1Summary: All it's done is rain. (But there is a solace in drowning, and they find it amidst roses and the occasional thorn.)
Disclaimer: I do not own Yugioh.
- - - -
The place he finds him in is a garden full of roses, white and red and pink, and his head is tilted back open to the rain as if wanting to drown. His eyes are as empty as the area around him, and Duke gets the odd, strange feeling of being the one thing in an area which fills it and makes it more than hollow-, something that makes him pause, his movements slightly jerky for a moment, like a slow VCR rewinding it's tapes.
Similarly, this image of Pegasus, who Duke worshiped and respected beyond words like a child, is often stuck in his head, and when it is, it usually rolls back and repeats once or twice before he can think of anything else.
(Rain falling, roses the colors of his suit-, is it so unusual to find Maximilian Pegasus in a place like this?)
- - - -
There are vases-, vases that match the carpet, vases that match the drapes, vases that slightly blend in with the tones of the hardwood in the occasional places it is.
There are so many vases, most of them empty, that Duke thinks it would take forever to count them all.
Pegasus is a heavy weight, albeit a warm, slightly comforting one, against his side, and the man still hasn't said a word. Duke begins to wonder if he is in shock-, how late he actually is, how much time Pegasus stood outside in his backyard with his mouth open wide to the world, waiting and waiting for a storm to brew. Death by drowning is more honorable than anything else would be, and Duke can't see Pegasus as the type of man who would take pills or slice his wrists or hang himself.
Duke is the one more likely to do that.
The house appears larger than he remembered, and he frowns at the walls as they hush each other barely within hearing, but regardless everything seems to accept him, to suck him in and plant him as a seed (would he, too, become a rose?). It seems like the house grows as the roses do.
Every thorn, every leaf, every ant or centipede, it follows suit, and surely in a place as such it was only logical for Pegasus to go insane.
- - - -
Pegasus's guards are here and there, scattered as if they play the part of the ants who eat the leafids, the leafids being all the stacks and stacks of Duel Monsters cards. It feels like every other step he takes, Duke's foot lands on one of them, face up or face down (it is more eery when it is face up, though apparently in tarot it is a bad thing for your card to be flipped).
The guards do not pick up the cards, but they stare at them long and hard every time they step at them, examining them, seemingly thinking 'you're not so tough', and the card shrivels up a bit and blooms all the more again when it is Duke there and not one of the guards.
This is disheartening. This says Duke is more than part of the house-, he is part of the home. He is part of what made a man, what made Pegasus, and after all, Duke is far too young to be a father.
- - - -
The ground echoes when it is walked on, though more fitful to anybody else.
Sometimes it will protest with Duke but most times it will not, and it seems to croon like a happy cat, which makes him wonder if he is feeding the thorns.
The wood floors, the thorns-- the carpet, the stem. There are some places Duke can tell Pegasus has spilled wine on before, whether old or recent, and the house reeks of alcohol. The rest of the carpet is left looking thirsty and dry, and he is half tempted to start dumping bottles of red wine all across it, and it would leave the floor a lovely looking color that would match Pegasus's suit.
A man's house makes the man, after all, so what makes the house?
- - - -
The roses make the house.
Duke spends much of his spare time outside trimming the rose bushes, but he always dawdles more on the pink ones, which remind him of himself. The red are too passionate, the white too cruel, and the pink is like soured milk, stale with the events and rotting far before the rest because it is probably already rotten, probably rotten since that very first bloom (since it was planted).
Duke feels very much like the pink roses, and as such, he is found taking showers compulsively.
He is afraid he will smell like milk.
(This is a very motherly smell, and you are far too young and far too male to be a mother.)
- - - -
Flowers must be cut of their blossoms so as to not damage the plant. It cannot support blooms for longer than an instant, short days, only the amount to count on one hand-, or else the plant will die altogether.
Duke tells himself this as he watches Pegasus, motionless tucked under ruby colored sheets, not sleeping but also not quite awake. He tries to figure out what the roses are.
- - - -
Pegasus's first words to him are, "Cecilia, I lost the match."
They are not very much the words Duke wanted to hear, nor expected, but they are something. "Are you alright?" he says back, waiting patiently with his hands folded against his stomach, neat and proper and trimmed.
He continues waiting far into the night, and nothing else comes.
- - - -
The next day, Pegasus acts like all is well and Duke counts his sentences, as one would count pennies-, waiting for them to lead up to one hundred. At least then, he would be able to say something like 'your words are worth a dollar, now', because everything is awkward and Pegasus keeps speaking and Duke has absolutely nothing to say, not even when he is asked a question.
