Remembrances and Regrets
It was Yozak who had brought in the body late in the night. Shrine maidens from all over the temple appeared flustered with the exception of the guards who held their spears aside to let Shin Makoku's most famous spy pass with the unexpected burden in his arms. There was a trail of blood mixed with rain water dripping from the fingertips of a pale hand. Two women took it upon themselves to retrieve soap, buckets, and mops for the clean up job.
A shrine maiden with auburn hair watched the pair coming at her. Yozak's heavy, hurried steps echoed. The young woman's first thought was to fetch Ulrike. But, she, for the moment, was frozen at the gruesome sight of Lord Wolfram von Bielefeld, crumpled and bathed in crimson—motionless in Yozak's arms.
"Lead, follow, or get out of the way," Yozak gritted out.
Shakily, she nodded as the duo passed. Coming to herself, she realized action was needed and turned to be of help. Being so short, she had to quicken her pace to catch up to them. In fact, she found herself scurrying quickly to remain at the tall man's side. "This way, sir, to the examining chamber." They turned down a corridor and passed more of her sisters—many frozen in their tracks at the unusual sight. The young woman looked to the right in time to glimpse a trio of maidens scuttling off for Ulrike's private prayer sanctuary. This was the month of holy prayer and Ulrike would get little sleep over the next thirty days.
"Someone wake The Great Sage and Healer-Egeria!"
Exactly whose voice it was, it was impossible to say. Yozak didn't care either way as long as they got medical aid.
Those not carrying out tasks, simply followed Yozak—hands clasped in prayer—as though in a dream.
The blood trail marked the way they'd been and women scrubbed the smooth stone floors from behind until Yozak stopped before a chamber door.
Gently, the spy readjusted Wolfram in his arms as one shrine maiden took a key from her pocket and opened the door.
He was at the examining table in two strides. The room had the overpowering scent of disinfectant and it was painted in a shade of dark cream. The lone piece of wide, tightly woven cloth covered the examining table almost down to the floor. It was white, the easiest color to bleach clean, and starched. But there was no pillow for Wolfram's head. There were cabinets filled with linens, bandages, and medical instruments. Some of the cabinets had glass doors, making it easy for Yozak to see them. But strange array of bric-a-brac gave very little comfort while waiting—which seemed an eternity when his heart was pounding so hard against his ribs.
The door opened and three brunette women approached with armloads of thick towels. One was offered to Yozak, who unfolded the cloth, dried his face, and then placed it on his head—allowing it to drape like a curtain down to his shoulders. The women, then, approached Wolfram. They wrapped towels against his lithe form to dry him off and keep him warm. Another was about to start stripping the mud-covered clothing when Healer-Egeria appeared in a taupe dressing gown cinched at the waist. A mousy little assistant followed on her heels with a clipboard.
Yozak noticed that Healer-Egeria was a generation older than Gissela, had mussed-up red hair from sleep and a rather tall body for a shrine maiden. From the looks of her, the spy would have guessed that Healer-Egeria would have made a fairly impressive guard had she not chosen healing as a profession.
"What have we here?" the woman asked in her usual no-nonsense way. She wasn't the type to panic and found it annoying when others did so. The three women smiled politely, hiding their great concern for the fate of the third son of the former maou, as they exited.
The healer scratched the side of her nose as she surveyed those who remained in the room. The only one left, besides her half awake assistant, seemed to be a tall, orange haired young man with a fairly tolerable personality. From his presence alone, Yozak came across as a "man of the world." So, if he kept up the behavior, he wouldn't have to be unceremoniously thrown out. But it didn't miss her eagle eye that Yozak was standing beside the examining table with concerned eyes that were drilling down at his captain's little brother.
Still, that was only natural.
Time to get to work.
Sky blue eyes glanced at her. "He was galloping over a hill. Reckless. It was slick…there was mud…and, then, the lightning flashed. Both man and horse fell."
She was bent over, examining Wolfram's bruising neck when she asked distractedly, "So, how's the horse?"
