AUTHOR'S NOTE: As I was trying to continue the sequel, I realized I'd grown to hate this fic. Maybe "hate" is a strong word. But I definitely can't make myself read it anymore, because I was young when I wrote it and my writing was... not up to my current standards. I've chosen to solve this problem by rewriting the entire fic. That's the intention, at least. If there isn't enough interest, I don't know if I'll actually put the time into it, but I'd like to get it done if I can.
SO. This is not a new chapter. It's a one scene preview for the new and "improved" version of Love and War. Once I have an entire chapter done, I'll post it as a new story both here and on AO3. Fair warning, some things will be a lot different. Some of the bad things that happened in the original version might be even worse this time around. This fic is not meant to be fluffy and wholesome. In fact, it's supposed to be the exact opposite. Some of the tags I have written in my notes to use on AO3 include: Canon Divergent, Post-Season Two, Angst, Drama, Romance, Violence, War, Death, Descriptions of Gore, Mental Instability, Mutual Pining, Sexual Themes, Rape/Non-con Elements, Dubious Consent, Domestic Abuse/Violence, The Demon King Is Not A Great Partner, He Gets Better. If any of that doesn't sit well with you, you might want to turn back now.
If you choose to continue, you might notice a few things right away. The first thing you'll notice is that Yuuri's mental instability/lack of control with the Demon King has started much earlier in the plot. The second thing you'll notice is that it affects Yuuri's relationship with Wolfram in more significant ways. The third thing you'll notice is that Yuuri and Wolfram already have somewhat of a relationship from the beginning of the story, rather than it developing over the course of the fic.
The thing you might not notice from this one scene is that everyone is older than they were in the original Love and War. I think Yuuri used to be 19? Now he's 24, which puts Wolfram at around 90 (18). The reason for this is Merry, who, if you don't remember, is the demon baby they end up taking in/adopting, who some of you may have guessed had significance beyond that. Based on when he was conceived and how old he was/appeared at the time Yuuri met him, I originally had Yuuri at 19. Then I realized that for that to be possible, Merry would have grown in the womb at the same rate as a human baby, which… no longer makes sense to me. If demons age/grow five times slower, shouldn't they spend five times as long gestating? (Which, as someone who has spent nine months pregnant, honestly sounds like torture, but demons age slow anyway so they're probably used to it.)
But wait, you say; couldn't I have just had Merry conceived earlier in order to keep the ages the same? To which I answer: No. The significance I mentioned would make an earlier conception impossible.
Honestly, I feel a little better having both Yuuri and Wolfram at more "adult" ages anyway, so this works out.
Anyway! If there's anyone around reading this, I hope you enjoy/are intrigued.
As my loving partner just said to me: "If anime series are allowed remakes, fanfics are allowed remakes, too."
Love and War - The Remix (Or Remake, or... whatever.)
The light woke Wolfram one humid morning in late July.
Even with his eyes closed, half-asleep and drifting in a realm of nothingness, he knew the dawn was not to blame, though the hour itself had arrived. Shadows shrouded the bedchamber; long, heavy drapes over each tall window obscured the bright summer sun as it rose above the battlements. Every so often, the fabric would shift with the breeze, allowing beams of golden light to cut through the darkness, before the drapes settled into place again and the room returned to its previous state.
It was not the brightness of the hot sun that roused him, but a cold, pale glow much closer to his face. It seeped through Wolfram's eyelids — a dim but unmistakable blue.
Wolfram's lashes fluttered as he floated into consciousness. Peering into the gloom, he stared unseeing for a few moments, waiting for the heaviness of exhaustion to ease out of his body. Sprawled on his stomach, spread over the bed at an angle, Wolfram's short summer nightdress tangled beneath his hips. The awkward slant at which he slept produced a growing soreness in his neck. Instead of a pillow, his head had come to rest against an arm that wasn't his own. A single pale leg lay against the mattress, bent at the knee; the other seemed to have hooked over another limb at some point in the night. Wolfram had one arm curled beneath him and the second flung out in front of him, hand dangling over the edge of the bed.
