Wonderbat Week: Day 2 – Elseworlds
Title: By the Lungful
Elseworld/ AU: High School AU, Hanahaki Disease AU
Author’s Note: Well now it’s the second time I written these characters and the first time I’ve written Clark. I just joined the DC fandom in the last year (really I joined the Batman fandom) so I’ve only written a few fanfics and all of them are about Dick Grayson and Damian Wayne. This is much longer than I expected but I’m satisfied with it. I have nothing against Steve Trevor!
It started with a tickle in his throat. It was small and irritating, something that a glass of water could only sooth for a couple of minutes. That soon grew into an unsatisfiable itch, one that made his throat feel like it was burning. Then it became a violent cough, spittle flying from between his lips as he clutched his throat and tears leaked from his eyes.
Then Bruce Wayne coughed up a flower.
Well, it wasn’t a full flower: just a petal; but coughing up any part of flower was worrisome.
“Master Bruce, are you okay in there?” Alfred called from the other side of the bathroom door. Bruce had been sure he was going to throw up and had rushed from the dining room to the closest bathroom. Now he sat in front of the toilet, a red rose petal floating in the porcelain bowl.
“I’m fine, Alfred. Nothing to worry about.” While his hands went digging for his phone, his eyes checked to make sure the door was locked. A relieved sigh escaped him when he saw that the door was indeed locked even though Bruce knew that Alfred wouldn’t just burst open the door. Alfred was too much for a gentleman for that.
“Are you sure, sir.”
“Yes. I’ll be out soon.” Bruce waited for the sound of polished shows against hardwood floors before unlocking his phone and pulling up google. Looking up symptoms had never done anything good for him in the past but this was different: how many illnesses could involve puking up a petal?
“You’re being ridiculous,” Bruce muttered to himself as he waited for the search results but his brain wouldn’t allow him to dismiss such an anomaly without a little investigation. Finally the search results loaded and, unlike the other times he looked up symptoms, only one illness popped up.
Hanahaki Disease is an illness where the victim regurgitates and coughs up flower petals when they suffer from unrequited love. The illness can only be cured through surgical removal, however any existing romantic feelings are also removed with the infection.
“Impossible,” Bruce gasped in between panicked breaths. His eyes jumped back and forth, taking in different parts of the definition. “Impossible.” Fingers flew as he checked out different websites and different definitions.
The disease ends when the beloved returns the victim’s affections and the two kiss.
There have been cases when flowers grow from the victim’s skin.
Once the flowers are removed, the victim loses the ability to love the person they were for.
“No, no, no!” Bruce’s lungs burned as he tried to suck in air and the back of his eyes prickled. Surely this was a mistake. Surely there was another reason. Because there was no way Bruce Wayne was suffering from unrequited love. He wasn’t in love with anyone!
Okay, Bruce: think! You was eating dinner when this started. There was no window open so a chance of a flower petal floating in is highly unlikely. Alfred wouldn’t put a rose petal in the roast beef, would he? No, all his aesthetic additions are edible. How did a rose petal get down my throat?
Bruce peered at his phone again.
It can’t be this! Who would you even be in love with? Bruce thought hard but no names came up.
Before he had started to choke him and Alfred had been talking about the upcoming Valentine’s dance. Alfred thought he should get a date for it but no one sparked his fancy. Plus, Bruce didn’t really want to go and was tired of hearing about it. It was all Diana Prince, one of his best friends, was talking about. She was so excited to go, always talking about it with her pretty smile plastered on. She had practically been glowing when Steve Trevor asked her, her blue eyes sparkling with joy and the sunlight shining off her hair like a halo…
A bitter feeling filled Bruce. Why did Diana even want to go with Steve? Why didn’t she reject him like she rejected everyone else? Why did she keep talking about him? Why –
Why didn’t I ask her first?
Bruce’s phone clattered to the phone as he lunged towards the toilet. A few minutes later, two more rose petals joined the first one. They floated in the toilet bowl, mocking Bruce as they swirled around each other.
Days passed and the petals kept coming. Soon petals become full roses of different colors with the occasional leaf. Alfred was getting suspicious and wanted to take Bruce to the doctor. Bruce couldn’t sleep anymore: Diana was starting to infiltrate his dreams, causing him to wake up multiple times a night to spit out mouthfuls of flowers. Worse of all, Diana was also becoming suspicious. Bruce couldn’t hang around her anymore, not without hearing about Steve and rushing to the bathroom to overfill another toilet with flowers. It was getting ridiculous but Bruce couldn’t help it. He was sick. He was in love.
“Why are you avoiding Diana?” Clark demanded. Bruce cleared his throat and pushed down the urge to throw up because really? Throwing up flowers just from hearing her name? Isn’t that a bit much?
“I’m not avoiding her,” Bruce muttered, pulling his knees closer to his chest. He was practically curled around the book balancing on his thighs to the point where he couldn’t even see the words anymore. Still he pretending to read.
