couldn't not when numbness spread through him, not when dread washed inside of him and filled his veins. The expectations were slowly weighing on his shoulders, heavy and unbearable when he knew he couldn't meet them.

"That's not possible."

"You don't know that, sweet child. You are both young; you don't need to be in heat to get pregnant."

"We never consummated the marriage, so there is no possibility of pregnancy." Kei expected disappointment; he expected frustration and anger. The omega expected his failure to be apparent in the queen's eyes, to see the sorrow of having him as her son of law. What he didn't expect were the arms that wrapped around him, the soothing fingers that pulled him into warmth and heat.

"I'm sorry, my son can be an idiot, but you know what, Kei-kun? You have time; there is no rush." She cradled him close, just as she did many times before. Aoi didn't seem to care that Kei was taller than her, and she didn't seem to care about the wetness of his sweat-soaked clothes, she held him as a mother would hug her child. "You are both young, take your time until you are ready. It doesn't matter what people say; it's your child, your body and all is good in due time."

Once upon a time, Kei would've been flustered, he would've pulled away from the touch even when his whole body begged for the contact. At that moment, he merely leaned into her arms, shifting to lay his head on her shoulder. He allowed the scent of summer to envelop him, to wrap him in a blanket of familiarity and comfort. He gave into her touch, feeling the gentleness of her fingers as she brushed them through golden curls.

There were no more doubts in his heart as the omega held him. There were no more insecurities as the queen spoke reassuring words in his ears. There were no more fears as she called him her child. Kei was content as he slipped back into the comfort of sleep, feeling more reassured than he had ever felt since he presented.

 

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The peaceful darkness that surrounded him broke, chatter and buzzing slipping through the cracks until his dreamworld mixed with the reality. Eyelids blinked, clearing away the haziness of the sleep and blowing away the fog until the world came into focus -as focused as it can be without his glasses.-

The scent of cocoa and bourbon was potent in the air, integrated into the sheets and pillows that surrounded him like a nest. Topaz orbs took in the form of a standing alpha, the figure blurry as a smaller figure helped him dress. "Sorry, did we wake you?" His fingers were lazy as he searched through the sheets for his glasses, skin brushing against the soft material and allowing it to caress him. The sense of peace that engulfed him from the moment the queen touched lingered in the air, the nest acting as a vessel that caged the feelings of comfort close to him.

"No. What time is it?" The glasses were cold against his skin, even when the fever no longer boiled his blood. The world came into focus, eyes indifferent as he followed the movements of Kenma around his husband.

"It is still early if you want to sleep some more. How are you feeling today?"

Kei chose not to reply, shifting to lay back down on the bed. He relished in the feeling of the nest as it surrounded him, in the scent of peaches and vanilla mixed with the aroma of bourbon and cocoa; it was grounding, relaxing and he found none of the fears that haunted him ever since the nightmare.

"Your complexion looks much better today." The touch was gentle, even if the skin that brushed against his forehead was rough and calloused. Kei found himself looking at the face of the alpha who was bent at the edge of the bed, peeking at the uninterested omega, the smile on his face grew until his eyes sparkled and there was no denying the similarity between Tetsurou and his mother. "Your fever is gone. I'm glad."

"You are dressed rather formally. What's going on?" The doublet was a vibrant red, the colour of the house of Kuroo as dark as wine and the embroidery covered the entirety of the sleeves and collar in a golden pattern. The overgown that rested on his shoulders was a colour that matched that of his doublet and lined with lynx fur to help against the cold that raids the castle.

The air left his lips in a huff, a shadow flashed through his eyes and his shoulders tensed, but it was all momentarily, gone the moment Kei blinked Kuroo's usual mask was back in place. "The bastard Ushijima decided to expedite his plans and showed up a couple of weeks earlier. The court is turned upside down attempting to arrange everything. Silver Lining, oto-san had no choice but allow me back on the council as I'm the most prepared of his nobles."

The alpha turned around as Kenma came to stand behind him, holding a cushion with a golden crown resting on the soft material. He didn't attempt to reach for the headpiece, opting to turn back and look at his omega. "Try to eat something and drink the tonic the healer prepared. You don't feel as warm, but don't push yourself. Kenma, please inform Yamaguchi that Kei is awake." His lips brushed against Kei's forehead; the kiss was gentle, and before the blonde could blink he turned and picked up the crown, placing the gold on his head.

"I'll see you once the meetings are over, Kei." Hesitant fingers wrapped around his wrists, warm and trembling, but the touch shock him. Kei hadn't touched him, not since the alpha forced him to meet Terushima. He turned around, pupils dilated and wide, lips parted. The crown seemed foreign as it rested on his messy hair, but it was the shock evident on his face that alienated it. If the crown prince were smiling, he would've looked just as majestic as he was born to be.

"Tetsurou." Kei chocked on the words, hesitation clear in his trembling grip, but never showed on his face or in his eyes. Kuroo's shock melted, a small smile twitched on his face, and he remained silent, waiting for the omega to gather his thoughts and speak at his own pace.

"I don't want to be in a marriage where we despise each other; I don't want to be in a loveless union for the rest of our lives. I know what I want from this. Do you?"

If the alpha heard the trembling in Kei's voice, he didn't mention it, if he saw the fear in his eyes he didn't comment on it. Kei was grateful, grateful for the illusion of strength that Tetsurou allowed him to keep. "I want this to work for us."

"Not enough. Do you know what you want beyond the alliance? Beyond your duty?"

It was Kuroo's turn to be quiet, to take his time considering the unspoken meaning. "What is it that you want, Kei?"

"I'll tell you once you know what is it that 'you' want. You'll be busy with the delegation, use that time to consider my question, we'll talk once the Shiratirizawa king is gone." He wanted to press the question, to pressure the omega to speak; he was intrigued and curious about Kei's answer, but it was the question regarding what he wanted that was the loudest in his head, a mantra that left him unfocused.

Kuroo never thought about what he wanted from this, not when he believed that he will always have Terushima. Now the prince was left with a question that he didn't have the answer to and a gap in his chest that he couldn't fill. Could he give the omega a response that wouldn't break his heart?

Tetsurou knew that he'd always love Yuuji, knew that the alpha is what he'll ever desire, but that was no longer an option, and he couldn't keep punishing the omega for his own choices. He couldn't torture him anymore, not when he knew that he was forcing the younger prince into the very situation he didn't want. A loveless union, a marriage of convenience.

Perhaps, Kei is right and that he should use the time to consider the answer. Could he keep forcing the younger to live in this hell if their answers didn't match? Did the omega even want to stay in this marriage? Kuro's lips parted, the question on his lips when Kenma pressed a finger to his arm, poking him to gather his attention. "What is it, kitten?"

"You need to go now, or you'll be late." He sounded as bored as ever, as impartial as ever and a smile found its way back to his face.

"Kei, we'll talk once this is over." And talk they will, but before the deadline, the alpha would need to find the answer to the question. What did he want?

 

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"Tsukki, you shouldn't. You are still not recovered."

The blonde ignored the words, the shouts flowing through him and washing away, buried under layers of thoughts. He needed to be out, to be surrounded by nothing, to be out in the world and nothing was going to stop him.

The rush of air slapped him across the face, the frosty wind a surprise that caught him off guard and for a moment Kei was frozen in time, gazing at the world; the sky was nowhere to be found, covered behind the greyness of the clouds and the world was silent, peaceful. He inhaled deeply, smelling the snowflake and the cold, ignoring the burning in his nose as the air rushed into his body. After days, weeks of burning skin -his heat and the boiling of his blood in his veins- the cold was a wake-up call, a refreshing shower.

Kei was in his bubble; time didn't exist, no one else existed and nothing registered in his mind; not Yamaguchi's words, not the sounds that drifted from inside of the castle. He only saw the open space, the world that was covered with a layer of pure snow. Nothing had changed, the snow melted away then fell back to coat the world in a sleepless image, and the picture washed away all his fears, washed away the terror that lingered from the nightmare.

"Tsukki, at least wear the overgown, please. The fur will keep you warm." He wanted to protest; he fancied ignoring the statement, to stay in his bubble, but the burn in his nose, the tingling at his skin as winter ate away at him told him otherwise. It felt good against his heated body, but the satisfaction was slowly melting into numbness.

He pulled the overgown over himself, allowing the fur to cover his body, to armour him against the biting cold. Kei never turned his attention away from the world around; focusing on the peace that washed over him. He was free, under the skin, the world was open around him; there were no walls to constrict him, to cage him. He relished in the crunch of the snow under his steps, the softness under his feet. He delighted in the bite of the wind. Savoured the emotions that filled him. All that mattered was the snow, the openness of the world and the freedom.

His legs gave up, the strength that he accumulated since he woke up was drained, leaving him exhausted. He adjusted himself on the snow, feeling the cold through the layers of his clothes, but Kei didn't care, he needed to be out, to feel free even if only for a few more minutes. Yamaguchi seemed to understand the omega's need, sighing as he stood his ground.

There was a moment of calm, giving the prince a chance to take in the monotonous colours of the world, to allow the bleakness to comfort him; it was what his life always felt like, bleak; colourless and it soothed him. He loved the warmth, the sun and the colours of the world, but Kei related to the winter more, to the snow and rain, to the greyness of the sky. He was born in September; he was born as the world shed its colours preparing for the frost to take over and for the wildness to hide away. It was the time of the year where he belonged.

"Her Majesty wanted you to look at a few candidates for your ladies in waiting. You can't keep putting that off, Tsukki." Yamaguchi's voice was quiet, the words rushing out of his lips nervously. Give it to the freckled boy to be anxious whenever his duties were involved, even if no one was around but Kei. His lips parted, ready to speak when the scent of Leathers and oud invaded his senses, it was a strong fragrance, imposing and powerful; it was an aroma that couldn't be ignored.

Golden gems turned to look in the direction of the scent, gaze searching for the source of the smell. Kei was confident that he would be alone out here, in the open space; it was the area behind the palace, less guarded, yet it was hard to reach, harder to find.

The Omega didn't move, didn't shift to his feet even as his retainer stumbled to stand in front of him, hiding him from whoever had stepped out of the castle; hand on the hilt of his sword. Whoever the alpha was, from Yamaguchi's reaction there was no denying that he was a stranger and Kei could only guess that he was from Shiratorizawa.

"Forgive me, my lord, but this area is limited to the royal family. I must ask you to leave."

"It is unguarded. How careless."

The air that left Kei's lips was visible in the cold weather, a cloud of fog forming in front of his face and melting away just as fast as it appeared. The snow was cold under his palm, the sensation spreading through his skin to his muscles and bones, but he ignored it, pushing himself to his feet.

Golden orbs met olive eyes; they reminded him of the olive gardens of far kingdoms. They told him of stories written of rivers and oases, greenery that surrounds everything and the calm that lingers in the air as the sun slipped through the leaves of the trees. His eyes were piercing, confident. He carried himself with poise, his back straight and shouldered relaxed; it was the posture of someone who didn't care about who was standing before him, it was the attitude of kings and leaders.

"I don't believe we asked for your opinion."

There was no reaction; his features didn't shift, his expression didn't change as he fixed his eyes on the figure of the omega. "It wasn't an opinion, but an observation, your royal highness."

Kei was silent; his mind was raking through portraits and faces of the lords and royalties from Shiratorizaw, trying to identify the figure standing on the snow-covered land, with the nonchalant of a man who trusted that no harm could befall him. He was dangerous, it was clear in the way he carried himself, and the alpha would remain dangerous until he was unidentified. A wrong word, a wrong move could be fatal, even if Kei wasn't a politician; he was the wife of the heir, his words carry more weight than he would've liked.

"You seem to know who I am, but forgive me, I don't believe we've met."

"I've seen your portrait. After you presented, my advisors proposed a union, but by the time my letter has been relayed to Karasuno you were on your way to Nekoma." Kei didn't need more to understand the implication behind the words and no more words were needed to identify the stranger. He was standing in the presence of King Ushijima. "It seems congratulations are in order. Although, I hear that your marriage isn't consummated yet. I wonder why."

"Perhaps I was waiting for you to come take me away." Sarcasm was dripping from his very words, Kei's tone was venomous, filled with the anger that was slowly building in his chest. He heard about Ushijima Wakatushi, he overheard the stories and the rumours even Oikawa's complaints about him, but nothing truly prepared him for meeting the king in person. He was as blunt as Oikawa described him to be, as stoic as the rumours told. 'It's none of your business' was left unspoken, hanging in the air between them, but it was as if the words didn't register to the young king.

"I meant you no offence, your royal highness, but I must say, I'm interested in you. I would like to take you as my wife." The air around him spoke of his confidence, the way he spoke told Kei, enough about the king, he was a man who got whatever he wanted. "I promise you to fight for you, and I promise you that if you were to annul your marriage, you would not face the same injustice Prince Tetsurou forced on you from my court or myself. I have no need for mistresses, and I would show my wife the respect they deserve."

Kei could feel Yamaguchi's eyes on him, could sense the way he was fidgeting on his face. He was holding back whatever protest was on his mind, but he didn't dare speak, not when a king was standing there, addressing a prince. At that moment the beta wasn't Kei's friend, he was merely his retainer, the son of a lower ranked nobility.

"It's cold. Yamaguchi, let's go inside." Kei could feel the air changing, the weight of the words hanging around them and resting on his shoulders. He could feel the exhaustion taking over him, and his mind was slowly growing quiet. There was no retort on the tip of his tongue, no smart come back in his head, he was speechless as he was humiliated.

"Consider my words, your royal highness; it'll benefit us both." His steps were slow as he walked past the alpha. His words were replaying in his mind, a mantra that Kei wanted to wash away. He wasn't going to risk his sacrifice; he wasn't going to sacrifice the peace between their two kingdoms, not for a promise that was no more than that and not for someone who that the Omega didn't know, someone he didn't trust. Not for a king who's priority was his kingdom, someone who could hurt him.

Chapter Text

The hall was full of people, court members and the royal household staff all gathered at the different tables arranged in the room. It was a scene that Kei had grown accustomed to; the chatter no longer got on his nerves, the stench no longer affected him. It wasn't a scene he welcomed, but he would no longer bat an eye at a banquet.

This feast was a different case; he could feel the unease growing in the pit of his stomach, could feel it spread through his veins and to the rest of his body. Uncomfortable was a word that would describe his situation, the eyes on him, the piercing gaze that followed his every move and studied his every habit. At that moment he wasn't prince Kei of Karasuno; at that moment he was a prey being observed by a predator, he was the crow examined by the eagle.

"Stop piling food onto my plate." His tone was usual, calm and collected, but Kei could hear the hidden edge, his emotions were leaking into his words and it didn't ease him, it merely added to the piling tension inside of him.

Tetsurou had the sense to look guilty, a smile slowly creeping onto his face, but the gold in his hazel eyes shone with the mischief that he sought to hide. It was a trait that never failed to get on Kei's nerves, never failed to aggravate him, but after two years he had grown used to it.

It mesmerised him, the childishness that still lingered in the alpha, the playfulness that wasn't consumed by the court. It was refreshing in a way, hypnotising in another and very annoying to someone whose innocence died before they reached the age of ten. Kei wants this for his children, he wants to give them a home, wants to provide them with a place where they could grow happy.

"You haven't eaten much, Kei, so you should eat everything on your plate."

"In what world can I eat all of this? I'm not a pig." Golden eyes turned to the pile of food resting in front of him, a frown slowly stretching on his face. When would the alpha understand that the omega can't eat as much as he does?

"So your majesty, any wedding plans?" The queen's voice wasn't loud, but the words caught his attention. The excitement in her voice was his siren, and the sparkle in her eyes was his alarm. That wasn't a conversation he wanted to be a part of, but Kei could feel the watchful gaze fixed back on him, could feel the piercing eyes studying him even as his golden eyes focused on the pile of food, trying to ascertain what to eat.

"I have my plans, your royal majesty. For now, I'm in the process of convincing them to marry me."

"Who would need convincing to marry the king of Shiratorizawa?"

"You are kind, your majesty." The tone of his voice never changed, the calm and collected demeanour never crumbled. He was the image of a king with his board shoulders and his pride that surrounded him with an aura. One look at him and your instincts would scream at you not to anger him, not to challenge him.

Ushijima was sitting near them, Tetsurou the only obstacle separating them, and he could feel the attention of the young king on him. He didn't need this, he didn't need the consideration of another alpha that saw him as nothing but a bride, and he certainly didn't want his husband to know about their meeting, not now not years in the future.

The words he spoke and the promise he made were a mantra in his head, a chant that wouldn't go away no matter how much he tried. It left him powerless to the idea, tempted to entertain the king's offer, to humour him by giving him a chance. Did he have a future with Tetsurou? An opportunity to grow to like each other instead of merely tolerating. Is there a possibility where they might have more than this? Or would it always be Terushima in the alpha's heart?