He looked no further than the arm beneath his neck to find the source of the light. Wolfram's sleep-addled vision finally focused, settling upon one of the hands within his line of sight.
Dry, tanned skin met his gaze — a rough palm and calloused fingers; bitten nails and ragged cuticles; stains of black ink, and a thin red scab over a shallow cut on one knuckle.
Wolfram stirred and blinked until his vision cleared; the tired ache behind his eyes was slow to fade. He released a quiet yawn as he stretched, wriggling about ungracefully, fighting with the tangle of his nightdress and the bedsheet until he could roll over and look upon the figure beside him.
With Yuuri on his back, all Wolfram could see of his face at first was his profile — the strands of black hair over his forehead; one brow furrowed over a closed eye; the quiver of his short, dark lashes; the shallow slope of his nose and the tense set of his mouth.
"Yuuri…" Wolfram murmured, voice thick with fatigue.
The arm beneath Wolfram's neck twitched, but Yuuri did not wake.
Wolfram's ankles cracked as he stretched again. After mustering up as much energy as he could at this early hour, Wolfram leaned up on one elbow to relieve the pressure against Yuuri's arm. From this new vantage point, he had a better view of Yuuri's face — his features creased and strained, as if the scene that plagued Yuuri's dreams left him unsettled.
The thick castle walls and high ceilings kept the bedchamber at a bearable temperature even in the middle of a brutal heatwave, but the air was still damp and uncomfortable. Yuuri wore nothing but a shirt from Earth — white with short sleeves, and characters written in blue that Wolfram could not read — along with a pair of the awful common undergarments Yuuri favored, which Wolfram chose not to nag him about the night before only because Yuuri had the sense to wear a black pair. Sweat soaked through the shirt in patches. A thin layer of it glistened in the hollow of Yuuri's throat, and beads of it left clumps of dark hair clinging to Yuuri's forehead. A single thin lock stuck to the corner of one eye.
Wolfram brought a hand to Yuuri's cheek. The skin there was cool and clammy.
"Yuuri…" he called again.
Yuuri's head jerked to the side, away from Wolfram, who sighed and gave in, leaning down to rest his head against Yuuri's shoulder. He eyed the rapid flicker of Yuuri's pulse as Yuuri twitched a second time, arm jerking against the bed before going still.
Faint blue light outlined Yuuri's body. Raw magic pulsed through the air. The thin, pale hair on Wolfram's arms stood on end as goosebumps broke out along his flesh. A cold, uneasy tension worked its way down his spine. He shivered, then closed his eyes and took a calming breath.
Slowly, determinedly, Wolfram rose to peer at Yuuri's face again. He put his hand back to Yuuri's cheek and turned his head closer. He brushed Yuuri's matted hair away, shaggy and unkempt as it was, pausing to tuck a few stubborn strands of it behind Yuuri's ears. Wolfram smoothed his thumb over the furrow between Yuuri's brows, then exhaled a sad little sigh that fanned across Yuuri's sweaty skin.
"Yuuri…" Wolfram said, his voice firmer now, more awake, but soft and gentle still, easing Yuuri away from his nightmares.
For a brief moment, Yuuri's expression went slack; his features softened and his body relaxed. The tense air seemed to dissipate, though the glowing blue outline remained. Wolfram held his breath and waited, cautious but hopeful, scanning Yuuri's face for any minor change, any twitch of the eye or mouth or jaw, any minute fluctuation in power.
On the mantle across the room, a clock quietly kept time.
Tick tick tick tick.
Then Yuuri's eyes opened, and with a flurry of movement, Wolfram found himself thrown onto his back, as that rough palm with the calloused fingers curled tight around his neck.
This was not Yuuri as Wolfram had always known him — gentle and kind, joyful and exuberant, at times a little awkward and shy, but slowly growing more confident, settling into his role as King not with unparalleled skill or ease, but with stubbornness and determination, and an impressive capacity for love and mercy.
It was the Demon King who stared down at him, eyes as dark and cold as a moonless winter night, bitter and accusatory — almost hateful, if not for the distant thread of involuntary curiosity that always seemed to lurk beneath the surface now. Yet this was not the Demon King as Wolfram had always known him either. The typical explosion of raw power never came. He hovered there, knees pressed into the mattress, supporting himself with one arm while the other squeezed the air out of Wolfram's throat.
