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a thousand and one roses

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i. spring

Shigeru is hopelessly lost when he comes across the shop.

He is looking for an open convenience store because it’s six in the morning and Watari Shinji, who is apparently supposed to be his best friend, had raided his fridge last night, leaving nothing but a soggy carton of stale milk and a suspicious looking potato (or was it a tomato? Shigeru couldn’t tell under the thick layer of mould and either way, he was surely not going to be the one touching the thing). 

 The shop is cramped between a showroom for some classy footwear store and a flashy bakery, and it’s small enough that he could have completely skipped over it if it hadn’t been for the plants. Vines crawl over the brick walls, glinting under the soft early morning sunlight. Pots bursting with flowers were arranged meticulously in front. It is an explosion of colour – red, yellow, white, pink carnations decorating the entrance. A small sign overhead, almost hidden under the foliage, reads in a neat cursive font: Enchantment

Shigeru slows to a stop, curious as he takes in the sight. It’s like something straight out of a Western painting. He breathes in the sweet scent. A small sign on the door announces that the shop’s open, and since Shigeru’s really, really lost and no one else is around because he (and maybe the florist, it seems) is clearly the only person crazy enough to be up so early on a Sunday morning, he feels his feet move towards the shop.

A bell jingles softly as he enters. If the outside was impressive, the inside is ten times more so. His senses are assaulted with a rush of colour and vibrance. Every inch of the place is covered with flowers. Unlike on the outside, the inside is arranged haphazardly. There are different sized pots on tables, on the floor in the narrow path. Some are even hung from the ceiling. The smell of fresh dirt and sweet scented flowers is overwhelming.

It’s beautiful, he decides.

Someone clears his throat and Shigeru jumps.

He turns towards the source of the sound at the back end of the room and the first though that pops into his mind when he sees him is:

Bumblebee.

He realises he’s been staring when the man sat behind the counter clears his throat again, a dark flush blooming on his neck. He has short-cropped blond hair with dark stripes running across the sides of his head. Thick eyeliner outlines his amber eyes. He has a kind of ruggedly handsome thing going on. A nicely chiseled chin and strong features.

(He really looks like a bumblebee, Shigeru thinks distantly.)

And he looks ridiculously out of place bent over a bouquet of flowers with a pair of scissors clasped in one hand which extends into a nicely muscled arm.

“Oi, do you want something or are you just going to keep staring?”

Shigeru feels colour flush to his cheeks.

“Um,” he begins. “I’m lost. And I left my phone at my apartment.” He gives a quick thanks to every heavenly deity above because yes, he didn’t stutter.

Bumblebee crinkles his nose and keeps staring at him. Shigeru tries not to think about how adorable that is. Because it isn’t.

“So,” Shigeru presses on. “Could you help me?”

Bumblebee shrugs and turns back to his bouquet. “Whatever.”

Shigeru approaches the counter trying to suppress the spark of indignation that passes through him at the response.

“I’m Yahaba Shigeru,” he says after a moment of silence.

“Okay.”

Shigeru bristles. “Aren’t you going to tell me your name?”

“I don’t want to. You’re annoying.”

Shigeru gapes. “We’ve barely talked!”

Bumblebee glances up and sends him a withering glare. “Your presence is annoying.”

“You – you – “

“Where do you live?” he interrupts.

Shigeru blinks. “Oh, uh, if you direct me to Todai, I’ll be fine.”

“Take a right at the first intersection and keep going forward until the second left. It’ll take about fifteen minutes if you’re walking.” And then Bumblebee turns back to his stupid flowers.

Shigeru just stand there, gaping until Bumblebee looks up. “What?” he grunts, glaring at him (by now Shigeru thinks that the man’s only capable of glaring). “Do you want me to write it down?”

“Ah . . . um . . . “

What would Oikawa-san do?

Be an obnoxious asshole, the answer comes to him immediately. He straightens his spine and flashes Bumblebee a winning smile who balks in response.

