Author's Note: Yet another result of my frustration with my other stories. I really worked to get this thing to make sense, and to get our boys sexed up, so hopefully it's done some good somewhere.
Warnings: Jerked emotions, sexual themes/activies/overtones, Wolfram OOCness (probably/maybe/sorta/if you squint), brief spoiler for ep. 52, and apparent WAFFiness.
Disclaimer: I own souls, but not KKM or its characters, sadly.
Yuuri fell to his knees, energy depleted. His subjects were wary of approaching him, hesitating as his shoulders shook with raw emotion.
Conrad was the first to move. However, after only his third step towards his king, Yuuri jerked forward with a feral scream of rage and began pounding his fists into the torn earth.
"Y-Yuuri…" Conrad heard Wolfram whisper sadly behind him.
It had been an unfortunate battle - it should never have happened. But this had been one instance in which the Maou had been so enraged that he had finally gone too far. The blood of soldiers who had simply been under heinous orders soaked what had once been a fertile field, and Yuuri was only reminded of the terror he had unwittingly wrought with every pound of his fists.
He stopped his furious pummeling of the earth, and Conrad and the others barely dared to hope he had ceased in his madness. Conrad took another two steps forward, but was stopped this time by the choked sob that broke past Yuuri's lips.
Tears poured down the skin now flecked with bloodied dirt, leaving unnatural paths of red in their wake. Heart-rending sobs of despair were all that broke the silence of the field of death, and Gwendal, Wolfram, Günter, Conrad, even Yozak - each one felt their hearts breaking right along with their young king's at the sound.
Conrad struggled to steady himself enough to close the gap between himself and the broken boy in front of him. All that ran through his mind was to do anything - everything - to keep that pure heart of Yuuri's from such terrible pain; he never even noticed when his arms had wrapped themselves tightly around his king until he felt the boy's death grip on them, those trembling hands practically screaming for him to not let go.
"Yuuri…" Conrad breathed, not trusting his voice to be steady at a higher volume.
"C-Conrad! What…w-what have I done?" And Yuuri lifted his eyes to meet those of the man that held him; and Conrad's resolve strengthened when confronted with the black depths of confusion and sorrow, of the loss those eyes poured out.
"It wasn't your fault, Yuuri," he said, tightening his hold.
"Y-yes it was! I…I couldn't control him…if I wasn't s-such a wimp…if I were stronger, I c-could have held him back--!" He hiccupped pathetically, voice suddenly failing.
"It wasn't your fault," Conrad repeated evenly, forcefully. "These men chose their actions for themselves."
"B-but they didn't deserve to die!" Yuuri cried out.
"They were soldiers," Conrad replied softly. "They chose to die for their country; even if they were doing dishonorable things, they were delivered honorable deaths. It may have been more than they deserved."
"I--I don't understand that, and I don't like it!" Yuuri said vehemently, unconsciously burrowing further into Conrad's arms. "Why…since when is death a good thing!"
"Everyone must die some time, Yuuri. It's what makes life so beautiful - that it will one day end," Conrad said quietly, placing a comforting hand on top of Yuuri's hair.
Yuuri said nothing to that, and they remained like that for a few moments in silence. Suddenly the terrible tension that had frozen his body was released, though whether through relief or simply pure exhaustion Conrad couldn't tell. He took the opportunity to lift the subdued boy carefully into his arms, and made his way slowly back to where the others waited on the edges of the field.
"I-is he okay? Conrad?" Wolfram hurried to the older man's side, trying unsuccessfully to hide the fear in his eyes.
Conrad sighed softly, trying not to jar the young king. "I wouldn't say that; but he seems to be resting now, at least."
After a moment's quiet deliberation, it was decided that Gwendal and Yozak would stay behind to assess the exact ramifications of the day's battle, and try to get a head start on damage control. The others would escort Yuuri back to the castle, before word got out and sent any assassins along with it.
The ride to Blood Pledge Castle was tense and silent, save for the galloping hooves of the horses that pulled them along. Wolfram alternated between watching out the window for signs of pursuers and staring worriedly at Yuuri. If Conrad didn't know any better, he would have sworn that a glimmer of fear shot across those deep green eyes; the older man frowned at the thought, but put it aside for the moment.
They reached the castle just before daybreak, and hurried the still seemingly unconscious Yuuri inside its protected walls.
Conrad carried the young king down the drafty hallways, walking in silence beside Wolfram, who looked pensive. Suddenly the young Mazoku halted, drawing the other man's attention; he lifted his scarred brow in a silent query.
"I…" Wolfram started, looking down for a second before catching himself and forcing his gaze to meet Conrad's. "You should be the one to take him the…rest of the way," he said, voice slightly strangled.
