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 Two: Just Wanted to Raise Your Spirits

Atsushi's chest pains and the strange, out of place white petals came and went and almost always around the time she met up with Francis. Which was actually quite often —ever since the truce between him and the Agency, he had grown a tendency to visit her everyday and most times took her out to do something or other. Sometimes they were playing tourist and visiting places, sometimes it was shopping for odd sales he came across, and sometimes he just took her out to various eateries around the area.

She had never failed to have a good time though, and she'd grown to be extremely fond and reluctantly indulgent of the man. She'd even admit to enjoying her time with him and was less and less reluctant in agreeing to accompanying him to places, worn down by his insistence on her joining him to wherever he wanted to go and whatever whim he was ready to entertain. The rest of the Agency had shrugged it off, not minding her disappearing off to odd places with their former American enemy, and so she ended up shrugging it off herself.

But now she was bewildered by the appearance of these petals and why she was suddenly coughing them up. She wasn't sure that was something people did and it seemed more than unnatural. She was hesitant to ask around, in case it was just nothing and some weird thing that had happened because she'd accidentally run across someone's ability accidentally manifesting itself when she'd been around.

"It's nothing," she muttered to herself, shaking her head. It had to be.

Without warning, as accustomed to when it came to him, Francis smoothly entered through the doorway without knocking and made for her quickly, ignoring the others in the room.

"What are we? Chopped liver?" Ranpo snorted while Kunikida grumbled about 'knocking properly' and 'announcing oneself politely.'

All of which Francis ignored blithely, holding out his phone to her. "Help me find a futon," he told her seriously.

She blinked, taken aback by the request (demand?) from him. "A…futon? Why on earth would you want one? And wouldn't an actual bed be best? I thought you'd want to stick to your western-styled beds, Fitzgerald-san."

"I want a Japanese futon, not one of those American futon couches," he made a distracted offhand wave. "And I want the full Japanese experience, so of course I need to at least try one of those futon mattresses you Japanese insist on sleeping on."

Bemused, she hesitantly took his phone, to which he took a nearby chair and, just as smoothly as he entered the room, had the chair moved to her side and sat in it, one of his hands comfortably settling against her lower back.

It felt like his hand was burning her.

༻❁༺

He'd had one ordered right away, to her amusement. And when he'd dragged her to his newly acquired building to show her it, she entered the tall skyscraper hosting the site of the security firm he now owned with an exasperated air and exchanged a look with the ever diligent Louisa May, who gave her a kind smile accompanied with a knowing look.

"Welcome to Manhasset Security!" he told her grandly, though he made a face. "Should change that name. It sounds hideous," he mused to himself, making her giggle. She was surprised at herself, while he looked way too smug. "Anyway, to my office!"

His hand held tightly onto her shoulder, continuing to burn into her skin and make strange flutterings in her stomach that made her feel out of sorts.

"Shouldn't you have had it set up somewhere where you'll be sleeping?" she asked in bemusement at yet again his weird decisions.

"I've a room set aside here to use," he revealed. "I tend to make sure I have space in each of my buildings for me to stay in, if I need to work overnight. Anyway, this futon thing is a really good idea —easy to put away, carry around, make space with! Ingenious really. Don't need it? I can shove it into a closet or some corner until I do! I like that."

"I don't know if you'll find it as comfortable," she said in amusement, trying to picture him settling onto said futon and sleeping. He seemed the type to like and need creature comforts. "The novelty of it will wear off soon, I'm sure."

"Don't be pessimistic," he sounded pouty, even if his face tried not to be. "I take care of my things," he insisted and she was reminded of something Louisa had once told her Francis liked to say, regarding his overprotective nature of what he considers 'his'.

"Look, I've got it set up here in my office for now though, so you can see to it," he told her as he opened his office doors and led her in, to which she stopped short and stared.

The office was huge, bigger than the Agency's main office several times over —and this was just Francis' office. Considering the size of the office, she felt dwarfed in it and wondered how Francis could work in there and not feel isolated or alone.

