Originally Posted by CJPwnz
Pretty good read
Thank you! :3
Hi, everyone! Chapter five in all its mushy glory. I wanted to address something right now: This particular story will not have an explicit lemon as I am focusing primarily on character development and relationship building and the overall plot. However, I am a fan of smut. While this story will likely end up having implied citrus-y goodness, I don't want to raise the rating from T. So! What I will do if/when I get to that point is post a one-shot. It would be there to read if you wanted and have nothing to do with the plot here. *shrug* So yeah there's that. Anywaaaaay. On with the show!
Chapter 5: A Slight Miscalculation
A Slight Miscalculation
They slept little on the trip back to Demacia in order to hasten the journey and arrived at the gates a little over a day sooner. Garen was pleased Katarina had decided to go back to the city with him, although he suffered the brunt of her sleeplessness and stress: gone was the sarcastic banter and playful glares, replaced by weary, half-hearted insults and a distracted gaze.
She just lost her father, Garen constantly reminded himself, although it did little to assuage his worry. His own father died several years ago but their bond was virtually non-existent. Marcus Crownguard provided for his family and Garen had no doubts that he loved Lilia and his children, but he was always emotionally out of reach from his children, too much control and disengagement, too little nurturing.
Strange that, despite how evil the Noxians were rumored to be, Katarina's own relationships with her sister and late father made Garen ache with longing and jealousy. He committed to seeing Lux within the next few days, no excuses.
As they reached the city walls, Katarina donned a cloak like the one she had given Garen and pulled it low over her face, hiding her scar, eyes and hair. The Demacian led them through the less populous streets to the castle where they entered through the barracks rather than the front; no one would suspect the Vanguard commander in his own domain and the fear of appearing traitorous would keep anyone from questioning why he escorted such a shadowy figure.
Jarvan was waiting for them in his study, eager to hear about the results of the investigation. He swung open the door and pulled them inside after only one knock.
"So did you find anything?" he probed enthusiastically, looking back and forth between the commander and the assassin.
Katarina diverted her eyes to side, so Garen replied to the prince in a business-like tone, "Yes sir. We discovered the private office of the person who has been commanding the organization of the events in Kalamanda. We recovered their journal." In a softer voice, he added, "We also discovered a code left by Marcus DuCouteau, but we did not look into it in detail."
He handed the leather notebook to the prince, who immediately sat at his desk and began looking through it. "This might end up being extremely useful! If we can get to the bottom of this, we'll have handwritten proof of the conspiracy!"
Finally Katarina spoke, "I will work on the code left by my father. It may lead to more information about the person who is running this."
"Of course," the prince agreed. "Though if you need help please let me know. I'm sort of under house arrest after the thing with Swain."
Garen knew the prince had no idea what had transpired in Noxus but all the same he wanted to leap over the desk and punch his friend in the face for mentioning Swain. At the sound of his name, Katarina had gone rigid, her hands tightening into fists and Garen knew her temper would be rising past containment soon. He couldn't believe how much he wanted her to just feel OK again.
"Sir, are we dismissed? We could really use some sleep."
The prince didn't even look up from the notebook and simply waved his hand and stated, "Yes, dismissed."
Garen, afraid she might bolt the second they left the room, seized Katarina's arm and walked with her into the hallway before nonchalantly asking, "Would you like to spar with me?"
She tugged against his grip once then went slack, nodding her assent.
The commander took her to the training grounds used by the soldiers, clearing out the area for "official Vanguard training," and motioning her to follow him.
"What's the meaning of this," she asked through clenched teeth, drawing her daggers from her sides.
"I'm still feeling restless and wanted to let off some steam," he lied with a shrug.
To his relief, she smirked and, before he could blink, quick-stepped to his side, swinging. "Good," she challenged as their blades crashed repetitively against each other, "because for a second I thought this was some kind of trick to make me feel better."
Garen pressed forward against the onslaught, blocking her strikes but finding little room to make a move. "Pft, don't be ridiculous. Why would I do that?"
The assassin flashed backwards only to spin toward him in a flurry of knives, some of which he blocked, most bouncing harmlessly off his armor, a couple leaving cuts on his face and legs.
"Cause I fight worse when I'm not emotional? Gives you an advantage," she offered, pausing to let him wipe the blood from his forehead.
He grinned, rushing her with heavy overhead strike. "Please, like I need the advantage," he scoffed. "My reasons are simpler than that!"
Katarina danced around his sword, poking lightly at his unarmored legs. "And what reasons might those be, Demacian?"
"Maybe I just like it better when you smile and call me an idiot," he suggested boldly. A line of blood appeared against her stomach as he pulled his blade back against her retreat.