"How's Dungeon Dice Monsters going?"
"Your words are worth a dollar, now."
- - - -
Duke insists on the maids cooking Pegasus a large breakfast every morning (one that makes them have to start at around five and finally be finished by six thirty or so) even if he only eats about a third of it. The way he chuckles to himself (sparing just a bit of it to Duke), and says 'you didn't have to' is well worth even another thousand glares from the maids, and he feels like he would do this forever, if only he could get that same response, over, and over, and over...
"Pegasus, I would've assumed you'd have seen it or heard about it from somewhere, but..." Duke clears his throat, avoiding that particular mention of Pegasus's previous state, because it already hangs above their heads like ugly storm clouds, "I challenged Yugi to a game of Dungeon Dice Monsters."
"And he won, of course." Pegasus states, twisting his fork through a layer of pancakes. The syrup oozes onto his finger and he licks it off, as Duke gapes in shock from his statement.
"H-how did you know...?"
"Devlin-boy-, it was only obvious. I've beaten you at it before, and Yugi-boy beat me. It's all very simple if you do the math." the man then laughs airily, and Duke feels a bit affronted because he didn't expect that after everything, Pegasus still wouldn't have an inch of belief in him.
Pegasus is a man for belief, after all, and has it in most everything-, the Millenium Items, Yugi, even treating the cards as if they were alive and well; but here he sits eating pancakes with his legs tucked under crinkled, expensive sheets and he tells him almost outright that there is nothing in Duke that could make Pegasus have confidence in him. This is wrong, utterly wrong and cruel and unusual, because Duke has placed almost everything he has in Pegasus from the moment he met him.
"Oh, right." he says, and watches Pegasus scoop another fork-full of his breakfast into his mouth-, and idly notes that he is eating more than usual.
- - - -
The rose is Pegasus. Duke doesn't know why he didn't realize it before-, in all Pegasus's flamboyancy and flair and good-natured-ness he is everything like a brilliant red rose blossoming.
Duke thinks he has watched him wilting, and then has watched him grow. An almost fully bloomed man sits before him, picking himself up off the bed like picking up the pieces of himself, and wincing at the coldness of the floor hitting his feet.
It is such a human action that Duke wants to laugh, throw back his head and stare at the popcorn ceiling and laugh his heart soul humanity out, and he thinks 'a rose by any other name does not smell as sweet, it is practically rancid' and this much is not because Pegasus's hair has not been soaked with expensive oils or his neck and wrists have not been spritzed with his old cologne.
- - - -
"If I was a flower, what type would I be?" Asks Duke, slightly out of it and asking silly questions, moved by the heat and warmth of the sun overhead. He is stretched like a fat cat on one of the armless benches, and it practically blends in with the ground, a light shade of grassy green.
"Why Devlin-boy, a rose." says Pegasus, holding up a single, snipped blossom to the sunlight. It does not look quite as well like that-, it's velvety petals make it look waxy and it's color dulls.
Pegasus reflects the same type of odd subduedness, with hair more gray than silver, and a wilted edged outline. The lines no longer seem as soft, just bumpy and lumpy and soggy, like cereal soaked too long in milk. He looks old, and not a bit part of the glory of his garden-, only connected to that single rose held up to the sun, looking more defeated in the light than it did in the dark.
And Duke thinks 'God, what is this man?'
The house winks back at him, as if in answer (the house makes the man and the man made you).
- - - -
The first time Pegasus kisses him is not sweet, nor does it taste like roses. It is the taste of age and unhappiness, something similar to the yellowed pages of an old book, and it is little other than unpleasant, even if Duke finds a smile amongst all of it (there are roses and there are thorns on the roses, and while most of the plant is smooth once and a while your finger will come across one of those thorns– here, the thorns are also your smiles, rare and incomplete, making you bleed across your convictions even as your teeth shine through your grin).
The first time Pegasus kisses him it is awkward on Duke's part, but Pegasus does everything with such varieties of ease that it is hard to tell if he is nervous or not. Duke thinks, slightly, later, that he deserved Pegasus's awkwardness, that Pegasus owed it to him, was obliged to give it. Without the awkwardness, Duke could've been any young man or woman or hallucination that Pegasus brought up without it ever making a difference.
To Duke, who counts everything (the number of times he's smiled, the number of vases in the house and how many times you've had to carry him back to his room because he has drowned himself in alcohol and bitterness and his legs refused to work– what proud, proud men you are, yes?), it makes all the difference how many other people Pegasus has kissed, how many times he actually got satisfaction from it.
