Summary: Shisui is a problem solver. Itachi is a problem. And according to Shisui, any problem that starts with sex can be solved with sex. AU. ShiIta. Brain Damage spinoff.
Rated: NC-17 for sex, incest, etc.
Author's Notes: Part Two of Chapter 1. If you'd like to see it formatted correctly, go ahead and read it on FF.Net.
Previous Chapters: Prologue | Chapter 1 (1, 2)
Exactly two months after Shisui had first kissed him was when he scouted him out with a purpose. His hair had gotten long enough to be in a ponytail at all times, slowly beginning to resemble their elder uncle's, and for that reason, Itachi would make him cut it back to shoulder length where it belonged. School wasn't Shisui's element; collegiate nonsense required too much intellectual stimulation for subjects he cared little about. He'd confided in a couple of his new friends about this (if you could call them such; his frequenting of the art building resulted in several acquaintances that found his direly strange personality of great, foreign interest. Like a shiny new toy that begged to be played with), and the general consensus response was for him to simply drop out. When Shisui stated, quite dully, he did not want to drop out, they told him to take more philosophy classes and get a girlfriend.
Visual arts students weren't the most verbally articulate people. Paintings spoke thousands of words, and that was lucky for them, because when an art student was asked what his work meant, most of the time he couldn't tell you. He could try, if he even bothered. But often didn't. And so, on a whim and enjoying the look of annoyance at his roommate every time some surface of their apartment stained with paint, Shisui had changed his major from Undecided to Art, and signed up for five art classes for the next semester and zero cores. After all, if he didn't like painting or printmaking or drawing as much as he did right now, he could always just change again. Education was a service industry. If he was paying for his education, he had every right in the world to decide what he was going to learn, especially since his career path probably wasn't going to be his choice.
It was two months, two very, very long months when Shisui found him again, sitting in on Itachi's oral communications class as he so often used to, but always in the back. He was there because it was his day to speak, and watching him speak was always lovely because although Itachi was a silent, increasingly depressive monster, he had the ability - on rare occasion - to pretend he was not.
The topic of discussion today was, according to the blurry outlines projected behind the podium, "Outrageous Scandal: Corruption as Measured Daily and as it Affects You and Your Classmates." From what Shisui gathered, sharp chin resting on the plush flesh of his palm, each student was to do a satirical speech of three minutes or less on a controversial topic of their own choice. Itachi was second in line, which he rarely allowed for, and so Shisui got the opportunity to watch him prepare himself, which was a rare and golden treat.
He did not ramp himself up -- from what his cousin could see there was no obvious way in which he changed at all from being who he normally was. For all the rest of the classroom knew, he was listening intently to the loud and passionate declarations of the current speaker, who had decided to speak of dredge netting and its effects on dolphin populations, of all things. But Shisui knew better; he saw the soft, impatient fettering of hands; the way Itachi's deft fingers slid his speech from under his book so that he could glance it over one last time; the way one hand seemed to find its own, idle way to the ends of his hair, which was held up higher on the back of his head than it normal would be. Itachi was entirely absorbed in himself, the way that geniuses often are, but there was a sort of manic obsessiveness to it. The lines beneath his eyes were more deeply grooved than usual; his eyes themselves were a pale brown, and his body seemed more rigid, his wrists thinner.
When the boy had finished, he descended from his proverbial soap box, seeming deflated, and Itachi rose without waiting to be called. The professor made no remark, watching from over the huge stacks of paper littering her desk, and the room seemed to go a degree quieter. Itachi walked down the aisle slowly and with a distinct purpose, and then up the steps of the podium; he set his speech down there, and paused to take off his glasses. It was so quiet that you could hear as he set them alongside it.
He closed his eyes for a moment. Opened them. Looked down at his speech. Closed his eyes again. Exhaled. Opened them.
And then he began:
"...in our country," he said, slowly and with deliberate precision, "less than five one thousandths of a person out of 1000 people is a victim of intentional homicide.
"This rate is lower than almost every other recorded in the world; it is lower than that of Denmark, Hong Kong, the United Kingdom, or the United States. It means that there is a possibility that no one in the classroom will ever be a direct or indirect victim of intentional homicide -- a rate of .5%.
