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Rolling Hills & Daffodils

Chapter Text

Every day was the same routine. Show up to work, bustle about for an eight-hour shift, sweep the floors and water the plants, lock up, and do the same thing again the next morning.

Things changed, however, the day the tattoo shop opened across the street.

Lee Minhyuk was known for being consistently on top of his game. Despite his rather loud and boisterous nature, he was a very hard worker, and he hardly ever lost focus when it came to his craft. Minhyuk had started work at the flower shop a few years ago, after his botany class’s teaching assistant at the time - a large but soft-spoken man named Son Hyunwoo - suggested he apply for the shop Hyunwoo had inherited from his late uncle. Minhyuk had quickly rose his way to manager, tirelessly studying watering techniques and the language of flowers, and he was beloved by his co-workers and the store’s regulars. He showed up early and stayed late every day he was working, and he covered others’ shifts whenever he was available, and, because of this, he was a favorite among his co-workers.

...speaking of co-workers, there was a familiar face staring at him now.

Minhyuk blinked himself back into reality, eyes focusing on Chae Hyungwon, whose mouth and nose was burrowed in his thick-necked turtleneck sweater to hide is disapproving expression.

“You good? You’ve been staring out the window motionless for the last ten minutes. We had a customer come in and leave because they were afraid you were having a medical crisis.”

“Ah, yeah, sorry,” Minhyuk replied, picking up a stray stem off the counter in front of him and twirling it in his fingers. “I’m fine, just...tired.”

Hyungwon hummed. “You’ve been weird for a few weeks now; Shownu’s even been asking if anything happened that would make you like this. Everything okay at school?”

Along with being Minhyuk’s coworker, Hyungwon also attended the same university - he was a dance student, and he was known for flying through his classes with minimal effort, but he was very perceptive and very kind once you got to know him, and get to know him Minhyuk had. The two worked most of their shifts together, since they both took mostly night classes, and they’d become reasonably good friends in the year or so since Hyungwon had begun work at the flower shop. Not that it required too much knowledge of Minhyuk to see that something was off.

“You don’t have to talk about it if you don’t want to,” Hyungwon said. “I just wanted to extend the offer if anything’s bothering you, especially since it’s now affecting our customers as well.”

That made Minhyuk jump back into action. Being out-of-sorts was one thing, but allowing those feelings to affect his work? Unacceptable, at least in his book.

Hyungwon was still watching him with a funny expression as Minhyuk sprung into action, snatching a watering can off the desk, vaulting the counter and sprinting to the gladiolus in the window.

His gaze wandered as he watered the flowers, little by little, until he was once again staring out the window, at a specific spot a little to the left of the tattoo shop’s doors.

A hand came down on his shoulder, gentle but firm, and Minhyuk jumped so high that the watering can fell from his hand and dropped with a clatter to the floor.

When Minhyuk whirled around, his boss was staring at him with an unreadable expression.

“Minhyuk,” Hyunwoo started, folding his arms, “What’s going on?”

Minhyuk felt his shoulders droop. “Sorry, Shownu; I promise I’ll get my act together.”

Shownu - almost all of Hyunwoo’s employees had taken to the nickname after they found an old iPad in the storeroom with Hyunwoo’s singing videos under an old stage name - just shook his head. “You don’t need to apologize. I just want to know what’s got you so interested.”

Minhyuk turned to face the window once more, eyes distant.

“It’s the motorcycle across the street. It kinda looks like Jooheon’s.”

And with that, the store went deathly silent; at the counter, Hyungwon stilled his hand halfway into a bag of soil, and Shownu inhaled deeply, sympathy clouding his expression.

Minhyuk laughed, more to himself than anything. “It’s nothing, really. It’s’s pretty.”

The bike in question was pretty, in a unique sort of way. It was a sleek black dual-sport, polished to perfection and gleaming in the late spring afternoon, hand-painted white detailing covering its body. Minhyuk had been eyeing the bike since it first appeared about a month ago - it was only uncovered for small portions of time, around opening, lunch and dinnertime, so Minhyuk made sure his eyes were glued to the window during those times - but he could never catch a glimpse of its owner, even if he spent the entirety of his opening chores with his eyes glued to the front of the tattoo shop. He’d been so fixated on the possible appearance of the bike’s elusive owner that he’d started spacing out more and more; thinking back, it was only a matter of time before someone called him out on it.

It wasn’t a secret, Minhyuk’s ex-boyfriend’s accident. Lee Jooheon was a well-known artist in the area, so the news had been mentioned almost everywhere. It left an extremely bad taste in Minhyuk’s mouth, even after almost a year of emotional healing. The motorcycle crash had happened on a stormy night; Jooheon had been hit and had fallen into a coma soon after being picked up and taken to the hospital. He had yet to wake up. Despite their break-up a month or so before the incident, Minhyuk and Jooheon were the best of friends. The accident was actually one of the main reasons Minhyuk began work at the flower shop; half of all of his paychecks were sent to Jooheon’s family, and he did this without a second thought. After all, it was Jooheon that used to bring him to parks every Sunday and who would read him stories about the language of flowers as he drifted off to sleep, way back when. It was the least he could do.