There is no satisfaction to bleeding, even though people claim there is. When one gets jabbed by a thorn, they simply wash the cut and then bandage it, until the bandage is eventually removed– and there is nothing more beyond that (and now you have had to start counting how many times you've thought that you'd want to die from a rose-prick, and not anything else).
- - - -
The second kiss is when Pegasus leans over the table at breakfast (he has started dining at the kitchen again, and this pleased Duke the first morning and has not stopped pleasing him five mornings later), and Duke's cheek ends up smarting more like he'd been slapped than kissed.
And when Pegasus pulled away with a little bit of blood on his mouth, it was nothing, really.
- - - -
Soon after, Duke sets to filling all the vases in the house with roses– one by one, each clipping away at the rose bushes aching for his heart, and every thorn that stabbed his hands weakly, but refused to cry out. The leaves, unneeded and not beautiful, were plucked, and set aside in a pile which eventually found itself in the trash can. To anybody else, they would look just like regular leaves, and not rose ones (and it's depressing, isn't it?).
With each vase, there is something taken away, but there is also the feeling of regeneration– the slow, warming build up inside of his chest which motivates him until his fingers are sore and cut and absently he wonders if Pegasus will notice.
"Vases are a funny thing to be using to try to pretend you're not hollow, Devlin-boy."
- - - -
Once, on a day with no particular memorable events, Duke awakens from a light overnight slumber and only pauses to glance at the lone pedestal in the corner of his adopted room.
Balanced on it– one thin, clear vase, that nearly glows in radiance within the lamplight– and within that, a fresh pink rose, scraped of thorns, settled in the purest, whitest milk Duke has ever seen. And when he leans over, the rose smells not like pink roses usually do, but, brilliantly, of red ones. And suddenly it makes sense.
He remembers the day even more than all the others combined.
- - - -
Yet when he mentions nothing of the gift to him the next day, he steps into his room that night to find the rose replaced, and a black vase filled purposefully to the top with colorless water. In it: a single white rose.
The next day, planted in the gardens are no less than a dozen yellow roses. Duke, despite his trying, cannot make of them anything that matters within his head.
- - - -
The third kiss is not gentle, not passionate, not sad or demure– not flimsy, graceful, nor spoiled. In it is the freshness of a new beginning: the dozen yellow roses planted in the back of the house, intwined through white, and red, and startling light pink.
Another rose is added to his room that night, with a new vase– yellow, and in it's petals is a note balanced carefully.
'A yellow rose implies joy, delight, and "the promise of a new beginning".'
Subtly written in an ever smaller hand beneath that, simple and yet delicate in blatancy:
'Do you understand, now, Devlin-boy?'
- - - -
There are nine staircases in all within Pegasus's castle, not including the largest, which is outside, and remains an irritatingly, insanely large number of steps that Duke probably once knew by heart (probably, possibly, most likely), but does not now.
Most are unnecessary– there are only three levels in Pegasus's house, after all– but Duke will sometimes step up and down them, hand curled tightly over the wooden banisters, and count each stair individually under his breath.
It is, in the end, the inside of a house which matters most (one day, one day– you will manage to convince yourself that it is the people of the inside of a house which matters even more than that).
- - - -
On a Saturday afternoon (these are Pegasus's favorite days– cartoons play from mornings until lunch times, in which they will dine together amiably in the dining halls and order massive amounts of foods they neither want nor end up consuming), there is a black rose in one of the empty vases, which lies in one of the mostly deserted corridors Duke had never himself been interested in– it is only inhabited to clean within, and up until then Pegasus had seemed to enjoy keeping it that way.
A black rose.
Duke is not stupid, nor unusually ignorant– and so he knows that the rose is no farewell to him.
Pegasus, suddenly, ceases all mention of Cecilia in his company. Or anyone else's, for that matter.
- - - -
Duke cannot decide if this makes him concernedly cautious or frighteningly relieved. He settles for a small up-quirk of lips the next day at breakfast, to Pegasus, who manages a slightly tired one back, and if it is the first real one he has seen, it does not occur to him.
That day, he compliments the cooks on their pancake-making talents and laughs at their scowls.
- - - -
On a Monday afternoon (and it was on a Monday that he had first appeared in your life– how clearly you remember), there are two roses in a vase in his room. A red, and a white.
'Given together, these signify unity.' Says the accompanying note.
And Duke thinks: 'Yes, they do.'
