Midori & Never
A Collaborative Love Story by K.C & Anecia
The tiny flower ship on 902 Brady Street was the pride and joy of the town.
It was small and quaint, the kind of town that had one library and one college and one coffeeshop. One of everything. Houses older than some of the trees were. Decades-old slave plantations to tour, cathedrals that had never had additions built upon them in centuries, first editions of books only the locals would ever read.
Only one thing was new: the flower shop that had been there for nearly a year.
Some determined, zealous, tenacious upstart of a girl had purchased the area--the store before it had been closed for years with no takers. Straight out of a prestigious university from an equally prestigious family, but nobody would have guessed it upon looking at her. The flowers were, arguably, the most beautiful in the western region. She swore that she was a "plant doctor".
After two months of living there she had also opened it as a tae kwon do studio of sorts, offering her home in the upstairs attic area, a studio, as a practice area. The takers were mainly children and kids in the local gangs. The city was pretty divided among those violent groups, but it had become an unspoken rule that her shop was neutral ground, that it was not to be fought on.
The patrons of her shop noticed that some teens would show up on her doorstep, some bloody and bruises, other in tears, and she would let them stay as long as they needed. Some hours. Some days. Some weeks. How she had the money for this, nobody really knew. But she wasn't hurting anyone, so nobody ever complained, either. There were some regulars, and after some initial wariness, they became relatively comfortable in this safe haven owned by that odd girl.
It was a strange sort of peace, but nobody questioned it. She kept to herself, the gangmembers kept to themselves, and the city elders turned a blind eye. Their pride and joy, the liberal arts college of the town, a secret gem, was just a block away, and she found herself entertaining college students there many a time. Helping boys pick out bouquets, and girls make their new dorms more homey. Whatever was needed of her.
As long as it paid her salary. And had enough extra cash for groceries and first aid kits for those knuckleheads who had decided to make a home away from home.
And so she was kept busy.
But that was all about to change, because somebody--not quite human, not quite non-human, a fluid concept in itself, not singular at all--showed up in the town, and everything was different.***
It had been less than a week since he'd moved to this town with his cousin Ken. The albino lad didn't have the strength to stay in Ravenna, Italy anymore ever since sinister Hessian had took his time torturing him to near death. Never -so willing to help Ken heal- hadn't argued when Ken told him that he wanted to move to smaller town that he'd never even heard of.
They'd bought a house that was like the black sheep of the others--alone and isolated, with a bit of a slope to reach it. Rumors naturally began to spread about the two, but the only one who ever blew a gasket about it was Never. Ken was far too broken to care about petty rumors. After all, he hardly even left the house, so the town only knew of Never as he skulked through the area, glaring back at anyone who dared to look at him.
Today he opted to take a stroll by himself and told Ken not to wait up for him. He was clad in a simple red t-shirt, blue faded jeans and black steel toed boots. Upon his typically wild chestnut hair was a black baseball cap with the letter N stitched in red thread.
He had a unlit cigarette to his lips, hands behind his head as he strolled through the town in search of something to do. He'd remembered overhearing something about a flower shop and thinking of how much Ken loved Chrysanthemums and Zinnias, decided to go straight there to see if they even sold those flowers. He could sense about four faint energy signatures behind him, belonging to human boys no less. He heard the swoosh of a metal bat being swung through the air and another being dragged across the pavement.
As tempting as it was to turn around and deal with those four head on, he'd already made it up in his mind that getting those flowers for Ken was more important. So, he picked up the pace until he was but a mirage to the four. It was long until he came barreling through the door of the flower shop, expression etched with annoyance and his scarlet oculars a blazing candle light of pure rage. His gaze shifted edgily, the grimace on his face gradually becoming larger as he did.
Now there was a sight.
Honey blonde hair, a sun-kissed face spattered with freckles, serious grey eyes, hands stained with dirt, stood the owner, probably around the boy's age himself. A tattoo of a katana stretched down the length of her open-backed shirt along her spine, and her arms and collarbone were sprinkled with little symbols. She wore a pink shirt, shorts, and a very dirty art smock.
Peeling off her gloves, her braid swished back and forth as she approached, not at all put off by his angry demeanor.
His expression, though, made her frown. And then she exhaled. "Ah. Make yourself at home, will ya? I'll take care of the riffraff." As if she'd read his mind, the girl moved along past him to address whoever had followed the dark-haired guy here. Ushering for Never to look around, she headed out the front door, leaving it cracked.
