It was only a few years after the marriage that Wolfram started flirting with him. It wasn't as though he hadn't noticed the Prince Consort before. Murata always had a preference for blonds (and had for almost every life that he could recall) and Prince Wolfram was certainly beautiful. It was only natural that he looked and he could pretend all he liked that the similarity he had with Shinou wasn't a factor, except he would be lying.
But look was all Murata ever did; Prince Wolfram was married and married to the King who happened to be his best friend. As far as he could see, it was a happy marriage; extraordinary so considering that their engagement had begun by a quirky cultural misunderstanding.
At first, Murata thought he was imagining things. For Shibuya was relaxed during these flirtations. And although the King wasn't as possessive as the Prince Consort, he had developed a definite proprietary attitude to his husband since he'd come to terms with his Maou alter-ego.
It was possible that Shibuya didn't notice, but after finally coming to terms with his feelings for von Bielefeld Murata didn't think that was likely. Shibuya's stubborn denial five years ago had set in motion events which had almost led to tragedy, and everyone close to the King and Lord von Bielefeld had been dragged into the crisis.
Even now, Murata didn't think that Lord von Voltaire had recovered from all the emotional displays. It was a hard lesson for Shibuya to learn and it had taken abduction and attempted assassination to do so. Fortunately, it had ended well. With a long anticipated wedding.
Since then, the King had become more sensitive to the Prince's feelings, and if Shibuya didn't notice his husband's behaviour, then Murata found it easier to overlook the flirtations. Or, rather, Murata chose to enjoy it as a sign of friendship instead.
Without guilt, Murata took up Prince Wolfram's frequent invitations for afternoon tea in the garden. Sometimes, these garden teas were also accompanied by Shibuya, and, occasionally, Sir Weller. Murata found himself enjoying Bielefeld's company. The Prince was intelligent and well versed in history and literature and Murata felt that marriage to the Demon King had settled him somewhat. Prince Wolfram was still quite a passionate and sometimes outspoken man. However, his more obnoxious behaviour, which had been fuelled by jealousy and insecurity, had disappeared...mostly.
Indeed, Murata had come to look forward to these private tea parties. He'd been starved of such conversation over the years. Apart from Shibuya and Yozak, he didn't have any other close friends. He had a good relationship with Lady Ulrike and Prince Wolfram's brothers, but he'd never really connected with them in a meaningful way.
Murata knew that was his own doing. On the surface, he aimed for open friendliness, but he could never hide an underlying reserve and Murata wasn't sure if he knew how to anymore. After centuries of betrayal in power and politics, it was an effective defense mechanism. Loneliness was a price he was willing to pay; he'd had a millennium to learn to deal with it.
So, Murata was resolved to politely ignore Prince Wolfram's small, almost secret smiles, absolutely. The way the Prince had become much "touchier" and the moments he'd be in conversation with say, Lord von Voltaire, and he'd look up to see Bielefeld staring at him. Each time, Murata found his eyes sliding to Shibuya and there was never a reaction. Therefore, it must be his overactive imagination.
So, he ignored the signs. It wasn't until Yozak had pointed it out to him that he realised, reluctantly, that his original intuition was accurate. His wilful ignorance had been bliss, because with knowledge comes responsibility.
The mornings had gotten cooler, heading towards autumn. It was still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors without rugging up when Yozak shared his observations with him as they went for a walk down to the Lake near the Temple. It was nice to share time with his friend. Both their schedules were busy and the spy was frequently out of the capital or even the country. So, this time was precious.
"You realise that half the Castle thinks you're sleeping with the Prince Consort," Yozak said in his matter of fact way.
This stopped Murata in his tracks. He looked at Yozak in disbelief.
"How do you mean? We never spend any time alone together." The only time was in the gardens and that was in plain view of the staff and other residents of the Castle. They could hardly have gotten it on in the flower beds. He pushed his glasses up in bewilderment.
"Well, I didn't think it was likely myself," Yozak said, grinning at Murata's moment of rare confusion. "I know you'd never dally with a married man, no matter how pretty."
"Then why the rumours?"
Yozak had relayed rumours that Murata had been sleeping with almost everyone over the years. At first, it had been with Lady Ulrike. Then, later, with Shibuya and later more persistently that he was in a relationship with Yozak. Murata had a lot of fun with the latter. If questioned about their 'friendship,' Murata smiled ambiguously. It was one rumour he didn't mind; Yozak was quite a great catch. But, in reality, they were only good friends, laughing at the gossip, their friendship solid.
These new rumours, however, were different. Jokes aide, Yozak was taking it much more seriously and Murata put a great deal of stock in the spy's news; he was a genius in intelligence and had a knack for picking up trends in public opinion.
"It's the way he flirts with you. Don't tell me you haven't noticed? Even Lord von Voltaire has. It was him who asked me if there were any substance to the rumours. You should have seen him, Ken. It would have been funny if he hadn't sounded so damn serious about it."
