The Mind's Eye
"And what exactly was it that you were looking for?" Conrad asked, brown eyes narrowing as he scanned the dusty, timeworn bookcase.
"Hmmm," Wolfram hummed to himself—a delicate finger skimming the spines of the books in front of him. "Last night at dinner, I'd mentioned to Günter a book on political theory that I'd seen in here when we first arrived…" And I had nothing to do but watch the Wimp go in here with Lady Flurin Gilbert as a part of the castle tour. He chewed his lip nervously at the thought. The two of them alone, at some point during this trip, worried him.
Then, sharp emerald eyes turned to Conrad. His older brother was still examining the books, doing his best to help out.
With a pout, Wolfram went back to his task, but thought, Maybe, I shouldn't be so worried about my wimp of a fiancé falling for Lady Flurin. Maybe, it's Conrad I should be concerned about. He cast a sideways glance at his brother. The two of them have a lot in common: that baseball stuff, Earth customs that I can never really understand…even the way Earth people speak and write. That Earth scribble makes no sense to me no matter how many times Yuuri tries to explain it. And it's not like I haven't tried to learn that "kana" stuff. But, every time I try to write it, the characters come out looking like swords and arrows. Wolfram sighed to himself, lowering his head.
"Don't worry, Wolfram," Conrad said cheerfully. "We'll find it."
"Eh?" the blond said, confused. Then, it hit him and he was grateful that his brother was not a mind reader. It was Yozak who once told him "No love was ever born out of jealousy." Yes, he was jealous and that hurt his pride even more. "Ummm…of course," he mumbled back.
"You know, Wolfram," Conrad said with his head cocked to one side, "I'm really proud of you these days."
"Oh?" Wolfram said, arms folded against his chest. The words stroked his ego a little, but he wasn't going to show it.
"Yes, you're not chasing after Yuuri or calling him 'cheater' on this trip."
That's because I haven't had two seconds alone with him—that wimp!
"And you're going out of your way to find a book for Günter…"
…Because Yuuri's stuck in trade negotiations with Caloria, and I have nothing to do…
"And, I guess…you've really grown up…" He shrugged at the end of the sentence, a little sad.
Wolfram turned away thinking, Of course, I'm grown up. I'm engaged, aren't I?
Wolfram's sharp eyes spotted the book on a high shelf. Yes, that was the one. It was there last night. He remembered the bookcase, but not the exact shelf. Still, it would be easy to reach if he had a footstool or something. "It's that one," Wolfram said, pointing up.
Conrad made an attempt to get it. But, he was just a bit too short. "It looks like we're going to need a …"
"Oh, come on," Wolfram growled, pulling one of the padded chairs closer to him. "It will only take a second. It's not a problem, really." The chair scraped on the floor as he dragged it over.
"Wolfram, I don't think that's wise…" Conrad raised a hand to stop him.
"Oh, please," the blond said, rolling his eyes, "I've been using libraries my whole life. I can do this one thing." I swear, he won't let me do anything on my own!
Wolfram stood on the chair and felt the weight shift. The chair was an antique and the legs leaned a bit. The blond ignored it and reached up for the shelf. His nimble fingers tugged at the spine and pulled the book free.
"Well, what do you think of that?" Wolfram beamed. He dangled the book between a thumb and forefinger to show his victory. He grinned knowingly and saw brown eyes narrow in response.
"Maybe, I should take back the 'grown up' comment. And I think you're still not too big to spank," Conrad said in a joking tone that almost bordered on annoyance.
"Oh, please. You never spanked me. No one ever has." Wolfram actually laughed at that one—a real laugh.
"Well, Yuuri says that you should have been," Conrad added with a small smirk and enjoyed the look of indignation on Wolfram's face as a response. "I was the perfect child!"
Now, it was Conrad's turn to laugh. "What about that time that you went to the New Year's festival and set all of the fireworks off from the front row? You scared everybody."
"But, it made a colossal boom," Wolfram said, grinning back. "Plus, I couldn't control my fire wielding back then."
Conrad raised a skeptical brown eyebrow.
"Okay, what about the time when we were eating breakfast in the garden and you screamed at Gwendal for not paying enough attention to you? You made a fire cub jump into the flowerbed, remember?"
"An accident," the blond countered half-heartedly. "Plus, those flowers were just asking for it, they were so ugly."
"You set fire to the lawn, too."
Wolfram just grinned.
