The Only Truth (Garen/Katarina)

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kittytoast

Senior Member

09-27-2012

Lost in the Woods Part 2


***

The next few months took Garen in and out of Demacia helping Jarvan or Katarina track down information concerning truth behind the Demacian mine collapse, the poisoning of the soldier, and the mysterious black rose. Garen rarely even saw the elusive Talon, although occasionally Katarina would share information that he supplied to her about the activities of the Noxian underground.

Until now, the commander had given little thought to mystery, but he found that he was quite enjoying himself. The occasional travel provided a welcome relief from his routine duties around Demacia and The League, although he was considerably annoyed that he had begun to see his duties as routine. Everything had become muddled when she entered his life and he subsequently blamed his change in attitude on her. Inwardly, however, Garen couldn't help but embrace the sense of freedom that came with it, something he never realized he had lacked.

The time he spent with Katarina he (somewhat guiltily) considered an added bonus. Sometimes it was difficult for the commander to remember that, despite their mostly positive interactions, she was still a Noxian and only a means to an end.

Even so, Garen couldn't help but feel exhilarated by their interactions What had started as verbal battles when they couldn't fight and physical fights when they grew too agitated for words had softened into sarcastic quips and competitive sparring. He discovered that, despite what the military had indoctrinated him to believe about Noxians, Katarina held a deep sense of loyalty to her family which he was deeply surprised to see her putting before her loyalty to Noxus. When he questioned her about her motives he had not anticipated her answer.

"Wouldn't you do the same for you family?" It had caused the commander to contemplate the question in silence for a good portion of the day. His family had never been that close, his mother becoming considerably colder and expecting in years after his father's death, and although he had once had a strong relationship with his sister Luxanna, they had been able to spend little time together with their duties in the Demacian military. It didn't change the fact that he loved his sister and his mother, but all the same, would he effectively betray the creed of his country for his family? He was shaken that he wasn't sure what he would have done in her position.

I should at least make time to go see Lux, he thought guiltily. The times he was able to visit with her, she had looked so...sad.

...Damn did Katarina make him think!

Currently, Garen was preparing to leave behind his duties in Demacia and sneak away with the assassin on what they were hoping would be a fruitful investigation within the well-known Ivory Ward district of Noxus. The Ivory Ward had recently been destroyed by riots caused by the power vacuum in the Noxian High Command, and although Katarina had been anxious to visit the location on the letter left behind by her father, the climate of the district, until recently, had been too chaotic and heavily secured to allow a thorough investigation. Garen was particularly on edge; he had never been inside the city-state of Noxus and was anxious as to what they would find.

"Two things you need to know about Noxus," Katarina described while she instructed Garen on what to bring on their excursion. "First, act like you either know exactly what's going on or that you don't care what's going on. Second, no mercy, no honor. Noxians only value strength. If you look confused and act all 'high and mighty moral Demacian', you are going to find yourself dead in a gutter."

Yes, Garen was nervous. Even Katarina was feeling apprehensive. The na´ve moral compass that was Garen Crownguard was not her first choice for this endeavor But, the commander had volunteered and even insisted on accompanying her.

Odd, she thought.

It was into their second day that the pair reached Kalamanda, the halfway point between their respective city-states. They had timed it poorly as it was already dark and they readily agreed that they should camp here for the night and resume at daybreak. Winter was in its early stages and Garen felt restless as he laid next to the fire on the cold ground, attempting to sleep. His mind was preoccupied with thoughts of what had transpired here nearly six months ago. Despite his hopes for improvement, he was even more confused now than he was then.

He had grown past denying that he harbored feelings for the Noxian assassin and moved towards begrudging acceptance. In loyalty to Demacia, however, he vowed to never act on his feelings again as he had on the battlefield that day. It didn't change that he didn't know what to expect of her. Would she betray them in the end? How long was Jarvan willing to work with her? More importantly to Garen now, how would Jarvan react if he knew he was smitten with the enemy? Some paragon of ethic he was. Surely this time if found out he would be stripped of rank and responsibility as he had feared would happen before.

