Disclaimer: Of course I don't own Bungo Stray Dogs, its characters, or the franchise. This is fanfiction after all.
Story: It started with white petals. Atsushi had gone on to become fond of the smarmy, prideful jerk, but honestly Francis could just make her so happy and laugh so much. And then the sneaking suspicion that maybe she cared for him more than she should, more than the friendship she thought they shared. Then the striped petals came. By the time the red carnations came spitting out of her mouth, she was too in love and longing for him to stop Hanahaki from taking over.
Set as a Hanahaki AU. Sometime after season 3 of the anime, no further manga arcs/spoilers after.
Spoilers: Maybe.
Warnings: Age disparity. Violence, death, and cursing is a given. Slight gory image.
Pairings: Francis Fitzgerald/Fem!Atsushi

Shades of Petals
Chapter One: Let Me See You Smile Once More

Tucking a lock of her silver hair behind an ear, Atsushi sighed and leaned back in her chair, looking around the office. It was quiet and boring, a slow day for the Agency in a way. Though everyone was off doing something, it still seemed uneventful compared to their usual (not including the mess of events concerning Fyodor and even before that with The Guild and even with the Port Mafia). Speaking of The Guild…

The door burst open to admit the one and only Francis Fitzgerald, beaming brightly and holding up one of his bargain sale catalogs, excitedly waving it around. He immediately headed for her, barely taking a glance around.

"It's a sale! Look, look!"

She tried to bite back her grin, but it was hard to when the man in front of her was so enthusiastic over a bargain sale. Then again, being a rich bastard, he hadn't been used to the idea of sales and getting more for your money and saving.

"Atsushi, come with me to look at the store and buy this!"

Francis was also way too familiar, but she supposed that Americans were just like that. Not that she would know —she had been sheltered and had grown up with abnormal interactions and preconceptions of things and people because of the orphanage.

"Fitzgerald-san," she carefully sounded out his name, as always finding it difficult, "I have work to do."

Francis, who insisted she dispense with formalities (especially because of her difficulty in pronouncing his name, but she could only allow herself to do so in her head), sniffed and gave her a haughty look. He waved around him at the empty office.

"No one's here," he pointed out. "Just you. Fukuzawa's in his office, having tea like usual, the clerks are in and out, one of them —the one with glasses, I think? I can never remember her name —she's on break downstairs with Yosano and Edgar. Everyone else are on a case." How in the world did he know where everyone was when he just got there?

"Shouldn't you be running your new business?" she raised an eyebrow, but she couldn't help a bit of a smile.

Now that they weren't enemies and she'd gotten to know him more, his antics really were amusing.

"Miss Louisa May is handling it," he waved her off. "Come on! I'll treat you to lunch."

That perked her right up —Ugh, he really did know how to get to her sometimes. Besides, he was right. With Dazai and Kunikida on a case, and Kyouka being on her own mission to deliver several packages, she'd been left behind to work on some backlog. Ranpo had been recruited for another case, so Edgar was left waiting for him downstairs, and Kenji was accompanying the childlike man this time. The Tanizaki siblings were doing errands for the Agency, so she was just meandering around with mostly finished paperwork.

Francis held out a hand to her, splayed out, and she idly noted yet again how he seemed just effortlessly graceful and elegant with every action and movement of his body.

"Come with me," he said, voice just a tinge imperious and impatient. But when she looked at him, his clear blue eyes were twinkling and he was widely grinning at her.

She put her hand on his.

"You're incorrigible."

"And yet, my dear tigress, you put up with me."

"I don't know why," she said wryly but allowed him to pull her up from her chair and take her hand in his.

Heat rushed across her cheeks and she swallowed slowly, shoulders slightly tense. She glanced at him from under her lashes shyly, wary of her strange heartbeat drumming loudly and quickly in her ears.

His grin from before had become a full-fledged smile that made her heart race all too unnaturally.

༻❁༺

"Of all the places for me to take you, you'd want to go to a place like this," Francis said, scrunching up his nose as he looked around. "I have money —I can take you to any starred restaurant around here."

Putting down the bags by their feet, she considered the place. It wasn't some rich, upscale place, but…

"You don't have to spend extravagantly on someone like me," she said with a shrug. "Save your money, especially when you need it for fights. Besides, good food is what counts. This place sells pretty good chazuke."

"Chazuke?" he asked, tilting his head and looking at her curiously. Though he had a brief frown that had gone quickly and she wondered if she'd imagined it.

