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JayTimBINGO2019: Urban Fantasy Week

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The artist leans over the reception desk, pen lolling between his teeth as he offers a lopsided smile. “Got an appointment, gorgeous?” 

Jason tries not to linger on the dimples in the man’s lower back, exposed above the dark tights that barely cover his hips. “Uh, I think so. A friend booked for me. Under Jason?” 

The man hums, shifting his weight a little as he moves a finger over the ledger. He’s wearing a choker; there’s a blue bird nestled up against his Adam’s apple. 

“You don’t have a computer?” Jason asks when the man exhausts his first page and turns to another. 

He glances up, blue eyes disappearing briefly as he laughs. Jason can see a septum piercing in his nose, glinting under the bright fluorescents. “We try to keep the tech to a minimum. Screws with the energy of the place.” 

“Oh,” Jason responds. He’s not sure whether the guy’s talking about the aesthetic of the tattoo parlour - which seems to be composed almost entirely of shimmering black, red leather and stainless steel - or some more spiritual Feng Shui. 

“Got it; Jason,” the man chirps triumphantly, and strikes a line through the ledger entry before straightening. Jason becomes very aware that the man has both nipples pierced, obvious beneath the broad mesh of his crop top. They’re only accented when the man leans forward onto his palms, spine arching luxuriously. “I can take you through to the back if you’re ready?” 

“Sure,” Jason replies, swallowing past his nerves. He falls into step behind the man’s swaying hips and fixes his gaze pointedly between his shoulder blades. “Are you doing me?” 

The man gives a tinkling laugh, and Jason feels his cheeks heat at the unintentional innuendo. His expression is sympathetic when he responds, “I’m not doing your tattoo, no. But I’m leaving you in very safe hands." 

He rounds on a red lounge chair, blue-painted nails biting into the leather as he beams. 

“Take a seat, get comfy. I’ll send him out in just a minute. Can I get you something to drink?” 

Jason’s throat’s dry as a bone, so he smiles weakly and says, “Yeah, please. Thanks.” 

“Not a problem, gorgeous,” the man replies with a wink, and disappears into a back room. 

He rematerialises with a chilled water bottle after a minute, and even has the decency to chuckle politely when the condensation nearly slides it straight through Jason’s grip as he hands it over. 

“Don’t be nervous,” he advises warmly, and offers one of those blinding smiles that seem to fit so naturally on his features. “Take a moment to take a deep breath, and it’ll be over before you know it. Go ahead and take your shirt off while you wait; your artist will be out in just a moment. If you need anything, I’ll be in the back. Just a holler away.” 

“Yeah,” Jason says with a weak smile. “Thanks.” 

Jason tries to follow his advice. He focuses on settling his rabbiting pulse between intermittent sips of water, and studies the full-length mural that swallows up one wall. It’s some collaboration of art nouveau and graffiti, the sultry figure of a woman wrapped in swathes of fiery locks. Jason’s tracing the auburn curls and striking green eyes with his gaze when there’s a commotion at the door. 

A smaller man emerges from the backroom, nudging a stool in front of him with a mobile workstation in tow. 

He’s got a head of dark hair that swoops down on either side of his brow, not quite managing to hide the sparkle of silver embedded in the ridge of his ear. It’s all bound up in a short ponytail that looks entirely haphazard and makes the rise of his cheekbones all the more prominent. Jason drags his gaze down before he can get stuck on the man’s plush lips. 

He stalls out when he reaches the man’s arms. They’re entirely covered in tattoos, and it takes Jason a spare moment to look past the mottled black ink to see the actual designs. There’s a songbird across his right shoulder, half-feather and half-bone. The exposed parts of its ribcage that Jason can see have delicate little flowers growing in them. His entire left arm seems to be a tribute to a space opera, figures superimposed and blotting out the paleness of his skin. There’s a runic quote on the side of his throat, up under his jawline, but Jason can't make it out. 

There’s a dragon curled around one of his collarbones, parts of the design left blank to give the impression that it’s hooked under the bones. The rest of his chest from the collarbones down is startlingly bare, but it just serves to emphasize the bulk of the tattoos. Jason doesn't spot another lick of dark ink until he reaches the rise of the man’s hipbones. 

