His life had become somewhat complicated, after the entire affair at the harvest festival.
For one thing, he jumped from being a bachelor to having six grown children— and most of them being his students did nothing at all to lessen the awkwardness of this role.
"Papa!" in the middle of an afternoon class, a high-pitched voice called from the hallway, accompanied by quick footsteps (and paw-steps). Then shadow bursted through the door, jumped up, and proceeded to knock Heine to the ground.
"Shadow! Adele!" Licht greeted enthusiastically, while the four princes each shot up from their desks, spilling ink on their work and raining papers on the floor.
"Papa, Adele wants to be an artist!" The little girl announced confidently, "Adele wants Papa to teach Adele too. Why do Bru-nii and Kai-nii and Leo-nii and Lichy get to spend all day with Papa, while Adele has no one to play with? It's not fair!"
"Adele, we are not playing here, we're studying." Bruno tried to explain.
"Adele wants to study too! Adele wants to study art with Papa, Papa is the best artist Adele has ever seen!"
All eyes turned to their 'Papa,' who is now buried in a pile of fur. It is quite a good thing that this is the case, because Heine is burning with embarrassment. The portrait incident was still very much alive in everyone's mind, even if it was months and months ago.
"Be a good girl and go play with Shadow, alright?" said Leonhard gently, even though he did not want to study and is in fact quite glad that Adele has interrupted.
"But," Adele said, voice quavering, "Adele wants to spend time with Papa, too…"
"Adele… don't cry…" Kai soothed. At this point, Shadow got up and went to cuddle the blond girl as well. Finally freed, and only a bit ruffled by the wrestling match with a huge dog, Heine pushed himself up and said,
"Alright, class is over for today. Why don't we go out to the gardens and learn a bit about preparing it for the winter?"
That earned him another happy tackle to the ground, this time by three different people in addition to the dog. Bruno and Kai, too mature by now to show elation in such a way, looked at each other and smiled.
It was actually pretty great, having another Papa.
His first birthday after officially becoming royalty is a small, private affair— just as he liked it. The entire family gathered into his small room, sitting on chairs and tables and the floor, all available pockets of space hastily cleared of books. There were no servants, no ceremony, no fuss.
On a mantel piece— the only piece in the room with nearly clear surface— was displayed prominently a pocket-watch: golden, elegantly carved, with clear black roman numbers and a clear, impeccably mended glass face.
Heine was sitting backwards in his working chair, Viktor standing close beside him, a hand resting assuredly on Heine's shoulder. Far from minding, Heine felt ridiculously happy.
It was a nice early spring day, the sun was out and the window open, bright yellow new leaves swaying soothingly in the air.
It was Heine's favorite time of year, when the children at the church could start coming out from the cold winter and play. They could go out today and have a picnic. In fact, Viktor had went out a week ago and declared today a "Teacher's Day" in his kingdom. Hundreds of teachers are probably taken on picnics with their students right now as he stared out the window.
Heine didn't quite know what to feel about that. There is so much difference just a few months can make.
The princes attempted to cook for him, and it was a fun disaster. They also each gave him small presents, and Adele a card with her latest family drawing in it. Viktor's present was a pen and ink set— the finest that could be found in the kingdom. Even Shadow padded in and gave him his favorite stick.
And then, unexpectedly, there were packages sent from the church. Letter and little nothings from his former students. At some point, he was so happy he thought he would cry.
That night he had Niederglanreich white wine with the king in his extensive quarters, and went to sleep in the the king's humongous canopied bed, chatting over the inconsequentials of life— a privilege to be able to think about.
Viktor stared at Heine's sleeping face for a long, long time after he'd fallen asleep. It was one of the things he'd never seen before, in all those years they'd known each other. He'd always had to leave when morning threatens, and their nights together were far too precious to waste sleeping. So this was a new wonder, a surprise that never ceased to be novel after months had passed.
Viktor snuggled closer, rested his cheek on the soft copper red hair, so close no fracture could drive them apart, like specs of sand melded together into glass. A small, unbreakable unit.
"See, Heine," Viktor whispered almost inaudibly into the quiet of the night, "this is what you've always deserved."