Recruiting the Order Of No Quarter wasn't so bad. Specter Knight was confident in his scythe abilities, he was swift and powerful, and he was able to recruit seven knights for the Enchantress fairly easily. Of course, it was a task that wasn't without the occasional mishap or grueling battle, but he always emerged victorious in the end. No, the recruitment wasn't the issue. The problem was that the newly recruited knights had to live in the tower of fate, and that meant that there was a lot of commotion and activity, which Specter didn't like at all. He was somewhat of a lone wolf, preferring to spend most his time in quiet solitude. And now that was almost impossible, with seven equally egotistical and rambunctious men whose very presences seemed to fill every inch of every room until there was nowhere left to hide.
The absolute worst time was dinner every night. They were all expected to eat together, Specter included for some reason, as was the code for knights of an order. Specter didn't even have to eat in order to sustain himself, being undead, and even if he wanted to, he couldn't eat too much, and his sense of taste had been so severely altered after his death that most foods tasted terrible to him. So every night was always spent sitting at the table, enduring, surviving, doing nothing, until he could leave. The other knights never failed to get on his nerves with their loud and uproarious conversations. He would try to tune them out, never joining in on their rambles or picking a side in their arguments.
It was late October, and the days were short and cold. As per usual, Specter sat silently at the dinner table, having to suffer through what was, in his opinion, probably the worst topic of discussion to date: love, led by the ever-boisterous Propeller Knight.
"Mole Knight!" He said in a provocative tone, swirling a glass of wine in one hand. "Tell me, do you have a special sweetheart in your life, hmm?"
"Me? Oh no, I haven't been able to find anyone willing to get their claws dirty like I do."
"Oh, that certainly will not do! There is someone for everyone, mon ami!"
"Or someones, in your case. Just how many partners have you had in your life?" At this, Propeller chuckled suggestively.
"Hmm, certainly a few. Sometimes I would have a new one every night, and I certainly can't remember them all, hon hon!" Specter scowled under his mask at that comment. Apparently, he wasn't alone in his disgust, because King Knight scoffed.
"How improper! How shallow! I could never be so frivolous, so promiscuous! Why, the very thought of it makes me ill!"
"Oh ho, so you prefer someone more long-term? A Queen Knight to rub your royal shoulders and peel you grapes?"
"My desires are none of your concern!"
"I could never commit to a long-term relationship," Treasure Knight interrupted, probably to King's relief. "They'd want to split my treasure, they'd take 50%, at least! Is anything worth that much?"
"But what if they loved treasure just as much as you? Then they would not only help you acquire more, but they'd share their wealth as well! Combined, you'd be the richest knights in the world!"
"Hm, I suppose..."
"Hon hon! And what about you, Specter Knight?" Specter inwardly groaned at the mention of his name. He'd been hoping that he could avoid this conversation. "Do you have anyone in your life?"
"Well that simply won't do! There must be someone you fancy, hmm?"
"No." As he said it, Specter felt his heart pang, but he ignored it.
"Hee hee! It's probably that no one fancies him! I mean, look at him!" Plague Knight interjected, and Specter shot him a glare, even though it wasn't visible.
"Oh, that is most likely untrue! Such a handsome knight like he must have admirers simply falling at his heels, no?" Specter shifted in his seat. He hated all this attention. Besides, all this talk about love and relationships and special someones was making him think back to...Luan.
"We must find someone for you!" Propeller continued brightly, clapping his hands together. "Tell me, what's your type? I'm sure we could find you a lovely undead lady, someone with a strong romantic streak! Or a powerful woman knight! Or do you prefer men? Perhaps someone more scholarly would be your type, someone as quiet and brooding as you are, hmm?"
"I don't have a type," Specter hissed, wanting to change the topic, or at least get the attention off of himself. Unfortunately, his brain didn't seem to understand that Specter didn't want to think about this, and was bombarding him with unwanted thoughts about what he damn well knew his type was. Tall, handsome, muscular, with wild hair and a thick beard, intense eyes that could kill with a look, a love for danger and adventure, but a kind heart, a gentle heart...someone who'd never betray or hurt me, someone who was always there for me...
"Everyone has a type, mon ami! We just need to find yours. I will personally make it my mission to find you love!" Specter really didn't want to talk about love anymore, because the longer they spent on the topic, the tighter his chest got as he remembered. I already had someone, but I was an idiot, and I killed him, and he hates my guts for it, I'm sure. Specter was really starting to feel like he'd better get away from there before something happened, and he glanced around, looking for a way out, and spotted Plague Knight, sipping something green through a curly straw.
"Er, what about Plague Knight?" He supplied awkwardly.
"Ah, Plague! What about you, are you in need of my help as well?" Plague choked on whatever he was drinking and coughed a few times.
"M-me? Hee hee! ...Uh, no!"
"Oh yes he does, judging from that reaction," Tinker Knight added suddenly, and Plague glared. Propeller laughed.
"Oh yes, I see right through you! Tell me, what is it? Or rather, who is it, hon hon! You have a crush, don't you? Oh, how exciting!" Specter glanced around while Plague fumbled for an answer. Everyone was looking at Plague, excitedly waiting for whatever explanation he could come up with. Specter silently slipped out of his chair and floated out of the room while everyone was distracted; however, he didn't notice a certain knight's eyes following him as he left.
As soon as Specter was out of the room, he let out a shaky sigh. That whole situation had been way too overwhelming, and now his mind was in overdrive, reminding him of things he'd rather forget. There was a lump in his throat that he couldn't swallow, and his chest felt tight with guilt. If I hadn't been such an idiot...if I hadn't been such a stupid, selfish, uncaring asshole...he'd still be here...
He picked up his pace a little, needing to be somewhere quiet and hidden. He felt like he was on the verge of breaking down, something that hadn't happened in a while, but he tried not to think about that. He finally arrived at a small, secluded room; he often went there when he needed to make sure no one would bother him. It was pretty empty and abandoned, with only a dusty desk and chair and some bookshelves lined with more cobwebs than books, which Specter never bothered to look at. There were tall windows on the walls that let the moon shine in, the only source of light in the room. Specter shut the door behind him and let out another shaky sigh. He was safe, at least for now.
Specter slowly floated towards one of the stone windowsills and sat there, curling up with his back to the wall, leaning against the glass. He pulled his keepsake locket from the folds of his cloak and stared, feeling his chest get even tighter as he flipped it open. Luan...I'm so sorry...
Suddenly, there was a gentle knock at the door, and Specter jumped, tensing and clutching the locket in a tight fist. This room was hidden. No one knew about it. How, then, was there someone at the door? Was he so caught up in his own misery that he failed to notice he was being followed?
"Specter Knight, are you in there?" Called a voice Specter couldn't quite place, as it was too muffled by the door.
"Go away!" He hissed, and then immediately regretted it. He just answered the question.
The door creaked open, and Specter glared out of the corner of his eye. He saw the familiar golden helmet of Propeller Knight peek in, somehow without the usual confidence he carried.
"Oh dear...you're upset, aren't you? Was it something I said?"
"I said get out! Leave me alone!" Specter growled, trying to hide the choke in his voice. However, Propeller ignored him and shut the door behind him, making his way closer. Specter hissed, drawing himself further into the corner like a frightened cat, still clutching the locket close to his chest. "Are you deaf? Leave me alone!"
"I said something that upset you, and I would like to apologize for my behavior, mon ami. Is there anything I can do to make it right? Do you...need to talk?" Propeller sat down slowly on the windowsill, still a ways away from Specter. His soft words and gentle tone only made Specter's throat close up even more, and he knew that if he could still cry, his vision would be blurring with tears. It felt like an eternity since he'd heard words spoken so honestly caring, but he steeled himself, taking a shaky breath.
"No, I don't. You - you wouldn't understand. No one understands." Specter jerked his head away to stare out the window at the darkened landscape below, even though he knew Propeller couldn't see the mournful, miserable expression on his face.
"Try me. I'm a good listener." But Specter couldn't bring himself to speak anymore. He couldn't cry anymore, not since becoming undead, but it still felt like he was even though he had no tears to shed. He couldn't believe himself - breaking down in front of someone else, and Propeller Knight, of all people. He hated himself bitterly for being so weak. Propeller, however, didn't say anything. Instead, he must have moved closer, because the next sensation Specter felt was a comforting hand on his arm, and he tensed up hard as bricks. He turned away, swinging his legs over the side of the windowsill, sitting with his back to the window, hands in his lap, ignoring Propeller with everything he had. But Propeller didn't get the message, because he still moved closer, putting an arm around Specter's shoulders. Specter opened his mouth, probably to tell him to fuck off, but all that escaped him was a ragged gasp. He slumped, weeping, and he couldn't help but lean into Propeller. It had been so, so long since he'd felt the warm, comforting touch of the living, and Propeller just felt so real, like something solid and alive that ground him in place and held him steady. He wept quietly, dryly and painfully, squeezing the locket.
"You've lost someone very important to you, haven't you?" Propeller asked gently, rubbing his shoulder, and all Specter could do was nod slightly, fighting the urge to press closer, still trying to retain a shred of his dignity. "Does that locket have anything to do with it?" Propeller lightly touched his hand, the one clutching the locket, and Specter instinctively jerked it away.
"I - I really don't want to talk about it," He managed, hating how weak and choked his voice was, but Propeller didn't comment on that, he just nodded.
"That's alright, I understand." Propeller kept rubbing his shoulder, and Specter gradually relaxed, finally letting his head rest against Propeller's shoulder. His chest and throat gradually loosened as they sat, until Specter was only quivering slightly.
"I've lost important people in my life as well," Propeller mused after a while.
"You have?" It was less of a question than an urging for Propeller to continue.
"Oui. My parents, my grandparents, my first love." Propeller hummed. "You know, what I said at dinner wasn't really true. I have had multiple partners throughout the years, but not nearly as many as I implied, and I remember them all dearly." He sighed again, softly.
"I...I'm sorry." Specter felt more guilt twist his heartstrings. He always assumed that someone like Propeller lived a life free of heartache and loss, and he was foolish to think so. How could he have been so selfish, only thinking of himself when others around him were hurting? Propeller, however, only hummed, patting his shoulder.
"It's alright. It's all in the past now." A brief pause. "I know it can be very difficult to move on. And you're allowed to grieve, of course, but we must keep looking forward. I'm sure your loved one would not want to be remembered with tears, oui?"
Specter sighed shakily. "I know, you're right...it's just..." He was cut off when he noticed voices and footsteps from the hallway, and he shot upright, separating himself from Propeller. "Fuck, someone's coming."
"Stay there, I'll handle it." Specter stared as Propeller stood calmly, dusted himself off, and left the room. He blinked, shocked at how quickly he responded, then floated closer to the door, listening in.