Most of the gang members had ended up in her shop one way or another. She knew almost all of them. So she did not waiver.
"Midori Usagi," one of the boys with the bats started, recognizing her on sight.
"You boys know the drill. Unless you're here for a purchase, lessons, or tea, you guys've gotta get off my lawn."
"If you only--"
"Care even less. Aren't you supposed to be in school? Beat it. Don't make me tell you again." There was a dangerous glimmer in her eyes; the boys muttered, and when she took a step toward them, they cursed and scattered. All but one, anyway, who lingered.
Midori watched him. "How's your mom?"
The kid shrugged. "Better, I guess. Thanks for the herbs. I'll pay you back sometime."
"No need, I'm just glad she's okay. Finish that book?"
"Come back when you do, I'll give you the sequel. Now scat." With a grin, she turned and moved back into her shop, stretching. "Riffraff dealt with~" Gliding across the hardwood floors, she went to check on one of her spider-plants, checking the wilting leaves with care before picking up some sort of spice from the counter. "You must be new around here," she addressed Never again, without looking at him. "It's nice to meet you! Most of the people here are locals, born and raised, same with their entire family, like, ever. You're the first out-of-town face I've seen in forever. I'm Midori." The botanist looked up, not quailing at all under his heavy gaze, though his amber eyes did pique her interest. Who had red eyes? Maybe colored contacts?
"Fuck, you talk a lot." Was the first, verbal thought that escaped his mouth as he eyed her, unfazed by her sprightly demeanor and fearless ways. Though, he would never admit it, he was impressed by the way she'd managed to handle those so-called gang-members.
He was also intrigued by the tattoos she sported, despite the fact that she looked like an annoying preppy girl from the suburbs. "Yeah, I'm so new, I doubt I'll have the time to remember your name." He told her with a shrug, plucking the unlit cigarette from his mouth and placing it behind his left ear. "Iwamura Never, that's my name. Remember or forget it, it makes no difference to me." He said with a tone that suggested he was bored, which he was because the whole meet-n-greet to him felt like utter bullshit.
It would be only a matter of time until Ken decided that this place wasn't good enough and then they would hit the road. Again.
"Look lady, y'got any damn Chrysanthemums and Zinnias around here? I need some of those." He decided to cut to the chase, having decided that he didn't want to hear any more useless information. From his pants pocket, he extracted a black leather wallet and opened it, extracting a couple hundred dollar bills from it and then shoving them in her direction. "I want all of 'em. Every single one ya have, understand? Tell me you understand, yeah?"
She glared at him. "I mean, you're not wrong, but don't come into my house and then complain. Just because you're a valued customer doesn't mean I won't beat the living daylights out of you if you get too annoying."
And then she was starting at, like, several hundred too many dollars.
"..Iwamura Never, I do not think that you would physically be able to hold the amount of chrysanthemums and zinnias that I have." She pushed his money back his way, eyebrows furrowed. "Tell me why you are trying to cause a chrysanthemum and zinnia shortage in the town, and you can have them for free," Midori challenged him, uncowed.
This was ridiculous. Who needed that fucking many of any kind of flower unless it was for a funeral or wedding, and neither of those were popular funeral or wedding flowers.
With a motion for him to follow, she led the way toward her greenhouse, planning to show him just how many he would need to carry. He'd need to make at least three trips.
"Man, I'd love to see you try!" Never told her honestly, his voice dropping into an ominous pitch as his optics blazed brighter than before, clearly intrigued by her words. "Who knows? Maybe you're the one who will finally be able to kill me."
And then, when she refused to take his money and practically demanded to know his reasoning behind wanting the overabundance of flowers--he grimaced once more, pissed.
He didn't give her an answer, but he followed her towards her greenhouse while he placed his money away. "You don't know anything about me or what I'm capable of." A human variation of a growl escaped him as he glared daggers into her back, annoyed with her even more than ever. "I've carried things way more strenuous than stupid flowers." He hissed, baring his teeth briefly before stopping himself short.
Why was she so nosy? Why couldn't she just give him what he wanted? All the same, nothing good would come from him harming an innocent girl. Ken would never forgive him. And then he would have to move. Again!
