TITLE: With Both Hands
WORD COUNT: 1,671 words
CHARACTERS: Ichinose Gaku. Touma Keiji. Mentions of Saionji Ren and Hodaka Natsuki. GENRE: General. Slice of Life.
DISCLAIMER/S: Moe Gacha Danshi [萌えガチャ男子] and Boyfriend (Kari) [ボーイフレンド(仮)] are mobile games owned and published by Cyberagent, Inc (Ameba). Under no circumstances could these characters be called mine. Standard disclaimers apply.
With Both Hands
I need help. Ichinose Gaku sighed as he inspected the lone bonsai plant he was trying to raise in Fujishiro Academy's lush gardens. He knew it was going to be tough, considering the state it was in when it was shoved onto him by his old next door neighbour. However, now that he couldn't seem to make it stay a healthy, vibrant green for one whole month, he gathered, his ineptness was showing.
He may love cultivating bonsai, but his skills weren't up to par with his late grandfather's. It was disappointing, but he couldn't help the thin tendrils of amazement and respect at his elder's abilities. Maybe someday he would be just as good if not better.
As if that would happen anytime soon. He mused; turning the plant every which way to decide which miniature branch was in need of pruning. It looks so droopy… so sad. He sighed once again, letting his arm drop limply to his side.
"It's no use." He murmured in defeat. "You're not going to get better." He set the small pruning shears down and stroked one of the plants' wiry branches consolingly. "I'm sorry; I'm not capable enough to help you."
"That's not true." For a brief moment, he thought the bonsai responded to his weary words and he shivered, taking a surprised step backward. His mouth hung open, eyes wide as he stared at the unmoving plant he thought had gained the capability of speech. With a shaky hand, he reached out and gingerly touched the tiny leaves. He was about to say something in reply when an amused bout of chuckling sounded from behind him.
"Uwah!" He cried out in alarm, falling sideways as he whipped around to see who it was. Upon reflex, he held out his hand to stop his fall, unfortunately, it didn't help much. It made his tumble a little bit more painful that what should have been.
"Owowowowow…" He groaned, trying to sit up. He flinched as he felt his hand smarting and what seemed to be the beginnings of a nasty bruise stinging his hip. His eyes welled up involuntarily. It was the first time he had such an accident since he was ten. The little kid in him threatened to bawl his eyes out. Hurts…
"I'm so sorry!" Ichinose flinched again when he felt big strong arms hook under his arms and haul him up. Once he was stable on his own two feet, his face was suffused with the redness of embarrassment. He wanted to look up but he couldn't. "S'okay." He mumbled, dusting the seat of his pants. Now that was looking down, he could see large capable-looking hands dusting the side of his shirt and if it was even possible, he reddened further. His eyes widened.
"No need, I can –!" He protested, finally looking up. He was almost afraid to know who it was since there was a huge chance that the person was a student in school – or worse, one of his own from homeroom.
He blinked. Oh! His body relaxed somewhat when he realised it was someone shorter than he was – and a little bit older. He let out a huge gush of breath and offered a self-conscious smile. "Umm…" He bowed slightly out of habit, cringing as the movement made him feel the extent of the bruising on his hip. It looked like it was not as small as he previously thought.
"I'm sorry." The other man said, bowing apologetically. Ichinose wondered if he was a samurai in his past life. The way he did it was so noble that somehow, he felt both inferior and important at the same time. "I startled you. I did not mean to do so."
"No! It's okay! Please straighten up, I'm fine! There's no problem at all!" He gestured wildly, panicking at the suddenly sombre tone of the other man. He touched the broad shoulders and patted it lightly twice.
The man straightened up and gave him a sheepish smile. "I usually work on the plants this time of day." He explained. "I've been wondering who put a bonsai plant in the isolated corner for weeks now, but I haven't the heart to move it away. Someone may come, worriedly looking for it." He smiled kindly. "It looks like I was right."
"Ahaha…" Ichinose laughed awkwardly. "I thought no one would notice. I mean the greenhouse and gardens are full of plant life, so…"
"Well, it's good to know it's someone like you."
"You are responsible, and you seem very capable." The man's gentle smile broadened, making Ichinose feel even more at ease. By then his body was fully relaxed. "By the way, I believe this is the first time we've met." A tanned hand was held out, waiting to grasp his in formal greeting. "I'm Touma, Touma Keiji."
"Umm, I'm Ichinose Gaku." Hesitantly, he reached out and grasped it, shaking it weakly before letting go with a shy smile. "I teach literature."
