Actions

Work Header

To hold flowers in both hands

Work Text:

 

(yellow carnations and orange lilies)

It’s getting late, and it’s that time of year that Brett hates, when the sky darkens way too quickly.

Almost done ’ he thinks, relieved, as he stacks the newly arrived terracotta pots under the counter. He’ll make use of those later, when he can close shop for a day to properly rearrange the displays. For now, the twinkling lights from the bubble tea shop just across the road are quickly turning into an alluring sight that is difficult to resist. 

There’s a couple of things to do still – change the water for the roses and the Peruvian lilies, water the ferns, and check on the new cuttings – but if he hurries, he might just make it before their closing time. 

He should also repot that outgrown money plant in the back, but that can wait till tomorrow, at least. Then, there’s the delicate matter of the message on his phone, left on read since ten this morning. A very ominous ‘ we need to talk ’ from his mother, sent with no other explanation. He already knows that he’s going to get hell for not having answered hours ago, but in his defence, nothing good has ever come out of that kind of conversation starter. That only calls for bubble tea – courage in liquid form. 

None of it matters, though, because ten minutes – ten minutes, Brett thinks, ten motherfucking minutes, Jesus – before closing time, the bell dings and someone walks in. 

Brett thinks three things.

The first thing, and probably the most prominent, is something along the lines of fuck, shit, why now, fuck, fuck, fuck, because he was just about to close the shop and god, they’ll close before he gets out. 

Cacti maybe , he thinks next as he looks up from the counter and takes him in, tall and red-faced, and wrapped in a rather obnoxious scarf that proclaims ‘practice’ in bold letters. Or something citrusy, maybe. If he has the thumbs for it. Nothing too show-offish, though he might ask for it. No palm trees. It wouldn’t suit him.   

The third thing, well, he’s tall and red-faced and Brett...

The customer coughs, painfully obvious that he wants Brett’s attention and isn’t sure how to ask. 

“Hi, maybe I can help you?” Brett offers with a smile, after one last sorrowful glance at the window.

He wrings his hands, and Brett’s amazed that people do that in real life.

“It’s my mum’s birthday,” he says and there’s a panicked edge to his voice.

Funnily enough, it’s far from the first time that Brett has heard that exact sentence coming from a stranger. ‘ It’s my mum’s birthday ’ is often followed by ‘ I forgot ’, or ‘ Please help me .’

‘That kind of dude, then’ Brett thinks. “Anything you had in mind?” he asks.

“Flowers?” 

Brett represses a chuckle and holds it in. “Sure. We have ready-made bouquets or you can compose your own,” he says, and he notices the twinkle in his eye as he shows the dude around. He looks excited by the prospect of composing his own bouquet, which, in Brett’s experience, is never a good thing.

He takes forever to choose.

Brett watches him from a distance, ready to offer help if he needs it – he definitely needs it, but doesn’t seem ready to ask. The clock above the counter is steadily approaching closing time, and he doesn’t want to rush him, but he’ll have to. Outside, people are coming in and out of the bubble tea shop, and now would be the perfect time to get some. Brett sighs, and the customer looks at him, panicked.

“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, red still, “I should...” he trails off, looks at the ground, then, in a surge of courage, back at Brett. “How about these?” 

“The lilies? Okay. You’re sure about the colour?”

He nods enthusiastically. “It’s bright, right? Nice?”

“Sure. Anything else to go with?”

“Those round ones over there? The yellow ones?”

He smiles, bright like a child’s smile, his entire face lighting up. It’s pretty. Brett wants to pat him over the head. Normally, Brett wouldn't meddle with customers’ choices. Bad for business. But just this once, because the dude is kind of cute, he may make an exception. He just needs to find the right way to word it.

“Uh,” he begins tentatively. “This is for your mum’s birthday, you said?” 

The customer nods and Brett almost feels sorry. “You’ve heard about flower meanings before?” When he nods again, Brett continues. “Maybe, not orange lilies and yellow carnations then?”

His eyes widen comically. “What do they mean?”

“Ah, hum, it’s... hatred and pride for these, and rejection and disdain for the yellow ones. I know most people don’t care about it, but maybe...”

“Oh god,” and he hides his face in his hands with a nervous laugh. “This would be... roses maybe, then?”

“Roses are always a safe choice,” Brett agrees. 

