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Chapter 14: Marigold

"Hell no," that was Jason's response to Evan when the man asked him to help him out when Sascha arrived at his apartment.

"You don't actually have to help out. Make some excuse to get out of it, I just need you to be there when Sascha arrives," Evan explained.

"What's in it for me?" Jason asked with narrowed eyes. Evan tried not to glare, but he wasn't really surprised by the boy asking him for something in return.

"I'll give you twenty bucks," he told the boy.

"No deal," the teen replied immediately, arms crossed. "Make it fifty," he said with a grin.

"Fifty? Why the hell do you want that much money? You have a job!" Evan asked, frowning.

"Language, Mr. Litton," Jason mocked. "And it's almost Christmas, I need money for presents," Jason explained.

"You only need to buy presents for your parents," Evan deadpanned, and he knew Jason made more than enough for that with his part time job at the flower shop. Not to mention he got plenty of tips.

"I'd also like to buy presents for myself and I have expensive tastes," Jason smirked. Evan sighed , knowing there was no arguing with the boy.

"Fifty, and no more than that," Evan stated, and Jason seemed to consider it. "Oh come on, you made the offer," he pointed out.

"Alright, alright, fifty," Jason agreed at last, and Evan dug in his pocket for his wallet and handed the boy a twenty dollar bill.

"You'll get the rest after you actually show up," he said, because Jason was a cunning little jerk in his book, and he was too good at making deals.

"Fair enough, I'll come by tomorrow morning then," the boy said, pocketing the money before going back home. He'd just gotten back from Sascha's shop and Evan had caught him before he went into his apartment.

"Little extortionist," Evan muttered, picking up the shopping bags he'd left by his door. He had realized shortly after asking Sascha to help him decorate his home that he didn't actually have much in the way of decorations.

Usually, he bough a tree, stuck a cheap wreath on his door and called it a day, because he spent most of his time at work or at bars and Christmas was spent with his parents and brother when they were actually in town. This year, however, his parents would be going to visit their aunt in another state and him and Adam had managed to worm their way out of it. As much as they loved their family, holidays with their aunt were a bit too much to handle. So, Evan would be spending the holidays alone and probably go to a party to kill time. Of course, that was only if he couldn't convince Sascha to make his Christmas a bit merrier.

So, Evan spent Saturday buying ornaments and decorations and the nicest tree he could find(and there would be no real trees in his house because they were just too messy) and he was awfully proud of all that he had accomplished, even if he was exhausted by the end of it all. Sunday morning, he woke up early, cleaned up his apartment and made sure he looked damn good before Sascha arrived. By the time someone knocked on his door, Evan was ready to receive the florist, and he was only a bit disappointed that it was just Jason, but at least the boy had shown up on time.

"When's Sascha getting here?" was the first thing the boy asked.

"He should be here anytime now, so you won't have to wait too long," Evan told him, as Jason walked inside.

"Good, I have things to do, stuff to buy," Jason said with a smirk.

"I still can't believe I'm paying you fifty dollars to lie. You always do it for free," the man muttered, glowering at the boy.

"Well, I can always give you your money back and tell Sascha the truth," and Jason made sure to say it with as innocent a tone as he could manage. Evan was going to smack the boy on the head with a couch cushion, but stopped when someone knocked on his door once more.

"Good morning. Evan," Sascha greeted, standing just outside with a polite smile just barely visible over his scarf. He was holding a large white shopping bag with something green and leafy inside and Evan hoped it wasn't a plant because he was horrible at caring for them(but he'd damn well try if it was a present from Sascha). "Oh, I brought you a wreath. I gave one to Jay earlier, so I thought you might like one too," said the florist, extending the bag to Evan, who took it happily.

"Thank you, come in," said the man, stepping aside to allow Sascha to enter. The florist did so hesitantly, not going very far inside.

"Hey, Sascha," Jason greeted the man from the couch, where he'd been waiting for the florist to arrive.

"Hello, Jay, you're going to be helping too, right?" and Sascha didn't see Evan motioning behind him to Jason.

