Disclaimer: I do not own Kyou Kara Maou or any of its characters. All of the original characters were, however, created by me.
Beta-ed by: Guine-chan
Warnings: None for the Epilogue.
A/N: To those who questioned the lack of total resolution in the last chapter: there will be a sequel. Love and War was always meant to end without complete resolution. Yuuri has accepted his relationship with Wolfram and made peace with Cimaron, now it's time to move forward, and to do that Love and War must come to a close and the sequel must begin.
I apologize for not getting back to the reviews I've received for Chapter 29 yet, but since I planned on posting the epilogue this week as well I decided to wait until I had sufficient time to respond to everyone's comments for both Chapter 29 as well as the epilogue. Aniluja, you can definitely expect a nice, long response once I have the time to sit down and type it! Thank you all so much, and enjoy!
Love and War
Epilogue – Chérir – To Cherish
He awoke to a darkened room, the same room he had been in to greet the mornings for the last five years, in the same bed, and with the same partner – or so he thought. At first, he didn't know what drew him out of the emptiness of his unconscious mind, and pulled him from the insubstantial dream whose image fled at the first flutter of his eyes. When he turned over to sling his arm around the young man beside him, he met nothing but a warm mattress and knew in an instant what had disturbed him.
Even in his dreams, he was alert enough to notice Wolfram's absence.
Groggily, Yuuri pushed himself up to look for his husband. The bed curtains had been pushed apart on Wolfram's side of the bed, but no light came through, and he heard not a single sound that would reveal Wolfram's presence. He could make out the shapes of the furniture through the darkness, but nothing more. Everything was still and quiet. He heard not a breath, nor a sigh, nor a quiet whisper, just the stirring of the blankets as he moved and the beating of his own heart.
He slid out of bed. On the side table were the stubs of candles that had burned out earlier in the night. He tried to light them with his magic and frowned when he had no success, shoving them to the floor in his impatience and crossing the room to the tall windows. He ripped the curtains open with the intention of using the starlight to seek out his erstwhile companion, but was met instead with the first glowing rays of dawn. He blinked at the realization that the entire night had already passed him by, then shook his head and turned to continue his search.
"Wolfram?" he called, and was met with silence.
A vacant room greeted him, large and cold and desolate, filling him with the sort of loneliness experienced only by those accustomed to little privacy and constant support, and found themselves suddenly alienated from all that was familiar. For a moment, he was disoriented by the abnormality of waking up alone. His hand fell from the curtain to hang limply at his side, as his eyes uselessly scanned the room again, looking for anything he might have missed, only to turn up nothing. Everything was in its proper place, except for Wolfram, and there was no sign of him anywhere.
Confused, Yuuri grabbed his shirt from the day before and hastily pulled it on, leaving the buttons undone as he went to the door to look into the hall. The guards were all standing as they should be, guarding the royal hall with a diligence Yuuri had previously deemed unnecessary, but would never again go without. They turned when they saw him, straightening at their posts and performing their usual round of salutes, which he waved off with a quick motion of his hand.
"Have any of you seen Wolfram?" he asked, looking from one to the other in the hopes that they would be able to alleviate his sudden anxiety.
"Yes, Your Majesty," one of the men posted at his door replied with a nod. "He went to the little prince's room."
Yuuri did not allow himself to sigh. There was no need for him to act like this, and no reason why his soldiers should be made aware of his concern. All was well now; the castle was peaceful and safe. Nothing would befall his husband while he traveled between rooms. Wolfram would always be watched and protected, and to consider the possibility of any sort of foul play while Yuuri lied asleep and unaware was to give in to paranoia.
He smiled at the announcement. "Right," he said, relieved but unsurprised. "Thank you."
He left them to their duties and followed the hall to Merry's room, pausing at the door to listen for any sounds from inside, and when he heard none he took the handle and pushed it open as quietly as he could.
