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Coming Up Roses

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Day 70

Today is Tuesday, and your tight-fitting shirt is the colour of a sinful red. Like a bright danger sign breaching his field of view, Cor immediately notices you even out of the corner of his eye as soon as you enter the Citadel training room. You do not meet his eyes, but the sight of you drags him out of focus.

And to think that Cor never, ever loses his focus.

So he misses a step. Fumbles in a split second. His reflexes fail him that Clarus’s fist lands on his face, the swing of the wooden sword sending him flying across the room.

A loud, resounding thud echoes as Cor crashes gracelessly on the hardwood floor. A sharp pain seizes his whole body, and he is aching all over. His head is pounding as if he had also been hit with a lead pipe. A shrill ringing in his ears is deafening that he does not hear the hurrying footsteps, the worried whispers, the swift gathering of familiar faces hovering over his head.

“Shit,” he hisses sharply under his breath, squeezes his eyes shut. What a way to make a fool of myself in front of—

“Are you okay?”

Your voice startles him out of his wits. And when he opens his eyes, yours is the first face he sees.

In a jolt, Cor hauls himself up to sit. Your concern should not have surprised him, but it did. After all, you’re one of the resident medics, and even if you are strictly assigned to the Kingsglaive, looking after the whole Lucian force is your duty.

And of all the medics that had to see him in his shameful hour, it just had to be you.

“Uh, I’m fine. Better than fine,” Cor says, which is an obviously poor lie on his part. He rubs the back of his neck, his head mildly throbbing. Behind you, he can see Clarus eyeing him with a wicked smile on his face.

“Wait—“ you kneel beside him, carefully taking his face into your hands— “you really sure? No head pain, or anything?”

Cor nods. He only hopes that you cannot feel the swell of heat that rises in his cheeks. “Yes, very sure.”

“Well, Cor is a man of steel,” Clarus chimes in, arms folded over his chest. “Someone of his calibre should have his ego checked from time to time. And I wouldn’t have taken him down from his pedestal today, if it weren’t for you, the Achilles’ heel—“

“Clarus.” Cor’s menacing glare is as sharp as his sword, it might have sliced Clarus in half. But Clarus, or course, remains unfazed.

Meanwhile, you raise a confused eyebrow to the both of them. “Uh, am I missing something here?”

“Oh, nothing much—don’t mind us,” Clarus says, beaming a grin. “And don’t worry, I’ll see to it that Cor is as fit as a fiddle.”

“If you both say so,” you say as you hold out your hand and help Cor back on his feet. You give him a smile, and Cor watches you walk away to return to your Kingsglaive friends on the other side of the training hall.

Cor exhales a heavy sigh. “I’m going to kill you for that, Clarus.”

“Back to your threatening habits, I see,” Clarus teases. He rests his arm on Cor’s shoulder. “You know, you could just tell her.”

“Not your business.”

“Wait until Reggie hears about this, then it will be our business.”

“Fuck you,” sneers Cor, shrugging Clarus’s arm off of him.

“Me? Shouldn’t it be fuck her—”

“I’ll tell Joy about this.”

Clarus laughs. “My wife would only be pleased, that I can assure you.” He claps a hand on Cor’s shoulder and says, “Now, don’t you want a rematch to avenge your lovesick clumsiness?”

“This time I will really beat your ass,” Cor says, all smug. A large part of him is still reeling from the warmth of your hand in his, and how awfully perfect you look in that sultry shade of red...

Maybe it really is about time I tell her, he quietly ruminates as he picks up his sword, ready to swing for another round.

 


 

Day 45

For the record—his own internal record, that is—Cor is never the type to have a crush. He is also never the type to have a crush on someone to the point of unconsciously knowing all their favourite things, let alone looking forward to what colour of shirt they would be wearing. That may have been Clarus’s thing back in his bachelor days, or some other guy who tends to obsess, but definitely not him. He swears this fact upon his life and his honour.

But ever since he got to know you a little bit better, with all the times you have been spending with him on and off council meetings, he may have that oath completely compromised.

Case in point: he remembers random things about you. You may have briefly shared your interests in a passing exchange or on one of those long conversations you two have had when you were forced to work late in the Citadel, but best believe Cor has it all memorized: from your favourite ice cream flavour to music genres to flowers, down to your usual order at Kenny Crow’s.

Then there comes the matter of your shirts. It is never his intention to look forward to what you’ll be wearing, but at this rate, he knows how you’re much more likely to wear cooler colours on training days with the Glaive; darker ones on days when you are balancing your shift in the infirmary. He has seen you wear every shade of blue and green, but not red. Anything but red. He’ll probably lose his shit once he finally sees you in his favourite colour; he’s already certain that no one will rock red the same way you would.