Conrad's gaze turned a little sad. "Wolfram…"
But the fire user shook his head. "I…I couldn't do anything. I hesitated. You…only you went to him…"
"That doesn't mean you don't deserve him."
Wolfram smiled somewhat bitterly at Conrad's damnable ability to read between the lines. "He doesn't deserve to be stuck with someone too afraid of his powers to stop him before he breaks his own heart."
"I couldn't stop the Maou either, Wolfram; none of us could. Not even Yuuri," Conrad said, turning his gaze briefly to the boy in his arms.
Wolfram didn't miss the look. "But you still went to him after it was over. Maybe all this time…I've been the real wimp." With that, he turned on his heel and started walking back the way they had come, presumably to his own room. "Honestly…with the way you two run into danger, you really do deserve each other," he threw over his shoulder, waving a hand without looking back.
Conrad had the grace to flush faintly at the statement, not that anyone was around to witness it. By the time he had recovered from the somewhat shocking conversation, Wolfram had disappeared from sight. Conrad honestly wanted to thank his younger brother, but he knew the hot-headed blond would only hate him for doing so. Somehow through decades of not being on exact speaking terms, they had managed to gain a non-verbal understanding of one another.
Yuuri stirred slightly in his arms, reminding Conrad that he ought to be put to bed. The brown-haired soldier resumed his trek down the hall, stepping lightly so that his boots didn't echo so loudly as to rouse the king.
After somehow managing to open the door to Yuuri's bedroom without shifting the boy too badly, he padded quietly over to the oversized bed. Once Yuuri was settled gently on the mattress, Conrad moved down to remove his shoes.
He had just managed to tug the second shoe off when Yuuri jerked his foot out of Conrad's light grasp. The soldier looked up, surprised to find bewildered black eyes meeting his own.
"I'm sorry I woke you," he said quietly with a gentle smile. "We've only just returned to the castle; you should rest, Your Ma--"
"Don't call me that," Yuuri said somewhat darkly, the beginnings of a pout playing at his lips.
"Forgive me, Yuuri," Conrad amended. "But you really should get some sleep."
"Like I can sleep after that…" Yuuri said, glaring up at the curtains surrounding his bed.
"But weren't you just--"
"I just…" Yuuri interrupted the man, though glancing apologetically at him for it. "I wanted to be left alone. I…I'm sorry, Conrad."
"For what, Yuuri?" Conrad asked, genuinely perplexed and worried at Yuuri's behavior. He didn't know what to expect from the young king now that his Maou side had taken lives. He especially didn't expect the flush that spread across Yuuri's cheeks.
"I really…haven't been asleep at all…this whole time," he finished lamely, looking away.
Suddenly it clicked in Conrad's mind: his conversation with Wolfram had indeed had a witness. His eyes widened before he could check his reaction, and likewise looked away. "I…forgive me for my impertinence; I didn't mean to cause you any discomfort. I will take my leave, but please rest, Yuuri."
Conrad stood quickly to go, not daring to look Yuuri in the face for fear of what he might find there. But before he had even fully risen, a hand shot out and gripped his arm tightly and forcefully held him back.
And suddenly Yuuri was pulling him down, hands leaving Conrad's arm and gripping the front of the familiar uniform as he touched his forehead to the brown-haired soldier's chest.
"Don't--!" Yuuri said desperately, curling his fingers around the fabric of Conrad's shirt. "Don't leave me…Conrad…!"
Conrad was almost frozen with shock, but was brought back to himself at Yuuri's plea. He slowly wrapped his arms around the youth's shoulders as a feeling of elation began to course through his veins. "It doesn't…displease you?" he asked tentatively. After Yuuri's reaction to becoming engaged to Wolfram, he had felt certain that he himself was beyond all hope in gaining the king's affections.
Yuuri shook his head violently. "I…well, I never could think of Wolfram as anything more than a friend. But you…things are different with you. Have been for a while," Yuuri muttered against Conrad's chest.
Conrad tightened his embrace, a real smile gracing his lips. "You don't know how glad I am to hear that, Yuuri." For some reason, saying his king's given name felt so much more intimate this time, and the way he had breathed it past Yuuri's ear brought another flush of red to the boy's face.
Neither of them wanted to move; but presently Yuuri's quiet voice broke the comfortable silence that had fallen between them. "B-but, Conrad…how can I…Wolfram was wrong, I don't deserve any of this…" He pulled back a little from the shelter of the older man's arms, a look of misery spreading on his face.
"No, you deserve much better than this." Conrad held a finger to Yuuri's lips before he could protest. "Yuuri…I am also a soldier. I have been for many decades; I have killed many men. But that was of my own volition - you had no choice in the matter. You are not at fault, and if anything I am the one that does not deserve you."
