The bedroom was exactly the way Yuri remembered it. It hardly seemed as though a day had gone by since he was last curled up on the extravagant bed that made him feel so tiny amongst the large comforter and the expansive mattress. It was an intimidating bed, one he was perhaps afraid to grow into. Even were he to grow as tall and broad as Gwendel, to fully fill the bed it would take two.

It was never hard to determine whether Yuri would sleep alone any given night or not. Some nights he'd open the door to find his darling daughter Greta bouncing cheerfully at the edge of the bed, awaiting her father to snuggle into sleep with her. Those were wonderful nights that brought a smile to Yuri's own youthful face with memories of bedtime stories and late night conversations about the days gone by and what the next one might bring. They would look at the stars some nights and make up constellations--Yuri's favorite was the one of the Maou and the dragon. Of course, there was also one for Greta and Conrad and the others. It was Greta who had decided the cluster of stars next to the Maou looked like they should be a wolf. She gave those to Wolfram, letting him always keep close watch over the Maou of the heavens.

If not Greta in his bed, there was only ever one other person who could be waiting there for him. Tonight was no different.

Blonde hair ruffled across the pillow under his head, Wolfram's deep green eyes pierced into Yuri's black ones as he crossed over towards his bed. It was a bothersome sight most nights to see the pale, beautiful man in his bed. It had been so long though, and their last goodbye so final. He smiled this time at his friend as he slid down in the blankets, happy for the sleep over for tonight if no other time.

"You know, Wolfram, you should have gone easier on me today. It wasn't exactly my fault. Why don't you yell at Murata next time a little?"

"He's not my fiancé, so he's not my concern. You should take more responsibility for your actions."

Yuri sighed and settled in on his side of the bed. He'd have liked to have forgotten their engagement, or, better yet, to have had Wolfram move on in his absence. That was too much to ask for in his eternal city, he supposed. When one ages five times slower than a human, maybe things like love, grief and happiness last five times longer.

The arms that wrapped around him gave him a brief start as Wolfram pulled their bodies together, resting his head on the Maou's shoulder, his left hand delicately curled along the contour of Yuri's face.

"It's getting warmer, Yuri. Could you tell?"

A sudden but deep feeling of unease began to grow in the pit of the king's stomach. "Oh...uh. Yeah. I guess."

Wol

fram's husky voice sent warm, moist breath across his neck, his softly spoken words uttered delicately, as though there were others present were not privy to what he had to say. "Do you know what that means?" he asked, his hand gently caressing the side of his face.

"Ah...Wolfram..." Yuri swallowed the lump that was forming in his throat, trying to think of an escape.

"It will be your birthday soon."

The Maou's black eyes blinked in surprise and a relieved sort of laugh filtered out through his grinning mouth.

"Right, of course! It's summer here in July, too." He relaxed into his bed as much as he could with his fiancé still nestled close. "Wow, I hadn't even started thinking about that. I wonder what kinds of parties are thrown for the Maou on his birthday." Visions of large expensive gifts popped into his head, as well as friends from far off distances paying him long overdue visits. He'd never imagined having so many important friends in so many different places on the map.

Wolfram nuzzled his shoulder. "It will be your coming of age party. My brother and Gunter will make the arrangements for your crest to be made and coordinate the ceremony accordingly. Since this will mean you have become a man, we can announce our plans for the wedding."

Dread began to set in again and Yuri cleared his throat nervously. "Ah...Wolfram... I'm still too young to think of marriage."

"What is there to think about? You've got me. All we need is to set the date."

"Wolfram..." Yuri closed his eyes. It had been a good day. A very good day. He hated to think of it ending badly. But there it was, the conversation he dreaded to have yet knew needed to be had. Proposals, engagements, marriage...it had to be put right eventually.

He sighed with resolve. It would have been nice to have put off this encounter for a long time. "Wolfram, I'm not interested in other guys. I've told you this before, I've tried to make you understand; I have no intention of marrying you, Wolfram." He could feel the sting of his words in the flinching of the body clinging close to him. "I'm sorry. You're a very dear friend of mine, but that's it."

"...You cheater."

"That's not fair, Wolfram. I'm not saying I'm interested in anyone else. I'm not interested in anybody, you included. We're just friends."

"Why!" Wolfram pushed himself up, looming over Yuri, trapping him against his bed. It was the second time that day that Yuri stared up into his face and saw it barely able to contain its tears. It made the anger in his words tremble over his tongue. "Why don't you love me!"

It was so hard to talk, to form coherent sentences with words that would say what he wanted them to and not create more havoc then had already been unleashed. "I just told you, I'm not gay. I like girls."

"I can't be a girl, Yuri!"

"I know that, Wolfram!" he shouted, almost instantly ashamed he had.

Wolfram bowed his head, his hands fisted around handfuls of Yuri's pale blue night shirt. "Why aren't I enough as I am?"

"...Wolfram..."