This was Lord von Voltaire's roundabout way of making sure his concerns were passed onto the Great Sage. Murata didn't think that Voltaire believed the rumours, but it was obvious that the Chancellor thought the rumours were a problem.
Murata sighed, thinking again of Prince Wolfram's secret smiles and long looks. "Yes, I thought so. But I dismissed it because, most times, his flirtations were in front of Shibuya and he wasn't upset by the Prince's behaviour."
"Do you think it's the Prince's way of getting the kid to pay attention to him?" Yozak asked.
"No." Murata said after he considered Yozak's question. "While it's true that they are both very busy and Shibuya's schedule doesn't leave him as much time with his family as he'd want, the time he does spend is entirely devoted to the Prince He hasn't been neglecting him." He stressed the last two words lacing it with deliberate innuendo. Yozak nodded in agreement, the bedchamber maids were never discreet.
Murata had no clue why Bielefeld was flirting with him. He couldn't believe it was because the Prince had gotten tired of Shibuya. He didn't want to believe it.
"You might want to speak to the Prince about it now that it's got potential to ruin the King's reputation," Yozak advised quietly.
Finding time to speak to the Prince was easier said than done. With rumours flying around, Murata could hardly ask for some private time with the Prince Consort in a public setting, and it would do no good to be found alone with the Prince. There was sparse privacy anywhere in the Castle and Bielefeld had no business at the temple.
Murata still couldn't believe anyone could imagine them having an affair; numerous eyes were on them constantly. But rumours had the ability to take on their own life and if enough people believed it, it was as good as fact.
Before Murata incited some minor military crisis to force Bielefeld to the Temple as a last frustrated resort, he was invited to a family picnic at the Sacred Tree.
Also invited were Prince Wolfram, the Demon King, Princess Greta, her husband, her step-children, Sir Weller, of course, and various guards from Bielefeld and Weller's squad. A family gathering, a typical small private royal family gathering
This led Murata to the most surreal and awkward conversation he'd ever had with Shibuya, and with a Kingdom like Shin Makoku with a King like Yuuri, that was saying something.
Murata watched as Prince Wolfram played some chasing game with Greta's step-children, a small boy of four and a girl of six.
Greta and her husband looked on in amusement. The Princess was just starting to show with her first pregnancy. Her hair was adorned with flower wreaths that little Anna had made for her earlier.
Greta had fallen in love and married a human merchant's son a few years before. A handsome, idealistic, wide-eyed boy called Joseph. He reminded Murata of Shibuya; an opinion he would keep to himself. Joseph's first wife, a childhood sweetheart, had died in childbirth with their youngest. Greta had met Joseph a few years later and had fallen in love. It was a happy union, free of political complications and blessed by both of her fathers. Prince Wolfram had been satisfied at least that the Princess had married well. The merchant family was extremely wealthy and did as well as any human could in a kingdom that still valued mazoku over humans.
It was a fine day. The sun wasn't too hot. He had enjoyed the food and relaxed atmosphere. But Shibuya had been stealing him furtive looks for the last half hour and had been acting a little strangely around Murata since he'd joined the party earlier. There was a glass of white wine in Yuuri's hands, an unusual sight with the king, and it would have been quite a carefree day if it wasn't for Shibuya's nervousness. In fact, the nerves were so thick he could imagine them wafting off him in solid waves.
After an hour, where Murata had failed to find an opportunity to pull Prince Wolfram aside for a quiet word, he decided to confront the king instead. His weird edginess was starting to get to Murata anyway.
"Okay spill it, Shibuya."
"Umm what?" The king was doing a decent impression of a deer frozen in the headlights. It was a little cute although Murata would never admit it. Even after all these years, Shibuya had this air of innocence. Despite appearances, Murata knew he wasn't that naive, but his innocent air made others more determined to protect him and his enemies underestimate him. Sometimes, Murata had wondered if it was all an act. Well...not this time.
"You've been giving me these looks; I know you want to say something." Murata tried and failed to give Shibuya eye contact.
"Well, it's just ...umm...Murata, I like you, and Wolfram likes you...and umm…you're nice and I'd… umm… we were thinking that we'd like you to join us sometime."
As Yuuri said this, he was twirling his wine glass around between his thumb and forefinger, the little wine remaining sloshing around and evidently Shibuya found this extremely fascinating.
It took him about ten seconds before realisation hit Murata. And then about another ten seconds to force his face into a neutral, affable, "I'm-an-understanding-friend" look, and not reveal how shocked this proposition made him. After four thousand years, very few things surprised the Great Sage, but he had not seen this coming. At all. Ever.
The silence lengthened and lengthened some more as he tried to come up with a more intelligent response other than "Huh?"
Sweet, innocent Shibuya Yuuri had just asked him into a threesome with his husband. He restrained the urge to grab that damned wine glass from Shibuya's hands; at this rate, he was going to break it. Instead, Murata mentally took a deep breath and thought about what he was going to say.
He decided to play dumb. It was such a cruel thing to make his friend spell things out but he needed time for his brain to stop spinning around in circles. And, if Yuuri couldn't be more specific, perhaps that was a good indication of how he'd proceed.
