Mel left me the following prompt: "Sarsaparilla for Hunter and Cole" and this is the bit of silly fluff my muse came up with.
Hunter’s voice when he repeated the word was utterly nonplussed, and Cole couldn’t suppress a grin.
“Sarsaparilla,” he confirmed, “Now are you helping me or what?”
Pushing away from the car, Hunter climbed over the guard rail and joined Cole. They started into the woods, and for a few moments the only sounds Cole could hear were the birds trilling above their heads with the occasional flutter of wings. Even their steps were muffled by the green explosion of spring.
They hadn’t come back since winter, and the woods couldn’t have seemed more different, green and full of life when, back then, everything had felt dead and cold. Still, Cole’s memories flickered toward that night, the echo reinforced when Hunter just failed to trip over a dead branch and cursed under his breath.
“Are you going to explain at all?” Hunter asked.
“I told you, we’re looking for sarsaparilla. Which looks like this, by the way.” He bent down to a shrub with the characteristic thick, heart-shaped leaves and pinched the stem of the last leaf on a branch between his thumb and forefinger. “Only the last leaf,” he advised Hunter. “The newest one. And we can only pick a few leaves per bush.”
Hunter watched him pluck two more leaves before he gave it a try. Twirling the leaf in between his fingers, he gave it a little sniff.
“Are these native?” he asked. “I don’t remember ever seeing stuff like that around.”
“Great-grand-dad again,” Cole said, taking Hunter’s leaf to add it to his bag. “He needed the leaves for his spells so he planted a few bushes. Did some magic to help them grow, too, from what I gather. I’m not quite sure if he imported Smurfs as well.”
Hunter gave him a blank look. “What?”
Cole grinned. “Smurfs. You know, little blue creatures with white hats? They eat sarsaparilla. Didn’t you watch the cartoons when you were a kid?”
Hunter looked bewildered, as though he wasn’t sure whether Cole was pulling his leg or what. Without another word, Cole started to look for more sarsaparilla.
“You’re kidding, right?” Hunter called after him. “There aren’t actually any such thing as Smurfs, are there?”
Cole laughed but didn’t answer. He had been practicing his illusion skills, lately; it had always been the hardest part of magic for him. But the stone circle wasn’t far, and it might still have some magic to draw from… How hard would it be to conjure a village of little blue men? It’d certainly be worth the look on Hunter’s face. And maybe…
A strong hand closing on his shoulder stopped him and his train of thoughts. He turned to face Hunter.
“You know,” Hunter said in that low voice that never failed to send a shiver down Cole’s spine, “I’m not all that fond of you keeping secrets from me.”
“As I recall, you didn’t mind all that much before. At least not in the end.”
Hunter’s mouth opened, no doubt for a protest, but soon it closed and twisted into a wicked smile. “As long as you make it worth my while,” he said.
Cole laughed again. “That’s the plan. Now are we picking the sarsaparilla first or—”
Hunter’s mouth crashing onto his answered quite clearly. It was all right. The bushes weren’t going anywhere.