Disclaimer: I do not own SSBM.
Warning: Ambiguous relationship here. It isn't shounen-ai unless you look for it.
Author's Note: First time writing second person POV, so I apologize if it's terrible.
+Note: Marth and Roy are both not in character according to their respective games.
The first time you met him, you turned away.
"Hello," he said, with a voice awkward not for its sound but for the thin line it walked between the deep base of a man and the tenor of a boy. Yet still you considered him a boy, and you deemed yourself a man with little he could compare with a child.
"I'm busy," you answered. You had seen him fight for entry into the players' circle and what made him so special, you wondered? He was nobility, but so were you. Thrust by thrust, parry by parry, you could dance any swordplay he performed – faster and better, furthermore. You had little interest in him. So, you turned away, faced him with your back.
Like sand against quartz, you didn't fancy the thought of him scratching your sheen. Collected and calm, what had you to discuss with a boy made of fire and sun and temper? He was everything you were not, everything you never wanted to be – impulsive and young, possessed of a fool's hardy luck and an innocent's face. What was regal, what was impressive, what was respectful about that?
He watched you go, because you could feel his eyes on your back, startling in their azure intensity. They burned like fire, no matter how blue they were, so you crossed the hall and rounded a corner, putting thick stone walls between your back and his stare. Peach ran up to him afterwards, snagging his attention with barbed mindless chatter you could hear fifty feet away.
"You fight just like Marth!" she trilled, voice high and voice cracking, clapping her hands together with exaggerated delight.
He laughed a sound not unlike the wind blowing through a platinum flute. "Marth?" Your name rolled off his tongue pleasantly, but you thought it sounded like nails on glass, or glass on nails – which way, you couldn't decide. "I don't think I've met him. Who's that?"
"What? You mean to say you don't know?" asked Peach. Of course he didn't know, you had left before you could give a name, or rather, you had left before he could give you his. Because honestly, what did the name of a youth matter to you? "The swordsman who just walked away, that's who. I thought you were talking to him, at least you should've gotten his name!"
"I'm sorry?" he apologized, with a voice filled with his smile. "It doesn't matter, he said he was busy. Anyway, Miss...Miss…?"
"Peach! Princess Peach, to be exact, but you can call me just Peach." She giggled then, because he must have bent and kissed her hand. In the hall, you rolled your eyes. Peach was always easily impressed, but to blush at this mere boy! Then again, you reasoned (for everything must have its reason), her heart belonged to Mario, which failed to say much about her taste anyway.
"Peach then. My name is…" and you turned the corner and never heard his name.
After that, the tournament began. Further chances for introductions were fortunately postponed until there was a lull in the fighting. From what you heard, that was a long while away. It mattered little to you, however. You had come to fight and to fight well. Your advisor had said it would make for a better king and thus advised, you came. With a king on the throne skilled in battle, no one dared rebel. Rebellion was a word not even said; it was a taboo of sorts.
A king needed an iron hand, a sharpened sword, and a wit quicker than light itself. Politicians, philosophers and noblemen alike feared a man possessed of those three. It was a protection far stronger than any moat or iron gate, a luster far brighter than jewels from afar. Fear ensured a stable reign. What need had a king for friends from strange lands?
What need had a king for friends, at all?
In the middle of the clangor of dust shifting and blades crashing, you saw him as often as you saw the others, and paid him no heed. He did nothing to shine, was nothing worth a second glance. He passed you by in a blur of faces pale and tan alike. The others passed you by like people pass a particularly boring attraction in the middle of the zoo. What did you care, though?
"Free for all."
When you fought him, it was all metal and ferocity and sweat. You were faster, he was stronger. With powers so strangely matched, he turned attacks you thought you knew like the back of your hand against you. In turn, you saw the weak points in his technique and therefore yours, improved and learned to improvise.
Suddenly, though, quite suddenly, you realized something. The child was powerful, amazingly so. He was not as fast, but still quite. The wounds he gave burned even hotter than his gaze. You learned to hate them, because they signified a loss (no matter how small) of a king to a boy. You learned to hate him, because he was that boy.
When you fought with him, it was much the same. Abiding by chivalry's rules, you dared not point your blade at his throat, but abiding by your own, you could care less about how many lives he had lost and how many you had not.
Above the noise and the music of it all, you could sometimes hear the crowd. You were a crowd favorite, a prince with the grace of ice, the flexibility of water and the power of steam. When they cheered for you, your heart fluttered with pride. Your people would cheer for you like that someday. When they cheered for him…well, at the beginning they hardly cheered for him, but as the months wore on you could hear his name with the same fervor too.
