Pairing: Ivan x Yao from the Hetalia Series. AU
Summary: All's fair in love and war
especially so if the one you desire stands on the other side of the battlefield.
Ch 6: Gains and Losses
(Note: This is a few days after "Dream and Little Dream". It's NOT the next morning.)
Morning sunlight flittered into the room and through the sheer curtains of the canopy bed.
The rays were warm on his resting face; the light bright behind his unopened eyes. Slowly, Yao woke from his sleep
and was startled to find Ivan holding a strand of his hair between his fingertips.
Immediately, he jerked up to a sitting position; his hair slipping from Ivan's grip.
Wildly his heart raced, adrenaline pumped through his veins, but his face remained impassive, betraying none of this thoughts.
Never. Never had anyone been able to sneak up on him while he slept. The mere presence of someone else in the room was often enough to jolt him awake. The only exception to the rule was Mei. After the death of her mother, he was the one who raised her ever since she was a tiny, little thing. There was trust and comfort embedded between them. She was his flesh and blood after all. It was only natural that he dropped his guard whenever she was near. The fact that Ivan was not only able to sit beside him, but also touch him without him noticing, terrified Yao.
They stared at one another, amber eyes reflected in sapphire blue with neither saying a word. Objectively, Yao noticed that Ivan was fully dressed in his formal attire. It was rare for him to step into this room wearing his royal colors, but here he sat, his navy blue coat lined with gold thread. A sash hung across his shoulders, emblems and coat of arms pinned upon it.
To Yao's eyes, this only emphasized that fact that in front of him sat his enemy, his tormentor. It was only a few days prior that he woke up whenever Ivan set foot in the room. Yet today, the larger man was able to dress, leave, and then come back to sit beside him without him waking. He was disgusted with himself that he somehow grew accustomed to the other's presence. However, more than the revulsion he felt at his own body's betrayal, was the uneasiness surrounding his heart at possibility of what this meant.
"What do you want?" Yao demanded, his agitation adding an uncharacteristic sharp tone to his voice.
Instead of answering, Ivan leaned closer and cupped his face with a gloved hand. With that simple touch, it suddenly occurred to Yao he was bare beneath the flimsy sheet that pooled around his waist. Feeling self-conscious and exposed for the first time in decades, he felt himself flush beneath Ivan's heated gaze.
"While you desire no one, so many desire you," Ivan whispered, tracing the back of his hand across Yao's cheek, "How loved and lucky you are with the Heart's heir."
Yao sighed exasperatedly, "Prince. With all do respect, I-"
Tired of hearing excuses and lies, Ivan silenced him with a hard kiss. Countless times, Ivan laid claim to his lips and he never took notice of the taste or texture of it. Now, unexpectedly he felt the desperation and longing Ivan felt, of the broken dreams and grief behind the kiss. For once, he tasted the bitter sweetness of Ivan's heart.
A thought brushed passed Yao's mind and he stiffened, shocked by his own train of thought. Knowing how the Ace of Diamond felt, he was unable to change anything. He felt nothing for him. However, for an instant, he felt temptation cloud his decisions. In the tiniest of seconds, in the briefest of moments, he pressed his lips back against the Diamond Prince.
As swift as the kiss started, it ended. Ivan stood, staring down hard at his captive. He shook his head, convinced it was just his imagination. Yao did not love him. He would never kiss him back.
"Toris will attend to you." Ivan said, walking towards the door. When he reached it, he couldn't help one last look at the man sitting on his bed. It was an image Ivan was determined to commit to memory, no matter how small the detail. In the bright, naturally lit room, sunlight glistened off Yao's hair like shimmering stars in the night sky. His skin was white as rain and even without touching him, Ivan knew he would always remember just how soft it was to the touch. Clenching his hands, Ivan turned his head from the sight of Yao and opened the door. He left without saying another word.