He looked toward the crib first, expecting to find Wolfram leaning over it to gaze down at the baby within, then to the rocking chair where he thought he might be resting. When neither place showed any sign of life, either that of his husband or Merry, Yuuri stepped further into the room to perform a more thorough exploration, and found the subject of his quest in the opposite direction.
Wolfram stood by the windows, the curtains parted to let in the morning light, which glinted off of his hair and gave his skin a golden hue. He had a light robe over his nightshirt and slippers on his feet, and the side of his face was marked with faint sleep lines. Merry was in his arms, fondly cradled to his chest as he slept, with his little head on Wolfram's shoulder and his tiny mouth parted as he breathed. Wolfram rocked him back and forth, shifting from one foot to the next as he hummed a quiet lullaby.
Anyone else would have looked in on the scene and thought Wolfram was simply comforting a distressed child, but Yuuri knew that Wolfram was there not for Merry, but for himself.
"Hey," Yuuri said, softly, so as not to startle him or wake the baby.
Wolfram turned to him, his eyes dark with emotion. "Hi," he returned the greeting in a brittle voice.
Yuuri felt his concern grow, but in a different way. Wolfram was well enough physically, but his emotional state seemed to be less than stellar. "What's wrong?" he asked, shutting the door to allow for some privacy.
Wolfram didn't answer him and went back to staring out the window, hugging Merry to him tightly.
Sighing, Yuuri slowly approached him. He stopped behind him to place his hands on Wolfram's arms, stroking them comfortingly. "I woke up and you weren't there," he told him.
"Mmm," Wolfram agreed, his gaze remaining focused ahead.
Yuuri frowned lightly, not very reassured by the response. "Will you tell me what's bothering you?"
Initially, he was unsure if Wolfram was going to reply. His husband didn't look to be in the mood for a conversation, even if Yuuri was certain he was in desperate need of someone to talk to. He'd been aware of Wolfram's building emotions for a while now, and had wondered when they would reach the point that he could no longer function properly under their influence.
Yuuri waited patiently, and when after a few moments he opened his mouth to prod him again, Wolfram explained, "Today is your twentieth birthday."
He hadn't expected that. The encroaching date of his birth had almost slipped his mind. In his perpetual work for the cause of peace, the days tended to mesh together, and before he realized it a whole week had gone by, then a month, then a year. He could have gone through the entire day without noticing that he'd grown older.
But Wolfram, naturally, would remember.
"I was thinking about when we first met," Wolfram elaborated, sounding no less melancholy than he had before, "and how things have changed since then, how they're still changing…"
"It's for the better, isn't it?" Yuuri asked, running his hands down Wolfram's arms, careful not to disturb Merry from his slumber.
"Greta's going to be married."
Silence held them in its grasp. Yuuri couldn't think of how to respond to the comment without dampening the mood even more. He wanted to support Greta in her decision and encourage her to be a wise and thoughtful princess, but he couldn't find much to like about the idea of marrying her to the prince of Cimaron. It seemed heartless to expect her to commit to a relationship that, while it embraced tolerance and respect, would be devoid of love.
"I want her to be happy," Wolfram spoke for him, mirroring his thoughts exactly, but adding to the end, "I want her to have all the things that I didn't."
"What don't you have, Wolf?" Yuuri voiced the question with some confusion, wondering if he had overlooked something and failed to give Wolfram everything he could ever want or need.
"We married for politics," his husband's reply only heightened his concern. "We never had the chance to love one another the way we should have. We were just pawns in a stupid game between the Aristocrats, and Lyron…" He trailed off, and Yuuri watched him shake thoughts of his antagonist from his mind. "I don't want that for her. My mother once told me that she didn't want me to end up like her. I don't want Greta to end up like me."
"Then… you're not happy?"
Yuuri felt his heart plummet and his stomach twist uncomfortably. He wondered if Wolfram had been lying to him before, when he'd told him he'd fixed things between then, when he'd claimed to be happy after the treaty with Cimaron had been signed. Yuuri didn't know what he'd do if, after everything he'd already tried, after everything he'd been through, Wolfram remained unhappy. There wasn't anything more he thought he could do for him. He didn't want to give up – he wouldn't – but sometimes Wolfram's distant, evasive behavior and his recurring stress and sadness made Yuuri feel as lost as before.