That got her an incredulous look. Healer-Egeria rolled her eyes internally. "Well, at least that shows you're not in shock and you can tell me what I need to know." A green glow began to rise from her fingertips. She hovered her hands over Wolfram's lower jaw. The hairline fracture disappeared almost immediately. Then, her hands inched up from the jaw and into the hairline, sensing a deep gash somewhere beneath blood-matted blond hair. A section of the hair would need to be cut to get a better look. "Sorry for testing you," she added, "but I need all of the information I can get to do my job properly."
That got her a nod.
"I saw him hit his head on a rock," Yozak went on. "His leg was twisted, too…at a bad angle." The spy tried not to cringe as the image flashed through his mind. It had been repeating over and over since they'd stepped safely into Shinou's temple. Yozak knew it was guilt. Little Lord Brat had a habit of getting on his nerves, mostly from the way he treated his older brother in public. But that alone would never have stopped him from rescuing the blond bishonen. Luckily, Wolfram was fairly light and he was able to make his way in the downpour to get help.
The healer listened to his words as she swept aside Wolfram's wet hair from his eyes. The assistant pulled Wolfram's lids back. Healer-Egeria brought forth a lit candle, held it as close as possible, and noted that one pupil was dilated and one wasn't. "Go on," was mumbled as she felt his pulse.
The assistant got in Yozak's way for reasons that didn't register. Politely, he stepped aside with his focus on the healer.
"He has a habit of going off like this…when he's mad." Yozak didn't like stating the obvious. It was foolish. And such words rarely did any good at all. But, this time, he decided to go on considering the fact that it was no secret in the castle or the kingdom that the ex-prince behaved that way. Plus, talking helped Yozak come back to himself, to calm down. "But this is the first time he's hurt himself doing it."
A delicate eyebrow arched at his story. Why he was so surprised seemed a mystery to her. "It's natural fire-wielder behavior," she returned with a shrug, reaching for her shears from a tray that her assistant was holding. The assistant had already removed Wolfram's antique neckchain, jacket, boots, and trousers. But, the white shirt underneath was bloodied, torn down the front, and soaked to the skin. It was just easier for everyone involved to cut the last piece of clothing from him. "As hard as it is to accept, fire-wielders are just like that. It's their association with their element that controls them. They are, quite literally, 'passion' incarnate. And, when cut off from their element—such as boat travel—or when soaked in a rainstorm—such as we've had this night—they are weaker in spirit, body, and heart." Wet scraps of material smacked against the stone floor. "The flame struggles within them, driving them—needing control and demanding release. The temper grows worse and the wielder acts impulsively." She scratched the side of her nose again before continuing her work on Wolfram. "This is probably the least understood element because it has a pulse, a life of its own. And the more powerful the wielder's relationship with the element, the more powerful the effects." The healer hovered her hands over Wolfram's chest. "Even in this state, I can feel his soul-bond to fire…which has quite an impressive dominance…" There was a slightly envious smile.
Yozak bit his lower lip at that. He'd have to watch both Yuuri and Wolfram from the shadows a bit more often—especially during the summer storm season should Wolfram's element show signs of falling out of balance during wet weather. Separating the couple, for a few hours or so, might be the best bet to avoid this from happening in the future.
Wolfram was now totally naked with the exception of his black underwear. His body was ghostly—covered in smears of mud and blushed on the cheeks haphazardly with traces of his own blood. Slowly, the chest rose and fell.
"We'll bandage his head," the woman ordered to her assistant as she applied healing magic to the cleaned head wound. "Following that…considering there's no sign of any other stresses on the body…" She narrowed her eyes and went on. "…With the exception of a sprained right ankle…which we'll get to in a moment…"
Wolfram took a sharp breath. He writhed on the examining table until Healer-Egeria brushed his cheek with a softly green glowing hand. She stepped over to Wolfram's sprain and applied magic with soft, gentle strokes.
Settled down but still not comfortable, Wolfram's body shivered from cold. His lips quivered uncontrollably as he tried to curl into himself, knees into his chest.
