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(asphyxiated)

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(asphyxiated)

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He plucked a daffodil from his mouth, pulled a yellow petal from his teeth. They meant sunshine, and there’s only one person he knew was like sunshine, Sakamoto Ryuji. He felt another tickle in his throat and coughed again. This time it was an anemone. Its small petals and deep centers reminded him of Akira’s eyes. When did this happen?

 

Goro had heard of Hanahaki disease, but it would be his luck to have it.

 

A quick search on flower meanings would seal irony in his fate. Daffodils, he knew, meant sunshine, but also were unlucky. One site said they also meant unrequited love. Anemones meant forsaken love and ill omens.

 

Denial had knocked on his door, and flowers had told him he was in love with the leader of the Phantom Thieves and his right hand man. Who were dating. Who he was supposed to get rid of by November 20th. Had a couple days in their little vigilante group turned him soft?

 

The onset of a looming anxiety made Goro’s hands clammy in his gloves. The only cure is to have this love be requited. Ryuji was very clearly not interested, if not showing open disdain against Goro, and Akira and Ryuji are in a relationship. Akira was just as wary of him as he was to him. Confession would be a jab at his pride too. It’s an awful option in general. But if this doesn’t pan out, he’ll be coughing up flowers until he dies.

 

Goro has never been an optimist, and it doesn’t look like he’ll become one anytime soon. This only gives him another thing to hide from the Phantom Thieves.

 

The flowers go into the garbage and he finds some old cough drops from the pantry.

 

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Goro fidgets with his hands to self soothe, growing up abused, neglected, and downtrodden tends to teach children ways to cope as such. He runs his thumbs up and down on his gloved fingertips, trying to avoid biting his lips in front of the Phantom Thieves. This palace is high security, and there’s no hiding if he has to hack up another petal. Joker looks especially suspicious, having already asked three times if he was sick and okay enough to keep going.

 

He tries to avoid speaking to make sure his throat doesn’t get too dry and cause another coughing fit. It’s only been a week and he’s sure it’s only getting worse.

 

Goro can’t help but cough to clear his throat again, but unfortunately, this time a full anemone is on his sleeve.

 

Brown eyes under a black skull mask meets his at that very moment and that realization suddenly sends panic up to his neck.

 

Skull definitely saw that, and he most definitely will say something.

 

“Joker, I have an idea for tokens. May you allow me to borrow Skull for this?” Fast thinking, come on, Goro. The rest of the thieves are surprised but not opposed. He had gone into the palace by himself a couple times so he knows all of the faults and cracks in it already, though he didn’t want to play the cards this soon.

 

He drags the bleach blond with him by the wrist and soon enough they’re far away enough from the group that he feels some semblance of hidden. An empty hallway near the entrance of the casino, with no pacing shadows.

 

“Dude, slow down!”

 

“You saw it.”

 

“… Yeah, you were coughing up flowers. Hanahaki, right?”

 

“You’ve heard of it?” Goro’s guard is let down if only slightly.

 

Skull grabs the back of his neck, nervous suddenly, “My mom had it. Before I was born.”

 

“Had as in no longer has it, correct?”

 

“Duh, not sure how she would have it for over sixteen years. It was because of my bastard old man,” his tone was resentful, “She always said it was a waste once he left anyway.”

 

“Has it ever come back?”

 

“It’s for unrequited love and she really doesn’t love that asshole anymore, I’d hope.”

 

Goro finds himself quiet, and the air is uncomfortable to say the least. To be seen by one of the causes of his sickness is another ironic moment. For him to tell Goro about his parents is another one. So he doesn’t stop himself from saying, “Aren’t you going to ask who it’s for?”

 

“It’s… It’s none of my business.” Skull looks away, like he knows something. “I know it’s shitty and gets in the way though.”

 

“Yes, to be honest, it really is annoying.”

 

“That sucks.”

