So this is a silly fic brought to you by that recent post about The Truth about Florists, and a little bit by that other floristry post from a few months ago. And when I’m not on mobile and it’s not past one in the morning, I will link those. If I can find them again.
It’s the end of a long day, and Derek is putting the last of the display flowers in the fridge as the front door bangs open. He frowns; he’s technically closed the shop, but he mustn’t have latched the door yet.
A young man leans on the newly cleaned glass counter. He’s out of breath and a little pink in the face, like he’d run down the whole street, though the color in his cheeks could just be from the cold outside. Fall has come late this year.
The guy’s hands will be streaking the glass. Derek’ll have to wipe it down again when he’s gone. But, his inner Laura reminds him, customer.
“How do you say ‘fuck you’ in flowers,” gasps the man.
Derek’s brows draw together, like a little conference of perplexity above his nose.
“Well,” he says, thinking it out, “I guess you could order white lilies. You know, like for a funeral. Like ‘I wish you were dead’.”
The customer hums. “I like the way you think,” he says. “But no. I’m thinking a more opaque burn than that. Because the ancient withered old-man crone – why isn’t there a good male equivalent to crone? That’s totally sexism – this old guy that I work for is such a spectacular asshole, and he needs to be told so. But, uh, in a way that can’t be traced back to me, because I badly need this job. Because student loans. So I was thinking a burn using the language of flowers, so I get the satisfaction even if he never knows. And it’ll probably make his PA laugh, because Lydia knows all things. And she deserves a good laugh.”
“I don’t actually have the language of flowers memorized, you know,” Derek says.
“What!” says the customer, outraged. “But you’re a florist!”
“In the twenty-first century,” says Derek oppressively. “The language of flowers hasn’t been used for a hundred years.”
“You’re breaking my heart here,” says the guy, clutching one hand to his chest. “How am I supposed to tell my crush that they have my sincerest admiration and sweetest love?”
He bats his long eyelashes. Derek is 100% unmoved.
“Buy them some red roses,” he says. “And use your words.”
The guy bursts out laughing. He laughs with his whole body, tipping his head back and exposing the long column of his throat. It is unfair, and Derek is tired, and he wants to go home. He came into work at five this morning in order to get an order done for a wedding for a demanding groom – worse, this is the order for the rehearsal dinner, who even gets flowers for a rehearsal dinner? The actual wedding order will be for this weekend, and he’ll have to get Isaac to help out – and so it’s just Derek’s luck that a cute guy comes into his shop, and is maybe flirting with him? and Derek is way too tired to be clever and witty back. Why couldn’t the guy have come in yesterday? Yesterday his esprit d’escalier was more like esprit de counter, and he’d actually managed to give as good as he got to Erica when she came by in her lunchbreak. Yesterday he could’ve maybe had a chance with this guy. Today he has bags under his eyes and his brain is running at half speed.
“Really? Really? I need to use my words? Dude. You have literally struck me dumb, because no-one has said that to me once in my whole life. I am stunned and amazed.”
“You talk a lot for someone who’s been struck dumb,” says Derek, leaning his hip against the counter. There is a twitch at the side of his mouth which is definitely not the beginnings of a smile.
“He jokes! Let me guess,” says the guy, “you got into floristry – florism? because plants talk less than people.”
Derek says nothing to this, because it’s a little too close to the truth. Instead, he changes the topic.
“Anyway, you don’t find most books agreeing about the meanings,” he says, tidying the sheets of decorative paper by the till. “Not if you look at the more obscure flowers, and not just, you know, roses or mums or whatever.”
“You do know about the language of flowers,” accuses cute guy.
“Not really,” sighs Derek. “Not enough to be able to make you an arrangement. I read some books on floriography, but it was a long time ago, and I never committed anything to memory.”
“Floriography,” repeats the cute guy, looking utterly delighted. “Okay. So, how big a bunch of flowers could I get for fifty dollars?”
“Mm, about this big,” says Derek, sketching out his seventy dollar arrangement in the air. What? It’s his damn florist’s. He can give a cute guy a discount if he wants. He has rehearsal dinner flower arrangement money in the till, it’s fine.
“Nice,” says the cute guy, nodding. “That’d be the perfect size. That should burn him. So. I’ll go away tonight, get my research on – I’m gangbusters at research, research is my bitch – then I’ll come back tomorrow night with some ideas? I’ll even manage to come before closing which, sorry about that. It’s just that my boss had us in for some sudden emergency all-staff meeting until six-thirty for no obvious reason other than to mess us about. I was meant to leave at four today. It’s Lydia I feel sorry for, though. She had to rearrange her dinner, it was a whole thing.”
He yawns, and it’s catching. Derek can barely suppress his own.
“Anyway!” The guy says. He fishes in his messenger bag until he finds his wallet. “I’ll bring the research tomorrow, then can you deliver the flowers to Gerard the next day? I’ll write down the address.”