"It's for a friend. Is that good enough for you princess?" Never grumbled, refusing to go into detail. "You have people you care for and I have mine. So just give me what I asked for."
"I said I'd beat you up, not that I wanted to casually commit murder. Cool it, bro-tiachip. Also, don't call me princess. High Priestess Midori will do, though, if we're going for empowering titles. And, Hotshot, if you would so kindly pay attention, you'd see I am, in fact, taking you to the flowers in question. So follow along and calm down."
They reached the greenhouse, Midori still full of boundless energy.
And she was right.
There were several feet full of all different sorts of flowers, including both zinnias and chrysanthemums.
Midori looked cross-eyed at him. "..so, y'see, it's less of a weight thing and more of a human arm span thing. You cannot physically carry all of these in one trip. This is a forest, and you may be the size of a lamppost, but this is still too much. You're more than welcome to them all, but...I think you'll be needing help if you do." She shrugged, not minding one way or another.
Seeming incredibly amused, Midori looked ahead again. "..And I can't think of any place in the city other than here where you could fit all of this. Did you, by any chance, move into one of the abandoned castles?" Where the hell else could they fit? Though she figured the answer to that was 'no', simply because said castles were typically not for sale. "So you can either take as many as you can carry, or you can make several trips for them all, or I, or one of my minions, could help you carry them over. Whatever you prefer."
"When I fight, I fight to kill." Never told her in an even voice, grimacing when she told him to calm down. He stayed quiet as he listened to her speak, eyes traveling about the greenhouse until he saw all the flowers, including the ones he wanted to get for Ken. He brushed past her and erased the distance between himself and the Chrysanthemums, crouching before them. They were as pink as the hair of the rosy demonness who sported the same name, vibrant and healthy and alive...
Never reached out a trembling hand as if to touch them, but stopped short and rose up to his feet, that hand clenching into a tight fist as he moved towards the Zinnias in question, a smirk becoming etched on his face as his mind drifted to his niece that was blessed with this flower's name.
When she made an offer to have either herself or one of her 'minions' to help him carry them to his house he spun around and glared at her, on the defensive immediately. "No! No one is allowed at my house...I will make the trips. I'll carry every single one, so...you don't gotta do that..." His anger waned, voice softening as he shifted his pained gaze from her.
"Thank you for showing me the flowers. They're beautiful..." Never told her in his most gentle tone, grinning down at the Chrysanthemums and Zinnias as he did.
"He will love them and maybe...maybe he'll wake up this time." Never murmured to himself, placing a hand over his chest as he did. He could sense nothing but Ken's sadness, even from here.
Pushing that away for now, he continued to scope out the others within the greenhouse, curiosity getting the best of him. "Do you have Narci--ah you do! Narcy, right there!" He laughed aloud, surprised as he rushed over the yellow flower in question, grinning from ear to ear as he crouched down to get a closer look. "Narcisseae, Narcy...beautiful as ever." He murmured softly, reaching out a hand to lightly touch at the white petals, but just like before he stopped short and his expression became a myriad of emotions.
"Narcy, one day for sure...Just not now." He murmured softly, grinning halfheartedly as he rose up to his feet. "One day, I'll come back for this flower." Never told Midori, pointing at the one in question.
He crossed the room back to his initial spot where the flowers he was set on getting Ken were. He reached for his wallet and just like before, extracted the bills he'd tried to give her earlier, handing it over.
All of the time she watched the situation with a funny look on her face, like she had an answer she couldn't quite grasp. Midori tugged once at her French braid, considering something, those clever eyes pensive.
He spoke to the flowers almost as if they were people.
Well, she did that too, technically, but this was different. The /way/ he was doing it was different. Like they weren't even just individual people, with personalities, and separate but valid needs, but like they were people he was already very acquainted with. "Well, this shop isn't going anywhere," she replied, one of the most genuine smiles touching her lips that he'd seen so far. "So I'll make sure to have that flower saved for you...next time."
Midori wasn't offended by his earlier outburst, either--really, it just made her curious. "Okay. I have a cart you can borrow to carry, them, too, so that should make it only two trips," she offered immediately instead. Jesus, all of this irrationally just made her want to know where he lived. "If you take West O'Connell Street down to the main ones, then to wherever you live, you'll be less likely to meet anyone annoying. This place is...well, it's kind of neutral ground for the wars around here, and I've made a deal with them. Patrons of this shop are not to be touched. This place, and that street are not fair game for any muggings or ambushes.
