Fires Within 1
Rating: PG-13 (may change)
Disclaimer: Don't own them. Wish I did. Hehe.
What was worse, Gisela found herself musing one day, to be loved so desperately by someone you do not wish to hurt but do not love, or to be desperately in love with someone who wanted everything you had to offer, except that love?
She sighed as, partly hidden by the trees, she watched Wolfram von Bielefeld wander aimlessly through the palace gardens. His almost palpable misery saddened her. She had known him all her life. Wolfram von Bielefeld was a brat with a horrid temper, but he was also a deeply insecure young boy who needed love as much, if not more, than most people. Knowing his history had helped her come to understand the blond prince, and with that understanding came sympathy for the unenviable position Wolfram had found himself in.
Just this morning the whole castle had been treated to yet another scene between the Maou and the prince. Apparently, Yuuri had spent the night camping with Conrad, and Wolfram had been so consumed with jealousy that he had all but screamed the palace down with his wild accusations and jealous fury.
And Yuuri, pushed to the limit of his patience, had snarled back that he would happily spend the rest of his life camped with anyone, anywhere rather than be forced to endure even another moment of Wolfram's ridiculous and unwarranted rants.
Even Gisela, learning about the whole incident from Günter, had cringed at the words that had spilled from the Heika's mouth. She could not begin to imagine the hurt that Wolfram would have felt at that point, but seeing how disconsolate he was now made her heart twist in empathy.
Gisela let out another sigh as she watched Wolfram stare unseeingly into space, too wrapped up in his own misery to notice her presence. For all the spoiled prince's habitual arrogance and infernal pride, he was fiercely loyal and honorable. It made Gisela's heart ache to see him so unhappy.
If only she could help him rein in his temper, she mused thoughtfully.
Wolfram knew he couldn't hide out in the garden forever. He had duties waiting for him. Duties to his soldiers and his king. His mouth tightened at the thought of Yuuri and his last words.
Logically he admitted he had pushed too far with his ranting, and the Maou had simply struck back. But Wolfram didn't doubt that Yuuri's words had had a grain of truth in them. The raven-haired boy really was sick of him and his jealousy.
But what could he do? Wolfram's throat tightened painfully. He knew Yuuri would not have betrayed him with his own brother. He knew it. But he simply couldn't fight the little voice in his head that whispered doubts. Doubts directed at himself.
Why should Yuuri be faithful to him? He had nothing to offer the king. He was hot-headed, impulsive, and obsessive. He had neither Günther's statesmanship nor Gwendal's military brilliance. He couldn't even equal Conrad in swordsmanship or kind nature. No wonder Yuuri viewed their engagement with appalled dismay and flatly refused to treat it with any degree of seriousness! He was the worst possible consort for Shin Makoku's Maou.
Wolfram's shoulders slumped disconsolately. If he had any pride at all he'd let Yuuri go. Just let him break the engagement and find someone more worthy of him.
/But you love him…/
So what? Wolfram jeered at himself. A fat lot of good that will do. Haven't you learned yet, you stupid idiot, that your love means nothing? It wasn't enough to keep your father from leaving. It wasn't enough to keep your mother from leaving. And it sure isn't going to be enough to keep Yuuri from leaving!
In the end, abandonment was all he knew.
He was alone. He was always going to be alone.
A sudden rustle cut into his dark musing, and he whirled around, hand going to the hilt of his sword.
"It's just me, Lord Wolfram," Gisela assured him with a tentative smile. "I didn't mean to startle you."
Wolfram drew into himself quickly. "You didn't startle me," he denied automatically. "I was just about to leave anyway," he muttered beneath his breath. He would have brushed past the healer, but her next words froze him.
"I want to help."
He bristled. "I don't need anyone's help," he snapped, temper flaring.
Gisela kept her voice determinedly soft. The blond prince was so skittish and on edge that she feared a wrong word would scare him away.
"You don't have to do anything," she said quietly. "Just listen."