"You're such a liar," she laughed, flashing behind him and kicking him in the back of the knee. She extended her dagger against the back of his neck as he knelt in the dirt.
"Do you feel better by any chance?" he questioned as he stared at the ground, waiting for her to pull her blade away.
The sound of her dagger sliding back into its sheath prompted him to jump up and follow after her as she walked around the training grounds picking up her knives. Her hood was back over her face but he could see her devilish grin as she replied, "Idiot."
Katarina did not linger in Demacia any longer than she had to, and after a night at an inn located in a less reputable part of the capital city, Garen, dressed in civilian clothes, met her at the lodge in the early morning.
"You didn't have to meet me here," she huffed. "I'm quite capable of getting out of this city on my own."
He made an indignant noise in reply and quietly walked beside her down the empty street. There was no way the Demacian would admit that he simply wanted to see her, but it was exactly that reason which drove him to waking early to escort her to the gate. Finally he asked, "Where will you go from here?"
"To the League of Legends. I've neglected my duties as a Champion. But back home after that so I can figure out what this code is for."
"I see," he murmured. "Will you...keep in contact? About the code?"
He saw the corners of her mouth turn up in amusement. "Just about the code?" she teased, causing him to look away, embarrassed. "I will try. I know it'll lead to something important when I figure it out!"
He nodded in agreement, a warm smile on his face. "Well until then, perhaps I will see you on the Fields of Justice. I would like to get you back for earlier."
The assassin scoffed. "You wish."
The pair walked the rest of the way in a comfortable silence. Garen knew he shouldn't care at all, but he could not help but feel disappointed at her departure. It could be months before he would see her again, or if did see her in a League match, he could be forced to kill her repeatedly. The thought caused him to let out a low chuckle; who was he kidding? She would probably destroy him in lane before he could leave the safety range of the turret.
"What're you laughing at?" Katarina inquired suspiciously.
"Just thinking how you'd probably love to kill me over and over in the Fields of Justice," he said with a grin, soaking in the sound of her laugh. He had to admit, she was much softer when away from her home, war, and responsibilities. Maybe in a different life...
"I hate the Fields of Justice," she stated, interrupting his thought. "Dying so many times, it's an unnatural feeling. Although, I guess it's the only time you can kill without being seen as a total monster."
And just when he thought she sounded softer.
"It's good practice," he conceded, "but I don't think you're a monster."
The assassin threw him an incredulous look. "After all the Demacian's I've killed? Your comrades, wouldn't they be upset to know you don't revile their killer?"
Garen said nothing for several minutes in which time they reached the gate. Katarina turned expectantly to the commander to find that his gaze was directed toward to skyline, face twisted into an expression somewhere between guilt and confusion.
"At one point I would have hated you for the things you've done. But now I feel that...saying that would mean admitting to the horrible things I've done too." He shrugged nonchalantly although his chest felt heavy. "I guess I'm not a shining example of anything."
She considered his words momentarily, then smirked, "You're too serious. Live a little!" With a small wave, Katarina began her trek to the League of Legends, leaving Garen waving at the gate with a smile on his face.
After Katarina's departure, Garen returned to his home and penned a letter to his sister Luxanna, who, his mother informed him, was currently leading a special training for the College of Magic. He had hoped she would have been home when he arrived the day before, but as Lilia liked to remind him, his prodigious sister was often sought to do extra duties for Demacia because of her magical abilities.
Although he wanted nothing more than to inform his mother of his own secret duties for the city-state to get her off his case, he simply did his best to ignore her.
Several days passed with no word from Luxanna and Garen dejectedly assumed she did not in fact want to see him, when she showed up unexpectedly one night as he was returning from overseeing a job at the dock.
"Garen!" she exclaimed from the door with an enthusiastic wave as he walked up the street.
A wide grin spread across his face as he ran the rest of the way home and picked her up in a warm hug. "I didn't think you were gonna come! You never replied to my letter!" he half-scolded.
The blonde laughed and snaked her arm into his, pulling him into the house. "I can't believe you thought I wouldn't come! It's been too long since we spent any time together." The last statement had an air of sadness in it, but she cheerily added, "Go change and let's make dinner together!"
Garen obliged, cleaning up and changing into his most comfortable pair of pants and joining his sister in the kitchen where she was gathering items for a soup.
"So what have you been up to?" he asked as he helped her pull a pot from the top shelf.
Lux pulled a face while she picked ingredients from the icebox. "Well, just stuff for the College of Magic lately. Trainings on using light magic effectively and stuff like that. No spy stuff recently."
"Sounds like you don't really like it," he suggested tentatively as he began to chop the various vegetables she handed to him.
