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by: Matthew Cox
May 13


There. The fridge was cleaned up, the broken jars thrown away, the sticky shelves wiped off...they'd have to go grocery shopping later to replace everything he'd broken. Matt closed the door and grabbed the shopping list and added the necessary items to the list. Task complete, it was time to finally investigate the hidden room that Cora left open.

He'd not been surprised that she'd headed into the library, but the secret door to a very herbal smelling room was a shocker. Was it a solarium? The sheer amount of variety in the types of plants he smelled made him reconsider that assessment. There was only one way really to find out what it was...

Matt padded up the stairs and into the library. The door to the secret room stood ajar...what he saw on the other side didn't make sense at first to his muggle expectations. Matt tilted his head carefully and slowly, entering the threshold, but going no further than that.

There was a forest in this room. And a field of grasses...a pond with water loving plants on the banks...rows and rows of tables of pots...and so many plants.

Matt stepped back and considered the volume of the warehouse. The plant room was impossible. It was too big! With a look of confusion, Matt stepped back into the green room.

"I...uh. The fridge is done and...wow...um. I-I wrote down what needed replaced? How is this room even possible?! There are TREES back there!"

His outburst of surprise was followed by a baffled silence. There was still hesitation about entering the room written in his body lines.
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by: Coraline Larson
Peace and quiet at last. After the drunken antics of the previous night and the drama and screaming of the morning Cora had desperately needed the trip to her greenhouse. She sat cross-legged at the edge of the zen garden pond, her palms resting face up on her knees, practicing deep breathing; meditation was exactly what she needed.

While it might have been easier to purchase her ingredients for the potions and poisons she used in her work, Cora had always enjoyed tending her own plants and took great pride in cultivating her plants. There were mushrooms, exotic trees and flowering plants, water-loving plants, and the tables had rows and rows of exotic plants like Cobra Lilies and a small Devil's Snare in a clever little cave container to keep it moist and dark. The greenhouse was her pride and joy.

At Matt's sudden outburst Cora sighed and stood up, facing him. So much for peace and quiet...

"Well, magic would be the obvious answer..." she answered in amusement, a small smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth.
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by: Matthew Cox
A scowl bloomed at her response; he hated being made to feel stupid. Matt didn't give a smart-mouthed retort, though. Instead, he just looked. There was plenty to look at, smell, even hear. A group of lily-like plants on one of the tables was snapping at crickets...striking like snakes. He wanted to come in and explore, but he wasn't going to presume.

"...may I come in? I promise not to hurt anything."

He loved being outside. This was as close a facsimile as he was likely ever going to get outside of missions. The smell of potting soil, flowers, even the fertilizer was novel and exciting.

He really wanted to go explore the forested area. It was maybe half an acre at most, but just to feel the shade of a tree again, to sit under the shade of branches and smell the sap flowing...why did it make him ache inside?
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by: Coraline Larson
Cora padded over to him on bare feet, biting her lip a little nervously at his request to come in. She didn't know if she trusted him not to wreck things in here, not after the way he'd behaved, not only earlier that morning but early in his captivity too. She still remembered the ungodly sound of all the dishes in the kitchen shattering when he dropped them down the stairs at 3am...

With a sigh she nodded and gestured for him to come in. He would never learn to trust her or work with her if she kept shutting him out and treating him like a prisoner, she reasoned.

"Yeah... just... just please don't wreck anything, okay?" The question request may have been blunt, but there was no rudeness or heat behind it, just a desire to protect something she cared about.
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by: Matthew Cox
Matt dropped his gaze. He deserved that reprimand.

"I may be an asshole, but they don't deserve my wrath."

He nodded his head at the plants, aware that he'd declared that she did, in his perspective. That motive and emotion wrestled with the new bloom of the realization he was attracted to her...things were getting complicated.

He slipped past Cora and beelined for the trees. He sunk to his knees and sat in the carpet of loam and leaves with a deep, deep sigh. The tension that had become a part of his normal body stance melted away completely, rounding his shoulders and spine as he sank into the natural scape like it was a hot bath.

He was more relaxed with the sap scent in his nose than he had been in months. Even before Cora collared him, he realized.

"Thank you," he shot over his shoulder before closing his eyes and sinking into a meditative state.
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by: Coraline Larson
'And I do, then?' she managed to not retort out loud, but the implication stung a bit regardless. She couldn't really blame him for that viewpoint, but even still. Hearing it stated (or pointedly not stated in this case) so bluntly was jarring.

Her annoyance at him quickly faded however when he beelined into the room and knelt down in the soil under the birch and aspen trees. She found herself smiling at his adorable reaction to the forest. Cora nodded at his thanks and simply went back to the pond area to resume tending the bed of orchids there.
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by: Matthew Cox
The warehouse was big, so maybe he shouldn't have been surprised that the greenhouse was big, too. But this was two acres! On the second floor! The forest alone was large enough to house mature trees of different varieties. Oak, pine, a gnarly willow that begged to be climbed...

