Written for the Peculiar Pairings Ficathon on Goldenlake. And also definitely kinda squicky. Proceed and red at your own risk, cause writing this definitely freaked me out a little.

A bruise is like a flower. It blossoms and unfurls across a blank canvass, waiting to be admired by someone who can truly appreciate its beauty.

She flowers black and blue and angry, bitter pink.

Sometimes, her skin splits under his fist and leaves a pattern of veins and vines in its wake.

He walks to the city, his mind a dark tangle of weeds and poison ivy, his hands thrust low into his pockets. The Lower City is full of flower-sellers and flower-girls, none as vibrant as her, but they will have to suffice.

He goes to the tavern, orders a drink. Leaves with a girl, leaves a large tip for the serving-man, his ale half empty, a watermark sinking into the rough wood of the table.

(Her hair is too long and too dark and her eyes are too green. She is too short and too thin and too talkative and flirtatious and in no way a substitute for the real thing.)

They go into an alleyway that stinks of piss and cheap ale.

"Your name?" He mutters, pushing her up against the wall, pushing up the heavy, scratchy wool of her skirt.

"Kelane," she says, voice too high and too rushed. "Sir, you overstep-"

He hits her, Kelane-not-Keladry, watching satisfied as dark flowers blossom across her cheekbones. They will bloom further in the morning.

Her face morphs. Her nose becomes more delicate and he watches in satisfaction as it breaks with a heavy blow from his fist. Her skin breaks over her eyebrow, her lip bursts open like a berry.

"Bitch!" he spits, chest heaving. "Jumped up slut!

"I don't understand- you're hurting me-"

"She would fight back-" he hits her again. "Whore- trull- lump-"

There are hands, gloved ones, pulling him off. They spin him around and he faces a man, tall and craggy.

"I don' give a damn towards yer station, y'hear?" the man demands. "You'd best be gettin' gone now. Leave off Kelane now. If I hear of you comin' round her again I'd be careful if I was you. Yer lookin' t'get yer face broken." He drops Vinson and picks up Kelane from where she was slumped on the floor, her arms pressed over her face. He holds the girl soft as a baby. "Let's be gettin' you home now, love."

His fists are bloody. He wipes them off with a pocket rag and dumps the rag into the sewer.

They are never her, and he can never get enough. He is nothing without her to hate, her to fight. She is a worthy opponent- these girls are nothing. But they are as close as he will get to hurting her truly.

"I need you," he whispers to the cold city air.

Keladry never exacts her revenge.

The Chamber of the Ordeal does it in her stead, and he feels each and every mark he'd left on his substitutions. She is there watching at the end, watching along with the King and the Queen and the Lord Magistrate and his family, people who should matter more than her.

"Bitch," he whispers, violently.

It isn't ever enough.