He had long given up on their relationship, had lost hope of having anything. Once upon a time when he was young and didn't know better, he hoped that one day, they'd find something worthy in this relationship. That was until Kei met Terushima, he saw the look in Kuroo's hazel eyes, the spark of love that was directed to the other alpha and it was a wake-up call. Kuroo will never look at him like that; he will never be anything more than the symbol of the alliance.

Would Ushijima be any different? Kei didn't expect him ever to love him, to see him as anything more than a potential omega to birth an heir, someone who would help the delicate situation between their two kingdoms, but would it be better for him in Shiratorizawa? Would he be respected, welcomed by the court and more importantly would the alpha give them a chance?

Lean fingers wrapped around the goblet, feeling the coolness of the metal underneath his skin, tracking the engraving and the gems with the tip of his fingers. His thoughts were loud in his head, aggravating as he tried to focus on the texture and the feel of the cup. The motion was soothing, calming and it eased him as the meeting slowly started to fade, the memories nothing more than an echo.

The wine was sweet as he downed it, the sugary taste flooding his mouth before it washed down his throat. It was a drink that they drank every day, all the time, the substitute to water and Kei had grown bored of it, uninterested in the taste. At that moment, he wished it was something else, something stronger, perhaps even Ale.

The goblet was back on the surface of the wooden table, empty and bare, but Kei did not need to motion for a servant before the cup was refilled. His fingers were slow and hesitant as he reached for the cup again, needing to wash away thoughts, but Tetsurou was faster, calloused fingers wrapped around the goblet and moved it away from Kei's reach.

"Easy there." His tone was gentle, his smile small and he didn't seem to care about the glare directed at him. Golden eyes held a shadow of hostility as they met the hazel gaze, they were watchful as they rested on his face, but even from the corner of his eyes, the omega could notice the way the alpha's fingers pushed the plate of food closer to Kei, urging him to eat. "You aren't one for wine, what's going on? You don't want to get drunk so early in the evening."

"You don't have a say in whether I get drunk or not." If the alpha didn't note the malice in his eyes, it was evident in his tone. Kei knew that he wasn't fair, that he was releasing the growing anxiety on Tetsurou, but he wasn't innocent. The alpha was the primary source of the omega's unease, the main reason behind the building fear. He was the cause of Kei's weakness to Ushijima's words.

He watched the way the smile crumbled for a moment; it was insignificance that Kei was the only one to notice before the moment was over and the grin was back on the alpha's face, but it never reached his eyes. The omega refused to apologise, shifting his golden vision away from Tetsurou's when he couldn't bear the lack of glow in the hazel eyes, couldn't handle the bareness of his gaze, the voidness of life.

"Eat, and then you can get as drunk as you want."

He had no desire for food, not if it was a mere piece of fruit or the pile stacked in front of him. He had come with the appetite to eat, but as he sat there, his craving started diminishing, the flame no longer burning inside of him. Kei wanted to say it was normal, that he had moments like this before; moments, where he was hungry and then, grew nauseous at the mention of eating. As much as he wanted to lie about that, it wasn't the case. Once he is hungry, he craves food just like anyone else, but the thoughts in his head, the anxiety in his chest were an obstacle that satisfied him on nothing but insecurities and doubts and left him full on fear.

"I don't feel well. I think I should retire for the night." Their conversation thus far has been quiet, whispered between them, low enough that it wouldn't get carried with the chatter in the hall, but this time, he spoke a little loudly, allowing the words to be heard by to the occupants of the high table.

"Are you feeling alright, your highness?" The queen's voice was gentle, filled with the worry that burned in her gaze and Kei forced a smile, his lips twitching at the corners in a weak attempt to ease the omega's concern.

"I'm well, your majesty, just a bit nauseous. I apologise for worrying you." He stood up, adjusting his doublet as he did so before moving around the table to stand in front of the two kings and the queen. "Please excuse me." His movements were practised, a habit that had grown as a part of him over the years and it was easy for him to bow to the leaders seated at the table.

"Let me escort you." Tetsurou was in the process of standing up, palms resting on the surface of the wooden table and it was the scratch of the chair on the solid ground that caught his attention instead of the words.

"No, no. Please stay and enjoy the food. I'll be alright." It was harder to smile at the alpha, harder not to snap at him or glare when he knew the entirety of the court was watching them, following their every movement. Tetsurou seemed to feel the same unease, his hazel gaze slowly sweeping across the hall as he ignored Kei's words and moved from the table coming to rest in front of him.

"Are you sure?"

"Yes, I'll just lay down, maybe read something."

"You haven't eaten." Kei almost sighed at the words, a frown etching on his face as the alpha pulled his hands into his own, thumbs brushing a soothing pattern on his knuckles.

"I'm not hungry. I'd have Yamaguchi bring me something if I wanted to eat."

"Very well. Please feel better." The words were a whisper against his skin, leaving his lips in a huff of air that felt warm against his cheek but it never prepared him for the press of the soft lips to the spot.

"I'll see you later." The words snapped him out of his surprise, nodding his head automatically before he walked out of the hall, his steps were steady and calm, his head was held high. Kei could feel the eyes of everyone following his movements, watching him cross the room, but it was Ushijima's gaze that lingered the longest.

 

 

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The silence was a comfort, a luxury that Kei relished in, allowing it to lull him into a false sense of security. People tired him out, drained him and being watched and studied as if he was an animal left him with a bitter taste in his mouth and an itch that won't go away. He hated his status, his birthing that left him in the public eye, under the watchful gaze of kingdoms and their people with little to no privacy. It was the reason as to why the quiet of the night, the solitude of the dark was his safety net, the time when he could gaze into the night sky, look at the shining stars illuminating the dark carpet and felt calm.

The book resting on his chest has been long forgotten, forsaken for the quiet of the nighttime, for the song of fireflies and the sound of the wind. The night was cold, bare of the liveliness of the day, but it was beautiful in its silence, comforting in its stillness, its never changing cycle.

The squeak of the door was loud in the hush of the dark, startling Kei out of his haze; the peacefulness was gone, washed away by the sight of Tetsurou as he walked into the room. "How are you feeling?"

Kei opted to ignore the question, closing his eyes and caging the remaining of the serenity inside of him, focusing on the calmness that settled in his chest. He couldn't remember the last time he forgot his worries, couldn't remember the last time his head was quiet, and the doubts were silent. It eased him, cheered him and comforted him more than anything or anyone. It reminded him that there was still hope for him, for his happiness, that perhaps life could get better.

"Kuroo-san?"

One eye was open, golden orbs looking at the alpha as he walked around the room, taking off his crown, his jewels and accessories to start readying for bed. A hum was his only reply, the sound adding to the moment, soothing Kei even more and giving him the courage he needed to proceed.

"Let's go to town after Shiratorizawa leaves. I need to get out of the palace."

The smile wasn't visible to Kei, but it could be heard in Tetsurou's voice as he spoke. "We can do that, if that's what you want, Yuuji."

The silence that descended upon them was dense, filled with the tension that exploded in the room. The serenity was gone, destroyed and Kei found himself sitting up, the book left to drop to the floor with a thud that startled the alpha. Kei didn't know what to do, whether to laugh or cry at the situation. Just when he thought things could get better, this happened.

"Kei, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it. It just slipped."

"Forget it." The ground underneath his feet was cold, but he didn't care. His thoughts were louder than ever before, screaming at him with all the doubts and insecurities he was feeling. The air was electrifying, filled with their pheromones, their scents and the building pressure. It reminded Kei of nights before storms. He needed to be out of this room, away from the alpha and his smell.

His steps never halted, his strides careful and with purpose as he crossed the room, reaching for the door when strong fingers wrapped around his wrists, firm but not bruising and the omega was pulled back, forced to meet the gaze of his husband. "I'm sorry, it was an honest mistake."

"I told you I'm not his replacement. I knew this would happen. I'm nothing to you, what you want is Terushima. What am I doing here, Kuroo-san? If you don't want this, then we can easily annul it."

The frown was foreign on the alpha's face, it looked wrong when he should be smiling instead, but Kei didn't feel any guilt. "I do want this, Kei. I want our marriage to work."

"I don't!" His voice was louder than he expected, the volume shocking both of them as the alpha's fingers tightened around his wrist, holding him prisoner to the room. "I don't want this. I never wanted this, and you aren't helping me come to terms with it." He wanted to say more, to tell him that every time he starts accepting their marriage, the alpha reminds him of his worth. He ached to tell him that he was done being hurt and dragged around as if he is nothing.

"This is my exile, and you are doing a fantastic job of being my jailer, my torturer." The blonde ignored the tears that burned in his eyes, ignored the ache in his chest and focused on the thumping of his heartbeat. He needed to calm down before he said more. Before his thoughts transferred into words that would destroy the remaining of their relationship.

"If you aren't going to work for this relationship, then let me go, let me be happy somewhere else. You owe me that much." He pulled his wrist out of the grip, the alpha not giving him much of a fight as he strode out of the room, leaving behind a silent Tetsurou.

 

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The candles illuminating the chapel radiated warmth and reflected a glow that eased some of the anger that boiled inside of him. It wasn't a room that he ever sought, it wasn't a space that he found comfort in, but at that moment, but the solitude was what he desired, and the silence was what soothed him.

His feet moved on their own, carrying him to one of the benches where he took refuge, pulling his legs to his chest and wrapping an arm around his knees. He regretted his outburst, regret wasting his breath and emotion when he knew it was futile; nothing will come out of it, nothing will change. He knew he was unreasonable, that Kuroo will not waste his sacrifice for someone like Kei, not when lives are on the line.

The door didn't squeak as it was pulled open, but the aroma of leather and oud invaded his senses, alerting him to the presence of the alpha as he walked into the room. He glanced at Kei, piercing eyes studying the omega, taking in his form. "Your royal highness, it's a pleasure to see you."

The peace shattered before it even settled in, the storm raging inside of the omega and his frown deepened, but he didn't make a move to leave. His body felt heavy; he was tired from the emotional stress that has been accumulating since his meeting with the king. "I can't say the same, your majesty."

"Did you consider my offer, your royal highness?"

He refused to answer, refused to give in to the alpha as he refused to admit that he had considered his offer. Would it be any different than his life now? Oikawa enthraled the king, it was a known fact across all kingdoms, but while Tetsurou was a prince and couldn't get away with it, Ushijima was a king and a king would get everything he desires.

"We can't be alone like this, please leave."

The alpha didn't seem to hear him, crossing the rest of room to the altar. Ushijima's skin was glowing in the candlelight, orange hue forming on the tan body as he reached to light a candle, kneeling in front of the status and lowering his head. Kei had lost interest the moment the flame started burning, turning his gaze away from the kneeling figure and to the back of the wooden bench in front of him.

He needed to leave; he was aware of that. They shouldn't be alone, not in a place of worship and god, and not anywhere in the castle, not when Kei could give in and accept his offer. Minutes passed, the night grew darker and the candles burned away, but neither of them moved, neither talked nor dared to look at the other, not even as Ushijima stood up and found a seat on the bench next to the omega.

They were both quiet for a long second, each waiting for the other to talk and neither giving in to the temptation of a conversation. Kei, on the one hand, was stubborn, refusing to accept defeat, not to an alpha he didn't know nor trust. Ushijima, on the other hand, was patient, the night was young, and they had time. He was a king who knew the payoff of waiting, who understood the importance of perseverance.

Time passed in silence, peace settling on them, calming them and washing away the remaining of the fire that burned in Kei's chest. "I can't consider your offer. It'll cost my kingdom an alliance. The price is too high."

"I mean no offence, your royal highness, but I don't think the alliance would hold for too long, not when Prince Tetsurou was found guilty of adultery, not when the honour of House Tsukishima is on the line." Ushijima wanted to say more, to remind the omega that his father was hungry for war, that treaties with Karasuno never held out and not even an alliance of blood would relinquish the king's thirst for blood.

There was no reply, the omega refusing to accept the truth, refusing to acknowledge it. Kei's father wanted his head; he desired to destroy the son that dared to tarnish the Tsukishima blood. Sooner or later war would break, and the blonde would be the one caught in the middle. He wasn't a Kuroo, not by blood and not by marriage; not until they consummate it and he was no longer a Tsukishima, not since he presented, not since he defied the king of Karasuno and not since the wedding. He was The Second Prince of Karasuno and the Wife of the Crown Prince of Nekoma, yet at the same time, he was no one.

"I would like to take you as my wife, but for now, all I ask for is your time. Allow me to court you, allow me to prove my worth to you and I'll show you that your happiness is in my court, by my side. You don't belong with an Alpha who desires another; you belong to me, someone who would respect you for who you are and never betray you."

"You desire Oikawa."

There was a huff of air next to him, amusement sparkling in the piercing olive gaze, but it was momentarily, and it was gone the moment Kei blinked. The stoic mask was back on Ushijima's face, and there was no hint of had transpired. "My betrothal to Prince Tooru ended months before you have presented. Neither of us would give up their claim to their respective thrones. I can't say that I see the reason behind his stubbornness, Aoba Johsai can't be worth it. He considers Seijou a threat to my kingdom, but all I see is his wasted potential."

Kei could understand the reason behind Oikawa's hostility towards the young king. His confidence was edging on arrogance, and it made him underestimate everyone. He trusted Oikawa's strength, yet he saw him as no threat, and it sent sparks of annoyance in Kei's head. If the alpha underestimates Oikawa whom skills he trusts, how does he view someone such as Kei?

Even after listening to the alpha's rant, even after coming to his own conclusions, Kei couldn't deny that the offer tempted him. He refused to be the second choice, refused to be overlooked even when he knew he was nothing and no one, but the omega wanted more. He wanted more than this life; he wanted more than being a symbol of an alliance. He wanted happiness, and he didn't want to pass up this chance.

Once upon a time, he was promised greatness, then they cast him away, and he wanted that future back, a future where he can be someone beyond the mother of a king. Kuroo promised him that, promised him happiness, but his heart was captive to another and Kei would never have it. The omega knew that the young king's heart was no different, his kingdom entrapped it, but it comforted him, it gave him the option of being the only one in the alpha's eyes, he wouldn't overlook him, he wouldn't betray him.

Kei knew better than to accept, knew better than to give in to the temptation, but the words left his mouth without his permission. "I'll give you time; you have until you leave to court me, if you can't convince me by then, then I will not leave with you." There was no sarcastic reply, no witty remark and he knew it'd be a struggle not to fall for the honey coated promise.

"Thank you." He mumbled the words against Kei's knuckles; hands held captive in the alpha's warm grip before he pressed a kiss to his skin. "You will be leaving with me to Shiratorizawa very soon, your royal highness."

Chapter Text

Books were a luxury, knowledge was a gift, and he was blessed to be able to read. Books were his escape, his sanctuary when he couldn't physically disappear. At moments he sought comfort in music, in the soothing tones and the vibrations of the stings under his touch. At other moments he attempted to evade reality, to find harmony in different worlds, in stories crafted by men or in the history that left him mesmerised.

Kei would always love books, would find solace in the words drawn on the rough papers and the smell of ink that would linger in the pages. He'd relish in the letters, in the beauty of the fonts and the poems of songs. He had a thirst for knowledge, the hunger that could not be satisfied by his tutors, that would never be satiated. Books wouldn't give him the safety of his brother's embrace, but it gave him everything else he craved.

The omega found himself lost in words, hypnotised by the stories of past kings, in the history of fallen kingdoms and extinct nations. They were stories that were meant to act as a ground for humans to learn from, yet they left him with a sense of awe; these were kingdoms that once ruled the world. Kings, who had more power than anyone else, yet one word, one wrong move led to their demise. It was overwhelming, it left his blood boiling and his heart beating, yet he filled him with admiration.

A knock on his door pulled Kei out from the world he was revelling in, pulled him back to the reality of his life, to the room with its wooden furniture and the Goblet of wine resting on a nearby table. Yamaguchi walked in, nerves evident in the shake of his fisted hands and the distance forced between them as he stood. "Sorry to interrupt, Tsukki, but King Ushijima is asking for an audience."

Golden orbs darted between the freckled boy and the book in his lap, he wanted to go back to the words on the pages, to get lost in the story, to escape the world he lived in, but Kei knew it wasn't an option, not when he accepted the alpha's courtship. He didn't regret taking the offer, not when it was a chance at happiness away from everything he feared, yet he knew it wasn't a conscious decision, what would happen when Kuroo finds out about it? Alphas were territorial, and even though they didn't share any romantics feelings, Kei remains as Teturou's omega, his wife.

"I'll see him."

The scent of Oud and Leather invaded his senses, filling the room as the young king was escorted inside. The smell was addicting; it was potent, rich and devastating in its effect on the omega. It was overwhelming, intense and paralysing; it was a scent that told stories about the power of the man in question.

"Thank you for seeing me, your royal highness."

"What can I do for you, your majesty?" The book has long been abandoned, closed and placed beside his drink. Kei wanted to go back to the history he was reading, to the comfort of words and the pleasure of learning, but it was no longer an option; not with the alpha standing a few steps away.