Maybe it was why he wasn't around here so much and tended to barge in on her at the Agency…

"This place is big," she looked around in awe. "You have all this space just to yourself!"

The older man shrugged, looking around too. "Hm, it's just space. If you want, you can bring some of your work here to do in peace, either for a change of scenery or just a change of pace. Or more probably, to escape the chaos of the Agency," he teased.

"That would be nice," she said thoughtfully, actually considering it. Plus, she could keep him company, since that seems to be what he really wanted. It didn't help that she really would appreciate being able to actually work and that she could happily and peacefully avoid the chaos and insanity of her coworkers and the Agency's workplace.

He looked caught off guard before looking satisfied. "Anytime then," he told her firmly. "Just come by. Open doors for you, I promise."

Francis then pointed towards a spot near his glass windows overlooking the city, where a futon lay on the floor atop a tatami mat.

"I placed it there —open space around it, good view, and just enough room to fit it there anyway," he said proudly and she looked at it and her mind finally registered the size.

"Fitzgerald-san, you're one person," she said, staring. "Why on earth would you need that huge futon?!"

He gave her a look. "I usually have a king-sized bed to myself. Why wouldn't I have a king-sized futon?"

Oh, the laughter that bubbled out of her at him couldn't be helped, but seriously! He was just so ridiculous. Even with his bemusement at her, he still started smiling a bit at her reaction.

"You Americans, honestly," she rubbed the back of her head, shaking it. "Or maybe it's you crazy rich Americans…."

"Probably mostly the latter," he shrugged goodnaturedly. "Nevertheless, most Americans are pretty crazy. That and we do like extravagant things. The bigger the better!"

"Not always," she hmmed distractedly, while she missed the brief smirk that flitted across his lips that should've warned her.

"Some things certainly are," he said suggestively, giving her a wink and raising an eyebrow.

She stared at him in confusion, leading to an awkward silence that made him literally pout outright.

"You're no fun. You're too naïve," he sighed. "Ah well," he brightened up. "At least I can keep doing it and it'll just go over your head!"

She gave him a bland look that made him snicker and she mock shoved at him, leaving him behind to go look at his new futon he wanted to show off. It was nice, she admitted. It obviously was made of quality material and was probably expensive, as per Francis' taste. The pattern wasn't overly bright, featuring a very oriental look that she supposed was what he wanted to go with his 'Japanese experience'.

"Well, go on and try it," Francis beamed at her. "Let me know if it's a good choice and should be what a futon should be!"

She was caught off guard but it wasn't unreasonable. She hadn't expected it, sure, but she didn't think it was strange to try it out —strange for him to ask her and want her opinion on it, but it was nice to know that he'd like her opinion.

Hesitantly toeing her shoes off, she walked over to it and lay on top, sinking onto the comfortable mattress with a blissful sigh. It was much, much better than the one she owned and it smelled nice and clean, that 'new' smell still clinging to it. She was almost tempted to close her eyes and relax, if it weren't for the fact it'd be rude to Francis when he was still there and this wasn't her home or anything.

But, to her surprise and nervousness, she felt the area to her side sink down and warmth reached her, and she quickly looked over to see that Francis had laid down too, looking relaxed himself.

She swallowed slowly, trying not to tense up even as her heart began its strange staccato beat again. She shot up, sitting up to give him another wide-eyed stare.

"W-What're you doing?" she asked, flustered.

He blinked up lazily at her. "Trying out my new futon and relaxing?"

"W-well then, why did you ask me to, when you were just going to try it out yourself?"

"I wanted your opinion too? You would know better how these things are supposed to be like anyway," he said nonchalantly, completely relaxed now and sounding it. He gave her a grin. "Now lay back and just relax! How am I supposed to know what you think, if you're not even properly using the futon?"