Matt obliges the tree and shimmied up into the draped canopy, letting out an audible sigh of wonder and relief. This was...it was...

He liked it.

He was happy.

The marine stilled and felt some part of his rebellious nature slip away. While he mourned its loss, it was replaced with wonder. This was beautiful, and Cora made it and cared for it.

Maybe he was wrong about her. Sure, she worked for the regime that did evil things, but maybe she just did it to survive. Cora didn't have to enjoy her work in order to stay alive, right? Maybe...maybe she just did what she had to do...and maybe he could do the same...

But what about the Dark Lady? His rational side of the brain retorted with nasty fact. The Dark Lady enjoyed what she did.

And they weren't the same person. Hadn't they just had a discussion together about Cora and the Dark Lady being different?

Cora he could work with and love. The Dark Lady, he would always rebel against.

Matt laid down along one of the branches in the willow and let his heart come to peace with that decision.
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by: Coraline Larson
Kneeling in the sandy dirt and pebbles of the orchid bed Cora was oblivious to what Matt was up to. She hummed softly as she tended the gorgeous plants, gently misting and pruning them. There were a dozen different varieties of orchids in a literal rainbow of color and she loved them all.

The gentle tinkling of the waterfall over the smooth stones of the pond was exactly what she needed to relax. If she had been alone she might've even considered going for a swim but that wasn't going to happen with Matt here with her.
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by: Coraline Larson
Matt dozed in what felt like early morning sunshine. How did she do that? Were there skylights? Matt stretched his radar and found...nothing. Odd.

He rolled out of the tree, bouncing off of several branches before landing on the forest floor. Cora might be willing to tell him about the room if he asked nicely. She was tending orchids, so he came and sat near her and waited for her to look up.

"This room is amazing. I'm uh...missing several details due to my impairment. Could I get a tour and you fill in the blanks for me? The ceiling, for example, is a literal blank. I can't sense anything. What the hell?"

He grinned broadly, trying to signal humor.
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by: Coraline Larson
Cora cocked her head curiously as he sat next to her. "You're asking me for help? Did you hit your head on your way out of that tree?" she blurted out before she thought about it.

Realizing her words were more harsh than she meant them to be, Cora added apologetically, "Sorry... Um. Well the ceiling is enchanted to mimic the sky. Follows the sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset schedule for the seasons as well. It's not as advanced as the one at Hogwarts that matches the weather outside too, but it's plenty for a greenhouse. Controls the temperature too. Most of the plants here prefer a moderate climate so it's not too difficult to keep it controlled, but even still it's a lot of magic involved but it's worth it for the plants..."
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by: Matthew Cox
Matt laughed at her snarky response. It was a valid point and he felt relaxed enough to take the verbal sparring.

"Don't apologize, that was great...."

He lapsed into silence as he listened to her explanation of the ceiling.

"Hogwarts...that was your school, right? Did they have greenhouses there? Is that where you got the idea for this from?"

He engaged in the conversation, actively participating for the first time instead of stonewalling her.

It was dawning on him as she expounded on the greenhouse that she was kind of a nerd.
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by: Coraline Larson
She nodded in the affirmative at his question.

"Yeah, Hogwarts is the British wizarding school, and the ceiling in the Great Hall is like this," she gestured up. "It's more advanced than this though. That one mimics not only the celestial bodies, but the weather too. Was always neat when it snowed," she added with a nostalgic little smile.

"As for the greenhouses, yes there are several greenhouses at Hogwarts. Herbology is one of the core classes and there's a couple different greenhouses, separated by the level of danger of the plants in them. For all the magical plants in them though, they're just typical glass greenhouses. Not like this."
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by: Matthew Cox
She started going off again, following the tangent thread he'd given her to pull. Matt settled in, crossing his legs and planting his elbows on his knees.

Lord, she really was a nerd, wasn't she? What did you get when you crossed an assassin femme fatal with a bookish gardener? The answer kept talking, explaining about the different greenhouses at her school.

"Dangerous plants? So, like those snake flower things over there?"

He jerked a thumb back at the table where the Cobra lilies were bickering with each other.
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by: Coraline Larson
"Oh, the Cobra Lilies? They're not... well, they're only dangerous if you don't know how to handle them. They're quite sweet otherwise," she answered, shrugging nonchalantly.

"As far as the curriculum goes it starts with easy things like Bouncing Bulbs, Mandrakes, and Puffapods. By the time you get to sixth year you deal with things like the Venomous Tentacula and Snargaluff pods, but even those aren't too bad if you pay attention and know what you're doing."
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by: Matthew Cox
Only dangerous if you didn't know how to handle them...so dangerous to him, then. Good to know.

An odd grin crossed his face.

"All I'm hearing is 'blah blah plant nerd blah blah blah.' Can you show me some of that stuff? I have no context otherwise."

He was genuinely interested in the subject, but her enthusiasm was what made it so interesting. She sounded happy when she talked about her plants. It was nice to hear. The relaxation he felt earlier with her magnified when she herself was at ease.

Maybe...maybe he could be her friend...
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