Hi and welcome to idk how to let my one-shots be one-shots, aka I felt like writing something angsty but didn't have any new ideas. So I pulled an Aikori and wrote Ren's POV of this. Btw, if you haven't checked out Aki's and Aikori's hanahaki fics, idk what you're doing. Go read them, they're awesome. Oh, and I own nothing. Enjoy!
Something was wrong with Kyoko.
He didn't know what, but there was. The signs were small, but they were there. It had started when she had bolted after his Katsuki test, and Iizuka-san had mentioned that the girl had been sick. Then there was a new tic she'd developed - patting down her pockets at odd moments, as if to make sure something was there. And the way her throat always seemed to be hoarse or sore these days. He'd offered to make her that shaved ice dish she had made for him when he had his cold, but she had shaken her head, refusing him with thanks and a smile he couldn't quite read. For a while, he just thought she had some sort of lingering cold.
Then Valentine's day happened, and he knew something else was happening. Fuwa stormed onto set, blathering about the girl finally coming to her senses and wasn't it great that he was so forgiving, before shoving his tongue in her mouth. That had been awful enough on its own. But later, when he tried to replace her ire with a kiss of his own - just to her cheek, he didn't want to scare her - that was when he knew. Something was seriously wrong. She kept pausing on set, and once or twice even grabbed at her throat, as if something was fighting to get out.
At the time, he'd chalked it up to anxiety, and had lied about the intentions of his kiss. When, almost a year later, he learned the origin of the lotus she'd used to make him a paperweight, he would wish he had told her everything then and there. But he hadn't known, so he had just accepted the beautifully morbid gift with a smile that made Kyoko's hand flinch to whatever she kept in her pocket.
When she had taken on the role of his omamori, when she had become Setsu, was when he knew for sure that something serious was happening. The first sign was the mystery item she kept in her pocket: a pair of scissors. Seeing them made his breath catch in his throat, his Cain-steeped mind spiralling into what-ifs. Sure, scissors weren't razor blades, but they could cause enough damage. She left them on her nightstand while she slept, as if she might wake up and need them. He'd examined them one night, after she'd fallen asleep, and been baffled. There was no blood rust - not that Kyoko wouldn't know how to clean it. Instead, there was… something green? Just a few flecks, caught in the juncture of the blades, of what seemed to be plantlife. He made sure to put them back exactly where she'd left them. He went to bed but not to sleep, wondering and worrying.
The second sign was the coughing. That, and the way she was so careful about trying to hide it. He could still hear her lung-rattling coughs over the roar of the hair dryer, and his heart ached. He could picture her, her whole body wracked with coughs, desperately trying to fulfill her job, to not break her role. God, this was his fault, wasn't it? He was her senpai, so she was trying to follow his example from back when he'd had his cold. She was trying to not let whatever was wrong with her interfere with her mission. He was glad that he could make tea, if nothing else. If she noticed that he always put honey in hers, she didn't say anything. Setsu just smiled at him and cooed about how he was such a caring nii-san.
The third sign was the mysterious appearance of the lotus bouquets. It was clear that she was hiding an illness from him, but he could not for the life of him understand how it connected to the flowers. Part of him wondered if it was connected at all - if maybe she was using the pun on his name to help him remember who he was. Or at least, who she thought he was. For a time, he let himself believe that the flowers were just a sweet effort from his omamori.
He was in that hazy, half-awake, half-dreaming state, sometime around three in the morning, when she shot upright out of a deep sleep. The coughs came quick and deep, shaking her bed as she grabbed her scissors and darted to the bathroom, desperately trying to muffle them. She must have thought he was asleep, so she didn't bother to turn on the hair dryer. He could hear every muffled cough that wracked her body, could hear her making small noises of pain between them. Then, there was the sound of her scissors cutting through something, and the coughing stopped abruptly. When she emerged from the bathroom a few minutes later with a bouquet of lotuses, he figured out that he was dreaming.
The next morning, when she set their breakfast down next to the bouquet, he realized that it was real.
He didn't get a chance to ask her about it until Guam. He hesitated at first, knowing how much he risked talking to her like this… but he needed to know what was happening. And she had always talked to Corn.
"It's good to see Kyoko-chan again," he said, hating how he had to lie to her. Wishing that she would talk to Tsuruga-senpai as easily as she did with Corn. "But what's wrong? Are you sick?"
"What do you mean, Corn?" When had her face gotten so sunken?
"I didn't mean to, but some of your memories - you were coughing a lot." He wanted to reach out to her, to comfort her, but to touch her might be to break her. Had she always been this small?
"But Corn, didn't you… didn't you see anything else?" Her skin was so pale, it was almost translucent. Where had her vigor gone?
"It was blurry." He pulled out a shade of the puppy-dog eyes. "Please won't you tell me?"