“No, of course not,” he says smoothly. “Thank you. I’d be taking my leave now, Bumblebee-san.”

He turns and starts to make his way across the room as the man behind him splutters, “Bumble-what?”

As he walks out, he hears a gruff voice yelling: “It’s Kyoutani. Kyoutani Kentarou.”

Kyoutani.

Shigeru smiles. Somehow, he likes the taste of the name in his mouth.

 

 

ii. summer

It’s been two months since Shigeru found the shop and he has yet to revisit it.

It’s not like it was intentional. He has been so overwhelmed with the crushing pressure that came with the hell called college, and in between the never-ending projects and constant reports, he doesn’t have the time to eat proper meals, much less go gallivanting off to a flower shop, however alluring the idea might be.

(He realizes with growing horror that he was slowly becoming more and more like Oikawa when he feels unbridled glee at the thought of teasing Kyoutani just to see the pissed off look on his face.)

As his exams loom nearer and nearer, Shigeru buries himself in the mass of textbooks and almost forgets about the little shop – about Kyoutani – until Oikawa brings it up.

“So,” he says, a mischievous smile on his lips, “did you talk to florist-chan again?”

Shigeru looks up at him from his perch on the floor, blinking blearily. “Huh?”

Oikawa pouts. He’s sitting on Shigeru’s bed with his back against the wall, his legs thrown across Iwaizumi’s lap who is intelligently ignoring their conversation.  His ex-upperclassmen had arrived that morning, Oikawa announcing that he simply had to know that ‘his precious kouhai’ were adjusting nicely to college life, so they were going to have a bonding experience.

(Shigeru would never know how studying together could be a bonding experience .)

Shinji sniggers from where he was spread across the floor. “Yeah, Yahaba-chan, how is the love of your life?”

Shigeru feels his face heat up and he jabs at Shinji with his foot. “Shut up.” he hisses as his friend roars with laughter.

“Yahaba-chan,” Oikawa whines.

“No, I did not,” Yahaba relents.

“And why is that?”

“Um. I don’t really have the time.”

“But this is a classic romance. You meet someone in a flower shop, you are enchanted by the beauty and then you meet the ethereal owner and Cupid’s arrow thunks into your heart and – “

“Stop talking shit, Shittykawa,” Iwaizumi grunts and Oikawa beams at him.

“Oh, Iwa-chan, don’t be jealous,” he croons. “The childhood friends to lovers trope is obviously far more romantic.”

Oikawa is promptly smacked with Iwaizumi’s textbook with a “Shut the fuck up, idiot.”

Shigeru watches on thoughtfully as Oikawa and Iwaizumi dissolve into bickering (followed by a wrestling match which Oikawa wins simply because he catches Iwaizumi off-guard by kissing him). Shinji makes gagging noises beside him and Shigeru finally reaches a decision.

“Okay,” he says and Iwaizumi and Oikawa pause to look at him with identical looks of confusion. “I’ll go,” Shigeru explains and looks distastefully at the textbook in his lap. “I could use a break, anyway.”

Oikawa’s face breaks into a smile and he blows a stray strand of hair from his face.

“Good,” he says. “Very good.”

---

“What the fuck do you want?”

“That’s not really courteous. How does this business even survive?”

Kyoutani glares at him. His sleeves are rolled up and he’s holding up a pot, his muscles flexing. Shigeru sighs inwardly. Those are some nice arms.

“I don’t want to be courteous to shits who don’t plan on buying anything.”

Shigeru schools his face into an expression of mild affront.

“Who said I’ll be not buying anything?”

Kyoutani slams the pot on a table. “Okay. So what the fuck do you want?”

Shigeru looks up at him from where he had been examining a wonky pumpkin-like looking cactus and gives him his best smile. “How about this?” he says, pointing to it.

“What?” Kyoutani moves closer and Shigeru tries to suppress the shiver that runs through him as he crouches down next to him. He takes a look at the cactus and raises and eyebrow. “This?”