"Oh, Propeller! What are you doing down here?" someone who sounded a lot like King asked.
"I could ask the same of you, mon ami!"
"We're looking for Specter," another voice added, and Specter tensed. "You seen him?"
"How funny, I am also looking for him! He certainly has a talent for vanishing without a trace, doesn't he?"
"Yeah. Have you already checked around here?"
"Oui, no sign of him anywhere."
"Huh. Well, if you find him, let us know."
"Will do!" The footsteps receded, and there was a few moments of silence before Propeller re-entered, and Specter could somehow tell that he was smiling.
"They're gone, don't worry."
"...Thank you." Specter was still so shocked that someone would be so quick to defend and protect him, he couldn't think of anything else to say.
"Now, would you like to sit a while longer? I was just getting comfortable before we were so rudely interrupted!" Specter hesitated, looking to the side.
"I...no, it's alright. You should go." In truth, Specter didn't want to be alone, he wanted to sit with Propeller for longer, but he didn't want to let on how much he needed physical contact. How much he liked feeling his warmth.
"Oh, are you sure? I would be happy to stay and talk with you."
"No really, I'm fine...but thank you."
"But of course! If you ever need anything, mon ami, please come find me." And, with a flourish, he left, this time not to return. And Specter was left alone. He sighed and stared out the window for a moment, meditating in his own melancholy silence, before he finally gathered himself enough to leave.
Oh boy, chapter one! I'm not actually super happy with this one but oh well. The ice has been broken, what will happen next???
Also! I'd like to give credit to some cool people on Tumblr, namely @neoyi , @pickles4nickles , @biovyxart , and @polyvolchant , whose art, ideas, and headcanons have all been huge inspirations for this fic!
1. Yeah I know we don't actually see all the knights sitting together and eating until after the order has been officially established in Shovel of Hope, but...let's ignore that
2. Specter is essentially a walking corpse, and he gets his energy from the Enchantress' magic that "revived" him, so he doesn't need to eat, even though he eats apple cores and gross green chickens in game. The altered taste thing was the best explanation I could come up with for that, and it'll be elaborated on in a later chapter :)
3. Specter can't produce tears, but he can still "cry", where he feels the symptoms of crying (tight chest, lump in the throat, shaky breathing) but no tears are shed
Chapter 2: In Which their Mutual Nerdiness is Discovered
A few days passed since that first incident, and Specter was very careful afterwards to keep to himself and avoid Propeller as much as possible. He knew he didn't have a reason to, because Propeller seemed nice enough and had been willing to listen and try to understand him, but Specter was still awkward. It felt like Propeller already knew too much, even though he had barely said anything.
Specter found himself heading back to that room, needing to be alone. He wasn't upset or anything like last time, he just wanted some time to sit and think somewhere where he felt safe and closed in. The Enchantress had been getting more aggressive in her demands for her eighth knight, and Specter needed a break from the pressure. He swung open the door of his secret hideaway and nearly died a second time when he saw someone standing in there.
"P-Propeller! What are you doing in here?!" He shouted, brandishing his scythe out of instinct. Propeller turned and looked at him; he was facing the bookshelves, holding one of the books in his hands, completely unfazed.
"Ah, bonjour Specter! I apologize for intruding, this is your space, is it not?" He shut the book he was holding, completely ignoring Specter's attempt at intimidation. "You see, I couldn't help but notice these books when we were here the other day. I've exhausted my personal collection, and I'm unable to go to a village to get more, and I'm getting quite bored of reading the same stories over and over. I thought if there were books here, I'd give them a try, oui? But," he sighed, "these are not literature. They're all record books and documents and other information that is useless to me." He shrugged and set the book back on the shelf. Specter relaxed his stance.
"Wait, you mean...you like reading?"
"But of course! I must have something to keep me busy when I am not plundering the skies!"
"Why don't you check the library then?"
"...There's a library here?" Propeller asked with wonder. "I never knew! I was never given a proper tour of the tower. Rather rude, hmm?"
"...Come with me." Specter turned and started walking, and Propeller followed.
The fastest way to the library was by flying outside the tower, so Specter was grateful for once that Propeller had that silly helmet with it's helicopter blades, so he could follow him outside, up and around, land on a balcony, head inside, down a hall, and finally, to their destination.
"Here," said Specter, walking in and holding his arms out. "The library." It was actually pretty impressive: a fireplace crackled and lit up the tall bookshelves with a soft, warm glow. Books of every shape, size and colour lined every shelf, and there were a couple of tables and chairs, as well as plush couches and armchairs around the fireplace. The memmec was curled up in front of the fire, asleep, as it almost always seemed to be. Specter heard Propeller gasp.
"Oh, it's marvelous!" Propeller took a few quick steps further in, head turning constantly, taking in everything around him. Specter huffed in amusement, taking a small note of pride for being able to show Propeller something like this. Propeller spun around to face Specter, clasping his hands together. "What kinds of books are here?"
"Everything. Lots of nonfiction, but the back is all fiction. Murder mysteries, action adventure, romance, there's even some plays..."
"Ooh, where's the romance novels? Those are my favourites!"
"How surprising," Specter muttered sarcastically, beginning to lead the way forward. "This way." They went deeper, then Specter pointed out a shelf. Propeller thanked him, rushing forward and scanning the titles quickly.
"Ooh, what a nice collection!" He commented, before turning back to Specter. "You like reading too? What are your favourite genres?" Specter shrugged.
"Er...I like mysteries. And true crime."
"My, how macabre! You should try reading some good romances, perhaps you'll enjoy them!"
"No. I tried to read a few, and I can't stand them."
"Why?" Propeller sounded hurt.
"The women are all foolish for falling for such shallow, basic and manipulative men. There's way too many clichés, all reason is abandoned for the sake of 'true love' -"
"You just haven't read the right one!" Propeller interrupted. He pulled a book off the shelf and held it out. "Try this. I personally recommend it!" Specter blinked.
"You're recommending me a romance novel." Propeller nodded.
"That I am!"
"What if I don't read it?"
"I would be very sad!" Specter sighed, hesitantly reaching out and taking the book.
Propeller hummed, turning back to admire the bookshelves. "Anything else of interest?"
"Hmm...there's some potion books, books in other languages-"
"I think there's some French. There's also some sheet music in the back corner-"
"Sheet music?" Specter hissed in annoyance at constantly being interrupted.
"Of what kind?"
Specter shrugged. "It's all pretty old. Baroque and classical, I think."
"Ah, I see!"
"Anything else you want to know?" Propeller hummed again.
"Non, I can't think of anything. Do you mind if I just have a look around?"
"Go ahead. Take some books if you want, no one ever uses them. Just return them when you're done."
Propeller started to wander, and Specter watched. He was starting to regret what he had said; this library was like his sanctuary, and to have told Propeller that he could wander as he wanted and even take books? That made him nervous. He really shouldn't have said that, but for some reason he didn't want to disappoint him. Maybe he felt like he owed him something after what happened a few days ago. Yeah, that was probably it.
Specter slowly drifted up to one of his favourite perches in the entire tower; there was a little nook on top of one of the shelves right by a large window where he could nestle himself comfortably, and the light from a nearby lantern illuminated the spot just enough so he could read up there. He kept his eye on Propeller though, watching like a vulture as he meandered around and picked a few books off the shelves. Specter kept track of how many he had and from what areas of the library they came from, until Propeller gave him a wave, said goodnight and left.
It was only then that Specter sighed and let himself relax. He turned and stared out the window for a moment, then looked at the novel Propeller recommended, which he brought up on the shelf with him. He stared at it for a moment and let out a soft huff of amusement before picking it up and flipping to page one.
Both were back in the library a few weeks later, Propeller leafing through a book, Specter sitting again on his favourite bookshelf.
"I read that novel you recommended."
"Oh, wonderful!" Propeller snapped the book he was holding shut, sending a cloud of dust into the air. "What did you think? Did you like it?"
"What?!" Propeller gasped, putting a hand over his heart dramatically. "Oh, Specter! What is not to love?"
"It was way too corny. Susana already had a steady boyfriend, why would she leave him for Drake? He's a selfish, arrogant asshole who doesn't care about her. She only likes him because he's 'dangerous' or whatever, and that's not healthy. She should just stick with Ned." Propeller gasped again.
"But Specter, it's true love! It conquers all! That's the point of romance!"
"I still think it's silly, and pointless." Specter had to smile, though, when Propeller huffed in annoyance. He somehow liked getting on his nerves and seeing him get all flustered and huffy especially when it was over something as trivial as a book.
"You just don't understand. It's true love!"
"I understand enough to know that true love isn't abusive!"
"Mon Dieu!" Propeller threw up his hands. "You are impossible to reason with." He seemed he was about to admit defeat before he continued. "Maybe that one just wasn't right for you! Let's see...oh! This one!" He plucked another book from the shelf and thrust it at Specter. "You will like this one better!"
Specter just groaned.
Fun fact: I went to my mom for help with this chapter because she, like Propeller, is a huge romance novel enthusiast. I asked her to give me the most generic and typical plot for a real cheesy romance, and that's where Drake, Susana and Ned come from.
No notes for this chapter!
Propeller sighed. He hated working for the Enchantress. It meant he had to keep his airship docked most of the time, he had to eat mediocre at best food and drink cheap wine, and he had so little freedom, it felt stifling. He missed the days when he could freely roam the skies, chase the clouds and plunder treasure. The tower felt claustrophobic, and being cooped up inside its dark, musty walls for too long got depressing fast.
Which was why Propeller liked getting to step outside for a while. He enjoyed prowling the rooftops in the moonlight, sometimes sitting somewhere with a good book, other times just enjoying the crisp night air. One night he was doing exactly that, just sitting and watching the moon glisten on a faraway lake, breathing in the fresh air. A gust of wind blew by, ruffling his clothes, and he closed his eyes, smiling beneath his helmet.
And then he heard something. He stilled, quieted his breathing, and listened. It was soft and distant, but when the wind blew it seemed to carry it closer. It was...it seemed impossible, but it sounded like music, like the distant notes of a song. How strange; there was no music in the tower, no art or creativity or anything of the sort. Well, there was the library, but other than that there seemed to be nothing artistic. Music seemed like something that might even be banned from the tower, so how could Propeller hear the distant, intricate notes of a melody? He had to find out. Rising from his seat, he began flying in whatever direction the music seemed loudest. The sound led him to one of the tower's smaller turrets, about halfway in between the summit and the ground. By this point he could recognize more clearly what he was hearing: an intricate, contrapuntal melody being played on harpsichord. Propeller found the door to the turret and landed just inside, and he smiled at what he saw.
