1. It's the sneezing that gives him the dumb idea.
It starts on Sunday: the awful sneezing and red, watering eyes. Jesse comes home from rehearsal and is suddenly allergic to not only his apartment, but the whole building actually. He starts sneezing as he's taking the stairs up and it doesn't stop. He comes through the front door of his apartment and sneezes so loudly he startles his cats. Arabella and Lawrence stare at him wide-eyed from the patch of sunlight in the kitchen, and Jesse tries to apologize but he just starts sneezing again. Four sneezes in a row, and the two cats scatter.
The allergies make him grumpy, so he's not in the mood for Justin shoving him over on the couch, munching on popcorn and starting up a Michael Bay film.
"You live above a florist, right?” Justin asks, mouth full and way more amused than Jesse thinks is appropriate. “I'm surprised you're only having allergies issues now."
Jesse steals the bowl of popcorn out of Justin's lap, but it doesn't have the desired affect – which is anything other than Justin chuckling and slinging his arm around Jesse's shoulder. He tugs Jesse into his side and it's hard for Jesse to stay mad. He does eat a lot of the popcorn though, in a vague attempt at spite. It just makes Justin laugh more.
Rich calls Jesse on a Tuesday and manages to look mildly concerned when Jesse sneezes seven times in quick succession. “Mildly concerned” on Rich, though, looks like pushing his glasses up on his nose and learning forward to peer at Jesse in the video window. He makes an assessing noise then gets distracted by Justin walking past Jesse in the back ground.
“Is Bartha living with you?”
“It's temporary.” Jesse says. He means for it to be loud enough for Justin to hear him from the living room. Looking over his shoulder into the living room, Jesse sees Justin wave at him, sarcastic and grinning. He has Lawrence in his lap and Jesse thinks it's really unfair that his cats like Justin better.
“He's in the play,” Jesse adds. “It's cheaper, living with me. And I'd feel bad making him stay in a hotel after making him fly out from L.A.”
“He means that he loves me,” Justin yells from the living room.
Jesse nearly goes cross-eyed from trying to share an exasperated look with Rich while simultaneously sneezing in a rapid fashion. When it finishes and his nasal cavities are giving him what for, Justin is saying “gesundheit” while Rich looks at him in an assessing fashion.
“You know what you should do,” Rich says. “You should buy flowers from that shop until you figure out which ones are the cause.”
In Jesse's defense, when asked later, it's honestly not the worst idea he'd heard that week.
2. He doesn't mock the baby's breath. She appreciates that.
It's the third time the guy from upstairs has been in, but this time he's brought a friend and Kristen is starting to find the whole thing funny instead of suspicious.
The guy's some sort of playwright and half the time he looks like he's tumbled out of bed into a pair of ill-fitting jeans and those wire-frame glasses in the dark. And it wouldn't be cute if it weren't for his earnestness, she thinks. Plus, he's the most amusing part of her week. Which is to say, the only amusing part of her week.
Being a sales associate in a flower shop is not the glamorous sort of job some might lead you to believe. It's a lot of harried looking business-type men and women ranging from the age of forty to seventy looking for center pieces. But it is the break from acting Kristen had been looking for, and since she's learned to trim roses properly so she wouldn't necessarily call it a waste.
Leaning on the counter-top, Kristen can't help a soft exhale of a chuckle as she watches the guy move from the tulips towards the gardenias, bent at the waist and kind of walking nose first. There's a pink flush to his cheeks and he's definitely noticed that she's watching.
“He's trying to figure out what you've got in your store that he's allergic to,” the roommate says. He's outright grinning as he half-whispers to Kristen the information. “Don't tell him I told you because it's a lot funnier otherwise, but I just thought you should know. He's not scoping out the competition or anything.”
“That's good to know.” Kristen doesn't know what she's going to need the information for. So she logs it away for later and hunkers down more into her crossed arms.
