This was a request/idea that IshtarAli gave me ^^ Everyone enjoy!

Disclaimer: I do not own Akagami no Shirayukihime :(

Apple Picking

Wind coasted gently through the open window in Shirayuki's study.

The red-haired girl was just finishing organizing some files and notes of her pharmaceutical medicines. Feeling the breeze through the glass, she was unable to resist when her feet unconsciously took her across the room to lean against the windowsill. She gazed out the open window, admiring her wonderful view of the palace.

She could see many, many acres of pure green land off to one side, and the town off to the other, the Gate of Poets just barely visible off to one corner. She closed her eyes and inhaled deeply, relishing the last of the warm, Summer air as it slowly changed into the crisp, cool Autumn breeze she somehow found so nostalgic. She closed her eyes, telling herself it would only be for a moment, and wound up almost falling asleep, had it not been for a knock on her door and a familiar deep voice.

"Shirayuki? Are you in there?"

She opened her eyes and fought off a yawn. "Yes. Come in, Zen." Stretching her arms above her head, she felt her shoulder pop satisfyingly as the young Prince of Clarines creaked open her door and stepped inside. He wore a bright smile on his carefree face, his dark eyes sparkling. The pharmacist reflected his smile, emerald eyes flickering with curiosity. "Slacking off again, I see?" she giggled playfully. "What's up?" she wondered, leaving the window and gliding over to him.

"Well I was wondering, if you're free, if you'd want to come apple picking with me." He offered; he seemed excited, almost like a little kid who was about to get a new toy.

"Apple picking? Already?" she glanced back out the window at the green orchards, the leaves barely even shifting colors at all yet. "It seems a bit early."

"Nonsense." Zen assured. "There are plenty of orchards full of apples at this time of year!" he promised.

"Well, I just finished organizing my papers so-"

"Great! Let's go." He perked up even more, if that was possible, and took her hand, pulling her across the room and out the door. She followed eagerly, a small bubble of excitement bursting in her stomach, making her feel light as a feather as she followed him down the hallways of the castle. She had to skip a bit at some points to keep up with him, and she could not help but feel that his overflowing happiness was affecting her as well.

The two of them passed Mitsuhide and Kiki as they exited the door; the couple was enjoying the last of the warm sun together, leaning against the cool walls of the palace. Shirayuki was hardly able to call a greeting to them as Zen tugged her along after him.

"What're you two up to?" Mitsuhide asked, sharing a knowing glance with Kiki, who smiled.

"Apple picking!" Zen called back joyfully over his shoulder. Shirayuki could not hold back a small, good-hearted laugh as he quickened his pace and she nearly tripped over her own two feet.

"See you later!" She shouted back to them.

Kiki watched them with amused, yet mysterious eyes.

"They're always together, aren't they?" she murmured.

"Yeah." Mitsuhide agreed. "But like we're ones to talk." He added, wrapping an arm around her waist and pulling her in a little closer. He kissed her quickly, and she smiled a bit coyly as they pulled apart, leaning back against the wall and gazing up at the cotton clouds in the azure sky above.

Shirayuki was led like a dog on a leash to a gorgeous patch of thin-trunked trees, most of the leaves still light green but some were shifting their colors to yellow-orange or red. Zen slowed his pace and released his grip on her hand, and Shirayuki was finally able to catch her breath. She gazed up at the trees and was surprised to see that the branches were laden with crimson apples. Zen halted beside her and smirked triumphantly at the hundreds of scarlet fruits speckling the treetops.

"Wow." The girl blinked back into reality. "There really are a lot. You weren't kidding!" Then she realized something. "But, we don't have anything to put them in to carry back." She noted.

"Says who?" the prince strolled over to one of the trees and reached down in the long grass to reveal a tightly woven basket. "I knew I'd probably forget sometimes so I leave extras here." He shrugged.

Where did that come from? She thought, but she spoke differently. "You really think ahead." She complimented, noticing there were several other baskets stacked beneath the same tree. Wow. She thought. He must really enjoy picking apples. But it's no fun to do it alone… "I don't even know where to start." She said, hardly able to avert her eyes from the various different colors of apples dangling above her head.

"Start anywhere." Zen suggested. "Wait." He placed the basket at his feet before straightening up again. "Watch this." Reaching to his side with his right hand, he drew his sword. Shirayuki blinked, opening her mouth to ask what it was he intended to do, but she stayed silent as he wrapped his left arm around her shoulders and gently pulled her back a few steps until she stood behind him.

Zen raised his sword up to his face level, his eyes hardened with intense focus. Then, he pulled back his arm and thrust his sword forward, letting go of the hilt. Shirayuki gasped at his unexpected motions, but watched as the blade sliced through the air like an arrow, and, with perfect marksmanship and precision, cut down three ripe fruit, which landed in unison a second later. His sword tilted and landed vertically into the ground several yards away.

The girl stood with jaws agape as the young prince walked calmly over and picked up the three apples and turned to face her with a grin.

"H-How…?" His baffled companion was still in shock.

