Chapter 3

And with an immense thud, Tabii lay motionless on the forest floor, the broken branch at her side. All she could do was gaze up at the trees in defeat.

"Well, this is just fucking great…" Tabii sobbed "I'm never going to get back to camp…"

To make matters worse it began to rain, just as Sasha promised. Tabii sunk her head in her hands and let out a muffled scream.

Tabii however refused to move, she had gone beyond caring at this point, what was the point? She'd never make it back at a reasonable time and now she was dirty and humiliated, she was just glad no one saw her in this state.

Before she could bemoan her fate more there came a rustling from the bushes, however this did not stir her and she resigned herself to whatever was coming her way.

"Probably a bear or something, just fucking take me…" she sighed, closing her one good eye.

"T-Tabii?" came a somewhat familiar voice.

Tabii's eye snapped open, could it be who she thought it was? She sprung up from the ground and stood in front of her was Neil, her crush, the love of her life, her Robo-Romeo.

"Neil? What are you doing here?" She could barely compose herself, she wasn't expecting to see anyone, let alone her biggest crush, could this mean she wasn't far from civilization? He was stood there, a little damp from the sudden downpour, but she didn't mind so much, he was still cute in her eye.

"I was out err… collecting some samples for some experiments, what the hell are you doing here? Are the other Flower Scouts here?" His eyes were darting back and forth, he was anxious that the Flower Scouts were planning something and that he had just wandered right into the middle of it.

Tabii looked to her side "No it's just me." She had a hint of embarrassment in her voice.

"Then why are you here?" Neil wasn't sure if he wanted to know or not, he was still wary about her and was worried she could be lying.

"Well, I uh went for a walk and I kinda got lost…" she couldn't bring herself to look at him as she said that she felt totally embarrassed.

"You're lost? How did you get lost? Why were you lying on the floor? Don't you know it's late?" His nervousness was making him pile on question after question.

"I know, ok? I'm so dumb…" she whined "I tried to climb the tree to see if I could see camp from up there and I kinda fell out…" she held her head in her hands.

"You fell?" Neil tried to stifle his laughter.

"It's not funny!" she sulked, her cheeks a bright red.

"It kinda is." He smirked.

"But now I don't know what to do, can you help me?" She pleaded, her face giving her best puppy dog expression.

"This isn't a trick, is it? Sash and Erin aren't going to pop out now, are they?" He eyed her with suspicion.

"No, why would they do that?" She said innocently.

"It's exactly something you guys would do." He retorted.

"Oh yeah…that stuff…" she thought back to all the Flower Scouts past schemes. "But I promise there is no plan."

Neil looked her over and thought to himself for a moment, he was still unsure if he should help her or not, was this just a ploy for her to get close with him? That's certainly a possibility, but his conscience wouldn't allow him to leave her out in the wilderness alone.

"Fine." He resigned himself to his fate. "C'mon I'll take you back to Camp Campbell and we'll figure it out from there."

"Really?" Her eye twinkled, Neil braced himself for her affection. "Thank you so much Neil! You're the best!"

"Err… it's ok I guess? C'mon camp isn't too far away, if we keep up a good pace we'll be there before nightfall." He indicated for her to follow him.

Tabii lifted herself off the ground, and readjusted her rucksack, she took her first step, and a sharp pain ran up her ankle. Neil turned to see what the commotion was and found her crouched, whimpering, and holding her ankle.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"It's my ankle, it really hurts! I must have hurt it when I fell out of the tree…" she fought back the tears.

"Let me have a look." Neil said with a doctor's professionalism.

Tabii removed her boot to reveal her ankle, there was some bruising on it that must have come from her fall, "can you try moving it?" Neil asked. Tabii tried to move it, but she winced in pain.

"Ok don't do that, I think you've sprained your ankle." Neil explained "don't worry it's not permanent, just avoid putting yourself through any arduous activities for the next week or two." Tabii nodded, wiping the tear from her eye.

