Harry had only just unwrapped his sandwich and poured himself a cup of tea in the backroom of the shop when he heard the sharp sound of the front door being yanked.
He’d put up a sign saying the shop was closed for lunch, so either this was someone who hadn’t seen the sign and would soon walk away, or it was someone who was ignoring the sign, and Harry had no interest in catering to that kind of rudeness.
He took a bite of his sandwich, apple and brie, waiting for his tea to cool enough to drink.
That’s when the sound of frantic knocking came through the back.
Was someone really that stubborn?
Harry got up from his seat and stepped out into the shop. He was curious about why they thought they deserved to be served so badly.
He didn’t expect what he saw: a man in a three piece suit, face going bright as soon as he caught sight of Harry.
“It’s an emergency, please!” The man on the other side of the glass shouted, pressing his palms together in a plea.
From his desperation and, well, that suit, Harry guessed this bloke was part of a wedding party. A floral emergency could be interesting, especially if it was wedding related.
Harry left his sandwich by the till before unlocking the front door and letting the man in.
“Do you have anything that would pass for a bridal bouquet?” The man blinked rapidly, his mouth open. “Unless you happen to have one lying about?”
“I--” Harry shook his head. “No-- Those have to be ordered in advance. Did you forget to do that?” If this man had forgotten to arrange for flowers for his own wedding…he might tell the bride not to go through with it himself, no matter how attractive he was.
Luckily, he laughed, the corner of his eyes crinkling. It made Harry want to help him, no matter what.
“I know, we got the flowers, not from here, I’m sorry,” he pleaded, mouth twisting in apology, “but a bird shat on the bouquet, alright? It’s--” He was jittery, fixing his fringe, drawing attention to his face. “It’s a lost cause.”
“That’s awful,” Harry said, trying to control the way his mouth wanted to tug up. It was awful, but it was also hilarious. “I don’t know that I have anything that could pass for bridal.” He looked around the space. None of the bouquets he had for display were good enough.
The man tugged at his lip before shrugging. “You know what-- give me anything. Anything is better than nothing, innit?”
Harry’s mouth pinched. He’d been playing around with something new, he still had the bouquet stashed aside. It matched the man’s eyes and his tie, which would be a good tie in for the wedding. “I might have something, hold on.”
He went to his workbench in the back, picking up the arrangement he’d been working on earlier. It was a bit different for a wedding bouquet, but would probably work better than anything else he had at the ready.
It was blue and earthy; bold spider mums bracketed with succulents. The bright blue peonies were the lightest of the bunch. It could work. Instinctively, Harry picked one of the peonies out and with some twine and leaves he improvised a matching boutonniere.
Now they were a matching set.
He brought both pieces out to the store and presented them. “Here you go.”
Harry watched the man’s face as his expression shifted. Eyebrows raised and a relieved smile.
“This is class,” he said, twirling the bouquet in his hands. “Lottie is going to love this.”
“Oh, and this--” Harry said, shrugging before he offered the man his boutonniere.
“For me?” Louis asked, a wink that Harry was surely imagining in his tone.
Harry coughed, said, “The groom is supposed to match.” He shrugged. “It’s a package deal.”
“Brilliant! Thank you so much. How much do I owe you?” He asked, reaching into his pocket, and Harry waved him off. “I’ll make sure to remember this place for next time.” This time he did wink.
Harry frowned slightly at that, tipping his head to the side. But the mysterious groom had already fled the premises, leaving no time for Harry to ask questions.
Perhaps he just meant to say he’d recommend Harry’s shop to other engaged couples he knew?
It was cradled by a radiant bride, tan with long whitish hair as she posed for the camera. It was an album with more photos, and he flicked through them. He sent her a message asking if he could repost the photo. That’s where the interaction should’ve ended, then, but he wanted to see more photos of the wedding.