Brett follows with his eyes when he walks away, after having pocketed one of the business cards on the counter with a shy smile. ‘Cute’ he thinks, tall and embarrassed and very endearing, and Brett does have a thing for guys like that. Then, his gaze drifts back to the bubble tea shop, just in time to see the girl turn the sign on the door from open to closed .

And dammit. He should’ve just let the fucker walk away with his ugly bouquet and said nothing. It’s fine, Brett can curse him in his mind all he wants. He’s probably never going to come back. 

 

 

(white and purple freesias, myrtle leaves)

The thing with family is that, despite how great they are, they can be overbearing sometimes. And, of course, as Brett forgets to text his mother back, overbearing becomes a feeble word to describe the exact state of things.

It wasn’t intentional, he swears it. He always meant to answer. It’s just that, with Brett’s frustration over bubble tea and everything else, he totally forgot. And then his mother called the next day, irate, but the shop was unusually busy, and Brett didn’t have much time then either. With the lady looking for a sort of rose that Brett had never even heard of, the old man insisting upon a specific type of stake that Brett had absolutely no intention of ordering, and the two students giggling over the orchids that he didn’t trust one bit, he really didn’t have the brain capacity to listen to his mother. 

It’s not like he didn’t know where this was going anyway. So, he cut the conversation short, repeatedly promised to come over on Sunday, and breathed a sigh of relief.

Still. It would have been an understatement to say that his mother was thrilled. So he made sure to show up with a nice bouquet – white and purple freesia, some green leaves – and his best shirt, crisply ironed, at the exact time that she gave him. 

“You’re not early,” is what he’s greeted with, as soon as he’s taken off his shoes in the hallway. He finds it rather unfair – after all, if she had wanted him to be there in advance, she should have said so. He pretends not to know that what she means by ‘You’re not early’, is that she wanted to talk to him without everyone else present. It’s exactly what he’s tried to avoid, if he’s being honest. 

Brett makes it through dinner relatively unscathed, with the exception of one minor incident concerning work, and a tiny allusion about family, which he happily ignores. His sister-in-law asks about the shop, and he invites her to come see one day. He’d happily chat more about it – the plants, not the dreadful affair of accounting and keeping a business afloat that keeps him awake until ungodly hours of the morning – but there’s a warning look across the table. Not at the dinner table, please. 

Later, when everyone’s fed and Brett is ready to lay down his guard, there’s the delicate question of ‘ Aren’t you worried that your little brother married before you’ . An uncle or an aunt, he can’t really tell, too many people around, a knowing smirk that ripples across the table, helped perhaps by the wine that’s been going around. And Brett would happily answer that he doesn’t care for marriage, or a family for that matter, but again, a warning look, not at the dinner table, please – his father this time. 

He thinks he’s escaped it.

He thinks he’s escaped it, and he’s having a silent conversation with his brother across the living room, made entirely out of insistent looks and raised eyebrows, about who leaves first. It’s a practiced thing. They understand each other too well. So Brett means something like this ‘you go first, then I can follow, I’m in enough trouble as it is’. And his brother answers as such, a wince and a nod, ‘I went first last time, your turn now.’ 

“Brett will help me with the dishes,” his mother announces out of nowhere, and he hasn’t escaped anything. 

And when he’s cornered in the kitchen, his father casually walks in as well, as if by coincidence. 

“What a fucking surprise,” Brett mutters under his breath, and he earns himself a talking to for his language on top of the traditional ‘we worry about you’ that he has heard about twenty times before.

His parents’ arguments go as such: ‘if you don’t hurry, it won’t happen’, and ‘you need children to take care of you in your old days’. Both very poor arguments, and Brett has no remorse dragging his brother into it when he sees him crossing the hallway on tiptoes. 

“He’s not having any children, why don’t you talk to him?”

“We’ve talked about it,” his brother replies, before he disappears – and it’s technically not a lie, but Brett knows for a fact that by ‘talked about it’ his brother means ‘talked about it and decided not to’, but he’s got to admit, it’s well played.

Brett mentally calls him a dickhead, and he’s pretty sure his brother can tell just by the look on his face.  

“We worry about you,” his mother says in conclusion “you haven’t been seeing anyone in a long time,” which is all well and good, but doesn’t help Brett in anyway. 

 

 

(spider plant and cacti – lots of them)

He comes back.

It takes a couple of weeks, but he comes back, and he does so first thing on a grey Monday morning, when Brett has barely opened the door five minutes ago. He’s still arranging the flowers in the window when the bell dings and the guy from the ugly bouquet shuffles in, with the same shy smile on his face as when he left the last time. 