He’s wearing a thin black strip of what Jason supposes classifies as a shirt, that leaves the sweep of his ribcage and abdomen entirely bare, until it reaches the hem of his leather pants. Jason, against his better judgement, wonders absently if his nipples are pierced like the other man’s. 

He tries to school how unbearably hot his face feels as the man drops down onto the stool, leather creaking as he lifts a pair of pale, ice-blue eyes up. 

“You’re my two o’clock?” he confirms, and Jason nods dazedly. 

He hooks a heel up into the footrest Jason’s neglecting, tugging on a set of black gloves with rigorous fluency. Jason tries not to swallow at the sharp snap of rubber. He’s not sure he succeeds. 

The man’s hand flashes out, planting itself on the red leather between Jason’s spread knees, and he flinches despite himself at the suddenness of the motion. His other hand reaches up to direct Jason’s chin higher, exposing the sleek expanse of his throat. It feels unbearably vulnerable beneath his interrogative gaze. 

There’s a complicated series of sharp, severe lines seared across the inside of the man’s wrist. It’s distinct from the rest of his sleeve, and Jason suspects it’s more utilitarian than the decorative embellishment painted over his pale skin. He tries to focus on that and not the soft sweep of his exhale over Jason’s exposed collarbones. 

He inspects Jason’s throat and decolletage, the blunt of his thumb tracing the unblemished skin. Jason feels heat rise to his cheeks at the soft, unassuming touch. 

“You’ve got great bone structure,” the man murmurs, half to himself. Jason gives a choked, stilted little laugh at that. It’s ringing with embarrassment and very slight hysteria, and the man glances up. 

God, his eyes are depthless. His lips quirk very slightly, dark brows pinching in soft concern. “Not getting cold feet on me, are you?” 

“No,” Jason answers quickly, and when that doesn’t sate the man, he distracts him with, “What’s your name?” 

“Timothy,” he answers, humour sparkling in his gaze, and Jason rues how those blue eyes glimmer like a lake under the fluorescents. Eyes shouldn’t be able to do that. “But it’s better luck to call me Tim.” 

“Tim?” Jason repeats, a little breathless. Is this was being stunned feels like? Is this some sort of hex? 

The man - Tim - gives a snorted chortle, adjusting his stool a little beneath him as he sits back. The arched dip of his lower back is some cursed temptation, and Jason desperately avoids it. “Witches are superstitious; surely you knew that, hmm?” 

Jason nods without really being sure why. 

Tim shrugs, “It’s mathematics. ‘Tim’ is more balanced than ‘Timothy’.” 

“Why does that equate to good luck?” Jason asks with a frown as the man straightens in his chair, smile curling now that Jason’s actively engaging him. His midsection flexes as he does, the ink there shifting beneath the light like a flame. Jason makes the mistake of glancing down, drinking in those abdominals, before yanking his gaze back up with a flush of colour. 

Tim’s teeth are peeking from his crooked half-grin, and Jason feels like he’s burning. “It’s there to look at, darling. I don’t mind you staring.” 

“I’m not-” Jason chokes, and loses that argument immediately when Tim crooks a knowing brow. Jason swallows and resolves to calm down. His eyes flick down to Tim’s wrist, where his fingers curl around the edge of the lounge. “What’s that mean?” he asks with a nod. 

Tim lifts his palm, a little surprised, and inspects the mark with a fond twist of his lips. “It means ‘stability’. It’s to keep my hand steady when I draw.” He flexes the limb, crooking his gloved hand back and forth in the light. Jason follows it with baited, short breaths. “Was one of my first, actually.” 

“Smart.” Jason flushes when he realises he said that aloud. “I didn’t mean- that is- that seems well thought-out,” he stammers as Tim holds his gaze, curious. “To be your first. So your others... would be…” 

He clears his throat awkwardly, glancing down, but Tim’s canines are chewing at his lip, and Jason thinks he might be amused. 

“Thank you for the compliment,” he says smoothly, and reaches over to his cart to lift a pen from its stainless steel surface. Then he pauses, setting his elbows on the edge of the cushioned lounge and sprawling forwards to drape his arms over the leather, wrists crossed. “So, you got an intention in mind?” 

