“You mother would be so proud of you, mijo.” Mrs. Vega tells him as she closes her trunk, careful of the begonias Stiles had just finished placing inside. He takes a moment to collect his thoughts while dusting the lingering soil off his hands onto his apron.
“I’d like to think so,” he tells her with a smile. Remembers when he was little and helped do the same thing with his mother, tottling out on much shorter legs with a small pot of daisies. He loved helping his mom with the shop, feeling oh so important when he would water them and help his mom repot them.
After she passed the shop, happily named Thistle Do Nicely , went to the back burner while he and his father tried to reorient their worlds with a ragged hole in their lives. Stiles was eight at the time but he made the choice that day to forgo any and all plans that didn’t include him bringing the shop back to life in the future. He spent every summer since then getting odd jobs and saving for the day when he could start to make that dream a reality.
“You are Claudia’s son, this town needs you. She would be so happy you’re here.” Mrs. Vega pats his shoulder kindly and with a strange glint in her eye, like there’s something more here and Stiles just isn’t seeing it. “See you again soon.”
Stiles watches as she drives away and stands watching for a moment until he can get his bearing and walk back into the shop. The flowers greet him, reaching out with gentle tendrils to stroke his arms and hands as he passes. He smiles and pets them like he’s coming home to a particularly cuddly cat. He checks the various pots and planters as he makes his way to the back, noting who will need water and thinking he might push up a few repottings to this week.
“Stiles, the lilies are drooping again,” Scott calls from the spiral staircase in the middle of the shop. Stiles lets go of the hydrangea he had been checking and instead heads for the rooftop greenhouse. As he climbs the spiral stairs he thinks back to when his mother had plans to build the greenhouse, it was only a roughly sketched idea. Stiles had slaved for years over the sketches, working through permits and financial advisors, jumping through hoops to bring his mother’s dream to life.
“You’re over watering them, Scott,” Stiles sighs as he finishes his assent up the stairs. He basks in the damp earthy smell and the warm air pressing on his skin and into his lungs. The greenhouse was always was one of his favorite places to be, he felt most at home here. Sure enough, when he stops in front of the flowers in question, the petals are discolored and the stems too weak to hold the flower heads high. It broke his heart to see such sad looking flowers.
“I am not! Erica is in charge of the lilies.” Scott pouted, crossing his arms over his chest.
As gently as possible, Stiles lifts the flower heads with his fingertips in one hand and presses his other hand against the soil. With a hum, his skin turns nearly translucent and little green veins of chlorophyll pulse alongside the ones that pump blood through his body. Slowly but surely the flowers lift and brighten, standing tall and proud, shimmering lightly before Stiles removes his hands and his skin returns to its usual pale shade.
“That will never not be cool, man,” Scott breathes next to him. He laughs, glancing around to check if any other plants need assistance before heading back down to the store front.
“Hey Stiles, can you use some mojo on this,” Erica waves towards the bouquet she’s just finished, “Mr. Campbell doesn’t need it until Thursday but I didn’t want to be rushed tomorrow.” Stiles nods and walks over to the flowers set on the counter. He lifts the vase filled with white roses and lavender and whispers in Celtic as he walks it to the freezer next to the back room.
“You guys can head out if you want, shouldn’t be too much to do from here.” Stiles tells his friends as he returns. “And I know you have a history test tomorrow, Scott.” He smiles ruefully while Scott’s face twists up in distaste.
Sometimes he thinks he regrets not going to BHU, regrets not pursuing something bigger than just this little town he was born in. But then he always thinks back to his regulars, the regulars who were originally his mother’s regulars and how they smile and greet him as they come in and it doesn’t seem like a loss anymore. Thistle Do Nicely had been a town staple before she passed and Stiles, nor the town, was willing to let that go.
“Yeah, 1 PM, McCall. You better be careful or I’ll fire you.” Erica snorts and Scott smiles sheepishly as they make their way out and say their goodbyes and before long Stiles is alone in his shop with a jiggle fo the bell over the door.
There were plenty of things that Stiles had refurbished and restored from when his mother own the store. The bell over the door was brass and had lost the little bead inside that he had replaced. The cash register was a typewriter looking device that had some worn down gears and rusty spots that took a pretty penny to restore but his mother had adored it. And the ugliest vase to ever exist, the one he made in second grade, sits proudly next to it. The sound of the bell’s gentle ringing pulls him from his memories and draws his attention to the new customer.