Wolfram held himself still, taking what shallow breaths he could, until the hand pressed tighter and allowed him nothing at all.
The blue light burned bright, almost blinding in the shadowy room. Wolfram stared through it, forcing himself to appear calm. Defiance would not serve him well now; neither would a show of weakness. He knew what was expected of him in these moments, and so he repressed the mix of outrage and terror that was always his first instinct, even as fear set his heart racing and aggravation twisted his stomach into knots.
Wolfram did not struggle, nor did he close his eyes and turn away from the Demon King's dark fury. He met it openly, lifting a hand to curl steady fingers around Yuuri's wrist, his grip firm, though he did not attempt to pry Yuuri's hand away. Wolfram relaxed into the bedding, not entirely submissive, but accepting.
"Yuuri…" Wolfram tried to speak, voice rasping out of his throat.
Black eyes narrowed, dangerous and forbidding. The hand around Wolfram's neck gripped tighter still.
With reverence, Wolfram tried again. "Your Majest—"
He could not complete the word, voice caught beneath the pressure against his neck. Wolfram's vision began to dim, darkness creeping along the edges. Still, he did not struggle; he swept his thumb along Yuuri's wrist, tender and comforting instead of mutinous.
Just when Wolfram began to make the slide toward unconsciousness, the Demon King released him.
Wolfram gasped and choked and dragged air into his lungs, pulling in a little more with each ragged inhale. His throat ached and his lungs burned as he relearned how to breathe, gulping down as much as he could in case the hand should return. He rolled to cough into one of the pillows while his vision slowly cleared, massaging at his own neck, where he could still feel the phantom press of tense fingers.
It would bruise, he knew — dark and ugly, impossible to hide even beneath the high collar of his uniform.
A hand grabbed Wolfram by the jaw. Though the grip was not as tight as it had been around his neck, it was firm enough to encourage movement, turning him onto his back again. Wolfram gazed up at the Demon King, whose sinister expression eased by a fraction, suffused momentarily with satisfaction. The blue light faded until it was nothing more than a dull glow, taking some of the danger of the situation with it. Sharp, black eyes looked at Wolfram not with anger, but with something like mild interest, and, beneath that, a flash of distant concern.
Wolfram watched each subtle change, searching for any sign that Yuuri was there, perhaps fighting to take control. Every few seconds, miniscule flecks of Yuuri's warmth would appear, so brief Wolfram almost missed them. They faded just as quickly, held back beneath the grim bitterness that was the Demon King's prevailing feature, as cold and penetrating as the moment he awakened.
For several long, strained moments that seemed to stretch into eternity, the Demon King stared into Wolfram's eyes, searching them in equal measure, exploring their depths for… what? Wolfram did not know; he could only speculate, but he'd grown weary of that. They'd had months of this now — each violent awakening followed by a tense stare down. The Demon King rarely spoke, and on the occasions he did, he never said enough for Wolfram to determine a purpose.
Whatever the Demon King hoped to find in him, he must have done so. The corner of Yuuri's mouth twitched, curling into a smirk. His grip loosened, hand sliding along Wolfram's jaw so he could take Wolfram's chin between his fingers, thumb nudging the edge of Wolfram's lower lip.
Tick tick tick tick went the clock on the mantle.
Slowly, the Demon King drew nearer, descending inch by inch, until they could share the same breath.
"If I commanded it," the Demon King began; his voice was Yuuri's but the tone was deeper, smooth where Yuuri's would have stuttered and halted as he asked, "Would you submit yourself to me?"
If anyone else had the audacity to ask such a question, Wolfram would have pulled away and spat in their face, provided he didn't burn them first. But this was the Demon King, who commanded respect if not total obedience, and somewhere beneath the harsh manners and fierce bluster, Yuuri still lingered.
"It would be an honor," Wolfram said, quieter than he intended, but he kept himself just as steady as before.
In all the years he'd had to consider their future, as he came to terms with the fact that having any sort of relationship with Yuuri meant maintaining peace with the Demon King, Wolfram never imagined it would be quite like this.
