Author/Artist: chromatic_coma @ animusia
Warnings: implied sex, weird diction(?), human names
Summary: As he grows, Herakles comes to learn that there are many different sorts of love.
He opens his eyes slowly, reluctantly, feeling the sun tickle the back of their lids and bracing himself for its bright light. He sat up slowly, groggily, and started to feel around with his hands for something that should have been there.
There was nothing.
He blinked the sun out of his eyes and looked around, and when he found himself all alone in the room, Herakles felt scared. He tried to clamber out of the bed as quickly as he could, but it was a tall bed and he was a small child; he fell on his bum with a soft “oof”, tears of pain collecting in the corner of his eyes.
Herakles rubbed the tears away, padding to the door of the bedroom. Before he even opened it, he heard his mother’s voice from the other side, and was instantly relieved.
And then he realized that she was not happy. She was yelling, and although he couldn’t understand everything she was saying, he knew that she was upset. Herakles struggled to push the door open, and when he finally got it to cooperate he stood in the doorway, nervously peeking out.
His mother’s back was to him, and behind her Herakles saw his papa. Somehow he felt relieved again; his mama always got upset when papa was around.
But then Helen shouted again, words Herakles did not understand, but he noticed absently that her voice was shaking. Quietly he padded over to her, and tugged on the skirt of her dress.
She looked down, and Herakles could now see that her face was covered in tears and snot, her cheeks bright red. He was shocked; mamas weren’t supposed to cry!
Herakles turned to his father, to Marcus, and then he bridged the space between them to punch the man. He could only reach his knee, but his attack was still unexpected and powerful enough to make the strong man wince.
“Herakles!” his mama shrieked, and he turned around, certain she was going to be happy now. She didn’t seem very happy, but she picked him up and hugged him tightly. “Why did you hit him?”
Herakles pouted. Was she mad at him, now? “He made mama cry!”
Helen looked taken aback, and then she smoothed Herakles hair back, sniffling a bit. “We don’t have to hit people if we’re mad at them, honey. All we have to do is kick them out of the house.”
“Hush you,” she snapped at Marcus, and then she turned back to her son tenderly. “Go on, Hera, tell him to leave.”
Herakles nodded, and pointed a chubby finger in the direction of the door. Of course, he was pointing in the wrong direction, but the sentiment was still there when he snapped, “Leave!”
Marcus opened his mouth to say something, but Herakles frowned more deeply and stretched his hand out, “Leave, papa!”
The man sighed, finally, murmured a soft apology, and then turned on his heel and left.
Herakles looked back at his mother again, and was shocked to find there were still tears running out of her eyes. With his small open palm he tried to wipe them away, smudging them across her cheeks, and Helen gave a small laugh.
“My little man,” she murmured, clutching him tightly. “The only man I need.”
Herakles liked the sound of that, and so he kissed her salty cheek.
As an idea, Herakles could admit to himself that he knew a thing or two about love. He had grown up surrounded by it, what with his mother’s on-and-off relationship with his father, her odd, secret relationship with Hassan’s mother, and the lovers that she frequented in between these often short-lived affairs. In his mind, that became what love was; a fleeting touch, a kiss that didn’t last as long as it should have…
Mostly, love was about being careless, and getting hurt.
Or, at least, that was what he had imagined it to be, what he had assumed it was based on everything that he was exposed to. But, on the threshold of his thirteenth year, his mother had pulled him aside and opted to give him what she called “The Talk”.
And that was when he learned that love was not what he expected. It was also when he learned why his throat was starting to itch, among other things he would rather not discuss.
According to Helen, love was the greatest feeling in the world, the highest rush of euphoria. When being with someone else felt like being complete, felt right, she said, then that’s love.
Herakles then pointed out that he felt pretty right when he was with her, and she laughed and ruffled his hair.
“Someday, Herakles, you’ll meet someone who it feels even more right to be with.”
At that point in his life, Herakles had not cared much for falling in love, because napping and philosophizing were much more worth while pastimes, and so he didn’t give her words much regard.
But now, he was wishing that he had.
It was a lazy day, and he and Hassan had met up halfway between their homes, by the sea. Hassan had once told him he always felt soothed by the sight of the clear water, and Herakles liked being by the water because the sea breeze always made it easier for him to think.
But today, all he could think about now was fascinating it was, the way the breeze brushed a lock of Hassan’s hair back and forth across his cheek. Actually, he realized, there was a lot about Hassan that was fascinating. His quiet disposition and calm body language, and how he could express a lot of things without saying a word. His concern for others, his compassion. His odd, quirky hobbies, like collecting seashells in a bandage tin, and sleeping only seven hours a day.
The way his eyebrows furrowed just so when he stared at someone, trying to get their attention. Oh, wait.
Hassan shrugged, “You seem distracted.”
There was an implied, “more so than usual” in there; Herakles wondered how he did it.
“I’m not. I’m just thinking.”
Hassan nodded, turning back out to look at the water. Herakles sighed softly, and felt something flutter in his chest. How odd…
A few days later, while they were sitting in the same places, staring out into that wide open expanse, Herakles asked, “What would you do if I kissed you now?”