 

He starts to tell him to not tell anyone when he coughs up a whole daffodil and more anemone petals. This time they were pink with blood.

 

“Crow – are you okay?” The blond put a light hand on his shoulder, “I didn’t know it could be more than one type of flower…” Anyone with eyes could tell apart flowers that different from the other.

 

“This time was particularly scratchy.” Goro tried to laugh a little to take those worried brown eyes off him, but he coughed again.

 

“This is really freakin’ weird of me but take it with a grain o’ salt. My mom said if you kiss or touch someone, somehow it doesn’t matter who, but being physical is like cough syrup for the disease. It’s not permanent, but that’s what she did for a while, went on dates and stuff.”

 

“If I asked, would you kiss me? I can’t go back to everyone doing this,” Goro strained, a smile threatening to show on his lips. This is a selfish opportunity, a cruel (to who? Him with a crush or the one in a committed relationship) chance.

 

Ryuji’s eyes, though concerned, were conflicted. Like he knew that he had said something that allowed Goro to ask for a favor like kissing, but he said it anyway and now he doesn’t know how to proceed. Goro anticipates a “no way! I have a boyfriend!” though.

 

“If I do, you know I have to tell Joker.”

 

Goro wipes the blood from his lips onto his white sleeve, “Just Joker. I can’t take this coughing anymore.”

 

Ryuji took his mask off, it disappeared like light particles into the air, and Goro follows suit. The younger thief had a hard to read expression, but he wasn’t disgusted. The moment their lips touched, Goro could see what Ryuji’s mother meant by cough syrup, but for him, it was so much sweeter than medicine. Kissing Sakamoto Ryuji tasted like lemon and honey, he felt immediate relief.

 

They kissed deeper, and he could feel a metal ball on Ryuji’s tongue, a piercing. His throat wasn’t sore at all now. He wanted to kiss more, deeper, longer, devour him if he could. Goro held onto the red scarf tight.

 

He felt pats on his clavicle and they broke apart. Ryuji’s face was absolutely flushed to his ears and down his neck, as he huffed to catch his breath, and his pupils were blown out. His lips were wet with saliva. Goro will remember this sight forever, he’s sure of it.

 

“Do you feel better?”

 

“Yes, thank you.”

 

“Great, I don’t know if I could’ve dealt with the pollen/blood taste much longer.”

 

“Well, I assure you that’s not how I normally taste,” Goro winked, but immediately felt guilty for trying to flirt with a taken person. Then felt bad for making that taken person kiss someone who wasn’t his partner. He knew he didn’t feel that bad though since Ryuji seemed to ignore him.

 

“I wouldn’t know. So can we go get some tokens or somethin’ so we’re not coming back empty handed.”

 

“Of course, I’ve had an idea on how to break into some of the slot machines.”

 

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Goro was never a fan of going up the stairs at Leblanc. He never felt like he deserved to – no, he never felt as though he belonged up there.

 

Ryuji was in the bed on his phone, and Akira was on the couch.

 

“You’re on time, Goro,” Akira notes evenly before standing up. “I, well, we wanted to talk to you about your cough.”

 

Ryuji was a man of his word, telling his boyfriend immediately about it.

 

“Yes, the Hanahaki disease. I just want to be upfront in that I didn’t intend to use Sakamoto-kun like that.”

 

“We talked about it, it wasn’t that big a deal for either one of us. He was just helping you,” Akira looks at the blond like he’s the sun and gets the same look back. “Has your condition improved at all since then?”

 

“It helped for a half day or so, but I still have it to the extent it was at before.”

 

“Is it still as bloody as the last time?” Ryuji asks.

 

“Unfortunately, yes.”

 

“Are you going to confess?” Chills made his hands twitch involuntarily. “Like to the people you like?” He tried to keep his expression from shifting and shook his head no.

 

Akira’s silver eyes shimmered like he was looking right through Goro, “I see. Well, I assumed as much.”