A small wooden case was offered to Yamaguchi, catching Kei's attention instantly, but he didn't speak, waiting as Ushijima instructed the retainer to hand the box to the prince. There was reluctance in the small shake of the shorter's fingers, in the way his curious gaze shifted between the alpha and the omega. Silence descended on them, both the giver and the receiver waiting patiently for Yamaguchi to follow the orders.

The silence was a comfort; it was a luxury that Kei loved to bathe in; he relished in the peace and the quiet, it was a fact that was well known for the omega. As the seconds dragged on, the silence grew heavy, dense with anticipation and impatience, full of their curiosity and thoughts.

Lean fingers were held out, palm open and waiting, prompting the beta to hand out the box he was holding. Kei understood Yamaguchi's reluctance, it wasn't normal for an alpha to gift a married omega, but this wasn't a typical situation; not that the beta needed to know that.

Yamaguchi seemed to finally relinquish his hold on the case, placing it in the open hand of the omega who didn't seem so eager to open it and discover what's inside of it as he studied the box. "What's this?"

"It's your courting gift." His tone was calm. He didn't flinch, not when he met Kei's gaze to see the shadow of hostility in the topaz gems, not when he handed the case back to the beta with a curt order to open it, not when the omega picked up his goblet and downed the rest of his drink.

"And where am I supposed to keep this generous gift?" Sarcasm has grown to be part of his voice, his tone ever mocking, but the taunting didn't seem to register to the alpha who looked at him with uninterested eyes. "In your chambers, of course."

The tension slowly melted from his body as he turned his attention back to the beta holding the case, showing him the item encased inside. The gold of the brooch was vibrant, glistering under the light streaming through the window, the colour matching the gems in Kei's eyes and the pearls surrounding the golden gemstone emphasised the similarity.

"I don't trust that you found this piece in a single day, so I can only assume that you were arrogant enough to believe that I will accept you before meeting me." There was an edge to his words, his gaze hardening with the growing dread building inside of him. He felt humiliated and belittled, the meaning behind the item as clear to him as daylight. The alpha saw him as an omega who wouldn't hesitate to throw themselves at his feet, to beg for his attention and it aggravated him, burned him from the inside out.

"It's not arrogance, your royal highness, I merely trusted myself to be persuasive."

"Then you can take it back." There was a sense of finality behind the words, an edge that even the young king could sense. His steps were slow as he made his way toward the seated prince, not stopping until he was right in front of the omega, he caged himself between the warm body in front of him and the wooden table behind him, holding the blonde a hostage in his place.

"I apologise if I offended you, your royal highness, that was not my intention."

The air rushed past his lips in a huff, the sound audible in the quiet of the room. Refusing a courting gift was as if declining the courting itself, it was Kei's chance to escape from this situation, the exit he has been seeking since he returned to the bedchambers after his conversations with Ushijima the previous night. "Do you care to join me for a round of chess?" The words were a contradiction to his thoughts, a confirmation of his hidden desires. He could lie to himself, he could deny the alpha's desire, to accept his lack of charisma, but a part of him wanted to believe in his worth, in his value and to be anything, more than a second choice.

"Only if you accept the courting gift, your royal highness."

The corner of his lips twitched, a smile threatening to spread across his face. It was involuntarily and uncontrolled, and it took all of Kei's effort to it hold back. "I accept your gift, thank you, your majesty." There was no audible reaction from the alpha, his reply a mere nod of his head.

The room sprung to life, the alpha moving to take a seat across of the omega, leaving the table as a barrier between them. Yamaguchi was already arranging the board game on the wooden surface, placing the marble pawns in their spots on the board. "I did not take you for a chess player, your royal highness."

The words caught the omega off guard, surprising him as he turned his attention from Yamauchi's movements to the seated alpha. "I grew up in King Daizou's court, your majesty. I was raised and taught as the second in line to the throne of Karasuno, a game of chess should not surprise you."

Silence descended upon them, the sound of marble on marble the only music in the room, it was peaceful and quiet. Neither of them complained, both relishing in the serenity of the game, the tranquillity of focusing on the pieces and the pawns.

Kei was content to learn about the alpha through the game; he was satisfied knowing him through his moves and patterns. Words could be false, lies could be spoken, but habits were hard to conceal, and as much as he needed to know about the alpha as a person, he needed to understand the king.

Rumors travelled far, stories and tales reached their ears, Kei knew who Ushijima was as a king, the genius who pulled Shiratorizawa from its self-imposed isolation, who built relations with other kingdoms and provided a thriving economy for his people. It was impressive, but it was impersonal, and Kei might be marrying a king, but he wanted more than that.

The first game ended soon, too soon for their taste and much to Kei's displeasure. Ushijima didn't take much time to defeat him, and it irked him, leaving the omega with no choice but to ask for a rematch that was as comforting as the first. There was something in the way Ushijima thought that left him curious, something in the way his olive eyes shone with every challenge. Defending against Ushijima's aggressive moves left him with butterflies in his stomach and excitement bubbling under his skin.

"You don't have any questions for me, your royal highness?" The words penetrated his thoughts, catching him off guard after what felt like hours of nothing but silent serenity. Kei's golden eyes were bright with the thrill that burned in his veins as they met the calm olive gaze of the alpha.

The game had dragged on for longer than the first one, a round of tug and pull as one defended and the other attacked; it showed their patterns, their habits and the way they thought. It taught them more about each other than any conversation so far, but even Kei was aware that there are things that can't be found through a round of chess, facts they could only learn from talking to each other.

Many questions sprang to his head, some personal and perhaps inappropriate while other were detached, but Kei didn't get the chance to speak any, the door bursting open to reveal a breathless Yamaguchi with his hands on his knees. Alarm wailed inside of him, boiling his blood and freezing his skin, panic was on edge, threatening to tip over and consume him. "I apologise for interrupting, your majesty, your highness, but Prince Akiteru is here, and he's demanding to see Prince Kei."

Kei was on his feet before he knew it, the panic burning in his chest and clouding his thoughts. If he thought something was wrong a second ago, he was sure of it now. Akiteru was in Nekoma, without any warning, without sending a letter to prepare them for his visit. An emergency felt like the only explanation for his brother's surprise visit.

He turned his gaze to the alpha who had stood up with him, the golden gems in his eyes were wide, sparkling with the dread that he felt inside of him. The calm in Ushijima's face was what finally took the edge off, helping him inhale the cold air into his lungs, the tension slowly seeping in. He was the second prince of Karasuno, wife to the crown prince of Nekoma; he was Tsukishima Kei, he didn't show panic, he was a royalty and people of authority never showed weakness.

"Forgive me, your majesty. It seems we must cut our game short; my attention is needed elsewhere." His emotions didn't leak into his words, the dread caged inside of him, hidden behind a calm facade that betrayed nothing even as the alpha reached for his hand, pulling it to press a gentle kiss to his knuckles.

"Of course, thank you for keeping me company, your royal highness."

They didn't exchange any more words, the omega turning around to leave the room with long strides. Scenarios were rushing through Kei's mind, the different cases that could be happening now. His panic has subsided to the back of his mind, shadowed by what they needed to do in each different emergency. "Did Akiteru state the reason behind his visit?"

"Nothing that I'm aware of." Yamaguchi's words didn't surprise him; he asked the question not expecting to get an answer. No one understood Tsukishima Akiteru better than his younger brother, and if there was something Kei was sure of, it is that the crown prince of Karasuno would never speak a word about their kingdom's affairs.

The walk to the king's cabinet took longer than Kei would've liked, his legs aching to go faster, muscles twitching with his desire to run, but he held himself back, grounded himself and it took all of Kei's self-control to hold onto the calm facade that masked his features.

The door to the study was pushed open, the guard announcing him as he walked into the room, golden eyes involuntary scanning the faces until he met his brother's gaze. "Nii-sama, what are you doing here?"

His whole skin itched, every part of him screaming to stand in front of his brother and wrap his arms around him, but Kei didn't, holding his ground when he felt arms wrap around him, pulling him into the familiar embrace. He was home; this is home. The scent of Coffee beans and cinnamon invaded his senses as he buried his nose in the crook of Akiteru's neck, feeling every ounce of anxiety and fear, every bit of the stress that had built up since his brother left, melt away.

There were no words between them, no exchange as the alpha squeezed him tight, holding him close, their hearts beating as one. The moment went on for a few moments, ending faster than Kei would've liked, but he didn't protest when the older released his hold on him, freeing him from the embrace that he had craved for months. "I'm here to take you home. We are going to get this fraud of a marriage annulled, and you are leaving with me."

There was a pause, a moment of silence that was filled with the different emotions ranging from disbelief to outrage. The protest was fast to come after, the sharp ting of anger filling the space around them. "What is the meaning of this, prince Akiteru." The king's voice didn't betray his rage, but the emotion was evident in his eyes, in the tension of his muscles and the furrow of his brows.

"It has been almost three months since their wedding ceremony, but I hear the marriage haven't been consummated? If that is not reason enough to justify our outrage, your majesty, then I believe the assassination attempt and the adultery charges against Prince Tetsurou are enough justifications."

They could feel the tension building in the chamber, the anger vibrating around them and electrifying the room. Everything was screaming at Kei to run, to leave the room and find safety instead of getting stuck between two alphas. He hated those impulses, hated the omega inside of him that chose to run and not to stand his ground.

"That'll break the alliance, Nii-sama, it'll start a war." Kei didn't know what to think, didn't know how to feel about the whole situation. This is what he wanted, to go home, to be inside the familiar castle of Karasuno, to be around his brother, but Nekoma was slowly starting to feel like home, wouldn't it hurt to leave?

"That is a price we are willing to pay unless you're willing to negotiate the terms." Kei understood the hidden meaning, saw the hint and the unease behind the words. His father wanted to start a war, while his worry for his younger brother was Akiteru's fuel, their father's objective would most likely be bloodshed. He hungered for land, for power and conquering Nekoma has been a dream of his as it was his ancestors.

They had pushed for an alliance to strengthen their defence, to free up the military troops engaged in the skirmishes at the border. Shiratorizawa surfaced to be a more significant threat, while there was little knowledge of their army, their fleets were a force to be reckoned with. It was no secret that the once-isolated nation desired to enter the mainland, and the obvious method would've been to conquer territories and establish a base there. Neither Karasuno nor Nekoma could afford to waste military forces with a more prominent threat on the horizon.

That was the case two years ago, yet after Kei's marriage, the situation between Shiratorizawa and Karasuno seemed to have stabilised, so it would only make sense for his father to return his attention to his long life dream.

Should they be discussing this with Shiratorizawa in the same castle? Could they afford to show any weakness in the alliance? Ushijima might be showing interest in a union between him and Kei, but he couldn't be certain that the young king would not sacrifice that to establish his kingdom's goals.

"Nii-sama, I believe the annulment of my marriage is my decision, and I don't believe this is a discussion we want to have right now." His voice was steady, calm even with the scenarios and the questions screaming in his head. Kei was the person in question, he was one related to both nations, and if the alphas wanted anger to cloud their judgements, he would have to be the one to stay calm. Kei might not define himself by his status, but he is the son of Karasuno and the future queen of Nekoma and with that came responsibilities that he cannot escape.

Akiteru's lips parted, and Kei shook his head, asking his brother to halt whatever he plans to say. He loved his brother, loved how protective he was of him, but it wasn't something they should be discussing. At least, not with the risk of Shiratorizawa overhearing this conversation, and not without addressing the issue between them first. Going home would never be an option, even if Kei craved it, even if he missed his room and their people, stepping into Karasuno was a death sentence waiting to happen. "Your Majesty, please forgive my brother, and please excuse us. We have much to discuss."

 

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A knock sounded against the wooden door, the quiet of the night emphasising the sound and leaving no room for it to be ignored. His arrival filled the castle with electrifying tension, but Akiteru refused to apologise for his actions. If anything, not running into Kuroo Tetsurou for the whole day has been fueling the rage that was growing inside of him since the news reached their ears.

A guard pushed the door open, stepping into the room and bowing at the waist. He wasn't one who enjoyed formality, but his guards refused to take a more casual approach to their interactions. "Your Highness, King Ushijima is here to see you."

The presence of the king had come as a surprise to him when Kei finally explained the situation to him. The younger assumed that showing the conflict in the presence of the king would threaten both Nekoma and Karasuno, and Akiteru didn't get the chance to negate that, not when was more intrigued with the alpha's scent on his brother.

The fragrance filled the room, golden gaze meeting the olive piercing one of the alpha as he stepped into the room, the guard closing the door behind them to give them the privacy they sought. They were playing a risky game, a game that could cost them their lives as they were in a foreign court, but it was a game they needed to play. Ushijima's presence in Nekoma would only strengthen Karasuno's standing, and with King Kuroo's reaction to Akiteru, they need all the influence they can have.

"I didn't expect to find you here." The younger alpha was seated as the words left Akiteru's lips, the only object separating them was the wooden desk. The blonde stood up, walking to pour wine into crystal glasses.

"I didn't expect you to come here, Akiteru-san." The tone of his words was familiar, one that the blonde had grown accustomed to during their meetings. His fingers were tight around the glass, feeling the smoothness of it and the cold underneath his skin before he handed it to the younger alpha.

"I could smell you on my brother earlier, care to explain, Wakatoshi-kun?" Curiosity fueled him, protectiveness possessed him, and Akiteru was left with a burning desire to understand the relationship between the two. Smelling an alpha's scent on an omega could only result from close proximities, and the older could not see his brother being anywhere near an alpha such as Ushijima Wakatoshi, even if their end goal is to get Kei away from the adulterous Tetsurou and arrange a marriage with the king of Shiratorizawa.

"I'm courting him."

There was a tense moment, a second of silence as the blonde raised the crystal glass to his lips, allowing the sweet liquid to wash down his throat. He never expected Kei to take such a risk, to permit an alpha to court him when he wasn't in a committed relationship let alone when he is married. It surprised him, but it left him with a sense of understanding. How suffocated did the omega feel to accept such a dangerous offer?

"Annulling the marriage between Kei and Prince Tetsurou could lead to war, I trust we have Shiratorizawa's backing?" Ushijima lowered his glass to rest on the wooden desk between them, forefinger brushing across the crystal base of the glass.

"As your allies, you can expect Shiratorizawa's full support in the war; our fleets are ready whenever you need it." There were no more words needed, both of them understood that as the young king stood up, making his way to leave the room. Akiteru could only hope that King Kuroo would accept to renegotiate the terms of their alliance, they wanted to avoid war, but he wouldn't let his brother pay the price.

Chapter Text

The sound of his steps echoed in the silence of the corridor, the noise ricocheting against the stone walls of the castle. The castle seemed frozen in time, quiet and lifeless with no one roaming around at the time; it was comforting if not a little eerie. His body ached for a soft bed, lids heavy and his clothes were a weight he couldn't wait to shed. Kuroo Tetsurou was exhausted after the majority of the day and night in council meetings.

He pushed their bedchamber's door, the entrance widening with a creak that he hoped wouldn't disturb Kei. The room was dim, the only sources of light was a single candle that flickered to cast shadows on the figure of the startled servant seated in the corner. The beta seemed to recognise him instantly, rushing to courtesy. Kuroo paid her no paid beyond a nod of his head, hazel eyes darting to the direction of their bed to note the closed curtains.

"Is his highness asleep?" His voice was a whisper, words carried over by the wind that slipped through the cracks of the sealed windows. Lean fingers were working the buttons of his leather doublet, freeing the golden beads from their holes until nothing was holding the piece of clothing together, allowing it to slip from his shoulders and to the ground with a muted thud.

"Yes, my prince." Her voice was louder than Kuroo would've liked, wincing at the startling tone as the silence broke. His eyes shifted back to the bed, listening with undivided attention for any sign of discomfort.

"You are dismissed." His fingers found the hem of his undershirt, pulling the soft material off and allowing it to drop the ground on top of the doublet. Usually, he would've drawn on a nightshirt, but at that moment, with exhaustion weighing him down, the alpha didn't bother to search for any clothes, opting to stay in nothing but his pants as he kicked off his boots and made his way to the bed.

He's grown fond of sharing the bed with the omega, enamoured with the heat radiating from the thin body and the scent of vanilla and apples that would mingle in the blankets, the mix of their perfumes that lingered in their bed and tickled his nose. He loved Terushima, he always will, yet as he slipped through the curtains and onto the matters, his heart swelled. Kei was growing on him; he was slowly falling captive to the snarky personality and the walls the blonde had built to protect himself. He wasn't in love, but Kuroo didn't know what to call it.

He had no right to feel anything for the omega, not when he had betrayed the blonde and hurt him. On more than occasion, he had bitten his tongue, holding back the apologies that threatened to slip from his throat; and unless he acted upon his feelings, apologising would be disrespecting the younger prince.