"Hey, are you awake?" He startled out of his reverie as Katarina'a voice floated out of the still night. "Oh um, yes, why?" She shuffled around and he could see her shadowed face peering at him across the fire. His heart thumped painfully in his chest; firelight suited her. "Because I can practically hear the rusty wheels in your head turning," came her sharp reply, to which he rolled his eyes. "Actually, I'm having trouble sleeping," she confessed. "Spar with me?" Garen propped himself up on his elbow. "You do realize it's pitch black, right?" Katarina sat up as well, flashing him a grin. "What, scared you're gonna trip and impale yourself? Trust yourself and live a little!"

Trust himself, huh? Garen grunted, but consented in the end, picking up his sword but forgoing his armor; if she could do it, so could he. The fire was barely enough light to see with and with her dark clothing Katarina almost blended perfectly into the night. "I believe I am at a serious disadvantage here," the commander grumbled. "I think you just wanted an excuse to beat me up."

Katarina laughed and disappeared from his sight and he tensed instinctively, straining for any sound of movement and was rewarded with a cold blade rested against his neck. "I promise I won't kill you, how about that?" she taunted. Garen squinted and rushed her, only to see her melt into the shadows once more. "I think you're cheating," he called out to the darkness. He heard her laughter to his right and slashed with the flat of his sword at the sound only to feel her slap him in his left side with the flat of her own blade. "When you're in the light I can see you and you can't see me. You should try playing in the dark," she offered before darting away once more.

Garen shuffled uncomfortably, heart pounding, and stepped out of the circle of light. Gods, how did she see anything in this? Cautiously, he walked through the trees, painfully aware of how loud his boots sounded on the broken twigs and dead grass. At least his eyes were beginning to adjust. Where was she hiding? He heard a soft swish and instinctively leapt backwards, tripping over a root and dropping his sword but avoiding another hit to the side.

"See how much better you're doing already?" the woman teased, rapping him on the head with the pommel of her dagger. He grumbled and pushed himself to his feet. "Try following me," she ordered. "And listen with your gut. Don't rely so much on your eyes." With that advice she took off running, forcing the Demacian commander to follow blindly behind.

After a few minutes of jogging Garen stopped and peered around, listening in vain for some sound of her presence. It felt more like training than sparring, he thought crossly, but he still took a moment to mentally applaud himself for not tripping as he ran. Tentatively, he closed his eyes. He knew she would attack if he stood for too long, if he could just figure out when she was close...

A shiver ran down his spine and he snapped his eyes open and dashed forward, hitting Katarina in the stomach with the flat of his sword. She stumbled back but smiled broadly and pushed his blade aside. "Very good!" she congratulated. Garen was about to reply when, in two swift movements, she tossed her daggers aside and closed the gap between them, entwined her fingers in his hair and forced his lips to meet hers.

He couldn't stop it; he threw aside his own sword and wrapped his arms around her waist. He did not think about Demacia, the Measured Tread, or Justice and instead focused on the feel of her soft lips, the smooth skin of her back, the pressure of her body pressed against his. Her hands slid slowly down his firm chest and his knees shook at the feeling of her fingertips on his bare skin as she shifted them under his shirt. He gripped her hips and clasped them against his own, eliciting an obscene moan from the red-head and effectively shattering all thought processes Garen had left to him.

Body burning and knees buckling, he guided her firmly to the ground until he straddled her once again, her chest arching against his own, hands curved like claws across his back. He found his lips straying to her neck, her collarbone, back to her mouth and he quaked as another soft whimper escaped her. Slowly he ghosted his calloused fingers from her hips across her stomach, stopping to rest his hands around the curve of her breasts.

She made no move to stop him as his fingers carefully explored her body, nor did she stop him as he shifted his knee and pressed it between her legs, dragging another indecent sound from the assassin's lips. At that, a thought floated through the fog of the Demacian's mind and he considered briefly, did she want...that, from him? Here?

Garen suddenly broke away from her lips and lifted his hands, a deeply apologetic look on his face in contrast to her own confused expression. His face burned in the cold air and he stammered, "I-I...er, didn't...sorry!" as he quickly leapt away from her, grabbing his sword and running into the night, leaving Katarina behind.

***

Katarina hovered over Garen's fitfully sleeping form, a dagger in each hand. After his abrupt departure, she had remained on the cold ground contemplating what had just transpired. As a younger girl just introduced to the arts of assassination she had been passionate and prone to mistakes, two things she had vowed to correct; she wore the scar across her eye as a testament to her decision. Over the years she had tempered her passionate nature, never letting it interfere with her duties to Noxus.