Through their thousand voices, you learned his name.
One time, in the middle of autumn, you saw him fall. He had fallen many times before that, but you hadn't cared to watch. This time, he had just been in your line of vision. Having thrown a rampant Donkey Kong off the edge, your hands were free to sheath your sword. You turned around and braved the buffeting of the wind just as his rough, untamed voice cried out.
You watched him drop after a small curve in the air, hit the ground with a sickening thud and go skidding against a marble pillar. His back hit the stone first, and he arched backwards. You saw him wince, and still you stood on the platform above them, looking down with your sword in its sheath, but your hand on its grip. He would be defeated soon, and you would have to fight for him anyway.
Digging his blade into the soil, the boy dragged himself to his knees. Wobbling and bruised, you thought he would collapse again. However, quite suddenly, he staggered on his feet and plucked his weapon out of the ground, twisting it in his hands. It cut through the air like the silver crescent moon and when it reached the floor, his world exploded at his feet in a blooming mass of red and crimson.
"Red team, defeated."
Your head snapped to the right, just in time to see the fading flashes of light as the enemy player disappeared into the void. You hadn't even seen Fox charge, let alone for the boy to and react.
Right before you were transported back, you saw him look up once, and just once. Burned by his own fire, defiant and proud with the wind snapping at his hair and his cape, bright and dark and everything in between, he looked at you like that. He shouted and screamed and hollered with that look, "Maybe not just a boy, after all?" And you stared down from your platform, the wind threatening to push you off.
"Blue team wins."
By winter, when the snow had set, the battle grounds were too cluttered to be suitable for warriors. All of them, and you, had fought with effort and spirit poured into every move. Muscles aching, backs almost breaking, all of them, and even you, welcomed the offered rest. A month's time, Mario said, Luigi echoed. Even Mewtwo's frown became neutral, and Bowser even smiled (though the difference between that and his frown was not too great.)
The second time you met him, he turned away first.
For the vacation, most of them had returned home on the eleven-thirty train to Hyrule, to Metroid, to wherever they belonged. You would be a king, were a king, but your country was not ready. A year or two later you would return, be welcomed with trumpets blaring and women crying and the nation assembled on the streets while you rode in on a brilliant white stallion. For now, however, you spent the winter months in the meeting hall, on the second bench from the right wall.
Beside the massive fireplace on a bright Thursday morning, you distinguished the difference between the flame's heat and his heat as he looked over your shoulder at your brandished sword, watching as you trailed its length with a rag to shine it. Emboldened by pride, urged by the smallest sense of respect for a fellow fighter who could hold his own, you said without turning, "It's called the Falchion."
"Falchion," he repeated, with a sense of wonder in his voice. "It's a…nice sword."
It amused you, that particular lack of fluency that arose when he tried to describe your sword, and you found the corners of your mouth tweaking against your will. Unfortunately, so did he.
"Funny," said he, "I thought that glare was painted onto your face."
You didn't know whether to be offended or pleased. You had not learned this from your advisor, or your tutor, or your father. No one dared to make jest with the king, after all, and no one dared to make jest with his son either. Turning your head, you found his expression neither mocking nor cruel, but filled with a playful sort of challenge that he dared you uptake with those burning eyes of his.
"I don't think it's funny," you said, because it was all you could say. Kings cared not for dares. They were brash and made for fools, by fools. You suddenly remembered that you hated him.
The challenge faded, and his grin was turned down a notch, much to your relief. You had figured it odd that someone would be so lighthearted around a king. In such a scenario where the air lacked its heaviness you didn't know what to do. Without further ado, you turned back to your sword, watching him through his reflection in its blade.
"Well, I don't think we've introduced ourselves yet."
"I know your name, as you know mine," you answered in a tone laced with an unspoken request to be left alone.
He nodded. "Yes, but aren't you all for formality? You must be aching for a formal introduction." He held out his hand, which, without its armor, was darker and small but calloused like yours, before you could even shake your head. Politely, for every king had manners, you took it and shook it once before dropping it like a stone. He didn't mind. "Skipping the names since we know that, I hail from the Pharae principality. And you?"
He smiled at you, a look you found quite odd, pleasant, but too warm for comfort. "Never heard of it," he said dismissively, and that tone ruffled you. You had never heard of Pharae either, but your tongue bled with the bite you had given it to stop yourself from making such a fact known. He grinned at the firelight, the orange glow staining his paler complexion, but looking strangely comfortable on his image. Offhandedly, he asked, "Are you its prince?"