Wolfram whirled around to face him, his dark eyes flickering with a tangle of thoughts and feelings, brightening in his distress and his need to convince Yuuri of his contentment. "I am!" he exclaimed, and when he noticed his voice had raised and threatened to wake Merry, he immediately lowered it. "I am happy," he asserted, "but when have I ever had a choice in what happens to me?"
There wasn't a single answer Yuuri could give that Wolfram wouldn't twist around to make it fit his own point of view. He knew by now not to question him about the way in which he viewed himself, and the position Wolfram thought he had in the world. For his part, Yuuri tried to allow Wolfram to have as much of a choice as he felt comfortable giving him, but there were times when he could understand why his husband might feel trapped by fate.
Not much had been Wolfram's choice up until this point. He'd had little say in the engagement; when he'd attempted to break it through their dual, he'd only found himself further bound by chains of pride and duty, which had quickly been replaced by the bond of love, a power much more difficult to break. He'd been manipulated and controlled, by the Great One, by his family, by the Aristocrats, and even, Yuuri would admit, by his own husband.
He was as guilty as the others were when it came to denying Wolfram the right to make his own decisions, however much he tried to treat him fairly. His only consolation was that everything he did to and for him was done in the ongoing crusade to keep him safe and happy. Part of it was selfishness, so that he could have Wolfram at his side, but part of it was also to make up for all the pain he'd put him through, all the anguish he'd brought to his mind, and all the damage he'd done to his heart.
"I want Greta to have that choice," Wolfram said, meeting Yuuri's eyes and holding his gaze determinedly.
"It was her choice, Wolfram," Yuuri reminded him. "As much as I don't like it..."
"Was it?" he wondered. "Or did she agree because she felt obligated? Because she felt it's what was expected?"
Yuuri paused and frowned further. If Wolfram was right, then he was even less inclined to go along with it than he'd been before. "You're making me not want to allow this."
"Sometimes I wish you wouldn't," Wolfram admitted. "I don't want to lose her, but I will eventually, won't I? She is human, after all," he said as his expression grew sad. "She's almost as old as you were when you came here."
Yuuri considered this for a moment, and noticed how closely Greta was following in their footsteps. Now she was fifteen, and she was already engaged to be married to a man she barely even knew. In marrying him she would be the princess of a foreign land, and there was a chance, if fate chose her as its instrument, that she may one day be a Queen.
"Things have turned out alright for us, though, haven't they?" he tried, hoping that Greta would at least have the sort of relationship they did, built on mutual fondness and respect.
Wolfram's protestations came to an end as he was forced to agree, and his mouth formed a shallow smile. "Better than I could have imagined," he said.
"Then don't worry," Yuuri told him, stroking his arms again. "She's not leaving right away, and even when she does, we'll still be here for her when she needs us."
Wolfram nodded, and though his smile remained, his eyes grew grim with sadness. "When I think of her leaving, I remember how little time you and I have together," he declared. "One day you'll both be gone, and all I'll have left is Merry."
Yuuri shook his head at him, watching the way his arms tightened around their son, and he began to understand why Wolfram was so attached to the baby, why he handled him so differently. Merry was a full-blooded demon, and therefore the only member of their family other than Wolfram himself who'd have a prolonged life. Wolfram took comfort in that, and held tightly to the knowledge that when his husband and daughter were gone, he would still have Merry to give his heart to.
"Don't think like that," Yuuri pled with him. He liked thinking of his impending encounter with old age and death even less than Wolfram did, and didn't want such morbid things to plague Wolfram's mind.
"But it's true."
"No," he refused. "You'll have me for as long as you want me, Wolf. I swear it."
"That would be forever," Wolfram confessed, "for an eternity."
