My 101st Fanfiction! And my first for Akagami no Shirayukihime! :3 I know this isn't really a popular series but it really should be, so everyone go and get your friends into it! I am here to promote the ZenxShirayuki pairing and give us all some fluff! Takes place after chapter 7. Please enjoy!!

Disclaimer: I do not own Akagami no Shirayukihime D:

Gathering Herbs

A cool, Springtime breeze floated by, rustling the new, green leaves on the trees overhead and tugging back Shirayuki's apple-red hair along with it.

The girl smiled up at the azure sky, dotted with wisps of cotton clouds and several wayward birds. She took a brief moment to close her eyes and inhale the fresh air deeply, letting it fill her lungs and cleanse her soul. She savored the warm sunlight on her skin and allowed it to seep into her very being, rejuvenating her and ridding her body of any and all let out the breath she was holding with a content sigh, stretching her arms up above her head.

The young female pharmacist was out collecting plants and gathering herbs for her and her boss's remedies and medicines.

Once she had satisfyingly refreshed herself, she picked up her basket, half full of leaves and flowers of all kinds, and continued on her way. She walked silently through the trees, the grin perpetually glued to her face. She listened to the twitters and sounds of the birds, as she walked, enjoying the tranquil, silent melancholy of nature. She halted when she came across a good spot for collecting supplies that she stumbled upon one day that she often used. With her basket slung over her arm, she began picking the spiky green leaves of aloe that she needed, humming a quiet tune to herself.

After a few moments had passed by, she moved on to another batch of plants sprouting at large brown roots at the base of a thick tree. She was careful to avoid the plentiful parts of the area that were overflowing with poisonous plants and kinds that made one dizzy, which she had encountered many times before.

She felt another breeze coming on and felt obliged to close her eyes once more and enjoy the feeling of the wind against her face. She inhaled deeply once again and was about to let it out when she felt a tap on her shoulder.

"Hey, Shirayuki!" A cheerful, male voice sounded from behind her. Her emerald eyes flew open and she choked on the breath she was holding.

"Zen!" she gasped, spinning around to face him. But as she did so, her foot caught on the roots of the tree she stood at, and she tripped as she tried to get her footing back. She stumbled and fell backward, and Zen blinked in surprise before attempting to help her. But he was too late, and she fell back, crashing against the ground and rolling onto one side where she lay still.

"S-Shirayuki!" The frazzled prince quickly made his way to her and knelt down beside her. She clutched her stomach with one hand, her breathing fast and shallow and Zen realized he had cause her to get the wind knocked out of her. He gently placed one hand on her back and repeated her name softly until she had the strength to push herself up. After a moment, the girl's breathing finally began to even out and she weakly blinked her eyes open to glance up at him.

"Zen…" she wheezed, a small, bright smile forming on her lips as though nothing had happened.

"I'm sorry." The boy apologized, tracing slow, soothing circles on her back. "I didn't mean to surprise you so badly. Are you hurt?" he asked, worry clouding his eyes. Shirayuki gave her head a small shake.

"No, I'm alright now." She took in one last gulp of air before she straightened up. "It's so good to see you."

"I'm sorry." He repeated. "Are you sure you're alright?" he fretted, eyeing the hand that was still gripping her ribcage.

"Yes. I'm fine." She reassured him earnestly. The smile on her face made him melt, and Zen finally cracked a small smile of his own.

"That's good." He sighed with relief, giving her back one last pat before removing his hand. Shirayuki almost blushed when she realized that she was already missing the feeling of his warmth. She quickly fought it off and forced herself to open her mouth again.

"S-So why are you here, Zen?" She stammered. Then a feeling of urgency came over her and her smile fell. "Is something wrong?" she suddenly became very serious.

"Calm down," he gave a small chuckle. "It's nothing like that. I was free of duties today and decided to stop by the pharmacy to see you, but Ryu told me you were out here gathering herbs. But I didn't mean to give you such a shock." His face fell.

"H-Hey," Shirayuki reached forward with one hand and placed it over his. "I already said it's okay, Zen." The second prince looked up sharply when he felt her hand on his and he locked gazes with his red-haired friend. "Thanks for coming all this way to keep me company." She beamed.

Zen was at a brief loss for words before he finally snapped out of it. "You're welcome." He murmured, finding he was getting captivated by her smile. Then he noticed something. "Shirayuki, why are you still holding your side? You're hurt aren't you? I'm sorry, it's all my fault." He inched closer to her. "Here, let me see." He said, reaching for her hand.

"Ah! Oh no, no, i-it's nothing! Really." She laughed, removing her arm from her stomach. "I don't know why I was doing that. I didn't even realize it." Her sparkling eyes cause Zen to blink and then nod slowly.

"Alright. If you're sure." He agreed, yet a small part of him was still suspicious. "Here, let me help you with your basket." He offered, motioning to the plants and leaves that were strewn about the ground next to the tipped container. "Are they still useful?" he asked, guiltily. "I'll take full responsibility for-"

"Zen, it's okay." She soothed. "I'll wash them when I get back anyway. Besides there's plenty more." She pointed out.

