dedication: to Emily and Chloe, because they both wanted college!AU Rin/Shiemi
notes: I don't even know okay, it just happened.
title: la fille aux cheveux de lin
summary: Rin's single chance at not flunking out of university? Helping out part-time in the school's extensive greenhouses. Damn it. — Rin/Shiemi.
Rin looked down at the form in dismay. This thing was going to be his death—shit, it wasn't his fault that he didn't have a clue how bio-chem worked, and seriously, how the fuck was bio-chem required for a sociology degree?
(It actually totally wasn't, but Yukio had talked him into it—said something about being a rounded education, and Rin really had no one to blame but himself. Yukio was always talking him into things that were honestly just hellish excuses for learning.)
"Wow, seriously, fuck this," he grumbled.
"What? You okay, dude?"
Rin stuffed the sheet into his bag before Shima could get a decent look at it.
Shima Renzou was, quite honestly, Rin's best friend. Not that he'd ever say it aloud—Shima's ego was already big enough to quash the planet Jupiter. There was a reason no one ever called him by his first name and that was because hearing his own name only increased the size of his ego (that was a lie: that reason was actually Shima's girlfriend, but everyone pretended differently). They'd met when they were fifteen, in cram school, and through him, Rin had come to know Bon and Konekomaru. And there was Yukio, of course.
But Yukio didn't count; Yukio was Rin's twin.
So Shima took the best friend position, and it was Shima that stood before him the afternoon that Rin's advisor told him he was going to flunk out if he didn't get his bio-chem grade up.
"Shit, 's just bio-chem."
"I still 'unno why you took that class, man."
"Yukio," Rin muttered, as this was the answer to all his ills in the entire world.
"Ah," Shima nodded sagely. He pressed his hands together—trying to look like a monk or some shit, but Jesus, Shima was a skirt-chaser from the tip of his head to the tip of his dick. Sometimes, Rin had to wonder how his girlfriend put up with it—and continued. "The erstwhile asshole twin brother strikes again."
"Younger twin brother," Rin emphasized.
"So what's eating you?" Shima asked. There was genuine curiosity in his voice, which mean genuine care. Rin would have been touched if Shima wasn't such a slut.
"I bet you ask all the girls that," Rin said.
Shima laughed. His hair was pink again. Looking at it made Rin physically ill, and he nearly missed Shima's next words. "—only Izumo-chan. But seriously, man, what's up?"
"Yeah, that was my reaction, too," Rin sort of grinned. "Anyway, advisor says I gotta do somethin' to supplement the grade, or I'm fucked."
"Fucked, as in…?"
"Fucked, as in up the ass; I'd be flunking out permanently. Yukio'll never let me live it down. I gotta supplement that grade, or I'm done, dude."
Shima stared at him in horror, and Rin ran his fingers through his hair to set it wilder than it normally was. It stuck up at the back, and he was pretty ready to give up on life for the day. There was no point, anymore, this day blew.
"So what're you gonna do?"
"Advisor said there was a position open in Botany—they need help looking after the greenhouses. If I get it cleared with my prof, it can be my supplement."
"Botany? You poor fuck," Shima said, grin turning shit-eating. Everyone knew that the Botany students were the geeks on campus—the Engineers threw the best parties, and the Ski Club members spent Thursdays getting too trashed to think straight, and the kappa/alpha/psi frat house had Saturdays fucking down, but the Botany students? The Botany students were the ones everyone with half a brain for social functions stayed away from.
So basically everyone except the Botany students themselves.
And Rin spent his time on the party circuit. This was going to kill any cred he had.
"What do I do, Shima?"
"Don't get caught," Shima advised.
"I'm asking for legit advice here, you asshole!" Rin raged, and shoved Shima hard against the shoulder. Shima's only reply was laughter and a slap on the ass. Rin's face went grim. "I'm going to pretend I don't know you."
"Equal opportunities, bro," Shima winked.
"How does Eyebrows even put up with you?" Rin asked, wonderingly.
"I don't," came another voice, higher, feminine, but just supremely annoyed. "And don't call me that, Okumura, it's degrading. Renzou, why are you slapping your best friend's ass? If I've been a beard for three years, I am going to cut your penis off!"
Kamiki Izumo stood behind them, hands on her hips, eyes lit down to narrow little slats of dark purple. Shima went heart-eyed, and Rin pinched the bridge of his nose.