The bed shifted under him, lids lifting to reveal golden gems clouded with sleep; jewels that shone brightly even in the darkness. Neither of them spoke as Kuroo slipped next to him, they have grown used to the situation; it became a routine which they welcomed. The silence was no longer heavy or tense as it dragged on.

The heat and warmth were trapped inside the curtains, caged around them, protecting their bodies from the cold. It was comforting, familiar and secure. Kuroo was slipping into sleep, the darkness engulfing him and easing him into dreams when a whisper startled him. "Akiteru-nii is here."

His thoughts were hazy with sleep, eyes lidded as he tried to focus on Kei's words, with little success. The words didn't register to him, yet the anxiety radiating from Kei left him unable to ignore the statement. "Isn't that nice?"

"He is demanding for an annulment; he doesn't care if it starts a war."

Any semblance of sleep vanished, hazel eyes widening as they met the golden gems of the omega. Alphas were protective of their loved ones, almost violent in their protection as opposed to the gentle nurturing instincts of omegas. Kuroo understood that. He recognised the need to protect your family; it was an impulse that overcame him on many occasions. Could he blame the alpha for rushing to shield his brother from his reality?

He had no right to Kei, not when he ruined any chance of a future, not when he rendered him to a second choice, left him as a hopeless foreigner with no stable position in court. Kuroo was aware that he had failed the omega on more than occasion, that he didn't deserve to be his alpha.

Was this his punishment? To lose Kei when he was still healing, when he still ached for Yuuji. It was cruel, filling him with dread. He was burning, the thought of losing the omega consuming him, leaving him breathless. Kuroo was drowning, submerged under the water of loss. He had no right to cage the blonde to him, no reason to hold him back when he couldn't promise to love him or make him happy. He was selfish, had been for the whole duration of their engagement, and he continued to be greedy even after their marriage.

"What do you want?" His voice was steady, even as his whole body shook, trembled with the suppressed emotions. He wanted to fight Akiteru, to demand a single last chance, to fight for the omega, but Kuroo had consumed all his rights and all his opportunities; this situation would be resolved based on what Kei wanted. For once, he'd fight for the omega's happiness before his own.

"I want a war to break." The sarcasm was venomous, malicious in its intensity, but Kuroo knew better than to fall prey to it. It had been a part of Kei for a long time, and if the alpha was being arrogant, he would've claimed to understand that the Omega used it as a shield to protect himself.

"Of course, I understand that you don't want your people to kill each other, You are the prince of both kingdoms, if anyone would feel grief for every single drop of blood, it'll be you, but I'm asking what 'you' want, Kei. Beyond your duty, beyond our status, where do you see your happiness." The words, as they echoed around them, filled him with a sense of deja vu. They were familiar, an imitation of Kei's question, a weak copy.

There was a deafening silence; time stretching out, neither of them speaking. Kuroo braced himself, prepared himself for every possible reply. He didn't expect the omega to choose him, not when he had brought Kei nothing but pain, but he couldn't crush the candle of hope that lit up inside of him.

"Going back to Karasuno is not an option, it won't take long for otosan to execute me." His voice was low, filled with a vulnerability that Kuroo never associated with the omega. He despised the pain hidden in the boy, scorned the universe that tormented him and loathed himself for taking part in his misery, for being his torturer. Daichi's words were a thought that rooted itself in his brain, a chant that never disappeared, a reminder of his selfishness that ruined the lives of both Kei and Terushima.

"But what do you want?"

"I want a home." It was a whisper that Tetsurou almost missed, a secret breathed into the stillness of the night, a reminder of his part in Kei's pain. They were supposed to rule above all, to live lives with no strain, with no tears, but the reality was far from it. As royalty, they were the ones taking the blow of it all, the ones sacrificed for the comfort of their people, the ones sacrificed for the greed of others; wasn't Kei a valid example of that?

"Do you want to stay here?"

"I don't know."

"Do you want this marriage?"

"I don't know."

His fingers were hesitant as he brushed the digits through the golden curls. He faltered as he pulled Kei's hand into his own, lacing their fingers together. Kuroo could note the way the blonde stiffened at the contact, the surprise in his gaze, but he held his ground, waiting until he relaxed, the tension seeping from his body. "I will fight for you, Kei. If you want us to work on this marriage, I'll fight for us. If you seek to leave, then I'll vote for the annulment. I don't give a damn who I have to convince, who I have to fight. I'm on your side."

The air rushed through the blonde's lips, warm against his cheek. The bed shifted, dipping under their weights, shaking under their movements, and as he blinked he found the blonde in his arms, nose pressed to his scent glands. "This wouldn't have been so awkward if you weren't half naked." Kuroo forced a chuckle, a sound that was nervous, but his attention focused on the nose brushing against his skin, inhaling his scent.

"Ushijima is courting me."

His ears were ringing, the sound a buzz in his mind. It was loud, the noise stealing all of his attention as the world slipped away. He could feel the ache in his chest, the stab in his back and Kuroo momentarily wondered if his heart was bleeding. Is this feeling what Kei had been experiencing all this time? The burn in his chest and the lump in his throat? The alpha knew that he had no right to feel this way, to feel betrayed, to be rendered lower than someone, but it was a sensation that consumed him almost drowned him.

"Are you going to take back your words now?" The question held no emotions, the words cleansed of any hint of the speaker's turmoil, but as the world registered to him, as his eyes met the golden gaze, he could see the expectation in the gems, could sense the resignation, the defeat. Kei had long given up on Kuroo, giving up on any promise from the alpha.

How much did he scar the younger boy? Marking him as nothing more than a second choice, carving into the wounds left by his family, lying and lying until any trust, any hope was scrubbed clean. Kuroo knew that he had messed up, that he had hurt the omega, but it was only at this moment that the realised how much pain he had caused.

His arms wrapped around the thin frame, feeling the warmth of the skin under his touch, dragging the body back against his chest and he did nothing but hold him there, a silent apology, a quiet promise. Kuroo had wounded Kei, and he would be the one to heal the wounds, to remove the scars. "Of course not, I'm not taking that promise back. I'm on your side."

There were no more words exchanged, no more spoken vowels and no sounds as they laid there, taking in each other's scent, relishing in the luxury that they never allowed for themselves. Kuroo wanted to ask many questions, words and thoughts swarming his mind, but he bit back the sounds, swallowed down the letters that threatened to slip. He owed Kei the privacy of his hopes, and no matter what the alpha inside of him wanted to believe, he had no right to the omega, not when he destroyed their relationship long before it flourished. Whatever Tsukishima Akiteru planned to do to Kuroo Tetsurou, he had every right.

 

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Council meetings were an event that he always enjoyed, a conference that he anticipated. Kuroo enjoyed the look of bewilderment on someone's face as he shuts them down, the look of disbelief as he contradicts their argument, he loved having the upper hand. This meeting was another case; he hated the slow passage of time, the smug look of Ushijima's face and the well-written contract that left them scrapping to find any advantage.

They were losing a political battle, one that would determine whether they have an advantage or not in their trade agreement with Shiratorizawa. Kuroo attempted to stay calm, to find a loophole they could exploit before signing the drafted contract, before they agree to anything with the Island kingdom, but Kei's confession left him unfocused, burning with dark emotions that threatened to consume him.

Kuroo was more than happy to leave the task in the hands of their councilmen; he was more than pleased to excuse himself, to make his way out of the hall. The corridor was busy, nobles moving around the court, servants carrying their tasks. The alpha enjoyed the life in the castle, enjoyed the buzz of people, the chatter and the sounds of footsteps.

He never had the luxury to linger, never had the time or chance to stand still as the world hummed around him. This time was no different, Kuroo's feet were already leading him to his destination, carrying him -through the stonewalls and the sunlight streaming through the windows- to Kei's Boudoirs.

The music of life dimmed down, the sound growing lower and lower the further away he walked, the deeper into the royal household he ventured and by the time Kuroo reached his destination, the buzz was gone. He was oblivious to the guards bowing to him, unaware of the looks they shared as he asked if Kei was in, his gaze never left the wooden door, wondering if he shouldn't be here.

The door was pushed open by one of the soldiers, revealing the blonde omega hunched over some documents, quill scratching the surface of the rough material and Yamaguchi standing next to him, overlooking the task. Nothing else registered in the room, Kuroo's feet taking him to the younger boy to press a kiss to the top of his head, hearing the occasional click of his tongue against the roof of his mouth.

The room fell into focus as he got dragged away, pulled away from the omega's side and the scent of an alpha registered in the turmoil of the room. Hazel eyes met golden ones, the fire of the anger burning in them, transforming the colour from jewels to honey. Kuroo didn't expect the older Tsukishima to be pleased with him, not when he knew he wanted their marriage annulled, but the hostility felt foreign, it didn't belong to the kind man.

"Akiteru-san, a pleasure to see you." The raven ignored the fingers latched in the fabric of his clothes, ignored the stench of rage that filled the room as a smile spread across his face, but Akiteru never left his vision, not with the threat of an attack looming around them. Kei was the one to interfere, fingers pulling at the grip caging Kuroo in place, his intoxicating scent overpowering any other stench.

"Nii-sama, stop acting like an idiot." The annoyance was visible in his words, on his face and in his touch. It mingled in his scent, lingered on his skin and gave the older alpha no option but to react to the dissatisfaction of the omega, releasing his grip, if reluctantly.

Kei's attention shifted from his brother to Kuroo, eyes glaring, piercing as he watched him with radiating irritation and the alpha felt as if he was an animal under observation. "What are you doing here? I thought you had meetings all day."

His fingers were rough as they brushed against the end of his hair, the short ends prickling his skin. "I got irritated and felt the need to leave the room." The air left his lips in a huff, his arm falling to his side as he took a seat on one of the empty chairs, accepting the glass of wine that Yamaguchi poured for him. "Shiratorizawa is good, they drafted the agreement, and it has all the discussed terms, but the wording gives them more of an advantage, and we can't find a loophole."

"I'm surrounded by idiots." It was a mumble that Kuroo almost missed, the silence was his ally as it carried the words to his ears, and he leant closer to the omega, as close as he can get from where he sat. The sound of his writing was soothing, a symphony that eased him. "If you think so, then help us, Tsukki." The words were a breathless screech, filled with a playful tone and the alpha couldn't hold back the grin that spread across his face, couldn't swallow the laughter that vibrated in his chest as the omega clicked his tongue once again; the sure sign of his annoyance.

"Seeing that you are so free, you can help me with these documents." The amusement died in his throat, the smile crumbling off his face as he eyed the pile of papers. It wasn't a significant amount, not by a long shot, but he felt no desire to help, no urge to look at any more documents, not when the agreement with Shiratorizawa still occupied his mind.

"What do you think we should do about the trade deal?"

It was the blonde's turn to sigh, whispering a complaint that didn't reach his ear. He lowered quill, placing it in the stand; his work abandoned as he turned his full attention to the alpha. "Why are you wasting time looking for loopholes you might never use? The document isn't signed yet, reword some terms or add a few that contradict their advantage. I shouldn't need to tell you this."

The realisation was slow to come, the recognition even slower. The situation with Kei occupied all of his thoughts, leaving him with little chance to think about something, a smaller margin to understand anything else. It was a crippling feeling, a sensation that overtook him, left him focused on one thing and one thing only. "Thank you, Tsukki." He wanted to blame the guilt and the anxiety. He blamed everything but the jealousy that ate at him, a possessiveness that swallowed him consumed him and left him feeling ugly. It was an emotion he had no right to explore, and he wanted to ignore it.

His fingers wrapped around the quill, feeling the smoothness underneath his skin, focusing on the sensation and the blank paper he pulled to write a few instructions. "May I use your seal, Kei?" His signature adorned the document until he folded the paper, sealing both his signature and the words. The wax was poured by Kei who was holding his stamp out, and Kuroo didn't waste time using it. "Yamaguchi, please deliver this to Lord Sugawara, he's in the council meeting, please inform him that it's urgent. He'll understand once he reads it."

The beta was fast to obey, exiting the room in haste and leaving a trail of silence behind him, the quiet lingered upon them, sticking to them like dust. Kei's focus was back to his work, his attention stolen by the documents resting on the desk. It was a rare scene, finding the omega hunched over records instead of being tutored and schooled, and Kuroo found himself pleased by the scene, the idea of his wife helping him run the court and the kingdom easing some of his buried insecurities.

"We need to talk, Tetsurou-kun." Akiteru's tone was deprived of the anger that radiated from him earlier; words edged with tension, coated in his strain to hold the smile. Kuroo knew his brother-in-law enough to recognise the struggle, the conflict as he fought the desire to punch him.

"If this is about the annulment, then it is not my choice, nor is it my right. It's Kei's decision, and I'll respect whatever he decides."

"Then you can respect that he never wanted this marriage."

Kuroo's lips parted, the words forming in his chest, vibrating in his throat, a complaint, a criticism directed to the older alpha, but Kei's words silenced him, buried his surfacing thoughts down. "I can't go home, Nii-san, I'm not welcomed there. The annulment is not an option."

There was something unique about their relationship, a closeness that Kuroo found both foreign and fascinating. He wondered if this is how his relationship with his brother would've been, or if it was merely due to the suffocating environment they had grown in. He was fortunate, blessed with royal parents who never allowed their status or work to neglect him, endowed with the warmth and love he grew up surrounded by, spoiled in and the alpha knew, it was something rare, a rarity that only a few of his friends experienced.

"If you are refusing the annulment because you are afraid of coming home, then there are other options, other alphas who would give everything for you and your happiness."

"Just give me time to think about it. Either way, you should sit and talk to his majesty before you push me to make any decisions. Idiot Nii-sama, try to avoid starting a war or all of this would have been for nothing." The blonde found his way back to his work, eyes scanning the scribbled words, studying the documents before either signing them or discarding them. It piqued Kuroo's interest, approving the household budget wasn't part of Kei's responsibilities, at least not yet and it indeed wasn't a task he was accustomed to, not when he was apparently using all of his focus on every single document.

"Are you doing okasan's work?"

The task was discarded once more, Kei's attention shifting back to rest on the raven, gaze questioning and his signature scowl itched deeper in his skin than usual. "You don't know?" There was a dark edge to his words, a worried tone hidden behind the sarcastic mask and Kuroo could feel the tension building inside of him, in his shoulders and muscles, just as he could feel his heart thrumming in his chest. Something was wrong.

"Know what?"

"Okasan is back on bed rest." Kei's tone was almost gentle, soft, a whisper that was meant to be comforting, contradictory to the scowl that was still on his face. The air rushed from his deflating lungs, leaving his lips in a huff of breath. The tension was rooted in his bones, settled in his skin and worry crept its way into his heart. It has been a year since his mother was forced to rest, and Kuroo was starting to forget the feeling of worry that would plant itself inside of him.

"Did she overwork herself again?" The guilt was building inside of him, growing until it almost suffocated him long before Kei confirmed his suspicion. State affairs have been calm, settled and there was no need for his mother to tire herself, he could only assume that he is the cause behind his mother's strain, behind the reason she pushed herself physically when her body couldn't handle it. Every day, Kuroo would find another reason to despise the man he grew to be, to loathe his selfishness, to hate his brattiness. He cursed himself for hurting the people he cared about the most.

"I'll go check on her, thank you for letting me know."

 

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He didn't knock, ignoring the protests of his mother's guards and the lady-in-waiting that greeted him. None of them mattered, not when he was filled with worry, aching with the guilt and burning with the need to check on his mother. Talking to the healer never eased him, inquiring from her ladies never calmed him. Kuroo would not grow reassured of his mother's recovery unless he confirmed it with his own eyes unless he saw her bright smile and burning spirit on his own.

It hadn't always like this; his mother was once as healthy as any queen, and more spirited than anyone else. She would chase him in the open garden, tuck him to sleep and kiss his scraps away, she would scold him with a smile and tell him she loved him. The queen of Nekoma was in good health until the day she lost her second born during childbirth.

It was an ominous day that his parents would never forget, a day that the young prince disliked to remember, loathed the memories of his mother almost bleeding to death. He cursed the thought of her drop, the cost of losing her child; awake and unresponsive, oblivious to the world, to anyone's words. He hated the scene burned in his memory, the image of his mother in bed, unaware of anyone's presence except for Tetsurou whom she'd hold close as he begged her to come back.

The worry was ingrained in his body, yet the moment he laid eyes on his mother, her smile greeting him, the tension melted away, dissolving into the air as if it never existed. A calm cloud settled on him, the fog of it easing his muscles. "How are you feeling?" Kuroo's lips brushed her cheek, the kiss was soft, feeling the heat radiating from her skin, and he straightened out to study her better.

"I'm feeling better. You shouldn't worry, Tetsu. I merely overworked myself preparing for Shiratorizawa's expediated visit." The alpha couldn't miss the sickly hue to her skin or the dark shadows under her eyes, but her smile was as warm as a summer day, her scent as potent as ever and it eased him. "I'll be better once I get enough rest."