“This.” Shigeru confirms. “Why? Is something wrong with it?”

Kyoutani frowns at him. “It’s a Discocactus horstii,” he offers as an explanation.

“Fancy name, disco cactus,” Shigeru says. “Does it like to party?”

He senses Kyoutani fume next to him and stifles a smile.

“She was really hard to grow,” Kyoutani informs him heatedly, his eyebrows pinched together and his mouth pulled into a pout. “She requires specific temperatures. And she needs to monitored closely. It’s summer so the flowers are growing. It’s easy to over-water her and she might rot if not watered frequently enough. She’s young, so you can only take her if you know how to take care of her. Properly.

Shigeru watches him, bemused. “Wow. You really love it – her, don’t you?”

Kyoutani’s neck flushes much to Shigeru’s delight. “So what?” he mutter.

Shigeru chuckles. “It’s weird seeing a buff guy like you so into flowers. It’s cute.”

Kyoutani straightens up abruptly, his head turned away.  Shigeru can see the flush crawl up to his face. “Shut up. So are you taking her or not?”

Shigeru looks at him deliberately for a moment before grinning. “Obviously. I promise to take care of her. I’ll even bring her by sometime when she blooms.”

If she blooms.”

“You trust in me is positively astounding.”

“What trust?”

Shigeru laughs. “Oh, Kyoutani-san, you wound me.”

“Shut the fuck up and let me get her ready for you before I decide you’re too stupid to take care of her.” Pause. “And just call me Kyoutani. The honorific is fucking weird when it comes from you.”

Shigeru beams and he swears he sees Kyoutani hide a small smile. Something in his stomach does a thing.

 

He goes back to his apartment feeling light with a cactus in his arms and a smile on his face.

 

(He religiously takes care of the disco cactus and soon its buds blooms into beautiful white pearly flowers.

Shigeru is just glad to have another reason to visit Kyoutani.)

 

 

iii. autumn

 A brisk wind has picked up and the air has a tang of the upcoming winter.  It’s a slow day so Shigeru is allowed to sit on the counter and watch Kyoutani work on a bouquet. He is still not exactly used to seeing Kyoutani bent over delicate flowers, pruning them with ridiculous ease with his stocky fingers. His tongue pokes out of as he squints harder at a rose.

Shigeru can’t handle the sheer adorableness of the sight.

He chuckles and Kyoutani looks up at him as his concentration wavers. “What’re you laughing at?”

Shigeru just grins and pokes his cheek. “It’s just cute.” He revels in the dark blush that blooms across his face.

“Shut up,” Kyoutani hisses, but there’s no venom behind the words. There hadn’t been venom for quite a while, Shigeru thinks, satisfied. It had been hard to chip away the man’s walls. After he’d come to show Kyoutani the flowering cactus, he did routine visits to Enchantment (once every week or even twice, if he could manage it), under the pretence of getting help with the cactus (which wasn’t a lie; Kyoutani hadn’t been lying about how the fucking cactus was hard to grow). He finally set the cactus aside and just started to come alone.

And during his visits he learnt two very important things: one, Kyoutani Kentarou fucking loved flowers and it was the cutest thing ever, and two, Shigeru had a really, really huge crush on the aforementioned Kyoutani Kentarou.

Kyoutani isn’t really likable by society’s standards. He was foul-mouthed, brash and quick to get angered. But he is also insecure, socially anxious and he always had the softest expression when he tended to his flowers and had whispered conversations with them.

So, yeah, Shigeru was completely and totally fucked.

---

“Hey, Kyoutani,” Shigeru says one day.

Kyoutani replies with a questioning sound as he snipped off a part of a camellia stem.

“So, my friends kind of want to meet you.”

Kyoutani almost cuts off a bud and whips his head towards him, looking at him with wide eyes.

“Obviously,” Shigeru rushes to say, “you don’t have to. They’re just curious.”