"Then I'll help you finish." Zen stood to his feet and offered Shirayuki his hand, which she coyly accepted. He hoisted her up until she regained her balance and then the two friends proceeded to re-collect the scattered medicinal plants.

Shirayuki directed him on which leaves to pluck from which herbs, and the prince seemed enthralled to be doing something new and of use to her. The girl giggled a tiny bit at seeing how excited he was, and she surveyed the area before starting on another patch of flowers.

They continued this in comfortable silence for a while, frequently returning to the basket at the base of the tree and placing their finds inside. Eventually, the prince and the girl found themselves at the same patch of leafy ferns. They each made eye contact and burst into laughter. But Zen blinked and frowned when he heard her cut off sharply with a gasp.

"Zen!" she quickly grabbed his arm and pulled him away. "Quick, over here." She led him across the clearing until she stopped. "Are you feeling okay?" She asked urgently.

"Y-Yes, why?" The boy was puzzled.

"Those weeds over there are harmful to humans." She informed him. Zen blinked at her and glanced back over her shoulder at the plants they had just been near to notice that underneath the broad, dark leaves were smaller, orange-tinged weeds popping up underneath. "I'm sorry, I should have checked first. I can't believe I didn't notice it before…" he heard her trail off in a whisper.

"Wait, before? So you were here with these poisonous plants this whole time?" he asked, scrutinizing her face.

"Oh, yes I'm fine. They're only harmful if you breathe in their pollen for too long, but I wasn't anywhere near them earlier. I would have noticed right away if they were affecting me, but there are some plants that take a while for their effects to kick in. I'm alright." She repeated when she saw the doubtful concern in the prince's eyes.

"I never thought you could be put in so much danger living the life of a pharmacist." He sighed, shaking his head slowly. "Well let's get going then. I'll make note of this and have a warning posted to avoid this area when we get back."

The two made their ways back to the large tree with the twisted roots. Zen reached down to pick up the basket, now full of helpful plants and leaves.

"Wait. Careful." Shirayuki spoke up again, catching Zen's attention. He stopped and followed her gaze to see that the ferns near the basket were concealing small tangles of thorns. Zen moved his hand away and lifted the basket without touching them. "I'm sorry." Shirayuki exclaimed once he had safely recoiled his hand. "I've been so unobservant today. I didn't notice those either. What's wrong with me?" she mumbled, bowing her head and burying her face in her palm. She let out a dejected sigh, distressed at how inattentive she had been. "You could've gotten hurt…" she whispered.

Zen's eyes softened and he reached forward and gently rested his hand on her shoulder.

"Hey." His voice was so tender and soft, it made her heart jump. "It's okay. No harm no foul, right? You didn't need to be observant because you already knew all these things. It's because I don't know anything that you're blaming yourself." She let her hand fall away from her face and she stared at the ground, her bangs shielding her eyes from his searching gaze. He then noticed that she was once again holding her side and his eyes narrowed. "Shirayuki, what effect would those thorns have on humans?" he asked, slowly taking his hand off her shoulder.

"Well, those are one of the kinds that take effect later on, but…usually it tires someone out before putting them to sleep." She told him. "Why? Do you think you were cut by it?" she asked, concerned.

But he avoided her question and instead motioned for her to sit down. She blinked at him once before taking a seat on the thick roots of the tree, and Zen sat down before her.

"Shirayuki, give me your hand." He said, offering his own to her. She hesitantly slid her left hand into his, her right still plastered to her side. "Now," he continued. "I want you to close your eyes for 60 seconds." He told her.

"Wait, this sound familiar." She hinted. "You're trying to see if I'll fall asleep again?" she gave him a knowing look from clever emerald irises. "It's okay, Zen. I'm not tired." She reassured with a tiny smile.

"No, this time I'm actually going to measure your heart rate." He chuckled.

"Oh." She blinked, a bit surprised. "But, why?"

"Just curious." He answered.

She blinked at him several times and tilted her head to one side. She was about to open her mouth and question him further but decided she would be better off just doing as he asked without query.

She sighed and closed her eyes, feeling self-conscious as she felt the pressure of his fingers on her wrist. She tried to slow her fluttering heart, knowing now that he could feel it racing and she took a deep breath. A minute seemed to last an eternity, and Shirayuki began to feel a bit sleepy, but was resolved not to let herself fall asleep before him for a second time.

"Okay." Zen's voice finally broke the silence and Shirayuki slowly opened her eyes. She quickly straightened up when she realized her shoulders had slumped forward and she let the hand on her ribcage return to her lap. She stared up at Zen, who was still grasping her wrist with a contemplating expression on his face. "Shirayuki, what's a person's average heart rate?" he asked.

She had a feeling she knew what was coming next, but she gave her answer.

"About Seventy two."

