Please refer to previous chapter for the STANDARD DISCLAIMER…
After much debate whether or not to transform my first BH fic into a series, I finally decided in favor of it. The inspiring reviews you wrote played a vital role in convincing me to do this. I really do hope I can live up to your expectations. I also hope to hear from you as the story progresses. I can't promise you chapters as long as the first but I'll try my best… I hope that's good enough for you. Gomen to all you Gateau lovers out there…
So WHAT! Marron Glace interjected mentally, placidly laying down the cup of tea he was sipping and suppressing the urge to retort. He and his older brother, Carrot, found themselves sitting at a local tavern in the industrial center of the town waiting for the Misu sisters who had gone on a spontaneous shopping spree. Gateau was nowhere to be found during breakfast and after that so they decided to tour the town without him, sure that he would, in any way, catch up with them later. It was really a mystery where the muscleman went since he nearly never separated himself from the group during vacations.
So there they were, sipping their tea, and since there were no women about, Carrot settled for the next best pastime. Chocolate and Tira have been gone for an hour and, much to the younger Glace's chagrin, his overly concerned i.e. nosy oniisan had taken this opportunity to try to squeeze out some details from him as to last night's encounter.
Marron sighed in defeat. "What is it, oniisan?"
Carrot gave his brother a meaningful wink. "Oh nothing, imouto. I just can't help but notice how exceedingly close you are with Chocolate all of a sudden. I wonder why…" He trailed off suggestively.
Marron sighed yet again. He has been doing that much today, he mused, though this time, it was more out of exasperation than out of anything else, muttering more to himself than to Carrot, "Why does everybody think that I slept with her?"
"Well, didn't you?" Carrot prodded further.
Marron stuttered and for some unknown reason, a blush crept up his cheeks. Carrot grinned even wider. Taking a sip of tea to somehow alleviate his uncharacteristic embarrassment, he answered matter-of-factly, "Well, technically, I did sleep with her on the same bed but nothing happened between us."
"Why don't I believe you?"
"I do not think that would be my problem, then."
"You weren't tempted?"
"Not even just a little teeny, weeny bit?"
It was Carrot's turn to sigh. Ever since they were children, Marron hadn't shown any particular interest in the opposite sex. That and his rather effeminate features led people, himself included, to believe that his imouto was… well, gay and it worried him. Not that he had shown interest in the same sex either, Gateau could albeit unwillingly attest to that, but Carrot just didn't want to take his chances. He, for one, was quite pleased with the recent development and vowed to never stop until he proved to himself and to his brother's number one admirer that Marron was straight. Not that Chocolate would mind…
"Alright, then," he began in a tone that strongly suggested doubt. "If you say so…"
"But what, oniisan?"
"Do you like her?"
"I said do you like her?"
Marron, once again, fought off a blush. "Ever so much as a friend but not in the way you mean," was his sober reply.
"Oniisan…" Marron exclaimed in frustration.
"What? I was just curious. But you know what?" He sipped some tea. "You two look good together."
Marron nearly choked on his tea and blushed.
Carrot looked at him with a smirk. There was still hope for him yet, after all…
"But what about you?" his imouto retorted.
"Nani?" Carrot queried. "What about me?"
"Are you and Tira in a serious relationship or was it just a one night stand?"
Carrot was thoughtful. That was the exact same thing that had been plaguing his mind ever since he woke up with Tira in his arms.
"Well…" Marron began.
"Well, imouto, to tell you the truth, I… Oh Chocolate, Tira-chan, there you are…" he exclaimed, standing up.
Marron quirked a brow. His brother seemed rather… confused. Shoving away the thought, he then turned towards the sisters who each held an enormous bag in their hands, both of which they dumped unceremoniously unto Carrot.
"Nani?" Carrot sputtered underneath the packages. "What am I supposed to do with these things?"
"Oh I don't know, Carrot-chan," Tira began sarcastically. "We were wondering whether you'd want to have our clothes for lunch."
"Baka! You're supposed to carry them for us," Tira scolded him.
"Hai, heika-sama," Carrot muttered. "But why do I get to carry Chocolate's things as well?"
"Simple, Carrot," the older Misu stated haughtily. "It's coz you're supposed to be in my good graces or else I shall never let Tira marry you when the time comes."
