Grass stained his knees, the young man beside him panted. Where once the dark haired boy struggled to keep up, he now kept in pace with the long strides of the guard beside him. They inhaled, exhaled, crumbled over rocks and pathways and perspired with morning sweat. Beat. It was nothing but a heartbeat, a constant hum, white noise, in the background.
Conrad believed if he kept that beat going, then he wouldn't need to face what he feared.
This wasn't a fear of heights, or a fear of blood. It wasn't a fear of death or even war. It was something that gripped the soldier's heart with a certain vice that was different from those sorts of things. It was fear of himself, of the shallowness, of his sins.
The black crime of falling in love with Yuuri.
Had he ever considered that this feeling might exist before it had happened, maybe he could have been prepared. Maybe he could have put himself into papers and training and running and working so he wouldn't have had the time to fall in love. He could have put off those exciting feelings when Yuuri had first come to Shin Makoku, or each time he showed through the fountains when he arrived. But he hadn't known it was coming, and it had hit him hard. The very acknowledgement of his affections paraded over him on a usual night where he, poorly, suspected nothing to change.
"Conrad?" Yuuri had asked. It was after dinner, after a dry two months of Yuuri not returning to Shin Makoku. He was clean, from a shower. Night clothes, walking on the terrace. The angle of the sun and the cool breeze barely wrapping around the balcony. The exact hour where Conrad would wish his King a quiet sleep every evening, and the exact hour when Yuuri would give him his silent, calm attention. The young Maoh faced his knight perusual and said, "You could get a cold-"
There. And that was it.
Something of the sound wasn't Yuuri's voice that had been concerned for his health. He had then examined the boy's face, and as the sun drifted below Yuuri's brow, Conrad's heart slid sideways and he saw Julia; he had seen her eyes, and the light formed her silhouette in Yuuri's frame. It had been her voice. A cold? Perhaps. Conrad was certain he must have been feverish.
But she was there, and the necklace was hanging limply at her neck, and without words she looked at him, seeing and not seeing.
He felt frightened almost, remembering things he tried so long to keep buried. It was choking and grabbing at his neck, and he wanted desperately to look away, full of guilt, dry at his throat and eyes. But then the woman's silence melted against the cool air and through the water color of the sky, wrapping around the ever familiar face of his king, sending Conrad its warmth- and with a hazy smile of his lips it was finally Yuuri who had said,
"Neh, Conrad, you could get a cold, you know."
That's all it took for him to know that Julia was happy, and she was free, in a sense- and she had spoken to him through his King. Julia was dead but she knew far before Conrad himself that he had fallen in love with Yuuri.
This could have happened yesterday, or maybe a week ago for all he knew. In such times his mind had become less aware, and he couldn't chain the memories to keep in storage. Yet for a few lasting hours after that day, Conrad had been caught up in the light tender feelings of love. He paid no heed to Julia's apparition or his mildly out of character joy, and was bombarded with thoughts of his King. His eyes glazed over at the sight of Yuuri's returns, and his step was lighter as the King walked beside him. His ears hitched at the sound of his own name falling from the boy's lips, the sound of his footsteps, so distinctly familiar and different from everyone else's. He became even more astoundingly acute to the young Maou, studying his face during dinner to discover what dishes Yuuri truly liked or secretly despised. He learned that Yuuri's eyes twinkled when Conrad came just at the right time to save him from Gunter, and, if need be, Wolfram.
Love. It was love, and Conrad was convinced it had been there all the long years of his life, dormant. He hadn't known that loving did not need to be a burden; and after all of the years he had wasted, wistfully watching, he released what cares he had of his consequences, and allowed himself to feel. Carefully, he discovered things that used to dwell beneath his poker eyes, and he brought them to surface, slowly revealing intentions and emotions that he had punished himself for ever having before.
