"Czekanie sprawia, że gorzknieje cała słodycz w nas"
(Waiting makes the whole sweetness turn bitter)
- Coma, "Leszek Żukowski"
Summer on Earth was always hotter than in Shin Makoku.
It'd taken Wolfram some time to get used to it. He didn't have to wear his uniform here, and this had helped a bit. And, besides... He could always get used to things.
One day Yūri had simply said 'I need summer holiday', and then he disappeared. The reactions had been all too predictable: Gwendal had frowned, Günter had fallen into despair, while Conrad had only smiled. Wolfram himself hadn't managed to react since Yūri had dragged him to the castle baths, and the next moment they had been sitting in the Shibuyas' tub.
It wasn't that the visits on Earth were something unusual for him. As the years went by, Yūri used to more often take him along whenever he planned to visit his homeland. Wolfram had grown accustomed to this world. Moreover, when staying on Earth, he felt relaxed. At first, it had been hard to accept it, but then he had started to appreciate the fact he wasn't Lord von Bielefeld here, only one of many people who walked the streets and lived under the vast sky. Here he could forget about his duties, leave the etiquette behind and simply enjoy the sunlight. Even though he would never admit it openly.
Yūri said it had been four years since he had become Maō. In Shin Makoku the passage of time was faster, and Mazoku lived much longer than humans, so two of them were growing up at the same pace. Now, Yūri was almost as tall as his brother, and he kept his hair longer; apart from this, he hadn't changed at all. If any, he was more quite than before. Wolfram had grown as well, his shoulder was broader, and he felt more mature - although he still couldn't compare to Gwendal or even Conrad.
As for their mutual feelings, there was no change. Wolfram still loved Yūri, and Yūri still treated him as a friend and only friend. He had stopped to protest about every mention of their betrothal, but it could have something to do with the fact Wolfram had stopped mentioning it. Maybe it was due to growing up, too... The more time passed by, the more Wolfram made sure he would remain only a friend to Yūri. And Yūri had many friends. It could be that he considered literally everyone a friend. If he could, he would take all of them in his arms. Such a man he was. Of course, people in the castle were especially dear to him - and he had never given to understand he preferred one over another. He had never showed that Wolfram was special to him.
Still, Wolfram kept returning with him here. Where else should he be, if not by his lord's side?
An immature infatuation was a past now. His affection had evolved in love so strong it sometimes scared him, if he let himself think about it. Once, he had used to shout it out at every possible opportunity; now he kept it deep inside, feeling it in every breath and every heartbeat. It was so intense it hurt. On Earth, they used to say that every person had his aura that hardly anyone could see. Wolfram didn't know if he believed it, but he was sure his would be deep red. Sometimes it seemed to him he could almost perceive it, when his feelings burst inside him, ready to tear him in pieces.
Growing up had made him aware of yet another aspect of love: a physical one. He couldn't quite remember when he had realized it. Suddenly, he had been overwhelmed by a longing to get closer to Yūri, so close he had never been before, so close they would become one. With time, it had only grown worse. It was an irony that the more he was accepting the truth he would never be with Yūri that way, he more he wanted to take him in his arms and... make to him all that lovers did.
Whenever on Earth, they used to walk a lot, but they didn't talk much. He slept in Yūri's room, but on the bedding by the wall; the bed was too narrow for them both. Now he wouldn't even dare to sleep with Yūri. In Shin Makoku he had also moved to another room, and Greta used to sleep with them alternately. It was enough that every night he had to restrain himself from getting up from his bed and...
For him, Yūri was the most dazzling and most desirable creature in the world. Tall, slender, with black hair and eyes. Wolfram could never understand why Yūri welcomed his compliments with laugh. It was true that on Earth, in his home country, most people had dark hair and eyes, so maybe it was really the matter of attitude. But still. Yūri looked great in his regal gowns (he himself called a school uniform), but he looked good in more casual clothes as well. Wolfram could never take his eyes off him. But as they walked, they looked ahead, passing the streets and parks in warm and gentle silence. It was the most natural thing in the world.
