There were times when Kinshiro suspected that the primary reason Arima had joined the Student Council was that he needed somewhere else to keep his plants. As of yesterday, there was a matched pair of philodendrons flanking the window, a spider plant sitting on a shelf, a healthy-looking fern and a pink geranium perched on a couple of end tables, a pot of white primroses on the coffee table, and an aspidistra tucked in the corner. Today there was a new addition sitting on Kinshiro's desk. He eyed it warily. Arima must have slipped it in here this morning, before he'd come to class.
I suppose I ought to have a word with him about this, he thought, without much real conviction. It was not, after all, that he minded having flowers everywhere. They added a nice touch of color to the room, and Arima and Akoya clearly both liked having them around. It was just the principle of the thing. The Student Council room was the Student Council room, not a storehouse for Arima's current gardening projects.
Anyway, this new thing was taking up space on his desk. He'd had everything arranged the way he liked it, and now this flower was throwing off the symmetry of his arrangement. He wondered what it was. He knew what the others were because Arima had introduced him to them, but he'd not gotten around to mentioning this one yet. It was a small thing with broad dark leaves and bright purple flowers. At least Kinshiro liked purple.
"Good afternoon, President!" Akoya sang out as he breezed into the room. He draped himself on the sofa with his usual grace. "What are you looking so cross about? You and Kinugawa had better not be fighting again."
"I'm not cross about anything," Kinshiro snapped.
"Of course. How silly of me," said Akoya. He perked up a little. "Oh, is that a new plant? It's pretty."
There were several responses that Kinshiro could have made at that point. He opened his mouth to give one of them, realized that anything he was likely to say would just make Akoya tease him for being cross, and shut his mouth again.
"I hope Arima gets here soon," he said, glancing pointedly at the clock. "If he doesn't start the tea in the next few minutes, it won't be done by the time we're ready to start."
As if on cue, the door swung open and Arima, arms full of bakery boxes and grocery bags, came striding in.
"So sorry I'm late," he said. "I realized we were out of snacks, so I stepped out to pick some up."
"At least you were usefully occupied," said Akoya. "And now you had better start the tea, before our esteemed president loses his temper with you."
"Oh, of course!" Quickly, Arima set down his burdens and hurried to where the tea kettle was waiting for him. "I just got a new tin in the mail this morning. I think you'll enjoy it, Kinshiro. I got you some more of that kintsuba with the matcha powder that you liked so much. They should go perfectly together."
He continued prattling on in this vein while his hands moved deftly through the ritual of preparing tea. Kinshiro decided not to be annoyed with him after all. What was one little plant in the scheme of things?
Tea was served precisely on time. The snacks were delicious, the tea had been brewed perfectly, and it wasn't long before Kinshiro's mood had mellowed. It was hard to stay angry with Arima for very long. He was always so earnest and eager to please, and he always seemed to know just what Kinshiro needed done without even the bother of needing to ask for it. It would be, Kinshiro told himself, very petty and beneath his dignity to complain about such a little thing as a potted plant. It was actually rather appealing, if you liked that sort of thing.
"I think we've done all we can do for the day," said Kinshiro at last. "I'll see you both tomorrow."
Arima started cleaning up the tea things. Akoya said his goodbyes and glided out of the room, saying something about needing to finish his homework so he could attend the symphony that evening. Arima, however, lingered.
"Would you like me to walk you home?" he asked.
Kinshiro shook his head. "You go on. I have a few things I want to put in order."
"I could help."
"That's all right," said Kinshiro. He mustered up a smile. "You've done more than enough for today. Go home and relax a while."
"If you insist," said Arima. He gave Kinshiro one last smile and a cheery wave before ambling off.
Kinshiro stayed behind a few minutes longer, double-checking paperwork, getting everything neatly filed away. When at last he was satisfied that all was in order, he got up, slung his bag over one shoulder, and started for the door.
He'd forgotten about the purple flower. What followed was one of those awful moments where he realized what was happening with just enough time to dread it but not enough to actually stop it. He felt the slight resistance of the corner of his bag catching the flowerpot, turned instinctively to see what he'd caught on, saw the pot tip gently backwards, watched helplessly as it began to plummet. He reached out a hand, but he could see that it was already out of his reach. The pot tumbled end over end and landed, upside-down, on the floor.
Kinshiro's eyes widened. Frantically, he dropped to his knees and turned the pot right side up. He tried to scoop the spilled dirt back in and set the stems aright, but he could see that it was a lost cause. The poor plant had been very battered by its fall, to the point where Kinshiro didn't think even Arima's skills would be able to revive it. He looked with dismay at the bruised leaves and broken stems, the beautiful purple flowers now lolling sadly on their sides, and he felt his throat begin to tighten.
