Wolfram lurched suddenly, his hand flying out automatically for the wall. He righted himself, leaning heavily against the stone for support, though he swayed slightly as he pushed himself away.
Muttering obscenities under his breath, Wolfram trudged onwards, continuing to stagger as he went and frowning at the light-headedness that plagued him.
"Are you even going the right way?" Wolfram hissed at the intrusive voice, and pointedly ignored it, making a show of sticking his nose up in the air.
A chuckle. "You know, you're never this rude to me when I'm in the temple. In fact then you can't stop being respectful to me."
"That's because in the temple you're not a figment of my imagination," Wolfram retorted, clenching his teeth in both aggravation and concentration.
"How do you know I'm not now?"
Wolfram rolled his eyes, but the motion made him dizzier and threw him off balance causing him to sway dangerously. "Because," he said slowly, "the real Shinou wouldn' waste his time following me around and pestering me."
"How do you know that?" the image –who admittedly was pretty accurate- of Shinou smirked. "Maybe I get bored of hanging around in that temple."
"Maybe you're just an after effect of when the real Shinou decided to possess me against my will and use me as his puppet. Twice," Wolfram muttered.
The image had the decency to look a little embarrassed at that. "Look, I'm sorry about the first time, but the second time really was with your best interest in mind."
"Sure it was. You just screwed my head up for the rest of my life and stole my fiancé's first kiss, but that's fine," Wolfram's voice was growing louder and he quickly tried to reign himself in, since the last thing he wanted to do was draw any attention to himself.
"I love it when you tell me what you really think of me," 'Shinou' smiled. "I much prefer honesty over mindless flattery any day."
Wolfram grunted in response, too occupied by the way the world was wavering to really care what some fantasy was nattering on about. He felt so drained that his feet were literally dragging when he walked. He paused when he passed a window and glanced outside, disappointed when the moon-touched scenery appeared to him as a fuzzy image. He needed to get to bed before anyone saw him like this, but if he was honest, he was struggling to remember which hallway he needed to walk down. He was so used to going to Yuuri's room that going to his own room had thrown him, because Shinou forbid Yuuri see him right now. The big wimp would probably be out of the door, yelling for Gisela the moment he set eyes on him.
His assumption both annoyed and amused him, and somehow, due to his light-headedness it ended up being expressed by a short set of almost hysterical giggles.
"Do you want to sit down for a moment?" 'Shinou' spoke up, voice and expression both strangely soft.
Wolfram's laughter died down and he found himself frowning huffily at the other's attempt to help him, wanting to believe that his delusion of Shinou was being patronising rather than caring. Still, he nodded groggily in response and flopped heavily against the wall before turning and sliding down until he was seated on the floor. He sighed and relaxed his body, and though the world continued its slow spin, he at least felt a little more secure.
"Better?" 'Shinou' enquired. Wolfram grunted in reply. "How do you feel?"
"Like shit," Wolfram mumbled back. "My head's spinning, I feel sick and I'm talking to a delusion."
"It's your own fault," the other quipped. Wolfram hummed in agreement. "But really, Wolfram. If I were really a delusion, don't you think you'd be seeing Yuuri now and not me?"
"No, I save him for the good fantasies," Wolfram replied with a tired smile.
"Too much information there thanks, Wolfram," the image chuckled.
Wolfram gave a breathy little laugh in response, but soon fell silent. He sagged against the wall silently, breathing slightly erratically. He looked on the verge of passing out when his annoying, unwanted fantasy spoke up again.
"You still with me?"
Wolfram grunted in irritation. "Leave me 'lone," he grumbled.
"I can't," the rather convincing image smiled back.
"Why would you even be bothered with me if you really were the Oh-so-great Shinou? I'm hardly important enough for you to stalk," he snorted, though it was more to himself than to his imaginary pest.
"Because you remind me of someone who was very precious to me."
The sincerity behind those words startled Wolfram. Something about the way the words were said struck through his hazy, flighty thoughts. "Yeah, yourself," he mocked, disliking the seriousness on the other's face.
It seemed to work because the image smiled once more. "Close, but not quite. Let's just say that I look upon you as family."
Wolfram snorted, though the sound was only faint. He was struggling to keep his head up. "You take a guy's heart and then they're family? Wow makes me glad we're not related."
'Shinou' smiled enigmatically, but did not respond.
Wolfram sighed, conversation forgotten as his balance suddenly felt peculiar, and he slumped over further. His delusion's expression changed to one that almost resembled that of a concerned parent. "Hold on, Wolfram. Someone's almost here."
