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  1.  hanahaki

 

“Strange isn’t it,” a voice from the side asks him, “that a family like the Lukases would hold parties?”

 

In this story Elias is young, younger at least, no grey to his hair but sharp enough features and a straight enough back people assume he’s old enough for his position at Head of the Institute. He is indeed at a Lukas party, a strange affair full of the more civil monsters of the area. Gertrude is somewhere in the crowd, though she is avoided as intensely as she avoids.

 

“Hardly,” answers Elias without missing a beat. “To miss something it must first have a presence, after all.”

 

The man beside him laughs, and when Elias looks over it is the first time he lays eyes on Peter Lukas. He knows instantly he is a Lukas, if the deathly pale skin didn’t give him away the hollow eyes were too obvious a trait to hide or ignore. Other than those features Peter is quite different from his family, built solid with strong, broad shoulders and muscle, a thick frame and thick hair perpetually windswept. He smiles, that is rare in a Lukas too, though the smile is a smirk and mocks with easy humor.

 

Elias thinks he’s quite handsome, for a dangerous man. Maybe that was the appeal.

 

Of course Elias knows he must be Peter, the sailor son, high up on the hierarchy but something of a black sheep by his own making. He’s said to take an easy joy his rather soulless family lacked, a true zealot to the cause with masochistic fervor. He feeds what is in the ocean, he holds a great and lonely power in himself and he smiles. A most interesting man.

 

“You’re the new Head, yeah?” Peter asks him, leans close. His cologne is old wood and myrrh, smells like an ancient voyage to appease a long dead god. “Means you’re part of the nosier lot. Do you know who I am?”

 

“I do, though I wonder if you assume you’re important enough to be known,” Elias baits just to watch him laugh again, the line of Peter’s throat. In this story they are very young, so very young, and Elias wants to own that throat, all its skin and marks, collar it and drag Peter to his knees.

 

“I can certainly be interesting enough to be, if you give me the evening.”

 

And Elias does.

 

-

 

“Kiss me,” Peter asks him time and time again, and Elias never does. He doesn’t because he wants to, because Peter wants to, and that tipping point is far more dangerous than any time they’ve made the other bleed.

 

So when Peter asks he bites into Peter’s neck, hard hard harder still until Peter comes inside him and he against Peter’s chest and everything is breath, blood and heartbeat for a while.

 

In the cabin of Peter’s room on the Tundra is collection of dried and pressed flowers, garlands on his desk and hanging on the walls. They confuse Elias at first, a detail he only vaguely noticed when they first tumbled inside, pawing at each other with great violence. Now, lying in Peter’s bed, Elias gets to the part of the story where he asks.

 

“Ah, these are fun,” Peter answers with a smile, pulls out a little seed from a desk drawer. “It blooms under hopeless, painful love that will never be returned, fills the lungs until the person suffocates with it. Nothing quite as lonely as love, is there Elias?”

 

Elias laughs, low, and vows to never kiss Peter Lukas.

 

-

 

“I’d like to cut you open right here-” Peter tells him, traces a line down Elias’ bare chest like he’s a cadaver on the slab.  “Right there, and see if a thousand eyes will stare back at me when I pull back the skin.”

 

“How poetic of you,” Elias informs him, dry, as Peter laughs and holds Elias’ sides hard enough to bruise.

 

Daffodil bulbs instead of balls, stared from the sockets of the eyes! He knew that thought clings round dead limbs, tightening its lusts and luxuries, ” Peter recites mockingly, so fond of his poetry. Elias never so the appeal but perhaps its lonely drama appealed to Peter. At this chapter he just watches Peter’s eyes sharpen as he speaks the words, watches them sharpen all the more when Elias digs his fingernails into Peter’s back and pulls down.

 

-

 

All the clues pointed to Peter leaving him wrecked, and Peter does. It’s a lovely, vicious ache, a destruction fascinating to watch and dreadful to live through. This story isn’t about that though, but it is about the burn up his lungs.

 

Once, when Peter was sleeping, Elias kissed him. It was brief, spontaneous, pointless. Peter didn’t stir, and Elias broke his word quietly, so quietly, against his lips.

 

The petals are white and long, dahlia, he thinks. Anemone next, in purple, clover and tarragon and zinnia. He hacks them out into the sink, the effort drawing blood that slips in small droplets over the petals.

 

Elias smiles as he wipes his mouth. “Oh Peter,” he says hoarsely, feels seeds rattle in his lungs.

 

He takes several days off and waits, chokes back coughing, lies down and lets the seeds grow. They do, up his throat, just tall enough to reach. It’s agonizing to wait, agonizing still to pull them out but he does, one by one. Their roots tear up his lungs, his monstrous blood allowing him to survive the rattling pain and vomited blood. He waits and plucks and by the end of the week no more flowers grow.

 

By his bedside is the vase he put his in though, water tinted with blood.

 

He considers sending it to Peter but knows the man will enjoy it too much, and his own rolling hate cannot allow it. He considers burning them but his hate isn’t that strong. Peter did, after all, simply do what was in his nature.

 

In the end of the tale Elias pins the biggest bloom to his suit jacket, a begonia in red, and goes to a gala by the seaside. He shakes hands with patrons and feels Peter’s eyes from across the room.