- - - -
"Tell me of Cecelia." Duke says, hands on hips, as he barges into Pegasus's painting studio one day (is it Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Saturday?– Pegasus had begun painting again, litters of failed attempts of new duel cards, and some larger paintings; of people, of towns, of flowers and empty rooms, and occasionally portraits composed of long, detailed strokes that would take Pegasus days to complete), and Pegasus is surprised, mouth wide, eyes shocked and open and emotion-filled.
He looks young again, for that moment, and Duke loves him that way– thinks 'this is what I deserve from you; this is what I deserve to have, this open-you'.
Pegasus opens and closes his mouth a few more times, before tossing the duel monster's card from his lap where it lands upright on the floor: a new one, just another attempt gone wrong, a simple blue-ish figurine's outline that looks something like a gargoyle, and something like a discolored frog.
Duke looks at him, and speaks to relieve the tension while Pegasus thinks up the right words. "If you loved her...if you loved her, that's okay too. Because it doesn't mean...doesn't mean you can't love me. If you loved her, I'm not asking you to stop. Because if you asked me to stop loving some of the people I've loved in my lifetime, I could never forgive you. Because...because it doesn't mean I can't love you, if neither of us stops loving other people, right?"
Pegasus's shoulders relax and his posture sags in a moment of undefineable relief and weakness– and he smiles up at Duke a bit crookedly, a bit sloppily, but still all the way there. And Duke thinks again 'this is what I deserve from you, damnit'.
"Wonderfully worded, Devlin-boy." Pegasus claps a little from the floor where he's seated, and it makes Duke grin a little, perhaps sheepishly, perhaps mostly amused. Pegasus's smile is like honey, and Duke, attracted to it, draws up a stool from the side of the room and sits down upon it, waiting.
"Cecelia was the most beautiful woman who a man could ever dream to set his eyes upon. And when she smiled at you, it was as though..."
- - - -
Pegasus actually calls Duke to his paint studio once, a few weeks later– when Summer is in the air, bright and fresh and new, and there are no worries to be found even when searched for.
It is almost boring, Duke thinks, but dares not mention it, because boring, for once, is alright, too.
It is alright.
Pegasus stands from his seated position on the floor when Duke enters, and he smiles at him and spreads his arms melodramatically like always. Duke asks something akin to 'What'd you call me here for, Pegasus?', and Pegasus leans back down again, where his fingers curl and grasp a small painting from the easel, still smelling of fresh paint.
A duel monster's card.
"I thought," Pegasus says, as Duke flips over the familiar item, and looks at the card for the first time it will ever be seen to anyone besides Pegasus himself, "That perhaps you would appreciate such a thing, Devlin-boy. After all, you're too young to fully appreciate roses, and I never did fully congratulate you on the good-nature of the uproar caused by your game."
It is a painting of careful squares, crisscrossed lines, and a single, enlarged die in the middle. A magic card. It says 'Dice Dungeon' at the bottom, along with a list of various information Duke will read over and over again later but at the time he can find nothing better to do than to stare wordlessly at the card in hand.
"It is rather rude of you, you know, to do nothing to communicate your reaction to a gift from someone." Pegasus comments, his voice toned lightly but traced underneath with the edges of a nervousness and tentativeness that makes Duke's face break out with a sudden, unashamed twist of lips.
"Thank you," he says, and the room breathes again. When he kisses Pegasus, he doesn't once let go of the card, and Pegasus smells greatly of paint and Summer and new beginnings (and he did promise, after all, didn't he?), and distantly, but perhaps only to Duke, of red roses.
Nothing else needs to be said.
'This,' Duke thinks, wildly, blindly, as Pegasus presses up against him and he runs his fingers through the strands of silver hair, 'This is what we deserve.'
'All this time.'
- - - -
Author's Note: This is a project I've worked on and off with for a long, long time now. I think it speaks mostly for itself, so I'll just go on to explain the necessary flower meanings for those unfamiliar:
Red roses– passion
White roses– Silence, secrecy, "I am worthy of you", heavenly, humility, reverence, purity, youthfulness, innocence
Light pink roses– Admiration, sympathy, grace, gladness, gentleness, joy, sweetness
Yellow roses– Joy, gladness, friendship, delight, 'Welcome Back', 'Remember Me', jealousy, 'I care', "Promise of a new beginning"
Red and white roses– together signify unity
I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did writing it. For those wondering, Duke actually does have that card (episode one-hundred and seven), and I figured it was a plausible way for it. I'm really glad at the ending of this– all the freshness of new starts, and the way it goes from cynicism to optimism. Most of my fics aren't this way, and don't focus on the 'cup half full' themes, so it was really refreshing to write this, and I'm glad I did.