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The first thing Kibum does after he sees tulip petals mixed with the bile he threw up in the sink is trek to a flower shop to buy the bulbs for planting.

 

The second thing he does is turn up at the door to Minho's house and announce he needs to make use of the garden.

 

The sheer incomprehension in Minho's expression would have made Kibum fall over laughing in most circumstances, but right now he has more important tasks at hand.

 

"I'll check with my mum," Minho says, but it sounds more like a suggestion.

 

"Okay."

 

Minho hovers a little longer in the doorway. "Do you want to come in?" He still sounds very uncertain.

 

"Okay," Kibum says again and decisively walks past Minho, the bag of bulbs still firmly clutched in his hand.

 

Their friendship has spanned nearly thirteen years, cemented from the time of grubby childhood (Minho, not Kibum. Kibum was always pristine, even at 6) and Minho has been sometimes reluctant witness to many of Kibum's plans. The adventure to find the end of the rainbow when they were 8. (That ended before it started when Minho's mother caught them packing and couldn't stop herself from laughing.) The stalking of the ice cream boy to find the storage for all the supplies when they were 11. (He climbed into a taxi and their bicycles weren't fast enough.) That one pathetic day when they were 14 and Kibum sat outside until it rained so he could cry about the boyfriend his first crush had acquired. (His taste for the dramatic was something that hadn't ever left him.)

 

Not one of those years ever prepared Kibum for the fact that one day he'd throw up tulip petals for love of one Choi Minho. It's ridiculous, to say the least. A complete inconvenience. It's the most annoying thing Minho could possibly do to him.

 

It's absolutely terrifying.

 

~-~

 

Minho stands behind him as Kibum plants the bulbs, watching as he carefully digs up the soil. He doesn't ask any questions, because somehow he's always known when he should, and when he shouldn't. And maybe because he's always seen what's written on Kibum's heart, even when it wasn't something Kibum wanted him to know.

 

"They're tulip bulbs," is what Kibum says..

 

They represent you, is what he doesn't say.

 

"Why do you need to plant them here?" Minho's question is quiet, and perhaps isn't the actual question he wants to ask, but maybe he realises Kibum doesn't want to share.

 

"You have a bigger garden," Kibum replies. He pats in the last bit of soil over the bulbs and dusts off his hands, stands and stretches. "You want to go get lunch?"

 

Minho smiles. "Why not?"

 

He slings an arm around Kibum's shoulders and the stems of the flowers in Kibum's chest tighten around his lungs and he has to struggle to breathe.

 

"Are you okay?" Minho asks gently, and his eyes are worried when they look over at Kibum.

 

"I'm fine," Kibum says shakily. "Just fine."

 

~-~

 

The bulbs take a while to grow, and Kibum takes to visiting his little plot of land in the garden to just stare, feeling an odd kind of affinity with the flowers hibernating under the ground, the same flowers twining their roots in between his ribs. He doesn't know why he wanted to plant them; maybe he wanted the flowers to grow for Minho too, the same flowers that were choking him, like the unsaid words and ungiven love.

 

Minho sits by him sometimes, watching as Kibum's fingers play with the dirt, tracing patterns in the soil that could be words if someone bothered to pay attention.

 

I love you I love you I love you I lov-

 

Kibum often wonders how much Minho keeps under the surface, under that genial grin and happy laughter, if he hides pain the same way Kibum does, shuttered under a mask of joy. Except while Kibum is sharp and sarcastic, Minho is soft, gentle, like curling into a wool blanket, and Kibum thinks maybe his jagged edges are smoothed over by Minho's soft.

 

He wonders if maybe Minho hides flowers in his chest too.

 

"Kibum." Minho breaks the comfortable silence and slides his hand over Kibum's. His face doesn't change when Kibum pulls away. The touch makes the flowers quiver, makes their petals push too far up his throat, makes their stems twist too tightly around his lungs. He flinches away from Minho's touch now, subtle sometimes, obvious other times. And he's seen Minho's initial hurt melt away into confusion.

 

"Are you okay?" Minho whispers. "You don't talk as much, you don't come to school, and when I see you, you're always here."

 

Kibum doesn't talk because the petals will fly out of his mouth if he does, Kibum doesn't go to school because his mother keeps sending him to the hospital to get checkups, Kibum is watching the flowers because he thinks maybe when they bloom he can find the courage to tell Minho. Tell him and let the pieces fall where they might.

 

A cough escapes him before he can answer Minho, before he can turn away. A cough that does not want to stop. Bile and petals and red-black thick blood escaping from him, tainting the soil and the beginning curls of his carefully tended tulips. And he cannot run, because Minho has grabbed his wrist and stopped him. Kibum is frozen; words frozen on the tip of his tongue, limbs frozen under Minho's shock and fear, heart frozen from the pain of more flowers pushing through his body.

 

Blood means he's dying, blood means his time is running out, blood means he cannot wait anymore.

 

"You have Hanahaki Disease," Minho says slowly. And there's a thread of pity under the concern that makes Kibum want to laugh. Or maybe just scream.

 

"Who is it?"

 

"Why do you want to know?" Kibum snaps back. Petals float out of his mouth and land in some of the blood.

 

Minho is the one who laughs then, under his breath almost. "Because I'm in love with you, so it naturally follows that I should have some stake in this."

 

Pain flares in Kibum's chest at Minho's easy words, brilliant and head-spinning and it forces him to bend double. But when it fades, there is nothing left but aftershocks, and for the first time in weeks, Kibum can breathe.

 

Kibum stalks up to Minho, and hits his chest with closed fists. "How could you. Say it. So easily." He's crying and he doesn't know why.

 

Minho grasps Kibum's fists in his hands and pulls him close. "Was it me?" he whispers, urgency in every word. "Is it me?"

 

"Yes," Kibum says, and when he looks up at Minho, there's so much emotion shimmering in those wide, gentle eyes that he swears his heart does that cursed flip. " Yes ."

 

When Minho smiles down at him, Kibum leans up, slides arms around his neck and kisses him.

 

The tulips bloom the next week.