Still nervous and feeling those weird flutterings again, along with her abnormal heartbeat, Atsushi lay back down and tried to relax again. She thought it'd be hard with him so close and right next to her, but it actually felt nice. Too nice…

Atsushi's eyes started feeling heavy and she was enjoying the warmth of his body heat and the comfortableness of the situation.

"You feeling sleepy?" she heard him quietly ask, her eyes already closed as her breathing slowed down. His breath fluttered against her ear and she found his scent —sandalwood and lavender —flooding her senses. She could almost taste it…

"Mmm," she answered simply, feeling tired and too comfortable. "You smell really nice," she muttered, falling into sleep slowly.

Fingers brushed against her forehead lightly. "Sleep," he ordered quietly, breath still brushing against her.

It was hard not to follow his order.

༻❁༺

When she woke up, it was really dark and there was no lighting, except for the moonlight streaming into the office from out of the glass windows. Tiredly sitting up a bit, she blinked slowly as she adjusted to being aware and to the lighting, glad also that she now had control of her transformation that she wouldn't be changing into a tiger just because of the light of the moon.

Looking around, she found Francis standing off to the side, gazing at the moon with a melancholic expression that made her want to do something for him, anything —it had been this way since she'd learned about his loss and why he was so desperate for that stupid, stupid Book.

Sitting up onto her knees, she watched him silently for a moment.

There was that strange feeling in her chest again, not the fast beating of her heart that came with being around him and his infectious (sometimes arrogant) cheer, but the burrowing feeling of before —with her chest tightening and something twisting and turning inside of her, sharp and painful and breathtaking in a horrible way…

"We'll find The Book," she said, her voice loud in the silence of the office and drawing his attention. Francis looked surprised at her sudden declaration, but she'd promised that before, even if it had been to herself. "You'll be the first to it for what you want, I promise."

He gave her a small smile. "That's quite kind of you," he said with a voice that made her want to hug him tightly. "But by now, I've come to doubt it'll ever be found."

She looked down and bit down on her lip, not sure why tears were welling up. She heard his footsteps and even saw his shoes stop by her, but she didn't look up. But then she felt his hand heavily land on her head and rub it gently, and she couldn't help raise her head in surprise, his hand falling away then. He was looking down at her fondly.

"Maybe we'll find it one day and I'll be lucky," he offered. "It'll be a good moment."

"We'll find it," she reiterated stubbornly and he just chuckled.

She glared at him at that, but his more uplifted mood made her inwardly smile in relief and happy to see. He'd been too sad right then and she'd just wanted to try to make him happier somehow.

His brighter mood though, easily pulled a smile instead from her and she was grinning happily back at him.

The painful feeling in her chest was contracting, feeling worse one second before relieving itself for a moment, and then repeating. The same choking feeling from before overcame her again and she started coughing before hiccuping out petal after petal from out of her mouth, making her blush heavily in embarrassment as Francis watched in astonishment.

"Are those…flower petals?" he asked in shock.

"Y-yes!" she gave him an embarrassed glare. "I think I might have run across a rogue ability recently. It'll probably pass soon enough."

Francis laughed, picking up one of the petals from her and examining it curiously.

"Spitting out flower petals, huh? That's actually kind of a cute image," he teased her, chuckling at her expense.

She started to pout herself, throwing those stupid petals at him.

Started 2/23/21 – Completed 2/24/21

A/n: Oof, it's been awhile since I've felt like a story's been a failure. Ah…well, I guess this'll just end up another one of my pet projects only I will love…

Quick Points:

1. For once, FFN has actually show more interest in a fic than Ao3? Wow, it's been awhile.

Anon Review:

1. Lady Bat: Eeee! -Thank you so much for actually leaving a review ;-; Seriously, was losing up in seeing anything for this fic, which I've really adored and was pretty excited for. I'm just really into Fem!Atsu right now, and especially Atsu/Francis too~ As for Along Came a Spider, I'm trying to push through with the next chapter for it, so hopefully soon.