You nodded. "Yes, I am."
He laughed again. "Stupid of me to ask! Of course you are. You act exactly like a prince. I'd have to be blind not to know that!"
He meant that you didn't act like a complete fool. You were not cheery, were not lighthearted and gullible like the rest of them. You lacked impulse and owned too much rationality. You were everything he could never be. He was everything you were once, as a child, even before the transition of boyhood into manhood. You stood with him face to face in a stone hall and leagues apart still.
"Are you a prince or a nobleman's son?"
He looked at you strangely, with words you failed to decipher in the pregnant air. He must have expected you to respond because for a minute or so he was quiet. Seeing your mouth clicked shut and your eyes expectant, he half-turned away, facing you with his shoulder, round and not so broad now that he had taken off his armor. "Does it matter?" he asked you, a question that sounded like lucridous blasphemy.
You chose not to reply. Such a pointless question wasn't worth your breath.
He grinned at your silence, snagged you with his smoldering stare. "It doesn't, you know, not here. If you're here, it's not because you're the son of a king, the son of a nobleman, or the son of a pauper. So it doesn't matter, not really. Outside, things are different, but for now, we're all here, and not outside. So for now, it doesn't matter at all. Is the title so important to you, Prince?"
"A title defines a man," you replied quietly, turning back to your sword. The metal was cool against your skin, warm against your icy touch and much different from his azure blue.
Silence, and you thought he had left. Funny, since you hadn't even heard the echo of his boot heels against the granite floor. A second later, you realized you hadn't heard them because they hadn't been sounded. He still stood behind you, looking at the crackling fire, watching it burn away into oblivion. "No," he said, firmly. "A man is defined by character, not by title."
"You say what you want," you said, flat but condescending, biting and soft. "Your words are not wisdom. I don't expect you to know what defines a man. You're still a boy."
When the silence cried out again, you knew that he had gone.
With the ending of spring came the end of the preliminary rounds. Seven of the twenty-five had emerged victorious, tired, exhausted and proud. Eighteen had fallen behind in the rising dust, murmuring in defeat. Though you had only one formal introduction, you knew the name of everyone there, and in turn they had learned yours as well as his. Like the hour following the second meeting, this hour like that hour like the hour before it had been troubled.
As a king, you needed to justify yourself. You would prove to him, you swore, that he knew nothing of what a man was, deluded by visions of grandeur that boys always had. You knew from experience, of course. You were a boy once too, but it was a long time ago. You would prove that too.
At night, he was no more a man than a newborn was, fresh from a mother's womb. Still as death with the bed sheets tangling in his legs and one hand hanging near the floor, he was very much a child without those eyes to fend for him in a world so tall and towering. Lady Moon took his sharp angles and rounded them with her silver light, fading his hair, paling his skin. She de-aged him, uncolored him, killed him for the twilight.
You glowered at this creature of the day on every chilly night because he always left the window wide open. Even in the chilling throes of winter's death, he wore little to bed, lying late and rising early. Yet, he never caught a cold. You knew he wasn't unbreakable, but had yet to justify it. You refused to close the window and waited for an illness to befall him, whether there would be one or five blankets toppled on your thin frame that night.
One time, though, he opened his mouth and whispered to the Lady Moon in a tongue you did not understand. It was a soft but strong cry, half-torn between hopelessness and hopefulness. "Laureola."
In the morn, between rubbing his eyes sleepily with a fisted hand and shoveling breakfast down his throat, he never said anything more than a "Good morning" to you. No exchange followed after that, no half-shouted whispers for the Moon to hear, for she had fled hours before. Though the boy loved the sun, he told it no secrets. You wondered, of course, wondered deeply and curiously, but never dared ask.
In a corridor one afternoon, you were about to turn a corner, but halted at the sound of his voice. "I need to ask you something," he said to somebody who must've nodded a silent agreement. He tried to begin again a few times, but snapped his mouth shut a few times also. He began shuffling the soles of his boots against the tiled floor. Finally, he admitted, "It's a little embarrassing…"
"Is it a guy thing?" asked a lilting voice, light and airy, royal and filled with laughter.
"Well, no, Zelda," he said with a laugh. "But the next time I need to ask about a guy thing, I'll be sure to come to you. Link told me about the Sheik incident, but I didn't know you had changed that much."