“Well, anyway,” the roommate murmurs before shouting, “I'm leaving Jesse!”
The guy's – Jesse's – head jerks up from where he's moved onto the bouquets, fingers careful in how he touches what Kristen knows are probably wilting flowers. It's late in the afternoon and she's already taken the spray bottle around to do her limited best at sustaining the flowers until they either sell or she closes up shop. Jesse waves at his friend, a short sort of half-aborted motion that nearly turns into deep embarrassment when he catches Kristen looking.
Except, he appears to decide to face the embarrassment, blushing and all with a bouquet in hand.
He places it on the counter and then coughs into his hand while Kristen is ringing him up.
“I'm Jesse,” he says. There's cat fur on his shirt and he has a bike helmet hanging from one wrist. Kristen catalogs these details as well. “In case Justin didn't make that clear,” Jesse is saying, long fingers pulling out the cash from his wallet.
“Kristen,” she says, making a sort of gesture to indicate the name-tag clearly displayed on her shirt.
“Oh,” he says, making to bump his forehead with the palm of his hand, joking and gesturing like he's had a brilliant discovery. “A name-tag.”
It's barely a joke, and not even one she's not heard before. And yet, she finds herself smiling. He smiles too, and it's kind which is nice. And he says, “Nice to meet you, Kristen,” and she doesn't doubt that he means it. Even if this is the third time he's been by and it's barely been a conversation.
3. Every time she smiles Jesse almost has a heart attack.
Kristen is reading when Jesse stops in the florist's on a Thursday. It's probably the tenth time, but it feels like more. And the sneezing hasn't stopped or lessened, but somehow he doesn't mind. She has the book nearly folded in half at the spine as she runs her finger up-down the side of the pages, deeply invested in the book. So much so, Jesse feels bad when the bell over the door rings out, making her look up.
When she sees him, Kristen sets the book down and pushes back her baseball cap so their eyes meet. Her smile is small, something he'd almost mistaken for shy when he first saw it.
“How are your cats,” she asks, already slipping off her stool and around the counter to help him.
“Demanding rulers of my existence,” he quips. “As per usual. How about yours?”
“My cat is wonderful,” Kristen says. He follows her toward the potted plant section which he hasn't shopped through yet. When Jesse sneezes he counts it as a good sign – a good/bad sign that he's maybe getting closer.
He picks out a warm weather plant, a budding prickly-pear in a ceramic pot. Kristen is back to reading her book when he gets to the counter, but she gives him a smile, finger tracing down the lines on the page just a little bit faster as she tries to find a stopping place.
And Jesse falters. Before he can stop himself, he's saying, “Hey, I, uh, I really liked you in Speak?” and he watches her look back up from her book with something like surprise and trepidation on her face. He clutches at the flowering potted prickly pear in his arms as he hurries to add, “You were amazing actually. I wasn't sure if I should say, but you were. Amazing that is. Sorry.”
“No, uh,” Kristen is blushing. It's a light dusting of color on her cheeks, nothing like the appalling manner Jesse gets when he's embarrassed. And she's tapping her fingers against the book on the counter in front of her and not meeting his eyes for a beat. When she does look at him again it's with that little smile that brightens her how face. “Thanks.”
4. He makes the view much nicer.
It's shaping up to be a typically slow afternoon when Kristen lifts her gaze from her book, thumb sliding between the pages to save her place, and she's reaching for her coffee when she sees him. Jesse's outside struggling with his bicycle on the sidewalk. She laughs, despite herself at the way he's soaked from the rain with his curly hair dripping into his eyes. He's fumbling to get the bike hoisted on his shoulder and his button-up shirt is nearly sheer from the weight of the rain.
And Kristen likes the view. By the time Jesse's got the bike up on his shoulder his shirt has ridden up and when he fumbles through the door he's got a flush to his cheeks that deepens when he catches her looking.
Jesse fumbles to pull his shirt down, tug his helmet-hair into something less messy, and hold his bicycle and the door at the same time. It's ridiculously charming.
