Okay, CornCob, here's your oneshot. One order of Vincent and Sephiroth in an entirely unlikely location. As for the rest of you...I'm working as fast as I can!
Go vote on my profile! I need a tie breaker here! Second place is in Jeopardy!
"Valentine, there's some guy looking lost over Equatorials. Go see if he needs anything."
"On my way." A tall man wearing a black apron set a box of hand-rakes down and headed for the greenhouse in question. The door slid open, releasing a cloud of humid air. Making a face, he went in.
"He's over there," Mandy whispered, pointing at the hanging baskets of philodendron near the east wall. "He won't talk to me."
Sure enough, there was a rather lost looking individual eyeing a bromeliad on a shelf just beyond the philodendrons. He looked quite out of place, Vincent noted, in his tight jeans, black button-up, and boots. The silver hair that fell past his waist didn't help matters.
"Can I help you, sir?" Vincent offered, taking care to stand just out of reach. The stranger twitched. "Sir?"
"Are you sure? Is there something I can help you with?"
"I'm fine," the stranger growled. He turned to face Vincent, who was momentarily taken aback by the faintly glowing green cat eyes glaring at him.
"If you're fine, then why are you staring at that bromeliad like it's an alien?"
"I've never seen one before," the stranger sniffed. "Now, if you'll excuse me, Mr-" he paused to lean in and read Vincent's nametag. "Mr. Valentine, I am perfectly capable of finding flowers for the porch on my own." He turned to leave. Vincent crushed the urge to laugh and bent to examine the hibiscus beside the bromeliad.
"Unless you live somewhere much closer to the equator, I suggest you move to greenhouse three or four, where most of our perennials and annuals are housed."
"Listen, I don't need your-"
"In fact, I'll show you where they are. This way please." Vincent indicated the door, and his rather irritated companion went.
This was what he'd needed, Vincent mused, leading the way across the complex to greenhouse three. His week –no, the last few months- had gone from bad to worse, and this was just the thing he needed to cheer himself up. There were few things he found more amusing than clueless customers. The fact that this particular one was a handsome man about his age just made it better.
"If it's flowers you're looking for, I'd suggest the geraniums. They're hardy, and the blooms come in several colors. If you deadhead them, they'll bloom consistently," Vincent commented, standing at his victim's shoulder and indicating the far end of the greenhouse.
"Would you just leave?" the man hissed.
"Not until I'm sure you've been properly taken care of. I'm here to help you. Now, what direction does this porch face?"
"Geraniums would work well, then, or spider-plants, if you don't mind plants that will produce copious numbers of babies."
"Spider plants put out offshoots, which form miniature plants that hang on the end of the leaves. They can be removed and planted on their own, or they'll simply continue to grow on the mother plant."
"Is there any way for me to get rid of you?"
"Not really," Vincent answered simply. He'd put up with some tough customers in the past, and the reason he'd been assigned to them was his nearly indestructible calm. "You'll have to be finished."
"Then this is likely to be a very long afternoon. Since we will apparently be spending far too much time together, I'll introduce myself. I am Sephiroth."
"Yes, I know." Vincent decided that, while clueless, Sephiroth was entertaining and therefore a good waste of time. He was going to enjoy this afternoon.
"Why not the hangars that come with the baskets?"
"They're weak plastic, and they will deteriorate very quickly with exposure to the elements. The wire hangars are a much better choice."
"And why can't I use the wicker baskets?"
"Wicker will rot. I recommend these. They stand up to outdoor conditions and have a catch-plate underneath so excess water won't drip all over your porch." Sephiroth gave him a goggle-eyed look for a moment, then nodded as if he understood every word and bent to examine a forest green basket.
"I can't understand why I got sent on this ridiculous mission," he grumbled under his breath.
"Not your project?" Vincent ventured, leaning against one of the shelving supports and watching his charge wrestle two baskets apart.
"Not even close."
"Your girlfriend's, then? Or your wife's?"
"My brother's." Vincent raised one eyebrow.
"Was that a plural?"
"Yes and no. I've got three, but this is the latest DIY project idea of the youngest. Singular possessive, in this case."
"So why are you the one flower shopping?" Sephiroth winced at the mention of 'flower shopping'.
"I'm the only one with a functioning vehicle suitable for transporting plants, and I'm not letting him touch it."
"Just reckless in general. Which color of basket should I get?"
"What color's the rest of the house?"
"Does it matter?" Vincent resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Really. Clueless and hot was one thing, but this clueless had to be illegal.
"It does. As an extreme example, what if your house was violet and you picked hot pink baskets? It would look ridiculous."
"If I lived in a purple house, I'd shoot myself," Sephiroth retorted.
"That's not the point. What color?"
"You don't know what color your house is?"
"You live there, don't you?"
"That doesn't mean I know what color it is."
"Do you have even the slightest idea?"