"However," he continued, placing emphasis on the word so that it stood alone, "if we instead examine how many individuals in this classroom will be directly or indirectly in need of an organ transplant, the number jumps by thirty six times to no less than 18%. That is one in every three hundred and fifty people in Japan.
"This rate is also relatively low. Worldwide the numbers vary due to many factors, including but not limited to availability of proper medical care. In China, one in every 96 people will need an organ transplant. In Bolivia, one in every 48.
"But the predicament I wish to discuss is not entrenched in the problems of singularly this rate; it lies in the correspondence between this rate and another, and the disparity between the one in every three hundred and fifty Japanese who require an organ donation, versus the forty organs for transplant that have been legally and officially donated since 1997."
He had them, now; Shisui saw it and it gave him a strange sort of pleasure. Itachi seemed to wait patiently, reeling them in slowly as if by two of eight legs, carefully threading them deeper and deeper. He did not move or shift his posture.
"And so, as in all cases where there is a vast disproportion of supply to demand ratio, those who are in need of organ donations have begun to proposition foreign, illicit markets.
"The organ trade is not only real, it is incredibly lucrative. In areas where destitution pervades, and the prevailing winds favor greed and desperation over tenacity, organ trafficking has become an industry that generates millions of dollars in profit each year; of the 70,000 kidneys transplanted annually, 14,000 of them are black market organs. In Brazil, one human kidney can be bought for just under one million yen from a donor, many of whom make less than twenty one yen each day.
"In China, the average 8,000 prisoners who are executed each year, are harvested for their organs, which are then most commonly sold to the wealthy sick in this country for upwards of 6.8 million yen."
And then he saw him. It was almost slow motion, and it was somewhat thankful that he had already finished his sentence, or it is doubtful he would have finished it all. Itachi saw him, and all at once he froze up, a plethora of intense emotion bleeding into his face like the bleat of a lamb. He stopped dead, staring at him for a moment.
Shisui did nothing.
And slowly, Itachi began again.
"In every three hundred and fifty people, one will need an organ transplant at some point in their lifetime." He gave pause. "That one, statistically, could very easily not be you. But, on the assumption that this class has a collective average age of approximately 19.89, and that each individual therein has met at least one person for each day that they have been alive -- "meet", as defined by the parameters of have been introduced to and shared with a brief dialogue -- it is safe to say that each of you knows no less than approximately 7,264 people. That means that, even if you are not one of the three hundred and fifty people who will be in need of an organ transplant at some point in your lifetime, you know no less than 20 people who will. And, if the current trend goes unchanged, no less than 14 of them will obtain those organ transplants illegally."
"And no less than six of them," he concluded, smoothly, staring Shisui in the face, "will die."
Shisui stood as he clapped, attracting attention to himself that both was unnecessary and unwise, but he didn't care as he strolled down the levels of the lecture hall, lingering out of the way until Itachi stepped down from the podium, before taking his arm with something that combined a rough clarity and a sincere warmth. He spoke in his dignified, incandescent voice, a voice that melted mirrors and kept spiders at bay, but what was missing from his face was a smile. Smiles, you see, they threw people off. Depressed people, angry people, sad people; society both detested them and knew all well how to deal with them. The disillusion in Shisui's smile was something most could not deal with, but on this occasion, it was missing from his face, all that remained a line in his lips, devoid of everything that made him him.
"Come with me."
Itachi, surprisingly, did so without pause or exaggerated argument, which made Shisui quite certain that it had been the Right Time to make his move -- surrounded by people as they were, what a strange, adorable little cousin he had! Such an orator and yet so averse to attention.
And yet he was averse to attention, and so he was painfully quiet as Shisui led him out.
He tugged him into the hall, looking around for a moment (it was empty, though a security camera was blinking at them around the corner) before turning towards a supply closet, yanking it open, and pushing his cousin inside. The room had only one light, which blinked like a strobe for a slow-action camera, and about fifteen class sets of rare or outdated textbooks the students weren't supposed to know about, and when the door snapped shut behind him, the maximum amount of room they had from each other was eight inches. Eight inches that Shisui closed immediately by kissing him fiercely, protective and possessive all at once, locking him close by winding a hand to the back of his neck and his opposing working a vicegrip at his bony hip.
(Did you miss me~?)
Itachi's knuckles made contact with his cheekbone so ferociously that it knocked his head into the doorjamb with a crack.
"Do not. Do that. Shisui."