"Sure, it would be nice to have a private dinner with both of you sometime. It's been a while, hasn't it?"
Murata was pleased at how well he was able play casual when his inner reaction was to grab Yuuri by the collar and shake while yelling "What the hell?!"
"Err," Shibuya responded intelligently. Then, with one gulp, he drank the rest of the wine. Murata had the same urge to drink too.
Shibuya continued hurriedly, the words coming out in a rush. "I mean, together, umm...in bed."
Shibuya looked close to hyperventilating. Murata had not seen him so worked up since he'd come out of denial about his feelings for Bielefeld after his twentieth birthday. Not the most pleasant of times, he remembered. Murata had had to make time to support Shibuya during an emotional meltdown at the same time as holding Sir Weller's hand as he suffered his own crisis when everyone had thought Wolfram had been murdered. The image of that wind-swept rocky slope appeared in his mind's eye, and the blood. Murata let the image go with a mental shrug.
His friend was in agonised mortification, best to put him out of his misery.
"Shibuya, do you like me?"
Yuuri shot him a startled expression.
"Sure, we've been friends for years." nervous laughter followed.
Fairly certain about the response he'd just received, Murata asked again.
"Do you really like me? Do you want to have sex with me?"
That truth sat between them, stark and bare.
"Umm, I like you. Wolfram thinks you're cute and, well...I like you." The words trailed off awkwardly.
It all started to make sense to Murata. Or, rather, as much sense as anything could be about this situation. The relationship between the Demon King and his Prince Consort was a hot topic of conversation in the court. As, historically, all Monarch's before had been and all Yuuri's descendents would be.
Murata had heard much that was gossiped about, and although it wasn't his job, like it was for Yozak, he deliberately took note of what was said. This is why he'd spent so much time flirting with the maids and that young stable hand and hanging out in the kitchens with the staff being as affable as possible. Well it was fun, with the extra benefit of freshly baked goodies. More importantly, the information was valuable and it paid to find out what the servants knew.
Naturally, nobody ever talked about him while he was about which is why it was Yozak who had to tell him about the supposed affair he was having with Prince Wolfram. But Murata knew plenty of what was said about the royal couple.
It was widely held that the spoilt Lord Brat had been catered with everything by his brothers and mother. Not entirely true, Murata knew- and it was said that Bielefeld had moved on to find a husband who could spoil him the way he expected; also, not entirely true.
The inner circle had witnessed a few times where Wolfram had been reprimanded by his husband. He also knew that Wolfram loved Shibuya too much to take advantage of him entirely and that, within reason, Yuuri would do anything, or give anything, to make his husband happy.
Murata figured Shibuya suffered residual guilt for not being a typical husband who could spend more time with Wolfram, never mind that back home his father had spent less time with his mother and sons than Yuuri managed with running an entire kingdom. Or that Prince Wolfram's role was just as demanding with his squad and covering as Consort. Guilt wasn't rational.
And, largely, it was because Prince Wolfram was Shibuya's beloved, in the sense of those horrible romantic novels. This was the real deal. Murata had lived long enough to recognise genuine love. He hoped that Bielefeld knew how damned lucky he was.
So, if Wolfram wanted to have Murata join in love-making, in their private bedchamber, then Yuuri would try to accommodate. It was just the way Shibuya was, even if he wasn't that comfortable with the notion.
Murata's course of action was clear; even if the proposal intrigued him.
"As interested as I am Shibuya, and I am, I'll decline. What happens between you and your husband is private. I think it's important that everyone's really... truly comfortable with a sexual relationship and I don't think this is the case?"
He ended the sentence in a half-question and wasn't surprised at Shibuya's relieved expression.
"Oh okay." And that was the end of that conversation.
The rest of the afternoon was a little embarrassing for Murata but not so bad as it could have been all things considered.
Prince Wolfram had returned from his play with the children and had given Shibuya a questioning look, but his expression went bland with some sign between them. Murata maintained a friendly attitude towards the Prince and nothing further happened that afternoon that was untoward.
That night at the Temple, Murata dreamt he was entwined with white skin, green eyes and long limbs and of big black eyes watching him, watching them avidly. He woke just as the sky outside the Temple window was lightening, his cock hard between his legs and the image of the dream still fresh in his mind. Oh he was so screwed.
If there was any negative feelings between Shibuya and his Consort following the awkward proposal at the picnic, Murata did not see it.
For a week after Murata deemed it wise to stay at the Temple, his dealings with the Castle and the Demon King limited. When he resumed his visits at the inner circle briefings, Shibuya addressed him no differently then before. This impressed Murata a little; he didn't think that his friend had developed that level of subterfuge for he knew the whole event would have had an impact on Shibuya.
The Prince had stopped flirting with him. Still coolly polite, no different than before the whole surreal affair had started.
The afternoon garden teas continued. Not nearly as often as before and the Prince was strictly friendly with him, bordering on professional.
Of course Yozak noticed.
