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Like Flies to Honey

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Cib's not one to admit it out loud--although that's less to do with shame and more to do with the fact that the topic doesn't tend to come up in conversations (not that relevancy has ever stopped him from blurting out whatever thought passes through his mind)--but he just so happened to be a real big sucker for romantic clichés. Stuff like café dates, strolls through the park, hand written love notes--you know, the works--so when he sees a pamphlet on the school center's bulletin board with directions to a local plant shop, he thinks it's the perfect thing to spice up his Tinder date.

After all, what's more romantic than a bouquet of roses? And it probably would have worked out well for him, if Cib had any sort of eye for detail at all.

Unfortunately, he does not.

The first thing he does is stroll right into the shop and hone his gaze onto whoever looks like they can help him. It doesn't occur to him to maybe inspect his surroundings, because once he's got an idea planted in his head, it would take the whole world bowling over to stop him, or perhaps a well-timed comment from Steven--but Steven isn't here right now, so Cib's a man on a solo mission of the utmost importance. He locks his eyes on a prime target almost immediately--some tall, lanky looking boy that very well could be Steven from behind, if not for the tight curls spinning from his head like springs.

"Yeah, can I get uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh…..plant," Cib loudly asks, watching as the worker's back goes taut like a cat's in shock, before turning on his heels to face Cib. His face harbors a look of surprise for a mere second, before transforming into a cheery disposition, one corner of his mouth inched up in an inviting smile.

"Oh! Uh…" The other boy's smile falters for a bit as Cib's words seem to register in his head, but then returns with vigor. "Y-yes, of course! What kind of uh…plant, are you interested in today?" Cib makes note of the way the boy's hand shoots up to nervously tug at the rolled up sleeve of his plaid shirt, outfitted underneath a plain, floral green apron that's pressed so neatly he doesn't notice a hint of a wrinkle anywhere.

"Flowers."

"We…certainly have a few of those. I don't suppose you have a particular breed in mind?" There's an edge of hesitancy in the worker's voice that should probably alert Cib to the fact that something's not quite right, but the idea floats in his periphery before disappearing into the void.

"Roses."

"Erm…" He now has a look of 'pleasant confusion' on his face, and clasps his hands together with a quick squeeze. "Well, sir--"

"Close, Cib," he interrupts.

"Excuse me?"

"My name's Cib, not Sir. How'd you almost know my name?" Cib asks, narrowing his eyes in suspicion.

"I…" The boy's smile seems to fade off his face in slow motion, replaced with a dull sort of shock while he wrings his hands in a desperate fit to hang onto his composure. "Well, as I was trying to say, I'm not sure you'll find what you're looking for here."

"Listen…" Cib leans forward into the other boy's personal space, eyes trained on his nametag and so uncomfortably close the boy bodily leans back while staying rooted to his spot. "…Parker. Listen up, Parker, can I get a bouquet of roses from here for my date later or not?"

"N-no, I'm afraid n-not," Parker stutters. "I'm very sorry, sir--I mean, Cib. I'm very sorry, Cib.

"Well, why not?!" Cib shouts, throwing his hands in the air.

"Because this is a carnivorous plant nursery!" Parker shouts back in surprise, finally giving way to the room's charged up atmosphere.

"C-Carniv--carnifer--carniferus--what kind of florist is this?!"

"It's not!" Parker cries out. "I mean, it's not exactly a florist! I'm sorry, I'm sorry!"

"Dear God ," Cib near whispers, taking a shaking step back. This is not the place he thought it was when he came barreling in earlier--there are no bright and popping colors, or ready to order bouquets lined up behind glass cases, or even the homey decorations he's used to seeing pictures and ads. Instead, his senses are assaulted by a multitude of garish greens and faded pinks and purples randomly sprinkled throughout the plants like the bruises on his arms after volleyball practice.

Though he valiantly tries to take in his surroundings, his brain can't seem to comprehend the dissonance between the reality of his surroundings and whimsical expectations, the weight of it so heavy that he whips his head around until the room becomes a dizzy, muddled mess of greens and browns.

"Are you alright? Sir? Cib? Cib!" But Parker's voice sounds distance, slowly engulfed by an inky darkness.

~***~

"Where the f--" Cib jolts awake, upper body immediately assuming a fight stance. He hears a quick yelp to his side and turns his attention to it, where Parker is sitting next to him with his hands up and splayed open in a defensive position. Cib slowly relaxes back into his chair, Parker following suit shortly after.

"You, um--you looked like you were passing out so I dragged you to a chair. Are you…feeling alright?" Parker's voice is hesitant and he's leaned forward slightly, as if he can't decide whether he wants to physically comfort Cib or let him have space.

The Plant Boy, Cib mentally notes. The ringmaster of botanical terrors, himself.

