This is getting ridiculous. Fast.
Jughead knocks on the closed door, his bare, weather-chapped knuckles rapping down. "Are you dying in there or are we good?" he yells out. Somehow, he doubts Archie hears him through noisy gagging.
It's not like they had a date at Pop's Diner or anything—well, okay, it's them alone with a couple plates of burgers in the dead of night. It doesn't need to be called a date, but Jughead wouldn't be opposed to it.
A date with Archie might not be bad or disastrous.
"Hey, I'm coming in—you better have some pants on—" Jughead says dryly, rattling the knob to hopefully get Archie's attention and swinging open the door. He pauses at the threshold, brows furrowed.
Archie leans over the toilet bowl, his forearms supporting himself. The skin on his face goes oatmeal-colored, dripping with fresh sweat. His red hair moistened and hanging limply over Archie's eyes. There's flowers—scattered across the bathroom's shaggy rug, clinging to Archie's jeans and on the front of his tee-shirt.
They're more like flower petals, dampened and glistening with saliva. They float serenely in the toilet's water. Bright purple pinpricks of color, everywhere, like holes in the veil of their reality.
"It keeps happening…" Archie's voice sounds like a pitiful groan. He clutches onto his stomach.
(But what… is happening…?)
Jughead narrows his eyes and watches in confused silence as he vomits again, this time weakly gasping. His muscular body shudders, trying to force something out. The sound finally pulls a reaction—with Jughead dropping to his knees beside him, rubbing Archie's back until the fit passes.
There's silky, little flower buds on Archie's lips, gleaming with a layer of blood.
Jughead swallows hard.
"S'alright, Arch," he insists, murmuring. "Hang on a minute. I got'ya."
Archie pants open-mouthed and sits still, eyes shut while his best friend grabs his own plaid shirt-sleeve, lifting his arm and rubbing the fabric over Archie's lips. Jughead's empty hand cradles the back of Archie's skull. "Good as new. You're okay."
He gives the other boy a half-smile, looking Archie in the eye despite the crawling, darkening fear.
"… I'm not gonna let anything happen to you."
Veronica loathes the color yellow.
She disguises her coughs during second period. What's happening feels like a fever with her chills and the heaviness in her body—it must be. Veronica starts hallucinating Betty's roses, spitting them out in her mother's chrome sink.
Yellow haunts her. Carnations, and roses, and chrysanthemums as pretty as sunshine.
They're not… always so pretty. Hot, milky bile drools onto separate, yellow petals. It gets nastier and takes longer to make the coughing spells go away after Betty fusses over Archie—who recently has gotten sick too.
Betty can't let go of a one-sided love, can she?
Veronica doesn't blame her.
She can't either.
It's Ms. Grundy.
Jughead knows it's something to do with her.
Archie's health improves during the weekend. He's back to his usual pale complexion, and dozes off at Jughead's place. It's quieter while his parents vanish on business trips. Jughead prefers it that way.
He considering playing a video-game on his phone when fingers slip around his wrist. "Don't go," Archie mumbles out drowsily, shifting his cheek on a pillow. He's too tired to smile, probably.
Jughead stares over him cautiously before sinking back on the mattress.
"No offense, but I'm not really into needy guys," he whispers, blue eyes softening. Despite the flatness in his voice, Jughead finds himself grinning when Archie croaks out a disbelieving laugh, his fingers relaxing.
"Only like a puppy." Jughead mocks a thoughtful look, craning his head. "An annoying one, but maybe I'll keep you if I think it over." Shit. He's grateful that his black cap hides the tips of his flushing ears.
Archie's laughter sounds throaty and low.
"I'd like that…"
Betty's mouth tastes like her honey-flavored lipbalm. Veronica wants to live inside her warmth and sweetness, and get rid of the aftertaste of dirt.
It flakes onto Veronica's tongue, when her chest rattles. She wonders if it's her grave soil she's tasting.
Mouthwash helps for an hour or two.
Veronica quits trying with gum.
After a long coughing fit during Vixen cheerleading practice, the yellow flower petals squish into Veronica's wad of gum inside her mouth, jamming filmy and soft-silky between her teeth.
Jughead dries several of the flower petals, bagging them.
He finds their categories after a little research: Lavender, anemone, hyacinth, and peonies.
Archie gets sicker on the weekdays, vomiting up more flowers, unable to compose his songs or play football like he usually can. On Thursday afternoon, it's more blood than lavender flower-buds.
With shaking, soapy palms, Jughead bangs them against the mirror, angrily blinking out tears.
There's silvery starlights dangling and glowing on Betty's window.
It feels like roots growing, twisting, forming thorns like sharp, long needles, in Veronica's lungs.
"You're burning up, Ronnie," Betty whispers, touching the backs of her fingers to Veronica's cheek. She pleads. "You've been like this all day. Why won't you go to a doctor? Why won't you listen to me?"
"I'm always listening," Veronica admits, smiling ruefully. Betty's lips tremble. "That's the problem."
"You're sick, you need help—and now you and Archie—"
Veronica feels her lungs squeeze tighter than before, and she coughs hoarsely into her hands, eventually gasping for air. Betty repeats her name in a concerned panic, leaping out of her bureau chair and grabbing onto Veronica's shoulders to keep her upright when the other girl careens forward.
"It's me, it's me—I'm so sorry," Betty sobs out, quaking. "It's my fault, isn't it?"
She spits the clod of yellow, blood-speckled flowers into a handful of tissue, glancing down expressionlessly.
And, thank god, everything changes.
Archie strums his guitar inside the tree-house, humming along with a forgotten, dreamy tune. He winks in Jughead's direction. The other boy rolls his eyes, smiling and pushing his foot against Archie's naked thigh.
The taste of dirt fades out of Veronica's mouth. She spins Betty in her arms on the porch, with Betty's coral-colored dress ballooning around her knees, with Betty's peach-soft, shy lips hovering to Veronica's.
Nothing tastes like flowers ever again.
Ahhh! This is my first attempt at a Riverdale fic and I'm kinda hyped! :) I stumbled on the fanfic trope "Hanahaki disease" which means someone throws up/coughs up flowers due to being sick with unrequited love - and the only cures is to forgot your feelings (surgery too) or to have the other person love you back. It fascinated me to no end and here's the end result! Come say hi if you've been obsessing over Riverdale too! And please please any thoughts/comments welcomed!