Inside was a fairly large, round room, lined with tall, arched, ornate windows that let the moonlight flood in. At the center of the room was a harpsichord, Gothic and ornate, illuminated by a brightly glowing candelabra sitting atop the instrument. And seated at the bench was none other than Specter Knight, completely engrossed in whatever he was playing. Awed, Propeller slowly and quietly crept closer, peering over Specter's shoulder. He was still too far away to read the music, but the paper looked pretty old, and he could see tons of tightly-clumped notes covering the page. Specter didn't notice him, hands flying over the keys, until at last he slowed and played what sounded like the final chord of the piece, and stopped. There was a beat of silence before Propeller started to applaud, and then Specter played another chord, a sforzando cluster chord that really didn't seem like it belonged in the music. He whirled around so quickly that he almost kicked over the bench, and the candles flickered dramatically.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?!" He shouted, brandishing his scythe in a heartbeat, and Propeller only laughed.
"Mon ami, you mustn't be so quick to draw your weapon!"
"How did you know about this place? How do you always know where to find me? Are you stalking me?!"
"Non, nothing of the sort! I was not following you this time, I assure you. I simply heard music and followed the sound to here! You must forgive me, I haven't heard music in weeks. Now, relax! What are you playing?" He leaned in and looked closer at the music while Specter stuttered and frantically cast around for something to say. Suddenly, Propeller gasped. "Oh, Rameau! I know Rameau, my father loved his works!"
"You - I - what?"
"Although I can't say I know this particular piece...oh, I know! Stay right there, I'll be back in only a moment!" And then he flew - quite literally - out of the room and vanished, and Specter was left standing there, scythe in hand, wondering what the hell just happened. When his mind caught up to the situation, he let his scythe dematerialize and put a hand over his chest. If his heart still beat, it would have been absolutely pounding from adrenaline. Propeller had to stop sneaking up on him like that...how was he supposed to relax, knowing that he could surprise him at any moment?
It only took about two minutes before Propeller flew back into the room, this time with...
"Oh my God," Specter groaned. He had a violin.
Propeller bounded back over and brought his instrument up, waving his bow in the air.
"Hon hon! You think you're the only musician around? Think again! Now, let's play together! Start from the beginning, and maybe go just a bit slower, so I can keep up. I'm sight-reading!"
"What do you think you're doing?"
"I'm playing your top voice! Now, enough talk, let's play!" Specter let out a resigned sigh, sat back down, and set his hands on the keys again. He was about to start playing when Propeller interrupted. "Wait! I haven't tuned yet. Can you give me a G?" Specter groaned; this was all just one big annoyance. He resentfully played a G, then a D, then an A, then an E, each at Propeller's request, so he could tune each string. Then, finally, he declared he was ready, and Specter started to play.
It was awkward and clumsy at first as they fought over tempo, but after a while they fell into rhythm with one another. Specter had to admit, Propeller was good, as he was able to keep up pretty well with the sixteenth-note runs, mordants and turns, only missing a few notes or accidentals. He had a nice tone, too, and for a moment Specter felt nervous, because Propeller had very clearly been trained professionally. They played for a while, and all seemed well, until Propeller spoke.
"You're not playing the right notes!" Specter hissed; Propeller had the gall to interrupt him, insist on joining, and then tell him he was playing wrong?
"Of course I am," he said, neither of them stopping or slowing at all.
"You keep playing the rhythms wrong! And read your key signature! That's the third time you missed an E flat!"
"Shut up!" Specter continued to play (although perhaps looking a little closer at the music), and they finally arrived at the piece's conclusion. Propeller lowered his violin.
"Well, not bad. Not bad! But you must read your music more carefully, mon ami. See here," he pointed with his bow at a spot on page three, "this run was sloppy."
"Don't tell me how to play my music!" Specter hissed.
"I cannot resist! I have years of classical training behind me, and I simply cannot stand to see someone butchering such fine music!"
"Well I haven't been trained, so forgive me for not being perfect," Specter drawled, voice oozing with sarcasm.
"Well, I - wait, you've never had training?" The tone of the conversation immediately shifted, and Specter tensed uncomfortably. He hated questions, especially when they involved his past and he was actually expected to come up with an answer.
"No. I taught myself."
"And how long have you been playing?"
"Uh...I started learning...pretty young, but it's been really on and off since then. I've gone years without ever touching a keyboard." He shifted.
"And you can play at this level? With no amount of training whatsoever?"
"I...yeah, I guess, but as you saw, I'm not perfect."
"Mon ami, that is magnificent!" Propeller threw his hands in the air, and Specter was very worried that he was going to hit something with his violin. "Forgive me for being so rude, I did not know you were self-taught! Most impressive!" Specter would have blushed from the praise.
"Let's play something else! Do you have any other pieces?"
"Uh, there's some in the bench, but there's also the music in the library. I'm pretty sure there's some duets there - "
"Then let's go get some!" Propeller had set down his instrument and bow and grabbed Specter's hand, dragging him to his feet and out the door before he could say anything.
Twenty minutes later found them both in the library, poring over the selection of sheet music. Propeller was seated at a table, digging through a stack of duets for any they could play, while Specter searched through the music still on the shelves for anything to add to the pile. He glanced at Propeller, noticing that he was still staring at the same song that he had been a few minutes ago. "You like that one?" He leaned in and looked at it. "'Salut d'amour'," he read aloud in probably the worst French accent ever. "We could try it, even though it's supposed to be with piano." Propeller didn't answer, he just sighed wistfully.
"I know this piece," he mused softly. Specter sat down on the table, listening. "Both my parents were musicians. I remember - my father, he played violin. It was he who encouraged me to learn as well. And this - this was his favourite piece." He leaned back in his chair, staring at the ceiling, or perhaps his eyes were closed. "Some of my earliest memories are of this very song. In my childhood home, we had a grand piano, right by the windows, and it was always kept so polished and beautiful by the servants that it glimmered when the sunlight hit it. My mother would accompany my father on it as he played, and it was so beautiful. I always wanted to make beautiful music like he could." He chuckled. "My father would always let me hold his violin after he finished playing. It was much too big for me. I had to start with a half-size and work my way up." Then he sighed again. "I miss those days."
"If I may ask...why did you become a knight, then? Why not a musician?"
"I suppose I wanted to leave the nest," Propeller answered. "I wanted to see the world, to go on adventures, to have fun. I felt trapped in my old home. Sky piratery runs in my blood, did you know? All my ancestors were pirates." He sighed again. "Still, as much as I don't regret my decision, I do wish I could go back sometimes. They're dead now."
"Please, do not pity me. There is no point in dwelling on the past." He sat up abruptly and set the music down on top of a smaller pile he had started, of music he thought he and Specter could try playing. "Well! What about you, mon ami? What inspired you to take up the harpsichord?" Specter internally groaned; he had been hoping Propeller wouldn't ask. That was always the danger in asking people about their lives: they expected you to return the favour. Specter thought for a while, debated internally, then answered.
"There was a piano where I grew up. And I was bored. That's it."
"That is hardly an answer! Come now, tell me more! Where did you grow up?"
"...In an orphanage." Propeller seemed like he regretted asking.
"Oh...I'm sorry. Did you...ever know your parents?"
"No. I was just one of many children abandoned on their doorstep as an infant. I didn't even have a letter with my name on it."
"Ah...I'm sorry to hear that."
"Don't be. I don't care." Specter shrugged, then felt like the atmosphere he created was too awkward, so he continued. "But yeah...there was a piano there. I didn't have anything to do, so I found some books and taught myself."
"There was no one there who could have taught you?"
"Well, there was one woman who knew how to play. She used to play for us, then she started spending that time teaching a little girl, and didn't have any time for me. It was a big orphanage, and they were always critically understaffed." He shrugged again, clamping his mouth shut after he realized everything he just said. He had never opened up like that to anyone before, not even to Luan, so where had all that come from? Could he really trust Propeller with such details about his life?
"Well, I am most impressed by your playing ability, especially given your circumstances! You are somewhat of a prodigy, mon ami!" All the praise was making Specter embarrassed, and he shifted. He wasn't used to so much attention.
"Well, I think we have enough music to keep us busy for some time. Let's head back, shall we?" Specter smiled.
The two played together long into the night. Strangely enough, Specter felt happier and more relaxed than he had felt since joining the Enchantress. It didn't take them long before they began to understand each other, and could play almost perfectly together, despite Specter's somewhat clumsy sight-reading. Propeller's joy and excitement was infectious, and Specter didn't even argue whenever Propeller would exclaim "Again! Oh, let's play that one again, it is so lovely!" Specter was surprised to find that he was actually enjoying himself, smiling much more than usual under his mask and even making a few jokes or sarcastic remarks, which would only make Propeller laugh, and then that happiness rubbed off on Specter, and it was a never ending cycle of laughter and delight. It was only when Propeller started getting tired that they realized just how long they had been playing, and just how late it was.
"Forgive me, mon ami, but I must be off. But let us play again sometime, oui? I will find us more music!"
"Sure, I'd like that."
"As would I! Well, bonne nuit, Specter!"
"Good night." Propeller walked out, humming, and Specter's smile faded as soon as he was out of sight. He glanced around himself. Somehow, the room seemed much smaller, darker and colder without Propeller in it. It was as if all the life and joy left with him, and Specter was left feeling very, very lonely. He sighed, straightening himself out and beginning to play a slow, mournful piece. It was going to be a long night.
Because I am a grubby little musician who infects everything I touch with my grubby little musician hands. Also I took one (1) look at Propeller and immediately thought "now that is one of the most pretentious, classically trained bitches I've ever seen."
1. Jean-Philippe Rameau is kind of like, THE French composer, so of course Propeller recognizes the name lol
2. Salut d'Amour is a real piece by Elgar! You can listen to it right here!
3. I imagine Propeller had somewhat of a noble upbringing by parents who wanted to try and forget that they descended from pirates, but Propeller still found out somehow, so he's kind of a cross between a noble and a sky pirate. Specter, on the other hand, probably didn't have such a nice upbringing, considering he went on to become a thief. These are just kinda my own ideas about their lives :)
4. Specter can't sleep. He spends the nights dissociating, or trying to keep himself busy so he doesn't think too much about sad shit. It's real Sad Boy Hours
Chapter 4: In Which They Grow Ever Closer and Specter Has Some Concerns
It was dinnertime yet again, and just like every night, Specter found himself forced to sit in with everyone at the table. It wasn't as excruciating as that one time, because everyone was involved with their own little conversations, and their chattering was only background noise, as opposed to something more loud and boisterous and overwhelming. The food even looked better than it normally did; Propeller must have been serious when he said he was going to threaten the chef into making them better meals. There were entire roast chickens, vegetable platters, and tons of plates piled high with every sort of food imaginable. For a moment, Specter mourned, wishing he could indulge in the food, but knowing that he was better off not touching any of it. Being undead, he didn't have to eat to sustain himself, but he always had a sort of hollow, hungry feeling in his body that could never be sated, and staring at food only made it worse. Even if he wanted to eat, his sense of taste had been altered so severely after his death that most foods tasted absolutely revolting, or had no flavour at all. He knew better than to take his chances, despite how delectable everything looked.