The mentioned two blushed, looked up at her, blushed, looked at each other, blushed and then averted their gazes. Oh and did I mention that the unusual pinkish tinge on each of their faces otherwise known s a blush?
Aww…Kawaii… They look so cute together…Chocolate thought, then chuckled lightly at the irony of it all. There was a time not too long ago, yesterday to be exact, when she thought she would have rather died her death rather than admit as much.
Marron peered at her curiously.
Chocolate blushed at being caught. He must think I'm crazy…
Marron let out an inconspicuous smile.
Chocolate sighed and nodded towards their siblings who suddenly found the ground extremely interesting and began in a very insinuative voice, "Oh well, seems like the two of them need some quality time together, ne, Marron-chan? It would be better if we leave the two love birds alone." And with that she stormed out the tavern.
Marron nodded solemnly and followed her outside.
They were gone long enough for them not to hear Carrot mutter indiscreetly to Tira, "If I haven't known any better, I'd say it's they who need a little quality time… And since when did your sister call Marron 'Marron-CHAN'?"
* * *
Though the sun was quite high by the time Marron and Chocolate found themselves walking down the dirt path towards the inn where they lodged, it was quite cold. There was an icy tinge in the wind that frequently blew past them, scented with the fragrance of wildflowers in the meadows. The sakura trees that occasionally fringed the otherwise bare path were slowly defoliating, sending pinkish blossoms tumbling down upon passersby. Everything around them seemed to be preparing themselves for the coming of winter.
Chocolate yawned while lazily tucking a few wayward strands of hair into place as a playful autumn wind blew, ruffling both her and Marron's tresses into disarray. Frowning at her unsuccessful effort, she looked up at her silent companion who, to her surprise, just let the wind toy with his hair, never lifting a hand to secure them back into place, not that he needed to. Looking serenely into the distance as though deep in thought with his hair fluttering gracefully around him, Chocolate noticed not for the first time that he indeed was beautiful… gifted with a beauty not even a woman can surpass. He looks like an angel… she thought as she cast a sidelong glance at him and blushed. Exactly when did she start seeing Marron as someone other than Carrot's younger brother? It was then when she remembered the things that transpired the night before… the amber-tinted eyes gazing sympathetically into her own, assuring her that everything was alright, the soothing gestures, the comforting words… all these made her see a different side to Marron. Deep within his stoic façade lay a gentle and caring nature that only few had witnessed and she was one of those lucky few. And then there was that subconscious feeling between sleep and wakefulness of being safe in another's arms and the feeling of a heartbeat near her own. And when she awoke, she found an angel.
"My angel…" the unconsciously whispered reflection, though hardly audible, was enough to catch the attention of the object of her thoughts.
"Nani?" Marron asked, turning to his companion who quickly blushed and averted her gaze.
"Nothing," she muttered.
Marron smiled. It was indeed a rarity to see someone as cool and confident such as Chocolate blush, though it still puzzled him as to what could have embarrassed her. She was staring at you… a little voice in his mind said. No, she wasn't, his mind contradicted though there was a certain indescribable feeling that the voice was right. He blushed at the thought as he now found himself staring at her with utmost curiosity. She was beautiful; he had noticed that the night before. Not in a striking, head-turning sort of way but with a wild, carefree, innocent nature that seemed to have come out naturally in her. He realized how her lustrous auburn hair, in fitful disarray around her, somehow reminded him of autumn. There was a sparkle in her eyes that seemed to have intensified as they progressed and a blush in her cheeks that burned even more into it when she realized that his eyes were on her. Marron colored a litter bit more and averted his gaze. Nonetheless, he was still quick to note how the pinkish tint in her cheeks managed to accentuate her frail face and further enhance her beauty. Wait a minute, did I just think that? He wondered. Since when did I think Chocolate attractive? Marron sighed as he likewise remembered the events of that night… how vulnerable and weak she seemed at that time, clinging to him as though he was the only solid thing in a vast sea of loneliness, how much he felt she needed a shoulder to cry on, a friend… It had felt great to feel needed and with sensation came the sudden, instinctive urge to protect and comfort her, as it comes to any member of the male species. It quite disturbed him how much Chocolate, one of the strongest-willed people he had ever known, would have broken down in front of him to a point that he hadn't know what to do. Depending on intuition alone, he had done what he deemed right at that moment. It felt good, holding her in his arms like that. It had been such a long time since he received any physical display of affection such as that. It felt as though…
Marron… Be careful about treating me this way… If you're not, I might fall in love with you…
Marron blushed as those words replayed themselves in his mind. Had she really meant what she said? The mage mentally shook his head. No. She wasn't herself during that time. It had to be the liquor she had drunk that made her say that. It had to be. Wasn't it? The sound of thunder drew him from his musings as the wind blew a little stronger and dark clouds loomed in the distance.