Gisela went on, "I know you hate fighting with Heika as much as he hates fighting with you. So why do you do it?" It took courage to stand there and meet the intense green stare that bore down on her. But she stood her ground. She knew the answer to her question, of course, but the important thing was, did he? And if he did, would he be willing to accept her offer?
After a moment, Wolfram let out a deep breath. "I can't help myself." It was a difficult admission at best, but for once the brat prince needed someone who would listen to him. "It's like –" he threw up his hands in a gesture of helpless bewilderment, "he gets this I-don't-know-what-you're-talking-about-you-unreasonable-lout and my temper just blows up!"
Gisela nodded in total agreement. "Your temper is your worst enemy," she pronounced sagely. "It always has been."
Wolfram shrugged. Everyone knew that, he most of all.
"If only you could rein it in a little bit," Gisela suggested.
"You think I haven't tried?" Wolfram shot back disgustedly. "You honestly think I like being a shrew?"
"You can't help yourself."
Wolfram glared. "If you're mocking me…" He began hotly, already regretting the impulse to confide in Günter's daughter. Visions of the purple-haired advisor bouncing around with this tidbit made him see red.
"Maybe I can help."
The half-formed threats died instantly. "You can?" Hope sprang up, followed closely by distrust. "How?"
Gisela nodded. "I was going through one of the healing journals in the library, and it mentioned a way to treat patients with emotional difficulties. It helps them suppress strong emotion. Apparently it works very well with patients who need to er - relax." She paused. Now was not a good time to mention that it was a method applied to violent criminals and the hopelessly insane. "It could help you control your temper," She added brightly.
Wolfram stared at her skeptically. "How come I've never heard of this kind of healing before?"
"Not every healer can do it," Gisela told him just a touch smugly. "It requires a lot of power." And luck, she added inwardly.
"But you can do this?" Wolfram didn't doubt Gisela's power. She was one of the strongest healers ever born. But he couldn't deny a little trepidation at the prospect of entrusting himself so wholly to her.
Gisela nodded. "You don't have to decide now," she reassured him. "I just want you to know that there are ways to keep you from losing your temper prematurely and further damaging your relationship with the Heika."
The blond prince's mouth twisted. "Somehow, I doubt anything short of a miracle is going to do that."
"Well, it wouldn't hurt to try, would it?"
Wolfram's pride protested loudly at the thought of changing himself to suit the wimp he called his fiancé. It was humiliating to even consider, since it presupposed that there was something wrong with him to begin with.
But if he refused Gisela's offer…
He will lose Yuuri.
And that decided the matter.
He took a deep breath. "I'll do it, but –" he held up a warning hand. "I don't want anyone else to know about this." Bad enough that he was reduced to changing himself to stay in Yuuri's good graces, he could not bear the thought of broadcasting it to the whole kingdom. Besides, there was still a chance that Gisela would fail, and he would rather die than become a laughingstock.
Yuuri almost chose to take his supper in his room. He dreaded the awkwardness that was sure to pervade the mess hall the moment he and Wolfram met face to face. He dreaded it almost as much as he dreaded seeing the blond prince after this morning's fiasco. Which was why he had spent the whole day closeted in the study with Günter – a self-inflicted punishment in itself, in his opinion, rather than risk bumping into the prince and being subjected to silent accusations.
Admittedly, he had been provoked by Wolfram's hysterical jealousy. And it had been wholly unfounded, he told himself indignantly! Even if Conrad hadn't been very definitely involved with Yozak, Wolfram should have known him better. That he hadn't pained Yuuri more than he liked to admit. Still, he acknowledged reluctantly, his return volley had been a little extreme. Yuuri usually guarded his tongue better than that, but for some reason Wolfram had always been able to demolish his common sense as well as his easygoing façade.
So yeah, he almost decided to hide out in his room. Except, of course, that doing so would paint him a coward. A guilty coward at that. No doubt Wolfram would point to his empty chair and pronounce him guilty in absentia. And then Yozak might get ideas and then he'd have problems. Besides, even if he could avoid Wolfram during supper he'd still show up in his bedroom. Yuuri grimaced inwardly. Better get it over with now. So he forced himself gloomily to trudge to the mess hall.
