Knew You'd Understand
Looking up from her paperwork, the clerk noticed the hair first. So shiny and long, had been her first thought, and then with even more excitement, it's a man! The young man hovered on the sidewalk, nonchalantly looking at the bunched, cut flowers in the water buckets out front. His hands in his pockets, he acted for all the world he wasn't interested. The shopkeeper smiled. A young man in love. The best kind.
When he didn't enter, but became bold enough to move one of the bouquets to the side, she went to the door. "Can I help you find something?" she offered, hiding her amused smile.
He straightened with a jerk and shoved his hand back into his pocket. "Nah, just looking," he tossed out, his cheeks flushing.
Since he didn't move off, she stepped aside and coaxed, "Come inside and look some more. A fresh shipment just arrived and I haven't finished sorting through them yet. I'll give you first choice." Her smile friendly and inviting.
She led him to the back of the shop where her work tables were crowded with large steel buckets filled with cut flowers of every imaginable type. Colors everywhere, the young man halted just inside the room and stared.
"Beautiful, aren't they?" she asked almost reverently just behind him. He closed his mouth and nodded. She stepped past him, and began asking unobtrusive questions, trying to draw out the perfect bouquet. "What's the occasion for the flowers?" A couple snips, and a small assortment of baby's breath lay in a pile.
"No-no occasion. I just thought..." he stopped and found the bucketful of carnations suddenly fascinating.
The woman ducked her head low, pausing in trimming leaves. "For a special young woman then?" she almost purred, watching him redden from behind her lashes.
He shot her a glance, and even while shaking his head, his color began to match the carnation he'd nearly destroyed in his interest. "No!"
"Oh, then you're looking for something for ..." She gave him another appraising look and almost frowned. He was in love, that she knew. And his manner, it was from a nervousness meaning his errand was for the girl. He must be a bit on the shy side, she decided. "...a special friend," she amended her words carefully.
A grin answered her. "Yeah, you could say that."
"Well, then. Maybe if you told me a little more about ...your special friend, we might be able to put together something."
"Uh..." he stammered, dropping the beheaded flower back into the bucket. "What would you like to know?"
"How long have you known each other?" She had moved to a new bucket, weeding through the stems automatically, stripping leaves, and removing unsaleable buds.
The man scratched at his head absently. "About three years? Something like that."
"Oh, you must have met in school." She smiled at him, her cheeks pinked remembering the teenage lovers in her past.
"Nah, we met before that." He clammed up abruptly, a sound suspiciously like a stifled laugh died in the air.
His response not being what she expected, she tilted her head, studying the man once more. Blue eyes too old for such a young face, a smile too ready to sprout to the surface, her hands stilled in their tasks. "Why don't you tell me what she does? What she likes?"
Thick brows drew together in confusion. "Who?"
"The young lady, your special friend," the clerk answered, confused herself.
"Uh..." the young man swallowed. "It's not a she." His lips twisted upward.
"Oh." She blinked quickly before recovering. "Well, then, tell me about him. What does he do?"
"He's a technical consultant," he answered promptly. "Mostly computers, relays, and communications hardware type stuff." The smile had softened, and the clerk felt a pang.
Brushing it away, she asked, "What sort of activities does he enjoy when not working?"
The young man paused for a moment. "We play some one on one sometimes. Watch movies. Hang out." He frowned in thought, an odd thunderous look between his brows. "Damned if I know."
"What about games? Card games? Board games?" she prompted soothingly.
"Chess and euchre." He almost seemed surprised at how quickly he came up with them. The heavy frown relaxed into a smile once again.
"And his favorite color?"
"Blue. I think." He frowned again in a mild sort of way. "It could be white, but he wears blue, most of the time."
The clerk nodded thoughtfully, her glance flitting from her work to his face. "Does he read, or watch video programs?"
The man went still and his eyes lost focus. Finally he nodded. "Reads mostly. Though there are a few programs he watches. He likes the reality cop shows, criminal investigations." He looked at her and grinned. "And the Discovery Channel, of course. But mostly books or magazines." She smiled at his enthusiasm.
"What sort of music does he like?" She'd abandoned her trimming, and went to pull a catalog from its bin.
"All sorts, he's not picky. Nothing too loud." She turned to find him staring hard at her ceiling. "I guess it depends on his mood."
"That's true of most people." Taking a few steps forward, she laid out the catalog and motioned him closer. "Let's take a look here, and tell me what makes you think of him the most." He came to stand next to her, his eyes scanning the pages, turning them slowly. "You know, flowers tell a lot about the giver and the one they're being given to. They have a history and meaning."
The young man nodded solemnly, frowning in concentration. "Don't know that he's a flower sort of guy though."
"I've got the feeling roses are a little out of the question. At least for now." She smiled when he laughed and gave her a grin despite the blush. She flipped a couple of pages, and pointed out a picture. "Gladiolas are a soldier's flower, named after the gladiators of old. Showing strength and sincerity. Carnations hold many different meanings depending on what they're grouped with and the color..." She turned to another page, showing off what she thought he might be interested in.
"Gladiolas sound like him." He frowned a bit. "Though he's more a peacetime guy these days." He gave her a quick look. "Not the frilly, foo-foo kind."
"You haven't given me that impression." She smiled to show her sincerity. Tapping her chin thoughtfully, she asked, "How do you see him?"