Jason blinks. “Intention?” 

Tim shrugs. “If you’re going for a runic incantation, you’re going to need an intention behind it. It’s the glue that holds an incantation together. Direction, intention, commitment - those are your building blocks. So what are you looking to achieve, darling?” 

Jason is beginning to hate how that word makes his toes curl in his boots. Or maybe he doesn’t hate it, and that’s why it does things to him. God, those lips look unbelievably soft- 

“Protection,” Jason blurts, and Tim stares at him. 

“Specifically?” he prompts when Jason lets the silence lull. 

“What do you mean?” 

Tim cocks his head to the side, and Jason watches some of his fringe shift to segment one dark brow. “‘Protection’ is a bit broad. Is there something you were looking to use it against? Or someone?” Tim adds after a moment’s thought. 

“Just a generic spell,” Jason offers. “The usual kind of stuff.” 

“What’s usual for you, darling?” 

Jason swallows and tries to focus. Forces himself to attempt a casual shrug. “Muggings, pick pockets - the usual Gotham bullshit.” 

Tim hums, assessing him. “You live in a rough neighborhood, darling?” 

“Isn’t it a rough city?” Jason corrects, and an amused chuckle rumbles high in Tim’s throat. He straightens from his lean, that catlike arch disappearing from view. 

“That’s a fair statement. Gotham’s not the most forgiving terrain.” His brows scrunch briefly, nose pulling up. “Fucking terrible ley lines, too. But that’s neither here nor there.” 

That perks Jason’s interest. “How so?” 

Tim looks mildly surprised, but he shrugs and offers, “Gotham’s built entirely over water. No solid foundations. Fucks with the integrity of the city. It’s… untethered. Unhinged.” 

Jason thinks of the monolith of a city slowly sinking into the bay. “That makes sense. Explains why it’s so chaotic, I guess?” 

“Chaotic is a good word,” Tim says, smiling entirely with his eyes. Then he lifts the pen to his lips and bites down onto the cap, yanking it free. “So you want to avoid a mugging.” 

“Muggings,” Jason clarifies, and Tim huffs that little laugh again. 

“Right, muggings. Plural. How’s ‘protection from ill sight’ sound, darling?” 

“How’s that work?” 

“Keeps the evil eye off you,” Tim offers solemnly, and reaches forward to wrap a hand around the side of Jason’s neck. He doesn’t realise it’s to guide him forwards until the hand retracts and Jason realises he’s compliantly leaned forward over Tim. The gloved palm slides down to brace on his pectoral, fingers hitched into his collarbone like he’s a canvas Tim’s holding steady. “It’ll make you less of a target for bad intentions. It’s not infallible, but it’s a good blanket charm.” 

The felt of the pen tip is warm where it glides over Jason’s bared skin, but he breaks out in gooseflesh anyway, startled by the intensity of Tim’s stare. He’s just so damn close; Jason can feel that proximity itching in his veins. 

Tim frowns a little as he works, rolling his lips around beneath his teeth in what Jason suspects is an absent gesture. He certainly doesn’t acknowledge when he sits back and drinks in the whole of Jason's chest, gaze flicking to integral points that Jason can’t see. He feels overheated. 

“You looking for just the straight incantation, or are you after something decorative to cover up the runes?” he asks matter-of-factly, and Jason blanches. He hadn’t even considered the specifics of the tattoo's design, honestly. 

He finds his voice when Tim’s blue gaze rises to meet his. “Uh, the runes are fine on their own. Why would I want to cover them?” Jason adds after a moment's contemplation. 

Tim shrugs. “Some people like to hide them. Some people like having that sort of secret, like having something to hold over someone else.” 

Jason digests that while Tim touches up his design. “Can I frame it?” 

Tim pauses, arching a brow. When he sits back, Jason can discern a surprised gratitude to his expression. “That’s a pretty big compliment, darling.” 

Jason shrugs carefully. “Well, it’s a protection spell, right? That sort of makes you my guardian angel,” he says with a hesitant laugh. He feels a coil of embarrassment once the silence lulls, but when Jason glances down, there’s a faint flush to Tim’s cheeks. 