Why then, she thought as she scowled up into the dark sky, did she feel like that same little girl now after working so hard to curb her flaws? She contemplated her actions for a while but eventually rose from the ground and made her way back to the camp where the last embers of the fire illuminated Garen's body. How long had she been lying there? The Demacian was already asleep. Unsheathing her daggers, she crouched beside him and placed one of the sharp blades near his neck. She could kill him now for his blatant rejection. Did he trust her so much that he would leave himself so defenseless in the presence of a woman scorned?

A smirk twisted her face. He certainly hadn't acted like the noble, self-righteous Demacian he was on the battlefield, but he did have such a high standard of honor that it aggravated her, and this same honor was likely the driving force behind his decision to run. "Idiot," she muttered quietly as she stood and sheathed her daggers; she was even beginning to understand how he thought. The sooner she figured out the reason behind her father's disappearance, the sooner she could rid herself of this man who made her feel so weak.

There would be no more mistakes, she vowed silently. Katarina DuCouteau did not make the same mistake twice.


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AerithRayne

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Senior Member

09-28-2012

My only recommendation is to suggest that you make new paragraphs for new speakers. Sometimes it gets slightly confusing for a moment or so as to who is saying what, especially in this chapter's scene where three people (Jarva, Garen, and Katarina) are conversing. Other than that, I'm enjoying watching how this plays out. Sorry I don't have time for a good review. My fall break is just around the corner.


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kittytoast

Senior Member

09-28-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by AerithRayne View Post
My only recommendation is to suggest that you make new paragraphs for new speakers. Sometimes it gets slightly confusing for a moment or so as to who is saying what, especially in this chapter's scene where three people (Jarva, Garen, and Katarina) are conversing. Other than that, I'm enjoying watching how this plays out. Sorry I don't have time for a good review. My fall break is just around the corner.

Hey that's good advice ^,^ I have never thought about it so I'll be extra vigilant in chapter 4! Have a great fall break!


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TSkillzX

Member

09-28-2012

Great chapter man. story is getting even more interesting by the minute


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kittytoast

Senior Member

09-29-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Terms2k1 View Post
Great chapter man. story is getting even more interesting by the minute
Thank you


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Theamp4

Senior Member

09-29-2012

*saw post by author*
*gets excited*
*is disappoint*

Stahp :c


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kittytoast

Senior Member

09-30-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by Theamp4 View Post
*saw post by author*
*gets excited*
*is disappoint*

Stahp :c
sorry! D: I didn't mean to disappoint I shall never do it again! Here is chapter 4 to make up for it!

***
Hullo! I bring you a not-so-ridiculously long chapter! Yay! Hopefully conversations will be easier to follow in this chapter than in the last! I'm pleased at all the support I have been receiving for The Only Truth and I want to apologize in advance if chapters start coming a little slower after this one. So far I've been ahead with writing but now I'm all caught up so it might take a few extra days to get them done. But fear not! I will not abandon this story because it's one of the few things which brings me joy in my crummy life in grad school =_= So take your time and enjoy chapter 4, Breaking the Silence! DEMACIAAAAAAAAAAAA!

***

Breaking the Silence

Painfully awkward was the only way Garen could describe the morning. By the time he woke Katarina was already packing, and judging by the dark circles under her eyes, he wondered if she even slept at all, although he imagined he didn't look much better. Any attempts to speak about the night before were me with a withering glare from the red-head which only heightened the guilt he felt about the whole ordeal.

With a heavy sign, Garen decided the only thing he could do was be respectful of her wish for silence. As the pair departed once again for their destination, he couldn't help but mention one thing to the angry assassin.

"Katarina..."

"What?!" she snapped, almost discouraging him from speaking altogether, but he swallowed and braced himself.

"...There's a twig in your hair."

***

Aside from the bare essentials, the next two days to Noxus were spent in almost absolute silence. Despite how often Garen complained about her scathing sarcasm he realized he greatly preferred it to her quietly burning anger. At least he knew where he stood when they exchanged blows, verbal and physical; the way it was now he felt uneasily that she might kill him in his sleep.