As soon as Ivan was gone, Toris, the Jack of Diamond, nervously stepped inside. Avoiding looking at Yao and the telltale signs of the activities conducted in the room, Toris stared at the ground. "H-hello, Yao. Sorry for the inconvenience. Hope our Prince has been treating
Under Yao's continued silence, he squirmed before frantically laying out random garments. "I've brought clothes for you to change into. They're mine so they might be a bit large for you. I hope you don't mind."
"Thank you," Yao finally said. He touched the white linen shirt, but made no move to get dressed.
"What's wrong?" the Jack of Diamond asked, "Do you not like it after all? Should I send for something else?"
Yao shook his head, placing the piece of clothing back. "No. I'm just curious about the change. This is the first time your Prince has allowed someone else into this room. Why?"
"Ah, well," Toris rubbed the back of his neck, "W-why don't you get dressed first? I'm a bit
uncomfortable with you being naked and knowing
knowing whatever that goes on here. " He gestured wildly around the room. "I'll tell you afterwards."
After Yao dressed, Toris asked him to follow him to the throne room. Their footsteps echoed loudly down the long, hollow corridor; the sound only softened by the plush carpet beneath their feet. Yao knew the other man was casting sidelong glances his way. He was curious for the reason, but patient as well. Walking in companionable silence with the other Jack, he waited for him to explain the situation.
"I'm sorry!" Toris suddenly blurted out. He took hold of Yao's hands and fervently held it in his. "It's my fault. I was the one who shot you with the arrow. If I hadn't done it, you wouldn't be here. Yao, you have my deepest, most humble apology. Dying a thousand times wouldn't make up for the grievances my actions caused you."
Yao eased his hands out of the tight grip and rested them gently on the shoulders of the auburn haired man. "You were following orders. It's nothing to apologize about. I would've done the same thing were it my King that ordered me."
"Still," Toris bit his lip out of guilt, "I feel like I have to apologize. If it weren't for the ambush
"It's fine," Yao said, a bit perplexed by the other's concern, "I'm alive and healthy. That's what matter's most."
Absently nodding his head, Toris wondered how the Jack of Heart was able to remain so calm. Perhaps the rumors were right. Perhaps he really was Heartless.
"The throne room is just ahead." Toris pointed to the double door only a few yards in front of them. He stopped walking and glanced at Yao before glancing back at the door. Weary of his role, he sighed a long winded sigh. "I'm not sure if you heard, but while you were locked away in that tower, a war almost broke out between the Hearts and Diamonds. If you had been killed as originally planned, it wouldn't have resulted in war. However, when your King found out you were held captive instead, he sent out his entire army to bring you back."
Although Yao's rank did not require someone to bow, Toris did so anyway to show his respect and regret for all that has happened. "This is as far as I can take you. Inside, you'll find your Ambassador and Prince of Heart. They're here to escort you back." The Jack of Diamond his hand in goodwill. "Good luck on journey home."
"Thank you. I hope we can meet again under friendlier circumstances."
When Toris left, Yao turned his attention back to the throne room. Behind the door, he could already feel the tension between the two nations. He couldn't imagine what it was like inside.
The Hearts and Diamond always had an uneasy alliance. Skirmishes for land and power were not unusual for them; animosity among the two ruling class was also an issue political marriage was unable to solve. As long as there are Four Kingdoms, there would always be a reason to fight. Yao- remembering what the Prince of Diamond told him earlier- felt the beginning of a sigh in his throat. Over a stupid, unfounded rumor, it seemed now he was also something to be fought over as well.
Hoping to get it over with and go home without a fuss, Yao pushed the doors open. The moment he stepped inside, he found himself wrapped up in a bone crushing hug.
"Yao! You're alive! You're okay!" Yao could just make out Alfred's familiar voice over the ringing in his ears. "We thought we were a goner! But Mei and I believed in you! You had to be alive since the Mark didn't return to Arthur." Alfred held him at arms length to inspect him and Yao greedily gulped down much welcome air. "Thank God you're alive. I would've been lost without you."
