Ushijima peeks his head through the open doorway to the back storage room. "Iwaizumi. Are you free?"
Hajime jerks his head distractedly, attention focused on the pot in front of him. The office — can he call it that? — is muggy and warm, typical for a spring day in the bright sunroom. Countless shelves stand tall around him, stacked to bursting with pots of varying sizes, all hosting an impressive array of plants; the air is rich with the smell of damp soil and too many flowers all crammed together. The overall effect would be nauseating if Hajime didn't love it so much — if he didn't adore coaxing tiny sprouts out of their slumber and helping them fight their way out of the dirt, mess and all.
He gently thumbs along the crooked stem of the sweet little amaryllis, straightening it out without putting strain on the delicate fibre of it's stalk. There's something addictive helping young flowers bloom, about watching them boast their beauty. God knows why Hajime gets so pleased every time someone compliments even a stray tulip of his, but he gets the same kick every time. It's always been this way — admirers fawning over the vibrant petals and delicate aromas without having any idea of the critical role Hajime played in getting them there. That's the bulb Hajime planted. That's the seed he watered, raised, fed, lovingly grew into something others can appreciate and love as well. There he is behind every flower, every plant; invisible and central.
It's the best feeling ever.
Ushijima voice dips in exasperation. You can't tell by his expression alone but, as Hajime has learned only through years of friendship, there is a very small and discernible pout hiding deep, deep down. Hajime grins at him over his shoulder teasingly.
"He's here again," he says, blinking over Hajime's shoulder to examine the amaryllis. "I can take over."
Immediately Hajime's good mood disappears, a scowl settling in. Tell me you're joking. "Who's here?"
They both know he's only asking to postpone the inevitable but it's okay, Hajime's dignity can take it — anything to keep him from having to endure all of that again. It's the third time this week.
"He's asking for you."
"Just take care of it."
"But he's asking for you."
"Can't you help him instead? I'm really busy, I've got to..." He trails off pathetically, eyeing the sole purple flower garnering his attention. "Fix the... plant."
This time, Ushijima's pout is visible, barely so but definitely present, and it looks comically out of place. "He won't let me. I tried. All he did was insult my geraniums."
The unwelcome visitor may drain a year off Hajime's life every time, but there is one upside when he calls around. It's very rare that anyone can make Ushijima squirm, but here he is, positively sulking. Hajime unapologetically finds it hilarious.
"Oh, not the geraniums, say it ain't so." He gets up with a chuckle, wiping the residue dirt off his hands with a stray rag. "Fine, I'll see to him, just—" His scowl deepens. "Don't be rough with my baby, all right? If I come back to find that stem broken there'll be hell to pay."
Ushijima frowns as he passes. "Why would I want to kill the flower? I'm a florist."
Hajime rolls his eyes. He didn't mean Ushijima literally was out to murder the thing. "I mean, just be gentle."
"I'm always gentle."
" And that," he calls back as he exits the storeroom, "was way more information than I needed to know."
The best part is his jibe almost definitely went over Ushijima's head, which just makes it all the funnier. Hajime shakes his head with a grin.
"Iwa-chan! Is that a rare smile? Could it be you're happy to see me? Iwa-chan, I'm flattered, my dear flower-friendly Iwa-chan!"
The smile immediately drops.
The man is leaning over the counter, chin cradled in his hands as he gives Hajime a blindingly bright smile. "Ya-ho~! Iwa-chan. I'm back."
"I can see that," Hajime deadpans.
He immediately arranges his features in a devastated pout and whines, "Iwa-chan..."
I've said one sentence and he's managed to say that fucking nickname five times already. Hajime inhales deeply and wills the tension in his shoulders to leave. "What do you want."
"Oh, how terrible." This is punctuated with a practised wink. "You should work on your customer service, Iwa-chan."
Hajime's jaw clicks. "What do you want, please."
A messy laugh splutters out of the man's lips, taking both of them by surprise. It turns a pretty face into a striking one, round eyes crinkling at the corners.
And pretty he is, that much goes without saying. He's all warm smiles and golden skin and rich chocolate browns shining amber in what sunlight filters through the shop window. Charmingly attractive, enigmatic in a way that draws you in and friendly enough to keep you there. Hajime doesn't even feel bad admitting it — as he said, it goes without saying. The man's quite beautiful.
Unfortunately, he, too, is shamelessly aware of this fact, and happy to use it to his advantage.
"I was wondering, Iwa-chan, if you could help me. I have been looking for the perfect flower. I woke up this morning and I had the urge, the— the compulsion, if you will—" the man clenches his fist in the air theatrically "—to finally put a particularly lovely vase an ex-boyfriend bought me to use. The ex-boyfriend I am no longer with. His vase." He flutters his eyelashes. "If only there was a smart planty Iwa-chan to help me pick out the perfect flower and fill the void..."
"For fuck's sake," Hajime mutters under his breath, patience one thread away from snapping altogether.
"I'm single now, though," the man hums thoughtfully.
What did I do to deserve this?
"Flowers are over there." It's a flower shop. "Please feel free to look around." Like customers are supposed to."You've been here twice already." Yesterday. "I'm sure you can navigate it without my help." You know who does need his help? A certain crooked-stemmed amaryllis waiting for him in the back room, not an obnoxious male model with a Hajime-centric agenda. Hajime turns to return to the storeroom. "Go ahead and pick out some you like, just shout when you're—"
He's jerked back by a hand around his wrist. "Iwa-chan, wait."
The man is looking at him, a furrow between his brows, before he laughs it off and lets go like nothing happened.
Hajime cocks a brow. "Yeah?"
"W..." He looks conflicted. "Iwa-chan."
The man giggles. "Iwa-chan," he breathes, leaning into Hajime's space. "Iwa-chan. Iwa-chan..."
Warm breath flutters on Hajime's cheek. The tips of his ears heat up traitorously.
With a twang, his patience snaps.
