The sky was clear and he took a minute to gaze up at the clouds in the late afternoon sky, his thoughts on his young brother and his king. It would be at least two more days before he saw them. He only hoped he and his traveling companions would be welcome.
"Brooding again?" Yosak gave Conrad a friendly pat on the shoulder and leaned over to see that the carrots he'd been feeding the horse were gone. "I brought a little something I want you to try. First pressing from that new winery near Klaverton."
Conrad winced, turning to look at Yosak. "Did they remember to take the leaves out of this one? We spent a week recovering from your last discovery." Yosak just grinned. "You getting cautious in your old age?"
"With you around I have to be. Come on. I actually brought something worth drinking."
"Coward." Yosak retorted, slinging an arm around Conrad's shoulders and steering him towards their tent.
"Excuse me," Yuuri stopped the young woman skimming a duster over the furniture in what might have been a sitting room.
"Heika!" The woman squeaked, bowing low and almost hitting Yuuri with the duster by accident.
"Please," Yuuri urged her to stand upright. "I'm looking for Wolfram."
"Lord Wolfram left, Heika. I saw him ride off when I was cleaning the window sill."
"Oh." Yuuri looked around, at a loss, then had an idea.
"Could you tell me where the kitchen is, please. This place is so confusing."
"Yes, Heika. Just outside this room, turn left and keep going straight through the rooms until you see the large clock. Take the door on the right and follow that hall to the kitchen."
Yuuri, blinked, thanking the girl and hoping he didn't get lost again. He wandered through a strange assortment of rooms until he found the clock.
"Oh! Heika!" Dorcas stopped just short of running into Yuuri and the bundle of oddments he carried tumbled to the floor.
"What's all this?" Yuuri asked looking curiously at the pieces of fabric wrapped around various knick knacks. Luckily nothing seemed to have broken.
"Er…" Dorcas stammered, finally blurting out, "Wolfram's selling a few things, Heika. He wants me to take them into town and buy supplies."
"Why?" Yuuri frowned, remembering Wolfram's parting words and wondering just how poor his proud fiancé really was.
"It was a dry summer, Heika. The staff will need food for the winter." Yuuri nodded his understanding, but his mind was elsewhere, working hard to process this new information.
"Dorcas, can I ask you something?" Yuuri reached out and took the bundle carefully, setting it down and motioning the soldier towards a solid-looking chair.
"You've known Wolfram a long time, haven't you?"
"Since just after he was born. I was just a trainee then, Heika. But I saw him in the gardens with his mother, and sometimes I'd help his nanny."
"Do you know about his family?" Yuuri waved at his surroundings. "About this house?" Yuuri lowered his voice.
Dorcas blushed, looking around and trying to decide what he could tell his king without hurting his friend. "Has Wolfram told you anything about his father?"
"Not really," Yuuri admitted, feeling bad that he had never bothered to ask.
"Not everyone was happy about the marriage. Some believed that it was not legitimate because Conrad's father was still alive. Some of the von Bielefelds were… unkind, especially after Wolfram's father died. And then the war…"
Yuuri nodded, starting to understand. He noticed Dorcas' discomfort and leaned closer. "I'm not asking you to break any confidences, but if there is anything you could tell me… as Wolfram's friend."
Dorcas blinked, suddenly remembering how rare his place was as friend to the lonely von Bielefeld. He'd seen the loving, happy child grow into an angry, brash youth, isolated from others his age by his status.
"Wolfram's father was a fourth son but Wolfram was entitled to inherit more than just this house. His relatives withheld his real inheritance but apparently there's nothing that can be done. Wolfram refuses to confront them or to use his place as the former Maou's son to force the claim."
"So his family didn't like his mother and chose to punish Wolfram."
"That's part of it." Dorcas looked at the bundle of items he'd been carrying. "I'm sorry, Heika. I should…"
"Of course." Yuuri smiled. "Thank you, Dorcas. For everything."
Dorcas smiled shyly, blushing lightly as he gathered up his bundle and left the room.
Yuuri watched him leave, pondering what he'd learned. He was glad that Dorcas had managed to stay friends with Wolfram. He resolved to be more patient and a better friend to his prickly fiancé.