The miniscule shred of space between them disappeared. With acceptance that wasn't quite submission, but the closest his pride would allow, Wolfram closed his eyes and let the scene progress.
This kiss began as they always did — tentative and exploratory, like the Demon King needed to get his bearings again after the long weeks that had passed since last time; the initial soft brush of lips seemed contrary to his nature otherwise. It was soon followed by a second, then a third, before the press of his mouth grew as firm as his hand, and just as insistent.
The Demon King kissed like he meant to devour, dipping his tongue into Wolfram's mouth as soon as he had an opening. The rest of his actions did not always seem to be his own. Fingers crept along Wolfram's face, cradling his jaw with more tenderness than before. For every show of force on the part of the Demon King, there was an equally gentle touch to remind Wolfram that Yuuri was close, perhaps drifting further toward consciousness with every nip of teeth or swipe of tongue.
Yuuri was there, always, whether or not he was in total control.
The more frequent these encounters became, the more Wolfram wondered if he should make an effort to put a stop to them. Should he turn away when the Demon King made his advances? Was there anything he could say that might bring Yuuri back sooner? Would he fail if he tried? The Demon King was not the type to tolerate defiance; Wolfram learned that lesson years ago, the first time Yuuri unintentionally demonstrated the extent of his power. Every transformation since reinforced that knowledge, whether or not the Demon King's arrival was triggered by something Wolfram had done.
Wolfram might be pompous and full of pride, overindulged as a child and not always taken seriously as an adult, which often sparked his contentious nature, but he wasn't so arrogant as to assume he could pose any sort of challenge to the Demon King. Magic crackled through the air, tingling against Wolfram's skin at every point of contact, passing through him like a current, surrounding him until he was breathless from the intensity of it.
If he concentrated hard enough on the things about the Demon King that reminded him of Yuuri, the guilt lessened. It was Yuuri's lips against his own, dry and rough in spots because of it, in desperate need of a soothing balm. It was Yuuri's breath on his face, a little stale after a night of sleep, but warm and familiar all the same. It was Yuuri's hand against his skin, sliding up his jaw to thumb at his cheek, before sinking into his sleep-mussed hair.
'It's nice like that,' Yuuri said once, when Wolfram was so fed up with the growing length of it that he considered cutting it short again.
'It's a nuisance,' Wolfram complained at the time, scowling at the way it fell into his face and stuck to his neck and shoulders when it was hot.
But Yuuri laughed and said, 'I think it's pretty,' and the thought of cutting it hadn't crossed Wolfram's mind since.
Though he made an effort to keep still, Wolfram's hands wandered of their own accord. He meant to keep them against the bedding, fingers curled into the disarray of sheets and thin summer quilt, but the longer they kissed, the less he could rely on restraint; he was not as unaffected as he attempted to appear, nor was he the passive doll he assumed the Demon King wanted. His grip began on Yuuri's arms, using the touch as an anchor to hold himself steady. Up and up his hands traveled, over Yuuri's shoulders and onto his back, slow and a little hesitant — not out of shyness or fear, merely the lasting effects of doubt and confusion.
A soft noise rose through Wolfram's throat. Quiet as it was, the moan still cut through the relative silence of the room.
The Demon King pulled back an inch, close enough that his low laughter fanned across Wolfram's face.
"Eager," he said.
Wolfram opened his eyes to the sight of a widening smirk. It took a considerable amount of willpower not to glare at the taunt. He kept the aggravation off of his face, but could not stop his fingers from gripping at Yuuri's shirt, twisting the fabric between his fingers. Wolfram's breathing was unsteady, having already been out of breath before; his heart never stopped racing.
The Demon King was stoic in comparison, apparently impervious to the rising heat. He leaned close again, catching Wolfram's bottom lip between his teeth.
A loud knock against the door interrupted them. Wolfram tensed, startled, gasping at the sudden sharp pain of teeth sinking into his lip. Above him, the blue light vanished as if it had never been, and when the Demon King pulled back again, it was Yuuri's wide, horrified eyes that stared down at him.