The blonde mazoku slowly lowered himself over his king, body trembling as tears began to fall and dampen the shoulder of Yuri's nightshirt. Yuri wrapped his arms around his friend, wishing the incident so long ago when he'd slapped the spoiled young man had never happened.

He allowed Wolfram to cry on him, rubbing his back soothingly, ignoring the weakly spoken insults that came out through the sobs. Wolfram's temper was something he was

used to. His sadness was not.

"I love you, Yuri... I tracked you across the world to save you, I've chased behind you wherever you've gone to make sure you were safe. I'd die for you, I'd kill for you, I'd do anything to please you. Why aren't you satisfied? Why can't you be pleased to have me? Don't you know how lucky you are? How...happy you'd make me?"

The tears made him incomprehensible again and his fists clutched possessively at his body. Yuri didn't dare move to push him away. "I'm sorry. I wish you hadn't taken the proposal so seriously."

"It's marriage! Of course I took it seriously! You're my king and it is my duty to perform in any way which you desire to the best of my ability!"

"Then be my friend."

Wolfram's moan was caught in his throat as he buried his face in Yuri's neck, not wanting to let go of what he so treasured in his heart.

It was a long time before he spoke again. The room seemed dead in the quiet after the storm of their words and Yuri had himself almost been lulled into slumber by the warm quiet of the night. The tired voice in his ear roused him gently, pulling at his heartstrings as he opened his eyes to the canopy above.

"What about Greta?"

The king sighed and nestled his head into the pillow. Greta was only Wolfram's child because he had been so adamant on the subject. He had wanted her because she was Yuri's of course. But since that time he had watched them together, the concern Greta showed for her other father and the love they had for each other.

"I won't take Greta from you," he said at last, feeling sure of his decision. "She'll stay both of ours. She needs someone when I'm not here, anyway." He looked down at the blonde head still resting on his shoulder. "You accept that the engagement is off, then?"

Wolfram nodded only slightly. "On one condition."

"What's that?"

"Tomorrow night you will come to me as my lover."

Yuri pushed Wolfram away from him at an arms distance, eyes wide. "I'll what?"

The mazoku's face was grave and sullen, every bit as serious as the low words he spoke. "It is customary that a married couple not sleep together until after the ceremony. But since our engagement I have spent my nights in your bed. Pure as your intentions have been, outside this castle people believe we have been intimate. It's a logical conclusion when two people who are to be married share a bed."

"Who cares what other people think? That doesn't mean we--"

"You shame me when you call off the engagement. You are the Maou and I was not able to please you. The people I lead to battle will know this, the people we fight will know this, only the people who are closest to me here will know that it has been a lie from the start. That is was never your intention to marry me and it is through no fault of my own that it ends like this; that I at least tried."

Yuri was bewildered. "Wolfram, that--"

"If in the future I find myself fit to marry someone, they will come to me with the preconceived notion that I have been intimate with you and was turned away. I am a man of loose morals who was bedded by my king and not attractive enough or skilled enough to keep his affections. And there are no words that can be said that will dispel that thought because when they look at me they will find it hard to believe that I spent so many nights by your side and you never felt the desire to touch me."

Yuri was silent for a moment. In truth, he had never conceived of what others might have thought their relationship entailed. The way he said it it did indeed look bad but...

"If I am to be judged as such, I would rather be guilty."

"...Wolfram. I've never had sex with anyone. I've never even kissed a girl. If I'm going to lose my virginity at fifteen, it's not going to be to another guy."

"You talk about justice. Where's mine?"

Yuri paused, feeling trapped and scared. He let his arms relax a bit and watched as Wolfram pushed him back against the bed and lay down beside him, their eyes transfixed on each other's: dark, unyielding green versus bewildered black. Wolfram leaned closer, nearly drowning Yuri in the complex emotions drifting through his gaze. "Come to me tomorrow night and I will open to you as a woman and let you take of me as a man."

Unexpectedly, the husky whisper sent a surge of excitement through the king's veins. Yuri blinked at the lovely face across from him on the pillow, unsure what to think about the sudden rush. He was curious now. Was it that the words would have aroused his lust coming from anyone, or was it that the bold young blonde was so bluntly offering himself that made his toes tingle and his face flush?

He saw a slow, sad smile cross the blonde's face before he even realized he was nodding. He had been betrayed again by instinct; first by a slap and now by a nod. Just as before though, he felt he couldn't take it back. He didn't want Wolfram to hate him or to be unhappy.

"The engagement will be called off in the morning then. I am trusting you to be faithful to your word this time."

Yuri flinched at that but continued to nod. Wolfram was never the most tactful, but his insults were normally in jest. Not tonight, though. As the blonde regained his strength of will, he curled up to Yuri as he had been before. The motion was less affectionate now, though. It felt more like someone clinging onto their hopes and dreams with every futile ounce of strength in their worn out limbs. Yuri held him there to assuage the guilt that was mounting within him. He had hurt his friend and now his mind was reeling with his promise.

Tonight, he did not need Wolfram's taunts to point out the obvious:

He was a wimp.