What is infinite?

Linden Botanicals  
Maiah didn’t go out looking for a plant, but when he saw the nursery, the idea lodged in his mind immediately. He didn’t have much space in the apartment that was good for plants—not a lot of space that got adequate sunlight. Putting a table by the window was an option, though. And it would be nice. Being around plants again would be nice.

Of course, having been raised by a terrakinetic witch who had his own greenhouse, Maiah had no idea what was suited to an apartment. Hopefully someone could help him with that.

“You stay here, wonderpup,”
he told Cosmos, tying the dog’s leash to a post so he couldn’t run off. The look Cosmos gave in response was enough that Maiah seriously considered not getting a plant right now. After all, did he need a plant? Didn’t he actually need to have at least two more miles on this walk and then go home and be next to the puppy nonstop?

Maiah scratched Cosmos’s ears once more before heading into Linden Botanicals. The shop smelled nice, herbal, with several scents Maiah could identify. And the plants looked happy. That was what his father would have said—he didn’t call them ‘healthy’ plants but ‘happy’ plants. No drooping, no spotty leaves… he almost felt bad to take one away!

he said with a little wave. There was no one else in the shop, so Maiah wasn’t interrupting another customer. That tingle down his spine told him what this man was—but after the last time Maiah met another witch, he preferred to ignore that. At least for now. “Any chance you give advice on plants? I can see they’re all gorgeously cared for here.” But maybe this guy was a college student making minimum wage who only knew ‘plants need water and sunshine’ and, if so, Maiah wouldn’t fault him.

 Emil checked his watch then put his head back down into his hands on the counter. There was nothing cooking downstairs—only cooling for bottling. All of the plants were watered in the greenhouse, and the air was warm and humid in the shop proper. The big humidifier was a good investment. He peered up at it, camouflaged against the wall above the register. Technically, this model was for a house, but the guy at the hardware said it would work. It seemed that kid had been right. It had begun to smell pleasantly jungley. He inhaled a large breath and let it out.

 He didn’t have a bell in front of the shop since the vines that twined around the rafters could tell him sooner of company than anything inanimate object. A ripple came from the vine—a sharp almost-smack to his senses. He stood straighter and peered around one of the displays to watch through the glass.

 Even through the glass, he got a sense from the man. The same one he always felt with a witch. He shrugged his shoulders a few times and stood straighter. What was it about meeting others of his kind lately? Maybe he just expected every meeting between two strange males to be a dick-measuring contest. Yeah. That sounded right.

 “Good…” Well. Shit! Emil rechecked his watch. “Morning!” He moved out from behind the counter, leaning on it and looking up at the other man. “Thanks, man! And yes, absolutely can help with that. Do you have an idea what you’re looking for?” Emil felt more clarifying questions line up in his mind, but he bit the inside of his cheeks and smiled instead. One. Just one. C’mon. “I guess that’s a little broad. How about—do you have a specific location in mind at home? Floor? Tabletop? Bathroom?”

 The orchid on the counter turned its brightly-colored blossom toward the stranger, looking up as Emil had.

 STOP. He told it, thrusting power into the command.

It was hard not to notice the moving flower—because it was bright, because it was moving, because the other witch noticed it, too. Maiah raised an eyebrow and wanted to say something, but he bit it back. Until he was a little more sure of this guy, no need to bring out any of that magic talk.

Besides, they had plenty of other things to discuss!

“Well, what a lovely set of locations—we are still talking about plants, right?”
JEREMIAH, he scolded himself. Okay, okay, that was like… three and a half steps over the line. “Sorry! Heh. Wasn’t thinking. Um, here’s the thing, I’ve never had a plant on my own, but I grew up helping my dad in his greenhouse. I’m living in an apartment now and I have no idea what’s even appropriate. So… something hardy?”

He didn’t mention that any mistakes he made in the past, as long as they weren’t too awful, could be scrubbed away with his dad’s terrakinesis. The stakes were somewhat higher now.

 A startled, awkward laugh escaped his mouth, and a crimson blush crept up his cheeks, flushing the whole front of him red. He had met someone so forward in quite some time. He placed a cool hand firmly on the back of his neck and smiled at the other witch. Thankfully, he didn’t have to respond to that as the guy moved quickly into more explanation. Whew.

