A/N: A one shot set in The Colour of a Rose Series... Chrysanthemum symbolizes - A Most Wonderful Friend
His gloved hands swung at his side, reminiscent of a clock's pendulum, keeping time with his long stride. Head held high, his brown eyes dancing under the jaunty fedora, he whistled a merry tune that drifted aimlessly in the stillness.
Dew laden weeds overhung the damp, dirt path he followed, brushing over his trouser cuffs and leaving a dark stain of wetness, slapping lightly against his ankles. He seemed oblivious to the fact that his shoes and socks were more than soaked, and continued onwards, towards his destination.
Even the ominous grey clouds looming above, obscuring the sun's light, and threatening to let loose their heavy contents upon the world below, didn't seem to hamper his cheery outlook.
Passing the Ol' McCreedy farm, he tipped his hat in respects to the withered and wrinkled face that peered up at him, from her long practiced, bent stance, and was rewarded with a slight nod in his direction. Whereupon, the woman returned to her daily toil, already forgetting the handsome stranger that had greeted her.
In the distance a pair of Shetlands frolicked in amongst a group of boisterous children, while a younger woman holding a baby in her arms, attempted to maneuver through the moving maze surrounding her. The shriek of joyous laughter and happy voices reached him, spurring him encouragingly forward.
He detected a strong whiff of smoke emanating from a stone chimney. In all likelihood the remains of a fire that had burnt through the night, staving off darks chill, and now resided as a cooling pile of embers, awaiting dusks reminder to spring back to life.
Then he caught another scent. Subtle, but unmistakable in its mouthwatering invitation; the yeasty smell of freshly, baked bread. A heady, familiar aroma, that reminded him of boyhood days spent in his Mum's kitchen, watching the miracle of powdery flour, butter and water, turned into warm loaves and delectable treats.
A flash of bright colour captured his attention, and he hesitated, turning towards the vivid contrast of deep purple, nestled amongst the darker shades of fall's green and muted browns. Stepping closer he found himself in the midst of a spray of chrysanthemums, defiantly blooming in the chilled fall air.
Removing a single glove, he reached towards the clustered perennials, and gathered a small arrangement before resuming his journey, once again. A wide smile graced his features, as he contemplated her reaction to his simple gift, he was almost giddy with delight.
Upon approaching her residence he began straightening out his attire, readjusted his hat, then caught a glimpse at the condition his footwear had suffered and frowned. Looking up he glimpsed the flutter of curtains, and realized it was too late to concern himself with trivialities.
Taking a deep breath to steady his nerves he lifted his hand to knock. The door opened before he rapped a second time, catching him slightly off balance. He stood blinking at her, hand raised in a slight fist and mouth formed to issue forth words, yet nothing came. She took in his comical expression and managed to maintain her composure, in spite of the situation.
"Good afternoon, John."
He blinked, then jerked as if shocked back into action, quickly dropping his hand and stammered. "Yes, quite good. Afternoon. I mean, good afternoon Matr, er, Nurse Redfern."
"Joan." She smiled, and he felt as if his heart doubled in time.
"Nurse Joan. Joan!" He laughed, not absolutely sure what he was trying to say.
Somewhere between his thoughts and his speech, he'd lost the ability to be coherent. He was aware of nothing except that wonderful smile, then realized she was speaking to him.
"Are those for me?" She repeated.
He dropped his eyes, following her glance, finally remembering the flowers in his hand and thrust them towards her. "Yes. I picked them, " he grinned like a kid in a candy shoppe with a handful of change to spend. "I hope you like them?"
Accepting them she gave him a warm smile, and lowered her head to catch their fragrance. "Chrysanthemums. They are quite lovely, thank you."
"Lovely, yes. Definitely, lovely." He murmured, feeling a slow burn rising in his cheeks when she glanced sideways at him. "The flowers. Lovely, the flowers. Those." He hastily stuttered, pointing at the display in her hands and kicking himself inwardly. Oh, wait, she wouldn't think he'd meant she wasn't.
"Not that you aren't," he began, "um," this wasn't coming out quite right. "I mean you are," oh bother, "well, what I meant to say--"
She grasped his wrist pulling him into the doorway, and sparing him any further explanation, for which he was considerably thankful.
"I'll get us tea." And she disappeared into the kitchen with her bouquet, reminding him to leave his coat and hat in the hallway.
They sat in companionable silence, having enjoyed the tea, and each others conversation. Setting his teacup down onto the tray, he studied the small vase of flowers.
"The Last Chrysanthemum."
He brushed his fingertips over a bloom. "A poem by Thomas Hardy. I only remember a few lines."
"Too late its beauty, lonely thing, the season's shine is spent, nothing remains for it but shivering, in tempests turbulent." He looked at her apologetically. "That's all I recall."
"Yes, yes it is. And if I may be so forthright, Joan," He leaned close to her, caressing her cheek with the back of his knuckles, her skin as soft as the petals, and caught his reflection in her eyes. "You, are most wonderful."
Her breath caught, as they shared a tender kiss.