The Fountain and the Well

Disclaimer: Kyou Kara Maou is the property of creator Tomo Takabayashi and licensor Geneon Entertainment, Inc.

Author's Note: This is an edited version of the story. The original version, which includes NC-17 materials, can be found my accessing my Fanfiction LiveJournal – information is on my profile page.

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Selflessness does not come easy in love. It may appear easy when, in those early moments of euphoria that a new love creates, it is second nature to place your partner's feelings above your own. That is the first cruelty of love – it lets us taste that elation only fleetingly, only to snatch it way and offer us the harsh reality of the substantially more ordinary world, which seems all the more mundane in comparison.

However, it is at this point that you have the opportunity to create a love so fulfilling that it can surpass even the most fanciful expectations, a love so deep and profound that you never realized you were capable of it. All that is needed is to make a choice: a choice to treasure your partner's happiness as much as your own. To make such a choice is to ask much of yourself, so much that it at times seems impossible…that is the second cruelty of love. And even if you are able to make that choice, the third cruelty is that, no matter how much you wish it were so, you can not make that choice for your partner.

To counter that third cruelty requires two things: patience and faith. It was for lack of these qualities that many assumed that Wolfram von Bielefelt would never win his fiancé's love. Fortunately, it turns out that patience and faith are traits that tend to emerge when one wants something deeply enough.

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The day that Greta became engaged, nobody was more shocked than Wolfram. This wasn't because he'd been living in some ridiculous world of denial in which his precious daughter stayed seven years old forever, or because he was under the false impression that she needed him too much to go off and begin a new life for herself. Wolfram was no starry-eyed romantic; he knew that one day Greta would marry and have a family of her own. That was reality, and there was no use denying it.

Wolfram could find so reason to dislike the boy either, in spite of some statements he had made when Greta was still a child that he would ignite the clothing of anyone so brazen as to court his daughter. Lord Hallem, a half-Mazoku who was distantly related to one of the noble families in the kingdom, was a fine man; there was no disputing that. He had courted Greta properly, and asked for her hand by offering both the traditional Mazoku slap and a ring, which was a practice customary in human engagements.

So the reason that Wolfram was shocked had nothing to do with any childish refusal to admit that Greta was now nearly eighteen and a very grown up young lady, nor was it due to disapproval of her chosen fiancé. And, no matter what rumors were circulating within the castle, Wolfram's irritation was most certainly not due to the fact that he still, after ten long years, was waiting for Yuuri to announce their wedding date. It was because, prior to the announcement of her engagement to young Lord Hallem, Greta hadn't shown any romantic interest in the boy at all.

She had been polite and gracious about Hallem's advances, of course; Greta had no desire to be unkind, but it was obvious from the beginning that Greta was merely trying not to hurt him. And as much as it pained him, Wolfram knew exactly how it looked when one partner was being indulgent of the other in an effort to spare their feelings. The look on Greta's face as she had told Wolfram of her engagement reminded him of so many moments over the last ten years that he wanted nothing more than to forget.

Yuuri's sixteenth birthday was a proud day for the kingdom, but it was a prouder day for Wolfram. He stood beside his betrothed, standing straight and tall as the Maou's new seal was unveiled. Yuuri seemed more anxious about the occasion than anything else, but that was hardly uncommon; the nerves would pass soon enough, once he realized what it meant.

Today was the day that Yuuri was officially an adult, and that meant that Wolfram could finally stop waiting. At long last, they could get married. It was only a matter of days before they would announce their wedding date, Wolfram knew, and so he had broached the subject as soon as the formalities were over and the two of them were alone together, walking to their room to retire for the night.

Yuuri's reaction, though, had been far from what Wolfram had expected.

"Do we have to talk about this now?" Yuuri asked in a nervous voice.

Wolfram gave a quiet huff. "Well when, exactly, would you like to discuss it? You're sixteen now; it's expected that we'll be married soon."

Yuuri gave Wolfram a sidelong glance and sighed. "Come on, Wolfram. This is just a misunderstanding…I've told you that," he said cautiously, looking as if he were preparing to run off at any moment.

"We're engaged and I want to get married. In what way is there a misunderstanding?" Wolfram said with as much patience as he could manage, which, considering his rapidly growing irritation, was quite a feat.

"Well, it's just…I mean…we're both guys!" Yuuri declared, giving Wolfram a look as if that awkward and nonsensical statement were supposed to explain everything. He truly was hopeless at times.

Wolfram opened his mouth to inform his fiancé exactly how absurd he was being, but he never got the chance.

"Can't we just…forget the whole thing?" Yuuri said quickly.

"You want me to just forget that we are betrothed? What kind of sense does that make?" Wolfram snapped, coming to an abrupt halt in the middle of the corridor. He crossed his arms against his chest as Yuuri stopped as well, half-turning to glance tentatively at Wolfram over his shoulder.

"Okay, okay," he said in a soft, patronizing tone that Wolfram found equally as irritating as his wimpy antics. "I'm sorry. Just pretend I never said anything." Then he turned and resumed his walk down the corridor, putting the conversation off for another time.

It was that moment when, for the first time, Wolfram began to realize just how Yuuri really felt about their engagement. He hadn't thought of it at the time, though; he had simply shaken his head and murmured to himself about what a child Yuuri was, and then he'd followed Yuuri to their room.

Wolfram knew that he probably should have taken steps to dissolve the engagement in the years since, but it was a matter of duty. Of honor. He was chosen as the Maou's fiancé, and he would fulfill his responsibilities. And, although he couldn't admit it at the time, Wolfram hadn't been ready to let Yuuri go. Even if he could admit it now, Wolfram still wasn't certain that he could actually face it.

