Tsukasa pulled a petal out of his mouth, sickened at the taste. He coughed some more, petals splattering against the ground and on to the grass. Although he knew it was his imagination, he thought he could feel it growing in his lungs and infecting the air he breathed. The pain hadn't started yet, but the doctor said it would come soon enough. It'd start as a pang, a slight ache, until it escalated to the point where he wouldn't be able to breathe properly, where he wouldn't be able to think...when the pain was unbearable, he was told he would die.

"Do you have to do that here?" Sojiro asked, looking distastefully at the ground.

Tsukasa glared at him. "Where else?"

Sojiro shrugged. "You're doing it so noisily as well."

Tsukasa, spitting more petals out, snarled, "You'll have to learn to deal then, huh."

"Hey-"

Rui put a hand on Sojiro's shoulder. "Give it a rest. He's gonna die soon anyway."

"Or fall in love," Akira chimed in. "And then Tsukasa'll soften up on us."

"Soften up," Tsukasa echoed. "What is that supposed to mean?"

More petals were building up. He leaned over again, spitting more out. "Fuck," he muttered. "I should just get this cut out."

"Don't," Rui warned. "You'll regret it."

"Since when do you care?" Tsukasa asked. "You're being weird, Rui. Not like you know about love."

Rui looked at him blankly. "I do know about it, though."

"Then how about seducing Shizuka?" Akira asked. "I mean, if it's love..."

"Shut up, all of you," Tsukasa snapped out, gagging on more petals. "Useless."

If he was calling them useless as an insult, none of the other members of the F4 were bothered by it.

"So, Tsukasa," Sojiro asked casually. "Who did you fall for?"

Tsukasa glared at all three of them, eyes dark. "If I have this disease - it means she doesn't love me back."

"Yeah, pretty much," Sojiro agreed.

"But I love her." Tsukasa looked at the ground, at the petals around his feet. "Dammit, it hurts."

Tsukasa didn't know if he meant the pain of the flowers growing inside of him or the fact she didn't love him; he had been so convinced Makino had liked him, to the point where even now, he deluded himself into believing Makino loved him. But this disease was proof she didn't.

He was wrong and for the first time in his life, Tsukasa didn't know what to do. Violence wouldn't solve anything, it would only drive her away, and the despair he was feeling-

"It's Makino," Akira said suddenly, clicking his fingers. Tsukasa stilled at his words.

"Oh yeah," Sojiro nodded. "Makes sense...Although you have no chance, after hiring those thugs to try to rape her-"

"-or the red card in the first place-"

"-or the teasing-"

"-or-"

"Shut up," Tsukasa yelled, standing and grabbing Sojiro's head in one hand. Mercifully, he released Sojiro almost immediately, sighing.

Surprised at Tsukasa's (supposed) melancholy, Rui, Sojiro and Akira watched as their leader sat, head down, hand clutching his chest.

"So I was the deluded one?" He asked no one in particular.

Akira and Sojiro traded glances.

"Are you feeling all right?" Rui asked Tsukasa.

"I'm fine," Tsukasa snapped, resisting the urge to punch Rui. He was the one Makino loved, and Tsukasa wished Rui had stayed in France.

"You still have a chance," Sojiro told him. "We'll show you how to seduce her."

"It'd be easier just to get this cut out," Tsukasa grumbled.

...Which was something no one wanted. Tsukasa losing his ability to love, for good, would be a true nightmare. No one had been sure he could love in the first place, but for him to lose it?

And Tsukasa was serious when he said he'd cut it out...

"A year," Sojiro blurted out.

Akira gave him a funny look.

"One year, and if Makino doesn't love you by then, get it cut out."

"One year," Tsukasa repeated. "That's the time limit the doctor gave me to decide." He rubbed his chin. "But do I even need to love? People can love me, but I don't need-"

"You need it," Rui cut in, surprising them all. "You're already brutal, self-centred and egomaniacal. If you can't love, it'd ruin Japan."

"Or the world," Akira muttered. "Don't underestimate his wrecking abilities."

"My wrecking abilities," Tsukasa echoed. "Shut up, Akira."

Akira raised his hands in surrender.

Sojiro nodded at something he had been thinking about. "Rui," he said. "Do you still plan on pursuing Makino?"

Rui looked at Sojiro, offended. "If it means saving Tsukasa's life, I'll give her up."

Friendship, Sojiro thought. No, that word was wrong. They were inseparable buddies.

Snorting at the thought, he grinned at all of them. Tsukasa watched Sojiro out of the corner of his eye, Akira resting his head in his hands, Rui looking sleepy again. "Well then. Looks like we have our mission."

It was tempting to put his hand out and demand a 'go team!' cheer, but that wasn't cool enough for the F4. They merely exchanged looks, each silently understanding their roles.

