The first time it happens, Eichi coughs rhododendros. They’re so red - so beautiful, stained with blood and making all this...thing, because he doesn’t know how to define it at the moment, ironic and poetic at the same time: he can’t distinguish where the colour of the flower ends and leaves space to his own fluids. He clutches his hand to his chest, his breath starting to slow down just now that he has recovered a bit - the taste of blood and flowers still lingers on his toungue, making him nauseous.
His lungs burn. So his heart.
Chiaki Morisawa smiles, bright like the sun, cheerful like a child on Christmas. That’s what Eichi hates of him: he smiles at anyone.
He wishes he would smile at him, and only for him.
He has thought about destroying that smile too many times, through his power as the Student Council’s President or as a member of Fine he didn’t decide, but he surrendered before even starting to plot his revenge against the absolute nothing. He just couldn’t.
He likes that smile; he couldn’t deprive himself of something so beautiful.
Chiaki Morisawa smiles, showing himself on the hallway of Yumenosaki and remembering anyone passing by that he is a hero, the Ryuusei Red, the Chiaki Morisawa of the burning heart, as if someone could really forget.
As if Eichi could really forget.
“Tenshouin!” he calls, and Eichi feels his heart skipping a bit, but he’s lucky enough to know how to conceal the feeling, and deceives Chiaki into believing that he is truly surprised to see him there. “I hope you’re feeling fine today! If you need something, don’t hesitate to call me! I’ll come to the rescue.”
And Eichi smiles back, and he feels empty, and lost.
Chiaki could never come to the rescue, because in this fairy tale he can’t play the hero, no. His role is moved by the Devil himself, with strings bathed in blood and garnished with flowers - it’s a nice image, Eichi must admit it. Chiaki is a villain, the worst one, the one threatening Eichi's life without even know it. And it’s fun, this overturning of roles, because how in the world Chiaki could be the villain in this story?
Chiaki Morisawa of the smile that cuts his chest in two. He should suggest this new catchphrase to his classmate. He’s sure he wouldn’t like it, though.
Chiaki could never come to the rescue, because it’s already too late, Eichi spitting blood and maidenhair fern flowers, so tiny, so white, the emblem of the secrecy of his feeling. How did he permit his heart to go so far? How did he permit Chiaki to cross the boundaries Eichi himself had set when he decided to leave his humanity outside the school just for its sake? He never wanted to fall in love, least of all with Chiaki, and what happened, and how it happened it will be a mystery until the day of his death.
Because Death is coming, she’s building a nest on his lungs and making them bleed petals and beads of dark red.
He’s not ready to welcome her.
“Keito,” he calls, and his childhood friend tilts his head towards him and look at him with concern, but he doesn’t say anything. He lets Eichi keep talking. “Have you ever fallen in love?”
“Why are you asking me this now?”
Eichi smiles over his cup of tea, gives a cough, and tries to suppress the sense of nausea filling his throat and imploring him to throw up - blood, flowers, his feeling, he doesn’t know. He doesn’t want to.
His hand shakes, and the tea inside with it. He can feel that hateful taste invading his mouth, the first petals that brush at his uvula and beg like a plea throw us, let it go, let us go.
“I’m sorry,” he answers, clearing his throat. “Don’t mind me, it was a silly question.”
“You never ask something without a reason. What happened?”
Eichi sips his tea, but he doesn’t get to delight himself with the taste of it. The cup meets the floor and scatters into pieces as soon as he starts to cough, erica flowers and thick, bright red blood giving his hands a touch of colour. He hears Keito’s voice ringing on his ears, but he doesn’t get what he is saying, because his body decides to collapse, and who cares about the mystery of his lungs producing flowers with a painful meaning, who cares about dying, who cares about Chiaki.
Who cares about love.
He just wants to sleep.
He wants to get rid of this feeling of love, he doesn’t need it. He grew up so well until now, without knowing anything about love, knowing anything about heads spinning and hearts racing as if they were running for their life.
Well, he does know, that’s why this… thing makes things worse.
He already has to deal with his poor health, he just can’t waste his time on this. He doesn’t want to. He doesn’t want to be a burden for Chiaki. Nor for anyone else.
“Promise me,” he coughs, from behind an oxygen mask that isn’t helping at all. “Promise me you won’t tell anything to Chiaki,” he pleads, and Keito doesn’t understand - how could he, when even Eichi doesn’t get to understand why all of this is happening - but he nods and holds on his hand.
Eichi lets Keito cry for him, because he can’t. He doesn’t have the strenght.
