Drabble #20: Bouquet of Memories
The morning sunlight filtered into a small family room, flickering off the mirrors above the pastel mantles and highlighting the leafy flourishes along the ceiling. Quietly, as rays of wafting dust barely caught the bare toes of a young woman who's body was balled up into an antique berger en gondola, she stared dreamily at the molding above her. Fresh from her cocoon, her skin had not reclaimed its full color, and her hair had grown so long, that it spilled diorite over the arm rests.
Saya remained wordless, in meditation.
Georges Bizet's Au Fond du Temple Saint cracked and fizzled over an old phonograph in the corner. The longer she closed her eyes, the more she could almost hear hushed politics being discussed amongst men in another room, between Joel, Ashmel, and Haji, mumblings about the Battle of Gia Cuc. As she slipped into reverie, an idle hand toyed with a bouquet of flowers given to her by her Chevalier.
A white Lily: It brings her to a time where Haji's cello is about a decade old and the pair enjoy breakfast on the Zoo's terrace, hidden in Joel's prized Jardin à la Française, populated with bulbs of Lilies and Narcissus plants.
"Hmm. The servants are slow to tend to Joel's topiary this morning. Any longer and we shall be trapped in nothing, but ill tamed weeds and foliage."
"You worry too much, Saya," Haji remarked, his eyes focused on the neck of his instrument rather than the companion across from him.
When she didn't respond with her usual witty comments, the musician looked up and understood immediately what had been brewing while he'd been distracted.
"Somehow, that smile of yours makes me anxious."
Saya laughed and when she'd taken his hand in hers, he knew he'd been taken hostage on a mission he'd surely regret later.
"Then let us tend to the trimming ourselves. It shouldn't be too hard."
It was his natural instinct to respond to her spontaneous and risky requests by attempting to thwart them.
"Saya, we shouldn't."
"Oh, come on, just one tiny shrub. Joel won't notice."
Needless to say, he was helplessly cajoled into her experiment, which, of course, resulted in failure. One shrub had turned to five, and with the servants witnessing Saya's trimming skills, and fearful that they would serve as blame, it wasn't long before Ashmel was sent to fetch them.
She hadn't given Ashmel the pleasure of reaching for her wrist when she hid behind Haji and pushed on his back.
"Go!" she ordered, "We're in this together."
And together, Haji sheltered her with his body as they entered Joel's study, the stern look distorting Joel's normally gentle face a wordless gesture powerful enough to stand alone.
Saya laughed in her chair, her feet giving way to a light kick and earning the attention of her Knight.
"Are you all right?" he asked from the kitchen, his tone lightened with amusement, and she whispered, although she was sure he heard just fine.
"Yeah. I'm okay."
Haji was preparing sushi rice on the counter. Kai had taught him the recipe before arthritis had gotten the best of him. The Omoro now left to his twin daughters, although the old man was still fiery with life, Haji was aware that it was only a matter of time. In an effort to keep his Queen's brother in her life by any means necessary, Haji spent some of Saya's hibernation cycle in that cramped up restaurant, cutting salmon between his two nieces. Inwardly, the Chevalier hoped that the taste of that home would warm her, and keep her from forgetting.
When she reached for a Violet, Haji was dropped in France again, 1915. Roman and David were having a private conversation about Saya's awakening, whether she would be a repetition of the Bordeux Massacre or become useful in defeating Diva. When David coldly reached the conclusion that it would be easy as pie to be rid of Saya should she prove uncooperative with them, Haji could have almost laughed at how oblivious they were to his presence. As if he would allow such a thing in the first place.
He chose to say nothing. And when everyone had left, he slid himself over webbed cocoon, lightly thumping with Saya's steady heartbeat.
"I miss you," he said to himself.
As if I'd let them touch you.
And just as needles pricked his fingers from lying on his hands too long, the cocoon's flesh ripped open. In seconds, alarmed or not, he was thrown on his back. When the woman snatched his neck and sealed her lips over his pulse, he gasped in both pain and delight.
She questions when it's over, fully nude and regardless of the trauma cast upon her by her sister, still innocent in more ways than one.
"Saya. Good morning."
Blood dripping down her chin, she is flushed with embarrassment. And the Chevalier thought to himself again, "As if I'd let them hurt you…"
She spoke normally, because she trusts that his ears will pick up her voice. She is right. Even in the next room, Haji could smell the flowery musk she had bathed in minutes ago, he could hear her sigh in tune with her thoughts, and he could feel the rhythm of her heart, whenever one of those thoughts must have stirred something within her.
"Would you mind making me some tea?"
"You'll drink with me, won't you?"
The brunette shook his head. Old habits die hard.
As if sensing his hesitation, Saya yells this time.
"You don't have to if you don't want to."
