AN: Obviously, I own nothing and thank you to anyone who's been reading.
Dimitri leaned out the window of his carriage to get a better look at the approaching palace, his new home.
"Dimitri, get down this instance" said Ivan, the man who had picked Dimitri up from the orphanage. Ivan was the head butler at the palace and (like Grigorev) he liked things to be orderly. Ivan was nowhere near as intimidating as Grigorev and he lacked the commanding quality that demanded to be obeyed. Dimitri smelled weakness and knew he would never be able to follow his orders like he followed Grigorev's. Dimitri continued to lean out the window.
When they got to the palace, the unadorned carriage took them to the servants' quarters in the back. Dimitri, still enthralled by the splendor of the palace, looked up at the beautiful spires and windows.
"Come on in boy, we haven't got all day" Ivan said, as he held open the door to the kitchens. Dimitri walked in and was stunned by the grandeur of the kitchen. There was enough food to feed the orphanage for two years. There were glimmering silver countertops and dozens of silver pots and pans hanging from the ceiling. Dimitri gaped.
"Stop gawking, I'm going to introduce you to the head Chef" Ivan led the way to a short man cutting carrots on the counter.
"Danil, this is the new kitchen boy, Dimitri" Ivan said. Danil turned to Ivan and looked down at Dimitri.
"Ah! He looks nice and strong. He will do" Danil said in his very thick, Russian accent.
"Glad you approve Danil. Alright Dimitril, Danil will be your boss, listen to every command he gives you, understand?"
"Yes sir" Dimitri replied. Danil stopped chopping his carrots and addressed Ivan.
"You can leave him here Ivan, I will show him his duties and his quarters" he said.
"Very well, be good for Danil, Dimitri" Ivan said. He patted Dimitri on the head and headed to serve on the royal family.
"Alright boy, let me show you what needs to be done" said Danil.
And boy was there a lot to be done. Dimitri had to wash the floors, clean the dishes, carry the food from stock, chop carrots, and do whatever the chefs told him, all while never being seen by the royal family or their royal guests. Dimitri was starting to resent them. Was he not good enough to even be acknowledged by them? Were they really so great?
Danil showed him to his room, which was located by the kitchens and was the last room down the hall. Dimitri shared the room with two other servers. Danil confided that if he was good, he may one day become a server, a much more prestigious job than a mere "kitchen boy".
Just like that, his old life was over. He already started to miss it. His new job would be much harder than the chores at the orphanage.
Dimitri spent the next several months working and getting to know the palace. The older server boys showed him the secret doors and passage ways made so that the servants could easily serve the royal family. On his time off, Dimitri loved to go through all of the hidden doors and perhaps eavesdrop on royal conversations.
For the first month or two, Dimitri was afraid to go anywhere near the royal family. It was one thing to spy on a young butler and his forbidden maid girlfriend but quite another to intrude on the affairs of the Czar's family.
Dimitri, now ten, soon abandoned his "stay away from the family" policy when he went through a hidden door he had never been through before on the west wing of the second floor. He opened the door to see a small unaware girl, playing with her doll house alone. Dimitri knew at once she was royalty. Her elegant clothing and extravagant room would have been enough to tip him off but it was her red hair, her gorgeous blue eyes and her pretty face that convinced him. Dimitri hadn't seen a lot of girls his own age before, growing up in an all-boys orphanage, but he knew normal girls didn't look like that.
Dimitri felt his cheeks get warm. He had never had this feeling before and didn't know what to make of it. His infatuation had rendered his normal invisibility useless and the little girl noticed him. She immediately perked up from her play spot and headed to the door Dimitri was poking his head out of. Dimitri remained frozen as she floated over to him, remaining still as panic washed over him.
"Hey! Do you have my pudding?" the little girl asked. Dimitri's face lost all color as he seemed to forget how to speak. She was looking straight into his dull, commoner brown eyes with her majestic, regal blue ones. He willed himself to speak.
"Oh-uh-I-no, I don't have any pudding…your highness" Dimitri said. The girl pouted.
"Aww, Sasha said she would get me pudding. Will you get it for me? You're a kitchen boy right?" she asked. Dimitri nodded vigorously.
"Well I'm the Grand Duchess Anastasia of Russia! So please fetch me pudding, kitchen boy!" she demanded. At least she said please. Dimitri didn't think anyone had ever said "please" to him before.
"Y-yes, your highness! Right away!" he said and ran back down to the kitchens. How was he going to get her pudding? He wasn't allowed to speak to the royalty but he had to follow her orders. He could just tell a maid and ask them to take the pudding to her but if he did that…that would mean he couldn't give it to her and he wouldn't get her thanks. He had to do it himself.
Dimitri crept into the kitchen. It was the afternoon so everyone was busy with making lunch, which was something he should have been helping with. Dimitri grabbed a nearby broom and began half-heartedly cleaning the floor, making a b-line for the ice box with the puddings inside. He reached the box and slipped his hand inside, finding a metal chalice with chocolate pudding in it. Dimitri hid it under his shirt while still sweeping. On his way back towards the hall he made sure to grab a little spoon from the silver drawer. He was nearly to the safety of the hall when he was spotted.
Dimitri stopped and gulped. He turned his head behind him to see a peeved looking Danil.
"And where do you think you're going?" Danil asked. Dimitri tried to think fast.
"I-uh I have to go to the bathroom, I'll be right back" he said.
"Are you hiding something under your shirt?" asked Danil. Dimitri's heart raced.
"No, I- my stomach feels weird," Dimitri clutched his stomach, "Uggggggh! I feel sick I need to go to the bathroom! I think I'm gonna-"
"For heaven's sake, boy! Just go!" Danil said, disgusted. Danil went back to preparing lunch and Dimitri ran as fast he could back to Anastasia's room.
"Geez, you took forever" she said as he came through the door, panting.
"S-sorry. I came back as soon as I could" he said, terrified he had disappointed her. He handed her the pudding and spoon. As she took them her hand lightly grazed his. The touch burned his hand.
"Oh well, thank you though," she said, looking into his brown eyes again, "Oh! You know you have pretty eyes, for a boy anyway"
Dimitri felt his face turn red as she turned away from him to get back to her dolls and pudding. She had no idea the spell she had just cast upon him. Dimitri closed the door behind him and leaned on it. He smiled to himself. No one had ever complimented him before. Well, people had said he seemed healthy and strong but it was like evaluating a horse. This was human and real and genuine. Still not understanding his feelings completely, he touched his face and wondered why it was hot.
After the pudding incident, Dimiti did whatever he could to see the Princess Anastasia. He would sneak into the dining hall to watch the royals eat their meals. Sometimes Ivan would get him in trouble but Dimitri didn't care. Anastasia was the one bright thing in his lightless life. He would not stop trying to see her. He never approached her again though, for fear of saying something stupid.
Dimitri had to stop his escapades around the castle though, as the 300th celebration of Romanov rule was quickly approaching. This was to be the grandest dinner preparation any of the cooks or servers had ever seen and it was impertinent that everyone was helping at all times. Dimitri was being worked to the bone but he got through the work by promising himself he would talk to Anastasia again after the celebration, regardless of his fears. He wanted nothing more than to be her friend.
AN: Oh boy, this is taking longer than expected. There's one, possibly two chapters left.