"I've had loads of time to practice." He replied, dropping the fruit into the basket. Shirayuki shook her head and snapped out of her trance of awe.

"Yes, I guess you have." She agreed. "With all that free time you're sneaking out and all." She teased.

"Hey. I don't sneak out." He nudged her arm with his elbow. "Much."

"Right." She smirked, making her way over to one of the trees. She reached up and pulled off as many apples as she could reach as Zen received his blade and sheathed it. He too then began pulling at the branches so that the fruits were low enough for him to pluck off one by one. They deposited their finds in the large, woven basket until it was about half full.

Shirayuki soon found herself lost in her surroundings, too beautifully tranquil for her to resist just spending a moment or two to relax. So she sat down at the trunk of a tree and leaned back against the rough bark, closing her eyes momentarily. Once more, she stopped herself before she could doze off and blinked her emerald eyes back open to stare out across the green clearing, the grass beginning to be covered in leaves here and there.

She then realized something was missing from the scene. "Zen?" she called out, a bit startled that she had not seen nor heard him disappear off to wherever he had gone. Abruptly, she stood up, her eyes flickering about the orchard in search of her friend. "Zen?" she called out once more.

Then, she felt a pang as something hit her head. She cringed for a moment before straightening again, rubbing her head and messing up her hair. "Ow." She mumbled, looking down at the apple that had fallen and conveniently hit her.

"Oops. Sorry did that actually hit you?"

Shirayuki jumped and spun around on her heel, so fast she nearly fell over. "Zen?"

"You rang?"

She stared in the direction of his voice, looking up into the tree she had been sitting below just now to see a familiar face looking back down at her with a mischievous smile. "Zen?" She squeaked. "What are you-? How-?"

"I do this all the time, Shirayuki." He called down from the branch he sat on. "I'm a natural."

"How come I didn't notice…?" she murmured to herself.

"Well, either you were dozing off, or I'm just too good to notice." He guessed smugly.

"I guess so." She sighed.

She stared up at him expectantly but he stayed where he was. When he saw her expression he became confused.

"Is something wrong?" He asked, puzzled.

"Are…Are you going to come down now?" she asked, her gaze flicking back down to the grass.

"Hm? Why?" he tilted his head to one side.

"I-It's just…" she shuffled her feet, her bangs covering her eyes as she patted her head where the apple had struck her. Concern flashed on the prince's face when he saw her troubled position.

"Shirayuki?" he called down, shifting on the branch and preparing to jump down.

"No!" The girl gasped suddenly, looking up at him.

"What is it?" he pressed.

"I-I'm sorry. I just…get really nervous when you do that."

"Do what? Climb trees?" he tried to hide the disbelief from his voice.

"W-Well, I don't know, it's just the branches look so thin and I don't want you to get hurt."

"Shirayuki, I've been doing this for years." He insisted. "There's no need to worry." The girl looked unconvinced. "Why don't you come up here and see for yourself?" He asked. She looked up, a bit panicked at his suggestion.

"But won't it break under so much weight?" she fretted.

"This branch is sturdier than the others since its lower down." He explained. Then he smiled sweetly. "Plus, if it doesn't break under my weight, why would that change if you were up here with me?" The girl blushed a color that would put her notorious red hair to shame at his chivalrous compliment. But after a moment, she hesitantly took a step toward the tree.

Cautiously, she raised one foot and kicked off the ground, reaching up and clinging to the bark. Zen watched her, waiting patiently as she struggled up to where he sat. Once she was close enough, he reached out and took one of her hands, supporting her as she climbed up next to him. She heaved herself up and finally managed to carefully take a seat next to him. He only let go of her hand when he was sure she had her full balance, then he smiled at her again; with a tiny blush she did the same.

Then, Zen reached above his head and plucked off a ripe, vibrant, crimson apple. He then held it up to her, and she blinked in confusion as his eyes flicked from the fruit to her hair and back again. "Hm…" he compared the two beautiful colors for a moment longer, a look of deep concentration on his face as the girl finally realized what he was up to. Then, the prince flashed another wonderful smile before pulling his arm back and taking a bite out of the apple. "It's decided." He concluded.

"What is?"

"You're hair…" he swallowed. "Is much brighter and more beautiful than any apple on earth." He informed her.

"How did you come to that conclusion?" she queried. "That was just a random apple."

"It's true, trust me." He extended his arm and twirled a lock of her scarlet tresses through his fingers.

"Okay." She bowed her head, flattered, and then lightly began to laugh. Briefly forgetting just where she was, she hardly noticed when her weight shifted a bit. Her laughter suddenly turned to a huge gasp as she felt herself succumb to gravity. But the boy quickly steadied her, dropping his apple and placing one hand on her back and the other on her lap. He helped her sit up straight again, then noticed that she was trembling a bit. His eyes softened and his expression turned gentle.

"Are you alright?" he asked.

"Mmhm." She nodded, looking up at him with relief. "Thank you."

"Come closer." He told her. She hesitated, but then coyly slid nearer to him. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders tightly, and after a moment, she rested her head on his shoulder, her tenseness fading away like dew in the sunlight.

