"Oh, come on, Cass! It's not that bad!" Rapunzel gave the other woman an upbeat smile as she continued to decorate the many masks the servants of her castle were required to wear now. "We're all healthy, we've got a roof over our heads, and we're all stuck here together!"
"That's exactly what makes me sometimes wish I had the virus," Cassandra deadpanned, snorting at the mountain of decorated masks by Rapunzel's arm. As one may have expected, they were all painfully sappy and cheerful, full of bright colors and smiley faces. But as Rapunzel had said, maybe seeing something that bright and happy would make the people feel bright and happy too, so for the foreseeable future, Rapunzel was going to continue her little hobby of decorating masks to make them as cutsey and happy as possible.
"Oh, come on, Cass," Rapunzel repeated, cheeriness turning into gentleness. "I know you and Eugene don't get along, but this virus is more serious than your squabbles. It just isn't safe for either of you two to go anywhere else."
"Saying that we don't get along is an understatement, Raps," Cassandra deadpanned. "That's about the only thing I like about quarantine: the social distancing. I just wish the distance between Eugene and I was larger. I was thinking six kingdoms apart, rather than just six feet," a smirk flickered across Cassandra's face as she envisioned a beautiful scenario where Eugene was suddenly and inexplicably shipped six kingdoms away while Cassandra got to stay behind with Rapunzel, waving him a cheerful farewell from the docks as he was loaded on board with the rest of the cargo. She could look after Rapunzel just fine, so Eugene was obsolete and Cassandra would've been more than happy to ship him off herself with a "no return" label stamped onto his forehead. Wouldn't that be nice?
"You're already the entire castle apart," Rapunzel reminded Cassandra exasperatedly, interrupting the other woman's glorious daydream.
"Mmmm, nope, still not enough distance," Cassandra replied cheekily, giving Rapunzel a smug and playful smile, riling her up just for fun.
"Cass," Rapunzel gave her friend a small sigh and a slightly disapproving frown.
"Raps?" Cassandra echoed in mock innocence, even raising her eyebrows as if to ask what it was she'd done to upset Rapunzel.
"You're incorrigible, you know that?" the princess asked her handmaiden tiredly.
"It's all those years of training!" Cassandra replied with a playful and proud smile. "You can never surrender!" She puffed her chest up and gave Rapunzel what she thought was her most heroic expression. It worked like a charm and, despite herself, Rapunzel began to giggle.
"Ok, but seriously, Raps, what do you say we get out of here for a little while and just… walk?" Cassandra asked. This time, there was no joking in her voice as she made the offer.
"Wait. What?" Rapunzel blinked in genuine surprise and disbelief. "But that would be breaking quarantine!"
"Exactly," Cassandra replied with a shrug. "It's not like we haven't snuck out before!"
"But every single time we have, it's never ended well," Rapunzel winced, brushing her fingers through her long, golden hair.
"Fair enough, but I still got you home safely, didn't I?" Cassandra asked. "Besides, we won't go anywhere public. I was thinking that it could just be you and me and a nice… long… forest trail. As Cassandra said this, a sultry look began to replace her serious one, but Rapunzel was so genuinely shocked by Cassandra's request to break quarantine that it went over her head and she was quick to cut the idea down.
"That's still not safe! For any of us!" Rapunzel reprimanded Cassandra, trying to appeal to Cassandra's protectiveness, especially of her.
"Meh, a little adventure, a little rebellion, that's good. Healthy even!" Cassandra replied, a mischievous spark lighting up her eyes.
"We've already seen a decrease in imports and exports with neighboring kingdoms because of the unfortunate name of the virus. The last thing we need is for someone to actually get infected!" Rapunzel replied sternly.
"Oooh, look at you, Little Miss Highness and Mighty!" Cassandra gave the princess a teasingly approving smile, looking her up and down.
"Come on, Cass," Rapunzel only just barely managed to bite back a smile, suddenly feeling very exposed under Cassandra's admiring gaze. She wasn't sure why, but there was just something about the way Cassandra was looking at her right at that moment that made her feel… flustered. But in a good way! Like, it felt sort of embarrassing, but it was a good embarrassing! It made Rapunzel feel… flattered.
"I may not like having to pay attention to that sort of thing, but I do care, you know?" she continued, finally managing to pull her thoughts away from Cassandra and back to the topic at hand.
"Of course I know," Cassandra's face softened genuinely. She knew all too well how much Rapunzel loved her people. "But even so, this quarantine really isn't good for people's mental and emotional health… That's why I'm asking you to go out with me." She tilted her head a little as she made this last request of Rapunzel, hope and gentleness and even love flickering in her eyes. But still, Rapunzel seemed to miss it all. Instead, she only twiddled her fingers anxiously.
"You aren't wrong," she began slowly. "But I still don't think it's a good idea…" Cassandra finally grew impatient and made another offer.
"I'll let you make me as many flower crowns as you want if we do," she deadpanned and Rapunzel gasped in delight, already halfway to the door.