“Yeah, you are. B, we’re worried about you. You’ve been sick with a while, always rushing off for some reason, and you always cancel on me as soon as I mention Diana. You barely come to school anymore and when was the last time you slept?”
“Clark, I’m fine. As soon as I get over this cold everything will get back to normal. I just need to be left alone for a bit. Okay?” Clark sighed and crossed Bruce’s room to place a hand on his friend’s shoulder.
“Please talk to me. I won’t even tell D what’s going on if you don’t want me to. I just want to help.”
“You can’t help.” This time Clark groaned and flopped onto the bed.
“Fine, I can’t help,” Clark stated, almost stubbornly. Instead of leaving Clark lay there in silence, staring at Bruce expectantly. Bruce knew Clark and Clark knew Bruce – one of them was going to break the silence and one of them was going to get what they wanted. It was Clark was snapped first but instead of saying “goodbye” and leaving like Bruce wanted, he began to ramble. He talked about all the things Bruce missed when he wasn’t at school. He talked of academics and gossip, even bringing out a copy of the school newspaper. He talk and talked and it was calming. Soon enough Bruce was uncurling himself and looking his friend in the face, a small smile on his lips. It was fine until he started to talked about Diana and Steve.
“So they decided to teach me to slow dance, y’know?” Clark continued, ignorant to the way his friend was holding back coughs and struggling to breathe. “It was so cute, watching them dance like that. You should’ve seen Diana’s face when Steve bent down and kissed her!”
A sound exploded from Bruce’s lips, loud and ugly. It was something Clark never heard before, something that made him jump and fall off the bed. Bruce’s face was red, tears leaking from between his eyes as he gagged and coughed, shredded petals bursting from his lips every so often. The boy hunched over and the sound came again, this time accompanied by a waterfall of roses. They were of all colors, some with leave and stems attached. It was a beautiful, frightening sight. Bruce’s hands latched onto his throat, his nails leaving behind red marks as he clawed at his skin. Time lost all meaning as Bruce wheezed and hurled up flowers.
Then it stopped.
With a final cough Bruce cleared out his lungs but they didn’t feel clear. There was a permanent tightness in his chest that left him dizzy with lack of oxygen.
“Hanahaki.” The word was barely audible, a poisonous gas drifting on the currents of a disbelieving breath. But Bruce heard it and it brought more tears to eyes as he remembered that there was a witness to his illness.
“You have Hanahaki!” Bruce didn’t want to know how he knew what it was. “Gosh, Bruce why didn’t you say something!? You should’ve told me! Does Alfred know? We need to get you help!”
“No? You know you can die from this, right?”
“And you don’t want help?
“I don’t want help.”
Silence reigned over the pair, heavy and painful. Bruce wiped at his face angrily, his mouth filled with the bitter taste of raw flowers and unrequited love.
“Can you at least tell D? Please?” Clark asked after a while, his voice low with defeat.
“Absolutely not. She’s with Steve.” The bitterness in his mouth intensified but Bruce swallowed it. He would not have another episode tonight.
“And you don’t want the surgery.”
“I do not.”
“Because…” Because I just realized I’m in love with her. Because I still don’t know why I love her or when it happened. Because I never been in love before and never thought I would be. Because I’m not ready to give this up yet. Because I just realized how I feel about her and yet it feels like I’ve always been in love with her. Because I’m scared of how it would feel to not love her. Because I want Diana to love me too. “Because I don’t want to.”
It took a long time to convince Clark not to say anything but eventually he agreed. That didn’t stop him from glaring at Bruce every time he said he was fine or giving him pitying looks every time he had to rush off the bathroom. It certainly didn’t stop Clark from randomly sharing facts about Hanahaki Disease, as if the scare Bruce into getting help.
“Did you know that the final stage of Hanahaki is when the flowers grow roots in the victim’s lungs? Then they grow stems and such, like normal flowers, and because of the roots it’s impossible to cough them out. The victim suffocates and dies with an entire bouquet sprouting from their mouth,” Clark shared the night of the Valentine’s dance, punctuating the fact with a shrug up his shoulders and a sip of punch.
“No one cares, Clark,” Lois Lane, Clark’s date, said. “Hanahaki is rare and their hasn’t been a death from it in years.”
“Your right. Most people just get the surgery.” Clark aimed a sharp glare at Bruce as he said this but Bruce wasn’t paying attention. All Bruce could focus on was the Amazon beauty floating on the dance floor and the tightness in his chest. It’s been a while since flowers had burst from his lungs but Bruce didn’t feel cured.