"Alright, dumbass, listen up. Firstly, if you have nothing to say to me, stop saying my name over and over. Secondly, that's not my name." Hajime forcefully gestures to his name tag, where the characters for Iwaizumi have been hastily scrawled. "Thirdly, stop specifically asking for me to serve you, especially when you haven't even picked anything! I do work here, you know, I am busy. These flowers didn't all pop out the air, I do have to work to grow them, so stop wasting my time! And fourthly— "
He has to hesitate. Because the man's mouth has fallen open slightly, amused twinkle absent from his eyes for the first time since Hajime met him. But he doesn't feel guilty. This is annoying, he does not feel bad, he has a job to do, he has flowers to raise—
The man's lips settle into a thin smile, a pathetic echo of his earlier grin. It looks apologetic. It's a retreat.
Hajime does not feel guilty. He doesn't. He—
"Fourthly, I'm going to show you some long-stems that would look perfect in your stupid ex-boyfriend vase, so shut up with the Iwa-chan, follow me please, damn you!"
The man's eyes light up. Like, literally light up, brown to gold, all but shining. Hajime didn't know that actually happened in real life. Huh. And then he's off laughing again, hiding it behind the back of hand in a way that's too charming to make fun of even if you wanted to. Eyes twinkle at Hajime. It's irritating.
"You're too kind, Iwa-chan." He gestures for Hajime to lead the way, beaming.
So — scowl intact, pointedly ignoring the burning in his ears — he does just that.
"So you ended up helping him?"
Hajime resolutely ignores Ushijima's question, looking so hard at his now perfectly healthy and happy looking amaryllis that he could burn a hole through the pot and not be surprised.
"So really, he does not annoy—"
"There's nothing sadder than an empty vase, okay, shut up."
"Are you sure—"
"Shut up. Vase. Shut up."
Ushijima makes a sound caught between confusion and amusement, and says nothing more.
He's brought some friends with him this time, both of them even taller than himself. Hajime is not used to being the shortest person in the shop. He hates them.
"Iwa-chan!" The man starts with his dramatics as soon as he enters the store, wasting no time. "Iwa-chan, can you believe it? I'm so upset. I am so upset."
"W... Welcome..." Hajime manages to grate out, praying for patience.
"Makki, tell him what happened," the man sniffs.
His friend, a serious-faced guy with light brown hair and even lighter hazel eyes, looks like it is the very last thing in the world he wants to be doing when he squares up to Hajime with a blank expression and mechanically recites, "Would you believe he needs to replace the wonderful flowers you chose for him?"
It sounds very, very rehearsed. The third guy disguises a snort of laughter behind a cough, bushy eyebrows drawing together over hooded blue eyes. Hajime would be smiling as well if it weren't for the fact that he was actually due to leave for lunch in two minutes before they entered the shop.
"Is that... so..."
"Yes! Mattsun, explain why! I'm too upset."
"We know, asshole, you made us practise this five times," Makki mutters under his breath.
"Because a dog ate them and it is a tragedy," Mattsun recites loyally. He can barely look Hajime in the eye for a second before he has to look away, lips twitching with a treacherous smile.
"A dog, Iwa-chan! Can you believe it? My own precious lovely dog ate them. I feel so betrayed. Can you even believe it?"
"No," Makki says without blinking.
Mattsun has to turn away, shoulders shaking with repressed laughter.
Hajime has half a mind to kick them out. Literally what did he do to deserve this? Why? Why? And he's pretty sure the guy's learned his shift rota by heart as well because he only ever comes when it's either Hajime alone or both him and Ushijima in the shop. Or, at least, Ushijima hasn't mentioned anything about Hajime's visitor — that's what they're calling him now, damn it — popping up out of the blue. Not that he's really the type to bring it up unquestioned anyway.
Do it for the plants, Hajime. Do it for the plants.
"You said your dog ate them?"
"Chewed them right up, poor delicate little things." He adds a cute sniffle for extra measure. Hajime wants to die.
"Right, well, I'd first suggest getting a dog-friendly citrus spray or something to deter it. And keeping them in a high place out of it's reach."
He's nodding along with Hajime's words, for all the theatrics definitely paying strict attention to what he's saying. Which is nice.
"But we also do have some tougher plants that your dog won't want to eat. It sort of depends. What breed?"
"Huh?" The man blinks.
"What breed of dog do you have?" Hajime repeats, suddenly exhausted.
Later, when he recites the incident for Ushijima, he'll say that it was like watching two wolves hunt down pray. Mattsun, who had gone over to admire some of the cacti on display, whips around at the speed of lightning, a wicked leer on his face. And it's as if Makki's ears perked up, literally perked up, eyes glue don his friend and a cunning tilt to his grin.
"Yeah, man, what kind of dog do you have?" Makki says all too innocently.
"I'm very interested," Mattsun agrees.
The bane of Hajime's existence laughs nervously. "I have... a dog... He's a really fluffy one. Obviously."
Mattsun smirks. "Obviously."
"My dog hates saboteurs, you know. He bites them and pees on their beds."
"What an animal."
Hajime can't help it. He's all for professionalism and customer respect, but honest to God, he just couldn't help himself. "He must be quite the handful. What breed? Does he shed a lot? I used to be a dog-walker part-time, you know." He grins. "I'd love to hear all about him."
Makki eyes Hajime with a newfound respect. Mattsun looks like Christmas came early.
"It's a..." The man in the middle juts out his lower lip stubbornly. "It's a husky."
Oh my God.
"Are you sure?" asks Makki.
"Final answer?" Hajime adds.
"Because I'm pretty sure you live in a one bedroom apartment, my good fellow—" Mattsun slaps his friend on the back "—and huskies are work dogs, those just aren't the right conditions, isn't that right, Makki?"
"Exact and correct, Mattsun. I'm sure they need lots of space to run around, I don't think your dog's a husky."
They both turn to Hajime.
"I'd love to know how to keep an Alaskan husky cool in the summer around here, too, considering their fur is adapted to the Arctic," Hajime gives the finishing blow. "I think your friend's right. I'm not sure he is a husky."
