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It Started with a Flower

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It began with a flower.

    Hajime had noticed the other boy who had been watching him when he had first arrived at the park and immediately wandered away from the toys. But had paid him little mind as he was more focused on scouring the mud for footprints, the book of monsters he had received for his birthday the week before tucked under his arm. He knew that he only had limited time before his mother would come to collect him, and he was determined to find something to show her, paying no mind to his clothes as he scrabbled through the dirt. He was distantly aware of laughter, but he wasn’t sure whether it was aimed at him or someone else, and right then he didn’t care, too focused on his task.

   Spying something that looked like a tuft of fur he set the book down, crawling beneath the hedge to rescue the ‘clue’ from the twig it was caught on, turning it over and over in his hands. It was a vivid green, which meant that it hadn’t come from any of the dogs he had seen in the park, and excited now he tucked it away in his pocket before heading deeper and deeper into the bushes. He knew that he couldn’t go too far, but there had to be something more, another tuft of fur, a footprint, something…  and soon he had forgotten all about the book.

    It was only when he had been drawn out of his single-minded search, and the bushes, by the sound of his mother’s voice, that he realised it was no longer with him. Panicked he ran back to where he thought that he had left it, but there was no sign of it there, or anywhere nearby, even as he diligently tried to take the same path, and his eyes were beginning to sting as he slowly started to make his way towards where his mother was waiting. The green tuft stuck in his pocket no longer as exciting as it had been, as he thought about admitting that he had lost his precious book.

“Here.” The quiet voice made him glance up just in time to stop him from colliding with the boy he had noticed earlier, and he blinked, taking a moment to realise that he was holding out his book. “You left it behind.” It wasn’t scolding in the slightest, and yet Hajime ducked his head and nodded before reaching out for the book, wondering if it was about to be yanked out of reach, but the other boy handed it over without hesitation and blinking back tears he managed a shaky smile.

“Thank you.” The other boy nodded, not saying a word, but there was something in the blue eyes that told him that it wasn’t shyness holding him back. Still, he hesitated for a moment before tucking the book under his arm once more and holding out his hand, waiting for the other boy to take it. “I’m Hajime.” It wasn’t the proper introduction that his parents liked him to make, but it drew an answering smile from the other boy.

“Keiji.” Keiji, he wanted to say more or to stay a little longer, but his mother was calling again, this time with a note of impatience in her voice. Clutching his book once more, he smiled again, muttering a quiet farewell before turning and hurrying towards her.

   It was only when he was walking away that he happened to spy the leaf poking out of the side of his book, and panicking that he had got it dirty he opened it up to pull the leaf out. Only to pause as he found a blue flower carefully tucked between the pages, too deep to have got there by accident. Touching it lightly he glanced back over his shoulder, somehow unsurprised to find the other boy still watching him, and he smiled and waved, mouthing a ‘thank you’ before turning away once more. All thoughts of removing the leaf, and now the flower that it was attached to were forgotten, and he was gentle as he closed the book once more.

****

The next flower was made of crepe paper, messily held together with a mix of Sellotape and glue.

    Keiji had been delighted when he had found Hajime in his class, especially when the other boy had greeted him with a smile, clearly remembering him, and it hadn’t taken long for them to gravitate towards one another. Hajime was a little louder than he was, but not unbearably so, and it hadn’t taken them long to realise they enjoyed the same activities and hated many of the same things… especially maths. It soon became a common sight in the classroom to see the two together bent over whatever had caught their attention that day, or for them to disappear together at playtime as Hajime roped the other boy into his monster hunts.

   He had been even more delighted on the show and tell day when Hajime had brought his beloved book of monsters, and he had caught a glimpse of a familiar blossom pressed protectively between the pages. It had dried now, but it was unmistakably the one he had given the other boy, and he had been smiling all day, not noticing the way that Hajime had watched him, glancing between Keiji and the book as he pieced it together.

      Therefore, he was surprised when during their next arts and crafts session Hajime had gone to sit on the other side of the classroom, avoiding his gaze, and hiding whatever it was that he was working on when Keiji had given into his curiosity and wandered across. By the end of the day, he had worked himself up, wondering what he had done wrong as they had never argued before, and he didn’t know what they had fallen out about as everything had seemed fine in the morning. And because he didn’t know, he didn’t want to confront the other boy, quickly gathering his stuff at the end of the day, and practically fleeing the classroom.

     However, before he could reach the end of the corridor, there was a hand on his arm, forcing him to stop, and when he turned, it was to find a flushed Hajime behind him.

“Where are you going?” He sounded confused, not angry or upset and Keiji swallowed before turning to look at him, allowing the other boy to pull to the side before admitting quietly.