He clears his throat, capping the pen and reaching out to drag his workstation closer. The pen clatters loudly on the tray, and Jason watches Tim fiddle with the items on it, straightening them absently. “So, uh, framing then. You got something specific in mind, or…?” 

Jason shakes his head, feeling some of the tension wash out of his shoulders as he leans back in the chair. “I trust your judgement. Give me what you think is best.” 

Tim nods at that, chewing his lips as he pulls items from his workstation and starts setting up. He tears open a disinfectant swab, squeezing it between his gloved fingers before he leans forward and swipes dutifully at Jason’s chest. 

Tim raises his voice slightly, the tone forcibly casual as he projects towards the back room, “Hey Dick? I need a favour.” 

The man from earlier reappears with a hum of curiosity, sauntering around to inspect Jason’s design. He pauses with his hands on his hips, looking impressed. “It’s neat. Good time lapse too; gives it a potentially infinite recurring effect,” Dick offers Jason conspiratorially, winking. 

“Huh?” Tim says, glancing over from his tray with a frown. “Oh yeah, that, right. Hey, can you do a palm reading for Jason here?” 

Dick stares at him for the barest moment, that gaze calculating, before he grins and folds into acquiescence. “Yeah, sure,” he replies, and holds out an upturned palm, fingers wiggling. “Can I borrow your hand, gorgeous?” 

Jason doesn’t miss when Tim’s brow hitches slightly at the epithet, but he turns to face Dick anyway, laying his right hand into the man’s. 

“Oh,” Dick croons, weighing his palm with a coy smile. “That’s one assertive aura. You sure this is your hand, kitten?” 

Jason flushes, and Tim clears his throat less than surreptitiously. Dick just chuckles and folds over Jason’s hand, the flat of his thumb circling the meat of his palm. Jason can sense Tim ratcheting tighter with every interested hum that presses between Dick’s lips. 

“Well?” he asks after a few moments. Then he knocks Jason’s chin up with a gentle, crooked knuckle, tattoo gun in hand. Jason holds pliantly still as the needle bites into his flesh, and only flinches minutely beneath the pain. He can feel the gun moving, dragging slowly across his chest, just below his collarbone. 

“You’ve got one hell of an interesting life line,” Dick says with broad appreciation. Jason has to fight the urge to look over at his upturned palm, as if he's going to find a recount of his life inscribed on his hand. 

Tim makes an interested, high-pitched noise at that, eyes glued to his work. It takes a few measured minutes but then he asks, in a mild and casual tone, “And, uh, his love line?” 

It strikes Jason then, exactly what Tim is trying to do. He feels a grin curl in his mouth, and the twist of Dick’s lips - like he’s fighting back a smile - tells him as much. 

“Oh,” Dick replies loftily, “standard stuff. But- Oh, no, wait, there’s-” Dick’s fingers sure on Jason’s wrist, tugging it closer for inspection. If he hadn’t caught the grin that preceded it, Jason could almost buy into Dick’s astonished expression. 

“What?” Tim presses after a solid fifteen seconds silence. He sounds just the barest bit desperate. 

Dick gasps, and Jason studiously focuses on not laughing, if only so he doesn’t disrupt Tim’s work. “Oh, yeah, I can see someone in your future.” 

Tim stiffens beneath him, but his expression remains neutral and unreadable as he traces his lines over Jason’s chest. 

Jason watches Dick nod surely to himself. “Someone mysterious. A stranger. Dark features. Hmm, some trust issues, a little withdrawn. A recluse, maybe? But nothing too concerning.” 

Tim hasn’t shifted, and Jason feels like he’s holding glass in his throat with how difficult it is to keep his laughter in. 

“Oh, shit. They’re very talented, lucky you. With an eye for detail. And, oof, one hell of an ass. Much taller than you though, Tim, at least seven whole feet taller than your shortass.” 

It’s a testament to his professionalism that Tim doesn’t even waver from his work. His features do descend into a thunderous scowl though, a blush rising to the tips of his ears as Dick cackles. 

“I need a minute,” Jason forces out finally, and Tim sits back with a huff of frustration so that Jason can double over and laugh, chest heaving. When he manages to get his mirth under control, Tim is a bright red, and glaring daggers at Dick. 