Itachi hit him again, this time in the stomach, apparently for asking quiet the wrong question. It hurt, the way he did it with his thumb wrapped around the fingers, driving hard bruises, melon-sized bruises in to him, and Shisui only took it for a few seconds or so before catching his cousin's fists (both of them, for insurance) and towering over him, so much bigger seeming when he wasn't smiling, able to completely shroud Itachi at all angles if he hunched over. He sighed, kissing his forehead once, then the top of his head as he forced Itachi's hands stagnant, running one of his knees between his legs. "That's not a reason and is very rude."
Itachi wrestled one of his hands back, shoving their faces and bodies forcibly apart, jaw set; he seemed quite close to baring his teeth. He held Shisui against the door with one hand knit against his collar, other hand clenched in a fist so tight that Shisui could feel it in the tendons of his wrist.
"That I have ordered you not to is sufficient reason."
"What have been up to, in the past two months?"
The change of topic was abrupt, but the tone of his voice (which was in its rare state of not perpetual joking) attempted to convey he actually cared. Because he did. It wasn't the reason he was there, it was a conversation reserved for later. But for some reason, it had been the first coherent thought after recovering from the blow to his head. And Itachi only hit him again, kneeing him in the side. His eyes glinted in the dark, seeming almost manic; black gold, oiled and shining as if some dark knife. (Speaking of... mm, but perhaps it was best not to prematurely assume Itachi had brought no weapons with him. Not that it was congruent with his personality to do so. But then.)
"What right have you to ask anything of me."
His voice shook. He was impassioned, how rare; he seemed so much a child.
He appeared to reach the limit of Shisui's pain threshold because the latter let out a cry, grip on his cousin weakening dramatically as his nerve endings exploded with reaction, reeling back all of six inches and smashing hard back into the door. "Goddamnit, Itachi," he snarled, holding his side. "You are quite the little bitch."
Itachi recoiled from him as if struck, looking simultaneously petulant and disgusted; there was a tinny clatter as he inadvertently backed into the assorted brooms, mops, cans and plastic containers population the floor behind his feet and the crowded shelves behind his head. His face emptied, but the movement was inadvertently clumsy and he seemed embarrassed by it; he had left his glasses in class. They lay unattended on the wood panel of the podium. Shisui realized, somewhat tangentially, what that said about the limits of his vision; he must be nearly blind.
"Open the door." He was still nearly shaking, either with rage or passion, Shisui did not know.
He spoke with a faded sort of lopsidedness, skin still throbbing as he noted Itachi's reaction. (Shisui rarely swore at him, let alone called him names, which both made his insults all the more shocking and all the more likely to sting. He hated that about himself. Hated when his and Itachi's relationship took a tumultuous turn of any sort because Itachi was his. Had always been his. His cousin, brother, lover; semantics hardly mattered. But regardless, Itachi was his. And thus, he hated hurting him for any reason that wasn't psychologically educational. But that was for another day.)
He leaned forward and kissed his lips chastely, blindly but on target.
"Please stop hitting me."
Once more, Itachi's hands pressed him away, but his strength seemed to be waning with his anger. Shisui swore he felt those long bones tremble but it must have been his imagination.
"Would it really make you happy if I did and disappeared from you."
Itachi, for what decency he actually possessed, froze momentarily, his limbs taking on strange, angular shapes. Shisui paused, watching his outline before stretching his hand out to touch his face testingly, the skin cold and his cheekbones jetting out dramatically. Itachi hadn't been eating enough, that was more than obvious, and he felt a sting of burning guilt crawl through him with the same consistency as wriggling maggots. Mikoto and Fugaku spent little time at home, and what little time they were at home was spent working, sleeping, eating, or having sex on the rare occasion their days off were scheduled together. Which meant Itachi was now becoming responsible for feeding himself, which he could do just fine - he'd been feeding Sasuke most of his meals for several years - but rarely remembered to. Even less so if he was consumed with his work.
"I'm not sorry." He cupped the other side of his face, thumbs moving over his cheekbones to the corners of his eyes.
"I said stop."
"Don't make it like I'm assaulting you." Shisui sighed, running his fingers through the gorgeous hair that burst in even locks out of Itachi's pale scalp, kissing his forehead and then under his left eye, like an afterthought.
