Memories in Five Flowers
"I'm sorry Leo."
At first, it doesn't sound right, coming a man whose height is two inches too tall, face is a shade too pale, hair is much too long, and eyes (neither of them; he possesses heterochromia) are nowhere close to blue. Vincent Nightray's voice doesn't sound right.
Outside, the clouds cry. With each tear drop from the sky that patters against the window pane, the words echo, becoming less like Vincent's voice and more clearly, more painfully familiar.
"I'm sorry Leo."
"I'm sorry Leo."
The world outside is ashen gray from the hell that rampaged earth yesterday. The shrubbery is pounded with leaden drops and blurs everything into dark shadows. Yet through the darkness of his overgrown black bangs and the darkness of the storm, his eyes glimpse blooms of brilliant blue standing resiliently tall against the rain.
A petal—blue as a piece of the afternoon sky—landed on the page of his book. It covered a word of the text, yet—although he typically despised anything that intruded his enjoyment of literature—he found that he could tolerate this tiny blossom fragment.
But he had little patience for this boy around his age, dressed as obnoxiously as his hollering nonsense. It is in these moments that he thanked one of his few talents: selective hearing.
"Hey! I-I'm Elliot Nightray!"
But even this talent failed him occasionally.
"So what? What's your point?"
Pompous brat. Did he expect him to kneel before him like the conceited protagonist in this book, just because he wore a perfectly tailored suit vest and ribbon tie of some extremely pricey fabric? Well, it wasn't new. After spending years in the orphanage looking at the bottom of the other Nightrays' high held noses, he knew that all nobles were the same.
"How boring." He sighed aloud, flipping a page.
"W-what?" The other boy stammered, taken aback.
"You. You're boring."
"WHAT?! Want to say that again, straw-head?"
It was the boom of his voice that brought him to finally look up to see the indignant, huffing noble. But it was the insult—albeit unusual—that compelled him to drop his book and irately reply, "It's Leo, stiffpants."
"That's it, get up and face me, bastard!"
Luckily for the both of them (he gave up his psychical strength for books and assumed that the most dangerous weapon that Nightray kid could use was a fork for his three layered cakes), their loud shouts and the crash of a book was enough to alarm the adults. He almost forgot about his book as he ignored the caretaker's chastisement and observed the Nightray—what was it again? Elliot?—struggle in his older brother's restraining arms. It was almost comical, watching his tie get tangled and his dress shirt wrinkle as he yelled undignified profanities like any ordinary boy throwing a fit.
Then he realized that Elliot Nightray was staring furiously at him, not from a supercilious, high held head or from haughty crossed arms, but at him at eyelevel.
The statice petal floated off the book and into the air, between their exchanged glares.
The overfilled bouquet was reflected in the vase that stood at the top of the piano. A pair of eyes matching the blue-violet blossoms in iridescence appeared in the glass.
Grown accustomed to this presence, he continued placing his fingers on the back and white keys. It was a good thing his hair covered most of his face; something inside his chest smiled and perhaps influenced his facial expression as well.
"You're back." He played an arpeggio while recalling the amusing argument they had last week.
Unbothered by the lack of formal or polite greeting, the boy behind him spoke begrudgingly: "You're pretty good. Who do you learn from?"
"No one. I taught myself."
A low G that did not come from his fingers intruded his hearing. Suddenly, he was distracted by another hand playing the main tune of the piece.
"Your right hand play with more marcato." Elliot said to the left of him.
He stops and looked irately at the blonde, "Says who?"
"Well, Schubert is my favorite composer..."
"He's mine too." He interjects brusquely.
"Okay, but I've studied all of his pieces under a professional instructor." Elliot insisted.
"And your paying him money is supposed to make him right all the time? Who's to say that your instructor is wrong and you've been playing this sonata incorrectly this whole time?" Behind his bangs, he watched Elliot's attempt to retain a stiff, pleasant smile fall apart, causing his blue eyes to flash in contrast against his increasingly flushed face.
"Leo-kun, why don't you let Elliot-sama play for us? I'm sure he's a very talented pianist." Sensing yet another rowdy dispute threatening to explode in the atmosphere of the living room, the passing caretaker interrupted the two, hoping to dispel the increasing tension.
Before Elliot could say anything, he suggested "Even better: let's play a duet. What about the Finale of Schubert's Grand Duo? You're an expert on Schubert, aren't you?"
