It's been a while, but with an extra day for relaxing and Halloween coming up I thought I might as well update a few fics, starting with this one. Hopefully there are still people reading this.
Warning: To anybody who somehow skipped the previous chapters, this will come off as being bad yaoi.
Centurion awoke with a chill. Through tired eyes he looked around his dark bedroom, his vision blurry and his breath ragged. He thought his sickness had improved somewhat, but the fact that every blink caused jolts of dizziness to engulf his head proved otherwise, "Son of a..." He coughed before he could finish the sentence, causing a grimace to form on his tired face. He hated being cooped up like this, trapped beneath a blanket like a helpless child while his friends were out there doing their jobs. It made him feel pathetic.
"Damn," He coughed again, his throat coming apart with every breath he took. Perhaps letting Amethyst take blood from him when he was still sick wasn't such a good idea, but she had been taking care of him for the past couple of days and he thought her taking just a bit wouldn't be too dangerous; what harm could it come to if he lost a couple of spoonfuls of blood? It wasn't as if he couldn't replace it. Thinking back on it now, maybe allowing her to feed when he could barely stand wasn't such a good idea.
He turned his head to the side and stared at the darkness in his room. It was nighttime now and the only light that came to his room was the glow of the red and blue twin moons. Still, he could make out the empty bed next to his and it sent him into a brief fit of melancholy. He'd only known Karin for a few weeks and now seeing the bed next to his being empty felt...wrong somehow. He laughed to himself - He remembered when they first met and when they both protested at Vivian forcing them to share rooms. Back then it was hard to imagine the idea of the pink-haired effeminate knight becoming his best friend and closest confidant. Centurion and Rancis were great friends to be sure, but if and when he ever decided to talk about his past and...and Karina...he would definitely look to Karin first and foremost.
Best friend...his lips twitched into a weary smile. When Karin had received the title for Chevalier there, for just a moment, when he felt dread at the thought of him moving out losing contact with the three of them now that he had been officially declared a hero for exposing Estashu. He still chuckled at the memory of Karin fainting when he had been declared a chevalier and cheered on by the crowd that just minutes ago thought he was a traitor to Tristain. They drank a lot that night, partly for celebration and mostly because they were all happy about getting out of it alive and making friends with two Vampires along the way - That was something he'd never thought he would be capable of doing in this life.
It was a pleasant surprise for him when Karin told him that he would stay with him here, ostensibly because finding a new place right now would be too much of a hassle and he didn't want to bother when he was already living somewhere practical. It was a load of crock to be sure, though Centurion didn't call his friend out on it: If there was one thing he learned about the recently turned Chevalier it was that he was dishonest about his true intentions. Barkus told him there was appeal in girls like that and that it was a shame that Karin was a male with his looks, but he personally didn't see the appeal of a girl who was dishonest with how she felt. He could see that getting real tiring real fast.
His mind also reminded him that he kissed Karin - again, as the case may be - under a drunken stupor, but he put it down. He was drunk and it didn't mean anything, although at one point he did hear him moan that it was his first kiss and that he would kill Centurion for it one day. The ashen-haired knight rolled his eyes: It didn't really count if it was another male, unless he really was one of those rare people who preferred the same gender over the other, then...well, he'd think on that when his mind was more focused. In either case he certainly objected to being labeled as someone who didn't prefer the fairer sex, so he was sure his weirdly scantily clad friend preferred the opposite gender.
The sound of the door creaking open jolted him out of his thoughts, "Who's there?" He called out weakly, his throat straining to form the words as he tried to make out the shadowy figure near the doorway. Amethyst had gone to see her sister and his three friends were still busy doing their own jobs, so there was no one expected to visit him. A part of his mind briefly pondered that maybe it was Karina rising from the dead and coming for revenge, but he reminded himself that it was impossible. Karina was dead and the corpse that ran around was nothing but a malevolent spirit using her body as a shell. Without the necromancer powering her then there was no way for her to come back.
"Centurion? It's me..." It certainly was a Karina, thought not the one he expected. The older male visibly relaxed at the sound of the high voice; there was only one male that sounded like that, "I'm...I'm back from the castle...and...and I need to talk to you about something," Centurion raised an eyebrow. Karin was being hesitant? He never thought he'd see the day. He tried to stand up, but all he managed to do was sit up slightly by resting against the wall and shiver feebly as the wind hit against his bare skin. Damn, he really was getting more and more sick.