"Oh, crap! Don't tell me it's gonna rain," he heard Chocolate exclaim while looking skyward.
"I'm afraid it is," he replied, following her gaze and, as though on cue, a large raindrop fell upon his face.
"Oh shit!" she exclaimed yet again, frowning, grabbing a startled mage before running off. "Come on, Marron. We'd better hurry before we get soaked. I can see the inn from here."
Marron nodded and broke into a run as well, trying to keep up as she pulled, no dragged, him along.
By the time they reached the inn, the storm was already in full blast and two drenched Sorcerer Hunters found themselves gasping for breath.
"Well, we made it," Chocolate commented cheerfully. "Though I don't think we could be drenched even more than we are now."
The innkeeper approached them with concern and suggested that they quickly take warm baths and change into dry clothes before they caught a cold.
"Thank you, Ma'am," Chocolate replied while climbing the stairs. "That we will."
Walking in a relatively awkward silence, even for Marron, they were almost relieved to reach their corridor and disappear into their respective rooms.
* * *
Marron sighed. He was confused. What was he feeling and why in the four worlds was he feeling it? Reaching the room he was supposed to share with his brother but ended up sharing with Chocolate last night, he was surprised to find the door unlocked. Shoving the fact aside as a mere case of carelessness on his part, (Marron? Careless? I don't think so…) he pulled it open to find…
Indeed, there, sitting nonchalantly on the bed with a bottle of what was unmistakably the strongest wine the bar had to offer, was the group's muscleman, very much intoxicated to say the least.
"Ooh… (hic!) Marron-CHAN… (hic) isshat chou?" he slurred upon noticing his teammate's presence.
Marron stepped in, careful to leave the door open in case of any unpleasantries. I mean, what was he to expect from a drunken flirtatious man who seemed to have a rather alternate preference? Frowning at the sight, the mage assumed a stern voice.
"Gateau. What are you doing in here? Why are you drunk? And where were you all these time? We have been looking all over for you!"
The other man chuckled mirthlessly. "Oh (hic) ishn't that shweet? (hic!) Why, Marron-chan… I didn't know you cared! (hic!) And here I was thinking that you had gone and betrayed me with that… with that… SLUT!" His eyes were blazing at the last word as he strove to stand only to fall back onto the bed. Marron was too outraged to notice.
"What did you say, Gateau?" he asked softly but in a cold voice that made his companion look up at him astonished.
Gateau smiled slyly. "Oh nothing, Marron-CHAN! I'd just thought you weren't that type of person… (hic!)"
Marron glared at him. "I'm sorry, Gateau, but I don't seem to understand what you are saying."
Gateau shook his head groggily. "Tsk. Tsk. Tsk. If you wanted to make me jealous, Marron-chan, well, you'll be glad to know that you've succeeded."
The mage frowned yet again. "Gateau, I don't understand…"
His companion smirked bitterly and exploded. "Damn it, Marron-chan! Haven't you realized by now? I love you! As weird as that sounds, it is the truth and I know love me, too. I just don't understand why the fuck you had to go and sleep with that BITCH …"
Gateau stopped in mid-sentence as a pale hand connected with his cheek in an audible slap.
And there was silence save for the howling of the wind and claps of thunder.