"Specter?" Specter pried his eyes away from the steaming piles of food and looked at Propeller.
"How come you never eat anything? There's plenty to go around." Specter appreciated how Propeller kept his voice at a normal volume, because he knew how attention-attracting he could be. He shrugged.
"I don't need to."
"But you could?"
"I could, but most food tastes awful to me now." Propeller made a disappointed sound.
"Ahh, that is no fun! Everything here tastes awful, does it?"
"I don't know. I stopped trying to find out what foods I can and can't taste a while ago."
"Well, what did you find out? Anything?" Specter was surprised that he kept asking questions; he really didn't think this was that interesting of a topic.
"...I can taste strawberries. And blood." Propeller choked on his drink.
"Oh my! Two very opposing flavours! So, would a blood-soaked strawberry be a delicacy to you?"
"No, that's not how it works." Propeller nodded.
"I see." Specter thought the conversation was over, but then Propeller started up again. "So you can't eat anything here?"
"Not sure. I haven't tried any of this." Propeller nudged his plate a little closer and motioned towards it.
"Try something. You never know! Here, how about this?" He pointed towards some vegetables on his plate. "Try some. I promise I haven't touched it!"
Specter hesitated. Eating off of someone else's plate was way more intimate than he was maybe comfortable with, but Propeller really didn't seem fussed. Besides, he had the feeling that he wouldn't be left alone until Propeller was satisfied. He glanced around to ensure no one was watching, then quickly scooped up a small amount with his fork, and tugged his mask down just long enough to pop it in his mouth. Propeller's staring made him slightly uncomfortable as he chewed and swallowed.
"Aw." Specter thought the conversation was over and that Propeller's curiosity was satisfied until Propeller rotated his plate a bit and pointed to something else. "Okay, well, how about this..."
Specter ended up having to sample little bits of over half of Propeller's food before the meal was over. He couldn't taste any of it, except for the chicken, which was so awful to him that he almost gagged. He was floating down the hall afterwards, heading for the roof to do his evening brooding, when he again heard his name being called.
"Specter! Come with me!" Specter sighed and turned to Propeller.
"Come to my airship! I have tons of delicious treats that you must try!" Specter groaned.
"You know, if I eat too much, I'll get sick." It was, surprisingly, the truth, and not just some lie Specter made up to get himself out of the situation, but he still hoped it served the same purpose.
"Not to worry! I will give you small amounts. I'm sure I will find something you can taste, I will make it my mission!"
"Didn't you also say your 'mission' is to find me love?"
"Perhaps your true love lies within a well-crafted pastry, mon ami." Specter sighed, resigning himself to his fate, not even noticing that he had already started following Propeller.
Specter had never paid much attention to the inside of Propeller's ship. Last time he was in it, he was too busy trying to find the man and getting him to join the Enchantress to notice much about his surroundings. But then, as he looked around at the perfectly polished floors, bright colours and elegant decor, he couldn't help but be impressed.
"You like it?" Propeller hummed when he noticed Specter's head turning.
"It's...impressive," he admitted. Propeller puffed out his chest.
"She was a gift from my grandparents. She was originally a cruise ship, but I transformed her into the magnificent battleship she is today!"
"Huh." Specter was led deeper into the ship, passing a few crewman on their way through who saluted to Propeller and shrunk back when they noticed who was following him. Specter paid them no mind, and soon they arrived at Propeller's personal chambers.
"I hide my snacks in here so my crewmen don't steal them," Propeller giggled. "Have a look around, if you wish! I've got nothing to hide." He busied himself digging through some drawers, and Specter glanced around, shifting awkwardly. The intimacy he felt at dinner was nothing compared to what he was feeling now. He busied himself with looking around, and his gaze landed on a few picture frames sitting on top of a cabinet. He stepped closer, peering at the smiling faces in each picture.
"Who's this?" Specter couldn't help but ask.
"My family," Propeller answered, coming to stand next to him. "These are my parents, my grandparents, and my aunt." He pointed at each picture in turn.
"Heh. Is that you?" Specter pointed to a little boy standing in front of the people Propeller identified as his parents.
"Oui. I am told I look a lot like my father," Propeller mused, and Specter almost sarcastically answered I wouldn't know, but he instead looked a little closer at the photo.
"You do," he answered before he realized what he was saying, then he clamped his mouth shut, embarrassed. Propeller only laughed.
"Now then! No more distractions. Behold!" Propeller skipped over to his bed, where there was a stack of boxes of various sizes, shapes and colours.
"Holy shit," Specter gaped, and Propeller laughed gleefully, lifting them in the air.
"My own private collection! Sweets, the finest pastries and most delectable biscuits, all from my home country!" Specter stared for a moment, and had to laugh, any previous tensions vanishing.
"Alright, alright. Where do you want me to start?"
That night, something special seemed to happen. Just like the night when they played music together, Specter felt himself relax completely, any thoughts of self-doubt or worry just melted away. They both sat on Propeller's bed, surrounded with boxes of fancy chocolates, laughing and eating. Normally, Specter preferred to be seen as emotionless and stoic, but he couldn't bring himself to care anymore. He even hooked his mask under his chin, letting Propeller see his mouth and chin, which he normally would never do, but again, all reason was lost. Even the burnt and bitter flavour the food left in his mouth felt insignificant next to his own happiness and Propeller's excitement.
And, just like that other night, they became so lost in their joy that they didn't notice the time passing. And, just like then, as soon as Specter bid Propeller goodnight and left the airship, that hauntingly empty and lonely feeling returned. Along with his common sense. And growing feelings of horror and confusion.
Oh my god, what was I doing?!
Specter was reflecting upon all this later, in the library. He couldn't focus on anything else besides how he felt when he was around Propeller, and he didn't like it. There was only one other person in his life who made him feel like that, all relaxed and giddy, and that was Luan. It didn't help that he was never quite able to sort out and label exactly what his feelings were pertaining to the other man, either. He'd been in the middle of trying to decide whether he was feeling friendship, or brotherhood, or love, or lust, when the whole amulet fiasco happened and...well. He never did find out. And now he was having the exact same dilemma with Propeller, so...what did that mean?
Unfortunately, he couldn't ponder on this any longer, because the door to the library was suddenly kicked open, making him jump.
"Specter! Come look at what I found!" Speak of the devil. Specter pushed his thoughts to the back of his mind and turned to see Propeller waddling in with something in his arms. He blinked.
"A pile of junk?"
"Non, silly, a record player! Haven't you seen one before?" He set it down on a table with a loud thunk and then dusted himself off. "And look at all the records that were with it! Come help me set it up!" Specter floated down from his perch, staring at the aforementioned foot-high stack of records that had been balancing on top of the turntable.
"Where did you find this?"
"No, seriously, are you snooping around? The Enchantress won't be pleased if she finds out."
"I prefer to use the term 'exploring!'" Specter sighed, then started to help Propeller dust everything off and try and get it working. It took all of ten minutes before they got it looking more like a record player and less like a, as Specter described, pile of junk.
"Ooh, how exciting! What shall we play first...?" Propeller hummed, digging through the stack of records before gasping and pulling one out. "This one!"
Specter read the words out loud. "Blue Moonlight - Glenn Miller and his Orchestra. You know it?"
"Oui!" He pulled the record out and set it delicately in place, and Specter watched as he carefully and expertly set the needle, and the record crackled to life. They held their breaths as, for a moment, the only sound that was produced was fuzz, and then music started to play, and Propeller let out a cheer.
Specter sat down at the table, resting his cheek in his palm as he listened. It was a painfully sweet melody, and he let his eyes close. It felt nostalgic somehow, even thought he was sure he'd never heard the song before. And then the vocals came in, and it took Specter a moment to realize that Propeller was singing along. He opened his eyes and looked up at him, smiling to himself. When Propeller noticed he had an attentive audience, he sang more passionately, swaying to the music. He only butchered a few words with his accent, but Specter still enjoyed listening to him, even more so than the music itself. However, whenever he would sing about 'you', he'd gesture towards Specter, and it was obviously just part of the little performance he was putting on, but it still made Specter's heart squeeze painfully.
"The world could stand still, I'd never know,
I'm lost in the thrill of loving you so..."
His voice was rich and deep, and Specter only let himself imagine that Propeller was actually singing to him for a second before shutting the thought away. Still, he couldn't help but stare like a lovesick schoolgirl as Propeller sang on. When the words ended, Propeller sighed.
"I love these old songs," He hummed wistfully. "My mother and I would always dance together to them, when I was a child. I would stand on her feet and she'd show me how." He held out his arms and looked down at his feet, as if he were imagining a smaller version of himself doing exactly what he described. Then he looked up at Specter as the song drew to a close. "Tell me, Specter, do you know how to dance?"
"M-me?" Specter snapped back to reality. "No."
"I didn't have anyone to teach me, remember?"
"It's easy!" Propeller flipped the record, and the second song began to play. "Come here, I'll show you."
"Huh?" Specter barely had the time to register that Propeller just asked him to dance before he was pulled to his feet. They stepped a little ways from the table, and Specter's mind was racing as Propeller gently took his hands.
"Here, put your arm around me, like this. Perfect." Specter knew that his heart would be pounding, palms sweating and face red if his body could still do any of those things. He felt Propeller's arm go around his waist, holding him close, their other hands still clasped together. "There. Now, just step with me..." It was awkward at first, but it didn't take Specter long to figure out how to move his feet. Propeller had been right; it was easy.
And then the lyrics came in, and Propeller again sang along, softer this time. Listening to his voice helped calm Specter down, and after a few moments he let his eyes slip shut. He could feel Propeller's body heat warming him to his core; it had been so, so long since he'd been warm. And again, he let himself imagine, just for a moment, that it was him Propeller was singing about, and he swallowed dryly, feeling his knees start to shake. But it was a good feeling, one he wished would linger forever. Unfortunately, the song had to end, and when it did they separated, and Specter felt all the heat instantly leave his body.
"Very good, mon ami. You're a natural," Propeller said.
"...Thanks." Propeller sighed contentedly.
"Well, I enjoyed that, but I shouldn't take any more of your time, I'm sure you have things to do. Thank you for indulging me."
"Yeah, no...no problem." Propeller walked away, turning and waving before he left.
"Bonne nuit, Specter!" Specter didn't reply. He just stood there, feeling colder and lonelier than normal. A realization was starting to creep into his mind, and he sighed, accepting his fate. He sat back down at the table and set the needle back to the start of the song, leaning into his hand as the music started up again. He listened to the lyrics as they came in, and they sounded much emptier without Propeller singing along.