Diana was a sight to behold. She wore a greek style dress that revealed her shoulders and back, the white fabric making her skin glow and making her look more angelic than normal. Her hair was curled and up in a bun with a few curls artistically framing her face. She was gorgeous. She was stunning. She was…
… coming this way! Bruce yanked his eyes away, his chest tightening a bit more. He could feel heat building up in his face — oh why was he being so ridiculous! It was one thing when he couldn’t look at the without puking roses but now he didn’t have that excuse. She’s still the same person she was before this started. Talk to her!
“Hey, Bruce!” Diana greeted. Bruce’s heart nearly burst when she bent down to press a kiss to his cheek. “Long time, no see.”
“Yeah, it’s been a while.” Bruce’s eyes were glued to the table but he could still see how Clark was absolutely absorbed in their interaction. He was completely ignoring Lois’ ramblings.
“A long while. It’s been so long that I think you owe me a dance. You know, to make up for your absence.” At this point Bruce was breathing through his mouth. His lungs were just so damn tight.
“I – I can’t.” Diana frowned for a second and Bruce could feel the irritation and concern rolling off her.
“Why not?” Diana replied, voice falsely cherry. “I know Alfred made you take lessons.”
“I can’t because I… I got to go to the bathroom!” Now everyone was looking at him. Diana had dropped the happy pretense and concerned marred her face – a look that was mirrored on Clark’s face as well. Lois simply looked confused.
“Are you serious? You’re still avoiding me? Bruce, what’s wrong?” Diana asked. Bruce opened his mouth but was saved from answering by the appearance of Steve Trevor. As the blonde boy wrapped his arms around Diana and snagged her attention, Bruce made his escape and made a b-line for the restroom.
Something was wrong, something beyond coughing flowers. The flowers had stopped and yet he still couldn’t breathe. His throat was tickling. Bruce opened his mouth to cough or gag or something. Instead flowers bloomed from his mouth.
It was different this time around. There was something else there, something hard and stiff that wasn’t moving. There was also something tugging at his lungs, threatening to bring them up with the new wave of flowers.
“Bruce!” Diana’s voice filled his ears. He didn’t notice anybody following him, didn’t notice anything beyond the flowers killing him and the feeling of his own body – his own heart – betraying him. He was dizzy and the edge of his vision was stained black…
“It’s the final stage…” came Clark’s voice next, a strained whisper compared to Diana’s shriek. “Fuck it, call 911!” Bruce wanted to do something. He wanted to stop them from calling anyone, wanted Diana to look away, wanted the world to give him a damn break. But he couldn’t do anything but throw up flowers until he blacked out.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
Bruce was barely awake before Diana’s words reached his ears. His jaw ached, his mouth forced open by whatever was filling it. Tiny plastic bits were shoved in his nostrils, forcing fake air into nose and lungs. It wasn’t enough.
“Why didn’t you get the surgery?”
A pain – one deeper than the constant ache in his lungs – punched Bruce in the gut. Why didn’t you get rid of your feelings for me? is how he heard it.
“Why didn’t you do something?”
Bruce forced his eyes opened, despite the heavy weight on him that didn’t want him to. Diana was hovering over him, eyes red and wet. Her trembling fingers danced along his cheek and a shaky gasp left her when she saw he was awake.
“Bruce! Thank Hera, your awake!” Bruce wanted to say something but he couldn’t around the bouquet in his mouth. Shouldn’t he be dead by now?
“Clark told me everything. You should’ve told me! I – I would’ve -” Diana stopped and sniffed when Bruce shook his hood. They both knew there was nothing she could do. She was with Steve.
“Don’t shake your head at me!” Diana shouted. “If you had said something sooner I could’ve done something. I used to – I still do – I don’t know! Ask Clark if you want but I had the biggest crush on you! I loved you so much but I didn’t think you would feel the same and then Steve came and he showed interest and… and… and you should’ve said something! I don’t know what I’m feeling and I don’t have the time to figure it out because you’re going to die! Gods, Bruce!” By this point Diana was hyperventilating and pacing, her hands tangled in her hair. Bruce could do nothing but watch. Diana had like him…
Before Bruce could comprehend what Diana has said, Diana moved. With her face red and scrunched, her hands reached out to wrap around the bouquet suffocating Bruce and she pulled.
Bruce expected pain. He expected the roots to yank his lungs out and he would die right then and there. He did not expect the roots to let go, for Diana to pull the bouquet out his mouth like a magician pulls out scarves.
A tense silence filled the hospital room, two surprised faces staring at each other in shock. The wet bouquet fell from Diana’s hands as Bruce took in lungfuls of air. For the first time in a long time, Bruce’s lungs felt clear. There was no tightness, no pain… Bruce felt cured.
Diana crossed the room as Bruce sat up straight and leaned forward. With no other words their lips met in a kiss. It was clumsy and awkward, desperate and disbelieving. It was perfect and left Bruce smiling silly when they separated.
“Take all the time you need.”
This is such an emotional entry that went above and beyond the theme! Well done! ~ Maiden