"Not that I think you can't take care of yourself, but it will probably keep your flowers safer."
He tried to hand over the bills again, but she was too busy looking at him, trying to read exactly what it was that she saw there. "..No, that's okay, Iwamura Never. I get the feeling that you need the flowers more than I need the money. Plus, you answered my question from earlier. You can just take 'em. I'll go get the cart." With that, the shop owner wandered out of the greenhouse and into the main room, heading toward the closet.
"It might not be going anywhere, but there's no guarantee that I won't be. All the same, thanks French braid. I owe you." Never was surprised by the words that escaped him but he knew he meant them.
When she declines to take his cash, he shakes his head, bewildered as ever as he watches her head off to get the cart. "
Geez, what a weirdo. You probably would've loved her....Chrys," Never murmured softly, his gaze trailing to the endless sea of chrysanthemums.
Sighing, he decided to go back to the where the Narcisseae flowers were, crouching down to get a good look at them. He reached into his pants pocket and extracted his cellphone. Unlocking his phone, he decided to capture a picture of the flower and afterward, exhaled and chose to give his old friend and young master James, a phone call.
It rang once before James picked up, panting in a breathless fashion. "Hey, you guys stay together! Narcy behave!" He shouted after his kids with a laugh, the sound making Never wished he hadn't called. He could hear the girls shouting and laughing in the background, probably playing a game of tag or hide-n-seek. "Never! What's up, buddy? How's Kenny? We miss you guys!"
"I....I miss you...too..." He struggled to get the words out, voice raw with emotion. "Kenny's good too, better than ever. How are you?" He asked, though he honestly wanted to know how his daughter was. Was she happy? Was she enjoying her normal life with James? "I'm good! The girls and I are at the park, they're so excited! They asked about you, Narcy specifically. She said she misses how you always allowed her to get away with things." James gushed, these details surprising Never greatly.
"I see....Well look, I gotta go. Tell 'em hi, I guess...and maybe at Christmas I'll send them something."
"You guys aren't coming home? Oh Never--"
"Bye, James." Never snapped, hanging up the phone before James could say anything more. He let his phone slip from his hand and clatter against the floor, placing his hands to his face as he released a frustrated groan. "I shouldn't have called. I shouldn't have called....I shouldn't have called...."
Midori rolled the cart back over, having shrugged out of her smock sometime in between her and now, and left it listlessly, figuring she could double back later when he wasn't shouting.
Her kitchen was upstairs in a squeezed, "cozy" little two room apartment. Her kitchen, bedroom, and living room space were all one small square room, and the second room was a bathroom with one of those old-fashioned bathtubs, but no shower. It may be a tight fit to have company over, but it was cheap, and she could more than afford it with her earnings.
Prowling around the kitchen for a little bit, she plucked a few bags of homemade teas, ground and spiced and prepared herself, before putting them in a tiny leather Native American made pouch with a turtle's shell on the front. The girl dashed back down the stairs.
Although she had missed the conversation, she could see the disastrous after effects.
"Cart's in the other room," she announced her presence loudly so she wouldn't spook him by materializing by his side. Midori picked up his phone and handed it back to him, not making a big deal about the situation at all. Then she began to load the cart with the zinnias first, grabbing as many as she could fit in her wingspan before setting them up gingerly so none of the leaves and petals would be crushed. Midori did not ask for his assistance, merely giving him time to compose himself, not paying Never any mind.
It wasn't her business unless he decided to make it her's. So, for now, he could safeguard his secrets, and she would just help from behind the scenes as she could. Sometimes things were better that way. And she really ought to keep her curiosity to herself.
Then, about halfway through, she handed him the aforementioned pouch. "Tea," Midori told him lightheartedly, "is good for the soul. Especially specialized, homemade teas. So take those home with you and put 'em to good use. They'll tell you what's in 'em and what they're good for." Not giving him an option to say no, she pushed it into his hand before arranging the next few bouquets, intensely focused on her work.
Never took his phone back from her and rose up to his feet slowly, exhaling a sharp breath as he forced himself to fix his composure. When she gave him the pouch, he assessed it with that typical grimace on his face, brows quirked quizzically at Midori. "Thanks.." He said in a tone that suggested he wasn't grateful for it at all. Neither Ken nor Never could drink things unless they were enchanted, so her little "gift" was useless, not that she knew that.
