Yuuri blushed through the first half of dinner. Cecilie took great delight in teasing him, assuming it was the prospect of exerting his newly learned dancing skills with beautiful ladies that had him feeling embarrassed. Wolfram was suspiciously quiet, not reacting at all to her barbs. Conrad came to Yuuri's rescue after a while and the rest of the meal passed in casual conversation. Gunter was absent, but Gwendal's formidable presence made up for that. Yuuri was sure Gwendal took his blushing to be a result of that scene he had walked in on. Honestly, Yuuri was more shocked than embarrassed about that. Gwendal was so cold and restrained it was hard to match him up with the man he had walked in on. His brain simply refused to accept that Gwendal and kissing could go together. Passionate kissing. With groping. No, his brain couldn't make sense of what his eyes had seen. According to his brain, Gwendal in a relationship meant stiff formal gestures done grudgingly out of necessity. A partner of his would be lucky to get a kiss on the hand. It was far easier to imagine Conrad in a relationship. He would be warm and affectionate, like his dad except not as awkward. Really, it was strange that Conrad didn't have anyone. If Conrad's antisocial older brother could pin down a butterfly like Gunter then Conrad should have no trouble at all. Yuuri focused on that, absently following the conversation Conrad was having with Cecilie, until his blushing faded away. He was feeling comfortable and relaxed when dinner ended. Wolfram was quick to ruin that.

"Meditation or sparring," Wolfram scowled at him. "Pick one."

"We just sparred last night. I haven't had a flare up since!" Yuuri didn't see how sparring now would do anything but get him all worked up again. And remind him of what he'd been doing with Yozak. The blush returned, twice as bad now that he was alone with Wolfram, who was looking at him as if he knew exactly what he had been up to.

"It's easier to prevent a flare up than it is to contain one." Wolfram turned away before he could be infected by Yuuri's blush. He waited until they were in the courtyard before facing him again. It was still difficult. Yuuri looked so wary and guilty that he felt awful for even wanting to address this. But it would save Yuuri grief in the long run. "I know what you were doing," he said quietly. He hated the way Yuuri flinched. "It's nothing to be embarrassed about. There is nothing shameful about...taking some time to yourself. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise."

"You think I was masturbating?!" The word was out before Yuuri could even consider censoring it. The silence was almost surreal. Had he really yelped that out so loudly? Wolfram's face was bright red, as dark as that morning he had tripped over his sword. Wolfram was looking shocked and scandalized again. How was that right? Wolfram was the one who had brought it up. Unless he had misunderstood, Wolfram had actually been trying to make him feel better about doing it. Yuuri couldn't imagine how much worse this moment would be if he had been doing it. Could a person blush himself to death? Wolfram appeared to be making a go of it.

"I apologize," Wolfram choked out. He was no better than his mother! At this rate he might as well offer Yuuri lotion and warn him about chafing. Instead of helping, he was making it worse. "I shouldn't have said anything. I just, I hate that Mother drew attention to your embarrassment, though luckily she attributed it to the dancing. Once she guesses the truth she might...say things to you. I don't want you to listen to her. That's all. I wasn't trying to make you feel worse. That's the last thing I wanted to do."

"I walked in on Gwendal and Gunter making out."

Wolfram blinked. "What?"

"I think that's why Gunter didn't come to dinner," Yuuri said quickly. He hated throwing Gunter under the bus, and Gwendal too, for that matter. But he had to say something to keep Wolfram from combusting on the spot and he couldn't tell him the real reason he had been blushing. He had given his word to Yozak. "I left Gunter in the hall after his formal greeting practice, then I went back with a question for him and I walked in on them. They were making out."

Wolfram stared at him in dumb surprise. Yuuri certainly knew how to change the subject. "Making out...?"

"Kissing and stuff."

Wolfram's lips twitched. "Stuff...?"

