This was written for Ekevka for the 2023 Battleship Bingo on AO3.
At this point, Amelia knew that her ribs must have broken in the crash landing. Every time she coughed, a spasm of agony shot through her side, jostling the injury from the inside. And somehow, that wasn't the most concerning thing about her coughing fits.
Every time she coughed, petals came up as well.
As she looked down at the handkerchief the doctor had given her, she felt the urge to correct herself. They weren't petals, not anymore. They were flowers, purple with black centers random white spots. Perhaps they would be pretty if they hadn't come out of her. They weren't the sort of flower that would have been found in her mother's gardens, but it wasn't like Amelia had ever wanted a life centered amongst the perfectly-manicured flowerbeds, filled with identical roses.
Perhaps the petals would be pretty if they weren't covered in her blood and phlegm.
Delbert looked at her with... it wasn't pity, that much Amelia could tell, but she couldn't quite parse the expression on his face. "I don't want to interfere with your personal life - not more than Jim and I already have, anyways - but you really should tell them, once we get back to civilization."
"Doctor, what are you talking about?"
"I, um, I thought you'd know about this, that they would've gone over this in military training, since it's a surprisingly common disease that can be found on different planets, typically the more humid ones -"
She cut him off with a glare. Perhaps there was an occasion when his rambling would be endearing, but it wasn't this one.
"Right," he said. "Getting to the point. The disease is called hanahaki. The infection is harmless unless you harbor unspoken romantic feelings. Don't look at me like that; I don't understand the medical reasoning behind it either. With most strains, if you tell them your feelings, the flowers will clear up within an hour or two. If you don't tell them, well, there is a surgery, but last I heard it caused heart damage. Physically, not just emotional heartbreak. I imagine it's better than choking to death, which would happen if someone didn't remove the flowers somehow."
"Unfortunately, there are some strains where your declaration of love needs to be reciprocated. If they aren't, well. Like I said, there's surgery now. But I wouldn't worry about that, if I were you. Whomever they are, I imagine they're lucky to have you."
Right. Whomever they were. Perhaps Amelia could go tell them once she knew who the apparent object of her affections was.
"I've heard that the type of flower can help indicate the identity of whom you're pining for. It sounds silly, but this disease does defy logic. Not that I'm trying to pry, of course."
It wasn't like she had many clues to figure out whom she cared a torch for, so Amelia held her hand out to him, palm facing up so that Delbert could see the flowers. "Based on these, what do you think of the torch I'm carrying?"
His face went through several micro-expressions. If she were in less pain, she probably could have pinpointed them. "Ah, well, that appears to be Petunia Cultivars. Galaxy flowers, or night sky petunias, in laymen's tongue. I imagine that they're a fellow spacer, then? A freelancer, or someone in the navy?"
A coughing fit saved her from having to answer. That didn't actually help. The person she had been closest to ever since joining the navy had been Mr. Arrow. She would have gladly spent the rest of her life with him, but her feelings for him had been strictly platonic. He had been her dearest friend. He still was. Before he had died, he had known the depth of her friendship, so there was no use asking the doctor if there were any platonic strains of hanahaki.
So she was pining for someone who had a deep connection to the stars. A fellow spacer was most likely, but Amelia couldn't think of any who had caught her eye recently. Perhaps the doctor was wrong about their occupation, but who else would hold such a knowledge of the stars? Not unless...
Cue Amelia's increasingly-delirious attempts at flirting!
Night sky petunias are a real flower, and quite beautiful. They also come in dark pink, but I liked the look of purple ones better so I went with those in the fic.
I imagine that Delbert was expecting that if anyone got hanahaki for him, they'd probably cough up a brown orchid, such as a Tracy's orchid or a boat orchid. Orchids are known for being fragile flowers, and on an out-of-universe note, these orchids also match his whole aesthetic.