“You’re an ass,” he snaps, and Dick flicks at one of Tim’s loose strands. He hurriedly smooths it back into its short ponytail with a glower. But he looks reticent, so Dick leaves him be. 

“Don’t ask me to divine whether or not a guy’s interested in you just from his palm,” Dick counters, and Tim purses his lips, shoulders hunching somewhat. 

“You could have asked,” Jason points out, and Tim frowns to himself. 

“Yeah,” he admits, somewhat sheepishly. “So could you.” 

Jason blinks. “Okay then. Can I take you out to-” 

Dick mouths ‘coffee’ behind Tim, and Jason recovers with the barest hitch. 

“-coffee?” he asks with a beaming smile, and Tim perks at that. 

“I could use a coffee,” he admits thoughtfully. 

“Great!” Jason chirps. “How about after you finish doing me, we grab a coffee?”  

Tim blinks at him, a little startled, and Jason nearly smacks a palm into his forehead at the repeat innuendo. Then a smile tugs at Tim’s lips, and Jason’s sinking into those glimmering blue eyes. Tim spins on Dick with a fiery gleam. “You’re covering my shift,” he orders, shooing him off. 

“Sure thing,” Dick calls over his shoulder. “Just make sure you use proper protection; that spell doesn’t cover everything, kids.”

Chapter Text

Living above his landlord is a small form of torture. Possibly comparable to a short stint in hell, and Tim's honestly in despair. 

He's exhausted all his options. He'd taken up the ad and rented the apartment two months ago now. Signed onto the lease almost immediately, and he's only now regretting it. 

He hadn't rushed into it. He'd done the legwork. Inspected the second storey apartment. Wandered through the neat bedroom, the additional study nook (and where can you get a one-and-a-half bedroom suite anywhere in Gotham these days), fiddled with the appliances in the kitchen while his now-landlord had informed him the apartment was completely as is, hardware included. Or unfurnished, if that's what he preferred. He was flexible. 

Flexible, he'd said. Like some sort of asshole. Like some sort of asshole who hadn't noticed the way Tim had been spending as much of the inspection dragging his gaze over those considerable thighs and narrow waist. Or those cords of muscle he called his arms. Or those pretty lips or those prettier eyes, and fuck him. Flexible. Tim had wanted to die. 

He hadn't. But he had signed the lease. Almost the instant the guy had offered to show him the paperwork. He'd read it (skimmed it) so he wasn't entirely a fool. It wasn't his first apartment, afterall. 

And this place was considerably nicer than his last abode. Even ignoring the hunk of walking eye-candy that called himself Tim's landlord, the apartment was neat, tidy and above all else, a steal for the price. 

When Tim had asked why the place wasn't already under lease in a tone that simultaneously questioned if his landlord was a hexer, the man had shrugged and offered a sincere, "Not everyone likes living above a florist's shop." 

Tim didn't mind, for the record. Hadn't minded, that is. The man was a botanist witch, the kind who boasted permanent green thumbs and dabbled in the art of resurrecting plantlife from the brink of death. Tim had always been objectively shit at keep anything that breathed alive (even those fucking sea monkeys), so his go-to at age five had been a pet rock. Literally, a rock, because Tim specialised in crystalism. 

Not nearly as mystical as any of the other witch enclaves would have you believe. But Tim could identify a geode by hue alone, and when he managed to get his hands on a quartz or a cyclosilicate, they breathed for him. 

His landlord had offered to give him a tour of the shop, nestled beneath Tim's front balcony and living room. Had shown him the rows of hydrangeas and gladiolus that he had been meticulously growing for the past two months. Tim had nodded along and smiled at the bright wonder on the man's face, and thought about how lovely he'd look with a necklace of spinel draped over his collarbones. 

Tim wondered if he'd let him gift him something like that, or if botanist witches didn't like inanimate things clutching at their throats. From what Tim knew of botanists, they wrapped themselves in vines and petalled crowns, wore soft pastels or ecologically sourced hemp, and spoke softly of nature and its inexorable bond. 

His landlord didn't look like he wore pastels. Or that he spoke softly, other than to murmur gently into the buds of his agapanthus. He wore dark shades of clothing that made his bright red tulips pop like blood, and Tim could picture him at home in a line of protestors, bellowing incessant at the tracks of a sabotaged bulldozer, furiously demonstrating for the preservation of the larger Newark basin. 