Oh, here we go, he thought, despairingly.
"Izumoooooo, beloved, you know I'd never do that to you—" Shima batted his eyelashes, and got all lovesick and disgusting the way he did whenever his girlfriend got within viewing distance.
She grabbed him by the ear, and began to drag him away. "Sorry, Okumura, I need to swirly some sense into this idiot. Coffee later?"
"Sure, Eyebrows!" Rin called back.
Her voice was a shriek loud enough to break eardrums, even though she was already half-way across campus still dragging Shima behind her. "DON'T CALL ME THAT, OKUMURA!"
Rin chuckled under his breath.
Riling Kamiki up was always a decent bit of amusement. She was a cool enough girl, but she scared the shit out of him, and he could never figure out how she and Shima managed to stay together when she was so uptight and Shima was… Shima.
But whatever, they were disgustingly happy, and sometimes it made Rin want to vomit, but better that than something that could actually cause damage. Shima was the only one getting abused, and he seemed to like it (sick fuck that he was), and so Rin didn't say anything.
He sighed, and reached into his bag to pull the paper out again.
Rin ran his fingers through his hair again.
He was so fucked.
The Botany professor looked at sympathetically. She seemed like a decent enough person—she had grey hair and funky-looking spectacles, and she clucked a bit like a mother hen.
"Bio-chem, yes, I see. It happens often—it is a very unforgiving course. I am very glad to have you here, we always do need the help."
"Uh, I don't… know what to do?" Rin said more than asked, a little helpless. There was… green stuff everywhere, and the only green Rin knew anything about was pretty illegal. He knew shit-all about flowers.
The prof laughed. She patted his shoulder in a motherly way. Rin couldn't even remember her name.
"I'll call someone—ah, Shiemi, there you are, I thought something had tried to eat you again!"
Someone came up behind him, and Rin was very careful not to look at whoever it was. He was not supposed to be here, oh god, what if it was one of his classmates come to laugh at him—
"Shiemi, this is Okumura Rin, he's going to be helping out around here for a little while. Would you mind showing him the ropes, dear? I have to go deal with some weeds that seem to have sprung up around the tiger orchids, and I want to get them dealt with before they cause any damage—I'm sure you'll get along just fine!"
And with that, the woman turned, and disappeared into the foliage.
Shiemi, Rin thought. Girl's name. Shit, what if she was some sort of troll he was going to have to deal with for the rest of the semester, fuck, fuck, shit, damn, why didn't he just offer to write like eight papers on bio-chem, why—
He turned, and got his first good look at the girl called Shiemi.
His first impression was that she was tiny.
And she was. Her head was ducked down—pale gold hair, pretty—but she couldn't have come up any higher than the middle of his chest. She was wearing an over-sized sweater so big it nearly hung to her knees, dark leggings that had grass stains on the knees, and she was shifting nervously from foot to foot.
Rin's only thought: okay, maybe not troll-girl.
"Hey, uh—Shiemi?" he said.
She looked up, startled, and Rin got a face-full of the biggest blue eyes he had ever seen. There was dirt smeared on her cheek, a pixie nose, and a soft mouth. Holy shit, she was hot. His ears went red, and he stuck a hand out. "Uh—shit—hi, I'm Rin. But, uh, you already got that, didn't you?"
She reached out for his hand, timid. "I'm, um, I'm Moriyama Shiemi. It's—it's really nice to meet you, Rin."
And then she smiled at him, and Rin suddenly got the idea that this might have been the best thing to have ever happened to him. She was a Botany student, obviously, so no one would know her, and she was—goddamn, she was gorgeous, and he had her all to himself.
Rin had had girlfriends before.
Rin had had lots of girlfriends before; it sort of came with the territory of being friends with Shima, because there were always hot girls around Shima, and Rin seemed to have enough appeal to pull enough of the fairer sex his way. Bon and Konekomaru (once Koneko had grown into those ears, anyway) were the same. It was just one of the perks of knowing Shima Renzou. Hell, he'd dated Kamiki once, which was how she'd met Shima in the first place, and then Shima fell in love with her, and that was the end of that (which was probably a good thing, because Rin did not deal well with Kamiki's abuse. Not his cup of tea, thank you kindly).
But this blonde girl with big blue eyes and the most perfect smile he'd ever seen was standing there in front of him playing with her fingers, and holy crap, Rin was half in love with her already.
