Antoine plucked another weed and tossed it to the edge of the vegetable plot, sighing as he straightened to survey his handiwork. He wasn't quite sure why the Princess had insisted he be the one to carry out the daily garden maintenance – and just as he'd finished composing a new ballad for her! – but he'd done as wonderful a job as anyone could expect. Obviously she'd seen how much talent he had for this, and thanks to that the late autumn harvest was safe and healthy for another day.
As he gathered the weeds for the trip to the compost heap, a splash of color caught his eye. Ears perked with interest, he set the weeds aside and zoned in on the color, carefully brushing dry leaves aside to see what was peeking out; most likely it was one of Tails' toys, or a jacket some Knotholer or another shed as the day grew warm, or at best a late harvest eggplant whose seed had somehow escaped the main plot.
Instead he found a cluster of fist-sized, sweet-smelling flowers.
Antoine sat back on his heels, trying to remember if he'd ever seen a flower quite like this. The petals were large and soft purple, four or five ringing each bloom's dense green center; they reminded him of something, though he couldn't quite remember what. Below each blossom was a cluster of smooth-edged leaves and then a thick stem leading into a clump of unusually thick grass with a purplish tinge. For the life of him, he couldn't recall ever seeing a plant like this.
He reached out to pluck the flowers but then hesitated, thinking better of it. Suppose they were poisonous? He couldn't bring anything poisonous to the village proper, least of all to his princess! Antoine stood, fussily brushing away dirt that wasn't there, and headed back to his hut to consult the books his father had left him.
An hour later, Antoine had learned that the mysterious flower was called a stardrop, that it was extremely rare in the Great Forest and the seed had likely been dropped by a migrating bird, and most importantly that it was not poisonous. Armed with this knowledge, he headed back to the vegetable patch with a flower pot and a small spade he'd borrowed from Rosie's gardening shed. The last flowers of the year, and so unusual – what a marvelous gift for his princess!
As the sun set, Antoine was covered in dirt, the coyote's claws cracked and filthy – but the flowers were safe in the pot, none the worse for wear. He rose, holding the pot close to his chest, and turned toward the light burning in Sally's window.
"Antoine? What're y'all doin' out here s'late?"
The coyote jumped with a barely suppressed squeak, wondering how he could have missed the sound of Bunnie's approach. He slowly turned to face her, clearing his throat in embarrassment.
"Well… you see… I was only being…."
He trailed off, unaccountably flustered as the rabbit studied him, green eyes bright with amused curiosity. After a moment she leaned forward to study the flowers, the last rays of the sun illuminating her golden fur and soft purple eye shadow.
"Why Antoine, how pretty! Where'd y'all find these?"
"Ah? Well… well, zey…." Those purple-rimmed green eyes flicked back to his face as he spoke, and he suddenly found himself pressing the flower pot into her hands. "You are 'aving zem, yes?"
"Oh Antoine, fer me?" Bunnie gasped, flushing with pleasure as her hands closed around the pot. "Thanks so much! Yer such a cupcake!" She beamed at him, flesh hand coming up to tenderly stroke a petal, and Antoine found himself smiling back, his own cheeks heating in the face of her obvious joy.
Maybe the flowers weren't for his Princess after all.
"Why, these'll keep mah lil hut right cheery even with th'fall comin' on – an' mah favorite color too!" She hugged the pot close with a giggle before offering Antoine her hand. "C'mon darlin' – Ah'll fix y'some supper."
Antoine hesitated a moment and then smiled, the dirt caking him forgotten as he gently closed his fingers over hers.
"Oui, ma belle. And zen perhaps I am singing for you."