“Well, I suppose I would kiss you back.”
So he did, and he did.
And Herakles decided that love might not be such a bad thing after all.
Time passed slowly, and after a short, shy relationship with Hassan the realization came to them both that perhaps, for them, friendship was the better option. Judging by the fact that Herakles did not often find himself missing Hassan’s kisses, this might have actually been accurate.
The better indication was that, soon after they disbanded their couple, Herakles found that his body was already lusting after someone else. She was a beautiful girl, with a wicked little smile, delicate hands, and a reputation of perverseness. Her name was Elizaveta. Under the guidance of time and thought, the lust started to turn into longing, and soon Herakles was baffled at how strongly he reacted to simply the sound of her name.
“You’re in love,” Hassan explained simply. It was a logical conclusion for quite illogical feelings, and so Herakles decided to accept it as fact, at least for now. The problem arose, then, of what he should do next, but all sources he consulted offered the same opinion: Tell her.
So, Herakles bought a bouquet of carnations (less forward than roses but with the same meaning, he rationalized), brushed his perpetually messy hair, and went over to the Elizaveta’s home, shyly knocking on her door. It surprised him to realize that his heart was pounding as thought it had plans to burst out of his chest.
“Hello? Oh, hi, Herakles!” she smiled brightly upon discovering him on her doorstep. He, feeling his throat tighten, coughed a little to clear it and smiled.
“Hee, what brings you here?”
He held the flowers out to her, time slowing down painfully around them as Elizaveta reacted, taking them and smelling them and smiling up at him.
And then she noticed the card and frowned. Time sped up again.
“I’m sorry, Hera. I think you’re sweet, and the flowers are beautiful, but… I already have a special someone.”
Elizaveta tried t hand him back the flowers but he waved her off, putting on a smile and taking his leave. But he couldn’t hide it, the heartbreak spurred on by rejection.
Herakles gave up on love after the crushing knowledge that it is not always fair. Of course this was something he had always known in the back of his mind; how many times had he heard his mother fight with her lovers when she imagined him to be asleep in his bed? But experiencing it for himself was different, and it was much worse than he’d expected.
After all, he still couldn’t look Elizaveta in the eye. Or Roderich Edelstein, for that matter.
So time passed slowly, each day as mundane as the previous one until they all bled together into a grayscale mass of memory. Then came the day when he met Antonio Carriedo. Antonio was color, bold and passionate hues of loving red and excited orange and graceful violet that brightened the faded pastels of Herakles’ world better than any recreational drugs did. Antonio’s life moved faster than Herakles’ did, but it gave him direction, something to look for, someone to hold tightly too.
Antonio was affectionate. He was unashamed of their actions, unabashed about who saw or knew or watched, and if he was asked why he’d laugh, “Love is meant to be experienced.”
Herakles did not make the mistake of falling fast or hard this time; years and age mellowed him out. Perhaps, if he was interested in physics he would have measured the speed at which they fell, the speed at which their bodies moved together, found a correlation between the pressure in their kisses and the emotions behind them, measured the pitch of Antonio’s voice when he was crying his name or the tenor of his laugh. But he was not a physics man, he was a philosopher, and so instead he mused. About the color of Antonio’s eyes, never quite set in any exact shade of green, about the contrast of the roughness of his palm versus the tenderness in his touch, or sometimes trying to figure out what it was that always had him smiling.
“You think too much, mi corazon,” Antonio laughed, nestling himself in Herakles’ lap, resting his back against the other’s raised thighs, head falling back on his knees. “You should be less up there,” he gestured to the open sky, “and more right here. Or else you’ll miss all the beauty!”
“I don’t care,” Herakles insisted, thinking in the back of mind of what Freud had to say about beauty. “There is nothing more beautiful than this moment.”
And that moment, when Antonio is taking the words in, when his expression flitters from confusion to understanding, was one Herakles decided should not ever end. So he ensured that it cannot, by stealing a kiss.
Love with Francis Bonneyfoy, Herakles learned quickly enough, isn’t really love. There may be mutual affection of some sort; an impulse in each of them to ensure that the other is deriving pleasure from their intimate act as he should be, but otherwise their love-making, for all of its pretenses, is nothing short of selfish.
Antonio is gone, because his heart and soul called him to someone else and he is nothing if not instinctual. Herakles was a little sad to see him go, because Antonio was something, but Francis is quite something, too. Not the same thing, but a something that was a good distraction from what it was Herakles was denying himself.
Francis had long fingers. He liked to twist them in Herakles’ long, sometimes frizzy hair, or curl them around his neck, or brush them along his stomach, which was usually bare because Francis liked to bare his chest when they were together. Herakles didn’t mind, because Francis had a warm body and a voice smooth like velvet and experience hands and he wasn’t afraid to be a little unconventional and was very vocal about what he liked and what he didn’t like. He also ensured that Herakles was vocal, which was something the demure boy was not quite accustomed too, but change was never bad.