Without facing her, he could still see her puckered lips.
"I don't mind."
Deciding that going against her would only provoke her, Haji submitted happily.
Saya pouted in her chair and released it when she felt that her lover had relinquished. Giggling to herself, she exchanged a Violet for Clematis.
Russia's winters were merciless. Out of all the places Saya had ever visited, Russia was her least favorite winter spot. Haji held her hand in the snow, her fingers bitten in frost. Every tug he gave eased her ascension as she mounted the knee-deep frozen tundra.
"I am your flesh and blood, even if you don't wish it," he had gently reprimanded her moments before searing her face with recalescent hands. "I will never leave you till your dying day."
As she felt her struggle to plow through the snow worsen, she knew her time was short. And so she asked, "Haji?"
"What is it Saya?"
Her journey spent for this cycle, Saya allowed herself to fall. And just as he felt her weight yank him, her Knight caught her in time to cradle her body in the snow. She then forced him to make a promise in hopes that her dying day would come sooner than later. Knowing how selfish it is of her, Saya could only think of her fading life as the image of his face above her dims.
Nose to nose, she could swear that she felt his lips on her forehead before it all went dark, and she had escaped Russia's winter for the time being.
"Are you cold?"
Haji doesn't wait for an answer as he drapes a blanket over her. Snapped back into present time, she reassures him. "I'm fine. Just glad it's spring here."
His expression is questioning, but he returned to the kitchen anyway. As he reached the counter, and is about to roll the rice with the fish, an arousing scent fills the air. Rejecting the sharp pang stirring in his stomach, Haji froze and dared to peek into the living room again.
In his Queen's hand, is an Anthurium. She twirled the flower between her fingers provocatively, chewing her lips and piquing Haji's interest.
What could she be remembering?
And just as fast as the lusty reminiscence had arrived, it dissipated. Somehow, her train of thought must have shifted. Clearing his throat, the Chevalier thought it best to avoid pursuing.
An ache in his arm distracted him as he reached for the pot of rice. With Saya's awakening and Diva's defeat, his scars were slowly healing, both inside and out. And so, it wouldn't be long before Haji was able to venture out, his fingertips on his Cello unobstructed by bandages.
In Vietnam, she was hungrier than she'd ever been before. It was such a sensitive time for him, that Haji mostly blocked it from his mind. Whenever he tried to recall it, all he could see was red: The red in the air, the red on her lips, and the red pouring from his chopped limb.
Red Shield, "fucking with nature," as Kai would say it, had taken what he loved most, and given them both a nightmare that they'd never live down.
He could picture her sanguineous mouth as it popped, her tongue punctuating each fang as she glared at his body below her after she had claimed his forearm.
When Saya beckoned for him once more, the Knight was grateful for her disruption.
"This flower, Haji. Would you mind putting it somewhere else?"
Night Convolvulus: Silent tales of wandering midnights, beneath the toll of abandoned church bells. Red Shield's headquarters had sunk, her little brother, dead, and her sister, still roaming, and guilt-less of her crimes. A year's worth of training they spent together, sleeping on park benches and nestling into rock hollows. Their only comfort in the midst of their hell-ridden lives were their two bodies shaped to one another as she slept, and he held her tightly, wishing their bad karma away with every fiber of his being.
"As you wish."
Plucking the flower from her, he instead, offered a red Tulip and a Starflower. Saya accepted the colorful duo with a grin. Endearingly, the man swiped her bangs from her eyes before nodding to himself.
"Let me trim that quickly before we eat."
As the man vanished down the hall to retrieve a comb and a pair of scissors, Saya thinks of New York. The city's clamor is an orchestra of honking taxicabs, fifth avenue poodle women, flocks of awe stricken tourists, and flickering billboard ads. From the roof, life below her is confettied, and she could hardly tell the people from the cars.
Her descent as the pavement rushed to greet her was fast. Wind crushing her face and tossing her body about, from sky to ground, Saya swore that it was no longer than a few seconds, but it felt eternal. She could still feel Solomon's hand on her, the slickness in his syrupy proposition that was surely bow tied in all the diamonds she could ever want on private cruises departing from Chelsea Piers. As she fell, that warmth faded quickly, replaced with the ice stabbing through her as her momentum increased.
She'd never fallen from such a height and the fate that awaited her when she reached the street, her guess was as good as anyone else's. Surprisingly she was fearless and when she heard the wind being cut above her before being gathered into a protective embrace, the Queen had discovered why.
Saya jumps when Haji sprays her forehead with water.
"Forgive me," he muses, realizing that he's robbed her from daydream. Saya is quiet as he begins, and she could feel a thin line of metal gently wrap over her skin before Haji snips. Her hair tickles and just as she crunches up to sneeze, her Chevalier has beaten her to it, a finger under her nose and the urge is gone.
