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Sunflowers For Two

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Hopping through portal to portal may sound like a good time; however it’s not when you’re lost, hungry, and constantly fighting to stay alive. The New Order, or at least half of them were stuck in an endless loop of trying to find their way home. It had probably been weeks now since their voyage started and Jesse's team was starting to lose motivation and hope. His friends back home must be worried sick about them since the group left without a trace. On their own Jesse, Petra, Ivor, and Lukas got along well, but with the baggage of the Ocelots, or as the newly reformed group liked to call themselves the “Blaze Rods'', was more than the group could carry. The New Order decided to take the three as a form of their own punishment after the Sky City incident. The ruler, Isa, of the town was reluctant but grateful to have them off her hands. Besides, it would have been cruel to leave the gang in a foreign universe without a way to get back home.

Jesse trudged over to the next doorway, quietly sighing to himself. "Don't worry everyone, I'm sure this next portal will lead us home." He rested his hand on the frame of the portal and closed his eyes. Please let this be the right one he silently pleaded in his head.

They all stood near an emerald green portal, the glow was hypnotizing in a way since it was so bright. Oak wood surrounded the edges with golden blocks in the four corners. You could see flowers and vines coming out of the sides which was unusual.

Aiden gritted his teeth as he spoke, "Do you really think that's the portal that'll lead us home? Just look at it."

Jesse knew he was right. It didn't look anything like what he imagined his home portal to be, but he didn’t appreciate the sarcasm. "Well, do you suggest we go through another portal? How about that one over there," he pointed, “With water spurting out of it. Oh! Or how about that one with smoke coming out? Or should we find the one to Sky CIty again and leave you there?” He felt himself getting tense as the tone in his voice changed. The last thing he wanted to do was fight, but he needed to show the boy who was in charge.

Aiden clenched his fists. The look he was giving Jesse was so intense it could bore a hole into someone’s skull. The male wanted to defend himself but didn’t want to take a risk of being sent back to Sky City, so he stayed silent.

Lukas broke the tension before anyone else could say anything, "Could we maybe take a break? We've been going at this for who knows how long." He scratched the back of his head awkwardly, a linger of hope in his tone.

Jesse opened his mouth to speak, but before he could Maya stepped in, "Look, I know you're the leader and all but even I can tell your buddies need a break." She pointed to the opposite side of the hall where Petra and Ivor were. They laid against the cold tile wall, bags starting to show prevalence under their eyes. Even Gill, and Aiden looked weak, they didn't want to move, and most likely were as hungry as the rest of them were.

It was the right thing to do, Jesse knew that. But he just wanted to get home so badly. "Fine, we'll have two groups, one of them will go through a portal to get food, another will stay here."

Petra piped up immediately and walked up to the boys, "I'll go, I am starving Jesse. I didn't know somebody could be so hungry."

Gill was the next to offer, "I guess I'll go, we haven't really had the time to look for food. Petra needs a partner to go with anyway." He heaved himself and walked towards the group. The ginger gave a nod of approval. Out of the corner of Gill’s eye he saw Maya give him a worried look. He gave her a reassuring smile which seemed to relax her a little.

"I guess we haven't. Why don't you two try going through that one?" Jesse pointed to a portal opposite of them, the frame was covered in different types of wood and ice blocks. The inside was a teal swirl that seemed to have snow particles coming out of it.

"Sounds good, as long as I don't get eaten by a polar bear! Race ya!" She gave a light shove to Gill and dashed off into the portal, Gill following close behind. It was nice to see Petra's spirit up, it's all what they needed right now.

Maya walked over back to Aiden and sat down, and Ivor was already fast asleep. He noticed Lukas sitting alone by the emerald portal so he decided to accompany the blond, sitting down next to him. "Hey Lukas, how's it going?"

Lukas sighed. "Jesse, if I'm gonna be honest with you, I think you've been… a little pushy to put it nicely. I know you probably didn’t mean it, but threatening to send Aiden back was pretty harsh." He turned away and held his arm. "Him and I aren’t on the best terms right now but… It just makes me feel kinda bad you know?"

Jesse blinked, he hadn't thought about how aggressive he had sounded, “I guess I was kind of being a dick huh?” He looked down, “This trip has been hard on everyone, Aiden included. I should’ve been more sensitive to that. He just wants to get home like the rest of us.”

“We kind of feel obligated to follow you, with you being the leader and all. I think some of us are starting to see you more as a boss rather than a teammate.”

