The next few weeks fell into a routine.
A few times a week - usually Tuesdays, Minhyuk had noticed - the elusive man in the leather jacket entered the store looking for a floral reference for a tattoo design he was working on. Despite his bold appearance, the man was soft-spoken and kind, and he often spent a few minutes browsing before he asked for a particular flower, brushing his hand over the petals and mumbling to himself. A handful of times he had been accompanied by a dark-haired boy with a beautifully drawn wolf in a bramble thicket tattooed on his arm who followed the man around like a duckling and pointed certain blooms out.
But this had all been hearsay for Minhyuk.
It wasn’t that he was trying to avoid the pretty new customer. He hadn’t meant to fly to the back room every time the man had appeared in the doorway, hadn’t meant to lose his cool in a way he’d never done before. But there was something that had triggered a strange, unconscious panic in his mind, a panic that forced him into fight-or-flight mode, and he had moved without thinking, ignoring the confused stares of his co-workers every single time.
After the third sprint to the storeroom, Hyungwon pulled him aside with a straight-lipped smile.
“Explain,” Hyungwon said bluntly, crossing his arms over his chest.
Minhyuk sighed. “I don’t know, Wonnie. I don’t know.”
Hyungwon shook his head. “There has to be a reason why you’re freaking out so much. Do you know him from somewhere? Why are you trying to hide?”
He’d hit the nail on the head, not that Minhyuk was surprised. Hyungwon had always been scarily perceptive, and Minhyuk was never good at hiding things, so he had been called out rather quickly despite trying his best to conceal his emotions.
Hyungwon’s grim smile slipped from his face, replaced with obvious empathy as he reached over and put a hand on his co-worker’s shoulder.
“You don’t have to explain anything to me if you don’t want to. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”
Minhyuk laughed, though it came out a bit shaky. “Thank you, Hyungwon. I really really appreciate you and Shownu always checking in on me. I promise I’ll get my head on straight.”
As if saying his name had called him, the broad-shouldered boss came out of his office just then, offering Minhyuk a shining smile and handing his two employees the new shipment.
After a quick survey, the new blossoms seemed to be azalea pots. Minhyuk hummed a little, thoroughly impressed with the impeccable technique and the beauty of the flowers, then locked eyes once more with his boss to hear instructions.
The work day had been rather slow, an unexpected spring shower forcing the employees of the flower shop to pull in the flowers displayed outside and find places for them inside the storefront. The shop was comfortably warm, and Hyungwon and Minhyuk had been rearranging and re-tagging blooms as busy work throughout their shift. Besides the man in the leather jacket, there had only been two other customers - a businessman in a freshly pressed suit and giant black umbrella who picked up some roses for his fiancé and a middle-aged woman who came in to order custom vases for her coffee shop tables - so Hyungwon and Minhyuk had made their own fun by playing Pictionary on the scheduling whiteboard. There was classical music streaming through the speakers installed around the storefront, and Hyungwon had spent about an hour trying to teach Minhyuk how to waltz, ending in furious giggling and a lot of toes being stepped on. Hyungwon was hands-down Minhyuk’s favorite co-worker to work with, so even with the man with the leather jacket appearing once again, Minhyuk was in a fairly good mood.
The two crossed the store to try and began moving things around to make room for the new azaleas. They bickered for a bit, Hyungwon wanting to sort things by color while Minhyuk insisted on categorizing things by time of sun exposure required, and eventually just stuck the azaleas on the middle island of the store, jokingly glaring at each other on their way back to the counter.
It was a few minutes later, when Hyungwon was busy adjusting the scheduling board, that Minhyuk spoke up.
“He looks like the man who hit Jooheon.”
Hyungwon dropped the Expo marker in his hand and turned around with eyes wide.
Minhyuk laughed, his hands trembling.
“When Jooheon was hit, I guess I had been number one on the speed dial on his phone, so I was called by the man who had hit him. It had been raining that night, and I guess Jooheon’s bike slipped and the man who hit him hadn’t been paying all that much attention and I just...I got the call and I just shut down. I remember rushing to my car and racing to the hospital, and by the time I got there, Jooheon was already out...but the man who had hit him was just leaving as I arrived, and I saw a glimpse of his face as he brushed past me. He looked just like the man with the leather jacket.”
Hyungwon inhaled deeply, looking thoroughly shaken. “Holy shit.”
“I mean, I doubt it’s him,” Minhyuk said breathlessly, “but I couldn’t stop myself. It was an unconscious reaction to hide. I know I should give him the benefit of the doubt, since there’s only a small chance it is him, but I just...I can’t shake it.”
“Min, you should have said something,” Hyungwon sighed. “We wouldn’t have pressured or judged you in any way if we knew what was happening.”
At this point, Minhyuk was close to tears. “I didn’t know how to bring it up.”
The two stood in silence then, Hyungwon bending down and gingerly picking up the discarded marker, Minhyuk wiping at his eyes vigorously.
“Y’know,” Minhyuk spoke, loud in the silence of the air around them, “I was really mad at the time. Really, really angry at this man I saw for only a moment. But the longer it’s taken, the longer it’s been, I just wish I could have talked to him. Heard his side. I wanted to know what it was like, what really happened to Jooheon, the information that wasn’t in the legal medical documents. I wish I had stopped him.”
“You were shaken. It’s completely understandable that you didn’t think to stop him when you were in the middle of the chaos. Is this something you think about a lot?”
Minhyuk pursed his lips. “More than I’d like to admit. I guess I sorta blame myself for being so irrational at the time, because I didn’t know the full story. He could’ve been hurt as well, but I wasn’t thinking about that. At the time, I genuinely believed Jooheon could do no wrong. I’ve always had rose-tinted glasses whenever I looked at him; he was always an angel to me, and knowing that someone hurt him was enough to send me off the edge.”
“Do you remember what the official reports were?”
Minhyuk nodded. “It was both of their faults. Jooheon was going too fast on a particularly heavy rainy day, and the driver was distracted with a passenger in his car and didn’t see Jooheon until it was too late.”
Hyungwon capped the pen in his hand and turned around. “Well there you go then. You shouldn’t be beating yourself for only seeing the side of a person you knew and loved dearly; you’re in a rational mindset now, even after what happened, and that’s what’s important.”
“That’s true,” Minhyuk sighed, smiling a little despite the prior tears. “You’re right. Thank you, Wonnie. I’m sorry you had to listen to that.”
Hyungwon shook his head. “Anything for a friend. Just remember to-”
-and with that, the bell on the front door jingled, and a familiar face bowed to the employees.