“I heard you collapsed. Didn’t I tell you to call for me if you needed help?”
Eichi smiles, and if it is just for a moment or two, he can pretend he is fine, at least in front of him.
“I couldn’t,” he answers, “I collapsed.” and Chiaki tilts his head and seems divided between laughing at the cheap joke or feeling mocked. He doesn’t laugh, in the end, but at least he doesn’t look offended, either.
“I was worried. Hasumi hadn’t a great face, these days. And he told me nobody could visit you. I wanted to bring you flowers.”
He laughs, but the sound of it is so bitter he repents instantly. Chiaki notices it, though. Eichi doesn’t like the worried look on his face, so he finds something to say.
And, he admits it, it’s rather stupid. Almost painful.
Fuchsias. Which don’t mean nothing, at least, not for Chiaki, Eichi is pretty sure of it. But he knows what they mean - he learnt the language of flowers long ago, when he was a child and his main occupation was trying to outlive his own sickness.
Humble love, that’s the message that flower conveys, but how could Chiaki possibly know? How could he, when Eichi is the villain of Chiaki’s story, the big boss to defeat at the end of a good videogame, the card that kills everything and everyone on the table if nobody stops it?
He throws up in the bathroom of the second floor of the academy - just behind the corner there’s the Council School room: he can sneak there and nobody will see him, nobody will know.
He just want to lock himself inside and wait for death to come and take him - he hasn’t the strenght to keep going, and his short breath, his wavering sight, are strong evidences of his weakness.
But he doesn’t make it, because they never got along, he and fate. They really don’t, or Eichi wouldn’t find Chiaki waving at him, a smile that cracks the moment Eichi starts to feel the floor dancing under his feet - his lungs tense, squeeze, and he doesn’t know what that unfortunate fate decides to make him cough, because everything around him spins too fast, and Chiaki voice is so high, so desperate, that he can’t elaborate any coherent thought.
He falls on the floor, and the last thing he remembers is the taste of blood, far stronger than the fuchsia’s, stronger than any flower he has tasted in his mouth in the last month. His lungs collapse with him and this time, Eichi feels like he will never come back.
He does, though.
One day, Keito told him that only the good die young, and since Eichi has never been no saint, his time is yet far to be seen. It’s the sound of the life support machines that welcomes him back.
“You just died.”
… and Chiaki’s voice.
He closes his eyes, and he realises in that moment that he’s not breathing alone, that he has tubes on his nostrils, needles on his left arm, on his neck, probably, he doesn’t know. His chest burns, but it’s not unbearable, now.
It’s painful in a different way.
“You just died in front of my eyes and I didn’t know what to do. I called you and didn’t answer. You stopped breathing and your… your mouth was full of flowers I have never seen. And I just didn’t know what to do, I told you I would have rescued you and I just didn’t know what to do.”
Eichi can’t reply - his mouth is covered by the oxygen mask, and his throat is sore, as if he had screamed with all his strength. But he blinks, and hopes that it will be enough to Chiaki to understand that he’s back now, he is listening.
“I was so scared. I am no hero, Tenshouin, I’m just a coward. I just kept running away and-” Chiaki groans, frustrated, and Eichi would smile if he could. But he’s scared to even open his mouth, because what would he do if he started coughing flowers again?
“I’m sorry, I should shut up and take my leave. You’re tired, you have to rest and… and.”
Eichi shakes his head - he thinks he does, but he’s not really sure Chiaki understood his gesture. He tries to defeat the fear and opens his mouth, and what comes out is more a death rattle than a no.
But Chiaki understands it.
“... you should have told me. You should have and I would have helped you, Tenshouin. The doctors said it’s a miracle you are alive, but you won’t last long if you have another attack and…” he holds his breath, before going on. “Just… just tell me who is she, tell me who makes you feel this way and I’ll help you. I’ll really help you, I will help you in any way possible. Just… don’t die, please.”
Eichi hates Chiaki, he hates him so much right now that his eyes fill with tears, and he’s not famous for crying over something so ephemeral as love. But he does cry, unable to hold back that sentiment that he feels unworthy of.
Chiaki welcomes him with a radiant smile and a bouquet on his hand, a triumph of colours that manages to get a smile out of Eichi’s lips. White narcissus smells like spring, like the beginning of a new journey, and Eichi accepts them, and hold them on his heart.
He feels blessed. Because Chiaki Morisawa smiles, bright like the sun, cheerful like a child on Christmas. And this time, it’s just for him.