7-19-2001

Ummmmm... I feel prolific or something. ^_^ Two fics in one day, gosh.

This is rather peculiar. Feedback, *please*?

Author: Lys ap Adin (lys_ap_adin@yahoo.com)
Title: Truth is the Side of a Coin
Genre: Drama/Romance
Warnings/Labels: Angst, shonen ai, slight death, weirdness.

~~~
Truth is the Side of a Coin

 

The young bard stepped in the open space just before the common room's fireplace, clearing his throat expectantly. Little by little, the crowd quieted itself. When he was satisfied that the room was as silent as it was going to get, he smiled and began to tell his story.

~*~

Once upon a time, there was a noble young lord. He was as handsome as he was honorable, and rode across the land performing great deeds of bravery. Everywhere the name of this lord was spoken with respect and reverence, and great kings longed for him to swear fealty to them. Queenly mothers wished him to court their daughters, and fair princesses dreamed of having him choose them above all other maidens. But he refused to choose one kingdom to defend in favor of aiding all those persecuted by evil, and was chivalrous to all maidens but wore the love tokens of none, and his fame and glory mounted higher yet for his unwillingness to slight any by choosing one.

None were able to resist the charm of the noble lord, not even the forces of evil and darkness. A certain sorceress, a practitioner of foul and unnamable rites, saw the beauty of the young lord, and fell hopelessly in love with him. She cast a glamour over herself, so that none could see her black heart for the splendor of her spell, and set out to seduce him to her bed.

The lord, however, was too wise to be fooled by her enchantments, and turned from her in disgust, rejecting her offers of wealth and power.

This enraged the sorceress, and all her poisoned love for him turned to hatred. Full of her fury, she summoned a sister witch, and together they wove a powerful evil to snare him, that whatsoever creature he first laid eyes upon after the casting he must fall forever in love with, no matter the consequences.

Then the second witch brewed a powerful storm, sending it to harry the young lord across the land in search of shelter, until he came to a humble church. Half dead from exhaustion and exposure, he stumbled into the church as a young acolyte went to see who could be pounding on the door in such a storm. The last thing he saw before he swooned was the acolyte's concerned face bent close over him in concern.

When he woke from his delirium, the same face was looking down at him kindly. Before he could blink twice, the curse had taken effect, and he was smitten by the beauty he saw before him. First he grew pale, and trembled, then he blushed hotly, till the young priest was nearly frantic with worry for his patient.

The lord lingered long in his sickbed, knowing that it was the only way he could claim any attention from the handsome young priest whom he loved so desperately, for how could there ever be any way for them to be together?

The sorceress' charm, however, had not counted on the purity of the noble lord's true love, and even a priest sworn to celibacy and the service of God could not resist the intensity of his love.

For a few short days of wonder, the lord and the priest knew complete happiness in and with each other, but then the powerful double curse tore them asunder.

There was a young girl who lived in the temple with the priest, as a sister to him. The second witch's curse caused the seeds of jealousy to stir in the young lord's heart when he saw the priest and the girl together, laughing over some small joke between them. From that point he knew no peace when his lover was not with him, until anger blackened his heart and blinded him to everything but his hatred of the girl. The priest understood nothing of his love's change of heart, except that something was terribly wrong. He confided everything to his sister of the heart, never knowing that every moment he spent with the girl only heightened the young lord's fury with them both.

At last, unable to bear his jealousy anymore, the lord committed a great sin, charging both girl and priest with the betrayal his jealousy caused him to perceive. He refused to believe their protestations of innocence, and in his fury, he slew them both.

Almost immediately, the blindness of the curse fell away, and he realized what he had done. He fell to his knees, weeping and gnashing his teeth, but to no avail, for his beloved was dead.

Shamed and dishonored, the young lord fled the land, casting aside his noble name and the list of great deeds he had accomplished.

It is said that he wanders the lands still, half-mad with grief for his lost love, in penance for his sin and praying that someday he will be permitted to rejoin him in the afterlife, where no curse can interfere with their love.