She laughed in return, all in good humor. "Oh, be quiet you! Now what was it that you really had to ask me?"
"Well," he began, and stopped. "Well, I wanted to ask…" he began, and hesitated, "if you knew a lot about geography."
There was a skeptical pause. Doubtful, and suspicious, the elfin princess answered, "Well, I know as much as a person in my position should know. Why do you ask that?"
"I need some information on an area." You should've left, walked past them with a deaf ear and a blind eye, because you obviously didn't care, but with the memory of a night filled with silence and one whisper, your misbehaved feet chose to rebel.
"Oh, you know, Father sends a note to son for information about an area, son has access to a whole library and a plethora of different peoples, and son must obey what Father says like a dog…you know, that whole business." He lied with great ease, neither skipping a beat nor adding one too many, but you had heard him talk honestly many a time before to the sky while he thought you were sleeping, and his untruth was as evident as your left thumb.
"Alright then, I can help you look some books up on whatever area you want in the library. Come, quick. I promised Link I would meet him on the veranda in twenty minutes."
He laughed, and his voice and footsteps became softer as the distance to the library decreased, while the distance from you grew. "So it's true then! So that's what you two sneak off for all the time," he taunted as if he were scandalized. "Wait until I let Young Link hear that."
"That is most certainly not what Link and I meet for, I'll have you know, sir! You will be spreading no such filthy rumors around to the young or you will be getting no help from me!"
With a careful eye, you watched them joke like children before disappearing behind a pair of brass doors and, suddenly lacking in interest, you turned the opposite way to the meeting hall. Just a boy, after all, running to do his father's errand, you convinced yourself on the second bench from the right wall.
Half an hour later, Zelda strode up to you, and you looked up to find Link a little behind, waiting for her impatiently by the door. She caught your gaze, held it as her brows furrowed and her hands lifted aimlessly in the air. Her mouth opened accusingly at you. "Why would," she asked, as her hands lifted, "why…"and her hands fell, "of all people, did you ask him to…" Finally frustrated, she let her arms drop and told you bluntly, "If you didn't know enough, you should've done your own researching," turned, and left.
Lowering your head back to Falchion, you dismissed her stuttering. You really had no idea, after all. Eventually, the others who had stared at the princess' outburst shifted their attention too as you felt their stares sliding like water off your armored back.
When you returned to your room, you found the boy bent over the work desk, and only realized he was asleep when he made no notice of your return. With his cheek pressed against his folded arms and his folded arms pressed against the open pages of an unknown book, he was the image of weariness. You happened to glance over his shoulder on the way to the washroom, and see the gnarled writing on his choice of study material. Frowning deeply, you read to yourself, "A Study of the History and Customs of Altaea."
So, you thought to yourself, but the thought ended there.
The third time you met him, both of you turned, but not away.
Evening drew nigh, slowly dragging the reluctant sun across the orange-purple painted sky and into the distant horizon to its demise. It was well into late summer, with its frayed edges being nipped at by the fall. Twenty-five assembled in the meeting hall, naturally drifting to where they belonged. Alone, you went to sit near the fire.
Twenty-three had been defeated, but more than that were anxious and eager throughout the entire day. At eight 'o'clock, on the point, the last battle of the tournament would be held, but before that, Mario would give the last speech, a formal farewell of sorts, as the warriors – tired and reticent – counted the dwindling seconds. After this, you would return to your people, and be crowned a divine king.
"As you all know, the tournament comes to an end-a," said Mario, on the podium, flanked by Luigi on his right and Peach on his left. He needed three books in addition to the stool they gave him for his mouth to reach the microphone, but everyone listened nevertheless. He had proven himself a leader many a time, there was not a doubt in his ability. Even you listened diligently.
The boy turned slightly, a movement that only you could catch, and shot you a look full of defiance. Before you returned and the night ended, you would win a final fight, and win against this little child.
"We have all fought-a valiantly, and I would-a like to thank you all for a wonderful tournament this year, veterans and newcomers alike." Mario shuffled, and let a sad sigh escape his mouth. "It is-a sad to see you go, as we have all connected throughout this past year-a. However, this sorrow will only be temporary, as I welcome you all back next year-a for the next tournament. I hope to see you all there. Life will be dull until then, I'm afraid-a. You have all been great sportsmen-a…"
Peach coughed politely.
"…And sportswomen-a this year, and it has truly been a wonderful experience. I hope that every year-a will be like this one. Thank you." The others began to cheer. Mario tapped the microphone and silence fell for his parting words. "I would like to wish both the last competitors a good-luck for the final match tonight-a. But remember, no matter who wins, we're all-a victors."
