I’m not Lia, D’Eon said, and I can never be her.
There’s something – a silence, so sudden and unusual, like the kind of stillness just before the storm hits – that you can feel the moment your lips touch D’Eon’s, and you just can’t shake it off; you’re so disturbed by the sudden change in the air around you that it takes you a while to realize that D’Eon doesn’t respond; he’s standing so still against you, your lips covering his, a dying spark in his eyes – as if this is something that he has expected, as if he has waited for something like this to happen, as if he’s not really here and only watching himself from afar.
He’s not looking down on you, not exactly, and knowing D’Eon, he probably doesn’t even realize what he’s doing at all.
He’s looking at you the way Lia always did, and it makes you sick to your stomach.
You push him away.
“Sorry,” you say, because it seems like a sensible thing to say.
“…what for?” D’Eon asks.
You don’t know – you really don’t know, and all you know is that if you try to say something right now, it would only sound like an excuse, and you. And you can’t –
Without a word, you turn and walk away from him, Lia’s mocking laughter resounding in your head.
D’Eon doesn’t follow you.
The thing is, Lia said, I know for a fact that D’Eon can replace me and fill in my role better than he ever could his own. It’s… kind of ironic, isn’t it?
“In the end, it turned out for the best, didn’t it? My death, I mean.”
You give her a glance, your interest and curiosity piqued by the way Lia casually throws that comment. “And why is that?”
Then she smiles at you, all sweet and innocent, but then you look into her eyes and you find a dangerous edge there, almost like a warning, and you feel as if you has just stepped into a landmine – one wrong move, and it all will be over.
“Because I know D’Eon likes you.”
Ah. Of course. There are only two subjects that could get Lia so serious and fuming like this: her loyalty to France, and her little brother. Insult either one in her presence, and you’re a dead meat.
“Really.” You say, still testing the water. You don’t know what suddenly makes Lia bring this up, but if there is something you know about her, it is that nothing is just mere coincidence – not when it comes to Lia.
“I’ve seen the way he looks at you.” She says, a hint of singsong childish teasing in her voice. Then her smile dims a touch, and in a slightly lower voice she adds, “…and I’ve also seen the way you look at him.”
“Jealous?” you snap at her.
Her eyes flash. What do you think? They seem to say.
You sigh. “Relax. I’m not planning to debase him, if that’s what you’re worried about.”
“Ah, but then, there would be no point in my being gone, wouldn’t it?” Lia smiles cat-like at you, eyes twinkling, yet all you can think about is how that kind of smile seems rather out of place on D’Eon’s face, despite his stunning resemblance to Lia.
“Okay, I won’t pretend I understand.” You tells her, raising an inquiry eyebrow.
“My brother is a kind person. If he thought that I actually had feeling for you, then he wouldn’t go for you, even if he actually really liked you. He’s a noble person like that.”
“…And I’m sure you must have always taken advantage of that, no?”
She narrows her eyes at you; you kindly return the look in full-force. Looks like you hit a nerve.
One thing you immediately notice about D’Eon is that, other than the little missy at Versailles Palace, D’Eon doesn’t seem to have any friend. All of his friends in the force now are those he acquired after Lia’s gone – which tells of how much Lia influenced his life without him even realizing it.
That’s sad, but you’re not sure whom you pity more: Lia, who loves her brother to the point of obsession, or D’Eon, who never realizes it and is completely oblivious through it all.
“Tell me, Maximillien, between me and D’Eon, whom would you choose?” she suddenly asks, that goddamned smile still in place.
That’s unfair, you think, because she undoubtedly knows about your feelings a deal lot more than she lets on.
“It wouldn’t matter, would it?” you reply, looking down at your shoes, sounding tired and defeated – even to your own ears. “Because I know you too well: if you think D’Eon likes me, you’d try to date me in front of him only to dump me afterwards – all in order to prevent him from being taken away from you. And in the end, I can never get you both.”
You frown at yourself, because that last part sounds way too bitter to your liking.
Lia chuckles. “You’re right; you know me too well.” Then she seems to regard you for a second, in a way that’s unfamiliar to you. “Hey… why don’t you try to take me, here and now?” she raises an uncharacteristically suggestive eyebrow.
You choke. “W-what?” you stare at her in disbelief. You really hope, for your own and especially D’Eon’s sake, that she doesn’t actually mean it that way.
Lia shrugs. “Why don’t? That way, you can have us both: my soul, and his body.”
You’re looking at her as if she’s completely out of her mind. She doesn’t seem to be affected at all. “I was hoping you were only kidding, or I heard it wrong, but my hope was clearly in vain. You should be ashamed of yourself.” And you turn to leave, but before you reach the door, her voice stops you.
“I know you want me, in the slightly same way you want my brother; I’m giving you a chance to have us both at the same time. So why don’t you?”
You look down at your shoes, a gesture that you’ve been doing a lot, lately. “I don’t want to betray D’Eon.” And you wonder since when it’s become the truth – that you’ve come to respect him a lot more as a person and no longer as Lia’s little brother. You just can’t do that to him.