He is rewarded with a frown and Kyoutani turns back to his bouquet. “Whatever,” he mutters.

“Is that a yes?” Shigeru asks hopefully.

Kyoutani grunts affirmatively and Shigeru grins.

“Good, because they might be coming in any moment now.”

Kyoutani looks at him incredulously. “Seriously? Why did you even ask then?”

“Because I, unlike you, am a gentleman.”

“Fuck you.”

Shigeru winks. “You wish.” He chuckles as Kyoutani flushes.

Shigeru is saved from his indignant retort as the bell jingles softly and two familiar figures step in.

Yahoo, Yahaba-chan,” chirps Oikawa and Shigeru stifles a giggle as Kyoutani blanches. Iwaizumi gives them a short nod and says, “Yo.”

Oikawa immediately locks onto Kyoutani and smiles sinisterly. “Well, you must be Kyouken-chan, then? Our Yahaba-chan sure does talk a lot about you.”

Kyouken-chan,” Kyoutani repeats incredulously. Shigeru leans in and whispers to him. “He can be a little intense. Don’t worry about it.”

Oikawa strides in, dragging Iwaizumi along by his arm. “Yahaba-chan, I can hear you from here, you know? Iwa-chan, our son is being mean.”

Iwaizumi scowls and wrests his arms away from his just to smack him on his head. “Stop acting like we’re his parents, idiot.”

Shigeru sees respect for Iwaizumi in Kyoutani’s eyes and snickers. He jumps down from his perch on the counter.

“Kyoutani, this is Oikawa-san and his boyfriend, Iwaizumi-san.”

Kyoutani scowls at Oikawa before turning his gaze to Iwaizumi. “I’m sorry for you,” he says sincerely and Shigeru tries and fails to suppress his chuckles. Iwaizumi’s lips quirk into a smile as Oikawa whines in indignation. Iwaizumi turns to look at Shigeru and nods.

“I approve.”

Shigeru feels a blush crawl across his cheeks and avoid looking at Kyoutani as Oikawa turns to Iwaizumi with a “so much for not being like a parent, Iwa-chan.”

When they finally leave (“remember to use protection, you two!” “shut the fuck up, trashykawa.” “rude!”), Shigeru turns to Kyoutani, suddenly feeling nervous.

“Um, I’m sorry,” he starts. “I’m sorry for springing this on you when I know you don’t like it – “

He is stunned to a stop when he feels a hand on his arm. He looks at Kyoutani dumbfounded. He isn't the one to touch people easily.

“It’s,” Kyoutani mutters and under the fluorescent lights, Shigeru can see that his ears are bright red. “Um, it’s okay.” Kyoutani awkwardly pats his arm, once, twice, before pulling his hand away. Shigeru feels strangely empty without the warm weight. He watches as the florist fidgets uncomfortably before him. “It wasn’t that bad.” Then he looks at Shigeru with a strange intensity in his eyes. “Iwaizumi-san had some nice biceps. I wonder if I can beat him in arm wrestling.”

Shigeru can’t help but laugh.

(he realises, at that instant, that he’s in love.)

 

 

iv. winter

Shigeru hates the cold. He has always hated it. He hates the way the cold bites into his skin and that however much he covers himself, the wind still finds some way to get in and chill him to his bones.

Kyoutani, he observes, loves the winter.

When the first snowflake falls, he is at the shop and Kyoutani is teaching him the correct way to preserve a cosmos for the winter. He is more interested in watching Kyoutani speak, with that passionate gleam in his eyes, than he is about how he should take the plant out of the soil as soon as the first leaf shrivels. His eyes wander to the window just and he whispers: “it’s snowing.”

Kyoutani stops mid-sentence and turns to the window too, his mouth falling agape. He looks like a little child, Shigeru thinks. The wonder in his eyes is enchanting.

Kyoutani brings out his old broken coffee machine from the backroom and together, they manage to smack it enough to get it working. They curl up on blankets on the floor of the shop, warming their hands with the cups.

