Vague spoilers for chapter 218.
Links to Russian and Vietnamese translations available in my profile.
He's trying not to appear weak, but he feels so goddamn awful. He's fatigued and sleep-deprived and his captain's jacket feels claustrophobic in more ways than one. His mind whirs in circles, an infinite loop of worries and fears.
Byakuran smiles, head tilted sideways, cheek cupped in one hand as he leans slightly forward.
"Is something the matter, Shou-chan?"
Shouichi shakes his head in denial but can't help wrap one arm around his middle. That damn stomachache is back.
"Drink some more tea. It'll help your digestion."
Shouichi makes no move for the cup as he doubles over, letting out a strangled gasp. His insides are churning and he feels like vomiting all over Byakuran's floor.
"My, Shou-chan, you do look awful."
"I-I'm sorry, Byakuran-san. I-If I may be allowed to return to my room..."
"Leaving so soon? You just got here."
"I don't feel well."
He sounds like a whiny kid, even to his own ears.
"Come here, Shou-chan. Let me get a better look at you."
When Byakuran commands, Shouichi obeys. He pushes off weakly, unable to quite straighten, staggers, and catches himself.
Don't fall over. You look pathetic enough without having to crawl.
It's only a short distance, a few agonizing steps. He shuffles over as if his feet is cast in iron, shoulders slumped, eyes lowered to the dizzying patterns on the floor.
Byakuran tugs at his wrist and he's too miserable to resist. He falls gratefully onto the massive couch, legs stretched out, back of head pillowing naturally in Byakuran's lap. He closes his eyes as gentle hands remove his glasses and sets them aside with an almost inaudible clink.
Byakuran's hand is cool and dry on his fevered forehead as he sweeps back sweat-dampened hair. Shouichi arches his neck and leans into the touch, like a cat rubbing against its owner, demanding to be petted.
"You're burning up, Shou-chan." The fingers run down and dip teasingly into the high collar of his jacket.
The jacket feels too stuffy. Shouichi is suffocating.
"Byakuran-san," he whimpers, and he's horrified at how hoarse he sounds, how needy.
"Would you like me to help you out of your clothes?"
Shouichi throws an arm against his closed eyes and nods, hair rustling against fabric in a silent plea. He hears slow unzipping, the click of the buckles being undone, and the air feels good. He can breathe again.
"There now. Better?"
Shouichi nods. His stomach is settling. His closed lids feel heavy and he feels himself drift. He's almost asleep when something brushes lightly against his lips.
It jolts him awake and he half-sits up, one hand flying to his mouth, the other automatically seeking out his glasses.
Byakuran smiles at how adorable his Shou-chan looks, so confused and flustered and blinking with near-sightedness. He pushes Shouichi down by the shoulder, gently but insistently, until his head is back in his lap.
"Do you like flowers, Shou-chan?"
"I... not particularly," Shouichi confesses, still confused.
"That's a shame." And here, Byakuran caresses Shouichi's lips once more with soft, velvety petals. "My mother loved flowers, so my father gave her a garden, filled with all the beautiful flowers in the world. She spent her days out there in the sun, dancing about in the wind."
Byakuran tucks the flower behind Shouichi's ear, brushing back strands of unruly auburn hair. "She ran away with the gardener when I was four. Father was furious. He ordered the garden burned and banned any mention of her name. I found out later that he'd had her tracked down. His men took turns raping her in front of her new lover, forced her to watch as they riddled him with bullets, and then made her choose: return to Father and beg for forgiveness on her hands and knees or kill herself to absolve her sin."
Shouichi's lashes are wet with tears.
"Now who do you think was more cruel? My father for selfishly being unable to let her go? Or my mother for betraying the one who loved her most?"
"I'm sorry, Byakuran-san." Shouichi's voice cracks and there's uncertainty in those green, green eyes. This time, Byakuran doesn't stop him when Shouichi sits up and clings to him, thin arms circling around his neck, face hidden in Byakuran's uniform in a one-sided hug. Byakuran's remain draped carelessly against the back of the couch.
"I think that your mother couldn't face your father again because she didn't know how. She was too ashamed or maybe afraid... too afraid she'd end up hating him for the things he'd done, even as a part of her still loved him, would always love him."
Byakuran smiles cheerfully and pats the shaking shoulders, lets his hand come to a rest heavily at the gentle curve of the neck. Such a fragile, fragile thing. One little snap and the life would be gone.
"Maa ne. Father was a proud fool. I would be more forgiving to the ones I love. So don't worry, Shou-chan. You'd still be my most precious ally, even if you were to slip up at a crucial moment."
Shouichi freezes and he forgets to breathe. His heart is beating so wildly that he's sure Byakuran can hear it, can feel it jackhammer against his chest. He's suddenly too cold.
He disentangles himself and rises to full height. His eyes are still red but his expression is sharp as he slides on his glasses and zips up his jacket. His big boy voice is stiff but unhesitant. "I won't make a mistake, Byakuran-san. I'll prove to you, to everyone, that I deserve my position."
"If Shou-chan says so, I have nothing to worry about."
Then Byakuran does something completely unthinkable for someone of his position, the soon-to-be top of the entire Mafia world. He kneels in front of Shouichi in what could possibly be mistaken for a sign of deference.
"B-Byakuran-san! What are you doing? Please get up! What if someone sees you!"
"Let them see. This is a promise between you and me." Byakuran smiles as he grasps Shouichi's hand. He slides the mare sun ring onto a pale finger and kisses the ring. "I'm entrusting Japan's Melone base to you, Shou-chan. That's where everything will begin and everything will end."
Their gazes lock and Shouichi feels naked. Byakuran can see through him, can see all his plans.
No. Impossible. He'd been so careful!
"Do what you need to do, then hurry back to me. I'll be waiting, Shou-chan~ "
Shouichi leaves in a nervous clatter of boots, both hands wrapped around his midsection, staggering against the walls for support. The white anemone is still tucked behind his ear.
"Poor Shou-chan," Byakuran murmurs in amusement as he pours a fresh cup of tea. "Poor little Shou-chan, playing games in an adult's world."
The cloying scent of honey does little to mask the acridity of the anemone's protoanemonin glycoside, the toxicity of which should have been mostly burned away when added to the heated liquid. Byakuran has been gradually upping the dosage on the poisoned tea, studying Shouichi's reactions to properly adjust the next batch.
He doesn't want to kill the poor boy, just cause him minor discomfort. A light punishment, a recurring reminder... physical proof that Shouichi's very well-being depends on Byakuran's continued benevolence.
It looks like he has gone too far this time. Oh well. Absent his presence, six thousand miles away, Shouichi will never drink the terrible tea again. But like Pavlov's dog, the nostalgic fragrance of anemones may very well trigger the same reaction.
Byakuran plans to drown Shouichi with a lab full of anemones.
But also forsaken.
And dying hope.
The meaning is all in the context. Shouichi will betray him. This is an inevitability.
But Byakuran is a generous man, a forgiving man. He will let Shouichi scurry around his maze, will allow him to hope while he quietly destroys all paths except the one leading back to him. And Shouichi will return of his own accord, spirit broken, pliable, ready to accept him as the only savior.
Only then will Byakuran embrace him, will fuck him raw and claim him completely.
This idea actually hit me when Shouichi first mentions the meaning of anemones and I googled around and saw that anemones can also mean "forsaken" and "dying hope." Then that they are also poisonous and can cause gastrointestinal irritation. Apologies if this is completely implausible. I know very little about flowers. *applies for artistic license*
November 23, 2008