He didn’t like boys!
Yuri pressed his fingers against his eyes, hoping to rub out the image of what he’d seen. Leaning against a stone column hidden from view, he could still hear splashing in the fountain on the castle training grounds. It didn’t help to erase the picture seared onto his eyeballs.
It wasn’t fair. Yuri had done his best to ignore the fact that he was engaged to a boy. But Wolfram wouldn’t let him forget, bringing it up constantly, accusing him of cheating every time he spoke with another person, sleeping in his bed in that stupid pink nightgown that needed to be burned, because Wolfram looked like a girl in it – a very attractive girl – and Yuri was frustrated enough as it was!
Except then Wolfram would be naked in his bed, and Yuri wasn’t sure he’d survive that happening again. He was having fits over seeing Wolfram half-naked and that was sufficiently terrible and confusing.
Yuri banged the back of his head against the stone. He’d been standing in the arch of the training area, having escaped from Günter’s clutches for the morning. The flash of sunlight glinting off of steel had caught his attention as he’d wandered the castle grounds, and he’d settled in to watch before realizing Wolfram was one of the fighters. Then, he couldn’t have stopped watching even if Anissina were heading right for him.
Wolfram was good.
Yuri had realized he’d gotten lucky the first time they’d dueled. Wolfram slashed, parried, and danced between the flickering bladework of the other swordsman. Yuri should’ve known, with Conrad as a brother, Wolfram’s skills wouldn’t be lacking.
Enthralled by the fight, Yuri had almost protested out loud when it ended. The words had gotten stuck in his throat, though, when Wolfram had sheathed his sword and removed his shirt.
Sweat had glistened on Wolfram’s skin, highlighting a surprisingly muscular torso. His blonde hair had clung wetly to his neck and forehead. A flush of pink from the heat and exertion had painted his cheeks. Suddenly, Yuri’d had the urge to wrestle with Wolfram, to grapple and roll around in the dirt. He’d imagined Wolfram in his hold, shifting under his hands, writhing and bucking beneath him…
Yuri cursed the tightness of his trousers and banged his head a little harder.
“Ah!” Yuri jumped in surprise and landed in Wolfram’s arms. He gulped, eyes widening, Wolfram’s bemused face inches from his own.
“What are you doing over here?” Wolfram said.
“I- uh—” A drop of water from the fountain traced along the curve of Wolfram’s cheek. Yuri followed it with his gaze, mesmerized, as it slipped over the bump of Wolfram’s jaw and slid down the column of his neck, disappearing beneath the unbuttoned collar of his shirt.
“Were you spying on me?” Wolfram’s angering tone drew Yuri’s focus back to sparking green eyes. “Trying to find fault to use as an excuse to get rid of me?”
“No, I- I- I—” Yuri stuttered, unable to form the words. What was he going to say, anyway? That Wolfram’s swordwork had captivated him, but for some reason, his shirtlessness captivated him more?
Wolfram’s arms tightened around his back and under his knees. “It won’t work,” Wolfram hissed, eyes narrowing. “I will not be made a fool by your attempts to weasel out of our engagement.”
Yuri inhaled, ready to launch into his usual protest about boys marrying, but he was distracted by Wolfram’s scent. Wolfram smelled like the locker room after baseball practice. Yuri loved that smell.
“The proposal is binding,” Wolfram went on, unaware of the havoc he was causing in Yuri. “The kingdom knows we are to be wed and I will not stand idly by while you make a mockery of me.”
Yuri panicked. So what if Wolfram smelled good? Or if he had a nice physique? Yuri had admired baseball players’ bodies back home, appreciating their commitment to physical fitness in order to better their game. It didn’t mean he was attracted to them. He wasn’t gay!
“—You constantly flirt with anything on two legs, sometimes even four, even with me standing right beside you—”
He’d prove it. He’d prove he didn’t like boys, especially not Wolfram, in a way that couldn’t be denied.
“—don’t think I don’t notice the looks you give Weller, and how you’re always seeking him out, or being overly concerned about him when he’s gone—”
Yuri nodded to himself. He knew exactly what to do.
“—common courtesy to act like you are betrothed annn-mmm!”
Wolfram’s lips were soft and plaint, his breath warm against Yuri’s mouth. Yuri’s eyelids fluttered shut, his heart beat racing. His palms began sweating, hands laced behind Wolfram’s neck. Wolfram made a soft sound in the back of his throat and Yuri had to agree. The kiss felt nice.
Yuri jerked his head back, sucking in a sharp gulp of air. He stared at Wolfram’s flushed face in horror. The kiss wasn’t supposed to feel nice! It was supposed to be disgusting and gross and really, really icky.
Maybe it was a fluke. Maybe it had been so long since he kissed anyone that he would like it no matter what.
“Yuriii-nnnnnnn?” Wolfram’s eyes were huge, his face blurry close up, as Yuri kissed him again. Wolfram’s hands tightened painfully around Yuri’s side and under his knee. But that didn’t stop the kiss from being just as nice as the first one.