And yet some part of Conrad's mind had stayed in check, and within days he returned with the heavy burden of place and situation. How he had allowed himself to be so elated, he didn't know. He was Yuuri's guard for Christ's sake. That title almost screamed hands off. The very revelation of his heart began to slowly creep back into what Conrad might have called extreme guilt- extreme desire. And then it went back into what it was locked in to begin with, and that even while he accepted his own feelings, he would never oppose them on Yuuri. If it would be his burden, than he would accept it with gratitude. So Conrad tucked away the small touches and sunsets, and he appreciated his gift from afar, only hoping that the Maoh could understand the growing affection that would never be said. These secrets were hidden under the recesses of Conrad's mind, and he intended to keep them there.
However the lovely Maou couldn't help but make things difficult with the time worn soldier, and now that realization had hit him, it was hard not to catch subtle things that were, beforehand, small trinkets of hope.
Conrad was almost tricking himself these days, and desperately. He had never thought that his desires would manifest and eventually become a bother. It had been so long since Conrad had desired anything of anyone, and a brush of the hand suddenly became a sensual caress, or a sigh from the lips of his king was instantly a sigh directed to his lovely knight for a dark longing touch. Conrad cracked with the difficulty overwhelming him. And if he had wanted to, if he had the courage or the lack of concern for how his confession may affect Yuuri, he would have told him the moment he had found out his heart. If it would have led to indulging in the sight of his King as his, without the consequences, Conrad would be running through the castle halls, confession strings already flowing from his mouth.
But that would be too much. Almost the same as taking Yuuri by force.
So knowing he could not convince himself to drop this insane want of requited love,he turned to the hope that Yuuri was a taken man, his brother's man, and for awhile it had worked. Invisible perimeters surrounded Yuuri as hands-off territory once again.
But suddenly, Yuuri had called off the engagement. Conrad had been signing off soldiers' paperwork in his room when Yozak came in to tell him the news. His good friend chuckled and laid out his palm while Conrad grumpily handed him 20 dollars.
The castle employees had buzzed for weeks with the news and dodged green-eyed glares from the thoroughly pissed Wolfram night and day. Snickering maids in the kitchens hid beneath sugar whispers, claiming the young King simply must be "looking." Yuuri's nineteenth Earth birthday had come and gone, and now his face was devastatingly handsome, gaining him quite a few eager ladies to join in on the romancing. Interesting rumors from whichever hallway or wing in the castle claimed that Yuuri should be ripe to lay a woman down by now. Or a man, for that matter. Conrad twitched as he walked passed young maids who grew stone silent as he stepped by them, sensing he had been the object of gossip. And it certainly wasn't making it any easier on the thin layer of apprehension that was keeping Conrad back.
With such rumors of Yuuri being sexually ripe, Conrad had thought they would definitely prove false. (Never mind the constant elbow jabs from Yozak whenever he passed by.) He would sit in his stall readying horses, thinking of how it would be impossible for such an innocent boy to think of such things anyway. After all, Yuuri still possessed the ever charming boyish thoughts on relationships, and Conrad thought he was scot-free on explaining certain sex-ed situations to the young King. Even thinking of the young Maou simply pondering a sexual relationship somewhat puzzled Conrad. Forgetting the fact that Conrad was fully capable of pondering those sorts of things himself. So while his heart was eagerly awaiting Yuuri's acceptance, at least the question of reengaging his libido in said situations would be out of the question.
But then Yuuri, so cleverly, had snuck in the topic while the two men sat in the large bath house. With Conrad's nerves so shot from his very acute feelings for Yuuri, it was already bad enough. A very real, warm, not to mention naked Yuuri was suddenly shot from platonic to very not words that came from his King's mouth that night shattered all resolve and woke up things that should be dormant for life.
"Conrad, have you done anything with a man?"