He had told himself that he would wait forever for Yuuri. There were many times, over the years, when he wondered if that just might happen.

Many things had changed since then, but the one constant was that Wolfram loved Yuuri. Exactly what that meant for their engagement, though, had changed quite a lot. It might be only a fantasy that Yuuri would ever love him, but it wasn't something that he was prepared to dismiss – somehow, he felt that if he let go of it, the last ten years would have been meaningless.

Wolfram had no regrets about anything that had happened since Yuuri came into his life. But he could now, after ten years of waiting, see the past a bit more clearly, and he knew that it was his responsibility as a father to try and spare Greta from that pain.

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Yuuri leaned back in his chair and stared at his daughter over the perpetually growing stacks of paper that adorned his desk. He certainly wasn't going to be making a dent in his paperwork today; after all, his only daughter was engaged! There were announcements to send and plans to be made and congratulations to be offered, which is why he had called Greta to see him in the first place.

Strangely, though, Greta didn't seem nearly as excited as Yuuri imagined that a newly engaged woman should be. In fact, out of everyone in the castle, she was probably the least interested in discussing it. Even when Yuuri had suggested that he invite Hallem's parents for dinner at the castle tonight, Greta had waved the suggestion off with a matter-of-fact comment that it was unnecessary and that Yuuri needn't go to the trouble.

"Greta, I'm only saying that I want to meet Hallem's family," Yuuri said patiently, trying once again to get Greta to show some enthusiasm. "Don't you two want your parents to get to know each other?"

Greta's only response was a noncommittal noise and a slight shrug. Yuuri eyed her suspiciously, wondering what could possibly be bothering her. Wasn't a woman in her situation supposed to be giggling and squealing or something?

"Oh, Your Majesty, you're so wise!" Günter said, a look of adoration on his face.

Yuuri grinned; after so long, he was rather used to Günter's dramatic way of expressing himself. "Thank you, Günter. It's nice to know that someone thinks so," Yuuri replied with a pointed glance at Greta.

Greta shifted in her seat, twisting her waist-length hair around two of her fingers, something she only did when she was nervous. "You're making far too much of a fuss, Father. I don't see what the big deal is."

Yuuri's jaw dropped open and he stared incredulously at Greta. "Big deal? You're engaged! That is a very big deal, and I want to make sure that Hallem and his family feel welcome here." Yuuri turned to Günter, his decision made; even if Greta was acting strange, it was the right thing to do to invite her future in-laws for an introduction. "Please extend a dinner invitation for this evening," he told Günter in the official-sounding tone that he had long ago learned would put an end to most debates.

"Right away, Your Majesty!" Günter replied with a nod. He turned and walked out of Yuuri's office, probably to start planning a twenty-course banquet to welcome Yuuri's guests.

"Since when do you consider an engagement to be a big deal?" Greta murmured, making a sour face as she continued to stare unflinchingly at the floor.

Yuuri blinked, unused to having his daughter speak to him in such a manner. "What's that supposed to mean?" he asked, more out of guilt than a lack of understanding.

"Never mind," Greta replied as she rose from her seat and started toward the door. "I'll go tell Hallem what our dinner plans are." Then she left, quietly shutting the door behind her.

Yuuri stared after her for a moment, wondering why Greta appeared to be thinking more about Yuuri's engagement than her own. It was something that Greta was generally sensitive about, but Yuuri had no idea why it would be the focus of her attention right now. Greta had always been a bit defensive about her two fathers' engagement, but Yuuri had never been willing to discuss it with her…or almost anyone else, for that matter.

"Yuuri, would you care to explain yourself?" Wolfram demanded as he pulled Yuuri out of the ballroom by this elbow. He slammed the door closed on the noise from the waltz and the crowd of the party that was, mercifully, finally winding down.

"W-what?" Yuuri asked, his hands already raised in a defensive gesture, even though he wasn't entirely certain what he'd done wrong. But with Wolfram standing there, giving Yuuri that accusing glare with his hands firmly planted on his hips, Yuuri knew that it must have been something.

Wolfram gave a light snort, as if offended even further by the fact that Yuuri had no idea what he was talking about. "Was it really necessary to dance with every single woman in the room?" he demanded.

"I didn't have a choice! I couldn't be rude," Yuuri explained. He knew better than to think that would pacify Wolfram, but it was the truth.

"Rude, you say?" Wolfram retorted, eyes flashing in anger. "Well, if you're so concerned about other people's feelings, what about mine? You being seen flirting so openly with all those women disgraces me as your fiancé. Everyone was saying so…" Wolfram turned away then, but not before Yuuri saw that he was truly hurt. He might have been acting angry, but after two years Yuuri could tell jealous anger from well-concealed pain.

"Wolfram…" Yuuri said gently, moving to lay a hand on Wolfram's shoulder. He didn't much care what everyone said, but he also never thought that his dancing with all those women might hurt Wolfram like this.

To Yuuri's surprise, Wolfram shrugged away from his touch. "Forget it," he said as he began to walk down the hall, his tone half angry and half resigned.

Yuuri stood there for a moment, watching Wolfram walk away. Part of him wanted to go after Wolfram, to apologize over and over and say whatever was necessary to make things better. But the rest of him, the part that knew exactly what he could say to make things better, convinced him to walk back into the ballroom.

Yuuri rubbed his forehead for a moment, trying to think of a way that he could help Greta through whatever was bothering her. The more he thought about it, though, the more Yuuri became convinced that Greta was equally as concerned with his engagement as she was with her own, and that was a rather uncomfortable idea.