'My prayer is to linger with you...'
Specter: *sees a green, moldy, half-rotted chicken carcass* finally, some good fucking food
Also, you thought the cheesy, nerdy music shit was over????? Think again!
1. I...really don't know what's going on with Specter's clothes, specifically his headgear??? I'm assuming it works kind of like a balaclava with a visor attached, so he can pull the fabric down to eat and also just remove the whole thing if he wants. I just refer to it as his mask.
2. Even though he can eat, Specter's body really isn't that good at actually digesting food anymore, so he has to be careful with what and how much he eats.
3. The record they play exists, and we're just gonna assume it exists in the Shovel Knight universe as well! I have a huge soft spot for swing tunes :) the two songs can be found here and here! (I finally found out how to link things yaay)
The more Specter thought about the whole situation, the more anxious and uncomfortable he decided he was. He really didn't like how cozy he was getting with Propeller, he didn't like the effect he had on him, he didn't like what it meant for both of them, and he certainly didn't like how Propeller was completely oblivious to how terrifying it all was. They kept spending time together, and even throughout the day Propeller would always greet him cheerfully and strike up a conversation every time they passed. It bothered Specter, and he ended up trying to avoid Propeller as much as possible. He tried not to think about how happy Propeller made him and how badly he just wanted to throw caution to the wind and let himself be happy for once in his life. But he couldn't, he just couldn't. He hated the vulnerability he felt, he hated how Propeller almost controlled him whenever they were together, and most importantly, he felt like he was betraying Luan - both by having these feelings about someone else, and by allowing himself happiness. He didn't deserve any sort of peace or love or forgiveness, not after what happened. Not after what he did.
So he drew himself in, returning to spending hours brooding over the locket and dissociating, just like he did before they became friends. Could he even use that word to describe them? Friends? Specter had never really had any before; Luan was more like family, or at the very least just a partner in crime, than a friend to him. But it didn't matter, because he and Propeller weren't friends anymore, and that was that. Specter didn't need him, he had managed just fine before he came into his life. Or at least, that's what he told himself.
So every night, instead of reading or playing the harpsichord or anything else he might enjoy, he would sit atop one of the tower's smallest turrets and stare at the locket. He couldn't do anything else, because Propeller had invaded every space, activity and safe haven he had except for the locket. That was one thing he didn't and couldn't touch. Or at least, that's what he thought.
It was maybe on the fifth consecutive day of giving Propeller the cold shoulder when Specter's nightly dissociating was interrupted by the distant, yet steadily approaching, sound of a propeller. Specter's resolve didn't falter for a moment, and he didn't move, didn't acknowledge Propeller as he landed next to him.
"Specter...mon ami..." Propeller began softly. Specter didn't move. Propeller sat down next to him. "Are you upset with me?" Silence. "Did I do something wrong?" More silence. "Specter, I don't understand, why are you acting this way?"
"Huh?" Propeller's voice was rising with frustration. "I don't understand! I thought we were becoming such wonderful friends, and now you will not even look at me! Please, tell me what I have done wrong!"
"Leave me alone."
"Specter!" Propeller huffed in anger, then seemed to steel himself. He looked at the object held in Specter's hands. "It's that locket, isn't it? You've been staring at it much more than usual." Again, he gave him a chance to respond, but continued upon receiving none. "Is that little trinket more important to you than anything or anyone else?" That was enough to coax something out of Specter, who responded gruffly.
"It's not just a trinket."
Propeller huffed again. "Oh right, it has something to do with your past, doesn't it? Do you honestly care more about the past than you do about real, present people?" Specter didn't answer. Suddenly, Propeller stood up, and yanked the locket from Specter's hands.
"Hey-!" He leapt up, glaring at Propeller, who dangled the locket in front of him, staring at it. Specter tried to grab it, but Propeller had quicker reflexes than anticipated. "Give it back!"
"It would do you some good to get away from this thing, mon ami. Perhaps I should bury it somewhere, or throw it in the lake!" A cold dread gripped Specter's entire being.
"Oh ho ho! Or would I?" Specter snarled, brandishing his scythe and blindly swinging, and Propeller started up his propeller and leapt away.
"Give it back!" Specter chased after him, but Propeller was fast. Specter couldn't think rationally anymore, he needed that locket back, and he was gonna get it. He chased Propeller through the air, swinging his scythe almost madly, blinded by rage. But Propeller was quick and nimble, and was able to dodge and escape Specter's attacks with all the grace of a fencer. Unfortunately for Propeller, he didn't know the tower as well as Specter did, and ended up backing himself into a corner. Not letting himself be defeated so easily, he drew his sword and met Specter head-on, their weapons clashing and glinting in the moonlight. Fortunately for Specter, his scythe was much heavier and more powerful than Propeller's épée, and even though it meant his attacks were much slower, he managed to hit the épée at just the right angle and with enough force that it was knocked from his hand. For a moment, Propeller faltered, trying to decide in a split second whether it was worth going after right at that moment, and that was the only window Specter needed. He managed to rip the locket from Propeller's grasp, and before he could react, he swung his scythe again, the flat of the blade hitting Propeller hard enough to send him flying backwards into the tower wall - hard. The impact stopped the helicopter blades on his helmet to jam and stop spinning, and Specter watched with sudden horror as he began to plummet.
"No...no!" Specter dove, rushing towards his body as quickly as he could, heart in his throat. He managed to catch up, desperately grabbing his limp body and stopping their fall. He floated in the air and shook Propeller a bit. "Propeller!" No response. A cold terror gripped his body, and he sobbed, shaking him again with rapidly growing desperation. "Propeller!!"
A sickening feeling of déja vu began to creep into Specter's mind. He could almost hear a voice shouting, could still feel the shaking of the ground and the rock and brick crumbling around him, could still taste blood in his mouth, could still feel the pain filling every inch of his body, and all because of him, because of what an idiot he had been -
Not again - please, not again, not again...!
(Bit of a shorter chapter, sorry! Next ones will be longer)
Specter almost pitied the poor members of Propeller's crew who probably went into cardiac arrest when he suddenly burst into the airship, Propeller in his arms, demanding to see the medic. But they were probably used to shocks, at least partially, and one of them was able to send him to the only slightly less terrified medic. And then came the worst part, when the medic was inspecting Propeller behind the closed door of the captain's room and Specter wasn't allowed inside. So he paced around outside the door anxiously, snapping at any unfortunate crewmen who tried to inquire about their beloved captain's condition. Finally, the medic emerged and announced to Specter that Propeller was alright, save for being unconscious and pretty bruised up. Specter felt himself sag with relief.
"Thank you...thank you. Can I see him?" the medic hesitated.
"As long as you don't cause any more of a ruckus than you already have."
"I won't. Thank you." The medic walked off, and Specter hesitated for a moment before slowly floating into Propeller's room. The atmosphere felt way different than it did the night they laughed and ate sweets there together, and it made Specter a little nervous. And very, very guilty. He glanced at the bed and saw Propeller lying there, and he approached quietly before suddenly realizing that he didn't have his helmet on. Specter looked away, out of respect, because seeing a knight's face was often seen as something very personal and intimate, but curiosity got the better of him, and he looked back. And then wished he hadn't. Because...well, to put it simply, he was very handsome. Propeller had very soft-looking, wavy, blonde hair that curled very attractively around his face and ears, and Specter desperately wanted to touch it, but managed to restrain himself. He had nicely groomed eyebrows, a cute nose, and a little bit of a moustache, which also looked very soft and groomed. Specter would have blushed. Damn.
He spotted a stool sitting nearby and dragged it over to the bedside, sitting down. Propeller looked like he was sleeping peacefully, so Specter just decided to wait until he woke up. After all, he was used to sitting and staring for indefinite periods of time, so it really wasn't bad. It didn't take long for Propeller to wake up, either; only ten or so minutes passed before he started to stir. He blinked his eyes open, and they were the most brilliant and intense shade of green Specter had ever laid eyes upon. Propeller noticed him sitting there, and smiled, and Specter's heart would have skipped a beat.
"Ah, Specter, bonjour."
"Hi." Propeller rubbed at his eyes and tried to sit up for a moment before wincing and laying back down.
"Where are we, mon ami?"
"Your room, in your airship."
"The medic was here earlier. He said that you're okay, just bruised. There's some painkillers here if you need them."
"I think I'm alright, but thank you." An awkward silence passed. Propeller tried to sit up again, and this time succeeded, and Specter had to look away, flustered, when he saw that Propeller was wearing a loose shirt with a low v-neck. It didn't seem like this was the same Propeller as the one he was fighting with only a short while ago; it would definitely take a while to get used to seeing him without his helmet and usual choice of clothes.
"Mon ami, I would like to apologize for my behavior," Propeller began. "I was...jealous, I suppose, and was not thinking rationally. Still, I know that that is not an acceptable excuse, and that it was very wrong of me to do what I did. I'd like to ask you to forgive me, if you can." He looked at Specter with a small, sad smile.
"I-it's alright," Specter said, his previous grudge immediately forgotten when he looked at Propeller's smile. "I forgive you." Propeller visibly relaxed.
"Thank you." Another brief silence, then Propeller continued, with a bit of a twinkle in his eye. "I believe it is your turn to apologize now, mon ami." Specter sighed.
"I know, I know, I'm getting to it." Propeller chuckled.
"Take your time. It must be hard for a tough guy like you to apologize, hmm?"
"Shut up." Propeller giggled. Specter took another moment, then finally spoke: "I...I'm sorry about how I reacted. It was wrong."
"And?" Specter sighed again.
"And I'm sorry for bashing you into a wall and knocking you unconscious." Propeller gave another chuckle.
"Hmm..." Propeller made it look like he was seriously considering it, and Specter panicked for a moment. Then he smiled, and with he same twinkle in his eye as earlier, he answered. "Give me a kiss and I'll forgive you."
A hot rush of terror raced through Specter's entire body. "W-what?!"
"Kidding! It was only a jest, mon ami, of course I forgive you. Lighten up!" Propeller laughed, and Specter sighed with a mix of relief and disappointment.
"Oh...of course...ha ha," he laughed, a little sheepishly and awkwardly. And then there was more silence, which still felt awkward to Specter, because he felt like there was still an elephant in the room that really needed to be addressed, even though he really didn't want to bring it up. But there was something he wanted to say, so he gathered his courage and finally broke the silence. "I thought I killed you." Propeller looked at him, curious, and Specter continued. "I...I thought that my idiocy killed you. I saw you fall, and I...I thought the worst." He shuddered, and then added, in such a quiet mumble that Propeller might not have even heard him, "It wouldn't have been the first time."
Propeller regarded him for a moment before smiling kindly. "Not to worry. It would take far more than that to kill me!"
