Taehyun had always found roses beautiful. Dangerous, but beautiful. The way they embodied love and passion, but also inflicted pain. He clearly understood this now. Ever since they started growing in his lungs all he felt was pain, their thorns piercing into his tissues and their red petals flowing through his veins. They were hidden within his blood as he gripped the bathroom sink tightly and the fluid spilled from between his lips, leaving the now familiar aftertaste in its wake. They grew more and more every day, increasing in number until they fully occupied the sink and scattered all over the ground. Taehyun could hardly breathe, for his feelings had consumed him until his airways were restricted. He was withering away, but that was his least concern. He’d rather this than completely lose his feelings anyway.
Besides, at least he would be adequately accommodated at his funeral in a casket full of roses.
It had been a rather quiet evening sitting by the fire, the sound of the flames crackling predominated the cries of the cicadas outside and the static hum of the television. Taehyun brought his knees up to his chest and watched sparks of red and orange dance in front of him, ignoring the lingering feeling of nausea in the pit of his stomach. He knew it all too well; one more thought about the dark-haired boy and he would lose control and paint the carpet crimson. Now that would be quite the shock to Jinwoo hyung when he walks through the door at approximately 9pm.
He just had to suppress it until Jinwoo goes to bed, when he could then tiptoe to the bathroom and drown in anguish. Taehyun had found out that Jinwoo was a heavy sleeper and that nothing, not even Taehyun and Seunghoon smashing an entire window in the middle of the night, could wake him (it was totally Seunghoon’s fault, he suggested they play bedroom baseball using a pan. Whether he was drunk or not, Taehyun couldn’t remember. In fact, he couldn’t even recall the events prior to that night’s activities. Must’ve been the vodka). Jinwoo had attempted to persuade Taehyun to attend dinner with their friends, but once Taehyun insisted that he were ill for the thousandth time, the elder boy backed down.
The door swung open at exactly 9pm. Not only one pair of feet walked in, but two. “Hey hyung, how was dinn-” Taehyun started before he turned around and noticed that the two hyungs in the room weren’t paying any attention at all to the boy crouched on the floor.
Taehyun’s voice caught in his throat as Jinwoo pinned Mino against the wall, his pink lips placing rough kisses on Mino’s neck. Mino smirked at Jinwoo, his hands gripping his waist. Taehyun’s heartbeat accelerated at the scene only to freeze when Mino’s gaze met his.
“Oh, Taehyun…” he flushed, his hands immediately releasing Jinwoo, who visibly stiffened at the mention of Taehyun’s name.
“Shit Taehyun, I thought you would be asleep, you know, considering you’re ill and all.” Jinwoo could never smoothly talk himself out of tense situations even if his life depended on it.
Nausea made its way up. Taehyun could feel the soft texture of a petal on his tongue. He swallowed it down only to feel more rising up in his throat, yearning to be exposed to fresh air. The way Mino’s eyes pierced through him made it all the worse. He could keep his emotions a secret or spill them out now and fracture the existing relationship he had with his friends. The latter would also probably end him up in hospital.
He wasn’t ready to let go. He loved adoring Mino and adored loving him. He wasn’t ready for everything he’s ever felt for the boy to disappear. He had to be strong. He believed he was strong enough.
Enough to make it out the door at least.
“I’ll leave you two to it,” he muttered as the door closed behind him. None of them heard the coughing that followed after.
It’s a good thing petals are delicate, or they may have heard a thousand of them hitting the pavement.
The calm water hovering over Taehyun’s face was refreshing, washing away the memories of the day. The strands of his hair intertwined and tickled his cheeks, and he peeked through his eyes to find a fluorescent light shining down at him from beyond the surface. Odd. Just a second ago it was as dark as the midnight sky. Taehyun counted his heartbeats as his head sank lower, the thumping of his heart becoming faint. He wondered if this was how the roses felt inside of him, drifting around in silence. Thorns tangling, petals falling apart. Moving in and out of veins and organs thinking they represented something special when in actual fact they were the secondary cause of their host’s decay. The first being the one who was by your side but never reciprocating the feelings you had for them.
