Authro's Notes 1: This is a side fic for my Hunt for the Intangible. You should probably read it, or at least read chapter 13.
Author's Notes 2: I use the Hunter's Guide spellings for the characters' names (see my bio page for details), and my characters are based on the comic, not the animated series, so Kurapika does not have blue/green eyes in my fics. This fic takes place a few months after Yorkshin and ignores most of the Greed Island storyline and beyond.
Warnings: Minor language and not-so-subtle sexual innuendo.
As was common these days, Nobunaga found himself cursing his current situation and wondering how the hell he had wound up there. He had been in a lot of tight situations in the past, had faced seemingly impossible odds, and had never felt fear or nervousness. But now, he stood with his fists clenched at his sides and beads of sweat forming on his temples. All from nervousness.
He growled once, took a deep breath, and stepped through the double doors.
He was instantly overwhelmed by the colorful life teeming within. Violets and purples and blues and reds and yellows and oranges and so much green…
Shit, so many bloody colors!
"Hi, can I help you look for something?"
Nobunaga jumped and gave a panicked look. "Huh?" he asked.
"You look a little overwhelmed. I know there's a lot to look at here," the woman smiled. "Why don't you tell me the 'where,' and I'll help you narrow down the choices."
"Huh?" he repeated.
"The 'where.' Indoor or outdoor. Then you'll need to tell me size preference, maintenance preference…" Her tone changed from professional casual to concerned. "Sir, are you okay? You look a bit ill…"
Nobunaga shook himself. "No, yeah, I'm okay. Uh… inside. It's an apartment."
"Indoor plants for an apartment? Would you need a low-maintenance plant? Or will you be able to give it a lot of attention?"
"No, it's not for me. It's for…" Here, Nobunaga faltered. What was he supposed to call the kid?
"Ah, a gift. Does she like flowers? We have some adorable flowering plants in season right now if you'd come this way, sir."
"No, not…" Nobunaga faltered.
Oh, what the hell…
There was no point in correcting the woman. The whole thing was a ridiculous sham anyway.
"No flowers? Then I can show you some nice ferns and a few trees."
"Tree? It's an apartment," Nobunaga repeated, looking at the woman like she was an idiot.
"Yes, sir. We have trees perfect for a small space," the woman said, gesturing towards a door. Nobunaga walked with her reluctantly, stepping through a wide doorway. Just as she had said, there were small trees in two rows, all of them shorter than he was.
"Now, sir, does the apartment get a lot of sunlight?"
"Huh? …I… don't know."
The woman looked surprised. "Oh. Well, does she have any allergies? We can still do a flowering tree if she is not allergic to pollen." She pointed out several trees that really didn't look any different from the others in Nobunaga's uninformed opinion. "This one will have white blossoms in the spring, these two will flower in the summer in red and pink, and this one, as you can see, is just starting to show buds. This one will have white flowers, too, in about another week. You can see what the blossoms will look like on the identification cards." She gestured towards the cards sticking out of each planter.
"No flowers," Nobunaga said tersely. The last thing he wanted to do was "give" the Chain Brat flowers.
"Are you certain? Most women love flowers."
"No flowers!" he repeated, his voice almost a growl.
"Okay, sir, then how about these lovely trees? They're all very low maintenance. These two need very little watering – they're actually very closely related to cacti, as you can tell by the texture of the leaves. Here, feel this."
Nobunaga looked at her in disbelief. The foolish woman wanted him to fondle a plant? "Just tell me a few that are hard to kill. Write their names for me," he said, backing away from the tree he was supposed to be touching.
"Very well, sir. I take it that you won't be taking any plants home today?"
"I just want some… ideas."
"If you narrow it down to a few, we can put them on hold for you for up to twenty-four hours," she said hopefully, clearly not wanting to lose the sale.
Nobunaga shook his head. "Just write them down."
"Yes, sir," the woman responded, pulling a notepad and pen out of her apron. She quickly jotted down a handful of names and handed the sheet to Nobunaga. "Sir, perhaps I can interest you in…"
"No," he interrupted, body already turned away. He passed through the doorway back into the interior of the store and began to make a beeline towards the exit. He froze, however, as a familiar figure stepped into the store.
Shit! What's the Chain Guy doing here!
He ducked behind a colorful display made up of tall buckets of flowers and listened as an employee greeted the blond.
"Hi, can I help you find something?"
"No, thank you. I'd just like to look around for a bit."
Nobunaga grabbed several bunches of flowers in front of his face, and with shoulders hunched, casually eased himself back to the greenhouse.
Only to nearly collide with that damned woman again.
"Oh, you decided on flowers after all," she said delightedly. "Would you like me to ring those up for you?"
"Uh…" He noticed a cash register and another exit on the far side of the greenhouse. "Yeah. Quickly. Gotta go."
The woman followed Nobunaga as he practically ran for the register. She raised both brows as Nobunaga merely threw a handful of bills on the counter and hurried out the door without waiting for her to ring up the purchase.
Or for her to properly wrap the bunches of flowers.
He stood on a rooftop several buildings away, wondering how the hell he wound up holding colorful flowers dripping water onto his sandaled feet. He lifted them above his head, preparing to throw them off the roof, when he was stopped by a voice.
" Going on a date?"
He turned, beginning to unwrap the cloth around his sword until he identified the voice.
"Syar." Had the ass been following him?
"Those are… pretty," the other man grinned. "Are they for someone I know?"
"I… They're not…! I didn't buy them for…" he sputtered. "It's… the Chain Brat…"
"Oh," Syarnorke interrupted delightedly, "you bought them for Curarpikt? How sweet of you."
"NO!" Nobunaga exploded. "You know I wouldn't… I…" He threw up his arms in frustration and shoved the bundle at Syarnorke. "Just, do what you want with them."
He should have been alarmed by the devious look Syarnorke gave him, but he hurriedly turned his back on the man and leapt off the roof, hoping he would never have to look at another plant again.
He took the long way back to their lair, feeling the need to calm down. When he entered the apartment, though, he was bewildered to find Quwrof holding those same damned flowers. The man regarded Nobunaga curiously as Matiy and Syarnorke watched. Chzzck ignored him.
"Nobunaga, while I appreciate the sentiment and wouldn't be opposed to some no-strings-attached mindless carnal action occasionally, I would have been more impressed had you delivered the flowers to me yourself." Then Quwrof shrugged. "Well, never mind. Shall we get on with it, then?"
The swordsman stared at his leader, horrified.
"I'M STRAIGHT, DAMNIT!!!"
He turned and fled the room, barely noting the laughter erupting behind him as he slammed the door.
Back on the other side of the door, Quwrof turned innocent eyes on the group.
"Was it something I said?"