“Hey, could you tell me where… Excuse me, could you… I just need… no, okay, keep walking, then.”
Sam gets lost on the way to the CEO’s office. He doesn’t really do this sort of thing very often – deliveries, navigation, and human interaction – but he decided it was worth a shot if it meant giving his delivery boy his much-deserved time off. He felt confident when he left the flower shop; he was told it was just a quick elevator ride, but the building he parks his company’s humble little van in front of has about fifty floors, thirty of which have labels with the word “executive” in them. He stands in front of the directory for ten minutes, trying to decide whether this CEO Michael Milligan guy would be more likely to be found in the “Executive Lounge,” the “Executive Board Room,” or one of the twenty-six different “Executive Suites,” lettered A1 to F9. He tries to ask about a dozen passersby, but the people around him are all dressed in suits, walking double time, talking on Bluetooth earpieces, and pointedly ignoring the guy in the dirt-smudged delivery uniform holding a vase of purple flowers. He supposes he can’t blame them. He doesn’t particularly want to be talking to them either, after all – the rich, handsome, ridiculously successful people who demean his modest career accomplishments every day just by existing – especially when he could be back behind his counter, arranging the Halloween bouquets and cornucopias that he hopes people will pick up for their themed parties. Flowers make sense. Flowers respect him. Not that they have much of a choice.
After a mental coin toss, he decides to stop on the top floor and work his way down. The elevator is full of sharply dressed men who all give his hulking six-foot-four frame and dirty apron an extra foot of room. He stares at the crack between the doors and tries not to breathe too heavily.
It’s a long ride to the top of the building, but, luckily, his mental coin toss serves him well. Apparently, the reason he couldn’t find a room number is because the CEO’s office is actually the entire top floor, an enormous, sky-lit room that may have once been a penthouse. When he walks out of the elevator, he finds himself standing on a red carpet between rows of ceiling-to-floor windows, all leading to a curved, silver reception desk with the words “Milligan & Co. Capital Management” on the wall behind it in big, golden block letters. Next to the desk is a huge set of double doors that Sam guesses Mr. Milligan is behind. He’s suddenly glad he doesn’t have to meet the guy.
At first glance, it appears that no one is sitting behind the desk, but as Sam walks forward, he finds a man lounging in a chair, his feet kicked up and a book in hand. He’s in a shirt and tie, but looks much more relaxed than the other businesspeople Sam saw downstairs. Sam knows that it is rude to stare and it is definitely rude to check someone out while you’re on the job, but his eyes linger. The guy is cute. He’s obviously a little on the short side and his blonde hair is combed back but still slightly disheveled, which is cliché, but Sam’s sort of a sucker for that. His lips move as he reads and Sam smiles before he can stop himself. When the man finally looks up and notices Sam, however, Sam has to catch his breath because, if the guy was cute before, he’s gorgeous with those unusually amber eyes catching the light and practically glowing.
“Can I help you?” he asks slowly, not bothering to keep the judgment from his voice. At first, Sam’s horrified that he’s been caught staring, but then he remembers what he’s wearing. His dirt-to-clothes ratio is probably significantly higher than most of the people who walk in this particular office.
“Oh!” he exclaims, and only just barely manages to remember to hold up the bouquet, offering the secretary an expectant smile. Sure enough, the man’s face floods with realization and he laughs, his eyes lighting up with a wry sort of mirth. Sam doesn’t know what’s funny, but nervous laughter bubbles up in his chest anyway.
“Right on time,” the secretary says, leaning back in his chair with a smirk. “I was beginning to think Luci hadn’t done anything to screw up this week.”
“Not your first flower delivery?” Sam asks casually, beginning the dig for his clipboard with his free hand. He doesn’t look at the addresses on the flowers very much; Adam always takes care of the order information and delivery. Sam just works with the arrangements themselves.
“Oh, yeah. Always from Lucifer, Mr. Milligan’s husband,” the blonde explains, standing to take the flowers from Sam’s hand and set them on the desk. He talks like they’re old friends and these chats happen daily. “And boy, does he earn his name. Last week, he came home blacked out on tequila and broke one of the keepsakes that’s been in Michael’s family for, like… ever. And the week before that, he called Michael’s father a deadbeat over dinner. So this is a pretty usual thing.” He looks at the tag on the vase and smiles up at Sam. “Same flower company. You must be new, huh?”
“Actually, I’m the florist,” Sam tells him. He might announce it with a little more pride, were he anywhere but here. “My delivery guy needed the night off to write a term paper.”