"Sponge bath, get a gown on him, cover him up…keep him warm."
The assistant wrote quickly, making notes on a clipboard.
Healer-Egeria glanced up with a stern look. "Allergic to anything?"
Sky blue eyes widened. "Oh…I don't know…"
Her response was a shrug. "He'll also need a dose of purple Echinacea infused with hyssop." She turned to the assistant. "Make sure that Gissela Sensei gets notification of that."
"Why?" Yozak asked.
"Because it can have side effects," the assistant said, busying herself with the notation, "including a Mazoku being temporarily cut off from his or her element."
The healer pushed strands of her red hair behind her ears. She looked into Wolfram's empty emerald eyes one more time. "When I'm done, he may have problems with his vision for awhile. But, that's to be expected." Healer-Egeria placed her palms against Wolfram's head, rubbing her thumbs slightly against the eyelids to open them. "Still, it's best to check."
To Yozak's shock, the healer tilted her head back—vision staring through a fixed point in the ceiling, mouth open slightly. Forcefully, she released a breath with an unearthly sound.
Healer-Egeria's light brown eyes began to bleed to black. Soon, the whites were gone, too—leaving only darkness.
She didn't need to see Yozak's reaction. She could feel it radiating. "I'm an empath and a telepath," she explained in a voice too deep to call her own. "It's a part of my shamanistic healing magic…a technique of the old ways among the Mazoku." She pushed back her thumbs to widen the eyes. "Our vision…his vision…is blurred. Colors and large, blurred shapes but no details." Her eyelids fell shut with a green glow coming from her hands. "I'll try to speed up the process. Then, we'll see if his sight returns to what it was."
Yozak stood casually outside of the small, four bed infirmary. He leaned against the wall, arms folded with his head hanging down. A part of him begged for sleep and told himself that he was a hypocrite for suggesting to Ulrike that nothing more could be done, so she should simply turn in for the night (or was it early morning?). Another part was too awake—too burdened—to even consider lying down. And, each time he closed his eyes, he…
The spy turned his head up at the sound of his name.
"Captain," he said, looking genuinely relieved to see the man.
Conrad approached him—a frown becoming more visible with each step. He gripped one hand around a beefy bicep to turn him at a better angle for a closer look. "Yozak…you're bloody." The voice was grave. He scanned the broad chest with dried smears and lines of blood that had dripped down from his chest.
The orange haired man looked away. "It isn't mine."
Conrad's eyes flew open at that. "Wolfram?!"
"He's in there…sleeping." A thumb pointed at the door.
"How is he?" Conrad was afraid to ask, but not knowing was much worse.
Yozak shoved his hands into his pockets. He leaned back against the wall uncomfortably. "He hit his head…hard. They're not sure about his vision, but they expect him to live." Then, sky blue eyes turned to him with regret. "I couldn't save him.
He was riding too fast in the rain. I called out to him. The thunder. The lightning. I saw him fall…" Conrad watched Yozak. The man's eyes scrunched shut as he looked away. "I saw him…hit his head, body twisted as it fell…"
Yozak took a slow determined breath. He turned his eyes up to a watermark on the ceiling. It was just easier that way. He couldn't take it if Conrad blamed him for any of it. Despite logic, some part of him was afraid that he would. "I sent a message to you as soon as I could."
A kind hand rested on Yozak's shoulder. "But you did rescue Wolfram. And you have no idea how grateful I am!" Arms wrapped themselves around the spy's shoulders and tightened. And, in that instant, Yozak allowed himself to relax and to let someone else take his place—to handle things. It was time to hand the responsibility over. But that relief only added to his sense of guilt. Now, it was Conrad's turn. And he'd be there for him until the very end.
That was simply how they were together.
Inside the infirmary, Murata sat on a hard wooden chair next to Wolfram's bed. In the corner, with his cape carelessly tossed over one shoulder, Shinou watched the lithe form sleeping before him.