"Stuff," Yuuri nodded. He sagged with relief when Wolfram sputtered into full laughter. A split second later he was smiling himself. He needed to make Wolfram laugh more. Everything was right in the world when he laughed. "It was awful. Gwendal stalked out looking like he wanted to kill me. Poor Gunter was petrified. He tried to explain, but I begged him not to. I don't know what he could have said to 'explain' it. That he tripped and Gwendal caught him with his mouth?"

"I knew it!" Wolfram exclaimed. "I knew something was going on with them. They have never been in such an accord, with Gunter being a veritable mouthpiece-" He stopped himself before he could continue that thought. Gwendal was his brother, after all. "And you, poor Yuuri, caught them in the act? This just hasn't been your month. You may never open a door again without dreading what you might see on the other side."

"I'm knocking first," Yuuri grinned. "From now on I'm not touching a closed door without knocking first."

"Wise of you."

"The sad thing is that I was wondering where the gays were last night. If I had just waited another day I might have realized some of them were behind closed doors." He regretted his words immediately. He hadn't meant to remind Wolfram of the gay thing. He was sorry to see Wolfram's smile vanish, but he did like that gleam in his eyes. Wolfram wasn't the sort to let something go without getting to the bottom of it. And, honestly, Yuuri didn't like that he had gone to Murata for answers. Besides, he had as good as promised to confide in Wolfram if Wolfram would actually talk to him about things. This was a chance to talk to him. They just had to do it in a way that kept either of them from blushing to death.

"I pick meditation," said Yuuri. "Back to back, that way we can talk without looking at each other. It won't be as embarrassing that way."

"It won't be meditation if we're talking," Wolfram was compelled to point out. He didn't argue, though. He also didn't point out that it wasn't meditation if they were touching each other. Yuuri's back was warm against his own and somehow sitting like this was more intimate than holding hands. And it was Yuuri's idea. He leaned back with a guilty smile. "We don't have to talk about anything that will embarrass you."

"I want to. I wasn't masturbating," Yuuri blurted. He felt Wolfram's breath catch and wondered if this was really that much better. If he was going to be watching for Wolfram's reactions they might as well be face to face. He kept talking, anyway. "If I needed to do that, I'd do it at night in a bathroom. A lavatory, I mean, not a bath."

"Is it so casual on earth?" Wolfram asked curiously. Yuuri sounded embarrassed and awkward, but not the slightest bit ashamed.

"For guys," Yuuri snorted. "I think I was ten when my dad gave me the talk...and a box of tissues to keep in my room." His face burned at the memory of how often his mom had dusted that box before he finally opened it in front of her just so she would stop watching it curiously. "I was twelve the first time I used it."

Wolfram doubted this was something fiances talked about. It was something friends talked about, though. His men talked about this sort of thing all of the time. He knew that because they always stopped if he came within hearing range of them. Even Lukas and Daniel never went beyond innuendos when he was around. He was touched that Yuuri was willing to talk about it with him. He beat down his embarrassment and embraced his curiosity. "Have you been...taking care of yourself ever since? Even before you started coming of age?"

"Since I hit puberty - human coming of age, I guess you'd call it. I haven't done it as much since I started coming here, though." Because he'd had Wolfram sleeping in his bed. Had he been afraid he might think of him if he touched himself, even back then? He ducked his head despite knowing Wolfram couldn't possibly see his blush. "Murata said coming of age is just like a second puberty. Only this time it's the energy I have to watch out for. Last night took care of that."

"I had no idea humans matured so young." Greta wasn't that far from twelve. Wolfram shoved that thought away with both hands. She would have a governess or mother by then. He didn't have to think about that and didn't want to. "I can't imagine having two coming of ages. One was more than enough."

"What was it like for you?"

"Excruciating. Don't listen to any of them if they try to advise you. You'll get nothing but lectures and guilt trips about suppressing your energy and...Mother." His upper lip curled. "Her talks about 'releasing passion' made it all sound too filthy to even contemplate. It's a miracle I didn't kill anyone when I started setting myself on fire."

"You did what?!" Yuuri twisted until they were staring at each other over their shoulders.