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It wasn't too difficult for Wolfram to find Hallem – he was rather conspicuous in the middle of a raucous group of soldiers and noblemen. They were wishing him well as only young men can do, and that meant a substantial amount of noise. The crowd parted as Wolfram approached, many of them nodding respectfully as he passed.

"I suppose that congratulations are in order," Wolfram said sincerely.

"Thank you, Your Excellency," Hallem replied, giving Wolfram a wide smile. The rest of the group dispersed quickly, probably knowing that playtime was over now that Greta's father was around.

Wolfram motioned toward a bench that was nearby, and followed as Hallem began to walk toward it. "I wanted to speak to you about the engagement, Hallem."

Hallem nodded as he took a seat on the bench beside Wolfram. "Is this where you tell me that if I ever hurt your little girl, you'll arrange for my slow and painful death?" he said, his serious tone contradicting the joy in his eyes.

Wolfram smiled in spite of himself. "No, nothing that dramatic. I know you would never hurt Greta…" He stopped, leaving his thought unfinished. He wasn't quite sure how to say what he needed to say, and he certainly didn't want to create any problems.

"Ah," Hallem began in with a nod of understanding. "So you're concerned about the fact that Greta doesn't love me."

Wolfram gave Hallem a surprised glance…he hadn't expected him to be so matter-of-fact about it. He couldn't help but have some respect for Hallem for being able to be so honest with himself.

"I may not be as experienced with women as some people, but I'm not blind," Hallem continued. "I know that she doesn't love me in the way that I love her."

"If you're aware of it, then why did you propose?" Wolfram asked, hoping that Hallem wouldn't say what Wolfram knew that he probably was going to say.

"I know that she doesn't love me yet, but I can be patient."

Wolfram sighed; that was the answer he had feared. "Hallem…" he began, his muscles tensing just a bit. He knew what he should say, but actually saying it was quite another matter.

Hallem looked at Wolfram with determination in his eyes. "Please believe me, Your Excellency. I'll wait forever for her if I must; she's the one I love."

Wolfram looked at Greta's fiancé and felt a strange mixture of sympathy and annoyance. On one hand, Greta deserved better than to feel forced into a marriage to a man that she didn't love. On the other, Wolfram could certainly understand being willing to wait for the one you loved, even when the only thing that kept you moving forward was the hope of someday having your feelings reciprocated.

Wolfram hated having to do this, but he was at the end of his rope. Everything he did, every gesture he made for Yuuri, had been useless, and he was at a loss as to what else he could possibly do to help his wimp of a fiancé to see how much Wolfram loved him. It was an act of desperation, but that was all that he had left. So, after swallowing a rather large amount of pride, Wolfram had managed to ask Conrad, through his clenched teeth, what more he could do to bring Yuuri to his senses.

Thankfully, Conrad had refrained from any comment other than to answer the question. "Wolfram, I don't think that there's anything you can do but wait."

Wolfram huffed, trying to hold on to some semblance of dignity. "What do you mean, wait? I've been waiting for four years, and it's gotten me nowhere."

"Love is something that can't be forced," Conrad said. He made it sound so maddeningly reasonable.

"Then, what? I'm supposed to spend my life waiting for him to stop being a wimp? I'll grow old and die before that happens."

"Give him time, Wolfram," Conrad replied in a compassionate tone that made Wolfram want to strike him. "He'll come around, but he's just not ready yet."

Wolfram turned away from his brother and stormed off, his disappointment overshadowing his humiliation. It was days later, after the embarrassment and sting of Conrad's words had faded a bit, that Wolfram was finally able to consider what he had said. Wolfram hadn't wanted to keep waiting, but what choice had he? He'd just have to keep trying, and hope that one day Yuuri would grow up. It took a lot of convincing to dampen down the part of himself that was worried that if Yuuri wasn't ready after four whole years of engagement, then he'd never be ready.

Wolfram knew what he should tell Hallem, but he didn't want to have to say the words. If he was honest, it would mean that he'd have to give up his own hopes of one day seeing love in Yuuri's eyes. That hope had brought him through ten years, and he didn't know if he could keep going once it was gone.

However, in the end, Wolfram's concern for his daughter won out over his fear of losing that hope. He didn't want Greta to go through that pain if he could prevent it. "Hallem, you have no idea what kind of pain that will cause…not only for you, but for Greta. She does care about you, and she'd be hurt every day by knowing that she can't love you back," he said, trying to hide the thickness in his voice.

"I know that one day she'll love me," he said softly. "If I can be with Greta, I'll take that risk."

Wolfram nodded sadly, not surprised by Hallem's answer. After all, he'd said those same words to himself enough over the years to know exactly how it felt to say them. He had long ago resigned himself to the fact that he'd be saying those words, over and over, until either he won Yuuri's love, or the words ceased to be of comfort. Neither had happened yet.

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Yuuri parried Conrad's attack with some difficulty, but managed not to break form. After ten years, he had gotten much better with a sword, but had long ago accepted that he would probably never be able to come close to Conrad's skill level. But that didn't matter; practicing together gave Yuuri time to decompress, and talking with Conrad always gave him a much-needed focus.

As usual, today's practice wasn't so much about swordplay as it was about Yuuri's need to get some things off of his chest – specifically, the situation with Greta.

"I just don't get it, Conrad," Yuuri said, a bit out of breath. "Greta's acting like I shouldn't even acknowledge her engagement. My daughter is engaged, and she just seems to want to ignore it!" Yuuri lunged forward, shifting his weight when Conrad easily avoided his attack.

"Perhaps she's a bit uncomfortable with the idea," Conrad suggested as he blocked Yuuri's sword in another effortless motion.