"Don't worry about your duties; I can take care of them."

"Thank you, child, but Kei-kun already volunteered, and I think it will be good practice for the future."

Silence descended upon them as the alpha sat on the edge of the bed, the mattress dipping under his weight. There were many things he wanted to ask, many questions that haunted him. "Aren't you disappointed in me?"

Nothing caught his mother off guard; nothing surprised her, at least not when it was related to him. It was as if she understood him better than anyone as if she knew his thoughts and insecurities, and that shouldn't surprise him. "Of course I'm disappointed, child, Kei didn't deserve that, but I understand that you couldn't turn your back on your love." Her voice was soft, a gentle lullaby that eased the sting of her words, a soothing chant that used to lull him to sleep.

Her touch was delicate, fingers gentle as she cupped his cheek, her eyes capturing his and Kuroo couldn't look away. "You didn't mean to hurt him, but you did, and that can never be justified, Tetsu. The world is cruel; it is brutal especially to male omegas and even more so in Karasuno." Her tone never rose, her words as gentle as ever, but he felt like a child under her gaze; he felt small under the weight of her disappointment. It pierced him more than even his father's. "Try to understand. Male omegas are the rarest of all secondary genders; boys are raised to be masculine, not delicate, but once they present as omegas their identities shatter. Everything they were taught is wrong, and they are expected to be someone else. When they were once bred to be forceful, now they are expected to bend and submit. It is traumatising, even more so for someone like Kei-kun who was raised to be an alpha; cultivated to lead, and then was thrown away the moment he presented."

He didn't say anything, allowing the meaning to settle, allowing the words to explain what Kei had been trying to teach him for months and the cloud of guilt overwhelmed him, swallowed him, and suffocated him. His mother was right; he shouldn't keep brushing it off because he didn't mean it.

"You are kind, Tetsu, I raised you to be kind, you can fix your mistake, but never forget it. Nurture this guilt, use it to grow better. One blunder doesn't define you, but learn from it."

Even weak and forced to rest, his mother never stopped supporting him. Tetsurou couldn't imagine growing up differently, without his mother teaching him, scolding him and helping him stand after falling. He couldn't envision what his life would've been like had she allowed him to leave the palace, to grow up away from her, to be raised by others. While his father taught him to be a leader, raised him to be a king, his mother nursed him to be human, and while they both loved him, both spoiled him; the alpha wouldn't have been who he was if not for his mother.

"I loved him, Oka-san. I still love him, and it hurt when I walked away." Her arms wrapped around his bigger frame, pulling him into her warm embrace and Tetsurou was reminded of days when he was much smaller, crying against his mother's chest. A fond smile stretched on his face as she held him, her affection easing the ache of separation and longing that ate at him.

He couldn't be more grateful to her silence; thankful that she didn't advise him to move on, didn't remind him to forget about the man he once called his love. The alpha didn't need to be warned, he knew what he had to do, and as selfish as Tetsurou was, he thanked God for his mother's presence, and for her silent support. Even if he cared for Kei, forgetting his love for Yuuji wasn't easy, but no one said that doing the right thing would be simple.

 

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Akiteru was a welcomed presence in his space until he brought up the subject of the annulment. It was a topic that Kei wanted to ignore. His mind was a whirlwind of conflicting thoughts, filled with opinions from both sides and the shadow of insecurity that lingered upon him only fed the storm. It was still early in the afternoon, and Kei was already exhausted, his energy drained.

Kei wanted to focus his thoughts on the piling documents, on the exciting work that he loved getting his hands on, but his brother proved an obstacle, snatching his focus and consuming his time. It was a wonder that he hadn't snapped at him yet, that he didn't bare his teeth and stalk his claim on his time, but he was getting there with every spoken word, with every huff and every whine from the older prince.

"If you don't have anything worth discussing, then let me work, Nii-san." The accumulating anger was evident in the spoken word, the tone harsher and more venomous than Kei intended, but he refused to allow the look of bewilderment on his brother's face to provoke the guilt inside of him.

"Very well, Kei, if you want a serious discussion, I can give you that. Why not accept Wakatoshi-Kun's proposal and annul this fraud of a marriage?"

His thoughts fought for dominance, words clashing as questions sprang to his mind. His lips parted and closed, when a single issue took precedence, winning dominance over the rest and Kei didn't waste a moment speaking the words out loud. "How do you know about that?"

Akiteru had the decency to look apologetic, to seem uncomfortable at the question, but it didn't ease Kei, merely adding to the puzzles in his mind. The reaction frightened him, the timing terrorised him, and the omega was drowning, sinking under the weight of his fears. He couldn't shake the feeling that it was more political than he wanted it to be, that his father had a hand in it; and nothing intimidated him more.

The alpha's fingers were on his shoulders, touch gentle as it brushed the skin of his neck, thumb brushing his scent glands and a tremor shook him. It was an act of comfort; the touch was meant to ease his fears, but at that moment, with the questions in his mind, Kei saw it as nothing more than a betrayal. He flinched away from the alpha, putting space between them, ignoring the pained expression that flashed across Akiteru's face.

"Ushijima Wakatoshi is an ally, Shiratorizawa is an important ally of Karasuno."

Any possibility of a future with the king shattered at that moment, the images fragmented and broken, pushed to the back of his mind, left to the company of forgotten memories. The fading possibilities were easy to swipe away, to clean as if they never existed, but it was the lost hope that broke him, the light of a growing dream fading too soon.

"I should've known better. Of course, this is happening. Now that father is done with Nekoma he sent you to sell me to another kingdom. Why did I expect anything else? Go back to him, tell him he can go to hell, I'm not leaving Nekoma."

Kei hated the hint of amusement in the golden gaze of Akiteru, despised the smile that twitched at the corner of his lips and the way his expression eased some of his worries. He wanted to be angry for being their puppet, wished he could curse his brother and not forgive him for all eternity, but even if the omega were enraged, he would never loathe the alpha. "Rest easy, Wakatoshi is 'my' ally; father wanted nothing to do with Shiratorizawa. All of it is my doing, and if I want you to marry him, it's not to sell you." There was a moment of silence, the alpha giving his words a chance to sink, for his meaning to be understood. "I want you to marry him, because he's a man of his word, Kei, he would never hurt you, nor would he betray you. Him courting you, that's all him, and if anything, it attests to his commitment."

"What if I don't want that?"

"Then come back home with me." His tone was natural as if what he said was the simplest thing in the world, and it burned Kei, enraged him. He wanted to scream at his brother's ignorance.

"Yes, and they lived happily ever after." The scoff was easy to pull, the acidic sarcasm belonged to his voice, and he enjoyed the mask of hopelessness on Akiteru's face. There was a price to everything, and the price Kei would pay upon returning to Karasuno would be too big, it might even cost him his life and his brother shouldn't act so unaware as if the world was just.

"I'll protect you, Kei."

"From the King of Karasuno, from King Tsukishima who hates omegas more than anything. Don't be naive. He killed his brothers to eliminate any threat to his reign, killing the son who brought him shame would be ten folds easier."

There was a long pause, the silence sweeping between them as if the discussion was over as if no more words were needed, because what could Akiteru say? How could he counter Kei's argument and the omega took that as his cue, turning his attention back to the piling work.

The next time either of them spoke, interrupting the frozen moment, hours had passed, the work that kept Kei busy long done and the chair he had occupied for the majority of the day finally abandoned. "What if I killed him?"

If the time didn't diminish Kei's anger, if the work didn't kill the fire that burned inside of him, it was the sincerity in Akiteru's voice, the mixture of fear and determination that flashed through his eyes and the familiar protectiveness radiating from him. "You don't need to do that, nii-san. I don't want that from you. My life isn't perfect, but I'm alright, I'm safe here and their son might not love me, but the king and queen do." There was a moment, a pause, a shift and Kei could feel his heart drumming against his ribcage, just as he could taste the pile as the words left his lips. "I wouldn't trust myself with you if you went as far as to kill your father. I know I don't care for the asshole, but you love him. He was always good to you."

The smile on Akiteru's face was warm, gentle as he ignored the height difference between them and reached in a crude attempt to ruffle the omega's hair, failing and flailing as the younger shifted away from the touch. The tension that lingered in the air since the alpha's sudden appearance dissolved like mist, leaving no trace behind.

 

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The white carpet was gone, leaving the world bare and uncovered. The snow had melted, leaving behind no traces, only the puddles that reflected the moonlight, which sparkled, exhibiting the stars in the dark blanket of the sky. Kei never knew what it was like to jump around in the water, watching the image as it changed under his feet; it wasn't something he ever craved, and as he stood there, he ached to throw his weight on the water surface, to sink his foot into it.

The cold was freezing, the chill eating at him, biting at his skin and bones, but the omega refused to move, smelling the traces of the snow in the air, searching for any hints of the white blanket that purified the world.

Numb fingers wrapped around clothed biceps, nails digging into the heavy fabric, gripping the doublet as he tried to cage the heat, shackle it to his body and protect it from the air that tried to steal away his warmth. It was a futile attempt, the frost of winter icing the heat.

A weight settled on his shoulders, heavy and warm as it wrapped around him, fighting the chill that nipped at his skin and heating him. It was heavenly, a divine gift in the low temperature as the wind slapped his face, as he refused to leave the spot, enthraled by the beauty of the night.

The scent of the cold was overwhelming, numbing his nose and leaving Kei with no option but to turn around. His thoughts were quiet, peacefully silent and his mind was blank for the first time since the chaos erupted, and as topaz eyes met the olive gaze of Ushijima, the silence exploded. The moment was over, killed by the emotions that raged inside of him. Should he feel betrayal, humiliation or anger? If Kei found difficulty with his feelings on a daily basis, at that moment, he was paralysed and overwhelmed.

"Shouldn't you go find Nii-sama, I can't assist you with politics." The fur that was keeping him warm was shrugged off, left to drop on the wet ground with a thud. No matter his feelings toward Ushijima, there was no positivity in his chest. A dark grip was around his heart, squeezing and pinching him, leaving him breathless.

"I will not deny my relation to your brother. His royal highness is an important ally, one that Shiratorizawa would support through his reign." The overgown was left forgotten, abandoned to the ground, the fabric sucking the wetness of a nearby puddle.

"You didn't think to mention that to me?"

"What is there to mention?"

"I'm not a political tool; I'm not going to marry you so that you can strengthen the alliance with my brother." His voice had grown in volume, the words carrying through the serenity of the night. His fears were swallowing him, consuming every rational thought left in his mind. He was slowly losing his mind, his thoughts dying to the doubt, to the reality that destroyed him, shattered his identity and left him as a fragment of who he once was. He was terrified, afraid of the moment he'll cease to exist, the moment he'll be left as nothing more than an omega, a tool of negotiations.

"My proposal is not related to the alliance. I wouldn't deny it would benefit it, but it wouldn't affect it, either. I want to marry you for your talent, that political ability that was honed under two powerful kings."

His laughter resounded around them, the sound consumed by the darkness of the night, humourless and filled with despair, with Kei's unshed tears. Once upon a time, he took pride in his ability, just as he was in love with politics, but as he stood there, at that moment, diplomatics were nothing but shackles, a cage that restrained him, enslaved him. As long as he lived as Prince Kei, as long as he lived in a palace, surrounded by luxuries, he will not be free.

"I'll see you around, Your Majesty."

The alpha didn't move, didn't reach for the omega as he walked past him, didn't hold him back, and Kei was grateful for it. Thankful for the chance to escape. He knew what he needed, knew what he wanted. Tsukishima Kei wished to flee, to leave the palace behind, to abandon his titles and find residence somewhere far away, a warm and sunny kingdom where he wouldn't be imprisoned. If only Kuroo would help, then it won't be just a faraway dream.

Chapter Text

For once he hated the walk to their bedchambers, despised the distance that seemed to be growing and not shrinking. He ran, his legs taking him through the motions, rushing through life and time, oblivious to the world that existed around him. Reality had melted away, hidden from his consciousness behind the fog of his thoughts and the cloud of his desires.

He found himself standing in front of the wooden door, bent over with his hands on his knees, trying to catch his breath, attempting to calm his racing heart. His mind was in chaos, thoughts a raging mess, a storm that didn't ease even as his breathing evened out, even as he pushed the door open to find the alpha lounging around with a book.

The scent was a welcomed comfort, a gentle mix of their perfumes, a smell that lingered in the air, that claimed the room as their space. Even with months of people going through their sheets, of servants and lords inspecting their beddings, looking through them, the chamber had grown on him. It was theirs, and to Kei, it was his escape, his hideout from the nobles and their judgments.

The door closed behind him, the sound finally alerting the alpha to his presence, his perspective gaze shifting from the scribbled words to meet Kei's. He didn't know if it was the look on his face or the ting of distress in his scent that alerted Kuroo to his struggle and warned him of the turmoil in his mind. Perhaps, it was the shadow of fear in his eyes, or maybe the content of finally making a choice, of knowing what he wanted.

"Hey, hey, calm down. Breathe." The book was abandoned, discarded on the chair and replaced with the omega as Kuroo wrapped his arms around him, drawing Kei against his chest, holding him against his beating heart. There was a stifled moment of surprise, the blonde's body tensing in his embrace before the tension melted away, drained out of his body, but even then Kei didn't return his hug.

"Do you still stand by your promise to help with whatever I decide?" His voice was steady, a calm breath of air against Kuroo's lips, it didn't betray his emotions, but his trembling body did. He prayed to a god that never answer, pleaded and begged through the voices screaming in his head; he prayed for the alpha to stick to his words.

"Of course, whatever you want." The relief was a surge of fresh air, an answer to his prayer. He couldn't help but reconsider his thoughts, reevaluate his feelings because perhaps God wasn't cruel, and maybe he finally took pity on Kei, to grant him the freedom he so desired.

Kei pushed himself from the warmth of the embrace, putting distance between himself and the alpha, grounding himself for any reaction to come. "I want out."

There was no visible reaction on Kuroo's face; his smile was frozen in place, eyes watching Kei with faked interest. It was a mask, the facade he wore in court, around nobles and servants. If the omega wasn't watching him closely, if he hadn't noted the drop of his shoulders, he would've assumed that the alpha was relieved, pleased to be free from the same shackles that caged them, that forced them together.

"Okay, we can apply for the annulment. Paying for it would be easy, we can always say that I couldn't perform." His voice was a pleasant song, gentle and calm, but it was a screech in Kei's ears, an annoying act played by Kuroo.

"I don't want an annulment, that would take months, maybe even years if we can't get your father's support. I want to leave this castle as soon as possible. Send me away, Tetsurou, let's play it as a prolonged vacation. I need to be away from anything related to Nekoma and Karasuno; I need to be free from our status."

There were unspoken words, words that hung between them; understood but not discussed. Once Kei leaves he will not return, he'll find residence somewhere, establish a home in the vast world. He was asking the alpha to wait for his omega that planned never to come back. It was selfish, but he didn't feel sorry, not when he knew the world would never welcome an omega without an alpha. For the first time, he could feel the weight of the ring around his finger, feel the warmth of the band and it wasn't a restraint, but a shield that would protect him from the world.

"If that's what you want." His eyes burned with the gathering tears, golden gems turned molten, and Kei remembered the nightmare, the unending corridor, but this time, he could see the exit. He could finally be free. He was the one to shatter the distance, flinging himself against Kuroo's chest, wrapping his arms around his shoulders and hiding his face against his skin. The tears never leaked. "Thank you."

"Are you growing soft, Tsukki. If I didn't know better, I would've thought that you're plotting something." His voice had the familiar playful tone, the usual attempt to rile Kei up, to get under his skin and irritate him; and it never failed, even as the alpha wrapped his arms around the younger boy, squeezing him lightly. They never imagined getting here, a point where they greeted the closeness, where they took comfort in each other's presence and warmth. At that moment, there was a trace of bitterness in his mouth, an ache in his chest. This moment might be the last time they get to see each other, let alone touch.

"I'm plotting your murder."

"How kind, Tsukki! Thank you for giving me a heads up." Kuroo swallowed his words, allowing another remark to die in his throat, giving an innocent smile to counter the frightening glare directed at him. The blonde was out of his hold, crossing the room with an elegance that shouldn't be plausible with his long limbs; it was a grace that was hard to mimic, a decorum of their status.

"How many guards do you want to take?" Kei never turned around, his gaze fixed away, ignoring Kuroo's or perhaps, ignoring the confrontation.

"I don't want any guards. I don't want to be royalty when I leave." The air grew heavy, filled with the different scenarios, the various possibilities of the lingering danger. A prince in a foreign kingdom with no protection might as well be an invitation to those who seek to exploit him. It was the first thing they grew aware of, the danger to them, the threat to them. Kei's thoughts were no different.

"I can't do that, Kei."

"I'll take Yamaguchi, he's a knight in training, but I won't take any more guards, that'll be as good as announcing my identity."