Trembling with rage, Marron withdrew his hand and turned his back against the shocked Gateau who was now clutching the area that was hit. "Gomen nasai, Gateau… demo… please leave…"
Gateau frowned and then closed his eyes laughing bitterly. "What's the matter with you, Marron? Struck a nerve? The truth hurts, doesn't it? You love me but you're just too proud to admit it so you go and fuck that whore just to prove to yourself that you're straight when in fact you're not. Now I know why you volunteered to bring her up to their room last night…"
"Shut up, Gateau…"
"Damn it, Marron-chan! Enough with this bullshit." And with that, he picked himself up and, grabbing Marron's arm, forced the mage to face him. "You know it as well as I do. Why don't you just stop being so stubborn and admit it?"
Looking at his assailant coldly, Marron yanked his arm free from the muscleman's iron grip and stepped away.
"I'm sorry, Gateau, but I have nothing to admit," he said on a voice mirroring his expression. "So if you will excuse me…"
Gateau smirked. "Well, then, if you insist on that, I wonder what Chocolate would say when she learns that you just used her to escape the truth… and me?" Marron was foolish for playing with his emotions. Gateau hated to do this but… You're mine now, Marron-chan…
The mage shrugged while grabbing a towel. "I don't care. After all, nothing happened between us last night. If you don't mind leaving, I'm going to take my bath."
Gateau glared at him and staggered past being stopped only by his teammate's icy tone, "Oh and Gateau. Don't you ever dare call Chocolate such profanities. You don't know her enough to judge her."
The muscleman spat, glared at his back and left. Along the corridor, he was met by a very surprised Chocolate Misu holding a tray. She gave him a very queer look that proved how much the alcohol had changed his appearance and demeanor. Trying to ignore her, he wobbled towards the stairs, taking a swig from the bottle he was, miraculously, still holding and disappeared into the bar.
Was it just me or did Gateau just glare at me back then… the girl thought in confusion and shrugged. Oh well…Humming softly as she walked towards Marron's room, she pushed the door open assuming he had already taken his bath when…
"Eep!" Blushing, she turned her back against an almost naked Marron, a towel wrapped around his waist, and tried to hide her embarrassment.
Marron, for his part, was quite surprised when the door suddenly slammed open to reveal a smiling Chocolate bearing a tray whose contents almost toppled off in her rush to turn around. A red streak began to appear on his face.
"Anou… GOMEN NASAI!!!" they said, almost at the same time.
"I was just…"
"Well, that is…"
Marron sighed. "Alright, you go first."
Chocolate blushed even more and, without moving from her place, closed the door in case somebody passed before launching into a hurried explanation on how she had just finished her bath and, assuming he was also done, decided to go fetch some hot chocolate. She was on her way to his room when she met Gateau and…
"Yes, he was here," Marron replied calmly. "He left minutes before you arrived."
"I see," Chocolate replied absently, trying to banish all the hentai thoughts that suddenly filled her mind at the mention of Gateau having just left and before she knew it, a question tumbled out of her mouth, a question that she knew she'd regret asking.
"Marron, tell me. Are you and Gateau…"
Marron frowned and looked up at Chocolate… well, Chocolate's back, to be exact. It was a question he didn't expect, something he didn't want to hear at that time but…
The unfortunate girl flushed at her sudden slip of the tongue and began to apologize when she was cut off.
"No, Chocolate. Whatever made you think as much?"
"Nothing," Chocolate lied. "Gomen nasai…"
"Look, if it's because you think I'm gay…"
His companion turned around unwillingly and blushed, averting her gaze to the window before saying, "Gomen nasai, Marron. I didn't mean to accuse you of such a thing. It was just that Gateau was drunk when I saw him and…" She trailed off.
The wind howled ever louder as the storm raged on.
"Did he hurt you?" he suddenly asked out of the blue.
"Gateau. Did he hurt you?"
Chocolate shook her head in confusion. "No, Marron, he did not." Though I'm quite positive he DID glare at me… "Why?"
Marron shoved the question aside. "No reason. If you'd please excuse me, I 'd better get to my bath."
Chocolate nodded. "Hai. I'll have the chocolate reheated."
Marron smiled weakly before stepping into the adjacent room. "Arigatou. That would be nice."
* * *
Did he hurt you?
