And Hope Sequel to "Comfort and Joy"
NOTES: Two stories
in one, here. Please read both.
Once upon a time, there lived a little snow prince.
Snow crunched noisily beneath his black boots, a sound that was welcome against the din in his head. The night air was cold and biting, his breath a hazy fog obscuring his vision, and the moon was substituted by a too pale lamp that only barely lit the maze of cars. Where the fuck was it, anyway?
The prince, like his kingdom, was pale and white, a fair creature in a fairer land. He lived in a palace of ice, drank from frozen goblets, ate from chilled plates, and ran amongst the white and rolling grounds of his homeland.
"Zechs! Hey, Zechs, wait up!"
Where was it, dammit, where was it? He took out his keys and began pressing the unlock mechanism, listening for the tell-tale screech of the alarm setting. He heard it and quickened his pace. Footfalls in the snow approached him.
Despite his icy home, however, the Prince was warm and loving. A happy child of silver and light, he lavished affection upon his kingdom, bejeweling the peasants with diamonds and garland, swathing the streets in white banners that streaked the crisp morning sky. It was glory, that kingdom, and magnificent it's prince. The people, his people, loved him.
"Dammit Zechs, I don't have a gun, I'm not going to shoot you . . . I'm not even Relena."
There it was, it's headlights blinking as its shrill bark sounded. And how had he missed it? All that red in all that white . . .
He was still ignoring the pleading of the approaching man as he opened the door to his oversized, red SUV. He heard him, yes, and perhaps it was rude to pretend he didn't, but--
"So, where are we going?"
Until one day, the prince had a caller, and rumor had it, a suitor.
Zechs looked at the young man in the seat beside him. The interior of the vehicle was as cold and clammy as the night outside.The wind was gone however, and when he exhaled the misty, white clouds lingered momentarily. He should have locked the doors.
"I can't say where you're going, Mr. Maxwell, but I'm going home," he leaned over the other man and opened his door for him, ". . . if you do not mind."
The suitor, a man, wore blue. It was not the familiar crystalline blue of his palace, not the gray and slate-like blue of the dim morning sky. No, this was real blue, pure blue, royal and rich and deep. And in his arms, the suitor carried another color, more vibrant and frightening than even that undeniable blue: red.
Duo defiantly shut the door.
"It's a bit cold out there. If you don't mind, I think I'll hang with you."
"Well I think you need the company anyway."
"Then it's the least you owe me for trying to break my jaw."
A quietness fell over the court. Servants gaped and stared at the odd and foreign hues, magnificent in their intensity. Never, never in all the kingdom . . .
Zechs started the ignition. He didn't intend on taking the other man anywhere with him, tonight or ever, but the cold was creeping to his bones and the heat was welcome.
"I apologized for that," Zechs said, the cab a little more lit now, thanks to the glowing dash panel. Red light washed his face, while the gray light of the lamp outside lit Duo's by tiny measures. "You shouldn't sneak up on soldiers, anyway."
"I wasn't 'sneaking' up on anyone!" Duo retorted. "I had been standing there talking to you for a full minute. I touch you and WHAM!" Duo punctuated this with an impotent fist through the air, and then curiosity settled over his features. "Where were you anyway?"
"My prince, they are for you." The gentleman suitor encouraged the prince to take the bouquet of crimson roses, his own eyes glittering as blue as his suit. He seemed heartbroken when the prince did not move to do so.
"What do you mean? You were there with me." Zechs watched the snow drifting down to land mutely on the hood, adding to the already dense blanket there. He knew precisely what Duo meant.
"You know exactly what I mean, Zechs." He shook his head and began again, trying to sound a little more civil. "Look, don't tell me. That's none of my business. Keep yourself to . . . yourself, but don't take it out on me."
"You do not like them," the suitor declared dejectedly and bowed his head, his short hair, the color of cinnamon (had the prince known such a color), falling to cover his eyes. "Please, my prince, forgive such a loathsome gesture. I shall depart and show my gaudy face no more."
Zechs tried to be gentle. He was raised to be polite, but the words, he knew, could not be softened much. "I did not ask to be spoken to or touched. You had no reason--"
"You were alone."
"I wish to be alone." The fire was lighting again, gentility giving way to defensiveness.