Itachi snarled low but left it at that, because there was no point in arguing that it was. He pushed him away again, backing himself into a corner, a broom prodding his side, and Shisui just sighed, leaning over him and mouthing in half-kisses over his cheek. "I'm wondering exactly why you thought to take refuge in a painful area of this claustrophobia inducing space that in fact has no means of escape." From his cheek to his jaw. From his jaw to his mouth, hands moving to lock him into place and humming with a gentle adoration that clashed with a feral sense of impatience, swiping his lips with his tongue and grinding with a slow but almost ungodly friction into Itachi's groin.
The younger of the two hitched and grabbed him by the biceps, hands so tight that they cut off the circulation to his arms. His whole body seemed to seize up.
"I'd wondered what that'd sound like when you moaned it." He nipped languidly at his bottom lip, itching to run his palms all over him where they belonged but well aware that if he let go now, he'd probably get stabbed in the throat. Which wouldn't be pleasant at all, no it wouldn't. "And I have to say." Shisui broke it, fingers stringing sweetly through his hair as he felt his hands begin to shake, the blood in his veins unable to reach them with Itachi's vicegrip. Leaned forward and kissed him sweepingly, not like any of the previous in the combination of dominance and love and possession and rage and confusion that crushed through them, so much emotion that it nearly made him sick.
"You didn't disappoint."
Itachi seemed to flounder as Shisui dragged his discontent from his mouth, dredged his refusal from his throat, eyes glazing open like sores. Shisui could feel his pulse jumping behind the skin of his dry lips; there was a deep, intense humiliation dripping into his lungs like antifreeze, cold and blue, and he felt as though he were steadily drowning in it. He could not swallow. Shisui's hands were like bits of hot metal. There was a putrid mortification making its way down his spine. Surely not. No, surely not, he was thinking, though perhaps not in words but in algorithms.
He stopped breathing for a moment. Each searing kiss scrambled his numbers. He felt an intense, deep fear sweep through him like a fever, and even as he pressed it down it incited an irrational panic, and he fought to ration it. Each touch muddled his process, and he felt himself becoming so irritated that it choked him; he hated it. He hated being touched. He hated being interrupted mid-thought. He hated it with a vehemence that surprised him, a depth that made his stomach twist and his chest ache and burn.
But Shisui knew this. Had always known this. And had always seemed completely undeterred.
His knees cracked softly when they hit the floor, far louder than the minimal pain would have reflected, teeth grinding in his mouth, so irritated with his behavior, so fucking hurt by it and so fucking furious Itachi not only had the ability but the means to make his stomach twist like this. Shisui hated that about him, hated how desperately unfair it was that God would send him something to cause him this much trouble only for it not to end up a terribly sappy but wonderfully darling little love story, like it was supposed to be? It was wrong. No, something so gravely cruel wouldn't happen, not if Shisui had anything to do with it, and as much as it disgusted him to confront it, he knew that if he couldn't make Itachi fall in love with him normally (I.E., being best friends for over ten years), then he would merely have to do it abnormally.
And he was going to start now.
Both of his hands fixed bruisingly on the sharp bones at Itachi's hips and he snagged the button of his uniform pants between his teeth, tearing it straight off (though not without some uncomfortable resistence) and yanking the zipper down along with it. He spoke clearly, if not angrily, faced flushed halfway with embarrassment (... geez.) and the other half simply out of irritation with him. Out of a complete lack of patience. "Itachi. Do not punch me, kick me, or maim me in any way. Shut the hell up and let me blow you." He grabbed him almost roughly, eyes narrowing with concentration and pumping him slow, thick, and almost painfully tight as he tugged his underwear off his hips.
Itachi exhaled as if around a rock, hands slamming back against the wall, as if desperately trying to crawl away from him, even as his eyes leveled on his face with a morbid, unwilling fascination. His whole body twitched as Shisui's mouth made it's most intimate contact and his pupils dilated to a comical size, his facial muscles seeming to go numb as his chest and stomach clenched, bunching together in tangled knots.
Shisui let out a soft, almost agitatingly calm sigh, looking him over for a few moments (moments longer than normal, since he was in the dark) before leaning forward and sucking the tip, curious and languid and slow, not to startle him, though he had no doubt he could get him off in twenty seconds if he had the desire to. But he didn't, he wanted to savor this. Not the act itself; it was lewd and not intimate or romantic enough, not the way it should be. But the flickers of everything that flowed in and out of Itachi in thick, almost wall-sized waves, so obvious to Shisui who'd known him for so long but so adorable subtle on any other measurable spectrum.