"Tea on rice," she told him. "It's my favorite," she said sheepishly. "This is actually where I sort of first…not quite met Dazai-san and Kunikida-san, but where they took me to after I first met them around that river some roads back where we came from."

"Oh?" he perked up. "Do tell —it's not like I actually know any of these details."

She hesitated but ended up telling him how she'd found Dazai in the river, floating after he was again attempting one of his crazy suicide attempts and she saved him. Which then led to Kunikida finding them and the trio going to this restaurant, with her being treated to a meal.

"I hadn't eaten for a few days, I don't think," she hummed in thought, remembering the time. "I was oddly craving chazuke and had bowl after bowl here, since Kunikida-san was treating and I was starving."

Looking at him, she was taken aback by the strange look he was giving her, making her fidget.

And then he gave her a soft smile and reached over to take her hand, gripping it firmly. Her heart was racing weirdly again.

"You can eat however much and whatever you want," he promised. "It won't bother me a tinge."

Cheeks red hot again, she just gave him a lopsided smile and shook her head.

"No wonder your wife fell for you," she said dryly. "You are such a charmer, I'm starting to wonder if all those things Lucy-san told me about you is true after all."

He blinked, though she inwardly winced at her careless mention of his wife, knowing it was a sensitive subject. "Wait, what? What has Miss Montgomery been saying about me?" he asked demandingly, sounding curious despite himself. "Tell me!"

She mimicked zipping her lips, grinning mischievously while he mock-gasped in indignation and continued to pester her.

He always made it so easy to laugh and feel utterly too happy in the moment.

༻❁༺

As they left behind the restaurant after their meal (just only slightly less chaotic than usual, she'd teased him), they continued towards the Agency-owned apartments, with Francis insisting on escorting her there.

"You don't have to drop me off," she told him, even as she felt warm inside out from it.

He shrugged, fitted suit impeccably well situated on him. "I took you out, I should take you back. Eager to get rid of me, Tigress?" he ended teasingly.

She rolled her eyes, but smiled a little to herself. "I can take care of myself."

"Aside from it's the gentlemanly thing to do, to escort a young pretty lady like yourself safely home?" She blushed horribly at that. "And aside from, again, I was the one who took you out so I should take you back? Isn't it nice to keep spending time together?" he asked, genuinely curious and also sincere about the sentiment, which made her almost falter in her steps.

Sometimes he said and did the strangest things that ended up making her react just as strangely…

"Are you happy?" she ended up blurting out, inwardly berating herself afterwards.

He paused in his steps and looked up to the sky, a sad, wistful look on his face that made her wince and curse herself for being so stupid.

"I would like to think I am as happy as I can be, despite it all and what I miss," he said quietly, still gazing at the sky. Then he looked to her, sad gaze matched with a small, just as sad smile. "But it's nice to be around people who actually care and I actually feel happy around."

She bit her lip before she slightly lifted up on her toes and poked his forehead, making him blink and stare at her, doing more so and growing flustered as she then gently brushed his hair back.

"You should smile more," she smiled back. "You have one of the nicest smiles when you're really happy."

And, though he became just a bit more flustered, his smile strengthened and her heart drummed loudly in her chest, with it tightening into a painful grip that brought a strange kind of dread.

༻❁༺

Settling in her apartment, she rubbed her chest, grimacing to herself and wondering what was wrong. She'd been like this since earlier, struggling to say goodbye to Francis normally and trying not to let on that she wasn't feeling all too well. Knowing him, he'd alert the others or even worse, dramatically think that something was seriously wrong (which there wasn't) and then either force her to the hospital or kidnap her to have her be treated by Guild doctors.

Having him be an ally sometimes didn't feel so different from when he had been an enemy, she exasperatedly thought. Or even one could say he went from one extreme to the other, being a horribly powerful and terrifying villain to a very powerful (overbearing) and terrifying (exasperating) ally.

Atsushi chuckled loudly, thinking fondly of him and seeing his smug, grinning face in her mind, but it descended into violent harsh coughing and all of a sudden she felt something burrowing inside her chest and climb up until she was coughing out something.

She caught a few of them in her cupped hands, staring at the white petals in disbelief.

What on earth?

Started 2/23/21 (Technically 2/22/21, during the 11th hour) – Completed 2/23/21 (Midnight slot)

A/n: I tried not to get into a new fandom, but I got obsessed with Francis and Francis/Atsushi XD So another pairing to add to my rare pair hell lol. First fic in this fandom and first real Hanahaki fic (Hm, not sure if the short, not really detailed EnDeku one I did for BNHA counts…), so hope it's been enjoyable so far!