"On Christmas?" Duo asked.
"And every night hereafter."
Duo was quiet for a few seconds. The cabin was warmer now, too warm, in fact. He couldn't have meant that.
"You can't mean that," he voiced aloud, "people aren't meant to be alone."
"I can, and I am."
"Wait!" the prince exclaimed suddenly, "you mustn't go!" He approached the standing man who immediately knelt before him, for the prince was still small in those days, and his suitor, near a man.
"Your gift, sir, is not loathsome," he touched the red petals with timid fingers, his voice soft with youth, musical and reverent, "they are quite magnificent and like nothing this kingdom has ever seen . . . " here, he moved his fingers to brush the soft cloth of the man's clothing, and then the curious fiery brown of the man's hair, " . . . as are you."
Duo was not easily swayed. "I would say that was sad, Zechs . . . if I believed you."
"I want none of your pity."
"Or my company?"
"And what do you want, Mr. Maxwell?" Zechs finally asked, "Why the sudden concern?"
Duo shrugged, "Why not? Quatre says you're lonely and I believe him over you."
"It is pity, then."
"No. . ." by now neither man's voice was raised; they spoke in even tones, as if their tempers had cooled despite the warmth of the cab, and somehow . . . somehow Duo even sounded a little sad, " . . . not pity, Zechs. But not all of us 'wish to be alone.'"
"My prince," the suitor began, nuzzling the small hand that stroked his face, "they are a humble offering, quite common in my land, and I am afraid . . . so am I. I wish not to deceive you."
"Your only treachery would be your departure," the prince replied and then grew excited, revealing a little of the child he was. He pulled on the suitor's hand, urging him toward the comfort of the throne, "Come! Sit! You must tell me of your land!"
Zechs softened at hearing his own words, his lie so long in the telling that it had become truth. Words failed him and so he watched the other man instead, who sat quiet for once, staring at nothing.
"Your boot is untied."
Duo snorted at Zechs's response. Unbelievable! Zechs was a hopeless, selfish, inward bastard. Why was he wasting his time?
"Yep," Duo began, "better get that so I can kick myself with it," he muttered, more to himself than Zechs, and leaned forward to tie his laces.
Something fell out of his jacket pocket.
"Hot?" The prince, asked curious. "Your country is hot? What do you mean?"
The suitor sat next to the child and dared to take his slight hand. "Just as I say, prince. My land is hot in the summers and warm most of the year round."
"Yes," he took the hand he held, the fingers so cold, and pressed it to his chest, covering them with his own, " . . . warm , like me."
"What is this?" Zechs asked, holding the small clipping of a plant he had fetched from the floor to hand back to Duo. But first, he was curious.
Duo looked . . . embarrassed? . . . defensive? "Mistletoe, Zechs. You don't have to be a botanist."
"I know what it is, Duo, why do you have it?"
Duo shrugged. "To kiss you."
The suitor told him of green fields, a yellow sun, hot and fiery. Then he told of fire, flames dancing and licking, red and yellow and blue. And of flowers . . . daisies, violets.
"Violet?! Violet flowers! I can't even imagine such a color! Is it as lovely as your red?" The prince asked his suitor. The man had been so . . . what had he called it, warm. It was a feeling he had never known before. And the man's colors! How very exotic! Still, even for the impressive blues he adored in the man's clothing and eyes, he did so like his red.
"You see my blue?" The man gestured at his coat. "Add a bit of this red that you like so, and like magic . . . violet."
The prince beamed and the suitor smiled, pleased. "Really?"
"More or less."
"How magnificent! I want to see them, your colors. Will you take me?"
"You wanted to kiss me?" Zechs asked him. "That's why you came to talk to me? Came onto the balcony?"
Duo was a little surprised at the other man's calm confusion. "Yes."
Zechs watched Duo and handed him the mistletoe. "And now you don't want to?"
The plant clipping was warm and a little crumpled from being in his pocket for so long, and when Duo took it back he had to really think about Zechs's question.
"No, I . . . yes."
The suitor smiled and held his prince tightly. "I would take you anywhere, my prince, to the edge of the world if you beckoned. Anywhere at all . . . but for a kiss."