Halfway through their fourth day the duo reached Noxus and Katarina lead them to a tree-lined area near the wall which provided them sufficient coverage. "You're gonna have to take off anything that looks too Demacian," Katarina warned, tossing him a black cloak from inside her pack. "Especially that over-sized scarf-cape."

Garen frowned but complied, carefully unbuckling his armor and setting the pieces inside his own pack. The blue cloth which draped down his back was much harder to part with; it was a symbol of his status in the Dauntless Vanguard. However, with Katarina watching and waiting, the stoic commander removed it also, carefully folding it and resting it within on his pauldrons.

He felt incredibly naked without the heavy armor and quickly donned the hooded black cloak which she had given him, although it did little to ease his discomfort. "How do I look?" Garen asked gruffly, putting on his best intimidating frown. Ridiculous, he assumed; the cloak was too small and stretched tightly across his shoulders and chest, while the sleeves stopped inches above his wrists and the hood only barely covered his eyes.

Katarina inspected him thoroughly, the twitch of a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "You look OK. Just keep the frown and no one will think twice about your clothes."

The commander's heart beat erratically in his chest; she had almost smiled. Empowered by the idea that her mood could be lifting, he boldly asked, "Katarina, do you think it's possible I could die in there?"

She smirked, not seeing where his question was leading. "It's possible, yeah. Especially if you don't kick the self-righteous tone of voice."

He nodded and continued in a rushed voice, knees trembling, "Then, in case I die, I want to apologize for my behavior the other night!" To his surprise, she did not cut him off, but simply folded her arms and looked past him.

"I just thought...you...should have better," Garen finished quietly, preoccupying himself with his pack so she wouldn't see his flushed face.

"...Whatever." Her tone sounded uncaring but when he glanced at her from the corner of his eye he could see the blood rising to her cheeks. With his face still flushed but his mood drastically improved, Garen turned his gaze to the city of Noxus and stated, "Let's get this over with."

***

Noxus, he discovered, was frightening, and he was perplexed at Katarina's loyalty to the dark city. With the High Command looming over the inner city's depths and the granite walls that enclosed it, the city made Garen feel as though he were being suffocated and he longed for the open white spires of Demacia.

Keeping a steely face in spite of his nerves, the Demacian followed closely behind Katarina who lead them through the twisting streets with ease, never pausing for anything. The daylight was fading and the sparse lighting on the streets seemed to be sucked into the stone. He suppressed a chill, suddenly grateful he had never had reason to come here, especially without a guide like Katarina.

Although the differences between the cities were clear, there was one thing which was constant: there was always a slum adjacent to a wealthy area. He felt sickened at the state of the city as they picked their way around filthy children and homeless elderly but, when he thought about it honestly, even Demacia had its share of slums and crime. At least Demacia was cleaner and better lit.

It seemed to stretch for miles but they finally approached the junction between the slum and the Ivory Ward, an iron fence and gate separating the two districts. It looked newly built and Katarina indicated that it had been destroyed in the riots, and, of course, was the first thing rebuilt. In front of the entrance stood two burly men, and Katarina motioned for Garen to follow close and stay quiet.

"Well, well! If it ain't Miss DuCouteau!" exclaimed the man closest to them, giving her a mocking salute.

The assassin scowled and reached for her knives in a threatening manner. "**** you, just open the gate."

"Who's your friend?" piped up the second guard from his seat on the ground, eyebrows waggling suggestively.

"None of your god-damned business that's who," the woman replied hotly. "Open the ****ing gate." Garen was amazed at how foul her language became when angered and impressed that she hadn't killed either of the two men yet.

"C'mon, who's under the hood?" questioned the man who spoke first, moving toward the Demacian and pushing lightly against Katarina's shoulder as he passed. In a flash, Garen grabbed the man's arm, twisting it near breaking, while Katarina pressed a dagger into his neck just hard enough to draw blood.

"I think you should stop asking questions and open the gate," Garen muttered into the man's pained face, before loosening his hold and allowing the man to run to the gatehouse. The commander flashed a smirk to Katarina but found her staring straight ahead, her lips still pressed into an angry line.

The two men glared at the pair as they passed under the gate, which shut behind them with a clang.

When they were out of sight of the gate, Garen tentatively broke the silence. "Katarina...you OK?"