Wolfram groaned in protest, but sure enough, a new voice pierced through the fog in his head. "Wolfram!"
Wolfram blinked and made the heroic effort to raise his head to squint down the hallway. He made out the form of Conrad jogging towards him, and for some reason he couldn't quite comprehend he found it absolutely hilarious.
By the time Conrad reached him, Wolfram was almost hyperventilating with laughter. Conrad frowned in worry and shifted until he was kneeled on one knee before reaching out to place his hands gently on Wolfram's shoulders.
"Shhhh," he soothed. "Breathe, Wolfram, breathe."
Wolfram gave him a stupid grin, but calmed down nonetheless, though he still shuddered with the odd giggle.
Conrad sighed and unconsciously rubbed Wolfram's shoulders. "Wolfram, how much did you drink?"
His younger brother shrugged, head lolling back against the wall to stare lazily up at Conrad. He still had a silly smile on his face. "Dunno."
At Conrad's disapproving tone, Wolfram sighed dramatically. "Not much," he summarised. "'m not drunk."
"Of course you're not, Wolfram. Of course you're not," Conrad smiled, though he tried to hold it back in favour of looking strict.
But then, that was really Gwendal's job, not his.
"Really," Wolfram protested weakly.
"No, the fact that you're slurring and can't even sit up properly in the middle of a hallway indicates that you're wholly sober," Conrad replied. He shook his head, though the gesture was good-natured. "Come on. Can you walk?"
Wolfram snorted indignantly. "Of course I can walk!" he shouted. He made a show of scrambling to his feet, though his movements were extremely graceless. The moment he stood to his full height, however, he found the world slanting wildly.
As always, Conrad was there to catch him as he overbalanced and pitched over. He sighed once again at his armful of little brother. "Do you want me to carry you?" he offered.
Wolfram's reply was as petulant as he anticipated. "No."
"Do you want for me to help you walk?" he tried again. In Wolfram's following silence, he received his answer and sorted his brother out until he was firmly secured to his side, his arm looped around Wolfram's back and under his opposite arm to hold him steady.
Slowly they set off, making their way down the hallway. The pace was ludicrously slow for Conrad, but judging by the look of absolute concentration on Wolfram's face, he didn't feel the need to speed up any time soon.
Though he thought he would probably regret it, Conrad's concern got the better of him. "So how much did you drink?" he said in his best authoritative voice (which, though it should have come naturally due to his position as a captain of the army, he never quite managed it properly with his baby brother.)
Wolfram shrugged; though the movement was so exaggerated it threw them both momentarily off balance. "Don't remember," he grumbled.
"Wolfram, why were you drinking in the first place? Let alone enough to get you this far gone?" Probably too many questions, but damn it, Conrad needed to know what would drive his brother to take leave of his senses and get so absolutely thrashed.
"I'm eighty- two years old, Conrad," Wolfram said in such a way you might address a small child. "I am entitled to have a drink if I feel like it." He did, however, struggle with the word 'entitled'.
"I know that, Wolfram. It's just that you usually save the drink to the odd, polite one at a gala, or meal. It's rare that you get…" utterly shit-faced, was what Conrad wanted to say, but he didn't think that Wolfram would appreciate that, even in the state he was in. "Merry," he finished rather lamely instead.
"Felt like it."
Conrad's mouth twisted as his frown deepened. "You weren't doing something stupid, like drinking out of anger, or sadness were you?"
"Do I look sad or angry to you?" Wolfram snapped, glaring up at his brother, though the drink interjected and made his voice squeakier than he'd intended, and his glare less threatening, and more bleary.
Conrad regarded him seriously for a moment, before offering him a slightly wan smile. "Yes, if I'm honest. A little."
Wolfram stared at him for a moment longer, before looking away. His voice was quiet and slurred, but Conrad managed to catch what he was saying. "I just wanted five minutes of peace. Can't hear myself think sometimes. It pisses me off. Sometimes I can't think straight and I get so angry. I'm not selfish. I just wanted five minutes. I hate that people think I'm a brat, I can't stand it …"
Though his thought process was obviously jumbled, Conrad understood well enough and he smiled sadly. "Only the people who don't know you can't see how much you've grown, Wolfram. So what do they matter anyway?"
"What would you know?" Wolfram replied hotly, once again frowning angrily up at his brother. "Why would you even give a damn?"
"Because you're my favourite person in the world," Conrad smiled at him, open and honest.