"Whatever you said, it must have worked. The Prince is no longer giving you those long looks." Murata shrugged and smiled blandly. Yozak wasn't fooled.
"Oh, come on! I'm dying to know."
A part of him did consider telling the spy. Yozak was his closest friend now and he knew that he could trust him. But his mind went to the memory of Shibuya's embarrassed proposition. This wasn't his secret alone to share so he'd continued smiling.
Yozak had sighed. "Fine…fine, maybe you'll tell me one day. But as good as this is for the Kingdom and Lord von Voltaire's sleep, it's a bit of a shame. The Prince is beautiful and flirting is fun."
Murata agreed. But, even more than the flirtations, he missed the Consort's conversations. The true ones, not the polite discussions about trade, or about the Temple's schedules, but the ones about literature, or the gossip, or sharing little titbits about Shibuya's childhood and bad habits.
And he couldn't see Shibuya the same way. Murata had seen him as the sweet boy who he'd watched grow up, his friend, the one who he had guided in his position. Unlike his appreciations for Prince Wolfram, he'd never seen Shibuya in a sexual way. But, now, his mind couldn't see anything else. It was as if a switch had been flipped in Murata's head.
His dreams and imaginings often presented Shibuya watching him while he screwed the Prince into the mattress. Or, more telltale, with dreams where the Demon King was writhing under him while he'd sucked his cock. Murata had thousands of years of memories to draw upon, so his imagination wasn't lacking and his mind would bring them up regularly.
Now, Murata couldn't help but notice how much of a good looking man Shibuya had grown up to be. All that baseball practice, daily morning exercises, and sword lessons had given him a nicely muscled physique. When Shibuya was in armour, with Morgif sheathed, he looked the exact picture of the fearsome warrior King, much like Shinou had been.
But that last image wasn't what Murata found appealing No, that wasn't right. It wasn't that alone he found appealing. It was the awareness that the king never saw himself in that way. Shibuya still saw himself as the plain somewhat dorky boy from Japan. As competent as he was in swordsmanship after years of tutoring from Sir Weller, and as fearsome and powerful as he was when he brought forth the Maou, his soul was as gentle and sweet as any he'd known. He'd never met Lady Julia, but he could almost imagine what she'd had been like and why everyone had loved her.
For that what he saw when he looked at Shibuya Yuuri and it was striking.
Murata could not deny his attraction to both the Prince and the King, both desirable in their unique ways. But he'd made his decision and put his fantasies aside. That was still the wisest course of action. Murata had no intention of causing grief to Shibuya's marriage just to satisfy his own desires, or to alleviate some of the loneliness he felt.
Time would make things easier, it always did. Eventually, Murata would look back and laugh at his obsession. Or at least frame it in a less painful perspective.
Time did go by in Shin Makoku. A plot to assassinate Shibuya was foiled... yet again. Thanks to Sir Weller's quick thinking and even quicker reflexes. Little Greta gave birth to a son.
Peace reigned, mostly. Murata knew that it was impossible to achieve true peace, humans and mazoku were too greedy and foolish for that. But Shibuya worked hard to make their world as safe as it could be. Any human from war afflicted Earth would be envious of the alternate world.
Time did make it easier for Murata. He had two brief but enjoyable affairs. The first with a minor Lady noble.
Lady Louisa was a brilliant scholar with long dark hair who had been appointed as Envoy to Small Shimaron. She had caught his eye at a royal function while she was on leave from her placement, she had a wicked sense of humour and delightfully long fingers.
The second tryst was with one of Lord von Voltaire's men. Goett was a young squire with light brown hair and a lovely smile who was rather creative with his tongue.
Neither would lead to a long term commitment. In his station, it was difficult to find anyone who was willing to attach themselves publically. Ambition did, indeed, have its limits when it came to the Great Sage. Not that Murata was trying all that hard.
In his previous incarnations in Shin Makoku, he'd cultivated an untouchable, aloof character. The Great Wise man of double black, the one who spoke to Shinou, the shadowy figure behind the throne….
It was one thing to have dalliances but it was another for anyone to seek him out for something lasting. It wasn't that Murata was celibate, and he certainly never gained that reputation, quite the opposite in fact. The rumours of his seductions were greatly exaggerated but even so Murata enjoyed sex, very much. His body was entirely in agreement, replete with a very healthy libido.
Sex was easy, uncomplicated and Murata chose his partners with discretion. But he didn't think he could trust anyone with more. He might give the appearance of carefree affability, the better to be underestimated, but Murata was a very careful individual which meant very few people got to see the real Murata Ken.
Murata couldn't deny his loneliness, but he wouldn't allow himself to dwell, knowing full well that would only lead to more unhappiness. Fortunately, his duties kept him busy enough as a distraction against such introspection.
It was over a year later when Shibuya invited him to a private dinner with the Prince back at his suites. Shibuya's demeanour was pleasant and casual, nothing like that time at the picnic. Murata wondered if he was going to endure another round of polite conversations, which was the norm these days when it came to Prince Wolfram and Murata had grown weary of it.
