the petals are surprisingly soft.
they’re coarse coming up, clumped and accompanied with thorns. on the tile floor of his kitchen, they’re covered in spit and blood. yellow and red and black. when he washes them off, they’re delicate and small and beautiful in his hands.
jungkook puts those first ones in a jar.
(he stares at them sometimes, when he’s alone. the yellow looks too bright to come from something so deadly, something that is literally killing him from the inside. he tries to replicate the exact shade with his paints but can’t seem to get it quite right.)
for a while, he only chokes on small, delicate yellow flowers (yellow acacia, he reads online - secret love), and only a couple times a week. he can hide it well, and he always cleans up the evidence so his friends don’t notice. the more time he spends with him only worsens it.
him being the one true love of jungkook’s pathetically short life.
after a particularly long night spent with him, wandering around seoul and ducking into cafés and book stores as they ran across them, getting caught in his eyes and stuttering at his smile and losing himself in his laugh - jungkook chokes almost as soon as he’s in his apartment, door closing behind him and his elated smile dropping as searing pain claws at his lungs, at the base of his throat.
when jungkook runs, coughing on flowers, and retches in the toilet, huge white petals come out. blood stains them bright red, saliva clumps them into balls large enough to be entire flower bulbs. a few lingering acacia petals come with it.
these are harder to clean - he tears a few trying to unclump them, and many are stained pink after gently running water to get the blood off. he can’t tell immediately what they are, but he saves them anyway. puts them in his jar.
(they're white carnations - pure love and innocence.)
jungkook sketches his face out, the face he fell in love with, love and longing in near equal amounts lending his hand steadiness where otherwise it shakes. in his other hand, his coffee wobbles and liquid threatens to fall, but his drawing hand moves only in smooth, even strokes.
jungkook has tried his whole life to capture beauty - through lens, through a brush, through music and through dance. he loves beauty. he sees it in all things: in his friends, in laughter, in strangers, in the morning light, in him, in everything -
in the flowers which are killing him. he sees the beauty there too.
he knows he’s dying. the sickness, the ever so rare hanahaki, is closing up his lungs from the inside because of a love so strong and so devastatingly unwavering. if only he could undo such a thing as love, if only he could control it, but he can’t. nobody can. they try and they fail. they die.
he will be alive. that knowledge, with the beauty of the flowers, are what give him solace and comfort. jungkook is young but he knows what he wants, and if it’s stupid to rather have loved and be dead than to never love and live, then yoongi-hyung must be right. he really is an idiot.
the day he coughs up gentle petals of light pink (dahlias - forever), he sets a canvas on the floor of his living room and clutches the jar of flowers in his hands. cross-legged on the floor in front of a blank white canvas, he sits for an hour and simply stares. at the pure white, at the flowers, at his own hands which still have a hint of dried blood from his lack of care when cleaning the flowers. he wonders if the blood will ever be washed from the crevices of his skin. (wonders if he’ll die with blood crusted in his fingernails, staining his mouth, a ring of colorful petals a halo around his head - wonders if someone will find him like that and think it’s beautiful too.)
he opens the jar and puts a single pink dahlia petal in the middle. another long stare, a wandering of thoughts. five minutes pass, and then he stands and returns the jar to his room.
jungkook feels overwhelmingly grateful that he doesn’t have a roommate. the canvas sits for days with a single petal, and he avoids inviting a single person over.
(at first, he wonders how the petals don’t shrivel and die. then he looks it up and understands. hanahaki flowers aren’t natural - they grow of an eternal love, and so they too are eternal. the flowers coughed up and the flowers rooted in his lungs will never wither unless his love does. and it won’t.)
“i think you need to see a doctor” is what namjoon says when they all get together. “i’m worried about you.”
for a moment, jungkook fears that they have noticed his sickly pallor which he covers with makeup, his coughing which he excuses as a cold, the love which he masks as brotherly affection. but then hoseok says, “mental health is just as important as physical, okay? i don’t know what’s going on in your head, kookie, but it can’t be good.”
“you’ve been…” jin pauses, lips twisted in a frown, eyes sad. “some of your actions and words lately have concerned us. we just want the best for you, you know?”