“I thought I had done something wrong…”

“What? No…” Comprehension dawned then, and if anything, Hajime seemed to blush brighter than before, and it was only as he pulled his arm out from behind him, that Keiji realised it had been hidden in the first place. But anything that he might’ve said was lost as he found himself staring at the messy creation that the other boy was holding out to him. There was no mistaking that it was a flower, with blue and purple crepe paper crudely shaped into petals and stuck to green cardboard, splodges of glitter glue decorating the petals in places, and his fingers twitched as though to reach out of for it, but he didn’t quite dare, glancing at Hajime to see if it was okay. “I made it for you.” Hajime was bright red now, but his hand was steady as he handed it over and Keiji accepted it with a smile, cradling it against his chest.

“Thank you.”

****

They parted with flowers.

     At some point over the years, it had become a silly tradition for them to exchange flowers, whether real or fake. Sometimes it was for birthdays or other celebrations, other times it was just for the sake of it, or to see the other boy smile. There had been teasing at times from their classmates who didn’t understand, and Hajime had ended up in a fight once about it. Only once, because Keiji had scolded him worse than any of the teachers, and even threatened to stop with the flowers. A threat that they both knew neither of them could have gone through with, but it had been enough to shock Hajime and get him to reign his temper in, and his apology had been a single yellow rose the next morning.

     However, as with many good things it had come to an end when the time came for them to move up to high school, and Keiji had turned up to school one morning, white-faced and visibly upset for once. Hajime had immediately been at his side, ready to fight whoever had upset the other boy, despite his promise not to fight anymore. Not that he could this time, as he listened numbly as his best friend explained in a quiet voice that he was moving away…that they weren’t going to be at the same school anymore.

That there wouldn’t be any more flowers.

   He hadn’t known what to say, and so he had settled for pulling the other boy into a tight hug, refusing to budge from his side the entire day, even as his mind raced. It wasn’t as though it was unusual for someone to be moving away now, he knew there were several in the class who were, while the others were scattered around the local high schools, but he had never once considered that Keiji would be one of them. Just as he knew, even without Keiji saying the words that this wasn’t what he wanted. That the other boy had thought they were going to stay together, that even if they had been in different classes, they would still be able to see each other every day, and that had now been snatched away.

    However, there was one thing that he did know, and that was that he wasn’t ready to give up. That he wasn’t going to lose Keiji just because they were apart, and that he wasn’t going to let that broken whisper about the flowers stand.

    The next morning, he came to school with a large bouquet of flowers, having emptied out his pocket money and blind to the whispers and looks around him as he marched up to Keiji, eyes alight with determination as he held out the flowers.

“There will be more flowers.”

I promise.

****

It resumed with a single red rose.

    Keiji took a deep breath as he slipped into the changing rooms once, he was sure that he could hear any movement inside. It wasn’t that he was doing anything wrong, but he didn’t really want to explain what he was up to either or cause any trouble before the match. Thankfully the room was as empty as expected and neater than he had expected after leaving his own team’s area behind, although maybe that was just a result of having people like Bokuto on his team. Still, it made his task easier as it was the work of a minute to find the bag with Iwaizumi on the label, his fingers tracing the name, before he did what he had come to do, setting the rose down on top of the bag where it couldn’t possibly be missed.

    It wasn’t the first time they’d exchanged flowers since he’d moved away, as Hajime had kept the promise, he had made that day, and they had traded flowers real, fake and pressed through the post and during the holidays when they would spend a least a few days at each other’s house.

Yet this felt different.

    Maybe it was the way that Hajime’s eyes widened when he entered the gym a few minutes later, a slow grin creeping across his face to match Keiji’s, a warmth that hadn’t been there before, or that hadn’t meant the same blossoming in its wake. He hadn’t told the other boy that he would be there today, wanting to surprise him, relieved to see that it was a good surprise as there was a small part of him that always worried that they would grow apart now that they weren’t able to spend every day together. However, that grin had laid that fear to rest, and as the practice match started, Keiji couldn’t keep the smile off his face, ignoring the gentle teasing and questions from his teammate, and trying not to be distracted by the fact that Hajime looked just as happy.

   Or maybe it was the fact that Hajime was waiting for him outside the gym after the practice had ended, and Fukurōdani were readying to leave, the red rose clasped in his hands and a smile that lit up his eyes.

“I’ve missed you,” Hajime murmured, closing the distance between them in three easy steps and yanking Keiji into a tight hug. It felt like coming home as Keiji returned the hug, wrapping his arms around the other boy, and letting his head fall against his shoulder.

“I’ve missed you too.”