Yuuri took a moment to consider that as he paused to catch his breath. "Well, I know she was never crazy about Hallem before, but if she agreed to marry him something must have changed, right?" Yuuri glanced at Conrad, knowing that Conrad could probably sense his discomfort no matter how he tried to hide it. Yuuri didn't want to believe that Greta's problem had more to do with him and Wolfram that it did with her own engagement, but if that was the case, he didn't want to be kept in the dark about it.

He wasn't really surprised when Conrad didn't answer. As much as Conrad helped Yuuri, he sometimes had trouble being completely honest when he thought that Yuuri was mistaken about something. It was all a part of Conrad's unending loyalty, but Yuuri valued Conrad's opinion enough to want to hear it, be it dissention or agreement.

Yuuri smiled wryly, letting Conrad know that he wasn't fooled for a moment. "Conrad, I've known you long enough to know when you have something more to say, so come out with it."

"Very well," Conrad conceded with a sigh. "Have you considered that Greta might be trying to spare Hallem's feelings?"

Yuuri swallowed nervously, knowing what Conrad was probably thinking but was far too kind to voice: that Greta was putting up with an engagement that she didn't want to avoid being cruel, just as Yuuri had been doing with Wolfram. But the situation with him and Wolfram was…different. In the beginning, yes, Yuuri had just been trying to avoid hurting his friend's feelings, but now, it was so much more complicated than that. He hadn't been able to put his finger on it in all these years, but he knew without a doubt that it wasn't as simple as everyone thought it was.

"But why would she need to do that?" Yuuri asked. "He's a wonderful person, and it's obvious that he loves her very much. Why would she accept the engagement if she didn't feel the same?" He already suspected what Conrad's answer might be, but Yuuri wanted to hear it for himself.

"Love isn't always as simple as we like to think it is. Sometimes, even when you love someone as a person, the attraction just isn't there."

Yuuri nodded numbly. He knew exactly what Conrad was saying, but that wasn't why the statement made him uncomfortable.

"Okay, that's enough for today," Wolfram told Yuuri as he sheathed his sword. Yuuri took a bit of perverse comfort in seeing that Wolfram was a somewhat winded.

"Thanks for practicing with me," Yuuri said in between heavy intakes of breath, "I don't want my skills to dwindle while Conrad's out on patrol."

Wolfram rolled his eyes in an irreverent gesture. "Your skills need more improvement than I can give in a few practices. I suspect that Conrad's been going easy on you." With that, he reached up to slip his cravat off his neck and began to unbutton his jacket and shirt, both of which were a bit damp with perspiration.

Yuuri could only stare as Wolfram nonchalantly unbuttoned his shirt and slid it off his shoulders, and then shook it a few times as if to dry it. The thin sheen of sweat on Wolfram's skin made it seem radiant, the muscled contours of his chest and stomach accentuated by the way that the light and shadow pooled against him. The dampened fringe of his hair clung to his neck and forehead, much like the way that his trousers perfectly skimmed the skin underneath.

He really was perfect.

It was several moments before Yuuri realized what he was thinking, and felt himself blush as he quickly looked away. He shook his head hard, trying to clear his mind. Getting all flustered because of something so stupid was beyond insane, especially for someone who wasn't attracted to other guys. He was being ridiculous; he'd seen Wolfram without a shirt on many times, and they'd been in the bath together more often than Yuuri cared to admit. Wolfram slept next to him in a pink nightgown that was practically see-through, for goodness' sake!

But, somehow, that moment was different than all those other times. Yuuri didn't know if it was because they had been fighting together or what, but he definitely felt something different…like a twinge in his stomach.

It was only after a few days of having himself repeatedly checked for a fever and hallucinations that Yuuri had been able to admit that in that moment, he had been attracted to Wolfram. He had brushed it off as a one-time fluke occurrence, but that reasoning had only appeased him until it happened again.

Conrad was definitely right; attraction wasn't as simple as it was often made out to be. If it were, then Yuuri would have been able to figure things out long ago – even if he no longer bothered to deny his attraction, it was like he was waiting for something...more.

What right did he have to meddle in Greta's engagement, when he couldn't even make a decision about his own?

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Wolfram walked down the looming corridors of the castle, intent upon finding his fiancé and having a very serious discussion about their daughter's engagement. Even though neither Hallem nor Greta were willing to face reality and call things off, something could still be done – tradition dictated that when royalty were involved, the would-be bride's parents had the right to annul the engagement if they found the potential mate to be unsuitable.

"Did you see the princess today? She looks as if she were preparing for a funeral rather than her own engagement celebration."

"She may be adopted, but she certainly takes after His Majesty. Only the two of them could be so intent upon keeping up a farcical engagement."

"I'll bet you that Greta marries her fiancé before His Majesty does."

The two gossiping servants spotted Wolfram, and quickly stopped speaking. He glared at them as he passed and they bowed politely, but no sooner had he turned the corner then he heard snickering behind him.

Wolfram was hardly shocked to hear people talking about him. It was always this way, ever since Yuuri had become the Maou…gossip and rumors circulating about how Yuuri would never follow through with his engagement. Wolfram had spent ten years pretending not to hear them.

"Did you hear? His Majesty is entertaining the proposal of noblewoman's young daughter! She's due to arrive at any moment!"

When Wolfram had woken up this morning, he had found the entire castle buzzing with the news that Yuuri was about to become engaged to someone else. The news had frightened Wolfram more than he ever could have thought possible…was Yuuri actually going to betray and disgrace him, right under his very nose? Wolfram hadn't wanted to believe it, but he knew that castle rumors often carried at least a hint of truth.

So he had sought out Yuuri, and insisted upon an explanation immediately. The shamefaced way that Yuuri averted his eyes had instantly told Wolfram that it was true, all of it.