Recently, Yūri hardly ever spoke. He seemed thoughtful, gazing into some place inside him. Maybe it had something to do with his duties as a Maō, or maybe his university studies? Or maybe such things happened to people once they grew? He was still a wimp, he still wanted everyone to be happy, and he had finally achieved what no-one before him could achieve: he brought peace to the world. His final feat was an alliance with the biggest human country. Saralegui had done what he had planned: united Shimaron under his rule. The everlasting antagonism was gone. Maybe it was the reason Yūri had more time to think? Not that it could do him any harm...
Wolfram would give anything to know his thoughts. He was next to the man, but he couldn't resist the impression he was very far from him. And besides... The longer he lived, the more he realized his emotions. Not every one of them was good and praiseworthy. He wanted to be someone special to Yūri, and it pained him to realized he could never be. Especially now that Yūri grew distant... When in the greatest despair, Wolfram decided others were more important to Yūri. Having no secrets with himself any more, he could admit he envied Conrad, low as it was.
He envied Conrad the bond, the trust and agreement he had with Yūri; they didn't need to express them in words because one look was enough to convey it. He envied that it was Yūri who made Conrad smile. Above all, he envied Conrad that he was still happy staying in Shin Makoku, without Yūri's presence. Wolfram couldn't be happy even when he was next to Yūri, like now.
He forced his sigh back.
Today, they had been walking whole day, again. Yūri's home town was a metropolis, and its population was that of the whole Shin Makoku. Shōri was meant to become its ruler one day. A governor, such was a title. Wolfram started to respect Shōri even more; his power seemed much bigger they had imagined. The city itself was gigantic; Wolfram was sure he could spend whole his long life only getting to know it. Everyday, they found a different route to follow and then come back home. They walked amid tall and low buildings, dreamy parks and gardens, playground and schools, museums and shops. Sometimes they merged with the crowds; sometimes they found themselves in secluded places - calm, friendly, safe. Everywhere was so... bright. One day, Wolfram had finally grasped why Yūri was such a wimp who yearned for and believed in peace: here, in this world and this country, there was no war, and peace was a right and reality of everyone. Here, people had different way of seeing world than Mazoku in Shin Makoku. Yūri had different way. Now Wolfram, too, started to believe that their world could become like this one.
Yūri's parents were in Swiss, visiting Bob; there was some delay, and they couldn't come back today as planned. The house was silent, filled with warm light of the evening sun. Calm, gentle... They had eaten a supper and now were sitting in their room: Yūri on his bed, Wolfram on his bedding. Facing each other from under opposite walls. One of the very rare moments their eyes met.
Yūri looked away first, and Wolfram's heart clenched in pain. 'Look at me,' he thought in despair, but Yūri was looking through the window. The glow of setting sun coloured his face red.
"Uhm... Wolfram...?" he spoke, still looking away.
Yūri blinked. "You know..." he started, hesitantly, "it's my birthday tomorrow."
Wolfram nodded. This world's calendar always gave him a headache, but he did remember Yūri had been born in July. Thanks to Conrad's forethought, everyone could know it... He held back a sigh of irritation.
"I'm turning twenty," Yūri added. "Age of majority in Japan."
"I see," Wolfram still had no idea. He supposed he could ask, "What does it mean?"
Yūri flicked a glance at him and then rested against the wall. "You can drink alcohol, smoke and vote," he replied.
"Nothing good, then," Wolfram summed up. Drink alcohol, really. "To vote...?"
"On Earth, people elect those who rule a country," Yūri explained. "It's called... um... a democracy."
"Well, people take part in governing... and so on."
"I meant your birthday," Wolfram specified, realizing he should think about a gift.
"Ah... Well. You know," Yūri replied, rather vaguely.
"Your mother will make a cake?" Wolfram suggested.
"Well, yeah," Yūri seemed to be relieved and grateful at Wolfram's help.
"And father will put out some liquor?" despite his irritation, Wolfram decided he could join the fun.
"When we celebrated Shōri's twentieth birthday, my parents got drunk after one glass," Yūri remembered, frowning. "You wouldn't like to see it. On the other hand... Their behaviour wasn't that different..."
Yes, Wolfram could imagine it. Especially Yūri's mother didn't differ much from his own. They could be sisters. Well, it made sense. How it was that Yūri called her? Crazy.