Jesse just wanted what was the best for his group, he didn’t mean to act like a dictator. "Do you think things should be more of a group decision?"

Lukas gave a small smile, "Yeah I'm sure everyone would really appreciate that. I know I would."

Jesse placed a hand on the blond’s shoulder, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to be bossy."

Lukas chuckled, "Yeah, it's alright. We're all just a little stressed.” He wrapped his arms around his stomach, “Plus, I'm starving."

A pang of sympathy struck through Jesse. “Yeah, I wish we would have packed more food before we left. Although I'm positive no one thought we were gonna be out here this long.” He began to reminisce on the time shortly after he and Lukas met, believe it or not they used to dislike one another. When the wither storm, a ferocious mutated monster with three heads, was attacking they had wound up stuck in a small dirt hurt together in the midst of it all. Everyone was starving much like now, but luckily his friend Axel had some cookies in his inventory. The problem was, there were only four cookies when there were five of them, so Jesse decided to give his share to Lukas. Sure it was a small gesture but he felt as if it really connected them. At least one good thing came out of the wither storm mess.

He could still enjoy Lukas' company even in these stressful times. Like Petra, it was nice to see his personality shine through. "I'm sure they'll be back soon enough. Good call on saying we needed a break."

Our hero found himself turning tired, getting little to no sleep from traveling had started to catch up with him. The wall he leaned against was hard as expected, nothing like his old, comfy bed at home. He imagined him and Lukas by his fireplace, reading Lukas’ now completed journal. The blond always had a cute serious look on his face while writing. Jesse could talk to him for hours. Lukas was a charmer, and was easy to talk to. It made Jesse feel free, it was a different free from all his adventuring. A kind of free that had no fear lingering to it, it was a calm, pleasant kind of feeling. Before he knew it, he could feel his body going lax, and drifting off into a peaceful sleep.

About an hour passed when his eyes opened to the sound of footsteps approaching. He panicked for a moment, forgetting where he was, but immediately settled down once he saw Petra and Gill. They were walking away from the portal with handfuls of food. He felt a body shift next to him, looking towards the source of noise.

Wait… Jesse sat up. Did he fall asleep on Lukas? "Oh God I'm so sorry- I passed out." He said rubbing his eyes.

Lukas gave a soft chuckle closing his book he had been writing in, setting his quill down, "Whoa whoa it's okay, I know you were really tired."

I wonder what he was writing in there, it's not like we went anywhere. Jesse looked away with a slight blush of embarrassment forming on his face. "Still, I-"

Lukas reassured him once more. "I don't mind, it's fine."

The brunet looked back to him, "T-thanks." He saw Petra and Gill approaching and he slowly stood up to greet them. "How’d the hunting go?" He said as he began to stretch.

Petra's face lit up, "Oh great! I mean, Gill almost fell in a hole but," She winked, "I got him out." He saw Gill roll his eyes in a playful way as he came up and handed Lukas and Jesse some cooked fish. "We even took the liberty of cooking them up for ya."

Jesse smiled, "Jee Petra you didn't have to do that, thank you." He turned to Gill, "Thank you too." Maybe Gill isn't so bad after all.

Lukas gave a nod as he took the long awaited food.

Gill strolled over to the rest of the group. As Jesse started to sit back down Petra put a hand on his shoulder and brought the other up to whisper, “You and Lukas are cute by the way~”

Jesse's posture straightened as he turned red, “Wh-what? Petra-” but she was already walking away. He hesitantly sat back down next to the blond feeling a little flustered.

Lukas and the others were already enjoying their food. Jesse wanted to eat slowly to savor the moment. "Gill seems the nicest out of your old team."

The blond was confused for a moment too caught up in eating his fish, "Huh? Oh yeah, he definitely is. Especially to Maya. I think he's got a thing for her."

Jesse looked over to the Blaze Rods, they were all sitting together per usual, but Maya and Gill were sitting awfully close to each other.

"Gotcha." Jesse snickered. Just as he was about to turn away, he met Aiden’s stare. The other male seemed to be studying the pair. Was he… jealous? They were just eating, or… Jesse gulped, did he see him fall asleep on Lukas?

He hadn't noticed Ivor walking up towards him, "Ready when you are friend!"

The male jumped at the sudden voice but then stood upright, finishing the last of his food. He raised his voice for everyone to hear. "Alright everyone, let's move out!"