Humans and roses were all the same. You become enticed with the beauty you see on the outside and overlook the small warning signs signalling trouble.
Well, it’s not like Mino could walk around wearing a Caution: Do Not Touch sign on his head.
Taehyun’s head began to spin, his heart now thumping wildly in his chest like it was about to rip through his rib cage and out of his flesh. The adrenaline was kicking in and coursing through him, sending him whirling deeper into darkness. Flecks of bright red tinted the back of his eyelids. He was so close. The excitement was overwhelming as his nerves shifted into overdrive. This was dreadfully pleasurable and terrifying at the same time. This was wrong. He was wrong.
Dying never felt this good, but he was so close to relieving his pain.
Self-treatment. It worked like a charm.
A firm hand wrapped around his wrist and pulled him up, his face breaking through the surface and gasping in relief at the presence of oxygen. Red erupted from his mouth and landed right next to the person standing in front of him. Taehyun glanced up at him apologetically. “What… do you think… you’re doing...?” Seunghoon’s hands trembled as he eyed Taehyun furiously. “You were in here for a while and I come in to find you doing this .”
Before Taehyun had a chance to reply, more petals poured over the side of the bathtub, and more, and more. It was a miniature flood that inundated every visible tile of the bathroom floor. The anger on Seunghoon’s face faded and was instantly replaced with concern.
“How… when… who?” he stuttered, his voice barely a whisper. He crouched down so that the two were at eye level and placed his hands gently over Taehyun’s. Taehyun hesitated to answer. If Seunghoon found out who it was, he would kill the guy. The thought of his best friend confronting Mino didn’t settle too well with him.
“About a month…” he replied to the easier question in between coughs. Seunghoon’s eyes widened.
“A MONTH? A fucking MONTH?” His knuckles were white. “You let this go on for a month? You tortured yourself like this all this time and you didn’t even fucking tell anyone or go have surgery?”
Taehyun winced as Seunghoon’s words hit him like a slap across the cheek. He looked down in attempt to hide the tears stinging the corners of his eyes behind the curtain of his hair. “Yes, I torture myself like this,” he choked back a sob. “This is what I deserve for falling for someone who doesn’t give a damn about me.”
“Tae, I-“ Seunghoon ran his fingers through his hair in exasperation. “I didn’t mean to yell at you, I’m sorry. Please don’t say things like that. It’s not your fault.”
Taehyun stared blankly at his lap, his clothes were completely soaked. He didn’t realise how cold he was until now, his body shaking as the water around him lapped at his sides.
“Who?” Seunghoon repeated hoarsely.
“If I tell you, promise me you won’t go barging his door down and beating the crap out of him.”
“Yeah, yeah…. okay.” Taehyun’s expression showed that he definitely wasn’t trying to use reverse psychology.
“It’s… Mino,” he sighed, keeping his eyes on Seunghoon and trying to read what thoughts were racing through his mind.
“I’m gonna kill h-” Seunghoon was cut off by Taehyun’s stern finger against his lips.
“You promised,” Taehyun reminded him with narrowed eyes. Seunghoon groaned and leaned his back against the bathtub, his hands rubbing at his temples to calm him down.
“You can get surgery for it, you know,” he murmured after a few minutes of silence.
Taehyun reached for Seunghoon’s hand again and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Seunghoon couldn’t shake off the uneasiness he was experiencing no matter how Taehyun comforted him. His best friend was the last thing he wanted to add to his mental list of things he has lost. He closed his eyes and told himself to live in the present. Taehyun wasn’t gone yet. It wasn’t too late. They sat like this hand in hand in a field of roses for what seemed like an eternity.