"Ah... Is that so... silly me... haha..." The man glances out the window, pointedly ignoring all their stares. His cheeks are stained a lovely pink. "Whoopsy-daisy..."
When Ushijima returns from his lunch to an empty shop and Hajime wiping tears of laughter from his eyes, the questioning look he sends him sets Hajime off all over again.
"Ya-ho~! Iwa-chan, I want an ikebana arrangement today, please!"
Hajime has a new tactic: cut right to the chase. "A dog would ruin any ikebana pot you buy, don't waste your money."
"I'll put it on a high shelf, it's fine."
"What if your dog's afraid of heights?"
"Forget about the dog already," the man grumbles, looking embarrassed. Hajime smirks despite himself, almost going in to tease, but, no — straight to the point, just like he planned.
"We have some ready-made ikebana pots over—"
"No, a custom-made one." He makes a peace sign and sticks his tongue out. "I can wait. I'm sure Iwa-chan will make me something very beautiful."
Hajime glares at him. "You have to be quiet while I put it together, you know?"
He nods sagely. "Of course, Iwa-chan."
"Are you sure you can manage that?" Hajime deadpans.
The man presses his lips together, eyes wide and full of humour, and leans his elbows and cradles his chin in his hands. It's a position he seems to be fond of — he probably knows how cute it looks.
Hajime's eyebrow twitches. Tacky asshole.
Ushijima glances at Hajime as he brings some potted plants to the front of the shop. "I haven't seen you make an ikebana arrangement in a while—"
He hesitates, before kindly offering, "It was very pretty."
Hajime burrows his head in his arms and groans. I know he is, that's the problem.
"Iwa-chan, hello! Guess who's back!"
"Would you stop calling me that."
"Well, what do you want me to call me you?"
"Don't. Leave and never return."
"That's so mean! And to your loyal customer as well..."
"Just call me my name, dumbass."
A light scowl. "I don't know your name, Iwa-chan!"
"Of course you damn well—!" A deep breath. A slow controlled exhale. "Of course you do," he amends with forced cordiality. "It's Iwaizumi. I am Iwaizumi."
A petulant, "No."
"I'm actually gonna—!"
The jingle of a bell, a hastily stuttered, "Welcome," and a gleeful snicker hidden behind the back of a hand.
"Iwa-chan," the man says, draping himself over the counter as Hajime rings up another regular's purchase. "Iwa-chan, Iwa-chan."
"What?" he mutters, sending the sweet old lady a small apologetic smile. "That's 1300 yen, please."
"Where's the flower language chart?" The sighs dramatically. "I have a dilemma of such great proportion that I can only turn to plants in my time of—"
"Would you like it wrapped?" Hajime talks over him, already going for the lavender tissue paper she always asks for.
"Please, thank you."
Both of them ignore the affronted squawking in the background as Hajime carefully wraps the bouquet. It's always the same flowers she buys; white roses and the deep pinks of sweetpea. He's started making the bouquets specially for her visits, which come reliably every Monday morning. Ushijima takes particular pleasure in setting out the canes for the climbing plants to cling to, never passing up a chance to fiddle with one or another DIY stem-cane replacement.
"Thank you, dear." The old lady smilse and nods at both of them respectfully before hobbling to the door, a telltale jingle punctuating her exit.
"She always gets the same thing." The man lazily blows the hair from his eyes, watching her through the shop window. "The same flowers, I mean." He peers up at Hajime. "Is there a reason?"
He didn't stop coming, not when Hajime blew up at him, not when Ushijima tried to help by not-very-subtly dropping a pot of fertiliser on his shoe, not even when he complained about the small fortune he was expending on flowers and that he kept getting headaches because his whole apartment was starting to smell like a greenhouse. If anything, he started coming more — it's been two weeks straight and he's managed to show up every day, sometimes barely to stay and chat for five minutes, other times lounging around the shop front for hours on end.
Hajime still doesn't even know his name. And he still hasn't started addressing Hajime by his — truth be told, he's given up hope on that front. And it's not that it's any less annoying or loud or bad for Hajime's blood pressure, but it would be a lie to say he hasn't started enjoying the man's presence. A little bit.
He respects the plants, at the very least. It's good for them to get lavished upon and his new regular holds back nothing in that regard, constantly fawning over them, listening aptly with wide-eyed attention while Hajime waxes lyrical on this or that specific flora genus.
You'd think Hajime would stop getting struck by how handsome he looks when he laughs, or wanting to teasingly smooth his fingers against his nose-scrunch glower whenever Ushijima is in the room, but nope. He wouldn't be that lucky.
A glance outside assures him there are no new customers coming in, so Hajime wordlessly lays out the flower language chart he's learned after too many embarrassing experiences to keep handy under the counter — florists are too damn popular with the romantically inclined.
"Look, see?" Hajime runs his finger along the laminated chart until he arrives at White Rose.
"Innocence, silence..." The man arches an eyebrow. "Devotion?
Hajime hums in agreement, then points to Sweet Pea. "And goodbye."
"That's so sad... Why—?" He looks up, unasked question clear in the furrow of his brow.
"Her husband passed away last year. She visits the family grave every week. And roses and sweat pea have complimentary fragrances, so... I don't know. I think they look really pretty together as well."
The man is biting his lip, expression unreadable. "And you specially make that bouquet for her now?"
Hajime shrugs. "Sure. It's no trouble. Saves her time as well."
"That's sweet." The man leans over, arm warm against Hajime's. "Iwa-chan, you're sweet."
"Shut up," Hajime mumbles. "It's nothing."
The man makes an amused noise in the back of his threat. He's right beside Hajime now, forearms resting on the countertop so he can see the chart clearly. Hajime can smell his shampoo, something fresh and sweet. It's dizzying in a way the backroom never is, even in the heat of summer.
"I would give you this," the man murmurs suddenly, pointing across them both at a dark pink flower in the top corner. "This flower would be for Iwa-chan, from yours truly."
Hajime's about to tell him off when he reads it, and his throat closes up. Carnation: Fascination, Distinction, and Love.
