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Lily of the Valley

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Oh, he'd heard the stories before. Who hadn't? The whispers of the bartender at the small place under Sector Seven, whispers of legs that went on for miles, hair that swept the floor when she walked. He'd heard stories of her other features too, but surely not all of them were true. A small smile quirked his lips. Then again, not all of them had to be. He'd be content if only half of them were true.

He had pushed open the door, and one look at her had sealed the deal. The whispers didn't do her justice. Her dark hair brushed down over her face, almost obscuring one of those wide, dark eyes; her curves were impeccable, not to mention those legs… He had actually stopped mid-stride when he saw her, he was so taken aback. And then she had smiled, and he fell into the seat at the bar, entranced. She had leaned across the smooth wood, her eyes half-lidded as she had asked lowly, "What can I get you?" Her voice was as intoxicating as the rest of her, soft and smooth.

"Bartender's choice?" He had asked, propping his chin up on one hand as he turned the full effect of his boyish grin on her. It worked on every other woman, there was no reason she should be different. Her own smile had widened just a touch, and she had stepped back to fix him something. Crown and coke. Heavy on the crown. He had sipped that one drink the rest of the evening as he watched her work, watched her wipe down the counter and fix drink after drink. There was an elegance to her movement, a poetry that he'd never seen in any other woman, one he was certain he never would. He was hooked.

That had been close to a month ago, and he sat there, night after night, same seat, same order. She always made him a crown and coke-- a double, she'd called it-- and he always nursed the one drink the whole evening. He couldn't get enough of her, but at the same time, he wasn't really prepared to speak further to her. What if he said the wrong thing? What if she was already with someone? He wasn't entirely sure he was ready to risk it, ready to potentially ruin everything because he was hot headed. So instead, he watched her, and he listened to her smoothly deflecting flirts from other customers. He was learning, figuring out what brought that smile to her lips, what made her laugh.

He spoke to her when he could, when he could think of something that wasn't work related. There was precious little, but he made the effort, pleased each time he managed to make her grin. He was living for those smiles, he realized, shocked at himself. Playboy Zack had fallen, hook, line, and sinker, and he'd be damned if he wasn't happy about the whole mess. He drummed his fingers on the bar top, and when she shot him one of those looks-- "Do you need something, Mr. Fair?"-- he offered his most disarming expression, all wide-eyed innocence. He just wanted to keep her thinking about him, even if it meant mildly annoying her on occasion.

He finally committed to something easy. Flowers, delivered to the bar while he was there, so that he could see her reaction. Anonymous flowers, but still something he could gauge her reaction to. When the delivery boy came in with them, Zack knew they were the right thing. The bouquet was made of huge, shiny green leaves and tiny white flowers, all clustered in a spray of blossoms, just a few of them with a slightly pink hue to them.

She flushed darkly when they were handed to her, and the patrons catcalled and cheered, all begging to know, "Who sent them, Tifa?" Satisfied that he'd made the right call, Zack sipped his drink.

Her fingers trembled just a little when they opened the card, and Zack met her eyes when they lifted to look up at him. He already knew what the card would say; he'd agonized over it, trying to strike a balance between flirty and friendly, trying not to come across as the stalker she had turned him into. One month today, the card read, Lily of the Valley is your favorite, right? She plucked one of the small clusters of flowers out of the bouquet, and she tucked it behind one of her ears, where it caught the light above the white teardrop earring that she wore.

Just before closing, she leaned over the counter, looking up at him from under those thick lashes, and Zack felt his mouth rapidly drying as he wondered if she knew. She reached out and picked up his hand, blushing just a little as she traced a pattern over his palm. "Thank you," she murmured, one of her nails lightly following a line on his hand. She looked down at it, watching it instead of looking up at him.

He didn't hesitate; he knew what to do here. He reached up and touched the side of her face. When she leaned into it, he took that as a sign, and he leaned forward just enough to lightly touch his lips to her forehead. Her blush deepened, but no one else was in the bar that would say anything. The last of the patrons were too drunk to really realize what was happening, although there was at least one fresh catcall as he moved to kiss her lightly on the lips. It was sweet, chaste, letting her set the pace. The last thing he wanted was to scare her away.

For just a moment, that's all they did, and then she pulled back, smiling softly. "Coming back tomorrow?" she asked quietly, picking up a rag to wipe down the counter with.

"If you want me to," he replied, shooting a glance over at her flowers. She had placed them in a vase on the other side the bar, directly across from where he always sat. He wondered if that was on purpose.

She smiled but didn't look up, and he decided not to press it. He could take his time with this one. He cast one last look at her, and then strolled out of the bar, arms folded behind his head. He would be back tomorrow, and the next night, and probably the next night. A little grin played over his mouth. Somehow, the prospect seemed far more enjoyable than he figured it should.