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Rhododendron

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Rhododendron
Chapter 1 :: Azalea
(Azalea: Take Care of Yourself for Me; Temperance; Fragile Passion; Chinese Symbol of Womanhood)

Wally West was walking down the streets of Central City after a long shift at work, mind travelling back towards the killer he had helped catch (four children had been killed by that man's hand, with little to no evidence towards who had committed the crime, at least until Wally had taken a look at it and managed to recognize a rare kind of dirt that had been left on the children's bodies from where they had been killed); it had been an all-nighter at the labs, and Wally had been given the rest of the day off.

His stomach growled and Wally paused, nose twitching as he picked up the scent of freshly baked goods. Green-blue eyes scanned the area around him, before falling on a quaint little building across the street, nestled between two larger apartment complexes, Rhododendron Bakery and Café was stenciled in gold on the large front window in cursive lettering, and a young woman with braided black hair had just opened the door to place a small chalkboard on the sidewalk, allowing the smells of baked treats to waft outside and catch Wally's sensitive sense of smell.

The young woman must've felt his eyes on her, because she glanced towards him, emerald green eyes meeting his, and she offered him a friendly smile. She was wearing a pair of red skinny jeans and a black buttoned shirt under a white apron, and there was a pair of thick - rimmed black glasses perched on her delicate nose. Wally blinked, then shot the woman his own grin, before jogging (at a regular human pace) across the empty road.

"Good morning," She greeted, British accent thick and sophisticated, bright eyes studying Wally's flash t-shirt and blue jeans with quiet amusement. "I've got a pie in the oven that I need to pull out, if you'd like to come in?"

"A lovely woman inviting me inside? I'd love to." Wally shot back smoothly, his most charming smile on his face. The British woman laughed, brushing her long black braid over her shoulder as she turned and slipped back into the café, Wally trotting behind her.

The café was warm an welcoming, the walls a soft cream and covered with pictures from around the world, the floors were a dark brown wood. A brown brick fireplace crackled in the far corner, surrounded by plush brown chairs, and there were a few booths lining the walls. Wally's eyes moved back to where the British woman was pushing her way through a pair of swinging doors behind the counter, probably heading for the kitchen, and yes, Wally could smell the pie the woman had promised. He studied the pair of chalkboards lining the walls behind the marble counter, declaring what the small café offered and their prices, and a glass display case showed lines of fresh treats.

Wally's stomach growled.

A soft laugh signified the young woman's return, and Wally look up from the tasty looking pastries to the beautiful woman holding a pie.

"See something you like?" The woman teased, placing the pie on a cooling rack, and Wally smirked.

"I see many things that I definitely like."

She laughed again, hands on her hips. "Welcome to Rhododendron Bakery and Café. What can I get you, mate?"

"Perhaps the name of the lovely lady behind the counter?" Wally asked, winking at the barrista.

She grinned, tipping her head towards him. "Azalea Potter, at you service."

Azalea Potter, huh?

Pretty name.

Also, JRR Tolkien, much?

"Wally West, at yours."

Azalea smiled, resting her elbows on the counter and lacing her fingers together to make a comfortable place to rest her chin, peering up at him from thick lashes. "I like you, Mr. West. Now, what can I get you?"

"Just Wally, and I'll get..." His eyes shifted back to the display case, to where there were small labels for each group of treats declaring the name along with a small description of what they were and where they came from. "Two Franzbrötchen, one chocolate crêpe, and a large slice of peach cobbler. Oh, and a large Caffè Mocha."

Azalea raised an eyebrow, but didn't comment as she shuffled away to collect the things the red-haired speedster had asked for. The four pastries came first, before the young British woman moved away to make his drink.

"Long night?" The black haired woman asked as the water heated, glancing at him over her shoulder.

"The longest." Wally agreed, running a hand through his messy hair. "I was at the lab all night, then went back to my apartment at five in the morning when the case finally closed, only to find my fridge broke down again and the only thing I had left to eat was a case of leftover Thai food from three days ago."

Azalea winced as she mixed the chocolate drink and moved on to the expresso. "Do you want whipped cream on your drink?"

"Yes, please!"

"Chocolate syrup?"
Wally moaned. "Oh god, yes."

Azalea smiled slightly as she placed his drink in front of him, and Wally moved to grab his wallet, but a dainty, but callused, hand stopped him from pulling his debit card out. "On the house, Wally."

Wally blinked, then smirked. "You give free food to every man who comes through here?"

The pretty woman grinned back playfully, leaning closer to him -close enough that he could feel her breath ghosting against his ear- and Wally could feel his cheeks heating. "Only the pretty ones." She murmured flirtatiously, before pulling away to stare smugly at his flushed face.

"A woman after my own heart." Wally said as sure as he knew his voice wouldn't squeak. "But what would the boss say?"

"That's the best part, Wally." Azalea purred, and Wally could feel the shiver run down his spine. "I am the boss."

 

 

Wally left the small café an hour later with a goofy smile on his face, an applecrisp pie in hand, and a phone number written in golden sharpie in his pocket.