FIVE WEEKS LATER
In his office, Yuuri rubbed his tired eyes. He'd signed so many documents that his vision was starting to blur. He'd had extra expenses to pay to scrub and thoroughly cleanse Zander's old nursery. The new one was now directly across the hall from his bedroom, and he had security outside the door and one guard permanently stationed directly below the balcony. So, this situation would be much better for his child's safety both now and in the future.
Sitting across from Yuuri was a blond with a sour look on his face. "I can't believe you've stopped this soon. All you have to do is read and sign. That's not difficult…is it?"
Yuuri narrowed his eyes at Wolfram and the image of the blond faded.
"Wolfram," Yuuri said sadly. "I just…"
His heart started beating harder. He thought he'd done this enough times and gotten over it. Apparently…not.
Yuuri tossed his ink pen onto the desk and simply walked out. He passed Günter and Gwendal without greeting or apology for ending sooner than expected. But, by the look on his face, they seemed to know and understand.
The walk seemed to take longer than usual. But things often did these days.
A pretty blue haired maid passed by with a bucket in one hand and mop in the other. Yuuri glanced out of curiosity. Did he know her?
No. Another newbie.
As Yuuri continued down the hallway, he glanced to the side. Wolfram was next to him. "Cheater."
Yuuri shook his head. "Not a cheater."
"You looked! I saw you." There was that indignant expression followed by a "humph" to follow-up his point.
Yuuri smiled sadly. "I think you know I'm not a cheater. You just don't want to be forgotten or left behind. Deep down, I think some part of you really cares for me." Yuuri's shoulders rounded a bit more, eyes filling with tears.
The blond turned back to him. "It took you long enough to figure that out." Wolfram smiled and then faded into the next step—disappearing entirely.
The double black wiped his eyes against his sleeve.
"Let's go, baby!" Grandma Kate walked past him carrying the baby in one arm and a basket of toys in the other. They were going outside to play for awhile.
Yuuri stopped and turned. "Make sure he wears that sunscreen," he called after her.
"It stinks!" the woman joked back.
Down the hallway, Yuuri could hear Zander call, "Maou! Maou! Maou!"
He grimaced with his hand on the door to the bedroom. "That's 'Daddy' to you."
He sighed, "Yeah, we gotta work on it."
He opened the door and entered, feeling defeated. His life felt impossibly hard. Then, he glanced at the bed and noted a certain blond lying in it. He was reading a small, gold edged book with a red cover.
"Hi, Wolfram," Yuuri said quietly, on the verge of tears again. "I…uh…"
Without a word, Wolfram tossed the book aside. He shoved the covers back roughly and struggled to get out of bed. His body refused to move well and he walked stiffly to Yuuri, bandaged hands covering the double black's cheeks when he got close enough. "What happened?" he asked quietly, as though he didn't know.
Directly after the incident, Yuuri had found him, dragged his body into the hallway with Conrad's help, and stayed by his side—refusing to say or do anything other than will The Maou spirit to aid him. Wolfram's hair, torso, and arms were badly burned, melted in places, and raw in other places where the skin was dropping off. On the cold floor, he was lying peacefully on his right side, eyes closed. Yuuri, now in his Maou form, healed Wolfram to the best of his ability until Gissela approached him and told him that she could take over now.
The rat's body had been burned to ash. Only charred bones remained and they were later buried in an unmarked grave.
Green eyes opening for the first time made Yuuri happier than he had ever been in his entire life. In the days which followed, Yuuri felt compelled to stay next to Wolfram—watching him heal, which felt like a series of accomplishments. Often, they'd simply sit and chat about the things that were going on in the castle or with Greta over a game of Double Dragon—giving the card game better memories for both of them. And Yuuri did anything he could to win a smile. But, privately, his regrets seemed to shadow him. And that worried Wolfram as the weeks passed and he was finally allowed to leave the infirmary.
Yuuri looked at Wolfram. The bandaged hands had moved from his cheeks to his shoulders, offering support. But, wasn't that his job?
"Wolf, you shouldn't be out of bed."
The blond wrapped Yuuri in his arms very softly, trying to hug the double black without wincing. "If I can get up to go to the privy, I can get up to hug you."
Yuuri chuckled, reaching up to rub Wolfram's obscenely short blond hair. It curled away from his fingers and patches of it prickled, starting to grow back. "I'm sorry about your hair."
Wolfram hugged Yuuri a little tighter. "Somehow, I don't think it's my hair that's worried you." He asked, "Did someone bother you today? Cause problems?" Then, he pressed close to Yuuri's ear and whispered, "You know, I'm the only one allowed to do that."