Placing two mugs of steaming chocolate on the bedside table, Chocolate sighed as she remembered the quite unusual question that had been thrown to her minutes ago. Seating herself on the bed, she began sipping her chocolate. The storm was getting fearfully stronger, too strong that she hoped their siblings weren't caught in it. Taking another sip, she pondered on the question at hand. Why did Marron ask her that? And why the heck would Gateau hurt her? She hasn't done anything to him, that is, nothing that she could remember… Unless…
She heard a door open from the adjacent room as well as the sound of the tub being drained. Looking up, she found Marron standing outside it, in the same state as minutes ago, clad only in a towel, raven black hair dripping wet. Damn, he's gorgeous! Chocolate thought involuntarily. Noticing the unusual attention he was receiving, Marron blushed and said softly, "Anou… Chocolate… Do you mind turning around while I change."
Blushing in turn at being caught staring, or rather, ogling, Chocolate stood up and turned to face the window. After a few minutes of silently staring off into the distance, she heard Marron approach the nearby table and take his mug of hot chocolate, a sign that he was done. Turning around to face him, Chocolate reclaimed her position on the bed beside him.
The mage had a thoughtful, unreadable expression on his face. "Hai?"
"Umm… why did you ask me that?"
"What did you mean when you asked if Gateau hurt me? I mean, I don't recall doing anything to him."
Marron sighed and whispered in a weak voice. "Don't worry about him, Chocolate. Believe me, it's not your fault."
Chocolate noticed the weary tone in his voice and asked, "Marron, daijoubu desu ka?"
Marron sighed yet again and managed a slight, albeit forced smile. "Hai, Chocolate. I'm fine."
It was Chocolate's turn to sigh. "Look, Marron. Something's obviously wrong here and I'd be more than willing to help you. You've done so much for me with regards to Carrot that I just can't let you handle your problems alone. I like to help you as much as I can but how can I when you won't tell me what's on your mind?"
"Chocolate, I… I…" he sighed. "It's about Gateau."
The girl nodded and looked at him intently to prove that she was listening. "Okay, go on. I've figured out as much. What happened?"
"Well… I found him in this room when we arrived. I asked him where he went and all that when he suddenly started accusing me of betraying him."
Chocolate frowned. Was Marron lying when he told her he was not gay?
"He told me he loved me and accused me of denying my feelings for him."
"Well, are you?"
Marron refused to meet her gaze. "No… I… Maybe… I don't really know. I… I love him but… but only in a brotherly, friendly sort of way… not… not like THAT! I didn't think he'd misinterpret our closeness… Neither did I think that what he felt for me was a serious as THAT!"
Chocolate noted the tremor in his voice as he spoke and soothingly placed a hand on his shoulder. Marron tuned to look at her, amber meeting cerulean, blushing at their closeness, for a minute forgetting the issue at hand until the mage tore his gaze away. Chocolate withdrew her hand and urged him to continue. Marron let out another sigh and did so.
"I tried to tell him that I didn't feel the same way but then he went and accused me of using you just to deny the fact that I like him… That we…"
He trailed off hesitantly but she understood.
"Nani?" Chocolate exclaimed, blushing both from embarrassment and outrage. "Why does everyone seem to think I slept with you?"
Marron sighed again at the familiar comment. "I don't know where he got that idea. I tried to tell him that nothing happened but then he kept on calling you names… so I slapped him."
"I know. I tried to apologize but he was unfazed. It must be the alcohol. He even attempted to hurt me. It's… It's so unlike him…"
Chocolate looked sympathetically at her friend and began softly. "So, you do care for him, don't you?"
"Yes… just… just not like THAT… Like I said, I care for him as I would care for oniisan and Tira… and you… but… I can't help but wonder whether I just should have given in to his whims… I don't want our friendship to end this way…"
Chocolate frowned sternly and, standing up before him with both hands on her hips, she began her lecture. "Listen to me, Marron. What you did was right; well, maybe not the slapping part but you can't say that trying to hurt you was the right thing for him to do either. It is always right to tell the truth, remember that. Deception hurts much more than a broken heart. I've learned that the hard way. If his claim of loving you is indeed true, he'll respect your decision. The question is… are you sure that you don't feel the same?"
Marron frowned. "I… I suppose."
He sighed. "Look, Chocolate. I'm really confused right now."