"What is it?" His voice came out hoarsely. Karin fidgeted in place before stepping forward again and Centurion's eyes widened at the sight of him. He wasn't wearing the outfit Princess Marianne had given him or event he new clothes she had replaced her old attire with, but rather an oversized tunic that barely went past his thighs and nothing else. He shook his head and did his best to keep his breathing controlled - Karin wore the same attire when they had first bunked together and changed into a more appropriate attire of a long sleeved tunic and loose pants after the next day when he had woken her up and he - for whatever reason - thought exposing his body to another male was somehow shameful.
Still, he couldn't help but admit that Karin was really pretty for a guy. His brown eyes looked at Karin's pale, exposed skin reflecting the moonlight and he felt heat rush to his face. Fate truly had a cruel sense of humor making someone as gung-ho and hotheaded as pretty as some of the noble ladies he had seen at court. Looking closer he could make out what almost seemed like curves on her waist and chest, but that was impossible. The fourteen year old simply hadn't matured enough and in a few years his slender physique would be replaced by scars and muscle. Or he could end up like Rancis, but the playboy was proud of the fact that his looks were from his genes and nothing else.
Karin continued to stand in place and fidget, although Centurion could see that his cheeks were as pink as his hair. What in the void was going on? Why was his compatriot standing in the middle of the room and...and blushing! Karin didn't blush, didn't hesitate; the closest he had come to having his cheeks redden was whenever he was angry, and he certainly didn't look angry right now. Rather, he actually looked cute- No! He was not thinking that his male friend looked cute! Karina may have been dead but that didn't mean he had given up on women. He was still in mourning, but that wouldn't last forever. He even improved on his drinking somewhat, so there was progress in that if nothing else.
"Centurion...you're-you're staring..." Centurion nearly felt himself heave when he realized that Karin was right - He had been looking him up and down, drinking in the sight of his exposed body. He turned away and took deep, rapid breaths. No, this was wrong. This was...a joke! Yes, that's what it was! Barkus and Rancis likely put Karin up to this because they wanted to see his reaction. He forced a smile on his face and looked past him and out the doorway. Any second now they would burst in and laugh at the fact that he was staring at his best friend. The two stooges had thought he was a homosexual or that he had particular tastes since he didn't go with one of the, ahem, workers at the brothel they visited to cheer Karin up when he had been fired a week prior.
"D-Don't you like it?" Karin's uncharacteristically timid voice called out again. He resisted the urge to look at him again and kept his eyes firmly planted on the door; any second now the two idiots would come barreling in and start laughing at the fact that he was, because of the sickness riddling him causing confusion (or so that's what he told himself), temporarily attracted to his closest friend. By the void, it wasn't as if Barkus had any right to laugh at him! He still remembered when he first ran into Karin living with him and how he immediately asked him out before Centurion reminded him that Karin was male regardless of how appealing- No! Bad thoughts!
"C-Centurion? Why aren't you looking at me?" He called out again, and again the senior knight ignored him. How long was this joke going to last? He could see it being funny at first, but they were certainly taking their time and milking it for all it was worth. He was honestly tempted to just call out to them and tell them to cut it out.
Seeing his constant ignorance, the pink-haired Chevalier felt a slight anger bubble inside. It had taken a lot of effort and courage to do this and he was ignoring it! Centurion saw him seething in irritation, incorrectly assuming that he was getting irritated like he was about being forced into exposing himself for the others amusement. He briefly wondered what they could have offered him to make him do this before he remembered the incident at the Charming Fairies. Even if Barkus was paying for everything Karin wasn't so heartless that she didn't feel any guilt for being the cause of said payments, so Barkus likely guilt-tripped him into doing this as a way for making up not having to pay for even a single denier.
"H-Hey! I want you to look at me!" Ah, that was the Karin he knew. Centurion smiled at what he assumed to be the joke failing due to his friend's temper before he saw Karin stomping closer to him. Before he could say anything the shorter male leaned forward on the bed and pushed him down. His smug smile was replaced by shock as the pinkette stared down at him, his cheeks a blazing red and his breathing nervous as they both realized how close they were.
"...Karin?" He struggled briefly to push Karin off before it became rather obvious he wasn't going to budge. Normally Centurion was stronger than him when it came to physical prowess, but his sickness, the fact that he had been wasting away in bed for the past couple of days and because he had let Amethyst keep feeding on him meant he was as strong as a child right now, "You...You can stop now...this joke gone on far enough," He looked away in embarrassment as he saw Karin's lips and exposed neck. Damn, he had gone far too long without physical intimacy if he was looking at Karin and thinking how he wanted to kiss- Damn it! The kiss was an accident! He was drunk and it didn't count!