Sitting sideways on the branch, the two gazed through the branches and past the apples, out over the orchards stretching out around them. The wind tugged their hair back and the warm sunlight filtered through the trees. The scent of apples was even more overwhelming but extremely delightful.

They stayed there for a while, silently observing the little things in the world around them; a woodpecker pounding away at the bark of the next tree, a rabbit nibbling on the clover down below…

Before long, Zen noticed that Shirayuki's breathing had slowed and deepened, and he peered down at her to find that her eyes were closed, her mouth slightly open. He felt a wave of affection and pulled her closer, resting his chin on her head, her soft hair shining brightly in the sunlight.

Several moments later, the girl stirred and Zen pulled away as she sleepily blinked her stunning emerald eyes open and shook her head to clear it of the dizziness of sleep. "Awake now, Sleeping Beauty?" he posed the question with an amused glint in his eyes.

"I didn't even realize I fell asleep." She answered, embarrassed.

"Let's head back now." He suggested, and she nodded. Then, the girl gazed down at the ground and realized that she was higher up than she had seemed to be up until this point; it looked like a lot longer way down than it had been getting up.

Zen sensed her uneasiness and grasped her hand. "Ladies first." He said chivalrously. "I'll help you down." He promised. She nodded once, determination crossing her expression and the prince had to keep himself from chuckling at how seriously she was taking this. But then he thought that it really might be difficult for her, since she did not do this nearly every day.

They were already on one of the lower branches, but it was still fairly high up, so Shirayuki was a bit shaky in getting down. She struggled to find a sturdy foothold or crevice in the trunk, and only used one hand to maneuver around the branches since Zen secured the other in his palm. He leaned down along with her as she descended, somehow having perfect balance, the girl noticed enviously. He went down slowly after her, keeping her hand firmly in his. Eventually, she was down far enough that she deemed it safe to just drop down.

"I'm going to jump from here." She told him.

"Are you sure?" he checked.

"Yes." She assured.

"Alright. On the count of three, okay?" he offered and she nodded. "Alright," the prince went on. "One…two…" She leaned forward a bit more getting ready for the jump when suddenly, the skinny branch that supported her right foot snapped. With a shriek of surprise, she went down through the remaining branches, and the force of her decent and the fact that their hands were still entwined assured that the prince went down shortly afterwards.

Shirayuki hit the ground ungracefully and felt the rush of air as her lungs were emptied by the collision, landing full on her side. Zen, unable to control the situation, fell on top of the poor girl so that their bodies formed somewhat of an awkward plus sign shape with several fallen apples littering the ground around them.

They both remained motionless for a split second, and Zen shook his head, trying to get his bearings, before he realized why his fall had not hurt as much as it should have. He quickly scrambled off of her, kneeling beside her to get a better look at her face. "Shirayuki! Are you alright?" His eyebrows were furrowed in panic and worry and his hands were outstretched but he was unsure of whether or not he should touch her. Her eyes were squeezed close and by the way her mouth was open, he could tell she was having difficulty finding her breath.

So he gently rolled her onto her back and watched as her chest heaved with short, shallow inhalations. He took her hand and checked her pulse, then realizing that she had only gotten the breath knocked out of her. He sighed in relief when she finally opened her eyes to gaze up at him. "Shirayuki, I'm sorry." Was all he could think to say. But she shook her head the tiniest bit and smiled up at him.

"It…wasn't your…fault." She wheezed.

"Sh!" he demanded fiercely. Then his tone softened. "Don't talk yet." After another moment had passed, she was finally able to breathe again and he supported her shoulders as she attempted to sit upright. "You okay now?" he fretted.

"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you, Zen." She beamed up at him.

"Good." He said as he stood to his feet, offering his hand to help her up as well. "You're sure you're not hurt anywhere?"

"I'll be a little sore tomorrow," she confessed. "But what hurts most is my head from when you threw an apple at it!" She huffed playfully.

"I did no such thing!" he exclaimed in mock astonishment.

"Sure you didn't." she nudged him. "I'll get the basket." She offered, lifting up the container, burdened with red fruit.

"No," Zen corrected. "I'll get that and you don't worry about it." He confirmed, taking the basket from her and Shirayuki pouted.

The two began heading back to the palace then, and the pharmacist snatched an apple from the basket. She sunk her teeth into it and tore off a piece with a well-known crunching sound that made Zen's stomach growl just by hearing it. "Let's share them with Mitsuhide and Kiki too." He suggested, and the girl nodded eagerly.

Then, he reached over to her with his free hand and slid his fingers through her hair. Shirayuki froze where she stood and tensed, her heart fluttering.

Then, she relaxed as she felt his soothing warmth spread through her.

"Gorgeous." Was all that he said with a smile before he turned back around and begun walking once more.

The girl stood there a moment longer, blinked, and then dashed to catch up with him, walking a step closer to him than she had been before.

A/N: Aw. Any mistakes? Lemme know! :3 Again credit for some of these ideas goes to IshtarAli. I just made my own version :p Thanks for reading!

Please review!