A series of drabbles for the 30_kisses community on LiveJournal.com.
"Oh, found it!"
"It?" Chris echoed. He hadn't realized they were looking for anything.
"I knew I'd seen it somewhere. Look here," Forsyth said, giving Chris a sunny smile and thrusting a book under his nose.
"A Kiss of Color: Natural Looking Make-Up for the Natural Beauty," its cover declared.
"Christopher," the Baroness called, holding out an envelope and looking strangely disappointed. "This arrived for you this morning."
A quick glance explained her demeanor. The gold-trimmed, ivory parchment envelope was sealed--not with a kiss--but with a dab of red wax and the royal Linevan crest. Not even the Baroness was authorized to screen such a missive.
Inside Chris found three words written in a familiar, elegant hand: I miss you.
Chris was the first to see.
The movement was swift--so swift, especially for a hand that had seemed incapable of shedding blood--but Chris had a soldier's eyes. For members of the special forces, unawareness was the kiss of death.
But then, it was impossible to miss a blade when it pierced your own heart.
04: our distance and that girl
Whenever the distance weighed on him too much, Chris took to watching Pacifica. It was comforting, in a way.
And when she fretted over her decision to live, Shannon was right there to tell her, in about as many words, that if she was a deadly poison like the prophecy said, then they just had to be ready to kiss the world good-bye.
Thinking back to another pair of blue eyes, another shy smile, Chris could understand his logic.
05: "hey, you know . . ."
Jill stood just outside the warm, protective circle of the camp, her eyes roaming their deceptively peaceful surroundings as the first, icy gleams of starlight kissed her pale cheeks. Farfalle shifted beside her.
"Hey, you know," she said, "I can't help wondering what was so important Kuri-bou felt the need to run off at a time like this."
Jill didn't answer for a moment, instead glancing back at the camp to ensure that Winia was out of hearing. Then she said, "I have an inkling."
06: the space between dream and reality
Chris has never been kissed.
And not just in the romantic sense. He's never known the soft caress of a mother's lips against his forehead, brushing away the last traces of a nightmare. Never known, even, the sloppy, largely unwelcome smack of an overenthusiastic aunt. His waking mind is painfully aware of this, this lack of fundamental human contact.
But in the immaterial realm of predawn, in that instant when sleep has departed and consciousness has not yet arrived, Chris encounters a phantom prince who would argue otherwise.
Chris hated the fifteen minutes it took to walk from the palace gates to Forsyth's chambers. He needed every bit of his hard-earned mental discipline to keep him from breaking into a run when Marquis Farbraum's daughter blew him a kiss, and it only got worse from there. In every hall, at every turn, there were craning necks, fluttery giggles, and breathy whispers of, "There he is--the young nobleman who saved the prince!" The ordeal never failed to leave his nerves scrupulously shredded.
But then Forsyth greeted him with shining eyes and a calming smile, and Chris remembered why he kept coming, in spite of it all.
08: in a world of their own
It pierces Chris, flows through his veins like a serpent's kiss. The Peacemakers vanish. Explosions no longer shake the church because the church has gone as well. Even Raquel's anguished cries diffuse into the surrounding oblivion. All that remains is warm blood spreading over his hands and harsh, pained breaths that he can't be entirely sure come from Forsyth.
The world ceases to exist, just as the prophecy said, and only Chris and his dying prince are left behind.
They ducked behind a sturdy hedge of yew, prickly leaves kissing their cheeks, and Chris could have sworn his heart never pounded so hard. He'd probably think it strange, if he had the time, but just then a commanding voice clove the fragrant air.
"Really, Your Highness! Hasn't this gone on long enough? You promised me you'd take your tea with Gianna-sama today, so I'll thank you to stop this silly game!"
The prince's eyes gleamed with a heady fusion of panic and laughter as they darted first to the high, marble wall that surrounded the garden, then back to Chris.
"Think we can make it?" he asked breathlessly.
The cold came sooner than usual that year, with frost kissing the windows as early as mid-October.
Safely nestled in the royal bedchamber with a warm arm about his waist, Chris didn't even notice.
Step into the Linevan Royal Gardens, and you'll find yourself assailed by color on all sides. Yellow lilies burn into your vision like smears of liquid sun while the roses tear bloody wounds in the verdure. Here and there, birds and butterflies slice through the air like shards of stained glass.
The only refuge is a tiny corner hidden behind a barrier of hemlock, where gardenias and night-blooming jasmine lay resting, waiting for the stillness of eventide when they'll open to release their perfume, deep and thrilling as a lover's kiss.
"His Highness designed this section himself," Rukia explained proudly, but somehow, Chris had already known.
12: in a good mood
"So what's got you in such a good mood, Kuri-bou?"
"What are you talking about?"
"He~ey, does this mean you really did slip off to see that Winia girl?"