So perhaps the bike in front of the tattoo shop was the last bit of solace Minhyuk needed, or perhaps it was just a simple emotional connection. Either way, he was fixated, and it had gotten to a point where it was affecting his work. And he needed to do something about it.

The jingle of the front door tore Minhyuk away from his thoughts once more, and the three employees looked up to see a man enter with his head bowed. He was wearing a turtleneck, the cuff pulled up high, with a leather jacket thrown over and his hands in the pockets of a pair of ripped jeans. Despite his bold fashion choices, his eyes were kind as he addressed the employees, and he nodded shyly as he made his way through the door and into the shop.

Cohesive thoughts didn’t even register in Minhyuk’s mind until he had stumbled his way from the front of the store to the back of the storeroom, past a door he closed unconsciously. His breathing was irregular from the sudden sprint and, in the floor-length mirror on the back of the door, his eyes were dilated. He doubled over, trying to regain some control, both physically and emotionally, his head spinning in confusion and mild distress.

He hadn’t felt this way in ages.

Chapter Text

It took a few tries to get the key in the lock to rotate all the way but, once it had, the door swung open easily. Lee Hoseok (whose friends referred to him strictly as “Wonho”) stepped through the door of the tattoo parlor, flicking the lights on as he crossed the threshold.

He immediately jumped back, cursing colorfully.

Jesus, Kihyun, why are you already here?!”

Yoo Kihyun, the sharp-tongued receptionist at the tattoo parlor, leveled a stare at him with a dead look in his eyes. “How would you respond if I told you I never left?”

Wonho just shook his head and shouldered past his companion, dropping his bag at his station.

“I’d tell you not to work too hard because you know it’s free reign if you fall asleep.”

Kihyun grinned. “You wouldn’t dare.”

“Hey, canvases are canvases,” Wonho laughed, brandishing his tattoo gun at the receptionist. “We both know we’ll take what we can get, especially my apprentice.”

Kihyun crinkled his nose. “Ew. Don’t let him anywhere near my body.”

“Then don’t fall asleep.” Wonho began organizing his tools for the day - squinting at blackboard, he had four appointments for the day, which was more than manageable. His first appointment wouldn’t be in for an hour, so Wonho settled down at his desk, pulling his lightbox out from the cabinet under the desk and preparing to ink a few sketches for the tattoos he would do today.

A few minutes later, the door opened, and a young man with jet-black hair and an eyebrow piercing sauntered in, hands occupied with a drink carrier.

Kihyun hummed in contentment as Im Changkyun, the shop’s apprentice and designated gremlin, set one of the cups in front of him. He then proceeded to tip the contents of the cup straight into his mouth, barely even swallowing, and downed the whole thing before setting the cup back down as Wonho and Changkyun watched in horror.

Wonho’s regular hazelnut mocha was set on his desk next, and he smiled up at his apprentice, who then crossed the store and began setting up his own station. Wonho and Changkyun, although technically teacher and student, had quickly become a fantastic duo. Wonho specialized in blackwork, drawing bold lines and sharp edges down his clients’ bodies, while Changkyun was a master of delicate colors. The two had collaborated on many a piece, and they worked well together, so Wonho always enjoyed it when Changkyun was in the office with him. Changkyun was still a student at the local university, but he had made a name of himself in the tattoo industry at a young age under the pen name I.M. - Wonho had actually found the kid at an underground tattoo convention and had hired him on the spot after seeing Changkyun paint a beautiful watercolor fish on a woman’s ankle. The tattoo shop had only been open about a month, but clients had been steady, and with the three working together, they’d made a good name for themselves early on. Kihyun was always on top of things, and Changkyun was an incredibly hard worker. Together with Wonho’s talents, the shop had become quite successful.

Wonho hummed a bit as he flipped through the request book, pulling out the day’s appointment sheets and reading them through. When he got to the third one, he sighed heavily.

Changkyun looked over from his desk. “You good?”

“Yeah,” Wonho replied, squinting at the paper. “Just another flower piece.”

Changkyun laughed. “Oh, your favorite. What’s it this time?”

“Forsythia. I’ve never heard of it before; it’s in the olive family, apparently. I have no idea how I’m going to do this one.”

Kinyun appeared at his side, thumbing through the application with a straight-lipped expression.

After a few minutes, he turned to Wonho. “You know there’s a flower shop across the street, right?”

Wonho blinked. “Yeah?”

