It started with a hiccup. Fits that would go away for hours or days and suddenly come back with a vengeance at the most inopportune times.
Then came the first of many.
Sci stared down at the soft purple-gray petal, barely the size of his fingertip. Why the hell did he have, of all things, a flower petal in his mouth? He’d never even seen a flower with petals so small, much less eaten one.
He swept it off of his desk and into the trash bin.
Lunch with his friends was always a rowdy affair. Sci would be talking with Fell and Blue about whatever came up, Geno would be either having a calm, civil conversation with the literal God of Death ( yeah, imagine explaining that to literally anyone ever) or loudly cussing him out for his flirting. Their group was small, loud, and goofy. Sci loved it.
Fell was rambling passionately about the shitty plot of a show he watched with Sci the other day. Sci had heard this rant before, so he probably wasn't paying attention to most of it, but he got the jist.
Fell's eyes were blazing, his face was tinted pink from exertion, and his hands were everywhere. God, Sci loved seeing him like that.
Sci had been struck by the fact that he was in love with his best friend a little over a month ago. He'd come to terms with it only a couple of weeks ago.
Fell nearly accidentally punched him, and Sci yelped, shocked out of his thoughts. The sharp toothed skeleton paused and whipped around. Suddenly his hands were all over him, checking him over for injuries and looking very concerned. Sci coughed into his hand. He felt two tiny petals flutter into his fist.
After many reassurances, Fell's worry was soothed. It was unnecessary. It was sweet. It was over the top. It was so like Fell.
He coughed again. And he couldn't stop.
Someone pushed a glass of water into his hand as someone else rubbed his back. He gripped the water and took a big sip as soon as he could breathe. In his other hand was a handful of petals.
“You okay?” Fell whispered. Sci nodded, swallowed back another cough, and smiled.
Death’s eyes were locked on him. He smiled, trying to act like he hadn't just hacked up half a non-existent lung. The God’s eyes narrowed.
Sci was kneeling in front of the trash bin, trembling and sobbing as he vomited more flowers and blood. The little lilac colored flowers no longer looked so beautiful. He nearly choked on a fuzzy stem before he reached into his mouth and yanked it out.
His hysterical laughter was little more than too-shallow breaths between his hiccups. Fuck, he knew it would hurt, but fuck.
There was a knock at the door.
“Sci?” a hesitant voice called from the other side of the door. Sci gagged again, blood dripping between his teeth and tears streaming down his face.
“... I'm coming in,” Death stated. There wasn't much Sci could do to stop him right now, not in his condition. He couldn't even speak.
So that's how Sci ended up with a God in his room, vomiting delicate bloody flowers into a trash bin at seven A.M. on a Saturday. Once he'd finished, he gulped the air greedily. The nausea that always accompanied the blossoms swept through him and left him curled in on himself helplessly. He had reached a new low.
“How long has this been going on?” Death murmured gently.
“A month or two.” Death grimaced.
“Do you know what this is?” Sci simply shook his head. Death sighed, looking every second his age.
“You, my friend, are in serious danger,” the reaper intoned. He must be serious. That was a golden opportunity for a death pun, and he hadn't taken it. Sci sat up a bit straighter.
“Hanahaki is an illness stemming from unrequited love. The most notable symptom is coughing or vomiting flowers. The flowers often have a meaning relating to the person and your relationship to them. The flowers start growing in your lungs, or in this case, ribcage, and spread up into your throat and, eventually, they will suffocate you. It's very slow and painful.”
... unrequited love….suffocate you...slow and painful...unrequited…
The words echoed in his mind mercilessly.
Fell didn't love him. He was going to die. He was going to suffer and die because he loved Fell and Fell didn't love him, not in the way he needed and he was going to die, possibly years from now, and there was nothing he could do but hide the petals.
“There are, however, possible cures.” The mortal listened hopefully.
“Either one, the person you're pining after returns your feelings, or two, the more modern and successful treatment, get a surgery to remove the flowers. It's painless, but it will remove all memories and feelings you had of the person in question.” He sagged. So either he died or he forgot Fell. Both were pretty bad. Death looked at him with an obscene amount of pity. Sci simply stared at the petals.
Sci mentally weighed his options and came to a decision. He gave Death a sad, shaky smile.