"Well, I was going to, but my mom wants me to help her with some Christmas shopping so I'm going to have to go," he said, and Evan was actually pretty impressed with how honest he sounded. "But hey, you're here to help, right?" the boy added with a grin.

"Ah, right, well have fun," and Sascha might have sounded a bit uneasy when he said that. Jason was already pulling on his coat and Evan slipped him the thirty dollars he owed the boy as he walked by.

"See you tomorrow," Jason told the florist, who just nodded with a smile. Jason walked out and the door closed behind him, leaving Evan and Sascha alone, the latter of the two looking a bit nervous while Evan just grinned cheerily.

"Here, let me help you with your coat," Evan said, stepping over to the florist and helping him take off his coat. "So, did you have any trouble finding this place?" he asked, hanging the coat by the door.

"Not really," Sascha said simply. He looked uncomfortable, and Evan was honestly bothered to see that. Even if they were alone in his apartment, he wouldn't do anything to Sascha, no matter how much he wished he could.

"Good, well, I have the decorations out already," Evan said, walking over to a series of bags and boxes where he had put all the ornaments and decorations. "I thought we could start with hanging some stuff around the living room and then we'd get to the tree," he motioned to the tall tree in one corner, completely bare of any baubles, light or other ornaments.

"Sure, I guess we should get started, then," Sascha said, heading for the bags and boxes laid out.

If anyone had told Evan that decorating for the holidays would be so hard, he would have laughed in their face. When he'd asked Sascha for help he had expected to hang some garland, put a few stockings on the wall, and speed through the Christmas tree decorations. No one had told him that he would end up with a sore foot from stepping on a pine cone and about a hundred little scratches on his arms from the tree branches. Sascha, at the very least, seemed to be enjoying himself, and Evan was grateful that he tried not to laugh whenever he hurt himself with one of the deceptively harmless looking decorations.

"This is why I usually don't decorate," he said as Sascha applied yet another band-aid to his hand. The florist had an amused smile, and Evan was happy to note that he appeared to be more at ease.

"Well, we're almost done," Sascha commented, closing up the box of band-aids they had on stand-by. "But maybe you should have asked your brother to help you instead," he told Evan.

"God no, he'd laugh his ass off if he saw me having so much trouble hanging a couple of ornaments," and he really meant that. Adam probably would have recorded it too, just to laugh at his brother at a later date. "Besides, I like you better," he added with a grin, Sascha just shook his head, but he was smiling.

"Still, I'm surprised you didn't do this with your family," the florist continued.

"My parents go all out with their house, so I figured they would make this place look like their idea of the North Pole, and Adam's busy with work," he explained, getting back to untangling his old Christmas lights for the tree. Sascha was sitting next to him on the floor by the tree, working on his own set of lights and Evan couldn't help but sneak a few looks at the florist every now and then.

He'd been doing it for the whole day really, carefully making sure Sascha didn't notice because he would just get uncomfortable. It was funny, Evan thought, because Sascha knew Evan was attracted to him, but he was still very shy about it. So, Evan did his best to keep from staring at Sascha's rear when he was standing on a chair to hang some garland and he stuck his hands in his pockets to keep from doing anything he'd regret when he was too close to the florist. But it was difficult, because he hadn't had sex in months(a personal record, he thought) and the memory of Sascha telling him he wanted him and clinging to him in a drunken stupor was still very fresh in his mind.

Evan tried not to think about that too much, though, because it only led to bad thoughts and Sascha was already in his apartment and it would be too easy for Evan to use that as an excuse to do something stupid. He was already walking on thin ice when it came to his relationship with the florist, he didn't want to make things even worse. Especially not when they were finally getting a bit better, because Sascha wasn't being as distant as he had been as of late, and Evan counted that as a small victory.

"So, what are you doing for Christmas?" he asked, if only so he could distract himself from staring at the florist.

"I don't know, I'll probably just stay home and watch a few movies. I never really do much since I moved here," Sascha told him with a small shrug.

