Disclaimer: I don't own Kyou Kara Maou or any of the characters therein—they are the property of Tomo Takabayashi. This is a work of fandom; I am not profiting from this. The song quoted at the beginning and end of the story is "Ghost of a Good Thing" by the Dashboard Confessional.
Summary: Conrad learns the hard way that some dreams have to die before you can really start to live. ConYuu, mentioned WolfYuu, & YozRad.
Pairings: ConradxYuuri, mentioned WolframxYuuri, & YozakxConrad.
Warnings: Angst and Conrad being stubborn.
Notes: This story was inspired by the brilliance of the omgmaou LJ RP and the many plotlines progressing over there. I dedicate it with much, much, much love to my fellow OMG RP-ers. 3 They are a wonderful collection of writers and artists and I am thrilled to be a part of their little crew. V
Special Thanks: to my wonderful betas apapazaukamori and Shewgmigraines for smacking me with the Editing Stick.
Hahaue - Mother (honorific form reserved for people of high status)
I guess it's luck, but it's the same But I believe in you so much, But you're chasing the ghost of a good thing— o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o
Hard luck you've been trying to tame;
Maybe it's love, but it's like you said:
"Love is like a role that we play."
I could die for the words that you say;
Haunting yourself as the real thing
Is getting away from you again
While you're chasing ghosts.
I guess it's luck, but it's the same But I believe in you so much, But you're chasing the ghost of a good thing—
But I believe in you so much,
But you're chasing the ghost of a good thing—
I didn't notice. I didn't notice that you spent more time at the palace, hanging around the barracks, pestering me to go out. Go hunting. Go drinking. Have fun.
"I'm busy," I'd say. "Tomorrow," I'd say. And you would smile that gorgeous, easy smile and make some stupid joke, and go back to wherever it is you were when I didn't notice you. I didn't notice.
I didn't notice when you started coming closer, but I did notice him drifting away. Minute by minute. Hour by hour. Day by day. He surpassed me and outgrew me, reaching that shining height that I was familiar with through only one other person and still could not claim for myself. And yet I still kept smiling and walking two steps behind him to catch him if he stumbled. Better that my knees were torn and scraped than his. People who shine don't have dirty knees, you know. It's too disappointing for the rest of us.
He did stumble, of course. Kings are not built in a day. And I caught him every time, pleased because a wound was the closest I would ever come to him loving me. People who shine don't love people like me. It's another one of those things that's disappointing for the rest of the world. People who shine love bold lords and handsome princes and he had a prince gift-wrapped in a pink silk nightgown and waiting with remarkable patience.
Princes also do not have dirty knees.
Yet every time I hit the ground in his stead, or bled for his sake, it was you there, pulling me back up. And every time I bent to brush the dust off my pant legs, you would stop me and smile and tell me that you preferred to see me like that and it was all right. But I didn't understand and didn't notice the sad, aching expression in your eyes and would bend down and brush the dirt away anyway.
I never claimed to be a wise man.
Besides, I was busy. Busy not noticing you because I was so distracted by him not noticing me.
You once told me that I am very committed to my misery. I brushed you aside, pretending that I didn't understand and irritated that you did understand, but would only watch me with sad eyes, waiting for me to come to some epiphany and say that you were right. I denied it instead and told you that you were drunk even though you weren't. And you just kept looking at me and I kept not noticing.
Sometimes I wonder how long you looked and how long I worked at not looking, but things like that don't matter now, do they?
I didn't notice how time passed and you stopped smiling as much and you suffered in silence. I was too busy suffering in my own silence and was so committed to it that even you were pushed away. I hid myself—dirty knees and all—behind a smile that was more of an obligation than an expression and a mask of patience that had become so familiar I forgot that it was just a mask. But still, you healed my scrapes and scolded me like a mother would a child and that hurt somehow, although I didn't know why.
I tried to do the same for you when I wasn't on my knees in place of the King, and you laughed and said, "I'll make a proper little wife out of you yet."
I think I hit you for that. I still say you deserved it.
It was a strange time for us, though. We were masks talking to other masks and both pretending not to notice. Or perhaps you were the only one pretending—you're polite in the most bizarre ways imaginable sometimes and I tend to be a bit obtuse about some things. "Thicker than a dungeon wall," I believe you once called me.
For a spy, you can be blunt as a spoon at times. And I would say that it was a lie, but at the time, I didn't know that you were referring to me.
Or rather, I didn't notice.
But I did notice the day Yuuri walked into breakfast, holding Wolfram's hands, both of them blushing and giggling like children. And then he announced that they were getting married—as though this was something new (but maybe it was . . .)—and everyone clapped and laughed and I clapped and laughed with them and died just a little bit inside with every passing moment. Everyone swore a new oath of fealty to the royal couple, of course. I did too, dropping to my knees and smiling gracefully, all the while tasting copper and bile in the back of my throat.
No one knew, though. No one ever knew and if they ever suspected anything, I pushed them away so hard, so far, and so quickly that they dared not approach me about it again.
My suffering is for private consumption only.
Then came the wedding plans and the whirl of activity. He was overwhelmed by fabrics and Greta and Wolfram and Hahaue and I was set adrift. I trailed behind like a toy he had outgrown, still ready to catch him, but he didn't fall anymore and I was obsolete. There was no more baseball and no more adventures besides running the kingdom and fewer and fewer trips to Earth for him and the world was spinning so fast I felt as though I would be thrown off at any moment.
He didn't need me anymore. Not in that immediate sense. In some way, perhaps, he will always need me, but not the way I needed him. People who shine don't need people—not the way other people need them. I thought that I had learned that with Julia, but I wake up everyday and learn it all over again. And again and again and again. And every time, it feels as though I've been swallowed by the sea.
