Written because Renodori told me "chrysanthemums" when I asked for a prompt, which led to a bunch of thinking, research, griping, and... this. (She also gave me the word 'knight', which reminded me of Kurogane, but I don't think I quite worked that in.)

Chrysanthemums

It's just a bouquet, and it's all just loneliness. Sometimes the smallest things... (mild Kurogane x Fai, INFINITY SPOILERS)

-- --

In piles chrysanthemums fill the ground,
looking all wasted, damaged-
who could pick them up, as they are now?

-- --

"Flowers." Kurogane says the word like it's a curse, biting off the 's' at the end, practically spitting it out. His heartbeat is faster than usual - annoyed. Fai turns, brought out of his self-centered contemplation.

There is a bouquet on the table in the hallway that leads to their front door. The flowers are all one kind, one color. Deep, dripping, velvety red.

Like blood.

Fai turns away again, resuming his scrutiny of the view outside their floor-to-ceiling window. "Fans?" he offers after a moment, nonchalantly, unaffected. They have been popular, lately, with their performances in chess.

Kurogane remains silent and the sparse living room is suddenly oppressive. The mage feels like the walls are closing in on him and the ninja; they're being suffocated slowly and he can hear Kurogane's heartbeat clearly - it's a dull pounding that feels almost like it's beating within his own chest. He wants to-

Something.

And the air is so thick with that something that he can't remain still, and so he rises and ambles to the desk to examine the blossoms, ignoring Kurogane who is standing sentry-like at the door. The flowers are all of uniform shape and color, with thin petals curling delicately to the inside, like little suns.

Bloody suns. Their color is enticing. Fai thinks- If Kurogane wore this shade of red, would I be able to resist him? and bites his lip because that raises all sorts of different questions, like, Would I want to resist him? and also, Would he want me to resist him? and all the answers are still up in the air.

They are pretty flowers, though. Delicate, and nicely shaped...

He removes one from the bundle, holds it up to the dim, smoggy, late-afternoon light filtering in through the window, examines it with a scientist's precision.

"They're clean," Kurogane informs him, and Fai jumps.

"Clean...?"

"No weapons or poisons; none that I can see, anyway." Even though the ninja elaborates his tone is still brusque, and it makes a little part of Fai curl inward upon itself in desolation. He did bring this upon himself, but...

He wonders whether the flowers are just beginning to bloom or whether they're already dying, their petals huddling closer together in a futile effort to ward off the end.

Fai takes the blossom with him when he returns to the couch. It doesn't smell like anything.

"Chrysanthemum."

"Excuse me?"

"These flowers are called chrysanthemums. They're the royal symbol of Ni- of my country." Kurogane takes a flower of his own, and the bouquet is now diminished by two and seems all the smaller for it. "They're supposed to represent the sun. And happiness."

Fai is mildly surprised - he didn't think Kurogane would speak with him again, gift him with trivia about his own world. They've been having such a hard time talking lately and it isn't just Fai's fault. Both of them, it seems like, have been doing their best to put up a wall to keep the other out. Out of what, he doesn't know. The wall is too thick a barrier for him to even guess what's on the other side.

(He can wish, though, but that's not the same. He's afraid of any more wishes being granted.)

His cushion dips down a little as a weight settles on the other side of the couch. Startled, Fai looks to see Kurogane sitting with stretched out legs, looking absolutely exhausted. Careworn. The ninja is staring out the window, too.

And now they're both seated, close enough to touch, staring into a distant sky that is so far away and so alien, holding flowers - chrysanthemums - that look like blood. It paints an absurd picture.

"Your country must be nice," Fai says, lacking a more substantial reply.

The ninja grunts, shrugs, stands, and (Fai finds himself wanting to take that large tanned hand and pull him back down and maybe confide in him more than he's confided in anyone else, ever, but he knows that could never happen and so contents himself with holding even more tightly to his silly little inexplicable flower and trying not to watch) leaves the room.

Kurogane's chrysanthemum is dropped as he leaves, and left abandoned on the floor. Fai doesn't dare to pick it up.

"They symbolize happiness..." he murmurs instead, and wonders why he feels the sudden, wild urge to cry.

The sun is blood red and setting and its crimson finalty scares Fai more than he can ever admit.

-- --

I stay by the window,
how can I wait alone until blackness comes?

-- --

The quote comes from "Note after Note", a poem by a Chinese lyric poet Li Qingzhao. Reviews, as always, are appreciated.