He twisted his tongue slow and gentle over him, still gripping him tightly at the base and jerking him off thick and with intense amounts of care, precision, digging into the slit as a bead of precum leaked into his mouth. Cruelly bitter. The way Itachi would have tasted regardless. It occurred to him how rarely Itachi ever succumbed to his own damnable sweet tooth. He wondered, slowly, how much effect a bit of well-timed dango could effect--
But never mind that, what about that face, wasn't that just disarmingly exquisite. The way his lips trembled slightly, as if he were fighting the urge to sink his small white teeth into the lower; the way his chin became less sharp, more ambiguous with his uncertainty; the way that Shisui was certain that if the scene were lit, he would be wearing that perfect blush of his, the one that barely changed his tint, the one he had worn last when he was ten and Shisui had told him that incredibly filthy, smutty joke and Itachi had pushed him into a swimming pool; the way those long, butterfly-wing lashes fluttered, slightly. Perfection. Truly.
Now if only he could be a tad less difficult.
A tad. Perhaps.
He shuddered slightly, involuntarily, letting go of him and working him deeply into his mouth and quite cautiously into his throat, brushing his hair over his ear and holding Itachi's hip more now for support than control. The floor was cold stone, not like marble but more like smooth concrete, and his kneecaps were already beginning to ache. Not that there was anything he could do about it in a room as small as this. He felt the threat of his gag reflex coming on as Itachi neared dangerously close to his uvula and withdrew back, the vacuum of his mouth unimaginably tight and slick, working backwards to the head again and starting a slow, calculated rhythm, trying to take in details he couldn't see, and it only proved to frustrate him immensely. Details that he deserved to be able to see.
Shisui pulled back entirely with a lewd little pop, twirling his tongue over him and speaking clearly in the kind of voice that couldn't really be said no to.
"Turn on the lamp."
...of course he would say that. God, couldn't cooperate for the very life of him, could he.
But there was comfort to be had in the way he said it. It was almost a squeak -- so embarrassing, his voice was sharp, like a door banging open, and it vanished into the dark just as quickly. It was almost a gasp, and though Itachi obviously tried to keep it quiet by buckling his mouth once more after it was said, the ragged edges of his breath caught his lips and the sound raked up Shisui's back like a raw, illicit eroticism. He said no like it was less of an order and more of a plea. A no to be preceded by God and to be followed by pleases and anything but thats. The older of them purred sweetly, skin crawling with attraction like he'd been introduced to a pheromone for the first time, starting in again but faster now, not taking the time to torture him the way he'd planned to because he wasn't on carpet (for one), and for another, Shisui simply couldn't. Even if he wanted to.
Perhaps he was in love with him.
He groaned softly, head bobbing at a faster pace so that there was a quiet thud of skin smacking skin the back of his throat, his teeth brushing across him as infrequently as humanly possible and his tongue always moving, drawing Kanji characters all over his cock just to keep busy. Just to keep him shaking and shuddering like that, so adorable and so out of control.
But it was the last thing Itachi said for a long time. It was the last moment his head remained above water and then he was beneath the water, bound and helpless. It was a strange, foreign sensation, to be physically overwhelmed in a way that disrupted his mental processes, and he felt battered, swept by a rip tide, nasal passage burning as the salt of Shisui's control infected him, infesting his blood. He battled it feebly, with paper knives and plastic swords, wearing armor made of styrofoam, and Shisui barreled inevitably through him. Itachi broke into him, quietly, hands whiteknuckled along the wall, sharp hips pressing against the bones of his cousin's chin, which was moist with a cooling mixture of precum and saliva.