While the caretaker was oblivious his challenging undertone, Elliot was more than aware of the smirk at the corner of his mouth. His clear-blue eyes twitched as he sat next to him on the bench and gruffly agreed, "Fine. I'll play piano one and you'll play two. And the quarter note will be 116."
He complied—he figured he would give Elliot some say in this contest, somewhat like giving a dog a bone. Without music on the stand, the two began the piece by memory.
Within the first page, however, he began to cringe. The first piano part...the half notes were too accented. The second theme was too heavy. Loud. Stubborn. Demanding. Elliot's musicianship rivaled his personality in obnoxiousness.
"Way too legato and dolce...what a girl." Despite the fortissimo of the music (coming mostly from Elliot). his ears caught the blonde boy criticize under his breath in frustration.
Growing with the crescendo was a competitive storm. Lightning sizzled in some timespace in between violet and cyan eyes when they looked towards each other, like two jockeys in a horse race. As if neck and neck in their contest, he leaned forward to gain lead, placing more expressive weight on his fingertips. Beside him, he heard Elliot do the same, amplifying each of his dynamics to a volume he never knew was possible.
Their musical styles were polar opposites; yin and yang. He was convinced that they were disgracing Schubert, with their tangle of clashing notes. Yet in the corner of his eye, he noticed the large eyes of the orphans and the peaceful smiles of the caretakers circle around them.
But the confusion caused by their expressions diminished once he closed his eyes and listened. Then he finally realized.
He realized that with only two hands—his own hands playing in an empty room—his piano playing was only a half. It was smooth, dolce, subtle—mysterious and serene as night. But Elliot's music was marked, pesante, dramatic—bold and bright as day. With his hands on the keys, he could sense a whole new light of music—one that he could've never produced on his own.
An out of place sharp crashed in the air, and the harmonious eclipse of melodies came to an abrupt halt. He stared at his fingers, frozen above the black key he accidently pressed. It registered in his mind that there was another chord that was stridently wrong. A chord that did not come from him.
Which only meant that the error came from the pair of hands beside him.
They both looked up and stared at each other, sharing wonder of losing themselves in the newfound fullness of their music and making a mistake at the same time.
For some reason he was unable to stop a smile from spreading over his face. A chuckle slipped from his lips, then cascaded into uncontrollable laughter. It wasn't as if he found anything incredibly funny; there was just a warmth glowing inside him—a result of having perhaps the most fun he could remember—that he couldn't contain.
And he knew that Elliot understood, because he threw back his head and started laughing as well. In that moment, while the orphans and caretakers looked on at their laughter in confusion, it was just the two of them in their own little world. The two of them—and the statice flower from the bouquet that broke off its stem and fell between them onto to piano keys.
Cloud-soft petals of the perennials in the Nightray household's garden tickled the back of his hand. He sat on a flat rock of the well-fertilized soil, making sure to stay directly underneath the window as not to catch the attention of anyone inside the large mansion. The August moon served as a silver candlelight as he bit on the nib of his quill, trying to think of a title of the parchment music in his hand.
The sharpness of the girl's voice shattered the blanket of serenity. He quickly shoved the sheets of inked notes into his back pocket before turning his head upwards. There, he was met with the pale face and harsh eyes of Vanessa Nightray.
"What are you doing? Elliot's coming of age ceremony is starting! You of all people should be helping the other valets direct the guests' carriages!"
Wordlessly compliant, he stood up and brushed off his pants with a billowing sleeve of his shirt. The heiress continued to complain, "God. It's like you've completely forgotten your own master's birthday. You're dressed like a commoner and you haven't even worked a single bit today. I told Elliot. I told him he shouldn't have picked up a Fianna orphan..."
Her knife-edged words cut through the air, even as it faded with the clacking of her high heels against polished tile when she walked out the door and down the stretching hallway. He swung his legs over the open window sill, landing with a thump that bounced off walls and bookshelves of the empty, private library. He considered heading towards his room to change into a tailcoat, as Elliot's sister demanded. But the thought of having the eyes of towering oil portraits watch his as his footsteps echoed down a cold marble hall just to wear a stiff tailcoat caused him to walk over to the grand piano in the library instead. Taking out the music, he unfolded the first page and wrote in neat cursive at the top: "Lacie". Underneath, he continued: "Dedicated to Elliot Nightray. Happy Birthday, from Leo."
