One day it suddenly occurred to me that I want to write a proper story in an 18th centry setting, without the warps in reality; as in, real life 18th century with all the implications of homosexuality and class discriminations, so here it is. Warning: this story might contain religious implications, and these do not necessarily reflect my view. Other than that, I hope you enjoy the story!
Disclaimer: I do not own Saint Seiya or The Lost Canvas.
Chapter 1: Once upon an afternoon
Walking briskly on the sunlit pavement and weaving through the flow of people, Dégel Leblanc looked at his watch. He was three minutes late. But then again, it should not matter; he was not supposed to be in a hurry anyway. And yet his feet hurried themselves, and his mind did not even bother to question his own motive. The doorbell chimed merrily as he gave it a light push and poked his head in, nodding to the owner. The old man smiled, nodded back, and bent down to pick up a freshly made cup of coffee.
At the corner of the small road, there was a little café with white washed walls and baskets of flowers hanging from the windows. As the sun poured its sweet honey across the lane, the brilliant rays gleamed off the glossy fall of teal hair. A young man with glasses obscuring his eyes sat with his legs crossed at one of the white iron tables outside the shop, a book in one hand and a slightly smoking cup of coffee in the other. Across the road, there was a flower stand, and as the the wind playfully glided by, spots of sunlight danced over the colourful shop. The quiet corner lit up the colour of rainbows in another peaceful afternoon.
The young man sipped his coffee, a discrete smile blooming on his pale lips. His countenance blended into the golden light, while his dark hair stood out against the fold of the white chair as it draped over the back in a curtain of dark stresses.
'Would you mind if I sit here?'
The young man looked up, and his smile widened just that tiny bit fraction so that it became barely perceptible. He inclined his head, 'Please do.'
As the breeze lifted a strand of midnight coloured hair, Dégel fancied he saw an equally gentle smile appearing on a tan countenance, before the other man sat down on the chair opposite his. The owner, too used to the routine, brought out another cup of coffee with a small smile of his own.
'Good day, Kardia.'
The man nodded his thanks and reclined back in his own chair, hands behind his head and eyes on the far heaven. As he closed his impossibly blue eyes, the man hummed to himself a tune so old no one knew what it was anymore, and it was slow and it was sweet. Golden rays gilt his closed eyelids silver, and his smile became that much more radiant. And in the quiet of a sunny afternoon, the world narrowed down to just the café and the white table where they were sitting in silence. Time stopped, just as it had stopped every single day before that day, when a man with glasses would turn up at the café at exactly two in the afternoon, and was joined by the man from the flower stand opposite five minutes after that. For all fifteen minutes, they would stay like that, without a move for conversation, but had only their coffees and themselves to enjoy. And then the man from the flower stand would return to his work, and five minutes later the other, too, would leave with a spring in his steps and a slight curve of his mouth.
'"De l'esprit des lois". Is that not too heavy a subject for such a lovely afternoon?'
Dégel started. Suddenly, the hand on his watch started moving again. His heart paused, then resumed beating at twice its usual speed as his mind blanked.
They had started a conversation. After so long of sitting silently, for fifteen minutes every day, they had started their first conversation today, never mind the fact that every day he himself had turned up without fail and the other man had asked to sit at his table while all the others were still perfectly empty. It had always been 'would you mind if I sit here' between them, and 'good day' when they parted, always always.
'It is… not complicated.' He replied, still staring at the other rather blankly. This was the first time he had taken a direct look at the other, too, even though he was sure he had chanced enough secret glances through the fall of his bangs to last this life and the next. With sparkling blue eyes, strong eyebrows, a sculpted nose, defined lips and cheekbones that spelt Greek, the man was a picture of ancient masculinity and beauty. His dark curls fell in a curtain that framed his face, accentuating perfect jaw lines and the moving cords of his neck as he spoke. Even though he was dressed only in a simple shirt and waistcoat, with sleeves rolled up to the elbow, and a pair of somewhat faded trousers, there was nothing that could hide the sheer glow that seemed to emanate from him, even if all he did was look back at Dégel with amused eyes and an arched eyebrow.
'Are you by any chance a professor?'
'No, but I have obtained a doctorate…'
The other man chuckled. 'That would explain that.'
'I beg your pardon?' Dégel blinked. He noticed that the man had a pleasantly warm voice, and even in jest he never sounded anymore than good-natured. He laughed that vibrating chuckle again, his eyes crinkled in mirth.
'You cannot expect to say what you said and have me think anything else, my good sir. Most people would regard such a read too imposing for this fine day, I can assure you.'
Dégel did not know where this was going, but he liked it and so would play along. Joy flooded his heart as he realised that perhaps, just perhaps, today's coffee would take a little longer than fifteen minutes. As he basked in the warmth of the other's voice, his own smile widened without his meaning to, but that was fine because he was having a decent conversation with this man at last, and what was there to complain about when time started ticking again for the both of them?
'And yet you have kept yourself updated with political-philosophical developments in France, too, I gather.'
'Who? Moi?' The man's eyes widened almost comically as a twinkle of mischief flashed up in them. 'You overestimated me, dear sir. It is my… keeper who could not stop talking about it. He is a follower of the Enlightenment despite his old age, you see.'
'Your… keeper?' Dégel could not help but feel hilarious himself, the way the man's nose crinkled slightly at the mention of the word, and the way a corner of his mouth pulled up higher than the other in a lopsided grin. He looked almost proud, but then again Dégel had never been very good at people, so he contended himself with observing every changes in the lively countenance of his companion, feeling very much alive in a very long time.
'Yes, my keeper. Like Cain and the story of his brother's keeper. The way he scolded me for staying up too late, you would have thought he was my keeper too were you to see it.'