Returning back to her profile he hovered over the photo description which contained the required wedding specific hashtag. He clicked into it, telling himself that it was just because he wanted to see if the bouquet was featured in any other photos, but he had to give up that pretense when the first photo featured the man who’d picked up the flowers.
He was holding a bottle of champagne up high with a radiant smile. Harry hovered over his username. Louis T. That’s who he was. Harry wanted to click through, he wanted to see more photos. He was cute, and he’d been kind, and despite all that he’d just gotten married. To a woman, no less.
There was no point in Harry torturing himself by looking at what he couldn’t have.
Harry bit his lip before going back to his own notifications.
As brief as their encounter was, Louis’ arse when he’d walked away in his three piece suit was imprinted in Harry’s brain.
It was never Louis, though, which was for the best. But that didn’t mean Harry had forgotten him. In fact, he still recognized Louis when he stepped into the shop a few months later.
It was a far less dramatic entrance this time; the door was open for one, and the chimes were what alerted Harry to his presence.
“Welcome back,” Harry said, because that’s how he greeted all of his returning customers, regardless of how attractive he found them.
Louis beamed, a wide smile splitting his face. “I did say I’d be back.”
Harry puffed his chest out without intending to. It should’ve been embarrassing, showing off to a married bloke but-- he just couldn’t help himself. Nothing was going to happen. He asked, “What are you looking for?”
Louis tipped his head back, chin jutting out slightly. “Baby shower. What have you got?” Louis said, a slight challenge in his voice.
“For right now?” Harry asked, suppressing a twitch of his nose. Just married and already a baby on the way? Christ.
Louis laughed, his teeth pulling at his bottom lip as he shook his head. “No, no more last minute orders, this isn’t til next week.”
“So I passed that test?” Harry nervously wiped down his hands on his apron. Louis’ eyes followed the movement of his hands, it made Harry’s stomach squirm.
Louis laughed again, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “If anyone was being tested it was probably me, t’be honest.” He rocked back on his heels and shook his head.
Right. Of course. Finding a last minute bridal bouquet was probably a real test for him, the groom, who knows if the wedding would’ve even happened without it. But since he was here for a baby shower… no doubt it all worked out and he passed that test.
Still, Harry gave Louis his widest smile. “I suppose it depends on your budget, and what exactly you want? There’s the standard congratulations bouquet, of course, that’s always popular one.”
“Budget is irrelevant. I just want the best, yeah?”
Harry nodded, pinching his lower lip as he thought. This was his job; he could do it. “Well some people opt for centrepieces and garlands, there’s also wreaths for doors…It can all accentuate the theme, if there is one, or adapt for a gender reveal if that’s part of it...”
Louis kept nodding as Harry spoke, as if he wanted all of those things, everything Harry and Bloom! could offer him. He cut himself off before clearing his throat. “There’s also the types of flower. Any favourites that you know of?”
Louis pursed his lips, rocking back again. His biceps were very visible at the moment. “You’re the expert, right?”
“So what do you think?”
“Is there a theme for me to work with?”
Louis shook his head, a stray piece of hair curling around his ear. Harry would’ve liked to push it back. Louis looked both strong and delicate, his fucking kryptonite. But he was married with a baby on the way, Harry reminded himself. He’d had to remind himself of that a lot for the past half hour.
The best way distracted himself from Louis was to not look at him as he thought. Harry stepped away from the counter and walked towards his flower displays. This way he could keep his back to Louis. He couldn’t be caught staring, it would be an embarrassment for the ages.
“Tulips are always nice-- they are a springtime flower so the association with fertility is there. And they come in many different colours.”
“Great,” Louis said, his voice surprisingly close. He’d followed Harry to look at the flowers, of course.
Harry swallowed, trying very hard to remain focused on the task at hand as he looked over his options. “Gerbera daisies are very underrated. Baby’s breath is a classic. I can build something based around those three.”
“Perfect.” Louis clapped Harry on the back, and Harry’s breath caught. He could return to the counter now, and put that between them. Christ, why was he reacting this way?
