The Flower Shatters (Die Another Day one-shot)
by Godsanity || Sychron

Jyzal was breaking.

Talon wasn’t sure how he figured it out, but he was certain about it. Perhaps it stemmed from watching the assassin’s every move for months, wary of the danger he pose to His Highness and Halsting. By definition, activities took 21 days to become a habit, so Talon supposed it was a habit. Jyzal-watching. Just like bird-watching, but with a lethal edge. Or perhaps it was just intuition, the same intuition that saved his life multiple times. You couldn’t be a Major Arcana without a powerful intuition.

To everyone else, Jyzal probably seemed the same. Trenchant, haughty and completely in-control. He wore it all like a second skin. If he told you it was raining in the middle of the sunny day and it wasn’t, you’d check your eyes, not his words. Talon doubted Death’s words enough times and the rug was always tugged from under his feet, burying him in defeat; then, he realized Death fueled the skepticism in the first place. Death was indisputably and confidently in control. Talon had all but resigned to treat the new Major Arcana the way you’d treat an electric fence— Approach With Caution and Do Not Touch.

Except he wanted to.

What started as grudging admiration and cagey irritation quickly blossomed into intrigue. There was just something about the way Death moved. Talon didn’t appreciate the assassin’s new role as Shawn’s right hand and he wanted to prove he was better. A testosterone fueled battle to establish superiority. It was normal, and it soon became normal to watch Jyzal like a hawk when Jyzal prevailed in any challenged field. Sniping, infiltration, projectiles, assimilation. Agent stuffs. Jyzal was good, a better secret service agent than Talon.

Yet, Talon wanted to see respect in Jyzal’s unreadable flinty blue eyes. He couldn’t be that bad and he wanted Jyzal to acknowledge it. Whenever he looked at the blond, it felt like a reality check and a moment of humbleness. Which was why Talon could not understand why Jyzal allowed Shawn to trample, use and bruise him. He picked the word “allowed” carefully. A simple no, with Jyzal’s deadly reputation and fast hands, would have made a more powerful man think twice.

Talon didn’t enjoy watching his idol break. Sometimes, in timeframes below a split second, Talon felt an agonizing vulnerability, a call for help, emit from the Death Card. Something that drew out every protective instinct in him, making him want to rush over and see if Jyzal was alright. Want for nothing, because by the time he looked again, Jyzal was always staring back questioningly, infinitely out of reach and beyond his league. Talon’d cock an eyebrow, smile and they would resume whatever they were doing.

It wasn’t until he fully caught one of those moments that Talon made the decision to pay Jyzal a visit. A dangerous visit in some unholy hour into the night. He was on duty, patrolling the prince’s quarters, and he saw Jyzal leave Shawn’s room, coldly, but unsteadily. Talon knew they were arguing and judging by the blood that carelessly stained Jyzal’s clothes, violently arguing.

Once he was outside Shawn’s door, Jyzal looked uncertain, palm lingering against the intricately designed door handle. For a moment, Talon thought Jyzal looked ready to sink down, but Jyzal pulled away, hands slipping into his pockets as he turned on his heels and began to walk back to his own room. As expected, Jyzal didn’t have a footfall and Talon, trailing about a hundred feet behind him, paid special attention to mask his own, gait equally quiet. He could match the assassin in stealth, at least.

However, nothing happened on the way back.

Jyzal still walked as if he owned the palace and Talon wondered if he imaged everything. But pure curiosity urged him to continue. Just to make sure Jyzal wasn’t up to any mischief, like betraying His Highness. That was what Talon told himself. To his dismay, a grand total of nothing happened and not even servant passed by. By the time Jyzal entered his own room, a room Talon knew to be lavish beyond belief and large enough to rival His Highness’, Talon was ready to check himself into the mental hospital.

That was when he saw Jyzal left his doors open. The light poured from his room into the dark hallway like an invitation and Talon felt the beginning of a heart attack. The move was so unbelievably careless it couldn’t be anything but intentional. Jyzal knew he was being followed and he’d known all along. Talon felt faint and he’d never felt a stronger urge to run. Not even when there were six readied guns pointed at him. With courage (read, foolishness) Talon never knew he possessed, he stepped into the light, inviting himself in. Never again could he call himself a coward.

“Close the door,” said Jyzal.

Talon felt as though the room was beating in tandem with heart, walls moving and shifting like a nightmare. He felt paralyzed by fear even though Jyzal was still across the room, staring at the mirror. If Talon ever wished the earth would open up and swallow him, cliché and juvenile as it sounded, it was now. There was nothing he could say to make his situation better and he could only hope Jyzal wouldn’t make it worse for him.