“Guess I'll die,” he said. Death looked even sadder.
Six weeks later, he was doubled over the trash bin at two in the morning. He pushed up his shirt until his ribs were exposed. A web of sensitive roots and flower stems wove between them, creating a beautifully morbid picture.
He'd finally gotten curious enough to look up what flower was slowly leeching his life away. Apparently, it was a white dittany of Crete. It meant passion. Sci felt like crying.
He didn't know how long he'd been sitting there, but he finally clambered back into bed at six. Three hours later ( it had been a while since he’d slept so long without getting up to vomit), he was awoken by his phone ringing obnoxiously. He fumbled for it sleepily and managed to accept the call.
“Sci, where are you? I've been waiting here for twenty minutes!”
Sci covered the mic and groaned. Of course Fell had managed to convince him to meet him at the coffee shop at 6:40 on a goddamn Sunday with those goddamn puppy dog eyes. At the time, anything that made Fell smile would be worth it, but now it was coming back and kicking his ass. Stupid Fell, stupid Hanahaki, stupid fucking flowers, stupid crush-
“Sci?” Fell needed to stop being so fucking worried about him and sounding like he actually fucking liked him because it wasn't helping and fuck he could feel the flowers and leaves forcefully pushing themselves into his throat-
He gagged and dry heaved once before a waterfall of petals and leaves poured out of him and it fucking hurt and he could never make it end.
“Sci?! Okay, I'm coming over.” Sci tried to protest, but roots wrapped around the words and dragged them back in.
Forty-five minutes later, Fell had burst through his bedroom door to find him still in his pajamas and literally dying. He raced over and gently rubbed his back as he retched. After a good twenty minutes, Sci was bent over the wastebasket, trying to catch his breath as Fell continued rubbing his back.
“So who is it?” Fell murmured. Sci understood and shook his head, unable to summon the breath to speak. His wheezy respiration was the only sound for a bit.
“...You should get the surgery,” he said softly. Sci shook his head again, tears in his sockets. He couldn't forget him. He wouldn't.
“Sci,” Fell growled, gripping his shoulders tightly, “Sci, this is gonna kill you.”
“I know.” Sci glared at him defiantly. Fell glared right back.
He sighed, dragging his hand down his face.
“Sci, please,” Fell begged, his voice catching on the last word. Sci's will nearly buckled, but he held firm. He shook his head.
Fell pulled him into a hug, and Sci forgot how to breathe. He felt the leaves rise up like an inevitable tide and he clamped his jaw to keep them down for a better time, if there's any 'better’ time for plants to force themselves out of your body through the same hole you put your food in. Fell squeezed him. Sci couldn't breathe well, and his body pressed into the vines painfully, but he decided against telling Fell when he felt him stifle a sob. He wrapped his arms around him and held him for a while.
The stems and roots had a tendency to shift while he slept, resulting in some awkward rolling around to try to get them in a better position. He forgot that.
He sat up and was immediately felled by a horrible agony ripping through his spine. He screamed.
Fell burst through the door. He'd forgotten about Fell staying the night.
Fell tried to help him up while questioning him at a million miles an hour.
“Fell, wait-” and for the second time that morning, he screamed as spots danced in his vision.
“Sci?! Shit shit shit shit shit-” Sci's pain faded as his crush panicked over him. Once Fell noticed, he grabbed Sci's shoulders.
“Sci, you need to get the surgery. You can't live like this, and I-” his voice broke as he blinked away tears, “-I can't watch my best friend suffer like this.” Sci was really starting to hate that phrase. Best friend. It just cemented the fact that he would never think of him the same way.
Sci sighed. Fell was right. He couldn't even leave his bed, much less go and work a full shift, and a leisurely stroll left him gasping for air.
“I’ll... I'll consider it.”
Sci sat with Fell in the waiting room, trying to think of anything but the hospital smell and the upcoming ordeal. God, he hated hospitals.
“Comic Science Sans?” The man with a clipboard stood expectantly in the door. Sci took a breath and stood up. As he followed the doctor, Fell flashed him a smile, and Sci remembered why he'd agreed to this. He smiled back.
He breathed in the anesthesia and allowed his body to lose feeling.
Comic Science Sans opened his eyes to bright lights right above him.