“I’ll just tally it all up,” Harry said, keeping his head down.
“Thank you. Too bad you guys don’t have a tip jar, I’d drop all my change in there. You’re a proper life saver, you know?”
“Um well, you’re not supposed to tip the proprietor. And I’m the only one who works here, so.” Harry shrugged, continuing to summarize what they’d agreed on and his estimates.
“Proprietor?” Louis whistled lowly. He picked at one the business cards that were stacked by the till.
The ones that said, Floral good time call Bloom!
Louis let out an amused huff, and tapped the card against the counter. “Thank you for taking care of my floral needs,” Louis said with a wink.
“That’s my job.” Harry’s tongue pressed against the back of teeth, he was trying not to step in it but as Louis continued looking around the till and picked at some of the greeting cards.
“These are great,” Louis said when he picked at one of the cards with a pun. “We should put our tulips together,” Louis read aloud.
Harry could feel the heat rise in his face. Louis kept picking at the cards, stacking up a few on the counter. “I’ll take these too, they’re great.”
The praise prais dug its way into Harry’s chest, and he couldn’t help but say, “I, uh, they’re mine actually. They’re a Bloom! exclusive.”
Louis’ eyes narrowed. “You’re a florist and a copywriter? Leave some jobs for the rest of us, will you,” he teased, his mouth pulling to one side.
If this were anyone else Harry would’ve thought they were flirting. Which was an impossibility in this case. He gave a tight lipped smile back, shrugging. “It compliments the business, doesn’t it? Cards for flowers.”
“Yeah, mighty impressive.” He picked up a few more of the business cards Harry had on display, a curt nod following. “I’ll make sure to pass some of these around, yeah?”
“Thank you,” Harry said, nose twitching. Was Louis flirting? He couldn’t tell anymore, couldn’t judge the situation properly. He cleared his throat, signifying they were back to business “Alright, this is the preliminary order,” he repeated everything to Louis, asking him to confirm each piece and price.
“Perfect,” Louis said, handing over his credit card. “I’ll come and pick everything up next Saturday.”
“That’s a big assumption to make,” Harry scoffed, although he’d considered it himself. It’s not like he could see it: Louis was never sleazy about his purchases so his behaviour didn’t suggest he cheated but… Sometimes it was those you’d least expect that let you down that way.
Nick shook his head. He pointed a finger to Alexa, roping her in, “You said Harry told you this bloke was flirting with you--”
“You did say that,” Alexa confirmed, her eyebrows raised in accusation.
Harry should’ve known she couldn’t be trusted. “It was mild flirtation, if that,” Harry corrected. He did not want to be part of this conversation. He shouldn’t have mentioned it at all. It wasn’t his business in the first place and now it had turned into a fun hypothetical for Nick and Alexa to criticize.
“To be fair that could be wishful thinking on Harry’s part,” Alexa said, tipping her glass of wine towards Nick. Turning to Harry she continued, “Right? I mean it’s not like he asked for your number, is it?”
Harry shrugged and turned his back to them, glancing towards the bar. There was nothing to see there, really but he didn’t want his expression to give anything away. Louis had never crossed any lines. He didn’t even know Harry’s name.
Nick said, “Oi, didn’t you say he complimented your atrocious pun cards? That’s flirting.”
“He bought a few,” Harry corrected. He inhaled deeply through his nose. Those cards sold quite well, no matter what Nick thought of them.
Alexa’s eyes were narrowed, she took a deliberate sip of her drink. “He paid for them?”
Nick laughed, it was a sharp sound, sowing doubts in Harry’s chest. Nick said, “It’s overkill, right? Who spends that much money on one person unless you’re hiding something?”
“He didn’t say the cards were for her.”
“Well there you go. Splurge on the missus so she doesn’t suspect anything and leave the others with corny treacly greeting cards.