His teammates groaned as they realized they had to move again. Everyone reluctantly followed Jesse through the portal. They arrived in a dimly lit swamp area where there were plants bigger than themselves and animals they had never seen before.

The atmosphere was thick with humidity making it somewhat hard to see. Jesse heard Aiden wheezing slightly at the change in the air. He noticed Gill put a hand on Aiden’s arm, trying to help him up as the other bent down panting. The brunet swatted it away and stood up before he brought any more attention to himself.

In front of them they noticed three boats larger than what they had in their home world. They swayed slightly in the dark green murky water. The boats seemed to be worn out a bit but still solid enough to hold people.

Taking in the scenery Petra announced, “Yeahhh, this definitely isn’t the right portal. We should go back.”

Ivor scratched his beard, looking around the place carefully to examine the plants. The male made a realization, stepping towards the boats, pushing Petra out of the way, “Wait I recognize this place... Ah yes! I’ve read about it in one of Soren’s books. There is a treasure here that is worth a great deal! I think it would be wise to retrieve it.”

Petra folded her arms, chuckling slightly in response to the male, “No way Ivor, we need to go home. We can’t waste anymore time here, right Jesse?”

Jesse scratched the back of his head awkwardly, and turned to Ivor, "Petra’s got a point. We really shouldn’t-”

“Aren’t you a hero Jesse? Because this treasure is something a hero would get~”

“Aha… I think getting back home is just a tad more important than getting another random object.”

“Tell me Jesse, we’ve been out here for how long? Weeks? And we have almost nothing to show for it,” Ivor waved his hands in the air, “The Old Order would jump at a chance like this.”

Jesse frowned slightly, “We’re not the Old Order Ivor.”

“You’re right, you're not them. You love helping people, and that’s an admirable trait, something the Old Order never had. Getting this item would help people tremendously.”

Jesse pondered, “What do you mean it could help people?”

“Oh no, no, no,” Petra cut in, “You’re not playing into Jesse’s good side to get what you want.”

Ivor scoffed, “How dare you, I would never do anything like that!”

“Uh-huh.” Petra said unamused.

“Hold on guys, Ivor go on.” Jesse folded his arms.

Ivor smiled mischievously and began to pace back and forth, "You see, there is a satchel here. It has an infinite number of seeds inside of it. Although that's not the best part, whoever hands gets onto this satchel, the seeds will grow instantaneously! These seeds are said to be rare plants that will grow in any biome and don't exist anywhere else."

Weighing his options Jesse pondered what would be best for everyone, “Maybe Ivor’s right. I mean, if this is as cool as you make it out to be, then we’d be crazy to pass it up. It could help a lot of hungry villages.”

“Are you kidding me? We need to get back home, not risk our lives for some pointless loot.” Petra said in an increasingly irritated voice.

“I know it might be dangerous but think about it for a second; This could help a lot of people.” The chestnut male stated.

“I knew he’d play into your good nature.” Petra muttered.

Jesse remembered he and Lukas' conversation from earlier. Be more inclusive. “Alright then, let's take a vote-”

“Whoever wants to go home, come stand by me.” Petra said as she walked near the portal. To her surprise Aiden and Gill actually went with her. Ivor and Maya went over to Jesse’s side. The two groups eyed each other. Their gaze shifted to the one member who had yet to decide.

Lukas was stuck in the middle, not knowing who’s side to go on. He felt everyone’s eyes on him, which only made him even more indecisive. He pondered, he did want to get home just as much as the rest of them did, but if this treasure was true it could be beneficial to many towns. Then again, what if the treasure isn't real, or if somebody had already taken it. With all the discoveries they've made, like the Eversource, and white pumpkins, it wouldn't be that out the realm. Still, it sounded bazaar. He snapped out of his thoughts as he heard Aiden start to tap his foot impatiently, his face saying "Hurry up already." Lukas looked over to the group by the boats, seeing Jesse giving him a reassuring smile. He looked nervously group to group. Then, very hesitantly the male took a step towards the boats, “I’m sorry guys but I have to go with them on this one.”

Jesse saw Aiden death staring Lukas, who he could see that the blond was visibly uncomfortable. It definitely wasn't the first step to rekindle their friendship, if Lukas was interested in doing so that was. Nobody seemed like they wanted to speak so Jesse finally spoke up, “The boats seem like they can fit two people,” he turned around to face the water, ”I say we go in pairs, one of us is going to have to make three people fit though.”