~*~

The bard finished his tale, and bowed to the smattering of applause from the crowd sitting by the inn's fire. His partner unobtrusively passed a hat through the crowd, gathering up a respectable number of coins from the appreciative audience.

The hat, however, passed by one grizzled figure by the fire who merely snorted at the romantic tale. "Foolishness," he muttered, shaking his head, standing and limping away from the fire.

The bard overheard this as he and his partner retired to a table in the corner to count over the evening's profits. "You didn't like the tale, sir?" the bard asked, green-blue eyes amused by what he perceived to be an old man's crotchets.

A steely pair of blue eyes glared at the younger man from beneath a thatch of grizzled hair. "No. I didn't. A bunch of romantic nonsense. It didn't happen that way."

The bard's eyebrows rose sharply. "It didn't?" he replied casually, exchanging a look with his partner, who merely shrugged.

"No. It didn't." The old man snorted again. "Good night to you both." He stomped upstairs to his rooms, leaving both younger men staring after him.

Quatre shrugged, sitting down. "I pray to God I don't get senile when I get old."

Trowa sat as well, and began counting coins. "Amen."

~*~

I have just this evening heard my story fall from the lips of a young man whose guileless eyes have not yet been hardened by the vagaries of Fate. The words were almost as beautiful as he, soft and golden, all earnest and full of the promises of True Love and Destiny. He told his tale, my tale, to a roomful of mostly indifferent travelers sheltering from the wild winds out of doors, and by dint of his true belief more than skill won their attention, and in turn a meager handful of their coins.

This, then, is the ultimate degradation: to have become a legend of tragic romance and love gone awry, while precious few living or dead remember the Truth of the matter.

He told his story, my story, well enough, with words as beautiful as he, and the smattering of applause at his tale's end was more than earned, and the money will be enough to sustain him better than his faith in romance can. He is welcome to it, if this pretty fairy tale he spreads serves him. It is a pretty irony that after all, some good has sprouted from the affair.

But I do not think that the Truth should be allowed to fall by the wayside, supplanted by a sanitized and sentimentalized bastard fiction.

This, then, was the way of it.

~*~

My name is Heero Yuy, and once upon a time I was the luckiest man on earth, all because of a curse.

The true evil of a curse lies not with the malice in which it is cast, because anyone in the throes of some strong passion can call down maledictions on a foe. No, the torment of a curse stems from the knowledge that some action or another warranted the curse being cast.

Let me explain something. Stories change to suit their times. The archetypes remain, but even they alter in some ways to fit the fancy of the audience. The cursed characters of today's stories are noble innocents suffering at the hands, paws, or claws of some perverse evil. Nothing they have done has warranted this malediction. It simply is, until somehow the curse is broken.

I am cursed, and it is entirely through my own actions that I am thus. The Fate now attached to my own did not come about through someone's envy of my comeliness (though there are, were, and forever will be many jealous of my beauty), nor does it spring from my own righteousness. Since I choose this opportunity to be forthright, I shall be so. In most senses of the word, including the literal, I am a bastard. In the years preceding my downfall, I cared only for myself and my own comforts and pleasures, and used what means I had at my disposal to tend to these.

In the years since my downfall, my habits have changed but little.

So I am emphatically not a noble lord struggling valiantly against the foul sorcery of his foes, as the young man's tale suggested.

There was, however, a jealous ex-lover involved. Our romantic young bard cast her as an evil witch desirous of corrupting a pure young man's heart. From the sounds of it, he pictured her as a hag, hunched and horrible to contemplate, who was enraged by the noble hero's rejection of her advances.

As I remember her, she was a tall wench, with rich blonde hair and blue eyes to turn a man's knees to butter, and I certainly did not reject any advances she made. I encouraged most of them, and made several myself.

The bard got one thing completely right. She was definitely a witch.