“It’s not like my brother would ever remember it.” Lia insists.
“He might not remember, but I would.” And that’s enough for you. You chuckle. “You know what’s funny? I had a feeling you do this on purpose to push me away from your brother – because you know I won’t be able to look him in the eye ever again without feeling guilty.”
An uncomfortable silence falls around them then, but Lia doesn’t try to fill it, nor she tries to deny your suspicion.
“You’re truly a despicable person.”
The loud bang as the door closes behind you is the most satisfying sound you’ve ever heard in a while.
Hey, what kind of person is your brother? You asked her. It wasn’t that you were curious or anything; you just needed something to fill in the dragging silence, and families seemed to be a safe subject.
At least you thought so.
Lia tilted her head slightly, like she was contemplating the answer carefully. We’re so alike, yet at the same time we cannot be more different.
There was something strange in her tone, something that you had never heard in her voice before. She sounded almost sad – lonely even, like she was longing for something she knew she couldn’t have.
You tried to dig your memories for another mention of this little brother of Lia, and then realized that this was actually the only time Lia ever mentioned anything about him. She never even mentioned it to you that she actually had a brother in the first place – and you only knew she had one because you heard someone at the Queen’s Elizabeth party bring it up.
It turned out families were not a safe subject for casual conversation, after all.
Seems pretty complicated. You commented in that casual air of yours, and Lia only shrugged – neither confirming, nor denying – and it only intrigued you even more. You needed to stop, you knew you did, but you just couldn’t – not after you finally found something that Lia wasn’t perfect at.
But then you remembered your own situation, and you were reminded that if there was someone who could still reject you despite all the perfections you had, it would be your own family. And you thought for that moment, and that moment only, you could feel for Lia.
You decided to drop the subject, but not before you asked one last thing:
What’s his name?
Lia smiled – a sad, genuine little smile, one that forever engraved in your memory.
The one you try to hurt is Lia, but the one you always manage to hurt is D’Eon, and you just don’t understand why. And Lia, being Lia, despite not knowing anything except for the fact that you hurt D’Eon, tries to hurt you as a retribution (a revenge) for her brother – using her brother’s body.
You don’t miss the irony.
In the end, the one who gets hurt the most is yourself, and you had to wonder just what it is you’re trying to accomplish in the first place.
I’m not Lia, D’Eon says again and again, whenever you’re both alone and you start giving him looks that are decidedly different than usual.
Stop looking for her in me, is what you suspect he really wants to say but doesn’t.
But you’re not looking for Lia; you’re trying to figure out what it is about him that endlessly fascinates you, makes you unable to look away. You never tell him. You don’t think he would appreciate it – he’s way too serious of a person to just pass it as a joke.
You made a mistake of looking at D’Eon that way when Lia was possessing him, and Lia, as expected, didn’t think it was funny. It’s her little brother you’re looking at, after all.
You wonder how long she would drag this matter before finally shoving it to your face. All you know is that, whatever she might be planning, you don’t think it’d be pleasant at all.
“Aren’t you curious?”
D’Eon only spares you a glance before he goes back sorting through the dusty books on the shelves. “What about?”
“About Lia and I. Just what kind of special relationship we had, and all that stuff?” You shrug. “Considering the rumors about us, most people would have preyed, or at the very least be curious about it.”
There’s a slight pause, and you regret the fact that D’Eon has his back on you because now you can’t see his expression.
“I am curious.” D’Eon replies quietly a little later, voice just barely loud enough to carry across the room. “But what went on between you and Lia was only between you and Lia, and I had no right to interfere, whatever the reason might be.”
“Other people would have used your position as her brother to try to interfere. You know, with that ‘I’m only trying to protect her! You’re a bad influence on her!’ or something along that line.”
There’s a smile in D’Eon’s voice when he replies, “I just happened to believe my sister was more than capable of taking care of herself.”
You snort. “You may think so, but she didn’t seem to have any problem meddling in your business, though.”
“…is that so.”
You wait, but he doesn’t say anything else. For some reason that you don’t even know, it gets you really irritated. Perhaps you need to add a bit more fuel? “Looks like she didn’t think the same of you, eh?”
“I guess she had a reason to.” D’Eon says, turning around to face you, expression unreadable. Despite being so naïve and rather emotional, D’Eon is surprisingly hard to read, and you have to salute Lia for teaching him such a thing. “I…used to be a sickly child, and that must have been why she was so overprotective over me.”
“Aren’t you just in denial?” you press on, even when you know you’re only pushing it.
“Are you?” D’Eon counters back, eyes fierce. You narrow your eyes. “Because it seems to me you’re only trying to get me say something bad about her.”
For some time you only stare at each other, one trying to read the other’s mind, while the other trying to get a point across. It’s you, however, who breaks off first and turns around to leave. “She was no angel.” You say quietly. You know nothing about her true nature.
“Doesn’t mean she was a bad person either.” D’Eon replies, and he sounds like he believes it. I know enough.