For a minute she said nothing and he was certain she was simply going to ignore him again when she finally choked out, "Nobody acted like that when my father was still around. The DuCouteau name was exalted..." She paused mid-stride, fists clenched tightly by her side and turned her face toward his, guilt and fear blazing in her eyes.

"I'm afraid...afraid I have failed my family," she confessed in a whisper.

Without hesitation Garen gripped her shoulders firmly and gave her a small shake. "Stop it, Katarina," he murmured fiercely. "You can't think like that now, not when we're so close to finding out what happened to your father!" In truth, he was alarmed at her confession. Katarina never appeared as anything but solid; her loss of composure made him feel deeply unsettled, while a small part was elated that he was witnessing such a raw moment.

The sincerity in his face made her nod slowly before shrugging his hands off her shoulders and straightening sharply. "You're right," her voice much more firm. "C'mon, we've delayed too long. I want to meet with my sister at our family house before we go to the address in the letter."

He blinked numbly at her retreating form. Sister?

***

"Katarina!" Cassiopeia shrieked, grasping her sister in a tight hug. "I missed you!" Garen stood at a distance, taking in the sight before him in a mild shock; any expectations about her sister were destroyed the minute she had slithered down the stairs.

Cassiopeia's sharp eyes flickered to him and she extended her sister to arm's length, a seductive smile sweeping across her face. "Oh, Kat, you didn't say he was that handsome!"

A familiar burn on the Demacian's face accompanied his downward stare, which was interrupted as the snake-woman slid over to him to look into his face. He staggered backwards, sending a pleading look to the smirking Katarina, who laughed, "Leave him alone, Cass. He's too noble for your...tricks."

Cassiopeia's mouth turned into a pout not unlike the one he had seen Katarina wear during political negotiations. "That's right he's a...Demacian." The last word came out with a sort of hiss that made the commander wince.

"He's not so bad," Katarina stated with a shrug, causing her sister to raise a brow.

"Coming from you, that says a lot," Cassiopeia said darkly, eyes narrowed at Katarina in suspicion.

"Shut up. I just came by to say hello," the red-head replied evenly. "We're checking out the address in father's note and leaving the city."

Fear passed across Cassiopeia's face and she did not bother trying to hide it. "You can't go, Kat, please! What if...I'll be alone!" She couldn't stop the same words her father had reprimanded her for from tumbling from her lips.

Katarina flashed her a determined look. "Nothing will happen. I'm gonna get to the bottom of this and find out what happened to father; our family will be respected again."

Her sister tried to smile although it came out as a grimace. "Just be careful. And you," she called, spinning around to point a clawed finger at Garen. "If anything happens to her I will not hesitate to kill you!" With those parting words, she slid into an adjacent room, slamming the door, and crying silently after Garen and Katarina departed.

***

"Your sister, she seems nice," Garen said politely as the front door of the DuCouteau home shut behind him. He felt strangely privileged that he had seen the mask slip on both DuCouteau women in a single hour.

Katarina sighed, "She's alright. She wants to know what happened just as much as I do; I'm doing this for her as much as myself."

The Demacian nodded his understanding. "Then let's get to this place and look around. We're bound to find something good."

Night was well under way as the pair reached the address on the letter, and they surveyed the building from their position across the street where they crouched behind the corner of a neighboring building. It was a multi-story structure nestled deep within the Ivory Ward Marketplace, and looked as though it had been untouched by the upset, while most other structures still showed evidence of construction.

"Hey, there's no one guarding it!" Garen whispered excitedly. "Let's go!" He started to rise but Katarina swiftly grabbed his sleeve and yanked him back into a crouch.

"It's not unguarded. Look there," she hissed, pointing into the dark; Garen squinted but still saw nothing.

The assassin sighed in exasperation. "OK, there are two guys in the corner there, but they don't look like they're very observant. We can kill them easy and you can hide the bodies in that alley."

"I'm not going to be an accomplice to cold-blooded murder," an annoyed Garen replied. "Can't we just knock them out or something?"

"I would think you'd be used to murdering Noxians by now," Katarina taunted.

The commander bristled at her sarcasm. "It's not murder when it's in war!"