"But how am I going to walk back? It hurts so much." Neil was a little taken aback by how helpless she seemed; this wasn't the Tabii he was used to.

Neil thought for a moment, he didn't have time to make something before it got dark so there was only one course of action. And with a sigh he gave his solution:

"I'll carry you…" He closed his eyes and tensed up, awaiting a flood of affection from the lovestruck Flower Scout.

Tabii's face brightened up, her tears now gone.

"You'd really do that?" She clasped her hands together, she never thought this would happen today.

"Yeah, c'mon get on my back" he sighed, resigning himself to the inevitable flirting.

Neil knelt and Tabii clambered onto his back, wrapping her arms around his neck, and with a slight jolt he was upright again with Tabii clinging to him for dear life. She let out a content sigh, she always knew he was her hero.

She was quite surprised he was carrying her with such ease; she knew he wasn't exactly the strongest boy in the world and that she wasn't the lightest girl in the world, but she felt safe and secure right where she was.

She thought now would be the perfect time to practice her new approach with Neil, perhaps this would be a good chance to bond.

She reached into her rucksack, after some rummaging, she produced one of her remaining cookies and presented it directly in front of Neil's face.

"Huh?" Neil exclaimed in confusion.

"It's for you!" She chirped.

"What's in it?" He questioned, still viewing her with suspicion.

"Just normal stuff you'd' find in cookies y'know? No Mexican Cane Sugar or anything like that." She reassured him.

"Mexican what now?" He was puzzled by something so specific.

"Oh nothing." She giggled. "So, do you want it? You deserve one for helping me" she smiled.

Neil thought about it for a second before deciding what the hell, what's the worst that can happen? He took a bite of it and continued trudging down the path back to Camp Campbell.

"So, what do you think? Tabii asked with bated breath.

"It's good, really good." He was surprised by how good it was, so some good was coming out of this chance encounter.

"I knew you'd like it!" She was ecstatic upon hearing praise from him.

"So, why were you out here alone? I never see you without Erin or Sasha." Neil was a little curious about her predicament.

"Well, I was bored back at camp and Sasha suggested I go for a walk." She explained.

"Why didn't they come with you?" Neil was a bit confused by that; they usually came as a package deal.

"They didn't want to, they said it was going to rain, I guess they were right about that." She sighed. "I was nice for a while, I went down by Lake Lilac and it was nice and peaceful, and then I got lost on the way back to camp…"

"I see, wait didn't you guys say when I was disguised as Neeancy that the Flower Scouts badge had wi-fi?" Neil asked.

"Umm… well I kinda left it behind…" She said sheepishly "I'm so dumb…" She felt upset about feeling so stupid, which made her bury her head into Neil's back for comfort, this caused Neil to turn a bright red.

"Uh Tabii, what are you doing?" He nearly froze, worried she was planning something.

"Nothing…" her voiced trailed off wistfully.

Neil was confused by Tabii's behaviour today, she was a lot more subdued and melancholic than usual, usually she had an almost Pavlovian response to his mere presence but today she was certainly downplaying her more eager impulses.

Part of him had a temptation to broach the subject of her affections for him, it always perplexed him, particularly after how he insulted her and her friends during their first meeting.

"Neil, do you like me?" Tabii asked, causing Neil to freeze. "As a friend?"

Neil was a little lost for words, he didn't really know what to say, a lot of their previous encounters had been negative experiences but in her vulnerable state he found it difficult to hold any malice towards her.

"Well, I don't really know you Tabii, a lot of our past interactions have been fairly negative, haven't they?" He tried to put it as diplomatically as possible.

"Yeah." She replied awkwardly.

A few minutes of silence went by, light rain pouring around them, thoughts were rushing through Tabii's mind as she mulled over what Neil had said.

"I like you, Neil." She said casually.

"You've said before." He replied dryly, expecting this to be the usual flirting from her.

"I'd really like to get to know you better, as a friend." She offered.

