A/N: Warning for implied incestual feelings.
"Which one do you like best, Wolfiekins?" Celi asked in a conspiratorial whisper as they left the throne room, Conrart trailing slightly behind. The cherubic face of his younger brother, just a few years shy of losing its roundness, peered up at their mother, screwed up in an endearing expression of consideration.
"I'll have to think about it," he said, with a determined nod that made Conrart smile, despite the slightly ill feeling he had been harboring throughout the afternoon audience with his mother's many suitors.
There were many reasons Conrart did not feel entirely at ease with his mother's seeming determination to involve her youngest son in this particular part of her life. It did indeed seem to delight Wolfram to at last be granted such attention by a mother who was, to say the least, usually a bit distracted in caring for her children, but it seemed somehow unwholesome to ask a boy to evaluate candidates for his mother's bed under the impression that he might gain a father. Though his mother often spoke of marriage in the fairytales she spun for Wolfram's benefit, Conrart was rather certain that his mother had no intentions of being wed again.
But there were other reasons, darker reasons that he only consciously admitted to himself when he was alone. Wolfram was his, and he did not feel it fair that he should lose him to his mother now, just because it was her sudden whim to acknowledge him. It was Conrart who had taught the boy to tie his bootlaces, Conrart who had kissed the pain from scraped knees and tucked him in at night. And his mother's latest trend of thoughts had led him to brood.
"Don't you think Wolfram will be a heartbreaker?" Celi cooed, brushing her long nails through soft blonde curls as the boy sat beside her on the bed. "I dare say he will be even more beautiful than I."
Conrart could only nod, his throat constricted as Celi held the boy's blushing face still and turned it towards him.
"Would you like to go with mommy on her cruise to find a handsome prince, sweetie?" Celi said, smiling at him fondly. Wolfram shrugged, jerking his face away with an uncertain frown.
"Aren't there handsome princes at home, mother?" Wolfram asked, his gaze rising slightly, eyes locking with Conrart's. Celi laughed and crushed him to her breast.
"Only the three handsomest," Celi said, and released him. "Now go with Conrart and wash up for bed, darling."
Conrart tossed restlessly, thinking of his mother's offer to take Wolfram on her cruise. His mother had planned her pursuit of free love once free of the throne, almost immediately after the departure of Wolfram's father, a man he'd barely known, and who Wolfram did not know at all. He fleetingly pictured the mother and son, traveling the world and seducing it, and felt a pang of fear pierce through him. It was enough to distract him from the opening of his bedroom door, before the soft footfalls on the carpet had him sitting and alert.
"Conrart?" Wolfram's voice called softly in the near darkness. "Is it okay?"
"Yes," Conrart replied hoarsely, completing the ritual of consent for Wolfram to climb into bed with him that they'd practiced for years. It was not practiced so often these days, as Wolfram's age made him less prone to bad dreams, and Conrart could not help a feeling of gladness.
Conrart could almost feel his brother's small smile of relief, which was just as traditional, but always surprising to him. As if he would ever deny Wolfram anything that was his to give.
"I was thinking," Wolfram whispered, sliding under the covers and nestling beside him, his body more solid, and not quite so soft as it had been. It made Conrart instantly uncomfortable to notice such a thing, and yet he held him no less readily, pulling the smaller form to him, and resting his chin on the soft crown of gold beneath it.
"What were you thinking?" Conrart coaxed after a pause, feeling the boy squirm slightly.
"I -- which one should I pick?" Wolfram asked.
"Which one?" Conrart asked, feeling Wolfram nod.
"Which of mother's suitors?" Wolfram whispered. Conrart stiffened slightly, looking towards the small sliver of moonlight that has risen to shine through the bedroom curtains.
"Does it matter very much?" Conrart asked. Wolfram shrugged and sighed.
"I -- I guess I was hoping -- if maybe I chose the very right one --" Wolfram said hesitantly. "Maybe she really would get married?"
Conrart pulled back slightly, straining to make out the face of his brother in the dim light.
"You knew," Conrart whispered, studying the tiny flecks of light reflected from Wolfram's long lashes as the boy stretched upon his back and looked away, nodding.
"I knew she wasn't really looking for a husband," Wolfram said quietly, chewing on his lip. "Gwendal told me, but I already knew,"
They stayed silent for a while, Conrart winding his arms around Wolfram's slim waist, and resting his cheek on his shoulder. His Wolfram had grown some, while he had been watching him too closely to notice, and it made him sad, but in some ways relieved. Gwendal had often scolded him for coddling the boy too much, keeping him too sheltered.
"Lord Gustberg," Wolfram murmured, bringing Conrart out of his thoughts.
"Oh?" Conrart asked, trying to be teasing but not quite managing to keep the edge from his voice. "Why? Do you find him handsome?"
Wolfram squirmed, giggling and hiding his face in the crook of Conrart's arm, nodding. Before Conrart could reply, the boy flopped around towards him, his face grown serious as his large green eyes peered up at him.
"Do you know why?" Wolfram asked, breathlessly.
"Why?" Conrart asked, his heart beating furiously, as Wolfram leaned close to his ear, wetting his lips.
"He reminds me of you," Wolfram whispered, warm breath against his face. "I wanted to marry you, remember?"
Conrart remembered his brother's declaration of their betrothal quite well. The temperamental and somewhat mischievous child had been quite fascinated upon first discovering an excuse to go around smacking people in the face, and took his new favorite game to such an extreme that he'd proposed a slap to every cheek that came within his reach for a week or more before an exasperated Gwendal had at last frightened him out of the habit with a stern lecture. Fortunately, no one took their play engagement to the child prince seriously.
"With that logic, you wanted to marry quite a few people," Conrart said, smiling.
"But I slapped you first, so it was the only one that counted," Wolfram said with a slight pout. His face grew serious once more, as he impulsively, pressed his lips to Conrart's, pulling back quickly, his eyes wide.
Conrart stroked the side of his face tenderly, the boy's features relaxing as he found he had not angered his brother. Conrart kissed his forehead gently, before pulling Wolfram's face to his chest and out of reach, his heart aching.