He didn't choke (albeit he should have, since he was drastically inexperienced when it came to deepthroating), but he jumped sharply, the hand crushing his bony hips lessening in force as he eased into it. Eased into Itachi, whose personality was a highly familiar territory (he knew, for example, Itachi's favorite color was white, although he would argue that white was not a color, it was a tint, and that he in fact had no favorite color. But he did. He knew Itachi didn't like the cinema because it overstimulated his eyes, which were sensitive and tended to be unreliable. He knew Itachi's favorite book was Anna Kerenina, knew Itachi watched him when he thought he wasn't looking, knew Itachi was fiercely protective of his baby brother, and knew he was unaware Fugaku was beating him. Because if Itachi knew that, he wouldn't be here. He would be with Sasuke. Shisui knew his brain worked in numbers, not in concepts, which was why he liked Philosophy. It forced him to think on planes that it wasn't natural for him to be on, forced him to be smarter in ways no IQ test could measure. Knew Itachi was homosexual and had noappreciation for the female figure. Knew Itachi hated snakes and loud noise, and had an intense phobia of being naked. These weren't things Itachi ever said. He was a silent creature by nature, but a highly complex one. Something deep in the sea.) - but whose body, Shisui wasn't familiar with.
Not at all.
He undulated his throat, sucking around him in melting, horrifying waves, things that made Itachi unbearably warm from the abdomen and spiking through everything else. That made him weightless and unbearably heavy at the same time. Shisui pulled back and dug his tongue hard into the slit, squeezing him tightly and pumping him with his first. Entirely too quiet. Itachi could hear his own breath and his heartbeat, and it both enthralled and enraged him, and he was not paying attention to his hands, which were clenched at his sides, but his pride kept them from clasping them over his mouth as some part of him so desperately wanted to do.
The pleasure was wrenching; nerves that had never been stimulated in him were stimulated to the point of breaking, driving holes in his bones and his reserve. Something spread up his chest in a wave of pungent warmth and he bit down, crushing one edge of his bottom lip between his teeth.
He felt immobilized.
Shisui drew forward and took him to the back of his throat, fists clenched as he mentally meditated his way through not gagging, taking deep, cold breaths through his nose and inhaling the highly distinctive coital scent that was boxing around them, thicker than blood and almost dizzying, pulling back and tongue swiping the three characters of his name at the head of Itachi's cock.
(Mou, I love you so.)
When Itachi came, it was a surprise and a humiliation.
A pleasure and a victory. Perhaps.
He did not really know what to do, afterwards. There was a long, intense silence that absorbed them for a short moment and then they were set back where they should have been, with the exception of the fact that Itachi was still heaving for breath, and Shisui was still on his knees in front of him, staring up at him with eyes like accusations and lips like evidence. He stood after what felt like ages, both of his knees popping loud and hysterically painful, though it didn't show in his features that he registered it at all. He raised a hand to the string of metal beads hanging from the ceiling and tugged it, and the single light bulb at the ceiling flickered on above them, too bright but altogether far too dim. Itachi recoiled as if he'd bitten him, seeming to snap into place - he whipped around to conceal himself, pushing Shisui away with an arm he kept outstretched.
He only laughed and wiped his mouth, licking the back of his hand quietly.
"Is this the part where you storm off as if I've committed a grave injustice by inducing your first orgasm."
Itachi said nothing, despite the way the word "orgasm" nearly made him flinch with shame and disgust, facing the corner like a disobedient child, with his nose at the very convergence of the walls. He stood straight, his posture inflexible, completely mute. There was a shadowiness to it. Shisui watched him, tongue moving in his mouth like a housewife around a new guest, pressing Itachi's bitterness into the wells of his teeth. "You're homosexual and in love with me. You realize this."
Itachi released his forefinger and thumb from his nose and let out his breath in a thin, uneven stream, taking back both of his hands and pressing them to the wall in front of him, head hung and eyes closed.
"You really ought to get out of the closet. It must be a terribly cramped lifestyle."
"Open the door, then."
Shisui sighed, withdrawing a postcard from his back pocket and sliding it neatly into Itachi's front.
"I'm in that exhibition. You should go."
He spoke with a clear solemnity, unjamming the door and letting it open with a soft creak, not bothering to leave himself but allowing his cousin to pass first.
(Once upon a time. There was a garden on a high hill, green and blossoming against the sea. And when the sun came, and the rain came pouring down, the garden grew and flourished and splattered bits of color on the ground. It took shape and symmetry, and all of the life around. But there came winds driven and howling, there came snow, and I feared for the garden, so I built a wall. And I built another. And I roofed it over, thick and strong, and kept it from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. The killing cold could not get in, but when the sun came with the gentle rain of spring, they could not reach the garden behind those walls. It would have died. Safely, securely, died. But as I longed, and as I learned, I tore the walls all down. The garden still lives.)