Snow has always reminded Muraki of masks, the way it covers the barrenness of wilted grass, dead plants, hard, rough dirt.
The silk of the patient's hair looks like wet reeds, and he stares at it in the winter moonlight. It shines, and the lax face is peaceful.
Muraki has only ever seen peace in death; the unanimated, versus the animated or even the reanimated. This creature in front of him--a nearly dead thing that lives against its will--is the point of red that protrudes from the tundra and doesn't wilt in the cold.
He wants to kiss this mortality on its unconscious mouth, possess it as he sees the snow: cold and vulnerable and beautiful without heat.
Nevertheless, somewhere Muraki remembers heat, remembers a warm world without winter, without masks. He remembers long, silken hair resting against a painted summer kimono, face more elegant than a doll's, skin as smooth as fresh petals--warm, alive, touching, the sweet smell of tobacco floating in the air like a dream.
It all storms together when his eyes focus again on Tsuzuki's short hair splayed across the pillow.
He doesn't know whether the moment of summer, living there in his head, is a memory. He doesn't recall whether it was Tsuzuki clad in silk, short unruly hair there between his fingers; or perhaps it is merely an imagined construction of textures and sounds, an illusory past Muraki's mind has invented. Something that feels like youth--like a warm breeze against his face when both of his eyes matched; like fingers, callused from practicing katana, pressed against his cheek.
The whiteout comes again though, and he embraces the silence of snow drifts.
"I brought you roses," he says, and places them in a vase at the bedside.
The thorns catch his thumb and he looks for the blood there with a small smile on his face.
"Pain," he says quietly, looking in Tsuzuki's direction while the blood rises at the puncture and wells, a perfect circular edge blooming, "I don't enjoy it nearly as much as you."
Unsurprisingly there is no response.
There is beauty there in the mask of unconsciousness, like bisque porcelain--perfectly molded and cool to the touch as he lays his fingers against Tsuzuki's cheek; the driving snow does not yield again.
Muraki has cultivated a taste for unwilling things, as ugly as red winter berries growing in summer.