Without a word the fiery red-head stormed her way to one of the boats, Ivor grunted following close behind knowing it wasn’t going to be a pleasant ride. He saw Aiden and Gill climbing into the vessel, Aiden taking the lead. Maya sat on Gill's lap, she fit perfectly considering the female was on the smaller side.

Lukas made his way to the last boat. Losing his footing while trying to get into the vessel he ended up tumbling into it instead. The boat rocked back and forth due to the surprising fall. Noticing the splashing of the water, Jesse acted quickly to stabilize the scrambling blond by grabbing onto his arm. Slowly regaining his balance the boat stopped shaking. Sighing in relief Jesse cautiously climbed into the back of the boat. He felt like Lukas could take the lead on this one. He looked over to see Aiden snickering and the rest of his group awaiting a signal to begin paddling; he gave a small nod, an eye roll to Aiden, and everyone took hold of their oars.

After a half-hour of rowing Lukas began to hum quietly in order to distract himself. Nobody was sure where they were going. Usually Petra could pinpoint the direction they were heading in with the stars, but unfortunately the fog left nothing of them. There was no land to be seen for what looked to be miles. He looked into the water which seemed to have no bottom, and he was glad that Jesse didn’t let him fall in earlier.

“By the way, thanks for not letting me plummet to my death earlier.” Lukas snickered.

“No problem,” Jesse smiled. He glanced around at the other boats. Leaning in his voice turned into a whisper, “Hate to see you get all wet.” he said chuckling in a sly tone.

Redness swept onto Lukas’ face as he felt the heat of Jesse’s breath on the back of his neck. He was glad the other couldn’t see how much the comment affected him. He nervously laughed and turned the other way. He fidgeted with his goggles trying to think of something quickly to change the subject. Lukas projected a question, "Jesse, do you think we'll ever find our way home?"

The male was shocked by the question, "What? Of course we will! You have to have faith." He gave a weak smile, but his eyes darted away after he spoke. He had to stay positive. He had too.

The blond turned around to Jesse, an unknowingly puppy dog look spread across his face. He was scared and homesick. Looking at the poor male made Jesse want to cup his face and stroke his hair comfortingly. The thought made the male fluster, but he resisted the urge to. Now wasn't the time to be thinking about those things anyway. He looked back at him, "It'll be okay, I promise."

I promise the words lingered in Lukas' mind. It made him feel safe, he wanted to believe Jesse. While it didn't shake all his thoughts away, it reassured him, probably more than it should have. He ran his hand across his own cheek, "Thanks Jesse." He gave a heavy sigh to release the tension on his chest, a mixture of confusion and stress.

Getting tired of a one sided conversation with Petra, Ivor turned to his other teammates, “Well since someone isn’t being pleasant company I suppose I shall talk with you two. There are some plants that live here that are native to this world. It is going to take a while to find the satchel so I figured since we’re already here it’d be sufficient to grab them as well. I could make some powerful potions.”

Jesse shrugged. “It wouldn’t hurt to look. Plus your potions are always getting us out of dangerous situations so it might be beneficial.”

“Precisely! At least somebody here appreciates a good idea when they hear one.” Ivor commented.

After traveling on the path for a while the swampy water rippled slightly along with a faint static sound. As the boats moved further along the more intense the rippling and static became. It was uncertain what was causing this as the fog was thick and clung to the air. The group continued despite this strange occurrence, unlikely they could even turn around at this point in their journey.

Jesse took notice of the unnatural amount of fog, “Is it just me or can anyone else not see what's in front of us anymore?”

“Oh good, I thought it was just me.” Maya remarked.

Aiden slowly let the boat come to a halt.

Gill looked around, “Um guys, where’d you go?”

Jesse turned to his team but was met with nothing but a wave of fog blocking his view, “I thought you were right next to us.” Reaching his hand out to touch the other boat, he felt nothing but the thick atmosphere. The water began to pick up it’s pace as it harshly rocked the two males, “Uh-oh, okay everybody stay calm. I’m sure this will pass soon.” Jesse said, trying to hide the fear in his voice.

The head of the boat started to dip into the raging water causing the back to lift up. Lukas tried to rush to the opposite end in order to get the boat stable, causing him to bump into Jesse. With the static as loud as ever the two finally figured out where the noise was coming from, “Waterfall!” They both screamed as they plunged into the cold abyss.