Kihyun groaned, flicking the artist on the head. “So go over there and study, dumbass.”

“Wait, that’s actually a really good idea.” Wonho was already out of his seat, grabbing his sketchbook off the table and shoving his wallet in the back pocket of his jeans. “The Internet says it should have bloomed sometime last month; hopefully they’ll have some I can sketch.”

And then he was gone, out the front door of the tattoo parlor and jogging across the street to the little flower shop across the street. It was fairly unassuming - the front window was full of brightly colored blooms in various pots, and there were hanging baskets outside the shop, beckoning passerbys to come and visit just a bit. Wonho steeled himself, then pushed the door open, hearing the bell jingle as he crossed the threshold.

A broad-shouldered man standing near the window, arms crossed and a dirt-speckled apron tied around his waist, smiled and welcomed him as he entered the shop. At the counter, a tall, lanky man with black hair set down a bag of soil and greeted him. Wonho took that moment to survey the shop - despite the sheer number of plants in the tiny storefront, the place seemed to be fairly well taken care of, and the variety of colors were almost unbelievable. Wonho itched to whip out his sketchbook immediately, trying his best to take in the organized chaos of the flower shop, but movement caught his eye before he could speak.

From behind the broad-shouldered man, a person with platinum blonde hair and dark eyes blown wide sped at a frightening speed from a place near the window to the back of the store, presumably into the storeroom. The dark-haired man at the counter watched them go with confused eyes, but quickly regained his composure and walked over to the newcomer.

“Sorry about that,” the man chuckled, though the laugh seemed a bit forced. “It’s been an interesting day. My name is Hyungwon. How can I help you?”

Wonho shook his head to clear his thoughts - maybe it was normal to sprint around this shop? - and instead sent a smile in the direction of the worker. “I’m actually from across the street; I work at the tattoo parlor. I was looking to see if you might have any forsythia?”

The broad-shouldered man, who had been listening in, walked to a corner of the store and came back with the familiar yellow blossoms. “Will these do?”

Wonho brightened. “Those are perfect! I’ll take them.”

The man smiled as Wonho took the flowers from him, and Wonho was suddenly struck with just how beautiful everyone in this shop was. The broad-shouldered man had flawless tanned skin and perfect teeth; the dark-haired man, Hyungwon, had milky skin and piercing dark eyes; and the unknown worker, the one who had fled from the scene, had been startlingly pretty.

Wonho made a mental note to come visit the shop more often.

He went to the counter and paid for the forsythia blooms; Hyungwon tied a yellow ribbon around the pot and handed it back, wishing him good luck as he left the shop. He was lost in thought as he walked back to the parlor, hands securely on the pot. Kihyun sent him a thumbs-up when he saw the flowers, asking him how it went, and Wonho answered truthfully - nice shop, nice people - and set the flowers on his desk.

He turned around once more, looking out the front window of the parlor, to see the young man with platinum blonde hair in the window, eyes staring holes into the glass.

Wonho shook the strange feeling off and went back to work.

Chapter Text

The next few weeks fell into a routine.

A few times a week - usually Tuesdays, Minhyuk had noticed - the elusive man in the leather jacket entered the store looking for a floral reference for a tattoo design he was working on. Despite his bold appearance, the man was soft-spoken and kind, and he often spent a few minutes browsing before he asked for a particular flower, brushing his hand over the petals and mumbling to himself. A handful of times he had been accompanied by a dark-haired boy with a beautifully drawn wolf in a bramble thicket tattooed on his arm who followed the man around like a duckling and pointed certain blooms out.

But this had all been hearsay for Minhyuk.

It wasn’t that he was trying to avoid the pretty new customer. He hadn’t meant to fly to the back room every time the man had appeared in the doorway, hadn’t meant to lose his cool in a way he’d never done before. But there was something that had triggered a strange, unconscious panic in his mind, a panic that forced him into fight-or-flight mode, and he had moved without thinking, ignoring the confused stares of his co-workers every single time.

After the third sprint to the storeroom, Hyungwon pulled him aside with a straight-lipped smile.

“Explain,” Hyungwon said bluntly, crossing his arms over his chest.

Minhyuk sighed. “I don’t know, Wonnie. I don’t know.”

Hyungwon shook his head. “There has to be a reason why you’re freaking out so much. Do you know him from somewhere? Why are you trying to hide?”

He’d hit the nail on the head, not that Minhyuk was surprised. Hyungwon had always been scarily perceptive, and Minhyuk was never good at hiding things, so he had been called out rather quickly despite trying his best to conceal his emotions.

Hyungwon’s grim smile slipped from his face, replaced with obvious empathy as he reached over and put a hand on his co-worker’s shoulder.

“You don’t have to explain anything to me if you don’t want to. I just want to make sure you’re okay.”