****

Flowers. Flowers everywhere…

    High school it seemed had passed in a whirl, marked by volleyball matches and flowers exchanged in snatched moments, and holidays where for a time they could pretend that there was no distance between them. Days where they had danced around the feelings that had blossomed with each flower given, still not quite ready to address it, or rather afraid that something so new and tentative would crumble beneath the distance. However, that wasn’t to say that they didn’t talk about the future, about what they wanted to do, planning around those unspoken feelings.

    Which was why they were here, stood together in their new dormitory, sharing suddenly shy grins as they both held a single red rose to the other. There was a moment, a brief pause as the thought of ‘it’s about time’ flickered through both their minds, and then they were moving, meeting in the middle as though it had always been that way, and maybe it had. Their first kiss wasn’t shy, or nervous, but gentle and welcoming – a homecoming, heralded by the scent of roses, and the proof of a lifetime of flowers waiting to be unpacked from the boxes stacked by the door.

Together.

****

Flowers for you, and flowers for me…

    College passed in flowers too. That kiss had changed everything and nothing because it had been another step along the path they had been taking since Keiji had first slipped that flower into the book when they were children.

    There were always flowers, first in their dormitory room, and later in the apartment, they rented together. Sometimes they took it in turns, but more often than not they would both come home with flowers, grinning and laughing at the other, and scrambling under the sink for something to put them in.

    However, it was Keiji that took it to the next level when he took a part-time job in the local florist that they had both become frequent customers at. Hajime had pouted at first, joking that he would have to find somewhere else to buy his flowers, otherwise, how would he ever surprise Keiji? But, instead, there were days when Keiji would go into work, to have his smiling, somewhat exasperated boss pointing to the flowers waiting for him on the counter. Those were the days that he would go about work unable to stop smiling, memories of every flower they’d ever exchanged playing through his mind as he gathered, and cut the flowers, shaping them with the feelings that Hajime had given him over the years.

*

    This was one of those days, and Keiji smiled as he glanced back towards the counter and the narrow vase that now held the single red rose that had been waiting for him, shaking his head at the tag that had proclaimed ‘I love you’ in his boyfriend’s barely legible scrawl. It had been unexpected as Hajime had been distracted with exams the last few days, the end of college looming over them, and Keiji’s smile dimmed a little at the reminder. It was something they hadn’t talked about, a future that they hadn’t planned, and his fingers faltered for a moment on the bouquet he was working on.

What are we going to do?

     It wasn’t a question that he could answer alone, and with a sigh, he returned to his work. A sad smile tugging at his lips, as he looked down at the white and red roses that he was so carefully arranging. Someone was saying ‘I love you’ in a big way, and he took a deep breath before letting his thoughts drift as he always did when arranging flowers, threading what he knew of love. What he felt towards Hajime into each blossom.

    Just as he was finishing the bouquet, gently slipping the small gift box that been left with the order into the bouquet and making sure it didn’t crush the petals, he heard the bell above the door ring. Setting the bouquet carefully on the counter he started to turn to deal with the customer when a familiar voice spoke.

 “You didn’t even take a peek?”

“Why would I…?” The question slipped out before he even realised what had been asked, frowning as he turned to find his boyfriend stood on the other side of the counter, staring at him with an unreadable expression. “Hajime?”

“Open it,” Hajime tilted his head towards the bouquet.

“But…”

“I’m the one who ordered it,” Hajime murmured, voice soft and Keiji went completely still for a moment, before reaching out for the invoice that he had barely glanced at before starting to work on the bouquet. Sure enough, there was his boyfriend’s name, and their home address at the top and he swallowed as he glanced back at the flowers that he had so painstakingly arranged, his previous thought about what the flowers meant surging back to the surface. “Keiji, please…” The pleading tone did it, and Keiji slowly moved back to the flowers, his fingers trembling now as he reached for the box that he had so carefully slipped inside.

    When it was in his hand, he glanced at Hajime again, the unreadable expression having given way to a tremulous mix of hope and pleading, a shy grin on his lips. “Open it.” Keiji had never had any intention of denying him, but there was something about those words that had him hurrying to obey, trembling fingers fumbling with the ribbon several times before he managed to unwrap it. And he nearly dropped the box as Hajime stepped closer, and asked softly. “Akaashi Keiji, will you marry me?”

    It took him two attempts to get the lid off, the realisation of what was happening leaving his mind in a spin, his heart pounding in his chest as he finally saw the ring nestled in the box, alongside the pale blue flower that had started everything. A wet laugh bubbled up then as he looked up and met Hajime’s gaze, and here, surrounded by flowers, he took the next step along the path that blue flower had started years ago.

“Yes.”

****

It ended with flowers, pale blue cornflowers neatly tucked into buttonholes, and roses on the table as they stood together in front of their friends and families and exchanged their vows.