Yuuri could make no reply to that. He looked down, letting the man's words run through his mind. To Yuuri, Conrad was one of the best things about this world; he had seen the Conrad of the past heading off to a battle in which he would lose all of his army save for Yozak, simply because they had no control over the circumstances of their births. To Yuuri, Conrad had suffered more than anyone's fair share; he only wished happiness for the man in the years to come.
Conrad stroked Yuuri's cheek. "You can forgive the men sent to assassinate you, and the man who betrayed you; can you not extend that forgiveness to yourself?"
Yuuri shook his head, still not meeting Conrad's gaze.
"Please forgive yourself, Yuuri. There is not enough forgiveness in this world; we all need that strength from you," Conrad said, still cupping the boy's cheek. "Your forgiveness has saved so many, both human and Mazoku. Please don't lose yourself over this."
"I…I never…since when did anything I only do because it's in my nature have such…meaning behind it?" Yuuri said, forcing out a weak laugh.
Conrad lifted Yuuri's face up so their eyes met, and he smiled gently. "Everything has meaning, even if you don't realize it at the time. Part of living is that you learn to carry everything with you - the good, the bad, the seemingly insignificant…you have to carry the weight of it all, and go on living. You can't let the memories of the past keep you from the rest of your life - something you helped to teach me, Yuuri."
Yuuri bit his lower lip, trying to hold back the surge of conflicted emotions that threatened to overwhelm him. He couldn't stop the few quick tears that spilled over, and once again tightened his hold on the man in front of him. "Conrad…I don't…I didn't…"
Conrad leaned down and slowly kissed away the wet trails on Yuuri's cheeks, then moved his lips carefully over both of the young king's eyes. Yuuri trembled slightly in his arms at the contact. "Yuuri…" he breathed again, pressing their foreheads together. "You helped me to remember that the world is a wonderful place; that the evil in it is a part of that wonder, and all the more so wonderful for the fact that it can be overcome. Have you forgotten it yourself?"
"I…" Yuuri blushed yet again; he certainly didn't remember doing anything so grandiose. And right now…the world seemed to be a rather terrifying place, especially with him in it.
Conrad found that Yuuri was as easy to read as ever, and frowned at the emotions playing across his face. "Perhaps it's my turn to remind you…Yuuri, please understand; the world…my world…is only wonderful - my life beautiful, worth something - with you in it. I…couldn't bear it if you disappeared from it."
The stunned demon king stared deeply into Conrad's eyes at that, and felt something stir inside him, a part of him that had died with those soldiers on the battlefield. He trembled again. "Conrad…make me remember that life is beautiful again," he whispered, voice breaking.
Conrad nodded in acquiescence, tilting Yuuri's head back. He caressed the soft skin of his cheek, then slid his hand to the back of Yuuri's neck to pull him forward. Their lips met softly, Yuuri's quivering at the foreign touch. But when Conrad's tongue swiped gently at his bottom lip, the king did not hesitate to grant it entrance to his own mouth.
And when Conrad took Yuuri's mouth, the young king felt his heart begin to swell. He returned the kiss as well as his inexperience would allow, but all Conrad cared about was that he was returning it.
Slowly, Conrad made his way down Yuuri's neck, leaving a trail of muted kissed and gentle nips. He unfastened Yuuri's shirt, peeling the fabric away to reveal smooth, broadening shoulders that were developing bruises from the strikes he had received in the battle. He ghosted his lips over every hurt, every discolored bit of flesh he came across.
Yuuri shivered; this time from the sudden desire pooling in his groin. "C-Conrad…"
Conrad paused in his ministrations to remove his own shirt, then eased Yuuri down against the mattress, reveling in the feel the young king's heated skin against his own. Yuuri brought a hand to cup Conrad's cheek, a gesture that made the man smile again. He took the hand in his own and brought the calloused fingers to his lips, kissing the tips before taking each into his mouth one at a time and sucking at them tantalizingly.
They weren't even doing anything heavy, and yet Yuuri could feel his pants starting to grow too tight at Conrad's attentions. He was a bit too distracted to feel embarrassed about it, however, as Conrad finished with his fingers and began trailing more kisses farther and farther down his chest and stomach…
And as Conrad continued his slow worship of Yuuri's body, making love to every part of him, the young demon king began to feel his heart mending. Even if he felt he had wronged the world, this man forgave him for it; this man loved him in spite of it, the way Yuuri loved him in spite of whatever he may have done in his past. He could rejoice in the love showered on him by the one he loved - and he hoped he would learn enough to repay the man tenfold for this later.