"You're not visiting your family?" it was a bit surprising because Sascha had seemed to be very close to his family.

"No, not this year. A few relatives are visiting, so I figured the house would be full enough, besides, business is always good around the holidays," he said with a smile. "What about you, Evan?" the man took a moment to think on how he'd answer that.

"Well, I don't really know either. Usually I go to a friend's party or something, but I don't really feel like it this time around. I'll probably stay home too," he told Sascha, who seemed mildly surprised to hear of Evan's plans.

"Doesn't your family live in the city?" he asked.

"Yeah, but my parents are visiting my aunt this year and I'm not spending the holidays with Adam," he said, stressing the last part to Sascha's amusement. Evan hesitated for a moment before saying anything else, mainly because he wasn't sure how Sascha would react, but he really couldn't help but take a chance. "Sascha, I was thinking, if you don't have anything planned maybe you can come over for a while," and he knew the florist didn't like the idea when he averted his eyes, shoulders stiffening and mouth curving downwards.

"I don't know," he began, hands resting on his lap, still grasping the Christmas lights.

"Come on, Sascha, just for a bit," Evan cut him off. "No one should spend Christmas all alone, and there's no one else I'd rather spend the holidays with than you," he said sincerely, leaning closer to the florist.

"Y-you don't mean that," the florist insisted.

"I do, you know I do," Evan said, tone determined. "I love you, Sascha," Sascha was blushing down to his neck, his heart pounding in his chest. He could feel Evan's eyes on him, and couldn't help but look up at the man sitting so close to him. Those warm hazel eyes, with the kind and soft look that Sascha couldn't help but love, fixed on him.

Slowly, Evan reached up to brush his hand against Sascha's cheek, the soft skin warm and flushed, and the florist had to stop himself from leaning into the other man's touch. He didn't do anything to stop Evan though, didn't move away or push the man off, and maybe it was because he couldn't. A part of him told him he wanted it, whatever it was that Evan would do to him, he wanted it to happen, had wanted it for months. But there was the other part of him, so stubborn and jaded, that told him to stop the man, that it could only end badly.

He was still fighting with himself as Evan brushed his lips against his own, a soft touch that was almost asking for permission and Sascha still wasn't in the right frame of mind to decline. Evan took the chance, setting his lips on the other man's fully, hand still curved around Sascha's cheek. His other hand moved to the florist's back, sliding down slowly and eliciting a small gasp from Sascha, the florist's hands gripping Evan's shirt tightly.

"E-Evan, stop," Sascha managed to gasp out as he pulled his lips away from the other's. But Evan only kissed him again, deeper this time, and Sascha could only hold onto him, his body hot and his skin tingling, almost asking the man to touch him more.

It was then that he realized how lonely he really was, or had been for so long and he couldn't help but be mad at Evan. Because the man had just reminded him of what it was like to want someone and to be wanted in return, to be held and loved if only for a moment and those were things Sascha had done his best to forget. He didn't want to be reminded of it all, to need to feel wanted or loved, because it never ended well. It hadn't ended well with Steven and it wouldn't end well with Evan. So, he focused his mind, ignored the warm hands running over his body and the lips hungrily moving against his own and pushed the man back.

They sat on the floor, across from each other for a moment, both out of breath, faces flushed and hearts beating wildly. There was a distinct look of dread mixed with regret on Evan's face, because he'd done what he had been working hard to keep from doing and Sascha wasn't looking at him. Still, he wanted more, wanted to touch the florist and hold him for a while longer, his body aching to be with him even as he wished he'd been able to control himself. Then, Sascha stood shakily and hurried to the door, grabbing his coat and rushing out without a word and Evan knew it wouldn't be right to chase after him, not yet.

Sascha knew to expect Evan to show up at the flower shop the next day. He didn't know when the man would arrive, but he knew he'd show up and he almost wanted to stay home that day just to avoid him. Of course, he was aware that if he did that Evan would just try again the next day, because the man was just too stubborn. It was an extremely irritating trait, especially when Sascha was hoping for the man to just give up on him. No matter how much he thought about it, the florist couldn't come up with a reason for Evan to chase after him so persistently, not when he'd make it clear that he wouldn't give in to the man's charms.