"Fine then…What about the time that you put milk in your Uncle Waltorana's tea?"
"So?" Green eyes blinked.
"The man's lactose intolerant!"
"Oh, right…" Wolfram said, fighting back a laugh and the memory of his uncle running to the toilet every five minutes. He still wiggled the book between his thumb and forefinger. He'd still won over "Conrad the Worry Wart." It was fun.
Wolfram's chair wobbled again and he jumped down—now concerned that he'd break the antique and his family would be inclined to pay for it and submit a written apology. But, in the process of jumping, he miscalculated and slammed his body into the bookcase itself. The heavy wooden structure careened. It groaned as it did with nails working themselves loose. Thick, weighty texts were sliding out and falling at random—and Wolfram realized that Conrad would be crushed under the weight.
"Conrad, no!" he shouted, shoving his older brother away with every ounce of strength he had in him.
Wolfram's head tilted up in time to see the shadow that was falling over him. He tried to dive with his arms bent to protect his head.
The sound of a deafening, wooden slam rattled the castle walls.
"Wolfram?" Conrad said, putting a hand to his aching forehead. He moved gingerly. "Wolf-?" His voice trailed off.
Wolfram was face down on the floor, half buried under the remains of a bookcase and a broken antique chair. His back was littered with sharp, splintered planks and dust-covered books. His left arm was bleeding. His right was bent at an unnatural angle.
The brunette solder crawled over. "Wolfram? Wolfram?" He didn't even recognize his own voice. It was broken, terrified.
His wide hand brushed away the debris trapped in blond hair. Silently, Conrad cursed himself. He swore the day that Wolfram was born that nothing—nothing!—would hurt his baby brother.
He had failed.
"Wolfram?" Conrad patted the pale face. No response.
Conrad had a flash of memory. He had been walking down the hallway only to hear the huge bang of a wooden door. Then, a toddler with sunny gold hair and wearing nothing but a white towel came running at him.
"Wolfram, are you running away from Nanny again?" he asked, slightly put out. But, try as he might, it was hard to be mad at him with that sunny gold smile beaming up.
"No," came the cherub's voice followed by a wet, barefoot stomp on the stone floor.
From somewhere in the baths, Conrad could hear, "Oh, where did that child go?" It was a woman's voice—exasperated and highly annoyed.
"I think we need to see Nanny. Right, Wolfram?"
The toddler put a hand on his white towel and it dropped to his toes. Skin to the wind and naked as the day he was born. "Cookies," Wolfram said with a "shame, shame on you" finger shake because his needs were being ignored.
"Oh, where can he be?" The woman sounded really on the border of anger now.
Wolfram looked up at Conrad. "C-O-O-K-I-E-S!" He pouted and blinked emerald eyes. And, like a puppy, he gave his blond hair a shake—sending water everywhere.
Conrad could hear feet stomping in their direction. He took off his brown coat, put it around Wolfram 's shoulders, buttoned the top button, and took him by the hand. But the blond baby hated being held by the hand. Instead, he wriggled out of the tight grip with a growl of frustration and held Conrad's pinkie finger instead. Walking along, Conrad noted that the blond toddler looked like he was wearing a long, brown cape—stretching out behind him majestically as he walked.
Then, Wolfram tripped and fell.
The body looked to be in the same position that Wolfram was in right now—bleeding on the floor and covered in debris.
Conrad shook the memory out of his head. What was he doing? Wolfram needed help. "Guards?!" he shouted. He was about to get up and find help when he felt something pulling at his sleeve, wanting his attention.
Green eyes blinked at him wearily.
"Wolfram! Wolfram, are you alright?" He grabbed the slender, pale hand and gave it a delicate squeeze. "Why did you do that?" Why did you save me?
The blond looked at his brother. It was as though he couldn't understand the question. Why would Conrad ask such a thing? He knew. Of course, he did—somewhere deep inside.
"It's because you're important…to Yuuri," he said quietly.
Conrad couldn't breathe. "For…Yuuri…?"
The blond tugged his hand away from Conrad's large hand—and grabbed the pinkie finger. "…and to me…Little Big Brother…"
Conrad remembered. He remembered Wolfram's fall to the floor wearing his brown coat. He scooped the toddler up, wrapped him tightly in the cloth, and took him to the kitchens where they ate cookies…and hid from the nanny for the rest of the afternoon.
It was the best day of Conrad's life.