The man is smiling, a soft quiet little thing. "Do you know why?"
No sound comes out of Hajime's open mouth. This is ridiculous. This is absolutely ridiculous. Stop talking. Stop talking right now.
His smile widens. "Because," he whispers, leaning in closer... All of a sudden he rears back so his mouth is at Hajime's ear, and shouts, "It's fascinating how dumb you are!"
Hajime flinches away before pushing the man so he stumbles off the counter, weight thrown off-balance. "Asshole!"
"Iwa-chan!" He's laughing, and Hajime's chuckling as well, nervous and relieved. "Iwa-chan, really, you're the dumbest, actually."
"Coming from you?" He rubs the back of his neck. What was I thinking, letting myself get carried away? He's the real dumbass here.
"Iwa-chan, really. I can't believe in the two weeks I've been gracing you with my presence, you haven't once asked that all-important question. I'll get tired of waiting, you know."
Again with the fucking mixed signals. But Hajime's learned his lesson, and rather than trying to beat a flirt at their own game, he opts not to play, instead busying himself with cleaning the counter of fallen leaves. He hums in acknowledgement but gives nothing else away.
Maybe being as oblivious as Ushijima would have it's perks after all. Hajime would at least not over-analyse every stupid little thing.
"Iwa-chan, don't you want to know the all-important question?" The man pouts, not taking kindly to being ignored.
"I know you want to tell me, so no, not really."
"You're being mean again..."
"I'm always mean."
A surprised look. "Iwa-chan's admitting he bullies me? What's going on? Who are you and what have you done with my grumpy florist-chan?"
Don't call me yours, dumbass. Hajime ducks down to put the chart away, muttering a half-hearted, "Shut up."
"You know..." Now that the counter is clear, nothing is stopping anyone from flopping across it should they desire to, and the man does so happily, looking up at Hajime with a cheeky grin. "I really do love teasing you, but even my patience has run out. Yes! Even I, beleive it or not, have such failings. Tiny ones, though."
"I believe it easily." Hajime snickers despite himself.
"Iwa-chan," the man says, sitting up suddenly, eyes serious. "We've gone two weeks of hanging out and having the time or our lives together—"
"Time of our lives my ass!"
"—and you still haven't asked me my name."
Are you shitting me. That's the question? That's what he's making such a big deal about?
"I don't want to know your stupid— "
"Oikawa," he cuts him off. "Please call me Oikawa." His voice takes on a distinct tone of grandeur as his hand stretches across the table top. "Oikawa Tooru. Pleasure to meet you."
Hajime cocks a brow. "What are you doing?"
"We have to do it properly."
"Do what properly?"
"Just shake my hand, Iwa-chan."
"We've already— "
Oikawa narrows his eyes. "Shake. My. Hand."
Pfft. What a child. Hajime sighs, taking the warm hand in his own. "Iwaizumi Hajime," he introduces himself, rolling his eyes a little, and they smile at each other like idiots.
There's a reason he sticks to plants. No matter what, plants will love you and treat you well. Hello, Hajime, here, have some oxygen to breathe, have some lovely smells, thank you for growing me, I love you, you're my favourite. Plants are the best, unequivocally. Humans, on the other hand, are hot and cold, back and forth, all over the place — he can't understand them nearly as well, doesn't always know the right thing to say, and then goes off getting the entirely wrong idea. Hajime's actually pretty good at reading people; unfortunately, he's just as gifted at jumping to conclusions.
But Oikawa's hand is warm in his, and his smile is like the sun (which is something he never thought he'd stoop so low as to think about anyone, period). He's annoying and whiny and Hajime doesn't mind, not really. He listens, not just waits for him to stop talking but actually listens when Hajime goes off on a tangent about optimum growing conditions for fritillaria camschatcensis. And he's made Hajime laugh more in the last two weeks than he can remember having laughed in recent memory.
Oikawa Tooru, huh.
This is a disaster.
Oikawa and Hajime jump away from each other, dropping hands like it burns. He whips around to Ushijima. feeling inexplicably guilty. The man in question is tilting his head in a confused sort of way.
"I've been calling you from the back. Did you not hear me?
"Sorry, I was just..." He clears his throat — just what, Hajime? — keeping his gaze firmly on his co-worker rather than allowing himself even a stray glance at Oikawa like he so wants. "What's up?"
A quiet thunk sounds from beside him. When Hajime looks, he can't help but laugh. Oikawa has dropped his head to the counter-top, hiding his face in his forearm and mumbling to himself, "Are you kidding me? Lunch. Lunch. He interrupts us like that for lunch," amongst other choice descriptions of Ushijima Hajime knows better than to internalise.
"Would you like to join us?" Ushijima asks him, politely ignoring the insults directed his way. Hajime smiles at that. (Or maybe Ushijima just hasn't noticed Oikawa bad-mouthing him, which is just as likely.)
"No, thank you," Oikawa sniffs. "I should get going anyway, my next class starts at two and all the good seats will be gone soon."
That's new information. "Class?"
Oikawa makes an irritated noise. "This is so unfair. Iwa-chan doesn't know anything about me even though he likes me so much. Lazy no-good guy."
"Who'd like you, dumbass?"
"What do you study?" Ushijima asks.
"None of your business, Ushiwaka-chan!"
"Ushijima," he corrects, straightening his name-tag. "And you are?"
Oikawa makes a face and sticks his tongue out.
"Oi!" Hajime lightly slaps the back of his head. "Don't be so immature, especially when you've given us so much trouble for two weeks. Ushijima, this is Oikawa."
Oikawa jumps beside him as if he's been shocked. When Hajime turns, Oikawa's looking at him with round eyes, a high flush decorating his cheeks. He looks devastatingly handsome. Hajime hates him.
"W-What?" He shifts under the focused gaze.
"Iwa-chan said my name!" Oikawa eyes narrow with one of his dreaded sunshine smiles. "Finally, you said my name. Finally."