"What about Shōri?" he inquired. Yūri's brother seemed a though guy, but Wolfram suspected even he had some weakness.
"Shōri was all right," Yūri revealed with some reluctance.
"I see. You're afraid you will be no match for him?" Wolfram suggested, holding back a smile. It seemed his mood was getting better. "Wimp."
"Don't call me a wimp!" Yūri called indignantly. "But," he added, somewhat resigned, "you may be right. I don't know."
"Then," Wolfram was thinking fast, "maybe we should... rehearse?"
Yūri blinked, perplexed. "No, it's not a very good idea."
Now Yūri didn't react, and instead he looked through the window again.
"So? What about that birthday?" Wolfram resumed the topic.
Yūri nodded. "Ah, well... I was... thinking a bit," he replied, pulling up his knees.
Wolfram felt his heart sped up; in the end, he couldn't remain calm for long. On the other hand, it seemed to him that by Yūri's side he was always tense like a string, more or less. Still... Could it be that Yūri wanted to share his... thoughts with him? Wolfram had stopped believing to ever be honoured this way.
"You were thinking? Well, it's healthy," he replied vigorously, hiding his agitation. "About...?"
Yūri blinked again and put his hands on his knees. It seemed he didn't feel comfortable - he, who always spoke his thoughts. "About us," he said quietly.
Wolfram felt his heart stopped, for a change. "About... us?" he repeated, still unsure whether he had really heard it.
Yūri nodded, staring at the neighbouring house, although it wasn't clear if he could even see it.
"Twenty years old... Age of majority. You have to think some things over... make some choices," Yūri was speaking calmly, but his fingers clutched at the fabric of his pants.
"It's like Mazoku's sixteenth birthday," Wolfram whispered, although he was wondering about different thing.
Yūri nodded again. He was still looking aside. Could it be the matter he had been pondering on recently? Suddenly, Wolfram felt there wasn't enough air. He started longing for what he'd had only an hour ago: that peculiar balance by Yūri's side, a silent resignation and having walks together. Now it all seemed a happiness he was going to be deprived of. What Yūri wanted to tell him? Whatever it was, it didn't seem good. Yūri couldn't look him in the eye, was beating around the bush...
"Wolfram," Yūri interrupted him. A grimace flickered through his face, as if this talk wasn't pleasant to him. Well, it had sense. "Wolfram..." he repeated more gently and gave him a furtive look, before looking away again. "I think I should... apologize."
Wolfram's heart sank down and landed in his belly. He couldn't utter a word. He was looking at Yūri, absorbing each detail, Yūri tucking his hair behind his ear, his hand trembling... The red light vanishing, the sun could no longer reach this room, that seemed an entirely separate dimension now.
"You know, I'm rather... slow," Yūri spoke in a low voice. "Sometimes, it takes me time to understand a thing. To come to the conclusions..."
"I never saw it this way," Wolfram whispered involuntarily. He realized he was clenching his fists so tight that his nails stuck in the inside of his palms.
Something akin to a grateful smile flickered through Yūri's face. Wolfram mused why he was complimenting Yūri's good points if they were about to bring calamity down upon him. Still... he'd used to speak his thoughts, more or less. Like Yūri. He pulled his arms close to his chest. He felt so defenceless. He knew he wouldn't be able to guard himself against what was coming from Yūri.
He had always been defenceless before Yūri. And never before had he loved him more than now.
"Well, if so... I need time to get used to some things," Yūri went on. "Surely you've noticed."
"You got used to some things before you even realized," Wolfram pointed, relieved to see he could still speak and have a conversation. "One would say: shamefully fast."
Yūri smiled again, and this time his smile lasted a bit longer. "You're probably right," he agreed. "After all, it's you who always scold me for not having any pride of a king."
It almost disconcerted Wolfram. "Well, I bet it's not that... bad thing," he said somewhat awkwardly.
Yūri gave him another passing glimpse, and Wolfram thought he had lost long ago. Yūri had long since twisted him round his little finger and almost deprived his of his own will. For Yūri, Wolfram would do absolutely anything, regardless of his pride and sense. Well, he'd always had more pride than common sense. It didn't matter; the greater his devotion, the more pain his broken heart was about to feel.