"I'll put it to good use, sure." He said with a soft, defeated sigh escaping him then. Tucking the pouch away into his pockets, he began to watch her arrange the bouquets, mildly intrigued by her intensity. "So why this? What made you wanna be around flowers all day?" Never decided to ask her, since he had nothing better to do at present. He didn't bother to help her since she seemed to have a handle on it all.
"You just woke up and felt like being a plant expert or what?" He pressed her for information, brows furrowing as he scrutinized every inch of her, unsure of what to make of her. If he wasn't so worried about Ken having a meltdown, Never was sure the Wolf would've grown to like her. But he couldn't risk it, not when he could barely get Ken to speak to him.
Primping and preening one of the older ones to make sure it was nice and shiny, she replied, "Well, I wanted to make things. And I wanted my own business. My family was very, very wealthy, but their trade was nothing I would have been good at. Plus, I didn't really see the point of being spoon-fed--wouldn't help me grow at all, you know?"
She picked up a few more bouquets. "So I became a bit of an entrepreneur. And a botanist. Then some shit went down with my family, I got disinherited and cut off from the family fortune, and figured I had nothing else to lose but work my way through school and keep doing what I had already planned on. So while my sister inherits the company, everything I have, I earned. And that's the way things're gonna be."
It was obvious that said "shit" was bad shit, but she made no attempt to explain herself. If he asked, she would tell. It didn't hurt her anymore.
At least it was clear that this girl had grit.
And then, cheekily, "And I wasn't cut off because I got some ink. Though they were furious. One of my better decisions." Midori finished with the zinnias. "Well, that's all we've got for trip one. Sure you don't want any help getting them back home?"
Never's focus on her was intense as he listened to her every word, his facial expression shifting through a myriad of emotions throughout her story. He understood what it was like to be from a prosperous family, to have a sibling that was more "on the family path" than he was. But, he'd never been disowned, though he'd come close to it countless of times.
"Tch, it's your body, I say fuck 'em." He grunted out, grinning as he did, especially when she finished assembling the flowers. At her offer, he was a bit on the hesitant side and his gaze shifted from her to the zinnias, chewing on the inside of his cheek then. He honestly could use the company and Midori had proven to be more interesting than he initially assumed.
But Ken....Would he be all right if she appeared in their house?
"Alright look, y'can help me and junk, but you're not allowed inside. Got it? The house's a mess and we haven't gotten everything unpacked...and it's just not safe since we have a lot of shit to work out."
Ken could barely keep from screaming in his sleep, from zoning out whenever it was time for him to do simply tasks and speaking proved to be the hardest thing for him.
That's why Never was banking on the flowers waking him up. He just had to wake up! Never's facial expression looked completely panicked, hands clenching into fists briefly as he tried to control himself. "Promise me you won't go inside. Promise."
"Fuck 'em indeed." A sort of feral joy gleamed in her eyes, mouth spreading into a wide smirk at the memory. "This body's my temple, and I'll decorate it's altar however I want."
When he finally accepted her offer, the blonde looked mighty pleased with herself. She grabbed a bundle of the chrysanthemums that wouldn't have fit into the cart by a long-shot, and just expected him to do the same. "D'you even have enough pots and vases for all of these?" And then, eagerly hopping on the "help the Iwamuras" bandwagon, added, "D'you need some?"
She set her clump of flowers on one of the open cutting tables as she whisked around her colorful shop, searching for any spares she could offer. Hanging baskets, vases, bowls, cups, the works.
"Promise~! I mean, not even I'm a big enough dick to invite myself into somebody else's home." Midori gave him a look, like 'what are you even trying to insinuate right now?', before moving on with her work. "I just want to save you the extra trip. Though, if you want, I can set some of the arrangements outside while you do some on the inside? It'll take less time, I will for sure not be in The Disaster House and therefore out of your way, and I have a good feeling that you've never made a flower arrangement before and could use a couple tips from the master."
His fears did not touch her; she radiated certainty and tranquility. Then she approached and knocked her shoulder into his, trying to shake him out of it. "Either way, let's get going. It's a beautiful day out there!"
About the author
I am an avid fanatic when it comes to sci-fi, anime, and novels. I love DC and Marvel comics, but if I had to choose a hero to save my ass--it would definitely be Batman.