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Keyleth is trying her very best not to stare at the woman waiting beside her stall.

 

It's a late February morning, drizzling down rain but sunny despite it, so the raindrops seem almost to glow with a honeyed hue. Sunshowers, Keyleth's mother used to call them, and she smiles softly to herself at the memory of her voice, the aptness of the name- it really is like liquid sunlight, droplets of it splashing against the pavement, bursting apart like tiny golden fireworks.

 

The woman- a half-elf, like me, Keyleth realises with a thrill, has had the foresight to bring a teal umbrella, suspiciously coordinated with her outfit- a silvery grey leather jacket, an ear cuff adorned with feathers; the manicured nails wrapped around the umbrella handle are painted a complimentary blue. Her dark hair is swept over one shoulder in a thick braid, and even with her brow furrowed with impatience, she is stunningly, unfairly, breathtakingly beautiful.

 

Before Keyleth even catches herself gazing again, the woman glances away from the empty turnstiles, towards Keyleth’s stall. Keyleth startles and whirls around, and immediately begins fussing pointlessly with the bouquet nearest to her. She forces herself to focus on the violets, counting the blue and white petals in an effort to distract herself and willing her blush to fade.

 

After a few moments of unsteadily controlled breathing and reeling thoughts- she’s probably waiting for her boyfriend right now!- the heat in her face has begun to fade. She delicately rearranges some stalks to better display the flower heads, whispering a druidic incantation and smiling softly to herself as the petals unfurl just a little further.

 

"Excuse me?" A voice sounds from her shoulder, and she turns, conjuring up a bright and helpful expression.

 

"Hi, what can I-" She falters when she comes face to face with her- the woman with the blue umbrella. She's hit with something like vertigo and dizziness combined when she meets her rich, earthy brown eyes, but somehow recovers, "what can I do for you?"

 

"Hello," The woman greets her with a perfect smile, tossing her head to get her braid out of the way with all the grace of a model, tripling Keyleth's heart rate, and holds up a small bunch of daffodils, tied together with string. "How much for these?"

 

Keyleth takes them to check the tag; they're sorry looking things, already beginning to droop, trembling on too-thin stems. The woman shoves her hand into her jacket pocket- Keyleth hears the jangle of loose change, and before she knows what she's doing, she blurts out;

 

"You can have them!"

 

The woman pauses as if stopped in her tracks, tilting her head in confusion.

 

"It's fine!" Keyleth babbled, thrusting the daffodils back towards her clumsily. "They're not that much and they weren't selling anyway so you should just take them."

 

The woman glances down at the flowers, and back up at Keyleth.

 

"Thank you, darling!" Keyleth can actually feel her face warm up at the term of endearment- the heat blazing across her skin. Even her voice is attractive, alluring without trying to be, her accent just a touch sophisticated. "You're very kind."

 

Keyleth feels like she is being set on fire from the inside out very, very slowly, and also maybe like an eagle bursting through storm clouds, spiralling up into a secret blue sky.

 

"It's nothing, I mean, I'm glad to, I mean, you seem..."

 

Obviously waiting for a date, Keyleth reminds herself. Buying flowers for her date.

 

"Would you like me to wrap them for you?"

 

The woman lets out a little, fond sort of laugh, warm with amusement.

 

"Thank you, I’d appreciate it."

_

 

Keyleth goes back to pretending to arrange flowers, and sneaking glances at the woman newly armed with daffodils, which are standing a little taller now that Keyleth subtly sent a pulse of magic through them, and are wrapped carefully in brown paper and adorned with a yellow ribbon. (Also usually an extra cost, but she just couldn't resist...)

 

"Stubby!" A shout from her left makes the woman glance up- Keyleth follows her gaze, and sees a man jogging towards her, grinning broadly.

 

It strikes her immediately that he looks noticeably similar to the woman- he has the same sharp features, the same litheness, the same long dark hair, his half-pulled into a messy low ponytail. Keyleth even catches a glimpse of a tangle of dark feathers hanging from behind an ear… a subtly pointed ear.

 

"You're late!" The woman, ‘ stubby?’, Keyleth wonders, calls back, but her voice is reluctantly affectionate. "I thought you were taking the underground."

 

"Nah, the bus." The man says, and reaching her, pulls her into a one armed hug, and kisses her atop the head.