 The rest of this man’s words he clung to like a weed. His father had a greenhouse? Awesome! Emil’s blush had faded by the time the particulars were in the open. “Something hardy is a great place to start.” He moved into the shop and beckoned the other man to follow. “What about a succulent? Small, discreet, and fairly easy to care for.” He spread his hand over a selection of the small, many-leafed plants. Their waxy surfaces shone in the sunlight from a morning’s dusting. They knew to behave, unlike the counter orchid, and remained perfectly still and benign as Emil turned a few pots this way and that. “They can be a bit finicky if I’m honest. They like direct sunlight for most of the day, but if you don’t turn them, you’ll start to see one side thriving and the other not doing so hot.” He stepped back, inviting the man to have a look. “A cactus is always an option, too.” He moved out of the way once again, standing in the middle of the aisle, displaying an array of squat, spiky plants in mid-sized terracotta pots on the opposite counter.

Oh, god. He thought Maiah’s inappropriate joke was funny and he was cute when he blushed. That was so not fair while Maiah was trying to keep himself emotionally distant from other witches! His first impression of Plant Dude was… potential friend? Hopefully?

But for now, he could focus on the plant. He followed the plant man to the succulents. Those were fairly new to him. Though he knew what they were, they only had one at home—it was aloe, and it was sad, and that was all anyone needed to know about that because they were back to thinking about witches’ powers again!

This was basically Hell specially designed for people with ADHD, having a conversation about one thing while pointedly not discussing an elephant in the room. Well, at least life thought he was special enough to design a special Hell, huh? Like The Good Place, not Firefly.

“Cactus might not be great,”
Maiah said, extremely aware that he was going to poke it—either on accident or out of sheer curiosity. Sometimes an idea, even a bad idea, lodged in his head and he simply had to act on it. “How about one of these? Are they finicky?” he asked, indicating donkey’s tails. They had a fun look. “I have a window it can live in, so sunshine won't be a problem.”

 “Ah, burro’s tail, good choice!” Emil exclaimed, walking over to touch the chalky, fat leaves of the only one he had in the shop. He performed the mental gymnastics required to keep the little succulent calm as he moved some of the fat strings of leaves around. This one was shot through with blue—a completely natural phenomenon that Emil—for all of his prowess—could not yet duplicate on purpose.

 “He’ll certainly like sunlight, for sure. But he’s lived inside for a few weeks, so you might need to introduce him to it gradually. A few hours a day for a week, and then you can double it until he’s up to keeping the sun on him all day.” He absently yanked a dying leaf from the sweeping stems, and the whole plant gave a very human-like shudder. In his wisdom, Emil just sighed, pocketing the dead leaf. “I’m Emil...Linden, like the sign says. Plants are—uh—my thing.” Being coy in his own shop felt stupid, but not every witch was comfortable just opening the door to this kind of stuff. He stuck out a hand, a smile now planted firmly on his lips.

Maiah nodded at the instructions. He could handle that. He would need to keep a note for himself, but he could build up sunshine time for Mr. Burro’s Tail. (Its name was Mr. Burro’s Tail, either until Maiah thought of something better, or until he Stockholm’d himself into liking it. Either way.)

“Nice to meet you, Emil. I’m Maiah. Plants are… not my thing. But I’ll take good care of this one,”
he added hurriedly. He didn’t want to make Emil rethink letting his clearly well-cared-for plant go with a stranger. “They all look fantastic, though. Virtually no drooping or discoloration—you’re good.” With a halfway sheepish shrug, he explained, “I’m a layman, but my dad’s a real gardener.”

He was pretty certain Emil meant that plants were his magic, pretty certain he had seen a plant move unnaturally earlier—but Maiah wasn’t always the best with subtext. What Maiah had said was true in both ways: he wasn’t a plant expert as humans were, nor as witches were. He kept it ambiguous, letting Emil take the lead here.

 His father?

 “Thanks. It means a lot.” Emil briefly wondered if Maiah had escaped the same ‘join or die’ mentality Emil had once experienced, being both child of and sibling to other terrakinetics. If plants were not this guy’s thing, then maybe it was just his parents’ genetic cocktail that made them unable to create a child that wasn’t like them. Well, unless you counted their desire to stay forever where they’d decided to plant themselves—Emil had left as soon as he had an opportunity. Sinking roots was undoubtedly a family trait, however. No escaping that, no matter how far you ran.

 “Well, if you were raised by one, this shouldn’t be too much trouble.” Emil picked up the pot and carried it to the counter, watching his feet as he went around the corners. “Just this today? Or did you want to look for something else?” He parked himself on the other side of the counter, folding a box to hold the plant secure in transit.

 Should I ask? Emil opened this mouth but closed it almost immediately. No, that’s rude.

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