The night they got married I assigned ten of my best men to stand guard and then went out and got dead drunk. I blended right in with the rest of the people in the pub, the only real difference being that they wanted to celebrate and I just wanted to forget.
I thought about leaving. Did you know that? I thought about resigning my post. Coming up with some lie that he would accept because he wouldn't know any better and everyone else would be discreet enough not to tell him. Wolfram would have been happier with me gone, I think. Perhaps he would have slept easier those first few months in their shared bed, knowing that my ghost was haunting elsewhere. But then you found me. Walked right into the pub and dragged me out literally kicking and screaming.
Not my best moment ever.
But it wasn't fair because I loved him, but he never even noticed and it hurt.
Admitting that—even in the state I was in at the time—was hard and a separate pain in and of itself. I didn't want to drag it out into the light because it was ugly and dirty and shameful and for a moment I felt as though the world had ended and someone had neglected to tell me.
But you were there, just as you always were. Picking up the pieces and handing them back to me carefully so that we did not cut ourselves on the broken mess between us. And I didn't notice.
Time moved on. It has a way of doing that, even when we would rather it either stop altogether, or continue without us. He was happy and I took my happiness in that and the anger—the rawness of the pain—settled into a familiar ache. It became like the pain in my left arm: a complaint that is like a friend and only acts up on occasion. I dusted off my knees and they remained clean for the most part and a part of me forgot and I was grateful for that.
And you were there. Strong and resilient and unimpeachably loyal and I noticed that every time I turned my eyes would meet yours and it made me smile. I noticed that you hadn't been eating enough and somehow you roped me into cooking for you five times a week. And then one night after dinner, I kissed you gently, carefully, and I noticed the way your breath caught in your throat and how you froze beneath my tentative touch and how heavy the air in the room seemed to have gotten.
You pulled away first and touched your lips carefully, looking shocked and confused. "Why did you do that?" you asked me.
I didn't know why, so I told you the truth. "You looked happy just now. Beautiful. And so I wanted to."
Then you kissed me and it caught me off guard because you did it as though you'd been waiting for years to do it and—now that I think about it—you probably had been. I noticed how you made me tremble and how your hands held me tight as though fearing I'd vanish, and how you said my name and made it sound like the most important word ever spoken.
I noticed that I wanted to kiss you again. And again and again and again. And I noticed that I wanted to cook you dinner and I wanted you to smile at me like you had before—with real happiness in your eyes—and that somehow seeing you happy was important to me.
And I noticed that you shine.
Shine in a vivid, tangible way that I can reach out and touch and make real.
And it's perfect.
Things are different these days at the palace. Well, different for me at least. Hahaue's been thrilled about having another wedding to plan, and Dai Shimaron is on the march yet again, and Greta's expecting her first child any day now. Yuuri keeps going on and on about how he's too young to be a grandfather and Wolfram just glares at Alford and tells him that he had better treat his daughter right. I still laugh at their antics, but privately agree. Anyone who treats my niece badly will have hell to pay.
Things are better all around, really. Well . . . they were after I managed to convince you not to wear a dress down the aisle. And I don't care how much you claim you were joking, I know that look in your eyes, Yozak. You wanted that dress. I thought the poor seamstress was going to choke when you demanded a size 24 with a train.
I notice that you keep pouting whenever Hahaue mentions clothing designs, though. Don't worry. I bought you something special for our honeymoon.
Wolfram is making noises about more children and Gwendal and Günter think that their trysts in the pantry (and the hall closet, and Annissina's lab, and War Room . . . ) are private and secret and we all indulge them. Günter's more stubborn than he looks and I imagine there'll be a third couple marching down to the Shrine to take their vows soon enough. It's strange to see everyone so happy when there's so much chaos in the world. It must be Yuuri-heika's influence though. That's just the type of person he is.
Sometimes, at the end of the day when the last of the papers are signed and I've made my rounds at the Palace and am walking the Maou back to his chambers, we talk about how things were when he first came to us. We talk about what would have happened if he had chosen to live as a human on Earth on his sixteenth birthday instead of remaining here with all of us. He doesn't regret his choice, though, and I'm glad. I'm happy with him here and with him in my life. He's still important to me, even if there is someone else in my heart.
Occasionally he looks at me when I bid him goodnight and for a moment the unasked question hangs heavily between us. But every time I bow deeply and pretend not to notice as I depart. He's happier that way, I think. Some questions shouldn't be answered and some paths cannot be tread again. Walking back to our chambers in the shadowed hallway, it has occurred to me once or twice to turn around and go back. I know he'll still be standing there, wondering. But then I enter our rooms and you smile at me and tell that I look like I've been working too hard.
I tell you that you're an idiot and that you always say the same thing. And then I tell you that I love you.
I will never get tired of seeing the look that brings to your eyes. Never.
Things aren't easy or simple for us and I doubt they ever will be. The world hovers on the brink of war and everything is uncertain. The future is going to be messy. Somehow, though, moving forward isn't too hard anymore. I know that you'll always be by my side and—even when I mess up—it will be all right. You don't seem to mind when I fall. In fact, you rather seem to enjoy pulling me to my feet again. You've gotten very good at doing that, you know. Pulling me back up.
I told you that once and you looked at me funny, as though you didn't understand me. I laughed at you and went back to doing the paperwork. It doesn't matter. I know the truth. It's just one of those little things that I've noticed.
Just bend the pieces till they fit Chasing the ghost of a good thing,
Like they were made for it;
But they weren't meant for this.
Haunting yourself as the real thing
It's getting away from you again
While you're chasing ghosts.
Chasing the ghost of a good thing,