"Hey." Yuuri was sitting on the front steps waiting for Wolfram to return. He was anxious to see the blond, and to avoid the house staff who seemed a bit intimidated to be sharing a house with the Maou.
"Why aren't you inside?" Wolfram demanded. "You could catch a cold sitting on the stone like that." He swung off his horse gracefully and led the animal towards Yuuri. "I've made arrangements for you to return to Blood Pledge castle. You'll be leaving in three days." Wolfram frowned. "I wanted you to go sooner but I need all of my men to help finish the repairs."
Yuuri noticed a smudge of dirt on Wolfram's cheek and wiped it away cautiously. "I'm glad I get to stay. I don't want to leave at all. Not without you. If you'll give me something to do, I can make myself useful here."
Wolfram regarded him suspiciously, then grinned and started leading his horse towards the stable. "You might regret that offer, wimp"
The next morning at dawn, Wolfram's words came back to haunt Yuuri. The soldier was up, dressed and currently standing at the bedside poking Yuuri.
"Get moving. I've got a full days' work for you."
Yuuri groaned and sat up, almost falling over when Wolfram tossed a small loaf of bread into his lap.
"There's coffee on the nightstand. We don't have time to linger over breakfast."
With one last smirk, Wolfram left.
Alternately muttering to himself, eating the bread and dressing, Yuuri managed to get himself outside to the garden as instructed just in time for Dorcas to arrive.
"Heika! I'm sorry to do this, but Lord Wolfram insisted." Dorcas shoved the rake at Yuuri. "He says the entire lawn needs to be done as well as all around the Garden and along the path to the stables."
"No problem!" Yuuri grinned to assure the nervous soldier that he wasn't upset by Dorcas' message. Instead, he set out cheerfully, working methodically around the house, careful not to rake through the flowerbeds. As he raked, he thought about Wolfram's actions the night before. The blond soldier had been sullen and withdrawn before dinner. But when they sat down together to eat, along with Dorcas and Wolfram's soldiers, the mood had lightened considerably. And when a few of those soldiers had asked Wolfram for a song after the meal, Yuuri had almost fallen off his chair. He'd been even more shocked when Dorcas excused himself from the room only to return with a small lap harp.
Wolfram had blushed a little, but he'd accepted the instrument and led them into an adjacent room filled with comfortable chairs. He'd ended up playing nearly a dozen songs, and even singing along to a few of them in a strong, clear voice.
Early on, some of the house staff entered quietly and stood listening. Wolfram hadn't objected to their presence, and had thanked them for their day's work before bidding them goodnight.
Wolfram had handed the instrument to Dorcas with a look that was almost regret before leading Yuuri to their room. He'd bathed and prepared for bed quietly, and when Yuuri climbed into the large bed beside him, he'd simply smiled and blown out the candle.
Yuuri blinked, suddenly aware that his raking had slowed and that he was wearing what must be a silly expression. He straightened and returned to his work with determination. He would prove to his fiancé that he was good for more than signing papers and getting into trouble.
Yosak gave Conrad a devilish grin and urged his horse forward. "We have to eat." He called over his shoulder, laughing at the comments he just knew were filling up Conrad's head. He knew his old friend and Conrad's devotion to duty – and a particular Maou – were admirable, but still worth a bit of teasing. Especially since their happy little band of craftsmen seemed to be hungry all the time. What was another hour or two added to their journey when there were so many demanding people to be fed?
"Is that all you've done?" Wolfram surveyed the piles of leaves littering the front of the house and scowled. It's nearly lunch and you're not half-done."
"Wolf…" Yuuri hoped he wasn't whining, but his hands hurt. He might be getting blisters.
"Forget it," Wolfram's expression softened. There hasn't been much time for raking so there are a lot of leaves. For a wimp like you." He tossed Yuuri a smile, that softened his whole face. "Come help me. You can leave the rest of the raking to Tomas."
Wolfram gestured to the young teen who stood several lengths away, staring in awe at Yuuri. The boy raced over and bowed to them both.
"Would you help with the raking? I need Yuuri's help with something else."
The boy nodded vigorously and accepted the rake as if it were a precious gift.
Wolfram smiled and led Yuuri into the house.