"Let's go!" she cried. Cassandra smirked and laughed softly to herself.
"Well," she said. "That was easy." Then after grabbing two masks, she got up and followed Rapunzel out of the room.
The pair spent the rest of the afternoon deep in the woods, leaving their masks hanging on a tree near the entrance to the path. Because they were very much distanced from society, they both agreed that the masks would not be necessary until it was time to go. While Rapunzel's was bright purple with yellow smiling suns on it, Cassandra had intentionally snagged a plain one that Rapunzel hadn't over-decorated yet.
"I made you one where the front looks like a shield since the masks are supposed to protect you! Why won't you wear that one at least? If you didn't want one with flowers, hearts or stars!" Rapunzel had pouted when she saw the mask Cassandra was wearing.
"Because unlike you, I want to look semi-serious when I've got my mask on," Cassandra teased. Even though the mask obscured the entire lower half of her face, Rapunzel could easily tell Cassandra was smirking again. Rapunzel's only response was to sigh and roll her eyes.
But now that they were deeper into the woods, the masks were off and it was just the two of them alone together.
"Ok, I admit, this is really nice," Rapunzel sighed despite herself. Even though a tiny part of her still felt bad about breaking quarantine, she couldn't deny the pleasure of getting to be outside again. The warm summer sun, the cool green grass, the fresh air! While the castle was in no way like the tower she'd spent the first 18 years of her life trapped in, just knowing that she was not allowed outside made it feel like the tower all over again.
"Told you," Cassandra said smugly, crossing her arms and giving Rapunzel a wink. "Nothing better than being out in June!" she added.
"Yeah," Rapunzel agreed sheepishly, still obviously feeling a little bit bad about sneaking out. And if she'd noticed Cassandra's seemingly random enunciation on two of the words in her previous sentence, she didn't ask. But because Cassandra had wanted her to notice and ask, she was a little disappointed when it never happened. But like Cassandra had said earlier, she didn't surrender. At least not that easily. They had an entire day for Cassandra to get Rapunzel to understand. Cassandra made a mental bet with herself that she'd manage it before sundown.
That bet proved to be harder to finish than expected. Whether Cassandra had overestimated her own ability, or underestimated Rapunzel's obliviousness, despite all of Cassandra's best efforts, Rapunzel never caught a single sign Cassandra was sending her.
"I think my favorite part about being out… side… is the fact that I get to spend some quality time alone with you!" she had told Rapunzel during their walk, even giving the princess her best attempt at a smoldering look. But Rapunzel had only agreed in cheerful ignorance.
"I know! It's always fun going on adventures with my best friend!" she said and it took all of Cassandra's willpower not to facepalm.
"It's been too long," Cassandra instead forced herself to agree with Rapunzel before attempting to steer the conversation back to where she wanted it to go. "I always love spending time alone with you, though, whether indoors or outdoors. And hey, maybe we can head back later towards the evening since no one suspects us of being out here, and then we can spend some quality time alone at night!" this was a dangerously bold thing to say and Cassandra even had the gall to raise her eyebrows suggestively, but still Rapunzel remained obvious.
"Ooooh! Star gazing would be fun!" she cried in delight and Cassandra's shoulders slumped in disbelief. A tiny part of her wondered if Rapunzel was only just pretending to be this ignorant, but no, Cassandra knew better. Rapunzel really was this dense (no offense).
Soon, it almost became a game to Cassandra, to see how suggestive she could get before Rapunzel noticed.
"Ahhh, it is kind of nice to hear all the birds and the bees," Cassandra said at one point.
"I know, right?!" Rapunzel agreed enthusiastically. "They all seem so happy and carefree! It's nice to know they're still thriving!"
"Oh, they're happy alright," Cassandra laughed, Rapunzel having unintendedly set her up for a perfect joke… "It's summer after all, so it's probably a lot of these creatures' mating season," she gave Rapunzel a less-than-subtle side-eye.
"Really?" Rapunzel sounded interested. "From everything I've read, spring is usually more common than summer!" Cassandra's eyes went wide in disbelief again at how Rapunzel managed to miss an innuendo that blatant. But Cassandra wasn't going to surrender!
"Ah, well, you know some creatures mate year-round," her voice got even lower and huskier to match her increasingly seductive look. At this point, she wasn't going to hold back, still secretly in disbelief that Rapunzel would miss a signal this clear.
"Hmmm, true, I suppose it just depends on where the creature lives and if all the right resources are available," Rapunzel said thoughtfully.
"Yeah, we have quite a few resources at our disposal," Cassandra sighed, torn between amusement and exasperation at Rapunzel.
"Oh yes, humans too, I suppose," Rapunzel nodded and Cassandra could only sigh and shake her head, but the tiniest of smiles was on her face.