Wonderful. Any man, any human, any demon for that matter, would never be able to deal with such an undoing boy. His imagination was running wild and he came near to accepting his fate and telling Yuuri what he desired, but it was so inappropriate that his reflexes made him bite his own tongue on reflex. It was then that Conrad had kept his genuine soldier poker face and decided that it was only Yuuri's age. He had made an excuse and told him that, while it was common in Shin Makokou, he himself had never experimented. Yuuri's eyes looked crestfallen for a moment and Conrad wondered if he had missed out on a lesson that Yuuri was truly interested in. It was then that Conrad suddenly realized that they weren't looking down from disappointment. The bubbles in the bath had just simply run out.
Conrad managed to convince himself that Yuuri may had been looking at him with hidden lust in his eyes then, but that was a young man's nature. Had Conrad acted upon it, he would have regretted it. Yuuri had so much to deal with as a King, and release was certainly something everybody sought after during stress, so this wasn't seducing on Yuuri's part. The equation made sense in his mind and he ignored the weird looks servants gave him as he wrote out the problem in the air. Each time it came out to simple, young man libido. So Conrad forced those almost-flirty-not-quite images from his head.
But this, this charade, it was hard- no matter how much he desired him and loved him. It didn't matter anymore if his love was genuine- it was becoming tainted with Yuuri hanging right in front of him, dangling himself, almost teasingly. Conrad knew from experience that Yuuri most likely had no idea of what he was doing, but Conrad could see with his eyes thank you very much, and he noticed the small stares and wondering eyes Yuuri possessed. So, instead of poking the fire into something Conrad would enjoy thoroughly, Conrad distanced himself from that desire. He cut from morning jogs with excuses of courtly matters. Baseball became five minute catch-throw games. Yuuri didn't deserve a lover, hell even an admirer, that claimed innocent true love while their thoughts slipped sensuously. And as he cut the line that wound him around Yuuri, he felt a sharp singe in his veins, but it came with the after wake of relief. The strain of the days passed, and Conrad, though pining for attention oh so quietly, began to ease the raging storm of need inside him. Besides, Yuuri would never want a simple guard had he chose by himself- and Conrad standing around him constantly, always a finger's width away, was simply tricking the boy into thinking he desired anything of the soldier.
Conrad remembered that lustful nature acutely as a young man, so he began to, harshly yet well intentioned, ignore his King.
But as if God himself chose to torture the poor man, his dreams became antagonizing and sinfully sensuous; including a certain dark haired King writhing below him on the floor in some cabin somewhere in God knew what forest-
To put it simply, Conrad was seriously losing his mind. Never before had he been put up against such an obstacle. Nothing was working. What was he even fighting? He didn't really even know what his opponent was. Was it himself, his lust? Yuuri? He began to curse to himself and lose sleep, wishing he had never realized just how deep he was in.
He would never have time to figure out what he was battling, or how he could win, because he knew his little charade of escaping Yuuri's glances and touches was going to collapse. The boy basically was attached and had always seemed to find Conrad whenever he wanted to. (Taking into consideration that Conrad never moved to stop him from doing that.) He had an uncanny ability that matched Conrad's- he could find him anywhere, at anytime, had he so desired. And if on cue, Yuuri had walked down the hallway Conrad was monitoring and eyed him before Conrad could turn away. He had finally found him after days of interaction limited to hellos and goodbyes, and now, Conrad was cornered.
Conrad was brought back to his senses, quickly stowing away things he had been thinking of, and forced himself to smile. He found it came easier then he expected it to. Yuuri slowly walked over to the tall man and waved a little, stopping before him and smiling as well.
"Sorry I haven't seen you for awhile. Everyone's been keeping me busy. Wedding suitors, meetings, stuff like that. I don't get it; I can't talk Gunter out of anything."
Conrad refused to allow himself to chuckle, wanting to end this conversation as soon as possible. He was already tracing Yuuri's jaw line with his eyes, softening his gaze- something that had come natural at the sight of his King. Inside, sentences and phrases meant only for Yuuri poured onto his tongue, yet he kept them still, horrified that one might slip. His mind caught up with his eyes and was running with thousands of forbidden thoughts, filing out one by one. Oh, hey, Yuuri, you're free? Why don't I just propose then-
"It's just really hard to meet so many girls in one day! And they're all trying to meet me just because they want to be a queen. Well, I mean, obviously, isn't that like a girl fantasy or something?"