“Oh, no. No, no, no, nononononono.” Yuri sprang out of Wolfram’s arms and took off running, leaving a burst of dust behind. His shoes pounded out a fast staccato on the stone floors as he ran pell-mell through the castle.
“Your Majesty!” Günter gasped as Yuri slammed through the door of the library. He hid a knitted plushy of the king behind his back. “You have returned to m-mmmm!”
Yuri flung himself at Günter and planted a solid kiss on his lips. It felt… gross.
Unrelieved, Yuri dropped Günter’s fainted self and flew from the library. He crashed into Gwendal outside the door. “Gwendal!”
“Yuri-nnn!” Gwendal shoved Yuri away almost instantly and wiped a hand across his mouth. “What was that for?”
“You’re disgusting!” Yuri exclaimed and bolted down the corridor. He’d kissed three guys, and two of the kisses were exactly what he’d thought they would be like. Now, he’d kiss a girl, and it would be wonderful, and he could chalk Wolfram up to insanity.
The tail of Anissina’s red hair caught Yuri’s attention and he called out to her. “Anissina!”
“Your Highness,” Anissina lit up gleefully, “would you like to assist me in-nnnn!”
Yuri released Anissina and stumbled backwards. He pressed his hand against his mouth. Kissing her had felt icky.
“Your Highness,” Anissina said breathily, colorful hearts floating above her head. “I didn’t know you felt that way about me.”
“It’s a mistake,” Yuri pleaded to the Great One and ran off again. He heard Anissina calling after him and a shout from what sounded like Gwendal. Up ahead, he spotted the maids spying on someone through a cracked door and jumped all three.
“Oh!” “Eep!” “Ah!”
“Noooooooo!” Yuri wailed, hands tearing at his hair, as he fled from disaster. Giggles and shouts of his name, along with running footsteps, trailed after him. He rounded a corner, tripped, and tumbled head over heels down the stairs, landing in a heap at Conrad’s feet at the bottom.
“Yuri, are you all right?” Conrad extended a hand to help Yuri up. Yuri used the hand to yank him down instead. “Wha-mmm!”
Yuri liked Conrad. He really did. Conrad was handsome and they got along spectacularly. If he ignored the godfather part, and the fact that he didn’t like boys, Conrad would be the male he wouldn’t mind kissing.
But it felt completely and totally wrong.
He pushed Conrad away at the same time there was uproar at the top of the stairs. Conrad’s stunned, confused expression invoked Yuri’s only apology for the surprise kiss. “Sorry. I’ll explain later,” he said, scrambling to his feet. He ran towards the training yard, leaving a cacophony in his wake.
Eight people he’d kissed now and only one of them had been pleasant, which meant his initial assessment had to be correct: it had been so long since he’d kissed someone, the first kiss would be nice no matter what. The second kiss, too, since it was really a continuation of the first kiss. But now that he’d kissed a bunch of people and had gotten used to it again, as evidenced by his disliking of those smooches, he’d definitely be able to prove that he didn’t enjoy kissing Wolfram.
Wolfram was leaning against the stone column where Yuri had left him, head bowed and hands clenched into fists. He raised his chin swiftly when he heard Yuri’s running footsteps, his blonde hair falling over his narrowing eyes. “How dare you take liberties without invitation? Do you think it’s funny? Do you like humiliating me? Wait, what are you doing?”
Yuri moved into Wolfram’s space, cupping both of his cheeks. “I’m proving a point,” he said, and promptly kissed Wolfram again.
Wolfram’s fingers dug into Yuri’s wrists. In the background, loud voices suddenly dinned. Yuri’s mouth moved against Wolfram’s, tasting the softness of his lips. His stomach fluttered with butterflies. Other parts reacted, too.
Yuri broke the kiss and sucked in a shaky breath. Wolfram looked like he’d been sucker-punched. Yuri felt eyes on his back and a glance over his shoulder showed they’d gained an audience of Yuri-kissed spectators, including a devastated-looking Günter.
Yuri turned back to Wolfram, whose cheeks had flushed fiery red and whose eyes were spitting mad. Yuri chuckled nervously. “Uh, I can explain.”
“Yes, please do.” Wolfram folded his arms, jaw set. “I’m sure everyone would like to hear why you kissed someone you insist you dislike.”
“And I’d like to know why you kissed me,” Gwendal said from behind Yuri.
“Us, too!” the maids chorused.
“You kissed Gwendal before me?” Anissina said.
“He kissed all of you, too?” Günter sounded distressed. “Oh, I feel so used!”
Conrad remained silent, much to Yuri’s thanks.
Wolfram’s face grew redder with every word and steam curled from his ears. Yuri held up his hands, backing slowly away. “Wolfram—”
“You. Kissed. All. Of. Them?” Wolfram ground out between clenched, bared teeth.
“Well, you see, it’s like this…”
Yuri spun on his heel and bolted.
“YURI! YOU CHEATER!”
Wolfram tackled him in the training yard, and they rolled around in the dirt, and Yuri found himself having to pretend to be dismayed.
Because apparently, he didn’t like boys or girls. He just liked Wolfram.