"Difficult moments are the ones that mark our lives," Murata stated as a matter of fact. He frowned slightly as Wolfram struggled in his sleep—eyes moving rapidly behind closed lids. Wolfram's bandaged head jerked to the right and then again. The sage leaned over the ex-prince and straightened the blankets that covered him—remembering that, in a former life, he often did it with his oldest child—a pink haired girl who was prone to fevers. "I wonder what he's dreaming about? Maybe, he's chasing Shibuya?" Murata smiled thinly.
Silently, Shinou approached the bed, ran his thumb across Wolfram's forehead, and then returned to his place in the corner. "He isn't dreaming about anything." It was followed up with a shrug.
Murata glanced at Wolfram again. This time, his eyes were not moving behind his lids. He was only sleeping peacefully with his lips slightly parted. The chest rose and fell with rolling breaths.
"A nightmare, huh?"
Shinou pretended to look out the window. "He won't remember it."
A black eyebrow was quirked at that. But he decided to let it go.
Shinou's head turned towards the door, eyes narrowed into slits.
"Something?" Murata's head tilted to one side and his glasses flashed with light oh so briefly.
"It appears that our favorite spy has convinced Sir Weller to wait in the adjoining room." He nodded with approval at that. "They both could use the rest."
"Hm," was the reply given to that as Murata turned back to the blond lying in the bed. "You are so much trouble…just like your ancestor." Out of the corner of his eye, he could see a brief smile on Shinou's face before it faded away—along with the rest of Shinou.
Those were his final words.
Murata blinked at the place where Shinou had been standing and wondered exactly what that meant.
One half hour later, sleepy green eyes opened. The body moved lethargically, motions like maple syrup. Wolfram struggled for something to grasp onto. Everything seemed so vague, so out of kilter. He couldn't think, but wanted to—maybe.
Slowly, the pieces fell into place. And then it hit him. Hard.
Wolfram bolted upright in the bed, startling Murata. The blond turned his head left and right, made large sweeps with his hand and knocked the double black's glasses from his face. He barely got an "Ah!" out before he found himself searching down on the floor for his wayward spectacles.
"Yuuri?" Wolfram said in a tragic tone that betrayed his sudden terror. He was taking in large gulps of air, chest heaving.
Slim fingers found Murata's left shoulder, dug into the material, knuckles white. And before the sage could utter a sound, Wolfram's hand was pressed firmly across his mouth.
"Yuuri? Don't say anything…just…just don't."
Tears were gathering at the corners of his eyes. He didn't need his fiancé's typical, good natured cheery speeches of "hope" and "happiness." Those things weren't real. Just living with it day to day hurt. But, now… He couldn't handle it. Yuuri's words of comfort would break him.
Wide-eyed and sans glasses, Murata just sat there—staring at a slightly out of focus Wolfram. He nodded to Wolfram's words, agreeing easily to whatever the blond Mazoku wanted.
Murata felt the palm glide softly from his lips across to his cheek. The left hand, shaking, followed—resting clumsily on his face as well.
"I can't see you," he breathed, speaking to himself. "Colors, yes, and large shapes..." His thumbs stroked Murata's face. "But no details… It's all a blur." Wolfram leaned in, pressing his forehead against the sage's.
In the next second, Wolfram took a sharp breath. "No," he rasped. Oh…no, no, no… This can't be! Wolfram took a ragged breath. "It's gone, Yuuri…"
Murata's head turned slightly, but he stopped himself from going further. His instinct was to turn his head curiously to one side, not understanding the blond Mazoku's words. But he didn't want Wolfram to think he was shrugging him off. Nonetheless, Wolfram sensed it. "Yuuri, my magic is gone… I can't fire wield." The intimate bond that he had was cut somehow. In his mind's eye, he followed the unnaturally cooling trail starting from his heart to an empty void that blocked any chance of moving through it.
Wolfram took one hand away from Murata's face and stretched the palm out.
"Please…flame, please come!" He stretched out his palm, hand shaking uncontrollably.
The blond bishonen dropped his hand. It fell to the bed but almost immediately found a warm hand holding it.
