Language of Flowers

A hundred and eight roses means "will you marry me?". A striped carnation means "no". An ExT about subtlety and the problems thereof.

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Chapter One—The word "suitor" springs to mind

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It starts, one morning, with a flower. It's a lily, a stargazer lily. Edged in white, then pink, then deepening to a thin line of red in the centre of each petal. She smiles because it's beautiful and she loves lilies. But then, she loves all flowers. She knows each and every one of them as if they're personal friends, which –given her childhood of empty mansions and solitude— perhaps they are.

She's beautiful and she's kind, and so she often gets flowers in the morning. Left there by a shy sweet admirer. In courtship. It's mostly bouquets of plum blossoms though, accompanied by variations on the theme "they reminded me of you" and something about springtime. She keeps them, because it would be hurtful not to, but she hates watching them wither away in her room. She hates the way they seem so simple, so out of place, in her mother's elaborate glass vases. And sometimes, she wishes she reminded them of something else. Not of springtime or something equally meaningless and vapid. But of mad, drunk, heady passion. Or of delicacy and innocence and maidenhood. Of anything other than exactly what she is. Of anything that shows they actually know her, that they pay attention, that their caring goes beyond a trip to the florist. She wishes that she reminded just one person of love.

So she smiles again at the solitary lily—the stargazer lily—and presses it gently in between the pages of her math textbook. She wants to preserve this, because she knows what it means, and she hopes her admirer does too.

I see heaven in your eyes.

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"Tomoyo-chan! Tomoyo-chaaaaan!"

The girl blinked and focused, only to find Sakura's hand swishing madly in front of her face.

"Are you alright, Tomoyo-chan? I've been trying to get your attention for the last, like, five minutes!"

"Oh, yeah, sure, I'm fine. Sorry, what were you saying, Sakura-chan?"

"Only that it's exciting that we're all graduating from high school this year. And that we need ideas for our grad trip."

"Mother says we should go to Hong Kong," volunteered Syaoran, frowning at the very idea.

Eriol smirked. "And I see you're thrilled at the prospect of spending your grad trip with your family. Mother, sisters and, especially, our dear cousin Meiling."

Syaoran glared. "You know I'm not looking forward to that at all."

"Yes, my dear little descendant. I'm aware. This is what we call sarcasm. Say it with me: saaar-caaas-mmm."

"Oh, shut up. I so knew that. As a matter of fact--"

"I was thinking of Italy," interrupted Sakura, anxious to avoid a scene. "We could do Rome, then up to Tuscany. Y'know, Florence, Pisa, the Mediterranean."

"That sounds lovely," said Eriol. His eyes flipped back to the girl who was staring out of the window. "What do you think, Tomoyo-san?"

Tomoyo looked up again. "Hmm?" she said, distractedly.

"Of Italy?" he prompted.

"Italy?" she repeated, blankly.

"For our year's graduation trip?"

"Oh, yes, Italy. Graduation trip. Right." Tomoyo smiled, nodded, and went back to smiling dreamily out the window.

There was a deeply embarrassing pause.

"Well?" asked Sakura, with just a tiny amount of frustration.

Tomoyo looked up again. "What?" she asked, innocently.

"Well, what do you think?"

"Of what?"

Sakura buried her head in her arms. "I give up!" she exclaimed in a muffled voice.

"Tomoyo-san?" asked Eriol, gently. "Are you sure you're alright?"

"Yes. I'm sorry… I was just… thinking," she murmured.

Eriol frowned.

"Are you thinking about that flower in your math book?" asked Syaoran, suddenly. Eriol positively glared at him, and the Chinese boy nearly flinched at the look. "Er… just wondering…" he added lamely.

"What flower?" asked Sakura, noting Tomoyo's suddenly guilty look.

"Don't worry about it. It's nothing."

But Sakura was not so easily deterred. "Syaoran-kun, what flower?"

Syaoran grinned sheepishly, as he procured the textbook. Tomoyo resisted the urge to snatch away from him.

"Sorry," he said. "You left it in Janata-sensei's class and she asked me to bring it to you."

Tomoyo blushed and took the book from him. "It's not important. Don't worry about it," she repeated softly.

"Tomoyo-san?" Eriol's voice was curiously affected. "What flower?"

She shook her head, eyes averted and dreamy. "It's nothing. Someone left me a flower on top of my locker today…"

"But Tomoyo-chan, you have flowers almost every day!" protested Sakura. "Why did you—"

"No, Sakura-chan. Just one flower. A lily." She opened her book to the place where the little pink thing was neatly preserved. "It was beautiful and I… really wanted to keep it."