“Sci! You're up!” an unfamiliar voice cried beside him. He turned his head sluggishly. A skeleton monster in a red sweater and black ripped jeans was staring at him joyously.
“Uh, hey...bro, what's, uh, what's up?” The excitement dulled from the other’s face to be replaced with confusion.
“Since when do you-”
“SCI!” screeched a small baby blue blur.
“Blue,” Science greeted fondly. Blue slammed into his ribcage, but it didn't hurt nearly as much as he was expecting. Why was he expecting it to hurt so much?
Papyrus raced through the door and crashed into him, tearfully telling Sci how scared he was and how Sci had to promise to never ever ever do that again.
Geno wandered in with Death practically clinging to him. Not that it was unusual.
Death looked like something he'd been dreading had been put off, Geno looked like he'd been put under too much stress, and the two together looked like relieved parents. Sci smiled fondly. His whole family was here.
“I'm sorry, why are you here?” Sci questioned the stranger.
“I'm sorry, Fell. That probably sucks,” Blue murmured, gently guiding him out of the room.
“He doesn't know me.”
“It seems so.”
“W-why doesn't he recognize me?! I thought the procedure removed memories of the love interest, not the stupid best friend who paid for the fucking surgery! And why does he know you guys? Like, if he lost memories of one of his friends, why does he still remember everyone else?!”
Blue looked distinctly nervous.
“Whatever. I'll just… reintroduce myself I guess.”
Blue nodded, still looking uncertain, and went back into the hospital room.
Sci heard someone call his name. He smiled.
His boyfriend of nine months waved him over to the little booth in the café. Sci kissed his cheek and sat across from him. Outer’s face was tinted a bright golden color. He buried his face in his hands, making Sci chuckle. He was so cute when he got flustered.
“Sciiiiiii,” he whined. Sci could see a dopey smile between his fingers.
“Yes, love?” Cue flustered Outer and a shit-eating grin from Sci.
“Anyway, Geno's having a movie night at his place. You wanna go or do you want to stay home?”
Sci considered it.
“Death said he's gonna try to come over, but I don't think he will. He's not an emotional masochist,” Outer commented. Sci scowled.
“Geno needs to stop being such a dick to him. He's not doing anything wrong.” Outer nodded. “I’ll probably show up to keep Geno civil, at least.” His boyfriend grinned softly.
“You're too nice, Sci.”
Movie nights usually consisted of someone hosting, someone bringing an arrangement of movies from multiple genres, and everyone else bringing a wide assortment of snacks. Tonight, Sci had brought ice cream and soda. Outer brought Moonpies, the fucking dork, and Fell, the guy who had sat with Sci in the hospital (and made something in his head buzz) would be joining them for the first time in a full year with chocolate cinnamon sticks. Blue brought cookies, and Death brought the movies, since he'd been around longer and would probably know the good from the bad. Sci, Fell, and Blue were already at Geno's house when Death knocked and therefore were there to witness Geno's dickishness.
“Oh, it's you,” Geno huffed, a tone of personal disgust in his voice. The trio in his living room stiffened. Death was a good friend, and they knew he took way too much shit when he was on the job, and he would stick with Geno regardless of how he treated him, mostly because he was touch-starved and he could touch Geno without killing him.
“I brought the movies,” Death muttered, weakly raising the box they were in. Geno grudgingly let him in.
Geno stomped into the living room. Sci and Fell glared at him as Blue helped Death get the movies sorted.
“Geno, stop being such a fucking dick to him. What the fuck is your problem?” Sci hissed.
“He- he’s death!” Geno whispered.
“So what you're saying is you're still bitter about the way you ended the relationship?” Fell muttered offhandedly. Geno startled. His eyes narrowed. Sci looked between them, confused. Death and Geno had a relationship? When?! Why didn't he know about this?
“You shut the fuck up,” he snarled under his breath.
“Why don't you?” Sci interrupted. “I don't know what you're talking about, but if you can't be civil, we're leaving.” Geno's face screwed up. He turned to Fell.
“He nearly killed S-”
“Don't you fucking dare bring him into this!” Fell shouted. Tears beaded in his sockets. “Don't bring him into your ugly bullshit. Ever. He made his choice! Everything was his decision. Death didn't have anything to do with it.” Two beats of silence passed as Fell collected himself. Slowly, the tension leaked from the room. Geno mumbled an apology and everyone went back to their previous conversations.