Seunghoon awoke the next morning to the sound of retching. He leaped out of bed and ran down the hallway to the spare room of his apartment to find Taehyun curled up on the mattress buried beneath a blanket of rose petals. The amount had multiplied. How could Taehyun have kept this a secret for so long when he was coughing up all this? Surely someone at home would have gotten a glimpse of what was happening. Had they all turned a blind eye to the sombre way Taehyun had been acting? Did they not notice the trails of red petals leading from Taehyun’s bedroom to the bathroom? Or perhaps that wasn’t it. No, Taehyun had gotten weaker overnight. He didn’t have the strength in his bones anymore to physically get up and move. His emotions were eating away at him.
“Fuck, we have to get you to the hospital now,” Seunghoon brushed away the petals and wrapped his arms around Taehyun, lifting him up and holding him close to his chest. “N-no…” the younger boy protested, his hands pushing away Seunghoon as hard as they could (which wasn’t very hard considering his current state). Seunghoon didn’t budge, his grip remaining firm around Taehyun’s small body as he made his way out the door. “I said no! Put me down!” Tears were streaking down Taehyun’s pale face, his lips dyed with red pigment. “I won’t do it Seunghoon, I can’t do it.” His sobs echoed in Seunghoon’s ears, filled with hurt and a month’s worth of heartbreak.
“I can’t let you go,” Seunghoon whimpered. But he already had, once.
The surgery went accordingly, with most of the flowers being removed from Taehyun’s body in less than twenty four hours. It took a lot of blood, sweat and tears for Taehyun to finally arrive at the hospital, Seunghoon exhausted from holding him together and ensuring he didn’t choke on the fountain of petals erupting from his mouth on the way. Come to think of it, he was probably in need of some check-ups too due to the amount of blows to the head he received from the boy. It was 10pm when Jinwoo and Mino along with their friend Seungyoon strode into the empty (except for Seunghoon sitting on a lone chair) waiting room.
“How is he?” Jinwoo rushed to Seunghoon’s side.
“He’s fine,” Seunghoon’s eyes focused on Mino as Jinwoo breathed a sigh of relief.
“I suspected this was probably the cause, he hasn’t been acting himself around us lately…” Jinwoo noticed the exchange of hostile glances and instinctively stood in front of Mino, blocking him from Seunghoon’s view. “It’s not his fault,” he told Seunghoon sternly. Seunghoon pushed his chair back and hovered over them.
“Then whose fucking fault is it?” he spat. “Taehyun’s?” He motioned for Jinwoo to step aside before grabbing Mino’s collar and talking him down.
“You. Get inside his room and fucking apologise. I don’t care if you think it’s not your fault, but it definitely isn’t his. Do you know how much shit you have caused him? He suffered every. fucking. day… because of you,” he hissed. “Do you know what it feels like to have your heart torn apart repeatedly, not only emotionally but physically? I found him trying to drown himself in my bathroom for god’s sake. If you don’t at least talk to him properly, you’ll never hear the end of it. Got it?”
Seunghoon literally would have beaten the shit out of him if it weren’t for Seungyoon stepping in and shoving them apart.
“Mino, do exactly as he says and don’t be an insensitive prick while you’re in there, okay?” Mino turned on his heel, jaw tensed, and stormed towards Taehyun’s room.
“Seunghoon, sit the fuck down and try not to draw any more attention to yourself.” The receptionist at the counter was watching them in disbelief, one hand on the phone ready to call security if need be. “We just all need to calm down and focus on Taehyun’s recovery. We can deal with the rest later.” With that, Seungyoon groaned and plopped himself on a chair, sipping the now cold latte he bought beforehand after finishing his late shift. “Fuck you guys,” he muttered, unamused. He couldn’t mask the slight anxiety in his tone.
Taehyun looked as fragile as ever laying there on the hospital bed, his hair over his eyes and his wrists connected to various IV drips. Mino watched his chest slowly rise up and deflate back down solemnly, a tinge of guilt constricting his heart and making him feel sick.
“Hey,” Taehyun smiled softly as Mino approached him.
“Hey. You’re looking great.” Mino was never one to talk with complete seriousness. Taehyun had already adjusted to this way of conversing, having learnt to use sarcasm effortlessly just so he could hold a decent conversation with Mino.