Should he decline? Come up with a courteous excuse that nobody would believe but certain that everyone would play along with.
But Murata was curious to see what would happen; this was Shibuya's invitation after all. And this would be in the royal suites; he'd never been invited there before, not since the wedding. Was this Shibuya's way of apologising for the picnic? It didn't seem likely. More than a year had gone by and...well, he was sure that Shibuya would have said something before.
It had been a long time since he'd managed to socialise with Shibuya outside of official duties, not since he'd taken up his position as king full time. And the tea he'd been taking with the Prince and, occasionally, the King had become nothing more than informal briefings, thick with etiquette, boring, and meaningless. In fact, he was too hard-pressed to think of any time he'd been alone with the royal pair. And even then, Sir Weller would be lurking on the periphery.
Murata decided to visit in his typical formal black. It was his default outfit these days anyway. This turned out to be way overdressed. He was surprised to find Yuuri dressed in a long sleeved t-shirt, well worn and cotton pants both purchased on Earth.
Shibuya took time every year to go home, and had, with the help of the Maou and meditations with Lady Ulrike, managed to synchronise the times from Earth and this world together, so that time flowed at exactly the same rate. He used that ability to speed up the time on Earth relative to Shin Makoku when Shibuya went home with his husband. The opposite of how things had been when Shibuya had first been sucked into Shin Makoku so many years ago. Now two months on Earth only meant an hour for the kingdom.
It was the Prince's appearance that was the biggest surprise for Murata, and the first inkling that this night wasn't going to be anything like those afternoon tea parties. Prince Wolfram wore a plain white buttoned shirt, black pants, and was barefoot. The most Murata had ever seen him undressed since the wedding was when he sometimes saw him in the pink nightgown.
He could see why Wolfram put so much effort into his formal uniform. Without it, he looked so much younger and far more touchable.
The white shirt's first few buttons were undone, giving Murata a nice view of his collarbone, an image of tracing his fingers below the collar popped into his head and he squelched it ruthlessly. It was stupid to think he'd managed to get over this attraction over the year; it was now stronger than ever.
Prince Wolfram looked nothing like the proud regal prince when he stalked down the corridors of Covenant Castle, chin held high. This was the Wolfram only Yuuri, Greta, and Conrad would see, lounged on the plush high back chairs around the family dinner table.
The meal was simple: pasta, chicken, and vegetables rounded out with a chocolate flavoured confectionary for Wolfram. The conversation centred on the training schedule for the recruits in the coming year, the usual type of discussions, but Wolfram dominated the conversation with a enthusiasm Murata had not seen in a long time.
They retired to Shibuya's comfortable drawing room, with sweet wine and cakes. Shibuya and his husband on the plush red two seater sofa, and he plopped himself on the equally plush deep seated sofa opposite. The bottle, glasses, and cakes were positioned between them on a coffee table.
"So, how is Greta?" Murata asked as he removed his jacket and draped it over the chair's armrest. The room was warm and the dinner wine had not helped. Wolfram launched into a proud description of the baby and its fitness as well as Greta's wellbeing while Shibuya looked on in affectionate indulgence.
"It seems you've got the child's future already mapped out," Murata said after Wolfram spoke of his plans to get the child trained in swordsmanship. Murata tried, but not very hard, to keep the laughter out of his voice.
Wolfram folded his arms in front of him in faux irritation, although the amused gleam in his eyes gave the game away. "There is nothing wrong with planning for the future."
Murata smiled delighted with Wolfram's openness. This was the man he'd enjoyed talking to before the picnic and he exchanged an amused glance with Shibuya.
"Has Greta given any hints about what the baby's name will be?" Murata asked, filling a wine glass for himself and Wolfram and taking a sip.
Shibuya shook his head. "She's keeping it a secret until naming day."
"Well, at least someone in this family takes Shin Makoku traditions seriously." Wolfram huffed, and before they started bickering about the mistakes Shibuya had made with the wine glass on their wedding day, something Murata was sure was going to be rehashed for at least the next century, Murata changed the subject to castle gossip.
"I hear that Lord von Christ has found a lover and it's Lord von Voltaire's second."
"Pfff," Wolfram waved his hands in obvious disdain. "That's old news. At least, it keeps him from fawning over Yuuri...too much." He amended quickly under his breath, but audible enough for Murata to hear.
Murata agreed that there was very little that would stop Lord von Christ from his enthusiastic admiration of the King.
Wolfram really enjoyed the light-hearted court gossip, as long as the topic didn't get too close to home. Murata carefully refrained from mentioning any of the latest doings of Lady Cecilie, who was on yet another one of her trips abroad.
Yuuri seemed surprised with every single dramatic, salacious revelation or, at least, pretended to in order to get a reaction out of Wolfram whose cheeks had taken on an attractive red tint.