"I'm fine," Cib practically spits. "Don’t worry about it--just blacked out a little, happens all the time, dude.” The poison in his voice causes Parker to shift away, but Cib can't help being slightly suspicious of the other boy--after all, who knew what kind of sick experiments he got up to in this...Hell chamber.

“Right, um,” Parker awkwardly clears his throat. “I brought you...these? I was saving them for break time but I figured you might need them more. Didn't know if you had like...low blood sugar...or...something?” The question lingers in the awkward silence for a few seconds as Cib wordlessly stares at the contents in Parker’s hands.

"Juice Box! Give me that!" There's an apple flavored juice box in one of Parker's hands and a little snack cake in the other, and Cib immediately lunges for the juice. He's so excited he misses the straw hole a few times, but finally manages to get it in and slurps happily with aplomb. Maybe Parker Plantboy isn't so bad after all.

"You know what, Parker, maybe you're not so bad after all," Cib says.

"Oh--I? T-thank you…" Parker looks sheepish but genuinely pleased, before his face fades into a more serious visage. "Cib, um, about your order--"

"Dude, don't remind me of this nightmare laaaaaand," Cib gurgles out, a bit of juice slipping from his mouth.

"Right, but--you had to have known, before coming in here? That this wasn't exactly your run of the mill plant nursery?"

"I dunno! The pamphlet said 'plant' so I assumed there'd be 'plant!'" Cib whines, taking the folded up pamphlet from his pocket and shaking it open right in front of Parker's face. The boy splutters a bit, but takes the pamphlet from his hand and inspects it.

"The name of this place in in big, bold letters right on the front. It's got the word 'carnivorous' right on the title," Parker points out.

"Well, how was I supposed to know that!"

"Listen, why don't I just…direct you to one of the nearest florists in our area. You can take a moment to cool down, then be on your way, maybe even stop to smell the roses--so to speak, haha--and forget this bad day ever happened. How does that sound, buddy?" Parker gives Cib a friendly pat on the arm, but something about the plan doesn't quite sit right with him. Suddenly, he's finding himself a lot less willing to leave.

"I want that one," Cib says out of the blue, pointing toward one of the…sharper looking plants.

"Excuse me?"

"I want a bouquet of whatever the heck that thing is," Cib replies with certainty. Parker pauses for a moment, with a look on his face that reads 'I should be used to this by now, yet somehow, I continue to be shocked by every turn this day is taking.'

"Cib, um--I don't really want to be the one that says this, but, these aren't exactly plants you tie together with a ribbon and hand over to your date. I can't imagine anyone getting on their knee and brandishing a bouquet of venus flytraps from behind their back…" But Parker had veered off into a slight giggle at the end of his sentence, as if he actually was imagining it and got a kick out of the fantasy. For some reason, that made Cib chuckle as well.

"So, what exactly do you do here, then?" Cib finds himself asking.

"Ah! It's really neat, actually." Parker's face lights up immediately. "As you can see, we have a wide variety of carnivorous plants that we propagate ourselves and ship out to places all over the world. We even do custom, temporary exhibits for businesses and offer educational opportunities to local educational facilities and…" Cib stops listening to the spiel after only a few sentences in, and it's not because he doesn't want to listen, it’s just that his attention span switches gears and he's wholly consumed by the transformation Parker seems to be undergoing.

The previous stress practically melts off the other boy's face, and Cib is left staring at the way his wide, white-toothed smile drops words like a melody, and the way his eyes glow with excitement like two little suns, beckoning Cib to lean toward their warmth as if he himself were a plant, and even the way his nose scrunches up as he laughs at his own joke. There's raw passion behind everything Parker says, and though the meaning of the words don't hit Cib, that kindred feeling does--the same feeling he gets when he plays his guitar.

"There's actually a lot that goes into taking care of these plants that people might not expect, and…ah, I'm so sorry! I started…rambling, again, huh…" Parker trails off, folding his lanky body in on itself. His head lolls to the side and he stares off into space from underneath a half-lidded gaze. Cib feels his mouth go dry and realizes it's been hanging open for a while now, and that he must have been rudely staring like a brain-dead monkey. He shuts his mouth closed and straightens up in his seat.

"Nah, dude! It's chill, totally chill. You just really know your stuff, huh? It's cool." Cib tries to sound relaxed, and not like his heart rate suddenly picked up and he can hear the blood rushing in his ears.

"Hah, well, it is a bit of an interest of mine. Actually, if you're not busy right now, how about I take you through a tour of the facility? It's a lot less scary here once you get to know it, I promise!" There was such a sweet and genuine look on Parkers face that Cib found it impossible to refuse.

"Yeah, dude! That sounds awesome, let's do it!" Cib says, completely forgetting about his date later.

---

"Honey, I'm hooooooommmeee," Cib booms after unlocking the door and pushing it open with his foot. He's got his new, precious plant nestled safely in the crook of his arm and a bag of essential care-taking items hanging callously from his other wrist.