"Really?" he blinked at her as though he really had had no idea. "And it can go as low as 40 while one's asleep?"

She nodded once.

"Well, you're at fifty eight right now, my friend."

The red-haired girl's eyes widened. "R-Really?" she stammered. "I-"

"Shirayuki I thought I asked you not to hide anything like this from me ever again." He leaned in closer to her, tightening his grip on her wrist. "Before, when you fell, you got cut by one of those thorns, didn't you?" he asked, flicking his gaze to her side. She sighed.

"I guess so." She replied. "But I didn't intend to hide anything from you, I promise. I just wasn't sure if it really was those thorns that had scratched me, but I hadn't felt any symptoms until now. I honestly just…I didn't want to make you worry." She finished helplessly.

"Fifty four." He said, squeezing her wrist once more. "Let me see your cut." She shyly moved her arm away to reveal a tiny trickle of crimson staining her clothes. Zen sighed. "How long will you be out?" He asked.

"Maybe an hour or two?" she assumed, taking in a deep, shuddering breath. Her vision started to blur and she slumped forward, and Zen swiftly reached out to catch her. Her eyelids fell and she buried her face in his shirt and she felt her body go numb.

"Shirayuki?" the prince asked. "Are you okay?"

"Y...Yes..." she panted. "This…is what's supposed to happen…" It was becoming harder for her to breathe and she struggled for air. She felt as though all energy in her body was being sucked right out of her along with her breath. Zen felt a prickle go up his spine when he saw her condition.

"Shirayuki?" he could feel her heart pounding and heard her choked breath.

"It's okay…it should be over soon…" she gasped.

Zen felt helpless and panicked, and could think of nothing better to do to comfort her than to stroke her hair and hold her warmly. He ran his fingers through her apple-red tresses and down her back, which seemed to calm her.

"I'll be here when you wake up. I promise." He murmured, resting his chin atop her head and taking in her fruity scent. Though ambiguous, he felt her nod once, knowing she had heard him, and he smiled, hugging her tighter.

Eventually, her breathing slowed and became less painful to listen to and she fell almost completely silent. Zen felt her go limp and her stiff shoulders relaxed.

He held her a moment longer before he shifted to slide his arms underneath her and lifted her bridal style. She's so light… he thought.

Leaving the basket of herbs behind, he carried her off into the woods the way he had come.

All the way back, he was hardly able to take his eyes off of her adorable, sleeping face, a small smile still on her lips.

Warm sunlight woke Shirayuki as it blessed her face through the glass of the window.

She slowly opened her eyes and blinked several times, trying to get her bearings. She felt a soft pillow beneath her head and a thick blanket resting over her body.

"Ah, you're awake!" A familiar voice sounded from above her and she turned her head to lock gazes with the second prince of Clarines.

"Zen…" the girl pushed herself up from her bed and tried to sit up.

"Ah, wait-!"

His warning came too late as an intense pang of anguish shot through her body and seemed to strike her directly in the heart. With a gasp of pain she hunched over and clutched her chest. Zen, who had been sitting at her bedside for the past two hours in wait, now quickly reached forward to support her. "You shouldn't move too quickly." He murmured. "Do you remember what happened?" he asked. Shirayuki felt a throbbing in her stomach and peered down to find her side bandaged.

The memories of the day's events came rushing back to her.

She was pulled back from her remembrances when she felt a familiar pressure on her wrist.

"Ryu offered to go back and fetch the basket and your boss was very pleased with the amount of supplies you retrieved." He informed her with a grin as he once again measured her heart rate. "Sixty eight. Still not normal but better than before." He said, satisfied as he released his grip on her thin wrist.

"I'm sorry for causing so much trouble, Zen." She apologized. "I mean you went there help me and keep me company and I just wound up being a burden to you-"

"Stop that right now." The sharpness of his voice made it sound like an angry order. Shirayuki's heart ceased for a second, as he had never given her an order before and she was almost frightened at the fact that he was mad with her. "It was my fault for scaring you anyway." He said, a bit softer now. She smiled.

"Okay. It's both our faults, so let's both stop feeling guilty and move on, shall we?" she suggested with that irresistible smile of hers.

Zen reflected her sweet grin. "We shall." He agreed. "Are you feeling well enough to move yet?" he asked politely.

"I believe so." She giggled.

"Alright then. Would you care to accompany me on a walk about the palace?"

"Of course."

"Splendid." He chivalrously offered her his hand and he helped her out of bed.

As the two made their way across the room together, heading for the door, Zen looked down at her fondly. "You know, aside from obvious reasons, I rather enjoyed gathering herbs with you today."

"You could come with me whenever you like. I'll just try not to pass out." She offered.

"Very well. Then I shall accompany you every time!" he declared proudly.

Shirayuki's eyes softened.

"I'd like that."

A/N: Fin! ZenxShirayuki! Hope you all enjoyed it!! There is a sequel to this story called Springtime Saunter that is posted on my account as a seperate story :3 Please go check it out!

Please review!!