There was a moment of silence, a pause of consideration as Kuroo considered Kei's words, as he contemplated the possibilities and the scenarios. "If Yamaguchi is going as your retainer, then you can take a couple more. A cook, a few servants. A few personal guards, two at the least."

"No."

The air rushed from his lips, warm in the coolness of the castle. Kuroo was moving, picking his discarded book to mark the page he was on and place the book back on the table. "If I can't tell anyone the true purpose behind your 'vacation' you'll have to compromise, Kei. What Prince would go on vacation without his servants?"

The lines on Kei's face deepened, his lips curling into a small pout that he failed to disguise as a frown. It was an expression that Kuroo had never seen, one that was rarer than the blonde's genuine smiles and it warmed his heart; it burned him from the inside out. Only with such a natural emotion can the alpha ever be assured that the omega is comfortable, at least, at that moment and nothing is as endearing as that. Even, if the moment was over the second, he blinked.

"Only a small group, Yamaguchi can choose them, he'll know who won't get on my nerves." It was a small victory, one that Kuroo accepted gladly. Planning everything fast and without stepping on Kei's foot would be an impossibility, and the omega won't be the only one to compromise, but as long as his wife is safe and happy, the alpha should have no reason to complain.

"Choose a kingdom; you would know more about Karasuno's allies. I'll find Yamaguchi and figure out the finer details of your departure. I can't promise it'll happen tomorrow, but I'll try, Kei."

There was no answer, no words and no acknowledgement from the omega, not that the alpha expected one. Kei was immersed in his plans, absorbed in his thoughts and so Kuroo didn't wait, leaving the room to the omega, the door falling shut behind him with a click.

 

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They lit up the darkness with burning torches, the flames red and orange, their hue reflected on their skins in the moonless sky, casting a shadow of warmth in the early day. The sun was yet to rise, dawn was yet to break and the morning light was nowhere to be found. The sky was still a black carpet covered with glistening stars.

They all knew it was early to leave, too late in the night and too early in the day, but no one was meant to know, their departure was designated to be a secret, a puzzle for all of the court to never solve.

The alpha ignored the hand squeezing his heart, ignored the tightness of his chest and the ringing in his ears. Instead, he chose to focus on the memory of Kei's smile, the relief in his eyes. It was all for Kei. It was the least he could do, after everything he put the younger prince through. Freedom never came freely to them, and if it were for the omega, then Kuroo would pay the price a thousand times over.

"Once I'm away, once I'm out of reach, apply for an annulment, Tetsurou. Don't be an idiot." The words were a gentle whisper, barely audible with the cries of horses and the calls of servants as they loaded the carriages. Kuroo almost missed them, missed the way the words rolled on Kei's tongue, the way his fingers entwined together in front of him in both exhilaration and anxiety.

"Drop it, Kei. I'm not getting an annulment. Not now. Perhaps, years in the future, and only if you send me a raven with tales of a lover."

"You need an heir." It was a fact, spoken calmly, devoid of emotions and Kuroo wasn't aware of his growing annoyance, he noticed it at that moment. He didn't want to have the same discussion again, not when his reasons weren't for anyone's ears when his excuses were only for him. He wanted Nekoma to remain a home for Kei, and the raven feared that if he reversed their marriage, he'd take his family away from the omega.

"Uncle is second in line to the throne, and then Daichi. His unborn heir would make a great king." The smile on his face grew, widening until Kei could count the white pearls in his mouth. "And if Daichi's the next in line, he'd keep me alive just to save his heir from the responsibilities of a king."

The discussion was dropped, neither of them speaking any more words, attention following the movements of servants, the calls of the guards and the beauty of the horses prepared for the journey. It was solely as Yamaguchi announced that everything was ready did they turn to look at each other, molten gold meeting forest green and sunrays.

There was a blanket of security wrapped around Kei, leaving him calm, his demons quiet and silent. Freedom was close; he could touch it, smell it and almost taste it. The world was an open book waiting for him to conquer and it relinquished the flame of hope inside of him, the spark that had once died. The anxiety that plagued his very essence was at the moment cured; left shirking in the darkness of his mind, away from his reach.

His life has grown bleak, empty of happiness, devoid of warmth and nothing comforted him except for the beauty of the world that was slowly diminishing in his eyes. He was dying, and only Kuroo noticed, his offer reviving him, the waiting world breathing life into him. He was no longer a doll that existed with no purpose and no soul; he was slowly turning into a human. It was the most precious gift given to him; freedom wad never been in his grasp, but as Kei stood there, it was his to claim.

Nothing could ever erase the darkness people created inside of him, nothing could eradicate Kuroo's mistakes and injustice, but Kei was grateful for his awakening, as late as it was. He was thankful to him for granting him his most precious wish.

"I'll explain the details to my parents once you are a safe distance away." The alpha's voice broke through the bubble of his thoughts, stealing his attention back to reality, and for once, the omega didn't hate his existence.

"They don't know?"

"All they know is that you needed a change of scenery." They were both perspectives, instincts and observation honed after years of living in a hypocritical environment such as that of the royal court; one where everyone would wear weak masks and hide their real agendas behind facades. A scene where everyone's playing a game of chess, and being princes made them precious pawns. It made knowing Kuroo easier, talking to him more comfortable. It was a serenity that could only be perceived upon knowing someone enough to note the different emotions in their words, the various masks they wear.

"I haven't told Akiteru, either." He tried to hide the emotions, to keep them from leaking into his words, but his guilt betrayed him, burning his throat like acid as it escaped his control. Akiteru had always been his family, his home, but for once the alpha wasn't a person Kei wanted to rely upon. He sought freedom like a dying man reaching for redemption, and he feared his brother would stand as an obstacle just to try and protect him from the vast world. "There is a letter for him in our chambers; please give it to him."

The sky was slowly morphing into a lighter shade, painted in hues of purple and orange. The sun was peeking through the horizon, with promises of a warm and bright day. It was a breathtaking image, the picture of night and day as they moulded together. Kei wanted to stand there, to mesmerise in the rising sun and the dying night, he wished to see the night disappear into the day, but they had other plans.

Kuroo was the one to break the compulsion of the scene, hiding its beauty behind him as he stood in front of Kei, blocking his vision. His touch was gentle, as tender as always; soft against his skin, cupping the omega's face, holding his gaze hostage. It was goodbye, a farewell where both of them knew they'd never see each other again.

Their marriage was over before it started, a union that brought them together and stripped them of their identities. The couple stood there, carving their features to memory; their lives were in shambles, fragmented and broken and once Kei left, leaving Kuroo behind, they will try to salvage their lives separately, to pick the pieces of their existence. As they stood there, they both promised themselves a future where they are happy, whether marriage linked them or not.

"You are always welcome back, Kei, this is your home." The lips pressed to Kei's forehead were warm, even when they were dry and chapped. The kiss lingered for a moment that ended faster than either of them would've liked, and then Kuroo turned around, leaving the omega and his party behind, refusing to watch him as he left. "Take care of yourself." The whispered words were the last words Kei heard before Kuroo disappeared from his view.

 

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He refused to look back, refused to look at the castle as the carriage moved. The moment was familiar with the way his chest tightened, his eyes burned and his whole body ached. Once again, he was leaving his home behind, abandoning the life he built in that foreign court, tearing himself away from the people whom he loved. Kei chose to ignore the despair that started to overwhelm him, to turn a deaf ear to the cries of his omega inside of him, to scorn the instincts that screamed at him to return to his alpha.

That life was over, the good and the bad were left behind, and as the horses pulled the carriage along, leaving behind nothing but a cloud of dust and wheel trials, the omega chose to focus on the sense of relief that slowly settled inside of him. He focused on the storm of emotions that flooded through him, overwhelming his senses until his eyes burned with tears. He was no longer forced into that marriage, no longer caged in a castle where servants and nobles alike condoned his existence. Kei left behind the only parents that ever cared for him, the brother that always looked after him and alpha that comforted him and he never looked back, never regretted choosing his happiness. 'One day,' He thought. 'They'll understand."

It was that thought that calmed him, demolishing the ache inside of him. It was that thought that comforted him, and it was that idea that allowed him to smile. Kei was free of the shackles that caged him, the metal breaking, falling to the ground with an echo that resounded inside of him. He was independent of his status and his birthright. He was no longer a prince; he can finally be his own person.

 

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The silence was deafening, suffocating; his ears were ringing, the quiet vibrating inside of him. He felt hollow, empty. There was a void inside of him, a hole that sucked all of him, left him with nothing, as no one. Tetsurou wondered if he looked down at his chest, would he find it empty, devoid of life?

He wanted to scream at the world, but he had no right, he had no right to break down or shriek. He sought retribution, a chance to amend his faults, to do Kei justice and he used the opportunity he got, used it to give the omega what he desired. Perhaps, Kei would forgive him. It was selfish of him, but he wouldn't be himself if he acted selflessly. He should be rejoicing, celebrating not only his release from a marriage he didn't want in the first place but also Kei's happiness.

The reality was bitter, the truth galling. That marriage cost Kuroo his relationship with Yuuji, stripped his life from its colours and turned it dull. Kei was another bright light, the younger brother he never had, the person who understood their responsibilities better than anyone else. He never resented the omega, but he didn't love him, either and as he slowly got to know him, as they spent two years engaged and in the same castle, he grew to see the omega as a brother. That was the lie he told himself, the lie he kept telling himself, but as the alpha sat there, on their -now his- bed, surrounded by the scent of vanilla and apples, Kuroo Tetsurou was forced to accept the reality; he liked the omega. He didn't love him as he loved Terushima, but he was more than a brother, and his inner alpha certainly saw him as his mate.

This pain is the price of his mistakes, the cost to Yuuji's tears and Kei's loneliness. It was a price he was willing to pay. This pain can't be any more than what they both endured.

 

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The port vibrated with life, people of all status, colours and genders walked around, working, talking. Some were saying their goodbyes; others were welcoming home loved ones; both cases were a scene to be held, the warmth of love radiating from them, arms open, embracing their families and friends. It was a picturesque scene, and it captivated the omega, capturing his attention, burning a flame of jealousy inside of him.

He grew up sheltered in a castle, a fort that caged him, a prison that kept him in and forced the world out of his view. Kei grew up unaware of the way people lived, relying only on stories and tales to understand the common person life, but he was never able to shackle the fascination and the curiosity, even when he was never allowed out of the court. His window to that world was always through the carriage that kept him safe, away from the clutches of people who would swarm around them, begging the king for blessings, beseeching the crown to help them.

At the moment, there was no carriage separating him from his people, no walls keeping him away, it was the guard standing by his side that frightened them away. Kei could feel their curiosity wrap around him, their gazes on his skin, their whispers and questions mumbled in his ear, and he didn't care. As he stood there, he was Tsukishima Kei, not a prince, not without his Coronet or most recently his Tiara, not without anyone that would treat him as such. He was free of his status.

His gaze shifted to Yamaguchi, watching him through the crowd of people as he supervised the loading of their luggage and Kei's molten gaze focused on Asu. He couldn't imagine leaving without his horse, and his relief almost choked him as they pulled the horse onto the ship.

"Your Highness, forgive me for not greeting you earlier." Kei could feel the serenity seeping out of his skin, evaporating into the fresh air as anxiety replaced it in his bloodstream. His gaze abandoned his companion to rest on the back of the man's head, his raven hair mixed with greying hair.

"Do not fret, my lord. Please rise." His voice was devoid of his emotions, dull and uninterested as the man straightened from his bow, revealing his ageing face and kind blue eyes. The lack of scent was a comfort to the omega, a welcomed surprise.

"I'm no lord, Your Highness, just an ordinary sea captain. It is an honour and a pleasure to welcome our future queen aboard my ship. Lord Terushima spoke highly of you and emphasised on your comfort during your journey." His voice rose with every word, the wind carrying the syllabus around them, and Kei winced inward, noting the rise in volume in the chatter around them.

"I appreciate his lord's hospitality."

"You're welcome aboard now, your highness. Your servants and my crew are capable of taking care of everything."

Kei could feel people watching their interactions, could feel the goosebumps on his skin and could hear the whispers that rose around them. It should've been no surprise, not when this is his first public appearance since the wedding, not when this is his first appearance so far from the capital or the court. It was only natural that the people are curious about their future queen, but the omega detested the attention, hated the prying. If only they knew he was abandoning his status and his responsibilities, leaving them to his father's vengeance, their curiosity would've turned into ferocity.

He shook the thoughts away, pushed them to the cemetery of his dreams. This was his only chance at freedom; he should not compromise that with his growing guilt, shouldn't compromise it for people who would burn him at stake to save their skin. The constant danger was the price they paid for being royalty, they were born to serve people, to be the vessels that ruled under God, but how fair was it that they were the first to be sacrificed?

"Please lead the way." He would not look back; the omega would not return. Tsukishima Kei had paid the price; he was abandoned, sold for an alliance, used and almost assassinated. He settled his share by being humiliated, and it was his time to be happy. Queens are replaceable, omegas are replaceable, but his life was not. He lived through everything life threw at him, and now Kei would find his happiness on his own, without alphas, without his status. His life would start once he is away from everything that linked him to his current reality. It was that thought that allowed him to walk away, to stand hours later and watch as the ship finally left the port, the sun sparkling on the blue surface.

Tsukishima Kei, son of King Tsukishima and the wife of Kuroo Tetsurou, crown prince of Nekoma, is finally no one. He is finally Kei. Only Kei.

Chapter Text

His hand hovered in the air, frozen in space as he stared at the letters that mingled on the paper, the strokes that itched the tales of his life on the thin sheet. The ink dripped, rolling to rest on the document in a messy blotch and Kuroo didn't have the heart to discard the letter, didn't trust himself to rewrite it. His fingers ached from hours of trying to scribble down his thoughts.

He didn't expect a reply, not when his hopes had died after the seventh message he sent. The alpha could only wonder if the words on the sheets saw the day of light and he hoped, that his efforts hadn't gone to waste.

Life had grown dull, empty of excitement and not even mischief eased him. His life had shattered, the fragments discarded, the pieces weren't within reach. His soul and heart were in bits, the scraps stolen by the people who once lived inside of him, the people whom he had hurt. It was a fitting punishment, for his identity to be taken away, stripped from him; ironically, it was what he had down to Kei, and it was only fair that the blonde did the same to him.

The quill dropped to the floor, the sound echoing around the silent room and Kuroo allowed his head to lull back, his eyes drifting closed. There was no longer a hint of the omega's scent; the smell long gone, washed away by the absence of Kei. For months nothing eased the ache inside of him except the fragrance of apples and vanilla that lingered in their chambers, in their sheets and all around him. It was a comfort, a calming touch to the raging alpha inside, but it had vanished, and now nothing could ease the monster in him. The beast longed for his mate, his omega that was no longer within reach.

He could write letters, send ravens and messengers and nothing would bring Kei back. He had driven the omega away, and he had no right to try and bring him back, not when he never gave them a chance. He could live with the longing that refused to ease; he could push past the loneliness that struggled to chock him, Kuroo could survive it all, but he doubted the alpha in him could live without the omega in Kei.

The beast had no right to claim the omega as his, and it was that thought that pushed Tetsurou through.

 

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My Dearest Kei,

I hope this letter finds you well. A year has passed since our wedding; it is a peculiar feeling. I never imagined reaching a point where I'd mark our lives by anniversaries. It is even stranger celebrating the event without you by my side. I can merely pray that you are happy and safe where you are.

It has been raining for a couple of days now, so I doubt I'll be able to send this message until the weather stabilises; I wonder if it started raining there?

Daichi and Koushi are expecting, did you know? Daichi hopes for more than one pup, but it seems his omega doesn't share the sentiment. They seem happy, Koushi is glowing, but even I can see the toll it is taking on him; his nose had grown more sensitive and the faintest of scents makes him nauseous. It doesn't seem to cease even now as he is about to enter his third trimester. Dai is as nervous as he is excited, childbirth is more taxing on male omegas, that fact seems to frighten him.

I never considered being a father, not when there was no chance of it with Yuuji, but now I can't help but wonder how it would've felt had you gotten pregnant. I can imagine you glowing, round with our pups. Have you ever thought about it, Kei? Did you ever dream of carrying my pups? I never wanted an heir, not as much as I want a child; an heir is the son of Nekoma, but a child, that's ours. Ours to love, to raise and to pamper.

Otosan and Okasan both miss you, but they had accepted your choice, they don't fully support it, but Okasan wants you to be happy. I miss you, as well. The court of Nekoma is empty without your tactical interventions, without the praise of your tutor and my life is as empty without your snarky remarks.

Did you find what you were seeking? Are you happy?

I understand you want to cut all ties to your previous lives, but please write back to me. Tell me about your life, about the world beyond the sea. Is it as warm as they say it is?

More importantly, please cleanse my worries, write back to me. Even if only once. If not for me, then perhaps, to comfort my mother's concerns. She fears for your safety both as the omega child she never had and as an unbonded omega.