"Wh—!" It's not just his ears this time, Hajime knows. The telltale heat is impsosible to miss, blush spreading down his neck and across his own cheeks. "Who would—! You—! Idiotkawa! Stupidkawa!"
"Dumbasskawa!" Hajime laughs despite himself at the horified expression on Oikawa's face. "Sillykawa. Annoyingkawa."
"After all of my hard work." Oikawa is trying so hard to look upset, Hajime can tell, but even he can't hold back his laughter. "You really are the meanest, Iwa-chan."
"Only because you're the most annoying."
They grin at each other tentatively, finally on even ground. After all, Hajime figures, if he's going to have to put up with the whiny brat one way or another, they might as well... Might as well what? Be on speaking terms? Know each others' names? Be friends, even? Hajime has no idea. God knows he wasn't expecting to end up here when an annoying handsome stranger latched onto him like a koala bear. He's making this up as he goes.
But he can't say he minds it all that much, either.
"Oikawa-san, you will miss your class if you don't hurry."
Oikawa's soft smile immediately melts into an ugly glare. "I know that, Ushiwaka!"
"Ushibaka! Your geraniums are all droopy again, by the way."
Hajime can't stop smiling long after Oikawa has left he shop with a promise to return tomorrow. It's the first time he's actually said he'll, despite visiting almost every day — it gives this whole thing a sense of reality. Hajime finally feels justified in letting himself expect Oikawa tomorrow. Maybe he even lets himself look forward to it.
And, most surprising of all, Ushijima has the tact to not point out Hajime's unusually good mood for the rest of the day. (Or he's quietly sulking, again, which is, again, more than likely.)
"Iwa-chan, I need to give a flower to someone."
Hajime's never seen Oikawa scowl like this before. He's quietly furious, lips pressed to a thin line, eyes narrowed and piercing. It's intense. Oikawa is intense, Hajime realises, in a way he hadn't considered before. He's known him to be soft and beautiful and funny and childish and attentive and flirty to the point of no return, but intense? No. Not until now.
And yet, it doesn't feel out of character at all. It slips right into the jigsaw Hajime is assembling in his mind of Oikawa Tooru, just another piece to help put together the puzzle of the person Hajime's become so fond of in such a short amount of time. That same sort of feeling he gets seeing someone admire a plant he helped grow blooms in Hajime's gut. He's proud.
Why the hell am I so pleased over Oikawa throwing a temper tantrum?
Hajime clears his throat when Oikawa doesn't say anything more. "A flower for someone?"
"Yes." His scowl deepens, if that's possible. "Give me the language chart."
Hajime silently does so, and Oikawa pours over it, eyes searching for something specific, some certain particular meaning. A small niggling voice in his brain panics, wondering who it could be for. Because look of murderous intent or not, there's usually only one reason why someone would gift a flower.
"Found it!" Oikawa's voice is a dangerous hiss. He looks up at Hajime with focused intent. "Get me an orange lily, Iwa-chan."
It leaves no room for argument. Hajime wants so badly to peek at the chart before he goes into the storeroom. Orange lilies are native to Europe, a relative of the Japanese tiger lily. But what do orange lilies mean in Japanese flower language? He can't remember, damn it, damn it, damn it.
"Please be kind to me," he whispers to the flower before returning to the front of the shop. Ushijima pauses his fiddling with the sweat peas he brought in from the greenhouse this morning and sends a mild look of concern Hajime's way when he passes.
His hand is embarrassingly sweaty when he hands it to Oikawa.
But the man in question barely pauses to admire the beautiful fiery hues, instead marching straight past Hajime back into the storeroom. "For you, dickwad!" Hajime hears him yell. "Thanks for nothing!"
What the fuck?
Tuning out Oikawa's nonsensical tirade, Hajime finally glances at the chart.
"Next time you set me up on a date," Oikawa is shouting, "do it with the right guy! Stupid Ushiwaka-chan!"
Hajime has to muffle giggles behind his hand. Because honestly, poor Ushijima does not deserve this, but reading what it means, what Oikawa was leading up to, it's hard not to laugh.
Lily (Orange): Hatred/Revenge.
"You almost broke my pure fragile heart! Be more careful! Stupid silly Ushiwaka!"
"Don't call me that, Oikawa."
Hajime rolls his eyes, chuckling to himself.
How did I end up so attached to such a brat?
And like that, simply, easily, gradually, the days continue. Hajime sells flowers; Iwa-chan sticks; Oikawa becomes Tooru.
He gradually comes to learn about Tooru as well. You'd think he'd be all for sharing about himself — God knows he's got the confidence for it — but actually, he's surprisingly shy when it becomes to telling Hajime about certain parts of his own life. Tooru's been around for more than three months before he brings up his past as a national level volleyball player, having started training straight out of high school.
Hajime's more than impressed, of course. He played volleyball himself for years, on his Junior and High school teams, and then at university. When Tooru hears that Hajime himself was considering going pro but chose not to because Ushijima, his closest friend throughout college, suggested they open a flower shop instead, he's livid.
"We could have played together! We could have been teammates, I could have been your setter, you would have hit the strongest spikes in the whole of Japan," he'll cry, and then flop against Hajime's shoulder, glowering at the floor. "He's trying to ruin my life, Iwa-chan. I'm serious. He's out to get me for sure."
Tooru never does ease up with the theatrics, but now Hajime's better at predicting them, faster at reading the underlying message before he hits his stride. Which, believe it or not, makes them bearable. Sometimes he even looks forward to hearing what drama Tooru has to share with him next. Hajime never gets tired of trying to guess which things Tooru will by bashful about, and which things he'll shout to the world. An example would be his college course — he'll shrug and avert his eyes and run his fingers through his messy hair, mumbling something about sports science and scholarships and 'don't want other people to go through what I had to with my knee'.
He's amazing, Hajime eventually realises. Tooru is so amazing, amazing beyond words.