"Yuuri…" Wolfram said, unable to disguise his relief. He released Yuuri's shirt and took Yuuri's face between his palms, rushing to offer comfort he knew Yuuri would not accept.
Yuuri glanced over him, from the hand clenched in Wolfram's hair, which he quickly released, to Wolfram's sore lip and the discoloration along his neck. All traces of color drained from Yuuri's face; if not for the healthy glow summer always gave him, he would have gone completely white. His mouth dropped open as if he meant to speak, but words escaped him. He gaped in shock instead, chest rapidly expanding and contracting with the onset of panic.
"Yuuri, I'm fine," Wolfram tried again, forcing himself to be calm.
The sound of another firm knock resounded through the room.
"Your Majesty?" Conrart called.
"Yeah…" Yuuri tried to speak, but he could not seem to find his voice; it came out quiet and stuttering. He swallowed and shook himself out of it, showing Wolfram one last apologetic look before pulling away and scrambling off the bed. The next time Yuuri spoke, he sounded more like himself. "Yeah, I'm up!"
Wolfram sat up as the door opened, turning his back to it before Conrart could get a good look at him.
"Good morning, Your Majesty," Conrart said, like he did every morning. Then, after Yuuri responded with forced cheer, he politely added, "Wolfram…"
Wolfram ignored the greeting and sat along the edge of the bed while Yuuri and Conrart engaged in their usual morning chatter. He brought a hand to his stinging lip and noted the blood that slicked the tips of his fingers as a result. Wolfram wiped the stain away with the hem of his short nightdress, licking the rest of the evidence from his lip in the process.
He watched Yuuri dress, noting the tension in his back when he removed his sweaty shirt, and the jerkiness of his arms as he pulled on a new one. With any luck, Conrart would attribute the behavior to fatigue. He didn't sound concerned, at least, discussing their plans for the day as he would if nothing had changed between this morning and the last. He cracked a joke, the punchline of which Wolfram completely missed, but it made Yuuri cringe like all of Conrart's bad jokes, so Wolfram assumed things were progressing normally.
While Yuuri and Conrart were sufficiently distracted, Wolfram took the opportunity to collect himself. He brought his hands to his face and rubbed at his temples, then his eyes, pressing the heels of his palms against them until they ached from the pressure. He drew in a deep, settling breath, letting it out on a slow exhale that lessened some of the strain and unease gripping his body. His heartbeat decelerated, returning to something like its normal rhythm, but the anxiety twisting through his gut did not immediately abate.
Yuuri was done with his preparations by the time Wolfram dropped his hands to face the room again, dressed in another short-sleeved shirt with incomprehensible writing across the front, and shorts in the place of his usual jogging trousers to combat the oppressive summer heat. He glanced quickly in Wolfram's direction, clearly struggling to contain his own hysteria in the face of what he knew had just happened, but he broke eye contact just as fast, tugging on his running shoes while Conrart waited patiently by the door.
Wolfram slid off the bed to make his approach. He waited for Yuuri to straighten, then drew Yuuri into a hug, winding his arms around Yuuri's neck despite the fact that Yuuri's immediate response was to tense up and attempt to step away.
"I'm fine," Wolfram insisted, mouth close to Yuuri's ear, voice quiet so Conrart couldn't hear. "I promise."
Bit by bit, second by second, Yuuri relaxed and stopped resisting. His arms rose to wrap around Wolfram's waist, though he was slow and tentative, his embrace loose. He released a deep sigh into Wolfram's hair before nodding minutely, accepting the assurance whether or not he believed it.
"I'm sorry," Yuuri said just as softly.
Wolfram shook his head and held him tighter, as if by doing so he could keep Yuuri close, keep him present, keep him whole, keep him safe from whatever ailed him. For a long, drawn out moment, he couldn't make himself let go, fearful that the minute he did would be the second he lost Yuuri for good.
When Wolfram finally drew back, he put a smile onto his face. Compulsively, his hands rose to Yuuri's hair, combing his fingers through it to adjust the disheveled mess Yuuri hadn't bothered to put into any semblance of order. He brushed a few strands out of Yuuri's eyes, tucked a few more behind Yuuri's ears, but held his tongue against any complaints, even if Yuuri could benefit from a good trim.