“I think I’m coming round to Nick’s way of thinking,” Alexa said and they clinked their glasses. “It’s fishy.”
They’d turned against him, as always.
Shit friends he had, really.
Harry felt slightly on edge, worried that this would be the time it was confirmed that Louis was a cheat.
Still, Harry put on a bright face and asked, “What can I get you this time?” He fixed his hair carefully, trying not to draw attention to it. He feared confirming that Louis was a cheat, but he feared even more coming off poorly to him.
“I need two bouquets, kid size if that’s a thing?” Louis bit his lip, it was charming, too charming for Harry.
He swallowed before answering, “Well, not really but I can do that.”
“Great,” Louis said, looking all too pleased for this simple an exchange. “Now, the tricky thing is I need them to be identical. You shouldn’t be able to tell them apart.”
Harry frowned at that comment and Louis shook his head with laughter. “Hold on…” He grabbed his phone and found something on it before pushing it towards Harry.
He’d pulled up a photo of two young children hugging each other. They were adorable. Of course Louis carried photos of children in his phone, he was a perfect man. He just happened to be taken.
“They’re twins. And I don’t want them fighting over which bouquet is nicer so you know,” Louis shrugged before pulling his phone back. He glanced at the photo one more time before putting his phone away.
It made Harry’s chest hurt. “They’re adorable,” Harry said, a twinge in his chest.
“And I know you’re all fancy flowers over here,” Louis said, gesturing to Harry’s displays. “But they quite like wildflowers. Anything that looks like it could grow in the wild.”
“Of course. I can work with that.”
Louis took a deep enough breath that his shoulders rose and fell. “Great.”
Harry was so enamored, he was fucked really. He had to say something, something that wasn’t ‘Why are you taken?’ and all he could think of was, “I think you’re my best customer.”
Louis’ mouth twitched, smile widening in response. “Well. I think family should be taken care of, yeah?”
“Yeah, I can agree with that.” Harry punched in Louis’ order. His heart swelled in his chest. Nick was wrong about him, he had to be. There was nothing nefarious about someone spending money on his loved ones. He hadn’t asked Harry to send flowers to different women. And it was good for Harry’s business.
He technically wasn’t on the clock while in attendance; his work had been done and delivered already, after all. But he still felt the need to make sure all the flower arrangements he’d provided had been installed properly, his nerves tingling at the thought of them all falling apart.
He was currently inspecting the flower crowns he’d hand braided for the guests. There were two different crowns, with different flowers, indicating whether the wearer knew the bride or the groom. It had been Harry’s idea, a new twist that fit into the homey mood of the wedding.
“Bloom boy!” Someone called out and Harry turned around. It couldn’t refer to anyone but him, really. He was still holding onto one of the crowns as he turned to face Louis.
He wasn’t alone, he was there with his wife, and Harry’s stomach clenched.
“I can’t believe you’re not wearing a flower crown,” Louis said. If he’d noticed Harry’s surprise he wasn’t acknowledging it. “This is Charlotte.”
“Lottie,” she said as she reached out her hand to take Harry’s.
“Harry, hi,” he said meeting her hand with his. She had a nice firm grip, even though she was tiny. She was no bullshit, for sure.
“Harry,” Louis said, slowly, his head tipped back. It was the first time he’d said Harry’s name and a shiver passed through him. He wanted to rough Louis up for that. He could get away with pushing against his shoulder, that was innocent enough but-- But Harry didn’t trust himself.
Louis continued, “So, what’s your excuse?”
“Pardon?” Harry had forgotten what the question was.
Louis stepped closer, and Harry blinked. It was distracting, seeing Louis up close with his sharp features framed by flowers. Louis came closer still, and his fingers pushed at Harry’s hair. Harry’s eyes fluttered shut momentarily. “You don’t have a flower crown. You should show off your work, no?”
“Oh,” Harry said, pushing his fingers into his hair. He hadn’t even thought of that.