At that Dégel had to chuckle. The sound came out foreign to his ears, for how long ago did he last have a good laugh? A sudden wave of courage came to his mind, and looking the other man straight in the eye, he held out his hand: 'Pray forgive my lack of manner. I am Dégel Leblanc.'
The hand that grasped his was big and warm, very much calloused but gentle all the same, and so very heated. The grip was tight and lingered for a fraction too long, but before he could give himself any more strange idea, Dégel had pulled his hand back. The warmth lingered on his skin like smoldering ember, and as he put his hand back onto his lap and out of side, his fingers curled in on themselves. That way, the warmth would stay for a tad bit longer.
'A very becoming name, if I may say so. I am Kardia Kokkinos, but everyone calls me Kardia, and so should you.'
He had a strange name, Dégel decided, but he liked it nonetheless. Red Heart. Somehow it seemed true, for he could practically feel the passion in the man bubbling under the surface, just waiting to be released in the form of whatever it was that he did. The way his smile lit up brighter than sunlight, the way his laugh blew away all of Dégel's worries, and the way he looked up so longingly at the sky, it all made sense because Dégel was feeling himself being pulled into this whirlwind of childlike joy and excitement. He tried to resist this pull, but every time he thought he succeeded, a knowing twinkle lit up in Kardia's impossibly blue eyes or the wind would ruffled his mane of hair playfully, so that Dégel could not but be willingly snared in again. It should have been a peaceful afternoon with the soothing quiet he had come to love after so long, but instead it turned out to be one where he was overcome with more emotions than he had ever felt in his life, none of which was unpleasant or unwanted. Dégel tried not to think about the implications of that, yet he could not but wonder, even if for a fleeting moment, why this man in front of him could procure so much unknown emotions in his heart while all he did was sit there and let the sun place a crown of halo on his beautiful head and let the breeze play his hair as it would a lyre. Irritated with himself all of a sudden, Dégel pushed the traitorous thoughts to the far back of his mind, where he would pay them a visit later, when he had safely come back to the secluded space of his study.
'Thank you, Kardia.' The name rolled off his tongue so naturally that he thought that yes, maybe he could get used to this, too, though everything was so new to him. 'Though I could not but wonder why you said that; I am not blond, you see.'
'No, but you are fair. White Ice, but I like Snow White better. That way it would fit.' The smile Kardia gave him was strange, and he thought he could see something else there, too, yet a blink of an eye later it was gone as though it was but an imagination Dégel's mind had conjured up to mock him. Before he could ask what he meant or to clarify that he could not very well have 'neige' for a name now could he, Kardia had cleverly changed the topic, and Dégel had let it slide, too afraid to continue that train of thought.
'You said you have obtained a doctorate. May I ask what subject it was?'
'I studied linguistics, particularly ancient languages, but I am also interested in philosophy, so I am considering going a little deeper into it.'
Kardia smiled again. 'Philosophy of religion?'
'Perhaps; I am a Catholic after all.'
There was a twitch to his lips, and even as his lopsided smile became a full smirk, his eyebrows drew together so that his expression became almost sad, and half bitter. It twisted something within Dégel's own heart, though at the time he could not understand it for what it really was.
'Indeed. Aren't we all.' A heartbeat later, he had lifted the cup to his lips in order to cover his expression. 'Yet I would have thought there are other branches of philosophy, though I know not what they are.'
'There are, and you don't have to be a Christian to study theology and the like; it is just my personal interest.'
'So I see.'
Dégel could not be sure, but he thought there must have been an almost imperceptible quiver in Kardia's voice as he concluded their conversation on the topic. That, too, at the time he could not understand, intelligent as he was, yet it hurt him all the same to see this man so full of life and joy suddenly sound so defeated. A clump of white cloud went past the sun, and in the brief moment that the shadow was cast on them, Dégel had felt like reaching out, though he knew not what he would have done had he succumbed to this urge. Yet as quickly as it came, the shadow passed, and with it all traces of previous negative emotions on Kardia's face.
'Kardia, there is a delivery to make! Can you come back?' A young girl called from the flower stand opposite. Dégel took out his watch and looked. The minute hand just struck four, as it was supposed to do. He looked up blankly at the other man, who at the same time was watching him with an intense gaze that nearly made him blush. Slowly, he stood up, and for the first time, Dégel thought he saw hesitation in the other's smile.
'I shall see you here tomorrow, yes?'
Dégel's heart leapt. Along with the conversation, this was the first time they ever talked of meeting again, though for the past he had come and sat there every afternoon like clockwork and the other, too, would come and sit with him without fail. It had become a mutual thing much like a promise, but never quite, yet to put it into words made it seem unreal, because surely life could not get better than that? An unreasonable hope seized him, and Dégel smiled just that bit brighter, completely unaware of how the other's man breath hitched as a particularly light ray of sun hit his countenance in a golden glow.
'Tomorrow, at two, I shall come.'
At that, Kardia's laugh had sounded like relief.
Five minutes later, Dégel stood up, paid for his coffee, and went back the way he had come. Suddenly he flushed so red he might as well have had a fever. Dégel clasped a hand on his mouth and felt his lips curved into another smile he could not contain however hard he tried. Tomorrow, at two, and if the Lord allowed him, the day after, and the day after that. Ideas flew past his mind, all jumbled up and all too bright. He barely restrained himself from starting to run from the elation coursing through his body, even as he kept blushing without knowing why. With the shadow at the back of his mind temporarily lifted, Dégel looked up at the sky. Too blue, too perfect. If this was what time starting to run felt like, then he was willing to take the risk, if only his afternoons would continue on with that small white washed café in that small corner of that unknown lane.
Tomorrow, at two, he shall come, as he had done, as he would do.