“Did the sky fall or was King Janus assassinated?” Jyzal asked. “What needs my attention 3AM in the morning?”

By now, Talon recognized the particularly sly pattern of Jyzal’s speech. He’d implant a seed of an idea, derail the topic and slowly lead you back to the conclusion he wanted you to reach. The realization did nothing to ease his anxiety and Talon’s fingers curled into fists. Jyzal was just human, he reminded himself. There was nothing Jyzal could do to him short of killing him and Talon didn’t think Jyzal was too chatty with his victims.

“If it was anything like that, I think you’ll know before me,” Talon said carefully. Throat constricted, he watched as Jyzal moved closer. He fought every instinct to move back and run. He was reminded of training sessions that involved wild animals. If you run, the beast would attack savagely. If you stood your ground, you’ll have a higher chance of getting away alive.

“I know. So why are you here?” Jyzal’s voice was crisp.

Talon sucked in a deep breath, frustration replacing everything else he’d wanted to say. They both knew, and he knew they both knew, but it wasn’t something he could put in words in the English language. He was sure there was a language with a word for it, but English wasn’t it.

“Maybe for the same reason you left the door open?” Talon countered. “You don’t always leave your doors open, do you?”

Maybe Jyzal wasn’t used to his words questioned. Maybe it was too late into the night. Or maybe he was just fatigued, but his expression faltered, haughty reflection of nonchalance gone for a second. Talon knew Jyzal had to have been very far gone to let his control slip for so long. Pausing about a foot in front of him, Jyzal looked uncertain. Finally, Jyzal murmured, “I don’t know.”

Moving like a dismissal, the assassin turned to walk back, toward his bed. Talon wasn’t about to let him go. In the entire meeting, minutes that felt like eternities, he felt as though he’d finally made a breakthrough. His arm shot out, gripping Jyzal’s arm. The blond winced and Talon almost let go, shocked.

The moment hovered.

Talon softened the pressure on his grip, but he didn’t release. He counted two seconds before Jyzal composed himself. Softly, he murmured, “I’m seriously worried about you.”

He saw something spike through Jyzal, rising like fur on the back of a cat. Rigidness, then forced calmness. Then, in the same tone of voice a tyrant would issue a death threat: “Pardon?”

His life was probably on the line here, Talon realized. It’d take just three moves and he’d make a one way transformation into a dead body. But he was so close. Whatever he wanted was nearly tangible, literally on the tip of his fingertips. He could reach out and make a grab for it if he was brave enough. He pushed through, pushed against the intuition that saved his life. Risk was opportunity, was it not?

“You’re…off. His Highness’ mistreating you and not in that way you …well, you seem to like.”

The few seconds Jyzal went completely silent could have been a world record. Talon had never seen the blond so thrown off his game. The nearby tabletop looked a wonderful place to plant his face, but Talon clung to the single strand of hope that Jyzal had yet to throw off his grip. In fact the blond relaxed his arm and Talon wondered if his whole body could relax in his hold. He caught himself just before Jyzal spoke.

“ If you’re drunk, you’re in the wrong place.”

“Really, Jyzal? That’s the best you—“

“You have no right to call me by name.”

There was a wild pause after that. It was the most impulsively spoken words he’d ever heard spoken by the Death Card and he just knew he was going in the right direction. That really was the thing about control, Talon realized a long time ago. No one really knew what was going on, but if you act the act, you’d soon have followers. Right now, Jyzal was thrown off his high horse and Talon wanted to take the gamble.

“Why not? I am equal to you in rank, Jyzal,” said Talon. In all technicalities, they were both Major Arcana. The political fact that Jyzal ranked several dimensions above him in Shawn’s and King Janus’ eyes was trite.

“What is wrong with you tonight? You seem to have no regards for your wellbeing,” said Jyzal.

“I’m perfectly fine,” said Talon. He took a step closer and he could have sworn Jyzal was about to take a step back. They were almost close enough to kiss and Talon felt the warmth of Jyzal’s exhale. “You’re not.”

“Get out.” Jyzal’s smile was too pretty.

Talon instinctively knew he was closing in on a last straw.