"You don't have to get all defensive! Actually, I'm kind of impressed you managed it, what with being under house arrest and all."
"I'm telling you, it's nothing like that."
"Haha, I hate to say it, Chris, but it sort of hurts your case when you blush like that."
". . . not you too, Dennis."
"Just calling it like I see it."
"Well, say whatever you like."
With a dismissive shrug, Chris turned his back on his grinning comrades, trying and failing to ignore the imprint of Forsyth's lips, still burning on his own.
13: unnecessary chain
Chris knelt before the new sovereign, kissed his ring, and swore fealty. He vowed that he would serve his liege faithfully until the Crown passed from His hands, death took them, or the world ended. (Chris couldn't help a wry grin as he said that last bit.)
They both knew it was unnecessary--a deeper oath having been made long ago, with no need for words or an audience--but 90% of running a monarchy is knowing how to give a good public performance.
14: radio-cassette player
"Hey, Pacifica?" Forsyth called up the stairs.
"Have you seen Dad's tape player?"
A pause. Then, "Are you serious?"
"Chris made me a tape, and I want to listen to it."
"Why didn't he just make you a CD instead?"
"His burner's not working. So do you know where it is or not?"
"I dunno. Check the closet or something."
"It's really not a big deal," Chris said, for what must have been the fifteenth time.
But Forsyth didn't seem to hear him, half-buried in coats and board games as he was. After a few minutes of diligent hunting, he emerged with an aged cassette player and a triumphant grin.
"Actually, you know what? Let's just forget about it. I just kind of threw it together. And I'm really not sure what I was thinking when I picked that first track, and. Um."
Chris hadn't expected it to happen like this. He had made a tape on purpose, so it would end up sitting on Forsyth's bedside table for a good week at the very least, and he'd be hearing it for the first time while Chris was out of town, visiting his grandparents, not right now with Chris standing right there while the singer asked if it was all right for friends to kiss.
But then, when had Forsyth ever done anything the way Chris expected?
15: perfect blue
Not sapphires, nor the sea at Giat. Summery skies, newly bloomed windflowers, the spots of a Mourning Cloak butterfly--none of them was a perfect match.
But, Chris thought, maybe if you took them all together, blended them with sun-dappled streams and the shadows of twilight . . . maybe, just maybe, you'd have an idea of what Forsyth's eyes looked like just before they kissed.
The Peacemakers may have seemed irresistible in power, but Pacifica Casull could break their hold on humankind, as Chris had personally witnessed. Strange, that those monstrosities would falter before one fragile girl.
Rukia was the same way, Chris thought, as his eyes tore about the room, searching for an escape route. She was a prevailing force, ruthlessly efficient and master of her domain, yet a few quietly spoken words from Forsyth would quell her instantly.
Only Forsyth wasn't speaking. He was just sitting there and grinning as his grand chamberlain forced Chris into an ivory gown ("With kisses of marine blue to complement your coloring, Sir Weihrauch!"), essentially granting her temporary invincibility.
His heart is beating a thousand times a second, and Forsyth's mouth is locked on his, and Forsyth's weight is pressing him into the mattress, and even though he's checked and contained and held so incredibly close, Chris knows--he /knows/--that he's going to fly apart at the seams.
Then he does. And it's not such a terrible thing, after all.
18: "say 'ahh . . .'"
Forsyth's favorite confections are petite meringue kisses (though his favorite proper dessert, of course, is lemon meringue pie). Chris had sampled one before at the ball, but he had thought it plain and the texture vaguely disturbing, like eating chalk.
It was quite a different experience, he found, when one was pressed into your mouth by gentle fingers that lingered just a breath longer than necessary.
"I'm so sorry, Chris," Forsyth murmured, barely audible. "Please, forgive me . . ."
Through his vertigo, Chris wondered--with the same amazement that kissed every one of his experiences with the prince--just how someone could soak himself in blood and remain unstained by it.
20: the road home
They walked away from the church together, and Chris kept one arm looped around the prince's waist to hold him steady.
Forsyth was perfectly healed, the color restored to his face in light apricot kisses. He didn't need any help to walk.
But Chris needed to help him, and Forsyth understood that, so he let Chris support him until Chris was no longer terrified of letting him go.
Actually, they're still waiting for that day.
The Baroness had other, more pressing concerns, so Rukia took it upon herself to teach Chris the proper way to court a lady.
The problem was, that sort of training required a target, as it were. At the Winter Ball--and under Rukia's watchful eye--Chris practiced the art of kissing hands on Nereidia. She was a nice sort of girl, and in any case the most readily available.
It seemed he'd made too good a job of it, though, because Nereidia spent the remainder of the ball parading Chris around like a war trophy, reveling in the envious glares of her many rivals.
And Forsyth, the traitor, just stood there laughing at him with everything but his voice.