I wonder when did I start to see you as more than just Kei, as more than family. Did it happen gradually during the engagement? Did it happen when I first saw you? Or did it happen as you stood beside me in front of god and all of Nekoma?

What I know is that I've grown to like you, Kei. Your absence hurts more than I ever imagined. For two years you have been a part of my life that I took that for granted, and now that you are gone, everything feels wrong.

When did I fall in love with you?

 

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Kie's fingers tightened, his grip crushing the paper. Emotions burned inside of him, consumed him, filled him with an ache that threatened to swallow him. He had refused to allow the loneliness of leaving everything behind take over him, but as the words filled his thoughts, everything almost slipped.

He refused to read anymore, refused to allow Tetsurou to slip under his skin, He was slowly building a home in Itachiyama. As difficult as it was for him in the beginning, as painful as it is on his omega, Kei was slowly adjusting and Kuroo's letters only served to reignite the emotions in him. He didn't want to remember the warmth of his parents, nor the coldness of their chambers. He needed to forget and move on.

"Yamaguchi, burn this."

Kei could hear the words of refusal before they left the beta's lips, could see the hesitation in the depth of his eyes. They were words that he didn't want to hear, questions that he didn't want to answer. He ached to turn the words into ashes, watch the letters fade into dust. He didn't want the message to remain as a reminder. He refused to allow Kuroo the chance to get to him.

"Kei-sama, please pardon the interruption." Kei welcomed the intrusion, greeted it as a wave of fresh air that carried away Yamaguchi's words, giving him no choice but to obey the order delivered by the blonde. "Yoshi-sama is here to see you."

There was a growing tension, unease building inside of him, heavy and uncomfortable. Kei could see the scenario playing behind his eyes, a repeated event, one that he couldn't escape. Yoshi has been a welcomed presence in his house until he decided that he was fascinated by the omega and Kei wanted nothing to do with him after that.

He had escaped, running away from the attention of alphas. No one saw him as anything more than an omega or a prince, and he wasn't going to throw his life back into that circle. Kei wouldn't fall prey to the desires of alphas; he wouldn't allow his life to be dictated by them. "Tell him that I'm indisposed."

The grimace of the servant was audible, visible and unhidden from his gaze. Kei could feel a frown twitch on his face; he could feel the discomfort radiating from the beta. "I'm sorry, my prince, I tried. He wouldn't leave, he said he'd wait for you."

"Don't fret; I'll deal with him." It'll be the same; he'd walk into that room, greet the alpha who'd brighten upon seeing the omega. Kei would frown, remind the alpha that he is married, that he is faithful to his husband and like every time, the alpha would ask for a chance. It grew tedious after a few weeks, a routine that he wanted to avoid, he wanted nothing to do with it. With every failed time, Kei's resolve would diminish, dying slowly, loneliness was slowly taking over, dictating his next action, and it was that concern that made him want to avoid meeting the alpha. He dreaded the day the weakness in his heart would win, just as he feared giving the alpha what he wanted, only to lose his freedom in the process.

Nothing is worth being imprisoned.

His steps never faltered, never slowed and he walked with the grace and confident only someone of his status could possess. Kei might have walked away from his life as a prince, he might have established another reality for himself, but his upbringing, his childhood would always be a part of him, and it was in moments such as these where it showed. His emotions weren't for the public to view, his thoughts weren't for anyone to know and nothing in his posture, his face or even his words would betray him. Kei grew up hiding behind masks, never showing his true self and that wouldn't change now. If anything, it was helpful.

The door opened to reveal the silhouettes of the alpha, seated on one of the chairs filling the room, gaze leaving the world outside to find the golden eyes of the omega. Miyamoto Yoshi was standing before Kei could blink, eyes as blue as the sky, bright with hope and wonder. "Yoshi-san, please stop troubling my servants."

"Marry me and I will."

It was the same; the words didn't phase Kei, didn't surprise him. His fingers tangled in front of him, gaze wandering around, searching the space between them until the corner of his lips curled upward, a small, secretive smile appearing on his face. "Of course, I'll marry you, but first you have to get rid of my husband. I'm married, after all."

Amusement flared inside of him, flooded through him and his grin grew, dark and menacing at the drop of Yoshi's shoulders, at the disappointment that flashed through his eyes. His husband was infamous, known in the small village as the mystery alpha who managed to put a ring on the omega's finger, who bathed him in the luxury that was foreign to the small town and its residents. No one knew his identity, nor the reason behind his apparent absence; it was a riddle that none of the villagers could solve; not when they couldn't even crack Kei's identity or his story.

"Tell me who he is, and I'll get you an annulment. I'll get him out of your life and give you a better one. Is he more politically influential than you? Is that why you can't get an annulment?" His laughter rang out around them, loud in the room and vibrating with the amusement that kept growing inside of him. The alpha never failed to entertain him, never disappointed; always making Kei laugh, even when it wasn't his purpose. Only the son of a marquess would believe himself powerful enough to end someone's marriage; only a noble with considerable political power would be arrogant enough to promise to free someone out of wedlock without even knowing the true identity of the person.

"Kei-san, I'm a relative of the king. I can free you from your marriage, just say the words."

He had previous knowledge of that particular fact, the words spoken to him by one of the older ladies in town; words laced with warning. 'Be careful, Kei-san,' She had said, her voice low and her posture cautious. 'Miyamoto-sama is the king's nephew; his mother is the king's adored sister, it'll do you well not to deny him anything.' The words left him with a bitter taste in his mouth, with a sense of dread in his chest. Why would someone of such high ranking choose to reside in such a small village?

Kei almost rushed back to the estate, the fear slowly eating at him, clawing its way outside. The alpha had fixated his attention on him, putting his secret at risk. He almost packed and left, almost moved somewhere else, until the rational part of his mind warned him against it; reminded him of how suspicious it'd be. It was unusual as it is for an omega to live without his husband, he couldn't afford to have more people digging into his life, asking questions and spreading rumours.

"What if I don't want to annul my marriage, Yoshi-san?"

"Why? Why would you choose to remain with a husband that neglects you? Is it for the riches? I'll give you everything you want; I can give you more." The air rushed past Kei's lips in a huff, choosing to remain quiet as he made his way to the seat facing the alpha, contemplating on how to answer. He didn't need to marry anyone to live in luxury; he was a prince, and his dowry itself was more than many households owned all their lives.

"Yoshi-san, what do you know about me?"

"Not much, you refuse to tell anyone anything about yourself and your servants are as tightlipped. It is clear that you had a proper upbringing, the way you speak and the way you hold yourself are not that of a peasant, so I can assume you are a noble. There are rumours that you are hiding here. No one had ever smelled anyone on you, nor had they spotted your mystery husband, so some doubt the truth behind your words."

"He could be a beta."

The temperature was gradually dropping, the room growing colder with every passing second. The conversations never progressed this far, never went beyond the rejections. Yoshi never questioned Kei, and the omega never tried to explain the situation. "It doesn't justify neglecting you. What about your heats?"

Kei was grateful that there was no one else in the room, thankful for the privacy they had, but the pleasant emotions didn't overshadow the anger that was slowly seeping into his heart, mixing with the embarrassment; a blush painted his cheeks and ears. "Do you want to be my heat partner, Yoshi-san?" The venom was clear in his voice, his words growing poisonous with each spoken syllable. "You are certainly an alpha; arrogant and tactless. If you have nothing else to say, please leave."

There was a moment of pause, as both waited. Neither spoke, nor dared to move; it was a frozen moment, a halt in time and Kei watched as the spell broke, the horror of realisation slowly crept onto Yoshi's face. He took satisfaction from the shadows in his eyes, found amusement in the aghast shake of his head and as the omega savoured the emotions battling inside of him, the alpha moved, finding a spot at the blonde's legs, dropping his weight to his knees. "I apologise, Kei-san, I meant you no disrespect; I merely despise those who neglect their spouses, I've seen many breaking, their lives ruined because of it."

"You would kneel at the feet of an omega? You would kneel at the feet of someone of lower status?"

The blue eyes sparkled, as captivating as the ocean; bright as it reflected the sunrays shining down on it and Kei almost lost himself in the gaze, almost forgot himself in the smile and the glow. He was beautiful, desirable. He was chivalrous and humble. He was selfish like any other noble, yet he never reacted to his whims. He liked Kei, showed his desire in his every action, in every word, and the omega was slowly falling; growing weaker with every proposal. He tried to push Yoshi away, but the more his omega longed for the alpha in Kuroo, the more he desired Yoshi,

If he didn't drive him away now, Kei feared that he'd fall for him, accept his proposal. Why did he deny himself? He knew he was attracted to the kneeling man, just as much as the alpha desired him.

"What's wrong with me kneeling at the feet of the omega I love? What's wrong with me kneeling for the man I want to take as my wife? Your status doesn't affect me, here, around you, I'm not a noble, I'm merely an alpha interested in courting you."

He wanted to speak, to remind the alpha that Kei was an unpleasant individual, to throw snarky and sarcastic remarks on him, to ask him to leave his home. He was afraid of the acceptance that weighed heavily on his tongue, and he was scared of being dragged back into the world of politics. He was terrified of the silent and lonely days of his lives; days spent idling with a book without interruptions even from his servants.

He knew loneliness while growing up, but he always had his brother then even if he was busy. Not looking back was more laborious than Kei expected, he longed to be touched. He desired to be hugged by the queen, ached for the king to ruffle his hair, and craved the feel of Kuroo's chapped lips against his. Kuroo didn't desire him as an omega, but he was cherished, and now that he was away, it was hard not to miss it.

"I'm married." His words came out strained, memories of his time with Kuroo played in his mind, suffocating him. Kuroo was his husband in name only, but he was once upon a time a friend, Kei looked up to him before the marriage. He almost relied on him. Would he ever be more than a second choice? Would someone desire him, the snarky boy behind the mask and not the indifferent prince?

"I don't have to be anything to you, not even your lover, but I hope you'd give me a chance. I want to give you the world, and I want you by my side."

"You know nothing about me." This time his voice was stronger, filled with the confidence that he lacked in reality. Could he trust another alpha?

"I might not, but I know you are sarcastic, brutal, yet funny. You are strong; I can see the ghosts of your past in your eyes. You are polite when it counts, and you are beautiful, captivating."

His feet were wobbly under him; his steps were shaky as he walked to the open window, peered to the picture perfect world outside. It was peaceful, calming and he relished in the scenery. Politics ran in his blood, the royal court has been his home for sixteen years, but he craved the peace more than the chaos of diplomacies. Once upon a time, he wanted to establish himself as a strategist, but at that moment, it was a long forgotten dream.

"What if I'm a spy?"

"Then you are a terrible one, you're living a few days away from the capital, and you refuse the advances of a high ranking nobleman."

"A nobleman who lives in the same town, you are evidently very influential, my lord." He took a deep breath, allowing the fresh air to flood him, to calm him. "I accept your courtship offer, and I stand to hold the right to break it off at any moment."

The silence stretched over them, slow and comforting. Neither moved from their spots. They relished in the peace that descended upon them, never pushing for a conversation without a meaning. "Kei-san, may I ask you a question."

"You'll ask anyway." Kei could imagine the grin that stretched on Yoshi's face more than he could see it, heard it in the question.

"Are you prince Kei of Karasuno?"

The panic crawled inside of him, slow and deliberate, taking over his emotions with a dragged precision that left his breathing laboured, eyes wide and dark with fear. "What does it matter?"

"It doesn't matter. If you are the second prince of Karasuno, then our chances of marriage are higher; that is if the rumours are true. I'm not interested in politics, all I want is a future with you."

His gaze shifted from the scenery to find the alpha's smile, studying and examining as if he was waiting for a hint to confirm his doubts. It was peculiar for an alpha not to be interested in politics, it was foreign for Kei to know someone who didn't have high ambitions or to realise that they felt disconnected from the drama of court and politics.

As nobility, and as royalty, they were raised to believe that the crown and the kingdom were the most important, that everything you did, you did for the good of the people. Many people lost themselves along the way. Akiteru viewed himself as a servant of the people, their needs and wants would always come before his. Tetsurou drove himself into misery thinking about the best for Nekoma; he never considered the consequences of his actions and his choices to himself and those involved.

The church said kings were God's chosen rulers, and it was that line that drove many kings to the edge of madness, viewing people as nothing but pawns to achieve 'God's' objectives. King Tsukishima was one who believed in that, and it was what made him ruthless. The political world is scary, dark and the game would cost you your life and yourself, but alphas born into it never walked away.

"How did you guess?"

Yoshi's smile was gentle, reassuring and the blue in his eyes showed understanding. In this room, with this alpha, Kei's fears weren't only in his head, they weren't ignored or brushed away, they weren't irrelevant. It was foreign, but he welcomed it, and the omega didn't realise how much he craved being understood, not until that moment. "Your retainer was carrying a letter with the crest of the Kuroo household; it reminded me that their heir is married to the prince of Karasuno. It was easy to guess, but it doesn't matter. It never mattered, Kei-san, in this room, our birth, our status, it changes nothing."

Kei's smile was small, resilient in the way that he couldn't hide it, unable to wipe it off his face. He always loved the idea of being Kei, not a prince, but a person. Yoshi was the first to agree with him. "Are you joining me for supper, Yoshi-san?"

"I don't want to intrude."

The smile was gone in an instant, replaced with a scowl that seemed to entertain the alpha who's grin grew until the corner of his eyes crinkled, and the blue in his eyes sparkled. "Is that so? In that case, please leave now."

He could feel the entertainment radiating inside of him as Yoshi's grin slowly diminished, turning into a pout that looked unusual on the face of a grown alpha and his voice took on a whiny tone. "I'm staying. I'm staying."

Kei's laughter resounded around them, full of life and amusement. Yoshi was entranced, trapped in the beauty of the omega, cheeks flushed, eyes closed and head thrown back, revealing the fair skin of his neck; the unscarred scent gland. He was in love.

"Very well, you big baby."

Chapter Text

The sun shone brightly in the sky, a proud gem in the blue carpet, unhidden and uncovered by clouds. The rays were warm against his skin, the heat a comforting kiss. When he first settled in Itachiyama, uncertainty and fear had mixed with his happiness, clouding his senses; leaving him homesick. He'd lay in bed all night, sleepless and wide awake, and his day would go by in the same manner until he stepped outside, feeling the warmth of the sun, the tingles of it on his skin. It was that moment that washed away all his fear; it was at that moment that he fell in love with the nature of Itachiyama.

The omega inside of him had been screeching for weeks, screaming and clawing, leaving him breathless and aching. It was craving the touch of an alpha, the scent of an alpha, but if only he would stop lying to himself and accept that his omega was crying for its mate, that it had been crying ever since he turned his back on Kuroo Tetsurou. He would never admit that fact, refused to believe it.

"What's on your mind?."

The words pulled him out of his thoughts, stealing his attention back to the present. To the firm arms wrapped around his shoulder, to the heat of the body pressed against his side, and to the scent of pine and ginger. "My lord, it is rather rude to pry into the thoughts of your companion." Kei could feel the vibrations of Yoshi's laughter; a sentiment of how close they were sitting, could hear the melody in his ear and the smile that threatened to twitch on his lips.

"Forgive my rudeness, my love."

"Your love?" The question was a mere whisper, a soft breath of air that eased the tension in his shoulders, washed away the last remnants of his anxiety. Yoshi made him happy; he was a comforting presence, gentle and patient. He was everything Kei hoped for in an alpha, yet his heart refused to surrender, his emotions refused to change. The omega inside of him never gave in to the presence of the alpha.

"Of course, as snarky as you are, you've stolen my heart."

The reply never came, the words spoken by Yoshi were said playfully, the laughter evident in his voice, but Kei didn't miss the seriousness of them, the meaning behind the words. The moment stretched out, heavy with tension and the sour scent of unease leaking from Kei. The comical pretence disappeared, replaced with the familiar gentleness of the alpha. "Don't take my words to heart, Kei," His fingers were a phantom touch in Kei's hair, assuring and grounding, everything that the omega needed at that moment. "We are going at your pace. If I say something that makes you uncomfortable, please let me know."

"You've been courting me for three months; shouldn't you start pushing me soon. At this rate, you'll marry me when I'm thirty."

Kei hated him for being so patient with him, for not pushing him, just as he hated himself for needing to be pushed in the first place. It was driving him mad with anxiety; every moment spent waiting for when Yoshi would give up on someone like him; he wasn't exceptional, he wasn't worth anything, and the only good thing about him was the status he turned his back on. The omega could never understand what would possess the alpha to be so gentle, so patient.

He hated him, and he liked him for it. He was grateful, and yet he was angry. The omega in him wanted nothing to do with the alpha in Yoshi, but Kei wanted to take this chance at happiness, wanted to fight for a future with someone as kind and as understanding as him.