He does wear a septum piercing though, with a single bead of red jasper hanging from the sparkling silver. When he'd worn it for the first time, casually leaned up against his counter with a cup of tea and a book on Cronquist's system laid out beneath his steady palm, Tim had nearly melted into a puddle of hormones and sentimentality at the sight of it. 

Jasper. Jasper. He's almost certain the man had no idea why Tim had pulled a sharp 180° out of his shop at tremendous speed, the broken pieces of his electronic kettle clenched tight in his palms. He's still hopeful the man hadn't heard his embarrassed, choked squeak before he'd managed to duck through the wooden beaded curtain and out of sight. 

The poetry had been worse. Tim had been alternating between carving a figurine out of jade and sipping his rose tea in the study nook at the back of the house, when he'd overheard murmuring in the pokey little garden below. Had made the egregious mistake of leaning over to the slightly open window to glance down. 

His landlord had been tilted back in a weatherworn leather jacket, book in-hand and eyes half-lidded, a lackadaisical ease to his sprawl. Cracking the window further had allowed the softly purred words to filter up to Tim - one of Wilde's poems - as Jason had leaned towards his blooming daffodils, a curl of a smile on his lips. 

Tim had been tilted so far over he'd fallen off his chair, smacking his elbow on the wooden sill as he'd collapsed to the timber floor below. He'd howled before he could think better of it, sharp pain slicing up through his ulna as he'd hastened to collect himself. He'd bitten into his lip too, hoping to disguise his snooping as he collected the contents of his desk he'd dragged off in his scramble for balance. Tim hadn’t been game to show his face downstairs for at least a week, and his landlord had been kind (or pitying) enough not to mention it, even once. 

But then things had taken a turn for the worse. 

His stint in hell had culminated into truly unbearable the morning Tim had woken up with every last inch of his sinuses fused shut. It'd taken him the better part of the morning to realise it was not hayfever, which he'd been lucky enough to never be partial to, but an allergic reaction. 

It'd taken him most of a sniffling, sneezing, beleaguered week to work out he was allergic to one of his landlord's plants. And then Tim had felt the first inklings of despair, because which one was giving him grief? 

The man had at least twenty varieties, and rotated them frequently. For the first week, Tim had resigned himself to waiting for whichever malevolent genus that was hellbent on suffocating him to be shuffled out of the shop downstairs. Rationally, it would have to fall out of season eventually. Tim just had to wait. 

He'd only been able to bear it a week. No amount of strategically arranged crystals had been enough to offset the ailment, though he'd tried. Tim had had so much amethyst clogging every counter of his apartment that the vibrating, concentrated frequency had kept him awake two nights in a row. 

The next morning he'd slumped downstairs and paid for the first bouquet in sight, brushing off his landlord's concern with, “Oh, just one of the flus going around. I'll be right as rain before you know it.” 

And the man had smiled encouragingly and handed over his pot of hibiscus. Tim had tried his best not to dissolve into a puddle of snot and nerves. He'd succeeded, mostly. 

But now he’s seventeen bouquets down, and rapidly exhausting his options for determining the culprit. Most of the unfortunate plants are in varying stages of terminality. Tim never thought he'd have to work out a failsafe way to smuggle the shrivelled remains of plant corpses out with the trash, but apparently this is just how his life is now. It'd only taken a short, overheard rant from his landlord to the daffodils about the inexcusable neglect of plantlife for Tim to turn into a full-blown compost-smuggling criminal. 

His landlord, for the most part, seems supportive of Tim’s sudden intense interest in all things plant. 

“I didn’t think your kind were the type to, you know,” he admits sheepishly, scrubbing the back of his neck in a way that channels Tim’s gaze directly to his curled bicep, “take an interest in the living.” 

“Who? Crystal witches?” Tim asks, and snorts. And then swears and scrambles for the nearest tissue box. “I like to try new things,” he continues once he’s gotten his nose under control and the blushing down to a minimum, “Broadening my horizons and all that.” 

“Maybe you’d like a daffodil bud this time then?” 