"No." Vincent sighed and straightened, absentmindedly twisting a couple of kinks out of his spine. Sephiroth followed suit, doing the same to his neck.
"Then you have several options. First off, you can just forget about your project for today and come back when you've figured out what color your house is. Option two involves getting the plants today and coming back for the baskets once you've determined the color of your house. Your final choice is to pick a color at random and hope for the best."
"There's a fourth option," Sephiroth said slowly.
"And what would that be?"
"You can come home with me for dinner and figure out what color the house is on your own. Then the basket problem will be solved."
Vincent forgot what to say for a moment.
"Are you attempting to pick me up?" he asked innocently.
"Of course not. I just want my part in this project to be over as soon as possible." The smirk Sephiroth wasn't bothering to hide said otherwise.
"I don't like to work after hours," Vincent countered.
"Consider this overtime, then."
"I'm not getting paid."
"You get dinner."
"That's supposed to encourage me?"
"I don't get off for a couple of hours."
"I can wait."
"Of course not. I'll find something to do until you're finished."
Vincent hesitated. This sounded good, and he did have an excuse, but…he'd known Sephiroth for, what, two hours?
Might as well give it a shot.
"I get off at 6."
"I'll be waiting."
It had better be a good dinner.
Six o'clock rolled around. Vincent had been checking the clock every few minutes, and when it was finally time to leave, he hit the employee break room at something that might have been a run if he hadn't been jumping over boxes and crates along the way.
This is ridiculous. It's practically a blind date…dear God, it is a date.
Without really thinking about it, he ran his fingers through his hair a couple of times before tying his bandanna. Then it was back over the boxes and crates with the ease of an Olympic hurdler and out into the parking lot.
"Over here!" Vincent looked in the direction of the voice. Sephiroth was leaning out the window of a sleek black pickup. He jogged over. "That was quite a jump."
"You cleared that fountain with at least eight inches to spare and landed at a run."
"You saw that?"
"Is it a hobby, or were you just so eager to meet me?"
"I was so eager to get out of there. I had a family of six after you left. One mother, and five kids between the ages of four and twelve, all of whom were supposed to have a say in her purchases. She wound up handing them over to me and went to pick up planters while I kept track of who wanted what color of what type of flower," Vincent grumbled. "I wanted to throw them into the lily pond."
"Yet you lived to tell the tale. Hop in." Vincent did, allowing Sephiroth to sling his jacket behind the seat.
Vincent, who lived in a small apartment on the outskirts of downtown, was mildly impressed with the house they drove up to. It wasn't like it was some kind of mansion, but it was a well-cared-for two story. It looked a little small to be housing four, but looks could be deceiving. The whole thing was stuccoed in a shade of tan somewhere between caramel and cumin, with a hint of the green that made cumin such an odd color.
"Terra cotta," he said at once.
"Terra cotta. The color you should use for the baskets."
"You actually remembered the baskets?"
"Of course I did. That's why I'm here."
"You're here for dinner."
"That too," Vincent amended, following Sephiroth to the front door. Inside was cool and quiet, at least until Sephiroth announced his arrival.
"Hey! I'm home! I brought company!" His voice echoed slightly, and was answered almost at once by a much lighter voice.
"For dinner?" A slender, willowy young man who looked like a slightly younger Sephiroth followed it almost at once. "I wish you'd warn me." He was wearing a black apron and had a wooden spoon in one hand. "Good thing for you that Loz has a date tonight."
"Yazoo, this is Vincent." Yazoo gave Vincent an appraising look.
"Welcome," he said at last. "Seph, there's a load of laundry that needs folding. I'll show Vincent around while you fold it, okay?" Sephiroth sighed heavily and trudged off around a corner. Yazoo gave a little nod. "That should keep him occupied for a little while. Follow me."
They ended up in the kitchen, Vincent perched on a barstool at the counter while Yazoo tended to a pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove.
"So…where did he find you?"
"Sephiroth tends to find people in the oddest places. He doesn't bring them home very often, though; you must have made an impression."
"The greenhouse." Yazoo raised one eyebrow.
"That's new. I didn't think he'd actually go. After all, Kadaj probably isn't going to finish his project anyway."
"He'll lose interest. I like it, though, so I may finish. How did Seph get you here?"
"I'm supposed to be deciding what color basket will go well with your walls."
"Terra cotta, right?"
"And I'll bet he didn't even think to ask you," Vincent chuckled. Yazoo smiled and shook his head.
"I don't push my luck. I'll rule this house from the sidelines, thanks. No point in getting into trouble. Here, taste." Yazoo offered Vincent a spoonful of sauce. Vincent did as he was told. "Well?"
"'s good," he managed. "Very good."
It was, in fact, the best he'd ever had.
"Yazoo, whose are these?" Sephiroth marched in carrying a pair of lime green socks at arms length. "I've never seen them before."
"Probably Kadaj's. Go up and ask if you're not sure. And before you ask why he can't come down, he's in one of his moods and I didn't feel like going in and getting my head bitten off."