“I could say the same about you,” he chuckled. “You look like you’ve been put through hell.”
“Well, it isn’t easy keeping a straight face when someone you trust is about to rip your heart out and devour it.”
“I know that too well.”
Mino bit his lip at the subtle accusation and hung his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Not your fault.”
“Still. I’m sorry if I lead you on. And that I didn’t… I couldn’t… like you back.” Mino struggled to get the apology out. He didn’t want to worsen Taehyun’s condition, not right when he was recovering.
“You don’t like me?” Taehyun teased.
“I do.” But.
“You don’t love me.” Was Taehyun honestly expecting an answer to that? Mino thought incredulously. He already knew the answer. Obviously.
“No.” Mino turned his head away to avoid seeing the expression on Taehyun’s face, which he expected to be one of disappointment. Also to avoid the possibility of being slapped. Instead, Taehyun laughed, sending shock and slight terror through Mino’s body. Had Taehyun gone insane?
“Hey, are you oka-…” He stopped when Taehyun smiled brightly at him, his eyes glinting with a new sparkle. Not one of hope for Mino to gradually love him back, but of forgiveness.
“I feel better now, thanks. I am better. You can stop cowering in fear now, I’m not gonna hurt you.” Mino slowly returned the smile when he realised Taehyun truly meant it. He was better. He looked better too. “Although, that doesn’t mean Seunghoon won’t…”
A flick landed on Taehyun’s forehead.
“Ow, isn’t there a rule about disturbing patients?” he pouted as he rubbed the spot where Mino’s finger had attacked.
“I was never one to follow the rules,” Mino smirked, and Taehyun was vaguely reminded of why he fell for Mino in the first place. The flowers were disappearing along with the emotions he had for him. He was blossoming into a new person, one without their heart and mind obliterated by unrequited love. He had let go.
The mild scent of roses wafted throughout the air as Seunghoon and Taehyun strolled through the park, the morning sunshine embracing their skin with a comforting warmth. It had been four months since Taehyun’s surgery and things had been going swell with no sign of the disease coming back. Jinwoo and Mino were officially a couple (who would have thought) while Seunghoon and Taehyun remained close friends with each of them and of course, each other.
“Hey, Hoonie,” Taehyun bent down to collect a rock, skimming it across the water when they reached the edge of a riverbed.
“Mino mentioned something you said to him the night I was in hospital. Boy, you really went off.” Seunghoon was too engrossed in inspecting pebbles in the water that he disregarded what Taehyun had said.
“Something along the lines of you going on about if he knew what it was like to have your heart torn apart repeatedly,” Taehyun continued. “Do you know what it’s like?”
This question caught Seunghoon off guard. He furrowed his eyebrows, deep in thought, before replying. Does he? He had a minor feeling he did. Was he really going to venture into that unknown part of his past and bring Taehyun along with him? After everything he’s been through. He needed to know he wasn’t alone.
“Yeah, I do.” Taehyun inhaled audibly next to him.
“Did you… did you have flowers too?” he asked quietly, unsure if this topic was suitable to delve into.
“I did. Daisies, to be specific.”
"Do you remember who?” Taehyun’s curiosity always got the better of him.
“No one special, probably. Doesn’t matter now, does it?” Seunghoon offered a small smile. You, perhaps?
“I guess not.” A frown flashed across Taehyun’s face but disappeared before Seunghoon could tell him to ‘turn that frown upside down’, in which Taehyun always responded with the roll of his eyes. “Is there anyone now? Th-that you love, I mean,” Taehyun stammered.
“Nah.” Seunghoon was quick to answer
“Good for you,” Taehyun commented as he threw a pebble as far as he could.
That night, Taehyun found himself back in the bathroom, his hands gripping the ceramic sink tightly as he coughed into it. This time, the red petals were replaced with a single white petal. He was treated, but he wasn’t cured. Seunghoon really was telling the truth when he said there was no one he loved.
Good for you.
Now I’ll be buried in a casket full of daisies.