“Sure,” says Derek. “So long as we don’t pick out anything that I don’t have in stock.”
“No super obscure flowers like aconite or whatever, check.” He snags the notebook that Derek keeps by the till and scribbles down the address. “I’m Stiles, by the way,” he says, without looking up. He adds STILES at the bottom in blocky letters, and follows it with a phone number. “Um, so. I guess I’ll see you tomorrow after work.”
“I look forward to it,” says Derek, then mentally facepalms as Stiles gives him an odd sort of smile. Then the front door closed behind him and he was gone.
That night, Derek pulls out his old book on the language of flowers. He found it at a second-hand bookshop when he was fourteen, and since he’d been obsessed with ciphers and secret messages at the time, he bought it.
The book hadn’t given him any clues as to ways to keep his diary secret from Laura, but there was something about the quiet messages that appealed to him: pansy, think of me; bay leaf, I change but in death; peach, your qualities, like your charms, are unequalled.
Sooner or later, however, the book had been borrowed by someone, or relegated to a scarcely used part in the family bookshelves, and he’d barely thought of it again. It occurs to him that the quiet hours he’d spent at the nursery with his father might not have been the only influence on his choice of career.
Thoughtfully, he pulls a notebook towards him and started taking notes.
“Okay, so, obviously I couldn’t get to a library today because work, but I have crosschecked like six different websites, and possibly have not sleep enough. But I have a list! I don’t suppose you keep hemlock on hand?”
Derek looks up, and is somehow unsurprised to see Stiles coming into the shop. He doesn’t know anyone who would be halfway into a conversation before clearing a doorway.
“Not since I gave up my hobby of poisoning philosophers, no,” he says. “And I’m not sure a plant mostly renowned for its lethality is really a subtle burn.”
“Shame,” says Stiles, pulling out a sheaf of papers and dropping his messenger bag by the counter. “The meaning was ‘you will be my death’, and truer words have not been spoken.”
He runs his long fingers over the top sheet, flattening it out, and passes it to Derek. Derek picks up a pencil and crosses out belvedere and hops. He taps the pencil against his mouth.
“This’d be very primary colored,” he says. “Also I think I would pick either lavender or geranium, but not both.”
“Uh, lavender, then,” says Stiles, watching the pencil’s movement. “Shame about the belvedere. ‘I declare war upon you!’ It’s exactly the sentiment that I wanted to convey.”
“We agreed to limit it to things I’ve got in stock,” Derek reminds him.
“Ruin all my fun. Oh, hey, who’s that one for?”
Derek follows Stiles’s pointing finger, and sees to his horror that the arrangement he’d been working on is still on the bench behind him.
“Nothing,” he says. “I mean, no-one.”
“It’s not mine, is it?” Stiles says as he shuffles his paper pile, and Derek wants to die. “Except, no, pink carnation’s got a nice meaning. Aw, ‘I will never forget you’. That’s sweet.”
He looks up, and catches Derek’s panicked expression.
“Are they for me?” he says quietly.
He puts them down in front of Stiles, but can’t convince his hands to let go of the box.
“They’re not finished,” he says, staring down at them. “I haven’t put the ribbon around or anything …”
“They’re beautiful,” says Stiles. He lifts them out of Derek’s hands, and their fingers brush. Derek feels every little point of contact like electric sparks. “What’re the lilacs mean?”
“First emotions of love.”
“Aw. What about the tulips?”
“Declaration of love.”
“So forward! Did you do research for this?” He looks up. Derek shrugs. “You did! You did research for me! I don’t think anyone’s ever researched for me.”
Stiles is grinning at his flowers, turning the arrangement around in his hands so he can examine it from all sides. Derek wishes he’d spent more time on it.
“Oh!” says Stiles. “I nearly forgot. I brought you these.”
He opens his messenger bag and brings out a bouquet of red roses, cellophane wrapped and only slightly squashed. Derek takes them from him, dumbfounded.
“Sorry,” says Stiles. “It was a stupid idea, just forget it—”
He reaches for the bouquet but Derek clutches at them.
“No,” he says. “I love them. No-one’s— no-one’s brought me flowers before.”
“Oh,” says Stiles. He licks his lips. “That’s— that’s good. Anyway, they were only the first part. The second part is this: ‘You have my sincerest admiration and sweetest love—’”
Derek puts the flowers aside and draws Stiles in for a kiss.
At least it wasn’t snow, I thought to myself as I huddledunder the awning of a recently closed café, the For Lease sign hung in the window the agent’s photo still unfaded
by the sun.
I was being stood up, on Valentine’s Day and to add insult
to injury the café we were supposed to meet at had gone out of business,
leaving me shivering in the icy February rain. Normally I’d have taken out my
book and at least treated myself to a cuppa and the most decadent chocolate
cake on offer. No luck today, I stamped my feet in a futile attempt to keep
warm and release some of my anger.