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Chapter 08: Euphorbia

If there was one thing that could be said about Evan Litton, it was that he was not one to quit.

So, when he was left in front of Sascha's flower shop, a bouquet of roses in his hand and that awful feeling of having been rejected still painfully occupying him, he wasn't about to just let it go. Evan didn't think Sascha would want him in his shop the next day, would probably tell him to stop going there(not that he would listen), but there was one other place where he knew the florist would have to go to.

Just about ten minutes later, Evan was sitting on the hood of his car, waiting for Sascha to show up at the apartment building. It was cold and he was tired, but he wanted to at least know why he was being rejected(though he thought it was probably because Sascha still thought he was an idiot for failing to notice he was a man all those months ago). When he finally saw the florist making his way over to him, he was both relieved and nervous, because while he'd at least have a chance at talking to Sascha,it was highly likely that he would be mad at him.

As soon as Sascha saw him, Evan noticed him hesitate for a moment, before averting his gaze and continuing on his way home. Evan wasn't going to waste his chance though.

"Sascha, wait," he called, hurrying over to the florist. He managed to make Sascha stop outside the building, though he still wouldn't look at Evan.

"What are you doing here, Evan?" asked Sascha, sounding tired and exasperated.

"I just came to talk to you," he started.

"I know you're probably really mad at me, but please just listen and you can be mad at me afterwards if you really want."

Evan waited for Sascha to answer, half expecting to be told to leave. Instead, Sascha glanced up at him, clearly uncertain, before letting out a tired sigh.

"Can we talk inside?" he asked, because he was clearly uncomfortable talking outside where they could be overheard, so Evan stepped aside to let him into the building.

Sascha led him upstairs to a door at the end of the hall that opened to reveal a small, but cozy, apartment. There was a small living room, a kitchenette and a door that no doubt led to the florist's bedroom. The place was bright, with colorful items scattered about, still simple but warm and inviting. Evan wished his first time seeing Sascha's home had been under better circumstances. The florist took off his coat and hung it by the door, while Evan just kept his on. He didn't think Sascha would let him stay for very long.

Sascha didn't say anything as he went to the kitchen and began heating some water. He started pulling out things from the cabinets, not turning to Evan even as he spoke.

"Do you want anything to drink?" he asked, surprising the other man a bit.

"Just some coffee would be fine," Evan said, taking a seat at the small kitchen table.

He watched Sascha move around the kitchen, preparing their drinks, still looking tense. A few minutes later, with an awkward silence still hanging over them, Sascha turned with two cups and set one before Evan.

"Thanks," Evan told him, peering at Sascha's own drink(tea, he noticed, he never knew he preferred that to coffee). Sascha gave a small nod, taking a seat across from Evan.

"So, what did you want to say?" he asked, sipping his tea.

Evan had thought about what he would tell Sascha during the time he was waiting for him to show up. He had come up with so many reasons why the florist should give him a chance, had thought of so many ways to apologize. But when he found himself sitting in front of him, it was hard to put any of those things in words. There wasn't any clear way to tell Sascha just how Evan felt about him, because Evan still wasn't sure himself, but he'd do his best.

"Well, first I guess I just want to say that I'm sorry if I upset you, that wasn't my intention," he started.

"And I guess I wanted to know why you wouldn't even accept that lovely bouquet of flowers I had my favorite florist make for you," Evan couldn't help but try to lighten the mood a bit, even when what he was really asking was why he had been rejected.

Sascha frowned lightly, his brow furrowing and his eyes not meeting Evan's. Instead they were focused on the cup in his hands, wisps of smoke still rising faintly from it.

"I shouldn't be the one you give flowers to, Evan," he said after a while.

"It's not the first time I give you flowers," the other man pointed out, because he still recalled the flowers he'd given Sascha just a couple of weeks earlier to cheer him up.

"Those weren't roses," the florist said.

"Roses mean love, Evan, and you don't love me," Sascha spoke with a tone both sad and firm and Evan couldn't help but be upset.

"I know what they mean, Sascha, I'm not that stupid, and I know what I feel. Maybe it's hard for me to say it, but I thought maybe if it was you, then you'd be able to understand," he wished he'd been able to speak more calmly, but it was hard when his feelings were so easily dismissed.