“Oh, uh. Sure. Why?” 

"Rebirth," comes the cryptic answer. "New beginnings." The man smiles. “I keep a private garden of them. I can give you an offcut next time I prune them if you’d like?” 

Tim manages a tittering laugh, and picks at the bracelet of cut amethyst on his wrist. He’s taken to wearing it most days, if only to stave off the lesser of the symptoms, like, oh, his eyes sewing themselves shut. “Yeah, sure. Sounds great. But, uh, in the meantime, I should probably buy another bouquet.” 

He casts around the shop, gaze skimming the rows and rows of plants. He mentally ticks off the ones that have occupied his dining table, and comes up with a surprisingly short list of potential culprits. His landlord watches him with silent intrigue, gaze boring into Tim as he scans. 

“It’s the lavender.” 

Tim blinks, turning back to face him. “What?" 

He waves a hand in Tim's general, congested direction, nonplussed. "It's the lavender." 

The man produces a bundle of tall purple bristles that immediately agitate the amethyst around Tim’s wrist. He snatches his hand back when his landlord sets the vase on the counter, glowering. 

“The fuck is up with those flowers?” Tim demands, massaging his afflicted wrist. The amethyst hums irritably against his pulse until Tim tucks the limb into his chest. 

His landlord looks vaguely exasperated as he strokes up the stem of one of the flowers, his mouth flattening into a terse line. Tim can’t help his lips curling back at the doting affection. 

“Is this what’s set you off?” 

Yes,” Tim hisses, and eyes the plant distrustfully. 

The man hums, amused, and crooks an eyebrow at him. “I’m amazed it took you that long to work it out. If I'd realised, I would have just told you sooner. Thought you'd be brave enough to just ask me outright."  

Tim’s stomach swoops, a chill lacing up his spine. He tries for acting dumb. “I don’t know what you’re-” 

“It’s been three weeks,” the man says with a hint of sympathy. “You’ve bought nearly a bouquet a day for three weeks. I appreciate you taking an interest in my flowers, I really do. But why didn’t you just ask me? I could have sorted out your allergy much sooner.” 

“How long have you known?” Tim ventures. 

“About the allergies, or that it was the lavender?” the man asks. 

Neither, Tim thinks, and eases a surreptitious sigh of relief. “First one.” 

“Worked it out about three bouquets in. No one buys exotics and blossoms back-to-back. And I’m hard pressed to believe you know the meanings of those flowers. Last week you bought tulips.” 

Tim can feel his pulse jumping in his throat. “What do tulips mean?” he asks cautiously, and watches a crooked grin spread across the man’s lips, some of his teeth peeking through. 

He busies himself with tucking the lavender beneath the counter, crouching down as he calls loftily, “Oh, you know, it’s a romantic flower. Traditionally, a declaration of love.” 

Tim flushes in a way that makes his nose and eyes ache. He winces. “Okay, so, maybe I could have been a little more pragmatic about it. Point taken. But that doesn’t mean-” 

“Do you have a girlfriend?” his landlord asks mildly, straightening again. 

“No,” Tim answers with a frown. 

“A boyfriend?” 

No,” Tim presses, defensive. 

His landlord leans an arm up on the counter, resting his chin into his palm. Tim notices the red jasper is back in his nose. He looks mischievous and smug, like he’s caught Tim out in a lie. “Then why are you buying love flowers from me?” 

Tim opens his mouth to protest, narrows his eyes and demands, “Why are you wearing jasper?” 

The man blinks, startled. Tim can’t tell in the moment whether he’s surprised or defensive. His tone is definitely indignant when he retorts, “What of it?” 

“It’s a virility stone,” Tim snaps, and watches a flush light the man up from his cheekbones to the tips of his ears. “Improves stamina, stimulates energy, invigorates passion.” Something occurs to him, then. “And you’ve been wearing jasper since I moved in. I only picked up the tulips last week.” 

The man looks flustered, and a scowl pulls his brow into sharp relief. “I didn’t- So what if-” He grunts, frustrated, and his green-blue eyes flash when he demands, “So are you gonna ask me?” 

This time it’s Tim’s turn to stammer. “Ask you what?” 