"I mean, it's for the betterment of Demacia, so..." She looked guilty as she said it though, as if she knew she wasn't convincing anyone.
"So it sucks," Garen laughed.
Lux looked at him in surprise, then giggled, which quickly turned into a contagious laugh. "Who are you and what have you done with my brother?" she inquired in mock seriousness. "The real Garen would never say anything remotely bad about Demacia!"
"Hey! People change!" The commander defended, lobbing part of a carrot at her.
She started to laugh again as she uselessly blocked against the vegetable, but this time her eyes welled with tears.
"I thought they had taken everything away from me." Her words came out strangled but with a notably happier tone.
Garen paused in the midst of stirring the pot of broth that was heating on the stove top to consider her puzzling words. "What do you mean?"
Lux rubbed her eyes and a bitter expression took the place of her usual smile. "I hate it, Garen. I never wanted to leave home and I never wanted to join the military..." she lifted her chin defiantly. "They took you away and when you came back and you were different, like you were just an empty thing that only cared about orders. And i thought, that would never be me...But I ended up the same. They take things and break them..."
In silence, Garen dropped the rest of the ingredients into the pot, avoiding eye contact with his sister who stared intensely at him as she leaned against the counter. Finally he said, "I didn't know, Lux. I'm sorry." He felt her gaze shift away from him and when he looked up, she was smiling again, looking thoughtfully at the wall.
"You're different now, though. You're less uptight." Eyes sparkling mischievously, she asked, "Did you get a girlfriend or something?"
"Did I- what does that have to do with anything you were just talking about?!" he sputtered, almost dropping the pot of soup as he pulled it from the heat.
"Because you changed! Everyone knows looooove
makes people act differently!" The woman bounced on her toes expectantly, a habit from when she was still a child.
The image of Katarina's limbs entwined with his own flashed through his mind and with an exasperated sigh he replied, "No, Lux, I don't have a girlfriend. Can't I just change on my own?"
His sister wrinkled her nose at his question and set two bowls on the counter in front of her. "Hmmm, I guess, but it doesn't seem likely to me!" A knowing smile spread across her face. "So she's not your girlfriend but there's someone you like and she's made you change!"
Garen narrowed his eyes warily at his sister as he swallowed a spoonful of soup. Was his sister some kind of mind reader too? God I need to find out how magic works, he cursed solemnly.
But mind reading or not, he was going to take a chance; Lux had trusted him enough to tell him something personal, and he should trust her the same.
"There is someone that is...interesting to me," he said, looking into his soup. Luxanna let out a childish squeal which made him wince. Just when he thought she was growing up...
"I knew it!" she exclaimed smugly. "It's about time you took interest in something that doesn't have to do with swords! You're like, almost thirty!"
He ignored the jab at his age and smirked, stuck on the first part of her sentence. Well, she was wrong about that one.
But Luxanna was sharper than he gave her credit for and she noticed his grin for what it was right away. "Oh, so is she a fighter too? What's she like? Is she in the Vanguard? Are you two in love?"
He almost choked on his soup.
"Seriously? Love? That's the most ridiculous...No! We aren't even together! And we never will be!" In a more even tone the commander added, "She is a fighter but not in the Vanguard and that's why it will never happen! There's no time for silly things like that in battle!" He shook his head to rid himself of thoughts of the assassin covered in blood and bruises, her tiny hands clasped in his.
His sister frowned and chided, "It's not silly! Look how different you are! She made you all...three-dimensional! The way you were before, I would never have told you what I told you before!"
"Just drop it Lux," he pleaded. "Nothing is going to come of it."
"But why nooot
?" the blonde insisted.
Garen couldn't stop the words, no matter how bad he wanted to. "She's an assassin," he hissed, "from Noxus
." Luxanna's mouth formed a silent 'O' and her spoon stopped halfway to her mouth but he plunged ahead despite her shock. "We are working together with Jarvan and when it's finished I will never have a reason to see her again. Does that
tell you why?"
His hands trembled and he mentally swore at himself for being so stupid. Cold fear twisted his stomach and he paled; what if she told someone? "Lux..." He would beg if he had to.
"I-it's ok!" she blurted, "I won't tell!" Blood rushed back into his face and he laid his head on the counter, letting relief wash over him. "She must be something special," she joked weakly.
"I'm the disgrace of Demacia," he moaned.
Lux reached over and patted him on the head. "Don't be a baby it's not that bad! It's not like...anything's happened. Right?" He said nothing and stayed face down on the counter, but the flush that spread to his ears told her enough. "Oh my god," she laughed. "Seriously?"
"It's nothing like what you're thinking," came his mumbled reply.