“What a kind and benevolent boss you are,” the blonde teases. “Michael barely lets me off for holidays.”
“I was in college once. I know what it’s like.”
“Well, I’m sorry you have to be here in this little dysfunctional and predictable family,” the secretary says with a sigh as he looks over the flowers. He frowns when he sees the violet blooms and Sam briefly panics, wondering if Michael’s secretary would have some way to know that Sam got a little more creative than usual. He’s not supposed to alter orders, especially considering people normally pay up front, but sometimes he finds himself getting a little nosy, reading the card, and changing the flower choice to fit the circumstances. He hasn’t gotten a complaint yet, of course, considering he’s his own boss and the more flower-challenged customers are normally grateful for his intercession.
“These are different,” the secretary continues, curiously touching the petals of one of the flowers. “Normally, the guy isn’t much more creative than roses.” He offers Sam a sly smile that makes Sam’s heart do something bizarre and somewhat unpleasant in his chest, the same kind of jarring feeling one gets when they expect their candy to be sweet and it turns out to be tart, like a basketball to the stomach. Sam glances down at the man’s desk to find his name card, which reads ‘Gabriel Novak, Executive Administrative Assistant.’
“He ordered roses,” Sam admits sheepishly. “But he wanted an ‘I’m sorry’ card to go with them and roses are more of a happy ‘I just love you’ sort of flower.”
Gabriel makes a face like he actually finds that interesting, which isn’t the reaction Sam normally gets to his flower related tangents. Although Sam does spend an unhealthy amount of time with his brother, Dean, who tends to guard his society-defined masculinity with all the ferocity of a dog with a t-bone steak. But Gabriel is maintaining strangely intense eye contact and Sam has to admit that he doesn’t really know how to handle that, but maybe he really does need to get out more.
“What are these?” Gabriel asks expectantly, as if the question was implied.
“Oh, I didn’t- …uh, purple hyacinths,” Sam tells him, straightening one of the blooms out and smiling sheepishly at his arrangement. He’d spent a little extra time on it. He has a weak spot for people who hurt their significant others and care enough to apologize with flowers. He’s hasn’t been in that position in a very long time, but flower arranging allows him to live vicariously through the relationships of his clients. Although, if this really is a regular thing for Michael and Lucifer Milligan, maybe he should stay away from this particular thought experiment.
“Which are more of a… ‘Sorry I was a dick again’ flower?” Gabriel guesses, leaning over his desk like he might be flirting.
“Yeah, it’s sort of a cool story,” Sam says enthusiastically, bringing up his hands and gesturing vaguely. “There’s a Greek legend about a Spartan boy – named Hyacinth, obviously – who was accidently struck and killed by Apollo while Apollo was playing an ancient version of horseshoes. A flower grew from his blood and Apollo called it a hyacinth to commemorate the boy. So now it symbolizes regret and a request for forgiveness.”
Immediately after he finishes his explanation, he feels like an idiot, rambling about Greek mythology and flowers and a story which is, admittedly, a little gruesome. But Gabriel is still staring at him like he’s intrigued, smiling at Sam curiously like he’s trying to figure out what makes him tick. Sam offers him an repentant half-smile, ready to apologize if he’s wasting the guy’s time.
“You’ve really done your research,” Gabriel muses, his voice dropping to a lower octave, like Sam’s nerdy flower knowledge is a turn on. Sam irrationally wonders if this tiny secretary might be his soulmate, but that might be a side effect of being completely transfixed by his weirdly golden irises. They aren’t actually gold; they’re a light hazel with yellow surrounding the pupils like little tiny suns. Something in Sam’s mind mentions the idea that this particular coloration is probably the effect of some sort of central heterochromia before the nonacademic part of his mind fervently whispers shut up, shut up, shut up and try to be normal.
“Yeah, I, uh… really like that sort of stuff,” Sam explains. “Mythology and deeper meanings. There’s a lot to learn. Out there. In the world.”
Gabriel nods and looks at the flowers with a thoughtful smile. He smirks a little when he looks back at Sam and finds him staring.
“You want me to sign something?” he asks, lifting a pen from his desk and wiggling in between his fingers.
“Oh, right,” Sam exclaims, remembering his original plan to present the clipboard and fumbling through his bag for it again. “I should have your boss sign, but-”
“You’ll never get him out of his office. The guy barely eats,” Gabriel interrupts with a wave of his hand. “I sign for everything.”
