Unrequited love kills.
Mark has casted his obvious doubts to this statement in particular, but now he’s feeling it. Literally: in his lungs, choking him and wanting him to just die.
Hanahaki disease is a very real threat since that one fateful day—when a man started to spew nothing but flower petals and died on the altar as he was about to speak his vow to the bride in front of him. Everyone was too shell-shocked to voice their opinions about what happened in the wedding ceremony because whatever stunt that the groom was pulling right there, it was horrible. And almost poetic, to be honest. Like…those flower petals were drop-dead gorgeous.
(Mark said this pun to his other friends when they were gathered to watch the video of the whole procession, and they just groaned in unison. Mark needs new friends. ASAP.)
Unfortunately, though, it was no stunt. He really was dead, and he didn’t even get a chance to take his last breath given that his throat was too clogged with flowers. It’s scary to imagine how the doctors would do an autopsy on him and just find a whole tree (not really; it’s just an exaggeration. Or is it?) inside the man’s body.
And, of course, just like how the good ‘ol Internet worked (and it still does, don’t worry), it went viral. Very viral, indeed, until people also started puking the same thing, and the very same reason they told on every single interview regarding this topic was that it was because they realized they were stuck in an unrequited love, so their lungs began to go batshit.
Stuck in an unrequited love.
Is this how natural selection coming for humanity? Is this how it works when love is too overrated and God is like, “nah, dude,” so here we are now; underpopulated and numb?
Something about it makes the WHO and the government snap, so they have found the cure for it—other than the fact that the other party must return your feelings before your impending doom has to come and get you, and everyone knows of this like the back of their hand by now—and that is whether or not you would like to give up your feelings. Not to mention that it also includes free flower petals removal, so it’s a huge deal alright.
But, that’s not the fucking point now, is it?
It’s about agency. It’s about who you want to love. It’s about who you want to be with. It’s about feeling and being recipr—
Mark retches again into the welcoming toilet bowl—this time, it’s followed with an extreme heaving on his part, and breathing has become a chore. His extra Poetry class has probably started five minutes ago, and he’s pretty sure his face is as scarlet as those petals he’s vomiting or maybe just a little bit up to par with how pathetic his fate is right now, so, no, he can’t go back like this.
He wipes his lips with the back of his hand and picks up his mask with the other. The government requires everyone to wear a mask—white matte surface with a smiley, nothing special—so that random love-on-first-sights won’t happen, as stupid and mythical as it sounds, but Mark actually falls for someone on first hearing.
Damn. This is tragic.
No, listen; he didn’t mean to. Okay? This kid also probably didn’t mean anyone to hear him singing since people are not allowed to do so anymore. He was technically singing for himself because he wanted to—because it’s his talent, goddammit, he was definitely born to sing! Mark can prove that to you! His voice is so captivating, and…not going to admit it out loud, but Mark wants to hear it all over again. He wants to listen to it closely, and he knows like it’s okay if it’s that voice that fucks him up. He doesn’t mind the flower petals blocking his respiratory system. He just wants to meet this boy again.
(And maybe, just maybe, end this one-sided love once and for all, too, but what are the odds, right?)
But, now, he can’t do anything other than doubling over a toilet bowl to empty his stomach and lungs. He feels like…nothing. No, mere “nothing” is an understatement—he feels like death.
That’s when he hears it: the toilet door opening and a familiar voice singing, although faint, but (thankfully) recognizable. That boy! He’s here!
He needs to make himself presentable and get out of this stall. Right now.
He puts on his mask over his face before standing up and flattens every crease his shirt has. Oh, shit, his jeans are soaked for sitting too long on the already wet floor. Ah, whatever. If he isn’t getting His Man on the first try, he will try again. Again and again and again. Let’s just hope God would bless him with longevity so that he could stay alive for that long. Amen.
He quickly fumbles for the door lock and unlocks it before practically launching himself out of the stall. Anything to catch the attention of the owner of the voice. The following concussion he gets better be worth it!
Ow. Okay, that’s a painful fall. He didn’t mean to fall this hard onto the floor, but…damn, he could’ve been an actor if he weren’t living on this ugly universe.
“Oh my God, are you all right?”
Fuuuuuuuuck. He sounds even sweeter when he speaks. Which one is a better premise: Mark dating this boy or Mark dating this boy’s cute voice?
Mark looks up from where he’s lying—back at it again with Mark-on-the-floor!—and he’s seeing…an angel. An actual angel. Did he hit his head too hard or something?
There’s only the sound of the water in the sink running while Mark is trying to…sober up. That’s right—he’s intoxicated from the beauty of this boy in front of him already! “Yeah, huh, I’m…fine, I guess, don’t worry. Just…tripped on my own foot,” he says before tilting his head a little bit. “Um. Wait. Why don’t you have your mask on?”
“Oh. Whoopsies,” the boy says, grabbing for his mask and putting it on. Mark can still see his sheepish smile stamped on that face even when he has his mask on. “Sorry about that. I was…washing my face. Didn’t expect you to be in one of the stalls,” he pauses, looking like he’s contemplating between helping Mark or continuing to say something. “Please don’t report me to the higher-ups? I don’t want to be locked up for not wearing my mask. That’s just silly.”