"Stay still," he warns before resuming.
Kai was too old this cycle to cut her hair, although he'd only done it in Haji's place. The irony was, that she was thinking of him now, as Haji snipped away, and when her Chevalier had seemingly been left behind in the Opera House, it was the other way around.
Kai's cologne was always brash. Unnatural, bold, and yet, fitting of a rebel, elderly or not. Her musician in comparison was just the opposite. She could never quite put her finger on it, but whatever the aroma was; it was part France in 1883 and part Eastern spice. Whenever Saya's head lolled, her brother would give her chin a brisk pull to wake her up.
"Don't blame me if I hack 'em all off."
Haji's version was simply, "Stay still." There would be no more warning. Saya had learned from previous experience back in the Zoo era that if she disobeyed, she'd end up with uneven hair.
Saya sighed deeply, impatient, and it's easy for her lover to read her mind.
When it's over, he swept her face with a brush before the impatient girl pinched his earlobes.
He stumbled on one knee as she reeled in her prize, and wrapped her arms around his neck. She could feel his chuckle rumble against her. Putting the scissors aside, he adjusted her body against him before she could slip from the chair.
"We shouldn't leave the food on the counter for long." His voice spread her hair. Saya pays him no heed, sinks, and waits until they're both wilted on the floor.
The house was everything she loved in France, despite that it was now a few decades into the 21st Century and the home that her Chevalier had sweat blood and tears to build for her as she slept, was located in an unsuspecting state in the middle of the US, an ocean away from Japan; A piece of Rococo in the middle of Western nowhere with a man who had learned to prepare sushi from the very best.
Just as Haji was about to resolve the problem by carrying her with him to the kitchen, she reaches for him and he already knows what she's asking for.
She hums with every kiss, and just as he decides that he should pick her up, she declares, "Haji."
"I think- I think I'm bored."
She says it as if she's not entirely sure. Pleased, Haji rewards her with another kiss and lifts her up to bring to the kitchen counter.
"Boredom is a wonderful thing," he thought. It was painless, war-less, and harmless. Feeling as if he's dismissed her comment without thought, she squeezed his cheek.
"Are you listening?"
"I am. Here."
He placed her on the counter top to watch as he finishes their lunch. By the sink, he'd stolen a flower from the bouquet he'd given to her earlier. Finding that the lonely vase did it little justice, he stuck it into her freshly cropped hair before giving her a sample of sushi rice to keep her satisfied.
Saya stared up at the calendar next to their clock, mentally marking her fourth year awake, their silent victory. And as if boredom and France in the middle of the United States wasn't enough to satiate their newly indulged peace, the woman felt something hiccup inside of her. Hands to her stomach, she beamed up at her Chevalier in a way he'd never seen before. And just as he expected her to blurt out her next mission impossible to perhaps, sate her boredom, she pulled his hand to her abdomen.
One kick and the man was sure it must have been her hunger protesting. A second time, and despite his tempted happiness, his doubts hadn't completely been cleared of fog.
Third time was the charm.
"Are you- how can- this doesn't make-"
"Any sense," she finished, bursting with excitement and reeling him in for another kiss. Haji didn't dare mumble a word about their lunch, nor did he care at this point…
Lily (white): Purity, virginity
Violet: Watchfulness, faithfulness, I'll always be true
Clematis, Traveler's Joy: Safety
Night Convolvulus: Night
Tulip (red): Believe in me, declaration of love
Orange blossom: Happiness, marriage, fruitfulness
A/N: GAWD this cliché piece of crappiness, I'm sorry you guys had to see it! Seriously though, I've wanted to write something to close this collection for some time. I have a thing against uneven numbers so it was only a matter of working the right motivation and finding the right theme to wrap it all up. So, here it is. It isn't totally original or epic, but I'm hoping it sums them up wonderfully in a way that readers won't jump me afterwards. The closing isn't as punchy as I'd hoped, but bah, I say. Bah! And mistakes! I'm sure they're in here. Feel free to point them out.
As for the pregnancy hint and how the hell it's possible, maybe I let my head canon get in the way. I don't think it's totally impossible though. There are so many aspects to Blood Plus that are left vague, and I feel like Haji's arm, Saya's hibernations, Diva's incapability to become pregnant, they were all psychological. So in my vision of their happy ending, Haji's healed up, Saya can stay awake just as she had when Haji went from age twelve to his twenties because, let's do the math kids, there isn't a thirty year hibernation there, and it's possible that they can reproduce.
Anyway, hope it did some justice. Thank you all for reading this collection and leaving me all those wonderful reviews. If I choose to write for them again, which I'm sure I will, it will be a brand new story. Thanks again.