“Hi,” he says, a little breathless, like he’s been running – or like he’s nervous – and Brett fumbles away from his window display and wipes his palms on his apron, and he’ll be damned if nervousness isn’t contagious. 

“Hi,” Brett says back, a bit sheepish, before he catches himself. “Anything I can help you with?” He wants to add ‘ this time?’ , but holds it back last minute, because it wouldn’t do to show that he’s recognised him after one visit. Even if it’s mostly due to the fact that he’s more used to old ladies and grumpy pensioners than flannel-wearing dudes with obnoxious scarves. 

“Hi,” he says again, and Brett thinks ‘ what a bumbling idiot’ but there’s no malice.

He’s silent for a moment, just stands there, doesn’t even look around, and Brett waits until it becomes awkward. “Maybe you’re looking for something?” 

He blinks, comes back to life. “Yeah, uh, I...” he runs a hand through his hair, messes it up worse than it was before, and Brett pointedly avoids looking at his hands. “I just moved in. I thought, maybe a plant.”

“You’ve come to the right place. See anything you like?” 

He blushes wildly, and his eyes nervously dart across the room – either he’s extremely people-shy, or he completely misunderstood what Brett was saying. 

“Something green?”

“Yep. Most of them are...” 

There’s a moment of silence, and then he smiles. He’s got bunny teeth. Brett looks.

“Yeah, I’ll be honest, I know nothing about plants. I was just thinking something to brighten up the place.”

He’s looking at the large palm trees in the corner as he speaks, and Brett remembers the first thing – second thing – he thought about him. He’ll want something show-offish. Do not sell it to him. 

“Maybe something simple and easy to care for,” Brett says quickly, before the dude can ask for bird of paradise plants or something. “How about... this?”

He doesn’t look impressed by the spider plant that Brett’s showing him, but still nods hesitantly. 

“Easy,” Brett says, over exaggerating his enthusiasm. “It only needs light and watering once a week. You’d have to try really hard to kill it.”

“Okay,” he murmurs from the tip of his lips. “It’s true that I’m not... I’m not really good with plants.” 

“Maybe succulents, or cacti? Peace lilies, if you want something more leafy...” 

He doesn’t seem to care much for the succulents, but he’s taken in by the cacti more than Brett would have thought. This one. Oh, and this one? Does it always look like this? Is that a real flower? No way. This one’s cute too. And Brett briefly thinks ‘you too’ before shaking his head. It simply won’t do to think things like that. 

He ends up with the spider plant and a bunch of cacti, waxes poetic about them while Brett guides him to the counter. He’s a talker, that’s for sure, and as he types in the prices, Brett idly wonders if it would be as nice to kiss him as it seems. He’s got a pretty mouth. Nice, shiny lips. The kind you’d want to lick and bite, if you were allowed to. 

Brett’s eyes widen as he realises, and he quickly turns his head, looks out the window for admittedly a little too long, and sighs inwardly.

Across the street, the girl from the bubble tea shop is opening the shutters. She waves at Brett when she sees him, and Brett mechanically waves back. 

“Sorry,” the customer mutters. He’s back to a soft, cautious tone. “I talk a lot.”

“You said you just moved in, right? Do you like bubble tea?” Brett replies, and he doesn’t even know why.

It surprises him, it seems. “Oh. Yeah. Yes.”

“You should try the one across the road then. Best in town.”

Brett has no idea where he’s going with this. In his defence, he’s been too distracted by the guy’s mouth to form a coherent thought for the last ten minutes, so there’s that. God, his mother was right. He hasn’t been seeing anyone in a long time.

“Anyway, that’ll be 32, 99.”

Great save. He doesn’t suppose the guy will show up again. 

 

 

(red peonies and snapdragons)

“I’m looking for flowers for my sister,” he says when he shows up. 

It’s not the first time he’s been back. He seems to have taken a real interest in cacti, came back twice for them, and Brett wondered if he’d killed the first ones or if he was building a collection, but both times the shop had been busy and Brett didn’t have the time to look or talk to him. This time, though, they’re alone.

He’s wearing a beanie pulled down almost to his eyes, and it musses up his hair when he takes it off. It says practice on the front – again – and Brett wants to ask what it means. 