"I exploded," Wolfram said frankly. "You can't suppress your energy indefinitely. Anyone who tells you otherwise is wrong. That's why you need to spar, so you can let it out under a controlled setting. And meditation, so you can hold it until you're able to spar."

"Were you hurt?"

Wolfram turned away with a bitter laugh. "I set myself on fire, Yuuri. Of course it hurt. The damage was mostly to my hands and arms, and Gisela was skilled enough to heal them. But she had been called away the last time I did it. I had to wait for her to get back. I kept to my room after that. I spent the last part of my coming of age evaporating all the water in the bath. And taking care of myself," he admitted, because Yuuri had been open about that. "It may be embarrassing, but it really does help."

Yuuri turned to lean against his back again. The thought of Wolfram taking care of himself was always going to make him blush. He was glad Wolfram couldn't see it. "Murata said all mazoku go through this. Why was yours so bad if everyone goes through it?"

"Because I'm difficult," Wolfram scoffed. "Brother was probably born with an iron control. I doubt he had any trouble suppressing his energy when he came of age. Mother, naturally, took her first lover and released 'passion' all over him. She did offer to get me one, but I prefer to believe she wasn't serious about that. I might be more like her than my brothers, but I'm not that much like her."

"That would be like my dad offering to get me a prostitute," Yuuri cringed. "That's just wrong. She better not have been serious."


"Someone you pay to have sex with you."

Wolfram snorted. "She wouldn't have needed to pay someone. Not that she was serious, of course. Brother would never have allowed it." Conrad wouldn't have, either. He wondered if Conrad was as worried about Cecilie talking to Yuuri as he was. Did Conrad know she considered sex the most obvious solution to one's coming of age? Was he afraid she would suggest as much to Yuuri? No. Conrad might have suffered a moment of doubt about Yuuri's hormones, but he had been only too happy to discard them. Still... "Just in case you're getting ideas," Wolfram warned him, "I won't let you take a lover while you're still engaged to me, and you can't end the engagement until after your coming of age ceremony. That means you'll have to suffer through this on your own, the same as I did."

Yuuri bristled. "Stop expecting me to cheat on you. If I took a lover it would be you, and I already know fiances aren't allowed to have sex before marriage here. Murata told me all about that." Wolfram moved so fast Yuuri pitched over backwards. Fists in his shirt jerked him upright. Yuuri paled at Wolfram's scarily flashing eyes.

"You talked to Murata about sex? With me?!"

"He brought it up!" Yuuri yelped. "After he woke us up he said if anyone else had seen us like that we'd be married that same night because fiances don't have sex before marriage as a rule. He was just telling me about the rule. The tradition."

"Oh..." Wolfram released Yuuri and sat back on his heels. He let out a shaky laugh at Yuuri's wary expression. "I'm sorry. I thought-" He ran a hand over his face. "I don't know what I was thinking." That Yuuri wanted to have sex with him and had asked to see if it was allowed? That Yuuri was afraid of having sex with him and had checked to make sure there was no threat of that? Incredibly stupid thoughts. If Yuuri ever got up the nerve to ask someone about sex it would be Conrad, and everyone would know because Conrad would have a heart attack and die on the spot. He laughed again. "I really am sorry. I should have realized no one would tell you about the traditions regarding fiances. It was good of Murata to inform you." Or reassure him, if he had been worried about that.

"Why is that a rule?" asked Yuuri. "If it's okay to take a lover without planning to marry, then why do fiances have to wait till they're married? On Earth some people wait till they're married because they want to be each other's first. But if Cecilie took a lover when she came of age that means her husband wasn't her first. Did they still have to wait? Or is that just a rule for fiances who haven't already had lovers? She married three times. Did she have to wait each time just because they were nobles and engaged to be married? Oh, but Conrad's dad wasn't a noble. Does that mean they didn't have to wait, or did the fact that they were marrying mean they still had to even though-"

"Stop," Wolfram winced. "You're making it more complicated than it is. It's an antiquated tradition set up to ensure that heirs are legitimate. Originally engagements had to last ten celibate months to ensure there was no child on its way. Given how many children were born a few months after the marriage, it's obvious few people really waited even then. These days it's only the nobles who adhere to that tradition. As a result, engagements rarely last longer than a month. According to Mother, she was only engaged to my father for two days. Nobles aren't any more likely to wait than anyone else, but they do accept the consequences of not waiting. Anyone caught flaunting that tradition marries immediately."