Lottie smiled in a knowing way and Harry felt exposed. Like she approved of Louis teasing him. How was any of this normal?
Harry picked up one of the bride’s friend’s crowns and placed it atop his head. Louis was watching him carefully, and Harry could swear he saw his tongue for a split second.
“Looking good,” Louis said. He was tugged at the hand by Lottie and they started to step back. “We’ve gotta go. I’ll see you in there.”
Harry waved at them both and watched as they walked away. Louis and her were wearing the crowns with daisies, which indicated they were friends with Stan. Harry only knew Jenny. At least they wouldn’t be sitting near each other during the ceremony.
When he approached the bar he saw Louis stood there, alone. Overtaken with something indescribable Harry went up to him. He might as well confront him.
But Louis seemed pleased to see Harry approach.
“Hey,” Louis said, mouth curving into a smile. His two drink tickets were on the bar top, he held one beer in his hand and waiting for a glass of wine to be poured.
“You double fisting already?” Harry asked, trying to be casual, nodding towards Louis’ full hands.
Louis shook his head. “One of these is for Lottie.”
“Should… should she be drinking?” Harry stumbled over his words. Louis frowned in confusion, and Harry turned his attention to the bartender, exchanging his drink ticket for a mojito.
Louis was still stood next to him when he was done, confusion still draping his expression. “Why wouldn’t she drink?”
“Isn’t she, uhm,” Harry started, and stopped himself. He gestured towards his belly with his hand, “You know?”
Louis’ eyes went wide and his chest shook with silent laughter. He put his drinks aside and pushed his hand to his chest. “Oh god,” he managed to say at last, shaking her head. “Do not tell her you thought she was pregnant.”
“She isn’t?” Harry’s voice squeaked, he had no control over it. How could that be? He hadn’t even registered her stomach earlier, which he should have if she was pregnant. But he also was too busy staring at Louis. “You hosted her baby shower,” Harry said, matter-of-factly, questioning his version of events. That happened, right? Louis had come to Bloom! And ordered flowers for her baby shower. Harry had the receipt for the flowers he bought.
Although. Louis never did say who the baby shower was for. Had this all been a terrible misunderstanding?
“That wasn’t for Lottie. That was a couple of friends of mine, they’ve been waiting to adopt for years. They deserved a big party now that the baby is on the way.”
“Oh.” Christ, Harry felt like an asshole, now. Louis really did have the biggest heart of all. It wasn’t just his direct family that he treated well. “So you and Lottie aren’t having a baby?”
Louis choked on his beer, coughed into his elbow. “I’m sorry, what? Me ‘n her?” He braced himself against the bar. “She’s my sister.”
Harry frowned, his jaw going tight at this revelation. Perhaps he’d misunderstood. “ You’re not married?”
“I’m definitely not married. I would’ve remembered that happening.”
“Oh,” Harry said, his breath caught in his throat.
Louis inhaled deeply once and shook his head, laughter bubbling out of him. Wrinkling his nose he continued, “I can’t believe you thought I was straight.”
Harry’s mouth dropped open but he had nothing to say, he drank some of his mojito. And some more, until he realized his glass was empty.
His sister. “But she’s the one who got married, right? When you needed a last minute bridal bouquet?”
“Yeah. That was her.”
“Right,” Harry said, the sinking in his stomach telling him he’d got things awfully wrong. Still, he had to ask, “Your sister… why isn’t she here with her husband?”
Louis laughed, a full bellied, crinkly eyed laugh. “That’s a question for the Stan. There were no plus ones allowed, they were on quite a strict budget apparently.”
“Oh.” Harry’s face faltered.
“But it’s a good thing they didn’t skimp on the flowers, right?” Louis winked at Harry.
Christ, Harry was embarrassed. He’d thought Louis was married with kids and more on the way. And yet here he was, still leaning
“I think I’m going to need more to drink.”
Louis wiped his mouth. “Do you have any drink tickets left?”