Murata could see why. The most beautiful thing about Wolfram was how vibrant he became when he was passionate about something and Wolfram was the most passionate person he knew. Wolfram kept that passion reined in well enough for the public, much more successfully over the last few years. But in private he burnt brighter than the fire he wielded. He could see that Yuuri didn't have a chance. A moth to a flame, good thing the moth was tough.
"Murata, are we boring you?" asked Wolfram, taking his attention away from his private musings.
"Sorry, sorry…just lost in my thoughts. What did you say?"
"I'm just wondering if you plan to visit Earth anytime soon. Yuuri and I will be visiting after Greta's son is presented."
It was hard to get back into Shin Makoku politics after so long on Earth, and Murata disliked the cultural whiplash when moving from one world to another. Unlike Yuuri, Murata's connection to his birth parents was poor. He scarcely saw his father growing up and his mother was a little afraid of him. As best he could, he tried to act like a child, but the memories had arrived much earlier in this life and he knew his mother wasn't fooled. She had been relieved when he had told her he was studying in England. It was a good cover story for his absence. He'd arranged with Shori to send his parents reports of his fictional progress. Murata didn't think he was missed, and it bothered him more that it didn't bother him.
He had felt much more at home in Shin Makoku. Shin Makoku had never been perfect, but it was where he came from originally, and barring an emergency, he didn't expect to return anytime soon.
"No, I have no plans to go back. But I might give you a list of books for you to collect while you're over there. Perhaps a couple of reference catalogues as well, if it's no trouble?" He smiled sheepishly.
"You should come sometime; Mama Jennifer is rather fond of you and asks after you." Wolfram pressed.
Murata looked over at them and forced a pleasant smile, but the look Yuuri gave him showed that he understood more than he let on. Wolfram was less perceptive.
Murata had always liked Miko. She was kind and unconventionally quirky for a Japanese housewife. Miko had accepted Murata's eccentricities with openness and good-humoured affection, showering him with affection which he never got at home.
Miko was a large part of the reason he'd spent time over at the Shibuya household, even when Yuuri wasn't there. Maybe he would reconsider coming back for a visit later on.
"Yes, perhaps next year."
He played a few games of Halma with Prince Wolfram as Shibuya watched, a strategy board game popular at court. Wolfram almost beat him a few times. Shibuya wanted to play Igo, but Murata's head was buzzing with the wine and he was grateful when Wolfram protested.
"Next time, then," Shibuya said. "I've been teaching Wolfram how to play." He explained to Murata.
"It doesn't make sense, Yuuri. You know I've tried," Wolfram grumbled.
"You just hate playing a game you can't beat me in straight away," Yuuri said with a grin, patting Prince Wolfram's thigh playfully.
Murata looked away. The intimacy before him wasn't for his eyes.
During the course of the night, Wolfram had all but made his way into Yuuri's lap, both of them flush with wine. They were beautiful together. When Yuuri leaned over to give Wolfram a lingering kiss on the brow with his hand appreciably caressing the inside of Wolfram's thigh, Murata knew it was time to go.
He stood up abruptly, grabbing his jacket.
"Thank you for inviting me for dinner." He'd probably go down and see if he could crash on Yozak's spare bed, or get one of the maids to set him up. It was way past midnight and he didn't relish the thought of making his way back to the temple at this hour.
Wolfram stood up, brushing aside Yuuri's wandering hands easily.
"You can't go yet. We should play another game." Wolfram was standing way too close to him for comfort.
"No, no. I should be getting back to the Temple," Murata lied, although he found he was reluctant to move.
"Don't go." Wolfram leaned in and kissed him. And he suddenly found himself with an armful of warm sweet smelling mazoku, even knowing that Yuuri was sitting on the sofa watching. In fact, the thought of Yuuri sitting on the sofa watching was enough to make him dizzy with desire as the blond Prince practically devoured him. He pushed Wolfram off him gently, resisting the urge to touch the Prince's hair.
Wolfram was flushed and dazed, and it only made Murata want to kiss him once more. He shut his eyes and blocked out the sight. Murata sucked in a resolved breath. This wasn't a good idea.
"I really should be going." He looked over at Shibuya, expecting to see him all embarrassed and uncertain. But Yuuri was watching the proceedings with wide appreciative eyes. Murata hesitated.
Wolfram took that opportunity to kiss him again, warm and loose limbed, his mouth tasting of the sweet wine. "Please stay tonight." Wolfram whispered in his ear and louder as he curled one arm around him, leaning back so Murata could see his green eyes.
"We'd really like it if you stayed and played." Wolfram was intoxicated but not nearly enough to not know what he was doing.
Okay, Murata was only human. He found himself giggling out loud at that thought and then smothering it in another full kiss with Wolfram. This time, really allowing himself to run his hands through the blond hair which was tied back at Wolfram nape, itching to let the blond tresses loose. Of course, he was only human, in this lifetime, which meant he had only a short time and he really, really wanted Wolfram, and by the looks of it Yuuri didn't mind.
But there was one thing he had to say before he threw himself into this insanity, to be certain.
He looked over at Shibuya, gorgeous on the sofa.