His landlord looks a little panicked, swallowing hard as that irate bravado wanes. “You know, ask me if I wanna…” 

Tim can feel the heat crawling up to the tips of his ears. Prays that it’s not too noticeable with how flushed he is already. His landlord’s gaze flicks up to them, and then he swallows thickly, and Tim think he might have failed. 

“Ask me if I want to-” his landlord repeats, and then blurts, as if it’s causing him physical pain to do so, “Ask me out?” 

Tim can feel the sodalite stone on his belly button ring working overtime with the effort of calming his roiling stomach. His mouth falls open, but he can’t get the words out around the lump of coal in his throat. 

His landlord blanches, washing pale with realisation when Tim hesitates. “Oh god,” he mumbles, brow pinching. “Oh jeez, I- Did I read too deeply into this? Am I the only-?” 

Tim should say something. Something reassuring, probably. 

“Fuck, shit, I’m sorry,” the man is babbling, raising his hands in a tight surrender as he puts distance between them. “And I- God, I’m your landlord, shit, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to- to assume-” 

“I,” Tim wrangles out of his unresponsive throat. 

“Let’s just pretend this never happened,” his landlord stammers, and Tim’s gut clenches in panic. The sodalite is thrumming now. “Forget I said anything. I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable and I-” 

“Like you,” Tim blurts, and the man pauses. Tim absently wonders if a boulder could fall from the sky and crush him right now, so he wouldn’t have to deal with laying himself bare for his really hot landlord. “I like you.” 

“You,” the man breathes, the air rushing from him in a stunned exhale, “do?” 

“Maybe,” Tim squeaks. 

A small, tentative smile flickers across the man’s lips, before he smothers it, glancing down. His cheeks flush a vibrant ruby though, and Tim feels electricity coil in his veins. “Okay, well. Do you want to go out on a date?” 

Tim feels like his head’s spinning. He really ought to stay more grounded. He makes a mental note to invest in some charoite before their- “A date?” Tim repeats. 

“Yeah, if you’re interested,” the man says, glancing up at him through his lashes. God, maybe he doesn’t need any grounding stones; his landlord’s eyes are a near-perfect shade of charoite blue. 

“I’d love to,” Tim answers breathlessly, and the smile that he gets in response does more for his headache than a metric ton of amethyst ever could. “Where did you want to go?” 

“We could go on a picnic?” the man suggests hesitantly, searching for a reaction. “I figured something outdoorsy would suit you more, being a crystalist and all.” He smiles, and then a flash of panic lights up his features. “But if that’s not your thing, I’m absolutely fine with doing something inside like reading, or games. I didn’t mean to assume-” 

“A picnic sounds fantastic,” Tim bleats, stalling his rabbling. “I know a place near some rock pools?” 

Tim nearly kicks himself. Like a botanist witch is going to be interested in hearing him babble about intertidal rock formations for hours. Do any flowers even grow around rock pools? 

But the man gives him an even broader, blinding grin, and replies, “That sounds great. Tuesday work for you? I can close the shop up for the day.” 

Tim feels himself blush. “Okay, yeah, Tuesday. Yeah, Tuesday works great for me.” 

“Awesome,” the man breathes, and then straightens from his lean on the counter. “I’ll pick you up at ten? Are you okay with motorcycles?” 

Of course he owns a motorcycle, Tim thinks as his mind wanders to the thought of his legs wrapped over the man’s broad thighs, pressed up against that narrow waist and those biceps and the muscle while they fly down the coastline- 

He nearly knocks the vase of hyacinths over in his haste to backtrack to the door. “Yeah!” Tim says at the man’s confused frown. “Yes, I’m- I love motorcycles. I just- I’ve just remembered I have somewhere to be, so I have to run. I’ll call you! Or, just come downstairs, I guess. I’m- I’m gonna go now.” 

His landlord gives him a lopsided grin, looking like he’s swallowing down laughter. “See you at ten on Tuesday then.” 

“Ten on Tuesday,” Tim repeats with a nod, and has to detangle himself from the strings of wooden beads in the doorway before he can make a hasty escape. “See you then!” 

“It’s a date,” his landlord chuckles. 

It’s not until Tim’s upstairs in his living room that he realises he didn’t even remember to ask the man’s name.