"Yes! Hell yes, I still want to kiss you! Why else do you think I'm chasing you through the snow like some bleeding . . ." Duo stopped realizing what he had just admitted, " . . . like some fool?"
The admission softened Zechs further, only to steel his resolve. "I'm not the of kissable sort."
"Ha!" Duo laughed aloud. "That's rich, Zechs, coming from you, who always seemed to be 'of the sort' whenever 'His Excellency' was around."
Zechs's gaze shot up in that instant. "What would you know of it?!"
Duo grinned. "We gundam pilots were not just assassins but spies as well. Remember that."
So . . . that was that. Suddenly, Zechs was no longer in the mood to fight.
"You're right," he admitted as he sat back against the seat, "I admit it. But he has passed . . . and I with him . . . "
"A kiss?" The prince moved away just a little. He had never kissed anyone before.
"Yes, my prince, one sweet kiss and I am your companion, and I shall take you anywhere . . . everywhere."
". . . you don't want to kiss a dead man, do you?"
Duo smiled. At some point he would have to convince Zechs that he was very much alive. "Yes."
"Yes, then," the prince answered, moving closer once again to the man kneeling before him, "I shall kiss you."
"Then a dead man cannot protest," Zechs said, and sat up, leaning in toward Duo. Duo did the same until the were nose to nose, faces barely visible in the dim light.
"Well?" Duo asked.
"This was your idea," Zechs countered.
The little snow prince let himself be gathered into warm arms and gazed into that lovely blue, "One kiss . . ."
"One kiss," Zechs whispered, and took the initiative. It was indeed just one little kiss . . . at first. He touched his lips to Duo's, feeling the warmth, the softness of the other man, the familiar yet long unexperienced sensations, so close he could smell him. Then Duo moved in, hooking an arm around Zechs's neck and demanding this kiss be more. A playful tongue parted Zechs's lips, and it was.
The prince stepped away from the warmth of the other man when he felt the arms about him go lax.
The kiss they shared had been chaste but warm, but somehow . . . something was wrong. The man began to shiver and the lips had begun to grow cold. Now that the prince could see his suitor's face, he saw what he had done.
Zechs was reaching for Duo, pulling him across the seat, wanting him close, closer. It was only one kiss but it was consuming him, too sweet to end and yet hardly satisfying.
"Zechs . . ."
"My prince . . . I f-fear . . . I--" The suitor's arms fell away entirely now and the body, with it's face that had turned nearly as blue as his lovely coat, dropped before the prince's feet.
"Sir . . . ?"
"Zechs . . ." Duo whispered into the darkness. Somehow Zechs had managed to pull him into the driver's side of the vehicle and he straddled the larger man's legs, having barely broken the kiss except to breathe that name. But now . . . now he wanted to see that face, wanted to read Zechs and make sure he was not simply appeasing Duo. Like he had said, dead men cannot protest.
The prince knelt to the now-cold body, "But what has happened?" he cried. "Someone tell me, please!"
Zechs felt Duo pull away from him and he tried to avoid their breaking, but Duo seemed intent on something and so he let him go. There was nothing but the sound of their breathing and the car engine for a moment and then . . . then something cold touched his face.
"Child," his mother soothed, "you mustn't fret. You did not know."
"Know what?" The crystal eyes were teary now, seeking solace in his mother's gaze.
"Why . . . your kiss, my dear . . . it is cold and lethal. It is poison."
Duo's fingers were still cold from the weather when he touched Zechs's cheek and suddenly . . .
Zechs took Duo's wrist and gently moved the hand at his face, "Please don't." A pause and then, "I can't, Duo . . . please."
Duo was hurt; had Zechs been able to see his face he would have known that. But Zechs was kissing him lightly again. Perhaps there was hope.
"Just let me go tonight, and perhaps we might finish this some other time," he said between chaste and gentle kisses.
Duo tried to hide his disappointment. "Are you a tease, Zechs Merquise?"
"Then I shall never love another," the prince said with sadness as his mother stroked his hair.
"You may yet find another love. Don't you think?"
They kissed a moment longer until Duo opened the driver's door and crawled from Zechs's lap. He watched the massive vehicle back out, tires crunching in the snow, and Zechs was gone.
"No . . . but I shall hope."