Katsuki wasn’t going to cry.
He knew as much, because he’d spent the whole of the previous night silently sobbing in his pillow like an especially weak toddler in the most pathetic display he’d allowed himself since before his quirk had first manifested, so he knew, he knew he wasn’t going to cry. He was too tired to cry, too drained and faded, and no tears were left inside his ducts anyway.
He wasn’t going to cry.
Sitting cross-legged on the floor of Kirishima’s room, chest heavy and throat constricting for more than one reason, Kirishima looking at him with a confused smile and open, bright, beautiful eyes full of subtle concern, he still found himself needing to take a steading breath to hold himself together. Despite how he’d promised himself he wasn’t going to cry, and how determined he was to keep that word more than any other ever before.
He knew he must have looked ill, between the bags under sunken eyes and the rattle shaking his chest with every inhale and exhale cycle he went through, and that was the only reason why he didn’t tear Kirishima a new one for the obvious apprehension written all over him - he was ill, after all. He’d been doing his best to hide it for weeks, by then, but at that point it would have been useless to try any longer: it was the reason why he was there, in the end. That whole story had gone on far longer than it should have to begin with, and now he was paying the consequences of it.
But he wouldn’t cry, he’d promised himself he wouldn’t.
He took another steadying breath in, straightened his back and squeezed his eyes shut, and when he opened them again Kirishima was still looking at him, his position mirroring Katsuki’s own nearly perfectly, a tooth biting his lips as he did his best to hold back from questioning and prodding. His hair was a worse mess than usual, a nest of tangles and cowlicks shooting in every direction, and paired with the loose shirt and shorts he wore to bed it made obvious how he’d just woken up - Katsuki had known he’d been asleep before he had knocked on his door, how could he have not, it was barely past seven in the morning on a blessedly free Sunday, even bright-and-early Kirishima Eijirou would have still been far lost in dreamland at such an ungodly hour.
The matter was pressing to Katsuki, though, the time spent waiting already too much, and Kirishima had needed just one look at him after opening his door before stepping aside and letting him in. He looked soft, right then, and warm and beautiful and inviting, open in his clear acceptance of anything Katsuki might have been there to lay on him, and Katsuki was in love with him.
He loved him.
And it was killing him.
The universe could be especially cruel, Katsuki had come to realize.
“I’m sick,” he said, keeping his eyes on Kirishima’s widening ones. They were the first words he’d voiced since he’d crossed the room’s threshold, and, when he let himself really think about it, they might have been the first words he’d spoken to him for far longer than that, too - all Kirishima did after hearing them was smile at him, though, a little crooked, obviously exasperated. No teasing in his voice when he answered, no accusations or requests to explain himself.
“I can see that,” he said with a small laugh, and Katsuki found himself nodding a little, tried to suppress the tickle in the back of his throat the smile directed at him produced.
He wasn’t going to start spitting flowers right then, in the middle of Kirishima’s room as he tried to have that long overdue conversation with him. He simply refused.
“I’ve been sick for a while,” he forced himself to continue instead, making his voice as steady as he could manage, exuding a confidence he could feel nowhere inside his aching chest. He’d been sick for weeks, months, gradually getting worse each minute turning into hours turning into days, trying to convince himself that he could make it go away, if only he tried hard enough, if only he shut it out and put a lid on it and stopped entertaining ideas and dreams that had no hope of ever turning real.
He’d been so sure he could will it away, the way his heart clenched every time red filled his view.
Again, Kirishima only smiled, a sad approximation of his usual sunny grin, his eyes moving away from Katsuki’s face and down to his lap where he was wringing his hands, obviously stressed, weighing his words.
“I... know,” he settled on, hesitant as he shot Katsuki a glance from under his lashes, sighed and moved to look at the wall they shared with each other, “it’s a cough, right? A pretty bad one. I can hear you, when I’m here and you’re in your room.”
And Katsuki hadn’t looked healthy for weeks, anyway. He’d known Kirishima must have been aware of it to an extent, just like everyone else in their class must have as well, so his words didn’t surprise him as much as they amused him, in a sadly hilarious way.
A cough, huh? He wished it was that easy. He could have lived with it, had it been a cough.
“Something like that,” he sighed, “but it’s-,” he swallowed, for the first time since the beginning of the conversation looked away, “it’s fucking fine, I spoke to Recovery Girl.”
He had, now months before, right after spitting the first, strikingly red petal.
It had been lodged between his lungs and throat for days before coming up high enough to be coughed out, and Katsuki remembered he’d regarded it with a sick kind of fascination after finding it in his palm - wet with spit and still velvety soft, he’d held it before his eyes unsure about what he’d been looking at for minutes on end, before getting up and heading to the infirmary to demand to know what was going on.
Hanahaki, Recovery Girl had called it. It was just Katsuki’s luck, that the intensity with which he felt all his emotions would translate into a love that could and would murder him.
He’d been told to confess and hope for the best, but to keep in mind that surgery was always an option in case of the worst scenario turning reality - the effects of both the disease and the surgery had been explained to him through a collected voice and a somber expression, detailed and exhaustive like Katsuki had demanded, and then he’d been sent on his way, a promise to keep his check-ups frequent being pulled from his tight jaw and clenched fists to marry his stiff back.
He’d been told it was either death or memory loss, and Katsuki had been weighing the choice between those doomed fates ever since.
He never wanted to forget Kirishima, the thought of it enough to pull back the tears he’d just barely managed to will away, but he also knew the chances of being loved back were slim enough to be easily considered null. Kirishima was kind, a warm and positive energy influencing and changing every space he occupied - Katsuki’s violence and explosive drive were just enough to gift him the position of close friend. A partner in crime, or a pair of eyes to reliably trust with his back, but nothing more, never anything more.