It was driving Sascha insane, because he couldn't keep his heart from racing when Evan showed his affection for him and he couldn't help but give in at times when he knew he shouldn't. The florist wanted to keep his distance, but it was just too difficult when Evan was always so kind to him, and so damn persistent. Despite all of his best efforts, he was falling in love with Evan, or maybe he was already in love with him, and the thought scared him because love had never been kind to him.

"Are you alright?" Sascha didn't quite jump, but he was startled a bit.

"Oh, yes, I'm fine," he told Miles, who was sweeping the shop while Sascha worked behind the counter. "Why do you ask?" Sascha had to ask because the man was giving him an odd look.

"Because you've been working on that arrangement for half an hour and you've only set five flowers," Miles responded, looking at the florist's work.

"I guess I'm just distracted today," Sascha told the man with a weak laugh.

"By what?" Miles asked curiously, his task of sweeping forgotten. Sascha turned back to his work, clearly not wanting to talk about it.

"It's nothing important," he said, but Miles wasn't buying that. More importantly, he was almost certain he knew what it was that was weighing so heavily on the florist's mind.

"Is it about that guy that always comes over?" Miles asked bluntly, surprising the florist.

"What? You mean, Evan?" Sascha knew what Miles meant, but he just didn't know what to say. The other man just nodded.

"Yeah, him," the man confirmed. "I've been meaning to ask you, are you two going out?" and Sascha was really flustered them.

"N-no! We're not, why would you think that?" despite his best efforts to keep calm, Sascha couldn't help but sound so embarrassed and maybe even a bit nervous.

"It's just the way you two act around each other, especially that guy. He's always smiling whenever he talks to you, no matter what you tell him," because Sascha had been casually dismissing him a lot more often as of late, but Evan never lost his smile around him. "Plus, he's always coming here even though he never buys anything and when he arrives he heads straight to you. It just really wasn't that hard to figure out," Miles finished with a shrug and Sascha was already blushing and wishing he had someplace to hide.

"We're not, there's nothing going on between us," he said as surely as he could.

"But that guy likes you, doesn't he?" and it wasn't so much a question as it was a simple observation. Sascha hesitated for a moment before nodding.

"He does, but I don't think a relationship like that between us would be for the best," he admitted. "Evan likes women, you know, so I doubt he would be able to stay with me in the end," and Sascha didn't think he would want to let the man go so easily.

"Is that the only reason why?" Miles asked, sounding curious and something else Sascha couldn't quite identify. The look he gave the florist, however, suggested that he knew what other reasons there would be for Sascha's constant rejection of Evan. His fingers fiddled with the flower he held, his eyes averted from miles, clearly reluctant to admit what other reasons there may have been.

"It's just," Sascha began with a hesitant tone. " I don't think that Evan understands what being in a relationship with another man would entail," the florist was sure that all Evan had thought about was what he wanted, what he felt like doing. He had probably never thought about what would happen if he was in a relationship with Sascha, what his family would think if they found out, the things he'd have to give up and the possibility that he wouldn't be able to stay in such a relationship for long.

Miles understood that though, he knew what Sascha was doing and he felt slightly irritated to have the florist care so much about someone that he would do so much to protect them. To keep Evan from going through any hardship, Sascha was willing to put aside his own feelings and do what he thought was best for him and Evan. It must have hurt, to have the man constantly tempting Sascha, when the florist was trying his best to ignore his own feelings.

"Then why do you let him come back?" and Miles couldn't help but sound a bit irritated. "Why don't you just tell him to stop coming?" Sascha sighed tiredly, and looked up at Miles, cheeks tinged pink.