Running a hand through her hair, Lux sighed, "You've got it bad, brother."
"Really? I hadn't noticed," he muttered sarcastically.
"Look, obviously no one has figured it out so you'll be fine! Just play it cool." Inwardly, Luxanna was laughing at the irony; Garen had the hots for a Noxian. What a twist." Maybe one day Demacia and Noxus will be friends," she suggested.
He almost laughed at the ludicrous suggestion, but he felt significantly better nonetheless. She hadn't judged him harshly and for that he was grateful. "Thanks Lux," he murmured, offering her a small but sincere smile.
A bright grin spread across her face in return. "That's what family is for, right?"
Despite the uplifting few days he spent with Lux, after she was summoned to return to the League, Garen felt his days slowly bleeding together into a long stream of monotony. With Jarvan and Katarina working separately and alone on each of their respective ventures, the commander was largely left out to take care of his standard duties. Occasionally Jarvan would update him on his theories, but those instances only came every few weeks. Even Katarina had not been in contact and, after weeks became months, Garen began to wonder if she was done working with them. Her absence didn't stop him from thinking about frequently.
Four months passed since he had seen Katarina, and the month of April was already underway when Garen awoke in the middle of the night with a jump at the sight of the assassin slumped in a chair near his bed in his family home.
Katarina jolted awake at the sound of his massive frame hitting the floor as he tried to untangle himself from his sheet and reach for his combat knife at the same time.
"What the hell are you doing here?!" he hissed from the floor, staring up at her tired face as she leaned over in the chair. "How did you even find my house?!"
She grinned and slouched back into the plush chair, "It's what I do."
"What are you doing Garen!" Lilia's footsteps padded down the hallway toward his room and he shot a panicked look to the door. Katarina flashed to her knees and slid under the bed with a quiet thump, scratching the floor with her spiked leg guards.
"J-just fell out of bed!" he called lamely, praying she would just go away; luck was not on his side and Lilia swung open the door to see her son face down on the floor, legs tangled in sheets.
"Aren't you a little old for that?" she chastised, making no move to help him.
A lack of coordination plagued him as he, with great difficulty, finally kicked away his sheet and stumbled back to sit on his bed. When the bed responded with a huff and he slid his sheet closer to the bed with his foot. "Hah, you're right mother, you should just go back to bed now!" Please...
Lilia took a few steps forward, looking suspiciously at the sheet and, to his horror, a look of comprehension alighted on her face.
He was shock she said in a dissatisfied voice, "Oh...of course Garen. Don't let me interrupt anything." and left his room, shutting the door behind her.
"I don't even want to know what she thinks was going on," he muttered, head in his hands.
A second later his head snapped up, as if he had forgotten why he'd fallen out of bed in the first place. Katarina snickered and pulled herself from under the bed, swaggering back to the chair suggesting, "Maybe she thought you were tossin' one off and got too into it?"
"Tossin-Oh, god! What...What are you even doing here...!" he gestured lamely; the draining adrenaline combined with the sudden awakening hampered his ability to form coherent thoughts.
Katarina propped her head against her hand, eyeing Garen with satisfaction, over what he had no idea. She looked completely drained: dark circles lined her green eyes and her skin was pale in the moonlight floating in through the window, causing the gouged skin of her scar to look more vivid than usual. Nevertheless, she offered him a sleepy smirk. She had no clue, he concluded in a state of mental anguish, how sensual that smile looked. He was uncomfortably aware of his attire, a pair of short trousers, and promptly crossed his arms over his lap.
Either she didn't notice or didn't care, because she made no sarcastic comments, instead simply stating, "We figured out the code."
"And you opted to sneak into my room instead of writing a letter because...?" He couldn't help but sound cranky; how long had she been there and why didn't she just wake him up?
With eyes closed, she shrugged, "The information led here so I thought I'd just come by. Haven't slept in days, and your chair looked comfy..." she trailed off, head drooping forward. "You're pretty trustworthy."
Despite his irritation, Garen softened at her obvious exhaustion. "****..." he sighed helplessly. "Just...stay here tonight, we can tackle it in the morning."
Katarina nodded, though he couldn't tell if it was an assent or just trying to stay awake. He wrapped himself in his sheet and walked over to where she was sprawled in the chair. "You can have the bed."
The woman grinned and stumbled to his bed, flopping face first into his pillow without bothering to remove her boots or knives. "Thanks, Garen," she murmured before drifting quickly into oblivion.
The Demacian willed his knees to stop feeling so shaky and wearily sank into his chair. Tomorrow, he could tell, was going to be a long day.
But nevertheless, Garen settled into the cushions, smiling, and fell into a comfortable sleep; the problems of the morning could wait.