Placing his right ring finger and thumb on two black keys, he gently pressed down and allowed the high, bell-like chord sing. His left hand joined in harmony as he closed his eyes; it turned out that as a result of experimenting with intervals on the piano and scrawling notes on smudged drafts throughout the night for weeks, he had the composition inscribed in his heart.
Now that the entire piece was complete, a wave of exhaustion washed over him, tranquil as the glow of the rising moon. A yawn escaped as his fingers began slowing to a sleepy stop. In his mind, the melody continued like a music-box lulling him to the hopeful dream of Elliot enjoying his birthday gift...
"Hey, don't drool on my piano."
The familiar voice—demanding yet reassuring—resurfaced him from the calming waters of sleep. Piano keys, mahogany furniture, grandfather clock ,books...all came to view in the silver soaked room,, left in the condition they were before he had fallen asleep—how long ago was that?
"Did you hear me? If my keys have your spit on it, I'll give you hell, I swear."
Oh right, the boy in a white suit with gold ornaments leaning against the piano wasn't there before.
"Elliot." He greeted.
"Where were you?" Judging by the subtle scowl and the slightly furrowed brows, he guessed—no, knew—that Elliot was ticked off.
"Oh, how late is it? Is the ceremony over?"
"Yeah. Why didn't you go?"
He sat up and looked at the keys with a joking smile, "You probably wouldn't have wanted me there anyway. I've broken 11 crystal glasses since I've become your valet, even though it's only been three months. So imagine what it would've been like with me downstairs at your party, where practically everything is worth a fortune. You should thank me—I just saved you a whole lot of embarrassment."
A dissonant chord shattered the quiet air. As soon as he turned, the side of his head met the back of Elliot's hand. His friend who had leaned onto the piano keys now averted his eyes while responding, "Idiot. You could break a hundred glasses and it wouldn't matter—well, I mean, my family would get pretty pissed so I guess it matters to them. But that's not the point." He took a breath and recovered from his tangent, "the point is that for me, I never wanted some perfect valet. You could be the shittiest servant in the world for I all care. All I wanted was a friend at my ceremony. It was...boring without anyone to talk to."
"What do you mean? There were hundreds of people invited. Your social skills must be pretty atrocious if you hid in the corner the whole time during your own birthday party. You better brush up on that if you're going to go to all those adult parties now." He teased.
"Shut up. I talked to people. It just...wasn't actual talking. Not like how we talk." Elliot muttered in embarrassment.
He understood and let it go. Reaching into his pocket, he fished out a white feather from his pocket. "Since I couldn't give it to you at the party. Here, Happy 15th Birthday, Elliot."
"Thanks." The customary gift joined the rest of the feathers on Elliot's key chain hooked onto his belt.
"Did you get anything other than feathers?"
"Neck ties that I'll never wear, boring books on equestrianism that I'll never touch, and a creepy sculpture of myself that I've already thrown out." Elliot counted off with his fingers in exasperation.
Leo choked in laughter.
"Yeah I know. Laugh. You're lucky. You get peace for your birthdays."
"Well then, I hope you don't mind getting your peace ruined again by another present, because I'm giving this to you whether you like it or not." He slides the parchment of music across the piano top to his friend. To fill the awkward silence that overcame Elliot as he stared at the score, he explained, "sorry if the title is random. But it's kind of a return gift for 'Statice'."
He sat up straight, set his hands on the keys, breathed in, exhaled. Then, he started with an E flat and an A flat. The mezzopiano, the thirds...they flowed from his fingers, guided by some quiet felicity deep within him. Opening one eye, he snuck a peek at Elliot and saw his friend with a faint smile. That was all the reassurance he needed to confirm that the sleepless nights he spent working on this melody were worth it.
Underneath a midnight moon spotlight and on the stage of an empty library, he played and Elliot hummed in duet. The petals of statice flowers from the garden outside gave a tacit applause and waltzed in through the window, dancing around them in everlasting circles to the melody of their friendship.