 

"Ew, ew, ew!" The woman pushes him away, squirming childishly, "You're soaking wet, asshole!"

 

If their looks hadn't confirmed it, the miniature wrestling competition the pair have right there on the pavement evaporates any lingering doubt- these two are clearly siblings.

 

A mischievous glint appears in the man's eye; he lets go of his sister, steps back, and before she can protest, he shakes himself like a wet dog, spraying rainwater in all directions.

 

"Stop!" She said, laughing and attempting to shield herself with her umbrella. "You're the worst, oh my god!"

 

"You know you love me."

 

"Well, obviously." With a roll of her eyes, she shoves the daffodils at him. "I love you so much got these for your boring new room, loser."

 

How sweet, Keyleth thinks absently, as a grin breaks out on the man’s face. She got them for her brother!

 

Her brain, however, is still catching up.

 

The flowers are for her brother. The barely-there sounds of the rain seem to whisper against the stall’s awning. She's... not waiting for a date.

 

An irrational flutter of excitement explodes into existence in Keyleth’s chest. She watches the woman smack her brother playfully in the face with the damp side of her umbrella, and rocks back and forth on her toes, biting her lip. Delight and nervousness swirl within her like a kaleidoscope of butterflies taking flight.

 

Hurriedly, she pulls her phone from her pocket, thumbs through menus, and types; ‘life needs things to live,’ despite the fact that he’s right there at the top of her most recent contacts.

 

(16:04) minxie: percyyyyyy how do you talk to pretty girls

 

She adds a string of stressed and despairing emoticons to communicate her urgency, hits send and is halfway through slipping her phone away when the answering chime stops her.

 

(16:04) life needs things to live: You're asking me?

 

(16:04) minxie: who do you want me to ask?

 

(16:04) minxie: grog?

 

(16:05) life needs things to live: Fair enough. Some context could be helpful?

 

(16:05) minxie: girl with blue feathers in her hair at my stall. bought flowers and I thought they were for a date so I didn't say anything but she just gave them to her brother

 

(16:05) life needs things to live: Well, what would you have said to her if you had thought she was single?

 

Keyleth replies with a frowny face.

 

(16:05) life needs things to live: Right, well if you've never seen her before it follows that she doesn't live around here, so you should seize the opportunity to talk to her before she leaves. I’m assuming she's still there?

 

Keyleth glances up furtively from her phone-

 

(16:06) minxie: shit

 

(16:06) minxie: she must have left while I was texting you

 

(16:06) minxie: I can't believe I've done this

 

(16:06) life needs things to live: I can.

 

(16:06) minxie: you're the worst

 

(16:06) life needs things to live: I’ll pick up ice cream on the way home x

 

-

 

The following morning, Vex murmurs apologetically as she clips Trinket’s leash to his collar.

 

“Sorry buddy.” She croons, running her fingers through his thick brown fur. He snuffles in reply, and then sneezes, and Vex laughs and stands to lead him out of the park gates and across the road to the station.

 

She can't help but feel a little guilty at the idea of teasing him with a proper run only to leash him, and especially on a day so beautiful- the sky is a gorgeous, cloudless blue, despite the chill. Oblivious to her concerns, Trinket’s tail wags happily from side to side. Still, she's glad she’s brought her wingman.

 

Seeing the flower stand across the road, and, in a flash between parting pedestrians and vehicles, the half-elf woman from the day before, crouched over a pot, sweeping a loose lock of long hair out of her eyes, Vex takes a steadying breath.

 

When the lights change, and herself and Trinket arrive at the stall, she whispers a command to him and a moment later, he’s nosing at the crouched woman’s shoulder.

 

“Oh!” She says in surprise, overbalancing and landing in a kneeling position.

 

“Trinket!” Vex exclaims, injecting a note of surprise and outrage into her voice. “I am so sorry, he's just being friendly. Trinket!”

 

The woman looks up at her, a hand braced at her throat in surprise, and Vex doesn't miss the spark of recognition in her jade green eyes.

 

“Oh, that’s alright.” She says, recovering, and holds her hand out to allow Trinket to sniff it. “He’s adorable! His name is Trinket?”

 

“Yes, he's a treasure.” Vex grins, watching as Trinket laps placidly at the florist’s fingers. “But please,” she offers her own hand. “Can I help you up, darling?”

 

The woman flushes scarlet, but takes her hand, and their first contact involves rather a lot more slobber than Vex would've hoped.

