Claude brings home a spray of baby’s breath on what he calls ‘Valentine’s Day’. “You’re a little young for roses,” he says, laughing, though Leon can’t see what the type of flower has to do with anything (or flowers at all, actually).
Of course, Leon knows about Valentine’s Day in general terms. It’s all anyone around here has been talking about for what seems the past month. And it has something to do with romance, except where it doesn’t, because today the whole class gave each other chocolates.
“Young? What’s that supposed to mean?” He takes the bouquet anyway; it’s a gift from Claude. They’re more delicate-looking than he would assume a guy like him would pick up, these tiny white flowers like bits of lace. Are these the kinds of flowers Claude likes? Are they what he assumes Leon likes? Or does he think they match his character, or appearance in some way? Young... huh.
“Well, you know... a man giving roses to a little boy is kinda...”
“You worry too much.” Maybe they aren’t personal at all. Maybe all they’re meant to be is the complete opposite of a rose. Something purely platonic. Non-sexual. Non-romantic. Leon doesn’t care much for flowers one way or the other, but when he considers the meaning behind the gift, he doesn’t want these. “These were just cheaper, right?”
“Geez, gimme a break.” He laughs again and affectionately tousles his hair as he passes him. “Put ‘em in water, okay? We have an old vase in the kitchen cupboards somewhere.”
Leon does not particularly want to put up this monument to how Claude thinks of him, but cannot bring himself to hurt him by doing otherwise. He grudgingly follows him into the kitchen.
Dinner passes in an otherwise normal fashion. Leon’s eyes keep returning to the vase he washed-out, and the lacy little flowers. Baby’s breath. He’s not a baby. Nor anything so pure as how those flowers look. He might still technically be a kid, but he’s fought by Claude’s side as well as any adult. Better, he’d dare say. But he’s growing. Bit by bit, he’s growing.
If he gave Claude roses, the darkest blood-red he could find, how would he take that? Childish innocence? Or a declaration?
Sometimes at night he dreams. He dreams of Claude’s strong knuckles and fingers, between his legs. He dreams of lying in bed with him, Claude’s bed, so close there’s no space at all between them, naked under the covers. He thinks about those things often while he’s awake, too. When they sit together watching TV he has glanced over at him and wondered what he’d do if he tried to kiss him. How would it feel like to kiss him?
“Is something wrong?”
Oh, he was staring. He’s barely been able to taste his food. Somehow it’s half-gone. “Claude... umm.”
“I don’t have anything to give you. In return, I mean.”
“Aww, come on. You don’t need to get me anything.”
That seems like part of the problem, though. That’s what couples do in general regardless of the day, right? Exchange gifts? “Why not? I’m grown.” He has the funds still from when they all split-up, and the money with them. It’s not like he can’t afford some measly roses. Even if Claude does assume he’s innocent of what such a gift means, it will still be nice to have some vent for his feelings. He will know that he has made himself known, however obliquely.
He doesn’t want ‘obliquely’, either. But when he looks at those tiny white flowers he knows with a sad wave of heartache that it is the only option he has for now.