I killed Arima's plant.
His heart began to race. Arima prized his flowers more than anything, and he'd only just gotten this one, and now it was in pieces because of Kinshiro's carelessness and clumsiness. How was he going to explain this? How was he going to bear Arima's disappointment, his disillusionment? Kinshiro wasn't so blind that he didn't realize that Arima virtually worshiped him, and Kinshiro had been as careful as he could be not to break that trust. Now, with one thoughtless gesture...
He's going to be disappointed in me. What if he can't forgive me? I rely so much on him... I've only just gotten Atsushi back. I can't stand to lose someone else I care about...
Kinshiro closed his eyes and forced himself to take a deep breath, pushing back the irrational panic with an effort of will. Things were not going to go that way. He would not let them. It was just a plant, after all. He could replace it. Surely Arima would forgive him as long as he made the proper restitution. With luck, he might never notice the substitution had been made.
That was, of course, assuming Kinshiro could figure out what sort of flower this was. Arima had never told him, and he'd felt so guilty about being angry with him for bringing it in the first place that he'd been ashamed to ask about it. He studied it. It was looking definitely squashed. If he couldn't have said what it was before he'd managed to crush it, he was sure he couldn't say what it was now. He frowned at it.
I am not giving up that easily, he thought. There has to be a way to fix this. I just have to keep trying...
He stared down at the sad remains of the flower. Then he stood, brushed the potting soil off his white uniform, and set out on his mission.
Arima was in front of his mirror, tugging his uniform jacket on neatly, when he heard his phone go off with the gentle chime that indicated a text message. He frowned slightly. Who would be texting him this early in the morning? And about what? He was inclined to ignore it, but caution made him rethink that decision. As strange as life had been lately, the message could be anything from Kinshiro sending a message about Student Council business on up to a warning that the aliens were invading. He scooped his phone up and tapped the message icon.
The message was from Kinshiro. Arima's pulse picked up a little, as it always did when Kinshiro paid special attention to him, even though the message turned out to be a simple one.
Please meet me in the council room before class.
Meet him? For what? His mind toyed with the possibilities as he hastily typed out a promise to do as he'd been asked. Was this just council business? If so, what on earth couldn't wait for their afternoon meeting? There had been nothing on the agenda yesterday that would require any sort of urgent attention. Perhaps Kinshiro just wanted a place where they could talk in private. But about what?
He walked to school in a daze, torn between cautious hope and gnawing worry. Kinshiro was such a creature of habit that any departure from his usual routine was a cause for concern, and Kinshiro didn't even like to bring his phone to school, much less send messages asking for special meetings. By the time Arima actually reached the school grounds, he was moving at a pace just short of a run. There were few students here at this hour - he'd hurried to get here, and there were almost twenty minutes before classes would begin - so he had an easy time navigating across the lawn. He dashed into the building and took the stairs two at a time until he reached the top floor. Just shy of reaching the door, he paused to put himself back in order. Kinshiro would be annoyed with him if he turned up looking disheveled. It was only when he was sure he was ready to make a good impression that he opened the door.
"Kinshiro, I'm here," he began, and then stopped.
The council room had transformed overnight. When he'd left the room the previous day, there had been only a few modest potted plants, tucked in unobtrusive places. Now the room was filled with flowers. They covered every shelf, desk, and table. Small pots balanced on the windowsill, while larger ones sat lined up against the walls in regiments four or five rows deep, neatly arranged by height. Even the chairs and sofa were full of flowers, with a decorous layer of newspaper under them to protect the cushions. He took a few wondering steps into the room, trying to absorb it all. There were so many, and all of them were different - tall and narrow or short and broad, some with round leaves and some with rough-edged or spiky ones, some with glossy leaves and some lightly furred, some with flowers in clusters and some with single blossoms. It took him a while to realize that for all their disparity, there were some common elements. All these were flowering plants, and nearly all of them were purple, with only a few that tended into pink or blue. It was as if someone had was attempting to gather a representative sample of every purple flower in the city, and wanted to be certain they didn't miss a single one. In the midst of all this splendor, it took him a moment to realize that Kinshiro was sitting at his desk, his bowed head nearly hidden by a large and particularly vibrant pot of begonias.
"Kinshiro?" said Arima cautsiously.
"I, ah," said Kinshiro. He coughed nervously.
"Kinshrio," Arima began again, tried to find some way of expressing his bafflement and found none, and was forced to settle for, "there are flowers in here."