"...Yeah." It was mumbled, and Propeller regarded him for another moment.
"Are you going to tell me what this is all about now? Something's been on your mind for quite some time, has it not?" Specter nodded, throat tight.
"...Yeah." Propeller smiled encouragingly.
"You can talk to me, mon ami. Sometimes it helps to talk." Specter almost gave in, but at the last moment decided against it, thinking that that would be far too much of an emotional roller coaster to go through in one day.
"I'll...tell you some other time," he answered, half-hoping that Propeller would forget about it and he'd never have to explain.
"Alright." There was another silence. That happened a lot in between them. Then Propeller got that damn twinkle in his eye again. "You know, mon ami, I'm not quite sure it's fair that you've seen my face and I haven't seen yours."
"...Urk." Propeller giggled and held up his hands.
"You don't have to, just a suggestion! For the sake of fairness." Specter agreed with the whole 'fairness' thing, but still wanted to try and get himself out of the situation, because not even he liked looking at his own face anymore.
"You don't want to see my face, trust me. I'm not as handsome as you are." He clamped his mouth shut when he realized the implications of what he said, but Propeller didn't seem to pick up on it.
"Don't say that, mon ami! I'm sure you look very handsome."
"What if I'm secretly a monster? What if you start getting nightmares because I'm so scary?"
"That will not happen, I can assure you."
"People have died just by looking at my face, you know."
"Alright, alright, if you insist." Specter sighed, and still hesitated a moment before reaching up with slightly shaky hands, removing his hood and mask. Propeller's eyes widened.
"Oh my." The first thing that caught Propeller's attention was his eyes. They were sharp and piercing, like they had a thousand stormy thoughts brewing in their depths, and they seemed to reach out and hold Propeller in place with their intensity. Their colour was a murky brown, and the whites of his eyes weren't white, but black, which was a little startling, but easy to look past. His skin was pale and a strange, stale colour, which was probably due to being dead, if Propeller had to guess. There were acne scars that dotted his cheeks, and one long, jagged scar that cut through one of his eyebrows and then continued along his cheek, and Propeller really wanted to ask where it had come from, because it wasn't clean like a wound from a sword would be. Specter shifted, uncomfortable with the way Propeller was staring at him.
"...Told you," he muttered.
"...Ah, forgive me, mon ami! Please, do not take my silence as an insult! It's just...well..." Propeller grinned sheepishly. "When was the last time you brushed your hair?" Indeed, Specter's black hair looked like it had been...well, neglected, to say the least. Specter opened his mouth to answer with something snappy and sarcastic, but stopped, because he actually couldn't remember. Propeller must have seen the thought process on his face, because he looked horrified. "Mon Dieu, you actually don't remember?"
"Do you bathe?"
"No." Propeller looked even more horrified, and Specter frantically started to defend himself. "I don't need to! I'm dead, I don't sweat, my hair doesn't grow, I don't lose skin cells." The horror seemed to subside, at least a bit, but Propeller still looked disturbed.
"Still, there is much I can teach you about personal hygiene, mon ami. I am giving you a bath."
"No you are not. I don't need a bath."
"Yes you do! You will have a bath, or else I am never speaking to you again, Specter!" Specter only gave a slight chuckle. Then, he thought of something else that needed to be said.
Propeller blinked. "What?"
"My name is Donovan. It...feels weird using 'Specter' after you've seen my face." Propeller's face lit up.
"Donovan, what a cute name." Specter's eyes widened, but Propeller (fortunately) continued speaking before he could have a full-blown freak-out over being called cute. "And I am Alicio Clément Jean-Olivier Laurent!"
"Fitting," Specter mused. Propeller kept smiling.
"You...please forgive me for bringing this up, but you are an orphan with no surname, correct?"
"Yeah, why?" Propeller giggled.
"Where I'm from, orphans are often given the surname 'Donnadieu'. It means given to God." He could barely contain his giggles. "You would be Donovan Donnadieu."
"Oh my God," Specter groaned, but laughed. "That's the dorkiest name on earth."
"Non, it's cute! Donovan Donnadieu. It's official!" Specter could only hide his face in his hands, overwhelmed with embarrassment and amusement and Propeller calling him cute again, as Propeller only laughed.
Purposefully waited for a while to post this one just to keep you all in suspense >:)
1. Everyone has a lot of ideas about what Propeller actually looks like, but the general consensus seems to be that he has a moustache, which I absolutely love and had to include.
2. Specter’s weird eyes and skin is from being undead, which was probably obvious, but just to clarify. The jagged scar was from when he kinda got his face bashed in by falling rocks.
3. I completely pulled Propeller’s name out of my ass. It has no meaning, but it rhymes, so it’s nice, I think. (The characters will still be referred to as Specter and Propeller though)
4. I found out about the Donnadieu thing as I was looking for fancy French names to give Propeller, and I was unable to write for like 5 minutes because I was giggling to much over the thought of Donovan Donnadieu
Chapter 7: In Which Feelings Emerge and Smooches are Had
Since Specter's previous plan of ignoring Propeller really didn't work, to say the least, he had no choice but to abandon it, continue being friends with him, and let fate take the wheel. He enjoyed being with Propeller, of course, but there was still guilt lurking at the back of his mind, a quiet little voice telling him that he really shouldn't be letting it happen. But at the same time, he was happy with Propeller. Was he allowed happiness? He definitely didn't deserve it. But if he tried to push Propeller away again, it would hurt him, too, and he didn't want that. So it was for Propeller's good as well. Mostly for Propeller's good. That's what he told himself, in order to feel better about the situation.
Specter blinked, coming back to reality.
"Oh - sorry. Was lost in thought."
He and Propeller were sitting side-by-side on one of the tower's highest turrets, not speaking much, just enjoying the breeze and each other's company. Propeller had recovered quickly, and had dramatically cried that he needed to get outside after being cooped up for so long (one day), or else he'd die. So they went out, recovered Propeller's sword from where it had fallen (fortunately still in one piece), and then they somehow ended up just sitting together.
"It's a beautiful night, isn't it?" Propeller said wistfully, leaning back and sighing softly.
"Yeah, it is." A brief silence passed, but this time it was comfortable, unlike all the awkward silences that so often filled the space between them. Propeller reached up and took his helmet off, and Specter watched out of the corner of his eye as he set it down and combed a hand through his hair. He turned to Specter and smiled sweetly, and the other's breath hitched; he looked gorgeous in the moonlight.
"Specter...Donovan..." Propeller began, and Specter still wasn't used to hearing his real name used. "There is...something I'd like to tell you."
"What is it?" Propeller looked off into the distance, thinking.
"Hmm, how to put it..." He sighed. "Lately, you and I have become very good friends, which I'm very happy about. I like you quite a bit, mon ami, and I was wondering if...perhaps, you'd like to be more than friends." He turned to Specter again and smiled, very gently placing his hand over Specter's, where it rested beside him. "I suppose what I'm asking is...would you go out with me?"
Specter felt like the world around him came screeching to a halt. Time seemed to stand still as he stared into Propeller's gorgeous green eyes, throat dry, eyes wide. This was the question he dreaded hearing, but also the question that he had hoped desperately would arise. Half of him was cheering in celebration and the other half was sounding the alarm, and the combination of both extremes left him just sitting there, numb, not reacting at all.
"Donovan?" A hand was waved in front of his face. "Are you alright?" Specter jolted.
"Um, yeah! Y-yeah, I'm, uh, fine, yeah. Um..." He stared like a deer in the headlights. "I'm..."
"You can say no," Propeller offered, but there was a hint of sadness in his eyes as he spoke. "If you don't feel the same, it's alright. I'm content simply remaining friends."
"N-no, that's not it, uh..." Specter scrambled for words, feeling like the worlds biggest idiot. Finally, he sighed. "That's...what I've been thinking about. What's been...worrying me." Then, slowly, he started to talk, then more and more words came out and he couldn't stop, because he was finally, for once in his life, letting all of his pent-up feelings and emotions and worries out. It was like he was pouring his entire life into Propeller's lap in one long, rambling string of jumbled, rushed words. He talked about how lonely he was growing up in the orphanage and how he never really had any parental figures or friends or anything, then about when met Luan, and how happy he had been with him, because he was the first person he had ever really felt connected to. He explained, with a growing tightness in his voice, everything about how he received the locket, and about how he wasn't sure what it meant and how he didn't know what his feelings for Luan were, and he didn't know if it was mutual or not, but he was too cowardly to ask, and then how Luan had died because of his own foolishness and stupidity and he never found out, and now he only had the locket left. And then he explained how he had been getting the exact same feelings for Propeller, and about how confusing and frightening it was because he didn't understand, he didn't know anything about friendship or love or closeness because he had never known it before but now all of a sudden he was feeling too much, and he shouldn't be, he shouldn't allow it, because he killed the only man he ever loved and didn't want to repeat the same mistakes he had before, didn't want to let himself ruin everything all over again.
"And I - I want to let myself love you, because that's what I think this is, but I don't know, it's so confusing - I don't know anything about love, all I know is how to destroy things, and I don't deserve it, either, not after what I did, and it's just...just all so..." His voice broke off. He was crying, even without tears he cried. Propeller didn't say anything during his ramble, just listened, and Specter felt more vulnerable than he ever had in his life. "Are...are you kind of understanding what I'm saying?" Then Propeller smiled, and it was the gentlest, kindest, most understanding gesture Specter had ever been shown. Propeller took his hand and held it properly, giving it a light squeeze.
"I'm starting to." He reached up slowly, lifting Specter's visor with tender fingers. There was so much raw emotion and pain in Specter's eyes that Propeller had to fight back tears himself. He caressed Specter's face gently. "You've been through a lot, mon cher. It is only natural to feel what you are feeling." Specter stared into his eyes, looking like a kicked puppy, and Propeller offered him a soft smile. "But please, don't deny yourself happiness. You're torturing yourself." Specter bowed his head, unable to look at Propeller any longer. "I understand you miss this Luan and grieve for him, and you are allowed to, but there is nothing that can be done. You must keep him in your heart, but look to the future and live for yourself. You are deserving of happiness and love, and so much more. Never forget that. Do you understand?"
"...Yeah. Thank you..." And then he was being pulled in for a hug, and Specter tensed up for a moment, because he couldn't remember if he had ever been hugged before in his life, but then he felt that beautiful warmth seep through his flesh and he instantly relaxed into the embrace. He buried his face in Propeller's shoulder, breathing in his scent and soaking up his body heat like a sponge. Specter's body was bony and cold, and it probably felt like hugging a corpse, but that didn't seem to stop Propeller from squeezing him tightly. Specter gathered up his courage, replaying what Propeller said over and over in his mind. "Um, yeah...I-I think...I could give it a try...going out with you, I mean. I'd...I'd like to." He was squeezed even tighter, and then they separated, but only enough so that they could look into each other's eyes.