"Does that mean we really could be forced to marry if someone saw us, even if we were just kissing or," he blushed furiously, "touching in our sleep?"

Wolfram blushed as well. He was very glad they weren't having this conversation in his bedroom. When Yuuri addressed an issue directly, he didn't pull any punches. "Technically no. You proposed and defeated me by accident while you were underage. No one can force you to honor that. If we were caught after your ceremony, we could demand a test to prove we hadn't...failed to wait. We both have maryoku. If we didn't wait, there would be proof of it. But even if we failed the test, you could still fight being forced into marriage. You're the king. If you went 'maou' you could defeat anyone who challenged you." He shrugged with a weak smile. "Not that any of that matters, of course. Your virtue is perfectly safe with me."

There was an insult in that. Yuuri was sure of it. He scowled. "Then why were you worried about us getting caught? In the treasure room and in the hallway."

"Because you're a wimp. A tender-hearted wimp," Wolfram smiled, because it wasn't really an insult. "Brother could guilt-trip you into marrying me. You're too nice for your own good. As the king you can't be forced, but as a wimp you could easily be coerced. I won't give him an excuse to try. But if he does, I'll counter his challenge on your behalf. Assuming Conrad doesn't beat me to it."

"Conrad? Is he that set against us getting married?" Yuuri winced when Wolfram's teasing smile was replaced by a pinched look. Conrad would always be a touchy subject with Wolfram. But they were actually talking for once. Talking about Conrad couldn't be any more awkward than talking about masturbation and they had survived that. He did wish they were back to back, but knew it was too late for that. "I played catch with Conrad earlier. He looked really worried, but he didn't say a word to me. Anissina said he and Gwendal were ready to send you away just to get me out of your room. Does the thought of us getting married bother Conrad that much?"

"Did you play catch with him this afternoon?" That explained why Conrad had sought him out. Wolfram sighed and crossed his legs so he was facing Yuuri directly. He would never have pictured himself a peacekeeper to patch things up between the two of them. Maybe he could consider this penance for his own bad behavior. If he really had caused a rift between them, it was only right that he smooth it out. He would rather let Morgif bite all of the fingers off his right hand, though. "I spoke to him before dinner. Someone slipped a maggot in his ear to mess with his mind. I cleaned it out for him. You have nothing to worry about."

"That's not an answer to my question," Yuuri frowned. "Is he trying to split us up? So we won't get married?"

"He just wants you back in your own room so he can protect you properly. If he knew you were suffering an attraction for me, he would try to keep us apart as much as possible. But only for your own good. You can't give in to temptation if there's no one around to tempt you. It would never occur to him that without me around your attentions might simply turn to someone else. Knowing you are coming of age and believing that are two very different things. He'll probably always view you as an innocent child who needs to be sheltered from the wicked world."

"Are you picking a fight with me?" Yuuri asked suspiciously. "My attentions aren't going to turn to someone else the second you're out of sight. Even before I came back you were the only one I thought about like that. Keeping us apart now won't change anything. But Conrad told me after I came back that he was proud to see us grow up. Both of us. He said that to me. That he was proud of us."