A loud crack sounded in the room. Eyes peered around for the source of the sound when Yao finally noticed Ivan standing on the podium. The King of Diamond sat in the middle. On the left was a set reserved for Queen Yekatrina, but it was empty; to his right stood Ivan with Natalia beside him.
Yao had seen glimpses of the King before, but this was the first time he saw him from so close. Back in the day when the tournament between the Four Kings was still ongoing, Yao had the impression of an indomitable, arrogant person when he saw the King of Diamonds. Without a word, a single glance from those icy blue eyes could slice through a person like a knife through butter.
The person that sat on the throne was the shadow of the person Yao knew. He still exuded the awe numbing aura, but he was physically frail and weak. His cheeks were sunken in and his skin was a strange yellow pallor. Every so often, Yao could hear him labor to breathe.
The King, however, took little notice of his sick appearance and glanced down at his arm rest or at least half of it. The other half was being crumbled to dust in son's hands. "Temper, temper Ivan. You should know to behave in front of our guests."
Ivan bowed stiffly. "I apologize. I saw a
bug I wanted to crush."
The King smiled, understanding exactly what kind of 'bug' it was that he wanted to obliterate. His expression unchanging, he turned the sickeningly sweet smile to the Hearts. "If you got what you came here for, I would appreciate if you take your men away and leave my territory. Of course, under normal circumstances, I would offer you quarter and food, but," he waved his thin, boney hands, "I hope you can understand my reluctance."
"Clearly," Alfred sneered, shielding Yao behind his back. He knew the Easterner was more than able to take care of himself. During their practice sessions, Yao proved more than once he was able to bring down any man- large or small. However, he had been missing for almost a year now with no one knowing if he was dead or alive. For the Suit of Hearts, especially Mei, everyday he was gone was like living hell. Alfred couldn't help but be protective over the man that he would one day call family. "You're lucky I don't lay siege to your castle right now. It would be so easy for me to kill you."
The King of Diamond's demeanor turned cold; his eyes and voice sharpened to knife points and were just as deadly. "Don't push your luck, stripling. You're only leaving here alive because I allow it. If I had it my way, you would all be dead, especially that man whore, but
," He stole a glance at Ivan and frowned. "I'll settle for this. Now get out of my sight before I change my mind,"
"I'd like to see you try!" Alfred made a grab for his sword, but Yao laid a hand on his hilt, shaking his head.
The King was right. Army or no, they were leaving here unscathed because he allowed it. He had in the middle of his land, the Ace and Jack of Heart. If he killed them both or held them prisoner, it would leave their King of Heart vulnerable to attack. It was only due to one person's wishes that they were able to leave in one piece.
Turning to see what Ivan thought of freeing him, Yao found himself staring at the sight of Ivan holding Natalia possessively by his side. Caught looking, their eyes locked on to one another, unwilling to let go. A look of pain and pure hatred suddenly entered Ivan's face. Before Yao even had the chance to wonder what was wrong, Natalia placed a cool, calming hand on Ivan's cheek.
Yao watched transfixed as Ivan broke their eye contact and turned to face his future Queen. With amazing clarity he saw the sad, understanding smile she offered Ivan. A slight tremor ran down his back and he closed his eyes. When he opened them, his eyes shone with gratitude and warmth. Even from where he stood, he could see the image of Natalia reflecting in those lilac eyes.
"Yao, let's go." Alfred took hold of his arm and dragged him towards the exit. "I don't want to spend another minute in this godforsaken place."
Obediently, Yao followed, but he couldn't help but glance over his shoulder for one last look at the winter Prince. He was able to catch a glimpse of Ivan just as he was leaving the throne room; Natalia trailing not far behind.
For some reason, Yao licked his lips.
It tasted of Ivan's kiss.
Of lingering bitterness.