"Want to come?" Sephiroth asked Vincent. Vincent hesitated, then nodded. "Follow me, then, and be ready to run."
"Run?" Vincent repeated as they headed up the stairs.
"Mmhm. Youngest and most bad-tempered brother I've got. His 'moods' are horrible."
"How bad can they be?"
"You've heard the phrase 'hell hath no fury as a woman scorned?"
"Kadaj took lessons from the woman who inspired that phrase. Here we are. Brace yourself."
The door in question had a hazardous waste sign hung on it. Sephiroth knocked, and they waited for a response.
"What?" someone inside asked.
"I need you to ID these socks, Kadaj," Sephiroth said.
"Kadaj," Sephiroth said warningly. Vincent took a careful step back.
"Coming, coming," Kadaj grumbled, and the door opened to reveal a shortish individual with silver hair concealing his right eye. "Who are you?"
"Vincent," Vincent said, somewhat taken aback by the bluntly phrased question that sounded like a shortened version of 'who the hell are you and why are you in my house?'
"He's staying for dinner," Sephiroth added. "Are these socks yours?" He held up the socks. Kadaj took them from him and held them at the toe and heel.
"Do you really think my feet are this big? They're Loz's, unless they're yours."
"Loz's, then. Thank you."
"Dinner's in ten minutes!" Yazoo yelled from downstairs.
"I'd better finish with the laundry," Sephiroth sighed. He took the socks from Kadaj and folded them, then headed back for the stairs. Vincent followed, not sure that he wanted to stay upstairs with the obviously hostile Kadaj. Much to his dismay, Kadaj followed.
"Kadaj, set the table, please."
"Why?" Kadaj asked, slouching against the countertop.
"'cuz Yazzy said so and I'm leaving."
The last member of the household had come in when Vincent wasn't paying attention. He stood near the fridge, leather jacket slung over one arm. Unlike the younger two, he was built along bulkier lines than Sephiroth.
"Seph brought a date home?" he asked, rummaging in the fridge.
"Mmhm. Get out of there, you're leaving soon," Yazoo murmured. "This is Vincent."
"Hi. I'm Loz."
"Pleasure to meet you."
"It's quarter 'til. If you're going to meet her, you should go," Kadaj drawled.
"Right. Have fun, Seph!"
"Go away!" Sephiroth called from the laundry room. Yazoo laughed. "And listen to Yazoo, Kadaj, he's cooking."
Kadaj rolled his eyes and went to set the table. Vincent stifled a laugh and watched.
Dinner was quiet. The only hitch was Kadaj's fault; he should have known better than to put the two people with the longest legs directly across from one another. As it was, Vincent found himself in a perpetual game of footsie, with Sephiroth pointedly looking the other way whenever Vincent tried to give him a look.
Kadaj was roped into helping wash dishes, and Sephiroth led Vincent out onto the porch that was the entire reason he was here. It was wide and comfortable, scattered with a couple of benches, a pogo stick (Vincent didn't ask), and an oversized hammock slung between two posts near the far end. That was where Sephiroth went.
"Watch the sunset with me?" he asked.
"Sure," Vincent murmured, wondering where he was going with it. He leaned comfortably against the nearest post. Sephiroth sighed.
"I meant in the hammock. With me." He was already stretched out and looking quite comfortable.
"Did you really think I invited you here for dinner just to get an opinion on the color of the house?"
"I had no idea as to your intentions. Maybe, if you made things a little clearer, I'd be able to come up with a response you'd like."
"If you get in here with me, I'll come up with a reasonable answer."
"Fair enough. Scoot over."
Vincent climbed into the hammock as carefully as he could and arranged himself beside Sephiroth, who made sure to get one arm under Vincent's shoulders.
"Don't you have something to say to me?"
"Shhh. Wait until the sun goes down."
Vincent obliged, settling against Sephiroth's chest comfortably. His last partner had been smaller than him, and he enjoyed being the one cuddled, instead of doing the cuddling.
The sun went down in a subtle wash of pinks and oranges. Vincent waited until the last trace of gold had faded into purple before speaking.
"You may not want to hear it."
"While my original reason for being at the greenhouses was Kadaj's project, the only reason I stuck around and let you put me through House Plants 101 instead of going home and telling Kadaj where he could stick his projects was because this is my way of trying to start a relationship," Sephiroth said quickly.
"You heard me."
"You just randomly decided that you wanted me, after I was deliberately making fun of you."
"Most people treat me like I'm about to kill them. You didn't. I like that."
"I'm getting points for deliberately being a smartass?"
"That's a first."
"Now that I've admitted my motive…are you interested?"
"Are you being dense on purpose?"
"How did you guess?"
"I have three younger brothers, that's how. Yes or no?"
Sephiroth grinned and pulled Vincent closer.
"Don't you dare get mushy where we can see you," Kadaj hissed from the door to the living room.