"Maybe he was," Wolfram scoffed, "in theory. Accepting responsibility and making a place for yourself is part of growing up. Of course he would be especially proud to see you embracing your duty as king. We'll all be proud of that. But mental and emotional maturity are different from-" He flushed irritably. It still felt wrong to speak of anything related to sex around Yuuri. Was he no better than Conrad, then? Yuuri had spoken of his coming of age with an openness Wolfram envied. If Yuuri's own father had taught him the word masturbation then Yuuri might know even more about these things than he did. It was ridiculous for him to shy away from the word sex as if it would taint Yuuri's innocence. He wasn't Conrad, after all. He was Yuuri's fiance. "Sexual maturity," Wolfram bit out. "I'm convinced Conrad never matured sexually, so the thought of you experiencing that could be downright traumatizing for him. He isn't worried about us marrying because he can't accept the possibility of you marrying anyone. Ever. Marriage implies sex, and you're too perfectly pure to engage in such a filthy thing."

"Do you really believe that?" Yuuri demanded. "That sounds more like Gwendal than Conrad. Or it would if I hadn't walked in on him. I have to rethink how I view Gwendal now because I can't fit what I saw with what I thought I knew, but Conrad is..." His stomach was churning with worry and guilt because he hated the thought of disappointing Conrad. But Conrad couldn't really view him that way, could he? He had never acted like he did. "He's been to Earth. He always treated me like a normal guy. If he saw me the way you think then he'd expect me to grow up like, well, like what I thought Gwendal was like - cold and alone and more likely to cringe than to hug you back. I'm nothing like that. I'm...a people-person. Conrad knows that. He's even teased me about-" He flushed as he recalled the few times Conrad had teased him. He had rarely teased him about his fiance. He had teased him about girls. Yuuri had insisted he liked girls and Conrad had teased him accordingly. Wolfram was wrong. Conrad didn't think he was asexual, he thought he was heterosexual. Because Yuuri had stubbornly insisted that he was. "It's not me, Wolf," he blurted. "It's you."


"It's because you're a guy and all he knows is what I always told him - that guys don't get married to each other on Earth. Shori said I came off as a homophobe and I probably did. Conrad has talked to me about girls, so he can't think I'm too young to be attracted to someone. It's the idea of me being attracted to a guy - because I fought it so hard he believed me. I'm sorry. I'll talk to him. I'll explain that I was wrong about that. I'm sure once he understands I'm serious he'll-"

"Have you lost your mind?" Wolfram hissed. "Talk to him? And tell him what? That you have suddenly discovered an attraction for me? He would never believe you discovered that on your own. He'll blame me for seducing you into it!" Because he was the 'passionate' one, the fire, the heart, the one who took after their mother whether he liked it or not. "Most of all he'll blame himself for trusting you with me. Then he will play the honorable protector and challenge me - and don't for one second think I'll do the kind thing and stand down. Oh, no, if he challenged me I would get to set the terms. Magic, not swords. I won't hesitate to burn him where he stands, destroying every last bit of his pride. It would be a disaster, Yuuri. You can't talk to him. If you care about him at all, you won't say anything about what happens between us."

"You're wrong," Yuuri insisted, but he did so quietly. Part of him could see things unfolding just the way Wolfram predicted. Wolfram was too convinced for anything Yuuri said to change his mind. He had suffered his own doubts about how Conrad would react to him and Wolfram having a real engagement. He was in no position to convince Wolfram when he couldn't truly convince himself. A quiet protest, made out of blind trust and loyalty, was the best he could offer. "You're not giving him enough credit."

Yuuri was backing down. That left Wolfram with no one to fight. He dropped his eyes. "I give him full credit for being true to himself. Your safety and happiness are the world to him. I don't want him viewing me as a threat to either." He didn't want to be a threat to either. But he was. It wasn't safe to let Yuuri stay in his room, and letting Yuuri indulge in his attraction certainly wasn't ensuring his happiness. He resented Conrad because he envied him. Why was it so hard for him to do the right thing? He looked at Yuuri in the fading light and wondered what it would be like to see him through Conrad's eyes. Yuuri would be lonely on that pedestal. Perfect and pristine and completely miserable. Someday Yuuri might thank him for knocking him off that perch and getting him a little dirty. A people-person? Yuuri was a real person. He didn't belong up there.

"Are you going to tell me about your gays?" asked Wolfram. "I thought you were going to when we first sat down. Or would you rather meditate? That means no more talking. It isn't meditation if you aren't concentrating."