(When he in turn learns that Hajime studied biochemistry specialising in botany, he wonders if all florists are secretly evil geniuses, shooting daggers at Ushijima as he says it. Hajime wishes he could have a picture of the look on Tooru's face when Ushijima casually mentioned he double-majored in Japanese Literature and Business Marketing.)
They're both twenty-four and from Miyagi prefecture as well, believe it or not, except Hajime grew up on a rural farm with his grandparents, and Tooru enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Sendai itself. It's another opportunity for him to flop across Hajime's front counter and bemoan 'the Universe's (and Ushijima Wakatoshi's) Conspiracy Against the Happiness and Well-Being of Oikawa "Grand King" Tooru And Iwa-chan Hajime'.
He gets a flick to the forehead for such a ridiculous title, rest assured.
Hajime never could get Tooru to come clean about the arranged date fiasco concerning Ushijima. And when Hajime asks Ushijima, the weirdest thing happens — he laughs, and won't say a word about it.
"It's better if you don't know, Iwaizumi," he insists, lips quirked. "You will find out sooner or later. Don't dwell on it."
One thing is for certain, though — as happy as it makes him growing the most beautiful, admired, strong, healthy plant from seed to sprout, Tooru makes Hajime even happier.
"Iwa-chan," Tooru grandly announces one day, "this will be the last time I come to your flower shop."
Hajime's in the middle of snipping stray stems off of a thick rose stalk. When he hears the words, his hand tenses reflexively and the scissors cut straight through the trunk stem.
"Shit," he mutters, tossing the scissors back under the counter and trying to salvage the poor thing. But the damage is down — one beautiful petite rose flower and a two inch stalk. Brilliant.
"Why?" Hajime asks, rounding on Tooru. "What are you on about, dumbass."
Tooru ignores him and descends on the flower with all the grace of a starving man, oohing and ahhing as he twirls it in his own elegant fingers. He then holds it out to Hajime with a triumphant expression, gently tapping the side of his his head. "Put it in, won't you, Iwa-chan?"
He flutters his eyelids as if that'll have any effect on whether Hajime will do it.
(Hajime does it.)
Tooru looks stupidly good enough all the time as it is, but with the lovely red bud tucked behind his ear, charm becomes radiance. The gold in his eyes and the copper in his hair pop, the light dusting of pink on his cheeks — a flush brought on by the late summer heat — so prettily complimented that he looks like a handsome artisan doll, porcelain and grand.
Tooru turns Hajime's thoughts to sappy poetry metaphors. It's a nightmare. He's a nightmare.
Hajime snickers when it falls out the moment Tooru moves his head, and the latter squawks in distress, leaping after it. "I said, Iwa-chan," he repeats, getting up and gently dusting off his knees, "this is the last time I'll come to your shop."
He puts the flower behind his ear himself, and meets Hajime's eyes.
"I want to confess to someone. So please, one last time, help me pick out some flowers. Okay?"
The fluttering in his stomach Hajime always gets around Tooru turns to lead. "Y-You want—"
"I want to confess to someone, yes. And it needs to be perfect." He's leaning over the counter, into Hajime's space. "You're the only one I can trust with something like this, Iwa-chan."
It's funny because his mind is whirring at a million miles an hour, and his heart is in his throat, and his stomach anchors him down like dead weight; and yet, when he says the words, Hajime hears his own voice loud and clear. He sounds untroubled. He sounds flippant.
Wow, Iwa-chan, he mocks bitterly. Aren't you impressive today?
"What can I get you?"
Ushijima returns from his lunch to a broody, irritable, strangely closed-off Hajime.
"Has Oikawa left already?"
"That was fast."
Hajime can feel Ushijima watching him. Out of the two of them, he's usually the more talkative, and Hajime's short clipped answers would sound weird enough without the brittleness of his voice adding to the pathetic mix that is his life. I am the droopy geranium.
And for the first time in a very long time, he feels antagonistic towards his oldest friend, antagonistic in a silly unjustifiable way that reminds him all too much of Tooru. Please just leave me to my plants, Hajime quietly urges him, crouching over a pot of gardenias.
Ushijima hums quietly. When Hajime dares a glance up, he meets unflinching hazel eyes.
"What?" Hajime mutters.
Ushijima considers him for a moment. "Hajime."
I'm drowning my sorrows in soil and shrubbery, go away already. "Yeah."
He hums again, before quietly stepping out of the storeroom, giving him his privacy in typical quiet-kind-Ushijima fashion. "The forget-me-nots need watering."
Having sulked in his shop for as long as he could get away with, Hajime isn't surprised that it's getting dark by the time he's locking up. He didn't bother bring a jacket today, the night still warm enough in summer to get away with nothing at all, and he's stuffing the keys into his pocket and about to head home when he's attacked.
Not attacked, exactly. But with with Tooru, it really is close enough.
Oikawa Tooru stands just beyond the window of the flower shop, a four-flower bouquet clutched tightly in his hands. His knuckles are pale, Hajime notes. Dumbass. Take care of yourself more.
"What are you doing here, Oikawa?"
Tooru takes a deep breath, seemingly preparing himself. He then walks towards Hajime, each step slow and purposeful. He doesn't stop until he's a scant metre from him, fingers actually trembling slightly around his flowers. Hajime wants to—
But he's not mine to do that to, he berates himself. He's not mine to whack or flick or tease or hold or hug or touch or kiss. He's not mine at all, he never was.
"Oikawa," he repeats, cutting him off. The word feels awkward in his mouth, lips accustomed to a softer name: Tooru. "I'm locking up, come back tomorrow—"
'This will be the last time I come to your flower shop.'
The silence is horribly tense. And Tooru still doesn't say anything, lips pressed in a straight line, eyes unreadable in the dim orange light. But sunset suits him, he still looks great, and it pisses Hajime off like nothing else.
"What do you want?" he says forcefully.
Hajime bristles. "Iwa-chan, Iwa-chan, you're always saying that dumb nickname. Tooru, if you have something to say, just hurry up and say it already." Go confess to whoever and leave me alone. "Stop wasting my time."