Everyone except Sci.
Fell coughed loudly, and Sci saw two slim red petals fall to the ground. For some reason, he felt terrified.
Outer and Sci had been dating for a year and a half when Dance moved into town.
Dance was Outer's best friend since kindergarten, and they hadn't gotten any more distant.
“-and this is my boyfriend, Sci! He's really sweet and a huge nerd.”
“Nice to meet you, Sci.” Sci nodded and smiled.
On his way out, Dance pulled Outer into a hug that lasted a bit longer than would be deemed appropriate. Something dark and ugly welled up in Sci’s chest, but he refused to give it a voice. He was glad he didn't when Outer walked back and kissed him. This was much better than arguing about old friends.
They'd been together for two years now, and Sci couldn't be happier as long as he didn't think about whatever it was he still couldn't remember.
He sleepily wandered up to his partner and buried his face in the fluffy hood of his jacket, inhaling the scent of warm cookies. Outer wrapped his arms around him and chuckled.
“Morning, supernova. You want some coffee?”
Sci nodded silently. Outer tried to pull away.
“Supernova, I can't make coffee with you hanging off of me,” he said affectionately. Sci whined quietly. Nightmares had been plaguing him for weeks with weird images of tiny flowers that made his whole body hurt and a kind, smiling face that he could never quite remember that made his soul race like Outer did. Suffice to say, Sci hadn't exactly been sleeping like a baby. Those nightmares were horrible. He just wanted to be held.
Outer guided him to the sofa and sat down. Sci curled up closer to him, and Outer pulled him into his lap. Sci hummed appreciatively.
“Cuddles and then coffee?” Sci nodded. Outer rubbed his back as he began to doze off.
The nightmares didn't come that morning.
Sci was woken up by Outer’s annoying default ringtone. He tried to ignore it, but it was just so annoying. He tried to wake up his sleeping boyfriend, but he wasn’t having it. Sci reached over and answered the phone.
“Hello?” Sci grumbled groggily.
“No, it's Sci. Outer's asleep. Can I help you?”
“Oh, hey Sci. It’s Dance. I was gonna ask Outer something, but it can wait.”
“I can take a message,” Sci offered. He knew how shy Dance was. Either he'd lose his nerve or he'd forget entirely.
“Could you?” Dance asked, relieved.
“Sure.” He pulled a pen and a sticky note from the little table.
“Could you ask Outer if he wants to see Sun Revolution 3 with me?” Sci wrote down 'Dance+Outer- movies?’ Dance apparently misinterpreted the quiet on his end.
“It's not a date, I'm not trying to steal your boyfriend or anything, I just know he really likes it and it's coming to the theater down the road, so-”
“Dance,” Sci interrupted, “it's fine. I know what you meant.” There was a sigh of relief.
“I’ll ask Outer when he wakes up and I'll text you his answer.”
“Okay. Thanks Sci.” Sci hummed and hung up. He stood up and shambled over to the coffee machine. By the time he'd made two cups, Outer was still asleep, and noon had come and gone. Good thing they didn't have work today. Sci put the cups down and gently shook Outer's shoulder.
“Outer. Outer. I made coffee. Get up, it's past noon. Come on, love, you gotta get up.” Outer grunted and tugged Sci back into his lap and a giant hug.
“Outerrrrr.” Outer huffed and pouted. “Can I at least get my coffee?” He sighed and released his nerd.
“Thank you, Space.” Outer hummed, now mostly awake and leaning his head on Sci's shoulder. Sci carefully handed him his hot drink. They sipped in silence. Out of the corner of his eye, Sci spotted the sticky note message he'd written.
“Oh, Dance wants to know if you want to go see a movie with him.”
“What is it?”
“Sun something 3”
“Sun Revolution 3?!” he sounded like a little kid on Christmas. Sci loved it.
“Yeah, that's probably it.”
“Heck yeah! Did he say what day?”
“Uhh…” Sci thought back through the conversation. “No, I don't think he mentioned a date. I'll ask.” Before Outer could protest, Sci whipped out his phone and opened his messaging app.
S: Outer says he'll go
S: what day?
D: cool. Probably Tuesday.