He’d made peace with it as soon as he’d considered the option of confessing, the best case scenario simply wasn’t in the cards for him. Though it had hurt, he had let go of that pipe dream as easily as it was done bitterly.
There was one thing Katsuki would never willingly pull his hands away from, though. One thing he refused to look away from despite how bright everything else around it might have looked, how eye-catching and intriguing it might have seemed. One thing that alone defined him, in his past and present and whatever future he might have lived to make his own.
Katsuki was going to become the number one hero.
Willingly dying before then when he could do something to avoid it would mean dying another man. Betraying the very core he’d built his notion of himself around to the point of turning unrecognizable. Dying miserable, and alone, and the shell of everything he’d always believed he was.
Katsuki couldn’t have that. For however much it might have hurt, he would never have that.
“I’m getting surgery as soon as I leave here.”
Before him, Kirishima’s eyes widened as he snapped his head around to look at him, surprise and confusion and panic painting a striking picture on his features, strong lines contrasting with the softness of his early-morning mess in a manner that nearly had Katsuki snort through the agitation warring inside his chest. The tickle in the back of his throat came back twice as strong in answer to the display, and once more Katsuki forced it down, swallowed on it and breathed slow and steady.
“Sur- what do you mean surgery?” Kirishima gasped, jumping up from his cross-legged position to crawl closer to Katski’s space, “it’s just a cough, isn’t it? A persistent one but just a cough anyway, right? You’re just- you’re not- is it lung cancer? From all the smoke your explosions make?” and Katsuki did snort at the distressed way he said so, eager and earnest in his confused panic, but before he could tell him he got it wrong a new wave of coughing shook his shoulders, bent him forward, had him choking on his spit as he tried to force his breathing under control.
Kirishima was by his side in an instant, a hand rubbing soothing circles on his back and the other holding his fringe away from his forehead, and Katsuki wanted to tell him that he didn’t need to support his weight and hold him up as if he were going to puke his guts out, but the flowers in the back of his throat were coming up higher and higher with each new cough shaking his chest and he might as well, he might as well have been about to throw up, and it was the last thing he wanted or needed. He pushed both his hands to his mouth to keep it shut, pretended not to hear Kirishima telling him to stop trying to hold it back, that his stubbornness would only hurt him that much more, and when the taste of petals and pollen invaded his mouth he clenched his teeth, held it back, forced his gag reflex to behave, for one goddamn time.
Swallowing a whole flower he’d just thrown up in his own mouth must have been the most disgusting thing Katsuki had ever done in his life.
As he gulped in deep, rattled breaths, he considered himself lucky this time around only one had decided to come up.
“I’m good,” he said, and then he repeated it again when the rasp in his voice turned the syllables incomprehensible, “I’m good, it’s not-” he took a breath in, pushed Kirishima away with a weak shove of his arm, “it’s not lung cancer, it’s not a damn cancer.”
When he turned to look at him, he found Kirishima’s lashes wet with unshed tears, his posture tense, his lips red where he’d been trying to chew through them in his distress. Katsuki didn’t want him to worry, had never wanted to cause him any kind of emotion that’d make him look like that - it was the reason why he’d done his best to keep his illness a secret, why he’d waited so long to sit down with him and tell him what was going on.
And the fact that what he was about to tell him would just make him feel worse, Katsuki hated that as well. How every possible turn he could take would always bring to a distressed Kirishima despite it being the one thing he’d always hated to see the most, Katsuki despised it.
Kirishima would be sad if Katsuki confessed and let him figure out the illness was because of him, he’d be sad if he let himself die without ever opening his mouth about it at all, he’d be sad if Katsuki went and undertook the surgery without first warning him of its effects.
At the very least, Katsuki wanted this conversation with him to mean something. To do as much damage control as it possibly could.
He straightened up, turned to lay his tired body against the frame of Kirishima’s bed, and Kirishima let him with hovering hands, worry still etched all over him as he settled by his side. With heavy-lidded eyes, Katsuki watched him search for words he didn’t have, and through a sigh he nudged him with a shoulder, gathered his wandering attention back on himself. “Listen carefully, idiot, ‘cause this is important, and I can’t have your dumbass getting distracted in the middle of it,” and when Kirishima nodded he closed his eyes, let his head tilt up to lay on the soft camo quilt he’d always found more comfortable than he should have.
He wondered, distantly, if he’d get to lay on it ever again after that day. But still he wasn’t, he wasn’t going to cry.
“After the surgery, I won’t remember who you are.”
It was what hurt the most, when Katsuki let himself be honest about it. Had he been told his romantic feelings for Kirishima would disappear, had he been warned surgery would take away his ability to love altogether, Katsuki wouldn’t have found it as hard a decision to make as he had - had that been the case, he wouldn’t have stalled months as his insides bled and died, as his feelings grew with the ivy strangling his heart and lungs between its pressing vise.
But surgery would take away his best friend. The only person who’d ever truly understood him, and wanted him for who he was, exactly the way he was. It would make him forget how it felt to be accepted and cherished, to have a place where he could let go and be himself without the fear of being rejected ever darkening his moods.
It would take away home, that surgery. He’d be alive, but without a place to belong.
It tore him apart more than words could ever express.
By his side, Kirishima stiffened to the point of his hardening covering the outer layer of his skin, and when he turned around Katsuki did his best to meet him with a steady stare, forced his own hurt down to avoid amplifying the panic widening red eyes. “...what?”