With a shake of her head, Katarina muttered, "You keep telling yourself that," and stepped silently toward the house, leaving the Demacian fuming in the shadows.

Several minutes passed and the assassin had yet to return, so Garen grudgingly stretched from his position and, as stealthily as his bulk would allow, followed her path to the house. He found her struggling to drag one of the men's cooling bodies from its slumped position against the wall of the building to a nearby alley.

"You can help anytime you like," she huffed as he stood watching in amusement.

With a heavy sigh, Garen obliged, easily hefting the man onto his shoulder and following the blood trail from the other body Katarina had managed to drag behind a stack of crates in the back-street. He set him carefully next to his comrade and mentally apologized to the two before returning to Katarina, who was pressed against the door trying to pick the lock.

"You owe me for making me do something so dishonorable," he half-joked.

"I didn't make you do jack-**** you liar," she retorted instantly. Her face was tensed in concentration as she wriggled her lock-picking tools, until she finally heard a satisfying click. She added, "But I guess you can add breaking and entering to the list of things I'm 'making' you do." Garen resisted the urge to roll his eyes and instead motioned that he would enter first.

The door eased open silently, granting them access to a very minimalistic reception room; a secretary's desk sat in front of the door and behind that a large, curving stairway leading to the second floor. There were only two doors on the first floor, each the exact onyx replica of the other save for the large white numbers on the front.

"What kind of business is this?" Katarina whispered although, in the dead silence and relatively empty room, it was as though she had not. She quietly glided over the pristine white marble floors and peered up the staircase.

Meanwhile, Garen looked through the documents organized neatly on the secretary's desk. Despite his efforts to move as quietly as Katarina, his muted footsteps echoed dully around the room, earning a glare from the assassin.

"Katarina," he whispered suddenly, looking up from the documents in his hands. "Was there a date on the letter from your father?"

She joined the Demacian at the desk and murmured "No, but Cassiopeia said it was December 3rd, 20 CLE when he left. Why?"

He passed her the papers so she could see for herself what had caught his interest. "It's a calendar of appointments."

Quickly she rifled through the calendar, looking back through the months until she found December, nearly a year ago. Garen could see her face freeze in a mixture of determination, anger, and excitement, creating a sort of manic expression. He put a heavy hand on her shoulder, drawing her back into the present.

A slender finger pointed to a specific date, December 3rd, where it was written in a looping feminine handwriting:

J. Swain, 5:00p, Rm 203

M. DuCouteau, 5:00p, Rm 203

"He was here...Swain...I knew it!" Her voice was shaking and the distress caused her voice to crack slightly. Garen grabbed the papers from her and set them back in their original position on the desk before giving her a gentle tug on the arm.

"Let's go see what's in room 203."

Each step seemed like a mile as they slowly climbed the stairs, trying to maintain silence without sacrificing too much speed. Katarina darted past Garen, her nimble footsteps dancing over the floor and propelling her closer to uncovering the truth about her father with every step.

She waited impatiently for him at the top of the stairwell, anxiously surveying the black, numbered doors, 200, 201, 202, her eyes lighting up her face with the same crazed expression when they alighted on the innocuous, white 203. The commander hastily grabbed her arm before she could bolt down the hall.

"Breathe," he said softly, feeling less apprehensive as the frenzied look melted off her face once again. She nodded and together they approached the room, unease growing the closer they were until finally they stood in front of it, almost choking on the tension.

Tentatively, Katarina turned the doorknob and, finding that she met no resistance, slowly pushed the door open.

In contrast to the black and white minimalism of the building, the room they entered had an elegant quality. An ornate tea set sat atop an intricately carved rosewood table immediately to the left of the door, two matching chairs tucked neatly into either side. From the ceiling hung an expensive-looking chandelier which had lilac colored crystals dripping from its frame. The left wall was lined with books while the right wall boasted only an incredibly large mirror.

The mirror was centered in the wall and reached from floor to ceiling, giving the room the appearance of being larger than it actually was. Inlaid in its golden frame were hundreds of sculpted roses, each beset with a tiny crystal which reflected the moonlight streaming in from the back wall, making it appear to glow.

And in front of the back wall and window sat a rosewood desk with a tall, onyx safe beside it.

"I'm opening that safe," Katarina said at once, purposefully striding toward it's reflective surface. "Garen, you look through the desk and see if you can find out whose office this is."

