A/N: One-shot the second. Reviews are welcome!
Disclaimer: I do not own Kyou Kara Maou or any of its characters.
Warnings: Light kissing?
Setting: Two to three years post-season two.
Into the Fire
"Love is like a friendship caught on fire. In the beginning a flame, very pretty, often hot and fierce, but still only light and flickering. As love grows older, our hearts mature and our love becomes as coals, deep-burning and unquenchable."
~ Bruce Lee
Winter was coming quickly to the kingdom, a sure sign that the season was going to be a harsh one. Snow had already begun to fall by the time Wolfram entered through the palace gates on horseback, signaling an end to autumn. A cold wind blew swiftly through the leafless tree branches, whipping his blond hair about his face.
He pulled his horse to a stop once he'd arrived at the front steps of the castle, sliding out of the saddle and handing the reins off to a groomsman, who'd take the tired animal to cool off before bringing her to the stables and giving her something to eat and drink. Wolfram gave her a loving stroke before she could be taken away from him, lightly fingering her white mane, and then he turned to move up the steps and enter the castle, leaving the others in his small traveling party to take care of his belongings.
He'd just returned from visiting his uncle in Bielefeld, and just in time, too, for if he'd stayed even a day longer, he knew the early snows would have prevented him from traveling. He enjoyed the time he spent with his father's brother, but spending the entire snowy season with him at his estate wouldn't have pleased him, not when there were others he would have missed and pined for the entire time he was away. Already he was anxious to see his fiancé, and to make sure he hadn't gotten himself into too much trouble while he was gone.
He thought to head for Yuuri's office first, thinking he was most likely still in there drowning amongst the papers that made his desk their home, but some foolish compulsion lead him to their shared room instead, wanting to make himself look somewhat presentable before greeting his fiancé for the first time since he'd departed nearly a month ago. He'd been riding all day, and so he knew he must smell like a horse; a bath would take care of that quickly enough, and serve to rid him of the chill he'd acquired from the blistering cold air. Then there was the matter of taming his wind tossed curls, and dressing in something that didn't look as if he'd be riding in it for hours on end.
But his plans took an abrupt change when he opened the door and entered the room, only to find Yuuri right where he hadn't expected to see him. The young double black sat upon the floor by the fire place, a warm blanket wrapped about his shoulders, his dark eyes intently focused on the flames burning within. It wasn't so much the fact that he was sitting there that Wolfram found odd - he'd learned since their first meeting that Yuuri had a strange liking for sitting by the fireplace when the weather grew cold - but his presence in the room, when he would normally be busy working in his office, seemed somewhat out of place.
His dark haired fiancé looked up after a few moments, a small little smile appearing on his face as he saw the blond standing in the doorway, his eyes twinkling with amusement by the surprised look he was sporting. "There wasn't much work to do today, so I was able to finish up early," he said by way of explanation, seeming to know exactly what Wolfram was thinking. His smile widened a bit more. "Welcome back."
Wolfram wasn't sure how to respond to him for a moment, caught off guard by the sight of him in there, and it took him a few seconds to compose himself, and think of a reply that didn't sound as if he'd suddenly been thrown off kilter. "You certainly don't seem too happy to see me," he forced out, finally able to shut the door behind him, moving across the room to head for the closet.
"Why's that?" Yuuri wondered curiously, his voice holding more than a little confusion, as if he'd thought his happiness at his return was apparent. It had been, somewhat, but the bitterness Wolfram had always carried inside of him over the fact that Yuuri hardly showed him any more affection than he'd show any of his other friends prevented him from seeing it, and that bitterness tended to come out more often than either of them would like.
When he didn't reply, Yuuri continued on. "Well, I am. The castle's always way too quiet when you're not around."
The blond rolled his eyes, taking his gloves and winter jacket off and setting them aside, before opening the closet door to begin searching through it for one of his nightgowns. Seeing as Yuuri was already there, he'd just take a bath and get ready for bed. It had been a long day, anyway. "I'm glad I actually serve a purpose," he said in return, knowing his sarcasm was evident.
His fiancé merely snorted at him, though it was difficult to tell whether he was amused by his caustic reply or not.
Silence fell upon them, and Wolfram put most of his attention into completing his search. Finally, he found the gown he was looking for, a periwinkle colored one with white bows and long sleeves, one he'd gotten last winter when his other gowns proved insufficient in keeping him warm at night. With his nightdress now at hand, he moved to exit the closet, closing it and heading back towards the door of the room.
He stopped in his tracks when his eyes inevitably trailed over to Yuuri against his will, and he saw him still sitting exactly where he'd been since the moment he'd entered, dark eyes once more focused on the fire roaring before him. There was something off about him, though he didn't quite know what it was - perhaps the set of his shoulders was different than normal, and the content expression on his face didn't look quite as peaceful as it ordinarily did when he was relaxed and free of worries.