"It will be. I'm not going to be the one to leave you."
It was the one thing that he, as king, had absolutely no control over, yet he was determined to somehow stall the process before there was such a large difference between them that it could no longer be believed that they were once the same. He had so much that he wanted to do and not enough time to do it in. There were still things he'd yet to accomplish, things he'd yet to prove.
Wolfram didn't look as if he believed him, but he nodded regardless. He smiled at him, leaning in for an affectionate nuzzle, before turning to look out the window once again. Yuuri stood with him, sliding an arm behind Wolfram'ss back to wrap it around his waist. He pulled Wolfram against his side, and held him there securely.
"In just one more month, we'll have been married for an entire year," Wolfram observed, laying his head onto Yuuri's shoulder.
"It doesn't feel like it's been that long."
In fact, it felt like it could have happened the day before. He could see the autumn leaves in his mind, red and gold, orange and yellow, hanging precariously on the branches before detaching to be carried away on a cool breeze. He could hear the chattering voices of their guests, and recalled the gratification he'd seen in Gunter, Conrad, and his father as they'd come to take their places, each of them as responsible for his growth as the last. Most of all, he could see Wolfram, apprehensive but refined as he walked down the aisle, reaching him with a steady gaze and warm, soft hands.
"Do you remember how you felt that day?" Wolfram asked, sounding more wistful now than sad.
"Nervous, scared," Yuuri replied truthfully. "It was surreal. And you seemed worried, but you were still so calm about everything…"
"I wasn't," Wolfram admitted. "I was a wreck. I don't know how I managed to hide it. I've never felt so sick in my life."
He couldn't remember a time in which he'd admired Wolfram more. He'd spoken so strongly, so confidently, and had helped Yuuri overcome his own insecurities throughout the ceremony - holding his hands, patiently waiting for him to respond, taking control of the kiss Yuuri hadn't felt comfortable enough to establish. Wolfram had done it all despite his own doubts, and he'd done it with as much conviction as he put into everything.
"Don't you see how drastically my life changed?" Wolfram prompted him. "Look out there," he said, and directed Yuuri's eyes through the window and onto the land below. "That's your kingdom. My kingdom."
It was a brilliant sight. The night sky was slowly lightening in color, changing from blackness and stars to a gradient of blue, and to a beautiful cerulean along the horizon, where the sun blazed over the hills. It spread its warmth over the fields, seeping into the towns and villages and bringing them to life. From their castle on the top of the summit, Yuuri could see the capital beginning to stir, slowly growing more active as the villagers arose to see the day.
"When I stood outside the door, waiting to walk down the aisle, I was standing at a boundary between my life as who I'd always been, and the life I would be expected to lead from that moment on," Wolfram explained, lifting his head from Yuuri's shoulder to stand straight, as if he were waiting there again. "I had obligations before, but I also had freedom. I could have stopped being a soldier at any moment. I could have found another occupation, one that I would have enjoyed more, one that would have been less dangerous, one that would have been less of a sacrifice.
"But I can never stop being a prince," he continued, and Yuuri was struck with the realization of just how much Wolfram had truly endured. "No matter how poorly people think of me, or how much I want to do something for myself, there will always be that duty. I can never escape from it."
Wolfram frowned, his eyes locked on the bustling town below. Yuuri tightened his arm around him, and stroked Wolfram's side through his nightshirt and robe, beginning to understand what it must have been like. He'd experienced a similar feeling of confinement when he'd been pressured to make the decision to become king. He'd simply been a normal boy, then suddenly and without warning he'd been thrust into a world of warfare and politics, standing on the brink of adulthood while feeling like nothing more than a small child, lost in to a destiny that threatened to consume him alive.
"I knew as I stood in front of that door that I would be asked to give myself to the kingdom, wholeheartedly and without regrets," Wolfram finished, his profile haloed by glowing sunlight.
"And did you?" Yuuri asked.
