Of course he loved her, it was impossible not to love her, like it was impossible not to breathe. And he wanted to be friends -- allies? -- with her cousin, who loved her like some people loved air or their own heartbeat, like she was needed for the universe to go on.

And perhaps she was.

He'd heard that there was supposed to be meanings to flowers, as if they were all carefully mapped out somewhere, so you could give someone a rose, and a certain color of rose, or lilies or perhaps even pinks, and they would know exactly what you meant to say, without awkward words to fill up the edges and mislead you.

In the language of flowers, he thought, what did you use for her?

Her cousin hated him -- she was, he thought once, a particularly prickly sort of bramble, the sort of bramble that perhaps bloomed secretly with small sweet flowers, but they were well-hidden by her own thorns, and only showed to those she chose. Her cousin hated him because she thought, perhaps with reason, that he would take her dear one away from her.

He was trying not to. He'd also heard once that the thing to do when you were hiking or picnicking or taking a walk was to simply look at the flowers, not disturb them, not pick them to take home and set in your best vase to enjoy them for the few brief hours before they drooped and faded, but leave them there. Where they would bloom. And then you could have the memory of them to hold, when the flowers had faded into winter.

There was a school festival, and he took a camera, so that he could take pictures and post them on the walls. He did pretty well for a while, and then he saw her, next to her cousin, hanging off her grandfather's arm, and he found himself taking pictures of the way she laughed and spun and was so very alive, like a flower that would only bloom for a single day, like a cherry blossom the instant before it fell apart into the wind.

Her cousin, of course, noticed instantly, and the brambles came shooting up, like the briar rose from the fairy tale, set to protect the princess from the prince who would come. Which was rather absurd when you thought of it, but perhaps the briars were only doing as best as they knew how, to preserve the only thing they knew. Perhaps they had grown so used to watching over the princess, they had grown jealous. Could he blame them? Surely if he had her to protect, he would watch over her as jealously.

Perhaps he had known, even then, how short and lovely her life would be. Perhaps that was why he had agreed -- no, not agreed, snatched at her, snatched at the chance to watch her blossom and spin away into the wind, before her time had come to fade.

Because it would have hurt him to walk away and not see the flower blooming, to not watch others stop and look at it blooming brightly, happily. It would have hurt him more, he thought sometimes, to have never known her at all.

In the language of flowers, her name was love.


12:57 AM 06/23/2001

In point of fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that Nadeshiko would be 'pure affection', but close enough. _ Written for the ficinnahour challenge at CCSakura and actually completed in about 40 minutes. During which time I still managed to get stuck and yell desperately at oniisama for help.

There, Amy, are you happy now? _