The only things Lia ever cared about were her loyalty toward France, and her little brother. You knew she had sacrificed her life for France, but you never know just how far she would go when it comes to her little brother. Lia was, has always been, and would always be, a wild card – especially now that she no longer had her mortal body.
“You know what’s so funny? We both talk about her in past tense, like she’s actually not around anymore – even when we both also know her soul still resides within you – quite in literally sense, at that.”
And you leave, ignoring the stunned look and the hurt that must show on D’Eon’s face.
You’d know when you see it.
And then you met D’Eon, her only little brother, and you realize he’s ‘it’.
You’re surprised at the lack of surprise you felt when you learnt that.
So identical to Lia not only in appearance, but also in mannerism and art of sword, one had to wonder if he’s truly only Lia’s little brother and not actually Lia herself.
The only difference is – one that you wouldn’t notice if you don’t look too closely – unlike Lia, he’s a genuinely kind person; and when you say kind, you mean that slightly naïve, help-people-in-need kind, which makes him rather easy to manipulate.
You think you sort of see why Lia wanted you look out for him.
“Every time I see you, I keep thinking of Lia, and I can’t seem to stop.” You tell D’Eon one day, when there’re only the two of you in the room.
“Ah.” D”Eon says, his pen seems to freeze momentarily, dripping dark ink onto the paper he’s writing on.
“Must’ve happened a lot – being compared you your sister, that is.”
His lips part, but nothing comes out, and it’s a few seconds later before he finally replies, “I can’t say it’s unusual, since we did resemble each other.”
You’re watching him, trying to find some kind of dissatisfaction, remorse, anger, frustration – anything but this calm and almost unaffected front he always wears whenever somebody mentions Lia. But he no longer pays attention to you, since his pen is already moving again. And you know from the tight line of his lips that he won’t much care about you for a while now.
It’s not that you’re desperate; it’s just that you need some kind of clarification, and neither Lia nor D’Eon would willingly give it to you. And since you can’t even dream of deceiving Lia, D’Eon is the only option left.
You walk over to him, deliberately standing so close – too close – behind the chair he’s sitting on, your hands on his shoulders. You link your hands over his shoulders then, and if it’s not for his chair, you’d be hugging his back. He doesn’t freeze, no, but it’s a close thing, because you can feel his muscles tense under your touch.
You wait, but he doesn’t do anything – not even pushing you away. It takes a few seconds for you to realize that he – just like you – is also waiting for the other person (you) to make the next move. You’re so close you’re practically breathing down his nape, so you decide to take a step further and press your lips against the skin on the back of his neck.
“Maximillien, what are you doing…?” he sounds weird, rather strangled, almost as if he’s restraining himself – but still much in control.
Well, he definitely has Lia’s self-control, then.
You wonder how much longer you can push him before he finally snaps. You wonder if you’re willing to put that into test.
Might as well get all out.
“D’Eon…” You tilt his head to the side just slightly, trying to get him to face you. Then before he has any time to voice any word out, you silence him with your lips.
You kiss him.
“Lia wants me to watch over you.”
Because she knows she won’t be around forever. Apparently, all those times she played with your mind and heart, all was only for testing you for this, because clearly, asking bluntly is way out of style for her.
“Ah.” D’Eon says. “Is that why you suddenly approached me?”
“No. But it’s a perfect excuse, and I’m not going to waste it.”
“Perfect excuse?” He looks at you almost hesitantly, like he doesn’t want to, but he just has to know. Like he’s preparing to be hurt again, and trying not to make it too obvious.
You clear your throat. “To be near you.”
…and it’s the closest you could ever get to a direct confession.
“…oh.” He says, looking away from you, seeming to be at a loss of words, a slight tinge of pink decorated his cheeks.
You also know that, should you wait for him, he might try to run away; so you have to make the first move, to take the damn initiative for once. You take his hand in yours, tight.
“This is… okay, right?” you really hope it’s only your imagination that you actually sound so unsure and rather scared, because you can’t afford to lose your composure now.
He still doesn’t look at you, but he squeezes your hand back – just a brief, tiny one, but that’s enough for you. You smile, just a little twitch upward at the corner of your lips, but it’s there.
Want me to tell you a secret? Lia smiled.
You shrug. You’re still gonna tell me anyway.
I don’t like you, but still I'd trust you with my life.
That’s why, when the time comes, I’d like you to look out for my most treasured thing in this world.
She was still smiling at you, but her eyes were dead serious, and you really didn’t know how to react to this sudden declaration. You swallowed the heavy lump that suddenly formed in your throat, trying to find your voice back.
You’re being unusually weird.
Just this once, Lia said, can you promise me that?
You stared at her, at the unwavering and insistent cold fire in her eyes, and you felt your resolve crumble. You sighed. Just what is this most treasured thing of yours?
Lia smiled at you, so bright and sincere for once, and you felt you might not ever regret this whatever the consequences later.
You’d know when you see it..