Regret was something he'd struggled with since the moment they'd met. He continued to struggle with it to this day, as he looked back on his mistakes and the problems that had led to them, and thought that there was surely an easier solution.
But Wolfram shook his head, turning to smile at him with eyes that sparkled with joy and affection. "No," he replied, "because I didn't give myself to the kingdom. I gave myself to you," he said, his voice growing hoarse as his throat tightened. "And it's made all the difference. It's made everything worth it."
Yuuri's eyes stung, and he felt his heart give a familiar, painful squeeze, one he hadn't experienced since he'd begun to take their relationship more seriously. He responded to it by relinquishing reaction to his instincts, and pulled Wolfram to him to take his mouth into a firm kiss. Merry remained between them, and Wolfram's hold on him never loosened, but Yuuri embraced him tightly enough for the both of them.
Even now he didn't know what he'd done to deserve Wolfram's everlasting devotion, or how he'd been lucky enough to have someone like him in his life. Wolfram was many things Yuuri had thought he'd never want, but he was also everything he could ever need. He was a friend and a partner, the person he looked to for advice and guidance when no one else seemed to understand, the person he turned to for comfort when the universe turned upside-down, and the person whose unconditional allegiance gave him the strength and the courage to be everything he'd never known he could be.
Yuuri knew that this could not last forever, that inevitably things would change – problems would arise, promises would be broken, and his and Wolfram's relationship would be tried and tested. That was life; it was how things were meant to be, and there would be no avoiding it.
But Yuuri also knew that, through it all, he would never stop wanting Wolfram, never stop needing him, because Wolfram was now a part of him – his body, his heart, and his soul. He would never be alone, and he knew – for the first time – what that warmth was that rose into his chest when Wolfram smiled at him, what caused that twinge in his heart when Wolfram was upset. It came to him suddenly, but when he finally realized it, it was as if he'd always known. He simply hadn't had the words to describe it.
He had the words now, and they felt truer than anything he'd ever said.
Yuuri broke the kiss but continued to hold Wolfram close, moving his lips to his cheek, then his forehead, burying his face into his hair as he breathed in deeply.
"I love you, Wolfram."
The End of Love and War
To be continued in Between Kings…
A/N: And so this concludes Love and War! It's been a fun and very long ride, but it feels right to end it now. I realize there are still things left unfinished, such as the business with the traitor (I'm still interested in seeing who you guys think it is), Yuuri's issues with his other half, and Isidore vs. the Great Demon Kingdom. Love and War was always meant to be one part of a three part story. Yuuri has finally solved his issues with Cimaron; now he'll have to deal with Isidore and political unrest in his own kingdom. The traitor and the fallout of his or her actions will be covered extensively in the sequel, Between Kings, which I hope to begin work on soon.
I can say that Between Kings will be even heavier on emotional drama than Love and War has been. Love and War has had a few physical bouts to go along with the emotional stress the characters were under, but Between Kings will be all about emotional battles, so be prepared.
Here are some things to look forward to in the sequel: more intimacy between Yuuri and Wolfram right from the start (physical and emotional), more betrayals, a thickening feud between two families, the traitor revealed, two weddings, a new baby (whatever will Merry do with all this divided attention?), a glimpse into Louis' past, a kidnapping, torture, and character death (minor/original characters only). So, yeah. Lots going on there.
However, there are still a couple of things I have planned for Love and War, and hopefully I can get them done by the end of the year (sort of as a Christmas/New Year's present, I guess). I'll be compiling all of the chapters into a PDF file to put up for download on my writing livejournal (you can find the link for the journal in my profile), complete with a few edited scenes and even a couple of additional ones, as well as profiles for the original characters and some of my notes for character and plot development. I also hope to have a collection of music uploaded - songs that I've listened to as I've been writing.
I guess that's it for now! I hope to hear from you all again during the sequel! Thank you so much for reading, especially those of you who've stuck around from the beginning, but also those of you who may be newer readers! All of you have made the experience a joyful one, and I couldn't ask for better readers! I love you all, and thank you again!