“It’ll take away my memories of you, I won’t remember you,” Katsuki made himself repeat, the flower he’d made himself swallow earlier sitting heavy in his stomach, “only- only you. It’ll be just you.”
It took a moment for Kirishima to find his voice again, and as he struggled through understanding what he’d just heard Katsuki saw his lips stretch in a lopsided grin, strained and pained, the thought of it being just a prank for sure coming up in his head to deal with the weight of what Katsuki was telling him. Still it was short lived, because Katsuki wasn’t one for that kind of jokes, Kirishima knew as much, knew he’d never laugh about something like that - not when he looked that ill, not when he’d just about hacked up a lung in the middle of his room’s floor.
“You’re not kidding,” he predictably breathed, the sentence sounding more like a prayer for Katsuki to tell him he was wrong, to laugh in his face and call him gullible and childlike. Katsuki only shook his head, though, and the moment Kirishima’s expression shattered he did his best to breath slowly, keep both tears and coughing down and away.
“Is it a quirk? If it’s a quirk there has to be another way to-!”
“It’s not a quirk,” Katsuki sighed, having expected a reaction of the kind already, but Kirishima only pressed on, voice so tight and frantic it made obvious how fast his thoughts must have been running.
“Then it’s- is it- in your brain? Or something? I don’t- how does-” he pushed his hands between his hair, the mess becoming even more of a nest through his stressed pulling, and Katsuki more than anything wanted to reach out and touch him, but he knew that if he did the flowers in his chest would just grow faster and stronger, and he was already so stupidly short on time.
He’d been such an idiot, to wait as long as he had.
“Promise me you’ll befriend me again,” he pushed out, finally voicing the main reason why he’d stopped by Kirishima’s dorm before dragging his heavy body to the infirmary to deal with it once and for all. And he knew it was selfish, he knew it was stupid too - what with how inevitable it felt to love Kirishima, with how impossible it would be for him to not end up in that same position all over again in time a year, because his love would burn with the same intensity each time and each time it’d be strong enough to choke him to death, he knew, he knew, it was inevitable like the sun dying each day to be reborn the next, he knew.
“Promise me,” he said anyway, working with all his stubborn willpower to hold back the traitorous tears he shouldn’t have had any more of anyway, “promise me you’ll do it all again, Kirishima.”
It was a long, silent moment as Kirishima looked at him, his searching eyes wet and shining, full to the brim with confused hurt, and Katsuki let him hold his gaze without shying away from the contact, one rattled breath in, one rasped breath out.
“Why... me?” he said in the end, voice small enough to barely be audible, “why is it going to be only me?”
And how was Katsuki supposed to answer that? Because he was the best thing to have ever crossed his path? Because a single one of his smiles was enough to power hundreds of his days? Because he was all that was good in the world, and everything Katsuki had never known he wanted, and the only one he could ever see walking by his side?
Because he was the sun, bright and warm and bringing life to everything his rays touched, and flowers bloomed thanks to him, and Katsuki was just unfortunate enough to be the soil those seeds had decided to take root in.
Though, as hysterical as it was, he wouldn’t have changed the road they'd taken to reach that point for anything in the world.
“It just is,” he settled on, an unsatisfying answer that sparked the first hint of anger in the cherry-red eyes still looking at him - Katsuki had guessed it wouldn’t be well received, but before he could open his mouth again Kirishima was fully turned towards him, up to his knees and leaning over him, one hand planted on the mattress behind Katsuki’s head and the other waving wide and stressed.
“So why the coughing! What does the coughing have to do with memory, or with- or with me, I don’t get it! Explain it to me, Bakugou, because I don’t-!” he took a deep breath in, and Katsuki was looking up at him, wide-eyed and heavy in his chest, but when the first tear fell from his eyes it still took him a moment to understand what he was seeing, “I don’t get it.”
Slowly, one of Katsuki’s hands rose to clutch at the hem of Kirishima’s shirt, tight till his knuckles turned white with the strength of it, and there were thorns in his throat when he forced words out, flowers in full bloom pushing his heart against his ribs.
“Please, Kirishima,” he rasped, begged without any shame left in him, because Kirishima was crying for him, at the prospect of losing him, and his chest ached like it never had before, “promise me.”
It felt like it happened in slow motion, though it might have been the lack of air reaching Katsuki’s lungs because of the illness that was making his brain lag behind and turn time into molasse. Kirishima reaching both his hands out to cradle his face, thumbs rubbing under his eyes and making Katsuki realize he’d started crying, after all, despite how much he’d told himself he wouldn’t. And then those same hands leaving his face to wrap around his body, pulling him in against a strong chest, between comforting arms he never thought he’d get to feel so close, so present, tight enough around his ribcage to make him believe his bones might have just been about to snap, and oh, how Katsuki cherished that feeling.
How he wished he could remember it, later that day and for the rest of his life.
His crying was growing stronger, he realized distantly, but the longer Kirishima refused to let him go the more his chest and throat reminded him of how little time he had left, of how much he was only hours away from losing, and sobbing all over his best friend was the last of his problems, right then. Especially so since he wouldn’t even remember it.
“I would even if you didn’t ask me,” Kirishima rasped, nose sunk in blond hair and voice barely a strained whisper, “I know you’re smart, so you must have- you must have thought this through, and I don’t know why- I don’t know why you don’t want to tell me what’s going on, but-” he inhaled, stuttered as he pushed the wet breath out, “I will never, ever let you go, Bakugou.”