"Do you want me to play with Wolfram, Shibuya?" He was almost going to say, "Do you want me to fuck your husband?" but he wasn't familiar enough with this Yuuri, a sexual Yuuri to ask so boldly.
In a flash Yuuri was next to him, "Only if I can play, too."
Murata blinked. That was not what he was expecting. But Wolfram was all over him again, and “thought” had become very difficult all of a sudden. Murata's head was turned to the side and Yuuri kissed him, Wolfram with one arm around Murata's hips and Yuuri with his hand clutching the fabric below his collar, such deliberate sweet seduction. Yuuri shivered slightly against him, and Murata wasn't sure if it was from desire or from nerves. Perhaps, it was a bit of both.
"Okay," he breathed into Yuuri's neck. "Okay, yes." And Murata let himself be dragged into the king's bedchamber.
Afterwards, Murata went out on the balcony to clear his head. It certainly was a cool enough night to do so.
He wrapped Yuuri's nightrobe around him. Wolfram was sound asleep when he left. Yuuri had mumbled a sleepy protest but stilled when he'd carefully removed Yuuri's arms from around him as he crawled out of their warm bed.
He sat down on the stone bench, wincing a little. Yuuri had been very enthusiastic, not that Murata minded much at the time.
He looked up at the stars, combing his fingers through his unbound hair trying to remove the tangles. It was a nice balcony, just like his back at the temple, high and large enough so that it provided privacy if you didn't lean out on the balustrade. And the balcony was positioned so that nobody could see from other windows, more for security really. The stars were very bright tonight, he thought, shivering slightly as a cool breeze came through.
He was having first regrets, familiar those. No matter how many memories, how many experiences he had in his head, he still managed to dive into awkward situations. Perhaps that was part of being mortal.
"I can hear you thinking from the bed," Yuuri said, walking out onto the balcony. He was wearing Wolfram's pink nightrobe.
Privately, he thought that Wolfram's style was adorable. Murata liked lace and silk. It wasn't seen as exclusively feminine in Shin Makoku – but pink did suit Wolfram's complexion better.
"Come on," Yuuri offered his hand to help him up. "Let's go into the drawing room. It's warmer. The sofas are soft and maybe you can share your thoughts...if you want." Murata would forever be fascinated by the bouts of nervousness that Yuuri had which were covered by easy confidence, like now. Like before, Only if I can play too.
He let Yuuri lead him without saying a word.
Murata sat back on one corner of the long sofa which Yuuri and Wolfram had been on earlier that night…or last night. It was early morning now. He took his glasses off and carefully laid them on the side table next to the sofa. Murata much preferred the prescription glasses from Earth, so he was careful with the two he had left. He'd broken one already.
Yuuri stretched his body down on his side and laid his head on Murata's lap with his nose buried snug against his belly.
"Can you breathe there?" Murata asked with amusement, the first words he'd spoken. He ran his hands through Yuuri's short hair affectionately; Yuuri wasn't fond of the long haired style popular with nobles. Murata thought of all the effort it took to keep his long hair neat and conceded that Yuuri did have a point there.
"You smell nice" Yuuri said softly, and the way that his friend said that gave Murata little butterflies in his stomach. Yuuri rolled over so he was looking up at him. Murata wondered if Yuuri realised that he'd slipped into his native Japanese. It had been a while since Murata had heard the language. Yuuri's cadence was a little different and his vowels had altered. He'd picked up a slight drawl from speaking mazoku.
The fire had banked in the fireplace, but the firebricks that enclosed the fire kept heat in for hours. So, it was very nice in the small drawing room. It was much warmer than his room back at the Temple or even the king's master bedroom which was larger and had odd drafts coming through. Murata had only discovered that as he'd sneaked out earlier. The bed itself had been warm enough, with thick blankets and plenty of body heat.
"Do you remember when we used to lie under the kotatsu in winter in my bedroom and watched baseball on television? It seems like a thousand years ago…" Yuuri murmured.
Do you miss that? Murata thought, but he held his silence sensing that Yuuri had more to say.
"It was nice, a little like this." There was a pause. "Do you still have nightmares?" Yuuri asked starkly, an unexpected question.
Ah, yes. It was from one of those times in Yuuri's rooms that Shibuya had shared his dream. Death was a general theme. "Side-effect of trauma, bad memories," Murata dismissed lightly, shrugging his shoulders. Death was traumatic, messy, painful and frightening, but he wasn't going to say that.
Shibuya blinked up at him and even without his glasses he could see the concern, or maybe he imagined it.
"I'm used to it; it's not so much nightmares, but memories. Memories of other lives…I don't get the dreams often and they don't trouble me." And even less if he had someone to share his bed, but he wasn't going to say that, either. He didn't want to make Yuuri feel obligated.
Murata wasn't going to tell anyone that in this life the memories were the strongest. He suspected that they were all needed for him to guide Yuuri on his path. Who he was now, his personality, was shaped more by his other lives, his first life, especially, than this one. Little Murata Ken of Tokyo had ceased to be a long time ago.