Practice dude is starting to be familiar enough with the shop that he doesn’t need Brett to guide him to the cut flowers – what is it now, his fourth, no, fifth visit? He takes his time with it, and Brett watches him from the counter, lets him look all he wants, waits to be called when he is needed, tries not to stare too much. 

He’s pretty like a flower today, and the thought flutters in Brett’s head that he belongs on a bed of them, red petals in his mussed hair, eyes half closed as he looks up at Brett. 

Yes, he’s shameless. What of it? He wouldn’t mind that mouth on his, on him, pretty, too pretty, bottom lip ready to catch between his teeth, and he’s funny, too, in that floundering fool kind of way. So what? Brett likes him, or likes looking at him maybe, and likes to see him fumble around with the plants and flowers, clearly out of his depth. It makes Brett smile, something bright green behind his eyelids when he shudders as he walks under the low-hanging vines, tickled or surprised, Brett doesn’t know, and he wonders what else could make him squirm like that. It’s been a while and it’s not like the dude’s ever going to know what’s going on in Brett’s head anyway. 

“What about these?” he asks, neck tilted just so to look at Brett, and the sight of it... Jesus. 

He’s holding a single peony stem between his fingers, and the flower looks almost too heavy like that, disproportionate. Big hands, and Brett has to shake himself back to earth, to regular customer interaction. Inappropriate thoughts aside, he still needs to do his job, is good at it, maybe, isn’t about to lose a customer to this. He smiles. 

He saunters over, hands in the pockets of his apron, quiet delight bubbling along his gums. He’s funny. Brett’s glad that they’re alone. Teasing is allowed, he thinks, from the way the other guy is open to it, shoulders relaxed. 

“Do you like your sister?”

“Yeah, of course.”

“Then maybe not this,” Brett says and he gently takes the red peony from him, brushes fingers as he does so and rejoices in the light colour on his cheeks. “Did you know that in the Victorian era, these symbolised anger?” 

“Oh god, I’ve gone and done it again, haven’t I?” he mumbles. His embarrassment charms Brett. He’s pretty like that, cheeks flushed, when he hesitates between laughing it off and looking away. Brett could kiss him. Lightly, on the cheek or on the temple, with one hand on the back of his neck, fingers in his hair.

“You couldn’t know. And peonies are pretty flowers, after all.” 

“Okay. I’m afraid to ask, but what about these?”

“Snapdragons. Deception.” 

He laughs good-naturedly and smiles. A bright thing, honeysuckle and sunflowers. “Okay, I have shit taste. I’ll defer to your knowledge on that one,” and there’s a hint of something in there – not quite reverence and not quite docility either, but it’s there, god if that doesn’t do something to Brett. “What do you recommend?”

“What is it for?”

“She’s giving a concert tonight and I just want...” There’s a flash of shyness in his eyes, and Brett’s chest gets weirdly tight. “I’m really proud of her. I wanted to show that.”

“Older or younger?”

“Uh?”

“Your sister. Younger or older?”

“Oh, she’s my older sister. I used to look up to her so much, you know. I want to do something nice for her.”

“Once again, you can’t go wrong with roses.” 

It’s something in the way he lets Brett guide him through it, probably, how he looks with intent, how he follows, just a step behind. It makes Brett want to grab him by the wrist and pull him closer, chest to chest, just to feel his heartbeat.

When he leaves, Brett breathes a sigh of relief. It wasn’t easy. He’s a regular customer now, probably. Four, five times? It’s not going to get easier. His mum would laugh in his face and call it karma. 

 

 

(spider plant – again – and sunflowers)

“I’ve killed him,” he says with a dramatic sigh when he’s barely over the threshold, “I’ve fucking killed spiderman.”

“What?”

The sound comes from Brett’s throat, but it finds a perfect echo in the look on the young mother at the counter, buying yellow and purple pansies, as she stares at Brett, and then at the other customer.

“Give me a minute, yeah?” he tells him, before he returns to the woman with an apologetic smile.

He tries his best to convey that this is not what normal interactions in the shop are like, that he has nothing to do with the person that just burst in proclaiming loudly that they’d just committed murder, despite the joy he feels bubbling inside his chest. He must be very bad at it, fail terribly, because he swears by the look on her face as she leaves that she’s probably never going to step foot in here again. 

“You’re trying to scare my customers away,” Brett says when she is gone. 

He pretends not to have heard – pretends only, Brett can see the red creeping up his ears and wants to bite him.