(Sojiro just prayed Tsukasa didn't ruin this for them.)

"Makino," Hanazawa said, greeting her at the emergency stairwell.

"Hanazawa Rui," she said, bowing slightly in greeting and smiling at him.

"I'm giving you up," he said.

Makino blinked at him. "Uh-?"

Hanazawa smiled. "You'll understand soon, hopefully."

Confused, Makino tilted her head. "Giving me up? I don't get what you mean - anyway, I'm not a thing you can just give up."

Hanazawa smiled at her, grin just a bit too wide. "Don't worry, Makino. It'll all work out." Hopefully.

Hanazawa looked up at the sky, grateful it wasn't overly hot. He thought he had found a nice spot to try and nap in. With one last nod at Makino, he turned and walked away, leaving her behind.

(And she was very confused.)

Her confusion began to clear when she saw Hanazawa nod at Doumyouji later that day.

Oh. So Doumyouji had done something...Hopefully nothing serious.

"Makino," Doumyouji called, before he was tapped on the shoulder by Nishikado.

Nishikado whispered something, gesturing like he was giving instructions to a small child. Doumyouji, annoyed, waved him away and approached.

Makino watched him get closer, tensing just in case she needed to either run or fight.

"Makino," Doumyouji repeated as he neared. Makino glanced around to make sure no student from Eitoku was listening in. She had enough on her plate; she didn't need to add to their jealousy.

"Can we, uh-" Doumyouji shifted uncomfortably. "Do you want to grab something to eat?"

"Something to eat," Makino repeated. "Are you asking me on a date?" Not that she was repulsed by the idea or anything, she was just...surprised. It also explained Rui's statement. (Assuming he felt anything for her, Makino reflected sadly.)

Doumyouji turned around, raising his eyebrows at Nishikado, who face-palmed. Yes, he mouthed at him.

"Yes," Doumyouji repeated at Makino lamely.

Makino blinked at him, then narrowed her eyes. "What are you playing at?"

"Nothing," he said innocently.

"Nothing? You, asking me out like a normal person? Is this a prank?" Makino leaned to one side to look past Doumyouji at Nishikado and Mimasaka, who watched them nervously. Hanazawa was leaning against a wall, eyes closed and head flopped forwards.

"It's not a prank," Doumyouji insisted.

"Then why?" Makino pressed.

"Why?" Doumyouji repeated. He paused, half-turning to look at the others. He turned back to Makino, opened his mouth, closed it again, then spun on his heel and marched towards Nishikado.

"What do I say to that?"

Nishikado face-palmed again as Mimasaka glanced at Makino sheepishly.

"Why not tell her the truth?"

Doumyouji glared at him, lowering his voice even more so Makino couldn't hear them talk.

"Are you kidding me?" Doumyouji snarled at him under his breath. "I'm not letting her know about this." He sounded disgusted at the thought. He moved his jaw around, swallowing thickly.

Did he just swallow a petal, Mimasaka asked himself sickly.

"She'll understand," Mimasaka encouraged.

"What will I understand?" Makino said from behind Doumyouji.

Doumyouji turned and glared at her. "It's nothing."

"It's obviously something," Makino said, annoyed and tapping a foot on the ground impatiently.

"We promise it's nothing bad," Nishikado said smoothly, "so don't worry - you'll know in due course."

Makino eyed all of the F4, looking as though she was going to reject Doumyouji.

"Makino," Hanazawa chimed in, and Doumyouji wanted to throttle him for making Makino look so cute. Ugh, he wanted to be the one to light Makino's face up like that.

"Trust us. You'll be doing the world a favour if you agree to this date, and it's only one. We promise Doumyouji will behave himself."

Makino flicked a look at Doumyouji, still suspicious. "You can't make that promise for him."

"It's just a date," Doumyouji said, annoyed. "I'll pay."

"You'll pay for my meal?"

"Yes."

Makino, clearly thinking of that time Doumyouji ruined her lunch, promptly agreed to go.


A/N

Just a few things: I purposely change how they're referred to in this - it's a third-person subjective pov (or that's my aim anyways)

When it's just the F4 ( or w/ Shizuka or Tsubaki, maybe) they'll be referred to by their first names. When it's w/ Makino or anyone else, odds are they'll be called by their surnames until their relationship develops to the point where they're called by their first name.

idk if this makes sense to y'all; if it doesn't, sorry! but just know the changes in what they're called as the scene changes is on purpose

Another thing, just to do with chronology. I'm following the manga-ish, but bc my memory is shit the events are probably all over the place.

The beginning of this takes place after Rui has gone and come back from France, and hasn't confessed love to Makino. I forget canon + I jumble it w/ the dramas, so like, this is gonna be a mess in terms of canon.

lastly, the 'lunch' thing that goes on at the end is a jdrama reference.