“What if a customer walks in right now?” Yahaba says.

Kyoutani snorts. “It’s too fucking cold for anyone to be coming to a flower shop.”

“True,” Shigeru says and then jabs at Kyoutani’s ribs. “And mind your language, you fucker.”

Kyoutani looks at him incredulously. “Hypocrite.”

Shigeru chuckles. They lull into silence.

“I hate the winter,” Shigeru says finally.

“I love it,” Kyoutani replies.

“What’s there to like about freezing your ass off?”

Kyoutani pulls the blankets just enough so that they cover his face. “The flowers look pretty against the snow,” he mumbles.

Shigeru feels his heart squeeze and he smiles. “That is a good point. You flower obsessed freak.”

Kyoutani snorts. “You’re the one whose favourite hangout is a flower shop.”

Shgeru steels himself before throwing a wink at Kyoutani. “Maybe,” he says and rushes the rest of the words out in hopefully not his I’m-this-close-to-pissing-myself voice, “I just really like the owner.”

He looks away so that he can’t see Kyoutani’s face.  He feels the man stiffen beside him. The pause in their conversations turns into a strained silence.

“You know,” Shigeru says finally, still determinedly not looking at Kyoutani, “I think I’ll go now. It’s getting late.”

He moves to get up but is stopped by a hand on his arm. Kyoutani glares at him. “Are you fuckig crazy, Yahaba? It’s fucking snowing out there. You’ll get frozen.”

“I’ll manage.” Shigeru tries to wrestle out his arm but Kyoutani’s grip only tightens. He finally slumps back down, defeated. After a moment, Kyoutani speaks. “Did you mean that?”

“Mean what?” Shigeru asks even though he knows exactly what that was.

“About.” Kyoutani clears his throat. “Um. The liking thing.”

Shigeru finally turns to look at him and is surprised not to find Kyoutani giving him his usual glare. Instead, he is flushed red but looking intently at Shigeru. He thinks what the hell, and decides to nod, not trusting himself to speak. To his disbelief, Kyoutani’s expression shifts to what could only be described as relief.

“Good,” Kyoutani says gruffly, and finally looks away, ”Because. I. Uh. I like you too. Maybe. Probably.”

Shigeru just stares.

Kyoutan shifts uncomfortably and glances at him. “So, are you just going to keep – “

He is cut short as Shigeru shakes himself from his stupour and tackles him to the floor. Kyoutani recovers quickly and wraps his arms around him. Shigeru buries his head in the crook of his neck and breathes in the scent that is uniquely Kyoutani – a blend of fresh earth and light cologne. He’s laughing and he thinks that Kyoutani is too. He finally pulls away, propping himself on his elbows and looks at Kyoutani.

Beautiful, he thinks as he looks at Kyoutani’s dirt smudged face.

He moves forward until his nose is touching Kyoutani’s and whispers, “I’m going to kiss you. Is that okay?”

Kyoutani nods, his eyes wide.

Shigeru leans forward so that their lips brush in a chaste kiss. Kyoutani’s lips are warm. Kyoutani makes an impatient noise and tilts his head deepening the kiss. Shigeru gasps as his tongue enters his mouth and tangles with his own. It’s not perfect; their teeth clash together and they taste like unsavoury coffee.

He wouldn't have it any other way, he decides, as Kyoutani nibbles at his lower lip.

Eventually, the need of air pulls them apart and Shigeru leans his forehead against Kyoutani’s. He huffs out a laugh.

“I’ve wanted to do that for a long time,” he murmurs. Kyoutani’s lips quirk into a rare smile.

“Me too,” he replies.

“I really, really like you,” Shigeru says.

“I really, really like you, too.”

And as Shigeru slumps against him and Kyoutani pulls the blankets over them, as he breathes in the sweet scented flowers surrounding them (breathes in Kyoutani), Shigeru decides, maybe (just maybe), winter isn’t that bad after all.