“Did you hear, though? I killed him. You said he would be impossible to kill, but he got all floppy and brown and now he’s dead.”

“Ah, you overwatered it, probably.” 

“I need another one.”

“Sorry?”

“Can you refuse to sell it to me because I killed the first one? Would you do that?” He looks at Brett with puppy eyes, in a way that he probably hopes looks cute.

But he’s not cute today. 

Not with the black shirt and the dress pants, and what Brett first thinks is a black jacket bundled on his arm. It’s hot. Hot in a whole new way that messes with Brett’s head somehow, makes him want to do things that would probably best be left to his imagination.  

He misreads Brett’s look, and gives an apologetic shrug. “It looks weird, hey,” he says, winces a bit, “I had a concert, couldn’t be bothered to change.”

“Oh, a musician too?” Brett asks, busies himself picking him a plant, tries not to let his mind wander too much. He’s got two buttons undone and it’s not great for Brett’s sanity. 

“Yeah, violin...”

Brett can hear him shuffle behind him, can’t tell if he’s nervous or in a hurry, feels uneasy himself, too much green around him suddenly, it’s stifling, he needs blue skies and fresh air, and the thought of those hands holding a violin away from his mind.

“... chamber music sometimes... today... and orchestra, too.”

“Classical music then,” Brett says, turns round, places the plant on the counter. “Do you want anything else?” He vaguely remembers violin lessons when he was a kid, piano as well, a bit later. But he wanted other things then. Now too. 

He hums. “No, just the spider thing...”

“And your sister’s a musician as well, you said. Your parents must’ve been devastated.”

He doesn’t answer, and for a second, Brett thinks he’s fumbled it badly, and that he’s never going to have his customer back. But then he laughs. He laughs. A nervous thing that makes Brett want to push him against the wall, where the pothos plant would cascade down his hair and give him a crown of green and gold, and then lick up his throat. A perfect strip, from the dip of his shoulder to his jaw, then back to his collarbone, suck lightly on the bump that Brett can guess through his shirt, and he’d shiver from it – ticklish maybe, Brett thinks, or sensitive at least – and sigh into Brett’s hair. It makes Brett want to twist his fingers in his shirt like vines and bite just below his ear, make him whimper from it...

“Well, mum wasn’t pleased. She worried, I guess.”

Brett smiles. An apology. “Tell me about it.” A nod. There’s not much left to say.

Before he leaves, Brett grabs one of the sunflowers by the counter, hands it to him with a forced smile.

“Hey, wait, it’s customer’s day, here,” he lies.

He doesn’t know why he’s doing this. Atonement, perhaps, for what he’s going to do, later, in the privacy of his own home, with the memory of these forearms coming out of his rolled up sleeves or the image of the dip of that throat that has burned itself into his brain. 

Brett doesn’t even know his name.

 

 

(pink protea and white carnation)

He doesn’t come back for a while after that, and it’s probably Brett’s shame that drove him away, burning bright in the back of his neck, but he’s got enough memories for days, for forever, wants to hide in his shop and lock the door, never come out again.

His mother phones with implacable regularity, tries to trap him with another dinner, another family meeting, but no thank you, not again. Never again. Karma’s hit him too hard this time.

Customers come and go, faces old and new, one-timers and regulars, all except one. He repots and cuts and waters, and plants grow nice and quiet, and flowers bloom. It’s nice. Brett settles back into his own skin, but something feels weird along his spine. 

He comes back like there hasn’t been a month long gap, the same hesitant smile as he pushes the door, that quickly turns into something more, different, like they’ve known each other for a while, old friends reuniting. Brett feels so relieved that he could cry, could kiss the palm of his hand, probably, and the tip of each of his fingers.  He settles for a nod, but his eyes light up and he knows. 

“Man, I need your help.”

“Hmm?”

“I’ve got a work thing, a new conductor, his wife is... I need something,” he winces a bit, “something flashy? Like, whatever.” 

He doesn’t seem to care much, gestures at the flowers, looks at Brett.

“You want to impress,” Brett surmises. But he doesn’t really care what with.

He chokes on air a little. “Ah, work, yes. I thought – you’d noticed – no, yeah. Can you help me?” 

“Sure.” 

“Those white ones? I’m a little worried every time I ask now,” he chuckles. “Are those okay? They don’t mean something like fuck you or anything, I hope.” 