But today is one of those days that you are wearing neither shade of blue and green. Because as you enter his office, he almost spills his coffee when he sees you in white. And not just any white shirt—a white summer dress, to be precise.

“So here are the physical exam results of the new recruits you requested,” you say by way of greeting. “Monica’s been called by Clarus for an urgent meeting, so she asked me to turn this over to you.”

Right. It was Monica who’s supposed to deliver these results, not you in this godsend of a dress. His dreary office—the oaken shelves, the soulless furnishing—is somehow brightened by your presence. And it’s not even helping how well-lit his office is, streaming in morning sunshine to favour this sight of you. For a brief moment, he struggles to tear his eyes away—until he finally notices that in your arms are a handful of folders, and that you’re gingerly eyeing for a spot to unload all of it.

“I, uh, shit —sorry, here—” In a sudden rush of panic, he sets down his coffee cup, and hastily clears some of the books and binders strewn all over. “You may leave it there. Thanks for your help.”

You neatly place the files over the newly vacated space on his desk. “You’re welcome—“

“Uh, you look really pretty today.” The words stumble out of Cor without warning, as if his tongue had lost its brakes. Fuck. He fidgets at the edge of his seat, stammering to backpedal, “I mean, not just today —sorry, you look pretty everyday, but, you know—“

“No, it’s okay, Cor. Um, well—“ you purse your lips, struggling to stifle the hearty giggle, and is that a blush Cor is seeing on your face? “Thank you. I’m taking the half day off to meet someone, hence—“ you gesture awkwardly up and down your body— “the dress.”

“Oh.” The oh slips out of Cor in a disappointed exhale. His voice evidently drops along with his heart. “Right. I see—“

“But it’s not a date, though,” you say quickly, defensively. “Not that I needed to clarify that bit, but um, yeah.”

“Okay.” Cor nods and laughs sheepishly—but mostly out of a bizarre relief, thank the gods— as he reaches for the back of his neck. “You must be in a hurry—I’m sorry for keeping you.”

You smile. “Don’t mention it. See you around.”

As Cor watches you walk out of his office, all he could bother to think about is how badly he wants you to stay. Stay for a little while, just one more second and I wouldn’t ask for more.

 


 

Day 3

When Cor visits the infirmary to retrieve a couple of meds for his headache one dull Thursday morning, the new face that greets him stops him halfway through the door.

“How may I help you?” you ask amiably, a pleasing smile on your face. He briefly scans the room; there is no one else present except for you, the infirmary surprisingly vacant and ascetic: empty beds, clinical equipment properly arranged, the medical cabinets maintained in orderly perfection. Even your desk is sanctified with cleanliness. Not a single sheet of paper astray from your outgoing tray.

“I need some Advil,” Cor says, slumping heavily at the seat across from you as if he is carrying the entire world on his shoulder. “Headache.”

“Oh, alright.” Your smile is suddenly eclipsed by a rather concerned look. You slide him a pen and a sheet of paper tucked in a clipboard. “Please sign your name here and I’ll be right back in a jiffy.” As he quickly fills up the form, his head still in the verge of splitting into pieces, you hastily retreat behind the white curtains, and you emerge a couple of minutes later with a packet of capsules.

Cor returns the clipboard back to you. “So, sir…” You trail off, scanning the sheet, and Cor sees your eyes widen. “Oh. So you’re the Cor Leonis.”

“That I am.” Cor tries to give you a small smile, only that it appears to be more of a weak wince.

You scribble something on the paper. “Have you eaten something in the last couple of hours?”

“No, not yet.”

Your lips quirk sideways. You look at Cor as if you are about to pass some judgment; he could sense how you are studying his face with the way your eyes are fixed on him with a more intensified concern. Then, you say, “I don’t mean to prolong your agony, but will you promise me that if I give this to you—“ you wave the packet in your hand— “you’ll first grab a proper meal before you take this?”

“I, uh—“ Cor scratches his cheek, eyeing you curiously— “sure, yes.”

You raise a skeptical brow. “On your honour as a soldier?”

Cor laughs. “Of course.”

You give him one last look of hesitation before you finally hand him the medication. “Heed my advice, marshal.” Another bright smile crosses your face. For a brief second, Cor forgets to breathe.