Katsuki had tried looking the flower up, back when the petals had just started growing, but he’d consistently come up empty handed for however many hours he’d wasted searching. It was red, it was bright, it had no thorns and smelled like the sun, like earth and water and a clear summer night deep in the woods - Katsuki had never been good with plants and flowers, their names and species only sticking in his brain if they had a chance of ever helping him survive, but it hadn’t taken a botanist to figure out the plant had been made up by Katsuki’s body itself. A personification of his feelings, a physical shape for everything Kirishima had always made bloom in his chest.
Held between his arms and with his rasped words echoing in his mind, Katsuki felt that flower grow bigger in his ribcage, sturdier, heavier.
Of course, he thought as a new wave of coughing hit him hard and relentless, of course he’d fall in love deeper just hours before forgetting the man. Of course Kirishima would find a way to make it even harder to let go when Katsuki was already that close to the end goal. As his shoulders shook and his breaths came out choked and wet, he tried to use the little strength he had to push Kirishima away, bend forward and away to hide whatever petal might have escaped his lips, but the arms around him remained steady in their hold, one hand on the back of his head, the other rubbing his back soothing.
Such a steady and reliable presence, Kirishima. The only one Katsuki would ever trust to see him in that state, and hold him, and cradle him like he was something precious, something fragile.
Katsuki loved him so much.
He was so damn in love with him.
He didn’t want to lose him, he didn’t want to let him go.
He just wanted to keep holding him.
When the fit finally stopped, he wasn’t sure whether the tears streaking his cheeks were from crying or his failed attempts at breathing any longer - everything hurt, his back, his chest, his arms and abs and throat and head, pulsing vicious and making him nauseous. Three blooms and numerous petals had fallen from his lips that time around, wet and dirty with spit stained with blood, and Katsuki had half a mind of trying to hide them for a short, ridiculous second, but even that far gone he knew a lost cause when he saw one. There was no way Kirishima hadn’t seen them with how brightly colored they were, or felt them falling in his lap and on the skin of his arms with how damp and heavy they had grown to be.
He’d promised himself two things before knocking on that door, Katsuki, and both had been met with a spectacular, pathetic failure.
He couldn’t even bring himself to be happy he wouldn’t remember anything about it by the end of the day.
“Flowers…?” Kirishima asked after a silent beat, reaching around Katsuki’s body to pick up the one that had rolled away from them. He brought it up to examine it, then frowned down at it, at Katsuki now watching him through lidded, red eyes, still leaning against him with a resigned expression and heavy limbs. “Did you-,” he started, but soon closed his mouth again, stopped to frown at the bloom as if it held all the answers he was looking for - and, in a sense, it did. He just didn’t have the right key to read it.
Maybe, maybe it was time for Katsuki to finally hand it to him.
“I really don’t- I… you know I’m not smart, Bakugou,” Kirishima settled on in the end, sounding halfway between exasperated and once more panicked, and Katsuki was about to gather all his strength just to yell at him about needing to stop saying that kind of shit about himself, but Kirishima only kept going, eyes still focused on the bloom in his hand, "I'm not like you, or- or Kaminari who knows all sort of random things, but this- I don't-" he huffed, looked back to Katsuki with pleading eyes, "are you sure this isn't a quirk?"
"I told you, it's fucking not," Katsuki made himself say, finally moving back and away from his warm chest to instead lean his weight against the bed, "Recovery Girl said it's not a damn quirk."
"But- you just spit flowers! There's flowers in you! It can't be a normal illness!" he wailed, once again jumping up to his knees and looking at Katsuki from above, confused, distressed, one step away from starting pacing, "and they're- they'll make you forget? About me? How is this- I don't-!"
"It's cause they're for you," Katsuki interrupted him with a deep, tired sigh, wishing he could just crawl back between his arms and sink there for the rest of his life, "my body is producing them for you, so forgetting you will make it stop," thought it was the other way around, really, but Katsuki's mind felt too sluggish to try and explain to Kirishima a concept he himself couldn't yet fully understand.
The flowers were his feelings, and his feelings existed because of the memories he shared with Kirishima - every second spent with him was a new petal blooming for him, and each flower forcibly removed was a memory that needed to be uprooted. Katsuki had guessed and pondered, back at the beginning of it all, if had he not loved Kirishima as thoroughly and completely, everything about him and all he could ever be, if he'd have been allowed to at least keep the memories of those little things about him he wasn't smitten with. If he could have kept at least a bit of him, when everything was said and done.
He didn't know how much he'd have been okay with only remembering the sides of Kirishima he didn't like him for, though.
He couldn't even begin to imagine what side of Kirishima that might have been, really.
"They're… for me?"
When Katsuki turned to look at him, Kirishima's eyes were unfocused and lost, stare left somewhere to the left of Katsuki's head as the new information settled in his brain, on his shoulders, in his guts. His expression was slowly shattering and turning horrified, the way his eyebrows pinched, his mouth frowned. With a sigh, Katsuki reached over to swat at his head, soft and fast, just to get his attention back from wherever it had wandered off to.
That was exactly why he had ruled out confessing from the get-go.
"They're for you, but they're not because of you," he said, slow and clear to make sure he was being understood, "it's not your fucking fault, stop looking like that."
He knew Kirishima had a tendency of blaming himself for every wrong in the world, so figuring this was where a confession would lead them to had barely required any brain power - but it wasn't Kirishima's fault if Katsuki was in love with him. It was no one's fault if his love wasn't requited.