Yuuri winced, wishing he could take the easy way out and pick meditation. But Wolfram had already gone to Murata about this. What if he went to Conrad next? Did Conrad know what gay meant? Despite Wolfram's warning, Yuuri was determined to at least try to talk Conrad into accepting their engagement. That would be a lot easier without Conrad wondering if Yuuri had called his little brother gay. "It's really stupid," Yuuri muttered. "I got myself all confused because I had a blind spot. I wish you'd forget I said that."

"But you know I'm not going to. How do Gunter and Gwendal fit in? You said some of your gays were behind closed doors. Were you referring to them? They're your gays?"

Like a dog with a bone. Yuuri hung his head and confessed, leaving out all mention of Murata questioning the guards, but including his comments about Gunter, Yozak, and Anissina. By the time he was done he felt like an idiot. But Wolfram hadn't been insulted by anything he had said. That was what he had really been worried about. When he finally snuck a peek, Wolfram was frowning at him thoughtfully. There wasn't a hint of disgust or reproach.

"I didn't realize Earth was so different," said Wolfram. "It sounds as bad as Svalera with regards to demons and humans marrying. I wish you had told me sooner. I would never have told your parents about the engagement if I had known there was a chance it would disgust them."

"Oh, there was no chance of that," Yuuri laughed weakly. "They're more like the people here. If we walked down my street holding hands we'd get dirty looks, but my parents aren't like that. In fact, my mom probably would have been more surprised if I had brought a girl home. I sometimes wonder if she still thinks of me as a girl."

"Because she dressed you as one." Wolfram recalled how humiliated Yuuri had been when she pulled out and shared those pictures of him as a child. "Some of those dresses would have been prettier on your brother." He shrugged at Yuuri's shocked look. "They were too subdued for you. They would have looked mature rather than plain with his eyes and hair. My mother would have curled your hair and put you in ruffles."

"You were dressed as a girl as a kid, too?"

"There is no 'crossdressing' stigma here. When Elizabeth dons pants rather than a dress she doesn't fancy herself a man. She simply dresses in what is comfortable for her. I admit, I have always wondered why Yozak enjoys playing the part of females so much, but I would never have assumed it spoke to his preferences. I thought he merely got a laugh out of tricking men into thinking him weak. I'm sure Murata was reading too much into his choice of clothing."

"You don't think he's gay, then?"

"I think the fact that he is only attracted to males has nothing to do with the fact that he enjoys dressing as a female. One is who he is, the other is a hobby of his. You have worn dresses both as a child and an adult. Did putting one on change who you were attracted to?"

"Logic," Yuuri smiled. "No, of course it didn't. Earth is bad about stereotypes. I'll work harder not to bring them here. Walking in on Gwendal and Gunter made me throw most of them out the window, anyway."

"To be fair, it does sound as if Gunter fits your Earth stereotypes. With one very big exception. He is not the least bit weak or feminine."

Yuuri gaped, squinted, and then gaped some more. "Huh? Since when? What?"

Wolfram laughed. "He is Gunter von Christ. He's a first-rate swordsman. He may be all but retired now, but he is the one who taught Conrad to fight. If he and Brother were to duel with swords I have no doubt Gunter would come out on top."

"No," Yuuri blurted. "My brain is going to take that the wrong way and bring up images that will give me nightmares. Gwendal and Gunter? That hurts my brain but I can accept it. Gunter and Gwendal? That breaks my brain and I won't be able to function. I don't want to think about how those two fit together." Except, having said that, he was now thinking about it. He squirmed and grabbed the first distraction that came to mind. "Bishounen! That means pretty-boy. That's what went through my mind the first time I saw you."

Wolfram blinked in surprise. "That isn't an insult."

"No," Yuuri smiled. "Just embarrassing for me. I had never seen a guy as pretty as you, not in real life. You went from being a bishounen, to a racist jerk insulting my mom, to my fiance, all in a few minutes."