"Cib--you don't have to shout, I'm right here," Steven says from his place on the couch.

"Steeeeeve, I missed ya, baby!" He croons, jovial mood dripping from every pore in his body.

"Hmmm, someone sounds happy," Steve replies in his coy voice. "So big boy, drop me the deets. How'd your date go?" Cib pauses for a moment as the events of the day finally catch up to him.

"Good," he chimes. "Didn't go," he adds as an afterthought.

"Wait, what? Excuse me, what do you mean you didn't go?" Steve splutters, turning his body to give Cib his full attention. "And just what the Hell are you holding?"

"Plant," Cib helpfully answers.

"Ok, yeah--I can see it's a plant. Why do you have a plant, and why didn't you end up going on your date?"

"Because I was busy buying a plant, duh." Cib rounds the corner of the coffee table, placing his items on top before sprawling onto the couch next to Steven.

"Why do I even bother," Steven mutters, running his hands over his face. It's not until he's finished taking a deep, calming breath does he truly stop to examine the plant.

"…Is that a venus flytrap? Cib, where did you even get one of those?"

"From the plant store, dude, come one--it's like you're not even using your brain. Found the place on a pamphlet on campus."

"Really? Interesting. So, did you drive there? All by yourself?"

"Hell yeah, bro! Made it on my first try, too."

"Wow," Steven says, actually sounding impressed. He takes note of the bag Cib dropped on the table earlier. "Looks like this takes a bit more maintenance than a regular plant."

"A little bit, yeah."

"I dunno, Cib--you can't even take care of a fish, what makes you think you can take care of a plant? Actually, wait--that should probably be in reverse and--God, who cares, nevermind…" Steven trails off. He leans forward to touch one of the venus flytrap's mouths with his finger before Cib aggressively slaps his hand away.

"Dude, you can't do that! If you make the mouths close too many times without food, it'll get tired or something and die! The plant boy taught me that," he says with a bit of pride in his voice.

"Who?" Steven asks, cradling his hand against his chest.

"From the shop--he's about your height, actually. Really curly hair, weird looking mouth. Name's like, Plarker or something odd like that."

"Parker? Parker Coppins ?"

"Yeah, Plantboy Copperpot!" Cib confirms, even though he never actually caught Parker's last name. "You know him?"

"We've got a math class together--small world, huh? Didn't know he worked with plants. Anyway, are you sure you're going to be able to take care of this thing?"

"Shyeah man, of course! I even got Parker's number just in case," Cib says, taking his phone out of his pocket and brandishing it in front of Steven's face as if that proved his point.

"Hm," Steven hums pensively. "So, let me get this straight: you went to some out of the way plant shop, for whatever weird reason your brain conjured up, on the day of your Tinder date, and instead of actually making it to said date, you hung around and learned plant trivia from Parker and then decided to buy a venus flytraps--all while, and I continue to reiterate--not ever making it to your date? You did, however, manage to get Parker's number."

"Sounds about right, dude!" There's a glint in Steven's eye that Cib's not one hundred percent sure he understands.

"This is all taking a very interesting turn," and with that tone of Steven's voice, Cib decides he's done with the conversation.

"Welp, I don't know what we're talking about anymore, so I'm going to take my plant and go now. Enjoy your shit tv, dude!"

"Night!"

Back in the safety of his room, Cib delicately places the plant on the windowsill that he knows gets the most sunlight. Everything Parker told him about proper plant care flashes in and out on his head in a muddled train of thought, and he gets the sudden urge to text him. He opts to take a picture of his plant in its new home, making sure it's angled to look aesthetically pleasing, and sends it off to the other boy.

Cib<< its ya boi!!!
<< all set up in his new digs!

The wait for a reply has him weirdly anxious and self-conscious in a way he hasn't felt in a while. He knows he shouldn't worry about getting a response, and should instead be getting ready for bed, but instead he stays rooted to the spot, staring at his phone and trying to fight off the mounting feelings of regret. It's not until he sees the three dots come up and feels his body relax that he realizes he'd been tensing up the whole time.

Parker>> Hey Cib! Didn't expect to hear from you so soon
>> That looks great! Did you give him a name yet? :)

He feels himself involuntarily smile at the text, something about the idea of naming a plant endearing to him.

Cib<< nah, not yet. got any ideas?

Parker>> Hmmm…
>> How about Jeffery?

Cib<< hell yeah
<< jeffery it is!

Cib sorta expects the conversation to end right there, or lull awkwardly until the other one gives up altogether, but to his surprise it feels completely natural texting Parker. Parker reminds him about the plant care regime, then tells him about the rest of his day while continually apologizing for Cib's missed date. Cib just replies with whatever funny thought is on his mind.

Somewhere late into the night, the phone slips from Cib's hands and rests idly on his chest--he doesn't even notice, however, because he's already fallen asleep with a soft, little smile on his face.