He looked at Claude. Watched as his lover held his gaze on the two jewels of their lives, Gwendolyn and Javed. It was something Claude had grown the habit of doing, simply watching as their children played. In turn, Dimitri has picked up the habit of watching Claude, see the warm happiness on his face and feel that warmth spread to him.
Today was different. Or more, it became different.
Moments before it was all the same, the dream of children playing in peace. But then Javed tripped, and fell, and cried out.
Dimitri had shot up from his seat, but not nearly so fast as Claude, already bounding for the children before Dimitri could get his feet. Gwendolyn was worried, and Javed injured, though it was nothing serious upon inspection; simply a scraped knee. It was dealt with quickly, Claude giving it a Heal spell, a stern warning to be more careful, and the kids were back to playing as usual after a promise they made Claude swear to "teach them how to make their hands glow like that!". It relieved Dimitri, knowing everything was fine.
But it was different for Claude. For a moment Dimitri saw a… look, overcome his lover. After worry came… confusion. Yes, he looked confused, though the look wasn't directed at the children. It was distant. It was the look he took on when he was soon to be lost in his thoughts. Dimitri had distracted Claude before it got too far, but he watches now how Claude is so clearly trying to keep his focus on the children, fighting back the urge to wander in his mind.
Dimitri put a hand on Claude's shoulder. He jumped at the contact but soon relaxed, placed his own hand on top of Dimitri's.
In private. They will talk in private.
"I love them, Dimitri."
It was the first thing Claude said, after they put the little ones to sleep, in their bedroom.
"I know," Dimitri replies, because it was true. Nothing was truer. Claude loved their children with such a fervor no one would dare try to deny it.
"I got… so worried when Javed got hurt."
He sounded so… he sounded as though he was saying something strange.
"It's only natural," Dimitri reassures. "It is the first time either of them have gotten hurt, even if it was a minor injury." Rambunctious that they can be they are usually more careful than today, though of course it would happen eventually-
"My parents never showed that kind of worry to me."
Claude so rarely spoke of his family. Dimitri knew his parents yet lived, though Dimitri has never met them himself. He's heard talk of Claude's ascension to the throne being hard won against others vying for it, so he thinks it safe to assume there are siblings within the family. Other than that… he knew nothing.
From how tense Claude is, how lost he looks, Dimitri also thinks he knows the reason for Claude's stalled tongue on the matter.
"Truly?" Dimitri knew he would not like the answer.
"I… I know they love me," Claude starts, already defensive. "I get that. They wanted me to be independent, so they were… hands off. They loved me and wanted me to be strong. I… I love Gwen and Javed, and I want them to grow up strong too, I just…"
He looked to Dimitri. He looked so… lost.
"Am I doing this whole parenting thing wrong, Dimitri? I, uh…" and he blinked hard and shook his head and slipped on a horribly fake smile, his gaze off of Dimitri and onto the wall, "I might be overthinking this, haha. Ignore what I just said, I'll just figure it out-"
Dimitri gently took hold of Claude's chin and drew his gaze back onto him. Green eyes stared wide into his one. "You are a wonderful parent, Claude. I could not ask you to do better than you are doing now."
A pause, before another awkward chuckle left Claude. "You sure sound sure. Can you tell me your secret in having so much confidence in me?"
The answer was easy. "I watch how you look upon our children with such adoration. I see how they look upon you and know that they are safe, and love you in return."
He watched Claude swallow. "Haha, yeah… it's just, my parents would trust that I could handle things myself, you know? I just don't want to have them unprepared."
Worrying over your children is not distrusting them. Healing them and consoling them when they get hurt is not… what, spoiling? Pampering? What wrong has been done? He so desperately wanted to say this to his love… but he knew better. At least right now. He will, when the time calls for it, when Claude can better take those words.
As for now, he says, "You offered to teach them some Faith healing, did you not? That will certainly prepare them for many unfortunate events to come. And I know that mind of yours, Claude - I would bet that teaching would also include more medicinal healings means as well."
And that brought a sliver of relaxation to taut shoulders. Less than Dimitri liked, more than what he expected. "Ha, you'd have won yourself a nice set of coins for that wager," he says, and it sounds far more real than the last attempt of lightheartedness.
He put his other hand on Claude's shoulder. "My love," and Claude's face turns that slight shade of red, still unused to being referred to as such even years later, "you and your parents…" he thought of how to put it without his anger clouding his meaning. After a moment, he goes on, "...are not the same. You may wish for the same goal for your children, but that is not to say you must follow their footsteps so diligently."
He pulled Claude into an embrace, holding him close, and whispered, "Please, do not doubt yourself so. You are doing so well."
A moment, in silence, neither moving. Another, before Claude slowly, tentatively wrapped his arms around Dimitri. Another, before Dimitri felt Claude's body release that little bit more tension. Another, before Claude spoke:
He did not sound fully convinced, doubt still creeping into his voice, shaking it just that much… but he did not sound fully dejected either, ending with a budding strength, a sapling ready to grow into a mighty oak should care be given to it.
One day he hopes to hear just how Claude was raised, that him showing care to his children filled him with such crippling thoughts of inadequacy. He knew he would likely grow angry, should that day come, for he could not think of how he could think kindly of those who have treated his beloved in such a way. But he so wanted to help Claude, and he can not do that living in ignorance, no matter how much he loathed the thought of knowing.
Tonight, Dimitri keeps Claude close, pulling him down to lay on their bed for slumber, combing his hand through his soft brown locks and professing his love for him. If he can do nothing else, he will make sure Claude will have his rest knowing he is loved, and that he will wake knowing the same.
For now, it was all he could do.