"Recovery Girl said it's a recessive gene," he explained, because what did he have to lose, at that point? He was already hurting him, he was already about to lose him. Telling him the truth could barely make things any worse. "So it's more like a mutation, than a quirk. Something about this clan from generations ago and their plant-based quirks, or what the fuck ever - they could control plants through emotions and shit, and then they started marrying outside the clan and- whatever," he sighed in angry defeat, the strength for an impromptu history lesson nowhere to be found inside of him, "the point is that some unlucky fuckers descend from them now, and they carry a recessive gene that holds the whole plants-and-emotions bullshit still, and some even more unlucky assholes have-" the sudden tickle in his throat had him stopping to breath in deep, cough light in his elbow before forcing the rest of the words out with a grimace, "they have parents who both carry the gene, and in these fuckers there's a chance of it showing and fucking shit up, in case they have the tendency to feel strongly enough. And that unlucky fucker is me."
As always, because Katsuki had used up all his luck the day he'd been granted the quirk he had and he knew it. He'd known it for a while, and had never hated it as much as he did right then.
"So it's not your fucking fault, stop blaming yourself for it."
For a long minute, Kirishima just looked at him with a soft frown, the gears in his brain turning and working to help him understand what he'd just been told. Katsuki let him with the patience only a man who wished for every second to stretch forever could have, content with having an excuse to stay sitting by him for as long as he would be allowed to, and when Kirishima huffed and let himself fall against his bed frame, head thrown up and eyes on the ceiling, Katsuki let himself drink him in like a parched man with the last drops of water, hoping against everything he knew to be true that a part of him would manage to hold onto those memories despite the surgery, if only he impressed them hard enough in his mind, if only he burnt every curve and corner straight in the retinas of his eyes.
"I… still don't get it," Kirishima said in the end, and when Katsuki's sudden snort turned into a cough he pouted at him, soft lips and pink cheeks and eyes that held a whole universe of emotions, "shut up, dude, this is serious."
Like Katsuki had any chance of not knowing that already.
"What, Kirishima," he huffed, pretending he couldn't feel the vines in his chest growing from how beautiful a sight he painted alone, "what is it you still don't get."
He chewed at his lips as he thought his next words through, careful and considering, and then with a hand he pulled at his hair, frowned at his flooring. "You… feel a lot, Bakugou. You're always feeling things with more intensity than anyone else I know. But this… if this is a gene that's always been in you, and your emotions are the reason for it acting up, I don't- why- why because of me?"
"For you," Katsuki corrected without really thinking about it, harsh in the same way he was whenever Kirishima was unreasonably hard on himself, "not because of you, for you. I'm growing these for you."
"And I still don't get it!" Kirishima snapped, exasperated and angry and slowly falling into panic once more, "you're always angry at Midoriya with enough strength to move mountains, but you never had to forget about him to avoid dying from it, did you! So why me! Why is this only happening with me!"
It was the last leap before the void, just that. One last jump, and he wouldn't even need to remember how much the landing had hurt.
Katsuki knew he could do it.
"Because you don't grow flowers for the people you hate, dumbass," he said, feeling a new bloom lodge itself at the base of his throat, bigger than ever before, threatening to choke his words before he could finally let them out once and for all, "don't be an idiot, Kirishima, everyone knows who flowers are for."
And if only Katsuki could just deliver those flowers already, if he could see them accepted and cherished, his body would stop producing bigger and stronger and brighter ones in the hope of them finally being beautiful enough to be the right one. He could hold that flower out to Kirishima, and forever see it held between Kirishima's careful hands, and breathing would in the end come easy again.
If only, if only, if only.
His flowers just weren't the right kind, though. For however big and healthy they might be, it was no one's fault if their shape and color and scent weren't worthy of Kirishima's care. Katsuki had made peace with it, all he still needed was the strength to push up to his feet and throw all those flowers out once and for good.
To forget why he'd been growing them to begin with.
Slowly and carefully, he got up on trembling legs, one hand on the bed to hold his weight and eyes cast aside to avoid losing the little willpower he'd just barely managed to gather. The longer into the conversation they went, the tighter the hold Katsuki felt around his chest grew, the plants in his lungs working harder and faster the clearer it became that their efforts just weren't being enough - Katsuki could feel his heartbeat in his throat, and his breaths choking with each attempted lungful, and all he could smell was the scent of flowers and damp earth.
His time was running out, and he was keenly aware of it.
"I'll get them removed," he rasped, doing his best to not sway on unsteady feet, "you- remember the promise. Don't you fucking dare go back on it."
And if he was lucky enough, just once, just in that single instance throughout his whole life, the next time his flowers would take another shape, one Kirishima could love and hold dear, and that whole situation wouldn't need to repeat itself ever again.
Once he was sure he wouldn't topple right over, Katsuki took a careful step forward, ready to get out of there and be done with it all, but a hand grabbing at his shirt and pulling him back had him stumble and lose his balance, tilt too far backward before he could catch himself.
"Wait!" Kirishima shouted, but anything else he might have added fell quiet under the weight of Katsuki's body crashing onto his, the little strength he'd gathered leaving him a leap of tangled limbs and aching muscles.
"What the hell, Kirishima!"
"Sorry! Sorry, I didn't- mean-" he was pushed up to a sitting position once more, Katsuki, ever-so-careful through measured movements, but Kirishima's hands remained on him even after he'd found his balance again, holding him back, grounding him on the spot, "wait, don't- just wait."
And how was he supposed to ignore that request, when the next time he'd see those eyes after leaving the room he wouldn't know them any longer?
"What," he asked, strangled through a cough he was doing his best to hold back, and as Kirishima bit his lips he wondered stupidly how it'd feel to kiss them, only one time. If Kirishima would agree to it, had he asked as the last wish of a dying man.