He stepped off the carriage and onto a stone garden path framed by small, cerulean blooms that curved around to the back of the Victorian mansion. Having escorted Elliot to various nobles' households, he had grown accustomed to the grandeur of the marble fountains, fancy iron gates, and spiral stairs. Had he not met Elliot, he would've assumed by now that all wealthy people made a hobby of maintaining gold-perfect images. It was his intention to wait for his friend at the front gate, as Elliot instructed. But his curiosity was piqued when a teenaged girl in a pale yellow gown appeared and ran past him. Tight redhaired curls and heavy tulle trailed behind her as she covered her face—makeup dewy from tears—with a silk handkerchief.
Walking in the direction the crying girl came from, he eventually found Elliot sitting at a tea table for two. With his face propped on his hand, his well-dressed friend looked bored as he toyed with the flower table setting.
He approached the table, "What did you do this time?"
"I don't know. I didn't eat any of the scones she made or something." Elliot grumbled and sipped some of his tea, "What's the point in getting upset? I just don't like sweets."
He looked up thoughtfully at the afternoon sky, "Hmm...I guess it would be kind of insulting for her. I mean, she did put in the effort to make it." But he wasn't a girl, so he wouldn't know. He continued, "Shouldn't you have learned from your mistakes by now? After all the tea parties and dates you've been on?"
"I don't even want a girlfriend. I only agree when they ask me out because Vanessa always catches wind of all the rumors at Lutwidge and then my mother makes me."
He nibbled on a scone—they actually weren't that bad. Elliot was just immensely stubborn about opening up to certain things, such as female companions. "Oh well, might as well end their hopes now than later. Even if you do last more than one date with a girl, the relationship would end anyway once she figures out your grouchy personality."
Elliot threw a scone at his head. "Shut up. Who cares? I'll just live by myself and a thousand cats in the future."
"Oh, and...a valet."
He caught a quick glimpse of Elliot's eyes before they turned downward. As he watched his friend pluck a blue statice flower from the centerpiece and twirl it between his fingers, he somehow felt a comfort in eternity, which did a better job of warming him that the spring sun.
"What did you say?"
Blue eyes flashed as brightly as the flowers at the foot of the tree trunk, sprouting quietly under shifting sunlight that beamed through summer leaves. He sat two oak trees away from the scene, unnoticed by Elliot and the group of Lutwidge upperclassmen that outnumbered him. Calmly assessing the situation behind book pages, he inwardly sighed at his friend's hotheadedness.
"Looks like birds of a feather flock together. The street orphan is blind and his idiot of a master is deaf." One of the older boys sneered.
"We asked you why your second-rate servant covers his face all the time. I bet it's because he was so damn sick of all the women barfing whenever they saw his face—that's it, isn't it?"
The others howled in laughter at the student's jest.
Elliot's anger, restrained only by a weak barrier of a clenched jaw and whitened knuckles, finally burst. He gave up on all attempts to remain civil, resorting to the violin case strapped to his back.
"That's it, you bastards, you better be sorry!—
His blue eyes widened in realization during mid lunge, when he unzipped the case and found nothing inside.
Once again, he sighed at his friend from afar—not only was he hasty, but he also proved himself to be incredibly forgetful. The prefects had confiscated his sword just last week for fighting on school grounds.
"Or what? You'll come at us with that violin case?" The boy in the center jeered as his group closed in on the underclassman.
He sensed the violent tension and decided that was his cue to make an entrance. The book in his hands shut with a calm thump as he got up and walked over.
"Good afternoon Alastair, Marius, Julian."
The older students looked up in mid punch along with Elliot, who had his hand in front of him as a shield.
"Were you really that desperate to know why I hide my face?" He gaily conversed with the three, "You could've just asked me. I'll let you in on the secret, then. Do you guys know what Chain's are?"
They stared at him in confusion at where he was going with his narrative.
"Of course you do, I'm sure you've learned about them from History class." He continued with levity, "Obviously, there are still contractors around. And I'm one of them." A wide grin spread across his face.
"That's the saddest attempt at a story I've ever heard!" One of them doubled over in laughter.
But he remained unfazed in his smile and his glasses gleamed from underneath his hair. "Haven't you ever wondered why no one knows about how my parents died? It's not because nobody knows. It's because the officials don't want anyone to know that I was the one who killed them. You see, I formed an illegal contract with a Chain and killed them."
Their guffaws slowed into nervous chuckles, until they were completely wordless altogether. Sure, the story was a stretch, but there was an eerie shadow lurking about the strange boy's expression that made them slowly take his word for the truth.