Touma Keiji's eyes lit up. "Oh! So you're Ichinose-sensei! I've been hearing so much about you!"
"Eh?" Kind eyes gazed up at his, glittering meaningfully. For a brief moment, Ichinose was afraid the stories were negative enough to warrant blackmail. For the life of him however, he couldn't think of a single thing he had said and done to perpetuate it. Except… during that time I went out to drink with Mayama-sensei… His palms went cold and clammy. He wouldn't!
Ichinose had no idea what he said while he was drunk, but it must have been troubling since his close friend and co-worker kept checking on him at the oddest times of day ever since. Oh no. He cleared his throat. "F-From whom?" He asked stiltedly.
His face must have been all too pale and filled with panic because Touma burst out laughing. "It's nothing bad, Ichinose-sensei, I promise!"
"O-Oh…" Ichinose gave him a self-conscious smile and scuffed his shoes on the garden's cobblestone path.
Touma patted him twice on the arm as if to console him. "It's mostly from Saionji-kun" He revealed, stroking his goatee thoughtfully. "He said his Classics teacher is amazing at raising cultured plants."
Ichinose was taken aback. Saionji Ren was the school student council chairman and the son of the flower arrangement school master in the prefecture. Never had he imagined the young man would talk about him positively since whenever he entered the classroom, he was often staring dreamily out the window like any normal teen. "Really?"
"Yes." Touma smiled. "You seem surprised."
"Oh, well, I haven't really heard anything like that from my students… I mean, it's something I do out of school as a hobby, so…" He scrambled to cover his disbelief.
The older man patted him on the shoulder. "Don't put yourself down. Of course someone will take notice. You seem like a very good teacher."
Ichinose felt heat on the tips of his ears. He knew they were flushed red. He just knew it. "Thank you." He mumbled. He heard him chuckle and he blushed even more.
"You were so serious earlier – do you always talk to plants like that?"
"Yes…?" He muttered.
"Good. They will grow better that way. I do it all the time."
Ichinose looked up in surprise and met Touma's eyes. "Really?" He asked in disbelief.
Touma grinned and gestured to the flowering plants in the garden. "Well, Fujishiro has a beautiful garden, doesn't it?" There was so much pride on his face as he turned and gazed at the colourful greenhouse.
Ichinose's eyes widened as realization dawned upon him. "You're the school garden's caretaker!" His eyes brightened in awe, cheeks flushed. "I've always wanted to know who does all the amazing work on the greenery and it's you!" Excited, he grabbed and held Touma's hands.
Touma laughed. "You're the first grown-up to have told me that. Usually it's just Hodaka-kun and Saionji-kun."
Ichinose immediately let go, his cheeks flushed with embarrassment. He cleared his throat. "It's true; you've always been a hero to me. Fujishiro Academy's blooming environment is one of the reasons why I applied to teach." He smiled ruefully. "I'm glad I finally know who's in charge."
Touma smiled back. "Thank you for the appreciation. I'm glad you like my work." After a few moments of exchanged shy grins, he motioned to the droopy plant witnessing their interaction inanimately. "You like bonsai?"
"Oh, yes." Ichinose beamed. "I love them. I take care of some in my home – something I got from my grandfather, it seems."
The older man's eyes lit up. "Then you have all the culture and utensils needed in your home!"
"Yes, but… I'm still an amateur when it comes to taking care of bonsai." Ichinose mused dejectedly. "I've been trying to revive this one for a month now, but the progress is minimal. I don't know what to do…"
Touma reached out and patted his arm. "I think I may have a few techniques to share. Don't worry." Carefully, he lifted the miniature tree and set it on a small niche which received a better amount of sunlight. "For today, the pruning stops and this child should get a little bit more air and sunlight – tomorrow, meet me after your last class. I'll wait here for you."
Ichinose's eyes gleamed with hope. "Then there is hope?"
He grinned happily. "Thank you so much! I'll bring the tools we may need then! Thank you so much, Touma-san!" Ichinose squatted down and lovingly touched the bonsai's leaves. "You hear that? Soon, you will be well!"
"Definitely." Touma squatted next to him and touched the plant as well. Ichinose felt his fingers brush his and he felt butterflies fluttering in his stomach.
Such a capable person was going to help him raise his bonsai! It was such a great honour and a perfect opportunity for him to learn more on the craft he loved. Ichinose took a deep, grateful breath.
It felt like a very pleasant dream.