As incredible as Rapunzel's obliviousness could be, it was still kind of charming and cute in its own way. Perhaps that was how and why Cassandra knew she loved Rapunzel so deeply and truly. She wouldn't have tolerated this kind of ignorance from anyone else. (And to be fair, Rapunzel did have something of an excuse. It wasn't like her upbringing had really allowed for romance). But even so, Cassandra was determined to fix that and, as discouraging as Rapunzel's obliviousness was, there was a side of Cassandra that kind of enjoyed the chase, the challenge. Maybe that was another reason Cassandra loved Rapunzel, because despite being so open, Rapunzel was still a mystery and Cassandra liked a challenge.
When the pair finally reached a large grove of flowers, Cassandra reminded Rapunzel about the flower crowns, not because she actually wanted one (because she didn't), but because this was a chance to try more flirting. Cassandra's first shot involved collecting some of the biggest, brightest flowers she could find and presenting them to Rapunzel in a very romantic and affectionate manner.
"These are just as bright as you!" she had said jokingly, but she meant every word as she gave the flowers to Rapunzel.
"Oh! And they'd make such a lovely crown too!" Rapunzel replied, mind clearly elsewhere (as expected).
And then Cassandra's next shot was when Rapunzel began making the crowns. The two sat side by side and Cassandra was no longer shy about trying first to press herself up against Rapunzel, and then even going as far as resting her hand on the princess' leg. In both cases, Rapunzel only smiled, confused but happy by this sudden increase in affection from Cassandra. At one point, Rapunzel even squeezed Cassandra's hand gently, and it made Cassandra's heart nearly explode in her chest, but it was clear that Rapunzel still had no idea what was going on.
Even when Cassandra again tried verbal flirting, using her most seductive and raspy tone, low and sultry, it missed the mark. Cassandra also began to give Rapunzel some very suggestive eyes, half shut and full of desire and interest. She even tilted her head a little in order to accentuate her cocky smile, hoping it looked appealing to the princess. It was funny, Cassandra never considered herself a flirt, but all the thought she was putting into her little display certainly seemed to say otherwise. And then it became comedically tragic because all of it was lost on Rapunzel.
"Here's your crown!" Rapunzel finally declared happily, holding out a rainbow wreath. Cassandra cringed slightly at all the colors, but she bowed her head respectfully to allow Rapunzel to "coronate" her. "Now you're a princess too! Ruler of the Forest while I am Ruler of the Flowers!"
"I don't think that's how that works, Raps," Cassandra snickered as she watched Rapunzel proudly coronate herself next.
"I'm a princess, what I say goes!" Rapunzel joked. Her crown was pink, purple and blue. "Ah! We look so good together!" she cried.
"Well, I'd be glad to be your princess. Or consort. Or whatever," Cassandra said, still giving Rapunzel an amused look. "We're a perfect match."
"You can be my anything and everything, Cass," Rapunzel promised, reaching out to hold Cassandra's hand once more. "I completely agree that we are a perfect match in every single way!" Cassandra's smolder finally slipped up and all she could do was stare with wide eyes at Rapunzel as Rapunzel intertwined their fingers. There was so much physical sensation there that Cassandra didn't even know where to begin, hence why her expression had slipped so much. Did Rapunzel not see the effect she had on Cassandra? If only Cassandra could be the same for her…
It was then that Cassandra realized how stupid she must've looked, staring at Rapunzel with bugged-out eyes and a puzzled expression. Clearing her throat awkwardly, she reigned herself back in all while cursing herself silently. After a few seconds, though, she tried again to say something flirty. But before she could actually speak, Rapunzel only gave her a contented sigh and rested her head against her chest. Once again, Cassandra lost her voice as she felt Rapunzel snuggling up to her so sweetly. In what was practically a reflex, Cassandra wrapped her own arm back around Rapunzel and Rapunzel gave another happy hum, very much pleased and encouraged by this sudden newfound affection from Cassandra.
"I think it's nap time," the princess mumbled.
"Oh, uhh, ok," Cassandra was so surprised, both by herself and Rapunzel, that she totally missed the chance to make a joke about sleeping with her.
"Mmm, thank you, Cassandra, for everything," Rapunzel's voice was getting heavier. "You were right, breaking quarantine really was very fun, especially because I got to do it with you. There's no one else I'd rather be with, right now or anywhere or any time else."
"Gee, Blondie, thanks," Cassandra felt her stomach twisting with a tornado of emotions and tears pricked her eyes, but she refused to let them fall.
"You're welcome, Cass…" Rapunzel was almost asleep. "I… I… love you…"
While Rapunzel found herself able to fall into a deep, peaceful sleep after getting that off her chest, Cassandra went the opposite direction. She found it impossible to sleep now. Not so long as those three wonderful words were echoing around her head. But she never wanted those echoes to stop, ever. And the tone in which they were spoken? Maybe Rapunzel hadn't been as oblivious after all…
AN: This one is for the wonderful Elphiegranger2508! Hope you liked it! It was very fun to write! You're the best!