"Do-Do you know how embarrassing this is?" Karin's fingers traced gently along Centurion's bare chest, eliciting a barely contained mumble and increased breathing from the runaway noble, "I did my best to hold it in, you know? First Princess Marianne and now you," Centurion blinked. Princess Marianne? Did...Did Karin do something to the princess? "I don't know why, but when I see you I just..." He closed his eyes and scowled, "You're an idiot, you drink every night, your breath smells like alcohol, you don't take your duties seriously and...and...you're an idiot! You're in love with a dead woman! You're so blind with grief and lost love that you refuse to move on and look for someone else!"
"I...I already know that..." He didn't feel hurt with the accusations; despite her temper and disposition for violence, Karin was very rarely verbally abusive and the five of them had learned that the pinkette's actions were rarely ever honest. Daphne in particular once remarked that he was still hiding something from them, but when he questioned her on it she only remarked that he would tell them when the time was right. Was this it? Was he hiding how much he resented their attitudes to their knighthood and his continued mourning for Karina?
"But-But despite all that, I..." He looked down and formed a pained expression. Despite him just verbally flaying him just now he still wanted to find out why he looked to be in so much grief, "I thought...that-that when I left my family that I would have no one else to count on, that I'd have to rely on myself and no one else if I wanted to be a great knight," His grip on the sick man's shoulder tightened, "But everything that's happened keeps proving me wrong: Barkus and Rancis stood up for me when I was declared a traitor; Daphne and Amethyst offered to help me with my secrets; the princess did her best to befriend me; and...and..." She pursed her lips, "You. You saved me when I was about to be executed, you would've been declared a traitor...so why?"
"..." Centurion didn't answer. He believed Estashu was a traitor, but he had no guarantee that he wouldn't be executed before he was outed and even with the manticore he would have eventually been overwhelmed by sheer numbers alone. But despite that he didn't want to lose his friends. He didn't want to lose Karin, even if it meant going against Tristain and being labeled a traitor for all of history. It wasn't as if he had anything left to taint - His family would never acknowledge him even in death and at least then he would have died for his friends rather than staring at the bottom of a bottle trying in vain to erase his pain by drinking till he lost all his faculties. Hr wanted to make Karin proud and show him that he was more than just a pathetic drunk pining over an animated corpse.
"I thought I wanted to be alone, but now...the thought of anybody else leaving me hurts..." He took hold of Centurion's hand and placed it gently against his chest. Centurion noted uncomfortably that his chest was rather soft for a guy, "When I was about to die, hanged for being a traitor, I though of you...about how I wanted to say goodbye...and that I regretted not being able to say that...that..." He closed his eyes. Even now he couldn't say it, too afraid of being rejected once the secret kept in his heart was exposed. Would Centurion, Rancis and Barkus reject her once they found out? He was going to tell them, but the thought of them leaving always stopped him. He couldn't say it, so maybe he could just show him.
"K-Karin-" Centurion took a ragged breath as Karin placed his lips against his chest and bit down gently, "W-Wait, Karin, this isn't right!" He ignored him and bit down again, this time on his neck. Centurion felt ashamed at the pleasure he felt, his hands shaking as he debated whether to push him off. He didn't like the same gender, but for some reason he found himself weakening in Karin's presence. He closed his eyes and exhaled as Karin nibbled on his earlobe.
"Centurion..." Karin's mind was in a haze. Blankly his small fingers reached under the blankets towards the top of his loose trousers. Centurion hissed as he felt Karin's touch. This was wrong, he was his best friend and they'd been through too much together in the short time they'd been together. Why would he act this way now?
"Stop..." Exerting all his effort, Centurion grabbed Karin's shoulders and managed to push her off slighly, "Karin, I'm sorry. I can't," He turned away, unable to look at his hurt expression, "You're my best friend and that will never change, but I can't return your feelings...not like this," As much as it would have pained the younger male, he couldn't see him as a lover due to his gender. He didn't mind if Karin liked other guys, but he had to understand and accept that he couldn't share those feelings with another male.
"Wh-Why not!?" He demanded.
"Why...? B-Because you're a guy, that's why!" Despite nearly yelling the excuse sounded feeble to both of them. With Karin it was hard to look at him and instantly think of a male. Centurion and the other two simply looked at Karin as Karin; his actions and personality was that made him his own person. Barkus once joked that Karin would still be their friend even if she were just a hotheaded lady from court or a commoner peasant, and Centurion found himself agreeing. Karin was a hotheaded, temperamental brat with a constant chip on his shoulder and a romanticized view of knighthood and chivalry and they wouldn't have had him any other way.
"So that's it then...?" Karin's tone had turned cold. Centurion gulped nervously and nodded, "Then...Then what if I wasn't a guy? What if I was a girl? What if I was a noble and aristocratic lady like Princess Marianne? Would you accept it then?"
