A/N – a random little one-shot. I flirt with insanity, but it's not like we're going steady, or anything. I can do normal, too.
Ruby stifles a yawn, turns the page of her magazine. She doesn't really care about the doings of various celebs, but it's the end of a long day, and she can't be bothered to grapple with Henry James.
The store is quiet, this time in the evening. The harried housewives have long gone, back to cook dinner for their families. It is too early for the Big-Game beer runs, the odd thousand yard stare with the munchies. This is the time for the lone shopper, the one who has got halfway through a recipe and forgotten the lemons, elderly locals who like a bit of space and peace, roaming singles checking passing baskets for potential. And the Man in the Suit.
She's seen him in the store before. Difficult to miss him, with that dazzling smile, the slight staginess of his suits. She watches the charm flow from him like maple syrup, as he hands down a carton for old Mrs Vasquez, seventy-six and half-blind. He shops like a single man, but he wears a ring; she wonders if he's divorced. With the tolerant scorn of her twenty-one years, she's watched women of all ages flutter round him, watched him turn them aside gently but firmly. When they are around, he seems to move in an invisible spotlight.
But now, he has no audience. Just a tired man with a sad face, browsing amongst the pasta.
His phone rings, and he pulls it from his pocket. And she watches it happen. That worn face lightens, shoulders straighten.
"Hello, my dear..." He tucks the phone under his ear, examining jars. "Arrabiata or Alfredo?...I know you're working, that's why I need an opinion now...well, don't blame me if you don't like my choice..." He catches her interested gaze, shares a conspiratorial smile, roll of his eyes. "There was no point in my staying any longer. I know he did it. You know he did it. Get someone to go through the trash behind the neighbour's house. Two doors down, left hand side. Now, do you want garlic bread? ...Two stale donuts don't count as food, Lisbon. Do what I tell you, like a good girl, and dinner will be on the table when you get home." Drops his chosen jar in his basket, turns towards the till. "No, of course I'm not going to break in. Credit me with a little subtlety...ooh, they have tiramisu. Just what you need at the end of a long shift... It is Mrs Carson you leave your spare key with, isn't it? Nice woman. Doesn't think you take enough care of yourself..." As the phone makes an agitated buzz, he smiles, mouths 'cranky when she doesn't eat', hands over payment. She smiles back as she bags up for him. "You'll like the wine. Cheeky little number..."
"You, or the wine?" says the phone quite distinctly, and goes dead.
"There's a florist still open round the corner." She tells him as he leaves.
He shrugs, but the smile remains in his eyes.
"It's just dinner with a friend."
"Yeah, right." She grins at him. "You're gonna try and pull off the old candlelit dinner schtick, you gotta have roses."
He just smiles, and leaves her to deal with Mrs Vasquez.
But five minutes later, there is a tapping at the window, and she sees him wave, point at his purchase.
It's a little cactus, with a big red bow on the pot.