"Magnifique," Propeller breathed, caressing the side of Specter's face, pausing when his fingers were right where the cloth of his mask met skin. "May I kiss you?"
"U-um," Specter stuttered, nervous but excited. He tugged his mask down and hooked it under his chin. "Y-yeah."
In hindsight, he probably should have warned Propeller about the fact that he probably felt and tasted exactly like a corpse, seeing as he technically was one, but in the thrill of being seconds from his first kiss, he forgot. Propeller smiled, and slid his hand back to cup the back of Specter's head, urging him closer and finally connecting their lips. After only a short moment, he pulled away with a small gasp.
"Your lips are cold!" He was still so close that his breath tickled Specter's face, and Specter's heart sunk.
"Sorry," he mumbled. But then Propeller smiled again.
"I could get used to it." And then he kissed him again, slowly and sweetly, and Specter felt himself melt, letting his eyes slip shut. He had no idea how to kiss, but he couldn't really make himself care about that fact right at that moment. They broke away after what felt like not nearly long enough, and Specter couldn't bring himself to open his eyes for a while.
"Je t'aime, mon amour," Propeller breathed, still holding his hand, still caressing his cheek and jaw. Specter didn't know French, but he knew what that meant, and smiled.
"I love you too."
Hooray! The chapter you've all been waiting for!
Life was pretty good after that. Specter tried not to feel so guilty about loving Propeller, and it did become easier the longer they were together. He felt great, actually; better than ever.
But then all that changed when Propeller invited him onto his airship for reasons he neglected to explain. Specter, lovestruck and gullible as he was, accepted the invitation, and then he was standing in Propeller's room alone, wondering why he was there. The answer came in the form of Propeller stepping out of the adjacent bathroom with a towel in hand.
Twenty minutes later found a very grumpy Specter, sitting in a tub of warm, soapy water, questioning their entire relationship.
"Doesn't it feel nice?" Propeller, who was seated on the floor behind him, scrubbing at his hair, asked.
"No. I feel like I'm your pet poodle." Propeller laughed and gave him an apologetic kiss on the cheek, and Specter pouted. But, it truly was bearable, as long as he kept getting kissed for it. Plus, the warm water did feel good, but Specter couldn't say either of those things, because he had already dug himself into a hole and, by God, he would die in it.
"You hair is an absolute disaster, mon amour. How do you live like this?" Propeller huffed after trying to clean and make sense of it for many minutes.
"To be fair, I never expected I'd be showing it to anyone."
"But still, it's an absolute rat's nest!"
"Well, brush as hard as you need to. I can't feel pain." That earned himself a cup of water dumped over his head, and he sputtered. "Hey!"
"Don't you care about anything I'm doing for you?!"
Specter huffed. "As long as you're happy."
"Well, I am! And you're going to thank me when I'm done with you."
The battle with Specter's hair lasted a surprising amount of time. Finally, Propeller sat back with a huff after it had been shampooed and conditioned multiple times, declaring that it was as good as it was going to get. He left the room to give Specter some privacy as he dried himself off with the softest, fluffiest towel he had ever felt, and then came phase two of the plan. Propeller gave Specter some of his clothes to wear, because, as he put it, "I am going to wash those filthy rags of yours!" That made Specter more than a little miffed, but he soon discovered that Propeller's clothes were very soft, and they smelled like him, so he begrudgingly decided that he was okay with the situation. And then they were both sitting on Propeller's bed again, with Propeller brushing his hair and humming cheerfully. It made Specter feel a bit like a doll, which was insulting, but at the same time, he liked the care being shown. Back at the orphanage, no one had really cared about what he looked like, except for the routine baths and haircuts all the children received. But still, there was never any genuine care behind those actions, it was more like an assembly line of keeping all the kids looking somewhat presentable, nothing more than that. But Propeller actually loved him, and actually cared about him, and Specter would be lying if he said that he wasn't deeply touched.
"You hair is so nice when it's like this," Propeller hummed. "It's so soft. And you smell so nice!" Specter's hair was much longer than Propeller had originally thought; it fell down to just past his shoulders. Propeller smiled and squeezed Specter affectionately from behind, nuzzling into it. Then he gasped as he was hit with the best idea ever. "Can I braid it?"
"Why?" Propeller whined.
"Too girly. Too cutesy. I don't like it."
"Ah, but tough, cool guys like you can certainly pull it off as well! I think you'd look most stunning with a braid." He rested his chin on Specter's shoulder and grinned at him. "Pleeease?"
"Yay!" Propeller separated himself from him and got to work. He was very good at braids, and it only took a few short minutes before he was finished, except he had to let Specter hold it for a moment while he ran and got an elastic. When it was all finished, he gasped.
"Oh, Specter, it looks so lovely on you! So dashing! So cool! Turn around, look at me!" Specter did so.
"Yes, very! Hang on, let me get a mirror!" He ran off again, and Specter took that moment to reach back and feel. It felt weird and foreign, and he really wanted to pull it out, but Propeller was so excited about it that he couldn't bring himself to. When Propeller came back with a handheld mirror, he inspected it closely, turning his head this way and that. He couldn't decide whether he liked it or not. It certainly wasn't what he was used to. "Isn't it lovely, mon amour?"
"It's...alright." Propeller gave a little cheer, suddenly throwing his arms around Specter and hugging him.
"I'm glad you like it!" He loosened his embrace slightly, looking at Specter. "Mon Dieu, you're always so cold."
"Yeah. I don't generate body heat, so...sorry, hugging me is probably really unpleasant, isn't it?"
"Non, I shall just have to warm you up!" And then he was being squeezed again, and Propeller pulled him down so they were both lying down, cuddled closely.
Specter had to admit, the cuddling part of their relationship was really nice. He always felt slightly cold; not freezing, but just cold enough that he was always mildly uncomfortable, but with Propeller pressed against his side, the feeling vanished. He loved feeling his body heat, listening to him breathe and sometimes, if he was close enough, feeling his heart beat. Those were the only times when he'd close his eyes and let himself truly relax. Propeller would sometimes tease him about being secretly just a big softie, and Specter would pretend to be angry about the comments, but really, he didn't care, as long as Propeller didn't tell anyone else about it. Physical intimacy was something very new and wonderful that Specter was slowly starting to discover. And besides, it's not like Propeller didn't enjoy it too; he would always happily snuggle up to him, entwining their limbs and burying his face in Specter's neck or chest. It really couldn't be that comfortable, because Specter was like a cold, hard leech who sapped all of his body heat, but Propeller repeatedly assured him that really, it was fine, he was used to it. Some nights, they would even spend the night together, cuddled close under the blankets, with Propeller's head on his chest, sound asleep. Specter couldn't sleep, but he would still rest with him, thinking. Sometimes he would have a book that he'd read, other times he'd just sit and think, absently stroking Propeller's hair with a hand, which, as he discovered, was even softer than it looked. He'd watch as Propeller would sometimes smile a little or mumble something in his sleep, and there would always be one prevalent thought running through Specter's head:
I really need to hurry and find that eighth knight...then we can really be together.
Specter didn't want to make their relationship public. Happy as he was with Propeller, it would shatter his cold, emotionless, cool reputation, and, as shallow as it was, he wasn't willing to sacrifice that. Propeller didn't understand.
"Is your reputation more important than I am?" He had asked after the topic was brought up one day and Specter had voiced his dilemma.
"No, I just - I just don't want to announce it. No one needs to know."
"Still, I am an honest man. I don't like having to hide things from others!"
"And I like my secrecy."
Propeller huffed. "Why does a silly reputation matter so much to you, anyways?"
"You don't get it, everyone loves you regardless of what you do. I have to work for it." A look of understanding dawned on Propeller's face.
"Oh, I bet there's some sort of deep, psychological reason behind this, isn't there? Something about how you feel a crushing pressure to be accepted and liked by those around you because of a lack of attention growing up or something?"
"I - I don't know!" That little analysis actually made Specter uncomfortable, because if he thought about it, he was probably bang on.
"Well, that's going to change. You must learn to not care what anyone else says or thinks about you. Tonight, I will announce our relationship at dinner."
"You will not!"
"Oh yes I will!"
"Alicio, please, don't do this," Specter whined, even using Propeller's real name to try and convince him.
"It's for your own good. You will feel much better once the cat is out of the bag, I promise!"
That night, when dinnertime rolled around, Specter was so anxious that he felt sick to his stomach. For the first part of the meal, everything was going smoothly and nothing seemed different at all, except for how unusually tense he was. He kept nervously glancing at Propeller, hoping that he had forgotten his earlier vow. Unfortunately, he didn't, and at one point when Specter glanced over, they made eye contact through their helmets. Apparently, Propeller interpreted that as the go-ahead signal, because he suddenly stood up.
"Everyone! I apologize for interrupting your dinner, but there is something very important that I must announce!" Specter instantly panicked.
"Oh great, what now?" Tinker groaned, already fed up with Propeller's bullshit.
"I want to make it very clear, so there is no misunderstanding! Specter Knight and I," and he motioned towards Specter, who really wanted to die (again), "are dating! And anyone who is not in our support will have to answer to my blade. That is all! Are we all clear?"
There was a beat of silence when Specter really wanted to crawl into a hole and hide for a couple thousand years.
"Wait, that's your announcement?" Mole Knight said. "Were we, uh...not supposed to know until now?"
Specter's head shot up. "You knew?!"
"Well, yeah. We all saw you getting weak knees around Propeller. You weren't trying to hide it, were you?" This time it was Treasure that spoke, and Specter didn't realize it was possible to feel the amount of mortification he was then feeling.
"And, hee hee! Running off to the library or his airship together every night!" Plague added.
"You all knew?!" Specter's voice came out sounding oddly squeaky. To his horror, there came a chorus of nodding heads and mumbled "yeahs" from everyone. Even Polar Knight gave an affirming "hmph." Specter couldn't take it anymore and buried his face in his hands, groaning. "I hate all of you." Propeller only laughed.
"Ah, I see! Well then, please forgive my interruption, I did not realize!" He sat back down and clapped Specter's shoulder. "See, that wasn't bad at all! Everyone already knew!"
"That made it even worse!" he wailed. "God, I want to die."
"You are already dead, mon amour."
"Kill me again!" Propeller just laughed and patted his shoulder sympathetically.
A few days passed since that incident and, shockingly enough, the world didn't end as Specter thought it would. No one treated him any differently, but that didn't stop him from feeling embarrassed and vulnerable all the time.
"I don't see why it bothers you so much, mon cher. They already knew! What harm was done?" Specter sighed.
"I don't know. I just...don't like people knowing things about me." Propeller hummed.