“i don’t need to see a doctor,” replies jungkook, his eyes firmly fixed on the muted television in front of him.
“you know we’re always here for you,” taehyung says, grabbing jungkook’s limp hand and squeezing.
“this isn’t something you can deal with alone, kid,” interjects yoongi. his eyes are dark and knowing and jungkook has to look away.
“i’m not fucking depressed, okay, or whatever the hell you all think i am,” jungkook spits. the itch in the bottom of his lungs isn’t anger but it feels like it, so he latches on to the feeling and tries to put fire in his eyes to hide the guilt and the lifelessness. “so just cut the fucking intervention, okay? i’m not a kid and i don’t need a fucking doctor. so just leave me the fuck alone.”
he stands abruptly and pushes past the group and towards the door, only halting as a certain voice pipes up for the first time since namjoon started speaking.
“kook-ah,” he says, voice soft and pleading and full of emotion. he has always been one to cry easy. “please, we just want to help you. don’t shut us out and not tell us why.”
jungkook swallows the lump in his throat and turns to look at him straight in the eyes, which are glassy and dark and beautiful. he is beautiful. “you think you’re helping,” jungkook starts, his gaze unwavering, his voice thick and rough, “but you’re really not.”
then he turns on his heel and leaves, the door to namjoon’s apartment swinging shut behind him with a bang.
he chokes on a sob on the way to the street, where he calls a cab home. he chokes on flower petals on the way to the door of his apartment, barely making it inside before retching small purple pieces into his shaking hand. (lavender, he recognizes - devotion. and silence.)
the internet, the clueless doctors and the grieving families, they all say the same thing - he has a matter of weeks, now. no cure exists that doesn’t mean erasing his memory and a surgery he can’t afford. two prices he’s not willing to pay. love so far brings mostly sorrow and death to his life and yet it’s still the best thing that’s ever happened to him. jungkook can’t look at the edges of his smile, the crinkle of his eyes, the sincerity of his heart and wish he’d never had the chance to love him - he can’t think about the way he makes him feel and ever call that a bad thing, or a thing he regrets. he loves him and that’s all that matters.
he spends the first week after their argument holed up in his apartment, hunched over a canvas colored and shaped with petals sprouted in his lungs. the pinks and whites of dahlias and carnations form the abstract features of a face - bright yellow paints the soft hair. when he begins coughing morning glory flowers, he mixes the purple and blue to lay as the background. (morning glory - unrequited love and love in vain).
during the second week, he starts to cough almost as much blood as flowers, thorns growing into the tissue of his lungs and making every breath ache and burn. (it’s been ten days since he’s seen or talked to him, to any of them - they call and text and knock and he ignores, ignores, ignores until they stop.)
when he calls his mom, he has to fight not to cry. he tells her the scratchiness in his voice is a sore throat. he tells her seokjin is taking care of him just fine, making him soup and keeping him healthy. he tells her he’s happy and that he misses her and tries not to feel bad that the last one is the only truth he has to offer.
when he hangs up, he calls namjoon and apologizes. the words tumble out of his mouth faster than the elder can react, words about how he misses them and he’s sorry and please, please tell everybody he’s sorry. he’s not crying, but he knows he’s worrying namjoon with his tone and his pleading words so he hangs up before namjoon can reply and coughs out thorns and petals into his bathroom sink.
he looks in the mirror and can’t recognize the person looking back at him underneath the tired bags, the cracked lips and the dead eyes. he can only look for a few seconds before he feels sick.
instead he looks at him, looks at the now completed portrait in his living room, and finally cries. he sits on his carpeted floor for hours and sobs and chokes and finally falls asleep, exhausted and torn apart on the inside in more ways than one.
the next morning is calm. the sunlight streaks through curtained windows, soft and warm. the apartment is quiet save for the faint whir of various house appliances. on the floor lies jungkook, still and silent and cold.
he dies with the full star of a cypress between his lips, blood staining the carpet, wide eyes shining and blank, hand outstretched from his body towards his final piece of art. he dies with the person he’s dying for beside him - always unreachable, untouchable, beautiful - made of petals and thorns.
(cypress - death.)