"I showed you this yesterday, but I had another idea and I want your opinion."
Wolfram dropped into the chair behind the desk in his study and immediately unrolled the plans for the house renovations. "I redrew this earlier today, but I'm not sure about this part."
Wolfram tapped the paper where a six-sided gazebo had been added and the plans. Yuuri frowned, considering, then looked up at Wolfram.
"You drew this?" Yuuri looked at the careful, detailed drawing with new appreciation. He knew his fiancé liked to paint, but he'd never imagined Wolfram sitting still long enough to render something so elaborate. "You're a true artist."
Wolfram made a sound of annoyance, examining Yuuri's face for signs of teasing. He found only honest admiration.
"I would appreciate your help, Yuuri. This will be your house too."
Yuuri nodded and pulled up a chair, leaning over to have a better view as Wolfram pointed out the details.
"I changed the basic shape," Wolfram explained. "The long rectangle would be harder to heat then this square shape. And, we can place the kitchen here, in the corner and make it easier to access the ballroom and the dining room. We can make the ornamental gardens here in the open center of the structure, like a courtyard. It's more secure for Greta to play. There will be simple ornamental bushes in front – nothing fancy or hard to maintain, and we'll have the back and both sides for gardens. We can make the side nearest the road the herb garden, and the whole back and other side near the stable will be vegetables."
"Farther out we can plant the orchard – we lost most of our fruit trees over the last few years due to bad weather. They will be more sheltered here, by the natural curve of the land, but will still have plenty of sun. That leaves this area here, farthest away from the back of the house for extra planning if we have the people to maintain it."
"It sounds wonderful Wolf." Yuuri pointed towards the gazebo in front near the road. "But what if we move this here, inside the courtyard. We could make it mostly of windows that can be opened in the summer and closed in the winter. It would give Greta somewhere to play on cold or rainy days, and you could use if for a studio to draw or paint. And this long hall, the ballroom. You could put windows all along the one side, looking into the courtyard, and just hang mirrors on the other wall. It would make the room easier to heat and the mirrors would make the space appear bigger. Then you wouldn't have to worry about the guests looking out into the vegetable gardens either."
Wolfram studied the plans silently for a long time before nodding. "That could work." He looked up and gave Yuuri a smile.
"I saw something like that in a movie once. I didn't make it up or anything."
"Doesn't matter," Wolfram assured him. "Its still a good idea."
Wolfram let the papers curl with a snap and stood, leaning over the desk towards his fiancé. He got close enough for Yuuri to feel Wolfram's breath.
Yuuri blinked, his eyes drawn to Wolfram's lips. They were so close and he could just…
"Lord Wolfram!" Dorcas burst into the room. "There's a messenger at the door. He's from your uncle, Augustus von Bielefeld."
Wolfram and Yuuri pulled away from each other, eyes wide. Yuuri wasn't sure but he might have seen a flicker of fear in those green eyes. A blink and it was gone, replaced by the familiar, haughty Wolfram he'd known for nearly four years.
Yuuri suppressed a shudder and trailed the other men out of the study.
"Oi, Weller!" Yosak caught sight of his long-time friend riding at the head of their little procession. Yosak spurred his horse, racing to meet Conrad.
"What happened?" Conrad demanded, skipping the usual greetings.
"I rode on ahead and got those supplies you wanted, then scouted around a bit. Seems the big news is that Lord Augustus von Bielefeld is due to arrive this afternoon. He'll be staying at the Inn for a few days. Seems he's planning on paying a visit to Emerald Villa."
"Does he know the Maou is there?"
"If he does he hasn't told anyone as far as I could tell. It seems he's just paying a family visit to his nephew."
Conrad considered carefully looking back at the people and wagons trailing him. "Any chance we'll be able to get there before him?"
"How bad do you want it?" Yosak asked, leaning in suggestively before pulling back and grinning. He looked ahead and to the left, calling, "Ta dah!"
Four large carts pulled into view, driven by the soldiers who had accompanied Yosak into the town for supplies.
Signaling the group to halt, Conrad instructed his soldiers to get the craftsmen loaded onto the wagons so they could travel faster. Satisfied the work was going smoothly, Conrad turned his attention back to Yosak.