"You know, at first I thought I was still just confused, that maybe that was why I was still so attracted to you, but I'm always thinking about you. I'm always at your shop because I want to talk to you and it's the only place where I can be around you. All this time you keep telling me that what I feel is wrong, that I can't love you, but then why would I go through so much trouble?" Evan felt relieved to finally be able to say how he felt while Sascha was clearly surprised, not having expected such an outburst.

"Listen, Sascha, I'm fine with you rejecting me because you don't feel anything for me, but don't tell me it's because I don't care about you," Evan finished, hoping Sascha felt at least something for him, anything as long as it gave him a chance.

"What do you want me to say?" Sascha finally spoke after a moment of silence between the two.

"I already told you, I've liked you from the start. You've been so kind to me, I couldn't help it. All this time I've wanted to ask you to stop going to the shop, but I wanted to see you, so I let you stay," he admitted, cheeks flushed and eyes looking anywhere but at Evan.

"But I gave up, because I don't want to get my hopes up and then have you leave. It hurt enough the first time."

Suddenly Evan understood, all this time Sascha had been comparing him to his previous boyfriend. In the florist's eyes, he was like Steven, and that made Evan angrier than he had expected. He didn't want Sascha to think he was like that, not when it came to him.

"I'm not like Steven," Evan said seriously, and Sascha finally looked at him, those bright green eyes of his finally seeing how much he meant what he was saying.

"Then can you honestly say you won't have any problems with the way I am?" Sascha asked.

"Do you like me because I look like a woman, or do you like me despite me being a man, Evan? That's what you really have to ask yourself," and Sascha stood, heading to the sink to toss what remained of his tea, though they both knew it was just because he didn't want to talk any more.

Evan sat there for a moment longer, thinking about what Sascha had just asked him. With a sigh, he stood, and walked over to where the other man was, setting his cup down on the counter. He laid his hand on the florist's arm making him turn enough to set his lips on Sascha's. He tasted of the tea he'd just drank and the honey he'd used to sweeten it, his lips soft and warn and Evan hoped it wasn't the last time he got to feel them. When he pulled away he could see a look of surprise on Sascha's face, eyes wide and face flushed.

"I don't care if you're a man, Sascha, I think I stopped caring a long time ago, but if you can't believe that then at least don't give up on me until I can prove it to you."

The florist didn't move, just stood there staring at the man in front of him. His heart was beating wildly in his chest and his lips still felt warm from the feel of the other's. Sascha wanted to look away, to say no to Evan and to maybe even tell him to leave him alone. But he couldn't, just like he could never manage to tell him to stop going to his shop or to stop being so nice to him when Sascha was trying not to love him. He knew he wouldn't give up on the man, even if he ended up hurting him. At last, he was able to look away from him, stepping back nervously.

"You should leave," he said quietly.

Evan walked out, the door shutting softly behind him, and Sascha found himself alone and wishing he wasn't.

When Jason went in to work on Saturday, he had not expected the sight he was met with. Sascha, in his humble opinion, looked like crap, which was entirely too unusual for the normally cheerful florist. But there he stood, hair a mess, eyes slightly puffy and a tired look on his face. Impressively, he still smiled at Jason and greeted him.

"What happened to you?" Jason asked as he put on his apron.

"Nothing, I'm just not feeling too well," Sascha told the teenager.

Jason didn't really believe Sascha, but it wasn't his business, so he went to work helping around the shop. There were a few deliveries that had to be made that day, they weren't very far though, so Jason spent most of the day indoors with Sascha. By around noon, the man was looking considerably better, maybe because Jason kept telling him about the stupid kids in school and making him laugh. The teen felt awfully proud of himself for getting Sascha in a good mood.

Then, the door opened and Jason wasn't all that surprised to see Evan walk in. He was a bit surprised to see him carrying hot drinks and pastries though, because Evan didn't often do that unless it was in the mornings(and Jason only knew about that because Sascha would save him a donut or something). Sascha didn't greet Evan this time, and Jason thought that was odd, but he didn't say anything about it as Evan walked up to the counter and set down the drinks and food.

"Hey, Sascha, I though you might like something to warm you up," and it was actually cold enough that a hot drink would be very welcome.

