Holly with Dead Leaves

Rating: PG-13

Genre: Angst/General

Warnings: Implications of slash

Spoilers: Volume Four

Summary: Love sprouts the most beautiful flowers but withers the strongest tree. Are two hearts forever estranged as they wrestle with so many loves? Les Bijoux slash Panther/Carnelian

Note: This happens to take place when the Lapis's motley band takes shelter with the bandit group in Isle Mine, before Lapis's and Carnelian's own conversation.

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Disclaimer: I own nothing of Les Bijoux, even though when I took the dating quiz it came with, I am a good match with Carnelian…

~*~

"It has been a while, Panther," a quiet baritone murmured.

The black-haired guardian turned slowly, looking at the speaker. His hand rested upon the trunk of a tree, feeling the rough bark under his smooth fingers.

"Carnelian," he acknowledged in his soft, melancholy tenor.

The scarred Habit padded to the other male within the grove. There was something oddly subdued about him, Panther noted. It was as though all unnecessary features were burned and trimmed away, leaving a steady blaze that was Carnelian's very essence and will. The scars the Habit, or rather, ex-Habit, carried had peeled away the superficial exterior, revealing beauty Carnelian always had, beyond the physical prettiness.

"You said little the last time we met," Carnelian said, interrupting the guardian's musing. "Four long years ago."

"My mind was focused on my master," Panther said shortly and somewhat tartly.

"You still have your dedication… and all your coolness to everything that does not concern your master or your 'duties.' You have many broken hearts trailing behind you, old friend," Carnelian remarked, stopping a few feet away from the dark haired man.

"I was not aware 'friends' say such remarks," Panther retorted, eyes flashing.

Carnelian only looked at the dark haired man calmly; chin lifting in the regal, almost arrogant, manner he was accustomed to as a Habit. "On the contrary, that is the purpose of… companions. To be the mirror that shows us what we are blind to in ourselves. And any blind fool can see that that feisty woman-warrior with you carries love for you. Those eyes hold the pain of unrequited love and slowly dying hope."

"An infatuation," Panther said coolly. "One that has lasted far too long."

Carnelian smirked, though it was no longer full of foppish arrogance. It was a wry expression, of little amusement or smugness. "It seems not. Perhaps you showed her the soft kitty once, long ago, and now she thinks that she can find it and have it back by unfreezing you."

"What is the point of this?" Panther growled, glaring at the elegant man.

"Can't take it?" responded Carnelian, still calm. His eyes, golden brown, once warm and soft, now clear and cool, studied Panther with shocking intensity. "Can't accept that there perhaps is life beyond 'duty' and perhaps there is nothing wrong with enjoying life and its sensations?"

"I am not alive," Panther said tartly. "The Creator put me here for one reason: to protect my master, the Chosen One."

"But you eat, drink, breathe. You can get hurt and you can die." Carnelian then grinned lecherously at the guardian. "And you certainly have the anatomy and ability to procreate."

Panther didn't blush, but he did look disturbed by that remark.

"You are beautiful, you know," Carnelian continued, going on a completely different vein. "You are any woman's – or man's – dream." A slow, sultry smile crossed the man's face as he tossed back strands of his red-gold hair. "I remember seeing you after seven years exile in that cage, collared… and I lusted."

Panther actually took a step back, as Carnelian gazed at him with all the languid, deceptive quality of the very beast he was.

"Indeed… there was something very alluring about you, seeing you like that," Carnelian purred, leaning close. Panther's keen nose could smell clean sweat and heavy musk. "It reminded me of years before. When I was an innocent."

"You were barely an innocent for the allotted time," the guardian said harshly.

"I was innocent when I met you," Carnelian murmured softly. "When I saw you in the gardens. I thought you were an angel, or a spirit… how right I was in the latter. I ran after you, proclaiming love."

"You were a boy of fifteen," Panther said stiffly.

"Indeed," the other male said. "And you quickly helped banish my innocence… Especially in pleasure." Gold hooded eyes gazed at the spirit.

"It was something that I shouldn't have done," Panther said harshly. "I took advantage of you."

Carnelian laughed softly. "Indeed you did." His voice dropped an octave. "How many nights did we spend together in those gardens? How many afternoons did we have for your teachings, when you told me of the Creator and the coming Age of Gold?"

Panther took another step back. "Then you left for your juju," he hissed hoarsely.

Carnelian's eyes flickered in pain. "Indeed I did. You introduced me to lust and love, Panther. But it seemed as though you would not be my eternal partner." He then laughed. "It seems… as though we both were very foolish."

Panther only glared at the man, eyes of polished jet flashing dangerously.

Carnelian then touched the other male's cheek softly. "And we still are. We seek the love of a man who will have neither of us," he whispered hoarsely. "We are fools because of love, Panther. Languishing over lost memories and hopelessly tangled in the webs of hearts."

Those golden-brown eyes were impossibly sorrowed. "You no longer remember me, Panther… And I do not believe I even remember myself…"

He then kissed Panther sweetly, almost desperately. Panther froze but the soft lips gently coaxed his and he let his eyes close as Carnelian held him.

In that moment, he felt something warm in him. Carnelian pulled away, eyes still sorrowful.

"But we can't bring back the past, now can we?" he whispered and walked away.

The warmth in Panther's heart withered away to the chill he was accustomed to, as he watched Carnelian's form depart.

~*~

Author's notes:

Well, an interesting piece, no? Yes, this isn't the typical type of pairing within the love triangles and pentagons and hexagons and otherwise twisted shapes that are called Les Bijoux.

Actually, the motivation for writing this was a conversation Panther and Carnelian had during the first volume, or rather, most of their conversations. There is a definite implication of a past relationship. Carnelian knew quite a bit about the prophecies and ancient legends, far too much.

And it doesn't seem that the libraries of Soleil castle would contain that kind of stuff…

I actually came up with this during a lecture and while scribbling on a notepad. I have the draft still /laughs/ and it's covered in doodles and notes to my friend, all done in red and purple ink.

By the way, holly means, "Am I forgotten?" in flower language. Dead leaves mean sadness.