He wasn't that pathetic, though, whatever the dried tears streaking his cheeks might have had to say on the matter.
"You said they're for me," Kirishima whispered, a tiny breath in the quiet of the room Katsuki could just barely make out properly, "you said you made them for me," and then, with cheeks inexplicably pink and a plead behind wet eyes, he choked, "is it... love? The feeling making flowers bloom in you?"
Katsuki didn't really have to answer, it was clear by that point that Kirishima knew already, had figured it out by himself, but he still shrugged, still couldn't hold his eyes as he huffed, "so what."
It was such a stupid thing, to be still afraid of rejection at that point - but the vines in him quivered through the silence anyway, and he knew, he knew that had he heard the apology that was for sure about to fall from Kirishima's lips, the easy let down through too kind words, there was a high chance the plants in him would have instantly doubled their efforts, stem after bud after petal after full bloom, strangling him and cutting his airways before Recovery Girl could do anything to help him.
He still didn't make any attempt to leave, though.
Didn't push Kirishima's hands off him, didn't shy away from his heat. Only one more second with him, a single one, it was all his aching heart was asking for: he wouldn't die, there was no way he'd be that weak.
He'd already come that far.
"So they're mine," Kirishima suddenly said, shattering Katsuki's train of thought and violently throwing him back in the present. He opened his mouth to ask him what the hell he meant, but Kirishima pushed forward fast, moving his head to once more catch Katsuki's eyes, hold them with a determination Katsuki hadn't seen make an appearance since that conversation had started, "so you can't- I'll take them. All of them, from you, because- because they're mine, right? They're mine, you said they're mine," he took a breath in, stuttered and rattled, and Katsuki wanted to ask him what he was talking about, what he was even trying to get at, but the sight of his red eyes shining and glimmering and dropping tears on his always redder cheeks had all of Katsuki's words die on his tongue, heavy like lead, like flowers clogging his airwaves and making it impossible for him to pull a full breath in.
"I'm not smart, and I still don't really get it, but you- you said you're making them for me, so there has to be a way for me to take them, right? A way to cure you that won't- that won't have you forget me, there has to be."
It was ridiculous, how Kirishima called himself stupid and at the same time figured it all out - but if Katsuki would have preferred him never knowing about the role his feelings played into it, he straight up refused to ever let him figure out that it was the way they were unrequited, that was really killing him.
Kirishima was too kind to not take the blame for that, and Katsuki could go into his surgery knowing anything, but not that, never that. He could never allow Kirishima to feel like that.
"It's not that easy-" he started, bone-tired both in posture and tone, but Kirishima only shook his head in immediate denial, his grip on Katsuki's shoulders growing stronger to the point of nearly beginning to hurt, hardened fingers, desperate stare.
"I'm not saying it's easy, but there must be a way! Any kind of way, for however hard or seemingly impossible, I'd do-" he took a breath in, held it as he shook with the strength of his emotions, "I'd do anything, Bakugou."
Katsuki wasn't sure what it was exactly in the display that made his chest tighten even further, his airways clogging and spasming, but suddenly he was bent in half, gasping for air and coughing till his lungs shook. When he opened his teary eyes, he found a jagged leaf waiting for him in his hand - damp and wrinkled, but deep green and alive, as wide as his shaking palm. The first he'd ever coughed out.
It was about to be too late.
"Don't say crap you can't mean, Kirishima," he huffed, gravelly tone on his voice imposed by how sore his throat felt, "you don't know shit."
He hadn't expected the reaction to his words to be a positive one, not in the least, but the punch he barely dodged was still more than he could have predicted. Startled, he threw himself to the side with the little agility he had left, and then grappled with Kirishima at the best of his abilities when he launched himself at him, a weak approximation of one of their sparring sessions, guided more by frightened feelings than any sort of rational thought.
"The fuck is wrong with you!" Katsuki shouted, pushing a palm against one of Kirishima's shoulders and detonating with enough strength to push him backwards - Kirishima only threw himself right back at him though, snarling, crying.
"That's my line! Why the hell aren't you fighting this! Why are you just letting this happen!" he wailed, blocking one of Katsuki's hands by his side and the other above his head, throwing all his weight down to hold him in place when Katsuki started to struggle, his lungs aching, his breaths never enough.
"I told you it's not that fucking easy! You think I like it? You think I enjoy the idea of losing you?" he shot right back, shoving and pushing with the little strength he still had left, "I told you I'm in love with you, you asshole, how could I be okay with this!"
Did he think he hadn't tried? Hadn't done his best to make his feelings disappear? No one could accuse him of not fighting back, not when he'd spent months enduring it as he searched for an alternate way, anything at all to keep his best friend by his side. Not when he'd been giving his all despite slowly dying from the inside a little more each passing second.
"Then how do you think I feel," Kirishima said, choked between his tears, wet and painful, "finding out the guy I love can't love me back unless I want him to die from it, how am I supposed to feel," and he was sobbing right then, gasped breaths and fat tears rolling along his cheeks, down his nose, dropping heavy on Katsuki's own skin as he stared wide-eyed at him, trying to process what he'd just heard, what he'd just been told.
"Finding out that you like me back was supposed to be the happiest moment of my life, you jackass, don't you dare tell me I'm wrong in wanting to find a way out of this."
Katsuki couldn't breathe.
He'd become accustomed to the feeling of it, by that point - the way his lungs spasmed, his throat constricted, his eyes watering as his body rebelled against him, he knew that feeling, he'd grown used to it.
