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A Single Red Rose

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"Okay, so this is really random but... could I try braiding flowers into your hair?" Cress asked as the two sat amidst a field of all kinds of flowers, enough he could probably make several bouquets if he wanted.

"Do you even know how to braid hair in the first place?" Chester asked with a small laugh.

"N-No, but I can try! It can't be that hard, right?"

Chester sided and leaned back on his palms. "Alright. Go wild, you nerd."

Cress jumped up at that, immediately running off and looking over the flowers spread out across the field. Chester laughed at his friend's antics and flopped down into the grass. He's pretty sure he just heard him apologize to a flower he just stepped on.

A couple minutes pass and suddenly Cress is back with at least one of every flower in the field, much to his friend's surprise. "Are you sure that's not too many?" Chester asked as he sat up, a light-hearted chuckle following his words.

"It might be, now that I think about it. Your hair isn't as long as I thought. If this doesn't work, at least I know how to make flower crowns, so it won't be a total waste." Cress replied as he sat himself down behind Chester. After a few seconds and a couple tugs Chester was not very fond of, Cress had his hair undone and had already begun messing with it. It didn't seem like he knew what he was doing, Chester noticed. It made sense - he doesn't think Cress has ever done anything to anyone's hair in his life, let alone something as ambitious as braiding flowers into hair - so he wasn't entirely sure what he expected. Cress sighed and snapped Chester from his thoughts. "This is hard..."

"What'd you expect? You have no clue what you're doing and I can tell even though I can't see it." Chester laughed.

"Yeah, well, you try it then!" Cress huffed in response.

"Just keep trying, I'm sure you'll get it eventually."

Cress sighed before he continued his failed attempts to do anything with Chester's hair besides just play with it. Chester was starting to relax, almost fall asleep, even, before a sharp tug pulled him back to reality. "Ow! Cress!"

"Sorry, sorry!" Cress blurted out quickly before he went back to work, noticably more gently than before. Chester had started relaxing again before Cress clapped his hand together. "Done! It's... not really good, but I tried, so uh..." Cress let out a small, nervous laugh.

Chester pulled his hair over his shoulder. The braid was an absolute mess, so much so that it was already coming undone. Strands of hair stuck out in several places, the parts were noticably uneven, and Chester's assuming Cress didn't even want to attempt putting the flowers in once he started, which was fair.

He didn't hear Cress's murmuring behind him or even realize he was doing anything until he placed something on his head. Chester felt it and took it off to look at it. It was a flower crown, and one that was considerably better quality than the braid. Chester didn't know much about flowers or their meanings, and he turned around to face Cress with the crown in hand. "You know I'm no good with this kind of stuff, Cress."

"Ah, right..." Cress seemed nervous, embarrassed, even.

"You could just explain 'em to me, y'know." Chester laughed.

"Oh, y-yeah." Cress seemed to get even more embarrassed at that, color starting to dust across his face.

"Alright, uh, what does this one mean?" Chester asked, pointing to a white rose-looking flower on the crown.

"That's- u-um..." Cress's face turned a pure bright red. "D-Do you mind if I just save explaining that for a bit later?"

Chester raised a brow at Cress's behavior, but didn't push for an answer. Looking over the crown again, he pointed to an orange, four-petaled flower. "Alright then, what about this?"

"That's a wallflower, it represents faithfulness in adversity. I thought it suited you, since you always have our backs in battles." Cress stated, offering his friend a small smile. Chester smiled back at him before he returned to looking over the crown. He pointed to a white flower with pointed petals and he didn't even have to ask before Cress began his short explanation. "Edelweiss. It represents courage and devotion."

"Courage, huh? You really think that suited me?" Chester chuckled, his eyes drifting off to the side.

"Well, of course!" Cress declared. Chester was staring at him now, wide-eyed. "Did you forget when you held off Dhaos so me and Mint could escape? I think that was pretty courageous of you. Even if I was worried beyond belief about you the whole time." Cress's tone stayed cheerful, but Chester could see the flicker of pain in his eye as he recalled the memory.

"I... I'm sorry I worried you. I just wanted you guys to get out safe."

"It's alright. I would've done the same, anyway." Cress said with a reassuring smile. Chester again returned the gesture and again looked back to the flower crown in his hands before Cress piped up. "Before you ask about any of the other ones, I, um... I have something to tell you." Cress's face was red again, and he struggled to make eye contact.

"What is it? Are you sick? You look really red right now." Chester leaned forward to look at his friend better and Cress's face seemed to burn a brighter red when he did so. The swordsman's hand shot out and gently pushed Chester back, all while he refused to make eye contact.

"I'm fine, I just... Um... Here!" His other hand shot out in front of him, clutching a single flower that was a little wrinkled. Chester could identify it easily instantly. A red rose. He didn't even have to ask. He'd have to have been a fool to not understand what that meant.

