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The Language of the Flowers

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            Shiro hadn’t meant to come back to the flower shoppe so soon, but Keith’s lingering shy smile and warm laugh had stayed in his mind, and he knew that he had to see that gorgeous guy again at least once before the weekend grading haze set in. So he stepped into the brightly lit business, brushing the snow out of his hair and pulling down his scarf, cheeks red and rosy from the cold weather. He looked around, but nobody seemed to be manning the counter. “Uh… Hello?” Shiro called out, furrowing his brow as nobody seemed to answer. “Is anyone here?” He took another step forward and nearly jumped out of his skin when a large man suddenly appeared over the top of the counter, cocoa eyes sparkling with amusement and mischief. “Oh, fuck.” He wheezed as the stranger seemed to laugh merrily. He was almost as tall as Shiro himself, missing about half an inch if he had to guess. He wore the sky blue apron that Keith always wore, and he wore yellow under his clothes and an orange headband, as if he were part of some group. “I-uh, is Keith here?” He asked, a slight bit of worry in his voice.

            “So you must be Shiro.” The man rumbled, smiling so brightly Shiro was pretty sure he was the reason the place seemed bright today, pearly whites nearly blinding him. “My name is Hunk, I’m Keith’s coworker. Unfortunately, he’s not here right now, but man, will he wish he was.”

            “I-I’m sorry?” Damn, Shiro couldn’t keep the hope out of his voice as Hunk rounded the corner and clapped him on the back, nearly shoving him forward with the amount of strength he seemed to yield. “Does Keith talk about me?”

            Hunk lifted up a large pot, gesturing with his head to the back door as he began to walk. “Oh, absolutely. Even before he knew your name, he was talking about how you walked in and were ‘so fucking hot, like you don’t even know’. He may look shy and reserved, but around me he absolutely is not.”

            Shiro felt his brow furrow as he went through the door, and his eyes widened. It was as if the business was bigger on the inside, because there was a massive greenhouse resting right behind the actual shop, flowers of all sizes and origins growing in peace in the specially designed building for them. Chrysanthemums and Roses and Lilies and even bonsais had somewhere to grow and thrive, and he couldn’t help but take a moment to spin around with wide eyes as even ivy draped itself over some of the walls, tangling with the bamboo and the mini willows. It was like he was entering a world where he had stepped into a fairy ring and he was in a fantasy world. Hunk seemed completely unfazed as he put the pot down where it was supposed to be and planting a few bulbs, watering the soil and wetting it before pulling away, smiling warmly. “What…” Shiro struggled to find words as warm eyes zeroed in on him. “It’s bigger that I thought it would be.”

            “You’d be surprised how much you can fit into this kind of place.” Hunk smiled. “You know, without the walls and the floors and furniture. We had all of that pulled out for this. Our owner really likes flowers.” Hunk winked. “And their meanings.”

            Which reminded Shiro. “Oh! Can you help me? Keith gave me some flowers the other day- Well, I mean I bought them but he suggested them for me- And he said that they didn’t have a definition, but they do, don’t they?” At Hunk’s nod and grin, he stepped forward, eyes bright. “Okay, so they’re red carnations. What do they mean?”

            Hunk’s whole face changed from a smug grin to pure surprise. “He gave you those?” His eyes flickered over to the flowers around them, and he blinked in what seemed to be shock. “Oh, wow.” Finally his eyes settled back onto Shiro, and he could only sigh as he placed his hand onto Shiro’s shoulder. “Well, I’m not sure I’m allowed to tell you that, but I can tell you what to get him.” He took a step back and beckoned Shiro forward, the assistant professor following closely. “What are your feelings for him?”

            Shiro opened his mouth, but he furrowed his brow, thinking about his answer. Yeah, he had only met Keith like a week ago. That wasn’t… that long ago. How would he even explain his feelings, especially in a language Keith seemed to know by heart. It had to be something special, something unique. Something that didn’t scream marry me, but maybe whispered a question. “Unexplored opportunity.”

            Hunk seemed to consider this for a moment as he turned compost, the muscles in his arms bulging slightly at the work, steam rising from the mound as he turned back to Shiro. “Opportunity, huh? That’s a first. Usually people ask for just love, or lust. Never potential. I like that.” He started walking through the rows of plants, gently tugging some, and kissing others, as if they were his children, that he had loved and raised from infancy. And in a way, Shiro supposed they were. Funny thing about it too, was that the flowers seemed to bend towards him, following him like they were following rays of light. Suddenly Hunk stopped, paused, and turned to the left, where a tiny little bloom dashed with pink and red peeked up at him, and he smiled, happy crinkles on either side of his eyes. He didn’t look old, he must just smile a lot. “This looks perfect.” He said softly, gently scooping one large hand into the soil and bringing up a single tiny flower, putting it into a tiny little pot and turning to give it to Shiro, who stared at the pinkish bud and yellow inside with a strange sense of wonder. “Here. You can leave this here for him and a note too. I’ll make sure he gets it.”