It was a hundred times worse right then.
As the coughing started shaking his chest and shoulders, weakly he pushed at Kirishima's frame still prone above him, crawled up on both hands and knees to spasm and gag, spit and choke on his next inhale, stumble through an incomplete exhale. Distantly, he could hear Kirishima panicking by his side, his hand on his forehead, an arm circled around his midsection to hold him up, help him through his trembling. When the first flower fell from his parted lips, huge and bright and visibly bloody even through Katsuki's fogged sight, he barely had a second to be happy it was finally out before another started pushing to come up, and then another and one more still, petals and leaves falling between each one like a constant stream of choked breaths, too tight throat, scratched lungs - and he couldn't breathe, he couldn't breathe, Kirishima was calling his name and holding him up and Katsuki couldn't pull a full breath in to tell him it'd be fine, that he was strong enough to deal with it, it was just another fit, just another fit.
Then the first stem started coming up, long, too long, full of leaves and scratching his throat, and through ringing ears and an aching body Katsuki realized it wasn't. It wasn't just another fit.
"Bakugou? Bakugou, dude, holy shit-"
He felt hands holding him up, pushing him higher till he was on his knees, and then Kirishima's chest was pressed along his side and the stem was being pulled out, forcibly and too fast, tearing at his throat and freeing his lungs.
"I got you, I got you, I got you-"
It couldn't have taken more than a handful of seconds, logically, but to Katsuki it felt like hours, days, each and every moment spent with flowers growing in his chest condensed into less than a minute, Kirishima's heat on him and his hands pulling the vine from his lungs, painful in how freeing it felt, his heart lighter and lighter till it was beating strong and fast, more space around it than it knew what to make of.
When he could finally take a full breath in, Katsuki gulped air in so fast he choked on it, a new coughing fit tearing at the tender skin of his throat like a hundred stab wounds protesting at every movement he took, every swallow he forced it through, but still he relished in how his lungs could fully contract, how empty the space around them felt. He took another breath in as soon as his chest allowed of him, gulped down air and coughed it out, over and over till the transition became smoother, the closest approximation to a normal breathing cycle he'd managed since he'd first started spitting petals.
All the while, Kirishima remained by his side, held him up, rubbed soothing circles on his quivering back as he whispered calming words in his ringing ears.
Once he was sure he wouldn't start throwing up flowers again, Katsuki let his weight go completely to fully lean against him, allowed him to support him as his muscles unlocked and gave, his chest expanded heavy and laboured.
"Bakugou?" Kirishima whispered after a beat, hesitant and unsure, and when Katsuki hummed in reply, eyes still closed and lashes wet, he felt him relax under himself all in one go, as if a string had been cut, his legs giving and bringing Katsuki down with himself. "Dude, you scared the crap outta me!" he cried, throwing both his arms around Katsuki's frame to hold him tight and close, protective, "you just threw up a whole plant, man, vines and leaves and all, I thought you were gonna choke to death!"
He really had, Katsuki realized when he made himself open his eyes. On the floor of Kirishima's room, covered in spit and bile and blood, vines full of blooming flowers laid in a heap of tangled leaves, bright red and deep green, looking fresh out of a vivarium with how alive they still seemed.
Everything Katsuki had grown inside his chest for the past few months, laying on the floor right before them.
"It's yours," he rasped, closing his eyes and breathing in deep, "you said you wanted them, there they fucking are."
Because Kirishima had said he loved him. He'd said he would have done anything to keep him from forgetting, because he was in love with him. He was in love with him, and because of that he wanted all his flowers, and Katsuki's body had reacted to it by giving them to him, every last one for him, no holding back or trying harder.
Because Kirishima was in love with him.
Kirishima loved him.
The lopsided grin bending his lips was more unintentional than Katsuki would have ever admitted to, but it was fine, he wasn't going to fight it. He was tired to his bones, each of his muscles aching and pulling and screaming at him like the worst fight he'd ever gone through, and he was in love with Kirishima, and he wasn't going to forget him anymore or ever after, because Kirishima was in love with him right back.
Why wouldn't he have wanted to grin, anyway?
"I… what?" Kirishima's voice asked, quiet and confused still, and Katsuki thought maybe, maybe he should have explained. Maybe he should have told him how things really were, what the whole truth really was.
"You said you wanted the flowers," he repeated instead, too tired to start that conversation right then, “I got you the damn flowers.”
For a long, still second, Kirishima only looked at him with wide, confused eyes, the puzzle pieces trying and failing to connect inside his mind, but then he seemed to shake himself out of it, held Katsuki closer still against his chest as one hand came to card to his hair, seemingly without any thought-through intention, still distracted by the flowers Katsuki had just thrown up on his floor. Kirishima shook his head once more, fast as if clearning his mind, and Katsuki raveled in the way his hold seemed to be one step away from crushing him, so tight he wouldn’t have been able to free himself of it even if he’d had the strength to, even if he’d wanted to at all.
“I’m sorry,” Kirishima said, whispering it pained in his blond hair, and for a moment Katsuki couldn’t understand what he meant, why he still sounded so close to breaking and shattering, but as he kept going his oxygen-deprived brain finally caught up with what he’d misunderstood, and he moved his hands up to try and push him away so that he could look him in the eyes, but the hold was too tight, his tired body too weak.
