Rivaille put his small hands on the bars of the metal gate. It was small compared to the main gate, being only one of the many entrances to the palace at the back of the castles. A gate, this gate, on the edge of the palace, connected to the commoners' world. A barrier. A point of inflexion. Fields and gardens of flora separated it from the main of the palace. It was further away than the other back gates, alone, unnoticeable.
There was no one outside. This path was quiet and small, unlike some others which went onto a big road after a hundred meters or two.
If he exited this doorway and turned right three corners, he would be at a commoners' market. There would be gold apples, living chickens, dead fish, green long beans. All at spectacular bargain-able prices. It would be crowded most of the day, but at seven in the morning it would be calm and quiet. Though not cold like the insides of the castle, but peaceful and happy.
Rivaille traced a metal bar with his finger. There was rust again, metallic smelling oxide. Iron and oxygen couldn't stay away from each other. They always found a way to become one. How could there be rust anywhere on the property of the king? But this gate was unimportant. White horses did not come through this gate.
He wanted to clean it, make it sparkle and proud. Let Cinderella find her happy ending, not being overshadowed by her stepsisters or evil stepmother. He wanted to make it clean, pretty, shiny. He wanted to prevent it from corroding, from losing weight, from getting hurt. Why did he feel so close to this metal structure? Was it because he had sneaked out of this place once through this gate? Was it because it was the longest that he had been outside, in the early morning, feeling the cool temperature and the still dim air, the wonderfully relaxing atmosphere of the morning market, the merchant informing the middle-aged woman that the taro weighed so much because of the sticky liquid inside it? He was the prince, he shouldn't find similarities between himself and this unattended piece of steel.
After all, Cinderella...
"Armin!" A voice called. "Where are you?"
Rivaille jumped. He looked behind him, finding only a white moth flying past. Listening more closely he could hear running footsteps coming from the right, on the other side of the gate. He waited, wondering if anyone was going to pass him.
"Agh, where are you?" The yelled impatiently, definitely nearing. It was not the voice of an adult. It was going to be a child.
Rivaille waited for the moment this child would to pass this gate. His heart pounded faster than usual, butterflies formed in his stomach at the thought of meeting a human his own age. Was this person going to see him, to stop and talk and stare. Were they going to ask him where 'Armin' was? Or would they continue running, past the open gate to Rivaille's life, out of his world once again?
Rivaille paused. Once...again...?
And then the child appeared. Rivaille's heartbeat sped up even more upon the first glimpse of his hair. This boy had tanned, sunny skin. His big green eyes were fervent and searching. His brown, wavy hair was mussed and some stuck to his pretty forehead. He was pretty, Rivaille realised. This was the first time he had thought a boy was pretty. This was probably the first real boy that he had seen so close up...not a cousin, nor a governor's son. He was like those children on that playground, so normal, so stunning.
He suddenly stopped as his eyes settled on the gate. His expression was full of babyish wonder, completely unmatched to the sweat on his skin. And then he saw Rivaille.
Rivaille watched as he observed Rivaille. He saw his eyebrows rise up. He felt their gazes connect as two tiny kids looked into each other's eyes as if their mouths were taped and hands were bond. Suddenly there was a rush of something concentrated in his eyes, like a tea bag that was slowly dispersing in hot water being squeezed. It was the colour of green tea from the previous reign. The past kingdom drank a lot of green tea.
His lips started to move.
Are you living well?
The wind whispered.
"Hey, who are you?"
What what what what was with that rude way of speaking to the prince?
"Give your own name before asking for someone else's." Rivaille replied coldly.
"What? You little...ugh!" His teeth was gritted, as if he was holding back from saying something. "Fine. I'm Eren Yeager. You?" Eren muttered as he glared at Rivaille.
"Rivaille." The prince returned. If he couldn't even manage a 'what's your name', why would Rivaille reply with more than necessary?
"Oh, ok." His angry expression suddenly disappeared. Like he fell asleep. Rivaille appreciated this blank face. Even though it only lasted two seconds before he seemed to remember what he was feeling.
"Uh, have you seen a kid around here? His name is Armin. He's my best friend." Rivaille noticed the way his voice became much friendlier as the name was mentioned.
"What does he look like?" Still, the first thing you see on a person isn't his name. Nor is it his status as Eren Yeager's best friend.
"He's got blonde hair. It's kind of long." He gestured around his jaw. "His eyes are really blue. He's skinny as well." There he stopped himself. As if to seem cool, to not reveal things about himself before the other party 'gives his own'. Rivaille could tell. He looked like he had a lot more words in his mouth.
Oh well. It wasn't as if this boy knew he was the first commoner's child Rivaille had seen since a long time ago. He must have been a commoner's child. His clothes were simple and ordinary. He wore a brown sleeveless top and darker shorts with sandals. His collar was round and wide, unlike the intricately styled silk over Rivaille's neck. Sophisticated. Graceful. Why might a child know such big words?
"I haven't seen anyone like that." He replied, nonchalant.
The boy frowned, looking at Rivaille as if he was analysing his way through a lie. What a stupid kid.
"Fine. Bye, Rivaille." He grumbled, still looking at him expectantly for some reason.
"Bye." Rivaille said, not bothering with anything else.
Anger lighted his face again. "You should at least say my name! Isn't that good manners?"
Rivaille thought he had a pretty good point. Not like he was in any place to lecture him, but Rivaille himself didn't want to fall in the same category as this kid.
He felt the shiver that went through Eren at that moment go through himself. The wind was whispering again. The wind was whispering from Eren. The air was coming from Eren. The nitrogen, hydrogen, the noble gases. The oxygen. Eren was. Eren was.
He was being chemically attacked. The rust on the iron was the result of that. The place where he will touch will rust. Then the rust will be cleaned and the iron will reform, like a living thing. Long exposure to moist air will cause iron to rust, to become tender and brittle. Then the rust will be cleaned and the iron beneath will be new. It won't reform. It will be new. It will lose something, and then it will be new. Then it will gain something to be protected, and it will not rust again, will not lose corrode, lose weight, get hurt. Or it can live forever as iron oxide, as rust. Or it can have both.
Eren flinched and let out an 'ow'. He reached behind his head and rubbed at it with a groan. A small rock had been thrown at him. He spun around rapidly, his expression changed to one of predator's adrenaline. He growled.
"COME OUT!" He exclaimed and ran away the direction he'd came from.
Rivaille stood there for a while, thoughtfully looking at the white moth on top of the iron gate take off.