"Why do you like me so much Tabii?" Curiosity was starting to get the better of him.

"Umm it's kinda like hard to explain? You're cute for a start, but you're also really loyal to your friends and you're very smart, you're way smarter than me and I really like that about you." She said plainly.

"But we've hardly interacted properly?" Neil replied.

"Yeah, but I'd like to. I think it'd be nice to get to know each other." She was a lot more mature than usual, something that came as a surprise to Neil.

"Fair enough, I'll have a think about it." He was surprised that he was actually considering it "But you do realise it'll take awhile for me to truly feel comfortable around you right? We have a lot of history."

"Yeah, I know, I've done some really stupid things before and I'm really sorry." She apologised.

Once again, they fell silent, both were thinking about what the other had said, until Tabii decided to break the silence.

"Why did you help me?" She asked.

"I couldn't leave you there, could I?" Neil said.

"But I've caused you so much trouble in the past, you could have left me behind for a bear to find or something." She said with a hint of melancholy in her voice. "I was so mean to you guys, I'm so dumb and annoying…"

"You don't think I'm that heartless, do you?" He was a little taken aback by how honest and forthright she was being, he had seen her angry before but never this distraught.

"Noooo!" She seemed affronted at the notion that Neil would think she thought that of him "I wouldn't like you so much if I felt you were." She said with a whisper.

A slight blush appeared on Neil's cheeks, she was being a lot less obsessive and a lot more honest and dare he say it, kind of sweet? Had she really changed? Only time would tell he thought.

"It's so dark." Tabii said as she began to cling tighter.

"Are you scared?" This vulnerable side of Tabii was still something that Neil was finding hard to process, he had certainly seen her emotional but that usually manifested in anger, here she was allowing her insecurities out for him to see.

"No…" a few minutes passed, the silence punctuated by the calls of owls and other wildlife, Tabii seemed to almost seize up "Ok, maybe a little".

"Nothing to be scared of, we'll be in camp in no time." Neil couldn't believe that he was reassuring Tabii of all people.

"Thank you." She said softly resting her head on his shoulder.

A long lingering silence came over, only the patter of rain penetrated the silence.

Not far away was a dim light, they were closing in on Camp Campbell, and one step closer to getting Tabii back home.

"We're nearly there." Explained Neil.

"I'm glad, I'm so tired." Yawned Tabii.

"How do you think I feel carrying you?" Neil said with a hint of playfulness in his voice.

"Hey! Are you calling me fat?" Whined Tabii.

"No, just been carrying you for about twenty minutes now surely?" Neil said excusing himself of the accusation.

"I'm kidding!" Giggled Tabii. "I had you going for a second huh?"

"Yeah, I guess you did." Neil had no idea why he was playing along with her, something about her today was making him let his guard down.

"Hey look what's that?" Tabii exclaimed while pointing forward.

Camp Campbell was finally in sight, it's lights serving as a beacon in the darkness of the forest. Neil thought what the best course of action would be when they arrived, he knew for a fact that Tabii's presence would raise a lot of questions, he decided his best option would be to speak to David.

"Looks like we made it." Neil answered, letting out a sigh of relief.

"Now what?" Tabii replied.

"Well, I guess we go speak to David, he'll know what to do… I hope." Neil said with a bit of uncertainty in his voice.

They both scanned around the camp, it looked quiet, and no campers were in sight.

"Wonder where everyone is…" he usually saw at least one person wandering around at this hour.

"It's a little creepy without people…" Tabii was a little nervous by how quiet it was.

"You're telling me." Neil had to agree. "I just hope David is around."

"Do you know what time it is?" Asked Tabii.

"Must be around 9pm surely?" Neil made a rough estimate.

"It's so late… I wonder if Sasha and Erin are looking for me." Mused Tabii.

"Just be patient and we'll have you home soon." He couldn't believe how they were interacting; things were certainly beginning to change between them quickly and he had no idea how he was supposed to be feel about this.