"Ah, yes," said Kinshiro. He was still staring down at the pot of begonias, not looking at Arima at all. "I, ah... I put them here."
"Oh," said Arima. He looked around. If Kinshiro had put all these in here by himself, he must have been at it a very long time. "Why?"
"Because I broke your plant." Now Kinshiro's words came out fast and frantic, quite unlike his usual measured pace. "The purple one that was on my desk. I didn't mean to. I just brushed past it and it got caught on my bag. I tried to stop it, but I just... I couldn't, and I knew you'd be angry. I knew how much your flowers mean to you. I wanted to replace it. I knew I had to make it right somehow..." He looked up at last, and held up his hands in a gesture of helplessness. "I panicked."
"I can see that," said Arima.
"I just wanted to find another like the one I broke," Kinshiro insisted, "only I didn't know what it was. At first I just bought a few things I thought looked like it might be the one, but I wasn't sure, and the more I thought about it the less certain I was of anything, and I looked at so many flowers they all started to blur together."
Arima was only half-listening. He was fingering the leaves of a plant with a long stem on which several ruffled flowers hung.
"I don't even know where you found this," he murmured. "These orchids are a rare breed - they go for tens of thousands of yen. I never dared buy one for myself."
"Was the one I broke valuable?" Kinshiro asked. Without waiting for an answer, he said, "Arima, I'm sorry. I should have been more careful with something you loved. Can you forgive me?"
Arima smiled. He picked his way carefully through the wonderful garden Kinshiro had created for him until he could stand behind Kinshiro put his arms around him, embracing him chair and all. He felt Kinshiro go rigid for a moment, the cautiously relax.
"Of course I forgive you," said Arima gently. "I'd have forgiven you anyway. Don't you know you're worth more to me than any plant? I don't care that you broke a flowerpot. I just want you to know that you can trust me."
Kinshiro sighed. "So I've made a fool of myself."
"Yes," said Arima gently. "You do feel things very deeply. It's part of your charm."
"You're too forgiving," said Kinshiro. "What did I do to get myself surrounded by so many forgiving people?"
"Don't be too hard on yourself." Arima stepped back, freeing Kinshiro from his embrace. "Look at this. It's a wonderland. I've never seen anything else quite like it. I think this must be the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me."
Kinshiro gave him a wobbly smile. "You're worth it. Where would I be, without you looking after me?"
"I hope we'll never find out," said Arima. He allowed himself a moment or two to gaze fondly at Kinshiro. Then, before the moment could get awkward, he turned his attention back to the greenery. "Goodness. What are we going to do with all this?"
"They're yours, if you want them," said Kinshiro.
Arima toyed with the idea.
"I think we'll leave them as they are for now," he said. "At least until Akoya sees them. He'll love it. And then, I think, I will keep some of them. And Akoya can have some, and our friends next door, if they want any."
"You should at least keep the orchid," said Kinshiro, pointing at the lovely specimen Arima had been admiring - and, he was forced to admit, coveting.
"All right," he said, allowing himself to be convinced. He picked out a specimen in a small pot and carried it over to Kinshiro. "And you should keep this one."
Kinshiro cradled the small pot in his hands. "This is the one, isn't it? The one I broke, or one just like it. What is it?"
"It's an African violet," said Arima. "They're common enough - you can get them practically anywhere."
"So it wasn't valuable at all," said Kinshiro ruefully. He looked down at the flower in his hands. "But not this one. This one is precious. You'll teach me how to take care of it, won't you?"
"Of course. I'll be more than happy to," Arima promised.
"Good," said Kinshiro. He looked around the room, his normally proud face almost childlike. "And will you teach me the names of all these, so I'll recognize them next time?"
Arima nodded. "As soon as class lets out."
"Class," Kinshiro repeated, and winced. "We need to go."
Arima nodded. He was reluctant to leave this moment behind. Impulsively, he reached towards one of the more extravagantly flowering plants and gently snapped off a single blossom. He offered it to Kinshiro, who hesitated a moment before gravely accepting it. He tucked it into his front pocket, where the flower made a vibrant purple splash against his white uniform. He actually smiled a little as they left the room, his posture settling into its usual proud lines.
"Arima?" he said, as they walked towards their classroom.
"You realize this wouldn't have happened if you hadn't left your things lying around on my desk."
Arima grinned. It was nice to see Kinshiro recovering his spirit.
"Don't worry," said Arima. "The next time I decide to bring you flowers, I will give them to you personally, so you can choose their location yourself."
Kinshiro smiled back. "That will be perfectly acceptable," he said, and side by side, they walked down to class.