Chapter 16: Sweetpea

As it turned out, Adam was actually pretty happy with the decorations Sascha had delivered, even though he hadn't actually planned on getting them. Apparently, Evan had convinced his brother to order from the flower shop, knowing that Sascha wouldn't be able to recognize his voice. Not to mention, Sascha didn't know where Evan's brother lived, so seeing Evan there was completely unexpected. The florist had to admit, he was mildly impressed with how much thought Evan had put into tricking him.

"How did you even know I'd be the one to show up?" Sascha asked, as he set down his cup of hot cocoa.

They were sitting in the flower shop and it was the day before Christmas. Evan hadn't wasted any time in returning to his old habits of visiting Sascha with offerings of food after he'd been officially unbanned from the shop. Sascha would have been more offended about Evan's attempts to win him over with hot drinks if it weren't for the cold weather. He figured he might as well take advantage of the other man's guilt for as long as he could.

"Jason helped," Evan told him with a grin. "I saw him get home that day he got sick and when I talked to him he said that other guy was out of town, and I knew you were too nice to decline an order," he explained.

"I can't believe you went through all that trouble," the florist said, laughing.

"Well, it was worth it," Evan said, sounding so sincere that Sascha almost stopped doubting his decision to give the man a chance.

He still wasn't all that sure that it was a good idea. None of his past decisions concerning relationships had ever worked out and going out with Evan meant taking a huge risk. It meant setting himself up to get hurt all over again. The thought alone and the phantom pain that flashed in his heart at the memories it brought up was enough to make him reconsider.

But then he looked at the man sitting next to him, smiling at him. It was a smile that reached his hazel-colored eyes and made Sascha think that maybe Evan could love him after all. It made him hope and that was a frightening feeling when all those hopes were resting on one person alone.

"You know, my brother thinks you're going to dump me as soon as I screw up," Evan said, doing his best to sound nonchalant. Sascha could see him tense up just a bit, enough to tell him this was Evan trying to reassure himself. It made him want to smile, but he refrained from doing so and just gave a shrug instead.

"Well, it depends on how badly you screw up," he said, sounding entirely too casual. He tried not to think about how it wasn't all a joke; about how some things really might just be too much to forgive.

"Okay then, guess I'll just have to try not to get you mad," Evan said with a resigned sigh that made Sascha laugh.

"Evan, I'm sure you'll end up making me mad no matter what you do," he said, and took pity on Evan when he saw the look on his face. "But that's just a part of being in a relationship. It's not always going to be fun and I'm sure I'll make you mad too, but that doesn't matter all that much. What matters is how we deal with those problems. If you really love me then you'll remember that even if you're angry and you'll forgive me."

Evan just raised an eyebrow at that and gave Sascha a flat look.

"That last part just sounded like you trying to get out of trouble in the future," he said, and Sascha actually gave a snort of laughter that made Evan laugh. Slowly, the laughter subsided, and Evan watched as the florist sitting next to him settled back into an easy smile. "Will you do the same for me?" he asked.

The question took Sascha by surprise, because he knew what Evan was really asking about. Could he remember something he didn't know he felt? Could he love him enough to forgive him? He'd never thought about loving Evan – not unless he was telling himself he didn't. But then, did he really know what love was?

A long time ago, he'd thought he loved Steven. He was happy with him, smiled for him like he smiled for no one else and couldn't think of being without him. And then he was gone, and there was a hollow pain in his heart, but he didn't know why it was there. He didn't know if it was sadness for losing someone he loved or just a deep bitterness at being betrayed and abandoned. Then Evan had walked into his shop and he'd forgotten all of that.

Now there was just the fear of having him leave and the hope that he would stay. There was the swell of joy when Evan smiled at him and the warmth of knowing he was the only man to ever fight so much to be with him. Those were things he hadn't felt with Steven, and he knew he hadn't loved him. Sascha had wanted to, had wished for it so much he'd fooled his heart into thinking it did. He didn't have to do that this time, not with Evan.

"Yeah, I can," he said at last, smiling. Then he leaned over and wrapped his arms around Evan, holding him close even as he knew he had surprised him with the sudden action. "Of course I can," and for once he didn't doubt it.

Thank you all for the lovely comments, the support, the advice and most of all, the time you took to look at this story and the love you've shown it. As the sweetpea says, thank you for the lovely time.