Gardenias & Grimwalkers
I love cheesy Huntlow with communication.
If everything worked the way it should, the way all their research said it would, then this would be their last night in the human realm. Maybe their last night of peace. They didn’t know what they were walking into, they had no idea what things were like back home. Who was safe, what was left.
But Hunter didn’t care, because he knew who he was walking into it with.
He also knew they might not be walking out of it. If that was the case, they couldn't leave anything left unsaid.
Which why he found himself here, sitting on the porch with Willow watching traffic. He had asked her if they could talk after dinner and she had happily agreed, but he knew that after he told her what he needed to she wouldn’t be happy for long. Everyone else already knew, and they had respected his wishes not to tell her, but they had agreed it was important she knew.
And he wanted her to know. She deserve to know. He wanted her to know everything. A part of him suspected she already knew from the way she was avoiding his gaze now. She already knew and was finding the words to let him down gently. The suspense was making it hard to breathe.
They broke the silence together, speaking at the same time.
“I like you.” “I’m a Grimwalker.”
They turned to look at each, eyes wide and faces red. Hunter couldn’t decide what to react to first, what he had said or what he had heard. Oh, why hadn’t he just waited two more seconds?
“Okay...” Willow breathed, scanning his face for what his words meant to him. “I still like you.”
“Yeah,” she said without hesitation, her hair littered with flowers at this point.
“Oh.” He knew he looked ridiculous. He felt like all his hair was standing on edge as though struck by lightning. He felt like a million lifetimes had passed as he searched his mind for something, anything, else to say besides ‘oh.’
“So do you... wanna talk about it?”
“Uh, I mean sure,” blushed Hunter. “Like... when you say ‘like’ do you mean-.”
“I meant about you being a grimwalker,” she said quickly, trying to balance being flustered and supportive.
“Oh yeah that,” he had almost forgotten, for a brief moment it wasn’t weighing on him so much. “I just found out... well, not just. It was after Luz and I learned about Belos... I learned that he made me... after someone from his past... who betrayed him. I was supposed to be a better version of him, but it looks like we’re the same. Which... I guess it good?”
“How do you feel?”
“It’s still new,” he said, exhaling. “There’s been a lot of new things and so far... a lot of things have been bad, I guess, but does that mean this has to be too?”
“No,” said Willow, taking his hand. “It’s not bad, it’s just different. You don’t control how you come to exist, no one does. What matters is what you do with that existence. And... I’m glad you exist.”
“You are, aren’t you?” Hunter said fondly at the sincerity in her voice, looking down at their linked hands with a heavy eyes. He looked up at her slowly and saw she was also looking at their hands with content. His heart leapt wildly at the realization that she looked at him the same way he would look at her. And she felt the same way, and she had told him. She liked him and and wanted him to know. She liked him and wanted to say it aloud. She liked him and she knew him. She liked him. Something about knowing it for certain made him confident. “Because you liiiike me,” he teased with a toothy grin.
Willow looked at him in shock before quickly turning her face away, blushing furiously. She had heard Hunter talk like that before, sure, but never to her. Hunter laughed, cherishing her reaction, knowing exactly how she felt.
“Yeah, I guess,” she whispered, her eyes darting everywhere except directly at him as tiny flowers spurted throughout the top of her head like a veil.
“I was... really worried you were gonna tell something else,” he admitted with a light chuckle.
“Yeah well, if tomorrow’s’ portal attempt works out we’ll be kind busy so I wanted to make sure I told you before, just in case...”
“Yeah,” he mumbled, why couldn’t he say anything? He wanted to ask her just in case what, but he didn’t want to risk changing the subject. But he also didn’t know how to contribute to the subject, otherwise these word would have already been said months ago by him when she had adjusted his hat to cover his ears and had stood so close to him that he had nearly passed out and it clicked then that he had reached the point of no return. He had tried to convince himself basically since the day he had met her that he was mistaking adoration for admiration, but it turned out he felt both for Willow.
“I-is that okay?” Willow asked, breaking the silence.
“I mean, i-it’s cool,” said Hunter trying to act like he was cool and didn’t just learn that cool was slang just two weeks ago. “I think it’s cool.”
“You think it’s cool?”
“Y-yeah,” he said suddenly worried he had said ‘cool’ way too much.
“Hunter,” said Willow sternly, finally looking at him. They locked eyes he lost any chance of concealing his own blush. “I just told you that I liked you and it’s just... cool? Isn’t there anything else you wanna say?”
Silence swirled between them, on her side it was baited and tense and his was distressed and unraveling.
“It’s, um, very cool?” Hunter tried, on the verge of panicking. He wished he knew how to summon his previous courage, now he was worried she was angry and regretting her decision.
“But?” Willow prompted.
“But...” Hunter went on, sensing her invitation to continue but feeling as though that wasn’t the correct conjunction. “It’s, uh, but... it’s, uh...”
“Hunter, if the feeling isn’t mutual, it’s okay really but I-.”
“But it’s not mutual!” Hunter screamed suddenly, staring at Willow with panicked and pleading eyes. He dropped her hand as he frantically wrung his hands together, trying to breath.
“Huh?” Willow gasped. She knew this was a possibility, but she didn’t think he’d react like this.
“I’m sorry! But it’s not,” Hunter went on, clearly distressed. Willow knew he wouldn’t want to hurt her, and that it’s only made her like him even more. “I like you way more than you like me!”
“What?” Willow asked, her anxiety talking a pause.