New Girl is what his peers in the Crownsguard call you. Our Lady is what he often hears from the Kingsglaive. He never understood why the Kingsglaive seemed to be overprotective with their newly hired medic, but he finally understands all their territorial bullshit.

On his way back to his office, he does heed your advice, but he no longer finds the need to take the pill.

 


 

Day 4

No one from your newfound friends in the Kingsglaive warned you about Cor the Immortal. Specifically, no one warned you how infuriatingly handsome he is in person.

You’ve only heard of his name either on the many broadcasts on the radio or television, or came across his impressive exploits in the pages of The Insomnian Gazette. Not a single portrait of him, nor even a single footage of an interview, was ever made public. He never graced the spotlight of his fame; he seemed to hide behind the shadows of all the other great men before him. You can only guess that he’s probably camera shy. Or that he chose to eliminate anyone who ever dared take his photo.

So you were left to speculate what the Cor Leonis actually looked like. In your head, you imagined a fearsome man with cruel eyes who had no idea how to smile, or laugh.

But as soon as you saw his name on the form—in quite a neat handwriting, no less—the face sitting across from you is far from the image you had in mind. In fact, he is quite the opposite.

He has such kind eyes, a striking shade of blue. His handsome face has gracefully wizened, and is set to a perpetual frown. And whatever confidence that possessed you to hold a conversation with him, you gladly thank the gods. Because when he laughs the moment you question his honour—a fucking bold move in exchange for that packet of Advil—you can promise that his laughter could light up an entire city. You can also promise that his smile knocked the wind out of your lungs.

 


 

Day 46

“Monica set you up—” Crowe says before taking another swig from her bottle of beer— “and that’s ‘cause I asked her to.”

“You son of a bitch,” you say loudly, trying to compete with the rest of the boisterous chatter of the other Glaives sitting on the other side of Yamachang’s joint. The decadent reek of the grilled garula kebabs wafts the air. It is sweltering hot.

“So how did it go?” Nyx sidles up to the vacant seat next to you, bottle of beer in hand. “Did you blow him away seeing you in that outfit?”

“I don’t know, actually. I think I made it awkward. I even explained that it’s not for a date, but I didn’t tell him it’s ‘cause I’m meeting my parents, and…” You heave an exasperated sigh. “And I don’t think he even likes me that way—”

“Y’know, my good friend—” Nyx loops one arm around your shoulder— “you and Cor are smart in your respective fields, but gods forbid, you two are also the dumbest people I’ve met when it comes to the matters of the heart.”

Your face wrinkles into a confused frown. “What does that even mean?”

Both Nyx and Crowe shake their heads. “May the gods save us all,” Crowe says before she downs the rest of her drink.

 


 

Day 70

“I still don’t understand why you’re not telling him,” Monica says as she eases behind her desk in the infirmary, busily multitasking stacking her Crownsguard records and offering you her kind advice.

“It’s not that easy, okay.” You take a fist of almonds from your drawer and begin eating them aggressively. “Besides—” you say in between chews— “he’s just so…”

“So?”

“So handsome.”

“Gods, forgive the man for being blessed by an aesthetically beautiful face.” Monica laughs. She types in something on her keyboard before she swivels to look at you. “But really, what do you have to lose?”

“Well, my pride, for one.” You step away from your desk and sit in front of Monica. “And he’s been a good friend to me. And I don’t want to compromise that just because I like him, and I do like him a lot. I probably like Cor more than I like life itself.”

Monica says nothing. Instead, a teasing smile creeps up on her face. She has fallen way too quiet, and you immediately notice how she is casting a furtive glance on the door behind you...

Shit. You hesitate to turn around. Your heart is pounding loudly against your chest. “Please don’t tell me he’s standing right by the doorway.”

Monica shrugs, rising out of her desk. “I think I’ll let the two of you sort this out.”

As you turn to watch Monica leave, you see Cor leaning against the doorframe.

Fuck, fuck, fuck.

He walks over to you, unable to hide the smile on his face. “Didn’t mean to eavesdrop.”

“Right.” You bite your lip. You can’t bring yourself to look him in the eyes. “So how much have you heard then—”

The burning question is extinguished at the tip of your tongue when he takes your face in his hands, his lips crushing yours. In this kiss, he makes it clear that he has heard every word you’ve said. That the feeling is very much the same. That he also likes you more than he likes life itself.

He thumbs the sides of your cheeks, pressing another kiss on your forehead. “I think you should know that I really like you in red.”

You laugh. “I better buy more red shirts, then.”

“And I hope you don’t mind if I keep you this time around.”

The smile on your face aches. “I would like that very much.”