 

“Thank you…” The woman says when she’s on her feet, letting go of Vex quickly.

 

“Vex’ahlia,” Vex says with a wink. “But I’m Vex to my friends.”

 

“Um, Keyleth.” Her pitch wobbles, and for a moment Vex thinks she's spoken to her in elvish.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“My name!” She squawks, and then drops her voice. “It’s Keyleth. Um. Nice to meet you. Both of you. He’s really cute. Oh!” She wipes her hands off anxiously on her overalls. “Flowers, I mean, are you here for flowers?”

 

“I’m in the market for some, as it happens.” Absently, she reaches down to scritch Trinket behind the ears. Inwardly, she’s promising him a horde of treats. “There's someone I’d really like to ask out on a date. I hear certain flowers mean different things?”

 

Vex notices the florist’s- Keyleth’s- smile falter just a little, but she nods enthusiastically.

 

“There’s flower language if you're interested in that sort of thing- a lot of flowers work for romantic sentiments, red roses, red tulips, red in general really-”

 

Red. Vex isn’t a fan. It must show on her face, because Keyleth flaps her hands and swerves onto another track.

 

“That's not to say you have to go with red! Gardenias-” she indicates a white flower with a swirling sort of structure to the petals, “can be secret love, or um, if it's really serious forget-me-nots are true love, and there’s gloxinia for love at first sight-”

 

“What do those look like?” Vex asks, feeling a silly, hopeful little flame in her chest, her mind going to fairytales-

 

“Oh, sorry, I didn’t think, they are sort of a reddish pink, but I can find some if you'd like to see them anyway. Oh, but if pink is okay, there’s striped carnations, for ‘I wish I could be with you,’ but maybe not, they can also indicate rejection-”

 

“Some flowers have two meanings?” Vex cuts in. She can’t help but admit to herself that she’s starting to feel a little disoriented, but Keyleth is so animated talking on the subject- her shyness has all but evaporated. Trinket seems to like hearing her talk too- he’s watching her, dark-eyed and attentive, and his tail is still whipping against her leg- so that’s another point in Keyleth’s favour, as far as Vex is concerned.

 

“Most have several!” She explains cheerfully- she’s in her element. It’s unreasonably cute. “And meanings have changed over time. Yellow tulips traditionally meant hopeless love but I guess they were just too beautiful, now they more often stand for sunshine and happiness and new love! Not that many people know about the old meaning.” She pauses, and blinks, as if coming back to herself. “But I’m sorry, I’m rambling!”

 

Vex opens her mouth to reassure her, but she adds quickly;

 

“I suppose what I’m trying to say is it's best to get their favourite if you know it, it’s more sentimental that way…”

 

“Oh,” Vex makes a show of pursing her lips in a thoughtful frown. “No, I don’t know it. They seem to be a big flower fan in general, which is why I thought that flowers would be the best thing.” She strokes her chin thoughtfully. “What kind of flowers would you most like to receive, if someone were to buy you some?”

 

“Um, sunflowers, I think?” Keyleth begins uncertain, but then- “Yes, sunflowers!” She lights up, and the little flame Vex was nursing grows warmer. “Some people might say it's a little cliche but I really do like them- they’re so bright and optimistic, you know?”

 

“I think I do.” Vex replies, admiring her sunny smile. “That sounds perfect.” Her eyes wander to a collection of sunflowers, and she finds a bouquet accented with baby’s breath. “I’ll take them.”  

 

Moments later, she’s handed over a few coins and Keyleth is handing her the flowers, artfully wrapped.

 

“Thank you,” Vex says, running her fingers over the paper luxuriously. “I suppose that the only thing that's left to do now is to ask.”

 

“Good luck.” Keyleth says sincerely, and she is already turning away when Vex interrupts;

 

“Keyleth?”

 

“Hm?” She pauses. “Was there something else, I could help you with?”

 

Vex tilts her head, and holds out the sunflowers.

 

“Have you got a break coming up? And would you mind if I joined you?”

 

In the instance of Keyleth’s stunned silence, Vex feels a rush of worry, but then;

 

“Yes!” She squeaks. “I mean, no! I mean-”  She sighs, and when she looks back up to Vex her smile is even brighter than before. “I would love to!”

 

She reaches out to take the flowers, and their fingers graze again.