“You’re talking big about not wanting to get locked up when you’re literally not helping me up right now,” Mark replies, trying his best to suppress a bubbling cough in his throat. “Help me up and maybe I’ll consider it.”
The other giggles—oh, damn it. This boy, ironically enough, will be the end of Mark Lee—and he extends a hand.
“I’m Lee Donghyuck, by the way,” he says once Mark grabs onto his hand, and he pulls him up to his feet. “To be honest, I just don’t care if I were to leave my mask behind, y’know? Like, who would be in love with me anyway?”
Okay, maybe it’s Mark’s cue to be really blunt about it because his YOLO alarm is blaring so damn loud in his head.
“Why are you saying it like that? Because I do,” Mark says quickly his tongue almost slips. Good thing him practicing his rap skills at home has finally come down to this. Although Donghyuck can’t really see his face, he looks down to save himself from backing out on his initial plan. He coughs. One, two, three times, and he swears he can feel the petals on his lips right now. “I mean, I kinda listened in on you singing back there when you were alone in one of the classrooms. I-I did not mean to, but I was so…struck by your singing voice, and now, I can’t breathe and it’s hurting me,” Mark says in one breath—what’s left of it anyway. He pauses to catch his breath before adding, “w-wow, I’m spilling all of this like you’re going to believe me or something. It’s crazy, isn’t it?”
Mark has his eyes shut and his fists clenched tight. He did it. The back of his throat itches like a motherfucker, but he doesn’t care right now. He wants to hear Donghyuck’s answer.
There’s only silence for a while before the boy in front of him takes his chin between his thumb and forefinger—damn, he’s so good at locating it, too, like he was born for this—and tilts Mark’s head back. With his other hand, he takes Mark’s mask off, messing his hair in the process. Wait, no, Mark’s hair is already a mess, that’s for sure, so he doesn’t mind Donghyuck messing it more for him, no matter how unintentional it is.
Mark jumps when Donghyuck cups his cheeks with his overly warm palms—or is it his cheeks’ temperature? He’s not sure—and immediately, his response is to open his eyes and widen them when he sees that Donghyuck also has his mask off again now. Mark feels strangely vulnerable because Donghyuck is looking back at him with wide eyes, and he wants to…he wants to bawl, that’s all.
Mark, stupidly, lets out a loud cough from the chock-a-block of feelings he’s been stifling, and a surge of flower petals races out of his mouth, hitting Donghyuck square in the face.
Well, that was embarassing. There goes Mark’s chance of dating the cute boy!
Donghyuck’s hands on Mark’s cheeks are still firm as ever, even when Mark lifts his hands up to rub his eyes from the tears blocking his sight because, not gonna lie, that was one intense cough that he emitted. When he looks at Donghyuck again, though, he has red rose petals stuck in his hair and he seems to be more ethereal, if that’s even possible.
“I’m so sorry to ever inflict pain on you, stranger, but that’s the cutest thing anyone could have ever said to me,” he says softly, thumbs caressing the edges of Mark’s eyes that are irritated from how much he’s wiping his own tears. “I’ve always wished for someone to fall in love with me because of my voice, but I didn’t know it could go this way.”
“Yeah? Fuck you for singing, then,” Mark answers, but there’s no bite to it. Besides, he’s smiling, and he’s holding onto Donghyuck’s hands to make sure that they’re staying. “The name’s Mark Lee, by the way, and your face is as beautiful as your voice is.”
“Shut up,” Donghyuck says shyly, showcasing a full-on grin, pink tint now adorning his cheeks. “Give me time for me to love you back, all right, Mark Lee? I hope you’re okay with being patient.”
Stunned from how beautiful his name sounds from the roll of the other’s tongue, he collects himself for a little bit before responding with a curt, “yeah, totally. Take your time while I spill more flowers onto my salad,” with a little bit of sarcasm dripping from it. Donghyuck dismisses that. “But, hey, you know what will fast forward everything? We should go on some dates to secure this whole relationship going somewhere.”
“Talk about patience,” Donghyuck says, his gaze softening even more. “It’s a deal, Mark Lee, and you have my word. I’m a man of his words.”
“Date” is a pretty crude term to encapsulate how much cuddles they share after that, since showing affection in public and all that isn’t allowed anymore, but Mark isn’t complaining. Even in the darkest of nights—even in the brink of literal death when he finally pulls the flower out to its roots on one night and it wraps his whole being with an excruciating pain and tears, Donghyuck is there with him, holding his hand and helping him get through the worst of it all, and that’s all what he really wants.
He never stops believing in Donghyuck when he keeps assuring him with words like, “I think I’m falling for you, Mark Lee,” and, “told you so, Mark Lee. I’m a man, true to his words!” and so never does Donghyuck. The other just knows he can pull through with all the pain he’s had to bear throughout those days of loving Lee Donghyuck and making him love him back, and Mark can't think of a better phrase to describe Donghyuck other than “true love.”
(“That’s cheesy as hell, Mark,” Donghyuck once comments about it, but Mark dismisses that.)