"I... um..." Chester found himself at a lose for words. Cress hesitantly looked up at him and his cheeks were somehow even more red than before. Chester became aware of the heat rising in his face and looked off to the side, clumsily taking the rose from the other's hand. "Th-Thanks, I, uh... didn't know you, um..." Any words he could use to convey anything escaped his grasp before he could even get them out, and eluded him long enough that Cress seemed to start getting worried.

"If, um... If you don't... like me like that, we can... we can just forget this ever happened!" Cress blurted out. The words spilt from his mouth before he properly thought about it, and his face was already growing red enough to rival his cape.

"No, it's not that! I just, uh... I don't really know what to say." They both sat in silence, eyes scanning the fields before locking for longer than was probably normal. They broke eye contact and Chester glanced over for a moment to find the other's hand. He hesitated for only a second before slipping his own hand into Cress's and giving it a reassuring squeeze. He was almost sure Cress was staring at him with his eye wide enough they looked as if they'd pop out of his head if they were any wider. He spared a glance and that was enough to see that he was right. Chester forced himself to maintain eye contact a bit longer to send a shy smile Cress's way, and that was enough to make the swordsman all but launch himself at the archer and tackle him to the ground in a hug.

Cress's laughter, relieved and joyous and overall a wonder to hear, rang out across the open field. Chester doesn't really know when he joined him, but doesn't think much of it as they lay there in the grass, laughing away the awkwardness of the past few minutes. Cress rolled off Chester and sat up, still laughing softly, and Chester followed suit. The poorly done braid had come undone in the fall and left his hair to drape over his shoulders.

"Cress, I hope you know you are the cheesiest person I've ever known." Chester sighed.

"I'm aware." Cress agreed as he leaned back, resting on the palms of his hands. He looked over to Chester next to him and sighed. Chester noticed and turned his head to him.

"What?" He laughed.

"Am I not allowed to just admire you for a while?"

"Geez, you really are cheesy as hell." Chester sighed and shook his head with a fond smile.

"You love me, so you're stuck with me." Cress replied simply. "Besides, are you really just discovering this now?"

"No, I've known you as long as I can remember and you were even cheesy then. But not this much."

"...Is it a bad thing, though?"

"No, not at all." Chester reassured.

Cress was staring again, Chester noticed out of the corner of his eye. The blonde scooted closer to him and was now struggling to look at him. "Would you mind if I, um... if I kissed you?"

Chester sent him a warm smile. "I don't see why not," was his simple answer and it caused Cress to light up and in turn caused Chester to laugh before he added, "you don't need to ask that, y'know."

"I didn't want to surprise you."

"I wouldn't have minded."

Cress nervously brought his hand up to cup the other's face and just as nervously started to close the distance between the two of them. He froze just before their lips met, mere inches apart, close enough to feel each other's breaths. Then, suddenly, Cress backed away, hiding his face in his hands. "Is something wrong?" Chester asked, leaning forward in attempt to get a look at the other's face.

"I've never kissed anyone before, I don't even know what I'm doing!" Cress took a hand off his face to look his companion in the eye, his face burning red.

"Hey, you forget I haven't kissed anyone before either. I know about as much as you do."

"Yeah, but, what if it's bad?"

"Cress, we both just established this is our first kiss. It's gonna be bad regardless." Chester consoled with a small laugh.

"I know, but-"

"Stop worrying! It'll be fine!" Chester laughed.

Cress looked to the ground, fidgeting with the end of his cape. "...But what if-"

"Oh, to hell with it." Chester held Cress's head in his hands and crashed his lips onto the other's. Cress made a surprised noise in response as Chester sat himself in his lap, before he relaxed into it and deepened the kiss. It was far from perfect - Chester's pretty sure he missed the other's mouth a bit and Cress keeps making their noses bump each other - but it was still enough to leave them both breathless once it was over. "I have no clue what you were so worried about, that's was amazing to me." Chester chuckled.

"I... Yeah. It really was." Cress sighed, resting his forehead against Chester's. He brought a hand up to tangle itself in Chester's hair, sighing in contentment. "I love you so much."

Chester laughed, bubbling up from his chest and bursting out of his throat in short, deep bursts. "I love you too, you sap."

"I'm not a sap!"

"Cress, do you not remember a single thing you have said and done in the past half hour? You are the sappiest person I know. And I love that about you."

"Now who's being the sap here?"

"Shut up." The two laughed in unison, bright like the morning sun. It was just them, alone in their own little world, and for now that was all they could ever want.

Once their laughter died down, Chester's thoughts returned to the flower crown that had been forgotten on the ground. He grabbed it and pulled it over, looking it over again. "Hey, you never told me what this one means." He recalled as he pointed to the rose-looking flower he'd askes about earlier.