Carefully, Tomoyo turned her face so that she could watch Eriol's reaction out of the corner of her eyes. She had to admit that her first thought was that he might've—

But no. His face held only mild curiosity. No recognition, no smugness, no sign at all that this sweet gesture might come from him.

She sighed, and closed the book gently. "It's not important," she said, once again. "It just made me think of something."

"Stargazer lily," Eriol managed to say. "It means…" he cleared his throat. "'I see heaven in your eyes'."

"You know?" asked Tomoyo, surprised. "Yes… I suppose you would."

Sakura squealed happily. "Oh, Tomoyo-chan, that's so cute. How adorable! Do you know who it was? Was there a note?"

"No. No note. No idea."

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"A flower! A fucking flower!"

"Eriol-sama, please, that must be the eighth time this minute that you've repeated that," Spinel Sun covered his eyes with one blue plushie paw. "What is the matter?"

Eriol groaned and slumped down in an armchair, one hand clenching and unclenching compulsively. "That's what she was thinking about. That's what had her staring into space, looking like a lovesick teenager."

"Maybe she—"

"And don't say that she might actually be a lovesick teenager, because Tomoyo never acts like that!"

"So—"

"I was worried," said Eriol, suddenly. "I was really worried. I thought she might be… hurt…?"

"But she's okay. Why are you still freaking out?"

"I… I… oh, shut up!"

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It continues with a flower. Even if it does not come from him, she still loves it. It has been a while since anyone's known her this well.

It's a beautiful sprig of white-pink gladioli, and she smiles widely as she tucks it beside its predecessor in a book of heavy cream-coloured art paper that she bought expressly for this purpose. It comes with a note, this time. Addressed to 'Il mio bella'. My beautiful one. And the paper glides like water over her fingers as she unfolds it.

'Please,' it reads, in bold dashing script, 'Just give me a chance.'

Her eyes soften. He knows. Of course he knows. It's refreshing, really… and it answers an unspoken wish. Italian today, and yesterday, Italy— the grad trip— Eriol? She wonders; she thought she was sure. A hint, surely? Or a coincidence? She traces one finger gently down the gladioli.

I am sincere.

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For three days more, she will get flowers.

For three days more, she will be greeted by this sweetly meaningful, carefully thought out gift.

For three days more, she will be dreamy and misty-eyed. And Sakura will giggle and ask her about her latest.

For three days more, she will blush and explain in soft, delighted tones.

…purple lilac. you are my first love. how charming that he can admit that…

…yellow zinnia. daily remembrance. and a sense of humour too…

…butterfly orchid. you are always on my mind. and from someone who cares for her. that's the most important thing…

For three days more, he will bite back his jealousy as she gushes about this unknown giver. Though she doesn't really gush. She's actually very discreet about it. Why then, does it seem as if he wants to lash out every morning, when he hears that muted gasp of recognition and sees that wide, happy smile? The smile that isn't meant for him.

For three days more, he will choke down the urge to growl every time one of their classmates whispers about how Daidouji-san's in love with her secret admirer.

Then…

On the day of the orchid, when they all come back from lunch, she sees a note pinned to her locker. It's that same raw silk paper, the same script. It is the first time she has ever received something during the day, and as she cradles the still-sealed note in her palm, she whispers to Sakura, Syaoran and Eriol that she has only now realized how deliciously close her mystery wooer must be. That she is only now wondering whether she can put a name and a face to the image she's built in her imagination. For the rest of the day, he sees her eyes darting to their male classmates, assessing whether it might be them, appraising their romantic capacity. He notices that there are only two males that her eyes skip over, Syaoran—her best friend's beloved—and himself.

And this hurts him so very much.

It is the end of the day before he has a chance to talk to her again. He asks her what was in the note, and she starts in surprise.

"Oh, Eriol-kun!" she trills, in that musical voice of hers. "You know, I haven't even opened it yet. I was just so preoccupied…" She pulls the note out of her backpack, and slits it open gently.

He waits, apprehensive, as her eyes dance over the contents.

"He wants to reveal himself…" she breathes, reverently. "He wants me to meet him after school…"

"Right now?" he says, without thinking, and nearly kicks himself at the way her eyes widen.

"Oh! Oh, gosh! You're right. He wants to meet me right now! Eriol-kun, if you hadn't said— to think that I might have missed this meeting and then never known."

Her hands flutter nervously. "Do I look okay? I haven't got time to—" she twirls for him, and he gulps.

"You look bea—fine, Tomoyo-san. Just lovely."

But she's already hurrying down the hall. And away from him.

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Notes—

For the record: the story is an ExT. The chapter… may not be.