Eye Contact

He's used to the way Yuuri tilts his head down minutely. Although he wishes he could gaze forever into those dark depths, drown in the abyss, Conrad understands that it's a cultural practice.

"It's a Japanese thing," Yuuri had said, "I can't explain it very well since it's so ingrained into the culture that it's automatic, but it's disrespectful to stare directly into people's eyes for too long. It's like you're challenging them."

Right now, as they sit together on the bed of Conrad's small room, Conrad briefly catches Yuuri's eyes with his own, only to see him quickly turn away. Recently, he has been catching Yuuri's gaze more often, only to have the boy glance elsewhere upon discovery. His heart leaps at the possibility, but he crushes these inappropriate dreams. Conrad is but a rough, battle-scarred soldier. He is a broken man. He has been destroyed and pieced back together so many times that he is sure there are visible cracks all over his soul, cracks as numerous as the scars that line his body.

He is no hero; he is not even a whole man, since he cannot see purpose in his life without his king. He is hardly a beautiful man, and although he knows that he is not ugly and Yuuri is not the superficial type to be swayed by physical beauty anyway, part of him still believes that Yuuri deserves a gorgeous young companion.

At the root of it all is the thought that Yuuri simply deserves better. He deserves so much more. He deserves to have everything his pure heart desires, including the normal family with a loving wife and children that Conrad can never give him no matter how much his shattered-again-repaired-again heart screams that no one could ever love Yuuri more than he. No one.

Self-directed anger, longing, regret, and inadequacy weighs heavily on his mind. Conrad remembers riding back to the castle with Yozak by his side. His aggravating friend had an uncanny ability to know what he was thinking. Yozak, in his usual cryptic fashion, had suddenly broken the silence and said, "You know it's not good for you. If you keep filling up that emotional bucket without dumping anything out, one day it's going to overflow. You'll burst, captain."

Yuuri clears his throat and Conrad snaps back into the present. His king nervously stutters and starts, eyes darting to Conrad's every once in a while. Conrad, meanwhile, desperately-secretly-covetously relishes the moments when their eyes meet in passing.

They talk about futures. Cheri has obviously mentioned something about playing matchmaker for her sons, because Yuuri is worried that the importance Conrad places on his duty to protect the Maou is preventing him from finding happiness, that Conrad is unable to set aside time to find a lover.

"You don't have to deny yourself because of me," he says, "You once offered to bear me up and set me free, if that was my wish. I'm extending the same offer to you."

Once this is said, Yuuri turns and looks straight into his eyes for once, and Conrad cannot stop himself. Having this boy, no, this wonderful, thoughtful young man in his room, speaking to him about love, of all things, is all just too much. He is drawn into those beautiful black depths and inexorably spills his secret longings. "You're wrong, Yuuri. I've already found the one I want to stand beside forever. Though the feelings may never be returned, I shall remain faithful to my one-sided love."

Yuuri frowns, looking extremely upset, like he cannot believe that Conrad should harbor an unrequited love. The younger man's mouth opens and closes indignantly, as if he were scolding the mystery person who dared to trample on Conrad's heart so carelessly. Just having Yuuri upset on his behalf further ignites his passion and Conrad feels an odd twinge of bittersweet pleasure in his chest that Yuuri cares for him at least this much.

Then he ruins everything by continuing to speak. The words stream out of his mouth on autopilot. "Forgive me for my insolence. It's not the Maou that's important to me. It's you. You are the one I love. My heart beats only for you, Yuuri."

"C-Conrad! Don't say such things!" Yuuri gasps and lowers his head. Those eyes are ripped away and Conrad immediately feels the loss.

Conrad puts a finger under his chin and tilts it back up, briefly making contact again before Yuuri's glance instinctively darts to the side. "I'm serious," he says, blazing with an intensity rarely seen outside of battle. Yuuri gulps, but it is too late for Conrad to stop. The bucket is overflowing; it has burst and he feels compelled to express his desires, even though he is all but sure he will be rejected.

"Know this, Yuuri. Whatever choices you make, I will continue to stay by your side. I am your sword and shield. I am yours, Yuuri, all of me, to do with as you wish. You have only to ask."

Yuuri gapes, disbelieving, and Conrad fears the worst. His eyes, which were previously focused somewhere around Conrad's cheek, flick upward. Lips pressed together in an angry line, Yuuri glares challengingly, meeting and holding Conrad's gaze for an interminable moment. Strangely, it is Conrad who feels the need to look away, but he is rooted to the spot. When Yuuri opens his mouth to speak, Conrad braces himself for what he is sure will be cutting words, biting and tearing past his defenses to break him once more.

"We…are both TOTAL IDIOTS," Yuuri proclaims.

Conrad gasps in confusion and surprise. "What?"

"I…um, feel that way about you, too."

"Yuuri…" Conrad stares in absolute wonder. His heart leaps again and he can't bear to squash it down again. Even if it's all a mistake, a misunderstanding, he will always have this moment to cherish.

"You're not going to make me say it, are you? I'm really bad at this sort of thing." Yuuri scoots closer until their knees barely brush. The world narrows down until it consists only of that tiny, innocent touch. Conrad decides to grab the hope dangling in front of him and cling to it with every fiber of his being. He tentatively reaches for Yuuri's shoulder and places his hand there. When there is no resistance, he pulls the younger man to him until they are completely pressed together. They curve into each other, each filling the other's hollows, and they sit there for the longest time, nestled like spoons.

Yuuri shifts his head and Conrad looks down. "You said you'd do anything for me."

"Yes. Anything, Yuuri."

"Then I have just one request. Don't break my heart."