“I do!” Hunter insisted with the nerves of someone on the run. “I don’t know how to talk to you, but taking to you is all I wanna do! And you made me nervous but also not nervous? And stupid! But better? I mean, ugh!”
The words spilled out of him like vomit, starting before he could think clearly. He felt as though actually vomiting would be less embarrassing.
“But you could never like me that much,” he was speaking more to himself at this point, the thoughts that had held him back finally having an opportunity to sing out. “Because I don’t even know how to like someone! Nervous and not nervous? That doesn’t even sense! You can’t feel two completely different things! I’m doing it wrong or too much or-.”
“I feel like that too,” interjected Willow, moving close to him and covering his hands with hers. “I-I feel like that right now.”
“But what if that’s just because...” started Hunter. Her lost look of concern pushed him forward. “...because of who he was, who Caleb was.”
“Caleb was...?” Willow didn’t need to finish, Hunter knew what she was asking. He nodded.
“He betrayed Belos,” said Hunter. “By falling in love with a witch.”
“So Belos made me to be a better version of him,” said Hunter. “But I think I’m just like him.”
A large pink flower bloomed atop her head, stem and all, taller and larger than any flower she subconsciously made before. She tried to remain composed regardless. Play it cool.
“J-just like him?”
“Yeah, he was very handsome ” said Hunter matter-of-factory, not snarky as he might have before. “And kind and smart and likeable. So what if the things you like about me are just things that are him... and not me? Because I don’t think I’m those things so that must be the parts that are Caleb.”
“Hunter, that’s silly,” smiled Willow. “You can’t be anyone but you and I know I like you. I’ve liked you for awhile.”
Hunter gulped and Willow continued, bringing their hands down.
“I obviously didn’t know Caleb so I can’t say what he was like, but just because Belos wanted you to be someone doesn’t mean you are or have to be,” said Willow. “I don’t know if Caleb was stubborn and sweet and competitive, plenty of people are, but I like these things in you.”
“Oh,” he said. No, not again, he thought, say something else! “H-how long is awhile?”
She scrunched her nose and smiled . “Do you remember the Entrails first official flyer derby match?” Willow asked and the day came back to him, clear as day.
“Yes, it was exactly 22 days after we first met,” he said. “You won, you scored the winning point. Why?”
“You showed up an hour early to make sure you wouldn’t be late to see us play,” said Willow. “And I didn’t know why then, but when I saw you in the stands waiting I was so happy to see you. And I was so excited to see your face whenever we got a point, and you made a sign for me... and it all made me feel, well, like this.”
She plucked a flower from her hair and placed it in his hand. It took him a minute to understand.
“Wait, I did this?!” He asked, looking at the flower in utter shocked. “How?”
Willow giggled. “Just by being you,” she said simply. “I’ve gotten pretty good at catching and hiding it but you know me; I’m not very good at not letting plants grow. I thought you’d figure it out, to be honest, everyone else had.”
“E-everyone knew you liked me?” Hunter sputtered. “And they believed you could like me? Huh. Wait, and they never told me?!”
“Yeah, well there was alot going on,” said Willow, looking to the ground. “But I’m telling you now, that’s not too late right?”
“No! No, no not at all,” Hunter insisted, panicked she was having second thoughts. He had rehearsed this moment before in his head, but this was not the confession he planned on making today so all those scenarios were lost to him. In truth, he had always intended on telling her right before battle and then going out in a blaze of glory because that broken, healing part of his mind never imagined her returning his affections. He leaned down closer to her, hoping to catch her eye again. “Willow...”
Hearing him say her name made the flowers bloom like crazy. He didn’t realize how rare it was for him to say her name rather that ‘Captain’ but she did. Boy, did she ever. They overtook her head, a flurry of gardenias and roses and peonies and all she could managed to do was succumb to it until it passed. They quickly sprouted a pile that completely encased her
“Willow! I’m sorry!” said Hunter ,misunderstanding the reason of the flurry as he furiously removed the flowers. But each time he said her name, the flurry only grew. “Willow! Can you breathe in there? Is the oxygen too crisp? Willow, I-.”
When he had removed enough flowers to reveal her face, he found it looking at him with a wide smile and wider eyes. He only stopped a moment to admire her and the way the colors complimented her before continuing to brush the remaining flowers from atop her head. This time, when he leaned forward to untangle them from her hair, she leaned forward as well and pressed her lips to his cheek.
He recoiled, his hand gently touched the spot she had kissed, waiting for her to give some indication it was something else, a mistake. But one look at her and he knew it was on purpose. But somehow that made him even more nervous. Where had his confidence gone? He already knew she liked him, there was no more wondering or doubting it now. He didn’t want her to wonder or doubt it either.
She was waiting for him to respond.
“You missed,” he said.
“You missed,” he said, holding his breath and leaning in quickly before he could talk himself out of it. He closed the space between them, placing a chaste kiss on her lips. She closed her eyes and brought her hands up to either side of his face and steadied him as she returned the kiss. The flowers sprouted wildly but neither of them seemed to care. Hunter didn’t know what to do with his hands, so they stayed shaking at his sides giving him no way to catch himself when Willow pulled him closer, causing the pair to fall backwards into the ever growing collection of flowers.
“I’m sorry... was that okay?” Hunter said when he managed to pull away, despite really not wanting to.
“It’s cool,” replied Willow trying to catch her breath, a large red tulip appearing behind her ear.