"Thank you," Sascha said simply, not at all sounding like his usual self.

"Hey, what about me?" Jason asked, insulted at having been left out. Evan rolled his eyes and dug in his pocket.

"Here's twenty bucks, go away," he said, handing the boy the money. Jason didn't protest, grinning as he took the bill.

"Sascha, can I take off early?" he asked the florist, who just smiled at him and nodded.

"Thank you!" and he was already slipping off his apron and heading to the back to get his coat.

Sascha crossed his arms, glancing up at Evan. He wasn't really sure how to act around him any more, not after what had happened the previous night.

"I didn't think you'd come today," he said.

"I wanted to see you," was Evan's simple answer.

"Though I was kind of scared you'd kick me out," he said, only partly joking.

"You know I wouldn't," admitted the florist, blushing a bit.

"But if you do anything like what you did last night I'll hit you," and Evan couldn't help but chuckle at Sascha's threat, mostly because his menacing look wasn't very scary at all.

"Alright, I promise I won't," he acquiesced.

"It's a real shame though," and Sascha would have said something about that if Jason hadn't chosen that moment to walk back out, ready to head home.

"I'll see you Monday, Sascha," he said, walking to the door.

"Alright, take care, Jay," the florist said as cheerily as he could, waving at the teen.

The bell chimed, signaling Jason's departure, and the door shut, blocking off the cold wind from entering the little shop. Sascha felt a bit strange, being in the shop alone with Evan, which was odd, considering he was often alone with the man. After all that had happened the previous night, however, it was hard for Sascha to act normally around him.

Sascha had always been attracted to Evan, he was nice, funny and handsome, so it wasn't all that difficult for him to like the man. But he had been trying his best to not do anything stupid, and Evan telling him he loved him wasn't making things easier.

"So, are you going to drink that?" Evan asked, snapping Sascha out of his thoughts. He was pointing at the cup he'd set in front of Sascha, still warm, and by the scent emanating from it, Sascha realized it wasn't coffee.

"Tea?" he asked, perplexed, because Evan had always bought him coffee.

"I thought you might like it," Evan shrugged, sipping his own drink.

Sascha hummed in response, raising the cup to take a drink from it. It was good, especially with how cold the weather was. Evan smiled when he saw his peace offering was well received and opened the pastry box he'd gotten, extending it to the florist. There were small cakes and pastries with fruit and chocolate and powdered sugar adorning them, all looking tasty, and Sascha was mildly impressed by the selection. He was still a bit insulted, because it was obvious Evan was trying to get on his good side.

"You know, buying me food won't make me less mad at you," he said bluntly, more so than he had intended, but he still wasn't in the greatest mood. Evan didn't seem to mind though.

"I know that, but I wanted to apologize for upsetting you yesterday," he said.

"If you wanted to make me feel better you should have stayed home," said the florist, and he immediately felt bad for it, because he could tell Evan was really trying.

"I'm sorry Evan," he sighed, setting down his tea.

"I just really need some space right now."

Evan looked disappointed, but he nodded with a faint smile. He grabbed his coffee and looked ready to head out.

"That's fine, I guess I'll see you in a few days, then," he said, but it sounded like more of a question.

"Yeah, that sounds good," and Sascha did his best to smile,because he didn't want Evan to think he was hated, Sascha just couldn't deal with him at the moment.

The other man left, cup of coffee in hand and coat closed securely around himself. His hand was in his pocket and he looked a bit dejected, but Sascha really couldn't do anything about that. He wasn't feeling too cheery either, so he swept up, packed his things and locked up his shop, heading home with his half drunk tea and a box of untouched pastries. He was still thinking of what he would do about Evan by the time he reached the street he lived in and it wasn't until he was in front of his apartment building that he heard someone calling his name.

"You seem distracted today," said a young man as he walked up to Sascha.

"I called your name three times already," he told the florist, and Sascha gave him an apologetic smile as the man stopped in front of him.

He was rather tall, with eyes of a dark blue tone and short black hair. His gaze was sharp even though he held a calm look when he stood before Sascha. The young man lived across the street from Sascha, and worked at a bookshop just a few blocks away from Sascha's own shop that the florist liked to visit. It was how they had met, and even though they didn't get a chance to talk very often, they got long well and Sascha considered him one of his few friends.