“I thought- I didn’t think it was this bad,” he hissed through his distress, “I shouldn’t have- held you back from going, or shouted and, and fought you, I-” he took a long breath in, one Katsuki could feel in his own chest with how it pushed against it, forced him to exhale in sync with him, “I’ll take you to Recovery Girl right now, fuck, you nearly died on me-”
He was about to cry once more, Katsuki realized, and again he pushed at him with more strength to have him let go, moved his palms to press at his cheeks, bring his panicked, scattered focus back on himself.
“Calm the hell down and look at me, idiot,” he said, and when he was sure he had his attention he moved the fingers of one hand to circle one of Kirishima’s wrists, brought his pam up to rest on his chest as he took a long, smooth breath in, let it out steady and measured. “Hear that? Nothing in here anymore,” and then, nodding with his head to the mess of vines and flowers, “you said you wanted all of them, I gave you all of them.”
Quite literally threw up all his feelings on the hardwood floor, right in plain view for Kirishima to make anything he wanted with.
It would have been beautiful, hadn’t it been about to murder him.
And also hadn’t it been covered in spit and blood and bile, Katsuki guessed. Kind of disgusting, really - he hoped Kirishima decided to throw it all out, when all was said and done.
It took a moment of silence still for Kirishima to process the meaning of his words, but then Katsuki was looking at his eyes widening, his mouth dropping. "All of them?" he whispered, something close to awe starting to show in his gaze, and Katsuki allowed himself to grin openly in answer to it, the hand still open on his chest for sure able to pick up on how fast his heart was beating.
"Can't feel any other in my chest, that's for sure."
“And you are-”
“As sure as I can be without having a CT scan done first.”
Being tackled right after nearly choking to death wasn't the most pleasant experience, especially so when being crushed by a body made of pure muscles and strength, built heavy like the most solid tank - Katsuki still couldn't say himself too displeased about it, when soft lips found his chapped ones in a steady press, insisting and present yet far from demanding. Just solid, keeping him grounded and holding him close, filling his chest more than he'd ever been able before.
It was like truly learning to breathe for the first time in his life, and how ironic that feeling was, after months spent slowly choking each day a little more.
When Kirishima moved away, he gently pressed his forehead against Katsuki's, remained there with eyes closed for a long, deep, steadying breath as he for sure did his best to stop himself from crying all over again. Katsuki let his arms sneak up to curl around his neck, rest against wide shoulders, and when Kirishima started asking him how, and why, and are you really sure and please tell me you're not kidding, he pressed closer and held him tighter for a beat, slotted his lips against his once more just because he could, just because he couldn't believe he was allowed to.
He had been about to die from it, and yet there he was right then, still sore and scraped but alive, so alive, and allowed to be as in love as he was capable of, the immensity of it no more a weight crushing his ribcage but power building him up, pushing him forward.
How could Kirishima really love him, Katsuki asked himself between a kiss and the next. How could something as beautiful as him look at Katsuki’s destructive intensity and want it, truly wish for it.
Not like he was complaining.
Katsuki was never going to complain about his luck again for the rest of his life.
"I'm in love with you, Kirishima Eijirou," he said, still rattled, still gravely through his hurting throat and too big feelings, and then repeated it with a grin to his lips still pressed against tan skin, "I love you so much I could die from it."
And when Kirishima punched him in the arm he knew he deserved it, but he still snorted at him, still pushed him back to rise to a sitting position, check to make sure his limbs had finally started to properly work once more.
"I need to have Recovery Girl look at me, help me up," he demanded, waving a hand impatiently as Kirishima pushed to his feet. And he let him take all his weight even if he didn’t really need it, not as much as he might have before, just because every second he spent not touching him when he could have was a wasted moment of his life.
Just because he wanted to feel him close again, a reminder that it really wasn't a dream.
"This was the worst wake up call of my life," Kirishima groaned as he moved to the door, and when Katsuki snorted at him again he shoved at him, playful yet careful, keeping a constant eye on him, on his posture, on his breathing too, for sure. “I’m serious man, I wake up and you tell me you’re seriously sick, but no worries! I’ll just forget all about you and everything will be peachy again, and then you tell me you love me but that you’re going to die from it, and then you nearly do die on me, and then-!” he stopped, breathed deep and hard to steady himself as they reached the lift, pressed the call button with all the frustration he must have still been feeling.
“And then I don’t even know how or why you’re suddenly all better, and when I kiss you you kiss me back like that makes any sense at all, and it’s not even eight in the morning yet.”
“An eventful dawn for sure,” Katsuki hummed, expecting the way Kirishima shoved him again and doing the same right back, the little strength he had left just enough to make him stumble a bit.
He’d need a lot of liquids, surely, and a few hours of proper rest at the very least. Breathing exercises to strengthen his lungs as well, probably, not to talk about all the work he had to do to bring the rest of his body back to its top shape. A lot to do, but not the type of busy he’d ever minded. At least he would still have his best friend by his side every step of the way.
His boyfriend, if his luck kept up for a little longer still.
“Hey, Kirishima,” he said as they boarded the lift, watched the doors close and then the lights behind the floors’ numbers lighting up one by one, “you’re in love with me,” and it wasn't a question, not really, but it wasn't a statement either. He knew he was right, he had to be with how light and free his chest felt, and Kirishima had already told him as much anyway, he didn't need reassurance on it any more than he did on the nature of his own feelings.
The arm around his waist tightened at his words, Kirishima somehow finding a way to lean even closer, press harder against his side with the whole of his body’s weight. His answer was spoken quietly in the still air between them, but steady and sure, unwavering in its simplicity.
He really, really was.
“After Recovery Girl tells me it’s all good, I’ll explain everything to you,” Katsuki swore as the doors opened up again, let them out on the still blessedly empty common room, “I promise.”