Whatever it was, it instantly piqued Wolfram's interest, and though he told himself he should just leave and take his bath and pretend as if he hadn't noticed, he'd never been any good at ignoring his fiancé when something seemed wrong with the younger boy. Even if he wasn't frowning with worry, or pouting in sadness, it pained him to see him anything less than completely happy.
Releasing a sigh, he altered his course and went over to the fireplace, sitting himself down beside him, pushing his bitterness away and looking at him openly, allowing him to see his concern as he asked, "What's wrong?"
Yuuri turned to look at him again, slightly bewildered, almost as if he'd forgotten that he'd been in the room. He looked as if he were about to refute the idea that anything was amiss, before stopping himself from doing so and responding with, "What do you mean?"
Wolfram gave him a look, the same one he always gave him when he knew Yuuri was hiding something from him and he was trying to tell him with his eyes alone that he'd better just spit it out or he was going to hound him until he finally told him. "Something's bothering you," he stated, not bothering to pose it as a question since he knew his observation was right without Yuuri even having to agree to it.
Yuuri frowned now, though it was small, and he turned his dark eyes away from him. "Nothing's bothering me."
"Then why do you look so down?" Wolfram continued to prod. Yuuri avoiding his gaze as he was just made him all the more confident that he'd guessed his current mood correctly.
With a sigh, Yuuri shook his head. "I don't," he denied, though he said nothing more than that, a sure sign that he knew Wolfram was already onto him, and that it wouldn't be worth it to continue denying it further. He knew Wolfram just as much as Wolfram knew him by that point, so he must know that Wolfram had made up his mind about this before he'd even started speaking to him again, and so continuing to lie would be meaningless.
"Yes, you do," Wolfram said, narrowing his eyes a little bit more, slowly but surely breaking his fiancé down to the point where he wouldn't be able to hide it any longer. "You've obviously got something on your mind." Otherwise he wouldn't have been looking into the fire like he was searching for some sort of an answer.
The black haired boy released another sigh, his shoulders hunching a bit under the blanket he still had wrapped around him, and he fell silent for the second time since Wolfram had entered the room. The paler boy didn't bother questioning him anymore, and simply sat there waiting, knowing it was just a matter of time before Yuuri cracked completely. He merely had to get his thoughts in order and figure out what he wanted to say, before their conversation could begin again.
"Greta asked me this morning how you're supposed to know if you're in love with someone," he finally confessed, though he still kept his eyes turned away from him. Wolfram could spy one of Yuuri's hands picking at the blanket, playing with some invisible piece of lint that probably hadn't even been there in the first place.
"Oh…" he began to reply, having not expected something like that. Usually when Yuuri was upset by something, it had to do with his work - one of their allies had issues with another and asked him to mediate, one of the human countries was stirring up trouble, the people were angry over food prices, the Aristocrats wanted greater privileges, or other such things. Rarely was his fiancé bothered by much of anything on a personal level, unless it had to do with their engagement, but even that was something he'd learned to deal with since they'd first met.
Wolfram didn't really know how to respond to that, though he supposed it was for the best to hear how the confrontation had turned out. "And how did you answer her?" he wondered, though there was a part of him that didn't want to know. He and Yuuri had really only ever seriously talked about love once before, resulting in the birth of the bearbees, but it had been enough to where they both knew that they didn't very much agree on what love was and how it should be expressed. Yuuri gave his love freely, while Wolfram was more selective with his own.
Yuuri let out a little laugh, but it held no amusement in it. "I told her she's too young to be thinking about things like that."
The blond blinked at him, before rolling his eyes again. He should have expected him to answer with something like that. "She's thirteen, Yuuri," he made sure to inform him, though he knew his fiancé was well aware of their adopted daughter's age.
Finally, Yuuri's gaze was back on him, though he didn't turn to face him completely, merely tilted his head enough to be able to glance at him while still making it easy to look away without seeming as if that's what he was doing. "So?"
Wolfram nearly snorted at his answer, letting out a little chuckle and shaking his head at him in amusement, though he knew he really shouldn't be surprised. "So you avoided the question," he observed, finding that it wasn't very difficult to believe. If Yuuri didn't really want to talk about something, he was usually pretty good at figuring out ways to avoid the conversation or turn it in another direction, and he was sure the boy's reply to their daughters inquiry had done just that, as she would have most likely gone on to inform him that she was not a little girl any more, and then point out all the ways in which she'd grown up in the last three years, whether he wanted to hear them or not.
Yuuri shrugged, looking back to the fire once more, his constantly shifting eyes making him appear uneasy. "Well, what else was I supposed to say?" he asked, as if he couldn't possibly think there was a better answer than the one he'd given.
"Something other than that. She'll remain curious until you give her a better answer."