Wolfram's chair was vacant, but Yuuri knew better than to sigh in relief. No doubt he was somewhere sulking. For a moment he considered letting the brat prince be, but his guilt wouldn't let him. He knew he had hurt the other boy badly; the least he could do was apologize.
He was just about to get to his feet when Wolfram walked into the hall. Immediately, Yuuri's eyes flew to the other boy's face, trying to gauge the other's mood and the extent of damage he was likely to inflict. However, though slightly pale, Wolfram seemed almost calm, his eyes shuttered as he slipped into his place beside Yuuri. Without another word, he began eating.
To say that Yuuri was taken aback by the blond prince's unaccustomed silence would be an understatement. Convinced that this was just the quiet before the storm, he picked at his food, every sense on the alert for a caustic remark or holler that would indicate the beginning of another argument.
However, the meal passed in relative silence, broken only by Günter's attempts at conversation. All throughout Wolfram barely looked up from his plate, did not do so much as glimpse at Yuuri. Nor did he contribute to the conversation beyond monosyllables and grunts. And immediately after eating he rose to his feet, sketched a bow to Yuuri and walked out before anyone could stop him.
"Well, I think that went rather well." Günter piped up cheerfully.
'Well' was not the word Yuuri would have chosen. Wolfram's unnatural silence unsettled him, raising warning bells at the back of his mind. He almost preferred the loud arguments they used to have to the uneasy peace.
"At least he wasn't blowing off at everyone." Gwendal opined dryly.
"Ano…" Yuuri searched for words to convey his uneasiness.
"Maybe Lord Wolfram's finally maturing into a true nobleman as befitting his station!" Günter beamed, determinedly optimistic.
"And pigs fly." Yuuri muttered beneath his breath. He glanced at Conrad, who sported a slight frown. "Conrad?"
"I don't know," the swordsman mused quietly, "there's something off about him tonight." He sent the Heika a small smile. "Maybe you can sort it out privately. Later."
Yuuri blushed. He knew most everyone believed that he and Wolfram were intimate, especially since the beautiful blond prince shared his bed at night. But that was all they shared. He wasn't even totally comfortable with their engagement yet to consider taking that step.
Not that Yuuri didn't find his fiancé attractive. Hell, he thought darkly, no one should have that kind of beauty. It was damned distracting. He found himself thinking of Wolfram at the oddest moments. The blond had even taken to invading his dreams! His cheeks burned and he hastily cut that train of thought off.
However, later, outside his door, he found himself inexplicably nervous. Visions of Wolfram in his pink nightgown danced before his eyes. No doubt the prince was already in bed, either fast asleep or waiting to give him a piece of his mind. He groaned as something inside him tightened.
Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he turned the knob and resolutely opened the door, eyes going straight to the bed.
He scanned the room and after ascertaining that indeed, Wolfram was not in it, he debated silently whether or not to go in search of the brat prince. Finally, he decided against it. That Wolfram was plainly avoiding him meant that the other boy had still not forgiven his thoughtless words. Discretion might be the better part of valor.
Well, he told himself, at least he'll have his bed all to himself. For once. And no one to crowd or kick him off it.
"Brat," he muttered to himself as he got ready for bed.
And yet, lying there, sleep eluded him. It felt strange, being alone. Cold, even with warm blankets. He tossed and turned, trying to find a comfortable position. But to no avail. Finally, a restless and frustrating hour later, he admitted to himself that he missed his bedmate.
He missed Wolfram. His warmth, his nearness, hell, even that ridiculous pink nightgown. He had grown used to having the smaller boy beside him. Had become accustomed to the other's scandalous pronouncements and insistence.
He sighed, staring around him morosely. He was truly in a fine mess this time. Henpecked and nagged with Wolfram, but lonely and discontent without him. Damned if you do and damned if you don't.
The hell with it, he decided, he was going to have to talk to the blond tomorrow. He'd apologize, he decided a tad guiltily. He glanced around, feeling a little lost in the huge room, and sighed forlornly.
He missed his fiancé.