Sci turned to Outer. “Tuesday work for you?” He nodded.
S: he says Tuesday's fine.
D: k. Thx.
Tuesday night, Outer came home and talked for a good hour about the movie and how good it was. Dance said he hoped to do this again and looked at Outer in a way that angered the ugly thing inside that he tried to ignore. He pushed it down and away.
Three years later, Sci and Outer were newly wed and loving it. Sci loved waking up in the morning with his husband beside him. Everything just seemed better.
On Wednesday, Sci headed out to a corner coffee shop and waited for Fell.
And waited for Fell.
And waited for Fell.
Sci liked to think he was a patient man. He dealt with the sideways stares his friends gave him after the hospital, he dealt with Geno being a fucking asshole, he dealt with the way Dance stared at his husband because he was patient. But it had been nearly an hour, and he was cold, damnit.
He yanked his phone out of his pocket. Fell better have a damn good explanation.
Fell picked up on the fourth ring.
“Hello?” His voice was hoarse and thick.
“Fell, where are you? I've been out here for an hour.” This felt too familiar, but also not. Sci didn't like it.
There was a retching sound over the phone, followed by a quiet sob.
“Fell?! Fell, I'm coming over, okay, just hold on.”
When he got there, Fell was doubled over in front of the trash can with little red things falling from his mouth every few seconds. Sci rushed to his side and gently rubbed his back as he continued to regurgitate pretty red flowers
they’d be prettier if they weren't painted in his blood like some terrible omen and suddenly Sci knew what was happening.
Hanahaki. Flowers growing in the lungs and eventually suffocating the victim. Almost certain death. Stems from unrequited love.
Sci felt like he was drowning.
Fell stopped gagging, and Sci found his voice again.
“So who is it?” Fell sobbed and whimpered something almost too quiet to hear. But Sci heard.
“S-stop that. I kno-ow you don't remember but plea-ase stop copying me.”
“What are you gonna do?” Fell shrugged. Sci wanted to cry.
“You need to get the surgery before this kills you.”
“No, no, please don't make me, I-I can't just forget him please don't make me forget about him I can't-” Fell stopped, gasping in between his pleas. Sci gently stroked his skull. He didn't know why he did. It just...felt right. Fell leaned into him, shaking and sniffling. Sci felt a wet spot grow on his sweater. He didn't mind.
“Fell, please, whoever this is, if he really is worth dying to remember, don't you think he'd want you to live instead of suffering like this?” His old friend glared at him, but it died shortly. Now he just looked broken and miserable. Sci's heart broke for him.
“Sci, please, he got the surgery and he forgot me, I can't do that to him, please, Sci, I love him so much, please, I can't forget, I need to remember him, plea-ase-” tears continued to fall down his cheeks. Sci pulled his sleeve over his hand and wiped his face. Fell just cried harder. He started coughing and coughing and coughing and flowers fell out in the hundreds.
Sci bit back a scream.
His best friend, the one who'd stayed with him in the hospital and watched stupid movies and listened when he ranted after a fight with Outer and stood as the best man at his wedding, was now dying because some idiot didn't remember him. Life was so cruel. Death was kinder.
Soon, they were surrounded by beautiful red anemones, and Fell was still coughing up more. He pulled his friend into his chest, allowing Fell to lean on him and let himself be held
god knows Sci wanted that. His breathing slowed, slowed, and stopped.
Death appeared not a second later, ready to reap the poor soul- and paused. He sighed.
“Sci, you need to let go.” Sci didn't respond other than burying his face in Fell's shoulder. “Sci…” Something was hooked in his shirt and dragged him away. Now he could see Death standing over Fell, his scythe coming down in a wide arc-
The funeral was a small, quiet affair. None of Fell's family showed up, but his friends made up for that.
Death was there, and Sci noted with a hint of guilt that he looked exhausted. Dried tears tracks stuck to his face, and dark sockets watched the whole affair from afar. He would come closer, but Geno screamed at him if he tried, so he was kept away. Sci sighed- he'd been so selfish that day. He'd made it harder for Death to do his work, and he could see Death suffering.
Outer wrapped an arm around his shoulder.
“Want to go home, supernova?”
Sci watched as Fell's dust scattered in the wind and stuck to his suit and nodded.