"It's called Hanahaki."
His blood ran cold.
Kyoko was in love with someone, and it was killing her. She could die.
Her voice, that voice he loved, the voice that had called him back from the brink, cut through his terrified thoughts. "I'm… I either get the surgery, and I can really never love again, not even Maria-chan and Moko-san, or… or I die."
"Or they could love you back," he offered, voice cracking.
First Rick, now Kyoko, a horrible voice intoned in his mind.
A hoarse laugh devoid of humor accompanied her words. "It's not possible. They have… they have someone else."
"Who is it?" I can help, if I know. I have to help. I can't let her die. I can't lose her, too.
"Please don't make me say what you already know, Corn. I know you saw it." She was speaking to her knees now, but he heard her well enough.
"Is it your 'prince' from before?" I'm going to kill him - no, I'm going to beat him into realizing he's an ass for making her suffer like this.
She snorted. "Please. If it was Sho, I would've been hacking them up since before we met for the first time."
He couldn't help the relief that flooded his veins. Not Fuwa. Good. He could stomach someone who wasn't Fuwa, for her sake. "Then who?"
She finally looked up at him, her too-big eyes brimming with tears. "Let's please not talk about this, Corn. I - I just want to enjoy however much time I have with you. Please."
He agreed, if only to try to make her as happy as he could until he lost her forever. But he was selfish, horribly selfish, and still used the curse as an excuse for a kiss. Because she was dying, dying because she was in love. Because he needed to know what it was like, just once, to kiss her. Because he wanted to take a chance that it could be him. So he'd stolen a proper kiss, just in case, and flipped away to become Cain.
But that evening, he heard her coughing when Setsu went to 'blow dry her hair.' And he knew that until he figured out who it was, there was nothing he could do but sit there and listen to the woman he loved choke on the flowers that numbered her days.
When Lory had shown him the Fuwa picture, he hadn't felt the same anger he would have had the situation been different. The ass was a problem, sure, but Kyoko wouldn't lie to Corn. So instead of whatever reaction Lory must have expected, he asked, "Did you know that she's sick?"
His godfather looked at him for a moment, a deep sadness in his eyes. "I know."
"Do you know who-"
"I can't tell you, my boy," he interrupted, looking as if each word pained him. "I promised her that I would not tell anyone who it is back when I met with her about it. There is nothing I can do."
"But she's dying." He felt the familiar sensation of panic threatening to close his throat, and forced himself to take a few deep, steady breaths. The type of breaths that she could no longer take, given the roots growing in her lungs. "Boss, please. I need to know - I could help, talk her up to them." I would rather lose her to someone else than lose her forever. I'll deal with dying inside watching her be in love if it means she won't really die.
"I know it's not me, Boss, but I can't - I can't lose her." He hung his head, unable to face the pity in Lory's eyes. "I don't know if I could… what I would do…."
Lory watched him for a moment, knowing the answer. If he lost her now, Kuon would die, leaving only Ren. A shadow with no source, a mask with nothing behind it. Rick's death had shattered him into puzzle pieces. Kyoko's would grind the pieces to dust. "Be there for her. I can't tell you - I swore that I would not. But be there for her, and you will know in time."
"Will it be?" He looked back up at him then, looking younger and older than his age all at once. "Will it be in time?"
We can only hope, Lory thought, but his mouth said yes.
She was avoiding him. He couldn't blame her, but he couldn't stand to be away from her, either. He needed to clear up the Kana issue, needed to figure out why she had reacted that way to the dandelion ring - was it because it was a flower? - and needed to apologize for how he'd acted in the car. He'd seen her being friendly with Fuwa, and (either due to worry or his recent lack of sleep) asked far too caustically why she wasted her time on him. He hadn't meant it like that, not really, but he couldn't help but wonder why she would spend any of her precious, numbered moments on someone who treated her so poorly. He had no excuse for acting like that, even if it made his blood boil to see the bastard anywhere near her. So no, he couldn't blame her. But he also couldn't let her keep avoiding him.
Especially if his other theory about the dandelion ring was right. And the chicken had said to confess to her - well, he hadn't told the chicken everything. Hanahaki was a rare disease, and he didn't want to give the chicken too many details. But maybe, just maybe, she had gotten mad about the dandelion ring because she thought he was a playboy doing something meaningless. Because she wanted it to mean something. And maybe Corn's kiss, his confession, hadn't done the trick because she thought that Corn was someone else entirely.
It was a long shot, but it was one he needed to take, and that was why, finally, they were in the elevator. He pinned her in place, panting. "How can you run that fast with those things growing in your lungs?"
"What?" she squeaked, and he remembered that she had told Corn that, not Ren. He found he didn't care. She could figure it out, and he wouldn't care, as long as she was okay. As long as he could help her. Keep her alive.