He grinned brightly. "So, uh, show me the ropes?"
"Yeah," Shiemi giggled. "Sounds like a good idea."
Neither of them realized they were still holding hands until Shiemi tugged gently on his wrist and let her fingers drop away. Rin mourned the loss of contact like he would mourn a death in the family, because that's sort of what it felt like: like his heart had dropped to his toes and his stomach squirmed and had he said half in love? He meant totally in love.
He was so fucked.
She showed him flowers with names that he couldn't pronounce and laughed when he tried. She had him carry tiny trees around and had him help her re-pot them. Her fingers were gentle over the roots, so careful, and Rin watched her with a hunger he hadn't felt in his entire life.
He wanted to consume her, entire, pull her inside his skin.
And the worst part was that he had no idea how she felt at all.
Days passed, and after class every day like clockwork, Rin ended up in the greenhouses helping Shiemi with plants. She taught him what was edible and what wasn't ("It's rhubarb! The stalks are edible, but don't ever, ever eat the leaves!"), and she taught him about her favourite flowers and how to care for them.
Rin learned about orchids and daffodils and roses, and Shiemi told him stories about Norse Mythology, which seemed to be her minor. She was a sophomore, and she never lied.
Sometimes, Rin watched her tuck flyaway strands of hair behind her ear, and ached inside to do it himself. Just breathing next to her was drowning him, and he had no idea what was going on anymore.
"Can I walk you home?" he blurted, one day in late November. It had started snowing, and it was so cold out, and god, he really just wanted to walk her home and hold her hand. It would have been the greatest accomplishment of his entire life.
(That should have been a really depressing thought, but Shiemi had wormed her way into his every pore, and everything outside of her didn't seem to matter, anymore.)
Shiemi flushed bright, bright red.
"I think I'd like that," she said, pressing her hands to her cheeks, and smiling shyly.
God, she was just so pretty.
And so Rin offered her his arm, and she laughed her little bell-laugh, and slipped her fingers into the crook of his elbow. She tucked her scarf around his neck, and she smiled and smiled and Rin thought yup, so fucked.
She had him wrapped around her little finger, and she didn't even know it.
"Do you even live on campus?" Rin asked, a little belatedly. He had no idea where they were going, but Shiemi just smiled and shrugged.
"I'm in a little apartment with a couple of other girls I knew in high school. It's just across the street? Not far, anyway."
They walked and talked. Rin told her about the term paper he was writing—he was hoping to expand it into his thesis, because the idea of religion influencing societal norms had always fascinated him. She looked up at him, tucked her hair behind her ear, and turned pink in the cheeks when she told him she hoped to be hired as a Botany professor, how it had always been her passion—that and how plants could be used as poison.
Rin laughed. "Should I be worried about you poisoning me when I'm not looking?"
Shiemi's eyes went wide and horrified. "No—Rin—I could never—I would never—!"
He laughed again, and tucked his arm around her shoulders. "I know you wouldn't. You're way too nice."
She turned pinker.
And then suddenly they were at her apartment, and she was searching for her keys, and Rin was sort of desperate for this not to be over yet. Or, actually, what he really wanted was to kiss her, because she was shy and beautiful and brilliant, and there was no one else in the entire world who was like her at all.
"Oh—for goodness' sake, I left my keys—hold on, Rin, I just need to get Noriko to buzz us in—oh, wait, I forgot to, um, ask, but, erm, do you want to—have coffee? Or hot chocolate? Or something, because I'd, um, I'd—"
Rin stared at her, a little reverent. "I'd love it."
She smiled brightly, and ushered him into the doors, before hitting the call button. "Noriko-chan? Are you there? I, um, I left my keys—"
The name Noriko sounded familiar, thought Rin couldn't exactly put his finger on what it was. Fuck, had he dated her? That would be a disaster, and he'd be fucked, fucked, fucked—
"Tell me the guy who's with you is who I think it is, and then I'll let you up," came the crackling response.
Shiemi's voice went sterner than Rin had ever heard it. "Who I'm with is none of your business, Paku. We're just going to have coffee or hot chocolate! It's cold out here, and you owe me!"
"Hey, hey, no need to get nasty! Fine, fine, I'll buzz you up, but you better bring him up, too, otherwise next time I'll leave out there for half an hour, and don't think I won't!"
Rin went white.
