Irving carefully took clothing off the line one by one while they were still warm from the sun, and pressed his nose into the collar of a sweater a size or two too big for his body. It smelled of washing powder and the garden that Irving dedicated so much time to. There were holes that had been darned, the collar needed a bit of work, the sleeve edges were frayed, and at one point it was surely a much deeper blue than it found itself to be now, but it could never find its way out of the house, and Irving washed it dutifully and carefully like it was his mother’s best guest linens. He pressed the navy knit to his cheek, smiling softly to himself.
Crozier watched, barely shielding himself with a sheet still on the line. A more observant person would have seen him right away, but the retired captain got quite a bit of glee from going unnoticed with his peeking, a mischievous and all around delighted look spreading across his face.
“So that’s where my jumper got off to,” Crozier laughed when Irving’s body tensed up, presumably from embarrassment of being caught, “thought you might’ve finally gotten tired of that raggedy thing n’ tossed it in the bin with the rest of the rubbish.”
“Never!” Irving’s cheeks had gone quite pink as he clutched the sweater to his chest.
“No need to be so scandalized, my dear.” Crozier ducked under the clotheslines and stood before Irving, one arm curiously behind his back, “How about a trade?” He smirked coyly, the light of day causing his eyes to have a twinkle to them.
Irving raised a brow, still protectively holding the garment to himself but now with a smile. It was a game he was glad to play, as it meant Crozier was in a good mood, something Irving was always thankful for. He dreaded when the captain’s melancholia rose its unfortunate head from time to time, though he knew Crozier would never be rid of it. He more hated to see his beloved suffer, and so he cherished these cheerful moments even more.
“What shall you give me in exchange for your jumper, captain?”
With a bit of flourish, Crozier produced a bouquet of flowers from behind his back. They were from no shop, but carefully cut from the countryside on his walk home. Wild flowers with soft blues and bright purples mixed together with pops of yellows and accentuated by tufts of long grass. Their stems were tied together with leftover twine, adding a rustic touch.
“I think this might be a fair trade.” Watching Irving light up caused Crozier to do the same, for there was very little in the world that made him happier than seeing his beloved filled with joy. “Though, I know you’d much rather have the man than the sweater.”
“This is true, but I can be easily bribed, so it seems.”
They passed their items to each other, purposely letting their fingers graze sweetly. Crozier draped the sweater over his arm and watched Irving inspect his gift. He loved flowers, and Crozier loved them too, if only because Irving loved them so much. And so every flower made him think of Irving.
“How about I take care of the rest of this laundry, while you find a vase for those. They’ll look lovely on the table at dinner.” Crozier placed his free hand gently on the small of Irving’s back, causing his lover to look at him fondly.
“I think,” Irving paused to pluck a single flower from the bouquet and tuck it behind Crozier’s ear, “that sounds like a wonderful idea.”
“I must earn my keep around here somehow.”
Crozier set his sweater in the basket atop the other clothing and linens Irving had already folded and got to work on the remaining sheets. He smiled softly to himself, for he knew Irving was still watching him from the door, as he always did. And he did not mind it one bit.
In the evening when they sat together by the fire before bed, he’d change into that worn sweater, if only so it would go mysteriously missing the next day, and then have it conveniently appear amongst Irving’s affects for Crozier to find and wear again.