“If you don’t already regret your words, I’ll get out before you can count to five,” said Talon. He expected something sharp in response. Witticism and diatribes Jyzal was infamous for. Words so sharp they could slice you like butter. To his surprise Jyzal didn’t speak and Talon closed in, bringing his lips against Jyzal’s neck. He wanted to press his lips against the scars of the now-removed collar, but he refrained.

“You need help. Keeping everyone else in checkmate, dealing with your double identities, making sure you live up to your reputation. You’re cracking under the pressure.” The words spun out of him before he thought, but Talon would admit thinking before speaking was not part of his charms. But the words were effective, impulsiveness rendering Jyzal speechless, breaking his defenses.

“Don’t talk about what you don’t know,” said Jyzal.

“But I do know,” said Talon.

He could leave it at that and get what he’d wanted. He made it past Jyzal’s barbed defense and the assassin was his for picking. He could push them both to the bed and leave satisfied hours later. Except he wouldn’t be satisfied. He pulled back and Jyzal’s eyes flew open, clearly surprised.

“I told you I was worried, not horny,” said Talon.

Jyzal raised an eyebrow, blue eyes lifting to his own brown ones. Could’ve fooled me, his eyes said. Talon gave a short laugh. He pulled himself together, reaching to cup Jyzal’s cheeks. “I’m not lying. I know you’re good enough to know I mean what I say and I say what I mean.” Unlike the blond, but he didn’t add that part. Now was not the time for it. “I just hate seeing you this way. I will never speak a word of treachery against his Highness, but I know you’re smart enough to realize he’s tearing you apart.”

If there was one thing Talon trusted in, it was Jyzal’s rationality and intelligence. The blond was not one to delude himself and that crystalline clarity was his ace against his opponents. Caught in the months of deliciously painful pleasure and pushed boundaries, Shawn had probably edged his way under Jyzal’s exterior. Found the part in the blond that was still human enough to hurt and laid sleigh to it. And Jyzal couldn’t recognize the emotional injury for what it was, pushing it aside by pursuing more perilous missions, blindsiding it by picking fights with Shawn.

Talon vowed he would not care, let the two live out the relationship that was destructive from the start. But he couldn’t do it. He didn’t have Jyzal or Shawn’s ability to watch someone walk into a pointed blade without warning them.

“It’s not your battle,” said Jyzal. His voice was quiet, almost lost in the sudden rush of victory in Talon’s mind. “I’m not… breakable.”

“But it’s painful to live with all the cracks. I don’t think you’re self-destructive,” said Talon. Masochistic, yes. A desire to push every boundary found, definitely. But if Jyzal was truly disregarded his well-being so, the door to his room would have been long slammed shut. “It’s probably hard to do anything, but just know I will be there, for whatever purpose. Even if you just can’t reach a wound to bandage.”

Jyzal’s eyes were unreadable for a full minute.

“We don’t f*ck anymore.” The words were volumes louder than the soft murmur Jyzal spoke in. Talon’s eyes widened in surprise, unable to help draw his gaze from the recent injuries. “We just fight.” A scoff. “I am not allowed to retaliate.” There was a look of pure disdain in the glacier eyes.

The few words were enough for everything to make sense in Talon’s mind. Jyzal no longer respected Shawn as his liege or lover, but he, for some reason, did not shake free. Yet, in the same time, he still wanted the void filled, perhaps nostalgic for the past. So he went back and for most parts, obeyed. The stronger part of the assassin was perfectly fine with the arrangement, but the frailer side Talon sometimes saw was carrying the whole weight of the consequences.

“I see,” said Talon. He brushed his thumb against Jyzal’s cheek.

“What do you expect from me?” asked Jyzal.

“It’s not a business transaction, Jyzal.”

Calling Jyzal by name that triggered something inside the assassin, Talon noticed. There was always this flicker of something that resembled human. He knew the Death Card killed nearly twenty handlers before he found his true name and identity. Obviously, it held an incredible degree of important to the man. Talon wondered if it made him human.

Out of nowhere, Jyzal spoke again. “Thank you.”

“For?” Talon was truly surprised, but Jyzal only spared him an incredulous look. Talon tsked in annoyance. The heaviest of the mood lifted, Talon allowed the assassin to move back, walk to the bed he’d been prepared to go to. It was half an hour past the 3AM Jyzal was complaining about, after all. He watched as the assassin slipped into his bed, curling under the blankets. Deciding that it was as good as dismissal, he only stopped to ask, “Do you always sleep with the curtains open?”

He guessed he should’ve expected the immediate reply floating to him in the darkness: “Must you have the subtlety of an elephant in a ballroom?”