"But, you know..." Yūri waved his hand in a rather vague gesture. "For example, I did get used to sleeping together," he said and then frowned. "Although, recently you were sleeping somewhere else..."
Wolfram was staring at him, at his face fading in the evening shadow, and struggling with himself. "It was too hard for me," he confessed finally. "To lie there and know..." He paused. No, he couldn't say it aloud.
"Wolfram..." Yūri started and stopped.
If Wolfram were able to think logically, he would think they looked like two morons: sitting in the opposite corners of the room and having such awkward conversation. They had known one another so long, yet they behaved like strangers who feared to speak straight and offend the other person. He longed for time when they could still be direct with each other.
"I... I'm sorry," Yūri whispered. "I was a kid... I am still one, but... Tomorrow I turn twenty and..." he started to falter. He pressed a hand to his face and was breathing deeply for a while. Wolfram desperately fought the temptation to flee, run into night, never stopping, never thinking... But he was a soldier. He had to be tough - even if now he felt like a child who can't find a footing.
Finally, Yūri uncovered his face and looked Wolfram in the eye. It was almost dark in the room, but Wolfram could still see the details. Yūri moved to the edge of the bed and put his feet on the floor. Wolfram straightened his back.
"In this world parents bring up their children in a different way than in yours," Yūri said calmly, and there was no hesitation in his voice any more. "Men find themselves women, and women find men. Such is a principle. Mothers hope their sons would marry a girl one day. Although..." He frowned, and his eyes lost its focus. "My mother..." He shook his head, and Wolfram wondered whether he wanted to say something like, 'My mother brought me up like a girl'. "Well, never mind. Anyway... All those years I was thinking that one day I would find myself a girlfriend, a fiancée, a wife... It was natural. And there's still that biology thing... When we met... I was thinking that way."
Wolfram nodded, swallowing. Yūri had always protested whenever their betrothal was mentioned, saying that two men couldn't... Wolfram remembered each time since all of them made him feel a pang in his heart. He himself could never understand this; like Yūri pointed, in Shin Makoku the gender didn't pay that big part...
"But you know what, Wolfram," Yūri continued, his voice ever stronger, "I think I finally realized it was not about man and woman. And it's what I apologize to you for. That it took me so long."
Wolfram blinked. "Yūri... What are you... trying to say?" he whispered, feeling as if the world had just turned upside down.
"Well... I dreamed of a girlfriend, preferably some stunning beauty," Yūri tried to smile, "but... in the end I never had any. I didn't try that much, did I? And now I feel I don't really... need a girl. I mean... Guys in Japan start late. I'll tell you in secret that Shōri had never had any, too. So, if you don't have a girl when you're twenty, it doesn't really mean you're... You know."
"Ah, never mind," Yūri waved his hand. "It doesn't matter," he decided, and Wolfram wondered if he still knew what this conversation was about. He felt he was going to fall apart due to emotions swirling in him. "I thought a lot about it... I thought what you mean to me, Wolfram. I decided to be frank with myself. I thought how I feel when you're now around," Yūri's voice was a whisper now.
Wolfram focused to hear clearly. The humming of blood in his ears drowned out all sounds, but he had to hear it. Before he realized, he stood up and walked those metres between them to sit down again of the floor, just in front of Yūri. He didn't take his eyes off him.
"How do you feel when I'm not around?" he asked so quietly no-one else would hear him.
Now Yūri was looking only at him.
"Different. I do well without Conrad and Günter, without Gwendal. Without Greta, too. I know they are in Shin Makoku, and I'm going to see them again. It's all right. But... without you... I feel different. Strange. Alone. I feel... something is lacking."
"Then... how do you feel when I am around?"
"Good," Yūri answered without a second thought and smiled.
Wolfram hesitated. Yūri's words were sweet, intoxicating, but it didn't mean... "Yūri, if you're making fun of me–"
"I'm not joking," Yūri interrupted him. "Wolfram."
Wolfram tried to overcome a sudden dizziness. "Then... can you say... Yūri..." Suddenly, his throat clenched. "Yūri. You know I always–"
"I know what you felt to me. What you... feel to me." Yūri lowered his eyes. "I'm sorry it took me so long to... to return your feelings."