“Nah, you’re good. These ones mean luck. Good fillers too. We need something bigger though.”

“Red roses?”

“I mean... do you love them? Red roses are typically romantic...”

It’s good, seeing him flush like that, chest tight. Brett probably enjoys it more than he should.

“Okay, no. Oh. What about the big ones there? That’s impressive. What do these mean? Maybe it would work?” 

They’re king proteas and Brett has honestly no idea. He’s not against making him blush more, though.

“Well, you’re basically asking them to fuck you but hey, if that’s the message...”

He gets as red as the cardigan that Brett’s wearing, swallows dry as he looks at Brett, lips parted and fuck .

Brett thought nothing of making fun of him a little, but he’s the one made fun of now. Fuck, but he’d be ready to – he can almost feel the ground hard under his knees, can picture it all without even trying, there, by the back of the shop, where the amaranths are in bloom right now, red, like the colour pressed behind his eyelids, like the inside of his mouth when he thinks about it, about his own hands wrapped around the back of his thighs, and god. He can almost feel it, and he has to make a conscious effort to keep his mouth shut, appear normal, but they’re both blushing now, and Brett thinks about how he would react then. Would he wrap one hand around the back of Brett’s head? Or would he hold onto Brett’s jaw, maybe even push his thumb against the corner of his mouth, see how much Brett could take? 

The bell dings, someone comes into the shop and Brett shakes himself out of it. He composes a bouquet on autopilot, prays that nothing inappropriate comes out of his mouth while he makes small talk, and can only relax once he’s behind the safety of the counter. 

They touch hands when he pays. Brett is deliberate with it, makes it linger, holds onto the tip of his fingers until he blushes again, delightful, Brett wants that reaction again, every day. 

He’d wrap both hands around Brett’s head, Brett decides, slip his fingers in his hair. He’d be careful with it, too, wouldn’t even pull. The first time. Not after that. 

“I’m Eddy, by the way,” he says in a shaky voice. 

“Brett.” 

“I know,” Eddy says, and he points at the stack of cards on the counter. 

“Well, anyway. Good to finally know your name, I was wondering.”

Eddy forgets his change. 

 

 

(prayer plant)

Once he’s got his name, Brett is irremediably lost.

He’s got a name and he can taste it on his tongue, can think about him when he’s not there, want and something else inside his mouth, bitter and sweet at the same time, and it’s terrible, Brett is never going to survive this.

Eddy , and he walks in with his violin case one day, and it’s sheer torture, shivers along his spine. Brett wants to hear him play so much that it rips something inside his lungs, the way he smiles, his hands on the case. He’s too afraid to ask.

Eddy, and he comes in one day to buy something for a friend’s house-warming party, a dreadful thing, red gerberas and purple orchids, and Brett doesn’t even care to change his mind. He wants Eddy with his back against the counter, wants to press his mouth to his throat and feel him breathe. And another time, for a present for someone whom Brett doesn’t care about, and Brett’s hands shake from wanting to slide up his thighs, push them apart, fingernails sinking in skin.

Eddy, Eddy, Eddy, and Brett wants him pressed against the wall, wants the rosary vine to cascade on his shoulders, string of hearts around his neck and down his chest, wants ivy around his wrists and sunflowers in his palms. He wants Eddy’s lips under his fingers and against his own, he wants his palms pressed to Eddy’s chest, his fingers digging between his ribs, exploring, pushing, until he squirms and the tickles turn into something else. Eddy breathless against his shoulders, goosebumps from too much touch, too light, and Brett’s fingers pushing to get more, and Eddy’s voice breaking around Brett’s name.

This is something and Brett doesn’t know what. How do you say that to someone, I want your skin?

He comes over more than before, and Brett vaguely wonders how many events he goes to, how many house-warming parties he’s invited to, how many cacti he’s killed already – what his apartment looks like, vaguely.

“Brett,” he says, “Brett, I need something.”

Brett, because now he’s allowed to use his name, and Brett hears the echoes in his dreams, when Eddy is splayed out under him in a field of flowers, whispers or screams, and Brett wakes up with his heart beating a little too fast. 

He walks in and looks at the new arrivals, and looks at Brett from the corner of his eye, when he’s busy with another customer or watering the plants. He looks at Brett, and he smiles to himself, and he’s Brett’s best dream and worst nightmare at the same time.