She quirked a brow. This wasn't going to be easy. "Alright," she began cautiously. "Tell me, Marron. What do you feel whenever he, you know, flirts with you?"
He blushed. "Well, of course, I'm embarrassed."
"Why are you embarrassed?"
"I'm just not used to that kind of attention."
"Is that all?"
"Well, yes. Is there supposed to be anything else?"
"No heart-thumping, butterflies in the stomach sort of thing?"
Alright. He still seems unsure. She sighed. Oh well, desperate times call for desperate measures.
"Okay, Marron," she began. "Now tell me this. What did you feel when you held me last night?"
"Nani?" The mage colored even more.
Chocolate repeated her question, trying not to blush herself.
Marron averted his gaze. "Well… That is… It was… pleasant."
It was Chocolate's turn to blush. "Nani?"
Marron sighed. "I said, it was pleasant. It has been such a long time since I had really hugged anybody in that manner. It made me feel… Okaasama usually held me like that when I was young. I remember one day when oniisan hadn't come to school and the bullies took the opportunity to beat me up. I came home that day full of bruises and wounds and okaasan was so worried. She scooped me into her arms and I cried. I never cried before and she comforted me telling me everything was going to be alright. I guess," he concluded. "I guess it's good to know that I have done the same for you."
Chocolate blinked, a fond expression on her face. Whatever she expected him to say, that wasn't it.
"Demo… why did you ask me that?"
Chocolate blushed. "Well, I was trying to help you figure out your sexual preference and well, I don't recall you having any encounter with members of the opposite sex so I just used that as an example. I guess it didn't work, ne?"
Marron looked at her, quite surprised. Of the two Misu sisters, Tira always has been quite the intellectual and he had respected her for that. He didn't think Chocolate capable of it. He had always thought Chocolate to be impulsive, throwing all caution to the wind and depending on instinct alone. Once again, he was beginning to see another side to her and that made him admire her even more. But… what DID I feel when I was holding her? And…
"So?" Chocolate asked, noticing the faraway expression on his face. "Did you just realize something?"
Marron blushed. "Anou, Chocolate. If you don't mind me asking… what did you mean by…"
"By what you said before you fell asleep?"
Chocolate frowned, deep in thought. What did she say before she fell asleep? She remembered crying, releasing all her pent-up emotions, pouring out to him the deepest secrets of her hear, him comforting her, telling her everything was okay and then…
Marron… Be careful about treating me this way… If you're not, I might fall in love with you…
Blushing at the realization, she tried to evade the subject. Laughing forcedly, she replied, "I'm sorry, Marron, but I don't seem to remember anything from last night. Must be the liquor. Why'd you ask?"
If he was disappointed, Marron did not show it. Wait a minute… why should I be disappointed?
He sighed. "No reason."
Chocolate's heart skipped a beat. Why did he seem so.. interested all of a sudden? Trying to ignore the unusual feeling, she faced him and told him, "Well, if you like, I could go and talk with Gateau… You know, to tell him that nothing's going on between the two of us… It's the least I could do…"
Marron managed a smile. "Arigatou but I don't think that would be necessary. It would be better if I did the talking-to. After all, it is my problem."
Chocolate blinked before plopping down once again on the bed beside him, her pulse racing. What the heck am I feeling and why am I feeling it? It's not as though…
"Alright," she said subconsciously, more out of the need to stop her train of thought than to reply. Just then, a loud crash was heard as lightning hit a nearby tree.
Chocolate took a sip from her mug and continued. "Well, I've never really thanked you for last night."
"It's nice to have someone who understands you." She let out a chuckle. "I never knew you to be so… I dunno, caring. It really helped a lot."
The mage was looking at her now with a blank expression on his countenance. An ordinary observer would have said he was unmoved by her speech. Unless the said observer happened to notice a sudden flicker in his eyes.
Chocolate smiled. "And I just want to tell you that if ever you need someone to talk to, I'll be here."
Marron smiled in return. "I know."
Now THAT was crappy, wasn't it? I'm starting to regret transforming this into a series. Was it better as a stand-alone piece? Please review and tell me. I am very much willing to take it down or revise it if you don't like it… But I really hope you like it coz it was such a struggle writing this. Until the next chapter… hopefully…