It was a speech you had predicted by heart, but as he stepped down, the hall erupted in a mass of clapping and whistling, feet stomping and smiling as friends clapped each other on the back. Laughing and giggling and grinning filled the air, to the point of near suffocation. The boy laughed along with the rest of them, and you allowed yourself to indulge in a secret smile, albeit a small one.
Then, the clock struck eight, and the noise died. The quiet was broken by two sets of sounds only, one echoing the other. You stood, he stood, and both listened to the soft pitter-pattering of shoes against stone as you walked down the hall, towards the definite end. They all watched until you disappeared behind the door and he followed. At that point, you knew, they all lifted their faces to the screen hung high on the northern wall, waiting for you and waiting for him.
The first thing you saw when you opened your eyes was the starry sky curtaining a mass of swirling purples and blues. The first thing you heard was the crowd cheering both of your names. Which name was hailed higher you couldn't tell, and you doubted if one was hailed higher at all. A thousand and twenty-five were watching you, were watching him, as he lifted his lids and revealed endless blue.
"Final Match: Final Destination."
When you met his gaze, you were confronted with his challenge at full force. You were neither skilled enough nor knowledgeable enough to read anything beyond that. His determination flared in opposition to yours as he slid his sword out of its sheath. That weapon would only be pointed in one direction that night – forward, at you. Meeting dare for dare, you did the same.
You knew that you had to win. For the first time, however, you didn't know if you would.
When you lunged, so did he. Your battle was a test of mirror images and more than a dozen times did your blades meet and reflect. The smell of sweat and dust filled the air, the sound of heartbeats and footsteps were deafening. Because of that, you forgot to listen to the crowd. A million times your body jumped, twisted and ducked, but every time you looked, he was still standing.
You lost count of your wounds after the first hundred scratches and nicks. You lost count of your lives after the first five minutes. It had seemed, after all, that both of you had died at least twenty times already.
Swords danced; the sun against the sea. Seconds, minutes, or hours passed in a flurry of strikes, thrusts and withdrawals. Many a time, you thought you had him only to find the space he occupied seconds before empty and a sword dangerously near your back. You turned, dodged in time - always in time - but every time he seemed to be getting faster, or you seemed to be getting slower. The tire was wearing on your bones, but your limbs forced themselves to move all the same.
Breathing heavy, fingers bruised with holding your sword, both of you paused five feet away from each other. He laughed shortly, the air rushing out of him. "A title won't help you here, will it, Prince?"
"But age and strength will, won't it, boy?" you retorted, body damaged, but not your pride.
He frowned deeply at you, tense and ready for an attack even amidst this banter. "I have as much strength and age as I need right now. I wonder how long it will take you to realize that I am as much a warrior as you are. Would you believe me if I won?"
"Let's see you win first." And the battle commenced anew.
You didn't know how much time had passed by the time the battle ended. You didn't know whether you had fought him well into the night, or even into tomorrow's morning. It didn't quite matter, truthfully, because no matter how much time had passed, your body felt as if you had been walking, pulling, lifting for a hundred years. Therefore, it wasn't so bad to take a rest, you realized, or to let it end, as you sat on the floor with a blade pointed so close to your throat it would have cut flesh had you swallowed.
"Do you…believe me now?" he gasped out, shoulders slumping even as he spoke. He was wasted also, bruised and cut and bleeding, but not as much as you, and therefore he had not lost.
Your heart fell, but not as far as you thought it would. You never answered, because he didn't need an answer – he had known it ever since the fight began.
"When you go home," he rasped, "will you say that the king of Altaea was beaten by a warrior, or beaten by a boy?"
"You're wasting time."
He smiled at you, an expression so warm that you shied away by turning your head. Never would you apologize, in the countless times you would meet him after that, because there was nothing to apologize for. He had never blamed you for anything. He had merely wanted to prove something to you, something so true and obvious he wondered why you didn't see it at the beginning. You wondered the same too, years and hours and seconds later.
Before he swung the last strike, you turned to him as he turned his head to you – and said, "Wait." Time stopped for that moment, for you, for him as one looked up and the other looked down. At his questioning glance with the Sword of Seals rearing its head in the air and the Falchion knocked out of your hands and somewhere in the abyss below, you asked, "What does, 'laureola' mean?"
His eyes widened, and he grinned. Before he pushed you into oblivion and into defeat, he said, "Victory."