A chuckle slipped from Conrad's lips and he cursed himself, noting how Yuuri's eyes lit up from Conrad's enjoyment. The aura around his King was just too alluring and relaxing, and those dark obsidian eyes were starting to tug at him. He needed a way out, and fast, but Yuuri had already energized the conversation.
"Ah, ah, and this one girl, I can't remember her name but, she actually told me that-"
"…Yuuri, I'm sorry, but I must tend to the soldiers today. You understand."
Conrad finally let his breath out and made to move to the side for his escape, deeply ignoring the overwhelming guilt weighing him, but Yuuri's small hand grasped his uniform's sleeve before he could brisk out of the hallway and forced Conrad to come to terms with what his brain was telling him to run away from.
He turned to look at Yuuri and tried his best not to analyze his facial features as he normally did, and convinced himself that the pained look in Yuuri's eyes wasn't there. He ignored the tightened lips that might hint at crying soon, and the slightly stitched eyebrows that conveyed a thousand words without Yuuri having to speak.
He paused and waited respectfully for Yuuri to speak, instead of dashing from his touch.
Yuuri bit his lip and faltered, obviously about to spill something out. Conrad had become so good at reading the boy that it was as if the words had already leaked onto the floor. And he already knew what they might be.
In order to stop the stream of sentences about to erupt from Yuuri's lips, and to decrease his chances of cracking and taking what he really wanted from the boy; soul, mind, skin…he brought up a proposition.
"Maybe this evening, we can play catch."
Conrad cursed himself, realizing what he had said yet keeping his facade, while Yuuri's face lit up. His eyes seemed to catch a glow and Conrad inwardly winced, already seeing the worse case scenarios of being alone, playing baseball. He could already foresee the terrible things that he himself would not be able to resist any longer, but yet on top of being alone with the boy, it would be in the evening, when Yuuri always did make the sunsets look best and- he didn't know which one was worse. Silently he hoped his king had paperwork-
"I would love that." Too late.
Yuuri let go of Conrad's sleeve and smiled brilliantly pink, brushing off invisible dust from the rest of the man's uniform. Conrad's eyes softened but he kept his guard up, waiting till the young King might leave his site to let his heart loose.
"Man, I have papers to sign though...I'll finish quick, alright!? Good luck with the soldiers."
Conrad's lips almost formed an excuse, but Yuuri was too fast for his own good. With excitement written across his face, he gave a final smile to his protector, squeezed his left hand briefly, and made his leave.
He dashed off down the hallway and past the kitchen, turned left and disappeared. Conrad blinked. He had never seen Yuuri run to go do paperwork so fast in his life. But he supposed if he wanted to play baseball with Yuuri for awhile then-
What was he thinking? The baseball date was bad. And now it was a date? Conrad felt so flustered that he could have sworn he had caught a nervous bug from Yuuri. Never before had anyone been such an issue to him. It was infectious, biting at his flesh, simply refusing to anchor elsewhere. Now he felt like those young girls, excitingly waiting for their crushes to acknowledge that they even existed. Not only that, he had lied to his King. Lied. There were no soldier drills today, let alone any work. Conrad had been off duty the entire morning and instead of spending his time with Yuuri, he had been ruthlessly figuring out ways to avoid him.
And now, even though he had desperately tried to escape his object of affection, he had set up a date with him instead.
Conrad Weller, despite his efforts, never could say no to a pretty face.
Thank you so much for reading this first installment. The next part will probably be up in a matter of days, depending on my reviews D: I am very fragile since this is my first attempt, and I would appreciate no negative comments. I'm sorry if it is difficult to read, considering I tend to write in the form of stream of consciousness. Please stay with me!( ´ ▽ ` )ﾉ