Wolfram felt as if a star had just exploded in front of his eyes. Still... he couldn't... "Yūri... Are you sure you don't mean... No, it's stupid," he decided. "For Sōshu's sake! We have to learn how to speak to each other..." Suddenly, he felt like giggling. "Yūri. You've said it many times that you hold us all dear. That–"
"I love you all," Yūri interrupted. "But I hope you'll believe me when... That when I say 'I love you' now, it will have a different meaning."
"You said it," Wolfram whispered.
Yūri sighed, but there was some relief in that sigh. And satisfaction. And joy. "I did."
Wolfram nodded and swallowed. He realized he couldn't grasp his feelings. Thoughts. Emotions. He felt like laughing and sobbing in the same time. And he still didn't know...
"Yūri... If you say that... that you've matured then..." What was that he tried to say? "I didn't believe I could ever hear you saying it... and now..." He felt tears flowing to his eyes, what a shame. "Yūri... You said..."
No, he couldn't utter it. He bit his lips. Maybe he couldn't ask about it... but he couldn't bear the uncertainty. He was ungrateful, he should be happy with the fact Yūri had admitted... said... Said he loved him. But he wanted more. Now he really wanted more.
He got up to his knees and touched Yūri's cheek with his trembling hand. Yūri quivered to the touch, but didn't lower his eyes. Wolfram slid his fingers in Yūri's hair and pressed his forehead against Yūri's.
"Yūri..." he whispered. "It's not all. You know... No, you don't. I want... I need... I want more. I want you all. I want to take you in my arms and be with you... in you... Everywhere..."
"I think... I'll manage," Yūri whispered back.
Wolfram blinked and moved his face away, trying to focus his eyes... but he had not time since the very next moment Yūri's trembling lips were on his own... in their first real kiss...
"Like this?" Yūri asked.
Wolfram didn't know when Yūri had put the hands on his shoulders. He was blinking, astonished, dazed, he still couldn't realize what had just happened... He felt dizzy. Yūri embraced him and pulled him close. Wolfram bit his lips, absolutely sure he wasn't able to hold back his sob. He embraced Yūri as much as he could and buried his face in Yūri's shoulder.
Yūri stroked his hair, his fingers still trembling. Despite his outward calm, he seemed as shaken as Wolfram himself. Maybe he didn't know what was going to happen now; still, he had courage to take it.
"I'm sorry", he whispered. "I made you wait so long..."
Wolfram shook his head. He wouldn't trade this time for anything. Long years of longing seemed only a dream now, the one he was waking up from - and the reality appeared to be incomparably more beautiful.
"Wolfram... Maybe I couldn't really admit it, but... You know, I have absolutely no experience," Yūri confessed, as if he was saying anything new.
Wolfram smiled, swallowing his tears. "Me neither." He could be frank. "But we will manage somehow. It's probably... better this way." Yūri nodded. Wolfram could feel his smile. "If not... we can always have a look into Erotica Handbook Anissina has once published under a pseudonym...
Yūri burst out laughing and then pulled Wolfram onto the bed and into another kiss.
They were lying in their arms in the bed that had appeared to be very comfortable and not that narrow at all. Two beeps of an alarm clock announced the midnight,
"Happy Birthday," Wolfram said, brushing against Yūri's cheek. "Although... It seems it was I who got a gift," he whispered with smile.
Yūri hugged him tighter. "I hope you liked it," he whispered in an answer.
"You wouldn't imagine... But I'll have to repay you."
Yūri smiled. "You have a whole day," he said shyly.
Wolfram turned his head and looked him in the eye. Then he nodded. "And then... the whole life," he said.
"Sounds good," Yūri's voice rang with sleepiness. "I think... some people have it... worse..."
"I promise... I make you never regret I'm not a girl," Wolfram declared sincerely.
"I'm not regretting it," Yūri whispered. "I don't need any."
"Goodnight, Wolfram. And... Thank you."
Wolfram swallowed. He wanted to say more, but...
For now - or, maybe, as long as it was possible - he decided to believe they could stay like this for ever.