“Hey, Brett,” he says, and then he shows him the ugliest floral display Brett has ever seen, but he seems proud of it, so Brett says: “Yep, nice bouquet” and gives him a smile, and when he smiles back Brett feels his knees start to shake. 

He’s still into cacti, but every now and then he brings a plant – rarely for himself, though. For friends, he says, a string of names thrown out carelessly. 

“Hey, Brett,” he says, “what does this flower mean?”

“Thinking of you.”

And it’s true, so fucking true, and Brett doesn’t understand why he doesn’t have the courage to ask.

“Oh? Maybe I should...” but then he shakes his head and changes his mind, and Brett doesn’t even want to think that he’s thought about someone to offer it to, ignores it wilfully, “what about this then? Isn’t this the one by the train tracks?”

“I’m not free.”

He walks out without buying anything sometimes. Brett never says anything. 

“Hey, Brett,” he says, “do you like bubble tea?” and Brett looks away from the window, from the shop across the street, and thinks ‘ask him, ask him to get one together, what’s the worst that can happen?’, but he doesn’t do it, because the worst that can happen is that Eddy sees right through him and stops coming. That Brett’s imagined them in various compromising positions in every corner of the shop is embarrassing enough without Eddy finding out about it. 

“Hey, Brett,” he says, “what’s this?”

“Prayer plant.”

“Like you’ve got to pray to it? Or I can make a wish, maybe?”

“Like the leaves open and close with light.”

“It’s pretty.”

He says it with fondness, and it pools in Brett’s chest. Fuck. It’s not just attraction. He might just be a tiny bit in love with him.

“Do you want it?” And he’d give it to him, he’d offer it for free, if Eddy likes it, if Eddy wants it.

“When I’m better at taking care of plants,” Eddy smiles sweetly and says, “after you’ve taught me how to.” 

 

 

(red tulips – and bubble tea)

The bell dings and the door opens, and it’s just ten minutes before closing time, but Brett doesn’t really mind.

“Hey, Brett,” Eddy says and he walks in with a triumphant smile. “I brought you bubble tea.”

Brett tries to pretend that he hasn’t seen Eddy walk up and down the street four times before going for bubble tea – it’s been a quiet afternoon. He’s had time to look. 

“Thanks, but you didn’t have to.”

“I wanted to.”

“I’m gonna take these,” Eddy says, waving a bouquet of tulips in his face. He seems weirdly jittery, wired, like he’s high on something or he hasn’t slept in days.

“Oh, another housewarming party?”

“No, these are just for me. You don’t drink?”   

He watches Brett drink until it becomes uncomfortable, and then watches some more, and it’s something that Brett’s never really considered before, the weight of Eddy’s gaze, the intensity of his eyes. 

It’s not – he doesn’t really dislike it, the idea of being taken apart by him, undone at the seams until he falls into a puddle at his feet. 

Eddy could have him, whichever way he wants, wherever, and it would feel like sprouting leaves, maybe, a new life. 

Eddy could have him here, on the counter, Brett’s back against the cold wood, hard, with the smell of flowers around him and Eddy’s fingers digging inside, his name in his mouth, again and again and again until it feels like turning to moss in his brain, green, until it’s too much to take, and then more, make him sigh, make him scream, too much, too much, too much and yet not enough. Eddy could bend him over and explore, run his fingers along Brett’s spine, his mouth, his teeth, leave imprints in his shoulders, could push and pull and make of him what he wants, and Brett would let him. 

He wants this, wants it so much that it hurts somewhere behind his breastbone.

He wants this and he wants more, wants Eddy, all of him, wants to hear him say his name in ten different ways, wants the warmth of his breath inside his mouth, and more, even more, Eddy on his knees in the backroom, where it smells of green and soil and everything feels hushed and heavy. He wants Eddy’s teeth at his thighs and his tongue and the wetness inside his mouth, slow, slow and steady until Brett feels like he’s growing roots inside the ground. He wants Eddy’s eyes on him still when he comes, when they both do, again and again, until Brett’s bones feel like dissolving, like turning to dust on the forest floor, humus, and the inside of his brain feels clear and light and empty.

“I’ll get this too,” Eddy adds, unaware of what’s going on inside Brett’s mind – or too aware, maybe, judging by the way he keeps staring at him, doesn’t look away even as he picks a couple of pink proteas and leaves them on the counter. “If you don’t finish this,” he adds, pointing at the bubble tea, “I will.” And he does just that, snags the cup from Brett’s fingers and finishes it. Still looking at him.