Chris had been anxious about this, about bringing Forsyth to rendezvous with the other members of Obstinate Arrow--who, when it came right down to it, were the closest he had to family, the ones who had helped shape Chris's life. Because Forsyth, even with his finery wrapped in a simple traveler's cloak, could not conceal his nobility. The dignity of his bearing marked him as different, and he could no more cast it aside than Chris could ignore his battle instincts.
Yet he stood among them now, and they were speaking to him as if it were only right and proper that he should be there.
Later, when Dennis remarked, "That Prince Forsyth . . . he's not a bad guy," it was a kiss of benediction.
Every time Chris confesses to having a bit of a sweet tooth, someone ends up staring at him with shock and betrayal in their eyes. It annoyed him the first half dozen times, but expectation has a way of softening the blow.
He particularly enjoys the kisses of gingerbread they sell in Giat, honeysweet and dusted with sugar and cinnamon besides. Sometimes they go a little soft and sticky in the warm, coastal air, but they rarely have enough time.
Forsyth finds them too rich, though he says the aftertaste is pleasant.
24: good night
Chris didn't think he could handle any more surprises. Not tonight. Not when he was suddenly the son of a baroness and standing beside a boy who had, only moments ago, been just a boy but was now the Crown Prince of the Royal Kingdom of Linevan, and really, how did you respond to something like that?
The silver lamp above them threw an eidolic cast over everything, and even Chris's own hands seemed ghostly pale and ethereal where the moon's light kissed them. The great bell in the palace clock tower tolled once, a powerful, rousing sound, but rather than breaking the spell, it merely wove another layer of enchantment, and somehow, Chris couldn't be certain of anything anymore.
"I suppose it's time for us to say good night," the prince murmured. "I'll be able to see you again tomorrow, won't I?"
. . . well, perhaps there was one thing.
As a soldier, you need to keep your emotions firmly in check, which leaves you with two options. One, you kill your heart. Two, you lock it away. Chris chose the second, and his carefully constructed fences are tall, all encircling, and barbed to forbid intrusion.
They don't come crashing down when the prince kisses him. They stand yet, as sturdy and imposing as ever, because Forsyth slipped past them by simply pretending not to notice them.
26: if only I could make you mine
It would be so much easier, Chris reflected, to protect Forsyth, Chris's lover, rather than King Forsyth, benevolent ruler of the Linevan Kingdom, who just had to attend every official function and as many harvest festivals as his schedule would allow, thus presenting a target to every hopeful assassin from here to the Southlands.
And there was the jealousy too, he supposed. Just a bit.
But Forsyth was like the sun, granting warmth and light to anyone who happened to be standing there at the moment and making any claims of ownership seem ridiculous by virtue of his sheer, overwhelming /presence/.
So instead, Chris took each night spent together--with silk damask hangings secreting those few moans that somehow managed to slip through the lack of space between their mouths--and locked them away in his heart because those, at least, belonged to them alone.
According to tradition, the land is intimately connected to its king. The righteous sovereign brings prosperity to his country, while the evil ruler invites drought and famine.
Chris heard that story only once, but he remembers it now as the summer rains bathe him in tender kisses and he watches the rivers burst their banks.
28: Wada Calcium CD3
Lacrosse practice let out before swim practice, so Chris was always the one standing in the hall just outside the locker room, waiting for Forsyth so they could walk home together.
Only Forsyth got out a little earlier than usual today, and so he caught Chris frowning down at the bottle of pills in his hand.
"What are those?"
Chris started, nearly dropping them. "Oh," he said, eloquently. "Calcium supplements. Jill-neesan gave them to me. She said they'd help me grow."
"Why would you want to do that?" Forsyth asked, shifting his bag on his shoulder. "You're the perfect height already."
"Huh? The perfect height for wha--mmph!"
29: the sound of waves
Forsyth closes his eyes and leans over the railing. Even through the veil of his eyelids, the sun is dazzling, but he concentrates as much as possible on the stinging brine-scent of the air, the pacifying clashes of rival waves, the salty kisses of sea spray on his face. He doesn't know how long he stays like that, but it's long enough for the wind to blow away all thought and emotion, leaving him strangely empty and content save one, stubborn regret.
"I wish Chris could be here for this," he tells Farfalle, and she tilts her head to one side and smirks.
"Give him another ten minutes. By then, he won't have anything left to throw up."
Chris's eyes were darker, the usual gold shimmers obscured by clouds of lost and afraid and /please/, so Forsyth leaned in and brought their lips together.
When they parted, he was disappointed--though not all that surprised since, really, he'd only acted on impulse--to see that the lost and the afraid were still firmly in place.
Only the please seemed to have gained the upper hand at some point, and rather than clouds they looked more like smoke now, and then Chris was clutching at him and kissing him and Forsyth, for the first time in his life, had no time to observe much of anything.