"So it's true, then?" Wolfram demanded through clenched teeth, certain that his face was red with anger.

Yuuri winced at Wolfram's tone, but didn't bother to deny it. "Wolfram, it's not what you think. I just invited them for dinner…"

"…for a conversation about your betrothal to her daughter, conveniently avoiding the fact that you're already engaged!"

"Calm down, okay? I'll cancel it, if it bothers you that much."

Wolfram balled his hands into tight fists; he didn't need any pity from anyone, least of all the person who was betraying him. "Don't change your plans on my account, Yuuri. You never have before, so why should I expect any different now? Enjoy your dinner party, you scheming, underhanded wimp!" Then he turned and stalked out of Yuuri's office, slamming the door so hard that the whole castle probably heard, and not caring in the slightest.

Wolfram hadn't been all that surprised when Yuuri cancelled the visit; it was so like Yuuri to act out of guilt. That was the last time that Wolfram heard any rumors of Yuuri considering a proposal from anyone else.

Rumors were much a part of life in the castle as politics and training and state dinners. Wolfram had grown up hearing the servants and guests talk about his mother, how she was promiscuous and careless; and then he had heard his own life being warped into a mockery in order to fulfill people's need to gossip. He was used to being the subject of such rumors, and it no longer inspired his anger as it once did – but he was not going to let the same thing happen to Greta.

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Yuuri leaned against the edge of the bath, his sigh resonating throughout the huge tiled room. He knew that Wolfram was looking for him; Günter had said as much. Yuuri knew that Wolfram probably wanted to talk about Greta's engagement, but for some reason, Yuuri just didn't want to discuss it with him.

The last time Yuuri had avoided Wolfram like this had been almost four years ago, the last time he had considered entertaining someone else's proposal. He wondered if there was some significance to that.

Wolfram stormed off and slammed the door behind him, leaving Yuuri with a shocked expression and the word 'wimp' still ringing in his ears. Wolfram had called him that for nearly six and a half years, but it had never cut quite so deeply as it did right now – perhaps because, this time, Yuuri knew that it was true.

He was a wimp. All of those justifications that Yuuri had firmly in mind a few moments ago – that he was just avoiding hurting Wolfram's feelings or that it was just a dinner and not really anything serious – had completely evaporated, and the only thing Yuuri could think was that it would take the worst kind of coward to invite a woman here behind Wolfram's back.

He hadn't meant to hurt Wolfram – but, despite Yuuri's best intentions, that was always what ended up happening. It was like he was constantly looking for some sign, any indication of what he should do, but it never came. Yuuri wasn't even sure that he would know a sign if he saw it. Why couldn't he just be a man and make a decision?

Yuuri sat at his desk and cradled his head in his hands. He didn't have any idea what he was going to do. There was one thing that, from that day on, he knew beyond a doubt: he didn't have the strength to break the engagement. But he hadn't yet found the strength to accept it, either.

It had been years since then, and that was the last time that Yuuri had seriously considered breaking his engagement to Wolfram. Ever since, he had always found too many reasons not to do it. The reason varied day by day, but there was always at least one reason that Yuuri deemed worthy enough to justify maintaining the status quo. He had told himself that he owed it to Wolfram to at least sever their engagement before entertaining another proposal, but, despite the fact that he got letters almost weekly from noblewomen trying to convince Yuuri to meet their very beautiful and eligible daughters, Yuuri hadn't considered even one of them.

With each letter, Yuuri had come up with a different reason why he couldn't break his engagement yet...for Greta's sake, or because he didn't want to upset Conrad by hurting his brother, or because he wasn't ready to lose Wolfram's friendship. Eventually, he had run out of reasons and just started throwing the letters into the fire, unread. He had no idea when, but somewhere along the line Yuuri had stopped trying to tell himself that it was for Wolfram's sake that he was burning the letters, and admitted that he just didn't want to break the engagement.

He would not, however, let himself admit the reason why. Perhaps it was time to consider what that reason was.

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"I've been looking for you," Wolfram told Yuuri as he settled down next to him on the bench that overlooked the gardens. Yuuri often came here when he needed to think.

"Me too," Yuuri said, giving Wolfram a glance out of the corner of his eye.

"You spoke to Greta?" Wolfram asked, not knowing exactly where to begin. This whole mess was drudging up feelings that were making everything seem so fragile, like the slightest movement in the wrong direction would disrupt the balance that it had taken him and Yuuri ten years to create.

"Yeah," Yuuri said with a sigh. "She's not…as excited as I would have thought she'd be."

Wolfram nodded. "That's because she doesn't love him. And he seems to know it, as well." Wolfram focused on the view of the gardens, not letting himself look at Yuuri. He had to have this conversation, and he could not let it become about their engagement rather than Greta's.

"So, what can we do?" Yuuri wondered.

"You could refuse the proposal. It's your prerogative as the Maou." Wolfram knew that Yuuri would not want to do something like that, but he hoped that he could make Yuuri understand that it was necessary.

Yuuri looked at Wolfram, shocked. "Why would I do that?"

"Because she doesn't love him," Wolfram said firmly. "She shouldn't be engaged to someone she doesn't love." Those last words were said with a tone of bitterness that Wolfram hadn't intended to use, but there was nothing to be done about it. Ten years of frustration was not easily hidden.

Yuuri paused, and Wolfram thought that he saw a measure of guilt on Yuuri's face. "Who are we to order her to give up something that she wants?"

"Aren't you listening? She doesn't want it! She's only keeping it going to spare his feelings! I can't believe that Yuuri, the world's most sentimental wimp, is willing to let his daughter waste away in a loveless marriage!"