Shibuya didn't say anything, but stopped Murata's hand that he'd been absent-mindedly winding through Yuuri's hair and kissed Murata's palm lightly. Then held it against his heart.
"You need to stay over again. It was fun. Wolfram certainly enjoyed it, that thing you did...with the..." Yuuri did a little wave of his free hand to demonstrate. "I don't think I've seen him moan that enthusiastically before." Yuuri didn't sound one bit jealous. He sounded amused and very impressed.
"Why aren't you jealous?" Murata asked sincerely in a low voice, curious. He noticed absently that he was also speaking Japanese.
Yuuri looked up at him thoughtfully. "I shouldn't be the one who's jealous…"
Before Murata could puzzle it out, Yuuri sat up, turned, and gently pushed him downwards. "Here, lie down. This position is killing my back."
With a little work, Murata ended up on his back, a cushion under his head while Yuuri ended up on his side, back against the rear of the sofa, one arm and leg slung across him.
"That's better," Yuuri said contentedly.
Yuuri arranged his pink robe over them both. It was cosy. Yuuri smelt of Wolfram's cologne, and of sex. He felt his cock stir. Down, he thought mentally. Murata was way too tired for another round.
Yuuri sighed and laid his head down under Murata chin. "When I look into your eyes..." Yuuri said quietly. "I see someone who looks so very old and so very young at the same time. It's...freaky but reassuring. I think that even before I knew who you were, I noticed it. It's what attracted the Maou's awareness. He's the same. What I feel of him is what I see in you, someone who's seen too much, and who's very much…alone. Except you have a sense of humour, a twisted one, but still." Yuuri laughed nervously. Murata wasn't going to deny what Yuuri said.
He could see why Yuuri had chosen for them to lie there like this. They couldn't look each other in the eye and, perhaps, it was easier that way.
Murata stroked Yuuri's hair in reassurance, as much for himself as it was for the King.
"How long?" Murata asked after a moment. He knew that Shibuya would know what he meant.
"Sometime after the boxes. The Maou is very direct when he wants something, and he wanted you. I didn't...not really then. I was still trying to come to terms with my feelings for Wolfram and desperately holding on to the idea that I was straight. You have no idea how hard that was sharing a bed with him. He's...stunning and has a good heart. Even from the beginning, I found him attractive. I just was very good at pretending otherwise."
Yuuri caressed Murata's shoulder absent-mindedly while he spoke.
"So, I told the Maou absolutely not," Yuuri continued. "And he didn't say anything more about it, not that he says anything. At least most of the time. Though, sometimes he talks to me in dreams, but I can...feel what he wants, and I guess he can feel me as well. I think he'd know he'd get his way eventually. He always does." The last words weren't said with bitterness or resignation, but matter-of-factly.
He stilled his fingers in Yuuri's hair. Oh Yuuri.
Murata could feel Yuuri sigh against him.
"After our marriage, he started again, and I began to watch you. I was curious at first. I wanted to know what the Maou saw in you. To me, you were Murata, a school friend. But, the more I watched, the more I could see...well, that I wanted you too. You were still a friend, but it was different. But I wanted Wolfram as well...I love Wolfram; I'm in love with him. He's family. So, I couldn't... I didn't know how I could see you, want you, and still want Wolfram. I wouldn't have done anything to hurt my husband, no matter what the Maou thought."
"What changed?" Murata asked quietly realising how hard that would have been for Yuuri, going against what the Maou wanted.
"Wolfram. He noticed. He didn't say, but I know he noticed and he told me he was interested in you as well. Eventually, he convinced me. It took a lot of convincing. I didn't want him to be jealous – and well, it felt wrong at first, but Wolfram was...persuasive. I saw how you looked at Wolfram, so I thought maybe... it was one of the hardest things I've ever done. I was terrified last night, afraid you'd be offended, afraid that Wolfram would get hurt."
Yuuri fell silent for a moment. The room was very still.
Then Yuuri sucked in an unsteady breath, his cheek still pressed underneath Murata's chin.
"When I asked you the first time, I was relieved when you turned us down. I don't think I was ready then. But it didn't change anything and...Wolfram was relentless; he thought you might need more incentive," Yuuri laughed shortly.
Murata stroked Yuuri's hair thoughtfully. He had it wrong the entire time. It was Yuuri who wanted him, not Wolfram. He never thought Wolfram was as selfish as many believed but Murata never thought the Prince could be this selfless, to share Yuuri with another, to love Yuuri enough to do so. Murata recalled the heated look Wolfram had given him earlier on. Maybe not so much.
"It doesn't feel wrong, though," Yuuri admitted. "I love Wolfram, but I think…I think if you let me, I could love you, too." Yuuri's voice was hesitant, vulnerable.
Murata didn't trust his voice at first. So he lowered his head and kissed the top of Yuuri's head lightly. He cleared his throat.
"I think I'd be happy to stay over again." He couldn't make any other promises, not yet. But Yuuri's relieved exhale was good enough for now.