Murata shifted from the chair to the edge of the bed to be as close to Wolfram as possible.
The sage looked into Wolfram's eyes—seeing how the pupils were wide and dark, showing very little of the beautiful emerald irises that were so much a part of him.
It's the effect of the medicine that Healer-Egeria gave him. Yozak told me this could happen. I really should say something, but I just gave my word not to say anything…or, at least, "Yuuri" did.
"A Mazoku can't live without his magic, Yuuri," the blond explained to him in grave tones. "How I lost it…and why I've lasted this long, I don't know. Maybe, I'll die in the next moment…or in an hour from now." He lowered his head. "Maybe, I have a day."
The palm slid softly from Murata's cheek to the back of his neck, bringing him in closer. "Maybe, longer…but I hope not."
The sage's jaw dropped a little.
"I'm no good to you like this. I can't see well enough to defend you. I can't protect you from this world, this place that you keep thinking is so wonderful, so peaceful. It can be a cruel place, Yuuri…an utterly horrific one under the right circumstances." He brought his "Yuuri" closer to him, embracing him tightly. "If my magic is truly gone and my vision, too, I am useless…and I will no longer have the right to be by your side." With regret, he said the words "I'll leave you."
Wolfram could feel Murata clinging to him. It brought on a twinge of pain. Cold reality was probably too much for his accidental fiancé.
"It will be okay, though," the blond soothed. "Hope fades and everything ends…in time… Death is the way of things. But I promise that I'll wait for you on the other side. Don't join me until you become a very old man. And, in return, I'll keep a light on for you in paradise…for you and the person you choose to love. I know she'll be a wonderful person, for the Yuuri that I know could never hold a bitter, spiteful, or unkind soul close to his heart."
Murata gripped him tighter.
"I just hope I leave this life…before I forget the shape of your face." He rested his head weakly on Murata's shoulder. Wolfram whispered, "I can bear anything…but that."
There was a brief knock. Yuuri stepped into the room and got the shock of his life. Wolfram was asleep in one of the beds, under the covers and rolled onto his right side. Murata, on top of the covers, was spooned up against him with an arm draped across the blond's waist.
At the sound of the door closing, the sage opened his eyes and groggily reached behind him to the small table next to the bed to retrieve his glasses.
Yuuri stayed silent for the moment, mind numb.
"Oh, this? It was the only way I could get him back to sleep," Murata admitted. Then, a sheepish smile came to him when he noted a spark of jealousy in his friend's onyx eyes. "He thinks I'm you, by the way," he admitted. "Don't ask. I'll explain later," Murata went on, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and pushing his feet into his shoes. Hand rubbing his sore lower back from sleeping in the unfamiliar bed, he said, "Now, it's your turn." He pointed down to the place where he'd been sleeping.
"Eh?" Yuuri looked embarrassed. His face colored and he glanced away. Having Wolfram crawl in bed with him each night was one thing, but the reverse was quite another.
Murata's mind replayed last night's events. He frowned openly—which surprised Yuuri. Usually, his friend was a fairly calm and politely stand-offish person, allowing everyone to make their own choices and only answering questions put to him.
Murata readjusted the glasses on his face. "He needs you."
Yuuri's vision scanned the slim, pale figure in the bed. His head was bandaged and the face had darkening bruises on one cheek. There were scrape marks on one hand that had tried unsuccessfully to brace the fall. "I know it…but…it's just that…" The embarrassment was eating at him.
"Fine, then." Murata made for the door. "But, if he truly means nothing to you, then I would suggest you let him know right away…" The sage's glasses flashed, covering his eyes. "There's someone else in this world who would be more than happy to have him."
Naïve as he usually was, Yuuri got the meaning fairly quickly. That, alone, was a feat in Murata's opinion. The look the sage received was filled with conflicting emotions. The one he returned to the king was set and certain.
The door closed and Yuuri turned to the bed.
Wolfram seemed so frail.
Should he or shouldn't he? What if someone walked in and saw?
Wolfram shifted under the covers and produced a weak groan when his aching ankle was turned wrong. That was enough to make Yuuri decide his fate.