There was another pause before Yuuri spoke again. "How do you know that?" he asked softly.

"Know what?" Wolfram demanded, hardly able to believe how obtuse Yuuri was being.

"That it'll be a loveless marriage."

For a moment, Wolfram couldn't say anything. It seemed like every muscle in his body tensed as he sat silently next to his fiancé, hardly able to believe that Yuuri had the gall to ask him that question. Of all the things in the world Yuuri could have asked, why had he chosen the one that he should damn well know the answer to?

For the first time in a long time, Wolfram had no idea what to say. He watched and listened as Yuuri sat on their bed, slouched in a posture of utter defeat as he described to Wolfram how the group of rebellious humans had finally made good on their threats to burn border villages if Yuuri refused to give in to their demands.

"I wasn't able to do anything, Wolfram," Yuuri whispered, not bothering to wipe away the tears that ran freely down his face. "I failed them."

Before he had time to consider what he was doing, Wolfram had crossed the room and taken his fiancé in his arms. "No," he said, his voice somehow less steady than he had meant it to be, "you did everything you could. They were asking the impossible."

Yuuri let his head slump against Wolfram's chest as if he weren't able to hold it up for another moment. "I promised," he murmured in a broken voice. "I promised that I'd never let anything happen to them."

"I know," Wolfram said softly as he ran his fingers through Yuuri's hair. It felt so amazing, having Yuuri in his arms, being able to hold Yuuri tightly against him and press his check against Yuuri's hair. As Yuuri wound his arms around Wolfram, clinging to him desperately, Wolfram found himself filled with a warm, inviting feeling of gratitude.

Wolfram knew that he shouldn't feel that way; he shouldn't have gotten pleasure out of comforting Yuuri when he was so miserable. Later, Wolfram would feel petty about being so selfish in that moment as to use Yuuri's guilt to ease his own wounded heart. But as the night passed and Yuuri made no move to shy away from his touch…right or wrong, Wolfram had no choice but to embrace it.

In the end, Wolfram didn't respond to Yuuri's question. "Please, Yuuri. Just break the engagement," he said, telling himself that the hint of pleading in his voice wasn't for himself, but for Greta.

Yuuri winced; whether at Wolfram's tone or his words, Wolfram couldn't say. "I…can't do that, Wolfram."

"Yuuri, we can't let this go on. We can't let Greta go through this," Wolfram tried.

Yuuri shook his head sadly. "It's not our choice to make. If Greta asks me to refuse the proposal, then I will. But otherwise, I think we need to let her make this choice for herself."

Wolfram felt tightness in his chest as a wave of anger washed over him. "You're being ridiculous. We have a responsibility to her."

"Maybe she knows exactly what she's doing, Wolfram," Yuuri said, his voice nearly a whisper. "Maybe she doesn't want the engagement to be broken."

Wolfram knew that his knuckles were probably white from grasping the rim of the bench so hard…it wasn't right for Yuuri to say that, not after everything that had happened between them. "I won't accept that," he said determinedly. He rose from the bench and began to walk away, adding, under his breath, "not from you."

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Yuuri watched as Wolfram walked away from him, feeling completely helpless. He had thought that he was finally getting some clarity and certainty about Wolfram, but after that conversation he didn't feel certain at all. It felt like Wolfram wanted Yuuri to break their engagement. After all this time, he wanted to just…give up.

Yuuri couldn't do that. It would mean losing one of the most important people in his life, and he just couldn't do it. He wasn't completely sure, however, as to what he should do. Everything that happened that seemed like it would bring him and Wolfram to an understanding only ever ended up driving them further apart.

Yuuri gasped as he was jolted awake suddenly, yanked out of a dream that he couldn't quite remember. It had definitely been something sexual, though, because he could still feel that heat flowing through him, his skin hypersensitive to the brush of his pajamas against it.

Yuuri kicked off the sheets and shifted his weight, trying to find a suitable position, when he was interrupted by a soft, husky voice.

"Did you have a good dream, Yuuri?" He looked over and came face to face with a pair of green eyes that had obviously seen too much.

"Wolfram!" he hissed, shocked and humiliated to be seen this way, "what are you doing here? Get out of my room!" Yuuri quickly rolled onto his right side, facing away from Wolfram and hoping that he would just leave. He hadn't protested about Wolfram being in his room in a long time, but he didn't know if he could, in this state, manage to calm down with the warmth of another body lying next to him.

Yuuri almost panicked as he felt Wolfram settle down behind him and an arm reaching around him, pulling their bodies together. "Don't be shy, Yuuri. We're engaged," Wolfram whispered as his hand drifted down Yuuri's chest and stomach, his fingers teasingly soft.

"Wolfram, what…?" Yuuri began, only to be silenced as a finger pressed against his lips.

"Shh," Wolfram whispered, his tone half soothing and half seductive. Yuuri opened his mouth, presumably to protest, but in that moment Wolfram pressed against him from behind. Yuuri shuddered as his desire peaked, and the only noise he made was to gasp as Wolfram's fingers trailed a slow path down his chest.

Yuuri felt his hips moving, thrusting, wanting Wolfram to touch him. Wolfram's fingers were so warm against him, and Yuuri wanted nothing more than to feel them on his skin. Yuuri could feel his pulse thudding through his entire body all at once.

Wolfram rolled Yuuri on to his back, stroking in long, slow motions and making Yuuri dizzy. Wolfram shifted, pulling his hand away and moving to lie atop Yuuri, burying his face against Yuuri's neck. Yuuri felt Wolfram panting and then gasping as he began to move, grinding deliberately against Yuuri in a swift but awkward motion.