Eddy forgets the proteas on the counter when he goes. Brett’s so flushed that he doesn’t realise until way later. 

 

 

(white roses and Peruvian lilies)

Another Sunday, another family dinner, and this time Brett’s brought roses and Peruvian lilies as a peace offering, but he’s facing his mother with increased desperation.

He really wants to pretend that everything is fine, but he’s ready to burst with something, and he doesn’t know how to solve it.

This time, he doesn’t make it through dinner unscathed. There are no uncles or aunties around to soak up the attention or invite decorum, and his mother zeroes in on him the moment they’re seated. No one seems surprised, and this feels too much like a trap to be anything honest.

“Maybe you need help,” she tells him, more straight-forward than she’s ever been.

And well, maybe he does, but he’d be curious what she thinks he needs help with.

“You’re going to die alone,” she adds, and his father nods, and his brother smirks, the traitor.

“I- Fine by me.”

She smacks him over the head. “You need help meeting someone, maybe,” she says, and ah , that kind of help.

“I’m good, thank you. I’m seeing someone,” Brett says, and technically it’s not untrue. Eddy comes to the shop regularly, and Brett watches him browse through plants that he never ends up buying. Somehow, he doesn’t think that this is the answer that his mother expects, though, but that’s just a technicality.

Liar , his brother mouths from across the table, and Brett would kick him in the shins if he wasn’t so far.

“Really?” his mother asks, and she seems to think about the same thing as his brother.

“Really,” Brett lies through his teeth.

Truth is, Eddy hasn’t showed up in a while, so Brett is – still technically speaking – not seeing him at all. Which is even worse.

Sometimes, Brett wonders if his mum isn’t secretly a witch, and if she hasn’t cursed him for all the lying he’s been doing at this very dinner table. 

 

 

(pink protea – a single one)

Eddy stays away for longer than usual after that, and Brett starts to worry. He doesn’t owe Brett anything, sure, but Brett had gotten used to him, and fuck, but he wants him around more than this, more than once a week, once every other week, not even that anymore. It’s like he’s hiding, and Brett doesn’t like it.

And when he reappears, it’s not even like nothing happened, because he’s weird. He pushes the door, and the bell dings, and he comes in with a barely whispered greeting, not even a shy smile, his lips pressed into a line.

He walks up to the flowers, picks up one.

The same flowers he forgot on the counter, once.

“What is it with you and these ugly ones?” Brett asks, the start of a tease that he never gets to finish. Not when Eddy’s looking so uncomfortable. “Hey, what’s...”

Eddy takes a deep breath, and he’s shaking with it. “I’m going to try this once more, feel free to...” he doesn’t finish, but he keeps looking at Brett, and he pushes the flower across the counter.

“I don’t get it,” Brett says, because he doesn’t get it.

“What does it mean?”

And Brett doesn’t know, stupid flower, he’s never known for this one, and he wants to tell him so, but then the vague memory, a joke, a tease, Eddy red up to his ears, and Brett blushing too then.

“What does it mean?” Eddy repeats, and he pushes the flower a little further towards Brett.

And oh. Oh.

“Do you...” he starts, but loses his voice before he can finish.

... mean it?

... want it?

“Do I have to beg?” Eddy asks softly, but his voice comes out breathy and rushed. He doesn’t look away from Brett. “Would you like it if I begged?”

And fuck, if Brett isn’t irremediably lost, then. 

 

 

(yellow carnations and orange lilies)

It’s getting late, but it’s that time of year that Brett likes, when the sky stays clear way longer than it should. The bubble tea shop just across the road closed a few minutes ago, but there are two cups already on the counter – one of them half empty. Eddy has no restraint.

Almost done ’ Brett thinks, relieved, as he waters the plants for the weekend.

There’s a couple of things to do still – change the water for the daisies and the tulips, repot the peace lilies and store the new ceramic flower pot holders under the counter until Brett finds a proper use for them – but those can wait till tomorrow.

There’s a message on his phone, left on read since ten this morning, which says ‘we’re expecting you at seven’. They better not be late. His mother doesn’t like to wait.

It’s ten minutes past closing time, but there’s a man in the shop still, and he’s picking flowers for Brett’s mother. He likes making bouquets, still isn’t very good at it. When he picks up orange lilies and yellow carnations, Brett has to step in. Not that his mother knows anything about the meaning. The combination is just ugly as fuck.