Slowly lowering himself to the bed, he forcibly relaxed his body next to the blond's. Like the sage had done, Yuuri kicked off his shoes and then repositioned himself on the bed. He was worried about getting too close to Wolfram until he heard his name spoken in a miserable tone.
The double black rolled closer. "Yes, Wolfram?"
He woke up a little. "You're…still here?" came the tired voice.
A flash of Murata curled up against Wolfram came to him. Yuuri bit his bottom lip before answering guiltily. "Um…well…yeah…"
Wolfram took a shaky breath. His body ached all over: the sudden fall, the way he was carried by Yozak—which barely registered as a ghost of a memory, and then the lumpy bed. Suddenly, he felt something warm against the length of his back. The weight of an arm across his waist came to his mind, too, and Wolfram smiled inwardly.
But, wasn't this done out of pity? The sudden glow faded from within. "You don't have to stay this close to me, Yuuri. I know how much you hate it."
Yuuri felt hurt at that. It was blunt, even for Wolfram. "No, I'm okay with it."
The blond almost laughed at that. It was so obviously a lie. "I don't believe you…But, as long as you're here…" His voice trailed off and he gathered up his courage. "I want to say…'I'm sorry'."
Yuuri's eyebrows knit together. "Sorry? I just…don't get that."
"The fight we had…remember? The reason why I went out in the storm…like the fool that I was." He chuckled bitterly at it, eyes still closed and his back still facing Yuuri.
Wolfram pushed the side of his head into the pillow a little deeper. "I had no right to accuse you of favoring Conrad over me. He's your godfather. I'm your f-" He had to say the word. It would be the easiest way for Yuuri to let go of him. Their paths would split here. "Friend."
Onyx eyes widened at the word and something cold ran in his veins.
"And Conrad is a very reliable person to have in case of trouble. In fact, I want you to stay by his side as much as possible from now on." And you need to since my future is so bleak.
"Wolfram?" Yuuri said quietly, hugging up against the blond's back now. "How hard did you hit your head?"
Wolfram let out a sigh. "None of that matters."
The blond's eyes were still closed. He hated himself right now because he still wasn't brave enough to open them. Should his vision be the same, it would be evidence that he was weak. No, worse. He was made weak by his own idiotic actions—arguing needlessly with Yuuri and then riding out into the storm. At the time, he didn't even have a plan as to where he was going. All he knew was that he was angry and frustrated. And he wanted to get as far away from Yuuri as possible. A "wimp" was one thing, but even the worst soldier would have had better sense than to venture out in that kind of weather.
The double black's lips turned down. "That's where you're wrong…it does matter."
Wolfram remained silent for a moment, quietly disagreeing with Yuuri. The words were pointless, meaningless. Everything was empty.
"Look at me, Wolfram."
A harsh breath. The blond's body curled in on itself. He fought hard to keep from writhing against the bed. There was a sudden flush of heat throughout his chest, arms and legs. Wolfram's body convulsed and became fetal again. It worried the double black who clung to him, feeling the temperature spike.
"Wolfram?" The tone seemed almost panicked. "Wolfram?!"
"I'm fine," was given back.
If Wolfram could just breathe through the pain, something he'd done countless times when injured, he could pretend he wasn't feeling it. And, if he did it right, he'd keep his dignity…somehow.
"Fine? Oh, really? I just said, 'look at me' a second ago." I need to ask you if you're okay. I need to know it for certain. And your eyes have never lied to me…not even once.
There was nothing but an uncomfortable silence and the ex-prince's trembling body.
Yuuri could feel the tremors, too. So disregarding his words was not going to be an option. Yuuri took Wolfram by the shoulder and rolled him flat on his back. He leaned in against the arm and part of Wolfram's chest—in essence, pinning the young man down.
"I need an answer."