Yuuri gasped, his arm wrapping around Wolfram to hold him in place. Wolfram panted against Yuuri's neck as he moved faster, harder, his rhythm becoming more even. Yuuri moved with him, clumsily thrusting upward into the warmth of Wolfram's body. Wolfram's hip, or his stomach, was rubbing against him, but it didn't matter which because it was almost right, almost there, just a little more...

Release came suddenly during a brief moment when their movements were in perfect harmony, and then there was a surge of indescribable pleasure that resonated through him, so intense that it echoed through every nerve. He felt rather than heard the choked sob against his neck and Wolfram tensed, pressing hard against Yuuri and moving in slow, shallow thrusts as he rode out his climax.

Yuuri groaned as he felt dampness against his groin and his hip, and a humid stickiness where Wolfram had been breathing against him. Wolfram pulled back and looked at Yuuri, eyes lidded and lips parted as his breathing began to even out. Yuuri could feel his eyes widening in shock as he looked down at their bodies, the wetness on their nightclothes, and fully realized what had happened.

Yuuri could only stare, he couldn't believe what he had just done, and with another guy – not just another guy, with Wolfram.

"Yuuri?" Wolfram asked, his voice almost timid as he moved off of Yuuri.

Yuuri felt his body tense and begin to shake…what was he thinking? How could he do this? "I…I think I should go take a bath," Yuuri murmured, feeling like he might be sick.

Wolfram was staring at him, but Yuuri couldn't look at him. He got up and left quickly, grabbing a robe on his way out the door to cover the stain.

It wasn't until he was settled in the bath that Yuuri was able to calm down and think about what happened. It wasn't the smartest thing he had ever done, but at least that nagging question that had been in the back of his mind for all these years was partially answered. He wasn't certain what to do, still, but at least he was a little bit closer to whatever he was searching for.

When Yuuri returned to their room, however, Wolfram was gone.

That had been nearly six months ago. Wolfram had continued to share Yuuri's bed after that, but had neither mentioned it nor touched Yuuri since, a fact which brought Yuuri both regret and relief. After a few days of wondering what the whole thing meant, he had tried to convince himself that it wasn't Wolfram's touch specifically that had made him react that way, and that anyone's touch would have done the same. After a time, though, Yuuri began to notice that even touching himself felt unfulfilling compared to when Wolfram had touched him.

Even more distressing to Yuuri was that, since that night, Wolfram had been so distant. It was as if after that night, they seemed that much farther apart since they now knew exactly what closeness they were missing.

Yuuri wanted that closeness back. But he wasn't sure that he wanted to do what he knew it would take to get it.

But wasn't that the problem – that Yuuri was always waiting for some feeling of total certainty, and was paralyzed by doubt in the absence of it? What if that feeling…didn't exist? Or, what if it would only come after his choice was made?

He rose from the bench, intent upon finding Wolfram. They needed to talk…and not about Greta, not about Earth views on relationships between guys and not about what the castle rumors thought the odds were of them marrying. They needed to, for the first time since they had known each other, talk about them.

Yuuri knew exactly where Wolfram had been going when he left, and so he was easy to find. He was standing beside their daughter, a solemn expression on his face as he tried to convince her to call off her engagement.

"Greta, it's hurtful to be with someone who doesn't love you," Wolfram was saying. "The only honorable thing for you to do is to call it off." Yuuri heard the pain behind Wolfram's voice as he spoke.

"But I don't want to call it off," Greta explained. She looked nervous, as if she didn't want to have to explain to Wolfram. Yuuri could understand that…Greta didn't want to hurt her father any more than she wanted to hurt her fiancé.

Yuuri walked over to them. "I understand, Greta," he said. Both Wolfram and Greta turned to him at the sound of his voice, Wolfram with a bit of a scowl on his face.

This wasn't going to be easy.

"You do?" Greta asked, her tone equal parts confused and hopeful.

Yuuri nodded. "Yes. And you don't have to cancel the engagement."

Yuuri glanced at Wolfram, who gave him a healthy glare before turning on his heel and stalking away. Yuuri stared after him, knowing exactly why he was upset, and promising himself that he would make things right with Wolfram as soon as he did so with Greta.

"Thank you," Greta said sincerely, making Yuuri look to her again.

"I should be thanking you, Greta. You seem to know what it took me ten years to realize: that love grows over time. I know that you two will be very happy together."

Greta looked at Yuuri a bit tentatively. "Does this mean that you're finally going to marry Daddy?" she asked, seeming almost afraid of the answer.

Yet another memory flashed in Yuuri's mind, this one only a week old. He had been in treaty negotiations all day with a resistant human leader, and things had not gone well. That night, he had sought Wolfram for comfort, just as he always did, and his pain was eased as he felt Wolfram's arms slowly come around him. Now he saw that moment through Wolfram's eyes, and he knew how heartrending it must have been for him to have to comfort Yuuri while knowing that his feelings were one-sided. But Wolfram hadn't turned Yuuri away, no matter how much easier it would have been for him; not in all these years.

Yuuri felt a soft smile come to his face. "Yes, Greta. I think it does."

Yuuri nearly feel backwards as Greta leapt into his arms, both laughing and crying. He wrapped his arms around her, feeling every bit as ecstatic as she did.

When Greta pulled back, she gave Yuuri a warm smile. Despite the tears still shining in her eyes, it was the one that he had been looking for all day. "I do love him, you know," she said, her voice filled with tender affection.

Yuuri returned the smile easily, knowing that he understood her feelings perfectly. "I know."

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"Wolfram!"

He heard Yuuri calling for him, but Wolfram didn't want to turn. He wanted to keep walking until the pain was gone.