I grew tired of her well before she did of me, and with my customary bluntness, disabused her of the notion that I had entered into a relationship with her with any honorable intentions whatsoever. I had taken from her what I wanted, not only from her body but also in the way of cantrips and various ensorcelments, and was finished utterly with her. She had fancied me a great deal, and had lavished her attentions (all of her attentions) on me. She may have even loved me, not that it matters. Many have loved me, and been the sorrier for it.

Her anger with me was deep, and abiding, and as the bard said, she consulted with a sister in sorcery, and they contrived a trap to curse me.

~*~

Beyond the strength of my own hands, and the resourcefulness of my own mind, there is only one thing else that I can honestly say that I believe in. There is nothing I would be more loath to admit to, but I believe in True Love. It exists, and it abides, and it never diminishes, and I have complete faith in it.

I have known True Love.

It burns, it freezes, it fills the soul to overflowing, it empties a man till he is hollow, and it is the most awful thing I have ever known. Divinely inspired ecstasy must be something very like it.

I do not believe that True Love Conquers All. It doesn't. It may conquer some, and it provides the deepest inspiration for action I have ever seen, but it is not a panacea for all that is evil.

There is no universal guarantee that the hero will win in the end. The rest of us, whether we're decent folk just trying to get along, or we're thoroughbred scoundrels, haven't a prayer most of the time, although we scoundrels have a tendency to come out ahead of everyone else.

~*~

I never learned the specifics of the curse that Relena and Dorothy, working in tandem, laid upon me, so I can't say whether the bard's rendition of their curse was accurate or not. I rather suspect that he worried more about scansion before veracity, but I'll not quibble with his version there. I have never had the desire to learn the precise words that spell out my Fate. I think it's mostly because I don't want to know if there is something worse woven into their curse or not.

According to the bard's version of the curse, and this is more or less how it happened, the two sorceresses had cursed me to fall in love with the first person whom I met, with the stipulation that this person could not possibly love me back. This first part of my two-fold curse I attribute to Relena, since she was the one smarting from unrequited love. Hers is also a somewhat narrow mind, so I suspect she opened up the category to both male and female to discomfit me. My lovers' genders has always been immaterial, however, so her curse failed in that respect.

At that point, I was sticking to the hinterlands, mostly out of a reluctance to confront a certain noble lord whose coffers were considerably emptier for his having welcomed me into his home.

Curses are relentless, though, and bide time patiently until it becomes appropriate for them to work.

Mine began working on a cold and wet day late in a dying year, when rather than face gusts of stinging wind forceful enough to make a stronger man stagger, I ducked into a church.

I practically fell over the acolyte kneeling just a little ways into the nave in my desire to get far away from the cold and wet. The first words I said to him, as I recovered my balance and he rose to his feet, were rude ones. Then he turned his face to me, and I forgot how to breathe.

Yes, I know that is the phrase that any imbecile who tells a love story uses, but clichés must come from somewhere, and at the first sight of his face, I forgot everything, including how to breathe.

He was tall, taller than I am, and looked ascetic in the robes of his god. He was much stronger than my initial assessment of him gauged, but I didn't have an opportunity to learn that till much later. His skin was pale, as befit a scholar, and his eyes in the dimness of the church were like the evening sky after sunset.

As a man of god, he was not ungracious to me, though I could tell that the he knew me for what I was and would not have encouraged me to stay much past the worst of the storm. He welcomed me into the small church, and gave me warm food to eat and dry clothes to wear, and rather than suffer a traveler to sleep on the floor, he surrendered his own bed to me.

And he very kindly declined my offer to let him share it with me.

The storm raged for several days, and I came to know him better. His name was Duo Maxwell, and he made me want to become a better man than I had been. It was the only time in my life that I have ever cared what others think of me. It was also when I came to believe in True Love.

Relena's curse, as the bard said, was designed to make me fall in love with someone who couldn't love me back.

Dorothy, whom I suspect is rather more familiar with the tricky effects that True Love can work, added in the second part of the curse as a fail-safe, in case the unthinkable happened.