“Yeah. Okay.” Dean’s voice is in the back of Sam’s head, screaming at him to not be lame for once in his life, to actually make a move on someone he’s interested in. How many times has Dean caught him staring at someone from across the bar, or even just discreetly eyeing someone’s book on the subway, wondering if they’d be compatible just because they both enjoy Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Dean would probably scoff if Sam described the feeling he had in his chest, the one that says that something feels right, something feels like an opportunity that needs taking, but Dean would definitely tell him to grow a pair and take a chance, if not on love than at least on sex. To be honest, Sam hasn’t had either in a very long time.
“You know if you want to put your phone number on there, too,” he begins slowly, the tightness in his chest barely allowing him the air he needs to get the words out. “I wouldn’t mind seeing you again some time. Maybe for coffee?”
For a moment, Gabriel smiles and continues to write and Sam breathes a sigh of relief. Whether or not he’ll actually call Gabriel is a different story, of course, but this is one battle won, one step toward developing an actual social life. But then the secretary looks up at him in complete and utter confusion, apparently having just fully processed Sam’s words, and he might as well have punched Sam right in his dignity. A look of realization comes over Gabriel’s face and Sam just runs a weary hand through his hair because, of course; this is his life after all.
“You’re asking me out,” Gabriel says.
Sam offers him an uncomfortable smile. “Maybe we should pretend I wasn’t.”
“I was flirting, wasn’t I?” Gabriel laments, running a hand through his hair, his eyes filling with sympathy that just embarrasses Sam more. “Shit, I’m sorry. You’re just really my type, you know? I mean, fuck, you’re probably everyone’s type.” He sucks in a frustrated breath through his teeth. “Wow, I’m still doing it. That’s got to be some kind of asshole record.”
“It’s okay,” Sam assures him, even though his heart is somewhere in his shoes at this point. Or maybe that’s his self-respect. Whenever it is, it feels like crap. “It was sort of a long shot.”
“No, no!” Gabriel insists. “It’s not like that. It’s not like I’m not interested. I mean, I’m not interested. Because I can’t be.”
“Seeing someone?” Sam guesses. It would be a mercy, at this point, to have an alternate explanation for the rejection. Not that his lack of charm and bizarre personality haven’t done the trick all on their own in the past.
“Baldur,” Gabriel says, wincing like it’s a dirty word. He looks a little disgusted when he adds, “Baldur Breidablik?”
“Breidablik?” Sam repeats, frowning as he tries to figure out why that name sounds so ridiculously familiar. His eyes widen when he finally puts two and two together. “As in… Breidablik Financial?”
“Yeah, I know, I’m a horrible employee,” Gabriel says, leaning over his desk like they’re a couple of gossiping school children. Sam doesn’t know much about the world of high profiling investing, but he does know that Breidablik Financial and Milligan & Co. Capital Management are incredibly non-friendly rivals.
“My friend, Kali, set us up,” Gabriel continues, cruising straight into the realm of ‘too much information to give the guy you just shot down.’ “It was a joke at first. Then, out of nowhere, it wasn’t.”
“I’m sure he’s a great guy,” Sam offers, really wishing he could turn tail and run out of the building. Of course he not only misinterpreted the situation, he also asked out the boyfriend of one of the most high-powered CEOs in the city.
“He’s not,” Gabriel admits, rolling his eyes. He winces again when he says, “He’s just really, really… rich.”
“Oh. Umm, well, financial security is really important, and-”
“It’s nice of you to defend my honor, but I’m pretty sure I don’t have any,” Gabriel interrupts with a self-deprecating smile. “Honestly, I wish I would have met you six months ago.” He makes another face, like he’s surprised at the words coming out of his mouth. “Wow. Maybe you should leave before I start waxing poetic about your eyes or something.”
Sam, all too happy for an escape, snatches the clipboard from the desk. He looks down and notices it’s only half signed, but he figures he owns the flower shop; he’ll finish the rest of it off later.
“Enjoy the flowers,” he offers before he turns and practically bolts to the elevator. It only takes twelve godforsaken minutes – and yes, of course he’s counting – to climb to the top floor. Meanwhile, Gabriel disappears behind his desk again and doesn’t make a sound, and Sam checks his phone eight times and reads through the delivery disclaimer twice.
The men in the elevator give him a ridiculous amount of room once again, but Sam is sort of glad this time around. He doesn’t think he could control his breathing if he tried.
Purple Hyacinths, "forgiveness"