“They were on a budget, yeah? There’s no open bar. Quite expensive when you’re out of tickets.”
“If you like wine you can take this one,” Louis said, pushing the glass towards Harry. The one he’d said he’d gotten for Lottie.
Harry was tempted.
But he didn’t cave, despite every cell in his body telling him that the only way he could forget about this night would be to absolutely soak his blood with alcohol, and obliterate his memories. He said, “Then what would Lottie drink?”
Louis grimaced, said, “Touche. Alright.” Louis’ tongue poked out of his mouth while he thought. “I’ve got a stash in the car, ‘cause we knew this would happen.”
“Okay,” Harry responded, the back of his neck prickling. “I’ll take some bootleg liquor.”
“Okay,” Louis said, and sucked his cheeks in. The visual made Harry’s stomach clench, his fingers itch. Less than an hour ago Harry would have berated himself for these thoughts, and now he was leaning into it.
Because Louis was available, and it changed every one of their past interactions.
Louis said, “I’ve got to give this to Lottie first, just--”
And then he turned away. Harry didn’t hesitate to look down, to imprint the way Louis’ arse curved into his memory, again.
Harry followed Louis through the crowd. He could have waited for him, but he didn’t want to separate just yet. If he left Louis out of his sight he’d have to think about all of his awful assumptions.
Right now he was embarrassed but still standing. If he got time to actually think about it all… he might have to burrow into his sofa and not come up for air for months. Which would mean wasting even more time. He was on a roll now.
There was a dip to Louis’ waist that made Harry’s mouth water, even as he swallowed his nerves down. He cursed himself at how shallow he was being but then again-- he knew Louis was available now. Available and attainable.
Harry bit his lip, his hand covering his face as he breathed deeply. He lost sight of Louis for a minute and he remained rooted to the spot, just off the corner of the dance floor.
Louis found him quickly and grabbed Harry’s hand. But he didn’t lead the way, instead he walked a step behind Harry and directed him that way. It wasn’t hard to find the car. It was parked the farthest from the venue.
The more the music faded in the background, the bolder Harry felt.
Louis opened the boot of his car, revealing many options of beer and coolers. Harry reached in and picked up a can of Somersby. “You know I quite lilac you--”
Louis laughed, but it was delight, not ridicule that coloured his face. “Is that on one of your cards?” Louis had grabbed another beer for himself. Can cracked open he took a deep drink.
“Depends on if it works,” Harry said, feeling bold.
“Have you been holding on to this? I thought you thought I was married.”
“I’m only human,” Harry said. He was probably blushing, it felt like it. But Louis wasn’t backing away.
Louis laughed and slammed the boot of the car shut. They were alone in the improvised car park. Everyone else was still at the wedding, but it didn’t feel like either of them were missing out.
Louis leaned back, just enough to imply that he wanted Harry to come closer, and he did. Soon enough they were face to face, Louis having scooted up on the hood of the car.
“I have a favourite of my own,” Louis said, and licked his lips.
“Oh?” Harry didn’t even feel bad about staring at them, not anymore.
“We should put our tulips together,” Louis said, voice low.
Harry only needed to register Louis words before pushing in closer, lips seeking Louis. Louis was pliant, and Harry heard the sound of Louis’ bottle hitting the ground.
They pulled apart for air, and Louis was caressing Harry’s arms.
“You’ve got great shoulders,” Louis said with a purr.
“Thanks,” Harry said. He could’ve responded that Louis had great everything, but it might be too much, too soon. And he wasn’t taking any risks anymore. Nor was he going to go too hard.
He cradled Louis’ chin, and got close enough that their breaths mingled. He waited still, until Louis let out a whine. That’s when Harry gave in and kissed Louis again.
He felt back in control, and his hands found their way easily to the small of Louis’ back. He arched it more, more, and Harry’s fingers crept lower.
They had a lot of time and misunderstandings to make up for.