But he couldn't; he could never turn away from Yuuri. So he turned to face his fiancé, and concentrated on keeping his voice even. "What is it now, Yuuri?"

Yuuri caught up to him quickly and gave Wolfram a meaningful look…exactly what meaning, he was uncertain. "I think Greta's doing the right thing by marrying Hallem."

Wolfram sighed. "Why am I not surprised? You live in a fairy tale, always thinking that everything's going to work out for the best. Well, you're wrong about this."

"I'm not wrong, and the proof is right here, with us!" Yuuri said insistently.

Wolfram stared at Yuuri incredulously. "What are you talking about, Yuuri? We've been engaged for ten years, and nothing has ever happened."

Yuuri looked directly into Wolfram's eyes, his expression filled with a determination that made Wolfram both anxious and confused. "Something has happened, I just didn't realize it before now."

"Yuuri, stop it," Wolfram said, not able to bear yet another moment of false hope. "You don't have to do this. I'll always be by your side, regardless of what happens between us. After all this time, I can finally let you go without hard feelings. So if you don't want to marry me, let me go."

"I can't," Yuuri said, his voice softer now, but no less earnest.

Wolfram blinked, wondering if Yuuri had really just said what Wolfram thought he'd said. "What?"

"I can't break the engagement. Maybe it was selfish of me to keep it going all this time, and I'm sorry that I hurt you. But something happened to me while I was waiting for some feeling of certainty, some sign of what to do: I fell in love with you."

And then, in between one heartbeat and the next, Yuuri was kissing him. Their lips met unevenly as both were pulled off balance, the contact breaking for an instant as Wolfram nearly pulled back in shock. He gasped as Yuuri's lips moved against his, awkwardly but full of feeling, and all Wolfram could think was how that was just so like Yuuri.

Wolfram leaned into Yuuri's kiss, parting his lips and finally tasting what he had been dreaming about for all these years. It was exactly like he had wished for, and nothing like he had expected…it was perfect, even the way that Yuuri's nose bumped against his and the way Yuuri's hand brushed tentatively against his hip. Their arms slowly wound around each other and their movements became more relaxed as they became accustomed to one another's touch, and Wolfram smiled against Yuuri's mouth as he knew that this wasn't just a kiss…it was the culmination of ten years of their lives, and it was worth every second of waiting.

Wolfram had always thought their relationship would begin with their first kiss, but now that it was happening, he knew that it wasn't true: their relationship began the day they met, and had grown stronger every day since. Because it had taken ten years to fully form didn't make their relationship less of a real love; it made it more so.

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The celebration dinner for Greta and Hallem was the lively affair that one would expect from an engagement party. Greta was all smiles as she accepted everyone's well-wishes, but Yuuri knew that her smile only showed a fraction of her joy.

He and Wolfram had decided not to discuss their changed relationship this evening; tonight was about Greta and her engagement. They had waited ten years, anyway, so a few more days could hardly hurt. But as Yuuri watched his fiancé greeting the guests and when their eyes would meet across the dinner table, he was glad that they hadn't chosen to announce anything yet. If they did, they might have been expected to act differently, and Yuuri didn't want anyone's expectations, including their own, to force them into something that wasn't what they wanted. Maybe that was why he had resisted admitting that he loved Wolfram for so long.

The evening was just winding down when Yuuri felt a tug on his jacket. He allowed Wolfram to pull him into one of the waiting rooms and push his back against the wall, pinning him between the cold stone and the warmth of Wolfram's body. Yuuri shivered in anticipation as he saw the hunger in Wolfram's eyes.

"I've been waiting for this," Wolfram said as he pushed his body more tightly against Yuuri's leaned in to kiss him with such passion that Yuuri felt his knees nearly buckle. He parted his lips, gasping when Wolfram's tongue slid over his bottom lip. Wolfram tugged at the fabric of Yuuri's shirt, pulling the hem from where it was tucked into Yuuri's trousers and slipping his hands beneath it. Yuuri shuddered as warm hands caressed the small of his back; the sensation of Wolfram's bare hands against his skin made his mind hazy with pleasure.

Yuuri parted his legs to allow Wolfram's thigh to push between them, wanting Wolfram to press against him as much as possible. He groaned as Wolfram's hands moved over his body, anywhere they could reach without needing the two of them to separate.

Wolfram broke the kiss suddenly and then smirked at the disappointed noise that Yuuri made. The next instant, Wolfram was kneeling down in front of Yuuri and pulling open the front of his trousers. Realizing what Wolfram intended to do, Yuuri almost protested. But as he looked down and met Wolfram's eyes, he realized that Wolfram wanted this as much for his own sake as for Yuuri's; this was Wolfram's way of asking for Yuuri's trust.

Yuuri's gaze softened as he looked down at his fiancé. "I've been waiting for this, too," he said, and it was the truth.

In the years to come, Yuuri would often reflect upon that night, the night that the castle rumor mill considered the official beginning of his engagement. Funny, Yuuri thought, how when he and Wolfram snuck off to be alone together the gossip had said that the two of them were "making up for lost time." That ten years wasn't lost at all; it was the formation of a love that was so much deeper for having taken so long to form.

Because they had spent so many years together, the transition from "I" to "we" was effortless and natural. Only after all that time could they find it within themselves to compromise, because they understood one another that well. And it was only because they'd spent so long falling in love that Yuuri managed not to swallow his tongue when, one morning over an otherwise normal breakfast, Wolfram nonchalantly declared that he wanted children.

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The hardest of all is learning to be a well of affection, and not a fountain; to show them we love them not when we feel like it, but when they do. - Nan Fairbrother

Comments and concrit are appreciated! Thanks for reading!