"Uh, do you mind if I wait the rain out here? Justin has my key." Jesse shifts his feet, and looks apologetically at where he's dripping on the floor.
"It's fine," Kristen says. "I needed to water the plants anyway," as she pulls her feet up and makes like she's settling back into reading her book. Jesse flushes further, but he grins and even chuckles into the crook of his elbow while Kristen smiles down at the book in her hands. She wonders if he giggles like that often, and secretly, what it'd be like to kiss away the rain water that's collected on his upper lip.
She bites her lip to keep her smiling from getting any bigger. It doesn't help. It's still there later when she goes to see Dakota, and Dakota nearly laughs, pushing at Kristen's crossed arms and threatening to tell Elle, who would most assuredly sing "Kristen's in love," until Kristen's grin became a permanent feature. Dakota asks for details and makes plans to skulk around the shop, wondering if a sun-hat would be too much, too obvious a disguise.
Kristen just blushes, ducking her head and shaking it helplessly. Happy.
5. Kristen drafts the text message a ridiculous number of times.
Kristen gets Jesse's number from Justin. He's also the one who gives her to opening night of Asuncion.
Sent 11:37PM: Your play was really good.
6. Subject line: “You've got mail”
Jesse has to read the one sentence text a few times when he wakes up the morning after the show. Justin is in the living room eating cereal and reading the paper when Jesse stumbles in, dry mouthed and holding his phone at arms length to get a better read of the text. When Justin admits to what he's done, he's laughing with his eyes squeezed shut and clutching his ribs as he sputters out how he gave out Jesse's number to Kristen. It takes twenty more minutes of digging out really awful Indie movies and threatening to make sure they're the only things Justin sees for a year to get him to admit to giving the, “Cute florist tickets to the show. Ow! Stop throwing things at me, Eisenberg!” “That didn't even hurt. It was a pillow.”
Justin barely stops laughing for the rest of the morning, leaning over Jesse's shoulder while he tries to draft a reply. In fact, he keeps laughing well into the afternoon, even though Jesse swears he's going to call Justin's wife and tell her just how awful he is. When he sneezes, Justin just about falls over in a fit of terrible giggling.
7. Big hands, I know you're the one.
Jesse goes into the shop to test out his new allergy medication, mostly, but he doesn't mention it as he follows Kristen around the shop, watching her take care of the plants. He has his unopened newspaper tucked under his arm. The intention had been to give it to Kristen to dispose of before he caved in and looked up the review for his play.
“And I will, if you leave it with me,” Jesse says. He says it softly because he's distracted with watching Kristen test the petals between her thumb and forefinger.
He startles when Kristen turns toward him, scoffing and rolling her eyes in a way that would be mean if it weren't for her smile. Kristen tucks her spray bottle in the pocket of her apron then reaches for the newspaper, her fingers lingering on Jesse's as she takes it and unfolds it.
“You have nothing to worry about, Eisenberg,” she says, already reading through the review, finger tracing the lines. Some of her hair slips free from behind her ear, and hangs loose against her cheek. Jesse reaches forward, gently tucking the strands back before he can over-think it.
Jesse freezes, stuck on how warm her cheek is against his fingertips as his brain rumbles toward hyper drive.
It doesn't get far before Kristen turns, catching him off guard and forcing the whole thought process to stutter to a halt. She's turned to him, tucking the newspaper into her apron so she can take his face between her hands. When she kisses him it's like a chaste, welcome home kiss. And Jesse's heart thunders in his ears.
8. Justin is terrible and loves to say, "I told you so."
The bell over the door rings and then there's Justin saying, "I told you so," like he's not barging in on a moment. Jesse considers flipping him off, but Kristen beats him to it, combing her fingers free from Jesse's hair to extended her middle finger past Jesse's back. He catches the motion in his periphery before being distracted, wonderfully.