"Roses"

by Acey

Disclaimer and Author's Note: I'm not quite sadistic enough to have written Diabolo. Also, taking extremely mild liberties with Tsukiko's past (i.e. taking canon and extending it)... And the story mentioned is "The Loveliest Rose in the World," compiled by Hans Christian Andersen.

Warnings: Violence, abuse, very severe implications of mature themes.

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At seven when there were still a few roses left in her life she once brought a book of fairy tales home. She was a pitiful reader and the book only had a few illustrations, but she pushed forward anyway, determined to see each story to the end. The princesses all had long names that she stumbled over, mispronounced even in her mind, and they talked strangely, stiffly.

She heard her father muttering about work—he always did that—but ignored it like always. He was saying something to her mother—something about her, so she forced herself through another sentence to keep from hearing it. Her brother, three years old and oblivious, lay asleep on the couch.

When she turned the page she found the only story in the book that struck her enough that she really remembered it, because it had no princesses or even really any magic, just a queen that was dying.

The queen was dying and the only thing that could save her was a rose, the most beautiful rose. And the whole kingdom came forward, because they loved their queen so much, with their best roses. Some weren't even roses at all, and Tsukiko frowned when she read those—roses of grief, roses of purity on the face of a child.

None of them would work and the queen was fading away before all of their eyes. And then when all hope seemed lost, her child cried out suddenly, brought a book in his hands and opened it and there was the rose, the loveliest rose, in the pages. But the rose was bought by a martyr's blood shed a thousand years before.

Not knowing what a martyr was she imagined him as a vibrant, vital man, and made him to be a tragic prince in her mind. So in love with others' life that he was willing to die so the queen might live by the rose left in his passing. She imagined the queen to be sad—so very sad—that it had happened. And though years later she found the meaning of the word stumbling through a dictionary in middle school, she never found the story again and preferred her version to any.

Either way the moral wasn't clear to Tsukiko, there in her long dress and party shoes with the book heavy in her seven-year-old hands. She heard her father say something else and she slowly closed the book and walked upstairs.

--

When she was sixteen there were other roses and her father had suggested most of them.

He was a man obsessed with work, with production, and he saw none of it in her. Her schoolwork had always lagged, and that could have been forgiven had she any other visible qualities to redeem her. But she was so stripped of talents there was no redemption possible in his eyes.

Once she came home late and laughing and he took her by the shoulders and demanded to know if she had given it up. If she had been driven mad by lust and loneliness and given it up. She protested and denied and finally begged him to let go.

He did, finally, shoving her aside, saying that was the only useful thing she had, after all, and she had better keep it until she was out of his house, out of his life. After that, he said, it didn't matter.

She bit back the sobs and picked her books up from the floor where she had dropped them.

--

When she was seventeen there were no more roses left.

Her father had finally failed himself.

She backed away from him as her mother began to talk. Tsukiko could quit school, Tsukiko could get a job. Her brother was too young still to start work, but her mother could take another part-time job. It would make ends meet until then, her mother said, and then she said her father's name.

He only shook his head, only shook his head. She saw him go to the knife before her mother did. She did not scream until she saw him plunge it into her mother's side, and then the world was screams and red.

He pushed it into her then, the knife in her chest, and she breathed.

--

If it had ended there it might have been all right. There might have been even the storybook martyr to greet her at death's gates, with a bouquet full of roses to replace all the ones that had gone.

Instead there was her uncle.

He paid for her time in the hospital, and complained of the fees when none of the nurses were in earshot. Exorbitant, her uncle said. I'm not made of money. Entirely too much, but you're too pretty a thing to let die, Tsukiko.

She tried to say that she was thankful, but when she looked up at his face she could only see her father there, the knife she could not stop in the look in his eyes instead of in his hands.

He sensed it then. He told her, smiling, strangely smiling, that he was her only relative, that the law had called him her legal adopter. He told her that she would not leave until she had paid the fees back to him.

(tsukiko could get a job)

But he didn't want her to get a job.

"I'm a very bad student." She tried to straighten up from her bed. "I—I wasn't worth keeping in school even before now—I've missed lots of school—"

He kissed her.

She was talking about jobs and school and he kissed her there in her hospital bed and he swore if she said a word she would have more than the scars from her father's knife to worry with and he said that he would teach her what school never would—

The lost roses were set on fire, and the ashes thrown to hell.

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finis