His eyes lost their focus again, his face softened. "Beautiful." He looked startled for a moment and offered a sheepish sort of smile. "Uh... yeah, he's good looking."
Her gaze lingered, eyes knowing. "I'm certain." The emphasis wasn't lost.
He shifted from foot to foot, playing with the corner of a page, and then asked in a disinterested voice, "What do you have that shows, uh... lo-like?"
Without missing a beat, the clerk turned several pages, and began reciting, "Roses are most common to impart the feelings of lo... like, and strong emotions for someone. But there are other varieties which we can look at..."
At the first chime of the doorbell, he shifted in bed, reaching for the alarm clock. With the second blast, he leapt to his feet, blinking owlishly around. The third jolt hadn't finished before he was heading out of the room, slipping arms into his robe, flipping on lights as he went. That it was late enough sleep had made him fuzzy-headed, concerned him on who it could be at his door. Anyone he knew would have called.
A loud whispered - Heero, open up. It's me. - met him from the other side of the door.
He stopped briefly with his hand on the lock, confused as to why Duo would come for a visit well past midnight, even if the next day wasn't a working one. Shoving the thought aside, he threw open the door, and stood back to let his friend pass.
"Uh, you were sleeping?" Duo asked, eyes taking in the robe, disheveled hair and still glazed expression.
Heero shut the door, locking it automatically before answering. He opened his mouth and shut it with a snap, his eyes opened wide in surprise. "Duo, what is that?" he asked, indicating the object in his hands.
"Oh." Duo looked down, and rocked back on his heels. "This. Well, I uh..." Suddenly, he shoved it towards Heero. "Here. I got it for you."
Taking it without thought, Heero continued to frown at the potted plant. About two feet tall, its slender branches were tied to the stake driven deep inside the soil. A lone tomato drooped low, its thin vine barely attached to the stalk. It was still green and hard, needing several more days of sunlight to ripen. Raising his face to his friend, he asked, "Why did you give me a tomato plant?" Not waiting for an answer, he turned and began to lead the way to the kitchen, Duo not far behind.
"Uh... well, I–I wanted to get you something special, you know. And different, and..."
Heero placed the plant on the breakfast counter, his expression growing concerned at Duo's lack of vocal coordination. "Are you feeling all right, Duo?"
"No. I mean, yes!" he nearly shouted. Seeing the man's shoulders slump and the color leave his face suddenly, Heero leaned over the counter top, the back of his hand feeling for a fever. Duo jerked away and flushed. "I'm okay, really." His fingers played with the zipper on his jacket; his eyes firmly fixed to a spot on the floor. "I know it's kinda late, and sorry I woke you, but... well, I can't wait any more to tell you."
His brows knotted together, and eyes went from the man's fingers to the high coloring on his cheeks. Heero noted the accelerated respiration and the slight tic above Duo's right eye. That his friend was nervous seemed obvious. That it had to do with his gift was the logical conclusion. "What is it you have to tell me, Duo?" he asked, frowning at the plant again. He wondered for a moment if it'd been a special hybrid belonging to the R&D department at the chemical lab where Duo worked. He shook his head mentally. Their chemicals didn't create and grow things.
"Uh, yeah... see, I think... I know you'd understand... I hope. See, every time I try to tell you, well, I just wasn't getting it right, and, uh... shit." Heero looked at him in alarm. Duo raked a hand through bangs and stared at him. "I can't sing!" he blurted loudly.
Heero froze, his mind churned recent events and came up blank. "You woke me up to tell me that?"
"Ah, no..." Duo answered softly, taking a deep breath. "Damn it, Heero. What I'm trying to say is... well, hell. I..." He blinked rapidly, his hands made a fluttering movement on the counter. "Ah... what kind of flowers do you like?"
Like a seed in the spring, an idea began to form. Heero leaned over slightly in the attempt to peer under Duo's bangs. Seeing the wild look, filled with desperate hope, longing and full-on panic, the seed took root. Heero looked at the plant again, a slow, soft smile played about his lips. "Why a tomato plant, Duo?"
The man relaxed measurably. His hand stole out to touch a leaf, glide over the unripened fruit. "It seemed more like you than anything else," he answered quietly. "Efficient, strong, giving..." Duo's eyes raised to lock with his. "Beautiful."
Making his way around the breakfast counter that separated them, Heero answered, "Ornithogalum, Arabian stars." Stopping inches from his friend, his eyes searched his face. "You left that card in my jacket pocket, you know." He tilted his head and brushed his lips against Duo's, his hand going to cup the man's cheek. "When you borrowed it. Then you never seemed to want to talk about it. So I never said anything." Their lips met again; Duo's arms slid around his neck.
"You knew?" Duo's murmur was almost lost in the crush of lips.
Heero drew back, resting his forehead to Duo's, a hand still on his cheek, the other at the nape of his neck. He nodded lightly. "And I'm glad you can't sing."
"Hmmm..." Duo hummed. "I knew I should've given you that card back then." His kiss a little more insistent than the ones before. "We could have had a couple of months behind us now."
"But I wouldn't have a tomato plant," Heero argued, sliding a hand down his back.
"No, we'd be to the roses stage, I think." Duo's hand slipped inside the open robe.
"Roses," Heero whispered, his lips ghosting over his cheek. "One of every color."
Duo pulled back a little in surprised. "Everything, Heero?"
Nodding slowly, Heero pressed closer. "Everything."