"I...I don't know, okay!" Centurion admitted, "But...I don't want you to change. You're angry, dishonest and sometimes I just want to strangle the life out of you, but that's the Karin I know and I wouldn't want it any other way," A smile found its way into his face, "I can't imagine you meek and submissive and I don't want to see you that way. If you were different then...I wouldn't have had the strength to move past Karina because no one would be there to pull me up whenever I fall down. People may hate you because of how you act, but we all care about you because of who you are. We...I don't want things to change.
Karin grit his teeth - Even when he was making excuses the drunkard always knew what to say. He resisted the urge to scream in frustration and grabbed Centurion's hand again, "You're lying! If I was a girl then you and the others would abandon me! Because I lied to you..."
"Lie? Karin, I don't know what-" Centurion was interrupted by Karin locking his lips in a kiss and pushing his tongue into his. Centurion felt torn: A part of him was sickened, being kissed by another male. Another felt...happy, as if the intimate contact was somehow right and that he shouldn't fight back. Seeing Centurion's doubt, Karin pushed forward and deepened the kiss before maneuvering his hand between his legs. He couldn't tell him, but he could show him.
Centurion's unfocused mind barely managed to register where his hand had been placed, but as soon as it did his awareness heightened and focus returned to his mind. His first instinct was disgust and to throw Karin off, but when he suppressed he quickly realized something was wrong. Karin whimpered as Centurion's hand realized that something was wrong. That something was missing and that it was rather vital considering who the pinkette was supposed to be.
His mind raced. Was Karin a eunuch? No, the feeling was all wrong and those who their, ahem, swords cut off usually died within a few days - Typically it was used as a way to humiliate a disgraced noble or upstart commoner. If Karin was one of them then she would have been dead and likely branded to ensure that everyone would know his shame. The only other explanation then was...
"...Do you see now?" Karin broke off the kiss and looked down at Centurion sadly, "I lied to you. I lied to everyone. I wanted to be a knight and I knew that they would never let someone like me join without connections like Vivian. So I kept it a secret from everyone till a time when I wouldn't have a choice but to tell you and everyone else. I was scared that you and everyone else would leave me if I told you too soon. I wanted to tell you ever since I became a Chevalier, but..."
Centurion was stunned, his mind trying to grasp what his best friend had told him. He was...no she was a female? She'd kept it hidden from them? "Karin...you're..."
"Yes," She closed her eyes and kissed him again and Centurion accepted it, too stunned by the revelation to accurately grasp what was happening. Was everything she'd told them a lie? Was this what Daphne had meant when she said that Karin was hiding a secret from them. He wanted to yell at Karin, to ask her why she never came clean with it when he had told her his own dark secrets and the nightmares that plagued his mind. He understood her reasons but it didn't stop it from feeling like she didn't trust him.
The kiss continued, though Centurion didn't know how long. He wanted to push her off, to ask her why she was acting so odd and why she thought he and the others would leave her after everything they had been through. Did she think their bond was so weak that this would destroy the friendship they all had? He would never leave her, not after she had saved all of Tristain and helped him move past Karina. By the Void, if he could make friends with a couple of Vampires what made her think being a female would make him leave her?
The door slammed open again, bathing the room in a loud noise, "Hey Centurion, we're back!" That was Rancis' voice, "We wanted to see if you were feeling better and if we could go to the castle and see Karin-"
The sounds of dropping glass reverberated around the room. Karin stood up abruptly and looked to the source of the disturbance. Through the darkness he could see Centurion, Barkus, Daphne and Amethyst staring at the two of them: The first two looking away and looking to be close to vomiting and the latter two blushing and coughing awkwardly. Centurion looked up at Karin again and realized how it looked - Karin, who Rancis and Barkus knew as male, was straddling him and barely wearing anything while they were quite blatantly kissing just a few seconds prior. Yes, this looked rather bad all things considered. Through his panic, Centurion could only say one thing.
"...This isn't what it looks like."
God I suck at romance scenes :/ Well, this will be one of the few straight up romance situations with nothing stupid happening in the middle. Well, for now we reach the Karin/Marianne/Centurion main love triangle, with Daphne, Amethyst and Henry making things complicated. And that's not even getting to Karin's gender issues and any issues that will arise if/when the princess ever finds out. Writing Karin here felt hard since she was so OOC, but this will (hopefully) be the last time.
Ashen Author - This wasn't really made with canon compatibility in mind. I'll do my best not to derail canon completely, but who Karin ends up with is ultimately unknown as of now.
Yuri-Hime-Chan - Thanks, but I have Spacebattles :)