"I'm good, aren't I?" Yosak teased many layers of meaning implied in the light-hearted question.
"You are," Conrad conceded with a nod. "But," He gave Yosak a considering look. "You might want to change out of the dress"
"I thought you might still be here. I brought a tray in case you don't want to go to supper tonight." Yuuri placed the heavy tray on the edge of the desk and held it safely in place while Wolfram cleared away his papers. The note that had been delivered earlier that day lay open on the edge and Wolfram left it there.
"So we're getting company tomorrow?" Yuuri prompted, lifting a cloth off the tray and revealing a confused assortment of foods. "Hope you don't mind sharing. I sort of raided the kitchen and the cook threatened me with her wooden spoon."
Wolfram laughed. King or no, cook didn't tolerate anyone snitching food. He picked up a piece of cold chicken and some thin wedges of cheese, setting them on the plate Yuuri handed him. He'd brought sporks and napkins, too. He even had a wineskin slung over one shoulder. "Nipping off with the wine is a capital offense as far as cook is concerned, You'd better stay out of the kitchen for a while."
"Oh." Yuuri's eyes grew wide. "So that's why Dorcas ran the other way when he saw what I was carrying."
Wolfram laughed again, and the worry that had lined his face since his uncle's messenger arrived, finally eased a little.
"Wolf?" Yuuri was staring intently down at his half-eaten apple. "Do you think you might… play some music for me later?" Yuuri flinched a little expecting Wolfram's usual reaction to any kind of personal request. When it didn't happen, he sneaked a look across the desk at his fiancé.
"I could…" Wolfram replied, drawing out his answer with a wicked little smile. "If you sing one of your songs, from Earth."
"Me?" Yuuri squeaked. "I don't know, Wolf. I think my voice could shatter glass."
"Why don't you let me be the judge of that? Now here, eat this. You don't eat enough vegetables."
Yuuri frowned at the half-dozen carrot sticks Wolfram was holding. He was about to object when something in Wolfram's eyes stopped him. It really was nice that his fiancé was concerned about him – even if Wolfram had a tendency to overdo. With a small grin, Yuuri accepted the carrots and ate them, suppressing all thoughts of horses as he crunched.
"We made good time today. Thank you for your efforts." Conrad dismissed his soldiers to return to their posts guarding the camp. With a sigh he entered his small tent, thankful for the bedding that was already laid out and half-filled with his favorite bedwarmer.
"You owe me for the carts, you know." Yosak grinned up at Conrad and held up the blanket. "I was thinking something in silk."
"As long as it's not pink," Conrad replied. Yuuri had ranted enough about Wolfram's infamous pink nightgowns over the years. Slipping off his uniform, he drew on clothing that was comfortable enough to sleep in yet would allow him to be out of the tent at the first sign of trouble.
"Teal's my color," Yosak assured him. "Now get in here before I get cold."
"As you wish"
"Wolf?" Yuuri rolled over to face his sleepy companion. He'd kept his promise and played music just for Yuuri, and he hadn't even cracked a smile at Yuuri's off-key singing.
"Hmmm?" Wolfram was already half asleep but he blinked at looked at Yuuri.
"Would it be easier if I wasn't here tomorrow?"
"I don't know. The timing of this visit is suspicious, but he could just be planning to torment me a little. He seems to enjoy that."
"Oh." Yuuri thought about it for a long time, then whispered, "I don't want him to do that to you, Wolfram."
"Can't be helped." Wolfram mumbled. "He's in charge."
"No he's not." Yuuri whispered back, leaning over to give Wolfram a small kiss on the forehead. The blond was already asleep.
"I think it's time the von Bielefeld's paid their respects to their king." Yuuri was still smiling when he fell asleep.
"Looks like we're in luck," Yosak reported as soon as he returned from his scouting mission. "Seems His Excellency's carriage lost a wheel."
Conrad gave Yosak a sharp look. He was not fan of the older von Bielefelds, but he didn't wish to see any of them injured.
"Pity his guards don't do the job they're paid for." Yosak ignored Conrad's look. "Luckily no one was hurt. Funny thing about those bags of feathers, though. No one knows where they came from but they cushioned everyone in the carriage."