A small joke. Wolfram was getting better at them.
Yuuri chuckled and enjoyed the attention. "No, it's just that…I keep thinking about what my life would be like without you in it." Tearing up again, he wanted so badly to hold Wolfram tighter, but couldn't. His body was still too tender. "It's just that…I felt…"
"I understand," Wolfram soothed. "But Gissela says I'll make a full recovery…with some scars…thanks to you and your healing magic, I'll be okay. So, you'll have me around for centuries to come." There was a reassuring smile in his voice.
Yuuri nodded but still seemed to struggle with something. "It's just that I…" Now that he was here, in this moment, he knew he could say it because it was the perfect time. After all of the flashes of memory he just had of Wolfram and all of the conversations in his head over stuff that was important, he could do this.
Yuuri let go and took a step back. "Wolfram, I wanted to tell you that I lo-".
Sunny gold met his eyes. Yuuri blinked curiously at it. "This is…?"
Wolfram handed Yuuri an 18 cm stretch of braided bond hair with tightly tied blue ribbons at both ends keeping the braid in place. "It was all we could salvage of the hair I lost after the incident." He glanced away for a second and added, "I knew you liked it…and I wanted you to have something of mine…as a gift of gratitude."
Reverently, Yuuri took the braid in his hands. It still reeked of smoke but the shine and luster were still there.
"I thought…possibly…If you were willing to…" How best to put this without pressuring Yuuri? "I'd like to be friends…good friends. Do you think we can do that?"
Yuuri held the braid close to his heart but his eyes gave the bishonen a narrow stare. The blond was changing things…taking a symbol from Shin Makoku's culture and reshaping it to fit Yuuri's tastes.
He shook his head. "I can't do that…keep living and hiding behind the word 'friends.'"
Wolfram's expression was, "Oh!" Maybe, Yuuri had changed his mind about being friends and starting over. It would be painful if he did, but Wolfram had told himself that he would respect it if Yuuri declined his offer. After all, who could he blame but himself? He was the one to walk away from the engagement and the bizarre friendship that they'd built. He kept pushing Yuuri away since Alexander's birth. And he'd killed the rat who threatened their son. But, still, he did kill. And Yuuri hated killing.
He looked sadly into jet black eyes.
Then again, it wasn't as though the rejection didn't sting.
"I don't know what we are together," Yuuri explained as he took Wolfram's hand and laced fingers with it, "but we're not friends…" He smiled cutely as he turned back the covers and tucked a very surprised Wolfram in. "We're deeper than that, I think. And I don't want to start at the beginning when I've been there too long." He circled the bed, kicked off his shoes, and got in fully dressed. "I want to keep going forward…with you."
Wolfram smiled with genuine relief and felt one of the bandages on his cheek tightening as his expression turned into a grin. He placed a hand on it only to feel Yuuri take the hand away.
"Can we be together?" he asked, shyly holding Wolfram's hand.
"Try and stop me," Wolfram chuckled.
He could have held out longer—made Yuuri sweat a little. But, after the way the double black had entered their bedroom, on the verge of tears, he didn't think keeping Yuuri off balance would be a good thing. In a way, his bedmate was healing just as much as he was. But, now, they were on this journey together, and Wolfram would see to it that Yuuri made it through—because love was like that.
Wolfram leaned forward, terribly close to Yuuri's lips.
"Yes?" the double black said, agreeing in his heart to submit to the request of a kiss. They were together now. It was only natural…a desire like that. He wouldn't wimp out now even if he wasn't an expert. He held the braided lock and thought, Just close my eyes and go with the feeling. He tilted his head to the side, leaned in and…
Patting the pillow, Wolfram said, "Put your head here. Let's take a nap."
"Wha-?" What about the kiss? I was getting ready for it!
He actually puckered!
Green eyes grew impatient. "Well?"
"And don't pout about it."
"That's a pucker not a pout."
"Whatever." He patted the pillow again.
Without embarrassment or argument, Yuuri did it—which made them both happy. Lying close and sharing the same pillow, they drifted off to sleep together. Yuuri's last thoughts were about the scent of sunflowers and that Wolfram smelled like sunshine. What a lucky guy he was. Tomorrow, though, he'd try for a kiss. He'd see if Wolfram would let him.
Wolfram, with a sleepy smile, gently draped an arm over Yuuri's waist—content. It had been so long since he felt that.
Little did they know that in the courtyard:
"Stop the baby!"
"He's done it again!"
"What idiot let him near the fountain?"
"I've never seen a wave that big!
"He's surfing for the back garden!"
"Baby! Baby, please stop!"
"MAOU! MAOU! MAOU!"