Title: Thin Line
Characters/Pairings: Justin/Florian
Author's Notes: This is shortly after Chapter 2 of The Beggar Queen. I have no idea where this came from. I hate writing slash fics and any kind of suggestive content, but for some reason I couldn't get this particular story idea to leave me alone. Maybe my mind's just stuck in the gutter.
Disclaimer: I obviously don't own the Westmark trilogy. If I did I'd actually have money, I probably wouldn't spend my time writing fanfiction, and Keller would not have been the victim of the common cold.

Thin Line

Cabbarus, Skeit… this is a mess, Florian thought to himself as he paced his room. Zara kept coming in, telling him to sit down before he gave himself a heart attack. He scoffed and shooed her away for the umpteenth time. He needed to think. He turned on his heel to cross his room yet again and paused. He glanced over his shoulder and found Justin standing in the doorway, watching him with an almost cruel amusement.

"Come in, Justin," Florian said, his voice weary.

Justin walked in and stood before Florian, his face alit with excitement. "Our time is now. What Theo said… it shows that the power of the monarchy is waning. We must act now, seize the throne and dispose of the monarchy."

"Are you forgetting Cabbarus? Would you really wish to have a weakened government try to keep Cabbarus from the kingdom?" Florian asked.

"Cabbarus is no threat. The people haven't forgotten what he did. No one will support him. Whatever support he has will dwindle before he reaches our borders," Justin shrugged the subject off as if it was nothing but an annoying gnat. He then withdrew a knife from his belt and forced it into Florian's hand. His eyes shone with eagerness. "Swear allegiance to me. Serve by my side, help me led these people to freedom."

Florian dropped the knife on his camp bed and shook his head. "And have Theo and Queen Augusta forcibly removed from the throne? Madness. They'll be killed within the day."

"So be it if that is the price of freedom. What are two lives compared to the thousands that were lost fighting for the queen's right to the throne? We fought just to be thrown back down in our rightful place at the feet of the royals the moment the throne was won. The dogs of the monarchy."

"Bloodshed is not the answer to this. The only way to save this kingdom is through peace."

"Peace? Don't you see? The only way left to achieve peace is through bloodshed."

Florian glanced at his greatcoat hanging on the hook by the door and turned away. He was not ready to return to the battlefield on a whim. A hint of impatience infringing on his usual calm, Florian retorted, "I will not swear allegiance to a child's folly."

Justin's eyes visibly darkened. His already dark violet irises seemed to turn an almost impossible shade of black as Justin's fury rose. Florian almost expected Justin to kill him then and there. He didn't even need a weapon; Florian was sure the hate in his eyes was enough.

"If you go through with this, you will die," he said, trying to talk sense to the boy.

"Will I? And how do you foresee my death? Will it be your hand that kills me, Florian?" Justin challenged. "Did you take that blade from me in my childhood just to stab me in the back with it later in life?"

"I took that blade from you so you could live."

Justin laughed bitterly. "Well, I refuse to live my life as a slave to the monarchy."

"Do you think you want Marianstat any less than I do? I want nothing more than to see this kingdom free to rule itself. However, what you are suggesting is not the right path," Florian said.

"No, you're just too blind to see the right path. Like I said, you've become a monarchist yourself," Justin taunted.

"I'm not the one that's blind."

Gray eyes met violet. Justin advanced toward him, looking murderous. It was then that Justin's mouth collided with his, his hands clutching the front of his shirt and holding him fast. There was no desire behind the kiss, no real feeling, only hot tongue and teeth. Florian didn't allow himself to wince at the bruising force behind Justin's kiss, at the teeth hitting against his, making his lip bleed. Justin urged his mouth wider, his tongue roughly entering his mouth, sliding against his. Florian could taste blood—his own probably—and the salt of tears.

Then, just as quickly as it had happened, it was over. Justin released his grip on him, pushing him backward. Their breathing was labored—Justin's fast and harsh, Florian's quietly out of rhythm. Florian wiped his knuckle across his swollen, bleeding lips and watched Justin evenly. Justin's face was an angry red, his scar twitching and his eyes bloodshot from silent tears that had nothing to do with sorrow. Behind the façade of anger, Florian could see the pleading question shining from behind Justin's eyes: Why? Why do you keep me alive when I want nothing more than to die?

It was the answer that made Justin both love and hate Florian. Selfishness. Florian saw potential in Justin; he was the perfect warrior, made stronger by the things that would break the will of any other man or woman. He was also a reminder for Florian, a living reminder of exactly what he was for and what he was fighting against. It was the monarchy that had made Justin what he was today, and Florian was reminded of this every time he looked at him. Justin, like an eagle, thirsted for freedom and that was what Florian's goal was. Florian wasn't trying to topple the régime though, he wasn't trying to seize the throne; he was looking for freedom. He wanted nothing more than to see Marianstat free from the shackles of the monarchy. That made him selfless. However, he used Justin as a rallying point and a weapon, and that was what made him selfish.

"You're a fool, Florian. You cannot turn me from this path. And if you get in my way, I will kill you," Justin vowed, that paper-thin emotion between love and hate shining in his eyes, contradicting the calm in his voice. With that said, he turned and left the room. It pained Florian to realize he had failed Justin, that he had condemned him to die by saving his life all those years ago. Staring down at the knife Justin had given him, he wondered which of them would fall victim to death first and just how welcomed that death would be.