In his room just down the hall from the king, Wolfram lay silently on his bed, his eyes staring reflectively at the ceiling.
It had not hurt at all, he mused to himself. He couldn't quite remember what Gisela had done. He had the impression that it had involved Gisela talking a lot, but at the end of it he had indeed felt much better. The crushing weight had left his chest, his mind had cleared, and he had seen clearly how disgraceful his behavior had been to the Heika. Shameful, he had chastised himself quite severely.
Forcing himself upon the Heika, appropriating his bed, nagging him in public…the list went on and on. Wolfram shook his head, unable to believe how low he had stooped in his desire to have someone who belonged wholly to him. Unable to believe how naïve he had been to even think that he was worth Yuuri's attention, much less his devotion.
Still, he went on, the engagement was a fact, even if it was a mistake. Until the time Yuuri saw fit to end it, it was his duty to be as accommodating and helpful as he could. And if that meant keeping out of Yuuri's way unless specifically called for, well then, that was what he would do. He'd been neglecting his duties enough in his insane jealousy.
He had begun his self-appointed makeover during supper, and he thought it had gone quite well. Yuuri had seemed relieved that he had not flown into another of his rages, and Gwendal had even at one point nodded approvingly at his reticence. Very well then, he told himself determinedly, let tonight bear witness to the new Wolfram von Bielefeld.
Breakfast the next morning was a tense affair for Yuuri. He'd woken early from a restless night, but pride wouldn't let him go in search of Wolfram immediately. Instead he had loitered around his room until it was time for breakfast.
Wolfram was already seated and eating when he arrived. He glanced up upon Yuuri's arrival nodded in greeting, but had gone right back to eating.
Yuuri couldn't help but stare at his fiancé in bewilderment. The blond prince seemed to be normal enough, and yet he was not acting normally. He sensed no hostility from him; he wasn't sulking, sullen, or peevish as was his wont whenever they'd quarreled the previous day. In fact, Wolfram was acting as if everything was perfectly alright! That in itself weirded Yuuri out, it was so unlike him!
Just then Günter bounded into the room and with his usual enthusiasm, enveloped the king into a good morning hug. It was a move guaranteed in the past to start Wolfram ranting, and Yuuri braced himself with an inner cringe.
However, apart from a momentary upward glance, Wolfram said nothing. Instead he turned to Gwendal and began discussing the day's training schedule, his manner intent.
Gwendal's eyebrow quirked at his youngest brother's extraordinary demeanor, but nevertheless responded to the queries with his usual aplomb.
Conrad was frowning as he stared in confusion at his brother. There was no way Wolfram could have watched another person hugging his betrothed and not react violently. But that was exactly what had happened. His frown deepened, wondering a touch wildly if Wolfram had somehow bumped his head in the night and suffered an amnesia in which he had forgotten his relationship with Yuuri.
"Wolfram, are you feeling alright?" He asked diffidently at a break in the discussion.
Wolfram turned to him, blinking. "I'm fine. Why?"
"You're acting rather – strangely." Conrad said carefully, mindful of the myriad of expressions chasing each other on Yuuri's face. "Normally by this time you'd have threatened Günter to within an inch of his life."
Wolfram shrugged. "As long as Heika doesn't mind, I don't think it's any of my business. It's not like we're married or anything." And he went right on with his discussion with Gwendal.
"We are engaged, you know." Yuuri spoke without thinking, unexpectedly hurt that Wolfram had relegated their relationship to close to nothing, judging from his indifferent tone. And just yesterday he'd been breathing fire at him for spending time with someone else!
For the first time, Wolfram turned to speak to him. His green eyes, usually flashing with either annoyance or anger, was utterly calm. "It's only a formality, Heika." He replied matter-of-factly. "I'm sure that once everything settles down we can dispense with it."
Heika. Wolfram had never called him that, Yuuri realized. And that he did now was both disappointing and unsettling. Staring blankly at the blond prince as the latter's words sank in, he suddenly felt as though the ground beneath him had yawned open. Never, in his wildest dreams, had he expected to hear that disavowal from the blond. That he did now caused a queer little ache to blossom around his heart.