It was a small greenhouse that had brought them out, but still a good one. Famous, actually, growing none of the fancy stuff like orchids and roses and their likes, but concentrating on ordinary garden flowers. Chrysanthemums in extraordinary colours were blooming here, forget-me-nots, carnations, oleander, pansies.
And a tulip. And a sunflower.
The tulip was quite the ordinary thing, plump and a bit dull, but of the brightest blue you could imagine, like a grown piece of sky. Right next to it, the sunflower was a new addition, bred to grow only a few inches, looking a little rakish with his wild shock of petals. Tulip didn't like sunflower. He didn't feel like the other flower was taking him seriously.
"I'm a very special Canadian breed," he informed sunflower in a superior tone. "It's only a matter of time before they award me the Breeder's Prize."
"You're dull," iris injected in his usual brusque manner. Rumours had it he felt superior in his own way, just because he was taller than everybody else.
"I believe the outward appearance is not the most important feature of a flower," thistle scolded over tulip's protests. She was a truly magnificent creation: wild, generous blossoms in the midst of thorns, and iris wilted a little under her scorn. He didn't apologise, though, and the daisies sighed as tulip started to pout. Loudly.
"I think you're pretty," sunflower said.
"Well, I think your opinion is entirely inconsequential," tulip sniffed, sounding slightly mollified nevertheless.
Thus began a relationship of gentle ribbing and teasing, with sunflower doing his best to keep tulip grounded and from alienating the rest of the greenhouse with his attitude. Tulip, in turn, took a special delight in educating sunflower in the various types of fertiliser and playing the occasional game of guano/not guano.
Then, one day, the water stopped running.
At first, no one was really concerned about that, as the watering system had its own alarm that alerted the breeder if there was any kind of blockage. Well, no one but tulip, but he had always been a bit of a pessimist, so none of the other flowers really listened to his complaints and dark predictions anymore. But then the sun rose for the second time since the earth inside the flowerpots had dried, and still there was no water. A worried rustle ran through the greenhouse as leaves started to tremble with nervousness.
"Tulip will come up with something," sunflower tried, except his blue-petaled friend was scowling even as the others turned to him expectantly.
"I will try, but despite what you all may think, I'm not superflower."
"Was anybody seriously thinking that?" sunflower asked into the ensuing silence, and everyone shook their blossoms, even the margaritas.
"Fine," tulip spat, "but let me tell you that this? Is so not helping."
He thought for a while, well aware that if he didn't come up with something soon, everybody around him would wilt, and die. Following an inspiration, he tried to concentrate on his roots, focussing every bit of energy into making them grow towards the outer wall of his pot. This kind of thing wasn't something that came naturally to him, though, and so the progress was awfully slow. Another day passed without any water, and some of the flowers had visibly begun to wilt.
"Tulip." Sunflower's stem was starting to fold under the weight of his head – if that happened, not even water would save the flower from dying.
"I'm working on it!"
With the force of desperation, tulip forced the last of his juices into the growth of his roots, leaves straightening triumphantly as he felt the balance of his flowerpot shift, felt the earthen jar dip on his shelf. And fall.
His pot shattered into pieces, already raising a different alarm even as the shards scattered all over the floor.
"Tulip? Hey buddy, you okay?" Sunflower looked worried, his petals drooping listlessly as he tried to peer over the edge of the shelf.
There was no answer.
It seemed like an awfully long time before the breeder finally appeared, taking in the wilting flowers and the mess on the floor with a muttered curse. Tulip was hanging limply in the breeder's hands as the giant human picked him up, and all the flowers held their pores while their friend was carried away.
The sun had wandered only a little when the water started flowing again. It was met with a distinct lack of cheering.
It was almost a week before tulip was returned to them, still looking a little brown around the leaves, but otherwise doing fine in his new terracotta pot. Sunflower visibly perked up when his friend was placed next to him again, and even iris muttered a gruff thanks, but other than that, nothing much changed.
Except perhaps for tulip making noises about stupid annual flowers and trying to smuggle one of sunflower's seeds into the rich, dark earth of his flowerpot. Or for sunflower telling tulip how much he would like to be visited, just once, by one of the many insects that kept buzzing against the outside of the greenery's glass walls, even though his petals were long gone and his leaves were starting to thin.
And if, every once in a while, tulip seemed to be leaning slightly to the side so that sunflower would get more light, they blamed it on not enough fertiliser.