            Shiro’s head snapped up back to the gardener, eyes wide. “Wait, are you sure?” The bloom almost twitched in its pot, but otherwise remained still. “I can pay for it, if you’d like.”

            Hunk grinned, clapping him on the back again. “Nah, we should be fine. Besides, I think that Lance will find it way funnier to see the look on Keith’s face when he gets it. Go on, I gotta feed the plants. There’s paper by the cash register.” He ushered Shiro out of the room before gently letting the door click shut on a world that Shiro had only seen through a keyhole, and then he was back in what seemed to be a slightly darker, but still bright room. But it was almost like nothing else could match that room. He shook his head and walked over to the cash register, seeing the paper and pulling it out, a pen resting by it. He looked at the paper for a while before at the flower that was facing him, a soft but shy look about it. Like potential.

            Dear Keith,

            Hunk recommended me this flower to try and explain myself in a way I think you would appreciate. I would really like it if you used that number I gave you to maybe want to go get some coffee sometime? I understand if this is crossing a line, and if you feel uncomfortable, let me know and I will cease. But I’d like to explore our opportunities together, as long as you want to.

            Sincerely,

            Takashi Shirogane.

            He stared at the paper for a while, eyebrow furrowed and lip bit, but he shook his head. “This should do.” He murmured, folding it in half and placing it next to the flower, writing Keith’s name on it with a warm hum before walking back around the counter and-

            Right into the person of his affection himself, a backpack on his shoulder and a bewildered look on his face. His hair was in a high ponytail this time, and Shiro couldn’t help but smile at the fact that Keith looked a little bit like a teenager. “Oh! Shiro?” Keith’s look of disbelief almost made Shiro laugh out loud, only a little huff making it through his lips. “I was actually planning to call…” His eyes were suddenly pulled over to the flower resting on the counter, and Shiro could almost visibly see the flush rising slowly to Keith’s cheeks as he took in the bud resting on the table, bright pink and red, tiny in size but apparently very large in meaning. “Shiro.” Keith coughed out, and Shiro perked, the shorter man’s ears turning a very, very, very dark red themselves. “Do you even know what that flower means?”

            “Well, you never told me what yours meant, so I think it’s pretty even.” Keith’s eyes snapped up to Shiro’s and the two could hold each other’s gazes for infinity if wanted, but soon they had to break eye contact when Hunk came back through the door. “Hunk.” Keith’s flush still remained, but that innocent reaction was gone, and Hunk’s easy smile dropped, almost with his pot. “What did you say to him.”

            “I what now?” Hunk laughed nervously, raising one hand in a placating fashion. “Hey, hey, now. I didn’t… I don’t…” Hunk chuckled once more before making a mad dash back into the massive green room, Keith rushing to follow him with shouts and curses as Hunk’s laughter echoed through the door, and for a wild moment Shiro desperately wished to join them and their easy relationship. He turned to the door, halfway through putting his scarf over his nose again when a hand clutched his elbow, and he was spun around so fast in the snow that he kept spinning and spinning until he fell, Keith landing right on top of him with an ‘oof!’.

            Shiro took a moment to reorient himself, but when he looked up, Keith was looking down at him, eyes wide and disbelieving. “I uh…” Keith’s cheeks grew red again and he sighed, hiding his face in the front of Shiro’s coat. “Christ. I was gonna call you after work today, but I guess you beat me to the punch.”

            “You’ve had my number for a while now.” Shiro said tentatively, and Keith flumped onto him, nodding with a groan.

            “I’m not good with these things.” Keith mumbled back. “The flowers were a lot more than I’ve ever had the balls to do before, it’s just a little harder to call you and ask you to dinner with me.”

            “Wait.” Shiro lifted his head. “Dinner?”

            Keith looked at him in surprise before groaning, covering his face with his hands as he began to get off of Shiro, slipping and falling on his own butt before laughing nervously. “Oh, uh, yeah. I was gonna say dinner and a movie or something, but again, a little too scared.” He searched Shiro’s eyes for something, but when he apparently didn’t find what he was looking for, he started to pull away.

            “I’d love to go to dinner with you, Keith.” The man in question’s head snapped up so fast that Shiro could hear it with a crack, making him wince a little bit. “Whenever you have time, at your own time, it doesn’t matter. I’d really like to get to know you a little bit better, if that’s alright with you.”

            The stupefied look on Keith’s face really said volumes as Shiro smiled at him and waited patiently for Keith to gather himself, to make sure that he heard what he really heard. When it finally clicked, the raven let out the strangest little laugh before slapping his hand over his mouth, eyes wide. It took another few minutes for him to move his hand off, and instead of trying to articulate, he just nodded, and Shiro laughed. “Alright. Call me when you’re free, okay?” Another nod, and Shiro turned and left, feeling lighter than air, not noticing the smitten look leveled at him from the flower shoppe worker.