Conrad just shook his head, barely managing to contain his smile. No use chastising Yosak over something like this – after all these years it wasn't about to make an impact now.
"Hey," Yosak said suddenly. "Now you owe me for the feathers, too"
"I feel like I swallowed a duck."
Wolfram stopped abruptly and started at his insane fiancé. "You never make any sense." He reminded Yuuri and himself.
"Just because you don't understand what I'm talking about doesn't mean it's not a reasonable thing to say." Yuuri blinked. "What did I just say?"
"You're a wimp and you just keep proving it." Wolfram gave Yuuri a grin and walked away, silently counting the seconds until Yuuri reacted.
"Hey!" Yuuri ran to catch up with Wolfram, taking a few seconds to appreciate the sight of his fiancé in his formal uniform again. Yuuri had chosen to wear his casual clothes since he didn't have his Maou garb with him anyway.
Wolfram surveyed every room in the house, then circled the grounds, calling last minute instructions to his gardeners. He intended to make the place as presentable as possible. Satisfied that everything was in order, he headed to the kitchen with Yuuri in tow. They'd already snuck the half-empty wineskin and the tray full of dirty dishes in earlier.
"I'm not feeding you so close to lunch m'lord, so you and your fellow better leave." The cook was a bit nearsighted and had a bit of trouble with faces.
"Just making sure everything will be ready for this afternoon's tea. My uncle dislikes carrots and cucumbers so be sure to leave those off the tray."
"Just like you told me yesterday and twice this morning, m'lord. The cakes are properly done and will be ready along with the tarts. I've got a fine cheese ready for the cutting and some of that special wine you got from your brother. His Excellency will have no reason to find fault."
"I knew I could count on you, cook. I'll play you something special tomorrow if you'd like. I might even have something new for you to hear."
"I'll be waiting, m'lord. Now take these and feed our hungry king before he takes to raiding my kitchen again." Wolfram accepted the two small cakes and thanked the cook, leading his indignant fiancé towards the study.
"Lord Wolfram!" Dorcas burst into the study, smiling.
"He's here?" Wolfram replied, leaping out of his seat and looking around frantically. He and Yuuri had managed to get through the morning, but it was still several hours before Wolfram's uncle was due to arrive. A messenger had arrived earlier informing them of the delay due to problems with his uncle's carriage.
"No. It's Sir Weller and a whole bunch of people. Come see."
Yuuri and Wolfram hurried along after Dorcas, emerging to the sight of a caravan of people.
"What is this, Conrad?" Wolfram was suspicious of his brothers sudden and unexpected arrival within hours of his uncle's intended visit. "I want an answer."
"Ulrike told us that Yuuri was back. Gunter wanted to come get him immediately, but Gwendal thought it might be a good opportunity to offer a welcome back surprise." Conrad gestured towards the craftsmen unloading the wagons under the directions of Dorcas and Conrad's men. "We thought we might offer some assistance, if you would permit."
"Wolf, this is great! There's lumber and all kinds of things. You can start using those plans of yours and make this place just the way you want." Yuuri was so happy he was almost bouncing. He didn't see the expression on his fiancé's face until the explosion occurred.
"That went better than expected." Yosak leaned against a tree and watched as Conrad tended to his horse. "The house is still standing."
"Yuuri is a good influence on him." Conrad smiled sadly and looked towards the house. After telling Conrad exactly what he could do with his craftsmen, his supplies and his interference, Wolfram had stormed off into the house. Yuuri made apologies and asked Dorcas to help the new arrivals to get settled. Since there wasn't room in the house for everyone, the soldiers were setting up tents and unloading the supplies, hoping that they would be put to good use.
"You're a good influence on both of them," Yosak reminded his friend. "And they both know it, even if one of them is too stubborn to admit it"
"Why is he so stubborn?" Yuuri stomped through the house towards the study where he knew Wolfram would be sulking. As he walked, he tried to calm down, giving himself a stern reminder about his plan to be a better friend to Wolfram.
Yuuri just couldn't understand why the blond reacted the way he did – especially to Conrad. He didn't know what it was like to grow up isolated the way Wolfram did, to have half the people who should care about him treat him so badly. As far as Yuuri was concerned, his own family could be a little less caring and involved in his life.