Paku, as in Paku Noriko, as in Kamiki's best friend Paku Noriko.
Oh, he was so, so, so fucked.
Kamiki had warned him to stay away from her friends the first day she'd met him, even before they'd started dating. She'd re-warned him the first time he'd met her best friend, a mousy-haired girl with purple eyes that Rin was not attracted to in the least—she was Bon's type, anyway, and so Rin should not have been the one getting the warning. He knew that they had a third roommate, but he'd never met her. Kamiki and Paku were disturbingly protective of the girl, and none of them had ever met her, not even Shima.
And now Rin was beginning to understand why.
Shiemi was the most precious person he could imagine. If he was the pair of them, he would want to protect her from every bad thing in the world, too.
…They were going to slaughter him, weren't they?
She looked up at him, and bit her lip. "Ignore Noriko-chan, she's just teasing—I've, um, I've talked about you a lot recently, so…"
Rin laughed a little weakly. "Nothing too bad, right?"
"Oh, god, no, nothing bad at all, I promise, Rin, it's just—"
"I, um, I—like you. A lot. And, well, Noriko-chan and Izumo-chan are kind of scary about boys when it comes to me, and, well. You know," Shiemi flushed as the words passed her lips, and Rin couldn't help it.
He kissed her.
They were both bright red when they pulled away, and then Shiemi smiled up at him shyly, and Rin hugged her.
"My friends might try to kill you," she said quietly. "I'm pre-eminently sorry that they're so terrible."
Rin chuckled. "Don't worry about it, Shiemi. I know Izumo. I can take her."
Shiemi smiled faintly. "It's not Izumo-chan that I'm worried about. Noriko-chan is way nastier than Izumo-chan is."
Now that was a frightful thought. From what Rin remembered, Paku Noriko was a mild-mannered girl with sharp eyes and a very gentle smile. The thought that she was, in fact, more of a danger than Kamiki was mildly terrifying.
Strike that, it was entirely terrifying.
They walked into the apartment hand-in-hand, and yeah, there she was. That was Paku Noriko. Her eyes were slit the same way Kamiki's did when she was eyeing a particularly disgusting specimen of the human race. Rin raised his hand.
"Don't give me that look, I haven't done anything!"
Shiemi shot him a glance out of the corner of her eye, bit her lip, took a deep breath in, and then said "He's my boyfriend, Noriko-chan.
Noriko's small dark eyes swivelled to settle on him, and they narrowed farther. "Is that the truth?"
"Jesus, if she'll have me, I'll marry her!"
Noriko stared at him for another few horrible seconds where she dripped death threats and horrorterror nightmares, and then her face relaxed. "Alright, I believe you. I made some hot chocolate, it's in the kitchen. Come and have some."
She smiled so sincerely that Rin felt himself relax.
Shiemi, on the other hand, only stared at her. Her hand curled tightly around Rin's. "You better not have put anything in it, Noriko-chan, I swear to god, I never should have taught you anything…"
Noriko batted her eyelashes innocently. "Maybe a little nightshade, but no one would notice that, right?"
"You're so silly," Shiemi smiled. "Not kidding, though, if you actually spiked my hot chocolate, I'll set Izumo-chan on you."
Noriko snorted. "She'd totally be on my side, you know that, right?"
Shiemi just looked at her friend, and the two girls had an entire conversation with only their eyes. It absolutely baffled Rin—how did girls do that? What was the code? How were they so cryptic all the time, and didn't kill each other?
Really, the FBI could learn a trick or two from female conversation tactics.
Finally, Noriko huffed, crossed her arms, and said "Fine. Be like that."
She swept away into the kitchen, and Shiemi reached up to tuck strands of her hair behind her ear. Rin got there first, and she smiled so bright it was like looking at the sun.
"So," Rin said. "Boyfriend, huh?"
Shiemi flushed. "Uh, well, I—"
"Hey, I said I was going to marry you if you'd have me. I think I can do boyfriend."
"…Did you mean it?"
"I don't lie," Rin said quietly.
Not when it came to things like this, anyway. Her presence filled up his lungs with oxygen, and he thought that maybe he'd never been breathing his whole entire life, just waiting for her.
Shiemi's eyes shined. "Okay. I can be okay with that. So, um, hot chocolate?"
Rin grinned, and looped an arm around her shoulders again. "Hot chocolate would be great, Shiemi. It'd be really, really great."