Wolfram's head was bandaged, the bridge of his nose and cheeks had a single scrape line fading to light pink, dark circles hung under his eyes, and there were purpling bruises on one side of his face. But, amazingly, in spite of it all, Wolfram was still a beautiful young man—an idol or fantasy in the flesh. And that beautiful face he stared down into still had eyes squinched tightly with determination.
"Open your eyes, Wolfram."
"No," he answered.
Yuuri placed his palms on both cheeks and leaned his body in closer. They were nose to nose.
"Open," he said, "…or I'll…I'll…get the healer…"
"And I'll pretend to be asleep."
He stared down at the blond sourly. "I'll make it an order…and you'll have to obey out of honor."
That did it. Slivers of emerald opened up. They blinked with a mixture of annoyance and regret at Yuuri—hulking shapes coming into focus. And what he first saw was practically a giant, black eyeball hovering before him. "I think you're a little too close to me, Yuuri."
The giant, floating eyeball blinked a time or two—which made the blond smile. Then, the blond chuckled. But his chuckling became laughing…for he could now see an adorably cute but confused Yuuri hovering over his face.
Without warning, he felt another flash of warmth that spread through to his toes. In Wolfram's mind's eye, he could see that the flame—his element, his true heart—had returned. As sick and injured as he was, Wolfram felt true joy. A smile came to him. And it was the most beautiful smile Yuuri had ever seen. Simply glorious and a privilege to behold.
The blond bishonen—battered and bruised—raised a hand and caressed Yuuri's cheek in a contemplative sort of way. Touching the dewy skin and reveling in the closeness, he confessed to Yuuri the things he had just come to know.
"That's it…isn't it? I'm truly blessed," he said to Yuuri and got a confused expression in return. "But, now, looking back on it all, wasn't my life always blessed? I had been given this short life with you, Yuuri. The feelings were raw, one sided. But that was fine…as much as I hated it, it really was fine... At least, I felt something—even if it was a self-told lie. It felt as though I'd been given someone to come home to, someone who waited for me. Thank you for that."
Yuuri's face softened.
"And how I felt for you then…how I feel for you now…belongs only to me. And no one, not even you, can take that from me when I return to Bielefeld."
The double black decided that he hadn't heard him correctly. "Bielefeld? Why go there?"
A pale hand brushed against his cheek. "Because it's…over between us. This is goodbye."
The blond's smile had changed. It was tragic, heartbreaking. But, there was a strength in the eyes that were drinking in the image of Shibuya Yuuri. He could see his face. That, alone, was a miracle—a final gift. And it would be enough. It simply had to be.
Yuuri lowered his head, bangs shadowing his eyes. "Do you really want to go, Wolfram?"
"It's for the best. You need your freedom. I've held onto you for far too long." Wolfram fought to keep his voice from shaking. This whole experience had taught him what mattered most. And, for once, he wasn't putting his own happiness first. Doing that, holding onto Yuuri, was what got him here.
He means it.
"Then, you don't need to go anywhere else." The voice was soft but determined.
A long arm snaked its way past the back of Wolfram's neck. With a bend of the elbow and a hand at the waist turning him, Wolfram found himself with his body molded against Yuuri's side and his head on the double black's shoulder. "Yuuri!"
Yuuri felt his face heating up again. The two of them were together; so close. "I really…don't want to let you go."
Wolfram felt a hand delving into his blond locks.
"Stay with me, Wolfram…please…? Over the years, you've told me again and again that you would. Isn't that how the promise goes?"
The knock went unheard.
"Thanks again for staying with me, Yozak. It meant a lot because…" Conrad cut himself off as he entered. He stared at the bed with a smile gradually overtaking him. Coming into the room, too, Yozak took in the same sight and chuckled deviously to himself.
"You know, Captain," he said with hands placed on his hips, "I don't think we had much to worry about after all."
"Agreed," Conrad returned with a smile in his voice.
Before drifting off, a certain—once clueless—double black had come to a sudden epiphany. People come into one's life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. In the infirmary bed, Shibuya Yuuri held his blond fiancé close to his heart. His arms enfolded his most precious person—in fact, the most precious that he would ever hold—for what he knew to be his lifetime.