Minhyuk laughed, though it came out a bit shaky. “Thank you, Hyungwon. I really really appreciate you and Shownu always checking in on me. I promise I’ll get my head on straight.”

As if saying his name had called him, the broad-shouldered boss came out of his office just then, offering Minhyuk a shining smile and handing his two employees the new shipment.

After a quick survey, the new blossoms seemed to be azalea pots. Minhyuk hummed a little, thoroughly impressed with the impeccable technique and the beauty of the flowers, then locked eyes once more with his boss to hear instructions.

The work day had been rather slow, an unexpected spring shower forcing the employees of the flower shop to pull in the flowers displayed outside and find places for them inside the storefront. The shop was comfortably warm, and Hyungwon and Minhyuk had been rearranging and re-tagging blooms as busy work throughout their shift. Besides the man in the leather jacket, there had only been two other customers - a businessman in a freshly pressed suit and giant black umbrella who picked up some roses for his fiancé and a middle-aged woman who came in to order custom vases for her coffee shop tables - so Hyungwon and Minhyuk had made their own fun by playing Pictionary on the scheduling whiteboard. There was classical music streaming through the speakers installed around the storefront, and Hyungwon had spent about an hour trying to teach Minhyuk how to waltz, ending in furious giggling and a lot of toes being stepped on. Hyungwon was hands-down Minhyuk’s favorite co-worker to work with, so even with the man with the leather jacket appearing once again, Minhyuk was in a fairly good mood.

The two crossed the store to try and began moving things around to make room for the new azaleas. They bickered for a bit, Hyungwon wanting to sort things by color while Minhyuk insisted on categorizing things by time of sun exposure required, and eventually just stuck the azaleas on the middle island of the store, jokingly glaring at each other on their way back to the counter.

It was a few minutes later, when Hyungwon was busy adjusting the scheduling board, that Minhyuk spoke up.

“He looks like the man who hit Jooheon.”

Hyungwon dropped the Expo marker in his hand and turned around with eyes wide.

“He what?

Minhyuk laughed, his hands trembling.

“When Jooheon was hit, I guess I had been number one on the speed dial on his phone, so I was called by the man who had hit him. It had been raining that night, and I guess Jooheon’s bike slipped and the man who hit him hadn’t been paying all that much attention and I just...I got the call and I just shut down. I remember rushing to my car and racing to the hospital, and by the time I got there, Jooheon was already out...but the man who had hit him was just leaving as I arrived, and I saw a glimpse of his face as he brushed past me. He looked just like the man with the leather jacket.”

Hyungwon inhaled deeply, looking thoroughly shaken. “Holy shit.”

“I mean, I doubt it’s him,” Minhyuk said breathlessly, “but I couldn’t stop myself. It was an unconscious reaction to hide. I know I should give him the benefit of the doubt, since there’s only a small chance it is him, but I just...I can’t shake it.”

“Min, you should have said something,” Hyungwon sighed. “We wouldn’t have pressured or judged you in any way if we knew what was happening.”

At this point, Minhyuk was close to tears. “I didn’t know how to bring it up.”

The two stood in silence then, Hyungwon bending down and gingerly picking up the discarded marker, Minhyuk wiping at his eyes vigorously.

“Y’know,” Minhyuk spoke, loud in the silence of the air around them, “I was really mad at the time. Really, really angry at this man I saw for only a moment. But the longer it’s taken, the longer it’s been, I just wish I could have talked to him. Heard his side. I wanted to know what it was like, what really happened to Jooheon, the information that wasn’t in the legal medical documents. I wish I had stopped him.”

“You were shaken. It’s completely understandable that you didn’t think to stop him when you were in the middle of the chaos. Is this something you think about a lot?”

Minhyuk pursed his lips. “More than I’d like to admit. I guess I sorta blame myself for being so irrational at the time, because I didn’t know the full story. He could’ve been hurt as well, but I wasn’t thinking about that. At the time, I genuinely believed Jooheon could do no wrong. I’ve always had rose-tinted glasses whenever I looked at him; he was always an angel to me, and knowing that someone hurt him was enough to send me off the edge.”

“Do you remember what the official reports were?”

Minhyuk nodded. “It was both of their faults. Jooheon was going too fast on a particularly heavy rainy day, and the driver was distracted with a passenger in his car and didn’t see Jooheon until it was too late.”

Hyungwon capped the pen in his hand and turned around. “Well there you go then. You shouldn’t be beating yourself for only seeing the side of a person you knew and loved dearly; you’re in a rational mindset now, even after what happened, and that’s what’s important.”

“That’s true,” Minhyuk sighed, smiling a little despite the prior tears. “You’re right. Thank you, Wonnie. I’m sorry you had to listen to that.”

Hyungwon shook his head. “Anything for a friend. Just remember to-”

-and with that, the bell on the front door jingled, and a familiar face bowed to the employees.