"Hanahaki, Kyoko, please -" he cut himself off when she curled in on herself, covering her ears. She was scared. He hated scaring her, but…. If there's the smallest chance that it's me, I can't let her die. He crouched down and gently pried her fingers off her ears. "Please, can we talk somewhere?"
"I don't want to hear it," she whispered.
That hurt, but not as badly as her lungs and throat must. Not as badly as the thought of losing her did. "Please, Kyoko," he begged, barely aware that he was using her given name.
"Don't call -" A cough cut her off, giving him some hope that maybe, after this, she would be okay. That he could help her.
"Mogami-san, five minutes. We can go talk in my dressing room. And then we can never talk about it again, if you want. Please." I can't lose you. I can't let you die. He couldn't bring himself to let go of her hands. They were so small.
"Fine," she choked out, and he could breathe again. "Five minutes."
He helped her stand, then finally let go of her hands. It took everything in him to not scoop her up and carry her there himself. God, she looked so pale - so weak. How was she managing Momiji in this state? Fortunately, the walk to his dressing room was a short one. Once they were there, she sat down, and he sank to his knees in front of her. "Who is it? Please," he whispered. If it was someone else, he could help. He would find a way. If it was him….
"Why?" He couldn't read her expression beyond its basic distress.
"Why, what?" His fingers twitched; he ached to bring them up to cradle her face, to touch her, to remind himself that she was still here and alive.
"Why are you asking me? Why do you want to know?"
If he didn't know her better, he would have thought she was being difficult on purpose. But no, she truly didn't get it. "Because if I can help -"
She interrupted, "You already have Morizumi-san -"
"Who?" he asked, thrown for a loop. Her director?
"Don't play with me. The ring, you gave her a ring, put it on her finger and wished her good luck. Morizumi Kimiko." A new type of pain flashed in her eyes.
He managed to clear that up, pointing out the inconsistencies in that viper's story, her way of twisting words. Until finally, finally, she let him say, "Kyo- Mogami-san, please. If… If I can ease your suffering at all - I want you to know. It was never her, it was never Kana-san. It's been you for a long time." Longer than even I know. Please, please, anyone out there - please. He glanced down, then met her wide eyes again. Please, Kyoko, please don't misunderstand. This is life and death. Please. "I've been… I've been in love with you this whole time. You, and no one else."
He saw it click behind her eyes for one glorious moment before she doubled over, coughing harder than he had ever heard her. He caught her when she fell off her chair, terrified. Had he messed up? Had forcing her to listen to his confession made her worse? He held her as upright as he could, hoping to help her breathe. Any other time, he might have focused on the softness of her body, how well it fit against his own. But now, all he could feel were the tremors wracking her, the desperate way she wheezed between coughs, and - most horrifically - the way her body heaved as slowly, blue cornflowers forced their way out of her mouth. It wasn't until a different type of wheeze filled the otherwise silent room that he realized that the flower had its roots attached.
The roots were still attached to the flower.
The roots were no longer in her lungs
She was going to be okay.
The tears he had been holding back since he had learned of her condition spilled out as she picked up the flower. And then, after a beat, she flung herself off of him, her face beet red.
"Tsuruga-san?" she asked, surprised to find him in tears.
"Mogami-san," he choked. "You're okay?" When she nodded, he asked, needing to hear her say it, "It's over, then? The Hanahaki. You're going to be okay?"
"Yes. The roots… the roots are out. I'm okay."
"Thank God." He knew better than to hold her the way he wanted to, even knowing now that she loved him back - and boy, had that not really sunk in yet. So instead, he held out his hand, taking her hand when she offered him the flower. He lifted her pinky finger to his lips and kissed it. Her blush spread to the tips of her ears, but she let her finger stay in his hand when he lowered it. "I'm so glad that you're okay." A pang of guilt hit him when he saw her swallow against the pain in her throat. "And I'm so sorry for letting you suffer like this."
"Eh? No!" She sat up, protesting the way he should have expected her to do. "You didn't know. And I didn't say anything, either. I didn't - I thought you had someone. And I didn't want to guilt you into anything just because I was sick. And I'm… I'm not sure if I'm ready to actually… be together. Despite what the flowers might suggest. I don't think I'd be able to focus on anything else."
He felt oddly relieved hearing that, his pinky finger curling more securely around hers. "I'm not either, really. I have a goal to achieve, before I can be in a relationship. But I'm glad I told you now." He used his free hand to wipe away the last of his tears, then admitted softly, "I was so scared for you. Of losing you." But he couldn't quite bring himself to voice the rest: Of being the reason you died. I wish I could have taken your place, suffered in your stead. I wish that this never had to happen to you.
"I'm okay now," she said, giving him a small smile that made his heart ache. "I promise."
And because she was, so was he.
Boom, done! :) Opinions?