Tooru visibly gulps. "Iwa... Iwa-chan," he says uselessly, and licks his lips. "Iwa-chan, listen—"
"Look, I've locked up," Hajime says quickly. On second thought, he doesn't want to hear this. It's obvious what Oikawa's doing — last-second cold feet. He's nervous, and he's come to Hajime for second-hand courage. Flowers make telling secrets so much easier, that much he knows intimately well. But for the first time in his life, Hajime doesn't want to let any of his flowers do the speaking. Not for Tooru. Not for this. "I've locked up," he says again, "so there's no point coming to me. I'm sure there are some other florists you can find if it's that urgent. If it isn't, come back later."
His apartment is in the direction Tooru is standing, so Hajime has to walk past him. When he does, a barely perceptive shiver whispers through Tooru's frame. And suddenly, Hajime is jerked back by a hand around his wrist.
"Iwa-chan, please. Wait."
It harks back to their first meetings only a few short months ago. (But was it really, when Hajime could swear he's known Tooru for a lifetime?) Tooru is wearing the same conflicted look as then, something Hajime can't quite decipher no matter how hard he tries. But this time, Tooru doesn't laugh it off — this time, the warm heat of his hand stays locked around Hajime's wrist, grounding them to each other.
Hajime stares. Tooru clears his throat.
"Listen, Iwa-chan." Without warning, he thrusts the flowers at Hajime, knocking the wind out of him. "Gardenia," Tooru rasps over Hajime's muted spluttering, voice unsteady and yet strong as the earth, "yellow camellia, white camellia, red camellia."
And then just stares at Hajime silently. He gets the feeling Tooru's expecting something, but...
"Tooru," Hajime mumbles, a little underwhelmed. "I know what these flowers are. I sold them to you five hours ago."
"No, Iwa-chan." Tooru vehemently shakes his head. "Dumb Iwa-chan, silly Iwa-chan. The meanings, flower language. Duh."
Hajime's glad to see a little of his usual humour poke through his nerves, but—
This dumbass. Of all the people Hajime could have chosen—
"Shittykawa, I haven't memorised Japanese flower language or anything!"
"What?" Tooru blinks down at him, horror becoming apparent in his eyes. "You... You don't know it!?"
"I'm a botanist, not a damn poet!"
"B-But Iwa-chan's a florist!"
"Why do you think I keep a fucking chart under the counter!?" Hajime's laughing even though his heart is squeezing and it hurts, it really does hurt. "Dumbass. You're such a dumbass."
"Is dumbass the only insult you know?" Tooru teases, a weak echo of his usual witty quips.
Hajime reaches up and ruffles Tooru's hair fondly. It's soft and warm under his fingers.
"Write a note. Hmm?" He smiles and pushes his hands into the pockets of his jeans. "For whoever they're for. That's what you're supposed to do."
Tooru's shaking his head, the backs of his hands pressing against Hajime's stomach where he's still pushing the flowers against him. "No, it's too late..." he mutters.
"Hey, no, no, you still have time." This is ridiculous. I'm setting up my own heartbreak. Idiot Hajime. "They won't wilt that fast—"
"No." Tooru takes a step back, leaving Hajime to clutch at the flowers before they fall. "I can do better than that."
He fixes Hajime with a resolute expression, and takes a deep breath — there's a look in his eyes that makes Hajime's heartbeat pick up without warning, an intensity buried deep within Tooru.
"Gardenia," he starts. "The first time I saw Iwa-chan was at a flower market in May. You were talking to rural farmers about their hibiscus plants, discussing seeds and bulbs and other boring grubby stuff, I don't know. It all went completely over my head. I just remember how amazed I was that someone who looked like such a brute was into flowers of all things—"
"—but then you handled the hibiscus so gently, you cradled it in your fingers. I even saw you talk to it, Iwa-chan!" Tooru lets out a strange-sounding laugh. "It was the sweetest thing I'd ever seen. When you left, I asked the farmers you were talking to about you. That's how I found your shop." He smiles ruefully. "The truth is, Iwa-chan, I live a forty minute train ride across the city."
Hajime looks down at the gardenia in his fingers; a small delicate white flower, a little crumpled, a little crooked. "Tooru, what..."
"Don't interrupt," he hushes. "Please don't interrupt, Iwa-chan, it's hard enough as it is. I'm no good at stuff like this."
Tooru exhales slowly. When he looks up, the sunset shines amber through his eyes. They're wet. "So, that's gardenia, Iwa-chan. For secret love."
Oh my God.
Hajime is the world's biggest idiot.
"Next is the yellow camellia." Hajime holds it up, wondering at the pale semi-translucent petals as Tooru speaks. "Because it wasn't meant to go like this, I was meant to show up and sweep you off your feet, and you'd fall for me, and we'd date for a bit, and you'd... you'd give me flowers and treat me just like them, all gentle and caring and soft. But it changed, because—" He laughs, a hopeless little sound, and meets Hajime's eyes again. "Because I got to know you, and you're so cool, Iwa-chan, you're so cool I was the one who was swept off my feet. Your sense of humour, and your old-lady bouquets, and that you work so hard just to make other people happy, and how you let me flop on you even when you're tired, and the way you talk about your job — you love what you do so much and it makes me happy just to be around you. I like all the parts of you, the gentle and the rough and everything in between. Iwa-chan, I'm completely and utterly swept away with you." Tooru bites his lip against a soft self-deprecating smile, and shrugs. "Before I knew it, I was too far gone. So, yellow camellia. For longing."
"Oikawa, it's okay," Hajime chokes out, fingers trembling around the ruffled petals in his hand, "you don't have to..."
"Then white camellia, for waiting. Because I was scared, Iwa-chan. I've never— I've only— I'm— " Hajime watches Tooru struggle to find the right words, heart squeezing, beating like a hummingbird in his ribcage. "I'm not the kind of guy who does longterm, I never have been. Or, I never was, until I met you. And I was scared because it's never worked in the past, every time I care about anything too much it disappears. I work too hard and I ruin it. And I thought I'd rather have you as a friend than not have you at all. Because you bring out the best in me, Iwa-chan, just like your flowers. Around you, I feel like I can bloom."