The double black's frown deepened a little more, though even then it remained small and barely there. If Wolfram hadn't had three years to carefully study each and every one of his expressions, he probably wouldn't have noticed the change. "Why don't you talk to her about it then?" he shot back, and the blond boy could have sworn there was a hint of bitterness in his voice as he said it, the sort he knew all too well, "since you're such an expert on the subject…"
Wolfram blinked curiously, unable to discern why Yuuri would say something like that, and so sullenly, too. "Maybe I will…" he informed him, even if his desire to talk to Greta about things like love and relationships was similar to Yuuri's. She was too young, he'd agree to that (though they were probably biased, seeing as she was their little girl), but Yuuri could have at least found a better way to handle the situation.
Silence descended upon them yet again, and once more Wolfram let it settle, feeling that it was better to allow Yuuri to gather his thoughts, especially considering the way in which the boy had previously responded to him. It seemed to him now that there was more on his mind than the discussion he'd had with Greta that morning, and Wolfram was content to let him sort through the things taking up space in his head instead of prodding him anymore.
He was about to stand back to his feet, and return to his prior notion of taking a bath and getting himself ready for bed, feeling a sense of fatigue fall over him full force now that he'd sat and rested for a few minutes. It had been a long journey, and he was looking foreword to having an entire day's rest before returning to his duties around the castle.
Just as he was moving to get up, Yuuri's voice stopped him.
He immediately froze, turning to glance at his fiancé at the tone of his voice, carefully scrutinizing him. The black haired youth still wasn't looking at him, which he found frustrating because it meant he couldn't look into his eyes, and was instead left to rely on his body language. Yuuri was normally a very expressive individual - physically, verbally, and emotionally - but presently he seemed to be guarding himself carefully, keeping his thoughts to himself until he felt ready to express them.
"Yes?" he wondered when the double black did not continue right away, returning to the spot he'd just been about to vacate and patiently awaiting a response. Patience was not something he was used to, but he'd acquired a great deal of it in his attempts to understand his fiancé.
"How do you know that you're in love with me?" he asked, and he sounded so genuinely curious, lost, and confused, that for a moment Wolfram thought of him as a small child instead of a young, eighteen year old man.
He paused to consider his question carefully, wondering if this had to do with his conversation with Greta or if there was something more to it than that. For a while, he honestly didn't know how to answer him, as everything that crossed his mind didn't seem as if it were an adequate enough explanation for someone who didn't share his thoughts and feelings about love.
"There is no 'how,'" he finally said, his voice coming out soft, and though Yuuri was not currently looking in his direction, Wolfram remained facing him as he spoke. "I just know…"
And, really, that was all there was to it. He knew it when he smiled, when he laughed, when he shouted in excitement or joy. He knew it when he was sad, or angry, when he was upset, when he was lost. He knew it when he watched him play baseball, or when he sat by observing him training with Conrart. He knew it when he saw him sitting at his desk, carefully scrawling out his name on a piece of parchment, his brow furrowed as he considered all of the documents laying before him. He knew it when he glanced over at him during dinner, and watched him cutting his meat or sipping his wine.
Most of all, he knew it when they were together, alone, with no one else there to bother him, and Yuuri spoke to him like this, and opened himself up in a way that he would never do around others.
Yuuri looked towards him again, then, to gaze into his eyes the same way he'd previously been gazing into the fire, intently, as if he were looking for more answers than the one to the question he'd just posed. Wolfram gazed back unwaveringly, feeling all of his bitterness, all of his frustration, all of his doubt and fatigue fade away, and he let Yuuri see all the love he had for him, burning brightly and consuming him, heart and soul.
And while Yuuri stared into his eyes and searched for whatever it was he was seeking, Wolfram conducted a search of his own, sifting through the emotions he saw being directed toward him during their exchange, and trying his hardest to identify them. It proved difficult, harder than he'd expected it to be with someone so expressive, until he found that little sparkle he'd seen only a few times before. He didn't know what it was, but it was warm, like the fire that suppressed the room's chill, and it gave him hope.
Hesitantly, when the silence had stretched for a couple of minutes or so, and their eyes still remained locked together, the blond moved closer, enough to be able to feel Yuuri's breath upon his face, and when his fiancé made no form of protest he leaned in and placed the softest of kisses against his lips. It was something he had not dared to do for the longest time, but at the moment it felt right.
Yuuri didn't respond to the kiss, but at the same time he didn't pull away from it either, and after three years of struggling and failing, of fighting and doubting, it was good enough for Wolfram.
When he pulled back, having only allowed it to linger for a few seconds, he saw Yuuri still looking at him, with his cheeks now lightly tinged pink, but without disgust, and without fear. The blond smiled at him, one of the soft little smiles he never showed anyone else, and moved to lean against him, finally breaking their eye contact to gaze into the fire as Yuuri had just been doing. Yuuri remained still and rigid for a long moment, as if things had just become a bit too uncomfortable for him, but then he relaxed and took the blanket from around his own shoulders, and spread it over the both of them.
Wolfram snuggled closer to him, closing his eyes as the firelight played across his face.
He could take a bath later. Right now he was fine where he was.