"Poor Yuuri," Wolfram sighed. "I certainly didn't make it easier for you. In my defense, you humiliated me in that duel. Keep that in mind when you recall my subsequent harassment of you. My backside was bruised for a week. My ego was bruised for months."

"Your-" Yuuri nearly choked to death on his own tongue. "What?! What did I do? Spank you?!" In front of everyone?

"What? No! Of course not! If you had done that I would never have shown my face in this kingdom again!" Wolfram stared at him in cold horror. Had that been a possibility? He had behaved like a spoiled brat. What better way to punish a spoiled brat than a spanking? He would never have survived that. Instead of holding a grudge, maybe he should have considered himself lucky. "No," he winced, "what you did was make an example out of me. You held me up for everyone to see, what felt like thirty feet in the air but was probably closer to fifteen, and then you dropped me on my ass. No more than I deserved, admittedly, but for my first taste of public humiliation it was excessive. Tormenting you and traumatizing you in your own bed seemed a fitting payback. At the time," he sighed, dropping his eyes. "I regret it now, of course. I should have considered that you had no memory of it. If your maou side was trying to teach me a lesson, he failed miserably. All he did was make me even more of a brat."

"I wasn't exactly nice and mature myself," Yuuri cringed. He had never wondered how that duel had ended. He was told he had won and hadn't thought any more about it. Public humiliation? He couldn't imagine how that had felt. Pride was everything to Wolfram. Pushing the engagement didn't come close to payback for that. At times Wolfram had been frustrating and annoying and embarrassing, but never humiliating. Even at his worst, Wolfram had just been...Wolfram. What was it the others called him? Spoiled selfish sulk? As if he were a toddler whining when he didn't get his way. It was Adalbert's name for him that Yuuri had secretly liked. The brat prince. It was the brat that brought the prince down to earth. Wolfram had the bearing and looks of a prince, but he was bossy and opinionated and difficult, and that was what made him charming. For the first time, the thought of falling for his own prince charming didn't make him feel like a girl. Wolfram was just Wolfram, after all. He wouldn't have him any other way. "We have come a long way, haven't we, Wolf?"

"I'd like to think so."

Wolfram's tone was light and playfully haughty. Yuuri caught his eye. "I'm going to marry you, you know."


"It won't be a happily ever after, but it will never be boring. You'll make me a better king, and I'll make you a happier Wolfram."

"Yuuri," Wolfram protested. That had to be the sweetest thing anyone had ever said to him. "Are you trying to court me? We're already engaged. You don't have to say nice things to me."

"If I don't have to, then you know I'm doing it because I want to." Yuuri smiled, enjoying how flustered and wary Wolfram looked. "Let's go in. I'm not going to get any meditation done tonight. We'll be more comfortable talking in bed than we are out here, anyway." That earned him a faint blush and a suspicious narrowing of Wolfram's eyes. If Wolfram couldn't tell he was flirting with him, then he would have to be more obvious about it. Yuuri rose and caught his hand, pulling him up and into the castle. "Come on," he urged. "I'm going to scope you out in the bath."

"What? What does that mean?"

"You'll see," Yuuri grinned.

Wolfram tugged on Yuuri's hand so he could scowl at him properly. "Are you playing with me?"

Yuuri snorted. "Not yet."

"If you're mocking me, you'll regret it," Wolfram warned him. "If need be, I will drag you back outside even if you're in pajamas with wet hair."

Wolfram would do it, too, Yuuri thought with amusement. Those Royal Guards could end up seeing a lot more action here than they ever had in the Maou's wing. "I'm not mocking you," Yuuri promised. He was enjoying him like he should have from the start.


Years of spywork kept Yozak from tensing when Conrad sat down beside him. His head remained turned so he looked over the castle wall to the winding path that led down to the town below. Awkward didn't begin to cover this.

"Avoiding me?" asked Conrad.