Tooru breaks off and glances at the dark shop window, gaze far away.
"Except that wasn't as easy as I thought it would be, to hold myself back."
Hajime looks at the last flower, a beautifully rich crimson camellia. It's delicate aroma hangs in the air between them, a tenuous bridge.
"It's a red camellia, for lo—" Tooru stumbles on the word. "It has two meanings, actually... Perishing with grace is one of them."
Hajime twirls it in his fingers, eyebrows drawn together. Let him finish first.
Tooru clears his throat. "I didn't want to mess it up. I know I'm a lot to deal with, I know I'm high-maintenance and moody and annoying sometimes and Iwa-chan, I— I can't change those parts about me, that's just who I am. So... if that's too much for you, if I'm asking for too much— "
"What's the other meaning, Tooru?" Hajime murmurs.
"If Iwa-chan wants me to, I'll never come back again, you can pretend as if we never met, that this whole stupid evening never happened, and—" Oikawa gulps, looking on the verge of tears. "A-And if that's what you want, then... then that's okay, Iwa-chan, that's f-fine, I understand—"
"Tooru, you big dumbass."
Hajime does something he has never done before — he drops the flowers to the ground, and reaches up, cradling Tooru's face in his hands, gentle as can be.
"Tell me the other meaning."
Tooru's crying, face blotchy-red, eyes screwed shut, and he shakes his head with a low whine. What a brat. Hajime huffs out a quiet chuckle, and wipes a tear away with his thumb.
"That's fine. I think I can work out the meaning for this one by myself."
In hindsight, their first kiss is their worst kiss by far. Tooru starts hiccuping halfway through and Hajime can't keep his laughter in when he starts, so they're more giggling against each other's lips than doing any decent amount kissing. But his lips are softer and sweeter than flower petals, and it's everything Hajime could want.
It only takes Tooru two seconds after they break away to leap at Hajime and cling to him like an octopus, arms wrapped around his back. Business as usual. Except this time, for the first, Hajime can return the gesture, and he does so with gusto, hugging the man who annoyed the living daylights out of him four months ago as tight as he can. He presses his lips against the soft hair tickling his cheek, smelling that same shampoo; fresh and sweet and quintessentially Oikawa.
"Iwa-chan, that was so scary," Tooru mumbles into the crook of his neck. "I'm never doing that again, never ever ever..."
"You're such a mess." Hajime chuckles, softly patting the trembling head of curls burrowed against his chin. "What was the need to make it so dramatic, huh? All you had to do was tell me you liked me, you didn't have to do all this flower language crap. Honestly, Tooru." He rolls his eyes fondly, nuzzling against the warm skin where neck meets shoulder. "What am I going to do with you?"
Tooru sure loves his dramatics. This, Hajime knew from day one.
"You're a florist," the accused defends himself, voice whiny. "I have a reputation to uphold, you know."
"Is that so?"
"Mmm. I can't let my boyfriend be more romantic than me."
The word makes his heart squeeze deliciously. "Boyfriend, huh?"
Tooru freezes, realisation dawning. His buries his face deeper against Hajime's neck. "If you want..." he mumbles, and Hajime can feel the heat coming off his cheeks, and it's adorable, Tooru's adorable.
It still pisses him off.
But this, Hajime figures, is perhaps the first beautiful thing of his own that he does not want to share. The flowers, the world can have; but Hajime wants to keep Tooru to himself.
"Hey, dumbass. I red camellia you too."
"Iwa-chan, no!" Round eyes crinkling at the corners. "After I gave you that beautiful confession, that's the best you can do?" Tooru looks giddily happy as he pulls away, gently pawing at Hajime's chest. "Again. I want roses. I want champagne. Maybe even a fancy hotel dinner. You're supposed to say it right, Iwa-chan."
He laughs, ears burning pink, before fingering the line of Tooru's jaw. "What am I supposed to say?"
"You're really the worst."
"I'm in love with you, too, Tooru."
He tenses in Hajime's arms. "Y-Yeah?"
"Head over heels."
Tooru laughs breathlessly and presses a kiss to the corner of his Hajime's lips. "Well, I must say I don't blame you."
"Are you crying again?"
"No! You just surprise-attacked me! Say it again, I'm completely normal, see?"
"You're literally crying, Tooru."
A quiet sniff. "Shut up, Hajime."
Laughter rings through the night, carried with the scent of camellia.
"You'd think, being a florist and all, they'd have more flowers around the place." Hanamaki examines the living room with a critical eye. "But you know, I think it suits them."
Matsukawa nods before frowning. "Oi, Ushijima."
The man in question pokes his head out of the kitchen.
"What are those?" Matsukawa asks, pointing to the sole flowers present in the whole of Oikawa's and Iwaizumi's new apartment.
"That is the Ex-Boyfriend Vase, I believe," Wakatoshi says patiently. One would think Matsukawa would know that, being one of Oikawa's closest friends and all.
"Thanks, genius," Hanamaki deadpans.
"The flowers," Matsukawa corrects himself. "What are the flowers?"
Wakatoshi eyes the three flowers in the vase; yellow, white, and red. "Camellias. Those are camellias."
"Heh~" Hanamaki leans down and inspects them as well. "Weird choice."
Memories flash through his mind, of a bright-red Oikawa demanding he be set up on the ultimate rigged blind date, of a pouting Iwaizumi crouching over a pot of gardenias, of crumpled petals at the shop-front welcoming him in one late summer morning. He thinks about the way Oikawa pulled Iwaizumi to the door with a smile, insisting the groceries for their 'First Apartment Feast (as courtesy of Ushijima Wakatoshi, Life Ruiner and Best Friend in Law)' would take two to carry. He thinks about the way Iwaizumi grinned as he let himself be pulled along.
He looks at the vase of camellias in the centre of their new home.
"I think it suits them," Wakatoshi offers with a small smile, quietly returning to the kitchen.