Wolfram seemed taken aback for a moment. "Yeah, right," he argued back, though he seemed to lack his usual conviction on the point.
"Yes, right," Conrad replied. "No matter what, Wolfram, you're always going to be my baby brother. Even if you don't like me, or want me around, I'll still love you. Much as I love Yuuri, I will always love you more." He paused to chuckle softly. "Of course, I shouldn't say things like that, and of course, I told you all of this the last time I found you staggering towards your room, but obviously you didn't remember in the morning." Wolfram said nothing for a long while, and Conrad started to suspect that he'd already forgotten what he'd said from the effort it took for him to walk properly.
As they rounded a corner leading to the corridor that Wolfram's room was situated on, however, Wolfram spoke up. "I do love you, Conrad." It was said in such a tiny voice, but yet it bought a beaming smile to his brother's face.
"I know you do, Wolfram," he replied sincerely.
The youngest of the pair glanced up at him and gave him a small, but rather ill looking smile. "We're family."
"Yes. We are." Conrad said in a soft voice. "You okay?" he added upon noticing the fact that Wolfram seemed to be swallowing quite heavily and his face had drained of colour.
"Think I'm gon' be sick," he whispered.
Being careful not to jolt his brother too much, Conrad increased their pace. Wolfram's room was mercifully close, and the two somehow managed to make it there in time to grab Wolfram's emergency chamber pot before he emptied his stomach. Conrad sat with him, rubbing his back and uttering the usual nonsense until the convulsions had passed.
Absolutely drained, Wolfram flopped back onto his bed and yawned. Conrad set about undressing his brother, removing his cravat, jacket, boots and trousers before shifting him to draw the covers over him. At any other time, Wolfram probably would have screamed bloody murder, but since he was only teetering on the edge of consciousness, he didn't really have the energy to protest.
Once done, Conrad sat back up. "Yuuri's going to wonder where you are," he chuckled.
"No," Wolfram sighed sleepily. "He won't care."
His brother frowned. "Don't say that. He does care."
Something about the way Wolfram's mouth twisted downwards made Conrad's heart hurt. "No. No matter how hard I try, he just won't—"
"Shh," Conrad interrupted, patting his brother affectionately. "Don't get stressed about it. Just give him time, okay? You've always got me on your side. You have a family that loves you, Wolfram, don't forget that."
"Mmmm, 'kay," the other sighed, already dozing off.
Conrad smiled at the sight and made to get up when a sudden thought occurred to him. "By the way, Wolfram, was there someone with you in the hallway before I got to you?" He was sure he'd seen a tall, shadowy figure with Wolfram earlier, but upon seeing the state of his brother it had slipped his mind. It was unusual for Conrad to be forgetful, and he wondered if he'd just been imagining it.
When Wolfram still hadn't replied after several long moments, Conrad glanced over to find him passed out. He slid off the bed and reached out to settle Wolfram into a position where he wouldn't have to worry about him if he needed to throw up again. Then he moved over to the window and drew the curtains before heading towards the doorway.
"Goodnight, Wolfram," he whispered as he shut the door with a soft click.
As Conrad made to walk away, he chuckled at the memory of a very young, and very serious young version of himself approaching the various minions of Blood Pledge castle with his childish and yet determined plea.
Wolfram, of course, just believed it to be bad luck that Conrad always seemed to find him the very moment he went a little too pale, or his cheeks were a little too red. It never occurred to him that for years, the people around the castle had gone straight to Sir Weller whenever he looked slightly off-colour, or overly stressed.
Conrad hoped, as he walked away to do his usual nightly check on Yuuri's room that Wolfram wouldn't find out about it any time soon either. He was sure that his brother, with all of his Mazoku pride, would not appreciate the fact that he was still being looked after by his big brother.
Still, in the end, no matter what the future held for Wolfram, whether it was his happily ever after, or the bitterness of heartbreak, he had a family who loved him. And most importantly of all, he knew it.
The sound of Wolfram's snores filtered softly into the hallway, and Conrad shook his head fondly. He couldn't wait to subtly tease his brother in the morning.
He was always cutest when he was angry, anyway.
Alright, so I wanted to pay homage to the fact that Wolfram is in fact Shinou's ancestor, since he had a baby with Rufus von Bielefeld, and I also adore how Conrad and Wolfram's relationship is developing.
Wolfram needs to get drunk in the series. He was in that New Year's picture, and I think he'd be an epic drunk. If he's anything like me he gets really loving.