The man has stepped inside and has his back to Stiles as he looks at the flowers in the bay windows at the front of the store. His steps are measured and slow, like he’s aware of how out of place he is in a leather jacket and dark wash jeans. Stiles is planning the let the man wander and explore in peace while he returns to work when his motor mouth betrays him.
“Can I help you find anything?” The man startles, eyes instantly snapping to where Stiles is leaning against the back edge of the counter, fiddling with some hydrangeas in a vase. The man doesn’t say anything at first, just looking at him and it’s putting Stiles on edge, the tips of his ears itching.
He was stunning with sharp cheekbones and eyes that reminded him of the center of a Walking Iris in the way that they seemed like a mesh of colors. He was all sharp angles and strong lines, every movement purposeful and graceful. He held his broad shoulders in and stepped like he knew he didn’t quite fit in Stiles’ daintily sized shop, making his large frame look even larger in comparison.
“Yeah, I think you can.” The man walks forward, skirting around the odd arrangements of pots and shelves of vases and plants Stiles has never really found in him to properly organize. He liked the aesthetic of everything looking vaguely out of place but like it shouldn’t be moved. As he got closer, Stiles got a better look at the man and he could feel his breath catch. His eyebrows furrowed as he moved, focused on his movement while he steadily made his way towards Stiles’ counter.
“What can I do for you?”
“I’m looking for a flower.”
“You came to the right place.” Stiles wants to bite off his own tongue while the man levels an unimpressed look on him.
“I need betony, it’s purple. Looks like lavender.” Stiles nods, hoping to recover some of his dignity with his flower prowess and ability to provide the man with what he needs.
“I know what you’re looking for, if you could just follow me,” Stiles gestures to the stairs leading up to the greenhouse The man nods and they make their way up to the roof.
Stiles leads him through the various aisles, watching in the corner of his eye as he stops and looks at some flowers longer than others, inspecting and occasionally sniffing. Stiles can’t help but preen just a little bit when the handsome stranger smiles for the first time while smelling his dahlias. The feeling thrums happily under his skin but he’s sure to keep it in check, not wanting to relive his younger years of sprouting random flowers and grass around him when his feelings got to be a bit too big.
Stiles continues walking until they reach a particular shelf of flowers, one of which being the sought after betony. They were tiny little flowers. Small and a rich purple, they did look like lavender to the untrained eye, but Stiles knew better.
“Did you know that early people believed betony could ward off witches? Said it messed with their magic.” Stiles specifically remembers his mother crushing dried betony and other herbs into a mix that would be burned to ward off unwanted magic. It was popular among her supernatural customers.
“Interesting,” the man grunts. He leans in close to the flowers, brushing past Stiles as he goes, he inspects the petals and the plant in general before turning back to look at him, “Is this all you have?”
“Uh, yeah. They aren’t in high demand so I don’t keep too much on hand.”
“Could you get more?”
“Yeah, sure. I could, uh, order more.” Stiles nods and the man nods, seemingly appeased but something flashed in his eyes before he turned, doubt or something of the like. “Would you like to leave your information so I can call when it’s ready?”
“Yes.” With that he turns and heads back the way they came. Stiles rolls his eyes and resists muttering about neanderthals.
“And how much will you need?” Stiles asks as they descend the stairs.
“Three flats.” Stiles blanches a bit and doesn’t quite recover before his mouth runs off without him.
“Are you trying to banish a coven?” The man whips his head around, eyebrows furrowed even farther than before, so close together they might actually congeal into one unibrow.
“What.” The question seems to fall flat and become more like a demand and Stiles tries to not look like he’s hiding behind his counter, but in all honesty, he can only describe it as a scurry.
“It’s just that three flats is like, a lot. What do you need all of it for?” The question is timid and small and Stiles feels like ducking for cover under the man’s gaze.
“Gardening.” Stiles barks out a laugh causing one impressive eyebrow to rise.
“Sorry.” He mumbles before grabbing for the pad of paper and a pen topped with a fake flower from the craft store next door. He hands them over, practically having to force them into the man’s hands when he just stares at them. “Your contact information.” The man still looks unimpressed, “To tell you when the order comes in.” Stiles sighs and the man has the decency to look a little cowed. Not that I would mind a phone number, Stiles thinks to himself.
“Thanks.” That’s all Stiles gets before the man - Derek, the paper says - leaves with a gentle ring of the shop door.