Taking a deep breath, he put a smile on his face and entered the study. Instead of finding Wolfram sulking, he was surprised to find him drawing frantically, adding to the plans for Emerald Villa.
"If Conrad's so determined to meddle, he can at least do things right. Here," Wolfram thrust the drawing at Yuuri. "What do you think?"
A large structure had been added, in front of the house and slightly to the right
when facing the house. Straining to read the scribbled notes, Yuuri made out,
'screen' and shutters.
"It's for visitors. For when it's nice weather and we don't want to be stuck inside. Nothing fancy but nice enough to entertain my family – especially the ones who show up uninvited."
Yuuri grinned and grabbed Wolfram, pulling him out of his chair and into Yuuri's embrace. "I like it!" He gave Wolfram a light kiss on the cheek and released him, still grinning. "Let's go show everyone."
"Yuuri, wait!" Wolfram stood motionless, his face a delicate pink. His eyes were wide and he looked a bit shocked. "Why did you do that?"
"Because you deserved it. You got mad the way you usually do, but then you did this," Yuuri snatched up the drawing. "And you're going to let us help" Yuuri stepped close to Wolfram and looked directly into his eyes. "I like this Wolfram very much."
"Yeah?" Wolfram blinked, considering Yuuri's words before smiling and sweeping past the dark-haired king. "Well I like you too. Even if you are a wimp."
"Wolf!" Yuuri protested, chasing after his fiancé.
"Forgive me for interrupting, Sirs, but isn't Lord von Bielefeld expected to arrive soon?" Dorcas took a step back, waiting for Wolfram's reaction. He was surprised when the young man just laughed.
"I'd forgotten all about him. I suppose I should get ready."
"I'll join you in a minute." Yuuri waited for Wolfram to leave before turning to Conrad and Yosak. "Do you mind taking over? We'll need to finish that list of supplies needed and make sure there's enough food for everyone." He looked at Conrad. "Do you have money for this? It'll come out of my salary or something, right?"
"Don't worry, Heika. There's enough money. Gunter would be most distressed if you and Wolfram didn't have what was needed to make your home comfortable."
"You're the best. Thank you." Yuuri gave Conrad a grateful smile and little wave before heading into the house to prepare for the visit.
"Uncle, welcome." Wolfram bowed stiffly and dismissed the young woman who had escorted his uncle into the formal sitting room. The furniture was the best in the house, and the room had a nice view. The windows were open to provide fresh air, making the room very pleasant.
"May I introduce Shibuya Yuuri." Wolfram carefully omitted his fiancé's title, waiting for his uncle's reaction.
"The Maou?" Augustus von Bielefeld was a thin man with a sharp face and
large nose. His eyes bulged out slightly giving him an unsettling appearance,
and his overlarge, extravagant clothing did nothing to make him more attractive.
"We were never formally introduced." Yuuri bowed slightly to the awed man. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Excellency."
"The pleasure is mine, Heika. Forgive me. I did not not expect to see you here or I would have brought a token of my esteem."
"No need," Yuuri assured him with the hard-practiced formality Gunter had been teaching him. "Your presence is enough." Yuuri was quite proud of himself for getting through this without laughing.
"Tea, uncle?" Wolfram asked, lifting the ornate teapot for emphasis. Without waiting for an answer, he poured three cups and placed them on the table that had been moved into place for this occasion.
"Thank you," the elder von Bielefeld waited for Yuuri to sit before seating himself. He was a bit thrown off by the Maou's presence, but still determined to have words with Wolfram.
"To what do we owe this honor?" Yuuri asked, earning a sharp glance from Wolfram. Yuuri ignored it, determined to set Wolfram's relative straight about a few things.
"It is customary for family members who have been away to pay a visit upon their return to my lands."
"Wolfram's lands," Yuuri corrected mildly. "I believe this house and property were part of an inheritance from his father."
Augustus von Bielefeld reddened, taking up his teacup abruptly to keep from responding harshly to his king.
"That reminds me," Yuuri said casually, selecting a wedge of cheese and placing it on his plate. "I'll be reviewing the latest land census when I return to the castle. My advisors tell me it's been a while since the last review. We wouldn't want anyone to lose out on their property, would we." Yuuri bit into the cheese and smiled.