"Just taking some air." And doing his best to stop feeling like a meddling pervert. He shouldn't have mentioned that dance was usually only performed by adults. Yuuri said it reminded him of 'slow dances' teenagers did in his own world. The kid might never have known it was considered risque if he hadn't told him. He was sure Yuuri had still been blushing when he went in to dinner. He could only hope the family had found something else to attribute that to.

"I spoke with Wolfram."

Yozak sent him a startled look. Well. So much for his assumptions. Conrad was smiling, calm and confident, at peace with the world. Conrad had talked with his little brother and had all of his fears and doubts dismissed. Meanwhile Yozak had been teaching their king to... Well. Talk about a guilty conscience. "So I was way off base, eh?"

"Close enough to make me question things," Conrad admitted. "He is coming of age and they have been spending an unusual amount of time together. But hormones alone can't change a person's preferences. I knew that. I shouldn't have needed to be reminded of that. Males don't get together in Yuuri's world, and everyone knows how Wolfram feels about dirty old men."

"Yuuri isn't exactly a dirty old man," Yozak winced. Yuuri was closer to being one than he had been this morning, though. Because of him. If Conrad ever found out he would kill him.

"Which makes him even less of a threat. They're perfectly safe with each other. Wolfram may need help keeping Yuuri's maryoku in check, but otherwise they're fine. The same as always. I don't want to hear any more hints to the contrary. Not from you."

"Fair enough." Downright convenient, really. He could hardly mention having taught Yuuri how to dance with Wolfram without hinting that Yuuri wanted to dance with Wolfram, now could he? Conrad was happier not knowing and he was happier when Conrad was happy, so, yeah. Two orders now for him to keep his trap shut. He might as well do it. "You won't hear another word about it from me."

"Thank you. Will you come inside? I don't like being at odds with you."

"Tell me about it," Yozak said, with a laugh of relief. "I'm not around enough to fight with you when I am here."



"Gay is a derogatory term for homosexual, someone who is only attracted to members of the same sex." Murata slipped into bed while Shinou digested that. He regretting giving in so easily, but Shinou had nothing better to do than pester him. Since he was sleeping in a guest room tonight that pestering was in especially close quarters. Shinou was sitting on the edge of the small bed, taking his sweet time before going away. There wasn't room for them both.

"He attributed that term to Wolfram?"

"Strange," Murata drawled. "You almost sound offended."

"That term does not apply to him."

"No, it doesn't. Shibuya realized that much. He was applying the term to himself. I know," he sighed. "He has issues. At least he's willing to talk about them. That's more than some people can say."

"Meddler," Shinou smiled. "Did you enjoy accosting those men? You could have proven your point with a simple spar in the front courtyard. They're hardly discreet when he fights."

"If Shibuya saw how many men came out to watch he would be paranoid. Three out of five isn't nearly as alarming."

"You found two who weren't?"

"Amazing, isn't it? His appeal isn't universal. Perhaps he doesn't look enough like Cecilie."

"He looks like me."

"Except he's to be preferred since he's very alive and closer to my own age." Murata raised an eyebrow when Shinou scowled at him. "Do you think I'm just saying that to upset you?"

"I wish you were." Shinou sighed and leaned over to pluck the glasses off Murata's nose. "Will you try for him if the engagement ends?"

"Of course not," Murata muttered. "He'll be long gone. He wouldn't notice me even if he did stick around."

"You deserve to be noticed. And appreciated. I never failed to do both."

"I know," Murata smiled. "Take your leave now. This bed isn't big enough for two."

"So you say. That map had better be returned quickly. I would dislike having to give a young lady nightmares."

Murata closed his eyes while a kiss was pressed to his forehead. As if he were a child. And Shinou wondered why he refused to have sex with him. "Do you know which young lady took that map?"

"No, but I could find out easily enough."

"Give it another day. I'd prefer that you stay out of other people's dreams."

Shinou smirked. "Then I'm welcome in yours?"

"If need be," Murata sighed. As if he could keep him out. He dreamed of him whether he was actually around or not. At least the dreams were realistically tame when he was around. He had to give him that.