"They made the Nightray House take me in because they needed one of the four noble houses to keep a constant eye on me. And then they made me grow out my hair, because that's how I summon my Chain—by looking at someone and thinking: I want to kill him."
His voice grew increasingly bloodthirsty and took on a violent hiss. As a last ditch attempt to call his bluff, one of the upperclassmen insisted shakily, "Y-you're lying! My father works for Pandora! He says that illegal contractors have seals on their chests!"
"Oh, you mean this?" He unbuttoned his school dress shirt casually.
At the sight of the clock-like incuse on the pale boy's chest, the three boys stumbled over the weight of their fear. They scrambled to turn and hightailed away. He watched one boy clumsily trip and trail behind the group.
"Leo...you spend way too much time reading horror fiction." Elliot grumbled as he walked up beside him.
"It comes in handy." He replied and rubbed off the pen ink from his chest. "You should stop picking fights with the older guys, you know. That way, you won't have to keep repeating this process of starting fights, forgetting that you don't your sword and then breaking into the prefects' room to steal it back."
He accompanied his friend to one of the open windows and watched him leap in to grab his black-hilted blade.
"They were ticking me off! And they should tick you off too. It was you who they were insulting in the first place—don't you have any honor?" Elliot jumped back out from the room and the two of them headed for the music room.
"What I don't have is the luxury of having a sword to wave around like an idiot. And I'd like to point out that I was the one who actually did the most effective job of getting us out of that bind." He pointed out as they walked up the stairs.
"Yeah. Yeah. Okay. I get it. Thanks." Elliot grumbled.
With a push of the large mahogany doors, they were greeted by the familiar piano in the center of the sunlit room. Elliot strode straight towards the piano bench, as he always did whenever he was in a sour mood.
"Are you playing 'Statice'?" The familiar tune circled around the music room and into his ear.
"Yeah...but those assholes managed to do some damage to my left hand. My fingers feel numb...dammit." Elliot muttered, crossed.
Elliot slid to the side slightly, allowing him to sit on the left.
And so he played the left-hand harmony perfectly in synchronization with Elliot's right hand melody. Together, they were the fitting pieces to the puzzle of the music. They were two parts of a whole.
"Hey," He closed his eyes to the calming waves of the ode that flowed and ebbed from the piano, "You never really did explain why you named this piece such a girly name as 'Statice'."
"'That which never changes'. That's what Vanessa told me what it means—not that I asked her recently. I just happened to have remembered from years ago...but, I just thought it would be suiting for...you know. Our friendship." His eyes looked up to the corner in awkwardness.
"I know! You said that when I gave it to you!" Elliot huffed, indignant.
But he could not help but smile as they continued to play, "Yeah. But still, Elliot...everything changes. That's not realistic at all."
"There are some things that'll never change!" Elliot insisted embarrassedly, struggling to come up with good examples, "Like...how I'll always be called Elliot. And you'll always be Leo. And I'll always hate dogs but like cats. And...how I'll always hate that stupid hero from the Holy Knight for sacrificing himself all the time, because I will never just throw my life away...
" ...and leave people like you behind."
But he had lied.
Because he really did leave. And now he is alone with those statice flowers under the mournful sky and memories that only remind him of the emptiness inside him.
Nothing lasts forever. Nothing except for the talons of guilt that tear at his chest and shred everything inside him into tiny pieces until nothing is left.
Humpty Dumpty could not be put together when he shattered—and neither can he.
Leo is gone.
And so he will agree to Vincent Nightray's plan to become the new Glen Baskerville.
Then he will cut his hair, so he can face the world without his lost-half and accept the wrenching pain as punishment for what he has done.
A/N: This is a tribute to Elliot Nightray. This is also a tribute to one of the most beautiful friendships in manga that I've ever read.
Although the majority of what I've written so far is Bleach-related, Pandora Hearts is actually my favorite manga series. I think my hesitancy to write something Pandora Hearts-related has to do with the fact that I just love the characters so much—I wanted to make sure that what I wrote doesn't insult the manga in anyway. Regardless, this is my first Pandora Hearts fanfic. It also happens to be the first fic I've written that follows canon (I am primarily a AU writer).
So, hello there, Pandora Hearts fans! Please leave a review and let me know what you think :)