 

“I get it, man,” Ryuji’s hand messed with a pillow, “Telling someone you like them is hard. I doubt whoever you like would be super against a celebrity bein’ in love with them though.” Easy for you to say.

 

“I’m not looking for a relationship, so I doubt my status as a ‘celebrity’ matters.”

 

“Coughing up flowers for people begs to differ.” The blond’s eyes linger a moment too long on what Goro felt was his mouth, but then he looked away. Curious.

 

Before he could retort, Akira cut in, “Ryuji, watch your tone. We called you here to tell you we were okay with helping you, Goro.”

 

Maybe he had looked confused for a moment, but Akira continued, “Until you’re ready to confess, Ryuji and I came to an agreement, I guess we’ll call it that, to help keep your Hanahaki at a minimum.”

 

“As in?”

 

“The two of us will do what you need us to do like at the palace the other day,” Ryuji starts, “But we’ll be able to take back consent whenever we have to.”

 

“I appreciate the offer but—”

 

“No one else will find out. We need to keep your coughs at bay while we infiltrate the palace, and we had a feeling you wouldn’t want to just solve it by confessing,” Akira cuts him off. “We’re here for you.”

 

“I appreciate the offer but this will resolve itself, one way or another.” He looks at his gloved hand, noticing just how much he was clenching his own fists.

 

“If it’s because Akira and I are dating, we talked about this. We’re both open to helping you get through some of the suffering that comes with Hanahaki disease. Like I told you, my mom had it, and it’s real that if you never confess, it gets worse.”

 

“You make it sound as though confession doesn’t end in rejection, Sakamoto-kun,” Goro nearly didn’t keep the bitter edge off of his words. A bubble of petals scratched at his throat and he coughed up an insufferable number of daffodils then. His inner elbow had a spattering of blood as he peeled up the yellow flower off his sleeve.

 

Akira handed him a cup of water, so he swallows the metallic taste of blood, his throat stinging while he drank.

 

His eyes were glowing like they do in the Metaverse, when he’s Joker, “This doesn’t change my mind. You can take us up on the offer.”

 

As if he had known, Ryuji took the cup out of Goro’s hands, and simultaneously, Akira’s hand rested on Goro’s cheek. His eyes must have closed in the process, but he felt the softest kiss turn deeper with the smooth glide of Akira’s tongue. He tasted like dark roast coffee, but felt like vaporub numbing his throat. It felt like freedom to not have his throat feel so irritated, even with Ryuji’s eyes staring intensely on them. How must it feel to have your boyfriend kissing someone else, right in front of you?

 

Must not feel the way Goro assumed, because when they broke for air, Ryuji’s arms wrapped around Goro’s neck, and he desperately kissed him as if he was tasting Akira off of his mouth. Forgetting his eyes should have been closed, he saw Akira kissing Ryuji’s neck while making direct eye contact. Having them with him, the three of them together, it felt like a possibility.

 

Goro focused on their red lips, taking a deep inhale for the first time in what felt like forever. What if they… No, there wasn’t any way they would return his feelings. They’re just doing this for the sake of changing Sae’s heart.

 

He watched the two of them kiss, brief, but sure. Their relationship was solid enough that it didn’t matter that they kissed someone else. They’d do this for any of their friends, honestly, they would probably do this for anyone in need. They’re the Phantom Thieves of Hearts.

 

One of their hands ran through his hair gently, like they’d be wanting to do that for a while. He thinks it’s Akira. Ryuji’s puppy dog eyes looked at him with something like anticipation. Goro felt strange under Akira’s soothing touch, stroking his cheek. He liked the sensation though. His hand guided him back to Ryuji, and they kissed for a good instance before he turned to kiss Akira. He wanted equal amounts of the two of them, so that he wasn’t missing out.

 

Missing out? – “You’re right, Akechi. You don’t always taste like pollen and blood.” Ryuji’s words paired with the smirk he felt on Akira’s lips said it all.

 

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