Yuuri scanned Wolfram's face, holding Wolfram's gaze long enough to search for any sign of turmoil. Finding none, his eyes dropped to Wolfram's mouth, and though Wolfram's heart fluttered with a thrill of anticipation, he knew by the restrained sadness in Yuuri's expression that a kiss was not forthcoming.
Wolfram licked his lower lip to clear away the blood that still welled there, smoothing a few wrinkles out of Yuuri's shirt before stepping back the rest of the way.
Yuuri's hands left him slowly. He kept them along Wolfram's waist at first, running his fingers over the seams of Wolfram's nightdress, gripping the fabric tight when he took another deep breath. Only when Yuuri could force a smile did he look Wolfram in the eye again, ending their embrace with what Wolfram took to be a comforting pat to his side.
"I'll see you," Yuuri said, passing with a final absent-minded touch to Wolfram's hair.
Wolfram kept his back turned, more to avoid Conrart than to ignore Yuuri's departure, but when he could hear Yuuri at the door, preparing to leave for what could be hours, Wolfram turned to stop him.
Don't let him go, his instincts screamed.
But that was foolish. Nothing disastrous was going to happen. Yuuri would train with Conrart as he did most mornings. He would bathe and dress more appropriately and have breakfast with Greta. He would go to his office to finish whatever work might be waiting for his attention, or ride out to the ballfield to pass the day at leisure. He would smile and laugh with the Great Sage, grimace whenever Gunter mentioned anything about his studies, and charm his way out of a lecture from Gwendal, who, out of an abundance of fondness he didn't like to admit to, would put off as much work as he could until tomorrow. They would all come together for dinner that evening, after which Wolfram would retire with Yuuri, probably late at night when they were both a little tipsy and tired of socializing, and they'd wake again tomorrow like the last half hour was nothing more than a fluke.
They'd go about their lives as they always did, until a few days from now, or a couple of weeks, perhaps as much as a month, before the Demon King made his presence known again.
Yuuri stopped and glanced back, concern warring with the happy look he'd managed to adopt. Beyond him, Conrart looked between them; he had a pleasant smile on his face, but his eyes flicked back and forth like he was searching for an answer to a question he chose not to voice.
Wolfram forced another smile and said, "Happy birthday."
Yuuri's mouth curved up. If not for the remorse that still lingered in his eyes, it would have looked genuine.
"Thank you," he said.
Neither of them had much of a reason for further delay after that. Yuuri left with a half-hearted wave, taking Conrart and Conrart's suddenly suspicious glances with him.
There was something very final about the door thudding into place as it closed.
Aside from the clock that continued to keep time along the mantle, the room was silent again, swathed in shadows from the curtains that had not yet been opened. Wolfram pulled a pair aside, letting in a little sunlight, gazing down into the gardens where several maids scurried about, preparing for the day's festivities.
Listlessly, Wolfram drifted toward the vanity, nervous about what he would see but determined to assess the damage. His bottom lip was raw in the center and already starting to swell, but he could explain that away if he had to; maybe he would be lucky and some of the swelling would go down before he had any need to show his face outside of the private sections of the castle. He had no such hope for his neck, red and sore from Yuuri's hand. The inevitable bruising would be slow to fade and difficult to hide. With the right lighting and enough wine to dull their senses, their guests might not notice that evening, but neither Conrart nor Gwendal would miss it. Greta would see it, and Mother. The Great Sage would stare, distant but knowing, and Wolfram had no suitable explanation to give any of them.
Uncharacteristically vulgar, Wolfram spat a curse at his reflection.
He collapsed onto the cushioned stool in front of the vanity, set his elbows on the wooden surface, dropped his head into his hands, and allowed himself this one moment of overwhelming dread.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: So there it is. If you liked it/are intrigued, let me know! I still get comments on this fic sometimes, which always makes me happy since it's been almost ten years since I finished it. I'd love to hear from you!
On the other hand, if you've got anything negative to say, hit the back button and save your breath. I don't have the time or energy to deal with negativity. I put enough pressure on myself as it is.