He craved the scent of an alpha, hungered for the touch of one. Scenting his servant wasn't the same as scenting an alpha, and he desired it. It didn't help that his heats were growing worse, leaving him drained for weeks afterwards; he hated the memory of his latest cycle, hated the memory of the last two weeks, just as he hated the exhaustion rooted in his bones.

"Is that what you want?"

The air left his lips in a huff, audible as Kei shifted his body away from Yoshi's touch, drawing an intangible barrier between them as he came to face him. "My only courting experience ended after a few rounds of chess and a couple of conversations, but I'm positive that what you are doing is not courting. I don't want gifts, but I want you to convince me to marry you, mere flirting won't do the trick."

Kei watched as Yoshi processed his words, as understanding lit up his eyes and then as the shadow of hesitation darkened his gaze. It was mesmerising in the way it caught his attention, captivated him and left him unable to look away from the blue of his gaze; it was electrifying, and way his scent grew in intensity was exhilarating, washing around him like a blanket, intoxicating him.

The omega lost himself in the scene, and in the smell, but as beautiful as it was, something was missing. It felt wrong; it felt hollow. There was a hole growing inside of Kei, even as Yoshi shifted closer to him, destroying the wall built between them. "Can I be selfish?"

"You're saying you haven't been thus far?"

The sound of his laughter was a woven spell, charming and the sparkle of glee in his eyes was ethereal. It was a painting of the sky, vast and out of reach. It was a piece of art, a portrait that no mortal could shy away from, so why did Kei feel guilty gazing into the blue orbs?

"May I kiss you, Kei?"

Heat bloomed in his cheeks, painting them a shade of red that extended to his ears, visible against his fair, light skin. Kei's lips parted and closed; the words lost along with his thoughts, voice unfound until he felt the loss of Yoshi's warmth, watched him shift back to give him the space he needed to gather himself. The breeze carried the scent of grass and florals, blowing away the heady scent of the alpha. "You may."

The kiss was slow to come as if Yoshi didn't believe the words; the surprise evident in the part of his lips, in the tension of his shoulders. Kei held the gaze, never looking away, even when the alpha searched his face for any sign of the hesitation he didn't find in his reply.

As lips brushed his, Kei allowed Yoshi to take over, to take control of the dance of their mouths. He lost himself in the softness of the kiss, in the scent that mixed with his own, in the taste that was all Yoshi. It was familiar, yet it was foreign, and the omega allowed himself to drown in it. His body recognised the act as it was, accepted it with hunger; his body starved for attention, yet his soul, his mind refused it.

Uncertainty gathered like sand grains in his chest, settling with a heavyweight that left him breathless. He hated the shrieks of the omega in him, the cries in his mind, just as he hated the disdain that built inside of him. He had craved Yoshi's kiss, hungered for his touch, so why was it that he couldn't accept it now, why was he drowning in his own head?

Was it because Yoshi's lips were soft when Kuroo's were chapped? Or was it the different tastes and the different scents? Kei could not tell, but he knew that as much as he craved it, something inside of him refused it.

Yoshi was the first to pull away, breaking the contact and shattering the curse that had fallen upon Kei, yet he didn't step away, reaching with soft fingers to wipe away the tear that escaped the omega's eye.

"I'm sorry," His voice was thick with emotion, hoarse with unspoken thoughts. "I like you; I do, but..."

The remaining of the sentence never came, the explanation left incomplete as if Kei had no excuse to spare. A small, gentle smile twitched on the alpha's face, fingers cupping the omega's cheek. "You love him, my love. It is time you stopped lying to yourself and accepted the reality of it, you love your husband, and you needn't be ashamed of it."

"He betrayed me; he betrayed his vows and his promises. He never loved me."

"Yet he writes to you. He is one who lost it all, so why seek the wife he never cared for, instead of the mistress he loves? If he didn't love you, and if he didn't regret it, he would've long forgotten about you." It was Yoshi's turn to step back, to draw a barrier between them, and Kei couldn't complain because wasn't he doing to Yoshi what Kuroo did to him?

"I can't go back to being nothing but a second choice."

The moment dragged on, silent and uninterrupted as the fresh breeze brushed past them, The peace of the day broke, shattered into fragments, but the warmth of the sun never ceased, calming Kei's nerves.

"I'd love to have you by my side, to take you as my wife, but I can't do that to myself. I can't keep fooling myself, you would never love me, and you ought to accept the truth of it, Kei." It was rare for the alpha to be in such a sour mood, to speak with such seriousness, and it unnerved Kei to hear the words spoken without humour. It only emphasised the reality of it, and it reminded Kei of how inexperienced he was, compared to the twenty-four years old alpha.

"Go back to him, make him pay for hurting you for the rest of his life. He can only make it up to you by loving you as you deserve to be loved." The alpha sucked in a sharp, calming breath. "If you ever fall out of love, then I'll be here, just as I'll always love you."

 

 

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.

 

The door swung open without warning, revealing the unimpressed face of Kenma. It was an ordinary event, one they had grown accustomed to along the years, and Kuroo didn't bat an eye as the younger boy stepped into the room. "You need to come with me, now."

Kenma's voice was calm, as monotonous and disinterested as usual, but years of reading people and knowing the beta gave Kuroo the ability to notice the urgency in his posture.

"What's going on?" He asked the question as he was standing up, the quill he was holding placed back into the holder, and his feet carried him out of the chamber to follow Kenma who was leading him out of the castle.

Kuroo was entrapped in the documents, his entire focus on the work piled on his desk that it took him a moment to register the cries of horses and the buzz of life in the corridors that had been devoid of life for the past couple of weeks. Life had grown bleak, with no changes, nothing to keep him occupied except for his work, for the governing of the kingdom and affairs of their people. It was interesting seeing movement around them, hearing the shouts and calls of servants from outside.

The corridor seemed to go on endlessly, growing with his building curiosity and the questions filling his heads and thoughts. Just when he thought about taking off, running to find out the source of the excitement, he walked through the door of the palace and into the open outside space.

The scene that greeted him was one from a fantasy, an exhibition that was pulled right out of one of his dreams, and he relished in it. Kuroo savoured the movements of the servants as they floundered around with the luggage, at the guards who stood at attention for any unexpected action, and he focused on their frantic calls and hurried movements.

None of that compared to the scents that the wind carried his way, the fresh aroma of vanilla and apples that merely minutes before was slipping beyond his reach, out of his memory. Once upon a time, it was the scent of comfort, gentle on his soul, the perfume he opted to ignore for fear of getting addicted. At that moment, it was a balm that healed all of his wounds.

Neither his dreams nor the scent compared to the image of Kei standing under the blanket of the grey sky, leather boots firm on the white blanket of snow. It was a painting from a poem, cheeks red from the harsh bite of the cold, golden hair longer than what Tetsurou remembered, and white flakes of the falling snow decorating the curls.

Time seemed to slow down, coming to a stop as the world froze around them, colours melting away into the suspended life. They lost themselves in each other eyes, gazes meeting to steal their total attention and entrap them. Neither could miss the shadow of longing, the invisible fragrance of yearning. They were once lost in nothing, but at that moment they were lost in the other.

Kei was the first to blink, to break away the chains that tied them to that second, and before Tetserou knew, they were standing face to face. "Can we talk?" The words caught him off guard, the poorly hidden anxiety shocking him, stealing away the happiness that warmed him to replace it with unease. Whatever Kei came back for, it wasn't something to look forward to; the alpha doubted that he'd be happy to hear the words.

'Is he going to ask for an annulment?'

It had been a year, it would've been more shocking had the omega not met someone, and as much as Tetsurou braced himself, as much as he prepared himself for the moment when their marriage would end, the thought alone burned his heart, rendering it to ashes.

"Of course, Tsukki, come on, let's get inside."

They walked through the corridors, a familiar path, a nostalgic route that led them to what once was their bedchambers. Kei could feel the different emotions battling inside of him, the ache, the longing fighting with the need to find his calm, to relax and not allow anything to show and the happiness that threatened to tip it all. He was home, the place he once viewed as nothing but a cage is the same place that wrapped him in a blanket of comfort the moment he set foot in it.

He would never regret leaving. Walking away gave him perspective. It showed him a different world, a different way of living, and it provided him with the chance to think, to decide what he wanted in life without his fear clouding his judgment. It was a break that both his heart and mind needed.

The door was pushed open to reveal the bedchamber; the room was the same as when he left, nothing changed except for the scent that was all Kuroo with its intensity, proof of his existence. Something inside of Kei ached to fill the space with his smell, to mark it as theirs and not the alpha's, but that was a thought he pushed to the back of his head, out of his reach.

The door closed behind them with a click, and it sounded louder in Kei's head, golden gaze meeting the curious eyes of Kuroo. The silence dragged on, filling the air with electrifying tension, but neither spoke, the omega gathering his courage and his thoughts and the alpha waiting patiently, fearing what is to come.

"Your letters, did you mean them?"

"Yes," There was a pause, an intake of breath, sharp and audible. "I love you."

Tetsurou watched as the frown twitched on Kei's face, deepened, his eyes darkening, burning with the growing anger. Every second passed as if in a slow pace, time dragging out as he took in the details of the scene. He didn't move, didn't shift even as he saw Kei's punch coming, closing in until it connected with his jaw. "You love me? After everything you did, after everything you said. You rendered me to nothing but a younger brother, saw me as nothing compared to Terushima, and the moment I walk away, you write me love letters."

The metallic taste of blood flooded his mouth, bitter, and clearing his head, leaving no space for any thought except for Kei's spoken words, and the anger in his voice. He could smell the tinge of his emotions around them, filling the room, and gathering around them in a cloud. "I fucked up, and apologising would never be enough, but living without you has been torturous, the alpha inside of me never calmed down."

Fingers wrapped around the collar of his doublet, pulling at the clothing until the alpha followed, coming nose to nose with the omega. "You owe me more than apologises; you owe me your life. Why couldn't you just let me walk away? Why couldn't you let me forget about you or my feelings for you? How was I supposed to turn my back on all of this when you tell me you love me?"

Kuroo's smile was slow, a stretch of his lips that grew into a grin that only earned a scoff from Kei. His arms wrapped around Kei's frame, pulling him into the alpha's embrace and the world faded away. Everything they were -their worries and their fears- fell into oblivion, leaving the omega with nothing to focus on but the warmth radiating from Tetsurou's body and the addicting, nostalgic aroma of Cocoa and Burboun.

Nothing existed at that moment, they were in their bubble, drowning in each other's scents. Kei could feel the tears burn his eyes, blurring his vision, but not a single drop escaped as the omega inside of him settled down, the ache and pain melting away as if it never existed.

"I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to you, Kei, I'll spend the rest of my life giving you the world, if only you would have me as your husband." Kei was intoxicated, drunk on comfort, on safety, but even in such a state his anxiety resurfaced, shadows and fears driving away the hope and leaving him with a dying flame.

"I can't accept promises," He could never trust words, not when they were breakable, empty lies that held no grounds. Even with that reality, Kei wanted the future he could envision, the future of a life being loved. He was burning with fear, reminded of times when he wanted nothing more than to forget Kuroo Tetsurou, but something inside of him would never be satisfied with that. The omega in him would always long for the alpha in Kuroo, and his heart would always beat for the gentle friend that Kei had fallen in love with. "Sign an agreement, state that if you ever betray me, you'd have to give up your status, your inheritance and your claim to the throne."

Something in him screamed at the absurdity of his request, the graveness of the promised punishment. A part of him knew the alpha would push him away, that the warmth wrapped around him would soon disappear. Though, nothing in him expected the spoken words. "Of course, if that is all I have to do to have the man I love, then I would do it, I'd give my claim to the throne right now if that's what it takes."

"I don't want that, just be faithful to me, look at only me, help me make this marriage work, for our sake." The words were whispered against Kuroo's shoulders, soft and unhurried, hesitant and stuttered.

"You're the sun; I can never look away. Thank you, Kei."

 

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The sound of his scream could be heard throughout the castle, carried by the wind to the ears of the scurrying servants. Tetsurou's fingers tightened on the arm of the chair, fingers squeezing the wooden material. He could feel his whole body lighting up with tension, could sense the butterflies fluttering in his stomach. Kuroo Tetsurou was fighting a battle of mixed feelings.

Another shriek echoed around them, the sound vibrating through the air, feeding the tension wrapped around them, and before he knew it, Tetsurou was on his feet, the chair forgotten in favour of heading towards the door. "Where are you going?" The voice startled him out of his haze, attention turning away from the source of the cries to meet the chocolate gaze of Daichi.

"I need to check on him, Dai, he's in pain."

The sound of his sigh was muffled behind another cry, the noise louder and sharper than the last and Kuroo couldn't contain the growl that vibrated out of his chest, the sound carrying through the castle as Daichi's fingers wrapped around his wrist to pull him back to his seat. "You are not allowed in there, trust that Obasan and Koushi would take care of him. The midwife wouldn't allow her queen to die from childbirth, either."

Tetsurou cradled his face, hiding his eyes behind his hands as he tried to contain another growl. The frustration was building inside of him, sharp as it clawed at him; his alpha filled with agitation that burned him. He was bursting with the need to rush to his omega's side, to embrace him and ease his pain. "They've been at it for a long time, Daichi, should it be taking this long?"

There was no reply, the words of assurance never came, even as Daichi rose to his feet, making his way to the tray of drinks to pour them something to drink. His movements were mechanical, trained as the vibrant colour of wine filled the crystal glasses, the crimson of the drink reflected through the gems against the alpha's hand. "Your wife is giving birth to your child; he needs you to stay calm, and not murder the midwife because you lost control of your alpha. Drink this, and wait until he calls for you."

The minutes felt like hours and the hours dragged into eternity. The sound of Kei's screams, of his shrieks, were heard around them, anguished and loud, muffled by the walls and the doors. Every drop in Tetsurou burned with the need to rush to his mate's side, his limbs aching with the same needs, but he sat still, trying and failing to focus on some of the documents that started piling some hours after Kei's labour began.

Tetsurou, in theory, could understand the reason behind separating them, the danger his presence would be to those around his struggling wife, but his body, his soul and heart all ached to help Kei, even if just by being by his side. He didn't care about those in the room, at that moment no one mattered but Kei.

The alpha was on his feet before he knew it, stalking to the door acting as a barrier between him and his omega when silence descended upon them, the castle growing quiet, devoid of any signs of life. Tetsurou was frozen in place, waiting for the cry that should follow, a sound that didn't come as the seconds ticked away. He felt cold spreading through him, the fear freezing the blood in his veins.

He understood the risk to the mother during childbirth, knew that mortality rates were higher during labour, more so for male omegas, but it was a reality that he never entertained. Tetsurou never prepared himself for the chance of losing his wife or child.

His fingers were shaking, knuckles white where he was gripping the doorknob. The silence dragged on, feeding the growing fear inside of him. The door was pushed open, revealing the room with the rushing servants and as he steeled his heart, preparing himself for the worst, the cries of a newborn echoed around them, loud and full of life, crumbling his resolve.

Relief washed over him, flooding his senses and easing the growing fear that was choking him. His mother turned to look at him, eyes sparkling with unshed tears, face bright with the happiness that radiated through her, into her scent and around them. "Come meet your son, your majesty."

His gaze shifted, finding the form of Kei, cheeks flushed with the extortion of birth, sweat coating his pale skin in a healthy sheen, gaze drowsy and arms cradling the small frame of their child. This moment is one that would forever define them, shape them as they transform into parents, and as he would look back, Tetsurou would forever remember the adoration and love that sparkled in Kei's eyes, the fire of love that would reignite inside of him.

If perfection could be defined, it would be the moment when his eyes would come to meet Kei's, when a smile would twitch at the corner of the blonde's lips while he held their son out for Tetsurou to hold. He would never forget that moment as he leaned down to press a kiss to Kei's forehead, following it with another one to the mark on the omega's scent gland.

He would forever remember holding his son for the first time, reaching to take his weight in his arms, holding the boy to his chest. Nothing would ever compare to that moment as he embraced his son for the first time, held him after thirteen years of waiting, of trying.

"He's perfect, Kei, thank you." The moment was as perfect as their son, as bright as his golden curls and as beautiful as his hazel eyes. If love at first sight exists, then Kuroo Tetsurou, King of Nekoma, had fallen in love with his son the moment he laid eyes on him.

Politics had long ceased to tamper with their marriage, and their son would be their child first and foremost before he would grow to be the son of Nekoma. The boy would forever be the product of their struggle, the fruit of their love. His and Kei's most treasured legacy and they both knew that they'd sacrifice the world for his happiness.

Kuroo Ayko would grow as theirs, theirs to adore, theirs to protect; to them, he would forever remain the product of their love, even if he turned to be the one to rule over both Karasuno and Nekoma as his and Akiteru's heir. Tetsurou could only hope, that he'd find a friend the way he discovered an ally in Terushima. He would pray for the boy to obtain true love, the way he found his in Kei.