And perhaps all that Herakles would ever have remembered of Francis is that he was a good lay, once. But a well timed misfortune kept that from happening quite in that way. Herakles’ mother passed. And when she did, when she was being buried and leaving his life forever, Francis was sober and solemn, squeezing his hand tightly enough to keep him rooted to the Earth.
That was what loving Francis was like.
Francis faded out of Herakles’ life in a similarly blunt manner to the way he entered it. He found a new boy to love, one who was more of a chase, more of a tease, and Herakles bid him a farewell without any hard feelings. Breaking up was becoming easier, he observed one idle afternoon.
A few moments later, he ran into the brick wall that was Sadiq Adnan, and after a few choice swear words and a rather long stare down, he noticed how beautiful the other’s eyes were, hidden beneath his heavy sweater hood. After that he continued to see the other around, and something like a friendship that was something like a hateship formed between them.
“I don’t see what yer waitin’ for,” Sadiq whispered casually to him, one rainy afternoon as they stood under the supermarket awning waiting for the flash storm to end.
“You’re going to need more words to explain.”
Sadiq sighed, biting his raw lip (a habit he picked up after he quit smoking), and elaborated.
“I think I know how it is ya feel. About me.”
“And,” here Sadiq paused, and his silence said everything in his mouth’s stead. “Perhaps, ya know, I might think yer worth my time.”
So Herakles takes his face in his palms and sips at his lips and murmurs against them, when Sadiq is weak in the knees, “You could just say you want me.”
They kiss until the rain stops beating on the awning over head. When they separate, Sadiq looks sheepishly excited.
It’s not long until Herakles finds out why. Sadiq’s father is a conservative man who hates gays and kept him sheltered all his life. The taste of Herakles’ lips is Sadiq’s first taste of freedom.
But, it cannot last long, and they know this. The only thing Adnan Senior hates more than gays is Greeks, so from their first kiss, the clock is running against them. So they take each other and when they’re not doing that, they’re probably fighting; it’s how their personalities clash even though their bodies mesh.
It took a while for Herakles to realize this wasn’t what he’d been searching for, either. It was the closest he’d come thus far, probably, because Sadiq understood him and despite his words he didn’t really want Herakles to be anything other than what he was, even if what he was was quirky and infuriatingly slow paced.
During one early evening’s heated make out session, Sadiq pulled away and confessed that they’ve been busted. He was laughing about it, but his eyes betrayed what he actually felt about the situation. Herakles finally realized why it is he always covered them when he could, but it was too late.
Herakles was still quite unsure of what love was. He never a found a person who could explain it to him; some people used flowery language that he found superfluous (not to mention, it made him sleepy). Others paused and hummed and gave vague answers that ended with “you know?” No, he didn’t know. That’s why he was asking.
The question continued to tease him, even as his life progressed into adulthood and he was expected to get an actual job and live an active life. He got a job at a supermarket, scanning groceries and arguing with old women who insisted last week’s prune pudding coupon was still valid.
And then a man stepped up to the counter, which was strange because it was mid-morning and most men his age were at school or work and not buying salmon filets and Nutella. He was polite but quiet, thanking him when Herakles passed over his change and arranging the bills properly before taking his bag and going. And normally, that exchange would have ended then and there and Herakles might have wondered for a while why it was he was in casual clothing going grocery shopping at eleven thirty two am, or maybe if salmon and Nutella tasted good together. That would have been it.
But then the man came again the next day. And the day after the day after that. Herakles found out his name (Kiku), his ethnicity (Japanese) and his favorite ice cream flavor (Dulce de Leche). Most importantly, he found out he might be interested in this quirky, quiet man.
But all at once he stopped coming, and then when he returned he brought about five and a half times the normal amount of food.
“The Lunar New Year is approaching,” he explained sheepishly as Herakles scanned the products. “It is my turn to host my family.”
“Are you close?”
“…Not at all,” Kiku confessed. “But they are family, regardless.”
Herakles nodded, wondering where Hassan had wandered off to, and when their lives had taken different paths. Ah, well.
After Kiku paid, he took a look at the many bags and faltered.
“Do you need help taking these things home?”
Kiku ducked his head, murmuring. “I do not live far, but… some assistance would be appreciated. I’m sorry for taking advantage of your kindness.”
Herakles waved it off, grabbing one of the empty boxes that had delivered bananas and packing the bags into it. The walked together, wordless, until they arrived at Kiku’s modest home.
“Please come in for tea.”
There were stacks of papers and books everywhere.
“I apologize for the mess. I’m a writer. I lost an old manuscript and made a mess looking for it.”
There were also many red things, but Herakles did not need that explained. Gently moving some of the papers from the table and surrounding floor, he sat and waited.
As they drank their tea, conversation simple and yet with so much that Herakles, for once, wanted to say, he started to wonder if perhaps this might be love.
A/N: If this fic seems a bit weird and disjointed, it's because I wrote the first (familial and first love) two parts in December, the third (one sided) part in January, the fourth (romantic) and fifth (intense/lustful) last night, and the last two (doomed/tragic and true love) this morning. I have also been told by a Greek friend that today is not really Greece's national day, but since this is Hetalia canon I am posting it anyways. Thank you all for reading, and I hope you enjoyed!