Orders accepted, Garen began rifling through the papers on the desk; each bore a black rose stamp at the bottom, but no name. He glanced at Katarina as she stubbornly maneuvered her pick and wrench in the safe's keyhole, her ear pressed against the side and unconsciously biting her lip, and he let out a shaky sigh as he considered how sensuous she looked when performing forbidden activities.

No! There's nothing attractive about illegal activity, he tried to convince himself. Refocusing on the task at hand, he set aside the papers and picked up a small leather-bound journal, flipping it open to the middle.

-they will never know the truth. Everything has gone according to plan and soon Garvin will initiate the mine collapse under "orders" from Jarvan IV of Demacia. Fools. As expected, they are too proud to admit there is nothing of worth in their mines and will pay the price with their lives. This is the first step in bringing Noxus and Demacia against one another in war and keeping Jericho distracted with plans to rule Noxus. Despite being my greatest pawn, he is growing in power and I fear I may need to take measures to keep him from acting outside my plans.

"...No name," he muttered to himself.

"Got it!" Katarina whispered fiercely, pulling open the safe door. There were several shelves inside, but they were all empty. She reached her gloved hand into each shelf, feeling around for anything that was worthwhile, but growling in frustration when she pulled back empty handed.

"Look at the bottom," Garen said, crouching beside her and pulling out a long, thin box which had been thrust into the back corner of the safe. Katarina knelt and opened it, revealing a knife, a piece of paper, and a ring.

With trembling hands Katarina reverently lifted the blade to survey it in the moonlight, and disclosed in a strangled voice, "This was...my father's. He always kept it on him..."

Garen gazed sympathetically at the assassin as she struggled with the implications of her father's most trusted blade resting unused for so many months at the bottom of a safe. Abruptly she dropped the blade back into the box and covered her scarred face in her hands.

"I c-can't do this, Garen. My father...my father is..."

Cautiously, the commander put an arm around her shoulder and was surprised when she did not pull away from his grip. He said nothing, feeling as though anything he could possibly say in this moment would only sound trite.

The pair sat still for several minutes, until finally Garen spoke. "What about this paper? Is this your father's handwriting?"

Katarina rubbed her face aggressively before picking up the folded paper. "Yes, but..." she trailed off with a frown, reading the note, "it doesn't make any sense. It's just letters and numbers."

Garen leaned in to read the paper but could not decipher the meaning behind it either. Despite the seriousness of the situation, he was quickly distracted by the proximity of her face to his. He shook his head to clear his thoughts but stated, "Yeah I don't understand it either."

After a heavy sigh, Katarina quietly repacked the box and stood with it tucked under her arm, shutting the safe quietly. "Did you find out whose place this is and why they had my father's things?" she questioned, a hard edge back in her voice.

Holding up the journal, Garen replied, "Sort of. I only read one bit but they mentioned Swain and the mine collapse. It seems like maybe they're in charge of this whole ordeal, but there's no name."

Katarina nodded and jerked her head toward the door. "Bring it and let's get out of here. I'm starting to feel uneasy."

Garen followed the assassin through the door, glancing back at the mirror as he shut the door behind him and suppressed a shiver. Since Katarina had mentioned it, he did feel deeply unsettled, like the animal part of his brain was crying for him to run as if from a predator although he knew there was nothing to fear in an empty building.

Together they descended the stairs and opened the front door into the cold winter night.

***

Fools, she thought dispassionately, brushing her dark shoulder-length hair from her pale face. Did they truly believe they could simply walk into her office and take her things without her permission? They only saw what she wanted them to see. She watched the pair exit her building from the top of the staircase, a terrible smile spreading slowly across her youthful face.

Marcus, your daughter is not nearly as clever as you, she grinned wickedly, but she has far better timing.

Yes, everything was proceeding as planned.


***
A/N: Who is Garvin? Journal of Justice Issue 18


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CJPwnz

Member

10-02-2012

Pretty good read


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kittytoast

Senior Member

10-04-2012

Quote:
Originally Posted by CJPwnz View Post
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.

"What the-****!"

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.


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AerithRayne

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Senior Member

10-04-2012

IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII like it. Mushiness AND plot. Seriously, you're spoiling me.