"I don't know," he started. "I guess I'm just being selfish, really. It's obvious that I should tell him to stay away, but I can't bring myself to do it. When it's Evan, I always end up giving in, even when I know I shouldn't," and that was what Miles was really afraid of. "But it's okay if it's just letting him stop by, just until he loses interest in me," in the end, Sascha just liked having Evan around, and it was the one thing the florist would allow himself to have, just those short visits that made his heart speed up.

"But don't you think it's cruel of you to do that?" Miles told the florist, his grip on the broom he'd been using tightening at the clear affection Sascha felt towards Evan. The florist looked up at the man, perplexed.

"What do you mean," he asked, not seeing what the man was trying to say.

"You keep being kind to him, letting him come here and being so friendly. Doing that will only make him think he had a chance, even if you tell he doesn't. Maybe if you had told him to stop coming he would have given up on you already, but even if you push him away, you just pull him back in so of course he keeps trying. Still, being rejected so much would hurt no matter what," Miles explained, noting the way the florist frowned, looking preoccupied. "I know you're trying to do what's right, but you can't do things by halves, either reject him properly or let him be with you," he told the florist in a gentler tone.

Sascha didn't say anything else, he didn't have anything else to say. Miles had given him a lot to think about, and the florist couldn't help but dread Evan's eventual visit even more. The other man was right, he couldn't keep pushing Evan away while wanting to keep him close, because it would just end up hurting more for the both of them, and Sascha didn't want that. He didn't want to hurt Evan just as much as he himself didn't want to be hurt.

It was late when the door opened letting in the cold Winter wind, the bell chiming familiarly. Jason had already headed home and Miles was cleaning up in the back while Sascha swept he shop once again, taking advantage of the lull in customer activity. He wasn't very surprised to see Evan walk in, he'd known he would be showing up eventually, he was just glad he could keep his feelings from showing on his face.

"Good evening," he greeted the man. "How may I help you?" Evan didn't smile, probably still feeling guilty about the previous night.

"You, uh, left your scarf in my apartment," he said, holding out the object. Sascha took it from him, keeping his hand from so much as touching the man's.

"Thank you for bringing it, you shouldn't have bothered," because the scarf was insignificant and Sascha wished Evan would have just stayed away on his own.

"Well, the scarf was just a shitty excuse to come here, but I know you're smart enough to see that," Evan admitted, nervously running a hand through his hair. "Look, Sascha, I'm really sorry about last nigh, and I know I'm always apologizing for all the stupid things I do to upset you so you're probably tired of hearing it," Evan rambled on.

"Evan, stop," Sascha said, because there really was no point in letting the man go on. "Don't worry about apologizing," and he paused before he continued, because it wouldn't be an easy thing to say. "I've been thinking, I'd like it if you stopped coming here."

The silence after those words were spoken was absolute, the shock of hearing Sascha actually tell him to stay away leaving Evan at a loss for words. He could only stare at the florist standing in front of him, with his arms crossed over his chest and those pretty green eyes fixed on the floor, brows knitted and mouth set in a frown.

"Sascha, come on, you know I can't stop coming here. I just want to see you," he told the florist, but Sascha just shook his head.

"I'm sorry, but I think it's for the best," Sascha insisted, and Evan could feel the panic building up inside him because Sascha looked serious, and that meant he'd have to stop seeing him. He couldn't do that though, he didn't think he could stand being away from the florist.

"I'm really sorry about what happened last night," he tried again, thinking maybe that was why Sascha was telling him to stay away. "I don't know what happened, but I swear I won't do anything like that again," Evan insisted, and he'd tie his damn hands behind his back if he had to, just so Sascha would let him into the shop. But the florist shook his head and looked straight at Evan.

"Please just go, Evan," he told the man, trying not to change his mind, because there was a look of defeat on the man's usually cheerful face and Sascha hated to think it was because of him. Evan didn't go right away, he just looked at Sascha, hoping to see a way to change the florist's mind, but he had a determined look on his face. Without another word, Evan turned and left the shop and Sascha could only stare after the man, his heart aching against his wishes even as he told himself he'd done the right thing.

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