"Sorry, Miles, I just have a lot on my mind," he explained, and the man just looked at him with a considering expression.

"Does it have anything to do with that guy you were talking to last night?" and Sascha was honestly surprised that Miles would know about Evan, because he had thought no one had been around.

"I was getting home from the store when I saw you," he said, by way of explanation.

"Oh, well, I guess. It's nothing important though," Sascha said dismissively.

"So, how have you been?" Sascha asked, brushing away a few stray strands of hair that had been swept across his face by the wind.

"Fine I suppose," shrugged the other man.

"The bookshop's closing though, you probably heard already," and Sascha had, but he'd nearly forgotten with all the trouble Evan had been giving him.

"Oh, that's right, sorry to hear that. I'm going to miss that place," said the florist, sincerely, and then he had to brush some more hair away because the wind just wouldn't stop blowing it in his face. Miles looked on, amused.

"Do you want to talk inside?" he proposed, and Sascha nodded, with a laugh.

"Yeah, I think that would be best," he said, and led the way to his apartment thinking that maybe chatting with a friend would help distract him.

Evan had a lot to think about after he left Sascha's shop that day. His main concern, however, was coming up with some way to get in the florist's good graces because Sascha was right, offerings of food weren't the answer. So he sat on the couch, turned on the television and let some action movie play in the background as he thought of what to do to make Sascha at least smile at him more honestly.

He thought about what would make Sascha happy, but all he could think about was the shop and Evan didn't know what he could do with that knowledge. At the moment, he wasn't even supposed to go to the shop because Sascha would probably just kick him out, no matter what the florist said. Eventually, Evan moved on to other ideas, but they always ended up feeling more like bribes because all Evan could think of was buying something nice for Sascha.

As much as he had always liked how different Sascha was from all the women Evan had dated before, at the moment it was proving to be a bit of an inconvenience, because at least with them he could always take them out or buy them something and they would be pleased with him. Unfortunately, Sascha didn't even want to see him for a few days something that was extremely disheartening to the man. In the end, Evan had just called it a night, resolving to think of a solution the next day.

Evan's solution didn't become apparent until a few days later, when Sascha was finally starting to feel like his old self again. He was sitting behind the counter, clipping flowers and making an arrangement with the usual care, taking advantage of the short moment of peace. The shop had been busy that day, not just with orders, but also with visitors asking Sascha for bouquets and arrangements and even once lady who had been interested in placing a large order for flowers to decorate for a party she'd be holding(and Sascha didn't know how he'd manage that one, but he would make time to work on it). He had hardly had time to even eat lunch and it was only because Jason was around to go pick up some fast food that he'd eaten at all, but Sascha was very content with the way the day had gone.

He saw Jason arrive, parking his bike in front of the shop, and smiled as the boy burst into the shop, looking excited. His cheeks and nose were red from the chilly winds and all Sascha could see was his face beneath the collar of his jacket and the hat he wore to keep warm, but he was grinning wildly as he walked over to the counter.

"Sascha, you have to see this," he said, pulling something out from the inside of his jacket.

Sascha saw it was a newspaper, folded many times over and creased but still in decent shape. He took it curiously from the teenager's hands and opened it up, not sure what he was looking for. Jason moved behind the counter and flipped through some pages of the local news, before stopping and pointing, and Sascha blinked, surprised and stared.

"Is that-" he began, only to be interrupted by Jason.

"Yep, that's the shop."

And it was, right there on the page, a picture of the shop with a small article describing the "good service and dedication" offered to the customers along with more praise in general. Sascha was beyond perplexed, that is, until he read up to the account of a "satisfied customer" who was referred simply as Evan, and then it was clear what had happened. But as much as Sascha knew it was just Evan trying to get in his good graces, he couldn't help but chuckle.

"Guess that guy's not so bad," Jason commented, sounding impressed.

"No, he really isn't," agreed the florist, smiling fondly against his wishes.

And he thought that maybe having Evan around again wouldn't be so bad. Besides, he wanted to know how the man had managed to get an article on the paper. He couldn't deny his feelings any longer, and Evan wasn't going to give up anyway, so at the very least, he could try to make the best of things.

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