"No, Heika. Of course not." von Bielefeld's eyes strayed to Wolfram who sat beside Yuuri, expression bland.
"Wolfram tells me you had a strong influence in his life. He's an excellent soldier, someone to be proud of."
"Of..of course, Heika."
"Wolfram, why don't you tell your uncle about the renovations? I'm sure he'd be more than anxious to send workers and supplies. After all, we plan to use this as our vacation retreat."
"Of course I would, Heika. Whatever Wolfram needs." Augustus von Bielefeld put his teacup down and gave his nephew a sickly smile.
"And then… then…" Yuuri was laughing too hard to continue.
"He was about ready to keel over, but he smiled and said,'Of course, Heika' . And then Yuuri made him put it in writing. I thought my uncle was going to faint."
"I think that'll make up for some of the inheritance you never received." Yuuri was so giddy he could barely sit. "And I don't think he'll be in a hurry to visit again."
Conrad smiled fondly, but Yosak slapped Yuuri on the back. "Hanging around Gwendal is really paying off, Kiddo. He'll be so proud."
"I didn't do anything that Wolfram wouldn't have done eventually. I just didn't want to sit there and listen to that man give Wolfram a hard time."
"Why don't you and Wolfram go get changed, Heika. You can join the rest of us for supper. Cook's making stew, and there's fresh bread." Conrad waved Yuuri and Wolfram off, watching as they walked away, a wistful smile on his face.
"You can't follow him everywhere," Yosak reminded Conrad.
"No, but at least I know Wolfram will be at his side."
"Even if it's because he's trying to strangle him."
"You don't mind?" Yuuri asked again, still treading carefully around his prickly fiancé. "I didn't mean to take over, but I couldn't seem to help myself."
"Yosak's right, you have been around Gwendal too much." Wolfram gave Yuuri a measured look. "I suppose I can let you get away with it, this time. So long as you don't pull anything like this again. I can take care of myself."
"I know that." Yuuri reassured Wolfram stepping in close and almost touching him. "You're capable of taking care of both of us."
"I have to be. After all, you are a wimp."
"Then our engagement is a good thing." Yuuri leaned in a little closer, this time letting his arms gently embrace his fiancé. "Wolf."
"I suppose. But I…" Wolfram's body remained rigid, but his expression was soft.
"I already know about Mark."
"You do?" Wolfram was shocked. "How did…?"
"His name was on some of the lists for people to invite to royal functions. Gwendal was very specific to exclude him. The rest I pieced together from talking to different people."
"So you know how foolish I was." Wolfram looked down, but Yuuri used that as an excuse to kiss the top of his head.
"I know that you were young and trusting and he cheated on you." Yuuri tried to make the statement simple, without pity. Wolfram hated pity more than anything.
"It wasn't just that. I trusted him to be my first and he betrayed me. That fact that he left me for a woman just made it worse."
"I'm not like him. You know that, right?" Yuuri was holding Wolfram now, aware of how vulnerable the blond was after the exhausting events of the last few days. He had no intentions of pushing things with Wolfram – neither of them were ready – but it was very nice just to hold him.
"I suppose we should get ready for supper." Wolfram sighed and pulled away gently. "Conrad's got the work schedule and supply lists ready. He wants to get an early start. My uncle's men and supplies should be arriving by the end of the week. We have to be ready for them."
"I'm glad you're letting everyone help, Wolf. This place is going to be amazing. Not that I don't like it the way it is now, but… " Yuuri shrugged and started to change, mind busy with a million things. He stopped abruptly, mid-change and turned to his fiancé. "Hey Wolf? Will you be painting this whole place?"
"Most of it, why? Do you have a color in mind?"
"Well it is called Emerald Villa."
"I'm not having the house painted to match my eyes." Wolfram gave Yuuri a glare just to emphasize how ridiculous Yuuri was to even suggest such a thing.
"I guess you're right." Yuuri finally conceded.
"I'm always right," Wolfram reminded him. "And you're still a wimp."
"Wolf!" Yuuri's protest was heard all the way to the kitchen.