"I just can't understand that. But, I have something to make you feel better! Come to my airship for the evening, mon amour. I have a gift for you."
"It had better not be another bath," Specter warned, remembering what happened last time he set foot on that ship. Propeller chuckled.
"Non, I promise it isn't!"
"Alright, fine." Propeller cheerfully grabbed Specter's hand and started dragging him along. They arrived at the airship, and Propeller led his once again into his room, then he turned around to face Specter.
"Close your eyes!"
"Just do it!" Specter sighed and did as he was told. "Are they closed?"
"Yes." Specter heard Propeller scamper off, and then his footsteps came back.
"Hold out your hands! No peeking!" Specter did so, and something was placed in them.
"Okay...open your eyes!" Specter blinked them open, first seeing Propeller standing in front of him, helmetless and grinning. He looked down at his hands, and was surprised to see a pretty basket, lined with a white cloth and filled with...
"Strawberries?" Propeller nodded excitedly.
"Oui! You said they're one of the only things you can taste, right? So I sent some of my crewmen to a village to buy the finest-quality strawberries they had!"
"You...remembered?" Specter asked softly, touched.
"Of course I did! Do you like it?"
"Yes...I...t-thank you." Maybe it was an overreaction, but Specter almost felt like he could cry. No one had ever bought him a gift before, no one had ever bothered to remember such a trivial thing about him before.
The two ended up sitting on Propeller's bed, as they often did, with their fingers entwined and Specter's head resting comfortably on Propeller's shoulder. Specter had his hood off, revealing that he kept the braid, and Propeller was tempted to tease him about it, but didn't want to ruin the mood. Specter loved the strawberries; they were the sweetest things he had ever tasted, and he would have eaten the whole damn basket, but thought he should save some for later. Unfortunately, despite the sweet treats and cozy atmosphere, he couldn't completely relax, because there was one stray thought that was buzzing around inside his head like an annoying fly that wouldn't let him.
"Something's bothering you," Propeller pointed out after a while, and Specter didn't know if he was inhumanely perceptive or if he was just super easy to read. He sighed.
"Want to talk about it?"
"...Yeah," Specter decided, and took a moment trying to think of the right words. "I...you know I'm dead, right? I'm literally a corpse. Doesn't that...bother you?" Propeller thought for a moment.
"...To be honest, I haven't thought about that much. I think of you as a person, not as a corpse." He hummed. "Except you do taste a little like rotten meat. But I'm getting used to it." That just made Specter embarrassed.
"That's...very kind of you, but...well, you know. I can't eat, I can't sleep, I'm always cold and my heart doesn't beat...I can't..." Specter cleared his throat awkwardly. "I can't give my body to you. Which you'd...probably want, right?"
Propeller chuckled suggestively. "Hmm, I think I would."
"Well, I can't. My body physically can't. Trust me, I've...I've tried," he confessed in barely a whisper.
"Ah. Well, I'd live without it."
"Yeah, well, you see my point. I'm not human. I can barely give you anything." Propeller leaned his head against Specter's.
"That doesn't matter."
"No, Alicio, it does matter." Specter sighed, feeling like he was the only one taking this discussion seriously. "I feel like...like I'm tricking you somehow into staying with me. You'd be so much happier with someone who was human."
"Don't say that. You are human, and I love you. Don't feel so badly about yourself, mon cher. Although..." Propeller hummed again. "Is there some way for you to regain your humanity?"
"Yeah, there is, actually. That was my deal with the Enchantress - I bring her eight knights, she restores my humanity." Propeller scoffed.
"Well then, where is the problem? You only have one more knight to recruit, then you'll be human. Problem solved!"
"Yeah, but..." Specter sighed. "That's what's worrying me. I've tried every knight that I know of, and no one's joining. The Enchantress is getting impatient - if I don't find her an eighth knight quickly, she could...she'd just dispose of me." Propeller was about to assure him that that wouldn't happen, but Specter continued. "And then, even if I do recruit an eighth knight and get my humanity back, I'll probably be kicked out of the tower and not allowed in anymore, and I wouldn't get to see you anymore."
"Oh, don't worry about that. I hate working for the Enchantress, and mark my words, I'll free myself and my crew from her one day. So you just worry about finding that last knight, and then I'll worry about breaking out and joining you."
"But that's horribly dangerous, the Enchantress would kill you in an instant if you tried to go against her."
"I'm sure there's some way of defeating her. I'll be the one to find out how and do it!"
"And I'd be worried sick about you the whole time you were doing it."
"Hey, what if I got the Enchantress to make me undead? Then we could be together!"
"Don't even suggest that! You don't want to be undead. I don't want you to be undead. And the Enchantress won't do it."
"Alright, alright! I promise I won't let that happen."
"Good." Specter sighed. "I just...I hope we end up okay."
"Mon amour, you're very bad at living in the present, you know that?" Propeller turned towards Specter and hugged him properly. "We're here now, that's what matters. I'm sure everything will turn out okay. But for now..." He kissed Specter's hair, and Specter sighed and snuggled up against his lover.
Things are looking good! But are things going to keep looking good? Next chapter is the last one, uh oh...
It's funny how much life can change in a short amount of time. Specter could still so clearly remember his last morning before it all happened; he had spent the night with Propeller, resting and thinking while the other slept soundly, head on his chest. He'd woken up at the crack of dawn, as he did every morning, and greeted Specter with a smile and a good morning and a sleepy kiss. Their routine felt so normal, as if they had lived together their whole lives.
"What are your plans for the day, mon cher?" Propeller had asked over breakfast, and Specter had sighed.
"Keep trying. There has to be another knight out there who's willing to join the Enchantress. I just have to find them."
"I admire your determination," Propeller said with a smile, "but don't do anything rash, please. Promise me you'll come back safe."
"I'm already dead. Not much worse can happen to me."
"Still, you must promise me!" Specter huffed, but smiled.
"Alright. I promise." Propeller grinned.
"Excellent! Bonne chance, mon beau ange déchu!" Specter blinked.
"What does that mean?" Propeller giggled.
"I'm not telling...mon nounours chéri!"
"Stop! I don't know what that means!" Specter did like hearing Propeller speaking his native language, but not when he knew Propeller was talking about him, because he couldn't understand a word of it. For all he knew, he was being insulted. Propeller only giggled again and grabbed Specter's face, pulling him in for a gross smooch.
"I'll tell you later, mon beau trésor, mon choupinou, mon petit chaton!"
"Stop it!" Propeller laughed and kissed him again.
"You're so cute when you're mad!" Specter sputtered, unable to form a comeback, and Propeller kissed him one last time before finally freeing him. "Alright, you'll get more kisses later! Come back safe!" Specter huffed and wiped his mouth, trying to hide the fact that he really didn't mind all this mushy, romantic stuff. It was new, and took some getting used to, but it still made his lips tug upwards in a smile, no matter how he tried to hide it.
"Of course. I promised, didn't I?" Specter finally was able to leave for the day (after Propeller snuck in one final peck on the cheek), still wearing a smile under his mask; however, it faded when he entered the mirror chamber and found it empty.
"Reize? Where have you gone off to now?"
That had all been that very morning. Now it was past nightfall, and Specter was alone, at the Lich Yard. He had hoped that by then, he'd be back at the tower, in Propeller's arms, getting more kisses and learning what he had called him earlier, but instead all he had was his locket and an achingly empty feeling in his chest to keep him company. He stared at the aforementioned locket in a deep, melancholy reflection.
Well, Luan...I kept my promise. Reize is safe. He sighed, and lifted his head to stare at the stars. But in doing so, I broke my promise to Propeller... He closed his eyes. I suppose I did the right thing. After all, Luan is gone...I'm all Reize has left. It's my duty to keep him safe. That's...much more important. I just hope Propeller forgives me. He might not understand why I did what I did. No eighth knight, no humanity... He sighed for the umpteenth time and bowed his head. He could remember earlier that evening, after Reize had been safely delivered to the village, how all the knights had stood before the Enchantress and bowed as the order was officially formed. He could feel Propeller staring at him, probably wondering what he was doing standing amonsgt them, and it made Specter's heart twist just thinking about it. I'm sorry...I had no other option...
His depressing thoughts were interrupted by the distant, yet steadily approaching, sound of propeller blades, and he tensed.
"Mon amour!" He heard Propeller shout, then he landed on the ground in front of him, a little out of breath. "There you are! I couldn't find you anywhere! Good thing I was finally told to come here, I would have searched the whole tower." He stood up straight and held his arms out. "Mon cher, you are a genius! You are the Enchantress' eighth knight! So you got your humanity back, she is satisfied, and we can be together still! It is a win-win-win!" Specter felt his throat close up from guilt. "Ooh, and I see you have a new outfit!" Propeller took a few steps closer. "Hmm...still ragged. But it's cute, I suppose! It's very 'you', especially this bone ornamentation here, macabre as it is..." He trailed off when he finally realized that Specter hadn't said a word. "Erm...Donovan?" Specter took a shaky breath in.
"Alicio...I'm...I'm sorry..." He said in a thin, weak voice.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Propeller sat down next to him and put an arm around his waist. "Everything is alright now...isn't it?"
"No, it's not." Specter had to fight desperately to keep from crying. "I gave my humanity away, t-to someone much more deserving of it than I..." He had to stop and gather himself before he continued. "I am now bound to the Enchantress, perhaps forever. It's over. I'm...so sorry..."
"...Oh," was all Propeller could say, heart sinking. A moment passed in silence as he tried to think of something that would bring comfort to them both. "Surely this can't be the end. There must be another way to regain your humanity, I'm sure of it!" Specter shook his head.
"Only the Enchantress has such power, and she is far too cruel to allow for second chances. It's hopeless."
"Well...maybe this isn't as bad as it seems. Life will go on the same as before, and we'll still be together. Even if we have our own posts to attend to, I'm sure we could still...find the time for..." He trailed of when he realized what a pointless argument he was making, and sighed. "I'm sorry, mon amour. Can I help you in any way?"
"It'd be best for you to just forget about me," Specter choked out, "and find someone else. I'll be around for much longer than you will, it would seem, and...so it'd be...best for the both of us."
"Now, don't say that, I could never. I will always love you, no matter what happens." Specter couldn't respond, he just turned towards Propeller and buried his face in his shoulder. He felt Propeller's arms go around him, holding him close, and he wept quietly, savoring Propeller's warmth for what might be the last time for a long, long while.
Well, folks, here we are at the end, unfortunately. But don't fret, because there is a SEQUEL in production that may or may not have a happy ending for these two in store, so keep your eyes peeled for that! Unfortunately, it'll take a bit longer to finish/upload, because I'm back to hitting that grind at school instead of being on break and writing all day, as was the case with this fic.
Leave a comment and let me know what you thought of this! Comments/kudos are always appreciated :)