The unthinkable happened. Duo fell in love with me. I don't know how, or why, except that perhaps Relena's magic was more powerful than she had ever suspected, and that the potency of my feelings overrode the fact that Duo and I were polar opposites.

I have never been so happy in my life, and I suspect I never will be again.

Dorothy's part of the curse, however, put an end to that brief happiness.

Living in the church with Duo was a young girl, Hirde. Duo treated her just like a sister, although I think she felt entirely different about him. I know she never liked me, or the fact that Duo loved me... and I never liked her.

The bard was accurate in saying that I became jealous. I became so jealous that I would hardly let Duo out of my sight, and whenever I saw him and Hirde together, I went mad with my rage.

Dorothy's curse didn't have as much to do with this as the bard implied, however. I am by nature a suspicious and jealous person. Dorothy's curse just prodded these things into action and out of my control.

I killed both Hirde and Duo, her first because I rationalized that if she was gone, then Duo would be mine--completely mine--once again. And then I killed him because he seemed too grief-stricken by her death. Then the madness cleared itself from my brain, and I realized what I had done.

I did not fall to my knees wailing and gnashing my teeth. I have never gnashed my teeth in my life. I'm not sure it's technically possible.

I did flee, however. Duo was well loved in his tiny community--as he deserved--and I narrowly escaped the hanging I deserved for his murder.

Dorothy's real curse is my long life.

It has been three hundred eighty-six years since I killed Duo and Hirde.

I have aged but slowly in all those years, and my mind remains as sharp as it ever was. And my memories of a bloodstained day remain as clear as if they had happened yesterday.

Someday, perhaps, I will manage to die. If I am very lucky, I might even be allowed a glimpse of Duo before I descend to the depths of perdition.

Until then, I continue to wander.

This is the story of what really happened. It isn't as pretty as the bard's tale, nor does it have a happy, hope-filled ending. I don't apologize for this, as I have never apologized for anything I have done.

My name is Heero Yuy, and once upon a time I was the luckiest man on earth, all because of a curse.

~*~

The old man set his pen down on the barely dry pages of writing. The candles that he had demanded the innkeeper give him were merely stubs, sputtering in the darkness. He moved stiffly to the window, seeing that the moon had already set. It was quite late.

He was tired. Telling the story had required more strength of will than he'd expected, or maybe it was just the effects of age. Maybe, he mused, it was both.

He glanced back at the pages, wondering what to do with them now that he had them. Perhaps he would give them to the bard, to contrast the story that the blond told. No, that would be cruel. People needed stories with happy endings, no matter what cynical old men thought.

In the end, he simply rolled them up, stashing them with his other belongings. Someday he'd figure out what to do with them. Or not.

He laid down on the bed with a tired sigh, his old joints aching. It was hard to remember the days before arthritis. He closed his eyes. ~Duo... did I ever tell you I was sorry?~

A feather light touch ghosted across his cheek. "Of course not," a soft voice whispered. "You're not that type."

Heero struggled to open his eyes. In the dying light of his candles, he thought he almost saw the figure of a tall young man with laughing eyes. "Duo?" he whispered.

"But that's okay," the soft voice continued without pause, "because we knew you were even before you did. And you're too hard on yourself, you know? Where did you get that idea about perdition, anyway?

"Am I dreaming?" Heero whispered.

The figure, growing steadily more substantial, leaned over the bed with a grin. "What do you think, lover?" he asked, offering a hand to Heero.

Heero reached up, taking the hand. "That I don't really care."

Duo threw back his head and laughed as the last candle sputtered out.

 

Heero looked at his lover, then back down at the bed, where the husk of an old man lay empty. "What happens now?" he asked, a little fearfully.

Duo smirked at him. "Well... let's just say that the bard was right, and you were wrong." He winked. "True Love does Conquer All, not the other way around." He threw an arm around Heero, as the room around them slowly became insubstantial. "Come on. We have a lot of catching up to do."

Heero smiled, wrapping his own arm around Duo's waist. "I can't wait to begin."

~Owari~

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