Evan heard the legend of Hanahaki Disease during the short period he’d been stationed in Japan. He’d never believed it was true - it was only a folk tale, passed down for generations so that others who suffered would know they weren’t alone in their pain.
But Evan couldn’t stop staring at the deep violet bluebells in the palm of his hand, the blossoms that had torn through his lungs and out of his mouth as he coughed.
What else could it be? Evan hadn’t gone off world recently. To be honest, something like this would seem less extraordinary if he’d just returned from a scuffle on an alien planet. But he’d been in the city for weeks, hadn’t been assigned a milk run or faced disaster.
Evan felt his lungs burn again and he knew another coughing fit was coming.
More bluebells spilled into his hands and onto the floor.
Carson was putting Evan on restricted duty until they could find out what exactly was going on with him. He’d been trying to play it cool, acting like it was just another anomaly that came from living in an Ancient city. But Evan had to test the waters, just to be sure.
“Doc, have you heard of something called...Hanahaki Disease?”
Carson looked up at him, his eyebrows now furrowed in thought. “It sounds familiar...but as to what the disease entails, I’m drawing a blank. Sorry, lad.”
Evan chuckled joylessly. “It’s okay. Just a story I heard once, is all.”
“Well, enlighten me.” Carson sat down on a nearby stool and gestured for Evan to continue.
“Hanahaki Disease is where you supposedly start coughing up or vomiting flower petals because you suffer from unrequited love. Some stories say that the roots grew from your heart and into your lungs, and that’s where the flowers bloomed. Unless the love is returned or the roots are physically removed from the body, the person will die.”
Carson’s eyes went wide. “That sounds a wee bit fantastical, don’t you think?”
“And yet here we are in a city that everyone believed to be only a legend.” Evan shrugged.
Carson nodded. “Point taken. So, is there something else you want to tell me then?”
Evan hesitated. He could trust Carson, couldn’t he?
Carson visibly winced. “Oh, dear. That’s a tough nut to crack.”
Evan coughed a few times, a few blue petals falling to the infirmary floor. “It is what it is, Doc. Not sure there’s much I can do about it.” He hopped down off the exam table, picking up and throwing the new petals into the trash. “Maybe it’s not that. Maybe it’s just another trick up Atlantis’s sleeve. Thanks, Doc. I’ll keep you posted.”
Evan walked out of the infirmary before Carson could say anything else.
Rodney barely acknowledged Evan’s presence, even after setting down a fresh cup of coffee next to him.
Evan cleared his throat, felt a petal on his tongue, and stealthily sneaked it out of his mouth and into his pocket before Rodney looked up.
“Brought you some coffee.”
“Oh!” Rodney’s eyes brightened as he grabbed the mug and took a few gulps of the scalding liquid. He wiped his mouth with his grubby uniform sleeve. “Thanks. What are you doing up?”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Evan answered, and he was being honest. It was hard to sleep nowadays - hard to do much of anything when you couldn’t help but cough up flowers everywhere you went.
“Yeah, I heard you’re on restricted duty. Sheppard’s been complaining about it.”
“Of course he has.”
Rodney took another sip of coffee, but said nothing. Evan had just come up with a solid reason to excuse himself when Rodney asked -
Evan’s heart stuttered in his chest - usually that wouldn’t have been too bad, but when it felt like your heart was being constricted, it made the feeling a little more painful. He suppressed a cough as best as he could.
“What do you mean, Doc? I’m fine.” Evan said, his voice strained.
“Of course you’re not fine,” Rodney scoffed. “Why would you be on restricted duty if you were fine?” He used air quotes as he drug out the word.
“I’m...I’m sick,” Evan admitted.
“How so? You look fine to me.”
Bearing the scrutiny of Rodney’s gaze had finally become too much - Evan couldn’t hold back the need to cough any longer. He turned away from Rodney as his body began convulsing.
Bluebells rained onto the floor of the laboratory as Evan gasped for air. He fell to his knees and was vaguely aware of Rodney yelling for somebody to come help.
“No - don’t need help -”
“Lorne, you’re coughing up flowers!”
“I know!” Evan’s lungs finally stopped heaving and he was able to actually breathe. A few more petals fell to the floor.
Rodney knelt down next to him. “This is...really gross, but also really fascinating. What is this?” He picked up a bluebell and turned it over in his hands.
“It’s because I love you.”
Evan looked up at Rodney. It didn’t really matter now, anyway. If he was going to die from Hanahaki Disease, why not have it be in this moment? Hearing Rodney say the words I don’t feel the same way would make his heart stop and there would be no more flowers and he could finally rest.
“Because I love you. I have for a while now, but I didn’t know how to tell you - or if I should tell you. Then this started happening, and it lined up perfectly with an old story I’d heard years ago. You love someone who doesn’t love you back, you start throwing up flowers.”
“W-where did you hear that?” Rodney stuttered.
“Japan. Always thought it was made up, because why wouldn’t it be? And then it happened to me.”
Evan coughed again, a deep, lingering sound. The flowers in his hand were stained with deep red splotches. Evan went to wipe his mouth with the back of his hand and realized his face was wet with tears.
“Just say it, Rodney.”
“Say what?” Rodney replied, his voice small and scared.
“That you don’t feel the same way.”
“But - but -”
“Please!” Evan’s voice broke. “I’m tired, Rodney.”
“But Evan, I love you too!” Rodney snapped.
“What?” Evan shook his head, as if that would help him understand what Rodney had said.
“I love you too, idiot! Why wouldn’t I love you? You bring me coffee and ask me how my day was and you don’t complain when I ask you to be a human lightswitch. You always make sure the lab gets what it needs, that I get what I need, and plus have you looked at yourself? Stupid blue eyes and charming dimples, how could I...not?”
Rodney’s rambling speech came to a halt. He swept the bluebells out of the way, grabbed Evan by the collar, and kissed him.
Fairy tales said that true love’s kiss could solve a lot of problems. Evan hadn’t believed that either until he felt Rodney’s lips on his. His body felt lighter and lighter, as if Rodney was pulling up the bluebell roots until there was nothing left.
When they finally parted, they were both breathless.
“How do you feel now?” Rodney asked.
“Better,” Evan whispered, leaning in for another kiss.