Cress's face flushed and he bowed his head. "That's a camellia. The white ones mean... you're adorable."

Chester stared at him for a solid few seconds before he snorted. "Geez, you really are the sappiest person ever. Okay, what about these other ones?" Chester pointed to the last flower he hadn't asked about, a white one with several short, thin petals that stuck up.

"Clovers. The white ones mean that I hope you're thinking of me."

"You sap."

"I know, I know. Here." Cress took the flower crown and placed it on Chester's head. He found himself staring for a moment, but unlike all the other times, he didn't look away when he realized it. "Beautiful."

Chester's face turned a bright red at just that one word. "You're so embarrassing." He murmured, laughing softly.

"I know."

They both sat there, staring at each other, admiring every thing they could see, and suddenly Cress was pulling Chester in for another kiss. He paused again just before their lips met, but this time he closed the distance with little hesitation. It wasn't as clumsy as the first kiss, they both noted. They were both smiling into it and neither one was willing to break it first, the feeling of their lips against each other's setting free butterflies in their stomachs. They only parted when the need for air grew too much and both panted as they rested against each other.

"That was... wow..." Chester said between breaths. He was speechless, and judging by the dazed expression Cress had and the way his face was ablaze, he was too.

Chester climbed off Cress's lap and flopped down in the grass. Staring up at the clear blue sky. He heard movement next to him and turned his head to Cress, laying on his side and staring at him with a look of pure admiration. "You really like staring, don't you?"

Cress blinked, looking a little surprised before concern took over. "Is it making you uncomfortable?" His voice was small. He was genuinely concerned he was doing something wrong.

"No, not at all. Not when you're looking at me like you were just now." Chester rolled over on his side to face his companion.

"That's good. You're just... really pretty with your hair down like that. I can't help it!"

"P-Pretty...?"

"Yeah. Though, now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever seen you wear your hair any other way besides a ponytail."

"Or a braid."

"Mine was crap, that doesn't count!" Cress laughed. Then paused as he began to think. "Can you do a braid, actually?"

"Yeah. I... used to braid Ami's hair for her all the time."

Chester's face fell and Cress bit back a fountain of apologies for bringing up tainted memories. Instead, he simply rubbed the other's arm and offered a comforting smile. After the silence grew to be a bit too uncomfortable, Cress broke it, keeping his voice soft as if speaking in any other tone would break the other. "Could you show me?"

Chester smiled, welcoming the distraction from his thoughts, before he rolled over and sat up. He reached behind his head and began to work, seperating his hair into segments and weaving them in a way that appeared to be just pure muscle memory. Once he was done, he grabbed the ribbion he used for his hair and tied it off at the end. He flopped back down once he finished and yawned.

"You didn't sleep much last night, did you?" Cress questioned.

"Barely. Arche was talking all the way through the night. I'm surprised she wasn't tired this morning." Chester stated groggily. Cress shuffled closer to him and draped his cape over the two of them, laughing softly when Chester rolled his eyes. "Nerd."

"What? It works!"

"Yeah, whatever. I'm taking a nap. Wake me up when the other's get back. Or before. Arche will tease us for the rest of our lives if she finds out about this." Chester grumbled. Cress laughed in response and pulled the archer a little bit closer as he fell asleep. Cress joined him soon after.

-----

Mint, Klarth, and Arche were getting close to the field Cress and Chester had stayed behind at to set up a camp for the night. The sun was beginning to dip over the horizon and painting the sky in vibrant orange and pink hues. Arche had went on ahead and was snickering to herself as she flew back on her broom. "You guys will never believe what I saw!"

"What is it now, Arche?" Klarth asked in the most exasperated tone he could muster. "And is it any worse than the giant monster you intentionally didn't inform me of until it was standing right behind me? AND that you promptly made me smack in the face with a stick on accident?"

"Nope! But it is the perfect thing to tease those two over for the end of time!" Arche remarked. Mint and Klarth both traded empathetic looks with each other and picked up their pace. By the time they'd made it back to the field, the sun had disappeared almost entirely, the only trace of it being the hints of purples still lighting up the sky.

The three didn't see any sort of campsite set up, something that displeased Klarth greatly, but instead found their two other friends fast asleep on the ground, Cress's cape draped over them like a blanket and the two snuggled right up to each other.

"Did these two seriously send us on ahead to get food and shit just to be sappy idiots?" Klarth huffed. "How annoying..."

"I don't know, I think it's pretty sweet!" Mint commented.

"Whatever. Let's get started setting up the camp. Arche, wake those two up when we're done. You're good at being obnoxious."

Arche huffed and simply clocked Klarth on the head with her broom.